Conquering Pre-Cuts

We’ve all done it. Standing in front of a new fabric collection we love, paralyzed by everything we want to do with said fabric, but no real ideas of what to make. That’s when we see it: a pre-cut. Maybe it’s a charm pack, mini-charm, layer cake, or jelly roll. (I swear there’s a new variety every time I turn around, and I love it.) You think, “I’ll buy this charm pack now and decide what to do with it later.” You end up like me.

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A small sampling of my pre-cut collection.

Often the thing I most love about a pre-cut—it’s the whole line!—also stops me from using it later, because deciding how to incorporate all the different fabrics can be overwhelming. Well, time to bust those packs open, see what you’ve got, and come up with a plan.

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I recently used a Turnover pre-cut (6” half squares) for a baby quilt and paired it with a white fabric to make a quilt inspired by Ailish’s mini quilt. The layout of the fabric was essential to the look of this quilt, and above all it got me thinking about how to do the brain work on the front end so I went into sewing with a foolproof plan. I used EQ7 (a quilt design program) to help me, but the new program EQ8 came out yesterday, so I updated and re-created my process to show you!

Everything I’m about to show on EQ8 can similarly be done with some good old fashioned graph paper and coloring pencils.

So first, I sectioned out my turnover pack and created an inventory of what I had. There are lots of ways to do this. One good method would be to sort by light, medium, and dark values; this method yields a scrappy look because colors are mixed, while maintaining the core of a design with value. Sorting by color is another great option. For this quilt, I did a mix of those methods. I had a rainbow range of fabrics and knew I’d like to utilize the colors in rainbow order if possible. But then every color had fabrics with white backgrounds with a color accent, and I decided that since I already had a white on white for the background, I’d give these accented white fabrics their own categories to help the color transitions in the quilt. I called these fabrics “Light [Color]” to show that they’re a lighter value than their color partners.

Color

Quantity

Red

9

Light Red

8

Pink

8

Light Pink

7

Yellow

6

Light Yellow

4

Green

10

Light Green

5

Aqua

10

Light Aqua

5

Knowing I had 72 fabrics for half square triangles, I laid out the quilt in EQ8 and colored it first in grayscale so I’d remember which blocks were white and which were a color. On graph paper, either make multiple copies of your outline and color one grayscale, or create a thumbnail of the quilt for quick reference. Using the fabric library tool in EQ8, I found close approximations for the fabrics I was using.

EQ8 baby quilt screenshot

I looked at my fabric quantities and decided to use red for the star center, because it has almost exactly the right amount, and the darkest color in the line. Lots of playing around and counting followed. That’s where I love having EQ8, because I could try lots of options quickly. If you’re using pen and paper, scan or create yourself a few copies of the outline to play with, or invest in some erasable colored pencils.

(Keep an eye out for a blog post soon about my favorite things about EQ8. I’ll be including how to add fabric to EQ8 that would be totally useful for planning pre-cut projects ahead of sewing!)

It may seem obvious, but something as simple as sorting and categorizing the colors and values of the fabrics in a pre-cut package, and then playing around with the design can circumvent lots of frustrations. There’s nothing worse than getting into the middle of a quilt only to walking away because you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough light or dark fabric. Pre-cuts are so fun to buy, but it can be so hard to let go of them. Knowing there’s a plan so each fabric can shine makes it a little easier to make that jump from stash to quilt.

Happy creating!

Emily

How to Size Half Square Triangles

The ubiquitous half square triangle block. (Often called in HST.) They’re just about unavoidable in quilting, but many do avoid them! There are so many methods for making them and I could easily write a post just on all those methods, but often the reason a quilter would avoid an HST is because you go to all the effort of making them, and then they easily end up wonky and points get lost. It’s really discouraging to do a lot of work for a result that doesn’t look like you wanted! So today I’m going to show you the most consistent way to get accurate, beautiful half square triangles: sizing.

All you need are some HSTs, a cutting board, a rotary cutter, and an acrylic ruler.

1 uncut hst

Unless a pattern already included instructions to “size” your HST, make your HST bigger than the dimensions given in the pattern. An eighth to a quarter of an inch should be plenty of extra. For instance, a lot of patterns make HST by marking the center diagonal across a square, sewing a quarter inch seam on both sides of the line and cutting that apart to make two HST. The measurements for these squares end in the size of the finished block plus 7/8″ which I always round up to make a whole inch. So for this 6″ finished block, I cut a 7″ square instead of a 6 7/8″ square.

