Maker Mat SAL Kickoff – Sizing your Mat & Tutorials for Beginners!

It’s time to kick off the 2019 Undercover Maker Mat Sew Along! I’m thrilled that so many of you are joining in. This is my favorite sew along because I love seeing all the personality that people put into their projects, plus it’s just awesome when I hear how much everyone loves having it and using it!

If you’re just tuning in, you can download the free Maker Mat pattern here. This sew along is open to everyone, there’s no sign up or obligation and anyone is free to join in at any time. I’ll be following the schedule outlined here sharing tips along the way, but you are welcome to sew at your own pace. There will be some amazing prizes up for grabs, too, and everyone who posts their progress photos and finished pieces on social media with the #undercovermakermatsal2019, #undercovermakermat and @lillyellastitchery will be eligible to win! Every post counts as an entry and winners will be drawn at random.

This week we’re pulling fabric and sewing up the main body of the mat. Today I’m going to talk about how to customize the size of the Maker Mat to fit your specific machine and then later this week I’ll be sharing a tutorial for adding a machine handle hole to the body. This is also something you can do to any finished mat if you’ve made one previously.

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SIZING YOUR MAT

The finished mat as it is designed in the pattern measures 20″ wide by 23″ long. This size was based off a couple machines I had on hand and what felt good to fit on a variety of tables. This size can be easily changed if you find that you need a larger or smaller mat to cover your machine or fit on your work surface. I just got this adorable little travel machine, so I’m making a tiny mat to fit it. Aside from determining the size of your main body, the only other change you’ll need to make to the pattern is adjusting the width of the pocket panel, which I will cover next week.

A couple things to consider when sizing your mat. If you plan to use it as a mat under your machine and also a cover, you will follow the steps below for measuring your machine, but you will also want to think about the table you’ll be on when using the mat under your machine. You may need 25″ or more to fully cover your machine, but may find this leaves too much mat on your table that you don’t have room for. If this is the case, perhaps consider a happy medium. The cover does not need to fully cover the machine to be functional.

To customize the size of your mat, start by measuring the width of your machine and deciding if you’d like any “extra”. The base of my machine measures 13″ across, but since the hand wheel sticks out a bit farther, I’m going to make my body 13.5″ wide.

Next you will measure up and over your machine. You will want to leave a little slack in your tape or add a bit to your measurement to account for a little bulk in the body once it’s quilted. I left some slack in my photos above, so I’m going to make my mat 24.5″ long. If you do not plan to also use your mat as a cover, then you do not need to worry about this measurement and can stick with the original 23″ length in the pattern, or measure your table and decide what size you like.

I’m a visual person so I like to make diagrams of my measurements. Above you will also see my handle hole measurements, but I’ll cover that in more detail later this week. So, to fit my machine, I’ll be making the main body of my Mat 13.5″ wide by 24.5″ long vs the 20″ x 23″ specified in the pattern. (I may choose to add a bit more to the width, just to have some extra pocket space, but I don’t want the sides too “floppy” when it’s covering the machine since I’ll be traveling with it.)

As I mentioned, if you change the width of your mat, you will need to equally add or subtract measurements when making the pocket panel pieces. I will cover this in more detail next week, but for those who like too work ahead, an easy way to do this is to simply add or subtract from one of the end pockets and keep the inner pocket dimensions the same, but you can, of course, adjust them any way you like.

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FABRIC PULL

This is a piece to have fun with! I usually go with a subtle background so that I can really have fun with the pocket panels, but I’m going to change things up this time. Since my mat will be smaller for this machine, I’m going to make my pockets a little simpler. I will use some prints and perhaps piece one panel of stripes, but I’m going to use that super fun focal print from Alison Glass Handiwork as the body with the bright blue mariner cloth binding.

This is pretty much how I make decisions on fabrics, I try to lay things out as best I can and just step back to take a look. This time when I stepped back, I tripped right over my space heater and conked my head, but I don’t really need ALL of my scalp anyway.

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TUTORIALS FOR BEGINNERS

If you’re a sewist, but new to quilting, don’t fear! The body of the Maker Mat is a great first project to dip your toes into the world of quilting!

To create the main body of the Maker Mat, you will need basic knowledge of how to layer your top, batting and backing 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 end of the body and that is binding. This is the little edge “wrap” that goes around the entire piece and seals everything up. Here is a helpful tutorial from Bluprint.

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So this week share photos of your fabric pulls and your main body progress and be sure to use #undercovermakermatsal2019, #undercovermakermat and @lillyellastitchery when posting! Tomorrow I’ll start sharing some of the amazing sponsors and prizes I have lined up!

