Weekend Workshop: Serge That Quilt

Have you ever used a serger to make a quilt? Neither have I. Truth be told, I think I’ve only ever given a serger a test drive on one occasion. But we get enough visitors to our blog from people who are looking for information on serger quilts that I know it’s a technique that’s increasing — dare I say “surging?” — in popularity. So let’s talk about it.

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Lori’s serger in action

One person on the QN team who knows a thing or two about making quilts with a serger is Lori, and she’s blogged about it a few times (hence the traffic we get on those search terms). In April 2014 she blogged about an easy serger quilt she made with a pack of precut 10″ squares.

“Serging is a nice way to get a quilt done quickly and to use up bigger pieces of scraps,” she wrote. “I think serger quilts are ideal charity quilts or car quilts.” She used a quilt-as-you-go technique after piecing the 10″ squares into rows; read more about how Lori made her serger quilt in “Serge On!”

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Lori’s completed serger quilt

A couple of months later she finished the quilt after changing her mind a few times about how to quilt it. By this point, she had decided to make it a “caring quilt” for a family member who was facing some health issues. The ease of piecing and doing some of the quilting with a serger allowed her to put more time and effort into making it special with the rest of the quilting, including some free-motion cursive writing; read about “A Caring Quilt” on our blog.

And then last summer while on a road trip Lori visited a quilt shop where the owner showed off the serger quilt top she’d made; it’s still an easy quilt but the piecing is more involved than Lori’s. “Isn’t it pretty?” Lori wrote in her blog post “Show and Tell.”

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Lori’s first serger quilt

Lori made her first serger quilt over 10 years ago. As she wrote in her blog post “Stretching the boundaries,” there are things she’d change if she made that quilt again. But it was a good experiment and one she appreciates. “I think it is okay to have things around that show how much my quiltmaking skills have improved,” she said.

Connie Fanders, director of education for Bernina of America, has also blogged for us on how to use a serger to make a quilt; you can read her post “Quilting with a Serger” on the QN blog.

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The serger’s chain stitch is perfect for making a rag quilt.

In addition, Connie taped a few episodes of Quilters Newsletter Machine Quilting Tips & Techniques specifically about how to use a serger in making quilts. In “Quilting with a Serger, Part 1,” Connie demonstrates how to make a rag quilt with an overlock serger. In Part 2, she demonstrates a quilt-as-you-go method, and in Part 3 she talks about the types of patterns that lend themselves well to serger quilts, particularly those made with precut charm packs. Connie makes the point that sergers, with their ability to sew at a rate of 1,300 stitches per minute, are a great fit for quick quilts. You can watch “Quilting with a Serger” Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 on QNNtv.com.

If you’re looking for how to use your serger to sew more than straight seams, you’ll want to want to watch “How to Sew Curved Seams with Your Serger” from “Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting.” In it, Pam Mahshie and Mary Fons demonstrate how to successfully serge a curved seam with a serger, how to set the proper stitch width for an accurate seam, and also how to hold quilt fabric when piecing with a serger. Mary also provides a quick Serger 101 course to explain the basics of serging and how it can be beneficial for every quilter. Watch “How to Sew Curved Seams with Your Serger” on QNNtv.com.

Z2917FP Weekend Workshop: Serge That QuiltFor more ideas of quilt patterns that can be made with a serger, check out Serge and Merge Quilts by Sharon Rotz. In this project-driven title from the “Create with Nancy” series, Sharon uses serging stitches to create and embellish 15 quilt projects in a range of styles and sizes, including bed quilts. Bonus sidebars and notes from Nancy Zieman provide additional tips and tricks to readers. Learn more about Serge and Merge Quilts, currently on sale for 1/3 off from ShopFonsandPorter.com (prices subject to change).


Granted, if you don’t have ready access to a serger you won’t be able to put these tips to use this weekend. But it you do a lot of sewing, especially for charity as Lori said, then a serger might be a worthwhile investment. It’s just one more tool in a quilter’s arsenal, and it looks fun to boot. So next time you’re in a sewing machine shop, give the serger a test drive — you may want to bookmark this blog post just in case you get hooked!

As always, to find out about Quilters Newsletter’s giveaways, quilting news, tips, techniques and more, visit us on FacebookTwitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube,  QNNtv.com and our website. Plus, see Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.

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Organize Your Quilting Tools


Summer officially started for those of us here in the northern hemisphere this past Sunday, which actually means that days are getting shorter again with a few seconds less of daylight than the days preceding. As quilters, we know that that just means we need to turn on the room lights and lamps a little sooner and get back to our favorite hobby. It also means that there’s a few less seconds of natural daylight to be able to organize our quilting tools and make sure that everything we need is kept well within reach. This week’s giveaway is all about helping you organize those important tools with two of the types of organizers featured as number 8 in the “Quilters’ Wish List” feature from Quilters Newsletter December/January 2015.

Both of these two types of organizers are Rule-It-All Ruler Organizers from Built by Briick Quilting. The first of the two is the Traveler model in the Golden Pecan color. The first photo below shows what it might look like set up with various tools (not included) in it, and the second photo shows it inside its box. Traveler in Golden Pecan Organize Your Quilting Tools Rule It All Traveler Organize Your Quilting Tools

The second of the two organizers is still a Rule-It-All Ruler Organizer from Built by Briick Quilting, but it’s the Storum model in the Cabernet color. Again, the first photo below shows what it might look like set up with various tools (not included) in it, and the second photo shows it inside its box. Storum in Cabernet Organize Your Quilting Tools Rule It All Storum Organize Your Quilting Tools

To enter for your chance to be one of the two lucky winners who will each win one of the two organizers, leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm Mountain Time, Sunday June 28, 2015 telling us about a tool or piece of furniture or other item that you dream about adding to your quilting space (or something you have added that you absolutely love). If you have a preference between the two prizes, let us know that in your comment as well. Since winners are randomly selected, we don’t guarantee you’ll win your preferred prize if chosen, but we’ll do our best! Open to anyone worldwide who has not won anything from Quilters Newsletter in the past 90 days. If you are randomly selected as a winner, the email will come from QNMquestions@fwmedia.com with “Quilters Newsletter blog giveaway” in the subject line.

To find out about more giveaways, quilting news, tips, techniques and to see all the beautiful quilts we like to share, join us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and our website. Plus, see Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.

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Time to Teach How to Quilt

I have a delightful task ahead of me. In fact, it’s going to be so much fun, task seems like the wrong word. I have a daughter-in-law who wants to learn to quilt. I am thrilled. It is so enjoyable to pass on any art or craft.

She’ll truly be starting from scratch. She has a great eye when it comes to decorating so the artsy part should come easy for her, but she doesn’t even own a sewing machine. I’ll probably take her one of mine so she can play with it and decide how “much” of a machine she wants. Will she want one with all the bells and whistles that she can grow into? Will she want a middle-of-the-line machine? Or maybe she’ll want a lower-end machine? If she wants a nicer machine later, she can send the low-end machine to college with her daughter. We’ll have to talk about that a little more.

But the machine is just the beginning. I’ve made a shopping list for us. Until we know if she likes quiltmaking, I’ll keep the beginning quilting supplies to the basics. Here’s what I think she, and any beginner quilter, needs:

mat Time to Teach How to Quilt

Cutting Mat



  • A cutting mat  This one is 18″ x 24″. If quilting is a hit for her, we may want to get a larger mat sometime later.



rotary cutter Time to Teach How to Quilt

Rotary Cutter










scissors Time to Teach How to Quilt


  • A pair of scissors I like these because of the curved blade. It’s easier to be precise.

    ruler Time to Teach How to Quilt













square ruler Time to Teach How to Quilt

Square Ruler








  • A 12½” x 12½” square ruler   I have to admit this isn’t a basic but it’s just so much easier to square blocks with a square ruler, I think it’s worth the price.
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I’ll give her a few straight pins and a spool of medium gray or tan thread.

Then all she’ll need is some fabric and she’ll be good to go. There might be enough fabric in my sewing room to give her a good start. (Wink, wink.)

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Most of My Fabric Inventory


Have I forgotten anything else necessary for a new quilter?

We couldn’t have picked a better time to go shopping for beginner quilting needs. All of the products on my shopping list are available at ShopFonsandPorter.com and they are having a big 25% off sale through tomorrow June 23rd. Many, many of the items on the site are on sale. The promo code is CUSTLOVE25. Check it out.

And you can see all the latest quilting news (and giveaways!) on FacebookTwitter, Google+Pinterest, InstagramYouTube and our website. Plus, see Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about what beginner quilt pattern I should use for my beginning quilter. Happy quilting!

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Weekend Workshop: Curved Piecing Courage

I’ll keep this short and sweet: you should try curved piecing if you’ve never tried it before.

It’s not hard, and it’s not scary.

It will require making templates or using special acrylic rulers. And you’ll need pins. Other than that, it’s pretty similar to the straight seams you’re already used to doing.

Most quilters first encounter curved seams when making the popular drunkard’s path block (one of the best quilt block names ever, in my opinion). More of a unit than a full block on its own due to only having two patches in it, the drunkard’s path offers almost limitless design opportunities.

Drunkards Path block MK 300x244 Weekend Workshop: Curved Piecing CourageI had my first experience sewing curved seams back when I was learning to quilt by working my way through Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes*. I hadn’t yet invested in a sewing machine, so I was doing all my piecing by hand. The drunkard’s path block I made (shown at left) is a traditional setting and is probably supposed to finish at 12″, which means those are 3″ units. Although hand piecing offers you more control in tight spots than machine piecing does, stitching those 3″ units by machine wouldn’t be much more difficult than sewing larger ones. As long as you can control your speed to some degree, you’ll find that with just a little extra guidance, your machine’s feed dogs will still do a lot of the work for you.

If you don’t trust me and need a little more convincing, here are some resources you may want to check out before you get started.

In a free video tutorial from Quilty called “How to Make a Pie ‘N’ Crust (Drunkard’s Path) Quilt Block,” Mary Fons shows how easy it is to cut and piece the block, resulting in a very modern quilt design. Click here to view this free Quilty video.


Last year Lori and I did an episode of Quilters Newsletter TV: The Quilters’ Community in which Lori used a pattern from our February/March 2014 issue as the basis for her tutorial. Click here to view the full episode of “Sewing Curves in Quilts with Lori Baker” on QNNtv.com.

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Along the Way by Tailormade by Design, from the February/March 2014 issue of Quilters Newsletter

The quilt that inspired the episode, Along the Way, features 8″ drunkard’s path blocks set in vertical rows and rotated to create a winding path, a perfect showcase for hand or machine quilting.  Designed to show off striking large-scale prints, the wide curves of the bigger-than-usual blocks are easy to piece by machine, making this a good pattern for those new to curved piecing. The pattern is included in both the print and digital editions of the February/March 2014 issue.




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Along the Way – My Way

As you can see in the preview video above, Lori had not quite finished her version of Along the Way when we taped the episode. However, she finished it up soon after and blogged about the choices she made, including enlarging its size and how she decided on the quilting motifs based on the fabrics she picked. Read Lori’s post “A Finished Quilt — Just for Me” on the QN blog.



