Out of the box

Time has been spent on more sorting and delving into boxes – sometimes it feels very much like Eeyore’s broken balloon and jug – take everything out, handle everything, put everything back! Sometimes the odd helpful decision shows up and a project gets re-prioritised and moved to a different box. And sometimes everything just goes back into the box. . . .

My Antique Rose Star blocks have been in and out of any number of boxes since I made them just over ten years ago. I’ve shown them here several times and they have travelled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles between the Rural Office and the Overseas Office. The blocks have been on a teaching cruise and many other classes besides, quilts have been made (and finished) by many students – but my blocks have been resolute in remaining individuals in a stack rather than put together as a quilt. Maybe this year they will finally be put together and become a quilt top – I think I may have decided on a setting. Now all I have to do is delve into some other boxes in search of just the right fabrics . . .

This was one setting option I considered a while back –

Edge to edge setting looked great, but I would have needed to make a lot more blocks for a decent size quilt. Much as I loved this block I had “block burnout” after making eighteen! Which is why the spaced setting above had a lot of appeal in that the same number of blocks would make a large enough top.
So back to the boxes to find those fabrics!

Start again

Trying to get back to posting – it seems to be a winter affliction and I know it’s been months.  So a quick catch-up, starting with “stuff seen in magazines” –





A quick glimpse of some Antique Rose Star blocks which have been shared by their makers – (mine are still growing quietly in the Secret Drawer in the kitchen dresser)




I’ve been busy with various other hand piecing projects that seem to have got themselves under way –










Quilting and design projects are fighting their way back onto the worktable, lots of planning but nothing to take fuzzy photos of as yet.  Today I’m tucked away from reality at the annual quilting retreat with lots of creative buzz all around me and ideas forming almost by the minute – a very heady atmosphere!

Welcome to all the new followers, hope everyone enjoys the Quilt Snaps I’ve scheduled for the next few Fridays.

Antique Rose Star – some tips

Just while I’m finishing up measuring and labelling quilts and samples I thought I would put together some thoughts on a completely different topic – Antique Rose Star.  I know several readers are about to start their own project and thought this might be helpful.

This stunning hexagonal block is one I first saw in a copy of Ladies Circle Patchwork Quilts magazine in the middle 80s (1980s that is).  Rather more recently it has been given a new global lease of life thanks to its inclusion in “Material Obsession 2”, a hugely popular book from the Australian quilt shop of the same name.  At Quilt Expo in Veldhoven I noticed that renowned Dutch quilter Petra Prins carried the template as part of her wonderful shop stock, so it was easy to acquire the wherewithal to begin.

As featured in the book, the block requires 5 fabrics plus a background.   I used 5 fabrics plus two backgrounds because I wanted a very busy, scrappy look, and chose shirting style reproduction fabrics for the backgrounds.  I also decided that I wanted to work within one style of fabrics – reproduction prints, and mostly one colour family – reds, browns and dark creams.

first Antique Rose block

After that, decisions progressed to each block being a different combination of fabrics with no two blocks being identical.  Fussycutting worked well for some of the centres and also some of the points, but was not a must.  For the most part, I just wanted to make scrappy looking blocks from fabrics I already had.  Health warning – there is a LOT of scope within this block for fussycutting if that is your delight…………  and the whole thing is hugely addictive, it is very difficult to stop!

Here’s how I tackled my Antique Rose Star project –

Each block has 72 pieces and divides down into 6s or 12s of each fabric choice.  The centres and points are 6 each, everything else is 12, and remember I used 2 backgrounds so there were 12 each of both backgrounds.  If you use one background per block you will need 24 pieces from that fabric.

I cut lots of pieces in sets of 6 and 12, marking around the template onto the WS of the fabric and cutting out on the marked lines.  This took time but was fitted into small gaps in the day rather than lengthy sessions.  Because I wanted to use up fabric and be economical, I marked around the template as tessellating shapes and cut with scissors which meant very little waste.

marking tessellating shapes

The size of the template does lend itself to use with jellyroll precut fabric and rotary cutting, in which case you could be cutting through 3 or 4 fabric layers at once –  it depends on your preferences and what suits.

All cut shapes went into one large ziplock bag – I probably began the first few blocks with shapes cut from at least a dozen fabrics and five background fabrics.  More of everything plus new fabric choices were added in as the project gathered momentum.

Every shape in the large ziplock bag then had a seam line marked on the WS on two adjacent sides (one long side, one short).

mark adjacent seam lines on 2 sides

You could easily skip this step if you prefer to mark your seam lines as required rather than in advance.  I must say I felt it was time well spent at this stage.

So, lots of shapes cut out and marked – time to start laying out blocks.  I laid out 3 blocks to begin with, sometimes using a pair of mirrors and just one triangular wedge of shapes to predict the final result.

mirror predictions

This was a project I knew I would be stitching “on the move” so it was important that it could be accommodated in the smallest of containers and that the stitching was as straightforward as possible.  I decided to gather each block up into its component sets of 3 shapes, put a few holding/tacking stitches through each set to keep them together, and then put all the 3s for each block into its own very small ziplock bag.

sets of 3 to make one block

One block = one very small bag of tacked shapes.  Add in a needle, small reel of thread, small chunk of beeswax and a thread cutter and its good to go.

