Monday, April 30, 2012

Retro Flowers Quilt Along: Piecing your quilt and a giveaway!

Have you pieced all your blocks?! I sure hope so. Because now it is time to piece the quilt top! And if you like free jelly rolls, read on about how you can win one from Fat Quarter Shop with little or no effort!

For the sake of being able to take pictures that are easy to see detail on, I am going to be using a mini size quilt for this post. The same concepts will all apply to the larger 16 block quilt.

When I piece a quilt top, I make a point to use the least number of long seams possible. The longer the seam, the more likely you are to have trouble with wonkiness. Not that you will necessarily; short seams are just a great precautionary measure, and much easier to manhandle.  Below is a roadmap of how I pieced this particular quilt. 

Start with 16 blocks


Sew them into 4 quadrants

Sew each quadrant to the one next to it (into hemispheres)

And then sew the hemispheres together. This way, I only have 1 long seam rather than 3

If you are doing 20 blocks, you could consider making your quadrants as shown above. Getting creative with your geometry helps maintain the over all structure of your quilt.

Some people prefer to piece their blocks in rows, and then sew those rows together. That is another great piecing option. There are many different ways to do it, and it all just depends on what is most comfortable for you, your machine, the space you have to work with, and what you are accustomed to. 

Regardless of your piecing geometry, it is a good idea to place pins at your seams to make sure they match up correctly. I like to drop two pins in at every seam, one on each side (as shown above). This allows me to be sure that the seams will not be tugged away from each other in either direction. 

Since the seams on this quilt are approximately every three inches, you might not necessarily need pins in any other areas. Again, it is all about your level of comfort and control of the fabric. 

Once you have pieced the first two blocks in your row or quadrant, you want to press the seams open as you did when piecing your block. This helps remove bulk and looks very crisp on the right side of the quilt. 

Again, when you piece the longer seam in your quadrant or start sewing rows together, you don't want to forget the pins. They are so essential to having your seams match up perfectly.  

Here is my first pieced quadrant. I really liked how it looked hanging in the window with the sun shining through it. If you are working in quadrants, you will now have 4 of them, each with 4 retro flowers. These get pieced together in the exact same method as each single quadrant was pieced. And then your quilt top is done!! Easy peasy.

Now for the giveaway! I am sure many of you saw Bianca's friday giveaway post. If you didn't win that one, now is your chance to try again! It is sooooooo easy. All you have to do is become a follower (by email or as a google reader). On Friday, I will randomly draw from the people listed as followers and some lucky winner will receive a jelly roll of their choice from Fat Quarter Shop!!!

These are just a few that caught my eye! Again, the winner will be announced on Friday! Good luck and happy piecing!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Covert Robin Guest Post!!!

Hey, hey City Stitches readers!!! This is Kara from my other car is a crane and I was Megan's super secret Covert Robin buddy this month! I've never before participated in a craft swap- online or other wise- but I'm so glad I did. But, before we get into all of that who-ha, here's a bit about me and my blog!

I started my blog in 2008 and my tag line is "thoughts on life from a wanna-be bumper sticker writer and all around crafty femme"... but, really- that could be my tag line for life in general. :) I am a pretty open-minded, opinionated person (evangelism is one of my spiritual gifts which is easily mistaken for bossiness in secular circles...) and have no problem telling anybody, well- just about anything! If you stop by my blog, you'll generally find stories about my family, faith, how graduate school is STEALING MY SOUL and, of course- craftiness. However, you may also find...
What can I say? I'm a wild and krazy girl. :)

Anywho, back to the Covert Robin!

When I was assigned as the girl to make Megan's Covert Robin gifts, I immediately went to her blog to see what kinds of things she likes. I was so delighted- her blog is GREAT!!! Megan is such a good sewer that I immediately emailed the organizer of the swap and explained how I had made a gift when I first signed up for the blog but that I was DEFINITELY making something else because Megan is a freaking sewing professional! Seriously- her designs and sewing are so encouraging! So, it was back to the drawing board...

