Perfect Patchwork

It's been exciting to learn so many of the Sewcial Bee Sampler Makers are new to quilting! Teaching people how to sew patchwork is as rewarding for me as it is for my co-host Maureen Cracknell. We love seeing all the blocks being made and following you via the Instagram #SewcialBeeSampler hashtag and watching your creative journey in the SBS block-of-the-week sew along. 

We're a week and a half into the virtual sew along and I've gotten some questions from new quilters about achieving better points on their blocks. I've put together a little tutorial in hopes of answering some of these questions and list some patchwork basics to improve your piecing experience. 

Cutting the Strips

Using a rotary cutter, rotary cutting mat, and acrylic ruler are essential for making straight and accurate pieces.

1. Press fabric. Fold the fabric in half with selvage edges matched. Place the folded fabric on the cutting mat with the fold edge nearest to you and ample mat area extending beyond the fabric. Note: If working on a small mat, you may need to fold the fabric twice so the first folded edge is even with the selvage edges and the second double-fold is nearest to you.

2. Place a square ruler on top of the fabric with the edge of the ruler aligned with the fold closest to you and near the left edge of the fabric raw edges. Position the long side of a 24'' ruler against the left edge of the square ruler and ½'' to 1'' in over the left raw edge.

3. Carefully slide the square ruler out of the way while keeping your left hand firmly on the long ruler. Note: The raw edge of the fabric should be completely under the long ruler and fabric to be cut and there should be ample mat area around the fabric to be straightened.

4. Hold the rotary cutter next to the right edge of the long ruler and roll the cutter away from you using a firm, downward pressure while cutting through the layers of fabric. As you cut through the fabric walk your fingers up the ruler to keep even pressure on the ruler.

5. Remove the trimmed starting edge without disturbing the straightened edge of fabric and you're ready to begin cutting strips.

6. Cut width of strips according to pattern by aligning the vertical markings on the long ruler with the straightened fabric edge, using the horizontal markings for the desired strip width. Tip: Add Glow-Line™ Tape onto your ruler to mark the strip size for quick reference. Hold the ruler in place with your left hand and walk your fingers up the ruler to keep even pressure on the ruler when cutting through the layers to make a strip. If you are left-handed the steps for rotary cutting are the same; except you cut from the right side of the fabric instead of the left. 

Strip Cutting 4.jpg

How to Sub-Cut Strips

Cutting quilt block pieces from strips is a time-saver and makes the piecing process easy because you're working with accurate-sized shapes. 

1. Place a folded strip on the cutting mat in front of you horizontally with folded edge on your right (on the left if left-handed). Use a ruler to square-off the ends of the strip, removing the selvage edges.

2. Align the straight edge of the strip with the ruler marking that corresponds to the width of the piece indicated on the pattern. Cut the number of pieces needed from the fabric strip(s), opening the folded end, if necessary, to cut a single layer of fabric. For strips longer than my ruler is wide, I rotate the ruler, running the long side even with the long side of the srtip.

Strip Cutting 5.jpg

Seam Allowance

Patchwork pieces are cut with an additional ¼'' seam allowance on all sides. The cutting instructions for all the Sewcial Bee Sampler blocks have already included the seam allowances.

The term finished block or finished size refers to a block once it's sewn together. This reference no longer includes the seam allowances in the final measurement. A finished quilt can vary in size from the actual given size on the instructions because of variations in sewing, quilting, and shrinkage. Before we sew the Sewcial Bee Sampler blocks into the sashing setting and finish our quilt top, all the blocks (with framing, if applicable) should be measuring at an unfinished 12-1/2" square. 

Checking the accuracy of your ¼'' seam allowance before you start sewing is an important first step in achieving perfect patchwork. If your seam allowance is off, too wide or too narrow, by even a fraction these small amounts can add up to significant differences when piecing blocks and assembling a quilt. Stitching with a ¼'' presser foot does not guarantee an accurate seam allowance and a test should be done to understand what adjustments, if any, are needed before beginning your patchwork project.