If you’re a fan of the “Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting” TV show, you won’t want to miss “Curing Curve-O-Phobia” on QNNtv.com, in which Marianne and Liz show you many different types of quilts involving curved seams that anyone can sew by machine. Click here to view “Curing Curve-O-Phobia” on QNNtv.com.


LQNEBD11 Weekend Workshop: Curved Piecing CourageAlso available from Fons & Porter are a variety of acrylic templates for making curved blocks, such as these 7″ Crazy Curves quilt block templates by Elisa’s Backporch Designs; a free pattern for the Circle Dance quilt is included. Click here to learn more about the Crazy Curves templates.



Katy Jones has also tackled the reluctance many quilters feel toward curved piecing on her QNNtv show “Quilt Monkey” with a two-part episode called “Learn How to Sew Curves.” In them, Katy guides you through fabric selection and sewing techniques to help you make a chic, modern pillow sham. It’s a great intro to the drunkard’s path block for beginners and for those interested in low-volume fabrics. Click here to view part 1 and click here to view part 2 on QNNtv.com.


DPODW110414 Weekend Workshop: Curved Piecing CourageIn her on-demand web seminar “Making Curved Piecing Easy,” Jennifer Parks shows you her best tricks to make curved piecing fast, easy and beautiful. This web seminar covers how to prepare your fabric, make templates, tracing, cutting, piecing, pressing and piecing blocks together and so much more! Click here to learn more about the “Making Curved Piecing Easy” web seminar.



WinterSnowfall 200 Weekend Workshop: Curved Piecing CourageWinter Snowfall by Connie Kauffman is a pattern for a quilted table runner available for free download from QuiltersNewsletter.com. It incorporates foundation piecing and curved piecing resulting in an elegant, complex look that can be adapted to a wide variety of color palettes, not just wintry ones. And I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but we also included instructions in the pattern for appliqueing the curved sections so you can avoid curved piecing altogether. But armed with the knowledge you’ve gained from the resources above, you’ll have the courage you need to face down any fears of curved piecing from now on, right? Click here to download the free pattern for Winter Snowfall.


*We included the most recent edition of Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! in our QN Select Editors’ Choice Kit because we all agreed it simply continues to be one of the best quilting instruction books available. The kit also includes glass head pins and Aurifil thread in addition to a 12-1/2″ square ruler designed by Laura Nownes. Check out the QN Select Editors’ Choice Kit on QuiltandSewShop.com.

Posted in Mary Kate Karr-Petras | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quilt long and prosper

[whispering] I did it. I finished the foundation-pieced Vulcan Greeting project I started a few weeks ago. But it’s still in transit to the friend I made it for, so let’s keep this just between you and me for another day or so.

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Vulcan Greeting quilted pillow made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras

I first wrote about this project a few weeks ago in a blog post about foundation piecing fundamentals. At the time all I’d completed was piecing the 10″ block (seen below), which was designed by Vanda Chittenden and is available as a free download from Fandom in Stitches. Turning it into a finished project — well, that was another matter.

Live long Quilt long and prosper

Vulcan Greeting 10″ block designed by Vanda Chittenden, made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras

The friend I made it for has much better taste than I, plus she doesn’t have children, which means her home looks like a showcase pretty much all the time. I really have no expectations that she will display this Vulcan Greeting prominently if at all. At the very least I know she’ll get a kick out of it and she’ll appreciate the effort that went into it. After that point, she can do with it what she likes.

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Firework Flag pattern by Gigi Khalsa, a combination zippered pillowcase/wall hanging

Even so, I wanted to make it easy for her to display it in a couple of different ways if she so chooses, so I decided to make it into a 12″ pillow sham. If I wasn’t still intimidated by zippers I would have used a method devised by our own Gigi Khalsa for making a dual-purpose pillowcase/wall hanging, which was detailed as the Easy Lesson in our June/July 2013 issue. (Click here to purchase the print or digital edition of June/July 2013, both available for 50% off as of today, June 18.) Gigi also demonstrated her technique in a class for Quilters Newsletter Workshop; the full episode of “How to Make a Quilted Flag Pillowcase and Wall Hanging” is available on QNNtv.com.

But before I could worry about making my block into a pillow case, I had to quilt it.

For some reason — I don’t remember what it was — I decided I wanted to quilt the hand with the words “live long and prosper.” My inspiration was The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery by Graeme Base, one of my favorite illustrated children’s books that is fun for anyone who loves to solve riddles and puzzles. (You’ll have to work your way through the book to figure out which illustration I took my inspiration from, but no spoilers!)

IMG 1306 Quilt long and prosper

First I roughed out my idea on a couple of smaller-scale printouts of the pattern (as you can see, my 3-year-old seems to have gotten to it, too). Then I photocopied the pieced block itself at 100% to get a full-scale copy on which I drew my final version. I made some variations in placement on the different versions, but the main idea stayed the same.

IMG 1242 Quilt long and prosper

Before starting to quilt the actual block, I made a practice sandwich. If you know me at all, you may know that I sometimes skip this step — I just want to get to the actual quilting. But there were too many unknowns with this project so I played it safe. What you see above is the result of trying a few different approaches. At first, I thought I wanted to hand quilt the letters; you can see where I practiced with 50-weight neutral thread from Presencia in the middle of the photo (letters N & G). But I realized that I would have to quilt over some thick seams and didn’t want to deal with that, so I switched to machine quilting with the 50-weight thread. Because the letters are so long, most of the quilting is made up of straight lines, perfect for using a walking foot. Even the curves were easy to handle just by going one stitch at a time and rotating the block as needed.

I wondered if using neutral cotton thread wasn’t maybe playing it a little too safe so I experimented with some other threads. In addition to a white polyester thread from Isacord, I tried a silver metallic from Kreinik and a gold metallic from Sulky. As much as I liked the idea of the metallic threads, and as easy as it was to quilt with the polyester, I and my fellow QN team members felt they called too much attention to themselves and actually detracted from the quilting motif. So I went back to the 50-weight neutral cotton.

IMG 1227 Quilt long and prosper

I tried a couple of different lightbox approaches for transfering the letters to the foundation-pieced block, to which I had added borders, and ended up taping the pattern and block to a window on a sunny day.

IMG 1243 Quilt long and prosper

I left all my thread ends loose so I could bury them. Tedious, but I prefer the look to backstitching.

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Here’s the quilted hand after I removed the water-soluble pen markings and buried all my threads.

IMG 1271 Quilt long and prosper

The best way to read the words is to hold the quilt at eye level and parallel to the ground; you can make out the word “LIVE” in the thumb in the photo above.

IMG 1276 Quilt long and prosper

I decided to have fun with the silver metallic thread in the navy blue background, which I quilted improvisationally with a zigzag or starburst motion.

IMG 1273 Quilt long and prosper

Even that little amount of quilting in the background helped smooth out some of the distortion that had been caused to the unquilted areas by the dense quilting in the center. When all was said and done, I think the quilting took longer than the foundation piecing since I designed it from scratch.

IMG 1287 Quilt long and prosper

Because I wanted this pillow sham to fit a 12″ pillow form, I had added 2″-wide borders to allow for any shrinkage cause by the quilting. After trimming the quilted block to 12.5″ (I know some of the starburst points are cut off — it doesn’t bother me since I did it improvisationally), I added an envelope back and bound it. For some reason, hand finishing the binding took me a long time — trying to stitch dark fabric with dark thread by lamplight was not as easy as I thought it would be.

IMG 1298 Quilt long and prosper

Vulcan Greeting quilted pillow made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras

But finish it I did. I kind of like making small projects; the feeling of accomplishment is fantastic and it gives me the chance to experiment with new techniques, tools and materials without having to commit to a large project. Pillow shams seem to be my thing this year. I’m planning to add to the winter and spring pillow shams I’ve already made with one for summer, and I’m pretty sure I want to make it my first mariner’s compass. Stay tuned.

CT10985 Quilt long and prosper If you’re interested in foundation piecing (aka paper piecing), you may want to pick up a package of Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper. I used regular copier paper for this small project, but for anything with more blocks I would want to use a specialty paper, if only because it’s designed to perforate easily when it comes time to remove the foundations from the blocks. Most experienced foundation piecers only use specialty foundation paper, and Carol Doak’s is one of the most popular.


As always, to find out about Quilters Newsletter’s giveaways, quilting news, tips, techniques and more, visit us on FacebookTwitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube,  QNNtv.com and our website. Plus, see Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.

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Three Times the Urban Textures


Do you like fabric? Do you like quilt blocks? Do you like new fabrics and free quilt block patterns? Keep reading. CoverJJ15 200 Three Times the Urban TexturesOur June/July issue has some wonderful staff picks in it, including four new fabric lines. You saw one of those new lines here on our blog a couple of weeks back (stay turned for more colorways of Modern Elements later on) and today we’re introducing three colorways of Urban Textures by SAQA for Andover Fabrics, one colorway bundle to be given away to each of three lucky randomly selected winners. If the staff picks section doesn’t entice you as much as four wonderful quilt patterns, an easy lesson on quilt binding, a workshop on Y-seams, articles on Chilean Arpilleras and Social Media as Quilt Documentation and much more, then don’t worry because those are also included in Quilters Newsletter June/July 2015. But for now let’s focus on those colorways of Urban Textures by SAQA for Andover Fabrics.

In orange:
Andover Urban Textures Orange Three Times the Urban TexturesOr gray:
Andover Urban Textures Gray Three Times the Urban TexturesOr blue:
Andover Urban Textures Blue Three Times the Urban TexturesStuck on what you might do with Urban Textures? Try this good cheer quilt block which happens to be the free staff pick block for the Quilters Newsletter June/July 2015 issue.
UrbanTextures 800 Three Times the Urban Textures

To enter for your chance to win one of the three Urban Textures bundles, leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm Mountain Time, Sunday June 21, 2015 telling us about your favorite fabric you’ve ever seen/bought/worked with. If you have a preference between the three colorways, let us know that in your comment as well. Since winners are randomly selected, we can’t guarantee you’ll receive your preferred colorway if chosen, but we’ll do our best! Open to anyone worldwide who has not won anything from Quilters Newsletter in the past 90 days. If you are randomly selected as a winner, the email will come from QNMquestions@fwmedia.com with “Quilters Newsletter blog giveaway” in the subject line.

To find out about more giveaways, quilting news, tips, techniques and to see all the beautiful quilts we like to share, join us on FacebookTwitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and our website. Plus, see Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.

Posted in Caitlin, Contests | Tagged , , , , , | 386 Comments

National Week of Making?

That’s right, it’s an official thing. This week is the National Week of Making.

My first thought when I read this was “Humph, like I need a special week.” I guess I was having a grumpy moment. But the more I considered it, the more I liked it. I’ve been wanting to make a place for my jewelry for quite a while and Friday night, my husband, Bake, and I put together a cool storage spot for most of my jewelry. Our home is small so storage space is at a premium. It’s a smart thing to use vertical space when it’s possible.

