Sew and Tell – A Class with J. Michelle Watts

A few weeks ago, my traditional guild brought in guest speaker J. Michelle Watts to lecture and present a series of classes. I was fortunate enough to take a super fun day-long applique class with her.

20140601_michelle_1Quilting students watching J. Michelle Watts’ machine applique demo.

Michelle’s focus is on machine applique with a southwest theme and it was very interesting to me how many Southwest designs have a little bit of a geometric modern vibe to them.

20140601_michelle_2Some of Michelle’s beautiful class samples.

As any well prepared teacher would do, Michelle offered kits available for our class and many of the students took her up on that offer. The medallion piece was a great exercise to practice stitching angular shapes, sharp points, and tight curves.

20140601_michelle_3My friend Cory stitched her practice sample on a striking black background.

Of course, I had to go my own way and try something completely different! 🙂 I may not actually do anything with this piece, but it was fun to try out the teacher’s methods and pick up a few tips and tricks along the way.

20140601_michelle_4My version – it’s such fun to play!

No matter how much I think I know about a particular subject, I always learn something new whenever I take a class. The best tip I picked up from Michelle’s class was to use a dotted outline when tracing shapes for fusible applique. It’s much quicker than drawing the whole line!

20140601_michelle_5Drawing dotted lines rather than a full outline of the shape is much faster!

Thanks, Michelle, for a great day – and a fun class!

 

Charming Chevrons Follow Up Questions #1

I am starting something new with my Charming Chevrons quilt-along. Each week or so I will post follow-up questions and answers the day after that week’s tutorial is posted. This will be so that I can answer any questions, or follow up on any suggestions while making your quilt.

Charming Chevrons Original Size

Charming Chevrons Original Size 48″ x 56″

You can either ask your questions on any of my blog posts, or email me directly and I’ll answer them here on the blog.

The first question is from JennyWren in Tx. She asked about which day will I be posting the weekly tutorials.

That’s an easy one to answer!

Usually on Wednesdays, depending on when I get that week’s step finished. My goal is to be about a week ahead of you guys but sometimes life gets in the way. If I get really behind, I’ll post no later than Thursday of that week, but I’ll really try to get it up as early on Wednesday morning as I can. How’s that for an answer?

Kathie asked if it was ok to use a Layer Cake to make the quilt larger.

Absolutely! I have two ideas on how to do this:

1. Use one layer cake of print/color fabric and one layer cake of background. Cut each piece into four – 5″ squares, yielding 168 per layer cake. This is twice as many squares as I have listed for my pattern (mine calls for 2 charm packs of print, 2 packs of background or about 1/2 a layer cake’s worth each). This will make a larger quilt measuring 64″ x 80″.

Charming Chevrons More Squares

Charming Chevrons More Squares

2. Still use a total of 2 Layer Cakes, but treat each one as an oversized charm square and follow the same pattern, making adjustments for the size of the blocks. This will still yield a larger quilt but with bigger blocks, rather than more smaller blocks as in answer number 1 above. It would measure about 72″ x 90″ (less waste lost to seams yielding bigger blocks).

Charming Chevrons with Layer Cake Blocks

Charming Chevrons with Layer Cake Blocks

Here’s another way to think of it. If you can find a layer cake with an even amount of light/dark pieces, you can get 2 of the same layer cake. Then separate the lights from the darks and treat them as two separate cakes!

Great questions! Keep ’em comin’!

Weekend Workshops

On Friday and Saturday several guild members and I took two fabulous classes from award-winning quilter Deb Karasik.  From choosing fabrics to improving my paper piecing and binding skills, the entire weekend was a blast. The best part about it was no traveling!

Friday morning I headed off to class with these two stacks of fabric in tow, an assortment of Fossil Ferns from my stash and a stack of Kona Solid fat quarters, along with some grey.

Fossil FernKona Solids

Friday Class

For the first quilt, I finished 4 triangle segments which will form the quilt center.

