Modern Quilt-as-you-Go pattern book

I first tried quilt-as-you-go sewing as part of a Bee-swap a few years ago and REALLY liked it. Basically, it’s piecing your fabrics directly onto the batting and then adding more quilting if you like. Basically quilting the quilt by blocks and then assembling the quilt blocks and adding a back. My Quilted Table Runner tutorial is a method of quilt-as-you-go piecing. The only thing I’d ever really done with q-a-y-g piecing was improv log-cabin blocks. 
So when Jera offered to send me a copy of her new book,Quilt As-You-Go Made Modern, I was intrigued to see what could fill a whole book with this method. I’m so glad she sent it – it is such a great resource! First of all, it’s full of great information about supplies, techniques for quilting, piecing, batting, using fabric, etc. as well as clear instructions and multiple options for piecing the q-a-y-g blocks together, which is sometimes the trickiest part for me.
It also has 12 different quilt-as-you-go (q-a-y-g) patterns and projects to experiment and play with this method with multiple variation ideas for each project. Which means lots of inspiration.  I love this red, scrappy, improv log cabin look.
This is one I want to try – making a large-scale scrappy log cabin quilt.
The most inspiring part of the book for me was the way Jera took other quilt patterns and designs and made quilt-as-you-go options for them. I’ve seen lots of log cabin variations of quilt-as-you-go blocks, but was totally inspired by some new looks and options. This Emerald City quilt is going on my to-do list.
I was so inspired, in fact, I decided to start a new project my self. I’m continuing to try and push myself, not only out of my usual primary color palette, but to only pull from fabrics I have on hand. This is the colors I’m channeling for this project. Best part is that a lot of these are scraps! (Which is another great reason to love q-a-y-g = awesome way to use up not only fabric scraps, but batting scraps as well!) 

I think one of the reasons I like the quilt-as-you-go technique is that I am not a confident machine quilter. I love the look of dense, heavy quilting but I don’t like the basting process and I tend to loose interest in quilting part way through a project, multiple times (like on this quilt that took almost a year to finish.) Making q-a-y-g blocks seems to hold my interest a little longer because of the piecing involved too.

Here’s where I’m at so far. I’m thinking this will turn into a baby boy quilt. I’m itching to get more done.
So, if you’re looking for more inspiration for quilt-as-you-go patterns, or just looking for a great resource with lots of helpful information to get started with this new technique, than I highly recommend Quilt As-You-Go Made Modern. I think it’s a great buy for a really useful book!  

Nested Churn Dash block and quilt-along

A little while back I saw Jane Davidson’s adorable nested Churn Dash block (meaning a churn dash inside a churn dash inside a churn dash…) and thought it was so clever. (Clearly, we’ve all had churn dash quilts on the brain.) So when she asked if I’d like to be a part of a tour of Nested Churn Dash blocks I said sure! Aaaand …. here is my version.
I had in mind the colors that I wanted to use and had a great time pulling fabrics from my stash that fit that vision. I love how it turned out. I played with scraps for the smaller, inside blocks. The matryoshka dolls were a little scrap from my pink scrap bin that had been waiting a few years now for just the right project. It seems fitting to have nesting dolls in a nested churn dash block. (It’s a Japanese print that I bought about 6 or so years ago. I’m not sure what it is.)
I quilted my mini quilt using my new favorite machine-quilting method on my BERNINA. It’s so fast and easy. (Which seems to be my style lately.) I like how the quilting gives texture to the solid areas. I also like how the solid fabrics contrast with the bigger prints. Those two outside churn dash blocks are great areas for showing off large-scale fabrics
I did my quilting using these two shades from Aurifil. I tend to use neutral threads constantly, but I’m trying to break out of my neutral-rut and add more color to my quilts. I love how these two colors blended in with the quilt – still kind of neutral, but with some color too. The blue is #2805 and the green is #1231.
The pattern for this 24″ x 24″ block can be purchased and downloaded from here and here.
Look at this beautiful version made by Jane using Moda collections April Showers and Happy Go Lucky by Bonnie and Camille.  Jane has a post with measurements for different quilt sizes using the nested churn dash block as well as tips and ideas for choosing fabrics.

