Basic Quilting Skills Series · Quilt As Desired · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials

Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners: Quilt as Desired

Hello Quilty Friends!

Happy Thursday to you!

Leaf Background Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik

Here’s hoping we all have a productive autumn season — especially with our quilting.

I don’t know if you’re like me or not, but I tend to quilt less in the summer months. First, of course, it’s summer and I want to be busy doing other summer-y things and going places. Second, my Sewing Dungeon, er….Studio, is not air conditioned, so for a couple of months out of each year, it’s hard to sew with sweat dripping down into my eyes and onto my projects.

Yup, here’s my dungeon! LOL! Cue the creepy music, please!
Image by upklyak on Freepik

Needless to say, I look forward to the cooler fall months when I feel more productive in my studio and I get excited again about new projects.

What the Heck is “Quilt as Desired”???

If you’re new to quilting, you might have seen the phrase “quilt as desired” at the end of some of your quilt patterns. But what does it really mean? It’s a designer’s way to say quilt your quilt any way you want to.

On our Villa Rosa Designs Rose Cards, we take it a step further and say “Quilt and bind as desired.” Gee, that makes all the difference, doesn’t it? NOT!

If you’re a beginner, how are you supposed to know what to quilt or how to quilt your quilt to finish it?

Never fear — I’m here to help!

The first thing you need to consider after you complete the quilt top is what kind of quilting are you going to do? Machine quilting? Hand quilting? Or even tying/tacking?

Next, are you planning to quilt it yourself? Or pay someone to quilt it for you? Depending on your answer here, you may need to prepare your quilt differently. You can see last week’s post “Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners: Batting, Backing, and Preparing a Quilt for Quilting” to help you with your preparation.

Okay, let’s say you want to machine quilt your quilt yourself (sorry, I’m not into hand quilting, so you’re stuck with machine quilting). Here’s a little video I put together a while back about some basic free motion quilting skills and information.

Wiggly lines are just one way you can quilt your project. Here are some of my other free motion quilting favorites.

Straight Lines

If you haven’t tried quilting simple straight lines on a project, it’s way past time you did! To get your lines relatively straight, you will probably want to use a walking foot or an even-feed foot on your sewing machine. A walking foot or even-feed foot moves the top and bottom layers under the needle at the same time so your sewing lines are less likely to pucker and you won’t get those annoying tucks on the back of your quilt.

Here’s a great example of what straight lines can do for your quilt — this is only the backside and it’s unwashed! Cool, huh? Straight lines add a lot of texture. And if you look closely, you’ll see that my lines aren’t really all that straight, but by repeating the lines over and over about the same distance apart, it looks pretty awesome. Now imagine what this table runner will look like after I wash it and it crinkles up beautifully! You’ve just got to try straight lines!

Straight lines look great quilted on anything modern as well as children’s quilts. But I wouldn’t recommend straight lines on your Civil War reproduction quilt. LOL!

Loopy Loops

Loops are probably my all-time go-to design. I usually use this design edge to edge but sometimes I will use loops in the quilt center with something different in the borders. It depends on my mood, how much time I have, and what the quilt needs to be completed. (Yes, quilts talk to me — I am a quilt whisperer…)

As a free motion quilting teacher for a lot of years, I have discovered that loopy loops are more beginner-friendly than stippling/meandering. You have permission to cross over your lines in loopy loops, whereas in stippling/meandering you do not cross lines at all. Loopy loops are less stressful and I find them lots of fun to do.

Below, here’s an example of loopy loops. Neat, huh? See how all the loops are not the same shape or size? That’s what makes this design look easy-breezy. You can also use loopy loops as a jumping off point for A LOT of other variations.

I tend to quilt my loops big and open, which of course uses less thread and takes less time than quilting itty bitty loops. My rule of thumb is to quilt my lines of quilting no closer than a finger’s width. Of course, if I’m quilting a doll quilt, I’m going to quilt this design smaller and closer together than if I am quilting a throw quilt. Adapt the size and density of your quilting to the project you are quilting.

Loopy loops look pretty great on almost any project! Maybe not your Civil War repro quilt, though. (Maybe you should try hand-quilting for that one, just sayin’.)

Stippling/Meandering

All beginner quilters want to learn how to stipple/meander. I have found over the years that a lot of intro to free motion quilting classes start with stippling/meandering. This is not really a true beginner design, in my humble opinion. I think it is better suited for a more advanced machine quilter. Why? Because you cannot cross over your lines and that is hard to do (or not do) while you are trying to get all the other 101 free motion skills and information all at the same time — beginning free motion can be a bit overwhelming, and that’s without having to worry about not crossing over your stitching lines! Ugh!

Sadly, intro free motion classes keep trying. And mostly failing. Then beginners get frustrated and upset when they can’t quickly pick up stippling/meandering in a couple hour class. Then many of them just quit. I’m sorry to tell you, but stippling/meandering takes most people a lot of practice to master. So I recommend that beginner free motion quilters start with straight lines, wiggly lines, and loopy loops before even attempting stippling/meandering. Most of us have to crawl before we walk….

By the way, in case you wondered, stippling and meandering are pretty much interchangeable terms at this point, although once upon a time they were slightly different. I am using both at the same time so as not to cause any confusion for anyone. 🙂

To me, stippling/meandering is a lot like loopy loops except you are not crossing over any lines. That difference can be very daunting to a beginner, however. If the idea of not crossing lines terrifies you, then please do try straight lines, wiggly lines, and loopy loops before moving on to stippling/meandering. I still try to use my rule of thumb of leaving at least a finger’s width between my lines of stitching.

Here’s an example of stippling/meandering. I apologize that it might be hard to see my brown thread on the swirly-printed pink backing fabric on this place mat. Aha! Here’s another one of my tips: Use a busy fabric on the back of your quilt because it helps to hide your quilting stitches — this is particularly helpful when you are a beginner. It will help you to feel more confident about your developing quilting skills!

Probably the most important thing to remember about machine quilting is RELAX and HAVE FUN! Because quilting shouldn’t be like a job or chore, it should be relaxing and fun or else why would we be doing it???

You can check out some of my other favorite quilting tips HERE.

Next week we are going to tackle Binding, so stay tuned!

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Basic Quilting Skills Series · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials

Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners: Batting, Backing, and Preparing a Quilt for Quilting

Hello Quilty Friends!

Happy Thursday to you!

We’re going to jump right into our topic today — batting, backing, and preparing a quilt for quilting. There’s a lot to cover, so grab your cup of coffee and let’s get to it. I apologize in advance, but this post will be text-heavy. Sorry……..

Batting

If you’re new to quilting, you might not know what the filling inside of a quilt is called. Here in the USA, we call it “batting” or you might see it as “batt.” If you are in Europe or Canada, you might hear it called “wadding.” Whatever it’s called, we are talking about the layer between the top of the quilt and the back (or bottom layer) of the quilt.

If you’ve looked at batting options out there, you might be a little overwhelmed. There’s cotton, polyester, cotton/poly blends, wool, recycled, bamboo, natural, bleached, white, black, etc., etc. How do you know what batting is the best?

