Category Archives: tutorial

The Fastest Snowball Block Ever!

I’m working on a quilt (another Work-in-Progress, begun over a year ago) that contains several snowball blocks — you know, the ones that have a triangle sewn to each corner, like this:

corner triangles #8

I’ve seen these edges referred to as foldover corners and stitch-and-flip corners. Whatever they’re called, the usual method of making them is to place a small square in each corner of the larger square, sew diagonal lines from corner to corner, trim the seams, and press the resulting triangles to complete the square.

Pretty basic, pretty fast. Except that it’s usually necessary to draw a stitching line on the small squares and sometimes to pin them to the larger square. It can get pretty tedious drawing all those lines on fabric, and it’s surprisingly difficult to stitch a perfectly straight diagonal line, especially when you are starting out at a corner.

Well! I recently learned a new way to sew these squares that doesn’t involve either pins or drawing lines. It’s faster than the old method and has resulted in improved accuracy in my stitching. I experimented a bit with the method and the materials, and this is what I came up with that works best for me:

corner triangles #1

It’s a piece of template plastic, about 4½” wide and 2½” long, the perfect size for a block that finishes at 6″. I placed the plastic on a piece of scratch paper and, using an acrylic ruler and black Fine Point Sharpie pen, drew a thin line along one long edge. You’ll see what the dark edge is for in a moment.

Here is my large square and the four smaller squares I need to make the corner triangles:

corner triangles #2

(The only reason I have pins in the smaller squares is to make sure they are in the correct position for the quilt I am making. If I were using the same fabric in all four corners, I wouldn’t need pins at all.)

I start by positioning one of the smaller squares right side down in one corner of the larger square. Then I lay the template plastic right along the stitching line, from corner to corner, with the edges of the template plastic extending beyond the beginning and ending points of the stitching line. The inked side of the template plastic helps me see the edge of the plastic better on light fabric:

corner triangles #3

Next I position the fabric with my needle (in the down position) right next to the template at the exact corner of the small square. Holding my left hand (not shown in the photo below) firmly on the template plastic, I start stitching right at the corner:

corner triangles #4

You can see the needle is right next to the edge of the template plastic, eliminating the possibility of straying off the stitching line:

corner triangles #5

It feels a little bit like stitching in the ditch, with the edge of the template plastic serving as the ditch. Being able to see the fabric through the plastic helps me make sure the fabric isn’t shifting.

I use the uninked long edge of the template on dark fabrics, as it is easier to see the needle as it goes in and out right next to the edge of the template plastic:

corner triangles #6

 

I sew all four corners in this manner, rotating the large square as I go and not cutting the thread between corners:

corner triangles #7

 

Now all I have to do is cut the threads, trim the seams, and press. Voila! My snowball block is done:

corner triangles #8

 

This method works for flying geese blocks, sawtooth edges, just about any block that calls for a triangle to be made from a square or rectangle. The templates can be made with cardboard or other stiff materials, but I’m sticking with template plastic because I like being able to see through it as I sew along next to it. I’ll make larger templates for larger blocks.

My thanks to Kelly at BlueBird Sews for introducing me to this new method. I love learning from fellow quilters!

 

 

 

Posted in snowball blocks, stitch-and-flip, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

Make Mine Mitered: A Tutorial on Table Napkins

This tutorial is for a 19″ square napkin with a ¼”-wide hem and mitered corners. Here’s a look at the corners from both sides:

For two napkins, you’ll need ⅝ yard cotton fabric 42-44″ wide. Wash and iron fabric.

Supplies
acrylic ruler with 45° angle marking
sewing stiletto (I use a bamboo skewer)
removable marking pen or pencil (I like the Frixion pens)

1. Trim selvages from fabric. Cut a 20″ square. 

First Light Designs tip: trim ¼” from one of the sides that is parallel to the selvage. This reduces the crosswise width by a quarter inch. Why this step? The crosswise grain has more give than the lengthwise grain. With repeated use and washing, the napkin will relax along the crosswise grain. Trimming the fabric at the beginning compensates for that bit of stretch. To identify the crosswise and lengthwise grains, give the square a gentle tug in both directions; you should be able to tell immediately which side has more give. (Of course, you can cut the napkins 19¾” x 20″ initially but somehow I find trimming a 20″ square easier.)

