WIPs and PhDs

Facing the UFOs One Day at a Time

Last year, participating in the first UFOvember made me take stock of my unfinished objects (UFOs). I decided that there were some that I very much wanted to finish in 2021. Here is one approach that I have found very effective.

I noticed that I felt overwhelmed with where to restart UFOs and how to keep moving. I decided that I needed a way to “break the surface tension” and get moving. In 2020, I made a couple of 100-day quilts. For the 100-day quilts, you piece one block or one section each day for 100 days, and at the end you have a quilt top. I allow myself to do more than the minimum, if I want, but I schedule about 15 minutes a day to work on the project. I found it was a great way to keep moving forward on one project and finish in a set amount of time. And I wondered if it would be helpful in tackling my UFOs.

The first UFO I decided to finish was a wedding quilt that was due three years ago. I took the two finished wedges of the Bluebonnet Broken Star and worked on adding one strip a day. Sitting down to the machine every day, I found that I often did more than the minimum. In a couple of months, the Bluebonnet Broken Star was pieced. I used the same approach of doing one piece a day to assemble it, add the borders and finish a scrappy pieced back. Then I sent it off to Prairie Folk Quilt Co. to get it quilted, so it did not go back into my UFO pile. Here’s the finished quilt:

Bluebonnet Broken Star 2021

I love the way the quilting shows off the piecing.

Next, I decided to tackle a Double Irish Chain that was partially pieced and sitting in a box. Originally, I planned on using this as a weight loss marker quilt with one block for each pound. Unfortunately between the stresses and life and the pandemic, I was not losing weight. Looking at the quilt made me upset that I did not meet my original goal, which wasn’t helping anything. I loved the color combinations and still wanted the finished quilt, so I decided to redeem it and finish it using the 100-day method. I already had about 30 blocks finished out of the 122 planned. I started making one block a day and finished the blocks and borders in a couple of months. I also sent this king-sized quilt to Amanda at Prairie Folk for quilting.

Irish Chain on the quilting frame
Irish Chain back

This quilt is now my Zoom background for teleworking. My November goal is to get it bound so I can put it on my bed. I’ll be sure the share the finished quilt with all of you.

My current one-step-at-a-time quilt is my Singapore Sling quilt. You can read in my earlier blog how this was designed and how I won a pack of Good Vibes Fabrics designed by Christa Watson for Benartex. I used the one-block-a-day approach to finish the blocks, assembly, and pieced backing. I got it basted and quilted according to my plan. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in how the quilting turned out. It clearly needed much more quilting than I originally planned. I put it aside as I finished my QuiltCon entries, then I looked at it again. While I still had questions about my quilting choices, I decided to keep going and quilt one line a day. At this rate, I should have the quilting done by the end of November. I already have the binding made, so once it is quilted, it is a quick finish. Check out my progress on Instagram.

Approaching my UFOs one day at a time has helped me complete three major, bed-sized quilts this year, in addition to the new projects I started and finished. Just 15 minutes a day or less. Which of your UFOs could use the one-day-at-a time approach?

Uncategorized WIPs and PhDs

UFOvember, 2021

Last year I participated in a blog hop for November. The topic was unfinished objects or UFOs. I pulled out my Bear’s Paw blocks from the early 1990s and turned them into a quilt coat. The coat is one of my favorites and it has been worn a lot. For that alone, I am glad that I participated last year. But participating in the UFOvember also made me think differently about my UFOs. My quilty colleagues had so many ideas and insights into why we create UFOs and what to do with them.

This year Bobbi Gentili (also known as Geeky Bobbin) is hosting the blog hop again, and I am enthusiastically joining in.

Just like last year, I will start with a reckoning of my current UFOs. (This is always the painful part.) I am starting with last year’s table so you can see how many UFOs got finished!

Quilt NameYear StartedCurrent StateWhy I Didn’t Finish
Bethlehem Star Wallhanging1993Needs quiltingWas hand quilting, which I took out because I would never finish it hand quilting.
Double Irish Chain
Quilt Your Weight Off
2018Pieced, assembled, long arm quilted by Prairie Folk Quilt Company. Waiting to be bound.Waiting for me to lose more weight I decided that I like the quilt and there was no reason to wait.
What My Grandma Gave Me – English Paper Pieced Carpenter’s Wheel2019Still piecing I will be piecing this for a long time – it is hand sewing and takes me forever!
Rainbow Hand Dye2020Front pieced, back partially piecedSet aside to finish Tree of Life quilt and pattern
Tree of Life Table Runner2020Partially quiltedSet aside to work on other projects with deadlines.
Completing this is my one monthly goal for November!
100-Day Improv Quilt-a-Long2020Still piecing Pieced, assembled. Backing selected. Still needs quilting.100 days ends 12/23/2020. Quilting is already planned out.

I got 5 UFOs finished this year, rehomed one, and made progress on two more. Here’s my current UFO list:

Quilt NameYear StartedCurrent StateWhy I Didn’t Finish
Bethlehem Star Wallhanging1993Needs quiltingWas hand quilting, which I took out because I would never finish it hand quilting.
Double Irish Chain
2018Pieced, assembled, long arm quilted by Prairie Folk Quilt Company. Waiting to be bound.I decided that I like the quilt and there was no reason to wait.
What My Grandma Gave Me – English Paper Pieced Carpenter’s Wheel2019Still piecing I will be piecing this for a long time – it is hand sewing and takes me forever!
Rainbow Hand Dye2020Front pieced, back partially piecedSet aside to finish Tree of Life quilt and pattern
Tree of Life Table Runner2020Partially quiltedSet aside to work on other projects with deadlines.
Completing this is my one monthly goal for November!
100-Day Improv Quilt-a-Long2020Pieced, assembled. Backing selected. Still needs quilting.Quilting is already planned out.
Christmas Table Runner2020Pieced, assembled, basted. Didn’t finish before the holidays.
Singapore Sling2021Pieced, assembled, basted, and partially quilted.Ran into problems with quilting and didn’t finish in time for QuiltCon2022 submission deadline.

Over the past year I have completed 5 UFOs and only added 2, so I have a net loss of 3 UFOs. That makes me very happy!

Later this month I will share more about how I power through these UFOs.

Here is the list with links to all of the UFOvember blogs. I encourage you to check them out:

November 1 – The Geeky Bobbin –

November 2 – Strawberry Creek Quilts –

November 3 – Katie Mae Quilts –

November 4 – Pretty Piney Quilts –

November 5 – Mary Go Round Quilts –

November 6 – Exhausted Octopus –

November 7 – Just Get It Done Quilts –

November 8 – By Hilary Jordan –

November 9 – Sew Hooked on Treasures –

November 10 – Sunflower Stitcheries and Quilting –

November 11 – Blue Heron Quilting –

November 12 – Carrington Creates –

November 13 – Sarah Goer Quilts –

November 14 – Better Done Quilts –

November 15 – Ashli Montgomery/Virginia’dele Smith –

November 16 – Puppy Girl Designs –

November 17 – Lovingly, Lissa –

November 18 – Art East Quilting Co –

November 19 – rjbosscher –

November 20 – Love to Color My World –

November 21 – LynsAvenue –

November 22 – Quiltfox Design –

November 23 – Maeberry Square –

November 24 – Karen Bolan Designs –

November 25 – Tina1802 –

November 26 – Lazy Cozy Quilts –

November 27 – True Blue Quilts –

November 29 – Sarah Ruiz Quilts –

November 30 – Lyric Art –

How are your UFOs?

Patterns and tutorials

From an Idea to a Quilt Pattern OR How I Work

This spring and summer were crazy busy and so much has happened. First, I have realized that my goal of blogging weekly is just not feasible with my life. So plan on hearing from me once a month. If you want to see what I am doing the rest of the time, please follow my Instagram @betterdonequilts. I typically post about 5 days a week on Instagram. I taught my first quilt class – the Tree of Life Pattern – at Capital Quilts and I learned a lot! I also was featured in Capital Quilts gallery and they did a video of me. You can check it out here.

