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Rosellas in my garden quilt

Updated on June 8, 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.

Free machine embroidery enhances a quilt

Inspiration for a quilt can come from many sources. My sister gave me an old calendar some time back with prints from an artist who specialised in Australian Native birds.

There was a page with a pair of Eastern Rosellas and at the time, there was a pair which visited our garden in spring.

I decided to start a small wall hanging featuring the rosella, and the calendar as inspiration.

Image courtesy of

Guess what! - I won a blue ribbon at our local show

The finished quilt
The finished quilt
Courtesy of Wikipedia
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Brightly coloured plumage

but hard to see in the bush

Rosellas are very brightly coloured birds, and I am always amazed at how difficult they are to spot in a tree.

Unless you see them move, you wouldn't know they are there.

The male is brighter than the female, while juveniles are rather dullish.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

The page from my book - with rosellas

Page from my bird book
Page from my bird book

Field Guide Australian Birds - get yours from Amazon

The Princeton Field Guide to the Birds of Australia
The Princeton Field Guide to the Birds of Australia
This is where I found an excellent drawing of a rosella to guide me when shading the feathers.

The quilt was started

a few years ago and stalled

My students at the time used to comment on how much I had done (not!) when they came to class as it sat on the design wall awaiting inspiration.

crazy patched background started
crazy patched background started

First construct the background

I used crazy patch technique

I decided to use crazy quilting to construct the background, as I thought it led the eye to 'see' different leafy trees, some sky peeping through, and variety behind the birds.

I built up the areas from darks at the bottom, to lights at the top.

Because this quilt was not to be made up of blocks (as in a bed quilt), I made areas of crazy patch and then combined them into the whole, to completely cover the foundation fabric which was cut roughly to the finished quilt's size.

Designing the birds

from bird photos

Using my Gould's bird book, I worked out how the plumage would need to be positioned.

I cut out a shape for each of the two birds, and then began to cut fabrics which would give an illusion of having been painted. Painted with fabric instead of brushwork.

Great wing fabrics came from a butterfly wing, some of the feathers are actually leaves from a rainforest print. Others are irregular striped fabrics. I used whatever would fit the colours and the space.

Using the techniques from Free Style Quilts by Susan Carlson enabled me to begin these birds and my Ulysses butterfly quilt Daintree Dalliance.

Yoou can buy your own copy of this book (See the link below.)

As I chose each piece, I glued them down with a spot of fabric glue to keep them secure until I started the preliminary thread work.

Love this book - get yout copy at Amazon

I was inspired by this 'new' approach for designing quilts.

I made a wonderful butterfly quilt which is one of my favourites, using the techniques described here.

Free-Style Quilts: A "No Rules" Approach
Free-Style Quilts: A "No Rules" Approach
Well thumbed, with many post-it note bookmarks, read, re-read, absolutely inspiring.

The bird with its fabrics glued in place - and ready for embroidery

basic design for one rosella bird
basic design for one rosella bird

The quilt ready for embellishment - Background crazy pieced, and rosellas positioned on the tree

Rosella quilt background
Rosella quilt background
head of bird
head of bird

Noticed a problem...

with the bird at the front

He seemed to have a growth out of his head!

The lighter background area above his head appears to be shooting out from it. It's not so obvious in this little picture, but in the 'flesh', it is very visible.

I will need to cover that area with some of the gum blossoms below him.

The solution to the bird's head - Pinned ready to be embroidered

Fix for head on bird
Fix for head on bird

Adding shading - to indicate roundness in the bird's body

Contouring the bird's body
Contouring the bird's body

Close up of the body with its contours shaded - by free machine embroidery (the yellow of the body)

Contouring the bird's body
Contouring the bird's body

Decided to add more shading - to the breasts of the birds after looking at the picture in the bird book again

Green added to breast feathers
Green added to breast feathers

Starting outline of the bird's feet - on the branch

Bird's feet on the branch
Bird's feet on the branch


I have added some foreground leaves - representing the canopy

leaves at top of bird quilt
leaves at top of bird quilt

Susan's newest book - get yours from Amazon

Serendipity Quilts: Cutting Loose Fabric Collage
Serendipity Quilts: Cutting Loose Fabric Collage
I saw Susan on The Quilt Show dot com talking about this book. Inspiring!
work in progress rosella quilt
work in progress rosella quilt

Work in progress

until I have finished the free machine embroidery

So far, I have added gum blossoms around the branch on which the rosellas are perched, stitched over much of the bodies of each bird, embroidered the leaves at the top of the quilt, stitched down the tree branch.

There is much left of the bodies to stitch, and then I will be almost done.

Then I will quilt it, and enter it in our local show next year.

Keep dropping in and I'll add pictures as I progress.

Visit my website

Jan T's Utopia has lots of quilt galleries and tips

And now my paintings, too


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