2. At the ironing board, align 45º marking on ruler with top right edge of napkin as shown below. With a removable marking pen or pencil make a mark 1½” in from the edge of the napkin (not the edge of the ruler): 

See the pink dot I made with the Frixion pen? It’s exactly an inch and a half in from the corner.

3. Bring point of fabric in to meet the mark and press:

 
4. Fold raw edges ½” down and press all the way around. The pressed edges form a miter at each corner:

 

5. Bring the raw edge in to meet the fold and press about 2″ in from the corner:

 

6. Fold again, forming a ¼”-inch miter. Press fold in place, again about 2″ in from the corner. Repeat for all corners. Do not press all the way around. Do not insert any pins yet.

 

7. Open up folds at each corner and trim a ¼”-square from the point of fabric. (You don’t need to use pins to hold the folds open before trimming; I did it here for photography purposes only.)

 

8. Place a pin at each corner to hold the miters in place:

 

9. Starting in the middle of any side, bring raw edge in to meet fold, fold again to form ¼”-inch fold, and finger press in place. The finger-pressed area is at the left edge of the photo:

 

10. Move to the sewing machine. Set stitch length at about 12 stitches to the inch (2.4 on computerized machine). Insert needle right next to the fold and begin stitching. Stop every couple of inches to make the two folds that form the quarter-inch hem.

 

11. As you approach the corner, remove the pin and use the point of a stiletto to hold the fold in place as you stitch toward the corner. Pivot when the needle is at the point the two folds meet. Remove second pin and continue stitching. When you get to the starting point, change stitch length to almost zero. Stitch three or four tiny stitches. Bring threads to the back and cut close to the line of stitching. Give the napkin a final press to set the stitches.

 

Add a pretty napkin ring, and you’re ready to set the table!

 

 

Posted in mitered corners, table napkins, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

Working with 1/4″-wide double-fold bias tape (Part 3)

Part 1 of this tutorial, joining two lengths of bias tape, is available here.
Part 2 of this tutorial, overlapping ends of bias tape on an apron, is available here.

Part 3, Joining ends of bias tape on an apron

If you have ever finished attaching binding on a quilt by joining the two loose ends with a diagonal seam and then sewing the newly-joined strip to the quilt edge, this method will look familiar. On a quilt edge, you are normally working with binding that’s at least 2″ wide, 1″ when folded. On an apron edge, you are working with bias tape that’s 1″ wide and a mere quarter-inch when folded. That makes finishing the seam both challenging and time-consuming but the result is a seam that is almost invisible. Take a look at the bias trim on this apron belt piece:

Look for the Diagonal Seam

On my Monterey Bay Apron, I use the overlapping method (described in Part 2 of this tutorial) on the inside edge around the neckline. There’s just no straight stretch long enough to accommodate the method described below. But you can use this method on the outer edge of the apron (along the bottom front, for example) and on both belt pieces. Look for straight lines on other apron patterns using bias tape to see where the most unobtrusive joining spots are.

Remember that ¼”-wide double-fold bias tape is pressed in such a way that one side of the tape is slightly narrower than the other (from the fold to the outside edge). The narrow side always goes on the right side of the fabric. When the fabric of the apron is inserted into the fold of the bias tape, the wider side of the tape, underneath, is always caught in the line of stitching from the top.

1. Leave 6″ between the beginning and ending points of stitching and leave 6″ tails on each side. Make a mark at the midpoint on the apron and 3″ from the starting point of stitching on the right-hand tail. The marks should be at the same point, as shown below:

Marking the Midpoint
Allowing 6″ between the beginning and ending points of stitching leaves enough room to manipulate the loose ends of the binding before they are joined, and the binding strip after joining is short enough that it can be stitched to the apron edge without getting distorted.

2. Press the right-hand tail open about an inch and a half from the end. Don’t try to press the fold lines completely out. With the right side up, make a diagonal cut as shown about 1/4″ to the left of the mark on the bias tape:

Trimming the Right-Hand Tail

3. Lay the left-hand tail over the edge of the fabric. Lay the right-hand tail on top. With a removable marking pen or pencil, make a diagonal mark next to the cut edge of the right-hand tail.

Marking the Left-Hand Tail

4. Open out the left-hand tail and press open about an inch and a half from the end. With right side up, draw a diagonal line exactly 1/2″ to the right of the mark made in Step 3. Cut along that line.

Trimming the Left-Hand Tail

This is what the two cut ends should look like:

Left and Right-Hand Tails Cut on the Diagonal

5. With right sides together, pin the two ends as shown, overlapping 1/4″ at each end.

Pinning the Seam
Be sure ends are not twisted!

