The Artistry of Sheena Norquay, Part 1

I first met Sheena Norquay shortly after I started working with Aurifil, a mere 4 years into my time in this industry. Up until that time, I’d never seen anything quite like her work and was immediately taken with her artistry, her vision, and her undeniable quilting genius. She is adventurous in her work, always up for trying something new, while remaining meticulous and measured in her experimentation. Every time she creates a new piece, she sends along thoughts on that piece… what she tried and why, which threads were used, and what she thought about the process. It is both fascinating and breath-taking and I’m excited to share some of that with you over the next few days.

In the last year, Sheena has released 3 new collections… 2 last Fall and one just this past Spring. Each collection has its own voice, its own purpose, and its own color palette. Each comes with a variety of stunning projects, designed to showcase the thread, whether 50wt, 80wt, or floss, and how it can be the star of the show rather than the complementary accessory.

So today, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Sheena, to share our interview with her —  giving us all a peek at her process and some insight into her inspiration — AND also to her collections — The Beach Collection, Scottish Highlands, and The Seabird Collection. Make sure to check back in every day this week to learn a little more about each collection and to see some of Sheena’s gorgeous work!

The Beach Collection
LARGE – 100% Aurifil Cotton, 12 Large Spools, 50wt (1422yds/spool)
Colors included:
2524 – 2564 – 4150 – 1248 – 2311 – 2375
2610 – 2312 – 2340 – 2615 – 2805 – 2326

Scottish Highlands, 50wt
SMALL – 100% Aurifil Cotton, 10 Small Spools, 220yds/spool
Colors included:
2309 – 2612 – 2566 – 6735 – 2885
1246 – 2775 – 2155 – 2975 – 1147

Scottish Highlands, Aurifloss
SMALL – 100% Aurifil Cotton, 10 Small Spools, 18yds/spool
Colors included:
2309 – 2612 – 2566 – 6735 – 2885
1246 – 2775 – 2155 – 2975 – 1147

The Seabird Collection
SMALL – 100% Aurifil Cotton, 10 Small Spools, 80wt (300yds/spool)
Colors included:
2692 – 2021 – 2630 – 2625 – 2615
2370 – 2324 – 2255 – 1135 – 2775

To view this info on our website, please click on the images above. For purchasing, please contact your local Aurifil Dealer.

Sheena Norquay’s Beach Collection

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I am from the Orkney Islands which lie to the north of Scotland, but now live in Inverness, the capital city of the Highlands, most of the time. I used to be a Primary School teacher but am now a freelance quilting teacher. I teach and exhibit nationally and internationally and have won many awards for my work.

What first drew you to to the world of textiles?
I have been exposed to textiles since I was a child. My mother knitted and sewed all our clothes. One grandmother knitted Fair Isle garments and the other grandmother did embroidery, painting and various fabric crafts. I was also taught how to knit and sew at school but my favourite activity, which I did at home, was to make clothes for my dolls from fabric scraps. This developed into making my own clothes when I was in my early teens.

I loved fabrics and threads from an early age and was introduced to more exotic textiles when one of my uncles, who went to sea, brought back an embroidered skirt and top which he bought in India. Sadly, the garments did not fit, but I still have them in my collection, along with embroidery by my grandmother and by many unknown women whose work I have bought at antique fairs and charity shops.

My introduction to patchwork happened while I was doing my B.Ed degree. One of the girls in my2-dimensionall design course was working on a hexagon bedspread so I decided to have a go and make a cushion. Laura Ashley scrapbags were on sale then in the 1970’s so I used them as well as my own scraps. The cushion grew into a bedspread and I remember being so proud of making something so large!

In 1979 I saw my first actual quilts at an exhibition in Inverness Museum and Art Gallery of old American quilts and a smaller exhibition of “modern” quilts by an American quilter called Linda Schaepper.  That was the beginning of my entry into the world of quilting and I have been so lucky to have experienced the growth in its popularity and to have met so many wonderful people and to have travelled to so many places.

