Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Beginners Unite! Choosing Fabrics and Color

For our second stop in the Beginners Unite! A beginner's quilting series, we are going to talk "Choosing fabrics and colors."

I have two previous posts on color here and here. It's a topic that comes up all of the time in quilting, because it's important and because we all question our choices at one time or another, or in my case every time. The color combination you choose can make or break a quilt. We've all done it. Picked out a pattern, picked out fabrics and started on the quilt. Then, we can barely finish it, because though the colors were pretty together in the shop, once cut up and stitched together they've become a whole other monster. So. How do we combat this? I'm no expert (I will show you my most recent fail), but I will share a few tips, and hopefully you will find them useful.

Print size

 When choosing fabrics with large or small prints, keep in mind the size of the pieces you will be cutting. Fabrics will read differently depending on the size of the print. A large print in a small unit could read light or dark, it will depend on where the print falls. I like to take the fabrics I am choosing and frame off the size my unit will be. If you do this, make sure to do this to different areas of the fabric, you won't always get the same value from each piece.


This is an important word in choosing your fabrics. Many of my patterns call for Light, Medium and Dark fabrics, and are even broken down further to Light A, Light B, Medium A, Medium B, etc. It is very important to make sure you are getting these values right, which isn't always easy.

To me this looks medium.

Here it looks light.

 Until I took this picture, I thought the large purple fabric was the lighter.

A fabric next to one fabric looks medium, but next to this one looks dark. How do you choose correctly. From this class I learned to make a chart for all the colors and get their different values.

Another trick I use a lot is to take a picture on my cell phone, and turn it to black and white. Now this piece that I thought was medium, definitely looks light. I highly recommend doing this whenever you are picking out fabrics.


I think we can learn a lot from studying collections that have already been produced. What types of fabrics do they include? Usually there are a few large prints and then some smaller prints, maybe some stripes and/or dots. There are multiple color options in each collection, and there are usually some value options as well. Mixing up your print selection can be a good thing, but again, pay attention to the size and the value of each piece you choose. You don't have to have a solid for each quilt either, some of those small prints read as a solid when placed next to others.


Have you ever noticed the little dots along the selvage of your fabric? Those little dots contain each color and value in the fabric piece. This is so handy for shopping! Use those pieces to help choose more fabrics. You can use the whole piece of fabric, but many times our eyes don't see that little bit of blue in the middle of the flower, or how the molted red gives us a beautiful shade of brick red.

I love these little flowers.

My Frayed Edges OOPS!

Here are a couple of not-so-great fabric choices I made when picking fabrics for the cover of my Frayed Edges pattern.

Now, I'm from Minnesota, so Go Gophs! However, this might have been too Golden Gopher-y for me. I loved these colors in the shop, I was thinking fall color, but once I started piecing then together, it was no longer love. In face, it's still sitting in pieces in a tub in my sewing room.

The sad part is, I made all of the half square triangles first and didn't realize until I started making the squares that I didn't like what was happening. Lots and lots of half square triangles.

The good part? I ended up with this beautiful blue and white thing of beauty.

In this version, I have this awesome green. Love this green, but can you imagine this with eight more blocks? Blindingly beautiful, and not necessarily in a good way. I think I will finish this one as a pillow.

The red was a little calmer, still a little busy in my mind, but better.

Do you have any tips to share, please add them in the comments! What about a color catastrophe? I think it's good for others to see, we all have one once in a while. :)

Happy Stitching!

1) Intro - May 2 
2) Quilting supplies ~ What makes the process easier - May 9
2a) Side Trip ~ Maintenance - May 11
3) Choosing fabric and color - You are here  
4) Accurate cutting - May 23
5) That crazy scant 1/4 inch seam allowance - May 30
6) Sewing strips and squares - June 6
7) HST - Half Square Triangles (My one true love) - June 13
8) Flying Geese - June 20
9) Sewing Strips - June 27
10) What about those blocks that are just a tad off? - July 4
11) Is there a trick to keeping those points? - July 11
12) Sandwich that top - July 18
13) Quilting and squaring up - July 25
14) Binding - August 1

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Beginners Unite! Side Trip ~ Maintenance

Let's take a side trip, shall we? 

