Ugly Sweater Mug Rug

It's been a while since I participated in an Instagram swap, but this year's Ugly Sweater Mug Rug Swap was too cute to not join in.

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Supplies needed: scraps of Christmas-y cotton fabric, 7" square of cotton batting, thread, fabric for binding

Cost: assuming you work from scraps of fabric and batting, the only cost will be for the pattern - $6.00

Time: about an hour - if paper piecing intimidates you, check out my tutorial for a freezer paper method that won't make you crazy.

Using this pattern from Kid Giddy, I created an ugly Christmas sweater for my partner from scrap fabric I had on hand. The pattern comes with two styles of sweater - a crew neck and a v-neck. Hopefully this is ugly enough for my partner! I had a lot of fun quilting the plaid design, and I like the way it looks from the back almost as much as from the front. You can check out all the photos from the swap on Instagram.

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Bias Tape from a Fat Quarter

If you're making something this holiday season that requires bias tape or bias binding, I've got a nifty trick to share with you. You can make 5+ yards of continuous bias tape from a single fat quarter!

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I know...you're wondering why I would bother going to the trouble of making my own when it comes conveniently prepackaged at JoAnn's for the same price as a fat quarter without having to do all the work. There are two reasons I like to make my own. First, the prepackaged stuff has been chemically forced into unnatural stiffness. Maybe that's your thing, but I feel like when you're working on a project that needs bias tape to flow along the curves, it should, well, flow along the curves. Easily. Second, the prepackaged bias tape doesn't have a great selection of colors. One red, one blue, one pink, etc. Sometimes it looks best to customize your bias tape to your project. I'll admit to occasionally using the store-bought kind on the interior of garments and bags, but when the bias tape is going to be visible, I like to coordinate or match it to the project.

Let's begin with a fat quarter, which is approximately 18" x 22".

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Take one corner and fold it down to square off the fat quarter. Press a crease along that fold line with your fingers - no need to iron.

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Using a ruler and a rotary cutter, cut along the crease line.

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Take the triangle you just cut from the right side of the fat quarter and move it around to the left side as pictured below.

Place these pieces wrong sides together as shown, and sew along the edge using a .25" seam allowance and a short stitch length. We'll be cutting through this seam, so we want it to hold up well. I used a 1.5mm stitch length for mine.

Press the seam open.

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Using a clear ruler, mark lines along the fabric every 1.75". While I do own fabric marking pens, you'll see that I'm using a trusty old mechanical pencil. There's one more seam to press open before we finish with these lines and I don't want my iron to wipe them out...hence, the pencil.

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Now comes the awkward part. We'll fold our fabric and pin the two diagonal edges together. The fabric is going to bunch up big time, but it is my solemn promise to you that no one will die as a result of this. We'll begin with one section hanging off the edge of our fabric, and pin by matching the pencil lines together. When matching these, it's important to match where they meet up .25" in from the edge. If you match them up along the edge, they won't match up once they're sewn.

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When you're done pinning, it'll look roughly like this. Yes - it appears to be a hot mess. But it will be 5 yards of continuous bias tape when it grows up. Really.

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Sew along the pinned edge, taking care to keep the fabric smooth where you're sewing. Just push the bunchy bits off to the side and take your time.

Press the seam you just sewed open.

Starting on either side where that excess fabric is hanging off the edge, cut through one layer of fabric along your marked line.

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See? I told you it would be 5 continuous yards and NOT a hot mess!

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Now comes the pressing part. If you have a bias tape maker, congratulations! You are much fancier than I am. In case you aren't any fancier than me, here's how I press mine. First, I press the tape in half.

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Then, I press both raw edges into that center line I just pressed.

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As I go, I wind it around an index card or whatever's handy...in this case, a paint swatch.

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And that's it! 5 yards of continuous bias tape from one fat quarter!

Quilt binding by machine with a flange

I've always been a fan of finishing quilt binding by hand. I sew my binding to the front of my quilt using a machine, and then use an invisible hand-stitch on the backside of the quilt for a nice clean finish. Practically speaking though, this takes a lot of time. And yes...you spent a lot of time making the quilt so why not spend the time sewing the binding by hand? I (usually) agree, but sometimes quick is good. Also, machine binding can hold up a little better in instances where the quilt will get a lot of wear and tear - baby blankets, for example, will be heavily used and washed over time and machine binding may hang in there longer under that kind of love (abuse).

