Back to School Blog Hop – Making Bias Binding!

Welcome to my stop on the hop!


My preference for binding is to make BIAS binding, no matter if the quilt is straight edged or not. When I first started quilting, my amazing teacher, Marilyn George (Hi Marilyn!) taught me bias from the get-go.

Here are the reasons for bias over straight binding that matter to me:

  • It lasts better before it starts splitting with age. This about the fact that there is one thread along the folded edge of straight binding. When that edge wears out, the result us usually a split running the entire length of the binding. With bias, at the fold, the threads are crossing in a pattern of XXXXXX, so if one thread gives out, it usually doesn’t take its neighbors with it!
  • It goes onto the quilt with less chance of puckers. The little bit of stretch that happens with the bias just sits right down when you roll over to finish to the back.
  • The joining of the two ends is a bit more forgiving. Again, the little bit of stretch makes it possible to not join up perfectly, yet still have it all come together.
  • Making bias binding uses barely a couple inches more of fabric than straight strips. And with the way I cut it, there is no waste at the seams.

So how to calculate the amount of fabric you need:

  • Measure the Width:  W = __________________
  • Measure the Length:  L = __________________
  • Add W + W + L + L to find the Perimeter of the quilt: P = ____________________
  • Add 20 for fudge factor: P + 20 = PF (P with Fudge!) _________________________
  • Multiply PF times the width of binding you want – for most of us, that’s 2 1/2” – to find the Area (yes, this is actually the area of the fabric needed, but no swooning just because you saw an algebra word!) PF x 2.5 = A ________________
  • Divide A by W, the Width of the fabric you have… if it’s wider than 40”, just use 40 so that you have a bit more give in your fudge factor. NOTE: if you’re using an oddly sized scrap, just use the width here and it will work: A / W = __________________
  • And that’s how much fabric you need! And I always round this up to the nearest inch PLUS ONE (or one inch more if it’s right on the line) again for a bit more give in my fudge factor. I’ll tell you what to do with the leftovers at the end :-)

So if I had a quilt that was 45” x 60”, it would look like this:

  • 45 + 45 + 60 + 60 + 20 = PF of 230
  • PF 230 x 2.5 = 575
  • 575 / Width of fabric of 40 = 14.375 – so I will cut 16” of fabric.

Now to show you how!

First cut that width of fabric, and remove the selvedges:


Lay the fabric in a single layer with the longest edge (the 40” if it’s full width) running horizontally:


Position the 45 degree line of your ruler along the bottom of the fabric (this image is correct for right-handers – reverse it if you’re a leftie)….


… And the top corner at the upper left point. Use two rulers to do this if you have to. My second ruler is a 2 1/2” x 36 1/2” yardstick by Creative Grids, and it’s the perfect ruler for the job, especially if you’re cutting anything wider than about 15” (which you will be if you’re making binding for anything other than a lap quilt).


Make the first cut at 45 degrees into that top left corner:


Then cut the rest of the large piece in 2 1/2” strips (we’ll come back to that corner piece):


Cut until you make a big triangle at the end. You might need to trim the last cut to make it clean:


Cut both the beginning and ending triangles until they are down to around 6” or 8” (that’s why I add the fudge factor):


And add those last triangles to the scrap basket:


To the machine!

Place the strips, right sides together on the diagonal seams and sew. If you’re using solids or a batik, PAY ATTENTION to which is your “right” side! Overlap the strips with a dog-ear hanging out such that the V between them is at 1/4”. You can mark the first few to get the hang of it if you like. Chain piece them together:


Clip the chains apart, and press the seams open:


And press in half, wrong sides together, along the length of the binding:




Once you’ve added the binding to your project, you can keep the leftovers to piece together into fun scrappy bindings. I keep a box of scrap binding just for this:


Dont miss the rest of the gang on the Blog Hop:


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New Pattern + Tutorial: Turning Points

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a …fabric triangle???

Well, sort of! It’s a flying goose that also happens to be a prairie point!

Yes, I’ve been playing with prairie points again, this time in a pillow/mug rug/pincushion pattern!

HDS.031 - TurningPoints - Cover - 300dpi

If you stopped by the Hoffman Fabrics* booth during Spring Quilt Market, you might have seen a few pillows that my wonderful Stunt Sewists helped make out of Hoffman’s  latest yummy hand-dyed batiks, the Indah solids and prints from the ME+YOU line of fabrics:


Here’s the whole line – it’ll be in stores in August. If you have never handled a Hoffman batik you need to go touch these… they are made on a beautiful high-thread-count stock, and don’t shred like a lot of other solids. And this is just the beginning… more coming later in the year!


Lucky us, the Stunt Sewists and I got to play with them in a hurry for Quilt Market samples. I had worked out the prairie point fish for Fin and Dandy, and had the idea to make a circle of geese from prairie points too. So Cath of Wombat Quilts, Brittany, Wendy and Monica came to help, and we cranked out a bunch of pillows that showed off the new fabrics. Brittany spent an entire evening ironing dozens of prairie points!


