Fancy Work


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My d’oyley collection includes many embroidered pieces worked by my Mother, Aunties and a Great Aunt.

Auntie Joan’s old d’oyley

This old d’oyley embroidered by Auntie Joan became the inspiration for my latest hooked rug design ‘New Beginnings’.

New Beginnings

I hooked the rug in hand cut woollen fabrics purchased at Op Shops.

The long, cold nights during Winter provided more time for hand quilting. I completed my Peony Rose quilt and added Prairie Points for a fancy finish.

Prairie Points pressed ready to stitch together

Prairie Points in place ready to add to quilt

The pattern for this quilt is from the book In The Beginning by Sharon Yenter Evans. I made Ferol’s Peony Rose in French General fabrics and used a vintage sateen for the lattice.

I have stitched two more quilt tops which are now ready for basting and hand quilting. I hand pieced the Old Fashioned Spools top and machine pieced the medallion quilt.

Old Fashioned Spools

Medallion Quilt

Spring has arrived here with an abundance of golden wattle and thankfully some much needed rain.

Happy Stitching and take care, Janette The Plain Needlewoman

French Coverlet


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Soft, muted colours were used to create this hexagon and diamond coverlet.

The maker had a large collection of the patterned and plain material available to work with. The fabric is a heavy weight cotton, possibly furnishing fabrics.

The maker arranged the plains and patterned fabrics to create a medallion setting and fussy cut her pieces. The colours in the coverlet are subtle and beautiful. The quilt is finished with a French braid. The use of the braid to finish the edges of a hexagon quilt is worth noting.

The quilt was pieced using the English paper piecing method. I found small traces of papers in the corners of the quilt, which unfortunately were too small to provide any information.


Detail of fabrics

Fussy Cutting

The quilt was purchased at an auction in country Victoria and it was stated that it was bought in France. The fabrics verify this. My research on the fabrics used in the coverlet suggest it may have been stitched between 1920s to 1950s. This is also the opinion of two textiles specialists that I consulted.

The hexagons measure 3.5 x 4 cm with an outside edge of 2 cm. The diamonds are a tiny 2 cm x 3.5 cm. The coverlet measures 220 cm x 150 cm.

There are some unravelled seams that need attention and are on my list of repairs to be carried out. Winter has arrived in my part of the world and it is perfect weather for stitching. I hope to finish quite a few quilting projects during the cooler months including repairs to some of the old quilts in my collection.

Centre of the coverlet.

Take care and Happy Stitching, Janette – The Plain Needlewoman

One Patch Quilts


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Diamond Quilt

One patch quilts have been a mainstay of quilters since people picked up needles, thread and scraps of fabric.

Squares, triangles and diamonds or more complex shapes such as hexagons and clamshells have been used time and time again to create sophisticated designs.

One patch quilts can follow a formal layout of scraps and colours or can be randomly pieced out of the scrap basket.
Either way they make wonderful quilts.

Some of the one patch quilts in my collection include squares, triangles, tumblers, hexagons and apple core shapes.

Diamonds circa 1960s.

I purchased this quilt top at an antique market and hand quilted it in the Baptist Fan design. The maker had some great fabrics in her scrap basket including one with the American State flags and the year the states joined the United States of America. The last two to join were Alaska in 1958 and Hawaii in 1959. So we can presume this fabric was purchased in 1959 or later.

The quilter used great skill in her fabric placement. Solid colours are used for the diamonds in one direction and patterned fabrics in the other direction.

Detail of quilt and vintage fabrics used for the backing.

Old Fashioned Spools

Work in Progress

This is a quilt that I am presently hand piecing. I prefer the name Old Fashioned Spools but it is more commonly called Apple Core or Double-Bitted Axe. I am alternating light and dark fabrics throughout.

Vintage Tumbler

This quilt top contains shirtings, mourning prints, florals, plains, stripes and checks. Two cheddar yellow tumblers and the use of red and white spotted fabrics brighten up the sombre tone of the quilt. The top is hand pieced.

Tumbler Quilt top circa 1900s.

1910’s Triangles

The maker of this quilt planned her use of fabrics carefully making sure she had enough of each one to stitch a row of triangles across the quilt. The fabrics used are typical of the 1910’s but the indigos appear to be from earlier. The indigos are patterned with white and cheddar designs.

