Posy Pinwheel Quilt

I only really paid attention to this tree for the first time today, and I can't believe I haven't noticed it before. I loved it so much that when I came home to look through my photos after our little shoot this afternoon, I didn't have any close-ups of this quilt. I just kept wanting to fit more of the tree in. Isn't she beautiful?

In fact even as I sit here to write, I'm drawn to say more about our incredible country side. Perhaps because after a week of being inside with a house full of colds, it was just so good to be out in the sun and the warm Autumn air. So good. To frame a finished quilt and a beautiful old tree in a photograph, to focus in, to make the parts align, to remember again I have so much to be thankful for... this did more for my poor old head than Panadol and Vicks have all week.  

My Posy Pinwheels had been sitting, quilted and waiting for a big tidy up on my cutting table so I could trim the wadding and back, and bind it. Set aside first for my Flock of Stars quilt, and then for two more quilts for Free Spirit's Quilt Market Booth, I was finally this week able to give her (and my messy studio) my attention again.

I English Paper Pieced this quilt from 1" jewels and 1" hexagons. I love these sized shapes because they easily fit along a 2.5" strip of fabric. So I went through my Loominous scraps from my Fair Isla quilt, cutting off a strip of each print and basting them into petals. I think it would also make a nice quilt to use up a jelly roll.

EPP is very close up, very intimate, very, very slow. So it was a completely different experience, a little like seeing the world from a plane, or up a tree, or like going outside when you've spent the week in, to take photos today and feel the movement I was hoping for. And I was kind of thinking it would feel like a birthday party or country fair, but today with all that long grass and prickles and darting insects, it felt a whole lot more like an ecosystem. It felt like fresh air and wildflowers and swooping birds. 

They say laughter is the best medicine. But I would have to argue for colour.

Pinwheel Posy - In Progress


Hmmmm. A tidy house deserves some hand stitching, wouldn't you agree? It's a rare treat to be able to take such a wide snap of our home. In this picture you can see the bunting I made for my old shop in the main street of Newcastle years ago, the baby rocker I made with Tully before Finlay was born (she now uses it as her little sofa), and the old green cupboard made by my great grandfather that homes our craft and homeschooly things. And can you see that chest poking out on the right of the green sofa? That came came over on the boat from England with Tim's mum. And here, laying claim of the dining room table, is my Pinwheel Posy quilt, slowly coming together, one hexie at a time. I do love our home.


Every so often I need a quilt that just follows a simple idea. Use an entire fabric line, let someone else choose the colours, stitch according to one simple rule. Over and over. It's a lovely, meditative thing, to have a quilt that doesn't need thought. It's also wonderful to have one that challenges and excites, but those quilts aren't for meetings, or sitting through swimming lessons, or sipping wine with a movie on the weekends. And they're not for taking over the dining room table and being available to the myriad of wonderful interruptions on a Good Friday afternoon.


I cut a 2.5" strip of each print, making it the perfect jelly roll quilt, and cut the 'jewels' as you can see below, with little waste. I love using Loominous, a woven collection, because it's basically reversible, so I can flip petals to keep stripes heading in the same direction. I've used jewels that have 2" long side, and a 1" short side, with 1" hexies.


I've been experimenting with sewing the quilt together in rows already constructed, or adding the flowers piece by piece. Mostly I like the former, because once a row is made, it's joined to the quilt with one long, uninterrupted thread, and it's easy to come back to when those inevitable interruptions arise.
And each time I finish a row, I stand back in wonder at how I'm only one more row through! Surely it must be two or three! And then I take a deep breath and remind myself that this quilt isn't for rushing. It's for resting and waiting and praying in the sunshine.


May the spirit of grief, yet hope; contemplation, yet joy; death yet life, bring you colour and peace this Easter!

Jodi. x

Watermelon Summer + Skipping Stones


I had such happy mail today! My special, curated, summery little bundle of Aurifil Thread for Ms Midge, purveyor of very fine thread...


...and this beautifully brooding new collection by Anna Maria Horner, called Skipping Stones for Free Spirit. And did you notice those Filigree reprints? Swoon!

