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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Back to School Blog hop starts TODAY!


WOOHOO! Here we go!

As all the kiddos head back to school, I thought it might be fun for us to head back too, and learn a few new tips and tricks for our quilting and sewing practices. So I reached out to a bunch of my wildly talented industry pals and asked them to help form this hop just for all our readers.

So please help us kick it off today with a hop over to PetaQuilts for a nifty way to piece a back, and follow along below for a month of really great information.

See you with my post on Saturday!


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Back to School Blog Hop is coming next week!


I’m so excited about this!

I put a call out a few weeks back amongst my industry friends, asking for blog posts for tips and tricks on the basics of sewing and quilting, and WOWZA – do we have a great lineup forming. It’s so good that we’re taking up all of September and spilling into October!

I can’t wait to read some of them – I think I’m a smarty-pants most of the time, but I know that my pals have some stuff up their sleeves that I’ve never even thought about.

So pull out your pretty new notebooks and pencils, and stop back next week for the links –  we kick off on Tuesday September 1st!


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WASWI – Saying NO (or more Snappy Comebacks)

Recently, Karri G wrote with this question:

“What do you say when someone wants you to make them a copy of a pattern without sounding holy than thou?”

First of all, can I just say I don’t care about sounding “holier than thou”. I think a little righteous indignation is a good thing in this instance, because maybe it will change the game.


Instead of “OK, let me copy that for you” being a standard answer, let’s practice a few new ones:

  • No. Copying a pattern is stealing.
  • No. Copying a pattern is a copyright violation.
  • No. Copying a pattern cheats a designer out of the income they deserve.
  • No. If it inspires you, you should honor the designer by purchasing it.
  • No. You wouldn’t ask me to steal food for you, so please don’t ask me to help steal a pattern.
  • No. I don’t copy patterns. Please buy your own.

I know that we nice women prefer not to say NO, but in this case, I think we need to get used to it. Give it a try… it’s pretty empowering!

And Karri – thanks for writing with the question, and linking your copy-happy friends to my WASWI writings! On behalf of my industry, a huge thank you!


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WASWI – Legs of the same table

We need each other.

Every person, in every role in the quilting industry, whether it’s on the buying side or the selling side, from the CEO to the fledgling sewist, is necessary.

Absolutely necessary.

Every role is important, and without each of them, we ALL fall down. Consider each of us to be legs of a table.

Take out any one leg, and the table falls over:

  • The Designers: without the designers to generate all the wonderful ideas that inspire us, there would be little to sell, or buy. No new patterns, no new books, no new fabric designs.
  • The Shop Owners and Sellers: without the sellers, we have no place to buy the products we want. There would be no carefully curated stores and charming onlline shops to inspire the customers. No place to go to get help and a half yard of the perfect fabric.
  • The Companies and Distributors: without the companies to manufacture and distribute our products, there would be no products for the shops, and thus none for the customers. We need the manufacturers to make our fabric and develop our notions. We need the book and magazine publishers to distribute our books and ideas.
  • Customers: without the customers, none of what we make will find a home, or get turned into something beautiful.

Seldom a week goes by that I don’t hear a story of how poorly we take care of each other, or experience it first hand. So I’d like to ask each and every one of you, of us, to step up your game:

  • Designers:
    • Make the best thing you can possibly make.
    • Be original (no more deer heads, ok?)
    • Don’t sign contracts that abuse you as it teaches the people who offer them that we are OK with being abused.
    • Go the extra mile to make sure it’s right, and fix it fast when it isn’t.
    • And get back to the people who write to you.
  • Shop Owners and Sellers:
    • If you are not in business to delight your customers, it’s perhaps time to re-think your gig.
    • Treat EVERY person as if they are special, because they are.
    • Be proud that you’re on the front line of promoting the love of sewing.
    • If you run your store like an impenetrable clique of those girls from high school, you will alienate the next generation of sewists – and we will ALL suffer for it.
    • Invest in your staff.
    • Help people, and help them get excited about sewing.
  • Companies and Distributors:
    • Figure out how to make what you make in a way that supports your people, the industry, and the planet.
    • Offer contracts that are win-win, in clear language. And then stick to them.
    • And for the love of all that is holy, pay on time. A small business such as mine gets very stressed by your loose interpretation of Net 30 being “we’ll process it the week after it’s due but somehow miss getting it in the mail for another week after that.”
  • Customers:
    • Treat your stores and their staff kindly, doubly so if you are asking them to calculate yardage or help you choose fabric.
    • Buy their stuff on non-sale days too.
    • Don’t window shop their products only to buy them on Amazon. If you don’t support them, they won’t be there when you need them.
    • Stop expecting the store to give it to you for free – quilting is a luxury pastime so you should expect to part with money to do it.
    • Don’t copy patterns or books – it’s stealing, and you’re hurting the people that bring you inspiration.

Imagine how great this industry could be if we all stepped up on these points, even just a little. Can you see it in your mind? Good.

Now let’s make it happen.

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* Image found here.

Quilt Talk Bonus Pattern – Do No Harm!

I love quotes. I’ve subscribed to a few “quote of the day” emails over the years, and I’m a sucker for a chunky little book of them. I think this one might be the next in my collection. I like how they are usually a short but precise way to express things, and often come with a built in punch of a message that I usually needed to hear that day!

So I’ve decided to start putting a few of them into fabric, and as I do, I’ll be blogging the pattern notes for them here… consider them free/bonus additions to my book, Quilt Talk, just for you. Just to be clear, you’ll still need the book to access the letters, but I’ll have done a lot of the setting math for you :-)

I started plotting the letters of this one while I was in the writing phase of the book two years ago (TWO YEARS! ARGH!), but life got busy, and it ended up in the UFO pile. I paper-pieced the letters sometime last year, and again, it stalled. A couple of weekends back, I got real, and got to setting the letters. And from there, the finish was an easy one!

Do No Harm

I used the Barcelona line from Brigitte Heitland/Zen Chic – not only is she a talented designer, but she’s a lovely human as well! I used her highly successful Comma line for the Rackafrax quilt in the book.

This finished size for “Do No Harm” is 20” x 40” and this is how to do it:

  • The construction is similar to “She Just Ignored People…” in the book (p 101)
  • Copy the letters for do no, but, and no at 120% (“o” is 3”)
  • Copy the letters for harm, take, and shit at 150% (“a” is 3.75”)
  • Just to note, if you’re not keen on having a cuss word on your quilt, you can either play with the spelling by substituting an asterisk or exclamation mark for the “i”, or just change the word to a sentiment that suits you better.
  • The K space for the letters is 1/2” finished. The Word space between do and not is 2” finished.
  • The A&D strip for the 120% letters is 1.5” finished, and for the 150% letters is 2.375” (2 3/8”) finished
  • The Leading is 1.5” finished, except under do not and no, where is is 1” finished.
  • The top and bottom are 3” finished.
  • The width is 20”. So to calculate the size of the strip on either side of the word, measure the word, subtract 0.5 to get the finished word size, then subtract that from 20, then divide the result in half (one for each side) then add 0.5 to each piece for seam allowance. As an example:
    • 8.5” word
    • minus 0.5 for seam allowance = 8
    • Subtract 8 from 20 = 12
    • Divide 12 in half = 6
    • Add 0.5 to each for seam allowance = 6.5” – so cut 2 pieces 6.5” x height of the word, and sew to either side of the word.

Quilting ideas:


  • I find that a simple cross hatch, or straight lines works well with this kind of lettering, preferably done in a thread that doesn’t scream against any one fabric. I used medium gray Aurifil 2605 in this instance, with the cross hatch about 1” apart.
  • You could also densely quilt down the background with pattern or stipple to allow the letters to stand up.

I hope you have fun making this one – and if you have any suggestions for other short (keep ’em SHORT!) phrases you like to see in a Quilt Talk pattern, do post them in the comments!


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WASWI – Should you tip in the quilting industry?

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Tipping. The cash kind, not the cow kind!

