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Build-A-Block Market Tote Tutorial and Giveaway

Market Tote Tutorial

This week’s blog post has some real treats in it–There’s information about the giveaway that Crafter’s Companion is so generously sponsoring, and a free tutorial for a modern Market Tote.  Check out my previous post for more info about the Build-A-Block.  And I know a lot of you won’t be able to wait for the giveaway results to get your hands on this, so be sure to use the promo code QUILTEASY to purchase the Build-A-Block and you’ll receive a set of threads and a six-piece fat quarter bundle valued at $41.95!!  Free Gift with Code QuiltEasy

I’ve been using the Build-A-Block system and Gemini die cutting machine for a few weeks now, and I’m so excited to be a brand partner with Crafter’s Companion!  The dies that come with the Build-A-Block system make it so easy to cut out all the pieces you need for a project–with no trimming after the fact.  I’m a super fan of half-square triangles and quarter-square triangles, and I use them in just about every pattern I make.  The process is made so much easier by just layering your fabric and die, running it through the Gemini, and cutting it up fast!  If you’d love to get your hands on your very own Gemini and Build-A-Block system, here are the details for the giveaway:

Giveaway Details – a Gemini Machine and Build-A-Block systemBuild a block and gemini

  • Giveaway is sponsored by Crafter’s Companion and opens September 1, 2018 and ends September 14, 2018 at 11:59 PM, PST
  • Winner will be notified via this blog post no later than Monday, September 17, 2018, and must provide a US shipping address once notified.
  • Giveaway prizes can only be shipped in the United States.  Crafter’s Companion reserves up to 30 business days to distribute prize to giveaway winner.
  • In order to enter, you must:
  • Good luck!!!

So I’m really pumped to bring you a free tutorial for the Market Bag–it’s a simple carry all bag with a clean modern look that’s great for the farmer’s market, grocery shopping, gym bag, or whatever you’d love to use it for.  I used Threaders™ Linen Look Cotton in White for the lining of my Market Tote–I like a clean white lining so I can easily spot the things I need in my bag, and the linen feel of the fabric is a little heavier duty than plain quilting cotton, so it will really stand up to the test of time!

Quilted Market Tote Tutorial Market Tote Tutorial

Finished bag dimensions: 16” tall x 13” wide x 6” deep

Materials needed:

  • Gemini™ & Build-A-Block™ die cutting system and 4.5” HST die
  • 4.5” Half square triangle Build-A-Block™ die cutter
  • (2) 23” lengths of 1-1/4” cotton webbing for straps
  • (1) 25” x 45” piece of fabric for the quilt sandwich (will not be visible when bag is complete)
  • (1) 25” x 45” Soft and Stable or 2 pieces of 25” x 45” batting layered together
  • 1 yard of Threaders™ Linen Look Cotton in White sub cut into
    • 20” x 40” for lining
  • 5/8 yard Fabric A (White fabric) sub cut into
    • (25) 5.5” squares
  • 5/8 yard Fabric B (Blue fabric) sub cut into
    • (25) 5.5” squares
  • Sewing machine
  • Needle
  • Thread for piecing
  • Thread for quilting
  • Pre-wound bobbin
  • Thread snips/scissors
  • Binding Clips/sewing pins
  • Fabric marking pen
  • Iron and pressing mat
  • Rotary cutter/ruler/mat
  • Starch (optional)

HST-Half-square triangle, RSO-Right side out, RST-Right sides together, RSD-Right Side Down, RSU-Right Side Up, all seam allowances are 1/4” unless otherwise specified.  It is recommended to starch the fabrics for the HSTs prior to cutting them, as they will be sewn on the bias.  This will help minimize distortion of the fabric.

Cut out and assemble the HST units

  1. Use the 4.5” HST die for the Gemini Build-A-Block to cut the HST units. Follow the steps for layering the fabric in the cutting plates and shims per the Gemini and Build-A-Block instructions.  Layer up to eight of the 5.5” squares of Fabric A at a time in the Gemini, with the 4.5” HST die cutting the fabric.  Position the die so you are able to get two cuts from the square.  Cut a total of 50 HST pieces from Fabric A and 50 HST pieces from Fabric B (see Fig. 1).  Your HSTs will measure 4.5” when completed.
  2. Take one HST piece of Fabric A and one HST piece of Fabric B (see Fig. 2). Place them RST, aligning the diagonal edges, and pin in place.  Sew along the diagonal with a 1/4” seam allowance (see Fig. 3).  Repeat to create a total of 50 half-square triangle blocks.  Press seams.

    Figures 1, 2, 3, and 6
    Figures 1, 2, 3, and 6
  3. Layout the 50 HST blocks created in step 2 into a 5 x 10 grid (see Fig. 4).
    Figure 4
    Figure 4

    You can position the HSTs in any way you like, rotating them, etc.  Sew each row of five blocks together by placing two blocks RST and sewing together with a 1/4” seam allowance (see Fig. 5).

    Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Repeat and sew another block to those two until you have one row of five blocks.  Press seams.

  4. Repeat step 3 until you have used all 50 HST blocks and have ten completed rows.
  5. Take two rows and place them RST and pin in place, being careful to match the seam intersections (see Fig. 6). Sew together with a 1/4” seam allowance.  Repeat until all ten rows are sewn together into one piece (see Fig. 7).

