The wonderful thing about quilts is the way they can look good at a distance because of their design or colours, and then on closer inspection they suddenly become alive with all sorts of exciting textures and embellishments you hardly noticed before.
The Day Before the Leaves Fell
The Day Before the Leaves Fell, 97 x 97cm (38 x 38"). A glorious celebration of autumnal colours and motifs. The colour palette of gold, plum and earthy brown is successfully pulled together by borders in grey and soft orange, decorated with an over sized ric rac trim. Photographs by Jonathan Farmer.
My quilt ‘The Day Before the Leaves Fell’ was fun to make because every square is a little different. The layout is basically a traditional nine patch of nine patch blocks, but with a contemporary feel. It features hand dyed and printed cottons, plus commercial fabrics with some netting, muslin and felt for good measure. I also incorporated different ways of texturing fabrics to make the blocks more interesting at close quarters. A lot of these techniques are very simple to try and the majority were developed as I worked directly with the fabric, and with the autumn colours in my mind. There is some repetition in the squares to provide a balance and harmony throughout the quilt.
These fabric manipulation and embellishment techniques can be used to provide a little extra texture in any quilt, either in a quilt of squares as here, or in traditional patchwork blocks such as the centre of a log cabin block or eight pointed star. You could also use any of these ideas in crazy piecing or pictorial quilts. However, some of these methods are best used in wall hangings rather than bed quilts that you might need to wash (for obvious reasons as you will see)!
The following two wall quilts were assembled to incorporate many of the sample squares I had sewn. I have explained the various techniques that you can try. Have fun playing with the fabric because that is really all it is! If you want you can try this as a kind of experimental workshop. First, choose a range of colours that work well together, perhaps according to a theme you may have in mind, such as colours of the sea, of summer, of a flower garden. Before you start, gather together if you can a number of fabrics other than cottons - pieces of muslin, felt, lamé, sheer fabrics, netting and lace are all suitable for manipulation or embellishment. Also collect different colours and thicknesses of threads, novelty yarns, braids and wools as these can be used for couching and decorative quilting. (Couching is a very useful stitch technique, common in embroidery. One thicker, decorative thread is laid down on a background fabric and another, often contrasting, thinner thread is used to anchor the first by small stitches at right angles).
Wall Quilts
I find it useful to make a square template from clear plastic, or alternatively cut a square window in a piece of card (in these examples, the plastic template or window is 4"). When you have finished making an area of texture you can place the template over the top of the square and see immediately the best part of it for your quilt. Once the best section has been identified, draw lightly around the edge of the template and use this as your sewing line. To make the process easier, you should start with a piece of fabric at least 5" square. Any excess fabric can be cut off later if necessary. When you have completed a number of these sample squares you can sew them together to make a small wall hanging, adding sashing and borders as required. Each textured square has a finished measurement of 4".
Have fun playing and I am sure you will come up with ideas of your own for extra texture!


  • Make the sashing and borders relatively calm if your patchwork is busy and also keep the quilting simple.
  • If you repeat colours and fabrics across your quilt, you will create a feeling of balance and unity.
Sampler quilt sewn from sixteen textured squares.
Sampler quilt sewn from sixteen textured squares. Shown in the photo above from left to right. Photographs by Jonathan Farmer.

Row 1

  • Pleats
  • Hand stitching: French knots and seeding plus painted lace
  • Fabric cut in 1" squares with the edges frayed
  • Metallic netting laid over a contrasting backing

Row 2

  • A 1/4 log cabin block, using fringed edges, lamé and satin fabrics
  • Woven strips of fabric with raw edges laid over a contrasting plain cotton and secured with zigzag stitching
  • A spiral of scrim (or you could use wool or braid) attached with zigzag stitching
  • Threads couched in a wavy pattern

Row 3

  • Tied quilting. The thread ends are separated with a pin to give a soft effect
  • Oversized hand sewn stitches
  • Crazy patchwork using the same colour but different textured fabrics
  • Reverse appliqué using a foil print fabric underneath

Row 4

  • Strips sewn together, including some fringed edges of silks and hand dyed fabrics
  • Channels sewn through two layers of fabric, then stuffed with wool to create a raise ridge
  • Twisted pleats
  • Hand-dyed felt, silver fabric paint dots and dyed Broderie Anglaise.