I tried to mix in grey with the Fossil Ferns, but as you can see, they just didn’t work well together.

I’m going to take the grey out and swap it for either black or white.

Or I may remake these blocks with the Kona Solids and grey.

What do you think?

Saturday ClassFor the next quilt, I was feeling more confidant because it didn’t require the use of any backgrounds – just lots of great contrast.

I was originally going to use my solid fat quarters but I stuck with the fossil ferns instead.

I really wanted to modernize these quilts but I’m not sure the block designs have the right “look” for a modern quilt.

That’s ok – it was still a great learning experience anyway!

As you can see, we didn’t get a ton of blocks done, but I did learn that starch is my friend and I’m not afraid of paper piecing.

Fun with GlueDeb even did a excellent demo about applying binding with glue first before sewing it down. You can see a wonderful binding tutorial on her website.

Below is a photo of some fellow quilt guild members with a finished block from Friday’s class. They are standing in front of Deb Karasik’s class sample for the day.

Friday's ClassAnd here is a picture from Saturday’s class. I’m the shortest and I get the least done in class, but I still think I have the most fun!! There were about 20 students in each class each day and a few of us took both classes. It will be fun to see everyone’s finished quilts!

Saturday's ClassA couple of gals laid their blocks down next to each other just for fun. Don’t they look great?

Finished Blocks

This pattern looks amazing in any colors. Thanks for the great weekend, Deb!

Christa’s Quilt Along 2.1 – Baby Bricks Supply List

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Baby Bricks

Welcome to my second Quilt Along! (Click Here for the first one). What makes my quilt alongs different and exciting? We will make the complete quilt from start to finish including machine quilting. I love to encourage do-it-yourselfers – no quilting by check here. 🙂

We will be making this Modern Baby Bricks Quilt measuring approximately 44″ x 48″.

Baby Bricks Boy Blue

I’m making this quilt in two color options, using the fabrics shown below:

Girl Baby BricksBoy Baby Bricks


These  colorways are Pretty in Pink and Baby Boy Blue and am going to make one of each! Have fun choose your fabrics using the supply list below and quilt along with me!

Sewing Schedule (All links will be active once each step has been completed.)

Supply List

  • 6 Fat Quarters of coordinating fabrics – use a variety of values and scales for interest
  • 1 1/2 yards of neutral background fabric; includes enough for binding
  • 2 yards of fabric for the backing; will be pieced
  • Rotary cutter with a sharp new blade for cutting through multiple layers.
  • General sewing supplies: machine in good working order, rulers, cutting mat, etc.
  • Neutral cotton thread for piecing (sewing the quilt blocks together)
  • Matching cotton or polyester thread for machine quilting
  • Walking foot for straight line quilting
  • Brand new sewing machine needles
  • Piece of batting at least 50″x55″
  • Tape or washable marking pen (test first and be sure to prewash your fabrics!)
  • Optional: Darning foot for free-motion quilting; supreme slider, quilting gloves, for FMQ

Note about washing your fabrics – I always prewash to make sure there are no surprises. If you are using small pieces like fat quarters, either wash them by hand in your sink, or use a mesh bag and machine wash on a gentle or hand-wash cycle. Wash light and dark colors separately until water runs clear and consider using a color catcher sheet with each load.

So take this week to gather your supplies and I’ll meet you back here next week for cutting!

Sharing is Caring

Please share your work in progress in my facebook group: Quilt With Christa . 🙂

Christa’s Quilt Along 1.6 – Machine Binding to Finish

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Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt Wrap Up


Here are all of the previous bog posts, if you are just now joining us:

Week 1 – Supply ListJolly Jelly Roll Quilt

Week 2 – Sewing the Blocks

Week 3 – Completing the Top

Week 4 – Backing and Basting

Week 5 – Machine Quilting

Remember, you can click on any picture to enlarge it. Now, onto the binding!

I use the same techniques to attach the binding to all my quilts, whether finishing by hand or machine.

