Category Archives: tutorial

Tutorial: A Nifty Way to Cut Binding Strips


One of the benefits of teaching quilting classes is learning from my students. The other day my friend and student Arden showed me a great method of cutting binding strips that she learned from Marjorie Rhine of Quilt Design NW. It’s very likely this method is known to many already but it was new to me so I wanted to share it with you.

Cut strips to your desired width. Strips can be of varying lengths, of course, but most quilters cut strips along the crosswise grain from selvage to selvage, also known as width of fabric or WOF.

Lay one strip on top of a second strip, right sides up, aligning the edges. Bring the short edges of the doubled strips up next to each other, still with right sides up. I’ve pinned these to my design wall so you can see that the strips form a U shape and the ends of the strips are parallel at the top:

Layer the strips at the top so that you have four layers, all right side up:

Take the strips to a cutting mat and cut through all four layers at a 45° angle:


You wind up with strips with parallel diagonal cuts at each end:


Place one strip in front of you and feed the second strip in from the left, aligning the edges and allowing for a ¼” offset at each end for the seam allowance:


Stitch from notch to notch:


Join remaining strips the same way, press seams open, press in half lengthwise, and before you know it your binding is ready to attach:

As the Barefoot Contessa would say, “How easy is that?”

 

 

 

Posted in tutorial, update | 7 Comments

Tutorial: Scissors Case from First Light Designs

These safe and stylish scissors cases look complicated but they are surprisingly easy to make. Each case is made from a little quilt sandwich that’s bound, folded in half on the diagonal, and stitched with one seam. If you’ve ever bound a quilt using double-fold binding (also known as French binding), you’ll have no trouble making one of these cases. They make wonderful gifts as well as delightful additions to your own sewing basket.

All you need are two squares of contrasting fabric, one square of batting, and a length of 2″-wide binding (straight grain or bias, your choice) in a third fabric:


Bits of ribbon, small pony tail elastic bands, and vintage buttons combine to make charming fasteners. These are completely optional, however. Even though I usually put a loop and button on my scissors cases, I tend to leave the top flap open so I can easily see if the scissors are there when I look into my quilter’s tote.

If you start with 7″ squares, you’ll wind up with a scissors case that measures about 5″ x 10″. This case was made with 6″ squares and measures about 4″ x 8″ opened . . .

. . . and about 4″ x 6¼” closed:

I like this size best for my 5″ Ginghers.

(If you’re not sure what size square you need for the scissors you have in mind, experiment with squares cut from sheets of paper. Fold the paper using the instructions below as a guide. Insert your scissors into your paper “case” and test the fit.)

This tutorial is for the slightly larger case using 7″ squares but can easily be modified for the 6″ size.

Scissors Case from First Light Designs

Finished size: about 5” x 10” (from top point of flap)

Materials
(2) 7” squares of cotton
(1) 7” square of light to medium weight batting
36” of binding fabric cut 2” wide and pressed in half lengthwise
Optional: small ponytail elastic band or 4” length of ⅛” – ¼” wide satin or grosgrain ribbon
Optional: button
Optional: ¼”wide Steam-a-Seam fusible web

Recommendation: use a walking foot for construction

Step 1. Layer the cotton squares and batting as for a quilt and staystitch ⅛” from the outside edges:

In the photo above, the darker print is the outside of the case and the two-toned gold fabric is the lining.

If using a loop and button closure, stitch a loop in one corner on the lining side, keeping stitching inside the seam allowance:

I used a small ponytail elastic on this case but you could also use narrow ribbon as I did in the two cases at the top of this post.

Step 2. Still working on the lining side, position the binding strip halfway down the side from the loop:

Note how the edge of the binding has been folded at a right angle and how I added a few stitches inside the seam allowance to secure the binding to the edge of the quilt sandwich.

Step 3. Leaving enough room to tuck the other binding tail into the fold, begin stitching the binding with a scant ¼” seam, stopping ¼” from the end in order to miter the corner:

When you come to the fourth corner, be careful not to catch the loop in the binding seams when you miter that corner:

Step 4. Tuck the left tail into the fold of the right tail . . .

. . . and finish stitching the seam, starting and ending a few stitches beyond the original stitching.

Step 5. Turn the binding to the right side and stitch by hand or fuse in place using ¼”-wide Steam-a-Seam 2 (not Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite). If using fusible web, take care not to melt ponytail elastic with hot iron!

