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

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!




Emergency hex-it how to…

Well, there’s no point writing a QuiltCon post as you’ve probably read all about it and seen all the photos and besides the tragic and sad demise of my iPhone means I have no photos to share. C’est la vie. Move on Lorena…

So instead, I can finally focus on writing a tutorial to use my Emergency Hex-it kit that I gave to a few friends at QuiltCon. The kits included an acrylic template and seven 1″ hexagon papers, enough to make one hexagon flower. Maybe to keep in your handbag for crafty emergencies, just add fabric, needle and thread and voila – crisis averted!

It comes as a huge surprise that there are still some modern quilters out there who have never tried English paper piecing, oh hello Penny! Probably because I enjoy making samplers which aren’t always terribly modern, I learnt lots of different techniques to try to create all the different blocks.

Pairing up the technique of fussy cutting with English paper piecing can create a kaleidoscope of colour. Whilst it’s possible to machine piece fussy cut hexagons and other shapes, I like the portability of the paper pieced project. The acrylic template makes finding a motif and cutting the fabric super easy.

This tutorial will focus on making the hexie flower, I’ll follow this up with a tutorial to make the zipper pouch in case you can only sew one beautiful fussy cut hexie flower in your lifetime and want to share it with the world. Or you may become addicted and start a whole new quilt. For a grandchild. Mine is taking a while…

What will you need:

1″ Acrylic hexagon template with included 3/8″ seam allowance

7 1′ hexagon papers

fabric glue stick or needle and thread for tacking

strong, sharp needle

strong fine thread, a colour that blends into your fabric

cutting matt

small rotary cutter

a large piece of interesting fabric with at least 6 repeats of a motif (choosing fabric to fussy cut is an art itself, I should really write more about this)

Step 1

Spread out your fabric and slide the template around till you find a motif that you like and that you can see would repeat well. It doesn’t necessarily need to be completely symmetrical but that can help create the kaleidoscope effect. Check that you have six of the motifs on your piece of fabric before you start cutting!

Choosing a fussy cut motif

Step 2

Using a small rotary cutter, carefully cut around the template. Be careful not to shift the template and cut as accurately as possible.

You will use this first cut hexagon to position the template for the following 5 identical pieces.

Find your motif

Step 3

Position your template carefully over your hexagon and cut with your small rotary cutter.

Repeat till you have 6 identical hexagons.


Step 4

Here comes the fun part, where you start to see your pattern emerge.

Take one of the fabric hexies, flip it over and place under the template.

Dab a tiny amount of glue in the middle. This will hold the paper template in place.


Step 5

Centre the paper hexagon into the middle of the acrylic template.

Remove the acrylic template and repeat with the rest of your fabric hexies.


Step 6

I prefer to use a glue stick to fold back my seam allowance.

You could also tack them down with needle and thread but I find I get better accuracy with the glue stick.

Use a thin line of glue at least 1/4″ from the edge of the paper. You don’t want to get glue where the needle and thread need to push through.

Fold over the seams one by one, creating neat folds in the corners.

Don’t pull the fabric too tight, you need a tiny gap at the edges to get your needle through later.

Don’t use too much glue! Those papers need to come out at the end.

Repeat with all six hexagons.


Step 7

You’ll need an extra hexagon for the centre, that one needn’t be fussy cut so go ahead and pick a fabric that compliments your design. Then play around with your hexies to find a setting you like. It’s amazing how different they will look as you turn them.

I decided to go with the blue solid.

See that film that I’ve got under my hexie? I’m trying a tip from QuirkyGranolaGirl Melinda, it’s Press’n Seal and it keeps my pieces from disappearing in a gust of wind. High novelty factor as we don’t have this stuff in Australia! Probably a piece of batting will work just as well.

Anyway, time to stitch. I prefer to sew all the “petals” to the centre of the flower first but feel free to do what feels good for you.

Place your two prepared hexies together, make sure you’ve got the right edges together.