An easy way to see if your sewing machine is hitting the ¼'' mark is to place a sheet of quarter-inch rule graph paper under the needle on your machine and lower the needle to where two perpendicular lines intersect and cross. If the right edge of the presser foot aligns with the closest quarter-inch mark then no further action is needed.

If you don't have a proper ¼'' presser foot, you can always mark out ¼'' seam allowances using a specially marked ruler. This works well for marking stitch lines when sewing half-square triangles, but can be time consuming.

To adjust your sewing machine, try these steps: If the right edge of the presser foot extends beyond the nearest quarter-inch mark and your machine has the ability to move the needle side to side adjust the needle position to the left until the right side of the presser foot aligns at the quarter-inch mark. Make note of this adjustment and reset your needle position each time you need a ¼'' seam allowance for sewing. Likewise, if the initial position test shows the presser foot to the left of the mark move the needle position to the right to adjust placement.

If you are unable to re-position your sewing machine needle then placing a temporary tape guide on your sewing machine the throat plate will help you keep the edge of your patchwork straight and aligned for accurate ¼'' seam allowances.

Next time I will give some basic pinning and pressing tips. Just remember, accurate cutting and precise seam allowances will make piecing so much more enjoyable. Less frustration means more time playing with fabrics and planning your next block!


If you've been following my posts on Instagram @sharonhollanddesigns then you know I've now started 2 sampler quilts! The second quilt will feature fabrics from my first four Art Gallery Fabrics collections: Gossamer, Sketchbook, Coastline, and Tapestry plus two new fabrics recently release in the new AGF Fusions lines. Fusions are re-colorings of the most popular AGF prints from the different AGF designers and regrouped into fresh and fun mini collections. 

Don't forget to visit Maureen's blog to enter this week's giveaway (ending Monday). Wednesday we will be releasing block #3! 

Happy sewing

New Patterns Released

A new year holds great promise. It's like having a clean slate and in my case a clean sewing room because I needed to tidy it up for holiday company :) Before I got too deep into sewing and designing I thought it would be a good idea to publish some beautiful quilt projects I made for magazines. These quilts are now out of the magazine contract period ready for me to publish as stand-alone PDF patterns you can purchase. You can view all my patterns on Craftsy.

Four New Patterns Added

Kilim is one of my all-time favorite quilt designs. I patterned this quilt after an image of a kilim rug. The rug inspiration was taken further by how I placed the cream background prints and let them flow from one type of print into another like how yarn is woven on a loom making subtle changes in color. Another way I pushed the concept of a rug was to use a mitered facing binding on this quilt--much like how a rug is finished on the back. This optional way to finish this project gives the quilt a clean front and uninterrupted quilt design.

Kilim by Sharon Holland featuring Sketchbook fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

Kilim by Sharon Holland featuring Sketchbook fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

I love how you can use a ton of different fabrics with this quilt. Most of the prints are from my Sketchbook fabrics collection with the addition of Gossamer fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

Here's a look at the finished quilt back with a mitered facing binding. The instructions for this quilt are written so you can do this facing binding technique or regular double-fold binding from the same 2-1/4'' cut strips. 

My Sketchbook fabric collection is a playful explosion of flowers and drawings. The Bloomescent quilt is a celebration of blooms created with large Drunkard's Path blocks. Even though this is labeled as an intermediate pattern, don't be intimidated by the curved piecing. The 6'' Drunkard's Path square is a gentle curve to piece and easy to learn how to stitch.

Bloomescent by Sharon Holland featuring Sketchbook fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

Bloomescent by Sharon Holland featuring Sketchbook fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

My third new pattern release is a foundation paper-pieced table runner called Sea Breeze. This project was my last make for my Coastline fabrics fall 2015 Quilt Market booth. I had only a handful of scraps to work with and this Palm Leaf block couldn't have been more perfect for the theme of the collection and my materials available. 

Sea Breeze by Sharon Holland featuring Coastline fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

Sea Breeze by Sharon Holland featuring Coastline fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

The Sea Breeze table runner pattern is rated as an advanced pattern and utilizes foundation paper-piecing techniques to achieve the perfect points on the Palm Leaf blocks. Step-by-step instructions for how to paper-piece are included in the PDF pattern. A small project like this is a great time to try paper-piecing since you only need to make 12 blocks!

