Monday, August 13, 2018

Getting the Lining Right on Bags

Yahoo! I got the lining right on this En Pointe Bag!

Before I was a quilter, I was a bag maker, and an experienced one at that. I’ve made patterns by Noodlehead, Lazy Girl Designs, Amy Butler, and others. No matter how many notches I have in my bag-making belt, however, the part that has the potential to cause me problems is sewing the lining.

My most recent lining-related snafu was with Noodlehead’s Market Bag. When the bag was finished, the lining didn’t fit as nicely as I would have hoped. It was too darn bulky. Since I was working under a deadline—the bag was a belated birthday gift for my sister—I didn’t take my time and trouble-shoot.

To read more about this Market Bag, click here.

While making Kairle Oaks’ En Pointe Bag pattern for a second time, however, I decided to wise up and make a conscious effort to evaluate the fit of the lining before it was sewn into the exterior.

Now, the En Pointe Bag is a much simpler pattern than the Market Bag. Both its interior and exterior are rectangles. The pattern calls for using Pellon’s Décor Bond, which gives the bag pieces a crisp hand. Once pieces are lined with Décor Bond, however, it’s like sewing two pieces of construction paper together—there’s no give and no way to ease an ill-fitting lining into the bag exterior.

To gauge the fit of my lining, I cut the lining pieces a quarter-inch shorter in both width and height. Then I sewed a few inches along the top of both side seams. I finger-pressed those seams open and placed the lining into the bag to assess the fit. I did the same for the bottom, sewing a few inches in the middle of the bottom and finger-pressing the seam open. I decided to take a little more off the lining height as a result of these extra steps, and the completed project was better for it.

I used Essex Linen and Midnight Garden, by One Canoe Two.

Getting the lining to fit right had me so preoccupied that I didn’t realize until I was about to finish attaching the binding that I had twisted one of the straps. (NOOO!) I’m pretty sure this was a first for me and bag making. Instead of completely ripping out the stitches from multiple steps in the pattern, I managed to “unsew” one side of the bag, fix the strap, and get back to where I had left off.

Here’s the spot in question. I think the strap looks pretty good, considering the ordeal required to fix my mistake.

Here is the strap in question, all better!

The real test of my ability to take my time and sew a well-fitting lining will be my next Market Bag. I have all the pieces cut (including cute hand-basted hexies that are ready to be appliqued to the exterior!). Now I just need to find the time to sew it.

Do you have any words of wisdom about bag making and lining? What about cautionary tales, like my twisted strap? (I couldn’t help but remember an old post from Kelby Sews, about how a pattern-taping mistake resulted in the cutest tote bags. Read more here.)

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Save the Thread!

I’ll never tire of sewing half-square triangles. It amazes me what quilters can
create with them! Do you remember this quilt of mine from early 2016? It’s all
squares and HSTs.

Back in February 2017, I attended my first QuiltCon, in Savannah, Georgia. I didn’t spend too much time in the vendor section of the conference—there were too many other things to see and do—but at one point, I found myself admiring the wares in the Aurifil booth. This display was beautiful. A highlight was the quilt Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill made, featuring all 270 of the company’s thread colors. So, so pretty!

At one point during my visit, my friend Megan and I noticed water seeping from the adjacent bathroom toward the booth. With the rallying cry of “Save the thread!” we sprang into action and picked up product, including giant cones of thread, that was displayed on the floor. To thank us, the nice Aurifil folks gave us goodie bags. (This was super sweet but entirely unnecessary. I am a woman of priorities. If the thread is in jeopardy, I’m going to save it.)

One of the items in the goodie bag was a charm pack of Aubade, by Moda designer Janet Clare. That single act of thread preservation, and the subsequent thank-you, brought about this quilt . . .

For the quilt top, I bought some more Aubade charm packs, paired them with Kona Snow, and remembering a post I saw on Instagram, organized the resulting HSTs in ombre fashion.

To finish this project off, I quilted on both sides of the seams. (Read that as: no marking!)

The backing is a print from Janet’s Field Guide line, and the ocean-wave binding is from her More Hearty Good Wishes collection.

I’ve long admired Janet’s work and was psyched to play with fabric from three different lines of hers in this project. (A local quilt shop still has Nocturne in stock if I need to address an acute hankering for her fabric designs in the future.)

Do you share my love of HSTs? Is there a pattern full of HSTs that you recommend, or have you designed your own HST quilt?

