Archive for June, 2010

1 John 2:3-6

In part one of this tutorial, we completed the basic Highland Snowball quilt block.  You could stop here and use the block in a quilt if you liked.  Personally, I think this block looks great with a frame.  Here’s how to surround the block with a truly simple-to-make border.

Highland Snowball Quilt Block

Measure your block and cut a rectangle that number x 3 ½”.  For example, my unfinished blocks measured 4 ¾”  so I cut a rectangle 4 ¾” x 3 ½”.  (If your blocks are smaller than mine, you might want to decrease the width to something less than 3 ½”.  This number is arbitrary; you can choose any width you like for your block border.)

Place the rectangle on one side of your block, right sides together, and sew with a quarter-inch seam allowance.  Shift the parallel side of the rectangle to the other side and sew again as shown.  Your snowball unit will curl over a little.

Sew Parallel Sides

Shift your tube and quickly match up the seam allowances.  They should butt up against each other.  Finger press a fold into the rectangle. Cut along the fold line and press open.

Cut Along Fold Line

Measure the length of your unit.  Cut a rectangle this number x 3 ½”.  Place the rectangle on one side of your unit, right sides together, and sew down the long side.  Shift the rectangle to the parallel side and sew again.

Sew Long Sides

Shift your tube, matching the seam allowances.  Finger press a fold into the rectangle.  Cut the fold line and press open.

Cut Along Fold Line

Your border is complete!

Completed Border Frames

In part three, we’ll add yet another border, one I think you’ll enjoy having in your repertoire of piecing.

Hope your day includes some quilting,



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Isaiah 61:10-11

The snowball block has been around a long time.  In this tutorial, I’ll show you a super easy way to construct this block as well as dress it up in a new way.  Since I made lots of blocks at the same time, you will see numerous blocks in the pictures of this tutorial.

Highland Snowball Quilt Block

First, construct a quarter-square triangle block out of any fabrics you like.  I wanted my finished quarter-square unit to measure 4 1/4”, so I cut my squares 1 ¼” larger at 5 ½”.  You can make your unit any size you like; it really doesn’t matter.

Quarter-Square Triangle Blocks

Next, cut a contrasting square the same measurement as your quarter-square triangle unit.

Contrasting Squares for Snowballs

Fold the square in half and then in half again.  Finger press the folds.

Fold in Half Twice to Form a Square

Open the square and place it face down on your cutting table.  With a quarter-inch ruler, draw diagonal lines 1/4” out from the folds as shown.

Draw Diagonal Lines 1/4" Out from Fold

Place the square on top of your quarter-square unit, right sides together.  Sew the four lines.  If you like, sew a second seam about 3/8” away from the first in order to form little half-square triangles with the excess.

Sew Along Drawn Lines

Sew Extra Seam Lines

Trim away the corners.

Trim Off Corners

Extra Little Half-Square Units

With a pair of scissors, cut along the fold lines to open your snowball.  Press the corners open.

Cut Open Along Fold Lines

Press Open

Square up your snowball block.  Wasn’t that an easy way to make a snowball?

Square Up Block

Completed Highland Snowball

In part two, we’ll give our snowball blocks a simple frame and then take them a step further with a more colorful and complex frame.

Happy piecing,

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Psalm 100

I’ve been recovering from a virus the past few days, so the wonky blocks sat a little longer than I would have liked.  But all is well—Simply Wonky is now a quilt.

Simply Wonky Quilt

And speaking of blocks sitting around, I want to say that it is best to sew blocks quickly that have been cut on the bias.  They have a way of relaxing, especially if you touch them a lot.

These wonky blocks only had a slight bias cut and went together without any problem even after sitting.  Another suggestion for bias-cut blocks is to use spray starch on the fabric before cutting.

After sewing the blocks together, I added a 3 ½” red border with corner blocks.  Not to be left out, the corner blocks each received the addition of a nice round circle.  I then grid quilted with red thread.  You can see from the picture that I didn’t quilt through the circles, but went around them.

Quilt Around Circles

By the way, the cute blue flower fabric is Kaffe Fassett’s Flower Dots. I liked it so much that I purchased it in two different colors.

The only thing left to say about Simply Wonky is that it comes together really fast and is enjoyable each step of the way.

Happy quilting,

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Philippians 4:6-7

I always keep my eyes open while shopping outside of quilt stores for things that can be implemented for quilting purposes.  One day I found these ultra thin metal circles called “eyelet charms” in the scrapbooking section of a craft store.

Eyelet Charms

There are twelve charms in the pack, measuring from ¾” to 1 ¾”.  I knew immediately they’d be the perfect template for appliqué circles.

Here is how I use them.  First, rough cut a circle of fabric about 1/2” larger than the circle template you are using.

Rough Cut Around Template

Thread a needle with sewing thread, using both strands, and sew a running stitch around the edge of the fabric circle as shown.  Do not cut the thread.

Sew Running Stitch Around Edge

Place your metal template in the center of the wrong side of your fabric circle.

Place Template in Center

Pull the thread taut, allowing the fabric to envelop the sides of the template.  Even out the pleats a little if necessary.  I usually take a few more running stitches, holding the thread tightly, and then tie the thread off with a few repeated back stitches.  The fabric should be quite snug.

Pull Stitches Tightly

Take your fabric-covered template to the ironing board.  With a strong solution of starch (mine is 50-50 starch to water), saturate the fabric on both sides.

Saturate Fabric with Starch

Heat your iron to a cotton setting and begin pressing from the outside edge inward, slowly working your way around the circle.  When the pleated side is crisp and dry, turn the circle over and press the other side until dry.  Metal can get hot so use caution before picking the circle up with your hand.  (Personally, I’ve never found the metal to be a heat problem because it is so thin, which means it cools quickly.)

Press Until Crisp and Dry

With your super-crisp circle in hand, apply some temporary basting glue to the back side.  The key here is to make sure it’s applied to the outer edges of the circle.

Apply Basting Glue

Place your circle in position on a quilt block and gently press down with your fingers.  Then turn the block over and press around the edges of the circle.  Allow to dry for about 15-20 minutes.

With a pair of appliqué or craft scissors, cut a small hole into the back side of your quilt block at the center of the circle template.  Carefully cut away the backing a quarter-inch from the edge of the metal template.  You should see most of the metal template at this point, with only a quarter-inch of its edge being hidden by fabric.

Cut Away Backing

Since the glue isn’t fully dried, the fabric will be flexible.  Gently lift the edges of the fabric around the template.  Now wiggle the metal template until it comes free.  Finger press the edges back into position.  Don’t worry about ruining your perfect circle as you work this step.  The fabric will immediately go back in place once the template is removed.  If the template will not come out, it’s probably because you haven’t cut away enough of the backing.  A quarter-inch always works for me.

Remove Metal Template

On the surface of your quilt block you now have a perfectly round circle.  However, it hasn’t been stitched in any way.  Sometimes I use invisible thread with a slight zig-zag stitch to tack the circle down.  Other times I simply wait and incorporate any circles into my quilting design.  The choice is yours.

Perfect Applique Circle

Perfectly Round Circle Applique

If you can’t find these metal charms, there are heat-resistant template plastic circles available in quilt shops and online.  These cannot take the heat that metal templates can, so you must handle them differently or they will warp.

I hope this tutorial will encourage you to add some circles to a future quilt project.  I think you will find the process rewarding.

Happy quilting,

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Proverbs 15:31-33

If you’ve followed some of my other block tutorials, this method of construction will be familiar to you.  Basically, I call it a sew and cut method, where you sew the seams first and then cut.

To use this method in the construction of wonky blocks, we won’t even match seam allowances before cutting.  We’ll just cut wherever we place the fold, making each block different from its partners.  No precise measurements, no matching—what more could we ask for!

Wonky Block 2

You can make these blocks any size you like.  My finished block size is 10 ½” and I will use my measurements in this tutorial.  You actually cut the blocks to size in the final step, so just start with a smaller or larger center square to arrive at a smaller or larger size block.

First, cut two (2) contrasting squares 4”.  Place them right sides together and sew down two parallel sides, using a quarter-inch seam allowance.

Sew First Squares on Two Parallel Sides

Shift your tube so that the seam allowances do not match up.

Seam Allowances Do Not Match Up

Finger press a fold in the unit to be cut and cut along the fold line.  Press open.  Square up to 4’ x 7”.

Finger Press Fold Line and Cut

Cut a 4” x 7” rectangle from the same fabric as the square you just folded and cut.  Place on top of your sewn unit, right sides together, and sew down the long sides.

Sew Long Sides

Shift tube so that seam allowances do not match, finger press fold line, and cut as shown.  Press open and square up to 7” x 7”.

Shift Tube, Finger Press Fold Line, Cut

Cut a 7” x 7” square from a new fabric and place it on top of the sewn unit, right sides together.  Sew down two parallel sides.  Shift tube, finger press a fold line, and cut as shown.  Press open and square up to 7” x 13”.  (By shifting your tubes different increments each time, each of your finished blocks will be more diverse in appearance.)

Finger Press Fold Line and Cut

From the same fabric as the previous cut square, cut a rectangle 7” x 13”.  Place on top of your sewn unit, right sides together.  Sew the two long sides.

Sew Long Sides

Shift the tube, finger press a fold line, and cut as shown.  Press open.

Finger Press Fold Line and Cut

Place your block on a mat with inch measurements.  Line up the upper right or left corner on an inch line.  Now shift a bottom a corner approximately two inch-lines over as shown.

Shift Bottom Corner 2 Inch-Lines Over

Line up your ruler at the 11” marks both vertically and horizontally as shown.  Trim off excess from top and side.

Trim Top and Side

Turn your block 180 degrees and line your ruler up again at the 11” marks.  Trim off excess.  Your wonky block is now complete.

Turn 180 Degress and Trim Again

I wanted my blocks to face in different directions, so I altered the direction that I shifted the bottom corner on every other block.  If I shifted to the right on the first block, then I shifted to the left on the second block, etc.  Also, you don’t have to hold to the 2” shift at the bottom.  Make it 1 ½” sometimes or whatever measurement works for you.

And what about those excess long triangles?  I quickly sewed them together for centers of  future blocks.  I’m sure you’ll see them again soon.

Sewn Scraps

You may have noticed some perfectly round circles within the blocks.  Those I will leave for another tutorial.

Wonky Block 1

Happy piecing,

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Psalm 119:1-3

In part one of this quilt block tutorial, we completed the two units that we will now sew together to form our blocks.  Although it appears there are many steps to making the Summer Breeze blocks, they really are easy to construct and match up with ease.

First, divide your squares into two piles according to their appearance.  Take the first group and position the units into a pinwheel formation.  Repeat this step for the second group of units.  Your blocks should look something like the blocks below.

Summer Breeze Quilt Block 1

Summer Breeze Quilt Block 2

Now place one top unit on its counterpart below, right sides together, and pin in place.  The units should nudge up to each other at the diagonal seams, making it easy to match up the edges (if you followed my pressing directions in part one, that is).  Sew the units together.

Sew Top and Bottom Units Together

Repeat this step for the next top and bottom units.  At your ironing board, press the seams open on each unit.  This is the key to reducing the bulk of many seam allowances converging at one intersection.

Press Seam Allowances Open

Place your two units right sides together, matching the center open seams; pin in place.  Sew together.

Press the final seam allowance open.  Your first block center in now complete.

Press Final Seam Allowance Open

Repeat these steps for the second block.  Your blocks should measure 8” square.  Square up if necessary.

For the block frame, cut an 8” square out of coordinating fabric.  Place it on top of your sewn block, right sides together, and sew down two parallel sides.

Sew Together at Two Sides

Shift the tube half way, quickly matching the seam allowances by nudging them together, and finger press a fold at the middle of the solid square as shown.  Cut along the fold line and press open.

Shift Tube and Cut

Cut a rectangle from the coordinating fabric the same size as your long unit.  Place it on top of your unit, right sides together.  Sew down the two long sides.

Sew Long Sides

Shift the tube half way, matching the seam allowances at the center.  Finger press a fold and cut open along the fold line.

Shift Long Tube and Cut

Repeat this step for the second block.  Your two blocks are now complete.  Don’t you love all the pinwheels and squares this design forms within the blocks?  By using different striped fabrics you could change the look of these blocks countless times.

Have fun with this one.  My blocks are now ready to move on to the quilt stage.

Have a great weekend,


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Hebrews 4:16

This quilt block is a lot of fun to make and produces two different blocks in the process.  Its simple components include a strip-pieced block and a half-square triangle.  That’s it.  You’ll be rewarded with the look of complexity while exerting relatively little time or effort into its construction.

Summer Breeze Quilt Block

Summer Breeze Quilt Block

Here are the instructions for making it.

Striped units:

From a multi-colored striped fabric, cut a 3 ½” x 19” length.

From a small print, cut a 1 ½” x 19” length.

Cut Strips

Sew the two strips together using a quarter-inch seam allowance.  Press open.  (A  quarter-inch presser foot with a fabric guide bar is a great aide for strip piecing.)

Sew Strips Together

Cut the sewn strips into 4 ½” units as shown.  You should have four (4) units.

Cut into 4 1/2" Units

Half-Square Triangles:

Cut four (4) dark 4 7/8” squares.
Cut four (4) light/medium 4 7/8” squares (from the same color family as the 1 ½“ strip above).

Place one light/medium square on one dark square, right sides together.  Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner and sew a scant quarter-inch seam on each side of the diagonal line.  Cut apart and press open.  If you are a beginning quilter, see my tutorial for complete instructions on constructing half-square triangles.

Place one striped unit on top of one half-square triangle unit as shown, right sides together.  Notice the position of the dark and medium/light parts of the half-square triangle in relation to the vertical position of the striped unit (the smaller 1 1/2″ sewn strip is on the right side of the striped unit).

Positioning of Units

Draw a diagonal line perpendicular to the seam on the back of the half-square triangle unit.

Draw Diagonal Line on Back of Half-Square Triangle

Sew a scant quarter-inch seam on both sides of the diagonal line.

Sew on Both Sides of Diagonal Line

Place your ruler along the drawn diagonal line and cut the unit in half.  Press open, pressing the seam allowance toward the half-square triangle.

Cut Unit in Half Along Drawn Diagonal Line

Repeat the above steps until all your units are complete.  Divide your units into two groups according to their appearance.

In part two, we’ll sew the blocks together, learn how to handle the convergence of all those center points, and frame the blocks with a border.

Happy piecing,


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