A new scrap quilt!

I love scrap quilts! And I started making one, oops… They have a wonderful quilting heritage that’s hard to ignore – couple that with just about as many gorgeous fabrics as you care to lay your hands on, then add a sprinkling of alchemy to create order out of chaos, and well, what’s not to love?! Scraps really lend themselves to ‘string’ quilts – creating patchwork blocks from leftover narrow strips of fabric. All you’re really doing is creating a larger piece of fabric from lots of little bits that you then cut up again and arrange in whatever pattern takes your fancy!

Blue scrappy 'string' patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Arranging the blocks into diamonds

Making a string quilt wasn’t on my to-do list this week, nor was sorting out my baskets of scraps. But as Sunday morning rolled on I felt completely overwhelmed with the disorganised mess my work area had become and impulsively decided something had to be done there and then. I’ve been donated lots of old clothes lately by a number of friends, “use them for patchwork” they said, and they’ve been hanging around in bags under the table, on chairs, stacked on the floor…waiting for me to sort them out. And there were bags and bags of them.

Sorting out fabric scraps for patchwork and quilting. © Stephanie Boon, 2014.  www.dawnchorusstudio.com

In the beginning… (it got so much worse)

I posted this picture on my Facebook page as the sorting began and Anne from Mama Says Sew suggested it was like trying to fit a quart into a pint pot!  She couldn’t have been closer to the truth. So I decided I had to be ruthless and not sentimental (I feel so guilty getting rid of any fabrics friends have given me!): out went the jerseys, anything with elastane or lycra in, old woollen jumpers, items that had worn too thin, very loose weaves, light weight cottons, patterns I’m really unlikely to use… I kept good quality cottons, several linens and some silks. Not everything is useful for patchwork, but will potentially make great cushion/pillow backs, etc.  Once I decided what to keep I cut the clothes up into useable pieces of fabric, reducing bulk and making it easier to store.  Then I started sorting through my ‘small-scraps’ baskets. And wished I hadn’t!  By the time I finished I think I donated about 7 or 8 bags of clothes and scraps for rags to local charity shops. Later on in the day Anne suggested I made some of the scraps into quilts to reduce the bulk even further. What a novel idea, I thought, haha!!!! I noticed I had rather a lot blue scraps and after all that organising thought I deserved a bit of fun, so decided to see what, if anything, I could do with them – et voila, the beginnings of a blue string quilt!

'String' patchwork blocks in blue in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Scrappy fabric detail

How I made it!

These are very quick to make up: I used a square of muslin as a foundation (about 6.5″), then pressed a diagonal crease across the centre (a little spray starch stops it from stretching too far out of shape as the muslin is very thin); I then took two strips of fabric (varying widths but all with parallel edges) right sides together and placed the right hand edges along the crease on the muslin, ensuring the fabric went right from one corner to the other), next I stitched a 1/4″ seam through all three layers.  Then I flipped the top strip back and pressed it in open. I carried on with this process adding a strip (right sides together) on top of the last one, making sure it covered the full width of the muslin, stitching a 1/4″ seam through all three layers, pressing it open, etc.   Once I reached the corner I turned the block around and did the same until I reached the other corner and the whole of the muslin was covered. Finally I trimmed the patches to 5.5″ and machined a row of straight stitch about 1/8″ away from the edges to stabilise them. I don’t plan to stitch the patches into blocks until I have enough for a lap quilt, so that I can play around with the layout. I have some exciting ideas I want to try out! (Well, in my head they’re exciting anyway, ha!) I’m glad to say the studio space is feeling a little more organised now and has given me the head space to think about some new projects – as well as some table space to finish up a couple of small ones – the reindeer pillow for one! I’ve finished the quilting now and it just needs to be made up. It should be done by the end of the week, so come back for a peek! Until then happy sewing! (NB There’s no Work in Progress Wednesday this week as Lee’s on holiday – hope she has a great time, but I’m going to pop over to Diary of a Mad Fabriholic, Alidiza and of course Fret Not Yourself to see what they’ve been up to this week instead – coming?!)   signature, Stephie x Follow on Bloglovin

Paper piecing a pillow!

