Free Holiday Projects

December is here and I’m ready to start some holiday sewing! I’m super late, as always, but I’m only motivated when the holiday spirit is in the air. Today I’m sharing a little round up of my free holiday project tutorials and some ideas on how to use them!

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SANTAS CHIMNEY BASKET

First up is a project I shared late last year, Santa’s Chimney Card Basket. I still cant get over how adorable this came out! This basket uses my Sturdy Basket Pattern with dimensions to fit all the Christmas cards you receive. I used brick fabric and faux fur to emulate the chimney, but you can use any fabric you love or that matches your decor. Aside from holding cards, It also makes a cute decoration or creative little gift giving vessel. You can even line it with a plastic bag and fill it with snacks for a party. Click here for the tutorial!

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CUSTOM STURDY FABRIC BASKETs

This next project uses the same Sturdy Fabric Basket pattern as the Chimney, shown in various sizes and shapes, that I made as gift baskets for the Hawthorne Supply Co. Oh What Fun blog hop. I absolutely LOVE making these, if you can’t tell! The possibilities are endless. One of my favorite gifts to give is custom collections of themed items such as food, bath & body products, useful tools, etc. When you don’t know what to do for someone, you can’t go wrong with a gift like this! Once you have your items, you can make the basket any size you need to fit. You can also use non-holiday fabric, perhaps something that matches their decor, so they can also use the basket year round. They’re great for holiday office supplies, remote controls, phones and wallets by the door, hair accessories etc!

Click here for my blog post about these baskets. It includes a link to the Sturdy Fabric basket pattern and details on how I made all the specific shapes and sizes shown. Also included in the blog post is details about the adorable snack bag shown below. It’s another fabulous little gift giving vessel that you can fill with treats for a neighbor, delivery driver, mail carrier! And the bag is then reusable (and washable!) for lunches, snacks, etc!

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EPP TABLE TOPPER

Free EPP Table Topper Template | lillyella stitchery

Next is a little hand sewing project I shared a few years ago. It’s quick and easy to sew and makes a perfect table topper, hotpad or mini tree skirt! Click here for the free pattern.

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FESTIVE FLUTTER TREE PATTERN

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Fourth is a mini quilt pattern I created using my Butterfly Charm Blocks in the shape of a Christmas tree. You can find the pattern here.

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REUSABLE BOWL CAP

The last project I’m including today doesn’t have a holiday look on the outside, but it’s a favorite of mine! This pattern is super quick and easy to sew, and customizable to any bowl or round dish. They’re perfect for covering snacks and dishes at holiday parties, carrying a dish to a party, storing leftovers, and they’re great for gifts! Pick up a cute, unique bowl, make a matching cap, and give it as a gift. You can fill it with a treat or kitchen tools and the recipient has a useful and adorable item that they can use everyday. I’ll be sewing up some new ones this week with cute holiday fabrics and will share them soon! Click here for the tutorial.

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I hope you’ve found some inspiration in these projects! They’re just a few of the free patterns & tutorials I have available. There are some other great little items to make for gifts, such as my Flex Frame Pouch, and you can find all of them HERE.

Happy Stitching!
~ Nicole

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Sew-A-Long Tutorials for Beginners

Hello, my Sew-A-Long friends! Today I’ll be sharing a few tutorial links for those who are joining in the Undercover Maker Mat SAL, but may not be familiar with basic quilting or paper piecing (which is an optional element!). There are a lot of step-by-step photos in the pattern and many basic techniques, but it does require basic knowledge of making a “quilt sandwich”, binding a quilt, and paper piecing , if you choose. If you haven’t viewed my Instagram stories, please pop over and take a look. I’m saving all the SAL stories in a highlight which you can access anytime from my main profile. You can also turn on notifications for my posts and/or my stories so you don’t miss anything. I shared a few tips and examples yesterday on how to simplify or customize your mat, so this can help you with the planning stage.

