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Sewing Cuddle Strip Quilts

Teresa Coates Fat Quarter Shop video

I’m often on the road teaching quilters and sewists how to sew with minky/Cuddle fabrics, and this summer I was able to film some videos with Fat Quarter Shop. In this video I share a bunch of tips and tricks for making the most popular kind of Cuddle project: the strip quilt. Shannon Fabrics offers a wide variety of quilt kits, from 27″ squares to 58″ x 72″ throws, but regardless, they are all constructed in the same method. If you’ve been wanting to make one, but weren’t sure how, this video is for you:

Still have questions? Go ahead and ask!

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Alex Anderson and I doing tutorials– whoda thunk?

I met Alex Anderson last fall at Quilt Market, years after I started following her in the quilt industry.  I look up to her immensely as she has much the same passion that I do about sewing and quilting. We both really just want everyone to find their happy place here! A lot of that passion involves teaching the basics and I’ve often admired her Alex’s ability to seem so approachable and excited in her public presentation.  The truth is, she is actually one of the nicest people I’ve met.  She knows her stuff, too.

As the head educator for Shannon Fabrics, she invited me up to her home in northern California to do some videos and I jumped at the chance.  It was a mix of fear, excitement, admiration, and joy to be honest.  But I’m so glad I did it.  We got to share some great information and I got to get over my awkwardness (or at least a bit) by the time we filmed the last video.

If you are interested in sewing with Cuddle fabrics, I think we’ve included some helpful info. Give ’em a watch and let me know what else you are curious to know.

You can see more tutorials and interview on The Quilt Show YouTube channel.

xo,

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Brewery Artwalk

April 7th was a big day for me.  For the last few months, Hawke and I had been working nearly every day on the Ascension Quilt, a collaborative art quilt based on his wall mural. We had a hard deadline for the Brewery Artwalk and neither of us were entirely confident it was going to be complete. I gave myself a pretty gnarly concussion in the studio in early March, but with some pretty intense work we managed to complete the entire quilt in time for it to be hung in Hawke’s loft and be ready for the droves of weekend visitors.

A lot of love went into this quilt, including Hawke’s favorite “woobie” jeans. He’d worn them to the point that my patching was doing no good, so he sacrificed them to the quilt gods and we used them for the top of the wings.

Hawke’s porch above the quilt was  a favorite for many visitors and it was fun to see their reaction when they realized there is an indoor porch!

The number of people who came through the loft was pretty overwhelming, but between the living room theater, the quilt space and the upstairs studio and  bedroom they had plenty of places to wander.  It was still weird to have so many strangers in there all weekend.

Hawke took his time to explain our methods and purpose to so many visitors and Aaron disarmed one visitor after another with his brash humor. I can’t thank them enough; it was really outside my wheelhouse to talk at length about my quiltmaking work and get such positive feedback.  So strange.

We had quite a few fellow Brewery Artist Lofts friends come by (thanks, Binns!) as well as our local security guy (below).

This was my first time participating in the Brewery Artwalk as an artist. It was wonderful. It was overwhelming. It was inspiring. It was exhausting. It was everything I could have hoped for.  An enormous thank you goes to Hawke, whose support I could not have done without.  The collaborative work was amazing and then there was Artwalk.  His love, encouragement, artistic skills, knowledge and handyman skills made it all work out and I can honestly say, this would have never happened on my own. Thank you, Hawke.

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Getting started on a denim quilt

Late spring last year, I was able to help Luke out with some piecing for a quilt he did for the Stagecoach music festival, piecing the denim/star part of the quilt background you can see in this cute pic from Instagram (I have no idea who @sophieschillaci is, but it’s her photo with some country music star). Anyway, while I was piecing that Greg, our mutual friend, saw it and decided he really loved the denim and wanted something similar, but not the same. He wanted the stars and the denim, but wanted to add a spiral and less structure.  I took him up on it and together we started brainstorming.

First stop was the local Goodwill, then St. Vincent’s and another thrift shop or two, buying the cheapest and largest jeans we could find. He washed and dried them all then brought them back to me to start chopping them up.

 

I cut them so that most of the seams were gone, but left a few intact.  I also purposely left some holes that I then patched and darned.

