Ugly Fabrics

Women's Work Valentine's Day Napkin
Women’s Work Valentine’s Day Napkin

After putting the used napkins from last week in the wash I pulled out new ones. I had rearranged the napkin drawer in order to circulate in some that hadn’t been used in awhile. One was folded back to front and I immediately had an ugly fabric reaction. It really isn’t hideous fabric, but not my colors. The print is interesting. It is a classic design. I don’t think this particular shade of pink has really ever been my color, but I bought it at some point in the past so I must have liked it or had a use for it.

This napkin brought out a whole slew of ugly fabric feelings and thoughts. I was especially reminded of things I had heard I must do.

-Buy a little ugly fabric.

-Put a piece of ugly fabric in your quilts so your nice fabrics will look better.

-Sew ugly fabrics as backs.

You know how well musts work with most people.

I went through about 5 seconds of buying ugly fabric. Then I decided that, for me, that is a seriously dumb idea. I am not spending my hard earned money on ugly fabric when there is so much great fabric out there. I don’t have enough money to buy the fabric I love (bolts of Philip Jacobs prints, please). I also don’t want to devote precious space to ugly fabrics.

The other thing is that ‘ugly’ is relative. My ugly fabric might be your favorite color. I am not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. Ugly for me will be different than your ugly. Buy your favorites.

Also, what I think is ugly today might not have been ugly to me 10 years ago. Tastes evolve. Also, as a new quiltmaker, you might be trying out different styles to find what suits you. You might also mix what you like. I don’t buy many repro prints, even the cheerful 1930s prints. They just aren’t for me. However, there is a blue in the Civil War arena that I love and periodically I will buy an FQ of one print. I am careful, though to make sure it is more blue than beige.

I worked on a quilt called Thoughts on Dots when I was having a big, fat creative block. This quilt was so painful to make, because I was forcing myself to sew. I was forcing myself to work through the creative block.I had a small child who was going through some stuff. DH was going through some stuff. It was a tough time. I moved around 6.5″ squares for weeks. I finished the quilt top and decided to use some ugly fabric for the back. To be thrifty, I decided to use fabric I wasn’t going to use for a front. The ‘ugly’ fabric isn’t hideously ugly, though it is beige. I interspersed the beige with leftover squares, so the back isn’t completely beige and hideous.

We act like we will never see the back so backs can be a dumping ground for ugly fabrics. Thoughts on Dots is on our bed, so I do see the back pretty often and I sincerely dislike it every time I see it. This is why I have used small pieces of beige for donation blocks. I don’t want beige in my fabric closet. This quilt is nearly the sole reason I use a lot of Philip Jacobs prints for my backs. I have decided I want to enjoy backs as much as my fronts. It doesn’t mean that I buy special fabric for the backs. It means I use fabrics I like from my fabric closet. Those Philip Jacobs prints are so well displayed on a back that I can’t possibly NOT use them now.

I also should have realized that being thrifty didn’t mean I had to use that beige fabric. It isn’t as though there has been a shortage of fabric at my house in a while.

My final thought is that everyone should just use the good stuff immediately. Don’t buy it and save it for some other day. That day is today and you will love whatever you make even more if you can see your new favorite fabric immediately.

Book Review: Double Vision Quilts

Double Vision Quilts: Simply Layer Shapes & Color for Richly Complex Curved DesignsDouble Vision Quilts: Simply Layer Shapes & Color for Richly Complex Curved Designs by Louisa L. Smith

This is not the first book by Louisa Smith that has intrigued me. She has an interesting style. This one wasn’t on my list, but it intrigued me and I bought it on impulse at Stitch in Ferndale. The first thing that attracted me were the bright colors on the cover. In looking at the cover again, I can imagine using Dale Fleming’s circle technique to make it.

This is a ‘normal sized’ C&T book which includes 94 pages, 11 projects, a gallery and lots of technique information so readers can make the projects their own. After the detailed table of contents (pg.3) and a short introduction (pg.4), the book begins with a section called “how it started” (pg.5-6). Smith discusses her idea, her inspiration, all the while implying the importance of doodling. She goes on to discuss how changes in her design led to other versions and the second section, “Working in a Series” (pg.6).

