Climate change and quilting

How often do we hear about climate change?

I live on a farm near Giant’s Castle, KwaZulu Natal, theoretically a wet part of the country. I say theoretically, as we have not been WET for nearly a decade! We’ve had the odd bit of rain, but not enough for the grass to grow, the cows to feed and the dams to fill. I won’t even mention watering my garden! Needless to say my garden is a very sad, brittle and dying mess.

Even though I may complain about my situation, I know this is something that is, most disturbingly, being experienced all around the world! Then we have the petroleum companies wanting to explore FRACKING. A process that requires HUGE amounts of water. How ludicrous. But that is another topic, and I digress….

How does this all fit with quilting,you may ask?

At the South African Quilt Festival in Johannesburg earlier this year I met a quilt teacher from Ireland who was making a Temperature Quilt. I was intrigued, so did some Googling. The wealth of ideas on Pinterest was inspiring. This got me to thinking how interesting it would be to log the daily maximum and minimum temperatures for a year. An opportunity for me to watch and see – are we really warming up?

Nearly all the quilt images I could find related to the Northern hemisphere, with the cold colours on the left and right sides of the quilt. A Southern hemisphere quilt will look quite different with the colours being swapped around.

The ideas are numerous….

So I decided that, starting on 1 Jan 2020, I will make one! And I challenge you to do the same.

Using Amafu Fabrics I have worked out the temperature chart and related colours, the quilt layout and pattern ideas, and put it all together as a kit. The kit will be available from 30 November 2019 at a price of R1450 excluding postage.

(Colours may not be true)

Kit Contents:

  • 15 colours, 8 fat 1/4’s for the extremes, 7 x 1/2m pieces for the mid-range temperatures. a total of 5.5m of fabric. (Extra fabric available on request) Fabrics based on each days’ block being 3.5″ x 2.5″ (allowing for a 1/4″ seam allowance) (Not including border, sashing or backing fabrics)
  • Temperature chart with equivalent fabric colour chart.
  • Pattern ideas and piecing instructions: flying geese/ triangles/ circles/etc. You choose which design you would like to do
  • Layout instructions: either as a Quilt-as-you-go, or creating pieced top to quilt once completed. (Instructions for both are included)
  • Weather condition symbols for embellishment by hand stitching should you so wish.
  • Packaged in a box for easy storage and access while you work with it during the year

To add extra interest and personalize the quilt you could add an extra element – perhaps your your overriding emotion for the day using emoticons. Some other suggestions could be weather symbols for particular days or a smaller overlaid block for local conditions on days you might be travelling. Reply to this email to order your kit early to avoid disappointment.

I think that this is going to be an amazing project, not only a 365 day record of external conditions, but also perhaps of some of the internal ones too. Our memories are generally so transient, so fleeting, that a project like this is a type of visual diary, helping us remember. Maybe in years to come we will look back in wonderment and see how things have changed, maybe not in ways we expected, but hopefully exciting nonetheless .

It ain’t over till the Fat Lady sings…

How often do we finish stitch the last block of a quilt and decide we’re done? All that’s left is to add some borders, then it’s ready to sandwich, quilt and bind. Nearly done!


Of a quilt top the borders are the song! They unify the central design through colour, style and size. Borders can transform a quilt from ordinary to extraordinary. Some general guidelines:

  • Colour: the colours used in the border should be the same as those used in the central design
  • Style: the style/design of the border should mirror/enhance/ highlight a design element in the quilt top
  • Size: the size of the borders should measure half that of a block in the quilt. For example, if your blocks are 12″, then the borders should measure 6″ all around.

The task this month is to complete the Circle Challenge, so I thought I would show you how I put my quilt together.

I decided not to sew up my quilt as a traditional 3 x 4 quilt top with sashings between the blocks, but to rather have the arrangement completely random. I also continued with my theme of using up all my scraps in the spaces between the blocks.

I then added a border strip to that.

For the next border I needed to decide on size, style and colour.

A general rule is that your borders should be 1/2 the size of a block. For example, these blocks were designed to be 12″ finished. Therefor the borders should be 6″ all around.

However, with my quilt top I no longer have blocks, but rather floating circles! These then determine the size of the border. Here I made up circles in proportion to a 12″ block – 4″ circles. TOO SMALL! Wrong proportion!

I’ll show you next month!


“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”
Attributed to Albert Einstein, but actually Rita Mae Brown, novelist

And boy, do I know this……..

As much fun as this whole “Circles Challenge” quilt project has been, there comes a time when you just stand up and walk away from the whole hot damn mess and go and do something else for a while.

