Tip Tuesday – 7 Quilt Binding Tips

A lot of times, quilters have a strictly love or hate relationship with binding a quilt. For the large majority, it’s the latter. Unless your natural gift is folding small bits of fabric in half and managing large quilt sandwiches, you might not enjoy that last step of quilt finishing. But for those of you who are pro- quilt binding, it has probably taken you years to get where you are, and you’re dying to dispense some of your knowledge to other quilters. Well, now’s your time! But before you comment, read some of quilt binding tips below and find out if some of them might be useful to you.

Binding Tip #1: Binding Clips
If you don’t like using pins when hand stitching your binding, try using plastic coated paper clips. They are easy to slip on, and the thread will not get caught on them. Wonder Clips also hold on tight for another alternative.

Wonder Clips

Binding Tip #2: Wrangling Binding
I like to wrap the finished binding around a tube that I have saved from kitchen plastic wrap (it’s heavier than a toilet tissue or paper towel tube). Then I put the tube inside an empty tissue box so I can roll it out through the box’s top opening. That way the binding stays wrapped around the tube and it dispenses easily through the slit as I sew it onto the quilt.

Binding Tip #3: No Tangle Binding
To keep binding neat and clean while applying, I use a clean plastic jar such as a recycled peanut butter, mayonnaise etc. jar. Cut a 1″ hole in the top of the lid and sand any rough spots around the cut hole. Loosely place the binding in the jar, replace the lid and pull the binding through. Make sure that you have your starting end of the quilt binding coming through the hole.

Binding Tip #4: Ironing Board
If I am binding a quilt that is heavy or too warm to keep on my lap, I drop my ironing board down and put it over my lap. I then put the quilt on the ironing board to support it while I stitch the binding.

Unique quilt labeling on the binding

Binding Tip #6: Quilt Label
I use a unique method to make labels. I program all the label information into my sewing machine, and before adding binding to a quilt, I stitch the writing on the back half of the binding strip with a strip of tear-away stabilizer underneath. After the binding is sewn on, the writing appears on the back edge.

Binding Tip #5: Easy Folded Binding
When making folded binding, I always have a hard time keeping it from slipping off the ironing board as I press it. To solve this problem, I pin a small strip of cloth to the pointed end of the board, leaving enough space for the flat, unpressed width of the binding to pass through. On the other end of the board, I pin another small strip of cloth, leaving enough space for the folded part of the binding to pass through. I can press the binding while the fabric stFons & Porter binding toolrips hold it all in place until I reach the end.

Binding Tip #7: Save Your Binding
Cut your binding at the same time you are making a quilt top. Store the binding with the quilt or in a special “binding bin” so the fabric doesn’t get used for some other quilt project before you are ready to bind the quilt.

Random Binding Fun:
Just for fun, try binding your next scrap quilt with a binding made from random lengths of several fabrics used in the top.

There you have it, tips for quilt binding for every quilter, beginner or advanced. If you’ve got some wisdom of your own, you may dispense it now. Leave a comment!

Happy Quilting!

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National Craft Month – Carol

Our first dedication comes from Carol in Loveland, CO. This beautiful quilt comes with a heartwarming story that is sure to give you goosebumps too! Here it is:

Here is my very favorite quilt (today, at least).  It is called “A Part of My Heart is In Malawi”. It was made in 1997-98 after my first mission trip to Malawi, Africa.

When I returned home after 3 months volunteering at a school for the deaf in Malawi, I found that the reverse culture shock was so bad that I was actually unable to shop except for essential groceries. I had been living in extreme poverty among the poorest of the poor, and I lasted 5 minutes at the mall. I had shoes – several pairs – why did I need more? I had clothes and to spare – why buy more?

Then one day I went into a quilt shop and saw what was probably the first Moda Marbles fabric I’d ever seen. “It looks like Lake Malawi!!” I threw my arms around it, and bought a lot of yardage with no idea what would come of it – but it reminded me of my other home.