Working in a Series is all about the ‘what if’ of the creative process – those spin off ideas that pop into your mind as you work on one piece. As you know, I often work in a series because of this reason. See more about my series quilts.

The colors throughout the book continue to be a huge draw for me. As I page through the book, I am kept interested.

In “The Layered Approach” (pg.8-10) she talks about how layers improve/make these quilts. Layering fabric is something I have played with on and off, so I can appreciate the value of such an approach.

This book has basic construction techniques. I don’t mind it because the instructions are related to this specific technique, for the mist part. There is a very brief section on quilting (pg.85) – just commentary. It is not a how-to. She also talks about her method of piecing a back (pg.35). The instructions are brief, but useful. She covers blocking (pg.36), binding and facing (pg.36-38), displaying using stretcher frames and making a sleeve (pg.39).

If you are a beginner expecting full instructions for every step, you will be disappointed and will need another book with basic instructions or check out my quilt class tutorials. The security tips given are specifically dedicated to help you make these quilts.

The 3 methods of construction described are “Using a Grid of Blocks with 1/4 KISSes and No Fusing” (pg.11-12), “Using a Grid and Fusing” (pg.13), “Using an Invisible Grid with Multiple Layers of HUGs and KISSes” (pg.16). Method 2 is split into two parts, thus you see four methods listed.

“Color” (pg.17-25) is a long and valuable section. The author discusses value (pg.17-18), finding a color scheme (pg.19-24) as well as balancing color (pg.24-25) and using a proportional color wheel (pg.25). The section on choosing a color scheme is well developed and includes examples. The examples really help to improve the reader’s color knowledge.

The section on “Machine Applique’ ” (pg.26-29) includes examples of stitches (pg.27), basic applique’ techniques (pg.26) and has a lot of pictures. She suggests experimenting with your machine before starting on your Double Vision quilt. I agree I always do a test of the satin stitch (or whatever applique’ stitch I am using) to figure out the density, whether I like the thread and sheen, etc.

Smith defines Embellishing, another section (pg.30-32), as “…adding something to the quilt top to make it better” (pg.30). I think of embroidering or beading as embellishment.  While she talks a bit about machine embroidery (pg.32), most of the section refers to layering on shapes.

“The Gallery” (pg.40-46) is fantastic. The section shows a lot of quilts, tells what method was used to make than as well as the artist. It is a feast for the eyes!

Finally, comes the “Projects” section (pg.47-88). Each pattern has a picture of the quilt on the section’s main page as well as a larger picture on the main project page. As you would expect, the pattern shows fabric requirements. These are a little different because the fabric requirements are divided up into layers. Fabric is followed by cutting and assembling directions. Applique’ and embellishing are included, if applicable to the pattern. The colors throughout the project section are phenomenal. Finally, the book has full sized templates coded to the relevant pattern (pg.89-94).

This book is interesting. It is definitely not the same-old, same-old. It will really stretch the reader, both in skills and in fabrics. This book is  definitely worth a look.

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Ends Donation Top

I have a box of quilt ‘dreg’ ends. Dreg is an ugly word as it conjures an image of grounds in an empty coffee cup or discarded tea leaves. These are simply pieces and parts that don’t have an immediate need or use. For some reason, I decided to go through the box in which they are stored. I think it’s part of the recent tidying frenzy in which I have been engaging.

Ends Donation Top
Ends Donation Top

Initially, I thought I would put some batting scraps together to make a baby quilt sized batting. However, I found a bunch of fabric edges. They were cut from past quilts when they were squared up. I started laying out these fabric strips to get them out of the way. At one point, I looked over and saw a kind of improv strip top developing.

The next day I had some free time so I pressed and straightened up the strips. Then, I pinned sets together in preparation for sewing. I still have to sew the strips and see what happens.

Since I didn’t have time to sew, I built up a batting from scraps in preparation for the donation quilt. I don’t know if I will have enough pieces to make a batting for this top. It will be close. I have some long thin strips left. I don’t really want to use the tape up to attach them as it will use so much of the Heat Press. I might just sew them on to make the batting large enough and get the strips out of my house.

It is interesting to see this top develop.

