Categories: p&q


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A Jumper That Didn’t Cost The Earth

There are few things in this world that stop me stitching or making art, but every once in a while I decide to knit something. I haven’t made anything for a few years now because I have more hats, gloves and scarves than I need and knitting your own jumper is an expensive business. Knit anything in a decent natural yarn, especially with more than one colour, and you can easily spend £70.00.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t think it’s worth it, it’s just that I can’t afford to do it on a regular basis. Having said that, I can count the jumpers I own on one hand and I made 4 of them. I still wear them all because hand-made takes a long time, and lasts a long time.

Make It Don’t Chuck It

No-one wants to chuck something away when they’ve invested hours of work in it, from quilting to knitting or growing your own. That glut of courgettes you had this year: landfill, compost or chutney? That jumper you made a couple of years ago, it’s getting a bit thin on the elbows: landfill, darn it or reuse the yarn? The quilt you spent years making, the binding’s a bit worn: landfill, or make a new binding?

When we invest our own time in something (rather than exploiting some poor, faceless person on the other side of the world) we take care of it. Obvious innit?

Make Someone’s Day

And if we have stuff we don’t know what to do with we can give it to charity. Like, if you had a load of yarn but you don’t know how to knit…landfill ? Or charity and make someone’s day?! Yeah, you know where this is going:

A hand-knit stripy jumper. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

Bargain knit

Someone Made My Day

I picked up some luscious Rowan Tweed yarn for a steal in a charity shop sometime before Christmas. As soon as I was out the door I shared photos on Instagram (which disappeared with all the others when my account was hacked), because I couldn’t believe my luck.

A hand-knit stripy jumper. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

Colour and texture… simple things make me happy (mostly!).

I had enough to make a short jumper and settled on a Marie Wallin pattern in a Rowan book I already had (another way to save money).

Self portrait in a hand-knit stripy jumper. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

It’s cosy!

Self portrait in a hand-knit stripy jumper. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

It’s short, sweet and probably outdated, but it’ll do. And I don’t know what I’m looking at either!

There were 5 different colours of yarn in different quantities of 100g skeins: it was obviously going to be a stripy affair. I settled on random stripes, but knit up all the rib first and then divided what was left between each pattern piece.

This simple shape knit up pretty quickly in the big chunky yarn, so I decided to concentrate on knitting to the exclusion of everything else. I was pretty determined to get some wear out of it this winter. Didn’t think about how dated a 2008 pattern might look. (Does it? I don’t know/who cares.) Or what I’d wear it with… might have to make a skirt now. Or maybe a dress. Or Something.

Nuts and Bolts

  • 800g Rowan Pure Wool Chunky Tweed @ £15.00 the lot
  • Pattern ‘Kettlewell’, Marie Wallin in The British Sheep Breeds Collection (Rowan, 2008)
  • Pattern requires 600g (s). Used 650g (made sleeves 1″ or so longer, + extra for stripes)
  • Over: 150g-ish in pale pinky colour… damn, could have made it longer
  • Final cost £12.50 (I already had the pattern book and needles required).

And I’m happy. Which is good, considering. Anyone got any ideas for using up the rest of it?

What? You Came Here For Quilting?!

Ok, a short catch up. Plain Sewing, my ongoing daily patchwork ritual, is still on track. Pretty much. My Instagram friends have seen a few finished blocks that have a bit of hand sewing detail. Since then I’ve made some very simple blocks like the one below. The patchwork background on this one includes scraps from some old linen trousers and a cotton shirt. I love the texture and the soft drape it makes.

Plain Sewing. A patchwork quilt in progress, showing an appliqué circle on a patchwork background in muted neutral and blue. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

Plain Sewing. Right and wrong side of the appliqué fabric.

I used the back of the floral fabric as another way to reveal something we usually take great pains to hide. Another way to reveal the ‘truth’ if you like, which is the drive for making this piece (more thoughts on that here).

What’s Wrong With The Back?

Why do we so blithely ignore the wrong side of printed fabric? It deserves more consideration I think. You never know what you might find, but some things to look out for include:

  • an interesting texture caused by the dye
  • a lighter colour
  • a softer pattern
  • a plain fabric
  • a change in the surface of the weave.

And it’s a good way to vary the stash without acquiring more fabric – great for the wallet and easy on the storage space. The only other quilter I know that does this as a matter of course is Maureen at Mystic Quilter. How about you, do you ever use the wrong side? Let us know below!

I’m linking up with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social today. See you there.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015





Rag Wreaths, A Festive Way To Use Your Scraps

My Band New Rag Wreath Tutorial Is Here!

Rag Wreath Tutorial


A festive handmade wreath made from torn and knotted fabric scraps, decorated with bow and bells. In a range of teal and blue colours. © Stephanie Boon, 2016.

A scrappy festive wreath

One day in summer my friend Sally from Coast and Country Crafts came round with two bin bags full of fabric scraps. Sally travels the county meeting quilters and selling her lovely range of fabrics (as well as running the shop) and quilters donate scraps for swapping with others. The bags she gave me were full of left-overs. I had a quick rummage through and discovered there were plenty of strips that would be ideal to put towards a string quilt. Then we had to move home and the scraps were buried in boxes for a few months.

Waste Not Want Not

I got them out the other day and began to have a proper sort through, bagging them up by colour – there are some real gems in there! Most of the useful pieces are small squares and narrow strips, but there are quite a lot of strips that were too narrow for piecing. It was tempting to throw them out, but they must be useful for something.

Waste not want not I thought to myself and put them to one side. Then, when I was scrabbling around for ideas for Christmas presents, rag wreaths popped into my head. It seemed like the perfect way to use up the scraps and help reduce the world’s fabric mountain at the same time (granted it won’t make much of a dent, but every little helps!). I got excited and got to work on the first one.

Detail of a handmade rag wreath in teal colours. Showing a detail of some added decoration. © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Jingle bells, jingle bells (yes they really do jingle)! Mixed blue, green and teal scraps.

