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 Fat Quarter Shop.

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!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

not-so-flirty Flight Skirt

It's not getting any cooler and this belly is not getting any smaller, which means it was time to make mama a maternity skirt...

Reversible gauze skirt

I'm halfway there - 4.5 months pregnant and finally feeling baby move.  Meanwhile, temps in South Carolina are hitting 100 degrees day after day after day.  Skirts and dresses and swim playdates are all on my agenda this week!

Reversible gauze skirt

My skirt is crafted from Birch organic double gauze in Flight Shroom and Solid Shroom from Fabricworm.  I've followed the Flirting the Issue skirt pattern, for which I hosted a sew-along in 2014.

Reversible gauze skirt

The waistband on this skirt has tons of give thanks to 4 rows of tiny 1/4" wide elastic.  I'm still able to wear the Flirting the Issue skirts made for my non-pregnant self in 2014.  But, my new skirt fits even more comfortably and definitely has the potential to take me full term.

Reversible gauze skirt

This is the third type of fabric I've used for a Flirting the Issue skirt.  Double gauze has a more relaxed drape than quilting cotton.  It's warmer on the legs than either quilting cotton or voile, but it's also softer against the skin, something pregnant bellies love.

Reversible gauze skirt

With a simple modification to the hemming step, this skirt is fully reversible.  Although I love the bird side, being able to reverse to solid gray/brown is a big bonus given the limitations of a maternity wardrobe.  I've already worn the it several times!

If you've never made a skirt before, this is an excellent pattern for your first experience.  It'll turn out great whether you make it in voile, quilting cotton or double gauze!  My Flirting the Issue sew-along is ready to hold your hand.  So, what are you waiting for?  Summer's here in the northern hemisphere!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ombre Grid {Improv Handbook Score #5}

Ombre Grid {Improv Handbook Score #5}

All finished!  This is Ombre Grid, an improv quilt made entirely without rulers (except for the backing and binding) and inspired by the fifth score of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.  Author Sherri Lynn Wood prompts us to reflect and share about our finished works along these lines:

It's really hard to keep this score to a manageable size!  Sherri mentions in the book that her quilt is huge, so that was a heads up for me.  Before I started I had a rough idea for the maximum width of each vertical row.  But, when you're freestyle cutting those large squares, it's so tempting to go big... and bigger!  And then the chunky sashing adds even more heft.

Even though I like the look of ombre, I don't like sewing ombre quilts.  I think this is the first quilt I've made with a monochromatic ombre color scheme.  Maybe because I get so much satisfaction out of playing with color when I sew, this doubly reserved color scheme (only one color and in proper order) doesn't suit me.  I put the large royal blue square at the top right where it did not "belong" to reflect this discovery.

Ombre Grid {Improv Handbook Score #5}

I'm most pleased with the way the darker colors ended up nestling in the upper right and lower left corners creating a double diagonal ombre.  In the beginning I imagined the ombre progressing vertically with light on top fading to dark on bottom.  Then I allowed the royal blue piece to break the color pattern and the right-side gray/white border to reverse the ombre progression with dark on top.  When I mulled over the left-side gray/white border, I was struck with the idea of placing dark on bottom so that the light fabrics would be arranged in a diagonal through the center of the quilt.  That's what I like most!

Ombre Grid {Improv Handbook Score #5}

I'm also pretty pleased with the backing which is made up of Essex linen stitched together with an extra-tiny stitch length and wide seam allowances.   All those linens in grays and blues feel so harmonious with the quilt front.

I do like this quilt, but something about it does not feel like "me".  It's hard to put a finger on what makes a quilt reflect my personal style and what does not, but this one is definitely more tied to the book than to myself.  Adding the loopy quilting did help.  But, like my very first quilt from the book, I feel like I played this one too safe.  Maybe it was a good way to get back into improv though, after the long break I've had.

Ombre Grid {Improv Handbook Score #5}

{Next Steps}
The next score in the book has so much potential for personal interpretation.  I've been looking forward to it and thinking about which shape I want to concentrate upon.  But before I start score #6, I want to spend some time making a repetitive geometric quilt.  Maybe after some soothing predictability I'll be keen to spread my improv wings again!

p.s.  Ombre Grid is now listed in my Etsy shop.  You can find the American Made Brand solids I used in this quilt and Essex linen in many shades at Fat Quarter Shop.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Welcome, Polka Dot Tea!