I chose these threads for watermelon and Splice icy poles. And today was the perfect day for them to arrive, the kind of warm, summer day where you enjoy stepping outside, enjoy the windows wide open, even enjoy hanging out the washing! Not too hot, and just the right amount of breeze. These are the colours of swimming pools and swimming costumes and bright beach towels. If you've already signed up for Ms. Midge's monthly Aurifil club, you'll be getting these in your happy mail box too! Otherwise, they'll be available for purchase in her shop next month.

The stormy cottons are for a new project for Free Spirit. I can't share much yet, but I couldn't help taking photos of these for you. Lovely, rich, neutral reprints of some of my favourite florals. They are far from your usual, stark, geometric low-volumes. They remind me of lace, and those silhouette brooches my grandmother wore. Warm and friendly.

Free Spirit Quilt Top


This is how high I got up the ladder before my fear of heights set in!

I've spent the last two weeks working as hard and fast as I can to get this quilt top done in a timely manner for Free Spirit. All that's left is to applique a big white logo across the top and quilt it, and then ship it off to Charlotte, to Free Spirit HQ, so that they can take it to Quilt Con West next month!


So I thought today you might be interested in hearing a little about my work with Free Spirit?

In about September last year, I was approached by Free Spirit's marketing department in an email saying that Anna Maria Horner had recommended me as someone who might be interested in mapping some virtual quilts for her upcoming lines. The email was such a surprise, as I'm sure you can imagine, that I had to read it three times to see if I'd understood it correctly. And I didn't understand it. What was mapping? And what were virtual quilts? Anna Maria Horner knew who I was? And if I wrote back with these questions, was I giving myself away that I was completely in the dark, and therefore, possibly the wrong person for the job?

I took the plunge, politely, but excitedly replying that I was very interested, if they could just let me know exactly what I was interested in.
It turns out 'mapping' is designing, using the pictures of the fabric designs. I would design a quilt (actually, three or four quilts) on my computer with the images of the fabric line and submit them for consideration. They would get back to me with their favourite, and I would write a pattern for them.


I really enjoy the work. And if I may say so, I think I'm good at it. Though, that's not to say I haven't had to learn a lot. It's a very different process writing a pattern for a quilt before you've made it. My usual quilting process involves a lot of trial and error at the best and quickest way to put together blocks or quilt tops. I can't go through that process here. Often I tend towards scrappy quilts that play with value, rather than two-colour blocks, which makes cutting instructions really tricky. And I don't think I have ever, ever, sat down and thought about how much of each print I need and what exactly I need to cut before diving into a quilt. I usually just start cutting until I feel like I have enough, which is usually only about half of what I need. I sew it together and then start cutting again. And I guess, most importantly, while I'm making the quilt, I often make changes, because of how I feel about it now that I'm working with it, or because I've built on my original plan.

But quilt design on a computer is a completely different animal, and it's one I've learned to really love. I've had to learn that even in a scrappy quilt, I should use a similar amount of cuts per print, making the pattern much easier to read, and to write. I've learned, as I come up with new blocks or layouts, to ask myself "Could I actually describe that to someone? How?" and, "Do I even know how I would put that together?" It's easy to get creative with lines on a computer. It's a whole other thing to sew fabric together in the same way. The whole process has felt like learning a new science, or a new language. It's like the grammar here is different to the way I'm used to speaking, but I can find other ways to get my message across.

I've been amazed to see old designs I discarded on a previous job, suddenly come to life with a completely different line of fabrics. It's helped hone a sense of what brings different fabrics out, what do different styles need to look beautiful.

The lovely folks at Free Spirit have been so kind and open to me learning these things, happy to answer my questions, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I've worked with lines that are exactly my taste, and I have more ideas than I can use. And I've worked with lines that are so different to what's in my stash, but the challenge of making something I'm really happy with has been so satisfying. I wish I could show them all here now! But I'll wait until the quilts have been shown at Quilt Market.


And then, about six weeks ago, I was asked to design this quilt, a special request for the Free Spirit Booth at Quilt Con West in Pasadena next month. Actually, again, I designed three quilts. I mapped the cityscape at the top of the post, the medallion quilt above, and the one I'm making. My brief included using a colour gradient, from purple to aqua, and the Free Spirit Logo in white. I really, really love the other two quilts, but I'm so glad they chose this one. It does make me feel like a Free Spirit. And it's also the simplest design, a good thing for me because I'm making it on the other side of the world.

Still, it's taken about twice as long as I anticipated to sew it up. I've always been terrible at guessing such things, and my optimism got the better of me here too.  I've been so fortunate that Tim is at home these days, able to look after the kids and the food and our other needs. Working from home is a challenge! But it still feels like a gift that I can tell my kids, who have walked right past Tim in the kitchen to come ask me for a sandwich, that that's Daddy's job this week. Oh, and to have my very own coffee connoisseur in the next room!


And my very own Quilt Critic. Here he is telling me what I didn't quite achieve in the design. We've been married ten years next month, and I'm glad I've learned to appreciate his feedback, and then still hold it up confidently against my own! And I love this quilt. I really love it. I can't wait to start the next challenge of appliqueing the logo. I can't wait to use some very new, yet to be released, wideback cotton for the backing! And I can't wait to see it hanging in the Free Spirit booth at QuiltCon.

Will you be there? Will you take a photo for me?

New Day, New Year.

Today is the first day.

Tim's at the dining table reading about earthquakes with the kids. And I have escaped to my air conditioned cave to sew and write a blog post.
When we were at university, Tim and I used to joke about how his degree (in engineering) would get him a job, and mine (in history and Russian) was great for dinner parties. But when suddenly, a little over a year ago, the north wind blew, and two souls, feeling dry and a little lonely in suburbia, got a call about a house in the country, it didn't take much, if any, convincing for us to pack up our house and move to the land of the deep breath.


We've been living in Canowindra, NSW for 13 months and it's golden hills and deep silence (except for this time of year, when the cicadas are celebrating their yearly riot) have affected us deeply. Here there is no academia, no race, no big shopping malls or beeping horns. I have enjoyed a year off comparing myself to that model on that billboard, or that family in that big house. There is hard work, there is a connection with the seasons, there's an optimism, and a kind of submission to the whims of the weather. If you've read the Little House books, you'll know what I mean. "Surely this year, it will rain. Surely this year, our hard work will pay off."

I like living here with these people, and these hills. Every so often there'll be a remark about having to go back to 'real life'. But I wonder if we've stumbled upon it here, where we know our neighbours and work with our hands.
This time last year I changed my blog name to reflect these other changes. Tales of Cloth became what I was hoping for, a place of stories and connection, of colour and learning. I didn't have as much time for it as my dreams needed to be fully realised. But I had time to sew and to read. When Red Sky at Night came to a close, my year did too. And suddenly my mind was blank. I had nothing to write about. So I let it sleep for a while.



Sometime during the second half of last year, I was approached by Free Spirit to design some quilts for Anna Maria Horner's upcoming lines. Yes! I made up some 'virtual quilts' and submitted them. They liked my work, and asked me to design with some other lines. And then that work led to more, until finally, last month, I was asked to make a huge quilt inspired by the Free Spirit Logo for QuiltCon 2016! Having spent the whole year in the history books, and working a lot with red and white, working in this way has felt like an absolute gift. It's interesting and challenging and fast. And I'm soaking up every bit of it.

One of my submissions for the QuiltCon 2016 quilts that wasn't chosen.

Around the same time, Tim and I started to reflect on this new 'real' life we'd stumbled upon. His Masters was drawing to a close (though even now drags on beligerantly), and our work here with Cornerstone was rich and fullfilling, but low student numbers were taking its toll on the community finances. Surely there was some way we could make the most of my connections with the quilting community, that could provide some unskilled labour for the young adults who stay here with us, work to pay their way, and study the Bible. We think we've come up a corker of an idea. But I won't share it now. All that just to say that we've caught that kind of farmer's optimism, "The harder I work, the luckier I get", and like ducks, we're paddling away behind the scenes to bring something new and colourful to the quilting community.

And that's why I am here! And Tim is out there learning about earthquakes. It's why, when I finish writing, I'll start sewing, instead of cutting up apple. 2016 will be a year of working together, of trying new things, of argueing, I'm sure, whose turn it is to do bath time or cook dinner. But nothing new is ever smooth, and I feel hopeful for a year of working at something that is meaningful and interesting to both of us.