studio & shop

Thanks to all who came to the open studio! I am so looking forward to seeing you again at classes starting up. Here’s a peek round the Decemberish shop.

milk painted shop hutch

So nice to fill up the milk-painted shopkeeper’s cabinet with useful things and my traditional skills studies & kits.

kits and pottery

The pottery from my autumn return to the wheel has arrived. I’ll show you more closely soon.

long and elegant kit, with creamer

antique singer

The handcrank, star of the old school quilting tutorial movies, has pride of place.

hand-thrown candlesticks

You can still get the patterns (sorry, the kits are all sold out!) as a gift to someone who’d love to learn a traditional skill. The movies in the sidebar to the left guide every kit and pattern.


More detail of some of the things I’ve been making, here. I’m so pleased with the new white glaze.

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

handcrank sewing machine

The culture that produced our extraordinarily strong, elegant, exquisitely engineered handcrank sewing machine must have envisioned a very different future than one of planned obsolescence. All its parts are built to last, and they have done, so exceptionally well that using it is like looking deep into history without the translation of a word or photograph. If I had the skills to build a machine, I would study this antique. Watching the bobbin winder alone is a delight. Working the crank is surprising, nothing catches, only smooth, magnificent turning movement. Absent of the electrical, the digital, it’s an object that I find at once enigmatic and much more accessible than any contemporary machine. Such a design! The children stitched their hand puppets on it with ease.

handcrank sewing machine © elisa rathje 2012

It’s no surprise then, that this gorgeous little singer from the early 1900’s, with its curved wooden case and elegant paintwork, is the star of a couple of movies I’ve been making with my sweetheart. This is a sneak peek of the singer on set. Our little moving pictures will have homemade projects to go with them, I’m bundling the kits up now. Do sign up for the appleturnover quarterly to get an early invitation to the appleturnovershop opening, I’m aiming for later next week.

Oh! If you’re in England and you’d like your own vintage sewing machine, my dear friend Sarah has a shop full of them.