Rockin’ Notebook Cover

Rock N Romance notebook cover
Need a last-minute handmade gift idea? I’ve got my notebook cover tutorial over on the Art Gallery blog today!

I’m using Art Gallery’s fab Rock ‘N Romance fabric line to make this girly-ish cover. It looks like there’s a ribbon laced through the cover, doesn’t it? Nope, it’s all pieced, and super easy. Click on over to see how to make it.

Rock N Romance notebook cover
And I know you want to win a fat quarter bundle of Rock ‘N Romance, right? Just leave a comment on this post to win. Remember, you have to subscribe to Art Gallery’s blog and follow them on your favorite social media platform in order to win. I’ll pick a winner on Friday. Have a great week of wrapping up holiday shopping and making!

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Easy Ribbon-Embellished Placemats

Ribbon-Embellished Placemats
Happy Monday! It’s my turn again this week to share a new tutorial for Art Gallery Fabrics’ Fat Quarter Gang. This time I’m showing you how to make some easy, ribbon-embellished placemats. So head over to the Art Gallery blog to check it out!

Ribbon-Embellished Placemats
These placemats are made using one of my absolute favorite Art Gallery lines: Modernology! Want to win your own stack of Modernology fat quarters, so you can make something just as fabulous? All you have to do is leave me a comment, and follow Art Gallery on your favorite social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest). I’ll draw a winner on Friday. Have a wonderful week!

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Christmas Tree Skirt Tutorial

It was 102 degrees yesterday, the air conditioning was cranked, and I got too much sun at the pool. Christmas is pretty much the last thing that should be on my mind, right? Except that somehow, December 25 always manages to sneak up on me. And with the inevitable gift buying/making rush, Christmas decor projects tend to take a back seat. So really, why not make a Christmas tree skirt on a 102-degree day in July?


With that in mind, welcome to my stop on the Christmas in July Blog Hop, hosted by Elizabeth of Don’t Call Me Betsy! Every year since I started sewing, I’ve been saying I would make a Christmas tree skirt for my family, and this year, we will finally have one. A few months ago, I pinned this half-square-rectangle tutorial from the Modern Quilt Guild’s “100 Days of Modern Quilting” series. When I went to design this tree skirt, it called out to me. Here’s how to make the tree skirt, using the MQG’s tutorial.

You will need:
– 1.5 yards solid white (or other background fabric)
– 3/4 yard of red prints or scraps
– 3/4 yard green prints or scraps
– about two yards of fabric for the back
– 3/4 yard of solid red for binding

– Cut (18) 5″ x 7″ rectangles from green prints
– Cut (18) 5″ x 7″ rectangles from red prints
– Cut (36) 5″ x 7″ rectangles from solid white
– Cut (4) 8.5″ x 12.5″ rectangles from solid white
– Cut (4) 8.5″ x 6.5″ rectangles from solid white

How to make it:

1. Start by going to The Modern Quilt Guild’s blog for their tutorial on making half-square rectangles. For this tree skirt, you’ll want 24 red half-square rectangles going in one direction, and 12 red half-square rectangles going in the opposite direction. For green, you’ll want to swap that—so you need 24 green half-square rectangles going in the opposite direction of the 24 reds, and 12 greens going in the opposite direction of the 12 reds. Clear as mud? Great. Moving on. : )

2. So you should now have a total of 72 finished half-square rectangles. Again, following the instructions from the MQG’s tutorial, make those 72 units into 18 diamond blocks.

3. Lay out your completed diamond blocks as shown above. The first three rows are staggered, followed by a row that isn’t staggered, followed by two more staggered rows. The 8.5″ x 12.5″ white pieces go in each corner, and the 8.5″ x 6.5″ pieces are in the second row in from each side, at the top and bottom.

4. Once I completed the top, I decided to baste the skirt before trimming it into an octagon shape. (I figured it would be easier to baste while the skirt was still square, but I didn’t want to spend time quilting areas that would eventually be trimmed off. So trimming after basting but before quilting was my solution—but you could really trim at any point in the process.) To create the octagon, measure along the edges of the basted skirt, 16.25″ from each corner, and make a mark.

5. Then lay your ruler diagonally across the corner, from mark to mark, and trim. Voila, it’s an octagon! Oh, and save the corner pieces that you cut off—they’re great for practicing your FMQ!