Wow, time’s flying by isn’t it?! I’m feeling a bit stressed with all the things I want to do and none of them being crossed off the ever-lengthening list, eek! Good job time seems to stop when I’m hand quilting, which is what I’ve been up to this week.  I bought some of these fun Scandi fabrics by The Henley Studio and my son fell in love with the red reindeer and asked me to make him something with it. I came up with the idea for a Christmas pillow, which is about 18″ square. I drew the reindeer and then needle turn appliquéd it to the heart fabric. The hearts are perfect for quilting round and I wanted to compliment them with some appliqué hearts in the border, but no, Kim wanted stars!

Reindeer quilted cushion in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Who says reindeers can’t be red!

I made the stars and the flying geese patchwork using the foundation piecing method, which was the first time I’ve done that in a while and the first time I’ve made flying geese that way at all. It’s very accurate, probably the most accurate way I’ve ever made them. I’ve always thought there’s too much wastage with this method but I found a way that kept it to a minimum, and I could even chain piece them! I’m going to share it with you later in the week, along with a pattern for the block I made, so come back for that!

Lily the cat sitting on a hand quilted pillow in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Lily making herself at home!

I’ve promised myself to keep the hand quilting to a minimum on this project (I want to get on with some other things!), so decided to make a feature of it using a red pearl cotton (size 8, number 46) – Sew and So have a great sale on a the moment! It’s a heavier weight thread and you can make bigger stitches that will make a cushion like this come together in no time. I highly recommend it if you’re new to hand quilting too – it’s much easier to practice getting even stitches with.

I’m wondering who else out there has tried foundation piecing and what you think of it?  What advantages/disadvantages do you find? Or maybe you have better methods you use for making flying geese or little stars?  Let us know in the comments below!

Linking up with Work in Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced – hop on over and check out some other blogs for work in progress this week and a fab GIVEAWAY TOO! :)


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Making a quilt backing and sandwich

'Summer Blues' (Bed quilt In progress) ©Stephanie Boon 2014 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Summer Blues, a long work in progress

Work in Progress Wednesday, already?! I don’t know about you but I’ve still got a whole pile of works in progress, so I could show you any number of things this week! I chose my Summer Blues quilt though because it’s all happy and summery and that’s a good feeling!  I’ve been working on this quilt on and off for about 6 years.  There’s a lot of hand piecing (all the 9 patch blocks and half of the sashing), but I decided to finish it up by machine just so that I could get on with the hand quilting and actually use it sooner rather than later. It’s the first full size quilt I made (mostly) by hand and I feel like my ideas and skill level have improved and moved on significantly, so it kind of got put on the back burner. If I remember correctly I even cut most of it out with scissors – now that’s old school! I’m glad I decided to finish it though because I still think it’s really pretty, despite the patchwork not quite matching up as it should in places – oops!

'Summer Blues' (Bed quilt in progress) ©Stephanie Boon 2014 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Hand quilting in progress

I began buying all the Kaffe Fassett fabrics for the patchwork 6 years ago, so when I came to choose backing fabric at Cowslip Workshops recently I was pleased to find the Phillip Jacobs Gloxinia design in the perfect colour way (see the top photo) – serendipity!  I’m hand quilting it so I decided I didn’t want too many seams on the back (it makes it very hard on the fingers trying to go through so many layers!), so have stuck to just the one fabric. It’s 2 pieces that I seamed down the centre. You can’t see the seam at all – and the trick to doing this is to

Match the pattern:

  1. When you buy your backing fabric, measure the length of the quilt x 2, add 12″ (the backing fabric needs to be larger than the quilt top) PLUS (and this is the important bit!) the length of the pattern repeat. Your retailer should be able to tell you the repeat length.
  2. Cut your first length the length of the quilt top plus 6 inches (for a full size quilt), which allows for ‘shrinkage’ as you quilt.
  3. Place this length right sides together with your remaining length (which will be longer) and match up the pattern along the seam.
  4. Pin and baste in place along the seam allowance (basting is useful on a large quilt as it stops the pattern slipping out of alignment as you feed it through the machine) and machine together.
  5. Once you’ve removed any pins and basting, press the seam open and trim the top and bottom edges square and to the same length.

Now you’re ready to begin the process of making a quilt sandwich!

Making a quilt sandwich. Making a quilt sandwich.Making a quilt sandwich.  © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Making a quilt sandwich!


