Design Wall Tuesday: Quilt Appliqué

Welcome to Design Wall Tuesday!

Three of the editors for Quiltmaker and McCall’s Quilting were busy stitching away this weekend. Erin likes to listen to audiobooks while hand stitching her applique. What’s your favorite thing to do while working on a hand project?

Continue reading

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Still No PIGS

I’d hoped to finish two PIGS (Projects in Grocery Sacks) in May but it didn’t happen.

I had a project for Creative Machine Embroidery to make.  See my blog here to see that pretty quilt.

Then I planted my garden. And I went to Spring Market in St. Louis. And on and on the reasons excuses go. Continue reading

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Friday Free Quilt Patterns: Antique Circles Table Runner

Antique Circles Web Bonus 300px Friday Free Quilt Patterns: Antique Circles Table RunnerSummer break is in effect and and vacations are coming in to view – it can be challenging to squeeze in a little quilting at this time of year! Antique Circles is a “just right” quick pattern for you to enjoy making for the 4th of July.

You’ll need to have some fun using your imagination…originally constructed with more of a Christmas feel to it, this table runner can be made up in any assortment of red white and blue fabrics. See what you have in your stash or head down to your local quilt shop to find just the right fabrics. We hope you enjoy making this weekend project!

Click here for link to download this FREE Antique Circles table runner quilt pattern.

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Santa’s Tree Farm and Summer in Quebec: A Visit with Wendy Sheppard

Hello Quilting Friends,

McCalls Pic1 298x300 Santas Tree Farm and Summer in Quebec: A Visit with Wendy SheppardIt’s wonderful to be back on the McCall’s Quilting blog to chat quilting with you again! Before I forget, I want to thank you for the kind and warm responses you have sent me about my quilts in the last issue (Village Square and County Fair). I am starting to see your versions of Village Square on social media, and I hope you are enjoying the Village Square series quilt. At this past Spring Market in St. Louis, I got to meet up with the sample makers who made the quilt top of Village Square. The person missing in the picture is my dear quilter, Darlene Szabo, who is the only other person (besides myself) who quilts my quilts.

Besides part 2 of Village Square, I am really happy to see two more of my projects being featured in the latest issue of McCall’s Quilting! I will be sharing some fun snippets on these two quilts. Click here if you missed the blog post when I shared about Village Square.

Santa’s Tree Farm

McCalls Pic2 236x300 Santas Tree Farm and Summer in Quebec: A Visit with Wendy SheppardAll I can say is, this is a really fun quilt to make. I think there’s just something about making Christmas Tree Quilts! I added 3″ finished Ohio Star units to the top of the trees because… when my daughter was about 3 years old, she told me no uncertain terms a Christmas Tree isn’t a Christmas Tree unless it has a star! That year, we didn’t have a star on our Christmas Tree. I never had a star on my Christmas Tree before she came along and started expressing her opinions on things. I remember she would tell everyone who asked about her Christmas Tree that it didn’t have a star. I wasn’t going to risk another lecture on star-less Christmas Tree now that she is 8, even if I had to make 3″ finished stars!

To be honest, the 3″ stars weren’t that hard to make. I used Aurifil 50wt for piecing, and that helped with the accuracy. I also pressed the seams open to reduce the bulk. When something is that small, sometimes, pressing the seams to one side can build up bulk pretty quickly, and that would in turn affect the alignment of the units when sewing everything together.

stantastreefarm fabric 297x300 Santas Tree Farm and Summer in Quebec: A Visit with Wendy SheppardI loved making this quilt with Moda’s Snowfall fabrics by Minick and Simpson. The prints are so pretty and soft and dainty. I love adding touches of aqua just to give the overall traditional look a more updated and lighthearted feel. I also staggered the block placement in the quilt layout so that it has the feel of a “tree farm”.
I can see this quilt made in a mix of the non-traditional Christmas colors like pink, lime green, lavender and blue for a fun colorway!

