Perfect HSTs with no marking or trimming, in a fraction of the time!
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Perfect Half-Square Triangles In Less Time!

Perfect HSts without marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

Happy Monday! I’ve got something super exciting to share with you all today! It’s my method of making perfect half-square triangles (HSTs) in a fraction of the time, with no marking diagonal lines or squaring up the finished units! Yes, really. LOL.

I’m calling it “Perfect HSTs.” Perfect HSTs is an instant-download PDF that includes the following, all for only $7.99:
• Templates to make half-square triangles in 10 sizes (finished sizes of 1″, 1-1/2″, 2″, 2-1/2″, 3″, 3-1/2″, 4″, 4-1/2″, 5″, 6″)
• Complete step-by-step instructions for using the templates, with photos
• Fabric requirements and a cutting chart for all 10 sizes, in quantities of up to 300 HSTs each—so all the quilt math is done for you!
• A quick-and-easy pillow project pattern that you can make in less than two hours, using my templates

Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up - in a fraction of the time!

As we all know, HSTs are in just about every quilt design out there. : ) And these templates have been my go-to method for making them for ages, since it’s so fast and makes them perfectly. It’s what I used when I made the my mom’s quilt that I posted about last week.

If you’re familiar with half-square triangle papers, my PDF templates basically work the same way. But since I’m offering it as a PDF, you pay one price for TEN different HST sizes, ranging from 1″ to 6″ finished. You can print as many as you need for all eternity—no going back for more pre-printed papers when you run out—and the templates are specifically set up for printing on 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

Here’s how it works:

Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

1. Print the template.

Download the “Perfect HSTs” PDF and print out the template in the size of your choice.

Be sure to print your template at ACTUAL SIZE (100% scaling). This setting can be found under “Page Sizing and Handling” in the print dialogue box (“Shrink to Fit” is often the default, which will result in HSTs that are too small!). After printing, use a ruler to check the template’s 1” scale (see below) to ensure the size printed accurately.

I print my templates on standard office paper/copy paper, or try printing on blank sheets of newsprint for even easier tearing later on. (Here’s a pack of 500 sheets of newsprint paper for $8.74.)

Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

2. Cut out the fabric and the templates.

Cut two pieces of fabric to the size specified on the template, and trim the templates on the outer dashed line. The template size is designed to approximately match up to the size of the fabric pieces you will be using.

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3. Stack fabric and template.

Stack two pieces of fabric, right sides together, as shown above. Place trimmed template on top of the stack, printed side facing up.

Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

4. Sew.

Turn down the stitch length on your sewing machine—I set mine at about 1.5. (The shorter stitch length will help you tear off the paper when you’re done stitching.) Sew on the dotted lines that say “Sew here,” through all three layers (two pieces of fabric and the paper template).

Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

5. Cut.

Using a rotary cutter and quilting ruler, cut along the solid lines marked with scissors icons. Cut the template’s vertical lines first, then the horizontal and diagonal lines.

Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

6. Remove paper.

Carefully remove the paper by folding it back along the stitching and then tearing it along the seam line.

Perfect half-square triangles with no marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

7. Press open.

That’s it! Perfect HSTs in no time flat!

Want to give it a whirl? Click here to download the Perfect HSTs PDF! And if you give it a try, I hope you’ll post about it on Instagram with the hashtag #perfecthsts. Perfect HSTs work great ANY time you’re making HSTs and with any existing pattern, but I’m also planning to put out some patterns that specifically use Perfect HSTs—one is already in the works! So I hope you enjoy the templates, and have a wonderful week!

Perfect HSTs without marking or squaring up, in a fraction of the time!

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HST Quilt for a Kidney Donor (My Mom)

HST Quilt for a kidney donor

I’m finally getting around to blogging about a special surprise quilt that I made over the holidays!

For the past several years, my mom’s husband has been dealing with declining kidney function. The doctors had been keeping an eye on it for some time, but unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done for people whose kidneys are failing, apart from dialysis or kidney donation.

Long story short, he eventually got to the point that he needed a kidney transplant, and upon investigation, they learned that my mom was a match and could donate one of hers. The transplant was a few weeks before Christmas, and things are going well for both patients! But going into it, my mom (who had never had surgery before and never even spent a night in the hospital apart from when my sister and I were born) had a request. “Could you please bring me a quilt?” she asked. “Just any quilt you have sitting around will be fine.”

HST quilt for a kidney donor

I don’t know, it didn’t feel right to bring her just ANY old quilt. LOL. I felt like this was an occasion that called for one made especially for her! So I got out my bundle of Essex Yarn-Dyed Linen (the Pond color coordinates), and this was what came out of it. The background is all Kona Snow and Kona Ivory.

HST quilt for a kidney donor

After years of working in bright colors, I have to say I’m really feeling the softer, more subdued neutrals in this quilt! Some of the Essex Linen I used was the metallic linen, which has a little bit of a sparkle to it, so that jazzed things up in a really good way. I love how it all turned out.

HST quilt for a kidney donor

I played around with the color placement a lot on this quilt. I liked the idea of not making it a straight graduation of color—I threw in some of the neutral half-square triangles at strategic spots in order to give the design a little more depth. (Also making it a little trippier for when she was on pain meds. LOL.)

HST quilt for a kidney donor

As you can see, the entire quilt is made out of 4″ half-square triangles, set on point. Making all those HSTs actually wasn’t AS painful as it could have been—I made some templates for fast HST stitching that worked great! No marking diagonal lines on the backs of the squares and no squaring up afterwards. In fact, my next project is to make up a PDF with the templates I used, for any of you who are interested in making HSTs the same way.

HST quilt for a kidney donor

Here are the blocks, slowly coming together on my design wall. I was working from a digital mock-up that was on my computer screen. This quilt took major forethought and planning to put it together correctly!

HST quilt for a kidney donor

I finished it off with my go-to quilting method recently: Straight diagonal lines about an inch apart. I’m loving straight-line quilting lately! I use masking tape to mark off the first line somewhere close to the center of the quilt, then just set the quilting guide on my Bernina 770 and go. As a bonus, because the blocks were on point, the seam lines on this quilt helped guide me and keep me from getting off track as I worked my way along.

My mom is now enjoying this quilt as she and her husband make their recoveries.

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Summer Sampler 2017: A Finished Top

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My Summer Sampler 2017 top is complete! Yay!

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I really hope you all enjoyed this project as much as Katie, Faith and I did! It was a labor of love for us, as always. I love how these blocks came together in exactly the way that we had hoped.

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I’m not gonna lie: The blocks aren’t the end of the work involved here. LOL. The “filler” blocks (the flying geese, sawtooth stars, etc.) are simpler, but still time-consuming! Still, I love love love how dynamic the finished design is. Truly starry and dreamy. : )

And so our 2017 quilt-along officially comes to a close. But we love seeing the finished quilts, no matter when you might happen to finish yours! If you enjoyed this quilt-along, keep an eye open for future announcements from us, because we’ve got more up our sleeves! And even though the quilt-along is done, you can still buy the pattern to make this beauty on your own schedule. Click here to purchase—I’ve put all the weekly release files into one complete (and large!) PDF to make it a little easier on latecomers.

Thank you again to everyone who quilted along with us!

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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!