I have a fun tutorial today as part of the Pillow Collective hosted by Amy Ellis over at Amy’s Creative Side. There are lots of creative and super talented ladies participating so be sure to check out all of the links below.

My pillow design was inspired by an obsession with a set of mini templates I purchased earlier this month. They are made by EZ Quilting and are designed to be used with 2½” strips (jelly rolls) and they also work really nicely with Moda Candy (2½” squares). The specific template I used for this tutorial is the 60° diamond – you can purchase one here. You can also download a template here.

Scrappy Stars Hexie Pillow

You will also need:

  • 24 – 2″ squares (scrappy or choose a palette and focus fabric)
  • Background fabric:
    1 strip measuring 2½” x WOF, subcut into 6 diamonds using the template
    2 strips measuring 4″ x WOF
  • 1 fat quarter for pillow backing
  • Needle and thread
  • Polyfil for stuffing

Fabric placement and color is important to this pillow design. My test block used a traditional 4-patch with repeated prints set diagonally to each other. I decided that this block would look better with a scrappier feel, but kept the mini diamonds in the same fabric.

Scrappy Stars Hexie Pillow

Let’s start sewing!

1. Create 4-patch units from your 2″ squares – you will need a total of six 4-patches. Press and starch the 4-patches.
2. On the wrong side of each 4-patch. draw a line from corner to corner with a pencil or washable marking pen.

3. Line up the diamond template along the line and use a rotary cutter to trim off excess fabric.

4. Piece together the 4-patch diamonds to create a six-pointed star. Starch and press.

Scrappy Stars Hexie Pillow

5. Piece the background diamonds the the star. Yes, these are y seams but don’t be intimidated. The key is the start at the outer point of the star and stop sewing a scant ¼” from the edge of the background diamond. If your patchwork foot has ¼” markings that makes it super easy to know when to stop, but you can also mark the stopping points. Then flip the diamond and start sewing up the edge of the adjacent star point. Starch and press once you’ve sewn all six background diamonds.

Scrappy Stars Hexie Pillow

6. Now we are going to use our 4″ strips to make this hexagon shape a bit bigger. My finished pillow measures 17″ across at the widest point. If you want a larger pillow, cut these strips wider than 4″ (but this will affect the size of the backing fabric you’ll need). Line the raw edge of a strip along the edge of the pieced hexagon and sew together. Press and starch. Use a ruler to trim up the overage to match the adjacent edge.

Scrappy Stars Hexie Pillow

The above photo shows my hexie after I’ve added 4″ strips to two sides and “squared up” (really hexied up makes more sense!). Repeat this process until you’ve outlined the pieced hexie with background fabric.

7. Trim the fat quarter backing to match the front hexagon shape. Place right sides together. I like to put two pins in to remind me to leave an opening – one marks the start point and the second pin tells me to stop sewing. Turn pillow right sides out and press.

8. Stuff with polyfill and blind stitch closed. All done!

Eventually the filling will become lumpy and you can either open it up and re-stuff or turn it into a mini quilt (that’s probably what I’ll do).

Thanks for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed my project. Here are the other stops on the Pillow Collective:

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

Are you still wrapping presents?! Don’t feel bad. I usually am, too, but this year I seem to be ahead of the game.
VMQ-gift-wrap-1 Gift wrapping is honestly not one of my favorite things to do but it really does look so pretty when you take the time to do a nice job. This year I put bows and ribbon on every package. I used this this candy stripe ribbon and this poly satin ribbon. The striped ribbon wins for cuteness but the poly is much easier to work with.


I usually DIY or print labels using one of the bajillion cute printable gift labels out there, but this year I thought I’d take the even easier route and print mine on label stickers (that I already had! WIN). I used Martha Stewart for Avery labels in white (these might only be available in stores) and kraft. (These are available exclusively at Staples, I believe. That’s where I bought mine.)

If you’d like to make your own MS labels, download the Word template {here}. You’ll also need {Prestige Elite Std} font and {A Gentle Touch} font or you can use two of your favorites. For the kraft gift wrap, you’ll need a roll of kraft paper (find it at the dollar store), white ink, and some holiday stamps.

Merry Christmas!

VMQ-layer-cake-waterfall-coverI have a SUPER SIMPLE tutorial on the Moda Bake Shop today. That cute little fabric bundle above was created using a layer cake but I normally do this with fat quarters. (Never Moda fat quarters because they are already perfectly folded and bundled!)