Book Review : The New Hexagon

The New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper PieceThe New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece by Katja Marek

I bought this book because it was a block dictionary and the cover was very appealing. I think I also liked the cover’s color and was in a weak mood. Still, I do love block dictionaries and this is a great one for new a way of looking at hexagon blocks. I have never seen a grouping of hexagon ‘blocks’ before and these are really unique. I am really excited about English Paper Piecing right now and can see myself starting several projects using that technique. I am trying to restrain myself, especially since I plan on making the La Passacaglia quilt.

This book was paired with the Marti Michell Perfect Patchwork Templates set G. I thought they would be great for cutting the fabric. The sizes of the rotary templates don’t match the sizes in the book so that is a problem. However, as creative people I know that most of us can adjust the blocks to the size of the templates since they make cutting fabric much easier.

Predictably, the book starts out with a table of contents. After the table of contents, the author presents us with her view of paper piecing. The method I use (thread basting) is considered “truly laborious” (pg.4), though in fairness to the author, I do buy paper templates rather than cutting them out myself. Marek advocates glue basting fabric to cardboard over thread basting.

The author discusses the advantages of EPP, including its portability. I do agree that English Paper Piecing is portable, as you have seen with my half hexie project.

The Tools and Equipment section (pg.6-7) is compact but information filled. I was thrilled to see that Ms. Marek goes to the level of telling her readers what weight of paper (pg.6) she uses to print her EPP papers. This is very useful information if I decide to print templates rather than buying my papers. In addition to the tools, Marek also describes her “on-the-go box” and what it contains. I am a huge fan of Go Bags as having a bag ready to take on trip means I don’t have to rummage for supplies and possibly forget something. It also means I might actually get something done on a travel weekend where I might otherwise get no time with a needle.

The fabric in this book looks like Kate Spain’s Terrain, another appealing aspect to the color scheme of this book. It is well suited to the examples as there is opportunity for fussy cutting from some of the motifs.

English Paper Piecing Techniques (pg.8-11) follows the chapter on tools. This section has everything you need to know about paper piecing. Keep in mind that this is the author’s method and variations you use are not wrong. While I haven’t tried the glue basting method, the complete directions given do encourage me to give it a try. I normally only wash my quilts as needed so I worry about the lasting effects of the glue on the fabric. She talks about removing the papers but not about reusing them or washing the glue out of the fabric.

There is the ubiquitous section on “Quiltmaking Basics” (pg.12-15), over a page of which is concerned with binding the quilt. There is no talk of quilting the quilt beyond following the manufacturer’s instructions. Of course whole books have been written on the subject so I am not surprised.

One of the most interesting chapters is called “Working with Patterns” (pg. 16-18). One thing this section shows is why the reader should prepare the templates in the way the author recommends. “The following is the so-called ‘fine print’ — the little details that are often glossed over. You may never choose to changed the size of the blocks in this book, and you may never need to calculate the height of a hexagon. But when you become inspired to start designing your own quilts using the blocks I have provided, these little tidbits are here to help you. The size of the blocks in this book is determined by measuring the length of one side (in this case 3 inches) (pg.16). Even I, who glosses over directions with wild abandon and to my shame, can see the wisdom in Marek’s words. This section also gives tips on fussy cutting and provides ideas on layouts. Study these pages carefully and you will benefit greatly. I did and found a variation of Jack’s Chain which has my head spinning with thoughts on that layout.

Over 71 pages 52 hexagon blocks are presented (pg.19-52). The author has named all of them with women’s names. Carol is the most basic divided hexagon, being made up of 6 triangles. Most of the other blocks have smaller hexagons and diamonds, some half hexies (Lorraine is similar to my EPP project), triangles, parallelograms, and kite shapes all rearranged into hexagon shapes in very clever ways.

Finally, the book has a few projects. Because of the nature of EPP, I think this is a book that will inspire quiltmakers to design their own quilts. All of the projects, especially those made in Terrain are very appealing. My favorite might be the Rain Chain Nursery Quilt. It reminds me of the modern donation quilt our color group made a few years ago. There is a lot of background, but the layout is very appealing. Sadly, the Jack’s Chain variation is made from unappealing beiges.

There is also a list of resources and a gallery. This book has a lot of scope for inspiration

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The Beginning of the End of the Top

Yes, this is an Alice in Wonderland-esque post.

Yesterday, after returning from a somewhat intense #politicalwifery weekend, I spent some time with The Peacock.

The short version is that I finished the left part of the top. There a couple of long seams I need to sew to other long seams, but I am saving them until the end.
Now I can work on the right side in peace. The first small hexies I added need a lot of attention. I was able to put the 3 rows together after that. I am waiting to see how long the rows with small hexies will be before I trim or add to other rows. At the moment

Progress. Definite progress.

Last Carpenter’s Wheel? 

I am hoping that this is the last Carpenter’s Wheel block. My fingers are crossed because it would be nice to finish something AND I want to turn this in for the BAMQG challenge.
As I may have mentioned, I have an idea for the layout and I’d like to get to it. Of course, I have to get the Peacock off the design wall.

2016 Year in Review

I feel like I didn’t make a lot this year. The will was there. The need was there, but time and inspiration conspired against me for many months. Still, I have an impressive record:
Number of 2016 Blog Posts: 367

Number of yards of fabric used this year: 178.59

Small and Medium Projects:

Doing Good Projects

I also made a lot of donation blocks that someone else will turn into a quilt.


I have made more quilts other years. I have a number of quilt in process, as you know, and those will hopefully turn into quilts next year.

Various & Sundry 2016 #11

Doing Good

The Orlando Modern Quilt Guild updated their meeting minutes and included a detailed description of their Pulse Project. The scale of the project is mind boggling. I am amazed at what they have accomplished. They also posted some photos of the first distribution on the OrMQG Instagram feed.

If you want an ongoing way to use up scraps by doing some good, take a look at Kat’s Block Drive. She requests blocks every month to make quilts for families who have lost loved ones.


SF School of Needlework and Design opened in September.

I was pleased to get Marsha McCloskey‘s newsletter. I was not so happy to hear that she has been 24/7 caregiver for her very ill husband. Send her good wishes via her website if you have a chance. She mentioned the Stargazing: American Star Quilts exhibit at the Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset. It runs now until January 24. Her Star of Chamblie Sampler quilt is in the exhibit. I want to make a version of that quilt!


Johanna Bashford, coloring queen, has a line of tech cases for Apple products. Samsung owners, including me, are SOL.

Patterns, Tutorials and Projects

I recently saw a link to the Queen Bee handbag pattern from U-Handbag, a British company owned and operated by Lisa Lam. I love the look and the design, but didn’t really want to deal with British pounds (sorry, UK friends, I am not trying to be an ugly American). I looked around and found the pattern on Craftsy, but without the purse frame and other bits and pieces. Sigh.

My sister, not as well versed in the ways of fabric as some of you, dear readers, but she has a good eye and sent me a link to a fabric rugmaking tutorial. The fabrics used in the tutorial are very appealing. The technique is similar to one in which bowls are made. It is nice and would be a good way to use FabMo scraps.

I love the look of this pieced Pineapple quilt pattern. Tutorials are linked on the page.

I have been talking about making a Lozenge quilt for awhile. While I have a number of projects in process, I think the stars have almost aligned for me to do this. I found a pattern that works with charm packs (5 inch squares) and a layer cake (10 inch squares), which is kind of what I want to use. I got a layer cake of Manor by Victoria Findlay Wolfe and have been looking for a reason to use it. This might be it. Looking back at the page of ideas I gathered, though, makes me wonder if that is the right fabric. I’ll have to dig around in my fabric closet and see if there is a more suitable layer cake. God forbid, I should actually CUT fabric for this project. 😉

Bonnie Hunter has announced her 2016 mystery quilt, En Provence. It is inspired by that region and the photos are worth viewing even if you don’t want to participate.

Other Artists

Christa Watson has a post on a series of black and white quilts she did after choosing black & white for her ‘color of the month’. I really hope she didn’t make all of those quilts in one month. I’ll feel quite lazy if she did! Regardless, Christa has a great design sense. Her Illusions piece moves when you look at it. As she says, black & white quilts have a high impact graphic quality that is hard to beat. Information about the Color Blog Series can be found on Michelle Wilkie’s site.