Choosing Colours

I bought some 12″ wire wreath forms from a local florist and picked out lots of blue and green prints from the scraps. I wanted the overall colour to be Teal – a favourite of the recipient. Its not a colour I associate with Christmas but I had to put aside my doubts: the person I’m making it for loves it.  I needed a way to ‘lift’ it though and realised that something sparkly would do the trick. Enter 20cm of a forest green lurex fabric that sparkles when the light catches it (as I’ve mentioned before, it really isn’t good having a fabric shop 5 minutes down the road!) and a couple of shiny jingling bells. About as festive as it gets.

It’s a miracle I managed to get a second one finished too. Making the first one was tedious enough! I spent hours tying knots and shoving them hard against each other to get a full and fluffy effect. Obviously the final effect was worth it and I got to work on number two.

White and Frosty

This colour scheme was down to me. I love frosty mornings when the mist hangs low in the air, or temperature inversions where it seems to hover above the ground and I wanted to capture that. I went with whites and white on white prints, some naturals, soft pinks and blues and a touch of grey. Half way through I discovered I didn’t have enough – these things take a lot of scraps! Back to the fabric shop for some sparkly white. Still nowhere near enough, so I raided my stash of linen.

I’ve been given lots of linen clothes over the years and have a collection almost big enough to make a quilt. Not any more, out came the whites.  The beauty of linen is that it tears wonderfully for rag wreaths. You get that gorgeous frayed edge that adds enormously to the texture. I even found a couple of bits of embroidery Anglaise ribbon that I tied in.


Detail of a handmade rag wreath in teal colours. Showing a detail of some added decoration. © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Version number two was meant to have a frosty feel in white, silver and grey. Brrr!

I worked this one a little differently from the first. Instead of tying in a continuous circle, I added the touches of colour all around the ring first and then went back and filled in the whites. I wanted little pockets of colour to add depth and interest. Some of the linens seemed to tie up very closely and it seemed a lot longer to make.

A festive handmade wreath made from torn and knotted fabric scraps, decorated with a linen bow. In a range of white and silver colours. © Stephanie Boon, 2016.

A linen bow and a string of silver snowflakes hang from the bottom.

I was so pleased to finish it! I finished it off with a few strands of sparkly ribbon and a really sweet length of snowflakes. It still didn’t look quite right so I added the linen bow. Perfect, even if I do say so myself!

A festive handmade wreath made from torn and knotted fabric scraps, decorated with linen bow. In a range of white and silver colours. © Stephanie Boon, 2016.

A range of soft greys, pinks and blues added to the mix of whites and naturals. Look at the edges of those linens!

I had a couple of people on Instagram ask me how I made it and I wondered if you’d be interested in a tutorial? It really is a fab way to use up your quilting scraps and I know some of you have been collecting selvedges, which would look amazing! I kind of wish I had some now… Oh well, onto wreath number three: creams and golds this time. Watch this space.

My Instagram Account Has Been Hacked…Again

Instagram has been the bane of my life recently. My account just keeps being hacked. All my personal info is changed, my login details, my password… I change them back only to find that they’ve changed again next time I try to log in. This time all my photos seem to have disappeared too. I could cry I really could.

I’ve had my fill of it these last couple of days so decided to take a break until I have the patience and headspace to tackle it.  I’m really sorry, I miss my IG friends – it’s such a friendly place and so much more fun than Facebook.  I’ll try and get it sorted over the next couple of days, so bear with me. It does mean that there are some gaps in some of the posts here though where I’ve embedded my IG photos. I hope I can get them back…

Tutorial or No Tutorial?

My Band New Rag Wreath Tutorial Is Here!

Rag Wreath Tutorial

Don’t forget to let me know what you think about the idea for a tutorial on using up scraps to make a wreath. And if you have any other ideas for ‘scrap management’ let us know in the comments! Someone uses them for compost (great idea) and of course there are rag rugs and garlands – what else can we come up with to help stop textile waste going to landfill? I bet you’ve got some fantastic ideas.

Back with some quilting next time – it’s been a bit slow around here lately!

Linking up with Kelly for NTT this week, where I’ve just had the shock of my life and seen my quilt top Fete as one of her featured quilts! Also happy to be sharing these finishes over at Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday, woohoo! See you there!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015




Good Things Come in Threes

Sometimes, amongst all the anxiety and stress, a day comes along that seems so full of goodness it’s hard to believe. It’s like a beacon, something to hold on to while you weather the storm. Monday was one of those days.

When Two Quilters Meet

Meet Roz (on the left), we’ve been online quilty friends for a number of years now and this was our first ‘real life’ get together. Roz lives hundreds of miles away in glorious Yorkshire, but has come to Cornwall for a couple of weeks’ holiday. And not just anywhere in Cornwall, but a mere 3 or 4 miles down the road in St Agnes! (A lot of the photos I share on Instagram are taken around the coast of St Agnes – it’s a beautiful place to escape to. Have a look at my photos and you’ll see what I mean!) It was a rare opportunity we couldn’t pass up.


A photo posted by Roz Elliott (@ell55roz) on

We arranged to meet at a lovely open air National Trust cafe on the beach at Chapel Porth. I cycled there and on the way I was thinking that a few decades ago (more than I care to remember!) I’d have been full of nerves and trepidation, but today I was full of excitement. It was the first opportunity I’ve ever had to meet an online friend. And it was even more special because Roz is a quilter, and I hardly ever meet other quilters where I live.

Give Us A Hug!

I rode to the bottom of a stoney track and spotted Roz straight away, and the pair of us were grinning from ear to ear! I felt so exuberant: it was like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for ages. The disbelief gave way to huge hugs and when we finally found some words I realised Roz had someone with her.

