Feathers, and pebbles, and triangles, oh my!

Hi! A few days ago, I had this quilt basted and ready to go. Since then, I’ve scoured the internet, and your comments, for new free motion quilting designs to try out. It was a real hardship to look at beautiful quilts, over and over.

Of course there was going to be a feather
Of course there was going to be a feather

Just under half of the quilt is done at this point… hopefully I can come up with enough ideas! Since learning the feather shape I pretty much want to put them everywhere, so I knew there was going to be a feather. I chose this section with the golden honeycomb batik because I thought it would show up best, and because it’s one of my favorite fabrics in the top. So much so, that after I made this top, I went back to the quilt store and bought another yard of it.  True love right there.

crop circles and feathered pebbles

I’m a big fan of using the fabric design as a guide for the quilting — no marking! On this pearl bracelet section, I did a sort of crop circle thing (not sure what it’s ‘technically’ called). In that orange section (an older Simon + Kabuki print) I did a new-to-me design. I’m not sure of the name, but I keep calling them feathered pebbles. I thought it was pretty easy, but then again, I like feathers, so doing several little ones would be fun for me. And we all know my history with pebbles.

The back of the crop circles section
The back of the crop circles section


The back of the feathered pebbles section
The back of the feathered pebbles section

I love watching how these designs show up on the back, some more prominently than others. I used to hate the idea of the thread showing up on the back. Now that I’m more confident in my quilting abilities though, I love that part. It’s kind of like a badge of honor, and way to easily show you what I’ve quilted.

puzzles, flow, woodgrain

Another new-to-me quilting design: puzzle pieces! They were super fun, even though I had to mark the top. I played it safe and marked with a chalk pencil (I don’t trust those blue ones!) It was a little painful as the chalk wore off, but since it was just a simple grid it wasn’t too bad. The yellow section was done in a sort of column of c’s method. I did them on an angle since the fabric has such a horizontal design, I didn’t want any irregularities in my squiggles to fight with the fabric. The orange up in the corner is a dense woodgrain, which is just super fun, and one of my favorites.

wavy puzzles flow

This orange section was done with a wavy cross hatch, again using the fabric as a guide. Easy, but a little tedious. It has a fabulous texture to it though.

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I love seeing the different color threads on this print.  I was a little nervous using up the last of my scissors on the back of this quilt, but hey, this summer is about sewing for myself. And if I can’t use the good stuff on me, who can I use it on? It really works well with the quilt and the quilting so far, so no regrets!

metallic pea pods

I did this section in a peapod design, as taught by Christina Camelli. The metallic thread is so hard to capture! It’s a bronze color, and I used a dark brown in the bobbin. It definitely took a little finessing to get the metallic thread to play well with my machine, but it’s worth it. I have plans to use it on a few more sections of this quilt.

layered triangles

This, by far, is my favorite new-to-me technique. Leah Day calls it a pointy paisley, but I think of it as layered triangles. It is very fast (faster than a regular paisley, at least to me) and very, very forgiving. All of those lines going in different ways make your eyes bounce around, disguising any sections that aren’t quite perfect. Definitely a good technique to have in your toolbox.

Here is what the back looks like:

layered triangle back

I mentioned above that I don’t trust marking pens… I know this will have to change someday. Do you have any that you love, that work well? I know the blue ones are popular and there’s even a blue marker remover product, but I’m still hesitant. Any wisdom to share?

(Linking to Freshly Pieced and WIP Wednesday)

Basted and Ready to Quilt!

So since all the Summer of Sarah Sewing projects are for me, I don’t need to keep them a surprise. Which means I get to share progress pictures with you guys! It also means I take waaay to many pictures, but you don’t mind, right?

This has been waiting for quilting for nearly two years...
This has been waiting for quilting for nearly two years…

This is a quilt top I made back in September of 2013, and thank you smart phone for recording that for me. See, that’s before I even had a blog, or a fancy camera. I’m not even sure I was using Instagram yet. I just took pictures on my phone so I’d know how to sew it all together once I picked it up off the floor. Though, that shouldn’t be in past tense — I still do that.  The top is a pattern by Jeni Baker from the July/August ’13 issue of Quilty, called All Tied Up. It was pretty easy to put together (though I was terrible at making points match up two years ago), but the fabric requirements listed are very, very generous.

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Last week I made a back for this quilt, and accidentally deleted the pictures I took of it. Cue sad music please. You can see the wrong side of the back here, but I’m sure you’re far too distracted by how adorable my helper is. He really does try to help with every step of the process. Quality checks aren’t just for the end product, you know. He has to inspect every step along the way.

