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Oct 21 14

Holiday Sewing


While I’m sure many of you have started on your big holiday sewing projects, I hope there is still room in your schedule to accommodate some smaller handmade gifts this year. In that vein, I thought I’d give you starting place for all of those gifts that you want to make this year. I went looking for small/quick-ish projects that will appeal to a wide variety of tastes and techniques – the kind of thing that looks like it took longer than it actually did! I was also looking for things that are fun to make in big quantities in case you have a large group of friends or grandchildren for whom you need similar-but-not-the-same gifts. Hopefully this list will get you going!


holiday sewing ideas - diy, english paper piece, tutorial, pincushion

First off, I went back through some of our recent tutorials, and any one of these might be a fun gift:

- Minky Baby Blankets
- Mason Jar Cozies
- English Paper Pieced pincushion (seen above)
- Snappy Mani Pouch
- And our classic fabric pillowcases tutorial


holiday sewing - sundae scallop sewing by camille roskelley for thimble blossoms

I also went back through my recent Working On entries and came up with some awesome gift suggestions there:

- Sundae Scallop Sewing (seen above)
- 241 Tote
- Bridget’s Bagettes



Our fabric companies often have some cool free patterns including:

- The Cargo Duffle from Robert Kaufman
- These cute girls’ aprons from Robert Kaufman
- Journal covers from Dear Stella
- The Dubstepper bag from Robert Kaufman
- The Snappy Mani Pouch from Robert Kaufman (shown above)
- And a whole assortment of fun projects from Art Gallery Fabrics



Last, but not least, I went through some of our patterns and looked specifically for things that would either A) be amazing and specialized gifts, or B) be quick and easy – some were both!

- The Inessa Jane infinity scarf
- The classic Cash & Carry pattern from Atkinson Designs
- Bucket Brigade, also from Atkinson Designs – these are great for storing yarn or toys!
- Knit, Purl, & Roll, by Atkinson Designs
- Pockets to Go by Atkinson Designs – these are perfect for all your sewing stuff (or knitting, crochet, etc). You can use them at home to organize, and when you’re ready to go to a class, just slide them in your tote bag! I also have had an employee point out that they are perfect for an assortment of remotes with the beer can in the middle. ;-)
- Bridget’s Bagettes (shown above) – I recently received one of these in a swap and I love it! You can adapt the sizes once you’ve made a few, but even the sizes that come with the pattern are useful for carrying your embroidery, English paper piecing, Wonderclips, or a million other things.
- All You Need is Love embroidery
- Candy & Gift Bowls – these are perfect for teachers!
- And if you’re looking for a quick and easy quilt, check out the Villa Rosa patterns!

I’ve also created a Pinterest board just for your holiday sewing. It’s called Sewing Gifts and you can find it here. I will be adding more to it over the next few weeks, so follow us on Pinterest or keep checking back to see more! There are even more tutorials on our blog that would make great gifts, along with some pattern recommendations, too! There’s also many back-to-basics articles that cover a wide variety of topics in case you run into any trouble. So, tell me, what is on your holiday sewing list? What are your favorite patterns or tutorials? Have any more questions or requests? Just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP!


Oct 17 14

Elephant Stuffed Animals – Working On


elephant stuffed animal - effie and ollie by heather bailey

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I will say it again – I love making stuffed animals. They’re one of my favorite things to sew. There’s just something about the cuteness that makes them so appealing. That, and I like tiny things. So, to give myself the chance to make yet another stuffed animal, I thought I would bring back an old favorite of mine – the Effie & Ollie elephant stuffed animal. The pattern is by Heather Bailey and is just so cute!

elephant stuffed animal - effie and ollie by heather bailey

elephant stuffed animal - effie and ollie by heather bailey

I made my elephant using the scallop print in orange from Miss Kate by Bonnie & Camille and I think it’s perfect! I could also see this elephant stuffed animal made out of batiks, 30s reproductions, or even large floral prints! The one thing I will tell you is that I was seriously not paying attention when I cut out the pieces, so I now have an extra elephant side and the print faces different directions on the ears. Whoops! So the lesson learned there is to pay attention. I love that the elephant stuffed animals only call for 1 fat quarter of fabric per elephant, and, if you are careful, you could probably get 2 from each fat quarter. You’ll note that the pattern calls for Woven Fusible Interfacing to stabilize the fabric when working with such small pieces, however I must confess that I made mine without the interfacing. I think that if you have experience with small stuffed animals or dolls, you’d be fine without it, but if you’re feeling insecure, add the interfacing. I also think that the interfacing gives the stuffed animal a different feeling, so I think it would depend on whether you were going to give this to a child or use it as a pincushion, etc.