I have also been working on getting a new quilt pattern ready to publish. I thought I would share the timeline for this one. It is my third self-published pattern, Mai Tais on the Lanai. This is the first quilt I designed in my Cocktail Quilts series, all of which use the Drunkard’s Path block. In September 2019, I was just exploring the Instagram quilting community and found my first give-away string. For this one, you had to follow a person, like the post and make and comment, then follow the prompts to do the same for a total of 10 accounts. The prize was a full set of Anthology Fabrics Island Home batiks, designed by Natalie Barnes. I was shocked when I won and a quilty mentor suggested that I design a new pattern for the fabrics.

I loved the colors of the fabric and immediately thought about tropical cocktails on an elegant lanai. I decided to work with a five-inch Drunkard’s Path block, and I used acrylic templates from Whole Circle Studio.

My plan was to write the pattern as I made the quilt. I thought I would be done by the end of 2019. Unfortunately, at the beginning of November a close family member was seriously ill and I spent November and December flying back and forth between their Midwestern home and my job on the East Coast. Then came 2020…

The upside of teleworking full time was that the 1 1/2 to 2 hours I spent commuting 3-4 days a week was now available for sewing. I finished my first Mai Tais on the Lanai quilt in April 2020, and I loved how it turned out!

I only used fabrics from the collection and I only purchased the blue for the border and binding. I used the scraps and fat quarters that did not make it on the front on the pieced back. This is one of my favorite pieced backs!

I quilted it using the walking foot on my Bernina 1260. I did a simple echo of the tile shapes and it worked out very well.

I did write down directions and took pictures as I worked on the quilt. But the pattern still needed some work and I set it aside “until I had time”. Early in 2021, Amanda from Prairie Folk Quilt Co. put out a call for pattern designers for her subscription service. I sent her a couple of ideas and she liked Mai Tais on the Lanai for a summer quilt. I worked quickly to get the pattern ready for testers and put out a call on Instagram. I finished the instructions, had sample illustrations from my excellent graphic designer (who happens to be my son). I ended up with five awesome testers who gave me critically important feedback on my quilt math, directions that were not clear, illustrations that they wanted and formatting. Here are a few of their quilt tops:


I sent the finished pdf off to Amanda, and started to prepare the print version of the pattern. Print versions often are a little different to allow quilters to see key information, like fabric requirements, without opening the pattern.

The finished pattern has four sizes and a 2-color and 6-color version. It is by far more complicated than anything I have written before. I am very grateful for the experience I gained writing up the pattern for Playtime for the MQG Journal.

During the release week (August 2-August 9, 2021) the Mai Tais on the Lanai pattern is on sale for $10. Get your copy now, before the price goes up!



The last couple of months have been crazy busy between work, home, family and quilting. I finally got to reveal my super-secret project from the winter: my Playtime pattern was published as the June quilt of the month by the Modern Quilt Guild (MQG). I can’t share the pictures here, but I can give you the link to the Playtime article in the MQG Journal, Issue 02. Everyone can see the quilt and read the article, but you have to be a MQG member to download the pattern. It is really exciting that my second pattern ever is published by such a well-known organization.

While I can’t share the pattern or pictures, I can show you the new quilt I have made from the Playtime pattern. This was my original color plan. I learned so much from the process of submitting this to the MQG. They contacted me (before the deadline) to let me know they were interested in the pattern. They sent me a palette of seven colors and I had to use those fabrics to recolor the design and have it approved. They also approved the design for the back (which was not part of the original submission). Once the color plan was approved, I sent fabric and batting requirements and waited. From the day I got the wonderful box full of fabric and batting, until when the quilt and pattern were due to MQG was 36 days, so I got sewing right away.

The MQG sent very clear instructions on fabric preparation (do not wash), quilt preparation (add a hanging sleeve the same color as the back, add a label the same color as the finished quilt, do not wash the finished quilt), and pattern formatting. I really learned a lot about how to be clear in my instructions in a pattern.

Playtime: Black Edition

After I sent off the pattern and quilt, I waited to answer questions, give more information, and make sure they REALLY wanted the pattern and quilt. I sent off a head shot and brief biography – that was the hardest part for me!

Then I waited, and waited (3 months seems like a long time when you are excited) until I got the information to set up payment and next day, the MQG Journal was released!

I have really enjoyed the process and making another Playtime quilt. There is even a video on the Capital Quilts website of me talking about some of my recent quilts, including Playtime. You can see the video here. This is a still from the video with the Playtime quilt.

