Quick Holiday Projects

Do you still have time in your holiday sewing schedule? Of course you do! It’s not even December yet!

Over the years I’ve created some quick holiday projects and I’m reposting them here today in case you’re tempted to add them to your list.

Holiday Table Runner – free pattern


This pattern can be sized to fit any table, or adapted to a wall hanging by making just one tree. It’s paper-pieced, and features my usual easy pre-cutting instructions.


Go here for the free pattern.

Santa Snow Globe – free pattern


This is a cute 15” block that can be a wall hanging or pillow. It’s paper-pieced, and features my usual easy pre-cutting instructions. It’s also a great canvas for embellishments – what better time than the holidays to play with some sparkle?


Go here for the pattern.

Countdown Advent Calendar

And if you have time to be a little more ambitious, I have a great Advent Calendar pattern for you (not free, but on sale though!)

HDS.011 - Countdown - Cover - 300dpi

Here’s a link to a photo tutorial for the pattern – it’s so much easier than it looks! It’s made with easy strip piecing, and each number is a pocket to fill with a treat. You can make one for a grown-up friend too… I made one for a girlfriend using one of the Alexander Henry Hunks fabrics, and filled it with chocolates!



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FREE Tutorial: How to Adapt a Cross-Stitch Pattern for Quilting

This is a tutorial for adapting a printed cross-stitch pattern into a quilt top. This year, I made a couple of cute Star Wars themed quilts using cross-stitch patterns from Jacqueline of Wee Little Stitches. If you are a fan of anything remotely nerdy, from Star Wars and Star Trek to Buffy and the Big Lebowski, the chances are you’ll find a fun cross-stitch pattern for it at Wee Little Stitches.

When I shared my creations with Jacqueline, she told me that she receives frequent requests on how to do this type of adaptation of her patterns, so with her permission and encouragement, I decided to create this tutorial.

I’ll be using one of the Wee Little Stitches freebie patterns, specifically Captain America from The Avengers. And before I get started, I’d like to remind you that while this tutorial is a free offering, both Jacqueline and I support ourselves by making cool stuff for YOU. So if you’re inspired by any of the patterns on either my site or Jacqueline’s, please be cool and BUY them. Also, all Wee Little Stitches patterns are for personal use only, so no selling the things you make from them.

One last thing before we get started: this tutorial assumes you already know a few things about quilting, such as how to set up for a 1/4’’ seam, how to rotary cut, basic block construction, and finishing techniques. I’ll just be leading you through how to adapt the pattern to a fabric top.

1. Choose your pattern!

I’m using the Wee Little Stitches free Avengers pattern, and I have decided to make Captain America. I’ll be calling him Cap for the rest of the pattern.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 8.36.18 AM

2. Choose the scale of the character

Count the number of squares for both the height and width of your character. Cap is 36 squares tall, and 16 squares wide. I’m calculating JUST the character, not any additional background – we’ll get into that once the figure is together.

Each square of the cross-stitch pattern will represent a square in the quilt top, so now to choose a size for those squares:

  • If the squares are 1/2’’ finished, Cap will be 18’’ x 8’’, which would work great on an oversized pillow (and for the record, be pretty fussy to work with)
  • If the squares are 1’’ finished, Cap will be 36’’ x 16’’, which would work great on a child’s quilt, or the center of a lap quilt
  • If the squares are 2’’ finished, Cap will be 72’’ x 32’’, which would top a twin bed (once borders are added).

I’ll be making the 2” size as I like to make quilts that are big enough to snuggle well on a couch, and versatile enough to toss on a bed if needed. Yes, 32’’ is skinny, but I’ll border it out once I have the figure together.

3. Make a copy of just the figure as big as a sheet of paper

There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Enlarge the character on a copier until it fills the page
  • Open the pattern on your computer, and do a screen shot section of the character (on a Mac, Command Shift 4, or on Windows, using the Snippit Tool), and capture just the rectangle that will include all the character and no more

Print the screen shot at full page size. You might print a second to have on hand just in case. This is will be your master template for cutting.


4. Choose the fabrics

I recommend using quilt store quality fabrics, in solid colors to maximize the pixelated effect of the squares. If you’re going to invest your time in something like this, be sure to invest in high quality fabrics that will last! The cross-stitch pattern has a floss color chart that’s easy to follow, and you can use its suggestions for your fabric choices.

Cap is pretty easy – he’s primarily red, white and blue, with a few squares of black and skin tone. I have decided to use a light gray as my background as all my colors will look good against it.

I purchased 1 yard each of red, white, and blue, and 2 yards of gray. I have skin tone and black in my stash. Yes, I will probably use about half of that yardage, but a yard gives me room to goof up, plus decent yardage for making into a border or backing.

5. Prepare a design surface

I find that making something like this is best done with a design wall. If you don’t have space that you can dedicate to a design wall, then either tack a piece of flannel or batting to the wall, or pick up a couple of cheap plastic table cloths that have flannel backs (often in the seasonal aisle of a chain store like Joann’s or Target). With plastic on one side and flannel on the other, these are easy to roll up mid-project if you are sewing at a retreat or need to clear space for dinner.

6. Section out the pattern

This is where the work begins. You have a few options, so let’s talk about them:

  • Cut one fabric square for each stitched square. This is probably the easiest to figure out, but it will be the hardest to sew as you’ll have LOTS of unnecessary seams to both make and match up. If you like the look of all those seams, you can create it easily with your quilting stitches later.
  • Break the pattern into either columns or rows. This means you make a group of strips, and then assemble them. This is also easy to figure out, but again, a lot of unnecessary seams.
  • Cut the pattern into blocks. This means that, when possible, you use a larger chunk of fabric for an area. There will still be areas that are made of single squares, but as few as possible.