Puffy Puffins Detail (Sheena Norquay)

Who or what has been your greatest creative inspiration?
Apart from my late mother and grandmothers, the late May Miller ( friend of Kathleen Whyte, well known embroiderer and head of the Embroidery Department at the Glasgow School of Art at that time)  was the person to show me the creative potential of threads and fabric and she taught  me to see the world with creative eyes during the 2 years of my 2 dimensional design course.

In the 1980’s when I joined the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles I was inspired by Deirdre Amsden’s use of fabrics and colour. Also, the Guild had slides of American quilts for hire and I was inspired by how Michael James used colour and pattern, and how Nancy Halpern used quilting to create movement and atmosphere.

From where do you draw inspiration for your artwork?
Most of my inspiration comes from looking closely at nature. I am particularly inspired by Orkney skies, its magical light and its seascapes. I also like looking at patterns on sandy beaches and lines on rocks. I find bird shapes very elegant and enjoy doodling and decorating surfaces with stitching, hand and machine.

Photo by Sheena Norquay

Can you tell us a bit about your process — how you determine the subject of a new piece and how you work through from start to finish?
I usually begin by taking lots of photos of something that inspires me. This could be subjects already mentioned, group challenges or themes for quilt shows. This is followed by thumbnail sketches of possible compositions. I then scale one of these up to a full size drawing (sometimes using an overhead projector) and think about the techniques I am going to use.

The next step is to go through my fabrics selecting the ones that I think are suitable, followed by a final selection. The rejects are put back on the shelves. For a pieced landscape or seascape, for instance, I make templates, pin them on the reverse sides of the fabrics, cut leaving about quarter of an inch and piece. Details are appliqued on to the background before quilting. If it is a wholecloth quilt, I trace the drawing on to the fabric ready for quilting. Threads are selected, usually Aurifil no. 50 cotton, and then the free motion quilting begins.

I always have a few projects on the go at the same time. Most of the machine work is done in the mornings or afternoons, whereas hand stitching is done in the evenings while watching TV or on long train journeys!

Scallops Detail (Sheena Norquay)

When did you first discover Aurifil threads and what do you love most about them?
I first started buying Aurifil no. 50 cotton threads from Barnyarns in England when Madeira tanne cotton no. 50 was no longer available, sometime in the early 2000’s. I love Aurifil threads because they are of such high quality and go through the machine so smoothly. I also like hand quilting and embroidering  with cotton no 28, 12 and Aurifloss. Recently, I started using wool acrylic on various tweeds like Harris tweed, both for embroidering by hand and machine. I am very lucky to be given threads by Aurifil and am honoured to have been asked to compose several thread collections.

How big of a role do the threads play in your artwork?
I would say the threads play the main role now, especially when stitching wholecloths. Because I have always been drawn to drawing rather than painting, I think this is why I enjoy quilting so much. I would also say that when I am asked to compose a collection for Aurifil, I select thread colours before the fabrics and it is an interesting challenge to do sample pieces using only 10 or 12 colours. In the past, I have tended to select fabrics first and then threads but of course it depends what you are making, whether it be something pieced, appliqued or a wholecloth.

I  also enjoyed the challenge set by Alex when he gave me my first spool of Aurifloss to try. This has opened up a whole new way of working with threads and blending the colours to create new colours, whether it be in an ordered, mathematical way when creating gradations of colour in 1, 2,3,4 or 5 steps, or in a more intuitive, painterly way when embroidering, say an animal or landscape. For instance, I might add one strand of a dark colour to 3 strands of another colour or colours to darken something like the edge of a tree trunk just a little bit, whereas I might use 3 strands of the dark colour and one strand of  another colour if I wanted it much darker.

So, at the design stage, as well as thinking about thread colours, I also think about what type of Aurifil threads I am going to use for the various hand and machine techniques.

Postcards from Scottish Highlands — Highland Cow Detail (Sheena Norquay)

What is up next for you? Where can we find you this year?
I will be helping on the Aurifil stand at The Festival of Quilts in August. After that I have an exhibition with Gillian Travis and Hilary Gooding at the Cowslip Workshops in Cornwall in the south of England followed by teaching at various places. Later in the year I will be teaching at the Quilt Symposium in New Zealand and finally I hope to do some writing.

