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I Heart Intentional Piecing

I’m sure I don’t need to proclaim my love for paper-piecing yet again, because you guys totally already know that about me. (But if you need a refresher, you can click here. Or here. Or here!) So it probably also goes without saying that when I saw Amy Friend’s book, “Intentional Piecing: From Fussy Cutting to Foundation Piecing,” I knew I had to have it!

Amy, who blogs at During Quiet Time, is one of my very favorite quilters out there, and paper-piecing is one of her specialties. Intentional Piecing is full of adorable projects that take advantage of my favorite technique! (Visit Amy’s blog to see more of her book projects.) To start with, I decided to give her “Tell Me a Story” block a go.
The Tell Me a Story quilt from Intentional Piecing actually uses both fussy-cutting and paper-piecing—but in spite of that, this is a super-easy, quick little block to make! Seriously. Mine took me less than 30 minutes from start to finish. 


And my favorite thing about the Tell Me a Story block is that Amy encourages quilters to use fabric selections to do just that: Tell a story within each individual block. There’s an interesting sidebar in the book in which Amy talks about how she makes connections between the prints used in each block—sometimes those connections are obvious, other times, less so.
I decided to fussy-cut from this adorable print by Heather Ross of underwear and clothing hanging on a line. To me, long underwear on a clothes line brings to mind images of an old-time farm and a harried farm wife trying to get all her chores done. 
So a gingham print and a chicken wire print? What could be more perfect than that? : ) Suddenly I had a detailed picture of the farm, the clothes line, and even the wife in my head. This is whole new dimension of fabric selection that I’d never really considered before. Pretty fun!
Whether you’re a hard-core paper-piecer like me or a relative beginner, I think Intentional Piecing will make you look at piecing—and the prints in your stash—in a whole new light! A great one to have in any sewing library.
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Lady of the Lake Blocks from Sister Sampler Quilts

Happy Monday! I hope all of you out East have managed to dig out a bit, but I hope in the meantime you got some good stay-in-and-sew time. : ) We didn’t get any snow at all (much to my kids’ disappointment), but I got in some quality time with my machine yesterday anyway. And the results of my afternoon’s work: These Lady of the Lake blocks, with which I am now totally obsessed.

Lady of the Lake is a classic block from the new book, Sister Sampler Quilts: 3 Modern Sampler Quilts with Paired Sister Blocks,
by AnneMarie Chaney of Gen X Quilters. I love the flexibility of a good sampler book—make one block, make them all, or mix-and-match to your heart’s content! Sampler books are always a good resource to add to your library, and give you a lot of bang for your buck. (If I do say so myself, having co-written one of my own!)
And AnneMarie’s book is even more flexible than most, offering up instructions for 24 blocks, each in two different sizes (9″ and 12″ finished). I made my Lady of the Lake blocks in the 9″ size. Check those cute little half-square triangles. : ) AnneMarie’s method of making the blocks in “sister pairs” makes things go quickly and efficiently.

 

Another feature that makes this book a great resource are the fun and creative layout ideas for each of the three samplers. This one, the Bonfire Sampler, is my favorite!
I found the instructions for the Lady of the Lake block to be straightforward and easy to follow. As usually happens when I try to make just one or two blocks, I’m now dying to make a bunch more of these. All out of this fabulous Blueberry Park fabric, like the first two!

You can find out more about Sister Sampler Quilts by visiting the website AnneMarie has set up for the book, www.sistersamplerquilts.com, or click here to purchase from Amazon. And go visit the other stops on the Sister Sampler Quilts Blog Tour, listed below!

Monday, January 18  
AnneMarie Chany / Gen X Quilters – Introduction
Sara Lawson / Sew Sweetness
Tuesday, January 19 
Leah Day / Free Motion Project
Brenda Ratliff / Just A Bit Frayed
Wednesday, January 20
Faith Jones / Fresh Lemons Quilts
Angela Pingel / Cut To Pieces
Thursday, January 21
Lynne Goldsworthy / Lily’s Quilts
Amy Friend / During Quiet Time
Friday, January 22
Christa Watson / Christa Quilts
Violet Craft
Monday, January 25
Lee Heinrich / Freshly Pieced
Melissa Corry / Happy Quilting
Tuesday, January 26
Karen Lewis / Karen Lewis Textiles
Wednesday, January 27
Sherri McConnell / A Quilting Life
Melissa Mortensen / Polka Dot Chair
Thursday, January 28
Heather Valentine / The Sewing Loft
Friday, January 29
Cindy Wiens / Live A Colorful Life
AnneMarie Chany / Gen X Quilters – Wrap Up
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“You Can Quilt!” A Book Review and A Blog Flashback