elephant stuffed animal - effie and ollie by heather bailey

elephant stuffed animal - effie and ollie by heather bailey

You’ll also notice that the Effie & Ollie elephant stuffed animal pattern has a few additional embellishment options – you can add a heart or a star to the side of the elephant or give the elephant a little flower behind his or her ear using wool felt. I’ve done the star applique before, but this time I thought it would be fun for my elephant to have a little flower. Instead of going with the flower pattern included in the pattern I decided to give her a morning glory (yes, I know this is not a realistic flower to have behind her ear and yes, I know it isn’t to scale, but it makes me happy!). To do this I cut out a circle and just added a bit of embroidery using the back stitch to give detail to the flower. I then cut 2 leaves using the pattern and attached all of it above my elephant’s ear!

elephant stuffed animal - effie and ollie by heather bailey

elephant stuffed animal - effie and ollie by heather bailey

So, tell me, have you ever sewn a stuffed animal before? If so, what are your favorite patterns? If not, let me know if you have any questions in the comments section, and I’ll see if I can get you started on your very own elephant stuffed animal (or at least headed in that direction)!




Oct 14 14

Quilt Borders – Back to Basics


quilt borders - mini blossom quilt


Quilt borders. Almost all of us quilters have added a border (or 2, or 3, or more) to a quilt before. However, every once in awhile we hit a little bump in the road – they don’t stay flat, we don’t like the way the print looks when it’s pieced, etc. Even though quilt borders are one of the most basic things we do, sometimes it’s nice to have a few tips and tricks to make your life easier. Since I just finished that Russian Rubix quilt and had yet to add a border, I thought now would be a great opportunity to do a back to basics post on quilt borders.


quilt borders for russian rubix


Measuring your quilt borders

The most important part of adding borders to your quilt is measuring accurately. Because the center of your quilt is (usually) pieced, it has a tendency to stretch along the edges. This means that if you were to just attach your border strips (or measure along the edges), your borders would be longer than the center of your quilt, creating a ripple along the outside. The best way to avoid this is to measure across the center of your quilt, and cut the border pieces to that measurement before attaching them to your quilt. Keep in mind that you should always follow the procedure of: measure, cut, sew, and press, and then repeat as necessary.

Measure across the center of your quilt parallel to the edge you wish to border. Cut 2 border pieces to that measurement. Pin the border to the quilt, pinning from the corners towards the center. This helps to bring everything together just in case your quilt has stretched slightly along the edges. If there is any discrepancy between the border piece and the edge of the quilt, ease in the difference. Sew your border on and press the seam. Repeat for other side. Once you’ve attached the first pair of parallel borders, it’s time to add the other two. Because you’ve added your border pieces, when you measure from edge to edge this time the measurement will include your borders. Continue all of the above steps until you’ve added the required number of borders.


Cutting your quilt borders

You have two options when it comes to cutting your quilt borders: cutting them on the cross-wise grain or the length-wise grain of fabric. For an explanation of fabric grain, check out our blog post here. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. Cutting your border pieces on the cross-wise grain often uses less fabric, but you have to piece the borders. Cutting your borders on the length-wise grain helps keep your quilt flat because the length-wise grain stretches less, but it’s a little bit harder to cut.

When cutting your borders on the cross-wise grain, make sure to press the fabric well and fold it in half so that the selvages are aligned. In addition, don’t forget to straighten the edges of the fabric and make sure that all the cuts you make are perpendicular to the fold of the fabric.

Cutting borders on the length-wise grain is wonderful when you are making a larger quilt, or if you are making a quilt with wider borders (up to 9″ or so). When purchasing your fabric, just make sure that the amount you buy is equal to the side of the quilt + 2 widths of the border + a little bit extra. When it comes time to cut your borders, make sure and press the fabric well, and open it all the way. Fold it in half lengthwise several times until your piece is short enough to cut on your cutting mat. The folds should all be parallel and the selvages aligned neatly. The trick to being successful with your quilt borders is to fold the fabric very carefully. Once your fabric is folded, align a fold with one of the lines on your ruler and cut off the selvages. Measure the width of the border and cut as usual. Be very careful so as to not disturb the folds. Make sure you are using a new rotary cutter blade to cut through everything and that your are holding the cutter vertically so that the cut is accurate through several layers.


Piecing quilt borders

If you have cut your strips on the cross-wise grain of fabric and need to piece them, you can do so using a straight seam or an angled seam. I often make that decision based on how the design of the fabric looks with one seam or the other. Some prints will be more likely to show a seam than others, so experiment with both. No matter which way I piece my seams, I always press them to one side. Once a quilt is quilted the seams that are pressed open are more likely to show.

If I am doing more than one border on my quilt and I’ve pieced them, I will make sure to stagger the seams so they do not all align. The seams are much more likely to get noticed if they all align, and the bulk of the joining seams can all end up in one place. In that vein, I also try to avoid centering a joining seam along the side of quilt. Again, I feel as though having the seam centered would draw more attention to it.


quilt borders - mini blossom quilt


I hope that these tips help you with borders for your next quilt. Even though almost everyone who has made a quilt before has attached borders, sometimes we run into trouble and we’re not sure why. These techniques should make for a successful quilt border!



Oct 8 14

Sewn Cards – Tutorial


sewn cards - pumpkins

It’s that time of year again – the time for holiday cards. Every year since we got married I’ve said that we’re going to send Christmas cards (because that would make us officially grownups), but I have yet to do so. But, I swear, this is the year – and this time I actually believe it because of these awesome DIY sewn cards. And in case you love them (or don’t celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Chinese New Year, or the solstice), I’ve included some fun fall holiday motifs as well. And if you want to extend them into next year, it would be very easy to do hearts, flowers, stars, etc., for a variety of holidays!

sewn cards - winter trees


Supplies for Sewn Cards

  • Scraps of fabric in a variety of sizes and colors (charm, mini-charm, and strip packs provide a wonderful assortment of colors if you don’t have any scraps)
  • Paper-backed fusible web – I would recommend Wonder-Under by Pellon
  • Machine thread (this is a great way to use up the end of spools and those random bobbins)
  • Card stock – I used 110lb white card stock OR pre-made note-cards (note that pre-made cards will not work if you want to add text with your computer)
  • Computer, printer, and publishing program (optional)
  • Sewing supplies – scissors, rotary cutter, ruler, marking pencil, Sharpie (for marking fusible web)
  • Download and print the pattern sheet found here. Make sure to print to 100% (uncheck the box that says “fit to page”).


Sewn Cards

*See note at bottom about adding wording if you so desire. It needs to be done before the embellishments are added. I like adding words to the interior because then I don’t have to think of something amazing and unique I can just write “love…” at the bottom.

Step 1 – Cut your card stock to the necessary size. I like two different sizes: a side- or top-fold card at 5 1/2 x 4 1/4″ (folded) or a single note-card style at 5 1/2 x 4 1/4″. To create a folded card, cut an 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet of card stock in half lengthwise to yield a piece that is 5 1/2 x 8 1/2″. Fold in half. To create the single note-card, just cut an 8 1/2 x 11″ piece of card stock in half in both directions. Please note: if you wish to add text to your cards, you need to do so before you cut the sheets of paper – see note at the bottom.


Step 2 - Trace the appropriate templates onto the paper backing of the fusible web with a Sharpie brand marker. I’ve included extra pumpkins and a variety of trees so that you can pick and choose what you want to use on your cards.

sewn cards - tracing shapes onto fusible web


Step 3 – Attach fusible web to the back of your scraps following the manufacturer’s instructions.

sewn cards - fusing shapes


Step 4 – Cut out your shapes using fabric shears or pinking shears. Remove the fusible’s paper backing.

sewn cards


Step 5 – Arrange the shapes on your card stock and fuse down all of the shapes. Note that some shapes need to be layered, such as the two pieces for the Chinese lanterns. Consider how layering some of your shapes can also be used to create depth, as shown below. When fusing on card stock, make sure you use a dry iron on the silk or wool setting. Iron for approximately 3-5 seconds. Let cool under a heavy book.

sewn cards


Step 6 – Stitch down the shapes using coordinating thread. Use old machine needles for this – paper dulls the needles faster than fabric, but the needles also do not need to be super-sharp to puncture the paper. Slightly increase your stitch length to around 3 or 8-10 stitches per inch.

sewn cards - winter


Step 7 – Fill out your sewn cards and mail them!

sewn cards - fall


Optional – if you want to add words to your card, either on the interior or exterior, use a publishing program on your computer to choose a font and design the card. Print the card before attaching any embellishments. If you have Microsoft Publisher they have some easy card templates – you can choose from a variety of sizes. Then choose your wording (such as Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas, etc.), keeping in mind that you will be adding your fabric embellishments later.




Oct 1 14

Russian Rubix – Working On


Russian Rubix by April Rosenthal for Prairie Grass Patterns


Several years ago while at Market, I discovered a relatively new pattern company by the name of Prairie Grass Patterns. I picked up a copy of their beautiful and unusual pattern called Russian Rubix and ever since that day (which was 2 or 3 years ago), I’ve been dying to make this quilt. Many quilts these days are made with the hexagon shape (which I love!), but this pattern takes it to a whole new level and uses octagons. Now, normally, you can get an octagon by making a snowball-style block by sewing 4 triangles to each of the 4 corners of a square, resulting in a beautiful block. After looking at this quilt, however, I quickly realized that the traditional method of making a snowball block would not work for the Russian Rubix quilt due to its unusual layout. That being said, this quilt is not difficult to cut or piece – just different. In fact, I have some tips to help you cut all of those octagons (and many other unusual geometric shapes) later in this post!


Russian Rubix by April Rosenthal for Prairie Grass Patterns


After much wishing and wanting, the day has finally arrived for me to make my Russian Rubix quilt! I decided to make the throw size, which is a generous 57 x 68 (no fighting over this quilt on the couch!). I chose Kona White as my background and added a variety of basics to coordinate. The cool thing about choosing basics was that it was easy to find many fabrics that coordinated, but I didn’t have to worry about cutting up animals or big flowers. It would be very easy to replicate this in different colors – all of the basics can be found on our website here and they can all be found in one section of our store – so pick a color and have fun!


Russian Rubix by April Rosenthal for Prairie Grass Patterns


I have nothing to say about this pattern other than it was wonderful! The quilt is beautiful and I loved making it. It is not the fastest quilt in the world to make, but it’s not very involved, either. One thing that I used along the way is a trick for cutting octagons. Because I needed to cut 160 octagons out of my colored fabrics, I didn’t want to make a template, trace around it, and then cut the shapes out with scissors. I also didn’t really want to make a template out of template plastic and spend my time trying to not cut off my fingers. Well, I have a solution for that, and for cutting all sorts of geometric shapes:

  • Trace your shape onto template plastic with a Sharpie brand marker and cut out. Hold it up to the original shape to make sure they are identical.

russian rubix by april rosenthal for prairie grass patterns - cutting octogon quilt shapes

  • Using painters tape, tape the template to the bottom of your regular rotary cutting ruler, making sure that the edge of the template is flush with the edge of your ruler. You want to tape it to the bottom because it’s more accurate.

russian rubix by april rosenthal for prairie grass patterns - cutting octogon quilt shapes

  • Cut squares, rectangles, or strips that are the same height as your shape. In this case, I cut out squares. If I were doing triangles, I’d probably start with a strip. The square size was specified in the pattern and it is the appropriate height and width of the octagon.
  • Align the template with your fabric square, leaving one of the corners hanging out, and cut.

russian rubix by april rosenthal for prairie grass patterns - cutting octogon quilt shapes

  • Rotate the square and cut off the remaining three corners. If you have a rotating cutting mat, now is the time to use it!

russian rubix by april rosenthal for prairie grass patterns - cutting octogon quilt shapes

  • Repeat with all shapes until completed.

I hope that system helps you with many quilts to come. I’ve used it for a variety of projects when there is no template available, and it’s perfect for the Russian Rubix quilt!


Russian Rubix by April Rosenthal for Prairie Grass Patterns


Now, you’ll probably notice that my Russian Rubix quilt does not yet have a border on it. When I picked out all of the fabric I thought I would maybe use a shot cotton in dark blue, but then I ended up not getting it because I wasn’t sure. What do you think? Should I use another basic? Repeat a basic already used? Try and find a print with all those colors to tie it together? I’m at a total loss…


Thanks for your opinion!