As I started to talk about the rotary cutters in this post, I began to talk about how to change the blade. However, I was trying not to stray off on tangents like that. Instead I think we will do some Side Trips during this series to delve a little deeper into portions of the topic. I don't know that it will happen every week, but we will see. This one will be devoted to the maintenance of our supplies. 

Self healing mat

There are many different opinions about cleaning/hydrating/caring for your self healing mat. Here is a link to videos of what OLFA says about the care and use of their mats.

Rotary Cutters

I find it very easy to get my pieces all messed up when taking my rotary cutter apart to replace the blade. Here's my trick: 

As I remove each piece, starting with the nut, I place the part that faces the blade face down on my mat. (I've photographed it on the white background to make it easy to see, but I always do this on my cleared cutting mat.) The bolt and blade I place to the left of the rotary cutter, with the side that faces the blade up.

Make sure you check the new blade that you are using just one, they can stick together from the oil that is on them. I've had this happen before and the fabric seems to just shred as you cut, so if you are having that kind of issue, check your blade.

I keep an empty blade container marked USED to put my old blades in. When it is full I tape it shut really well and then toss. However, someone brought up getting a Sharps container, available at the pharmacy, and I think I will pick one of those up. I will still keep them in the old container, but then put that container in the Sharps container. (I need a new word for container, yikes.)


This is a tricky subject. You will most likely get different answers from almost everyone. Some will go by how many hours of sewing you have done, some say every project. I don't know if there is a right or wrong answer to this, but here are some signs that you need to change your needle. If you hear "thudding" every time your needle enters the fabric, if you are getting skipped stitches, if you are getting knots and/or bunches of thread, or your top thread is shredding and/or breaking, these are sure signs your needle is dull or has a burr somewhere.

I know I don't change my needle as often as some probably think I should, but I tend to change the needle when I clean the machine, which is usually twice a week. 

A note about replacing your needles. When you replace your needle, make sure the flat side of the shaft is facing the back of the sewing machine, or away from you. If you are struggling with stitches, it never hurts to double check that you put your needle in correctly. As mentioned in the Quilting Supplies post, I put my old needles in an old prescription bottle marked Sharp. 


Having your machine professionally cleaned is a good idea. Especially if you use it a lot. However there are a few things you can do on your own to help it run  smoothly. Rule one though, is don't use canned air. The moisture can mess with your machine. They do have parts you can attach to your vacuum that are small enough to get in and suck out the fuzz.

These are my favorite, go to every time tools. A pipe cleaner and a tweezers. My experience is only with my Husqvarna Lily 555, but I will share what I do. 

Take off your throat plate and bobbin case, as well as the needle and presser foot. Using your pipe cleaner do a quick swipe of the bobbin case and gather up all the little fuzzies. I like to turn my bobbin case all the way around and dig out extra fuzz from there, the tweezers comes in handy here. 

That's it. I replace everything, making sure the flat part of the needle shaft is facing away from me, and continue on my merry sewing way.

Do you have other maintenance tips? Please share in the comments. Did I miss something you would like me to talk about? Ask in the comments or send me a direct email

Happy Stitching!

We get back on track next week Tuesday. Here's the schedule:

1) Intro  - May 2 
2) Quilting supplies ~ What makes the process easier - May 9
2a) Side Trip ~ Maintenance - You are here
3) Choosing fabric and color - May 16
4) Accurate cutting - May 23
5) That crazy scant 1/4 inch seam allowance - May 30
6) Sewing strips and squares - June 6
7) HST - Half Square Triangles (My one true love) - June 13
8) Flying Geese - June 20
9) Sewing Strips - June 27
10) What about those blocks that are just a tad off? - July 4
11) Is there a trick to keeping those points? - July 11
12) Sandwich that top - July 18
13) Quilting and squaring up - July 25
14) Binding - August 1

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Beginners Unite! Quilting Supplies

Let's get this party started! First up in the Beginners Unite! A beginner's quilting series, is "Quilting Supplies - what makes the process easier."

