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.

Applique, Art Gallery Fabrics and a Giveaway!

Orange peel applique

I have been sooo addicted to the orange peel shape lately.  When Art Gallery Fabrics asked if I would like to be a part of their celebration of National Sewing Month, at first I wasn’t sure I could come up with a project in time.  I have so many huge projects already in my queue… Then I thought, I could make another orange peel mini!  (Here, here, and here are some other orange peel projects I’ve done)  I chose Bonnie Christine’s fabric line, Cultivate.  Do you follow her on Instagram?  Such a lovely feed and at the moment she’s sharing the sweetest shots of her newborn baby girl, can’t get enough of those…
Sketch- 3 pillows-mini quilts
Of course, being myself, I couldn’t take the simple route and do just one mini.  No no, I would do three.  Above is the little sketch I sent to Art Gallery when I offered to do a project.  A pair of free-form flower pillows and a geometric one to contrast.   Then, I thought, why not bind them so I could hang them as little wall hangings or stuff them with pillows?  So that is what I did, they have a 3/4″ binding that will look like a flange if I choose to use them for pillows, or they can hang on the wall.  Great.  Love them.
Each petal is prepared by ironing down a freezer paper template and basting the raw edges over the paper.  I roughly arrange my pieces on the background, then press each shape, remove the paper, and pin them down in their final places.  I use a running stitch with #8 perle cotton to attach the shapes to the background.  I have used a regular applique stitch in the past, but for such busy fabrics I love the extra definition that the running stitch outline gives.  I started with a 19″ square, trimmed it down to 18.5″ after the applique was done, then added the wide binding, bringing the inner square down to 17″ .  So an 18″ pillow form makes them nice and plump.
If you too would like to make this pillow, you’ll need a medium pack of 2.5″ orange peel freezer paper templates, which I sell here.   They are reusable in case you’d like to make more than one.  And please use the box at top right to subscribe to my blog, as starting next Monday I’ll have a little series walking you through the process of working with orange peel templates.
(Photo shoot outtakes…  “Hey, someone made a bed out here in the woods!”)
But wait, what happened to the pillow in the middle of the sketch?
I fell so hard for these little blocks that I had to hold them back in order to make an entire quilt out of them!  I ordered more of the Pruning Roses print from Hawthorne Threads (which is also where I got the Pure Elements Icy Mint solid I used for the background) and I carry my little basket of applique with me everywhere.  The pile just grows and grows… like a baby, the quilt will be here before you know it!
Oh yes, should I do a giveaway?  Art Gallery Fabrics was very generous when sending fabrics for this project and I have a ton left over.  Some is going into my stash but I have plenty to share, too!  Leave me a comment letting me know your favorite applique pattern (if you have one!) to enter to win a generous bundle of Cultivate by Bonnie Christine.  If you follow this blog or my Instagram, you may leave me an additional comment telling me so and that will count as a second entry.  Thanks!  I’ll draw a winner on Sunday, September 13th.
… This post was sponsored by Art Gallery Fabrics….

Big changes- I’m going home




IMG_2183 IMG_2279IMG_2302IMG_1990

IMG_6055 copy


At the beginning of this year, I had one of those moments. A moment which, though you don’t know it at the time, is going to change everything that comes after. I was having a little new-years introspection and I realized that this year I turn 37, our oldest child turns 12, and we’re still not living life as I imagined it. I felt like my life so far has been just a giant holding pattern, we are circling, circling, waiting for something to happen.   But what, exactly?

“Welcome to the club,” some might say, but I wanted to do something about it. This is not at all about having the money to do whatever, and all about the choices we have been making. It’s been 7 years since I graduated and since then we’ve been renting a variety of places, moving here and there, never wanting to commit to anything. We’ve been in our current house for 3 years, mostly just because it was easier to stay than to make any more choices. I shared my feelings with my spouse, and we decided that we would commit to looking for a permanent home.

SO. We were looking for something to buy. I want land, privacy, space.  Well guess what?  So do a whole bunch of people in the greater DC/Baltimore region. Places with any land in our price range were an hour or more from Garrett’s job. He was willing to commute, and in the past has done so up to 1.5 hours each way, but was that the lifestyle we wanted to commit to?

We discussed very seriously getting a country place for the family and having Garrett live in a hotel 3-4 nights a week for work.  I think that was the solution we had settled on when on a lark, he applied for a job in our hometown. We were rather astounded with the speed at which the whole apply-interview-offer process went, and he got the job.

Oh my god, we could move back home! Really?  Family, the ease of small town life, the mountains… All those things I’ve been pining for, could be mine! Never mind the massive pay cut. It doesn’t matter; we don’t care. Now we can build a life!

We have found a tiny house to rent, well within our means, while we look for a home, a true home, where our kids can spend the rest of their formative years and hopefully remember it fondly as they grow into themselves and away from us.  Where I can plant those fruit trees and be there when they begin to bear, and have piggies and chickens and just be able to go for a walk without being assaulted by the relentless traffic….

So, here’s what’s happening. We move home to Central Pennsylvania in 3 weeks.  Just enough time here for one more DCMQG meetup. 🙂

Our tiny new place won’t support a home studio, so Faraway Road is going big-time and moving to its own address!

Husband will have a truly “new” job for the first time in 15 years! What else? Just a complete lifestyle shift is all…

So excited.
In very big denial of how much work I have to do in the next 3 weeks :-).
But happy. So happy!

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5 Reasons to Love Freezer Paper

So, why did I go to all this trouble to make die-cut freezer paper shapes available?  Here are five reasons to love working with Snowflakes Freezer Paper Shapes:

Template stays put while you baste!

#1. And this would be enough, even if it were the only attribute: the paper shapes stay put while you baste. Just a touch with a hot iron, and there is absolutely no slipping, and no need for pins or paper clips to hold the fabric still as you baste.

Fabric cutting is a snap!

#2. Fabric cutting is a snap. Other methods ask you to get a separate plastic template and trace around it onto the fabric, adding time to every piece you prepare. When a freezer paper template is ironed into your fabric, it is easy to eyeball a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance as you cut, no marking necessary!

tessellating templates saves a lot of fabric!

#3. Saves fabric. If you are rotary cutting squares and then trimming them down into hexagons, you are wasting a lot of fabric!  With Snowflakes, you can arrange the pieces in a tessellating fashion, then cut them out zig-zag style without any waste. If you need a large number of shapes from one fabric, you will save a lot of fabric cutting this way.

precise fussy cutting is easy

#4  precise fussy cutting. Iron the shape onto the reverse side of your fabric, then hold up to the light from the right side to see exactly where the fabric design will fall.

templates can be reused many times

#5 Reusable.  I use my Snowflakes many times before retiring them.  Even with the holes from basting, they still iron on many times before being exhausted.

Check out Snowflakes freezer paper shapes for yourself here in my shop!