Juggling: my Splendid Sampler block!

Hi there! It’s been a while, I had the best intentions to do a lot more blogging in 2016. Oops. If you have a poke around you’ll see I’m not very good at the writing and documenting part of my creative life. Thanks for visiting me over here in the middle of a warm and sunny Sydney summer. Hope you are having a splendid day!

I assume some of you are here for tips on making Block 90 on The Splendid Sampler adventure. What a wonderful project Pat and Jane have put together, and can you believe we’re just 10 blocks shy of completing? I’ve been making some of the blocks along the way and now that I have a plan for sashing I’m more excited than ever to get cracking with it. I’ve made lots of sampler quilts, I really love them because there’s always something new and those little blocks are fun to make.

I'm setting my Splendid Sampler blocks with a jaunty & spiky sashing.

I’m setting my Splendid Sampler blocks with a jaunty & spiky sashing.

So, back to my little block… I’ve used some of my favourite techniques – applique circles, bias tape applique and wonky crosses. I love layering different techniques in a little block. But it can be a little daunting if you’ve never done something like this before. Working at a small scale also means I need to pay extra attention to extra bulk and staying inside the seam allowance.

As you read the pattern instructions you’ll see there are a few stages. I recommend you chunk it down to manageable parts if its the first time you try one of the techniques. Actually, even if you’re confident, take time to enjoy the process with a couple of cups of tea or a walk around the block…

choose fabric

Firstly, choose all your fabrics and gather your supplies. My suggested fabric quantities are generous so you can trim back your block. You’ll also see I use a metal 1/8″ bias tape maker. It came in a set which I bought online from California, I so wish I could get these easily locally. You may be lucky enough to have them at your local quilt store. But if not, you can carefully cut a strip of Mylar plastic. The metal bias bars get very hot and help form a nice crease, please be careful if you are using one.

I prefer using a metal bias bar and having a closed loop rather than an open bias tape because it is sturdier and I can manipulate it without worrying it will fray and lose the creases. It also stores nicely around a spool or wooden dowelling even in the most humid Sydney weather.

So grab your supplies and lets get started!

Prepare your 3 bias tape loops first. Cut your strips from an 8″ square of fabric. 3/4″ wide strips cut on the diagonal from the square.

cut bias strips

Press strips in half. Wrong sides together, be gentle not to stretch them.

press bias in half

Place bias bar inside the fold and mark where your seam should go. Don’t make it too snug or you won’t be able to slide the bar in and out. I use a generous 1/8″ seam.

stitch with correct seam allowance

Once you have stitched the strip and you are sure you can move the bias bar in and out, trim back the seam allowance to reduce bulk.

trim back seam

We’re nearly there… twist seam to the back and press it down. Remove the bias bar. Repeat for the two other bias tape strips.

press back seam

Wind them around your finger or a pencil to get them to curl a little. This will help you get nice tight loops to applique.

twist around your finger

Make sure you’ve got all your fabric pieces ready to proceed. Background, squares for circles and strips to insert.

bias tape ready

Trace the pattern lightly on to your background square. Trace the outside of the circles and one side of each loop. You will use this as a guide to place your applique. Make sure you leave plenty of room around the outside to centre your block. I also mark the corner points to help with trimming the block later.

trace pattern on background

Using little dots of applique glue, place your loops down on your background fabric. You can also use tiny applique pins or baste them down with thread.

applique glue

Using a colour that camouflages with your applique loop, stitch it down firmly. See the tails of the loops? They will be hidden behind the appliquéd circles. Trim them on the diagonal to make them less bulky.

applique loops

Now it’s time to prepare your juggling balls. This is a two step process. First we make the wonky crosses, then we trim them back to a circle to applique down.

Start with one of the square pieces of fabric and cut it randomly in half. Select which fabric strip you will be inserting.

cut square in half

Sew the strip to one half. Then stitch the other half of the square to it. Always using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

piece in strip

Cut this randomly across the strip you just set in. Choose your next fabric strip.
cut in half again

Stitch one side on first. Sewing the second side is a little trickier. You need to try to align the two sides, which is difficult with that pesky angled seam allowance in the way. I visually line it up as much as possible then fold over the seam allowance to check it. Sliding it up and down till its as good as I can get it.

fold over seam allowance to help align

Because I’m extra cautious I still don’t stitch the whole seam, I just sew the crucial middle of the seam bit first, flip it over and check it before stitching the whole lot. This may seam tedious but it’s not as tedious as having to unpick the whole thing!

