my creative pursuits with quilts and knits

Archive for the ‘Tips and Hints’ Category

Freebie Friday in Blog-tober

Paper Piecing is one of my favorite techniques. You can get very precise points with this method.  Many of the Women of the Bible Quilt blocks (which I feature on another blog) use paper piecing.  Carol Doak is one of the experts in the quilting world, and she has classes available through Craftsy if you want to learn from the best.  Judy Neimeyer is another quilter who is well known for paper piecing intricate quilts.

As part of my Blog-tober efforts, I am going to offer a prize each Friday.  We will kick off the month with a free pattern.   I drafted this heart to teach a friend paper piecing.


I used this block to surround some family photos (printed on fabric) to make my daughter a “Family Tree” quilt.  With a border, this simple block would make a great throw pillow.

Download your pattern here: FPP heart

Tips for paper piecing:

1.  Secure the pattern to the BACK of your first fabric.  I use a dab of fabric glue.

2.  There will be waste.  Start with pieces a little too big.

3.  Check and double check placement by folding the fabric in place before sewing.

4.  Work in a well-lit area – part of the check in #3 is to hold the piece towards the light to make sure the fabric covers the appropriate area.

5.  Fold the paper out of the way before trimming seams!

6.  The add-a-quarter ruler, a mini-rotary cutter and an index card are part of my standard paper piecing kit.

I’d love to see what you do with this block.  Share on instagram with #fpp_heart


Start and Finish

imageSome random thoughts on a Saturday…do you keep wound bobbins on hand?  I usually wind 3-4 at a time.  When they are all empty, I clean the lint from the bobbin case and wind them all up again!  I was on the ball today and noticed that my bobbin was almost out at the end of a block, rather than halfway down a long seam.  I use either beige or grey for all my piecing then do the quilting on my Gammill longarm.

Which brings me to the finishing topic! I was working on the border of a customer quilt, and thought I’d share my favorite sashing/border design.  Free hand feathers are faster to stitch than you might think, and a one-sided feather is easy to put in almost any size space.

Start with a curved stem and a teardrop for the first loop of the feather.  You will alternate groups of three loops on either side of your curvy stem.image

Tuck the next two loops under the first teardrop.  I try to make each one a bit smaller than the previous loop.image  For the next group, echo along the stem and curve in the other direction.  Start with the big teardrop and add two smaller loops.image

Continue echoing along the stem and adding groups of three loops to each side.imageOf course, the number three is arbitrary…you can use four or five or any amount of loops depending on how large you make your curves and/or loops.

This sample is drawn on a white board, with dry erase marker, which is a good way to practice free motion quilting designs.  Any time you spend doodling will build that muscle memory, making it easier to stitch a design when you sit down at the machine.

What are your favorite quilting designs?

More Fun with HST blocks

I am catching up on Sophie’s Mod-Mod QAL (details at Block Lotto).  The April Blocks fit with the half square triangle theme:

imageI like to make my HSTs two-at-a-time.  The easy formula to remember is add 7/8″ to your FINISHED block size.  If you are working with 2.5″ squares, they finish at 2″, so the HST needs to start with 2-7/8″ squares.  Draw a diagonal line on the back of your fabric and sew 1/4″ from the line.  When you cut on the line, you will have 2 HST, quick and easy.

I have also noticed, as I have been working with stash for the last few weeks, I have tons of “dot” fabrics!  I gravitate towards tone on tone prints these days because I find them the most versatile in my scrappy type of quilt design.  Circles show up a lot!  So in a recent buying spree (hey, everything was 50%, what is a quilter to do?!?) I made sure to find other patterns.  Tula Pink had some great prints such as “Hummingbird” and “Arrowheads” and I even found a stripe that would look pretty with the blocks pictured above.

Color Burst

I enjoy finding new blogs with quilty inspiration on Bloglovin.  A few weeks ago I found Fabric Mutt, and she is hosting the Graph Paper QAL.  Simple concept – create a design with squares.  I grabbed my graph paper and colored pencils and went to work.  imageIt’s a variation on a Trip Around the World.  I wanted something vaguely floral, like a big chrysanthemum.imageNext was a dig through my bin of 2.5″ strips, then on to the design wall.imageI decided to swap out one of the pink squares for orange before I started sewing.  For this type of quilt, I use the twosy-foursy piecing method that  I learned from Jackie Robinson.  First, sew your squares in pairs, then in four patches, continuing until you only have a few long seams.imageI also press my seams open with this method so I don’t have to keep track of which side is going to nest.  At this point, everything is finger-pressed.  I’ll set everything with an iron when it is all together.  I thought I was done, but I got one section rotated the wrong way so I have an appointment with Mr. Seam Ripper after dinner!


Feathered Hearts

Here is a pictorial of how to stitch a feathered heart.  I have taken several longarm quilting classes from people like Dawn Cavanaugh, Deloa Jones and Angela Waters.  They are very helpful in learning to quilt feathers!  I also recommend a sketchbook and/or a whiteboard so you can doodle and build your muscle memory for this design.


Start with your foundation or spine…in this case it is a heart.  Then make a “bubble” on the inside peak.  (I am showing the steps on a whiteboard, you can see it stitched at the end.)  You will stitch four sections: inside right, outside right, inside left and outside left.


Then start the feathers along the inside.  It really doesn’t matter which side you start with!  Remember you are making question marks, or half-heart shapes.  Do not come into the spine at a 90 degree angle, think about merging onto a freeway…you come in almost parallel.  You are stitching from the top to the bottom.image

Before you start back up the outside, make an extra bubble or two at the bottom.  This fills the space without leaving a gap from the end of the last feather loop.  Stitch from the bottom to the top with the same question mark/half-heart shape.image

You will have more loops on the outside!  it can be tricky to come around the curve at the top, just keep making the loops, and think about extending them up as you curve around the top of the heart.  Think of an imaginary line through the center of the heart so you can stop without crowding the other side.image

Travel along the spine to the inside of the heart to stitch the other side, moving from the top to the bottom.image

Use another extra bubble at the bottom as you stitch back up the outside.  Your last loop at the top will just meet the previous feather and give it a kiss!image And here is the fabric and thread version: imageIt takes practice to master feathers.  Doodle first, then grab some fabric for practice on the machine.  When you feel comfortable with the design, transfer the process to a quilt.  Each one will look better than the last!

Happy Stitching!

Slash Stars tips

I love the Block Lotto!  Since I work full time, and have an active family, I don’t get alot of time for my hobbies.  Making just a few blocks each month is very satisfying. The pattern for May is Slash Stars.  Basic instructions are to layer several fabrics, cut the star design, shuffle the fabrics and sew.

Some people get discouraged thinking there are y-seams to deal with, but if you plan ahead, the stars go together with straight seams.  Here, you can see the sketch I made before cutting:

I made 5 cuts (circled numbers) to get the star shape.  Then, I numbered the pieces in the order to sew.  The dark lines (circled letters) were the last straights seams.  Please comment or send me an email if you’d like more detailed instructions!  One thing to remember with these wonky, free-pieced blocks…you may end up with jagged edges as multiple pieces come together – see line 2B, I had a stair step going on there!  Don’t be afraid to trim.  Just cut an oversize square to start with.  I started with 12.5″ squares, and trimmed my blocks to 9.5″.  There is at least half an inch all around, so my points will not get cut off when the blocks are put into a quilt top.


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