Monday, 21 April 2014

All Aflame and Arrow Heads from Learning Curves in 9 Squares

After the excitement of last weeks guest post with Lori at The Inbox Jaunt thanks to all of you who visited the tutorial. I hope many of you found a new source of inspiration in Lori's wonderful FMQ and welcome to new visitors who through the tutorial discovered this blog. If you left a message and I did not reply, this is because you are a 'no-reply blogger' - a problem that often crops up if you are on Goggle plus.

Arrow Heads - from Learning Curves in 9 Squares

So after dramas with show quilts and missed deadlines, back to the Learning Curves in 9 Squares. Arrow Heads is the 5th of the squares you have seen so far. A single border of this pattern is very effective - almost more so I think than en- masse as here.  I like the look of it, but it is not one of my favourites to stitch. I keep forgetting whether I am turning left or right and it takes a lot of concentration. Remember this piece is a trial - hence the learning curves - and one of the lessons learnt here is that pale colours don't work. You may be able to see the FMQ on this somewhat wonky photo (sorry about that), but step a few feet away, and you can't see anything.

All Aflame from Learning Curves in 9 Squares

There is no such problems with this square. The deep red shows up beautifully. The name I think is pretty obvious. This is a design that is very adaptable and works very well around corners

Cobbler's Nightmare from Learning Curves in 9 Squares

I asked your help in naming two of my motives - many thanks to all those who left suggestions. It was fascinating to see what was evoked in viewers. I did like the suggestion of DNA for the above one, but also a few visitors liked the humour of my suggestion of 'Cobbler's Nightmare' and since it appears the joke is obvious enough, I will go with that. The pale green by the way, poses the same problem as the yellow.

Fly-away-home from Learning Curves in 9 Squares

This was the one that really got your creative juices flowing. There was no doubt at all that all of you thought organic both vegetable and animal. There were flowers, hay and vines as well as hearts, lungs and back-bones! My thanks to you all, but particularly to Norma Schlager who came up with the nursery rhyme 'Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home' as a title, which I really loved.

Now I can hear all my British visitors shouting 'but it isn't Ladybug, it's Ladybird'. A bit of Internet research has shown the common British Ladybird is indeed the same insect known as Ladybug in the States - a beetle loved for its appearance and eating of pests such as greenfly. And that got me wondering where the rhyme originated.

 'Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children have flown'

It is thought to have dated back to 18th century (I mean 16th century - see Marly's kind correction below) England and the time of Henry VIII's break with Catholicism. The Lady in question is Mary, mother of Jesus as representative of the Catholic faith and a suggestion to return home to Rome. 'Your house is on fire' is probably a reference to those burnt at the stake for refusing to convert to the new Church of England. 'Your children have flown' refers to Catholic congregations - who had flown into hiding, exile or converted. Fascinating where a piece of FMQ can take you!
To avoid the bird/bug confusion - and because although the motif does look like some kind of flying insect, it definitely isn't a ladybird, I thought I'd just call it 'Fly away home'.

Thanks for dropping by...

Hilary Florence

And for all those of you who missed it, here is the tutorial that appeared as a guest post on Lori's blog last week

Hello Quilters. I am Hilary Florence and I am really thrilled and excited that Lori has agreed to let me do a guest post on her blog. Although our quilting styles are very different, like Lori, I love to create new free motion quilting patterns. So, what better topic than how to start with a simple idea and by playing here and tweaking there, changing it to create:

Theme and Variation

I am going to start with a very simple, elegant design which lets you get into a lovely rhythm on a swinging cross over curve.

Start with a simple downward curve out to the left.

 Stitch up  the middle stopping just short of the starting point

 Now do a mirror image of the curve - out to the right this time, cross over and do another curve to the left - making and inverted S shape.

Go straight up the center, stopping short of the cross over line. You are now ready to begin the motif again with your inverted S - and that's it. Keep going as long as you want.

So - that's the theme, on to the variations

If you have a curve, alter the depth of it.

My first curve was pretty shallow. Here I have made it much deeper, into semi - circles. You can do anything in between or even push it even further and make the motif wider than it is long.

If you have a curve, turn it into a V

Instead of soft curves you now have sharp angles, giving the motif quite a different character. The central line is now enclosed in a box. Think of going across from right to left at 45 degrees, making the exterior angles 90 degrees.

 If you have sharp angles, round them.

The change here is more subtle. Still Vs rather than curves, but this has a softer look.

If you have straight lines, put a kink in them.

This again is not a great change but it gives another feel. Each side of the box should kink slightly towards the centre. Put the kink in the outer lines only, not the central line. The cross right to left cross-over line is now a little more complicated as it has to first kink upwards towards the upper box and then downwards towards the lower box.

Now come the real fun!

If you have a central line, embellish it!

Anything goes here and there are lots of possibilities. Here are just some examples.
I've taken the semi-circle version, started my upward line and then inserted a (more-or-less) symmetrical meander. You could also think of this as a very squashed S.

