Sunday, October 19, 2014

Beautiful mail, a winner and other stuff

Beautiful pillows by Molli Sparkles

Those beautiful pillows were in my mailbox on Friday when I got home from work. The very talented Molli Sparkles sent them to me as my Pay-it-Forward gift. If you are unfamiliar with Joshua's work, you should check him out - he is talented, funny and smart - we debate sometimes - and his photos are spectacular, in part because he makes beautiful things and he studied photography.

Beautiful pillows by Molli Sparkles

In return, it's my turn to invite 3 people to sign up to receive a gift from me over the next 12 months, on condition that when you receive your gift you will, in turn, invite 3 more people, and repeat this process.

Beautiful pillows by Molli Sparkles

So anyone who wants to join in and get a gift from me, please say clearly that you want to do a pay it forward with me in a comment and if there are more than 3 of you, I will put your names in a hat and draw out 3. You can also just comment on how beautiful these pillows are, without being signed up for anything.

Next, the lucky winner of the beautiful give away of that Moonshine bundle sponsored by Sew Sisters Quilt Shop is Tracine. I have been in contact with her already and she is thrilled to win. Thank you all for participating and to Sew Sisters for sponsoring this give away!

It turns out that my family needs me at home this coming weekend so I am not going to fall Quilt Market or to the International Quilt Festival in Houston. Luckily, the Blogger's Quilt Festival starts on Friday, so we will all have beautiful quilts to look at from our own homes. I hope you are planning to share a favourite quilt - new or old - in the festival. You need a new blog post to participate, the rules and categories are here - so maybe like me you are picking your quilt and writing that post.

This online quilt show is the easiest quilt show to enter of all - there are lovely prizes, no entry fees or jurying to get in, and it is a chance to meet new bloggers from all over the world.

Cycles 2

And if you are in Houston for quilt market or the International Quilt Festival - I hope you will say hi to Cycles 2 in the Modern Quilt Showcase. I would love a photo if you have a chance to email one to me.

Don't forget to join in with the Scraptastic Tuesday link up. For the first link - we will have one every second Tuesday of the month - Nicky and I are keeping the link open for two weeks but after that it will be one week. There are wonderful prizes that will be randomly awarded, so link up a post about a favourite scrappy quilt or project, a project / quilt in progress, how you manage your scraps, or other scrappy information - go here.

I am off to sew and then, unfortunately, I have some real job work to do today too. I hope you are enjoying your weekend, it has been beautiful here.



Friday, October 17, 2014

if you were shopping... #11

Welcome to if you're shopping.... On Fridays I will share with you the news from my sponsors, in case you want to do a little shopping, or even window shopping, this weekend.

I am in love with my friend Lynne from Lily's Quilts's beautiful Autumn Checkerboard Quilt that she designed for Oakshott Fabrics. The kit for the quilt top is right here.

I see some beautiful new fabrics over at Fabric Spark including that beautiful print from the Gramercy collection called Subway Routes.

Paint, by Carrie Bloomston has arrived at Fluffy Sheep Quilting. I met Carrie briefly at spring quilt market and she is so nice, just one of those people you instantly like. 

I am in love with these daisy prints by Suzuko Koseki that have arrived at Sew me a Song

This week's beautiful Monday Mosaic bundle over at  Mad about Patchwork is called Christopher's Choice and it is 20% off this week.

Chérie, the beautiful line by Frances Newcombe is new over at at Sew Sisters! I am in love with these fabrics.

It's Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, and the Fat Quarter Shop posted about all their pink products which support research into breast cancer on their blog. I dream of a world where we no longer need to share this awareness every October, and the way for that to happen is by support for research for a cure.

Massdrop has my favourite new Gingher Eve scissors on again. I bought these the last time they had them for a drop and they are a dream to use. They would be a fantastic Christmas present for a quilter - from maybe your kids to you, you to your mom or best friend - just saying.

Charm packs are $6.89 and mini charm packs are $3.49 over at  Green Fairy Quilts, and of course these folks have their everyday great shipping rates.

Enjoy your weekend!



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Decipher Your Quilt - Borders, Backing and Bindings

Jess, from Elven Garden Quilts, and I are back today with another post in our Decipher Your Quilt series. The goal of DYQ is to make it easier for quilters to understand quilts and quilt blocks and how to make quilts and quilt blocks and resize them without reference to patterns or books.

Today we are going to both discuss deciphering borders, backings and bindings - the less glamorous parts of a quilt. 



I didn't think I liked borders on quilts until I started making bold modern quilts. Well, it turns out that borders can be the negative space, and so I needed to learn how to make them. The information below will work for any kind of border, negative space or special fabric or strips of blocks - for example, a medallion quilt is just a centre with many additional borders.