I'm going to try and link up the supplies I use, just a reminder that there is no affiliation to any of these and while most of the links will go to Amazon, please support your local quilt shop as much as possible. 

This is what I use and what I know works. There are a lot of gadgets out there, so experienced quilters, please share your must haves in the comments.

Prep and cutting supplies first. You've chosen your pattern and your fabrics, it's time to start! I always get so excited to start a new pattern. I love those first cuts when the fabric is straight and perfect... and I haven't messed it up with my stitching. 


I like to use baggies or paper plates (usually paper plate, but they didn't really work with the white background) to keep my pieces organized. I don't know about you, but I get distracted easily (kids, cats, dog, husband, sleep) and I need to keep it all marked and organized.


Best Press Spray Starch is my go to. There are recipes out there to make your own and there are cheaper versions, too. However, for me, it's worth it to just go buy it and use it. It's quicker, and that makes it worth it. I use it on every piece of fabric and I do feel it makes a difference in my accuracy.
** A note about the scented options: I am very sensitive to aromas and have found the best option for me is the Unscented Best Press. If you are sensitive like I am you might want to keep that in mind.


I have a couple of rotary cutters. 1) I lose misplace them momentarily (see list of distractions under organization). 2) I'm a lazy quilter. The longer I can put off changing to a new blade the happier I am. A sharp blade in your rotary cutter makes your life so much easier, though, so when you start needing to go over the cut twice, do yourself a favor and change the blade. 
 3) I like that smaller size for cutting patterns out, like the stockings I made last year or some clothing pieces.

A self healing mat is pretty much essential when using rotary cutters. I currently have a large mat, but you can make a small one work, too. 

I really like Creative Grids rulers. They don't slip and they are easy to read. There are different brands of rulers and rotary cutters. I think it's perfectly fine to use what you like and what you can afford. However, it is important to use the same brand ruler. It effects the accuracy of your pieces.

If I am cutting a lot of the same strips (something like forty 2 1/2" x width of fabric) I will mark the 2 1/2" line on the ruler with some tape. I don't tape over the line, but next to it, to bring my eye to it and make sure I'm using the right measurement.


Once you start this awesome craft, you will be told to mark something. Usually it's the diagonal on the back of a cut pieces. I prefer mechanical pencils. The line is easy to see and nice and thin. I think a thicker line messes with the seam allowance. In the case of having to mark something on dark fabric, I currently use a chalk line, simply because it's what I was told to use back when I first started. I keep thinking I need to look into something that will give me a thinner line, but this works just fine.

It's important to get to know your machine, whether it has all the bells and whistles, or is a good ol fashioned workhorse. When you know how it runs, what thread it likes (some are picky, who knew) and how fast you can accurately sew, you will enjoy the experience more. *Side note* Slow down! My machine has 3 speeds, though I can also slow down with the amount of pressure I put on the foot, but I always have it at the medium speed. 


Good needles are a must. There are choices, of course. I started using Universal and have recently switched to Quilting. In all honesty, I don't notice a difference, unless I am working with batiks, then you want a finer needle. I usually do 70/10 for batiks. The larger number is the European size, the smaller is American.


You will want to have a scissors next to your machine. For some reason I put the picture of my little one in the photo with the quilting/basting items.  Apparently I got distracted. A regular scissors is fine, but when you are able to get a smaller one, you will enjoy how much easier it is to use around the sewing machine.

One thing I don't have, but really want to try is the Gypsy Cutting Gizmo. I've heard good things about this little tool, and because I am a fan of chain piecing I really should try it.


Pins are one of the most important tools I use. Many don't like to pin, some like the clips. When I am piecing though, I prefer pins to keep my pieces together and for accurate stitching and seams. The sharper the better.