You know how dogs age 7 years for every one of our human years? I think there should be a formula like that for quilting/blogging years. Because once upon a time—in 2011—I participated in a quilt-along called The Skill Builder Sampler, with blogger Leila Gardunia. That was four years ago. Also, a lifetime ago. : ) Show of hands—who was hanging around my blog back then and remembers that? C’mon, I hope you guys are still out there!

Anyway, a lot has happened in four years. A whole lot. For one thing, I built my skills. Thanks in part to Leila’s quilt-along, and in part to the exhausting litany of other things I’ve done. I wrote a book and launched a line of patterns and taught classes and won a prize at QuiltCon and hosted a gajillion WIP Wednesdays and sewed and sewed and sewed.

But here’s the thing about building skills. You’re never done with that. Your skills are never all built and finished—they’re more like an eternal work-in-progress. To that end, Leila, along with co-author Marlene Oddie, have turned the Skill Builder Sampler into a book, called You Can Quilt! Building Skills for Beginners.

I mean, I thought I was a decent quilter four years ago. And then I pulled out those blocks from Leila’s quilt-along. (Yes, I still had them! And no, I had no trouble finding them in my studio! Organizational skills: Totally built!)

Ummm, yeah. The piecing, the crazy prints all thrown together—there are some areas for improvement (understatement alert). And as I looked at those blocks, my mind fast-forwarded another four years. I wasn’t done building my skills back then, and I’m still not done now, I know that much.

You Can Quilt! covers basically every quilting technique you could ask for in one book and 36(!) beautiful blocks. Paper-piecing, improv, inset seams, curves, applique—they’re all here in this book. Along with lots of helpful tips, step-by-step photos, and diagrams. It’s like a months-long, intensive quilting class in one handy volume. What better way to build your skills than block-by-block, with an amazing sampler to show for it at the end?

I know quilting can be intimidating sometimes, but you guys, you can’t learn how to do something without doing it. There will always be projects you’ll look back at four years later and say, “Wow, what was I thinking?” But it’s all part of the process, right? All you can do is build those skills one finished quilt at a time. And enjoy the results of that process. This book is all about that.

To celebrate my own process, I decided to take those nine orphan blocks I made four years ago and sew them into a quilt top. And I think the end result is pretty cool—the solid orange framing and Essex Linen background has the effect of chilling out the printy-ness of the blocks.

Want to win a free copy of You Can Quilt!, plus a bundle of the Prairie fabric line by Corey Yoder? (International readers have a chance to win an ebook.) You can enter over at Leila’s blog. And don’t forget to keep following along with the “You Can Quilt!” blog hop all this week! Thank you, Leila, for including me on the hop!

Nov. 16 – Lee at Freshly Pieced (- you are here!)
Nov. 17 – AnneMarie at Gen X Quilters
Nov. 18 – Leanne at She Can Quilt
Nov. 19 – Julie at That’s Sew Julie
Nov. 20 – Lyn guest-blogging at Flourishing Palms

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WIP Wednesday: Productivity!

I’ve had a busy week of teaching, finishing projects, and starting new ones!

The flying geese project that I started last week is done—you’ll be seeing more of this, plus complete project instructions, on Olfa’s website in a few weeks!

Next up: I’m starting to work on my next quilt-along! It’s a Greek key quilt, and you guys will not believe how fast and easy these blocks are. I always thought it would be a feather in my cap to design a quilt with ZERO seams that have to line up, and this one might be the closest I’ve ever come. So newbies take note, this will be a good one for you. : ) Let’s all do it together! The quilt-along will be starting on Bernina’s website in the near future—but I’ll give you plenty of advance notice here, so that you can get your fabric together and be ready to start it along with me.

