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Harlequin Pillow

You didn’t think I’d miss out on the Accuquilt craze, did you? : )

Yes, along with the rest of blogland, I too have spent the last few weeks playing around with an AccuQuilt GO! Baby Fabric Cutter. I have to admit, prior to using it, I wasn’t convinced of the necessity of this thing. But now that I’ve spent some time getting to know this little Baby, I’m a convert! Especially when it comes to cutting some of the more unusual shapes like circles and diamonds.

The GO! Baby is a lot smaller, more compact, and lightweight than I expected, and it’s amazingly easy to set up and use. I completed a simple four-patch Drunkard’s Path block within 30 minutes of taking the cutter out of the box! In addition to the Drunkard’s Path die, I requested the Tumbler and Diamond dies. All three dies cut cleanly and accurately through multiple layers of fabric in my tests. My only complaint is that threads sometimes get stuck in the crevices of the die, causing some fraying along the fabric’s cut edges. But that’s a minor issue that hasn’t caused any problems with my piecing.

Blocks from all three dies sewed up fairly accurately. I needed to do a little squaring up on my Drunkard’s Path block, but that particular die allows for some trimming space along the edges of the block, so it wasn’t a problem.

And as busy as I’ve been this past week, I even managed to complete a project using my GO! Baby—this harlequin pillow for the bench in my mud room. With my GO! Baby, the whole thing took about three hours from start to finish. Here’s how to make it:

1. For the background diamonds, you’ll need a piece of solid fabric at least 18″ by 24″. (I used a half-yard cut.) Accordian-fold your fabric in 4″ sections across the wider side, so that you end up with a folded section at least six layers thick, and measuring about 4″ by 18″.

2. Lay your folded fabric across the AccuQuilt GO! 4-inch Diamond die. Make sure your fabric covers the edges of the die. (One tip I just read is to outline the die with a Sharpie so that you can see the edges better.)

3. Put your cutting mat over the top of the folded fabric and run the whole thing through the cutter. (Make sure your excess fabric is positioned so that it will go through the cutter last.) I was able to run 10 layers through the cutter without a problem. With that many layers, it did take a little arm strength, but no more than I’m accustomed to as a mother who carries around small children!

4. Ta da! Diamonds.

5. Now take your excess fabric and move that into position on the die. The cut edge from the previous set of diamonds matches up perfectly with the edge of the die for cut #2, as shown above. Turn the die around and run it through—again with the excess fabric at the back. With careful planning and positioning, you should be able to get another complete set of diamonds out of this fabric—that’s 40 diamonds per half-yard, cut in less than 10 minutes! (You’ll only need 24 solid diamonds for this pillow.)

6. And here’s the waste generated after cutting a half-yard worth of diamonds. Nice!

7. In addition to the solid diamonds, you’ll need 18 print diamonds for this project. I cut 4″ wide strips from my prints, layered the strips on top of each other, and rolled them through together.

8. Lay out your diamonds, alternating solids and prints, according to the diagram above.

9. Now sew the diamonds together, working in rows diagonally across the pillow. So, you’ll start by sewing together diamonds A1 and A2 in the diagram above. Line up the diamonds 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 up there? Make sure those dog ears are showing, and that they’re roughly even on each side, or your rows won’t be straight!

Here’s what they look like sewn together.

10. Now sew together the next row, numbers B1, B2, B3, and B4. Continue through the rows—sew together all the C diamonds, all the Ds, etc.—until you have 9 angled rows. Press your seam allowances open, using a dry iron. I press my seam allowances whichever way gives me the most accuracy. That can vary depending on the type of piecing—or at least for me it does. In this case, I think open is best.

11. To sew the rows together, put two rows together, right sides facing. (Some rows are longer than others, so check the diagram to see which seams should line up with each other.) To match up the diamond points, flip down the top layer, as shown above, folding it down at the place your 1/4″ seam will fall. You’re looking for those angled seams to line up at that 1/4″ point, as they do in the photo above.

12. Once you’ve determined the seams are lined up, put a pin through the seam, exactly 1/4″ from the raw edge, as shown.

13. The pin should come out through the seam on the other side as well. (If it doesn’t, just wiggle the pin as it goes through until you hit the right spot.) Then push the pin back through to the front side, as usual. Now you’ve not only marked exactly where your 1/4″ seam should fall, you’ve pinned the two pieces in a way that they should align neatly!

14. Sew directly over your pins. I sometimes remove my pins as I sew, but I found my diamonds lined up better when I left the pins in.

15. When all of your rows are sewn together, you should have something that looks like this. Trim your pillow top down to 18.5″ square by cutting off the excess points at the edges.