6. Now you’re ready to quilt. Since this was the first project I quilted on my new Horizon, I wanted to try a free-motion design that I’d never done before—and since I’ve never done anything but stippling, I had lots of options. : ) I went with loopy squiggles.
7. Now comes the scary part: Cutting into an almost-completed quilt to make space for the tree trunk! I used a cereal bowl to trace a circle in the dead-center of my skirt (dead center is easy to find thanks to the block seams).

8. Once the circle was traced, I used a ruler and my rotary cutter to cut right down the center seam of the quilt, starting at the top edge and stopping once you’ve cut into the traced circle.

9. Then I used my scissors to cut out the center hole.

Looks more like a tree skirt now, right?

10. That just leaves binding. With the octagon’s odd angles and the circular hole in the center, bias binding is a must here. I always make continuous binding when I use bias—click here for a great tutorial on how to do this from Julie of Jaybird Quilts (scroll down to Method #2). It’s a convenient way to make bias binding, and results in less waste. I made my binding from a 27″ square and had plenty left over.

11. To bind around the odd angles of the octagon, I used this tutorial by Heather Mulder Peterson of Anka’s Treasures. It’s more or less the same concept as binding 90-degree corners. Once you’ve gone around the octagon, keep going down one of the long cut edges, around the inner circle and back up the other cut edge, right back to where you started, like a normal square quilt.

Christmas in July
And there you have it! One bright, modern Christmas tree skirt, and I already have one less thing on my holiday to-do list! Woo hoo!

But wait, here’s the best part: Now I get to give away a big ol’ bundle of fabric to one of you, to get a head start on your own Christmas projects! The Intrepid Thread is sending one lucky winner an FQ bundle of the entire “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” line by Creative Thursday. How adorable are those little cardinals?? Just leave a comment on this post telling me how you would celebrate Christmas … in July. Margaritas? Trip to the beach? Lying in the hammock all day? : ) (THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.)

Oh, and just in case you don’t win that lovely bundle, Manda of Manda Made Quilts is hosting a Christmas in July Charm Swap and needs about 15 more swappers. Sounds like a good way to get a variety of holiday prints—all the details are here.

intrepid thread ad

Thank you to The Intrepid Tread for sponsoring today’s giveaway! And don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog hop—the full schedule is below. Now, off to the pool! : )

Monday 7/16 – Don’t Call Me Betsy
Tuesday 7/17 – Sew Crafty Jess
Wednesday 7/18 – Pink Penguin
Thursday 7/19 – Freshly Pieced
Friday 7/20 – Sew Sweetness
Monday 7/23 – Happy Quilting
Tuesday 7/24 – Comfort Stitching
Wednesday 7/25 – Diary of a Quilter
Thursday 7/26 – Felicity Quilts

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Ruffled Zipper Pouch

Today’s the day—my first tutorial for the Art Gallery Fat Quarter Gang is live!

I’m showing you how to make this little ruffled zippy pouch. You can always use another one of those, right? And this one’s a little bit tailored, because you know, Art Gallery fabric is just too posh for a scruffy one. : ) And it’s easier to make than it looks—you can throw one of these babies together in about an hour! (Trust me, I’m the original bag-ophobe).

Click here for the full tutorial on Art Gallery’s blog.

I used fabric from Art Gallery’s Rhapsodia collection. I fell hard for the big hexagon print that I used for the exterior of the pouch, and then of course couldn’t resist echoing that with the little hexies for the lining.

Want to win a stack of fat quarters from Rhapsodia’s “Sweet Journey” color palette? Of course you do! To enter the giveaway:

My rules: Leave a comment (any comment) on this post

Art Gallery’s rules:
• Subscribe to the Art Gallery Fabrics blog
• Follow Art Gallery Fabrics on Pinterest
• Like Art Gallery on Facebook (optional)

The giveaway is now closed.

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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.


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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Lego Storage Bag/Playmat

Welcome to my stop on the 12 Gifts of Christmas Blog Hop!

Today I’m showing you how to make a drawstring Lego storage bag that doubles as a playmat. Fun, cute, and useful!