The design is original. I have since seen similar use of log cabin blocks to make hearts, but not until the quilt was done. The construction is 3” Log Cabin quilt blocks, some solid and some split colors. A few, I think, use 3 colors. The black heart of course represents my friends in Malawi and the white heart represents me.

You will notice, though, that in each heart a single block holds the opposite color. A bit of my white heart is in the black one and vice-versa.

It is rotary cut and machine pieced; hand quilted using the lid of a Cool-Whip container as a template.

The heart shaped label on the back reads “To remember the Embangweni School for Deaf Children and the People of Malawi – Friends and Brothers in Christ”.

It has been shown twice and received a 3rd Place ribbon in November 2002. Can’t remember where that was and the ribbon has no indication of location or group.

In 2014, I bought fabric to make a commemoration quilt for the 20th Anniversary of the Embangweni School for Deaf Children. As usual, I gravitated to the Moda Marbles shelf, and when I began work on the quilt, I realized I had bought almost exactly the same fabric as is in this quilt.  It was lovely to realize the connection.

Carol from Loveland, CO

Carol from Loveland, CO

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BLOCK Friday: Log Cabin quilt block – Pineapple variation

The last log cabin quilt block variation in the series is the Pineapple variation. The Pineapple quilt block looks a little different than the traditional Log Cabin and Courthouse Steps quilt blocks, but it’s got the same basic construction. The “logs” are still constructed around a center square, but the logs themselves are angled in each round of pieces, creating the illusion of arcs or circles across the quilt.¹ One of the Pineapple blocks looks like this:

Baby It's Cold Outside digital pattern

This quilt block comes from the beautiful flannel quilt by Fons & Porter associate editor, Diane Tomlinson, Baby It’s Cold Outside. This quilt can be found in Quilting Quickly Winter ’14.

Baby It's Cold Outside digital pattern

This is a Pineapple block on a large scale. Sometimes the pineapple quilt block is seen in a smaller scale like in the Pineapple quilt Fiesta by Mary Coolsaet.

Fiesta digital pattern

Although the Pineapple variation offers slightly fewer design options, playing with color values and contrast creates a number of effects from “calm to busy, quiet to loud, and static to dynamic.”¹ These quilts from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum give you an idea of how color can vastly change the look of a Pineapple quilt. Click a photo to learn more about each antique quilt.

1997_007_0483   1997_007_0179   1997_007_0004

Making the Pineapple quilt block can seem like a challenging quilt block to a beginning quilter, but Liz and Marianne make it easy to add to your skillset in a their “Love of Quilting” video tutorials. In one tutorial, they cut the straight fabrics and piece a Pineapple log cabin quilt block. In another tutorial, Mary joins Marianne to make a wonky Pineapple quilt block from the quilt below by Nancy Mahoney called Pineapple Salsa.

How to Make Pineapple Quilt Blocks on QNNtv.com

Happy Quilting!

¹ p118, “American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940: The International Quilt Study Center Collections”, by Marin F. Hanson (Editor), Patricia Cox Crews

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My favorite quilt patterns using Fat Quarters

I’m looking for some free quilt patterns using fat quarters. Lately, when I go to the LQS, I find myself drawn to the brim with assorted fat quarters. At Fons & Porter, there’s a table and a cabinet organizer filled to the brim with fat quarters of all kinds. They’re sorted by color and fabric type, and to me, they’re kind of like little fabric snacks. They’re not whole yards of fabric, they’re neatly wrapped quarter-yard fabrics in every motif you can imagine.

Because fat quarters are sometimes made from the leftover fabric on the last of a bolt, you’ll often find a huge variety of them at the quilt shop. And I like to pick up a few at a time – just whatever catches my eye. So needless to say, I have a whole pile (or drawer) of them in my quilt room. I went on a search to find some of my favorite free quilt patterns using fat quarters, and here’s what I found:

Ohio Star bonus quilt

I love this scrap quilt by Liz Porter. Liz’s quilt, Ohio Star, is testament that traditional quilts continue to inspire. The small hourglass units are the perfect size for accommodating the fabrics in your fat quarter stash.

