Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Large Seahorse Pattern Release

I know that a lot of you have been eagerly awaiting this pattern, so it makes me extremely happy to announce that my 50 inch (that's a whopping 127cm) Seahorse pattern has finally been released.

As you may remember, the pattern was inspired by Alison Glass' Handcrafted Indigo fabrics. I loved all the different shades of blue and knew that they would be great for depicting the sea.

It was a spur of the moment project, made at a time that I needed a fun project to relieve stress. I was blown away by the enthusiastic reception that it received and I have been fighting to find the time to release the pattern ever since.

Part of the reason that the pattern has taken so long is that I wanted to get it thoroughly tested. The Running Zebra and the Seahorse are the first patterns that I have released on larger paper and as such I was a bit more cautious than normal with testing. It is also only fair to allow tester the time to do justice to these largescale designs.

Now before you panic about the larger paper, I have done my best to keep everyone happy.

The pattern has been formatted for A3/ Ledger (11" x 17") paper but I have included instructions for this who wish to print it on A4/ Letter paper.

Those printing on A4 paper will create a seahorse block which measures approximately 35" x 35" (89cm x 89cm).

Those printing on letter paper will create a seahorse block which measures approximately 33" x 33" (84cm x 84cm). Just to prove that this is possible, Zsofia created a test block using foundations that were printed on letter paper.

I should probably mention a  14 inch version of the seahorse pattern will be released in a week or two. this pattern will contain two variations on the pattern- a slightly simplified version of the large seahorse and a version with a non-fractured background.

 I can't wait to see all the Seahorses that you create. Here are the ones that my testers sewed. Didn't they do a wonderful job!

Paper Pieced Seaohorses
Top Row Zsofia's 33 inch seahorse. Middle Row: Chrissie, Afton, Alissa. Bottom Row: Amy, Nancy, Renata

You can find the pattern in my Etsy Store, my Payhip Store and my Craftsy Store.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Running Zebra- A New Pattern and a Thank you to my Pattern Testers

running zebra quilt

Some patterns fly together.
A hint of inspiration...
A burst of drawing...
A flurry of testing and they're done.

Other patterns need crafting.
They need to marinate at the back of my mind.
They need revisions.
They need tweaks.
In short, they need a lot of time and energy to make them as good as they can possibly be.

The Running Zebra pattern is the biggest pattern that I have released to date (both in terms of the size of the finished block and the size of the paper that it is printed on). The learning curve was steep and it is definitely the single pattern where I have learnt the most along the way.

When I first came up with the design for this pattern, I tested it on a small scale. I turned it into a baby quilt and gifted it to one of my husband's colleagues.

But before I had even sewed it at this scale, I knew that I wanted the pattern to be big.

Pattern testers have been instrumental in improving the pattern. They have given me honest feedback and helped me to look at the pattern through a different set of eyes. Some have helped with the nitty gritty details, others have shown me how to improve the design. I am enormously thankful for everything that they have done to help me.
running zebra quilt

When I first started formatting the pattern for release, I intended to release two versions- one version on A4/ letter paper and a separate version printed on A3/ ledger paper. I really really tried to make this work, but unfortunately it just wasn't feasible. The A4/ letter version printed on 60 pages and the workload involved in creating it was untenable.

After the first round of testing (when only one tester finished the A4/ letter paper version of the pattern), I decided to ditch the A4/ letter version, but I didn't want to exclude those who do not have access to a copyshop so I have included instructions by which people can shrink the pattern and print it on A4 or letter paper.

The zebra block created from A3/ Ledger paper measures 60" x 45" (152cm x  114cm)
When printed on A4 paper, the zebra block will measure approximately 42" x 32" (107cm x 81cm).
When printed on letter paper, the zebra block will measure approximately 39" x 30" (99cm x 76cm)

My finished quilt (complete with borders) measures 63" x 80" (162cm x 200cm). It is made with Karen Lewis' beautiful Blueberry Park Fabric as produced by Robert Kaufman.

I must admit that I didn't do the quilting myself. The ultra talented Leeanne of Quiltmekiwi had lots of fun quilting this for me. I adore the way that it turned out and it has been enthusiastically claimed by my 5 year old son.

The pattern includes a pattern template for the fractured border. By adding borders, this pattern can be used for a twin size bed quilt. The instructions for the border are not super exact, but I kind of assumed that this is not a pattern which will be done by beginners and I like the idea of giving you the necessary building blocks and allowing you the freedom to make your own creative decisions.
running zebra quilt

As I said, pattern testing was critical with this pattern and by looking at the following photos, you will be able to see the evolution of this design.

Don't you love Jill's creative use of ombre fabrics? Such a great interpretation of the pattern!

Amy C did a beautiful job, she turned her zebra into a wall hanging for her lucky 9 year old niece.

Amy V gifted her colourful zebra to a lucky quilting friend. I love it!

Elisabeth was creative with a blue zebra. She very bravely tested the pattern when I formatted it for A4 paper. If I remember correctly, this version of the pattern was over 60 pages of pattern pieces- that's a lot of cutting and pasting! I felt a bit bad for Elisabeth when I pulled the plug on this version of the pattern, but honestly it would have taken me years and years to finish proofreading and altering this version of the pattern.