Be sure to check out the rest of Jane’s posts each day this month – there is so much good information, hints, and tips such as how to match up points, choosing fabric, half-square-triangle techniques, etc from other quilters who have made their own blocks. 
You can also see other versions of the blocks on these blogs:
June 9th – Carrie Nelson –
June 10th – Kim Niedzwiecki –
June 11th – Pat Sloan –
June 12th – Lissa Alexander –
June 13th – FatQuarterShop –
June 16th – Frances Newcombe –
June 18th – Sherri McConnell –
June 19th – Sara Lawson –
June 20th – Amy Smart – (moi)
June 21st – Katy Jones –
June 23th – Making a quilt using the Nested Churn Dash block.
June 30th – Finishing the quilt.
July 30th – Winners selected from the Flickr group.

At the end of the month, Jane will be sharing tips on finishing your block. If you want to play along, you can upload your finished blocks or projects to the Flickr Group to win some beautiful Aurifil thread packs and other great prizes. Use #NestedChurnDash on IG, FB, Flickr and twitter. Winners will be announced 30th July 2014.

Quilting giveaway from Sew Shabby Quilting

I have mentioned Melissa from Sew Shabby Quilting many times on my blog. Melissa has quilted numerous quilts for me. I am not ashamed to say that the actual ‘quilting’ part of making a quilt is my least favorite part of the process. It’s the part I am least confident in and as a result, I just don’t enjoy it. Plus I find I get more of my projects actually completed if I turn them over to someone else for quilting.
So I am SO grateful when I find a professional long-arm quilter who I can trust with my quilts. Melissa has been that for me – she’s been a lifesaver for me many times over.
Melissa has multiple options when it comes to quilting – she has the capacity to do the computer-programmed all-over quilting, which I’ve done on many of my quilts (like the giant Indie star quilt above) because it’s such a reasonable price and I like the all-over texture it gives. You can see the variety of patterns she has here. (Keep in mind the all-over computer programmed patterns can be sized to different scales, so if you choose one, help your quilter and be sure to specify how open or dense you’d like the design scale on your quilt.)

Melissa does beautiful custom work as well, such as on my Safari Moon quilt. I love the pebbles in the borders and the free-hand swirls in the big blocks. You can see more of her free-hand quilting for Elizabeth and Maureen on Melissa’s blog.

Melissa also has an etsy shop with popular fabrics marked 10%-50% off.
Today Melissa is generously offering a $50 gift certificate towards quilting to one of my readers! To enter leave a comment on this post sharing what you’d use it towards. Giveaway open until Monday, April 14 at midnight MST. GIVEAWAY CLOSED I’ll randomly select a winner.
I would use it towards having My Fat Quarter Shop Mystery 2012 BOM quilt quilted
Melissa frequently gives great deals on batting, quilting, and fabric. To keep up on the latest offers, you can follow Sew Shabby Quilting on Facebook, or sign-up for their newsletter on their homepage.

New blocks + new machine quilting technique

I feel like I’ve been working like a crazy-lady behind the scenes around here, but don’t have a lot to share right away. I have been staying caught up on my Bee Blocks though, so I’ll share those. This is the latest block from the 2014 Aurifil Block of the Month, this time designed by Emily Herrick. Here is the tutorial for this specific block.

I am still totally digging this color scheme and I’m having fun watching this quilt start to grow.

 Another Bee block for my friend Nedra from the Bees Knees.

This block was made using Triangles on a Roll papers to piece the flying geese. They were really cool! Nedra has the tutorial for this block here and explains more about Triangles on a Roll.
Basically, it’s another method of machine paper-piecing, but this time you are working and sewing on the same side as the markings, which eliminated that flip and match-step. This kept the same accurate piecing, but there was less fabric waste because you can see where you were sewing. It took me a few minutes to get used to a new method, but then I really loved it. And the results were awesome.

A few more projects in the works behind the scenes that aren’t ready to share yet. This quilt is for an upcoming quilt-along on the We All Sew (BERNINA) blog later this spring. For this quilt, I tried a new quilting technique and I was so happy with how it turned out. I am still not very confident in my free-motion-quilting skills. I know I just need to practice – it’s finding the time to do it that’s my problem, but definitely something I’d like to become more comfortable with in the future.

