Hand stitching


Bright Bunting

Summer Fete

Think of the typical English summer fete and colourful bunting probably comes to mind – as well as a bunch of daft games and a white elephant stall!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was making this quilt for my sister’s 40th birthday next year and yesterday I decided that playing with the glorious colours would be the perfect antidote to some of last week’s stress. (Thank you for all your supportive comments and suggestions, I’ve read them all and there’s a lot of sound advice there that makes me feel like I’m not alone! I’ll be replying to you all individually too.)

Needle Turn Applique

‘Fete’ is the title of the quilt, which I’ll probably piece into the back of it (I’d like to make it more reversible than I usually do), but I couldn’t help myself and started the label first!  It’s simple needle turn appliqué in my own hand writing. Using your own hand rather than printing something off from the internet makes it much more personal. My handwriting’s a bit of a mess though so I had to simplify it to make it legible and easy enough to cut the letters out! I’m pretty pleased with the result – and it definitely makes me smile, which is exactly what I was aiming for.

'Fete' applique in colourful fabrics for a patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Feeling summery

Improv Triangles

'Fete'. A patchwork quilt in progress, inspired by colourful bunting. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

‘Fete’, the beginnings of quilt for my sister’s 40th birthday next year

I was working on the front yesterday, playing with improv triangles and trying to capture the movement of bunting fluttering in the breeze. The horizontal curves and the change in scale of the flags  are working well, although (as usual with my way of working) I did chop off a small section that wasn’t flowing well with the rest. Chopping into your work is about being brave (or laissez faire!) and having the confidence that you’ll improve the design, or at least find it easier to resolve with the bit you’ve just lopped off! I’m still not sure about the bit at the bottom where I started the front; it’s looking a bit too straight now, but I’m happy to leave it for a while and see how it sits as the top grows.


'Fete' is a colourful patchwork in progress inspired by bunting. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com


Detail of 'Fete', a colourful patchwork quilt in progress, inspired by bunting. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Detail – loving the very mini flags!


Using scraps is my favourite way of piecing, but when scraps are pretty much all you work with you find they run out pretty quickly. A lot of the reds I’ve used so far are scraps from older projects, small pieces or scraps that others have kindly shared with me. I’m frustrated that I haven’t got enough scraps for the light background though – I’ve actually had to buy some fabric, eek!  I’m keeping my purchases to around a quarter metre of any one print though to keep the scrappy feel – and I’m getting lots of small scrappy triangle bits in the process for some other project in the future!  What do you do when you’re working with scraps and run low on any particular colour? I’d love to know how you deal with it – just make do and use another colour? Wait and save up more scraps?  Beg, steal and borrow?! I’m considering my options – any advice welcome!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com


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Slowing Down The Stress

Stressful Times

Hello lovely friends! What a stressful couple of weeks it’s been, so hectic that I’ve barely had time at all for any (much needed) slow sewing. If you’ve had teenagers going through exams I’m sure you’ll understand! Kim has got so far behind with his AS level assignments (due to illness earlier on in his course), that the closer his deadlines loom the closer my blood pressure is to exploding. He, of course, is so laid back and leaving everything to the very last minute hoping mum (aka The Biggest Nag on the Planet!) will help him pick up the pieces. There’ve been at least two 4am finishes this past week alone. I’m a zombie. And there’s more to come: he’s just been given another week’s extension, aargh!

Sheep and lambs in a rainy lane near Truro, Cornwall. Photograph © Kim Gentle-Boon 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

One of Kim’s photos taken a couple of months ago.

The thing is, if he hands in his assignments ‘as is’, he’ll get a pass, but his tutors say he’s ‘very talented’ (especially in photography) and if he can get it together (in time) he’ll get a much higher grade. Every mother wants their child to reach their potential – even if they don’t seem bothered! So, what are you supposed to do?  How many of us wonder when their child will take responsibility for their own actions; how do you know when to step back and let them get on with it, no matter the consequences? Kim is just 18 – going on 14. I gather it’s a common issue with teenage boys! It goes without saying I love him to bits, but boy this parenting business is ruddy hard work at times. If you think a toddler’s behaviour is a nightmare to deal with, brace yourself!

Refresh and Rejuvenate

When I’m this stressed I need to get out; over the years I’ve learnt that vigorous exercise is the only way to get it out of my system. And this week proved to be the most wonderful time to escape the house. Along with the glorious sunshine has come some spring warmth and an abundance of rejuvenating colour. I’ve walked and I’ve cycled and every time I’ve been out I’ve seen something that’s stopped me in my tracks.

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

I’m so lucky to live where I do, I can’t imagine how I’d centre myself in a big city. I’m a country girl all the way through, despite (or because of) growing up in London (lots of open spaces there then though, that aren’t there now).

