I’ve been designing fabric now with Benartex for 6 years and have released 8 fabric collections so far (with the next one in the works now). Over this time, I’ve learned a lot about my style and how to put together a cohesive color story. Today I thought it would be fun to explain more about how I created the designs for my newest collection called Stitchy.
Usually I start with very simple line drawings on paper and add more details as I go. Sometimes they’ll evolve into something completely different and other times they’ll stay relatively the same. My Hashtags print was the simplest design but one of my favorites. I literally drew a bunch of pound signs on a white background in photoshop with pink ink. This was my original drawing below, so that’s my actual penmanship, messy marks and all!
It was a simple matter of putting the design into repeat and replacing the original ink color with a few more hues to match the rest of the prints in the group:
The Stitches print, which is the title name for the whole line, was very straightforward to create. I started with one of my favorite modern machine quilting designs called “Geo Chains.”
When I wrote my book 99 Machine Quilting Designs, I revisited this motif and mixed it up so that the design was a little bit more random and whimsical:
Then it was a simple matter of shrinking down the scale and putting it into repeat on several different background colors. I absolutely love how the final version turned out! I really enjoy including at least one fabric in each collection that’s based on my actual machine quilting designs.
The Crossweave print took the longest to develop. I originally drew out a very simplified design years ago that I called “Dot Dash.” First tried to include it in my Gridwork collection, but it just didn’t fit. Then I wanted to squeeze it into Black, White & Bright, but again, it didn’t jive with the rest of the group. I’ve learned that I can’t force a design, no matter how much I like it!
Finally, I had the idea to color in some of the dots and squares to form a secondary design print, sort of like a cross stitch design. But even that took a few tries, too! First I tried to go “cutesy” with a heart motif, but decided that’s not really my look or style. Then I tried randomly coloring in the squares, but that didn’t do much for me either.
Finally I leaned into the geometry of the print and enjoyed creating a simple cross woven design by coloring in the squares on the diagonal. I used several shades of the same color to give it a bit of depth and sparkle. The hardest part was figuring out which colors I wanted the center dots to be, LOL!!
Threaded Lines was another idea that I’d had in my head for awhile. Here are some earlier evolutions of this design. I literally called the green dashed lines “chicken scratch” while I was working on it, LOL! I wanted simple lines, but not THAT simple for this print.
I actually like the deep red jewel-toned look below, but thought the style read a little more “sophisticated contemporary.” To me, this didn’t fit with the overall look and feel that I was going for.
After a bit more work, it evolved into the Threaded Lines print that I love below. That’s MUCH better, don’t you think?
Sunny Day was the easiest print to finalize, mainly because the team at Benartex did most of the heavy lifting on this one. Whenever I’m designing a collection, I work with a graphic designer and the marketing team to finalize the scale, coloring, repeat, and all of the other technical stuff that needs to occur before printing can begin.
Every now and then they’ll make suggestions or send me ideas to explore. I fell in love with the sun/stars motif they sent me immediately, and together we tweaked it until it was just right.
Often times quilters will ask where I get my ideas, or how I start on each collection. Most of the time I start with a seed of an idea, develop a color palette, and then naming the group usually comes last. Other times I’ll have a specific theme I want to explore and then will design everything to coordinate. It’s a bit of a messy process, but one that I enjoy!
If you’ve sewn with Stitchy or are working on a current project using this collection, please let me know. You can use the hashtag #stitchyfabric on social media or share images in my Christa Quilts Facebook group. I’d love to see what you are making!
It’s been great to get back to a regular video posting schedule again. Although far from perfect, I really enjoy recording and editing new videos for you each week. Today I’m back with part 2 of making my Herringbone quilt.
Click play below to watch the roughly 20 min video. I demonstrate my spray basting method, how I created a quilting plan for this design, how I custom quilted it, AND how to finish with a bit of hand binding. You can check out my other videos if you’d rather bind it by machine. You can definitely use these same techniques on any quilt you make!
I have a limited number of Herringbone quilt kits while supplies last, but it would look fabulous in scraps, too!