    Figure 7
    Figure 7
  6. Make a quilt sandwich by taking the 25” x 45” piece of fabric for the back of the quilt sandwich and placing it RSD. Layer the Soft and Stable (or batting) on top of it.  Then place the HST pieced top on top of the batting, with the right side up.  Baste the layers together using your desired method.   Quilt as desired.
  7. Take the quilted piece to the cutting mat and use a ruler and rotary cutter to square up and trim away the excess batting and fabric (see Fig. 8). If you quilted the fabric very densely, measure the new dimensions of the quilted piece, as this will sometimes shrink up the fabric a little.  You will use those new dimensions to measure and cut or trim down the lining for the tote bag (if different from 20” x 40”).

Assembling the market tote

  1. Fold the quilted piece in half RST, matching the 20” ends and use binding clips or pin to secure the sides (see Fig. 9). Sew together with a 1/4” seam allowance up each side, leaving the top of the bag unsewn (see Fig. 10).  With the bag still wrong side out, use a ruler to measure and mark a 3” square in each lower corner of the bag (see Fig. 11).  Flip the bag over and repeat on the opposite side.

    Figures 8-11
    Figures 8-11
  2. Make a “tent” with one corner by pinching the bag together, and lining up the lines you just drew with each bottom corner, so the lines you drew give you one straight line to sew on. Pin in place or use binding clips to secure (see Fig. 12).  Sew directly on the line you marked (see Fig. 13).  Repeat for the remaining corner of the bag.  Trim the seam allowance to 1/4” and discard the trimmings (see Fig. 14).

    Figures 12, 13, 14, 17
    Figures 12, 13, 14, 17
  3. Repeat steps 8 and 9 to assemble the lining, with one exception. When sewing the sides of the lining together, leave a 6” opening in the middle of one side for turning the bag right side out at the end.
  4. Turn the quilted exterior RSO and leave the lining wrong side out. Take the quilted exterior and lay it flat.  Measure and mark 6” in from each side seam on one side of the bag.  Place the outer edge of one end of the strap against the 6” mark, with about 1” hanging off the edge of the bag.  Pin or clip in place.  Fold the other edge of the strap over (make sure you’re not twisting the handle) and place its outer edge against the remaining 6” mark, again with about 1” hanging off the edge of the bag (see Fig. 15)
    Figure 15
    Figure 15

    .  Pin or clip this strap in place as well.  Repeat with the remaining strap on the opposite side of the exterior.

  5. Place the exterior (still RSO) inside the lining (still wrong side out), making sure the straps are neatly tucked between the exterior and the lining and still pinned in place (see Fig. 16).
    Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Match the side seams and secure the tops together with binding clips.  Sew the two layers together, catching the straps between the two layers, with a 1/4” seam allowance, backstitching at the start and stop.  Sew all the way around the top of the bag (see Fig. 17).

  6. Carefully turn the bag right side out through the 6” opening in the side of the lining. Prior to tucking the lining down inside of the bag, turn the raw edges of the 6” opening inwards then stitch closed by hand or machine.  Push the lining down inside the bag.
  7. Press the top of the bag so the lining and exterior sit neatly at the top of the bag, then topstitch around the top perimeter of the bag, about 1/8” from the edge (see Fig 18.).
    Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Now you’re ready to fill your modern Market Tote up with all the goodies you can carry!  I hope you’re as excited about the Build-A-Block system as I am–It has significantly cut down on the time I spend preparing my fabrics and eliminating the need to trim all my blocks down.  Sew up this great tote in just a few hours, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!  Happy sewing 🙂

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Build-A-Block: Are you ready to try THE die cutter?

Build-a-block

I have some really awesome news to share with you this week!  I’ve partnered with Crafter’s Companion as a Brand Partner to show you their awesome new product, The Build-A-Block Patchwork System for the Gemini Die CutterBuild-a-blockI’ve never used a die cutter for sewing or quilting prior to this, just because I honestly was not impressed.  I thought it was just another thing that would take up space in my sewing room, and you know that’s prime real estate!

But here’s the thing:  I make a LOT of half-square triangles.  Like more than half of my quilts have some form of HSTs in them.  Sometimes I get in a hurry and my HSTs aren’t accurate, so most of the time I cut them bigger than they need to be, sew, press, and then trim down to the correct size.  Oh and don’t forget about trimming off those annoying little dog ear points too.  It’s a necessary evil for me.  I never considered that there would be a die cutter that has half-square triangle dies that cut the fabric (and multiple layers of fabric at that) to the exact size I need, and trim those little points away!  The first time I saw the Gemini in action was in May at the Janome Education Summit when Jennifer Tryon demonstrated it, and I was blown away.  Crafter’s Companion sent me the Build-A-Block Patchwork System and Gemini to try out and I love it so much!

So here’s the skinny:

  • The Build-A-Block is a set of dies made specifically with quilters in mind.
  • There are 18 fabric cutting dies to create a huge variety of blocks (and they have tons of other dies you can get separate from the Build-A-Block System).
  • Of those 18 dies, there is a set of squares, half-square-triangles, and quarter-square triangles.  If you think about it, the combination of those shapes into unique blocks is really unlimited.  HST dies
  • The Build-A-Block Patchwork System offers a fast and easy alternative to hand cutting with a rotary cutter, with MINIMAL waste.
  • It isn’t just for quilts.  I’m currently making a tote bag with a two color combination out of half-square triangles, and it’s going SO fast!
  • The Build-A-Block is an intuitive system that’s easy to use for quilters of all skill levels, even beginners.  True story:  I unboxed my Gemini and Build-A-Block dies and had my first fabric cut within ten minutes.  There is no software to mess with, or difficult instructions to muddle through.
  • The Build-A-Block dies are capable of cutting a wide range of material, including faux leather and denim.
  • You also get a Block Guide with the Build-A-Block with instructions to create tons of blocks.  Block Guide

I was so impressed with the Build-A-Block that I spent an entire afternoon just pulling fabric from my scraps and trying all the dies.  It’s fun and addicting!Gemini

You can see a great demo video of the Build-A-Block in action, and take a peek at the Quilt-Along happening now, hosted by Jennifer Tryon, using the Build-A-Block and Gemini.