After the Storm bonus quilt

Are you a fan of rainbow quilts? Maybe it’s all the pot of gold and leprechaun myths, but I think there’s something magical about them. And they’re as eye-catching as they come. You’ll be pleased to know this quilt, After the Storm, is a fat quarter friendly quilt project. With just a few rainbow colored peeks of color through the grey, this modern quilt is reminiscent of the first sparkle of sun after a dark storm.

Kaye's Scrap Square bonus quilt

This simple quilt, Kaye’s Scrap Squares, speaks for itself. It’s a straightforward quilt for using up the bits of fat quarters in your fabric stash. Make this easy traditional quilt in an afternoon. Some of my other favorite quilt patterns using fat quarters from the online quilt shop include:

Attic Treasures, a fat quarter friendly quilt project made using hourglass units. If you use our Sew Easy video tutorial on quick hourglass units, you can make these units with no cutting or sewing triangles.


Pomegranate Mountains, a gorgeous quilt featuring the Tents of Armageddon quilt block in surprisingly bright Civil War reproduction fabric prints.

Pomegranate Mountains digital pattern

Idol Results from Love of Quilting Jan/Feb ’13. Placing quilt blocks in shades of dark blue and cream on point gives this quilt a winning design.

Idol Results digital pattern

I hope you enjoy all these quilts using fat quarters, and find some inspiration for your next quilt project. If you make any of these quilts or have made them before, post a picture in the comments. We’d love seeing your works of art!

Happy Quilting!

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Tip Tuesday – 7 Quilt Room Organization Tips

Sulky Threads

Let’s just jump right into our quilting tips for this week. This week is going to be tips for organizing your quilt room. We all know how easily the sewing room can become an unrecognizable room. Fabrics, rulers, templates, threads, and cutting supplies sprawled across the room. No, it’s not just you. When you’re in the midst of an enthralling quilt project, the last thing you’re thinking about is how you’ll reorganize the room when you’re done. That’s why we have a few quick tips you can use while you’re in the middle of your quilt project.

Tip #1: Tasty Organizer
When trying to organize my sewing cabinet drawer, I was unable to locate a drawer organizer that would fit. Later when putting away groceries, I noticed the size of the cookie tray. Two of these trays perfectly fit the drawer space with long dividers for items such as seam rippers, rulers, scissors, etc. My drawer is now organized and I can locate sewing items easily. Re-using these trays is a great way to recycle. When these wear out, just eat more cookies to get more trays.

Tip #2: Thread Organizer
When using your embroidery machine to sew a multi-colored quilting design, select all of your threads first. Use an egg carton to hold the spools while you stitch the embroidery. Write a number on the sections of the egg carton with the thread sequence numbers and place the spools in the carton in the correct order. After stitching, replace each spool so you can repeat the design if necessary.

Tip #3: Using a Skirt HangerFat Quarter organizer
Try using a skirt hanger to store your completed quilt blocks. The clips can be moved to accommodate any size block. This keeps your quilt blocks organized with no wrinkles.

Try using a multiple skirt hanger to organize your rotary cutting rulers. Just hook the hanger over your closet door and keep all your quilting rulers handy.

Tip #4: Using a Pill Organizer
For projects with bead embellishments, use a seven-day pill holder to keep beads separated and to keep them from spilling. Close off some sections, and use your needle to pick up beads from the open sections.

A pillbox is perfect to hold bobbins and other small items you carry to workshops. The larger size holds even more.Depression Era fat quarter pack

Tip #5: Mesh Pencil Holder
I purchased a large mesh pencil holder to use on my sewing table. It keeps all of my sewing and cutting tools close at hand, and keeps my sewing table tidy.

Tip #6: Matching Spool
To keep a bobbin with its matching spool of thread, insert a cotton swab through the bobbin and into the top of the spool. Even if they tip over, the bobbin stays in place. You’ll thank yourself later for doing this.