So, Onto Sewing!

I’ve managed to spend an hour or two stitching in the evenings, which is the perfect way to wind down, as I’m sure you all know! I’ve managed a few more Quilty365 circles, a little bit of hand quilting in the borders of Summer Blues and the odd bit of hand piecing half square triangles too.

Hand quilting a flying geese patchwork border. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.om

Summer Blues border

Hand pieced patchwork pinwheel blocks. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Pinwheel Block (repeated three times!)

I’m planning on updating my tutorial for hand piecing half square triangles – it seriously needs some much better photographs. It seemed like a good little project to work on when I could grab a moment in the evenings. I love the way these blocks have turned out, what do you think? The large floral is an Anna Maria Horner fabric, but I don’t have a clue where the little rose print is from – it was just something from the scrap box. I’m going to have to make something with these blocks, they’re too pretty to leave languishing, but there aren’t many of them, so, something small; what would you make?

I hope you’ve all had a good couple of weeks and your projects have been moving on as you’d hope. I’m aiming to try and catch up with everyone over the next week, but just in case I don’t make it you’ll know why! And if I don’t, there’s only one more week of stress to go and then I’ll be back to ‘normal’!

Happy Slow Sunday Stitching!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com


Summer Blues: a milestone

The Sashing Is Quilted!

Yes, I’m over the moon. Last night I took the last little hand quilted stitch in the sashing and celebrated another Summer Blues milestone. It feels so good to have got this far and the end feels tantalisingly close now. My fingers are raw but I felt determined that I’d have something positive to share with you today, so thanks for the motivation!

Summer Blues patchwork quilt, work in progress shown laying on a bed. At this stage the hand quilting in the sashing is finished. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Sashing done!

Summer Blues patchwork quilt, work in progress. At this stage the hand quilting in the sashing is finished and the quilt is laid out on the bed. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Just look at that texture!

I’m just so glad I went ahead and quilted the sashing too, the texture’s glorious! It’s very simple, but so’s a nine patch! It could probably do with even more stitching in the sashing for the sake of keeping the layers together, but the quality of the piecing really doesn’t warrant much more time on it. Thank goodness we get better with practice over the years!  I really began to appreciate just how much time and skill goes into those fabulous feather designs you see on heirloom quilts, as I was stitching the sashing. I wish I was as talented as those hand quilters – even a smidgen of their skill would be good! Still, the key to improvement in anything is practice and perseverance, so I’ll just keep on keeping’ on. It’s all about the process for me, the ritual of sitting quietly with a needle and slowly seeing something come together.

Summer Blues patchwork quilt, work in progress. At this stage the hand quilting in the sashing is finished and the quilt is laid out on the bed to look at the texture on the back. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

The Philip Jacobs back

I thought I’d show you how the back of the quilt looks now all the hand quilting is finished in that section. The single fabric back (Philip Jacobs’ Gloxinias), with just one central joining seam, was a good decision. My seams on the hand pieced nine patches are all over the place (inconsistent doesn’t begin to describe it) so it was nice not to have to stitch through the layers of a pieced back too. The cotton wadding seems pretty thick (I can only get one weight locally – in fact I’m not even sure it comes in more than one weight?) and the amount of needles I’ve gone through is staggering! I’ve learnt not to bend and snap them so much, but they just blunt so quickly and easily. I’m using Pony quilting needles at the moment, which have been costing me £2.60 in a local store (they have those or another brand that are nearly £7 a small pack) and I’ve just discovered them for almost half that price online. I think I’m going to have to get myself more organised.  I’ve tried other brands and liked them, but they’ve stopped stocking them and now I can’t remember what they were! What are your favourite brands and why? I need to try some more and would love your recommendations – especially for some that don’t blunt so quickly.

What are you up to this afternoon? I’ve got some hand quilting in the borders to be getting on with…ooh get me! I hope you have a lovely Slow Sunday Stitching, I’m off to link up with Kathy now and look forward to seeing you there.

Happy stitching

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com


Hand Quilting with The Durrells

Another slow Sunday. I tried to take it a little quicker, but pulled a muscle in the process: I’ve just been for a run. It was a very short one because my legs turned to jelly after about a mile, I struggled on for another mile or so and pulled a calf muscle in the process. Can it still be too soon to exercise after the flu? I’m going try hot yoga tomorrow. At least the vertigo’s finally gone…

Gravel piles that look like grey mountains under an intense blue sky. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

These piles of gravel caught my eye as I hobbled past. Great colours and shapes.

Summer Blues

Quilting’s been pretty slow over the last few weeks, but I’m pleased to say I’ve made a little progress with Summer Blues. I love the way the sashing is looking so far; putting in the extra time has given this quilt a whole lot more texture and character. It’s definitely been worth it.