See that prescription bottle marked SHARP? That is where I put any bent/broken/old needs and pins.

Presser foot

If you have a 1/4" foot, use it. If not, there are many tutorials out there to help you find an accurate 1/4" seam allowance. This is so important in your piecing. It is worth the time it takes to figure it out. Then, mark it. Use tape, use a marker, whatever it is, mark it. Eventually you will know exactly where the fabric needs to line up, but to start with, to keep the frustration level down, mark it. 


Thread could probably use it's own post. Just like the "wash or don't wash fabric" question, the thread question can bring strong opinions. I use Gutermann for piecing and quilting. Simply because that is what my local quilt shop (LQS) has on hand and I want to support them as much as possible. 

My go to piecing color is grey. It shows up on light fabrics and dark fabrics for easy ripping should I make a mistake (which I do fairly often), but is a neutral enough color that it blends well with them, too. When quilting or appliqueing, I tend to match the color of the thread with the colors of the fabric, because I am not very proficient at either, and matching hides that... to a point. This is another reason I use what my LQS has on hand, because I can match it easily. 

For piecing I use polyester, for quilting/appliqueing I use either polyester or cotton, it depends on which one has the color I need. I have not found that either is better or worse than the other.


I love Bobbin Buddies for keeping my bobbins with their matching thread spool. I think it's important for two reasons. 1) Sometimes colors are close and I like my colors to match, not be close. I'm anal that way. 2) I use both cotton and polyester and I want to make sure I'm not mixing those up. I don't have any reason, it's just what I do.

To keep those bobbins from unraveling, I like the Tulip Bobbin Clamps. I use them for the bobbins that go on spools, as well as the bobbins I wind for piecing. Since I piece everything with the same color I can wind a bunch of bobbins and not have to stop to wind a bobbin all the time. I usually wind 8 bobbins, secure them with the Tulip Bobbin Clamps and stitch away. 

I love a good thread catcher, you can see the one I made here. Having something to put my threads and little pieces in, right next to my sewing machine, is handy and keeps my sewing area clear for creating.

I swear I had a picture of my seam rippers. Yes, that is plural. You will find they tend to run away right when you need them. I have a Clover brand and a Seam Fix. You will eventually have to replace your seam ripper, as they do dull over time. To remove those little threads left after ripping use an eraser or the rubber end on the Seam Fix.

Time for basting, quilting and binding. You're almost there! P.S. However long you think a project will take you, double it. It always takes longer than planned. Always.


If you are quilting your own top you will need to baste it to the batting and quilt back. You can use pins or basting spray. I am not a fan of the spray, that's just personal, but I know others love it. I use pins, and you definitely want the curved quilting pins. I also highly recommend the Kwik Klip when using pins. It saves your fingers/nails and makes the work go quickly.


When you are ready to quilt, you are going to want a pair of quilting gloves. There are many out there, and I have some that are made for quilting, but then I also use the pink ones pictured. They are simple gardening gloves with rubber fingers. 

I use either my walking foot (pictured) or a free motion quilting foot to quilt my pieces. When quilting, slower is better, but we'll touch on that more in another post. 


I hand bind, meaning I sew the binding to the front of the quilt by machine, then flip and hand stitch the binding to the back. I struggle with machine binding, so when we reach this subject I will be showing you how to hand bind.

A good, sharp needle is important for this part as well as a thimble. I use a metal thimble, but there are many different thimbles out there, and there are different sizes, so take some time to look into them. I have multiples, one that sits with my machine's presser feet and one that is in my take along. 

Whew! That is a lot of information!!  Please ask questions if you have them, please share your favorites if you didn't see it here. 

Happy Stitching!

Up next: Choosing fabrics and color (this has been added to the original plan).