I’m piecing it together more boro-style than anything else I can name.  Just laying them on top of each other and topstitching close to the raw edge.  I’ll built it out, incorporating about a dozen of those stars. I plan to back it in flannel, then will quilt it with thick yellow thread and top it off with some hand-stitching.  It’s slow and tedious, but I’m learning along the way.  The rugged and raw nature of the denim is lovely. The precision of puzzle making is equally enticing and I love how the two aspects work together.

Denim quilt being pieced

My advice so far:

  • Buy more denim than you think you’ll need. I cut up 23 pairs of jeans.
  • Use a 90/14 universal needle.
  • Denim is heavy so work in sections.
  • Don’t expect to get it done quickly.

Expect more soon (but not too soon!)

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Free-Wheeling Single Girl, the quilt and me

I first saw the Single Girl quilt from Denyse Schmidt years ago and knew that someday I’d have to make it.  I’d been single again for a decade already with no intention on re-marrying and while I adore the double-wedding ring pattern (and in fact made one for a wedding gift last year), I knew it wasn’t for me. I needed a Single Girl quilt.

But those templates. Ugh.

Then two years ago Denyse came out with the Free-Wheeling Single Girl quilt pattern that uses paper arc templates to randomly piece together scraps and I was sold. I bought the pattern and, as we are wont to do, stuck in the pattern file and let it age appropriately before pulling it out again.

Back in March, I was up at Sew Expo and on my road trip from Seattle to Portland, I stopped at a few shops including the Ruby Street Quiltworks in Tumwater, WA where I found the Newsprint Gray fabric from the Compositions collection by Basic Grey for Moda. I bought the rest of the bolt. Sorry.

And then, like a good quiltmaker, I let that age on the shelf for a few months.

I figured I’d get around to making it sooner or later, but then my friend Paula said she didn’t think I’d ever actually make a quilt for myself. I’ve been quilting for 25 years and have yet to keep a bed-sized quilt for myself.

Challenge accepted.

A week later I’d cut out all the background pieces. 

Then I knocked out the arcs over the next two weeks, using scraps from a variety of projects as well as some sent by Instagram friends.  Another weekend later and the quarter-circles were ready to get together into full circles. I threw in two empty squares because there are empty bits of me, too. And a silver ring made from a crazy metallic suit jacket that I cut up, adding it because I wear silver rings all the time.

I pieced it together, sent it off to the super talented Karen at Cosmic Quilting down in Laguna Hills and waited a whole three days for her to return it.  Seriously, she turned it around so fast it almost made my head spin! A quick machine binding and it was ready to go for my housewarming party that weekend.

So finally, two decades after making that first quilt, I have a quilt for my own bed. I can’t really explain why it took me so long, though I’m sure it has something to do with being a mom, a woman, and not putting myself first. I’ll dig into that later. But for now, I’m going to enjoy seeing it on my bed and wait patiently for it to cool off enough for me to use it.

If you haven’t used Denyse Schmidt’s patterns before, I’d definitely recommend them. She writes clear and concise pattern instructions, plus gives you leeway in the making that allows you to trim to perfection. Check out her array of patterns here

xo,

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Dear Jane: My Favorite EPP Tools and Tips

I’m still plugging along, albeit very slowly, on my Dear Jane and already I’m a whole month behind. I’m trying not to panic, but I may have set up a little morning stitching time if I ever plan to keep up. Sheesh.

Work life has been busy lately with Road to California and this past week’s trip to Sewposium in Orlando. If I were thinking more clearly, I would have brought a couple of the Dear Jane blocks on the plane with me. Five-plus hours each direction is plenty of time to get some sewing done, but instead I read the entirety of A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Then I got bronchitis and still didn’t sew anything.

But I digress. Let’s talk English Paper Piecing (EPP).

This sewing/quilt-making technique has been around for  at least a couple hundred years, which seems both crazy and wonderful. I love the long history of textile arts, somehow connecting a thread between generations and continents, preserving a craft, an art for the future as well.  Luckily for us, these days, we have the high quality tools and this lovely thing called the Internet to make it a bit easier than the ladies had it back in the 1800s.