I think Legos strike fear into the hearts of organized moms everywhere. We store ours in a big plastic tub, but a few pieces always seem to disappear when my daughter dumps it out to play. And she hates putting all those pieces back into the tub.
So I went in search of an item my sister had for her Legos 25-plus years ago. It was basically a big circular piece of fabric with a drawstring around the edge. The Legos were stored inside, but when you wanted to play, you could lay the fabric out completely flat and spread out the pieces directly on the fabric. This allowed you to easily find the piece that you wanted—but when it came time to clean up, just pull up the drawstring and you’re done. Genius! Apparently they no longer make this handy contraption, but that’s where a little sewing skills are useful, right? Plus I could make my version a whole lot cuter than the ’70s-looking fake denim I recall my sister’s being made from.This bag spreads out to become a playmat that’s about 50″ wide—a generous size even for the most Lego-obsessed kids. And the bag/playmat combo would be great for other types of toys as well—I’m thinking baby toys, stuffed animals, matchbox cars, or anything with lots of small parts.
You will need:• Approximately 40 pieces of fabric, 4.5″ x 22″ (The 22″ length can include a selvage—the selvages will end up hidden. A fat-eighth bundle would be perfect for this project.)• 9″-10″ square of fabric for the center• Total of 1.75 yards for the back of mat/inside of bag• 1/2″ grommet-setting kit and 20 grommets (don’t be afraid of grommets! They’re so easy!)• 20 – 1.5″ squares of fusible interfacing
• About 14 feet of cotton braided cord (I used 3/16″)• 6 inches of 1″-wide twill tape for the drawstring slider
How to make it:
1. On your 4.5″ x 22″ pieces of fabric, mark the bottom edge 1.75″ from each side, as shown. If you are using a piece with a selvage, make sure to mark the selvage end. 2. Cut the piece on an angle, from one of the marks you just made at the bottom of the rectangle, to the outer corner at the top of the rectangle. Repeat on the other side, cutting from mark to outer corner. If you’re using pre-cut fat quarters or fat eighths, check that the length of your pieces is precisely 22″ before cutting. Length variances can throw off your angles here.

3. You now have a wedge-shaped piece that looks like this. Repeat the first two steps until you have 40 wedges.

4. Sew your wedges together, lining up the tops of the wedges. It doesn’t matter if the bottoms line up. I pressed my seams open.

5. Sew your wedges together in sets of 10. Ten wedges makes a quarter of the circle. Sew the quarters together to create the full circle.

6. When you’re ready to sew the final seam in the circle, stop and lay out your circle so that it’s as flat as you can get it, regardless of whether your final two raw edges match up. If they do match up, congratulations, you are a sewing rockstar! As you can see, mine didn’t come together so well. If you have a gap in your circle when it’s lying as flat as it can be, as I did, that means you probably need to add one more wedge. That’s why I said you would need approximately 40 pieces of fabric for this project. : ) So at this point, I cut and pieced wedge number 41 into the circle.

7. Now that I’ve added another wedge, when my circle is lying as flat as possible, the raw edges actually overlap, especially toward the outside of the circle.

8. To fix that, use the top (overlapping) piece as a guide to cut the bottom piece. Line up your ruler with the edge of the top piece and trim. You can now sew your final seam and you end up with a flat wedge-pieced circle measuring about 50″ across. (By the way, I think this would also be a great way to make a Christmas tree skirt or a quilt.)

9. To create the center, I traced around one of my salad plates, which are about 8.25″ across.

10. Cut out your circle and pin it into place, covering the hole in the middle of the circle as well as any selvages.

11. Applique your center circle by sewing around the edge with a zig-zag stitch.

12. To prepare for setting your grommets, take the 1.5″ squares of interfacing and press them onto the wrong side of the circle. (The interfacing will give your grommet a little more stability.) I placed my interfacing squares in the center of every second wedge piece, with the top edge of the square about 1″ from the raw edge.
13. Now the outside of your bag is looking good, so let’s tackle the lining. Circle measurements require too much math for me, so instead, I laid out the outside of the bag and then laid pieces of fabric over it until I had a design that I liked and the entire outside was covered. Then I sewed all the pieces together and laid out both the outside and the lining again. Using the outside of the bag as my guide, I trimmed the lining into a circular shape, leaving about 1/2″ of extra fabric all the way around.14. Pin around the edges and sew a 1/2″ seam around the perimeter, leaving an opening about 5″ wide for turning. Trim excess seam allowance.