I call this a fat quarter waterfall. My two-year-old said ‘brella (for umbrella) when he saw it so it could be called an fabric umbrella, too. To make one from a fat quarter bundle, fold the fat quarters in thirds on the long side (21″ side). Then fold that 21″ long strip in half.  Lay the folded fat quarters and top of each other and fan them out so about 1/4″ to 1/2″ of each one shows. Then roll them up and tie with a ribbon. Fold over a corner of each fat quarter to create the waterfall look:


Pretty, right?

{If you’re here for the Classic Modern Quilts blog tour, hop down to this post}

Tutorial: Simple Holiday Napkins

These simple napkins are the perfect way to dress up your table during the holidays (or make a set as a hostess gift). I got into the habit of making a set of cloth napkins every six months or so as a way to reduce my fabric stash. We use them instead of paper products and it add some color and cuteness to the table at every meal. Plus. it’s far less wasteful!

VMQ-simple-holiday-napkins-1This sunflower print was on the seasonal sale rack at JoAnn’s. It’s not often that I find good fabric there but I’ve been on a winning streak lately. This print is called Autumn Inspirations Fabric – Harvest Sunflowers. The orange dot is from my stash – not sure who makes it but its several years old.

To make a set of 12 napkins, you will need:

  • 1¾  yards of seasonal fabric
  • 1¾ yards coordinating fabric for backing
  • Coordinating thread
  • 14½” square ruler*
  • Marking pencil

*NOTE: I cut my napkins to  14½” square because it fits three across 44″ wide fabric.  Standard napkins are generally 17″ x 17″ or 20″ x 20″ . I did not pre-wash my fabrics and had minimal shrinking but if you’re giving these as a gift, pre-wash so you can be confident that they will still look nice once the recipient washes them.

Remove selvedges and starch and press fabric. Using the 14½” ruler, cut 12 squares each from seasonal print and backing fabric (a total of 24 squares). Cut carefully to fit three napkins across the width of fabric. Pair the fronts and backs into 12 sets. With right sides together, sew a 1/4″ seam around each pair of squares, leaving a 3″ to 4″ opening. Use the opening to turn the napkin right side out. Press seams and fold raw edges of opening under to match sewn edge. Pin in place and top-stitch around entire napkin.

VMQ-simple-holiday-napkins-5Using a fabric marker, measure 5″ from the top edge of each napkin and mark a line. I used a black Frixxion pen and you can see the line in the photo below. The line turned white on my dark fabric instead of disappearing so take care when using Frixxion pens on dark fabrics.

VMQ-simple-holiday-napkins-6Pick a favorite decorative stitch (I used stitch number 133 on my Bernina if you happen to have the same machine.) and sew it along each side of the marked line across the width of the napkin. I sewed a top-stitch line down the Frixxion mark to cover it up, too (see white mark in photo below before I sewed over it)

VMQ-simple-holiday-napkins-3Using your presser foot as a guide, top-stitch around each napkin again, 1/4″ away from the first top-stitch line. This will lock stitch your decorative stitches without you having to tie off each end.

Makes 12 napkins measuring 14″ finished.  Easy as pie!

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..

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

Basting is my least-favorite quilting step. For me, it is the most tedious and least rewarding but you just can’t avoid it. Let’s talk through the different methods and some ways to make the dreaded task a little easier. No matter which method you use, your basic set up is the same: Backing + Batting + Quilt Top = Quilt Sandwich. Yep, that’s what it’s called – a quilt sandwich. I prefer to think of mine as ice cream sandwiches. Mmmm.


There are several different ways to baste – spray adhesive, fusible batting, needle and thread, pin basting, and long-arm basting.


You can actually buy some stuff in a can to baste your quilts. It looks like hair spray and smells much worse. This method is good for smaller things like table runners and mini quilts. My personal experience is that it makes a big mess when used on a quilt larger than crib size. It is handy to have on hand, though – I use it for quilted pillows.


This is batting that you iron onto your quilt back and top. I’ve never used it but several of my friends swear by it. For me, it’s about economical and convenient and this method doesn’t do it. Fusible batting doesn’t come in a bolt and it costs more than regular batting so I don’t see myself converting to a fusible girl. Also beware that this stuff fuses in heat so don’t store it in your attic if you live somewhere that gets hideously hot (like Texas).


