Back from Quilt Market

Lisa and I got to go to Spring Quilt Market last weekend in Portland, OR. It was a very busy weekend! Unfortunately we didn’t have a booth, but we got to talk to a lot of people, including many of the fabric companies that we design for, and a few new ones to boot!

We also got to attend a cocktail party hosted by the people who publish Quiltmaker magazine (among others). Here is a pic of Lisa modeling with her cover block!

Plus, we got to chat with the lovely ladies of Gingham Girls. It was great taking to you ladies!

Now that we’re back, there’s several new patterns we are working on. Hopefully we will have them out soon. I also have a few mini-lessons brewing in my head, which I plan on doing up for the blog. Happy quilting!

 

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Welcome!

Welcome to all of our blog tour guests! Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately (darn life getting in the way!) but things have calmed down and there will be many excellent and informative blog posts coming, so be sure to bookmark us. Also make sure to check out some of our previous posts for some great sewing tips.

Our company is a mother-daughter team, made up of Lisa (the mother) and Heather (the daughter). Lisa is pleased and excited to have a block in Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks for the second time in a row, and this second block, like the first, is on the cover! The block is called Diamond Crossing, and can be found on page 28. And of course, you can visit all of the designers on Quiltmaker’s blog here.

It is amazing how the value of the fabrics can change the look of this block. Here is the block from the magazine:

The center cross and the orange diamond elements are pretty bold, with the two lighter fabrics standing out against the dark background. Here are a few test blocks:

This has a medium background and dark diamonds with a light teal center. In the original block, the center fabric makes a bold cross shape. With this light teal fabric, the center fabric forms a light square behind the bold pink diamond shapes.

Here’s another block with a dark background and diamonds, and the light center is once again forming a square behind the diamonds.

This is another test block with medium and dark fabrics on a light background. Notice that with these values, the “background square” has completely disappeared and has once again formed a center cross. Isn’t it amazing how the value can change the block?

Well, I think that about wraps it up. Hopefully this has inspired you to try this block out! It’s very fun and quite addicting, as evidenced by Lisa’s collection:

Try it in some different color ways and have fun!

And now, it’s giveaway time! We are offering lots of great stuff for our blog visitors. Leave a comment on this post and you will be entered in a random drawing to win one of two copies of Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks, Vol. 7. Additionally, visit our online store and include which of our patterns is your favorite in your comment. We will randomly pick 5 people and send them a copy of the pattern they like the most. Remember to include a valid email address so we can contact you (don’t worry, email addresses will not be made public). Happy quilting!

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Back in the groove

Well, things have been quiet on the blog for awhile. What can I say, sometimes life gets in the way! But we’re back with some exciting news, and new patterns coming soon! The biggest development for any shop owners interested in our patterns is that they are now available for purchase through Checker Distributors! See them here.

We’ve also got several patterns coming out! We’ve had the pleasure of working with Andover Fabrics and Quilting Treasures, and have quilt patterns coming out with new lines from each of these companies. We also have two new original patterns in the works:

Going In Circles (see below) features modern circles and bold looks. It can be done with just a few fabrics as shown, or be totally scrappy and fun! The quilt features both applique and piecing.

 

Square Is Fair is the perfect pattern for a large quilt fast. The blocks are so easy to put together, and the look is very striking. I think this has become one of my favorite patterns! It’s perfect for all those modern collections that are so popular right now.

I’ll be back again in a few days for our Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Vol. 7 blog tour!

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Congrats to our winners!

Thank you so much for all the nice comments about my Fan Fare block. I’d love to see pictures of your very own Fan Fare blocks. Now, on to our winners! Congratulations to Debra N. who won an issue of Quiltmakers 100 Blocks Vol. 6. And congrats to Barbara, Nancy B., Pat V., Judy, Lee Ann L., Sandi and Judy R. for winning a pattern of their choice. (We threw in a couple extra winners because we received so many comments!) All our winners have been contacted by email.

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Welcome blog tourists!

    

Hi everyone! Welcome to our blog. My daughter and I have been designing and selling quilt patterns together for several years. And now my block, Fan Fare, is published in Quiltmakers 100 Blocks, Vol. 6! And on the cover too! You can find it on page 33.