On her blog, Megan talked about how much she loved Anna Maria Horner (me too!) so I knew that I had to use fabric from Mrs. AMH. I also love Tula Pink and on one of her blog posts, she mentioned how much she loves voile pillowcases. VOILE pillowcases?! I had never thought to use this silky fabric for pillowcases but it makes perfect sense, right? What better than after a long day at work (and moving! in Megan's case) to relax and fall asleep on some luxurious fabric? It was settled, I decided to make Megan pillowcases.

I have never sewn with voile before and while it wasn't tricky, I did notice after a while that you really have to push it through to get it to "go" at a good pace.

I also made Ms. Megan a coffee sleeve using AMH flannel on one side and purple corduroy on the back.

Though not at ALL scientific, you can find a post of mine for a coffee cup sleeve here.

I had SO much fun making Megan's gifts and I really hope she liked them too! Also, for all those who haven't participated in an online craft swap before, I would totally recommend it. This one has been loads of fun and I'm really looking forward to getting to know my new bloggie friend, Megan, better. :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April, what did you do with the sun?

Spring, summer, whatever, I am ready to be outside. What is with this terrible April weather? March had so many beautiful days! I am taking it a little personally if you can't tell. I have not gotten a ton of sewing done because I have been back and forth between home and my parents house in Pawleys Island trying to catch the little bit of sun we have been graced with. While I was there though, I did manage to get some pictures of the quilt I made my mom for Christmas out on their dock. Again, pardon the gloom.

I found some Denyse Schmidt Hope Valley on sale and obviously had to buy enough for a backing. It is sooo pretty in person. I almost like the back more than the front. I also just did basic straight line quilting with half inch spacing. I loooove the look, but I will probably space the lines out a little more next time for my own sanity. 

I planted my porch garden last weekend. Once my plants start to come up and look super awesome, I will document the progress. I have grape tomatoes, regular tomatoes, sweet peppers, zucchini, and pole beans. It was rather a unique experience to get my 18 inch terra cotta pots and 6 bags of soil up to my apartment on the second floor and out on to the porch without any man help. Can you say self sufficient? Woo hoo!

Also, for those of you doing the Retro Flowers Quilt Along, Bianca's post came out yesterday about piecing your block. It is fabulous! Make sure to check out her awesome tips! Next week, don't forget to pop by for my post on piecing your quilt!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I have all sorts of weird gadgets rolling around my sewing room that I have either inherited from someone else or bought on a whim. Honestly, I don't even know what most of them do. I was thinking to myself (self, I thought) "Why don't I do posts about gadgets all through May?"

So I have decided to do it. All of my posts in May will feature at least some weird gadget or notion that everyone either has or totally should have. Here's a sneak preview.

My mom sent me home with this when I went to visit for Easter.

Its basic function is showing you how to get the perfect scant 1/4 inch seam on your machine. I mentioned before that I needed to move my needle 2 places to the right to get the seam correct on my machine. Well after using this baby, I learned that it is actually 3 places that I need to move. 

More details to come on this nifty contraption along with many others in May!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Retro Flowers QAL: Curves are friends not foe

Ok everyone. The day is here. Time to tackle curves. Now while curves may seem daunting, they are actually not that scary once you get the hang of it. Pinning curves is the most traditional way to do them and is the method I will be using.

You may have heard of the curvemaster foot from some people in the flickr group and/or the pattern. It is another great tool in tackling curves. I personally have never used it, but I hear its fab! If you have any questions about using your curvemaster foot, I am sure everyone in the group would love to give you tips.

A couple quick things -

  • If you are new to curves, you might what to give it a trial run on some scrap fabric before using your beautiful quilt fabric, just to get the feel for it
  • Expect to un-sew. My stitch ripper is never far from me, and I do find myself having to un-sew on the regular
  • Remember this is fun! Don't stress yourself out over curves. 
  • If you need any more tutorials or explanations, you tube and the blog world have tons of videos and posts about curves. 

