First Thursday Mystery

3 07 2015

I’m running the First Thursday Mystery at Ruth’s Stitchery.  Yesterday I did a power point presentation rather than cutting up fabric for a block every half hour.  As I promised the group, here is that presentation as a pdf. Just click the title to view it. First Thursday Mystery Month 10

PS, in the event a measurement in the presentation conflicts with one in the pattern go with the one in the pattern except for the one I called out as incorrect.


4 05 2015

I continue to live life at a frantic pace, but rarely slow down enough to write about it lately.  This year I’m teaching Stitching Society at Ruth’s Stitchery.  Which means I’m making lots of little motifs and working on learning some new hand embroidery stitches well enough to teach them to others. I also spend a little time researching the history of various things — needles, thread, pins so far. It’s fun, but overwhelming at times.

This month for the small project I made the binder cover.


I chose to add pockets to the inside, they are not included in the pattern.


I promised my students I would upload my pictorial guide, I am including measurement because that information is available in the pattern. Here is the guide as a PDF Binder Cover.

First Thursday Mystery Reveal

17 09 2014

Based upon the number of posts I’ve made this year, one could assume all I do is going to work then come home and collapse at the end of the day.  And while that is often the way I feel, it isn’t in reality the case.

One of the things I’ve been doing over the last twelve months is leading a mystery.  Participants enrolled last fall and paid for the first block.  After that as long as they brought their finished homework on the next first Thursday of the month they got their new kit for free.

Big deal you say, all you have to do is construct the block each month.  Not so, I chose the fabrics each month, cut and packaged the kits for each participant (yes, the cutting was mostly at work, but eventually the packaging came home with me).  I had to make my sample (before class — what would I ever accomplish without deadlines?) as well as demo pieces.  If that wasn’t enough, I decided to do video tutorials for anyone that missed the demos in the store.  So if you’ve missed me, you can actually go watch the videos on the Ruth’s Stitchery Channel on YouTube.  I sound like I’m in a water tank because I removed background noise with software, maybe the background noise would be better.

I demonstrated several techniques that were not included in that pattern.  For instance, the pattern used starch and press exclusively, but I demonstrated starch and press, fused, freezer paper, facing and back basting applique over the months.

The mystery started in October 2013 and the reveal was this month.

First-Thursday-MysteryNow that it has been revealed, I can say the pattern is Blackbird at My Window by Under the Garden Moon.  I am starting another mystery in October.  It is the same concept, but a completely different quilt.  If you are interested, registration is open until September 21, 2014 at Ruth’s Stitchery in person or by phone.  The kits can be mailed, but in that case they are $5 per month plus postage.  Anyone that doesn’t come in on the day of the demos also must pay $5 for the new kit.

Polka Dot Pinwheel Quilt — Free Pattern

3 04 2014

I’m thinking Spring, although the several inches of snow today would make the season questionable.  I love polka dots and wanted to do something with a few of them.  Polka dots are a happy print, and  pinwheels are a happy block.  So I combined the two and added an alternate fabric to come up with this baby quilt.  I finished the binding this morning.


Once again I had a piece of fabric that was almost big enough for the back.  So I pieced scraps from the front to get it wide enough.  I don’t try to space my pieced strips evenly.  I just pick a spot and slice the large piece of fabric.  I added the squares and it still wasn’t quite wide enough (because there was a hole I had to cut around in the striped fabric), so then I really was down to the last of the fabric and just put together anything I could.

polka-Dot-Pinwheel-backThis will hang at the store and many quilters could figure out how to make it with out a pattern.  However, I did write directions and the hard copy will be free at Ruth’s Stitchery with a fabric purchase.  But because you are special, you can download it here by clicking on the title!

Polka Dot Pinwheels


Envelope Pillow Back Tutorial

19 11 2012

“Full of Thanks” by Once Upon a Vine was a last-minute Autumn decoration.

I’ve mentioned before, that I disregard pattern directions if I can buy a pillow form to fit whatever pillow I’m making.  I don’t sew the pillow form into the pillow, which means I can more easily store just the covers for seasonal items.  I thought I might as well take pictures and do a tutorial for this type of pillow back.

1. Measure the height of the pillow.

2.  Cut a strip from the pillow back fabric as wide as the height of the pillow by the width of the fabric.  (If you get much bigger than a 16″ or 18″ pillow you will need more than the width of the fabric.)

3.  Square off the ends of the strip, removing the selvedge.

4.  Cut the strip in half.  I do this by having the former selvedge ends together and taking a sliver off which includes the fold.

5.  Now there should be two strips that are as wide as the pillow is high, and half the width of the fabric.

6.  Fold the strips in half, right sides together.  What was the selvedge and the center of the original strip should meet.  Align raw edges.

7.  Press fold.  Repeat with the other strip.  Now you have a choice.  You can either just place right sides together and sew all the way around the edges of the pillow, or you can place wrong sides together and bind like a quilt.  The second option is what is shown in my finished pillow, but I’ll show you both.

First I’ll show how to layer to turn the pillow without using a binding.

Option 1 #8 — Lay the pillow top on the work surface, right side up.

Option 1 #9 — Lay one of the backing pieces over the pillow front matching the raw edges as shown above.

Option 1 #10 — Place the second backing piece over both the pillow front and the first backing piece as shown.  Pin the cut edges in place and stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around the outside edge.  Turn the pillow through the opening in the back.  Press stitched edges.

Option 2 #8  — Place the pillow front on the work surface wrong side up.

Option 2 # 9 Lay one of the backing pieces over the pillow front matching the raw edges as shown above.

Option 2 #10 Place the second backing piece over both the pillow front and the first backing piece as shown.  Pin the cut edges in place.  I choose to machine baste all the way around the outside edge inside the 1/4″ seam allowance.  Add binding exactly as you would to a quilt.  Turn right side out through the opening in the back.

11.  Now it is time to insert the pillow form into the finished pillow top.

12.  The first side is the easiest.  Shove the pillow form into one side.

13.  Scrunch up the pillow to fit into the other side.  Smooth out the pillow form inside the pillow cover.

14.  This is the view of the pillow back once the pillow form has been smoothed inside the pillow cover.  There is enough of an overlap that the pillow back doesn’t gap and the pillow form doesn’t show.  It is easy to remove the pillow form for cleaning or storage.


Paper Foundation Piecing — Beyond the Basics

28 10 2012

Halloween is not a holiday I get excited about.  However, I do decorate for Fall and candy corn plays a small part in the grand scheme.

Also my husband has very fond memories revolving around his grandfather and candy corn.  So, I’m going to continue the candy corn theme in part two of the paper foundation piecing tutorial.

Some patterns must be broken into smaller units to be able to piece them using the foundation method.  This is another pattern I drew in Electric Quilt and this time I chose to print it without seam allowances.  This particular pattern is broken into 6 sections.  Just take them one at a time.

You can use the method I showed in the previous tutorial to piece each section, but I thought I’d show you another way, which I prefer.

The pattern is transferred to either freezer paper or Totally Stable.  8-1/2″ x 11″ freezer paper sheets can be purchased to run through your printer or you can make your own.  For this demonstration, I  traced the pattern onto the dull side of the freezer paper.

Cut the foundation sections apart.  I trimmed exactly on the outside stitching line.

I started with the bottom section of the pattern.  Press fabric to the shiny side of the freezer paper completely covering piece 1 and allowing for seam allowances. (It is convenient to keep an iron near the sewing machine when doing this type of piecing.

Fold back the foundation on the lines around piece 1.

Align the 1/4″ mark on a ruler with the folded foundation and trim the seam allowance.  This can be done all the way around this first piece.

Line up the cut edge of the fabric for piece 2 with the cut edge of piece 1 right sides together and so they overlap the stitching line between pieces 1 & 2 by a quarter-inch.

For this method it is not necessary to have the super short stitch length or the extra-large needle.  I did shorten the stitch length slightly since some of the seams are short and I don’t want them to pull apart while working with them.

Fold back the foundation along the stitching line and stitch right next to that fold.

Flip piece 2 open and press the seam allowance.  In the pressing process, the fabric from piece 2 should be pressed well enough that it sticks to the freezer paper foundation.

Again fold on the lines all the way around these two pieces that have been stitched in place.

If you have trouble folding exactly on the line, use a piece of light weight cardboard or an index card. Place it on the line and

fold the foundation back over the cardboard to form a crease.  A participant in one of my classes had another excellent suggestions, fold on all the lines of the foundation before beginning to make it easier to fold them as you are working.

Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ and add piece number 3, right sides together.  Flip the new piece along the seam you will be stitching to be sure it completely covers the seam allowance.

Stitch along the folded edge of the foundation.

Flip piece 3 open and press the seam allowance.

Depending upon the iron you are using, you may find that you need to press from the back as well to get the freezer paper to stitch to the fabric.

Continue this process until all the pieces have been added for the first section.

Follow the process for each section that needs to be pieced.  Here I’ve finished the next two sections  and can join them together and add them to the bottom section.

Use a pin to align the corners of the pieces.  Because each piece has been trimmed to an accurate 1/4″ the cut edges of the seam allowance can be line up.  Pin the two foundations together.

Stitch along the edge of the freezer paper.  The stitching should also be running right along the edge of the freezer paper on the bottom.  If you just catch the freezer paper on the other side with a stitch occasionally, it is not a big deal.  However, if you are stitching well into the freezer paper, the seam allowances need to be checked and corrected.

Press the seam to one side, or if there is a great deal of bulk, consider pressing the seam open.  The center section of the candy corn can now be added to the bottom section.  Again use pins to line up corners and align the cut edges of the seam allowance.

Again stitch along the edge of the freezer paper.  Press the seam either to one side or open.

It is very likely that in a multi-part foundation there will be sections that have only one piece.  In that case, press the freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric and cut a 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around.  Use pins to line up the corners and join these sections exactly the same way as previous sections were combined.

If you’ve been cutting the 1/4″ seam allowance all along, there will be no need to trim  the block when it is finished.  I leave the foundation on the block in this method, until  it has been added to the finished project.

When it is time to remove the foundation just peel them away.  There isn’t any stitching through these pieces so it should be very easy to remove.

If you’d like to play along, here is the foundation candy corn face foundation.  It is free and may be shared but not sold.

My block was 4″ finished.  If you are ever copying multiple foundations, always copy from the original not from another copy.  This helps to limit distortion.

Foundation Paper Piecing Basics

27 10 2012

It was the late 1980’s or early 1990’s when I was first introduced to paper piecing.  It’s something that I’ve been acquainted with for so long, that I sometimes forget it is still new for many people.  It is not one of my favorite piecing methods, however it is a good method to have in one’s repertoire for the times when nothing else will get the results you desire.

I plan to do a two-part tutorial.  In this first part, I will cover the basics of paper foundation piecing using one method.  The second tutorial will show another method and how to do multi-sectioned foundations.

To begin, a foundation is needed.  There are many books and patterns commercially available, as well as free patterns online.  I drew this one in Electric Quilt and printed it on regular printer paper.  Printer paper is not ideal.  There are special papers for paper piecing, some look similar to newsprint (without the print), there’s velum, freezer paper, water-soluble paper, etc.  If you decide you like this method, experiment with the various papers to find the one that works best for you.  You should be aware, that the finished block will be a mirror image of the pattern.

A larger than normal needle will make your life easier in the long run.  I used a 90/14.

Shorten the stitch length on the sewing machine.  I used a 1.5 length, but a 1.0 would be even better.  I just am too impatient to spend the extra time stitching that shorter stitch.

Pieces of fabric can be precut larger than necessary to cover a section or scraps can be used.  Either way be sure they completely cover the piece on the pattern and allow for a seam allowance.  Place the first piece of fabric on the back of the foundation, wrong side of the fabric against the paper covering shape 1.  Pin in place.

Hold the pattern up to the light to ensure the fabric completely covers the section.

Place the right side of the 2nd fabric over the first fabric, aligning the edges about 1/4″ beyond the stitching line between numbers 1 & 2.

Pin the two pieces of fabric and the foundation together.  It is a good idea to flip the second piece approximately where the seam will be stitched and check that it covers shape 2 on the foundation.

I like to use an open toe foot so the stitching lines are clearly visible.  Stitch on the line between shapes 1 & 2, through the foundation and two layers of fabric.  I like to start my stitching line about 1 stitch before the beginning of the line and end about 1 stitch after the end of the line.

Flip piece 2 open and either finger press or press with an iron.  The seam allowance will always go toward the piece just added.

This step is optional, but I find it results in a neater final product.  Fold back the foundation on the lines that border the pieces just stitched together.  In this case it would be on the stitching line between numbers 2 & 3.

Align the 1/4″ mark of a ruler along the folded edge and trim the seam allowance to 1/4″

Align the edge of fabric #3 along the cut edge created in the last step.  Pin if needed.  Again, it is a good idea to flip the piece along what will be the seam line to confirm the fabric is big enough to cover shape 3 and allow for a seam allowance.

Stitch on the line between shapes 2 & 3.

Finger press or press the seam toward the fabric just added.

Fold along the next seam lines.

Align the 1/4″ mark of the ruler with the creased paper and trim seam allowance.

Line up the cut edge of fabric 4 with the cut edge of fabric 3.

Flip along the future seam allowance to be sure the fabric will cover the shape on the foundation.
Stitch on the line between pieces 3 & 4.

Continue to fold back the foundation on the line between pieces.

Align the 1/4″ mark on the ruler with the fold, trim,

and add the next piece.
Repeat the process above until all the pieces have been stitched to the foundation.  Unless you have drawn your own foundation, you should be able to just follow the order shown on the pattern.  Press the block.

This is the back view of the block and it is ready for the final trim.

Align the 1/4″ mark of the ruler with the outside stitching lines and trim.  Some foundations have the outside seam allowances, and some don’t (Electric Quilt allows you to print foundations either way.)  For this pattern you could just line up the ruler with the edge of the seam allowance and trim.  I prefer to make sure there is an accurate 1/4″ available.

The block is now all squared up and ready to be used in a project.  I generally leave the foundation on the block until after it is sewn into a project.  Unless you are extremely fussy in your placement, foundation pieced blocks will have bias edges.  Leaving the foundation on the block helps to avoid stretching.

After you have stitched the block into the finished project, it is necessary to tear away the foundation.  This is when the special foundation paper, bigger needle and short stitch length make a huge difference.

Interested in giving it a try?  Here is my pattern for this piece of candy corn candy corn foundation.  My block is 4″, it is a good idea to check the pattern when it has printed, to see that the block size is the size you desire.  This pattern is free and you are welcome to share it, just not sell it.