I’m here to to tell you that there isn’t only 1 “best” batting out there. A lot of what batting you choose depends on your project as well as your personal likes/dislikes or even possibly allergies. Classic favorites include: Warm and Natural, Hobbs, and Mountain Mist, but there are many more companies offering batting today.

Warm and Natural
Hobbs
Mountain Mist

So your best bet is to try some different samples of batting. Do you like the feel of cotton? Or a blend? Or polyester? Or silk? Or…? Which batting is easier to work with? Are there differences/similarities in the same fiber contents but different companies? If you’re going to quilt your own quilt, how does each sample quilt? Hand quilting or machine? Maybe you are tying your quilts?

Eventually, you will find the batting that you prefer and that’s probably the one you’ll use over and over again in your quilts. If you are interested in reading detailed articles about choosing quilt batting, there are LOTS on the Internet, just type “how do I choose quilt batting” into your favorite search engine and go from there.

What if the pattern I’m using doesn’t tell me how much batting to buy for my quilt?

I’m so glad you asked! You can figure out how much batting you will need with a simple formula.

1. You need to know how big the finished quilt will be ( be aware if you are adding or subtracting blocks or borders, your finished size might be different from the size listed on the pattern).

2. You will add 8 inches to both the length of the finished size and the width of the finished size.

Why 8 inches? Most professional quilters ask that your batting and backing be at least 4″ bigger on each side of your quilt top. If you are quilting the quilt yourself, you can sometimes get along with less, but it’s better to have too much batting and backing around the sides than not enough. If you are getting your quilt quilted by someone else, make sure to ask if 8 inches is enough for them, they may want more.

So, let’s do a few examples.

Quilt A is 57″ wide by 75″ long. Let’s add 8″ to each measurement for a total of 62″ x 83″ — this is the minimum batting size you need for your quilt.

Quilt B is 21″ wide by 52″ long. Let’s add 8″ to each measurement for a total of 29″ x 60″ — this is the minimum batting size for this table runner.

Great, but I can’t go to the quilt shop and buy exactly 62″ x 83″ or 29″ x 60″ of batting. So now what?

You can usually purchase batting by the yard or by the package at your favorite retailer. A yard of batting would be 36″ long by whatever width the batting is, which could range from 45″ – 120″!

Batting by the Yard

Okay, for Quilt A we need to buy a piece at least 62″ x 83″. At Quilt Shop X, we can buy batting that is 90″ wide, so that would be long enough if we turn the quilt sideways (83″ wide x 62″ long). Now what would be the closest yardage amount for 62″? 1.75 yards equals 63″. I would probably buy 2 yards of the 90″ wide batting, just to be on the safe side — it would give me 72″ x 90″, which is larger than what I need, so that’s good. Done.

Batting by the Package

Instead of batting by the yard, Quilt Shop Z offers a selection of prepackaged batting in different sizes. Here’s what you might find:

Craft – 34″ x 45″

Crib – 45″ x 60″

Throw – 60″ x 60″

Twin – 72″ x 90″

Full – 81″ x 96″

Queen – 90″ x 108″

King – 120″ x 120

Keep in mind that these measurements might be slightly different depending on the manufacturer.

Okay, for Quilt B our table runner, we need at least 29″ x 60″. Hmmm. A Crib or Throw size might work because they are both 60″, but that might be cutting it a little close, so I would probably go up to the next size, which is a Twin at 72″ x 90″. Of course, I will have leftover batting, but I can save that and use it for another project (or 2 or 3…).

Backing

Getting the correct size of backing for your project is pretty much the same process as I described above for quilt batting — you will want the backing to be at least 4″ bigger than the quilt top all the way around, or just add 8″ to the finished width and length of the quilt. Mostly, you’ll buy backing fabric by the yard, but there are more and more shops that are offering precut pieces of extra wide backing, usually in 2 or 3 yard pieces by the extra wide width, usually 108″, but you might find 120″ as well.

It’s really easy to figure out how much backing you need if you plan to buy the extra wide fabric. Buying extra wide fabric is a huge time and effort saver.

But, some of the time the fabric you want for the backing is the regular width of 42″ – 45″ wide.

How do I figure out how many yards of fabric to buy if the pattern doesn’t tell me?

A great question! Let’s use our Quilt A example from the Batting section.

Quilt A is 57″ wide by 75″ long. Let’s add 8″ to each measurement for a total of 62″ x 83″ — this is the minimum backing size you need for your quilt (we figure this just like the batting).

We know that a yard of fabric is 36″ long. The average width of regular-width quilt fabric on the bolt is about 44″ wide. But because fabric can vary a bit in width, I usually use 40″ as my width measurement.

For Quilt A — I know I need it to be at least 62″ x 83″. There are 2 main ways to piece a backing fabric together: vertical or horizontal, but sometimes one will work better than the other. In Quilt A, we will need to piece the backing vertically because horizontally there wouldn’t be enough fabric as 40″ + 40″ is only 80″ and we need at least 83″).

                                            

A vertically-pieced backing

Using the 40″ width, I would need 2 widths to get at least 62″ wide. I know I need at least 83″ for the length. So that means I would need to sew together 2 pieces of fabric each at least 40″ x 90″ (I chose 90 as it’s greater than 83″ and it’s 2.5 yards). So I would buy 5 yards of regular width fabric. Cut the 5 yards into two 2.5 yard pieces (90″) and sew them together down the middle using a 1/2″ seam (instead of a 1/4″ seam) to add some durability. Then press the seams open and press out the wrinkles and creases. DONE!

Here are my favorite tips for selecting backing fabric:

  1. Use quilting weight fabric, just like what you used for your quilt top. Backing a quilt with a sheet may result in a stiff quilt that does not drape well.
  2. Choose a backing fabric that compliments the front of your quilt.
  3. Make sure the fabric for your backing is big enough.
  4. Use a busy printed backing fabric as it will not only look really good on the back of your quilt, it also can hide the quilting stitches — this is particularly great when you are just starting out either hand or machine quilting.

In the first example, the black thread really sticks out like a sore thumb on the grey backing fabric. The thread and backing look fine together, but if you flipped over your quilt to the back, any mistakes or wobbles in the quilting would really jump out at you!

In the second example, the grey thread blends in more with the multicolored argyle backing fabric, which would help to hide or at least make less noticeable any mistakes or wobbles in your quilting.

5. One of my favorite places to find fabric for backing is in the discounted or clearance section, where you’re sure to find a selection of great quilting fabrics that are older and are being sold at a discount to make room for newer fabrics.

Preparing Your Quilt for Quilting

Now that we have our quilt top completed, we have batting that is 8″ wider and 8″ longer than our quilt top, and we have a busy backing fabric that is also 8″ wider and 8″ longer than our quilt top, it’s time to get it ready for quilting.

First you have to make some decisions before you go any further:

  1. Hand quilting or machine quilting? (or perhaps tying the quilt?)
  2. If hand quilting, are you doing it yourself?
  3. If machine quilting, are you doing it yourself?

