Baby FMQ for the Win

It is decided: baby quilts are the all-time best for practicing free motion quilting (FMQ). Why? Here’s my thinking:

1. Baby quilts are the smallest of the “full” sized quilts, so they are a bit easier to maneuver in your machine. Trust me, this is very helpful for a newbie free motion quilter!

2. Many baby quilts, at least the ones that I have made thus far, are made of larger blocks, encouraging many different quilting patterns and styles.

Blocky baby quilt. To see more of my recently attempted free motion quilting patterns, see my post A Sensory Adventure with FMQ
Blocky baby quilt. To see more of my recently attempted free motion quilting patterns, see my post A Sensory Adventure with FMQ

3. Baby quilts are made to be spit up on, peed on, dragged around the house, and shown that tough love only a baby and toddler can dish out. This to me is the perfect medium for practice (ie, imperfection). Clearly, nothing is perfect. But when I know that the subject quilt is hopefully going to be dragged around, have diapers changed on it, and be used as an impromptu picnic blanket or cape, I feel less worried about getting everything exactly perfectly right.

This *oopsie* artistic element will make a great mountain or jump for matchbox cars.
This *oopsie* artistic element will make a great mountain or jump for matchbox cars.

4. Babies like funky shapes and textures. A brand new baby who is just starting to see the world and learn to move will love to explore a quilt with many different colors and textures. Free motion quilting helps you add those varied textures that a tactile creature like a baby will love.

5. When the quilt is for a baby, you can try out that weird or intriguingly unique free motion quilting pattern you’ve had your eye on, but have been hesitant to try on a more formal quilt. Suddenly have a desire to try out your grade school cursive? Go for it!

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In the outer most sashing, I FMQ-wrote the ABCs of babies. It was quite fun and an adventure to think up words to begin with each letter of the alphabet, almost twice around! Let me know if you are interesting in knowing the words I chose; I can addend this post if there’s interest!

See the completed quilt HERE!

Free Motion Quilt-a-thon

I’m doing more free motion quilting (FMQ) tonight, and I’m really enjoying trying out all these different patterns. Tonight I’m quilting swirls and stars in the star border,

photo 5 (2)and I’m trying a new design I recently saw on the blog Sew Katie Did. Katie, from Sew Katie Did, posted an article called ::Practice Practice Practice:: all about practicing FMQ. I’m trying out one of her suggested patterns, with a signature heart added into the design.

20140327-201257.jpgKatie is indeed correct: practice is the best teacher for free motion quilting. The only way to see what you can do is to try it!

What is the latest free motion quilting pattern you’ve tried? 

See the completed quilt HERE!


Stash Building

As a new quilter, my stash is far from extensive. In fact, I’m trying to complete some of my works in progress with the fabrics I’ve already bought before taking on new, large projects. My stay home mom budget just doesn’t fund extensive stash building, no matter how tempting the fabric; and trust me, some of those new fabric lines are mighty tempting!

Today I was visiting some local craft shops in search of super bulky yarn for an awesome new project (more on that soon!). Out of the corner of my eye, I happened to spot this adorable Alexander Henry “ABC With Me” fabric… on sale!


That got me thinking about fabric: I don’t have many purples in my little stash, and I’m working on designing a new paper piecing pattern of lupine, a gorgeous flower ubiquitous in Maine.  They often are purplish, and I will need a few bits of purple to test the pattern. I decided to get some bits (1/4 yards) of purple, and a lovely swirly blue for the background/sky.


I think they will look lovely as a lupine flower.

My latest paper piecing pattern-in-progress. Lupine are gorgeous wildflowers ubiquitous in Maine.
My latest paper piecing pattern-in-progress. Lupine are gorgeous wildflowers ubiquitous in Maine.

Don’t mind the wrinkles and shadows in my fabric photos; I was trying to quickly snap some photos while keeping my kids off the fabric–no easy task! Here they are, “helping”. Maddie is reading the fabric while Max tries really hard to resist flopping on top of the whole pile.


A Sensory Adventure with FMQ

Free motion quilting (FMQ) is an extremely versatile form of quilting, since you can do it in literally ANY pattern. As far as I’ve seen, your only limiting factor while FMQ is your own ability to accurately maneuver the quilt in your sewing machine’s neck space. I have been experimenting with both circular and angular designs, and I feel like I’m improving a bit (but we won’t even talk about the fact that I sewed through my finger on Sunday. Let’s just not go there. But other than that joyously surprising experience, I think my free motiong quilting is getting better!)

Since this quilt is going to a baby, I am trying to use varied quilting patterns to help make rolling around on the quilt a sensory adventure. I hope those adorable little fingers and toes have fun exploring! Here are some of my FMQing so far. The quilt hasn’t been washed or dried yet since I’m still not finished, but hopefully the designs will be even puffier and more visible (and tangible) after a good wash!

Angular and circular-puzzle pieces
Angular and circular-puzzle pieces
Angular-zig zag pyramids
Angular-zig zag pyramids
Circular-continuous curve meandering
Circular-continuous curve meandering
Angular-pointy paisley
Angular-pointy paisley

The puzzle and pebbles pattern were both suggested by a fellow quilting friend on facebook. Thank you, Jessica Cook! The puzzle design is from The continuous curve meandering pattern was first seen on Oh, Fransson!, one of my favorite quilting blogs. The angular zig zags and pointy paisley patterns were from Leah Day’s amazing Free Motion Quilting Project blog. If you ever need inspiration for free motion quilting patterns, that’s the place to go!

What is your favorite FMQ pattern or design? I would love to see!

See the completed quilt HERE!


An Unexpected Element

“Don’t point out mistakes in your quilting; call them artistic elements.”

I hear this sage advice often, especially when a fellow quilter posts pictures of newly finished quilts, lamenting the mistakes that only (s)he can see. As a quasi-perfectionist, I know how much little mistakes and imperfections can stand out. I also am learning when it’s worth befriending the seam ripper and when it’s better to carry on.

The past few days I’ve been practicing my free motion quilting skills, in the form of quilting many different patterns into my latest quilt. The quilt is slated for a baby, so my goal is to use the quilting designs to make it a sensory adventure. Late into the evening, when I was really getting into the groove, I got excited and lost a bit of focus, or perhaps I was a bit too focused. The result was this:



I was so focused on those awesome, yet breath-stealing pebbles, I didn’t realize I was creating quite a mountainous sashing. But no worries–it’s not a mistake. It’s an unexpected artistic element: a mountainous sensory adventure. Right?

Pattern Testing for ShannonMac Designs

I recently had the opportunity to test a new pattern by a fellow designer. Shannon of ShannonMac Designs created a new beginner paper piecing pattern called “Oops… I Scrapped My Pants”. I’m not typically a big scrappy quilt fan, but I was drawn to her various layout suggestions and so I offered to test it out.

The layout on the bottom right called to me. I love it!
The layout on the bottom right called to me. I love it!

Note that her pattern includes an easy to follow tutorial for paper piecing using the freezer paper method. I tested the pattern before the tutorial was finished, so I used my favorite paper piecing method instead–printer paper piecing, where you stitch along the lines on the paper and then remove the paper after the block is pieced. I’m tempted to give the freezer paper method a try after reading Shannon’s tutorial, though!

With my test quilt, I knew I wanted to incorporate a rainbow gradient since I’ve been ALL about color these days. Perhaps it’s the stark white environment outside: snow, snow, and more snow!  I debated creating a large quilt with color gradient pants, I toyed with shrinking down the pattern to make each block 2″ or 3″ instead of 6″ so that I could have a full color gradient in a smaller quilt, and then I finally settled on stitching together some wonky, scrappy rainbow fabric panels and using them to get the full gradient in four pairs of pants.

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I’m also all about love, so it seemed only right that I make those rainbow pants into a nice big X and O. Hugs and kisses!

I love the complexity of the backs of paper pieced quilt blocks.
I love the complexity of the backs of paper pieced quilt blocks.
All laid out and stitched together!
All laid out and stitched together!

I’m finding myself drawn toward modern quilting more and more, so I went for a modern look with this mini quilt. I opted for some echo straight-line quilting to emphasize the X and O.  My Clover Hera Marker was the perfect tool for marking out the quilting lines! Being new to quilting, I am still too nervous to use any kind of “disappearing” fabric pen or other marking tool to actually write on my quilt before quilting. A hera marker is great, since it simply indents the fabric, creating a clear yet mark-free line. You can see how clear the marks from the hera marker are, and they certainly helped me find those perfect intersection points!

Herra markers are the best for marking quilts for straight line quilting.
Herra markers are the best for marking quilts for straight line quilting.

I used the walking foot for my borrowed sewing machine for the first time while quilting this, and boy was it fun! I can see why quilters swear by them! I’m really looking forward to quilting a larger quilt with the walking foot to really see its even-feed skills in action.

I used my go-to tutorials on bindings–on the Bijou Lovely blog–both to make a straight-grain binding and to attach it to the quilt.

Using my favorite straight-grain binding tutorial.
Using my favorite straight-grain binding tutorial.

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I love how this quilt turned out! The pattern is a very basic, beginner-friendly paper piecing pattern, and is extremely versatile. What can’t you do with scrapped pants?!

The day after I finished stitching the binding to the back of this quilt, we got another massive snowstorm, which dropped another 18″ of snow–yes, in March! It provided the perfect backdrop for a rainbow quilt photo shoot.

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Now this bright mini quilt lives happily on my craft loft pegboard, brightening up my sewing space.

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I definitely would recommend this pattern, for both beginner and seasoned paper piecers. If you’ve been wanting to try paper piecing, this is your chance to learn the freezer paper method. Shannon is offering this pattern and tutorial for free in her Craftsy store, so hop on over and check it out!


Perfect Seams on National Quilting Day

Today, March 15, 2014 is officially National Quilting Day! To celebrate, I actually spent some time… quilting! I made progress on a quilt that I’m making as a gift, so details will not be shared today (as much as I want to!). While piecing the final border of the quilt, I was reflecting on how well my 1/4″ seams come out now that I use a secret trick shared by a local quilter. Today is the perfect day to share the trick!

All you need is one basic supply: 1/4″ quilters tape. I use Dritz Quilter’s Tape but any brand should work. I stretch the quilters tape the full length of my sewing machine, with the machine’s 1/4″ seam guide line aligned with the tape’s left edge.  Take your time and get the tape perfectly aligned and straight, since this will be your guide. Before employing this trick, my 1/4″ seams were extremely varied and inconsistent, which lead to puckery and not-quite matching seam intersections. This tape provides a visual and uninterrupted guide while I’m sewing, and my seams have been SO much better.

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A scant 1/4″ seam, meaning it is a bit less than 1/4″ in width, is preferred since pressing often makes up for the minor discrepancy.  If your seam is larger than 1/4″, however, there’s no fixing it!

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Look at that perfect seam!

A seam that is a little bit off might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re piecing a border composed of many pieces, when every seam is a little too wide it eventually adds up to a border that is an inch or more too small! The exactness of quilting is one of the aspects that really resonates with me, and this new seam trick has worked wonders in helping me create quilts with exactly matching seams, visible symmetry, and MUCH less frustration.

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The 1″ white sashing strips between 2×6″ blocks turns out perfectly, which will hopefully mean this border’s addition to the rest of the quilt will go seamlessly (pun intended!).

Do you have any tricks to creating perfect seams? If you try this method, I’d love to hear what you think. Happy quilting!

Spring has Sprung

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This is the view down our driveway. It just keeps snowing and snowing and snowing some more! March 13th!

It has snowed at least 18″ in the past 24 hours and it’s still snowing, but spring has sprung in our house.  Last night before the impending storm, and shortly before losing power, I quickly stitched up some leaf and flower garlands to hang around our kitchen and dining room.  (We have an open floor plan, so it’s all one space).

Up with the new (springy flower garland) and down with the old (blue and white snowflake garland).
Up with the new (springy flower garland) and down with the old (you can see one of the blue and white snowflake garland strands in the background).

Last year I cut all of the felt circles for my snowflake garland myself, and when I first had the idea of making a similar springy one, I toyed with the idea of cutting my own felt flowers and leaves… but not for long. Without a die cut machine, I decided it would be much easier, and therefore more likely that I’d actually make these garlands, if I simply ordered the shapes on Etsy.

felted fringe

Felted Fringe had exactly what I wanted, with options for color customization, and extremely reasonable prices.  Done and done. Without further ado, behold the springtime.

Our kitchen area isn't very bright, so I had an impromptu spring has sprung photoshoot in our entryway. I had so much fun with it!
Our kitchen area isn’t very bright, so I had an impromptu spring has sprung photoshoot in our entryway. I had so much fun with it!

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Circling Gulls Paper Piecing Pattern

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FINISHED! Remember this? I finally finished piecing it!

circling gulls completeFor one of my first designed paper piecing patterns, I’m very happy with it! I love how the gulls are pinwheeling in to fight over the starfish, and as a friend pointed out, the starfish has seen the gulls and is reaching out to flyyyyyyy!  Little does that poor little starfish know that he’s actually going to be lunch and not a flying companion. Then again, maybe it is the starfish’s turn to fly!

photo 2 (2)I’m excited that this pattern pretty much turned out how I had imagined it.  I’m debating the next step for this 12×12″ block.  Should I make it into a pillow? A quilted wall-hanging? Or perhaps tuck it away and aim to make 11+ more of the blocks using up blue, white and orange (or other colors?) scraps along the way. I do think this pattern would look awesome as a full quilt.

What would you do with this block?

This pattern is for sale in my Pattern Shop on Craftsy; go check it out!

Stash Building

One of the occupational hazards of following other sewing blogs is exposure to awesome new (or old) fabrics.  Last week I saw a post about a fellow quilter who found a small square of a gorgeous fabric remnant that she was trying to track down. I’ve been all about black and white fabrics, gray scales, and texts lately and this post was all I needed to bump me out of my fabric buying moratorium briefly enough to get half-yards of a few awesome and soon-to-be out of print fabrics.

20140308-160404.jpgThe Alexander Henry Ghastlie Clover in natural print is what first drew me in, and I wish I could remember which blog I was reading so that I could give proper credit for the inspiration!  To make the most of shipping charges, I also ordered a half yard of Botanics Leaves in Charcoal (Carolyn Friedlander for Robert Kaufman Fabrics), and Architextures Field Notes in Black (another Carolyn Friedlander design for Robert Kaufman Fabrics). I’ve been wanting to get some Architextures and Botanics before they go out of print, and I’m glad I finally have a bit in my stash!

20140308-160340.jpgI found all of these 100% cotton fabrics at Fresh Modern Fabric’s Etsy shop.  The fabric came expertly and smoothly folded, gorgeously packaged, and Alice threw in samples of Up, Up and Away and Jewels! This may be a slippery slope…