Vivian’s Quilt : Complete!


Two years ago I was blogging this quilt extensively because I wanted to link up my progress with Jessica Alexandrakis’s Star Count. Kinda feels like a million years ago.

I have this thing where, I reeeallly have to push myself to finish things, even when they are 92% done.  So this had been sitting around unbound for quite a while.  The push finally came with an entry deadline I didn’t want to miss.  The quilt was accepted and last week hung at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Philadelphia.  I have attended that show for more than a decade and entering something was always a goal.

New-ish to me was writing a little statement to go with the quilt.  It was hard to fit all the thoughts and emotions that go into a quilt into one little paragraph.  And the theme of the show was “evolving,” and I didn’t even get to touch on that idea.  Here’s what I wrote:

This quilt began in anticipation of my daughter’s birth. I pieced the stars while homeschooling my older kids, then, while nursing baby Vivian. Next I floated the stars in a sea of pale hexagons. So many hexagons, and most were made with sleeping baby on my lap. I began to realize that this quilt is a reflection on life; bright shining moments surrounded by many more ordinary moments. The ordinary ones are no less beautiful.

I used every one of the 75 words allotted and could have said much more about technique, ideas, and how the style of this quilt fits into the theme of the show.  I would have liked to hear more about the other quilts on display as well; wish there was a way for more to be said.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to go back and round up some progress shots of this, since it’s been so long in the making.



Public School..

Well this happened today…


After 6 years of exclusively home schooling, my youngest 3 are starting a new chapter.  Two are off to public school for the first time and the little to preschool.  Why now?  These girls have been dying for the whole school experience, riding the bus, making new friends, following a schedule, packing a lunch…  Now that we have bought a house and are a little more settled it was just the right time to let them have that experience.  I’m so happy for them!


Little Vivian, I feared, would be bored to pieces without “her guys” to hang out with all day so I found a little preschool just for her.  She was so excited to go to school today. Although, she did not appreciate that she had to get there in the car.  Hopefully now she understands that school is at the end of the trip so tomorrow it will be less… loud.

So, where does that leave me?  With lots more time to blog for one :)  I’ve got my 8th grader still home with me but he is pretty self-sufficient compared to the others.  So, I’m really excited for what I can do with this new found bounty of time!


Courtyard Garden

Hi there friends!  I took some time over the weekend to update my Etsy shop.  I have been sewing for months with my favorite new shape, the 90 degree kites, and I thought it might be a good time to actually list them in the shop so you could sew with them too.


Courtyard Garden Mini

I used the 2″ 90 degree kites, together with 2″ 45 degree diamonds, to make my #handpiecedminiswap2 quilt. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen this- if you’re not on Instagram, I joined what is surely the only hand piecing swap going on right now and made this quilt for one participant, and received a mini quilt from another participant.  It was a blind swap, so we had to “stalk” our partners to figure out what they might like to receive.  It took me a long time to decide on something, but there were some beautifully colored yarns in my partner’s feed, and I used those as inspiration for the colors in this quilt.


My favorite part of this quilt is that dark raspberry border.  That and the geometry of the quilt made me think of a formal courtyard, so I’ve named this quilt Courtyard Garden.


I decided to use some creative value placement to create a medallion layout, but there is actually an allover grid pattern going on with the shapes. 4-pointed stars or 8-pointed stars, depending on which way you look.

I’m working on another version of the quilt that highlights the 8-pointed stars.  I am so in love with these stars btw!  As a derivative of the above pattern, I’m calling them Courtyard Stars.

I have made downloadable design sheets for this pattern; one highlights the value placement of the medallion mini, and one has just a plain grid so you can do your own experimenting.  They are listed as a set in my Etsy shop.


Courtyard Stars


To make either the medallion version of the pattern, or 16+ of the above stars, you will need:

Medium pack of 2″ 90 degree kites

Small pack of 2″ 45 degree diamonds

Downloadable design sheets

The pieced portion of the mini is 20.5″ square, and I recommend appliqueing onto a 24″ background square.

