Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Pondering Pattern Writing

Over the last few weeks, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the process of writing patterns.

I've been assessing the ways in which I can create the best possible pattern and wondering what advice I can hand on to others.

When it boils down to it, I have one major piece of advice.
It might seem obvious, but it is really important:

 ALWAYS TEST YOUR OWN PATTERNS BEFORE YOU SEND THEM TO TESTERS.

Do it!... even if you think that you don't have enough time.

Do it!... even when you think that your head will explode because there are too many ideas floating around in it.

Do it... even when you can't afford to buy the fabric.

Do it...even when your life is totally manic.


Testers are great, they really really are, but there are some issues that they won't necessarily pick up on. Issues that they shouldn't be expected to find.

I can't speak for all forms of quilt design, but within paper pieced patterns there are many many different ways that patterns can be constructed. There are many things that aren't wrong, but that can be put together better.

Not every pattern that "works" is well written. Sometimes a small redraft makes the difference between a  mediocre pattern and one that can be put together seamlessly by everyone.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Jumping in Circles

I must admit that I didn't intend to enter any quilts into the Bloggers Quilt Festival this year. I'm spending time with family in Scotland at the moment, and every moment is being spent catching up with friends and family or soaking in the joy of being home. Blog writing time is at a minimum.

But it suddenly occurred to me that I haven't shared my Jumping in Circles quilt.

I thought I'd enter it into the Original Design Category.


This quilt was designed and sewn for the Quilters Companion and can be found in issue 81.

I couldn't resist an Australian themed quilt for an Australian magazine. Especially since I have received many requests for Australian birds and animals over the years.

While I was drawing the design, I realised that the kangaroo would be perfectly suited to being a repeating design. I love the way that they chase each other round and round.

I am glad that I didn't make the background a single fabric. Each of the four quadrants has different fabrics, giving each of the individual kangaroos their own personality. The four background fabrics also add interest to the centre of the quilt, which could have seemed a bit empty.

Quilt Stats:


Pattern designed by: me and available in The September edition (issue 81) of the Quilters Companion. (If you can't get your hands on a paper copy, you can buy a digital copy from Zinio or Apple Newsstand).
Quilted and Pieced by: me
Finished dimensions: 40" x 40"
Fabrics used include: Lecien Modern L, Karen Lewis Blueberry Park, Carolyn Friedlander Doe

This issue of Quilters Companion also includes a feature about me. I haven't yet had a chance to read it as I am in Scotland and my copy of the magazine is in New Zealand, but my 5 year old son has seen it and is super impressed. He says I'm famous now!


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Woodland Winners

I feel that I have to start this post by apologising for taking so long to post the winners.

I initially intended to choose the winners and post their prizes out before I left for Scotland. Unfortunately time slipped away from me and other commitments got in the way.

I then decided to announce the winners as soon as I arrived in Edinburgh, but although I had a fairly uneventful journey, my suitcase decided to do a bit of sightseeing and it didn't arrive in Edinburgh until 4 days after me. That bag contained a couple of the prizes and I thought it safest to wait for them to be returned to me before disappointing someone with a prize that was lost in transit.

Luckily, my luggage was returned to me after 4 days and I have now had a chance to pick some winners. They are a mixture of random winners and favourites. You didn't make it easy for me!  There were some seriously cute projects lurking on the #woodlandqa hashtag.

The winner of the Aurifil large spool collection of Karen Lewis Threads is:

Would you believe that this is her first quilt!?! I love everything about this quilt and think Tonya did an amazing job.