Use fine, strong thread and a strong, sharp needle to make little whipstitches over the edges of the templates. Don’t sew through the paper, there should be just enough fabric over the edges to slide your needle through. If not you may have glued your fabric too tightly or used too much glue.

Continue sewing the petals around your central hexie.

Always knot at the corners in case of thread breakage.


Step 8

Continue sewing the hexies together by folding the flower in half and sewing the opposite seams till you’ve sewn all the seams.

You can see the folds here:


Step 9

And voila! your beautiful fussy cut hexie flower is done.

See that wasn’t too hard at all. And don’t worry if it’s not perfect. The eye and brain work very well to forgive imperfection! And if not, take your glasses off or step back.

Next I’ll give you some tips on what you can do with one flower or maybe you want to make a whole quilt full of them?

Will you make one? I’d love to see it. If you share it on IG or Flickr please tag me or #emergencyhexit :-)






Flat zippy pouch

I added a flat zipper pouch to my #quiltcon2015lanyardswap as I reckon they’re handy to pop in cards and supplies. I don’t make these often enough so I’m writing the process down for later reference. No use reinventing the wheel every time I want to take the car for a spin! (null)


1 zipper ( for a 6″ pouch I use an 8″ zip)

2 3.5″ x 7″ rectangle of pieced or plain outer fabric

2 3.5″ x 7″ rectangles lining fabric

2 2.5″ squares of fabric for zipper tabs

1 2.5″ x 4″ piece of fabric for split ring loop

1 split ring


1. Prepare zip: fold fabric tabs in half and stitch to cover the zipper ends so that zipper + tabs extend to 7″. Trim excess zipper with strong scissors. Be careful with the metal clip!

2. Layer one outer piece, right side facing up, place prepared zipper face down lining up the top edge. Pull the zipper tab all the way to the top.

3. Top with the lining piece right side down. Pin it together. It should look like a zipper sandwich!

4. Using a zipper foot, stitch along the zipper edge keeping a nice straight seam. When you are half way down, leave the needle down and lift the presser foot. Slide the zipper pull out of the way before finishing the seam. The closer to the zipper you stitch, the less zipper colour will pop through.

5. Repeat with the second side of the zipper, layering outer fabric facing up, prepared zipper facing down and lining fabric facing down. Pin and stitch as before.

6. Open out and press outer and lining fabric away from the zipper. Topstitch either side of the zipper to keep lining out of the zipper teeth. Next you will need to stitch the bottom of the outer and lining separately forming a loop either side of the zip.

7. So, bring the long edge of the outer fabrics together RST (right sides together) above the zip and stitch using a 1/4″ seam.

8. Repeat for the lining but bring them to meet below the zip and stitch leaving a 3″ gap in the middle.

9. Open the zip to the middle! (Or you will need to do some unpicking later) Next you will need to stitch the top and bottom sides closed, attaching the split ring loop to the top.

10. Bring the zipper to the middle, aligning the outer and lining fabrics with the centre of the zip.

11. Stitch across the top, taking care to stitch slowly through the bulky seam.

12. Take the 2.5″ x 4″ piece of fabric and fold in thirds in to a skinny long piece and then in half creating a loop. Press well.

13. Insert the loop into the remaining edge, the top. Raw edges should be sticking out. Line it up with the centre of the zip. Stitch across carefully as the seam is bulky. Trim any excess fabric from the loop. Now turn it all the right way:

14. Reach through the 3″ gap in the lining and pull all the fabric through, reach through the open zipper and continue to pull the outer fabric through.

15. Poke your fingers into the corners and smooth out the lining inside. Smooth the outer and press well.

16. Using a ladder stitch or a small machine straight stitch in matching thread, close the 3″ gap. Flat Zippy Pouch 2

Give it another press and voila! Your flat zipper pouch is ready to enjoy. Or gift! PS See that cute Dollar Bill Origami Shirt? You can make one too following these instructions. I haven’t made these in years. Not much fun now that our notes are all made of plastic!