If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably very much like me in that you’re obsessed with quilting (and fabric). We all want to sew as much as possible and actually finish projects. I have some big things going on in 2014 that will limit my personal sewing time to a degree, but I still want to make time for some just-for-fun projects.

My solution? Table Top Sewing. I changed things around a bit in my sewing space (tour to come soon) so I now have a lot more surface space. That means more room for stacks of fabric and papers and notions and other random junk, right? NO! I’ve set up five baskets on my table tops with sewing projects mostly ready to sew.

Table Top Sewing

Top Center: Mini quilts. Currently working on Camille Roskelley’s Mini Puddle Jumping quilt

Bottom Left:  Scrappy 4-patches. All scraps!

Bottom Right: Economy/Square in Square Blocks with my Munki Munki stash

Table Top Sewing

Left: APQ Quilt-along Tone It Down quilt (still need to finish cutting this one out)

Right: Scrappy Trip Around the World blocks. Lots of them.

How is this different from what I used to do? Most of my WIPs are in bins in a closet and out of sight is out of mind. I pulled several projects that lend themselves to being sewn in short stints (i.e. nothing with complicated instructions or fabric placement that needs a design wall, etc.). My thinking is that I can sew one or two blocks from a basket each time I go in my space (whether its to work or to sew) and I”ll slowly whittle down each project.

Since there are likely going to be large gaps of time in between when I work on these projects, I’ve made a check list to help me keep track of where I am. This is a good habit to start for any sewing project you’re working! I usually make a post-it or keep track on the pattern page – never quite as formal as the this:


I am a super nerd for organization though….

RESOURCES: Mint berry basket {World Market}, Bird tray {IKEA}, Teal baskets {Target}, white bins {IKEA}

Aspen Frost Improv Circles

I made this quilt as a sample for a demo I did at QuiltCon in February 2013. Yes, it has taken me almost a year to photograph and blog about it! I was kinda busy last year.

The binding is Pezzy Prints (goes with everything!) by American Jane and I quilted it with a free motion Christmas tree design that I just made up. It does require you to be able to quilt the design upside-down, as well. I’m sure there are better digitized Christmas tree quilting patterns out there, but I couldn’t find any for domestic sewing machines (i.e. free hand!).

Aspen Frost Improv Circles

This quilt may look tricky with the improvisational curves but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of the technique. It used 90% of a layer cake plus about a yard of coordinating solids for the quilt top.  This was the first-ever Christmas quilt I made. My son was about 14 months old when I was working on it and he was obsessed with the snowman print. The fabric line is Aspen Frost by Basic Grey – a good modern Christmas line that you can probably still find in stores.

Dimensions: 51″ x  60″

Fabrics: Aspen Frost by Basic Grey,  Pezzy Prints by American Jane, and Bella Solids by Moda Fabrics

Pattern: Original design by Lisa Calle {free tutorial on the Moda Bake Shop}

Quilting Thread:  Aurifil #2600, 50 wt cotton mako

Quilting Design: free hand Christmas trees

Started: February 2013

Completed: February 2013

A couple of weeks ago I whipped up a Christmas version of Camille Roskelley’s cute new Puddle Jumping pattern. The whole time I was making it, I pictured snowflakes as the quilting. I got busy and didn’t get around to basting it until this weekend and then I jumped right in with the quilting.

Quilting Snowflakes

I came up with a simple snowflake design and used a quarter, jar lid, and a ruler to mark it on the quilt. It’s not fast quilting but it’s not dense so I can easily do a couple of blocks in one sitting. But now I’m second guessing myself. Can you even tell it’s a snowflake? Is it worth it to do such an intricate design when I could have finished the whole top in stipples in just a few hours?

Quilting Snowflakes

Quilting Snowflakes

You can see the quilting a little better on the back:

Quilting Snowflakes

Quilting Snowflakes

Should I continue with the snowflakes or tear it out and do something simpler?

A Tied Quilt

This quilt is the perfect example of how to get WIPs finished. It languished in a box for nearly a year until I took it on retreat in the spring. My goal was to create a couple of intricate borders to make it larger but I decided it wasn’t worth so much extra effort for something that was cute as is. I even skipped the batting and basting, opting instead for a simple turned edge with rounded corners. Lesson learned: instead of always trying to make something unique, just finish it!

