FREE Project – Festive Holiday Coasters

Hello again, everyone!

As some of you know, I went through a cancer scare this fall, and had my hands more than full with doctor visits and subsequent surgery a couple of weeks ago. But I am thrilled to report that my final biopsies came back negative & I’m getting my groove back!

I have a quick and fun project for you all that also makes a great gift – coasters! I’ve made mine in Christmas colors from the December Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts, but you can choose any fabrics and colors you like – although I prefer quilting-weight cottons.

Project video by Beth Ann Williams

A few additional tips:

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Machine Quilting with a Serpentine Stitch

This is a slightly expanded version of a post previously published on the Cotton Cuts blog in September 2021.

I’ll say one thing about the global pandemic: I think I’ve done more sewing and quilting in the past year and a half than in the previous 10 years! Seriously, my sewing machine has been a lifeline, and the connections I’ve made through sharing my work – and enjoying everyone else’s work – on Instagram has made this time of isolation also one of creative joy and inspiration.

But one of the things I’m finding is that finishing all these quilt tops I’m making is easier said than done! I love to free-motion quilt, but I find it very taxing on my body (I have a domestic sewing machine – not a mid-arm or long-arm quilting machine); so I like to switch it up with walking foot quilting – which for me, is usually faster, too.

I’ve spent some serious time experimenting with different ways to go beyond “stitch-in-the ditch” and simple straight-line grids and jazz up my machine quilting. (Not that they aren’t perfectly great ways to quilt – I was just ready to play with some new-to-me techniques.)

The serpentine stitch (one of the built-in decorative stitches in my sewing machine) has become one of my very favorite ways to quilt with a walking foot – simple, fast, and lots of lovely texture.

Close-up of samples of machine quilting with a serpentine stitch by Beth Ann Williams

This is what the serpentine stitch setting looks like on my machine:

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Finishing Spree! Quick Bindings That Mimic the Look of Hand-Sewn

I like to have lots of different projects going at different stages at the same time, so I always have something interesting to work on. But sometimes there’s a bottleneck, and I have a bunch of projects that are all at the same step. That’s what has been happening to me lately – a pile-up of quilts just waiting to be bound.

Butterfly Bouquet quilt (pattern by Simone Quilts), made by Beth Ann Williams and quilted by Terri Watson of ThreadTales Quiltworks

For years and years, I bound all of my quilts with a double-fold binding machine-sewn first to the front of the quilt, and then wrapped around and hand-sewn to the back of the quilt. I love the beautiful, clean finish this method provides, but it does take time! Over the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with alternatives. (I know I could always just straight-stitch the binding; but I find it can be tricky to keep absolutely perfectly lined up with the edge of the binding, and I’m not especially crazy about how it looks.)

One of my favorite alternatives has been a Flange Binding (or faux piped binding) – I even wrote a tutorial here on the blog.

Church Window quilt made and quilted by Beth Ann Williams (pattern by Lo & Behold Stitchery), finished with a flange binding.

But not every quilt needs a piped binding (faux or otherwise), and my collection of quilts waiting for bindings was piling up. So I returned to another technique I’ve experimented with before – sewing the double-fold binding first to the BACK of the quilt, and then wrapping the binding around the the front, and stitching it down with my favorite “invisible” machine applique technique.

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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!

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Wicked Weaver & My New Favorite Product

The October Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts and the Midnight Bite Sew Along (#MidnightBiteSAL) from Lillyella Stitchery offered me a fun opportunity to go outside my comfort zone this month.

Ronan posing with the contents of the October Java Batiks Box from Cotton Cuts.

The Midnight Bite pattern bundle has 3 sizes of each of two different patterns – a bat and a spider. I opted to make the Wicked Weaver, which is also available as an individual pattern. Admittedly, spiders aren’t usually my thing, but I thought it would be a interesting challenge.

Wicked Weaver (pattern from Lillyella Stitchery) in progress.

When I made my fantasy butterfly this summer (from the Take Wing pattern also by Lillyella Stitchery), the only part of the process that I definitely did not enjoy was removing the paper foundations after the stitching was complete. What a pain! Trying to get all the little bits of paper out from underneath the small stitches – without putting too much strain on the stitches – is not my cup of tea. Which was frustrating, because after years of avoiding foundation piecing, I felt like I’d finally hit my groove and figured out a method for foundation piecing that I find straightforward and satisfying.

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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…

Finishing Spree – Flange Binding by Machine

What is a flange binding? It’s a great no-hand-sewing option for finishing quilts with a sturdy double fold binding while adding a fun design element to the outer edges of your quilt.

Church Window quilt by Beth Ann Williams (pattern by Lo & Behold Stitchery), finished with a flange binding.

With only a few exceptions, I’ve always bound my quilts by sewing the binding to the front of the quilt by machine, and then wrapping the binding around to the back of the quilt and sewing it down by hand. I expect that I will always finish my show and “heirloom” quilts this way, but I have been thinking for quite a while about how I can speed up the process for utility quilts. Especially now that I’ve become enthralled with sew-alongs, the number of  quilts in the to-be-finished pile is growing, and I’m finding it challenging to keep up with myself!

I’d done some experimenting, but had not settled on a method I was entirely happy with, when a couple of the ladies at the Muskegon Lakeshore Sewing store told me about the flange binding method demonstrated by Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Company.

I was so impressed! The finished binding looks like it has been accented with fine piping – adding a fun design element at the same time as offering a relatively quick machine-sewing finish.

Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of research and found a number of different ways to achieve this effect.  I’m going to share what works for me – but please remember, this is only 1 of the many ways to do this. 🙂

There is quite a bit of preparation for this method, but I find that each step is an important factor in ensuring a hassle-free result at the end.

Ronan “assisting” me with binding prep – he was escorted upstairs shortly after this and remained banished for the rest of the process. 

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How to Sew a Decorative Pillow Cover with an Invisible Zipper

I’m planning to put my new Baby Lock Jazz through its paces by testing how it performs while making a series of different projects. I’m starting with decorative pillow covers with invisible zippers.

Spoiler Alert – this is how my pillows look with their new covers 🙂

If you’d like to make a pillow cover of your own, here is what you’ll need:

  • square pillow form to cover (or existing pillow that needs a facelift)
  • invisible zipper, preferably at least 2″ longer than your pillow or pillow form
  • home decor fabric (if using quilting-weight cotton, I recommend fusing interfacing such as Shape-Flex to the fabric before making the pillow – this will bring the fabric closer to decorator-weight)
  • zipper foot and/or invisible zipper foot 

Since I had 10 pillows to make new covers for, I purchased my invisible zippers in bulk  – saving quite a bit of money in the process.

The zippers I purchased for my pillows

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A No Hand-Sewing Method for Adding a Hanging Sleeve to a Quilt

The quilting on my newest Colorwash Bargello quilt is finished!

Cascade II from Colorwash Bargello Quilts by Beth Ann Williams, quilted and pinned to the design wall, ready for a sleeve and binding

It actually only took me about 2 1/2 hours cumulatively to complete the all-over free-motion quilting, but I had to break the time up into smaller increments so as to not overtax my body  –  taking into account MS, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, chronic pain & peripheral neuropathy (among other things). Whew!

I’ve squared up the quilt and cut off the excess batting and backing fabric. Before I add the binding, I’m going to add a hanging sleeve. Typically, hanging sleeves are at least partially, if not completely, hand-sewn, but I developed my own methods so as to spare some of the wear and tear on my hands. It’s also super quick to do. 🙂

Note: I included this method in my book, Colorwash Bargello Quilts, as well as the more traditional way to add a formal sleeve. I use this easy sleeve on almost all of my quilts, whether they are teaching samples, personal quilts, or art quilts.

Easy (No Hand-Sewing) Sleeve:

  • Measure the width of the longest border at the upper end of the quilt (or longest horizontal seam near the top of the quilt). Double this measurement, and add 3/8″ to determine the width of your sleeve. In this case, the border measures 4″ wide, so I’ll cut the sleeve 8 3/8″ wide.

Measuring the width of the upper border (I’m working with the quilt upside-down)

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Colorwash Bargello – Free-Motion Quilting!

This is the eleventh in a series of sew/quilt-along posts about making a bargello quilt.

I am following the pattern for Cascade, the most beginner-friendly pattern from Colorwash Bargello Quilts.

I’ve layered my quilt top, Hobb’s Heirloom Fusible Batting, and backing fabric, and fused the layers together.  It’s a little unusual, but when I use fusible batting, I like to rough cut my batting about 2″ bigger all around than the quilt top and the backing fabric about 4″ bigger all around than the quilt top. This allows me to wrap the extra backing fabric around to the front and cover up the exposed batting – which helps keep the heat-activated adhesive in the batting from getting on my iron when I press around the outer edges of the quilt.  (This extra fabric and batting gives me something to hold onto when stitching close to the edges of the quilt.)

When I use fusible batting, I like to wrap extra backing fabric around to the front to cover up the exposed batting. No worries if it looks messy – it will all get cut off when I’m finished quilting.

I’ve decided to go with the variegated pastel Rainbows thread as my top thread and pale yellow Bottom Line in my bobbin. I’m using a Schmetz Embroidery needle, size 80, as this particular spool is one of the very early batches of this thread, and is a little more delicate than later versions. The Embroidery needle has a groove on the shaft that will help reduce friction on the thread, and therefore reduce the possibility of fraying or breakage.

On a quilt like this, I usually start on one corner and work my way across the quilt.

Working my way across the quilt

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