The Splendid Sampler: Family Affair

The Splendid Sampler, A Family Affair Block by Better Off Thread

I’d like to welcome everyone visiting my blog from The Splendid Sampler.  Take a look around and stay awhile. If you haven’t heard of The Splendid Sampler yet (is there anyone who hasn’t?!), go check it out and prepare to be sucked in.


Are you ready to try your hand at paper-piecing? If you are new to piecing on paper, take it slow and try not to get frustrated. If you can count to four and sew a straight line, you can make this block!

Here are a few of my paper-piecing tips:

If you are new to paper-piecing, cut your fabrics larger at first: It always helps to have a big more wiggle room when you are just learning!

Use light-weight paper: I use basic copy/printer paper (20lb).  You can also use newsprint, which would be even easier to tear off the back of your block.  Don’t use fancy, heavy printer paper.  You will NOT be happy!

 Decrease the stitch length on your machine: When I am paper-piecing I set my stitch a bit below a 2.  You want your stitches to be tight enough that they don’t rip out when you tear your papers, but you want it large enough that if you make a mistake you can use a seam ripper.

Press and trim after each seam: your block will turn out much smoother if you press liberally and trim your seam allowances.  You can set up your iron right next to your machine, so you don’t have to get up.

Place your fabric on the UN-printed side of the paper and sew on the printed side.


Let’s get started!


Your templates should already be printed (at 100%, please check, because there is nothing worse than making an entire block the wrong size…I’ve been there). Cut the templates out along the seam allowance line and cut your fabrics out according to the directions.  Next, place your #1 piece RIGHT-SIDE-UP on the UNPRINTED side of the paper so that it completely covers space #1 and 1/4″ over on all sides.  I glue the first pieces to the paper with a dot of glue stick.

I like to sew all of my templates at the same time (as pictured above).


Place piece #2 WRONG-SIDE-UP on top of piece #1 so that it is 1/4″ over the line between section 1 & 2.  The first time you do this, pin your fabric along the sewing line and flip it, so you can be sure it will completely cover space 2 and the seam allowances around it.   Remove the pin before you sew ( I generally don’t pin when I am paper piecing.  The fabrics usually grab together well enough).


Flip your template over, so the printed lines are up, and stitch along the first line.  You will be using a shortened stitch length and you will back-stitch at the beginning and end of each seam.  Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ and press the pieces flat.


Fold and crease the line between space #2 & #3.  This will allow you to see your sewing line from the top.  Place piece #3 along and 1/4″ over the crease and sew from the printed side.  Trim the seam allowances and press flat.


The last piece is quite skinny, and it’s difficult to make a crease, so I just lay the pieces together under the presser foot as accurately as possible.  There is plenty of extra width, if you aren’t exact.


Now you will have templates that look like this (doesn’t look like much yet, does it?).

IMG_0198 copy

Trim all around the paper, leaving 1/4″ seam allowance.  I like to line my ruler up with the black line, not with the outer edge of the paper.  It’s more accurate.


Peek under the last strip and make sure you have trimmed the seam allowance to 1/4″ under there.  I still need to trim the mustard colored fabric on this template.


At this point (if you’ve been working on all your templates at the same time), you will have 8 completed templates (yay!).  Do not remove your papers yet, I repeat, DO NOT REMOVE YOUR PAPERS!


Now, take a center strip and finger crease it in half (short ends together), to mark the center.  Line that center up with the tick mark on a completed template.  The layers are thick so don’t even try to pin it, just sew it on!


Repeat with the opposite side.  Match up the center, hold with a finger and sew.


Press the seam allowances toward the center strip.  I like to press gently from the wrong side and then flip and press (with steam) on the front, giving the square a light tug as I press (as pictured above).


Trim (again, line the ruler up with the black line, not the outer edge of the paper).

You may now GENTLY remove the papers.


Now you are just going to sew the squares together. You know how to do that!


One last tip: If you are worried about the center matching up, machine baste the very center and check to see if it all lines up.  If it does, go back and sew the entire seam.  If it doesn’t, try again!


Your block is complete!


Here is my version of the block using the Splendid Sampler fabrics.


And here are a few of my blocks.  I have more done, but I forgot to take a photo of them in the sunlight.


I hope you enjoy making the block!

If you have any questions, leave a comment, email me or flag me in the Facebook group.  I’ll do my best to get back to you quickly.


Quiltcon Magazine: The Ripple Effect Quilt



Quiltcon Magazine will be hitting newsstands on March 1st and I have pattern in it!  I called the quilt “Ripple Effect”:

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 5.30.44 PM

The pattern is fast, easy and requires absolutely no templates, curves or paper-piecing (how very unlike me!).

It’s loosely based on a mini I designed for a swap (pictured below).  The mini had TEENY-TINY pieces, so I am happy to say that the full-sized version went together much easier.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 9.03.30 PM


Do you want to know how to submit a pattern for Quiltcon Magazine next year?