Next I've gone back to my original flat-curve shape and filled it almost meanders. Just enter and exit with a short bit of straight line. This is one of my favourites and it usually finds a place somewhere in my quilts

The sharp cornered square version deserves a couple of sharp thorns.

And here is the same motif with all the corners smoothed out!

This 'squiggle' also makes a good centre line. Start curving upwards to the left, change direction and curve gently upwards, change direction again and curve upwards to reach the top of the inverted 'S'. 

If you have a nearly close point, open it up.

In all the samples up until now, the middle line has nearly but not quite met the upper line giving the illusion of a square or circle. Now, I have only gone about two thirds of the way up (with the embellishing circle placed about one third of the way up)and dropped the next cross-over line opening the motive up more.

And finally, if you have been there, done that, go back and do it all again!

This one is taken from the current piece I am working on, hence the enclosing 'tram lines'. It is a combination of two of the above variations. Firstly, I have done the rounded square version without central embellishment. I have then gone back stitching over with the circular version and the central squiggle - and I do mean gone back. Of course you could start at the top again, but I suppose I am too lazy to deal with all the threads involved in stopping and starting. When ever possible, I will stitch down a row and then back up. This is also excellent practise for when dealing with items that are too bulky to turn round.

So there we are - from one idea to many versions. All of the above samples are about 1 inch wide with the exception of the last which is one and a half inches. One inch is a good width to start with, but you can also vary the density by varying the size.

Finally, a word about marking. I often say that I mark as little as possible and advocate learning to love your wobbles! I am in awe of the skill of FMQ quilters who produce absolutely identical motifs, but I like the organic look of everything a bit wonky and each repeated motif having its own individuality. I admit to being anxious about this when I considered Lori's wonderful tidy accurate quilting and wondered if I should make an exception. In the end, I decided to be true to my philosophy and stay a bit messy! To start off with I advise marking guide lines 1 inch apart until you can feel the motif. You can chose whether to be neat and tidy and do this with a ruler, or free and easy and mark the lines free hand!  I would be interested to hear where you find easier/better for you. I personally also feel it helps to draw the motif first, or at least to trace it with your finger.

It remains to thank Lori for allowing me to do a guest spot on her blog. I feel very honoured. At the time of writing this, she has just revealed that she has been asked to do a bimonthly column for the  American Quilter  magazine and I want to add my voice to the congratulations. It is richly deserved.

If you would like to see more of my work and fmq designs, please visit my blog at  

Thanks for reading

Hilary Florence

Please find below a list of linky parties. I may not link with all of the every week, but with some of them most weeks. Please go and have a look at some of the other wonderful quilts and quilters there.
Anything goes Mondays @
Linky Tuesday at Free motion by  the river­­­­ @
Fabric Tuesday @    
Sew cute Tuesday @ 
Show and tell Tuesday @
WIP Wednesday at freshly pieced   @
WOW = WIPs on Wednesdays  @  
WIP Wednesday at TN + TN  @
I Quilt Thursdays @
Really Random Thursdays @
Needle and Thread Thursday @
Off the wall Fridays @


  1. Beautiful patterns; thanks for sharing them and the origin of their names. I'd like to point out, though, for the sake of historical accuracy, that the reformation in England and Henry VIII (the one with 6 wives) were in the 16th and not the 18th century. "Four-and-twenty blackbirds" and "Mary, Mary, quite contrary" are also nursery rhymes with their origins in those troubled times. I wish my FMQ was as accurate as my knowledge of England in the 16th century. [sigh]

    1. Opps, what a typo and how embarrassing! Henry VIII's reign was from 1509 to 1547. Thank you so much for the correction Marly. I don't seem to be having a great time with dates at the moment! You keep practicing your FMQ, I'll keep going learning accuracy with dates and maybe we will both improve!
      Hilary Florence

  2. As always, an interesting post from the first word to the last. Thank you.

  3. I just love your designs, they remind me of ancient stone writings :) There are so many ties back to earlier centuries for many children's nursery rhymes. Some of them not so pleasant! Ring around the rosy comes to mind.

  4. There's something in Aflame that really speaks to me. I wish I could explain better but sometimes attraction is unexplainable. Those are great names for the other blocks and thanks for the history......I found it fascinating.

  5. Thanks for this great design!

  6. amazing quilting and love all the variations I'm adding you to my reading list

  7. Great patterns at the end. I'm going to load a practice piece and try some of those at the end. Thanks for all the different variations, what inspiration it is to look at things in different ways,

  8. Wow! Your quilting is incredible!!

  9. I love your quilting. It's just like artwork.

  10. These are just lovely and I will be trying these soon. Thank you for sharing these designs and their evolution... You write beautifully and I love the history lesson that accompanies the post.

  11. Thank you for sharing all your designs and opinions. Especially enjoyed your observation on how the colours of the thread effect the outcome. Great post, as always, Hilary!

  12. Thanks for sharing your wonderful designs, Hilary!

  13. Beautiful quilting Hilary! I love Fly Away Home!

    Thanks so much for linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday!

    :) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation