Category Archives: Tips Tools Techniques

How to make a ‘Modern Hexie’ the easy way

‘Modern Hexies’ are easy to make. All you need is

  • a piece of fabric larger than the hexagon – great for stash busting!
  • a paper hexagon
  • water spray bottle
  • iron

I used a Charm Square (5 inch), and a 2 inch hexagon.

  • Spray the back of the hexagon with water – starch is not necessary!
  • Centre the paper hexagon on the fabric. Using a hot dry iron, flip over each edge in turn and press for a few seconds.
  • Once the whole hexagon has been pressed, flip it over and press from the front.
  • Flip to the back, remove the paper, and give it a final press to make sure it is dry.

Have a look at my Flipagram ‘Making Hexies’


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.


5 Way to Reduce Your Stash

Is your stash taking over?

(Sorry – the image is not here – technical issue – trying out a new tool). Seems that does not allow use of Java script – so may need to progress towards a self-hosting option. More learning!

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,