For the baby quilt I've been working on, I decided to add a machine binding with a flange. I think this is a great way to add a machine binding without it looking sloppy, and it gives the quilt a little something extra.

For a flange binding, you'll be using two fabrics - a main binding fabric and a flange fabric. I chose a red & white scallop print for my main binding and a black & white wood grain print for my flange fabric. I cut my main binding fabric the way I usually would, and cut the flange binding fabric .25" wider than the main binding fabric. It may seem counter-intuitive to cut the main binding thinner than the flange, but I promise it will all make sense.

Sew the main fabric and flange fabric wrong sides together using a .25" seam allowance.

Press the seam towards the main binding fabric. It will look like this front and back.

Now you'll press the binding in half, just as you would with non-flange binding. On one side, you'll be able to see the main and flange fabrics, and on the other, you'll only see the flange fabric.

You're going to attach the binding to the quilt on the back side of the quilt with the flange fabric facing up.

I'm not going to cover how to miter your corners in this post - I'm assuming you've bound a quilt before. If you haven't and need basic info, here's a great tutorial for beginners.

Once your binding is attached to the back of your quilt, fold it over to the front of the quilt. You'll be stitching in the ditch - sewing where the flange fabric meets the main binding fabric. This will keep your stitching even with the binding on the backside and nearly invisible from the front of your quilt.

 

While the binding stitches aren't invisible on the backside, they're even with the binding and if you've chosen your thread color well, they blend right in.

Quilting in circles

One of my favorite things about making a quilt is deciding how to quilt it...what sort of pattern or texture will bring out the best in the quilt top. I recently tried quilting a spiral and loved how it worked with the star shape of the quilt design. I also loved how easy it was to do on my home sewing machine. I used it again for a star-based design and am sharing the results with you today.

I used this great tutorial from verrykerryberry when learning how to quilt a spiral. You start by stitching along a small paper template of the spiral and then work your way out. I printed out her template and pinned it to the center of my quilt.

I used a short stitch length to begin with so that the paper would be easy to tear away, and a walking foot is a must - moving a decent sized quilt in a tight circle like that is no joke, but it does get easier the further you get from the center.

After I got the first few rounds out of the way, I increased my stitch length and added the guide bar to my walking foot. I aligned it with the spiral I had just stitched so that I could keep even spacing between the rounds as I went.

From there, it was just a matter of keeping the guide aligned as I went. The larger the spiral, the easier it was to spin the quilt around and I made pretty good time!

All told, this 40" x 40" baby quilt took about 20 minutes to quilt. It's a dense enough stitching pattern that I know the quilt will hold up well to the wear and tear of a small kid and I think the spiral really complements the quilt design.

Even the back looks good! And yes...that IS minky backing. (Thanks, walking foot...I couldn't have done it without you)

Foundation paper piecing that won't make you want to lay down in traffic

20-some years ago, my sister was born, changing my life for the better in so many ways. I had a playmate, a friend, a partner in crime. We have had our rough patches, but I love her dearly and couldn’t ask for a better sister. While we’re very different from each other, we have much in common – sewing, for one. She recently taught me a technique that changed the way I was paper piecing (or wasn’t paper piecing, since I was always so frustrated with it that I usually shoved those projects aside in favor of something that wouldn’t make me crazy). The method she uses isn’t radical – instead of sewing through her paper pattern piece, she uses freezer paper, a dry iron, and folding to create beautifully pieced blocks. Now I do too!

Trace your block onto the dull side of freezer paper.  Number the pieces in the same way you would for a regular paper pattern. In the example below, I added my seam allowance to the block. I’m apt to mess that part up – out of sight, out of mind – but you don’t have to. Just prepare the pattern the same way you usually would – just use freezer paper.

Select a scrap of fabric for piece #1. Make sure it is large enough to cover the whole space with .25″ seam allowance on all sides. I hold mine up to the light to check. If it is much larger (like my example), don’t worry about cutting it down to size. By the time we’re done with this block all of your seam allowances will be beautiful and the piece will be the perfect size.

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Hit it with an iron. You’ll want to put the wrong side of your fabric against the freezer paper and tack it in place with a dry iron.

Fold the freezer paper along the line between piece 1 and piece 2. Trim the exposed fabric to a .25″ seam allowance. I eyeball it, but you can use a rotary cutter and ruler if you like…it’s more time intensive, but if it makes you feel better, go for it.