Please ask any questions you have, and let me know if /when you make it. I’d love to cheer you on!
I took a lot of videos and pictures of my process while making these quilts, especially the machine quilting. I’ll be sharing more of that over the next few weeks and months in the hope that you can apply my techniques to any quilt you are creating. My goal is to help you enjoy every step of the quilt-making process from start to finish, and take pride in your accomplishment!
Just in time for the holidays, here’s my free gift to you! I just released a video showing how to make my Herringbone quilt top along with the free quilt pattern. This is part one which includes all of the cutting and piecing. Next week I’ll share part 2 which shows how to baste, quilt and bind. Click the image or play button below to watch:
While supplies last, I have a limited number of quilt kits so you can make one exactly like this! Of course it will look fabulous in any fabrics you choose. Just be sure your background really contrasts and you can either do a “rainbow row” coloring like I did, or you can make it super scrappy. It will turn out great either way!
When I wrote my latest book, How Do I Quilt It, I wanted to include information on binding. However, there wasn’t enough room to include detailed step by step photos, so I’m happy to share that with you here. All photography by my dear friend Susanne Shultis Photography.
When it comes to choosing binding colors, consider whether you want to match the binding to the border or to the background fabric to create a seamless look. Or you may prefer a contrasting fabric that will serve as a frame around the quilt. You can even add a touch of whimsy to your quilt by using up leftover fabrics to piece a scrappy binding.
There are two ways to attach the binding, by hand with hidden stitches, or by machine with decorative stitches that become part of the design of the quilt. There’s no right or wrong answer – it’s all a matter of personal preference. No matter which method you choose, there are a few steps you need to take before applying the binding.
Prepare the Quilted Quilt
Trim off the excess fabric and batting so that the edges are straight and flush. I prefer to use a large square ruler to trim the corners of the quilt, and long straight rulers to trim the edges.
Prepare the Binding
No matter how I finish my binding – by hand or machine, I use the same method to prepare my binding and attach it to the quilt. I always make a standard double fold, hidden seam binding.
Step 1 – Calculate the total length of binding needed by adding together the measurement of all 4 sides of the quilt, then add an extra 10” for seam joins. For example, to calculate the binding needed for Pinwheel Tessellation quilt shown above, it’s 51+51+62+62+10 =236”. Next, figure out how many binding strips you need to cut by dividing the perimeter by the usable width of fabric. This would be 270” / 40 = 5.9. Round up, so 6 strips of binding are needed for this quilt.
Step 2 – I cut my binding 2” wide and sew it to the quilt with an exact 1/4” seam. This ensures a binding that finishes 1/4” wide on both sides of the quilt. However, if you prefer a wider binding, you can cut your strips 2 1/4” or even 2 1/2” by width of fabric. You can also cut them even wider and sew with a wider seam allowance if you want more of the binding to show on the quilt.
Step 3 – Join the binding strips. Place two strips right sides together at a 90 degree angle. Sew them together at a 45 degree angle across the diagonal. Sewing mitered seams like this helps distribute the bulk for a smoother binding with no lumps and bumps. If needed, you can draw a straight line across the diagonal, or press one of the ends along the diagonal to form a sewing line.
Tip: I like to sew all the strips together at once. I join the first two pieces right sides together, and then add the next binding strip to the end of the previous one, right sides together. This keeps all the mitered seams going in the same direction, too. If the selvages are still on the fabric, you can let them hang over beyond the spot where the fabric overlaps and trim them off later.
Step 4 – Join all the binding strips into one long continuous strip. Trim the excess triangles and press the seams open. Trim one end of the binding at a 45 degree angle. This becomes your starting ”tail.” Finally, press the binding wrong sides together all the way along the length.
Sew the Binding to the Quilt
Step 1 – Starting several inches away from the corner, place the binding on the front side of the quilt. Line up the open the open edges of the binding flush with the edge of your quilt. The folded edge should be facing towards the middle of the quilt. Pin the binding strip to the quilt, leaving about 6” – 8” of loose starting ”tail.”