Deals!!!

  • On September 1, 2018 I’ll be sharing a free tutorial using the Build-A-Block and there might be a little giveaway going on, so stay tuned!
  • Use the promo code QUILTEASY to purchase the Build-A-Block and you’ll receive a set of threads and a six-piece fat quarter bundle valued at $41.95!!  Free Gift with Code QuiltEasy
  • Between August 17-23, Crafter’s Companion is offering 15% off of the Gemini machines with the purchase of a Build-A-Block System (no promo code needed, the discount will automatically be applied at checkout)!

I hope you’re as jazzed about the Build-A-Block as I am.  It is a phenomenal tool to have in your quilting toolbox and it’s quickly becoming a staple in my sewing studio.  I’m so glad I have it to make my life a little bit easier!  Hang around for the free tutorial coming up–you won’t want to miss it 🙂

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DIY Outdoor Pillow free tutorial

Oilcloth pillow with red pom pom trim

DIY Outdoor Pillow tutorial

Are you looking for a way to brighten up your patio with some fun home dec pillows?  Make your own DIY outdoor pillow with this quick and easy tutorial to create a super cute oilcloth pillow with pom pom trim, and give your deck a cheery look!  I used my Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9400QCP and the Janome Ultra Glide Needle Plate and Ultra Glide Foot to stitch up this oilcloth pillow.  Start sewing with some new fabrics and try out a new foot attachment that will take your sewing projects to the next level. The Ultra Glide Needle Plate and Ultra Glide Foot set is perfect for working with fabrics that might not smoothly feed under the standard foot A, such as oilcloth and laminated cotton.  Also, check out my previous post on TOP TIPS FOR SEWING WITH OILCLOTH.  This is a great tutorial for beginners, and will take approximately 4 hours from start to finish.  The finished pillow size is 12″ x 18″.

Supplies: Sewing machine, Janome Ultra-Glide foot and Ultra Glide Needle Plate (Teflon foot for all other sewing machine brands), Zipper foot (Foot E for Janome), Needle, Pre-wound bobbin.

Fabric/notions required:

  • Circle Template printed at 100% and cut out
  • 1 yard Aqua Rose gall oilcloth (Fabric A) sub cut into:
    • (2) 6-3/4” x 19” (zippered back of pillow)
    • (1) 13” x 19” (front of pillow)
  • 3 yds. Jumbo Pom Pom Trim/ball fringe
  • 40 wt. Black sewing thread (or white for less contrast)
  • 20” zipper
  • 12” x 18” Weather proof pillow form/Outdoor pillow form
  • Marking pen
  • Rotary cutter/ruler/mat
  • Binding clips
  • Scissors
Figures 1-4
Figures 1-4

Prepare the back of the pillow and install the zipper

  1. Take the two 6-3/4” x 19” pieces of Fabric A and measure and mark the center of one 19” edge. Take the 20” zipper and measure and mark the center on both edges of the zipper tape (see figure 1).

Tip:  Use binding clips instead of pins when working with oilcloth.  The fabric does not heal when holes are made in the oilcloth.  Any holes made in the oilcloth will be permanent.  Also, use a slightly longer stitch length to minimize the amount of puncture holes made in the fabric when sewing.  Typically, adjusting the stitch length from the standard 2.4 to 3.0 is a good adjustment.  The raw edges of oilcloth don’t fray, so there isn’t a need to finish raw edges as there would be with a regular woven fabric.    

  1. Place one of the 6-3/4” x 19” pieces of fabric A RSU and align the zipper tape with the 19” raw edge, matching the marked centers of the zipper and the pillow back. The zipper and the fabric should be RST (see figure 2).  Use binding clips to secure the zipper in place.
  2. Remove the standard needle plate from the MC9400 and install the Ultra Glide Needle Plate. Using this needle plate with the Ultra Glide Foot will keep the oilcloth gliding smoothly under the presser foot.  Select a zipper sewing stitch to move the needle position to the left.  Lengthen the stitch length to 3.0.  Attach zipper foot E to the presser foot and sew the zipper to the fabric A with a 1/4″ seam allowance (see figure 3).  Finger press the seam allowance of the zipper away from the zipper teeth, under the oilcloth.  Fold the remaining edge of the zipper over (see figure 4).
  3. Place the remaining 6-3/4” x 19” piece of fabric A RSU. Take the remaining side of the zipper tape and match the marks on the zipper tape edge and the pillow back edge, with the zipper right side down.  Line up the raw edges and clip in place with binding clips (see figure 5).  Sew the zipper in place with a 1/4” seam allowance (see figure 6).
  4. Once again, finger press the zipper tape seam allowance away from the zipper teeth so it is under the oilcloth pieces (see figure 7).
  5. Remove the zipper foot E from the presser foot and attach the Janome Ultra Glide Foot to the presser foot (see figure 8).
    Figures 5-8
    Figures 5-8

    Topstitch 1/8” away from the folded edge of the oilcloth (see figure 9).