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I clearly have a thing for sunflowers, wouldn’t you say? I once tried to grow sunflowers as a kid… My aunt had sent me some seeds for Christmas, so I spent days prepping a section of the backyard. I planted the seeds, and watered them semi-faithfully, and waited for them to grow. And waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing. It’s now a family joke that I can grow anything, but sunflowers… I still maintain the birds ate the seeds and it had nothing to do with my abilities. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. I still love sunflowers though.

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I think there is something wonderfully magical about a completely smooth, basted quilt top. I’m not sure what it is though. Maybe it’s just how much potential it holds, like those sunflower seeds. Thankfully, I don’t think birds are going to eat my quilt, nor does finishing it require on pesky things like weather, or consistent watering. Just some time, a little patience, and a lot of fun.

Choosing thread...
Choosing thread…

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All ready to quilt! I’ve always intended to do this as a bit of a free motion quilting sampler, but I need help! What are some of your favorite free motion quilting designs?

(Linked to Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts)

Affectionately, VKRS

Do you guys remember that quilt I did, oh 4 months ago? It was for the Bonnie Christine Ribbon Tour. Let’s refresh our memories
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I have a confession: it wasn’t done. See, I quilted it for about 3 days straight, 12 hours each day. Some of you might be wincing right now because you know where this story is going. I sprained my wrist from all the free motion quilting. It swelled up, I couldn’t even pick up my coffee cup, let alone keep quilting. But the deadline!!!! Well, my husband had a great idea. The ribbon portion of the quilt was done, it was just the border. So, what if I just zipped around the whole outside, trimmed it, and then through the magic of photography it will look finished? Did it work? Did I fool you back in March? (The entire left side of the quilt in the picture above is unquilted — and there’s no binding…)

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But it’s done now!!!! Well, actually a few months ago, actually. I procrastinated on the binding.  Readers, please meet Video Killed the Radio Star, or affectionately, VKRS. I believe, to date, this is my husband’s favorite quilt — he’s asked to hang it above the sofa so it doesn’t get matted with cat fur. That’s a good sign.  Also, I will apologize now for the photo overload. I am so happy that it’s done and I get to share it in all it’s done glory that I may have went overboard with the pictures. VKRS is very photogenic, though, wouldn’t you agree?

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I really, really went to town on the quilting (hence sprained wrist) – I think every single thing I had learned from Angela Walter’s Craftsy videos to date is in there. Not the dot to dot quilting though, I watched that one after VKRS was done. There are feathers, tiles, clamshells, woodgrain, swirls, swirls mixed with leaves, big negative space bubbles like I did here, and sooooo many more. As with most quilts, you can see the quilting better on the back.


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I’m so incredibly proud of those tiles. This was the first time I had ever tried them — they are a LOT easier than they look!


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The back was pieced with some scraps and a 3yard cut I had of the yellow beehives. In the beginning, I really wanted to match the beehive print, but that was just not going to happen. Especially, after I struggled with it for three hours. So, instead, it’s a scrappy back, and I still have three more yards of the beehives for a future project. A win-win I would say, because the solids that are pieced in show the quilting sooooo very well.


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Do you want to have a picnic?
Do you want to have a picnic?


I’m starting to run out of things to say…Hmmmm. Maybe I should just add some more pictures now?


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Oh, the binding! So I tried about three options I believe, and none of them were right. First it was a light gray solid, and it was okay, but it didn’t provide enough contrast. Next, was a pretty coral and teal print from Art Gallery. It was okay, but not very assertive, and I felt like VKRS needed an assertive binding.  Then I was out at a not-quite local quilting store and they had this perfect purple sateen. Then the bears came home and found Goldilocks – oh wait, that’s a different story.


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This won’t be the last time you see this binding. I bought too much of it (of course!) and it has already started to make its way into another project.


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Aaaaaand, the end.


(Linking to Crazy Mom Quilts Finish it Friday, since it’s been finished for many Fridays)

Octopuses, Submarines, and a heat wave

Hi! Have you melted yet? It seems most of us are experiencing some of the hottest days so far this year, which is, well, less than desirable. Here in the Northeast it’s very warm and very muggy. Ironically, all those people who complained about the snow this winter are now complaining about the heat… Guess you can’t make some people happy.

Speaking of happy — I finished a queen size quilt top!!! 96″ x 96″  Ta-da! It started with fighting octopuses…

It's a little wrinkly...
It’s a little wrinkly…

The humidity tends to set in any wrinkles, can you tell? This also isn’t even the whole quilt top; part is draped over the railing so it wouldn’t fly away.  Photo shoots don’t always go so well. See, I have proof:

best laid plans

It slipped just before the timer went off. I did this photo shoot by myself using a tripod and a timer, so there were a few outtakes. Would you like to see the proof that it was warm and muggy? Do you see the little photo bomb above? No? Let me zoom in for you.

hot day zoom in

My glasses kept sliding down my face, so I took them off. I didn’t realize they made it into the photo till I was editing the pictures. Oh well, you don’t mind, do you?

So how is summer going for you? Are you camped in front of the AC like me? Off at the beach? Or are you down under, snuggling under a quilt?

(Linking with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced)

I Fought an Octopus!

I have been, ahem, hoarding a fat quarter bundle of Tula Pink’s Saltwater, since it came out a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for the right quilt pattern.

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Finding the right pattern has been a long, laborious hunt. I wanted something that truly showed off the beauty of the fabrics, so it needed to have large pieces. I didn’t want something so complicated you saw the pattern before you saw the fabrics. And I wanted something with a bit of a classic appeal to it, so I would never fall out of love or regret using my precious fabric. It was worth waiting until I found the right pattern.

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Recently, such a pattern was published. Hurray! Cheryl, of Meadow Mist Designs, recently published her pattern called Grande Scrappy Tiles, an upsized version of her Scrappy Tiles. (I got to meet Cheryl in person at QuiltCon and she’s just awesome!!! Seriously, look at her patterns – they’re clearly written, and really nicely done.) With big giant pieces, the fabric is really going to be shown off, and I was even able to fussy cut some of the cuter elements, like the octopi and submarines. Big smiles and happy dances going on here this week.

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For the first time ever, I cut out all the pieces for the entire queen size quilt. Usually, I opt to cut as I go, but this was actually super, super easy. Cheryl includes great cutting diagrams in the pattern, and it went super fast. That picture above is all the pieces. It looks so small to be an entire queen size quilt…

Here are the first four blocks:

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I added a few solids, and semi solids (a Lizzy House print!) to give a little more room for the gorgeous fabrics to breathe.  I’m so, so very excited to get this finished!!!

What sewing projects have made you super excited lately?

Linking to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Back Problems

How do you go about making a back for a quilt? Especially for a larger quilt? I finished the top I was working on, combining batiks with Tula Pink, and needed a back.

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It’s large: 76″ x 95″. To do a pretty typical back, just joining two lengths of yardage, I’d need 6 yards. I didn’t have 6 yards lying around, so I’m piecing the back. To ensure it’s large enough (a problem I’ve struggled with in the past), I’m pinning the chunks to the quilt top as I go. It does make it a little slower, and a little easier to start being knitpicky about placement, but it’s working. Sometimes, you’ve just got to go with what works, right?

yes, I'm short and need a step stool nearly all the time
yes, I’m short and need a step stool nearly all the time

(If you’re wondering about my Farmer’s Wife… well, when I played with the fabric on the floor, the blocks got a little lost. So I need to do more experimenting. And thinking.)

Linking to Freshly Pieced’s WIP Wednesday

Lizzy House Mini Swap

It might not come as a surprise to many of you, but I love Lizzy House fabrics. They’re quirky, fun, great colors, and just awesome. Though as I’m sitting here thinking about it, I haven’t used them very often. Maybe that’s because they’re such “me” fabrics, I don’t want to use them on anyone else. Anyway, I digress. Back in April, a good friend of mine, Jo from Riddle and Whimsy, asked if I’d help her moderate (and participate in!) a Lizzy House Mini Swap on Instagram. Of course I said yes!

Now for those unfamiliar with this sort of thing — everyone who signs up makes a mini quilt featuring Lizzy House fabrics, and then they receive one (if everything goes well…). We had over a hundred people sign up! Which made for a monumental task for Jo and me to keep track of everything, but that’s a post for another day. This one is about the mini I made.

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My partner loves blue, strong geometric design, but didn’t want anything too cutesy. Umm, okay. Lizzy House, but not cutesy… good thing I love challenges! After debating, both in my head and with husband and friends, I decided to go with blocks from the Tula Pink City Sampler book. The blocks provided a good opportunity for fussy cutting (a must with Lizzy House fabric), but if I used the same background on all the blocks, it could take it away from the Awwww side of things. Choosing the background was bit of a process too. I didn’t want to use white — far too easy to look too cutesy with white. Black seemed too harsh, so I dug through my piles of fabric until I hit on this teal. What’s that? It looks familiar? It should be. It’s the same color background I used for this mini earlier this year. This was the last of it though, so I’m going to need to find a new background for future mini quilts.