Although Ann didn't manage to complete the pattern, she gave me some great feedback which really helped to improve the pattern. I love the way that she used her fabrics in her version and look forward to seeing her finished zebra.

If you compare these zebras to the ones that will follow, you can see the changes to the legs and hooves that they suggested. 

The second round testers were more concerned with finding the small detail mistakes- wrong numbers, inconsistencies, grammatical mistakes. They scoured the pattern and found a whole heap of things that I could improve. They also sewed some beautiful zebras.

Don't you just love this interpretation of the pattern and the adorable photo! Just look how proud Leonie's girls are of the beautiful zebra that their talented mum made- I love it!!!

Leah went for beautiful graduated rainbow colours.

Becky also created a stunning rainbow quilt.

I love the blue sky and green ground of Wyna's zebra quilt.

It's hard to see from this photo, but Lynn used a really fun subtle spotty print for the white of the zebra. It's fun and works really well.

I am super proud of this pattern and really hope that you will love it as much as I do. It's really fun to create a bed sized quilt from a single paper pieced pattern.

I sometimes feel that I don't thank my testers enough so I wanted to make sure that they all know how much I value their input. I learn new things from testers all the time and love that they give me a different perspective on paper piecing.

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of the zebra pattern, you can find it in my Etsy Store, my Payhip store and my Craftsy store (EU customers make sure that you buy from Etsy or Payhip)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Night Owl

The secret is out.

I can now reveal one of my secret sewing projects from the last few months.

This is my Night Owl quilt. It measures 75cm x 75cm and has been selected as one of twenty quilts to tour New Zealand as part of the Aotearoa Quilters Flight Challenge.

When Aotearoa Quilters announced that they were running a quilting challenge and that the theme was "Flight", I knew immediately that I had to enter. Not only that, but I knew the quilt that I wanted to design.

Last year when I was creating my In Flight quilt, I sewed the twelve birds and then realised that I didn't have enough birds for the large quilt that I wanted to create. I went back to the drawing board to design an extra four birds. At the time, I asked my instagram followers if there were any particular birds that they wanted to see.

There was a strong body of support for an owl pattern and I loved the idea.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to work.

You see, the In Flight Quilt featured silhouettes of birds in flight and an owl pattern needs to show the eyes. The silhouettes looked lumpy headed and wrong without them. I shelved the idea, but kept it at the back of my mind, ready.

I could picture the owl in my head, I just needed an excuse to design it and was thrilled when an excuse dropped at my feet.

As I designed the quilt, I knew that finding the correct fabric for the background fabric would be critical. I wanted something dark, something atmospheric, something natural and without sharp lines and edges. The print couldn't be too high contrast so as to detract from the subject of the quilt but I also didn't want to use a solid.

I don't mind admitting that I spent many hours putting fabrics into my virtual shopping cart and taking them straight back out. It was tough to find something that suited, but finally I found a Cotton + Steal print called Hot Springs in Blue from Sarah Watts' Honeymoon Range. It was perfect!

I have to say that almost without exception, my friends who have seen this quilt comment on the background fabric and how perfect it is and I am convinced that it makes the quilt. I'm not sure if it comes across in the photo but it is a truly wonderful print (and I may have bought more yardage for a future project!)

 The Owl itself was sewn completely from stash. It consists of Tula Pink, Alison Glass, Frances Newcombe, Lizzy House to name but a few.

The thing about adding lots of negative space to a design is that you then have to quilt it in an interesting way. I don't mind admitting that I was a bit intimidated by this and I put it off for a while. I spent a long time agonising over how to do the design justice. I am happy that I did the best I could for my quilting ability and that I quilted it exactly the way that I envisioned right from the start.

I started by stitching the ditch around the owl and by adding feather detail where appropriate.

I wanted to give a subtle focal point for the quilting in the form of a moon and to spiral out from that. I kept up the parallel style quilting for the lower portion of the quilt and created undulating lines of the hozizon which gently followed the silhouette of the wing.

All the quilting was done using Aurifil 50 weight thread. The owl was quilted using aurifil #2150. The background was quilted using aurifil #2692.

I am so happy that I got the opportunity to create this quilt and I love the way it turned out. If you want to see the other flight challenge quilts you can see them at the Great New Zealand Quilt Show. The quilts will also travel around New Zealand in a travelling Exhibition. you can find details on the Aotearoa Quilters website.

Friday, April 15, 2016


A few hours ago, I picked my children up from school. They were excited as it signalled the first day of the school holidays- two weeks of fun filled family time ahead.

For me it's a good time to reflect back of these last few months. To assess what I have achieved and think about what I can do better next term. This has been my first term of having no children at home during the day. The first term that I have been able to dedicate myself fully to my pattern writing.

As a blog reader, you're probably wondering what I have been up to, as I have been unusually quiet here on the blog recently. I really am sorry about that, but this is where the title of this blog post comes into play.

Those of you who follow me on social media will realise that I am not always the most patient crafter. I come up with a new pattern and have to share it with my followers immediately. I am often fairly spontaneous in the design process and choose to share that spontaneity with you guys.

