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?

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday, Let’s Bee Social, and Needle and Thread Thursday ...

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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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Monday, April 30, 2018

The Project That Wouldn’t Die

This is the story of a quilt that took almost three years to make. Now, the piecing didn’t take three years. The quilting didn’t take three years. But the laborious process of making decisions and choosing a path for my design did. And let’s face it: If I hadn’t set aside two weeks to focus on this quilt last month, it could have easily taken four years or more.

I designed the project in question back in October 2015 and started to piece it in Essex linen and “made fabric.” I was using fabric that I love, and I thought that meant I would love the final product. But this design is a commitment. It features huge geese (or geese-ish triangles, not all of them reflect the standard 1:2 proportion for geese). In fact, the largest of these geese are 40 inches wide. When I realized I wasn’t getting results I liked early in the process, I cut my losses, unpicked stitches, and set aside the bits of fabric for other projects.

My original design, from 2015.

My first try included blue prints and Essex linen.

A year later, this design was still stuck in my head. I started piecing it a second time, in three Kona colors: white, shadow, and pewter. In attempt to add some color to the lackluster palette, I incorporated some solids and prints in shades of raspberry and cranberry. Again, I didn’t like how the project was coming together, so I folded it up nicely and hid it in the back of my closet.

A second try, with colorful solids and prints.

When establishing my quilt-related goals for 2018, though, I knew I had to finish this quilt. I decided to omit the more colorful fabrics and finish the design in the muted Kona solids. Once I was ready to quilt, I could add color with thread. Cassandra Beaver has used thread in that way; maybe I could achieve similar success with my quilt. (See this post from Cassandra for some examples of how she uses thread to add color and enhance design.)

In the end, however, this quilt wanted to be about size and shape, not color. I used an off-white thread to quilt each section densely in a different direction. So, for example, the top-left arrows that point to the left are quilted with horizontal lines, and the equilateral triangles below them are quilted with vertical lines.

Finally, a finish!

The only deviance from the gray and white palette is the Kona Aloe I used for the binding, which matches the back.

The binding adds the hint of color the quilt needed.

Not every project deserves to come to fruition; there is something to be said for knowing when to give up. I’m glad that I followed this rabbit hole through to the end, though, and I’m ecstatic about the final product.

Do you have a project that won’t die in your quilt queue? Let us hear all about it in the comments. : )

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My Fabric Diet

I know I’ve said it in the past, but it’s time I get serious about shedding some weight from my fabric stash. It’s not about the expense or the storage—although either would be good reason to trim my hoard—it’s how all that fabric, already purchased and waiting to be used, affects my creativity.

More and more, I find myself choosing projects or assembling fabric pulls to use up the fabric I have. It’s hard to justify buying the fabric I want to use for a particular project when I already have enough on hand to make many (many) quilts. (I discuss this briefly in my interview for the Creativity Project.) There are even times I think that I quilt to support my fabric-buying habit. I think it should be the other way around.

If my situation resonates with you, can I suggest ways to trim down the fabric you already have and prevent yourself from buying more?

1. Get rid of what you know you won’t use. There’s something helpful and productive about purging what you no longer love or what’s no longer your style. That subpar fabric can affect how you see all the other good and usable stuff in your stash. Any castoffs can be offered to friends, donated to charity, or put up on Instagram or Facebook and sent to a new home. This past February, I gave some of my unwanted fabric to my guild’s annual yard sale. (I wrote about last year’s sale here.)

2. Start with your stash when planning a project. It’s easy to home in on a new quilt design and immediately think that a trip to the quilt shop is in order. When I start playing around with my stash, though, I’m amazed by the potential. Sure, I may need to augment a fabric pull with a new solid or two, but the bulk of many quilt tops can be found in my stash. Precuts and bundles are especially easy to use up—they’re made to coordinate and require fewer new purchases.

I've started this Modern Medallion quilt, by Lynne Goldsworthy, with precuts
from my stash.

3. Buy what you need when you need it. When embarking on a new project, only buy what that project requires after you’ve confirmed that you don’t have a suitable substitute in your stash. I prefer to buy local when possible so I don’t have to order minimum cuts—which are sometimes a full yard!—from an online retailer. Some more advice on this front: Don’t buy too far in advance. If you’re like me, your to-do list will likely change and you’ll find yourself with fabric cuts you no longer need. Also, be wary of free shipping deals online. Sometimes, it’s better to pay five bucks shipping than add unneeded fabric to your shopping cart just to avoid shipping charges.

4. Identify your weakness(es). How are you likely to blow this fabric diet? Are you a social fabric buyer, someone who heads out with friends for some fabric shopping and lunch on a Saturday morning? Then invite your friends to your house to sew instead. Do you find yourself perusing #thegreatfabricdestash posts on Instagram or getting sucked into browsing fabric sales online? Then unfollow the necessary people or shops, and unsubscribe to retailers’ email lists. (All of these will welcome you back when you’re ready, I promise!)

Fabric on sale—especially if it’s by Denyse Schmidt, Amy Butler, or Anna Maria
Horner—is one of my weaknesses!

5. Give yourself some wiggle room. It’s hard to be good all the time. Decide on some healthy parameters for shopping at fabric stores. If you’re going on a quilt retreat and fabric shopping is on the agenda, determine up front how much you’ll spend shopping. If you’re dieting for a nonfinancial reason, try splurging on something other than fabric, like a fabric-cutting machine, quilting services, or high-quality thread.