020 2 National Week of Making?My new jewelry storage is a headboard from a bed we no longer needed, drawer pulls from a discount store and food prep bowls from the grocery store. It hangs on the wall in our bedroom. My necklaces hang on the drawer pulls and my earrings are in the little bowls. We need one more “swish” of drawer pulls for my bracelets and I bought eight more of the little bowls because I have a lot of earrings. Even with three pair in a bowl, I need more than the eight bowls you see. When we paint the bedroom, I’ll take it back down and paint it white with some flowers and vines so it will be prettier. But right now I’m in love with how useful it is.






The other amazing thing I’ve accomplished in the last week is I finished organizing my sewing space. We moved into our home the first of March and the sewing room was the catch-all. It was pretty awful. But look at it now.

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Most of My Fabric Inventory

And with that done, I could do more for the National Week of Making. Do you remember this quilt block from a couple weeks ago?

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The Finished Block

I love the fabric for the quilt block. It’s Graceful Moments by Maywood Studio.

I had a bundle of fat quarters of the Royal Tea collection by Connecting Threads that coordinated beautifully and a couple of other bright pink fat quarters so I cut out the rest of the quilt on Saturday afternoon. I pressed all the fabric before I started cutting and stacked it so I could cut multiple layers at once. (I had a total of 13 fat quarters so I made one stack of 6 and one stack of 7.) I cut the pieces and left them in the stacks so I could easily count how many of each size I had.

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Cutting Completed

I arranged the large square patches for the center of the quilt on my cutting table and took a photo. That’s a trick I’ve learned from Kath, Quilters Newsletter’s senior designer. It’s easier somehow to evaluate placement of colors in a photo.

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Ready to Sew

I work in batches, so I sewed all the vertical seams for the center of the quilt. When I was a kid learning to sew garments, Mom taught me that you don’t need to press a seam until another seam is going to cross over it.

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Now for the Iron

So I don’t press until I’m ready for the horizontal seams and then I press all the vertical seams at once. I press rows 1, 3 and 5 one direction and rows 2 and 4 in the opposite direction so the seams will nest.

Once the center of the quilt was sewn, I started working on the design wall. My design wall right now is nothing fancy – it’s just two flannel sheets sewn together and fastened to the wall with push pins. The closet in the sewing room is behind the sheets so it can’t be a permanent thing.

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Arranging the Pieces

And here is the whole thing on the design wall.

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All the Pieces and Parts – So Far

I still have quite a bit of the fabric left so I may do something else. This is just a little quilt (44” x 44”) and I think I’d like it to be bigger. Part of the fun of designing my own quilts is that I don’t have to quit until I’m happy with what I’ve done. The math part can be a challenge when I don’t have the whole plan at the beginning but there is always a way. It’s just quilt math after all.

Is quilt math hard for you? Learn to make it easier with Making Quilt Blocks the Sizes You Want, a web seminar that will be presented at 1 p.m. eastern time on June 30, 2015, by Debra Finan, managing editor of Fons and Porter.  Learn about resizing quilt blocks and how to know the cut sizes you’ll need for all the pieces in a block. Deb will also talk about the math for the different triangles you use in quilting and explain how to look at quilt blocks in a new way. The cost is $19.99 and if you can’t be there for the online event, your registration fee gives you access to the archived version for a year.

Remember that you can stay up-to-date with all the latest quilting news (and giveaways!) on FacebookTwitter, Google+Pinterest, InstagramYouTube and our website. Plus, see Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.

I’m going to make more quilts to celebrate the rest of the National Week of Making. I hope you do, too. Happy quilting.

Posted in Inspiration, Lori Baker, Staff Quilts | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Weekend Workshop: Tech-Savvy Techniques

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog post, June 12-18 has been declared a National Week of Making in the U.S. According to the White House, “During National Week of Making, we celebrate the tinkerers and dreamers whose talent and drive have brought new ideas to life, and we recommit to cultivating the next generation of problem solvers.”

Now, the notion of “making” isn’t revolutionary to quilters; making is what we do, after all. Most of us take advantage of current technologies and tools to make our projects a little easier or to allow us to achieve more complex and personalized designs. We may even do a little tinkering in our sewing studios to streamline our processes so we can make the quilts we want.

But if you’re looking for ways to engage more fully in the maker movement, particularly the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) aspects of quilting and sewing, here are four ideas that you might want to explore this weekend.

1) Power up your quilts with LED lights.
In my previous blog post, I said most makers might prefer using LED lights over 50-weight thread. Well, there’s no reason we quilters can’t have our cake and eat it too!

EL 800 Weekend Workshop: Tech Savvy Techniques

The Easy Lesson in our June/July 2014 issue offered a tutorial in adding conductive thread to an art quilt that allows you to incorporate LED lights without needing extra wires or an external power source. It’s a nifty way to add a spark of energy (pun intended) to a wall hanging, particularly those made for the winter holidays and patriotic occasions.

Celebrite 200 Weekend Workshop: Tech Savvy Techniques

Celebrite by Gigi Khlasa

And speaking of patriotic holidays — of which there are a few coming up — we have a companion pattern for a wall hanging, Celebrite designed by Gigi Khalsa, available as a free download. The pattern is easy and offers a great opportunity for you to try your hand at using LED lights in your quilts for the first time.  Click here to download the free pattern for Celebrite. 

The Easy Lesson instructions for using conductive thread can be found in our June/July 2014 issue, available both as a print edition and as a digital edition.


2) Design and print your own fabric.
One of the hallmarks of the maker movement is taking advantage of cutting-edge technology to produce your work. For some art quilters, that might mean spending just as much time at their computers designing in Photoshop as they do at their sewing machines.

