Categories: p&q; tips and tutorials; inspiration


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Keeping On Top Of Those Quilting Goals

How I’m Tracking My January Progress

It’s 4 days into the new year already! How are your quilting goals going, fallen off the wagon yet?!

SMART goals are my Secret Weapon this year (read about my goals here)- and so far so good. (Trust me, I’ve fallen off the wagon on day 1 before now.) Success comes if you track your progress (allegedly) and here’s how I’m doing it:

I’ve adopted a really simple visual tracker that takes no time at all to fill in. (Secret Weapon number 2!)

Here it is:

Planning and organising goals - January 2017 tracker. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

Keeping track of January’s quilting projects, in no particular order. Hmm, not had too much time this week already…

On the left is a list of my ufo’s and up above is the day/date of the month. All I do is fill in the square of the project and corresponding date that I work on it.

Seeing Is Believing

You can see that I’ve worked on Plain Sewing circles every day so far, which makes me a happy bunny. Why? Because one of my quilting goals is to make a circle block every day for the next three months. And I’m on track! (I know it’s only a couple of days but it does motivate me to keep going.) On the other hand I have a dodgy-looking ambition to finish On The Edge by the end of this week.  I need to get my skates on if I’m going sew the binding to meet that goal.

There are other projects on the list that I’ve no intention of working on this month. I could have left them off or put a line through them, but I decided to keep them visible. This way I’ve got a clear idea of what’s in my cupboards… lest I write in any new projects (by hand) along the way!

Complete Your Own Tracker – Download This One!

I’ve saved a version of my tracker for you to download and use if you’d like to join me. The blank sheet is suitable for any (and every!) month of the year. There’s a simple list of dates across the top with a row above where you can write in the days. Above that there’s a space to write the month and a place to make a key if you want. Finally, there’s a blank column on the left for your project list.

It’s A4, so it’s easy to stick into a notebook or onto a pinboard in your sewing space.  I’ve saved it as pdf file, but if you’d prefer it in a different format (Word or Pages) let me know in the comments and I’ll sort it out for you.

Bullet Journals

A complicated tracker isn’t much fun for me, the simpler it is the easier it is to complete it: I don’t want to spend hours faffing about, I’d rather be quilting! But if you’re one of those creative people that’s more motivated by something decorative, or with more details, you’ll find lots of inspiration from the bullet journalists.

They’re a bunch of people dedicated to organising and planning their lives in a ‘bullet journal’. Some of them have a serious addiction (some might call it a fetish) for decorative stationery and colouring in!  Check out Bohoberry for decorative inspiration and free printables.

If you prefer a more straightforward approach you might like to have a look at Ryder Carroll’s website Carroll ‘invented’ the bullet journaling method of organising yourself. He gives really simple, clear instructions for using his “Analog System For The Digital Age” (fancy!) in the most basic way possible. I’ve picked up a few tips that I’ve started using that are transforming my usual scatter-logical note scribbling: indexing is a godsend, but I’m sure librarians came up with the idea first!!!

One Monthly Goal

The One Monthly Goal challenge over at Elm Street Quilts inspires and motivates lots of quilters. It’s a simple idea: you publish your goal/s for the month, link up at the beginning of the month and share your results at the end. Keep at it for 12 months to enter a prize draw at the end of the year, which is open to anyone anywhere in the world.

There’s still time to link up for January’s challenge, you’ve got until the 25th so head over to join in. Have you taken part before? How did you get on? Let us know if it motivated you to finish something in the comments. I’ve not joined before because I’m uncertain whether it’ll motivate me or completely crush me when I realised I’ve missed yet another goal! Maybe I should bite the bullet?

I am feeling pretty motivated to get on with last year’s Plain Sewing quilt top though, regardless of whether there’s a carrot or stick dangling in front of me!

Plain Sewing 2017

Plain Sewing, textile art by Stephanie Boon, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Plain Sewing. Work in progress 2016.

In late 2015 I joined in the Quilty365 sew along with Audrey at Quilty Folk. The idea was to make one circle block a day for the next 365 days – enough to make a quilt at the end of 2016. I got carried away – and then got left behind! Life got in the way as it often does, but I managed to keep at it until April/May time I think.