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Modern Hexie Pillow

My projects fall into one of two categories. There are the ones whose inception I labor over. I plot the design, the palette, the fabric pull—sometimes for months. Then there are these other projects that come out of nowhere and I bang out with little thought.

This is the story of one of those latter projects. When I learned that a friend was leaving the area to tackle new adventures, I remembered this project I had seen posted on Instagram and decided to make her a rainbow of modern hexies. A few hours later, I was happily cutting some Alison Glass charm squares into smaller chunks and basting them, English paper-piecing style, into hexagon form.

This technique was developed by Nicole Daksiewicz, of Modern Handcraft. She has made oodles of projects by hand basting and machine appliqueing hexagons to quilts, pillows, and pin cushions. (For real. Check out her hexie projects here.) I probably could have figured out how to make this pillow on my own, but I was happy to pay the $10 to support Nicole’s work.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to tackle a modern hexie project. First of all, basting the 1-inch hexagons proved to be a lot of fun. I have two little boys who are hell-bent on depriving me of any daytime quilting time this summer, and by the time they’re in bed, I’m too tired to do much of anything. But the hexies I baste on the couch, TV on, the husband and 65-pound “lap dog” next to me. Fun!

Plus, the appliqueing was easier than I would have thought. After pressing the basted hexagons and arranging them in a pleasing configuration, I followed Nicole’s instructions and glued them to the background fabric. The subsequent quilting design, which depends on careful placement of the hexies, was somewhat forgiving. Granted, I made an 18-inch pillow, not a quilt, so the threshold for success was rather low. But it’s a triumph nonetheless!

The moral of this story? If you haven’t tried Nicole’s modern hexie technique, you should. I already have a second pillow in the works as well as another Noodlehead Market Bag that I plan on adorning with hexagons.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Conquering My Fear of Free-Motion Quilting

Look! I can free-motion quilt!

I like straight-line quilting, and the motifs I can create with a straight stitch and walking foot usually serve me well. Every 12 to 18 months, however, I decide that I need to face my fear of free-motion quilting (FMQ). After all, FMQ has its perks. I like the idea of quilting without doing much, if any, marking (and I almost always mark when I straight-line quilt). Plus, some quilt designs require the softening that only FMQ’s swirls and loops can provide.

These forays into FMQ follow the same pattern: I get out my darning foot and plate, watch some videos online, give FMQ a shot, and throw in the towel when I’m not great at it from the get-go. In the end, all I’ve wasted is some thread and practice quilt sandwiches.

My most recent attempt was different, though. I started by hanging out with a friend—someone I consider an expert in FMQ—to pick her brain and practice a bit. And it was hard. I had to focus on so much! So we talked about different ways I could practice, improving my approach and building my muscle memory.

I ended up making some compromises. First I invested in some inexpensive stencils, figuring they’d help me work on maintaining a consistent stitch length and making pretty, round corners without having to think about where I was headed next with my quilting. Then I practiced with a stipple stencil. I’m not crazy about the look of stippling, but it’s forgiving—a good FMQ design to start with. I traced my stipple stencil on some freezer paper, taped it to my cutting board, and using a simple rectangle of leftover template plastic marked with a black dot, pretended I was moving a quilt under the needle of my machine. Then I moved to quilting practice sandwiches. Finally, I moved on to an actual quilt.

This was my simple solution to working on my muscle memory.

In the end, the experience went better than I thought it would. I offset each row of stippling to camouflage the fact that I used a stencil, and that worked well. Whenever things got too wonky, I stopped quilting, tied off the thread at a good spot, and buried the ends. It wasn’t efficient, but I wanted the final quilt to be good enough to gift. Of course, with the stencil, I had to mark every line of quilting with a water-soluble marker. Oh well—I did what I had to do to make FMQ work for me!

This was the ideal project to work on my FMQ. A lot of imperfections were
camouflaged by the gray thread and improv background.

Here is the finished quilt! Read more details here.

I haven’t done any FMQ since that project, so I suspect my next attempt will require a lot of practice again. That’s fine with me—I have the confidence to make it happen a second time.

Are you into FMQ? What words of wisdom can you share with a newbie like me?

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Friday, June 15, 2018

The Jelly Roll End Is in Sight

Read the Tutorial: Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt

I used to be a girl with lots of jelly rolls. I think it’s how they display—all neatly wound together, with a peek of each fabric along the edge—that made them so irresistible. The thing is, jelly rolls aren’t as versatile as other precuts, so they tend to accumulate in my stash. A few years ago, I decided enough was enough. I was going to use up all the jelly rolls I had on hand and stop buying them in favor of other precuts. (See the fruit of that effort here, here, here, and here.)