Step 1 – Square Up the Quilt

Use a large square ruler to trim up all four corners of your quilt. The square will help you achieve a nice straight 90 degree corner. Trim up all four of the sides with a longer ruler.

Square Up the Corners

Trim the Sides

Step 2 – Measure the Quilt Perimeter and Cut Enough Binding Strips

Measure the perimeter of your quilt so you know how many strips to cut.  Lay it out on your cutting mat or use a measuring tape. I folded my quilt in half to make it easier to measure. Divide your perimeter by 40 inches (the useable length of one strip).

Measure the Quilt PerimeterCut 5 strips 2 1/4 Inches Wide

Round up to the nearest number of strips and cut them 2 1/4″ wide. I cut 5 strips for my quilt.

Step 3 – Make Continuous Binding

This method is called double-fold straight grain binding. Sew all of your strips together to make one continuous piece. Miter the strips by sewing on an angle to distribute the bulk of the seam. If you are using a solid fabric, be sure to sew them all together on the same side!

Join Binding StripsSew on an AngleYou can eyeball the seam.

Trim 1/4 inch seams to the right of your sewing line and press open.

With a small square ruler, cut off one end of your binding on a 45 degree angle. Make sure your binding strips have not been folded or pressed yet. Once the end is cut, then press your binding in half along the entire length, with wrong sides touching and right sides out.

Angle the BegninngPress Binding in HalfWatch your seams if using solid fabric!

Step 4 – Attaching the Binding to the Quilt

Begin sewing your binding to the quilt with a walking foot, leaving a tail of about 6-8 inches unsewn. Be sure to start on the side of your quilt, not at a corner and sew the binding to the front of the quilt. The folded side of your strips will be to your left. The open sides will be to your right. Use a quarter inch seam allowance and match your thread to your binding fabric.

Leave a TailStop 1/4 Inch AwayWhen you reach a corner, stop sewing 1/4 inch away from the end. Mark it with a drawn line or a light pencil mark if needed. Sew off the side.

Rotate the quilt and flip the binding strip up so that it is even with the side of the quilt. Then, flip it back down, forming a “pinch” of fabric at the corner. This will be the fullness that will flip around to the back creating a nice mitered corner on the front.

Sew off the Side at 1/4 InchFlip Binding UpThen Flip DownRepeat this technique for all four corners of the quilt. When you are nearly finished sewing the binding onto the front side, make sure to leave another tail of about 6-8 inches of binding so you can join the beginning and ending binding pieces.

Next Corner

Leave a GapNext, you will trim and join the ends so they fit together exactly.

If you have a lot of excess binding, you can trim some off.

Open up both binding ends and nestle your beginning binding piece (the angled cut end) on top of the ending piece so that it is flat and smooth. Mark an angle on the ending piece where the beginning piece rests on it – should be a 45 degree angle. Cut 1/2 inch away from this marked line. This will take into account the seam allowances for both pieces. Make sure your binding is not twisted and that both angled cuts are parallel to each other.

Mark the AngleCut 1/2 Inch Past Marked LineJoin the two ends by offsetting them slightly to create little tiny tips at each end. Where my pin is pointing, sew from the crevice of one triangle tip to the other, with 1/4 inch seam. Trim off the triangle tips, and press the seam open. It should be a perfect fit!

Joining the Beginning and Ending StripsFinishing the Front BindingFinger press the rest of the binding closed and complete your stitching on the front side.

Step 5 – Finishing the Binding with Decorative Machine Stitching

Pinmoors for BindingThe key to a really nice binding, whether finished by hand or machine, is to make sure it lies flat all the way around the quilt and that the corners are secure.

Once the binding is sewn to the front, simply fold it over to the back to stitch.  I like to use pins with Pinmoor anchors for safety to keep everything in place. Fold over the corners to create a nice miter and pin.

Binding by MachineI used the same decorative serpentine stitch for the binding that I used for the quilting.