I hope you’ll give these shapes a try!  I’ll be back later in the week to show some of the other layouts you can achieve with these beautiful 90 degree kites.  Octagons feature prominently in these designs so first I need to get them ready and listed🙂

Happy sewing!





IMG_7635Well we bought a house!  It is not a farm, so I’m tucking away that dream, for the moment. But it’s wonderful.  It’s old.  I feel so at home.IMG_7529IMG_7530IMG_7639 The view.  I don’t have my own land but open land is all around me.  I’ve realized over the years that I have a constant, almost subconscious feeling of unease when I look out my window and can’t see out into the distance.  Conversely, now that I can look out across the valley to where field meets mountain and mountain meets the sky, I feel peaceful.IMG_7619The studio.  It needs some plaster work first, but the old summer kitchen, upstairs and down, will be for me and my business. More peace.  And for now, there is a downstairs office where I can set up all my things.  IMG_7510IMG_7512And the living spaces… I am so happy.  It is cozy and comfortable and there’s enough room for all of us to spread out.  It’s hard for 6 introverts to live together in a modern house with an open floor plan.  We need a closed floor plan.  Separate spaces where we can retreat and be ourselves, not feel assaulted by whatever noise the others are making, but still with gathering places where we can come together.  It’s perfect.

Diabolical Jane: a Tutorial


Hi Friends!  If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen the little flurry of activity surrounding this quilt… It’s a copy of a nearly 200 year old quilt that I first saw on a museum tour with the DC Modern Quilt Guild.  I was absolutely obsessed with remaking it in today’s glorious fabrics and it turns out some others are interested in doing the same (have you seen Melinda’s fabulous start?)  I’ll tell a little more of the story of my quilt when it’s finished, but for now I want to get the tutorial up so anyone who’s interested can join in the fun!

In the interest of keeping this free and not too lengthy, I’m going to describe the process I used to lay out and construct my quilt, but I won’t provide a diagram of exactly which fabric went where and which fabrics repeat where.  You can study the pic of the original and my photos for a sense of the design, then go ahead and make it your own!


The original quilt, circa 1830. Photo from the book “Workt by Hand”


Center of my quilt- borders yet to be added.

Notice that the quilt has a center X made of 5, 4″ x 11″ pieces on each arm, and then four identical large, layered triangles, each with a square at the apex of each layer and 4″ x 11″ strips radiating out from the apex square in two matching strips.  It’s easiest to lay out your pieces from the middle out, then we will construct the quilt from the sides working in.  The center ends up to be 74″ square and the original had 14″ wide borders.

The heart and soul of this quilt lies in the fabric selections!  The pieces are large and the sewing is easy, so take your time and enjoy playing with the placement of your fabrics.

It can be helpful to start with more fabrics than you need, so you will have options as you work.  This is a great place to use larger scale fabrics that you love and don’t want to cut too small.  Or fabrics that you bought but didn’t know what to do with because they are so bold!

I recommend cutting your fabric in a few batches, rather than pre-cutting the whole quilt before you start.  You are likely to shift things around and make new decisions as you build the layers.


Fabric Requirements:


20, 3/8-1/2 yd pieces (there are a few spots in my quilt where I repeated fabrics, so you may need up to 3/4yd of a few fabrics if you intend to copy the placement of mine exactly.)

1, 8″ X 12″ or 4″ x 20″ piece (middle 5 squares)


(I give requirements for a border all the way around, no cutouts like the original)

3 yds for a 9.5″ border


4 1/4 yds for a 14″ border like the antique quilt has. (strips will be cut crosswise and pieced)


From the 8″ x 12″ piece, cut 5, 4″ squares for the center of the quilt.  Lay these out on your design wall (or design floor!) in a checkerboard.

DJ first squares

Select about 10 of your 3/8 yd pieces that you want to use at the center of the quilt.  From each, cut 8, 4″x 11″ rectangles and 4, 4″ squares.

Cutting diagram

Cutting Diagram


Beginning in the middle, arrange your strips for the center X.  There are 5 strips radiating from each side of the center square.