  6. Select stitch #1 from the utility menu. Move the zipper head towards the middle of the zipper tape (see figure 11).  Use a binding clip to keep the ends of the zipper together.  Sew a few stitches and then backstitch to connect the zipper ends, about 1/8” away from the edge of the oilcloth fabric (see figure 10).  This will act as a zipper stop until the front and back of the pillow are sewn together.  Keep the zipper unzipped at least half way.

Round the corners and baste the pom pom trim

  1. Take the circle template that you printed and cut out, and place it with the edges touching the corner edges of the pillow. Trace around the curved edge of the circle with a marking pen.
  2. Cut the edge to round the corner (see figure 12).

    Figures 9-12
    Figures 9-12
  3. Repeat steps 8 and 9 with the remaining corners of the back of the pillow and the four corners of the front of the pillow.
  4. Set aside the zippered back of the pillow. Take the 13” x 19” piece for the pillow front and the jumbo pom pom trim. Place the pillow front RSU.  Starting in the middle of one of the 19” edges of the pillow front, align the edge of the trim with the edge of the oilcloth.  Trail the end of the trim off the edge of the pillow by 2-3 inches figure (see figure 13).  The pom poms should be pointing inward towards the center of the pillow front.
  5. Align the edge of the trim and the edge of the pillow front all the way around the perimeter of the pillow. When you reach the point you started the trim at, overlap the trim and trail the end off by 2-3 inches, as you did to start (see figure 14). If the jumbo poms overlap, carefully trim one or two away to decrease the bulk.  Use binding clips to clip the trim in place.
  6. Move the needle position to the left. Lengthen the stitch length to 5.0 for a basting stitch. Baste the trim in place with a 1/8”-1/4” seam allowance (see figure 15). 

Sew the pillow together and finish

  1. Place the basted pillow front RSU (see figure 16).

    Figures 13-16
    Figures 13-16
  2. Place the zippered back of the pillow right side down on top of the pillow front (see figure 17). Line up all the edges and make sure the pom poms are all facing in towards the center of the pillow. Double check to be sure the zipper is unzipped at least half way.  Use binding clips to secure all the edges together.
  3. Remove the Ultra Glide Foot and attach the zipper foot E to the presser foot. Keep the needle position moved to the left, as if you were sewing a zipper. Sew around the perimeter of the pillow using a 1/4” seam allowance (see figure 18).  Double check that none of the pom poms are getting caught in the seam allowance while you are sewing.
  4. Use a pair of scissors to trim away the excess ends of the zipper so the ends are flush with the pillow edges (see figure 19).
  5. Turn the pillow right side out and carefully push out all the curved edges (see figure 20).

    Figures 17-20
    Figures 17-20

Tip:  Oilcloth has little to no stretch, unlike cotton fabrics you might be used to working with.  A zipper closure helps to keep seams sewn together versus using an envelope closure.  Be careful to not stretch the fabric when inserting the pillow form.  For a fully weather-resistant pillow, you can opt to sew this pillow without the ball fringe trim.

  1. Insert the 12” x 18” pillow form and use to liven up your patio!
    Finished Pillow!
    Finished Pillow!

    Now get out there and party with your new DIY outdoor pillow 😉

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Top Tips for Sewing with Oilcoth

Top Tips for Sewing with Oilcloth

So I know what you’re thinking…this blog is called “Kustom Kwilts”…what gives with the oilcloth?

There are so many skills in sewing and quilting that can be transferred to other things-garments, bags, household and decor items.  If you can sew a straight line, there are so many other amazing things you could be creating if you’re willing to do a little exploring.  I just released my new Mamacita Tote pattern, which is a perfect fit for using quilting cotton AND alternative fabrics!  The pattern suggests using oilcloth for the lining, and I don’t want to leave you hanging on how to do that (you can also use quilting cotton).  I love to quilt, but I also adore sewing clothing and bags.  I hope I can share some of that love with you!

Mamacita Tote in Quilting Cotton
Mamacita Tote in Quilting Cotton

What do I mean by alternative fabrics??  I’m talking about vinyl, leather, faux leather, and one of my personal favorites, OILCLOTH.  I’d love it if you were willing to read on and open yourself up to some great new possibilities for yourself!

Some of my favorite oilcloth prints
Some of my favorite oilcloth prints 🙂

Let me break it down for you:  A lot of the things you need to know about oilcloth also goes for other vinyl fabrics and faux leathers.  Here are some things you need to know before buying your first yard of oilcloth–

  • It’s water resistant/doesn’t absorb water.
  • It’s relatively inexpensive.
  •  It is super-duper easy to clean.  All you need is a wet paper towel and you can wipe off pretty much anything.
  •  It doesn’t fray.
  •  It’s more stable than quilting cotton, so most of the time it doesn’t need extra interfacing when used in bags.
  • When you use it as a purse lining, it wipes clean and is SO easy to maintain!

    Mamacita Tote with an Oilcloth lining
    Mamacita Tote with an Oilcloth lining

I’m sure I’m leaving a few important things out, but these things alone are pretty fantastic.  There are some things you’ll want to know about sewing with oilcloth and what you want to do a little differently than if you were sewing with regular quilting cotton.