6. Draw two lines 1/4″ apart on a small scrap of paper. Lay the pinned edges of bias tape on top, aligning the two cut edges with the line on the right. Leaving tails at both ends, sew a 1/4″ seam, using the drawn lines as guides. Use 15 stitches to the inch or 2.0 on a computerized machine.

Sewing the Seam — on Paper

7. Gently tear the paper away. Trim seam to a scant 1/4″ and press open. Trim dog ears from seam but leave thread tails in place. Carefully press folds back into place, using just the tip of the iron. Be very careful not to stretch or distort the length of tape.

Pressing Folds Back into Place
In the photo above, you are looking at the back side. You can tell it’s the back because the stitching is not as close to the inside folded edge of the bias tape.

8. Now open the bias tape and trim the thread tails. On the right side, encase raw edge of fabric between the folded edges of the bias tape and finish stitching the seam, beginning and ending with tiny stitches.

Behold: The Finished Seam

 

Posted in aprons, bias tape, Monterey Bay Apron, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

Working with 1/4″-wide double-fold bias tape (Part 2)

(Part 1 of this tutorial, joining two lengths of bias tape, is available here.)

Part 2, Overlapping ends of bias tape on an apron

Several of the vintage apron patterns in my small collection feature aprons edged in double-fold bias tape. As I was working on my Monterey Bay Apron pattern, I consulted my vintage patterns to compare notes on how the edges were finished. To my surprise, none of them – not a single one – explained in detail how to finish the edges. “Turn under one end” was the most common instruction. I tried that, every way I could think of. The result was always a lumpy bump (a bumpy lump?) where the edges overlapped. After much experimentation I was finally satisfied with two methods. The first method is described below, and the second method is described in Part 3 of this tutorial (coming soon).

I really like the method I am showing you here because it’s fast and easy. It leaves one cut edge of bias tape exposed but the cut is made perpendicular to the folded edges of the tape, i.e. on the bias, so it won’t ravel. It leaves a crisp clean finish, but you can cover the cut edge with a tiny satin stitch if you wish. Here’s what the joined ends looks like:

Bias tape ends joined

Before you begin, determine where on the apron you want the bias edges to be joined. Look for straight stretches of fabric at least 4” long. My Monterey Bay Apron pattern calls for the bias tape ends to be joined in the places least likely to be noticed: on the back left inside neckline just below the shoulder seam, on the front right side close to the curve along the bottom edge, and in the middle of both apron belt pieces. Look for straight lines on other apron patterns using bias tape to see where the most unobtrusive joining spots are.

Remember that ¼”-wide double-fold bias tape is pressed in such a way that one side of the tape is slightly narrower than the other (from the fold to the outside edge). The narrow side always goes on the right side of the fabric. When the fabric of the apron is inserted into the fold of the bias tape, the wider side of the tape, underneath, is always caught in the line of stitching from the top.

1. On a straight stretch of fabric, insert fabric into the fold of the bias tape. Leaving a 2” tail of bias tape, insert the needle right next to the folded edge of the tape. Take two or three individual stitches to start. Continue stitching right next to the fold, stopping every inch or so to insert more fabric into the fold of bias tape and to adjust for any curves. 

Leaving 2″ tail

2. Stop stitching 3” from the starting point. Change stitch length to almost zero and take two or three tiny stitches. Clip threads. Cut off the excess bias tape, leaving a 3” tail from the end of stitching.

3″ tail on left, 3″ between beginning and ending stitches

3. Trim the right-hand tail to 1½”:

Right-hand tail trimmed to 1 1/2″

4. Trim the left-hand tail so that it overlaps the right tail by ½”. The cut should be perpendicular to the folded edges of the bias tape.

Tails overlapping by 1/2″

5. Cover the tape on the right side with the tape from the left side. Using the point of a small sharp-pointed instrument such as a stiletto (I use a bamboo skewer), coax open about an inch of the first fold of the bias tape on top and tuck it under the bias tape beneath it:

Fold of bias tape on top tucked under bias tape on bottom

6. Do the same thing on the back side:

Tucking under fold of tape on the back

7. Finish sewing the bias tape to the apron, beginning and ending with tiny stitches as shown:

Bias tape ends joined

And there you have it! In Part 3, I’ll show you how to join ends of bias tape on an apron using a diagonal seam, similar to finishing the binding on a quilt but with the added challenge of using inch-wide bias tape with multiple folds. This method is quite labor-intensive but it is definitely do-able and the result is a seam that is almost invisible.

