6943 Lakeside Avenue · Richmond VA 23228 · 804-262-0005
Tue & Thurs 10-8 · Weds, Fri & Sat 10-6 · Sun 12-5 ·. Closed Monday
The Friendly Shop for Everyone Who Creates with Fabric!
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!
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rotate the square and cut off the remaining three corners. If you have a rotating cutting mat, now is the time to use it!
- 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!
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!
One of my favorite things to do is sit in front of the television in the evening with my wife and hand sew. Sometimes I hand embroider, sometimes I do English paper piecing, sometimes I do hand applique, but one of the things I wish I did a lot more often is hand piecing. I often get questions about hand piecing, but it’s honestly one of the easiest quilting techniques out there – you don’t have to worry about 1/4” seams (the way I do it), there’s no heavy equipment, it can travel with you very easily, and there’s no special stitches, rulers, or techniques. I’m going to show you my favorite way to hand piece, although it is not the only way out there, along with some of my favorite tips and techniques to make things easy.
- Thread – 100% cotton, 50 weight in a variety of neutral colors
- Freezer paper (we sell this in store, but is not on our website due to difficulties in shipping)
- Sharpie brand marker (fine tip)
- Needles – I prefer John James #11 Applique needles. Try a few different needles to find what best suits you. You will most likely want a milliner’s or a sharps/applique needle.
- Marking pencil – make sure it contrasts with all fabrics
- Thimble – optional. My favorite is the Protect and Grip thimble.
- Scissors – Larger scissors for cutting out pieces, paper scissors for cutting the freezer paper, and small embroidery sized scissors for when you’re actually piecing.
- Pins – shorter pins are better. I like the Dritz Ball Point pins (most other brands of ball point pins would not be sharp enough)
- Template plastic – optional. If you are going to be making the same block over and over again, it would be better to make your templates with template plastic rather than freezer paper (not pictured)
- Rotary cutter, mat, & ruler – optional (not pictured)
- Needle threader – optional (not pictured)
- Needle case and zipper pouches – optional, but nice for keeping track of your odds and ends
- Fabric – your favorite 100% cotton quilting fabrics!
- Pattern – try to start with a pattern that’s specifically designed for hand piecing
Let’s Start Hand Piecing!
I decided to do a few blocks from one of my favorite hand piecing patterns that we carry: Green Tea and Sweet Beans. This pattern has a variety of techniques resulting in a stunning sampler-style quilt.
Please note: I highly recommend pre-washing your fabrics. You can read all about the pros vs. cons of pre-washing in my blog entry here, but I will tell you that when it comes to hand piecing, pre-washing makes your life easier because A) washing removes much of the sizing, making the fabrics less slippery, B) washing “sproings” the fabric back on grain which will make cutting easier, and C) it helps to reduce fraying – and you will be handling these pieces a lot.
Begin by tracing all of your templates onto the dull (not shiny side) of the freezer paper with your Sharpie marker. Any pattern that is designed for hand piecing will include these templates. Most of the time the seam allowance is not included in the templates (which is what we want). Many of the templates will be used more than once, but freezer paper shapes are reusable up to about 5 times. You’ll note that some of my shapes have been traced more than once when I need more than five pieces. I also include notes on how many times each one should be cut from which fabric.
Cut out all of the templates on the marked line.
Place the freezer paper sheets on the wrong side of the appropriate fabrics, leaving at least 1/2” between all of the shapes. Make sure that the pieces fall on the straight-of-grain. If you are working with angled shapes (diamonds, triangles, etc.) the rule is that the straight-of-grain should always fall to the outside of the block as shown below. This rule is non-negotiable.
The freezer paper sheets should be shiny side down. Using a hot, dry iron, press the freezer paper shapes down for about 2 seconds per shape (or just long enough to stick to your fabric). The longer you iron, the less likely it will be that you’ll be able to re-use the shapes.
Using a marking pencil, trace around the shape with a light hand. Remove the freezer paper. Continue ironing and marking until you have all of your shapes done.
Cut around each shape with scissors or a rotary cutter with at least a 1/4” seam allowance (I often wait until right before I need the shape to trim it to help prevent fraying). You will see that I’m not very precise with my trimming, but it doesn’t matter because I’m sewing on the line!
These are the steps for sewing any two basic shapes together – I’m sewing together two triangles to make a half square triangle block, which I will later add to additional half square triangles to make a pinwheel block:
Step 1 – Choose two adjoining pieces. Place them right sides together. To align your sewing lines, place a pin through the corners of each piece. The pins should stand vertically when you’ve gotten the corners aligned.
Instead of using these pins to hold the pieces together, add more pins – it helps keep everything aligned! Pin approximately every 1 1/2”.