Here are my Top Tips for sewing with OILCLOTH~

  • Don’t ever use an iron to get the wrinkles out!  You will melt the fabric, and more than likely ruin your iron.  I like to either use a blow dryer on low heat to relax wrinkles , or lay the fabric out in the sun on a flat surface for a few hours (I live in Texas, so sometimes it doesn’t take long!)
  • The holes your needle makes in the fabric are permanent.  That means you want to use a longer stitch length (somewhere around 3.5) so you have less perforations in the fabric.  If you’re using a teeny tiny stitch length, your needle is making a ton of holes that’s making your fabric weaker.
  • Don’t use sewing pins!  The holes they make will be permanent.  When securing oilcloth, use clips instead of pins.

    Pins and oilcloth are a big No-No!
    Pins and oilcloth are a big No-No!  Don’t do it!
  • Use a Teflon or non-stick sewing foot to help the oilcloth slide under your foot with ease.  If you don’t have a Teflon foot, you can also stick a piece of satin scotch tape under your sewing foot, and that will help ease the fabric instead of sticking to it.  You can also use tissue paper between the presser foot and the oilcloth, then tear it away when you’re done.
  • Since oilcloth is a little thicker than cotton, try using a slightly larger needle, like one suited for leather or denim.  If you try a smaller needle and it works okay for you, stick with it–because that means the holes the needle makes will be smaller :).

I buy all of my oilcloth at Jack’s Country Store (not an affiliate link).  It seems like an unlikely place to get it, but it’s a pretty fun site, and they have tons of options and cheap shipping.  Are you ready to try it?  Go ahead, be brave!  I have a total oilcloth addiction now, and it’s so easy to work with.  I’d love it if you gave it a go and shared with me how you used oilcloth in your next sewing project!  Happy sewing 🙂

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Quilting Tips – How to plan your quilting designs

How to plan your Quilting

Happy 4th of July!  I hope you’re getting to enjoy family and friends and all the great festivities that the 4th brings!  In my neck of the woods, it’s hotter than Hades and we haven’t had a decent rain shower since March, so we may not be enjoying tons of fireworks this evening…we’re definitely praying for the little rain shower than is a minor possibility tonight.  Now lets talk quilting tips and how to tackle planning your quilting design!

I recently got to quilt an American Wave Quilt (pattern by Lisa Moore of Quilts with a Twist) for my mother-in-law and thought it would be a good opportunity to share some of my quilting tips for adding texture and movement to your quilt tops and planning your overall quilting design.  Even though I love bright colors and modern-traditional quilt designs, I have a great appreciation for traditional colors and patriotic quilts.  Some of the first quilts I made when I was learning to sew were with traditional, warm colors and American designs.  I’m using this quilt to talk about the 8 things I usually think about before I start quilting, but these tips can be applied to any quilt top.

My MIL didn’t follow the pattern exactly as shown below, but this is the original pattern, by Lisa Moore, pictured below.  If you’re interested in purchasing the pattern, you can grab a PDF copy at Quilts with a Twist (this is not an affiliate link, I’m just crediting the original designer in case you want to purchase the pattern).

American Wave Quilt Pattern
American Wave Quilt Pattern by Lisa Moore – Photo from Quilts with a Twist Pattern Page

Here are my top quilting tips for devising your quilting plan:

  1.  Consider the quilting as a design element of your quilt.
    When you get a quilt top completed that has so much work put into it–much as this one does–it’s important to consider the quilting as another design element and not an afterthought.  In my opinion, a basic meander or other edge to edge can take away from the overall impact of the quilt.Since our goal was to enhance the movement already present in the piecing, we decided to stitch in the ditch, quilt swirly waves, add some stars to go with the theme, and quilt piano keys on the striped fabric border.

    SID and swirly waves
    SID and swirly waves
  2. Examine the layout of the quilt and follow the lines in the quilt to enhance the design.This quilt design already shows lots of movement in the piecing.  I opted to stitch in the ditch on the waves and within the different fabric colors, I quilted swirly waves.  Another great quilting motif would have been to echo the wavy lines within the quilt to complement the already wavy lines.The red and white striped fabric wasn’t exactly stitched in the ditch (SID), since it was one piece of fabric and not pieced stripes, but I followed the lines of the colors and did a faux SID to make it appear that it was pieced.
  3. Consider thread color.
    I used three different thread colors on this quilt–red, cream, and blue.  I matched the thread colors to the fabrics I was quilting and changed them often.  This isn’t always necessary, but it’s important to consider before you stick with just one thread color for the entirety of the quilt.  If you want the quilting to really pop, then using just one of those colors–like cream would be a great idea.  The cream will blend into the cream colored fabrics, but contrast highly against the darker values of the red and blue.

    Blending thread
    Blending thread

    Ask yourself — Do I want my quilting to blend or POP?  If your goal is great subtle quilting, then select your thread colors to blend or melt into the fabric.  If your goal is high contrast quilting that will POP against your fabric, select thread colors that contrast with the fabric.
    Also, if you’re a beginning quilter, matching your thread colors to your fabric colors will help conceal any minor mistakes you might make.  This is a great confidence building technique to get you started on your quilting journey!

  4. What color is your backing?
    Some people prefer the quilting to blend into the backing, but in this case, the red and blue threads really pop on the cream colored muslin that was used for the backing.  It’s a good idea to think about your backing and what the quilting will look like on the back prior to starting quilting.

    Backing
    Backing
  5. Look at your borders (if there are borders).
    So there were two “borders” on this quilt top.  The outer border was a dark navy blue, and the inner border was the red and white striped fabric.  I quilted stars that connected to each other in navy blue thread on the outer border and the faux SID on the striped fabric.  It’s a little difficult to see because of the thread matching, but it’s there :).  Select quilting motifs that will complement your border designs.