In the mean time, the only kind of quilting I’ve been comfortable with is straight-line quilting. So, if you’re like me, this was a good step outside my comfort zone, but not TOO scary since I was just using my walking foot, going in straight lines and letting my needle do all the work. I love that it gives the quilting more of a stipple-organic look, without having to free-motion it. I’m not perfect yet, but the overall quilt looks really great. (Full reveal soon.) I have to admit the giant throat space on the BERNINA 710 has also given me more courage to quilt a big quilt myself.
I used stitch #4 on my Bernina 710. I think it’s a pretty standard stitch for all newer Bernina’s. (I think it’s stitch 3 on my old Bernina Sport 801 – it looks like a wavy line.) The width is set to 5.5 and I used a stitch length of 3. I think I’d like to try it with a longer stitch next time and see how that changes things. Chime in if you know what stitch this is on other machines. 

And one last bit of eye-candy because it’s just SO pretty and makes me want spring. A new quilt design in the works with this new Kona solids New Bright Palette roll-up. I’m itching to get started!

How to Finish and Bind a Quilt

For our final installment of the Virtual Quilting Bee, let’s talk about finishing – or binding – a quilt. This is adding that final edge to cover the raw edges of the fabric after the quilt has been quilted. One option is to roll over the back fabric edges and sew them to the front to finish that edge. I personally like the look of a separate binding – gives it a clean finish. It’s also a fun excuse to use another fabric and use it to finish off the final design.

When I first learned to quilt, I was really nervous about learning to bind a quilt – and was amazed once I did learn how easy it was to make a really good looking binding. Now it’s one of my favorite parts of quilting.

Cutting the fabric: I like to do a double binding on my quilts – meaning there are two layers to the binding edge. This gives it an extra layer of fabric to hold up against wear and tear. To get this I cut my binding strips 2 1/2″ wide. You can cut your strips across the width of the fabric yardage, or cut them on the bias, which means to cut them diagonally across the fabric.

There are pros and cons to both methods. Cutting straight-edge is easier with less fabric waste. Bias bindings are sturdier because the fabric edge not being on the straight of grain. If you are going to have any kind of curved edge to your quilt, you will need a bias binding.

I talk more about Bias Bindings in this post. Jaybird Quilts also has an excellent tutorial about Bias Binding and how to cut continuous bias binding.

One determining factor for whether you cut straight edge or bias binding is the fabric itself. You may want to put a stripe or a gingham on the bias to make a diagonal design for the binding. The fabric I chose already had a diagonal motif, so I choose the straight edge to keep the diagonal design as is.

When cutting a straight edge binding (or any straight strips of fabric) before you cut, make sure your selvage edges line up straight with each other. This may require refolding the fabric and pressing a new center fold. As you can see in the picture above, the fabric came off the bolt with the selvage edges not matched up.

When selvage edges are matched up and straight, line up the center fold on a straight line on your quilting mat  (see arrow above) and carefully trim the edge to create a straight edge and therefore, a straight strip of fabric. (This step is important, otherwise your fabric strip could end up V shaped.)

I generally cut my binding strips 2 1/2″ wide, unless it’s a small quilt when I might cut them 2 1/4″ wide.

For the Virtual Quilting Bee Quilt cut 7 strips 2 1/2″ wide x 42″ (or width of fabric) – or if you are using bias binding, you will need 275″ of continuous bias binding.

Trim selvage edges off of all strips and sew them end to end to create one long strip, pressing seams open (so you don’t have bulk). Fold in half lengthwise and press.

Using a ruler and rotary cutter and the quilt top as a guide, trim the excess batting and backing layers so that all edges of the quilt are the same. Be careful to keep the quilt’s sides square.

