Category Archives: quilt

Teaching Improv :: a students work

It’s such an honour to see this quilt hanging at the Canberra Craft and Quilt Show this weekend.

The maker, Tracy, took a class with me where she challenged her perfectionist self to embrace improv, just for a day. It was a big ask for her and I’m just like a proud mama bear to see this finished! Teaching people to make quilts is such a rewarding experience and I can’t thank all my students enough for trusting me to take them on a journey. 

“Displaced” by Tracy Oliver @t_j_oliver, made in a workshop at Addicted To Fabric in Canberra

#panegyricquilt :: a tribute to inspiration

A while ago, I had an idea that I’d like to make a quilt for our bed. Nothing unusual about that right?

Except that our bed is King Size. What exactly is the issue here, you see no problem with making king sized quilt? Neither did I.

Until… I decided that I’m going to piece and quilt a king sized quilt by hand. Yes. All. By. Hand.

For a while I’ve been longing for a handwork project to stitch while I wait for the girls at activities and appointments, to take with me while travelling, something to have that I can do while on the go. I’ve made a few English Paper Pieced items but I’ve never caught the hexie bug quite like the rest of the quilting world seems to have. So, in a moment of lunacy (otherwise known as cabin fever from being bed-bound while having pneumonia), I decided it was as good a time as any to begin. Here is the story behind the project (and it’s completely ridiculous name).


For a really long time I’ve been wanting to make a quilt that reflects my beginnings in this craft. When I first started quilting, the perfectionist in me found it so very hard to ever finish a project as I was never at all happy with my finish. My dear friend Mrs Jones*, who makes exquisite quilts and is a dressmaker with impeccable attention to detail**, introduced me to the work of Denyse Schmidt and Gwen Marston.

Through this seemingly simple act of mentioning the names of two quilters she had been reading about, Mrs Jones activated a passion and drive in me that would determine the future course of my life – that’s not an exaggeration! If she had not been so generous with her support, sharing and most importantly, her insistence that I persist, I would not be doing what I do. I would not be pursuing the career path I now find myself following.

It was through the discovery of these two artists that my whole perspective on quilting changed. I found people who made the quilts I wanted to make and never thought were possible (at least, not allowed). I found the permission I needed to take this thing I loved to do and follow my instinct, to make what I love to make without the anguish about what others would think of my work.

I found joy in my making.

While she could never have know it at the time, the sharing of those names activated an enthusiasm in me that I’ve never been able to curb, and nor do I wish to! Her encouragement was inspiring in and of itself but to discover the work of these two artists, well, you’re a quilter, you know what it is to discover the work you identify with.

This quilt has become somewhat of a tribute to this trio who have heavily influenced the path I am taking – although I imagine none of them would realise it, the impact of the inspiration I have found through them is significant, so the Panegyric Quilt*** willed itself into existence, it needs to be made.

When I think about making a quilt that is a reflection of where I began, it is with these three women in mind. And so it is that I have begun what I would normally and rationally think of as a preposterous idea. I want to hand piece (tribute to Mrs Jones), using only solids (tribute to Gwen) and completely improvise the piecing (tribute to Denyse). And you know what? I’m really enjoying it. Much more than I’d have thought possible even a few months ago. Timing really is everything!

The quilt requires nothing more than the most rudimentary supplies. With fabric, scissors, needle and thread, I can go anywhere. My supplies are all in a handy box so wherever it is that I happen to rest for a few minutes, I can stitch. The biggest surprise is that it’s therapeutic like I never thought it could be. It’s relaxing and the tactility of handling so much of this quilt is something I’m relishing. With each stitch, I am capturing the emotion of the moment. Joy, fear, anger, humour, sadness, grief, satisfaction, anticipation, excitement… Each stitch with care and love. Each stitch with consciousness and clarity.

This will not be a fast project. It’s unlikely I will finish it this year however it is happening. Small pieces, one stitch at a time.


*Not her actual name but as I’ve just been overtaken by the need to write about this quilt I’m going with the pseudonym of Mrs Jones because I don’t have permission to use her name.

** Side Story :: I know that Mrs Jones is a dressmaker with impeccable attention to detail because she made my wedding dress for me. At that time, she had two young daughters – this is a feat I now appreciate more than I ever could have when I was without children of my own. Mrs Jones, thank you.

*** Thanks to :: Panegyric (noun) : 1. A lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing; 2. formal or elaborate praise. So the title of the quilt doesn’t entirely grab me but for now, I’m going with it. Maybe you have something else I could call it… a name for a tribute to a trio?

#thisweekiam :: 25/52/15

I enjoy writing, I’m not sure I’ve found my written voice yet but I do enjoy it and I feel that by writing more regularly, my style and voice will develop, thanks for bearing with me along this journey!

In the pursuit of development, I’m trying to write a post a week to get into the habit of blogging regularly. I’ve been writing a little post the past couple weeks #thisweekiam. There’s a list of the things I’ve been doing, reading, eating, anticipating, etc. When I sat down to write today, I could only come up with one item for the list. Questioning.

I’m not sure if this space is the right one for this list, if sharing my questions is appropriate or necessary but right now, it’s what is occupying my head space so here you have it. I want to be clear, this is not a melancholy kind of questioning, it’s an exploration, an evaluation. It’s an important process for me, I want to be the best person I can be which means I naturally spend time thinking about where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to be. I evaluate my relationships, I analyse my decisions and when I make progress, I want to know why. It’s not a doubting questioning, but a constant development.

By the “best person” I can be, I mean I want to be genuine, authentic, true to my values, true to myself. It is important to me to be honest, kind and compassionate, to not pretend to be someone I’m not just to fit in, to own my f**ck-ups (and my use of the vernacular), and to explore my own journey without comparison or jealousy. Essentially, to live a life according to my own belief system.

So, there are often many questions and this week I am questioning:

:: my parenting. Am I parenting with kindness, am I present and listening properly. Do my children feel listened to, are there voices being heard? (Observation :: I’m more distracted and less tolerant than I’d like to be. Action :: Give up a couple of projects and push some deadlines back to allow more space in the day for the girls).

Questioning :: my design. What am I wanting to achieve, how do I want to achieve it. (Observation :: reflect, articulate, pay attention to the original intention and the execution {thank you Bill Kerr for your most excellent class this past weekend, I learnt far more than I had ever expected}. Action :: schedule time for reflection and examination).

Questioning :: my impact. What is my impact on other people. Generally, I don’t require validation from others. I’m fairly confident in myself and my own skin. I know what I do and don’t like and I’m comfortable to express my opinions and my reasoning – I’m also really comfortable to have my reasoning questioned and to accept criticism. What I’m not comfortable with is thinly veiled attacks and nasty gossip. Recently I heard some really hurtful things that people were saying about me. I’m questioning the merit in the gossip – is there some truth to what they were saying? What have I done to give someone the impression they have? Is it about me or is actually about them? How can I be true to myself and do so without offending other people? No observations yet, it’s still rather raw. Perhaps you have some insight for me?!

Questioning :: my impact. Version 2. Why is it that I am impacting people to think about the way they approach their making? What am I saying/doing to have such a positive impact on my students? How can I repeat this to encourage people to pursue their creativity and to build the community of makers that I envision? Lots of observations here, just none I can fully articulate right now (the alarm to pick up the children from school has just gone off, this will need to be answered another day!).