Marie Webster was active in the early part of the 20th century and owned a pattern and kit company before such things really existed. A lot of her patterns were applique’ and very different from the feedsack and pieced patterns of the 1920s and 1930s. Kathy Matthews wrote an article about an art quilt exhibit responding to Webster’s patterns in a new way. You can read about her in a book.


You might have heard of Frances Dowell’s new book, Birds in the Air. She also has a different site from The Off Kilter Quilt that is all about Quilt Fiction. You know that my librarian heart loves this type of compilation. Frances notes in her recent episode (#199) that the Quilt Fiction site is a still a work in progress. You get a free story if you sign up for her newsletter.

Christa Watson republished an NQA article about QuiltCon on her blog recently.

If you have wanted to start a La Passacaglia quilt, but don’t know where to start, take a look at Dana’s post. First, she has great photos of her “La Pass.” I like the way she approached the project and it has given me ideas for getting started, which I have been avoiding. (N.B. I do have an idea that will help me take the leap). She also has an idea about combining shapes to make a larger space. This is an interesting idea that I might use when I get farther along. Not only is this post helpful, it is also written in a great tone.

Tips and Tricks

Kathy Matthews posted a link to some still relevant vintage tips and then she wrote an article talking more in depth about the tips booklets.

Quilt World News

Sadly, art quilts were stolen off the walls of a church in Vancouver. The article states that the quilts were worth $6 million. The article has a link to photos of the stolen quilts. There are two sites that list lost and stolen quilts, and a page for Missing Quilts on Quilter’s Cache. While there is no good in stolen quilts, I am pleased that the quilts are considered art in this instance.

New Donation Blocks

As I mentioned yesterday, I needed a lot of leaders and enders to help me keep the layout of The Peacock in order. In addition to other projects, I made a number of donation blocks.

I picked up a few blue kits at the guild meeting Saturday. My intention was to sew them “sometime” during the next month. Quickly, I realized that I would need leaders and enders while I pieced The Peacock. Very quickly I had the kits out and blocks partially made.

Donation blocks - October 2016
Donation blocks – October 2016

Soon after that, I had 4 blocks made from a combination of my own fabric and the kits.  These join the two I made before my trip.

I made several blue blocks with the intention of putting them together into a quilt. I don’t have enough yet, but will will soon. I think I mentioned that the Peacock requires a leader/ender between each seam. One half of the block is in one row and the other half is in the row above. It requires another piece between each Peacock seam so I can keep the different blocks in order. It is a quilt where I will get two quilts out of the piecing.

Red and turquoise donation blocks - October 2016
Red and turquoise donation blocks – October 2016

Previously, I made red and white blocks for a different charity quilt. I like having color themes even if the reds (or whatever colors) aren’t exactly matchy-matchy. I have enough red blocks to make a charity quilt, however, I want to try something new and am waiting to figure out some match and layout before I piece the blocks together. I am still making red blocks as I can pair them with black for boys.

More on the Peacock

The Peacock in process - October 2016
The Peacock in process – October 2016

I spent some time on Saturday night and most of the day Sunday trying to make progress on The Peacock. I now have four rows sewn together in a chunk. A fifth is the start of a new chunk.

The piecing is very labor intensive, though not as labor intensive as Y seams. The good part is that I have to put a leader/ender piece between each Peacock seam under the machine. This will equal a lot of additional blocks or, perhaps, a quilt top.

I started to put the small blocks into the ends of some of the rows. That piecing is fiddly and I haven’t gotten all the measurements figured out. Still, I am pleased that I have been able to incorporate those small blocks into the border as I piece. I have more to piece in and have to figure out how to do that.

Finished: Food Quilt #3

Food Quilt #3: Finished
Food Quilt #3: Finished

I finished this quilt at the Labor Day Craft Night. This shows the power regular sewing with people who are expecting you to be there.

This quilt is for my nephew who is now a freshman at the University of Michigan. He will need it when winter sets in, California boy that he is.

Food Quilt #3 Back
Food Quilt #3 Back

I am pretty sure I am done with food themed quilts. I made an effort to use most of the larger pieces on the back and think I just have a few smallish (up to fat eighth size) left. Someone at the guild asked for the scraps and I may give them to her. I have a few years before the next batch of nephews go off to college and all of them already have quilts, so I don’t feel obliged to make another. However, an excuse to make a quilt is always tempting. For now, I need to focus on the nephews who don’t yet have quilts. One in particular is ripe and I have no idea what to make for him.