Step 6. Fold the case in half diagonally and mark a stitching line 1¼” in from the upper right corner, tapering to the bottom as close to the binding at the bottom as you can get. (Note: loop is in the upper left corner). The pins in the photo below show the stitching line:

Stitch, backstitching at both ends:

Note that you stitch through the binding at the top of the seam and taper down toward the corner with the stitching ending right next to the binding. Try using a zipper foot for this line of stitching if the walking foot skips stitches. The stitching will not show when the flaps are folded back. (If using 6″ squares, mark your stitching line 1″ in from the right edge rather than 1¼”.)

Open up the seam and press flat as shown below. Sew button on seam line (test placement by holding top flap down to see where loop is in relation to button).

Voilà! Ready to use:

 

 

Posted in rotary cutter case, tutorial, update | 5 Comments

It’s Party Time!

Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs is hosting a Best of 2017 Linky Party, inviting bloggers to highlight their top five posts of the year. It’s a fun way to look back over the last 12 months and identify some of the high points.

My top five are below, in reverse order. Clicking on the links will take you to the original posts.

5. Dutch Treat. Although I didn’t finish this quilt till June, I started it in January during an epic snowstorm that kept me and many Portlanders indoors for several days.

4. NYC and VFW. A trip to New York City with my twin sister in March combined many of the things I love in life: family, travel, theater, museums, and quilting. The quilting part? A visit to the Manhattan shop of Victoria Findlay Wolfe:


Victoria didn’t happen to be there that day but I had the pleasure of meeting her the following month in Paducah, Kentucky during AQS Quilt Week:

3. Terrazzo Tiles and Piccolo Terrazzo Tiles. Using the free pattern Mini Mod Tiles by Sew Kind of Wonderful, I made two versions:

The larger one was made by “supersizing” the original pattern, using the larger of the two curved rulers Sew Kind of Wonderful designed for cutting curves. I wrote a tutorial showing how I did it.

2. Junior Billie Bag. This was the first of two JBBs I made in 2017:

Designed over 20 years ago by Billie Mahorney, it’s a fabulous quilter’s tote personalized by each maker, starting with the design on the front and back panels and ending with the pockets inside and out. Two years ago Billie turned the teaching of her design over to me, and I make a bag every time I teach a class. This may be my favorite of the eight I have made so far.

Without consciously planning to, I wound up making a suite of accessories to go with my Junior Billie Bag:

(See the rotary cutter coat in the lower left corner? I wrote directions for it in 2014 and it remains my most popular tutorial. Every now and then when I see a huge spike in the number of views on my website/blog, I know it’s because someone provided a link to the tutorial.)

1 . Where It’s @. Much to my surprise and delight, this quilt won a second place ribbon at the Northwest Quilting Expo in Portland, Oregon in September:

The design is Rewind by Karla Alexander of Saginaw Street Quilts. I started the quilt in a class with Karla in Sisters, Oregon in July 2016. Getting a ribbon was honor enough but the award came with a check for $500. My first reaction? “Think how many yards of fabric I can buy with that!”

Well, this has been a nice little trip down memory lane. Do you want to join Cheryl’s party, too? The link is open until January 2. Be sure to check out the top five posts of the other quilting/blogging partygoers. And thank you for checking out mine!

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, family, Junior Billie Bag, Northwest Quilting Expo, QCR Mini, Quick Curve Ruler, Quilter's Affair, rotary cutter case, sewing tool caddy, tote bags, tutorial, update, windmill block, wonky Greek key | 5 Comments

An Open and Shut Case

You may recognize the fabrics in this sewing tool caddy, which I made last month at Quilt Camp:

They’re the same fabrics used in the Junior Billie Bag I made earlier this year.

The pattern for the tool caddy is Travel Case by Pearl Pereira of p3designs.com. I’ve made it several times, modifying it the last few times by adding an extra pocket. I keep my tool caddy in an acrylic brochure holder one of my students gave me:

With the flap turned back, all of my smaller tools are right at my fingertips. At the end of a sewing session the tools go back in the caddy. It really does help me keep my sewing room organized.

Having made the caddy, I couldn’t help but make a coordinating rotary cutter coat:

Aren’t those vintage red buttons perfect?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, rotary cutter case, sewing tool caddy, tote bags, tutorial, update | 5 Comments

Tutorial: Mini Mod Tiles “Supersized”

First the back story, then the tutorial.