Select a scrap of fabric for piece #2. Make sure it is large enough to cover the whole space with .25″ seam allowance on all sides. Place this piece right sides together with piece #1, aligning the edges. Sew with a .25″ seam allowance, right up against the freezer paper. If you accidentally sew into the freezer paper, it’s not the end of the world. If you can avoid doing that, you can reuse the template 3-4 times before it loses it’s stick, so try not to.

Fold the freezer paper pattern back to flat, ironing briefly over the seam allowances to hold them in place. Then fold piece #2 out and iron as well.

Continue folding, trimming, sewing, and ironing for all of the pieces in your pattern. When you’re done, it will look something like this.

This is the point where I pull out the rotary cutter and square up my block.

Once you’ve trimmed the edges, you can peel back the freezer paper template to reuse until it loses it’s stick. Your block will be beautiful front AND back!

I’m including a printable version of this pattern for you. I’d love to hear what you think of the technique!

Happy Hour Tea Towel Calendar

Every year, I design a tea towel calendar as one of my Christmas gifts. My friends and family have come to expect them, and I look forward to coming up with a new theme each year. I knew that we were going to need lots of cocktails in 2017, so I featured 12 of my favorite grown-up beverages.

I sketched each of the drinks in pencil, and included simple recipes. I knew that the recipes would be too much text for the tea towel, but who knows what else I might do with these illustrations?

I inked my drawings and pulled them into Illustrator for finishing.

After I finalized the layout, I uploaded my design to Spoonflower for printing. The calendar is sized to fit on a single fat quarter of Linen Cotton Canvas, and a simple hem around the edge is all that's needed to make a towel that will liven up any kitchen or bar!

If you'd like your own Happy Hour tea towel calendar, you can purchase this design in my Spoonflower shop!

Arrowhead Quilt

Perhaps you'll remember my Autumn Arrowhead quilt block. In case you don't, check out this post to see how this SUPER easy block is constructed. (When I say SUPER easy, I mean it...I sewed all of my blocks for this quilt in under 2 hours.) While these blocks can certainly be pieced side by side, I tried something different for this quilt.

My sister and I decided that our favorite aunt should have a quilt made with this block for her birthday this year. We divided up the fabric and each made 10 blocks. We used the same neutral gray fabric for all of the blocks and a variety of solids and prints in a colorway we think she'll like. I added sashing and cornerstones when piecing the top, and I think it really added to the overall design.

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I used free motion quilting in the neutral spaces of the blocks, and some straight-line quilting in the sashing, leaving the prints/solids unquilted. I'm usually a very dense-coverage sort of quilter, so this was a new approach for me, and it makes the prints really pop.

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Now all we have to do is bind it and gift it!

Twin Quilts for Twin Beds

When your teen daughter can no longer sit up in her bunk bed without conking herself on the ceiling, it's time for a bedroom makeover. New furniture was a necessity, new paint just made sense, and that left me with no choice but to make new quilts.

I decided to make the girls the same quilt pattern from the same line of fabric, but did my best to make them look different enough that it felt like each quilt was uniquely tailored to each girl's taste. I selected Tucker Prairie Fabric by 1Canoe2, and this free quilt pattern from Moda's Bake Shop.

The bulk of the quilt is made from jelly rolls - what a time saver! I haven't worked with jelly rolls very much, but they worked great for these quilts. The remaining pieces are made with HST's, so these quilts sewed up very quickly.

For each girl, I selected different focal fabrics from the line, and then altered the placement of my jelly roll strips to look best with those fabrics. I think it worked out well - they look like completely different quilts while still complementing each other!

Honesty is the best policy

It's been a long time since I posted - too long. Life has been busy on all fronts - something I'm sure everyone can relate to. The day job is chaotic, design projects are plenty, and back-to-school is always an overwhelming time of year. Mix in a few emotional life events and you've got a recipe for not doing a great job at all of the things. I decided to give myself some grace when it came to blogging and focus on getting some other s*#$ done. I've been working on some exciting stuff that I look forward to sharing with you soon. In the meantime, here's proof that I haven't been idle this summer - just busy.

No-waste Flying Geese

My to-do list currently includes making a pile of flying geese. I hate wasting fabric, and traditional piecing of flying geese has always seemed so wasteful to me. Flying geese are traditionally made by paper piecing, or by sewing two squares to a rectangle at a 45 degree angle and cutting away the excess. Wasteful either way, no?