Gay Lasher 225x300 Weekend Workshop: Tech Savvy Techniques

Gay Lasher photographed in front of one of her quilts at aBuzz Gallery in Denver, Colorado

Gay Lasher is a textile artist who uses computer software and digital photography to create custom-printed fabric for her art quilts. We were lucky enough to interview Gay for Quilters Newsletter TV: The Quilters’ Community last year and learn about her inventive process. View the episode on QNNtv.com.

Diane Rusin Doran is an award-winning art quilter whose Return of the Grackle we featured as the Photo Finish quilt in our October/November 2011 issue. Diane is known for incorporating digital photography and collage into her work, and she shares her techniques in her online course “Digital Surface Design.” In it, Diane provides an overview of creating effects in Photoshop to allow you to create your own fabric designs; digital fabric stamping is also covered in this video. Learn more about Diane’s course on CraftDaily.com.

3) Upcycle your wardrobe.
As I also mentioned in my previous blog post, there is a strong textile arts component to the maker movement with an emphasis on upcycling garments into new items. It’s right in line with the maker movement’s DIY/hacker approach to life with a (dare I say it) hipster undercurrent.

Last year Gigi blogged about customizing tank tops using quilted strips to replace the original straps, resulting in a unique and stylish “new-to-her” wardrobe. Read about Gigi’s quilted strips technique on the QN blog.

B1060 Weekend Workshop: Tech Savvy TechniquesResew: Turn Thrift-Store Finds into Fabulous Designs by Jenny Wilding Cardon is a fun book; don’t tell my coworkers, but the copy we received in the office might possibly have been on an extended vacation at my home for the past year or so. “Make a skirt” is on my summer to-do list, and this book has a number of really cute patterns and approaches I’ve been eyeing. It also has patterns for tops, dresses, purses, scarves, bags, and hats, plus a rug, a simple quilt that’s great for absolute beginners or those wanting an easy pattern, and more. Learn more about Resew: Turn Thrift-Store Finds into Fabulous Designs.

Blogger and sewing enthusiast Marisa Lynch taped a video tutorial for CraftDaily.com called “Upcycle Secondhand Store Finds!” In the class, Marisa gives quick fixes for thrift-store garments, making them wearable and chic, as well as tried-and-true techniques to guarantee the best fit. Watch “Upcycle Secondhand Store Finds!” on CraftDaily.com.

4) Teach a kid to quilt.
A lot of the emphasis during National Week of Making is on getting kids interested in the value of tinkering and hands-on experimentation from an early age. Similarly, many quilters are never happier than when we get a young person interested in quilting. It’s the only way to ensure the tradition not only lives on, but grows and develops along with the times.

MQB074 Weekend Workshop: Tech Savvy TechniquesExpert longarm quilter Angela Walters and her young daughter Chloe recently wrote a book, Get Quilting with Angela & Chloe, that contains 14 quilting projects geared toward 8- to 13-year-olds including stylish bedroom decor, such as pillow covers, rugs and T-shirt quilts. The book also includes skill-builders and plenty of how-to photos to help kids bring their imaginative creations to life. Learn more about the book Get Quilting with Angela & Chloe.

The mother/daughter team also taped an online class with Jodie Davis showing some of these techniques and projects in action. View the full episode of “Get Quilting with Kids” on QNNtv.com.

As you can see, combining a maker mentality with traditional quilting techniques is really just a matter of approaching what you already know with fresh eyes and being open to unconventional ideas. So take a little time this weekend to tinker, to experiment, and to push your own envelope a little. Let’s make!

Posted in Mary Kate Karr-Petras | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quilters are Makers, too

I’m not exactly sure what drew me to quilting in the first place, but I know one factor was being a cheapskate frugal and perhaps a little hopeful: while I couldn’t afford to buy the quilts I liked, I knew that with enough time and perseverance, I could make something that was good enough for my purposes.

This same desire for something custom-made is what draws many of us to making things on our own, whether quilts and garments, tables and chairs, or, more recently, computers and 3-D printers.

The past few years has seen the emergence of what is referred to the Maker Movement, driven by people who combine the do-it-yourself ethos of crafting with forward-thinking technology. The emphasis has been on electronics, robotics and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) applications. Although most makers may prefer acetylene torches and LED lights over rotary cutters and 50-weight thread, there definitely is a segment of maker culture devoted to the textile arts.

This intersection can result in some very cool things. For instance, fashion designer and textile artist Greg Climer is working with a knitting factory in New Jersey to produce a short film in the form of a knitted scarf, frame by frame — it will be very, very long by the time it’s finished. On the other hand, I have to admit that when I read last year about a 3-D printer that can make soft objects like stuffed animals, I was underwhelmed. Am I the only one who thinks it’s essentially an embroidery machine that can build up layers of yarn?

I would argue that the emergence of the modern quilt movement over the past decade is at least tangentially related to the maker movement. Spearheaded by women who grew up in an era when many schools were eliminating home economic classes (as well as classes in the arts), and who maybe didn’t have living relatives who quilted to show them the basics, modern quilters took advantage of current technology — the Internet primarily — to learn how to make quilts that served their purposes and that matched their aesthetics.

But even prior to the modern quilt movement, quilters have been quick to adopt and adapt to new technologies, if not actually innovating and developing new methods and tools based on what was available to them. Think of the variety of acrylic rulers we have today, many of which were designed by quilters looking to find an easier way to make a particular pattern.

