31 October 2010

Patterns

Welcome to my pattern collection! Just click on the pattern you are interested in and you will be taken to my etsy shop.  If you'd like to download a pattern instantly, visit my patternspot shop here.
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Halloween Sew-Along: The Finishing Touches

Now that you have completed all six blocks, it's time to put them all together!  The first thing to do is figure out how you want your blocks arranged.  Here's how I arranged mine:
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You could sew them all together just like that, or you could add sashing. What is sashing? Quite simply, it is the addition of strips of fabric between all of the blocks. If you want to add sashing, here is what you will need:
  • Eight 1 1/2 x 9" strips 
  • Three 1 1/2 x 32" strips
(I used "Little Lady Pink Kumquat Antique Dots" by ALexander Henry)
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Whether you use sashing or not, the first step is to sew the blocks into rows. If using sashing, just add a 1 1/2 x 9" strip between all the blocks in a row, and on the outside. Use 1/4" seam allowance and press open all seams.
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Next, sew the rows together, making sure the block seams line up. If using sashing, sew the 32"-length strips between the rows and outside as well. Trim off any excess sashing and iron open all seams.
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Now it's time to add batting and fabric for the back. I've used Fairfield's Fusi-Boo batting. It's really great for a project like this because all that is needed is an iron--no sticky basting spray required! Whatever kind of batting you decide to use, you will need a rectangle of it that slightly bigger than the table runner top. For the back, you will need 3/4 yard of fabric.
(The following instructions are for the fusible batting) Lay the back fabric on the ground (or other flat surface) facing down. Lay the batting rectangle on top of it and smooth away wrinkles. Add the table runner top facing up, smoothing away more wrinkles. The most important thing is to make sure that the table runner top is centered over batting and back fabric.
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Following Fusi-Boo package instructions, I've set my iron to a "wool" setting with steam. Starting in the middle of the table runner, I iron, heating each area for 3-4 seconds. I continue to iron outward, smoothing the layers as I go.
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I didn't feel like the heat from the iron fused the back fabric to the batting very well, so I turned the whole thing over and iron the back similarly.
The next step is to quilt it. You could do this in a variety of ways. I merely installed my darning foot, lowered the feed dogs, and did a simple squiggly-sort of line over the sashing. (See my Freehand Machine Quilting tutorial here for more details.)
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Here is what it looks like on the back:
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And a view of the intersecting squiggly lines on the front. It really didn't feel the need to quilt it too much since it is already a pretty busy table runner.
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Trim the batting and back fabric to line up with the table runner top.
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The final step is to add a binding. I have a couple of binding tutorials, but I would recommend my newest one: My Favorite {Perfect} Skinny Binding. For this, you will need 1/4 yard of fabric. From that fabric, cut three strips 2 1/2" x WOF (assuming the standard 45" width of fabric).
After the binding is finished, you get to stand back and bask in the glory of your labors. And figure out which table will get it.
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10 October 2010