The problem with borders is that they become wavy. That is, the border does not lie flat after it is sewn on and during the quilting it can develop big puckers, or worse, folds. The reason for this is simple, the border is too big for that side of the quilt. If you just make a very long piece of border fabric and sew it to the quilt centre and then trim it to the size you need, chances are that you will get wavy borders. I understand this is because of the way the sewing machine mechanism attaches the borders  when they are not pinned in place often allows the borders to be bigger than you actually need by the tiniest bit at each stitch, but over a long border those little bits add up and the waves start to appear.

Despite the obvious answer - make the border the correct size - I find it hard to describe making borders without a lot of words, so hang in there with me as I go, I promise it will make sense. And I am certain that there are many other ways to decipher borders, I am just going to share my way with you but if you already have a good approach, please carry on with what works for you.

My tips and calculations for borders are as follows :

        the size of the borders
  • When I am putting borders all around my quilt, I generally add two side borders and then the top and bottom borders (courthouse steps style) because it is easier to calculate these sizes than adding the borders log cabin style. Sometimes I do the top and bottom first and then the sides, that is just a design decision as to where you want the longer pieces and often it does not show after the quilt is quilted.
  • The two shorter borders will be the length of the sides of the pieced quilt centre. So for example, if your quilt is made up of 12" finished blocks and it is 4 blocks tall and 3 blocks wide, you calculation looks like this: 4 x 12" = 48" + 1/2" = 48 1/2" The reason you add the half inch at the end is that the top and bottom block will be unfinished on one end and will each have 1/4" seam allowance, or 1/2" together. In this example your side borders should both be cut to 48 1/2" in length. 
  • To determine the width to cut for the border, add 1/4" seam allowance to the finished width you desire. For example, if we want 10" wide finished borders all around for this example quilt, our first two borders will need to be 10 1/4" wide by 48 1/2" long. (If you want unequal width borders, just change the width measurements for each calculation to your desired widths).
  • Of course, quilting fabric is about 40" wide so to make a 48 1/2" long border, we will have to piece it out of at least two pieces. I tend to make one piece as long as I can and then add on the remaining length that I need, but where you place the piecing seam is, as far as I am concerned, a design decision or might depend on the size of the bits of fabric you have about. 
  • The key is to remember that you will need to add 1/4" to each of the pieces for the width of the seam allowance where you piece the border together. To make our example border, I would cut one piece 40 1/4" and one piece 8 3/4" (both 10 1/4" wide) and then seam them together. The resulting border piece should be 48 1/2" long by 10 1/4" wide. 
  • Remember that your centre pieced part may not be perfectly sized. The more seams in the piecing and the more difficult the joins, the more likelihood that your quilt will not actually be the size that the calculations say it should be.
  • So, before you cut the side borders, lay out the centre piece of the quilt and measure it's side length. If this is not the length  you expect (in the example we are expecting 48 1/2"), and is larger than the expected length, if possible I trim the centre piece to the size I am expecting. This is not an option if you have points that come right to the edge of the seam allowance of your outside blocks. If you cannot trim the centre piece or if the centre piece is shorter than you are expecting, then measure it along both sides and also down the centre. Add up these three measurements, and divide by 3. Use this number instead of the expected number - in our example, use this number instead of 48 1/2", for the length of your side borders. 
  • The length of the top and bottom borders is calculated by taking the width of the quilt once the side borders are added. In our example, to add the side borders we will sew our 10 1/4" x 48 1/2" side border pieces to our pieced section which is 3 blocks wide or 3 x 12" = 36" + 1/2" = 36 1/2" wide. However, once we sew the two side borders to the pieced centre section we use up both the 1/2"  seam allowance from the two sides of the pieced centre and the 1/4" seam allowance on each of the two side border pieces. So the resulting width of the pieced centre with two side borders attached is 10 + 36 + 10 = 56". So the top and bottom borders need to be 56" long and 10 1/4" wide.
  • The 56" length will have to be made up of at least two pieces of the border fabric so remember to add 1/4" seam allowance to each piece at the seam for the seam allowance. 
  • Before you cut the top and bottom borders, you need to again measure the width of the centre pieced part of the quilt, like before, to make sure it is actually the size you expect - in this example, 36 1/2". If not, again measure in three spots and take the average and use that measurement in place of the 36 1/2"
  • When the top and bottom borders are added, the quilt in this example will be 56" wide by 68" long (48" long + 10" + 10" = 68").
  • Finally, to figure out how much yardage you will need for these borders, I consider how many strips I need to make the borders. Here I needed three strips for each set of borders, so 6 strips in all. The width of each strip is 10 1/4". So 6 x 10 1/4 = 61 1/2". 61 1/2" divided by 36" (1 yard) = 1.7 yards. I would buy 2 yards of border fabric to give me room for a little bit of error.
        more tips for piecing the borders
  • Measure and cut your borders as meticulously as you can. When your border is long, this is not always easy as most of us don't have long cutting mats. Every time you fold your fabric, your measurements as distorted, and even a quarter inch can make a difference with your borders. Do your best to keep your folds crisp and keep your border fabric on grain as you cut it. When piecing a border to make it longer, work hard to maintain your 1/4" seam. The best technique is to measure the border pieces again when they are ready to go to make sure that they are the right size.
  • When you are ready to sew the borders on to the edges, fold the border piece in half and mark that middle point. Fold each edge in to the middle and mark the quarter point. Do the same with the centre part of the quilt to which you are adding that border, marking the same spots. Pin the border to the centre part at the three marks. Add more pins between those three pins, easing the pieces together between the marked spots. This is essential to avoid wavy borders - you are making sure that no extra tiny bits of fabric are allowed to accumulate with each stitch. As you sew the border on, make sure the marked spots continue to match up and ease the fabric between those spots so that the border fits on the quilt centre.
  • Watch carefully at the beginning and end of the border seam that you are not veering off to the side a little bit - this is a thing that often happens to me - as it will distort your border. If need be, resew those parts of the seam. 
  • Press your two side border seams before you add your top and bottom borders. Be careful not to stretch your borders as you press them. When you press your top and bottom borders and then the whole quilt top, again be careful with the borders so they do not distort.
Sheesh, can you believe how many words it took to explain how to add strips to the sides of your pieced centre! This is why I still avoid borders when I can.



