Last weekend I did a hand quilting class with Sarah Fielke. I’m a novice hand quilter and who better to learn from than Sarah! The class was part of the five-day Quilt Symposium, held every two years in New Zealand. This was my first Symposium, I really had no idea what to expect. In the end I was only disappointed that I was there for just the weekend, five days of quilting classes would have been lovely!

Sarah’s class was wonderfully relaxed, thank goodness because with soaring temperatures and no air-con in the classrooms it was a hot day! Sarah gave us an overview of the sewing notions and tools that she uses when hand quilting, then gave us a demonstration. If you want to see Sarah’s technique in action, she has a free Craftsy video, detailing everything you need to know, there’s a link at the top left on Sarah’s blog. I may be referring back to that video for a refresher.

I made the mini quilt above to practice my stitches on. The pattern is from Little Quilts, another one of Sarah’s books, written with Amy Lobsiger. To be honest, this quilt wasn’t the easiest to practice on, all those tight corners and bulky seams. And I somehow forgot to choose contrasting threads, so my hand quilting barely shows up against the fabric. Maybe that’s a good thing. Anyway, as Sarah kindly pointed out, it gives it texture.

I also did a little hand quilting on my Pack Patch mini.

Needless to say I have plenty of practice to do yet, but I’m really happy that I’ve made a start on my hand quilting adventure! I used Perle #8 thread as it’s easy to find here. Sarah uses Aurifil Mako 12 weight, which is not quite as thick as the Perle cotton, I plan to look out for some while I’m at QuiltCon.

Another highlight of the day was seeing Sarah’s quilt in the tutor’s exhibition. ‘I’ve got Sunshine’ is from her upcoming book Old Quilts, New Life (coming out in October). It’s a stunning quilt!


There is a huge variety of fabrics, from modern designer fabric to reproduction prints, and it all works. The sashing is an Alexander Henry stripe that pulls all the colours together and adds loads of interest. The hand quilting is so inspiring!

Of course I had to ask Sarah to sign one of my books…


The next Quilt Symposium is being held in Christchurch in October 2017. I’ve already registered, next time I’d love to stay the full five days and not just the weekend.

If you’d like to see more check out the #qsm2015 and #quiltsymposiummanawatu on IG.

5 thoughts to “A weekend at the New Zealand Quilt Symposium

  • DeborahGun

    sounds like you had a great time 🙂 Sarah is one of my all-time favourite quilters – I just love love the look of hand quilting with perle cotton!

  • Wendy @ Wendysquiltsandmore

    Great to see you practicing your hand quilting again. I think it's the kind of thing you have to keep at for a while until it gets locked in your brain. Even then, if I haven't done any for a few weeks (or months) it takes about an hour to settle into it again (for my stitches to be even).

    I personally think that chunky thread is the way to go. Then I just just tell people that I was going for the rustic look all along..

  • Allison

    Sounds like a really inspiring time and thanks for the pictures of the 'I've got sunshine' quilt – that sashing fabric really works so well!

  • Gemini Jen NZ

    What a cool class to attend! I've registered for the next symposium as well, can't wait!

  • Michaelanne

    I have bought ALL of her books…Her work is just AMAZING:)!!!! WOW!!! Your hand quilting looks great Rachel! Your stitches are so even ….Nicely done! My neighbor, who is a little german lady in her 80's taught me how to hand quilt years ago….Her house is FULL of amazing quilts, rugs…handmade furniture! It is like a treasure trove of goodness….I feel so fortunate to have such an amazing woman living right down the road!!! You are SO lucky to be taking another class at quilt symposium!! I envy you! Good luck…XXXOOO


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