Photo by Sheena Norquay


Sheena Norquay was born on the Orkney Islands, just off the Northern tip of Scotland. Though she began sewing as a child, it wasn’t until attending University in Aberdeen to gain a B.Ed degree that she truly dove into the world of sewing, quilting, and textiles. The degree included 2-dimensional design in textiles which inspired her interest in exploring the artistic potential of threads and fabrics.

Having been a Primary School teacher in Inverness for 30 years, Sheena is now a freelance quilting teacher and teaches workshops locally, all over the UK, and sometimes abroad. She also writes articles for magazines and her quilts have been featured in several books.

Sheena’s work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally since 1981 and she has won many awards in competitive quilt shows. She sells her work, cards and postcards of her work, and also accept commissions.



Daisy Days by Keera Job

Keera Job‘s debut collection for Riley Blake Designs is the absolute vision of Summer. Daisy Days features Pinks, Blues, & Greens with some Yellow & Grey to complete the scene. The sweet florals evoke visions of a carefree childhood — garden adventures, daisy chains, and afternoon tea parties. In fact, Keera’s first sketches for the collection were drawn while sitting in her garden, watching her two daughters at playtime.  Our heads are spinning with ideas for what to make with these gorgeous prints!

Keera’s coordinating thread collections feature our incredibly versatile 50wt thread in both large and small spools. She has included all of her go-to colors — everything you’ll need to create your own delightful Summer projects.

Daisy Days
LARGE – 100% Aurifil Cotton, 12 Large Spools, 50wt (1422yds/spool)
Colors included:
4644 – 2805 – 2847 – 6726 – 1231 – 2884
2255 – 2435 – 2415 – 2130 – 2140 – 2021

SMALL – 100% Aurifil Cotton, 10 Small Spools, 50wt (220yds/spool)
Colors included:
4644 – 2847 – 6726 – 1231 – 2884
2255 – 2435 – 2415 – 2130 – 2021

To view this info on our website, click here. For purchasing, please contact your local Aurifil Dealer.

What first drew you to to the world of sewing and quilting?

I made my first quilt on the floor of my Grandma’s sewing room when I was fourteen. This is where my love of colour and fabric really began. When my daughter was born almost five years ago I launched my business, LIVE.LOVE.SEW Pattern Co. and began designing quilt patterns and sharing free quilt tutorials on my blog. Colour and fabric has and always will be what drives my creativity.

Who or what has been your greatest creative inspiration?
My girls are my greatest inspiration – the way they view the world, their vivid imaginations and the simplicity of just being with them really opens my eyes up to new things. I love exploring with them and helping create memories they will hold forever. I also draw a lot of inspiration from others – their stories and their gorgeous creations all make me want to get in my studio and draw or sew or paint!

How did you first connect with Riley Blake and what do you love most about working with them?
I was working alongside Millhouse Collections here in Australia, who are the distributors for Riley Blake Designs fabrics, as an ambassador. They saw some of my designs and after we spoke on the phone I submitted my full collection concept. I’m still pinching myself! Designing fabric is a dream come true and I’m so humbled to be joining the Riley Blake Designs family.

Tell us about Daisy Days. What inspired the designs? 
Daisy Days was created for my girls. It is all about childhood memories – making daisy chains and hand-picked posies with ribbons and bows. It’s garden adventures, playing ring-a-rosie with giggly girls and having tea-parties with teddy bear friends. I drew the first sketches for this collection sitting in the garden watching my girls at playtime. Remembering this still warms my heart.

Do you have a favorite project or projects made with the collection? 
I designed three quilts to coordinate with the collection, but my favourite is the Picking Daisies quilt. Its a combination of scrappy patchwork blocks and applique pieces. I love that you can hand sew the petals and quilt it with the coordinating Daisy Days threads!