I am pleased to announce that I have two more quilts—one finished and one in process—and then I’ll be down to zero jelly rolls. The end is in sight! To celebrate, I wanted to share how I used one of these last jelly rolls, in a log cabin quilt pattern I’ve named my Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt.

This was my first time sewing rectangular log cabin blocks. The rectangular version goes together as easily as the square one, but unlike square log cabins, rectangular log cabins have an orientation. For this pattern, if you add logs clockwise around the center log, you get the block on the left. If you add logs counter-clockwise around the center log, you get the block on the right ...

I made 16 rectangular blocks—8 of the left block and 8 of the right—to create my quilt. By rotating the blocks, I could have created these other designs, too ...

My finished quilt features Franklin by Denyse Schmidt; the mockups use one of her more recent lines, Washington Depot.

The Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt is a fun—and super easy!—way to sew through a jelly roll. For instructions on how to sew your own, see the accompanying tutorial.

For more posts on jelly roll quilts, see:

Read the Tutorial: Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt

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Tutorial: Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt

 Read the Introduction: The Jelly Roll End Is in Sight

This is one of the four quilt designs you can make with this tutorial.

Fabric Requirements

32 jelly roll strips of printed fabric (I used Denyse Schmidt’s Franklin line)
1½ yards* of solid fabric or 21 solid jelly roll strips for the background (I used Kona Snow)
½ yard of fabric for the binding
3½ yards of fabric for the backing
63" x 70" piece of batting (this provides approximately 3" to 4" of overhang on each side)

*This measurement does not allow any room for error. If you prefer, buy 1¾ yards to allow for a mistake or two in cutting.

Finished size is approximately 56" x 64".

All seams are a scant ¼".

WOF = width of fabric. These instructions presume a 42" WOF.

Please read all of the instructions before beginning your project.


Please note: The lettered labels that follow correspond to the labels used in Sewing the Log Cabins.

Divide the 32 printed jelly roll strips into two piles, distributing the colors evenly between the two. (For example, my fabric came in two different colorways: orange/magenta and green/blue. I placed half of my orange/magenta strips in each pile and half of my green/blue strips in each pile.)

Cut one pile of 16 strips like this:

Cut the second pile of 16 strips like this:

If using yardage for the background, cut the 1½ yards of fabric into (21) 2½" strips. Using the 21 strips of background fabrics, cut:

  • 8 strips into (16) 14½" pieces (K) and (8) 10½" pieces (G/J), following the picture below:
  • 6 strips into (24) 10½" pieces (G/J)
  • 6 strips into (32) 6½" pieces (C/F)
  • 1 strip into (16) 2½" pieces (B)

Sewing the Log Cabins
Unlike square log cabin blocks, rectangular log cabins have an orientation. For this pattern, if you add logs clockwise around the center log, you get the block on the left. If you add logs counter-clockwise around the center log, you get the block on the right ...

For any of the four designs below, you will need 8 of each orientation.

To assemble a block that orients to the left, start by sewing an A piece to a B piece. Press the seam open.

Add the C piece to the block, working clockwise.

And the D piece.

Following the picture below, sew on the remaining logs.

To sew a right-oriented block, sew the same pieces counter-clockwise around piece A.

The unfinished block size is 14½" x 16½". Once you have completed 16 blocks and decided which design you want to make, sew the blocks into rows and then sew the rows together.

Finishing the Quilt

To make the backing, cut your 3½ yards of backing fabric into two rectangles: 63" x WOF. Sew them together along the long side. Trim down to 63" x 70". Quilt, bind, and enjoy your quilt!


It’s important that you use an accurate scant ¼" seam for this block to achieve the unfinished block size of 14½" x 16½".

I love chain-piecing, but to avoid making silly mistakes, I sewed just two blocks of the same orientation at a time. I’d lay the pieces for each block out on my sewing table, and then sew both A’s to the corresponding B’s and so on.

My finished quilt!

Read Introduction: The Jelly Roll End Is in Sight

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Monday, June 11, 2018

You, Too, Can Sew Improv!

Bloom Chicka Boom, my first improv quilt.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when I thought improv was a magical kind of quilt making. It was beyond my skill set and best left to the masters—Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Sherri Lynn Wood, and other sewists known professionally by three names. At that point in my sewing career, creating without a concrete plan seemed hard and inefficient. How did I know whether I was going to like my finished product? The idea of wasting my time and fabric on a project that I might not love was unappealing.