We are excited to be participating in the Quiltmaker Blog Tour. Remember you can check out all the blog tour participants on Quiltmakers Blog, Quilty Pleasures. And we have some other great posts with lots of tips and tricks, so be sure to explore our blog and bookmark it to check back for new posts.

I happened upon the idea for my block when I was changing out the wheels on my bicycle. Nothing like a pile of bicycle wheels to inspire a block design, right?  The challenge was making a pile of bicycle wheels into a quilt block, without it looking like a pile of bicycle wheels. I got the basic design worked out fairly quick, but the fine tuning took forever. There are way too many directions to go with this block. After 47 block designs and 71 quilt layouts (and slightly overwhelming my poor EQ7 program!), I had the final design. Whew!

The great thing about this block is how diverse it is. You can lay out a quilt so many different ways, using the whole block, a quarter section of the block, or get really wild and crazy and mix the two.

Whole Block

Quarter Block

Here are a few layout diagrams to give you some inspiration.

This one uses the whole block:

This one is made entirely of quarter blocks. Note that some of the blocks have a triangle at two opposite ends, and some blocks only have a triangle at the base of the fan.

This last one has whole blocks in the center, surrounded by quarter blocks. I know the whole quilt looks a little crooked, but it’s an optical illusion caused by the quilt blocks. Again, note the two different quarter blocks.

There are so many different layouts this block can create, and the ones I have here are only a fraction. Have fun playing with layouts and colors to create your own amazing quilt. And I would love to see pictures of your Fan Fare quilts when they’re done!

And now, it’s giveaway time! We are offering lots of great stuff for our blog visitors. Leave a comment on this post and you will be entered in a random drawing to win your very own copy of Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks, Vol. 6. Additionally, visit our online store and include which of our patterns is your favorite in your comment. We will randomly pick 5 people and send them a copy of the pattern they like the most. Remember to include a valid email address so we can contact you (don’t worry, email addresses will not be made public). Happy quilting!

 

 

 

 

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How to handsitich binding (including the corners!)

Note: Click on any of the pictures to make them bigger.

This is my favorite way to handstitch a binding to the back of a quilt. I’ve been doing it for years and it hasn’t failed me yet.

1. Thread the needle and tie a not in the end. Don’t use a very long piece of thread because it will get tangled and generally be a mess to work with. I like about 20-25″.

2. Start by taking a 1/4″ to 3/8″ stitch in the backing of the quilt, just above the machine stitching line (the picture below is in the middle of binding, so there is no knot showing).

3. Insert the needle into the fold of the binding, right where the thread is coming out of the backing.

4. Take another 1/4″ to 3/8″ stitch in the fold of the binding.

5. Insert the needle back into the backing fabric, right where the thread is coming out of the binding. Continue stitching, alternating between binding and backing.

6. When done properly, the stiching will be invisible.

That’s one of the big reasons I prefer this stitch over a whip stitch. You may notice from the pictures that I don’t have to match the thread, because it won’t been seen once the stitching is done.

I’ve heard this stitch called a few different things, but I call it the ladder stitch. If you pull the stitching apart, the threads form a “ladder”.

The key to this stitch is making sure to insert the needle exactly where it exited on the previous stitch. If you don’t, then the thread will show:

Ok, on to the fun part: turning the corner!

7. As you are stitching, your needle will be alternating between being in the binding and the backing fabric. As you approach the corner, you want to make sure the needle is in the binding fabric. This means you may have to take a couple of little stitches as you near the corner.

Make sure the needle exits the binding at the corner right where the binding intersects with the backing.

8. Turn the quilt, so that the edge you haven’t been stitching on is now sitting in your lap. I bind from right to left, so I turn my quilt counterclockwise. It may be different for you.

9. Take a vertical stitch in the backing, right along the folded edge of the binding. Make sure the needle exits at the intersection created by the machine stitching and the folded edge of the binding. I drew some lines showing the intersection, just for extra clarity.

10. Your binding corner should now look like this:

11. Fold the binding up so that it forms a mitered corner:

12. Insert the needle into the folded corner of the binding, right at the inside corner of the miter.

13. Take a stitch in the fold of the binding, just like you have been doing.

After I turn the corner, I like to take a few smaller stitches for added strength and security.