15. Turn your circle right side out and press.

16. Top stitch around the outside of the circle. I stitched 1/4″ from the edge and about 2″ from the edge. I used the top stitching to close up the opening I left for turning.

17. Now you need to cut the holes for your grommets. I know, this part is scary. If you screw up, you could be ruining the whole project. But no pressure! I promise you can do it! : ) Feel each wedge to find the ones with the interfacing that you added before turning. On each wedge with interfacing, mark the center of the wedge about 1.5″ from the top. Then cut a small “X” into all three layers of fabric (outside, lining, and interfacing). I did this by pinching a small fold right where I wanted the X, and then clipping a V, which turned into an X when unfolded again. Finally, to clean things up a bit, snip off the points that you created.

Adding the Grommets and Finishing the Bag

1. First, don’t buy the Dritz grommet-setting kit that’s available at Joann. I started with that one, but the plastic setting tools are so cheap and poorly made, they only lasted for six grommets. Buy your grommet kit from a hardware store instead. I got this kit from my local Ace—it was only $1 more than the kit from Joann and it works way better. (My kit came with brass grommets, but I also found satin nickel refill grommets and used those instead.)

2. A grommet kit has four basic parts: The anvil, the setting tool, the grommet barrel, and the washer. The washers sometimes have pointy teeth on one side to grab the fabric you’re setting the grommet into.

3. To set the grommet, position the barrel piece on the anvil with the barrel sticking up, and put the X-shaped hole in your fabric over the barrel of the grommet, as shown.

4. Put the washer over the barrel and the fabric, as shown, teeth pointing down.

5. Put the setting tool on top of it all and use a hammer to wail on that bad boy until it flattens out and becomes attached to the fabric. You may have to put some arm into it—I don’t recommend trying this during nap time. : ) Also, be sure you are doing this step on a very hard surface—like concrete or a work bench. I don’t want to be responsible for any maimed dining room tables.

6. That’s it—you’ve just installed a lovely, professional-looking grommet.

7. Add the braided cord, lacing it in and out of the grommets around the perimeter of the circle. Knot the ends of the cord. Take your twill tape and wrap it in a figure 8 around the two ends of the cord, just above the knots. Sew down the middle of the figure 8 to create a drawstring slider. And you’re done! You now have a Lego keeper that turns into a handy playmat while the Legos are in use.


The giveaway is now closed.

Thank you to the Fat Quarter Shop for sponsoring the giveaway. Another big thanks goes out to Jennifer of Ellison Lane Quilts for hosting this blog hop and including me in it! Don’t forget to visit all of the other bloggers for own their gift tutorials and giveaways—the schedule is below.
Friday, October 14- Jennifer @ Ellison Lane Quilts
Saturday, October 15- Ayumi/Pink Penguin
Sunday, October 16- Amy/ Lots of Pink Here
Monday, October 17- Faith/Fresh Lemons Quilts
Tuesday, October 18- Penny/Sew Take a Hike
Wednesday, October 19- Kati/From the Blue Chair
Thursday, October 20- Lee/Freshly Pieced
Friday, October 21- Elizabeth/Don’t Call Me Betsy
Saturday, October 22- Melanie/Texas Freckles
Sunday, October 23- Lindsay/Craft Buds
Monday, October 24- Amanda/A Crafty Fox
Tuesday, October 25-Vanessa/Little Big Girl Studio

Strip-Pieced Zig-Zag Mug Rug

Welcome to my turn at Mug Rug Madness! Thank you to Erin at Two More Seconds for inviting me to be a part of this round. This is a fun blog hop and I’m so excited to be involved!

I’ve got this fun little zig-zag mug rug for you today. But don’t worry, no half-square triangles involved here! This one’s strip-pieced and can be put together while you’re waiting for a batch of holiday cookies to finish baking. I made mine using the Ready Set Snow collection from Moda—the bright colors of this collection lend themselves all kinds of design possibilities. Ready to make yours?
1. Cut the following:
Blue stripe
• 1.5″ x 7.5″
Red Christmas tree print
• 1.5″ x 2.5″
• 1.5″ x 7.5″
• 1.5″ x 10″
Green stripe
• 1.5″ x 7.5″
• 1.5 x 10″
White snowflake print
• 1.5″ x 2.5″
• 1.5″ x 7.5″
• 1.5″ x 10″
Red swirl print
• 1.5″ x 7.5″
• 1.5″ x 10″
Blue dot
• (4) 1.5″ x 2.5″
• 1.5″ x 7.5″
2. Pair up the 7.5″ and 10″ strips that you just cut, using the photo above as a key. I.e., the blue stripe goes with one of the Christmas tree print strips, the other Christmas tree strip goes with a green stripe strip, etc. The 2.5″ strips do not get paired up. Sew each pair of strips together.
3. Cut your sewn strips into 2.5″ sections. You should now have 17 2.5″ squares, plus the 6 additional 1.5″ x 2.5″ pieces.
4. Arrange the squares (plus the extra 1.5″ x 2.5″ rectangles) as shown above.
5. Sew the squares together into angled rows.
6. Sew the rows together, aligning the vertical seams to get the correct placement of each row.
7. Trim your mug rug by lining up one of the angled seams with the 45 degree line on your cutting board, as shown.
I trimmed mine to 6.75″ x 8.75″.
8. Quilt and bind you mug rug. I quilted straight zig-zag lines 1/4″ from the seams.
9. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, relax, and enjoy!
Again, thanks again to Erin for hosting Mug Rug Madness. Hop over to her blog to see lots of other cute holiday mug rugs, plus tips and tricks for making your own.
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Summer Sampler Series: Kansas Dust Storm

Welcome to our last block in the Summer Sampler Series. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride and you’re ready for the big finale! But before I get to today’s block, I want to thank Kate and Faith for coming up with such a fabulous quilt-along idea, and for inviting me to join them in hosting it. I’ve really enjoyed it!

This is Kansas Dust Storm, block #3596 in the Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns. Much like Faith’s “Rocky Road to Kansas” block, this block got its name from a very specific time and place in history. The block pattern was published by the Kansas City Star in December 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression and the Dustbowl (April 1935 saw some of the worst dust storms in the history of the U.S.). Not surprisingly, quilting thrived in the 1930s—families often needed to make use of every scrap of fabric they had, and that usually meant making quilts. So this block is representative of an important era in the history of the craft.

As I was choosing fabric for my block, I realized that Kansas Dust Storm is actually quite similar to the Evening Star block that Kate posted about on Monday. They’re both eight-point stars, just oriented a little differently. For that reason, I reversed out the prints and did the star points in my background white, putting more focus on the secondary design that forms around the star. And I love how it turned out—somehow it really does remind me of a weak sun shining in the hazy Dustbowl sky.

For this block, you will need three templates: Template A, Template B, and Template C. You’ll need four copies of each of the three templates. Sorry about the three templates, but this was the only way I could come up with that avoided Y-seams. And if you’ve come this far in the quilt-along, you’re a paper-piecing expert by now. So I know you can do it! If you haven’t done paper-piecing before, I recommend checking out Faith’s tutorial for the Star block first, as that’s a great introduction to this skill.

Kansas Dust Storm Block Tutorial

1. Cut your fabric as follows:
• Center (my floral print): 3.5″ squares – cut 8 (I fussy-cut mine)
• Green squares: 4.5″ squares – cut 8
• Orange-dot corner triangles: 4″ x 6″ – cut 4
• White star points: 2.5″ x 3″ – cut 8
• White background: 4″ x 6.5″ – cut 8

2. Cut the 4.5″ squares (my green print) in half diagonally, so you now have 16 triangles.

3. Take 4 (only 4!) of those 16 triangles and cut them in half again, as shown, to make 8 smaller triangles.

4. Place one of the 12 larger triangles on the back of Template A, so that it covers Section 1 (but on the back of the template). Hold it up to a light source to check that your piece is in the right place, and adhere with double-sided tape, a glue stick, or a pin.

5. Lay one of the 4″ x 6.5″ background pieces over the top of the center triangle, right sides facing. Match up the long edge along the line between Section 1 and Section 2.

6. Sew along the line (using a shorter stitch length to help perforate the paper) and press back the background piece.

7. Do the same thing for Section 3, with another 4″ x 6.5″ background piece.

8. Now it should look like this.

9. Add one of the 4″ x 6″ corner triangle pieces.

10. Sew and press into place, then trim the excess fabric, using the paper template as a guide for where to trim. Your Unit A should now look like this. Repeat to make three more Unit As just like it.

11. Now we’ll move on to the B and C templates, which are exactly the same, except that they are mirror images of each other. Start by adhering a 2.5″ x 3″ background piece to the back of each template, covering Section 1.

12. Place one of the 8 remaining large green triangles over the white background piece. One of the short sides of the triangle should line up with the line between sections 1 and 2. Flip over, sew along the line, and press into place.

13. Continuing piecing the B and C units, using the smaller green triangles and the floral octagon pieces. When the units are completed and trimmed, they should look like this.

14. You should now have 4 A units, 4 B units, and 4 C units. I removed the paper at this point—from here out, I found it easier to piece things accurately without the paper. Take one B unit and one C unit and sew the short sides together to make a larger triangle, like this.

Not like this! This is an easy mistake to make with this block, as you can see! (I wish I could say I did this solely for educational purposes, but it ain’t so.) This way even looks right. But it’s not.

15. Join your pieced B/C triangle to an A triangle, as shown, to make a square.

16. Then piece your four squares together to complete the block.

And there we have it: 12 completed sampler blocks. I’ll be sashing the blocks and putting the top together in the next week, so come back here next Friday to see my completed top! I’ll post yardage and cutting requirements for my sashing at that time, in case anyone is interested.

Huge thanks to everyone who quilted along with Kate, Faith, and me this past month (and to everyone who may do these blocks in the future!). I had so much fun doing this quilt-along with all of you. The blocks that have shown up in the Flickr group are absolutely stunning. I can’t wait to see all of the finished quilts!

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Summer Sampler Series: Minnesota Block

Welcome to another block in the Summer Sampler Series! Today we’ll be making the Minnesota block. I just love the vintage charm of this block.

Minnesota is block #1979 in the Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns. It is in the “Unequal Nine Patch with Small Center Square” pattern category—a huge category with an amazing variety of designs represented. This block originally appeared in the magazine “Hearth and Home,” which was popular with women in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Hearth and Home published a series of 50 quilt block patterns, one for each state (there is a book that collects all 50 state block patterns, which you can buy here). I couldn’t find any information on whether there is design significance to each state’s block (I’m guessing there isn’t). But Wisconsin’s is pretty interesting too, so you might see that one from me one of these days! It might be kind of fun to make a “travel quilt” of blocks for all of the states that I’ve been to over the years.

Minnesota Block Tutorial

This is another block that combines traditional piecing and paper piecing. But if you’ve made it this far in the quilt-along, I promise you’ll think this one is a piece of cake. No, seriously!

1. Cutting:
• (4) 6.25″ print squares for hourglass units
• (4) 2.5″ x 5.5″ pieces for diamond units
• (1) 2.5″ square for center diamond
• (8) 3.5″ x 4.5″ pieces for background of diamond units
• (4) 2″ squares for background of center diamond

2. Let’s start with the paper-piecing this time. You can download the paper-piecing template here. (Please note: Printing directly from Google Docs can cause your template sizes to be inaccurate. To avoid this, download the PDF to your computer and print it from Acrobat—for information about how to do this, see this Flickr discussion.) You will need 4 copies of the rectangular template and 1 copy of the small square template.

3. Starting with the rectangular templates, adhere the 2.5″ x 5.5″ pieces to the back of the templates, right side facing out, so that your fabric is on one side and the printed template is on the other. I use double-sided tape to put my fabric onto the template, but you could also use a glue stick, fabric glue, or pins. Your fabric pieces should be the same size as the template and should completely cover the back of the template. In the photo above, mine are all adhered to the templates.

4. Take your 3.5″ x 4.5″ background pieces and cut them in half diagonally, so that you have 16 triangular pieces.

5. Position a background triangle onto the back of your template/fabric, right side facing, as shown.

6. Flip the entire thing over, so that you’re looking at the printed template. Hold it up to a light source to check that the triangular background piece is in the correct position. It’s hard to tell in this photo because my fabric is black, but at least 1/4″ of the triangular background piece should be above the line you’ll be sewing on, and the rest should be below the line.

