Wednesday, 16 September 2015


Benjamin Biggs Block of the Month has now only four more monthly blocks to go. In a last minute rush I have caught up with all the blocks so far. (Of course there is also the swag border but we won't mention that - not done a stitch on that yet!)

In the process I learnt an important lesson : "Rushing applique blocks is not a good idea ...and can lead to much activity with the unpicker". Here are my rushed blocks... can you spot the problem?
Block 19
Block 20

Block 21
Block 19 was fine but the corner buds in Block 20 and 21 are all facing the wrong way...grrr.
After much debudding with unpicker and rebudding with needle and thread,  the first 20 blocks are now stitched together and the last row started. 

And the reason for the rush to catch up with B Biggs? I am signing up to the Shenandoah Valley Botanical Album BOM organised by Doreen and Dawn - couldn't resist as it is too lovely! They've set up this great blog all ready to start in October (click link).
I purchased the download pattern and made a few printing experiments with A4 paper on my home printer - to decide on a block size. It could be enlarged to any size you like. Dawn is making the blocks 9 inches but I'm not quite so brave and will do 12 inches (same as my B Biggs blocks).

I printed a couple of the blocks twice - varying the enlargement slightly to adjust the amount of open space around the flowers - just to see which look I prefer. 
more open space

less open space
My personal preference is the second enlargement group - less open space - filling the block more fully. It's not a big difference but means larger applique pieces - that's going to be easier stitching!

I love all the Shenandoah garden flower blocks - but don't think I will include the rainbow block or the Tree of United States block. These blocks were no doubt the most significant and important in the quilt for Esther when she stitched it, and of great historical value in the context of the American Civil War. My version will merely be inspired by the flowers of her garden - with a couple more block repeats to make up the difference.

Now for fabric selection - I'm not being adventurous and am hoping to use what I have in the stash . Usually I applique on to a solid background - a shade of cream (as in my Auntie Green, Civil War Bride, B Biggs etc). But this time I have pulled a selection of muted prints in creams and greens to try for backgrounds. I'll stitch four squares of different prints together as the background for each block.

Background possibilities
For the flowers...

For the leaves and stems - hmm - this one gave me difficulty. I have a collection of greens that I have been using for B Biggs - lovely shades of poison green - but I'd like a change from that. A bit of a warmer green this I have a solid and a tiny check that will do for starters. 
The fabric choices will 'evolve' once I get started things could well change. Am looking forward to seeing all the different versions to be made.

In August I visited the Quilt Show in Canberra in August - an easy 1 1/2 hour drive from here. This quilt was striking - lovely hand quilting:
Tokyo Pop by Jo Pulko

On another quilt cute hexagons brighten a grey quilt border:

This made me smile - a feeling we all know ?

I bought a kit at the Show to make folded fabric stars - thinking "Christmas"- and made the two in the kit ( Japanese fabrics),  and then four more from my own fabrics - very quick, very fun. 

I found a tutorial on Pinterest here in case you'd like to try - only four small strips of fabric per star and no sewing apart from attaching a thread to hang. Something to pop in Christmas cards?

Last weekend I had visitors and took them to see the tulips in town. Every September here it is "Tulip Time"  - tourist crowds and traffic chaos but only for two weeks. Us locals know the best time to view the tulips is before the official opening and before the crowds. There are always a few beds of naughty rebel tulips that misbehave and put on a wonderful display a week or two earlier than ordered. These were my favourite rebels last weekend:

Enjoy Spring/ Autumn wherever you are!


  1. love all the quilts you show - such progress too. B.Biggs is stunning and always best to shop from the stash when doing applique I think

  2. I'm definitely going to be making some folded fabric stars!

  3. You BB quilt is lovely. So happy you are joining the SVBAQ-Along! You've got lovely fabrics to work with. I Think there are only three greens in the original quilt. The stars look wonderful, fun gifts! Thanks for taking us along to the quilt show - great quilts!

  4. Being in the UK I always enjoy pictures of your garden. We are expecting our first autumn storm today. With rain and strong winds, which should pull lots of leaves of the trees. Great progress with your BOM and will enjoy watching the progress of your new one.

  5. Your Benjamin Biggs blocks are gorgeous. You have such a wonderful eye for color!

  6. Your Benjamin Biggs blocks are gorgeous. You have such a wonderful eye for color!

  7. When we lived in Wollongong we enjoyed the drive to Bowral for 'Tulip Time'. Love the rebels.

    You mentioned you usually appliqué a solid background, would Moda muslin be suitable.? I am preparing my second appliqué quilt, Peggy's Puzzle from Simple Bird Appliqué blog and after buying the muslin am now unsure whether it is too fine/see throughish.

