A Button Heart Valentine (or ornament)

Pearl Button Heart ornamentIf you’re a button fanatic, like me, no doubt your collection includes zillions of little buttons snipped off old clothing, snapped up at flea markets and yard sales, and gratefully accepted from grandmas and friends. Show your madness for buttons with this easy and quick project, perfect for Valentine’s Day or any other time of the year. It’s a great project for children, too; my 6-year old son stitched one (with not so many buttons as mom’s) as a valentine for his teacher.
Continue reading

Partial Seam Technique

Woven Ribbons blockSome quilt block patterns, such as Woven Ribbons (left), require the use of the partial seam technique to complete the sewing of the design. These designs typically (but by no means always) have a center square surrounded by four identically shaped pieces in a sort of whirling effect.

If you’d like to practice this technique before using it in a project, cut one 3-1/2” center square, four 3-1/2” x 6-1/2” rectangles, and follow the steps below to make a sample block.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Sew the first part of the seam (red line). Leave the rest of the seam unstitched for now.



Step 1:  Place the first rectangle next to the center square exactly as shown in figure 1. Sew only the first part of the seam as indicated by the red line, stopping and backstitching midway along the seam line on the center square.




Figure 2

Figure 2: Sew rectangles 2, 3, and 4 around the center square counter-clockwise, sewing each seam completely.



Step 2: Place the second rectangle as shown in figure 2, to the left of the first rectangle and the center square.  Sew the seam and press toward the center square. Add the third rectangle in the same way, and then add the fourth rectangle, pressing the seam each time toward the center square.




Figure 3

Figure 3: Finish sewing the seam that joins rectangle 1 to the center square and along the side of rectangle 4, as shown by the dotted red line.


Step 3: Now fold over the nearly completed block along the very first, partially sewn seam. Line up the raw edges and finish sewing the seam as shown by the dotted red line in figure 3. Press block and you’re done!




I often use this exact method for my quilt borders, since it’s easier and uses less fabric than mitered borders, and more interesting than standard butted borders (two strips sewn to sides, then to top and bottom).

Pentagram paper pieced quilt blockAlthough the practice block uses rectangles around a center square, it is possible to have pieces of other shapes if the center square is rotated or off-center.  For example, Woven Ribbons has triangles surrounding the center square.  But the technique is the same no matter what the surrounding shapes are.  In fact, the center piece doesn’t even need to be a square! Pentagram (right, available in my Etsy shop) has various irregular shapes surrounding a central pentagon.

Embroidering and Embellishing Paper Pieced Blocks

A few touches of embroidery, beads or buttons often make a paper pieced quilt block come to life. Markings for these elements are usually shown on the foundation patterns.

embroidered spider web on quilt

from Escaping Bugs
Bottle Quilt pattern

This spider’s legs were machine satin-stitched after the block piecing was completed. Can you imagine trying to paper piece all those legs?! But they were very easily added following the markings on the paper foundation, and tapering the satin stitch to a point at the end of each leg. The web was machine embroidered with a straight stitch in metallic gold thread, after the quilt top was completed. Continue reading

Precision Paper Piecing

Spools of threadPaper piecing is easy and fun, but some blocks (particularly intricate, geometric designs) require a certain level of accuracy in the sewing and assembly to look their very best. Try one or more of the simple techniques below to help you achieve the most beautiful block possible.


  • If needed, temporarily hold the first fabric piece to the foundation with a straight pin or a tiny dab of glue stick.
  • When paper piecing, take care to sew accurately not directly ON the printed seam line, but just ever so slightly to the RIGHT of it. This helps accommodate the slight bulk of the fabric’s thickness. When you flip the newly sewn fabric piece open and press it, the fabric seam will sit accurately over the printed line.

Continue reading

Nadia’s Tequila Sunrise mini quilt

Nadia Bekker of the Netherlands sent photos of the lovely mini quilt she sewed for her Creative Quiltmaking course with Linda and Laura Kemshall in the UK. For one of the modules, she had to make a miniature quilt, and chose my Tequila Sunrise quilt block pattern.  Here’s the end result – it’s simply stunning! (click on the photo for a closeup)

Tequila Sunrise miniature quilt by N Bekker

Tequila Sunrise miniature quilt by Nadia Bekker

Continue reading

Petite Posies – finished! (Part 2)

I finished my Petite Posies mini-quilt yesterday (see original blog post), and wanted to share of few of the details with you!

My idea was to have a very uncomplicated border, so as not to compete with or draw attention away from those wonderful 30’s flowers.  Binding or no binding?  Finally I decided on a simple turned-under edge, made with the so-called pillowcase technique (find a terrific tutorial in Quilting Daily’s free e-book Quilt Binding and Finishing Methods.)

Auditioning potential border fabrics took awhile, but eventually I whittled the choices down to these two. I decided the floral worked best, in keeping with the overall floral theme; the diagonal check became the backing.  Both are modern reproduction fabrics.

border fabric choices for Petite Posies

Continue reading

Petite Posies Mini-Quilt, Part 1

The latest work in progress, made with some of my oldest fabric – a miniature quilt of vintage cottons from the 1930’s and 40’s. It’s made with my Petite Posies freebie pattern (available here), with an extra row of posies added. The pieced part is 8×10″ (finished size), and there’ll be a narrow 1″ border all around with a self-binding and very minimal quilting. I wanted to share it with you now, because if I wait until it’s totally done, you may never see it!

Petite Posies paper pieced mini-quilt

Continue reading

Woven Ribbons – a free paper piecing quilt block pattern

Woven Ribbons paper pieced quilt blockThe rather simple Woven Ribbons paper piecing block makes a quilt which looks deceptively complex, with an effect similar to caned chair seats. You’ll need 8 different colors for the “ribbons”, plus a background fabric which doesn’t compete for attention with the other fabrics. Batiks and hand-dyeds are especially recommended for this design. Continue reading

Tequila Sunrise – a free paper piecing quilt block pattern

Tequila Sunrise paper pieced quilt blockI named this paper pieced quilt block after the well-known drink, due to the off-beat way the rays emanate from the center “sun.” Maybe the sunrise looks like that after a really rough night :-)

In any case, this block is entirely paper pieced in one section. The “circle” is, in fact, a 15-sided shape, not appliquéd. When Tequila Sunrise blocks are placed side-by-side in different arrangements, interesting things happen because of the combination of the circle with the long ray shapes.

Tequila Sunrise quilt, pastels version Continue reading

Hello Panda!

Panda paper pieced quilt blockI’m looking ahead to a special gift for a special baby-to-be, and thought, what could be cuter for such a project than my cheerful Panda block? (available in my Etsy shop)

Choosing a tone-on-tone white, a subtle swirly black print, and a jungle-y leaf print, I was able to paper piece the 12″ block together pretty quickly (a few hours), even though I’m not at all a fast sewer.

Still not sure what to do next.  Make it into a crib quilt?  Wall hanging?  A diaper bag / toy tote? There’s still a few months to go. In the meantime, the block is pinned to my design wall, waving at me every time I enter my sewing room… Hello Panda!

P.S. For the photo, I basted on black glass beads for the eyes, but will definitely replace them with applique ones before gifting to baby.