Once market was over, the kind folks at Hoffman called and asked where the pattern was… um… it was still in my head! So I went back to the drawing board, and added the mug-rug and pincushion sizes to the pattern to make it more fun (that pincushion is seriously CUTE!) and promptly sent it off to the testers. I <3 my test crew!**


It’s ready to go now, and due back from the printer by Friday, so you can order the hard copy here, or grab a PDF right now from here.

Like most of my paper-pieced patterns, this one has easy pre-cutting instructions for the backgrounds to save you time and fabric, along with a bunch of drawings to help you through a nifty way of aligning the points without using too many pins. I also shot a photo tutorial for those of you who find pictures more helpful than mere words!

AND – before you leave… yes… a giveaway! I’ll give away a jar of mini-charms from Hoffman, plus a hard copy of the pattern to a randomly drawn winner drawn on Saturday, June 27th. Hmmm… let’s have you tell me about what you might make out of these mini-charms, should they come to your house!


* I have a great professional relationship with Hoffman Fabrics!

** This pattern was tested by Janet, Lisa, Melissa, Kimberly, Paula, Kim, Monica, and Adva.


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Quilt Talk Goes Tiny

How small can you go? As it happens… pretty dang small!

I belong to the Portland Modern Quilt Guild, and we get extra door prize tickets if we have a hand-made name badge. So my friend Monica said she was going to Quilt Talk hers.

Now I’ve seen some small Quilt Talk letters (check out Paula Fleischer’s “Crazy” in the gallery section of the book). I’ve MADE small Quilt Talk letters. I was skeptical about seeing them come out at any size that wouldn’t look a bit like a billboard hanging around someone’s neck. Or worse, a bib!

This was her first snap-shot to me:


And all I can say is WOW. They be tiny, but they be elegant! And legible! And she wasn’t cussing at me when she was done!

And then she surprised me with an offer to make me one! I’m no fool, and immediately proffered fabric – and bound it in Sam I Am fabric when it arrived:


And then she started copying tiny letters and sharing them with our mini-group pals:


I’m utterly tickled by all the tiny wordplay!

So if you want to make one for yourself (or any other tiny worded thing), here’s the recipe, from Monica:

“On a copier, first reduce the letters to 25%, and then reduce that size to 75%.  If you have a shorter name, the first round of shrinking might be plenty.”

And just to give you a sense of scale:



Thank you, Monica!


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New Pattern + Tutorial – Chunky Wee Zippy Pouches

I released five new patterns for Spring Quilt Market, and I’m going to take the next few days to introduce them here: first up is Chunky Wee Zippy Pouches.

HDS.030 - ChunkyWeeZippyPouches - Cover - 300dpi

This pattern includes instructions for the three sizes shown on the cover, PLUS instructions to create a pouch of any size – just plug in your numbers (this high, that wide, and this long), do the super simple math that’s laid out for you (really – it’s simple stuff, no stress involved) and cut away. You can buy the hard copy pattern here, or the PDF here.

The pouches have a very easy zipper installation – in fact, the whole thing goes together in just eight seams! It’s made of a sandwich of fabrics, fusible, and stabilizer, so the edges are fused and need little finishing. They’re a bit addictive.

I find that anything including zippers is easier to understand with photos than just with drawings, so here’s a quick photo tutorial for the pencil case to help you out. Let’s get started!

1. Choose your fabrics, and cut them according to the pattern. This dimension is 1/2” larger than the fused sandwich so it can be trimmed cleanly after fusing. You also need to cut a layer of Pellon Shape-Flex stabilizer, and a piece of Warm Company’s Steam-A-Seam 2 fusible (either weight is fine). You’ll need a zipper too – make sure you follow the directions on the length for that or you’ll find putting it in to be a pain in the patootie.


2. Fuse the Shape-Flex to the back of the outer fabric, a Star Wars print.


3. And fuse the Steam-A-Seam to the wrong side of the inner fabric, a red solid. FYI – the new Steam-A-Seam products now come with handy grid paper on one side, and get this… you can put them through a printer! *

4. Peel the back off the Steam-A-Seam, and adhere the sticky side of this to the Shape-Flex side of the outer fabric. Press well. Notice that I pulled out a non-stick pressing sheet for this step to save getting goop on my ironing board cover. Of course, after I got the first round of goop on it – argh!

IMG_72055. Once the sandwich is together, trim it down to the dimensions listed in the pattern.

6. The pattern tells you to pay attention to which dimension is A, and which is B – in this case B is the longest side, but depending on what you’re making, this isn’t always the case. If you get it wrong you’ll be unpicking a zipper, so mark them clearly!

Press 1/4” under along both B sides of the sandwich. You have 4 layers here, so you’ll need some steam – mind your finger tips!


7. Open the zipper up all the way, and lay the left side of the zipper under one turned edge of the sandwich. You can use a little glue to hold it in place if you like. I use the walking foot for this (rather than change between the walking foot and zipper foot) – if yours doesn’t track straight (mine does), take the time to change feet.


8. Stitch about 1/8” in from the fold, down the length of the side. That’s Seam 1, and half a zipper done! Yes, that extra zipper is correct – having it allows you to sew the second side easily.


9. Sew in the other side of the zipper to the other side of the sandwich – it’ll come together like a tube. Use the extra tail of the zipper to move the first side under and out of the way. Make sure you start the top of the zipper in the same place as you did for the first side – and don’t twist it! Again, a little glue can be helpful. Stitch about 1/8” from the fold.


10. Sew to the end. Seam 2 and a whole zipper done!

11. Make an inside-out tube by closing the zipper half way. Don’t close it the whole way as it will be a tough job to get it open (from the back side of the zipper) later on. Trust me on this.


12. Trim off the excess zipper. Don’t use your good scissors! If you have any great ideas for the tail end of a zipper, do share! If not, toss it.


13. Pop a loop of ribbon under the zipper, matching raw edges, and facing the loop in – this makes a pull tab on the right side at the ends of the zipper when finished.


14. Stitch across the end, including the loop. I like to stitch across twice for extra strength. That’s Seam 3 done. Repeat on the other end for Seam 4.


15. Mark the “boxing” squares according to the pattern. Note that the square is INSIDE the seam allowance.


16. Cut those squares out with some nice scissors with sharp points. I don’t recommend a rotary cutter here because it’s easy to overshoot the line and cut into the seam allowance.


17. Oops – forgot this before cutting the boxing squares, but we can do it now: run pinking shears, a zigzag blade, or a zigzag stitch along the seam if you’re worried about fraying.


18. Pull the inner corners of one box apart…


… and pinch the seam together. Tuck the end seam away from the zipper.


19. Sew that seam down. Yep… Seam 5 is done.

IMG_723320. Rinse and repeat for the other 3 corners, minding you tuck the end seam down on all of them. Pink or zig the edges if you wish.


As promised… 8 seams!

21. Open the zipper up and turn the pouch. Poke out the corners with something relatively pointy to make them square and pretty. Fill it full of things.


22. Enjoy!


* Disclosure: I have a great relationship with Warm Company.

This pattern was zipped through its paces by Stunt Sewists Janet, Melissa, Kimberly, Megan, Monica, Jean and Barbara – thank you, ladies!


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Quilt! Knit! Stitch! Come see me there!


Portland (Oregon) is hosting Quilt! Knit! Stitch! here August 14-16 at the Convention Center. This is a new type of show, catching all the needle skills in one place, and I think it will be a feast of new ideas!

I’m thrilled to be on the faculty, teaching two different classes – check them out and hurry over to the enrollment link (look for Online Enrollment in the middle of the page) if you’re interested in coming to play with me. Online enrollment ends in a couple weeks so don’t dally. I will be there EVERY DAY teaching, demo-ing or lecturing:

#304 – Learn to Paper Piece. Saturday August 16th, 9am to Noon.


Learn to paper-piece while making the top of this LOVEly wall hanging (15” x 17”). The provided kit includes patterns on three different types of paper for you to test, pre-cut fabric for easy piecing, and clear written instructions for putting the top together. Baby Lock is providing machines for this class so you just need to show up with some cutting tools. BONUS: Megan Dougherty, The Bitchy Stitcher is my class minion helper for this session, so come meet her too!

#311 – No Fear Thread Painting. Saturday August 16th, 2pm to 5pm.


Learn to thread paint (by machine) over a drawing using the basic art principles of shading and value. No drawing skills needed – truly! Baby Lock is supplying the machines for this session also. I’m bringing the drawings and stabilizers for you to play with, and all you need to bring are basic sewing supplies and a handful of threads. Megan says she wants to come help out in this class too! Lucky me and you!

We Are $ew Worth It – Lecture. Friday 3pm.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

I’ll be delivering the live talkie version of We Are $ew Worth It. I tell stories, make a fool of myself, and open the floor up for Q&A at the end. It’s fun stuff, not to mention important information… you should be there!

Open Studios – Paper-Piecing Demonstration. Thursday 4pm to 6pm.

PP Letters Orange

I’ll be in the Open Studios area, showing you how to paper-piece big things and little things, and featuring the letters from my upcoming book, Quilt Talk. If you can’t make it to a class, stop by and get some free tutelage. Or just stop in to say hello and show me the spoils of your shopping adventures!

I hope to see you there!

Questions? Leave them in the comments below.

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Free Pattern – Paper Pieced Patriotic Heart


I have another free pattern and project up on Janome’s site! Find it here.

Years ago, one of the positions I held on the Simi Valley Quilt Guild’s board was that of the Block of the Month coordinator. If you’ve never done one of these, it’s where the pattern for the month is published, and members who are interested each make one. Each block entered becomes a chance to win them all.

Anyway, I challenged myself that year to design paper-pieced blocks, and this was one of them. I recently unearthed it when my friend Annie asked if I still had it. Yep, I did. I’m really not much of a pack rat, but I do keep most of my art and drawings, and in a relatively (!) organized manner, so out it popped from the archives.

Original pp heart

1995! Almost 20 years ago! And when I was married to someone whose name isn’t Hunter! How time flies! And speaking of time… it’s my son’s 30th birthday today – how the heck did that happen?!?! Well, I know technically how that works, but… THIRTY! EGAD! (and I think I’ve used up my allotment of !! for today so I’ll calm down now)


The new version finishes at 7 1/2”, and is drawn tidily with Adobe Illustrator. I’ve also added a few things that I’ve developed over the years (and for my upcoming book, Quilt Talk) like the “lead lines” for starting oddly angled seams. I also don’t draw the seam allowance around the blocks so that you can size them any way you like – but I do write “add 1/4” seam allowance” on every edge so that you don’t cut the edges off. I’ll leave you to guess how many blocks I’ve ruined doing that.


The Janome project gives you the instructions to make a pillow, but you can also just take the block and run with it. If you do, shoot me some pix – I’d love to see what you’re up to!

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Finishing Birch Bark

The games continued yesterday, and as promised, here are more detailed shots and more process information as I finished the Birch Bark quilt for Hoffman Fabrics. As always – if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer as best I can!

The first job of the day was to make the backing. I had yardage for this, so no pieced backing needed. One seam did the trick. BTW, if you don’t have the Creative Grids yardstick ruler, you NEED one. I can’t believe how much I use it.

IMG_4967It’s still important to take off the selvedges on the seams for a back. You’ll notice that they are often tighter than the rest of the fabric, so if still in the seam they can lead to puckers on the back. Also, and again especially with batiks with their denser weave, the thicker edge can make you break a needle. I used a 1/4 inch seam and pressed it to one side. Had I been sending it to a long arm artist, I would have used a 1/2 inch seam for extra insurance, and pressed it open to reduce density (or asked for the artist’s preferences).

I use spray baste, specifically 505. I think it is the least smelly of the bunch, and holds well for a long time (seriously, I’ve had stuff spray basted in the bottom of the closet for a couple of years and didn’t need to re-do it when the time came to quilt it). When I started using spray, I didn’t get shown how by the people that “knew” so I daresay my method could be considered wrong. But it works well for me with the studio tools I have available so let me see if I can explain it well in pix (one of these days I swear I will attempt video).

First I clip the back down to my table. It’s one of those old, heavy, particle board affairs and it’s perfect for the job. Just like when you pin baste, it’s important to have a smooth tension on it, but don’t stretch the back or you WILL get wrinkles. I work from top to bottom on the quilt, not from the center. The TOP is on the left for reference.


Then I lay the batting and top onto it. BTW – see the fan in the background – you need to have some type of fan pulling the air out of your space when you do this… I also cover all the important stuff with old sheets because it will all get sticky otherwise!


I fold them both back, and spray the backing fabric (imagine video of me spraying here)


Then I smooth the batting down, and spray the batting. I start at the center and move towards the edges. But don’t stretch!


Then smooth the top down the same way.


At this point, it’s glued from the top to the edge of the table. I unclip everything, move it towards the top so that all but about 4 inches of the the glued stuff is hanging off the top edge of the table.


Then I re-clip the top edge (that’s glued) on the outside of the sandwich, and re-clip the backing only at the bottom edge.


Now, we’re doing the same thing, but working from the other side of the table. Spray the backing and smooth down the batting.


Then spray the batting, and smooth down the top. And move it again. Once you get to the bottom of the quilt, only move it as much as needed to get the bottom of the quilt onto the table. This stops you from overspraying batting and backing that might go back into your stash.


Once all the spraying is done, unclip everything and give it a trim. I trim about an inch away.


And done. A quick flip to the back to see if there are any wrinkles that need attending to…


Looks good. And now onto quilting! I put this one back on the design wall to contemplate it. My first thought was to do a spiral, but that involves a lot of turning on the quilt, and remember, this one needed to get finished quickly. So I decided to go with a straight line pattern – fast and easy to do with a walking foot. This design was inspired by something my friend Flaun did recently on a commission. I set the lines on diagonal so as not to run into issues keeping them parallel to the seams in the top.

Another reason for choosing this design is that every line starts and stops OFF the edges. This also reduces the time spent pulling up threads or burying them later.


I needed to find the right starting point for the center, and the “rule of thirds” worked well here… things that are off center in such a way that they align with thirds are usually pleasing to the eye. Here’s the third in both directions marked with a square of batting so you can see it:


I chalked out the initial X of the design while it was on the wall so that I could see the angles.


BTW – I used a Chaco Liner in white for this. I find the white comes off dark fabric easily, although sometimes it can be faint. I wanted a fine line to follow, and this does fine lines beautifully. I will also say that I use their other colors with reservation… sometimes they don’t come out too well. In their defense, Clover states in a blog post I dug up that they were designed for marking dress seams and darts that would be hidden, so it coming out quilts wasn’t part of the product design.

I chalked out one quadrant – one of the smaller ones to start with.


And now to thread choices! I have a lot of Robison Anton rayon threads in my studio. I bought them before I discovered the likes of Aurifil (my #1 piecing thread) and Isacord (which I like to quilt with too), so I still use them. No sense in waste! I have quilting friends that don’t like to use rayon for “utility” quilts – those that will get used and washed a lot – as they might be too delicate and break under wear and tension. Most of my quilts are designed for photographing on pattern covers, and then carted around for trunk shows. So while I would never use nasty cheap thread, the RA is fine for how I use my quilts. I do have some utility quilts that have RA quilting that is holding up just fine – so as always – your mileage may vary!