2 lined up ready to cut

Place your ruler over the HST so that the diagonal line of the HST matches a 45° angle, and adjust until the whole block fits within the size of the unfinished block with some hanging out all sides as shown. I’m using an Olfa Frosted 12.5″ ruler, and it’s my go-to for sizing because of that diagonal line and great visibility with no slipping. (Not sponsored, I just love the Frosted line so much and am always surprised more people don’t use them.) If your ruler doesn’t have a 45° line to the corner like mine, notice that the inch intersections also line up, and align to that. Aligning the diagonal to the 45° line is what makes for perfect points later.

3 first cuts

Trim the first side, and the top if you feel confident in your cutting skills. If you’re only comfortable trimming one side at a time, turn the HST now to trim the side opposite your first cut, lining up the 45° angle once again.

4 line up

Line up the ruler to the trimmed sides of the HST. If you trimmed the side and top, your HST will look like my picture. If you trimmed the left and right sides, turn to now trim the top and line up the diagonal again. When you trim the bottom, your HST will resemble this picture.

5 last cut

The HST is all trimmed! A perfect 6.5″ square for my 6″ finished block.

The picture in the header of this post is a closeup of the stack of 68 HST I need to press and size. Far from the most I’ve done in one go, but still a little daunting when I look at it! More than anything though, I’m impatient to get through them, because they’re for a quilt I’m designing just for y’all!  Be sure to check out our Instagram for more sneak-peeks and and behind-the-scenes.

Happy creating!

Emily

Five Step Skill Building

All the kids in town go back to school next week. If I was still in college, I’d probably be leaving for resident assistant training this week. I love this time of year—mostly for stocking up on office supplies—and it always gets me in the mood to learn something new. In fact, I’ve been focused lately on improving my applique skills across the board. I learn the most basic of basics many years ago, enough to say I technically knew how to needle turn applique and had made one bag with a machine applique octopus. It’s one area of quilting I consistently skip over because I don’t do it well enough to enjoy it! Well, enough of that, I told myself, and went to work improving my skills. That’s when I realized a lot of what I was doing to set myself up for learning success can be applied to most any skill one wants to learn. So today I’m going to walk through the steps I take to learn a new skill.

Zero In On What You Want to Learn

The first thing that stops me from learning a new skill is vagueness. For example, I often say I want to get into wood working, but if pressed, I don’t have a clear goal of what I want to learn about wood working, I just like how it would sound to tell people I am great at wood working. Applique was different because I knew what I specifically wanted to learn. I wanted to become faster at machine applique, to learn the freezer paper method, and to learn needle turn applique well enough that I would no longer be intimidated by it. Decide what you want to learn and to what degree you wish to master that skill.

My Plan

Set a deadline

The difference between a wish and a goal is a deadline. When you decide you want to learn a new skill, set yourself a few deadlines. I like to set a deadline for acquiring a teacher, practice time, and my first test. Usually at this point, I write a little outline in my day planner laying out my specific goal(s), deadlines to meet, and leave room for notes about teachers, supplies, projects, or whatever else might come up on my quest for knowledge.

Find a Teacher

These days, teachers come in all shapes and sizes! I can learn to start a fire using the cabin method off of a WikiHow in a few minutes—that’s a teacher! I often start on the internet when looking to pick up a skill. I read a couple blog posts with pictures about how to do the freezer paper method, but it all came together for me only after watching a video of someone using the method. There are also phone apps for lots of different kinds of skills. Looking up knitting apps I found apps with video tutorials teaching you how to knit, resources with libraries of different stitches, and various helper apps like row counting apps. And of course, there are more conventional, local resources for learning skills in person. I like to see if there’s a shop that caters to a skill I’m learning because they’ll often have either classes or resources to connect me to for learning. Most crafts also have local groups who get together and those can be great places to learn. I love going to my local quilt guild because I always pick up some new trick or skill.