16. I quilted my pillow with straight angled lines, 1/4″ from the seams, then finished with a simple envelope closure. (Here’s a good tutorial for finishing a pillow.)

The bottom line: I’ve found the GO! Baby to be a gigantic time-saver. I don’t really see myself using it for squares, strips, or the like, but I can’t imagine cutting more complex shapes without my GO! Baby! I’m also very interested in giving the Half Square Triangle die a try. Although, then again, maybe I shouldn’t, considering the amount of time I just put in making HSTs the hard way for my Warm/Cool quilt!

How about you? Want a GO! Baby of your own? You probably know the drill by now—I’ll be giving away one of these, plus three dies of the winner’s choice, in the next few weeks. So stay tuned!


Hexing Around Block

Um, blogging break? What blogging break? Of course, I said I’m taking a blogging break, and now here I am posting a full-fledged block tutorial. You knew I couldn’t stay away, didn’t you?

But June is my month as quilter for the Love Circle of Do. Good Stitches, and I changed my plan for the quilt at the last minute, and the new plan requires a block tutorial … and here we are. I’m calling this the “Hexing Around” block. Enjoy, whether you are in the Love Circle or not.

Hexing Around Block
This 12.5″ square log-cabin-style hexagon block is fun and easy to piece.

1. First, download my template for the center hexagon here. Click the printer icon in the upper left corner of the screen to print it, or download the original. In the printer dialogue box that comes up, be sure to un-click the box that says “Fit to Page.” This is very important for the hexagon to print at the correct size! When printed at actual size, the hexagon should be 2.75″ high (from flat edge to flat edge).

UPDATED 2/24/14: I think somebody must have just linked to this (rather old) tutorial, because suddenly I’m being inundated with requests for people to email me this template. You guys, I apologize, but I can’t spend all day individually emailing this template to everybody. Google Docs works, I promise. I just tried it myself and very easily printed it out. Click the link above, and then find the little printer icon in the upper left corner. Then, when the printer dialogue box comes up, just un-click “Fit to Page.” Thank you!

2. Use the template to cut out a hexagon for the center of your block. The template includes seam allowance, so no need to add for that.

3. Now cut 1.5″ wide strips for each side of your center hexie. Sew two of the strips onto opposite sides of your hexie, as shown. Press seams open.

4. Use the 60-degree angle mark on your ruler to trim the ends of the pieces you just added. Line up the 60-degree angle line with the seam opposite the strip you’re trimming.

5. When you’re done trimming the ends, you should have a unit that looks like this.

6. Add two more strips to opposite edges of the center hexagon.

7. Trim the ends of these strips by matching up the 1.25″ vertical line on your ruler with the seam that runs parallel to the edge you want to trim, and the 60-degree angle mark should line up with the raw edge of the unit, as shown.

8. When you’re done trimming, it should look like this.

9. Add your final two strips to opposite sides of the hexagon.

10. Again, trim the ends of the strips in the same way you did the previous two strips. Line up 1.25″ mark with a parallel seam, and the 60-degree line with a raw edge of the block.

11. Now your hexagon should look like this, with one complete round of “logs.”

12. Cut another set of 1.5″ strips and follow the steps above to sew another round of logs around your hexagon, in the same manner as the first.

13. Continue adding logs to make two more rounds. Your completed hexagon should be no more than 12.5″ wide, from point to point. If it’s more than 12.5″, go ahead and trim around the outer edge to bring it down to size. If it’s a little less than 12.5″ wide, that’s okay.

14. From your background fabric (I’m using solid white), cut two 5″ x 7″ rectangles. Now cut a diagonal line through each rectangle, like so.

15. Sew the background triangles onto the corners of your hexagon, as shown. The triangles will be larger than what you need, but I found it easier to make them too big and then trim down to nice 90-degree corners. Add triangles to all four corners.

16. Trim your block so that it measures 12.5″ wide by 11″ high. (There should be at least .25″ of white background at its narrowest point along each side of the block.)

17. Add 1.5″ strips to the top and bottom of your block and trim to 12.5″ square.

Thank you, ladies of the Love Circle! Now I’m going back into hiding until Thursday as planned, but I will be reachable by email if you have questions or problems with the block. Have a great holiday.

P.S. In case you’re dying for an update on the potty training … well, it’s going. That’s about the best I can say at this point. : )

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Scrappy Rainbow Placemats

Want to make some colorful, summery placemats? Here’s the tutorial for the Scrappy Rainbow Placemats I made for the Make Mine Modern swap.