Last spring the talented sisters at Sew Kind of Wonderful released a free pattern called Mini Mod Tiles:

Mini Mod Tiles, about 34″ Square, made by Sew Kind of Wonderful (2017). Photo used with permission.

I was instantly enchanted. I downloaded the directions from Sew Kind of Wonderful’s website and made my own version using just three fabrics:

Piccolo Terrazzo Tiles, 34½” Square. Made by Dawn White, Quilted by Karlee Sandell.

I knew this was the design I wanted to teach at a quilt retreat in June. But I wanted to give my students the option of making a larger quilt. Sure, they could have added more blocks to increase the size of their quilt — but I was thinking of a bigger block. Thus was the “supersized” version of Mini Mod Tiles born:

Terrazzo Tiles, 63″ Square (2017). Made by Dawn White, Quilted by Karlee Sandell.

The supersized version was made with the original Quick Curve Ruler whereas the original Mini Mod Tiles was made with the QCR Mini. Here are both quilts to give you an idea of the relative sizes:

Two Versions of Mini Mod Tiles: Original and Supersized!

The SKW sisters graciously gave me permission to show how I supersized their pattern, hence this tutorial. My directions will be easier to follow if you have already made a quilt using the original Mini Mod Tiles pattern.

This tutorial has two parts. Part 1 is a two-page handout showing fabric requirements and advance cutting for both a scrappy version using multiple prints like the original SKW version and the more controlled version I made with just four fabrics. Download Part 1: Fabric Requirements and Advance Cutting.

Part 2: Sewing Directions for Mini Mod Tiles “Supersized”

Required: Quick Curve Ruler by Sew Kind of Wonderful (available at many local quilt stores and at Sew Kind of Wonderful’s website).

Required: free pattern Mini Mod Tiles, downloaded from the SKW website.

Download the three-page pattern by going to the Free Patterns link on SKW’s website and double clicking on the photo of Mini Mod Tiles — the same photo you see at the top of this tutorial. Click on the print icon on the upper right side. Print in color:

Free download: Mini Mod Tiles pattern by Sew Kind of Wonderful

Study the directions carefully. The cutting, sewing, and squaring up instructions are almost the same as for the mini. The main differences are the cut sizes of fabric and the fact that you are using the original Quick Curve Ruler.

Here are my cut pieces, neatly stacked and ready for sewing:

Ready, Set, Sew!

Cutting with the Quick Curve Ruler (QCR) (Page 1)
Refer to the illustrations on the pattern marked Sample 1, Sample 2, etc.

“A” shapes, cut from 8″ focus fabric squares:  Referring to Sample 1, measure and make registration marks at the midpoints of the outside edges (4″ from the corners) of all four sides of a square (Sample 1).

Refer to Sample 2 illustration showing the position of the QCR on the fabric square. The red dashed line indicates the curve cut-out you follow with your rotary cutter. You can see that the cut-out curve is right over the registration marks on the left and bottom sides of the square.

First Light Designs tip: Note that the curve cut-out in the QCR is about ⅛” wide. Rather than centering that ⅛”-wide channel over your registration marks, position the ruler so that the inside edge of the channel is right over your registration marks. When you make your cut, follow the inside edge of the channel with your rotary cutter just as you would when making a cut with a straight-edged ruler. Your cut curves will be more uniform in size.

After making the first cut, rotate square 180º and repeat on other side. Repeat with remaining squares. Total: 36 A shapes.

First Light Designs tip: Instead of marking every square four times, arrange the square on a rotary cutting mat with all four sides aligned with the inch lines printed on the mat. (It doesn’t matter where on the mat as long as it’s several inches from outer edges.) Count over 4″ from the corners of the square and position the inside channel of the cutout curve over those points at the edge of the fabric:

Curves Begin and End 4″ from the corners

By the way, don’t discard the leftover curved pieces! They are a great size for appliqué or paper piecing projects or can be cut into 2¼” or smaller squares for another quilt.

“B” shapes, cut from 5″ x 8″ rectangles:  Measure and make registration marks 3″ in from the  top left edge and 3″ in from the bottom right edge. Refer to Sample 3 illustration. Note that the ruler is positioned so that the dotted red line showing the cutting channel goes from the upper left corner of the fabric to the registration mark on the bottom right side. After making the cut, rotate the block 180° and repeat. Discard the slivers of leftover fabric.