Practice Smarter, Not Harder

It’s impossible to achieve proficiency without practice. I studied cello intensively throughout high school, so I’ve had a lot of practice with practicing. The number one thing about practice is that there’s no way out but through. Schedule practice time. When I’m learning a new skill, I like to set aside about an hour a day. I spend the first quarter of that time either reviewing my learning materials or reviewing what I’ve done. I’m practicing in my head before ever acting. I then spend half the time in practice, going through the act, and I don’t critique myself during this time. For the final quarter, I take stock of what I’ve done, and this is when the critique comes in. I see what I can improve, and I finish by noting what I’ve done well so I finish feeling proud and accomplished. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, especially when first starting to learn a skill, shorter practice periods more frequently can really help. The goal is to have lots of little successes to build your confidence.

The First Test

The first test takes many forms depending on the skill. If you’re learning a language, the test might literally be a test, but let’s take applique for an example again. I had three goals: get faster at machine applique, learn the freezer paper method, and grow comfortable with needle turn. I now have three applique projects going! One is a baby quilt that I’d originally designed without applique, but added to it so I’d get some practice with machine applique. Nothing makes you learn to go faster like working on a quilt for an early baby. (What did I tell you about August babies!) I have another project that uses the freezer paper method, and finally a little project with needle turn that I’m saving for last because it’s the most challenging of the skills. For most craft skills, a project serves as a test. Identify what your first “test” will be and aim for it. Once you’ve gotten through your first test, you’ll be able to tell if you need more practice to meet your proficiency goals or if you’ll have mastered what you want to learn.

Orange Peel
Ta-da! Freezer paper method–fast!

There you have it, a run through of picking up new skills.  Let us know what skills you want to learn or any tips you have for learning new skills in the comments. I’m off to practice my speed at machine applique because this baby quilt isn’t gonna finish itself.

Happy creating!

Emily

Precise Piecing Tip

Mom and I shopped at garage sales over the weekend and we scored a sentimental treasure. A shoebox of vintage hexagons ready to be pieced and a stack of hexagon blocks caught our eye. As we shifted through the box, looking at all the fabrics, Mom commented that the scrappy assortment of fabrics made this a quilt in the Grandma Mary tradition.

Grandma Mary was my dad’s paternal grandmother, and she’s the one who taught my mom how to quilt. When Grandma Mary made a quilt, she’d throw all the pieces in a basket and pull out each piece without looking. If the pieces clashed, who cared? Scrappy and random was the only way to do it, in Grandma Mary’s opinion. When my parents started dating, Grandma Mary heard my mom could sew, so she asked if my mom knew how to use that “newfangled rotary cutter contraption.” (Sorry to carbon date you like that, Mom!) Before the rotary cutter, all quilters used templates and members of quilt guilds or sewing bees would trade their templates with each other.

In this shoebox, we found a template of Grandma Mary’s. It’s been 22 years since Grandma Mary passed away and she’s still finding her way to us.

1a Happy DiscoveryThese vintage hexagons reminded me of one of my favorite precise piecing tricks. It comes from hand piecing, and you don’t hear much about it for machine piecing because it takes some time and patience, but the results and versatility can be so worth it for those trickier projects.

In hand piecing, one never crosses seam allowances with stitches. Knots at either end completely secure the seam. This hand piecing technique allows quilters to nest every seam as they sew without ever committing a seam to pressing in any given direction. (I know I’ve been guilty of clipping a seam while machine piecing because a seam was pressed the wrong direction for nesting.) It’s also relatively easy to sew challenging angles and Y-seams with hand piecing because of this technique.

1Hand stay stitch collageUsing ¼” quilter’s tape, take a stitch at the corner where the seam allowances meet, and then go back over that stitch to “lock” it.

2 Hand SeamI use a tailor’s stitch, which is a running stitch with a backstitch every inch or so. This makes the seams stronger throughout time. I also took a backstitch at the end before tying off to lock the stitch like I did at the beginning. The seam begins and ends ¼” from the edge of the fabric.

On the machine, there are a few more steps to assure the same level of precision.

3 first pin collageMark your seam allowances on the wrong sides of every piece. Layer the first two pieces right sides together, then use a pin to pierce the fabric at the exact corner where the seams meet. With luck, the pin will come out the other side in the corresponding corner. Just kidding, that never happens! Keep trying until the pin is going through both pieces of fabric at the exact corner. Repeat for the other corner, and for any stabilizing pins.