7. Sew directly onto the line between Section 1 and Section 2, as shown. Be sure to use a shorter stitch length to make it easier to tear off the paper later. I’m using 1.4 on my machine.

8. Fold back the triangular piece and press into place, as shown. (My paper is curling in the photo above, due to the nine-thousand percent humidity we’re currently having.)

9. Sew the other three pieces into place in just the same way. When you’re done, you should have something that looks like this.

10. Using the paper template as a guide, trim off the excess fabric.

11. Tear off and discard the paper templates. Fold back the background triangles and carefully trim off the excess fabric underneath. (So I’m trimming off the black fabric from underneath the white fabric.)

12. You should now have a diamond unit that looks like this. Repeat the process to make a total of four diamond units.

13. Now follow the same process one more time to make the center diamond. Use the 2.5″ square paper template, your 2.5″ square of fabric and your 2″ square background pieces. After sewing and trimming, you should end up with a unit that looks like this.

14. Now that your paper-pieced diamond units are complete, we’ll use traditional piecing to make the four hourglass units that complete the block. Start by cutting the 6.25″ squares in half diagonally, and then in half diagonally in the other direction. You should now have a total of 16 triangles like the ones above.

15. Match up one triangle of each print and sew them together along a short edge. Don’t sew together the long edges—if you do that, you’ll end up with an HST, and we actually don’t want any of those this time! : ) I pressed my seam allowance to the side, toward the blue print.

16. Do the same thing with another pair of triangles, but this time, swap the sides the prints are on. Yes, it does matter which sides the prints are on, so pay attention to that. Again, I pressed my seam allowance toward the blue print.

17. Join the two triangles together for a completed hourglass unit. Pressing your seam allowances to the side should give you those “locking seams” that will help you nicely align your points. The completed hourglass unit should measure 5.5″ square. Repeat to make a total of four hourglass units.

18. Arrange all 9 units as shown, join into three rows, and then join the rows together to complete the block.

See, that wasn’t too bad, right? And look what you’ve made (and learned!) in only three weeks! My blocks are above—I can’t wait to round them out with the final three blocks. I hope you guys are enjoying this as much as I am! Stop in at Swim, Bike, Quilt on Monday for Kate’s final block in the series, and don’t forget to upload photos of your progress to the Flickr group. I have been so impressed and amazed at the wonderful creations that have been showing up there! Happy sewing!

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Summer Sampler Series: Arkansas Traveler Block

Welcome back to the Summer Sampler Series. Are you ready for block #6? It’s a very unique block, and one of my favorites in the quilt-along!

This is the Arkansas Traveler block, #3912 in the Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns. It’s also known as Cowboy’s Star, Travel Star, or “Teddy’s Choice.” It’s from the “Other Stars” category of patterns in the Encyclopedia.

Arkansas Traveler Flag Quilt – featured on Earlene Fowler’s website

Not much is known about the history of this block, but it likely dates back to the 1800s, since it shares its name with a popular 19th century folk song. There are several quilt blocks known by the name Arkansas Traveler—the others are variations on spool designs. Arkansas Traveler quilts were sometimes made up of more than one type of Arkansas Traveler block, like the flag quilt above (from writer Earlene Fowler’s website).

I’m doing a more modern variation on this block, using 60-degree diamonds instead of the narrower diamonds often used in traditional Arkansas Traveler blocks. Since Faith did such an excellent job of introducing us to paper-piecing with Wednesday’s Star block, I thought we’d make this block by combining traditional piecing and paper piecing. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds!Arkansas Traveler Block Tutorial

• For diamonds: 2 5/8″ x 9″ strips – cut 8 (Stash Trad bee members: Cut these strips to 3″ instead.)
• For background: 3″ x 6″ strips – cut 8; 3″ x 9″ strips – cut 8

Cutting and Piecing the Diamonds

1. Place your ruler on an angle over the end of one of the 2 5/8″ x 9″ strips, lining up the 60-degree mark with the bottom of the strip, as shown, and cut.

2. Slide your ruler over. With the 60-degree mark still lined up with the bottom of the strip, line up the 2 5/8″ mark on your ruler with the angled (cut) end of the strip, and cut again. (Stash Trad members, again cut to 3″.)