Finding enough level floor space at home to do this required moving a lot of furniture about before I could even start! First of all I laid the backing fabric on the carpet (wrong side up) making sure I kept that centre seam straight. I used masking tape to tape it down working from the centres outwards and ironing as I went. Next I laid the wadding/batting on top and held it in place with masking tape again working form the centres out (I didn’t iron it though). Then came the tedious task of de-threading the quilt top and trimming any seams (why did I make them so HUGE?!?) before I laid it down centrally on top of the batting (right side up and with about 3″ of batting and backing fabric showing all round).  The next important thing was to keep the sashing parallel to the seam on the backing fabric. I devised a cunning plan!

I marked where the seam was on the backing fabric by inserting a safety pin at either end and then tied a strong piece of thread between them – voila, a straight line! Then I matched up the straight central sashing on the quilt top to the line of thread, basting along this line through all three layers with safety pins (from the centre out). Once that was done I removed the line of thread and continued basting and ironing from the centre out with pins, taping down the edges to keep it all nice and taught. I then decided to baste through all three layers with needle and thread because this is likely to take me a while to quilt and I really don’t want to end up with rusty pins marking the fabric.

Once it was basted with thread I removed the pins, then the masking tape (do this very carefully on your wadding) and was ready to begin quilting!  I think the best advice for making the quilt sandwich is to take your time, it’s this process that will determine how flat your quilt lies once it’s finished and if you’ve spent hours on the patchwork it would be a shame to cut corners on the basting – on a quilt this size be prepared to spend a good few hours doing it.

Hand quilting from the back, © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

You can clearly see my basting and quilting on the back – but check out that seam!

I’ve begun quilting the sashing ‘in-the-ditch’ (in the seams along the lines of the sashing) and will probably do the same through the 9 patch blocks, but I think I may try something a bit more imaginative in the sashing itself – but that’s probably a while off yet, so I’ve got plenty of time to decide!

If you have any tips to share for making a quilt sandwich make sure you leave them in the comments below, we’d love to hear them :)

Linking up with Work In Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced – hop on over to discover lots more work in progress this week.

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Fancy a read? Textiles a World Tour

© Stephanie Boon, 2014 www.dawnchorusstudio.com Photograph: Textiles a World Tour, by Catherine Legrand, Thames and Hudson.

Textiles a World Tour, Catherine Legrand, Thames and Hudson

Time for coffee and a biscuit?!  It’s been a while since I’ve shared anything from my bookshelf, but lately I can’t stop looking at this wonderful book and decided I just have to show it to you!  I hope you’ll find the sumptuous colours as inspiring as I do. Pull up a chair and be prepared for a mini visual feast.

I was lucky enough to be given a Waterstones book token last Christmas (one of my favourite presents, just so’s you know ;) ) and this is what I spent it on:  Textiles: A World Tour: Discovering Traditional Fabrics & Patterns. It’s a large format paperback that’s  brimful of colour and inspiration. The textiles featured are all clothing, men, women and children’s, and feature a significant amount of hand work, whether that’s stitching, dying or weaving. It travels from South America, to Africa and the Far East, including places like Nigeria, Mexico, India and Vietnam. It gives me incredibly itchy feet!

textiles world tour

Feature on the Mayan blouse (the huipil) from Guatemala

textiles world tour with scissors

Feature on The Rabari nomads of Gujarat

world textiles with applique

Feature on reverse appliqué from Vietnam

As well as the inspiring photographs of textiles and the people that wear them there are wonderful images that give glimpses into where they’re made and worn, beautiful shots of mountains or fields of cotton, painted houses, churches and lakes.  We’re shown photographs of weavers at work in a garden, the colourful stained hands and feet of dyers, women stitching on stone streets and wooden decks. There’s a photo on page 191 of two women, Praolina and Jovanna, sat side by side making reverse appliquémolas‘ (part of a woman’s blouse). They’re wearing beautiful, bold-coloured and patterned clothes, their work draped across their laps, a bag of fabric next to them – and one of them has that universal tick of human concentration: her tongue is sticking out as she cuts into the cloth!  I just love it. (I’m always doing it myself :D )

There are watercolour style diagrams showing how the garments are constructed and short ‘how to’ articles on things like tie dying and reverse appliqué. The only sad thing about this book is that you can’t feel the fabrics as well! I guess that means that one day I’ll have to travel and find out what they feel like for myself. In the mean time this book is a visual treasure, a big happy slice of colourful inspiration. I’d recommend it for everyone’s bookshelf, just lift it down anytime you need a pick-me-up.

