Friday, July 29, 2016

{Tutorial} Twirly Top

Twirly Top underway

Happy Friday, friends!

Ok, so I take it I got a little too excited about figuring how to machine sew this pattern and may have implied that machine sewing kicks English Paper Piecing in the behind.  Which is just silly (but you knew that).  I love me some EPP, but not for full sized quilts, just because I like to finish faster than that.  But to each her own!  Patchwork is really the point, for me.  Made from scrap, stash, collection bundles, by machine, by hand, original pattern or making-this-for-the-50th-time... no matter what, patchwork is patchwork.  And I love it!

In case you would also like to machine stitch some half-hexagon magic, here's a brief tutorial free for you.

Twirly Top tutorial

Twirly Top Tutorial

  • Hex n More Ruler
  • A fat quarter yields about 5 complete Twirly Tops.  About 20 fat quarters for a throw quilt.

I've cut my half hexagons with the Hex N More ruler.  This was my first time using the ruler, so I was glad to finally make use of it!  If you enjoy sewing from patterns, there are many patterns based on the ruler, and it is available at lots of quilt shops, including Connecting Threads.

Twirly Top 

Cut your fabric into 2.5" strips, running the length of your fabric for fabric economy.


With your strips stacked or folded, cut multiple half hexagons at once. Match the solid, horizontal Half Hex lines with the raw edges of your fabric strip.  Make sure the entire 4 1/2 Half Hex shape is over fabric, then cut along the diagonal edge of the ruler at right.  Cut the long diagonal edge first, then move aside the excess fabric and cut the tiny diagonal edge too.


To cut the opposite diagonal slant of your half hexagons, you can either flip your fabric stack over and use the exact same part of the ruler OR you can rotate your fabric stack and slide the ruler up to use the lower half of the Hex N More hexagon.  Whatever is easier for you!  Keep in mind that either way you are cutting along the right side of your ruler both times (assuming you are right handed).


After cutting your first hexagons from the fabric strip(s), you'll be able to keep cutting by repositioning the ruler over the strip and slicing again on the right diagonal to free hexagons.  Be sure to cut the tiny diagonal too.  Those little cuts are removing dog ears and providing handy alignment clues for joining your pieces.

If I've lost you, check out this Jaybird video on how to cut with this ruler.


You'll need 6 half hexagons for each complete twirly top.  Partial twirlies go along the edges of the quilt to fill in, so save any leftovers for that last step!


It's essential to arrange your half hexagons on a design wall or other large work surface.  If you don't have a design wall, try stretching a large piece of batting on a wall with simple push pins.   Long term this would sag, but it's a fine solution for one quilt (and you can reuse the batting)!


Sew half hexagons together into triangles, 3 per triangle.  Notice that three different color/print half hexagons will come together in each triangle.  Once you start seeing the triangles, you'll understand how this quilt is sewn together in simple, straight-edged rows.


Join half hexagons using one y-seam per triangle.  When sewing a y-seam, your first two pieces are partially joined.  Leave a 1/4" gap of unsewn seam allowance at the "turn" of the future y-seam.  Be sure to backstitch to secure this gap area from unraveling.  Then, join the last half hexagon to complete the triangle with one continuous y-seam.  If you've never sewn y-seams before, this is a simple, straightforward project to start with.  My Still Point quilt pattern is also based on y-seams and demonstrates the technique in detail.

Twirly Top tutorial

Work in rows, sewing, pressing and returning half hexagon triangles to the design wall in small batches. At the edges of the quilt, you'll need partial twirly tops to fill in the gaps.  After joining triangles, join rows. Then trim off the excess half hexagons that protrude from the edges to create four straight quilt edges.

::Finished Size::

This quilt is a bit of a mind teaser when it comes to planning size.  I found it helpful to think in triangle rows, not in twirly top rows.  Each triangle row finishes about 6" high.  To estimate width, count your full triangles (ignoring the partial edge triangles) and multiply by 3.75".  A row composed of 13 full triangles (plus 2 half triangles) finishes about 49" wide.

