Tag Archives: quilt kits

The Cheapskate’s Way to Unique Applique.

28 Nov

You may have noticed that patterns are expensive. They are also not always what you would choose. For instance, suppose that your child likes a particular character from literature or TV. You may not be able to get a pattern for an applique of same but you can probably find a colouring book. How obvious is that and how many people never think of it? I never have used this method but I’m considering it.

The other day I was browsing in a local shop that sells a lot of end-of-line  and remaindered stock and I found a  colouring book featuring snowmen. It is a bit late for this year but I will be making at least a snowman themed wall hanging  next year. In theory I could do it  now but I have a queue of UFOs and  refuse to allow a new project until at least some are finished.

This  book is ‘Colour with Frosty’ from www.holland-publishing.co.uk . This particular book is no longer on the site (probably why it was reduced) but there are lots more. The best place for cheap books is one of the remainder shops like The Works. If you want a closer look than the internet affords they have a store finder from your post code   and you can go along and grab an armful.

There were lots of other animals; bears and penguins for instance but these are the ones I have chosen on the snowman theme.

The Book – I am not sure  it is the actual Frosty the Snowman but that’s what it says on the tin so I’ll go with it.







Unless you are a McKenna Ryan fan choose pictures with large pieces and no fiddly bits. Having said that, if you see something you really like and it has lots of fiddly bits, have a go. I use the satin stitch method of attaching my appliques and I have not yet found anything too difficult, small or fiddly to deal with (even McKenna Ryan). In fact she has a beautiful new quilt with snowmen too. Have a look. If you like kits her fabrics are lovely.

If you need instructions on applique have a look at the ‘Tips and Tricks’ page on the heading at the top of this page. There are several applique projects with the basic how tos.

One note of caution. The books are someone’s copyright. If you use them for yourself I cannot see there would be a problem, although I am no expert. If you try to sell the resulting quilt, in theory you could get into copyright problems so best not to do it.


An Obsession with Orchids

21 Nov

I have just spent a few days away from home and found an obsession with orchids. They used to be expensive and I used to kill them. Now they are relatively cheap compared to other flowers, they last a long time and I have discovered how to get them to come back year after year. My house now looks like a greenhouse. It’s a good job I don’t get out much or I would have to obtain for myself an exclusion order taking effect within 500 metres of a plant shop.

When I was thinking of a subject for a blog it struck me that orchids make a good subject for quilts. In fact there are quite a few to choose from. I did a quick search online and came up with some rather charming examples.

The first two are from Quilting Life

This one is from  from The Virginia Quilter.

This one is from Sylvia Pippen Designs

As is this one.

Also this.

The next two are pieced and from equilt patterns

I found some machine embroidered ones on Emblibrary too. There are lots of them but here are a couple.

A short blog but a pretty one.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as I have made something to show you. On normal form that should not be too long.

Milly, Molly, Mandy and Mo

28 Sep

As I said in my last blog on my ‘little girls’ I progressed from doing one quilt with dark skinned girls and one with light skinned girls to one with both.  It was obvious but it took me a lot of extra work to get to that point. It’s not that I don’t like making quilts. It must be patently obvious just from those on the blog – and they are only the tip of the iceberg, that either I enjoy making quilts or I am a serious masochist. I love the applique and finishing the quilt top. What I am not keen on is the actual quilting.

I have never progressed beyond ‘stitch in the ditch’ except during a brief foray into the world of the ‘Little Gracie’ quilt frame. On that I never progresssed beyond the twiddly twirly pattern, as shown in my original  Sunbonnet Blog, and got bored. I am however about to make a change there. I have booked onto a course on how to use the frame to its full potential. ( I think I was first in the queue) I am not sure that its potential is as high as I thought when I bought it but I am open to being converted. I think the fatal flaw is that unless you have a proper longarm machine as you progress the rolled quilt takes up too much of the throat space to allow a large area to work on. I am hoping for great things though and then maybe I will be able to be a bit more adventurous. Having said that a lot of my quilts lend themselves to stitch in the ditch so that the appliques can be seen better. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted. Maybe I can do as much for sales of Grace frames as I must have done for the Sunbonnet Sue books in my two modern interpretation of Sunbonnet Sue. (Here) and (here) in case you didn’t read them.

Enough of the chat. You are here to meet Milly, Molly, Mandy and Mo.

The first installment is called ”Toys at Bedtime’.

This is the rocking horse themed applique. A rather nice touch would be to use yarn for the horses tail. This would only be possible if making a wall hanging as it is better not to have too many loose bits for little fingers. A wall hanging would be very easy using one applique finished to the full framing stage or maybe even two or three up to the spotted stage with a plaid border round the whole lot for  a larger version. Fix a pocket on the back to take a piece of dowel and ‘hey presto’ one wall hanging. You could have a little group of them to match the quilt.

Rocking the Day Away

These figures are quite large ( I design on an A3 sheet.) so the scraps of fabric you would normally be able to use translate into at least a 10″ square for the dress fabric. The rest can be done with small pieces but it’s a good excuse to crack out the stash and use new fat quarters. I did that with the Sunbonnet patterns and found it quite liberating. Too long had I been rooting through my huge box of offcuts and scraps. I needed inspiration. Fat quarters are meant to be used. It is also quite refreshing to have bigger areas to work on especially if doing satin stitch applique as I do. There is of course no reason why these cannot be done using any hand applique stitch. Whatever you would normally use will translate in this pattern

Next I present the Jack-in-a-Box. On this one yarn could be used to enhance the pigtails and give them texture. Again, only if on a wall hanging which is why I didn’t use it on this quilt.

Jack-in-a- Box

The idea with this one was that she would look a bit scared as the Jack jumped out of the box. It depends on interpretaion and to some she may look scared and to some just a bored  teenager.  Anyway, the point is that you can change the expression by changing the angle of eye, eyebrow, mouth and body.  Also another chance to use some pretty material.

The next two are ready for bed. the first one has a hot water bottle and pyjamas and a rather large bear. I used my stretch stitch to draw ridges on the hot water bottle to make it a bit more realistic. Again, yarn could give texture to the hair. When I was experimenting I found some black knobbly wool which looked particularly good.

Time For Bed.

Last but not least is another pyjama clad little girl, this time with a teddy and blanket. That bear is really posing for his photo.The blanket round the hand is made up of two pieces to make it look as if it goes round the hand and is held. On this one I added eyelids to alter the expression. So much can be done just by altering the eyes. The direction of the pupils is especially effective as is adding eyelashes. If you are really into embroidery which I am not, you could embroider different shaped mouths too.

A Blue Blanket and a Pink Bear.

A picture of the full quilt. Hairstyles can be varied. As you can see just changing the placing of the pigtails changes the style quite a bit. You can now see what I mean about the wall hangings. If you were to make each picture sparately up to and including the plaid border, you would have very fetching wall hangings and all four would make a rather decorative set. they are quite an impressive size.

Toys Before Bedtime

When I saw this collection of fabric I had to have it. It goes together so well.

Some close up swatches.

Green Spot on Black

Blue Plaid

Yellow /Orange Swirl

That was Milly, Molly Mandy and Mo. I hope you enjoyed meeting them.

If you would like to have a go for yourself the pattern for the quilt can be bought from my website as can the fabrics featured and different colours of the same.

Soldier Soldier Won’t You Marry Me

27 Jul

I started designing quilts partly because I couldn’t buy patterns in the places I lived but also because I wanted more of an input into how the quilt turned out. It took me some time to master the mechanics of piecing, applique and quilting and I made up lots of other people’s patterns but I wanted to do my own.  Part of it was that I was going to make quilts to sell and that is not acceptable to many designers, although some do now allow it. I soon discovered that  I don’t really like the actual quilting bit enough to complete projects to sell and that even if I did the man hours are such that the price would have to be prohibitive.

One of the groups of designs I have done includes the cowboy one you may have seen in an earlier post and I call it the ‘Jamie Plays…….’ collection. Each shows Jamie in a different occupaion. There are several in the pipeline but there is one more available in a pattern already. This is the ‘Jamie Plays Soldiers’ pattern that is also available in a kit.

Jamie Plays Soldiers.

As you can see I didn’t manage the musket or the fife but I did get a drum in there. Also a Trumpet –


Trombone –


Drum –


Staff –


I even found a soldier fabric to match from Nutex in New Zealand.