Pin the raw edges (non-folded-edge) to the raw outside edges of the quilt front. This is personal preference, but I then like to pin the entire binding to the quilt before I sew it down. This helps keep the binding taught and prevents potential wavy quilt edges later.
To create a mitered corner on the binding follow the steps above (starting top left): When you come to the corner put a pin in the corner at a 45 degree angle. Fold strip to the side at that same 45 degree angle. Now fold the strip back on it self with the fold at the first edge of the quilt and matching up the binding edges to the edge of the second side of the quilt. Place one more pin on the new side at a 45 degree angle. This will create a little triangle flap of fabric in the corner. Repeat at all four corners.
When the strip gets back around to the beginning fold the ends down so that the strips meet-up. Press with your iron to make a crease at both folds.
Trim both ends to 1/4″ away from the folds. Remove pins, match up strips right sides together, pin, and sew seam right on pressed crease. Press seam open, refold strip and pin in place.
Sew binding in place using a 1/4″ seam allowance. I highly recommend using a walking foot if you have one.
When you get to the corner keep flap down and sew until you are 1/4″ away from the corner. Lift the needle, but do not cut the thread. Rotate the quilt and flip the little triangle flap so that it lies the opposite direction. Begin sewing next seam right at the edge of the last side. Repeat at all four corners.
When your binding is sewn to your quilt front fold the folded edge of the binding over to the back of the quilt and pin or clip in place. (I have finally started using Clover Wonder Clips which I really love – and so do the feet of my family members. Less worry about stray pins ending up in the carpet as I drag the quilt around to hand-quilt it.)
I suggest a matching thread and a sturdy needle. Hand binding goes much more quickly if you have a needle that is longer and heavier – and I can do it with out a thimble with a heavier needle too.
After putting a knot in the end of the thread, hide the knot at the edge of the quilt where the binding will fold over and hide it. Bring the needle through the very bottom edge of the bias strip and tack it down on the backing fabric, right underneath where the needle came through. Then slide the needle through the backing fabric, behind the binding strip bringing the needle out the bottom edge again. This creates a blind stitch. Repeat!

For more perspective and additional photos of the same method see this Binding a Quilt tutorial. Jaybird Quilts also has an excellent perspective on binding here, as well as information about calculating fabric requirements for binding.

The quilting on this quilt was done by Melissa of Sew Shabby Quilting.
Personally, I really like binding a quilt by hand because not only does it create a clean, blind finish, but it’s also mindless sewing and pretty much the only time I sit down to watch a movie or TV. But binding a quilt by machine can be efficient and look equally clean and tidy. For more tips and explanation I have a Machine Binding tutorial here. There is another great machine binding tutorial by Cluck Cluck Sew.

Some quick thoughts on washing your quilt: I personally love to machine wash my machine-quilted-quilts when they are done because they soften up a lot and have a more antiqued, crinkly look. If you’ve used cotton batting they are likely to shrink slightly more. (I don’t machine-wash hand quilted quilts as liberally.)

I wash the quilts on a gentle cycle with a very mild soap and dry on a low heat setting. If you’re at all worried about color bleeding, the first time you wash a quilt throw in a Shout Color Catcher (available in the laundry aisle at the grocery store). Remember from our discussion on choosing fabrics for quilts, if you’re using high-quality quilt fabrics, you should have very little worry about colors bleeding.

If you have any additional questions about finishing a quilt, leave a comment and I will answer in them in the comments section below.

And that wraps up our Virtual Quilting Bee series! For links to all the the posts in this series visit the Virtual Quilting Bee page. I’ll have a few more shots of both of the quilts together once I get the Kona version back from the quilter. And I’m thinking it would be fun to have a little party to show off the quilts that have been put together using these tutorials. Let’s wait until after the busy holiday season. So look for an announcement at the beginning of February!

Thanks so much to all who played along as well as Moda and Robert Kaufman for sponsoring the fabrics I used.

If you are looking for Happy Go Lucky fabrics – the fabrics I used in this quilt – they are still available at The Little Fabric Shop and Poppy Seed Fabrics.

This post contains affiliate links.


Virtual Quilting Bee – Quilt-Making Technique Basics

Welcome to Part 3 of the Virtual Quilting Bee!

Today we’re going to discuss quilting tips and techniques as we prepare to sew our blocks. Next Friday will be our first quilt block tutorial designed by Sherri of A Quilting Life. Sherri is such a talented and experienced quilter – I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve!