I ended up choosing an ORANGE. Surprise! I also want to show you these – they are Steady Betty Bands. They wrap around the palm of your hand to give you traction while quilting. I quilt with my palms, not my finger tips, so most of the gloves don’t work well for me. I also like that I can re-thread the machine or handle scissors with them on. They could be a prettier color though!


And on to quilting! I marked one quadrant and quilted it before marking the next so as not to rub off all my chalk lines. For reference, it took 2 bobbins worth of thread to complete. The quilting unfortunately doesn’t show up well on this picture – often times the quilting on batiks gets lost in the fabric patterns.


And onto the binding. Again, I put the quilt back on the wall while I worked out the binding choices. I had two ORANGE fabrics to work with, and liked the darker one better.


I like to make bias binding when I can. I don’t find it any harder to cut and sew, and I like how it settles in on the edge.

How to calculate? Perimeter +20 (for goof-ups) times 2 1/2′ (width of binding), then divided by 40 (the width of the fabric), then rounded up to the next whole number, plus one (for goof-ups). In this case that was 18” x WOF. And I had about 30” left over so pretty dang perfect!

I lay it out on the mat, and make the first 45 degree cut at one corner.


Then cut the rest of the fabric in 2 1/2” strips.


And finally, take that first triangle that was left behind and cut it too. I leave behind the last corner triangles – usually anything under 8” (that’s why the +20 and round-up in my calculations)

Sew them end to end. Mind your right sides and wrong sides with batiks!


Press those seams open, and the press the whole thing wrong sides together.


And here’s the last edge getting sewn down. I join my edges with a bias seam, but that’s a game for a different post!


Last step – I press the binding out so that when I do the hand work it folds over better.


And DONE. This step, from making the back to ironing the binding was about 5 hours, sewing at the Speed of Sam!


I sew the back of the binding down by hand because I like how it looks. This one took me the length of the Avengers movie on Netflix and a healthy dose of chocolate!

Total time for the entire project is right around 12 hours – but I was seriously hustling. If I was bidding it as a custom job for someone I would estimate 15 hours for safety, and surprise them with a little discount if I finished faster.

Questions? Do ask! I’m happy to help you make more quilts!

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!



Birch Bark at the “Speed of Sam”

If you follow a lot of the quilting industry people, you’ll see one of two things this week… either frantic posts about the last minute finishes we all seem to be pulling off for next week’s Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh – or utter silence, because of said frantic finishing! As the saying goes, if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done! And stitching binding on the plane to Market is almost a given.

I’ve sewn last minute stuff for three Markets now. I’m honored to be on call for Hoffman Fabrics… I design patterns that work well with their batiks, and so they often reach out for a booth quilt made of their newest lines. They got their new fabric in last week (no joke) and mine arrived Monday night.

Birch Bark - COVER

They asked for Birch Bark – one of my quick strip quilt patterns – so yesterday, I decided to photo and time myself through the top construction. I was posting on Instagram (@huntersds) and FB, but if you missed it, here are some of those shots and more, along with some of the thought process in my head. It has been a couple of years since I made one, so I estimated 5 hours for the top construction.

Hoffman sent me this new Bali Pop, which I believe will be called Sparrow. It’s all beautiful warm browns with some deep cranberry thrown in. They also sent me a couple of different ORANGE selections for the accent – they know me well! I chose the spotty one, and might use the solid for the binding (we’ll see when I get there).

Some of the new patterns in the batiks (known as “tjaps” and pronounced “chops”) are trending towards more modern and geometric patterning – and they are lovely! This group has those as well as the more organic, nature-driven patterns we’ve come to expect.


The first step is always to take off the selvedges. Even though batiks are printed to the edge, that quarter inch of selvedge is made of thicker stuff (the warp threads are doubled at the edges). It can break your needles and distort your seams, so best be off with them!


Next – chop up the strips and cut the accent pieces:


To the machine! It needed a little TLC before I started. Out with the lint, in with a new needle. New needles can matter greatly with batiks as their weave is tighter. I use a Jeans/Denim 80/12 for all my piecing, and that sharp jeans tip is great for batiks.


I chain-pieced the accents onto the strip sections…


… and then chain-pieced those end to end to make a really, really long strip. Birch Bark is based on the Jelly Roll Race in terms of construction, so there are about 1600 inches of strip to wrangle.


To the iron! I iron all the seams in the same direction for ease and speed.


The strip gets turned into strata. I don’t press this until it’s all done.


Now it can be pressed:


The strata is cut into chunks, and the chunks go up on the design wall:


There were a few areas where colors or accent bars came together in a way that I didn’t like.


So I took out a seam in those blocks, and just moved one section to the other side of the piece I took it from. Even though the construction on this is partly about giving in to the randomness of how it comes together, you still get to manicure the parts that don’t make you happy!


And seven seams later – top is DONE:


It took 3 1/2 hours (4 from start to finish with a half hour break for lunch). Yes, I sew quite fast – my friend Melissa Z coined the phrase “Sewing at the Speed of Sam” after sitting next to me at a retreat! But I also have fast machines – both a Janome 6500 and 8900, which have delightfully fast top speeds. Still, you could still make this top in a day sewing sanely with plenty of breaks.

