Back of the Pillow Zipper

Zipper inserted in middle of the cushion back
Zipper inserted in middle of the cushion back

As mentioned previously, I found some directions for putting a zipper into the back of a pillow cover. I tried the process and was really pleased with the outcome. It works really well!Not only were Sotak Handmade’s directions clear, but there was room for the maker to make the process his/her own.

I used a smaller zipper than my pillow back and added zipper tabs to make the zipper fit the back. This worked really well and I have nice stops on the back.

I also like this technique, because the zipper is covered, which is something about which I have been wondering.

I am so pleased with these directions and how they worked on my pillow cover. I plan to use them again for future pillows. They work so much better than the overlapping option. Also, this technique is much easier than the Spoonflower zipper in the seam option. There are reasons for having a multiple options and I can see using the Spoonflower method when I have a great piece of fabric on the back.



I have been wondering how it would be if I cut bags out as I moved through the pattern instead of cutting out all the pieces in advance. Sometimes I just want to start and having to cut feels like a drag. I know it is good to have everything ready so you don’t have to stop to cut, but cutting is such a drag. I have a good system for cutting as I go with quilts, but haven’t quite figured out such a system with bags and accessories. What I really need is a nighttime Workroom Assistant who comes in stealthily at night and cuts for me while I sleep. Of course, that wouldn’t orient me to the pattern.

I recently sewed a Sewing Stand from the Sew Sweetness Minikins  Season 2 and decided that I would cut as I went.

First, I learned that I get oriented to the pieces when I cut them out. I read the first instruction and had no idea what pieces to use. I went to the video to see what Sara (the designer) was doing and finally got it. I think that getting oriented to the pattern by cutting out the pieces is a good thing.

I think cutting the fabric and labeling it ‘lining’ and ‘main’ is a must, but cutting and working with the interfacing could be done as I go.

Second, I found that having the pieces for the first few steps gets me going. It might be possible to be successful with CAYG if I cut a few pieces out, but cut the rest as I moved through the pattern.

Third, aside from the first few steps, I think I can cut interfacing and stiffener as I go along.

I think the problem I am experiencing comes from cutting everything out and then letting the project languish. This is happening with the UCAB. I lose my orientation to the pieces if I don’t start working on them right away.

As a result, I think that if you are not going to work on the project right away, that you should only cut out a few pieces, then cut the rest when you get back to it. If you are going to work on the project instantly, then cut all the pieces out and get busy sewing.

Zipper Challenge

I don’t think I really had a good tag for this post, which means I will probably never be able to find it again. 😉 It is all about zippers.

I am faithfully following the pattern for the Poolside Tote. This is the third Poolside Tote I have sewed.  I am not sure why, but I always have trouble with different parts.

This time I struggled with the facing. I also wondered about the zipper. On mom’s version and on my knitting bag, I just used slip pockets. On this version, I cut zipper pockets, which I didn’t remember. I guess it forced me to make pockets with zippers.

Zipper pocket
Zipper pocket

The directions for the pockets were pretty good. I didn’t have much trouble except for lining up the stitching. One side is hidden, so I leapt that hurdle. The only question I had was about the size of the zipper. The pattern called for a 10 inch zipper and that just seems weird to me. It seems too small. There are holes at the ends and no directions for zipper tabs. Obviously, I can make my own zipper tabs, but I just wonder why the designer asks for such a small zipper. I wonder if a 12 inch zipper would be better?

Are there rules for the size of zippers one includes in patterns??

This is not the end of the world. The zipper works fine and nobody will put something so small in the pocket that it will fall out if the bag falls over. This is just a puzzle about which I am curious. I might try the bag again with a 12 inch zipper.

Another Kind of Chain Piecing

Chain/Strip Piecing
Chain/Strip Piecing

I was working on the Frolic! piecing and I realized that I was doing chain/strip piecing in a different way.

In strip piecing, you put two strips right sides together and you sew up one side. In this case, I had one long strip and a bunch of smaller strips and squares. I lined up the various bits and pieces on the long strip and just sewed. Later, I cut the pieces apart to the appropriate length.

It works and is great, because you can get some scrapiness without as much cutting.

Leaders & Enders Clarification

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a leaders and enders demo I did at my guild. I am not sure if I changed any world views, but it was a good way to clarify the process in my mind.

As I was working on Frolic! this week, I realized that chain piecing and leaders & enders are related, but not the same and thought I should clarify.

Leaders & Enders Clarification
Leaders & Enders Clarification

Chain piecing is where the quiltmaker sews piece after piece without cutting the thread. Leaders and enders are used instead of a thread bunny.

I got used to using leaders & enders when I made my FOTY quilts. It is not really possible with those projects to chain piece. I have to keep the units in an exact order on the design wall. If I chain piece they get mixed up. Thus, I put two FOTY units through the machine and end with an ender. I go press and replace the FOTY combined units back on the design wall and grab two more units. I put this FOTY set of units through the machine, which means that my ender is now a leader. I put another ender through the machine and cut off the FOTY unit and the leader.

In the above photo, you can see me chain piecing. There are a number of Frolic! units after my leader (the white pieces). I won’t cut off the last unit until after I have sewed on an ender. I adjust how I piece depending on the look I want.

As I have said before, you can use anything as leaders/enders. I have used gift bags, bag parts, other quilts. Most frequently, I use pieces for my donation quilts.

The key is to use leaders and enders to improve your productivity.

I have copied the resources below from a previous post. As I have said before, Bonnie Hunter is the leaders & enders queen.






Guild Leaders & Enders Demo

I did a demo at the guild meeting with sewing machine and everything. I created a handout, which might be useful to some of you. I didn’t do a video, but there are some on the web already.

Bonnie Hunter is the leaders and enders queen. She has a number of books on the subject and also writes about the subject frequently on her blog. She also writes a column for Quiltmaker magazine on scraps. Her blog and shop can be found at

The basic concept is: instead of just stitching over a scrap at the end of a seam, you insert piecing from another project. So each time you start or end a seam and you are ready to snip the thread and press, you sew some component of another project. (Color Girl Quilts blog)

Keys for me:

  • Designate, at least in your mind, a primary and secondary project. I like to have them completely different. Different shapes or different colors or something so I don’t get confused.
  • Work small. Once the project gets too large, it is difficult to keep it in the subordinate position.
  • Keep patches/units ready to go near your sewing machine.
  • I find it easier to work on two completely different projects. Anything with a ¼” seam allowance will work.
  • Having shorter bits of thread between pieces keeps the thread trash to a minimum on the finished quilt. While this might be picky and odd, I sincerely dislike a lot of thread ends handing around a finished quilt.

The point of leaders and enders has little to do with using thread bunnies regularly, but to get more done. Using the leaders and enders method, I get a lot more community quilts finished.



Making HSTs

Some time ago, I wrote a tutorial on making HSTs called The Triangle Technique. After working on my Flying Geese quilt, I decided it was time to update the tutorial.

This tutorial started out after I watched an episode of Love of Quilting where Jo Morton was a guest. Based on what I saw Marianne and Jo do on the show, I tried the technique and was pleased with the results.

For the Flying Geese quilt, I needed 2.5″ finished HSTs, so according to the chart I made after DH did a bunch of math for me, I started with 6.25″ squares. All of the sizes on the chart make 8 HSTs.
Cut 2 pieces of fabric[/caption]

Cut 2 pieces of fabric
Cut 2 pieces of fabric

First, I cut two pieces of fabric,foreground and background, the correct size. Again, you need to download the chart and look at it. I cut my squares a bit larger, because I like to trim my HSTs just to make sure they are exactly the right size. The chart does not take trimming into account. You need to make the starting squares larger if you want to be able to trim.

Next, I drew an X, corner to corner, on the lighter square. Then I put the 2 squares right sides together and pressed them.  I securely pinned the two squares together.

Next, I sewed on both sides of each of the lines of the X, 1/4 inch away from each line.

After sewing, I measured to the center of the X from the side of the square. This measurement is the PLUS cut.

Cut the square in a PLUS configuration.

Cut diagonal lines
Cut diagonal lines

After you cut the PLUS, you will have four squares, each with a line drawn diagonally across the middle. Cut the squares in half diagonally. You can use the line as a guide. It is more important to line your ruler up corner to corner.

The result is 8 2″ half square triangles. You still need to press them carefully open.

Move the unpressed HSTs to the ironing board and press carefully. Use a stiletto to keep your fingers from getting burned.

Lay out HSTs to trim
Lay out HSTs to trim

Next, I trim. Layout your pressed and untrimmed HSTs.

Line up diagonal lines
Line up diagonal lines

Line up the center diagonal line with the 45 degree line on your ruler.

Edges trimmed
Edges trimmed

Trim the edges.

Line up just cut edges
Line up just cut edges

Once you trim the first two sides, line up the 2.5 inch line on your ruler with the just cut edges. Trim the second two sides.

8 beautiful HSTs
8 beautiful HSTs

Now you have 8 beautiful HSTs.

