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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Fall 2015 Pattern and Button Releases!

Did you follow Quilt Market on Instagram and Facebook? There were lots of exciting images coming from market, as always. I think my favorite feed was from one of the several great stores in here in Portland, Fabric Depot – check it out here – the ladies did a great job of sending images out for those of us who weren’t there.

Although I didn’t go to market this time (I chose to be in Europe in September instead!) several of my quilts went, and were displayed in Hoffman Fabric’s booth. I also had new patterns and Sassy Buttons with the distributors, and I’m happy to report I have stock of all the new stuff on hand now!

Here they are… and they are available in the store and as PDFs.

HDS.034 - BigStarPop - Cover - 300dpi

Big Star Pop is a strip-friendly pattern – yep, one strip pack will make both the star and the borders. The cover was made using one of Hoffman’s latest Pop packs of 885 fabrics that are all tiny batik dots. I also wrote instructions for both y-seam and non-y-seam settings, depending on the pattern texture of your background fabrics, and your stomach for making y-seams!

HDS.035 - FourteenOnPoint - Cover - 300dpi

Fourteen on Point is the fourth in the “Fourteen” series of patterns. Each takes 14 fat quarters, and they all look like they were improvisational – but they’re not. Each pattern details exactly which block goes where, so the construction is a snap – it just looks hard! The cover was made using the second collection of Me+You fabrics from Hoffman’s new modern batiks line.

HDS.033 - Sushi - Cover - 300dpi

This quilt was such a blast to create. I found a cute image of a towel that rolled up like sushi on the internet, and tracked down the artist that designed it. She kindly gave me permission to adapt her idea into this fun novelty quilt. The front is color blocks, the back is any conversation print of your choosing (mine have novelty sushi prints), and it all rolls up like sushi! We have a lot of great solid readers and textured fabric out right now for rendering the fish, rice, and avocado!

HDS.032 - Point The Way - COVER - 300dpi

This table runner is made of strips and prairie points, and goes together quickly. Being as it’s strip-based, you can modify the length to fit your table exactly. The cover is made of Hoffman batiks.


And lastly, here are the latest Sassy Buttons! Some of them are old favorites with new colors, others are brand new fun. I’m especially proud of drawing the crossed seam rippers under the skull of the Grim Ripper 😉

And if you managed to read all the way to the end, I have an opportunity for you! I’m doing a drawing – one package with each of the new patterns, and a set of the newest Sassy buttons. Comment below and tell me about something you’re making right now – I’ll draw randomly on Monday Nov 9th.


11/09/15 Update – The winner is Julie D! 

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 5.59.14 PM


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My New Slow Project – Union Jacks

I know it probably seems weird that someone who sews for work also sews to relax. I’m lucky to have several social sewing opportunities each month, and I try hard not to take my work to them. Sewing with friends helps me re-connect to the joy of sewing, and to the heart-warming community aspect that has always surrounded quilting. I always come away refreshed and recharged.

Small projects work well for me when I need to go portable, and while I’ve had a recent run of making Sew Together Bags (and, egad, I might not be done with them, I still have a couple of people left to spoil), I needed something else to play with. The solution? Another Slow Project.


Check out the tiny Big Bens in the print in the top block!

I decided to make Union Jack blocks for this one (in homage to my English heritage), and chose the tutorial from Molli Sparkles for the construction method. Molli’s pattern has the right ratio in the proportions of the flag, and the thick/thin aspects of the white stripes are correctly rendered. (Read here for more information about the flag’s design.) It’s also a pattern that doesn’t leave you with all bias around the edges – a problem that isn’t hard to solve, but great to avoid if other solutions are available!


Like my last slow project, I think I’ll make this one for my bed, which means it could take a couple of years (which is great, because then I don’t have to think about what to take to sew day for a while!) The block is 7 1/2” x 15”, so I’m probably looking at about 100 blocks to make another big bed quilt. I also have a friend who made it very clear to me that if I junk up her living room with a Union Jack quilt, she’ll love me forever! Who can resist such an offer?! So perhaps I’ll aim for 150 blocks to start.