 

Posted in aprons, bias tape, Monterey Bay Apron, tutorial, update | 1 Comment

Working with 1/4″-wide double-fold bias tape (Part 1)

Part 1, Joining two lengths of bias tape

“Working with 1/4″-wide double-fold bias tape.” You may think that’s an overly-specific title for a tutorial but I have discovered that not all bias tape is created equal, and different widths behave differently depending on how they are sewn. I like the finished look of ¼”-wide double-fold bias tape and used it on my Monterey Bay Apron. I find it easy to handle, and I really like the way it just hugs the inner and outer curves. Here’s a close-up:

curves ahead? No problem!

I insert the raw edge of my fabric between the folded edges of the bias tape and stitch once to hold both sides down, rather than opening the tape up, stitching one side to the raw edge of the fabric and then turning it to the back and stitching again. Encasing the edge of fabric in the tape leaves a beautiful finish on both sides of the garment and is much faster than the other method. Take a look:

Encased edges. Top is right side of belt, bottom is wrong side

The process of joining two lengths of bias tape is almost identical to joining two strips of fabric for a quilt binding. Double-fold bias tape comes in a package with three folds already pressed firmly in place, however, so handling it can be a bit tricky. (I’ve made my own bias tape but find that the tight weave and the crisply pressed folds of the packaged tape make it easier to handle.)

Quarter-inch double-fold bias tape starts out an inch wide. Each long end is pressed 1/8” under and then the remaining strip is pressed in half . . . but not precisely in half. It’s pressed in such a way that one side of the tape is slightly narrower than the other (from the fold to the outside edge). The narrow side always goes on the right side of the fabric. The wider side, underneath, is always caught in the line of stitching from the top. You can clearly see that in the photo above.

Since a package of bias tape normally contains four yards, you may be wondering why it would it be necessary to join two lengths. Well, many apron patterns require more than one package to go all the way around an outside edge. Not wanting to be wasteful is another good reason. If two shorter lengths of bias tape will make a piece long enough for a specific purpose, why open another package?

1. Lay two ends of bias tape next to each other on the ironing board, narrow side up: 

two ends, narrow side up

 

2. Press each end open about an inch and a half from the end. Don’t try to press the fold lines completely out:

End piece pressed open

A straight pin helps hold the tape in place on the ironing board.

3. Without changing the position of the strips on the ironing board, turn the ends so the right sides are up:

Right sides up

I’ve written an R on the corners with a removable ink pen to indicate the right side. You can also easily distinguish the right side by the fold lines.

4. With right sides together, lay the left strip on top of the right strip at a right angle. Overlap edges slightly as shown. This makes it a bit easier to handle, since the bias tape is only an inch wide:

Right sides together at right angle

 

5. Draw a diagonal line from the upper right to the lower left corner, using a pen or pencil with removable marking lines. Pin in place:

Stitching line marked, pins inserted

 

6. Stitch the two strips together along the diagonal line, leaving a tail at each end to keep the seam intact. Use 15 stitches to the inch or 2.0 on a computerized machine. I used a contrasting thread for illustration purposes only; thread should be matched to the color of the bias tape.

Seam sewn

Because the tape was originally cut on the bias, the diagonal seam is on the straight of grain.

7. Trim seam to a scant ¼”, being careful to leave the tails on thread. Press seam open:

Seam trimmed and pressed open

 

8. Trim the dog ears – but leave those thread tails on. Press all three folds back into place, using just the tip of the iron. Be very careful not to stretch or distort the length of tape.

Dog ears trimmed, folds partially pressed back in place

 

9. Now open the bias tape and trim the thread tails:

Thread tails ready to be trimmed

 

10. A final press and voila! A beautifully joined seam, ready to be sewn onto your project.

Finished bias seam

 

In Parts 2 and 3 of this tutorial, coming soon, I’ll show you two methods of joining the ends of bias tape where they meet on an apron.