If you’re just getting started with EPP, or struggling a bit with it, let me tell you what I use and do to make it a fun and not-so-laborious venture.

•   Kai 4″ Scissors  

Small and sharp, these 4 1/2″ serrated scissors come with a cover that keeps them safe and easy to stash in the zipper pouch. Perfect for trimming pieces and clipping threads.

•   Clover Wonder Mini Clips  

I use a Wonder Clip on on the opposite end of the seam I’m stitching to keep the washi tape in place.

•   Washi Tape

Since I sew my pieces flat and washi tape keeps the seam aligned and even without trying to use pins.

•   Bottom Line thread  

Honestly, this is my favorite EPP thread by far. There are a few lightweight threads designed specifically for the task, but the Superior Threads version is super strong and never snaps. You can get it on pre-wound bobbins or spools.

•   John James needles

I like this brand, but as proven by the needle testing we did for Sew,Mama,Sew, it really is personal preference. I like a slightly longer needle without a sharp butt (I’m prone to stabbing it into my finger).

As I mentioned, I prefer to sew my pieces together when they are flat. I can get a tighter stitch that is not seen from the front. I used to simply try to clip it together, but they would slide apart. I started using blue tape because it doesn’t stick to the fabric. I switched to washi tape for the cuteness factor only.

Here’s a pictorial rundown of how I sew my pieces:

First, I pin the pattern piece to whichever fabric it needs to be made with. I’ve coded these as BG=background and G= grey.

I cut the fabric pieces as I go, trimming there to a heavy 1/4″ seam allowance. They are rarely even and often not-quite-straight, but in the end it doesn’t matter at all.

Using an obvious-color thread, I stitch right through the Dear Jane paper template. For my hexagons, apple cores, etc. I do not stitch through the paper, but because this project will live for a long time in a box and there are a lot of triangles and squares, I want to make there that papers don’t shift as I sew and then store them.

I get each square going by sewing just two pieces at a time. As I get pairs together, I’ll start putting the pairs together. No matter the order of assembly, all the seams start this way.

From the right side, I tape the pieces together, making sure the edges are even and correctly aligned.  Then I clip the end that I’ll sew last o that it all stays in place as I make my way across the seam. One of the issues I have when I don’t do this is that the pieces shift ever so slightly and the end won’t match.

I start by knotting the thread and securing it away from the corner/edge. Then I stab the needle through the very corner of each piece.

Working my way across the edge, I take tiny stitches, then tug them tight. It might look a little crazy-making, but once you get a rhythm going they piece together pretty quickly.  In the end, the stitches look fine from the back and are invisible from the right side.

  

I toss these back into my little zip pouch and keep putting them together, two pieces at a time until the block is finished. Now that life is a little more on-track, I’m hoping to get a few of these done this week. I’ve already got the templates for Rows B and C waiting for me, so I have to try to catch up a bit!

Are you doing the Dear Jane, too? How are your blocks coming along? Check out everyone else’s blocks on Instagram with a quick search of @dearjanegoesepp.

Just keep stitching!

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Curves Ahead: a series for 2017

There’s something about a nice curve that you can’t help but love. Smooth, swooping, they are beautiful and this year I’m going to help you learn to tackle them in your sewing and quilting. I’ve long been a fan of them and after asking what you, dear readers, want to learn in 2017, it sounds like a lot (a lot!) of sewists want to master this one.

Together we’re going to take this one on and I’ll give you a little insight into how I work, and hopefully you can take a little bit of that and make it work for you, too.

Each month I’ll post a tutorial on a certain kind of curve sewing and then explore patterns that use it so you can practice each skill.  We’ll learn about:

  • freeform/improv curves
  • curvy needle-turn applique
  • inset circles
  • Drunkard’s Path blocks
  • Double Wedding Ring blocks
  • Winding Ways blocks
  • Clamshell blocks
  • Apple Core paper piecing
  • scalloped binding
  • and garment-making, too

  If you have other techniques you’d like to see, just let me know! I’ll add in some posts that share my opinion and experience with various rulers, rotary cutters, dies, templates, and more.  It should be lots of fun and (fingers crossed) will be helpful to you! Look for the first post in early February when we tackle the Drunkard’s Path block. If you want to make sure and follow along, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll include additional tips, the series schedule and post recaps for you in each monthly email.

