Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Quilt

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

I haven't made a quilt in a really long time. I missed it! It's so much different than making clothes. The way I usually go at it, it's not unlike a grown up version of cutting up construction paper and gluing it to something [to be honest that sounds fun to me too] except that you're using pretty fabric.

A childhood friend is having her second baby in April and she requested a quilt. This is the result, and it's currently on its way to Belgium [her husband is in the army] in anticipation of baby girl's appearance in April.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

She wasn't set on any particular pattern, so I decided to do my trusty wonky log cabin block. Nothin' like some trusty wonk. It's the same pattern I used for her first baby's quilt [blogged here] and also a class I taught a couple times at Sew LA. And I'm also now remembering I made one for my brother that I never blogged. Like I said, trusty.

This is the color scheme she sent me:

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Quilt

I pulled most of these fabrics from my stash, with a few supplemental purchases from The Fabric Studio. The center for each block is a Heather Ross double gauze unicorn. This is fabric I have been hoarding since its first release in 2008-9[?]. Surprisingly, I did not have to rip it violently from my own rabid grasp, I was actually really happy to be able to use it on a special project like this. I also used some of my Heather Ross tadpoles-in-jars fabric, from the same era and hoarded with equal fervor.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

There are a couple Cotton + Steel gems in there, because their fabric is woven from secrets and magic and goes with everything. For the back I used Rashida Coleman-Hale's navy crane fabric she designed for Cloud 9. So pretty!

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

If you're a garment sewer and you're thinking about making a quilt, maybe try this one! It's really so fun and easy, and you barely have to do any initial cutting. All the crazy shapes are just made by attaching some strips crooked on purpose. I thought I'd write up a tutorial in case anyone is interested; I'm sure there are many already out there, but here's another! And it includes fabric yardages for making this size quilt, which is a generous crib size or a small throw/lap quilt.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block


To make a quilt of this size [about 40x54"], you'll need:
  • 3/8 yard of eight different fabrics
  • twelve 5" squares for the centers [to fussy cut, cut a 5" square in a piece of paper and use that as a stencil to mark your fabric]
  • 1 5/8 yard for the back
  • batting
  • 3/8 yard for the binding [if you do 2.5" wide cross grain binding]


From each of the eight fabrics, cut one selvage-to-selvage strip in each of the following widths: 2.5", 4", 5.5". Fluff them into a big pile [optional].

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block


A log cabin block is a center square to which strips of increasing length are attached, in clockwise or counter clockwise direction, until the block is the desired size.

For the first pass around the center square, we're going to be straight with our piecing and save our wonk for later. I felt that after taking the time to fussy cut the centers, I didn't want them to end up a weird size and/or accidentally amputate unicorn limbs.

So take a center square and grab a strip - any strip - from the pile. Place the strip along the top edge of the center square, right sides together, with the selvage end hanging off over the edge a bit. Pin.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Set your stitch length at 2.0 [this means you don't have to backstitch]. Stitch along pinned edge. You only have to sew the length of the center square.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Note: Normally you don't zig zag when piecing a quilt, but my center square is double gauze, and I know from a previous Terrible Incident that 1/4" seams on double gauze tend to fray completely out during the first quilt washing if they aren't well reinforced, which leads to anger, then weeping, then complete and utter brokenness [though that quilt did end up with some pretty sweet patches]. So I zig zagged.

Press the strip away from center.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Trim both ends even with the edges of the center square.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Pick another strip - again, any strip - and align it with the new left edge you just created that includes the center square and strip #1. Pin right sides together, again having the selvage hang over the edge.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Stitch with a 1/4" seam allowance.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Repeat the pressing and the trimming like you did on the first strip.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Pick a third random strip - seriously, don't think about it too hard - and align it with the bottom edge, right sides together. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Press and trim.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Attach a fourth strip to the final edge. That completes the first pass around the center.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Ok, now it's time to reach down deep and release your inner wonk. We're going to keep attaching strips in the same way, but we're going to start making some of them crooked. On purpose. WHAAAT??

So we're back to the top edge. Pick a strip and place it, right sides together, along the top edge, but lay it at an angle. You could go like this:

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

or this:

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block


There's really no rule for exactly how crooked to make the wonky strips, except that if you make them too crooked, you're going to start covering up too much of the previous piecing, so keep in mind what's going on under the strip. Also, if you make them just barely crooked, the wonkiness won't be very noticeable in the final project. About 1" [give or take] in from the edge at the crooked end is a good place to start if you need numbers.

Once pinned, stitch along the crooked strip, 1/4" in from the edge. Your presser foot should have a groove or notch at 1/4" to use as a reference.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Trim the bottom layer even with the crooked strip.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Press the strip away from center. Use a ruler to trim the ends even and straight with the other edges.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block
Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Next edge: same deal. Lay 'er down crooked...

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

...stitch, press, trim.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block
Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

You don't have to make every strip crooked. It's your quilt and you do what you damn well please. [For instance, I find that laying a 2.5" strip down crooked on top of another 2.5" just makes them both too narrow for my liking.]

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Keep going until your block is big enough to cover a 14" square. I check this by just laying it on top of my cutting mat. I try to keep the center square straight when checking because I like having them straight on the finished quilt. Depending on the combo of widths you choose, you might be done after the second pass, or you might need to keep going a little more. If your block is tall enough but not wide enough, or vice versa, feel free to attach a strip out of order to add the length or width where it's needed.

Also near the end, keep in mind how much you need to add versus which width strip you choose. For example, if your block is only 1" shy of being 14" wide, it would be silly to use one of your 5.5" strips for that edge, because you're just going to end up trimming most of it off anyway. Use a narrower one.

Ok, time to trim. Lay your block over the corner of your cutting mat, with all the edges slightly extending beyond a 14" square grid. Trim the first edge at 14".

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Flip the block 180 degrees, place the trimmed edge at 0, and trim the opposite edge at 14".

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Turn it 90 degrees and trim the other two edges the same way.

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block
Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

If you totally bomb the trimming, don't worry - just hack off the embarrassing part, go back to your pile of strips, attach some more and retrim. This is seriously the lowest stress quilt ever!

Once it's 14" square, your block is finished!

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

The quilt I made has twelve total blocks. I like to do them assembly line style. It goes much faster, and it also helps prevent accidentally using one type of fabric too often in the same place on the blocks because as you piece each one, it takes that strip out of commission for the rest. So, attach all the first strips at once, press them all, trim them all, return everything to the pile, attach all the second strips at once, etc. It goes pretty fast.

Once you're done, lay them all out and try different arrangements. I usually try to make sure all the fabrics are more or less equally distributed around the quilt. To assist in this task, I employ the highly technical act of squinting at the layout, which actually does help you see if there are a lot of dark or light fabrics clustered together. One of my favorite things about this block is that once you put them together, the fabric starts to make new shapes in some places [for example, the teal tigers in the lower right].

Tutorial: Wonky Log Cabin Block

Once you're pleased with the layout, join the blocks in rows with a 1/4" SA, then join the rows. I highly recommend taking a picture of the layout with your phone in case you get interrupted, or you just forget during the walk to the machine which block goes where [a completely valid scenario].

Quilt and finish as desired. There are tutorials a'plenty for that strewn all across the internet.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Free Embroidery File: Dancing Girls Emoji

Free Embroidery File: Dancing Girls Emoji

So, first I tried to cross stitch this.

It was going to be a present for my friend Christine. I bought this adorable pattern on Etsy and set to work. And I worked. And I took many breaks. And a month later, there was only one half of one dancing girl.

Then I had an epiphany: I should use an embroidery machine and have the computers do it for me. I submit to thee, robot overlords.

So I grabbed a large emoji jpeg from the internet and traced over it in Illustrator. Then I used TruE 3 Embroidery Software to convert it to an embroidery file. I stitched it out using a Pfaff creative 3.0.

Full disclaimer: I don't know very much about manipulating embroidery files [yet]. This is just what the software spit out. So I'm not sure if it's the best it could be. When I stitched it out, I had to go over all the black sections twice because they weren't dense enough. But I don't know how much of that was the stitch density of the file and how much was my thread choice.

So if you download this and use it, please let me know how it goes! Download it HERE.

And just a few other things...have you seen the March issue of Seamwork Magazine? I was very happy to contribute two articles to this issue. The first is called Farm to Fabric: The Story of Wool. I got to visit the farm of the sweetest, kindest mother-daughter duo here in middle Tennessee and learn all about small scale wool production.