N.B. : The bias edges shouldn’t be scary for you on the regular method, but this method makes HSTs much easier. I think this would be a fabulous method to make a lot of HSTs in a short amount of time. It is similar to a tutorial that p.s. i quilt posted, but times 4. I am planning to try out different sized beginning squares to see what sized HSTs I come up with.

I talked over the math with my DH and came up with a chart showing the different sizes you can make with this technique. This is the updated version and you need this chart to use this method.

This is a great technique to use as leaders & enders.


  1. Jo Morton website
  2. Jo Morton blog
  3. Jo Morton on Andover
  4. Wet Canvas tutorial
  5. Carole’s Quilting Adventures tutorial
  6. B’s Modern Quilting Fish Tutorial
  7. p.s. i quilt HST tutorial
  8. Previous AQ HST Size Chart

Zipper Tab Techniques

Zipper Tabs in process
Zipper Tabs in process

Does anyone have any good tips on keeping the zipper tabs in place before sewing them? I pull the zipper pull down to get it out of the way of the sewing machine foot, which makes the zipper fabric at the top flop around. As you can see, I have used WonderClips to keep the zipper fabric and new zipper tabs in place so I can sew them. I have tried pins, but the clips are better. It is not ideal but I can’t think of anything better.

I posted to the Crafty Gemini Facebook page and some people had some good ideas: tape, staples and sewing the ends together until they won’t come apart. I am thrilled to have some new ideas. I am not sure why I didn’t think of these things.

What do you do?

To Nest or Not to Nest

I got a question about nesting seams from a guild member the other day. She wanted to know whether she should nest seams or not. Nesting seams has a purpose. You don’t just press seams open because the Modern Quilt Guild or someone else says you should.

Press seams open when you want to reduce bulk. This is often used in garment sewing.

Nesting seams is used to line up your seams. You will get better and easier precision if you use this technique. Caroline of SewCanShe writes on her blog post “Nesting your seams will help you get your perpendicular joints matched up and with practice the intersections will be perfect looking…. most of the time. :)” People say they don’t care if their seams are aligned. I care and so I nest seams unless there is so much bulk that it is impossible.

If you press seams open you are also in danger of developing holes in the quilting process. I press my seams open when I make pieced backs to reduce bulk. When I press my seams open I backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam line to prevent holes.

Sometimes, like in a Four Patch block, there can be quite a bit of bulk in the areas where the four patches meet. You can ‘pop’ the seam to also reduce bulk. Check out the tutorial on how to do this with images illustrating the technique.

I find it easier to get good precision when I put my quilts together using ‘Chunking’. Check out the tutorial.


  • American Quilting “Pop the Seams”tutorial
  • Patchwork Posse Nesting Seams and Other Tricks – good information and some pictures that illustrate the topic.
  • Quick Tips for Quilters – nesting seams tutorial
  • SewCanShe Nesting Seams Basic tip tutorial

And many others


The creativity posts I have been posting on Fridays will return soon.

EPP Technique

Recently I talked about using the flat back stitch for EPP. I have been using it and finding that it works well. I wasn’t always 100% happy with the WonderClips, however. It is probably the one time I don’t find the WonderClips gripping hard enough.

Taping and the Flat Back Stitch
Taping and the Flat Back Stitch

I have heard that some artists use tape to hold the pieces in place while stitching with the flat back stitch.

I started out with Scotch Tape. It was ok, but I could only use the tape once. Mailing tape – the clear kind – was a little better.

I didn’t have any masking tape, which I think would be the best, so I tried blue tape and it works pretty well. I can re-position it about 3 times before it gives out.

Taping and the Flat Back Stitch - back
Taping and the Flat Back Stitch – back

Still, I am pretty happy with the results. It is easier to keep the stars, or half hexies, in place while I sew.

More Progress on QAYG Donation Quilt

QAYG Donation Quilt - front
QAYG Donation Quilt – front

I had high hopes for this technique as you could probably tell from my earlier post. I am not quite as enamoured of it after struggling to get the top pieced and quilted.

As you can see from the main photo, the top is done. It has batting on the back as I, per the book, quilted the blocks and then sewed the blocks together already quilted.

QAYG Donation Quilt - back of front
QAYG Donation Quilt – back of front

The problem could have been that I didn’t make the batting large enough and then square up the blocks after quilting them. Not that there was anything fatal about that. Quilting the blocks using this method seemed to distort the blocks and that made them more difficult to put together.

I still have to quilt a back on to it, which seems to me to defeat the whole purpose, but who knows? At least it will be easier for the Charity Girls.

This is a donation quilt and, as Frances says, The Muggles Don’t Know. It will still be a nice quilt, if not show quality.

So I am not giving up yet, but I was reminded that anything that looks too good to be true probably is.