    I so admire your work. All your quilts are beautiful!

  8. It took me a couple of goes to see what you mean. On their own the blocks are amazing, but they needed to be the right way for the whole quilt. Very dedicated, and worthwhile fixing them. Interesting new project. I saw that one too but I think it would be more of a challenge than I'm after! The tulips are gorgeous, I am making do with two that are flowering in my garden.

  9. I knew it would have to be the buds but I still couldn't see it when I scrolled through quickly. I did the first three BB blocks as a skill builder in soft violets, purples and greens and then hand quilted them for a table runner. I always come here for inspriration and how lovely all of yours look sewn together now.

    I have signed up for the Shenandoah one as well. And like you, I thought to try varied shades backgrounds and to skip the rainbow, etc. I have two backgrounds sewn together and because I do starch / freezer paper prep and can't bear to do more than 20 minutes at a time of that, I thought to start on at least half of those tiger lily leaves...I can re-use the templates at least twice since I iron two papers together.

    How lovely those tulips are...fall is approaching here in the Northeast USA but summer is still holding on in my flower garden.

  10. I love the idea of using several fabrics for the background. Cute litle stars!

  11. Oh Hilda, I am so happy that you will be doing the Shenandoah Valley Botanical quilt as I have decided to take the plunge as well. Not sure what size I will do or what my background color(s) will be. But I am so looking forward to seeing your blocks. And as for the buds, I would have left them as they were, they are stunning either way! Thanks for sharing the quilt show quilts as well.

  12. Great new project. I pretty much gave up on Benjamin Biggs but seeing your work makes me feel Ike perhaps just finishing enough blocks for a smaller version.

  13. BB is coming along so beautifully. It has a light and airy look to me. Very pretty :)

  14. Just love your BOM blocks, seed heads which ever way round, its looking superb!
    Gosh that cathedral window edged in blacks and darks like that is really striking too : )

  15. Your BB is looking fabulous! I feel your pain having to remove those buds--something we've all done in one way or another. I love the stars and tulips!

  16. Sorry you had to unstitch. Your BB quilt is breathtaking. Each block is a treasure. Love the fabrics you've chosen for the botanical garden quilt. I like the idea of mixing up the backgrounds. Happy spring!

  17. Your applique blocks look lovely - too bad about the unpicker... I especially like the last block with the hearts - so pretty. What beautiful fabrics you have pulled together for your new applique project! It will be fun to watch your progress with this new project :0) The tulips are gorgeous!

  18. I think your Ben Biggs are just gorgeous!
    It's so easy to get those corner buds turned around when stitching.
    Happy to hear you will be joining the Botanical Album sew along!
    Your fabrics are beautiful and I love the concept you've chosen for creating the block backgrounds.

  19. What a lovely new project, the Shenandoah Valley quilt-along! I have downloaded the pattern myself, and really love it, but have too many projects going on to join as well... but now you leave me in doubt. Love the colors you have chosen for it, and the backgrounds (especially the one with the bird-and-leaves-print in the middle). Your Benjamin Biggs blocks turned out wonderful, in spite of the unpicking. What a gorgeous quilt this will be...

  20. Hello Hilda !
    My conclusion, after reading this wonderfull post, is that you are in love with appliqué !! Your BB blocks are awesome and the QA that you are going to make is beautiful too ! I'm sure it will be gorgeous with your work !

  21. Wonderful post! I enjoyed seeing all your projects. Benjamin Biggs blocks are beautiful and I'm looking forward to following your progress with the Shenandoah Valley quilt. It is going to be spectacular!

  22. You are amazing. I can't wait to see more.

  23. Your BB blocks are looking so good together. I really had to look and think about the problem with the buds but then I understood what was wrong. I can't wait to see your progress on Shenandoah. I didn't realize the blocks were so small....9" is tiny for so much applique. I think 12" is much more manageable and it will result in a quilt that is a more practical size.

  24. I think it will be fun to have some reverse buds on your BB quilt. It's very hard to notice. I can see why you're rushing , the botanical quilt is beautiful. I love your little fabric stars, thank you for sharing the link to the tutorial. Happy Spring, enjoy the beautiful daffodils and smell of freesias.

  25. So much eye candy! I'll have to come back and reread it several times to take it all in. Those tulips are gorgeous as is your work. I invite you to link to WIPs Be Gone and share your genius.

  26. Another inspiring post full of wonderful projects.
    I purchased the paper pattern for Shenandoah but in hindsight I should have gotten the download.
    Just can’t figure out how to enlarge them so may skip this one.
    Yours will be beautiful with the fabrics you have chosen.