The blocks I made don’t all go together so I’m making more than one quilt.  Plain Sewing (pictured above) has really sustained my interest. It’s pretty small at the moment and I was thinking about making a wall hanging, but ideas change. Over the intervening months I’ve accumulated more fabric, which means I can make it quite a bit bigger.

Plain Sewing, textile art by Stephanie Boon, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Using an old linen suit and shirtings for my 2017 blocks. This is from the 2nd of January.

I’ve been given a man’s linen suit in a neutral ‘weetabix’ colour, a blue stripy shirt and a couple of other pieces of dress linens that will make great backgrounds for the blocks. And this is the month I decided to pick it up again: a new start in the new year. I’m planning on one block a day for the next three months to see where that’ll take me.

Plain Sewing, textile art by Stephanie Boon, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016

This was the first block of 2017.

Sewing a block every day became a kind of mediation last year. I sat quietly for an hour or so, focussing on the hand-stitching and needle turn appliqué, letting everything go. I loved the ritual of it and that’s what I hope to recreate this time too.

Plain Sewing, textile art by Stephanie Boon, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Yesterday’s block, 3rd January, looks about as stressed as I was before I started stitching!

I’ve made 3 blocks so far and keep having ideas for another quilt (or three) developed from it. I’ll tell you about the inspiration for Plain Sewing in my next post. In the mean time I’m going to scribble my ideas in my newly indexed notebook and try hard not to invent another project to track just yet!

One Year On

There were so many inventive interpretations of Audrey’s simple idea and a surprising number of quilters made it right through. In her final Quilty365 link-up post for a few months Audrey talks about her year’s journey and progress so far. She’s making a wonderful hand appliquéd centre piece that you should see. It’s the delicious icing on the quilt!  Hop over and take a look.

I’m linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Bee Social and I’ll be back here on Sunday for Slow Sunday Stitching. Until then…

Happy stitching all you organised quilters out there – and to you too, even if you’re not!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015



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Slow Sunday Stitching – It’s On The List!

Making New Year Quilting Goals

Have you made any quilting goals for 2017? I read Kaja and Ann’s hopes and plans recently and I was inspired. Since then I’ve sat down and filled reams of notebook pages with goals, ideas and hopes for quilting, blogging and personal stuff (like exercise and reading). Making lists is pretty scary, I tend to over do it then berate myself for not completing anything.

Making plans for 2017 - list of quilting projects. © Stephanie Boon, 2016. Cornwall, UK All Rights Reserved

List making begins. I was surprised (and relieved) that my ‘tops in progress’ list is relatively small (There are 8 in total).

I can do without giving myself an ear-bashing so I’m sticking to ‘SMART’ goals this year, I’m sure you’ve heard of them? (I think I’ve gabbled on about them before.) Try this method if you didn’t tick everything off your 2016 list (ahem, no comment!).  SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.  It’s basically a checklist to help you get things done.

SMART Stitching

Take a very simple example: one of my blogging goals is to link up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching every week. I’ve linked up as often as I could in 2016, but I want to make a bigger commitment because it’s a really inspiring marker in my week.

So I asked myself:

  1. Is this goal specific? Yes: tick.
  2. Is it measurable? i.e. can I track my progress? Yes, I just need to check my publishing dates. Another tick!
  3. Is it achievable? Probably… I worry that I’ll be posting the same old thing every week and bore the pants off you (as I’ve mentioned before). So I made myself a promise that even if I feel I don’t have anything interesting to share I’ll pop over to Kathy’s and see what you’ve been up to (I know that’s something I overlook). A tentative tick then?
  4. Is it realistic? This is the one I have endless problems with! My goals are realistic in and of themselves, but I have a tendency to try and achieve about a million of them in a week! So I’m going to qualify this question from now on: is it realistic and compatible with everything else I want to achieve? (I guess that’s asking myself to prioritise). This goal is high up on the priorities, so yes, it’s realistic…tick!
  5. Is it time-bound? i.e. how long am I going to give myself before acknowledging success or defeat? I reckon if I look back over a 6 month period I’ll get a reasonable picture of how regular my posts are, so yes, it’s time-bound. Woohoo! I’ll give myself the go-ahead then.

I often do the checklist in my head, but this time I’m writing it out next to my goals so that I get a really clear picture of what I’m trying to achieve. It’s working so far – I’ve already noticed I’ve tried to cram waaaay too much into January and had to make rather a lot of adjustments to my expectations!