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Out of the 100 blocks in the book, I needed to choose 9. Nine blocks that went together, had the same core themes, provided good opportunity for fussy cutting, could utilize the cohesive background element, and weren’t too recognizable. The number of times I flipped through and through and through that book… well, let’s just say my book is nicely worn in now. For reference, the blocks I went with are: 12, 33, 34, 35, 60, 83, 96, 98, and 100.

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Layout was another puzzle. Trying to get a good balance of negative space, but without any of the prints touching (that weren’t already touching inside the blocks), and also not end up with all the yellow clumped in one corner, was actually fun. Though, I’m that weird kid who did 5,000 piece puzzles for fun. I spent a few days dithering on what to do for quilting. Finally, with the deadline approaching, I just went with pebbling. I knew it was going to take awhile (running out of thread at 10pm didn’t help either), but it was a good call. I love the effect pebbling gives a quilt, and an 18″ mini is a really good chance to use it.

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I actually hand stitched the binding on this one! Let’s all pause for the applause. I really dislike hand stitching, but to do my standard machine binding, I would have lost some of the balance and scale in the blocks. Artistic pride won over physical discomfort.

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For these finished pictures I followed Yvonne at Quilting Jet Girl’s tutorial. It worked really, really great, even on brick and stone. Even better, since I had the tape, I was able to secure all four corners and didn’t have to time pictures around the wind.

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The mini is now residing in its new home and was very happily received. It felt good to stretch creatively, kind of like when you get dressed up and wear heels to go to a party. I don’t want to wear heels everyday, and my jammies are far more comfy than party dresses, but it’s still good once in awhile.

Modern Batiks?

Have you heard this before:  You can’t mix batiks with modern prints.


I’m not a big fan of rules in quilting, beyond the basic ones of good solid construction. As far as artistry, anything goes in my book. Civil war reproductions, batiks, solids, popular modern designers, Kaffe Fasset, and fun novelty fabrics all have space on my shelves. If I like it, I buy it.


Recently, I came across a stack of coordinated batiks I purchased awhile ago. When I saw them, I knew they’d go perfectly with a Tula Pink print I scored at a discount a few years ago. So, for the last few days I’ve been slowly making a few flying geese here and there. It’s a lot calmer than I tend to go, but I really like it.

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What do you think? Do you mix batiks in with other fabrics?

Summer of Sarah Sewing…Farmer’s Wife

A lovely summer stomach bug has had me laid up for a little bit, so I still have one last deadline to complete before I can fully jump into Sarah Sewing. However, last night, while nibbling saltines, I managed to mock up a quilt that’s been in my head for a little while.

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Back in October, I asked for advice on how to finish up my Farmer’s Wife quilt. Yes, it’s taken me eight months to get back to that. See, nothing felt right. Yes, I could make more six inch blocks. Yes, I could make lots more blocks in varying sizes, a la Moda Building Blocks quilt. Yes, I could just use what I have and put a border on it to make it the right size. All of those feel like I’m prioritizing done over lovely…It’s waited nearly 4 years, it could wait for lovely.

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Last week I saw this post from Yvonne at Quilting Jet Girl. Something about those horizontal stripes had my brain going. I just loved the way she used them to break up the more intricate blocks. Maybe something like that would be a lovely finish for the dusty, neglected Farmer’s Wife blocks?

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So, last night, I pulled up Google Draw and sketched it out… and got really really excited. I think this is going to work! It’s a very rough sketch — Google Draw is not exactly designed for this, but I think it conveys the idea enough that you can understand my excitement.

Farmer's Wife Mock Up

Most of the fabrics from the original Farmer’s Wife blocks are living in a bin somewhere, and it’s not like my fabric tastes have really changed. I still like the bright, bold citrus-y colors I started with, so I’m sure I can find a few coordinating prints in my stash. I’m thinking 2.5″ strips, so I can use up some binding scraps, maybe toss in an odd charm square or two. Some of the blocks were made to be placed en point, so I’ll have to add some setting corners, but that’s no big deal.  What do you think? Is it as lovely and exciting as I think? Or am I still feverish?


Linking with Freshly Pieced’s WIP Wednesday.