Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Keep it secret, keep it safe.

I've been pretty quiet around here in the last week or so, but not for lack of sewing. I've been working on a secret project for the last few weeks using this wee pile :o)

It's now finally coming together, and I'm at that stage of trying to figure out how to quilt it, and what to name it (is it just me, or is that the hardest part of making quilts?) You get a sneak peek for now - it's killing me not being able to show you more. I really, really love how it's coming together :o)

I'll be pretty quiet for the next few weeks while I'm finishing this baby up (by baby I mean around 70"x 90", so baby probably isn't the best description ;o) ).

I also wanted to mention that I'll be participating in the Kate Spain Blog hop hosted by Alyce (check out all the details here) next month.

Hope everyone is having a great week!

xx Jess

Friday, 24 May 2013

Locally grown

The fabric printing industry in Australia isn't huge, but we are lucky to have a handful of incredibly talented independent designers who produce some pretty amazing fabric. Saffron Craig is one of our better known designers, along with Umbrella Prints - but there are a couple of others I wanted to draw your attention to as well. 

I've long been a fan of Surface Art fabrics - I made my sewing machine cover and mat using their amazing Mikko print, printed on a cotton canvas. They mostly print on a range of home-dec weight fabrics (cotton canvas, linen, drill) and have some truly funky designs. 

Sewing Machine Cover

A more recent discovery is Maze and Vale, run by Leslie Keating in Melbourne. When Leslie announced on Facebook last week that she'd listed a handful of sample packs in her etsy shop, I clicked through straight away and ordered one. I am SO glad I did - these fabrics are something else entirely. The basecloth is ah-mazing, with a really rich texture - and I absolutely adore her designs. I have absolutely no idea what I'll do with these yet - something very simple and improv I think, possibly a cushion. For now though, they are too gorgeous to cut into. 

xx Jess

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Feathers for Kirsten {AusMod Bee}

The queen bee in our Aus Mod bee for May is Kirsten who blogs at Gemini Stitches. Kirsten's blog is one of the very first blogs I started following - she makes really cool stuff. Kirsten chose feathers, using the great pattern by Anna Maria Horner, using Chicopee by Denyse Schmidt. It's going to be an amazing quilt.

I still have to make my Stash bee blocks, but I'm queen for Scrappy Sew Bee It so I get a month off there (which is brilliant!) I got a squishy parcel this morning from the lovely Nicky - my bee blocks for this month, along with some cute little bookmarks (one of which has already been stolen by my 8 year old fanatical reader), and some really cool tissues. Thanks Nicky, they are gorgeous!

I also wanted to let you know about a few deals that Peg at Sew Fresh Fabrics is offering at the moment. 

From 5/21 through 5/27

Buy $35 or more in the Etsy shop
and get a FREE SHIPPING code 
for US customers at
and get a FREE SHIPPING code 
for US customers at
or a 10% OFF coupon for international customers.
(Shipping and coupon codes are good on a future purchase. Does not apply to previous orders. Coupon will be sent by email. Not transferable.)

It's definitely worth taking a look - all Peg's designer cottons (even organics) are marked down, mostly under $8 a yard. 

Hope everyone is having a great week!

xx Jess

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Pillow Talk Swap 10 {Finished}

My partner's cushion for the Pillow Talk Swap round 10 is done! It will be winging off to it's new home (along with a few yummy scraps) later in the week. 

The cushion/pillow top is made using four Schoenrock Cross blocks, following Leila's fab tutorial. I used a lot of Flea Market Fancy by Denyse Schmidt, a bit of Simply Colour and a lot of Architextures (the greens and background fabrics). 

I decided to quilt it fairly simply (since there is so much going on in the patchwork). I've densely free motion quilted straight lines in the background areas, radiating out from the points, and echo quilted just inside the edges of the green areas. This has made the 'flowers' pop really nicely.

The back is more FMF, with a covered zip closure (using the great tutorial on Sew Mama Sew - it works brilliantly every time).

 I'm really happy with how this turned out - I'm now just hoping my partner love it as much as I do :o)

The rest of the week is bee blocks and some secret sewing ;o)

xx Jess

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Working with Value {a tutorial}

After struggling somewhat with the layout for my Retro Flowers quilt, and trying to balance the colours and values across the quilt top, my cry for help yielded some interesting ideas on ways to look at the distribution of value in fabrics. Some of you were interested in a post discussing this, so that's what I'm talking about today :o)

Put very simply, value refers to how light or dark a particular colour is. Value is also relative to the other colours around it. For example, a yellow next to a deep purple might have a light value, but if the same yellow was placed next to white it would have a medium value. Value is a very useful thing to understand in quilting, and can be used to create some pretty amazing effects.


Within a single colour group, it's reasonably easy to sort value by eye. For example, this set of greens:

The very light and very dark value greens are quite obvious, not quite so much for the three middle ones. There are a couple of quick and easy ways to figure this out.

Ruby Glass/ Value Finder

One readily available, cheap tool is a ruby glass, or value finder. It's essentially a see-through piece of red plastic (I would imagine red cellophane would also work.) When you look through the ruby glass, the colour of the fabric is washed out, and you're left with the relative value of each piece.

It was tricky to photograph, but this is the same set of greens photographed through the ruby glass. As you can see the mid-value greens are difficult to separate even with the colour washed out. The third and fourth could possibly even be switched around.

One negative aspect of the ruby glass is that it is not especially useful when looking at the value of red-based colours (red, pink, orange) as they all look extremely light.

Black and White Photos:

The other easy way to do it is by taking a photo and then using a photo editing program to change the image to black and white. I love Picmonkey for this - it's free, easy to use and quick.

Simply upload your photo, go to the second tab down on the left (Effects) and click on Black and White.

When you're working with fabrics with several colours in them (especially larger prints) and a wide range of different colours, working out their relative values can be a little trickier.

For example these Anna Maria Horner prints (the same ones I used in my Retro Flowers quilt, which is what inspired this post). I quickly laid these out, in roughly what I thought was value order.

This is the same set of fabrics, with the picture taken through the ruby glass. As you can see, the bottom four on the left have pretty much washed out as they're all red based colours. So not such a useful technique for looking at the relative value of this set of fabric.

But, if we make the photo black and white, it becomes easier to see the relative value. Because some of these have a large contrast in value within the one print, it is pretty subjective as to where it might be placed relative to the other fabrics. I also think it's a matter of experience - the more you practice looking a the value of different sets of fabric, the better you'll get - and honestly I'm a newbie quilter so I don't have a whole lot of experience ;o)

Based on the above photo, I rearranged them into what I thought might be value order.

As you can see from the black and white version, I could probably keep playing with the order to get a better array from dark through to light. The reason I've left the deep blues at the left hand side is that to me, the blue dominates more than the lighter colours in each of the fabrics (but that's probably quite subjective). Another thing to consider is that these are only small areas of the fabrics - if you wanted to get a really good idea of the value of large scale prints, it would work more effectively if you photographed a larger area.

I think this is a really good thing to practice, and something I will be doing when I'm designing quilts from now on :o)


The techniques above can obviously be used when looking at value distribution across a whole quilt. When I was playing around with the layout for my Retro Flowers quilt and asked for some feedback, there were a couple of other suggestions for techniques you can use.

'Pin It'

In my cry for help post, I had narrowed down my quilt layout to three options. Kathy clicked the 'Pin It' button, which then pops up all the photos from a web page so you can choose which one to add to Pinterest. She said this was a great way to compare the three layouts side by side and work out which one was the most balanced.

Changing the Image Size

A really great suggestion came from Susan (The Bored Zombie) about reducing the image size of your photo. Susan has been told that if you're image isn't interesting at 200x200 pixels, it probably isn't interesting larger either.

Picmonkey to the rescue again! Simply go to the 'Crop' button, and in the box where it says Actual Size, enter 200 in both the boxes. Click the button next to 'Scale Photo', and make sure you've dragged the crop box around your whole image. Then click the apply button.