Happy reading!


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Pillow talk!

I started the weekend on a very positive note, with a big smiling face! Good things have been happening to me lately, surprises completely out of the blue. Over a month ago I responded to an online customer survey and as a result won a month’s worth of free coffee at Caffe Nero – I love my local Nero’s so you can imagine my excitement! (I often sit and write blog posts there.) I got even more excited when I discovered that ‘a month’s worth of free coffee’ actually means 30 drinks tokens to be used before the end of December – so in effect free coffee for 6 months, woohooo! But, you don’t even have to spend them on coffee, you can use them on any drink from behind the bar, so that mean’s oodles of hot-chocolate, lovely frappes and iced drinks too. Heavens, lucky me!

Grandma's Hothouse Cushion (pillow). A free patchwork and quilting pattern. © Stephanie Boon, Dawn Chorus Studio, 2013

Earlier in the week I’d been out for a short run and stopped not much more than a couple of feet away from a young fox cub (one of my favourite animals) eating a bird, he just kept on looking up at me and watching me – it was one of those moments I won’t forget. I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to a fox before that hasn’t just run off! We must have been watching each other for a minute or more.

But perhaps the biggest surprise this week was online. I was scrolling through my Dawn Chorus Studio home page on Facebook when I saw a big ol’ picture of my Grandma’s Hothouse Pillow. It took a while too sink in that I was seeing it because someone else had posted it; once I realised I was astonished to discover that the free pattern had been featured on Quilting Club’s  page (part of Craftsy). Quilting Club has close to half a million followers! (I know, gasp!)

I was overwhelmed with the amount of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ the pattern had received, but one of the most lovely things was seeing a version of the pillow that a quilter called MaryAnn Mings had made!  She used green and yellow batiks on a black background and had given it as a gift to her sister. It’s such a lovely feeling to inspire someone to make such a pretty gift for someone to enjoy. But the green pillow wasn’t the last, MaryAnn went on to make a fantastic red floral version too! She adapted the pattern to make it larger and had the great idea of making up the hexie flowers and appliqué-ing them onto a plain black background (rather than piecing the hexie flowers into black hexagons) – and I’m really pleased to say that she’s very kindly agreed to let me share her photos here with you!
Versions of Grandma's Hot House Pillow (pattern design by Stephanie Boon of www.dawnchorusstudio.com) made by  MaryAnn Mings

Great variations made my MaryAnn Mings

They’re fab aren’t they?! Thank you so much for letting me show them here MaryAnn :) And it’s got me thinking…the pattern has been downloaded from Craftsy 3,700+ times now, so if any of you lovely readers have also had a go at making it (or a variation of course), I’d love to feature it here on the blog, or perhaps I could set up a Pinterest board where we could share them? What do you think, would you pin your version of the pillow if I set it up? Or any of my other patterns for that matter!
In other Facebook news, have you come across the amazing Kaffe Fassett Collective group?  It’s a really active group of quilters and crafters sharing projects they’ve made using Kaffe Fassett, Phillip Jacobs and/or Brandon Mabely fabrics. They’re such a friendly bunch from all over the world – I just love the way people are happy to share tips and help each other as well as share their own quilts. And it goes without saying that one of the best things about this page is that whenever you open it up you get an amazing burst of colour!
How was your weekend?  I wonder what this week will bring – I feel quite excited! Happy stitching.

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Stitching while the birds sing

Wrack and ruin. That’s my garden at the moment. So I was delighted when I went out after the heavy rain today and found enough roses to make this sweet little posy. Pretty over the moon I can tell you!

Green vase of garden roses. © Stephanie Boon, 2014 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

From the garden

I was so disorganised this year that even forgot to sow my beloved sweet peas that I like to scent and colour my home the whole summer long. Still, these aren’t a bad second best are they?! And they do smell heavenly as I sit here at my desk beside the open window listening to the blackbirds sing as I write and sew (the white rose with the yellow centre is a highly scented rambler called Wedding Day). It’s raining really heavily again now, with a faint rumble of thunder in the distance; I’ll be surprised if there are many blooms left by morning so I think I should make the most of these while I can!