Week 1: Fabric Selection & Pre-Washing

The first step in making a basic block quilt is gathering materials.  Any time you use a pattern, it will include a list of the materials needed. To make my 36-1/2 x 45-1/2" (baby-sized) quilt, I've listed the requirements below.
Materials Needed:
  •  1/2 yd of fabric for the binding 
  •  1 1/2 yds of fabric for the back 
  •  40 x 50" piece of batting
Fabric selection is by far my favorite part of the quilt-making process. With so many delicious collections of fabric on the market, it is easy to feel a little overwhelmed with indecision. But where to start?
  1. Explore the quilt shops in your area.  If you are lucky, you might have several to visit.  Quilt shops are the absolute best place to find beautiful fabric, not to mention inspiration!  It is at a quilt shop that you will find Moda, Michael Miller, Marcus, Art Gallery, and Windham, just to name a few of my favorites.  You will not find the same lovely stuff at the chains like JoAnn's or Wal-mart.  The quality of the fabric at quilt shops is also superior in terms of thread count...let's just say that you get what you pay for.  I have been totally dying because there are no quilt shops in my area..what's a girl to do?
  2. Buy fabric online.  There are many online shops that sell fabric.  I happen to really like browsing the Etsy fabric shops because the selection is fantastic.  It is always a delight to browse through by bundles of fabric, especially when the shop owner has a really good eye.  A lot of these Etsy shops also have facebook pages.  By "liking" them, you see announcements about new fabric coming in, sales, etc.  It helps me feel in the loop.  Besides Etsy, Fat Quarter Shop is another place I like to do online fabric shopping.  There are literally hundreds and hundreds of shops to choose from on the internet, and those are just a couple that I really like.
Once you've found a good shop, your challenge is to choose from all the eye candy before you.  I always go for the fat quarters.  (There is just something about that neatly folded bundle that makes my heart happy.)  Instead of having to rip a whole bolt of fabric out of the wall, I can easily grab the fat quarters and begin matching.  I can lay several next to each other and begin to imagine what my quilt could look like.
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It is always good to choose a variety in terms of color and scale.  Notice that some of the patterns are busy while others are simple.  Some are colorful, others are more monochromatic.  This combination is pretty spunky!  I have a variety of designers' fabrics in here like Tula Pink, Aneela Hoey, and Amy Butler.
Now that I have all my fabric selected, I am really excited to get started! But what about pre-washing?  Some quilters do it, some don't. It's just a matter of preference, and perhaps you will want to try doing both and see what you like best. 
I don't generally pre-wash--only partially because I am lazy (too excited to get started?), but mostly because I like the way a quilt looks once it shrinks and gets all those lovely little puckers. Another reason is that I tend to use a lot of fabric pre-cuts, which I will explain a little more about later. That being said, there are just as many quilters who pre-wash as don't, and here are some of the reasons they do it:
  • To pre-shrink the fabric. This doesn't require much explanation, but most fabrics shrink after being washed. Pre-washing the fabrics beforehand ensures minimal shrinkage later. There are times when you will definitely want to pre-wash! For example, when a project involves a combination of materials (printed cotton fabric, minky, flannel, etc.) you should pre-wash since they will shrink differently. Otherwise, when you wash the finished project, the shrinkage will be uneven and it will look weird.
  • To avoid color bleeding.  Some fabrics (especially reds and blues) have dyes that can bleed when washed. Pre-washing the fabrics will prevent dark colors bleeding onto the light colors--you can run a colorfast test on any fabrics you think could bleed. I haven't actually EVER had a problem with colors bleeding but from what I hear, this is a problem you run into more often with fabrics from chains, not quilt shops (the difference in quality).
  • To remove chemicals.  Manufacturers treat fabric with various chemicals like formaldehyde and "sizing." Formaldehyde is a pesticide used to keep the bugs away.  "Sizing" is starch and makes the fabric feel crisp and stiff.  Sizing makes the fabric easier to cut, but pre-washing removes this. After pre-washing, iron the fabric with a heavy starch spray to restore its original crispness, if desired.
Important exceptions to pre-washing: If the finished product will not ever be washed (like a stitchery), then there is no need to pre-wash.  If the project involves charm packs or other pre-cuts (many of my patterns do), skip the pre-washing process!  With fabric pre-cuts, the fabric has already been cut to its specific block dimensions, and pre-shrinkage will change this! 
Overall, the most important principle is consistency.  Either pre-wash all the fabrics in the project, or don't wash any of them.

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If you want to pre-wash your fabric, here are some general guidelines:
  • Separate the light fabrics from the dark fabrics.  Use a permanent press cycle with a warm wash and cool rinse.
  •  Use a mild detergent and skip the fabric softener.
  •  Toss in the dryer using a permanent press setting
  •  Iron with a heavy starch.  Clip off any loose threads. 
Now, you're ready to move on to the next step: 
Cutting Fabric & Arranging Blocks 

Week 2: Cutting Fabric & Arranging Blocks

We are ready to cut the fabric into nice 5" squares. Cutting is a really important step and it is absolutely critical to have the right cutting tools.  If you are using scissors to cut your blocks, this is a major problem.  Not only will it take forever to cut the blocks, there is now way they will be uniform in size. It will make it harder to line up seams later and the project won't end up looking as great.
Trust me when I say that I would not survive without my fabulous tools.  I swear by my Omnigrid cutting mat, rotary cutter, and rulers!  It is well-worth the expense to invest in good tools.  The finished product always ends up looking better!
For this project, we need eighty 5" squares. This means we will need ten squares from each fat quarter. To begin, lay one fat quarter onto your cutting mat.  Don't worry about lining up the edges with the grid lines.  In fact, slightly overlap the top and right sides.
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Line up the ruler with the grid line just inside the edge of the fabric.  Holding the ruler down firmly (I use the Omnigrid ruler grip double suction cup), cut along the ruler's edge.  Remove the excess scrap.
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Move the ruler 5" to the left of the new, clean edge of the fabric.  Hold the ruler down firmly and cut along the edge.  Keep moving to the left 5" and repeat until you have cut four 5" columns.
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To cut the columns into blocks, we need a straight top-edge. Turn the ruler perpendicular to the columns, as demonstrated below.  Line up the ruler with the grid line just below the top's edge and cut across.  Move the ruler 5" down from the clean top-edge of the fabric.  Hold the ruler down firmly and cut along the edge. Keep moving down 5" until you have cut three rows of blocks.
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You will have twelve 5" blocks (though you only need ten).  Repeat these steps to cut up all of your fat quarters until you have the required amount of blocks.
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Now, my favorite part--to arrange them.  I usually spend a good amount of time just playing with the blocks and their order. Here they are, arranged at random:
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Or, arranged by color into diagonal lines:
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Or arranged to form cute plus-signs:
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What do you think?  I think I may have a hankering for plus signs this time around.
Next: Sewing It Together & Basting