DJ center X

Lay out center X


Then begin laying out your large triangles.  Choose one of your sets of squares to form the apex.  Add four strips radiating out from each exposed side of each square.  Cut 4 additional squares of the fabric you choose for the edge and place squares.

DJ step 2

By now you might have an idea which fabrics are working and which are not.  Now is a good time to select and cut more fabrics in the same manner:  8, 4″ x 11″ squares and 4, 4″ squares.  Continue to build your triangles towards the edges of the quilt.  Work in the squares you have cut as you continue.  I had fun and reduced the number of decisions I had to make by matching squares and rectangles in the same positions as the original.  As you get to the edges, you may need to cut a few more squares to fill in the spaces at the edges.

DJ step 3

Center before trimming



Refer to above diagram to see what your layout will look like when it’s done.  Once you are happy with your layout, you can start assembly.


DJ step-outs

We begin in the center of each side of the quilt.  Sew the three squares together as shown.  For the next layer, line up your pieced square unit with one side rectangle as shown and stitch.  Sew the apex square to the other side rectangle, then sew that pieced strip to the other side of the pieced squares.  Continue building your side triangles in the same manner, piecing the strips before attaching them to the central unit.  Always align the pieces next to the apex squares.  The outside edges will be quite uneven.  Piece all 4 side triangles in the same manner.

DJ assembly.jpg

Sew the center X together into 4 long strips.  Attach 2 strips to opposite sides of the center square.

Sew 2 side triangles together with one center x strip.  Repeat with the other 2 side triangles and center strip.  Then assemble all 3 large pieces, aligning seam allowances around the center square.


DJ measureDJ step 3

Be sure your top is well pressed.  Measure and mark a dot at each corner, 8.75″ out from the seam and 2″ in from each raw side edge of the rectangle.  These dots should line up with the corners of the center square on each side.  Draw a line connecting these points, using anything you might have to get a straight edge.  I lined up several quilting rulers, which allowed me to also use the 45 degree lines to check that my edge was straight.  But even a broomstick would work.  Trim along this line.  Don’t panic if you have to trim a little further to get it all square. The original has missing points and it really doesn’t matter in this design.

Mathematically, the trimmed top should measure 74.5″.  Measure yours across several points to figure out how large to cut your border!

Add Border:

For a 9.5″ border, simply cut your 3 yard piece into 4,  10″ strips parallel to the selvage.  Trim two strips to the same length as your center width measurement (74.5″)  Attach borders to two opposite sides.  Cut the remaining strips to your measurement + 19″ (93.5″).  Attach borders to the two remaining sides.

For a 14″ border, cut 10, 14.5″ strips across the width of the fabric.  Sew these together in two sets of two and two sets of three.  Cut the shorter strips to your top measurement (74.5″)  Cut the longer strips to your measurement + 28″ (102.5″).  Sew the shorter strips onto two opposite sides first, and then sew on the longer strips.

Note this quilt is susceptible to wavy borders because of the bias trimmed edges.  For more help getting your border on correctly, see this fabulous tutorial from Anjeanette.

I hope some of you will decide to join in the fun and make a Diabolical Jane!  Here’s a downloadable line drawing of the quilt for adult-coloring fun:

Diabolical Jane Line Drawing










Winter Solstice


Did you/ will you celebrate the Winter Solstice this year?  Here on the east coast of the US it was at 11:49 last night; for Europe it was early this morning. The longest night and the shortest day of the year.  It’s not an event my family has ever really celebrated, but every year I imagine us making the time to mark the event. I picture a day of peace and simple beauty. A bundled-up nature walk in the low afternoon sun, a crackling fire, a special homemade stew. New pajamas?  We did have a lovely soup for dinner last night but otherwise we didn’t break from the rush of this season.  Next year, we keep saying…

I did gather myself together long enough last night to list my Winter Solstice template pack in my Etsy shop.  I love how the star looks almost like a snowflake.  My sweet friend Carissa came up with the name for me many months ago and so I thought I should list the templates for sale in honor of the night.