    Border designs
    Border designs
  6. Think about the theme of the quilt.
    In this case, the theme is pretty straightforward.  It’s obviously a patriotic themed quilt, so think about designs that go with that theme.  Stars, stripes, waves, etc. would all be good choices to go with this quilt top.  maybe you have a quilt top that has cats on it, and the cats are made from triangles–you could quilt triangle motifs in the borders, or a ball of yarn, or little mice.  Stars probably wouldn’t be a good choice to go with a cat quilt, so you’d want to pick something in theme with the quilt top.
  7. Evaluate the purpose of the quilt. 
    This will help you decide the density of quilting that is appropriate and what type of batting you may want to use.  If it’s a quilt that’s going to be a wall hanging, you’d probably want to use a stiffer batting, or maybe double batt with a puffy top like wool.  If the quilt is intended to be used often, you might select a poly-cotton blend  or 100% cotton-something that would stand up to being washed and laundered frequently.The batting you select might also dictate how far apart the quilting can be.  If you buy packaged batting, it will usually tell you how far apart the quilting lines can be (example-up to 8″ apart).  Keep in mind the denser the quilting, the stiffer it will feel.  A looser quilted quilt will be softer and drape better than a heavily quilted one.
  8. Stitch in the ditch might be a lot of work, but the payoff is worth it.
    I’m a big fan of SID.  I haven’t ever quilted a quilt with stitch in the ditch and regretted it, but there have been instances where I didn’t do it and wished I had.  It gives the overall quilt a more finished look (in my opinion), and a very polished look.

    SID detail
    SID detail

    The overall idea is to think of your quilting plan and how it will affect the overall impact of your finished quilt.  These 8 tips are small things you can consider that will really impact your finished quilt.  I hope these tips are helpful in planning your next quilting project!  Have a safe and happy 4th, and happy quilting 🙂

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Wonky Logs Quilt Release!

Wonky Logs Quilt

Who loves free quilt patterns??  I do!  Today is the release day for the Wonky Logs Quilt Pattern (if you subscribe to my newsletter, you got access early!), and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Wonky Logs Quilt Pattern
Wonky Logs Quilt Pattern

I don’t know about you, but when I started sewing a few years ago, I had absolutely zero intention of ever making clothing.  The thought of doing so actually made me break out into a cold sweat.  (I promise I’m getting to the quilt–hang in there for just a hot minute!)  I can still remember sitting on my mom and dad’s bed, worrying over a dress pattern that my mom desperately wanted to make for me.  We (I say we, but I was mostly there for moral support 😉 had managed to cut the pattern pieces out of the flimsy tissue paper, and pinned it to the fabric that was destined to be the dress.  I honestly can’t recall what happened after that, but I don’t think were able to finish it.  I remember the feeling of frustration and not understanding the horribly written pattern that was intended for beginners.  It was even more frustrating because my Mamaw was an excellent seamstress, and my mom didn’t inherit those skills, or really want to.  Her calling is gardening and home making, and she does it all perfectly.  My point in telling you this story is that it left me with a bad taste in my mouth for sewing.  I didn’t attempt any kind of sewing related feat, with the exception of cross stitch, for the next 20 years.

Some angled straight line quilting on my Wonky Logs Quilt
Some angled straight line quilting on my Wonky Logs Quilt

Fast forward 20 years, and I’ve gotten the basic knowledge down of quilting.  I joined a modern quilt guild and went on a retreat where many of the members were making their first (or second or third) garments.  I decided they could have it and waited another couple of years before finally sewing my very first School House Tunic by Sew Liberated.  It wasn’t pretty, but I wore it with so much pride, you’d have thought it was Chanel (the pattern is great–it wasn’t pretty because my fabric choices were A-W-F-U-L).  That feeling of accomplishment and pride–isn’t that what we all get when we complete a new challenging project?  I want to encourage you to broaden your horizons and challenge yourself to take on the sewing tasks you think you’re not good enough for.  That’s how I felt with garments.  And now I am obsessed with sewing my own clothing and clothing for my daughter and husband.  I’d like to help you get there.

Okay, that was a long intro, but I needed to tell you WHY I wrote the Wonky Logs Quilt pattern.  It’s free.  It’s fat quarter friendly!  It’s a quilt pattern you can put together with your serger.

Bust out your serger!
Bust out your serger!

WHAT???  Yup.  (Don’t run away just yet–you can piece it with your sewing machine too)  If you don’t have a serger, no worries.  You can still use the pattern with a traditional sewing machine and a 1/4″ seam allowance just like normal.  If you DO have a serger, and it’s sitting in the corner of your closet with old raincoats and Halloween decorations, then it’s time to pull that puppy out and dust it off.  Give it a little cleaning, find the manual and give it some oil, if necessary.  Think of this quilt pattern as your gateway pattern to garments.  You can still have fun picking out your fabrics and making a really gorgeous quilt, but you can do it while getting to know your serger a little better.  Starting to work with “wovens” with your serger will take a lot of the intimidation out of it because your fabrics won’t be stretchy like knits are.  I’ll be posting more on some fun garment construction and sharing some tips with you along the way, but for now–grab your free copy of the Wonky Logs quilt pattern and gather your fabric and have fun!!!

