This week’s quilt block of the 2019 Summer Sampler is “Altitude” and features a mountainous landscape with the most beautiful sky you can imagine behind it.
I designed this block to help you cut and assemble 45 degree diamonds. The result is a dynamic block that would look lovely in scrappy fabrics or in your most carefully curated collection of hues.
A small hurdle to get this block assembled is learning to cut your diamonds. The orientation of your fabric and ruler is something to get used to. Here’s a video on how to do it, including how to mark your ruler with tape to make it go a bit faster:
An easy way to spruce up your embroidery hoop for display is to wrap it. It brings the final product up a level for a finished look without using too much fabric or effort. When you’ve worked hard on a piece such as Canned Pineapples, it’s nice to give it a little extra touch.
Wrapping the hoop adds a bit of grip to the outer hoop to improve the tension of the embroidered piece. The results will make the framed work look its best!.
Choose a ribbon or fabric that compliments the main piece. In this Canned Pineapples hoop quilt, I used a fabric from the same fabric collection as the main fabric of the quilt block. It automatically complements the main fabric and brings out some of the greens in the quilt block.
Cut your wrapping fabric into 1/2″ strips. For a 12″ hoop, I cut 8 strips off a fat quarter.
Separate your embroidery hoop into the inner hoop and the outer hoop. We will only be wrapping the outer one. Starting at the hardware of the hoop, wrap a fabric strip around the hoop. Start on the inner side, and wrap the fabric around to overlap and secure the strip in place. No glue is necessary.
Adding more strips: When you come to the end of a strip, you can tuck a second strip under the first and wrap it around to overlap both strips.
Continue till you come full circle to the hoop hardware again. Trim the excess off so the end is on the inside of the hoop and hold it firmly. Use a clip to hold the fabric in place while you get your glue or needle/thread ready.
Glue or stitch the end in place.
Snip away any “fly-aways” to get it neatened up. Alternatively, you can do this after the embroidered piece is framed.
In this post, you’ll get an idea of how to make some simple embroidery stitches to complete your Canned Pineapples hoop quilt! We’ll cover a back stitch, woven wheel stitch, and a running stitch. I’m not an expert in this realm, but I sure have fun adding these embellishments to my block.
Looking for info on picking fabric colours and how to finish your hoop? Check out these useful posts:
Most of us imagine embroidery work is done in a hoop. It makes sense: The fabric is held in place at a consistent tension, just taut enough. I found that since I interface my block before I embroider, it’s possible to skip the hoop since the fabric is stiffened. Up to you – do what feels comfortable for you!
To create the outline of the jar to “can” your pineapple blocks, you can use a simple back stitch. You will bring your needle up ahead of the stitch and insert back down at the start of the stitch. As always a picture is worth a thousand words.
Three tricks for the best-looking back stitch:
Make the line as straight as possible.
Keep your stitch length as consistent as possible.
Minimize the gaps between each stitch by inserting your needle in the exact same place as you brought the thread up.
Here’s a video of how that all works:
In the pattern, I suggest that you can use a stem stitch if you’re feeling fancy. The outline of the jar lid in this version uses a stem stitch. If you’re interested in learning more about that, join the 3rd Story Workshop Community on Facebook to access a video on how it!
Woven Wheel Stitch
This little round stitch gives a small rosette look and makes the lightning bugs around the central pineapple block ones. You will start with five spokes and weave them in a circular direction. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures (which… it literally is.)
The simplest of them all, the running stitch is a simple up and down through the fabric in a straight line. For your Canned Pineapples, you’ll go around your woven wheels to get the effect of radiating light!
If you’re still working on your quilting or binding, keep plugging away! Or if you want to play… this week is also our improv challenge. We’ve got some lovely offcuts to work with and some leftover fabric, so what don’t we make something to complement the quilt like a pillow? Or just experiment for no good reason other than to do it? Let’s have a look at what we can achieve this week with our improv challenge:
#1 / Have fun
This is the most important element of the improv challenge. I love that I can just sit down and sew without measuring anything. Just do it. Put to pieces of fabric together and sew! Trim and then add more.