A Tied Quilt

It’s the perfect size for a stroller quilt, which is something we need now that fall is finally (kinda sorta) here (it was in the 90s all week). It  will be nice to have on trips to the Arboretum later in the fall.

The pieced blocks are disappearing nine-patches made from one charm pack (minus all of the pink prints in the line). I mixed in patches of solids – crossweaves, shot cotton, and a white swiss dot – to add texture. There’s no rhyme or reason to the layout since I had odd numbers of things.

Now I’m the first to admit that I never thought I’d make a tied quilt. But this one just seemed to need something extra. I had two skeins of vintage wool in my crewel stash that were pretty close to a perfect match. The ties are more like tassels than a traditional tied quilt.

A Tied Quilt

Something this simple and this small would be a perfect baby gift. Instead of doing such long ties on the quilt top, I’d probably do just French knots and then make tassels to go all around the quilt edge. Next time!

Dimensions:  33″ x  39″

Fabrics: Lucy’s Crab Shack by Sweetwater, Crossweaves by Moda Fabrics, shot cotton by Kaffe Fassett, swiss dot from Michael Miller, flannel backing from JoAnn’s.

Pattern: Disappearing 9-patch with plain blocks

Quilting Design: Tied with wool thread

Quilting Thread:  Aurifil 2600 for top-stitching

Started: May 2012

Completed: September 2013

Mod Circus Quilt

This quilt is so bright and fun! It combines two fabric lines from Moda – Apple Jack by Tim and Beck and Mod Century by Jenn Ski.  The fabric lines are stylistically very different – Mod Century is a stylish 1960s mod look and and Apple Jack is a boy-friendly kids line – but they just play so nicely together.

Mod Circus Quilt

Nothing special happening with the piecing here – just rows of charm squares sewn together in random fashion. This was a project I started on one of those afternoons when I just wanted to sew something mindless while listening to Janet Evanovich books from Audible.  (The first 10 or 12 Stephanie Plum books are entertaining but they really go downhill after a while.)

The quilting is the star of this quilt. It’s an orange peel design.

Mod Circus Quilt

I started off quilting this by traveling around each charm but I soon realized that its quicker to move in columns up and down. Then turn the quilt on its side on go the other way to fill in.

Mod Circus Quilt

I quilted this in just a few hours. No marking, no templates…lots of imperfections but hey, it looks awesome anyway! My circles aren’t perfect but I actually like the loose organic nature of them. I will most definitely be using this quilting design again on some other charm quilts I have in the works.

Mod Circus Quilt

(P.S. This is finished quilt number 12 for the year!)

Dimensions: 59″ x  64″

Fabrics: Mod Century by Jenn Ski for by Moda Fabrics, Apple Jack by Tim and Beck for Moda Fabrics. Backing is Castle Peeps by Lizzy House for Andover. Binding is Apple Jack from Moda Fabrics.

Quilting Thread:  Aurifil Cotton Mako 50 wt 4657 (variegated)

Started: February 2013

Completed: July 2013

There are so many fun things on my schedule throughout the fall and I’m even starting to schedule things into the first quarter of next year! I really can’t believe how many opportunities have come my way in the past almost two years since I said adios to my technical writing job (and hello, baby + diapers + sleepless nights, let’s not forget that part. Although now that he’s coming up on two, diapers and sleepless nights are a thing of the past, thankfully.)

I’m going to add a page here on the blog about upcoming speaking gigs and workshops (also if your guild or shop is looking for a trunk show, lecture, or workshop, email me at vintagemodernquilts{at}yahoo.com). I could just be popping up in a town near you and I’d love to meet you in person! 🙂

As for local classes, I’ve got a bunch of fun stuff on the schedule

Here’s what I will be teaching  in the coming months:

lori's quilt - the back

Boho Patchwork {this one has been super popular. You’ll finish or at least get very close to a completed quilt top in six hours. The technique is easy for even a new quilter to master}. Next session is August 11 from 10 am to 3 pm.

