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Summer Sampler 2017: Block 5 – Alchemy

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It’s Monday, so that means Block 5 of Summer Sampler 2017 is here! This week’s block is Alchemy by AnneMarie Chany of Gen X Quilters.

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I did the block in the 6″ size this week, and found it to be surprisingly fun and easy, even in the smaller size! Cool block too—I would love to make a whole quilt out of this one! (Want to make this block? Join the Summer Sampler 2017 quilt-along right now! Click here to join.)

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This week I’ve got a time-saving tip. When you’re making a lot of half-square triangles (as you do in this block), save some time and skip marking the backs of the squares. Instead, put a piece of tape down on your machine bed (I used some fancy orange washi tape, but duct tape or masking tape will work just as well). Make sure one edge of the tape is directly in line with the needle.

Then, as you’re sewing, keep the corner tip of the fabric squares aligned with the edge of the tape as you stitch from corner to corner. If you need to sew directly down the center of the square, leave your needle aligned with the edge of the tape. If you need to sew 1/4″ out on both sides of the center (as is required with this block), move your needle position 1/4″ over.

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Then trim and press as normal!

Happy sewing, and see you next week for Block 6! Don’t forget to use the hashtag #summersampler2017 to share your progress!

 

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Summer Sampler 2017: Block 3 – Celestial Star

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It’s only Memorial Day, but we’re officially three weeks into summer with Summer Sampler 2017! Here’s block 3 of the Summer Sampler 2017 quilt-along, Celestial Star by Holly DeGroot of Bijou Lovely.

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Last week we dipped our toes into the paper-piecing pool. This week we’re really taking the plunge. So if you haven’t paper-pieced before (or even if you’ve only done last week’s simpler block), I suggest you start by visiting one of Faith’s paper-piecing tutorials to get the basics down.

Did that? Great! Now I’d like to share with you my extra-special favorite mind-blowing paper-piecing tip that will help you place those pieces perfectly every time! Sound too good to be true? It’s totally not. Read on.

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Let’s use position 6B of today’s Celestial Star block as an example. Because I’m here to tell you, piece 6B is a tricky little minx. We’re dealing with a strange angle on 6B (even more so than on 6A), so unless you place the fabric exactly right, you’re not going to cover what you need to cover, and you’ll screw it up. That’s frustrating, I know! So here it is—this is what your B unit should look like when you’ve got pieces 1B-5B sewn on. So far so good. Now we need to add 6B.

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Before adding the 6B fabric piece, flip the unit over and fold back the paper, right along the line you’ll be sewing, between 6B and everything else. (You can tear the paper a little as you pull it back if your previous stitches crossed over where you need to fold—you can see I’ve done that in the photo above.)

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Once the paper is folded back, trim all of the excess fabric 1/4″ out from the folded paper, like so.

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Here’s what it should look like after you’ve trimmed the excess fabric.

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And now here’s what it should look like from the other side (the fabric side). You’ll notice that you can see some of the folded paper sticking out beyond the purple piece. That little bit of folded-back paper peeking out is the key to placing the next piece of fabric correctly.

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So here it is with fabric 6B placed. Just line up the edge of piece 6B with the edge you trimmed off, but make sure piece 6B also covers that little flap of folded-back paper. As long as you’re covering the folded paper that sticks out, you’re golden! You’ll cover what you need to cover, every single time. No missed points!

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Next, flip the whole thing over (sewn unit and new fabric piece 6B), making sure to leave the 6B fabric in the exact same position (you may want to pin it into place before you flip). Then unfold the paper template and flatten it out so you can sew.

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Stitch on the line as usual (with shortened stitch length), and press piece 6B into place. Ta da! Piece 6B was in the exact spot it needed to be to cover every bit of space you needed to cover. Easy, right?

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This tip works any time you’re paper-piecing and it’s not obvious where the next piece needs to go—you can visit my post on the Bernina blog for a more thorough explanation of how it works. It will change your life, I tell you! : )

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And finally, here are all three of my Summer Sampler 2017 blocks together—two 6-inchers and today’s 12-inch. I love seeing them come together like this!