Tip #7: Quilt Block Organizer
When working on a large quilt top, lay out the quilt blocks on a queen-size or larger flat sheet. Once your layout is complete, pin the blocks to the sheet. If you need to put your project away before all the blocks are stitched together, you can just fold up the sheet and all the blocks will stay in place. This also works well for quilt classes and retreats.

One of my personal organization tools is the Fat Quarter Organizer. You can stack 100 fat quarters into the clean-looking cabinet. Not only does it give you a reason to buy a few more fat quarters (you’ve gotta fill up that cabinet), but you can keep your fabrics organized by color or style.

Happy Quilting!

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BLOCK Friday: Log Cabin quilt block – Courthouse Steps variation

The next block we have in our Log Cabin series is the Courthouse Steps variation. The construction of this block is just a little different from the basic Log Cabin quilt pattern. Where the standard Log Cabin construction is strips of fabric “wrapped” around a center block, the Courthouse Steps variation is matching strips on opposite sides of the center block. The light and dark halves are divided on opposite sides of the quilt block instead of on the diagonals. Courthouse Steps looks like this:

Courthouse Block

That quilt block is from Courthouse Stars, which happens to be one of my absolutely favorite quilts EVER. It’s the ultimate scrap quilt. It’s a two-block wonder. Just see for yourself!

Courthouse Stars

According to Marin Hanson of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and Patricia Crews of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Courthouse Steps variation is accepted as the easiest of the Log Cabin variations to sew, and would have made a great block for an inexperienced quilter.¹

Mary Fons had beginners in mind when she created this modern quilt, Courtside, with stark blue and orange solids. Fabric selection was a snap and so was piecing!

Courtside digital pattern

Hanson and Crews said Courthouse Steps quilts were likely made as early as the 1860s, and began to gain more popularity in the late nineteenth century. Most Courthouse Steps quilts were made with foundation piecing, and may have led to other foundation pieced designs like crazy quilts and string-pieced quilts.¹

Do you think Pennsylvania Puzzle was paper pieced? Its itty bitty pieces lead me to believe the answer is yes!

Pennsylvania Puzzle digital pattern

The last thing I’ll leave you with is a courthouse of my own. I took this gorgeous picture right outside the Fons & Porter’s quilt shop in Winterset, IA. It was Memorial day and the weather was beautiful.


Happy Quilting!

¹ p90, p100-101, “American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940: The International Quilt Study Center Collections”, by Marin F. Hanson (Editor), Patricia Cox Crews

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Tip Tuesday – 7 Tips for the Quilter 2.17.15

Another week of tips has arrived! I found many of these tips helpful, particularly the tips about binding. They just makes sense, and I can’t believe they never occurred to me to try before. I enjoy this series because it’s all about quilters helping quilters. If you have tips of your own, let me know of them in the comments.

Tip #1: Creating a Binding Spool
I like to wind my binding on a toilet paper roll. I then tie a piece of ribbon through the cardboard tube and hang it around my neck. As I am sewing the binding onto the quilt, it rolls off nicely and doesn’t tangle. A cardboard paper towel tube also works well for borders.

Tip #2: Pressing Shortcut
If pressing is not your favorite part of quilt making, try stacking several sections. Press the seam on the top piece. Meanwhile you will have set the seams on the ones below. Just make sure everything is going the right direction. Try a bamboo presser to get crisp creases.

Tip #3: No Slide Foot Control
Cut a rubber bathtub mat to the size of your machine foot control. Place the mat under the foot control to keep it from sliding as you work.

Tip #4: No Tangles
As you press continuous binding, let the binding fall into a container, such as a clean wastebasket or plastic gallon ice cream container. You can pull the binding from the container as you stitch it to your quilt without the binding tangling or twisting.

FP-A-2765_image_orig_notions_organizerTip #5: Notions Organization
A cosmetic carrying case is perfect for holding tools and essentials for traveling to a quilt retreat. The sections zip closed so I don’t lose anything. At home, I can hang the whole bag where it’s handy.