1) Intro - May 2 
2) Quilting supplies ~ What makes the process easier - (You are here)
2a) Side Trip ~ Maintenance - May 11
3) Choosing fabrics and color - May 16
4) Accurate cutting - May 23
5) That crazy scant 1/4 inch seam allowance - May 30
6) Sewing strips and squares - June 6
7) HST - Half Square Triangles (My one true love) - June 13
8) Flying Geese - June 20
9) Sewing Strips - June 27
10) What about those blocks that are just a tad off? - July 4
11) Is there a trick to keeping those points? - July 11
12) Sandwich that top - July 18
13) Quilting and squaring up - July 25
14) Binding - August 1

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks: Vol 15 Blog Tour

Welcome Blog Tour followers to my little space on the world wide web! I am so excited to introduce you to my first Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks entry: Jubilee.

Here's a quick mock up. I love a block that becomes something more when put into a quilt.

Jubilee is made out of my favorite quilting unit: the good ol" half square triangle. I want to share the only way I make HST. I know there are so many ways you can do them, but this is the only one I have found where I can do them perfectly. While I'm not big on perfectionism, a HST done right, has no boundaries.

To start with I cut my squares a full inch larger that the finished size I want. There is some waste with this method, but not much. In this quick tutorial I am making 5" finished size HST, so I cut my squares at 6".

I draw one line on the diagonal with a mechanical pencil.

When I stitch, I put my 1/4" foot just a bit over the line. This gives me a nice scant 1/4" seam allowance.

Then I turn it and do the same with the next seam. HST are great for chain piecing, you can make quite a few in just a little time.

A quick cut on the drawn line and a press towards the dark side (dang, if only this post went live on the forth) and you have two HST ready for trimming.

There are many rulers out there for trimming HST, but I am just going to use my run of the mill 6 1/2" square Omnigrid (no affiliation). Since I am going for a 5" finished size, I am going to trim these to 5 1/2". Line up your 45° angle on the ruler with your diagonal sewn line as close to the edge as possible. You want to take the smallest cut.

Rotate your HST and now line up the 45° angle with the diagonal, as well as the 5 1/2" mark on the outside. Trim.

You have the perfect HST. Now it's time to play. Putting four of these together will give you a 10" block, which is a nice size to work with. 

The traditional pinwheel block. I do love a good pinwheel.  Here are a few others.

I could play for hours.

There you are. One way to make a perfect half square triangle. Now on to the good stuff. Prizes! I have two giveaways today. 

The first is a copy of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks Vol 15 along with Pinwheel Pizzazz PBJ 101. Look at those lovely HST! Check out the Flashback Friday post bringing Pinwheel Pizzazz into the more modern age.

The second is a copy of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks Vol 15 with Spinning Bow Ties PBJ - 102. Look at those beautiful *larger* HST! Here is the Flashback Friday's new Spinning Bow Ties, made modern. 

How do you win? Just leave a comment! I will choose two random winners. If you need help with a comment, share your favorite quilting unit. **If you are a "no reply" please leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. It's so sad when that happens.

First winner is Danette!

The second winner is Diantha!

The winners have been emailed. Congratulations!

While you are here you might like to check out the new Beginners Unite! A beginner's quilting series that is just starting out. 

Thank you for stopping by, enjoy the tour!

Happy Stitching!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Beginners Unite! A beginner's quilting series.

How's that for a title? So much better than "Quilter's 101" or "How to Quilt", which are both fine titles, except... it's spring and the last thing I want to do is feel like I'm in a classroom. (My apologies to my children and teacher husband, currently in classrooms.)

A few weeks ago some fellow designers were helping me "find myself." Who am I as a designer, where is my heart? All along my heart has desired to bring new quilters to this wonderful craft. So here we are, at the very beginning. 

A few things before we kick this off.

1) I am human. ;)

2) This is just how I do things. I don't turn my quilts in to be judged at shows, I make them to make me happy.

3) It is not "my way or the highway" here. It is "this is my way, use it if you will, but find your way and do that."

4) I am still learning new things. It's a great big quilting world out there, never stop learning!