For the Playtime: Black Edition, I had a really short time to make it, so I didn’t wash the fabrics and didn’t put as much quilting in as I would have liked. As a result, the quilt doesn’t hang perfectly flat, but it is perfectly usable. I may try to add some quilting later. In any case, we are looking forward to this being our TV-watching quilt.


Pattern Testers Needed

I am looking for a few adventurous quilters to test my Mai Tais quilt pattern. This is one of my “cocktail” quilts and uses curved Drunkard’s Path blocks. I really value the contribution made by pattern testers. No matter how clear I *think* I am, they always point out some critical edits.

This pattern will be available in four sizes: Baby (40 x 40 inches), Throw (70 x 70 inches), Extra Long Twin (70 x 100 inches) and Queen/King (100 x 100 inches). There are two different color options shown, but you can change the colors to your taste. Here are some mock ups of the various sizes and and color options:


42″ x 42″
40″ x 40″
72″ x 72″


70″ x 70″

Extra Long Twin

72″ x 102″
70″ x 100″


102″ x 102″
100″ x 100″

Here are a few photos of the actual quilt:

Mai Tais on the Lanai – 2020
Detail of Mai Tais on the Lanai

This quilt will get you over a fear of curves!

Pattern testers will get to choose the size and colors they use and will keep their quilts. I provide a small stipend to help defray the cost of materials. Testers will have at least four weeks to make the quilt top.

If you are interested in being a pattern tester, please e-mail me and I will send you more information. It is really a lot of fun!

Applications close at 5pm ET on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. I plan on selecting testers and sending out the pattern by May 24, 2021 with comments due on June 23, 2021.

I hope you decide to join Better Done Quilts as a pattern tester.

WIPs and PhDs


The 50 days of works in progress challenge is finished. From February through late March, I (and a bunch of others on Instagram under #50daywipschallenge) committed to only working on projects that were already started. I thought I should share the results. There is one quilt that I have finished, but I can’t share because it is a gift. Here’s the sneak peak:

I also got two other big quilts finished. I realized that in our current pandemic situation, I was not likely to be able to rent time on a long arm, and have a coach help me with some of the techniques that were beyond my experience (which is everything except simple edge-to-edge quilting or a basic meandering free-motion quilting). So I sent all three large quilts to long arm quilters.

My 100-day transformation quilt was sent to Sesvold Designs. Carmen is a friend from the Friendship Star Quilt Guild. She created a masterpiece, following the diamond shape on the quilt front with exquisite lines of quilting. Just look at the detail:

This quilt was a lot of fun. I started it June 1, 2020 as a block-a-day, 100-day project. I used up all of my strip scraps, and even took scraps from projects I worked on during that 100 days. The back is also special. For Labor Day 2020, my daughter wanted to do some tie dyeing. I decided to try ice dyeing. I had a patterned, white-on-white 108 inch backing that was the wrong color for the project it was intended for, so I decided to dye it. Here’s the result:

Not too bad for a first attempt. Carmen did a great job of lining up the center on the front and back of this extra large (112 x 112 inch) quilt. We are using this on our king-sized bed – the first quilt I have made that my husband and I can sleep under!

The second quilt I finished is a sampler quilt that I started in February, 2017 when the National Quilters Circle issued a block challenge for the Snowy Day Sampler by Andrea at Happy Cloud Creations. Each week a new block pattern was released. I had not made any quilts for about a year and a half and decided this would be a good choice to get me back into quilting. I had blue, purple and teal scraps from other projects, and found the pansy print to tie them together.

The fabrics included scraps from my childrens’ 4H sewing projects, my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding quilt and other quilts I have made. I wanted it queen sized, so I added borders. I loved making the big 16 inch blocks. They went so quickly and the quilt came together easily. After I finished the top, it sat in a box until this spring. I did make a back that lists all of the fabrics and their original use.

When I first learned how to use computerized long arm patterns, I developed an elaborate plan to quilt this, but I was told that it would take me years to gain enough skill to execute it on my own. Fortunately, I found Amanda, at Prairie Folk Quilt Company. Amanda and I have never met in person – I “met” her on Instagram when she hosted a contest for free long-arm quilting. I didn’t win, but I was so impressed with her work, and her comments, that I decided to send this quilt off to her. And I am so glad I did! She was great to work with, asked me a lot of questions about the look I wanted, and even looked at my original design for the quilting and incorporated some of it into her quilting design. I am so happy with how this turned out (and so is my daughter, who claimed it). And she finished it lighting quick. Look at this detail.

All in all, I am pretty happy with what I got done during my 50 days of works-in-progress. And I am very glad I have discovered the joys of collaborating with talented long-arm quilters. Now I am off to working on a new quilt. What are your spring quilting plans?

Patterns and tutorials

Wheelchair Quilts

As you know, I am a nurse and that affects my approach to quilting, especially when making Sick Day Quilts. Wheelchair quilts are a special category. There are so many questions I like to ask when planning a wheelchair quilt – Who will use it? Where (indoors, outdoors)? Can the user stand up on their own? and so on…

There are a few basics to remember: 1. Wheelchairs have wheels. You do not want the quilt to get caught in the wheels. It is bad for the quilt and can cause an accident. 2. People are different sizes. A wheelchair quilt for a child will be shorter and narrower than one for a large, older adults. I am offering one size of wheelchair quilt here, but this can be customized for any size.

If you are making wheelchair quilts as a service or charity project, remember to make some in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Not everyone like florals, or cats, or geometric prints. Some people like solids, or sports prints or regional prints. I strongly encourage making wheelchair quilts for gifts and donation.

The full directions are on my tutorial page and are here.

I made my test quilt in leftover Baltimore Orioles fabric and scraps of leftover orange, black and white prints. The pattern is very flexible. I decided to play with disappearing four patch patterns, so my squares were smaller than the 9 inches called for in the pattern. I just increased the border width to get the size I needed. You can also make it out of large print squares. The instructions specify four-patches, but any square that finishes at 9 inches will do. This is a great project for charm packs. This would also be a great use for test blocks from other quilts. If they are less than 9 inches, you can border them to get the right size.

WOF=Width of fabric

All seams are ¼ inch. All fabric should be sewn right sides together. Press after each seam. WOF = Width of fabric

Fabric needed:

  • Color 1 = ½ yard
  • Color 2 = ½ yard
  • Border = ½ yard
  • Binding = 1/3 yard Border fabric, 1/3 yard contrasting color (color 1 or 2)

Cutting Instructions:

  • Color 1: Cut (3) 5 x WOF. Sub cut (23) 5 inch squares.
  • Color 2: Cut (3) 5 x WOF. Sub cut (23) 5 inch squares.
  • Border: Cut (2) 2 ½ inch x WOF, Cut (2) 3 ½ inch x WOF
  • Binding: Border fabric: Cut (4) 1 3/8 inches x WOF. Contrasting fabric: Cut (4) 1 5/8 x WOF


  1. Make 9 four patch blocks with color 1 and color 2 alternating.
  2. Assemble the quilt in four rows of three blocks each.
  3. Add 3 ½ inch borders down the sides. Measure the quilt lengthwise through the middle. Cut each border that exact length. Mark center on border and quilt top and pin border to quilt top matching centers. Sew with
  4. Add 2 ½ inch borders to top and bottom using the same instructions as step 3, but widthwise.  