Onto the tutorials! If you’re new to quilting, you will need basic knowledge of how to layer your top, batting and backing for the main mat body (aka the “quilt sandwich”), and how to do the quilting stitches. This tutorial from Suzy Quilts covers all the basics. It applies to a large quilt, so working with your main mat body will simply be a smaller and simpler version! Straight line quilting is a great design for beginners, or a crosshatch is a always a nice option, too. I’m not sure its mentioned in the tutorial, but I love using a Herra Marker (a bone folder or scoring tool also works similarly) to mark my quilting lines, especially for something like a crosshatch. Here is a video on using a Herra Marker.

Another quilting technique you will need to know comes at the very end of the project, but it is binding. This is the little edge “wrap” that goes around the entire piece and seals everything up. Here is a helpful tutorial from Craftsy.

Lastly, we have paper piecing. If you’d like to create the butterfly pocket panel as shown in the pattern, but have never paper pieced before, don’t be intimidated! This is a great time to learn! Cassandra Madge did a wonderful two-part tutorial for beginners using my Butterfly Charm Blocks pattern and you can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

As always, feel free to contact me anytime if you have questions along the way, and stay tuned for more helpful tips here and on Instagram!

Brimfield Meadows + EPP Tips

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Howdy, friends! Sheesh, this blog has been neglected. Some days I feel bad and others I don’t because most people have the attention span of a goldfish these days and blogs aren’t what they used to be. Still, I love to have a space to share more than a few words and one photo of something, regardless of who ever reads it!

Life has been extra crazy lately, but I squeezed in a few days of hand stitching recently because I needed to create something beautiful for myself. I stitched up the new Brimfield Meadows block from Brimfield Awakening and HOT DOG! I couldn’t be happier with it. It was quick and fun to sew, it came together like a dream and it’s such a unique and beautiful shape. I used Sleeping Porch lawn to match the bed quilt I’m working on and plan to make a pillow out of this block to go in my bedroom.

While I’m here, I just wanted to share a few things I loved about this pattern and how I sewed up the variation I chose. I’m also going to talk a bit about some of my favorite notions for English Paper Piecing, because I often get questions in my social media posts. I am by no means an EPP expert, but I have experimented with a variety of threads, basting techniques and stitching methods, and definitely have my favorites that I think yield nearly flawless results.

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Above are just a handful of the fabric placements I was playing with for this block. My final block matches the top left diagram above. You can see all the separate segments of the pattern and how I chose to combine two or three pieces in areas to create one larger piece. I love how you can do this to change the final look of there block, use larger fussy cuts, and make the stitching go quicker!

I simply taped some of the segments together to create the larger units. Note that the outer most tip of every “petal” is perforated on the paper so you can use them whole or split them as I did. Also, another design variation that isn’t shown above is different arrangement of those center “orange peels”. You can flip them 180° from how I used them, sew them up as one unit or even leave half or all of the segments out completely, letting your background show through. You can check out the hashtag #BrimfieldMeadows on social media to see some beautiful examples of all these variations.

While this photo above may look like someone’s unmade bed, it’s how I audition fabrics. If you look close you can see the method to my madness! I’m a total planner, so even when I say I’ll just “wing it”, I always end up making diagrams and taking pics of piles of fabrics to help me plan things, or at least start in the right direction.

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TIPS & TOOLS

Basting curves was new to me, and it took me a couple tries to figure out the best order of basting down the sides, but once I did, it was really easy! I basted the concave edge first, then pulled the convex edge as needed to make it smooth, and did the two straight sides last. I cut small notches to help with the concave curves which you can see below. As I mentioned above, I used small pieces of tape to connect the paper pieces and create the larger units, which you can also see below.

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When I first started EPP, I would thread baste, mainly because I didn’t have glue basting supplies and didn’t feel like researching how to do it! I tried glue basting because it seemed to save time and it did not work for me AT ALL! The problem was that I was applying the glue all the way to the edge of the paper and I couldn’t grab my fabric to stitch it. I watched some amazing tutorial videos from the queen of EPP Karen the DIY addict and it changed my glue basting life! I watched her apply the glue a bit in from the edges and it was like a “why didn’t I try that?!” kind of moment, but it works like a charm and I’m all glue now! I prefer to use a glue pen (such as Sewline or Fons and Porter).