First Light Designs tip: Instead of marking the fabric rectangle, arrange it on a rotary cutting mat with all four sides aligned with the inch lines printed on the mat. Position the QCR so that inside channel of the cutout curve is over the upper left corner of the rectangle and the 3″ mark from the bottom right edge:

Curve begins in upper left corner, ends 3″ in from opposite corner

Did you know? You can stack your squares and rectangles and cut multiple units at one time if your rotary blade is very sharp. Try cutting two layers first. If that works, try up to four.

Piecing the Curves (Page 1)
Referring to Sample 4 and Sample 5 illustrations on page 1 of the pattern:  See the arrow pointing toward the 1/4″ that Piece B extends beyond Shape A? Change that measurement to 3/8″. When you position Shape B on top of Shape A, right sides together, be sure the tip of B extends 3/8″ beyond the tip of A. Press seam toward A. Note in Sample 4 how the edges of Shape B extend beyond Shape A at the curved seam. This is what you want, as the excess fabric is trimmed when the block is squared up.

Squaring up AB Units (Page 2)
With two B shapes sewn to a shape A, the unit is now called AB.

Referring to Sample 6 on page 2 of the pattern: Square up AB unit to 8″ square. Using an 8½” or larger square ruler, position the ruler so that the straight edges of AB (upper left and lower right corners of the block) measure 8″ square. Trim right side and top. Rotate block 180º, reposition ruler so that bottom and left side of block are on the 8″ lines of the ruler, and trim right side and top. Repeat with remaining squares.

First Light Designs tip: On your squaring up ruler, use an Ultra Fine-Point Sharpie marker to make two small dots — the first one 4¼” to the left of the upper right corner and the second one 4¼” down from the upper right corner, right at the edge of the ruler. When you square up your block, the curved seam that joins Shapes A and B should be right under those dots:

See the red dots?

If you find your curved seam falls a bit on either side of the 4¼” measurement, that’s okay. The important thing is that your blocks are hitting the same mark consistently. (The Sharpie marks come off the ruler easily with a drop of nail polish remover, by the way.)

Sashing Assembly (Page 2)
Follow the directions, keeping in mind that your (60) C units are made with connector pieces measuring 2½” x 3″ and sashing strips measuring 3″ x 6″. Likewise the D units are made with two C units and a 3″ square of background fabric in the middle. Note: it would be more efficient to make these C and D units in strip sets but I decided to match my tutorial as much as possible to the original directions.

Block Assembly and Quilt Layout (Pages 2 and 3)
Follow pattern directions, keeping in mind that the center of the block is a 3″ square of accent fabric, not a 2″ x 2″ background piece. Make (9) blocks which measure 18″ square.

Pressing
I did deviate from the pressing directions. Instead of pressing seams open where directed, I always pressed toward the focus fabric, even when sewing rows together. Why? I was planning ahead, in case I wanted to stitch in the ditch around my focus fabric. It’s very difficult to do that when a seam has been pressed open. As it happened, I decided to have both quilts custom quilted; the longarmer stitched in the ditch on both quilts at my request and I really like how much extra definition the stitching gave to the focus fabric shapes.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. And if you make a supersized version of Mini Mod Tiles, I would love to see a photo. I know the Sew Kind of Wonderful sisters would, too!

 

 

 

Posted in QCR Mini, Quick Curve Ruler, tutorial, update | 3 Comments

Rx for Rulers

If you’ve been quilting a while, you probably have a good-sized number of acrylic rulers on hand, the ones you use every day for cutting fabric and trimming blocks plus the specialty rulers you use on occasion. And let’s not forget the ones you bought (but maybe haven’t used yet) because they promised a faster, easier, more accurate way of cutting fabric or making a block.

With a few exceptions, these rulers tend to slip and slide on fabrics. How many of you have experienced a shift in position just as you were running your rotary cutter along a ruler’s edge? My hand is in the air.

Enter a product that may already be in your first aid kit or medicine cabinet. It’s a flexible clear 1″-wide surgical tape called Nexcare made by 3M. My friend and fellow quilter Kathy Anderson told me about it and now I’m passing the word on to all my friends who quilt.

Here’s what the package looks like. If you look carefully, you can see I have applied it to my go-to 4″ x 14″ Omnigrid ruler.

