To pre-wash or not to pre-wash?

I get asked a lot about pre-washing fabrics. And my answer is…. yes and no…

And I do realise that is immensely confusing.

If you pre-wash fabrics (and in this post I’m talking 100% cotton fabrics used in patchwork) you lose the chemicals that the fabrics are treated with that make them look so lovely on a bolt. Those chemicals keep the fabrics from crushing badly as we all know cotton does, it makes the fabrics stay nice so that we are more likely to purchase them. BUT the thing with those chemicals is we don’t want them to remain on our fabrics, nor do we want the chemicals that fabrics are treated with when they enter the country – these chemicals are used to kill any potential nasties that might be hitching a ride across the border/across the seas.

So in that instance you wash everything right?


I don’t. Mainly because I like the feel of the fabric pre-washed and it certainly makes it easier to cut and piece. But that means that when my quilt is finished I run the risk of shrinkage and dyes leaking everywhere. But in the first instance (shrinkage) I don’t worry too much because cotton only shrinks 3-5% which I find an acceptable loss, other quilters don’t. Also by washing after you have made a quilt you may find the shrinkage makes your quilt look older than it really is – creating that vintage, loved look that older quilts have after many years. I have never had any trouble with excessive shrinkage.

Dyes on the other hand…

Some colours are more notorious than others for running, leaking and generally being a nuisance. In those cases I will wash the fabrics and if the project has other fabrics in it then I will wash the whole lot, so that if they do shrink they’ll all shrink at the same rate.

The colours that run – red, black and navy (and occasionally the variations of those), burgundy, maroon, charcoals and other dark greys, royal blues and denim blues.

Most other colours don’t tend to run or if they do they run so minutely you won’t notice and is not worth the hassle. But those listed above ^^^^ will run at varying degrees, and I find always at the most inconvenient of times (night before quilt given as gift for example). So don’t run the risk with them – plain and simple.

How to fix fabrics that run?

Wash fabrics that you think will run (or that you know will run from pre-testing it) by retarding the dye in the fabric with salt or other commercial dye retarders. Salt is cheaper and everyone has some at home. Wash it as you would normally wash your clothes in the machine, just adding the salt in instead of detergent. I tend to use about half a cup of salt per wash, more if there is more than 2m of fabric.

Wash as normal and check when the machine is spinning the second run of water through that the water is running clear. If it’s not repeat the whole process again. Line dry and then iron as the heat setting will also help with the retarding and stabilising of the dyes.

Another helpful product I’ve come across in my quilting travels is a product you can purchase from the supermarket called Colour Catcher.

Colour Catcher

Colour Catcher

Dylon’s Colour Catcher’s are around $6 for a box of 10 sheets. All you do is pop one sheet in with your wash and it collects all of the loose dye floating around in the water so it doesn’t re-enter your fabrics/clothes. This is very, very helpful when washing white fabrics to help stop that greying that happens to white clothes. Yes this product was originally intended for clothes but it works in the same way for fabric.

But now my fabrics don’t feel as nice as when I bought them?

Well there are two ways to deal with this problem –

1. Iron them well and just start cutting to make your quilt. In other words get on with it and just get used to working with softer fabrics.

2. Purchase some of Mary Ellen’s Best Press from me and starch your fabrics so that they are stiffer for you to work with. The starch will wash out and the best part is that your quilt will smell very nice while you are putting it all together.

Mary Ellen's Best Press Spray Starch $16.95 per bottle, refills available.

Mary Ellen’s Best Press Spray Starch $16.95 per bottle, refills available.


If you are like me and don’t wash fabrics as often as you should, you can try (no guarantees) what I do and wash a finished quilt with a colour catcher and a cup of salt. I have done it for most of my quilts and have never had fabrics run or too much noticeable (or worrying) shrinkage. HOWEVER – if you try this you do so at your own risk. I am not advising it as a sure fire option, just explaining what I do. I take the risk, but as I have worked with fabric for 13 or so years I have a knack of predicting when a fabric will try some nasty trick on me.

The only thing I find that drives me the most crazy with washing fabrics is the fraying. Now you can try washing in lingerie bags and pillowcases but the truth of the matter is if your fabric wasn’t cut properly at the shops or you’ve underestimated amounts, the fraying can lead you into all sorts of quilting disasters. My advice add extra to your purchase quantities to save grief in the long run. 5cm, 10cm whatever makes you happy and stress free. 🙂

If anyone has any Q&A type questions they would like answered as a blog post please post a comment below or email me

Have a terrific stitching week!