Before we start, let me again credit Angela, whose amazing Pink Lemonade quilt was the inspiration for these placemats. The original idea was all hers. Thank you, Angela!

You will need:
• scraps in 12 different prints of Color A (I’m using pink)
• scraps in 12 different prints of Color B (I’m using purple)
• 7 – 4.5″ white squares
• 3 – 4.5″ x 2.5″ white rectangles
• piece of fabric for backing/binding, 15″-16″ by 21″-22″
• 14″ x 20″ piece of batting

From six of your pink prints: Cut two 2.5″ squares and two 1.5″ squares from each print.

From the other six pink prints: Cut one 2.5″ square and one 1.5″ square from each print.

From six of your purple prints: Cut two 2.5″ squares and two 1.5″ squares from each print.
From the other six purple prints: Cut one 2.5″ square and one 1.5″ square from each print.

1. Take the white squares and rectangles, and lay them out in a checkerboard pattern, as shown, with the rectangles at the bottom. Be sure to lay out your pieces in a location where they can remain undisturbed until you’re done piecing the top!

2. Now grab some of your unpaired pink and purple 2.5″ squares (so, the prints from which you cut only one 2.5″ square) and start laying them out in a row across the top, between the white pieces, alternating colors, as shown.

3. For your next row, use unpaired squares at each end of the row, and paired squares everywhere else. Again, alternate colors, so that you start to create a checkerboard pattern.

4. Continue laying out your pink and purple squares, following the pattern you’ve established. Be sure to keep your paired prints together, kitty-corner from each other, as shown in the photo above. (Sorry the squares are such a wrinkled mess!)

5. Take your 1.5″ squares and lay them out over the top of your white background pieces. Put a 1.5″ square at each corner of the white pieces, matching prints up with the corresponding 2.5″ squares, as shown in the photo. (You should end up with two 1.5″ squares left over.)

6. Once you’re satisfied with your layout, pin your 1.5″ pieces into place, on top of the white background pieces. Please note that you are not pinning for sewing placement. You’re only pinning them to keep track of where all these teeny little squares go. But trust me, you’ll want to take the time to do this!

7. Last step before you can start sewing: Mark the center line on your sewing machine, if you haven’t already. You will use this as a reference line to sew diagonally across the 1.5″ squares without having to mark all the squares. (This is a tip I picked up from Linda when she participated in the Supernova quilt-along.) I marked mine with a purple sticky note. I used the sticky note because it’s repositionable, so I can put it right over my drop-in bobbin compartment.

8. Finally, you get to sew! : ) Take your first white piece, with the 1.5″ squares pinned onto the corners. Unpin one of the little squares and flip it over, so right sides are facing. (If you’re using a directional fabric, it should be oriented 90 degrees from the way you want it to appear after it’s sewn.) Keep your other three squares pinned, so you don’t lose track of which corner they go on!

9. Using the center line that you marked on your machine, sew a diagonal line across the 1.5″ square, from corner to corner, as shown. Just keep the point of the 1.5″ square on the marked line at all times as you sew, and you’ll end up with a perfect diagonal seam.

10. Do the same with each of the other three 1.5″ squares. You should now have a piece that looks like this.

11. Trim off the excess fabric beyond the diagonal seam at each corner and press your prints out, toward the corners, so you have a piece that looks like this. I recommend pressing seams open here. Repeat the above steps until all of your 1.5″ squares are sewn into corner triangles on your all of your white background pieces.

12. Now for the easy part! Sew together the 2.5″ squares into four-patch blocks. Start by sewing pairs of pink and purple squares together, as shown. Now I recommend pressing the seams to the side, since I find four-patches go together better with side-pressed seams that can be nested together.

13. Sew the pairs together into a four-patch. At this point I went back to pressing my seams open, since it’s no longer important for alignment, and open seams reduce bulk.

14. Now you should have 20 blocks that can be sewn together into a completed top. So go ahead, what are you waiting for? : )

15. Layer your backing/binding, batting, and top, and baste with a few pins. You backing/binding piece should be at least 1/2″ larger than the top and batting on each side.

16. I quilted mine in straight lines, outlining the basic shapes created by the piecing. I also used two different colors of thread to echo the fabric colors.

17. I used Made By Rae’s “Cheater Binding” tutorial for quick and easy binding. This is why the backing piece needs to be larger than the top—you’ll be folding it around to the front and sewing it down to create the binding. The only change I made to Rae’s tutorial is that my binding is narrower, which I thought was better for a small piece like a placemat.

Good luck! Please let me know if you make these placemats, I would love to see them.

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Advent Calendar Wall Hanging – A Tutorial

Not excited about another $2 cardboard Advent Calendar with penny candy already sealed inside? Neither was I. If you’re going to have a calendar prominently displayed in your home for almost a month, it should look a little nicer than that, right? So I designed this calendar for last year’s Advent. It comes together quickly and the pockets are roomy enough for a delicious treat or two!

You will need:
• 1 fat quarter of my Advent Calendar fabric, available from Spoonflower (Each fat quarter makes TWO calendars—one for you and one to use as a gift!)
• 24 5″ x 4.5″ squares of holiday-print fabric (charm squares work great – just trim 1/2″ off one side)
• 2 4.5″ x 8″ strips of coordinating fabric for hanging tabs
• 2 17.5″ x 28″ pieces of white fabric for background
• Strips for binding
• Wooden dowel and ribbon for hanging
• 17.5″ x 28″ piece of fusible batting (I think fusible batting is perfect for small wall hangings)
• Fusible webbing for appliqueing numbers and title header

1. Sandwich your fusible batting between the two white background pieces and press to fuse. I didn’t do any quilting on mine, but if you would like to do all-over quilting on the background, now’s the time!

2. Prepare header and numbers. Decide which header—red or green—you want to use. Cut the fat quarter in half, separating one header-and-number-set from the other. (Set aside the other set to make another calendar as a gift later.) Fuse the entire piece to fusible webbing. Cut out header strip and cut each calendar number into a circle shape. It’s difficult to see in the photos, but there are light gray lines around each number to use as a guide for easy-peasey circle cutting.

3. Prepare pockets. Along a 4.5″ edge of your printed squares, fold in 1/2″ and press. (This will be the top of your pocket, so if you have a directional fabric like I do below, plan accordingly). Fold in another 1/2″ and press again.

4. Top stitch about 3/8″ from pressed edge with coordinating thread.

5. Fold the other 3 edges in 1/2″ and press. Turn corners under as you are pressing, as shown above, for a neat mitered corner. You should now have a 3.5″ square pocket. Repeat until you have 24 pockets.

6. Add numbers to pockets. Decide on a layout/order for your pockets. Fuse a number to the front of each pocket, centering it by using an ironing grid. Applique as desired (I’m not much of an appliquer, so I did a simple straight stitch 1/8″ from the raw edge in white thread).

Note: The print on your pocket may show through the numbers a little if you use Spoonflower’s quilting-weight fabric. It didn’t bother me that much, but if you don’t like it, you could always order your Advent Calendar fat quarter in one of their heavier fabrics, like the linen-canvas blend.

7. Arrange header and pockets on background. Position your header strip about 1″ from top edge of background piece. Arrange your pockets below the header in 6 rows of 4. Don’t overthink your positioning—my pockets were spaced about 3/8″ apart, but if they’re not 100% precisely aligned and spaced, it will still look fine. Pin pockets to background piece. Pin them slightly loose, so they’ll be roomy enough to hold treats!

8. Attach header strip to background. Fuse header strip by pressing. Using your walking foot, applique the header by sewing a straight stitch in coordinating thread 1/8″ from top and bottom edges. Don’t worry about the side edges—they’ll be hidden by the binding.

9. Attach pockets. Using your walking foot, topstitch each pocket onto the background by sewing 1/4″ or 1/8″ from pressed-under edges on three sides (right, left, and bottom). The walking foot is a necessity—using a regular foot will cause your pockets to slip and go crooked, or they’ll be too tight to put anything in them!

10. Prepare hanging tabs. Fold each 4.5″ x 8″ strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and sew 1/4″ or from raw edges to form a tube. Turn inside out and press.
10. Bind. Before pinning binding to the front of your wall hanging, position hanging tabs with one short end aligned with top edge of the wall hanging, about 3″ from each side. Pin binding over top of the tabs, as shown, and sew binding to front of wall hanging as usual. Before sewing binding onto the back of the wall hanging, loop the tabs over the top edge and hide the other end of the tabs under the binding on the back.11. Slide hanging tabs onto wooden dowel. Use ribbon to hang your wall hanging. You’re now ready for Dec. 1! And yes, that’s the birdie from my blog header, making another appearance on the Advent Calendar header. I think he’s becoming my mascot. : )
In addition to the standard Advent Calendar goodies, I also put a slip of paper into each pocket that describes a holiday-themed activity that my girls and I can enjoy that day. Whether it’s decorating cookies, making a homemade Christmas tree ornament, or just drinking hot cocoa together, we have something fun to look forward to each day of Advent.I hope you’ll try this one yourself! Enjoy!