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Christmas Ornament Mini-Quilt

img_9579Happy December, you guys! If you’re looking for a quick, fun little holiday project, head over to the Bernina blog today for a complete tutorial to make my Christmas Ornament Mini-Quilt!


It uses super-simple raw-edge appliqué, so no need to worry about curved piecing, and the half-square triangles in holiday brights give it a clean, modern look.

While you’re enjoying that, my goal for the day is to finish the Christmas decorations around my house. Have a lovely Monday!


Never tear out stitches again! My favorite paper-piecing tip

So, about a year ago, as I was getting ready to teach Advanced Piecing at QuiltCon, I had kind of an amazing realization. It was the kind of realization that cues angels singing and brilliant rays of sunlight. I mean, it really was that good. I think I discovered a way to make paper-piecing kind of sort of foolproof. 

Sound too good to be true? Not to oversell this or anything, but I ran my little tip past my students in class, and they loved it—one person called it “mind-blowing” and another said this little tip alone was worth the price of the class.

Curious? LOL. I’m sharing this brilliant little secret with the world today over on Bernina’s We All Sew website today! Head over there to check it out, and enjoy your paper-piecing projects!

Disclaimer: I’m sure I’m not the first person to have discovered this, so I don’t claim to be the inventor of this technique. I just personally have not seen it described elsewhere.

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Holiday Forest pillow tutorial

Looking for a holiday project to tackle? I’ve got one for you, on the Olfa website this month!

My Holiday Forest pillow is a fast little project that uses the quick method of making Flying Geese (you make them four at a time). A few color changes and the flying geese are suddenly a forest of Christmas trees. : ) I think I overdosed on red and green during the making of my Fair Isle quilt last year, so for this one I decided to go with non-traditional holiday colors. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I was envisioning the pink aluminum Christmas trees from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. But it would look great done up traditional, too!

And I’m the subject of their November Designer Spotlight, so head over there for full project instructions, as well as an interview with me. Thank you, Olfa, for featuring me!


Jewel Box Quilt Tutorial in Liberty Lawn

Have you guys had a chance to sew with Liberty Tana Lawn yet? It’s like the fabric equivalent of a glass of lemonade on a summer day, so light and refreshing. I would say it falls right in between quilting cotton and voile as far as softness and consistency. I found it very easy to sew with—it may be a bit stretchier than quilting cotton, but not to the extent that it will cause you much difficulty. It’s a fun option for quilting.

Liberty prints have such a strong, recognizable look that I think they often work best with simpler patchwork. I just don’t want to distract too much from the beautiful works of art that are the prints! So I’m going to show you a tutorial today for an easy Jewel Box baby quilt, which I think is just perfect for Liberty. This quilt sews up quickly and looks amazing. : )

Jewel Box Baby Quilt
Finished block size: 8″ x 8″
Finished quilt size: 32″ x 32″ (4 blocks across by 4 blocks down)
(This tutorial makes 16 Jewel Box blocks, but you could triple it to make a quilt that is 48″ x 64″ – 6 blocks across by 8 blocks down.)

Fabric requirements
• 8 fat-eighths of various Liberty Lawn prints
• 2/3 yard of background fabric (I’m using Kona Steel)

Cutting requirements
From each Liberty fat-eighth –
(1) strip, 2-1/2″ x 20″
(2) squares, 5″ x 5″

From the background fabric –
(8) strips, 2-1/2″ x 20″
(16) squares, 5″ x 5″

Making the quilt

1. Sew a background 2-1/2″ strip to each Liberty 2-1/2″ strip, the long way. Press seams open or toward the background fabric (your choice).

2. Cross-cut each strip set into 8 pieces 2-1/2″ x 4-1/2″, as shown.

3. Sew together the cross-cut units into 4-patch units measuring 4-1/2″ x 4-1/2″.

4. Make (32) 4-patch units.

5. Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the back of each 5″ Liberty print square. Pair each Liberty square with a 5″ background square. Sew 1/4″ out from the marked line, on each side, to make 32 half-square triangles (HSTs).

6. Cut HSTs apart on the marked line and press open. Square up your HSTs to 4-1/2″ by lining up the diagonal line on a 4-1/2″ square ruler with the diagonal seam and trimming.