Case in point: The melons/orange peel block has been a challenge of epic proportions. The segments are cut on the diagonal and when they are joined, the pieces distort just a teensy when stitched together, and this all adds up. Eventually I ended up with something that was buckling and bubbling away like a witch’s cauldron. Threw it away, started over, more mess. Dumped it, stood up and took the dogs for a walk. 

Jet (Juliet) my son’s gorgeous setter

Then – lightbulb moment: forget the piecing – applique is the answer!
And so, humming “Windmills of your mind*” I set to work.

Distorted, buckled, points don’t meet in the middle. Most unsatisfactory!
Hand applique in progress. Much happier!

Barbara Streisand singing “Windmills of your mind”:

*Windmills of your mind – 1968 song by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Alan Bergman
“Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel,
Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that’s turning, running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind” +

Circle #12 is the New York Beauty

Madness prevails

I cannot believe how much has happened since my Harley ride – feels as if that was in another time… Clearly madness prevails.

  • Firstly my youngest son came home from England for a week. In that week was his graduation (I am a very proud mom – he excelled!) and 2000km later he sadly flew the nest again.
  • Secondly I took on custom quilting our guild charity quilt (250cm square!) which we have entered into the National Quilt Festival
This quilt is to be raffled at R10 a ticket with the final draw at the end of the Garden Show in September. If you’d like a ticket or more then please reply to this mail.
  • I also have my own quilt to be entered – which is not yet finished and the deadline is looming fast!!!
  • I will be teaching at the Festival – you may view my classes here: . Next month I shall post some photos of samples for the classes.
  • A knitted BOM is also one of my commitments, the deadline for the designing, writing of the pattern and knitting this month’s block is NOW!
  • I need my head read as I have recently taken on a rather LARGE project, more of which you shall hear about in due course.
  • This is the penultimate set of instructions for the circle challenge – though I can promise you it is not the end of challenges I shall set. Setting challenges is one of my most favourite tasks!

Circle #9: Melon 9-patch

Instructions to make this block:

Circle #10: Whirling dervish

Instructions to make this block:


I am thrilled to see how many people are eager for this next set of circles! I must apologize for being late with this post – many things seem to conspire against the best laid plans. Particularly Eskom’s current load shedding programme. Some days we have 8 hours off in 24! Time to go off grid me thinks.

Anyway  – let’s discuss something which is positive, uplifting and creative: the next set of circles!

Circle #5

A circle within a square, within a circle, within a square….. as many time as you like, depending on how much you want to fiddle, and the size you’re making your blocks and circles.

You may even turn a square on point if you so wish.

The challenge here would be to inset each circle! (Am I crazy? Maybe)


Circle #6

Double pinwheel


This challenge is to make sure all of your points are perfect – both in the centre and on outside edge of circle!!!


A challenge within a challenge!

Or have I lost the plot!!!!!!!!!!

The next 2 circles for the Challenge quilt are:

#3: Bull’s eye

A circle within a circle within a circle……

As many circles as you can or want to, fit.









So here is the first challenge within the challenge:

Irregular circles within circles! (My bloodshot eyeball!)

#4: 8-pieced pie within a circle

And the second challenge within this challenge is:

A wheel with MANY spokes! (This is where I even think I might have gone mad!!!)

If you would like to do the many spoked circle I have included the PDF for you to download the foundation pieced pattern.



Begin again – a new year, a new quilt, a new challenge

It’s 2019 and The First Month of a new year is almost done! Are we hamsters on a treadmill? A scary thought. 

So while we are racing the year away I have come up with a new challenge! As many of you know, this is one of my most favourite tasks as the Chairlady of Midlands Quilters Guild.

I find piecing curves difficult, so…. what better way to share the challenge for both me and you,  than to make circles!

The challenge for 2019 is:  Circles, Circles and more Circles.


  1. The size of the quilt and blocks you make is your choice.
  2. There will be 2 blocks given each month, January to June = 12 blocks. Each month the pattern within the circle will become more complicated (insert evil laugh here).
  3. In July and August it will all be joined together and quilted.
  4. A recommendation is for the blocks to be 12” x 12”, with sashing and borders the quilt will be 64” x 78”/165cm x 198cm. The size of circles within the blocks may also be your choice.
  5. I have used a 10” circle. Some of the circles will require a pattern which I shall draw up. This will be for a 10″ circle.

The choice of technique to attach the circles to the background is  yours:

They can be:

  • Pieced
  • Appliqued – needle-turn by hand or by machine
  • Appliqued using applique paper (this is the simplest)

Having said that though, for this to be somewhat more of a challenge I would recommend piecing inset circles.

Therefore, without more ado, here are this month’s circles

January circles:

  1. The first block is a simple circle.

You may use a single piece of fabric or make it more interesting with stripes/scraps/etc.


