Category Archives: Luminary Quilters

African Block Swap #2

It was an amazing display of patchwork that a group of ladies from ‘The Patchworkers and Quilters Guild of Victoria’, created for the first African Block Swap. Styles ranged from traditional, to contemporary, to artistic. The choice of fabrics reflected the colours of Australia, complimented block themes, or used Australian prints. A talented bunch of ladies.

African Block Swap #1

The variety of the first block created by the group.

So what to do for my block this time? I am currently cataloguing all library books for my local Guild’s website (Essendon Quilters), and a side benefit is getting to have a quick peruse through the collection as part of the process. (Which is why I’ve been off the radar lately, and will be for a while as there’s 900 books to be done!) This book came along at just the right time.

Margaret Rolfe 'Quilt-a-Koala

‘Quilt-a-Koala: Australian Animals and Birds in Patchwork’ by Margaret Rolfe

Margaret Rolfe is one of the Australia’s esteemed quilters, with a long history of creating and preserving the traditions. What a wonderful way to showcase Australia for this block swap! But which animal to start with – the koala of course! Just need to raid the stash for fabric too.


The pattern for the pieced koala.

Fabric selection

Fabric selection

The pattern is for 19 pieces to make the block and is in metric measurement, whereas as patchworkers we work in imperial. Our whole country (Australia) works in metric and has done so since 1970, except for Patchwork Quilting – due to influences beyond our control, namely the industry in USA. We are continually having to switch between the two when reading patterns and purchasing fabric. DH who functions completely in metric, down to millimetres, gets frustrated when I talk in inches, so double sided tape measures come out to be used.

First up – draft the pattern up to a 12 inch block, cover it with freezer paper to make templates.

Freezer paper templates

Drafted block, freezer paper pinned over the top of the graph paper.

Cut the freezer paper into individual shapes, iron to right side of fabric, cut out the patches and start sewing – sounds easy. There’s lot’s of fiddly bits, and techniques have changed since the book was first published in 1990. Hang on a minute, as Pauline (Patchworks Unlimited) keeps teaching us, there must be an easier way!

Freezer paper templates

Freezer paper templates

So a rethink was in order. Why not use the templates to make the background in one piece, and appliqué the koala! Can still use the freezer paper templates to iron onto the fabric to get the right size background pieces and placement of the koala. Putting it back together again was like playing with a jigsaw puzzle.

Koala's back together!

Koala’s back together!

Do the same with the tree trunk.

Koala tree trunk

Koala tree trunk

Sew the backgrounds together, position and machine appliqué the koala with a zig-zag. Easy -peasy, glad I didn’t persist with 19 fiddly bits of fabric.

Appliqued koala.

Appliqued koala.

Now for the face. Using Karen Kay Buckley’s circles and ovals to make the shapes (gave up on the vlisofix, it kept falling apart), and hand stitch to the block.

Karen Kay Buckley's circles and ovals.

Karen Kay Buckley’s circles and ovals.

Oh no – those dinky bits of white for the eyes. Solution – use a permanent adhesive like ‘Heat n’ Bond’ that doesn’t need sewing, trim the edges of the block and the koala is done!

Koala block.

Koala block.

I wonder what Margaret Rolfe would think of the tools and techniques used to make this version of a block she planned 25 years ago.


Are we clammed out yet?

Clamshells, clamshells, clamshells ……….

Australian ‘International Tutor’, Irene Blanck of ‘Focus on Quilts’, taught a class at Patchworks Unlimited, demonstrating her easy method of sewing clamshells. No papers, no backing fabric, no grid, so simple. Using template plastic to draw the clamshells, basting the turned edge and basting together, results in a portable block of clamshells. Irene’s encouraging and informative teaching soon had everyone tracing, cutting, folding and stitching amidst concentration, conversation and laughter!

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Irene Blanck’s demonstration clamshells.

Donna’s cute fabrics include a couple of clamshells with a background textured thread that just asks to be finger tip touched – very tactile. Love the fussy cut ladybird! When the next row is added it will ‘peep’ out, or emerge, from between the clams.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Donna’s array

Joy chose to use two fabrics in a one colour, staggering the clamshells. This will give movement across the quilt making a trail for the eye to follow.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Joy’s blues.

My eclectic scrappy mix includes a row of black to make the clamshells pop. This is one of Irene’s suggested layouts. Seems to me, when I see my own work in photos, that I have a patchwork ‘style’ of high contrast and bright colours!

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Robyn’s alternate rows layout

Sheryl went way out of her comfort zone with these fabrics, so the soft colours are going to be lifted with a few darker shades to add depth and variety.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Sheryl’s original second row is the pale grey.

Ann’s houses are carefully cut out to ensure they are visually horizontal. Even a small incline, or a pattern off kilter, will give the viewer an unconscious niggle that something’s not quite right.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Ann’s bright clamshells.

Mary also chose to have a go at the alternate row layout with these creams and shaded colours. The Karen Kay Buckley scissors are a dream to use for cutting out the clamshells in fabric.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Mary’s alternate row layout.

By putting in some vintage prints, Moira has added both depth and places for the eye to rest as the quilt is viewed. Like Ann’s houses and Donna’s ladybird, the check fabric is fussy cut to keep the pattern vertical and horizontal.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Moira’s vintage fabrics.

Marcia chose bright coloured fabrics of clear and defined patterns, and set them against a row of grey. This style gives lots of ‘I Spy’ spots to discover as you look at the quilt.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Marcia’s alternate row layout.

Karin’s quilt has the wow factor of traditional red and black, with modern grey linking the two together. Careful placement of the red will catch attention to the quilt. Karin’s using Paula Storm‘s new appliqué needles (in the cute little bottle), and experimenting with Wonderfil’s ‘Deco-Bob’ thread to appliqué the clamshells together.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Karin’s glam clams.

Debbie’s scrappy quilt has her clamshells made from batiks. This will be a richly coloured quilt, and the finely woven fabric is very easy to appliqué.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Debbie whipstitching clams together.

Winner of the ‘Quiet Achiever Award’ goes to our hand stitching extraordinaire …. Angela! These perfectly pieced ‘French General’ clamshells came together before any of us had time to thread a needle! (Sorry about the shadow – the sun came out from behind just as the photo was taken.)

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts

Angela’s ‘soldiers’ all in a line.

Oooops …! Don’t do what Donna did … Just as well it was close to finishing time, well after having made the clamshells.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts.

Donna sewed her finger to the clamshells – ouch!

Irene concluded her lesson with advice on layouts, quilting, borders and labels. Her alternate row sample has machine quilting,

Irene Blanck Focus on Fabric

Irene’s alternate rows.

whilst her ‘scrappy’ version is hand quilted in a utility stitch using Perle 8 cotton thread.

Irene Blank Focus on Quilts

Irene’s hand quilting.

Irene is well known for her needle-turn appliqué and her love of fabric printed with text, which she incorporates into her quilts. She is now the proud author of her first book, published by Quiltmania.

Irene Blanck Focus on Quilts.

‘Focus on Applique’ by Irene Blanck

Phew! A marathon blog! I’m glad you stayed the distance!

Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what participants can enjoy and achieve in Irene Blanck’s ‘Clamshell’ class.

Till next time, 


Australian Quilt Convention – Part 3 (Last part)

There are two major displays of award winning quilts at the Australian Quilt Convention each year. One is the ‘Rajah Award’. This is named after the historical quilt,  The Rajah Quilt, which was made by female convicts on the ship ‘Rajah’, as they were transported from England to Van Dieman’s Land (now called Tasmania), in 1841. Follow the link to learn more about the significance of this appliquéd coverlet, for it’s relevance to presenting the award, in recognition of the ‘outstanding contribution to quilting in Australia’.

Rajah Quilt

‘Rajah Quilt’ courtesy of National Gallery of Australia.

The displayed works of the previous year’s award winner are always a delight to behold. Michele Hill, the winner of the 2014 Rajah Award, is internationally famous for her William Morris designs and love of appliqué. These are just a few from her extensive body of work that were on display.

Michele Hill

‘William De Morgan Sampler’ by Michele Hill.

Michele Hill

‘Woven Morris Glows Again’ by Michele Hill.

Michele Hill

‘Thorngrove Manor Quilt’ by Michele Hill.

Then we come to the ‘Best of Australia” quilts. The ‘Best of Show’ quilts from the previous years’ major exhibition held by each State and Territory Guild, is displayed and judged for the ‘Best of Australia’ award. It must be a difficult task in deciding this award, as each quilt is both beautiful to behold and exquisitely constructed, as well as being so technically different.

I was fortunate to be on ‘Quilt Angel’ white glove duty, when one of the quilt makers visited her quilt with her daughter. Linda White‘s (Victorian entry), original design of Elenor Jean‘, ‘comprises approximately 22,500 1/4″ hexagons! While I have the utmost admiration for this Herculean task, there is no way I would ever contemplate even thinking about attempting such small hexagons. Little did we know that 24 hours after this photo was taken, it was announced as the winning quilt – well deserved for endurance alone!

Linda White

‘Elenor Jean’ by Linda White, winner of ‘Best of Australia 2015’.

Rose Lewis‘s (Australian Capital Territory entry) quilt was amazingly heavy to lift. The extensive trapunto brought to life the three dimensional trees, and the dense tiny quilting was appreciated more by seeing it from the back. Viewers had to peer closely to see the hidden creatures cleverly stitched in amongst the flowers and leaves.

Rose Lewis

‘Through the Garden Gate’ by Rose Lewis.

The hand quilting of Janet Treen‘s red and green quilt (New South Wales entry), was magnificant. I enjoy hand quilting with a 12 wt Aurafil thread and a utility stitch. I think that’s where I’ll stay – stab stitching I can do it much faster, than when I have a go at the ‘rocking method’ most likely used to get those amazingly tiny uniform stitches on this quilt.

Janet Treen

‘Coxcomb and Currants’ by Janet Treen.