 

Posted in aprons, bias tape, Monterey Bay Apron, tutorial, update | 11 Comments

Introducing . . . the Monterey Bay Apron

My newest pattern, the Monterey Bay Apron, makes its debut this Friday, Sept. 14, at the Pine Needle’s Fall Festival Open House! I am so excited that the pattern is finally ready. Here it is in its little plastic envelope, ready to be displayed in the shop:

My Newest Pattern

I’ve had the design for this apron in my mind for almost three years but started seriously working on it just in the last year. In a future post I’ll tell you how the design process evolved; for now I’ll just say that inspiration struck in an aquarium, of all places. You can guess which one.

The apron pictured below, made from a charming line of fabric called “All About Coffee” from Exclusively Quilters, is hanging in the Pine Needle right now.

Coffee, anyone?

I learned a lot about using 1/4″-wide double-fold bias tape while developing this pattern. So much so that I will be posting a tutorial on it in the next few days.

The Pine Needle’s Open House runs from 10 am to 5 pm Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15. I’ll be there a good bit of the time both days. If you are in the Portland metro area, please stop by! The Pine Needle is in Lake Oswego, just a few minutes from downtown Portland.

 

Posted in aprons, Monterey Bay Apron, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

Twister Heart Tutorial (I Love Paris)

I Love Paris twister quilt

This tutorial shows how to make an interlocking pinwheel heart quilt with the same dimensions as I Love Paris. I made my own twister tool using a 6½” square acrylic ruler because I wanted my blocks to finish at 6”. I added a row of pinwheels along the bottom of the quilt using the smaller of the two Lil’ Twister tools made by CS Designs; those blocks finish at 3”.

Finished size of quilt: 58” x 64”
Size of block: 6”
Width of outer borders:  6”

My quilt was made of Paris-themed fabrics in black and white and red. There are lots of Paris-themed fabrics on the market now, but the pinwheel heart would look good in many other combinations of fabrics and colors.

If you haven’t used the Lil’ Twister tool before, I recommend that you watch an on-line tutorial. Many good ones are available; simply enter “lil twister tutorial” on a search engine such as Google.

Making a quilt with twister tools requires a lot of fabric, plenty of which falls by the wayside as scraps. In I Love Paris, the background and border strips were cut from the same fabric because I wanted the heart to float on the background. I kept going back to the quilt shop for more background fabric — a white on white print with hearts, by the way — because I didn’t know how much I needed; I was just making the quilt up as I went along. For this tutorial I calculated the yardage so you need to make only one trip to the fabric store.

Supplies
3½” square Lil’ Twister tool by CS Designs
6½” square acrylic ruler, any brand
Fine line marking tool, such as a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point, in black or other dark color
(optional) Digital camera
(optional) Spray starch or starch alternative, such as Mary Ellen’s Best Press

Fabric requirements
Heart motif: (33) 8½” squares of assorted prints (a few light, plenty of medium and dark values)
Row of small pinwheels along bottom: (15) 5” squares of assorted prints (mixed values, as above)
White background fabric: 3¾ yards
Binding fabric: ⅝ yd

Terms
WOF = width of fabric
LOF = length of fabric
Background strips = strips that are attached to the four sides of the quilt top after the initial squares have been sewn together but before the twister squares have been cut. These are distinct from the . . .
Border strips = strips that are attached to the quilt top after the twister squares have been sewn together.

Cutting the white background fabric
Cut in the order listed.

1. Cut (4) strips 8½” x WOF. Trim selvages. Unfold the strips, stack them, and cut (4) 8½” squares, for a total of 16 squares. These 16 squares will be used for the background of the heart motif.

From two of the leftover pieces cut (2) 3” x 5” strips; these are the side strips for the row of small pinwheel blocks along the bottom.

2. Cut (2) strips 5” x WOF. Trim selvages. These will be pieced to make 1 of the 4 background strips for the heart motif.

3. Cut (4) strips 3” x WOF. Trim selvages. These will be pieced to make the top and bottom background strips for the row of small pinwheel blocks along the bottom.

4. Cut a length of fabric 69” (you should have about ¼ yd left over. Keep that piece intact, just in case). Fold in half on the crosswise fold. Measure fabric width. You should have at least 42” of usable fabric, not counting selvages. Trim selvages.

Cut (3) strips 5” x LOF. These are 3 of the 4 background strips for the heart motif.

Cut (4) strips 6½” x LOF. These are for the outer borders of the quilt.

Note: Fabric widths can vary widely. If you have less than 42” of usable fabric, decrease the width of the outer border strips. For example, if you have only 40” of usable fabric, cut the (4) outer border strips 6” instead of 6½”.

Cutting the binding fabric
Cut (7) 2¼” strips x WOF.