Marni x

A third of the way…

I really cannot believe we are already 9 days into the second half of the year. It always seems to me that everyone does this mad scramble about now (I blame tax time and school holidays), running around like headless chickens when really we all have plenty of time. The same amount of time. For the same things. That we’ve all done before.

So why on earth do we panic every year like this process is brand new and we’re terrified of it?

My theory on this is that its because it all has to do with money.

The one thing that we all want/need/have/lust after/hate/love. Money as they say makes the world go around but I do believe we would be better off without it. Go back to the old barter system, or exchange goods for services rendered. Makes more sense in my mind anyway.

But unfortunately the greedy and the powerful would not have the world that way and because they are greedy and powerful they seemingly have more control and say so.

This blog post this morning was meant to a happier one but money was definitely on my mind this morning as I too am trying to work out when I can set aside a few hours this week to get my tax done. Luckily I have the most awesome of accountants and I let him do all the hard work – I just need to make sure I send him files all in order. 🙂

So to end this blog post on a happier note here’s a peek at what I’ve been up to this last week and what I’m working on this week.


BOM #4 Pixel Heart

This month’s block is challenging only in its size – tiny 1.5in squares! There is no PDF for this block as its all pieced construction. 🙂

So in order to make this block pick out one of the three colours (pink, blue or green), some of the beige background fabric and a contrasting colour to the main colour you picked 9 (try not to pick a blue as the sashing for the quilt is blue).

Let’s get started!

Cutting ~

– from the beige background fabric cut two 1.5in strips and crosscut 31, 1.5in squares

– from the selection of coloured fabrics cut 50, 1.5in squares (I chose the pink so I cut 10 squares from one fabric and 8 squares from each of the remaining five prints – divide 50 by the amount of fabrics you have or juggle the numbers like I did)

– from your contrasting fabric cut one, 2in strip, crosscut this strip into 2 x 9in strips and then cut the remaining piece in half

NOTE: The border strip is cut larger than it needs to be – this is so we can reduce the warping when such a narrow piece is stitch on and pressed. It will be trimmed down to the correct size at the end.

Assembly ~

Lay out your squares next to your machine so you can stitch and return them to position (so you can keep track). I also suggest taking a photo of the block once you’ve settled on your placement just in case you mix up some squares and need reference. Accuracy is a must and you need to make sure your squares are 1.5in and you are using a 1/4in foot on your machine.

BOM #4

Lay out the 1.5in squares as shown – mix up our coloured squares to whatever suits you.

Stitch the squares together in pairs working your way through the whole block (don’t worry about the 9th square in a row he gets attached later). Then go back through the rows and piece two pairs together (still leaving square #9 out), then once again going through the rows piece the four-square sections together. Finally come back through and stitch that lonely little 9th square onto the end of each row.

Chain piecing

NOTE: I chain pieced this entire block because in my head I knew what square was where – you can chain piece as I have done BUT if you do this method please make sure you take a reference photo to help with the layout as it can get confusing.

pieced rows before pressing

Layout and check your block – check the colour placement and overall design.

Once all the rows have been pieced press the seams in alternating directions – see photo below.


alternating seams

Then carefully nest the seams as shown in the next photo, pin them and then stitch the rows together. Go slowly as you need every point to line up as best you can to help create the pixellated image.

Press the entire block and trim any edges that may need it.

Press and trim block.

Press and trim block.

Lastly attach your side border, press the seams and then attach the upper and lower borders.

Attach borders and press seams.

Attach borders and press seams.

Trim the border down to 1in from the seam line. then pop this block with the other three blocks.

Trim and press.

Trim and press.

We are now a quarter of the way through the BOM. 🙂



This is going to sound a tad crazy but this year Mum and I made it our personal challenge to see how long we could go without putting the heater on at home… well its the 25th today and Dad of all people (Mr I don’t feel the cold) asked for the heater to be put on.

So I’m not sure how that turned out as I left for the shop but we’ll see what’s happened when I get home this evening.

Meanwhile I have the heater on in the shop because this morning I wasn’t feeling 100% and I’m catching up on some instruction writing and sitting behind a computer typing makes for very cold feet and hands.

Over the coming weeks there is so much stuff happening that I feel a little daunted by the load but most of it can be sorted if I work to a plan, but as we all know the best plans go astray with the greatest of ease…. not sure what I can do about it really but I think it will be ok. Just pick one thing at a time and focus on that. 🙂

Our next market will be the 31st of August at the Scholastic Stadium, Duffys Road Terrigal with the Handmade Craft Market. It’s the market’s 3rd birthday so I will have some cute things for sale to celebrate. 🙂

If anyone is looking for a custom quilt order or machine quilting please see the relevant tabs at the top of the home page.