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There’s still time to join Summer Sampler 2017 and make the blocks with all of us! It’s only $24.99 total, for 17 block patterns in two sizes each (6″ and 12″), plus instructions to finish it into this gorgeous layout! Click here to purchase. I hope you’ll join us! And don’t forget to check the #summersampler2017 hashtag to enjoy everybody else’s blocks! See you next week.

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Summer Sampler 2017: Block 2 – Tilted Star

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Block 2 of Summer Sampler 2017 is here! This one is called Tilted Star, by Karen Lewis of Karen Lewis Textiles.

This is such a unique block—it’s like a star that’s trying to be a pinwheel. LOL. I loved making mine in the 6″ size.

In case you aren’t familiar with Summer Sampler 2017, it’s the block-of-the-week quilt-along that I’m doing with Katie of Swim Bike Quilt and Faith of Fresh Lemons Quilts. Seventeen star blocks, all in two sizes each (6″ and 12″), plus one delicious layout for all these fun blocks. And it’s not too late to join! You can make the blocks all summer long, alongside us and everybody in our subscriber-only Facebook group. Click here to purchase.

Plus, you get my weekly tips! This week, let’s talk paper-piecing. I’m sure there more than a few of you who have never paper-pieced before. If you’ve ever taken any of my classes or been to any of my trunk shows, you know that I love paper-piecing and it’s my mission in life to make everybody else love it too! And this block, my friends, is the perfect way to make you love paper-piecing.

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First, why paper-piece this block? Faith and Katie and I actually tried it both ways (traditional piecing and paper-piecing). But with the funky angle of the half-square rectangles that make up the center of the block, it was impossible for those points to come together in a pinwheel fashion without being paper-pieced. Only 45-degree angles will make for perfect center points—a half-square rectangle has a 30-degree angle, which is much trickier.

So, we went with paper-piecing instead of “normal” piecing, because paper-piecing will keep you from losing your points. And you guys—paper-piecing literally does not get any easier than this. It’s one seam! Which means all you really have to do is stack up the fabric pieces and the paper templates in the correct order, and sew on the line of the paper template. That’s it! That’s all you have to do for a perfect half-square rectangle.

Let’s try it, shall we?

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First, stack the following pieces, in order, as shown in my photo above: a white (background) rectangle, a colored rectangle, and the paper template. (Don’t forget to print your templates at EXACT SIZE—don’t check “Fit to page” in your print dialogue box!) Place the paper template printed side up on top of the stack, so that the angled line on the template is about 1/4″ inch – 1/2″ inch from the right-hand edge of the fabric pieces, as shown.

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Next, without allowing the fabric/template stack to shift, move it to your sewing machine. Reduce your stitch length to about 1.4-1.5 (a shorter stitch length perforates the paper better, allowing you to tear the paper off more easily when you’re done). Now, sew on the angled line, right through your entire stack—the paper template and both pieces of fabric—just like I did in the photo above.

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When you’re done, your stack will be all sewn together and it should look something like this. (Hopefully yours won’t be quite as thready and messy as mine in this photo, but if it is, no worries, I promise it will be fine in the end. LOL.)

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Press the two pieces of fabric open, pressing on the non-paper side. Now it should look like this (as shown on the paper side).

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With the paper side of the stack facing up, use your ruler to trim around the outside edge of the template, trimming through all the layers (paper and fabric). I always line up the 1/4″ mark on the ruler with the inside line, rather than trying to line up with the outside line.

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Finally, tear the paper template off the back, and that’s it! You now have a perfect half-square rectangle that’s ready to go into your block! Easy, right? Don’t you love it? Are you counting the days until the next paper-pieced Summer Sampler block? (Hint: You won’t have long to wait!)

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And just in case you can’t possibly wait, my Wavelength pattern uses a very similar stacked-paper-piecing method, and the pattern comes complete with visual step-by-step instructions just like these. Click here to check it out! And see you next week for Block 3 of Summer Sampler 2017!

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Summer Sampler 2017: Block 1 – Millcreek Star

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It’s here! Summer Sampler 2017 starts today with Block 1—Millcreek Star by Katie Blakesley of Swim Bike Quilt.