Picking your fabrics is half the fun!
Picking your fabrics is half the fun!
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DIY Starfish Tote – Sewing Camp with Janome

DIY Starfish Tote

Are you looking for some cute and quick Summer sewing projects?  Then you’ve got to hop over to the 2018 Summer Sewing Camp with Janome!  The first three weeks of projects are already available, and there’s even a cut file for a camp t-shirt.  It’s all the fun and creativity of summer camp without the hefty price tag, so you really can’t go wrong :).  Every Monday, through July 30, a new sewing project will be released that can be finished in a couple of hours with minimal supplies.  You have to check out the DIY Starfish Tote tutorial!

My contribution was Week 3– A DIY starfish tote bag with the option to use an embroidery design (if you have an embroidery machine) and an option to applique the star with a regular sewing machine.  If you want a really quick finish, you can purchase a ready-made tote bag or follow my simple instructions to make your own!

Embroidery
Embroidered/Appliqued Starfish

I used an embroidery/applique design from the Janome Embroidery website and it was so quick and easy to do, I was literally done in 30 minutes with the applique!  I hope you enjoy this quick and easy FREE tutorial–you can download it from the Janome site linked above, or you can download the DIY Starfish Tote here as well 🙂

This is a great project to do with your kids to combat boredom and then load the bag up with some beach towels, sunscreen, and snacks and head over to your local watering hole.  Or if you really want to score some points, gather up some of your kids’ friends and really create the camp feeling!  If you participate in any of the projects, be sure to share what you make with the #janomecamp18 to be entered in the giveaway drawing that will end on August 13, 2018.  They’re giving away a sewing machine AND some other awesome sewing related items, so you’ll definitely want to get in on this!

Happy sewing friends!

 

 

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Thread Matters

Why Thread Matters

Over the years, I’ve collected quite a bit of thread.  When I first started my sewing journey, I knew nothing about thread and considered it to all be equally delightful.  I was free motion quilting with embroidery thread, piecing my first quilts with really terrible quality cheap thread that was years old, and using heavy weight thread for machine embroidery.  If you’re just beginning your thread journey, you might be discovering that if you don’t use the right thread for the job, your results don’t quite turn out the way you hope.  (And that’s okay!)  But I hope after reading this post, you’ll realize just how much your thread matters.

Why Thread Matters
I’m a little nuts and like my longarm quilting thread organized by color…isn’t it pretty?

Sometimes, what you don’t know can be a great thing, and using threads that aren’t meant for the job you’re doing can have a great end result.  Ignorance can take away fear of trying new things when you just grab what you have and go for it.  I’ll share with you some of my biggest learning experiences as a self-taught beginner sewist…and how much your thread matters.

I bought a bunch of thread from an estate sale (I thought I was getting a great deal!!!).  Nothing wrong with that if it’s being used decoratively, like in a shadow box display.  This was all SUPER old thread–some of the price tags were still on the spools and most of them said 5/$1.00 and .29!  Most thread these days ranges from $6.00-12.00 a spool!  I’m going to wager that most of this thread was 20-30 years old.  Here’s the problem:  Most of this thread was dusty, had been stored in humid conditions, exposed to lots of daylight for long periods of time, etc.  Over time, the fibers in the thread can degrade.  Natural light can sun bleach the thread and weaken the fibers.  Damp conditions can do the same.  This thread, when run through your machine, can be extra linty, break easily, put lots of dust in your machine, and cause some really gross tension problems.  Now that I know about using old thread and the problems it can cause, I’ve gone back and stretched some of the thread out and tried to snap it in my hands.  Most of the thread broke very easily, without me having to exert much force at all.  Using thread that breaks so easily in a quilt is problematic because that means your seams aren’t going to be as strong, and your beautiful quilt won’t have as long of a life as it could if you’d used quality thread.  I still have all this old thread as a reminder to be wary of really cheap sewing supplies!  A lot of times, what you pay for is what you get.

Another thing I used to do a lot was buy super shiny Sulky thread that was meant for embroidery and use it to free motion quilt.  When I was just learning to sew in 2010, I was having all sorts of problems troubleshooting the thread tension on my very inexpensive Singer sewing machine.  Now that I’ve spent hours (probably adding up to weeks) experimenting with different threads, fiber contents, etc, I generally know what will work well for a project and what won’t.  The sewing machine I was using at the time was fickle (as was I!) and I have to say, my sewing would have been much better if I’d stuck with one brand and type and figured out my machine settings with that specific thread.  Here are some tips for troubleshooting thread problems:

Janome MC9400
Janome MC9400
  • Use the best quality machine you can afford
    • Clean it regularly and have a maintenance cleaning done annually.
needle type
Needle Type
  • Use high quality needles, appropriate for the type of sewing you are doing
    • size of the needle should match your project type (smaller needle for finer fabrics and larger needle for heavy weight fabrics
  • Purchase a good quality thread
    • use a thread weight that works well with your project
      • 40-50 weight is typical for most sewing
    • select a type of thread that compliments your project
      • If you’re sewing with cotton fabrics, use cotton thread
      • Poly or synthetic fabrics coordinate with polyester thread
      • Or select a decorative thread appropriate for your project
    • Brand does matter!
thread 1
Thread Matters
  • What are you using the thread for?
    • Piecing
      • use a slightly lighter weight thread than you would for standard sewing.  I recommend a 50 or 60 weight thread.  If you use a slightly lighter weight thread, your seams will lay flatter and look cleaner.
    • Quilting
      • Do you want a thread with a sheen?
        • Polyester or mercerized cotton
      • Reduce your lint
        • I’ve found that Glide threads (Hab + Dash) produce significantly less lint that other brands
        • Most cotton threads will produce at least a little lint
      • How bold do you want the quilting to be?
        • For quilting that blends, try a lighter weight thread
        • For bold quilting that really stands out
          • Glide 40 wt
          • A thread color that contrasts with the fabrics
blending thread
blending thread – thread matters!

