Giving back

I’m feeling very grateful today. It felt like a risk to host the You Show me Yours, I’ll Show you Mine linky, and not just because of the slightly risqué title. I felt like a middle schooler inviting everyone at school to a party and then sitting and waiting to see if anyone would come!

So to those of you who participated by linking or just by exploring, thank you! I really had so much fun and learned so much. I did not anticipate how much I would learn or how painfully I would long to go shopping!

If you haven’t played around with it yet, you can still explore everyone’s posts even though the link is closed.

And now to give back. I promised a giveaway to one lucky linky participant! And the winner is

#9 Green from So Sew Green!! Yay Green! I swear I used the Random Number Generator but I couldn’t get the code right to show it here. You’ll just have to trust me.

Here is what you have won:



64 one inch blocks (1/2 inch finished)! These are my tiny, tiny scraps from the machine paper pieced airplane pillows. Just couldn’t throw them away, and now I’m glad I didn’t! You might think that piecing 1 inch blocks would be pain. You’d be right.

And the back:


The lucky winner will also receive a mini charm pack of Bonnie & Camille’s new line Scrumptious! I added it to my gift certificate order from Southern Fabric with this giveaway in mind.

And to give back just a little more, I want to direct you to one of my favorite bloggers: Ashley at Wasn’t Quilt in a Day. Her beautiful and brave sister is about to shave her head to raise money to cure childhood cancer. So, naturally, Ashley made a quilt. Because when there’s a cause that’s what we do. Ashley is going to give this gorgeous quilt away to one lucky contributor to the campaign. I entered but I promise not to win, due to my recent winning streak… Here is Ashley’s Belle Wave quilt:


So help a quilt sister give back! She’s only requiring a small donation to enter.

Have a fabulous weekend and come back Monday to see my entry for Ellison Lane’s sewing space link up.

Perfectly perfect half square triangles and hourglass units (a tutorial)


When I made my Swooning for Baby Charlie* quilt I decided it was time: time to get those half square triangles (HSTs) just right.

(*Shout out to baby Charlie’s great grandmother by the way! Apparently she’s a big fan of my blog. You just cannot imagine how happy it made me to hear that.)

I slowed down and took the time to figure out what works for me, and now I’m passing along what I learned to you.

If you’re having trouble with your HSTs ending up too small, this one’s for you!

1.  The math.  Determine what size you need your HST to be and add 3/4 of an inch. I like to think in terms of the unfinished measurement: the size of the HST when it is a unit that is not yet sewn into your project. It will finish 1/2 an inch smaller on both sides once it is sewn into the project, but for now let’s keep it simple by just thinking about the size it needs to be when it is a lone unit.

For example, the project I’m working on (writing my first pattern, in fact!) requires me to attach HSTs to 3 1/4 inch strips so I need my HSTs to measure 3 1/4 inches. Adding 3/4 of an inch means I need to cut 4 inch squares.

2.  Cutting.  Cut a square from each of your fabrics to the size you determined in the step above.


3.  Drawing.  I use the Fons & Porter quarter inch seam marker for this, but I’ll show you how to do it without one too.

If you have the seam marker, draw 2 lines- each a quarter inch from the diagonal of your square on the wrong side of the fabric. If one of your fabrics is a lighter color, it’ll be easier to see your pencil line on that one. A mechanical pencil is the best marking tool for this job.


If you don’t have the seam marker, draw one line down the diagonal of the square.


4.  Sewing.  The directions that come with the ruler say to sew on the lines you just drew. Don’t do that! Sew just slightly to the side of that line. This is called sewing with a scant 1/4 inch seam. It takes into account that tiny line of fabric you lose when you fold the fabric over and press it after sewing. In our case, the over-cutting actually makes this less important because we are going to have a fair amount of wiggle room. But sewing with a scant 1/4 inch is still a good thing to practice.



If you are only using a center line, sew a scant 1/4 inch on either side of the center line.


Sew slowly here. You are sewing on the bias, where the fabric is weakest. If you zoom your machine too quickly the fabric will stretch.

5.  Trimming. Cut and press your new baby HSTs.


I like to finger press them open before pressing them with the iron, otherwise they don’t always open all the way.


Yes I need a new ironing board cover. And a manicure.

Use the 45 degree marking on your ruler to “square up” your triangles to the right size. It was a bit of an “ah ha” moment for me when I realized that a triangle can be trimmed to any size as long as you keep the ruler’s 45 degree line right on the triangle’s 45 degree line. That means if you are following a pattern, when it comes to HSTs you don’t have to be nervous about changing the cutting directions a bit to allow you the extra you need for trimming. You can cut the size you want to cut!