14. Now insert the needle into the backing and continue on with your ladder stitch.

Notice that every step of turning the corner followed the “stitch in the backing, then stitch in the binding” rule:

1. You start with the needle in the binding at the very edge of the quilt

2. You turn the quilt and take a back stitch in the backing.

3. You fold the binding up to create a mitered corner and you take a stitch in the folded binding.

4. You take a stitch in the backing and continue on with your ladder stitch.

Once you get into the rhythm of this stitch you will find that it goes very quickly. Pop in your favorite movie, settle in on the couch with your needle and thread and you will find that you’ll have your quilt bound in no time.

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Some of my favorite tools

First off, I’m not paid or otherwise reimbursed to say good things about these products (although if anyone can make that happen….. :) ) These are just a few of the things that I can’t live without when I’m quilting, and I hope I can show a few new people to how awesome they are.

Mary Ellen’s Best Press

Link: http://maryellenproducts.com/

I really can’t say enough good things about this stuff. It’s a starch-like spray (but not starch) that comes in several light scents, and also unscented. When I’m cutting squares in half to make triangles, I give the squares a spritz and press them before cutting. The Best Press really reduces the bias distortion once they’re cut. And if I have a block that’s just a tiny bit too small (and who doesn’t get those occasionally?) giving them a good spray and thorough pressing gets everything nice and flat, and usually makes them big enough. I always keep a bottle on my ironing board.

General’s White Charcoal Pencil

I love these pencils for marking medium to dark fabrics. They have a nice soft lead (well, charcoal technically) unlike those old dressmaker’s pencils that tear up the fabric and never make marks anyways. You can sharpen them with a regular pencil sharpener, and they have an excellent point when sharpened.

Creative Grid 20″ Square Ruler

Link: http://creativegridsusa.com/

Really, I love all of the Creative Grid rulers. The black lines on the clear acrylic make them really easy to read, and the built in 1/2″ feature is nice. But the 20″ruler is one of those that seems like a waste of money, until you actually need one. Then they are the Best. Thing. Ever. They’re perfect for squaring big blocks, squaring the corners of quilts, and cutting big strips. I also frequently use mine on t-shirt quilts when I have large motifs to cut out.

Dritz Iron Off Iron Cleaner

So there is a possibility I may, once in a blue moon, accidentally fuse my applique pieces wrong side up and stick them to my iron. This stuff is the best for cleaning goop off irons. You get the iron nice and hot, squirt on a big dollop of this stuff and rub it around (I like to use scraps of cotton batting) It gets my iron nice and shiny in no time. Sometimes little bits of cleaner and gunk get in the little steam holes on the face of the iron, so I like to iron a piece of scrap cloth and hit the steam button on the iron a couple of times to clear everything out.

So those are some of my favorite things to have one hand when I’m quilting. I’d love to hear about some of yours!

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Exciting news!

Just a quick post today. Lisa found out that she will have a block published in Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Vol. 6. We are also working on two new samples for Timeless Treasure with some of their new batiks. Which means we have lots of exciting projects going, but also lots of work to do. So I probably won’t be getting a ton of blog posts in. But I think the next post will be a tutorial on my favorite way to hand stitch binding, including turning the corners quickly and easily. I’d better get back to sewing.

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Sew Half Squares and Flying Geese WITHOUT Drawing Lines!

This is my absolute favorite way of constructing half-squares and flying geese, especially if you have to make 288 half squares, like I’m currently doing. (ugh, why did I count them?) I love that this method doesn’t require you to draw diagonal lines on the back of all your squares. This method does require a little concentration and careful sewing, but if you take it slow, even a beginner will have no problems.

First step: Place your needle in the center stitch position, the default for most machines. If your machines has one, attach a center-piecing foot (a foot that has a visible center opening or mark. If you happen to own a Baby Lock, it will be the “N” foot) Using painter’s tape or post-it notes, mark a visible center line from the needle down. Be sure not to cover the feed dogs.

Note: I prefer painter’s tape over post-it notes because it is longer-wearing, but I made do with what I had.

Continue the marking all the way to the edge of your sewing machine. If your machine doesn’t have a lot of space in front of your needle (at least 4″ – 5″) this technique doesn’t work as well.

Before you start sewing your blocks, gather a piece of scrap fabric, place it under your foot and sew off the edge of the scrap. If your machine has a “pivot” function (lowers the needle and raises the presser foot every time you stop sewing) I recommend you turn it on.

Obviously, our scrap has been well-used! DO NOT cut your threads after sewing on the scrap. You will be using a technique called “chain piecing” Starting with a scrap like this is especially useful when sewing flying geese and half squares, because it helps to prevent the starting corners of your fabric from getting “eaten” by your sewing machine.

Layer your fabrics right sides together. Position the corner of the fabric that you wish to start sewing on directly in front of the needle (A). Line the fabric up so that the bottom corner of your squares (if you’re making half-squares) or the bottom intersection of your square and rectangle (if you’re making flying geese) is lined up with the center marking (B).

Start sewing. As you sew, don’t look at the needle. Just keep your eye on the bottom point, and make sure it’s staying even with the line you made on your machine.

Once you have finished your seam, DON’T cut the threads. Position your next square so that the starting corner is again lined up with the needle, and the bottom corner is even with the center line.

Continue chain piecing until all of your half squares/geese are finished.

How easy is that?! It certainly beats drawing diagonal lines on the backs of 288 squares (not that I counted or anything).

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Don’t Be Biased: Tips for Working With Bias Edges

Hello there, Heather here. I’ve been deemed Chief Blogger by Lisa, resident techno-phobe (boy, I’m gonna get it when she reads this!) My goal for this blog is not only to give exciting updates and sneak-peaks into our newest patterns and projects, but also to share some of the many tips and hints that Lisa and I have picked up over the years. I really hope people will be able to use us as a great go-to reference. To that end, please enjoy our first helpful post: some easy tips to make bias piecing easier.

If you’ve ever found yourself shaking a fist at the sewing machine while working with bias-cut pieces, this article is for you.

First of all, what does “bias” mean in the quilting world? The cotton fabric that we use is woven out of tiny vertical and horizontal threads. This creates a lengthwise (with the selvege) and crosswise grain. (“Grain” referring to the vertical and horizontal weaves). Anytime you are cutting at an angle that is not vertical or horizontal (for instance, slicing a square on the diagonal or cutting out various odd- shaped template pieces) you are cutting on the bias.

The most common use of a bias-cut piece is making bias bindings. Since cutting on the bias creates a very stretchy piece of fabric, bias bindings are perfect for finishing circular quilts or scalloped borders. However, that same stretchiness can make you pull your hair out when you are trying to piece a block.

The biggest key to working with bias is to treat your bias-cut pieces with respect. When you are carrying them to the ironing board or machine, support them with your hand, and don’t just let them dangle by a corner. When you are sewing bias pieces, use more pins than usual, and be extra careful that you are not pulling the fabric through the machine.

When you are pressing your bias pieces, be sure to really “press” with the iron (press straight down, lift straight up, and repeat) rather than ironing (pushing and pulling the iron over the fabric.) This is one of the biggest ways bias-cut fabric gets distorted.

If you have to remove a seam from bias pieces, be extra-careful when ripping. Take out every two to three stitches with a seam ripper, and then pick out the individual threads by hand, rather then pulling the two pieces apart. This may take longer and be a bit tedious, but it will really cut down on the distortion to your pieces, and ultimately will result in a more precisely pieced quilt.

A great product that I love for reducing bias distortion is called Best Press. It is a very light-weight spray that does a great job of giving a little stiffness and body to fabric, without that “starched” feeling. It doesn’t leave residue on your fabric or iron and comes in several light scents. If you’re cutting squares on the diagonal to get triangles, spraying on some Best Press and pressing the squares first does wonders for reducing bias stretch. It’s also great to spray on any bias edges before pressing blocks. All in all it’s a great tool for working with bias.

So the next time you are working with bias-cut fabrics (or the first time, if you haven’t tried it yet!) remember these tips and you’ll come away with a great-looking quilt, and your sanity. Happy sewing!

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