Whew!  Well, I’ve gone on for a little longer than I originally intended, but that’s because thread is SO important.  I hope you find some of the things I’ve shared helpful and that you can find some peace with your piecing 🙂

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Wisecraft Handstitched English Paper Piecing Pillow

My finished English paper piecing pillow

After a long day at work, picking the kiddo up from daycare, fixing dinner and doing the dishes…I like to relax by doing English Paper Piecing.  I started my EPP journey before Gemma was born by sewing up La Passacaglia (pattern by Willyne Hammerstein).  I’d pick my fabrics in the morning before I went to work (this was when I was still teaching high school), then when I got home, I’d cut the fabrics out as quickly as I could, make dinner, etc., then start glue stick basting all the papers on the couch.  I’d organize all my rosettes into little zip lock baggies so I could just grab and go.  I also had color coded templates I made so I wouldn’t get my little papers confused.  I’d throw a prepped ziplock into my purse when I knew I’d be travelling with students and had some time alone at the hotel at night and sew when I had a chance.  That project really hooked me into EPP.

Fast forward to now…I sew full time and any extra time in the morning is spent prepping for the day’s work ahead.  Now I have a sweet & sour toddler who demands most of my extra time in the evenings, and I’m so wiped after she goes to bed that the last thing I want to do is think about anything.  That is…until I got Blair Stocker’s Wisecraft Quilts book.  It’s such an organically creative book about repurposing and it really pulls at my creative heartstrings.

Wise Craft Quilts
Wise Craft Quilts

There’s an EPP project in Blair’s book called “Handstitched” that made me fall in love with English Paper Piecing all over again.  It’s a project I was confident I could complete, even with my never ending checklist and a needy toddler.  If you’re so inclined, you can pick up a paper template kit from Blair’s website HERE.  (Full disclosure-none of these are affiliate links.  I don’t get anything out of you making a purchase other than the satisfaction of knowing you’ll love this project as much as I do!)  Below is a picture from Blair’s book of the project and my beginning planning phase of the EPP.  Anytime I do EPP, I always sketch out a “map” of the project with a key for what fabric goes where.  I can’t ever remember what my original plan is without writing it down!

Handstitched EPP planning
Handstitched EPP planning

You can see in the finished/progress pictures that I didn’t end up using some of my fabric selections.  I’m a die hard Anna Maria Horner lover, and I ended up mainly using one print of hers that I’m a sucker for fussy cutting.  There’s so much going on in the pattern of that one fabric that you can basically fussy cut it all over and get dozens of different looks.

Handstitched step 1
Handstitched step 1

I started by assembling the center with my fussy cut pieces.

Handstitched step 2
Handstitched step 2

I absolutely LOVE incorporating stripes and straight lines into EPP.  I’m always surprised by the outcome.  See above.

Handstitched step 3
Handstitched step 3

There’s just something about those dull gold and maroons working with that magenta and mint that make them almost glow.

Spray basting onto my pillow front
Spray basting onto my pillow front

So I decided this project would be a perfect throw pillow.  Once I started it, I knew I needed to see this EPP on a daily basis and not just hanging out in my sewing studio.  I grabbed my favorite spray baste and cut a pillow front a little larger than it needed to be finished so I could quilt it as well.  I used Chaco liner to mark the pillow front into quarters to easily find the center and centered the English Paper Piecing piece on the pillow front.  After I used just a smidge of spray baste, I hand appliqued it to the fabric (also AMH fabric-loominous).  All while sitting on my cozy couch with the husband 🙂

applique
Appliqueing the EPP to the pillow front

I used Wonderfil 100 wt. thread to hand stitch.  I quilted some simple straight lines on the pillow front to add a little texture.  The Loominous fabric already has a grid motif on it, so I only did straight lines one way to save me some time.

Quilting
Quilting

 

My finished EPP pillow
My finished EPP pillow

I could have just stitched up the project and made a mini out of it, but we’re a pillow household.  I love how you have to really look at the center to see the English Paper Piecing template shapes.  The stripes really break it up and make you have to search for it.  I’m really hoping to start another of these soon once I get some other projects off my plate because it is so enjoyable to sew.  I put a lot of thought and even auditioned some of the fabrics before I started sewing, but you could just as easily make a scrappy version that would look outstanding as well.  I believe Blair’s version in the book is all Liberty (insert all the heart-eyed emojis here!!!).

Basically, I love this project.  I can sit my fanny on the couch and relax while my fingers do all the work.  And it makes me still feel like I’m being productive (while not actually having to do anything strenuous).  Win-win, right!?

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Sewing for littles – Superhero cape and mask tutorial

If you’re on the hunt for a sweet project to keep your little super hero busy this summer, pick up some satin and felt and sew up this easy superhero cape and mask.  I used the Janome MC9400 to put this project together, and you can find the full tutorial HERE.

This isn’t a difficult project, and you can practice some basic applique skills to put a great finishing touch on it.  Personalize this project with your kiddo’s favorite colors to really make this project pop!

This tutorial was made for approximately 3T-5T.  The mask will fit larger children as well.

My best friend allowed me to have her precious little girl model this for me, and you can tell she’s ready to take on the world 🙂  Happy sewing!