The second is a column called Block Paper Scissors featuring a little pattern making tutorial every month.

Check out the rest of the magazine here. Everything is beautiful as it always is from Colette!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Colette Cinnamon Slip Mod - Corset Ties


In case you missed it, today I wanted link up a tutorial I did for The Coletterie that was posted Monday. The pattern is the Cinnamon slip, and the tutorial is how to do this corset tie modification in the back.


I was so, so happy with how it turned out. It's just so pretty. Like disgustingly pretty. It just might be the most disgustingly pretty thing I've ever made.


The tutorial goes through the process step by step, so I'm not going to go into much detail, except to show you the GOLD BIAS TAPE. Yes, gold bias tape. It's Wrights, and it's pre-made, and what I'm saying is that I might never use non-gold bias tape again.


It goes so well with the blush pink cotton gauze and satin ribbon [like I said, disgusting], although for some reason I decided to put it on the inside instead of attaching it to every known and possible visible surface the outside.

I also put a lil' decorative stitch in there. WHO AM I BECOMING??

Cinnamon Slip with Corset Ties

So anyway, go check out the tutorial if you're interested in the how-to!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tutorial: 3/4 Circle Skirt (includes sewing instructions)

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

Here is the tutorial I promised in Monday's post. Like I said then, when I was making my 3/4 circle skirt, there didn't seem to be many tutorials online for how to put one together after you figure out your radius. There are some great circle skirt calculators out there, but I'm talking about what to do after you calculate. If you know of any and I'm just missing them, feel free to link them up in the comments!

On my previous post, the By Hand London circle skirt app was mentioned in the comments, and it's awesome! They have 1/4, 1/2 and full circle skirt functions. They also have a few posts for what to do after, like attach a waistband and insert a zipper. But I wanted to expand on what to do in between - how to make a pattern piece and how to go about splitting up your circle into smaller sections to become the pieces of your skirt.

First, you'll need to calculate your radius. I used Patty the Snug Bug's calculator because she has a 3/4 column, plus it's a downloadable Excel spreadsheet so you can keep it on your computer and always have it. Plug in your waist measurement [make sure you're using the 3/4 column!] and then round your radius measurement to the nearest 1/4". My waist is 27", so my radius is 5.25".


First let's talk about what a 3/4 circle skirt is. Just as the name implies, when it's flat, it looks like three quarters of a circle [aka an 8 slice pizza with 2 slices missing].

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

WHO WANTS PIZZA NOW?? *raises hand*

So, we need to fit that shape onto our fabric. If your fabric is wide enough, your skirt short enough, and your waist petite enough, you might be able to fit it on your fabric in one big piece. However, that is a lot of "if's"; it would also, in my opinion, be a huge pain in the booty, because you'd have to draw a giant circle very accurately. It's a lot easier to be accurate when you're working with smaller pieces.

So, since we have a front and a back, we'll divide the shape in half: half for our front, half for our back.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

I did a center back zipper for a few reasons - sometimes I don't like how zippers hang on side seams, and I also wanted to easily add side seam pockets. So for a center back zipper, we need to divide one of those halves in half again.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

So here's an overview of how our skirt will go together. Two quarters in the back joined by a zipper, and two quarters in the front cut in one piece.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

[At the risk of being confusing, I want to clarify - I'm dividing the skirt into four pieces, so I'm calling them quarters, but they aren't quarters of a full circle, they are quarters of a 3/4 circle.]

Now, we want to make our pattern pieces as quickly as possible using as little effort and pattern paper as possible. Or at least I do. Call it lazy, call it efficient. Call it, let's just get to the sewing part already. So we are going to make just one paper pattern piece to fulfill our requirements.

But first, we math!

Our friend geometry will help us figure out how long the upper curved edge of our piece will be. Here we go:

1. First we need to figure out the circumference of the circle of which our 3/4 circle is a part [the purple ring]. The circumference of a circle is 2  x  pi  x radius. So, multiply your radius by 2 and then by 3.14.

2. Now we need to find out what 3/4 of this circumference is [the pink ring]. So multiply the result of step one by .75. To keep things simple, round to the nearest 1/4".