June 12, 2015, marks the beginning of National Week of Making in the United States. The week will coincide with the National Maker Faire in Washington, D.C., and will include participation by various federal agencies. The White House recognized the importance and legacy of grassroots innovation in the official proclamation:

Makers and builders and doers — of all ages and backgrounds — have pushed our country forward, developing creative solutions to important challenges and proving that ordinary Americans are capable of achieving the extraordinary when they have access to the resources they need. During National Week of Making, we celebrate the tinkerers and dreamers whose talent and drive have brought new ideas to life, and we recommit to cultivating the next generation of problem solvers. …

America’s path of experimentation, innovation, and discovery has been the hallmark of our progress. We are heirs to an extraordinary legacy of ingenuity — our country is home to pioneers who imagined a railroad connecting a continent, inventors who believed electricity could power our cities and towns, explorers who dared to leave our planet and travel farther than ever before, and innovators who brought us closer together through the Internet. This story is central to who we are as a people, and today, we have the opportunity to write the next great chapter. This week, let us renew our resolve to harness the potential of our time — the technology, opportunity, and talent of our people — and empower all of today’s thinkers, makers, and dreamers.

With that in mind, I’d like to urge all quilters, both in the U.S. and around the world, to think of ourselves as makers if only for the next week. We are heirs to a long and proud tradition of innovation and problem solving that has pushed the art and craft of quilting forward with each successive generation. Just as we can learn new things from makers in other disciplines, so can they learn from us. The beauty of the maker movement is its inclusivity, its hunger for new ideas and lack of prejudice regarding where those ideas come from, and its celebration of weird little ideas that just might lead to big breakthroughs. Let’s make!

As always, to find out about Quilters Newsletter’s giveaways, quilting news, tips, techniques and more, visit us on FacebookTwitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube,  QNNtv.com and our website. Plus, see Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.

Posted in Mary Kate Karr-Petras | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Paper Somerset Star Quilt


A lot of quilters hold onto all of their scraps and try to use every bit of fabric, no matter how small. When I first started at Quilters Newsletter, one of the final editing stages on each of our patterns and articles involved a “sign-off sheet for each page of our issues that was two pieces of paper, one of them cut 2″ shorter than the other. LeftoverScraps 300x180 Paper Somerset Star QuiltWe’ve since combined the sign-off sheet to just be one piece of paper, eliminating both an excess use of paper and the need for those 2″ strips, but in the meantime I gathered quite a few colors (a different color for each issue) of 2″ wide strips of paper, 8 1/2″ long (the width of a standard sheet of copy paper). The woman who was the editorial assistant before me told me “I wish there was something we could do with those strips” but she hadn’t come up with anything, so she just threw them in the recycling. As both a quilter and collector of scrap-booking supplies I never actually use, I figured there must be something I can do with those and kept them.

FullFoldedStar Paper Somerset Star Quilt

My finished paper somerset star quilt. I haven’t actually come up with a “real” name for it yet, so if you have suggestions, let me know!

Not long after I started collecting those strips, I became fascinated with somerset star quilts (or folded star quilts). A bit of time passed, and I started wondering if those 2″ strips of paper I was saving wouldn’t work great for a paper version. It was yet a few months after that when I started actually making my paper quilt, but considering how it turned out, I think it was worth all the time planning and the 2-3 months or so of “a minute here, a minute there” building that went into it.

FoldedStarinProgress Paper Somerset Star Quilt

My paper somerset star in progress.

The basic method for making a somerset star or folded star quilt is to start by making a bunch of prairie points. There are two different methods of making prairie points, both of which start with a square of fabric. The first way involves folding the square of fabric in half from corner to corner, then in half again so that all the raw edges are on the same side. Quiltmaker has a great tutorial for this method on their website. This method of making a prairie point is wonderful for using on the edges of quilts or for the dimensional prairie points in the August/September 2014 issue of Quilters Newsletter‘s “Quiltmaker’s Workshop,” but it doesn’t work so well for somerset star quilts.

SmallPointsPapers Paper Somerset Star Quilt

Paper prairie points in progress.

The second method of making prairie points is the one used in Serenity, the cover quilt from Quilters Newsletter April/May 2013. There’s a free PDF showing how to make this style of prairie points as well as 3-Dimensional Flowers available on the QN website. Basically, you fold your square in half edge-to-edge, then fold down the top corners (the ones made from the fold) into the bottom edge’s center so that all the raw edges are on the bottom. Check out tutorials for both styles of prairie points in the prairie points edging lesson on the McCall’s Quilting website.

If you’d prefer to watch a video on making and using prairie points (using the first method), you’re in luck because there’s a Sew Easy Lesson on Prairie Points over at Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting website. There’s also a handy and practical tool to help you create quick, easy and accurate prairie points called, you guessed it, the Prairie Pointer Tool, available from Quilt and Sew Shop. Want to make your prairie points with uneven stripes? Check out the Easy Lesson from Quilters Newsletter October/November 2012.

Now that you’ve made your prairie points, the next step in a somerset star quilt is to put four of them in the center of your backing fabric, folded edges touching.SomersetStarCenter 296x300 Paper Somerset Star Quilt In my paper star, I folded four more of them towards the center again to create another dimensional layer. I also started with rectangles for my prairie points since the edges of the paper wouldn’t fray, which I got by cutting (tearing) my 2″ x 8 1/2″ strips in half to get 2″ by 4 1/4″ strips. The second folded side of the prairie point generally stuck out 1/4″ or so past the bottom edge since I hadn’t bothered trimming them to the perfect 2″ x 4″ size, but since that edge was going to be hidden, I didn’t worry about it.

After the center prairie points are in place, you can space your next set of prairie points (faced the same directions as the first set) any distance you want from the first set, and so on with the third set. Different effects can easily be achieved with different spacing and different levels of color contrast in the rows. In my paper version, I spaced them by eye at about 1/4″ or so apart. Since my paper version just kept getting bigger and bigger (I hadn’t originally planned how large I was going to make it and thus added more cardstock backing to the first sheet), there came a point when the corners of the new sets of prairie points no longer touched, which is why there are many rows with 8 prairie points and many with 16 as well.