Today I will share some quilting tips and basic techniques. As I’ve mentioned previously, if I have written more indepth about these topics, I will link to those posts, rather than re-hash everything again, but hopefully this will be a good reference point for lots of different quilting basics.
Working with Patterns
For more in-depth information on working with Quilt Patterns, refer to this post as part of the Beginning Quilting Series, but here are a few handy tips whether you’re working with a printed pattern or using an online tutorial:
·         Read all the way through the entire pattern before you do anything. It’s always good to get an idea of the ‘big picture’ before you start.
·         Check the experience level so you don’t get frustrated. Complex quilting takes practice. I would suggest starting with something simple at first – larger shapes, simple design, etc. just to get the hang of things before jumping into something more advanced. But that’s just me.

Preparing Fabric
To pre-wash or not to pre-wash? Growing up my mom pre-washed everything, but once I started working in a quilt shop about 9 years ago, we never pre-washed and didn’t worry because we were always using high-quality fabrics. There were a few occasions where something bled after everything was pieced, but those were very, very few and far between. Occasionally I’ll wash a solid red or black, or something from a manufacturer that I don’t trust, but that’s very rare. I wrote more here about my Pre-Washing experiences and Shout color catchers. But basically, if you’re using new, high-quality quilt-shop fabrics you don’t need to pre-wash. I actually prefer working with the fabric right off the bolt because it has the sizing still in it and it’s easier to cut accurately. 

Also, you do not need to pre-wash pre-cuts. Besides being a huge pain in the rear to re-shape and press, they are likely going to fray and you’re going to loose a lot of fabric real estate when they shrink slightly.

Cutting Fabric

Accurate and careful cutting can save so much frustration down the road, not to mention wasted fabric. Take the time to cut your pieces accurately. Here are a few tips, but for more detailed information and pictures, refer to the Cutting 101 post as part of the Beginning Quilting Series. 
·         Respect the rotary cutter. A good quality rotary cutter will make a big difference in your cutting. (I use Olfas.) Change the blade – don’t try to milk that blade to death, you’ll only get frustrated. I’m always amazed at the difference a new blade makes, and I always wonder why I waited so long to change it. (Watch for coupons and sales on blades so that you can buy them in bulk for a better price.) Also, be careful. Those suckers can draw some serious blood if you’re not careful.
·         Hold the ruler applying steady pressure with your left hand (make sure no fingers are hanging over the edge of the ruler) and use the rotary cutter like a pizza slicer – push it away from your body – with your right hand. (Opposite hands if your left-handed, obviously.)
·    Cutting multiple layers of fabric at a time is a great time saver, however I try not to cut more than 4 layers at once. The larger the blade, the more accurately it will cut through multiple layers. I generally use my medium-sized Olfa blade (pictured) for most projects, but I have a large blade that I LOVE for cutting lots of pieces at once. Use the mini blades for small projects like trimming or squaring up blocks.
·         Square up your fabric before you start cutting strips or pieces. It takes a minute more of your time, but makes a huge difference – especially when cutting pieces like long strips. Start by matching up your selvage edges – that may require re-pressing the center fold – so that you can use the straight edge of the selvage as a guide for squaring off the raw ends. (A lot more in depth explanation and photos found in the Cutting 101 post).
·         Use the ruler – not the grid on the cutting mat – as your guide for cutting.  The ruler is going to be more accurate, especially when cutting small pieces. 
·         When cutting strips, pieces, etc., place ruler over the top of fabric at the desired width/size your need to cut. You can use multiple rulers if you need more width, etc.
Piecing is the actual sewing the pieces of the block or quilt together. Go here for the Piecing post of the Beginning Quilting series.
·         The key is a consistent ¼” seam allowance!  Always keep the edges of your fabrics matched-up and against the edge of your presser-foot as you sew. It will feel tedious at first, but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel.
·         A SCANT ¼” seam allowance is best. Measure your seam allowance with your ruler.  Your seam should fall just inside the ¼” line of your ruler. This will help so much with accuracy with creating your quilt blocks.  Your piecing will just fit together better.  Many machines have a ¼” presser foot available. I just adjust my needle to the right one notch and it’s perfect with my regular foot. Go here for more details on and pictures of a Scant ¼”. I can’t emphasize this one enough – especially as we plan to make quilt blocks for this quilt along.
·         Chain piecing is a great method when you are sewing lots of little pieces together at once. Just feed them through the machine one right after the other without breaking the thread or raising the presser foot.  Then trim between the pieces when you’re ready to sew the next step. Saves time and thread. I will sometimes take the whole chain to the ironing board and press them open before I clip the threads.
·    Pinning can help a lot with keeping your pieces matched up accurately. I’m a rebel and often sew right over the pins (because I like to live on the edge). Clover makes really thin pins for quilt makers that are a dream. Invest in good pins – long with easily grip-able knobs at the top are the best. (Also, they’re easier to find when your drop them on the floor.)
Please note there is a difference between pressing and ironing. You definitely don’t want to iron your quilt piecing or blocks as it could stretch and misshape the fabric, but pressing makes a huge difference in a neat, crisp-looking block or quilt. Pressing is more careful and gentle, but using a lot of heat and sometimes some steam is a great asset.
·         I press seams to the side, unless it is a heavily pieced block where the seams create a lot of bulk, then I will occasionally press my seams open. Sometimes patterns give pressing directions, sometimes I just do my best to guess.
·       “Set the seam” –- this means to press over the seam first with seam still closed. I don’t know the science of “why” behind “setting the seam” but it really does make a difference.
·         Then open up blocks and press again from the top (front) to get a nice clean press. This way you can also make sure the seam is open all the way and nice and flat. 
·         To steam or not to steam?  I don’t always steam, just because I don’t like to keep water in my iron. (leaks, wrecks the iron after a while, etc.) but it’s an option if you have really small pieces and/or need something to lie really flat. Just be careful not to stretch or distort the fabric.
Square up blocks
Squaring up your quilt blocks means to measure and trim them so that they measure accurately and are all the same size. I get it – squaring-up can be tedious work- but it makes a HUGE difference in keeping things accurate and square. I like to piece my block portions like flying geese, half-square triangles, etc slightly large just so I have the room to square them up with nice, straight edges.