Winter Solstice

Technical details:

There are three pack sizes, containing enough templates for 1, 2, or 9 stars.  The star finishes 17″ high and 15″ wide, and can be appliqued onto an 18″ pillow or quilt block or set together with 1″ hexagons and 1″ 60 degree diamonds.  Or, it can “float” alone in a sea of as many 1″ hexagons as you like!  If you want to make the 58″x64″ layout shown below, you will need a large pack of Winter Solstice stars, a large pack of 1″ hexagons, and a small pack of 1″ diamonds.  You also need a few 1″ equilateral triangles for the edges, which I include for free with your package.  If you are doing a smaller layout and only need a few diamonds/ triangles, let me know in the notes to seller and I’ll just throw them in for free🙂

Winter Solstice Layout

So here she is, Winter Solstice.  If you have any winter solstice traditions or have heard of any nice ones, I would love to hear about it!


Orange Peel Inspiration

Now the fun post!  Here’s a few ideas for arranging your orange peel shapes.  If have seen (or sewn) an orange peel project you like, please link to it in the comments!

The traditional way to use orange peels is to applique each one diagonally onto a background square. They can then be sewn together in a myriad of different designs.  When used to fill the entire space, an X and O pattern starts to appear:


4-patches with alternating plain squares make a flower pattern:


Playing with where the pattern starts and ends brings out a stronger diagonal pattern:


especially when you use alternating colors:

And why not put the squares on point?


One of my favorite things to do with orange peels is to not applique each one to a background square, rather to make free form designs; flowers, feather, scales, all sorts of organic designs can be suggested by this shape. This one I made a couple of years ago now, starting from the corner and working out.

Here’s my recently completed free-form flowers:

And a few more bits and bobs still mostly in the dream-phase:




I’ve also been thinking about combining different sizes to make a more complex flower; if you get to that first please do send me a picture.

This concludes my little series on Orange Peels; Please see the first two posts How to work with Orange Peel Templates and Tutorial: My Applique Stitch, and visit Faraway Road or my Etsy shop if you’d like to purchase Snowflakes Freezer Paper Shapes. 🙂

Have a lovely weekend!


Tutorial: My Applique Stitch


  • Snowflakes freezer paper shapes
  • iron & pressing surface
  • waste thread (for basting)
  • Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread (for applique)
  • fine, sharp needles such as John James #11 sharps
  • wooden toothpick (optional)
  • thimble (optional)
  • Seam ripper
  • small, sharp scissors
  • Rotary cutter, 4″ square ruler or similar, and mat
  • Wet-erase marker

In my previous post, I talked about preparing shapes and background squares for applique.


I almost always choose to applique with the paper template still inside the shape, so this tutorial uses that method.  I find that this gives the smoothest curves, and the sharpest points, and if something was not basted quite right you still have the template there and can easily adjust as you go.


Place your prepared orange peel where you want to stitch it down. I have folded my background squares in half diagonally and pressed lightly to mark a crease. Use that line as a guide and center your shape on the square with the points touching the diagonal line.  It doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect because you are trimming it down later, but do the best you can.  There are many ways to temporarily attach the shape to the background while you applique, such as special pins or glue, but what I do is thread baste. I use any old waste thread and just make a few stitches around the shape, through all layers of fabric and paper. I like thread basting because it’s very secure, there’s no pins for your stitching thread to get caught on, and I already have all the supplies I need right here.


I use Aurifil 50wt cotton thread for applique. Here’s why: cotton thread is more flexible than synthetic and it sinks into the fabric better. 50wt is a very fine thread which also helps to make an invisible stitch. And I like Aurifil because it is strong for its thickness. There are other good threads I am sure, but Aurifil is what I always use. As far as color, it’s best to choose a thread that matches your applique, second best would be to match your background, but what I actually do is keep white, black, 3 shades of grey from light to dark, and one beige on hand and I choose which one of those neutrals blends best with the fabrics I am using. Only if, say, I was appliqueing an entire quilt of red flowers would I bother to go buy a spool of red thread.


