Thursday, September 28, 2023

Week 2 - Strippy Improv Halloween QAL

Welcome back for Week 2 of the Strippy Improv Halloween QAL! 

It's block making week! 
The beauty of a 4-block quilt is that once you have 2 made, you're halfway done! 

Thanks for weighing in on which of my four mocked up versions I should make. I chose #1, but you might see some blocks from #4 make an appearance down the road. Here's my mock up, made using the Glow-O-Ween fabrics from Benartex. 

And did I mention this fabric GLOWS IN THE DARK!?!?!

And here are my first two blocks:

Which blocks have you decided to make? Let me know in the comments. 

I've got 4 block making tips for you today: 
Tip 1: 
If you're using a non-symmetrical block (like the pumpkin with its stem, for example), make sure that when you trace the shape onto the fusible web, it's reversed from when you trace the shape onto the muslin. If you're using a symmetrical shape (like the spider, don't worry about this.)

Tip 2:
I recommend placing an iron an cutting mat adjacent to your sewing machine for block making. These blocks assemble with a press and cut after every seam, so you'll enhance your efficiency if everything you need is together. 

Tip 3: If you accidentally cut through the muslin when you're trimming strips, don't worry! I've done it as well. Just keep sewing - the hole in the muslin will be covered. 

Tip 4: 
If your fabric marking pen erases with heat, consider using pencil to trace your templates onto muslin. Otherwise your traced shape on the muslin will disappear as you add strips. 

What comes next: 
If you've completed the strippy improv piecing part and wondering if your blocks look "right," here are what mine looked like after piecing. After you cut out the reverse applique background and fuse in place, you can trim the excess. Note that for the bat, I pieced the strips on an angle. Choose your strip direction based on how you want the final block to look. 

If you learn better by video, I have a YouTube video showing this same technique used for my Holiday pattern. You can find it here. I also shared a reel showing me making the pumpkin block on Instagram (@quiltyzest).

Have fun making your first two blocks! Meet me back here on Thursday, October 5 where I'll be sharing my other two blocks. 

Here's the QAL schedule: 
Thursday 9/21: Fabric and block choices
Thursday 9/28: Make 2 blocks
Thursday 10/5: Make 2 blocks
Thursday 10/12: Assemble and finish!

I hope you'll join in the fun! I'll be posting here on the blog and also sharing posts on IG (@quiltyzest). If you're going to sew along, use the hashtag #strippyimprovhalloween to share your block and/or fabric choices!

Ready to join the fun? Order just the digital Strippy Improv Halloween pattern here
The pattern includes 9 block choices plus both a square wall hanging and table runner option.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Week 1 - Strippy Improv Halloween QAL

Hi! I'm excited that it's Halloween season, and time for the Strippy Improv Halloween QAL!

If you still need the pattern, you can order it here.

We're talking fabric in week 1!

But really, before that, let's talk block choices, because the blocks you decide to make will steer your fabric choices. 

The pattern includes 9 different blocks (yes, I got carried away when I created the pattern, but what could I leave out?!?). I'm showing all 9 here - you can use this as an overview, and you can also refer back to them as you read the fabric choice section below. 


Black Cat



Candy Corn


Witch Hat


Select 4 different blocks, or use all the same block, or maybe 2 and 2. It's up to you! 

Here's where color factors in. 
Block background:
Your block background should be dark (or darker) so the pieced strips don't show through the reverse applique. If you choose appliques that are typically black or very dark (like the bat, cat, spider, witch hat), you'll want to pick a block background that is light enough to create contrast (but not too light, like white!). I wouldn't go lighter than this light gray below.

Strip colors:
These blocks are great for using scraps, particularly leftover strips. I recommend paying attention to the value of your strips - for example, for the pumpkin, you want your oranges to have enough variety that the individual strips stand out. Otherwise, you could just use one piece of orange for the whole pumpkin. 

I personally prefer prints that are more tonal, because I don't want individual prints distracting from the overall applique. But if you are making four pumpkin blocks, a little more variety might be fun! In my B-O-O blocks, I used more variety because I knew the letter would pop off the background. 

A note on whites and blacks - these can be tricky, because so many black prints read as black. Look for some darker grays as well (as long as they're darker than your block background). For whites, definitely raid your low volume stash! 

Whatever strips you choose, audition them by laying the strips together to see if you like the look. 