Finally, I have something exciting to share with you: My friend Stephanie from Late Night Quilter is coming out with a Quilter’s Planner! This planner includes everything you need to organize your life and plan and track your sewing projects, plus it includes bonus block instructions and quilt patterns. Such a great idea, isn’t it?

 

Inside the spiral-bound planner, you’ll find monthly calendars, weekly calendars, sewing project planning pages, graph paper for quilt designs, a swatch-saver, free-motion quilting practice pages, beautiful and inspiring pull-out artwork, 52 original quilt block designs, AND 8 full quilt patterns, including one from me! (I’ll be blogging more about my pattern that’s included on another day.) All for only $35—an impressive value.

You can learn more about it and pre-order your Quilt Planner right here. I’ve already ordered mine! Be sure to watch Stephanie’s video about the planner at the top of the page—what she says really resonates with me, and I’m sure it will with you too!

Okay, so what are you working on this week? Let’s see it!

LINK-UP RULES:
1. Link up any blog post or Instagram photo from the past week that features an unfinished work-in-progress (WIP).
2. To link an Instagram photo, click the “Add Your Link” button below, then click on the Instagram icon at the bottom of the screen that pops up. You should then be able to select any of your recent Instagram photos. Where it says “Link,” use the URL of your Instagram feed (for example, my URL is www.instagram.com/freshlypieced). Please hashtag your IG post #wipwednesday.
3. If you are linking to a blog post, please link back here to my blog somewhere in your post.

4. Comment on at least a few of the other WIP Wednesday links, either IG or blog—commenting on the two or three links directly before yours works well to make sure everyone gets comments!

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On Quilting “For Keeps”

I have a big pile of quilts that my family uses every day. Sometimes, those quilts are folded in a neat stack next to the couch, but more often they can be found in a crumpled heap, or my kids are dragging them around the house giving their stuffed animals rides on them, or one is crammed underneath the ottoman, or one’s in the washing machine because somebody spilled on it. And I love that: In my opinion, all of the above are what quilts should do. I adore having that pile available for whatever purpose anybody wants them to serve, whether it’s staying warm on a chilly evening or building a fort for the American Girl dolls.

 

Know when the most recent of those quilts was made? 2012.

Because somewhere along the way, I started taking quilts to trunk shows. And sending them off to fabric companies. And sometimes getting them professionally quilted by superstars whose work are true masterpieces, so you certainly don’t want to drag that around on the floor. And people said things like, “That quilt was in a book! Take good care of it—it’s special!”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. Love it. I’m not apologizing for attempting to make money on my quilting, or implying that turning my hobby into a job has taken the passion out of it for me. I still love what I do and feel incredibly lucky to have this dream job, even after spending the last year working a little (okay, a lot) more than I might have liked and feeling plenty burned out after Quilt Market this spring. And I still put my heart and soul into everything I make, even my “working quilts.”

But. There’s just no substitute for making a quilt that you know is going to get loved to death by your family. No substitute for making a quilt that’s going to get super soft and crinkly from a hundred trips through the washing machine. A quilt to sit on while you watch fireworks or have doll tea parties. Isn’t that what makes a quilt truly special, not the fact that it was in a book? Whenever I’m making a quilt, my girls always come to oooh and ahhh over it, and invariably they ask, “Do we get to KEEP this one?” And by that they mean, “Do we get to have this one in the pile in the family room, instead of squirreling it away in a corner of your studio, only to be taken out for trunk shows?”

 

Enter Amy Gibson’s new book, For Keeps: Meaningful Patchwork for Everyday Living.
You probably know Amy from her Craftsy classes or her blog Stitchery Dickory Dock. Her gorgeous new book has reminded me of the importance of taking time out from things that are designed and made strictly for my business, in order to keep making special quilts for the most special people in my life. It’s a tough balance to strike of course, because there are only so many hours in the day, but it’s important, after all!

And what better place to start than that scrap quilt I’ve been itching to make for months?