When did you first discover Aurifil threads and what do you love most about them?
I began using Aurifil threads when I made my daughter’s baby quilt. I had read so many great reviews about the range of threads and ordered some online to try. I love the colour range available, and the varying weights are brilliant for any type of sewing or quilting project. Aurifil threads give you this feeling from the beginning that you are working with something special and something of great quality.

How did you go about selecting colors for Daisy Days and what excites you most about releasing the collection to the world? 
This was so fun! I love looking through the Aurifil colour cards to colour match to my projects. Doing it with my own fabric collection was a fantastic feeling! I’ve matched colours for each of the colourways in the collection – there’s the gorgeous pinks that I am crushing and beautiful pops of sunshine yellow and leaf green. Also included is my go-to 2021 White which I use for ALL my quilt piecing!


To enter-to-win Keera’s Large Daisy Days thread collection AND a bundle of Daisy Days by Keera Job for Riley Blake Designs, click here to head to the Rafflecopter entry page, or simply click on the image above. You do not have to complete all the options to be entered but the more options you choose, the more entries you have!  Entries will be accepted from now through 11:59pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 9! Winner will be randomly selected and announced here on Thursday, August 10. Good luck!


While we’re not one of the official stops on the Daisy Days Blog Tour, we are still excited about following along with this gorgeous showcase. The event kicked off this past Tuesday with Sedef Imer of Down Grapevine Lane and will continue on every Tuesday throughout the month of August. See below for the schedule so that you don’t miss a thing!

Tuesday 1 August Sedef Imer
Tuesday 8 August Amy Smart
Tuesday 15 August Amanda Herring 
Tuesday 22 August Samantha Dorn
Tuesday 29 August Emily Dennis 

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Keera is wife to cattle farmer and mother to two beautiful little girls. She lives with her family in gorgeous rural Australia, spending her days drawing and designing fabric and quilt patterns, teaching and hosting little-girl tea-parties on her favourite quilts! She is a young working mother who found quilting and surface design through some amazingly inspirational women. She feels blessed to share her love of fabric, colour, quilts and design!


** Images, biographical text and interview text by Keera Job & Riley Blake



QuiltCon 2017 — Savannah, GA

We’re just getting back and settled in from a spectacular five days in beautiful, historic, and fascinating Savannah, Georgia.  There is a certain perceived expectation when you think of “The South”, particularly when you think of Savannah.  Nothing about this city disappointed me. Not even the weather- especially because I arrived the day after it stopped raining. What luck!

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and one of the only surviving cities left after the Civil War.  Some of the houses date back to the 1700s, which is pretty incredible.


Just imagine the quilts that were made inside those walls!  That certainly brings a whole new level of appreciation for Civil War reproduction fabrics, don’t you think?

Savannah is a very picturesque city, full of manicured lawns, immaculately kept homes and ornate details everywhere you look.  Just walking a few blocks to breakfast took us nearly an hour because we kept stopping to admire the view, take pictures or read the plaques of the various fountains and statues in the squares.

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The Savannah River divides the city from the World Trade Center, where QuiltCon 2017 was held.  There was only one hotel on that side, and if you weren’t staying in it, you had to travel across the river via ferry.  On the first night, the ferry was packed full of quilters and only a few locals.  I doubt they had ever seen so many handmade bags and quilt related t-shirts in one place before!


We had a great time playing a game with our QuiltCon guests.  The idea was to see who, amongst the three players, could put a puzzle together the fastest.  The fastest got to take home a large spool of thread of their choice; the remaining two took home a small spool of their choice.  Everyone was a winner!

All players were challenged to beat the ‘best time’, which kept getting faster and faster throughout the event. On Sunday morning, we had our fastest participant EVER, not just for QuiltCon. Karen Brown completed the Aurifil Spool puzzle in just 2 minutes & 36 seconds. We were all in awe! Congratulations again to Karen, who is now the excited recipient of a Tula Pink Ultimate Collection — 45 small spools of lucious and colorful thread!

