My favorite hand piecing tools

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Six blocks down for the Fat Quarter Shop’s Patchwork Quilt Along. I finished them in about a week and a half and I can only hope that I can maintain that pace for a whole year. I am actually a bit sad that they are done and I don’t get the next pattern until next month. My hands feel so idle in the evenings now, while we have our family TV time. Yes, I have things to knit–but I’m a little obsessed with hand sewing right now.

As I mentioned in my last post–I made just about every mistake you could make with the first few blocks. As I continued with the next three, I’ve been experimenting with a few things (especially needles) and I have arrived at a few of my favorite tools.

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Perhaps most importantly, I have found what I think is the perfect needle: Piecemakers Hand Applique Sharp size 12. It is thin enough to have little to no drag on the fabric, an eye that is not impossible to thread (though I do use a very simple needle threader–the red square in the picture), and is a very nice length. I also like the Betweens from the same maker, but I find them a bit short–they don’t hit my thimble in the right place.

Speaking of thimbles, I’ve had this one for forever. I’ve tried all kinds of thimbles and this simple metal one that you can buy at any craft store (probably Dritz brand) is my favorite. Fun fact: I like this size now, but I have a smaller one that works better when I’m a bit thinner.

After making all the marking mistakes early on, I am now marking with a thin, mechanical pencil using the Jinny Beyer Perfect Piecer. Yes, you can use any old ruler, but this one has all the right markings and one day I hope to graduate to just being able to mark the dots and not the whole line–and this one has perfect little holes for that.

Everything else is pretty self-explanitory: my favorite Aurifil 2311 50 wt. thread, a small pair of sharp scissors, some nice thin pins, and the ever present red Clover clips to keep things together and organized.

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I keep all of this in a little zipper pouch that a wonderful friend made me and I am ready to make the most of “found” moments throughout my day. Most recently, I did a bit of hand piecing in a hotel hallway, waiting for my son to perform with his Jazz Honor Band. Small moments, big results.

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is this crazy? a handpieced quilt project

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This may be crazy. And I may totally fail. But I hope not.

Ever since I learned to quilt, about seven years ago, I’ve wanted to make a hand pieced quilt. It seems so portable and charming and fun and a little bit crazy. I’ve hand pieced coasters and mug rugs, but have always been on the lookout for the quilt project that seemed just right. Enter the Fat Quarter Shop Patchwork Quilt Along.

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I really had no idea it was going to lead to this, but I love the simple patchwork blocks and clean lines of this quilt and decided, very last minute, to jump on the bandwagon. This pattern has the awesome side benefit of raising money for charity–and I was happy to donate to Make a Wish.

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I really didn’t want to buy fabric (but I did), so I started out with some Bonnie and Camille fabric from my stash. I downloaded the pattern, made my donation, and started cutting. These pieces are small! Like 1″ finished squares! I was pondering how careful and accurate I needed to be as I sat down at my sewing machine. Now, my accuracy has been improving steadily these last couple of years, but still. It was then that I realized that this would be a perfect hand piecing project! It ‘s much easier to be accurate when sewing by hand.

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The blocks are only 5″ and fairly simple. So I stepped away from the machine and got out the needle and thread. I confess, it has been awhile since I did any hand piecing and my skills were quite rusty. Let’s just say I made a few mistakes early on.

The first was that I only marked the seam allowance on the one edge of the fabric that I was going to sew first. Mistake. You are eventually going to sew all four sides of the fabric, so go ahead and mark them all while it is a nice, flat piece of fabric and not all lumpy and bumpy from being sewn to other tiny pieces of fabric.

The second mistake was that I used a Frixion pen to mark the seam allowances. This seemed like a good idea at first, but now that I’ve ironed them, all the marks are gone, and I will want them back when I sew these blocks together. (Forehead smack.)

The third was that I forgot how to get really neat points and corners. The first two blocks are off a bit, but I pulled out my  Quiltmaking by Hand book from hand sewing guru Jinny Beyer, and read up on it. The last block, the red one, came out much better. Progress! I thought about redoing the first two blocks, but they aren’t horrible, and I decided to look at this quilt as my journey in hand piecing. It will be a visible record of my improvement.

I decided that I wanted to use a variety of Bonnie and Camille fabrics for this project, and my stash was not adequate, so I ordered a layer cake of Bonnie and Camille Basics to get a bit more variety. As a matter of fact, I am (im)patiently waiting for the UPS man right now, so that I can get back to it.

To stay up with the Patchwork Quilt Along, you only need to make six blocks a month. It seems pretty do-able–even by hand! I plan to just tackle it one month at a time. It’s amazing how many “found” moments there are in a day to sew a quick seam. It is a goal of mine to use my time more effectively, and using these small moments to stop and hand sew for a bit makes me unreasonably happy.

Anyone else sewing along? I’d love to hear about it!

scrappy table runner tutorial

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Scrappy Christmas Table Runner

Size: 12” x 42”

Block size: 6″

Materials

  • 1 ½” strips assorted prints (I used a honeybun of Holly’s Tree Farm from Moda)
  • Background fabric, neutral (I used Kona Snow), cut into 6 7/8″ strips
  • Cotton quilt batting, such as Warm and White
  • 3/4 yd. backing fabric
  • 120″ of 2 1/4″ strips for binding
  • Triangle in a square Bloc Loc ruler, 6″ (optional, but helpful)

Here is an alternate method of making Triangle in a Square blocks, though not at 6″.

Note: All seams are 1/4″

Block Assembly

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  1. Sew together 7 strips and press the seam allowances all the same direction. Using the triangle template, cut out the first triangle. Continue using the template to cut 14 triangles. Here is a video that shows how to use the Bloc Loc ruler.

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2. Using the second template, cut the background fabric as shown. You should have 14 sets of 2.

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3. Lay out the triangle and background pieces as shown.

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4. Position the background fabric on the left side of the triangle as shown and stitch. Press open.

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5. Position the remaining background fabric on the right side of the triangle as shown and stitch. Press open.

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6. Repeat for remaining 13 blocks. You can get some good chaining piecing going by doing Step 4 on all the blocks, pressing, and then Step 5 on all the blocks.trim-2-1024x654

7. Using the Bloc Loc ruler, trim to perfection! The assembly part of this project will go so much smoother when the blocks are are perfectly uniform.

Table Runner Assembly

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8. Layout blocks as shown and sew them together. Instead of sewing them in rows, I do them as 4-patches and then sew the 4-patches together. I find that I get more accurate nesting seams than if I try to stitch full rows together.

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9. Baste and quilt as desired. I did some straight line quilting with a walking foot in the background areas only, using Aurifil 2311.  Bind.

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This pattern has so many possible variations! You can use a single print for each triangle, instead of going scrappy. Or you can make the triangle space a neutral fabric and use the prints for the side pieces, for a totally different look. I’m looking forward to playing around with this a bit more and hopefully ending up with a stack of new table runners! And then I will move on to full-size quilts!

Let me know if you make a Scrappy Table Runner! I’d love to see it! Please tag me on Instagram: @kristin_esser.

Piecing Makeover Blog Tour and Giveaway

Update: The giveaway is closed and the winner has been notified. Congrats to Marg!

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Welcome to my stop on the Piecing Makeover blog tour! This book by Patty Murphy is exactly the book that I need at this point in my quilting journey. This book is your guide to diagnosing and solving common quilting problems. I enjoyed reading how the book came to be and it basically contains a lot of information that Patty was passing on to her students as she was teaching–and was a bit surprised that a book like this didn’t already exist! I’m glad that she took matters into her own hands and created this resource to help fellow quilters become better, more accurate, less frustrated piecers.

I for one want to become a super-accurate piecer. It just makes quilting more enjoyable to me to have my blocks go together easily. I don’t plan to get neurotic about it–but sharpening my skills in this area is high on my priority list. So, the second I saw the title of this book, I knew it was a must-have.

First of all, this book is such a great resource. I know that I will refer to it over and over when making certain types of challenging blocks. And I have already picked up so many tips and tricks to improve the methods that I am already using.

Once I started flipping through the book, I headed straight for my nemesis: Flying Geese units. Once I read about her super clever way of piecing flying geese–I knew I had to give it a try. I’m not going to spoil it and walk you through it all here (you have to buy the book for that). But here is a bit of a teaser.

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With one stroke of the rotary cutter, this cute little heart-shaped contraption will become two (2!) flying geese units–created entirely with no pesky bias edges to get all stretched out.

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And then Patty has you trim them to perfection. There was a time when stopping to do this would have driven me crazy, but as I’ve said before, taking the time to trim is absolutely worth it! Your blocks go together like buttah! And here’s the proof. A perfect 4.5″ x 2.5″ unit.

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I have made several quilts with flying geese units before and I’ve always found them tricky to keep consistent. Patty’s method seems to be foolproof, and I will turn to it time and time again in the future, I’m sure of it.

I have an on-going love affair with half square triangles, so I flipped to that section next. I already know the importance of trimming HSTs, but Patty has some great tricks to make sure that you don’t lose any points. I tried those out next and was very happy with the results.

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I have never known how to furl the center seam allowance on a block like this, so that it lays flatter. Patty took care of that. It was my first time, so it’s not great–but it made a big difference in how the front of the block looked. As a matter of fact, I didn’t think my points met until I was able to press it flatter after furling the center. I’m so glad I’ve got that skill up my sleeve now!

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There are many more blocks and skills that I can’t wait to try out–curved piecing, Y-seams, diamonds, and dealing with imperfect blocks (I have a few of those, ahem). So, this book will be within quick reach for a long time.

I cannot abide an orphan block, so I spend a few extra minutes to turn my newly conquered flying geese units into a couple of cute mug rugs. Both of these are made with Amy Sinibaldi’s brand new fabric line from AGF called Playground–that little hopscotch print is perfection!

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Clearly, this book is a must have resource for every quilter’s bookshelf and C&T Publishing has provided a copy of Piecing Makeover to one lucky winner! Just leave a comment telling me what type of piecing trips you up from time to time. Is it flying geese? Not cutting points off? Tell me all about it!

At the end of the tour, the winners will be announced and C&T will mail a copy of the book to you. Winners outside the U.S. will receive an e-copy. Good luck!

9/12 C&T http://www.ctpub.com/blog/

9/13 AnneMarie Chany http://www.genxquilters.com/

9/14 Jodie Carleton http://vintagericrac.blogspot.com/

9/15 Teri Lucas/Gen Q Magazine http://generationqmagazine.com/

9/16 Sandi Hazlewood http://www.craftyplanner.com/

9/17 Mary Abreu http://confessionsofacraftaddict.com/

9/18 Kristin Esser https://kristinesser.com/

9/19 Me https://pattymurphyhandmade.com/

Let’s have a giveaway!

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The wonderful Fat Quarter Shop has given me two Sundrops layer cakes by Corey Yoder to giveaway to two lucky winners (1 each). I can’t even tell you how much I love this line! The prints, the color palette! I love it all!

If you love it too, leave a comment telling me what you would make with a layer cake of Sundrops. For more entries, visit my Instagram account, and find the giveaway post to find out how to enter there.

Good luck!

Giveaway ends Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016.

pretty playtime quilts :: borders

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[photos by Minki Kim}

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It’s finally here! My turn on the Pretty Playtime Quiltalong Blog Tour! I was so thrilled to be asked to be a part of this quilt along for Elea Lutz’s adorable book Pretty Playtime Quilts. There are so many things to love about this book. As you have seen throughout this quilt along–it is filled adorable blocks! Whether you choose to do the sampler quilt, like I did, one of the other five quilts that stick with a single block style–you can’t go wrong. And although this quilt would be precious in any number of fabrics, Elea’s Strawberry Biscuit is just perfect for it.

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I enjoyed piecing these borders (I see them as hearts–do you?). I think they are the perfect complement to the rest of the blocks in the quilt. Here’s a secret: I often skip putting borders on quilts, but there was no way I would skip these! And I can totally envision using these border blocks on other quilts as well.

I love getting into the zen of chain piecing, so these came together quickly over a few nights of sewing, tea, and Netflix. I love that Elea often oversizes the blocks (like these ones) and has you trim them to the perfect size at the end. There was a time that I would have balked at that extra step, but I have learned that taking the time to trim blocks perfectly helps them to go together perfectly. And there is nothing better than that.

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I couldn’t resist making a couple extra of these adorable heart blocks and turning them into coasters with a little hand stitching. I think a stack of these would be a wonderful gift.

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I made quite a few of the blocks during this quilt along–I wanted to make them all, but you know–life! I thought it would be fun to show you a few of my favorites before we wrap this tour up. I am looking forward to stitching all of these (and more) together with the borders to create a quilt that I know will be treasured.

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It’s never too late to grab a copy of Pretty Playtime Quilts and get started on your own treasure. And thanks to the Fat Quarter Shop for hosting this quilt along! It’s been a blast!

 

 

high tea blog tour :: let’s have a tea party!

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Welcome to my High Tea party! I was thrilled to be asked to play with this beautiful line by Jera Brandvig of Quilting in the Rain. I am a total Anglophile (lover of All Things British), so a line called High Tea, well, it’s just my thing. And I knew Jera from her wonderful book Quilt-as-You-Go Made Modern, so I knew I was in for a treat.

First of all, let’s talk about the color palette of this line! I love the  soft pinks, blues, greens, and yellows and the muted reds. And I especially love it when a fabric line includes some grays! It has adorable strawberry prints and doily motifs, but it’s the tiny florals that have my heart.

There is nothing better than a good tea party and this was a perfect excuse to create this new table setting–a new table topper, tea cozy, and tea mat. I brewed up some loose leaf English Breakfast tea, set out some macarons and invited a friend over for tea and a chat.

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I can’t get enough of half square triangles these days, so that was the place to start for this mini quilt. I used a charm pack of High Tea, and another charm pack of a slight off-white and these blocks came together almost by themselves. I’ve been wanting to play around with both this block arrangement and this wavy quilting forever–so this project was a pleasure from start to finish.

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My favorite blue teapot needed a new cozy, and I thought that the teapot print was a perfect choice. That red floral just peeking out along the bottom is my absolute favorite print (if I had to choose one, which I’m glad I don’t). If you don’t use a tea cozy on your teapot, I encourage you to make one–it’s a quick and easy project. And it really does keep the tea in the pot warm, leaving you to enjoy your macrons and sparkling conversation a little bit longer.

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And no tea party setting would be complete with out individual tea mats. This tea cup pattern is from my new book with Minki Kim, Sew Illustrated. Again, how darling are those strawberries?!

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{photos by Minki Kim}

I enjoyed every moment of working with these gorgeous fabrics. And I know I’m not the only one! I look forward to seeing the creative projects each one of these designers comes up with as I’ve been following along this High Tea Party. I hope you’re following along too!

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