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Hopefully you’ve heard by now, but just in case you haven’t: Summer Sampler 2017 is the block-of-the-week quilt-along that I’m doing with Katie and Faith of Fresh Lemons Quilts. Seventeen gorgeous star blocks, in two sizes each (6″ and 12″), plus one fabulous layout for them at the end. And it’s not too late to join! You can make the blocks all summer long, alongside us and all the fun peeps in our subscriber-only Facebook group. Click here to purchase.

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Millcreek Star is a great block to start with—not too complicated, but interesting and fun. During the course of this 17-week quilt-along, I’m going to be blogging a tip for each week’s block, to help you get the most out of the series!

This week’s tip is actually TWO tips for making accurate Flying Geese units. I have a feeling we’ll be making our share of Flying Geese during the course of this quilt-along, so let’s make them correctly, right out of the gate!

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First, when using this particular method of making Flying Geese (marking a diagonal line on the back of a square, then sewing along the line), I like to start sewing where the marked diagonal ends in the middle of the rectangle, as opposed to where the line meets the corner. You can see where I’m starting my stitches in the photo above—starting in the center instead of in the corner means less fabric bunching and distortion as you start your seam. Which gives you a flatter, more-square Flying Geese unit.

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Second, I always always always press Flying Geese seams OPEN. Even if you’re deeply committed to pressing seams to the side, I recommend giving open seams a shot on Flying Geese. Again, it’s all about the accuracy! Open seams are flatter, and therefore slightly more accurate, then seams pressed to the side. And when it comes to Flying Geese, the design means that you’re less likely to need to nest seams when sewing the finished unit into a block—and in my opinion, nesting seams is really the only compelling reason to press to the side. Open really is the way to go on geese!

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Finally, I thought I’d share with you my screw-up from this week, just to give you all a laugh. I’ve probably sewn thousands of Flying Geese in my lifetime—and yet somehow, I can still manage to sew them wrong on a regular basis! This time, I sewed two triangles onto the wrong side of the unit, and didn’t even notice until after I had trimmed off the excess and pressed one of them. Oops. LOL. Fortunately, since I’m working with solids, after ripping out the wrong stitches, I could just flip the triangle around and sew it on the correct way! There would have been more work involved had I been using a print!

Hope you all enjoy Millcreek Star! Don’t forget to use the hashtag #summersampler2017 when you share your blocks on social media, and see you next week for Block 2!

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2017 Summer Sampler: Summer Star Medallion

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That’s right! Last year’s Summer Sampler block-of-the-week program was such a hit, we knew we had to bring it back again this year! This time around, we’ve got something really special for you guys: Our Summer Star Medallion. Seventeen gorgeous star blocks in two sizes, and this fun medallion/sampler layout—and it’s available for pre-order starting today!

summersampler2017logoscreenresIf you didn’t participate in Summer Sampler 2016, here’s the lowdown: I’ve joined my book co-authors Faith Jones of Fresh Lemons Quilts and Katie Blakesley of Swim Bike Quilt, plus five of your other favorite designers, to create a block-of-the-week program. We’ll release a beautiful new block pattern each week, starting May 15 and running through Sept. 4—17 blocks total. Faith, Katie, myself, and all of YOU will make the blocks together all summer long! Then on Sept. 11, subscribers will receive complete instructions to finish the quilt as shown, including the Sawtooth Star and Flying Geese “filler blocks,” and the border.

You can pre-order Summer Sampler 2017 for a special pre-order price of just $19.99. That’s just $19.99 total, for all 17 blocks! Starting May 15, the price goes up to $24.99, so don’t miss out on the chance to save! (European Union customers: You can purchase Summer Sampler 2017 and all my other patterns through my Etsy shop. Click here to purchase.)

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As you can see, it’s a really fun, unusual design that looks great in all sorts of color combinations, from the ultra-modern to very traditional. Last year we had a wonderful (and large!) community of quilters making the quilt along with us, and the community aspect of it made it even more fun for everyone. I hope you all will join us again this year. Click here to order now, or scroll down for more details – can’t wait to sew with you all this summer!

