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Back to School: Guaranteed accurate 1/4″ seams between machines!

My two favorites right now
My two favorites right now

I’ve had quite a few opportunities to sew on a variety of machines this summer, whether teaching or traveling, and I got to thinking about quilting accuracy. The usual rule of thumb* is that once you start sewing a project on one machine–especially a project you really *really* care about–then you need to stick with that machine.

“But self!”  I thought to myself, “Would it not be so great to just call ahead to where you were going and say “Hey, dearest MIL/Aunt/Gramma/boyfriend/Uncle, can I borrow your machine while I’m there?” What about if one of my machines ends up in the shop, or I need to embroider a hanky or something and I still need to sew? What’s a body to do? Getting the right seam allowance is critical for a number of things, and I don’t want to wait!

Thankfully, there is a way to figure out how to make sure your seam allowances are the same, and it’s not hard.

First, find a note card or grid paper that has a perfect 1/4″, using your gridded ruler to double check. Line up the cutting edge so that it is perfectly over the line and cut using a rotary cutter, exactly on the line. Not to the right of the line, not to the left of the line, exactly on it.


It may take a couple cuts to get it just right. In this one, the one on the right was to the left of the blue line, but the one in the middle is exactly on it, and juuuuust right.
It may take a couple cuts to get it just right. In this one, the one on the right was to the left of the blue line, but the one in the middle is exactly on it, and juuuuust right.

Next, place this under the 1/4″ piecing foot of the machine that you primarily use, which in my case is the B790, so that the cut edge is on the right edge of your foot, just as if it were fabric.  Drop your needle so that it punches through the paper.

Adjust so that your paper is perfectly straight, using whatever guides are available. In this case, I used the vertical lines at the base. Tweak as necessary.
This is what it looked like after I dropped my needle. Note that the hole is a hair or two to the right of the line, which is what makes a "scant" 1/4".
This is what it looked like after I dropped my needle. Note that the hole is a hair or two to the right of the line, which is what makes a “scant” 1/4″.

Raise the needle and remove the paper, and take it with you to the machine you will be using next, which in my case, is my Featherweight.  Lower the needle carefully using the handwheel so that the needle enters the same hole exactly. Check to see where the edge of the paper is relative to the guide on the foot and the registration lines on the machine bed.

I have the foot raised and have carefully inserted the needle into the hole so I wouldn't tear it accidentally. I've also lined it up with the guides on the bed so it's nice and straight. This 1/4" is nice and accurate!
I have the foot raised and have carefully inserted the needle into the hole so I wouldn’t tear it accidentally. I’ve also lined it up with the guides on the bed so it’s nice and straight. This 1/4″ is nice and accurate!

If necessary, you can easily establish guides using stuff you have around the house, such as sticky notes or blue masking tape.  Heck, use washi tape since it’s much prettier.  It is very important, though, that it be perfectly straight according to the sewing guides on your machine.  Even being off a little could cause some funky seams.

Mmmmmmm washi tape
Mmmmmmm washi tape

I hope this gives you some more freedom as you take quilting classes or as you travel around next summer!  I think I’m going to make a couple of these using index cards and have them in my wallet, so I can just toss my projects in the car and not worry about it. Let me know if you have any other questions, and make sure to check out the other amazing tutorials!

* SO I became curious (can’t help it.  It’s a blessing and a curse.) and just looked up the origin of “rule of thumb”. Note to self:  maybe find a new phrase.

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Your chance for a giveaway!



One of my favorite bloggers and online shop owners, Patricia Belyea, is having a giveaway over at her Okan Arts blog. For the first two weeks of September, you can enter for a chance to win one of FOUR copies of my book,  Wanderlust Quilts. I also recommend checking on her blog frequently.  She has incredible giveaways every month!

You really should check out her shop while you’re there, and you’ll see why when you see the amazing vintage yukata cotton I bought a few weeks back:


So good.

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Yay for School Days, and Not just for the Kids!