Have you seen the Dawn Chorus Studio Facebook page recently? I’ve been trying to post much more regularly (daily if I can!) with lots of pictures of inspiring things I’ve come across from all over the world, including pictures of quilts, great patterns, colours and textures; the picture of my roses reminds me of some beautiful images of Kaffe Fassett flowers I posted the other day. Oh and if I come across any great giveaways or fabric deals I’ve been posting those too (as well as a sneak peek of something new I’m working on); come on over and and share what’s inspiring you, I’d really love to see you there and have a chat :)

Until then, back soon and happy sewing


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A new pattern for Christmas!

Pile of fabrics including Solstice by Moda and various trims.

Fabrics and trim for a festive project!

Things have been getting a bit exciting here in the Dawn Chorus Studio this week (aka I’m getting excited at the kitchen table!): things are afoot! For some time now (months and months) I’ve wanted to put together a pattern for a Christmas stocking that I think you’ll love, but I’ve never quite managed to get it sorted at the right time of year. Yes, it’s finally dawning on me (no pun intended!) that most people are somewhat more organised than I am and like to think about and begin their festive projects well in advance. I bet you’re one of the super organised quilters and crafters I have in mind too, aren’t you – go on you can confess!

This week I’ve drawn up the pattern and I plan to make some samples over the weekend, yippee! It’s exciting of course because it meant a trip to the fabric store! Simple pleasures and all that!  I came away with a Moda Solstice charm pack (designed by Kate Spain, and I’m totally in love with the blue-greys – yum! The red Candy Cane Stripe is from Moda’s Winter Wonderland collection, the antique white is from Moda’s Bella Solids line and finally the blue-grey fabric is Tilda’s Summer Fair in Nina Slate Blue (which you can buy on-line here).

Solstice charm pack by Moda

Designs in the Solstice charm pack

Solstice by Moda - charm pack

Selection of grey/blues from Solstice, and Tilda’s Summer Fair

Selection of ribbons and braids with a folksy feel

Ribbons and braids with a folksy feel

And of course I couldn’t come away without a small selection of ribbon and braid. It would have been rude not to!

So that’s me sorted for the weekend, how about you, what have you got up your sleeve?

Have a lovely weekend and happy sewing :)


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The Auricula applique pillow

Yes! Another finished project to cross off the list. And that makes me smile. It was only small piece and a very straightforward design, but there was still a fair amount of hand stitching to do, so it feels good.

I love the richness of the Phillip Jacobs and Kaffe Fassett fabrics against the plain black panel, I think they may even make my heart sing! As you can probably tell from the room shot below I seem to have a thing about these particular designers’ fabrics… My scrap stash of them is getting a little low now, so I think I may have to do a wee bit of shopping in the near future. What a chore!

Needle-turn applique and patchwork cushion 'Auricula'.  Designed and made by © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Finished ‘Auricula’ pillow

I don’t usually go for ‘representational’ designs, but needle turn appliqué really lends itself to that. Working through this has given me lots more ideas to try for the border of the grandma’s flower garden quilt I’m working on (you can see it on the chair in the picture), so expect a few more cushions to make an appearance as I try them out! Apparently I’m not the only one that uses the small form of a pillow to work out designs, have you seen Malka’s wonderful contemporary designs over at A Stitch in Dye? I really love her work and was impressed to see that one of my local quilt stores was stocking her Moda fabric line Simple Marks.  Maybe I should add some to the shopping list?!

Here are a few pictures of the finished project.

'Auricula' patchwork and quilted cushion, designed and made by © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com


The panel is offset to the right and the top, just because I like asymmetrical designs!

Needle-turn applique and patchwork cushion 'Auricula'.  Designed and made by © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Applique detail

To the left of the panel is a string of patchwork strips that I also used in the flower motifs. When I came to quilt it, I did simple outline quilting (by hand) around the auricula, added some free-form veins to the leaves and quilted a grid on the background.

Needle-turn applique and patchwork cushion 'Auricula'.  Designed and made by © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Needle-turn appliqué

I used a black hand quilting thread because I didn’t want the quilting stitches to detract from the design on the centre panel, but they show really well on the reds.

Needle-turn applique and patchwork cushion 'Auricula'.  Designed and made by © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Hand quilted in a diamond design

Have you tried needle-turn appliqué? It’s very simple and effective and really relaxing to stitch. I have a couple of free mug-rug patterns with instructions if you’d like to have a go at something small to try it out. Let me know if you do!

Have a great weekend and happy stitching.

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