My quilt is made up of 58 full twirly tops, plus partial twirly tops to fill out the edges.  Without a border it would finish about 50" x 54".  I plan to add a 5" border to bring it to a nice throw quilt size.

I hope that's helpful.  Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Porto & Beyond

Porto & Friends fabrics

It's time for a new quilt!  On the heels of my last improv experience, I was making eyes at the latest collections from Cotton & Steel.  As per usual, each one is pretty awesome.  But being a (semi?) reasonable creature, I was bound and determined to choose one favorite for a quilt I'd been cooking up.

Porto & Friends fabrics

Sarah Watts' From Porto with Love ultimately won me over, for its charm and its colors.  The bright cobalt, dusty aqua and soothing greens in this collection really speak to me.  After lengthy consideration worthy of the seriousness of the task, I selected specific must-have prints for my color story.  Frustratingly, this lovely purple bird print is only available in rayon, so I had to hunt around to find a substitute purple to satiate.  I also added some non-Porto, striped yellows to create movement in my quilt.  The end result is a 12-piece custom bundle available in fat quarters or half yards at The Intrepid Thread.

 Porto & Friends fabrics

This week I've been cutting up my "From Porto & Beyond" fat quarter bundle, some misc. blue and purple solids, and a few complimentary Cotton & Steel prints from my stash into half hexagons inspired by this:

A photo posted by Jodi Godfrey (@talesofcloth) on

I know, I know, doesn't that look fantastic?  It's the first photo I saw of Jodi's English Paper Piecing project in half hexagons via Tales of Cloth on Instagram.  From a little research I think this pattern is called half hexagon stars or half hexagon pinwheels.  My immediate thought was that I could make the same pattern by machine working in triangular blocks that have one y-seam per block.  Do you see how?

I'll let you think on that.  Demo coming soon!

P.S.  Pssst.... The Intrepid Thread happens to be having a large clearance event because they're moving their warehouse.  And, turns out HoneyBeGood is moving too, and offering 30% off ALL in stock fabrics to lighten their load.  It just may be the ripe time for a little stashing!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pixie Noel Patchwork Stockings

Has it really been a month since I started work on those patchwork Christmas stockings?   Well, I guess that makes sense given that the project was delayed while I waited an extra four long weeks to confirm the sex of our baby.  I really wanted to use that adorable pink bunny fabric for a little girl stocking, so I was holding out on this finish.  (Apparently, Aria is too old for pink bunnies.  Humph.)

Pixie Noel Patchwork Stockings

This patchwork stocking is composed of 1.5" finished squares in bunny pink, Christmas red/green, aqua blue and gray for good measure.  I've quilted with a zigzag stitch over the seams.  My square points don't meet up very nicely, so this quilting was a great way to hide the irregularities!

Pixie Noel Patchwork Stockings

I made the patchwork stocking with pink cuff for baby and the white stocking with red cuff for myself.  For details on the patterns I'm using, see this post.

 Pixie Noel Patchwork Stockings

Here they are all together!  My palette was inspired by the Pixie Noel collection from Fat Quarter Shop, and each stocking includes some Pixie fabrics.  I mixed in a few stash fabrics like Cotton & Steel basics and Katie Jump Rope Seeds to tone down the holiday vibe.

Pixie Noel Patchwork Stockings

Some of my stockings are lined with prints to match the cuff and others in Pixie Noel picks, like green socks and pink bunnies.

Pixie Noel Patchwork Stockings

This elf print on my stocking is my favorite.  I'm not usually a "cute" person, but these elves, critters and reindeer are too adorable.  I love how the chrysanthemum quilting looks vaguely like snow flurries (or how I imagine snow flurries, never having lived anywhere with real snow storms).  Yep, a little zing of cute at Christmastime sounds lovely.

And speaking of lovely, that's you... as usual.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your congratulations on our gender news!  I've added Cora to our list of potential girl names, and I've already bought curtains for her nursery!  Hehe.  Will be sure to share more nursery ideas soon!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Not blue.