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When it comes to stitching all those pieces together, I also tried many methods and many threads! If you know me at all, you probably see what a perfectionist I usually am, so visible stitches drive me BONKERS! Though I have learned that sometimes this is on purpose to show consistency? Regardless, it’s not for me. Once again, Karen saved my EPP life with her flat back stitching tutorial. You can see in the photos above of the back of my block that my stitches are by no means consistent or perfect, but you can see directly above how they are not visible at all from the front. This is the only stitching method I use and while some people think it’s slower than others, I find it very easy and quick. It helps to line up pieces and I love that the stitches are hidden so well.

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Last but not least, my favorite thread and my favorite thimble! Hands down, I love InvisaFil thread from WonderFil. It is 100wt polyester and virtually invisible. I do double the thread over and sew with two strands simply because I like a secure thread on my needle, rather than a loose tail, but it’s strong enough to be used as a single strand. I have tried 80wt cotton threads and they also work well, but I’m a tight puller and am much more likely to break the cotton thread, but I’ve never broken the InvisaFil. I match my thread to my lighter fabric when possible, but as you can see in my detail shots, it’s not too important since you can’t see the stitches!

My favorite thimble, which I cannot stitch without these days, is the Natural Fit Leather thimble shown above which is from Clover. It comes in three sizes and I wear a small on my middle finger, but I have pretty tiny hands 🙂

So, that’s all I got for now! I hope some of these little tips and resources have been helpful to you. I’ll be sure to share my finished Brimfield Meadows pillow once it’s complete, and you may very well see more blocks popping up because I am in love with this pattern (which you can find here if you’re interested)!

happy stitching!
~ nicole

Maker Pin Co. Collaboration

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I was so excited when Amanda at Maker Pin Co. asked me to be her next collaborative artist! It was really hard to decide which of my paper piecing patterns to turn into a pin and I knew that two patterns I had in the works, a honey bee and a luna moth, would be super cute options, so I quickly finished them and we put four designs up for a vote. But, in the end, no one else could decide either so we produced all four and I just received the first batch. Aren’t they the cutest?!

We just opened up a second round of preorders through August 30, so if you’d like to snag one of these pins for yourself or as a gift or swap extra, pop over to Maker Pin Co. here!

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If you haven’t heard of Maker Pin Co. yet, let me introduce you! Amanda, formerly of Stash Builder Box, recently began this new adventure. She works with different artists to create enamel pins using their designs and, just like with Stash Builder Box, maker Pin Co. is all about helping those in need with $1 from each pin sale being donated to a charity of the artist’s choice.

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The charity I chose is the Pollinator Partnership. Founded in 1997, the Pollinator Partnership is the largest nonprofit in the world committed to protecting pollinators and their ecosystems and promoting conservation efforts. The charity works throughout North America and globally to safeguard birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles and other pollinators.

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We donated $280 so far from the first round of preorders and I’m hoping we can more than double that! What do you think?

The Bee pin measures 1.5″ wide and the rest measure 1.25″, making them perfect for jacket lapels, hats, bags, pouches or as push pins on bulletin boards!

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If you don’t follow me on social media, I’ve been a little behind on blogging lately (summer is so busy!) and you may be wondering about the Bee and Luna Moth patterns. They are new and coming soon! I typically don’t share my new designs until I’ve sewn them up myself, but I really wanted to include them in the pin designs, and am so glad I did!

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My goal is to have the Bee pattern, named Honey Maker, out in October or November, with the Luna Moth (Moon Dancer) released shortly after, but likely early in the new year. I hope you’re as excited about them as I am!

Thanks for stopping by today! Remember, pin preorders are only open through August 30, so head over there now and support our pollinators! Be sure to check out all the other awesome collaborative designs while you’re there, too!

~ nicole

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Santa’s Chimney Basket

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I can’t remember what spurred this last minute idea, but OHEMMGEEE is this adorable or what?! I used my free Sturdy Basket Pattern to make a snow covered chimney to hold my Christmas cards. Now I need to make another to hold Santa!

