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If I could do only one thing for the rest of time, it would be English paper piecing. But sometimes I don’t want to start a massive quilt just so I can do some English paper piecing, which is why I was happy to discover the new book Tiny Obsessions by Vicki Bellino. This book has 7 awesome English paper piecing projects, all of which are small, so they are complete-able in a short amount of time. Included are some cute magnets, a mini-quilt, and these cute key chains! They key chains feature a photograph on one side, with just a paper pieced flower on the back. Now that I’ve finished one, I can’t wait to do more projects! I mean, look at the cuteness that is the cover:
The other thing I really liked about Tiny Obsessions is that she recommends some of the smaller sizes of hexies, which I hadn’t tried before – 1/4″, 3/8″, & 1/2″ (the key chains use the 1/2″ hexagons). But never fear – she also talks you through the glue-basting method, which is better for these smaller pieces. It was also so much fun to try out some new techniques! Because she shows you some new tricks with your hexies, make sure you have some of these unusual (for English paper piecing) supplies:
- A glue pen for basting
- Small, strong, round magnets for the magnets
- T-pins or flower head pins for the bulletin board pins
- Small photo frames for the framed flowers featured on the cover (she uses 2″ x 3″ frames)
- Ribbons for the key chains and luggage tags
- Either key chain split rings or 1/4″ round snap hooks for the keychains
- Zippers at least 9″ long for the cute pouch on the cover
- Photographs for the key chains and magnets
I made two of the key chains – one for me and one for my wife. The blue one is for her, and features a picture that I took of the two of us on our honeymoon. The green one will be mine, and I’m sure she’ll kill me for showing off the goofy picture in public!
Tiny Obsessions was perfect for me right now – enough English paper piecing to feed my appetite, but not so much that I get tied down with another UFO. All of the projects in here would be great gifts, or even party favors! I love all the projects, and the directions are well written. There’s a section in the front that reviews all of the basic techniques and supplies and she even talks about fussy cutting these little pieces. Best of all – the book is a smaller size, which makes it just as portable as the projects it contains! It’s perfect to grab and keep in your purse.
Want to win a copy of Tiny Obsessions? Leave a comment below telling me what you’ve been English paper piecing, and we’ll pick one lucky winner using random.org. The deadline for comments is 8AM EST on Wednesday, March 12. (If you are reading this on Facebook, please click here to leave your comment on the original blog post; Facebook comments aren’t counted towards the free drawing.)
Okay, you’ve finished quilting your quilt – now what? Time for binding! I prefer to do a double-fold binding, which means there are two layers of fabric. I like a double-fold binding because it’s easier to sew and it’s much more durable than single-fold binding.
Here are the supplies you will need to sew the binding following the tutorial below:
- Sewing machine with a walking foot
- New 75/11 Machine Quilting needle
- Thread to match binding fabric – 50 weight 100% cotton
- Marking pencil to contrast with binding fabric – I like the Sewline pencils
- Straight pins
- Sewing Edge sewing machine guide
- Rotary cutter, mat, and 6” x 24” or 8 1/2” x 24” ruler with 45 degree angle markings
- Hand sewing needle (I prefer John James #11 Applique needles)
- Wonder Clips (optional, but highly recommended)
- Thimble (optional)
- Your quilt
- Binding fabric – I used our new Confetti Dots, which I’m really loving! Here’s a formula you can use to determine how much fabric you’ll need to buy:
(width of quilt x 2) + (length of quilt x 2) = (perimeter measurement of quilt) / 40 = (number of strips needed – round up to the closest whole number) x (width of your cut binding strips – 2 1/4″ for hand or 2 1/2″ for machine) = (amount needed) + (amount for 2 extra strips) + (3-6″ extra) = how much you should buy!
Sewing together the binding:
Step 1 – Cut your binding strips as calculated above. I cut mine 2 1/4″ x width of fabric (note that I recommend cutting the strips 2 1/2″ wide for machine binding). When in doubt, cut an extra strip.
Step 2 – Cut the ends of your strips at a 45 degree angle (do both ends of each strip). This can be done using the 45 degree line on your long quilting ruler. Align the 45 degree line along the bottom of your strip near the end, and cut off the excess. The reason you are using angled seams is twofold – 1) the angled seams have a lot less bulk, which means that your binding looks flatter and 2) the binding wears better because the strain of the seam is spread out on an angle and not all hitting at one place. The result should look like this:
Step 3 – Thread your machine with matching thread. Sew with a 1/4″ seam. When placing your fabrics right sides together, the strips should be offset so that when sewn with a 1/4″ seam, the stitching line will start and end where the two fabrics meet. Repeat until you have one long strip.
Step 4 – Press all of your seams to one side. Do not press them open! Pressing them open can result in the seam splitting and falling apart over time. Once all of your seams are pressed to one side, fold the strip in half, with the wrong sides together, and press again.
Attaching the binding to the quilt
Step 1 - Put the walking foot on your machine and put in a new 75/11 Machine Quilting needle. Mark you 1/4″ seam allowance on the bed of your machine, as the width of your walking foot is not a good guide. I like to use the Sewing Edge guides – they’re sticky on the back so they stick right to the bed of your machine, but they’re also repositionable (and easy to see!).
Step 2 – Put your quilt down on a flat surface, making sure that the side you’re starting with is completely flat. Place the binding along the edge of the quilt with the raw edges aligned. Make sure that you are starting somewhere near the middle of a side. Pin, starting about 10″ past the beginning of the strip. Make sure that you are not inadvertently stretching the binding or the quilt, as doing either one could cause the edges of your quilt to ripple. Once pinned, using a ruler and marking pencil and make a mark 1/4″ from the corner on your binding fabric. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew from the first pin (which is not at the beginning of your strip) to the marking 1/4″ from the corner, backstitching at the beginning and the end.
Step 3 – Turn the corner. Take your binding strip and fold it back on itself so that the raw edge of the binding forms a straight line with the next un-bound edge:
You can see in the photo above that the binding now forms a diagonal line in the process – this is important, so go ahead and stick a pin through the angle now. Next, fold the long piece of binding back on top of itself, so the raw edges are aligned with the next side:
Underneath that fold is the angle you’ve formed in the previous step – you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Pin the rest of the side until you reach the end. Mark your corner as on the last side, and sew with a 1/4″ seam, remembering to backstitch at the beginning and end. Note: with the technique, you can only ever fold one corner at a time. If you fold all of the corners before sewing, you will not be able to turn the binding to the back.
Step 4 – Continue above process until you get to the last corner. Fold the corner, but do not pin the rest of the side. Lay the binding along the last edge. When you reach the beginning point, overlap that with the end of the binding. Mark where the point of the beginning edge of the binding meets the final strip of binding.
Step 5 – Pull the pin out of the corner, and flatten out the end of the binding strip. Align the 45 degree line of your ruler along the bottom edge of your strip, making sure that your angle is going the same direction as all of your other angles, and place the 1/2″ mark along the mark you made in the last step. We’re doing 1/2″ to account for 2 seam allowances (one on each end). Trim.
My mark is along the top edge of the strip under the 1/2″ line, but it’s hard to see in this picture. You’ll also notice that the strip starts to bend after the first few inches – that’s fine, you just need to be able to get a little bit to line up the 45 degree line.
Step 6 – Place the two ends right sides together, offsetting them as you did in the beginning. Sew with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Press the seam to one side, fold the binding back in half with the wrong sides together, and press again. Re-fold your corner, pin along the edge, and now your binding should look like this:
Sew this seam with a 1/4″ seam allowance, backstitching at the beginning and end.
Hand sewing the binding to the back:
Step 1 – Thread your hand sewing needle with a piece of the thread you used to attach the binding to the quilt which should be the same color as your binding. Cut the thread approximately 18″ long and knot one end. Don’t be tempted to cut your thread longer, it will result in tangles!
Step 2 – To begin you need to hide your knot on the inside of the binding. Flatten the binding out, and insert your needle on what will be the inside about halfway through the binding. Travel between the two layers of fabric and come out along the fold of the binding. Make sure that you haven’t accidentally gone through both layers of binding as you don’t want your thread to show on the outside!
Step 3 – Fold the binding to the back. The folded edge should extend past the seam line created from sewing the binding the front and the binding should be flush with the edge of the quilt so the quilt doesn’t get “squished” under the binding. I like to use Wonder Clips to hold the binding in place.
Step 4 – Start stitching! I use the applique stitch to stitch down my bindings. Some people also use the ladder stitch. Here is what an applique stitch looks like:
The thread is just through the binding in the beginning. Go through the backing, and travel about 1/8-1/4″ down through the backing and batting (make sure you’re not going through the front!). Come up through the backing and catch the very edge of the binding at the same time.
Step 5 – Continue stitching until you reach a corner. Right before you reach the seam line, take a stitch in place (I call this a locking stitch). It’s also a good idea to do a locking stitch every few inches as you work your way around the quilt.
Once the locking stitch is done, rotate the quilt so that the next edge is facing you. You can see in the photo above that the corner piece has already started to fold itself at an angle – that’s good! Take your needle or a pin and align it along the edge of the quilt. Fold the binding up and over, using the needle to hold the angled fold in place. Pin/clip in place. Pull out your needle.
Step 6 – Your thread is now underneath your corner piece. Bring it up through the corner…
… and continue stitching!
Step 7 – When you run low on thread (leave at least a 6″ tail), it’s time to knot off! Remove your Wonder Clips and fold the binding back. Instead of taking the next stitch up through the binding, travel back through the batting towards the seam allowance. Come up near the seam line and knot!
Step 8 – Continue until you reach the beginning!
Ta da! Now, my quilt was pretty small, so in all honesty, it took me less time to bind that quilt than it did to write this post. I kid you not. So while many people find this part intimidating, it’s actually pretty easy (and my favorite part)! I know that not everyone likes a binding this skinny, so would you be interested in a tutorial for a wider binding?
P.S. The quilt is a design of my own. It’s currently not a pattern, but if I get any requests, I can write one.
One thing I always love making is covers for Composition Notebooks – you know, the ones with the marbled covers? They’re great to give as gifts, but they’re also a chance to use those fun novelty prints that you aren’t quite sure what to do with. There are so may different ways to make these, so I was excited when I stumbled across the Composition Covers pattern by Indygo Junction because they are different than many of the notebook covers I’ve seen before. The pattern contains three different versions – one with a diagonal front pocket, a version with a Velcro closure, and a version with an accent band that would look great with embroidery. They also all have the option of adding a ribbon closure, ric-rac accents, a ribbon bookmark, or inside pockets which can hold pens and business cards. They fit all standard composition notebooks which are 7 1/2″ wide x 9 3/4″‘ wide.
I decided that it would be fun to do a notebook cover with the diagonal pocket and one with the band around the cover. Now, on the pattern, it shows the band with some machine embroidery in the middle and ric-rac on either side of the band, but I decided to just do a plain band. I also added the ribbon ties and bookmark. I chose a fabric from the new Anna Maria Horner True Colors/Dowry line, and one of our new Textured Solids. I thought it would be really cool to use the Textured Solid to add some interest – the Textured Solids are so beautiful because they have the texture of linen, but they’re softer because they’re 100% cotton. The picture below shows a bit of the texture.
After that I thought it would be fun to do another notebook cover with the diagonal pocket. What I didn’t realize when I started, though, is the pocket goes all the way around the notebook, which I think is the coolest thing ever! I love the idea that you can put something in the pocket and slide it to the back of the book to keep it hidden – I guess there’s still a bit of that kid who wants to play spy! Again I chose the fabrics from the new True Colors & Dowry lines, and this time kept the ric-rac accent on the pocket.
There are a few things that I really love about the way these notebook covers are made: first of all, I really love that you can play around with they layouts such as adding and removing accents, or adding and removing pockets or closures. I also really love the way they are constructed so that there are no exposed seams, but there’s also no small holes to sew shut by hand! The other things is that this pattern has a few nifty techniques that make everything easier – such as the way she does the diagonal pocket or the way the pockets are caught in the side seams.
The one tip I have is that the pattern calls for fabric that is at least 44″ wide, however most quilting cottons are closer to 40-42″ wide. The fabric that is used for the main front fabric is also used for the inside flaps and the lining. Since the lining doesn’t show at all, I decided to substitute muslin for the lining since I was running about 2″ short on the outer fabric. It’s an easy fix, and I can save the scraps of these pretty fabrics for something else!
I have a friend who is getting ready to move across the country and was admiring these two notebook covers. I think I may make a few to send with her – to document her travels as she drives across the country, and to write about her new life in San Francisco. I’ve seen composition notebooks that are half lined, half unlined, which would be perfect for her to add pictures. What do you think? What else would you use these for?
There are things that we encounter every day when sewing and, unfortunately, one of those things is seam ripping. It’s not very much fun no matter how you look at it, but there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to seam rip.
The whole goal of seam ripping is to pull apart the pieces so that you can sew them back together again. Usually, the problem is that you sewed the pieces together backwards, or along the wrong edge, or even the wrong two pieces were sewn together. So when you’re done seam ripping, you want to be able to turn around and sew your seam correctly without having to re-shape or re-cut your recently seam ripped pieces. When seam ripping, or unsewing, you want to make sure that you’re not pulling on the fabrics in any way. Try to avoid pulling on the seams to cut apart the threads in the middle or yanking on the threads.
Here’s how to seam rip so that you can re-use your pieces:
Step 1 – Slide your seam ripper under every third stitch and cut it. I find it easier to slide the seam ripper in sideways – the seam ripper is a little bit flatter that way, and therefore a bit easier to get under the stitch. Continue to cut every third thread across the seam:
Step 2 – Flip the pieces over so you can see the other side of the seam. Pull on that long thread. This will pop apart the seam.
Step 3 – Gently lift the two pieces apart. At this point you may still have short pieces of thread left from your original ripping – just pick them off your fabric (or use a lint roller!).
Step 4 – Press your fabrics. Find the correct pieces, pin, and continue sewing.
What you’ll notice about this whole process is that it’s really gentle. It can be very easy to distort pieces, especially if one of them has a bias edge, and this technique helps to keep things in good shape!
Hope this helps!
For a few weeks now my wife has been lamenting the state of the bag I made her. She is quite hard on bags, so this one had many issues including the straps wearing out and a pocket she had not only managed to pull apart at the seam allowance, but that she’d also completely pulled the zipper pull off (probably because the pocket had come apart at the seam allowance where she’d yanked it). Well, luckily (for her), her birthday was a few weeks ago, and once I realized how desperately she needed a new bag, I began the hunt for the perfect bag pattern. And I found one – the Super Tote by Noodlehead.
This bag is seriously roomy, so it’s wonderful for a work bag, a weekend bag, or a diaper bag (or, if you’re like me and just feel the need to carry a water bottle, camera, novel, sketchbook, notebook, calendar, and more…). What I really love about the Super Tote is that it’s actually fairly quick to put together and has quite a few pockets. Stylistically it’s fairly simple and classic, which is good because my wife is much more conservative than I am. In an effort to keep it simple, I decided to look for a fabric that had some pattern to it, but without being too distracting. I found the perfect fabrics in the new Botanics collection by Carolyn Friedlander from Robert Kaufman. The pattern calls for up to 5 fabrics, but I chose to use the same print for the straps and the exterior, thereby bringing the total down to 3. I also chose to eliminate the pattern’s use of piping and magnetic snaps.
Now, you might notice that mine looks pretty different from the pattern cover and that’s because I chose to quilt the outer bag panels instead of just interfacing them. To do this you still need to buy 1 5/8 yards of Woven Fusible Interfacing for the gusset and straps (the pattern calls for 2 1/4 yards). In addition you need 1/2 yard of 60” wide batting (this needs to be a super-thin batting such as Quilter’s Dream Cotton or Polyester in the Request or Select weight) and 1/2 yard of 58” wide Cotton Canvas or Duck Cloth (I used our James Thompson 10 oz Duck Cloth). I cut out the canvas using the pattern pieces for the outer bag and the outer pocket. I then cut the batting so that it was 1/2” smaller all the way around than the canvas. Lastly, from the outer bag fabric, I rough-cut pieces a little bit bigger than my canvas. I pinned the layers together with the canvas on the bottom, then the batting centered on top of the canvas, and the fabric on top. I put a new quilting needle in my machine (you really need a quilting needle here), threaded the machine with a thread that matched the outer fabric, and attached the walking foot. From there it was simple to just follow the lines within the fabric design to get the beautiful quilting lines! If I hadn’t been using a fabric that had straight lines in it, I may have quilted a different design, such as zig-zags, but I thought that would be too much here.
Once your quilting is complete, trim any excess fabric so it’s flush with the edge of the canvas. From here on out, you construct your bag as directed in the pattern! There’s still a lot of flex and body to these pieces, so they’re easy to sew with while constructing the bag. The one thing I will add is that having a Schmetz 90/14 Jeans needle is a must so that you can sew through all the layers when constructing the bag!
As far as tips go, I only have a few: when you construct the inside there are elasticized pockets that run along both sides (see the picture above). These pockets get tacked to the lining in a few places to divide them into smaller compartments. History has shown that my wife can absolutely destroy a bag, so I decided to add some additional interfacing where the stitching attached the top of the pockets to the bag lining in the hope that she would be less likely to rip the lining when she shoves something into a pocket. I just used scraps left over from the fusible interfacing for the handles, but you could also use a scrap of fabric, or you could completely interface both lining pieces. I also added extra interfacing to the handles. The pattern calls for interfacing just one side of the handle, but I put it on both sides of each handle (and my amount for interfacing includes that). Lastly, the pattern suggests using a magnetic snap for the large outside pocket, but I chose to eliminate it because I assumed that my wife would be carrying some of her work papers in the outer pocket and that the snap would just get in the way. Well, I was wrong, she uses it for all of her need-to-access stuff (phone, work keys, house keys, etc.), and now I’m wishing that I’d put the snap in as the pocket gaps a bit, although not enough that it’s an issue.
And, honestly, even though I’ve already started on another pattern to make myself a bag, I’m seriously considering making another Super Tote for myself – it’s just that good. Do you have a favorite bag pattern or designer? Is there one you’ve been wanting to try and would love for me to do a review first? What about magnetic snaps? I find that a lot of people are wary of trying magnetic snaps for the first time – would anyone like a demo/tutorial?