And finally, take advantage of all the fun Halloween prints in quilt shops for the border! For this year's Quilt Along, I'm using the Glow-O-Ween fabrics from Benartex. Aren't these fun? I'm so grateful to whoever decided at some point that purple and lime green are Halloween colors. It really adds variety to the idea of a Halloween palette.

Here's one of the mock-ups I'm considering. Yes or no on the purple background? 

Have fun choosing your blocks and fabrics! Meet me back here on Thursday, September 28 where we'll talk about making the blocks. 

Here's the QAL schedule: 
Thursday 9/21: Fabric and block choices
Thursday 9/28: Make 2 blocks
Thursday 10/5: Make 2 blocks
Thursday 10/12: Assemble and finish!

I hope you'll join in the fun! I'll be posting here on the blog and also sharing posts on IG (@quiltyzest). If you're going to sew along, use the hashtag #strippyimprovhalloween to share your block and/or fabric choices!

Need the pattern? Order it here

Friday, September 1, 2023

5 Panel Cutting Tips + Star Stacks My Hero quilt reveal!

Sometimes when you see a fabric, you know exactly what to do with it! That's how I felt when I saw the My Hero panel from Benartex - these fun comic strip-style blocks would be perfect centers for the star blocks in my Star Stacks pattern! (psst...the pattern is on sale through September 4th...use this link!)


Today I'm going to share my Star Stacks My Hero quilt and share my 5 tips to make fussy cutting blocks from a panel easier.

Here's the quilt - don't you love those bright colors? I love the positive messages of these prints - they make such a fabulous kids quilt!

A big thanks to my mom, who pieced this quilt for me. Next up? Quilting it! 

So let's talk fussy cutting panels. If you've worked with panels before, you may have noticed that they're not always perfectly straight. This is nothing against the fabric company - it just happens when you're printing on something slightly stretchy and movable like cotton. Let's look at how to combat that as you cut. 

Tip 1: Examine the panel before cutting. Decide where you'll cut - look at the lines in the blocks. In this case, I'm cutting 6-1/2" squares, and that measurement falls within the outer white line, so that makes things easier. 

Tip 2: Spray and press. If the block you're looking to cut feels especially crooked, spray it (I use water, but you can use starch too) and use a hot iron. This can sometimes help straighten things up and make cutting easier. 

Tip 3: Remember your 1/4" seam allowance. Anything that falls within 1/4" of the edge of the cut square (like the top edge of the lightning bolt in the block below) will be cut off. I'm ok with that here - but it's better to know in advance than realize what will be cut off after you've cut!

Tip 4: Align the ruler and find your "best" lines. Note that your best lines aren't always perfect, nor necessarily lined up with other printed lines. In the example below, I'm cutting off the outer white line, so I'm more concerned with how straight the blue border looks under my ruler than where the white line is. I want roughly the same amount of blue border to show on all sides of my block, so that's my focus as I position the ruler. 

Tip 5: Stitch with the fussy cut square on top. Especially if the fussy cut square has a border, like mine, you want to keep an eye on the inner border edge as you stitch. If you can keep your stitch line parallel to the printed inner border line, your square will look as straight as possible. (Sometimes that means taking liberties with your 1/4" seam's ok! We all do it from time to time!)

These tips will help you to more accurately fussy cut your squares. But even if your squares don't end up perfect, don't worry! When someone (especially a kid who loves super heroes!) looks at the full quilt, they won't notice any small crooked lines!

Do you want to make the Star Stacks pattern? 

Grab the pattern (20% off through September 4th!) here in my Etsy shop. 
Ask for the My Hero fabrics at your local quilt shop, or contact one of the quilt shops carrying the fabric using this store locator.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Star Bows in Teals

Hello! It's time for my 3rd quarter Benartex Ambassador project, and I was lucky enough to get to play with the Prismatics collection. 
It features jewel tone colors in gorgeous watercolor prints, and the teal and lime colorway is right up my alley! (Though I used both colorways in a full-size version of my Star Bows quilt...keep scrolling to see, and to find a coupon code for the pattern!)

I chose to use this more controlled palette in a four-block wall hanging version of my Star Bows quilt pattern. The key is to choose a good contrasting color for the additional set of points. These huge stars measure 18" square, so four blocks makes a nice sized quilt! I like adding extra interest by alternating background colors as well. 

