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!

handcarved stamp

Amazing, how a project gets lost under a stack of other things, and resurfaces much later. I’m learning to accept this as part of a creative process, and really, how learning happens. Pick it up, put it down, forget about it, progress it a little more. You may remember our summer’s day of handcutting linoleum. Well, on a stormy autumn’s day I got round to printmaking.


The linocuts are thin and unwieldy, much easier to handle when mounted on a block of wood. We cut a piece and sanded it a little.


White glue and some pressure should suffice to attach the linoleum. A bigger linocut might like to be left under something heavy until the glue dries.


Not having come across a white inkpad, I decided to make one to go with the handcarved stamp. I reused a couple of piece of foam, cut to fit a lidded plastic box. Squeezing the block-printing ink between the piece of foam, and then harassing it until the ink spread out and bled through, worked very well.


Stamping is so basic a type of printmaking, I often forget that’s what it is. The envelopes and brown-paper packets I send from the appleturnovershop are now rendered glamourous with a bit of ornamentation, how nice.

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

linocut carving

We gathered our newly acquired printmaking tools around a shady table in the garden, and spent the afternoon carving the linocuts. Would you like to try it?

linocutting © elisa rathje 2012

Have a couple of blades, a v-blade and a rounded gouging blade, and a handle or two, a pencil and eraser, and a sheet of printing linoleum. Our table had an uneven spot where we could brace the linoleum as we worked, but a bench is ideal. Strong shears to cut the piece to size later are also useful. Draw a simple design, nothing too detailed, keeping in mind that you’ll be working with subtractive cutting – slicing away around the image, leaving the drawing raised to take the ink. I’ve begun by translating a bit of my logo.

linocutting © elisa rathje 2012

We were working on a very warm day, otherwise it is a great idea to carefully warm the linoleum near a lightbulb, or with a hairdryer, to make it easier to work. Following our wood-carving practices, we outlined the shapes with the v-shaped blade. Always cut away from you! (Mind that children are carefully supervised and taught to keep little hands out of the way of blades. A good first aid kit is worth having nearby!)

linocutting © elisa rathje 2012

Wiggle the blade a little as you cut to help it move without jumping away with the pressure. Slow and steady. Once all the lines are cut, take them a little deeper with the little v-blade. Like wood, if the cuts are nice and deep, it will prevent the drawn area from being lifted or damaged as the material in the negative space is cut away from the image.

linocutting © elisa rathje 2012

Use the rounded blade to begin to lift the linoleum from around your image, again with a slow wiggle, working away from you.

linocutting © elisa rathje 2012

If your first cuts are deep enough, you can cut right up to them without fear of nicking the image. Begin to clear a low-relief of linoleum.

linocutting © elisa rathje 2012

I sheared the piece down to size with some heavy snips, as I was working a petite image. Later I’ll mount the matrix on a block of wood for easy stamping, but this isn’t necessary. My tall girl was capable of cutting her own subtractive pieces, but I carved the small one’s drawings out with her, holding the tool together, usually just cutting away the drawing itself.

linocutting © elisa rathje 2012

A flat-sided blade seemed just the thing to smooth out the negative space. Do you think that’s what it was for? Sometimes I’d rather go ahead and do it, with a guess, than wait to be correct, and never do it! (Yes, I did later attack the surface of my piece to give it texture, it wasn’t a mistake!)

linocutting © elisa rathje 2012

All ready for inking, or mounting on a block and stamping! I’m delighted with linocut carving. Carving, drawing, printmaking are such pleasurable old skills. Working with my hands is a meditation for me. Next, printing! Will you join me? Back with that soon.

linocut tools

Roughly twenty years ago I first used the linocut in my studies of printmaking. My mother is a printmaker, so I’ve grown up surrounded by her beautiful work in etching, drypoint, collagraphy and digital print methods. At art school I fell in love with lithography, though I experimented with silkscreening and watched the woodcut printers with great interest. I’d love to return to all of it. Linocutting seems like a good place to begin, and I’m delighted to have acquired a gorgeous set of old tools and a stack of linoleum out of my mother’s studio.

linocut © elisa rathje 2012

Amazingly, I never noticed that linoleum is a word created from linseed and oil, its main component. For a human-made product, it is surprisingly organic. I love that the prints made a hundred years ago were called woodcuts, to sound respectable, and I love it even more that Picasso and Matisse just went ahead and called it linocut. That it is the printmaking tool of choice for children is also pretty fabulous. I’m going to begin with a few experiments with these linocut tools, in small, ornate designs, with more resemblance to rubber stamping. If they work, they’ll adorn the little parcels that enclose the homemade projects from the shop. Ah, and I find myself revisiting mail art!

Don’t miss the preview of the old school movies that support homemade projects in my appleturnovershop.