Making plans for 2017 - pile of notebooks. © Stephanie Boon, 2016. Cornwall, UK All Rights Reserved

A very long to do list for January – it got a bit of a culling!

Follow up your goal setting with some goal tracking! My follow up post includes a tracking sheet for you to download and use.

Navel Gazing

Life’s thrown a lot of crap this way over the past couple of years and I feel like I’ve just been drifting along. I don’t really have anything concrete to look back on and say “well, despite all that you still achieved x, y and z”. I focus on the things I haven’t done instead, get worried and anxious that life’s racing by. So I’m curious to find out whether putting my thoughts in black and white will actually free up space in my head, so that when I sit quietly and stitch I know everything else is taken care of.

I always think there are so many high achievers out there (I mean people that get lots done) and I wonder how they do it, then I compare myself and question why I’m not one of them. I ask what is it that productive people do that I don’t. I ponder why I want to achieve more and question whether I’m really that unproductive, or just don’t acknowledge what I have done. This tick list is designed to give me the evidence. As long as I don’t lose it…

This time of year is all about the questions isn’t it?  So much navel gazing and not really any answers.  Do you indulge, or is it just me?

On The Edge in December

On that note I’m going to turn my attention to the last thing I actually achieved in December 2016!

On The Edge (Floating Squares) is on today’s to-do list. I’ve claimed the comfy chair in a cosy corner of the house and I’m going to tackle the knife edge binding and plan a hanging tube. Some quiet stitching to start the new year off the way I mean to go on: relaxed, calm and in control! (hahahaha!!!)

A cosy armchair for hand sewing. © Stephanie Boon, 2016. Cornwall, UK All Rights Reserved

My cosy corner set up for some Slow Sunday Stitching.

I’m linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching, but check out Kathy’s 2016 quilt review and her UFO list for 2017 too. What are your plans for this year – and how did you get on in 2016?

Happy New Year – and happy goal setting! (Don’t forget to download your goal tracker here.)

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015



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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!

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


Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015


Drum roll please!

And the winners are…

Little Bird giveaway winners. 2014

4 lovely ladies!

The winners of the first ever Dawn Chorus Studio giveaway over on our Facebook page are…

  • Betty Whipple Middleton who wins the set of four Little Bird hand appliqué and quilted mug rugs and a copy of the pdf pattern
  • Christine Prosser
  • Mel Lewis and
  • Sue Pulleyblank who each win a copy of the pdf pattern, so they can have fun making their own!

Thank you to everyone that came over and joined in, I hope you enjoyed it too. What a great way to make more friends! Let’s keep talking and sharing, it’s so much fun 🙂 If you haven’t visited our Facebook page yet pop on over and say hi, we’re getting to know each other and it’s becoming a really friendly, inspiring place to be.


How I ran a giveaway

Running the giveaway was a lot of fun, but I have to say mildly stressful too!  As I’m new to all this I don’t know if I went about it in the most effective way, and trying to keep up the interest and a bit of momentum is harder than you’d think. Here’s a brief run down of the process I went through:

  1. I decided why I wanted to do it. (As a way of saying ‘thank you’ to our burgeoning group of friends on Facebook and hopefully to make some more.)
  2. I decided what the ‘prize’ would be. (A pattern for our quilty friends to make and something that might appeal to our friends who love handmade, but don’t actually quilt anything themselves – yet!)
  3. I decided what the rules would be. Number 1 was that I didn’t want to ‘force’ people to share the giveaway in order to enter it – that doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you ask friends to do!
  4. I decided on 3 blog posts to post over a week that I hoped would raise interest in the event, where I could share some of the techniques I used to make the mug rugs (see the post on my top 10 tips for neat needle turn appliqué) and keep the interest going.
  5. Posted details of the giveaway and blog posts on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.
  6. Posted daily about it on Twitter and regularly on the Facebook page.
  7. Got my son to draw the winners last night – see above!

The next step is to review my goals, which were to say thank you for liking the page and hopefully to raise awareness of it to make more friends. So how did it go?

