Are You Ready to Sew?

Are You Ready to Sew?

Thread Heart photo by Sharon Holland

Thread Heart photo by Sharon Holland

Great news everyone, there's going to be another free sew along this year! May co-host, good friend, and Art Gallery Fabrics sister designer Maureen Cracknell and I will be hosting another block-of-the-week sew along and it's going to start February 21st! Be sure to follow us both on our blogs, Instagram at @sharonhollanddesigns and @maureencracknell for all the upcoming details. Next week we will give you your first peek at the new name, new look, and a Maker button to share on your blog and/or Instagram feed. Everything you loved about the Sewcial Bee Sampler will be there plus we took into account all the wonderful feedback from last year's survey. We're hoping you'll love this new sampler even more. 

2017 block from the Sewcial Bee Sampler with Bountiful and Pure Elements fabrics from Art Gallery Fabrics

2017 block from the Sewcial Bee Sampler with Bountiful and Pure Elements fabrics from Art Gallery Fabrics

In preparation for all that sewing you'll be doing I wanted to give you a little pre-flight checklist so your sewing experience can be a good one. 

Machine Maintenance 


Having your sewing machine in tip-top running condition is a must. Not only does it protect your investment but it makes for a hassle-free sewing session. Check out my past tutorial on how to clean your machine and help it perform at it's best. 

Accurate Sewing


You heard me say it a million times last sew-along "sew with an accurate 1/4'' seam allowance." I'm going to always stress that point and it's the number one reason beginning and seasoned quilters get wonky blocks and clipped points. Make sure you're starting out on the right foot and review my Perfect Patchwork tutorial

Pressing Questions

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Pressing is always a question every quilter has. The answer is, "Yes, and often." I press my fabric before I cut it and after every time it's been stitched. I especially think it's important to press before cutting apart units like Half-Square Triangles, Flying Geese, etc. By pressing the fabrics before cutting apart it not only flattens the unit but sets the seams and helps for a sharp edge once the unit is opened. Read more on the Perfect Patchwork tutorial page. You'll also find my favorite sure-fire, easy pinning method. 

Stip Cutting

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Another must for making your patchwork effortless is starting with accurately cut strips and shapes. Even the small amount off will cumulate once pieces are sewn together and your block again can be wonky or way off the mark. Review how to straighten the edge of your fabric before cutting strips and how to cut the right size strips and shapes for your blocks here

Directional Prints

Print Direction 3.jpg

One of the things I noticed about last years sampler blocks was the desire for quilters to have their chosen prints all running the same direction. In the past I've not been overly concerned about that because I think of a quilt as an object that is seen from all directions and not static. But, it was a good eye-opening for me to realize that others did find this something they wanted to achieve in their work. To help with that problem, especially when making units like Half-Square Triangles and Flying Geese I put together a little tutorial for controlling the direction of prints

Prints designed by Sharon Holland for Art Gallery Fabrics

Prints designed by Sharon Holland for Art Gallery Fabrics

You have a little less than two weeks to dust off your machine, finish up UFOs, and get ready for some sewing fun with Maureen, myself, and the amazing other Makers online that take part in our virtual sew along. I'm looking forward to seeing all your beautiful makes and reconnecting. 

With love,


Sewcial Bee Sampler Block #10

Sewcial Bee Sampler Block #10 

Today we'll have enough blocks to complete the first two rows of our Sewcial Bee Sampler quilt! I've been so impressed with all the blocks being posted each week--you're an extremely talented group of quilters. Thanks for inspiring me with your beautiful patchwork.

My very good friend and co-host Maureen Cracknell and I are thrilled that this sew along project is so popular. We're still seeing new SBS Makers joining us every day so please be sure to welcome the new members and help out where you can with encouragement and any pass along any tips you've learned along the way. Thank you for being such a wonderful, supportive community, I know many new friendships have been made because of the SBS.

If you're just joining, you may want to start at the beginning of the community sewing bee with my first post The Start of Something Sewcial and work your way up to the present. I've included tips and tutorials with each new block and they can be helpful, especially if you're new to quilting. 

Download the free Butterfly Crossing block from my Sew Along page.