Classmate | Front

The Classmate by Terry Atkinson. This project bag is super fun to make. Normally I find bag-making to be tedious but this pattern is so clever and the resulting bag looks so professional that I LOVED making it. I petted and stared at my finished bag for, like, days after I made it. No shame here. You will learn how to make bias binding, how to sew a zipper, how to work with vinyl, and how to incorporate bag hardware.

Stars and 4-Patches

Stars and 4-Patches. This quilts has been super popular on my blog and it’s one of my favorite quilts  of 2013 so I’m definitely looking forward to teaching it. Lots of technique here: color theory, precision cutting, strip piecing,  half-square triangles AND quarter-square triangles.

Date Night with My Machine. This will be on on-going series to let you get touchy feely with your sewing machine. You’ll learn to clean it, trouble-shoot common problems, and how to use those feet! It’s an hour and a half class perfect for those of you whose machines have been gathering dust in a closet for a few years or for the ones who bought your machine on the internet and never learned this stuff. Now is the time.

I Made a Quilt Top: Now What?. You’ve made that first quilt top but what are the next steps to get it to sofa snuggle time? We’ll go over batting, basting, making a backing, binding, and basic quilting. This 3-hour series is a must-take for new quilters. We’ll add a special session every few months to teach some extra finishing techniques like scalloped edges and more advanced quilting.

There are a couple more classes that I am working on samples for so I’ll share the details as I get those wrapped up. You may not see some of the ones listed above on the schedule yet, but check back soon.


Boho Patchwork Quilt

I love the look of bold and simple patchwork. It lets the fabric be the star (and it’s an awesome stash busting exercise!).

This baby version is the same look but on a smaller scale:

Gypsy Baby Quilt

I’ve developed a simple method for doing this kind of patchwork. It works for large projects and for small ones like the above baby quilt and even pillows. I used to sell lots of these boho patchwork pillows in my craft show days.

I’m teaching a class on my method. It’s a two-part series with six total hours of instruction and you should walk away with pretty close to a finished quilt top. The next session starts Wednesday, July 24 and wraps up July 31.  Check out the details and sign up {here}.


This  post is part of my Learn to Quilt series. You can find all related posts {here}.

Quilting is the step where your pieced quilt top turns from fabric into a textile. It really is transformed by the quilting. Quilting adds texture and dimension. It can take a plain or simple quilt and elevate it to a work of art.  Sometimes you will want to quilting to stand out and add a layer of pattern to the patchwork and sometimes you’ll want it to fade away and let your piecing be the star.

Today we’ll go over the various methods of quilting.


Tying quilts is how most beginners seem to start out and the method has kind of a bad name. Most tied quilts I’ve seen tend to be loose, floppy, wrinkled, and are….well, sorta sad looking. The method involves pulling short lengths of yarn through your quilt sandwich at various intervals and tying them in knots. You leave about 2 inches of yarn showing above the knot.

The Purl Bee has a stylish tied quilt {here} and they share a thorough tutorial. I think the key to pulling off a tied quilt is simple piecing and a limited color palette. Try to aim for homespun charm and you just might pull of something boutique-worthy.


For hand quilting, you are going to want to thread baste your quilt sandwich. You’ll need a quilting hoop or a Q-Snap frame. The Amish have the market cornered on amazing hand quilting and they have pretty specific standards:

They use needles called “sharps” or “betweens”  which are both about 1 1/2 inches long (and pretty thin).  The Amish gold standard is 10 stitches per inch. Hand quilting takes practice so start with a small project like a mini or a pillow.

For a different look, try hand quilting with Perle cotton. It’s much heavier than regular quilting thread and makes the stitches stand out. My color pop pillow was hand quilted with Finca Perle cotton,


Tips for hand quilting:

  • Master the quilter’s knot
  • To start quilting, hide your knot at the edge of the quilt in between the layers or bury it in the quilt sandwich. To bury a knot, insert the needle in the quilt top only and pull through (just the needle. Then take a stitch through all three layers. As you’re pulling the thread through the fabric, gently pull the knot through the quilt top so it’s buried between the layers. Do this every time you end and start a new length of thread.


Quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) methods mean you get to skip basting! I just posted about a Crafty class I took about QAYG patchwork bags. That class demonstrates the basic method. Once you make a set of QAYG blocks, there are several methods for joining them to make a completed quilt.

The beautiful and impressive Cathedral Windows blocks are QAYG and you can piece/quilt them by hand or machine, Here’s a little Cathedral Windows sampler I made several years ago:

Cathedral window quilt sampler

(I am teaching this class at Urban Spools.)

Rag quilts are another QAYG method.

Brick Pattern Rag Quilt

(see my rag quilt tutorial here)


Machine quilting is the method you are most likely to tackle so we’ll spend the most time on this topic today. You can quilt on any machine but there are a couple of feet that make it simpler: a walking foot for straight-line quilting and a darning foot for free motion quilting, Both of these feet are machine specific so check your manual for the right one.

Straight-Line Quilting

You’ll need a well-basted quilt for straight-line quilting. When I know the plan is straight-line quilting. I’m more deliberate with the placement and direction of my safety pins while basting. Think about how you’ll move the quilt under the needle and where your stitches will go. It’s nice if you can plan your quilting to fall between the rows of safety pins.

Here is your basic walking foot:

It’s wider than a standard foot and it basically acts as a second set of feed dogs, helping move the fabric along. It’s great for quilting but you’ll also use it when sewing through heavy fabrics or multiple layers so it’s a good investment.

sneak peek

Tips for straight-line quilting:

  • Mark your quilt top before basting – use masking tape as a guide or use traditional marking like Pounce Pad with chalk. I’ve had issues with chalk not washing out so read online reviews before you start marking.
  • Start from one edge of the quilt and go down the middle. Alternate quilting on each side of your first line, using your hands to spread out any fullness.
  • Straight-line quilting is much less forgiving of fullness in your quilt top so piece accurately.
  • For your first quilt, quilt only in one direction. Lumps are more obvious when you go both ways.
  • Start with a widely spaced design and fill in if desired. It’s easier to add quilting than to start with a close design and never finish because you get bored or burned out.

Free-Motion Quilting

Lower your feed dogs and put on a darning foot cause it’s time to free motion! The design possibilities of free motion quilting are endless. Leah Day has a huge amount of info and tutorials for free motion quilting on a domestic machine (versus a long arm). I recommend you start with her website, exploring the basics. There are a couple tools that I recommend for free motion quilting: Machingers gloves and a Supreme Slider . The gloves help you grip the quilt and really will make a difference in tension in your shoulders. The Machingers brand is the third one I’ve tried and it’s the best for grippiness and keeping your hands from getting too hot.

There is absolutely no substitution for the Supreme Slider. It helps your quilt glide over the sewing surface, making your stitches more even and your curves curvier. It’s not large, but when you are doing free motion, you only to to work in about a 10-inch square area at a time.

Free motion quilting tips:

  • Move your quilt slowly while your needle is moving fast. Slow needles get caught and rip your fabric or break. Too fast movements can have the same result and your stitches will look jerky and uneven. Having a machine with speed control is extremely helpful.
  • Use a stitch regulator. My Bernina has one and it’s an incredibly pricey add-on that isn’t available on most machines but if you’re in the market, look for that feature,
  • Practice on small quilt sandwiches. A lot. People always say that they hate wasting fabric to practice quilting – so don’t waste it! Turn your practice sandwiches into a quilt using some of the joining methods I linked to above. Donate it if you don’t like seeing your newbie quilting because someone out there will appreciate it. Even if its a blind dog in the shelter. 😉
  • Start with a fresh needle every time you quilt. This goes for all machine quilting but any little burrs or bends on your needle are even more obvious with free motion,
  • Make your space quilting friendly – set your machine down into a table so its even with the surface. Add a folding table behind the machine to bear the weight of the quilt. The important thing is to get the weight supported so you’re not fighting it. Your set up should allow you to easily swirl and stipple in a 10-inch or so area.
  • Start in the center of the quilt and work your way out to spread any fullness around. Flatten out the quilt top as you’re working to smooth fullness and folds.