Well, we had a small number of participants in the giveaway itself (so more chance of you winning!), but a few people also ‘liked’ the post about it without actually entering. It was shared once on Facebook, 10 times on Twitter and a few times on Google+. Over the last week the number of our Facebook friends has grown from 153 to well over 200 (although these definitely aren’t all related to the giveaway), and if some of them join in the conversation or find something to inspire them on the page that will be really great.  But in terms of saying ‘thank you’ to the friends we already had, I’m not sure it was as successful as I’d hoped – not too many of you entered, booo! (Feel free to let me know why in a comment if you’re one of them, it could be really helpful for future giveaways or anyone else thinking about doing the same thing for the first time. And it’s perfectly ok to say it’s because you didn’t like the prize, or you don’t like giveaways! In fact, if you have any previous experience or ideas for future giveaways just share your thoughts below and let’s get talking!)

So would I do it again? Of course! Who wouldn’t want to do something nice for their friends once in a while, when there’s something to celebrate? Maybe we could do something to celebrate the launch of the new Dawn Chorus Studio Newsletter in November?  You can subscribe in the top right hand corner now, which means you won’t have to remember to do it in a couple of weeks’ time and you’ll be the first to hear about new patterns, inspiring, helpful stuff and interesting news from around the web!  More about that in another post though…

Today is all about the first ever Dawn Chorus Studio giveaway and, more importantly, its very special winners Betty, Christine, Mel and Sue! Thank you so much ladies, you really made my day! Happy quilting 🙂

Edited to add that I just came across a really interesting post The Real Truth about Giveaways by Abby Glassenberg over at While She Naps.  Lots of food for thought and some lively discussion in the comments too – people really have strong opinions about giveaways and what they like and dislike about them. I have to say, I find blogs that have sponsored giveaways all the time a real turn off – it makes me wonder who the blog is really by, the blogger or the sponsor, and exactly what their motives are.  What do you think: giveaways, good or bad?

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Sorry stash!

I need your help guys!  I have a sorry stash. I apologise to my stash for being so poor, so depleted, so not me any more! Take a look. This is it:

Fabric stash. © Stephanie Boon,, 2013

A meagre pile

Fabric stash. © Stephanie Boon,, 2013

Hmm not sure about any of these…

Why do I need your help?  Well, no, I don’t want the key to your neighbour’s stash whilst she’s away on holiday and I promise not to raid yours while you’re not looking either (I promise!), but I could really do with some advice as to how to begin the rebuild, the new design.  Here’s what I’ve already got: the few pieces on this shelf are the largest pieces I have, the smallest piece is probably about 15″ square, the largest maybe a metre and a half or so, most of them are fat quarters with bits cut out of them!  I’ve also got a few shoe box size boxes of scraps (i.e. teeny tiny bits!)

 Fabric stash. © Stephanie Boon,, 2013


The fabrics in the picture above are the paltry remainder of some of my favourite fabrics – the bottom 5 are ones that I’ve chosen (I have an unhealthy attraction to Kaffe fabrics) and the Valerie Wells row above are from a stack of fat quarters I won at Hopeful Threads (great blog if you haven’t seen it), and although I love the prints they’re not all in colour ways I would necessarily pick myself.

Below are a selection of fabrics I’ve acquired mainly through very generous friends, although I’ve bought a couple of them for specific projects: a tiny mix of kids’ and novelty fabrics and a few with metallic overprinting, which is something I really don’t like. I wouldn’t want to use any of these as ‘feature’ fabrics (not at the moment anyway!), but I’d be happy to use them as ‘fillers’ – quite a lot of orange though isn’t there, hmmm…

Fabric Stash, © Stephanie Boon,, 2013

Children’s and novelty

And here are my remaining sorry looking florals. I love the one on the top left, a vintage 40’s fat quarter that I bought at a craft fair, the others I can take or leave, although three of them in the left stack are actually needle cord and feel fantastic! Again, all good fillers.

Fabric Stash, © Stephanie Boon,, 2013

Sad looking flower garden!

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, this is my teeny selection of plains and nearish plains, the only large piece is the red (left overs from this project). Obviously the two on the top right aren’t really plain and they have the dreaded silver over print, but they’re in colours I like.

Fabric Stash, © Stephanie Boon,, 2013


“Why are you asking me how to build a stash? You’ve been doing it long enough to know what you like!”, you might be asking yourself. Well, this is true. My favourite quilts I’ve worked on recently are the hexie grandma’s flower garden, bold, bright, lots of Kaffe Fassett and modern designers; and two quieter ‘natural’ designs Found and the Peru inspired quilt I’m still working on. I kind of vacillate between the two extremes.