Mom wanted to go on a mini-shop hop. She mentioned it a couple of times as soon as she heard about the Jingle Bells (??) shop hop. So, we planned it. Since the shops were kind of limited, I suggested that we visit Friend Julie and add Back Porch Fabrics and Hart’s to our shop hop. We spent the night with Julie and went to Back Porch in the morning.

I have spoken/written about that shop many times. It isn’t a large shop, but I love the aesthetic, the light, the colors. Generally I want to buy everything. Some would argue, in this instance, I did. 😉

That is a topic for another day. On this particular day, Gail Abeloe, the owner was in the shop and she spent a lot of time being friendly and showing us different things. I know she was in top notch sales mode, but I don’t care. It was great.

Quilt As You Go Made Modern - C&T Publishing
Quilt As You Go Made Modern – C&T Publishing

One of the things she showed was a new (ish??) book called Quilt As-You-Go Made Modern: Fresh Techniques for Busy Quilters. This really caught my attention as I saw, from her brief demo, how I could churn out more fully completed donation quilts. Gail included an additional handout/tips sheet with the books she sold at her store.

Almost as soon as I got home, I took some of the red and white donation blocks I had been stockpiling along with some leftover batting from recent longarm projects and tried it out.

First joined/quilted QAYG blocks
First joined/quilted QAYG blocks

While I can’t say, I am 100% successful, I only need some practice and refining of the process. I have several blocks quilted and I am in the process of joining them together.

One of the keys is to join the blocks in such a way that you don’t have to applique a join on a block, which I think was how the original technique was explained.

One thing I need to do next time is to make the batting pieces larger and trim them after quilting and before joining the pieces.

It is possible to use this technique along with regular piecing, so I have been making progress on these blocks as leaders and enders while I piece The Peacock. It isn’t a quick process and sometimes I feel frustrated, but I remember I am also quilting the quilt at the same time.

I’d also like to try foundation piecing straight on to the batting – kind of string piecing, but with large-ish strips.

I never heard of this book and will do a review later, but I do hope to have a quilt top done and “quilted” soon.

Machine Applique’ for Directional Motifs

In my previous machine applique’ tutorials, I used designs where the direction of the motif didn’t matter. When I went back to review the tutorial (yes, I do use my own tutorials!) in preparation for doing some machine applique’. I was preparing to applique’ letters, which have a definite right and wrong way. I realized I had omitted directions for using directional motifs (where the direction of the motif matters, such a numbers or letters) for applique’, so I had to figure out how to do them again.

In order to understand this tutorial, you will need to look at How to Applique’-TJW and the 3 Fusible Applique tutorials (pt.1, pt.2 and pt.3). All of these are part of a whole.

Supply List:

Draw out design on a piece of drawing paper
Draw out design on a piece of drawing paper
  1. Draw out your design. I used a pattern for the letters I wanted to applique’. You can draw or print your design. There are a lot of free clipart you can use. Since I had a pattern, I laid out the pattern, placed a piece of drawing paper over the letters I needed and drew out the design using a pencil.
  2. Trace over the pencil lines you used to trace the design with a Sharpie. The lines should be dark. Make sure the Sharpie does not bleed through to your table.
  3. Flip your drawing paper over and put it on your light box. You can also tape it to a window or sliding glass door. The wrong side of the letters or directional motif will show through.
  4. Directional motifs backwards on drawing paper
    Directional motifs backwards on drawing paper

    Using your Sharpie, trace the letters again on the wrong side of the paper. You will be tracing the backwards image of the letters.

  5. Leaving the paper taped to the window (or laying on the light box), tape a piece of paper backed fusible, paper side UP, over your design which is on the window or light box.
  6. Trace the backwards design on to your paper backed fusible using a Sharpie. **Nota bene: my Sharpie tended to smear on the paper of the fusible. I couldn’t find a pen that worked well, so be really careful to keep your hand out of the way to avoid smearage.
  7. Once finished, remove everything from the window or light box.
  8. Place the fabric you will use for your directional motifs right side down on the ironing surface. The fabric should be sized slightly larger than the fusible.
  9. Place the fusible on top of the fabric with the paper side up. Make sure no edges are over your ironing surface.
  10. Place your applique’ pressing sheet over everything.
  11. Press according to the directions on the fusible package.
  12. Fusible pressed to fabric
    Fusible pressed to fabric

    Once you are finished pressing, you will have a piece of fabric with fusible on the wrong side. The motifs (letters) should appear backwards and you will see the wrong side of the fabric.

  13. Decide on which scissors you will use. I always have a fight with myself about this. I don’t want to ruin my Ginghers, which are super sharp and great for cutting out detailed types of designs by using them to cut through paper. I also don’t want to ruin the edges of my motif with a pair of papers scissors that will not be sharp enough to cut through the fabric. I have a pair of Fiskars that I end up using for this task. Not ideal, but the best I am willing to do.
  14. Cut out directional motifs
    Cut out directional motifs

    Once you have decided on scissors, cut out your designs (letters, in this case). First I do a rough cut, then I cut with more detail.

    Cut out directional motifs - detail
    Cut out directional motifs – detail
  15. Layout your background fabric on a flat surface, right side up. I use my ironing board, so I don’t have to move the motifs in order to press. If I have to sew two pieces of fabric together to make a large enough background, I press the seam open.
  16. Take each motif, one by one, and peel off the paper. Carefully place each prepared applique’ motifs in their desired location before moving on to the next one. With motifs such a letters, I use a ruler to make sure they are straight.
  17. You should be able to see your design correctly. If you are using letters they should not be backwards and you should be able to read the word.
  18. Place your applique’ pressing sheet over everything.
  19. Press your applques so that they are stuck to the background fabric.
  20. Set up your sewing machine with the correct colored thread and a foot suitable for zigzag or satin stich.
  21. I set the zigzag to 3.5 (width), 0.7 (density). I like my satin stitch to be a little open, but you can adjust it to your favorite length and density.
  22. Cut a piece of tearaway the width of your motif and twice as long
  23. Fold the tearaway in half.
  24. Pin the double layer of tearaway to the back of the background fabric. Pins should be out of the way of the machine foot.
  25. Satin stitch all the way around each motif, carefully negotiating curves so the satin stitch looks smooth.
  26. Trim and/or tie off all threads.
  27. Tear away/cut away the excess tearaway stabilizer.

HOORAY! You did it!

Applique’ Task

The Food Quilt #2 still needs a back. I have been putting it off, because I wanted to applique’ the recipient’s name on to a piece of fabric as part of the back. The idea is to discourage theft. We’ll see if it works.

I had a good chunk of time over the weekend. Thus, I spent most of the afternoon on Sunday preparing and appliqueing the name to a piece of fabric.

Applique' Back
Applique’ Back

I accomplished the job, but it was a really big pain and not very pleasant. I fought with the fusible the whole time. It wouldn’t stick and then it stuck too much. I felt the whole process took much more time than it should have.

The picture (left) is part of the work I did. I am not showing the whole name, because of privacy, but you can see the work.

The alphabet is from a pattern called Critters Alphabet. I like it because it is cheerful and different. I used it on another quilt I made for a nephew. I bought the pattern at PIQF about a zillion years ago and I am pretty sure I saw it there last year. I did a search and found it under a new name, Alphabet Critters.

Next time, though, I might try paper piecing for the letters. We’ll see.

Going for Broke with Peacocks

Enchanted Plume panel by Timeless Treasures
Enchanted Plume panel by Timeless Treasures

I decided to make the peacock One Block Wonder project. I was really on the fence, as you may have gathered from my previous posts, about making it. I talked about some of my concerns in the last post and had decided not to make it. Things change.

There were a couple of things that made me decide to do it. 1) I was able to find the Timeless Treasure panel on a website. 2) I saw Maureen’s blocks and 3) I really like the colors in this panel.

I was easily able to buy the panel from Miller’s Dry Goods, which I found unexpectedly after doing a simple Google search. The line is fairly new so I wasn’t expecting that it would be available yet. I am still interested in the group of solids shown with the panel, but they are not as important. I think they might make a good addition to the quilt, but I don’t know what the final quilt will look like, which means I don’t know how they would fit in so we’ll have to see.

Maureen read one of my previous posts and brought her One Block Wonder blocks, as well as a piece of the original fabric to show me at the retreat. I didn’t even know she had worked on a One Block Wonder and was very pleased to see what she had done. Pam’s class using a panel seems very different from using fabric, but there are quite a few similarities as well. I was pleased to see how different Maureen’s blocks looked from each other and she confirmed that it is fairly easy to avoid ending up with the same blocks, which adds to the variety of the quilt. We encouraged her to work on her OBW quilt, but she worked on other projects. I would love to see what she does with those blocks.

I do like the colors of the panel. There is no cream, as there was in the other yardage I considered, which is a bonus. I am annoyed at cream backgrounds lately. They look dirty to me.

Maureen assured me, as did looking at her blocks, that the black would not overwhelm the piece. There is plenty of blue, especially turquoise (!!!), in the panel as well.

This is a limited collection for Timeless Treasures and I only bought the panel. If it doesn’t work out, the effort will make a great donation quilt.