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Making my Fair Isle quilt? How to keep those seams straight!

Just dropping in with a quick tip for those of you who are working on my Fair Isle pattern!

Do you find that your seams bow a little when you’re sewing together long strips of fabric? (And of course, you have to sew together long strips for Fair Isle.) Click here for a quick video that shows how to keep those seams nice and straight. Wish I would have thought of it myself. : ) Enjoy!

You can buy my Fair Isle pattern here, and don’t forget, my Fair Isle Quilt-Along posts from last year have lots more tips for making this pattern!

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Fair Isle Sew-Along: The Big Finale!

Welcome to the final post in the Fair Isle Quilt Along! This week you should be ready to make the back, baste it, and quilt it! : )

So, this is where I admit: I haven’t started quilting mine just yet. Yes, you heard me correctly, I have not kept up with my own quilt-along. LOL. My excuse is that I already have one Fair Isle quilt to keep me warm this holiday season. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. : ) But my top is done and ready to go—I just need to come up with some time to make the quilting happen! I have to admit, I’m sorely tempted to send this one out for long-arming.

First, let’s talk about the back! For the back of my original Fair Isle quilt, I used the Riley Blake Christmas Chevrons, Medium Size. I can’t even tell you how much I love this print for a Fair Isle back. You’ve already got the zig-zag rows on the front, so the chevrons play up that element nicely. I’m strongly considering ordering this same print again for the back of my new red-and-white Fair Isle!

But of course there are so many other cute options when it comes to Christmas fabric. You can keep up the reindeer theme with this one:

This Mid-Century Christmas print is perfect for a back:

Or go full-on folk art with something like this:

 

As for the quilting, I just went with a classic stipple on my original Fair Isle. I’m thinking about a nice diagonal cross-hatch for my new Fair Isle, which somehow seems to play in with the knitting theme.

But this is the kind of design where you could really go crazy with the quilting (long-armers, I’m talking to you!) You could quilt each row differently if you wanted to, to highlight the differences in the rows. I could see that being really fun.

Or you could do some star/snowflake details like Cornelia did (silberregen1 on IG). This is beyond my quilting abilities, but I love it so much! It’s perfection for a Fair Isle quilt, don’t you think?

Okay, this is it—it’s finally time to link up your completed Fair Isle quilt! It’s so exciting, I can’t wait to see what you all did with the pattern! This link (along with all the Fair Isle Sew Along links) will stay open indefinitely, so you can link up your Fair Isle quilt whenever you finish it, to share with everyone who’s working on the pattern now or in the future!

Thank you all for sewing along with me, I hope you enjoyed it! This is the type of quilt that’s always more fun to do with others. Now go wrap up in your new Christmas quilt!

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Fair Isle Sew Along, Part 7: Assembling the Top

Welcome back to the Fair Isle Sew Along! It’s an exciting moment, because this week we finally get to assemble the top. Home stretch, you guys!

Theoretically, when sewn together, all of your rows should measure 72-1/2″ wide. Theoretically. : ) But in reality, there are a lot of seams in these rows—and of course, being just a tiny bit off on your seam allowances can add up to major differences across all the seams in each row. My zig-zag rows, for instance, actually measured 73″, not 72-1/2″. (My reindeer row ended up surprisingly accurate. I’m sure nobody is more surprised about that than me!)

So my advice for this week is, don’t worry about the size of the blocks or the rows. Don’t even think about it (much). I’ve left some room to trim from the sides of each row if necessary.

So start by getting all of your rows sewn together. This should be quick work, since the zig zag and checkerboard rows should already be done. Next, measure all of the completed rows. For any rows that are too long, trim them down to 72-1/2″. If you find that one or more rows are too short, trim all the other rows to the length of the shortest row (you will need to trim your long sashing pieces as well).

Now you’re ready to assemble all of the rows into a completed quilt top! It’s like Christmas came early (literally)! I found that it worked well to sew the sashing pieces onto the top and bottom edges of the zig zag and checkerboard rows. Once you have that done, you should have only two more sashing pieces left, which go at the top and bottom of the quilt. Then it’s just a matter of piecing everything together and …. done.

Next week is our final post in the sew along, and we’ll be talking about the back and the quilting. Great job, everybody, I have just loved seeing all of your versions of Fair Isle! That really is like Christmas for me. : ) And remember, if you still want to play along, you can buy the pattern here.

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Fair Isle Sew Along, Part 6: The Checkerboard Row

Welcome to Week 6 of the Fair Isle Sew-Along! This week we’ve officially arrived at the Christmas season, and all of the busyness that entails, but if you’ve been keeping up with the sew-along, you’re in the homestretch now! This is your last row prior to assembling the top and quilting it, and it might be the easiest and quickest row of all.

As I mentioned before with strip-piecing, pay attention to your seams when cross-cutting the strip sets, NOT the raw edges of the sets. My suggestion is to keep adjusting the long strip sets as you cross-cut, so that the seams are always lined up with the grid on your cutting mat, and cross-cut at an exact 90-degree angle to the seams, not the raw edges. That way, if your seams curve a little, you’re accounting for that as you cut, and everything will work out anyway.

Then sew ’em up, and in no time at all, you’ve got your checkerboard row.

And with that, we’re ready to put it all together into a completed quilt top next week! I know a number of you are ahead and already have your tops together, which is awesome. I can’t wait to see all the completed tops in all the different colorways. It’s so much fun!
And remember, if you still want to play along, you can purchase the Fair Isle quilt pattern here.
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Fair Isle Sew Along, Part 5: Zig Zag Rows

Welcome to Week 5 of the Fair Isle Sew-Along!
So how did everybody do with last week’s reindeer blocks? I saw some really cute reindeer out there on the Interwebs! But I know some people also had some frustration with getting seams aligned. If your seams look puckery or wobbly, or your reindeer generally look like they had too much eggnog at the Christmas party, I’ll return to what I said in last week’s post, which is that your 1/4″ seam is probably not as consistent as it could be. You get that seam consistent, and I promise your reindeer will be perfect and completely sober. : )
It’s not easy though, so above all, please don’t get discouraged. A few suggestions that might help are putting masking tape down on your machine bed to help with alignment, or you could do what I saw from sew-along participants a few times this week and eliminate some seams entirely, and just make your reindeer out of unpieced horizontal strips. That will require a little math, but if you’re proficient in such things, go for it! I went back and forth about whether to actually write the pattern that way, but in the end I decided it would make the pattern-writing too complicated and the pattern would have to be even longer than it already is. It also would have made the cutting a lot more complex, and I’m sure you all agree that cutting this bad boy was plenty complex enough as it was. LOL. But for those of you who are able to do the calculations, it’s a great time saver.
And the bottom line is, the real key to happy reindeer probably just comes down to practice—practice, practice, and more practice. I’d bet good money that your seams were better on the last reindeer than they were on the first, right? So just keep at it, and don’t worry if your deer are a little wonky—quilting covers many evils! : )
Okay, so on to this week’s task: The Zig Zag rows. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about these, other than that they’re really easy and fun, especially right after the reindeer! LOL. It’s just strip-piecing, cross-cutting, and piecing again.
And when you’re done, you end up with this (these are from my first Fair Isle quilt):
So have fun with the Zig Zags, and I’ll see you back here for the next installment!

Want to play along with us? You can buy the Fair Isle pattern right here. I’m going to publish the next installment on Friday, Nov. 28, since the 27th is Thanksgiving. Until then, can’t wait to see how you’re doing—don’t forget to either link up below, or use the hashtag #fairislequilt. And have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with joy, love, and pie!

Fair Isle Quilt Sew-Along

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Fair Isle Sew Along, Part 4: Reindeer


Welcome back to the Fair Isle Sew Along! It’s Reindeer Week! Kind of like Shark Week, but more festive. : ) (I promise these reindeer won’t eat you alive!)

When I designed this quilt, I wanted the reindeer blocks to be very pixelated, because I felt that was the most Fair-Isle-ish look. But pixelated quilts are a huge pain—it takes forever to sew all those tiny little squares together. And I find it especially frustrating when you’re sewing dozens of tiny squares together that are the exact same fabric! So I’ve incorporated some short cuts into this pattern that could potentially save you days of your life, but we’ll still end up with something that looks like a pixelated quilt. Or as close as we can get to fully pixelated without pulling hair out. : )

My number one tip this week is consistent seam allowance. Say it with me: Consistent seam allowance. An accurate 1/4″ seam is soooo important when you’re making something with so many seams. If your seam allowance is even the tiniest bit off, that adds up across 12 seams.

But even more important (for this pattern, anyway) than a pinpoint-accurate 1/4″ seam is just that your seam allowances are consistent. If your seam allowances are a hair-width off, but they’re all the same hair-width off, you’ll be fine. It isn’t crucially important for your Reindeer row to be exactly the same width as your Fir Tree row or your Poinsettia Rows—I’ve got some extra space built in along the sides of the quilt to trim and even things up a little if necessary. So don’t freak out if your finished Reindeer blocks aren’t measuring exactly what they’re supposed to. It’ll all be good in the end, I promise. : )

On the other hand, if your seam allowances are all over the map, that’s when you’re going to have problems with this block, because that means your squares within the reindeer won’t line up. If you have issues lining up your seams when you’re sewing together the reindeer, an inconsistent seam allowance is probably to blame. Don’t whip through this as you’re sewing the strips together—slow and straight wins the race here. And if you need to, get out your ruler and measure your seam allowance in a few places. Again, consistency is the key, so if you find your seam allowance veering off here and there, try to pinpoint why in order to correct that.

I spent about 2-1/2 hours sewing together all the strip sets, and another 4 hours or so sewing together the cross-cut strips to complete the block. So all in all, this week’s time commitment for me was around 6-7 hours. Plan accordingly, based on how your time spent has compared to mine in the previous steps. (I know we all sew at different paces—my timing is just meant to help you judge yours!)

Want to sew along with us? You can buy the Fair Isle pattern here. Can’t WAIT to see all your finished reindeer! It truly is satisfying to finish these guys. And once they’re done, all we have are a few simple rows left. Don’t forget to link up below, and/or hashtag #fairislequilt on Instagram. See you next week!

Fair Isle Quilt Sew-Along

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Fair Isle Sew Along, Part 3: Fir Trees

Welcome to the third installment in the Fair Isle Sew Along! Have you guys seen all the amazing Poinsettia blocks from last week? I’m so impressed with all of the creative color palettes and prints! I didn’t this particular design was one people would change up very much, but I’m loving the creative spins.

This week: Fir tree blocks. I know last week’s Poinsettia blocks were time-consuming—there are lots of little pieces in the Poinsettia blocks, and with 10 in the quilt, it’s not quick. So I think you’ll enjoy the simpler, faster assignment for this week. : ) And in fact, these blocks are so simple that I don’t have many tips to give you this week.

My one tip is that good pinning is crucial when making these blocks. And if you find that the length of any of these units is a little off, just fold the units in half and press them to make a crease. Then line up the centers, not the edges. That will help you compensate for any units that don’t end up exactly 11″ long.

It took me a little over 2 hours to make the Fir Tree blocks this week, so plan accordingly. (Told you they were fast!) Which is good, because next week, we’ve got reindeer on the schedule. : ) Don’t forget to link up your blog posts below, or use the hashtag #fairislequilt on IG! See you next Thursday!

Want to make this along with us? Click here to purchase the Fair Isle pattern!

Fair Isle Quilt Sew-Along

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Fair Isle Sew Along, Part 2: Poinsettia Blocks

Welcome back to the Fair Isle Sew Along! How did all of you do with your cutting? I saw some fun pictures on Instagram of highly organized fabric piles, so it looks like you all did pretty well! : ) Check the #fairislequilt hashtag to see! (Want to join in and make the Fair Isle quilt? Click here to purchase the pattern!)

So this week, we’re making the Poinsettia blocks. This, along with the Reindeer row, is one of the two most time-consuming portions of the quilt. So my recommendation this week is: Chain piece, chain piece, chain piece. : ) I LOVE chain-piecing—when done right, it saves loads of time.

In fact, you may notice that I oversize the cutting for half-square triangles in my patterns and have people trim a bit more off their HSTs than is strictly necessary. I originally started doing that because I appreciated the ability to trim more off when I first started quilting—some of my early HST attempts were, um, a bit wonky. LOL. So the extra trimming room is great for beginners.

But you know what else these oversize squares are great for? Chain piecing! With slightly oversized HST squares, you don’t need to pair up your squares so precisely for sewing. After all, you’re going to trim them down later anyway—so you might as well add a little additional fabric, so that you don’t have to take the time to line everything up so carefully. Check out the picture above—you can see that I don’t bother lining up my squares at all, really. As a result, I can run 20 pairs of squares (two sewing lines apiece) through my machine in well under 5 minutes. Success with a quilt like this is often about being efficient, and this is one way to speed things up significantly.

My other tip this week involves cross-cutting the strip sets. You have to cut up a lot of strip sets in this pattern, so it’s worth taking a minute or two right now to figure out the best way to do it.

The key here is to always cross-cut perpendicular to the seam. See how the 2-1/2″ ruler mark is aligned with the seam in the picture above? That’s what you should worry about. Don’t pay as much attention to the raw edges of the strip set—pay attention to the seam, and cross-cut based on that. If the raw edges are really off after cross-cutting perpendicular to the seam, you can always attempt to even them up later, but as long as the seam is perpendicular to the cross-cut edges, you’ll be in good shape. And as you go along the strip set, keep adjusting for alignment with the seam. So if the seam curves a little, just keep adjusting your ruler accordingly.

I hope these tips help you out as you make your Poinsettia blocks! All told, it took me about 9 hours to make all 10 of my Poinsettia blocks. But I’m pretty familiar with this block by now, so budget at least 9-10 hours for piecing this week, depending on how fast you generally sew. Next week, we’ll be making the Fir Tree blocks, which come together much more quickly than the Poinsettia blocks, so if you fall behind a little this week, no worries. You’ll probably be able to catch back up soon.

Just a reminder, if you’re on Instagram, hashtag #fairislequilt so we can all share each other’s progress! (This goes for whether you’re making it “on time” or much later.) And if you do a blog post about the Sew Along, you can also link up your blog post below.

Can’t wait to see everyone’s Poinsettia blocks! Now get chain-piecing. : )

Fair Isle Quilt Sew-Along

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Fair Isle Sew Along Part 1

Okay, I’m over my my crabbiness from yesterday and I am so ready for our Fair Isle Sew-Along! I’m thrilled that you all are going to make a Fair Isle quilt with me.

This is Part 1 of the Fair Isle Sew-Along, which is (drumroll please) … cutting. As a reminder, you do need to purchase the Fair Isle pattern in order to participate in this sew-along, so if you’re still on the fence, get your rear off of there and come join us! You can buy the pattern here.

Now, if you’ve already taken a look at the pattern, you may have noticed that the cutting list is kind of a bear (understatement warning). Sorry about that. But with a quilt like this, with all these different block designs and even different block sizes, there’s really no alternative. Cutting the background fabric can be especially daunting. And cutting efficiently is crucial in order to avoid buying extra yardage!

So today I’m going to take you through the order in which I cut my background fabric. I highly recommend following the order below, and checking off the pieces on the cutting list in your pattern as you go, so that you don’t miss any. If you just stay methodical and organized, you’ll be fine. Once we get through all this cutting, it’s just the fun stuff from here on out. Oh, and if you haven’t changed your rotary cutter blade recently, you might want to now. Just sayin’. : )

(Please note that I’m doing a different color scheme for my quilt than what is stated in the pattern, so my background fabric is red instead of white. Don’t let my photos confuse you! Background fabric in these photos = red!)

Okay, are we ready? Here we go:

1. Divide the background fabric yardage into 2 pieces: 73″ long (we’ll call that Chunk A), and the rest (we’ll call that Chunk B).

2. Cut the sashing pieces first, cutting lengthwise from 73″-long Chunk A. Once you’ve cut your 73″ sashing strips, fold them double and lay them along the 36″ width of a cutting mat, with the fold lined up with the 0″ mark on the mat. With the strips still folded double, trim the unfolded end 1/4″ past the 36″ mark on your mat, in order to make the sashing pieces exactly 72-1/2″—see photo above. (I find it easier to trim down the sashing strips, rather than trying to cut a much larger piece of fabric to a perfect 72-1/2″ length and then cutting the sashing from that.)

3. Next, from Chunk B, I cut all of the 42″ wide strips, cutting the width of the fabric. These are the 1-1/2″ x 42″ pieces for the Poinsettia blocks, plus all the strips listed under the Zig Zag and Checkerboard rows.

4. Now go back to the piece that was leftover from Chunk A after cutting your sashing. You should have a piece left over that’s about 27-1/2″ x 73″. From that piece, cut 37 strips 1-1/2″ x 27-1/2″. From those 37 strips, cut the remaining 1-1/2″ pieces for the Reindeer and Poinsettia blocks, leaving the 1-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ Poinsettia block pieces for last, since you can get most of those pieces from the scraps after cutting the larger pieces. (You might not be able to get all of your 1-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ pieces from these scraps, but you can get the rest from other scraps later.)

5. After cutting your 37 1-1/2″-wide strips, what’s left of Chunk A should measure about 17-1/2″ x 27-1/2″. From this chunk, I cut all of the remaining pieces for the Reindeer blocks, plus the remaining pieces for the Zig Zag rows.

6. Then go back to what remains of Chunk B and cut everything else from that. Start with the 24″ and 36″ long pieces from the Fir Tree blocks, then work your way through the rest of the cutting. (You may need to cut a few remaining 1-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ pieces from these scraps.)

7. Finally, cut your green, red, and pink pieces (a comparatively easier task), and you’re done! As you cut, I recommend grouping pieces by the type of block (i.e., all Poinsettia pieces together, all Fir Tree pieces together). If you’re as anal as I am, you might even want to put the pieces for each block type into labeled ziplock bags. That way you’ll be oh-so-organized and ready to move on to Step 2 next week.

My cutting probably took me a little over three hours total, although I had many interruptions, so I could be off on that. Budget 3-4 hours of time for your cutting this week, and you should be on track for next week, when we will be making the Poinsettia blocks. (But if you don’t stay on track, no worries! These posts will stay up indefinitely, so come back whenever you do have time.)

Hey, don’t forget to hashtag #fairislequilt as you work, so that we can all share each other’s progress! And I’ll meet you back here next Thursday for Part 2!

Fair Isle Quilt Sew-Along

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Fair Isle Sew Along Starts Oct. 23

It’s official: I will be starting my Fair Isle quilt pattern sew-along beginning Oct. 23! We all just need a little motivation to finish a project like this by Christmas, right? Well, join up with the sew-along and let’s knock this one out together. : )

• Buy Fair Isle PDF pattern now •

• Buy Fair Isle paper pattern now •

So we’ll kick things off next Thursday, and then I’ll be posting about it each Thursday after that until we finish the quilt.
Schedule:
 Just eight weeks to a completed Christmas quilt! I’ve even given you a couple of weeks before Christmas to just enjoy it. (Or catch up if you’re behind.) Of course, the idea is to have fun and enjoy this, so don’t feel too much pressure to keep up! It is the holidays after all, so give yourself a break here and there.
The first thing you’ll need for the sew-along is, of course, the Fair Isle pattern. You can order a PDF version here or a hard-copy paper version here.
Got the pattern? Awesome. Now just gather up your fabric and you’ll be ready for next Thursday!
 
Yardage requirements:
 • 4 yards white solid (background)
• 1-1/3 yards poppy red solid (Kona Poppy is a great choice)
• 7/8 yard Flamingo Pink solid (I used Free Spirit Designer Solids in Flamingo, but Kona solids in Punch or Melon would be great choices too)
• 3/4 yard chartreuse solid (I used Free Spirit Designer Solids in Chartreuse, but Kona Chartreuse would be wonderful as well)
• 5/8 yard fabric for binding
• 4-3/8 yards fabric for backing
The color choices above are to make the quilt in the color scheme I originally used, but I could see this quilt in plenty of other colorways as well. In fact, for my sew-along Fair Isle, I think I’m going to do a red background, and the design elements will be white, light gray, and maybe pale blue. Fun!