This will reduce your photo to 200x200, which does make it easier to assess the value distribution. This is the 200x200 version of my Retro Flowers quilt top - and looking at this I probably could have distributed the value a bit better!

I hope this post has been helpful - I'm only just starting to learn about value and how to use it to good effect in quilts, so this is really just the tip of the iceberg as far as value theory goes. If you're interested in further reading, some very talented quilty ladies put together the Value Added QAL last year, and covered a lot of different aspects of how to use value in quilts for particular effects. The bloggers involved also designed four different quilts that rely strongly on value for their design.

Understanding Value with Leila at Where the Orchids Grow
Leading the Eye with Value with Amy Badskirt
Value Patterns in Quilts with Rachel at Stitched in Colour
Value Dynamics with Jolene at Blue Elephant Stitches

xx Jess

Thirty three

Today, I'm officially old (according to master 8). It's been a wonderful day as far as birthdays go - giant sleep in this morning, a family gathering at my parents house for brunch with ALL my siblings (a fairly rare occurrence) and now some sewing time.

To top it all off some handmade goodness from my Mum and sister.

E made me this gorgeous beret style beanie - softest wool ever, and fits perfectly. She has mad crochet skills :o)

And this gorgeous scarf knitted by my Mum - totally gorgeous, and the perfect soft green.

Along with few other goodies I feel completely spoilt.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

xx Jess

PS - Caitlin has just added a heap of stock to the clearance section of I don't do dishes. If you use code ONEYEAR you'll get an extra 15% off - which means most of the clearance yardage is just $6 a yard! Think Constellations by Lizzy House, Simply Colour and Tula Pink's Salt Water (among others). Happy shopping ;o)

Friday, 17 May 2013

Blogger's Quilt Festival Spring 2013 - Tesseract

If you're visiting from The Blogger's Quilt Festival, welcome to my little corner of quilt-blog land. I started quilting nearly two years ago, and have very quickly become completely obsessed with making quilts. I love participating in the Quilt Festival - it's such a great way to find new-to-me blogs.

This is my entry into the Mini Quilt category. It is called Tesseract, and was made as part of the Emerald Quilt Challenge earlier this year.

Quilt Stats:
Pattern - designed by myself, using Kaleidoscope blocks.
Fabric - Oakshott green shot cottons, and various low volume grey prints
Size - 24" square
Quilted - by me on my Bernina, using Aurifil 50wt in colours 2021 and 2865.

The inspiration for this quilt came from Emerald gemstones, and their multifaceted nature.

I love the depth of colour the Oakshotts give it - the photographs do it no justice at all. It literally shimmers.

I used two layers of bamboo batting when I sandwiched this quilt - I love the extra loft it's given without the puff that comes from polyester batting. I didn't want too much puff on this one, but did want the greens to pop a bit more than they would with a single layer.

Rather than binding it in the traditional fashion, I stitched facing strips to each side and then handstitched them down on the back. Because I used two layers of batting, it was a bit tricky getting it to fold over at the back. Also, my corners are quite rounded :o)

It is pieced and quilted entirely using Aurifil 50wt thread (2021 and 2865) - I love that the quilting blends into the background so well (although it blended so well while quilting I did have a bit of trouble seeing where I was going ;o) ) I really loved doing angular quilting too - a first for me, but definitely not the last. I really want to make a triangle quilt and quilt it like I did the green bits on this one.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the quilt festival!

xx Jess

Blogger's Quilt Festival Spring 2013 - Retro Flowers

If you're visiting from The Blogger's Quilt Festival, welcome to my little corner of quilt-blog land. I started quilting nearly two years ago, and have very quickly become completely obsessed with making quilts. I love participating in the Quilt Festival - it's such a great way to find new-to-me blogs.

Apologies to my regular readers for making you look at this one again, but my entry into the Home Machine Quilted Quilt category is my Retro Flowers quilt I finished earlier this month.