7. Each block is made up of two HST units and two 4-patch units. Sew together as shown, pressing seams toward the HSTs.

8. Arrange your blocks 4 across by 4 down and sew together. That’s it! Told you it sews up quick! : )

Be sure to check out the other stops on the Liberty Tana Lawn blog hop for more Liberty inspiration. Enjoy!

February 24th: Kick Off! A Crafty Fox
February 25th: Astrid at Red, Red Completely Red
February 26th: Svetlana at Sotak Handmade
February 26th: Andy at A Bright Corner
February 27th: Chase at Quarter Inch Mark
March 1st: Emily at Simple Girl Simple Life
March 2nd: Ashley at Film In The Fridge
March 3rd: Lee at Freshly Pieced (you are here!!)
March 4th: Audrie at Blue is Bleu


Choosing a Neutral, Part 2: My Kona Cheat Sheet

Yesterday we talked about questions you can ask yourself in order to identify a great neutral for your next quilt. So now that you’ve narrowed down the options as far as value and warm/cool, how do you choose from the eleventy thousand solid shades now on the market?

It’s daunting, isn’t it? I love love love the variety of solids we have now—there are now probably twice as many choices now as when I started quilting seven years ago. But sometimes that dazzling variety can also get overwhelming. Grays are particularly challenging, since grays can have any color cast in the spectrum, and different grays don’t always go together. So let’s break it down, shall we?

My go-to solids brand is Kona Cotton by Robert Kaufman, and I know that’s what many of you go for as well. It also happens to be the line with the most colors by far—303 shades, as of a few months ago! So to make the selections a little easier for you, I’ve put together a Kona Cotton Neutrals Cheat Sheet. You can download a FREE PDF of the Cheat Sheet by clicking here. Print it out and keep it with your color card, or just open the PDF on your phone or your tablet while you’re shopping.
My Kona Neutrals Cheat Sheet does the legwork on Kona Neutrals for you. For each color category—Grays, Browns, and Whites—I’ve determined whether particular shades qualify as “Warmer” or “Cooler.” From there, I’ve also selected a few shades in each color group that I believe to be your “Most Neutral Choices.” While the “Most Neutral Choices” shades are also categorized as either warmer or cooler, these are the ones I think fall closest to the middle of that spectrum.

A few things to note: First, my Warmer and Cooler designations are all relative. For example, brown skews warm most of the time. So even the “cooler” browns on my Cheat Sheet are still a bit on the warm side—but relative to all the other browns on the Kona color card, these are the coolest.

Second: Remember how I said in the last post that color is subjective? That goes double for this post! : ) My warm and cool designations are just the opinions of little old me. I think I’ve got a pretty good eye for these things, but still, you should take my categorizing with a grain of salt. Lighting and other nearby colors can change how a particular shade looks. So please use my Cheat Sheet simply as a starting point—there’s no substitute for seeing and comparing the colors in person, if possible!

Finally, let’s talk briefly about the “Color Neutrals” category. Under this category, I’ve listed some of the Kona colors that I think work really well as neutrals, along with the general color family of each. This is by no means a complete list—it’s just some of my past and present favorites. There are so many others you could try. Really, any color that isn’t bright or saturated could work as a “color neutral”—explore the possibilities!

My favorite quilt in which I used a color neutral is this one, made from the Sherbet Pips line by Aneela Hoey:

The prints I used here are very heavy on the warm colors, all red and pink. So Kona Ice Frappe for the background was a great choice, because it cooled off the temperature of the quilt significantly.

In fact, here’s a handy tip for using color neutrals that comes straight from my experience with my Sherbet Pips quilt: If you’re using one fabric line (as I was in this quilt), consider pulling your background color straight from that line’s color palette. In this case, I simply left out all the Sherbet Pips prints in blue, then chose a soft blue background that matched the blue prints I didn’t use. No muss, no fuss!

I hope this “Choosing a Neutral” series has been helpful to you, and that the Kona Neutrals Cheat Sheet comes in handy as well! Now go find the perfect neutral for that gorgeous pile of fabric you pulled the other day. Happy sewing!