So how can you help? Well, a lot of my US quilty friends (that’s you!) have great stashes, I think because the cost of fabric is sooo much less than it is here in the UK, so I’d love to know what you find most ‘useful’ in your stash? Do you have something that you go to again and again, so it’s worth investing in (plains maybe or a particular style of print)?  Do you buy, say, fat quarters to get a wide variety of prints, or is it better to buy fewer but in metre/yard cuts?  (I tend to have a lot of scrappy style quilts because I haven’t been able to invest in larger pieces – or have used them up pdq!)  The trouble is, buying fabric is a. expensive (and I’m financially poor!), b. it’s not like buying a few paints and being able to mix a thousand colours! (I could dye my own, but that would be a fair investment in dyes, sigh!).

So my BIG question to you is:

If you had to chuck out all but 10m of fabric, which ones would you hold on to with a vice like grip?!

It’s ok, you can breathe now, and put the phone down to the paramedics: it’s just a hypothetical question after all! But it might give me an insight into where to start my rebuild, I hope! So I hope you’ll forgive my shock to your system (do let me know how I can make it up to you!)

Next post I plan to come back with a roundup of some fabric sales I’ve seen, so stay tuned for that – and THANK YOU, dearest friends in anticipation of your much needed advice!

Back soon 🙂


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Clearing the decks and organising my sewing space

I needed more space. My studio (as Kim calls it), otherwise known as my workspace in the kitchen (as I call it), was getting way too cluttered for my liking. My sewing table was always covered in jars of buttons or tins of thread and piles of half completed projects, with Mrs Jones relegated to any free space beside my feet as soon as she wasn’t needed. Time to get things sorted and get my shelves put up.

They’re not new, they’re about the same age as Kim, 15 or so! Older maybe. I designed them and painted them, Kim’s dad made them. And they’ve been in several of our kitchens since. A friend put them up here for me a couple of weeks ago (thank you muchly TM!) and I instantly covered them…

I was having a nose about ChrissieD’s sewing space last week, as I was on my travels around new found blogs. She works from her sitting room rather than her kitchen like me. And with its views over Manhattan, rather than the cow sheds outside the windows here, it’s a whole lot more glamorous! But it’s great to see how people integrate their sewing spaces into their homes without cutting themselves off from family life. It also reminded me how nice it is to peek at other people’s lives! So, feeling slightly guilty I thought I’d share a peek of mine too; well the newly hung shelves anyway!


Wall shelves displaying items for patchwork and quilting. © Stephanie Boon, Dawn Chorus Studio, 2013

Hand made and hand painted wall shelf storing and displaying my sewing stuff

They’re above my sewing table, which means everything I might want is within easy grabbing distance. But more than that, they’re covered in little sentimental things that inspire me and make me smile. Like the peppermint bark chocolate tin, given to me (us!) by Kim’s Auntie Linda and Uncle Stewart a couple of Christmases ago, now storing embroidery thread. (The chocolate came from the US I think and was wonderful, I might add! That might be a hint 😀 ) I bought the vintage tin underneath it 25 years ago and it’s been storing pencils and now cotton reels ever since.

Wall shelves displaying items for patchwork and quilting. © Stephanie Boon, Dawn Chorus Studio, 2013

Sewing books from the 1940’s

My mum gave me the 1940’s sewing books some years ago, she got them from a car boot sale I think. They’re not just decorative, I actually use them – most recently for tips on repairing a fur coat someone asked me to patch up! (Tip: use a knife to cut fur, not scissors!)

Wall shelves displaying items for patchwork and quilting. © Stephanie Boon, Dawn Chorus Studio, 2013

Sentimental bits and pieces

On this shelf the little heart was given to me at Christmas by a lovely friend who recently moved several hundred miles away, so I think of Gill whenever I look at it. The Liberty covered buttons were given to me by TM, with strict instructions that they’re to be used on something for myself! The tape with the pointing finger was bought in a store called Utility in Brighton where Kim and I went for a great day out with Auntie L and Uncle S (check out the website – you’ll love it!). The sweet little tulip candle was a mother’s day gift last year; the green pot was given to me by another friend… really the shelf is just loaded with memories of friends and family!

Patchwork and quilting cutting table. © Stephanie Boon, Dawn Chorus Studio, 2013

Lily likes to sit above the cutting table…the radiator’s behind it!