Roz brought her husband Geoff along and it turns out he’s as keen on the outdoors as I am. A biker, a cyclist, a runner, a traveller – they both had some wonderful stories to tell. And of course we talked about quilting! Roz is an awesome hand quilter and you can find her on Instagram and the Celebrate Hand Quilting group on Facebook. She’s also a keen bag maker and machine embroiderer. In short Roz is an inspiration and a most lovely person to boot. I wished we’d had some stitching with us and we could have talked quilting till the cows came home! I can’t wait to meet up again. There’s just so much to share! And luckily for me Cornwall’s a regular holiday destination for them both.

They Say Good Things Come in Threes

The first ‘good thing’ was pretty hard to beat on Monday and I planned to spend the rest of the afternoon gardening. When I got home I rode down the road to my local saw mills about a mile away. I wanted to find out the cost of the timber to make the first raised bed for my disaster-zone-garden. I was surprised at how affordable it was. I had one of those impulsive moments and decided to buy it there and then. Then thought…hmm, how to get it home?!

Making a raised bed with timber carried home on a mountain bike © Stephanie Boon, 2016

From bike to raised bed!

I had it cut to size and strapped it to the handlebars and seat of my bike (thank goodness for bungees!) and pushed it back: ingenious, I thought. Back home I was sitting on the kitchen doorstep with a cuppa in my hand and feeling pretty pleased with myself: the second ‘good thing’ of the day had just happened.

I was enjoying a bit of sunshine when I heard a car door close and looked up. Another surprise? Oh yes: an unexpected visit from another old friend, Sally! Sally owns Coast and Country Crafts, (a lovely quilt shop) and brought over a couple of big bags of fabric scraps needing a new home.  This day was turning out to be pretty awesome! What an absolutely wonderful gift for someone who thinks scrappy quilts are the best. in. the. entire. universe!!! ‘Good thing’ number three: tick!

Magnificent Scraps!

We chewed the fat for a while and caught up on family life (our boys were great friends in primary school and went to the same secondary school) until Sally had to head back to the shop. I thought catching up with Sally was the third good thing of the day, but I was totally wrong! Sorry Sally but you were relegated to second place and gardening was kicked off the list altogether!

The bags of scraps she’d brought were hiding a treasure inside. There are lots of strips of fabric in the bags (perfect for a string quilt) but amongst them all were a couple of small pieces of a Kaffe Fassett fabric called Lotus Leaf. In red. I was over the moon: a score for my bunting inspired quilt ‘Fete‘! That really was the third best thing of the day. And in no danger of being struck from the list!

Fete – Growing Row by Row

There isn’t a quilter alive than can put off the excitement of using up a bit of fabric when it’s perfect for the job, so I know you’ll understand what I had to do next. I couldn’t wait to get stitching. I spent about 6 hours or more finishing up two rows of patchwork bunting for Fete, the celebration quilt I’m making for my sister’s 40th birthday.

'Fete' an original improv patchwork in progress © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Bringing in some blues and purples

Pride of place in the middle of a row are are two pennant flags in ‘Lotus Leaf’ from Sally’s scraps. The smile on my face was about big enough to go well beyond ear to ear by now!

'Fete' an original improv patchwork in progress by © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Kaffe Fassett scraps (2 large red triangles)

Monday turned out to be an incredible day, unforgettable, all thanks to Roz and Sally. And after such a crappy couple of weeks of raging anxiety it’s wonderful to have some balance restored.

Have you ever met an online friend in real life? What was it like the first time – are you still friends?!?!  Tell us your story in the comments – I’d love to know how you got on!

I’ll be back on Sunday for Slow Sunday Stitching (all being well). Until then…

Happy Stitching!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts,  My Quilt Infatuation, Can I Get a Whoop Whoop and Fort Worth Studio

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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.

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

“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)

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)

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

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How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? I Asked Kaja Ziesler

Welcome to another chat with a great quilter in the series How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt, where we find out how 3 quilters make the most of their quilting time. So far I’ve talked to Ann Brooks and today I’m really pleased to have a chat with Kaja and find out a bit about her process.

Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time with Kaja Ziesler of © Stephanie Boon, 2016


I’m sure you know Kaja Ziesler from her wonderful blog Sew Slowly. Kaja’s a bit of an anomaly in the quilt world: she’s an improv quilter that hand quilts. When we think of modern quilts, we likely come up with bright graphic designs with lots of ‘negative space’ that are machine quilted, often much of a muchness to me. Kaja’s quilts are different.

Hand-quilted Patchwork Quilt 'Charley Parker' © Kaja Ziesler, 2015

Charley Parker, hand-quilted 2015

She uses bold, modern fabrics in unusual colour palettes, sometimes mixed with older or repurposed fabrics. Kaja always does her own thing and never works from patterns, preferring to improvise as she goes along.  I love watching her organic design process unfold on her blog. Watching Inner City come to life was like watching a city planner at work!  The main fabric is a black and white print of iconic New York buildings, which she pulls together with the solid structure of the red.


Inner City – Kaja shared regular progress on this quilt on her blog

When you design a quilt organically you often make decisions by rearranging things and trying out the unexpected, which is a slower pace of working than using a traditional block design. You already understand the rhythm a traditional block will create, with improvisation you create your own. It’s an exciting way to work, but you can often hit roadblocks that take a while to resolve. It’s worth it though because you can end up with a quilt that tells much more about the personality of the quilter. In a quilt like ‘Denim’ you get a glimpse into the lives of the people that wore the old jeans too!


Kaja’s improv ‘Denim’ is made from old jeans and features subtle hand embroidery


Denim patchwork quilt by Kaja Ziesler 2015

Embroidered detail on Denim

How long it takes to make a quilt is definitely influenced by the processes you use. Ann Brooks completed 20 last year and Kaja finished 3, which isn’t many to a seasoned machine quilter, but hand quilting is about slowing down and taking pleasure in each stitch: it’s a much more intimate process. Each quilt takes about 3 or 4 months to complete “if I’m on a roll”, Kaja says. Another determining factor is obviously how much time you have available. I asked Kaja if she has a busy family life and, yes, I think we’d all agree that “two small children, 4 big ones (they don’t stop needing stuff once they leave home), husband, cat…” would be enough to fill anyone’s day! Add to that the reading, walking, photography and gardening she loves to do and I wonder how any quilts are finished at all.