I am going to own the fact that I go shopping for school supplies early and often: early, because who wants to be hustling the night before the first day, scrambling for presharpened #2 pencils and boxes of crayons that don’t smell funny or have glitter sparkles in them? (yeah yeah, my little girl would be down with that, but my little boy asked specifically for non-spangled objects, unless they were in the form of a rocket ship, or possibly some form of alien). As we all know, going for the kids, means I also get to go for me.  Target and Staples have some very fine colored pens by Staedtler that I quite enjoy, as a matter of fact.  They just happen to fall in the cart, along with the collection of fine line Sharpies in OMG ALL THOSE COLORS OMG I HAVE TO HAVE THEM.

Buying the supplies, though, was only the first part of what makes those first days back so great.  There was the organizing of your binders, folders, and other paper goods,

Trapper Keeper, anyone?
Trapper Keeper, anyone?

your counting of the appropriate type of writing utensils, erasers, mini sharpeners, etc., but one of the best parts to me was revisiting some of the little new nuggets of knowledge that might come your way over the summer: a letter from the teacher with an extra bit of detail for your first day, a trick on how to get the lunch line sorted out, reviewing your yearbook to remind yourself who was who.

Hmph. Being an adult isn’t always so fun.  To fix that, Sam Hunter is kicking of a Back to School series for sewists and Quilters over at her blog! Loaded with tips and tricks that are sure to help us all ease back into the busy season of pre-Quilt Market and pre-holiday, these are just plain fun and useful things to know, and delight my everlovin’ nerdy heart.

Hope you’ll join all of us!  I know Ill be following along for sure!

Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuilts – So, Does that Diagonal Method for a Pieced Backing Really Work

Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of – The Quilter’s Knot

Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams – The Importance of Pressing

Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts – Color Coding for Paper-piecing

Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio – How to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding

Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt Studio – Credit where Credit is Due

Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines

Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique

Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine

Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit

Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101

Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips

Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams

Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Je’s Bend – Garment Making Tips and Tricks

Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins

Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting

Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams

Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine

Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels

Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back

Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders

Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps

Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension

Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes

Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods

Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting

Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!

Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!

Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears

October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3LittleBrds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine

October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate

October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up

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How to quilt a Hunter Star quilt, tutorial


This is a quilt I finished almost two months ago! it was pretty big, and she hoped for a custom look without paying full custom prices, as well as one large feather over the borders. Once I found a path for a single start and stop, I was able to work back and forth, making it easier for me and less costly for her. She also asked that I keep out of the centers of the stars, because she had added a red embroidered accent.

hunter starfeather border

The trick is to use the stars and the diamonds to travel back and forth, and to only 3/4 of a star at a time.  Let me show you what I mean:

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How do you organize your quilting ideas?



It happens every couple of nights, where I start thinking about what I want to do next: feverishly planning a project from start to finish in my brain, hoping equally for sleep or the morning to come.  When I finally do get up, though, these ideas seem to end up in random places, the notes jotted down in whichever sketch book, calendar, or paper-like object is closest to hand, and I either do them or forget about them.

Clearly, I need a better system of organizing these.  People have suggested I use Pinterest, and I do for inspirational things, it isn’t the same as keeping my start-to-finish-totally-mine ideas.  My admiration for people with beautifully curated spaces, who make artistic and pretty journals that are totally instagram- and pinterest-worthy, is high, but that isn’t really me.  When it comes down to it, I fall on the practical get-er-done side of the scale.

What do you mean, “peel off the sticker”?

Right now, I’m trying this index card filing system. It is far from perfect, but at the least, it is a singe place where I can write things down and maybe possibly find them again, right? The cons are that, if I do have inspirational things to go with them, there isn’t room to stick them in, too.  I am thinking that using a variation of the Getting Things Done system could be really good.

So I’m curious: do you have a functional system? Care to share?  I feel like I’m losing my ideas because I don’t have one in place.

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Somebody read my book! And liked it!

One of the projects from Wanderlust Quilts, coming soon!
One of the projects from Wanderlust Quilts, coming soon!
One of the projects from Wanderlust Quilts, coming soon!

Right now, I’m in a period of time that I tend to think of as “The Vacuum”.  The final edits for Wanderlust Quilts have been done for months, the book is at the printer, and the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) has made it out to a few people.  I haven’t seen it yet, and so I’ve been anxiously fretting agonizing jittering waiting to see or hear anything about it.

