Signature Quilt for Lora

Lora suddenly moved away and two of us in our church group decided she needed a quilt to remember us. One day she was here, puttering around in her house. Then a fall, where she wasn’t discovered, which led a brief stay in a skilled nursing home. Her children rallied round her and took her to live near them, where Lora can be cared for.  So I went looking for ideas for a signature quilt (see them at the bottom of this post), and decided on the basic signature quilt block since it needed to be put together quickly.  My friend Lisa (who is our friend’s niece) and I decided on a 6″ block.

Signature Block 1

For every signature block, cut one bigger square in a light color (so the signatures will show) and two contrast squares.  The dimensions are above.  You can see that I double-stitched the diagonal seam, the lines 1/2″ apart. I then cut in between that line so I could have some HSTs in case we needed more places for signatures.  In case you haven’t done one of these, the directions are:

1–Line up the contrast square with the light-colored square and sew a diagonal.  I use The Angler tool from Pam Bono so I don’t have to draw lines.  Stitch a batch of blocks, then go back in and stitch 1/2″ away.

2– Cut in between the two stitched lines, then press the contrast fabric away from the center white block.  (Set aside the cut-off triangle.  You’ll now have a growing stack of Half-Square Triangles  (HSTs) for another project!)

3– Sew the other side (which is what you see above).

Signature Block 2

Done.  I then cut a bunch of strips of freezer paper and ironed them on the back of the white strip, so to make it easier to sign.  We’ll have them sign with a Micron Pigma Pen .08 as it leaves a nice line.

This same process is the one I follow when we make Signature Blocks for our bee, only we use the light colored fabric cut to a 3 1/2″ square and the contrasting “snowball” blocks are 2 1/2″.  I don’t save the triangles on those.

Signature Block 3

I finished 74 squares this past couple of days.  Isn’t the fabric beautiful?  Lisa has a whole collection of batiks which she graciously contributed to this project.  (Yeah.  I contributed the Kona Snow.)

Signature Block 4

I signed mine so you can see what it looks like.

Signature Quilt 1

Here’s a signature quilt, pulled from the web (sorry, I don’t have the attribution), and they used their extra HSTs in the borders.

Signature Quilt 2Here’s another version, without borders.

Lora, in her earlier years, made wedding cakes.  The rich, the famous, the well-heeled, and well, all of the young girls in our church all sought out her cakes, because not only did they look elegant and beautiful, they tasted good.  Rich and yummy, full of vanilla fragrance and just the right amount of sweetness to make you come back for seconds.  Or thirds. For my daughter’s wedding, she also made a double-fudgey chocolate groom’s cake.  It was only at the very end, a year ago, that she gave two of us her secret recipe for the frosting, and the secret ingredient that made my kitchen smell like her cake was baking right there.  She also did flowers, interior decorating, and we loved it when she decorated the church hall at Christmastime for our church dinner, transforming it to a winter wonderland, making us all feel like we were the rich, the famous, and the well-heeled, instead a bunch of modest church-goers.  Lora did everything up Big.  Every year she would get the giant wreath out of the storage closet at our church, get a ladder and hang it up on the wall behind the speaker’s podium, arranging and re-arranging the red glass balls so they looked like someone just tossed them up there.  That look takes real skill.  Lora was part of the warp and weft of our church, and while some say she’ll be back, others say she won’t.

I think the reason why this affected us all so much is that within the space of a couple of weeks, Lora’s life spun around on a dime and her life in her home, which she had decorated in rich autumns and golds, was probably over.  That quickly.  Yes, she’d had some health problems.  Yes, we knew she was more frail.  But how our lives in our carefully curated homes end is not something any of us like to think about.  So a fall can happen, or a sudden health reversal, and like a flash, we can be taken from our collections, our quilts, our memories: a sudden shearing off of a life.  And what happened to Lora is right around the proverbial corner for all of us, and we know it.  So perhaps by making her this quilt, we are saying we understand.  To the best of our abilities at this younger times in our lives, our hearts ache for you.

With this quilt we are saying, Lora, you are not forgotten.


Straighten Up and Sew Right

Sad Seamtress(from *here*)

It had been nearly a month since I’d threaded the needle of my sewing machine and sent it to humming, and I felt like the sad seamstress in the photo, above, pining away.  I wanted to get to the machine and have a good sewing session and have something to show for it.  As one Instagrammer said, “My sewjo is missing.”  But I wasn’t idle.  First, I had a root canal, which ought to occupy anyone for a few days.  And I also cleaned out the stash a bit, filling two large mall shopping bags with swatches of fabric to let my quilting group, the Good Heart Quilters, rummage through before donating the rest to our quilt guild.  And here’s some photos to prove I have tidy cupboards, before I start messing it up again:

Straightened Up 1

 I like to organize mine by color and value (light-to-dark).

Straightened Up 2

The lower half of the cabinet.  Inside the pull-out box are browns and blacks–easier on the back this way.  I keep the Kaffe Fassets in another place, and I also have a stack of cream/tans and a stack of “low volumes” (neutrals or pastels), and stack of predominantly white/light background fabrics.

Molly Qee xfour

Here’s a close-up of my Molly Qee collection (the characters with the crowns).  They are hard to find in the States.  I started my collection when my sister Christine and I happened into a collectibles shop in Lyon, France.

More Shelf Stuff

And on the other shelf are other doodads.  My husband gives me the little Japanese dolls (ningyō).  And those fabric-covered binders are all my journals, began when I was a young woman of twenty-one years old.  Since the advent of email and cheap phone calls, I’ve stopped writing them, but I love having them around (they hold all my secrets!).

Pink Selvage BlockSo after a busy month, I pulled out the machine and got started.  I decided to ease my way in slowly, making a selvage block.

