NZ Quilt Symposium 2017 Entry

a book is a dream you hold in your hands, 2017

Back story:
This quilt is a story about a story.

Egg Day was a book given to my daughter Maya on the day her brother Kalden’s embryo (the frozen egg) was implanted. They were both IVF "miracle" babies.

It is inspired by this image.


It is about the relationship between Nana and her grandchildren when she visits, they sneak into the super king bed in the spare room early morning once they hear Nana and Grandpa and have stories. She also hides little surprises under the bed and they have treasure hunts to find them.

Grandpa’s old shirts feature in the binding, shared joviality about Grandpa and his shirt collection!

My daughter always goes to bed with an armful of soft toys – in particular 2 soft cats which she has had since she was small (now 8) and a few other cats and animals. Bedtime checks always involve the extraction of several handfuls of toys from under her.
It is a story about my fabric stash that I didn’t realise had so many “characters” that could construct this quilt!

Inspired by many quotes and the relationship my children have with their paternal grandparents and how they share their love of books by reading with expression & enthusiasm with them and creating small adventures into the words and pictures on the page.
A story constructed around sentiments of several quotes: “The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book and the person reading it”( Mem Fox) of Dr Seuss, that books are not just words, they are filled with places to visit, people/characters to meet, and worlds to conjure up, imagine and immerse yourself in…a dream you hold in your hand?


Fabric and Construction:

I love that Michael Miller (pink pillow fabric) – it sums up my children’s pre-school years and their creativity. I didn’t realise how much novelty fabric I had to make up sky, or characters for the camp scene ( my children adore camping) and the fantasy world that evolves out of books! My children's play revolves around magical lands, pirate and treasure hunts, princess and fairy lands with unicorns, trees and tree huts, cats, planes……

I typically paint whole art quilts when I do portrait quilts.
For this symposium I wanted a pieced background and so me fusible applique.
This year I wanted to use the technique I learnt from Linda Beach at Manawatu Symposium of piecing, overlay fusible applique figures and items but I was undecided how do the people/hands etc - would I paint or fabric collage? Time sorted that out- see further on.
tip and tricks:
to get a sketch from a photo
If you want a good piecing plan or a background to overlay some sketch ideas this is a good method.
  • I took this photo and inserted into powerpoint.
  • There I select the photo, and "recolour into grayscale" (and you can determine how dark your "grey" is) and then artistic view as "photocopy"
  • I then used this as a basis to create a few different ideas for my quilt. I went over the main lines I wanted to keep from the photo (simplifying) with pen.
  • My creative additions stay on this piece and I transfer onto a big pattern once printed.

Making a full pattern for piecing and fabric collage.

  • So I take that original grayscale and artistically changed to photocopy power point image and ensure it fills the page.
  • I then duplicate it.
  • I crop one page to the left. I crop the other page to the right (halving it from A4 to A5)
  • I then rotate the cropped images to enlarge those halves to A4 size again, so creating an A3 size images. I keep doing this cropping and enlarging until I have the scale I desire.
  • Print out the 20+ A4 pages and stick together.

Here you can see the scale.

This becomes my master pattern. It doesn't get cut


  • I sketch in my trees and pillows and hills  that will becoming my piecing plan onto my master ensuring I have sew-able sections , simple curves and a plan of how it will be joined with registration marks. Each is numbered and lettered = Trees become t1 t2 t3, hill - h1, h2 etc You may be able to see this in the tree section.

  • I take tracing paper and overlay it over my master, and trace my pattern of piecing shapes and piecing info.
  • I cut these and place on my fabric and draw with a vanishing ink pen or chalk pen the shape, rego marks then cut a 1/4 inch seam all as I was taught by Linda Beach.
For the figures clothing, I lay fusible webbing and the cover paper (webbing face up) on the top of the pattern and trace the pattern. I cut a little extra cutting space then fuse to my selected fabric, trimming to my drawn lines. These get fused to the pieced top.

I typically try to fuse my figures before adding to the pieced background, so this is where my master becomes handy where I can lay my pieces on top of my master then pin to hold before taking to by ironing board.

Before I fuse the clothing to the background - I need to add the figure!

Figures - to paint or not to paint?

I've done applique (fabric collage) and painted figures before and was unsure what do to here.

I would typically trace and outline the figures onto white cotton ( to ensure I had scale to fill the gap in the piecing) and then just paint or fabric collage. When I paint, I paint  using  base of opaque paint first and I lose any registration marks underneath so I sometimes come back in and sketch over the top -  so it is really just painting from the bottom up.

Now I had 2 weeks until the deadline of submission- where did that 2 years go! I was also conscious many people have asked me how I could teach them how to create a portrait quilt easily. I happened to see on TV a short doco of a woman who hand coloured lots of those NZ whites aviation pictures/b and W photographs and that got me thinking!

So I came up with a new technique (probably isn't!) for me that I probably would not do again myself but others might find useful if they do not like drawing or unsure about mixing paint colours with warm and cool tones etc

You know those enlarged 20 pages of A4 master pattern in powerpoint?

Take those images - you may need to move them over so they fit onto  a page ( i.e. a face /hands might be strewn across 2-3 pages if large scale. If you can't fit a figure on one page, don't fret- do over two and use fusible webbing to join.( You are going to paint and stitch over so you wont see if you cut once fusible on the back)

Take some light "flesh" toned fabric and press some freezer paper onto it and trim into A4 pieces.
Print your images onto this! I only have a toner printer and this works fine. To seal the toner ( else it will smudge like chalk) I use a paint medium as a first coat.

I then use acrylic paint to paint my portraits and so once I apply a base coat of mid tone flesh I lose a bit of the "print" but I prefer that. Grab a portraiture for beginners book at the library to learn about warm and cool flesh tones - mixing paynes grey, cadmium red, sienna, white, brown etc....

If you are unsure about painting, water some acrylics  slightly ( once you apply a clear medium to hold the toner or use a ink jet printer!) and use them like a wash to warm up and add definition to your fabric. Aquarel pencil ( these are colour pencils that when you apply water or damp brush they become soluable like water colour) are great as you can use them like pencils to colour in your piece being quite light and dampen with  a wet brush to blend. If you can apply makeup and eyeshadow - you can do this!

Assemble and then stitch and quilt furiously to meet the deadline!!!!!!

Hope you are enjoying symposium!