Block #10 Butterfly Crossing

Today we will introduce a new patchwork technique - Quarter-Square Triangle (QST) Units

Much of what you've already learned in this sampler quilt will be used in this new technique. You've sorta been doing this all along with our 8-at-a-time HST units, and 2-at-time HSTs. The biggest caution I have for you with this block is to cut your pieces carefully to begin with and be certain you're using an accurate 1/4" seam allowance (SA) when sewing. Not only is it imperative to sew the QST units with a true seam allowance, this block has many pieces to it and small infractions on your seams will only multiply in a block with a lot of pieces. To double check your machine for an accurate seam allowance, review my Perfect Patchwork post and take the graph paper test.

1. Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each 3-1/4" fabric A square (or lightest fabric). You could draw the line corner-to-corner, in the center or, use a seam guide tool like this one by Omnigrid. To use the seam guide tool, center the yellow line of the ruler from corner to corner, then draw the actual 1/4" SA stitch lines using the outside edges of the ruler.

Place a marked square right sides together with a 3-1/4" fabric B square. Sew a 1/4" SA on each side of the drawn line or directly on the drawn line for the seam guide ruler method. 

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2. Whichever method you use to mark the square, you will cut the HST unit apart down the diagonal center, separating the two units and leaving 1/4" seam. Make a total of 10 HST units for this block. I chose to make 6 with a fabric A/B combination and 4 with a fabric A/C combination. Press open toward the dark fabric. Trim dog ears.

3. Pair matching HST units right sides together as shown with same fabrics in opposite corners. Nest the seams and draw a diagonal line (or seam guide lines) perpendicular to the seam line on the wrong side of one unit. Note: You can mix and match as desired. Pairing two different HST units will yield two QST unit with a mix of those fabrics. 

4. Sew a 1/4" seam allowance on each side of the marked line (or directly on the sewing guide drawn lines). Cut apart, open, and press. Makes 2 QST units. Make a total of 10 QST units (there will be one left-over because we only need 9 for this block).

Your QST units should measure 2-1/2" square--the same size as the squares used in the block. 

My Butterfly Crossing block is not perfect and some of my points are a little clipped here and there when it all was put together. That doesn't bother me and no one will notice it once it's quilted. Take your time with this block and have fun.

Some of my spring bulbs are starting to bloom and most of these pretties were picked from my yard. I can only imagine it won't be long before real butterflies are flitting about the flowers. I've made this block using my new Bountiful fabrics from Art Gallery Fabrics and one of my favorite Pure Element solids - Sweet Macadamia. My Bountiful Blog Tour is just underway this week and I'd love for you to follow along. I've got an amazing line up of talent for this tour-- see the full list on my Bountiful Blog Tour post. If you've been wondering where to buy Bountiful, check out my Shop Fabrics page for shops that carry my various fabric collections. 

Aurifil        Circa 15        The Intrepid Thread        Fat Quarter Shop        Omnigrid        Llama Fabrics        Color Girl       Lady Belle Fabric        Needle in a Fabric Stash        Dritz        Knotted Thread      NeedleandFoot        Stash Builder Box

Aurifil      Circa 15      The Intrepid Thread      Fat Quarter Shop      Omnigrid      Llama Fabrics      Color Girl     Lady Belle Fabric      Needle in a Fabric Stash      Dritz      Knotted Thread    NeedleandFoot      Stash Builder Box

Also, don't forget that Friday is Giveaway Friday and this week Maureen will be hosting the giveaway from her blog. We've got a great giveaway planned from Lady Belle Fabric I know you'll not want to miss! 

Happy sewing!

Sewcial Bee Sampler Block #8

Time flies when you're piecing fun! I can't believe this is our eighth week of the SBS!

My co-host Maureen Cracknell and I are so happy you've joined us for this 26-week sampler quilt event. It's still early in the sampler and not too late to start making blocks if you've just found us. For those just joining, you will want to start the sew along in chronological order because we build off past techniques and with each new block release I've added helpful, in-blog tips and tutorials. Start with the first SBS post and work your way to the present. 

Download the free PDF pattern from my Sew Along page and let's get sewing block #8. 

Block #8 is called Clay's Choice that uses the 8-at-a-time half-square triangle (HST) technique and the same cut sizes we've used in some of the earlier SBS sampler blocks. Block #1 has a step-by-step tutorial of this technique if you need a review.

As I see your blocks being posted to instagram each week by using the #SewcialBeeSampler hashtag, I've noticed many of you are wanting your prints to stay all one direction and thought this would be the time to show you how to control the direction of your prints in three of the patchwork quilting techniques we've been and will continue to use throughout this sew along. 

In the past, I've never been very concerned about keeping all my fabrics oriented the same direction. My thoughts were that unless a quilt is intended to be on a wall like a piece of art, it will never be viewed only from one direction, if in use. Instead, I've embraced the randomness. 