I have formerly recommended Roxanne’s #10 sharps as my favorite needle and it is very good, but lately I’ve been using John James #11 sharps, which are just a bit finer and more flexible than Roxanne. I am in love with that extra flexibility. Either needle would be a good choice, and if you can’t find either of those, look for one that is thin, and sharp.

Thread a 15” length of thread on your needle, and tie a knot on the end that you just clipped off the spool. This helps to manage the twist of the thread for the sewing motion that you will be making.

Here’s a quick primer on my favorite knot:

IMG_5972Thread your needle and hold the end that was closest to the spool next to the point of your needle.

IMG_5978Pinch the loose end of your thread with your dominant hand, and wrap the thread 3-4 times around the needle.

IMG_5980Now pinch those wraps with your non-dominant hand.

IMG_5982And pull the needle through, keeping a tight hold on the wraps, until the thread is the whole way through.

IMG_5984Now there is a nice little knot at the correct end of your thread.

And now, the applique stitch!


Pick up your prepared shape and hold the work so that you are looking straight down at the fold. From the back of the work, insert the point of your needle, about 1/8” inside the shape and go through the background, through the seam allowance, and then allow it to slide along the paper template until the needle exits on the underside of the fold, in between your prepared shape and your background.

IMG_5988Now holding your needle parallel to the edge of the shape, insert the needle into the background fabric, at almost the same point where you the last stitch came out of the fold but a few threads inside the shape. Travel 1/8” on the backside, then angle your needle so it comes back through the background,


through the seam allowance, slides along the paper, and exits again on the underside of the fold. That is the basic stitch you will repeat until the shape is done or you are out of thread.

Here’s what the thread path looks like:




When you get to a corner, stitch right up until 1/16” (or a few threads’ worth) before the corner.

IMG_5993Now, use your needle or a wooden toothpick to grab the little flap of seam allowance and tuck it under.



Insert needle into the background and come back up about 1/16″ on the other side of the point (do not stitch through the extra flap) and start stitching again.

I don’t take a stitch right in the point because I find that stitch is almost impossible to hide, and the point is not going to go anywhere anyway if it’s well anchored on both sides.

Finish appliqueing the rest of the way around the shape.  From the side you can barely see the tiny stitches:

IMG_6002And from the top you can’t see them at all:


End with a knot:

IMG_6003_1Wrap the thread twice around the needle, close to the fabric.

IMG_6005_1Pull needle through the wraps, keeping tension with your non-dominant hand so the point where the threads twist is right next to the fabric.

IMG_6006_1Hold that twist down with your fingernail while you pull the thread the rest of the way through.



Once you have appliqued the shape down, you will need to remove the paper. I use a sharp seam ripper to slit the fabric. If I am worried about stability, I might not cut away any background fabric, just slit it to pull out the paper.

IMG_6010_1Usually, though, I will cut away the background at the inner edge of the seam allowance.

IMG_6009_1 Use your seam ripper to cut and remove the long basting stitches that held the shape to the background.

IMG_6012_1Then, from the front, use the seam ripper to just pop each of the visible small basting stitches.


From the back, use the point of the seam ripper to dislodge the paper shape and remove from the work.  No need to remove any basting threads that you can’t see on the front.

Now to trim the blocks:

We need to trim these down to the finished size plus .5″ for seam allowances.  So for these 2.5″ orange peels, we need to trim down to 3″.


On the top of your square ruler, mark the 3″ lines with a wet-erase marker.  Center a crisp paper template with the points lined up with the diagonal line.  The shape should just skim all the .25″ lines.  Trace around the template with your marker.

Now use this as a guide to trim:


Center your orange peel inside the marked lines, make sure you are at least filling out the entire 3″ square, and then trim the first two sides.

IMG_6030_1Now spin the block, line up the freshly cut sides with the 3″ lines, and trim the remaining two sides.

When it is time to sew these together, be sure to set your machine for a scant 1/4 ” seam, and your shapes will just barely kiss at the corners.

A final tip: don’t iron these blocks to death. Because there is a gathered seam allowance inside, you can get some ugly creases if you try to make it really flat. I put a thick white bath towel on my ironing board and press from the back, to preserve the lovely dimension of the applique.