You will notice I am actually stitching by machine from the back side of the quilt. This seems to give me the best results and I can control how wide the stitching is so it shows up nicely on the front.

You can see where I’ve already stitched some of the binding.

On the back, be sure to cover the line of straight stitching that was used to sew on the binding  from the front side.

The binding is just as beautiful on the backside as it is on the front. Another finished quilt!

Another Finished Quilt!

Sharing is Caring

I’d love to see your version! Please share your work in progress in my facebook group: Quilt With Christa . 🙂

Christa’s Quilt Along 1.5 – Machine Quilting

This week’s post is the one I’ve been waiting for. I think machine quilting is the best part of making a quilt, so I couldn’t wait to get my Vintage Modern jelly roll quilt top finished and basted so I could start the fun! I quilted it using a serpentine stitch with my walking foot.

Machine Quilting 2" ApartBefore I started quilting, I tried out a few of my machine’s decorative stitches to see how they would look.  All of these can be done using a walking foot with the feed dogs engaged.

Stitch SamplesI used a 40 weight high-sheen polyester thread with a size 90 needle and used the same thread for both the top and bobbin.

This gives better results than using different colored threads.

Step 1 – Decorative Ditch Quilting

Quilting 4" ApartBe sure your needle plate has a wide enough opening to accommodate your decorative stitch and test it out first so you avoid broken needles.

Quilt along the seam lines in one direction in between your blocks, about 4 inches apart. The first pass took me 30 minutes.

This will secure the quilt and you can remove the pins as you go.

Next, make second pass in between each line of quilting. Now your quilting is about 2 inches apart and the quilt is starting to get some texture! I quilted parallel lines across the quilt. I did not mark any of these lines – I just used the seams as a guide and eyeballed it across the fabric where there was no seam to guide me. This is both liberating and fun!

Quilting Parallel Wavy LinesThis second pass took another 30 minutes so I’m just at 1 hour total quilting time. Not bad! At this point, this is enough quilting to hold your quilt together. However, I want more…

Step 2 – Adding More Quilting

Quilting 1 Inch ApartMy motto is that you can never add too much quilting to a quilt!

So I added another line of quilting in between each of the rows above. This was my 3rd pass and now the quilting lines are about 1 inch apart.

This took only another 30 minutes and I can’t believe how fast this is going!

There is still enough room to add another row of quilting and do a fourth pass, so I decided, what the heck?

The fourth pass took 1 1/2 hours because I had now doubled the amount of quilting on the quilt, but I loved every minute of it!

Half Inch Quilting Lines

I ended up with quilting lines about 1/2 inch apart over the surface of the quilt. Total quilting time was 3 hours and I used up a full 500 yard spool of Superior Highlights thread.

Textured QuiltingSuperior Threads Tri-Lobal Polyster

I love all the texture on the back!

Pieced Backing with Quilting

So next week, we will finish our quilts, can you believe it? We will trim them up and bind to finish. I really can’t wait to see how everyone’s quilting turns out. Be sure to email me pictures of your progress, no matter where you are,  so I can share with everyone else.


Here is the complete Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt-Along Schedule:

Week 1 – Supply ListJolly Jelly Roll Quilt

Week 2 – Sewing the Blocks

Week 3 – Completing the Top

Week 4 – Backing and Basting

Week 5 – Machine Quilting

Week 6 – Machine Binding to Finish

Sew and Tell – Do it Yourself Quilts Update

Today’s Sew and Tell is a little different. Instead of featuring a finished project made by one of my customers, I’m excited to share with you some finished jelly roll blocks from one of my quilt- along followers. Scroll down to  the end of this post if you want to join the fun!

These pictures come from Diane in Canada and she finished up this week’s homework in a jiffy!  She had an older strip bundle lying around that she put to good use.

Jelly Roll StripsDiane’s fabric is Greenfield Hill by Denise Schmidt for Westminster. Instead of randomly sewing the strips together, she matched up the pretty jewel tones into coordinating pairs.