How do you feel about it? And should it be part of the quilting economy? I would really welcome your thoughts and discussion in the comments.

I ask YOU this question as I was approached at my local guild’s sew-day by another member, who asked me if I thought we should be tipping our long-arm artists.

I had to pause for a moment… my first reactions was one of slight panic. I hoped I hadn’t committed some dreadful faux-pas by not tipping for my most recent long-arm collaboration. But then I thought about it, and my answer is no, I don’t think tipping should be part of this transaction.

My thoughts on tipping, IN GENERAL, are these:

  • I would prefer that businesses price their offerings at the true cost, and that’s the cost I see and pay (I feel the same way about sales tax, too)
  • Yes, I do tip servers and bartenders. I do this because it’s the custom in the United States. I would rather go with the European model, which is pay the workers well, charge the actual, sustainable price for the meal, and tip only for exceptional service (with the understanding that the basic quality of the service is not predicated on a tip.) The wages for such service positions are ridiculously low here, because the businesses count on us tipping their workers up to a decent wage. There is inherent abuse embedded in this model, and I don’t like it at all. Read here for some hard data about how tipping negatively affects workers.
  • Yes, I tip my hairdresser and my pedicurist. Same issue though – I do it because it’s the custom. I would rather have a set price for these services… if I don’t like what they deliver, I just won’t go back (and let’s face it, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you have a good haircut until you wash and dry it yourself!)
  • Yes, I have tipped for all my tattoos. Same issue… it’s the custom. Same issue as above… I would rather pay the actual rate and avoid the tip. Because honestly, once the ink is in your skin, a tip isn’t going to change the quality of the work. And if you don’t like the work, you won’t go back.

And my thoughts on tipping, IN THE QUILTING INDUSTRY, are these:

  • On my last long-arm project, I asked for a bid on the work, received a quote, and was invoiced according to the quote. And during the work, there was no discussion of needing to change the number due to unforeseen issues. So I paid the bill as originally estimated. I see it as a business arrangement, not a service arrangement.
  • Although I suppose you could argue that it’s a service… but then I suppose I could argue that I deliver a service of some sort also. Delivering good patterns is a service, yes? But then should I get tips from my distributors? Should there be a tipping box on Paypal when you buy one of my patterns? Do you tip the quilt-shop worker for cutting your fabric straight? Or should we all agree that you should get a straight cut from a quilt store as a basic tenet of good business? The semantics of this could be argued heavily.
  • We, in this industry, are far more likely to be underpaid than overpaid. Many of us don’t claim our worth, nor bill it. I would hate for this industry to start following food service in a system where the wages are artificially low, and need to be brought up by a tip to be considered decent.
  • Here’s that link about the abuses in tipping again, in case you avoided it above (although you might not want to watch the Reservoir dogs clip at work!)
  • Again, and again, and again, I advocate for pricing the work at its true cost. This is how we educate people as to the value of what we do. And I advocate showing that full cost on an invoice, even when a discount is given.

So in closing… no. I haven’t tipped my long-arm artist, and I doubt I will. But being as she’s a friend, there’s a good chance I’ll take her some chocolate soon :-)

I welcome your thoughts and discussion below!


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Updates to the Free Patterns page!

For the last couple of years, I’ve been designing some fast and easy free patterns for Janome, in a partnership that has allowed me to borrow a wonderful machine from them. Recently, they did some web maintenance, and as these things tend to go, the links from my Freebies page to the projects ended up getting scrambled.

I’m happy to report they’re all re-linked now, and available for you to download and play with – go here to peruse.

There’s a new one, too – a pillow in a simplified take on Turning Points, the prairie point circle pattern I released last week. This one is Prairie Circle Pillow, and you can download the instructions here:




Yes, those are more of the lovely Hoffman Indah batiks from the Me+You line!

I’d also like to point you towards a great pillow tutorial written by my friend Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams, in which she shows you how to taper the corners for a nice finish. I’d heard about this some years ago, but had never found any instructions for it. Be sure to do this if you make the pillow above!


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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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