stitch centre to check

Flipping over to the back of your wonky cross, trim or grade that top seam allowance. Usually we can press seams open to reduce bulky seams but the open seams stretch too much for these small circles.

grade seams

Grab your circle template and trace around it with a pencil. Check out those graded seams…

trace circle

Trim back your circle to a generous 1/4″ – 1/2″ seam allowance and stitch a running stitch around. Pull on the end of the threads to gather the circle around your template. Don’t cut your threads yet!

gather circle

To get a nice smooth circle ready to applique down I run some starch around the outside edge of the circle with a brush. Or you can put a little pressing liquid in a dish and roll the edge around quickly. Press the circle with a warm iron, be careful not to melt your plastic template!

starch edges

You can wrap a piece of foil around it if you like, that helps protect the plastic and holds the heat for longer to get a crisp edge.

wrap with foil

Repeat that for the two remaining circles and applique them down into place. Choose fine thread that disappears when you place it over your applique shape.

applique circles

When you are finished with all the applique, give it a light press and trim your block down to 6.5″.

trim block

And that’s another block done and ready to join the others! I hope you’ve learnt something new. We all have our favourite techniques and I know fiddly work isn’t for every one. You may want to skip making the bias tape loops and just applique ribbon or use embroidery to create the loops. And instead of those wonky juggling balls you can fussy cut some fun fabric circles…

Whatever you do, thank you for joining me for The Splendid Sampler. I look forward to seeing all your lovely blocks. And I’m eagerly awaiting The Splendid Sampler book that Pat and Jane are publishing with all the patterns so I can continue making more of these great blocks. It’ll be a lovely record of this fun project.

Here’s a photo of my original block that will appear in the book. In fact, I think it’s even on the cover. I can’t wait to see my block together with all the other Designer blocks!


I’m more of an Instagram girl these days, feel free to tag me if you have any questions. You can find me over there as lorena_in_syd. I know, sew original!

Happy stitching!

Lorena x

Sydney Quilt Show 2015

Wingdings: A Variety of Symbols by Lorena Uriarte. Inspired by the back side of Chuck Nohara's Symbol Quilt.

Wingdings: A Variety of Symbols by Lorena Uriarte. Inspired by the back side of Chuck Nohara’s Symbol Quilt.

Oops, it’s only when I saw my quilt in Quiltmania this week that I realised a massive oversight on my part. Seems I forgot to write about my most exciting quilty event of the year! The Quilters’ Guild of NSW’s annual Sydney Quilt Show, a member’s show with over 400 quilts in various categories and displays was on 17-21 June. It’s now months ago but it’s probably a good idea to document the event, especially since I won something and so did many of my friends.

There was a spectacular Red & White Challenge this year, over 140 Red & White quilts hung together in a brilliant display of ability and creativity. I had worked diligently to complete a quilt I’ve been wanting to make since 2012, a red & white version of Chuck Nohara’s Symbol Quilt. The original Symbol Quilt is double sided, with the red & white blocks on the back (see photo below).

My quilt really was an adventure, I’ve never made a two colour quilt before and I found it challenging. I was glad when it was finished and very grateful that Michele Turner was quilting it. I really needed a break from it. And it took months for me to pick a fabric for the binding. In the end I was really happy with how it looked and it won First Prize in the Machine quilted Category of the Red & White display. Hooray! Thank you to the sponsors Quiltsmith, Sew Easy, Tech2Home and Nestle for my amazing assortment of prizes.

Some photos of Windings: A Variety of Symbols. Not great ones. This may be why I haven’t written this post before!

IMG_2498 IMG_0143 IMG_0888 IMG_1311 IMG_1453 IMG_1495

I also entered a second quilt in the Modern Category, Under the Sea a variation of my Opal Essence quilt pattern. There’s an embarrassing amount of teal and aqua in my stash. This quilt documents much of it!


Like most of my quilts, they all end up in use or display around our home. Adding some colour to gloomy days or a warm wrap when it’s chilly!

Under the Sea & Rainbow Reverb quilts adding colour to a gloomy day...

More on the Sydney Show soon… in the meantime you can see all the prize winning quilts in The Quilters’ Guild of NSW Gallery.



my cheaty appliqué “thircles”

Yes, you read right. Thircles. You may already know that a squircle is the shape somewhere between a square and a circle but what’s a thircle?