Our 16 week gender scan was charged with emotion.  After having lost our baby girl, our much-wanted, long-anticipated baby girl, Brandon and I were unabashedly hoping our new baby was a girl as well.  And for that reason, I figured it would be a boy.  C'est la vie.  When the tech announced just that news I worked frantically to hold it together.  I could hear the uncertainty in her voice, but Brandon couldn't.  As soon as we were alone, I asked him what he thought, and he said she sounded sure.

Which just meant I was being crazy.

I dutifully sent a cryptic text to all the people, "It's a boy."  For a week I wouldn't consider names.  I was angry, missing Eleni, kicking at fate.  Then something shifted emotionally and made space in my heart for this him.  Only, once the emotions processed and the despair started to fade, all the facts came into focus.  I wasn't sure - the images hadn't looked right.  The tech hadn't been sure - she kept deflecting.  Really, wasn't it true, we couldn't be sure?

It's actually better to be sure.  For me, at least.  When you're sure you can throw that emotional energy into getting things done.  Creating a special space.  Making the best of it.  When you're not sure, you Can't. Do. Anything.  You're the crazy woman holding onto all the baby girl clothes, refusing to finish that Lotus quilt that would be perfect for a girl's nursery, admitting to your best friends that you're thinking it could still be a girl.

Not blue.  Not green.  Not orange.  Not brown...


It turns out CORAL is the color I need!  Because it's a girl, people. Baby is all girl!

This week at our 20 week scan, a new ultrasound tech performed a detailed anatomic scan.  Unbiased by previous conclusions, she said it was a girl.  With confidence.  Challenged by previous conclusions, she showed me it was a girl.  From three different angles!

So, goodbye to that mint and tangerine color scheme, and it's back to the drawing board on the perfect name.  I'm glad I didn't finish that blue blue patchwork stockings, buy up those baby boy diapers or start to work on the nursery.  I'm glad I was a little bit crazy.

Because, sometimes, crazy is right.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Slow Stitching

We've hit the slow side of summer.  The days that move like molasses.  The kids who are tired of reading on the sofa.  The heat that just. won't. stop.  On the other hand, Aria's brainstorming ideas for marketable crochet projects (because she's already made sweaters for all her friends), and Liam's drawing a collection of characters and backgrounds.  We may be super bored, but we're also extra creative.  And that's what summer is for, right?

Slow stitching

I'm in between machine sewing projects, while waiting on new fabrics from The Intrepid Thread for my next quilt.  Meanwhile, I have three hand stitching projects vying to fill my time.  This week thornflower is getting all the attention.  It's just the kind of mindless stitching that fits best when your preteen is eager to fill you in on all her grand plans.

I usually enjoy basting English Paper Piecing projects, but not joining the pieces.  To minimize time-consuming hand joining, I was going to join just the flower petals around the centers, then applique the flowers and triangles as separate pieces on a background.  But simplicity won out.  Getting all those pieces placed perfectly on the background was more than my molasses brain could handle.  And once I decided to join everything by hand, I settled in and enjoyed myself, truly.

Slow stitching

I just have one long row of staggered triangles and petals left to join to finish the asymmetric applique piece.  Can't wait to see how it all looks when finally in pillow form!

And can I just say I love these flower centers?  The dark navy compliments any petal color and the whimsical "ghost sardine" prints are the perfect element of subtle pattern for a modern flower center.  I always forget about fussy cutting, so I'm proud of myself for thinking it through this time!

Always some new way to grow, right?  I do love that about sewing.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Welcome, Emerson Quilting!

It's definitely an act of trust to send off a quilt top to be quilted.  All that time, all those careful decisions about color and pattern, all that money just in the fabric - a quilt top represents a great deal of personal investment.

