Lawn diamonds quilt pattern tips & tricks

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In this blog post I provide a resource guide for my Lawn Diamonds quilt pattern (available here). These are all the extra things I’d tell you if we sewing together here in my sewing room!

If you’ve never machine paper pieced, here is a good video tutorial. On the scale of paper-piecing patterns, Lawn Diamonds is incredibly simple. There’s no reason at all a first-timer should feel intimidated by it.

If you’re wondering about using fat quarters for this pattern, you definitely can. You’ll be able to get 10 center diamonds from a fat quarter so you’ll need at least 12 if you want to make the 54 x 60 quilt shown in the pattern.

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That extra strip on the right should be just about the right size for a scrappy binding.

You can also use fat quarters for the other shapes, simply refer to the yardage requirements and assume 4 fat quarters for every yard plus an extra 1 or 2 to account for any waste.

If you’re wondering how to cut from yardage, I always cut my longer side from the width of fabric and then sub-cut the smaller edge. So for the 8.5 x 2.25 shape I’d cut an 8.5 inch strip and then sub-cut 2.25 inches. This is a great opportunity to stack and cut multiple strips at a time because accuracy is not very important at this stage for paper piecing.

If you want to make this quilt quickly, the fastest way to approach it is assembly-line style. Do all of your cutting first. Stack your center diamonds with the paper templates and sit at your machine and sew, sew, sew until you’ve attached all the Section 1’s. Now trim and press all those seam allowances. Repeat for the other sections. When I made my 2 versions of this quilt I did all my cutting in one day and then sewed one section a day after that. It came together surprisingly fast!

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If you’re having trouble keeping track of color placement, use the paper templates and coloring page. When I made this quilt the first time I actually wrote the colors right on the coloring page AND the paper templates so I could check, double check, and triple check.

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This was particularly necessary for that version because the small triangles on top were a different color than the ones on bottom. I didn’t have to do that for the second one because all of the small triangles were the same throughout the quilt.

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If you have any questions along the way please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am extremely accessible on Instagram and by email (sarahschraw@gmail.com). Good luck and have fun!

Stockings: an instagram tutorial

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I posted this mini-tutorial on Instagram and I thought you guys might want to see it here too. If you make any stockings with it, be sure to send me a photo!

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Step 1: supplies

  • stocking template (the one I used for this tutorial is from Diary of a Quilter, but I enlarged it when I made them for my family)
  • 2 quilted panels 9.5 by 16
  • 45 inches of single fold bias binding
  • 2 nine-inch pieces of double fold binding
  • 1 hanging loop (I made mine using a 3 x 6 inch piece of fabric folded multiple times and then stitched closed)

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Step 2: use the template to mark and cut a front and back for your stocking (be sure to reverse the template for the back)

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Step 3: sew the double fold binding to the tops

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Step 4: place the front and back wrong sides together and sew with a 1/4 inch seam

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Step 5: attach the single fold binding, leaving 2-3 extra inches at the top

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Step 6: hand sew the binding down, folding and flipping the extra at the top into the stocking

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Step 7: attach the loop (very securely if you tend to overstuff your stockings like I do) and you’re done!

Scots plaid block (a tutorial)

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I am in the peace circle of the do. Good Stitches charity bee and March is my first month to choose the quilt design. How exciting!

I recently purchased 500 Quilt Blocks (love!) and for some reason this simple block is my current favorite.

Here is a little tutorial for my bee mates and anyone else who’d like to try out this block.

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It is extremely important to note that the numbers in the graphic represent the finished dimensions of the components. For cutting purposes, simply add a half inch to each. For example, you would cut a 6.5 x 6.5 inch square for the large square in the bottom left corner.

To assemble the block:

  1. Join the 6.5 inch square to one of the 3.5 x 6.5 inch rectangles.
  2. Join a 3.5 inch square to the other 3.5 x 6.5 inch rectangle.
  3. Join the two pieces from steps 1 and 2.
  4. Join one of the 3.5 x 9.5 inch rectangles to the piece from step 3.
  5. Join the last 3.5 inch square to the last 3.5 x 9.5 inch rectangle.
  6. Join the pieces from steps 4 and 5.

The block will measure 12.5 inches when assembled and finish 12 inches in the quilt top.

Here are the 2 blocks I completed.

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For the peace circle: if you can, I’d love the squares to be flowers (large scale if you have it, but medium or small is ok too) and the rectangles to be low volume (or light colored) dots or stripes. Other large-scale prints are good too (birds, trees, etc). Try to stick to the colors show here – purple, pink, green, yellow, orange, blue/turquoise. Just do your best, use what you have, and have fun! Oh, and please make 2 if you can.

Tutorial: Cut a yard of fabric in a flash

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Have you ever done a swap?

There are all kinds of them out there! People swap fabric (of course) but also finished blocks and even finished projects (usually small projects like mini quilts, bags, etc).

I recently joined an Anna Maria Horner charm square swap on Flickr (it’s full now but I’m willing to bet there will be another round soon). We each send 2 sets of 56 charm squares (5 inches) of 2 fabrics and get 2 sets of 56 different fabrics back.

I ordered some of AMH’s 2 new lines Dowry and True Colors.

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(BTW, don’t be confused if you search for True Colors at your go-to fabric sources and find multiple lines coming up under that name. It’s actually a new collection of several lines by several Free Spirit designers- all basics intended to blend with each designers’ individual typical palettes).

When I made this order I ordered an extra yard of 4 different prints for my contribution to the swap (I signed up for 2 slots, so I have to send 4 sets of 56 charms).

What’s fabulous about this is that it’s incredibly fast to cut 56 charm squares from one yard of fabric. It would take way longer to go through your stash and cut 56 charms from 56 different fabrics (if you even have that many!).

As I was cutting these charms yesterday I was thinking about my cutting tutorial from my Your 1st Quilt series. I didn’t discuss cutting multiple pieces at a time because I honestly don’t think that’s a good idea for beginners. But just in case some of you might benefit, I thought I’d do a really quick tutorial on how I cut a yard of fabric if I’m fortunate enough to need a lot of one particular size cut.

I should give credit to Camille Roskelley’s excellent first Craftsy class. I do it a little differently, but this is definitely inspired by her method and I highly recommend her class. She has a second class out now that I’ll definitely be checking out.

A yard of fabric in a flash:

1. As always, starch and press your fabric first.

2. Now hold your fabric selvedge to selvedge so that it hangs straight and place it on your cutting board. (I explain this fully in my introductory cutting tutorial here.)

3. Line up a line of your ruler with the bottom, folded edge of the fabric. Create a straight, fresh edge on one side.

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4. Working from your new fresh edge, cut into 5-inch strips. To line up your ruler with the folded edge you’ll have to rotate the board or go to the other side of your table.

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Each time make sure you are getting a good 90-degree angle. Sometimes you may need to create a new, fresh edge if that angle somehow gets off.

5. This is where it gets fancy! Carefully lay out as many 5-inch strips as your cutting board and ruler can handle. I have a large board but only a 24 inch ruler. My setup can handle 4 strips at a time.

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You’ll line the strips up using the lines of the board, but use your ruler to measure and cut.

5. Create fresh edges again by cutting off the selvedges.

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Then rotate the board and cut your strips into squares.

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Frequently double check for 90 degree angles on all corners.

If you are having trouble with the ruler slipping at the end, try pausing to move your hand higher up the ruler. I usually move my hand half way through a long cut like this. You may even want to move it twice if your ruler is particularly wild.

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When you get to the end you’ll have 56 charm squares and some small scraps left.

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I do not like to stack multiple strips, even though that would make this even faster. I have not had good results when I’ve tried that, so I don’t do it.

Accuracy is more important than speed, so check your accuracy often. If you are not getting good results, you may need to change your cutting blade or simply try different methods until you find one that works for you. This is the method that works for me!

Your 1st quilt: introduction

Welcome to the first post of the Your 1st quilt series!

Here is what you can expect in the next few weeks:

  • Tutorial 1 – Introduction & supplies
  • Tutorial 2 – Starching & cutting
  • Tutorial 3 – Piecing & pressing
  • Tutorial 4 – Backing & basting
  • Tutorial 5 –  Quilting
  • Tutorial 6 – Binding

Today’s post will include definitions, costs, and supplies. I’m going to try really hard in this series to assume nothing about your knowledge of quilting. Feel free to skip ahead if you already know something or if you get bored.

Also, it should go without saying that these are all just my opinions. This is how I do it. I absolutely encourage you to utilize as many sources of knowledge as there are available: youtube, other blogs, magazines and books, craftsy, etc.

What is a quilt?

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Generally a quilt is a blanket made of small pieces of fabric sewn together into a larger piece. That process is called patchwork. The patchwork quilt top is then sandwiched with batting and backing and these layers and then sewn together and bound on the edges. The sewing of the layers is called quilting. Even if the quilt top is not patchwork (i.e. if it’s all one fabric), it can still be a quilt. This is called a whole-cloth quilt.

The distinguishing feature of a quilt is that it is made of layers of material sandwiched together and sewn repeatedly in the pattern of your choosing. Sometimes a quilt might be smaller than a blanket and used as a wall hanging, pot holder, coaster, etc.

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Modernly there are many different styles of quilts. A lot of people still make super traditional quilts with civil-war era reproduction fabrics or 30’s prints. Some people are totally rejecting tradition and using all solid fabrics with a very sparse or minimalist aesthetic.

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Most of us fall somewhere in the middle and embrace the freedom to dabble in multiple styles or create our own unique style. Part of what makes quilting so exciting is the ability to make something different every time and try new things.

How long does it take?

Some quilts take many, many hours. When I made my first quilt I was honestly a little floored by how long it took. Have you seen a magazine or book promise you a “quilt in a day” or a “fast quilt”? Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. But do not be discouraged because there are many moments of satisfaction along the way to keep you going. And then at the end, the incredible feeling of finishing a quilt will make you want to start another one right away!

So my answer is this: it takes a long time but it’s worth it.

How much does it cost?

You have some choices to make that will determine the cost.

High quality quilting cotton costs $10/yd at my local quilt shop and at my favorite online shops. The good quality quilting cotton at JoAnn’s costs a bit less if you’re a good coupon user, maybe around $8/yd. The lower quality stuff is even cheaper, maybe $4/yd.

If you wanted to make a 72 x 88 inch quilt, the quilt top would require at least 4 yards (but probably more depending on the design). Let’s say 5 yards to allow for seam allowances and cutting waste. That’s $20 to $50 for the quilt top, depending on the price per yard that you paid for your fabric.

If you watch the sales, batting might cost between $10 (polyester) and $25 (cotton).

If your quilt back is another 5 yards, that’s a total of $50 to $125 for a large quilt.

In my early quilting days I experimented with lower quality fabrics in the interest of saving $$$. But somewhere in the middle of my second quilt it dawned on me that the time investment is the real price of a quilt. In my own opinion, if at all possible, it’s better to use the good stuff, even if it means you make fewer quilts. With all the time you’re going to spend on it, it’s worth it to have good quality materials so that the end product is durable and soft.

That said, it will be beautiful either way and I am still very fond of my JoAnn’s discount rack creations.

The pricing above is based on the assumption that you are purchasing fabric by the yard off a bolt. There are other options. Quilt shops sell fabric in cute little fat quarters and other precut shapes. A fat quarter is 18 by 22 inches. This size is extremely convenient because it fits comfortably on most cutting mats. It’s also easier to iron than yardage.

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Other precuts are available as well: 5 inch squares, 10 inch squares, 2 1/2 inch strips, etc. Generally speaking precuts are more expensive per yard because the manufacturer is saving you cutting time. A lot of precuts also eliminate the need to iron. You can just proceed right to your sewing machine!

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Although modernly most quilts are made with cotton specifically designed and manufactured for making quilts, you can also make quilts with other materials. You should do so with some caution and always do your research first. For more on this you can read my posts about using men’s shirts or linen and voile.

What supplies do I need to make a quilt?

To make a quilt you will need the basic sewing supplies (sewing machine, thread, pins, scissors, seam ripper, starch) as well as a few specialty quilting supplies.

The primary supply a non-quilter will need to acquire is a rotary cutting set. My first set was the $30 Fiskars starter set from Joann’s. I have since upgraded to an Olfa cutter and Omnigrip ruler and I will tell you that I definitely noticed a difference right away. The Olfa cutter is sharper and the Omnigrip rulers are easier to keep straight and steady.

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Another supply that you probably wouldn’t own as a non-quilter is a set of basting pins. These are specialty pins with a curved edge. You use these to temporarily attach the quilt to the batting and backing during the quilting stage. The number of pins needed depends on the size of the quilt. The largest quilt I’ve made (95 by 95 inches) required three packs of pins.

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Once you get going, you may or may not get a little crazy about the rulers and templates and other fun tools you buy. For our purposes you can consider this list to be sufficient to get you through a first quilt of the size and type I will be demonstrating:

  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • seam ripper
  • scissors
  • spray starch
  • rotary cutter, ruler, and mat
  • 1 set of basting pins
  • 9 squares of cotton fabric 5 by 5 inches each (a charm pack would work)
  • a piece of batting at least 16 inches square
  • backing material measuring at least 18 inches square  (a fat quarter would be perfect)
  • a walking foot attachment for your sewing machine
  • a 2 1/2 inch strip 72 inches long for binding
  • hand sewing needle to stitch down the binding

The project I will be making in these tutorials is a 13.5 inch square quilt made of nine 5-inch squares. I think it’s nice to try things out on a small scale like this but you could definitely use these tutorials to tackle something bigger if you’re ambitious like that. Just adjust your fabric and batting requirements accordingly.

In the next tutorial we will start by starching and cutting our fabric!

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.