Quilt Stats:
Pattern - Retro Flowers by The Sometimes Crafter.
Fabric - Good Folks by Anna Maria Horner, with Kona PFD for the background.
Quilted - by me on my Bernina, using Aurifil 50wt in colour 2021.
Size - 60" square.

This quilt began back in April last year as part of the Retro Flowers QAL, so it's spent a lot of time languishing in a plastic tub while I worked on other projects, only being pulled out occasionally for a bit of piecing or trimming. But then a few weeks ago I pulled it out determined to finish it, and I'm so glad I did! I love it! It probably helps that Good Folks is the prettiest fabric line ever ;o) I learnt a huge amount while making it too, which is always a huge bonus.

Full quilt - Retro Flowers

It was my first foray into curved piecing and my first time trying some pretty epic custom quilting on a project - free-form feathers around the borders and triple stitched lines around all the flowers and feathers (inspired by the amazingly talented Lisa, one of my quilty heroes).

Full quilt on point - Retro Flowers

This quilt is entirely pieced and quilted with Aurifil 50wt in colour 2021 (my go-to thread). I really love the fabrics I used in the flowers, so I decided to go all-out on the quilting and try some new-to-me motifs. I started by stitching in the ditch around each petal, and then echo quilting about 1/4" away around the petals. I then quilting the feathers around the borders. It was then a process of stitching the triple stitch between each of the flowers, and around the feathers on the borders. It's hard to see in the photos, but each of those straight lines is actually three lines of stitching placed very close together. It gives the most wonderful corduroy-like texture. Most of the lines were done free hand, without marking - although I did mark some reference lines in some of the longer sections on the border.

I used a lot of thread on this quilt - it's a 60" square quilt and I think I went through about 12 bobbins (and nearly an entire 1000m spool of thread). The quilting took around 25 hours (althought it was worth every minute.) Despite the amount of quilting, it still has a wonderful drape.

Quilting Closeup - Retro Flowers

When I stitched the feathers around the border I left a gap on two of the sides - I think these spots are probably my favorite of the whole quilt.

corner shot - Retro Flowers

The back is also mostly Good Folks. The main piece (Small Gathering) is such a large scale print, it works really well as a quilt back. I actually like the back as much as the front, even if I didn't centre it very well ;o)

back full shot - Retro Flowers

The quilting has shown up beautifully on the back. I have to say I'm a bit in love with the hand stitched binding too - I think I might be a convert.

back close up - Retro Flowers

Although it's only fairly small, this quilt now sits on the top of our bed, and makes me smile each and every time I walk into the bedroom :o)

I hope you enjoy the rest of the Festival - I'm looking forward to perusing all the entries this time around!

xx Jess

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Melody Miller Messenger Bag

Since finishing mum's knitting bag over the weekend, I've been on a bag-making high. Who knew I would love making bags as much as quilty things? Admittedly this one has been a looong time coming - I cut most of the pieces last summer and was feeling really nervous about making it (which is probably why I've left it this long). But last week, the bag I had been using finally died, so I decided to put my big girl pants on and make this one. Lots of photos to come :o)

I used Amy Butler's High Street Messenger Bag pattern (yes, the same one as I gave away last week - I accidentally bought two copies.) It's designed to be a laptop bag, but it's incredibly roomy so I'll be using it as an everyday bag (because as a mum I'm always carrying a LOT of stuff.)

I've pretty much used Melody Miller fabrics for all of it (apart from a few bits of natural Essex linen for some of the hidden bits). I've used bits of most of her collections I think. The entire bag is interfaced with cotton duck. I'd never heard of this stuff - it's a heavy cotton canvas, and gives the bag a really nice weight to it. I used my walking foot for pretty much all the sewing (apart from the zips). There were a few tricky bits with lots of layers, but all in all it wasn't as bad as I'd feared.

The bag closes with a flap with a magnetic clasp at the bottom (first time installing one - and it worked pretty well.)

Under the front flap is a pleated pocket. 

I fussy cut some bees and moths for the side panels.