When I was new to quilting, my mother-in-law (who sews amazing Halloween costumes) asked if I would quilt my own quilts, or send them out.  She had been shocked to discover that some quilters don't "quilt" their work.  I guess I was a little confused to hear that too, but now I get it.  In fact, I think most of us who have made a few quilts understand the attraction.  Some quilts are just too special, one doubts they can do justice to the quilt top.  Some quilts are just too big, one's home machine is not roomy enough to accommodate.    Sometimes we just want to be free to frolic in patchwork, patchwork and more patchwork, grateful to pass on finishing to another.

 quilting by Emily Sessions

The first quilt I sent out to be quilted was queen sized.  When my mom explained she'd like the Sparklers quilt finished with dense straight line quilting, you all know I groaned.  Groaned.  I'd seen Emily Sessions of Emerson Quilting's work on another blog, so I got in touch and took the leap.  Since then I've never looked back.   Emily's quilted a few works for me.  She's always easy to communicate with, friendly and delivers on time.  And since I'm such a happy customer I figured she'd be a perfect sponsor for this space!

Rail Fence quilt finish!

This time I sent Emily an average-sized quilt, my Rail Fence scrappy quilt for Patchwork from Scrap.  I chose another straight-lined pattern and one of Emily's signature styles - concentric rectangles.  The quilt is covered all over with concentric rectangles that melt into one another to form a consistent texture.

Rail Fence quilt finish!

After receiving my quilt back from Emily, all it needed was a quick trim around the edges and some zigzag binding. The quilt is sewn down to the batting about 1/8" from the raw edge, so all the edge seams are protected and it's very easy to handle.

Rail Fence quilt finish!

From the front you mainly see straight lines, vertical and horizontal, but not crossing over each other.  It like that the quilting does not distract at all from the patchwork, but subtle compliments it from the front. 

Rail Fence quilt finish!

Looking at the back, the eye easily discerns the concentric rectangle pattern, adding interest to a much simpler side of the quilt. 

Rail Fence quilt finish!

An average throw sized quilt, like this, with an all-over pattern costs $75 to quilt, which is the minimum price at Emerson Quilting.  You could also opt for custom quilting with different patterns on different parts of the quilt or changes in thread color.  To calculate pricing see her Pricing page.  For examples of quilting on diverse quilts, see her main blog feed.  But keep in mind that Emily is game to try new styles, so don't be shy to talk to her about your ideas!  She does everything on her longarm, but free-hand (no computer to guide the machine).

Rail Fence quilt finish!

I'm looking forward to sending more of my quilts off to Emily in the years to come.  I hope you'll give Emerson Quilting a try if you need help getting some quilts finished and ready to use.  Every returned quilt is a little quilting miracle.  She does the hard work of basting and quilting, and you get to celebrate another completed project... and maybe, just maybe start something new!!!

p.s.  Rail Fence is listed today in my Etsy Shop!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Thornflower + Shape Family Challenge

When Jodi (Tales of Cloth) told me about her Shape Family Challenge, I didn't hesitate to join in.  It's been awhile since I've English Paper Pieced, and Jodi's gorgeous EPP-filled Instagram stream is always tempting me.

The challenge starts when you buy a Shape Family pack from Jodi's new business.  She and her husband are working together to offer laser cut EPP shapes from 100% post-consumer recycled card, shipping from their home in Australia.  The Shape Family Challenge invites you to experiment with shapes that play well together to come up with an original (or new-to-you) EPP pattern.  Of course there will be some overlap in what we all come up with, but that shouldn't stop you from getting in on the fun!  Find all the details on how to play Here.

Thornflower in English Paper Piecing

I played with my shape family pack while watching TV to produce a few different pattern possibilities.  This one is my favorite, as I really like the jewel-shaped petals turned on their side along with the wild triangle "background".  The whole thing is pointy and a wee bit aggressive.  I'm calling it thornflower.  Notice those tinier black triangles too?  I'm going to make use of applique techniques and negative space to capitalize on their presence.  Excited!

  Thornflower in English Paper Piecing

This is my fabric pull for the project. I tried to stick with stripes and such whose directionality will emphasize the turned jewel petals.  It's hard to limit myself though.

Thornflower in English Paper Piecing

The resulting thornflowers are perfectly delightful, if I do say so myself!  I have about three handstitching projects in the works now, but this one has stolen my heart.  Will show you more soon!

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