5) There are no affiliations here. What I use is what I love, and I'm just sharing them with you. Find and use what you love.

6) Please feel free to share your tips for each section in the comments. This is about growing as quilters.

7) I am human. Yep, I said it before, but as I go forward with this, I may or may not be able to keep this to a once a week series for the next few weeks. That whole "never stop learning" thing goes for blogging, too. I am definitely at the beginning of that mountain. Plus, there is a rumor going around that I have an 18 year old set to graduate this spring. I don't know, I tend to ignore those nasty rumors.


 I think every Tuesday will be the goal. Here is the planned list of topics, but if I think of others as I go, they will be added as well.

1) Intro ~ you are here - May 2 (That's today, whoo hoo!)
4) Accurate cutting - May 23
5) That crazy scant 1/4 inch seam allowance - May 30
6) Sewing strips and squares - June 6
7) HST - Half Square Triangles (My one true love) - June 13
8) Flying Geese - June 20
9) Sewing Strips - June 27
10) What about those blocks that are just a tad off? - July 4
11) Is there a trick to keeping those points? - July 11
12) Sandwich that top - July 18
13) Quilting and squaring up - July 25
14) Binding - August 1

See something I missed? Leave a suggestion in the comments! I'm so excited to get started with this. Send those new quilters over and lets help them find a love of this amazing thing we call quilting!

It all begins Tuesday, May 9th!

Happy Stitching!

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Muggamo

For May's Muggamo pattern I had to use the Bee Inspired line by Deb Strain for Moda.

Download the pattern here.


1) One 13 1/2" x 1" strip
2) One 15 1/2" x 1 1/2" strip
a. Sub-cut into six 2 1/2" x 1 1/2" units
3) One 6 1/2" x 1 1/2" strip
4) One 3 1/4" square

1)One 13 1/2" x 1" strip
2) One 6 1/2" x 1 1/2" strip
3) One 5 1/2" x 1 1/2"
a. Sub-cut into two 2 1/2" x 1 1/2" units
4) One 3 1/4" square

1) One 13 1/2" x 1" strip
2) One 12 1/2" x 1 1/2" strip 
a. Sub-cut into eight 1 1/2" squares
3) One 10 1/2" x 1 1/2" strip
a. Sub-cut into four 2 1/2" x 1 1/2"

Bee-utiful! I love when the selvage is just as pretty as the fabric. 

Draw a line on the diagonal on the back side of the gold square and each of the white squares.

Using the black square and the gold, place them right sides together and stitch a scant 1/4" on either side.

I sew so the 1/4" foot is just a tish over the drawn line.

Cut on the line and press towards the black.

Next, draw a line on the wrong side of one of the half square triangles, perpendicular to the seam.

Place your squares right sides together, opposite colors together. Squares in picture are offset to show how fabrics should align. The seams should nest together.

Again, stitch on either side of the drawn line. Cut on the drawn line. You will get two hour glass blocks, which I forgot to take a picture of. I have to forget at least one picture per tutorial. It's just the way I roll. 

Line up a square on the black units and four of the gold. Stitch on the line. Press towards the white. 

Trim off the excess.

Lay another square on the other end of each unit, stitch on the line.

Press and trim as above. Guess what? I forgot those pictures as well. Then as I was getting ready to write the next set of instructions, I realized I forgot all of those. Maybe by Dec the "I forgot to take..." line will not have to be typed. One can hope. 
**NOTE** The instructions for the corner blocks are included in the PDF download above.

Once you've sewn your corner units and Flying Geese units, lay our your pieces.

Sew your rows together.

Stitch your side piece, sub-cut into two pieces and sew back together as shown.

Add your side piece.

Layer your mug rug. Those leftover scraps of batting from the longarmer are perfect for this.  Using your walking foot, stitch in the ditch.  

Bind. Grab a treat and a drink and enjoy.

I love when the back is just as pretty as the front. I do muslin backs as well, but this was too pretty not to use.

Happy Stitching!

Link up throughout the month of May!