Simple shapes make wonderful quilts

I hope you enjoy seeing some of my one patch quilts and may be inspired to use your scraps to carry on this lovely quilting tradition. Happy Patching and thank you for visiting, Janette – The Plain Needlewoman

Dressmakers’ Quilts

Hexagon Quilt circa 1970s

Prior to the influence of the revival of quilting in the 1970s quilts would predominately have been made using dressmaking cottons and the scraps remaining from home sewing. The majority of these quilts would have been Hexagon quilts stitched over paper or simple shapes machined stitched together.

I attempted a hexagon quilt in 1973 having found a pattern in an English Womens’ Weekly magazine. I used scraps from dressmaking and fabric cut off from shortening hems of bought clothes. The Mini skirt being the fashion of the time. This piece remains unfinished but it is interesting for the fabrics it contains.

Hexagon Quilt Top

This hexagon quilt top contains myriad fabrics obviously saved from dressmaking. The fabrics were probably saved over a number of years. The maker fussy cut many of her fabrics to create a wonderful time capsule of the fabrics used by modern dressmakers.  

Fussy Cutting

The quilt was stitched over papers and the papers still remain on the outside edges. The papers have been cut from recycled paper. Wrappers from many household items can be seen such as loose tea wrappers, cigarette wrappers, labels from cans and letters and note paper.

Papers still in place

This quilt was found in an op shop in country Victoria but unfortunately no other information is known. I am happy to leave this quilt unfinished as a document of the times.

Hexagon Coverlet

This coverlet contains a great collection of dressmaking fabrics including some brushed interlock. The pieced section has been hand stitched to a new cotton sheet. Fortunately the maker left the label on the sheet which states Made in Australia. The maker positioned a row of hexagons to sit over the pillows when the coverlet is placed on a bed.

Detail of hexagons

One Patch Coverlet

This patchwork coverlet is pieced of squares in two sizes. Small squares measuring 7 cm are centred between larger squares measuring 14 cm.

The fabrics are cottons in plains, florals and a good selection of seersuckers. The border is a buttery yellow cesarine and is applied to the front, folded to the back and top stitched through all layers. The corners are neatly mitred.

Pretty scraps

The quilt was made in country Queensland. It measures 87 cm by 160 cm and may have been made for a small single bed. There is no batting and the backing is an open weave cotton. Very neatly made and so pretty.

Little Cot Quilt

I purchased this cot quilt at an antique market and all the seller knew about it was that it came from Mildura, Victoria. It is a simple quilt made of randomly pieced squares stitched in rows of 6 by 6. Fabrics are typical of the 60s with plains, checks, florals and a juvenile print. The pieced binding serves as a narrow border on both sides of the quilt. The backing is a very nice floral that appears to be an older fabric.

Pretty backing fabric

The quilt is not quilted but does have an inner layer of an open weave cotton.

These pieces of patchwork are not remarkable in their execution, style or design but they are special because of the time and place of their making. They are very special to me and I admire the women who made them.

Thank you for visiting and Happy Quilting.

My Year of Repairing


img_5160Patchwork Strippy Quilt


First on my New Year’s Resolution List for 2017 is to carry our repairs and restoration on quilts in my collection that need a little TLC.  Armed with the excellent book ‘Quilt Restoration – A Practical guide’ by Camille Dalphond Cognac, I feel confident in tackling the intricate work needed to repair the quilts and to do so in such a way as to preserve their future.

img_4850Quilt Restoration – A Practical Guide by Camille Dalphond Cagnac



This beautiful English Patchwork Strippy Quilt is a stunning quilt displaying a great assortment of scraps tied together with a Turkey Red Twill. The red has held up well but some of the patterned fabrics have worn.  Fortunately the white fabric is in excellent condition.

I purchased the quilt from the Antique Textile Company and Christopher Wilson-Tate provided me with information on the quilts provenance.  The quilt is from a family in Alnwick, Northumberland, circa 1880’s and is a great example of North Country English Quilting.



Back of Quilt showing the cable quilting design.

To undertake the repair of the quilt I have cut squares of reproduction and vintage fabrics.  Placing right sides of fabric to butter muslin, I stitch around the entire patch.