I’ll be showing you the third method. Note: I made a lighter copy of the pattern, and I’ll be working with a thick pen for this so it shows up well in tutorial pictures – you’ll probably be fine with a regular copy and a pencil.

First, look for the major blocks in the figure’s design, or the easy stuff. Use a ruler, and mark these blocks.

Think about the major sections that you’ll need to make. For most of the characters, the sections will follow the major body areas quite well, and they’ll often be quite symmetrical. In the case of Cap, I need to navigate the shield, and the wings on his helmet outside the body structure. I also want to keep the background in large chunks for simplicity.

In this drawing, you can see that I’ve split Cap into 4 major segments: top of the helmet, face and torso, shield, and legs.


I’ve also drawn some section lines within those. In all cases, I’m trying to make the block simply, with the least amount of seams. Note that there is certainly more than one way to get to the solution! I’m working the face mostly horizontally as it breaks up easiest that way, but I’m working the upper body vertically as it makes for fewer single strips.

Being as the colors in the shield are mostly in single rows of squares, I’m not going to get away with big chunks, so I’ll just cut it up as best I can. There’s a spot in the middle of the shield that can be 2 squares wide, so I’ll start with that and work out from it.


7. Begin construction

At this point, you can cut out every square and rectangle, and lay them on your design wall, or you can cut and sew a section at a time. I prefer the latter method as it means I need to label fewer things. I’m also less likely to lose a piece if I work in smaller segments.

I’m making the 2’’ version, so for every square I need to cut 2’’ PLUS SEAM ALLOWANCE. Every measurement you make, regardless of which size (1/2’’, 1’’, or 2’’) requires an extra half-inch in both directions for the seams, so write that somewhere obvious in big letters! So, for example, if I need a piece that covers 2 x 4 squares (at the 2” per square size) I need to cut 4 1/2” x 8 1/2“.


I’m going to work on Cap from the feet up. My reasoning for this is the first section is very easy, and will make me feel like I’m getting somewhere pretty quickly! Then the shield section will be the trickiest, so I’ll get it out of the way next. Back to easier on the torso, and a fast finish on the helmet.

I cut the pieces and put them on the design wall in their correct place as I go:


I cut out the largest pieces first, and work the smaller pieces from the scraps of that, paying attention to saving large fabric for later sections as needed. The largest piece of red I need is 3 squares wide (6 1/2’’), in this or any other section, so I’ll cut that first.

Then I’ll cut a strip 2 squares wide (4 1/2’’) and save a piece of it for the right hand section in the shield. I’ll cut all my 1 square wide (2 1/2’’) pieces from the scraps of those before cutting any more 1 square strips.

The next step is where I get all my exercise – I sew and press each section as I go, and put it back on the design wall until I sew it to something else. I press the way that goes easiest (who needs to fight with seams?) and I try to press away from the white/light whenever possible, but without being terribly uptight about it :-)


And the feet are done:


On to the shield:

IMG_8555 edited

I laid it all out, but failed to notice that I made the lower right corner white instead of gray until it was assembled! Perhaps I should have shaded in the background of my reference drawing!

First I sewed the major rows together:


Then sewed those into the section:


And then I fixed the lower right to be gray!


That’s better!

Here’s the lower half of the quilt top – you can see Cap beginning to take form:


And on to the torso, paying SPECIAL attention to the background gray!


Here it is, with the smaller sections together:


And here’s the section, finished:


And onto the helmet:


And the helmet, put together:


And the whole figure assembled:


This handsome fella still needs and “A” on his helmet, which I will applique or fuse once I have the big sewing done.

Next are borders. I will start with about 4” top and bottom to give the figure some room, as I don’t like the binding to run into the compositional elements:


So at this point, Cap is about 80” tall. For good visual balance, as well as a useful size, I think he should be about 50” wide. The character section is already 32” wide, so I have about another 20” to add. Cap is not symmetrically centered – his shield moves the center line to the left, so I need to put a little more background on the right. I added 8” to the left and 12” to the right. (If you’re worried about balancing something like that, just add a few extra inches to both sides, and then trim it back as needed based on how it looks on the design wall).


And he’s ready to be layered and quilted!

I will probably do 2” vertical lines across the entire quilt, and then cross only the character with 2” horizontal lines so that the pixellated effect is emphasized, similar to Leia and R2D2 below.

Here are a couple of other Wee Little Stitches patterns I’ve adapted – they belong to my son and his fiancée!

IMG_6655 IMG_8498 2

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tutorial! If you use it, please tag @weelittlestitches and @huntersds on Instagram so Jacqueline and I can enjoy what you make!


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Back to School – wrap up, with direct links!

I’m back from my travels, and have just spent a lovely morning, drinking fresh mint tea from this pretty new cup I bought in Paris, and catching up with everyone’s posts from the Back To School Blog Hop.


Such great information shared! A HUGE thank you to all my fellow writers, and especially to you lovely readers!

I know that a few of my friends had some technical difficulties (why the heck do people hack other people’s websites????) so if something was missing when you looked for it on the posting day, know that it’s all there now – thank you all for your patience!

I’ve updated all the links below to send you DIRECTLY to the BTS posts (not just the blogs), so you can bookmark this page for fast and easy future reference:


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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.

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

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!

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





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!