Marking the 6½” square ruler
The Lil’ Twister tools are marked with two lines crossed at right angles and tilted 30°. There are two quick ways of making your own template for a 6” twister block. One is to center a 6½” square ruler on top of the 3½” square Lil’ Twister tool and trace the two intersecting lines with a fine point Sharpie marker or similar pen. (The lines can be removed later with polish remover.)

The second way is to mark the lines using the 30° angle on your rotary cutting mat as a guide. On my mat the 30° angle is indicated by a dotted line. Mark the center of the 6½” square ruler with a small dot. Center the dot over the zero mark on the mat. Lay a small ruler on top of the square ruler along the dotted line and draw a line extending about 2” on both sides of the dot. Rotate the ruler 90° — a quarter turn — and draw the second line.

locating 30 degree angle and zero mark on cutting mat
centering square ruler over zero mark on cutting mat
drawing first line along 30 degree angle
clear view of first line
drawing second line on square ruler
clear view of second line on square ruler
clear view of second line

Starching the squares
This is an optional step but one I recommend. The Lil’ Twister squares that emerge from these initial squares are cut on the bias, so starching the fabric at this point is a good idea. Lightly mist each square with starch (I really like Mary Ellen’s Best Press, a clear starch alternative), being careful not to distort the fabric by dragging the iron across it.

Making the quilt
1.Arrange the 33 colored squares in a heart shape on a 7 x 7 grid, preferably on a design wall. Refer to the chart below for placement of squares. Colored squares are indicated with an X; the unmarked squares are where the background squares go.

7×7 grid for heart motif

 

heart motif blocks arranged in 7×7 grid

2. Using a small stitch length – about 12 stitches to the inch — sew blocks together in horizontal rows. Row 1: press the first, third, and fifth seams to the left. Press the second, fourth, and sixth seams to the right. Do the same thing with rows 3, 5, and 7.

Row 2: do just the opposite: press the first, third, and fifth seams to the right; press the second, fourth and sixth seams to the left. Do the same thing with rows 4 and 6.

3. With right sides together, pin the first row to the second row, matching seams. The seams will be opposing, or “nesting.” Sew the rows together. With a seam ripper, pick out the seam allowance at each intersection on both sides of the seam. (That’s the reason for the small stitch length.)

Rotate or “pop” the seam allowance open, allowing the four connecting seams to be pressed in the same clockwise or counterclockwise direction. You’ll see a tiny 4-patch design emerge where the four seams intersect. Popping the seam allowances open is a bit of extra work but it gives each pinwheel a nice flat center – something you’ll really appreciate when it’s time to quilt it.

I Love Paris from the back, seam allowances popped open
close-up of seam allowances popped open

4. Trim two of the long 5” wide background strips the exact measurement of the length of the quilt top (should be 56½”). Sew strips to the sides. Press seams to the outside.

Trim the third long 5” wide background strip to the exact measurement of the width of the quilt top (should be 65½”). Sew strip to the top. Press seam to the outside.

Sew the two 5” x WOF background strips together to make one long strip; press seam open. Position the strip on the bottom of the quilt top with the seam in the middle of the fourth block, i.e. the center of the heart motif. (The seam becomes part of the waste fabric when the pinwheel block is cut from the larger square.) Trim strip even with the sides of the quilt top; the measurement should be the same as the strip across the top. Sew strip to the bottom. Press seam to the outside.

5. Cut pinwheel blocks using 6½” square ruler marked with 30° angle. Reassemble the blocks on your design wall and evaluate the design. Are you happy with the arrangement? Does your heart stand out from the background? This is the time to make changes, even if it means making new blocks or modifying existing ones. Please see “Using Directional Fabrics” at the end of this tutorial.

twister blocks arranged on design wall

6. Sew blocks together in horizontal rows. Press the seams in each row in alternating directions as explained in Step 2 above, with the first seam pressed to the left in the odd numbered rows and the first seam pressed to the right in the even numbered rows. Sew rows together. Instead of popping the seam allowances at each block intersection, press each row seam in one direction (I usually press toward the top of the quilt, as I did on I Love Paris) or press the row seams open. I generally don’t press ¼” seams open but I find it works well on seams with bias edges.

heart motif twister blocks sewn together

7. Sew (15) 5” squares of assorted prints in a horizontal row. Press the seams in alternating directions as explained above, with the first seam pressed to the left.