The photo isn’t great as I had to take the photo outside late in the day, so the shadows disrupt the look.

Freddy Moran Lecture

Freddy Moran -
Freddy Moran -

At the end of July, I went to a Freddy Moran lecture at the San Francisco Quilter’s Guild. I am not a member, but they do get good speakers, so I try and go once in a while.

End of July? I know. This post has been laying around for awhile.

I like Freddy’s work because it is bright and I like her work because of her collaborations with Gwen Marston. I have heard her speak a few times and have dozens of quilts from the books she has written on my “to make” list. Actually, I want to make quilts as bright as hers more than I want to make the actual patterns. She inspired me to use dots and colors as neutrals.

Freddy is getting quite old (approaching 90) and her husband died last year, which sent her into a tailspin. She talked about the changes in her life affecting her work and methods in the lecture.

Freddy started out her quiltmaking “career” with a sampler quilt, but didn’t feel she was very good at the technical aspects of quiltmaking. She didn’t start until she was over 60 and her kids were grown, which she thought was part of the issue. At some point she made a house block and that sent her off in the direction of multiple house blocks. She made a number of house quilts and found that bright colors were what she liked. She doesn’t think she is particularly good at technique and now doesn’t even sew much.

Freddy showed a number of quilts, which look different from her house quilts. I could still see the ‘Freddy touch’ when I looked at them as well as the influence of her collaboration with Gwen Marston. I especially like the basket quilt. I’d also love to make a row quilt like hers.

Freddy Moran's Applique'
Freddy Moran’s Applique’

She is doing a new collaboration with her quilter now where she glue sticks fabric and motifs to a background fabric and then her quilter “appli-quilts” the pieces to the background.

She has other new pieces which remind me of Mary Mashuta’s “Pushed Neutral” technique, which was so intriguing when I started making art quilts.

I really enjoyed the lecture. I wish I could go and spend time with the various quiltmakers I admire and see what they think of my work.

Quilt Class: Rose Wreath pt.3

We are making the Flower Wreath block. To find out how to make templates, including the ring, see Part 1 for making templates and Part 2 for making the ring and positioning the ring on the background.

Flower Wreath
Flower Wreath

Now we are going to stitch the ring. If you haven’t started, check the Supply List in part 1 and grab your 3″x5″ tearaway backed fabric. Your ring should be applied to the background and ready to stitch. If your ring is not fused and ready to stitch, go back to part 2.

I stitch in layers, so that the stitching is easier, there are fewer starts and stops and the piece looks more finished. Now that you are ready to stitch, it is time to choose your thread.

Choose thread
Choose thread

Whenever you choose thread, you must consider the stitch. If the stitch will be dense like a satin stitch, you should choose the color by looking at the thread wrapped around the whole spool. That will give you a better sense of the color the satin stitch will end up.

It you will be using a straight stitch, you should unreel a bit of the thread and look at one strand on your fabric. You may need to pool a little of the thread together – less dense than the whole spool and more dense than one strand.

Now set up your machine for zig zag stitching. You will need to choose a stitch density. I like a semi-open zig zag that is not too wide. Dense satin stitching, however, can really highlight and outline each piece. I use the following settings on my machine:

  • Ring: width: 3.0, density: 0.45
  • Flowers: width: 3.0, density: 0.45
  • Leaves: width: 2.0, density: 0.5
  • Flower centers: width: 2.0, density: 0.5

YMMV: Your machine will vary so use the test piece and try out your settings.

Even if I haven’t chosen all the fabric, I like to get the ring stitched down first, so I can audition the other fabric without worrying about the ring. Yes, it is fused and shouldn’t go anywhere, but I still like it to be stitched down.

In order to choose the stitch density, you will need to test. Get the tearaway backed sample piece you have prepared and start testing with the width and densities I have provided above. Stitch lines of zig zag stitching 2-3″ long using a contrasting thread similar to the thread you will be using to stitch the ring. Adjust the width and density on your machine until you are pleased with the look.

Stitch ring
Stitch ring

Put the ring on the machine and start stitching. I always leave a long tail that I can pull to the back and tie shut later. My zig zag does not automatically tie the ends. If your machine is more advanced you may not have to tie a knot on the back. I don’t want my zig zag to come out if it gets snagged while the quilt is being used, which is why I tie the ends.

I use my applique’ foot, which has a red arrow in the center to stitch out the zig zag. I place the tip of the red arrow on the raw edge of the ring and follow it around. You want a smooth curve, so you should stitch with needle down or use the hand wheel to put the needle down when you stop. If the center point on your foot gets off the raw edge of your ring, stop and readjust. Stop with the needle down on the outside of the ring’s curve whenever you need to readjust the needle to accommodate the curve. Turn the fabric to the left to get the center point of the foot back on the raw edge of your ring. The stitching will be slightly closer together on the inside of the shape, when the needle punches the fabric to the left, and more open on the outside of the shape or when the needle hits the background.

Tail of thread
Tail of thread

When you have done about half – 3/4s of the stitching on the ring, stop and pull the beginning thread to the back and tie it off.

I tie the beginning off before I get to the end, because the beginning and ending threads can get tangled up and make it impossible to make small, neat knots. I have tied all four ends together in a pinch, but prefer to make the knots as small as possible.

Fold work back to tie
Fold work back to tie

I also use this technique also if I have to stop and pull the work out of the machine because of thread breakage or necessary bobbin refill.

I fold the work back (I only used my pincushion so I could photograph what I was doing. Normally, I just hold it with my wrist as pull the front through to the back and tie the ends together.) I don’t take the work out of the machine unless there is a good reason – like a big knot, or thread breakage, etc.

Completely stitched ring
Completely stitched ring

Once your knot is tied, continue stitching to where you started. I don’t overlap much once I get to the beginning, perhaps only a stitch or two, because I don’t want the look of the stitching to be too different.

I pull the work out of the machine and tie off the ending threads. Again, you may not need to do this if your machine does it for you.

Now follow the same steps, but on the inside, to finish stitching down the ring. Once you have stitched both the inside and outside of the rings, your ring will be complete and you will be ready to place the leaves and flowers on the ring.

Choose fabrics by putting scraps on background
Choose fabrics by putting scraps on background

If you have not already done so, choose the rest of your fabrics. You will need fabric for the flowers (1-4 fabrics) and leaves (1-20 fabrics). If you have not cut out and fused the wreath to the background, please go back to part 2. The leaves can be the traditional green or you can use something else. If you use one color, you might want to mix up prints to increase interest. You can also use different colors. Make the block your own.

Make visual decisions visually
Make visual decisions visually

I thought about making the leaves green to make them more realistic, but decided I still wanted to use a variety of turquoises and aquas and to stay with my quilt’s color scheme. I found more fabrics to use in my scrap basket.

It is important, with my limited color scheme, to make sure the viewer can see the individual leaves. For that, I need to have enough contrast between the various aquas and turquoises. Remember, when choosing your fabrics, to make visual decisions visually. Put your potential fabrics on the background and step back to look at them. From my test piece (right) you can see that there are a variety of tones of aqua and turquoise. Some of them blend a bit into the background. I want movement and interest.

Cover fusible with fabric
Cover fusible with fabric

Once you have chosen all of your fabrics press the fabric. Add fusible to the wrong sides.

Use the pressing cloth or applique’ pressing sheet to keep the fusible from sticking to your iron.

Follow the directions on your fusible’s packaging.


Trace leaves & Flowers
Trace leaves & Flowers

Mark all of your leaves and flowers. Flip the fusible so that paper side is up. You will be able to see your different fabrics through the paper. Place a template face DOWN on the appropriate fabric and trace with a writing implement. I use a Sewline pencil, but you can also use a pen, regular pencil or anything. I wouldn’t use a Sharpie even though I don’t think the paper will allow the marking to bleed through to the fabric.

Once you have traced all pieces**, cut them out right inside the drawn line. You should have 20 leaves, 4 flowers and 4 flower centers.