Rx for rulers 1

For years I used a product called Invisigrip on the back of my rulers. Made by Omnigrid, it’s a roll of clear film that comes attached to a paper backing. You cut it into strips, peel the paper backing away, and apply the film to the back of rulers. Invisigrip works very well at keeping rulers from sliding on fabric but it does have a couple of disadvantages.

First, the film can loosen from the back of the ruler over time and need replacing. Second, after a package has been open a while, it becomes stale. That is, it becomes impossible to separate the film from the paper backing, rendering the rest of the roll unusable. I tried sealing the roll in a Ziploc bag between applications but it still got stale.

I found myself buying a new package almost every time I got a new ruler. Over the years I have spent a fair amount of money on this product. NexCare tape is much less expensive — I think I paid around $4.50 for this double-roll package containing 20 yards — and it is very easy to apply.

All you have to do is unroll the length of tape you need, cut it with scissors, and apply it to the back of the ruler. But, being a bit of a neatnik when it comes to my sewing tools, I like to use my rotary cutter to cut straight lines so the tape lines up with the lines on my rulers. In the photos below I’m putting it on the back of a specialty ruler that I use a lot, the Quick Curve Ruler.

I place the ruler wrong side up on my cutting mat. (I put the ruler on a piece of fabric here just so you can see the markings better.) Below the ruler I unroll a length of tape the same length as the ruler, following the marking lines on the cutting mat, and press the tape onto the mat:

Rx for rulers 2

Next I trim the ends of the tape with my rotary cutter, allowing a ¼” margin between the end of the tape and the edges of the ruler. I use a stiletto (a bamboo skewer, actually) to lift up the edges of the tape where it was trimmed . . .

Rx for rulers 3

. . . and then peel the strip of tape off the mat.

Using the markings on the ruler itself as a guide, I lay the strip of tape on the ruler, positioning it a quarter of an inch from the edges, and press it in place with my fingertips. Here you can see that I added strips to the top of the ruler, leaving the area around the hanging hole clear, and added an extra stabilizing strip under the curve cut-out.

Rx for rulers 4

You can put strips around all four sides of the ruler if you wish. You can put them anywhere, for that matter. Because the cutting channel on the Quick Curve Ruler comes within a half-inch of the sides, I opted not to put strips there, adding the stabilizing strip in the center instead.

When I’m ready to use the ruler, I can see clearly through the tape:

Rx for rulers 5
Pretty nifty, don’t you think?

 

 

 

Posted in Quick Curve Ruler, tutorial, update | 28 Comments

Around the World Blog Hop

Today’s my day to post in the “Around the World Blog Hop.” It’s like a chain letter passed from one blogger to another. What a fun way to meet new quilters and discover new quilting blogs! My assignment is to respond to four questions and then tag another quilter who will post on the same questions a week later.

I was tagged by Debbie Scroggy of All Quilted, LLC. Debbie is a local award-winning professional longarm quilter whose clients keep coming back because she does beautiful work. She takes care to bring out the best in every quilter’s project. I know this because she has quilted two quilts for me — and they will certainly not be the last. I’ve seen examples of quilting Debbie has done for other people as well as quilts she has made herself.  You’ll see for yourself when you click on the link above. And when you do, you’ll find a link to the blogger who tagged her. This blog hop takes you backward as well as forward.

Moving forward, you will hop from Oregon halfway across the North American continent to visit Jennifer Gwyn of Seams Crazy. Jennifer lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and two young children. Despite the demands of working and raising a family, she still manages to get a lot of quilting done. Jennifer’s fabric choices are always pleasing to the eye. I especially admire her ability to go scrappy when the quilt calls for it. I have Jennifer to thank for the project you see below. She wrote about it on her blog late last year and got me hooked.

On to the assignment at hand.

1. What am I working on?
Ah, the easy question first. I always have several projects underway. One is my series sampler quilt, Reach for the Stars:

2014-10-11 02.40.46
Reach for the Stars Border Puzzle

I’ve been working on this quilt since the beginning of the year, and the end is tantalizingly in sight. At the moment I’m trying to solve the puzzle of how to make the borders match in all four corners, something the original design does not do. The math doesn’t work out, and I’m trying to figure out a creative way to make it work.