This patchwork-type print is my favorite from the collection: 

I found this fantastic sculpture downtown to use for photos of this quilt. See the full photo below this one. 

I need to come back with a larger quilt! 

I chose to do simple straight-line quilting so that the star blocks would shine. The quilting creates great texture! 

Isn't that print on the back fun? It reminds me of stained glass. 

This 36" square version I'm holding is made using just four blocks - a FQ of each print, plus the dark teal for the contrasting points and two background colors. 

The full quilt features 16 blocks, using both colorways: 

Which do you like better? I'm itching to make the full-size 16-block version now! :) 

The Star Bow pattern is available in my Etsy shop, and if you use the code PRISMATICS, it's 20% off through Monday, August 21st. Click here to use the code.

Get the pattern here.

Friday, August 4, 2023

The Story of a T-Shirt Quilt

A few months ago, my neighbor, Shari, called and asked me if I knew of anyone local who could make a t-shirt quilt for her son, who was retiring from the Marines. I said yes - me. :) 

Here's a look at the finished quilt - keep reading for the story. 

I met Shari at our local fabric shop to choose fabric. Because this was a military quilt, we started out looking at red and blue fabrics. But none of the patriotic fabrics really appealed to us. And then I found the sashiko-inspired fabric. Brad was stationed in Japan for quite a while, and this print reminded Shari of his time there. Bonus points that it was a beautiful fabric! 

Then we started looking for sashing fabric and for a "filler" fabric - something I could use to enlarge any t-shirt blocks that weren't large enough. This particular t-shirt quilt didn't have a color theme - sometimes if a quilt is made up of college or high school shirts, they're primarily in school colors, and that makes choosing fabric easier. We opted for red for the sashing for 2 reasons: 
1. It brought us back to the patriotic color scheme when paired with the navy border print
2. It helped to really define the blocks, most of which were neutrals or darker colors. 

The last print we chose was the navy stars. Here, we went opposite of the red - the goal was to choose a print that would blend in with the t-shirt colors rather than stand out. The navy frames the smaller blocks without calling attention to itself. 

After I prepped all the t-shirt blocks (see my Thermoweb post for more details, including the two must-have products I recommend to make a t-shirt quilt), it was time for layout. Purely by luck, I had the same number of blocks with and without the navy frame, so I decided to alternate them. I think this helped to blend the navy frames into the background even more. 

Here's the quilt top assembled before quilting. 

My machine quilter, Diane, did a great job as always. She did an allover loops design for the blocks and then red stars in the sashing. In the photo below, you can also see one of the blocks I assembled from small t-shirt squares. Most of these were from polo shirts and motifs printed on sleeves. I cut them as large as I could, and then sewed them into a four-patch. Add a navy frame, and this block was the same size as the rest. That's an easy way to use smaller elements in your quilt. 

I really love how the red sashing makes the blocks pop.

Here are Tom and Shari with the finished quilt. They traveled to their son's house for the retirement party and presented the quilt to him there. I was honored to be part of such a special project! 

Want to learn more about making t-shirt quilts? Head over to Thermoweb's blog to read tips on how to make your own. 


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Turn a Panel into Floor Pillows!

Happy Christmas in July! That's always fun to say when it's sunny and 80 degrees outside. :) 
The Benartex Ambassadors were asked to create a Christmas in July project using a holiday line. I'm sharing two - one here, and one available for newsletter subscribers only (subscribe here!). 

I chose the Nordic Cabin collection by Cherry Guidry. I love Cherry's style, and the snowmen are adorable! I also like holiday projects that are winter themed rather than Christmas so I can leave them up through January and February as well. 

When I saw the panel and the way it was split in half, I knew it would be perfect for two large throw pillows. We keep 24" square pillows in our family room for lounging on the floor, and I'm excited to use these this coming winter. 

1 Nordic Cabin panel
1/8 yard each Shadow Blush Navy and Lime
2/3 yard red snowflake print
1-1/2 yards backing fabric
(4) 27" squares of batting
(2) 20" zippers

I started out by trimming the panel. I'll share my measurements, but yours may vary slightly - it's more important to cut the panel on the lines you want than to match my measurements. Note that my panel was NOT prewashed. 