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I used the brick print from Grafic fabric for the basket outer and lining and some faux sherpa for the “snow”. The sturdy fabric basket pattern (find it here) includes directions on making any size basket you wish, so you can customize your chimney, but I made mine 6.5″ wide x 6″ high x 3.5″ deep. In the photo below, I did put a little padding inside the bottom of the basket to make the cards sit a little higher. I didn’t want to make the basket shorter because I wanted to see enough brick.

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I made the basket as specified in the pattern, but I did not press the exposed top of the lining in half before folding it over the top of the basket , I just folded it over so the raw edge was exposed. It gets covered by the sherpa so it doesn’t matter. You really don’t even need to make the lining larger than the outer piece since it is covered. I did it because I wasn’t sure if I would fold the sherpa inside or wrap it on the outside just around the top.

To make the snow top, I cut a piece of the sherpa 20.5″ wide by 5″ high then simply wrapped it around the top of the basket and folded half to the inside. The backing of the sherpa clung to the brick fabric really nicely so I didn’t even need to secure it in place, but you could use some glue if desired. If you make your basket a different size, you’ll need to adjust the size of your sherpa cut. Simply add width x 2 + depth x 2. I added a half inch on top of this just to be safe.

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This project was so quick and fun. I definitely want to make some for gift giving next year! I’d love to see what you make! Please tag me on social media or use the hashtag #sturdyfabricbasket.

Happy Holidays, friends!
~ nikki

By the Light of Daylight {+ a 20% off coupon!}

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I recently did an internet search for “Essential Sewing Tools.” I knew what the results would be — pages of articles talking about scissors, cutting mats, rulers, and everything else one might expect. Some even included things such as masking tape in their list of “Everything a Beginner Needs!”, but what every article left out was the one essential tool that is so often overlooked, light.

Today I want to share with you more about my favorite essential light tools for creating from The Daylight Company and a special 20% off coupon code!

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Light has played a crucial role throughout my creative career as a graphic artist and photographer, and is equally important to me now as a sewing pattern designer and quilter. It’s a tool that I utilize every step of the way in my sewing and design process.

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My patterns begin with the basics, pencil and paper. I sketch out my subject matter in true-to-life form and then begin the steps of creating a usable sewing pattern with the aid of my absolute favorite tool, a light box. I place tracing paper on top of my sketch on the light box and begin creating an angular version of the subject, figuring out how to break it up into sections and where all the seams need to be. Once I am satisfied, I scan my design into the computer and finalize the pattern pieces in Adobe Illustrator.

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When I’m ready to sew up a sample, I once again turn to my light box. I first trace the lines of my pattern onto the back of the paper patterns and mark my numbers and fabrics in each segment. This is something I recommend to everyone! When you can see the pattern on the side where you are placing your fabric, it allows you to check your work as you go and helps prevent common errors such as cutting your fabric too small or missing segments of the pattern.

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I also use my light box to precut all my fabric before sewing. It is especially useful when fussy cutting, but also allows you to cut your pieces to the exact size and shape you need, eliminating waste and ensuring you don’t end up with pieces that are just a little too small once you sew them on. Oh, the horror of seam ripping when paper piecing!
I currently use the Wafer 2 Light Box by Daylight Company and it is amazing! It’s only 3/8” thick and weighs next to nothing. The 12.5” x17” surface area is large enough for most any task, but still small enough to travel with. The LED bulbs stay cool and are dimmable, my favorite feature! I also use it when doing appliqué, embroidery, and a variety of other crafts.

Once I’m ready to sew a sample, I rely on a different type of light, my sewing lamp. I bet that I’m not alone in getting at least a little (or a lot!) jealous when I see amazing, sun drenched spaces on HGTV or while scrolling through social media. We all long for such a space to create in, but let’s face it, how many of us actually get to roll out of bed, make a cup of coffee and spend all day sewing in the sunlight? I sure don’t!

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Even though sewing is my “day job”, my daylight hours are often filled with chores and business tasks that push my actual creating time well past dusk, not to mention when I’m pulling an all-nighter to complete a tight deadline. Even when I am able to sew during the day, I found the built-in lights on my older machines were never enough. I was left with horrible shadows in the throat, right where I needed to see the most. Some modern machines I have tried do have much better LED lights built in, but they still tend to provide only condensed light in a specific area. Sometimes I would use the flashlight of my phone and stand it against the front of my machine. I even tried wearing a headlamp!