So, let’s say we have decided to send our Quilt A to Sally who is a reputable long arm machine quilter in the area.

You should ask the long arm quilter how to prepare your quilt for quilting, but here are some general suggestions:

  1. Carefully press the top of the quilt and the backing of the quilt
  2. Turn the quilt top so that the underside is up and trim any and all strings and threads
  3. If your batting was folded or wadded up in a package, you may need to lay out the batting so the creases can relax. You can speed this up by tossing the batting into the dryer on low or air fluff (so it doesn’t shrink)
  4. It wouldn’t hurt to press the quilt top and backing one more time, but be careful not to distort or stretch the quilt top

Sally the long arm quilter will load the backing, batting, and quilt top onto her frame and will quilt the layers together using whatever design the two of you decided upon. You may also be able to select the thread color you want used on your quilt. White, ecru, or grey are always safe choices, but colors like red, orange, pink, blue, or purple can really give your quilt that little extra something-something.

If you are going to quilt your quilt yourself, you will need to layer your backing, batting, and quilt top.

  1. Lay your wrinkle-free backing fabric wrong side up on a flat surface. Tape the edges of the backing fabric down to the table, making adjustments until the backing fabric is perfectly smooth and flat without any wrinkles or bumps. You will need to stretch the backing gently to make it nice and flat, but be careful not to overstretch the backing as this can skew the fabric.
  2. Center your batting on top of your backing and smooth it out until it is wrinkle-free.
  3. Now center your quilt top right sides up on top of the batting. You should see at least 4″ of batting and backing around all the edges of the quilt top. Smooth your quilt top so it is perfectly flat with no bumps or wrinkles.
  4. Using pins, a basting tool, or needle and thread, baste the 3 layers together. If pinning, place pins about every 4-5 inches (some quilters like their pins closer together and some like them farther apart). I like to pin across the center horizontally and vertically and then pin in diagonal lines from the center out to the corners. If needed, I add extra pins here and there. You can check out http://www.AllPeopleQuilt.com HERE for a good article about different ways to layer and baste your quilt.
Photo from AllPeopleQuilt.com

WHEW! I know this was a lot of information to absorb. You may need to read it more than once. LOL!

There are also lots of great resources about this topic online, in quilting books, and in the back of your favorite quilting magazines.

Next week, we’ll talk address Quilt as Desired.

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Basic Quilting Skills Series · Rose Cards · Tips and Tricks · villa rosa designs

NEW September 2022 Villa Rosa Designs Rose Card Quilt Patterns and Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners: Pressing Techniques 101

Hello Quilty Friends!

Happy Thursday to you!

I am thrilled to show you our NEW September Rose Card patterns! I can’t wait until the first Fry-Day (Friday) of each month when the new set of patterns is released — it’s always great to see what our awesome VRD designers have come up with. You can see the new patterns first if you have joined the email list to receive our VRD email newsletters.

What??!! You don’t get our newsletter??? You can sign up for our newsletter HERE.

Of course, I follow up with the newest patterns on the next Thursday after the patterns are released each month here on the blog in case you missed them in the newsletter.

Well, here they are! Cue the trumpets! Throw the confetti! Applause!

September’s NEW Rose Cards

You can order all 5 cards HERE for the low low price of $8.95.

But WAIT…….there’s MORE! (Sorry, not sorry — you know how much I love saying this.)

Here’s my September table runner, Maple Grove!

Maple Grove

You can buy the Maple Grove pattern HERE.

There are also kits for some of the September Rose Cards — did someone say KITS??? Each kit comes with the fabric for the top and binding as well as the pattern. You can find kits below, for as long as they last.

Berry Smoothie

Mazed

Pumpkin Pie

Of course, our website, www.villarosadesigns.com, is always stocked with great kits. You can see our current kit offerings HERE. You’re sure to find one…..or maybe a hundred that you can’t live without.

Pressing Techniques

Let’s dive right back into our Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners with Pressing Techniques 101.

I bet you never really thought about the concept that there are different kinds of pressing techniques for different types of projects. Well, I’m here to tell you that how you use an iron for quilting is different than how you use an iron to iron your shirts or pants.

There’s ironing. And then there’s pressing.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

(to) iron

1a : to smooth with or as if with a heated iron iron a shirt

1b : to remove (something, such as wrinkles) by ironing

(to) press

5 : to exert pressure (this is the closest definition for pressing with an iron I could find)

You can see a little difference between the two definitions, can’t you? Ironing requires moving the iron around while pressing is more of an up and down motion.

I found this pretty decent YouTube video from Hobby Lobby about the difference between pressing and ironing along with some tips. You can check out the video HERE.

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different irons from cheap travel models to expensive specialty irons. Some irons are hotter than others. Some have more weight so you don’t have to press down as hard. Some have longer cords or are larger models. Some have continuous steam or bursts of steam. So many choices, but it all depends on what you want out of your iron and what your budget is. So look around, test out different models and brands. Find the one you like the best, for what you want to do, don’t just go for the most expensive or the least expensive.

Pink Oliso Iron

One of the coolest irons in my opinion is the Oliso iron. It lifts up after so many seconds so there’s no chance that you will burn your fabric or project by pressing too long or forgetting about the iron in the down position. AND they come in a bunch of really pretty colors! You can usually find Oliso irons at your local quilt shop or your favorite online vendor.

Here’s a great YouTube video by SewVeryEasy about what to look for in an iron as well as lots of tips and tricks. You can check out the video HERE.

Some quilters swear by using the steam function of their iron for pressing. Me, I like a dry hot iron for quilting AND I love to use Mary Ellen’s Best Press Starch Alternative. A long time ago, I used spray starch in the can, but got tired of the little flakes and the shiny spots on my fabrics, so when I found Best Press, it was a total game changer for me.

Mary Ellen’s Best Press Spray

A little spritz is all you need. Best Press helps me to get crisper flatter seams without having to work very hard, which then helps my quilt fabrics to stay square and not to stretch out of shape. An added bonus is that Best Press comes in many fun scents and also comes in unscented, too. My personal favorite scent is Peaches and Cream. You can find Best Press at your local quilt shop or favorite online vendor.

I hope these pressing techniques and tips are helpful! Stay tuned for next week’s post all about batting, backing, and preparing a quilt for quilting.

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Basic Quilting Skills Series · Rose Cards · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials · villa rosa designs

Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners: Rotary Cutting 101

Hello Quilty Friends!

Happy Thursday to you!

I hope you had a chance to read our first post in a multi-part series called “Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners.” Last week’s post was all about the quilter’s 1/4″ seam allowance. Did you miss it? You can find it HERE. This week we’re going to talk about the Basics of Rotary Cutting.

First, let’s talk a little about the history of rotary cutting — YES! There is a history of rotary cutting (there is a history of everything, if you’re interested enough to find it). The rotary cutter was invented in 1979. Originally it was used in the garment industry, but once quilters saw its potential to speed up cutting and increase accuracy, they stole it and by the early 1980’s. the rotary cutter was all the rage. Before the rotary cutter, quilters made templates for each piece of a quilt, traced around the shape over and over, and then cut the shapes out using scissors. With rotary cutters came acrylic rulers and templates and of course self-healing cutting mats.

Here’s a cardboard triangle that was used by a friend of mine to cut out hundreds if not thousands of triangles.

Rotary Cutting Tools

When I first started quilting back in 1996, I started with a beginner’s quilting set which included an 18″ x 24″ mat, a 45mm rotary cutter, and a 6″ x 24″ acrylic ruler. These tools worked great for me until I started working part-time in a quilt shop and had the opportunity to try out different cutters and rulers. When I discovered the yellow Olfa ergonomic cutter, below, I was in love (believe it or not, but this is actually my original Olfa and I’ve been using it for around 20 years)!

Keep in mind you might need to try out different rotary cutters until you find the one that fits you and is the most comfortable. What works for a right-handed quilter might not be the best choice for a lefty and vice versa. You want it to be comfortable because you’ll be spending a lot of quality time with your rotary cutter (and don’t forget, you will need to change your rotary cutting blade regularly, just like your sewing machine needle).

Rotary cutting basic set

Some different examples of rotary cutters

These basic tools worked for me for a quite a while, but over time as my skills grew, I began adding more rulers. And I upgraded to a larger mat — I really like my 24″ x 36″, which fits the top of my antique Hoosier cabinet bottom beautifully (and the storage is outstanding, of course). I also have a rotating mat as well as some smaller mats for working with smaller cutting projects or projects on the go. Even though I’ve tried out lots of different tools and made some changes, I’m still just as in love with my Olfa cutter (above, left) as I was the first time I used it.

Here’s my stash of rulers — well, some of my stash of rulers, anyway…….

Nowadays there are so many ruler choices. Two of my favorites are the 6″ x 12″ ruler and the 12 1/2″ square ruler. A 6″ x 12″ ruler is a great companion to the 6″ x 24″ because sometimes you just don’t want to mess with that full 24″ length, especially if you’re working in a tight space or cutting small pieces. The 12 1/2″ ruler just makes sense — it will square up blocks and cut squares up to 12 1/2″ square.

As you go along and your skills increase, you’ll probably add lots of rulers and acrylic templates, too. Some of those rulers will do a lot of different things (why they can’t do the dishes, though, is beyond me….) while others will do one thing and do it well.

There are lots of different companies out there making rulers today. Keep in mind, though, that not all rulers are created equal. Measurements might be slightly different between different manufacturers. The markings of one ruler might be easier to see on light fabrics while another might show up better on dark fabrics. Some rulers have textured bottoms so they don’t slide while others are as slippery as a Slip and Slide (you might need to add some textured dots to the back of a slippery ruler to help hold it in place while you cut — see the third photo, above). You will need to try different rulers to find the ones you like the best. And once you find a manufacturer you like, stick with that one.

Rule of Thumb: Finish a project with the same ruler(s) you started the project with.

Why? Because as I stated earlier, not all rulers are created equal. Switching rulers midstream could affect the accuracy of your project. Imagine this — you’re making a quilt that has thirty-five 12″ (finished) blocks with 5 blocks across by 7 blocks down. You cut out part of the quilt with one ruler and then switch to a different ruler made by a different manufacturer and you keep cutting out your squares and triangles. Then you go to sew them together and suddenly not everything fits together exactly right — you’re cutting off some triangle points while others are perfect. You check your 1/4″ seam allowance. Huh…..that’s not it. Then you check a few of your cut pieces. Depending on which ruler you are using ( the first one, the second one, or even an altogether different ruler), your pieces might be exactly the right size, too big, or too small. You can see how this snowball is rolling downhill and getting bigger and bigger, can’t you?

Here’s our beautiful quilt, which won’t be so beautiful if we don’t figure out what is happening and find a way to fix it ASAP. If you keep plowing ahead without figuring things out, your blocks might end up being different sizes, which will then make it hard to sew the blocks together into rows and the rows together into the finished quilt top. If your blocks are only 1/8″ different, that will add up across and down your quilt. By the time you sew all the rows together, your quilt is off across the width by 5/8″, which is more than a half inch while the length is now off by 7/8″, which is nearly an inch! And if you’re adding borders — well, I don’t even want to think about how those borders might stand up and wave back at you….

Accuracy……Accuracy…..Accuracy.

Consistency…….Consistency………Consistency.

There is so much to remember when you are a beginner! But I promise you, if you take the time to learn the basics, they will become part of you. Like the Force.

How do you actually cut with a rotary cutter???

Since I am not physically by your side to guide you in rotary cutting skills, I am not going to try to teach you how to actually cut with your rotary cutter. Instead, I will give you some tips that I have learned over the years.

  • If you are new to rotary cutting and do not have an experienced quilter to help you learn how to use it, sign up for a class on rotary cutting. Maybe it’s at your local quilt shop or maybe it’s online. But sign up and learn how to be safe and how to cut accurately.
  • KEEP YOUR FINGERS OUT OF THE WAY OF THE BLADE! This means, you have to pay attention to what you are doing. ALWAYS. Keep your fingers of your non-cutting hand back away from the edge of the ruler as you cut. There are rulers out there with special raised edges to keep your fingers safe. There are special gloves you can get to put on your non cutting hand to keep your hand safe. Use them if needed, there is no shame in keeping yourself safe. Ask my Mom about rotary cutting safety and she’ll tell you how she spent Mother’s Day one year in the emergency room with me when I had a bit of a rotary cutting accident……Don’t worry, I was okay……
  • DO NOT GET DISTRACTED WHEN YOU ARE HOLDING A ROTARY CUTTER IN YOUR HAND. Do not look up to watch an exciting part of the TV program or movie. In fact, it’s safer not to have the distraction of the TV while you are cutting. Ignore the telephone or dings and pings that tells you there is a new email or text message or whatever.
  • If you get a drop of blood on your fabric, spit on the spot and rub it. Spit and rub. Trust me. The blood will come out. Gross, I know, but it works. Your saliva will break down your blood on fabric. Your saliva will not break down someone else’s blood, though, only your own.
  • If you do cut yourself, apply pressure to the wound. Hold the wound above the level of your heart. Seek medical help immediately if needed.
  • Hold your rotary cutter straight up and down on the cutting mat and snug up against the edge of your ruler. Press down with enough force to move the blade, but keep it upright.
  • If you are pressing too hard and your cuts are not clean, it’s probably time to change your rotary blade.
  • Always keep extra blades on hand — store them safely. You never know when you will need to change your blade — they nick easily.
  • Change your blade regularly — a dull blade is more dangerous. If you are struggling to get through the layers cleanly, you might slip and cut yourself.
  • Dispose of your blades responsibly — do not just throw them in the trash. You could wrap it in cardboard and tape it up before throwing it away. You could use a large pill bottle or small container to collect used blades as well as broken and bent pins. It will take you a long time to fill it up. Then you can find a safe place to discard it.
  • Keep children and pets away when you are using your rotary cutter. Store your rotary cutter away from children and pets.
  • Keep the blade locked or in the down position when you are not using it.
  • DO NOT lay your rotary cutter down with the blade open or exposed, always close or cover your blade when you lay it down. An unattended exposed blade is an accident waiting to happen.
  • I find that I cut more easily and more accurately when I am standing versus when I am sitting.
  • Always cut on a rotary cutting mat. Otherwise, whatever you are cutting on top of will be damaged and most likely ruined.
  • If your table is too low for comfortable rotary cutting, raise it up on bed risers, PVC pipes, or whatever works safely.

I know this post is just the tip of the iceberg concerning the basics of rotary cutting. There is an entire body of information out there, you just have to look for it. Check out your favorite quilting books and magazines, your local quilt shops and quilt guilds/organizations, as well as online tutorials, blogs, posts, videos, and more.

Next week, we will talk about Pressing Techniques and the new September Rose Cards. So, stay tuned.

May the Force — the Rotary Cutting Force, that is — be with you.

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Basic Quilting Skills Series · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials · villa rosa designs

Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners: How to Find a Quilter’s 1/4″ Seam Allowance

Hello Quilty Friends!

Happy Thursday to you!

Recently, we received a message from a quilter who purchased a couple kits featuring Villa Rosa Rose Card patterns at a quilt shop while traveling. She asked for instructions for the kits she purchased. Oh no! I thought, did the kits not include the Rose Cards?

After further communication back and forth, I found out the cards were in the kits, but the quilter, being unfamiliar with Rose Cards, wondered why the pattern was so small and on the back of a postcard– there must surely be more to the instructions than that, she thought. So, she contacted us.

Brick Wall Photo by Joe Woods on Unsplash

This message got me thinking about how our Rose Card patterns really are very beginner friendly, but beginner quilters are expected to have some basic quilting skills.

So, what skills does a beginner quilter need to know in order to successfully make a Rose Card quilt pattern?

Haven’t gotten your August 2022 Rose Cards yet? You can buy them HERE.

Several things came to mind right way, so I thought — why not write some posts about beginning quilting skills? That way if we get beginner questions, we actually have somewhere to send them for answers besides a vague reference to the Internet or YouTube.

The first one I thought of — and possibly THE most important beginner quilting skill — is knowing how to sew an accurate 1/4″ seam.

An accurate 1/4″ Seam Allowance

Most if not all quilting patterns use a 1/4″ seam allowance. Pattern designers build that seam allowance into their cutting measurements so the pieces will fit together properly when you sew them together. YAY MATH! (You can check out my post about quilting and math HERE.) In the past, way before rotary cutters, quilters had to draw seam allowances around patches, cut them out of cardboard or heavy paper, and then cut the patches out with scissors using the cardboard patterns. HORRORS! Please note that applique can be a little different, though, as you might have to add a seam allowance around the shapes — but this is a topic for another day. For our purposes here, we will refer to pieced quilting patterns.

Seriously, though — a 1/4″ seam doesn’t just happen by magic — you need to make friends with your sewing machine so you are both on the same page. One of the best things you can do to make friends with your sewing machine is to keep your sewing machine manual nearby and to actually use it! If you’ve lost your sewing machine manual, you can check the manufacturer’s website because they might have your manual available for download. Sometimes you can find reprints of manuals on Amazon, too.

One of my all-time favorite sewing machine accessories is my 1/4″ guide foot. It’s a typical 1/4″ foot for quilting but it also has a nice little metal guide on the right (see below) that I can bump my fabric right up against while sewing, which helps me to sew a more accurate 1/4″.

Janome 1/4″ foot with guide

Don’t panic — if you don’t have a special 1/4″ foot for your sewing machine, there are other ways to get a accurate 1/4″ seam allowance.

The technique I was first taught as a beginner was to cut 3 strips of fabric 1 1/2″ wide by say 5″ long (the length is not as important as the 1 1/2″ width). Sew the 3 strips together side by side into a mini Rail Fence block. Measure the width of the center strip. If your center strip measures exactly 1″ wide, then you are already sewing an accurate 1/4″ seam so don’t change a thing!

If the center strip measures more than 1″ wide, then your seam is narrower than 1/4″, so you need to make an adjustment to sew a wider seam. Make the adjustment, then sew 3 more strips together and measure the center strip. If it’s still not right, keep making minute adjustments, sewing mini Rail Fence blocks, and measuring the width of the center strip until it is exactly 1″ wide. Note what adjustments you made so if you need to change the width of your seam allowance, you will be able to find your way back to your 1/4″. When in doubt, sew 3 strips together into a mini Rail Fence block and test the width of the center strip.

If the center strip measures less than 1″, then your seam is wider than 1/4″, so you need to make an adjustment to sew a narrower seam. Like above, keep making adjustments, sewing mini Rail Fence blocks, and measuring the width of the center strip until it is exactly 1″ wide. Note what adjustments you made so if you need to change the width of your seam allowance, you will be able to find your way back to your 1/4″. When in doubt, sew 3 strips together into a mini Rail Fence block and test the width of the center strip.

What adjustments can you make with your sewing machine to perfect your 1/4″ seam?
  • Your machine might have the option to move your presser foot either right or left, depending on whether your seam is too narrow or too wide.
  • You might need to place a strip of tape on your machine to mark where to line up the edge of your fabric to get your 1/4″ — you might try painter’s tape or washi tape, which would both be re-positionable as you make your adjustments to get your 1/4″.
  • Speaking of tape, you can actually stack up layers of tape to get the “bumper” effect of the guide on my 1/4″ foot.

If these ideas don’t work for you, you might want to consider purchasing a 1/4″ guide foot that will fit your sewing machine. To do this, you might have to know whether your machine is a low shank, a high shank, or rarely (mostly older Singers) a slant shank. How do you determine what kind of shank you have??? Why, refer to your sewing machine manual, of course!

Sew, what do you do with all of your little (and possibly wonky) Rail Fence blocks? Make a cute pin cushion, of course!

Here's how:

Press your Rail Fence block flat.  Make a tiny quilt sandwich with a piece of fabric for backing, a scrap of batting, and the Rail Fence block on top.  Press or pin in place.  Quilt by hand or by machine.  Square up your little Rail Fence sandwich.  Now place the Rail Fence sandwich right sides together with a piece of fabric you want for the back of your pin cushion.  Pin the layers together.  Sew 1/4" away from the outside edge of the Rail Fence block, leaving a couple inch opening on one of the long sides.  Trim the backing and Rail Fence block to the same size if needed.  Turn the pin cushion right sides out through the opening.  Push out the corners carefully.  Fill your pin cushion with stuffing or crushed walnut shells (mine is filled with crushed walnut shells).  Stuff or fill it firmly, making sure to fill the corners.  Leave a little bit of space at the long edge with the opening.  Turn the backing fabric and Rail Fence block raw edges to the inside of the opening.  Pin in place.  Now hand sew the opening closed using matching thread.  DONE!

I do want to point out that a consistent seam allowance is just as important as an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance. That being said, not all 1/4″ seam allowances are exactly the same. You would think so, but in truth there really is no one PERFECT EXACT 1/4″ seam allowance.

SHHHHHHHH. Don’t pass this around — you’re sure to offend someone who thinks their seam allowance is THE perfect 1/4″. We ALL know a quilter like this. LOL!

But alas, as hard as you try to find that elusive perfect 1/4″ seam allowance, there are always going to be things that make tiny differences — like the machine you use, the thickness of your fabric, you, how accurate your cutting is, possibly even the environment, and a host of other little things.

My advice to you is to find YOUR very best 1/4″ seam allowance and stick with it. Your pieces will still fit together as long as you’re consistent.

Our next topic will be Rotary Cutting Basics. Sew……Stay tuned!

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Rose Cards · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials · villa rosa designs

VRD Daring Spirit Quilt Tutorial

Hello Quilty Friends!

Happy Thursday to you!

I hope you are having a great week — mine is just zooming by, hard to believe it’s Thursday already. Hopefully, you tuned in last week to our Designer Spotlight Interview with Sewl Sister’s Shankari Paradee, our newest designer here at Villa Rosa Designs. If not, you can find it HERE.

WOW! The weather has suddenly turned HOT HOT HOT here in northwestern Pennsylvania! WHEW! Typical July weather, I know, but I am never quite ready for super hot and humid. I live in a lovely green valley in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, but heat still happens.

You can’t see much of the hills because of all the green trees, but you can see a little bit to the right of the barn in the distance. Regardless, it’s beautiful country.

We’ve been having some very dry weather for the last couple weeks, though. Luckily we had a couple rainy days earlier in the week, which really helped all the plants and crops, but with the heat, everything is starting to droop again. I hope we get some more rain soon. I’ve been watering my little container garden, but the peppers look terrible and the cucumbers aren’t growing very fast. Argh! Rain, rain, rain………

The VRD Rose Queen, Head Elf, Grand Poobah, AKA “The Boss,” Pat, asked me if I would do a tutorial for Rose Card pattern, Daring Spirit.

The corner Star Blocks can be baffling and she gets a lot of questions about how to assemble them. I hope this helps!

You can buy the Daring Spirit Rose Card pattern HERE.

Daring Spirit Tutorial

This is such a great pattern! Of course it works well with ANY patriotic panel, but you could use just about any panel as long as you use coordinating fabrics. Maybe sometime, we’ll play around with other options besides patriotic, but for now, let’s focus on how to make the quilt.

On to the tutorial!

The first thing you need to do is choose your panel and your coordinating fabrics.

LOVE this panel!

Time to cut everything out. You don’t need to cut your panel to a specific size, but you should square it up and make sure all 4 sides are cut straight. Don’t skimp on this step. You might notice that your panel is skewed and doesn’t seem to be square. This is a very common problem with printed panels! What you need to do is pull the panel on both diagonals. Really. Hold each opposite corner in your hands and tug several times, pretty firmly. Repeat for the opposite diagonal. This should help your panel to straighten up! Repeat if you need to. Once you’ve gotten this step done, go ahead and trim the edges straight.

Okay, let’s measure our panel. Write down the length and the width, you’ll need these measurements later.

Time to cut our strips and squares, following the instructions.

Now let’s sew our side strips together and then sew them to the sides our panel.

There are 2 options here:

1. The pattern instructions call for you to make 4 sets of strips, then trim 2 sets to the length and 2 sets to the width. This works just fine.

2. But, I actually prefer cutting all the strips to the right length and width first (see the measurements you wrote down above). For me, this just makes more sense and I have found that the strips don’t get as curvy and wonky like they do when I try to sew long strips together and then cut them to size later. Also, the less you handle your cut pieces, the straighter they will stay.

Same result, different routes.

Anyway, here’s what the panel looks like with the side strips sewn on.

Yay! Time to make the corner Star blocks. I really like how these blocks are constructed — they are super clever and go together really well. Did you notice these stars are really Nine Patch blocks in disguise?!?

Layer a white and blue square right sides together (RST) with the edges lined up. Draw a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner. Pin if you like, I don’t. I use a Frixion pens and a 1″ wide ruler to do this step. I do it right at my sewing machine on my acrylic extension table.

Sew 1/4″ away from both sides of the drawn line. I draw a diagonal line on a pair of squares and then sew it on both sides of the line, then I repeat for however many squares I need to. It doesn’t seem to save time to draw all the diagonal lines before you sew them as the layers are going to shift on your way to your sewing machine, unless you use pins to hold them together.

Time to cut the squares apart on the drawn line to make 2 HSTs (half square triangles) or Triangle Squares. Cut all the squares apart on the drawn line.

Let’s press our HSTs open with the seam towards the blue fabric. Do you set your seams? This just means pressing your seams with the block closed before you press them with the block open. I was taught that it sets the stitches in the fabric which makes your seams nicer. I don’t know why it works, but it simply does. Don’t forget to take the time to trim off all the little ears that stick out beyond the corners. Don’t skip this step, because if you leave them there, they will skew your seams.

No, I hadn’t cut off the little ears yet when I took this photo, but you will notice in the next photo, the little ears are gone.

I think the next step is really cool! Layer a red square RST on a blue/white HST. Draw a diagonal line from corner to opposite corner (white to blue, NOT in the same direction as the seam for the HST, but across it).

Here’s where a lot of folks might get a little confused — this time, SEW ON THE LINE. We are making a “flippy corner,” not a HST.

I don’t know if you get direction-challenged like I do sometimes when quilting, but to keep myself from sewing on the wrong end or messing up my placement, I make a sample in order to see how I need to layer things and feed them into my machine. I have found that being left-handed sometimes makes it hard for me to manage directionality.

Moving on……once you have all your “flippy corners” sewn onto your HSTs, time to cut away the waste on the “flippy corners,” 1/4″ away from your sewing line.

We’re in the homestretch now! Go ahead and press your “flippy corner” HSTs. Set your seams, then press the seam allowance to the red.

That wasn’t too bad, was it????

Let’s sew our corner Star blocks together now, just like a Nine Patch block! I like to lay out my blocks on a small felt board (made from a flannel fat quarter, a firm piece of cardboard, and duct tape to hold the flannel taut). That way, I can sew the block together right at my sewing machine. Since I’m such a “Lazy Quilter” (this is what a lot of my pals call me, anyway), I actually layered all four of my blocks on my flannel board and I’ll just sew all 4 blocks together. Then I’ll press them after I sew them together.

And here are my four corner Star blocks all sewn and pressed. Aren’t they really pretty???

Now let’s finish putting the Daring Spirit quilt together.

Refer to the panel width measurement you wrote down earlier. Sew your top and bottom strips together and cut to this measurement. Now sew your Star blocks to each end of your strip sets. Make 2 — one for the top and one for the bottom. Press your strips carefully.

Sew your strips to the top and bottom of your quilt.

Quilt top DONE!

Now, quilt it. Bind it. And don’t forget your label!

Well, that’s it for this week. Stay cool!

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Rose Cards · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials · villa rosa designs

A Little Gardening and Cake Day Quilt Block Assembly Tips

Hello Quilty Friends!

Happy Thursday to you! I hope you all are having a wonderful summer so far.

My summer just got a whole lot better! Just recently my family got in gear and finally got our little back porch raised garden planted. And our flowers, too. We may be running a little behind, but I have hopes that in late summer/early fall we’ll be enjoying some fresh veggies picked right out of our little garden pf goodness. If it goes well, next year we are going to add a second raised bed garden.

I used to be an avid gardener way back when, but gave up the year I planted my garden twice and the critters ate everything before it even had a chance to grow. That was it.

But now I’m excited to try container gardening. Besides, ”container gardening” sounds so trendy, don’t you agree?

Cake Day Quilt Block Assembly Tips

I thought I’d share a quick tutorial on how I put the Cake Day table runner quilt block together along with some of my favorite piecing tips.

Cake Day Table Runner Rose Card Pattern

You can get your own Cake Day Table Runner Rose Card pattern HERE.

Often, I prefer to cut out all my pieces for the blocks before I start sewing. I find this is usually quicker than cutting and sewing one block at a time.

Here you can see the pieces all laid out in the right order (all four blocks are stacked) on a flannel board and then I can simply take everything to my sewing machine. This works well if you have to stop in the middle and come back to your project later. Everything stays right where you left — unless of course, you have gremlins or leprechauns or some other little mischievous creatures running around your sewing room when you are not looking.

I have also found that laying out and stacking the pieces in order makes sewing them together faster and easier because I don’t have to stop and figure out where each piece goes.

With all the pieces cut and laid out right sides up, sewing them together is a breeze, especially when I chain-stitch the units one right after the other without cutting my thread in between the units.

Nope! No need to head to my ironing board after clipping the thread between the units, I just kept sewing and chain-stitched the other side too.

I have discovered that the less I press as I’m putting together quilt blocks, the less the blocks stretch or get distorted, which of course improves the accuracy of my sewing.

In the next photo you can see I have the left side background sewn to the Cake print rectangles. Now it’s time to sew the right side.

All right! All the units are sewn together and I’ve clipped the threads between them. I made double sure I layered the units again exactly the same as when I started — we’re ready for the next step.

Again, I’m going to ignore my iron (it must be getting lonely). Time to sew the units together. More chain piecing.

Want to know what happens when I get to seams (remember I haven’t done any pressing at this point)? I’ve already decided which way I wanted my seams to go so as I sew, I hold them down and keep on sewing. Pedal to the metal!

In this next photo you can see I sewed the top unit to the second unit. We’re on a roll — let’s keep sewing.

Okay, we’re almost there! I sewed the rest of the units all together and presto — all 4 of our blocks are now complete and I didn’t even have to get up from my sewing machine.

All right, all right, I relented and finally pressed my blocks — my iron was getting a little dusty from disuse.

Voila! Here is a finished Cake Day block. It’s a cutie, isn’t it?

My 4 blocks are now ready to assemble into a runner. There are sew many possibilities for this runner — birthdays, weddings, showers, parties, and the list goes on and on.

Any day can be a “Cake Day.” What’s yours?

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Rose Cards · Tips and Tricks · villa rosa designs

My Go-To VRD Rose Card Quilt Patterns and My VRD Rose Card Storage Update

Hello Quilty Friends!

I hope all is well in your world today. Mine has been hectic as usual, but I’m used to it. It keeps things from being boring, especially now that I work from home — immersing myself in the world of quilting. Yes, I’m now living my dream life, doing my dream job. I’m happy. Really happy. I wish the same for you.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to talk about my go-to Rose Cards. I bet all of you have a group of cards that you go back to time and time again.

Here’s my list:

Hillside Charm

Hillside Charm is my favorite pattern for using panels. There are so many wonderful panels available these days, but other than slapping a couple borders around a panel, sometimes I run out of ideas. That’s why I LOVE Hillside Charm — the combination of squares and rectangles in the border compliment just about any panel out there.

Stars N Stripes

I’m just getting ready to make several quilts to donate to Quilts of Valor. This quilt measures 56″ x 70″, which fits in the required range for a QOV quilt — minimum of 55″ x 65″ to a maximum of 72″ x 90″ with an average of 60″ x 80″. You can check out the Quilts of Valor website for more information HERE.

I could add an outer border to Stars N Stripes to make it a little bit bigger, but I’m not sure I’m going to do that. I have in mind to make at least 3 of these quilts to donate, which will make a dent in my red, white, and blue fabric stash.

Of course, Villa Rosa Designs has other Rose Cards that would make great Quilts of Valor — Star Rail, Star Spangled (with the addition of an outer border), Stargazer, Salute, Twinkle (with another border or row of stars), Daring Spirit, Liberty (with an additional border), Liberty Bell (needs a little border on the sides), and Pride (needs a little border on the sides).

Limelight

Limelight goes together really fast and is a great size. It uses a bundle of fat quarters which makes picking out coordinating fabrics a snap. I’ve made this into a couple of charity quilts and was really happy with how they turned out.

Double Delight

Double Delight is one of my very first favorite Rose Card patterns. I’ve always loved Four Patch quilt blocks and I really like how the rectangular Four Patches make this quilt unique and interesting. Besides, I think just about any fabric would look great in this pattern.

Gypsy

I made Gypsy with a friend one time and we donated this quilt to Project Linus. We had participated in an “ugly fat quarter” challenge where we each chose a VRD pattern and exchanged an “ugly fat quarter.” I don’t remember much about the rest of the fabrics now, but there was one I will probably never forget — it had a blue background with big pieces of silverware on it! But you know what? Even with the weirdly-wonderful silverware fabric, the quilt turned out really cute and I bet it made the recipient smile. It just goes to show you that even ugly fabrics can make a great quilt.

What about you? What are your go-to Rose Card patterns?

VRD Storage Solution Update

You might remember a couple weeks ago, I was working on some new storage ideas for my Rose Card collection. I’m actually still working on getting my Rose Cards out of my little photo storage books (see previous post) and into my brand new snazzy plastic storage boxes. It didn’t take long to outgrow a single box so now I have 2 boxes, A-L and M-Z. And I’m still adding more cards! I work on them in spare moments here or there, so it’s not getting done super fast.

I will say I am enjoying going through my cards and mentally deciding which ones I want to make. Maybe I should make a list on my VRD Rose Card app on my tablet and then I can check the list out later, otherwise, I’ll probably forget the names of the Rose Card patterns I want to make. Not kidding (rolling my eyes here).

I’m thinking of starting a new category or even a whole box filled with my go-to Rose Cards. Maybe even my favs!

But first, I have to get them all organized alphabetically so I know what cards I have and what cards I need to add. Again, I can use my handy-dandy VRD app.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Quilting Partners · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials · villa rosa designs

Let’s Design a Quilt Together — A Peek into My Quilt Design Process

Hello Quilty Friends!

It’s Thursday again! Here’s hoping your week has been going well. Mine has been good and fast — just the way I love my quilt projects to be! LOL!

A lot of people ask about my design process so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my process. Keep in mind that all designers have their own way of doing things and this post is only about my process.

Sometimes it’s like I eat, sleep, and breathe quilts and quilting! Not only do I read/flip through quilt books and magazines, I also look online for new trends. I talk to my quilt friends about what they are doing. I teach a quilt class once a month. I design patterns, write instructions, make quilts, take photos of quilts. I look at and get inspired by fabric. I jot down ideas and even do rough sketches of quilt blocks (which I promptly lose most of the time). I have even been known to wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea for a quilt. Whew!

Inspiration comes in a lot of different forms for me. Sometimes I see a fabric or collection and an idea pops into my head. Sometimes I start with a favorite quilt block and a quilt develops out of that. I have quite a few quilt block references that I use for ideas. Here are a few books in my library:

The first 2 books are by Barbara Brackman. The one on the left is the first edition of the 2nd book and is out of print and can be hard to find. I have both of them and love them both. The newer edition has even more blocks in it than the first edition! Barbara Brackman is one of the most renowned quilt historians of our time! You can visit her blog, Material Culture, HERE.

I also have Barbara Brackman’s software program, Blockbase, which works with Electric Quilt. You can find Blockbase HERE.

The third book, 5500 Quilt Block Designs, is by well-known quilter and author Maggie Malone. I have only known about this book since 2021 when a friend of mine showed it to me and I was so impressed, I had to grab a copy for myself. This book is out of print so it can be harder to find as well.

I have talked about Electric Quilt software before in an earlier post, but I want to mention it again here because I really couldn’t design quilts without it! Some designers sit down with a ruler and graph paper to draft quilt patterns, but I am an Electric Quilt user because it makes designing quilts a lot easier for me. You can find Electric Quilt 8 (EQ8) software HERE.

If you are interested in designing your own quilts, I totally recommend EQ8 if you’re into computers. If you’re not into computers, graph paper and a ruler might be your new BFF.

Once I get an idea, it’s time to play — which usually means I head to my computer and EQ8. I play with blocks, try different color combinations, download different fabrics to try all before I actually make anything at all. Some designers start by making the project and then work backwards to create the pattern and instructions. I do my designing on my computer and then make the project once I know what I am going to do. At least this is what I do probably 99% of the time. That’s one of the fun things about being a designer — I can try different ways of doing things. They don’t always work out for me, but that’s okay, there’s always another way to try.

Let me show you an example of my design process. For this example, I’m gong to start with my favorite quilt block, the Shoo Fly block.

When I am starting with the quilt design before I select the actual fabrics, I usually design in red, black, white, and grey. I don’t know exactly why I do that, but I think it probably has to do with the high contrast so I get a good sense of the pattern before I add actual fabric.

So, let’s make a wall quilt using 4 Shoo Fly blocks. It will look something like this:

Hmmmmm. This doesn’t really excite me. How about you? Let’s tweak it a little bit and see what happens next. We’ll add a bit more color, too.

Okay, this is better, don’t you think? By adding a sashing between the blocks, I was able to put another Shoo Fly block in the center. I changed the colors of the larger blocks to black and grey with the smaller center Shoo Fly block in red. It definitely has a lot more interest, doesn’t it? But it’s not quite there. Let’s tweak it a little bit more, shall we?

Now we’re getting somewhere! I got rid of the grey and went with plain black. Then I added 2 narrow blocky borders so I could continue to build out with more Shoo Fly blocks. Now I think we need a border.

Yay! A finished quilt design. I added an outer plain black border and a red binding. Pretty zippy, isn’t it? Now we’re gong to add some real fabric to the design.

Here are 3 different versions of our Shoo Fly quilt using Hoffman’s Paisley in Love batik collection. Of the 3, I think the last one with the white background is my favorite. I like the contrast, but I think I need to do a little more tweaking with the design, so back to the drawing board (or EQ8).

What are your thoughts? How would you improve this design? Any ideas?

Well, I hope you enjoyed a peek into my design process. Who knows? You might see this design as a VRD Rose Card some day.

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

Quilt As Desired · Rose Cards · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials · villa rosa designs

NEW June VRD Rose Card Patterns and A Free Motion Quilting Demo

Hello Quilty Friends!

Welcome to another Thursday — the first Thursday in June. Summertime, right? The kids are out of school or will be soon. Life will get crazy. Fun. And more crazy.

Are you kidding? I thought it was still March.

At least, it should still be March, don’t you think?

Que sera, sera.

OH! Did you see the new Rose Cards for June yet???? As always, our VRD designers didn’t let you down.

You can order all 5 cards HERE.

And here is June’s NEW Table Runner, Cake Day. Cute, huh?

You can purchase the Cake Day pattern HERE.

Did you know you can actually join the Rose Card Pattern Club and get the new monthly Rose Cards delivered right to your mailbox every month without you having to do a thing????

If you live out of the USA, you can sign up for the digital Rose Cards, which will be delivered to your inbox without you having to do a single thing.

There are even several different Pattern Club options to consider. Cool, huh?

You can sign up for the Pattern Clubs HERE .

Another really AWESOME thing about Villa Rosa is that we create a lot of kits using our Rose Card patterns. You can find kits for this month’s new patterns AND you can find kits for lots of other favorites, too. You can visit the website HERE to see what our selection of kits are. Please remember that we add new kits all the time, with all kinds of different fabric, so make sure you stop in often to see what’s new.

A Little Bit of Free Motion Quilting and a Video Demo

How many of you are a little bit afraid of free motion quilting on your own domestic sewing machine?

Be honest!

Okay, that’s better, I see a lot of hands raised and heads nodding out there.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be afraid anymore. I’ve been teaching free motion quilting (FMQ) for more than 10 years and I haven’t lost anyone yet!

Here’s my TOP 12 TIPS for FMQ:

1. Find a teacher at your local quilt shop to show you how and to guide you so you feel safe. Don’t try to teach yourself by using YouTube videos.

2. Start out small — the smaller the project the better for beginners. Potholders, table runners, place mats, wall quilts, or other small projects.

3. Start with a beginner-friendly design like wavy lines or loops. Meandering and stippling are NOT beginner-friendly.

4. Try to relax. The more tense you are, the worse your quilting will be.

5. Play music while you quilt, something with a beat. A beat will help you find your rhythm for FMQ on your own machine.

6. Keep practicing, every day if you can, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel, and the better your quilting will get.

7. Practice machine quilting with a friend. You can encourage each other and laugh together.

8. Try machine quilting gloves. There are a lot of different types of gloves out there, so you might have to try different kinds to find the ones that work for you. Machine quilting gloves will help you get a good grip on the fabric so you can move the quilt more easily when you are quilting.

9. Doodle. Doodle a lot. Practice drawing the designs before you quilt them — this builds some muscle memory between your hands and you brain.

10. Practice…….practice……..practice…….

11. Practice……practice…..practice……. (I can’t stress this one enough)

12. HAVE FUN!

Here’s a little video I put together demonstrating how to free motion quilt wiggly lines on last week’s Ying Yang Cats. Enjoy!

I hope this video inspires you to try free motion quilting some wiggly lines on your own little project.

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD