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Summer Sampler 2017: Block 14 – Saddle Star

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We’re on Block 14 of Summer Sampler 2017—when did that happen? : ) This week’s block is Saddle Star, designed by Katie Blakesley of Swim Bike Quilt.

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And check it out, it’s my last block in the 6″ size! I’ve decided I have a love-hate relationship with these little guys. They’re such a pain, but somehow so satisfying when they’re done!

Anyway, for this week’s tip, when you’re making the hourglass unit at the center of the block, I would suggest pressing seams toward the aqua fabric, rather than open as the pattern suggests. It’s all really just personal preference, but I find hourglass units just come together better when seams are pressed to sides, and you can nest them together when sewing the second hourglass seam. So if you’re having trouble getting that center point nice and neat, pressing seams toward the darker fabric might just do the trick.

That’s it! Want to make this block, but haven’t signed up for Summer Sampler yet? You still can—just click here! When you make the purchase, you’ll receive a link to download all of the blocks that have been released so far. It’s instant gratification! : ) See you next week for Block 15!

 

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Summer Sampler 2017: Block 9 – Midland Star

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Block 9 of Summer Sampler 2017! We’re moving right along!

This week’s block is Midland Star by Katie Blakesley of Swim Bike Quilt. After several paper-pieced blocks in a row, it was refreshing to go back to some “normal” piecing this week.

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The most challenging part of this block is the hourglass units. Hourglass units are a little more difficult than half-square triangles, but they’re a key piecing concept to be able to pull off!

IMG_1540Bringing me to this week’s tips!

Tip #1: Always press to the side when making hourglass units. I usually love to press my seams open, especially on half-square triangles, but you’ll get better, more accurate results when you press that first hourglass seam to the side, because then the seams can nest when you sew it the second time.

And Tip #2: Trim carefully! Make sure to use the center point and the diagonal seams to align your ruler as you trim, and expect that you’ll have to trim all four sides of the unit rather than just two. Another thing that’s helpful is having a square ruler in the size to which you’re trimming. I have a lot of square rulers, in practically every size available (3-1/2″ square, 4-1/2″ square, 6-1/2″ square, etc.) As you can see from the photo above, that 4-1/2″ square ruler makes this task so much easier, since the center is clearly marked, and I can see exactly where the edges of this unit will end up when trimmed.

Want to make your own Summer Sampler 2017? Click here for all the details! And don’t forget to hashtag #summersampler2017 so everyone can enjoy your progress!

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Sewing Machine Feet: What I Use and How I Use Them

A recent Instagram post about a new foot I picked up for my Janome Horizon 7700 and a resulting conversation at a guild meeting has me thinking that a post might be in order about what feet I use on my machine, and specifically how I use them. Because, like many things in life, I don’t always use them in the prescribed manner. : ) So let’s take a look, shall we?

My machine had the fabulous selling feature of coming with about a gajillion feet—so it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that I spend 99% of my time using the same four feet. And two of them weren’t even included in the package that came with the machine. : ) Figures, right?

For piecing:

Acufeed 1/4-Inch Foot 
Works with Janome 6600 and 7700; a slightly different version is available for the 8900 and 12000
I use this foot more than any in the drawer. This is my machine’s version of a walking foot, but I don’t use it for quilting! I use it for piecing. Why? Because when you’re using a standard presser foot, it can push the top and bottom layers of fabric at different rates of speed, which of course can bump your seams out of alignment. This is especially true on long seams, such as those between sashing and rows of blocks—the longer the seam, the more out-of-whack it gets. By using your walking foot (or a dual-feed system if your machine has one), you don’t have that problem. In fact, you can even sometimes compensate for slight piecing problems by forcing seams to align when they wouldn’t on their own. It’s a beautiful thing. : )

Just be aware that on some machines your seams might get a little wavy, especially when you try to force seams to line up when they are just too mis-aligned. I’ve had slightly wavy seams in the past, but they always seem to quilt up just fine, so I don’t worry about it. Another problem you might run into is that some walking feet tend to be big and bulky, making it difficult to achieve a 1/4-inch seam, and many machines don’t have a compatible 1/4-inch walking foot (I don’t understand why more machines don’t have this option available). This is just one of many reasons I love my 7700—Janome’s Acufeed dual-feed system works like a charm, and there are a wide variety of feet available for it.

1/4-Inch Piecing (O2) Foot
Works with most Janome models and other brands with low-shank snap-on feet, such as Brother, Baby Lock, Elna, and Kenmore
This is my secondary piecing foot. For short seams or blocks that don’t require a lot of accuracy, I sometimes use this foot. But mostly I stick with the Acufeed 1/4-inch foot.

For straight-line quilting:

 

Basic Acufeed Foot
Works with Janome 6600 and 7700
This is the standard Acufeed foot that comes with the 7700 and 6600. Combined with the quilting guide bar, it does the job, but this is the one machine foot I’m not completely happy with. For one thing, the guide bar is way too loose when inserted into the Acufeed foot. It’s the only serious design flaw in the 7700, in my opinion. I actually have to tape the guide onto the foot with masking tape before I start quilting, or it can get bumped out of place much too easily.

Also, this foot doesn’t make it easy if you’re trying to quilt straight lines a certain distance away from a seam. There’s no perfect place on the foot with which to line up the seam. And the 1/4″ Acufeed foot that I use for piecing isn’t helpful here either—it’s just too difficult to quilt with that pointy 1/4″ metal guide on the foot. I’m thinking about trying the Acufeed Open Toe Foot for straight-line quilting—I’ll let you know what I think if I eventually pick that one up.

For free-motion quilting:

Darning foot
This little beauty works perfectly for me. This is a pretty standard foot as far as FMQ goes, and it’s the one that came with my machine. If you want to do free-motion quilting, this is what you need (or the equivalent for your machine). The spring-loaded ones are generally best, given the option.

For binding:

Acufeed 1/4-Inch Foot 
Works with Janome 6600 and 7700; a slightly different version is available for the 8900 and 12000
And my hardest working foot is back on duty when it’s time to bind. : ) In addition to piecing, this foot is indispensable for stitching the binding onto the front of your quilt. An accurate 1/4-inch seam on your binding is crucial, especially if you plan to machine-stitch the binding onto the other side of the quilt as well. (Although, once again, walking feet for most machines aren’t designed with 1/4-inch piecing in mind.)

Acufeed Ditch Quilting Foot
Works with Janome 6600 and 7700; a slightly different version is available for the 8900 and 12000
If you want to machine-bind your quilts, you must spring for this foot! This foot was the subject of the Instagram post that got this whole discussion rolling. I don’t do much ditch quilting, but I do stitch in the ditch when I’m machine-binding (I stitch in the ditch on the front of the quilt in order to catch the binding around the back). So it occurred to me that the Acufeed Ditch Quilting foot might be perfect for that purpose—and sure enough, it was.

Just position the metal guide in the ditch between the quilt and the binding, and your needle will follow along and stay nicely in the ditch. I was able to sew much faster than I have in the past with machine binding, and it was more accurate too. (Edited to add: I use Clover Wonder Clips
to clip my binding down for ditch-stitching. They work great!)

Bonus tip:

Are the snap-on feet on your Janome getting too loose? See that little screw on the front of the shank? You can adjust that screw to tighten things up again. Mine got so loose that the snap-on feet were literally falling off the shank before I finally looked closely and realized I could adjust the screw.

Of course, if tightening the screw a little bit helps, then tightening it more must be even better, right? Wrong! Ask me how I know. : ) Yep, I stripped that little bugger. And rather than go to the trouble of finding another tiny set-screw, I ended up just ordering a whole new shank. Lesson learned. A quarter-turn or half-turn is probably all you need to tighten up those feet.

I hope these tips help! Happy sewing.

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WIP Wednesday: While I’m Packing

Just one more day until I leave for Market! I am so excited! I’ve never been to Quilt Market, but I hear it’s quite a spectacle. I can’t wait to see it for myself and meet lots of quilty bloggy friends. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to as I scramble to get ready to go.
By the way, I’ll be tweeting and Instagram-ing from Market, so follow me in both places! My Twitter feed is here, and I’m “freshlypieced” on Instagram. If you don’t have the Instagram app, you can also follow on Webstagram to see pictures of fabric, fabric, and more fabric! You can find my feed here.
Summersville and Essex Linen


Completed projects:

Summersville pillow – All done, but you’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see the rest of this one.
NY Beauty Swap - a start

New projects:

New York Beauty Swap – I joined a New York Beauty swap among a few friends and got that underway this week. My partner seems to have pretty similar taste to me, and especially loves bright, clear colors, so I’m hoping this will be right up her alley. : )

Back-Burner:
• Gen X Quilters’ Charmed Prints QA
• Halloween quilt
• Farmer’s Wife QA
• Figgy Pudding quilt

This week’s stats:
New projects – 1
Completed projects – 1

Currently in progress – 6Now it’s your turn to link up! Here are the rules:

1. Link up any post from the past week that features at least one unfinished work-in-progress (WIP)
2. Somewhere in your post, link back here to my blog. (Or grab my WIP Wednesday button for your sidebar.)
3. Comment on at least a few of the other links—because what fun is a linky party without comments?

That’s it! Have a wonderful week!

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WIP Wednesday: Feel-Good Sewing

You might remember that one of my 2012 goals was to sew more things for family and friends. (And to complete the things that I have already started for family and friends.) This week was all about that. I love blogging about my sewing and quilting, but when you have a blog like this, it’s easy to get caught up in projects for the sake of the project, instead of projects for the sake of the recipient or even just for the pure enjoyment of making it. The past few weeks have re-centered me in that regard, and it does indeed feel pretty good. : )Completed projects:

Asterisk quilt for Do. Good Stitches. You saw it here.

New projects:

New York Beauty QA quilt. My first of nine NYB blocks is here, and my second block is well underway. (Both are part of the New York Beauty Quilt-Along, found here.) New York Beauty blocks offer so many design possibilities, and I love the idea of making one quilt with nine unique variations on the same theme. The recipient of this one: Well, okay, it’s me. : ) But it’s been a while since I’ve made something strictly because it was fun!

No progress:
• Gen X Quilters’ Charmed Prints QA
• Halloween quilt
• Farmer’s Wife QA
• Figgy Pudding quiltThis week’s stats:
Completed projects – 1
New projects – 1

Currently in progress – 6Your turn! Just link up any post from the past week featuring a work-in-progress. Please link back here to my blog and comment on other links. Now go do some of your own feel-good sewing. : )

 

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WIP Wednesday: A Happy Week

Ah, it’s been quite a week around here, in more ways than one! Lots of exciting things are afoot, but here’s what I’ve got for you today.

Completed:

Solids quilt. This is my first finished quilt of 2012—and I can’t show it to you. How annoying. But I’m very pleased with it, and even more pleased that it’s finished!

New projects:

 
Challenge mini quilt – Mark Cesarik was nice enough to send me a little preview of his upcoming line, Cosmic Burst. These vivid colors practically leaped out of the envelope all on their own–they’re so fabulous! Can’t wait to finish this mini and enter it in the Modern Mini Challenge at Ellison Lane Quilts.
No progress:
• Hexy mini quilt
• Do Good Stitches Asterisk quilt
• Gen X Quilters’ Charmed Prints QA
• Halloween quilt
• Farmer’s Wife QA
• Skill Builder QA
• Figgy Pudding quiltThis week’s stats:
Completed projects – 1
New projects – 1
Currently in progress – 9
Your turn—link ’em up!

 

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What You Are Making

The Freshly Pieced Flickr group has been up and running for a few months now, and I love seeing what you all have been doing with my patterns and tutorials! If my graphic design career has taught me anything, it’s that creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So the innovative twists that people have put on my designs very often inspire me right back.

Here are just a few of the beautiful things that have popped up in the Flickr group recently. If you’ve made something inspired by a project you saw here on my blog, please join the group and add your photos!

Ribbon Star from Freshly Pieced
UllaBee’s Ribbon Star block really sings in solids

Hexagon Quilt
Very cool hexagon quilt by CraftyJak, using my Hexing Around block

My Supernova Quilt Top
Brooke’s version of my Supernova quilt using Castle Peeps

Mosaic
Mosaic block quilt by Debbie of Esch House Quilts

my new favorite block
One of Ara Jane’s fabulous Arkansas Traveler blocks

Quilted Herringbone Pillow
Sew Crafty Jess‘s Herringbone pillow

Hexagon mug rug closeup
Hand-quilted hexagon mug rug by Sarah of Fairy Face Designs

Kissing Koi 2011
“Kissing Koi”—Patti (Retired to Quilt) made this take on my Kissy Fish pattern

Thanks, everyone, for sharing your creations!

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Ribbon Star Block Tutorial

My 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee blocks really grew on me as I worked on them—I think the ones with the white backgrounds look especially fab. So thanks to everyone who weighed in and gave me some encouragement about this block. Without it, I probably would have moved on to yet another design! And since people seemed to like it, how about a tutorial?

This is my take on a traditional Christmas Star block. It would look pretty great in holiday fabric, but I would hate to see it pigeon-holed as strictly that, so I’m calling it Ribbon Star. The tutorial makes a 12.5″ block.

Cutting:

Background (white):
• Cut four 3″ squares
• Cut eight 2.5″ squares
• Cut eight 2″ squares

Star (yellow):
• Cut one 4.5″ square
• Cut eight 2.5″ squares

Color A (pink):
• Cut four pieces, 2.5″ x 4.5″
• Cut four pieces, 2″ x 4.5″

Color B (orange):
• Cut four pieces, 2.5″ x 4.5″
• Cut four pieces, 2″ x 3″

To make the block:

1. Mark the wrong side of all of your 2.5″ and 2″ squares with a diagonal line from corner to corner.

2. Lay out your pieces before you start sewing. I find it helpful to work from this layout as I sew—you’ll be far less likely to get your colors and directions mixed up! Start with the 4.5″ square in the center, and then lay out the 2.5″ x 4.5″ pieces in a cross shape, alternating colors as shown.

3. Now add the 3″ background squares in each corner, and the 2″ strips around those squares, as shown.

4. Next, lay out the squares that will be your star points. I put these squares face down, so I can see the marked diagonal (this is also exactly how the pieces will be sewn together). Note that to create the star points, the marked diagonals should always go from the center out.

5. Sew each pair together on the marked diagonal.

6. Trim off the excess 1/4″ from the seam and press. I always press diagonal seams open—I find it to be more accurate than pressing to the side.

7. Add your 2.5″ background squares in the same way you did with the star points. Note that the marked diagonal should always go the same direction as the star-point diagonal that you previously sewed.

8. Add your final set of 2″ marked squares in the same way as you did the previous squares. This time, make sure the marked diagonals are angled so that they form the outer star points.
9. Your units should now look like this. Sew the block together, starting with the 2″ x 3″ orange units to the 3″ background squares. Take care as you sew to make sure those points are lined up!
10. Done!
As always, if you make this block (or anything else inspired by my blog), I would love to see it! Please join my Flickr group and add your photos!
Since I made five of these blocks for my 4×5 hive, here it is in other colors:
Aqua, gray, and yellow for Lindsay
Aqua, teal, white and gray for Lyanna
Yellow, spring green, and blue for Elizabeth
Orange, gold, and plum for Deb
And the orange, yellow, and pink block featured in the tutorial is for Wendy. Enjoy, ladies!
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July Bee Blocks

Megan asked for an x and + block in these Innocent Crush prints and solids. When she assigned this block, I thought, “Oh good, easy and fun!” I guess that thought jinxed me, because for some reason I had issues with this block. Sometimes you just can’t predict what’s going to cause problems, can you? I’ve even made this block before! But somehow I cut the dark brown slightly too small, and of course I didn’t have enough to re-cut all four pieces. But in the words of Tim Gunn, I made it work. I think. (You’ll see that the dark brown piece on top is slightly too short. Hopefully Megan’s okay with that.)

Ah, applique. It’s really just not my thing. So when Rachel asked for this Bubble block in blues and greens and grays, with circles appliqued to a Kona background, I was a little nervous. I hoped putting it together would change my mind about applique. Nope, it still isn’t my thing. But I do love how this block looks.

I’m linking up to Sew Modern Monday. Have a great week!

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Farmer’s Wife—Week 6

Buckwheat: I think this is my favorite block yet. But not because of the piecing, that’s for sure. I kept screwing up on this block—careless mistakes, like using the wrong size template for some of the triangle pieces, sewing the wrong sides together, etc. But once I buckled down and put some concentration into it, it came out fine. And I’m just so happy with my fabric selections for this one. How cool is that Anthology Fabrics squiggly zig-zag print? It manages to be both vintage/retro and a little exotic, all at the same time.

Butterfly at the Crossing: Another one I’m quite happy with. I just love that yellow print, I guess it makes me happy no matter what block it’s in. Although I don’t know why this block looks so frayed around the edges. It looks like it needs a haircut.

All together now: Looking good. Although, at the moment, I think red is a little more dominant than I would like it to be. Note to self: Scale back on the red for a few weeks.