I’ve made a working rule for the fabric choices: a print goes in the “blue” space, and a solid goes in the “red” space, with the “white” space remaining white. It’s been fun to comb through my stash for prints, and I’ve also had some donated to the cause by friends.


I imagine that it will need some calm sashing when I set it, but I’ll worry about that when I get there.


I’ve made 15 so far, and I’m really having fun with them. Looking forward to the next social sewing day!


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The Joy of a Slow Project

I’m capable of working quite quickly, fast enough that my friends invented a hashtag for it, #sewingatthespeedofsam. Yes, I get through a lot of projects – remember, I design and sew for a living! – but over the years, I’ve had several slow projects, lasting more than a year, and I find great delight in them. There’s something about NOT being on a deadline that is so relaxing.

My most recent “slow” finish was a huge bed quilt, just for me. I started collecting the fabric a couple of years ago, and then spent a retreat weekend cutting up the strips I needed. It took me the better part of a year to put it together, just sewing a bit at a time over retreats and social sewing days to finish the quilt top.


The quilt is comprised of 36 big log cabin blocks. I had a loose rule for them, making rounds of 2 different sizes of strips for a little randomness, but a rule that made sure they would all hit the same size at the end. Most of the centers have to do with writing, and if not writing, they are personal to me in some way, representing my hobbies, heritage, passions, and travels. The quilt is a celebration of birthing my book, Quilt Talk, and I thought that getting that book finished and launched was something to commemorate with a significant project, not to mention something I will continue to be proud of for years to come.

The blocks are 17” across, and the postage stamp sashing is 1” wide (and yes, there’s a lot of sashing, about 45 yards of it!) so it came in at 110” square – big enough to hit three sides of floor and hide all the things stashed under my raised bed.

I sent the quilt to Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting here in Portland, and she searched for the right text driven design to quilt over it. Nancy is a wonder… not only does she bring her considerable talent to her work, but she spends time getting to know you as an artist before she begins her design process. She knew what I liked before I even talked about it with her (not too dense, and no feathers!). And the design was beyond perfect, full of letters and numbers in different fonts – so right for the quilt, and so very ME at heart:



I finished the quilt right at the end of 2014, and have been sleeping under it since. It sleeps and drapes beautifully, and I utterly adore it.

Later this week I’ll show you blocks for my next slow project… do you have one on the go?


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Free Pattern – Washable Veggie Bags

I have another freebie for you over at Janome’s site! This time, a fast way to make cloth bags to take to the farmers market or grocery store.


One yard of fabric quickly turns into SIX bags of different sizes. And you just know you have a yard of something in your stash that you might no longer need to keep :-)


I’ve been carrying bags like this, along with my re-usable shopping bags, for a couple of years. I always get compliments about how cute they are, and how cool it is to use one less plastic bag. And if they get wet or dirty, you can pop them into the laundry with your towels.

The link to the project is here – enjoy!


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Dimensional Indeed!

Pam Lincoln at Mama Spark’s World recently filled my inbox with goodness! Check out the pix of her rendition of my Relatively Dimensional pattern!

IMG_3494She used a custom Gallifreyan Spoonflower fabric for the background, and then sent it to Kathy Koch at Thread Bear Quilting for the long-arm artistry.

IMG_3496 IMG_3497I’m utterly entranced with the interplay of the circles, and more than a little geeked out by the “DW” motif in the door panels. Swoon!

Brava, ladies! And thank you SO much for sharing the pix with me!


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A Slight Obsession with Sew Together Bags

Have you made a Sew Together Bag yet? Did you know there’s a pattern for a MINI version??


It’s shorter, and has only two interior pockets.

Elizabeth at OPQuilt.com designed the adapted mini, but she did something utterly cool to protect the original pattern. Rather than offer up the cutting instructions, which could thereby cheat Michelle at SewDemented out of some pattern sales, she created a worksheet that doesn’t work unless you have the numbers from the original pattern. What a delightful way to honor and protect the original pattern!

