Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

SusanEmerson ProfilePic 292x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan EmersonWelcome guest blogger and quilt designer, Susan Emerson. After earning degrees in Home Economics and FIDM Fashion Design, she’s spent over 25 years in the fabric industry, which includes designing quilts to promote fabric collections for Wilmington Prints and Wilmington Batiks. Susan’s new quilt, Murano, offers dazzling secondary patterns created by fabric and block placement and features a complex pattern that’s easier than it looks. You’ll find this quilt in the McCall’s Quilting May/June 2017 issue. We’re happy to have Susan here to talk about her quilt!

Hello Quilters!  This is my very first time blogging and I’m very excited to share a bit of my design process for the Murano quilt featured in the McCall’s Quilting May/June 2017 issue. I love the fabrics and colors, the design challenges, the deadlines, and yes, the math involved. Using Electric Quilt software and digital fabric files, I create several designs and optional color combos for each collection – close to 100 published designs every year that are (hopefully) attractive, interesting, and achievable for quilters with a variety of skillsets.

murano style 200x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson murano flat 258x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

When designing for a print collection, the challenge is to create attractive ways to use engineered panels and border stripes. When designing for a new collection of batiks, it’s all about the colors. A pastel collection might suggest a baby quilt, while a collection with deep colors (and no “girlie” pinks or purples) seems suited to a man-sized throw quilt. My favorite part of designing with batiks is that I get to play with random blocks and layout ideas that float around in my head. Floating ideas are normal, right? (Or should I be worried?)

Emerson AlternateFabrics1 300x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson Emerson AlternateFabrics2 300x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

This Wilmington Batiks collection includes a variety of blues, oranges, limes, purples, and citrons (greenish-yellows). After dividing the colors into complementary color schemes of blue/orange and purple/citron, I played with some quilt block ideas for a throw-sized quilt that would showcase both combos.

Many wonderful quilts use just 1 block or 2 alternated blocks, but one of my floating ideas was to use 3 or 4 blocks in an asymmetrical layout. I chose 4 blocks and, for the layout, I roughly pictured a map with open land and a few roads transitioning through suburbs into a crowded city, then it sort of morphed into a mosaic-style layout. I love quilt designs that make you guess where the blocks start and stop and I find that’s usually achieved with color placement.

Amy Gilbert in Missouri makes most of my batik quilt models including Murano, which she says was her favorite one to make so far.  She says that “the layout seems to flow regardless of how you arrange the fabrics within the colorway.”


TIP #1

When combining blocks, use similar block types such as:

  • All 9-patch quilt blocks
  • All 5-patch quilt blocks
  • All 4-patch quilt blocks (like Murano)
  • All 16-patch blocks

The seams and shapes will align, making it possible to overlap color placement for a flowing design that creates secondary blocks and visual effects. In Murano, the citron colors in the edge-triangles of Block V combine with the citron in Block W to fool the eye into seeing larger, on-point blocks. Here are examples of different color placement in these blocks:

Emerson MuranoCloseUp BlueOrange 300x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

Blue and Orange (up close)

Emerson Murano BlueOrange 257x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

Blue and Orange

Emerson MuranoCloseUp PurpleNoCitron 300x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

Purple without Citron (up close)

Emerson Murano PurpleNoCitron 257x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

Purple without Citron

Emerson MuranoCloseUp PurpleYesCitron 300x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

Purple and Citron (up close)

Emerson Murano PurpleYesCitron 257x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

Purple and Citron

Emerson MuranoUpClose IndiGlow 300x298 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

Indi Glow (up close)

Emerson Murano IndiGlow 257x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan Emerson

Indi Glow

TIP #2

If you don’t want to start from scratch, and you don’t have access to software for trying digital color options, you can use the stress-relieving activity of using adult coloring books for some color-play:

  1. Trace your chosen quilt design (the blocks and shapes or the construction diagram)
  2. Make a few photocopies of the diagram or outline and use colored pencils to try a variety of color placement ideas, either random or based on color combinations from your stash.

If the colors are not in your stash, you’ll have to take your favorite colored page with you to match next time you shop! I know, I know – you hate to go shopping for fabric, right?  :)

I hope you’ll have fun making the Murano quilt in whatever colors you choose. Being creative and playing with color is the most fun part of my day – I hope you’ll try some color-play, too. I think you’ll find it freeing and fulfilling. I hope to work with McCall’s Quilting again, so until next time, happy quilting!

Emerson Giveaway WilmingtonJewels 300x300 Murano: A Visit with Susan EmersonI’m very happy to offer a 24-count pack of 10″ batik squares. Wilmington Ultra Violet – 10 Karat Mini-Jewels includes the fabrics used in Murano and additional batik fabrics from the latest collection.

Thanks so much, Susan! Leave a comment below before midnight May 4, 2017 and you’ll be entered into our random drawing to win this lovely prize. The winner will be notified by email with subject line beginning YOU WON.

This contest is open to US and Canadian residents, excluding Quebec. 

If you’d like to make your own version of the Murano quilt, and don’t yet have a copy of the McCall’s Quilting May/June 2017 issue, you can order print and digital versions in our online shop. The Murano quilt pattern is also available separately as an instant digital download.  

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Workshop Wednesday: Free-motion Quilting

Before I tried free-motion quilting for myself, I had the impression that it took skills and supplies that I did not have, and the thought of even starting was pretty daunting. My first attempts were made in 2013, and the results were not great. It was frustrating, because I really wanted to be good at it, but it turns out that the only way to get good is to sit at my sewing machine and do a whole lot of free-motion stitching. So I did.

alphabet Workshop Wednesday: Free motion Quilting

Some of my early free-motion quilting attempts in 2013.

treebackground Workshop Wednesday: Free motion Quilting

Front and back of a pillow sham, c. 2014. I was trying to follow the print with stitching.

I started with very basic exercises, then moved onto different patterns and following print patterns, and it wasn’t until 2015 that I felt comfortable enough to quilt an entire quilt with different free-motion quilting motifs. I wrote about my free-motion quilting journey on the Quilters Newsletter Editor’s blog; read all about it if you like here, here, here, here and here. I included lots of tips and tricks (and photos!) that helped me in each of the posts, so check them out if you want to know (and see) more.

garden9 Workshop Wednesday: Free motion Quilting

The back of a big quilt I finished in 2015, all done with different free-motion quilting motifs.

As far as supplies go, you don’t need much, and most of those supplies usually come with new sewing machines, so it’s likely you already have them. The necessary items are:

  • Darning foot, or open toe embroidery foot. You need the special foot because unlike a standard presser foot, the darning foot hovers just slightly over the surface of the fabric, which lets you move the quilt around under the needle. Many sewing machines include this foot with purchase.
  • A sewing table or extension. You need a large enough surface that you can place both hands flat on either side of the needle to move the quilt. It does not have to be fancy (see photo below).
  • This isn’t a separate item, but you have to lower the feed dogs on your sewing machine. The feed dogs are what moves the fabric forward as you sew a standard seam, but you want to be able to move in any direction for free-motion quilting. Your sewing machine manual will tell you how to lower the feed dogs on your particular machine.
exttable Workshop Wednesday: Free motion Quilting

My custom-made sewing extension table. It’s a tin box taped to the table. I told you it didn’t have to be fancy!

Those are the necessities, and there are a few additional things that aren’t crucial to free-motion quilting, but they may make things easier:

  • Quilting gloves. They have little grippy sections that make it easier to move the quilt around.
  • Marking tools. These can range from washable pencil to markers to marked paper or even products like Press & Seal. It’s good to experiment to see what works for you, and you may decide you don’t care for marking at all. That’s fine.
  • A sense of adventure. Unless you are very lucky or very talented, your first attempts at free-motion quilting will be underwhelming. Don’t let it discourage you; just keep going, that’s truly the only way to improve!
FMQ1 Workshop Wednesday: Free motion Quilting

I used a kitchen product to mark my free-motion quilting motifs, rather than marking the quilt.

Every quilter should at least try free-motion quilting on a home sewing machine, probably more than just a few times, too. You can do it! There are lots of resources to help you on your free-motion quilting journey, I’ve selected just a few to share.

Quiltmaker has a free, convenient PDF with all kinds of free-motion quilting tips and best practices from J. Renée Howell, a professional machine quilter from Centennial, Colorado. Click on this link to download.

If you’d like to get a little more in-depth, try Catherine Redford’s Modern Machine Quilting eBook, available at It provides multiple techniques and instructions for stitching many common motifs. It’s a resource you will turn to again and again.

DPS8742FP Workshop Wednesday: Free motion Quilting

Modern Machine Quilting Ebook, by Catherine Redford

A short preview video for arranging your sewing space for free-motion quilting, with Lori Baker and Erin Russek, as well as a preview for starting to free-motion quilt on your domestic machine. You can watch the full videos for both on

The Free Motion Quilting Project by Leah Day is full of information, help and beautiful quilting motifs. If you’re brand new to free-motion quilting and are not sure where to start, start here.

I hope you’ll give free-motion quilting a try! Start small, and accept that even though your first attempt may be disappointing, there’s nowhere to go but up! If you keep at it, you will improve and suddenly find that you love it, enjoy the results, and the creative freedom it allows. Happy (free-motion) Quilting!

quilting 300x300 Workshop Wednesday: Free motion Quilting

Happy (free-motion) Quilting!







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Design Wall Tuesday: Machine Quilting Success!

Welcome to Design Wall Tuesday! Several of our editors were outside enjoying the nice spring weather and didn’t spend much time in their sewing rooms this week.

From Acquisitions Editor, Lori Baker:

Lori Pink Scarf 150x150 Design Wall Tuesday: Machine Quilting Success!

Lori Baker






101 4582 300x300 Design Wall Tuesday: Machine Quilting Success!

I just finished this small wall quilt. It’s been quite a journey with lots of changing my mind and experimenting but I’m happy with it.

From Associate Editor, Mary Kate Karr-Petras:

Karr Petras Mary Kate 150x150 Design Wall Tuesday: Machine Quilting Success!

Mary Kate Karr-Petras

MKquilt 294x300 Design Wall Tuesday: Machine Quilting Success!My weekend sewing was focused on binding my biggest finished quilt to date and one that showcases my first longarm quilting, a queen-size quilt I made just for us. This quilt was intended as a quick stash-buster, even incorporating long strips of upcycled cotton sheets that had gotten ripped and with a backing pieced from a fun variety of fabric panels. Its working title was “The Not-Precious Quilt,” about which I of course got far too precious and so it sat as a UFO for about three years because I was daunted by the thought of basting and quilting such a large quilt on a home machine.

MKquiltback 300x284 Design Wall Tuesday: Machine Quilting Success!Because I always planned just to quilt it with wavy, improvisational horizontal lines, I used it as my maiden voyage on the Grace Q’nique longarm machine we got set up here at the office. It didn’t take too long to get comfortable with zipping across the quilt, and I even started to throw in some loops as I got closer to the bottom—I think I’ll end up spending more time finishing the binding by hand than I spent quilting it. That’s OK, it’ll be done soon, and I can’t wait to put it to use.

From Video Content Strategist, Caitlin Dickey:

CAITLIN 1214 500 150x150 Design Wall Tuesday: Machine Quilting Success!

Caitlin Dickey

Flames Icicles top almost finished 300x300 Design Wall Tuesday: Machine Quilting Success!

Flames and Icicles top

I’ve made a bit of progress on my Flames & Icicles mini quilt. (Find the original pattern for an 80″ x 80″ quilt called Fire & Ice by Kimberly Einmo in Quilters Newsletter presents Best Modern Quilts 2014. I’ve learned that the “measure twice, cut once” adage also extends to counting your number of cut patches twice. (Or maybe I meant to only cut 54 B triangles the first time so that I would have to spend time hunting through my stash to figure out what I did with the leftover fabric to cut those other two triangles?). And if any of the points match up anywhere in this entire top, I’m pretty sure that’s a mistake despite the number of pins; glue stick applications; un-sewing, re-aligning, and re-sewing; and whatever other methods I attempted to use. Note to self: tiny little polygonal pieces which form 2 7/8″ blocks are extremely difficult to align because everything is on the bias and the sheer number of seam allowances converging into points skews your ability to “feel them nest.” But done is better than perfect! Now to measure and add the final borders.

We’ll have more to show you when you stop back next week. In the meantime, Happy Quilting and Happy Spring!

Posted in Authors, Baby quilts, Caitlin Dickey, Design Wall Tuesday, Lori Baker, Mary Kate Karr-Petras, Quilting Inspiration | Leave a comment

PIGS: April’s PIG – a Hybrid with Free Motion Quilting, Feed Dog Driven Quilting and Long Arm Quilting

PIGS (Projects in Grocery Sacks) accumulate way too quickly at my house. I try to finish one PIG every month but have lately come to realize that I am falling further and further behind.  I’m going to start trying to finish two every month for a while.

But right now, it’s nearly the end of April and I don’t have a PIG done for the month.

A while back we cleaned, sorted and reorganized several areas in our office. At the end of the cleanup project, all of us got together and took home those things we wanted. Now you’d think that I would have been smart enough to leave the PIGS for someone else since I have so many but no … I took home three PIGS. I finished two of them right away but the third just sat there.

I’m guessing this PIG was a lesson on applique and reverse applique for one of the magazines. Whoever started the project carefully cut the applique so they could use the part they cut away for a matching reverse applique piece. It’s a really fun idea. If you’d like to try something similar, check out the Applique Techniques ebook at

The whole thing 294x300 PIGS: April’s PIG   a Hybrid with Free Motion Quilting, Feed Dog Driven Quilting and Long Arm Quilting

April’s PIGS Project

I stitched around the applique and reverse applique by machine with a narrow blanket stitch and then cut the applique piece in quarters. I added those sections to the reverse applique center with a bright yellow print from my Fabric Inventory for a wide border.




Feed dog driven 300x225 PIGS: April’s PIG   a Hybrid with Free Motion Quilting, Feed Dog Driven Quilting and Long Arm Quilting

The Feed Dog Driven Quilting


Then I made my quilt sandwich, pin-basted it and started quilting. I did an outline stitch and echo quilting for the center (feed dog driven on my domestic machine). Everything was going well.



spirals 300x225 PIGS: April’s PIG   a Hybrid with Free Motion Quilting, Feed Dog Driven Quilting and Long Arm Quilting

Little Tiny Spirals


But not for long. In the bright yellow sections of the border, I decided to use the print as a guide. Bad idea! In this particular print, the largest of the little spirals measures only ¾” on the outside. What in the world was I thinking!!!! I quilted (free-motion quilting, again on my domestic machine) for a long time to get just this much done. I got discouraged and put it away. It was a PIG again.

One of the things I often tell people about PIGS is to evaluate them. Ask “Is there is a problem that caused this particular project to become a PIG?” Then determine if there is a remedy for that problem.

With this PIG the problem is that the quilting is taking too long. If I change the quilting plan, it’s doable.

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Loaded and Ready to Quilt

I decided to load my partially quilted project on the frame and quilt medium-sized and large spirals with the Handi Quilter Avante – a long arm quilting machine that is in our sewing studio at work. I had to experiment a little in order to get the quilt on the frame since it is partially quilted but I did figure it out.


Spirals 300x225 PIGS: April’s PIG   a Hybrid with Free Motion Quilting, Feed Dog Driven Quilting and Long Arm Quilting

Spirals?? Maybe Not!


Then I tried quilting spirals. I really, really couldn’t do them nicely. I’m not willing to mess up this little quilt with spirals that don’t look like spirals.So I am doing straight lines and I like it.


straight lines 300x259 PIGS: April’s PIG   a Hybrid with Free Motion Quilting, Feed Dog Driven Quilting and Long Arm Quilting

Straight Lines – BETTER!



Since I will only quilt a couple of hours a day at work, it will be later this week sometime before this quilt is quilted. I’ll share a photo when it’s done.

I’m not sure what this will be when it is finished. I think I’ll have too much quilting for it to be a cuddly baby quilt so I guess it will be a table topper or wall hanging. But the best part will be that it is done.

Until next time, happy quilting!







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I Love This Quilt! Nutmeg & Cinnamon

DPMQP150811 I Love This Quilt! Nutmeg & CinnamonCarolyn’s pick for the I Love This Quilt! page, Nutmeg & Cinnamon by Janice Averill, appears in the July/August 2015 issue of McCall’s Quilting.

Download the Nutmeg & Cinnamon free quilt pattern here, and read on about Carolyn’s plans to make her version of this lovely quilt!

I’m always on the lookout for quick quilts and quilts made from pre-cuts. It seems there is less time in my schedule for quilting than I would like, so quilts that work up quickly are perfect! I like the plaid effect of this quilt formed by rotating every other block. It adds some fun interest to the design.

Even though I mentioned liking quilts made from pre-cuts, that’s not how I made my quilt. I fell in love with a fabric collection called Urban Artifacts designed by Leslie Tucker Jenison for RJR Fabrics while I was at the International Quilt Market in Houston in the fall of 2016. What I really liked best about this collection was one particular print and the way the design looked like it was layered. I thought I could use it in the same position in every block and then add coordinating fabrics.

IMG 0061 224x300 I Love This Quilt! Nutmeg & Cinnamon

focus fabric on the left, coordinating fabrics on the right

I didn’t have precut strips of this fabric, like the original pattern, but that was ok. It’s easy to cut 2 1/2″ widths of fabric, which I did for the 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles that I sewed from the light print (my focus fabric) and the 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ squares of the coordinating prints. For the 2 1/2″ x 10 1/2″ rectangles, instead of cutting 2 1/2″-wide strips, I cut strips 10 1/2″ wide, and then cut those into 2 1/2″ x 10 1/2″ rectangles. Since I used less coordinating fabrics than the original pattern, this was the most efficient method for me to get more rectangles cut quickly.

I chose two different coordinating fabrics for each section and sewed the patches together.

IMG 0414 300x225 I Love This Quilt! Nutmeg & Cinnamon

quilt 233x300 I Love This Quilt! Nutmeg & Cinnamon

quilt center

Then I chose two different sections for each block. I laid the blocks out on my floor to find the best arrangement, trying to balance the different fabrics. I ended up taking apart a few of the sections and replacing the small squares with a solid light teal for a little more variety.

I still have the borders to sew on, but I like the way it turned out so far.




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Friday Free Quilt Patterns: Looking Glass

lookingGlass Friday Free Quilt Patterns: Looking Glass

This week’s Friday FREE quilt pattern is a precut-friendly mini quilt pattern offers the perfect place to display some of those prints you just had to bring home with you: Looking Glass based on a quilt designed by Stephanie Sheridan. This design leaves plenty of opportunities for fussy cutting! Finished size is 23″ x 23″.

lookingglass 200 Friday Free Quilt Patterns: Looking Glass

This Friday FREEbie was patterned in the June/July 2017 McCall’s Quick Quilts issue.

Have you missed any of our previous Friday Freebies? Click here to find them all!

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PIGS: String Theory – A Queen-size PIG

I try to complete one of my PIGS (Projects in Grocery Sacks) every month. Here it is nearly the end of April and I have only finished three. This quilt was actually the first PIG I completed in 2017 but I didn’t ever tell you about it so let me do that now.

stringtheory 300x293 PIGS: String Theory – A Queen size PIG

String Theory

String Theory was a joint project. A few months ago, Elijah, one of our adult sons, was staying with us and pretty bored during the day when both my husband and I were gone to work. He’s an artist and he likes to sew and make things so I decided to give him a project.

I have my fabric sorted and stored in large plastic tubs by color. I explained the process of string piecing and told him to choose a color scheme. I suggested choosing the color scheme based on which tubs were full and overflowing. He made 101 blocks with black and pink as the main colors with just a bit of purple.

I make string-pieced quilts fairly often. I love the look and I like that they can use up a lot of fabric depending on how wide I make the strings.

Here is one of my string-pieced quilts. Eye Teaser is in the May/June issue of McCall’s Quilting.  The issue is available on newsstands, at your local quilt shop and at in hard copy or digital format or the quilt pattern is available stand-alone in digital format.

 PIGS: String Theory – A Queen size PIG

Eye Teaser

When I make string-pieced blocks, I usually stitch my strings diagonally across the foundation so I can use strips of different lengths. I don’t measure. I just “eyeball” and my strings are at or very close to a 45-degree angle on the square foundation.

I didn’t tell Elijah that part of my process so his strings are at many different angles and what a difference that makes in the look. I love the not-so-structured look of Elijah’s quilt.

After Elijah made all those blocks, they spent a while mellowing in the sewing room. I thought perhaps he’d go ahead and sew them together but when I asked him, he said he’d rather not. He did help arrange them on my design wall.

We had the blocks on my design wall over the holidays and they just hung there. Then the holidays were over and they were still just hanging out on the design wall. Finally, just to get them out of the way, I stitched the blocks into rows and stitched the rows together. We had a quilt top.

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The Pieced Back

Next I made the pieced back. That’s one of the really fun parts of quiltmaking for me. There is usually not a plan when I sew my pieced backs. I just start sewing and putting pieces on the design wall and make it up as I go along.

A number of years ago, Elijah and one of his brothers called each other Monkey and Donkey. (I have no idea how it started but it went on for months and months.) When I saw the monkey print fabric, I knew it would make Elijah and his brother smile so it became a featured fabric on the back of the quilt.

monkeys 300x225 PIGS: String Theory – A Queen size PIG

The Monkey Fabric

Because it’s a really big quilt and I wanted to finish it quickly, I decided to quilt with simple free-motion meandering. I know meandering is difficult for some people but I find it easy to do. It has an advantage in that I don’t have to rotate the quilt as much as I do with a more specific quilting design. I quilt on a domestic machine so rotating a queen-size quilt is not easy.

A fun detail I want to point out is the pocket. I frequently put pockets on my quilts. I started doing that when I had shirts I’d begun and never finished for my three oldest grandsons. I’d embroidered their names on pockets and stitched the pockets to the shirt fronts. Then I got sidetracked for so long the shirts wouldn’t fit anymore. I cut the shirts up for scrap quilts but I left the pockets in place and just made them part of the quilts. My family liked the pockets so I often include them in my quilts.

pocketfront 300x225 PIGS: String Theory – A Queen size PIG

String Theory has a tiny pocket on the front.

I just stitched the pocket in place after the quilting was finished. I do wish I’d used gray thread in the bobbin so the stitching wasn’t so obvious on the back of the quilt.

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Detail of Back

Do you see the little circles of stitches near the center at the top of the photo [below]? When I was quilting, I found an area where a seam was coming loose. I just quilted that little flower over the area so it wouldn’t come unsewn and it’s hardly noticeable on the front of the quilt.

String Theory is bound and finished. It’s one more PIG checked off the list. I have to get busy or I’ll never get the 4th PIG for the year finished in April.

Until next time, happy quilting!

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Friday Free Quilt Patterns: Fresh and Dreamy

fresh and dreamy free quilt pattern 600 Friday Free Quilt Patterns: Fresh and Dreamy

Add a breath of fresh air to your bedroom this spring with this week’s Friday FREE quilt pattern: Fresh and Dreamy designed by Sarah Maxwell and Dolores Smith. This easy bed-sized quilt pattern is perfect for modern quilt fabrics, 1930s reproduction fabrics or even your favorites batiks – the choice is all yours! The design is easier to make than it looks, so you’ll have this piecing puzzle together in no time.  Finished size is 82 1/2″ x 93 1/2″.

fresh and dreammy free quilt pattern Friday Free Quilt Patterns: Fresh and Dreamy

This Friday FREEbie is part of our free More Fast, Easy Bed Quilt Patterns ebook – in addition to Fresh and Dreamy, you’ll also get two more patterns. NOTE: You’ll need to enter your email address at the link to get the ebook.

Have you missed any of our previous Friday Freebies? Click here to find them all!

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Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo Kramer

JoKramer Kelli 300x220 Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo Kramer

Kelli (left) & Jo (right)

Welcome guest blogger, quilt designer, and blogger in her own right, Jo Kramer. Jo’s new quilt, Double Dutch, is a medallion-style, bed-size quilt. This quilt is the perfect example of very simple sewing creating a complex, interesting composition. The units are easy and quick to sew, and are then arranged into the impressive design you see below. You’ll find this quilt in the McCall’s Quilting May/June 2017 issue. We’re happy to have Jo here to talk about her quilt!

Double Dutch 247x300 Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo Kramer

Hello! We’re so honored to have a chance to be here at McCall’s Quilting for a guest blog feature. We’re thrilled that McCall’s picked our latest project, Double Dutch, to feature in their magazine.

If you don’t know us, we’re Jo (the mom/quilt designer/author of this blog) and Kelli-Jo (the oldest daughter/pattern writer/yardage calculator). We are quilters and bloggers — well, I’m the blogger. I blog about all things related to family, crafting, repurposing, antiquing, childcare, our beagles, recipes, and farm life; oh, it’s a little bit of everything, including quilting. Both of us sew and I do the machine quilting and binding. For us, it works.

I drew this design and handed it off to Kelli. I design all of our quilts using Word. I made a tutorial showing how to design in Word — I think it’s really helpful. Kelli’s job was to figure out the math and sew it, which she did, but she made me vow that we would NEVER publish it anywhere that involved her writing the directions. I laughed and said okay.

Here’s what I originally designed. I drew up these quilt blocks and then started playing with them. I LOVE the simplicity of the quilt blocks. It’s simple, straight line sewing.

double dutch 1 Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo Kramer

I put them together to create this:

Double Dutch lines 300x298 Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo Kramer

It’s a little dizzying with all the lines.
Here it is without the lines:

Double Dutch no lines 300x300 Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo Kramer

The only problem was, to complete the pattern, Kelli had to come up with half blocks and corner blocks. Writing the pattern would be a nightmare. This explains why Kelli refused to write up the instructions!

Happily, McCalls Quilting took care of all of that and simplified it, so it’s easy peasy. We would have never thought to write the directions like they did, but it completely works and doesn’t involve tricky quilt blocks. We’re impressed.

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Curious minds might like to know that the original fabrics used for this quilt were Moda Fabrics. They were pulled from a line called Social Club. I’m sure they are unavailable now, but other fabrics could easily be put in to get the same look.

Double Dutch social club 300x300 Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo Kramer

Same look, different fabrics.

I’ve written more about Double Dutch, including how it got its name, and my insecurities about having my free motion quilting seen in a national magazine on our blog. Visit us if you’re interested in reading more!

We loved working with McCall’s Quilting and hope to do more with them in the future. For now, comment below for a chance to win our book, Country Girl Modern, all about modern-traditional quilts.

cgm cover1 266x300 Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo KramerThanks so much, Jo!
Leave a comment below before midnight April 20, 2017 and you’ll be entered into our random drawing to win Country Girl Modern. The winner will be notified by email with subject line beginning YOU WON.

This contest is open to US and Canadian residents, excluding Quebec. 

Thank you for participating — a winner has been picked! Keep an eye out for future guest blogs and your chance to win a giveaway!

If you’d like to make your own version of the Double Dutch quilt, and don’t yet have a copy of the McCall’s Quilting May/June 2017 issue, you can order print and digital versions in our online shop. The Double Dutch quilt pattern is also available separately as an instant digital download.  

cleardot Double Dutch: A Visit with Jo Kramer
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Workshop Wednesday: Paper Piecing Pointers

Whether you call it paper piecing or foundation piecing, the fact is there are times when neither traditional piecing nor applique will give you the look you want and the only thing you can do is break out the foundation paper.

Paper foundation piecing is a technique that allows you to create patterns and achieve shapes that would be difficult–if not impossible–to do via traditional piecing. With this technique, you are stitching your fabric onto the pattern itself, then flipping and pressing each patch before stitching the next one on.

I’ve made a few foundation-pieced projects, mostly individual blocks that I’ve turned into 16″ pillow shams.

A couple of years ago I made the Vulcan Greeting block, designed by Vanda Chittenden and available as a free download from the site Fandom in Stitches, for a friend who loves Star Trek.

IMG 1286 copy Workshop Wednesday: Paper Piecing Pointers

Vulcan Greeting pillow sham, designed by Vanda Chittenden, made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras

I really love the Mariner’s Compass block from Carol Doak’s book Mariner’s Compass Stars that I made into a summer-themed pillow.

Sun Sand Sea Sky Workshop Wednesday: Paper Piecing Pointers

Sun, Sand, Sea, Sky pillow, designed by Carol Doak, made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras

And I also love my Stack of Books pillow, made from a block designed by Penny Layman.

Stack of Books Workshop Wednesday: Paper Piecing Pointers

Stack of Books pillow sham, designed by Penny Layman, made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras

Because so far I’ve only made individual blocks and not an entire quilt, every time I sit down to try a new pattern, I have to get my brain oriented correctly; it always takes me a few minutes of hands-on work to get into the groove. Once I do, though, it really does go quickly and I end up having fun.

The thing that’s important to remember as you work is that the patterns are printed in reverse and you stitch the fabric to the wrong side, meaning you are essentially working in reverse the entire time. Generally speaking, there is more fabric waste with foundation piecing than with traditional piecing, although you can learn how to reduce waste through experience and by planning ahead.

If you think you’re not experienced enough yet for foundation piecing, I’m here to tell you that you probably are. As long as you consider yourself a somewhat-confident beginner (meaning, you know how to use a sewing machine and understand the importance of seam allowances) you’re ready to give this technique a try.

Here are just a few of the many, many resources we have for quilters of all skill levels.

A few years ago Debby Kratovil blogged about her foundation piecing tips for Quilters Newsletter. In it, she lays out the basics, such as how best to prepare your foundations and what types of pins she recommends.

I streamlined the process realizing that you can pre-cut squares, rectangles and triangles to correspond with the patches so you can sew with confidence that you won’t have to “un-sew” an inadequate unit. None of this “hold it up to the light and pray to the fabric gods for special dispensation.” It was “trim, then sew” and not “sew, then trim.” I saw that using a ruler to trim a patch to 1/4” BEFORE adding the next patch assures a perfect alignment. I actually began to enjoy this!

Here’s her Tip #7 for preparing the paper foundation to aid in accurate fabric placement:

Once you cut out the pattern, fold along every line using a postcard. This will allow you to “see” the lines as you place the fabrics.

Waterwheels Folded 190x300 Workshop Wednesday: Paper Piecing Pointers

There’s a lot more for paper piecers of all experience levels in the full blog post. Click here to read all of Debby’s tips and tricks, including her “Patch of Shame” technique for dealing with un-sewing (or not un-sewing) patches.

MQM06 Workshop Wednesday: Paper Piecing PointersI mentioned Penny Layman as the designer of the Stack of Books block above. Penny did both a webinar (available for on-demand streaming) and an episode of Quilters Newsletter TV: The Quilters’ Community for us, which is where I first learned about the fantastic patterns in her book The Paper-Pieced HomeI really recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of a mid-century modern or retro look. Scroll down to learn more about her video for QNTV.



Video Tutorials

If you’re an absolute beginner, check out Quilty: Paper-Piecing Basics Parts 1 & 2 hosted by Mary Fons. In these free video tutorials, Mary shows basic paper-piecing techniques. 

In Easy Foundation Piecing: Sew by Number, Eileen Fowler shares her tips that will help you successfully foundation piece, always cutting your fabric large enough and positioning it in the right place. 

In Helpful Notions for Foundation Piecing, Eric Drexler, National Educator for Sulky of America, shows how to make the Diamond Crossing block from Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volume 7. Eric uses temporary spray adhesive (no pins!) and a water soluble stabilizer (no picking paper from the seams!) when he makes foundation-pieced blocks.

Penny Layman’s full video tutorial is available for viewing on; below is a free preview that features Penny’s genius use of fork pins–why did I never think to use those before? And why do I still not have any in my supplies?

As you can see, there is no one right way to paper piece successfully, but there are a lot of best practices. Take some time to study them, then take some time in your sewing space playing with a pattern you really want to make. When you’ve finished it, you’ll be hooked on the technique that opens up a whole new world of design opportunities for today’s quilters. Have fun!

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