Book: Blog tour: Quilting from Little Things

by kath_red on 13/04/2011

in Books, Features, Quilting

Sarah Fielke – one of my quilting heros has a new book out Quilting from little things published by Murdoch books. Sarah previously has coauthored two books with Kathy Doughty titled Material Obsession, these books are just beautiful and I reviewed the first one here. But now Sarah has taken the plunge and is going it alone. Her new book is based on the premise of ‘From little things big things grow’ and so she has designed 10 ‘Dolly’ / mini quilts using a technique or block design that allows you to practice your skills and then she takes these techniques and explores them further as 10 full sized quilts using the Dolly quilt as a jumping off point. Of course you could only make the Dolly quilts or only make the full sized quilts if you like too. They are all quite beautiful and inspirational.

I asked Sarah a few questions about the quilts and her design process and her love of fabric and quilting and this is what she said.

1. You describe your aesthetic as being traditional meets modern – with a mix of traditional designs and eclectic fabrics – can you explain your design process a little more?

I have a huge library of quilting and design books, all with little tags sticking out of things I find interesting, and I also keep a load of sketch books and notebooks. Often when I start a new quilt I don’t even look through those things, I have just an idea in my head and away I go. I don’t usually draw quilts up before I start, unless it’s something that I need precise measurements for. Usually I just cut and sew. I have process books too, where I write everything I do for a single quilt down as I go along – that way I know how much fabric I used, how many pieces I cut etc when I get to write the patterns.

If I am stumped about starting something in particular or need more inspiration, I sit down in my studio with my books and just leaf through things, and sketch as I go. Sometimes that’s enough just to get me thinking in another direction. And sometimes just a piece of fabric or a colour combination is enough.

The quilts frequently don’t end up where they started out going, but that’s one of the things I enjoy. I began making a Philedelphia Pavement recently for example, and it’s ended up with applique borders and white diagonal lines that I didn’t plan. Using a design wall is the best way to work for me, I leave things to percolate and move blocks and colourways around a lot until I’m happy with the result.

2. You have a lovely big fabric stash and talk a bit about it in the book – you obviously have a big love of colour and pattern – can you tell us what your all time favourite 3 fabrics are – ones that you keep coming back to over and over?

Oh my gosh, that’s like choosing one of my children. I love my stash and I cultivate it at every opportunity. I tell my husband that he wouldn’t stop a painter buying paints – but I dont think he’s buying it :) Favourite all time 3 fabrics. OK…

1. Cath Kidston little floral print thingy – have used this over and over and over. Nearly all gone but I hoard it like gold.
2. There’s a piece of this old fish fabric in so many of my favourite quilts. I used it first in a quilt called Ponds in Jane’s Garden which I adore, and because I loved making it so much the fabric stuck with me. I’m down to about a 6″ square.
3. Kaffe Fassett’s big florals. I can’t pick just one, I love them all. The current obsession is this one from his latest re-colouration range of old favourites. The pink and yellow is killing me.

3. Again on fabric – you say that dots are your go-to fabrics for backgrounds and fillers and that you rarely use solids – why do you love pattern so much – what is it that attracts you and what do you think that it gives the quilt that a solid background wouldn’t?

Awesome question. And for me it’s very simple, although some will undoubtedly argue! I like to use pattern because it moves. To me a solid is a dead spot. When you look at a quilt that engages your eye and makes it travel around the quilt, you know you have balance right. There’s a place for solids in my quilts – I do use a lot of white and plains for applique backgrounds, but even those usually have a tone on tone spot, a shot cotton or are a textured linen or something interesting. Of course, you can have too much pattern and have everythng be a mish mash, so it’s important to give the eye a place to rest as well. No matter how busy my quilts are there is always something consistent to hold everything together. Having said all that, there are two quilts in the book with a fair amount of solids in them!

4. I am a huge fan of your designs – I love the bright colours and crazy mix of fabrics – but I am especially attracted to the Dandelions quilt, one of the few quilts in the book that does indeed use solid fabrics. Can you explain your design process here and why you used solids in this quilt?

I started out making this quilt with a picture I saw of a beautiful sunny patch of grass covered in daisies, and a little girl running through it. The different colours in the grass and the innocence of the little girl got me thinking about a single bed quilt for a little girl’s room. I played around for a while with the Dandelions and a load of different backgrounds, but decided to get the fresh effect I wanted of the grass and the little flowers scattering, I needed solids. Thank heavens for the Kona Cotton colour card and a million shades of green to choose from :)

5. Another quilt in the book that I am drawn to is ‘A wing and a prayer’, I love the use of the text print in the background and the solid fabrics on the bird heads – and it looks like you might have used some vintage fabrics too?. Again how did you come to design this quilt, what design decisions did you make along the way?