How Kaja Makes The Most Of Her Quilting Time

Being Organised

How do you carve out time for yourself if you have a very busy life style with lots of family demands? Determination is a word that comes to mind, single mindedness perhaps. Or maybe there’s another way: Kaja declares she’s “very organised”. That’s not something I’m overly familiar with! Perhaps you feel the same? I’d definitely like to take a leaf out of Kaja’s book.

Sweet Nothings 2015 patchwork quilt by Kaja Ziesler of

Small Pleasures 2015. If you want to know more about this gorgeous quilt just click the image .

At the beginning of a new year Kaja has plans for her quilts over the coming months “but only a tiny portion will make it”. She doesn’t write a plan for each individual quilt because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen, “so can’t really plan in advance”. Without any time restrictions or ambitious finish dates in mind for your quilts you can explore as many creative avenues as you like along the way, which is what improv quilting is all about. “Sometimes once I’m hand-quilting and past halfway I will aim at a particular [finish] point, but it’s only an ambition mostly.”

Small Pleasures, patchwork quilt © Kaja Ziesler 2015

Small Pleasures – detail

How can you be productive without specific plans, I wondered. How do you prioritise what you’ll work on?  Kaja likes the idea of having one quilt top being pieced and one top being quilted and for a long time she thought

“that was what I did, but then I gave it some thought and realised it wasn’t! Leaving aside rolling projects (like Quilty 365 or RSC stuff) I mostly only piece one thing at a time, and that’s either something I’ve committed to making for someone else [like Small Pleasures, above] or just what I fancy doing.”

The hand-quilting gets done in chronological order: “Once a quilt gets to the top of the pile, then its time has come.”

Patchwork quilt top in progress. © Kaja Ziesler, 2015

One of Kaja’s works in progress from 2015

Kaja (like most of us I suspect) is “obsessive” about putting time aside for quilting. She tries to fit in a couple of hours of hand-quilting every evening and the piecing happens in the gaps around real life:

If I’ve got five minutes I cut something out, or do a couple of quick seams.  If I waited for vast tracts of time I would never make anything.”

That’s something I really identify with. If you can leave your sewing machine up and ready with a few bits of fabric near to hand, it’s much easier to move things forward in ‘the times in between’.  When you have a couple of hours to spare that’s when you can take stock and see how far you’ve come. I asked Kaja what her favourite part of the process is: “what I love is when everything starts to click, when I find the rhythm of a piece, and that could come at any time (though if I’m honest not so often when I’m binding!)”.

Online Time

Kaja’s a regular blogger and posts 3 or 4 new articles a week. It’s a good way of reflecting on your process and seeing your progress over a long period of time, and of course it’s about making friends. But it does take time – and it’s so easy to lose a couple of hours down a rabbit hole, rather doing what you’d planned! I’m keen to learn how to rein myself in, so I asked Kaja if she has any tips.

Kaja keeps to a routine:

“I do my blog-following and replying to comments in the morning with my first cup of tea of the day, then if I’ve managed to do any sewing I post some time in the afternoon, but try to limit myself apart from that.  I love the communication and will prioritise that but if I don’t watch myself I can spend an extra hour mindlessly browsing.”

Only an hour Kaja?! I’ve got a lot to learn.

Organising The Sewing Space

Most of us imagine everyone else has a beautiful sewing space with oodles of natural light and ample storage. The reality is often different; having a room to yourself is a luxury and we tend to make do with whatever corner of a room we can annexe before anyone else notices. Kaja’s no different. Her sewing machine’s set up in one place, the iron’s up a flight of stairs, the computer somewhere else again, and her stash lives in a garage a fifteen minute drive away. Running around to find what she needs must keep her really fit! She says she tries to have project boxes so that anything she needs immediately is easy to get hold of, “but in reality I often have to wait till I can get to my fabrics.” I’m sure this is where Kaja’s good organisational skills come into their own: someone as disorganised as I am would have a meltdown every 5 minutes trying to remember where everything is!

Hand quilting in progress, © Kaja Ziesler 2016

Hand quilting in progress

Motivation and Inspiration

In the US just about everyone seems to have access to quilt guilds or retreats, workshops and exhibitions. Opportunities like this are pretty scarce in the UK so the blogging community can be crucial for inspiration and friendly support. And that’s where Kaja’s found a home. When I asked her what motivates her it’s clear she’s very intrinsically motivated:

“This is me. The person who makes quilts is who I am when I am most myself and I could argue that making space for that helps me to be better in other parts of life (and this may well be true) but there is also a fundamentally selfish need to express myself.  (I don’t think selfish is necessarily a bad thing in this context).”

I’ve never really understood why we feel it’s selfish to express ourselves this way, but it does seem to be a cultural norm. We’re human and expression and communication is what we’re all about, but not everyone can or wants to do it with words. Some of us are far better with a needle and thread, and some of us, like Kaja, are pretty superb.

Kaja’s Tips

She has just one…

“Just get on with it”!

As Kaja says above, if you have a busy life, you have to take 5 minutes whenever you get it. Putting things off because you don’t have hours of uninterrupted quilting time will just result in hours of frustration and disappointment! Good advice to end on, don’t you think?


I hope you’ve enjoyed this chat with Kaja and picked up a few useful tips. Don’t forget that Ann from Fret Not Yourself shared how she makes the most of her quilting time last week and next week I’ll be speaking to Audrey from Quilty Folk – exciting times! You can keep up to date with the series here too.

Linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for this week’s Let’s Bee Social.

More Inspiration For You!