Basic Selvage Block Foundation

When I begin, I use my standby translucent paper, cutting, then pasting a strip on one side so it measures 10 1/2″ square. Then I draw lines on it to keep the selvages on straight.  Do I cut all my selvages off when I buy fabric?  No.  I like having them on to keep track of the newer stuff in case I need more.  Most of these selvages happen when I’m going through older fabrics that are in my stash (like those to be donated), of which I know I’ll never need the information again.  Then I slice it off, leaving about one-inch to 1-1/2″ of the fabric on top of the selvage so I have Lots of Options.

Pieced Selvage Strip

I get started by cutting two 4 1/2″ blocks, then slice them on the diagonal to make up the four triangles you see in the center above.  I pin them down, then start sewing on the selvages, placing the selvage edge 1/4″ in from the raw edge of the triangle, as shown.  Sew closely along the edge.  I like it best when the first selvage next to the color is the same, or nearly all the same, so I look for a longish piece. I think it just helps set the stage.  Sometimes I piece selvages to get the printed symbols and the words closer together (above) and other times I just let it be.   Then it’s random, random, random after that, some thinner strips, some thicker strips.  Some people like to trim the fringey pieces, but I just leave it that way.  Sometimes after I sew on a strip of selvage, I’ll go in and trim down the underneath piece just to keep it tidy.

Selvage Block Colors

Sometimes I get things off balance, like in the pink block way above (too much deep maroony-pink in the lower left) but then I figure I’m teaching myself how to let go a bit and just enjoy the process.  And I do.  I now have five colors of four 10″ (finished) blocks, so the block will be twenty inches square after all four parts are sewn together.  This is going to be one big quilt, but I’m in no hurry.

To close with, here’s a quote from The Rise, by Sarah Lewis (the book I wrote about in the Creativity post):

“Perhaps we have grown impatient with the incomplete. We are part of a generation that, as the African proverb goes, wants to eat dinner in the morning, that longs for the immediate, fully prepared for consumption. Yet the strength to linger over the long-left unfinished reminds us that something inexhaustible in us is empowered by striving, that we sense unnaturalness in blunt ends of journeys, of lineage. And that power comes from where we least expect to find it.”

Go tackle something incomplete, and enjoy the power of taking another look at something that in our hands, has had a long journey.

Y-Seam Tutorial

During Thanksgiving Week, I thought it was time to re-post this tutorial from Leanne’s blog, from the Third Quarter Finish-A-Long Tutorials. As background, I’ve been sewing and quilting for more years than I should admit to, and during that time have completed over 120 quilts.  So I’ve faced down more than my share of the Dreaded Y-seams.

In June of this year, I made this quilt for my sister.  As you can see there are lots of peaks and valleys in this thing–lots of Y-seams going both ways (some people call them Y-seams and V-seams) but really, let’s keep it simple.

They are called Y-seams because the V-part of the letter Y usually has fabric with no seam, and the tail of the Y has a seam. I’ve marked the Y for you in red in the picture on the left.  The picture on the right is the other type of Y-seam.  I’ll show you both.

Let’s start with the first type of Y-seam, where the “tail” of the Y is facing toward you and the “V” of the Y is underneath.  Place a pin at the 1/4-inch mark through the seam, and into a spot that would be the peak of the 1/4″ seamline, if you could draw it on and imagine it.

Most beginners want to pin that seam to death.  Run screaming in the other direction.  The success of the Y-seam depends on the “float” of the fabric.

I sometimes will place one pin on either side of the seam, just to anchor it as I get going, then another pin or two along the starting point.  Then I take out the (above) pin.  I want my fabric to float — don’t want to anchor that second half of the seam too much, as I need it to pivot.

Start sewing from the left edge, as the seam faces you, using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Fold the seam toward you, and as you approach the seam, slow down and use a bit smaller stitch.  You are trying to anchor the stitching a bit.

When you get to the seamline, when you are on top of the thread marking that other seam, STOP.  Make a tiny stitch on top of the one before to anchor, but DON’T GO OVER THE SEAM LINE.

Lift your needle out of the cloth.  I pulled it away to show you what I mean, but you don’t need to do that.  Just give yourself a little room to smooth the (green) seam allowances out of the way, and to find the place to insert your needle again.

Re-insert your needle just on the other side.  Then line up the next two raw edges, smoothing the fabric away from the needle and your presser foot.  Sounds more confusing than it is.  Take a few tiny stitches to anchor, then change your stitch length back to normal.

Another shot of my needle placed just on the other side of the seam allowances (which I flipped to the back of my presser foot).

Depending on the amount of cloth in your Y-seam, and if you just feel better about it, go ahead now, and pin those raw edges together and stitch the rest of the seam.

When you are through sewing, clip the thread if it is restricting the ability of the seam allowance to open up and lay flat.  If you left a bit of thread there (pulled it away from the needle as in my photo above) there should be no problem. 

Press, keeping the tail of the Y-seam open.

From the front, it looks like this.

Now we’ll tackle the other kind of seam–where the seam of the Y’s tail is underneath, and you see the “V” part of the Y.

First locate the valley of the one-quarter-inch seamline and put a pin there.

Snip to within a couple of threads of the pin.  Leaving the pin there insures that you won’t cut too far.  If that happens, curse a little.  You can sometime rescue the piece with a bit of fusible interfacing.  Better to not cut too far.  Half of the seam (1/8″) is all that’s needed.

Find the 1/4-inch peak of the seam below, and poke the pin in to anchor.  You can leave in that center pin to hold it, and if you are afraid it will slip, it’s okay to put one pin on the backside.  If you can, try to avoid that pin on the right.  Again, the success of a Y-seam lays in the ability of the fabric to move and pivot.

Just as in the first type of seam, start stitching from the left side of the seam, towards that center pin.

When you get to the pin, STOP with your needle down in the fabric.  Remove the pin, then pivot the fabric so that you can match raw edges.  Move the first seam out away from you, as you align the new sides.  It may feel a bit bulky under your foot, but smooth any excess fabric out away from you.