Jelly Roll Blocks“Sew” far, “sew” good, Diane! I think your use of color will be striking if you sew each row in a different color, “strippy” style, or if you have the colors cascade across the quilt in an orderly fashion (like green, red, blue, black, etc.)

For those of you eager beavers out there like Diane that are ready to move on, I’ll give a sneak peek of what we’ll be working on for next week’s lesson. If you select 100 of your blocks and sew them together into 50 pairs like this you’ll be one step ahead.

Jelly Roll Block Pairs

Next week’s post will include complete directions on how to finish the quilt top, so make sure you grab your one yard of tone on tone or solid coordinate to go with your jelly roll.  I’m going to use Ruby Red Kona Solid to go along with my Vintage Modern jelly roll shown above.

In case you are just joining us, you can click the links below to catch up and follow along with this tutorial in it’s entirety. My main reason for starting this tutorial is to teach you that  yes, you can, make a complete quilt from start to finish, all by yourself!

DIY Quilts #1.1 – The Jolly Jellyroll Quilt Supply List

DIY Quilts #1.2 – Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt Blocks

Christa’s Quilt Along 1.1 – The Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt Supply List

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The Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt

Do you love precuts but have no idea what to do with them? Are you tired of quilting by check and want to make your own quilts from start to finish? Do basting and binding a quilt scare you? Then come join me for a quilting adventure and I’ll show you how to finish your own quilts yourself, and hopefully help you build the confidence to do so!

With my Quilt Along series I will post step-by-step tutorials showing you exactly how to make a quilt from beginning to end. My first project is this super simple Jolly Jelly Roll quilt.

Scroll to the end of this post for the schedule. You can also share it on Instagram with the tag #christaquiltsqal.

Sugar Sweet Jolly Jelly Roll QuiltI designed this quilt in EQ7 using fabric swatches Bonnie and Camille’s Vintage Modern collection. However, it will work great with any jelly roll!

Vintage Modern Fabric Swatch Vintage Modern Jelly RollLet’s get started! Below, I’ve posted a supply list as well as the quilt’s vital statistics and a few notes.


Suggested Supply List

  • 1 jelly roll, or 40 fabric strips measuring 2 1/2″ x WOF (width of fabric – usually 42″)
  • 1 yard of coordinating solid or tone-on-tone fabric for the inner border and binding
  • 3 1/2 yards of fabric for backing, or a pieced backing measuring approximately 60″ square
  • 60″ x 60″ piece of batting (Warm-N-Natural cotton and Legacy wool are my favorites.)
  • 100% Cotton neutral thread for piecing (I like Superior Threads Masterpiece)
  • 50 weight 100% Cotton or 30-60 wt soft polyester thread for quilting in a blending color
  • Quality sewing needles for piecing and quilting (I use Superior Titanium Needles)
  • General sewing supplies: sewing machine, rotary cutting equipment, pins, seam ripper, etc.
  • Optional: Machingers quilting gloves, basting pins, walking foot

Quilt Vital Statistics

  • Size: Approximately 51″ x 51″
  • Finished Block Size: 4″
  • Number of Blocks in Quilt: 100 (set 10 x 10)
  • Number of Blocks in Border: 45

Go gather up your supplies and follow the links below for some fun sewing!

Additional Notes About This Quilt

1. Fabric selection is easy: just choose a jelly roll that you like and pair it with a nice solid fabric, or a tone-on-tone print that “reads” as solid. This will help break up the busy-ness of the quilt design. The same fabric will also be used for the binding.

2. Do not be afraid to machine quilt this quilt yourself. For this pattern, I will be quilting using a walking foot only and leaving my feed dogs engaged as normal. I will not do any free-motion quilting on this quilt; instead I will show you how much lovely texture can be created with either straight stitching or using a decorative stitch on your sewing machine.

3. I am very generous when figuring out yardage for my quilts. For example, you can probably get away with only 3/4 yard of fabric for the inner border and binding. And, with extremely careful measuring or basting, you may be able to get by with just 3 yards for the backing. However, I always round up just in case of fabric shrinkage or mis-cuts. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, anything leftover is like “free fabric” for your next quilt!