Summer Sampler 2017 includes:
• A new block delivered to your email every Monday, starting May 15, 2017, through Sept. 4, 2017
• Fully tested PDF instructions for each block in both 12″ and 6″ finished sizes
• Quilt mock-up coloring sheet for planning
• Full instructions, fabric requirements, and suggested Kona Solids colors for our Star Medallion Sampler layout
• Access to a subscriber-only Facebook group to interact with other quilters and the designers

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More about Summer Sampler 2017 skill level and techniques:
• The different blocks vary in skill level, with some being simpler, while others are more advanced. I would say the overall skill level of all 17 blocks is intermediate—but if that’s not you, don’t be afraid to try it! We’ll include lots of links to tutorials for the techniques involved, so it’s a great skill-builder! And I’m planning to blog a tip for each week’s block the day of the pattern release.
• You will need to make 9 of the blocks at 12″ size, and 8 of them at 6″ size. We’ll include instructions for BOTH sizes every week, so it’s up to you which blocks you make in which sizes. Those 6″ blocks will help you hone your tiny-piecing skills!
• Several of the blocks are paper-pieced, while others use traditional piecing. The good news is, no curved piecing this year! : )

The Summer Sampler 2017 blocks were designed by:

Holly DeGroot – @bijoulovely
www.bijoulovely.com

Karen Lewis – @karenlewistextiles
www.karenlewistextiles.com

Lynne Goldsworthy – @lilysquilts
lilysquilts.blogspot.com

AnneMarie Chany – @genxquilters
www.genxquilters.com

Kelly Bowser – @kelbysews
www.kelbysews.com

Lee Heinrich – @freshlypieced
www.freshlypieced.com

Faith Jones – @freshlemonsquilts
www.freshlemonsquilts.com

Katie Blakesley – @swimbikequilt
www.swimbikequilt.com

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Equilateral Triangles: Easier Than You Think!

Triangle Baby Quilt by Freshly Pieced

Equilateral triangles are easier than you think they are! No, seriously, they are. : )

If you’ve been wanting to make a quilt like this one using equilateral triangles, head over to the Bernina blog for the first post in my three-part series on equilateral triangles.

In today’s installment, I’m talking about the various methods and tools available for cutting equilateral triangles. In the coming weeks, we’ll tackle piecing —the fun part—design!

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Summer Sampler 2016 Block 9: Curves Block

IMG_8872 So, I admit, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy Block 9. It’s beautiful, of course, but I mean, look at all those curves. Ugh, right? But I was pleasantly surprised! These curves aren’t as tight as the ones in the Trail Crossing block, so they’re actually a bit easier to sew, and I had a lot of fun with this one. I still struggled a bit getting things to line up (or at least as close as possible to line up), but eventually I got it close enough. : )

IMG_8873This is also the first time I’ve really deviated from the Summer Sampler quilt block graphics that you’ve all seen. I decided a little color gradient was in order for this block, and went for it. I’m happy I did! I love how it turned out.

Can’t wait to see everyone’s Curves Blocks on Instagram, under the hashtag #summersampler2016. And if you want to join us in making the Summer Sampler 2016, you still can! In fact, you could even start in the middle and catch back up on the blocks you missed later—we’re laid back like that. : ) Click here to subscribe to Summer Sampler 2016 – all new subscribers get immediate access to all blocks that have already been released.

 

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A Scrappy Take On My Picnic Plaid Pattern

Color gradients. Remember when I said I wasn’t going to go there anymore?
Yeah, I went there. Again. I couldn’t help it, you guys! Gradients: So colorful. So orderly. So appealing to both the left and right sides of my brain. : )
So this is my latest addition to my always expanding collection of color-gradient quilts. : ) This is a scrappy version of my Picnic Plaid pattern (available here).
Here’s a shot of the original Picnic Plaid quilt. The original is strip-pieced in a narrower color palette, but I’ve had the urge to make it scrappier for some time now. So when Stephanie Palmer of Late Night Quilter asked me if I would want to contribute a pattern to her 2016 Quilter’s Planner, it was the perfect opportunity to create modified instructions for a scrappier version of that design. (Sadly, the 2016 Quilter’s Planner is now sold out! Sorry!)

 

Of course, Steph was nice enough to quilt this one for me, and worked her usual magic on it. I’ve always loved this loopy quilting pattern, and now I finally have a quilt that makes use of it!

This quilt has what might be my favorite print ever for a quilt back: Zen Chic’s “Notes” print in Charcoal on Fog. You can find it here at the Fat Quarter Shop and elsewhere. The binding is an older Zen Chic print called Barcelona. You can see a chunk of that print in the piecing above as well. I was really feeling the Zen Chic that day, I guess. : )

Regardless of which version of Picnic Plaid you prefer, it’s yet another great demonstration of how much print and color can change the look of any given design. Fun!
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Greek Key Quilt Complete

Just a reminder that my Greek Key Quilt-Along wraps up today on Bernina’s website, We All Sew! Of course, the final instructions post goes live today, but all of the Greek Key posts will be available indefinitely. So you can make this quilt any time you feel like it, whether you’re keeping up with the quilt-along or not. : )

I’ve also got a few simple hints in today’s post for doing the diagonal straight-line quilting that I used above, so go check it out. And don’t forget to hashtag #greekkeyquilt, so that we can all admire your hard work!

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Kitchen Remodel: Final Pictures

Well, it took me a while, but I finally got my act together and got some pictures posted of my big kitchen refresh project from last summer!
And I have to admit, I kind of love looking at these pictures, because the transformation really is amazing. Yes, it was a ton of work, but all totally worth it.
So first, here’s a little “before” action for you.
And here’s the after!
To recap, I made the following changes:
1) Built the existing upper cabinet boxes up to the ceiling (and purchased/installed new cabinet doors that fit the taller dimensions)
2) Painted all the cabinets (upper and lower) white (Sherwin Williams Snowbound)
3) Painted the walls more of a greige (versus the yellow-white that was there before). I would like to have gone even grayer, but thought it might clash too much with the granite.
4) Took down the window treatments, replaced the light fixtures, and replaced artwork.
Countertops, flooring, and appliances all stayed the same.
Obviously, the first change you probably noticed was the white cabinets. But I would argue that the even more impactful change was building the cabinets up to the ceiling. It’s amazing how small and builder-grade the original cabinets look, now that I compare them to the “after” picture! Taking them up to the ceiling instantly made them look more expensive and more custom. It was a major undertaking, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. For more on how I extended the cabinets, click here. I purchased the new cabinet doors from Cabinet Door World—12 new unpainted upper doors ran me about $900, including shipping.

Another before shot, looking toward the breakfast area.


A few other details: I replaced the can light above the sink with a hanging fixture, using this $16 conversion kit. If you’ve ever changed a light fixture, converting a recessed light to a hanging fixture is just as easy! I also swapped out all the cabinet hardware.

Before

These glass-doored cabinets were a challenge, in that I didn’t feel like painting the inside of them. LOL. So instead I used them as an opportunity to bring some pattern into the room by adding herringbone peel-and-stick wallpaper, which I purchased here. It was super easy to install and it’s repositionable if you screw it up.

Before

I chose Sherwin William’s Snowbound for the cabinets, mainly because all my existing trim and interior doors were already painted that color. The pantry doors you can see next to the ovens in this photo weren’t touched. I thought it made the most sense to keep everything consistent.

Of course there are still a few more things I’d like to do. The biggest is that I would love to take down that small granite backsplash and instead do a subway tile backsplash that extends to the upper cabinets. But I really don’t think I want to take on a tiling project myself, so that’s going to have to wait until we can get a pro. In fact, see the pass-through on the far left? I would love to do subway tile on that entire wall, all around the pass-through. How fabulous would that be?

 

I also feel like there’s more I could do with this breakfast area, but I’m just not sure what. I would love to put in some kind of banquette to make it cozier, but not sure how that would work with so many doorways and windows. Still contemplating.

 

The more I look at the “before” pictures, the more amazed I am that I lived with it the old way for as long as I did. LOL. Funny how that happens!

Oh, and just for fun, since you made it down this far, check out the before before pictures of our kitchen! This is what it looked like 11+ years ago, the day we did our final walk-through before purchasing the house. We gutted it right after we bought the house, making the kitchen work space larger by walling up the exterior door on the right and pushing the peninsula into that spot. We also added the arched pass-through where the refrigerator is in this photo. The evolution of a kitchen—it has come a long way, hasn’t it? Funny though, that we went back to white cabinets in the end!

Thanks for checking out my kitchen refresh! As always, I will update this if I make any additional changes!