But I have grown, friends. I’ve learned that improv doesn’t mean sewing without a plan. It doesn’t mean you start piecing fabric, willy-nilly, and end up with a fabulous finished quilt. You might not be following a pattern per se, but you do sew within a framework, the rules by which you select fabrics, cut them up, and sew them back together. I can say all of this with confidence because I just completed my first quilt with lots of improv sewing. : )

The difference for me was the instructions set out in Stash Statement, a new book by Kelly Young, of My Quilt Infatuation. Kelly approached me a few months ago about participating in a blog hop for her book, and I agreed to it with some hesitation. I am happy to report, however, that Stash Statement has helped me conquer my fear of improv, and it has the potential do the same for you, too!

Still skeptical? Let me address your likely concerns ...

It Seems Hard

Creating your first improv quilt can seem daunting, but having a framework makes the task manageable. And that is exactly what Stash Statement provides. Following Kelly’s advice, you learn how to sew improv panels, blocks, or strips and incorporate them into patterns. In other words, Stash Statement marries what’s scary and new (improv) with what you already know and love (bold, modern patterns).

Bulldogs, curlicues, flowers, ducks ... this background has it all!

Sometimes the improv panels you make will appear in the foreground of the quilt top. In the quilt I made, Kelly’s Bloom Chicka Boom pattern, the improv is in the background. For me, this was extra fun because I got to use up a chunk of fabric in cool shades of gray, blue, and periwinkle, not my typical palette. (See my first post about this project here.)

The variety in the background prints creates great texture.

I Don’t Have a Big Scrap Bin

When I first received Kelly’s book, I had just given away the majority of my scraps. Lucky for me, Kelly addresses using yardage in improv piecing. You’d never know that almost all of my low-volume fabric choices came from yardage in my stash. There’s such a great spectrum of fabrics, including many novelties that were aging in my fabric drawers for years. It felt good to get those beauties out of my stash and into a project.

I spy Lizzy House’s constellation prints from her Whisper Palette.

It Seems Time Consuming

Some of the patterns in Stash Statement are more time intensive than others. Bloom Chicka Boom, with all that improv in the background, is probably one of the more time-consuming ones. I started well in advance of today’s deadline, sewing my improv panels here and there when I wanted something fun and relaxing to sew. If you’re looking for a faster project, choose a different design, maybe one that features the improv in the foreground. Check out Beach Retreat, for instance. I think that would go together a lot faster. (In fact, I think I’ll be making a rainbow-y version in the future!)

Something to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be super legalistic about this process. After all, it is supposed to be a fun opportunity to use what you have on hand. Bloom Chicka Boom calls for sewing improv panels and then cutting them down into smaller sizes for use in the blocks. When I found a stack of low-volume 2.5" squares in my stash, I could have sewn them into panels and then cut them back into 2.5" squares, but I used them as is and they look great in the quilt.

The Bloom Chicka Boom block also calls for 1.5" by 4.5" strips. Since I was cutting from yardage anyway, I simply cut 1.5" strips of varying lengths, sewed the short ends together, and then cut them into the needed 4.5" lengths. You would never know by looking at my finished quilt that I took a shortcut.

I love these chummy little mice!

There Are So Many Seams

Your finished improv quilt top may have some spots where the seams are bulky. I didn’t want to quilt not-so-straight lines through any bulky areas, so I chose to free-motion quilt my project. Granted, I didn’t know how to free-motion quilt at the time I made this decision, but I thought it would be more forgiving. In the end I figured out how to FMQ, and it worked well for me with this project.

The one issue I did not foresee is how the bulk would affect my binding. I machine-finish my bindings, and I wish I had given myself more wiggle room than I usually do to compensate for that extra bulk at spots along the edge of the quilt.

If you have sewn something improvisationally, how did it go? If you’re new to improv, are there other concerns that are preventing you from making the leap?

The back features prints in the same palette as my improv background.

Now that I’ve covered improv, I need to tell you all about my adventures with FMQ! Stay tuned for a future post on that subject.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Is This Quilt Finished?

I’ve been holding out on you, dear readers. I’ve been sitting on a finish for six months without blogging about it!