Step 2 – Begin stitching using 1/4” seam allowance. Use a walking foot or dual feed system if possible. When you get near a corner, stop and mark the stopping point, which is 1/4″ away from the corner, or stop stitching at the line on your presser foot that’s 1/4” away from the tip of the foot.
Step 3 – Stop stitching 1/4″ away from the corner and then diagonally sew off the corner.
Tip: To ensure that you don’t have any binding seams that wind up in the corners, ”walk” the binding all the way around the perimeter first: pin the starting binding tail anywhere along one of the sides and place a few pins all the way around the binding, folding the corners as you go to ensure the binding makes it all the way around the quilt.
If any of the seams end up in the corner, simply move the starting point an inch or two in either direction to offset the seam at the corner. If you still end up with a seam close to the corner when sewing the binding on, you can cut the binding apart and sew it back together to move the seam away from the corner.
Step 4 – Do the ”funky fold.” Take the quilt off the machine and fold the binding up and away from the quilt as shown. Keep the edge of the binding in line with the edge of the quilt.
Step 5 – Bring the binding back down, creating a tuck of fabric underneath. This will form the miter on the front of the quilt. The folded edge of the binding should line up perfectly with the trimmed edge of the quilt.
Step 6 – Start stitching from the corner edge of the quilt. Grasp the starting thread tails with your hand and give an extra nudge on the quilt to push it through the machine. This helps ensure that the threads aren’t caught in the corners. The corners are very thick at this point with the extra layers of mitered fabric.
Step 7 – Stitch the next side of binding to the quilt edge until you reach the next corner and repeat this process for all four corners and sides.
Step 8 – As you near the spot where you began attaching the binding, stop stitching, trim off the excess binding, leave an ending tail of 6” – 8” to work with. Open up the straight end of binding and place the beginning tail with the 45 degree cut edge inside it.
Step 9 – Using the cut angled end as a guide, lightly mark a line next to the angled end on the open straight end. Then measure and trim 1/2” away from this marked line to allow for seam allowances on both ends.
Step 10 – Place the two binding ends right sides together, offsetting the corner tips by 1/4” and pin generously.
Sew with 1/4” seam to complete the continuous loop of binding. Finger press the seam open, and press the binding wrong sides together. Pin the remaining binding to the quilt and finish stitching it down on the front of the quilt.
Step 11 – Press the binding away from the front of the quilt and then fold it over to the back of the quilt. Fold the corners in the opposite direction that they were folded on the front to reduce bulk.
Pin generously or use binding clips to hold it in place as you stitch the binding down to finish.
Finish by Hand
Binding by hand gives the cleanest look and most professional finish. Although it takes longer to accomplish, it’s one of my favorite things to do when the quilting is finished. There’s nothing like curling up on the sofa on a cozy evening and stitching away the cares of the day!
For a successful finish, you’ll need a sturdy hand sewing needle and thread. Choose a needle that glides through the fabric easily and feels comfortable to grip. (I usually keep a variety pack of needles on hand and grab whatever is close by.) I use the same thread that I piece and quilt with and take tiny stitches to secure my seams. You can also double up your thread if needed for extra strength and durability.
Step 1 – Thread your needle and trim the thread so it is about 18″ long. Tie a knot on the thread end that you just cut. This ensures the thread fibers are in the correct orientation to pull smoothly through the fabric.
Tip – How to Tie a Quilter’s Knot: Hold the threaded needle in your right hand with the ending thread tail in your left hand.
Pinch the thread tail with your right hand while holding the needle at the same time. With your left hand, wrap the freshly cut thread end around the head of the needle 3 times.
Pinch the wrapped thread with your right hand while your left hand grasps the needle and pulls away. With your right hand, slide the knot all the way to the end of the thread. Make a second knot on top of the first one if your thread is very thin. Reverse the movements if you are left-handed.
Step 2 – Tuck the knot underneath the binding, then grab a bite of the backing of the quilt and then a bite of the binding to complete each stitch. For a hidden finish, insert the needle right along the fold of the binding each time. Use a thimble to help push the needle through the quilt if needed.