Sew a 3” x 5” strip to each side of the row of squares. Press to the outside. Sew two of the four 3” x WOF strips together to make one long strip; press seam open. Repeat with the other two strips. Position the strips above and below the row of squares, making sure the seams fall in the middle of a block. Trim strips to the measurement of the row of squares (should be 80½”). Sew strips to the top and bottom; press to the outside.

8. Cut pinwheel blocks using small (3½” square) Lil’ Twister tool. Sew blocks together in horizontal row. Do not press seams yet. Lay the quilt top face down with seams exposed and then lay the strip of small pinwheels face down along the bottom. The center seam of every other 3” twister block will be aligned with a seam from the quilt top. Using the tip of a pin as the point of an arrow, mark the direction those seams must be pressed to be opposing. The remaining pinwheel seams will fall in the middle of a 6” block and can be pressed in either direction. Press seams and sew strip to the quilt top.

9. Staystitch a scant ¼” inch around all four sides to stabilize the bias edges. This minimizes stretching when outer borders are applied.

10. Measure the quilt length on the sides and down the middle; take the average of the three measurements. Cut two 6½” strips the averaged length and sew to the sides, easing where necessary. Remember that the edges of the quilt top are bias; handle carefully to avoid stretching. Press seams toward the outside. Measure the quilt width at the top and bottom and across the middle; take the averaged width of the three measurements. Cut the remaining 6½” strips that width and sew to the top and bottom. Press seams toward the outside.

I Love Paris with bottom row and borders added

Your quilt top is now complete!

Using Directional Fabrics
The one quibble I have with the Lil’ Twister tool is no fault of the designer’s but rather an inherent feature of the tool itself: Because the four pieces that make up a pinwheel are all cut at a 30° angle, the pinwheel doesn’t spin. But isn’t that the point of a pinwheel? To spin, like a windmill? With solids and smallish prints, the lack of movement isn’t noticeable. What you tend to see is the contrast in value between the interlocking pinwheels.

But look what happens when a striped fabric or strong directional print is used:

pinwheel with no movement

All of the lines are going in the same direction. Do you see how static that is?

Now look at the pinwheel with the top right and bottom left pieces replaced with new pieces going the other direction:

pinwheel with movement

Do you see how much more movement it has?

Here are the two blocks side by side:

comparing the pinwheels

I think you can see that the block on the right is more dynamic. The bolder the stripe or directional fabric, the more dramatic the difference. While I was working on I Love Paris, I was so bothered by the lack of movement in my zebra print blocks that I took sections of the blocks apart and remade them.

I realize some quilters may not have a problem with this feature of the Lil’ Twister tool, and I’m fine with that. But if you are planning to make a twister quilt with some striped or directional fabrics thrown into the mix, you might want to plan ahead and put some spin in those blocks.

Here’s a close-up of the left corner of I Love Paris with one of those zebra print blocks in it:

detail of I Love Paris

Questions? Feel free to email me!

 

Posted in tutorial, twister, update | 5 Comments

Making Music, Making Quilt Labels . . .

Compact discs are permanent fixtures in my sewing room. I listen to music all the time when I’m sewing. Sometimes the radio is on, set to an FM station that plays oldies, but most of the time I listen to songs I’ve compiled myself on CDs, eclectic mixes of everything from folk music to jazz to country to the Great American Songbook.

What do my musical tastes have to do with quilt labels? Simply this: CDs do more than just produce beautiful music. These slender silvery discs, measuring 4⅝” in diameter, make great circle patterns for quilts and home sewing projects. They’re lightweight, portable, and very easy to trace around. And they’re the perfect size for quilt labels.

I use fusible interfacing as the backing fabric, so the labels actually get fused to the backs of my quilts. Labels can be made just as easily with a non-fusible interfacing or other lightweight fabric and then appliquéd to the back of the quilt by hand or machine. Either way, they are easy to make and give the back of the quilt a nicely finished look as well as added visual interest.

Here’s a tutorial on how I make quilt labels using a compact disc. For this demonstration I’m making a label for a little quilt called Wonderful Town that I made a couple of years ago. (It’s in my Quilt Gallery, about halfway down, if you’d like to take a look. You’ll notice it doesn’t have a label yet.)