The back has a zip pocket and features one of my all time favorite Melody Miller prints :o)

 The inside of the flap has another pocket.

And the inside has a hanging zippered pocket panel, with lots of little pockets under it for pens and things.

I am completely in love with it! Now I've overcome my bag making fears, I think I'm almost ready to tackle a Weekender :o) Caitlin is now stocking the patterns in her shop if you're interested in jumping on the Weekender bandwagon too!

This is my third finish this quarter in Leanne's FAL! 

xx Jess

Monday, 13 May 2013

I'm meant to stick pins in this?

Last week the very talented Catherine (of Cat and Vee - who run an amazing etsy store together) ran a little giveaway on her blog and Facebook page, and I was lucky enough to win :o) I 'met' Cat this year through the Aus Mod bee, and have been following her blog ever since - she makes seriously gorgeous stuff.

My parcel of total awesomness arrived today, beautifully wrapped with the most awesome Cat and Vee postcard.

Honestly, how am I meant to bring myself to stick pins in this beauty? The photos I took of the sides came out even worse than this one - but they're just as awesome as the top :o) You can see some excellent photos that Cat took instead if you like ;o)

The fabric wasn't actually part of the giveaway - I asked Cat if she would mind getting me some from her local Spotlight, and she very kindly obliged to be my fabric mule. No idea what I'll use it for, but I am completely in love with it's selvedgey gorgeousness :o)

Thanks so much Cat, I am completely besotted, and feel like the luckiest girl in the world right now!

xx Jess

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A Mother's Day Knitting Bag

Over the last week, I've been watching the series of Quiltcon lectures on Craftsy. The one that has really resonated with me is the lecture by Jacquie Gehring of Tall Grass Prarie studio - I literally had goosebumps while watching her amazing presentation. I think the thing that resonated with me the most was being from a family of makers. My dad did Fine Arts at uni, majoring in ceramics and is now an art teacher. My mum has always done some sort of crafty stuff - she dabbled in patchwork for a short time when I was very little, and she made a lot of our clothes as kids. Most of all though she has always been a knitter. So although I don't come from a quilting background, I definitely come from a family of makers.

So when it came to thinking of a good Mother's Day present to make for her, I decided to go for Amanda's Knitting Bag designed by The Sometimes Crafter. The external fabric is the most beautiful fabric ever created (IMO) - Parenthetical linen from Anna Maria Horner's Field Study linens. The lining is a red Kona (not sure exactly which sorry!)

Knitting Bag Front

I have only made a couple of bags before, but I found this pattern really easy to understand and put together. It makes a really roomy bag with lots of useful pockets for knitting needles and other bits and pieces knitters like to have handy.

Knitting bag back

The only modification I made was to put the small zip pocket on the back rather than the front - simply for aesthetic reasons. I'm really pleased with how this pocket finished - it was way easier than I thought! Not perfect, but it turned out much better than I'd anticipated :o)

Mum goes to a Spinners and Weavers Guild meeting once a week, so how she has a very pretty bag to carry all her supplies in. Happily, she loves it!

Happy Mother's Day!

xx Jess

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A bit more sampling (and a winner!)

I am completely addicted to making these blocks from Tula Pink's City Sampler book. I've made a couple each night for the last few nights and I'm about 1/10th of the way there; these are the first 11 blocks. I've decided to use all prints and forgo the solids in these ones - I'm just trying to use a range of values to emphasize the block design. Having said that, I do have quite a few Tula fabrics which are tone on tone or close to it, so the absence of solids seems to be working okay so far.

The first chapter in the book is fifteen different cross blocks (who else but Tula could design so many different crosses?) I'm generally trying to stick to a single colour for each block - and I have a plan for how I'm going to put them all together which I *think* will look really cool.

I have to say though, it seems a wee bit insane making a 6.5" block with 24 pieces ;o)

Thanks to all of you who entered my SMS Giveaway Day giveaway - what a huge response! And welcome to my new followers, I hope you'll stick around :o)

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