  1. Layer backing (wrong side up), batting, and quilt top (right side up). Baste the layers together and quilt as desired.
  2. Trim the quilt square.
  3. Binding-
  • Bind as desired. I like a flanged, two-color binding. The binding fabric (background fabric) will be the strip cut 1⅜″ wide, the flange fabric (Fabric E) will be the strip cut 1⅝″ wide.
  • Take the 1⅜″ strips and 1⅝″ strips. Cut off all the selvedge edges. Sew four 1⅜″ strips together end-to-end with a 45-degree angle. To do this, layer the right sides of the strips together at a 90-degree angle. Draw a 45-degree angle from lower right to upper left. Sew on the line. Cut extra fabric away to leave a ¼″ seam allowance. Press open. Repeat with all four of the 1⅝ ″ strips.
  • Then sew the 1⅝ ″ strips together in the same manner.
  • Sew the  two strips together along the long edge.
  • Press seam allowance toward the background fabric (the 1⅜″ strip) and away from fabric E (the 1⅝″ strip). Now fold over with wrong sides together so the raw edges meet and press. About 1/8″ of fabric E will show above the background fabric on the right side of the binding. Only fabric E will be seen on the wrong side of the binding.
  • On the back of the quilt, lay the binding with raw edges matching the raw edge of the quilt and the flange side (Fabric E) up. Start on the long side, 3 inches above the bottom corner. Stitch binding to back with ¼″ seam.
  • At the first corner, stop stitching ¼″ before the corner (A) and stitch off the corner at a 45-degree angle (B). Then fold the binding down as shown (C). Starting at the edge, backstitch then continue with a ¼″ seam to the next corner. Finish two corners as described above.
  • Stop 3 inches above the third corner, which should be at the bottom of the quilt. Back stitch and cut off the binding. The edge does not need to be turned under because it will be cut off for the toe box.
  • Start again on the bottom edge 3 inches from the corner and attach binding up to 3 inches before the fourth corners.
  • Your top two corners will have mitered binding. The bottom two corners will have 3 inches on either side left unbound.
  • Press the binding out with seam pressed toward binding. Then press binding over to the front of the quilt. Pin corners with miters. Slowly stitch in the ditch of the flange all the way around the quilt using thread that matches the flange color. 

Keep the remaining binding for the toe box

Forming the Toe Box

  1. After you bind the quilt, cut a 6.5 inch square from each of the bottom two corners. That should cut off the border and one patch of each of the corner four-patches.
  2. Sew the remaining raw edges to form a 90 degree angle. The bottom of the quilt should be like two sides of a box.
  3. Enclose the raw seams in additional binding. Make sure you turn the raw edges of the binding under before sewing.
Toe box side view
From back

I would love to see your wheelchair quilts and hear about who is using them!

WIPs and PhDs

Getting Quilts Done

Unfinished objects (UFOs) and works-in-progress are a normal part of my quilting life. I do have one friend who only works on one quilt at a time. She works on it until it is finished then picks a new project. She is very successful at making high quality quilts. I envy her focus, but I don’t understand how her mind works. I always have so many ideas floating around that I want to work on. I definitely have SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome) where I always want to flit over and look at the new shiny project (or gorgeous fabrics). SOS seems to be a common issue for many quilters, so there are a lot of UFO and WIP challenges out there. I had decided to switch some of my long term UFOs to 100-day projects this year when @flyinggoosestudio issued a 50 day WIP challenge. The idea is to work on nothing but UFOs and WIPs (in other words, not start any new projects) for 50 days. It is a low-stress challenge and one that really appealed to me right now.

So far:

  1. I finished piecing a wedding quilt that was due three years ago and am finishing the back before I send it off to a longarmer.
  2. I prepped a quilt top and back that were started four years ago and sat in the closet since 2019 to ship to a longarmer who offered to use her art to enhance my piecing.
  3. I finished my quilty Valentine’s Day cards for my family.
  4. I got major work done on a wheelchair quilt for a presentation on March 1st.
  5. I made progress on my Double Irish Chain quilt that was untouched for three years.
1. Bluebonnet Broken Star
3. Purple Heart mini quilt
3. Polyhedral mini quilt
3. Coffee mug mini quilt
3. Tea mug mini quilt
3. Atomic star mini quilt

I’m pretty impressed at the progress in 17 days – I can’t imagine how much will get done in the next 33!

How are your UFOs and WIPs?

Tools and Tips

Test Blocks +/-

I have never been big on making test blocks. I just bought a little more fabric in case one of my first blocks needed to be redone. I actually cannot remember making a test block before. I always was too eager to get started with the project to take the time. And I didn’t know what to do with the finished test blocks.

My latest project, the Singapore Sling quilt, was going to be made with these new templates that my daughter 3D printed. She wanted to make sure they were accurate. My first thought was I would use some scrap fabric to make sure they work. However, I knew I had extra of the Good Vibes fabric designed by Christa Watson for Benartex, so I decided to try a test block with the fabric I planned to use for the quilt (this may sound basic to you, but it was a novel idea for me).