#2 / Lay it out
Lay out your piece and see what you’ve got. You’ll see some angles that will come together well. You’ll see where you might want to contrast light and dark, or put two similar tones together. You can try and line up your strip sets or you can say, “I’ve already done this precisely for the quilt, so this time I don’t care this time!”
#3 / Trim as you go
As you put your pieces together trim any funny bits off so you can add your next straight seams. You might have some groups of shapes that go well together. In this case put a few ‘slabs’ together and then join those slabs to make a bigger piece.
Improv with slabs above (ignore the scissors in photo for now). There are three slabs joined together:
Rectangle with yellow stripes at top
Rectangle at the bottom with peach stripes
Three longs strips at the right.
#4 / Experiment
With a lap size, you can easily get one 20″ x 20″ improve piece and with a baby quilt, you can get a 16″ x 16″ piece. Probably more! With this size of work — because it’s small and not too time consuming, feel free to try something new! If you mess up, the investment of time and fabric is low. Don’t even take out the seam you don’t like, just CUT IT OUT and use the fabric again. Take the opportunity to try a new quilting technique, some hand work or embroidery or pieces some improv curves together (see next point).
#5 / Try improv curves
I did an improv curve on this one pink and charcoal pillow. I overlapped two pieces of fabric and cut a random curve in the overlapped area with my rotary cutter. Then sewed them together without too much pinning or care. Again, If it doesn’t work out, take your scissors and cut the seam out and use the fabric again. If you want to try these out, start with them and then move on to other more straightforward seams. That way, if it doesn’t work, you haven’t spent a whole bunch of time on the improv only to “mess it up” with a curve that just isn’t quite right.
The binding is a shining feature of the design of Everyone’s Got an X. It adds serifs to the top and bottom of the X, like a serifed typeface such as Garamond or Linotype Didot. It’s totally optional to do a piecing binding, but if want to give it a go, here are some things to keep in mind.
The method I use is attached the binding to the front of the quilt by machine and then hand-stitching it to the back. You could try machine-binding all the way, but this way, you can see that everything aligns well on the front.
When your X is all quilted, we first need to trim off the excess batting and backing. You’ll notice that the bar or the stripes may have bubbled outward a bit. This is because the edge is on a bias and has some stretch. Don’t worry, we can carefully trim it off, using the seam of your side borders as the reference for “true” right angles. Make sure your cut is perpendicular to those seams and you should be good to go. Don’t trim off much, just a tiny bit to correct the bulge. You should not need to trim off any of your background fabric (Fabric A).
What are serifs anyway? According to Wikipedia: “In typography, a serif is a small line or stroke regularly attached to the end of a larger stroke in a letter or symbol within a particular font or family of fonts. A typeface or “font family” making use of serifs is called a serif typeface (or serifed typeface), and a typeface that does not include them is a sans-serif one. We will be adding serifs to our X using the binding.
Time to piece the binding. Follow the directions in the pattern to join your binding pieces. Here are some tips:
Press your seams open. This will prevent extra bulk at each of the joins.
Use a shorter stitch length, like 1.2 or 1.5. This will hide any visible stitching as the binding gets tugged on.
You will have two identical strips of pieced binding. After they are pieced, fold and press them in half along the length of it:
There are only two places where we need to line up each binding strip with the quilt: In-between the arms of the X. Mark a 1/4″ from the edge of your quilt top.
Align your binding with the quilt, raw edges together; estimate where it should lie. Fold back the binding and check to see if the edges align at the 1/4″ mark. If not, fiddle until it does, then pin in place. Repeat with other point.
At first, sew only across those points and check to see if you are satisfied with your work. If not, you’ll only have to “unsew” a small section and redo it.