This is a little easier if you have these cute little square rulers, but you can certainly use the 45 degree angle of any cutting ruler.


Now you have a perfectly perfect HST and you can make just about 75% of all quilt patterns!

A word about the waste. Ok, so those little tiny strips of fabric can be pretty hard to part with when the fabric is this cute. But it’s worth it! The main reason you want those little edges gone is because you’ve just sewn on the bias. Any time you cut or sew diagonally across fabric (even if you go slowly) it stretches and weakens. Those edges were manhandled by your sewing machine’s feed dogs. It’s best to part with them in favor of a more accurate quilt top.

6.  Hourglassing.  (I just invented a new verb. “Mommy’s hourglassing, I’ll be there in a minute.”) If you need hourglasses instead of HSTs the process is very similar.

The math: add an inch to the size of the unit you want. Just like the HSTs, you can always trim an hourglass smaller as long as you watch the 45 degree angles and the center point.

I want my hourglass unit to measure 3 1/4 inches. Unfortunately, we cannot use the HSTs we just made because those will end up too small. We need to cut our squares 4 1/4 inches this time and then make 2 HSTs using the method described above (stopping prior to trimming). Before trimming we need to diagonally cut the HST as shown below and then join the pieces into hourglasses. One HST will yield 2 hourglasses.



This is a good place to mention that when you’re joining things like this you should make sure the 2 seams are pressed in opposite directions and then “nest” the seams together as shown below. This is how you get perfectly aligned points. A pin wouldn’t hurt but I personally don’t use them for this.


To trim, find the center measurement of your hourglass and line up your ruler there. Our hourglass makes this kind of tricky, but I want to keep it real. Half of 3 1/4 is 1.625. Eyeball it! It’ll be fine. Just make sure you trim about the same amount from each side so your center point stays centered.



And there you have a nicely square 3 1/4 inch hourglass unit with 4 clean and strong sides.

Please feel free to contact me with questions about this tutorial! I hope it helps.


Just when I was beginning to wonder whether it’s worth entering all the fun giveaways, I won! And then I won again!

The talented Michelle of Factotum of Arts sent me this adorable little pack of swatches:


It came all wrapped up like a present!


Twelve 7 x 9 swatches of “School Days” by Jumping Birds

It’s a small amount of fabric and yet so very exciting! It absolutely made my day. It makes my day again each time I walk by it.

This fabric is a Spoonflower line by Jumping Birds. I don’t know about you, but I get excited about the idea of using fabric that hasn’t already saturated the interwebs. I love seeing new things! Natasha has some other really cool designs so you should definitely check out her Spoonflower page or Etsy shop.

Here are a couple of my personal favs from the pack she sent me:

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In other “luck comes in pairs” news, I won a $75 gift certificate to Southern Fabric from Red Pepper Quilts (if you don’t know her already you should check her out- her quilts are very inspiring)!

While waiting for the coupon code in my email I have already filled my shopping cart and then edited it several times. I’m thinking Amy Butler! I don’t know why I never considered her before. I think I was scared off by the large scale of the prints. But she reminds me a lot of Anna Maria Horner (who I’m recently obsessed with) so that has to be a good sign.

So the lesson for today is: if you enter a million giveaways, you’re bound to win at least 2. 🙂 Thank you Michelle and Rita!

Open letter to friends who don’t sew (yet)

A little love for our non-sewing friends today!

About 2 1/2 years ago I was visiting my parents for the weekend. I had a little baby and we lived in a little apartment. Little baby was about 6 months old so staying home was starting to get a little too… easy? Perhaps “boring” is more honest. So when my Mom started batting her eyelashes at my Dad and talking about the sale on sewing machines at JoAnn’s, I said, “I want one too!” My sweet husband said yes and we called it a combination anniversary/ first Mother’s Day present.

I bought an adorable book about sewing for kids (Lotta Jansdotter) and headed home to sew some amazing little clothes and toys for my baby.

But… first I had to learn how to thread it. I got out the instruction manual (whoever wrote it definitely doesn’t speak English as a first language) and labored over threading the needle for quite a while. Once I had that major victory, I discovered the bobbin. What the heck is a bobbin? Shoot. Now I had to unthread my needle, learn how to wind the bobbin and then start over. I actually got out a second spool of thread in order to leave the needle threaded.

The process of setting up the machine took me an entire evening.

