Design Wall

The Pixelated Paper Hearts quilt pattern is scheduled to be released on Saturday. I was lucky enough to snag some sewing time today, so I started laying out Block A on my design wall.

Pixelated Progress

The best way to work this quilt is going to be by chain piecing. I spoke a little bit about how to be successful at chain piecing on Monday.

Chain Piecing

When Saturday morning comes around, order a copy of the pattern for yourself, grab a cup of tea, make sure you have all the right tools at your disposal, put on some good background noise, and get to piecing!

 

Knitting and Designing

Whenever someone sees me knitting, sewing, or embroidering in public, it usually elicits a response such as, “Wow, that looks really detailed.” or “How long does it take you to make something like that?” Then we laugh and laugh with how it takes a special sort of person to be able to devote so much time and energy into a craft. The conversation typically ends with me delivering my favorite line, “It’s like therapy!”

People usually have a good chuckle at that point, but I wonder how many of them realize how serious I am. One of the reasons why I love “crafting” is that it really is like therapy! It give me something to focus my attention on if I need to separate myself from a situation. If gives me an outlet after a long and tiring day. It gives my brain something to solve if it is feeling restless. It gives my brain something to get lost in through repetition if it is feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes, depending on the project, it will hit many of these things at once.

When I am home and I am working on a project that has a big chunk of repetitive work to do, I will have something playing in the background. My choice of background noise changes, usually rotating through shows on Netflix, books on Audible, music on Apple Music, or just listening to the happy (or not so happy) sounds of my kids keeping themselves occupied. I would like to start sharing with you what I am watching or listening to in the background in hopes that you will discover something new to fall in love with!

Watching: Call the Midwife

Right now I’m watching my way through Call the Midwife, Season 1. The story takes place in 1957 when Jenny, a brand new midwife, begins her work with Nonnatus House. She is pretty surprised to discover that the house is actually a convent and not a hospital. The story quickly takes off as she faces the problems of her community all while navigating her new home with the nuns.

I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys period pieces, quality story line, and great character development.  The entire season is available on Netflix.

Listening (on Audible): The Operator by Kim Harrison (Book 2 in the Perri Reed Chronicles)

Eh. Book 2 of The Perri Reed Chronicles is ok. There really isn’t anything magical going on here. Basically Perri is an on-the-run ex-agent with the ability to rewrite time by “drafting.” The idea is kinda cool, and I can see how some have compared it to Jason Borne. Honestly, I’m ready to move beyond the series. Here we are in Book 2 still trying to figure out where her loyalties lie and who she really is. I’m sorry, maybe we’re slightly beyond that in that Perri knows where her loyalties lie, but no one else does. A lot of the book involves all of the other characters trying to guess her motives, and predict what she is going to do next.

I would not recommend this book, unless you are looking for a really (really) mindless beach read with a little bit of action that doesn’t translate into anything getting done.

Rocking (on Apple Music): Awesome to the Awesome Playlist

I’ve received quit a few comments on Instagram involving the music that I have playing in the background of my stories. When I listen to music, I primarily listen to upbeat playlists that I compile, or Radio Stations that keep me moving. My current playlist that has been getting a lot of mileage is Awesome to the Awesome. I am constantly updating it and rearranging it, so if you are on Apple Music, enjoy! If you are not, you should be able to hear samples of the songs below, and download using whatever service you prefer.

Please, if you are listening or watching something amazing right now (or not so amazing), share it with us in the comments here, on Instagram, or on Facebook! I’m sure we’d all love to discover something new.

 

 

1 comment

Rulers
Unlike other crafts, such as knitting, crocheting, and drawing, sewing and quilting require a few more basic tools to get started, and these tools do not come cheap. Sewing/quilting is a craft that requires a bit of an upfront investment. Unless you are planning on doing everything by hand, you will absolutely need a sewing machine. Even the most basic home sewing machine can cost upwards of $400.00, making this craft one of the most expensive to start. Once you make the leap, you will not be sorry, and there will come a point during your first quilt that you realize, “Hmmmmm. There has to be a better way of doing this, how are all of these people making 2-3 quilts a month?!”

You are absolutely right! There are tools out there designed specifically for sewists and quilters to make the job easier, and speed up some of the more tedious aspects of the craft.

In yesterday’s post, 5 Tips for Chain Piecing Success, I talked about simple changes that you can make in your chain piecing to make it more efficient. One of those steps was to make sure that you are using the correct tools for the job. As an example, I wrote:

The small rulers specifically made for drawing lines on fabric are much lighter and more manageable than the rulers you use for cutting. It may not seem like much, but if you are marking lines on (300) 2.5″ squares and your gigantic ruler is knocking over your tidy piles or causing your fabric to shift when you are drawing, you are going to recognize by the 10th line or so that there has to be a better way, or a better tool to use, to get the job done!

Today we are going to talk a little bit more about rulers, one of the most important tools of any sewist or quilter.

What are sewing and quilting rulers, and how are they different than regular rulers?

Sewing and quilting rulers are straight edged rulers that are typically made out of acrylic. They are made specifically to be used with rotary cutters, such as Fiskars 45mm Easy Change Ergo Control Rotary Cutter, and self healing mats like the Dritz Omnigrid Double Sided Mat. These rulers come in a variety of shapes and sizes; some are used for more generalized sewing and quilting, others are made for very specific techniques and can be used almost like templates. Some of these more specific rulers are being manufactured by small businesses and are usually sold in conjunction with books or patterns that use the technique that the ruler is intended for.

Why are sewing and quilting rulers important? Can’t I just use scissors?

Quilting is a craft that can require very specific measurements, sometimes within 1/8 of an inch! The use of a rotary cutter and the correct ruler can help your cuts be accurate and precise. While it is possible to cut fabric with scissors, and fabric scissors have a place in every quilter’s sewing box, one of the easiest things to do to improve your sewing and quilting is to start using a rotary cutter, mat, and acrylic rulers.

What rulers are out there, and what are they used for?

Basic Quilters’ Rulers for cutting

The Omnigrid 2 1/2″ x 18″ No-Slip Ruler – I’m going to tell it to you straight, this ruler is not going to work well on bigger cuts of fabric. That being said, this is my go-to ruler. I use this ruler more than any other ruler I own, I use it so much in fact, that I really should buy myself a backup. It is like my lovey. If I misplaced this ruler, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night until I found it (or at least until my UPS guy brought me another one from Amazon). I absolutely would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. Its length works to its advantage for the busy crafter who is making many cuts at once. Due to its smaller size, it is light weight and easily manageable in smaller work spaces. It is easier to store, and most likely could be tucked into a drawer for storage. It is easy to pick up and move with one hand, and it is lightweight. These things may not seem like a big deal, but as I said earlier in this post, if you are making hundreds of cuts, you need to find a ruler that works the best with your cutting and organization system. I love this ruler so much, that I rarely use any other rulers. This ruler could easily be the only ruler you buy, but I do need to mention that due to its smaller size, it just can’t do some of the things that longer rulers can. It doesn’t make sense to use this ruler when I am squaring up a quilt, for example. I have come up with a folding system to use when cutting strips that allows me to use this ruler, but if you prefer not to make folds in your fabric before you cut, then read on.

The Omnigrid 6″ by 24″ Quilters’ Ruler – If you are going to buy just one ruler, this is a great one to go for. It is long enough that it can work with larger cuts of fabric, and versatile enough to be used when cutting strips, blocks, and other various cuts. It is not terribly expensive, but it is durable. I have used mine for the past 5 years, and I imagine that I will use it for many many more to come. I don’t use this ruler often (remember, my love affair with my scrappy little 2.5″ ruler?), but it does have a specific role in my sewing studio, and I would consider it one of my required rulers. I use this ruler primarily for cutting longer strips of sashing, and for squaring up quilts.

Omnigrid Square Rulers

Square rulers like the Omnigrid 4 1/2″ Square Ruler or 12 1/2″ Square Ruler – Square rulers are a great addition to any sewing studio. They are great for squaring up blocks such as Half Square Triangles and Flying Geese, and trimming finished blocks before sewing them up into a quilt. To me, these rulers are more of a convenience, but they are certainly useful. If you are an adventurous beginner looking to take your quilting to the next level, buying a set of Omnigrid square rulers will help your accuracy on the previously mentioned blocks. I also use my my teeny tiny 2 1/2″ square ruler by my sewing machine and ironing board to double check my 1/4″ seams!

More Specialized Rulers

IMG_1414

Add-A-Quarter – The add-a-quarter ruler is an acrylic ruler designed with a raised 1/4″ lip allowing you to very easily identify your seam allowance. Although I am not sure that this ruler was made specifically for paper piecing, and it is possible to do the technique without it, I can’t think of why you would try without it! In conjunction with a bit of stiff card stock and a rotary cutter and mat, it is absolutely essential in creating accurate 1/4″ seams with ease when paper piecing. It will, without a doubt bring, your foundation paper piecing to the next level. As a matter of fact, I just couldn’t “get” paper piecing until I purchased this ruler. The ruler can also be used to accurately draw a 1/4″ seam allowance if you are drawing/designing your own blocks.

IMG_1417

Shaped rulers such as the Pyramid Ruler, the Diamond Ruler, the Hexagon Ruler, etc. – These rulers are made for for convenience, and it is possible to make the cuts that these rulers make with just a straight ruler if you needed to. That being said, if you are working on a quilt that requires a lot of these shapes to be made, it may be beneficial to purchase the related ruler to make subcutting and trimming up more efficient. These rulers may not be something that is required to get you started in sewing or quilting, but I am not going to undervalue something that will, without a doubt, make you more efficient at a time consuming task!

IMG_1413

Bloc-loc Ruler (non affiliate) – Similar to, but not affiliated with, the Add-A-Quarter ruler, the Bloc-Loc ruler is an acrylic ruler that is designed with a lip. When you press the seams of the block you are making to the side, the ruler will “lock” into the seam. This keeps the ruler from slipping and allows you to trim up your block with incredible accuracy. There are now 10+ varieties of these rulers on their website, and for each variety they have a whole range of sizes. I personally love their rulers that are designed for Half-Square Triangles and Flying Geese. My only complaint about these rulers is that you have to press the seams to the side to use them. I prefer pressing my seams open, which makes it impossible to use the ruler to its potential. When I use these rulers, I make sure that I am making my units big enough to trim down, and when I am pressing the blocks before I cut, I am sure to use a lot of steam and heat to get those seams as flat as possible.IMG_1415

Quick Curve Ruler (non affiliate) – This ruler is an acrylic ruler specifically for cutting curves. It comes in both the full size and mini version, and has a variety of uses including subcutting, cutting curves, and squaring up. There are a ton of patterns that have been designed to work in conjunction with the ruler, and this is the ruler that I have used multiple times to create the Starburst Quilt. I love this ruler. I only have the full size, but I am interested in investing in the mini version. It is a great tool if you are interested in learning how to cut and sew curves!IMG_1416

The Perfect Piecing Seam Guide – this nifty little ruler is also made out of acrylic, but is intended for use with your sewing machine. Many sewing machines come with a 1/4″ foot, but that doesn’t mean that where your fabric hits the foot will create a 1/4″ seam. Also, sometimes patterns or blocks will call for you to make a scant 1/4″ seam, which is not the same as a 1/4″ seam! By adjusting your needle and slowly lowering it into the ruler, you will be able to use it in conjunction with the markings on your needle plate to sew the perfect seam. If your markings are not clear, you can simply follow the directions on the ruler, and then lay down a piece of painters tape or washi tape on your machine as a guide.
IMG_1420

Rulers Designed for Marking

The Omnigrid Marking Ruler – These rulers are hard to find, but in my opinion they are worth the effort to hunt down. These rulers are not meant for cutting! They are acrylic and durable like all of Omnigrid’s rulers, but they are very light weight and only 1/2″ wide (read: MUCH too narrow to even consider using a rotary cutter with!). If you are making large amount of Half Square Triangles, Flying Geese, or any other block that requires you to draw a line on the wrong side of your fabric, then this is the ruler for you. It allows you to quickly and accurately draw a line from corner to corner on your block without the trouble of other bulky or awkwardly shaped rulers. There is a solid line running down the middle of the ruler length wise, so you can also use this ruler to check the accuracy of your 1/4″ seam before you begin cutting.

A final note about rulers and safety!

I would be doing you a disservice by presenting you with this comprehensive article on rulers without mentioning safety. Remember, you are working with a sharp instrument! Follow basic cutting safety whenever using rotary cutters and acrylic rulers.

  1. Don’t cut if you are under the influence of anything other than caffeine and chocolate. Really.
  2. Always use a sharp blade. Dull blades are more dangerous than sharp ones.
  3. Always cut away from your body with your dominant hand, on the side of your dominant hand.
  4. Before you cut, check to make sure there is nothing obstructing the path of the blade (you know, like a finger or arm).
  5. When you line up your ruler, be sure to use pressure on the ruler with your non-cutting hand. If you need to, splay out your fingers and push down creating even pressure so that your ruler doesn’t slip. You need to make sure that your fingers are away from the cutting edge of the ruler. If your ruler is narrow enough, you can use your pinky finger off of the back of the non-cutting edge to help keep the ruler firmly in place.
  6. Make sure that your ruler is longer than the fabric that you are cutting. It needs to extend past the fabric at both the bottom and top.
  7. When you are ready to cut, make sure your rotary cutter is touching the edge of your acrylic ruler, and you are applying even pressure into the side of the ruler and down into the cutting mat. Make sure that you are starting your cut on the mat, not on the fabric. Keeping the pressure nice and even, cut away from your body in one fluid motion.
  8. Be sure to close your blade before you place it down. Not only for your safety, but also to avoid any accidents with your newly cut fabric. Coming from someone who bobbles things like phones, spatulas, rulers, milk cartons, car keys, water bottles, and rotary cutters on a daily basis. Not that I’ve dropped an open rotary cutter with a brand new blade into a freshly piece cut of fabric or anything (I have).

Have any other tips to add? Any other rulers that you love to use? As always, if you let me know of any other rulers that you use regularly (in the comments here, on FB, or on IG), I will add them to the list! I will be happy to give you credit for your schmancy-pants ruler knowledge!

 

*Please note, this article contains affiliate links to Amazon. These links allow me keep you informed on tools and strategies I love, while simultaneously giving me a way to support my small business. Thank you so much for your continued support, it means so much to me that I am able to bring you quality content on our shared passion!

 

 

1 comment

Chain piecing is a method used in sewing to make the piecing of blocks more efficient. Chain piecing is typically used when a pattern calls for many of the same block to be made.

Chain piecing can make assembly of a small quilt take no time at all, but what happens when you try to use the technique on a larger scale? Do you still feel overwhelmed? Does it feel as though you are chain piecing as best you can, but the quilt is still taking for.ev.er?


By making a few small adjustments, you can use chain piecing to its best advantage, and piece your tops as quickly as the Pros!

  1. Read through the entire pattern. I know how exciting it is when you get a new pattern. You want to just jump in and GET TO THE MAKING! One of the best habits that you can get into is reading through a pattern before you begin working on it. For various reasons (pattern size, writing for certain types of fabric cuts), Designers don’t always write patterns in a way that is the most time effecient. By reading through the pattern first, you will be able to identify any aspects of the pattern that can be sped up by using chain piecing.
  2. Stay on top of your organization game. Once you read through the pattern and begin cutting, make sure you are organizing your pieces in such a way that when it is time to begin piecing, you will not be slowed down by hunting for that rogue 2″ square, or that elusive 2″ x 4″ rectangle. Separate your cuts by whatever method works best for you, whether it is all pieces by the same size together, pieces separated into piles for each block, etc. Use sticky notes or index cards to label your piles so you know which is which. If you have any cuts that are of very similar size (ex: 4 3/4″ vs 4 7/8″), be sure to label them right away so that you don’t get stuck having to go back and measure every time the pattern calls for you to use one or the other.
  3. Get the right tools, and have them all laid out before you get to work. Big quilts can start to feel really monotonous, especially if there is a lot of work that needs to be done before you even begin sewing. Using the right tools will remove a lot of the headache and allieviate some of the impatience you may be feeling. For example, the small rulers specifically made for drawing lines on fabric are much lighter and more manageable than the rulers you use for cutting. It may not seem like much, but if you are marking lines on (300) 2.5″ squares and your gigantic ruler is knocking over your tidy piles or causing your fabric to shift when you are drawing, you are going to recognize by the 10th line or so that there has to be a better way, or a better tool to use, to get the job done! Check out this post on types of sewing/quilting rulers to learn more about the types of rulers that you can use to make your chain piecing less tedious!
  4. Repeat the same action all at once. Do not move on to the next step in a pattern until you have completed the step you are on. For example, do not begin pressing open and squaring up that HST until you have finished sewing every single HST that you need to make. Once you are done sewing them all, then move on to pressing them all. When pressing is done, then you can trim all of them. You will need to figure out how to tweak this in a way that works best for you. In big quilts that have more than one block, I will work one block at a time, especially if each block is made up of different units (ex: flying geese vs. half-square triangles). If all of the blocks in the quilt have repeating elements, I will go through those elements one at a time (ex: I will make all HSTs before moving on to flyin geese) before moving on to the next element, making sure to make piles and clearly label what is used where in the quilt.​
  5. Similarly, do not move on to the next seam until you have finished sewing the first seam on all required units. For example, if you are making half-square triangles 2 at a time, chances are that you need to sew 1/4″ away from either side of a line that you drew on the fabric from corner to corner. If you made to make 25 of these 2-at-a-time HSTs, sew all of the seams 1/4″ to the left of the line on all 25 squares before cutting your thread, flipping your blocks, and repeating again on all 25 blocks.

I almost always make quilts that are lap-sized or larger, and one of the reasons why I love making larger quilts so much is that I have figured out a way to quickly move past the aspects that I don’t like so much. This gives me the ability to enjoy the aspects of sewing and quilting that I do like, without getting pulled into a cycle of thinking, “this is taking way longer than it should.”

Do you have any additional tips to add? Let me know in the comments! I can add them to the post above and give you credit for being such a fancy-schmancy chain piecer!

Happy Sewing!

Meg

2 comments

Happy New Year to my friends old + new! I am sending out positive thoughts and energy for all of you so that we may all have a Joyous and Healthy 2017! I uncovered the following blocks after a quick Post-Project Clean Up. What a find!

When I completed my studio this past year, I made a commitment to myself to keep it tidy when I am not in the space working. Even though it is my studio, my house isn’t very big (especially when you start counting all of the bodies, human and animal, residing here!) and the reality is that the studio is a shared space. There are a lot of people freaking through on any given day, and it is the first room that you see when you open the front door! One of the most important habits that I have gotten into to help maintain the room is to tidy up after every project.

It has been a struggle, as I usually just want to dive right in to the next exciting and new thing, but I’ve found that if I dedicate a small amount of time to putting everything away it gives me a nice clean slate to start from. It also gives me the space to breath, think, and create.


Now that A New Day has been shipped off, I took a little bit of time this morning to do my clean up routine. I like to think of it along the lines of making meals – part of cooking is cleaning up! How can we cook dinner if all of the pots and pans are still dirty from lunch? I feel the same way about sewing. Come to think of it, I think this way about a lot of things! Every school night I say to my kids, “your homework isn’t done until your work is in your folder and your binder is in your bag.” This helps them “close up” shop for the night and leaves them better prepared for the morning hustle.

My post-project clean up routine is as follows:

  • Put away fabric from the project. This means sorting through cuts to see if they can go back into my stash, or into scrap bags.
  • Dust and wipe down surfaces. My room is a multi-purpose shared space. This means that I design, cut, piece, baste, quilt, and bind in the same space. On top of that, there is foot traffic from my family through the room to access the garage, the basement, the downstairs bathroom, and The Legos. As you can imagine, there is an accumulation of dust, thread, and debris. I clean during my projects, but I find this is a good time to wipe down the cutting surfaces and the computer area. It is easier since all the project fabric is away!
  • Clean my machine, change the needle. I’ve read somewhere that it is a good idea to clean your machine after replacing a couple of bobbins. I try to do this, but honestly I am in a rush sometimes and keep feeding myself the, “I’ll do it after the next one” line. When a project is done, I take a minute to brush it out just to make sure. I am also usually going from a quilt back to piecing which means different needles sizes, so I may as well change my needle at this point too.

  • Wind some bobbins. I have a little tray that I got at Target that I keep under my machine table. I store some random colored bobbins in there, but I also have a stash of bobbins in 2024 in both 50wt and 40wt. This way I can just grab and go when I hit the end of a bobbin when I’m in the middle of a project. Each weight of thread has its own little section in the tray with an empty section right in front for me to toss the empty bobbins. I honestly groan every single time I run out of bobbins, but I never ever wind just one. I wind at least 5-6 at a time to make sure I’ve got a good stash. After I project I’ll check my stash to see how it is looking. If I know I have another quilt coming up, I’ll wind a bunch of the heavier weight thread so I’m ready to dive in.
  • Change rotary blades. I use 2 sizes of rotary blades, but I now use my 45mm the most frequently because I find it is the easiest on my wrist. So I will change this one after a big project (like a quilt), and change my 60mm as needed.

Now, I would like to be clear that this sounds all good and fine and perfect, but I am human, and a lazy one at that. Sometimes I neglect my area, or I’m lazy with my clean up. For example, my fabric stash is usually sorted in rainbow order for solids and blenders, and then fabric lines are stored together. Most of the time I just stuff it back into the shelf after a project wherever there is space. Ugh.
To make up for this, I try to do a big clean about 2 times a year. Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch. My room is only about a year old and I did a big clean when I was setting it up. This post is making me think I should do another! So starting now, I’ll be doing a big clean 1-2 times a year.
I’m also going to point out that there are a few things missing from my routine. I rarely clean my iron because I’m always using it. I neglect all of my self-healing mats, and some of them aren’t healing any more. I can’t remember the last time I replaced my seam ripper, and it isn’t because I rarely use it! Ha! Looks like I have a few sewing resolutions to add to my list this year!
Do you have any sewing resolutions that you have made for 2017? Are there any from 2016 that you made and stuck with? I’d love to hear about them here in the comments, or over on Facebook and IG!

 

FEATURED POSTS

Instagram