So today, I will be basting and quilting it. I will photograph/Instagram.FB my way through for that too, and will post it tomorrow. If you have any questions about why I do what I do the way I do it, ask on FB and I’ll try to answer those questions either as I work, or in tomorrow’s post.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!




Free Pattern: Hedgie Pincushion


I don’t like to dispose of sharp metal in the trash – I’m always worried that it might hurt someone – so I’ve been putting my dead machine needles into an old pincushion for a few years. I thought it might be fun to make one where the needles become part of the design. A hedgehog is the perfect needle-y critter! Of course, pins work too.

How often do you change your machine needle? You should be changing it after about 8 to 10 hours of sewing time. A dull needle makes the machine work unnecessarily harder, so changing your needle regularly is like changing the oil in your car – smart maintenance. And a heck of a lot cheaper than a new motor!

You can download this pattern for FREE on Janome’s site here. It’s easy-peasy… you can make one in less than 2 hours – faster if you don’t get caught in an “indecision loop” when choosing your fabric! I know you know what I mean :-)


Oh, one more thing… remember that discussion on designing patterns to “make a quick buck”? Here’s a picture to show you how quickly this pattern got designed:


The published pattern was the ninth iteration. Just sayin’.




Dalek Quilt Tutorial – Who’s the Bad Guy?

Bad Guy

So who’s your favorite Doctor? I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Tom Baker’s incarnation… he was the jelly-baby eating Doctor Who of my childhood in England. He was a big enough deal that I actually knitted a Tom Baker scarf for my son’s dad when we were courting!

Tom Baker

When the series got its reboot, I was tickled to see that the Daleks were still part of the story, despite their limitations as villains (stairs anyone?) The frantic, metallic “Exterminate!” was probably one of the first geek quotes I learned, soon to be followed with a whole host of inappropriate Monty Python!

Anyway… I started playing around with the idea that there could be a Dalek quilt. After I ran several drawings by my closest geeky pals (thank you Steve and Alyssa!) this is what came out: Who’s the Bad Guy?

The quilt is 50” x 80” and is perfectly sized for snuggling. And what follows here is a step by step tutorial with photos and extra tips from start to finish. As with my other pattern based tutorials, you’ll still need to buy the pattern to get the cutting info. But I trust you’re cool with that because I trust that you support artists getting paid for their talent. Go here for your buying options, or support your local quilt store by asking them to get it in for you (it’s carried by several distributors).

So let’s get started! Give the pattern and this tutorial a quick once over before you start so that you have an idea of what’s coming. Pay good attention to the drawing at the bottom of page 1 as it names all the parts/steps. Make sure you are well stocked in your favorite snacks, beverages and videos too.

First of all – make sure you have version 2 of the pattern. Look on the back cover at the bottom left for the version number. If you have v1, then I have a couple of changes for you – they are small, and don’t need more fabric than you already bought. The changes are listed here on the Errata page. BTW… it’s always a good idea to check a pattern designer’s Errata page before you start any new pattern, just in case. We can fix the things we have in-house or in our downloads, but once a pattern has left the studio for a store, the only way we have to get in touch with you is through that page!

The pattern calls out Radiance, the silk/cotton blend by Robert Kaufman for all the Dalek’s shiny metal parts. Radiance works best when paired with a lightweight stabilizer –  I used Pellon Fusible Sheerweight 906F all the way through. If all that isn’t your cup of tea, then substitute cotton and skip the stabilizer.

If you’re buying Kona cottons instead of shiny stuff, I recommend 1069 Champagne for the Gold, 159 Spice for the Copper, 139 Lagoon for the Peacock, and 1005 Aqua for the lightest blue.

NOTE: if your fabric is wider than 42”, you might need less strips in a few places, so feel free to cut out the pieces as you go to save fabric.

Just for reference, I made this top (no quilting) in three sessions totaling about 15 hours, which is why you can see different weather and light day out of the window behind my cutting table! During that time I was also photographing and writing out the tutorial steps, and watching a little too much Netflix here and there, so your mileage may vary. I had all my materials on hand before I started. Including chocolate :-)


Cut all of the parts listed under SKIRT in step 1.

If you are using Radiance or something equally silky and shiny, you’ll need the stabilizer. At this step, I cut enough fabric and stabilizer for two pieces together. The skirt is made in three pairs, so this works out well. Cut both the fabric and the stabilizer an inch bigger than you need so that you get a cleanly cut piece at the end.


NOTE: Most stabilizers are 20” wide, so save those extra bits from the side – you can use them for smaller pieces later in the pattern. Save the leftovers of the fabric for the same reason too.

Make sure to put the sticky side of the stabilizer to the back of the Radiance. When ironing, follow the instructions that came with the stabilizer, and avoid touching your iron to anything sticky!


Once you have the Skirt Body sections cut, it’s time to cut the diagonals on the bottom. I recommend cutting these one at a time, and putting them onto a design surface as you go so that you cut the wedges in the right direction – half go to the left and the other half to the right.

I align the piece up on the mat, and cut using the mat grid to find the dimension on the side of the wedge.


Now to make the accents for the bottom of the skirt. Use black Skirt Trim fabric for this step. Cut the wedges in the same way you cut the skirt.


And finally, cut the background pieces, and wedge them like the copper Skirt pieces. Put them all in the right order on your design surface, and then sew them together.


When sewing together anything with diagonals, don’t forget to align the seams so that you have dog-ears at either end of your 1/4” so that your sides come out straight. 


Press well, away from the skirt so that you don’t fight the stabilizer.


Don’t sew these together yet! We’re going to get the Dots onto each piece first, and stitch them down before it becomes unwieldy.

DOTS (or Hemispheres!)

Using the templates, draw the Rings onto fusible web (I still have a bolt of Steam-a-Seam 2 in the studio so that’s what I used). If you want to do hand appliqué and pass on the fusing, you’re on your sweet own with that! Just remember to add seam allowance to all the pieces for any kind of turned appliqué.


I have tried to cut the circles and rings using quarter-circle type rulers with the fabric folded in 4, and they just don’t cut well for this (mind you, I’ve had great success with the rulers in other applications) – there are 4 layers of fabric PLUS 4 layers of fusible to get through, and I found that I got some jagged edges that made me grumpy. So I highly recommend doing them single layer. You can also then save some materials by nesting the 4” rings inside the 6” rings.

If drafting out the circles from the templates seems tedious, I recommend drawing the circles with an old-school compass (I’ve had that set in the picture since I was a teenager – yikes!) One of my tester-peeps also tried the cutter that is both rotary blade and compass together, and said she had some decent success with it, but that you have to press down firmly.

While you’re drafting the Rings for the Dots, go ahead and draft the circles too.

Fuse the Rings onto the back of the Black fabric, and fuse the Dots onto the back of the Gold Radiance. Watch that you don’t get a sticky iron! (I forgot to take a picture here, but just imagine a huge swath of fused fabric with circles drawn all over the paper!)

Make a pot of your fave tea, load up some guilty pleasure watching on your TV and cut out all the fused Rings and Dots. Chocolate might help too. Save your larger fused scraps as they might be helpful for the Whisk, Plunger and Eye Stalk later.


Using a non-stick pressing sheet, peel the Dots and center them over the Rings – yes there should be some overlap. Fuse this pair together. If you don’t have a pressing sheet, do the following step with just the Rings, and then add the Dots second.


Place pins down the side of the Skirt sections to mark the centers for the Rings or Dots+Rings. Center the Rings at the marks, and make sure they are centered down the Skirt strip too. When you’re happy, fuse them in place. Add the Dots if you haven’t already done so – center them on the rings and fuse them down. (Egad! I forgot to take a picture of this too! Was so excited to get fusing! Just use the drawing in the pattern.)

Take each strip, and do a small, close zigzag stitch around the outer edge of the Ring, and the outer edge of the Dot. Match the threads to keep them from showing too much – I used a gold rayon from Robison Anton and black cotton 50wt from Aurifil (I do all my piecing in Aurifil too).

I chose not to do a dense satin stitch here because I didn’t want that to show as part of the design. Besides, if you don’t have really tight skills when navigating a curve with satin stitch it can easily look like a hot mess, so another reason to relax a bit with a less visible stitch. Remember – quilting is supposed to be fun!


FYI – you could skip this step, and stitch these down as part of the quilting. However, if you plan to sew around the circles with a zigzag while quilting, it means you’ll have to turn the entire quilt 360 degrees for each of the 24 circles, TWICE. So keep that in mind when you make your choice about when to sew these down!


NOW you can sew the Skirt strips together! Finally!


Next: Make the Belt. Look through your stabilizer scraps to find some pieces that will do for this, and fuse them to a strip of Gold Radiance (remember to start with a piece that’s a touch bigger so that you get a clean fuse and cut). Cut the black fabric for the belt and put it together.


Again, press away from the stabilized fabric. Sew this Belt to the top of the Skirt.



Stabilize and cut the Copper shoulder section.

Cut the corner wedges off, using your mat for reference, just like cutting the angles on the skirt.


Cut the Background corner wedges according to the drawing in the pattern. Pay attention to moving in a 1/4” from each corner – this sets you up to have dog ears when you align them to the shoulders. Sew them on, and press away from the shoulders. DON’T sew it to the skirt just yet!


Back to the fusible… make the black and gold circles for the Whisk and Plunger. Check your scraps to see if you have anything that will work before cutting out new fabric and fusible. Draft them and cut them out (probably no need for a movie this time, but sure, let’s have chocolate!)

Place pins to mark the centers for both the Whisk and Plunger circles. Center the circles vertically too, and fuse them down. 


You know what’s coming next, yes? Zigzag those circles down. Or leave them to do with the quilting.

Sew the Shoulder to the top of the Belt + Skirt section.



Cut the three background pieces. Join them end to end on the shortest dimension… you can either do this with a straight seam as the pattern instructs, or you can do it with a diagonal one which I will show here. Either works fine, but the diagonal is often less visible once the piece is in place.

Layer two strips, right sides together, at right angles to each other. Draw a line at 45 degree across the corner. Stitch on the line and trim away the excess triangles leaving a 1/4” seam. You can trim then stitch or stitch then trim. If you tend to stretch bias seams, stitch first and trim second! Add the third strip to this the same way. (That is actually blue pen in the picture, not blue thread!)