If you’ve seen my Opal Essence quilt you’ll notice that all the circles are made up in thirds. The first quilt was made by appliquéing the third of a circle on to a diamond shape. A simple way to make sure you get a smooth circle is to use a template under your appliqué piece. The great thing about using this technique with a thircle (tee-hee, it still makes me giggle!) is that you can easily remove your template and reuse it.

My template of choice for this technique is a really smooth, bump free freezer paper template. You trace your pattern piece on to freezer paper and cut it out very carefully.

My cheaty applique thircle how to…

1. Press your freezer paper template to the wrong side of your fabric. As you will be folding the fabric over the template to appliqué try to place the curved edge on the diagonal grain. The stretch that lies here on the bias helps to create lovely soft curves with less bumps and folds.

2. If you are fussy cutting and placing the paper on the bias isn’t possible, consider using the fabric in a larger thircle. A larger, gentler curve is more forgiving with stiff fabric.

3. Next, use a ruler with a 1/4″ marking to add your seam allowance to the straight edges of your thircle shape. Cut with a rotary cutter or scissors. I love using an Add-A-Quarter ruler for this step. Using scissors cut a generous 1/4″ seam allowance around the curve.


4. Use a fabric glue stick to keep the seam allowance tucked under. Use a fine line of glue, about 1/8″ away from the curved edge of the freezer paper. That will help when it comes to sewing the shapes down and will also reduce the chance of your fabric fraying along the raw edge.


5. Match the seam allowance of your thircle with the corresponding point of your diamond background. Pin or lightly glue your shape into place. I like to pin along both seam allowances where there’s no freezer paper.


6. Using a thread colour that disappears appliqué the piece down. Use small stitches and pull the thread a little to hide it.

7. Once the shape is appliquéd down, trim away your background with scissors leaving a generous 1/4″ seam.

8. Finally, whip out your freezer paper template to reuse. The less glue you use, the easier it is to remove and reuse the papers.


Now that your thircles are appliquéd down, you can piece your diamonds into a hexagon and fan your centre seam.


2013-08-26 14.51.09

I’ve been teaching workshops using this appliqué technique as well as the machine pieced thircles and most students are surprised by how much they enjoy the process. The smaller thircles are definitely less stressful if you appliqué them. The larger thircles can be rotary cut and machine pieced pretty quickly and painlessly. You can even mix both techniques in your quilt, maybe stick to one technique in each block though…

Hope that helps someone out there too afraid to try appliquéd curves. Let me know if you have any questions!




Desert to Sea: 10 Quilts From Australian Designers

images from book

So many exciting things happening around here lately, I’ve fallen behind and so I’ll start with the release of my Opal Essence pattern in Jane Davidson’s fabulous book, Desert To Sea. The book was self published by my clever friend Jane and is available to order right now from Amazon and Book Depository. I know there are a few local fabric stores who are stocking it or taking pre orders too, in most cases this can be a slightly cheaper than paying for the book + overseas postage. Contact Quiltsmith, Material Obsession, Cotton Factory Patches Indooroopilly and QuiltJane for more information.

Desert To Sea Book: 10 Quilts from Australian Designers

Desert To Sea Book: 10 Quilts from Australian Designers

There are 9 other gorgeous quilts in the book by Jane Davidson, Danielle Auckens, Betty Kerr, Cathy Underhill, Charlotte Dumsney, Rachaeldaisy and Jeannette Bruce. The book has well written patterns, wonderful photography and even colouring pages to help you plan your quilt.

You may have seen some photos on Instagram taken whilst teaching this pattern, it’s proving to be a very enjoyable day class and students are learning lots. Take a look at the #opalessencequilt hashtag to be inspired! You’ll see photos of my two other versions of the quilt too #undertheseaquilt and #pinkchampagnequilt.

Opal Essence IG

I’ve had acrylic templates made to help speed up the cutting for this pattern and will be listing sets in my shop next week. The acrylic templates set includes 6 pieces to help cut the diamonds and arcs for machine piecing, I’ll also include a full size A3 template sheet and a packet of pre cut freezer paper shapes to give the applique technique I teach in my classes a try. That will be for another blog post!

Template sets are $35 plus postage. I’m also getting 20 copies of the book to sell together with my templates for those who can’t find them locally. The set will be $70 plus postage.