  1. The second block is a 4-patch within the circle. This can be 4 pieces of fabric or each patch may be made more interesting. The 4-patch may then be set square or on point.

If you would like to do a little extra/don’t like the big plain block/love applique or embellishments…. then do that little extra with the first block:

Applique design: “Applique in Reverse” by Teri Henderson Tope




New Projects

Applique and trapunto

Guild challenge – Band Practice

Painting a Gazania

Mandala from Amafu

Why, you may ask, am I taking on a new project when I have SO MANY unfinished ones? A good question. Although I am always needing new samples for classes that I’ll be teaching; as well as challenges I have issued and/or accepted. But as I also sleep, drink, eat, think quilting constantly, a new idea for a project is never far from my mind.

So besides the 3 road trips planned for next year with class samples to be made, festival coming up and a quilt or more asking to be entered, our guild challenge which is due for January (almost finished I must say!), a friend offered to make me a tool roll.

Now I don’t do things simply! I have to complicate my life. I decided to quilt the roll using leather. I’ve never quilted on leather before. What fun it was, but a good lesson in remembering the basics. I thought I was so clever and knew so well how to do it. I broke and bent needles, snapped and shredded thread, my tension was out, and generally I was most frustrated.

Leather tool roll

Then! I remembered what I tell everyone I teach about needles! If the thread snaps or breaks, if your needle breaks, if the tension does not come right then CHANGE YOUR NEEDLE TO MATCH THE TASK, it is the easiest and cheapest thing to do!
What a difference it made once I did that. (I used a Leather needle 18/110.)
Bob of Superior Threads has a great video on needles
A YouTube video worth looking at regarding needles and thread
P.S. I’ll post a photo of the finished tool roll once it’s done!

There and back again! (with apologies to Bilbo Baggins)

Roads go ever on

Under clouds and under star,

Yet feet that wandering have gone

Turn at last to home afar

(The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein)


We have just returned home from a most wonderful road trip! 17 days, 10 towns and 4000km!

Hanlie from Amafu Fabrics and I toured our beautiful country. From the dry, harsh, beautiful plains of the Karoo  we dipped down to into the lush green valleys and ravines of the Garden Route.  We swooped from the mountains of the Drakensberg to the highveld of the Northern Cape and the fruit-filled valleys of the Western Cape.  I could continue waxing lyrical about the scenery of this magnificent country to the point of boring one half of you  and making the other violently  jealous!. Not only were the surroundings beautiful, but so too the wonderful, friendly and hospitable people we met along  the way. We’ve made new friends, reconnected with “old” ones and enjoyed the company of family too.

I taught classes in applique and trapunto, free-motion quilting and patchwork knitting to amazing students who appreciated their learning and showed it by producing wonderful samples. As a teacher, I can only hope that they enjoy and put into practice their newly acquired skills!

Hanlie brought some of her  fabrics and accessories along, and the pop-up shop was greeted enthusiastically by fellow quilters along the way.

Thank you to the people who participated, the  groups and guilds,  the students,  organizers and hosts who made our road trip such a success.

Thank you in particular to Hanlie, for having put the trip together, contacted people to host us, found us accommodation, and most important of all –  for putting up with me! Everyday there was something to laugh about, even at 4 in the morning!

Definitely something we will do again!

Watch this space as the next plans are afoot!

Look here for classes on offer and if you are interested in Hanlie’s fabrics: Amafu Fabrics

Jane’s tip:

Many of you have heard me say: If you want your work to be neat, start off neat!

I recommend a stitch starter, read the article on Craftsy; use the scrap of fabric at the end too. This keeps your beginning and ending threads under control.



Road trip – 27th September to 14 October

Road trip to Cape Town and back!

Hanlie Burger from Amafu, and myself will be on the road on Thursday 27th September for 17 days! We will be setting up pop-up shops and teaching in Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Beaufort West, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Hermanus, Mossel Bay, Jeffrey’s Bay, Grahamstown, and finally in Aliwal North before returning home on the 14 October.

A round trip of South Africa!

I will be teaching:

Applique and Trapunto in Bloemfontein on Friday 28 September and again on Saturday 29 September in Kimberley.




Patchwork knitting in Beaufort West on Monday 1 October

Jane Renton










Quilt it to Death in Hermanus on Wednesday 3 October and again on Thursday 4 October at Thimbles Quilt Shop, Durbanville.

Christmas Table runner on Saturday at Thimbles Quilt Shop, Durbanville

Applique and Trapunto in Mossel Bay on Tuesday 9 October and again in Jeffrey’s Bay on Thursday 11 October

The ladies in Grahamstown are still deciding….

Applique and trapunto in Aliwal North on Saturday 13 October

If you would like to join us at any of the venues please contact me on 082 558 1682 or email: