Most Used Quilting Tools of 2019

Tools are the topic of the day!  Fabric (deservedly!) gets most of the attention, but good quality tools can help make it even more fun to sew! Here, in no particular order, are some of the go-to tools that help my quilts come together.

  1. Straight Stitcher longarm quilting ruler:  The groove down the center of the ruler gives you even more control while stitching, but my favorite part of this ruler is having measurements on both sides of the machine foot as you stitch.
  2. 50wt Aurifil: My go-to thread for the majority of my quilting and piecing!
  3. 12wt Aurifil: Great for hand stitching and machine quilting that you really want to pop!
  4. Spiral Eye Needle:  These are the best needles I have found for quickly burying thread tails
  5. Duo marking pens: The marking pen gives an easy to see brown line, and the eraser pen takes out the mark easily and instantly.
  6. Wool pressing bar: This is fabulous when you want to press a seam open or if you would like you seam lifted off the main pressing surface a bit.  Its a great companion to a wool pressing mat which is another favorite of mine!
  7. Clover Clips:  I love these for binding and bag making!
  8. Stiletto:  The perfect tool to guide fussy piecing or thick layers found in bag making
  9. Scissors: Spring loaded Gingher Shears are great to reduce hand fatigue when you are cutting a lot of fabric.  These small snips are very inexpensive (about $3), sharp, and lightweight.  I keep a pair with every machine and one in my purse.
  10. Rotary cutters: A Gingher rotary cutter and an Olfa
  11. Seam ripper: This one is sharp and has a fine blade.  I try to replace my seam ripper every year.
  12. Add a Quarter Plus and Add an Eighth Plus rulers: These are amazing for foundation paper piecing.  I used to do without, but now I consider them must-haves!
  13. Quilter’s Select ruler:  This brand of ruler has thin black lines that are easy to see and a coating on the back that makes them non-slip.  My cutting, which was always pretty accurate, became much more accurate when I switched to this type of ruler.  I have been gradually replacing my old rulers with these, and I currently have the 6″x24″, 3″x12″, 8.5″x8.5″, and 12.5″x12.5″.

What are your favorite tools?  Did you discover any new notions this year that you wouldn’t want to be without?

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, and I hope you will have the chance to check out some of the other awesome blogs that are participating this month.

Zoo Family Portrait Block of the Month

This year’s block of the month is my best pattern yet- at least I think it is! This is my third year designing a block of the month for Dabble and Stitch in Columbus, Ohio, and the animal theme is proving to be a hit!

The quilt is designed using photographs I have taken at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium over the course of four years.  If I was lucky, each zoo visit would yield one or two good animal photos, and I ultimately ended up with about two dozen potential animals to incorporate.  In selecting animals for the final design, I wanted to make sure different types of animals and different regions of the world were represented.  Compositionally, it also became important to have animals of different sizes to make the overall design interesting to look at.

Value is an important aspect to the success of the design.  Pictorial quilts can sometimes flatten the image they are depicting, so every color used in the quilt has a dark, medium, and light version. There is also a very dark blue and a very dark red to add even more depth to the animals.  I have never been a person tied to the literal color of things, so the palette I selected has bright, whimsical colors.  If bright colors aren’t your thing, you can use any color palette as long as you pay attention to the value of your fabric choices. If you like the fabrics I used, you can order the optional Painter’s Palette Solids Kit to go with the pattern.

All of these blocks are created using foundation paper piecing, and anyone with a general understanding of the technique will be able to construct the quilt.  If you have little or no FPP experience, that fine too! We made a YouTube video explaining foundation paper piecing and there are general instructions included in the pattern.  We started the block of the month in August, but you can jump in anytime!

Let’s do a quick walkthrough of the blocks.  We have been joking that this is more of a polygon of the month more than a block of the month since none of the blocks are square!

We kick things off with the Koala block.  This one of the most challenging photos to get since koalas sleep most of the day.  This koala was reaching for some eucalyptus, but in this design it appears to be reaching out to touch the flamingo.

The backs of the flamingo and tortoise are next.  I was so excited when the tortoises decided to come to the front of their enclosure for a photo. The flamingos, on the other hand, were always happy to show off their plumage!

Next is the flamingo head and the body of the bear.

In the fourth block, we construct the tortoise head and the body of the frog. Yes, the frog is actually blue!

It was an unseasonably warm winter day that I captured this lion in the perfect pose.

The penguins at the zoo love to pose for the guests and there are so many to choose from, I could probably do an all penguin quilt!

When I started this project, I would have thought monkey photos would be easy, but it was more challenging since most are in glass enclosures.  I finally found success with the Vervet Monkey.

The bear in this quilt is a brown bear who resides at the zoo with his brother.

The red pandas spend most of their time resting high above in the trees, but it is such a treat when they come down to play!

Giraffes are among my favorite animals, so I thoroughly enjoyed watching them for extended periods of time while waiting to capture the perfect pose.

The kangaroo enclosure at the zoo has an open walkway, so a kangaroo may cross your path.  This kangaroo had been an ambassador animal until this year, so it loves to show off for the humans!

The cockatoos at the zoo share an enclosure with the kangaroos, and it is so fun to see them up close.

I loved making this quilt so much that I’m making a second one!  If you would like to join us for this block of the month adventure, you can purchase the pattern and optional kit from Dabble and Stitch!

Quilt Stats

Title:  Zoo Family Portrait Quilt

Size: 58″ x 83.5″

Techniques:  Foundation Paper Piecing

Quilting:  Free Motion quilting on an A-1 longarm

Fabric:  Painter’s Palette Solids by Paintbrush Studios in 25 colors

Batting:  Hobbs Tuscany Wool and Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend

Thread: Quilted with 50wt Aurifil in 19 colors

Binding:  Bias binding, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, and I hope you will have the chance to check out some of the other awesome blogs that are participating this month.

Sewing Space Tour

This month I am participating in the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, and each day has a prompt to get us started.  Some days, like today, I will use the prompts, and other days I will be using other topics.  Today’s theme is our sewing space, so I thought I would give you a quick tour.

This is my main sewing area where I use my domestic machine.  I sit facing the center of the room with my design wall behind me.  (The photo above is from a few months ago, so the projects on the wall are further along now!)

My main sewing space is a large IKEA table with a set of drawers on either end.  One set faces the side I sit to sew. The other faces the center of the room and holds all of my 50wt Aurifil and longarm supplies.

Most of my go-to sewing supplies are in the top two drawers of the first drawer unit.  The top drawer has sewing machine feet, some bobbins, machine tools, marking tools, etc.

The second drawer has mostly 12wt, 28wt, and 40wt Aurifil and the coordinating bobbins.  It also has some specialty threads that I use on rare occasions.

My sewing machine is a Bernina 1008.  I bought it about six years ago, and it is an absolute workhorse.  It does everything I ask it to do.  I love a mechanical machine!

The longarm in the center of the room is an A1.  We upgraded the computer system a couple years ago so now it has an android tablet screen, and DIGITAL channel locks.  This is seriously the best feature! We can lock in any angle!

My fabric stash is right next to my sewing machine and design wall. Unless I am working on a pattern I am designing, I tend to pull fabric for a project as I go along, so easy access is a must.

The ironing and cutting tables are old library tables, and I have an industrial gravity fed iron.  If you have a place to permanently set up your iron, I can’t recommend an industrial iron highly enough.

Thank you so much for taking a brief studio tour with me today!

Polar Bear Block Pattern

In last year’s block of the month quilt I designed for Dabble and Stitch, I created a foundation paper pieced polar bear block to represent the Columbus Zoo.  I liked the block so much that I made a cushion with it, and many people who came into the shop loved the design.  This design is now available as a stand alone block pattern!

Polar Bear Block

I made a few adjustments to change the block from a rectangle to an 18″ square block, and I made it up in a new color way that is available as a kit with Painters Palette Solids by Paintbrush Studios. (shown above) For this version I used Aurifil Monofilament so the thread would blend with the fabric color.  The straight line quilting was done with a walking foot on my domestic machine.

First version of the polar bear pillow

It was good timing to release this pattern last month, because the Columbus Zoo welcomed a new polar bear cub on Thanksgiving, and this design was based on a photo I took of another cub at the zoo.  You can read more about the development of the original block in the original post.

Original Block of the Month Polar Bear Block

The pattern is available online or in store at Dabble and Stitch in Columbus, Ohio.  You can choose between the print pattern, a PDF, and a kit with a print pattern included.

Print Polar Bear Pattern

Print Polar Bear Pattern with kit

PDF Polar Bear

Polar Bear Block made into a pillow

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, so I will be blogging a lot more this month!

Machine Quilting the Circle Quilt

How do I quilt a top with lots of bold color? With even more bold color!  This quilt is made entirely with solid fabrics so the quilting is going to stand out as a key design element.  Balancing the impact of the quilting designs with the graphic quality of the quilt top can be challenging, so I decided to match the thread color to the fabric to allow machine quilting to add texture without interrupting the fields of color.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember seeing the blocks for this quilt come together last year.  The blocks didn’t become an actual top until I went to a quilting retreat last month.  All of the components of this quilt were structured improvisation.  Lots of rulers were involved (including the Classic Curves Ruler by Color Girl Quilts), but the quilt evolved organically as I added the various components.

There are dozens of fabric colors in this quilt so I selected 50wt Aurifil in colors that each coordinated with between one and four fabrics in the quilt.

I ended up selecting 19 colors of Aurifil.  The colors are listed from left to right.

Back Row (Cones):

  • 2535- Magenta
  • 4020- Fuchsia
  • 2225- Salmon
  • 2425- Bright Pink
  • 1135- Pale Yellow
  • 5006- Light Turquoise
  • 2740- Dark Cobalt

Front Row (Spools):

  • 4225- Eggplant
  • 4030- Plum
  • 2245- Red Orange
  • 2145- Yellow Orange
  • 1147- Light Leaf Green
  • 6737- Shamrock Green
  • 2870- Green
  • 4093- Jade
  • 2810- Turquoise
  • 2770- Very Light Delft
  • 2730-Delft Blue
  • 2562- Lilac

For me, the best part of using colorful threads is the opportunity you have to infuse just a little more color into the fabric you use it on.  In this quilt there are a few sections of grey fabric, but instead of using grey thread, I selected Lavender Aurifil to add a small amount of color to an area that has the potential to become bland.  Magenta Aurifil is one of my favorite colors to do this with.  It blends with lots of fabrics, but it adds just enough saturate color to enliven the quilt.

The machine quilting for this piece was done on the longarm.  Most of the designs were done with rulers, but there is some free motion quilting mixed in to add some different textural effects.  I incorporated occasional gaps in the machine quilting so I will be able to go back in and add some large stitch hand quilting- Which I can’t wait to do!