Category Archives: Tips Tools Techniques

Quilting ruler patterns!

So now it’s time to quilt Alyce’s baby quilt. I’ve decided to use machine quilting ruler-work. Using rulers by hobbyists is a quickly developing area, many professionals like Leah Day and Angela Waters are producing rulers for domestic machines. Leonie and Bill from ‘Westalee’ have been doing this for a few years, so my collection of theirs and others is growing.

So, for this quilt, I’ve decided that each block will have its own pattern, instead of an allover pattern. I prefer to work on an already pieced quilt, rather than the other way around of quilting a pattern and making it into a quilt.

So where does ruler work fit in amongst domestic machine quilting techniques? At one end of the range is walking foot quilting, and at the other end of the range is free motion quilting. Ruler work sits in the middle. It has the look of free motion, yet has the stability of controlled quilting.

What’s my process? In the beginning, it’s paper and pencil planning, then as that becomes embedded it’s to seek out patterns amongst the squillion on the Internet, and interpret them into ruler work. Of course following specialist quilting bloggers is a sure way to fast track learning!

The first step is to draft up the block, Layer a piece of tracing paper over the top, if one ‘pattern’ works, but doesn’t quite suit the quilt – don’t rub out the drawing, keep it for another quilt. This builds up not only a pattern library, but it also trains the brain into seeing other possibilities. So use another piece of tracing paper. (There are great classes using this technique on the Internet.)

Draft 01

Get out the rulers, a pencil and a tracing circle – the most expensive gadget in the toolbox! Look at the block and work out how much quilting is needed. Would lines or curves be best to enhance the block as compared to an all over pattern? Match the idea up with a ruler and start to draw. Drawing helps plan the actual quilting on the machine – where to start and finish; which direction to go in first; how the quilt will sit or fit under the machine.

Draft 02

The results are patterns that enhance the quilt. Arrows show direction, —— show stitching in the ditch (previously ditch-stitched).

Draft 04

Draft 03

So let the quilting begin!

Ruler 01

Two days later it’s all quilted – nothing like an imminent birth for a deadline!

Finished Quilt

Hope you like the choices for this quilt – I’m sure the new mum and baby boy loves it!


Baste Away, Baste Away, Baste Away …

After having explored and had a go any the many ways a quilt can be basted, I seem to stick to my ‘go to’ favourite method – spray basting using ‘505’. It is quick, doesn’t add weight to the quilt, lays flat without wrinkles, stays basted for years, and doesn’t gum up the machine sewing needle. I do need a flat open space to prepare the quilt – a tad difficult in the never-ending house renovation cycle!

Basting back

Taping the backing down and stretching it tight to eliminate as many wrinkles as possible.

Basting wadding

Layering the wadding and the top over the backing, smoothing it out as it’s done. Then folding it back twice to half way – makes it easier to manage when starting the spray.

Basting top

Once the wadding is basted down, the process is repeated for the top. This time it’s necessary to check that none of the seams have shifted as it’s rolled back and smoothed down.

Basting done

Letting the basted quilt ‘rest’ to dry a bit – doesn’t take long – before ripping off the painter’s tape, a very satisfying feeling because that means it’s time to quilt!

And yes, it’s ‘fussy cut’ for horizontal layout of all those fabrics! The border fabric was a disappointment because it looked straight on the bolt but when it came to cutting it up into patches, the print was definitely not straight! Came out okay around the feature fabric (elephants), but in the longer border pieces it’s wonky – but I don’t think the baby will mind!



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.