This is my favourite quilt in the book. I don’t know why, I just loved making it. I have always loved the antique American Eagle quilts you see in US museums, but I didn’t feel Eagles were really relevant to me, so I came up with the fantasy birds. Their heads are bright Essex linens, and the other solids in the pieces borders are from Oakshott which are some of my favourite “solid” fabrics in the world. This is one of those quilts that just fell together. I happened to order the text print fabric and leave it on the bench with the Essex linen… I was sent a present of the Kaffe border print… I was doodling and the birds and the colours just jumped into my head fully formed. I would have quilted it forever but I had to stop to make the deadline :)

6. Many of the quilts in the book are hand quilted by you – and they are so beautiful. I am quite in awe of your skill and patience. Can you tell me when you get the time to hand quilt and how long it takes you to hand quilt a quilt? Any secrets tips you can share with the Whipup audience about your method?

I love hand quilting. I would rather hand quilt than do anything else. Even though I have a fantastic machine quilter who I love to bits (Kim Bradley), I am always disappointed when I have a quilt done on the machine. Only that when I’m piecing, my mind is already working to where I will quilt it. I press my seams in directions on purpose depending on where I want to quilt, on the up or the down side of the seam. I quilt for hours and hours when I’m working on a big quilt, I just put in a DVD and off I go. Working at the sewing machine for long hours gives me backache but hand quilting never does. I always get asked how long it takes me to hand quilt something and it’s such a hard thing to answer, because each one is so different. To give you an indication though, the quilt that took me the longest to quilt in the book was probablyThe Night Garden, and it took around 80 hours to quilt I think. Stopping and starting is always slower than straight lines.

Tips for hand quilting:
– DO use a hoop AND a thimble, no matter how much you think you don’t need them, you will get a better result. Take the time to get used to them. Don’t rush – it’s the journey, grasshopper!
– and don’t pick out every single stitch that you think isn’t perfect or you will just make yourself cranky and never get the quilt done.
– Quilting needs practise, and the more you practise they better you will get. You’re much better off quilting something all over and have it feel handmade, than trying to be perfect and it ending up in a bag in the cupboard.

Follow along on this Aussie Quilting Blog Tour –

Monday, April 11: Red Pepper Quilts
Tuesday, April 12: Patch Andi
Wednesday, April 13: Rosalie Quinlan
Thursday, April 14: Whip Up
Friday, April 15: Fat Quarterly blog
Saturday, April 16: Cinderberry Stitches
Sunday, April 17: One Flew Over

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ruth April 13, 2011 at 9:36 am

Lovely hand quilting! Seeing the snippets above makes me want to experiment with lots of different threads and colours!


2 Pip April 13, 2011 at 10:17 am

Great interview, it gives me more of an insight into how Sarah comes up with her ideas for creating quilts.


3 SewLindaAnn April 13, 2011 at 10:21 am

Thank you for the wonderful pictures and interview. I love that she reiterated about not taking out stitches that aren’t perfect. It’s important to have fun! I seriously cannot wait for this book to come to the states! have a great Wednesday (or Thursday if it applies).


4 Jill April 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

Yay! So happy to read about the hand quilting! Thanks for the interview and great pictures.


5 Seanna Lea April 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Those are some gorgeous quilts. I have a lot of love for the solids, though I can totally understand why patterns would be considered a more active viewing experience.


6 Vicki K April 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Her color and fabric combinations are always so fresh – I love this interview! It’s inspiring to hear someone talk about loving the handquilting part.


7 Jill April 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Love this book already and hope to get one soon!


8 ela April 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Where can we purchase Oakshott solid cotton fabric? Can you tell about your photography in your books? who styles them, photographs them, do you bring in antiques for the backgrounds? all lovely.


9 Sarah Fielke April 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Hi Ela,

thanks for your questions. Oakshott can be a little difficult to find – they are an English company, here is their website:

The photos for this book were mostly shot in my house and in my Dad’s house. They were taken this time by Sue Stubbs, who is an interiors photographer, she works for a lot of big home magazines here and overseas. She did such a beautiful job. I did all the styling with some help from Sue, and all the furniture is either mine or my father’s. It’s fantastic seeing the book look so lovely with all our familiar things in the backgrounds.


10 kelli April 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm

This book looks great!


11 Jitka April 13, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Nice book, pretty colourful quilts. I like it.


12 Sarah April 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm

What a lovely interview! I am in awe of the lively gan quilting!!


13 Sarah April 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm

What a lovely interview! I am in awe at the lovely hand quilting, it really makes te quilts look devine!


14 maeve April 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Such a gorgeous book – the quilts, the designs, all the fabulous color, the hand quilting, it is all so delicious! I would so love to win this book!!!!! Thanks for the opportunity!


15 Aniza April 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm

thanks for sharing with us…I like Sarah’s hand quilting and her tips makes me want to try hand quilting as well. Her book is a great addition to most quilter’s library


16 Donna April 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Thanks for the great interview–interesting to read about the fabrics and the free spirited serendipity of Sarah’s design/fabric choice process (the funnest way to make a quilt!) I am thinking I may need to make the quilt on the cover–as well as several others!


17 daisy April 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

thanks for the great interview Kathreen – I’ve always loved Sarah’s style of putting big bold fabrics together – can’t wait to get a copy of the book


18 Anne April 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Wow another great write up on this book. Love the pictures and the questions you asked. Thank you for sharing. Cannot wait to get a copy of this book as I loooove the other 2 MO books.


19 Lori April 14, 2011 at 12:05 am

I knew better than to follow this blog tour! I’ve already gone over my craft book budget for this year (ahem, it’s APRIL). But I’m falling in LOVE with this book. Looks like Jr. will be wearing some high-waters come this fall. Do they still pay you for plasma donations? :)
Needless to say, I’m very impressed with all that I’ve seen so far. I’m excited to get my hands on it.


20 Candy April 14, 2011 at 12:29 am

The pictures are drop dead gorgeous. The beautiful, vibrant colors just make me want to start one of the projects immediately. I really like the close up quilting shots. Congratulations on your new book.


21 Sharon Feigl April 14, 2011 at 2:09 am

I’m still trying to get this book…love blog tours as well. win win :)
HUgs, Sharon


22 Tracy April 14, 2011 at 6:31 am

I thought I recognised the style, I have both MO books.


23 Brita April 14, 2011 at 8:16 am

That’s what it is! The colors and the prints together that grabs me! Most of my quilting buds are conservative, and use solids or tone-on-tone fabrics with prints. I don’t, usually, and I always feel a bit self-conscious and out-of-control by doing that. You have liberated me, Sarah!!! Gotta win this book for more close-up and personal :-)


24 elsa April 14, 2011 at 9:27 am

Sarah does such excellent work, I’m really inspired by what I’ve seen of this book! If I don’t win it anywhere, I’m definitely going to buy it!
thanks for the chance!


25 Billie K April 14, 2011 at 11:47 am

Looks like a great book


26 mary April 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

Great interview!!! I love Sarah…she is my quilting hero as well :)


27 Catherine April 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Thank you for the fabulous questions as they provided the framework for information/responses that have made me “need” this book. And the candid images included in the interview…tasty morsels. Thank you, both!


28 The Beetle Shack April 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Gasp. Breath taking. I dream of being able to quilt like this…


29 Marcia W. April 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Sarah’s quilts are awesome and understand that it will be a while before this book is available in the USA. Perhaps will have the chance to win a copy. Thanks for the nice interview with Sarah!


30 kath_red April 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm

I know Sarah’s book is not yet available in the US – here are few options for purchasing it though.


31 Sarah Fielke April 23, 2011 at 6:10 am

The book will be available in the US in August through Krause Books. I hope you can wait :)


32 Beth T. April 15, 2011 at 1:42 am

I appreciate the hand-quilting tips–I feel like I’m learning from a master. Thanks.


33 Leena April 15, 2011 at 8:32 am

What a wonderful book and interview..
I wonder how she constructs the designs and delivers on the quilts. For me, between the ‘Conception and the creation-falls the shadow’. Would love to win the book and try my hands at seam binding-mortally scared of it.
warm regards,


34 SewLindaAnn April 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Thanks for the interview and some pics. I cannot wait for this book to arrive in the States!


35 Michelle April 17, 2011 at 12:31 am

I have to tell you – I have this book and it is just so lovely. I can hardly wait to get these current projects out of the way and start some new ones from the book!

Fantastic interview, Kathreen and Sarah.


36 Colleen April 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm

The hand quilting is lovely! thanks for the reveiw and pictures!


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