Soldier Fabric

Sometimes just finding that perfect fabric makes all the differece between OK and perfect. I matched the rest of the quilt to the border.  When I lived overseas I used to take a pile of fat quarters out after every leave and I made everything from what I had. Now I have the whole range of makower Spraytime  on my site so it was quite easy to find a match. Although strangely because I have every colour It is often more difficult than when I had to work with what I had. It gave my work a bit of a signature if you know what I mean.

As you will have seen if you look at comments – I have had some questions on technique with machine applique. As I explained in my replies, I have largely developed my own way of doing things but helped along the way by tips picked up from various places. I can only tell you what I do, others may have other methods but as long as the end result is what you want that is all that matters.

I use either Madeira or Gutermann Sulky embroidery threads for my applique. I have  the full range of both makes because I did a trade with the B.C. – he got a boat and I got an industrial embroidery machine. I then bought both ranges.  When I started buying embroidery patterns I found that most of the ones I wanted were digitised for Madeira threads. As a result I save them for my embroidery machine and I use the Sulky thread for the appliques. I know these are available in UK and Australia and they are both suitable for machine applique. This does not mean that you can’t use any other. I personally think that if I am going to spend time and money on making a quilt I don’t want to risk spoiling it with a cheap thread that may not sew properly or might run when the quilt is washed. That is not to say that you can’t use cheaper thread. All I am saying is that  as with all other aspects of machine applique, in fact, quilting in general, ‘try before you buy.’ Try it, if it works, use it. I am sure there are lots of other threads of the same quality as Madeira and Sulky too, all I am saying is that they are the ones I know I can get here and that work well.

I also use a stabiliser on the back of each block. Again, you don’t have to, I have had to do without many times as I couldn’t buy it where I lived. I find it helps the fabric to move more smoothly and creates a better stitch on top. As it helps the fabric move it also helps prevent it sticking in one place and making the machine form knots of thread which are a pain to have to sort out.

I bought my original Madeira threads from Barnyarns in the UK and every so often they send an email out with a little tip on how to get the best from their products or why you might be having problems. In one of these mention was made of the fact that the top tension should always be no higher than 3 when embroidering. This of course means that the top tension is looser so it doesn’t pull the bobbin thread up to show on top. Again, experiment – never start a new process on your quilt until you have perfected it on a piece of scrap fabric. Try the tension at 3 and reduce or increase until you get a smooth satin stitch on top and stilll have some of the bobbin thread showing underneath. If there isn’t any then you have probably got it a bit loose.

(If you would like the whole range of Sulky on small reels – that means you have any colour you need visit  gs-uk)

I use an open -toed applique foot but all that is really required is that you can see what you are trying to sew. You need to follow the outline of the applique  enclosing the edge of it in the satin stitch. You don’t have to use satin stitch but if you don’t and use a zigzag or other stitch it may fray in the wash. I also find it easier to stitch with the applique on the left – but I am right handed.

I bought special embroidery needles at great expense and discovered that all that happened is that I broke them quickly. I think it is probably that, as they have made the eye longer to reduce friction on the thread it weakens the needle and so any little bit of strain or bending in stitching results in snapping. Again, this is just my experience, you may find they help a lot. I just use my ordinary machine needles and it doesn’t seem to matter what size either.

As you will have picked up if you have read the earlier posts, I use fusible webbing to fix the appliques to the background. I am repeating myself a bit here but not everyone reads all the back posts or can necessarily find the right one. I have tried a few and I find that the Heat n’ Bond  suits me best. Some of the webbings come away from the backing paper before you have time to trace the smaller pieces and this tends to result in a sticky iron or board as you try to retrieve the situation. When I made the Gollyville quilt they supplied one which was equally good. They are based in Australia and if you go on their site it appears to be called ‘Applifix’. I am sure there are others depending on where you live. Fusible webbing is basically a sheet of dry glue with paper on one side. You take reversed pattern pieces and trace them onto the paper side. You then cut the shape out roughly, iron it onto the back of the fabric you are using for that piece, allow it to cool and then cut out accurately round the traced shape. You then remove the paper and what you have is your applique shape the right way round and backed with glue. You then have two choices. If it is a simple applique like a heart you might just lay it onto the background fabric and iron it on. Then you stitch as above. If more complicated you might want to use a template (see below).


Put the template on the ironing board. Place a piece of non wax baking paper (greaseproof paper in UK) over it. I used a cheap one and found it wasn’t successful as the pieces stuck so that’s a tip for you. It usually has a slightly shiny surface to stop things sticking. Place all the pieces in turn onto the greaseproof over the template and ‘tack’ them into place with the point of the iron. When you are satisfied with the whole place another piece of greaseproof over the top and press quickly. Allow to cool then remove the whole applique from the paper and place onto the background. You can buy an applique sheet but I don’t get on with them It doesn’t mean you won’t though. Using a steam iron, fix onto the background.  This works well with the fusible webbing I use, you might like to experiment with scrap before risking your expensive fabrics, especially if you are using a kit.

I had better stop rambling now as I think that’s probably enough for anybody to read.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. I am happy to think I can help . You might have some tips or favourite brands in other countries too.

Until next time.

Meet Molly Moo Cow

24 Jul

Today, Saturday I have been knee deep in cheese again. Not that I actually had to do anything but I still felt part of the process so to speak. I went down to the cheesemaking bit of the cellar to get the watering can as the flowers out front were looking a tad wilted and it looks like a mini dairy. There are not actually any cows there but there are four different cheeses being pressed as we speak. very impressive. In fact I began to feel quite like a farmer’s wife and it put me in mind of my ‘Funky Farmyard’Quilt design.

This evolved from some sketches I made and then I saw the Makower farm fabric and had to have it and the Funky Farmyard was born.

Meet Molly the Moo Cow, Horace the Horse, Sadie the Sheep, Denzil the Duck, Ronald and Rabina the Rabbits and Percy the Pig.

On his own Gerry the Goat.

The pattern has a 6″ border but I just had to use the Makower border fabric which is actually 10″ so the quilt is a very large single and should hang down to the floor on a single bed. The Goat applique is on a play mat. I think the playmat is a good thing to have around with a baby . If you use a hiloft wadding so that it is soft it makes a very good surface on which to lay the baby when small and also to lay over it when asleep say in the car or on a picnic. In short a very useful bit of katundu.

Whilst I was making up the quilt it occured to me that the designs would make good wall hangings too. They could be used to decorate a child’s room in addition to the quilt.

Denzil and Daisy

They are quick and easy to make and great fun. As you can see you can put on multiple Ducks or just the one and you could put on as many flowers as you like. Using a plain fabric changes the whole look of the design. You could also combine patterned and plain for yet another look. If you would like the pattern or kit go to nsaaquilting.co.uk. If you like the fabric I have some fat quarters in it. At the moment I have kits in Pig, Duck and Rabbit although I could make up one of the others if it appeals. Just email me a  info@nsaaquilting.co.uk.

I made these in the same way as described in the last post, using a couple of pieces of greaseproof paper and the template. All my applique patterns have reversed pieces so that you don’t have to mess about with a light box. I got quite distressed in sunny countries watching people trying to trace pattern pieces whilst holding the original up to a window. Louvred windows were a particular challenge. You can of course still use a light box to make it easier to trace the pieces onto the fusible webbing but they are the right way round to trace onto the webbing. The use of the lightbox is one of the reasons I only produce single sided patterns. I find it very frustrating to trace pattern pieces over a lightbox with the pieces on the other side showing through. Paper doesn’t cost that much and the printing costs are the same however you look at it. To recap; having traced the reversed pieces onto the fusible webbing and cut round them roughly, I iron them onto the reverse side of the fabric to be used. They are then cut out on the traced lines and the paper backing removed. This leaves a glue surface which allows the pieces, now the right way round, to be placed onto the background fabric and ironed on. This fuses them onto the background and keeps them in place whilst they are stitched.

Instead of putting them straight on to the background I make the appliques up first. I lay a piece of baking paper over the template which shows the finished applique. I then place each piece down starting with those that will be underneath and use the point of the iron to tack the pieces in place. When I am satisfied with the result I put another piece of greaseproof over the applique and press quickly, just long enough for them to fuse together. When cool the applique is carefully removed from the greaseproof paper and placed on the background. Using a steam iron it is then fused on. Follow with your choice of stitching.


You can use a special applique sheet but I don’t get on with them I prefer the paper. ‘Horses for Courses ‘ as they say.

As a finale let me now introduce the Rabbits.I really Like the Rabbits.

She who is tired of quilting is tired of life.