Quick note on the pins themselves: I’m using Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Pins because they are almost excessively thin. I prefer a very, very thin pin for this technique because it’s the least likely to warp the fabric and thus hinder my precision. I’d rather warp a needle than warp my block. Although I’ve had no problem with these pins warping, proof that their name isn’t an unearned brag

4 Stay Stitch collageThis is the trickiest part! Get the fabric under your sewing foot and line your needle up with the first corner pin. Carefully remove the pin and take the first stitch beginning at the exact corner. Reverse and stitch back over the first stitch to “lock” it and then sew along the rest of the seam. Repeat this at the end of the seam by sewing to the exact corner and reversing over the last stitch to lock the seam. Remember to never sew over pins.

6 Finished

So, when is this somewhat time-consuming technique called for? Any Y-seams like in this hexagon block. This technique is a lifesaver when joining sections of a foundation pieced block to ensure all the points match. It can also be the answer to any quilt that needs points to match but is proving impossible using other methods.

Happy creating!

Emily

No-Headache Metallic Embroidery

Who doesn’t want to add some shine to a project now and then? A great way to accomplish that extra little sparkle is with metallic embroidery, but anyone who’s worked with metallic floss for handwork can tell you it’s kind of a headache. There are lots of great tips out there for working with metallic floss, but I’ve sworn off floss for 80% of my projects after discovering the glittery product of my dreams.

Quilt Highlights by YLI Metallic Braid

Meet Quilt Highlights – Metallic Braid and Metallic/Rayon by YLI. This product is made for couching, bobbinwork and other embellishment, but I’ve found the metallic braid is great for hand embroidery. Pinky promise, this isn’t sponsored content, this product has just totally changed how I approach embellishing my projects! Like this paper pieced unicorn I took from drab to fab.

unicorn

I love that the braid reduces the splintering that drives me so nuts with metallic embroidery floss. For fine work, there’s no getting around the need for floss as the metallic braid is best suited for medium to large images, but like I said, that leaves about 80% of my projects perfect candidates for metallic braid.

While working on one such project, I snapped some shots of the little tricks I use to make working with metallic braid all the dreamier.

length

Cut the metallic braid in approximately 12” lengths. This is shorter than I use working with cotton embroidery floss or thread, but the shorter length is essential. Every time the braid is pulled through the fabric, the fibers are stressed. This means that with each stitch, the likelihood of splintering and wear increases. The shorter length reduces stress on the braid fibers.

star stitch collage

Be conscious of whether you want a flat or rounded look to the stitch. For a rounder stitch, twist the braid. For a flatter stitch, straighten the braid. For instance, I preferred a rounder look with these stars, but with the unicorn horn from before, I used a very flat stitch to cover lots of space with relatively few stitches.

back knot collage

Use a quilter’s knot at the beginning of the braid to prevent fraying. If working areas apart from each other, travel the braid to reduce stress and knots. Finally, weave the end into the previous few stitches and tie off, using an overhand knot at the end to lock the braid and prevent fraying.

backstitch

Keep to simple stitches to reduce stress on the braid fibers. I like to use backstitch for line work, staying away from seed or split stitches.

Finished top

Voila! Check back soon for a tutorial on how to make a little pillow with an inspirational message like this one.

Happy creating!

Emily

Just Do It!

My name is Emily. A little over a year ago, I graduated college. Many of my friends and classmates have reflected recently on what it means to graduate and the year that has passed since we crossed that stage. Some described the year as a roller coaster of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Others described it as a series of opportunities and decisions strung together like a necklace with each pearl carefully chosen. When I look back on my year since graduating, I see a needle moving and in and out of fabric over and over.

I started planning Lynn & Rosie Designs with my mom, Betsey, and sister, Sara, long before graduation via Pinterest boards, brainstorm texts, over hot chocolate during winter breaks and margaritas during the summer. Together, we came up with a vision for a quilt and crafting company that offers beautiful designs and a creative ethos to carry you anywhere in life. We all have roots in traditional quilting and various crafts, but with Lynn & Rosie Designs, we’re excited to update classics both in style and technique.

Quilting, crafting, and building Lynn & Rosie Designs has filled my year since graduation. And yes, there have been ups, downs, opportunities and choices. It’s all built up to this. The day I hit publish on our first blog post.

Every Tuesday, one of the Lynn & Rosie Designs team will offer a tip. Many tips will be techniques and tricks to try, but some, like this one, will be motivators. Today’s tip is to just do whatever it is you’ve been planning. There’s always more planning and preparation that can be done, but if you never start doing what you’re planning, it may never happen. So this is your permission to stop planning and start doing.

Happy creating!

Emily