Summer Blues - patchwork quilt, hand quilting in progress. © Stephanie Boon 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Outlining the sashing

Summer Blues - patchwork quilt, hand quilting in progress. © Stephanie Boon 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

It’s coming together

You can see how much I’ve done in the picture above and how much there is still to go in the one below.  Progress hasn’t been too bad considering – though I’m making no predictions about how soon I’ll get these last four rows finished up!

Summer Blues - patchwork quilt, hand quilting in progress. © Stephanie Boon 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Only four rows of sashing left to quilt

I definitely have a sense of coming to the end of the road though; it won’t be long before I’m quilting up the borders. I mustn’t get too far ahead of myself (as if!) – I’m still looking forward to some quilting in the sashing this evening, with another nostalgic episode of  The Durrells playing in the background no doubt. I did some catching up with the lovely Mrs Durrell (Keely Hawes) and her unruly brood last night, after a friend recommended it to me the other day. It’s such a wonderful series and really makes me dream of warm sunshine, warm seas, kumquats and Greek olives! Have you seen it? If you like Greek Islands, mad English people trying to cope in foreign climes and rather a lot of unusual animals, you should definitely give it a go. What will you be watching or listening to when you’re doing some slow stitching today?

Linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching, see you there!

PS Is anyone planning to enter the Festival of Quilts this year?

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com


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Homespun Charm

Bedroom in the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Museum, Arkansas. Shows hand made quilts on and iron bed. This photo of Johnny Cash House is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This photo of Johnny Cash Boyhood Home is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I was really moved by this photo of a bedroom in Johnny Cash’s boyhood home (now a museum in Arkansas) that I stumbled across earlier this week. The simple beauty of sunlight falling through the window on to the rose patterned rug made me long for warmth and maybe simpler times. I don’t mean ‘easier’ of course, I’m under no illusion that life on a 30’s farm in the middle of nowhere was easy; we all know that life was difficult and full of drudgery. I suppose what stuck a chord was really seeing the beauty in simple things, without the clutter of consumerism and the incessant noise of today’s lifestyles. Seeing farmland through the windows, the scrubbed, natural wood walls and floors, the humble furnishings, the useful but beautiful quilt – it made me feel that life’s so full of unnecessary stuff and that it’s so much easier to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings without it getting in the way. I started to wonder what I can do to make my home simpler, what (else) I can get rid of. (I tend not to keep lots of things, but I wouldn’t call my life minimal.) I thought about Deb’s Frugal Little Bungalow too.

It took a while for the penny to drop but I realised that the simple nine patch quilt I’m making is a kind of nod to that aesthetic: homespun charm in small space living. I’ve been diligently hand quilting this week and have made good progress. I hope you’re not bored of seeing this quilt by now?

Hand quilting the sashing of a patchwork quilt © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Last week’s progress

I’m conscious that I show it virtually every Sunday. It’s my main focus at the moment and although I don’t want to rush it, I do want to see it finished sooner rather than later. That sounds like an oxymoron, but I mean I don’t want to rush the stitching, I just want to work on it more often than I have been so far, so that I can get it done. I’d love to notch it up as a finish by the end of April, but we shall see…

The week before last I was procrastinating over whether to quilt the sashing or leave it and get the quilt finished up quicker. You convinced me I should quilt it, and I’m so grateful you did – the more sashing I stitch the more I realise I’d be bitterly disappointed in myself if I hadn’t! Earlier in the week I managed to carve out some good blocks of time and got a fair amount done in a few sessions. My index finger’s full of holes as a result, but I’m so pleased with how it looks! You can easily see the difference between last week’s progress and this week’s (the colours in last week’s photo are much more accurate, the light was terrible this morning when I took the photos below) and the texture’s wonderful.

It’s a very warm quilt too, thanks to the 100% cotton wadding I think. I discovered this because my bedroom heater broke during the week – it was freezing in there (and still is)! Hot water bottles and several quilts on top of the thinning feather duvet made all the difference. In fact it’s so snuggly it’s been difficult to drag myself out and get dressed in the cold – I’m not as hardy as I used to be, if ever I was. Is it sacrilege to use an unfinished quilt? Bah, it’s filthy anyway and I really needed it to keep warm. I wonder how many of us say that these days – that we need a quilt for warmth rather than purely for it’s beauty or comfort, or even nostalgia? That’s the kind of thing I’ll no doubt be musing on when I do some more hand quilting in the sashing this evening.