I was initially thinking of an Irish Chain quilt, but as these little pairs of squares have started coming together, I’m now leaning toward a postage stamp quilt—a postage stamp quilt of 1″ squares, you guys! Just the kind of beautifully torturous project that you want to keep forever and ever and let your family use and abuse. : )
My goal is to use at least a small portion of every single print in my scrap bins. Every one of them! I’m sure some will get culled eventually, but it’s the working goal for now, anyway. I’ve divided my scraps roughly into 8 color families and my goal is to do two colors a week over the next four weeks. The reds are already done, as you can see. : ) Then I’ll lay them out into a big ol’ scrappy rainbow and spend the next decade or so sewing them all together. Good times.

 

While my particular “balance problem” might be unique to bloggers and pattern designers, I think in this day of Pinterest and beautiful photos online, we can all be tempted to get off track and make things for the wrong reasons. Or to believe that everything has to be absolutely perfect in order to be “good enough.” For Keeps hits the reset button on all of that. The projects range from classic quilts to playmats and pocket pillows that hold books—all written with Amy’s trademark sense of humor and illustrated with beautiful photography that reminds you that the simple things in life are often the best. : )

Amy has also created a For Keeps website with lots of fun extras, including a free quilt pattern, and you can even take the For Keeps pledge to sew for all the right reasons! As of this afternoon, 969 people have already taken Amy’s pledge! So I hope you’ll pick up For Keeps—and check back here for progress on my keeper scrap quilt!

 

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BBQ Grill Block from “The Paper-Pieced Home”

Welcome to my stop on “The Paper-Pieced Home” blog tour!

The Paper-Pieced Home
is a new book by the always-amazing Penny Layman of Sew Take a Hike. You guys might be aware by now that I’m kind of a fan of paper-piecing. : ) I’ve even been known to paper-piece half-square triangles and flying geese—that’s how much I love paper-piecing. So this was clearly a book for me.

The blocks in this book are ridiculously cute. Like, insanely so. And Penny’s book is so inspiring when it comes to ways to use these blocks. There are plenty of fun project ideas presented in the book, but I thought of about a dozen more of my own just flipping through the book for the first time. These blocks lend themselves so well to potholders, table runners, bags, placemats, pillows—you name it. Funny, I never realized my home was so lacking in paper-pieced décor until I got my copy of this book! : )

And while the patterns may look a little daunting at first, every time I do a “picture” pattern like this, I’m reminded of the fact that paper-piecing is paper-piecing—it truly doesn’t matter how big or small the seams are. It will turn out perfect, no matter what. Just one of the many things I love about this technique! I made the BBQ Grill block, and as usual, the block was much easier to sew than it looked beforehand.

Cute, right? It was a nice springtime project that makes summer feel a little closer for me. And the whole block took less than an hour to make. I just need to pick up some Insul-Bright so I can turn it into a potholder for my master-griller husband.

Here are some other things I love about this book:
• a CD with all of the paper-piecing patterns (no photocopying!)
• great paper-piecing hints and instructions
• a whole section devoted to choosing colors and prints (a fantastic addition to the book, since I think that’s one of the things Penny does so well)

The Paper-Pieced Home: Quilting a Household One Block at a Time
by Penny Layman
Interweave/F+W, $26.99

Want to see more? Visit the other stops on the “Paper-Pieced Home” blog tour! (Some have giveaways!)

3/16       McCall’s Quilting / Sewing Machine Block
3/17       Love of Quilting / Review
3/17       Sandi Sawa Hazlewood  of Crafty Planner / Watering Can Block
3/18       Quilty Pleasure (Quiltmaker blog) / Review
3/18       Imagine Gnats / Rotary Phone Block
3/20       Verykerryberry / Lion Block
3/21       Artisania / Cast-Iron Skillet Block
3/23       Where the Orchids Grow / Lamp Block
3/24       Katie Blakesley of Swim Bike Quilt / Layer Cake Block
3/24       House on Hill Road / Oven Mitt Block
3/24       Lee Heinrich of Freshly Pieced / BBQ Grill Block
3/26       Pink Penguin / Allie-Gator Block
3/26       A Happy Stitch / Giraffe Block
3/27       Bijou Lovely / Jar Block
3/27       Two Little Banshees / Saucepan Block
3/27       Charise Creates / Espresso Mug Block
3/30       Karen Lewis Textiles / Couch Block
3/31       Poppyprint / Clawfoot Tub Block
3/31       One Shabby Chick / Stack of Books Block
3/31       During Quiet Time / Sleeveless Dress Block
4/06       Pat Sloan The Voice of Quilting / Author Podcast Interview
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My Fire Whirl Quilt in Scraps, Inc.