Tip #6: Project Rack
I use a clothes-drying rack to hang the quilting projects I am currently working on. I use the dowel racks to hang the pieces or blocks that I have finished and pressed. That way, they don’t get wrinkled and I can keep all the fabrics for a project pressed and together. It is portable also so I can move it close to my cutting table or sewing machine. –Linda Chambers

Tip #7: Photo Album
You can keep swatches of fabric in a small photo album. It’s perfect to take to the quilt shop when you’re trying to coordinate fabrics for a quilt. You can then remove the swatches once you have made the quilt.

Facebook Bonus Tip: Teamwork
When making a quilt with someone else make sure your 1/4″ are the same. One can’t be a scant and the other a generous or you will have a lot of ripping to do. –Linda Long Hall

What types of tips would you like more of? Pressing, storage/organization, sewing, etc. Just let me know and I’ll find them. Thanks to everyone who offered tips of their own. We’re a community of quilters and I like to think when the best minds come together, we’ll  only make quilting more enjoyable for all. So keep them coming! Comment here or on our Facebook page with your most helpful quilting tips.

Happy Quilting!

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How do you say ‘I love you’?

You, the mother. You, the wife. You, the grandmother. You, the quilter. The month of February is always a countdown to the most delicate and romantic holiday of the year, Valentine’s Day. Whether you love it or would rather skip it, Valentine’s Day eDP1304361xists to remind us to do one thing: L-O-V-E.

But what does that really mean? I love my family and I spend enough time with my quilt guild that we may as well be family, but how do you show them how much they mean to you?

It’s the question we’re challenged with, and, maybe I’m a little biased, but I think it’s a lot easier for us quilters to show our love. I mean, have you ever made a quilt that you weren’t thinking about how pleased the recipient would be when they received it? You think about their favorite colors when you pick fabrics and what style fits them most. Whoever receives your quilt can be sure that every minute you spent measuring, cutting, ironing, and sewing was spent thinking about them.

You can make them a number of small projects like a cute little candy holder, a Flirty table runner or an XOXO pillow. All adorable and quick to make. But what do you do for yourself?


I’m going to take a wild guess here and say you probably make quilted gifts for your family and friends all year long, but rarely quilt for yourself. No, I’m not talking about the pot holder you had to make because you just couldn’t let that gorgeous fabric go to waste.

No matter your reason for quilting, we want to spend the whole month of March, which is National Craft Month, to celebrate you, the quilter.

We’re dedicating National Craft Month to you by posting your quilt projects, big and small, to our Facebook page. We’re celebrating YOU.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Send me a picture of the quilt you’ve created that you’re most proud of. It can be an original design or an interpretation from one in a publication.
  2. Tell me why you love it so much.
  3. Give me a short description of how you made it– techniques, tools, templates. I want all the details. If you remember which magazine it came from, let me know.
  4. Make sure to include name and location so I can give you credit.

Send your submissions to fonsportersubmit@gmail.com and I’ll pick a few to feature on our Facebook page each week. If you haven’t liked us yet, make sure you do so you won’t miss your post. Submissions without all above information included will not be eligible.

Oh, and I’ll also pick three submissions at random to win a gift package packed full of fabric, magazines and other goodies, just to show you how much we appreciate you. It looks a little something like this:15.02.12_QCA-Giveaway-005

I’m looking forward to seeing all your beautiful quilty creations!

Happy Quilting!

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BLOCK Friday: Log Cabin quilt block – Barn Raising setting

The Log Cabin quilt block is perhaps the most iconic block, and its endless piecing options and contrast play makes for a creative challenge any quilter is happy to take on. There are a variety of Log Cabin variations, some of which include: standard Log Cabin, Courthouse Steps, and Pineapple. Because there are so many varieties of this quilt block, I’m going to break up the Log Cabin block into a short series of settings and styles. The first of the series: a basic log cabin quilt block in the Barn Raising setting.

ISQC 2004.015.0001

Curtis, Fontier County, Nebraaska, c 1910. Cottons, 81″ x 75″.