On to pins. I went out and bought a whole extra box of pins for this project. With curves, the more pins you use, the better your curve will turn out. Side note, this same process can be used with dissolving fabric glue that you can find at most craft stores. I have heard a couple people talk about substituting the use of it for the pinning.

Step one. Fold your pieces of fabric in half (right sides together) and press them tightly with your fingers in the center of the curve. This will leave a crease that is easy to see but not as permanent as one made with an iron.

Then, you lay your pieces (right sides together) on top of one another like the picture below matching up your creases. This ensures you are matching the centers of each piece.

Then pin through the pieces at the crease

And at each end. Once all three pins are in, your pieces should look like this. 

The next part gets tricky. Here is where you have to really watch your fabric. You want to start filling in pins between the ends of the curve and the center pin. As you do, make sure to wiggle your fabric to get the edges to line up all the way around. Since the fabric is cut on a curve (that goes through the bias) it will STRETCH. It is very very important to be cognizant of just how easily the fabric will stretch.

This is why pinning is important. You don't want to stretch the fabric to make it fit, more try to mold it into place. Also, you want to try at all costs to avoid pleating you fabric accidentally. After a couple tries, your finished pinned piece should look like this. 

I have done so many of these in the last few days that I have gotten comfortable with just six extra pins, but I encourage you to use more than that! There is no such thing as too many pins!

Sewing your curve is just like sewing any other seam, only you follow the curved edge of the fabric with your presser foot instead of just going straight. 

Now, I have a secret. I know it is wrong, and I know it is bad for my machine, BUT, I sew over my pins. Gasp, I know. Anyway, I find this helpful when it comes to keeping the fabric in place.

The biggest thing to watch out for while you are sewing is pleats. If you see one coming, put your needle down, lift your presser foot up, and wiggle the excess fabric around to help the edge lay flat. Pleats in the seam will show up in your background fabric after it is pressed, and we all know how much fun unsewing is. 

Continue to work your way around the edge of the fabric and that's it! 

Another tip: it is important to make sure you are sewing with a 1/4 inch seam. Don't trust that just because you machine says it is a 1/4 inch, that it actually is. If you measure the seam with a ruler, you can be sure of how big it is. If you find that your machine is off, just move your needle position or change the foot. I have to move my needle 2 places to the right to get a 1/4 inch!!

Once your are finished, your piece will look like this (the pins remind me of a peacock tail)

When pressing, I have found that pressing the seam towards the 'petal', or in my case the print fabric, is very important. 

If you have a light background and you press your seams towards the background, you will be able to see them after you make your quilt sandwich. I made that mistake when making my single girl. It's not the end of the world. I was 14 rings in when I realized it so needless to say I did not fix it. But, if you haven't started yet, its something to be aware of.

Phew this post is long. Lastly, to make this whole process go faster, I have found that it is much easier to pin a whole bunch of petals and then sew them. If you pin one sew one pin one sew one it is never ending. It is super easy to just sit in front of the TV or whatever and pin until you run out of pins, and then chain piece them on the machine. I have no idea why, but it feels like it significantly reduces your time. 

Well there you go. I hope this helps to put rest the fear of curves. Once you get to know them, they are just like any other seam, they just need a little extra love and care. I cannot wait to see all of the beautiful pictures of your petals start popping up!!!! If you have any questions still, feel free to ask and/or check out the flickr group. There is always lots to learn! 


Since there was an amazing cry for pin-less curves, I figured I would look into some resources for you all. For those who took Rachel's curves class, likely none of this will be new to you. Nova graciously let me borrow the video she made for the Single Girl Quilt Along, but the same principles apply. 

I can't for the life of me figure out how to embed it so I will link you to it here.

This is another great resource that someone shared in the flickr group. 

You can also find the Curve Master Presser Foot here. This foot helps to guide your fabrics together without pins and maintain the 1/4 inch seam you need for this quilt. It seems you can apply this same method using a basic 1/4 foot with a side guard. 