I carefully laid out one block and realized immediately that both my background and foreground fabrics were directional. I tried to line up the templates so the fabrics would be straight and I cut them out using the templates. Then I carefully pinned and sewed the block.

It took me about 15-20 minutes total and I learned a lot of valuable lessons:

  • The templates work and appear the be the correct size.
  • If I cut the fabric to keep the pattern straight, all of the cuts are on the bias.
  • It is really hard to get the fabric pattern perfectly aligned for this block. And I don’t like the look when it is off.
  • The tight curves are really tight – I ended up trying glue basting for them and it worked like a charm.
  • I will need to be very precise in my seam allowances.
  • I need to starch the fabric before cutting and before piecing. The fabric distorted a little with the curves. You can see below that the line does not fall perfectly straight.
  • I may need to slightly trim the blocks to get them all square and perfectly the same so the quilt top lays flat.
  • I like the finished look of the diamond.
  • There is enough contrast between the foreground and the background.

Because I learned so much making the first test block, I decided to do a second one keeping one edge of the template on the straight of grain. I like the scrappy look and it was much easier to cut out.

What did I learn? There are some excellent reasons to make a test block, especially if the equipment or techniques are new to you.

Of course this leads to a new question – what do you do with test blocks? Let me know what you do with them and we will address that in another post!

Patterns and tutorials

Inset Circle Tutorial

The project I have been working on has seven inset circles. While I love the look, it can be overwhelming. The project is designed to teach curves and help quilters overcome their fear of curves and inset circles. After making all my circles and fitting them into the quilt, here is my approach to inset circles and all of the tips I can think of to take the fear out of circles.

TIP: Take your time. Making inset circles is not fast. You will get a bit faster as you get more comfortable with them, but it is not fast. Put on some non-distracting music, take a deep breath and take your time.

TIP: Use a lot of starch. I find that if the fabric is not starched enough, it distorts more when I sew the inset circle.

I start by heavily starching both the background and circle fabrics. For this tutorial, I will be making a 10 inch finished circle, set into a 10.5 inch block. Cut an 11 inch square of the circle fabric (off-white) and a 12 inch square of the background fabric (aqua).

I really like this EZ Circle Cut template. But you can use any half or quarter circle that is accurate. For a 10 inch diameter finished circle, you will cut a 9.5 inch circle out of the middle of the 12 inch square. On this template, you fold the fabric in half, put the fold on the fold line and cut at the 9 inch groove.

The circle fabric needs to be bigger than the cut out from the background. For a 10 inch diameter finished circle, a 10.5 inch diameter circle needs to be cut. On this ruler, you fold the fabric in half, put the fold on the fold line and cut at the 10 inch groove.

Once your background and circle are cut, fold each separately into equal quarters and press lightly with the iron to mark the quarters as you can see below.

Start by folding the background fabric so that the fabrics are right side together and the circle is laying flat. Pin the quarter marks of the background to the quarter marks of the circle.

Then pin around the circle to make sure that the fabric is equally distributed and is not pleated or kinked. Pin from the background side.

TIP: I find that fine or very fine pins work best.

Some people swear by glue basting instead of pinning, but it has never worked well for me.

I find that it works best if I sew with the circle side down. Bernie, my sewing machine, is set up so the needle stops in the down position, and with the stitch length at 2, slightly shorter than the usual 2.5 stitch length. I always check my bobbin and my tension before I start sewing a set-in circle.

Stitch slowly until you come to the first pin. Pull the pin, use your finger to check that the fabric is laying flat, and slowly stitch to the next pin. Repeat all the way around the circle.

Secure your stitch at the end by backstitching or taking a number of tiny stitches.

After sewing, clip the seam allowance no more than 1/2 of the way to the seam. I usually clip about every inch around the circle.

After clipping all the way around, finger press the seam allowance toward the background.

Then press lightly all the way around, making sure the seam allowance is toward the background.

Then I spray the circle with water and press heavily to remove the quarter lines and finish the block.

Once the block is pressed and cooled, remove from the ironing board and take to the cutting board.

Measure 10.5 inches square, leaving 1/4 inch seam allowance around each side of the circle, as shown above. Trim.

That’s it – you now have a 10.5 inch block with a 10 inch diameter inset circle. It will make a 10 inch finished block with a fully inset circle.