Some quilters prefer to stitch from right to left with the bulk of the quilt away from them; others like to stitch the opposite direction, from left to right with the bulk of the quilt towards them. There’s no wrong way to do it as long as you feel comfortable with the process.
Step 3 – Continue stitching until you are about to run out of thread. To end a segment of hand stitching, tie a knot with the needle still threaded, and take a backstitch. Pull the needle through the previously stitched area and hide the knot under the binding. Cut off the excess thread, and cut a new length of thread as needed. Stitch until the entire binding is secured and stitch past a few stitches from where you began. Tie another knot and pop it through the quilt so it’s hidden in the batting.
Tip: When you get to a corner, be sure to sew the corners closed on both the front and back.
Finish by Machine
My process for attaching the binding to the quilt by machine is similar to my hand binding process, except that I attach the binding to the quilt on the back of the quilt instead of the front. Then I fold over the binding to the front and secure it with machine stitches that become part of the design of the quilt. I have tried the method of stitching in the ditch to secure the binding, but it always ends up looking messy and I don’t always catch all of the seam. Instead, I developed the following methods which are neater and more secure.
Option 1: Straight Stitching
Starting anywhere on the right side of the quilt, pull up the bobbin thread to the quilt top. Set your needle position so that you will be stitching just to the right of the folded edge, onto the binding fabric. Hold the top and bobbin threads in place and stitch about 6-8 teeny tiny stitches to secure. Set your stitch length back to normal and stitch next to the folded edge all the way around the perimeter of the quilt. When you get to the corners stop with the needle in the down position and rotate the quilt to continue stitching. When you get back to your starting point, stitch on top of your previous line of stitches for about 6-8 teeny tiny stitches. Clip thread tails for a smooth finish.
If desired, stitch another straight line of quilting all the way around the perimeter, approximately 3/16” to 1/4” away from your first line of stitching, almost right next to the right edge of the quilt. You can use your foot as a guideline for even spacing all the way around the binding edge. This is similar to topstitching in garment making, where the stitched edge adds a clean-looking professional finish!
Option 2: Decorative Stitching
Begin stitching anywhere along the edge of your quilt with a decorative stitch. Try to stay within the 1/4” width of the binding fabric as you stitch. Alternatively, you can stitch right next to the ditch or on top of the ditch for a different look. When you get to the corners, stitch slowly so that the decorative stitch can complete its pattern as you rotate and stitch around the corners.
Be sure that the decorative stitching catches the corners on the front and back of the quilt to secure the mitered folds. When you get back to your starting point, stitch on top of your previous line of stitching to secure and clip your thread tails. Or you can bury the starting and ending thread tails as desired.
Watch My Quilt Binding Video Tutorials
Watch my YouTube videos below to see the same techniques in action on two additional quilts, either by hand or machine:
Whew! I know that was a LOT of information for one blog post, but congrats on making it to the end!! Please me know if you use any of these techniques and how they work out for you!
I’m currently making a quilt from my new Stitchy fabric collection from Benartex that calls for about a gazillion flying geese units. Because accuracy is important, I decided it would work best if I sewed them slightly larger and then trimmed them down to size. So here’s a quick tutorial showing how to do exactly that:
First you need to know the unfinished size of the units you are working with. These units are 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ unfinished. When sewn together the finished size will be 2″ x 4″ because geese are twice as wide as they are tall.
Rather than purchasing a specialty ruler just for flying geese, I’m trimming these up with my new Mini Mat and Ruler Set, which is perfect for making smaller cuts while at your machine. This saves me loads of time since I don’t have to get up and move to my larger cutting table.
I’m also trimming them up with my new ergonomic rotary cutter, part of my collection of Christa Quilts Notions that I just released in collaboration with Brewer Sewing.
Step 1: Find the midpoint of your geese unit
From the right, measure halfway across the unit which in this instance is 2 ¼”. Line up the 45 degree diagonal line on the ruler with the right diagonal seam. The little blue plus that I’ve marked should be the intersection of the dark triangle tip and the diagonal line. The bottom of the geese unit should hit right on the 2 ½” line.