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I now use the Daylight Slimline Table Lamp and it’s a tool that I don’t know how I lived without. I recently had a friend over for a sewing night and she called the Slimline “magical.” I have to agree! It provides wide, even coverage, and daylight color temperature all in a sleek and lightweight package. I can clamp the lamp to any table I am working on and easily move it to a different location when needed. I even take it with me when I travel. Sometimes I work at our dining room table when I want to watch a movie with my husband and I love that I can bring my Slimline with me and feel like I’m in my studio. The flexible long arm allows me to move the light source wherever I need it and the slim design ensures it is never in my way. The LED bulbs stay cool so I don’t have to worry about burning myself when I need to move the light or have to shed layers of clothing after working for a few hours. They also make a floor lamp version.

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Not only is the Slimline indispensable for sewing or cutting, but the true-to-life color of the bulbs allows me to select fabrics or match threads any time of the day or night, just as if I was working in the sunlight. I previously had to squeeze time into my day to pull fabrics for projects that I may work on later or to complete other detailed tasks, such as hand finishing, because I knew doing these things in artificial light would lead to horrible unmatched color choices or would be difficult to see clearly once the sun went down. These kinds of things were horrible for my time management and productivity, especially when facing a deadline.

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I’ll wrap this up with a statistic. Did you know that by age 50, a person requires ten times as much light to read or do equivalent tasks as a child would? By age 80, that increases to thirty times. So, if you’re one of the many people that didn’t think light was one of their most essential sewing tools, it’s time to turn the lights on.

I’m so excited to have paired up with Daylight to offer a 20% discount on any order from their website with code lillyella18. Pass this along to Santa or treat yourself, I GUARANTEE you (and your eyes!) will be thrilled with the investment!

Happy stitching!
~nicole

Cotton Cuts Mystery Quilt Blog Hop

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Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a really fun Blog Hop for an awesome “block of the month” type quilt from Cotton Cuts called the Puzzle Mystery Quilt. This is seriously such a cool concept! if you haven’t heard of it before, this is how it works…

The club begins in February or July and runs for one year, with a new quilt theme each year. (And before I forget to mention it, sign ups for next years Mystery Quilt beginning in February start TODAY! Click here for all the details.)

The current Mystery Quilt theme that I was part of is Through the Garden Gate. When you sign up for the club, you choose a colorway and finished quilt size. The colorways/fabrics for the Spring Puzzle Mystery Quilt (PMQ) are so fun! There is always a variety of styles to choose from. Some of the upcoming spring choices include Panache by Rebecca Bryan, Fable by Rae Ritchie, Diving Board by Alison Glass and many more.

Each month you receive a packet of PRECUT fabric (the best part!) and directions on piecing that month’s blocks or block parts. The mystery aspect is that you have no idea how it will come together until the last month when you receive directions on how to piece all your parts together.

What I love most about this is how quick and easy it was. Because the fabrics come precut, you just sit down for about an hour of sewing and that month’s blocks are done. This is something I COULD ACTUALLY KEEP UP WITH! Right?!

#TeamZinnia (2)So, when you join the club, you make the entire quilt yourself, but to help spread the word and make an awesome quilt for Charity (which you can enter to win, read on!), Cotton Cuts asked a group of us to each make one month’s blocks. The colorway we worked on is the Aster colorway which is a mix of Carolyn Friedlander fabrics. Below you can also see the other colorways from the 2017 PMQ.

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Here is an example of what you receive each month, your precut fabrics and direction sheet. It was really easy to follow and took me about 45 minutes, if even, to sew all my parts.

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In the end, below are the November “blocks” I sewed up. I am so anxious to see how these all come together! Everyone who has participated has sent their parts back to Cotton Cuts for them to assemble the final quilt which will be raffled off to benefit Valley Industries.

You can read more about this cause and enter the quilt raffle here!