  1. Take all of your pieces and arrange them the pleasing way. Arrange them into the final position. You are using this try-out to look at the overall effect of the whole block. Once you are pleased with the arrangement, take a photo or sketch out placement.
  2. Fuse & Stitch Flowers
    Fuse & Stitch Flowers

    You will need to stitch the flowers first, then the leaves and finally the flower centers. The flowers and leaves are on the same layer, so you can stitch them in any order. Anything that will be covered by another piece will need to be stitched before you fuse the covering piece.

  3. Place the flowers on the ring using the press marks you used to place the ring on the background (or fold the background in quarters and finger press again). Place them symmetrically along the ring, or in a pleasing way to your eye.
  4. Fuse them into place and get ready to stitch. You can also reference the machine applique’ tutorial for more information. Again, pay attention to where the layers of the design are placed. If there are leaves that you want to place under the wreath, you will need to satin stitch them before you fuse the wreath down entirely. For the flowers, you will need to satin stitch down any parts of the design that will be covered by another piece of fused fabric, such as the centers. The design will look better if you satin stitch a layer and then fuse the next piece down.
  5. Flower Wreath Layers

    Place the interfacing under the background. You could use a machine basting stitch to stitch the interfacing (Pellon Stitch & Tear or similar) temporarily to the background, but pinning works fine, too. You will need to zig zag with the interfacing under the background.

  6. Stitching flowers
    Stitching flowers

    Satin stitch all the other pieces down using the thread you chose. When you stitch, the middle of the stitch will cover the outside raw edge of each piece. I line up the red arrow on my foot (see photo) with the sharp edge of that raw edge. The pieces you will satin stitch have curves, thus you will need to manipulate the stitch so it is smooth. Stitch with needle down.

    Stop stitching to create smooth curves
    Stop stitching to create smooth curves

    Stop with the needle down on the outside of the curve for the leaves and flower petals. For the inside point between the flower petals stop above that point on the inside. If you do not have a machine that automatically stops with the needle down, again, you can use the hand wheel to move the needle into the downward position when you stop. Do thisMove the handwheel carefully without moving the fabric. Once the needle is down you will need to assess the way to turn the fabric. Always turn the fabric very slightly to ensure a smooth curve. You may only need to take one stitch before adjusting the fabric again in order to get around the curve smoothly. For the outside curves, generally, you need to turn the fabric to the left to make a smooth curve. (Updated 10/30/2012: My engineer SIL says: You turn it clockwise for outside curves and counter clockwise for inside curves. YMMV) The stitching will be closer together on the inside of the shape and more open on the outside of the shape when you move in this direction. For the inside point of the flower, between the petals, you will need to take a slight adjustment of the background to the right. For the pointy ends of the leaves, stop the needle on the outside of the leaf near the point and adjust the fabric to the right very, very slightly. Take one stitch, stop on the outside of the point again. Adjust very slightly to the right. Your goal should be to get the needle into the same hole on the inside of the leaf until the arrow or line on your machine’s foot is in line with the raw edge of the other side of the leaf. When you move the fabric always keep the needle down. Before starting, take a few of the templates, e.g. a leaf and a flower, make some test pieces and do a test with junk fabric so you get the feel of the procedure. This is not skill you should work on when you are pressed for time.

  7. Arrange leaves
    Arrange leaves
  8. Once you are finished with the flowers, change your thread and adjust the width and density of your stitch, if desired.
  9. Arrange the leaves in a pleasing manner. I placed 5 at a time on the background and stitched them down.
  10. Stitch leaves
    Stitch leaves

    Arrange and stitch all of the leaves. My photo shows only 10 sewn leaves, but I did eventually stitch all of them.

  11. Place the centers on the flowers and stitch them down. Follow all the directions above for tying off and moving the needle to create a smooth curve.
  12. Back of block
    Back of block

    Once you have stitched all the pieces, rip off the tearaway. I use a seam ripper to get the ripping started on pieces that are surrounded by stitching. Try not to distort the block while you are tearing out the stabilizer.

  13. Once you are finished with the entire stitching and ripping out the tearaway, trim the background down to 12.5″
Fusible Machine Applique' Block
Fusible Machine Applique’ Block

Finished block! Hooray! You did it!

**Nota bene: These pieces have no right direction. You can trace them any way and apply them anyway and they will look fine. Pay attention if you are cutting out letters or another motif that has a special direction. Put the right side down on the paper backed fusible and trace the motif backwards.