Here you can see that I’ve pivoted, repinned the new raw edges together and am starting down the other side of the seam.

This is what it looks like from the back. That deep fold is the V part of the Y-seam.

The front.  Give it light press.  Resist the urge to saturate it with your pressing goo and mash it flat with your iron.

Sometimes your seam gets a little jig-jaggy.  As long as it’s not too bad, it will be fine.  I did the same kind of stitching process on this one: shorten your stitches as you approach the point, then lengthen them out on the other side.

A better point.  All of these work fine in the quilt, because you haven’t a) stitched it to death, and b) murdered it with your iron.

You can see one type of Y-seam where I joined the green roofs to the yellow houses.  And you can see the other type where I joined the purple roofs to the sky.

Now you know all my dressmaker/quilter tricks: never be afraid of Y-seams again!

One more time, thanks to Leanne, of She Can Quilt, for hosting a series of guest tutorials for the Finish-A-Long Motivational Program.  (Just kidding on the name of it, but it does help get those UFOs out of the closet and onto the bed.  Or wall.)

Elizabeth’s Project Folio–Part III (Bringing it Home)

Project Portfolio Filled_1

Elizabeth’s Project Folio, front and filled with my next project, a bag made of Keiko Goke fabric

Project Portfolio Filled_Back

Elizabeth’s Project Folio, back

Project Portfolio Blue_opened

Elizabeth’s Project Folio, interior of blue folio

These are not only good for holding sewing projects they can also be used for:

• long car trips, holding each child’s stash of car junk
• teaching, corraling all the supplies for each lesson unit
• teaching, holding copied pages in place so they don’t go all over your bag
• errands–one for the Post Office, one holding grocery lists and coupons (you can make that one smaller by adjusting your dimensions), carrying swatches for decorating (one folio for each room you are working on)
• hand-sewing projects, such as cross-stitching a sampler
• knitting, as they are big enough to hold your needles, or needle-kit
• packing for a weekend away (one can hold lingerie, one your workout sweats, one can hold rolled-up T-shirts, etc.)

I’m sure you can think of others.  Send me a note telling me what you used yours for!

Finally, to thank you for your readership, I’m giving away the white flowered project folio to one of my followers or Bloglovin’/Feedly readers.  In your comment (at the end of this post), tell me what you’d use your portfolio for, and tell me how you follow me.  I’ll close this giveaway on early Monday morning (8/26), and send it off.

Project Portfolios in bag

They fit in my tote bag easily.  Because one side is vinyl, you can see what’s in there quickly.  Because the other side is fabric, they don’t stick together and slide out without difficulty.

Reminder: All of these measure roughly 11 x 17.  You are more than welcome to make these for your own use, or sell them in a craft faire, but please please, don’t take any of my tutorial and copy it onto your blog.  Practice Friendly Attribution, if you please, by linking back here, if you would.  And please please don’t steal borrow my content to make your own pattern, and call it your own.

Okay, the folios are in the home stretch. Let’s bring ’em home!

If you are coming into this tutorial mid-way, see previous posts Part I and Part II.



A zipper is made of two narrow pieces of tape (think of it as stiff fabric ) joined by an interesting plastic coil.  Usually these strips of fabric are hooked together at one end.  Years of no Home Economic Education has scared most sewers when it comes to zippers, but when you think about it as two strips of fabric that have to be sewn into a seam, tempers and anxiety seem to lower.  And when you get to sew the zipper in flat, like in this bag, things couldn’t be easier.  Note: Some of this tutorial is for beginners, so if you are experienced in zipper-putting-in, just scroll on down.

You’ll be stitching this to the interfaced backing piece.  Set aside the fabric lining for a later step.

14 Marking Zipper

(You see the vinyl front window laid on top of the backing in the above photo, but you’ll be sewing the zipper ONLY to the interfaced backing at this point.)

I usually buy zippers a little bigger than what I need, so if you have done the same, lay out your zipper along the 17″ longer edge of the project folio backing.  Put one pin 1/2″ in from the raw edge, and one pin 1/2″ away from the raw edge, as shown up above on the left.

14 Marking Zipper_2

At the outer pin, you’ll be doing a bar tack, which is only a zig-zag stitch done in place.  Set your sewing machine for a wide zig-zag (so it will clear the zipper teeth), your stitch length to zero, and sew the bar tack in place.  Then about 1/2″ away from that towards the zipper stop, trim off the zipper tape.  If you are using a plastic zipper, you can cut right through it.  If you are using a metal zipper, snip the tape to the teeth, then kind of wiggle off the excess zipper tape.14 Marking Zipper_3

14 Zipper_1

One of the challenges of zipper-sewing, is 1) sewing straight and 2) sewing close enough to the teeth, and 3) getting around that zipper pull.  Use a zipper foot (shown above) for the second, and the first?  Practice makes perfect, so don’t worry about it.  I’ll walk you through the third, below.

First, unzip the zipper for about 4 inches, then:

• lay the edge of the zipper tape even with the raw edges, as shown above,
• zipper FACE DOWN
• on the RIGHT SIDE of the interfaced back folio fabric
• along the 17″ side.

I align the outside long edge of the zipper with the raw edge in this application.  Stitch to the top stop (the silver metal piece), re-align the long edge of the tape with the outside edge and stitch for another couple of inches.

14 Zipper_2

Stop, and put the needle down into the fabric.  Then grab the zipper pull tab, and wiggle it past the needle and close the zipper.  Now you have unlimited easy access to sewing it down.

14 Zipper_3

Remember that inner pin, set 1/2″ in from the raw edge?  Sew to that spot.  You want to leave the last 1/2″ unseen.  I usually hit the stitch-in-place button on my sewing machine, but you can also backstitch to secure it.  Now you’ll be attaching the lining to the back–that piece of fabric that is the same size as the back.

14 Zipper Lining

Lay the lining for the back on the zipper.  The zipper is face down so the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric will be facing the WRONG SIDE of the zipper.  I pin the raw edges of the fabrics together in a few spots so I’m not scrambling as I sew.  You’ll be sewing from the OTHER side of things, along the already-stitched line, so FLIP over the assembly, as shown below.15 Zipper 2_1

You’ll begin at the bottom edge of the sewn-in-zipper.  Remember to stay 1/2″ away from the raw edge as you begin.  Stitch along the already-stitched line until you get about three inches from the end.  Stop, and leave the needle in the fabric.  Reach inside and and slide the zipper pull tab down past your needle, wiggling it as you go by the needle, then continue stitching until the edge.

15 Zipper 2_2

Press both sides away from the zipper, then topstitch close to the edge, about 1/8″ away.

16 Zipper_1

The other side is easier because you only have don’t have a lining to deal with.  The zipper is now flat, intalled on the back.  Working on a flat surface, line up the back with the front, aligning the side raw edges, as shown.  Place a few pins anchoring the zipper tape to the front upper edge of the front vinyl window.

16 Zipper_2

Slide the zipper pull tab down a couple of inches, and start stitching.  When you get close to the zipper pull tab, keep the needle in your fabric, and ease the pull tab past your needle, closing the zipper.  Continue stitching.  Remember to STOP stitching 1/2″ in from the other edge.

16 Zipper_3

I was racing through making these, so you get to see my hideous white bar tack on my zipper in white thread.  No one is going to see this, so don’t worry.  But do notice that I stopped 1/2″ away from the side raw edges.

16 Zipper_4

Stitch alongside your first stitching line, about 1/8″ away.  Notice how both stop at the right place, above.  This second stitching will help anchor the zipper tape.  You can stitch 1/4″ away, if you like.

STEP FIVE: Bottom Edge Closure

17 Bottom Seam_1

Remember how the back of this thing is longer than the front vinyl window part?  You’ll now stitch them together.

First, treat the back two pieces as one, pinning them together at the lower edge.

Now, lifting aside the lining on that 2 1/2″ piece on the bottom of the vinyl window, pin the interfaced strip to the back of the folio, matching raw edges, along the 17″ dimension.  Another view is below.

17 Bottom Seam_3

This is taken from the vinyl window side, and you can see it gleaming there in the photo.  But again, you are sewing the interfaced strip along the lower vinyl window to the two pieces of the back, treating them as one piece.  Stitch in a 1/4″ seam, then press to one side, towards the front.

17 Bottom Seam _3

Fold down the loose piece, tucking the raw edge up to the inside, and pin in place, hiding that seam you just sewed.  You can sew this by hand, taking small stitches, or you can machine stitch this closed.

17 Bottom Seam_4

To do that, open up your nifty zipper all the way, and this will slide in right under your presser foot.  Stitch close to the folded edge, sewing it down.  Sorry it’s not such a great photo, but I’m confident you can figure it out.  (Or just sew the edge down by hand.)

With both the bottom seam and the zipper seam completed, your portfolio is now a tube.  Press that seam, keeping your iron away from the vinyl.

STEP SIX: Closing the Sides

19 Sewing Sides

Blurry Photo Apology!

Starting at the zipper edge, line up the sides, pinning occasionally, raw edges even.  The bottom seam will loop around towards the front, so don’t try to force it.  Stitch, then stitch again, 1/4″ inch away.

19 Sewing Sides_2

Trim.  This is a better photo, and you can see how the seams don’t match up to where you think they will at the bottom.  Just let them go where they want to.

18 Side Finish

You can simply zig-zag those side seams to finish them, or make a simple binding.  Cut a piece of fabric about an  inch and 1/2″ wide and a bit longer than your sides (should be about 16 x 1.5″ in a perfect world).  Matching raw edges, sew the long side of the binding strip to the portfolio side seam.  You can pin it, and then flip it over to stitch over the previous stitching, like you did with the zipper, if you want.

18 Side Finish_1

Then fold the long raw edge in and fold the binding over the raw seam allowances.  Pin, as shown above, and below.

18 Side Finish_4

18 Side Finish_2

Stitch close to the folded edge, securing the binding in place.

18 Side Finish_6

Make sure you do not stitch the zipper into your seam.  Lift it up and out of the way.

18 Side Finish_5

Trim the binding even with the side seams, then zig-zag (overcast it) to keep the ends from fraying.  Again, lift the zipper up and out of the way.

20 Folio Flipped Out

Flip the folio inside out and wiggle that end of the zipper to a nice squared-off edge.  Congratulate yourself!  You are done!

Project Portfolio Filled_Interior

Here’s what the other side looks like, interior view.

Project Portfolios

I made a conscious choice not to “box” the lower corners to create a dimensional folio.  I want to be able to lay in flat things (books, patterns, fabric, etc) and then, when done, store them flat.  In use, I haven’t missed the boxed corner at all.  Everything flexes around what I want to put it (refer back to the original post and that overstuffed folio *here.*)

Zipper Pull Ribbon

I thread a bit of ribbon through my zipper pulls to make them easier to grab.  Trim the edges at an angle, and apply a little bit of Fray Chek to them, if you are worried about fraying.

Three Portfolios_corners

Project Portfolio Three_top

Okay, now tell me how you’ll use your flowered Elizabeth’s Project Folio in your comment below, and how you follow me (email, Feedly, Bloglovin’).

Note: the Giveaway is closed now, but thanks for stopping by!

Project Folio–Part II

Project Portfolio Filled_1

This is part two of the tutorial for the Project Folio.  Click *here* for part one.

STEP TWO: Making the Front Vinyl Window

8Sandwich Vinyl

The side (1 1/2″ wide) strips go on first, on the shorter (15″) sides of the vinyl rectangle.  Sandwich the vinyl between one interfaced piece of fabric and the other (un-interfaced, or plain) piece of fabric, lining up the raw edges, with right sides facing each other and towards the vinyl.


If your strips are longer than your vinyl, don’t freak out.  Just center the vinyl and stitch along the long edge, using a 1/4″ seam.  Carefully press the strips away from the vinyl, keeping your iron ONLY on the fabrics.  Don’t touch the vinyl.  You won’t be happy if you do.  Topstitch on the fabric, about 1/8″ away from the vinyl.  You may use contrasting or matching thread.  I was whipping through these, so whatever I was sewing with was what I used for topstitching.

10Trim Edges

Trim the fabric strips even with the vinyl.  Repeat on other shorter side.

11Top Strip_2

To put the upper, top strip on, sew ONE piece of wider (2 1/2″) interfaced fabric to the vinyl, right sides together.  It’s easier if you put the vinyl to the feed dogs to do this step, and kind of ease it along.

11Top Strip_3

Fold the long  edge over 1/2″ and press.  You are working on the TOP edge of the vinyl front window at this point.

11Top Strip_4

Turn to the back, lining up the folded edge with the seamed edge, peeking through the vinyl to make sure they line up.  Topstitch this down, encasing the vinyl edge.  After stitching, if the raw edges extend beyond the existing side pieces, trim.

11Top Strip_5

Here are all three of my folios, showing trimmed edges and stitched-down tops.

To add the edging to the bottom of this window, use the sandwich technique you used with the shorter sides.  Sandwich the vinyl in between one interfaced piece of fabric and one (un-interfaced, or plain) piece of fabric, right sides facing each other and towards the vinyl.  Stitch in a 1/4″ seam, then press away from the vinyl.  (Carefully.)

12Bottom Strip

I’m trimming the excess fabric off the bottom strips in this photo.

STEP THREE: Trueing-Up the Back and Front

Confession: I had a scrap of vinyl that was slightly smaller than the desired size, but I used it anyway.  But then that makes the front a different size than the back.  I can fix this with my rotary cutter.

No, I didn’t obsess about cutting down the back, either. BUT! I only trued up the sides.  The front is LONGER than the back, in the top-to-bottom measurement.  DON’T TRIM THE TOP OR BOTTOM!!

13 Truing Up_1

Just lay the back down onto the vinyl window front, centering it as shown in the photo above, so you can trim the exact same amount from the sides.

13 Trueing Up_3

I’m only trimming down the sides here.  I kept the differences in the top-to-bottom and only cut the sides to be the same width.

13 Trueing Up_2

Sides are trued up; notice longer length on vinyl window front, peeking from behind the back pieces.

Next post: Zippers!! and Finishing.  And a Giveaway!!

Three Portfolios_corners

All of these folios measure roughly 11 x 17.  You are more than welcome to make these for your own use, or sell them in a craft faire, but please please, don’t take any of my tutorial and copy it onto your blog.  Practice Friendly Attribution, if you please, by linking back here, if you would.  And please please don’t steal my content to make your own pattern, and call it your own. 

Project Portfolio Tutorial–Part I

Project Portfolio Three_top

A long time ago, in a foreign market, I bought zip portfolios to hold stuff.  But they weren’t always quite right–too small, too rigid–for my projects, too wrong-sized.  So I decided this summer to make my own.

1Project Portfolio

But that’s just a way to lead you into thinking about your fall, now that schools are beginning to start and you can finally finish a sentence — or a seam —  without being interrupted by your offspring or husbands or pets or whatever.  And now you are going to be sewing up a storm, and need a way to keep all your projects organized as you head out to sewing circles, sew days, quilt nights, or just stay home and quilt in your jammies.  Because it’s almost fall, after all, and you can. (My apologies to my Southern Hemispheric readers–just substitute in the appropriate season.)

Project Portfolio_chair

Two coordinating fabrics.  One will show on the outside, and the other will be the lining, but will show through the vinyl window
Clear medium-weight vinyl from the upholstery department.  Save the tissue they have with the vinyl–it’s easier to store that way
Fusible medium-weight interfacing
Zipper, approximately 20″ (you’ll be trimming it to size)
Matching thread

(Note: I am using three different fabrics in the following illustrations, so you may see some switching out.)

Project Portfolio Cutting Diagram

STEP ONE: Fusing

2Fusing back piece

Lay the fusible interfacing shiny side (resin-coated side) down onto the Wrong Side (WS) of your outer backing piece.  If you like to live dangerously, don’t use a press cloth while fusing the interfacing to the back in an ordered fashion: overlapping the iron shape, giving it a shot of steam, counting one-two-three-four in each position of the iron.

3Fused Pieces

Lay the interfacing fusible-side down and fuse to TWO of the four narrower pieces that will border your clear vinyl window on the side.

Then fuse interfacing to only TWO of the wider strips, as these will be used on the upper and lower edges of the “vinyl window.”

The results are above: one large rectangle of interfacing fused to main back fabric, and four pieces of interfacing fused to the four strips of main fabric.

4Trim to Interfacing

Trim up so the backing is even with the interfacing.  Try not to fixate on the fact that now your portfolio will be a hair smaller.  It’s really not important what the final dimension is, as you can still pack a ton of stuff in there.  Trust me.

5 Trim Lining

Lay the fused backing piece on top on the lining piece, making sure that both right sides of the fabrics are facing outward.  Pin.  Trim.

6 Trimmed Backing Complete

So this is what you’ll have: a two-sided rectangle.  Unpin the two layers, and set aside for now.

Tomorrow’s post will show STEP TWO: Making the vinyl window front.

All of these folios measure roughly 11 x 17.  You are more than welcome to make these for your own use, or sell them in a craft faire, but please please, don’t take any of my tutorial and copy it onto your blog.  Link back here, if you would.  And please please don’t steal my content to make your own pattern, and call it your own.  Practice Friendly Attribution, if you please.

Faced Binding Tutorial

FacedBindingTitleA faced binding is applied to the front of your quilt and is wrapped to the back.  If done well, it can’t be seen at all from the front, allowing the last border of your quilt to act as the frame for your quilt, and eliminating one last design element from your quilt.  Often used on art quilts, when an additional line of a border would distract from the art, it can be also be used on our regular quilts.


I used it on Kaleidoscope, as the printed border needed no other embellishment.

Step One: Prepare the quilt and strips
Trim the batting and edges of your quilt.  In the best world, your trimmed line falls at the edge of your fabric.  A little fudging here and there is okay.

For the binding, you’ll need four strips, one for each edge.  Measure the edges of your quilt and add 10 extra inches to that measurement.


Cut 4″ wide strips for a medium- or large-sized quilt, and 3″ wide strips for smaller quilts.

Trim Ends

If you need to piece the strip to provide the right length, trim both ends at a right angle (make sure they are slanted the same way) and piece together on the bias.  Fold the strip in half lengthwise and iron.

Step Two: Applying Binding Strips
Leaving a tail on each side of about 5 inches, pin the binding strip to the FRONT of your quilt, raw edges even, with the folded edge of the binding falling toward the quilt center, just like you would for a regular binding. Only this binding is giant-sized, and you won’t stitch around the corners continuously.

Pinned Binding

Continue pinning the strips onto each side.  Pin the strip nearly to the end, as you’ll be leaving the last one-quarter-inch of each seam unsewn.

QuarterInch from Corner

I measured one-quarter-inch from each corner edge, and placed a pin there to remind me to stop sewing.

Stitching Binding

Stitch on the binding, using a quarter-inch seam allowance, and stopping at your placed pin, 1/4″ from the edge.

Step Three: Mitering the Corner


Take the quilt to your ironing board and using a light touch, press the binding strips away from your quilt.

Mitered Corner2

Then lay the quilt so you can fold back the binding tails, as shown.  Work to have a perfectly straight 45-degree angle on those folds where they meet; use a ruler to help you align it, if necessary. Press.  The slight gap you see there between the folds is normal–the folds relax when you take the iron off.  It’s better to have a slight gap than to have an overlap.

Mitered corner1

Another view, but this is just fingerpressed.  While you can just fingerpress the folds, I think it’s better to get a hot iron on there so you can see the crease.  (See next image.)  Remember that you are pressing through double-folded fabric, so do a thorough job.

Unfold and align the binding strips for the first corner, making sure the pressed diagonal lines meet and folding the quilt down and out of the way.  You are also making sure the top folded edges meet.  I try not to pin this next seam to death, instead using only three pins:

Mitered corner3a

• #1–Place a pin at the outer, folded edges of each binding strip and line the creases up.

• #2–Then go to the bottom, near where it’s joined to the quilt, and poke a pin from the top crease down into the bottom crease, lining them up.

• #3–Lastly, line up the creases at the center and place a pin there.

Again, you are pinning along the crease you made when you ironed in that beautiful miter at the ironing board.

Stitch the seam.  You’ll begin stitching from the folded, outer edges and sew back towards the quilt-binding seam (at the bottom of the picture).  There’s really no need to “tack” by backstitching.  So don’t.  Just leave your thread tails long and you should be fine.

Mitered Corner 4

Trim the extra fabric to one-quarter-inch, as shown, then press the seam open.


This is the backside of that mitered join up above.  Notice how the seam allowances become smaller at the point?  That’s because I trimmed them down to eliminate bulk.  Trim out as much of the batting as you can, while making sure you don’t cut the stitching. Don’t skip this step.  Just proceed carefully.  (You will be fine.)

Step Four: Understitching
Often used when attached a facing to a neckline in dress-making, understitching is a technique to join the weensy seam allowances to the faced binding, which will keep them from rolling to the front and showing on your quilt.

First, since you pressed the binding away from the quilt up above, you’ve already started on this step.  If you didn’t press at that time, do your best to press it now, going as far into the corner as your iron will allow.


Line up your needle so you are just to the right of the binding seam.  Stitch a straight line, smoothing the binding and the quilt away from the seam as you go, keeping a light tension on the quilt/binding fabric.  Light.  The success of understitching depends on not letting the binding bunch up toward the quilt, nor wandering in your stitching onto the quilt.  Stay on the binding, smooth away the  binding and it will go as smooth as butter.

Of course you can’t sew deep into the corner, so go as far as you can and cut the thread tails long.  Now begin again on the next side.  You’re almost there.

Step Five: Sewing down the Binding

Carefully turn the binding to the back of your quilt, giving it a quick press, if needed.  Gently ease out the corners.  If you are brave and not foolhardy, you can use a chopstick to help ease out the tip.  But if you go too far, you’ll have a mess on your hands.  Proceed gingerly.

If after turning, you think your corners are distorted and look like the tips of a witch’s shoe, a little pulling at the side edges, just below the tip, will shorten that tip and bring it back into shape.  Set it with a little shot of steam from your iron, then press it with your fingers or a piece of wood until it cools.  Seamstresses use “clappers,” or smoothed wooden tools just for this purpose.  However, it’s better to lay a piece of cloth down and put your tender fingers on that, that to smash the heck out of it with a hot iron.  Never over-iron your quilts, or blocks, for that matter!  A horribly flattened block means that, to me, someone has decided to start wearing out their quilts early.

Stitching Down Binding

You’ll stitch the binding down by hand, just as you do a regular quilt binding.  Now you can clip those long thread tails on the top of the binding as you come to them.  Tuck the long tails that are on the backside of the binding up inside–no need to trim those.  If you find your miter is buckling just a little and has too much fabric, with your handsewing needle take a small tuck and secure it with tiny stitches.

All done!

Faced Binding--back

This is what the binding looks like from the back, when finished.


And this is the binding from the front–invisible!