BindingReadyToJoin Paper Somerset Star Quilt

The back of the paper somerset star quilt with the first step of sewing on the binding almost complete.

CatHoldingDownProject 159x300 Paper Somerset Star Quilt

Enter my cat, who decided to be helpful and hold down the project for me while I was photographing it.

Once I had reached a point where I was done adding prairie points, I decided that I wanted the full quilt to be round rather than framing it to make it square, so the next step was to trim both the cardstock backing and the edges of the outer row of prairie points into a circle. Once my circle was marked (in pencil, just in case) and trimmed, I started the search for some sort of edging or binding. I decided to do a fabric binding and bound it the same way you would any other circular quilt (using the by machine method since there’s nothing to hand-sew to on cardstock). QNNtv has a handful of videos about quilt binding — check out “Bias Binding with Patrick Lose” or “Learn How to Handle Binding With Irregular Edges” if you’d like to learn about applying binding around curves.

If you’ve never sewn through cardstock before, it’s a bit of an adjustment, but so long as your needle is sharp (smaller size needles are better) and you work slowly so that you don’t have to rip anything out (the cardstock has those needle holes in it permanently), it works rather well. The better quality your cardstock, the less you’ll have to worry about your thread being stronger than the rest of your project. You can also do hand or machine embroidery on cardstock for unique gifts or decorations.

RippedStitches 300x156 Paper Somerset Star Quilt

The binding ready to be joined, minus the segment of binding I removed since I’d initially sewn more of it together than I would need (just in case).

The photo to the left is a little blurry, but if you click on it for the enlarged image, you’ll be able to see I did un-sew a little ways since I noticed that I could take a whole seamed segment off the binding and have one less seam to worry about when sewing it to the front side of the quilt. I wasn’t too worried about these holes showing since they’d be covered up by the binding anyway. Note that I would highly advise you to leave more room between the two binding ends that need joined than I did if doing this on cardstock, because getting this allowance folded around the machine in order to not sew the cardstock while seaming the ends together was a bit tricky.

You’ll notice I did not press the folds into my binding. I used the single-fold style of binding because I was only covering paper and cardstock, not layers of quilts and batting that would need a stronger double-fold. One of the advantages to working with a circular shape (and something as stiff as cardstock) is that it curls around the front nicely once you have it seamed to the back. Also, since I was working with a medium where the edges of the prairie points didn’t all just magically match up to the edge of the circle, I needed to be able to make the binding just a little bit wider in some places than others to make sure the edges of the prairie points were all covered.

BindingCurledToFront1 Paper Somerset Star Quilt

See how the binding curls around the edge of the front?

BindingReadyToSewOn Paper Somerset Star Quilt

Here you can see the binding cut and seamed together, ready to sew on (a stage it stayed in for about a week). To the right side of the photo you can also see what I meant about not all the prairie points touching the edge of the circle.

FinishedBindingFrontCloseUp Paper Somerset Star Quilt

A close up of the finished binding on the front.

FinishedBindingBackCloseUp Paper Somerset Star Quilt

A close up of the finished binding on the back. You can really see what I meant about the holes from the needle staying in the cardstock permanently here.

One final thing I should mention if you’re going to attempt to make your own paper somerset star quilt: I used either transparent office tape or double-stick tape to hold down the prairie points depending on where they were located on the quilt. While sewing on the binding, sometimes the needle went through the tape, and when this happens, the needle gets sticky. This same principal applies if you’re sewing fabric that has glued on sequins or other embellishments. You will need to replace your needle directly after sewing on anything that gets it sticky. Since it didn’t go through too much tape, I could get by with just running my fingers over the needle a few times to transfer the stickiness to my fingers. If you’re working with something more sticky, a tiny dab of baby oil or sewing machine oil on the needle will also work — just make sure the oil you use won’t stain your fabric first.

And so, after a bit over a year from “mind’s eye” to “on the wall,” my Paper Somerset Star Quilt is complete. To celebrate me finally finishing a quilting project, let’s have a giveaway. Two lucky randomly selected winners will each receive one of two similar prizes:

Prairie Points Prize 1 Paper Somerset Star Quilt Prairie Points Prize 2 Paper Somerset Star Quilt

Both prizes include Prairie Point Pizzazz by Karen Sievert from That Patchwork Place and Color for Quilters by Lauri Linch-Zadel and the editors of Quilters Newsletter and Quiltmaker. Prize 1 also includes a Makin’ it Cute Heart’s Delight templates set by Me and My Sister Designs and a Grammy’s Scrap Basket intermediate quilt pattern from Prairie Grass Patterns. Prize 2 alternatively also includes a Makin’ it Cute Butterfly Bliss templates set by Me and My Sister Designs and a He Zigs She Zags intermediate quilt pattern from Prairie Grass Patterns.

To enter for your chance to win one of the two identical prizes, leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm Mountain Time, Sunday June 14, 2015 telling us either about a project you’re working on now or one you’ve recently finished. Open to anyone worldwide who has not won anything from Quilters Newsletter in the past 90 days. If you are randomly selected as a winner, the email will come from QNMquestions@fwmedia.com with “Quilters Newsletter blog giveaway” in the subject line.

To find out about more giveaways, quilting news, tips, techniques and to see all the beautiful quilts we like to share, join us on FacebookTwitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and our website. Plus, see Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.

Posted in Caitlin, Inspiration, Staff Quilts | Tagged , , , | 109 Comments