Choosing a Neutral For Your Quilt: Part 1

One question I’ve heard from blog readers and other quilters over and over is, “How do you choose a neutral?” Since my quilts almost always have a neutral solid background, I’ve been meaning to write a blog post (or two) on this subject for ages, and I finally got my act together and did it. Here’s the thing though: I wish I could give you an easy answer to this question, but sadly, I can’t. It’s not an exact science, by any means. Color is subjective, it’s affected by other colors around it, and it’s always and forever a matter of personal opinion. : ) It’s not an “If X, then choose Y” situation, is what I’m saying.

Still, there are some questions you can ask yourself to help select a neutral for your next quilt. Read on!

1. Dark or light? I think the first thing to consider is whether you want a neutral that is dark, light, or somewhere in between. To determine this, ask yourself whether you want a high-contrast look, or something that blends a bit more? Do you want this quilt to be bold and graphic, with a “kapow” quality to it, or do you want it to have a softer, more subtle effect?

Once you’ve answered those questions, take a look at the other colors or prints you’re using in the quilt. If you’re using a lot of light, bright prints, and you’re going for a high-contrast look, maybe a dark gray will set off your prints most effectively. Conversely, if the other colors in your quilt are bold and higher-value, a white might be the way to go.

For example, take this Cartwheels quilt that I made last year:

You’ll notice that the prints I used have a fair amount of white in them. And while a few of the prints are on the darker side, overall they tend toward the lighter end of the spectrum. I usually love for my quilts to be high-contrast and very graphic, so I decided a darker neutral was the way to go, to really contrast with those lighter prints.

But what if I had gone with something lighter? Could that have been a good choice as well? Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, we can see what this quilt would have looked like with a lighter gray background:

Hmm. It doesn’t have the impact of the original, does it? It’s not horrible or anything—in fact, the softer look might be perfect for a baby quilt (and is very similar to the color scheme of my original Cartwheels quilt, which was, in fact, made for a baby). But there’s no denying that this doesn’t have the same punch as the original, and I do love me some punchy quilts. That punch comes from the contrast.

(By the way, if you’re having trouble seeing the value in fabric you’ve selected, try taking a picture and turning it grayscale to help make the values more apparent. I find the easiest and quickest way to take and view a grayscale photo is to use my phone and turn the photo black-and-white with Instagram’s Willow filter!)

2. Warm or cool? Now that you’ve narrowed down the light-or-dark question, the next factor to look at is whether you want a neutral that is warm or cool. Take a look at the rest of your color palette for the quilt: Is it primarily warm, primarily cool, or a relatively even mix of both? And do you want the neutral to counteract and balance out the warmth or coolness in your color palette, or should the neutral emphasize it and bring that aspect of the design out even further?

Let’s go back to that Cartwheels quilt from the first example:

I used primarily cool-colored prints in this quilt. Even the yellows are a bit on the cool side for yellow—they have a slight greenish cast. I wanted to emphasize that coolness with a cool neutral, so I chose Kona Graphite.

But let’s Photoshop it up again, this time with a warmer neutral (the color shown is probably in the vicinity of Kona Smoke):

Wow! The background color is not all that different, but the overall effect is startling, isn’t it? It’s amazing how a simple warm/cool shift can bring about such dramatic changes.

Again, there’s really no right or wrong answer here. It’s all just personal preference and what kind of look you’re going for. I happen to vastly prefer the original—the warmer neutral muddies the whole thing for me. But that might be exactly what you like about it, and that’s perfectly fine. And with some print/color combinations, balancing the coolness or the warmth might be just what the doctor ordered.

Regardless of your color preferences, it’s just good to make an informed decision, isn’t it? And that’s the goal of this post, to help you be more informed about your neutral selections. : )

So now that you have a framework for choosing a neutral, exactly which neutrals will fit the bill? Tomorrow I’ll be posting the second half of my Choosing a Neutral series, with my handy-dandy Kona Cotton Neutrals Cheat Sheet! The Cheat Sheet will help you identify which Kona solid neutrals are cooler, which are warmer, and which are more middle-of-the-road. See you then!


