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Trio of Techniques – A Lovely Mt Tamborine Retreat

After the Perth Craft & Quilt Fair wrapped up, I jotted down some highlights from a wonderful hand-sewing retreat that we hosted in March. We only wish that we could hold events like this more often!

The previous retreat that we’d held at Mt Tamborine was with sashiko/applique artist Sylvia Pippen in 2011, so this was rather a long time in coming.

And we have to admit: we’d really been missing the place.

For both teachers and students, there is such a big difference between standard teaching and teaching in a quiet serene environment like Mt Tamborine–requisite ingredients for a creative and relaxing time are there, with plenty of space for thirty ladies to be comfortable. The little village is nestled in the Gold Coast hinterland, amongst some of the most stunning national parkland in South-East Queensland.

 Trio of Techniques Retreat 2015 – attendees and teachers. Truly, a lovely time had by all.

We were joined by ladies from as far afield as Bundaberg, Gladstone, the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Rockhampton, and Childers, all united by a passion for hand sewing and creativity. It was very encouraging to see some familiar faces from our 2011 retreat, too.

So with a delightfully peaceful backdrop, quaint accommodation and wonderful catering, we were able to apply ourselves to three hand sewing techniques over the space of three days. The end result for each participant? A stunning piece incorporating the techniques of Sashiko, English Paper Piecing, and Hand Applique.

The Team. L-R – Sue Howie from Indigo Niche (Sashiko), Cathy Schibrowski from Swandale Quilting (Hand Applique), Colleen Shepherd from Indigo Niche (Sashiko), Marg Olive from Patchwork Paradise (English Paper Piecing).

So why did we choose these three techniques? We devised a project that would take three days and have a strong social component–in effect, to unite participants in the joys of hand sewing. Each day enabled the students to be able to get a grasp on each technique being taught, so that by the end of the three days each student had learnt each technique well so that they could finally complete their project.


For the uninitiated, Sashiko is a form of Japanese folk embroidery that, like Boro stitching, was born out of necessity before evolving into the beautiful decorative art that we know today. It uses the basic running stitch to create a patterned background. The geometric patterns tend to include straight or curved lines of stitching arranged in a repeating pattern. The word Sashiko is loosely translated as “little stabs”, and refers to the small stitches used in this form of needlework. This technique was taught by Sue and Colleen (Indigo Niche)

English Paper Piecing

Taught by Marg Olive from Patchwork Paradise. English Paper Piecing is a method of hand piecing where paper templates are used inside the block elements to guide where the edges are turned under. Baby Blocks, Grandmother’s Flower Garden and other non-square shapes are often pieced this way. In our case it was used to create the flower petal shapes.

Hand Applique

In keeping with the hand sewing theme of the retreat, we opted for hand applique over machine methods. Sewers cut and arrange the pieces to be layered, usually affixing them with pins; then, the embroidery is applied with a needle and thread. Thick embroidery floss is one of the most common choices, but thread of any texture or thickness will work. Cathy Schibrowski from Swandale Quilting was on hand to advise students on the precision and patience needed for this method.

   Julia‘s work in progress. The English Paper Piecing method is used to create the flower petals, which are then transferred to the fabric using Hand Applique. Sashiko stitching is used to create additional decorative effects.


Lesli’s completed project: the three techniques have come together beautifully.

Students were able to individualise their projects by the alternate colour ways on offer.

It was so gratifying to see the projects come to fruition after three days–from a teaching perspective, it was extremely rewarding to see such enthusiasm to learn and create.


Pleasing to see the new friendships that were made after three days of fun and sewing!

This retreat was such a rewarding experience for everyone involved that plans are on the drawing board for a similarly themed event in 2016. Keep an ear to the ground, or better yet, subscribe to our newsletter for timely updates.


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