Anyway – I’ve been on a bit of a tear, making them for friends. I’ve made eleven so far. I even made one for a zipper pouch exchange at my guild’s retreat this weekend. And I have the parts cut out for 4 more to sew while I’m there….

Yep. A little bit obsessed :-)


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Bloomin’ is in Keepsake!

I’m tickled to share that one of my patterns is being featured in the current Keepsake Quilting Catalog – it’s on the back page of the Spring issue! Thank you to all the friends who’ve forwarded pix to me.


Keepsake has paired the pattern with Catalina, a new floral line from Maywood Studio Fabrics.

This version of the quilt was made by two dear and talented friends – paper-piecing maven Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts made the top, and Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting here in PDX did the long arm honors.

The pattern uses both paper-piecing and easy straight seam piecing to get the job done. If you’re not a fan of working within a collection, it’s an excellent scrap/stash buster – I used prints, batiks, and hand-dyeds in my version for the cover:

HDS.019.v1 - Bloomin - COVER


Yes, yes, I know… I used PINK. But you noticed the ORANGE in there too, yes? Of course!

Both the hard copy and PDFs are available in my store… just follow the shopping link above. Or get yours as a kit from Keepsake.


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WASWI: “But I don’t need the money”


It’s exciting to see the topic of selling handcrafted items for decent money rise up in the consciousness of our industry. I believe that the more we talk about it, the better it will be for all.

I was sent a recent post from Kate Chiconi, from which I pulled this quote (emphasis mine) regarding getting paid well for a quilt:

But I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point counting the hours I spend in my enjoyment and expecting a return on investment. All that would achieve is a deep sense of despondency at how poorly I’m rewarded, whereas in fact the reward lies in the process and the pleasure my handwork gives, not the monetary reward. Fortunately, I’m not dependent on my sewing to support myself, unlike some of my forebears!

While I’m glad Kate understands the “despondency” of being low-balled for her work, and I’m thrilled she enjoys her process, I think she is missing the fact that her contemporary peers try to make livings with a needle, too.

For many of us, it’s REALLY tough to place a price on what we do. It engages all sorts of discomfort in our esteem, and often leaves us open to criticism and ridicule for daring to challenge the notion that it’s OK for artists to starve. Our love for what we do is called into question when we monetize it. And for we ladies, there’s an added layer of judgment about being uppity and “not nice” when you try to be business-like.

So we don’t do it. We shrink back when asking for a fair price. We do funky math and discount the cost of the materials because we already owned them (unwilling to point out that to replace them will cost good money.) We weakly defend the idea that you can love something AND make money at it (and why the hell is this only a conversation in the arts? I don’t see bankers struggling with this at all.) And the most corrosive lie we can tell is “I don’t need the money.”

It’s a great one to hide behind… not only does it make you sound fortunate, it colors you as generous and altruistic. You’re doing the would-be buyers a favor by leaving some cash in their wallets.

But while it might help you, and maybe get you a modest sale, it actually hurts all your sew-sisters and -brothers. YOU might not need the money, but I certainly do, and I’m not the only one. If you don’t educate buyers as to a fair price, then the knowledge of what that is will not permeate our art-buying culture. And we all suffer for it.

Even if you don’t need the money, PLEASE charge it. Donate the cash to children’s arts programs or your favorite charity if you need to get it out of your account. If you still don’t want to do that, please AT LEAST give the buyers a detailed invoice showing the depth of the discount they receive. Education is the easiest thing we can do to change this.

Kate ends with this:

We create because we can and because we must. Monetary reward is just a very pleasant fringe benefit…

Pleasure in my process is certainly important. But no one quilts for cash without enjoying their process – it’s just too damned hard. However, we can’t pay the rent in satisfaction, nor should we be expected to. Money isn’t a fringe benefit in the arts, it’s what feeds the family. Just like in other careers.


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