And moving it all off the sewing table, and everywhere else it was sprawling, has meant that I’ve been able to free up not just the sewing table but create a little dedicated cutting table too. That made me very happy. Mad I know!

If you’ve posted any pictures of your sewing space why not leave a link in the comments and we’ll come and have a peek; well, I will for sure!

Happy organising!

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Vintage Sewing Box – a quilter’s dream!

A vintage sewing box is a desirable thing for any quilter and I coveted one for a long time. My first sewing box was given to me when I was about 11 years old and would definitely be in the vintage category now. It was a bright orange plastic affair, a bucket shape with a white lid and carrying handle – unmistakably 1970’s. Orange was (and still is) my favourite colour. The sewing box was given to me for my birthday by my parents and I remember the thrill and pleasure of organising the interior tray with wooden reels of thread and packets of needles and pins.  I had an embroidery kit of one of those cutesy kittens on pre-printed purple fabric that I kept in the main compartment. When I finished it I hung it on my bedroom wall with so much pride. It’s funny how these memories stay with us, the little things – they’re so vivid in my mind it’s as if I could touch them. I don’t know what happened to that particular vintage sewing box; was it broken, or put in the loft when I left home and then thrown away by my parents when they moved home themselves? Who knows. But I replaced it with a round woven sewing basket that I picked up in a charity shop. It had a lovely dome-shaped lid with a woven ring to lift it off and a quilted lining inside that had gone mouldy had to be removed (it stank!). I had it for around 20 years, but I don’t know what happened to that one either!

A Proper Vintage Sewing Box

Some years later I was still coveting a compartmentalised sewing box: a 3 tier cantilever sewing box to be precise. One sunny day I happened to be wandering about a quaint village with a friend, not too far from home. In Porthscatho, on the south Cornish coast, we happened on a little corner shop called The Sea Garden. The shop’s owned by a textile artist called Christine who blogs at The Mermaid’s Tale. The displays in the tiny windows caught our eye, but it was, of course, a little wooden vintage sewing box that sung to me, so we just had to go inside. I insisted. There were several painted, 3 tier cantilevered sewing boxes on the shelves and each one was slightly different. Different sizes, different colours, but there was one that looked pretty special to me.

1940's Wooden Vintage Sewing Box painted cream and blue, made in Germany.

It was love at first sight!

I fell in love with it and it was one of those rare occasions where an object just refused to let me leave without it. And, I had some unspent birthday money burning a hole in my pocket…

1940's German wooden vintage sewing box, painted cream and blue

The trays open like secret compartments!

That sort of thing doesn’t happen to me very often. I enquired about it and was told it was vintage 1940’s German with it’s original paint finish. I scoffed at this last piece of information since there were several other items around painted in exactly the same blue… and there were obvious traces of pillar box red beneath it. I couldn’t care less if it had been made yesterday in Truro, I still loved it and I was convinced it loved me too and was desperate to come home for a play!

Spools of thread in a wooden vintage sewing box.

Mmmmm, quilting thread!

Organising my threads and sewing notions inside the tiered trays took me right back to childhood: it was a wonderful feeling. These little bits and pieces fill me with possibilities, but holding them, arranging them, is a pleasure in itself. I couldn’t help adding some wooden cotton reels and vintage perle thread to the trays to really take me back.

Fabric lining in wooden 1940's German sewing box.

Very pretty!

I realised I didn’t especially like the unfinished wood inside the trays and decided to make some removable fabric linings. I ummed and aahed over lining it with paper, or even painting it, but if it is in some kind of original condition it would be a shame to change that. So, removable fabric linings it would be. I didn’t have any vintage fabric, but found a lightweight upholstery fabric that has an old-fashioned vintage appeal. It makes me smile when I look at it, so much prettier than bare wood.

For a hand quilter (and sometimes hand piecer) this is the perfect type of sewing box. It holds just enough supplies to carry about the house with me, so that I can sit and sew wherever the best light is. It’s one of those rare objects that’s useful, connects me to warm memories and to so many quilters that came before. I know I’ll cherish this gift (a gift in so many ways) for years to come.

Tell me about your sewing box: I bet it’s special to you in some way?  I don’t think I’ve come across anyone that doesn’t have a sewing box story to tell! So, what’s yours?