We now have a change of gear, and onto something more contemporary…

Summer in Quebec

If you have read any of my blog posts on the McCall’s Quilting blog, you will know that most of my quilts only look complicated and are constructed with simple block elements. Summer in Quebec is definitely the case! Summer in Quebec consists of leaf blocks that are made with square and HST units with accompanying flying geese units throughout the quilt.

One often sees leaf blocks colored for autumn colors. Using yellow and gray on a familiar block gives a sunny and summery feel! I like to play by coloring quilt blocks in unusual colors to see what effect I get. In the case of Summer in Quebec, I really like the light and airy feel when placing the gray and yellow leaf blocks on white! I then peppered flying geese units all over the quilt to pull all the colors together.
For the quilting, I quilted slightly wavy lines all over the quilt for a blending texture. I didn’t want the quilting to dominate the quilt by doing fancy motifs. The lines blended nicely, and kept the airy and contemporary look of the quilt! I used Aurifil 50wt to quilt on the quilt. You might not be able to see if from the picture, but I actually used a light beige color to quilt on the white. I almost never match the color threads because I like the look of my quilting taking on a color that is subtly different from the background fabric. You will also notice that my lines aren’t equally spaced – I meant it that way for a slightly free-spirit look!

McCall Pic3 300x298 Santas Tree Farm and Summer in Quebec: A Visit with Wendy SheppardI can actually see this quilt being made with bright solids of different colors against a black ground for an unexpected and bold look!I hope you have enjoyed going behind the scenes into my brain for a bit of designing snippets. Someone recently asked me how I design – do I sit down at a desk and start drawing? Answer is no, most of the time, my designs happen in my head. I mull over the colors etc also in my head before I sit down in front of the computer and make the design happen digitally before I submit to the magazine editors!

Interview Picture10 threadbox1 300x198 Santas Tree Farm and Summer in Quebec: A Visit with Wendy Sheppard Interview Picture10 threadbox2 300x185 Santas Tree Farm and Summer in Quebec: A Visit with Wendy Sheppard

Thanks so much, Wendy! Leave a comment below before midnight June 15, 2017, and you’ll be entered into our random drawing to win a set of 12 small spools of threads from Wendy’s Subtle Strings collection (see them used in Wendy’s FREE quilt pattern, Thread Journey,  at Aurifil’s blog). The winner will be notified by email with subject line beginning YOU WON.

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

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Workshop Wednesday: Designing Quilts

Do you design quilts or quilt blocks? How do you work when you do? When I design a quilt or a block, I like to use graph paper and a pencil to sketch out lots of ideas, but there are plenty of different ways to get creative with quilt design. Even making a traditional block, like a Log Cabin or an Ohio Star block, is technically designing, since you’re selecting colors and values that appeal to you, and the combinations you choose can make your traditional blocks look one-of-a-kind; then sewing those blocks together in a pleasing arrangement is even more designing on top of that.

One great tool that has helped many quilters become better, more efficient quilt designers is the Electric Quilt software, or EQ7 (the most recent version). It’s a pretty intuitive design program for PC or Mac, where you can design pieced blocks, applique, foundation pieced motifs, entire quilts and probably more. If you’re interested in this program but not sure where to start, let Nancy Mahoney walk you through the basics in our on-demand webinar, Beginning EQ7 with Nancy Mahoney.

DPR4617 Workshop Wednesday: Designing Quilts

Start with the basics!

When you design a block in EQ7, you can play around with scale, color, contrast and value without cutting a single patch. But if you prefer to look at how the actual fabrics in a block or quilt are going to interact with one another, it helps to cut patches and see the arrangement before you sew them together. I have a mini block design wall that I use at work all the time for this very purpose—we sew a lot of color option for our patterns at work, and this helps me to plan my color placement for those. Often, the finished product is different from my original plan because I was able to preview my choices and decide whether they work or not. I use something very similar to this easel (available at Quilt&SewShop) and I’d recommend it to everyone.