Step 2 – Trim the first 2 sides only
Trim the right side and the top of the unit only. Notice that you are preserving the 1/4″ distance from the goose point at the bottom to the edge of the unit to account for seam allowances. The diagonal points at the corners of the blocks should go all the way to the edges.
Step 3 – Rotate the block and find the midpoint again
Flip the unit upside down. Measure over from the right, ½ the width of the block, so 2 ¼” again for this unit. Line up the left side of the block with the unfinished width, or 4 ½” for this unit. Line up the bottom with the unfinished height of the unit, or 2 ½” in this example.
Step 4 – Trim the other 2 sides of the unit
Now trim the right and top of the unit again. This will result in a perfectly trimmed flying geese unit! Repeat this for as many blocks as you have. Adjust your trimming based on the unfinished size of your geese units.
If the triangles of your geese are a little wonky, you can fudge your cutting a little bit to accommodate, but try to ensure that there’s enough fabric to trim on all 4 sides of the block.
See a sneak peek of my new Christa Quilts Notions!
I made a short little video about my new notions and included a bonus tip on trimming binding ends, too. You can check it out by clicking the video image below. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more fun videos & quilty tips!
Every quilter has a story to tell, so I’m so excited about a brand new virtual monthly event called Stitched up Stories. It’s the brainchild of Jenn from The Little Shop of Stitches and is sponsored by over a dozen shops across the US. I love it whenever I see shops collaborating instead of viewing each other as competition because it fits my philosophy that there’s room enough for everyone in the quilting world.
The way it works is that the shops all chip in to pay the speaker’s fee and they all share about it to their audiences. Each time someone registers, they can choose which participating shop told them about it and that shop will get partial credit for the sale. I think it’s a brilliant way to share costs and provide an interesting and inspiring event for the quilting community. When Jenn invited me on behalf of her shop, it was an immediate yes!
A big shoutout to all of the sponsoring shops below. I’m sure this list will continue to grow!
So here’s the upcoming lineup over the next few months:
Deb Strain on December 11th
Deb and her husband Scott, currently live in their new hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. A designer for Moda Fabrics since 1996, Deb feels honored to have watched Moda’s growth and success over the years. Drawing and painting her fabric designs by hand, Deb has created over one-hundred collections since she began working with Moda. She loves working with different colors and patterns, the more intricate the better! Her artwork has been featured on many different products over the years – calendars, greeting cards, garden flags, books, framed prints and more.
Lisa Archer is the Owner and Creative Director of Pickle Pie Designs. She founded her company in 2008 and brings a unique style to the machine embroidery market. Her fresh, on-trend designs earned Pickle Pie Designs a worldwide following. Lisa is a Spokesperson for BERNINA of America, and author of the popular book “Modern Machine Embroidery”. As a single mother, Lisa was able to fulfill her dream of raising her children at home, while growing Pickle Pie Designs from the ground up. She lives in North Carolina with her now-teenaged children.
Christa Watson is an enthusiastic, award-winning quilter from Las Vegas, Nevada who enjoys teaching others to find joy in making “perfectly imperfect” quilts from start to finish. She’s an author, traveling teacher, pattern designer, fabric designer, occasional quilt judge, and quilting industry ambassador. She is a cheerleader for the “do-it-yourself-quilting” movement who believes that quilts don’t have to be perfect to be functional and beautiful. She’s been making her living in the quilting industry for over 20 years, and she believes that if you can dream it, you can do it!
Each story event happens live at 1 PM PST/4 PM EST and they are available for up to a week after the event, if you can’t make it live. They are continuing to add new and interesting speakers with a story to tell, so bookmark the website and sign up for their email to stay in the know. Past speakers have included Toni & Jenny from A Wing and a Prayer, Daniela Stout of Cozy Quilt Designs, Carmen Geddes of 10 Sisters Designs, and more!