I hope this tutorial is clear enough to get you started!  Please comment or email me if you have any questions, either now or later as you go along!

Friday I’ll be posting some ideas for arranging your Orange Peel shapes!

See you then,


How to work with Orange Peel templates

Ready for appliqueThis method of preparing shapes for applique will work for any shapes with convex (outside) curves, like leaves or circles.

Orange peel is an applique pattern which means, at the core of things, that a piece of fabric is being cut into a certain shape and stitched down onto another piece of fabric. There are many of ways to get the shape you desire in applique, but I almost always use freezer paper templates, because I find it the easiest way to get smooth curves and sharp points.  By preparing the folded edge in advance, I feel like I can relax and enjoy the applique stitch. And, this method generally involves no extra marking pens or pencils, which I always have such a hard time with.

(Snowflakes die-cut freezer paper shapes are available for sale here)

Choosing a size:

Orange peels are sized by the finished size of the square upon which they fit diagonally. So you can plan on a 2.5” orange peel (which is actually almost 3.5” tip to tip) taking up 2.5” of space, vertically and horizontally, in your quilt.

IMG_5903Preparing the shapes:

First, lay your fabric face down on your ironing surface and give it a quick press without steam. Arrange your shapes, shiny side down, on the fabric, at least 5/8” apart. For curved applique pieces, it will help you achieve a smooth curve if you have as much of the curve on the bias (diagonal) as possible. So when possible I arrange the pieces with the corner points on the two straight grains and that puts most of the curve on the diagonal. This is the ideal method, but if you have a stripe or other design that you want to go a certain way on the pieces, go ahead and follow that instead.IMG_5909

Now press the shapes with a medium-hot iron just for a second or two to adhere them to the fabric. Wait a bit for them to cool, then cut out leaving a generous 1/4- 3/8” seam allowance.


Now to baste the edges: Thread a sharp, thin needle, with sturdy thread (I use leftover machine or hand quilting thread) and knot the end. Starting in the center of one side, fold over the seam allowance to the back of the paper shape and take a small stitch through paper and fabric.


Now make several small running stitches through fabric only, until you are about ¾” away from the point. Right handed folk are going counter clockwise around the shape and lefties go clockwise.


Now take another small stitch through paper and fabric, and pull the thread to gather the running stitches you just made. The fabric will automatically smooth itself over the curve (which is such a blessing if you’ve tried other applique methods and had a hard time making smooth curves!)


Now make a sharp fold over the point and take another small stitch through paper and fabric to anchor the point.


Now you are ready to make another few running stitches through fabric only.


Stop at the midway point, stitch once through the paper and fabric, and pull the gathers again. The shape is now half- basted and you can follow the same steps to baste the other half, ending with a final stitch through the paper and fabric and a knot on the back.


Cutting background squares:

I always cut my background squares a little bigger than necessary. Just in case the orange peel shifts a bit while you applique, or the square gets a bit distorted, you will be able to trim down to the perfect size. So, for 2.5″ Orange Peels, you add .5″ for the seam allowance, plus another .25″ of insurance, making the cut size 3.25”.   (If you are beginner to applique you may want to go up to 3.5”.) After appliqueing, you will trim them down to 3”.  When sewn together they reach their final size of 2.5” and the orange peels will almost touch at the corners.  Press each square lightly in half on the diagonal to mark your placement line for the orange peel.


OK, I think that’s enough for today!  Tomorrow I will go over my applique stitch, and then the final post will give some layout options for this versatile shape.

Art Gallery Fabrics giveaway winner!


Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway- I enjoyed reading what everyone thinks of applique!  Did you know that you can generate random numbers in Excel?  ( I didn’t, but the how-to popped up when I was googling “random number generator.”)



So the winner of this large bundle of Cultivate by Bonnie Christine is # 29, Chris, who said

I like hexies, actually I’m addicted to them. The peels are very sweet as is this wonderful child.

I am addicted to hexies too, and they are great for applique as well as English paper piecing :)  Email has been sent.

Thanks to Art Gallery Fabrics for sponsoring this fun project.