I make a small cut into the butter muslin, trim the seams and turn right sides out.  I ease out the corners using a stiletto and press the patches.  They are now ready to be carefully appliquéd onto the worn square.img_4873

Butter muslin



Squares cut and ready to sew.


img_4876Turned patches


img_4879Pinned and ready to appliqué


img_4880Stitched in place.

The final step will be to replicate the quilting design over the patches.

To quote Camille Dalphond Cognac “Scrap quilts are a joy to restore because the fabrics are chosen to blend into the totality of as many as a hundred or more colours.” With many hours of joyous stitching ahead, I hope to complete this task so this beautiful quilt will be preserved for many years to come.

Hope your stitching brings you much Joy.


The Lost Ships – circa 1890s

img_4742Seventy-Two  Lost Ship Blocks are set diagonally with a red and black print to create this stunning quilt. The blocks are pieced using a different fabric design in each block.  These fabrics are complimented with a lovely cream and brown design.



The quilt contains a block where the maker found herself short of one print and pieced a section of the ship with a different but similar colour.




The fabrics used consist of florals, plaids, geometric designs and a few very unusual patterns.  The maker had a good supply of scraps as well as the red and cream.  The quilt displays 75 print fabrics. The scrap pieces may well have been dressmaking fabrics but obviously the red and cream was purchased for quilt making.



The piecework and quilting is very well executed.  I presume this quilt was made by a talented and experienced needlewoman.  The quilt is finished with the quilt front neatly rolled over to the back to create the binding.   It is stitched in place with tiny, neat stitches. The backing is a plain homespun.  The quilt appears to have never been washed.

The quilt measures 66 inches by 84 inches and the  block measures just under  5  inches.



In Ruth E. Finley’s book ‘Old Patchwork Quilts and The Women Who Made Them’ published in 1929, Finley refers to this pattern  “A pattern that was popular below the Mason and Dixon Line was called Rocky Glen though in the fishing villages of the Seaboard, where it was frequently employed, it was known as The Lost Ship.” So this is the name I shall use for this wonderful quilt which I am very happy to have to add to my collection.

Thank you for visiting and best wishes for your quilting endeavours, very warmly, Janette

The Plain Needlewoman.







A Learning Curve


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Curved piecing is considered more difficult to accomplish than geometric designs. But with so many beautiful patterns to choose from it is worth attempting to learn to sew curves. There are many fine quilting books available that provide step by step instructions for piecing the curve.

I have made a few curved pieced quilts including two Robbing Peter to Pay Paul quilts, a Double Wedding Ring and a Mill Wheel quilt. I have recently hand pieced a quilt in memory of my mother which I have named “Marjie’s Star”. It is a six pointed star set with melon shaped pieces. It was a challenging design but enjoyable to hand piece.img_4676img_4681img_4677

Amongst my collection of old quilts, I have a Friendship Circle quilt.img_4641

This quilt is pieced from woollens, old suiting fabrics, velvets and silk. The block measures 17 inches. There are 16 full blocks and 4 half blocks to finish one side of the quilt. The seams are stitched with feather stitching and the quilt is tied. The backing is a paisley flannel.img_4685img_4684

Curved designs were popular during the 1930s and 1940s. These included the Double Wedding Ring, Drunkard’s Path, Fan and Dresden Plate quilts. Two unfinished projects that I have recently acquired both contain curves. The first project consists of 14 Dresden Fan blocks pieced and appliquéd onto a white background and set with hot pink. Also included with my purchase is extra hot pink fabric and the start of a scalloped border for the quilt. There is certainly enough to complete this 1930s beauty.img_4665img_4664img_4666

The Maker of the second project hadn’t progressed very far along with her piecing. There was a paper pattern with the partial blocks which I have identified as Mohawk Trail.img_4667

There are pieced blocks, partially pieced and many wedge sections cut.img_4668

I have re-drafted the pattern and will stitch a couple of blocks to see if it is going to work out. These sweet old pieces have sat undisturbed for many years and may have to wait sometime yet.

As this year is fast coming to an end, I will add these projects on my list of quilts to finish in 2017. Meanwhile I am busily hand quilting, and hope to finish a vintage Trip Around the World quilt before we bid farewell to 2016.

Happy Quilting, Janette – The Plain Needlewoman.

Piece by Piece


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Two new additions to my postage stamp quilt collection arrived recently.

