ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Embellishing quilts: with fire?

Updated on April 7, 2016
JanTUB profile image

Quilter, author, tutor, and columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been sharing her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.

Patchwork quilts come in many genres

And I have tried almost any genre you can think of. They can be traditional, crazy patched or very out there.

I like to take traditional quilt blocks and play with them to make not-so-traditional quilt designs.

Sometimes it's great fun to get out there and experiment!

This is the story of such an experiment, where I tried to embellish my quilt using fire.

Beautiful = poisonous

Sometimes, so beware.

We took our long service leave in 1989 and spent eleven weeks travelling around West Australia.

One of the places we visited was Wittenoom, a former blue asbestos mining town.

It was early morning and the light was very clear. At our feet we saw a very beautiful blue brick-shaped rock, resting on the pebbles. Paul took a photo of the rock, which of course, was deadly blue asbestos.

A quilt idea was born

Using that 'brick' as inspiration

A few years later, I decided to produce a number of quilts and to exhibit them with the photos that inspired them.

The exhibition Reach for the Sky was well recieved by both male and female visitors to the galleries.

The men loved the pictures and the women loved the quilts.

Take Care When You Gouge Holes In Me! - Not all pretty stuff is beautiful

The quilt showing the burnt edge of the fabric which depicts the hole.

How I got the fabric and the fib I told

The fabrics that make up the blocks in the quilt were sent to me by a friend, who heard about Veronica's stroke and subsequent coma.

That friend, who was an MS sufferer, and who hand-dyed wonderful fabrics, posted a package to me some time during the long months of the coma.

When Tina sold her fabrics, she packaged them in a fashion that showed a small strip of each of the colours in the set. That's what I saw when I opened the parcel. I sent her a thank you note and said I would make something special from the fabric.

After I started to feel better, about a year later, I sat on the bed to open the gift and chatted to Paul while he got ready for work. Inside was a lovely surprise.

As I opened the fabric, scraps of lots of bits and pieces fell out, each one prettier than the last. The scraps were from Tina's wonderful art quilts, and were cotton and raw silk.

I exclaimed, "Look at this one!", "And this one!", "And this!"

Paul said that only a quilter would get so worked up about some little bits of fabric, and some were quite little, too.

So then I had to phone Tina to tell her I hadn't opened the package and had only just seen what was inside.

As promised, I did make a good piece from her fabric. It's one of my all time favourite quilts.

The blocks from Tina's scrap fabrics

I used my Listen With Your Eyes technique to make the Square in Square blocks, and then made the little Shoo Fly blocks using the resulting triangle square you get from the method.

Not a skerrick was wasted!

In between the rows are strips of a great Batik fabric, cut in Fibonnaci series to make a grid for the blocks, and negative space for the design.

I wanted to make irregular row heights, as I had very limited fabrics, and the quilt needed to be a pleasing shape.

That left me with a problem.

Square in a Square block at left - Shoo Fly block at right

blocks from quilt
blocks from quilt

Constructive Craft Criticism

A textile artists group in Queensland

When I lived in Brisbane, I was invited by Tina (Sutton) to join this prestigious artists group. I learned so much there, from the artists, and from the art critics who viewed our work.

Many of these artists had come from art school backgrounds, and had skills I had not yet acquired.

Often they would show pieces with innovative techniques used in the creation.

And the one that I wanted to use for this quilt was:

Burning holes in the fabric.

Burn the fabric!!!

Are you mad?

So said Angela, who was visiting me in Sydney on the day I decided to do this.

Picture this:

  • A brand new house.
  • A brand new pale mint green bench top on cream cupboards.
  • A cream ceramastone sink.
  • Me at the sink with a glass of water (in case of fire!), some matches, and the chosen fabric.

What happened?

Fun for all

Angela cracked up!

As she watched, I lit the match and held the piece of fabric over the flame.

Whoosh! Up it went.

I tried to poke it into the glass. (Why was it such a small glass?)

I couldn't put it in the brand new cream sink.

The smoke alarm started screaming.

Angela was laughing so hard, she almost fell off the stool.

Not helpful, Ange!

Eventually I got the offending fabric into the water in the glass, and said, "That went well!"

And she told anyone who would listen about her crazy firebug mother.

As I related this to my artist friends, they told me what I was supposed to do — between gales of laughter.

You wet all the edges, leaving dry the area you want to burn away.

Then you carefully hold the dry part of the fabric over a candle.

It will only burn to the wet part and no house fire will happen.

Now they tell me!

I tried again this time with success

And why was I wanting to burn a hole in the fabric anyway?

I wanted to put the photograph of the blue brick-shaped piece under, so it seemed to be in the ground.

A jagged hole is the only thing that would suffice.

When I managed it (the right way this time) it was perfect, just what I had seen in my mind's eye.

I attached it using raw-edged machine applique, free machining over it in a design like the sheaves of wheat style print on the background fabric.

Blue asbestos mine adit - at Wittenoom in West Australia

Easy when you know how!

like most things.

I have used the technique since with no disasters happening, but it makes a good yarn, doesn't it?

© 2009 Jan T Urquhart Baillie


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)