Just make sure that you square up evenly on all sides.  Those square rulers with the diagonal line are a big help for squaring up because you can use that line to find the diagonal center of the unit and keep the block from getting trimmed in-accurately.

For squaring up something with a point, like this flying-geese block, make sure you leave a 1/4″ seam allowance at the tip of the point. A Pineapple or Flying-geese ruler like this one will have a guide to help you maintain that 1/4″ at the point. Also note how I squared up evenly on all four sides so that the point remained centered.

Finally a little bit of advice before we start sewing next week:

Quilting theory according to Amy Smart

Finally- remember this is all about having FUN. Cutting and sewing accurately will minimize frustration down the road, so they are definitely worth practicing, but at the same time, don’t be obsessive about perfection. It can take all the fun right out of the experience. 
It’s not a race or a competition and there is no Quilting Gestapo that are going to come check every seam allowance or measure every quilt block or make sure you’ve followed the pattern perfectly. I’ve learned not to fret too much if a few star points get lost along the way while I’m doing something creative. Then again, I don’t usually enter any of my quilts in the State Fair – for the most part they’re for me or for friends and family who generally don’t quilt.

For me quilting is about playing with color and design and a creative outlet. Your purpose might be different than mine – just do what makes it a fun, creative experience for you. Play with different colors, don’t be afraid to stretch yourself a little, but make sure it’s still something you are enjoying along the way.

A little business:

I have set up a Virtual Quilting Bee Flickr group. There’s not much to see right now, but as we start having blocks to share, please feel free to upload your creations. One of my favorite parts of going to a quilting class is to see the variety of fabric choices people bring to the same project. It’s so inspiring! This Flickr group will be like our ‘classroom design wall’.

Thanks so much for participating. I really want this group to be as helpful as possible! Feel free to leave tips or links to other quilting techniques in the comments below. Also, if you have questions, I will leave my responses in the comments as well.

Happy weekend!