It’s just what is sounds like…you use needle and thread to make big running stitches across your quilt sandwich, Sound tedious and crazy, right? Why would you ever do that? It makes sense to baste with needle and thread when you’re going to hand quilt. No pins to get in the way of your frame. Needle and thread basting is actually not as slow as it seems but you do need a decent set-up…it’s easier to do on a table top than on the floor. Use clamps to affix your quilt layers to the table.


Long-arm quilters don’t need to do any basting – they just roll the three layers together on the frame (You can see how that happens here.) Odds are you don’t have a long arm and aren’t going to buy one, so this is good news for you: most long-arm quilters offer basting services They will load your quilt on their frame and run some basting stitches though it for a fee. Then you can do the quilting by hand or machine. Some use dissolving thread so the basting stitches wash away when you wash your finished quilt. My friend Michelle at Urban Spools is basting one of mine as I type.


Blech. It’s still the worst but it has gotten easier since a reader told me about a different way (besides taping to the floor). Here’s what you will need:

    • Your three quilt layers with the backing and batting at least 3 to 4 inches larger than the quilt top on all sides
    • {This video} is immensely helpful for this process.
    • 2 – 1×4 pieces of lumber a good 10 inches longer than your quilt (sand before using)
    • Spray starch
    • Quilter’s Safety Pins (get more than one package)
    • Kwik Klips tool
    • A cute jar to store your safety pins and Kwik Klips. I like these blue mason jars:

1. Stay stitch about a 1/4″ away from the edge of your quilt top, all the way around. This will keep things from going wonky. If you are not familiar with stay stitching, it just means that you do a regular stitch along the edge of fabric to prevent stretching on unfinished edges. Do this even if you send your quilt top to a long arm quilter. I am a bad girl and often skip this, but I’m trying to mend my ways.

2. Liberally starch and press your quilt top and your backing. I mean it. Lots of starch. Don’t be shy. If your background fabric is dark, you can use the no residue starch so you don’t get any white marks (although it all washes out anyway).

3. Put an interesting show on the TV that you don’t mind only listening to because you won’t be see it all that much.

4.  Spread your quilt backing on the floor (or table top if you have one large enough) right side down. Smooth out about a 1 foot high x width of quilt section of the backing and set a 1×4 across the edge. Roll the backing onto the board smoothing as you go.

5. Repeat the above with your quilt top, starting with top right side up. You should now have your backing and your quilt top rolled up square and smooth on the boards.

6. Set the board with your backing on the table/floor so that the rolled part is on top and the loose fabric flap is underneath. (Kinda like the way most men put toilet paper on the holder – WRONG!) You should able to flip the board over and away from you, releasing the backing fabric as you go. Unroll a 1 foot section of your backing and place the batting on top. Smooth it out.

7. Set your quilt top board on top of the backing/batting you’ve exposed, but offset if by 2 or 3 inches. Repeat the same process as the batting, unrolling and smoothing until you can set the quilt board on top of the batting board.

8. Pin or thread paste the smooth area. You can use a third board to weight down the edges if needed. Use your Kwik Klip tool to close the safety pins. Repeat the unrolling and smooothing process until you have the entire quilt basted.

9. When you’re finished, trim any excess batting and/or backing. I trim mine down to about 2 inches from the edge of the quilt top at this point. Use scissors with a spring like these. Save your extra backing fabric for your basket of string scraps! You don’t have to trim and you might not need to if you were careful about measuring your backing/batting, but I have sometimes gotten in a hurry and quilted a bit of extra backing to the back of my quilt. The edges fold under so easily and before you know it you have a foot of quilting to unpick.

That’s it! Come back on Monday for Lesson 9 – Sample Quilt: Quilting.

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

Learn to Quilt: Piecing

Today I’m back (finally!) finishing up Part 2 of piecing your quilt top. The pattern we are using has excellent instructions on putting together the rows, but I’d like to add a few tips to get your points perfectly matched. I’ll also go through the steps for adding borders. This post is long so grab a snack and hunker down.


1. Square up your blocks (in this case, rectangle up your blocks!) before you start piecing the top. Blocks should measure 12 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ with seams. Normally I’d use a quilting square that measures the same size (or close to) the size of my unfinished block. Since these blocks are rectangular, I used my 6″x24″ ruler to square them up. To do this, use the seam as your measuring point…our 2.5″ strips are now 2.25″ wide since we’ve sewn one seam:


Set your ruler so that the 2 1/4″ mark falls on the seam. The right edge of the ruler should be just about even with the edge of your block. Trim off any excess.