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As I mentioned in the beginning, sign ups for the 2018 Puzzle Mystery Quilt are now open! You can see all the colorways and learn more here. I’m really torn between the Dublin and Helinski colorways – which is your favorite??

You can check out the previous and upcoming clues through the Blog Hop here:

July – Sheila Christensen (www.mysteryquilter.com) with guest blogger Kim Moos
August – Yvonne Fuchs (www.quiltingjetgirl.com)
September – Teri Lucas (www.terificreations.com)
October – Wendy Welsh (www.wendysquiltsandmore.blogspot.com)
November – Nicole Young (www.lillyella.com)
December – Chris Dodsley (www.madebychrissied.blogspot.com)
January – Amy Smart (www.diaryofaquilter.com)
February – Sam Hunter (www.huntersdesignstudio.com)
March – Cheryl Sleboda (www.muppin.com)

Happy sewing, friends!
~ nicole

Fabric.com Fall Block Party

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Fall is officially in the air and I’m closing out the Fabric.com Fall Block Party with my contribution, Flutter By! If you’re just joining the party, you can find all the free blocks shown above on the Fabric.com blog here. This collection of quilt blocks is an excellent skill builder with traditional piecing, foundation paper piecing, english paper piecing, and appliqué.

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Though many people typically associate Butterflies with Spring, some of my favorites appear as Fall blows in when the monarchs emerge and the Painted Ladies make their migration. Plus, we all know I love them, so I’m always game to share a new pattern 🙂

My Flutter By block is foundation paper pieced and sews up quickly with just three simple sections. The pattern includes the butterfly as shown and reversed so your butterfly can head East or West!

You can download the free pattern from Fabric.com here!

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I wanted to use an unexpected mix of fabrics on my block, with a variety of prints and textures, and am so in love with the result! I started with the focal floral print, which is Liberty of London Lawn. Many people do not think about using Lawn when quilting, but it’s quite dreamy, especially when paper piecing because it is lightweight.

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The pink stripe fabric is a woven from Loominous by Anna Maria Horner, dotted line coral. The stripes are raised and add such a lovely textural element. The remaining prints are quilting cotton from different designers – Indah Batiks Herringbone Coffee, Dear Stella Trail Mix Feathers Mustard, Dear Stella Honey Bee Scallop Dot Corn, and Cotton + Steel Ombre Pigment Aqua for the background. I love how the gradient of the ombre prints plays subtly in the background. It’s so perfect for sky!

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I have a few fun quilt layout and other project ideas in mind for this block, so keep an eye here and on my instagram page for those! I hope you enjoy my contribution to the Fabric.com Fall Block Party! Please share your projects with the hashtags #flutterbypattern and #fabricdotcomblockparty!

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‘lil monsters treat bags

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Fall is in the air and Halloween is right around the corner! I usually don’t have any ‘lil monsters in my life, but since one of my besties happened to be in town for an extended visit, I couldn’t resist whipping up some new treat bags for her littles.

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I used the midnight bite treat bag tutorial that I shared last year (find the free pattern here) and some ‘lil monsters fabric from cotton + steel, which was absolutely perfect. This line has a little more of a playful feel to it and I was able to pull prints and colors to make both an older boy and a little girl equally happy! Also, our Aurifil Sariella Thread Collection had just the right colors I needed for yet another project! #win

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I used solid pieces for the top panel, instead of the pieced bat as in the original, making this project really quick. I used a spider pom pom trim on one and metallic skulls on the other, both of which I found at Joann’s.

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I hope this inspires you to whip up some treat bags for the ‘lil monsters in your life! I’d love to see what you make. Tag your pics on social media with #midnightbitetreatbag or email me! Happy Haunting!

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Planning my Moonstone Quilt

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Howdy, friends! I’m here today with a short post about planning my Moonstone Quilt. There is a high likelihood that all of this may only make sense in my own head, but planning this was a HUGE struggle for me, so I wanted to share my thought process in case it does happen to help anyone!