A few months ago, I went fabric shopping with my mom and sister. It may have been the first time we did that (admittedly, my mom and I shopped, and my sister spent the time on her phone, researching Sesame Street Live!). I decided before we entered a store that I could buy a backing or two for some projects on the horizon. I scored Amy Butler fabric and Anna Maria Horner fabric for $3 a yard and used one of the cuts, pictured below, immediately. I got to have fun with my family and enjoy the thrill of some good fabric scores!

I bought this floral print from Anna Maria Horner when shopping
with my mom and sister. I paid $3 a yard!

Does the size of your stash affect you? Is it time to start a fabric diet? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to cheer you on!

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Modern Plus Sign Book Blog Hop: Rick Rack Runner

I am no stranger to plus sign quilts. I’ve made a bunch of them, and some of my favorites were created by quilt designer Cheryl Brickey. Maybe you remember my Outlined Plus quilt or Birds in Blue project? Both of them were designed by Cheryl.

Recently, Cheryl teamed up with Paige Alexander, of Quilted Blooms, to write Modern Plus Sign Quilts: 16 Dynamic Projects, a Variety of Techniques. I knew before I opened it up that this book would offer unique designs and well-written patterns. It did not disappoint!

For the Modern Plus Sign Book Blog Hop, I decided to make the Rick Rack Runner, a project sized generously enough that it could serve as a bed runner. I opted to trim it down so I could gift it to a friend as a table runner this summer ...

I stayed true to the original—designed, pieced, and quilted by Paige—choosing a light background color (my beloved Kona Snow) that would highlight some carefully chosen fabrics for the pluses. Then I dove into my Bonnie and Camille stash to assemble a modern version of the traditional red, white, and blue Fourth of July palette. I’m delighted with how it turned out!

This is Paige’s original, from the book.
Photo courtesy of C&T Publishing.

I took the back as an opportunity to use more from my Bonnie and Camille collection, making a simple patchwork of 5-inch charm squares. It may seem like unnecessary extra work for the back of a project, but I tend to gravitate toward B&C’s more saturated prints. This back was a great way to give those lower-volume charms a life outside of my stash. (For more on that back, including how I cut corners on the pressing, click here.)

All those angles in the pieced quilt top needed some softening, so following the instructions in Jacquie Gering’s Walk book, I quilted a large, soft S-shape diagonally on the runner and then echo-quilted out from there. It was a fun break from my usual straight-line quilting and was surprisingly forgiving.

I experienced the usual pitfalls with this project—trimming threads I was supposed to bury, unpicking and resewing a binding that should have been easier to finish, scrubbing off schmutz that I managed to get on the quilt top. (Ack!) It all worked out in the end, though, and I’m excited to give this summery runner to my friend in a few months.

The blog hop for Cheryl and Paige’s book continues through March 23rd. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ plus sign finishes and visit the authors’ blogs for daily giveaways! You can purchase your own copy of Modern Plus Sign Quilts here, and both Cheryl and Paige are selling signed copies in their Etsy shops.

Enjoy the rest of the hop!

Modern Plus Sign Book Blog Hop

Monday, March 12th
Cheryl @ Meadow Mist Designs
Paige @ Quilted Blooms

Tuesday, March 13th
Soma @ Whims and Fancies
Ann @ Brown Paws Quilting
Kitty @ Night Quilter
Sophie @ Luna Lovequilts
Afton @ Quilting Mod
Shelley @ The Carpenter’s Daughter Who Quilts

Wednesday, March 14th
Jayne @ Twiggy and Opal
Jen @ A Dream and a Stitch
Abigail @ Cut & Alter
Yvonne @ Quilting Jetgirl
Sandra @ mmm! quilts
Karen @ Run Sew Fun

Thursday, March 15th
Linda @ Flourishing Palms
Bernie @ Needle and Foot
Liz @ Savor Every Stitch
Stacey @ Stacey In Stitches
Michelle @ From Bolt to Beauty [That’s me!]
Patty @ Elm Street Quilts
Melanie @ A Bit of Scrap Stuff Blog

Friday, March 16th
Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts
Izzy @ Dizzy Quilts
Ruth @ Charly and Ben’s Crafty Corner
Christa @ Christa Quilts

Monday, March 19th
Jessica @ Quilty Habit
Cindy @ Hyacinth Quilt Designs
Jennifer @ The Inquiring Quilter
Julie @ The Crafty Quilter

Tuesday, March 20th
Tish @ Tish N Wonderland
Judy @ Sew Some Sunshine
Emily @ The Darling Dogwood
Wanda @ Wanda’s Life Sampler
Karen @ Tu-Na Quilts, Travels, and Eats
Katherine @ Sew Me Something Good

Wednesday, March 21st
Anja @ Anja Quilts
Kate @ Smiles from Kate
Sue @ Sevenoaks Street Quilts
Carole @ From My Carolina Home
Alison @ Little Bunny Quilts

Thursday, March 22nd
Debbie @ Esch House Quilts
Laura @ Slice of Pi Quilts
Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts
Janice @ Color Creating and Quilting
Joanne @ Quilts by Joanne

Friday, March 23rd
Cheryl @ Meadow Mist Designs
Paige @ Quilted Blooms

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