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Embellishing quilts: with stitchery

Updated on March 6, 2016
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Quilter, author, tutor, and columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been sharing her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.

To embellish or not to embellish

That is often the question for many quiltmakers.

I don't embellish my quilts with heavy encrustations of bead trails or buttons. I use hand or machine embroidery, some ribbons and large ribbon roses.

A commissioned piece

using satin photo prints

SingerĀ® Sewing Machines celebrated their 150th anniversary and I was asked to make a quilt using the prints that had been produced on white satin. The reason I was asked was because at that time I was a quilting consultant for Singer Australia, and the nine prints were being offered to people for a national competition.

I was asked to see what I could do with them to inspire competition entrants. All the prints had to used as per the rules.

The prints were of old magazine advertisements that had appeared over a century before.

It was a considerable challenge as I didn't usually make quilts using such particular imagery.

The design process

starts on paper this time

I sketched a few rough ideas out and then decided that I would make a fan, using the seven prints that were of approximately the same dimensions. The other two prints, which were very different in orientation and size, were to be used at the top.

Two of the seven selected for the fan blades had circular prints on the rectangular satin blocks, so I decided they could be the ends of the open fan.

The colour scheme came from the images on the satin, and the main colour I chose was a soft mint green. Creams and apricots were my complementary colour choices.

I collected together threads, ribbons, and laces for the palette.

I had just acquired a new XL-5000 SingerĀ® sewing/embroidery machine, and decided to showcase the built-in embroidery designs that were in the machine in the design.

Starting with some off-white satin, I embroidered sections for between each fan blade.

Crazy pieced top section

fans are a feature of Victorian crazy patchwork

In my search for fabric, I found some mint green shantung, which has a shiny and a slub side, so I made embroidered pieces using apricot rayon threads on the green. Some were on the shiny (wrong) side, some on the slub side.

When I had enough, I pieced these into fans, crazy patch style and made a border for the top of the quilt.

Top border - Victorian crazy pieced

Crazy patchwork with a twist

Are you a fan of crazy patchwork?

See results

Fan blades - with woven canes

To simulate the woven bottom of the blades, I sewed a lattice work of ribbon, and twin needle stitching on organdy over the quilt background.

A slippery slope.

Tiny hand made ribbon roses, and beautiful heavy cream lace trim, finished this area off.

Another look at the fan base

Final touches

at the base

The fan was so fabulous, it needed a fabulous handle.

Can you imagine a Victorian lady holding the fan up to her face and fanning herself to show off the flowers?

Hand made roses - using satin ribbons

A fan-cy handle for the fan

Singer Sewing Machines - 1853 - 2003

Above the fan I embroidered some motifs, and the commemoration date.

I've Always Been A Singer Fan - the quilt's title

And I'm a singer as well.

Well travelled

and loved by many

The quilt became a symbol for Singer Australia for a few years, and travelled all over Australia, and then across China, and Malaysia.

It's back home now and I love to look at it as it's so different from my other work.

A satisfying challenge.


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