You may be surprised at the speed at which a block can go together – each seam is short.  I made up my 3s like this:-

set of 3

ready for first seam

next step

stitch to pivot point

from pivot to end

First stitch one short seam then a pivoting seam to add in the third shape.

Completed sets of 3 went back into the bag, and you can probably finish the sequence for yourself………… sets of 3 come back out of the bag to be stitched into diamonds of 6.  These leave the bag to be made into larger triangular wedges by adding first one background 3 and then the next.   And of course, sets of 6 large triangular wedges have their own bag in which they await their final construction all neatly tacked together……….

After all that hectic piecing just a warning that one or two almost-forgotten quilts have been re-discovered during the ongoing Cupboard project – here’s a quick peek, more detail next time.

forgotten quilt

Stitching and stencils

Adrift in the warmth and haze of a real English summer, it’s almost time to head out for our holidays.  This, as you will understand, calls for much planning and gathering of suitable projects to take along so that maximum use is made of the time.  So far I can only count 5 project bags, but maybe a few more will get added in before departure – or maybe I’ll just take more drawing stuff, and there’s always that neat little notebook app (Penultimate) if everything else fails…..  One of the bags contains the last 3 blocks (I think) for the Antique Rose Star project which should finish at a mere 23 blocks if I can bring myself to stop making them –

Antique Rose Star blocks

I can’t decide whether to take any hand quilting projects this time, or limit myself to just piecing.  There are three designs that are almost finished, this is the most recent, which you saw as lines and mirrors in an earlier post –

quilting detail

almost finished

and the two earlier ones that need a few more stitches –

design 1

design 2

A really good pre-holiday boost came with the arrival of a sample set of  new stencils of my designs from Quilting Creations – these will be great to refer to in the Tentmaker Applique class and will hopefully meet some of the many requests for this style of design in stencil format.

stencil sample

stencil sample


stencil sample

The stencils have been developed from my Egyptian Treasure pattern book, and should make marking for a quilt like this an absolute breeze

quilt detail

Which gives me an idea of something to put in even more project bags for the holiday – maybe a little applique, or some shadow quilting too?!

This week’s work

A busy week with lots of preparation and packing again – British Quilt & Stitch Village show next week, Expo Veldhoven the following week and almost straight into Quilts UK.  I’m going to be demo-ing at all three shows, teaching at Veldhoven so, in anticipation of all this activity, I’ve taken delivery of a new phone to add to my technical armoury!  Lots of staring at screens and sighing as well as the printer churning out worksheets and brochures.  One of my preparation tasks this week was to use my slightly-less-new camera to capture some close-up stitching on a couple of samples.  The results were ok on the first sample –

quilting detail

quilting detail

quilting in progress

but things got more complicated with the second sample, worked on a yummy dark magenta Oakshott.  Easy enough to get the stitching, but true colour proved impossible, so the pictures show pink rather than rich depth as you can see from these three attempts

quilting detail

flat shot

quilting detail

Another task on the same list was to stock up the bags of cut pieces for the Antique Rose Star project that has been quietly growing a few more blocks – the tally so far is 12, which takes me to roughly half way.  I did remember to take a quick picture of the blocks before they went back into the Secret Drawer in the kitchen dresser –

Antique Rose Star blocks

Antique Rose Star detail

Further down the list was a note to try and move this block along a bit further –

Stone Star block

and at the very top of the list, written in capital letters, was a reminder to collect my NEW PATTERN BOOKS  from the printers.  I’ll have these with me at the Veldhoven show and also Quilts UK, I may even manage to get them up onto the website ….

new pattern books

new pattern books

Have a good weekend – I’ve got more things to cross off the list.

Just stuff …

At sea amidst stuff to pack for a quick trip to Quilt Market in Houston, stuff to finish for classes after Quilt Market, lots of paper stuff that might turn out to be patterns, and domestic stuff that needs to be taken care of before swanning off to warmer climes.  It all comes down to stuff and luggage in the end!   Despite the excess of stuff of all types and from all directions, I can report that my Secret Drawer/Stealing Time project is working quite well – the Antique Rose Star pieces are stacking up in their box and the drawer is now filled to a satisfactory level –

For anyone who has been bitten by the Antique Rose Star bug the indefatigable Shirley over at Stitcherydo has turned up a real treasure for you!  – it’s a phone app, but far too good for that and she is brimming with ideas to develop into cloth and stitch.  Do take a look ….


There was a little bit of time this week to mess around put some more lines on paper –

and have fun with mirrors

Still on the theme of “I wish I could” I really wish I could make descriptive lines like The Quilt Rat – if you don’t already follow her blog I can highly recommend it, masses of inspiration and fabulous lines of ink and stitch.  In the meantime I shall just potter on with my low-tech pencil and mirrors…

I was re-acquainted with one of my smaller vintage quilts yesterday – ok, it had been pushed to the back of various samples and been overlooked – and took a couple of pictures with a view to making a pattern.  The border, corners and background grid will be pretty straightforward, but the centre is proving a little more difficult to capture –

And there will be plenty of airplane time this next week that I can use to work on more scribbles and doodles, make plans and dream of Gibson guitars.  Happy stitching!