And then, yesterday happened.  Lauren Lang over at Right Sides Together posted the very first review of my book.  She’s an amazing writer (and technical editor!), and she really got what I was trying to do.  I’d love it if you’d check it out!

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Introducing my new longarm, the BERNINA Q24

Back when I first started longarming, I had expected and planned to do certain kinds of quilting: I’d quilt for others, probably pantographs, and save the custom work for my own quilts.  What actually has happened is that I have ended up doing custom for nearly everyone, with only 2 pantographs requested in the last 3 years! In that time, what I learned about my quilting personality is that I love to work from the front of the machine, and I really love experimenting with fabric, thread, and whatever else comes my way.

During this time, I also realized that there were some things that would make my quilting life easier, and had a wishlist of “love to haves” that fit my quilting preferences. Fast forward a year and a half, and I have found the machine that suits me right down to the ground. I’ve been quilting things for about 2 months now since I purchased it (can’t share any, almost all are going to be in books and whatnot, so have to be under wraps!), and can officially say I have put this amazing machine through its paces.  

I love it so much that I did a quick video (my first on my own! go me!) of my favorite features of the BERNINA Q24, and am happy to answer questions if you have any. It’s a quick overview of the stuff I use every day, and there’s quite a bit more to share, but I’ll save that for another video.  Thanks for watching, and happy quilting!


I am a BERNINA Ambassador, and have purchased this machine for my use. The opinions I share are mine, and I do not receive payment for them.

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The #sewtake20 experiment

I got these from Cabin in the Cotton.  You can see the contact info in the photo.  They've been importing these for 16 years!

It’s a chronic problem: having the desire, no, the need! to make things and feeling there is never enough time.  Between the kids and the business and many important but secret deadlines, I’ve really been feeling stretched thin, and the things I have been craving to make keep getting set aside.  I know I’m not alone.

So when my friends and co-moderators Stephanie the Late Night Quilterand Kitty the Night Quilter suggested we all give a new idea a try, it seemed likes the perfect chance to do something about it. The idea is super simple, which means it is more likely to work:#sewtake20 is setting your intention to take 20 minutes every day and chip way at something you’ve been wanting to sew. I have so many projects in mind, but few of them are just for us.  That’s about to change, with my shweshwe fabrics.

I got these from Cabin in the Cotton.  You can see the contact info in the photo.  They've been importing these for 16 years!
I got these from Cabin in the Cotton. You can see the contact info in the photo. They’ve been importing these for 16 years!

Oh, the shweshwe: Two weeks ago, when my fella was out of town, I decided to tke the kids to the Vermont Quilt Festival.  A few years back, I had seen the most amazing collections of this indigo fabrics with complex white prints.  Right s I was about to buy them back then, my son had a catastrophic meltdown and we decided to pack it up nd leave.  I’ve been dreaming about them ever since, so when I went back (this time with both kids!) I bought what I could and decided to make something just for us.

My #sewtake20 experiment starts today, with 20 minutes primarily spent working on this project–a queen-sized quilt for our bed–and maybe throwing some other things in there to mix it up. I am hopeful and excited! I set my timer on my phone and started prepping my pieces for prewashing.  The indigo is prone to bleeding and fraying on the edges, so before I put them in the washer, I sewed a zigzag down each side. In 20 minutes, I finished half the pile (about 2 dozen prints!), and am on my way to getting to the fun bits.


Care to join us?  We’ll be posting most of our #sewtake20 progress on instagram as @mandaleiquilts @ latenightquilter and @nightquilter although we plan to write up what we’ve learned on our blogs on occasion.

You can also see more of these awesome fabrics on my IG feed, where I will be posting one a day until they’re all out there!

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My podcast with Pat Sloan is available!

In case you missed it, my interview with Pat Sloan is in the archives and ready for listening!  You can find it here, at American Patchwork and Quilting Radio or on Pat’s website here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  We talk about my quilts, quilting, and my book.


happy quilting, y’all!

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Join me today on American Patchwork and Quilting Radio!


Today at 4:00 EST, I will be a guest of Pat Sloan’s on American Patchwork and Quilting Radio! I hope you can join in and listen, as I talk about a ton of different things related to quilting and my own work.  Pat does a fantastic show!1 APQPodCastBlogButtonsGuest250