Note: If you need to attach a quilt sleeve for hanging, you’ll create your tube of fabric and stitch it on now, aligning the top edge 1/2″ to 3/4″ down from the top, and leaving a slight bulge in the sleeve to leave room for the hanging rod.


Return to OccasionalPiece-Quilt (or

Colorwheel Blossom_front

Finsh-A-Long–Second Quarter Report

First, on July 3rd, I’m guest hosting today over at Leanne’s, of She Can Quilt, where I have written a tutorial for making a faced binding on a quilt (used on Kaleidoscope). This tutorial is in conjunction with the end of the second quarter of the Finish-A-Long, which she is hosting this year.


Now that you’re back, every quarter we monitor our progress and check in with Leanne, who is hosting this year’s Finish-A-Long program.  So now it’s time for the second quarterly report of how many of our goals we finished.  For a reminder, here’s my original mosaic, showing the quilts I was thinking about finishing:

FAL Q2_2013

And now the wrap-up:

Hunter’s Star–still in the closet (not finished)

Doleket Art Quilt-front

Four-in-Art: Fire–Doloket, finished

TakeMeBacktoItaly front

Italy Quilt–Take Me Back to Italy, finished

Lollypop Class Sample I–(top is finished, but the whole project is not finished, because it’s at the shop for a sample)

Lollypop Tree Quilt–(not finished, still hanging in the closet)

Christmas Treat final

Lollypop Class Sample II–Christmas Treat, finished

Friendship Quilt, still in the closet (not finished)

Kaleidoscope Front

EPP Quilt–Kaleidoscope, finished (amazingly)

So that’s four finishes.  Not bad.  I also snuck in a few more that weren’t listed:


Spooling Around

Giving Christine the quilt

A quilt for my sister Christine:  Christine’s Philadelphia
(We’re in a pastry shop)

Christine's Row Quilt labeled

One really nice thing is the way that participating in the Finish-A-Long (FAL) keeps me focused on what to do next.  So often I can be swayed by what I see on Instagram, or from blog reading, or the latest internet craze, ignoring my own goals and projects.  I still have way more ideas and fabrics and projects that I will ever finish in my lifetime, but I like participating in FAL, where I least have a fighting chance of pointing to something at the end of the quarter that I did, that I finished, and that I’m proud of.

Now I need to think of things I want to try and finish for next quarter’s FAL.  Hope you’ll join us.

FinishALong Button

Hot Mitts

Hot Mitts

No, this isn’t a reference to our past election and Governor Romney.

Old Hot Mitt

This is in rereference to my hideously stained and abused and damaged kitchen hot mitts.  I went to buy some new ones and didn’t care for the ones at a famous cooking store and at Macy’s–where Martha has taken over everything in the domestic world–there were only hot mitts with ruffles.  Ruffles?  I knew they’d be disgusting looking in short order.  (Ruffles?  I’m still shaking my head.)

Old Hot Mitt1

So one day, I turned the ones I liked inside-out to see how they were made.

Old Hot Mitt 2

Then I traced it with a sharpie onto what was laying around on the counter–an ad from the car dealer.  Actually this ended up being a good idea because it was thicker than regular paper and pretty sturdy.

Old Hot Mitt 3

And after I cut it out, I had a pattern.  But I decided I should allow for shrinkage, because I wash and dry these over and over, so I enlarged it by 10% which yielded the pattern at the end of this post.  Print it out, match up the car writing and making sure your 1-inch guide on the side is really one-inch (every printer is a little bit different), tape it together and you’ve got a good pattern.  I’d actually purchased a pattern but took it back when I realized how easy this was going to be.

Insulated Fabric

Utility Fabric

Go the Big Box fabric store and buy some utility fabric that looks like this: a metallic cotton on the outside, cotton batting on the inside, already quilted together.  Use your coupon.  I bought one yard and I’ll get four mitts out of it. Get yourself some 80% cotton/20% wool batting or some 100% cotton batting, if you don’t have scraps laying around.

Bias Tape Maker

And throw a bias tape maker into your cart, too.  I chose the 1″ version and it worked great. I picked up the Dritz (on the left) and on the right, I show the full complement of Clover Bias Tape Makers.  Either work fine.  They have decent directions on the back of the Dritz.

Layer Up Fabrics

Layer in the following order: (1) Utility fabric, metallic side down  –  then –  (2) your cotton batting – then – (3) your chosen fabric.  I’m using some of Malka Dubrawsky’s first line.  I love it, but I have never figured out how to use it.  This will be perfect as it will brighten up my kitchen every day. Using pins, secure it in a few places.  Cut out what you need by placing your hot mitt pattern down and guesttimating: I think mine ended up about 14″ by 18.”  Roughly.  Quilt all layers together.  Don’t get too precious about it!

Cutting Out1

Now lay out your pattern and cut out one mitt.

Cutting out 2

Reverse the pattern by flipping it over, and cut your second mitt.  Match them up, metallic sides out, then pin in a few places so it doesn’t shift.  Sew from under the thumb all the way around the mitt STOPPING 2″ FROM EDGE.  Leave that edge flapping, as it will be easier to attach the bias tape.

Stitching Inner Curve Hot Mitts

Close-up of the curve of the thumb.  Carefully clip down to the curve, stopping short of the stitching line.  This will make it lay better when you turn it inside out.

Making Bias Tape

(You can click to enlarge this picture so you can see the writing better.)

Follow the directions on the back of the tape maker package for cuting a bias strip.  Basically you fold the corner down into the fabric, creating a bias edge.  Cut the strips 1 3/4″ wide for a one-inch bias strip.  Feed it through the bias tape maker tool, using a pin to help out the leading edge if you need to.  Then use your iron to set the folds.

Bias Binding

I put two pins on the tape, as I drew it out, and then pressed it.  It sounds WAY more complicated than it is.

Open Edge Hot Mitts

Beginning with one of the loose edges, fold the tape over the lower raw edge, and stitch the tape onto the mitt.  I found it easiest to stitch from the “inside” for some odd reason.