In the mean time, find some scraps that are at least 8″ square, get out your template plastic (or a cereal box), and get ready to give the Drunkard’s Path block a shot.

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An Imperfect Storm at Sea

A month ago I was in Houston for both Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. Two weeks hanging out in the Shannon Fabrics booths during the day and in the hotel room at night. It was super fun and super duper tiring. My favorite part of these eventsis seeing what is happening out in the quilting world. I don’t get to shops very often and rely on the Internet too much to keep me abreast of what’s new and exciting. So getting out and walking the aisles at Quilt Festival was a real treat.

In one of my quick forays out, I ran across the Flynn Quilt Frame Company booth full of tiny little quilts. Intricately-pieced traditional designs. While I love a good modern quilt, I’m a sucker for the traditional as well. I couldn’t help but swoon over the array and it didn’t take me long to settle on this itty bitty  Storm at Sea kit. (And the fact that it’s been out for 8 years and I’ve never seen it before makes me a little sad, but we’ve remedied that!)

Storm At Sea mini quilt kit

I’m a sucker for a good challenge and this one ranked right up there. I’d brought along my Singer Featherweight so I didn’t have to go weeks without sewing (because you know I’d lose my mind). I pulled the little machine out of the box that night and started piecing the laser-cut square-in-a-square bits. mini square in square blocks

You don’t even have to look that closely to see that most of them aren’t even real squares. The 1/4″ seam allowance wasn’t perfectly straight on each one. Angles ended up being slightly wonky. But that wasn’t the point of this project… I just wanted to make it  for my mom. I could do it perfectly and make it frustrate me. Or I could just sew it up because I love my mom and know that she likes purple and she won’t care that it isn’t perfect because either am I and she still loves me.

sewing my Storm at Sew mini

I sewed after Quilt Festival closed each night and spent a few more days working on it after Festival and before I went back home to Los Angeles. The need for perfection is there, assuredly, and there were a few times I had to take stitches out to get it slightly closer to perfect. But my mom is worth it.

laying out my Storm at Sea mini

I sewed the sections, one bit at a time until I could lay them out on the floor. I was hoping I could get some cool layout with them, but truthfully  Quilt Market Hangover is real and when you add in a little Quilt Festival Hangover, too, my brain was just too too tired to do anything really fun with it. I convinced myself that it was pretty enough as is.

Sewing together Storm at Sea blocks
Each quilt block finishes at 4 1/2″ wide (ish), so room for error was basically nil. Most of these blocks didn’t come anywhere near the perfection that I had wanted and there were a few times I had to talk myself out of simply throwing them all away. Those little overhangs and wonky intersections that don’t match… Even now they kill me a little, but this was an exercise in just letting go. Let it be. Don’t get stressed out about it. Just do it with love and acceptance. This mantra repetition was so hard for me, to be honest, but I knew I needed it. I can be ridiculously hard on myself for no reason.

I’m sure I’m not the only one either. We can all pick on ourselves more than we should and there are so many times where the internal berating has made me do some dumb things (take a rotary cutter to an imperfect quilt block, throw away an unfinished dress, toss out patterns). None of these things make me feel better in the end; they only reinforce my self-bashing. I swore I wouldn’t and I didn’t. Instead I just worked through it, tried my best without getting angry for the mistakes and finished the whole top.
As a whole, I thought it was beautiful and I convinced myself to stop looking at the little bits. Take in the big picture–it’s a lovely little quilt top. But it needed to be quilted and I really, really am not good at that one yet.

I gave it a try on my regular Pfaff 130 with the industrial motor. Great for piecing, not so quilt for quilting this guy. Despite using a walking foot it would get help up on seam intersections. It didn’t stay straight. I quilted about half of it. Had a good cry and picked it all out.

quilting with the Singer FeatherweightI took it to the Featherweight instead and that little beauty did it as well as I could have ever expected. I have a lot to learn on how to make the quilting look good and keep it even, but hey, it turned out. It’s usable. I won’t be humiliated to have my mom hang it in her home.

I’m not perfect. Either are my quilts. I’m learning that that’s okay.

Storm at Sea mini quilt