Good morning!  It's my pleasure today to introduce my very first Australian fabric store sponsor.  I couldn't believe my luck when I happened upon Polka Dot Tea on Etsy.  We might be twins when it comes to taste in fabrics, even if we do live on opposite sides of the globe!  From latest fabrics to favorite "older" finds to adorable scrap bundles, Polka Dot Tea has a fantastic collection of modern fabrics from the U.S. and Japan.

At Polka Dot Tea, you can shop all (618!) items or sort by designer.  The designers read like a list of my favorites:  Cotton & Steel, Anna Maria Horner, Carolyn Friedlander, Heather Ross,  Lizzy House, Denyse Schmidt, Kokka, Lecien, Yuwa, Art Gallery and More.  Let's stop talking and start looking!

Here are some fun new releases:

new released at Polka Dot Tea in Australia
1. Alexia Marcell Abegg Printshop  2.  Carolyn Friedlander Carkai  3.  From Porto with Love  4.  Tula Pink Bumble

Polka Dot Tea has quite a collection of Cotton & Steel, including all 5 just-released collections. I'm planning today to select one of them for my next quilt, actually!  So exciting.  I don't know how I'm going to choose just one.

And here are some of my "older" favorites that Polka Dot Tea still has in stock:

old favorites at Polka Dot Tea in Australia
1.  Fujita First of Infinity  2.  Anna Maria Horner bundle  3.  DS Katie Jump Rope  4.  Lakehouse Seed Catalogue

Oooh, and let's not forget the charming Japanese scrap packs!

If you hail from Australia or nearbye, I'm sure I don't have to say anything else.  You're just about off and running to visit Polka Dot Tea!

But before you go, let's celebrate finally having an Aussie store with a little giveaway.  Polka Dot Tea is offering a $50 (Australian dollars) gift certificate to one lucky reader.  Just add your comment here to enter, telling us what country you currently stitch from.  Anyone can enter, anywhere in the world, now through Tuesday, July 12th at noon (eastern time).

Good luck!

***************************Comments Closed****************************

Our lucky winner is #73, MogsInc.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Loopy Loo

Thank you for sharing your fantastic ideas for possible next steps on my latest improv quilt!  I was drawn to so many of your suggestions for that left border such as using blue for sashing, adding a pop of orange or playing with the border width.  This is why there are so many quilts to be made!  And why all of you need to be making them!

Loopy Loo

Today I am quilting, so you'll have to wait until this one is finished to see what I did with the border design, which won't be much longer by the look of things!  I hope you won't be disappointed that I didn't end up going with any of your ideas because I tried something subtly different and fell in love.   Oops.

Loopy Loo

I've just sat down at the computer to give my arms a break from tracing loopy loos all across the quilt.  In the spirit of improv they don't all go in the same direction.  It's a playful, easy peasy quilting pattern, once you have a feel for free motion quilting.

continuous eight quilting

Today's simple loops remind me of the much more controlled continuous eight design.  It's a pattern I've quilted on so many quilts, starting in 2013.  In fact, both of my kids' bed quilts are quilted with continuous eights.  Unfortunately, that quilting hasn't held up too well. There are breaks in the quilting all over both quilts, even though the fabrics themselves look fine.  I don't know why the quilting would be fragile since the tension looked/looks perfect on both sides.  Any ideas?  Maybe it's just my kids being kids or maybe it's my thread?

Loopy Loo

Anyhoo, I am trying the loops again now that my machine's just been doctored.  I love the texture and personality they give to a quilt, especially one so "minimalist" as this.  Here on the back you can see the large patchwork of linen I've used for a backing.  I had a stack of Essex linens in grays and blues that I won't use for patchwork for practical durability reasons.  With prewashing, a tiny stitch length and extra-wide seam allowances, I'm convinced the linen will do well on the back in large cuts.  It certainly gives the quilt a nice weight too!

Well, back to it.

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