Like other Log Cabin patterns, high contrast is the key to making this pattern pop. Construction of this quilt block consists of piecing fabric strips, or “logs”, of fabric around a square center, alternating light and dark fabrics from corner to corner. The Barn Raising layout was popular during the Civil War era. The quilt to the right, from made by Abba Jane Blackstone Johnson circa 1910, is a beautiful example of this setting. I love the flipped block at the top center that gives the illusion of a spiral.

According to Marin Hanson of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and Patricia Crews of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the log cabin quilts from the late 1800’s to about 1950 exhibit stark differences in the construction of Barn Raising design. For example, the blocks are larger in later designs and a deep, traditional color scheme shifts to a more pastel palette.

This change might be a reflection of lifestyle changes for the makers of these quilts from domestic life to amusement found outside the home. Alternatively, it may be a preference for modern taste.¹

IQSC 1997.007.0891  IQSC 1997.007.7082

Many experienced quilters can take the Log Cabin quilt block and adjust the color placement or contrast, the sizes of blocks, etc. and create a quilt of their very own. This might be what makes the Log Cabin quilt block so popular and timeless. Mary Fons took creative license and made a variation of this setting in her quilt Curved Log Cabin. It’s a challenging, and visually graphic wonder!

Curved Log Cabin

For many quilters, Log Cabin is the first block they learn. However, if you’ve never created it and aren’t sure where to start, we have a class on making a Log Cabin quilt by expert Marti Michell. You’ll be learning from the best.

What have you done to create a quilt of your very own using the Log Cabin quilt block? Comment and post photos in the comments.

Happy Quilting!

¹ p114, “American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940: The International Quilt Study Center Collections”, by Marin F. Hanson (Editor), Patricia Cox Crews

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Tip Tuesday: 7 Quilting Tips

We love our craft. We love quilting, and while we have an idea of the best and easiest way to do things, sometimes we get a tip from a fellow crafter and think, “How did I not think of that?!” Some of the tips below are things you’ve been doing your whole quilting career, while others you’ve never thought of. Even if it’s something that makes you think duh!, remember someone else might not be thinking the same, so keep comments positive, please.

Tip #1: Organizing Needles
I keep all my sewing machine needles organized in pocket pages. The pages fit nicely in an expandable folder or three-ring binder. I note the type and size of needle in each pocket along with any general information I’ve collected about needles.
NeedleOrganization_250–Elaine Davis Fairmount, IL

Tip #2: Get Comfortable
A small pillow on your lap may help out your hand piecing or hand appliqué at a more comfortable level.

Tip #3: Keep Your Scissors Straight
Identify your good scissors with a red ribbon or yarn. Inform your family that this indicates that these scissors are off limits. Put a green ribbon on the scissors that are OK for general use.

Tip #4: Make a Larger Ironing Surface
Try placing a mattress pad atop your cutting table. This makes a great pressing surface for a large piece of fabric or just a seam.

Tip #5: Quicker Removal
Make removing your quilt from a Q-snap® frame easier by placing 6 – 8″-long strips of fabric on the quilt before you snap on the half-pipe. When it’s time to reposition the quilt, pull up on the strips to pop the half pipes off and release the quilt.

Tip #6: Make a Quilt Repair Kit
For every quilt you make, consider also creating a repair kit. Just place pieces of the quilt fabric, binding, and a square of batting in a plastic bag and give it to the person receiving the quilt.

Tip #7: Organize Patterns with Recycled Envelopes
Instead of discarding large used mailing envelopes, punch holes along one edge to fit a three-ring binder. Use the envelopes to store patterns and templates. Attach a photocopy or sketch of the block or project to the outside of the envelope so you can quickly identify the contents.

What other tips can you think of that have been the most helpful in your quilting career? Let me know in the comments below with your first name and location and I might just post it here for next week’s Tip Tuesday!

Can’t wait until next week for more tips? Get more tips at Fons & Porter’s website.

Happy Quilting!

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