The winner of the $50 Fat Quarter Shop Voucher is:
Allison paired the woodland block with Lillyella's Forest Floor Pattern 
I love the reverse applique leaf detail which she added and the quilting is beautiful.
Well done Allison!
This next winner made me smile! Kathy created a series of beautiful pouches with the woodland patterns and they are all beautiful, but I especially love the way that this wee mouse is peaking out of a mouse hole! Well done Kathy.
For interpreting the pattern in such a fun way you win the Lecien charm packs.
Marilutiz (Marilu) wins the prize for the most fun use of the patterns. She made a noisy baby book . Go and have a look at her wee video of it in use, it's great!
Your prize is a Fat Quarter Shop $25 voucher.
Tara (Hudson_mae) sewed a beautiful set of cushions. She used a combination of hand quilting and machine quilting to give the blocks texture. My favourite is the badger, what about you?
Well done Tara- you win a $25 Fat Quarter Shop voucher.
Amy sewed a really fun bolster cushion with her blocks. The wee mouse looks so cheeky peeking around the corner don't you think!?!
Well done Amy, you are the winner of a massive scrap pack of Cloud9 Cirrus Solids fabric.
Shelly of LimeandJupiter sewed this beautiful cushion. She is yet another person to use these patterns as her introduction to paper piecing. Well done Shelly, I can't wait to see what you go on to create!
You are the winner of a $30 voucher for my tartankiwi pattern store.
Karin produced this beautiful wall hanging. She is the winner of a $30 voucher for the Tartankiwi Pattern Store.
Holly created this beautiful mini quilt. Great job Holly! You are the winner of a Karen Lewis Scrap Pack.
Elisabeth sewed this beautiful pouch for her kindle. I think I may have to make something similar!
Well done! You are the winner of a six month subscription to Make Modern. I hope you enjoy reading it!

 Last but not least, Ali's liberty woodland creatures stole a place in my heart. Aren't they just the cutest?! You are the winner of a 6 month Make Modern subscription.


Thank you so much to everyone who participated in this quilt-along. I really really enjoyed seeing the beautiful items that you created. I will definitely think about repeating a quiltalong using this kind of format as it was a high fun, low stress kind of a format.

I will leave messages for all the winners on your instagram posts, but in the meantime, feel free to email me (you can find my email in the sidebar of this blog) so that we can arrange the delivery of your prizes.

Finally I would like to thank all the generous sponsors who got behind this quilt-along. I really appreciate your generosity and your enthusiastic support.

Please make sure that you support the sponsors.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Woodland Quilt-Along- A Finish

We are now reaching the point in the Woodland Quilt-Along that more and more finished items are beginning to arrive on the woodlandqa hashtag. It is great to see the creative way that you are using all the patterns.

I have managed to finish my first project. I'm really pleased with the result. I stepped out of my colour comfort zone and used a combination which I would not normally use. I am really pleased with how well it came together. The fabrics are all Cloud9 Cirrus Solids and they are beautifully soft to sew with.
I am having severe camera woes today. Sorry for the terrible photo. I will do my best to get a better photo before next week.

I hope to find the time to make something with the extra 4 inch blocks that I made up using the Lecien Modern L Charm packs, but time is marching on, my trip to Scotland is coming ever closer and my to-do list seems to me growing at an exponential rate!

Weekly Paper Piecing Tip

This week's tip has to do with fabric choices.

Choosing the right fabrics for your block can be vital for giving your animals texture and life. If you use the wrong fabrics, details of the design can disappear or the fabric design can overpower the block and your animal can become camouflaged.

I tend to think that in general it is important to match the scale of the fabric to the scale of the pattern.

For small scale patterns (4 or 5 inch) -, you want small scale prints or solid fabrics.

For medium scale patterns, use solids, small or medium size designs. If you use medium designs, consider whether the fabric is being used in the foreground or the background and whether the fabric design is represented in forgiving tone on tone shades or bold and dramatic colours which may detract from the block.

The fun thing about largescale blocks, is that you can use large scale, medium scale or small scale prints. You can also use solids to give a dramatic effect. I would suggest that large scale prints should be used with care though, think about the placement of these fabrics and the effect that you want to achieve.

See the raccoons and zebra fabrics that I used on this big bear (30 inch block)? I would not have used these on a smaller pattern as they would have overwhelmed the design.