To help celebrate 270 Colors, the incredible quilt by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill of Whole Circle Studio, we hosted an ongoing social media contest.  Participants had to take a “Selfie” in front of the quilt and post it to Instagram using the hashtag “#270ColorsGiveaway“.  We had over 190 entries and our winners were:

We did also share a daily at-home giveaway so that no one would be excluded!! Thank you again to all who played along!

270 Colors by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill

Even though we weren’t able to sell our thread in our booth, there was still plenty to be found throughout the show including the booths for: Craft South, Crimson Tate, Andover, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Marcus FabricsRiley Blake, and more!!

We also loved having a chance to visit with some of our amazing fabric partners. Many of them had interactive booths, giving visitors a chance to design quilt blocks, collect supplies to work on collaborative quilting projects, and more!

Of course, one of my favorite aspects of community events like this, is all of the quilts.  I’m amazed at the diversity on display.  Just when I think I’ve seen it all, when I’ve defined my own personal style, I turn a corner and see something that changes my whole perspective, something that makes me stop and think and admire.  Below are some of my favorites from this year’s show.

And of course, Best In Show, “Bling” by Katherine Jones:



I’m pretty sure she said it took her over 160 hours to complete the quilt top.  It is ENTIRELY paper-pieced!  Can you imagine??

All-in-all, a great time was had by all.  People left feeling inspired, satisfied, knowledgable.  I think those are the best things to come away with.  And, even though it’s maybe a little sad to leave and go back home to reality, the memories live on and we get to look forward to the next time we can fill our minds with new techniques and skills. We get to fill our hearts with the fun times had with friends that we may have only previous known online.  That’s the beauty of it, really.

Until next time!


— Kristi, Bradley, Erin, and Alex

2016 Spring Quilt Market


Spring Quilt Market kicked off at 9:30am on Friday, May 20 at the Salt Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT and the Aurifil booth was filled with color. Not even the city-wide power outage the night before could dampen the mood.


Last year, we debuted a brand new booth featuring giant skiens of brightly colors threads along the outside walls. We noticed that some people had more fun with the threads than others;).

The booth was filled with thread rich displays…

Masterfully finished quilts…

And brand new Aurifil Designer Collections.

We even had a bit of fun with our logo on the outside wall!

We’d like to thank all who have stopped by to say hello. We’ve loved the opportunity to catch up, hear about your latest projects and your favorite threads. If you’re in Salt Lake and haven’t yet been by, we hope to see you today! We’ll be in Booth #901.

If you are sharing photos from Market and happen to spot our threads, please tag #Aurifil. We’d love to see them!

Happy Sunday:)



Top Ten Tuesday {Quilt Patterns}

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday!  Last week was a great variety of quilt blocks and this week is full quilt patterns!  We all have those times when we need the math already figured out.  We just want to know what to go out and purchase ( like we really need an excuse to visit our local quilt shop) or look though our stash to create the perfect quilt!  This collection of quilt patterns has something for everyone to create and enjoy!

Top Ten Tuesday quilt patterns

1. Blue Breeze Classic Lap Quilt featured on McCall’s Quilting


2. Arrows Aweigh featured on Fort Worth Fabric Studio

Arrows Aweigh 3

3. Sentimentalities by Bonnie Christine


4. Sprinkled Sweets by Wendy Sheppard for Benartex


5. Amsterdam Quilt by Holly DeGroot for Cloud 9 Fabrics

Amsterdam Quilt-100

6. Diamond Jewel Star Quilt by Felice Regina from Sew Scatterbrained


7.  Sweet Stuff by Penny Rose Fabrics for Riley Blake


8. Hearthside Seasons Mini Quilt by Kim Diehl for Henry Glass & Co.

Hearthside Seasons Mini Winter quilt on wall

9. Super Scrappy Single Irish Chain by Melissa Cory from Happy Quilting


10. Pinwheel Baby Quilt by Jodi Nelson for Moda Bake Shop


Looking forward to seeing you back next Tuesday for more free tutorials!  If you are looking for more inspiration please join the Aurifil Pinterest boards! And please join the Aurifil Facebook page to find out more about our product, see amazing projects for quilters, and find out the news from around the world of quilting!