The biggest principle of sewing pin-less curves is making sure you DO NOT stretch your fabric. I can't emphasize enough how easy it is to do this. I am not sure if the Single Girl Support Group is a public group, but if this link works for you, you can see why it is important to be mindful of stretching. 

In the videos I have watched, everyone seems to make a conscious effort to never actually hold the fabric pieces, but just to guide them along in an effort to mold them under the presser foot. This seems to reduce stretching issues significantly. You want to minimize pulling on that bias edge as much as possible. 

Don't forget, you have a lot of great resources in the Flickr group! Numerous members were part of the Curves Camp, and I am sure would be glad to pass on their knowledge on the subject. Feel free to put your questions out to the public. 

If you find curves daunting, I would say give the pinned method a try. Once you are comfortable with that, give it a go without the pins. There are so many ways to skin this cat, I don't want anyone to get discouraged with their curves! Hopefully you will find the way that works perfectly for you. Happy piecing!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Right now, in my life

This week has not been a very productive one when it comes to sewing. I am working extra hours in an effort to take Friday off of work and head home to see my parents for the holiday weekend. The little sewing it do get to do usually revolves around the Retro Flowers Quilt Along. While it is fun, it is all in preparation for my post on Monday. I get to lead everyone through the wonderful world of curves! Make sure you check it out!

Although there is nothing terribly interesting in my sewing life to report, I did recently join a really cool book club. (The term 'book club' sounds so funny in my head) I found it on, and if you have never been there, you should definitely check it out. The whole premise of the site is to allow people to organize gatherings in their area based on their interests. If you like to try or join new things, it is definitely a place for you!

Back to book club. The whole group consists of people in their 20's and 30's which is exciting since my goal is to make friends in my new city. Haha. What drew me in was that all of the books we read are classics, like true 'o my god I had to read that in high school and it was miserable' classics. I loove to read and my taste in books is always changing. Right now (obviously) I am really digging classic writing.

The structure of the whole thing is really cool too. Basically, every couple of weeks there is a meetup about a particular book. You can attend each consecutive meetup, or you can do just the ones focused on the books that interest you. AND all of the meetups are at different bars or pubs around town, so I will get to go to some great places all over raleigh. Friends, classic literature, and a cocktail = great times (yea, I've got a rather nerdy layer).

Right now I am reading 1984 by George Orwell and next is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I would never have had the motivation to read these wonderful stories if not for this group! I am obviously way excited but also totally nervous. I am not really a 'joiner' so jumping head first into this is really a new concept for me. But anyway, if you are looking to try something new in your area or just want to get together with some people who share your interests, definitely see what has to offer!

I must get back to my paid work, and then my curves, but I will be back on Monday! Happy Easter and happy sewing!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

the Covert Robin swung by my mailbox!

As I mentioned before, I am participating in the Cover Robin over at Imagine Gnats. Well, my gift came in the mail this weekend! My secret gift maker was Kara who blogs right here, and is rather amazing with a camera if I do say so myself. Anyway, she decked out the box that she sent my treat in so well, I almost didn't want to open it! I was so giddy, I couldn't wait to get back to my apartment and see what was inside.

First, she made me these lovely AMH Volie pillowcases.

Don't they look great on my white bed? I LOVE them. The room was in need of a splash of color and these definitely did the trick! I have never owned, touched, or used Voile and let me tell you, it is awesome. Sooo silky soft. 

Second, was this adorable little flannel coffee sleeve. 

AMH Good Folks can now go with me to work! The stitching on it is so well done and professional looking. I am so impressed. She also included a sweet note and some cute little flower stickers!

Kara, thank you so much for these wonderful gifts. It was such a treat to receive them, and they really made my weekend! Everything you made is so 'me', I can't thank you enough!

Also, everyone remember, tomorrow is the first post of the Retro Flowers Quilt Along. Make sure to hop over to Bianca's blog in the morning to get all sorts of tips and tricks on making/using templates and cutting out your fabric. Get excited!