Hand quilting the sashing of a patchwork quilt © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

This week’s progress

Hand quilting the sashing of a patchwork quilt © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Detail of the sashing so far

Before I head off to link up with Kathy for this week’s Slow Sunday Stitching, I’m just going to drop another reminder about a post from last week – a chat with the passionate hand quilter Audrey from Quilty Folk. She shares her thoughts and ideas on how to make the most of our quilting time – and what makes her tick. Pop across and have a read, I’d hate you to miss it. I’ll be posting a follow up article later in the week, so I hope you’ll look out for that too.

Graphic: cHow to Make the Most of Your Quilting Time, with Audrey Easter. A conversation with Stephanie Boon, 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Enjoy your slow stitching until next time!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com


Going Round In Two Circles

Welcome to another Quilty365 update! I’m not sure where I am in the consecutive order of block making – my Quilty365 galleries are completely disorganised at the moment, so is my desk and, most definitely, my mind.  I really need to take a leaf out of Audrey’s book and get myself properly organised. There are well over a hundred circle blocks now and as I mentioned in my newsletter I’m planning to make at least three quilts with them. I’ve begun to stitch some of my Quilty365 circles together and the difference between them is amazing. I wonder if the same person made them sometimes!

Quilty365 – The Bright One

That’s just the working title! When I first put these blocks together (it took well over 4 hours to piece this little section, which is only about 22″ x 18″) I wasn’t sure it looked anything more than a hotchpotch of colours. I wondered whether it might develop a confused appearance as it grows in size? To try and alleviate the potential for that and add some rhythm and stronger repetition, I decided to use white based prints for horizontal fillers and black based for vertical fillers. I still can’t do it randomly though, I have to consider every step, every fabric, every juxtaposition – which explains the hours spent piecing so far!


piecing together bright coloured patchwork blocks to make a quilt with appliqué circles. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Piecing together bright coloured Quilty365 blocks

Looking at all the bright coloured blocks I’ve made I thought it might be useful to have some less ‘complicated’ ones to give the eye a bit of a rest here and there. Another thing I’ve become aware of is that there’s not really enough variation in the scale of the circles. Well, not as much as I’d like.

Improv patchwork circle quilt blocks, with buttons to show scale. Bright pinks, greens and purples. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Button size blocks

So for a few days now I’ve been making ‘button’ circle blocks: small and comparatively simple. I like them so far and I can see they’re going to be really useful as the quilt top evolves. This one’s going to be a very cheerful circle quilt when it’s finished.


Quilty365 – Plain Sewing

My ‘Plain Sewing’ circle quilt feels as though it’s nearing a conclusion. I want it to be a bit larger, but perhaps not too much. This one feels so intimate and I don’t want to lose that quality. The intimacy is in the small, quiet stitches, you’re really drawn close to the surface to see them.


Patchwork improv circle quilt in muted browns, greys and duck egg blue by © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Plain Sewing (in progress March 2016)

Since I last showed my progress on this one Ive introduced some duck egg blue colour, which lifts the mood a little I hope. I’ve used quite a lot of scrap linen in this piece as well as cottons from my scrap boxes. If you look closely you’ll also notice that I often use the reverse of the fabrics to get softer and more muted colours and tones.  I love the fact that it makes those particular prints seem a bit obscure (especially the text ones, which you can’t read anymore).

Patchwork improv circle quilt in muted browns, greys and duck egg blue by © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Plain Sewing – new section (detail)

Patchwork improv circle quilt in muted browns, greys and duck egg blue by © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Plain Sewing, new section with added duck blue colour

All these blocks I’ve made so far are pieced completely from scraps: old clothes, bits and pieces given to me, off cuts from other projects. There are memories attached to almost every piece I’ve used. Then there are the memories of making each one too. I don’t think it’ll matter what they look like when they’re finished really, they’ll still be pretty special.

What’s making your circle quilt memorable for you? For a lot of people it seems to be the diary aspect, but I wonder if there’s anything else that’s keeping you motivated? I’d love to know! (I’m nosy like that!) Why not share in the comments?

I’ll be linking up with Audrey at Quilty Folk for this month’s Quitly365 link up, but before you head over to check out all the other gorgeous quilts in progress, I’d love it if you took a few minutes to read my last post. I talked to Audrey about how she makes the most of her quilting time and she shared so much it really is a great post and I’d hate you to miss it: Make The Most Of Your Quilting Time With Audrey Easter.

Graphic: cHow to Make the Most of Your Quilting Time, with Audrey Easter. A conversation with Stephanie Boon, 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Have a great weekend everyone!

Happy Stitching

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

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Make the Most of Your Quilting Time, with Audrey Easter

Graphic: cHow to Make the Most of Your Quilting Time, with Audrey Easter. A conversation with Stephanie Boon, 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Hello and welcome to my third talk to an inspiring and productive quilter in the series How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt?  The series explores how some our favourite quilters make the most of their quilting time and how they organise themselves and organise their sewing rooms. We learn how they prioritise what to work on, what other demands they have on their time and, best of all, they share their tips to help us make the most of our own quilting time! So far I’ve spoken to Ann Brooks and Kaja Ziesler, and today I speak to the wonderful Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk!

How Long Does It Take To Make a Quilt – Audrey Spills The Beans!

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (showing grey appliqué quilt with detail) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

A grey appliqué quilt designed by Audrey

Audrey’s quilts are one of a kind in so many ways. Full of colour and whimsy, they exude an infectious joyfulness and never fail to make you smile. Her personality sparkles through on her blog Quilty Folk and her quilts are a perfect reflection of the woman behind the needle, which is what makes a great quilter, regardless of personal style. Audrey’s quilts are made to her own designs and develop in a very organic way.

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (showing white appliqué quilt with detail) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

One of Audrey’s recent finishes

She usually finishes about 12 a year and most of them are completely hand quilted, although some include a bit of in-the-ditch machine quilting too – just so that she can squeeze in a few more finishes a year! Not all of her quilts are bed quilts of course, there are usually a number of lap quilts and throws added to the mix. She’s so nimble fingered that she can hand quilt a lap quilt in “well under two months”, using regular hand quilting thread. When she picks up a Perle Cotton and takes a slightly larger stitch length she “can move a quilt through the hoop in less than a month.” (My jaw’s on the floor right about now!) But if that sounds impressive, imagine what she does when there’s some machine quilting included:

“I also occasionally take a quilt and stitch in the ditch on the machine, and then come back for some more intensive hand quilting like say, in the blocks and border.  Not every quilt is going to be easily accepting of this blend of quilting styles though. With a combination of machine and hand quilting, I can almost always produce a finish in about two weeks! That’s why I’m trying to consider it more often. My ‘normal’ hand quilting time is late in the evenings while the house is settling down for the night. If I really single out the hand quilting, stitch at every available moment throughout the day/week then I can finish much faster. The downside to that is that I don’t enjoy my stitching as much. It becomes ‘work’.”

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (appliqué quilt with detail that includes machine and hand quilting) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

This one includes both machine and hand quilting

Readers of Quilty Folk get a visual feast every time they head over to see what she’s up to – and you never know what that will be! She’s always got more than one quilt on the go at different stages, so there’s a lot of variety for the regular reader. When I asked Audrey if she ever worked on just one quilt at a time she said “never”! She tried it in the past (in a righteous effort to keep down the UFOs), but found it so boring she only finished about one quilt a year. She’s much more productive when she’s working on “several different phases of many, many quilts”. This medley of different stages obviously feeds her creativity and keeps her motivated to produce her 12 quilts a year – plus just as many newly completed quilt tops!

In The Zone

We often hear creative people talking about being ‘in the zone’ or flow’, that special place where time doesn’t seem to exist and you’re completely absorbed in the process. You forget to eat, you don’t hear things going on around you and your hands and mind seem to be completely at one. Once you’ve experienced it you’re driven to get there again, and that’s a great motivation for Audrey, she loves “those times when everything sort of ‘clicks’ into place. It’s such a wonderful feeling to get that rush and know absolutely that I’m making something brilliant.

For this special moment in time, for whatever phase in a quilt project, I’m more than the ordinary.

It can be kind of addictive actually to try and get there again!”

The early stages of a project are some of the most exciting for Audrey: she just loves digging through her stash to find the perfect stack of fabric, holding fabric in her hands and dreaming about the ‘what if’s’. Sometimes when her quilt is partially done and stalls a bit, she relishes going back to her stash to

“dig even deeper – try to find those couple pieces of fabric I overlooked. You know the ones I’m talking about. You put them in the stack and then kick them back out immediately, because they would never in a million years work. I get a real kick out of pushing the boundaries of which prints belong together or how much I can make my colors clash before it’s just ‘too much’ or ‘too far’.”

You can see this in her quilts, the unexpected combinations of colours and prints, the way they just gel effortlessly together. Take a closer look and surprise yourself.

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (small appliqué quilt with toile de jouy background) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

An unexpected juxtaposition of a toile de jouey background

Quilt Design

Audrey’s idiosyncratic designs are her trademark and she describes her organic approach to the design process as ‘making it up she goes along’! She says that the quilt ‘talks to her’ and tells her what the next best step is. To be able to work like this you need a really good understanding of how different elements work together or play off each other. You need take into account the movement, balance and repetition of your motifs, as well as the usual concerns of tone, prints and colour. And of course, you have to be aware of how you’re going to piece it all together and what techniques you’ll need to use. It’s a process that means you have to accept and revel in the constant shifting of forms and ideas, sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes compromising this idea for that. It’s a natural way of working for some of us and one of the biggest challenges is accepting that sometimes the result just doesn’t work out! But, when it does you can finish up with the spectacular results Audrey does. And she’s obviously comfortable with the process:

“Most of the time I scribble out some sort of rough idea of what the quilt ‘might’ look like eventually, but that’s a laugh. It’s ever changing. I think that’s part of the excitement for me, never knowing where a quilt will take me! I used to be pretty stubborn about hanging onto the ‘seed’ of my original idea at the very least, but I’m slowly figuring out that one quilt idea might end up making it into three or four quilts. And that’s perfectly okay because the first quilt isn’t always the best!”

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (image of Audrey's appliqué tree in progress) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

One of Audrey’s appliqué designs in progress

Working in a fluid way can make working with others more difficult, for example the rigid deadlines or boundaries of some sew-alongs can be burdensome and a drain on creativity. There are sew-alongs that Audrey enjoys though, but she’s learnt to be choosy. She says sew-alongs make it easy to get caught up in “everyone else’s ideas and not have the time or energy to focus on our own creative urges”. She also believes that there’s an “inevitable comparison” that happens in sew-alongs “sometimes I love it and other time it just drags me down:

I have crazy high expectations of my own work sometimes and so I’ve had to learn to listen to my instincts a bit better.

Figure out which ones will work ‘for’ me and not ‘against’ me…”

Engaging with others is essential to creative development, so if our opportunities to do that are limited, because of the way we work or perhaps due to geographical limitations, I wondered where Audrey gets her encouragement and feedback. She told me

“My family thinks I’m amazing but they’re so confident about everything I make that sometimes I just have to doubt them. Seriously, no one could possibly be that good! So next up would be the loyal readers on the blog. They stick with me through thick and through thin. Occasionally I get a comment that is incredibly spot on as to what I’m trying to accomplish and it almost makes me want to cry. They listen to me so they ‘get’ me! How special is that?”

The  blogging community is really important to Audrey and I was curious how she balances quilting with her blog and social media; I asked her if she’s strict about the amount of time she spends online. “Up to a point” she replied. Blogging is her main focus and she can only keep up with so much social media, so things like Facebook and Instagram take a back seat and her accounts remain “just for family at the moment”. She does try to keep one day completely ‘computer free’: Sundays are family day, unless the family’s otherwise occupied “then you’ll find me checking back in.”

How to make the most of your quilting time. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (flying geese quilt, detail) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Detail of Audrey’s ‘wonky geese’

Being Organised…And Being ‘Listy’!

Lists, lists, lists: if Audrey can make a list for it, Audrey makes a list for it! It’s an essential way of organising her “crazy busy life” as well as her quilting life. And these aren’t just your average lists scribbled on a piece of scrap paper and lost at the bottom of a pile of paper work! (Ahem, I plead guilty!)

They help her to remember the really important stuff:

“We have a large family calendar on the wall in our dining room with all the family events color coded. Before you start thinking I’m obsessive-compulsive, I’ll admit to letting it slide to week two (several times) during the year before it’s updated to the current month. Sometimes life just gets in the way of even the best intentions and thankfully, my daughters will step in and fill out the calendar for me now that they’re older!”

Audrey writes quilt plans all the time, but doesn’t usually stick to them long term.  She sees them more as a ‘suggestion’ or a starting point, a way of keeping those intriguing ‘what-if’ ideas from disappearing into the ether. She writes down notes and ideas every step of the way, “including the math”. She says it’s the only way she can end up with something ‘square’, plus “I really, really hate wasting fabric or losing track.” If you have a good number of quilts on the go you can’t work on them all at once and Audrey’s note taking system helps her to pick up where she left off.

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (image of Audrey's lists) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

“I’m a list-maker!”

She has lists of every quilt project started, lists for ‘in-progress’ quilts, completed quilt tops, “the five quilt tops that I’d like to see in the hoop next, all my on-going applique projects, quilts I’m dreaming about.”  These lists are ever changing and she revises them every two to three months. “They work very well to keep me on track priority-wise – illuminating over and over the most important projects to me.”  The only rigid time frames Audrey has are when she decides to gift a quilt or is working toward a quilt show finish. She prioritises which quilt she’ll work on depending on what captures her interest at the time, making deals with herself if part of the process becomes tedious,

“Sometimes I won’t let myself work on anything but one certain quilt for the first 15 minutes of my quilting time or until I get to a specific phase of that quilt. Or maybe I won’t let myself start a new quilt project I’m anxious to dive into. That’s a good one.”  There’s always a part of the quilting process we find less fun or exciting than others and Audrey says “it helps to use the carrot and stick approach. Even if I’m the only one enforcing it!”.

An Organised Sewing Space

A dedicated list-maker indicates an organised person (or at least an aspiring one!) and Audrey has some great ways of organising her sewing space that help her make the most of her quilting time. She has a dedicated sewing area that means she doesn’t have to fuss about getting things set up, which can “give a person the only 20 minutes they might have for quilting that day!”. Never a truer word said. “Quilters can be such procrastinators. If the sewing machine isn’t ready with a flick of a switch, we’ll often use it as an excuse to come back later ‘when there’s more time’. NO. The time to take advantage of is when you’re already in the sewing room!”

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (image of Audrey's workspace showing fabric storage, bookshelves and files) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Audrey’s nerve centre

If you live in a rural area like Audrey you’ll identify with her need to make sure a supply of notions is always on hand: “These things are important for dedicated or even spontaneous quilting. It’s so time consuming (and sometimes impossible)  to make a run to the store.” This goes for her stash too, which is readily available to dig through at a moment’s notice. Her stash is made up of

“Bits and pieces I love and those random prints that spark the most audacious ideas. It doesn’t have to be enormous, but the stash should contain every color possible with lots of depth from lights to darks – not that I have all that! But it’s a guilt-free work in progress…

“Not being organized at a very base level interrupts the creative flow – so important for productivity!”

Making Time

When you have a family life packed with demands and commitments like Audrey does, you need to ring fence time for quilting. As well as looking after busy teenagers and her large extended family she dedicates time to a lot of “church related things”, and doing the bookwork for her husband’s business. One way to get things done when you can’t get to the quilt room is to make sure you’re ready to use the ‘time in-between’ at a moment’s notice. Which is where good organisation comes in:

“I take any extra time I find and at least do applique prep work. I’m super dedicated about keeping my hand work bag ready to go and there is always, always a quilt in the hoop. Sometimes even two because I get freaked out if it looks like my current quilt is about done and there won’t be time to sandwich and pin another one. Being prepared with hand work means I never lose more than a couple days of quilting in a row. Even slow quilting eventually adds up to something tangible and more importantly, it keeps me sane and it helps me to be a nicer person. Am I strict about it? You betcha:

I need my quilting time like I need to breathe.

It’s just that I try to do it in a way that most people never realize I’m still carving out MY time from the chaos around me. It’s just a sweet, simple hobby to them!”

How to make the most of your quilting time. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (quilt with circles and stars) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Audrey’s 2015 stars – in the snow

Audrey’s Tips For Getting More Quilting Done

Quilting is an all consuming passion for Audrey, as it is for many of us, but she takes a considered and really pragmatic approach, which I believe enables her to produce as much as she does. She has so many great, practical ideas that we can all glean something from but it all hangs on this one simple premise:

“The key is to get your mind immersed in quilting on a very regular basis and then good things will happen.”

“People talk about time spent physically ‘doing’, but if the mind is not wholeheartedly on board, then it’s not sustainable. I think that’s part of why I love hand quilting so very much. I’m ‘doing’ (granted, it’s a very slow forward motion!), but all the while, my mind is working a hundred miles an hour on other areas of quilting. Decisions are being made, ideas are being explored, quilts are being designed – all on a subliminal level of course – while I plod along enjoying the stitching in my hoop. It’s a win-win.”

Keep this in mind and Audrey’s tips should take care of themselves:

  • Be in your quilting space often – daily if at all possible. Pass through and look at what’s on the wall.
  • Dig through your stash or bookshelf and dream.
  • Scribble ideas on paper and make lists. Take note of all those nonsensical, random, fleeting ideas – this is your brain talking to you with creative-speek. (You probably can and will interpret later.)
  • If you’re short on time pick a project and sew 15-20 minutes. Iron or trim some blocks. Prep for applique.
  • Incorporate time for slow quilting so as to give your brain plenty of time to ‘percolate’, dream and relax into the process.
  • Don’t shirk the boring stuff or the ‘work’. “I’ve said it before on my blog and I’ll say it again, quilting requires an effort. It’s not all going to be lightning bolts of inspiration and goosebumps of anticipation.”
  • Most importantly, she advises, make time for the things that you’re most curious about and never, ever quit asking ‘what-if’?

“If you’re genuinely connected with what you’re making, then you’ll be more productive than ever, guaranteed.”

Many, many thanks to Audrey for generously sharing her thoughts, freely giving her time and agreeing to be one of three awesome quilters to take part in this series!

What do you think of Audrey’s tips – is there anything you’d add?  I’d love know, and if you have any tips of your own you’d like to share make sure you leave a comment below!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found lots of ideas to help you make the most of your quilting time. Follow the links below to find out how quilters Ann Brooks and Kaja Ziesler make the most of their time and what tips they have for you too. Join me next week for a roundup of the best tips from from all 3!

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? Other articles in the series:

Related Links

Audrey’s Blog Quilty Folk

Finally, make sure you sign up for my free fortnightly newsletter to receive quilting inspiration, exclusive articles and news from the studio – just add your details to the form below!  Thanks for reading.

Linking up with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social and Kelly for Needle and Thread Thursday.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com


Easter Sunday Stitching

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope spring has sprung for you, although you poor souls in the southern hemisphere may have a while to wait before the daffodils pop up again. I love Easter, Read more


The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Well, I’m going to be honest here, it’s The Good (I didn’t say perfect), The Bad (What happened to those stitches?) and The Downright Ugly (What the hell was I thinking?).  Yes, we’re talking about my Summer Blues quilt in progress (again). I’ve noticed a large amount of inconsistencies in the stitching of this quilt, not unexpected I suppose when you work on it on and off for years and your technique’s improved somewhat in the mean time.  Let me illustrate:

The Good (I didn’t say perfect)

Detail of a nine patch patchwork quilt in progress. 'Summer Blues' © Stephanie Boon, 2016

The Good

Why this one is good: fairly even stitches, that fact that the stitches are relatively straight and the ‘1/4″-away-from-the-edge’ is ok considering the seam allowances underneath are all over the place.

The Bad (What happened to those stitches?)

Detail of a nine patch patchwork quilt in progress. 'Summer Blues' © Stephanie Boon, 2016

The Bad

Why this one is bad: I really don’t think I need to explain!  I’ll put this one down to learning to rock the needle (it took me a while to get the hang of it).

The Downright Ugly (What the hell was I thinking?)

Detail of a nine patch patchwork quilt in progress. 'Summer Blues' © Stephanie Boon, 2016


Why this one is downright ugly: I really don’t think I need to explain! But, just incase you’re a complete newbie, the stitches are on the inconsistent side to say the least (I can forgive myself for that)…but those random NOT-in-the-ditch stitches on the left?!  What?!  Why on earth did I do that and WHY ON EARTH DID I LEAVE THEM THERE?!?! I have absolutely no idea! None. Nada.

Seriously, I need to work on getting even stitches when I’m working over a long period of time.  What are your worst stitches like?  I bet they’re not as bad as these!

In other (Summer Blues) News

Nine patch patchwork quilt in progress, laid out on a bed. 'Summer Blues' © Stephanie Boon, 2016


Earlier in the week I laid the quilt on the bed and gave it a rumpled look.  My verdict: it’ll still look fresh and cheery despite the stitching!

I was stitching the cornerstones in the sashing last week and I mentioned I had 64 to go. After a quick count up this morning I can tell you I’ve only got 24 left to complete now.  My calculator tells me I quilted 40 during the week, the equivalent of 4 and a half nine patches, give or take. Not exactly a good output when I look back at the week and can’t think of anything else I was working on. These cornerstones are annoying though. I can only fit one in the hoop at a time, which means moving the damn hoop all the time. It also means turning the hoop 4 times to go around the square. I was getting fed up with this, so I decided to try and stitch the square without turning the hoop at all, a la frame quilters. I had some success: towards me, no problem; right to left, no problem; bottom to top, ok if I only took two or three stitches; left to right, just how?!  It meant changing to my left hand, which I’m not fussed about (I can usually use my left hand pretty well), but all I could manage was one stitch at a time!  Question: is it worth me persevering and teaching myself to quilt in all directions, or should I just turn the darn hoop?  Part of me thinks, meh this quilt’s a mess, why not practice on it some more and the other part thinks, oh just get the darn thing done! What would you do?

This brings me to another question… I keep looking at this quilt and wondering if I’ll regret it if I don’t quilt a 1/4″ from the seam on the sashing as well. It’s ok without it, and it means I’d get it finished quicker, but I keep having this nagging doubt and a feeling that I’m copping out and sacrificing time over aesthetic. And usually aesthetic is much more important to me. Again, what would you do?  Any thoughts gratefully received and considered!

I’m linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching today and look forward to catching up with you later on (Sunday lunch date first!). Before I head off into the sunset (aka the pub) I must apologise for not sending out Friday’s newsletter yet. I honestly got mixed up and thought it was going out Friday coming (note to self, put it in your diary!) – time’s gone quickly!  Also, don’t forget to come by later in the week to read about how Audrey from Quilty Folk makes the most of her quilting time – it’s a fantastic read!

Until then, happy stitching!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com