Press these seams open so they lay flatter, which also helps with lowering their visibility.

Cut the long strip into the 2 side strips and sew them to the sides of the Shoulder + Skirt section. You have now completed the bottom two thirds of the quilt top! YAY!


Trace the letters onto fusible web. Don’t forget that you need three Es and two Ts. Yes, they are supposed to be backwards so that they come out the right way.


Fuse the web to the Peacock Blue Radiance. Cut them out – you might need some sharp pointy scissors to get into the center of the R and A. Probably a TV episode’s worth of watching, and definitely more chocolate. And maybe something stronger than tea.

Cut the black background for the letters. Peel and arrange the letters onto the background, making sure to leave at least 1/2” all around (you need a 1/4” for the seam allowance and the rest for breathing space). They fit quite snugly so move them close while you are laying them out.


Double check that seam allowance one more time and fuse them down.

Yep – zigzag them too (or skip until you quilt).


Cut out the Neck Ring parts. Check your scraps before cutting new fabric.

Following the drawings on Page 5, snowball the background corners onto the black Neck Ring sections. Snowballs are an easy way to make triangles without having to cut things with persnickety measurements.


Once the corners are on, sew together the right and left sides for the Neck Ring. Press away from the stabilized sections. Then sew the Gold center between these sections. In this case, press towards the center. (Oops… forgot this picture too. So I snipped it out of another one!)

Neck Rings

Sew the Neck Rings to the Word Band (like the pattern says), or wait and sew them together at the final step (which is what I did this time).


Last section!

Cut out the Dome parts listed in the pattern – don’t forget to check your scraps first. On this step I really recommend labeling the parts you cut out.

The Dome is made in two halves that are mirror image to each other, so keep that in mind as you build your way through this section.


If you have pre-read the instructions, you’re probably already reaching for the chocolate, but fret not! I designed it this way because I wanted it to be all straight line sewing. No curves to set in or oddly angled y-seams, because frankly, I’m not keen on them either! So just breathe and take it a step at a time and it will come together beautifully.

First, assemble the Dome Lights – these are symmetrical so no need to keep them separate.


Next, add the sides to the Dome Lights – and these are asymmetrical so make sure to follow the drawings. The longer side of piece G goes next to the light. They should be mirror image to each other when you’re done.


Trim the copper Dome halves – again, pay attention to the asymmetry! I find the best way to do this is to use two rulers, and measure each of the two dimensions on one ruler. You can do it from the mat, but then you might need to mark lines across the Radiance, and I’m not sure how easy it will be to get them off.



Add J and K to each Dome half, making sure to align the pieces for the overhang shown in the pattern.


Following the drawings at the bottom of page 7, mark or place pins at the junctions of J and K and the Dome.


Right sides together, pin the Light section to the Dome (the biggest side piece goes towards the center), centering it between the marks.


Stitch across this but DON’T trim out the seam allowance until after the next step. Press.

Mark each Dome section with the measurements at the top of page 8. Make sure that the Light is well within the frame – if it’s not, unpick and reposition the last seam. Once you’ve checked that, trim the sections back. And then trim off the excess seam allowance.


Sew the two Dome sections together.


We have one more little fuse-a-palooza to do, so you can assemble the top section of the quilt now, or after the next step.

Back on page 6 are instructions for cutting out the fused circles and rings that will become the Eye Stalk. If you haven’t already done those, now’s the time!

Center the Eye Stalk rings in the middle of the dome, over the center seam and fuse down. Zigzag the edges (or not).


Finish assembling the top section, and then sew it to the bottom.

Annnndddd… the TOP IS DONE!


Obviously, how you quilt it is up to you, but if you want some suggestions, here goes! I’ve taken a few pix of the quilting I did and I’ll explain my choices. First of all, I’m a relatively simple quilter – I don’t do much of the intense and dense quilting we are currently seeing a lot of. I use Warm and Natural batting – I like how it feels when it’s washed, and it can be quilted up to 9” apart. I don’t choose to quilt that far apart, but it’s good to know that if I need to leave some space for design reasons, the batting isn’t going to fall apart on me.

I do a lot of straight line quilting, and often echo the lines that are already there. I chose most of the line work on the Dome, Lights and Shoulders so that it would work with the idea that the Dalek is rounded.


I did free motion outlining around the Dots (in the black ring), Whisk, Plunger, Eye Stalk and the letters. I thought about doing a spiral inside the Dots, but my free motion control isn’t as perfect as it would need to be to pull that off! Not to mention that if I needed to unpick something, the holes would still show because of the fusing. This is one of those places where the batting will save the day.


On the Skirt, I echoed the vertical seam lines on either side with straight lines to keep the linear feel.


The background is quilted in lines that radiate from a point in the center. I did this by pinning the layered quilt to my design wall, and marking it out with a yardstick ruler pivoting around the center point.


And to finish, I did a simple black binding on the bias, machined to the front and hand finished on the back, which is my favorite way to finish a quilt.

Don’t forget to label yours!

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments so that everyone can read the answers!

If you make one, please tag me @huntersds in Instagram, and use the #whosthebadguy hashtag.