Even though I quilt most things myself but there are occasional projects that need something a bit more special than I can do on my Bernina. You may feel the same way or maybe you don’t want to do any quilting. There are probably several long arm quilters in your area that will be happy to take that quilt top off your hands for a reasonable fee. Your local quilt shop likely has a few business cards and recommendations on long armers. My friend Michelle at Urban Spools has a nice write-up on her site about services she offers and it gives you a good idea of cost and what you can expect when working with a long arm quilter. (If you’re not in DFW, you can mail your quilts to her for finishing). Sending your quilt to a professional adds some cost to your project, but it is worth it. Whether you opt for custom quilting or computer guided, a professional quilter can make your quilt into something really special.

There are a few reasons why I send my quits out:

  • Size – some projects are too big for my domestic. Anything above about 85″ on a side and I’m sending it out.
  • Design – I have a couple of quilts with embroidery on them that really need a professional quilter’s artistic talent to enhance the design.

If you like the idea of a long arm but don’t have the money or the space, you might have room for a mid-arm like Handiquilter’s Sweet Sixteen. They’re around $4,000-$5,000 depending on options added and only take up about 36″ of space. The downfall for me is that you still have to pin baste.

Some companies also make frames for domestic machines or mid-arm machines like the larger Jukis.

See you next Monday for part 9 – Learn to Quilt: Binding..


I recently had the chance to review Tara Rebman’s (aka Tinkerfrog) Quilt-As-You-Go Patchwork Bags class on Craftsy.  I’ve signed up for a few Craftsy classes and this the first one I finished. Hooray!

Tara is a great teacher and I had serious Juki-envy while watching her sew,  I need a Juki to come live in my sewing room. Tara’s class is filled with a lot of helpful tips about the quilt-as-you-go technique and some really, really cute patterns! and ideas for using the method. She guides you through making some simple potholders and then you move on to the big enchilada – the Tinker Tote:

Tara Rebman Tinker Tote

I love that bag! I can see myself using it for a diaper bag. library tote. retreat bag. There are patterns for two size options included with the class.

I’m feeling kinda silly for not having taken any of my other Craftsy classes yet because their virtual classroom setup is pretty awesome. It’s interactive and easy to navigate. It’s also super convenient to go back and review a part of the pattern when you need a refresher or want to make the project again. Not having to keep track of a printed pattern is so nice!

I’ve done a few quilt-as-you-go projects over the years and Tara’s class inspired me to sew some of my scraps together. I played around with the log cabin style QAYG technique she details in class:


Considering how much quilting there is on that block, it was pretty fast to make. Not sure what I’m going to do with it though making it gave me another idea….


These are made with some scraps from my overflowing string basket. It’s going to be something for my son (but you’ll have to come back in August to find out what. Such a tease!)

While doing some research for my post about quilt borders, I read something that changed my {quilting} life.  It is a page of tips for quilt borders by Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville (probably best known to modern quilters for her Scrappy Trip Around the World tutorial). Her tips are extremely helpful for getting borders right, but it’s the part she wrote about easing in fullness that clicked for me:

Sew your borders to the long sides of the quilt first, pinning the centers and the ends and easing where necessary. If the border seems bigger than the quilt top, stitch the border to the quilt with the border against the feed dogs. If the quilt seems a bit bigger, then sew that on with the quilt next to the feed dogs to ease it in a bit.   {Border Hints and Tricks by Bonnie Hunter}

Basically, she’s saying that the fabric next to the feed dogs gets eased in when you sew…I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a half-assedhearted pinner. I pin to match points, but when I’m sewing straight edge to straight edge, I just line up the ends and go. Often, though, I get to the end and my pieces are a hair of a fraction of an inch out of whack. It’s not a lot, but it drives me crazy. I know I just squared that block up to a perfect 12.5″ and I know that sashing piece is cut to precisely 12.5″ so WTF? (My sweet niece Emma thinks that stands for Where’s the Fun?)

Well, now I know WTF the problem is – that damn easing in!

With Bonnie’s words on my mind, yesterday I pinned every single seam on a quilt top I was piecing, points or not. And guess what? Zero out of whack ends. All matched. All perfect. Like a pro.

I have seen the light.