Step 2 – Thread a needle with an approximately 18” length of your sewing thread – no knotting is required. I use beige when I’m sewing warm colors and grey when I’m sewing cool colors.
Step 3 – Take a stitch directly through the corner leaving a 1 to 1 1/2” tail.
Take a second stitch in the same place, leaving a loop about the size of a coin.
Wrap the loop around your needle 3 times and pull through, slowly, until the knot rests against the fabric.
Step 4 – Stitch! This is just a basic running stitch. Your stitches should be approximately 1/16-1/8” long. If they’re a little long or uneven, don’t stress, they will get better with practice.
As you’re stitching, flip your project over to make sure that your stitches are falling on the sewing line on both fabrics.
Approximately every 1 1/2” (or every time you reach a pin), take a backstitch to lock your seam in place.
Step 5 – Once you’ve reached the end of your seam, we are going to use the same knot as we did to start: take a stitch directly through the corner. Take a second stitch in the same place, leaving a loop the size of a coin. Wrap the loop around your needle 3 times and pull slowly until the knot rests against the fabric. Take one more stitch to secure, and trim the thread about 1” from the fabric.
Do not press your seams.
Once you have assembled all of your segments (in my case, half square triangles), it is time to assemble your blocks! Joining two segments together uses the same process as sewing two shapes together, however when you are doing the final assembly of a block, like the two halves of my pinwheel, you run into the issue of crossing previous seams. Here is how to deal with that:
Step 1 – Pin and sew as described above. When you reach a corner, stop and backstitch, making sure to not catch any of the seam allowances.
Step 2 – Pass your needle straight through the bottom of the seam allowances at the sewing line (right at the corner, where all the seams meet) to the next section.
Step 3 – Take another backstitch right at the corner and continue sewing.
Once your blocks are assembled, you can press your seams. It is best to wait until everything is together to decide on the pressing direction. Because all of the seam allowances are left free, I was able to press this pinwheel in a spiral, which makes it super-flat.
The trick to sewing curves is pins. Or patience. I prefer pins. Below I will be piecing a Drunkard’s Path block.
Step 1 – Fold both pieces in half (making sure the sewing lines and the corners align), and finger press the center fold.
Step 2 – Place the two pieces right sides together and align the folds made above. Place a pin straight through the fold on the seam line. Add a second pin to hold the pieces in place. Here’s the important part: pin directly over the seam line and take the smallest “bite” out of the fabric that you possibly can. This will help keep your seam flexible as you sew.
Step 3 – Move on to one of the corners – place a pin through both pieces at the corner of the sewing lines. Place a second pin through the sewing line 1/4” down the seam. By doing two pins instead of one, you will ensure that not only are your corners aligned, but the first section of the seams are aligned as well. Add a third pin between the two vertical pins to hold the pieces in place. Remember to take a small bite out of the fabric, right on top of the sewing line.
Step 4 – Repeat step 3 at the other corner.
Step 5 - Sew the seam as usual, paying extra attention to the alignment of your sewing lines. If you find yourself having trouble, feel free to add more pins – make it easier to align the pins by folding the fabric into quarters instead of in half as described in step 1.
Hand piecing y-seams is so much easier than piecing them on your sewing machine. That means that all of those fancy blocks that you’ve been lusting after are now yours for the taking! I will be showing you how to do y-seams by inserting a triangle in between two adjacent parallelograms.
Step 1 – Sew your first two shapes together as usual (my two parallelograms), creating the y-shaped space.
Step 2 – Align the first edge of your triangle with one of the parallelograms, and sew as usual, from the outer edge towards the center, or y-seam. Make sure to backstitch at the end of the seam, but there is no need to knot and end.
Step 3 – Align the second edge of the triangle with the second parallelogram and pin. This may take a moment, but once you fold the excess fabric away, it’s quite easy. Sew as usual, passing through any seam allowances as if you were joining two blocks (as described above), and backstitching at the beginning.
Step 4 – Complete the seam as usual, knotting off at the end!
There are many other variations out there that include different ways to mark the pieces, cut the pieces, and sewing without a drawn line. They aren’t included here for time’s sake (and length), but one of those alternate methods may work better for you. If you’d be interested in learning some more hand piecing techniques, let me know – I was considering doing a block of the month/sew-along starting early next year here on the blog that would focus on hand piecing. Any takers?
P.S. – Keep an eye out later this month for my tutorial on a fun and easy sewing tote that’s perfect for carrying your hand piecing projects!
We have finally made our way over to Lakeside – and we are so thrilled to be here! We’ve moved just a few miles, but it feels like coming home. Our new space is near the corner of Lakeside Ave and Hilliard Rd diagonally across from Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Here are some shots from the new store, although they certainly don’t cover everything!
We will also start getting in some of our amazing fall fabric orders this week. Some of my favorite collections coming to the store this fall: Moonshine by Tula Pink, the new colors of Kona Solids, Miss Kate by Bonnie and Camille, Horizon by Kate Spain, and so many more. Mmmm… I can’t wait to sew with these beauties!
For some reason, I thought that as soon as we moved I’d be right back to blogging again – well, I was horribly wrong. I somehow thought that I’d get ahead and have a whole quilt pieced and ready to show off this week. Yeah, right. So next week we will resume our regular blogging schedule with some amazing new entries including a back to basics on hand piecing, a tutorial for an awesome sewing tote, some quilt pattern reviews, and a tutorial for a beautiful rainbow star quilt! I’ll also have more to show off on facebook and instagram, including (I hope), a series of (small) posts with suggestions for holiday gift giving – now that fall seems to be here, I can’t wait to get back to sewing.
Tell me, what are you planning on making for your holiday gifts this year? Lacking in ideas? Let me know if you need suggestions, and what kind of projects you’re looking for (for example, man projects).
See you next week!
Edit 9/16/14: I’ve chosen lucky #23 – Nancy who is working on paper piecing a quilt right now! We’ve finally finished moving the shop, so I’m hopeful that I will have some fantastic new blog entries for you starting next week.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. And this is one of those times. This week Joyce is working on the Sunflower Stitchery Folder pattern from Crabapple Hill designs. Okay, let me re-phrase that, Joyce has been working on the Sunflower Stitchery Folder – in case you didn’t know (or didn’t remember), we are moving the store this weekend! Here’s your reminder – if you need any thread or last minute supplies, our last day open in Willow Lawn is this Saturday, from 10-6.
Now, onto the embroidery. The Sunflower Stitchery Folder is a cute pattern that is meant to hold all the supplies you’ll need for your current stitchery. If you take a look at the pattern here, you’ll notice that there are all sorts of amazing details to this embroidery… Which, I think Joyce decided to skip because she loves the sunflower so much (although, she’s not done, so she might still add them back in). She’s using a combination of Seasons floss and Weeks Dye Works Handdyed floss. She’s using Weeks Dye Works Marigold floss for the sunflower petals, Seasons 8024 for the stems and leaves, and Seasons 8037 for the seeds. She always adds Pellon Shape Flex to the back of her fabric for stability, and this piece was no exception.
By now you’ve noticed that part of what is so amazing about this piece is the color in the stitchery itself. You can see because this is a work-in-progress that the color is added first – but how? Well, the Sunflower Stitchery Folder, along with most of the Crabapple Hill patterns include directions on how to get this beautiful color with just a regular box of crayons (Crayola is my favorite brand, but they don’t pay me or anything ).
Want to win a copy of the Sunflower Stitchery Folder pattern? Leave a comment below telling me what you’re working on right now and we’ll pick one winner using random.org. The deadline for comments is 8AM EST on Tuesday, September 16. (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.)
The deadline for entries is so far out because between now and then we’ll be moving! Can’t wait to see you in our new location!
I know it’s been a few weeks since I posted anything here on the blog, but this time I think I have a pretty good excuse – it’s been crazy here at Quilting Adventures with all of the preparations needed for our move in just a few days. Because things have been so crazy here, I thought I’d give you a tutorial for a quick and easy project: this English paper pieced pincushion. This pincushion is a fun project that would be perfect for holiday gifts for your sewing friends. It’s also perfect for using the mini-charms from our Mini Charm Nine Contest.
English Paper Pieced Pincushion
- 20 – 2 1/2″ squares of fabric. You’ll need 2 matching squares for the center of each of the “flowers”, 2 sets of 6 matching squares for the “petals”, and 6 matching squares for the accent squares. For the batik version I used 1 pack of mini-charms, and for the Emma’s Garden version, I used 1/6 yard of the main print 1/8 yard of the accent.
- Paper Pieces – 1″ hexagons and 1″ squares. You could increase or decrease the size of the pincushion by changing the size of the paper pieces, just make sure that you always get the same size of both (3/4″ hexagons and 3/4″ squares, etc.). Please note that if you adjust the paper sizes, you’ll need to adjust the fabric requirements accordingly.
- 100% cotton matching thread – I prefer our Mettler Silk Finish or Fine Embroidery weight (50 or 60wt)
- Hand sewing needles – I like the John James Applique #11
- Wonder Clips
- Airtex Fiberfil polyester stuffing
- Doll needle
- Coordinating 100% cotton heavy thread – I used our Mettler Hand Quilting thread (40wt) – this is used to attach the buttons
- 2 buttons at least 3/4″ across
- Standard sewing supplies: scissors, etc.
Step 1 – Baste all of your fabric to your paper pieces. I prefer hand basting, as you’ll need to remove the papers as you assemble the pincushion. If you’re wanting to fussy cut your fabrics, see the section at the end about how to do so! You’ll need:
2 hexagons – 1 for the center of each side
2 sets of 6 hexagons – these will be around the center of each side
6 squares – these form the accent band that connects the two sides
Step 2 – Piece together all the hexagons to make 2 basic Grandmother’s Flower Garden blocks. Once the blocks are completed, remove the paper from the center hexagon. Press these well with a hot, dry iron.
Step 3 – Attach the squares in the “V” shapes between the hexagons on one of the blocks. This will start to form the shape of the pincushion.
Step 4 – Start assembling the pincushion. Place the two halves right sides together. Because only one of the halves has the squares attached, they are not identical, and it may take a minute of finagling to figure out which piece goes where. Hopefully these diagrams will help:
The letters correspond to an edge and the two diagrams correspond to the two different halves of the pincushion. Keep in mind that the squares will fall in the V shapes between the hexagons, and the hexagons will abut each other. Sew all the way around, leaving open two edges to turn. I found it helpful to remove the paper pieces as I sewed. The rule to keep in mind is that you can remove a paper once all the seams around it are sewn (once it’s “surrounded”).
Step 5 – Remove the remaining papers and turn the pincushion right side out through the gap.
Step 6 – Stuff the pincushion firmly. Use small wisps of the stuffing to help prevent clumping.
Step 7 – Stitch the opening closed with a ladder stitch or whip stitch. If you like the look of the pincushion like this, you can stop here, however I liked the look of the buttons.
Step 8 – Thread a long doll needle with your hand quilting thread. Double and knot the thread. We will be attaching a button to the center of either side and pulling on the thread to make a dimple in the middle of the pincushion. To begin, make a small stitch on the center of one side underneath where your will place your button.
Step 9 – Come up through your button and go down through the other side. When you come out on the opposite side through the second button, make sure that your needle and button are centered!
Step 9 – Go down through the second hole in the button, coming up through the original button again. As you do this, pull on your thread and push down with your fingers to form a dimple. Pull as much or little as you want, just make sure to not break the thread!
Step 10 – Continue going through the buttons several time to make sure they are secured. Knot your thread, and you’re done!
Fussy Cutting for English Paper Piecing
One of the things that makes this pincushion so much fun is how I fussy cut the fabric for the hexagons. I think I will be doing this a lot more often, as it really makes the block that much more beautiful (you may even be able to convince me to do a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt this way!). Because I had a limited amount of fabric, I was only able to do this effect on the front of the pincushion. What I did for the back is chose two motifs to fussy cut, and then just alternated them – I think it still looks pretty cool!
Cutting the Fabric
Choose the motif you’d like to use in your hexagons. Figure out how big your squares need to be to cover the hexagon you’re using. Measure your hexagon from point to point and then add at least 1/2″ to that measurement. I was using 1″ hexagons which measure approximately 2″ from point to point. I decided to add 1″ to that because I wanted extra room to adjust if necessary.
Cut out your motifs to the measurement found above, making sure to center your favorite part. Mine was the bee, so I made sure that it was perfectly centered under my ruler. The squares do not have to be identical, just close to the same.
Basting the Hexagons
Next step is to baste your fabric around the hexagon. This is actually the most important part. The only thing I’ve found that works is to use Wonder Clips to hold the fabric in place:
- Place the fabric right side down on a table. Center your hexagon over top of the motif you want to use. If your motif is symmetrical, make sure that the points of your hexagon fall on the same axis.
- Fold over the fabric on the top and bottom edges and finger press. Use Wonder Clips to hold the top and bottom edges in place. Flip the hexagon over and check to make sure that your paper is centered.
- If your design isn’t centered, flip the hexagon back over and shift the fabric and repeat the above steps.
- If your design is centered, flip the hexagon over and finger press the remaining four edges. Use Wonder Clips to hold those edges down.
- Thread baste as usual. Once you’ve completed 1, it’s easy to use it as a template for your remaining hexagons to make sure they’re all the same. Don’t get too fussy about them all being exactly the same – you can go crazy trying to get them all alike! I got mine pretty close.
Tada! Now, I’m off to work on some more stuff the for the move – please bear with me as I know the blog hasn’t been as active as we have been prepping for the move. Once we move I’m hoping to get back with many, many more Back to Basics, reviews, and some really fun tutorials!