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WIP Wednesday: Sewing Summit Prep

It’s been all about prepping for Sewing Summit around here this week. And I’m not even talking about all the work Elizabeth and I have done for the class we’re teaching together!

Soon-to-be lounge pants

I got this adorable flannel for half-off at Joann’s the other day. Can’t wait to make myself some foxy lounge pants in Jana’s class.

Maxi skirt fabric

This charcoal heather knit will soon become a maxi skirt in Leanne Barlow’s class. I’m just glad to finally have this fabric in my hot little hands—I ordered it from Fabric.com on September 21, and they didn’t ship it until yesterday. And that was only after I made a threatening phone call demanding that they overnight it, or else. What is up with them lately??

Curves mini quilt fabric

I picked out this happy stack for the Curves Mini Quilt class with Christina of The Sometimes Crafter. Most of these prints are from Art Gallery’s fun new line, Floressence, paired with a texty background print from Mama Said Sew by Sweetwater.

Shapes and Angles pieces
Last but not least, I can’t wait to learn how to machine-piece hexagons, partial seams, equilateral triangles, and more with my friends Kati and Faith. For their class, I’m using some of the yummy new Kona colors, like Carrot, Citrus, Peapod, and Azalea.

I’m off to Salt Lake City later today, and I’m really looking forward to seeing friends both old and new! So if you’re attending Sewing Summit, I would love for you to introduce yourself. I’ll be hanging out in the sewing room during open sewing time most nights, and I would like nothing better than to see some of your WIPs in person instead of on a computer screen for once! So don’t be shy. 🙂 For those who didn’t get into my Foundation Paper Piecing class with Elizabeth, I’ll be doing a short informal class on foundation piecing in the sewing room on Thursday night at around 10 p.m.—come join in!

And even if you won’t be at Sewing Summit, you can still share. Here are the linky rules:

1. Link up any post from the past week that features at least one unfinished work-in-progress (WIP).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here to my blog. (Or grab my WIP Wednesday button for your sidebar.)
3. Comment on at least a few of the other WIP Wednesday links. Because what fun is a linky party without comments? : )

Can’t wait to see some of you in Salt Lake City! Safe travels!

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Little Patchwork Pillowcase

Zakka Style Sew Along

Welcome to this week’s Zakka Sew Along project: the Little Pocket Pillowcase, designed by Meg Spaeth of elsiemarley.com.

Little Pocket Pillowcase

When Lindsey asked me to be part of the Zakka Along, I basically begged her to let me do this project. It has my kids written all over it—they love cute little animals, and they especially love cute little animals that come with their own homes, beds, and/or carrying cases. So, a cute little animal that can be stowed in its own pocket on a cute little pillow? Three-year-old-girl heaven, I’m telling you.

This project is from the book Zakka Style, compiled by Rashida Coleman-Hale, so you’ll need the book to make it. Lindsey of LR Stitched has spent the last several months running a sew-along of all the projects in the book, and this post is part of that series. Click here to catch up on all the posts.

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This pillowcase might be more involved than the average Zakka Style project because of the diamond patchwork, but even so, most sewists should be able to make it in a solid evening or two. I used Essex Linen in Putty by Robert Kaufman for the body of my pillowcase, winter-white felted wool for the bear, and an assortment of pink and green scraps for the patchwork.

The first thing to tackle: The diamonds, which are used for the patchwork pocket, the bear’s tummy, and the patchwork piping. The book provides a template for cutting out the diamonds, but that is a lot of template cutting. I found it much easier to cut the diamonds from strips. Here’s how I did it:

1. Cut strips 1 9/16″ wide. Yes, that’s a crazy measurement. No, my ruler doesn’t have 1/16″ marks. I just lined it up between the 1/2″ mark and the 5/8″ mark. Trust me, it’ll work. : )

Patchwork Pillow diamonds

2. Line up the 60-degree mark on your ruler with the bottom of the strip and trim off the end of the strip on an angle.

Patchwork Pillow diamonds

3. Measure 1 7/8″ over and cut another angled line using the 60-degree mark on your ruler. Ta-da, you have a correctly-sized diamond.

The most challenging part of this project for me was the piping on the pillowcase—I’ve never made piping before, so this was all new to me. The book says to use 1/4″ piping cord, but that seemed awfully chunky to me for such a little pillow, so I went with 1/8″. Even the 1/8″ cord seems wide to me, but that might be because I have no idea how to make piping, so I didn’t get the fabric casing very tight around the cord. LOL.

Little Pocket Pillowcase

The bear was very easy to make and turned out so cute. You’ll want to have a chopstick on hand for turning and for jamming stuffing into those little legs and ears.

C and Barry

As you can see, my daughter really loves this bear—she named him “Barry.” (Well, I think she meant “Beary,” but we won’t quibble over spelling.) All in all, this was such a great project! And based on my daughter’s very positive feedback, I recommend it as a gift for the little girl (or boy!) in your life. : )

As part of the Zakka Sew Along, I’m giving away some variety packs of lovely Aurifil thread, which you probably already know is the bomb. Three winners will get an Aurifil thread pack, and one lucky winner will get an Aurifil thread pack and an Aurifil color card! Just leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.

And finally, don’t forget to check out Lindsey’s post for her Zakka Along giveaway—this week, it’s a fat-quarter bundle of the Le Femme line by Robert Kaufman. Plus, link up your own Little Patchwork Pillowcase for a chance to win even more prizes. Enjoy your pillowcase!

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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?

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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

Cutting:
– 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.

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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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Chain Reaction Quilt

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Remember my secret project using Thomas Knauer’s beautiful Pear Tree fabric? Well, I can finally reveal the quilt—and I’m so excited to tell you that it’s also my first published quilt pattern, available now in the March/April issue of Quiltmaker magazine! (Edited to add: Chain Reaction is also now available as a stand-alone pattern. Click here to purchase.)

There’s my quilt! And look, there’s me, up in the corner! Coolness!
Would you be surprised to hear that you don’t have to paper-piece this quilt? A few people who have already made the pattern have told me that it’s very easy to piece. It looks more complicated than it is—can’t beat that, right? : ) All you have to do is pick up the March/April issue. I haven’t seen it on newsstands yet, but you can click here to purchase a copy.
And that’s not all: Quiltmaker is making this quilt available as a kit. The kit includes the pattern and all the Pear Tree/Andover fabric you need to make the top and binding—click here to purchase (it’s currently out of stock but I’m sure it will be in soon). Backing is available separately.
Finally, I was excited to learn that the members of Quiltmaker’s Scrap Squad will each be making this pattern using their own scraps, and those versions will be featured on Quiltmaker’s blog over the next two months. The Scrap Squad is a specially-selected panel of Quiltmaker readers who make one pattern from each issue. They can include their own ideas and variations on the pattern, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with mine!

A few more things to note about this quilt: It was beautifully quilted for me by fellow Milwaukee Modern Quilt Guild member Lucinda Fenske, and Thomas Knauer was kind enough to send me the Pear Tree fabric from his own stash when there was no more advance yardage of it to be found. Thank you, Thomas! Go check out his blog to see the fabulous new lines he has in the works, including Flock and Savanna Bop. I think those Flock dot prints will definitely be finding their way into my stash!

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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!