Last but not least is Beach Glass, a modern quilt design made from a repeating geometric pattern. I've rated this as an intermediate only because of the placement of the squares and half-square triangles. The making of blocks is straightforward and definitely a beginner level--just follow the quilt diagram closely for placement and orientation to achieve the repeat pattern effect. 

Beach Glass by Sharon Holland featuring Gossamer fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

Beach Glass by Sharon Holland featuring Gossamer fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics

Stitched in cool blues, seafoam green, and sandy brown this calming color palette was made using my Gossamer fabrics and Pure Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics. Simple half-square triangles and squares are used to create the repeating design of this quilt. Randomly spaced, straight line quilting gives the feeling of rippling water. 

Visit my Craftsy pattern page to purchase these or any of my other PDF patterns. Be sure to tag me #sharonhollanddesigns when you post pictures of your completed makes so I can see your lovely projects! Happy sewing xxxx

Tea Leaf Quilt Pattern

To celebrate my birthday month, I'd like to give you a gift with a new free quilt pattern! If you remember, back in August, I wrote a post about a quilt I made just because I wanted it. That may sound strange but actually, most of the sewing I do is for other reasons rather than for my personal enjoyment. Not that I don't love everything I make, but my personal wants are not usually factored in when I sew. My Tea Leaf quilt was just for me! My August post has a little tutorial about how to figure cutting sizes for half-square triangles (HSTs) of any size. 

Today, I share the free PDF download pattern for the Tea Leaf quilt along with a little tutorial about how to draw and stitch a fan or Baptist Fan quilting design on the finished top.

Tea Leaf by Sharon Holland

Tea Leaf by Sharon Holland

I've always admired this traditional quilt block called Tea Leaf. I love the movement of the block and have a thing for triangles in quilts. I also have a thing for leaf designs, so when it came time to make a quilt just for me--this was the one!

I used prints from 3 of my 4 fabric lines for a scrappy look and included Art Gallery Fabrics White Linen PE-408 solid. Gossamer, Coastline, and Tapestry prints in soft fall tones are the perfect look for my living room where this cozy throw resides. I used wool batting for drape, warmth, and definition of the quilting stitches. 

I love how some of the prints almost fade away, giving even more interest and energy to this quilt. This is a 60" square quilt--just a small throw-size quilt. If you want the quilt to be larger, just make more blocks and add on. Remember, you will also need to increase yardage requirements for blocks, backing, batting, and binding if going larger. 

The Fan or Baptist Fan quilting design in one of my favorite quilting designs. I feel it goes well with just about any quilt top. I love how it is an independent design placed over what's already happening in the quilt, adding yet another layer to the overall effect.  

Probably the only hiccup with a fan design is that it needs to be drawn out on the quilt top and does slow down the finishing process. However, once it's marked out, the quilting can be stitched in continuous rows and goes relatively quickly so I think it evens out in the end. 

How to Draw and Quilt a Fan Quilting Pattern

1. Use a non-permanent fabric marking tool (I like the ceramic lead pencils that have a screw on tip). Test marks on scrap material to make sure they can be removed with water or washing before proceeding. Read manufacturer's instructions for marking tool, as some can become permanent after exposed to heat such as an iron.

Determine how far apart you want the radiating fan arches. I used 2" spacing for my Tea Leaf quilt but have also used a 1-1/2" spacing on other quilts which I also like. Your batting choice may also influence how far apart your arches should be. 

Cut a 13" length of embroidery floss (light colored works best). Lay the floss out against a ruler and mark 6 evenly spaced segments starting about 1/2" from the end. Cut a 1/2" to 1" tail after the last mark.

Slightly unscrew the tip of the marking tool and wind the floss around the marking tool tip just so the last mark is secured in the tip once tightened. If using a marking tool without a screw tip, use tape to hold the floss in place at the mark. Note: You may need to re-secure the floss as you work, just pay attention if your fan designs start to get a little out of shape.