Attach a Quilt Sleeve With No Hand-Sewing

I’ve been sewing on my Bernina 750 for almost four months now, and I absolutely adore it—it is an amazing machine that reliably does everything I want it to do and then some. Which means that the announcement I get to make today is something of a dream come true: I’m now officially a Bernina Expert! I am so thrilled that Bernina has asked me to join this group of very talented sewists!
In the coming months, I’ll be posting a number of project tutorials and tips on Bernina’s We All Sew blog. And my first one is available today! Today I’m showing you how to attach a quilt sleeve with almost no hand sewing. It’s true, you guys.
Attaching quilt sleeves has to be one of my least favorite quilting tasks. I mean, it’s tedious and slow. The sleeve a purely functional item that adds nothing to the look of the finished quilt. So anything that can speed up the process is a welcome addition in my book. Bernina came across this excellent video by Felisa Quilts, but since it’s captioned in Japanese and is in centimeters, they asked me to break down the technique in English/inches for all of you.
Click here to check out my tutorial for a machine-stitched quilt hanging sleeve. And don’t forget to follow We All Sew, so that you don’t miss any of my future posts there! I’ve got some fun projects planned—including a quilt-along in October using Bari J’s Emmy Grace fabric! It’s going to be a lot of fun, so join me over there ASAP!

Wonky Bow Tie Block Tutorial

Bow Tie Required - a free pattern!
Now that you’ve seen my Bow Tie Required quilt (made with the Business and Leisure fabric line by Allison Beilke for Modern Yardage), I thought I would share a tutorial for making the Wonky Bow Tie blocks featured in the quilt.
Wonky Bow Tie Block

These blocks are so easy and fun—no, they really are! I guarantee even a total newbie can knock these out and make them look great. I’m thinking a block like this would be cute centered on pillows, as a table runner—you name it.

And of course, the full Bow Tie Required quilt pattern is free and can be downloaded right here on Craftsy. So once you’ve whipped up a few of these, head over there to get a full pattern for finishing your blocks. (The pattern does include all instructions and photos shown below.)
Wonky Bow Tie Block

Stack a 6” x 10-1/2” piece of Business and Leisure’s Suncoast print on top
of a 6” x 10-1/2” piece of white solid, edges aligned.

Wonky Bow Tie Block

Cut both pieces diagonally, from corner to corner. This
should not be an exact cut, but slightly uneven and off from the corners, as

Wonky Bow Tie Block

3. Pair the Suncoast print pieces with the opposing side’s
white solid pieces, as shown.

Wonky Bow Tie Block

4. Place a white solid piece on top of its matching Suncoast
print piece, right sides facing. Stitch down the angled edge with a 1/4” seam. (Notice that the white piece is slightly offset from the Suncoast print piece. This is necessary to get the raw edges to align, but since you’ll be trimming the blocks down in a later step, it’s not the end of the world if your pieces don’t quite line up.)

Wonky Bow Tie Block

5. Press seams open. Repeat with the other pair of pieces. You
will now have two pieces that look like this.

Wonky Bow Tie Block

6. Stack these two pieced units together, with Suncoast
print stacked on top of white solid on one side, white solid stacked on top of Suncoast
print on the other side, as shown.

Wonky Bow Tie Block

7. Cut both units diagonally, from corner to corner, with an
uneven and “wonky” cut as you did in Step 2, but this time cut in the opposite

Wonky Bow Tie Block

8. Find the two pieces that look like this. (The
other two pieces can be discarded, saved for another project, or used on the
back. I used mine on the back of the quilt, as you can see in this blog post.)

9. Align the two pieces along the angled edge, right sides
facing, making sure the opposite angled seams intersect 1/4” from the raw
angled edges. Sew with a 1/4” seam along the raw angled edge to complete a
Bow-Tie Unit. Press open.
10. Trim the Bow-Tie Unit so that it measures 5” x 9-1/2”.
Wonky Bow Tie Block

11. Join two Bow-Tie Units together as shown to make a Double
Bow-Tie block. The block should measure 9-1/2” x 9-1/2.”

That’s it! Enjoy the block.

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Cork Board Makeover

Fabric Mutt

Welcome to my stop on the Girl Friday Sews Blog Hop! Thank you, Heidi, for having me on the hop!

My office/studio is a cluttered mess. There. I said it. I’ve more or less given up on significant improvements any time soon, but if I can tackle just one messy area at a time and make it look a tiny bit prettier, then at least I feel like I’m doing something.

So this week’s project was this sad, boring, institutional-looking cork board.

Cork Board Makeover

I love everything that’s on this cork board: There are postcards and notes from sewing friends near and far, lanyards from events I’ve attended, of course my QuiltCon ribbons, and let’s not forget pictures of my sweet girls. But it’s still kind of a cluttered chaotic mess. Surely there must be a way to make a display like this look a little neater and more refined?