The bright colours of Kaffe Fasset fabrics makes Joanne Johnson’s (Queensland entry), medallion appliqué a happy modern quilt. The eye travels around the quilt taking in the many fabrics used in the borders and comes to rest on the delightful Baltimore style vase of flowers.

Joanne Johnson

‘Summer Rhapsody’ by Joanne Johnson

With 10.000 1″ squares hand pieced, no wonder Melody Symes (Western Australia entry), named her work ‘Perseverance’. The unusual quilting method subtly complimented the quilt. A single embroidery ‘fly stitch’ in each square – so that makes 10.000 embroidery stitches as well! – kept the look and feel of the top without it being overtaken by lines of quilting.

Melody Symes

‘Perseverance’ by Melody Symes

Melody Symes

Close up of the embroidery ‘fly stitch’ used for quilting ‘Perseverance’ by Melody Symes

A work of art using multiple shiny and metallic threads over acrylic painted fabric, by Sue Domeney (Tasmanian entry) certainly made the connection to New Year’s Eve fireworks high in the sky over a city just near you.

Sue Domeney

‘Heavens Above’ by Sue Domeney.

Elizabeth McCallum (Northern territory entry), made clever use of a large print fabric as broderie perse over tea dyed fabric, for the ‘Chinese Coins for Tigers’. The browns and reds are so redolent of a camouflaged tiger.

Elizabeth McCallum

‘Chinese Coins for Tigers’ by Elizabeth McCallum.

This was a stunner! The back looked equally as good, if not better as the backing fabric was like a pale blue watercolour. Rachelle Denneny’s (South Australian entry) free motion machine quilting, using two different coloured threads and trapunto, gave the pattern an elegant lofty lift. Many viewers stood almost stunned at the amount perfect quilting repeated for every block.

Rachelle Denenny

‘A Touch of Blue’ by Rachelle Denneny.

Rachelle Denneny

Close up of the free motion quilting by Rachelle Denenny in her ‘Touch of Blue’ quilt.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of the ‘luminary quilters’ of the Australian Quilt Convention for 2015.

Thank you for taking the time to read and share the works of our amazing quilters.


Australian Quilt Convention – Part 2

On display at the Australian Quilt Convention, there were several themed exhibits, one of which is Lucy Carroll’s ‘The Gallipoli Quilt’. This series of quilts depicts the life experiences of a soldier throughout the Gallipoli campaign (at the Dardanelles in Turkey, during World War 1). As we Australians are marking the 100th Anniversary of ANZAC Day on April 25th, it was very moving to see and read this commemoration. This is just one in the series. Hop over to Carol’s site to see the quilts and read the full story.

Australian Quilt Convention 2015

‘Cove’ Gallipoli Quilt

Jan Irvine-Nealie  from New South Wales, had a display of her amazing textile work. I was so distracted examining up close her hand stitching on airbrushed pigment that I forgot to take a photo! So go to her site to have a look, but remember to come back here for the rest of the AQC tour post.

The ‘Teach Me‘ display featured works made by the tutors who were conducting classes at AQC. Two in particular stood out for me. This precise paper pieced quilt by international quilt artist Jacqueline de Jonge, positively glittered in the light, this photo doesn’t do the sparkle effect justice at all.

Enchanting Stars

‘Enchanting Stars’ by Jacqueline de Jonge

One of the blogs I follow is Esther Aliu and her amazing appliqué quilts. She has been leading a very large world wide group of followers in making several of her original designs. One in particular gained huge international recognition and now there are many of this particular quilt being made across the globe.

Hearts Desire

‘Hearts Desire’ by Esther Aliu

The ‘Best of the Best’ were quilts selected by state or territory guilds. Of course there were a lot more to see, these are just a few. From Queensland Quilters Inc. came a black and white quilt which utilises the QYG (Quilt as You Go) method of construction and the choice of background fabric makes it zing! It may be hard to see in the photo – it’s like a spider’s web when you see it up close. Took this photo for you Sheryl (she just loves collecting and using black and white fabrics)!

Everlasting Love

‘Everlasting Love’ by Margaret Tweedle

Again from Queensland, an applique stripy quilt, with a pieced background, added visual depth for the ‘hot’ colours to pop forward. Notice that this has no bottom border, it makes it look like a pelmet or cornice above wallpaper.

Quilted Wallpaper

‘Quilted Wallpaper’ by Robyn Ginn

Another from Queensland, a Judges Choice lived up to it’s title, there were no mice to be seen in the building! Rather than being a stark contrast between the black and white fabrics and the very bright owl, Jenny included some very small splashes of orange in specific parts of the background which unified, and added dimension, to the quilt.

Jenny's Owl

‘Jenny’s Owl’ by Peggy Phelps

An art quilt using raw edge appliqué and stretch velour fabric, was presented by the Canberra Quilters Inc. Us Aussie’s appreciate the ‘unrealistic vibrant colour of the lizard’ and the play on words by Bronwyn in reference to a popular film.


‘Priscilla’ by Bronwyn Hill

‘Wait, there’s more …’ to come (next time), and no they’re not steak knives!