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Hand embroidery is a great summer technique – it’s soothing, requires little in the way of tools, and is highly transportable. I love that I really only need my fabric, a hoop, floss, a needle, and a pair of scissors. But the thing that always deters me from embroidery projects is the actual work of getting the design onto the fabric. Now, I know I could purchase patterns that come with iron-on transfer sheets, but I often like to tweak the designs a little bit, which you can’t do with a sheet like that. Thank heaven I’ve found a new favorite tool for transferring embroidery designs – Sulky’s Iron on Transfer Pens. They work kind of like regular markers, but the ink will transfer to your fabric with heat! The pens are not guaranteed to be permanent, which is good, it means that with time the marker lines may fade away after washing.
The Sulky Iron on Transfer Pens are available in a 4 pack or an 8 pack with 8 different colors. For transferring embroidery designs onto fabric I like to first consider how I will be stitching and with which colors. I like to try and choose a color of pen that will either blend with my floss color, or not stand out too much from the fabric. Lately I’ve been stitching on our new, natural-colored linen-cotton blend, and I’ve found that the brown marker stands out just enough from the fabric to be seen, but blends in a bit in case I stray from the line.
When you open up these markers for the first time, or after a long period of storage, you’ll need to get the ink going again. Press down on the tip a little bit until it retracts for just a second to get the ink flowing. Repeat until the marker works on a test piece of paper. Trace the design from a book or print-out (or just free hand it!) onto regular copy/printer paper or loose-leaf notebook paper (I always seem to have some). Keep in mind that any mark you make with these will transfer to your fabrics, so try to avoid doodles or notes. If you make a mistake, it’s easy enough to recycle the paper and start over (way easier, and cheaper, than starting with new fabric). The darker your lines, the darker they will be on the fabric. I’ve discovered that if I don’t get the ink flowing all the way when I open the marker, I can get a fairly thin line, which I like because I only use two strands of floss when stitching. If you like thicker lines, just use the marker as is. Feel free to experiment with pressure and angle to achieve the desired darkness and thickness!
Once your design is traced, heat your iron on the cotton setting with NO steam. Place a completely clean, blank sheet of scrap paper on the ironing board to prevent bleed-through, and then place your already-pressed fabric on top. Place the sheet of paper with the design face-down on top of your fabric, making sure it’s placed where you want it. Iron over the design for a few seconds – I would start with around 5. Peek to make sure your design is transferred. The longer you iron, the darker the design will be. If you like a light line, you may be able to use your traced design for more than one transfer. Now you’re ready to stitch!
Now, there’s just one or two things to keep in mind when using the Sulky Iron-On Transfer Pens for transferring embroidery designs: first of all, if you are doing anything with words, they need to be traced backwards. My favorite method of doing this is as follows:
- find the letters you like in a book or as a printed font
- using a dark-inked fine-tip marker, like a Sharpie, trace the desired letters onto your paper
- flip the paper over, and trace the Sharpie-d letters with your Sulky Transfer Pen in the desired color
- transfer as directed above!
The other thing to keep in mind is that these need to be stored carefully. Store the pens horizontally!
Now I’m off to embroider!
Well, you all are going to love this. This month, I sewed ahead on my 8 Pointed Star block for our little hand piecing block of the month. It was done quickly and early and photographed and everything, but we actually haven’t had internet almost all week here at home. So, what does that mean? It means that I’m madly scrambling to finish up this blog entry at 9:15 on Friday morning, as opposed to my usual plan, which involves writing the entry at least one day in advance, if not several.
But the good news in all of this, for you at least, is that the 8 pointed star block is simple and easy to sew, all while giving you the chance to really perfect working with bias edges and y-seams. It’s also got very few pieces, so if your summer sewing is being disrupted by vacations and visitors, this block is easy to complete or perfect to take on a trip.
8 Pointed Star Quilt Block
- Trace 8 diamonds onto assorted dark fabrics for points. Unless fussy cutting, try to make two of the edges fall along the grain. Cut a 1/4″ outside the drawn lines, as the lines are your sewing lines.
- Trace 4 squares and 4 triangles onto either assorted lights or one light fabric. The long edge of the triangle should be on the grain. Cut a 1/4″ outside the drawn lines, as the lines are your sewing lines.
8 Pointed Star Block
Step 1 – If using assorted fabrics, feel free to lay out ahead of time to choose an appropriate distribution of colors. Once that’s determined, choose two adjacent diamonds and align as shown. Place right sides together and pin. Sew along drawn line. Do not press seam.
Step 2 – Take the next diamond in your star and align as shown. Place right sides together, pin, and sew along marked line. Do not press.
Step 3 – Continue in this manner until you’ve made half of the star (4 diamonds together).
Step 4 – Repeat steps 1-3 until you have the second half of your star. Place the two halves right sides together and piece the final straight seam. Do not press.
Step 5 – Lay out your background pieces behind your star so that you have a placement reference for all of the pieces.
Step 6 – Take one of the background pieces and place it right sides together against the adjacent diamond point. Pin and sew from the tip of the point towards the center. Backstich, but do not tie off when you reach the end of the seam.
Step 7 – Take the second edge of your background piece and turn it to align with the next diamond. In the picture, above, you’d be taking the left edge of the background square and aligning it with the green diamond. Pin. Sew along the line, beginning with a backstich and tying off at the end. You’ll notice in the picture below shows the star being bent to accommodate this stitching – that’s fine!
Step 8 – Continue this process with each of your background pieces, one at a time.
Step 9 – Once you’ve pieced in all of your background shapes, it’s time to press the block! I began by pressing the center of the star in a spiral, and then just let the rest of the seams fall where they wanted.
Meet Diving Board. I’ve been wanting to do another quilt tutorial for awhile now, but I’ve been wanting to do something that will use smaller pieces or fat quarters, as opposed to my last two baby quilts which used yardage. While surfing around the internet a few weeks ago I was suddenly struck with the idea for this Diving Board quilt! It was fun and easy to make, but I’ve spent more time debating on names than you would believe. While working on it, I alternated between the “U” quilt, U2 quilt, and the You-ee Two-ee quilt. Suffice it to say, I those were definitely working titles. So yesterday I posted a small picture of it on my personal instagram page and asked for name suggestions – so I’d like to give an honorable mention to Surf and Turf and Staying Cool (from a sweet customer), U Turn (from my mom), and Elements (from my wife). The final name was suggested by Lara, who works here, who saved my butt by suggesting it around 8am this morning!
Now, there’s a few things I really love about the Diving Board quilt: first of all, it uses fat quarters. In my opinion, that’s one of the easiest ways to go. And because it’s just two color families, you really have a chance to play around with some of your favorite fabrics. Secondly, while this looks super crazy, the quilt is made up of just one block, which can be rotated and pieced together a myriad of ways. Because the block is exactly half as wide as it is tall (or vice versa), it can be fit together in all sorts of crazy ways, but it’s still easy to piece the quilt together. Thirdly, this quilt is really, really easy to make bigger. Each main fabric fat quarter makes seven blocks and each accent fat quarter makes 20 blocks. It would be easy to purchase additional fat quarters and add blocks and rows as needed. Lastly, and I know this is minor, but I tried to be really efficient with my use of the fat quarters – it always bugs me when there’s a lot left over! You’ll have enough room to pre-wash your fat quarters if you desire, and a little, teensy bit of extra, but all in all, this isn’t a project where you buy a bunch of fabric and only use 75%.
Diving Board Quilt
** 1/4″ seam used throughout
- Main color – 10 assorted fat quarters (I used 10 assorted basics in blues and teals)
- Accent color – 4 assorted fat quarters (I used 4 assorted basics in orange)
- Sewing machine + coordinating neutral piecing thread
- Rotary cutter, mat, + ruler at least 6 x 24″
- Regular sewing supplies: scissors, pins, iron, seam ripper, etc.
Step 1 – Press all of your fat quarters. Cut them all into 2″ strips parallel to the selvage, as shown. They should all be approximately 2 x 18″.
Step 2 – Separate the accent fabrics from the main fabrics and divide them into stacks as follows -
- Stack 1 – 3 strips of each fabric (30 total)
- Stack 2 – 3 strips of each fabric (30 total)
- Stack 3 – 1 strip of each fabric (10 total)
- Stack 4 – 3 strips of each fabric (30 total)
- Stack 1 – 8 strips of each fabric (32 total)
- Stack 2 – 2 strips of each fabric (8 total)
Step 3 – Take stack 1 of your main fabric and stack 1 of your accent fabrics and pair together. Make sure to mix them up so the same two fabrics don’t always end up together! Sew together along the long edge. Press open. Note: there will be two extra accent fabric strips.
Step 4 – Take stack 2 of your main fabric and match them to the units sewn in the last step, making sure that the two main fabric strips match. Sew the main fabric to the accent fabric along the long edge as shown, and press open:
Step 5 – Straighten up the end of your strips sets and cut into 8″ lengths as shown. You should get 2 from each strip set.
Step 6 – Take stack 3 of the main fabric and stack 2 of the accent fabric and cut the strips in half to yield 2 x 9″ strips. Repeat the process as done above with these shorter strips: match a main strip to an accent strip and sew along the long edge. Press seam open. Add matching main fabric strip to the opposite side of the accent fabric and sew together along the long edge. Press seam open. Straighten the end, and trim to 8″. You will get 1 from each strip set. Please note: there are a few extra accent strips here to give you choices!
Step 7 – Take stack 4 of the main fabric and cut seven 5 x 2″ rectangles from each of the fabrics [note: from each fabric, not from each strip]. There should be enough strips to have a few extra!
Step 8 – Take the 2 x 5″ rectangles cut in the last step and sew them to the short ends of the strip sets made in steps 5 + 6.
Step 9 – There are many layout options for this quilt, but the thing to keep in mind is that you want the quilt to remain the width of 10 short block sides and the height to be 7 long block sides. You can twist and rotate the blocks whichever way you want – two short sides are the same height as the long edge of one block, which allows you freedom to move around things as you desire. If you’re feeling uncertain, place your blocks as I’ve done with mine and then rotate them if so desired.
Step 10 – Sew the quilt top together in whichever manner is easiest for you. I sewed the blocks together into units, the units into rows, and then sewed all the rows together. Press all seams open.
Enjoy your fun new Diving Board quilt! I am so excited about quilting this because I feel like there are so many options, for both hand and machine quilting. I’m thinking straight lines on the machine either vertically or on the diagonally. If I were to do it by hand I might actually quilt the Us in either a coordinating blue-ish thread or in a contrasting orange. Or maybe even white.
Edit 7/1/15 10:15: Our lucky winner is number 21! Congratulations! I’ll be contacting you soon about getting your hands on this pattern. In other news, this blog will be taking a short break over the holiday weekend for a chance to recuperate – I’ll see you next week with more new awesome reviews, back to basics, and tutorials!
You know how sometimes you look at the cover of a pattern and you either think “I could never replicate that cuteness” or, even worse, you think you can do it and then try it and it doesn’t look anything like the pattern cover? Yeah, the Fresh Picked Pincushion pattern from Heather Bailey is not one of those – it was an absolute breeze to make!
The Fresh Picked Pincushions pattern has options for 5 different pincushions: a pear, apple, tomato, and two different strawberries. I felt like I should make one that was different from the cover, but that pear was really calling my name! The pattern uses 1-6 fabrics and suggests using quilting cotton, wool felt, corduroy, velveteen, and other fabrics for your pincushion. I decided to keep it simple on the first one and chose one of the new prints from Morning Walk by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery Fabrics, along with a coordinating wool felt – I used Gold. It calls for some additional, basic notions: coordinating thread, some Shape Flex interfacing, embroidery floss for details on the leaves (which I skipped), and some other odds and ends for the different shapes.
I know you’re used to me making some tips or suggestions about a pattern, but with this one the only thing I can say is that I wish I’d taken the time to add the embroidery details to the leaves. I skipped them because I thought I wouldn’t have time, but the reality is that the Fresh Picked Pincushion pear only took me 2 hours, start to finish! I don’t know about you, but I often spend more time deciphering bad patterns than that. I can be a bit stingy with hand-made gifts for people, but the Fresh Picked Pincushion pattern will certainly be going on my list of to-make holiday and birthday gifts – perfect for any sewer or quilter in your life!
Want to win a copy of the Fresh Picked Pincushions pattern? Leave a comment below telling me what you’re going to be working on this summer, and we’ll pick one lucky winner using random.org. The deadline for comments is 8AM EDT on Wednesday, July 1.
Can you believe we’re half-way into our hand pieced quilt? I am so excited. Although you will notice that there are only five blocks that I’ve finished – the churn dash block still isn’t done. Whoops! This month I’m introducing you to the bow tie block. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, but it has quite a bit of versatility, so even I was hooked. It’s also introducing a new technique – Y-seams – which are so much easier to do when you are hand piecing than when you’re sewing on the machine! This is a great block with which to practice the Y-seams as it’s fairly simple.
Bow Tie Block
*Download this month’s templates here. Once printed the large square should measure 6″ and the smaller square should measure 3″. These templates are for tracing your sewing lines. Once traced, cut 1/4″ outside the drawn line all the way around.
- 8 – main fabric pentagons
- 4 – center squares, cut from main fabric(s)
- 8 – background pentagons
Step 1 – Take two of your print pentagons and 1 print square and lay them out as shown. Pin the square to the pentagon along the shortest edge with the right side facing. Piece. Do not press.
Step 2 – Repeat with the second pentagon.
Step 3 – The next part is to add the two background pentagons to the block section. The block pieces will align as shown in the picture below, with the shortest edges of the background pentagon also touching the center square.
Step 4 – Place one of the background pentagons right side against one of the print pentagons as shown. Pin. Sew to the end of the seam, knotting at the beginning and backstitching at the end – do not cut the thread!
Step 5 – Pivot the background pentagon so the shortest edge is now aligned with the square. Pin. The print pentagon may fold a little, just make sure it doesn’t get caught in the next part of the seam. Avoid sewing through the seam allowances, just as you would when piecing a long straight seam. Sew the seam – begin and end with a backstitch.
Step 6 – Once the center section is sewn, pivot the background pentagon again so that it now is aligned with the second print pentagon. Pin. Piece, remembering to not sew through the seam allowances and to backstitch at the beginning and knot at the end.
Step 7 – Repeat with the second background pentagon. Press seams as shown.
Step 8 – Repeat 3 times to make a total of 4 bow tie blocks. There are 3 different options for block layouts – choose your favorite and piece together!
Pretty easy, huh? One thing to note – if you’re doing the 6″ blocks and need a little bit of time to catch up, feel free to use the large templates and make just 1 bow tie!