Cork Board Makeover

Silly rabbit, it just needed some fabric. Of course. : )

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So today I’m going to show you how to use a plain, unattractive cork board to make something more luxurious and worthy of your own mementos. I also added a pocket along the bottom to hold those pesky items that you can’t stick a pin through.

You will need:
– a cork board (obviously)
– about 1 yard of fabric (depending on the size of your cork board)
– 2.5″ strips of contrasting fabric for the trim
– a piece of batting about the size of the cork board
– heavy-duty stapler and staples

1. Start by cutting a piece of fabric that is about 2″ larger than the cork board on all four sides. My board was 17″ x 23,” so I cut my fabric to 21″ x 27″.

Cork Board Makeover

2. Measure about 6″ in from each side (short) edge of your fabric and make a cut, as shown.

Cork Board Makeover

3. Piece 2.5″ wide strips of your contrasting fabric into the cuts you just made. Press seams open.

Cork Board Makeover

4. Now measure about 5″ down from the top (long) edge of the fabric and make another cut.

Cork Board Makeover

5. Piece another 2.5″ strip of contrasting trim into this cut.

6. To make the pocket, cut another piece of fabric that is double the height of what you want your finished pocket to be, plus 2.” This piece should have the same width as the first piece you cut, in step 1. I wanted my finished pocket to be 6″ high, so I cut my pocket piece to 14″ (6″ x 2 + 2″) by 27.”

Cork Board Makeover

7. Repeat steps 2-6 to add the contrasting trim on the pocket piece. Measure 6″ in from each side edge, cut, and piece in the contrasting fabric.

Cork Board Makeover

8. Measure up 4″ from the bottom (long) edge, make another cut, and piece in the contrasting fabric.

Cork Board Makeover

9. Fold the pocket piece in half lengthwise, so that the contrasting trim strip stays about 4″ from the bottom unfolded edge, as shown. Press.

Cork Board Makeover

10. I added some decorative top stitching along the top folded edge of the pocket piece, as well as along the edges of the contrasting trim pieces, on both the pocket and the piece for the main board.

Cork Board Makeover

11. Lay the finished pocket piece on top of the main board cover, wrong side of the pocket facing the right side of the board cover. You don’t need to worry too much about the pocket lining up with the main board piece—my primary concern was lining up the contrasting trim pieces. I used my Wonder Clips to attach the pocket to the main board cover.

Cork Board Makeover

12. Sew around all three edges of the pocket piece to attach it to the main board cover. Stitch about 1/4″ to 1/2″ from the edges. Don’t worry about what these seams look like—they’ll be hidden when you wrap the fabric around the edges of the board in the final step. All you’re doing here is just attaching the pocket to the main board cover.

Cork Board Makeover

13. Now you’re ready to attach the fabric to the board. To give it a bit more of an upholstered look, I laid a piece of scrap batting on the cork board, attaching it with a bit of spray baste.

Cork Board Makeover

14. Then I spread the fabric board cover over the top of the cork board and batting, carefully centering the trim pieces.

Cork Board Makeover

15. Flip the board over, draw the fabric around the edges of the board, and staple it into place on the back of the board.

Cork Board Makeover

At the corners, fold the fabric in toward the board in order to create nicely mitered corners.

That’s it! You’ve now got a much prettier memo board for all your collections, reminders, or whatnot. The pocket is handy for bulky items like my Michael Miller Cotton Couture Color Card. And this one small change really has made a big difference in the look of my office. I should have done it a long time ago—thank you, Heidi, for motivating me to tackle it at last!

Keep following the Girl Friday Sews Blog Hop for more ways to spiff up your workplace. Have a wonderful weekend!

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Fat Quarter Gang Pillow Tutorial and Giveaway


I’ve got another Art Gallery Fat Quarter Gang tutorial over on the Art Gallery blog today! This time I’m showing you how to make a jumbo floor pillow using Art Gallery’s Carnaby Street line. And as always, we’re giving away a bundle of the fabric I used in this project! Just comment here for a chance to win, and make sure you follow Art Gallery on your favorite social media platform in order to qualify. I’ll announce a winner at the end of the week. Happy Monday!