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)
[Note: I'm using my radius of 5.25" - make sure you use your own radius measurement!]

So now we know the total length of the top curved edge of our 3/4 circle skirt. Next we need to figure out what a quarter of it is [the green line in the next drawing] so we can break our skirt into four pieces.

3. Multiply the total length of the 3/4 circle skirt edge by .25. Round to the nearest 1/4". Remember this number. Mine is 6.25".

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

Now that we have our numbers ready, it's time to draw the pattern piece.

On a large piece of paper, draw a straight line with a yardstick. Mark out from the end the distance of your skirt radius. This is the number that the circle skirt calculator gave you in the beginning. 

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

Now start marking points, rotating the ruler a little between each one, measuring out from the end of the original line - I'm going to call this the axis - and marking the skirt radius point. Make sure the end of your ruler is always on axis as you're measuring. Mark enough points to draw a curve. [The dotted lines show ruler placement.]

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

Keep going until your curved line measures the value of the green line we figured out earlier. Use a tape measure or other flexible tool and measure along the curve. At that point, draw another straight line from the axis out through the curved line.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

Now determine what you want your finished skirt length to be, and your hem allowance, and add them together. My skirt was 20" and my hem allowance was only 1/4" because I hemmed with bias tape. So for the next step I was measuring 20.25".

Using the same procedure as above, measure your skirt + hem distance away from the first curved line, marking points and connecting into a curve. Make sure your ruler is still going through the axis with each mark. I like to use a yardstick and keep the 0 end out at the hem; every time I rotate and mark, I make sure that the skirt + hem measurement is even with the curved line, and the yardstick is also passing through the axis.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

The last thing to do is add our seam allowances. You can use whatever you think is easiest. I did 3/8". Use a ruler to add your seam allowance amount to the straight edges and the smaller curved edge. Whatever seam allowance you choose, write it on your pattern piece so you don't forget.

Then cut out your pattern piece.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)


If you have a protractor and you know how to use it, you can skip most of the preceding steps. Draw a 67.5° angle on your paper [67.5° is 1/4 of 270°, which is 3/4 of 360°]; that angle sets the outer bounds of your pattern piece. Measure the skirt radius points, then the skirt + hem points, and add seam allowances. 


So here's how we're going to cut our fabric using only one paper piece. Depending on the width of your fabric, you may have to open it up and refold it the other direction to get your pieces to fit.

For the front, cut one piece on the fold, letting the seam allowance of one straight edge hang over the fold. You can also crease back the paper if that's easier. After cutting, notch your center.

Then, use the pattern piece to cut 2 backs, with one straight edge parallel to the fold/selvage. This edge is the center back. Mark it on both pieces.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

You'll also need a waistband. Here is how you figure out cutting dimensions:

LENGTH: waist measurement + 1" + [2 x (seam allowance of back seam)]
WIDTH: [2 x (desired finished width)] + [2 x (seam allowance of shorter curved edge)]

Notch the center of the waistband's long edges. 


Staystitch upper curved edge of skirt pieces. [This means stitch through a single layer 1/8" smaller than your seam allowance.]

Stitch skirt backs to skirt fronts at side seams, right sides together. Finish and press open.

Interface waistband. Fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press to crease. Reopen. Pin one long edge of waistband to top edge of skirt, right sides together, matching ends and center front notch, and easing the skirt in to fit the waistband. Stitch together and press seam allowance up.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

Install invisible zipper on back center seam with zipper stop just below crease in waistband. Stitch the rest of the seam, finish and press open. [Here is an invisible zip tutorial if you need help.]

Press raw edge of waistband a scant seam allowance to the wrong side. [ex. if your seam allowance was 1/2", fold it a teeny less than 1/2" and press]. Fold waistband around zipper, right sides together. Use a zipper foot to stitch waistband down along zipper. Make sure bottom of waistband stays folded when you stitch over it.

Clip corner and turn waistband to inside. Pin all the way around, covering waist seam allowance, and then stitch in the ditch from the outside to secure waistband on the inside.

3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial (includes sewing instructions)

Let your skirt hang overnight, then hem as desired.

I hope that was helpful! If there are any parts that need clarification, please ask in the comments.


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