You now have an odd number of marks showing on your floss. The reason to have an odd number of arches to the Fan quilt design means you will now be able to stitch with a continuous quilting line. See Step 4.

2. With the floss attached to the marking tool. Hold the first mark on the floss at a corner starting point on the quilt top. While holding the floss with one hand, mark an arch with the marking tool. 

Move the second mark on the floss to the corner starting point and make a smaller arch in the same manner as the first. Continue adding arches for a total of 5 concentric rings.

3. To add additional fan, repeat Step 2, starting and the base of the large ring of the previous fan. Continue adding fans till the end of the row. Start the next row directly above where you started the first row.

4. To quilt, begin at the small arch of the first row. Follow the black dashed line arrows. The red dashed line arrows indicate bridge stitching and where you will need to backtrack over earlier stitching to keep a continuous line flow to the quilting stitches. Each arch will be quilted the same direction till you reach the end of the row. Remove the quilt, and start at the beginning of the second row, quilting in the same direction as before. 

5. To remove the marking stitches after quilting and binding, I like to gently wash my new quilt in the wash machine. I use Woolite on wool setting and very low heat dry. Remove when still a little bit damp and hang dry or press top if desired. 



Back to School

I can hardly fathom it's August already! You may or may not be gearing up to get the kids back-to-school ready, but just thinking about school gave me the idea this would be a great time for us to brush up on a little quilter's math.

I just started a new quilt project that involves a lot of different sized half-square triangles (HSTs) so why not have a little tutorial about how to "do the math"! There's an easy formula for figuring out what size square to cut for any size half-square triangle that will take the guesswork out of cutting and piecing, especially if you like to draft your own blocks. 

HST Formula

Finished size square + 7/8" = Cut size

Example: If you need a 2" finished square, then you need to cut a 2-7/8" square (Note: If working with non-whole numbers, it helps to convert the fractions to decimals to add the 7/8" (.875) to the finished size dimensions) 

Half-square Triangle Units

Make a set of HST units, draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the lighter square.

Place marked square right sides together with another (same size) square, matching edges.

Stitch a 1/4" on either side of the drawn line.

Cut on the drawn line. 

Press open and trim dog ears. Makes two HST units.

Half-square Triangles

Some blocks require the use of half-square triangle pieces. Two HSTs are cut from a square and the cutting size is figured exactly the same way as for determining the size of HST units. In the quilt I am making, I need 2" finished, 4" finished, and 6" finished HST pieces. So I cut 2-7/8", 4-7/8", and 6-7/8" squares then cut the squares in half diagonally. This method is a time saver because I did not need to use any templates. I could cut a strip the width of the square cutting size, cut into squares, then cut in half diagonally. If you've cut your strips and squares accurately and used a true 1/4" seam allowance, there's no need to square up and trim your HSTs! 


Shown above are all the different size HST unit and pieces needed for a section of my Tea Leaf block.

I am making a throw quilt just for me! You'd think with all the quilts I make they would all be for me but not really the case. This one will use selected prints from all four of my Art Gallery Fabrics fabric lines and be a soothing accent to my family room decor (which has been much neglected over the years of being too busy to redecorate). More next post on the soon-to-be-finished quilt.  


Each month is a new opportunity to win a fat quarter bundle from my sponsor the Fat Quarter Shop. This month we are showcasing Amy Sinibaldi's newest Art Gallery Fabrics fabric line called Playground



The Fat Quarter Shop will be giving away two 10-pc bundles of the Sunny Adventures colorway this month. Two lucky winners will be randomly selected. Giveaway for the Playground fabrics bundle begins today, Monday, August 1th, 2016 and will end on Monday, August 8th, 2016 at 4 p.m. EDT. 

  • Leave a comment on this blog post anytime between 8/1/16 and 4 p.m. EDT on 8/8/16 to be entered into drawing

Two winners will be randomly drawn and notified via email so be sure to completely fill out the comment box entry form with a valid email address. If I cannot reach the winners within 24 hours I will select an alternate winner. Check back on your comment after 4 p.m. EDT 8/8/16 to see if you are a winner!