Pieces of Irish chain quilt

Pieces of Irish chain quilt

One piece is an incomplete Irish Chain quilt top. The maker had nearly completed the top when something caused her work to be discontinued. Fortunately all the pieces were kept together, including an incomplete row, many extra squares, the little cardboard template and a large piece of muslin.

Blocks and plain fabric for finishing the top

Blocks and plain fabric for finishing the top

I will complete the row, tidy up some of the piecing and appliqué work and finish the top.

Love the plain red.

Love the plain red.

I have enough of the plain fabric for the borders and possibly enough cut squares to add another narrow pieced border. The patterned fabrics include florals, plaids, stripes and novelty prints.


The maker of this assortment of tiny pieces hadn’t progressed beyond stitching some of her one inch squares into rows.
The bundles of pieced sections were rolled into sets and a number was written on the last square to record how many squares are in the row.

Pencilled Number on the wrong side of fabric

Pencilled Number on the wrong side of fabric

It appears the maker was planning a particular design but the pattern is not clear to me. The basic square can be arranged in many ways. This could be a simple grid of continuous squares or a more complicated pattern such as Steps to the Altar or Trip Around the World.

Two strips of cardboard were sent with the piecework and there is a name written on it, but unfortunately it is too faded to read.

Faded writing

Faded writing

The squares measure 1 inch finished size and were hand stitched by an experienced seamstress. The fabrics are dress weight cottons and include novelty prints, floral designs, checks, stripes and geometrics.


My two Postage Stamp projects demonstrate how the quilters of the Depression era were able to create beautiful quilts out of so little. It is my intention to complete the work they started – Piece by Piece.img_4419

Happy Quilting from Janette, The Plain Needlewoman

Doll Quilts


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Every so often I make a doll quilt or two. It is a nice change to work on a small project that can be finished quickly. Doll quilts were often made by children to teach them sewing and were usually made from scraps.

Log Cabin made from tiny strips

Log Cabin made from tiny strips

When I start a new project I cut and sew a few more patches that I need and these extra pieces often find their way into a doll quilt. This is also a good way to trial colours and techniques. Children love playing with the little quilts and spend happy hours tucking the dolls or teddies into bed.

Here are a few of my doll quilts – hope you enjoy seeing them and that you may be inspired to start a doll quilt for your collection.

Great books  for inspiration

Great books for inspiration


Happy doll quilt making, Janette

Sweet Old Things


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I have recently acquired a couple of very sweet old unfinished projects.The first of these is a house block quilt top. It is predominately made from feed sacks and contains plains, florals, plaids and one polka dot.

Florals and plains

Florals and plains

House block

House block

A deliberate mistake perhaps!

A deliberate mistake perhaps!

The quilt was not particularly well made and is slightly wonky. Despite this it has a certain charm and as I love feed sack fabrics and house quilts I couldn’t pass it by.

I am stabilising the edges by stitching narrow ribbon to the outside edges and easing the blocks onto the ribbon to bring them back to size.

Ribbon stitched to outside edge of each block

Ribbon stitched to outside edge of each block

I am hopeful that I will achieve a flatter, straight quilt that I can then quilt and finish.

The second project that I am working on is a collection of signature blocks.

Album Blocks

Album Blocks

The fabrics used to piece the blocks are typical of the 20s or 30s.Some of the blocks are complete with an embroidered name while others have been signed but not embroidered. The piecework ranges from basic stitching to an expert level. The blocks were not all exactly the same size. With a little trimming I have a working measurement of 12 3/4 inches. I am setting them together with lattice and setting squares cut from feed sack fabric and adding these to each block. When joined this will create a nice scrappy design.

Lattice and setting squares

Lattice and setting squares

On the design wall.

On the design wall.

The blocks are very charming and include interesting fabrics. These friends made use of fabrics they had on hand and the cream backgrounds include calicos, taffeta and a heavy linen.

Nellie ran short of fabric!

Nellie ran short of fabric!

While peacefully stitching these two projects I am reflecting on the lives of the ladies who made the original pieces. It is lovely to finish a quilt started many years ago. While contemplating the lives of these quilters I am also giving some thought to another little set of blocks.

More Feed sacks in these gorgeous blocks

More Feed sacks in these gorgeous blocks

I am waiting for inspiration of how to set these adorable blocks together into a quilt.

I will keep you posted. Peaceful Stitching from Janette, The Plain Needlewoman.