A couple panel trimming tips: 

  • Pay attention to printed lines and remember to account for seam allowances. On this panel, for the snowman image, I purposely cut the bottom edge so the navy stripe was in the bottom 1/4". This way it will be hidden in the seam allowance, rather than just having a thin line show. 
  • Don't be married to your ruler. You may need to gently pull on the fabric or slightly readjust your ruler as you cut to follow a line or the edge of an image. 
  • If your cut piece sizes vary, you can always even things out with your border - I'll show you how!

Cut panel:
Top cabin section: trim to 18-3/4" wide x 16" high. 
Middle snowman section: trim to 18-3/4" square
Bottom stripe: trim to 18-3/4" wide x 3-1/4" high

Additional Cutting:

From each of the Navy and Lime:
(2) 1" x WOF strips

From the red snowflake: 
(6) 3-1/2" x WOF strips

From the background print:
(2) 25" squares

Making the Pillows:

Step 1 Sew the fussy-cut stripe strip to the bottom of the fussy-cut cabin piece. This should measure 18-3/4" square. (If your measurements are different, just make sure your piece is a square.) See both panel pieces below.

Step 2 Sew 1" x WOF navy strips to opposite sides of the cabin square. Press out and trim excess. Sew remaining strip pieces to the top and bottom. Repeat with the lime strips on the snowman square. 

Tip: When adding strips to a panel, keep the panel on top. This allows you to be able to see any printed lines you're trying to follow as you stitch. As you see below, I'm stitching so the navy and the white line are in my seam allowance rather than showing on my pillow front. 

Step 3 Cut (2) 3-1/2" x WOF red snowflake strips in half. Sew strips to both sides of each pillow square, press seams out, and trim excess. Sew the remaining 3-1/2" x WOF red snowflake strips to the top and bottom. Trim excess. Your pillow tops are complete - that easy!

Step 4 Layer each pillow top with a batting square and baste in place. Quilt as desired. (I used a 1-1/2"-wide crosshatch pattern). Square up pillow to measure 24" square. Note that pillow top is slightly oversized to account for shrinkage while quilting. In the same way, layer a batting square with a backing square, baste, quilt and trim to 24" square.

Note: I like to finish my pillows with zippers, because they're easy to remove to clean, and I can change out the pillow covers for different seasons. Here's a quick overview of adding a zipper; if you need more details, there are plenty of tutorials available. 

Step 5 Lay pillow front and back right sides together. Stitch along bottom edge with a long basting stitch. Press seam open. Position the zipper face down on the seam line. Use a zipper foot on your machine to stitch around all four sides of the zipper to secure in place. 

Step 6 Use a seam ripper to pick out the basting stitch, revealing the zipper. 

Step 7 Open the zipper. Place the pillow front and back right sides together, pin raw edges, and stitch around the remaining three sides. 

Step 8 Turn pillow right side out and poke corners out. Insert the 24" square pillow form. 

Step 9 Repeat steps 5-9 with the second pillow top, back and zipper.

The beauty of Christmas in July? Think how nice it will be to pull these finished pillows out in December, either to use or to gift! 
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!


If you're new here, welcome! I hope you'll stay and look around a bit. 
If you like what you've seen here, you can also find me:
To find all of my quilt patterns, visit my Etsy shop
Find me on IG here.
Sign up for my newsletter in the right-hand sidebar or here
(You'll receive a free pattern for my Diamond Drama quilt (below) as a thank you!)

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Make Your Own Message T-Shirt!

Happy Summer!

Back in May, my middle son, Jojo, came to me with an idea for a t-shirt he wanted to make. He said that when he walked through the hallways at his middle school, he'd often put his hand up for high fives. He wanted to make a shirt that said "Free High Fives" that he could just point to in the hallway. 

So we got started on our t-shirt project! 
We used HeatnBond Lite Fusible Adhesive from Thermoweb to fuse the letters to the t-shirt. Jojo created a tutorial for how to make this shirt; you can find it on the Thermoweb blog


So of course, after Jojo's t-shirt was complete, his younger brother wanted in on action. He wanted a shirt that said "Free Hugs, All Day Every Day" but I talked him down to "Free Hugs 24/7" because the other had A LOT of letters to cut out and stitch around. Then I decided that the oldest needed a shirt as well. He's a teenager, so his shirt is pretty self explanatory, right? 

I love these shirts - a simple way to add a smile to people's day. :) 

To make your own, follow the tutorial on the Thermoweb blog. Click here to download the letters for the other two t-shirts.