In print…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This is about inspiration from Down-Under.  Ever since I first started reading Australian quilt magazines, learning about Australian quilters, and then acquiring books written by them, I’ve been in love with the work produced in Australia.  It inspires me in the sense that it expands my field-of-view in much the same way that traveling the world broadens our horizons.  It reminds us that there are options – other ways of thinking and doing.

(This is also a long post and if you like quilt books… it’s not my fault.)

If you’ve been quilting for any amount of time, you’ve seen the published work of Australian quilters.  You may not even have realized where it came from… though with “Australian” in the title of the magazine, that probably helps.  I think the first time I saw Australian Patchwork & Quilting was around 1995.

Australian-Patchwork-&-Quilting

This wasn’t the issue – this is the latest.  I stumbled upon an issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting at a Ben Franklin store… before it became Craftsmart… before it become something else… before it went away.  What will remain memorable about the place for me is that it opened up a whole new quilting world for me… okay, and there were those Lang boxes that I still love and use.

In trying to find as many back issues as I could, I went to every quilt store in Phoenix – this was before the boom of “pj shopping” – and along the way, I found Australian Quilter’s Companion

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… and Homespun.

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It’s hard for me to explain what was different about these magazines.  It wasn’t that they were better, they were just a different experience.  The quilts used the same blocks that I knew from traditional quilting, and sometimes they were using the same fabrics I’d seen in my local quilt shop… that I might have in the bins and baskets in my workroom.  But the feel of the quilts was different from most of what I was seeing in books, quilt shops and magazines at the time.

The only way I can describe it is like this – swimming is swimming.  You’re in a body of water, moving your arms and legs, trying to stay afloat and move from one place to another.  But swimming in a swimming pool is definitely a different experience than swimming in a lake or pond, or in the ocean.  There might be similarities but the view and challenges are not the same.  It’s a different experience.

Through the magazines, I learned the names of quilters whose work I loved.  When books by Australian quilters started showing up in quilt shops, and when Australian quilters started coming to Quilt Market regularly, I was all in.  It might sound shallow and very superficial but if a book was authored by an Aussie quilter, I was probably going to get it.

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I may or may not have bought most of these books without looking inside, just because of the name on the spine.

I know that I’ll never make every project in each book, or even at least one project in each book… but the books still inspire me to think outside boxes, to consider a different approach to mixing color, pattern and style of fabric.  They inspire me in the same way that Freddy Moran’s books do, that Gwen Marston’s books do. In an odd way, these quilters and quilts remind me that what matters most is individuality.

Just so you know, I’m not the only one energized by the work of Aussie quilters.  This is on a co-worker’s “inspiration board” – Jamie.

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The pillow is made by Jen Kingwell and this image is from her Quilt Lovely book. (This page come from a promotional piece – no books were harmed.)

I was going to pick just a few but I couldn’t bring myself to leave someone out, and if I was going to include one of their books, I wanted to include them all.  Choose a favorite?  As if!  With all the things I gave away while moving to Texas, there wasn’t any chance these books weren’t going to make the trip with me.  At least two in this stack were published after the move – but I still bought my very own copy.  (Drooling on “office” books is sort of frowned on.)

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Books and patterns.  Mountmellick and Lollypop Trees are patterns.  Mountmellick is by Di Ford and Lollypop Trees is by Kim McLean.  Bring Me Flowers is by Jen Kingwell and Desert to Sea is a compilation book put together by Jane Davidson – QuiltJane from yesterday’s post.  All are examples of the kind of extraordinary workmanship that the best Australian quilters do.  Apparently “fast and easy” doesn’t translate well in the Aussie dialect.  Gidday?

Kim McLean is an extraordinary quilter who is known mostly her needle-turn applique quilts – and patterns.  If you’ve ever seen one of her quilts, her style is immediately recognizable for its use of color and pattern, and for the elaborate, intricate applique.  As it is with so many Aussie quilters, Kim’s quilts are embraced by both traditional and modern quilters as an example of the best kind of work they do.

Desert to Sea is a self-published book by Jane Davidson – QuiltJane.  The book is a compilation of ten quilts from eight Australian designers giving it a wonderful variety.  (If you read Linzee’s post chatting with Jane, you know that there are some terrific patterns coming soon from Want It Need It Quilt, Jane’s pattern company.)

I’m pretty sure the first real Aussie quilt book I bought was the first Material Obsession book by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke.

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It’s still a favorite.  The use of color and pattern still takes my breath away after all these years.  Okay, it’s not that long ago, MO was published in 2009.  Material Obsession Two came a year or so later.

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Kathy Doughty owns the Material Obsession shop in Australia and has published a couple more books that continue to expand on her ideas of color, pattern and the vibrant mix of both.  (The shop and a class are on my “bucket list”.)

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Sarah Fielke’s first book was Material Obsession and it was the first of five published books, soon to be six.  Old Quilts, New Life is based on quilts from the American Folk Art Museum and it will be published in October of this year.  (In about six weeks.)

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Anni Downs of Hatched and Patched.  The first time I saw any of Anni’s work, it was in an advertisement in one of the Aussie magazines, it was for her shop.  I loved her line drawings and the quirky style she had mixing applique, embroidery and piecing.  She also makes everything!  Dolls and quilts, pincushions and little sewing needfuls, if you can make it with a needle and thread, Anni’s made it.  Her colors and fabrics were very different from the bright, bold fabrics used by some of the quilters I’ve already named, but it was still very original.  (She’s also very nice – and very cool.  I met Anni and her husband at a Quilt Market in Portland a few years back when we were back-to-back booth neighbors.)

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Irene Blanck – this is one of the books I bought earlier this year, I’d been waiting for it.  I met Irene at Quilt Market last year and she’s the sweetest woman.  She was a little surprised that I knew who she was and could name many of her quilts and patterns.  She was a little worried when I told her that I’d seen a picture of one of her early quilt patterns, Floral Beauty, and that it had taken me quite some time to track it down at a shop in Australia.  Floral Beauty is included in Focus on Applique.

Michelle Yeo!  I met Michelle last Fall in Gretna, Nebraska at the Quilted Moose.  If you’ve seen her book, Of Needle, Thimble and Thread, I was fortunate to see most of these quilts in person and yes, they’re even more spectacular in person.  Michelle’s specialty is elaborately pieced – hand and/or machine – reproduction-style quilts, often made with templates and/or paper-piecing.

Di Ford’s quilts are also Reproduction-style combining traditional blocks and motifs in a way that is still distinctive.  Like many Aussie quilters, she’s a fan of fussy-cutting pieces to create secondary patterns, and for broderie perse.

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This book wasn’t included in the other stack because I couldn’t find it before I left for work.  I had to take and include this picture later – at home.  But I found the book!  Brigitte Giblin – also a Reproduction-style – or vintage-inspired – quilter who combines applique, English paper-piecing, traditional piecing, embroidery, fussy-cutting and a host of other techniques to make spectacularly original quilts.

Will you ever look at your fabric the same way?

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And finally, these books were all published in the last year or so.

Jen Kingwell.  Quilt Lovely.  ‘Nuf said.  I wasn’t at Jen’s first Quilt Market but like so many other quilters, I remember the first time I saw Steam Punk and Midnight at the Oasis.  They’re both on my “quilt bucket list”.  Someday, right?  Of course, every time Jen publishes a new pattern or book, that list gets longer.

Gail Pan!  What is it about Aussie women and embroidery?  Or hand-stitching?  They incorporate it into their work – small projects, quilts, everything.  And it’s always beautiful.  Gail is another one of the lovely women whose name I kept seeing before I had the pleasure of meeting her.

The last book is by the late Kathreen Ricketson.  I found Kathreen’s work through her blog, Whip Up and what I liked was that sense of a shared passion for making stuff.  I liked her “voice”.

That’s probably the common thread through all of these books – the authors – quilters – have something to say with their work.

Looking at these books, one thing is very clear.  Those Aussies are a talkative bunch.

Happy Wednesday!

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21 comments on “In print…

  1. Hi Carrie! I could not agree more with you. Along with my fave Miss Rosie quilts (no one does “scrappy” like Miss Rosie!), all of which inspire me daily, I find Australian quilting to be moving, inspirational and truly ingenious in use of colour and design. As I read your wonderful blog post, I found myself going back to my own belief about why the Australian style of quilting is such a stand-alone. I think it all comes back to the light. Australian light is completely different (angles, intensity, brightness, palette) than North American light. In much the same way Texas light is completely different from Arizona light, and definitely from Nova Scotia light! Light inspires minds, which in turn inspires use and selection of colour…which leads to fabric and design choices. I have a wonderful quilting friend in Tasmania, who does the most incredible stitching (and incorporates the most unique quilting style into her pieces. Her name is Ange Torlop – and I’d love to attach some photos of her work here (if it were possible)…You’d love her style. Thanks for a wonderful post – you made my day!

    • Carrie Nelson says:

      I agree – the light in a place definitely gives inspiration. I find that it also has such an effect on mood, which in turn affects color palettes, fabric styles, etc. So much of what we do is the by-product of our environment. (I saw some of Ange’s work on your blog post about the stitcheries she sent you – they’re beautiful.)

      Scrappy! That’s what I love about Aussie quilters and their quilts. Scrappy has been a funny challenge with the sewing I’m doing now – there are a few limitations to what I can mix into what I’m making. Of course, that’s also been part of the fun, sometimes limits are what forces the most creativity.

      On a side note, it’s funny that you mentioned light. I’ve been thinking all morning how the days are getting shorter, it’s slowly getting darker when I leave my apartment in the morning. 🙂

  2. Karen Goad says:

    The Australians do bring something different to quilting and a lot of them do a lot of hand work as well which is missing in the US – they also use color in extraordinary ways. If I am going to buy a quilt book chances are it will be Australian – they are not afraid to have a quilt take months to make – Americans are in too much of a hurry and want easy quilts finished quickly. I say this being a American and preferring the quilting of the “not rush through it” of other countries.

    • Carrie Nelson says:

      I love all the handwork – though I still find it hard to make time to do any of it myself. My quilting friends find it comical that so many of my favorite books have elaborate applique and I do mostly machine-piecing. I love doing applique but when I’m hurrying to finish things for “work”, it takes me too long. But eventually, right? 🙂

  3. sunporchquilts says:

    I totally get this – I too am totally infatuated with the gorgeous quilts and quilting coming out of Australia! I already have most of those books, but am eager to look up the few ones I am not yet familiar with.

  4. Karen Seitz says:

    Thank you for the wonderful post! I agree that Australian quilting is different in wonderful and inspiring ways and have several of the books you show in your post along with plans to make more of the projects than I have lifetime left to accomplish them. I have made a few Anni Downs’ projects which I have enjoyed immensely. In fact, I finished stitching down the binding on her Snuggle Quilt (from Some Kind of Wonderful) earlier this month and have gotten raves from those who have seen it. Now I will be searching for the books that I haven’t seen yet for even more eye candy.

  5. Denise Daniel says:

    Wow! This post could not have come at a more perfect time for me! I am in the process of opening a quilt store in El Paso, TX. I absolutely love these books by Australian quilters. Will they be available to order them from Moda/United Notions at wholesale prices?

    • Carrie Nelson says:

      Hi Denise – Congratulations and much success and happiness to you in your new adventure!

      Yes, almost all of these books are available from United Notions. I didn’t find the Brigitte Gilbin book listed on the website but it might just be out-of-stock. I’m especially looking forward to Sarah Fielke’s new book.

  6. Sharyn says:

    Do you have Workshops from Quiltskills, the quilters guild Australia? 1998
    I am cleaning up my quilt library. If you’d like it I’ll pop it in the mail to you.

    Another you should get is The Fabric of Society http://www.annettegero.com/

    • Carrie Nelson says:

      Hi Sharyn – Thank you! I do have the Workshops book but didn’t include it as I wasn’t sure if it is still available. The book by Annette Gero is on my “wish list” – mine and a few folks I know.

  7. Mary Andra says:

    Absolutely fabulous posting. I enjoyed every word. Maybe one of these days you will interview them. I would love to know how, when, and why they started quilting. Thank you Carrie.

  8. Hildy says:

    I would never ever dare to use this wild mix of colors and fabrics for a quilt myself but inspiration the australian designers are unbeatable.

  9. Sandy M says:

    I love when I read something that defines exactly how I feel but could not put in words myself. i have soo many books and get asked all the time, why I keep buying? It’s not like I would ever be able to make all the quilts from the books in my library, or even one of each, but they each inspire me one way or the other. I have a huge collection of magazines as well, and when I am feeling “blah”, I will pull out one of my magazine holders and just look at the eye candy. It perks me up and pulls me out of the funk.
    I have met many Aussie quilters and they are so very unique in their talents. Their creativity and use of color is just awe inspiring.. I fell in love with Phoebe by Di Ford a few years ago and recently picked up the Primarily Quilts book to get more of her. It is just gorgeous.

  10. OH MY! Your blog will have us all shopping for more books.

  11. Susan says:

    As an Australian and a quilter ( with one small contribution to Homespun last year) it always makes me smile to read such rave reviews and comments about us ‘Downunder”! I have been quilting for over thirty years when fabric ranges were not available to us, hence the need to mix fabrics. The light is definitely different as early landscape artists did in the 1800’s. I even took classes with Di Ford when she owned her patchwork shop! I’m proud of my Aussie quilting heritage. Thanks for a great article!

  12. Mary ann says:

    So many of my own book collection featured in this post Carrie. And I started fathering Aussie magazines in mid 90’s. I never stopped to think about what it is that draws me in, color, pattern, embellishments….all of it I think. And thus year is the one I DO make one of Jen’s patterns!

  13. Irene Blanck says:

    It was fun to read about us meeting Carrie. To me you were/are a “rock star” and I had followed your blog for a long time. I kinda stalked you at market trying to find the right moment to come up and introduce myself – lol – only to be blown away when you knew who I was! It was such a pleasure to meet you. Some of the comments here have hit the nail on the head – us Aussies (and I am an Indian Aussie) LOVE hand work – and don’t mind taking a looooooong time on one quilt – 6 months or more is not uncommon. I tend to sit and sew with many groups of quilting friends and the hand work always comes out at these occasions. And colour? Yes – someone said it here. We don’t get full collections of fabrics so have to mix and match. For me – more is better! Maybe it is the light – I don’t know as I’ve never thought of it that way – I just do what I do. Thanks for the fabulous write-up.

  14. moomarg says:

    Love your blog about our Australian quilt designers but you have forgot two I didn’t see mentioned firstly Michele Hill she designs William Morris quilts she has published three so far the last being about his daughter May Morris and there are some beautiful projects worth adding to your collection. She does mainly appliqué. Then there is Pam Holland who goes to America all the time doing workshops, she’s very popular there. They both come from my home town of Adelaide South Australia. Quilters Companion is a publication that I get delivered to me I love the magazine especially as a video usually comes with it with our designers featuring in them. Michelle Marvig is another designer who is exceptional at her craft she writes in the Quilters Companion it’s worth subscribing to the mag.

  15. Aileen says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. As an Aussie and a quilter, I follow most of the quilters you write about, and love their style, but I’d never put it together in my head that they were all Aussies. Great review and round up, thanks!

  16. Chookyblue says:

    we sure do have some great talents here is Oz…….nice to see you do your Aussie week……..

  17. rachaeldaisy says:

    What a wonderful and comprensive post about Aussie quilters and their books! Thank you for sharing all this great work!!

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