Looking for a way to use up some scraps? Oh, you are? (How did I know that? LOL.) Well, I’ve got a book for you. : )
It’s called Scraps, Inc., and it’s a beautiful compilation packed with scrappy—and modern—quilts. I’m so thrilled to have a quilt of my own in this incredible volume.
My quilt is called Fire Whirl, and, well, it’s a maelstrom of half-square triangles, is what it is. But what better way to put those scraps to use than HSTs?
Also, I’ve got a super sneaky, Thangles-but-better way for you to make all those HSTs. This slick little method requires no squaring up. Let me repeat: Zero squaring up. Sound good? I hope you love this method as much as I do!

I really, really love this quilt. Scrap quilts are always on my to-do list, and there are several other quilts in this book that are calling my name, including these:

My Favorite Things by Amy Ellis

Overcast by April Rosenthal

Richmond by Sherri McConnell (and I admit I’m a little jealous that my quilt didn’t get to hang on that awesome aqua step ladder thingy!).

Discount: Lucky Spool is kindly offering all of you a discount on Scraps, Inc.! The book is currently on sale right here for 20% off, and you can get an additional 10% off using the code SCRAPS30. Check it out! And maybe pick up a few for Christmas gifts while you’re at it. : )

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Playful Petals Pillow

Some of my favorite quilt books lately are the ones that take a basic concept—like, for example, a simple petal shape—and turn out all of these amazing, innovative, inspiring designs using that concept. That’s why I’m so excited to be part of the Playful Petals
blog tour today!
Playful Petals, by Corey Yoder of Little Miss Shabby, is a perfect example of all the creativity and beauty that can come from something as simple as a petal shape.
When Corey asked me to be a part of the blog tour, I was a little nervous. I’m no appliquér. I’ve done a few small appliqué projects here and there, of course, but it’s hardly my thing. But. Such cute projects! Such an inspiring book! How could I say no?
Fortunately, every single project in Playful Petals has a full-size quilt design and a mini/pillow design. So you always have the option to make something small. As a novice appliquér, I especially love that. Much less intimidating. : ) I made the Daisy Fields pillow from the book. Corey’s use of bright, scrappy prints throughout the book is always inspiring, so of course I had to go in that direction with my version as well.
And you know what? Appliqué is much easier than I remembered it being. I followed Corey’s suggestions in the “Appliqué Basics” chapter of Playful Petals—she gives some excellent tips there. I probably complicated things for myself by deciding I had to blanket-stitch my petals—straight stitch would no doubt have been easier. But with the yarn-dyed linen background, I wanted to do something that complimented a more home-spun look.

Bikes! So cute!
I think my Bernina 750 helped make the appliqué task much easier as well. That machine does some seriously beautiful blanket stitching, despite my minimal expertise. This blanket stitching isn’t perfect, of course, but I think this is my first time attempting it in at least three years, so I’ll take it!
I’m so pleased with my finished Daisy Fields pillow!
Be sure to check out blog posts about Playful Petals from everybody on the hop. The schedule is below:

September 15: Amy @ Stitchery Dickery Dock
September 16: Melissa @ Happy Quilting
September 17: Jessica @ Quilty Habit
September 18: Faith @ Fresh Lemons Quilts
September 19: Amy @ Diary of a Quilter
September 22: Sherri @ A Quilting Life
September 23: Amber @ Gigi’s Thimble
September 24: Lori @ Bee in My Bonnet
September 25: Amanda @ Crazy Mom Quilts
September 26: Lee @ Freshly Pieced – Me!!!
September 27: Corey @ Little Miss Shabby – blog tour wrap-up and giveaway!

Thank you, Corey, for having me on your blog hop today! : )

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Finishing Quilts Faster: My Tips

Hi there, and welcome to my stop on the Fabulously Fast Quilts and Quilting Tips Blog Tour!