Week 3: Sewing It Together & Basting

Now that the blocks are arranged to your liking, it's time to sew them together. The easiest way to do this is to sew the blocks into rows, and then all of the rows together. Generally, you will use 1/4" seam allowance unless otherwise stipulated.  Start by taking the first two blocks of the top row.
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Place them right sides together with the raw edges matching up.   
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Week 4: Quilting & Binding

Previously: Sewing It Together & Basting
Now that the quilt has been basted and safety-pinned, it is time to quilt it. (Careful basting beforehand is absolutely crucial in keeping the layers in place.) Quilting is a fancy word that means sewing all the layers together. There are a number of ways to quilt your masterpiece.
If you want something decorative like a freehand swirl design, check out my Freehand Machine Quilting Tutorial.  A darning foot is required for this method, so make sure your machine has one. Also, I would only recommend this method if you are using cotton or flannel fabric for the back.  Anything thicker tends to be a little more problematic.  Not impossible, just problematic, especially for a beginner.
Because I am using a soft minky material, I am going to insert little invisible stitches throughout the quilt.  (My quilt's thickness demands a method more practical than decorative.) If yours is thick like mine, I recommend my Invisible Quilting Tutorial.  As the name implies, the quilting is hard to see--it's merely functional.  Can you spot any of the dimples?
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If you have a walking foot, you can quilt straight lines--though once again, I wouldn't recommend if you are using a soft and thick backing.
Finally, if you do not want to quilt it yourself, you could pay a professional to do it for you. Just check with a local quilt shop and ask who they recommend.
Finally, let's finish the quilt with a binding. To get started, I first trim all the excess batting and back-fabric to line up with the quilt-top perimeter. Then, retrieve the binding fabric and begin cutting 3" strips across the WOF (width of fabric) until you have five total.
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Next, connect the strips at a bias, which basically means at a diagonal.  This is done by overlapping one strip perpendicular to another, right sides together.  (I let the selvages overlap since I don't want them showing but could have just as easily trimmed them off first.) Using a ruler and pencil, draw a diagonal line as indicated.
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Pin in place and stitch along the diagonal line.
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Trim the excess and iron open the seam. See how the seam runs diagonally?
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Repeat to sew all strips together end-to-end at a bias. Fold the resulting long strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and iron it flat.
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Lay the starting end of the strip in the middle of a side of the quilt so that the raw edges of the strip and quilt line up. Lower the presser foot onto the strip and stitch using 3/8" seam allowance, leaving the first eight inches of the strip unstitched.
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Keep sewing down that side and stop 3/8" before the end.
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Pull the quilt out from the machine and trim the threads.
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Fold the binding upward so it is in a straight line with the quilt.
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Bring the binding back down and line up its raw edge with the quilt's side.
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Begin sewing down the new side using the same 3/8" seam allowance. Keep sewing to the end of that side and repeat the steps above to pivot at the corner.
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Stop once you are a couple of feet away from the starting-end of the strip. Measure and trim the tails so that they overlap by exactly 3 1/4". (If you are using a different strip thickness, the overlap is just whatever the thickness is plus 1/4".)
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Unfold the strip-ends and bring them together at a bias, right sides together, overlapping slightly by approximately 1/8".  (You may have to bunch up the quilt to be able to get them to overlap.)
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Using a ruler and pencil, draw a diagonal line as indicated. Pin in place, sew along the line, and trim the excess.
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Fold the binding back in half lengthwise and pin it onto the quilt (it should be an exact fit).
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Resume stitching the binding in place.
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Voila!
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Turn the quilt over and fold the binding up and over to the back, pinning in place.
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Miter the corners.
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Stitch the binding in place by hand. The easiest way to do this is double-thread a needle and tie a knot at the end.  Bring the needle through the back material and into the binding at an angle.  For the next stitch, repeat but bring the needle up through the back directly below where it came up through the binding on the last stitch.  Bring it up through the binding at an angle.  Repeat around the quilt perimeter.  (Secretly, I love this part because I can kick up my feet and watch TV while I sew.)
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Then, admire your handiwork!!
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I love how it turned out!  Truthfully, I want to keep it for Olive, but how many quilts does Olive really need?!? 
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I hope you have found this tutorial to be helpful!  If you have questions, please leave them as a comment (others may have the same question) and I will post a response below it.  Happy quilting!