When you’ve got it right enough, sew in either direction and turn the corner as you would normally. One side you will have to do with the quilt back facing up, but you can find out how to do that here! Leave a generous tail for you to join the binding later. Repeat with the other binding strip.
It should look something like this! Join your tails as you would normally. And now sit down the couch, put on a show or a podcast and stitch that binding down on the back.
What is a scant 1/4″ seam allowance? Why do I need it? How do I get it? This post will answer all your questions about this quilting term!
What is it?
A scant 1/4″ seam allowance is a seam allowance that is ever so slightly narrower than one 1/4″ inch. You can notice here that where the seam folds in, the top of the assembly dips a little. A few of the fibres of the fabric that get swallowed up in that dip. A scant 1/4″ compensates for the loss of some fabric in the folds of a seam, so that the dimensions of your block remain true.
Why should I care?
See this block here? It’s from my newest pattern, Striped Scallops. There are eleven vertical seams in this 12 1/2″ (unfinished) block — ELEVEN! If you use a “true quarter inch” seam, you lose a little bit in each seam and by the end of it all, it’s noticeably smaller than that bottom rectangle, which has been accurately cut at 12 1/2″. See the teal block below.
In my experience, ignoring a scant 1/4″ is most noticeable and puzzling when a pattern has seams meeting a perpendicular (such as Banner Year and even a traditional log cabin). Multiple seams meeting at a single perpendicular, like in this Striped Scallops, exacerbate the issue. The tiny bites those seams take out your fabric start to add up!
How do I get it?
It’s a matter of testing! Cut six 2 1/2″ squares. It’s best to use contrasting fabrics and alternate them. Don’t follow my example of this six-squared gradient. Although it’s pretty, it’s harder to see what you’re looking for!
Sew the squares together into a row, using a reference that you think is a good 1/4″ seam allowance. This might be a tape line on your sewing machine, a 1/4″ foot, the edge of your normal foot. Press all the seams to one side or press them all open — whichever is your general preference. Get your ruler out and see what you’ve got.
The six squares above should theoretically add up to a row that measures 12 1/2″, right? It is actually only 12 1/8″! Yikes. If you look at the 8 1/2″ mark and follow the squares going to the left, you can see that each is a bit smaller than 2″. This means that the seam allowance is too big and I need to make it narrower.
Adjust your reference – move your tape line, change your sewing machine foot, or adjust your seam guide. I use a Janome Seam Guide (affiliate link) on my Juki. Repeat the exercise with new squares till you get accurate 2″ widths and the right overall length.
This one is five squares; each colour is 2″ and the overall length actually measures 10 1/2″. This is it! We’ve found it!
Keep a reference
I “recorded” this accurate scant 1/4″ on a postcard so that I can set up my seam guide in a jiffy. Once I found the scant 1/4″, I sewed a line on a postcard and labelled it. I keep it next to my sewing machine so if I have to set up my scant 1/4″ with my seam guide, it’s easy to find.
Pressing seams open vs. pressing seams to one side: This here is not a debate of which is better – open or to one side. Rather, I am telling you if you prefer pressing your seams to one side, make your scant test that way. If you are a press-open type, do your test with your seams open. Each method will yield different results because there is a differing amount of fabric folded under at the seam. No use testing in conditions that are not true to reality!
Different substrates: Different fabric manufacturers and different weights of fabric will have a different scant 1/4″ because of the amount of bulk at the seam. I usually use one manufacturer for a whole quilt and mostly in quilting cotton, so one test for that manufacturer usually suffices. If you like mixing manufacturers (and you should, it’s fun!), it gets a bit dicier. However, unless you are working with vastly different substrates — like cotton lawn and quilting cotton — you should be fine. Art Gallery has a noticeably different “hand” (different tactile feel to the fabric) because of its thread count so this may warrant some experimentation if you’re mixing it in. A linen/cotton blend is also noticeably heavier and will need another test.
This fabric is Spoonflower’s New Petal Signature Cotton. It felt a bit heavier than the quilting cottons I was used to using so I thought I should test it out with 5 x 2 1/2″ squares. And my hunch was right… I needed a narrower 1/4″ to get it to be accurate. This test doesn’t take too long, so if you’re in doubt, do a test with your chosen fabrics before you start a project. Especially if the project at hand is a higher-stakes one — high time or fabric investment!
There you have it. A scant 1/4″ seam allowance. It’ll help you with your accuracy!
It’s time to sew! There are not a lot of seams to sew in this quilt, but many are unconventional. There are three main things to know about: Thread choice, strip sets and offset seams. This week’s big takeaway (also a big takeaway in life) is “good enough.”
My default thread for piecing is 50 wt Aurifil 2600 — a light grey or Aurifil 2024 White (affiliate link). Something neutral and on the lighter sides is great as a go-to. But if I want to go a step further, I ask myself a few questions:
What colour is my quilt top?
What is a lightest of the main colours?
What do I have on hand?
My quilt top here is purples, plums and peach. Peach is the lightest of the main colours. I want to choose a light colour of thread in case some thread tails show up under than lightest fabric colour. I had a 50 wt peachy/rose gold on hand (Aurifil 2215) so I used that. Another reason to use a colour that is harmonious with your palette is that if for some reason your fabric pulls at the seams and the thread shows, it will still “go” with your quilt top.
I am not a fan of pinning if I don’t have to. I don’t pin when I’m putting my strips together because nothing has to really line up. Be sure not to pull any fabrics taut, just let them rest comfortably on top of one another as they run through the machine.
I prefer to press my seams to one side rather than open. For the strip sets, make sure that your seams are all pressed to one direction. This is a matter of preference, but I like the way the quilt feels when the bulk is distributed that way. It’s about the tactile texture.
NOTE: Once you cut this stripe in half (baby size), you’ll want to press one set in the other direction. This will help you “nest” your seams and reduce bulk when you’re assembling.
Cutting: Mark the centre line of your strip set by folding it in half and pressing a temporary line. Mark the centre of this line. Align your 45 degree marking of your ruler with the edge of your strip set, as well as the centre marking with the cutting edge. Be sure to closely follow the direction of the cut on the strip sets vs. the bar.
We will try our very best to align the stripes at the offset seam! Mark a 1/4″ seam allowance on the back of one strip set. I mark at the intersections only and at either end.
Align your strip sets, right sides together. Make sure your stripes’ seams a folding away from each other. Lining the stripes up: When you fold back one layer right on that 1/4″ line, your seams should make a nice diagonal — something like this:
For additional photos on this technique, check out Tip #5 in this post about lone star quilts:
Continue honing your offset seam skills when you assemble Triangles Y and Z to the “bar”.
Tip: When making the join above, sew only a little bit before and after the points. Check to see if they align and then finish off the rest of the seam. This means that if you’re unhappy with the way it lines up, you don’t have as much to rip out!
The Concept of “Good Enough”
When you have your nose right up against your work, you can only see your flaws. If your points don’t match exactly, don’t fret. Take a step back. Is it noticeable? Or is it “good enough”?
If you’re still unhappy with it once you’ve taken a step back (or even walked away for awhile), you can get your seam ripper out. DO NOT do this more than three times. The seams that join the stripe sets are along a bias edge. The more you fiddle with it, the wonkier it will get and it will start working against you!
Now Leave It Alone
When you’ve added Triangles Y and Z using offset seams and assembled the quilt top, you will have no bias edges exposed. This is the most stable this quilt will be until the binding is put on. So here is where you can take a break and when you’re ready to both trim AND baste, you can move on — which is next week on the sew-along!
Here we are at Week 2 — Cutting for Everyone’s Got An X! I hope you had fun picking your fabrics. I was so delighted to see what colours you will be working with! In this post, you will find tips on cutting your X quilt fabric.
You will notice that I have been very generous with the fabric requirements. Many of the cuts we are making are unconventional dimensions, so I wanted to leave plenty of room for errors in cutting. If all your cutting goes well, you will have a good amount leftover! So set these aside and keep them for Week 6 when we do a fun improv challenge.
Tip #1: Swatch Chart.
Use the fabric swatch chart on page 2. Since I purchased my fabric a few weeks back, I had forgotten which goes where. Having this chart will be handy as you cut.
Tip #2: Starch.
Apply spray starch or flattening spray and press your fabric before cutting. This will help keep your strips nice and straight. We will eventually working with bias edges when we trim our quilt top and this added stiffness will help with minimizing distortion.
If you don’t have starch and don’t want to buy any, don’t worry! I made my first two versions of Everyone’s Got an X without. Just handle your fabric as little as possible once it’s cut. Protecting it too much from movement will help, as well as keep any edges from fraying. I have put my cut pieces in a tray.
Tip #3: Use your ruler to measure.
Where possible, use your ruler markings rather than your measurements on your mat to cut. It will give you a more accurate cut. In addition, you will not be consistently cutting on the same spot on your mat for repeated measurements, which will eventually damage your mat.
In the image above, I’ve actually flipped my mat over so that I don’t get distracting grid lines. I am only using my ruler to measure. I needed 3 strips of 1″ x width of fabric so I cut a 3″ strip, then at the 2″ mark, then a last 1″ strip. This allows me to pick up my ruler as little as possible, as well as minimizes me handling the strips.
Tip #4: Be organized.
While we don’t have a lot of pieces for this quilt, you can save yourself trouble later on and label as you go! A simple piece of masking tape can go a long way. In the same vein, label your binding strips and set them aside somewhere safe. Check off each step as you go.
Tip #5: Butt your rulers together.
Yes, butt (my children are laughing in the background). You will have to make one or two cuts across a diagonal that will be longer than your longest ruler. Butt two rulers together to extend your straight edge.
Tip #6: Using prints.
If you are using a print for your background fabric (Fabric A), you will need to pay special attention to how you cut Triangles Y. Stack fabric right sides together, then cut the diagonal to get your triangles in the right orientation.
There we have it! Once you’ve cut everything, be sure to handle everything as little as possible to prevent distortion and fraying. I got a pretty tray for this purpose, in an on-brand colour! Be sure to post your progress with the hashtag #EveryonesGotAnX!
Digital tools are a great testing ground for quilt designs before you purchase or cut into any fabric. This post shows you how to use ColorHexa.com and PreQuilt to help you mentally mix colours. In Everyone’s Got an X, how translucent coloured stripes will look like on top of your bar and background. If you are looking to accomplish a simpler — but equally stunning colour design — that uses translucent white stripes, check out this post.
The pattern uses four fabrics to achieve the look of translucent stripes over a coloured bar on a background. When we consider using coloured stripes, we are introducing an invisible 5th colour — just as we don’t use any white fabric to represent translucent white stripes.
To start we choose three colours: A background, a bar and a translucent overlay, which I am calling Colour Z. Using the above palette as inspiration, here are my picks for the exercise. I made up the colour names; they do not correspond with any fabric lines — they are simply for my reference.
We can always estimate what “looks right” in terms of colour mixing – what that bright pink will look like on the turquoise background. But some of us don’t have the sharpest colour intuition. And those of us who do have good colour intuition will be surprised by the technically “true” answers to our colour mixing questions. Using ColorHexa.com, we are going to use two equations to find out what Fabrics B and D will look like:
Fabric A (Background) + Colour Z = Fabric B
Fabric C (Bar) + Colour Z = Fabric D
Head on over to ColorHexa.com. Enter the Background hex code + your Colour Z hex code. The tool will then spit out your mixed colour in hex code!
The result of mixing my turquoise background with the bright pink is a lavender. This will be the colour of Fabric B. I recommend you take a screenshot of the swatch so you have a visual reference. On a PC you will want to paste this in a Word document; on a Mac, you will save each of these images somewhere safe in your files.
Repeat the equation, this time with the Fabric C (Bar) hex code and the Colour Z hex code. This will be the colour of Fabric D. Again, take a screenshot for future reference.
Digitally coloring in the X
After you have your four colour swatches (excluding invisible Colour Z), you can head to PreQuilt to see how these four colours (now without your initial invisible colour) look in the Everyone’s Got an X design! Here’s a video to walk you through how to digital colour your design by approximating fabric colours with your hex colours.
Click on “Design Now”
Hit the “Colour Book” tab
Hit the “Open Colour Tags” button
Select your preferred solids manufacturer under “Fabric Companies”
Select “A” which indicates Fabric A/Background and edit it by replacing the swatch with one that’s closest to your hex code colour
Repeat with the Fabrics B through D
See how it looks!
Tips on choosing your initial colours
Using analogous colours — which are colours adjacent to each other on the colour wheel — will always give you a harmonious look.
Using a medium to light Background and Bar colour will allow your invisible colour to show through with more clarity.
Using a darker Background will give your invisible colour a muted look. Here, a very pure red shows up a muddy colour on a dark background, in contrast to its effect on the yellow bar.
Using these tools, I got some really interesting results that I would not have come up had I just relied on my own colour sense! Have fun with it!
The traditional lone star quilt is the base for Our Song, Your Reflection. This beautiful classic design uses strip sets cut on the diagonal to create a large-scale pattern. Here are some tips to make this a successful endeavour! First things first: Don’t be scared. Once you get going, it’s a ton of fun with very rewarding results.
Choosing fabrics: If this is your first time making a Lone Star, pick fabrics that blend into each other well. That means a gradient, or really busy prints in the same colour family. If your points don’t match perfectly, they’re less noticeable. High contrast fabrics are less forgiving.
Tip #1: Hands off. Be as gentle as possible with your fabric. This goes for general handling and when you’re guiding the fabric through the machine. Don’t pull on it.
Tip #2: Starch or pressing spray. The Lone Star is based on 45 degree angles, which means that you are cutting fabric diagonally across the warp or weft (straight grain) of the fabric. These are bias edges and can be stretchy and unwieldy. When you are sewing your strips sets together, use your favourite starch or pressing spray to keep your fabric behaving before you starting diagonal cuts. As you continue along, you can continue to starch/spray when you’re pressing but the first time is the most important!
Tip #3: Pressing direction. People ask me which way I press — and I say, I don’t worry about it when it comes to Lone Star construction. My reasoning is that the seams meet at a 45 degree angle and are never going to be outright stacked. The seam is going to be “spread” along a distance of the seam and are not terribly bulky (see Tip #5 for a visual of how the seams meet). If you want to be fastidious about it, you can alternate pressing directions when you are assembling your strip sets.
Tip #4: Checking your 45 degree angle. As you cut your strips from your assembled set, your 45 degree angle may start to stray from a true 45 degree. Check you 45 degree along a few “interior” seams to avoid your angle from “creeping”. If it’s starting to creep, trim off a bit to make it true again.
Tip #4: Diamond piecing. If you are sewing two diamond shapes together, mark a 1/4″ seam allowance on the back of one to get them to line up properly. Finger press the seam before pressing gently with an iron. Using a 1/4″ seam guide helps here.
Tip #5: Matching points. When it comes time to join two diamond strips together, mark a 1/4″ seam allowance on the back of one strip. I mark at the intersections only.
Align your strips, right sides together. When you fold back one layer right on that 1/4″ line, your to seams should make a nice diagonal like this:
Want to see that again? Here:
Pin them in place and sew.
See? Lone Stars are so worth the effort. Go for it and don’t look back!
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