Please contact me if you’d like to pre-order a set as I expect delivery in the first week of July.

book and templates


Social Tote Workshop at Material Obsession Saturday 27th June

Chuck Nohara Class at Material Obsession Friday 10th July

Chuck Nohara Class at Material Obsession Saturday 10th July

Lorena presenting at Friday Showcase at The Quilters’ Guild of NSW 7th August

Opal Essence Class at Quiltsmith 26th September

Opal Essence Class at Material Obsession Saturday 24th October


Opal Essence Workshops

It’s so exciting to finally have a pattern and some dates to teach my Opal Essence quilt! Writing instructions and coming up with something semi original is even harder than I had imagined. And very labour intensive. I’ve got some workshop dates booked and I will list them here once they are confirmed. The pattern will be published in a book of Australian quilters soon by Jane Davidson. The lead times for books are so long, but everything happens for a reason, there’s always another typo to correct.

Opal Essence was displayed at last year’s Sydney Quilt Show, since then it’s lead a fairly quiet existence on our sofa. It was in good company and much loved.

What a surprise to then see my quilt on TV as part of a news piece about the quilts hanging at the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne this weekend. What a thrill and honour it was for it to be selected to hang in a curated display showcasing where Australian modern quilting stands today. This was done via the MQG and much work from the Melbourne MQG and Jules McMahon from Canberra MQG. Thanks from those of us who couldn’t be there to help. Kathy Thorncraft also from our GWSMQG has her striking Subdivison quilt hanging too. Lots of great modern quilts, yay!

Opal Essence sofa

A bit about the pattern, my original quilt here was needle turn appliqued and then machine pieced using a y-seam construction. But I have also made this quilt with machine pieced curves. There are acrylic template sets available to help with rotary cutting all the pieces.

Below is a machine pieced version of Opal Essence that I have called Pink Champagne, it is a baby size quilt (41′ x 48″) using just 18 blocks.

Pink Champagne close up

I’ve got many more ideas for my Opal Essence template, stay tuned for the possibilities.

Workshop Dates:

May 30 Patches, Indooroopilly

May 31 Patches, Indooroopilly

June 7  Wandoo Lane, Gold Coast

June 13  & 14 Cotton Factory, Ballarat

September 26 Quiltsmith, Annandale

October 10 Fairholme Quilters at Cottage Quiltworks, Warriewood

October 24  Material Obsession, Drummoyne

I’m also happy to travel to your quilting retreat or guild to teach a workshop.

Please contact me for fees and available dates.

Lorena :-)

Rainbow Reverb at Canberra

Rainbow Reverb 60" x 60"

Rainbow Reverb 60″ x 60″

What a wonderful foundation paper piecing workshop we had at Addicted 2 Fabric in Canberra last weekend! Canberra turned on its most splendid Spring weather two weekends in a row for me. And everyone at the shop was most lovely and accommodating.

I incorporated two commercially available foundation paper piecing patterns to make Rainbow Reverb; the centre is Janice Ryan’s New York Beauty Circle of Flying Geese and the four Poinsettia Star corner blocks are from Beth Maddocks of Piece by Number.

Both these patterns are fabulous and a great way to conquer your fear of foundation paper piecing. All the glorious, sharp points came to life in a wide range of fabrics. I love seeing how students put their own stamp on a project. Can’t wait to see them finished!

Fun and games at A2F

Fun and games at A2F

Addicted 2 Fabric have an extensive selection of solids and an interesting range of patchwork and dressmaking fabrics. I picked up some gorgeous Echino and a Tessuti pattern to make the Eva Dress. I’ll let you know how that goes 😉


Lorena’s Patterns

Lorena Uriarte quilt pattern

Toffee candy canes biscuit. Pie bonbon jujubes I love chocolate cake bear claw. Jelly-o icing I love muffin. Gingerbread cheesecake donut brownie sesame snaps chocolate. Bonbon jelly-o I love cupcake I love. Brownie biscuit marshmallow wafer sugar plum ice cream biscuit macaroon. Icing icing gummies marzipan jelly beans I love. Danish oat cake sugar plum. I love I love I love sweet roll. Cotton candy applicake I love chocolate cake.

Croissant lemon drops cotton candy. Bear claw lemon drops gingerbread halvah toffee chocolate bar toffee chupa chups dragée. I love donut cake croissant pudding.

Opal Essence plus Pink Champagne

Opal Essence plus Pink champagne quilts

Inspired by traditional tumbling block patterns, and with the addition of playful bubbles and balls of colour and movement, this quilt marks Lorena’s move into quilt design. The smaller baby quilt (right), Pink Champagne, is a variation of the same pattern but suited for the modern baby and was made during a machine piecing demonstration at the 2014 Sydney Quilt Show.
Opal Essence quilted by Michelle Turner