Thursday, January 16, 2020

Australia Tree Block Tutorial

Australia tree block, 13" X 13"
Australia has been suffering through months of devastating bush fires. Fire-fighters (called firies) have lost their lives, residents have lost homes and livelihoods, and wildlife have died and lost their habitat. It will take decades to recover.

I have a special place in my heart for all things Australia because between 2008 and 2010. I visited four times and spent a cumulative total of four months there. Our daughter lived in Sydney (Five Dock) for several years, and gave birth there to our first grandson. During one visit, I taught beginner quiltmaking at St. Mark's Anglican Church in Darling Point, and on another trip traveled around the country. The countryside is beyond beautiful! Whenever I'm in a situation where I want to take my mind away, I make a mental return visit to the Twelve Apostles along the south coast. There's just no place like it.

Anyway... When I learned that the Wollongong Modern Quilt Guild is collecting blocks to make into quilts for families who suffered through fires, I wanted to help. Again.

When I lived in Iowa, a group of us made two quilts for families who experienced bush fires in the Ballarat area. In 2009 I delivered those quilts to Ballarat, and saw the destruction first-hand. I also wrote a "Bush Fire Quilt Relief" article for the October 20009 issue of Quilter's Newsletter magazine (a now defunct publication).

Tree Quilt Blocks
Tree blocks have been requested. Quilters are free to interpret a tree as they wish, including colors, but the block background must be white or gray. An unfinished block must be a generous 12-1/2" X 12-1/2" to allow for trimming.

These are some of the blocks I've seen on Instagram. Appliquéd leaves is by @lorena_in_syd

Foundation paper pieced block is by @centerstreetquilts. This is a purchase pattern.

The patchwork tree block is by @sewbrainy

This one, by @bonjour_quilts, is the same as the patchwork block, but made with only four fabrics for the leaves.

Check out #bushfireblocks if you'd like to see more.

For my own design I decided to use an outline of the country as the "leafy" part of a tree.

Australia Tree Block Tutorial

First, an outline of Australia is needed, and a mirror image of it for appliqué.

Download both images here.

Australia not mirror imaged (for later reference for placement on the background) and a mirror image of Australia and tree trunk.

Trace mirror images of Australia, Tasmania and the tree trunk onto Steam-a-Seam 2.

Cut out each shape, leaving a small margin around the drawn outline.

Using scraps, create a piece of fabric approximately 8" X 9".

Remove the paper from Steam-a-Seam2 and place the sticky side to the wrong side of the created fabric. 

Use fine scissors to cut along each drawn outline. Don't forget Tasmania! Repeat with the tree trunk.

Prepare the Background

Either cut a single piece of fabric 13" X 13", or piece a background.

For this nine-patch block, cut each patch 4-3/4" X 4-3/4". The unfinished background square is 13-1/4" X 13-1/4".

With monofilament thread in the sewing machine top, and cotton in the bobbin (I used Mettler monofilament and 50-weight Aurifil), adjust your sewing machine settings for a short, narrow zig-zag stitch. This is the setting on my Bernina 770QE. Choose stitch #2 and set at a 9.0 stitch length and 2.1 stitch width.

Use an appliqué foot (Bernina #20C) to stitch around Australia, the tree trunk, and Tasmania.

Press well. Do not trim!

Several more blocks are in my future. They'll be delivered to QuiltCon in Austin, where they are being collected to send to Australia. Linda


  1. Hello Linda, I am in Australia, and live 1 hour from Ballarat. We are currently not impacted by fires, but we have a long summer ahead of us. The farm was burnt out on 22nd March 1998, but we were able to save the house. We were helped by the kindness of others and have reciprocated with fodder and toiletries since then, and again last week. I just wanted to commend you for the lovely Australia block you have created, and I will be downloading it to make. Best wishes to you and your blogging audience. Stay safe.

    1. Well hello back, Jill! How nice of you to comment! I would reply to you personally, but you are a "no-reply commenter," so I really hope you see this message. As I very clearly remember being in the Ballarat area, and recall what the vegetation is like, I can certainly understand your fears about fire. I'm glad you came through the '98 fire, but sorry that your farm suffered damage. I have no doubt that once you have received aid from such an experience, you want to reciprocate. Bless you. Thank you for saying such nice things about the quilt block. I'm tickled to know you will make it, and I especially appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    2. I am having problems downloading it, but will put is aside for now as I have to go to work - grrr!!!

    3. Thank you for letting me know! I went to my Google drive and changed the access settings. I think you can get it now.

    4. Bingo, thank you so much. I was even contemplating rigging up my own from a googled image. Cheers.

  2. I am glad some parts of the country are able to think about rebuilding. Your blocks will be much appreciated. And the Australia block is great. Sadly my friends in NE Victoria are still facing an every encroaching bushfire on an hourly basis.

  3. Hi Linda, your block is absolutely stunning! I'm sure it'll be very appreciated by the quilt recipient.
    I live on the south coast of NSW, but not quite as far south as the main fire area. I had a lot of friends evacuate - they've been lucky and not lost their homes. It was a very scary start to the new year.

  4. Your tree is so clever - and beautiful!

  5. Wonderful idea to make your tree leaves in the shape of Australia. I have family in Sydney with a home in the burn area. Last news was the house was still standing but nothing else. They have not been allowed into the area. The smoke has also been a serious health concern across the area. Thank you for sharing the request for blocks and making such lovely ones.

  6. This is so creative Linda!! I love the use of the shape of Australia. Very clever!!

  7. Thank you, Linda! I have two trees ready to applique, but I am definitely going to try your Australia-shaped tree.

  8. What a clever idea for a block, Linda! Many thanks for the tutorial. : )

  9. You are so clever Linda, not only for sewing the block of Australia, but also thinking of it! I have family in Brisbane, who are safe thank goodness.

  10. love your Australia tree block and that you didn't forget Tassie xxx

  11. Oh wow! What an awesome scrappy block!


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