July 24, 2016

2016 Mid Year Review

Well, the first six months of 2016 flew right by! Did you see Yvonne at Quilting Jetgirl is hosting a 2016 Mid Year Review link party?


I divided my 2016 goals between blogging and quilting.  Let's see where I stand:

Blogging Goals


1. Photography - Wanting to improve my blog photos, I picked up some tips from a Craftsy class, Basics of Digital Photography.  At the suggestion of a fellow blogger, I found another Craftsy class even more helpful, Product Photography at Home, I have found that photography, just like free motion quilting, takes practice. (Non-affiliate links)

2. Write a tutorial - I participated in 12 Days of Christmas in July Blog Hop hosted by Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and presented Blue Christmas, a machine applique pillow cover or wall hanging tutorial.  Perfect timing...I checked this one off my list just yesterday.

Blue Christmas, a machine appliqued pillow cover with a vintage string of lights

3.  Participate in the 2016 New Quilt Bloggers Blog Hop - I've met so many new bloggers thanks to hosts Yvonne at Quilting Jetgirl, Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs and Stephanie at Late Night Quilter.  My introductory post was the 2nd week of June and was I was part of the The Sewcial Network.



4. Brand Identity - I wanted a logo which included a button from a card of vintage pearl buttons from my grandmother and Valerie from Inkblot Graphic Design Studio designed my blog header and other graphics just as I had envisioned.

Vintage pearl buttons which were my grandmothers
I also worked with Emily at BD Web Studio who updated my blogger template and created a gallery separated between finished quilts, projects and quilt blocks which are listed by year. Now, I need a new tab for tutorials!


Quilting Goals


1. Quilt of Valor - I am planning a quilt in non-traditional patriotic colors following the Star Light, Star Dark Quilt-A-Long by Jess at Quilty Habit.  These are my fabrics.  More about this later.

Fabrics chosen for Star Light, Star Dark Quilt-A-Long

2.  Charity Quilt - no progress on this one.

3. Midnight Mystery Quilt - I posted back in January one complete block here.  Unfortunately, no progress on this one lately and now Cheryl's new mystery quilt, Meadow Mystery, is just getting under way with fabric selections going on now.  I had the opportunity to review the Meadow Mystery and it's a beauty!

Midnight Mystery in progress

4. Modern Quilts Unlimited Block and Quilt Challenge - All 12 blocks are completed in the Everything Old is New Again Challenge and now and it's time to decide on a layout for the final quilt.  The deadline is Sept 15th.  My post about Block #12 gives more details about the blocks and challenge. Here are my 12 blocks.

My 12 blocks for the Everything Old is New Again Block Challenge

5. Write and publish a pattern - No visible progress yet, but I'm thinking about this one.  Oh wait, I did have a block, It All Adds Up, published in Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, Vol. 13 in May.

My block in Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, Vol. 13

6. Online quilt or block swap - I've actually participated in 3 swaps this year.

Colorful Cats
  • Bonnie and Camille Low Volume Plus Swap - I made 30 plus blocks as you can see in my flipgram here and received 30 blocks in exchange.
  • Sewtopia Swap - I made Becca Bags zippered pouches for a Sewtopia Swap and received these goodies in exchange.

The year is shaping up and I'm looking forward to see what's in store for the remainder of 2016.

I better get busy...now, hop on over to see everyone's progress at the 2016 Mid Year Review.  Because I'm crushing on my progress, I'm linking to Main Crush Monday with Beth at Cooking Up Quilts.



July 23, 2016

Blue Christmas: Machine Applique Pillow Cover Tutorial and GIVEAWAY

Welcome to my stop on the 12 Days of Christmas in July Blog Hop graciously hosted by Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  For those of you who are visiting for the first time, you can read a little more about me here and in my 2016 New Quilt Bloggers introductory post here.


I've got an applique project planned for you that can be made into a festive quilted pillow or wall hanging reminiscent of a vintage string of lights to "brighten" your Christmas.  My preferred applique method uses fusible web and zig zag satin stitch by machine but this project can certainly be adapted for your favorite method of applique.



This tutorial is written to accommodate a 12" x 22" rectangle pillow insert sometimes called a boudoir pillow but can be made for most any size pillow insert with a some adjustments.  If you like, you can eliminate a couple of steps and make a wall hanging instead.

Blue Christmas by Paige Alexander (without pillow insert)

For my version of Blue Chirstmas, I used some prints from Garland by Cotton and Steel along with some coordinating solids.

Cotton and Steel prints and other coordinating solids

Fabric Requirements
  • Background: 1/2 yard
  • Applique Lights: 6" x 12" or scraps for multiple colored lights
  • Bias Stem for Lights, Applique Light Sockets: 5/8 yard (allows for no seams in the bias stem)
  • Border or Flange: 1/2 yard, allows for directional fabric
  • Backing for Quilted Pillow Top: 19" x 29" (this will not be visible for the pillow)
  • Pillow Envelope Backing: 1/2 yard
  • Binding: 1/4 yard

Other Materials and Notions

  • Paper Backed Fusible Web (my favorite is Soft Fuse Premium)
  • Compass or other means to trace circles, approximately 2 3/4" in diameter 
  • Iron-On Tear-Away Stabilizer (my favorite is Sulky Totally Stable)
  • Thread to match applique shapes, for quilting and general construction and bobbin thread for applique
  • 1/4" to 3/8" Bias Bars for making stem or string for the lights
  • 1/4" Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 for applying the bias stem to project
  • Batting: 19" x 29"
  • Pencil
  • Removable Fabric Marking Pen
  • Pillow Insert: 12" x 22"
Note:  Cutting instructions will be included in each section as we go along. In the construction of the pillow, 1/4" seams are used throughout. (Links to products in this post are to those I use and are not affiliate links.)

Aurifil 5020 (light military green) matched the Illuminate perfectly
Aurifil 5016 (olive green) paired well with Tree Day
Two Mettlers were used for the applique

Let's get started by appliqueing the lights to the pillow background fabric.


Preparing the Background for Applique

  • Cut background fabric to 13" x 23"
My pillow insert measures 12" x 22" so I added 1" and cut my background 13" x 23".  The extra one inch allows for seam allowances and room for the pillow insert so the pillow cover is not over stuffed. You can adjust according to your preference.

1.  Mark the background fabric using a removable fabric marking pen for your preferred placement of the bias stem or string of lights and bulbs.  I made a gentle curving line starting 9" from the bottom on the left and ending at 7" from the bottom on the right.  On the gentle curved line, I marked the bulb placement with bolder dots about 4" apart.

Background fabric with placement references



Preparing and Fusing Applique Shapes


1.  Using a compass or small drinking glass as I did, draw 6 circles (2 3/4" in diameter) for the lights onto the paper backed fusible web.  The 6th bulb allows you to practice on a scrap before appliqueing onto your project. 

Circles for bulbs drawn onto paper back fusible web

2.  Fuse the circles onto the wrong side of your lights fabric and cut out circles on the drawn line.


Shapes fused onto back of fabric

3.  The light sockets are a 1" squares.  Rather than drawing the squares onto the fusible web, iron a section of fusible, roughly 1 1/2" x 6 1/2", to the socket fabric.  Then cut out 6 - 1" squares using the rotary cutter and ruler. (See picture above)

Applique shapes cut out

4. Remove the paper backing from your applique shapes.

5.  Arrange the lights on the background at your bulb placement marks and 3/4" below the drawn line from step 3 in Preparing the Background for Applique section.  Fuse only the circles at this point.  By using a layering technique, we will eliminate the need for precisely starting and stopping and burying threads, all stops and starts will be hidden underneath the light socket applique pieces.

6.  Position the iron-on tear-away stabilizer behind the applique shapes and adhere using the products directions. Be sure to extend the stabilizer to cover the area where the light sockets will be appliqued also.  Now you are ready to applique!



Appliqueing the Shapes


Ok, we've cut out the circles and squares, fused them onto the background fabric and ironed on stabilizer. Now, we are ready to applique.

1.  Set up your machine for a zig zag stitch with your desired stitch length and width.  My preferred stitch width is somewhere between 1.5 and 2mm and stitch length of around .5mm.  Switch your presser foot an open toe embroidery foot and set your machine to "needle down" if you have the capability.    

Remember a couple of things as you stitch:
  • Strive for your zig zag satin stitch to cover the raw edge of your applique shape.  The needle should enter the background fabric very close to your applique shape.  You will see what I am referring to in just a bit.  
  • Strive to keep your stitches perpendicular to the edge of your applique shape.
  • We will be tackling all 'outside' circles and corners so when stopping to pivot, your needle will always stop just outside of the circle or square in the background fabric.
  • Always stitch a sample to review your stitch length, width and quality.  Also, you can see if you are happy with your thread color.
2.  Mark your circles so you may see where to start and stop your stitching. It's not necessary to stitch underneath the light socket square.  This is the layering to which I referred to earlier.  This picture shows the circle on the left has been completely stitched and the circle on the right has been marked for starting and stopping.

One circle has been appliqued and the other marked for stops and starts

3.  Start stitching with your needle in the down position just outside of the circle and into the background fabric.

4.  Stitch slowly and strive for even spacing between your stitches.

5.  Strive for a smooth curve, stopping to pivot when necessary by raising your presser foot and adjusting your work.

Zig zag satin stitch machine applique in process using an open toe foot for visibility

6.  Applique all the circles.

7.  Arrange the 1" square light socket pieces according to the picture below and fuse in place.  The sockets should cover the unstitched edge of the circles or lights and fall just below your drawn line. 

8.  Starting on the right side of the socket at the upper right hand corner, applique on the right, bottom and left sides, leaving the top with a raw edge as it will be covered by the bias stem.  Remember to pivot on the outside, so your needle should stop in the background fabric on outermost corner.

Lights and sockets have been appliqued

9.  Applique the remaining sockets and tear away the stabilizer.




Making and Attaching Bias Stem for the String for Lights


  • Cut a 1 1/2" bias strip at least 25" in length from the fabric for the lights "string". 
I prefer bias stems that are made from bias strip(s) and sewn into a tube.  The seam allowance is trimmed and pressed to the center so that it is concealed when applied to the project.  Joanna at Applique Today has a great bias stems tutorial here.

1.  Follow the tutorial referenced above to make a bias stem that is 1/4" to 3/8" wide and 25" long. To trim the excess seam allowance with ease, I insert the bias bar into the tube before trimming.  I use small serrated scissors which grab the fabric as you cut to make trimming a breeze.

I like to trim the  the bias stem with serrated scissors

2.  Place the 1/4" Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 down the center of bias stem over the seam and fuse in place. Tip: This differs from the instructions, if I don't fuse in place at this stage, the narrow webbing has a tendency to not stay put on the stem.

3.  Remove the paper backing and the Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 will be tacky to the touch. 


1/4" Steam-A-Seam 2 applied to the bias stem

4.  Place the bias stem for the string of lights over the previously drawn line making sure to cover the top raw edge of the socket and fuse in place.  The tackiness of the Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 will hold the bias stem in place but is still repositionable at this point.

5.  Stitch the bias stem in place using your desired stitch.  I chose to straight stitch along each edge still using the open toe embroidery foot.  The stem will not shift since it has been fused in place.   It is not necessary to use the stabilizer when stitching the bias stem.

String of Lights applique and bias stem are complete

Finishing Blue Christmas Pillow or Wall Hanging

Now that our string of lights has been appliqued, let's turn this into a pillow or wall hanging.  The border that we add to the appliqued background will become the pillow flange.  I finished my pillow with a traditional quilt binding which adds interest and stability the outer edge.

From the border or flange fabric:
  • Cut 2 pieces 2 1/2" x 13" (or the length of your appliqued background)
  • Cut 2 pieces 2 1/2" x 27 1/2" (or the width of your appliqued background plus 2 1/2" twice minus 1/2" for the seam allowances)
1.  Sew the smaller pieces to the left and right sides of your appliqued background.  Sew the larger pieces to the top and bottom.  Press all seams toward the border.
  • Cut pillow or wall hanging backing 18" x 29" (this allows for a little overhang)
  • Cut batting 18" x 29"
2.  Layer appliqued top, batting and backing and quilt as desired.  I first quilted around the applique motifs and stitched in the ditch around the borders.  I then quilted a loopy meander in the background and triangular tree shapes in the border.

3.  Trim away excess batting and backing.  If making a wall hanging, stop and bind at this point.

From Pillow Envelope Backing Fabric:
  • Cut 1 piece 14 3/4" width x 16 3/4" length 
  • Cut 1 piece 19 3/4" width x 16 3/4 length
4.  Hem backing pieces with a double 1/2" hem along the 16 3/4" edge being mindful if you have directional fabric to hem on correct side. 

5.  Lay pillow top face down and layer right sides up, the larger backing piece first and then the smaller.  Baste around the outer edges less than 1/4" from edge using your walking foot to prevent layers from shifting.

Quilted pillow top face down with larger envelope backing placed first

6.  To form the pillow flange, stitch in the ditch between the background and the border/flange.    Backstitch to reinforce the areas of the seams which will receive the most stress. 

Stitching in the ditch to create pillow flange

Envelope backing and machine sewn binding


  • Cut 3 width of fabric Binding fabric strips to your preferred width


7.  Bind as you would a traditional quilt.  I chose to sew the binding entirely by machine.

Pillow cover with machine appliqued string of vintage lights

Enjoy your Blue Christmas string of lights pillow or wall hanging.  I can almost here Elvis Presley singing it now.

Elvis' Christmas Album which was my grandmother's

Since everyone loves presents, how about a GIVEAWAY!  


To one (1) lucky commenter will receive two (2) charm packs of True Colors by Heather Bailey for Free Spirit Fabrics.


How to enter:

1. Leave a comment, any comment.  If you have a favorite Christmas carol,  let me know your favorite.

2. Followers, old and new alike, get a bonus entry.  Leave a second comment and let me know how you subscribe. (Some options are BloglovinInstagram or Email)

The giveaway will run through Friday, July 29th and close at 8pm.  I normally respond to every comment received, but during the giveaway the volume may be to large for me to do so. Please leave your e-mail address so I have a way of contacting you if you are a no-reply blogger.

I hope you are enjoying the 12 Days of Christmas in July Blog Tour hosted by Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  Please visit Joanne at Everyone Deserves a Quilt today for a fun lap quilt including piecing tips and a giveaway.  You will find many other wonderful Christmas ideas on the blog hop.  Here's the complete calendar:


July 14th:    Sharon Vrooman @ Vrooman’s Quilts
Carole Carter @ From My Caroline Home

July 15th:    Yanicka Hachez @ Finding Myself As An Artist
Chris Dodsley @ made by ChrissieD

July 16th:    Marsha Hodgkins @ Quilter in Motion
Leanne Parsons @ Devoted Quilter

July 17th:    Tonia Conner @ All Thingz Sewn
Selina @ Selina Quilts

July 18th:    Lara Buccella @ Buzzin Bumble
Soma Acharya @ Whims and Fancies

July 19th:   Joanne Harris@ Quilts by Joanne

July 20th:    Vicki Schlimmer @ Vicki’s Crafts and Quilting
Jennifer Fulton @ The Inquiring Quilter

July 21st:     Michele Kuhns @ Crayon Box Quilt Studio
Jan Ochterbeck @ The Colorful Fabriholic

July 22nd:  Alla Blanca @ Rainbows. Bunnies. Cupcakes.
Zenia Rene @ A Quilted Passion

July 23rd:   Joanne Hubbard @ Everyone Deserves a Quilt
Paige Alexander @ Quilted Blooms ...Your are here!

July 24th:    Carolyn Jones @ …by CJ
Tisha Nagel @ Quilty Therapy

July 25th:    Susan Arnold @ Quilt Fabrication
Beth Sellers @ Cooking Up Quilts
Linda Pearl @ One Quilting Circle


To give everyone the opportunity to join in on the Christmas fun, I'm linking to Whoop Whoop Friday, Finish up Friday, Show Off Saturday, Main Crush Monday and Let's Bee Social.


July 14, 2016

Block #12 - Stairway to Heaven

This is the 12th and final block challenge for Modern Quilts Unlimited Everything Old is New Again block and quilt challenge.  Each month we have been given a traditional quilt block to interpret in a modern way.  The size of each block must finish at 12" when sewn into a quilt.

Like many other quilt blocks, Jacob's Ladder was inspired by the Bible and the reference to Jacob in the Old Testament.

And he dreamed and behold a ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reached the heavens and behold the angles of God were ascending and descending on it.  Genesis 28:11-22

I named my block Stairway to Heaven.

Stairway to Heaven by Paige Alexander


Jacob's Ladder is also know by other names such as Road to California, Off to San Francisco, Gone to Chicago, Underground Railroad and more.



If you would like to know more about the Jacob's Ladder and the history of quilt patterns, see Luke Haynes' post here, Quilt patterns through Time at Womenfolk.com and Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block at PatternsfromHistory.com

Now, the challenge is to turn all 12 blocks into a quilt no larger than 60" x 60" and, of course, you may only use Michael Miller fabrics. The deadline is September 15th. Here are all 12 blocks.

Blocks 1 - 12 Everything Old is New Again by Paige Alexander


Row 1
  • Flying Geese - Flying into the Sun 
  • Snail's Traisl - Trail Blazers 
  • Ohio Star - Ohio on Point 
  • Card Trick - Simple Transparency Trick 

Row 2


Row 3



Voting is open until June 15th.

Excited to finish the last block in the challenge, I'm linking to Needle and Thread Thursday, Whoop Whoop Friday, CelticThistle Stitches hosting Thank Goodness Its Finished Friday this week, Fabric Frenzy Friday and Show Off Saturday.