If I'm honest, this is an approach that can get me into trouble and can lead to stress. Not every idea is as good in fabric as it is in my head so not every design that is shown on instagram will be released as a pattern. The moment that a design has been shared on social media, it also loses its appeal to magazines and publishers so these days I have to consider whether a design will potentially be of interest to a publication. It's a tough juggling act!

These last few months have taught me to be patient in my crafting. I have had to moderate the natural spontaneous crafter in me and think carefully about what I share and how I share it. I have had to think of the long game and keep projects secret until the designated time when all can be revealed.

This term I entered my first quilting challenge. One of the conditions was that all quilts had to be kept off social media. I am really excited to tell you that my quilt has made it through to the final round of judging and will travel around New Zealand over the next year. Technically, I could show you a sneak peak now, but it is only a few short weeks till the quilts will be displayed and the winners announced, so I think I'll save the grand reveal just a bit longer.

I also completed two projects (four quilts) for a couple of print magazines. This was the first time that I had submitted anything for a print magazine, so it was exciting and nerve racking all rolled into one. Both of the magazines will be released in June, so stay posted for updates about them.

Over the last few months, I have worked on two large scale quilt patterns- the 50" x 50" seahorse and the 40" x 65" running zebra. Both patterns are getting very close to release. You may be wondering why patterns are now taking so much longer to release than they previously did. There are many reasons for this.

These days I never release a pattern without sewing it myself. I have discovered that no matter how good my pattern testers are, there are some issues that only I can find. They are the subtle changes that can make a huge difference to the ease with which you can sew a pattern. Things that pattern testers may not know can be improved. Things that may not even bother them, but things that bother me.

After sewing a new pattern, I have to think about how to present it to you guys. I have been reassessing the layout of my patterns and the diagrams that are included. I have been considering how I can guide you guys to create the best item that you possibly can, while still respecting your own creative touch. I don't want to dictate how you interpret my patterns, but I do want to give you all the help that I can to create the best possible result.

I am really excited by how my pattern formatting skills are improving. I have been able to clean up my patterns and create a more professional look for my patterns. I really hope that you can see the difference because it adds a lot of work to the process!

All in all, I'm happy with how this term has played out. I have met all my deadlines and created projects that I am proud of. That said, I've struggled to find a happy medium regarding how much to share and when to share it.

I've also found the need to split my sewing time into work sewing and fun sewing. When I first started sewing, I fearlessly tried lots of new techniques. Over the years, this has changed and I have become a bit stuck in a paper piecing rut, so over the next wee while I am going to try out a few improv techniques. Who's interested in joining me? Do you have any suggestions for techniques that I should try or sources of improv inspiration? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 21, 2016

#Ausseaurifilclub April Bundle- Mountain Air

I had so much fun choosing my thread bundle for the #AussieAurifilClub!

That said, I didn't find it a particularly easy thing to do.

On the one hand, I am someone who makes decisions about my work as I go along. When I start sewing a quilt top, I generally have no idea what the binding will be, let alone what thread I will use to quilt it. 

When I looked at the bundles that other people had chosen, many of their choices seemed obvious. Many of them have a signature colour range and the threads reflected that. If I'm honest, my use of colour in quilts tends to be a bit all over the place. I normally choose colours, fabrics and by default threads to suit a pattern rather than writing patterns to go with specific fabrics.

I thought about choosing threads for a specific project, but that was not an option as when I made my choice, all off my projects were ones which required secrecy for a few more months.

That said, I do have a tendency towards teals, aquas, greens and blues, I guess you could call it my colour comfort zone. As such, this seemed like a logical place to start. I went for a variegated green thread as I have really enjoyed quilting with variegated aurifil recently. Where I normally treat the background and the foreground differently when quilting, variegated thread allows me the freedom to quilt over the subject without it looking too intrusive.

My next choice was a neutral grey- always practical and a good fallback for those times when you don't have the exact colour that you want to press on with a project without waiting ages for thread to arrive.

 Next up was a light thread for those times that I am quilting low volume backgrounds. Although white is generally a perfectly acceptable choice for this, it is fun to more closely match the background. This is also a colour that I will consider using when quilting the light feather or fur details on birds and animals.

I wanted to add a pop to the bundle and have been really drawn towards deep rich blue tones recently. This was the final colour chosen for the bundle, but it has to be the one that I am most looking forward to sewing with. Isn't it stunning?

When I stood back and looked at my bundle together, they reminded me of the source of so much of my inspiration- the great outdoors. I saw the amazing blue of a Summer sky in New Zealand, the varied greens of the countryside, a hint of cloud and the grey of a threatening storm or a scree field. I pulled all these influences together and called my bundle Mountain Air.

If you are interested in joining the club and getting your hands on my bundle, you will find all the details at http://www.msmidge.com.au/aussieaurifilclub/.

You can choose to have the threads in any of the thread weights - 50, 40, 28 or 12.
It is your choice whether you receive small or large spools.
There are options there for Australia and New Zealand. If anyone from another country wishes to subscribe they can email Melissa and she will set it all up (there is a contact form on her blog).


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