Backings are easy, compared to borders. Generally you want your backing - and also the batting/wadding - to be at least 4 - 6" wider than your finished quilt top all around. If you are going to send it to a long arm quilter,  check with your quilter to get the size you will need. The reason for the extra backing is to first make it easier to baste the quilt as you don't need to place the layers exactly on top of each other if the bottom parts are larger. Secondly, the extra backing and batting allow the quilt top to be stretched out a bit by the quilting without leaving a part without backing fabric. Thirdly, it gives you a place to hold onto the quilt as you quilt the edges either by hand or by machine.

First take the quilt top size, 56" x 68" in our example above, and add 6" to each side, so 56 + 6 + 6 = 68" and 68 + 6 + 6 = 80". The back and the batting need to be about 68" x 80".

To calculate amount of yardage you will need for the backing, remember that regular quilting cotton has at least 40" of width after you remove the selvages. For me, the easiest way to calculate the backing is to take the larger measurement and see if it is less than or equal to one, two or three times 40". In this case 80" is  2 x 40" = 80". So two widths of fabric will be just sufficient.

I then look at the other measurement, in this case 68" and as we need two widths of fabric, I multiply the 68" x 2  = 136". 136" divided by 36" (1 yard)  = 3.78 yards. I would buy 4 yards of background fabric. To make the back I would remove the selvage edges from the 4 yards of background fabric and cut it into two equal 72" (2 yard) pieces. Then sew those pieces together along the long edge to get a piece that is about 80" x 72" which is a good sized back. Remember to use the same tips as with the borders to piece those two backing pieces together - fold in half and in half again, mark, match those half and quarter marks, pin and ease the fabric between pins - or you will get a wavy back. 

Of course, instead you can piece a lovely back in which case you just want to make sure it is at least 4 - 6" wider all around than your quilt top.

All the Colours


Binding is so easy to calculate in comparison. Measure all four edged of your trimmed quilt top and add those measurements together and then add 10" more - to cover the folds when you mitre the corners. In our example, 56 + 68 + 56 + 68 + 10 = 258". Divide that number by 40" (width of fabric) 258 /40 = 6.45. Round that up to the next whole number which is 7. You will cut 7 width of fabric strips for the binding. 

The width of the binding strips is your preference. I usually use 2 1/2" strips for binding. Multiply the width of your binding strips by the number of strips you need. 7 x 2 1/2 = 17 1/2" or half a yard (18"). If I was buying new fabric for my binding, I would buy 3/4 of a yard, to give me room for a cutting errors as I make them from time to time. One tip, if you make a cutting error, you can always add a bit of a different coloured binding and call it a feature strip.

We are nearing the end of the Decipher Your Quilt series

If you are still here reading after all that, please consider whether there are any other topics for Decipher Your Quilt that you would like Jess and I to cover - you can find the topics and links to the posts we have already done here (the page at the top of my and Jess's blogs). If we get some suggestions, leave them in the comments or email one of us and we will add consider adding your topic.