But, after seeing all the beautiful blocks being posted I can totally understand the desire (and struggle) to keep everything in order and directionally the same. It does make the block appear very neat and tidy and shows off the prints nicely. Of course if you're using solids it probably doesn't matter unless there's an obvious grain or nap to the material.

Fabric Direction in Half-Square Triangles

Understanding how directional prints work in HST units turns out to be pretty easy. Let's start with a 2-at-a-time HST unit and build off of that concept. Review how to sew a 2-at-a-time HST here.

Take two same-size squares and place side-by-side in the prefered direction. Note that the black arrows show the direction of the print on the fabric. Finger press a diagonal crease. Place the two squares right sides together and notice the direction of the top square arrow is now perpendicular or 90° to the arrow of the bottom square. 

Sew a 1/4'' seam allowance on each side of the crease (or drawn line for better accuracy). Cut apart on drawn line to make two HSTs. Note: I only folded my fabric over to show how this works for print orientation rather than actually sewing this example together. 

The concept is exactly the same for 8-at-a-time HST units. Review how to sew this technique here.

Audition how the prints will look by folding a square on the diagonal. I like to have the two squares already right sides together and once I have the prints in the direction I want, I simply let go the folded fabric and they're ready to sew.

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the lightest fabric square. Draw another diagonal from the remaining corners. Sew a ¼” seam on each side of the drawn line. In the same manner, stitch on each side of the remaining diagonal line. Press. Using a tool like the Omnigrid Marking Ruler assures an accurate 1/4'' seam allowance on each side of the diagonal center. 

When cutting the stitched 5-3/4'' square into HST units, align the ruler edge at exactly 2-7/8''. Does this size sound familiar? If you're using the exact cutting sizes given in the block instructions (rather than sizing up to trim after sewing) this 2-7/8'' size is the same size we use for most of our 2-at-a-time HST units. This will result in a 2-1/2'' HST unit once cut apart diagonally. Tip: I like to use tape to hold my stitched squares in place for cutting apart. 

The 8-at-a-time HST unit technique makes 4 units going one direction and another 4 going the opposite. Be sure to lay out all the block pieces before assembly the quilt block to find the best orientation for the units. Having half the units change direction will allow you to keep the prints running all the same way around the block. 

Fabric Direction in Flying Geese Units

Believe it or not, you can control the direction of your prints in our No-Waste Flying Geese units too! Review how to sew No-Waste Flying Geese units here.

Start by laying out 2 small squares and 1 large square per the block instructions. With squares right sides together, fold a small square in half diagonally to orient the direction of the print with the large square.

Release the folded square and notice the arrows are now perpendicular. Place the second small square in the opposite corner with the print running the same way as the first small square. Draw stitch lines. Stitch and cut apart on the diagonal center. 

Press open and use a folded small square to orient the print direction on the square to the print direction of a Flying Geese section. Draw stitch lines, stitch, then cut apart on the diagonal center. 

Repeat with the remaining Flying Geese unit and small square to make a total of 4 Flying Geese units. You will notice this makes 2 units in each direction, just perfect for keeping the prints all going in the same direction.

Print Direction 9.jpg

Here's my Clay's Choice blocks for the two sampler quilts I'm stitching. The first one is made using fabrics from my new Bountiful fabrics collection for Art Gallery Fabrics. If you'd like to use 3 fabrics in your block like I have with this one, cut: (8) 2-1/2'' fabrics A, (1) 5-3/4'' fabric B, and (1) 5-3/4'' fabric C and follow the instructions for borders and sewing. 

My second Clay's Choice block is pieced per the block instructions and used two fabrics. The blue print is from my Tapestry fabrics and the pink is from the new Art Gallery Fabrics Fusions Abloom line recoloring a print from my Gossamer collection. 

Since this is a relatively simple block to make, I hope you take the time to experiment with print orientation and continue to perfect your patchwork skills. 

Also, don't forget that Friday is Giveaway Friday and this week I will be hosting the giveaway from this blog. We've got a great giveaway planned from Llama Fabrics I know you'll not want to miss! 

Aurifil      Circa 15      The Intrepid Thread      Fat Quarter Shop      Omnigrid      Llama Fabrics      Color Girl     Lady Belle Fabric      Needle in a Fabric Stash      Dritz      Knotted Thread    NeedleandFoot      Stash Builder Box