Week 1 – Supply ListJolly Jelly Roll Quilt

Week 2 – Sewing the Blocks

Week 3 – Completing the Top

Week 4 – Backing and Basting

Week 5 – Machine Quilting

Week 6 – Machine Binding to Finish


Sharing is Caring

I’d love to see your version! Please share your work in progress in my facebook group: Quilt With Christa . 🙂

Circle Stars #3

I’m making very slow progress on the Circle Star quilt I started in class with Gail Garber several weeks ago. You can read my previous post about it HERE. I have finished sewing the block together which is shown below. I absolutely love this block which I designed myself!

Circle Star BlockPeeling the Paper OffMy problem is that I am now ready to move on and design the rest of my quilt around it – but I’m stuck. Do I make more stars? Do I build a medallion around it? The picture below shows one idea that Gail came up with in class.  I taped more freezer paper and Gail  added some really cool elements to the design.

Star DraftI want to incorporate more points and more borders but I think I need to put this into a design program and really spend some time fiddling. I’ve been playing with EQ7 but that seems more geared toward standard traditional quilts rather than more artistic ones. I’m checking into the feasibility of really learning Adobe Illustrator, too. There’s another program I heard about through Leah Day’s blog called Serif Draw Plus.

The hard part is that I know it will take some time to learn to use new tools before I can get back to the fun part – designing and sewing! Oh well – another learning curve to overcome!!

Circle Stars Part 2 – Paper Piecing

Paper Pieced StarMany Circular Star designs are more commonly known as Mariner’s Compass blocks. They look very complicated but are actually quite simple to piece.

To make my fiery star block that I’m working on this week, I began with a hand-drafted pattern that I learned how to make in a workshop I attended recently from Gail Garber. You can read more about that awesome class HERE.

For me, the hardest part was picking out the colors! I started out by bringing the whole pile of fabrics shown below to class. It’s hard for me to envision a project until I know exactly what I’m doing. After a day of block designing I was able to narrow down my choices and stick with an analogous color scheme – colors that lie right next to each other on the color wheel. I’ve been learning a little color theory, too.

Rainbow of FabricsAnalogous FabricsMy heart really yearned for reds, oranges, and yellows so I rummaged around in my stash  until I was happy with my fabric choices. I needed to make sure there was enough contrast in value to make the design stand out.

Once the pieces were rough cut into large rectangular patches, the sewing fun could begin! Gail’s method of paper-piecing is to cut each piece out 1″ bigger on all sides. I don’t mind the waste if I can trade it for extreme accuracy. The REALLY nifty part is below.

Paper Piece 1Paper Piece 2We started off with the first piece in the middle like you normally would for paper piecing. We used freezer paper foundations and made multiple copies by pinning them together and running an unthreaded needle through a stack of freezer paper sheets. The fabric adhered to the freezer paper when I ironed between seams. That meant no shifting! It easy pulled away when I was ready to add the next piece.

Paper Piece 3Paper Piece 4

The “magic” happened when we used an add-a-quarter ruler to the edge of each sewn piece to cut off the excess. Instead of getting globs of fabric lumps on the back, each seam was nice and tidy. It made lining up the next piece super simple!

Paper Piece 5Paper Piece 6Once I had a stack of pie slices – 8 to be exact, they were ready to be trimmed and sewn into a circle. The picture below shows Gail in class demonstrating how to paper piece on my Bernina.  The best thing about taking technique classes is that it gives me great ideas for nifty notions that I’ll eventually carry in my store. In the meantime, if you are interested in the add-a-quarter ruler and other supplies for paper piecing, you can order them from Gail’s website here: www.GailGarber.com.

Gail on Christa's Bernina

Now I can’t wait to turn this block into an exciting (perhaps award-winning??) quilt! I will post weekly updates as I work on this project.