If there are no additional suggestions, we will finish up the series with a post likely in three weeks with an explanation of how to decipher piecing together different sized quilt blocks.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

All the Colours - Ta Da!

All the Colours

I have been slow to show off All the Colours. She was made using the Chess on the Steps pattern my friend Krista - Poppyprint - designed for the Modern Quilt Guild Pattern of the Month, go here to see Krista's fantastic version, do, I will wait. My quilt is about 43" square after a good wash and dry.

All the Colours

When the pattern was released, I had a charm package of Michael Miller solids sitting on my sewing table. I had been given this beautiful set of fabrics at the MQG's Sewdown Nashville so I decided to use them for the pattern. Krista has shared the fastest, fun improv technique. In no time I used up all the charm squares and had the middle section all done.

All the Colours

Despite my desire to use all the colours, I am not very comfortable with quilts which are totally scrappy or totally a riot of colours. So I grouped the colours by warn and cool. This is not something I made up, I first saw the impact of this technique in Malka Dubrawsky's quilt book Fresh Quilting - I'm not sure she invented it either but she is the person I learned it from. Just this small colour sort makes this quilt so much calmer to me.

All the Colours

I wanted this quilt to be for one of the new babies arriving in my family. So I picked out some larger pieces of Kona Solids that were on my shelf and added them on, carrying on with the court house steps concept that Krista used in the pattern.

All the Colours

When I started quilting this quilt, I thought I would practice swirls and such but almost immediately I decided that was not what I felt like doing that day. Instead of tearing out the bits I had done, I just transitioned to wavy then to straightish lines. When I got the other end I reversed the process and ended with more swirly bits.

All the Colours - dragonfly detail

I included a dragonfly - which is a motif that Jamie Wallen taught me at the American Quilter's Society show in Grand Rapids. These are surprisingly easy and fun to quilt.

All the Colours - back

I picked the back before I knew the gender of the baby.

All the Colours

This photo gives you a bit of scale, taken in the stairwell at my office building. All these photos are after the wash and dry, which really brings out the crinkle and pushes the lightly variegated King Tut cotton thread into the folds.

All the Colours

I bound her with a black sketch fabric, which I think works very well with all the colours.

All the Colours

I am not sure which way up I like better, this way or the yellow on top as in the first photo. It does not really matter, it is for a baby, not a wall.

Krista's Chess on the Steps pattern is currently only available to Modern Quilt Members - you can join a local MQG or join as an individual member. All the MQG Pattern of the Months have been wonderful, but I have to say this one is my favourite so far.

If you have not entered the generous giveaway of beautiful Moonshine fabrics sponsored by Sew Sisters Quilt Shop, go here and get your entry in.

And I hope you will add your link to the Scraptastic Tuesday second Tuesday of the month link up Nicky from Mrs. Sew and Sow and I are hosting here.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scraptastic Tuesday - Monthly Linkup!

It's the second Tuesday of the Month so Nicky, who blogs at Mrs. Sew and Sow, and I are hosting our first monthly link up. It is the same link up on both blogs, so when you link on one, your link will show up on both Nicky's and my blogs.

Please join us to share a scrappy project - old, new or in progress or your tips and ideas for using, storing, or coping with fabric scraps. We ask that you only link up one time per month because we have some great prizes from our sponsors which we will give out randomly after the link closes.

A huge thank you to each of our generous sponsors for the following prizes, which will be awarded randomly:
You can link up your blog post, or a Flickr photo. I read this post and thought that it meant that you could also link to an instagram photo but that does not yet seem to be the case for now. It seems that it only lets you use the instagram photo as the thumbnail but not to link to the actual photo, but if you can make it link to your photo, then go ahead with that too.

Once you link up, please check out at least the three links before yours - in fact, you can check out more of the links if you have the time - and leave a comment too. That way everyone who joins in will get some comments, which are always fun and you can also meet some new people too.

Scrappy improv Xs

Before I go, I thought I would share my progress on a couple of scrappy projects. First, I have started making larger improv Xs - these are 6.5" and 7.5" squares - using my scraps. I am hoping to make enough to make a bed size quilt like my Landmarks mini quilts.


I also got some work done making strata to cut up to add to the improv solids panels that I am making for the small guitar case that I started a while ago. I did make a few more Blended Scraps triangles but it is just too dark to photograph them now. The one thing I have not started is better scrap organization. Although I have been reading all your helpful ideas in the comments, I am still trying to decide what scrap management system will actually work for me.

Enough about my projects, please add your links and we will go and read about your projects and ideas. Nicky and I are going to keep this link open for the next two weeks - because it's new and all - so it will close on October 28. Feel free to spread the news around and invite your friends to link up too.  And do come and check back to see the projects as they get added.