I found a no-waste method for making flying geese, which was very appealing to me, so I decided to give it a try. With the no-waste method, you work with squares alone, and the only waste is the itty bitty dog ears that can’t be avoided when sewing HSTs.

To make 4 flying geese, you will need one large square of your main fabric (this will be the central triangle in each unit) and four smaller squares of your complementary fabric.

To determine what size squares you will need to know the finished size of your flying geese, for example 3″ x 6″. For the large square, cut a square that is 1.25″ larger than the finished width of the flying geese (7.25″). For the smaller squares, cut squares that are 7/8″ larger than the finished height of your flying geese (3 7/8″).

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each small square, just as you would for a half square triangle. Align two of the small squares with opposing corners of your large square, like so:

The small squares will overlap slightly, and that’s ok…they should. Now sew on either side of the diagonal line using a .25″ allowance.

Using a rotary cutter and ruler, cut the unit in half along the diagonal line.

Press the fabric open, and you’ll have two units that look like this:

Place one small square in the remaining corner of your main fabric, and make sure that the diagonal line you’ve drawn on the small square runs up from the corner to meet the center point of the smaller squares you just sewed like this:

Sew on either side of the diagonal line using a .25″ allowance, and cut the unit along the diagonal line. Repeat the process with the other unit.

Press the fabric open, and you will have four flying geese! Pat yourself on the back and enjoy the satisfaction of not wasting fabric!

New Month, New Fabric, New Coloring Page!

The garden is in full bloom at Casa Hersey - tulips, begonias, spinach, kale - it runs the gamut! I can't take any credit for the lovely and delicious things growing in our yard...I have a brown thumb when it comes to plants, so I stick to drawing flowers that can't die and leave the gardening to my green-thumbed, botanically-gifted husband.

Speaking of flowers I've drawn, my latest collection of patterns - Acadia -  is now available on Spoonflower.

Acadia Quilt

This collection was inspired by our visit to Acadia National Park and our wide-spread exploration of Maine a couple of summers ago.

Acadia Pattern Collection

As frequent visitors to the western United States, it was quite a change to spend time along the northeastern coast. The flora and fauna are so different from what we're used to, either at home or traveling. In this collection, I've tried to capture some of the unique beauty found in the Acadia region.

The artwork from this collection is featured in this month's coloring page. I hope you enjoy it!

Bonfire Sampler - A Sister Sampler Quilt

I had the pleasure of hearing AnneMarie Chany of Gen X Quilters talk about her book, Sister Sampler Quilts, at a recent meeting of Columbus Modern Quilters. Her talk was inspirational, and her quilts were gorgeous! I picked up a copy of her book, and dove right in.

The book features traditional piecing methods and modern, out-of-the-box layouts and quilting. The premise of Sister Sampler Quilts is that each block in the sampler is made in pairs - giving you an instant opportunity to change the way you work with the colors and prints to achieve different looks. I chose a selection of fabrics from Elizabeth Olwen's Park Life collection, along with a few Kona cotton solids.

AnneMarie's directions are clear and very well-written - each pattern was easy to follow, and the technique tutorials really helped with some of the trickier bits (curves, for example). I learned some new things that are sure to show up in my future quilts.

I had so much fun making the Bonfire Sampler from the book, in part because I didn't have a chance to get bored. Since you're making just two of each block before moving on, you don't get burned out doing the same thing over and over. I'm pretty sure I finished this quilt in record time - for me, anyways!

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Embracing this sampler as a learning opportunity, I opted to do something outside of my comfort zone for the quilting. Instead of doing a basic meandering pattern or straight line quilting, I did different types of FMQ (free motion quilting) for each of the blocks, with an orange peel sort of frame around them all. I used straight line quilting and a meandering pattern in the border, and while I can see I need more practice on the FMQ, I'm really pleased with the end result.

Veranda Quilt Pattern

In January, I released my Hideaway fabric collection to Spoonflower, and decided it was high time I made a quilt with my own fabric. I came up with a simple pattern that allowed me to show off the prints, and I'm calling it the Veranda quilt.

I received a lot of positive feedback on this quilt, and by popular demand, I'm excited to offer this free pattern to you! The instructions include directions for a throw size quilt (60" x 60") or a baby quilt (48" x 48"), but this 12" finished block can be used to make any size quilt your heart desires!