3. You now have a 60-degree diamond. Continue cutting diamonds, two from each strip, until you have 16.

4. Pair up two diamonds, right sides facing, and so that the edges intersect 1/4″ from each point (right where your seam will be). This results in little triangles sticking out on each side called dog ears—see them? Make sure those dog ears are showing, and that they’re even on each side.

5. Sew and press seam allowances open. Sew together a second pair and press.

6. Put your pairs together, right sides facing, as shown above. Again, make sure the dog ears are correct.

7. Sew and press seam allowances open. You should now have a diamond unit that looks like this. Repeat the steps above until you have four diamond units.

Paper-Piecing the Diamonds into the Background

1. Let me start by saying that if you’ve never paper-pieced before, and you haven’t yet made Faith’s Star block, I recommend you do that first. Faith did a great job introducing the skill of paper-piecing, and I don’t want to repeat too much of what she explained in her post.

2. Okay, all set? Print out 4 copies of my paper-piecing template for this block, which can be found here. Be sure to set page scaling to “None” or “100 percent” when printing, and after printing, check the 1″ scale to make sure it’s accurate. Trim the templates.

3. Attach one of your peiced diamond units to the back of the template, lining up the diamond seams you sewed in the previous steps with the “pre-sewn line” marks on the front of the template (as much as you can see them through the paper). I flipped down the edges of the diamond unit to make sure the seams were lined up, but don’t stress about it too much. Since those diamond seams don’t line up with anything else, it’s not crucial that they be exact. I used double-sided tape to attach my diamond units to the back of the paper—I prefer that over pins. You could also use a glue stick.

Tip: If you have a certain color/print that you want in the center, place the diamond unit so the center print is between 4 and 5 (where my blue and green floral print is in the photo below), rather than between 2 and 3. This will give your seams an outward radiating pattern.

4. Hold up your template to a light source to visually check that your diamond unit is placed correctly and that there will be 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around. This diamond unit is piece #1. You’ll add piece #2, a background piece, next.

5. Place a 3″ x 6″ background piece along the edge of the diamond that borders section #2. Make sure right sides facing and the edges are approximately lined up, as shown. Now turn over the whole thing and sew on the line, through the paper, as Faith showed on her blog. Remember to lower your stitch count to perforate the paper better—I use 1.4.

6. Press back the piece you just sewed and trim any excess seam allowances. Repeat the steps above to add additional background pieces, in order, according to the numbers on the paper template. You will use the 3″ x 6″ pieces for the first two background pieces, and the 3″ x 9″ cuts for the second (longer) two pieces.

7. Once you’ve sewed on all four background pieces, it should look like this.

8. Turn the whole thing over and trim around the edges of the paper template. DON’T tear the paper off yet!

9. You now have the first of your four star units. Repeat the steps above to create the other three quarter-block units.

10. Arrange two of the star units as shown.

11. Put the units together, right sides facing, with the paper still on.

12. Sew the two units together on the template’s outer line, as shown. So you’re now sewing through two star units and two paper templates. There will be a lot of seam bulk where the center points meet, but the paper will give that area some structure, which should keep the fabric from bunching up. It will also help you match up the points more accurately, in spite of the bulk. If your machine gets hung up at that corner, you may need to gently push the units/paper through. You could also try adjusting your presser foot to make it less tight (if your machine has that option) or using a walking foot if you’re still having problems.

When you’re done sewing, here’s what it looks like on the other side. Your sewing should come through the other side right on the other template’s line (mine isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough!)

And here’s what it looks like when you’re done (the paper is still on the back).

13. Repeat with the other two star points. Finger press the seam allowances open. When you’re ready to join the two pairs with the final seam of the block, you can take the paper off if you’re worried about the paper making too much bulk in your machine, or leave the paper on and piece it the same way you did the previous two seams.

14. Once the entire block has been pieced, remove the paper and press seams open.

And with that, we are now halfway through this quilt-along! Here are all 6 of my blocks together. I can’t wait to see your blocks, especially Arkansas Traveler, so please post pictures to the Flickr group.

On Monday, the Summer Sampler Series will be back on Katie’s blog to kick off our second half. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!