At first I was feeling protective about this project. It was rejected from QuiltCon 2018 (boo!), and although I wasn’t upset about that, I was surprised. I thought it was a strong submission. As the months passed, however, I began to wonder whether it was indeed a finished quilt.

Here, for your consideration, is my Circa 1870 ...

The inspiration for this quilt originated during a walk in the small New England town I call home. I saw some hexagonal siding shingles, bordered by elongated ones, on a house that was built in 1870 and decided to transform them into a quilt design. When set on an angle and rendered in a palette of periwinkle, gold, and salmon, the architectural details on that old house become distinctly modern—I love that!

I pieced this quilt by machine, using the lessons I learned from my Happy Hexie Baby Quilt (see the related tutorial). I accentuated the project’s minimalist feel by quilting simply, along both sides of some seam lines.

BTW: The palette was swiped from the amazing floral print on the back, designed by Rifle Paper Co. for Cotton and Steel. The front is done in mostly Kona Solids, including Butterscotch, Gold, Salmon, Marine, Periwinkle, and Lapis. The color that photographs almost black is Kona Indigo. The deep pink is an orphan from my stash. The pieced back also includes fabrics from Lizzy House, Tula Pink, and Christopher Thompson.

Right now you’re probably thinking that it sure looks like a finished quilt. I’m fixated on the quilting, though. Does the simple machine quilting beg for some hand quilting to accompany it, or should I submit the project to QuiltCon 2019 as is?

I have had the pleasure of taking a handwork class with Anna Maria Horner (more on that some other time!); I’m sure that experience is playing into my doubts. After seeing what she can do with a needle and some Aurifil 12 weight, there is untapped potential here. What do you think?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On My Sewing Table

I currently have four WIPs going right now. I don’t mean I have three stacked neatly up and one at my sewing table. I mean I have four going simultaneously, strewn about my dining room and cluttering an 8-foot table. I’ve been picking up a different one when I need a change or run out of fabric. (So far I’ve run out of a Kona solid and a shade of Grunge. In other words, I have a legit reason to step foot in a quilt shop in the very near future!)

One of these projects is from Kelly Young’s new book, Stash Statement. I’m pretty excited about this quilt. It’s a departure from other projects of mine because of both its palette and its construction.

The Palette

I’ve had a stack of fabrics from Lizzy House’s Whisper Palette in my stash for a year or two. I love these fabrics and the cool grays in them, but most of my projects call for warmer grays, and I’ve struggled to include these low-volume fabrics in projects at hand. The solution, it turns out, was to let the cool grays dictate the palette of an entire quilt.

You can see some of these prints—specifically, the flags, mice, and constellations—in the pictures below. I paired them with other grays from my stash, some pale periwinkles, and some prints from Kate Spain’s Aria collection. (I sewed with Aria here, too.)

These fabrics in different, (mostly) muted colors compose the background for the blocks in Kelly’s Bloom Chicka Boom pattern.

The Construction

Those background fabrics have been sewn together into panels and then cut into the necessary sizes for the pattern. I’ve heard my guildmates call this “made fabric,” and it’s the technique that Kelly employs throughout her book.

I tried my hand at sewing made fabric before, in this quilt, without success. The advice and framework in Stash Statement, however, gave me the guidance and confidence I needed to sew some made fabric and use it in blocks for Bloom Chicka Boom ...

There is a blog hop with patterns from Stash Statement happening now. (Visit Kelly’s site to see what others are quilting from the book.) My turn isn’t until mid-June, so you will have to wait until then to see this quilt and all 16 of its fabulously oversized blocks. ; )

Also on My Sewing Table

I couldn’t leave you without sharing a few sneak peeks of other projects. After all, the problem with having so much stuff going on at once is that it will be a while before I have a completed project. (But when I do get to that point, the finishes should come in quick succession!)

I took three charm packs of Janet Clare’s Aubade collection and some Kona Snow, and made a few hundred half-square triangles. Eventually, I’ll sew them together to make a simple quilt top!

I’m also sewing up wonky stars, including the ones below. (This design, called Blaze and created by Adrianne Ove, is from Classic Modern Quilts.)

And I’m piecing a medallion top by Lynne Goldsworthy from an old issue of Love Patchwork and Quilting. This pattern has everything—arrows, crosses, plus signs, and more—and I’m sewing it with Karen Lewis’s first Blueberry Park line and a not-quite-white shade of Grunge.

Can you relate to the multi-project chaos I am experiencing now? I have other WIPs to tell you about, but I won’t be sewing them until a few of these are in the bag!

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