Christa’s Quilt Along – Abacus Week 1: Fusing and Cutting

Free Quilt Pattern

New to my blog? Be sure to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free pattern!


Welcome to my Fall 2014 Quilt Along – Abacus! Join me as we make a modern applique quilt perfect for the wall, floor, or any place you’d like to add some color! My version of Abacus finishes at 32″ x 32″. Please feel free to tweak the size, colors, and fabrics to make it yourself and make it your own!

Abacus-Finished-for-BlogAbacus by Christa Watson, 32″ x 32″, made from Kona Solids.

At any time, you can click on the Abacus main page which will has the supply list, the quilt along schedule, and links for all the tutorials as they go live. It took me a total of 3 hours to complete this week’s lesson. This is not a race, so please, work at your own pace. πŸ™‚

Now, let’s get started! All fabrics are based on 40″ of useable fabric width. I recommend washing and starching all fabrics prior to beginning. Wash lights and darks separately with dye magnet sheets such as Shout Color Catchers.

Step 1 – Cutting the Colored Bead Strips (1/2 hour)

  • 1 – 5β€³ x 40β€³ strip of 4 different fabrics (solids 1-4 below)
  • 1 – 5β€³ x 20β€³ strip of 4 different fabrics (solids 5-8 below)

Step 2 – Cutting the Background Fabric (1 hour)

From the background (grey) fabric, cut: 5 strips, 5” x 42”. Crosscut them into a total of 36 squares, 5” x 5” each. You should be able to get 8 squares per strip. These are cut oversized for now and will be trimmed down later.

cut squaresCut a total of 36 squares, 5″ x 5″ each.

Also, from the background fabric, cut 4 strips: 4 1/2” x 42.” Cut these into 7 different rectangles that will form the negative space above the abacus strips.

The measurements are 4 1/2” wide by:

4 1/2”; 8 1/2”; 12 1/2”; 16 1/2”; 20 1/2”; 24 1/2”; 28 1/2”

Background-Strip-NumbersCut background strips according to the diagram above.

Step 3 – Fusing and Cutting the Bead Fabrics (1 hour)

Cut 12 strips of paper backed fusible web, 4 3/4” x 15”. (You will get 3 circles per strip.)

Following the manufacturer’s instructions, adhere full and partial fusible web strips to the wrong side (back side) of your bead fabric strips.

fusible webAdhere fusible web to the back side of your “bead” fabrics.

Cover strips of fabric with fusible web:

  • 40” of fabric strip 1;
  • 35” of strip 2;
  • 30” of strip 3;
  • 25” of strip 4;
  • 20” of strip 5;
  • 15” of strip 6;
  • 10” of strip 7; and
  • 5” of strip 8.

Cut additional strips of fusible web if needed.

fusible squaresCut your fusible backed fabric strips into squares approximately, 5” x 5”:

  • 8 squares of fabric 1;
  • 7 squares of fabric 2;
  • 6 squares of fabric 3;
  • 5 squares of fabric 4;
  • 4 squares of fabric 5,
  • 3 squares of fabric 6,
  • 2 squares of fabric 7,
  • and 1 square of fabric 8.

For Die Cutting the Circles (1/2 hour):

Note, using a die cutter is super fast. If cutting the traditional way by hand, allow additional time. Run the fusible backed squares through your die cutting machine, using a 4” diameter circle die. Repeat to cut all 36 circles.

die cutterUse a 4″ diameter circle die if using a die cutter. I used the Sizzix.

20140908_sizzix6Repeat to cut a total of 36 circles.

For Traditional Cutting of the Circles (Time May Vary):

Click the picture below to print off the circle template onto a piece of stiff cardstock. Or print in onto plain paper and trace it onto template plastic, cutting carefully on the line. Use a lightbox or window if needed for tracing. Be sure to print at 100% scaling and measure the diameter to ensure it is 4”.

White CircleCircle Template – be sure to click the picture, save it, and print at 100% scaling.

Trace around your circle template on the back of each fused square and cut the circles out on the line slowly and carefully, for a total of 36 fused circles.