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Upcoming Sew Along Schedules

Welp, it’s September already, so let’s get this party going! It’s time for the 2019 Mini Maker Station and Undercover Maker Mat Sew Alongs! More specifics on each will follow soon, but I wanted to get the initial schedule out there so you can start planning. Both of the FREE patterns are available here.

You don’t have to do anything to join in either or both Sew Alongs. There’s no sign up or obligations, you simply sew along with others and have fun! This is a perfect opportunity to make something for yourself that you’ve been putting off or to whip up some holiday gifts! Sew Alongs always give me the motivation I need to get something done and I love being inspired by everyone else along the way.

The SALs will be casual and while I will loosely follow a schedule to share tips and help those who need structure,  you are free to join in at any time and work at your own pace. We will share photos on social media with SAL hashtags as we go and there will be fun prizes and giveaways, too.

First up will be the Mini Maker Station and we will kick things off September 16. Since this project requires hardware, please read through the pattern and source your materials or purchase a hardware kit from my shop here. You will not need the hardware in hand to start the project and can actually get very far on most of it without the hardware, so don’t worry if you don’t have yours by the kickoff.

MINI MAKER STATION SAL SCHEDULE

September 16 – 24: Sew Along Kick Off! Start pulling and share your fabrics. Work on the Maker Station Main Body and Thread Catcher.

September 25 – October 3: Blog post with tips about making the fabric basket and pin cushion. Work on basket and pin cushion.

October 4: Share your finished Maker Stations!

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Next, the Undercover Maker Mat Sew Along will kick off on October 7 and run thru October 23. You can find the free pattern here. I will be following the schedule below but again you are welcome to sew at your own pace and join in any time! There are many ways to customize this project and adjust it to your skill level, so please note that many specifics indicated in the schedule are optional. Before the SAL begins, I will share a blog post discussing some of these options, variations and customizations to help  you plan! You can also check out the hashtag #undercovermakermat on social media to oodles of inspiration!

UNDERCOVER MAKER MAT SAL SCHEDULE

October 7: Kick off! Make main body panel

October 11: Make paper pieced butterfly and selvedge pocket panels

October 14: Make full pocket panel, assemble to body

October 18: Make optional thread catcher

October 23: Share your finished projects!

Stay tuned here and on social media for more information to come, but in the meantime, download the patterns and get ready! See you soon!

~ Nicole

Good Vibes Only Blog Tour

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When Shayla Wolf of Sassafras Lane showed me her newest collection, Good Vibes Only, I knew it would be absolutely perfect for some summertime Wrap and Go Cozies! If you’re new to my blog or a recent follower, you may not have seen this pattern before, while I know many others are so patiently waiting!

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One of my obsessions is vintage Pyrex casserole dishes, collecting them AND using them. I take them everywhere! Parties, potlucks, picnics. Decades ago, Pyrex created  a promotional fabric cozy that came in three patterns with three different dishes, and it was GENIUS! I have no idea why it didn’t become a staple, but after I saw one, I knew I had to recreate it – and improve upon it!

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So I began designing patterns for easy-to-sew cozies to fit all the vintage Pyrex shapes and sizes that are large enough to be worth wrapping. They’re insulated and have optional straps (which I’ll be adding to these later this week!) and can also be easily customized to other similarly shaped casserole dishes.

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I’ve been procrastinating on these patterns for YEARS (what the heck, Nicole!), but the first set of patterns in what will be a large series will be available later this month, so stay tuned if you’re interested! The first pattern sizes released will be for Pyrex 473, 474 and 475.

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When I saw the COMPLETELY PERFECT rainbow gradient of this line, I instantly knew how I’d use the collection. I created a bias stripe rainbow gradient between two cozies and used the awesome text prints for the side panels, insides, and will also use a black and white text for the handles.

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There are even four additional colored prints I didn’t use in my stripes (plus many more LV prints in white, gray and black), so you can really see how full and versatile this line is! Plus, it just makes you happy! Literally, nothing but GOOD VIBES here!

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You can see more amazing projects using Good Vibes Only during the three week Blog Tour (details here!) and in the Good Vibes Only lookbook. Also be sure to visit me on Instagram for a chance to win some Good Vibes Only fabric for yourself!

Here is the Blog Tour lineup for you to check out all the amazing makers and have more chances to win some fabric!