There’s only 3 days left of the sale – go to the STORE tab, start shopping and when you get to the checkout enter SS30 in the coupon box to receive your 30% off!

Oh – and just a reminder that the shop is only open this Friday from 9am – 12pm.

Stay warm, keep stitching!

Marni x

The recovery….

Last week at the Craft and Quilt Show at Darling Harbour’s Convention Centre was a terrific chance for everyone to dive into crafts old and new, before the show is moved to its new location next year while the convention centre is renovated/rebuilt.

I was working with my friend Hans on his stand Know-How Sewing Essentials. Due to dad’s illness I was unable to attend as a stallholder myself, but as I have one of Hans’ Nolting machines in my shop for machine quilting I was able to lend a hand and demonstrate on the stand for the week. I always love the hive of activity of a craft show – I’ve been to so many over the years in all of my various roles that they do all blend together but each show has its own unique atmosphere – mainly due to the locals who attend – NSW feels quite frantically paced compared to a SA show but what always remains the same is the love and enthusiasm we all have for this craft of ours. And that’s really the most important thing.

I met all sorts of quilters at the show – some just starting out, some who’ve quilted for years – some who were learning at school and some who hadn’t quite decided which way they wanted to take their quilting skills.

I had a great time at the show – I always do – catching up with all of my industry friends, sneaking in a little bit of shopping (did someone say Washi tape?) and working hard to make sure that all our customers walked away happy, more knowledgeable and ready to tackle their next project.

Recovering from the show takes a few days though – my feet all the way up to my hips are not forgiving me for what I’ve put them through but after a lazy day at home with Dad yesterday am feeling much more like myself. 🙂

Still I wouldn’t change it for the world.

This week apart from scheduled classes I am working on more magazine submissions and a few of my own personal craft things as well as more updating to the website and writing more patterns.

The sale is still on until the 27th of June – simply select all of your products and proceed through the shopping cart, when prompted enter SS30 to receive 30% off everything (Excludes wadding, machine quilting and machine servicing, class fees, pre-made quilts, selected kits and gift vouchers). Postage is also not included in the discount.

I’m also up to no good – planning a few things for the shop’s 2nd birthday which will be upon us very shortly and I simply cannot believe how time has flown.


Stay warm, keep stitching and have a lovely week.

Marni x




What’s happening at Frankenstein’s…

At the moment in the shop I have been head down bum up making new projects for the shop and for magazine publication.

I’ve been finishing off a few random things, working on new patterns and machine quilting. A friend of mine got married last week and we had a great time celebrating with her and her new hubby. 🙂

Busy little bee aren’t I?

Next week is the big Craft & Quilt Show at Darling Harbour Convention Centre – I’m down there doing a few odd things this year, but won’t be there as a stallholder. The shop will be closed from Wednesday 12th until the following weeks normal trading.

Anyways, back to Criminal Minds and my tea and doughnuts.

Marni x

Block #3

Afternoon all,

Here we are at block #3 of the Block of the Month.

Block #2 was emailed out as the beginning of last month was very hectic indeed. But you can get it here.

Block #3 is a sweet little bird, get the PDF here.

To make block #3 you need to use the same techniques as used in blocks #1 and #2 then continue as follows…

Note: Depending on which way you want your bird to face – facing left trace right side up, facing right trace from wrong side of template.

Tracing the bird

When stitching the beak as it is such a tiny appliqué shape make sure you set your zigzag stitch on your machine smaller. Also when cutting it out sometimes it helps to add a little extra to the edge that will sit underneath the bird’s body.

After you have stitched around the body, wing, beak and tail pieces tear away the stitch-n-tear from the back of the block. Place the block back over the template and trace the tail/feathers, head swirl and eye with a removable marking pen. I have used a Frixion iron away pen in orange.

Marking embroidery lines

Thread your hand needle with two strands of DMC thread (whatever colour you want) and back-stitch the tail feather centre lines and the bird’s eye. Lazy-Daisy stitch the feathers on the tail in a second colour. Pick a third colour and back-stitch the head swirl.

For those who need a reminder of the stitches used, click here for a link to a free downloadable guide to embroidery stitches.

I’ll upload a photo of the finished block in the morning as I’m just putting the finishing touches on my little bird and need to take some pictures in better light.


Marni x



Here is the photo of the finished block. I added a few French Knots along the edge of the head swirl because I felt this little bird needed a bit more of a flourish.


Block #3 Bird