Flip your block clockwise to the next seam and repeat. Do this for all four sides.

Squaring up is tedious and it can be a major PITA. But don’t skip it. It can make a big difference in the final product. Make it a part of your process to square up at every step of piecing – smaller block units and the final block.

2. When joining blocks or block segments where your seams will meet up, PIN! Use Clover fork pins and make those seams match. Sometimes you will have to gently stretch the fabric to make your points match. In the photo below, you can see my two blocks pinned together, with the seams pressed in opposite directions.

Learn to Quilt: Piecing

3. Thoroughly press every seam. I press from the top because I get a flatter seam that way, but if pressing from the back works for you, do that. Use a bit of starch and a HOT iron.


Borders are the red-headed step child of the modern quilting world. Dated, grandma-ish…they are just uncool to most modern quilters. I don’t often add borders, but sometimes they’re nice to frame the piecing. I also add borders in a situation like this quilt top where the points on my blocks would be covered by the binding if I went border-less. To modernize the borders on this quilt, I’m using the same color for both and it’s meant to act more as a background than a frame. The piecing will look like it’s floating.

Now that we’ve covered Quilt Border Philosophy 101, let’s talk about how you add them. You could just cut fabric a little bit longer than the side of your quilt and lop off the extra. The quilt police will come and arrest you for that, though, so watch out. Our quilt top has two borders – an inner one pieced like a block and the outer one that is a typical border. Piece your inner border according to the pattern instructions and then come back here for your outer border.

The proper method for adding borders is:

1. Get out that calculator and do some math. The formulas are simple:

Finished Block Height x No. of Vertical Blocks + Inner Border Width = Quilt Top Height
8″ x 8 + 2 1/4″ = 66 1/4″ (Note that at this stage our inner border still has one unfinished seams so we need to keep that measurement at 2 1/4″ instead of the finished size of 2″.)

Finished Block Width x No. of Vertical Blocks + Inner Border Width = Quilt Top Width
12″ x 5 + 2 1/4″ = 62 1/4″ (Again, we are keeping that unfinished 1/4″ seam in the calculation)

(Quilt Top Height x 2) + (Quilt Top Width x 2)  + (Semi-Finished Border Width x 4) = Total Border Length
(66 1/4″ x 2) + (62 1/4″ x 2) + (6.25″ x 4) = 282 inches

If this makes your head explode, use a quilting calculator. They’ll do all of that math for you, but you’ll still have to measure/calculate the height and width of your quilt top. Calculations are more accurate than measuring, but if you’d rather get out the yard stick, measure from the center of the quilt top, not the edges.

2. Prep your border fabric. Cut WOF x width of your desired border. Our border is 6 1/2″ wide and we need 282 total inches + seams. Let’s do one more calculation:

Total Border Length/Useable Fabric Width = Number of Strips to Cut + Overage for Seams
282/43 = 6.55

Round up and cut 7 strips WOF x 6.5″.

3. Trim off the selvedges (you can do this before you cut the strips) and sew your border strips end-to-end. You’ll have a total length of about 301 inches.

4. Cut your side border strips to your calculated quilt height from step 1 – 66 1/4″. Sew these on to your quilt top sides.

5. Cut your top and bottom border strips to calculated quilt width from step 1 (62 1/4″) plus border width we just added (6 1/4″) times two – 74 3/4″.

Why all the fuss about borders? You can add a lot of bulk to your quilt top if you attach borders using the “lop off” method (Exihibit A, B, and C). Notice that all of those examples are on long arms….wavy/bulky/bacon-y borders are at their worst on a long arm. The rollers on the long arm pull the fabric taut so any flaws are magnified. A good long arm quilter can work in the fullness but they will probably say ugly cuss words about you while they’re doing it.

Border bulk is not as bad when you are basting the old-fashioned way at home because you can smooth and stretch the fullness out as you baste. But proceed with caution, because that stretching and smoothing may show up in the final quilt as wonky edges or a quilt that you have to trim down excessively to hide the imperfections. As my Mamaw (and probably lots of people’s mamaws) would say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.  It’s easier to do it properly than to fix a wonky, wavy mess.

See you next Monday for part 8 – Learn to Quilt: Basting.


A few weeks ago I shared a tip for piecing half square triangles (HSTs) without marking. I have another time-saving tip today, this time for marking HSTs or snowball corners…or almost anything you need to mark for accurate piecing.