Remember that entries for the quilt-along close on Sunday 28th August at 6:00pm NZT (remember that we are ahead of the rest of the world so please don't get caught out!

For more details about the quilt-along, pop over to this page.
For more details about the prizes hop over to this page.
For a summary of all the Woodland Quilt-along prizes, hop over to this page.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Interpretting Patterns

My older brother studied music at university and composition at Music College. He went on to work as a classical music composer for a time and worked on some major commissions.

After attending a performance of one of his pieces, I remember having a discussion with him about the creative process. I asked him how he felt about handing his music over to other people to perform. Whether it upset him if they interpreted it in a way that was different to what he had put down on paper.

His answer stuck with me. I can't remember the exact words that he used, but he said that once the music was written down on paper, his work was done. If he had done his work well, then people would interpret his work in the way that he wanted. Basically he said that he wrote the music down and then set it free in the world.
My version of the mini seahorse on the left, Amazing Seascape mini quilt by Lydia Cheney (@mamabeelydia on instagram)

When it comes to my patterns, I often think back on that conversation. My job is not only to draw a pattern, but to give instructions which will help others to interpret it as well as they can.

That said, if people interpret the pattern differently to me, it's generally not wrong, often it is better and blows my mind! The photos in this post include a few examples where people have taken my patterns and run with them. They have put their own spin on the designs and given them a more personal meaning. I think that the finished results are all the better for it!

My first patterns were sort of thrown together, but as I have written more, I have adapted the information that is given and how it is presented. I do my best to give guidance but not orders as to how you work with my patterns. That is why I include several different diagrams. Not everyone's brain works the same way and I think it is important to give options.

It is deliberate that my patterns aren't shaded. It is not because I am being lazy. It's because I don't want to limit your interpretation of them.

Once upon a time, I sewed a lamb pattern that someone else had designed. The pattern was designed as a black sheep, but I wanted to sew a white sheep. The coloured paper templates did nothing but confuse me. They limited my creativity and encouraged me to interpret the pattern in exactly the way that the designer had.
Boxer on the left, my original boxer mini quilt as seen in issue 37 of Love Patchwork and Quilting. Boxer on the right altered to reflect Amanda Castor's (@Materialgirlquilts on instagram) beloved dog.

I don't want people to sew exactly what I sew. I WANT them to give the patterns their own spin. Honestly, there is no greater compliment that you can pay me!

These days I will sometimes add colour placement advice to my patterns where I am confident that it is necessary, but I will do it with letters not with shading. This way, it is less distracting and you can easily choose to ignore it. For example, the zebra patterns are a lot of work. Marking the colours to be used in the black and white stripes seemed like a logical thing to do. I did not however give guidance on how to shade the colourful background. Use all your scraps, have fun with colours! I don't want to limit you to specific number of fabrics. Have fun, go wild, do what works best for you!
On the left is my original Singing in the Rain mini quilt. I didn't release the eiffel tower pattern, only the figures. On the right is a beautiful mini created my Debbie Grozzkopf (@mumziepooh on instagram)

To me the greatest compliment is when someone takes my pattern and interprets it in their own way. I think that I mentioned about the creative chain in my last post. I am not the last link in that chain. The person who sews the pattern is the last link and it is not fair for me to steal all credit from them. That said, their finished item is not possible without the earlier links on the chain. It's a symbiotic relationship which needs cherishing not shaming.

The people who sew my patterns build on the foundation that I gave them. They choose the colours and the fabrics. They decide which fussy cuts to include, they work neatly or not. I may be the one who writes the patterns, but I am not necessarily the best at interpreting them.

I am more than happy for people to enter their interpretation of my patterns in shows. They don't need to ask my permission (although if they do ask, I will happily say yes and cheer them on from the sidelines!). The only thing that I ask is that they credit me as the designer, not because I want to steal their thunder but because that way other people can find the pattern and have a go at it if they wish. We all benefit by being open and honest about our sources and inspirations.

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