Fabulously Fast Quilts is a new book by Amy Smart, the incredibly sweet and talented blogger behind Diary of a Quilter. What a great concept for a book, right? I mean, who wouldn’t love to be able to finish more quilts? Fabulously Fast Quilts is filled not only with ingenious methods for quick quilting, like strip piecing and “stack, slice, and shuffle,” but 12 patterns to make use of all those speedy tricks.

There are so many beautiful patterns in this book, but this one, “Modern Buzz Saw,” is probably my favorite.

“Crossing Guard” is another highlight.

To celebrate the release of Fabulously Fast Quilts, Amy has asked each of us bloggers to share our own favorite time-saving tip. For me, working quickly means making the best possible use of my time. When I get in a groove and I’m flying through some chain piecing or free-motion quilting, I really hate to be interrupted by something like a bobbin running out!

So I love pre-winding my bobbins when I start a project. Especially for quilting, when stopping to wind a bobbin especially feels like a disruption, to stop, pull the whole quilt off my machine, and unthread it so I can wind a bobbin.

Having a bunch of pre-wound bobbins sitting there, ready whenever you are, is a great way to keep your momentum going. And that actually leads right into another tip, which is: Try to stick with the same brand, type, and weight of thread at all times if possible. Using different thread in the bobbin from what you’re using on top can cause tension problems, requiring you to stop and mess with the settings on your machine. Keep your thread consistent to save headaches and time.

You can pick up a copy of Amy’s book right here. And keep following along with the Fabulously Fast Quilts blog tour to read more tips from bloggers, all week long!

Monday April 28 
Sachiko Aldous of Tea Rose Home
April Rosenthal of April Rosenthal
Jennifer Mathis of Ellison Lane

Tuesday April 29
Jen Wilding Cardon of Stitch This! Martingale Blog
Amy Ellis of Amy’s Creative Side
Lori Holt of Bee in my Bonnet

Wednesday April 30 
Faith Jones of Fresh Lemons Quilts
Melissa Mortenson of PolkaDot Chair
Amy Gibson of Stitchery Dickory Dock

Thursday May 1 
Me! Lee Heinrich of Freshly Pieced
Lynne Goldsworthy of Lily’s Quilts
Jeni Baker of In Color Order

Friday May 2 
Katie Blakesley of Swim Bike Quilt
Lindsay Conner of Craft Buds
Sherri McConnell of A Quilting Life

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Quilt Improv Blog Tour and Giveaway

Today I’m so happy to be posting about a book by one of my favorite designers—Quilt Improv: Incredible Quilts from Everyday Inspirations
by Lucie Summers.

Photo from Quilt Improv

First, let me just say that this book has the most stunningly beautiful quilt photography I think I’ve ever seen. It’s worth the price for that alone. I’m a sucker for quilts on a clothesline. : ) And to be honest, I think there are a lot of very generic quilt books on the market right now. Quilt Improv is so not one of them. Not only is the photography beautiful, it’s … so Lu. I love when a quilt book is designed to truly reflect its author’s style!

Photo from Quilt Improv

I also like how this book is structured. The first section features “Building Blocks,” which are 13 different improvisational units that you can use to create your own designs. The second section features quilt patterns using those building blocks. I really love a book that not only gives you patterns, but gives you the means to create your own unique designs, and this book does that as well.

I decided to make one of the building blocks from the book—I picked the “X” block. And wouldn’t you know it, I realized halfway through that I probably chose the least improvisational of all the building blocks. LOL. Well, I pushed myself last weekend at Jacquie’s improvisational slice-and-insert workshop, so I’ll give myself a pass on this one.

It turned out great, although I couldn’t help trying to make seams match up! (Sorry. It’s in my nature.) I had originally planned to make this into a pillow for my daughter, but I ended up liking the finished product so much that I’m thinking it might become a slightly larger quilt, for a different special person. We’ll see!

I highly recommend this beautiful book, especially if you would like to learn more about improvisational piecing, or if you already love improv but need just a little bit of structure and planning in your process.

And the publishers of Quilt Improv have graciously offered me a hard copy of the book to give away. If you’d like to win a copy, just leave a comment here. THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

The book is available on Amazon (of course), as well as at F&W’s Stitch Craft Create store. And if you would like to follow along with the rest of the blog hop (and get more chances to win) click here for the full list. Happy sewing!