Another work-in-progress is this Bow Tucks Tote, designed by Penny Sturges of quiltsillustrated.com:

2014-10-11 01.13.43
Tote Bag in Progress

I’m currently teaching a class on this bag at the Pine Needle and need to make a tote along with my students to demonstrate the steps. In the photo above, that’s the lining you see on the left. The green strip turns into pockets that go around the entire inside of the bag. Clever!

Yet another project is this Rotary Cutter Coat, one of my own designs:

2014-10-11 02.49.42
Rotary Cutter Coat in the Works

Look closely at the fabrics in the unfinished project above: those are zipper pulls and zipper teeth on the front and straight pins on the back. So cute! (I posted a tutorial a few days ago that includes a link to the free pattern; perhaps you’d like to make a rotary cutter coat yourself.) As soon as the zipper pull coat above is finished, I’m going to give all three away. I hope you’ll come back later this week for my Giveaway.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I would be hard pressed even to identify what genre my work fits in. I’m all over the map in terms of the kinds of quilts I like — and the kinds of quilts I like to make. Am I a traditional quilter? Absolutely. Non-traditional quilter? Yes. Modern quilter? Yes. Art quilter? That too. I tend to make what pleases me, and most of the time my work pleases others. That’s satisfying on both fronts.

3. Why do I create what I do?
It’s all about the fabric. I love fabric! I love to make things with it. My mother taught me to sew when I was 12 years old, and I honestly can’t remember a time I didn’t have some kind of sewing project underway. I made all of my own clothes well into the 1980s (past the time when it was cheaper to make clothing than to buy it), along with pillows and curtains and other “soft furnishings.” By then I had also discovered quilting, which became a creative outlet and antidote to an intense work schedule. When I retired six years ago, quilting — and then teaching quilting — took over my life. Oh, and sewing for my sisters, who think I’m the Home Dec Queen.

4. How does my creative process work?
Often an element in a quilt — a block, perhaps, or a border — will catch my eye, and I will think about how I might incorporate it into a quilt of my own. Or I will look at a traditional block and ponder how it might be jazzed up a bit. I will look at a design element and think, “What if I did this or that to it?” Some of my best ideas have come from asking myself, “What if . . .?”

Some of my work is frankly derivative. Case in point: the rotary cutter coats pictured above. A couple of years ago I saw a pattern in a magazine for a quilted eyeglasses case. I was instantly transported back to the age of four, when I got my first pair of glasses. I came home from the optician with glasses on my nose and a faux-leather case to store them in when I wasn’t wearing them. The case was cut along the same lines as the one in the magazine. I examined the eyeglasses case in the photo and said to myself, “What if . . .?” The result was a case (or coat, as I like to call it) designed specifically for a rotary cutter, though it could certainly double as a case for a pair of large eyeglasses.

I find inspiration everywhere: not just in books and magazines but also in nature, the work of other quilters and crafters, designs in fabric, a sidewalk, a coffee cup. I study quilts I like — and quilts I don’t much care for — to understand what appeals to me and why. Straying from the familiar path and trying something new are parts of the creative process, so I take classes whenever I can.

***

Jennifer’s “Blog Hop Around the World” post is due Oct. 20, one week from today. But you don’t have to wait till then to visit her blog. Go there now and see what she’s working on. Not only will you get a glimpse of her Reach for the Stars fabrics, you’ll be able to check out the size of her stash. Oh my!

 

 

 

Posted in Giveaway, Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, rotary cutter case, tote bags, tutorial, update | 2 Comments

Rotary Cutter Case

A couple weeks ago the Pine Needle Quilt Shop, where I teach, held its annual fall Open House. I was on hand to promote my upcoming classes and share a sewing project or two. It’s always fun to talk to customers, fondle the newest fabrics in the shop, and visit with the other teachers. Local luminaries Violet Craft, Christina Cameli, and Rachel Kerley are joining the ranks of Pine Needle teachers this fall. I’m in good company!

One of the sewing projects I showed off at Open House was a rotary cutter case I designed a couple of years ago. I made up a few samples, which we gave away as door prizes:

Rotary Cutter Cases

These cases are also good for eyeglasses but I prefer them for rotary cutters. Don’t they look like little coats?

They make great gifts. And the holiday season is fast approaching. Hmmm . . . I’m thinking a tutorial is in order (and maybe even a giveaway!). What do you think, readers? Would you like to know how to make an eyeglasses case or rotary cutter coat?

 

 

 

Posted in Giveaway, rotary cutter case, tutorial, update | 17 Comments

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 | 8 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