19 Jul

Apologies to samuel Johnson for the title. It is also worth noting that not all quilters are female.

This blog Continues the theme in the 15th July blog. If you don’t want to tire of quilting don’t overface yourself but at the same time challenge yourself a bit more with each project. The bag projects help teach piecing and quilting, the next stage might be to learn applique. Again, start with something simple that you can finish successfully. Something like the cot quilt  in my quilt patterns and kits sections. As I said in the last ‘lesson’ a kit is useful as it supplies the things needed to make the project but a pattern  would also work. For instance, the hearts in the kit below are ready fused onto the gingham and cut out. the pattern does however give a pattern for the heart and there are instructions on how to fuse the hearts to the fabric.  If you like my choice of fabric then a kit is a good idea but if you want to choose your own fabric use a pattern. It is also possible to use different shapes with the basic pattern although only the heart is supplied at present.

Sweet Hearts Cot Quilt Kit

This is the kit as sold featuring the pink version.

The kit comes in four colours

There are several ways of appliqueing shapes onto a background. One is to cut out the shapes with a 1/4″ allowance all round. Fold this over and press. Pin the shape to the background and slip stitch in place using small stitches, catching a little of the background and a little of the applique at the same time. Another way is to cut the shapes exactly to size and then either attach with blanket stitch – or as it was described to me the other day ‘teddy bear hand stitch’ which I  thought was a much more evocative description., or with a machine stitch. Any embroidery stitch or zigzag would do but I use satin stitch as it gives a neater finish which is less likely to fray. With machine applique use a piece of stabiliser on the back as this makes the fabric move much more easily.

Applique is a fairly easy way to make a simple quilt look more complicated. It is a good way to personalise your handiwork. One thing I can promise you is that once you get started you wont be able to stop. Everyone will gets quilts for presents. They will be amazed and you will be popular.

Good stitching.

Confessions of a Quiltaholic

8 Jul

I admit it, I like fabric. No, I have to be honest, I love fabric. I also love creating little artworks from tiny bits of fabric (known in the quilting world as ‘The Stash’). It could have something to do with being exiled to faraway countries with little to do , lots of sun and a collection of vibrant coloured scraps and fat quarters. Add to that the need to keep cool and an airconditioned room with a sewing machine and a lot of time and the resulting pile of quilts and wall hangings was inevitable.

At first I made traditional patchwork quilts with the cases full of fat quarters I took back from each leave. Then I went to Papua New Guinea which is very close to Australia. So close that I went several times and had lovely holidays in which quilt shops featured heavily.  There I discovered applique. Not just any applique but bright, happy applique. I discovered Kookaburra Cottage patterns in particular and also Australian quilting magazines. They have so much colour and fun. From then on I was hooked on applique and bright colours and I couldn’t stop.

After a while I started experimenting with my own patterns. I am not particularly good at drawing but I designed some interesting and different quilts and bags. I soon realised that if you are going to put 9 cowboys on a quilt, each in an identical space they need to be roughly the same size and  my sketching didn’t work too well in this regard. Luckily my Daughter is a graphic designer and she showed me how to trace on the computer. Suddenly the patterns looked professional and were much easier to produce. An idea was born, if I liked making these quilts perhaps others would. When I returned permanently to England I decided to set up a web site selling patterns and kits for my designs. I wasn’t too keen on doing the tracing when I had a Daughter to do it so we came to an understanding. I design, she traces and does the patterns, I make up the prototype. I like to think we have produced some very professional patterns between us. Some are made into kits as many people like to use the same material as the original. Also it is easier to have everything needed to start a project instead of having to buy everything and being frustrated by lack of availability and choice.

Quilt pattern Cowboy Layout

This is what the pattern looks like for the cowboy quilt. It has pattern pieces reversed for tracing onto fusible webbing and full sized templates for placing and fusing a whole cowboy before placing on the background fabric. These are printed on one side so that they can be placed on a light box without confusing the tracer. Also included are a general instruction sheet and instructions specific to the cowboy pattern. In addition there is a photograph of the finished quilt and a sheet with the layout measurements and materials requirements. I have tried to make my patterns user friendly based on years of using other people’s patterns and noting the pros and cons.  For individual pictures of the cowboys have a look at nsaaquilting.co.uk or see cowboy quilt link above.