The next day I made this sad, lumpy little pillow:

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But it was a start! A few months later I made my first quilt and that was the beginning of the end of all other interests for me. Not long after that I discovered the online community of quilters and I was just smitten by the beauty and fun of today’s quilting (and fabric!! Oh, the fabric…).

My message to people who are interested but haven’t tried it: give it a go! It’s really not all that hard. There is so much great, free help (and endless inspiration) online. It is such a useful thing to know how to do. And even when things turn out a little lumpy (see my poor pillow above) you’re somehow still proud of the fact that you made that.

My message to my fellow passionate sewists: you gotta help a sista out! If someone admires your work, offer to teach them.

I was at a family reunion for my husband’s family a few weeks ago and brought along this english paper piecing (EPP) project (you can see my tutorial here and more about the EPP projects I’m working on here):


My husband’s lovely young cousins showed interest in it and I ended up being able to teach them how to do it! Now I’m sending them each a little starter kit.

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I don’t know if it’ll catch on for them or not, but I think it’s our duty (and pleasure) to at least try to pass on what we know. The more people sew, the more they support our community by buying fabric and books, reading our blogs, and then becoming contributing members themselves!

Linking up with the weekly And Sew We Craft Together linky party.

Sunday stash: just the text, and nothing but the text

After some internal debate, I decided that I not only like text, I love it and must buy a lot of it.

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Hope I don’t change my mind.

I’ve been having a real internal debate lately about my stash, and our recent stash showing party has only intensified it. I feel like I have multiple fabric personalities. Before I ever shopped in a quilt shop and long before I discovered the delightful possibilities online, I first discovered geometric prints via Denyse Schmidt’s line for JoAnn’s. I decided then and there that I don’t like florals or things that are… pretty. But lately that is really changing. I’m excited about florals from large scale modern Anna Maria Horner and Amy Butler to tiny, traditional Liberty London.

I’ve only been quilting a couple of years so I don’t know if these are cyclical moods or if I’ll eventually land on one of them. In the meantime, it’s a little hard to shop! I’m worried about building a (very expensive) stash that I won’t love in 5 years.

Oh well, I guess that’s what Etsy is for!

Do you have fabric moods?

Linking up my Sunday Stash with Finding Fifth.

Finish it up Friday: a double finish

First of all, you really must check out how much fun we’re having with this linky party:

It has been just incredible to see what people stash and how and why. You still have 6 days to join in the fun! And there’s a giveaway (something handmade by me since I’m not super famous enough to have sponsors)!

BUT today’s post is really about this really fun set of quilts and pillows I made for my sweet and smart nephews (they’re 6 and 7 and speak German, no big deal)!

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It started with a discussion with my sister-in-law (because let’s be honest she’s going to care more than they do). She wanted solids in a stripe pattern. Easy enough, right?

Not really.

I had such a tough time choosing colors and stripe widths. My local quilt shops haven’t quite caught on to the solids trend yet so I had to order online… And man those little digital swatches can be deceiving! It took no less than 4 tries to get the right shade of army khaki/green. Ultimately I ordered a Kona color card and that helped tremendously.

My first try actually ended up getting sliced and diced and made into the reverse side (I consider it the back side but these quilts are definitely reversible):

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The little airplanes serve as my “label” for this quilt (signed with a fabric pen) and also became the inspiration for the pillows:


I made 2 of these 24 by 24 pillows. I used a machine paper-pieced pattern from Quilty magazine. I thought the quilts ended up feeling so serious and grown up. The pillows add a much-needed fun element! The fabric is mostly Architextures with some of my stash thrown in.

These quilts were such a great learning experience for me. I learned that I don’t like working with solids. Yikes! It’s hard to admit that because I do so admire some of the modern works of art people are creating with solids. But it’s not for me people. I love fabric and pattern too much to spend so much time staring blankly at solids. On a related note, I learned that working with solids is hard. The mistakes really show when there’s no distraction! And each and every color choice really matters.

A few more fun artsy shots courtesy of my sister-in-law and her great camera:

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Darling nephews, if you’re reading this, each and every stitch is especially for you.

Ich liebe dich Neffen!

Linking up with Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts and the Paper Piecing Party at Quiet Play and Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story.

Theory Thursday: party time (dates extended and giveaway added)!

Today is the day folks!

Link up here. And then go check out everyone else’s stashes!


LATE BREAKING NEWS: By request the Linky party is extended until next Thursday, August 15!  Spread the word because we really want to see as many stashes as possible! So far it has already been an absolute blast to get these sneak peeks into everyone’s own personal fabricland.

And… what the heck… Let’s make this a giveaway! Everyone who links up will automatically be entered to win a little handmade goodie from me!