Supplies
Scratch paper
Pencil with a fine point
See-through ruler
Compact disc
Scrap of freezer paper about 6½” square
Piece of cotton about 6½” square for the label
Piece of light to medium-weight fusible interfacing about 6½” square
Temporary marking pen or pencil (I recommend the Frixion erasable gel pen)
Fine point permanent marker
Painter’s tape
Pinking shears

1. Start with a piece of scratch paper and a pencil with a fine point. Trace around a compact disc and put a dot in the center. Draw a line across the dot to establish the baseline rule.

circle and baseline drawn

 

2. Decide what your label will say and how many lines it will take. Write the label information on scratch paper first to make sure it’s what you want. Center each line, just as it will appear on your label. This is good practice before you record the same information on fabric with permanent ink. Using a see-through ruler, draw lines ⅜” apart in the circle.

label drafted and guidelines drawn

In my example, I drew two lines above my baseline rule and three below it, for a total of six lines. If I were making a label with five lines, I would have drawn two above the baseline and two below.

3. Using a hot dry iron, press the shiny side of the freezer paper to the wrong side of the label fabric. This keeps the fabric taut, making it easier to write on with a pen. Press from the front to make sure the fabric is flat with no bubbles. The freezer paper will be removed later.

Note: many quilters use cotton muslin for their labels. I usually choose a cotton fabric that was used in my quilt top or one that goes well with it. Here I am using a scrap of light gold fabric that picks up the same shade in the quilt.

4. Center the compact disc on the right side of the label fabric. Trace around it with a temporary marking pen or pencil and put a tiny dot in the center. Draw a baseline across the dot. As with the scratch paper version, draw lines ⅜” apart above and below the baseline.

circle and lines drawn with disappearing ink

I absolutely love the Frixion erasable gel pens by Pilot. The ink vanishes at the touch of an iron. Frixion pens come in a rainbow of colors. Here I used green ink, pressing lightly to get just enough of a line to see where I needed to write.

Option: Instead of drawing the rules on the front of the label fabric with a temporary marker, you could draw them on the back of the freezer paper with very dark ink so that they show through from the right side.

5. Tape the label to your work surface with painter’s tape. Test the permanent marker on a corner of your label fabric to make sure the ink doesn’t bleed. Carefully write the information on your label. Don’t worry if your lettering isn’t perfect; mine certainly isn’t. The label just needs to be neatly written and easily read.

label written with permanent marker

I used a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point here but you may prefer an archival quality pen such as the Pigma Micron, which uses an acid-free pigment-based ink.

6. Remove the tape and peel the freezer paper off the back of the label. On the right side insert a pin at the spot where you marked the center of the label. Is the writing centered in the circle? If not, adjust the pin.

7. Turn the fabric over. Center the compact disc over the pin and trace around the disc with the pencil (not the permanent marker). The line you traced is your stitching line.

stitching line drawn on back of label

 

8. From the right side press the label with a hot iron. This sets the ink of the permanent marker and removes the Frixion ink, if you used it. If you used some other type of temporary marking pen or pencil, you may need to remove it before applying heat to the label.

lines drawn with Frixion pen have disappeared!

 

9. Place the interfacing on a flat surface with the fusible side up. Lay the label fabric right side down on top of it. Imagining the circle as a clock, insert four pins at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. Place the pins across the seam line, with the tips pointing toward the outside edges; this helps keep the two layers flat. Insert four more pins evenly around the circle.

pins inserted evenly around circle

 

10. Using a small stitch (about 12 stitches to the inch), sew completely around the circle, gently turning the fabric as you sew to keep the curve line smooth and removing the pins as you come to them. Stitch beyond your beginning point by five or six stitches (no need to knot). Clip threads.

stitching around circle completed

 

11. Using pinking shears, trim closely next to the line of stitching.

seam pinked close to stitching line

 

12. Gently pull the interfacing away from the label fabric and make a small slit in the center of the interfacing. With scissors extend the slit to about ¾” from the stitching line on either side.

interfacing clipped in the middle and slit extended

 

13. Carefully turn the label inside out through the slit. Insert your fingers through the slit and gently run a fingernail around the edges to smooth out the circle shape. Fusible interfacing tears fairly easily, so be gentle.

label ready to be fused to back of quilt

 

14. The label is now ready to be pressed to the back of the quilt. Remember that the fusible side of the interfacing is on the outside. Be sure to position the label exactly where you want it before following the manufacturer’s directions for fusing. After the label is attached, you can stitch around it if you wish to give it that appliquéd look.

finished!

 

 

Posted in quilt labels, tutorial, update | 6 Comments