First, if you haven’t seen the Moonstone pattern by Giucy Giuce and Karen The DIY Addict, you must check it out! (You can find it here.) Moonstone is an English Paper Piecing pattern (aka hand sewing!) and it comes in a fantastic kit complete with all the pieces you need to make a quilt, or several small projects, along with acrylic templates for cutting your pieces. The kit and pattern are really well done and I think the design is just so striking! It was just recently released, but there are already a handful of really inspiring photos on social media under #moonstonequilt.

AAANNDDDD… there just so happens to be an AMAZING giveaway going on right now where TWO lucky winners will be flown to San Fransisco to hang out with Giuseppe and Karen for the launch of the Moonstone Sew Along! You can find all the details here.

Ok… onto my quilt!

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For my Moonstone quilt, all I knew was that I wanted to use the new line, Neptune and the Mermaid by Margot Elena (Tokyo Milk) for Free Spirit Fabrics. It’s absolutely dreamy and seems like it was just made for fussy cutting. That’s as far as my plan went. I couldn’t even decide what configuration of the pattern I wanted to use.

So I stared, and stared, and stared some more. I only chose a few of my favorite prints from the line, but was really struggling because there is a lot of variation in color in what I chose. As a whole, the line ties together, but when you just pick and choose some prints, not quite as much.

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I started to pull some blenders in every color used in all the prints I had and decided that a Free Spirit Fabric designer mash up would be the way to go. I pulled what I could from my Tula Pink and Anna Maria Horner stash, and order a few more things by those two ladies, as well as Amy Butler and Heather Bailey.

I hadn’t really planned to use this many colors in the quilt, but once I saw them all together, how could I not? I had to figure out a plan. I organized all the blenders by color and took some photos. I spent a good amount of time looking at the photo of all my focals and then at the photo below of all the blenders. I stewed about it for awhile, as I usually do with projects. I kept hoping something would come to me.

And then I stewed some more. I mean, I stewed A LOT. I thought about while I walked the dogs, while I did dishes, I’m pretty sure I even dreamed about it.

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Something that many of you likely already know about me is that I am a planner. Hard core. I so desperately wanted to start cutting and sewing, but knew that I had to figure out where it was going first.

So I thought about the focals and how I would fussy cut them. I took photos of all the parts I planned to use and thought about the main colors in each of those parts, then I made a list. This helped me figure out how many variations I had to work with in my design and how I may be able to organize them.

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I kept going back to the idea of a color fade. Perhaps diagonally across the quilt or something, but I couldn’t make that work. I ended up order some of the dark blue color way of the Neptune line because I felt like I was going to need it to balance everything out.

It was time to make some decisions. First, I had to pick a pattern configuration and then I just had to start playing.

I use Adobe Illustrator for most of my drawing and layout. I understand many people do not have this program, so these next steps may not be helpful for everyone, but it is a great program that anyone can use with a little patience and a few YouTube tutorials!

I really loved the Gems configuration of Moonstone because I love the four pointed stars it makes, but I wanted my fussy cut focals to run horizontally and diagonally because they are primarily people and fish, so I rotated the gems configuration 45° to what you see below. I drew up the pattern in Illustrator so that I could begin placing my fabrics and colors.

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I input JPG swatches of the focal fabrics and turn them into pattern swatches so that I can place them into shapes. It’s not perfect, but it definitely does the job!

Once I had the pattern drawn up, I stared at the blank canvas for a bit until I decided which shapes I wanted to focus on. I settled on the large four-pointed stars that you can see around the outer edges and their center octagons. Everything would radiate from these. I started playing with those elements only and trying different repetitive color arrangements.

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I was going a little crazy with all the possibilities so finally just chose my favorite and started filling in the spaces between. I still really wanted to achieve some sort of color gradation and began trying to do that between the stars. It took some time, but I finally felt like it was moving in the right direction!

Once I reached the point shown above, I felt confident enough about the direction that I could start sewing.

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A good part of what I’ve already laid out will repeat around, but I do still have a bit more to work out. All in good time…

In the meantime, I can sew! I finished my first piece yesterday and have my second prepped. My plan is to work out from the middle of the quilt so that I can stop or keep going at any point. My current design plan is about 65″ square.

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There’s no question that this quilt will take me quite awhile to finish, but I know I’ll enjoy the process, and that’s what matters!