20140908_sizzix7Congratulations! You are now ready to assemble an awesome quilt from just circles and squares! Come back next week for block assembly and easy, yes easy machine applique!

Here’s a hint: choose thin blending cotton threads such as Aurifil 50 weight in colors to match your fabrics for quick and beautiful machine applique!

Something new I am adding this year is a parade of quilts! If you finish your quilts by November 10th, you can email me a picture of your quilt (along with a blog link if you have one) and I’ll feature them on my blog on November 12th.

Sharing is Caring

Please share your work in progress in my facebook group: Quilt With Christa . πŸ™‚

I also invite you to share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #abacusqal, or on my flickr group: Christa’s Quilt Along

Let’s share the love! Please grab a quilt along button and add it to your blog.

<div align="center"><a href="" title="Christa's Quilt Along" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Christa's Quilt Along" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Better late than never, I’m happy to announce the winner of last week’s Sizzix Die Cutter giveaway!


Congratulations to Elizabeth M. aka catskillquilter who said,

“Amazing! Circles take a LONG time to cut correctly with scissors! I am following Sizzix on Facebook. Thanks for the chance!”

I agree – it was such a breeze to cut all of my circles with the Sizzix circle die!

Watch out for the next giveaway coming up on Thursday for your chance to win another fabulous prize! (Hint: look at the picture above – what other goodies do you see?)

Sizzix Fabric Cutter Tutorial

This summer I had fun playing around with a Sizzix Fabi Personal Die Cutter.

20140908_sizzix1Here’s what I did to test it out:

To use the die, you simply fold the fabric and place it on top of the cutting pad, then sandwich it between the two plastic safety plates.

20140908_sizzix2Hand crank it through the machine and voila! Perfect shapes every time!

20140908_sizzix3Comfortable that I knew how this machine worked, I was ready to try it out on some circles backed with fusible web. (This is for my upcoming Abacus Quilt Along which I mentioned in yesterday’s post.) I thought, if this can work for machine applique, I may never go back to using scissors!

20140908_sizzix4To make the job easier, I ironed strips of paper backed fusible web to the back of my chosen fabrics. I cut each strip about an inch wider than the die. I then rough cut them into squares before running them through the machine. There seemed to be less waste cutting this way.

20140908_sizzix5I stacked 3-4 layers of fusible backed squares and fed them through the machine. Oh. My. Gosh. That was so fast!

20140908_sizzix6Now I have a pile of perfect circles, all ready to be made into a quilt!

20140908_sizzix7Try It Out

20140908_sizzix8If you would like to use the Fabi Personal Fabric Cutters to make my Abacus quilt, click here for the tutorials.


A Sizzix Product Review, WIP, and a Giveaway!

Today I want to give a quick plug for a new toy I just got – the Sizzix Fabi cutter. This came to me courtesy of Sizzix and They gave me a startup kit in exhange for a review of the product which you can read here.

They didn’t ask me to post about it on my own blog, but I had so much fun playing with it that I couldn’t help but share what I’m currently doing with it!


The Giveaway

But first things first – the folks over at FaveQuilts are giving away a starter kit which includes the cutter and 3 flower templates. The other dies shown in the picture above are available separately. They sent me a few extras to play around with. πŸ™‚

Click here to enter.

The deadline to enter is June 15th at 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on their website, not mine.


I chose to design a modern wall quilt based on the circle die they sent. (I may turn this into a quilt along in the fall once I finish up my summer sewing deadlines – so stay tuned!)

Abacus DesignAbacus by Christa Watson, designed in EQ7

I’m happy to cut squares and rectangles the old fashioned way, but the Fabi die cutter sliced through circles like they were nothing! They were super fast and accurate, too!


I was able to back each piece of fabric with fusible adhesive and run it through the machine with no problems.Β  The cuttings are even fun, too!

die_cuttingsHere are my precut circles pinned to my design wall. The paper backed adhesive doesn’t stick to flannel, so I had to use pins to hang them up.Β  This is my first experience ever with a die cutter, but so far I’m loving what I’m seeing!

abacus_circlesHow about you? Have you ever used a die cutter before? What do you think of them? I’d love to know!