Finishing Spree & My Top 4 Favorite Patterns of Summer 2021

Since I like to work on multiple projects at a time, I occasionally experience a bottleneck of quilts that are all at the same stage. Such has been the case this month, when I ended up sewing bindings on 8 different quilts in a little over a week. Wow! My arms are ready for a break, but it’s so much fun to see each quilt finally completed. And it has given me chance to reflect on my favorite patterns of the summer.

But before I go any further, I’d like to elaborate on what I look for when I buy a commercial pattern rather than designing a quilt myself (which I also like to do).

What I Look for When I Buy a Pattern:

(listed in no particular order, recognizing that no pattern ticks ALL of the boxes – which is just fine!)

–A design that I haven’t seen before, or an clever twist on an old favorite

–A technique I haven’t tried before or don’t use very often

–Multiple size options (this isn’t a deal breaker if it’s only one size – as long as I feel confident that I can change the size if I wish to do so)

–Well-written (and tested) instructions with clear diagrams, cutting charts, and (bonus points) coloring sheets

–An opportunity to use a favorite fabric or collection of fabrics I’ve been saving for “just the right project”

And the most important factor:

–A pattern that inspires me with lots of “what ifs” as in “what if I add this” or “what if I change that” – leading to lots of fun variations on the original design

Pet peeves:

–Poorly written, edited, or illustrated patterns

–Fabric requirements based on 44″ of usable fabric width (Not all quilting cotton is that wide right off the bolt, and the selvages may reduce the usable width even more – not to mention the shrinkage that may occur with prewashing.)

–Assembly that requires all seams to be pressed open. (This is a personal preference – I don’t mind pressing some seams open, but I appreciate “nesting” seams as much as possible.)

And here are my favorite patterns of summer 2021:

The Flabellum Quilt Pattern by Alex Hoffmann of HoffMama Company

Why I love it: it’s fast, fun & easy to make, a great pattern for showcasing gradations of color and/or value, with lots of size options.

My version:

Flabellum Quilt pattern by HoffMama Company, made by Beth Ann Williams

And next, the Nightingale Quilt by Lo & Behold Stitchery

Why I love it: Brittany provides clear instructions (always), multiple sizes, and creative options. Inspired by memories of summertime at my grandparents’ farm, I had great fun pulling together a wide selection of fat quarters for this quilt. I also played the “what if” game – adding sashing and crosses between the blocks and a border to “float” everything on the background fabric.

My version:

Nightingale Quilt, pattern by Lo & Behold Stitchery, made by Beth Ann Williams

Thirdly, the Rough Cut Diamonds Quilt by Bre T Designs

Why I love it: this is another great design that comes together pretty quickly, and lends itself to lots of interpretations (check out the hashtag on Instagram!) I added sashing and cornerstones between the blocks, and changed up the the color placement to create a secondary pattern and a new look.

My version:

Rough Cut Diamonds Quilt pattern by Bre T Designs, made by Beth Ann Williams

And finally, the Confetti Quilt from Tied with a Ribbon

Why I love it: this one snuck up on me. I originally purchased the pattern because it featured shapes I hadn’t worked with much before; I had no idea what a treat was in store for me! However, once I started making the blocks (which are SUPER FAST & EASY to make with Jemima’s method), I was fascinated by all of the different design possibilities. I’ve already made 4 different versions, and I feel like I’m still just scratching the surface.

My versions:

Confetti Quilt #1 (made with Tula Pink fabrics) – I carefully planned the fabric placement to create an ombre effect. This is the only version I made that is sized as written in the pattern.

Confetti Quilt #1 – based on the pattern from Tied with a Ribbon, made by Beth Ann Williams

Confetti Quilt #2 – (batik fabrics) – I reduced the size of the squares by an inch and resized the pattern to make an ombre table runner.

Confetti Quilt #2 – based on the pattern from Tied with a Ribbon, made by Beth Ann Williams

Confetti Quilt #3 – (batik fabrics) – I kept it scrappy (like the pattern), but rotated the blocks to create a fun new design.

Confetti Quilt #3 – based on the pattern from Tied with a Ribbon, made by Beth Ann Williams

Confetti Quilt #4 – (batik fabrics) – I was inspired by the iridescent shimmer of soap bubbles in the sunlight when I laid out my fabrics for this quilt to create another ombre effect. I also resized the pattern to make a baby quilt.

Confetti Quilt #4 – based on the Confetti Quilt pattern from Tied with a Ribbon, made by Beth Ann Williams.

And that’s it!

If you are interested in making a Confetti Quilt of your own, I’m offering a 3 week evening Zoom class that starts on Oct. 7, 2021. I’d love to have you join me!

Before I go – I want to give a shoutout to Terri of Threadtales Quiltworks, who always listens carefully to the feeling I’m going for with each quilt, understands & makes really useful suggestions, and quilts them so beautifully. I usually quilt most of my quilts myself (I quilted the last 3 Confetti quilts), but the larger quilts have become challenging for me to handle physically – so being able to hand them off to someone I trust and admire has been a lifeline. Thank you, Terri!

Finishing Spree! Finish with a Facing

A quick note before we dive into facings – I have 3 more Zoom classes coming up soon:

Easy & Effective Machine Quilting with a Walking Foot – Sat., April 17 & 24, 2021; 10 am – 1 pm

It’s All About the Thread – Thurs., April 29, 2021; 6 – 8 pm

Color Tools & Color Confidence – Thurs., May 6 & 13, 2021; 6 – 8 pm

Registration is through the Wyoming, Michigan Lakeshore Sewing store – 616-531-5561.

And now back to Facings. 🙂

My sewing machine has been getting a workout! I’ve been in full-on production mode with even more projects than usual in-progress at the same time. As I’ve been working, one of the techniques I’ve been exploring is different ways to finish the outer edges of my quilts.

My Sea Breeze table runner, finished with a facing. I also tweaked this foundation pieced pattern by Sharon Holland to better fit the dimensions of my table. I machine quilted it with variable channel quilting to add subtle texture without taking away from the elegant simplicity of the design. The wonderful batik fabrics are Java Batiks from Cotton Cuts. 🙂

I always finish my utility quilts (bed quilts, cuddle quilts, throws, etc.) with a sturdy French Fold Binding, as the binding is often the first area to start to show wear on a quilt that is getting lots of use.

But when it comes to art quilts, wall hangings, table runners, or other smaller items, there are other options. One of these is a facing. Facings are a great alternative when you don’t want to cut off or confine the design with a binding. There are lots of different ways to approach facings for a quilt; but after quite a bit of experimentation, I have found what works best for me. And even better – there’s a link to free printable instructions near the end of this post!

Corner of a quilt finished with a facing (the quilt on top) versus finished with double-fold or French Fold binding (the quilt on the bottom).

All of the methods I tried were similar in that they involved sewing strips to the front of the quilt and then pulling the fabric around to the back of the quilt to create a finished edge. All of the methods also called for hand-sewing the fabric strips to the back of the quilt. The main differences were in how the fabric strips were prepared and how the corners of the quilt were handled.

The first method I tried involved sewing folded triangles to the corners, which, when you flip them to the back of the quilt, create “pockets” in which you can insert a hanging rod. You can read more about this method in this tutorial by Robbie Joy Eklow on the We All Sew site.

My Hold-Tight quilt (pattern by Sharon Holland) finished with a facing. I had fun machine quilting this quilt with my walking foot and several different sizes of serpentine stitch in a variety of variegated colors.

I ran into a problem, though. I think this method would have worked really well for a much smaller art quilt, but my quilted wall hangings were too large to be well supported by just the two pockets at the corners. I needed to add an additional hanging sleeve. I also wasn’t crazy about how much extra bulk the folded triangles added at the corners of the quilt, or about how they tended to stretch out and slightly distort the upper corners of my Snowflake quilt so that the edges aren’t hanging perfectly straight in the photo below.

My Snowflake quilt finished with a facing. I resized this fantastic pattern by Modern Handcraft to make a wall hanging instead of a large throw or bed quilt. I free-motion quilted this quilt with variegated thread – which is easier to see in the next couple of photos.
What the folded triangle corner and folded top and side strips look like before sewing them to the front of the quilt.
One corner of the quilt flipped over to show the back of the quilt after the facing has been pulled to the back and hand-sewn in place. Note how the folded triangle of fabric has created a pocket.

So I don’t know that I’ll do the folded triangle corners again. I also prefer to further eliminate some of the bulk of the strips used at the top, bottom, and sides by using this method (free printable instructions) from Susan Brubaker Knapp. Please note that Susan gives express permission for this free handout to be distributed. Check out her site for more great eye candy, info, & free tutorials – including one for Mitered Facings.

This time, I used Susan Brubaker Knapp’s recommended method for added a non-mitered facing – and was very happy with it!
Back side of my Sea Breeze table runner showing a finished corner.

Whichever method you choose, I strongly recommend Wonder Clips instead of pins to hold everything in place – you’ll be working through a lot of layers!

This is the exact link I’ve used to purchase 4 sets of these AWESOME clips.

Happy Finishing!

Finishing Spree – Take Wing, Foundation Piecing, & Mixing Quilting Methods

A quick note: my fall online teaching schedule is up! In addition to repeating a couple of my most-requested classes, I’ve got some brand-new classes to share with you all. 🙂

And now to the topic at hand – foundation piecing (also called foundation paper piecing) is a great technique for achieving precise piecing and sharp points even with tiny pieces and fabric edges that are not on-grain. For this method, the pattern is printed (or traced) onto foundation paper. This paper acts as both a stabilizer and a stitching guide while the block is being constructed. When all of the pieced sections of the design have been joined together, the paper is carefully torn away from the underside of the quilt top.

New to foundation piecing? We All Sew has a great FREE foundation pieced block tutorial that provides a good starting point. Don’t worry if you don’t have the same kind of machine used in the tutorial – most any machine with a basic straight stitch should do just fine

LINK LOVE – FREE Foundation Pieced block pattern & tutorial from We All Sew

Although I generally don’t do a lot of foundation paper piecing, I fell in love with the Take Wing pattern by Lillyella Stitchery when I came across it on Instagram. Just beautiful!

Take Wing foundation paper pieced pattern – available in the Lillyella Stitchery shop on Etsy

I purchased the pattern right away, but then had to set it aside for a bit because I already had too many irons in the fire.  But when the August Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts arrived, I knew immediately just what I wanted to make! Continue Reading…

Link Love – Sewing Face Masks to Help Fight the Coronavirus

When life seems particularly unpredictable and scary, I find it tremendously helpful when I can identify something productive to do – and doubly so when it will potentially benefit not only me and my family, but our community as well. Anyone watching the news lately will be aware of the shortage of face masks for health care providers on the frontlines of this pandemic, as well as for everyday people who are at risk of either spreading or contracting the Coronavirus/Covid-19. 

Graphic from Instagram – I don’t know who created it originally, but we are encouraged to use it to promote home sewing of face masks. 🙂

While the face masks we sew at home may not meet the CDC guidelines for medical professionals, it is my understanding that depending on the design, cloth masks can be used in conjuntion with the N95 medical grade masks, acting as a removable cover that can extend the usable lifespan of the medical grade mask underneath. When the medical grade masks are not available, they can be used by themselves to offer at least some protection.

Cloth masks may also be in high demand from local hospitals, nursing homes, cancer-related organizations, or other health care facilities.

Please note that I am not a medical professional. But as I understand it, by themselves, fabric masks will not completely prevent the spread of the Coronavirus or Covid-19. However, they can help us keep our germs to ourselves; and hopefully, slow the spread of the disease.  A mask can also help remind the wearer to avoid touching their face. 🙂

I’m including a link to the guidelines from the World Health Organization for when and how to properly use face masks. They suggest masks for those who as sick and for those who are caring for the sick.

UPDATE from the CDC: “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others…. While people who are sick or know that they have COVID-19 should isolate at home, COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings. Cloth face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.”

And here some of the free patterns and tutorials I’ve collected from around the web that I feel are particularly helpful: Continue Reading…

Link Love – FREE Patterns for the Tiki Tote & the Persimmon Dumpling Pouch

I’ve gotten some requests for more information about two projects I posted on Instagram recently – the Tiki Tote pattern from Bluprint (featured on the Midnight Quilt Show with Angela Walters) and the Persimmon Dumpling Pouch from Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness. Not only are both these patterns FREE, but they also have free video tutorials that show you exactly how to make them.

My Instagram post showing the Tiki Totes, Persimmon Dumpling Pouch, and a couple of basic zipped pouches.

I found these projects are a lot of fun – both to make and to use.

It all started with a jelly roll (collection of 2.5″ strips) that I picked up on clearance from Bluprint…

Jelly roll – coordinated collection of 2.5″ strips – a fun way to play with a wide selection of fabrics!

Continue Reading…

December Wrap-Up & Link Love

What a month! Not only is late November through December extra-busy with the holidays AND one of the most demanding times of the year for my day job as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing, but our plumbing saga continued with more water in the basement, where my studio is located. Needless to say, my creative plans for the month had to be adjusted.

But I’m happy to say that I did manage to squeeze in at least a little sewing fun.

Below are 3 of my December projects, plus links to the free patterns I used. All 3 patterns are keepers for me – ones I’m sure I’ll use again. 

Scandiavian Star Ornaments

I was first introduced to these folded & woven fabric ornaments through a delightful instragram post by misterdomestic linking to this tutorial on his YouTube channel.

I also found a handy photo tutorial by Anna Curtiss.

Stow-Away Shopping Bag

I resized the free pattern from Moments Designs (pattern download offered through Craftsy) to make giftable shopping totes that fold into their own snap pouches for storage. I enlarged the pouch slightly because I used heavier fabric than was used in the original pattern. The instructions are terrific, with step-by-step photos for every step. 

Bohemian Bag

Continue Reading…

Link Love – Cloth Dolls & Figurative Art

Although I make my living primarily by designing, teaching, and writing about contemporary quiltmaking, I’ve become a most enthusiastic dollmaker and mixed-media and surface design enthusiast, as well. I find working with the figure (human or non-human) to be very therapeutic, as well as lots of fun. Although my quilts are all original designs, at this point in time, most of my dolls are not. I am learning by making, adapting, and combining patterns by other artists. You’ll find designer credits next to each photo below.

Continue Reading…