In the Studio

And all over a sudden, almost overnight, I went from escaping here for the air-conditioning, to escaping here for the sunshine. From cursing its hot beams radiating through our thin tin roof, to welcoming them through the northern window that fills most of the wall next to my sewing machine.

Perhaps it was the change in the weather, or the finishing up and shipping off three more quilts for Free Spirit. Or maybe even the big fuss over on Instagram about the impending changes to my feed, but I woke this morning with the desire to write. To think about words and the state of things, without limiting it to the space before the ... or how to caption a picture so that you don't just flick away.

English Paper Piecing has become more than just a summer fling. And something about my Free Spirit Quilts becoming my 'day job' has made me feel completely justified in working on more than one EPP quilt at a time. Afterall, it's my relaxing-in-the-evening sewing. I'm allowed to follow my whims, right? And even before this Pinwheel Posy quilt is all stitched up, I have another in mind that's ready to explode out of me if I don't hurry up and give it form. And hey, it's the weekend. Maybe I'll just succumb.

A completely new and exciting adventure for me is Scraps In Tubs. I know. Not new or exciting really, but all the happy feelings come mostly from me actually diving in and doing it. About a month ago, my mum came and helped me sort through my monster of a scrap stash. It was like a virus, making its way into all corners of the house (mostly with the help of our oh-so-helpful two year old.) My mother never passed on her organising genes to me, so I asked her to give them to me in a weekend, and we had a lovely time together wrapping yardage around comic book boards, and reorganising my scraps into these spider-proof, toddler-proof tubs. We threw out anything ridiculously un-useful, and then added my fat quarters and big scraps in the mix too. Now I only have two places for fabric storage, rather than five or six. Oh, it's so good!

I've been slowly going through the boxes and putting all kinds of favourites and not-so-favourites alike through the 2.5" square die with my Accuquilt, for the aforementioned next-in-line hexie quilt. If only I could hand-stitch as quickly as I can cut 2.5" squares!

The big tidy up revealed a longish forgotten scrap project, which this week has been brought out into the sunshine to hopefully be all sewn up. It's made completely with the scrap triangles from a second mountain campfire quilt I've sewn up and was also put on the 'waiting pile.' Fin wanted to be in the photo, but didn't want to be in the photo. She turns two today. And she lives most of her life this way, wanting to join in, and wanting to be in control. I'm like that too so I understand. And liking her despite the infuriating bits helps me like myself more.

I started this blog 5 years ago next month! Back in the very epicenter of baby-rearing chaos. It feels a little strange, a little too good to be true that today we say goodbye to the baby days. All those hundreds of times that I wrote, and said, and prayed, "This too shall pass", and it actually did! Who would have thought?

Some mothers are absolutely, wonderfully themselves with little ones underfoot. But me, I'm enjoying me right here in my Autumn sunshine and my tubs with lids.


Every so often, you have a sudden realisation that your kids are growing up. This week has been one of those moments. It's never anything earth shattering, maybe just overhearing their conversation about their day while in the bath, or that they get through their morning chores without cajoling, or they can start to help out with quilt photos, rather that me needing to work creatively around them. But somewhere in there you look at them and think, "Listen to you! Look at you! You're bigger!"

I'm not the kind of person to mourn this change. I love grown up conversation, help with the washing, wee in the toilet. This is the stage I've been waiting for. The one where we know we are done having more, and we just sit back (in a figurative sense) and enjoy the ride. No more cesareans, no more morning sickness, no more stopping every 2 hours in car trips to pull over and breastfeed.
I have friends with teenagers and I know there's still some stuff ahead of me, but right now, I have a big boy that I can still beat in a wrestle, and a little girl who I can still beat trying to escape under the front gate, and one in between who doesn't like to wrestle or escape (yet). Right now it's nice.

This quilt was pulled from my Works in Progress box already sewn into quarter-square triangles. I cut those up diagonally and sewed them back together without too much thought or design. I think it's good to do that with WIPs sometimes. I thought a little about how to make it bigger, or add some white or grey for interest, and in the end, I had two spare blocks, and could have cut some more to make an extra row, but I just kept making that decision to keep it simple. I sewed the finished blocks together, spray basted, quilted and bound it in a long afternoon. I have other quilts I want to throw my creativity and thoughtfulness at. I could just let this one be a happy, scrappy gift for a friend.

I started this blog almost 5 years ago because things weren't all that nice. Because I wanted to take photos and tell stories that processed what was hard, but mostly recognised what was good. Today, taking photos of these sweet kids, and a quilt I didn't have to fight to finish, it felt good to stop and say, "Hey, look where we are! How good is this?" Life is chaotic and interrupted and full and it's easy to find things I want to change, to think, I can't wait till we're nappy-free or till Tim finishes his Masters, or the kids are old enough to leave for an evening. But right now, in this moment, I am surrounded by beauty. I have much to be thankful for.

Cathedral Windows - a tutorial

A few months ago, I embarked on a Cathedral windows quilt, and then quickly 'came to my senses' and popped it in the WIP box. Why on earth does someone make a Cathedral windows quilt? It's not like your usual sandwhich of top-wadding-backing. My 'learning as I go' sewing was pretty rough and tumble. And I didn't know if I wanted to go so far as to make a quilt for a bed, but I didn't really want a wall hanging, and we don't really need another lap quilt in the house. I never realised the need to sew with a clear end in mind was so strong in me!

Then earlier this month, I made the decision to dedicate October (#WIPtober on Instagram) to my WIP box. It was full to overflowing with abandoned projects that had been set aside for clearer goals and quilts with deadlines. But for October, I would try to set aside that need for a purpose, and sew just because. I would withhold from starting new quilts, and I would find ways to be re-inspired by the old ones.

So even though it goes completely against the grain, and I feel like I've launched off the runway with nothing in mind except to enjoy the view, I brought out this sweet little project and started to sew. And you what? When I'm really good at beating back that 'Why are we doing this?' voice, I really enjoy fabric origami! These come together in a way so that with each new row added, you have a complete 'quilt'. A change in the process is as good as a holiday, and there's something a little exciting about knowing that when I've had enough of sewing together folded squares of fabric, I'll be done!

There are quite a few Cathedral Windows tutorials in the ether, but I thought I'd add mine to the crowd, because I tried a few different methods and have settled on a mix of them. I'll share my reasons as I go.

Most tutorials start off with a large square, and I cut mine 11". It's too late for me now, but can I recommend 10.5"? That way you can cut off a strip from your yardage or fat quarter, and fit four or two neatly cut from the strip. I've got scraps enough for another quilt!

Most tutorials also ask you to cut a slightly smaller template from cardboard to iron the edge over, but I just knew if I had to stand at my iron working with a template, that this project wouldn't last long. After lots of scouring, I found a tutorial that folded the square like I do below. It uses more fabric (which I why I went 'scrappy' rather than use one print) but I like that this adds weight to the quilt. This can be a great way to use up those hard-to-use, big-print fabrics.

  • First fold your square in half and sew along the shorter edges.
  • Pull down the top edge and pin the two seams together.
  •  Sew along this new join, leaving a hole at the end for turning it inside out.
  • Use a pin to pull out the corners and press flat with a steamy iron. The little hole can be left as is.
  • Now fold the corners into the centre and press.
  • Hand stitch the points down. I just nicked the lower layer of fabric with my needle, rather than go all the way through. 
Many other tutorials have you sewing you squares together before this point to keep the seam invisible, but I found it really hard to keep it all flat that way. Hand-stitching the centres down first and then sewing them together has given me a more consistent size and finish. It's also less awkward, less wrestling, putting it through my machine. I really don't enjoy fabric wrestling!

NOTE: If you want different prints in the 'petals', they need to be added in under these folds, before you stitch the corners down. (measure yours first, but 5" fit in mine) I tried it, but abandoned it. It's really hard to cover over the raw corner edge, and it stressed me out. 

  • Set your machine to Zigzag, around 5mm (1/4") wide and 1.5mm long. Sitting two folded squares up next to each other, zigzag down the middle to hold them together.

I'd already made a batch of nine at this point, so I stitched together another row of three and then added those to the large block with the same zigzag method.

Next, I grabbed the long-held scraps of another project I finished over a year ago. Oh, I love combining old WIPs, don't you? I cut up these squares made of rectangles, sewed them back together and trimmed them to 3".

  • Sit your square over the seam between two folded fabric squares. Grab a fold along the side of the 3" square and fold it over the edge. It should curve naturally.
  • Top stitch around that curve. This worked best for me with my walking foot.
  • Stop at the next corner with your needle down, turn your work around, fold the next edge over, and sew again. Sew all around the 'window.'

  • When you get around to where you began, if you can easily move to another square, keep the needle down, and grab your next piece. You'll have less threads, and a tidier back, if you can stitch these down in runs of four.

I've been working on this for about a week now. Some cutting, some folding and chain stitching in long sessions, some turning inside out in the evenings, or during school time. It's a nice project for having a few different steps you can swap between, depending on your mood. I do like a quilt that can fit my mood. Perhaps that's a good purpose for this one. To be fun and pretty and whatever I feel like at the time.
I'm always impressed by how much I learn, how much I'm forced to rethink things, to engage my creativity, when I give myself time for my old, abandoned projects. Maybe I should make #WIPtober an annual discipline?

Star Crossed Sew Along

The first thing that crossed my mind, when I was sent this Star Crossed pattern to try, was how fun it would look in scraps, little scraps. I'd had in mind for a while that I wanted to make a quilt featuring Maureen Cracknell's Luminous Field Print, a delicious low volume floral, made of beautiful warm colours. And I knew this would be just perfect! I pulled a bunch of matching prints from my stash and started to cut.  In usual fashion, I immediately altered the pattern, and got so excited about the design that I ran straight for the single (twin) bed option.

Unfortunately 20 blocks worth of star points quickly ate up my stash of Luminous Field. It was then that this Catnap print by Lizzy House made its debut. As much as I would have loved Maureen's floral art to be a feature in this quilt, those cats, fitting perfectly in a 4.5" square, a perfect colour match, and pretty challenging to use anywhere else, became a very fun change of direction. I'm pretty excited with the result. It's everything I love about scrappy postage stamp quilts but sparkly! I love that the eye has somewhere to rest and move. It's like fireworks, don't you think?

This turned out to be the quilt that broke the camel's back, mechanically speaking. My machine, long in desperate need for a service, starting groaning and breaking needles. I managed to coax it along gently for this finish. And my iron died a messy, spluttering death on the home stretch! It felt like the perfect opportunity to try out Jeannette from Gone Aussie Quilting's quilting service. I can't wait to see the result! What kind of edge to edge design would you try out on these sparkles?

So, after pushing myself to get some hard-won finishes the last month, being without my machine for a few weeks actually feels like an exciting creative challenge! I'm thinking hexies. I'm thinking appliqué. I'm even thinking Broderie Perse. Ooh!

Thanks so much Fat Quarter Shop for inviting me to make this pattern! Check out these other blogs and #starcrossedsewalong in Instagram for other interpretations of the design.

Daisy of Ants to Sugar
Lucy of Charm About You
Julie of the Crafty Quilter
Angie of Gnome Angel
Dana of Old Red Barn Co.
Natalia of Piece N Quilt
Heather and Megan of Quilt Story
Amy of Sew Incredible Crazy

Home in a Log Cabin

Tonight we had a fire. We took the kids down to the gully in their pyjamas and they climbed trees and old feeders while we talked about our plans for the year, reminisced about travelling days and swapped funny memories.
In two weeks, 10-15 students will join our little community. They'll study a diploma in Biblical Studies, they'll work on surrounding farms to cover their tuition and board, and they'll have time and space to think, ask questions, grow up.
In the meantime, we're working at establishing a good homeschool routine, getting used to living a whole lot more than 30 seconds from the local supermarket, and spending my spare minutes sewing. I think perhaps it was that count down, and all the thinking and planning, that gave me the extra push to cross another old quilt off my WIP list, and an easy one at that, with just the hand-quilting left to finish.

This quilt has been in progress for about 18 months! I made a whole heap of quarter log cabins, inspired by the book Sunday Morning Quilts. And then I laid them on my bed and become overwhelmed by all that movement and colour. I kept just 16 blocks for this quilt, added this wide sashing, and the rest, I made into a lap quilt.
I backed the quilt with a mix of Drawing Room prints, which are home decor weight, and makes the quilt slightly heavier, which I like. I gave it a light machine quilting about a year ago, bound it, and planned to hand-quilt it slowly while still using it on our bed. Well, slowly is the word for it. It takes a long time to hand-quilt a queen size quilt! But oh, I love the effect.

When I lived on my farm as a kid, we lived in 5 caravans, with the plan that my dad, a builder, would build our house on the hill, in parts as we could afford it. The house never eventuated, but Dad built a log cabin annex off the main caravan we used a kitchen, with trees from the property. It was in that log cabin, that we first learned about simplicity, resourcefulness, creativity, gratitude. My dad was a skilled craftsman, and I'll always think of that place as a home, rather than an in-between, make-shift arrangement. I enjoyed thinking back on those days, with renewed appreciation for my dad's work, while I stitched my own log cabins, now in my own farm house.

And as soon as I make the curtains and some matching cushions, I'll show you it's new home on our bed! For now though, you can enjoy it in our beautiful gully.