Colour is such a pleasure to work with in any material. I love mixing printing inks or chalk paint, plant-dyeing yarn, planning a garden, tying a bouquet, sewing cushions and clothes, glazing pots, drawing pictures. Lately I’ve been making a lot of drawings on my computer, mostly for design clients, and thoroughly enjoying theme and variation in intense colour and texture. The antidote to the cross-eyed effects of too much technology is to get up and work with tangible objects. Colourful quilting fabrics are just the thing. I find finished quilting works quite modern, yet painterly, like early modern art. Here are some of the pieces I’ve designed for learning good old fashioned quilting skills, and making a little piece for your wall or your table while you’re at it.

golden pindot & checked triangles quilt

The triangles quilt, a new golden pindot variation for springtime.

formal flowers & lime stripe nine-patch quilt

And a new nine-patch in sprouting greens.

floral & blue gingham triangles quilt

The original triangles quilt, which I made in the movie tutorial, “Quilting Triangles“;

liberty floral & blue gingham nine-patch quilt

And the original nine-patch, from “Quilting Squares.”


A variation in appley patterns and Liberty fabrics. You might recognise the apple fabric from my little pinnies, it’s a favourite.

chartreuse floral triangles quilt

Chartreuse, such a joyful hue. I love the scale of these tiny prints mixing with larger prints. A small quilt is a great place to get wilder with colour than I might in a frock or in a large quilt. All of these homemade project kits are in the appleturnovershop. I’m looking forward to getting into more colourwork and pattern, making some new clothes using very old patterns, working in leather, revisiting my old friend, the silkscreen, and with some luck, getting back to the pottery wheel!

saddle stitch binding

The printed guides to good old fashioned patchwork quilting are the trusty companions to appleturnover’s old school movies. They’re great to refer to as you work on your project, especially if you haven’t always got the movie in front of you. I adore bookbinding and it is a pleasure to make these little booklets to go in every quilting kit. Let me show you saddle stitch binding.

printed guides © elisa rathje 2012

The booklets are printed with petite black & white stills, accompanied by detailed text to consult as you need to. I like to work from both the moving image and the still when I’m learning a new skill, do you?


I laid the images and text out, and had them printed at an excellent, environmentally sound old printshop in Vancouver, where I could get fully recycled, certified papers. Binding them was a little trickier, as I don’t have a long-reach saddle stitch stapler, though I hunted for one. In the end I discovered Paul Tseng’s brilliantly simple solution and followed it as closely as I could.

After folding the signatures (using my imaginary bone folder – wish, wish!), I clipped the pages in place and gently pressed a stapler into the spine of the booklet just enough to mark two spots. Now, find a sturdy, sharp needle. An awl would be better still. (Wish, wish.)

printed quilting guides © elisa rathje 2012

Gently puncture the pages through;

printed quilting guides © elisa rathje 2012

Til you’ve got clean holes to work with.

printed quilting guides © elisa rathje 2012

Saddle-stitchis standard for booklets, requiring no more than a few staples into the centerfold. Paul’s simple solution is to insert the staple by hand, and press it shut. Of course! So smart.

printed quilting guides © elisa rathje 2012

I pressed the booklets a little, and they were complete. There’s the pocket guide to Quilting Squares, a traditional “nine-patch” patchwork quilt, and Quilting Triangles, a traditional “broken dishes” patchwork quilt.

printed quilting guides © elisa rathje 2012

quilted mats

Do you remember some patchwork quilted placemats I was making? I used the projects to experiment with patchwork and stitching various quilted patterns. Four of them were just right to fit round our table.

patchwork quilted placemat © elisa rathje 2012

I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. I quilted a diamond shape, a simple angle, overlapping circles, and squares. The patchwork on these quilted mats is quite vivid, often I prefer to turn them linen-side up. I made my own linen bias tape to finish them, amazing how that brings it all together.

patchwork quilted placemat © elisa rathje 2012

Oh, I do miss that bright little room in the old English cottage.

patchwork preview

All through my studies of traditional skills, the most unexpected pleasure has been connecting to a long history of people with the knowledge to make things themselves. A pleasure of the handmade is also the tremendous centeredness, rootedness that comes with self-reliance. I love that moment when you really see how something, maybe a kind of food, an object in your home, a thing you’ve encountered your whole life, is made, and find that you can make it yourself. Making a useful thing, the way you’d like it, with great quality of materials and imbued with your personality, gives an object provenance, a story, and connects it to you. Which things in our homes have those histories? The best ones.

I’m so excited to be making movies to teach you this traditional skill in a simple, casual way, by watching me work, like looking over your grandmother’s shoulder. I’m creating an everyday sort of mentorship, learning at home the way the old methods were so often passed on. A patchwork preview:

The first homemade pictures my sweetheart and I made are The Quilting Series. Quilting Squares and Quilting Triangles are guides to patchwork quilting, a small-scale project, one beginner, and one intermediate. They were shot in the studio at Knaves Acre, our old Sussex cottage. You’ve already met the starlet of this series, a beauty at one hundred years old. You can mail-order your own pattern from the appleturnovershop; then check back here to work along with the movies! Watch them in the schoolhouse, in the column to your left.

quilting squares liberty floral project kit

quilting squares liberty floral project kit

original quilting triangles project kit

original quilting triangles project kit

quilted quilt

Oh, I’m thrilled to finally have finished a nine-patch quilt. All patchwork, all piecing, all quilting, all binding finished today. It only took me three and a half years.

patchwork quilt © elisa rathje 2012

With a few interruptions. (Alright, interruptions like going to Canada for months, or working on seventeen other projects in between – don’t worry, it really needn’t take three years!) A second one is nearly done, so my children will each have a quilt.

patchwork quilt © elisa rathje 2012

I’m always delighted to complete a project. It looks just right with the bunting in their little room up in the cottage gable. I’m so pleased.