LQSAR1420 Workshop Wednesday: Designing Quilts

One of my most used designing tools

Once you’ve got your blocks designed and sewn, then it’s time to put them together! Now you could just sew them together randomly and call it a day, but if you’re anything like me, you want to plan out your composition so it’s balanced and beautiful. Since it’s pretty tricky to get an accurate perception when you lay the blocks on the floor, many quilters like to use a design wall to plan block arrangement. I know I do. I put up an inexpensive, easy design wall in my sewing room years ago, thinking I’d come up with a better, more permanent solution later, but I still use and love my cheap, easy-to-make design wall. Read about how I made it here, or check out the photo below since there’s not much more to it than that. Lori blogged about how much she loves her design wall too, read about hers here.

design wall Workshop Wednesday: Designing Quilts

Easy design wall!

Another great design wall option, especially if you want to use it in more than one place, is this inexpensive portable design wall from Fons & Porter (also available at QASS). It’s even more useful than mine since it has grid markings to help place patches, for regular or on-point settings.

FP7860 Workshop Wednesday: Designing Quilts

Fons & Porter to the rescue!

There are certain quilt patterns that are much easier to make when you arrange everything on a design wall before sewing. They could have a specific flow of color from top to bottom or side to side, or require adjacent coordinating blocks and need to be planned in advance. Below are some examples of quilt patterns that are made much easier by using a design wall. All are available as digital patterns by clicking on the link.

Dream in Color, designed by Jean Nolte, is all about the flow of color. Arranging the blocks on a design wall before sewing them makes it easier to see the full effect and make sure everything is in the right place.

DPMQP170413 2 Workshop Wednesday: Designing Quilts

Dream in Color by Jean Nolte

Filtered Light is a quilt that I made, and I could not have done it without planning it out on my design wall. The blocks rely on specific color combinations and placement, which is much easier to plan when it’s all laid out in front of you.

DPQMP175506 2 Workshop Wednesday: Designing Quilts

Filtered Light by Gigi Khalsa

I love the fabrics in this Luminous quilt kit. They just look so pretty in this pattern with fussy cut patches. Getting a good balance of value and color is much easier with a design wall.

LQK17025 2 Workshop Wednesday: Designing Quilts

Luminous by Diane Tomlinson

I feel like rushing home and planning a new project on my design wall! What about you? Before you go, check out this free video series from McCall’s Quilting about using color, print and value as design elements to help plan palettes and pick fabrics.

Color selection using a Focus Fabric video

Print Scale as a Quilt Design Element video

Value as a Quilt Design Element video

I hope you design many beautiful quilt blocks and quilts after this! If you do, show them to us! Thanks, and happy quilting!






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Design Wall Tuesday: Solid Quilt

Welcome to Design Wall Tuesday!

As the temperatures are going up, it gets harder and harder to stay inside and sew (that is until the dog days of summer are upon us!). Working in the garden, long walks or bike rides or just enjoying the beauty of the season has been taking us away from our sewing rooms. Are you feeling the same way? Now is when a little handwork project would come in handy. Here’s what a few of us worked on recently.

From Content Director, Carolyn Beam:

Beam Carolyn 150x150 Design Wall Tuesday: Solid Quilt

IMG 0917 300x225 Design Wall Tuesday: Solid Quilt

sneak peek

I’m finally sewing the sampler blocks together. Each one is framed with two wide strips and two narrow strips. These frames really add to the modern look of this quilt. This is my first attempt at making a solid quilt—it’s been a fun journey as well as a little challenging at times. Here’s a sneak peek. You can see the entire quilt in the Quiltmaker, Nov/Dec ’17 issue.

From Acquisitions Editor, Lori Baker:

Lori Pink Scarf 150x150 Design Wall Tuesday: Solid Quilt

In my mother-in-law’s sewing room, I found a whole lot of yardage of a white fabric with quilting designs printed on it. These could be either hand quilting designs or machine quilting designs. I’m using some of that fabric for the back of a “not-precious” quilt and I’m quilting it on a domestic machine. When you look at the up-close photo, you can see all the places I strayed from the printed line. But I’m thinking that when I wash the quilt, the printed line will go away and then the overall pattern is not terrible. It’s certainly good enough for an everyday, not-for-show kind of quilt. I’m quilting this quilt from the back, I’ll have to see how that works out.

closeup 168x300 Design Wall Tuesday: Solid Quilt

close up of the quilting

more 168x300 Design Wall Tuesday: Solid Quilt

more of the quilting

From Associate Editor, Mary Kate Karr-Petras:

Karr Petras Mary Kate 150x150 Design Wall Tuesday: Solid Quilt

My weekend sewing time was spent stitching the binding on the second quilt I quilted on our office Grace Q’nique longarm machine. It’s a Delectable Mountains throw I’m calling Sweet Home Colorado that I started 12 or so years ago, put away for a long time, and finished piecing last spring. (I wrote about its journey as a UFO for the Quilters Newsletter blog almost exactly a year ago, in fact; you can read it here.)

IMG 3738 249x300 Design Wall Tuesday: Solid Quilt

Sweet Home Colorado, Mary Kate’s Delectable Mountains quilt in front of the Rocky Mountains’ Flatirons (left) and Longs Peak (right) (click image to enlarge)

I used Warm & Plush batting so it’ll be nice and toasty on cold days. With the quilting I experimented with hand-guided continuous loops and circles. They look very nice in some places and not-as-nice in others, but I’m not worried about it because the quilting is done and Done Is Good. Once the binding is all stitched down by hand it’ll be my fifth finish for the year, and I’ll be on track to meet my goal of finishing an average of one project per month in 2017. Yay!

Stop by next week, as I know there will be more to share with you from the editors of McCall’s Quilting and Quiltmaker!




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Believing in Tomorrow

believing style 200x300 Believing in Tomorrow

Believing in Tomorrow

This pretty wall hanging is my latest quilt in print. You’ll find Believing in Tomorrow in the July/August 2017 issue of McCall’s Quilting. It is on newsstands now and our subscribers should have their copy.  It’s available in print or digital format from; you can purchase the stand-alone pattern at QuiltandSewShop as well.

I generally like the quilts I make for publication and this one is a favorite. Its name comes from a quote attributed to Audrey Hepburn:

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

I love the fabric. It’s from the Japanese Garden collection by Maywood Studio. And the quilt would be a perfect fit for above the fireplace in my living room.

Donna Smith quilted my quilt and I love what she did. She quilted straight lines in all the cream-colored background and feathers in the rest. It’s so pretty.

Until next time, happy quilting.



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No More UFOs with Block of the Month Quilts!

There’s something about block of the month quilts that’s just so appealing. Maybe it’s that box of new materials that comes in the mail each month that’s exhilarating. Fresh fabric certainly is addicting. Plus, shorter stints at the sewing machine for each step of the project keeps these projects interesting, increasing the chances of finishing them and out of our UFO piles. No wonder BOMs are so popular! Here are some of our favorite BOMs we think you’ll enjoy:

Aviary 250x300 No More UFOs with Block of the Month Quilts! Aviary Quilt Backing 300x300 No More UFOs with Block of the Month Quilts!

AVIARY Block of the Month

Here’s a full-size batik quilt featuring a beautiful bird and nature appliques of various shapes and sizes. All applique pieces come pre-cut and fused, so all you will have to do is cut the backgrounds and assemble the quilt. Easy peasy! The Aviary block of the month would be perfect for a guest bed, making quite an impression on visitors.

With this quilt block of the month, you’ll learn how to use an applique pressing sheet for quick applique assembling. The quilt also features a unique filigree border, which frames in the lovely fabrics. There’s also quilt backing available for this quilt if want to coordinate.

Each step in the process includes a free quilting video tutorial walking you through the techniques used in each portion of the quilt. These videos are oh-so-helpful and include great tips and tricks!

Think you might want to get started on this one? Before you do, here’s some useful information:

  • Mailing starts upon sign up and continues for 9 months
  • Each month, you’ll receive a pattern and fabric from Hoffman Fabrics to make a section of this full-size quilt
  • Kits include a variety of Hoffman batiks for quilt top and binding
  • The finished size is 72½” x 87½”
  • Aviary was designed by Keith Phillips of Quilt Fusion
  • This block of the month program is $39.99/month plus $3.99 shipping for US orders
Urban Basix 255x300 No More UFOs with Block of the Month Quilts! Urban Basix Quilt Backing 300x300 No More UFOs with Block of the Month Quilts!

URBAN BASIX Block of the Month

The Urban Basix block of the month has a more modern feel to it and is a great project for all skill levels. This a queen-size quilt featuring a variety of Star quilt blocks in two sizes and bright, refreshing colors. You’ll also find a quilt backing available for this BOM.

A few quilting techniques that you’ll use when making this quilt are: four-at-a-time Flying Geese units, quick triangle-squares, and the diagonal seams method for patchwork. Like Aviary, there are free quilting video tutorials for each step in the quiltmaking process meant to guide you through the quilt assembly. And, of course, we include some tips and trick to make your piecing go smoothly.

If this block of the month quilt floats your quilting boat, here are some details that you might appreciate:

  • Mailing starts this month (June) and continues for 6 months
  • Each month, you’ll receive a pattern and fabric to make a section of this queen-size quilt
  • Kits include a variety of fabrics from the Urban Elementz Basix collection by Northcott Fabrics for quilt top and binding
  • The finished size is 81″ x 96″
  • This block of the month program is $29.99/month plus $3.99 shipping for US orders

BLOG FP BOMs No More UFOs with Block of the Month Quilts!

And, if neither of these block of the month quilts appeal to you, take a peek at a few others that might be more your style.

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Friday Free Quilt Pattern: Zippy Strippy Lap Quilt

Zippy Strippy WB 300px Friday Free Quilt Pattern: Zippy Strippy Lap QuiltIf you’re looking for a last-minute Father’s Day quilt project (June 18th!), we hope you’ll consider this week’s Friday Free Quilt pattern, Zippy Strippy. Inspired by Abigail Dolinger’s delightful table ensemble (featured in McCall’s Quilting July/August 2013), we adapted her innovative use of leftover precut 2½″ strips into a lap quilt pattern.

The lap quilt pattern is suitable for beginners, and makes up at a cozy 64½″ x 64½″.

Click here for the link to download the FREE Zippy Strippy lap quilt pattern from

Thanks for stopping by…enjoy!

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Workshop Wednesday: Free-Motion Quilting Troubleshooting

Tourist: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

New Yorker: Practice, practice, practice.

Practicing is hard.

No matter what skill you’re working on, practicing is often tedious and frustrating and just plain hard.

That is, until you learn how to practice. And then practicing will still be tedious and frustrating and hard, but it will also become interesting and compelling. That’s when practicing goes from something you have to do to something you want to do because you can see where it’s leading.

IMG 3723 Workshop Wednesday: Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting

practicing motifs for free-motion quilting after lots of troubleshooting — it’s looking better there toward the bottom

I know this is true because I’ve been through it before, back when I was working on my music degree. I once saw the experience of being a music major summarized as, “If you don’t feel terrible about yourself all the time, you’re doing it wrong,” and it’s pretty accurate. I can’t tell you how many tears of frustration and disappointment I shed in practice rooms while I was in college.

But I also know that it took a few years of constant practice and of doing what my teacher told me to do before I had experienced enough moments of success, however fleeting, to know why I was practicing and how to approach it. I had to learn how to troubleshoot my own voice.

Trust me, this relates to quilting.

Over the past couple of months in our regular Design Wall Tuesday blog posts I’ve been sharing what I call “my free-motion quilting saga.”

I’ve attempted free-motion quilting on a domestic machine before but never committed to trying to become really proficient because I always heard that it required a lot of practice. I figured I would rather spend my time actually making something than practicing to make something, so I’ve avoided putting in the work.

IMG 3227 300x300 Workshop Wednesday: Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting

Quilt top awaiting free-motion quilting

But then I made a quilt top that I feel deserves more than just straight-line quilting done with a walking foot (and because I want to actually finish it someday, I decided against trying to hand quilt it).

This time, I’m motivated.

So here I am, almost two months into seriously trying to figure out this whole FMQ thing using a high-quality, new-to-me machine that’s about eight or nine years old. I was only running into tension and thread breakage problems when trying free-motion, and I know that many people successfully quilt with many different types of machines, so there had to be a way to make it work.

The good news, as I shared in yesterday’s Design Wall Tuesday blog post, is that I think I’m done with the troubleshooting part. Here is what I’ve learned.

The first thing I did when I encountered problems was to monkey around with the thread tension dial. Neither increasing nor decreasing the tension solved my problems and in fact only created new ones, so it’s back to a mid-range setting appropriate for piecing and there it shall stay.

Automatic settings
A colleague who knows a lot about this machine manufacturer in particular recommended that I deselect any automatic settings that might be impacting the tension. The user’s manual doesn’t say anything about how default settings might affect FMQ, but I always turn them off now, and it seems to have helped.

Stitch length
A lot of people say that as long as your feed dogs are down and you’re in the correct FMQ setting for your machine, you shouldn’t have to adjust your stitch length. And then you have someone like Leah Day who leaves her feed dogs up and reduces her stitch length to zero. Again looking to reduce any areas where my machine might want to think for me, I now set my stitch length to zero and lower my feed dogs.

IMG 3694 264x300 Workshop Wednesday: Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting

the back of a test quilt sandwich showing a few places where the thread broke

As I’ve always heard, the big challenge with free-motion quilting is finding the sweet spot between the speed with which you move the quilt sandwich and the machine’s speed. However, I didn’t realize until recently that my new-to-me machine has three different speed settings, meaning I don’t have to control the machine solely with the foot pedal.

Setting the machine to the slowest speed immediately made a huge difference in the quality and consistency of my stitches. Basically, it gives me time for my brain to catch up to my hands and to think about what I’m doing; it also allows me to stop and start in the middle of a motif more smoothly. It’s made me realize that machine quilting doesn’t have to be the equivalent of a long, uninterrupted, highly choreographed camera take like you’d see in “Touch of Evil” or “Goodfellas”*. I can yell “Cut!” and reset for the next shot, or rather, I can pause in the middle of a motif and figure out where I want to go next. I’m not really exaggerating when I say this has been revelatory.

Maybe someday I’ll set my machine to a higher speed, but for now I’m totally happy not to be sewing pedal-to-the-metal. For me, slow and steady will win the race.

*Why yes, I once worked in a video store. Why do you ask?

Presser foot up/down
Even with all those tweaks, I was still frequently having problems with the thread breaking after stitching for only an inch or two. It was highly frustrating and required me to think hard about what I was doing when it happened. I think this final bit of FMQ troubleshooting may have solved my problems.

Take a look at the photo below.

IMG 3715 300x251 Workshop Wednesday: Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting

Is the embroidery foot in up or down position here?

It looks like both the needle and the open-toe embroidery foot are in the down position, don’t they? Well, they’re not. The foot is still officially up.

I realized that when I press the button to have the machine stop in needle-down position, the foot is also lowered to the fabric. Because the foot looked like it was down and ready to sew, I was skipping the step of actually lowering the foot using the correct button. I believe that is what was leading to my thread breaking after an inch or two.

IMG 3706 225x300 Workshop Wednesday: Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting

fixin’ to get ready to FMQ

Now that I’ve worked through all of these technical issues with the machine and my stitches are looking decent on both the front and the back, the only real variable left is me. From here on out, any mistakes are going to have to be considered user’s errors.

If I had known before I started taking voice lessons just how long it would take for singing to become fun again, I don’t know if I would have decided to try. I may have decided to just get by with what I was able to do. Needless to say, I’m glad I pursued formal training because I ended up a whole lot better than I would have been otherwise.

So for all the frustration I’ve experienced at my sewing machine trying to free-motion quilt, I know that on the other side of this effort I’ll feel so much more successful and be more pleased with my quilting because I stuck with it. Now that I know how to practice free-motion quilting, I’m a lot more interested in the results and I’m able to think creatively to solve problems.

If you’re having trouble getting your machine set up for free-motion quilting, take a look at these different aspects and try various combinations until you find what works for you and your machine.

After that, you know what you have to do: Practice, practice, practice!


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