You will need: a tracing wheel, a ruler, and transfer paper.

Set your pieces for marking right side up on top of your transfer paper. To mark three at once, I lined my pieces up point to point.

Line the ruler edge up along the diagonal of your pieces. Run the tracing wheel along the edge of the ruler.

That’s it. Perfect marks!


It saved me a lot of time doing three pieces at once versus the old-school marking with a pencil method. Plus I think the tracing wheel works better – it doesn’t catch the way a pencil sometimes can.

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

Now the fun starts! We’ve learned all about the basics of quilting, and now we are ready to move on to actual sewing. I’ve chosen a free pattern from Moda for this project (shown at left).. You can find the pattern {here}. The sample uses traditional fabrics (Civil War repros) but as soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for more modern fabrics, too. I love the shape of the blocks and the illusion of curves that the piecing creates. The piecing is relatively simple so it’s a great starting point, but it’s also challenging enough that it’s a fun project for a more experienced quilter, too. I was being overly ambitious in trying to work this into two posts so constructing the quilt top will be in two parts – today is cutting and piecing blocks and next Monday I will cover assembling the quilt top and adding borders.

I’m going to use pre-cuts for my version. You have the option of following the pattern exactly as written or going with my changes. To use pre-cuts like me, your fabric requirements are:

1 jelly roll (with 40 strips cut 2.5″ x WOF)
5 fat quarters
1 yd for borders
1/2 yd binding
4 3/8 yds backing

This will yield a 68.5″ x 72.5″ quilt. My quilt will have 40 blocks instead of 45 like the pattern. I’m also going to use the same fabric for both borders. My fabric placement won’t be as rigid as the pattern sample, either. This is partly because I like a more scrappy look, but it also allows us to use fat quarters instead of yardage. My centers will all be solids. Here are the fabrics I’ve chosen:

Marmalade Stack

Notice that I have more fat quarters than necessary. This is because I want a wide range of colors for my block centers (plus I had the yardage on hand! Stash-busting is always a good thing.)


From each jelly roll strip, cut:

2 – 2.5″ x 12.5″ strips
2 – 2.5″ x 4.5″ strips
3 – 2.5″ squares*

*Theoretically, there should be exactly enough width in the jelly roll strip for you to get all of the above cuts. Cut your longer strips first and your 2.5″ squares last. You should easily be able to get 120 squares from your jelly roll strips; cut the rest from your fat quarters. You need a total of 160 2.5″ squares for the quilt.

From eight fat quarters, cut:

6 – 4.5″x8.5″ rectangles
2 – 2.5″ x 18″ strip: subcut into 2.5″ squares for block corners

You will have 8 extra rectangles and 10 extra squares.


Tips for cutting:

  • Use the measurements on your rulers as cutting guides, not the marks on your cutting mat. Rulers are more accurate.
  • Put in a fresh blade if your rotary cutter is catching on the fabric or not cutting all the way through on the first pass. If your blade is relatively new, then make sure you are using firm and even pressure.
  • To prep your fat quarters for cutting, lightly starch and press them. This will make your piecing go smoothly and ensure accuracy.
  • Keep a small bin or bucket on your cutting surface for scraps to toss in the garbage. Keep a separate one for scraps you want to save. Your surface will be neat and you can empty out the buckets when you’re finished exactly where they need to go.
  • Stack your block units together – in order – as you go. For this project, you will have four stacks:Fabric-Stacks


Follow the original pattern to piece your 40 rectangular blocks. The instructions are on page two and three of the PDF file. They are excellent instructions that even include pressing directions. As you are piecing your blocks, keep in mind that your triangle corners won’t match the centers of your blocks like the sample. Here are a few blocks I’ve made:

Marmalade Jubilee

Tips for piecing:

  • Instead of drawing a line from corner to corner on each 2.5″ square, use a paper guide as a stitch line. You line the guide up between the corners and sew next to it, making sure your seam is centered diagonally across your square.
  • Work with an assembly line set up with the block components in tidy stacks next to your machine as shown above. This will allow you to chain piece.
  • Trim your thread ends as you sew to keep things tidy.
  • Lightly starch each finished block and press it.
  • No pinning is required until you assemble the quilt top.

See you next Monday for the continuation of Lesson 7 – Learn to Quilt: Piecing Part 2. We will assemble the quilt top and cut and sew our borders.

Marmalade Jubilee
Little Hands & Toes