Stitching Bias Tape Hot Mitts

Again, don’t get too fanatical about this–just make sure that both folds of the tape are caught in the stitching.  I did one, and then decided I wanted to trim out that seam allowance under the thumb edge for about one-quarter inch up from the lower edge, just to get rid of some bulk.  The world won’t end if you don’t.

Hot Mitt inside

Finish stitching that last two inches, and backstitch to secure.

Hot Mitt binding joining

I also zig-zagged that last two inches to finish it off.  Given that it’s BIAS tape, it’s not going to ravel, but hey.  Just thought it needed it.

Hot Mitt binding finished

Flip your mitt right-side out, easing out the thumb and smoothing out the curve.

I cut some scraps into squares with rounded edges, and used the leftover bias tape to make a couple of coasters.  Don’t examine my stitching, because like I said, it’s pretty obvious I went for sturdy over beauty.

Okay, below are the patterns.  Print them out and adjust your printer settings so the inch mark is true, then tape your two halves together.  I scanned my pattern so it’s pretty true; I’m hoping you don’t have to do too much monkeying around.  My hand size? Medium in rubber gloves, so if yours is smaller or larger, use your copier/printed to enlarge or smallerize your pattern.  

Hot Mitt Lower Hot Mitt Upper

Have fun making them!

Hot Mitts final

This is one of the projects on my Finish-A-Long list that I have completed, from Leanne’s Finish-A-Long!

FinishALong Button

Sunshine and Shadow Quilt Tutorial


Here’s the recipe for the quilt I gave to my sister-in-law, Janice.  But I think you’ll notice how “lopsided” the block is–and that’s because I wanted to eliminate the sashing step, including it in the making of the quilt.  I also wanted to make this quilt completely from my fabric stash, so I chose colors I had multiples of, in different designs and shadings.  What is sashing?  It’s those long strips that separate blocks from each other and can be part of the design of a quilt, letting each block float in its own little world.  Many modern quilts eliminate them, but I like them occasionally.

Choosing from the Stash

I started with the centers and cut all of them from the same line, but used two versions of the yellow flowers.  Then I pulled out a lot of different fabrics, trying to keep in the same tonality in the blues, and in the yellows, so the quilt top would be harmonious.

1. After cutting, the first step is to sew two blue strips on the sides of the large center block.

2. Sew two yellow blocks on the end of the blue rectangles.


3. Line them up.  After choosing good sets that go well together, stitch the yellow square/blue strip pieces onto the center.  I pressed the seams towards the blue, away from the yellows.  Sew the strips onto the center section.


4. True up, by placing a 9 1/2″ ruler on top.  I found if I trued it up at this stage, the rest of the construction went smoothly.


5. Sew all but one of the blue squares onto the larger yellow strips.  Then get ready to put them all together.  You won’t use all the blue square/yellow strip pieces at this point.  Just set the extras aside.  I wanted to audition how the random yellows and blue fit together, so I took one large block, a yellow strip and a blue square/yellow strip piece, making sure I wasn’t duplicating fabrics in any significant way.


6. I pinned the yellow strip on the bottom, and folded up the other strip and pinned it to where it would eventually be sewn.  Sew on the yellow strip.


Here it is, with yellow strip sewn on, showing that I pressed the seam to the outside yellow.


In all cases, first press seam flat to eliminate puckers, wobbly edges, then press the seam open.


7. Sew the blue square/yellow strip piece on the center construction, matching seams, etc.  This is the finished block.


8. Because my pin wall is longer from side to side, than from top to bottom, I rotated the blocks a half turn and laid them out on the wall.  I kept using my digital camera to make sure that there weren’t too many of those darker yellow-gold pieces mushed together, as well as eyeballing a good distribution of the rest of the colors.  The quilt looks a bit strange now, because you are still missing a length of “sashing” on the left side and on the bottom.


9. Because I still wanted to sew these as blocks, I laid out the “sashing” pieces, each with a blue square on them, where they should go. I laid them out, again checking for color and value distribution.  I had to sew that random last blue square onto a yellow strip/blue square piece, then I sewed these pieces onto the adjacent block.  When you replace these new expanded blocks on your pin wall, be careful not to rotate them into a wrong orientation. Use your last digital photo as a guide.

10. Put quilt together:  I put row markers (shown in *this post*) on the blocks on the left side of the wall, in order to keep track.  Then I stitched the rows together, going across.  Stitch rows together, going down, until the quilt top is complete.  I think it goes much faster (have I said this before?) because you are sewing blocks, rather than long strips of sashing.

SunshineShadow FavMuseumShot

Quilt as desired (and my favorite way is calling Cathy and having her do it for me).  I used the extra bits of blue strips I’d cut out, plus extra, to make a scrappy binding.

Okay here’s the honest truth: I started out with a completely different idea for this quilt and cut a whole lot of blue and yellow fabrics into 2 1/2″ strips, but realized that my time was short so I had to step up to a quicker quilt.  That’s when I had the idea of adding the sashing pieces to the block, because sometimes sashing just wobbles and stretches and becomes one pain-in-the-rear step to making a quilt.  This was was much faster, and I think the integrity of the quilt doesn’t suffer for it.  You’ll notice I tried to press to the “sashing” side always, as I think that distinguishes those pieces from the “block.”


To make the label, I did the usual method of pressing some fabric to freezer paper, running it through my Epson printer (they have the best inks), bordering it, then stitching it onto the quilt invisibly around the outside edges.  I also like to do it on the inside edge of the border, where the label meets the edging.  No one can tell, but it poofs out less from the surface of the quilt if it has that second round of stitching.



I’m actually planning to make another like this, as it is really quick, and I like the fact that I can use up my stash.

I seem to have lost a few days here, but with the weekend coming (a holiday weekend!), I hope to find time to dive into some stitching, and some blogging.