If you hand quilt or hand sew you might enjoy reading Sore Fingers: A Thimble Issue or How I Learnt To Use A Quilt Hoop too. Why not sign up for my fortnightly newsletter and receive lots of inspiration direct to you inbox, including exclusive stories and articles like this one? It’s completely free!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015


How Long Does it Take to Make a Quilt?

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt (series)? Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time: great tips from great quilters. © Stephanie Boon, 2016

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt?

It Depends On How You Make the Most of Your Quilting Time!

‘How long does it take to make a quilt?’ is a question most of us are asked at some point. It’s what every new quilter and non-quilter wants to know. And the next thing you’re likely to hear is “you must have the patience of a saint!”. Um no!  But really, asking how long it takes to make a quilt is like asking how long is a piece of the proverbial string. And we all know the answer to that one. Mostly it takes a long time to make a quilt: anything from a week or two (if you’re quick!), a month or two, to a decade or two. Most of us are making more than one quilt at any given time, so unless we take careful notes (who does that?) we actually have no accurate idea.  And yet…

And yet, it hasn’t escaped my notice that some of my favourite quilters make so many great quilts. Come the year’s end, when it’s customary to review the previous 12 months’ endeavours, these talented people appear to have ticked off a list of at least 100 quilt finishes. Each. Ok, I concede, grudgingly, that that might be a slight exaggeration, but I bet you know what I mean. These are the kind of quilters that leave you standing in their wake, with your jaw dropping to the floor wondering what it is they do that you so obviously don’t…

So exactly how long does it take to make a quilt?  And more importantly how can you become more productive yourself, will it take superhuman powers?  I decided to find out:

I asked three of my favourite quilters how they keep their needles so busy!

Hand made quilt 'Charley Harper' © Kaja Ziesler 2015, (Illustrated in article 'How long does it take to make a quilt?' )

Kaja Zieler’s  ‘Charley Parker’ hand quilted lap quilt


I wanted to know if they make their quilts to a plan, if they’re super organised, or if they have any other life! I wanted to know what motivates them and what stops them getting distracted. In fact, I had a whole heap of questions about how long it takes to make a quilt and who better to learn from than these illustrious quilters:

Audrey from Quilty Folk, Ann from Fret Not Yourself and Kaja from Sew Slowly

Handmade quilt 'Scrap Basket' © Audrey Easter, 2015

‘Scrap Basket’ (detail). Audrey Easter’s hand quilted entry into the Bloggers Quilt Festival, 2015

Audrey, Ann and Kaja all make wonderful quilts using very different methods. Ann quilts by machine, Audrey is the queen of hand appliqué and quilts by hand (sometimes with a wee bit of machine quilting) and Kaja quilts solely by hand.

In 2015 they all finished a different number of quilts: Ann 20; Audrey 12 and Kaja 3.

Each quilter makes a range of different size quilts and generally has several tops underway too – and of course they all have different demands on their time. But it’s not the quantity of quilts they make that’s important. What’s interesting is that they all make such individual quilts, many of them complicated designs and each in their own distinctive style. This kind of creativity takes time to nurture, yet they come up with fantastic quilt after fantastic quilt time after time – let’s find out how they do it!

Improv curve quilt © Ann Brooks, 2015

Ann Brook’s dazzling ‘Improv Curve Quilt’

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt?

I realised that asking the simple question ‘how long does it take to make a quilt?’ wouldn’t really help us understand how Ann, Kaja and Audrey seem to make so many inspirational quilts. It’s more helpful to know:

  • how they nurture their creativity and
  • how they organise themselves so that creativity can flow more easily.

Read the articles below to find out Ann, Kaja and Audrey’s secrets to success!

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? (series) Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time with Ann Brooks. © Stephanie Boon, 2016

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? (series) Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time with Kaja Ziesler of © Stephanie Boon, 2016

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? (series) Graphic: How to Make the Most of Your Quilting Time, with Audrey Easter. A conversation with Stephanie Boon, 2016.

Ann, Kaja and Audrey have been really generous and shared what makes them tick, what demands they have on their time and how they make the most of the time they have for quilting. We’ll also discover:

My thanks go to all three quilters for taking time out of their day to share their experiences and tips with us, it was such a pleasure! Enjoy reading the articles, pick up a tip or two and join in the conversations with Ann, Kaja and Audrey.

I’d love to know what hinders your quilting time too and what you do to overcome it. Leave a comment and let’s help each other out!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015