You can download the pattern here, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed designing it - Happy Quilting! And be sure to share your quilt on IG - #verandaquilt

2016 - The Year of Big Quilts!

Last week I declared that while I don't make New Year's resolutions, I did resolve to try and make big quilts this year. That's right...I don't always follow the rules, even when they're my own.

For my first big quilt of 2016, I decided on a Double Wedding ring quilt made with fabric from our recent wedding (fitting, I know). We used homemade cloth napkins for the reception, which have been washed, rewashed, and pressed, as well as fabric from various items like the ring pillow.

I know that it is a luxury that a typical modern quilt is made from lovely fabric, purchased for the purpose of quilting, cut into a bunch of pieces and sewn together as part of a plan. I kind of like that this quilt shares something with the quilts of my ancestors - made from fabric that served another purpose first and led a good, useful life before it became a quilt.

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I splurged and purchased the Simpli-EZ Double Wedding Ring Ruler set in an attempt to not lose my mind cutting or tracing the many many many many pieces needed for the quilt. So far, I have managed to cut 607 tiny wedges without completely losing my mind.

One day soon I'll be able to get to the fun part...the sewing. But for now, I need to run and buy some more blades for my rotary cutter.

Autumn Arrowhead

Happy October! I'm celebrating my favorite month by sharing a quilt block with you for the first time in a looooooooong time. I'm this month's queen bee for the Columbus Modern Quilters, and I selected the Arrowhead block as my block of the month. This is a traditional quilt block, pieced in a very simple way – my sample block took about 10 minutes to make, and I was pausing for photos.

For those of you in the bee, please choose a light and a dark fabric. As you can see from my block, bright and bold are my thing – just make sure there is some contrast. Please stay away from low volume or solid fabric.

Place two 10” squares right sides together. Begin sewing 3” down from the top right edge. When you're 1/4” from the edge, pivot and stitch to the bottom left edge, backstitching at the end.

Rotate the block 180° and repeat for the last two sides.

Cut the unit diagonally, through the sewn corners. You will have two triangle units.

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Stack the two triangle units with the opening in the bottom left corner. Measure 3” from the left and cut through both units.

Now measure 3” from the bottom and cut through both units.

Open all of the sewn units and press the seams toward the light fabric. (This will help everything nest together nicely when sewn.) Lay out the pieces as shown.

Sew the pieces together in three units as shown. Then sew the three units together to make the block.

Square up and trim the block to 11.5”. Congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone enjoyed a restful holiday with their loved ones. I had a wonderful break from work with my family - I think this was one of my most enjoyable holidays yet!

In the run up to Christmas, I was hard at work on gifts, including quilts, aprons, handbags, and pillowcases. I was most excited about two quilts in particular, for my daughters. These poor kids have a mother who sews incessantly but had never made them quilts of their own. I remedied this situation for Christmas.

The other project of which I am pretty proud is a dollhouse pillowcase I designed. I sewed a few of these up as gifts for little friends, and they were a huge success (if I do say so myself).

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This design is available as a one-yard, easy-to-sew project (complete with dolls and a kitten!) in my Spoonflower shop.

With Christmas projects behind me, I'm ready for an exciting new year! I hope you are too!

The garden is dying but the meadow is fresh!

I was bitten by the project-finishing bug this week, and managed to sandwich and quilt a quilt top I've been sitting on since summer. I have to admit - while I chose the fabrics and palette in summer and it seemed appropriate, I'm kind of glad I held off completing it until the weather got dreary. This quilt cheered me up and added some much needed sunshine!

 

The pattern is my own - Duck, Duck, Goose! It's made with a combo of large and small flying geese using the no-waste method found here. The fabric is mostly from Meadow by Leah Duncan, with some of her Tule collection mixed in as well.

Scrappy Tripping

I'm participating in the Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt bee hosted by Julie over at 627handworks.com. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Scrappy Trip quilt, it's a simple and scrappy quilt that's lots of fun to make. I made my first Scrappy Trip quilt a while back, and it is quite possibly the most loved quilt in the house.

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For the quilt bee, there are 6 members in a "hive". I'm making 5 blocks to send off and in turn I will receive 5 completely different blocks from around the world. This week, I sat down and knocked out all of my blocks and got them ready to ship out. I can't wait to see the blocks that are headed my way!

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