Monday, June 3rd: Shayla Wolf | Sassafras Lane Designs

Tuesday, June 4th: Emily Dennis | Quilty Love

Wednesday, June 5th: Nichole Vogelsinger | Wild Boho

Thursday, June 6th: Irene Sytema | Sugaridoo

Friday, June 7th: Sylvia Schaefer | Flying Parrot Quilts

Saturday, June 8th: Robin Long | Robin Ruth Design

Sunday, June 9th: Jessica VanDenburgh | Sew Many Creations

Monday, June 10th: Nicole Young | Lillyella

Tuesday, June 11th: Sherry Shish | Powered by Quilting

Wednesday, June 12th: Tara Curtis | Wefty Needle

Thursday, June 13th: Jo Westfoot | The Crafty Nomad

Friday, June 14th: Janet Nesbitt | One Sister Designs

Saturday, June 15th: Natalie Barnes | Beyond the Reef

Sunday, June 16th: Elisabeth Hardy | Elisabew Quilts

Monday, June 17th: Sarah Sharp | No Hats in the House

Tuesday, June 18th: Joanne Hart | Unicorn Harts

Wednesday, June 19th: Elise Baek | Elise & Emelie

Thursday, June 20th: Kaitlyn Howell | Knot and Thread Design

Friday, June 21st: Nicole Daksiewicz | Modern Handcraft

Saturday, June 22nd: Sarah Thomas | Sariditty

Sunday, June 23rd: Shayla Wolf | Recap

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Mini Maker Station Sew Along Schedule

I’m really excited to get the Mini Maker Station SAL going and can’t wait to see all your projects! I will officially kick things off on Monday, February 4 and it will run for two weeks (plus a weekend) through February 18. I’m going to keep it very casual, like the Maker Mat SAL, but I will be following a loose schedule and will be sharing some tips along the way about materials and working with the magnets. I encourage you to share your progress photos along the way with the hashtags #minimakerstationSAL and #minimakerstation!

If you’re just joining in, you can find the required hardware list in the pattern (download it here!) or in more detail two blog posts back, and I also have kits available in my Etsy shop here. Don’t worry if you’re still waiting on a kit or sourcing your materials when the SAL begins, as there is quite a bit you can do on the project without it.

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SCHEDULE

February 4: Sew Along Kick Off! Blog post about selecting fabrics and the proper interfacing materials needed, as well as notes about measuring and customizing your station.

February 4 – 10: Start pulling and share your fabrics. Work on the Maker Station Main Body and Thread Catcher.

February 11: Blog post with tips about making the fabric basket and pin cushion.

February 11 – 17: Work on basket and pin cushion.

February 18: Share your finished Maker Stations!

I will have a couple prize bundles up for grabs at the end of the Sew Along that I will share next week. One will be awarded to one winner chosen at random from all the posts in the #minimakerstationSAL hashtag and the other will be awarded to one winner drawn at random from all the completed maker stations posted by February 18.

If you have any questions now or along the way, feel free to email me anytime through the contact button here on my website or through social media.

I’ll see you back here next Monday!

Sonata Fabrics Showcase + Mini Maker Station

I first met Amy Sinibaldi right before her debut fabric line came out and I can’t believe she now has seven amazing collections under her belt! I always love playing with her new designs, so I was excited to join the Sonata Fabrics Showcase along with a handful of really really talented ladies!

Amy has always made THE cutest little, functional items for organization and storage, so I knew that this blog tour and her Sonata fabrics were perfect for the release of my Mini Maker Station pattern!

I had so much fun creating this pattern and am really proud of it. I can’t wait to see how you all customize your own maker stations! You can download the free pattern here. The hardware list is included in the pattern and kits are available in my Etsy shop here.

Shown above is the large 9″ version of the Maker Station using primarily the Ludwig color way of Sonata. That hot pink floral is TO DIE FOR!! The balance of lights, darks, focals, and blenders in this line is perfection. The touches of Navy and the red in the Beethoven color way make it so rich and striking.

If you’re seeing my Mini Maker Station pattern for the first time, it’s like an armchair caddy with a twist! There is a piece of thin sheet metal in the body and magnets sewn into the interchangeable accessories, including a small fabric basket and a pincushion, so that everything stays put! The optional scrap bag can also be used for additional storage. There is a smaller 7″ version of the maker station that will be included in the pattern.

I’ll be hosting a sew along starting in February and will post more details about that soon!

You can also use other magnetic accessories with the maker station, such as magnetic bowls, shown below. There is a lot of room for customization with this pattern and I hope you love it as much as I do! It’s perfect for any type of handcraft from sewing to cross stitch to embroidery and more.

I can’t wait for the sew along and to show you more beautiful Sonata fabrics as I sew up the smaller version of the pattern with you.

Stay tuned for more on the upcoming sew along and be sure to check out the rest of the Sonata Fabrics showcase with the hashtag #sonatashowcase on Instagram and in Amy’s feed!

p.s. Don’t miss the adorable Sonata strawberry pin collaboration that Amy did with Maker Pin Co. – check them out here!

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

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

‘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!