If you’d like to hear about more inspiring things sign up for my free newsletter! It drops into your inbox every other Friday and is full of wonderful things I find around the web, as well as an exclusive article you won’t find on the blog. Just complete the form below (you can easily unsubscribe at any time). If you have a minute, let me know where else I can find you in the poll on the left, I’d love to meet you there – thanks for your help!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015

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Ann Brooks Tells Us How Long It Takes To Make A Quilt

Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time with Ann Brooks. © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Ann, An Expert Quilter, Shares Her Secrets For Making The Most Of Your Quilting Time

Ann Brooks, quilter and blogger at Fret Not Yourself is an inspiration to me and so many others. She lives and quilts in both California and Texas, but her Texas roots are strong (I can’t help imagining a wonderful accent!) and occasionally show up in her quilts. You’d be hard pressed not to recognise Ann’s distinctive quilts: there’s often  50 – 200 different prints in each one and the colours she chooses are very expressive. It’s easy to lose yourself in them wondering how she can make a quilt with such coherent designs using so many unique prints. The answer is a highly sophisticated sense of colour and value and undoubtedly her many years of experience. There’s another noticeable fact about Ann’s quilts: there’s a goodly amount of them!  Ann, it seems, is a very productive quilter.

Chinese Coins improv string quilt © Ann Brooks, 2015

Chinese Coins improv string quilt © Ann Brooks, 2015

When I asked Ann how long it takes to make a quilt, it wasn’t a surprise that 2015 was an exceptional year, but I was staggered to discover she’d completed a “record high” of 20 quilts. The year before was 5 – 10, but among them was her fantastic quilt Propellors and Planes (below), which she describes as one of her all time favourites (unsurprisingly!). The quilt blocks were begun in February 2014 and the quilt was finished and hung in a guild exhibition a year later.  (Ann posted an index to her progress on the Propellors and Planes quilt so you can see how it developed.)

'Propellors and Planes' quilt by Ann Brooks, 2015

Ann’s Propellors and Planes, begun in 2014 and finished in February 2015

‘Lobster Boat’ is another impressive original design that Ann made for her new (and first) grandson, which she began and finished in 2015. Some of the first things that strike you are the strong design (note the Texas flag!), thoughtful use of fabrics to suggest movement and distance and the skilful piecing that comes from years of dedication to quilt making. The quirky fabrics just make you smile – where on earth did she come across lobster fabric?! Just perfect. (Read more about it over at Fret Not Yourself:  Lobster Boat Quilt For A Special Person.)

'Lobster Boat', pictorial art quilt, © Ann Brooks, 2015

‘Lobster Boat’, © Ann Brooks, 2015

Ann usually drafts her own versions of the quilts she wants to make (I believe she’s very good at quilt maths!), but more recently she’s joined some online quilt alongs (like Quilty365) and bought two patterns to make a quilt from.  Even so, designing and making her own original work is still her preference. In 2015 she experimented a lot with improv quilting and her Tiger Stripes quilt (a graduation gift for her son) was inspired by Sujata Shah’s book Cultural Fusion Quilts. The blue and gold colours represent her son’s university colours and Ann has quilted some college chants in the zig zags to personalise it.

'Tiger Stripes', an improv rail fence quilt by © Ann Brooks, 2015

‘Tiger Stripes’, © Ann Brooks, 2015

There’s so much rhythm and excitement in this quilt it makes you want to get up and dance!

Deadlines Do It For Ann!

These two quilts alone would be a good tally of finishes for a year for some of us, but Ann completed 18 more (I’m gasping for breath here!).  I asked her what motivates her to get them done and she says that her goal is to get her quilts into use. Deadlines help her to make a quilt for special occasions, like a gift for a new grandchild, or exhibition opportunities. The flip side is that Ann says she’ll “expand any project to the time available” (who’s not guilty of that!). Her oldest UFO, which is being densely hand quilted, has been 26 years under the needle and is “still 3/4 finished”. She says it’s hard to finish when she doesn’t work on it at all, but she’s not ready to give it away!

These days Ann prefers to make a quilt by machine and it’s worth noting that she does all her quilting on a domestic machine (rather than send them out to a long-armer) and can make a quilt like a small baby or lap quilt in a couple of days, while large quilts might take a month:

“Once I start quilting that’s all I do until it’s finished.”
Her finished tops might go into a pile waiting to be quilted, which she describes as a bad habit. Years ago Ann knew Libby Lehman and wants to emulate “one of her many admirable traits” to make a quilt one at a time, all the way through. It’s a goal she’s still working towards: “Like too much fabric, too many UFOs stifle you”. That’s a very powerful statement I think: too many UFOs mean too much choice of what to work on and too much choice can lead to a lot of prevarication, making it difficult to prioritise. Sometimes, rather than prioritise, it can be easier to start a new project, which just perpetuates the vicious circle.

Book Study Groups

Some of us like to spend hours alone when we’re quilting and some of us love to make a quilt with others. Then there’s the happy medium where we get to enjoy the best of both worlds, and I think Ann’s found it. She’s been Programs for various Guilds on 5 occasions now (each one’s a two year stint and at the moment she’s in her second year SCVQA) and also gets a lot of encouragement and inspiration from book study groups, where a small group of friends meet and discuss the chapters of a quilt book in sequence, then go home to try it out ready to come back next time to share experiences.

Improv curve quilt © Ann Brooks, 2015

Ann’s dazzling ‘Improv Curve Quilt’, 2015, inspired by a score in the book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters

At the moment her group’s working through Sherri Lynn Wood’s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. Belonging to a group like this is a good way to learn new techniques and gain insight from the author and other group members. Maybe it doesn’t directly influence the how long it takes to make a quilt, but over time it’ll give you the confidence to pick the right technique for the job, which will definitely mean less unpicking in the future!  It goes without saying that inspiration and creativity are sparked by discussion with others and there are some great posts on Ann’s blog Fret Not Yourself where you can follow along and share in her discoveries.

On Being Organised


If you’re one of those super organised quilters that writes a ‘quilt plan’, a step by step guide to making each quilt, you’ll be surprised to learn that someone as organised as Ann doesn’t use them. A list of ‘in progress’ quilt tops, ideas and events that need a quilt is a good enough reminder of what to work on next and keep on track, especially for special events like births and quilt shows. Spending life writing lists and publishing plans is definitely not a priority and any she does make are for personal use – and kept strictly off line!


Ann’s fabric stash occupies nothing more than a few clear tubs stacked on the floor, which might seem a little sparse to an over zealous fabric hoarder (you know who you are!). But, Ann has a fundamental belief that “over abundance stifles creativity more than any other aspect”, and I agree.  I love her guiding principle of “make do with what’s on hand” (it costs a whole lot less too). If you deliberately limit your stash, how long it takes to make a quilt could be a lot less: you’ll spend far less time organising it and more time actually quilting! Ann says that her small fabric stash sparks ideas and gets her brain going, and that you can apply the same principle to a large UFO pile: “sort them into ‘finish’ and ‘giveaway’ piles. Move them out”. It’s not really minimalist, but it certainly makes your quilting space a distraction free zone!

Ann Brooks fabric stash for quilting © Ann Brooks, 2015

Ann’s entire fabric stash fills just a couple of boxes


Time for quilting is something that’s close to all our hearts. Many of us feel that if we don’t make that time, we’re somehow not complete; it’s what makes us tick and function ‘normally’ in other aspects of our lives! Ultimately the time we have available for quilting determines how long it takes to make a quilt and how many we might finish in a year. So what about Ann? Ann recognises that she’s at a very fortunate time in her life with grown children, a new grandchild far away, she’s healthy and retired: Ann says she gets to do what she wants! But, she has a profound awareness that she’s “spending her life” and “no one lives forever”, so she asks herself “what do you want to do now; what legacy do you want to leave?”. It’s a way of crystallising the most important things in life and ensuring that if quilting is important, quilting gets done.


I asked Ann how she balances her quilting with her blogging and social media activities, a juggling act most of us find difficult to get right. Is she strict about the time she spends online? “Not strict enough!”, she says. She enjoys talking with people, so her replies are usually online (unless they’re personal in nature) in the hope that others will join in, or at least find something interesting. Her blog Fret Not Yourself “puts all the information in one place”, which she says helps productivity.



Ann’s Tips

Ann shows us that how long it takes to make a quilt depends on lots of factors, from prioritising and defining what it is you want to achieve to organising yourself accordingly. What’s very clear is that it has absolutely nothing to do with how fast you are on a sewing machine!

Finally, I asked Ann what tips she’d give to a quilter that wants to get more done. She says you should ask yourself what your goal is: “if you want to make more you should probably choose easier designs, and if you want to make more complicated designs you should expect to finish fewer of them. Ask yourself  ‘Are you happy?’ If so, keep on. If not, what can you tweak to become happier?”.  Ann quotes St Francis: allegedly when someone asked what he’d do if he knew the world would end tomorrow he replied “finish hoeing this row”.  Ann says

“Choose with deliberation.
It may not be quilting,
but you’ll be happy you’re doing what matters most.”


I’d like to thank Ann for agreeing to share how long it takes to make a quilt with us, especially for the time she took away from quilting to do it! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and found lots to inspire you. Ann’s certainly helped me understand how loving what you do and focussing on what you want to achieve, really honing that until it’s crystal clear, is the way to make sure you achieve your goals.

Don’t forget to head over to Fret Not Yourself to follow Ann (if you don’t already) and to come back next Monday when I chat to Kaja of Sew Slowly to find out how long it takes her to make a quilt.

You might also like these posts

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt – links to the whole series

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Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015

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Selvedge: Design a Colour Scheme

Graphic: How to design a great colour scheme without colour theory! Stephanie Boon 2015, (original colour wheel graphic by Sakurambo via Wikimedia, altered by Stephanie Boon, 2015)

Welcome to the 2nd article in the series to help you build colour confidence without worrying about colour theory!  This series is intended to help you develop a more intuitive practical approach to putting together a colour palette for your quilting and sewing projects. Last week we kicked off with a challenge to design a monochrome colour scheme using paint cards and this week we’ll be building on your colour-matching skills by looking at the fabric selvedge.  We’ll also be considering another aspect of designing a palette: proportion.

Using the Selvedge

Selvedge (or selvage if you’re in the US) – we’ve all seen those lovely coloured dots, some of us even collect them and make quilts from them (this one’s the best one I’ve seen). They’re actually the printer’s registration marks: if the selvedge dots line up as they should, then the pattern will be correctly matched during the printing process.

How to design a great colour scheme without colour theory (using fabric selvedge): © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Registration marks on the selvedge

But what’s interesting to us is the range of colours it shows:

It represents the colour palette of the fabric.

The reason all those gorgeous fabric collections match is because they share the same or similar colour palettes and you can check this by comparing the dots on the selvedge.

If you want to branch out from the ‘mix and match’ collections and want to create a unique colour palette that expresses your preferences and personality all you need to do is choose a favourite fabric and match your other fabrics with the coloured dots along the selvedge edge.

You’re likely to find a lot more dots than you expected, which gives you great scope for developing your own scheme. It can be tricky because the dots are quite small, so make sure you’re in good light when you’re making your selection.

Matching a range of fabrics to the selvedge dots. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Matching a range of fabrics to the selvedge dots

Try matching up a couple of different schemes with the selvedge dots of your fabric and put them aside for the moment while we consider proportion.

What is Proportion?

Proportion is simply the relationship of one thing to another in relation to it’s size, quantity, etc.  In this case we need to look at the quantity of one colour compared to one or more other colours in the palette.  By changing the proportion of a colour in your palette you can alter the mood quite drastically.

One thing the selvedge dots don’t tell you is the proportion of colours in the fabric scheme, but making a estimate is a skill we can develop.


Take a look at your focal fabric and estimate the proportions of the colours along the selvedge edge in the design.

How to design a great colour scheme without colour theory (using fabric selvedge): © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Selvedge registration marks

Print by Lewis and Irene © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Print by Lewis and Irene

In this example colour no. 8 (a greyish purple) makes up most of the background. I would say there are fairly equal amounts of the pinks (2 and 4) and greens (3 and 7) and a bit less of the blue. Much less prominent, but no less significant are colours 1 (dark grey) and 5 (a warm brown).  Last but not least is the unprinted background fabric: white. The design uses a fair amount of it (perhaps as much as the green and pinks) and it serves to highlight and intensify the colours in the sprigs of flowers.

If I was to put it into numbers (which quite honestly I don’t, I think very visually) I’d estimate something along the lines of:

  1. 65% purple (8)
  2. 15% white/background
  3. 15% pinks and greens (2, 4, 3 and 7)
  4. 4% blue (6)
  5. 1% grey and brown (1 and 6)

It’s a very rough estimate, but gives you something to work with.

Having selected a range of prints from the colours along the selvedge of your favourite fabric and estimated the proportions of each one in the design, you now have a number of possibilities when it comes to designing your own colour palette.

The simplest option is to keep the proportions similar to those in your focal fabric. This will harmonise the mood of your focal fabric across your patchwork palette, like the example on the left below, which used fabrics from my first colour match shown above. The version on the right shows a second set of fabrics that were matched to the selvedge

Matching a range of fabrics to the selvedge dots. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Left: estimating colour proportions similar to the focal fabric. Right: reducing the proportion of plain white, allowing the white of the tree print to show through instead.

You should be able to create a pleasing effect without too much trouble.  But what else can you do?

The Selvedge Challenge!

This is the fun part:

your challenge is to see what happens when you make a change to the original colour proportions!

Try two or three versions and see what you think of them. The samples in the image above play with the proportion of white in the palette. The strip on the right also has the addition of a darkish grey matched to dot number 1 and I took out the fabric matched to dot 5 because I felt the branches of the tree were a similar colour but less obtrusive.

In the image below I’ve added some neutrals to the palette too:

Matching a range of fabrics to the selvedge dots. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Adding black and white (left) and a light neutral grey (right).

Taking it Further


As you can see, you can change the feel of your palette by adding in some neutrals, like we did last week in the monochrome challenge: black, white and various tones of grey (remember to use a ‘neutral grey’ on an artists’ colour card to get the right shade).  In the Lewis and Irene example, we know white looks great because it’s in the main print, but what happens if we add more? How would it alter the mood?  What about grey, perhaps it would be softer than white? And what would happen if we added in black? Or even all three?!

Thread Don't just think in terms of your fabrics: remember that your quilt will feature thread too!  In the example of the Lewis and Irene print, what would it be like if brown (say) didn't feature as a fabric, but did feature as a quilting thread? The colour and line would echo the fine lines of the drawing on the print, whereas if it had been a 'block' of brown fabric it might have more dominance than you'd like.

Can you see how the colours and neutrals harmonise with the main print?


Don’t just think in terms of your fabrics: remember that your quilt will feature thread too!  In the example of the Lewis and Irene print, what would it be like if the brown or dark grey (say) didn’t feature as a fabric, but did feature as a quilting thread? The colour and line would echo the fine lines of the drawing on the print, whereas a ‘block’ of brown or grey fabric might have more dominance than you’d like.

I’ve used up my colour matched samples to make a small improv block and I’ve added in more strips of the focal fabric to give it more prominence. I’m really happy with the way all the colours harmonise and I’m thinking about what effect a black or dark grey thread would have… I think the lines would add definition.  In fact I think I might even be tempted to quilt black lines on the right hand side to balance the black/white fabric on the left and use a light neutral grey to quilt the left hand side! What would you do?

Matching a range of fabrics to the selvedge dots. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

A block created with my samples matched to the selvedge.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this post and it would be awesome if you’re inspired to have a go at colour matching to a selvedge, and thinking about proportion too. If you’re proud of your results why not share them here with us? (Feel free to share even if you’re not proud and have some questions!) I’d love to see what you come up with. You can leave a link to a post on your own blog in the comments below, or share a photograph on one of the Dawn Chorus Studio social media pages (links on the right at the top of the page).

Series Index

Graphic: How to design a great colour scheme without colour theory! Stephanie Boon 2015, (original colour wheel graphic by Sakurambo via Wikimedia, altered by Stephanie Boon, 2015)

Links to all the weekly posts are listed on the Colour index page.

Linking up with the lovely Lorna for Let’s Bee Social (if I’m quick!), AmandaJean for Finish it Up Friday (finishing up a tutorial counts, right?! Hope so, or I’m in trouble!) and with Kelly for Needle and Thread Thursday.

Have a great weekend lovely peeps and see you soon 🙂

Happy stitching

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Just thinking about Norfolk walls

Finding inspiration from natural stone walls

Inspiration for a new lap quilt can come from the most unexpected places. The colours and textures of the natural stone walls of Norfolk cottages have stuck in my mind and I’ve been mulling them over in my sketchbook. Playing with fabrics and shapes, wondering what they might become.

Quilt inspirationL Carstone and flint wall, Norfolk © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Norfolk flink and brick

Working on ideas for a lap quilt inspired by natural stone walls in a sketchbook: playing with fabric colours and shapes © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Ochre bricks

Working on ideas for a lap quilt inspired by natural stone walls in a sketchbook: playing with fabric colours and shapes © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Orange bricks

Working on ideas in a sketchbook for a lap quilt inspired by natural stone walls in Norfolk, England. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Simple bricks

Working on ideas for a lap quilt inspired by natural stone walls in a sketchbook: playing with fabric colours and shapes © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Red bricks

The week has been ticking by slowly, frustratingly. I seem to have lost focus. I’m trying to drag myself out of this mini-slump, be kind to myself. So I’m letting my mind wander in my sketchbook. For now.

Why keep a sketchbook for inspiration?

Keeping a sketchbook on the go for times when your mind feels like it’s elsewhere is really good practice. You don’t have to do anything fancy, just sticking in photos of interesting things that you see will make you feel like things are still moving forward. You can stick in fabrics that catch your eye too, or anything else that you pick up on your travels (even if your travels are only to the supermarket!). You can keep magazine images or articles, notes of exhibitions you want to see – anything! You don’t have to fill your sketchbooks with paintings and drawings, they’re your personal journal and anyone can make use of them – they’re just a wonderful visual record to look back on when you need some inspiration. And, you can buy them small enough to fit in your bag and carry around with you.  Do you keep one already? What else would you say is good to keep for inspiration? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and Work in Progress Wednesday, hop on over to see what else has been going on this week.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015




Inspiring Cambridge

Kim’s dad grew up near Cambridge, went to college there, and I feel overcome with waves of nostalgia every time I think of it. I remember sitting in front of King’s College Chapel, probably 30 years ago, and he asked me what the best thing about ice cream was, on a hot sunny day. Randomly, I said the best thing was that there was no rubbish when you finished. And apparently that was the correct answer!

Cambridge Kings College Chapel, © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Kings College Chapel

When I visited with Kim a couple of weeks ago he really wasn’t feeling very well and it was difficult to get him to feel enthusiastic about anything, so I suggested a gentle walk around The Backs, where you can enjoy the famous views of the old colleges across the river Cam and the close clipped lawns.

King's College, Cambridge © Stephanie Boon, 2014

King’s College, Cambridge

Punting on the River Cam © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Punting on the Cam

Cambridge Kings College Chapel from Clare Bridge © Stephanie Boon, 2014 www.Dawn

View of King’s College Chapel from Clare Bridge

Clare College, Cambridge, © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Clare College Chapel


But as ever, for me, it’s the details I fall in love with over and over again.

Clare College reflecting in a window, © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Clare College

Like the warm light of Clare College Chapel reflecting in the stone mullioned windows opposite, with its carved heads looking down on us all. Or a tiny autumn oak leaf trapped in the cobwebs of a carved stone relief of an English rose.

Carved stone relief, English Rose, Cambridge © Stephanie Boon, 2014

English rose

And my eyes were dazzled by the rich colours of autumn that veiled the lichen-covered stone balls on Clare Bridge.

Clare Bridge over the River Cam, Cambridge, © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Clare Bridge

Everywhere you look there’s something extraordinary to see. Which almost takes away the pain of dragging a none too happy teenager around behind you!

Cambridge chimneys © Stephanie Boon, 2014


Fabric shopping

You can’t come to a beautiful city from a quiet backwater like Truro and not go on a hunt for some fabric. It wasn’t easy to find. In fact I found only 3 outlets in the city centre and one of those was a stall in the Market Square and wasn’t there the day we happened to find ourselves in town. So I dragged off the still unhappy son to the first one on the list:

  • Sew Creative.  After a quick look round I decided there really wasn’t anything in their very small fabric selection that would make me sew creative at all. However, if you’re on the hunt for a sewing machine they have an awful lot on offer. In fact, their website is dedicated to them.
  • John Lewis.  This department store is huge. The fabric and haberdashery section isn’t. Tucked away in a corner at the back of the store, I had to ask for directions. When I first cast my eyes around I was very disappointed, there were lots of dress fabrics, but very few quilting lines. I was beginning to feel as unhappy as a bored 16 year old boy that didn’t feel very well being dragged around a fabric shop with his mother… One of the assistants (all lovely and helpful) pointed me to a selection on the back wall, probably three shelves, not much more than a metre and a half wide.  I sighed, “That’s it?”  Apparently there’s far more choice in a quiet backwater like Truro. However, not to be too downhearted I was pleased to note that indeed the designer quilting fabrics were from designers that at least my local store doesn’t supply: Nel Whatmore and Anna Maria Horner for Free Spirit. Joy at last! On a strict budget though I had to restrain myself and spend no more than £15.00, i.e. 1m of fabric! (See my choice below.)
  • The Little Fabric Stall. As I mentioned above the Little Fabric Stall on the Cambridge Market Square was closed the Tuesday we were there, but it is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and if you’re in the area it certainly looks worth a visit. Check out their Facebook page (just follow the link) to see the designer fabrics they have in stock.
Nel Whatmore and Anna Maria Horner fabrics © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Half a metre each of Nel Whatmore and Anna Maria Horner for the stash


I’m using some of the photos I took in Cambridge and Norfolk to play with ideas for a new quilt design or two. All being well, I’d love to offer the new designs in my first collection of patterns that I hope to have for sale early in 2015. It’s all in the very early stages, but I thought I’d share a snap of my sketchbook open on my desk this evening, just to give you a glimpse of what I’m up to. Please be kind, it really hasn’t gone much beyond a couple of pages of glueing and sticking yet!

Sketchbook page, © Stephanie Boon, 2014


I’ll show you more ideas as I progress. I hope you’ll enjoy following along, and would welcome your thoughts and ideas too.

For the rest of this week I’ll be concentrating on getting my first newsletter ready to go out this Friday.  I’m hoping it’ll be short and sweet, but pack a mean punch!  I’ve found some thought provoking articles I hope will inspire you, links to some great sites, a tutorial for a really simple way of making and basting your quilt sandwich (totally awesome and I can’t wait to give it a try!) – oh and I’ve got a little bit of exciting news for Dawn Chorus Studio too!  You can sign up here really quickly and if you decide you don’t want to continue you can unsubscribe at any time (and it goes without saying, your details won’t be used for anything else or shared with anyone else either!).  So, please sign up, it would be great to have you along!

Linking up with lovely Lorna’s Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts (she’s got some great butterfly blocks on the go this week!).

Until next time, happy stitching!

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