This year has been such a whirlwind for me! Like so many others in the quilting industry, the pandemic really interrupted our work flow and it’s take a bit of time to get back on track. I’ve travelled here and there this year and looking forward to a full travel schedule again in 2023. I’ll be vending at QuiltCon in Atlanta in February and teaching nationwide again which I’m really looking forward to.
I’m excited with the response that Stitchy got in the Benartex booth quilt market last month. Right now I’m working behind the scenes to finish up patterns and kits to represent everything shown in this photo above. I know folks are especially clamoring for kits of the star quilt shown here, so as soon as all of that is ready, I’ll let you know! I took lots of video as I made these beauties, so I’m excited to get back to sharing on my YouTube channel soon!
I also had the most amazing time teaching at Quilt Festival last week. It was my first time ever attending this show, let alone teaching and it did not disappoint. I pretty much lived in this hallway the entire time, teaching on wonderful machines provided by BERNINA. One of the great things about attending a huge show like this is that you don’t even have to bring a machine – how cool is that??
However, I was soo busy teaching that I didn’t have time for too many photos. But I brought the family along for support and my daughter was able to snap a few “action” pics in my quilting workshops.
My students were fabulous and eager to learn and I get a lot of joy teaching others my “perfectly imperfect” quilting methods. Whenever someone leaves me a glowing evaluation, it makes me feel warm & fuzzy inside – so thanks to those of you who say such kinds things as “this was the best class ever” or “I learned so much!” It really makes my day!
On the show floor during preview night, I was able to visit with the folks from Arrow Sewing. I loved how they had my Christa Cabinet and quilt blocks prominently on display. That’s been very well received, too!
I’ll end with these great shots of my hubby and daughter. They really enjoyed viewing the quilts while I taught and it was fun hearing about which quilts were their faves. Usually I travel alone, so it was such a nice treat to have company this time around.
I can’t tell you how many requests I’ve gotten for a digital version of my best selling machine quilting book, How Do I Quilt It? Now I’m excited to announce that my publisher has granted me permission to sell the PDF of this book directly to you. This is especially exciting for my international friends who may not be able to find it locally. Even if you have the physical book, it’s always nice to have a digital copy on hand for immediate access from your computer, anytime!
My latest book walks you through my machine quilting process, step by step. I explain my spray basting technique in detail and discuss the steps I take to prepare a quilt for machine quilting on a regular home sewing machine. The number 1 tip I teach my students is to create a quilting plan before attempting to machine quilt. By getting most of the thinking out of the way ahead of time, you can enjoy the actual machine quilting process!
Shown above: 3 different versions of the same quilt, Loose Weave, quilted 3 different ways.
In the book, I also include 3 projects to practice your skills. Each pattern is quilted 3 different ways, using walking foot techniques, free motion motifs, or both. My other top tip is to build your machine quilting skills one step at a time. Start with walking foot quilting. Once you are comfortable with moving the quilt under your machine, then try an easy edge-to edge free motion design. Finally, use both techniques to custom quilt your quilt to really make it your own.
Just one of the gorgeous detailed photos from the book. There’s so much eye candy and inspiration!
Reading this book, and implementing my methods will make the machine quilting process simpler and more fun, I guarantee it!
Stitchy, my 8th fabric line with Benartex has now officially arrived and I couldn’t be more thrilled! In additional to yardage and precuts, I’ve also assembled special 1/2 yard bundles by colorway or print. You can grab any of them directly from me at Shop.ChristaQuilts.com.
Sunny day was inspired by mornings in my studio when the light streams through the windows and the day is full of promise!
Crossweave started off as a simple dot design in black and white but evolved into this stunning print!
As the name implies, this interesting print represents the precious threads we use in our quilt making every day. I don’t know about you, but my clothes catch all of my threaded mess every time I sew!!
The title print, Stitches was inspired by one of my favorite free motion designs called Geometric Chains. You can use this print as a cheater cloth to practice your quilting skills. Or embellish it however you’d like!
Hashtags represents my love of sharing my work on social media. If you’d like to share what YOU have made with Stitchy, be sure to use #stitchyfabric in your social media posts. I’d love to give you a shoutout!!