The MQG will send out a call for submissions later in the year, so get on their newsletter list.  Last year, it went out in September and here were the submission guidelines.  I wrote up a blurb about the quilt and then attached the PDF below with layout options.  You can see that the block has a lot of possibilities!   In my typical Gemini fashion, I couldn’t narrow the layout down to one option, but I would think one option would be fine too.

ripple (dragged) ripple (dragged) 1

Most of my designs are more modern-traditional, but I submitted one of my designs that definitely fit into the modern genre (it’s a magazine for the Modern Quilt Guild, after all!)

A few weeks later, F+W Media contacted me saying that they would like to include my quilt and pattern!  They liked option 1, 2 & 3, but requested that I don’t use blue (they already had enough of it in the issue).  I decided to go with the aqua in Option 2 (I had fallen in love with it), but I wanted to add more color.  Oh, and they wanted the quilt in their office in three weeks, which was October 30th!

Between September and October we sold our house and the move date was November 8th.  Kristi Ryan came to my rescue by quilting, binding and adding a sleeve to the quilt, then mailing it off to F+W in time to be photographed.  In the meantime, I wrote up the pattern and created the illos (and moved!).

It was all worth it and I feel very honored to be in the magazine.


I was also very happy to finally get to go to Quiltcon and see one of my quilts hanging on display.

Simple Twist: A Free Pattern

I have two more free patterns coming your way soon at Robert Kaufman!  Both will be released in March as free downloads on the Robert Kaufman website and would you believe that NEITHER of them have any paper-piecing or templates?? That is unheard of from me!

Today I’m going to introduce you to “Simple Twist”:

"Simple Twist" by Janice Zeller Ryan for Robert Kaufman.

Simple Twist

Finished Size 56″ x 64″

Fabric: Kona Solids by Robert Kaufman Fabrics

About this Quilt:

Bill Coleman, a photographer from my hometown of State College, Pennsylvania, recently passed away and I have always admired his work. My husband and I have a couple of his photos hanging prominently in our house. I love having a little bit of home way out here in California.  Mr. Coleman’s primary subject was the Amish community and when I was perusing his online gallery I came across a photo of three quilts hanging on a line.  The quilt in the center was just so simple, bold and modern.  I was compelled to make it right away!

I had a lot of fun figuring out how the block was most likely constructed and picking out Kona colors.  I never thought I would be a fan of brown quilting fabric, but I am digging Kona Spice right now!

"Simple Twist" by Janice Zeller Ryan for Robert Kaufman.

“Siample Twist” is fun and easy to make. It measures 54″ x 64″, but since it’s only one block, you can make it as big or small as you like.

I was really sad I didn’t have a chance to quilt it before the fabric release.  We moved in November and between having strep, Thanksgiving and then a 5 day fever, I got a bit behind!  I just found out today that it has been quilted and is on it’s way to a quilt shop to be displayed!

"Simple Twist" by Janice Zeller Ryan for Robert Kaufman.


Here’s a sneak peek of the quilting.  There’s that yummy Kona Spice!

I’ll post a quick update once the pattern is available for download.  You’ll be able to find it right here.


The Farmer’s Wife 1930’s QAL: Block #26, Daffodil


Today I am a guest blogger for the Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Quilt along, brought you by Angie at Gnome Angel, The Fat Quarter Shop and Marti Mitchell.  If you would like to purchase the book, scroll to the bottom of this post for more information.  If you would like to join the 5000+ other quilters participating in the sew-along, click here.



Thanks for stopping by my blog!  Today I am going to show you how I assembled my “Daffodil” block.  For the previous blocks, I have been cutting all the pieces with Marti Mitchell’s wonderful templates and hand-sewing them together. Wouldn’t you know that my first tutorial is NOT Marti Mitchell Template friendly?!  For this block, I printed the templates from the Farmer’s Wife 1930’s CD and machine sewed the pieces together (machine, because I just moved and I needed to get this block done quickly!).

Normally I am a huge fan of paper-piecing, but I wanted to try using only templates and rotary cutting for this quilt.  I found Daffodil to be very easy to free-piece.  There aren’t even any “Y” seams!

A few notes before you begin:

• There is an error on the templates.  Once you print them out, switch the letters on template N and template I.

• My block is a mirror image of the block in the book.  If you want your block to look exactly like the one in the book, you need to place your templates so that the wrong side of the fabric and the printed side of the templates are together.

Cutting the Pieces:

Before tracing the templates, press the fabric and starch it if necessary.  Some cottons have enough sizing in them, so they don’t need to be starched.  I like to starch thinner fabrics, such as Liberty of London.


Once the templates are traced and cut out, draw in the seam allowance lines.  You don’t HAVE to do this, if you are machine sewing, but it definitely improves your accuracy since there are many odd angles in Daffodil.

I always draw in the seam allowances, since I am hand-sewing and I don’t trust myself to eye-ball a straight 1/4″ line!

Assembling the Block:


Lay your pieces out and make sure they are facing the correct direction.  You will see that there are three distinct sections to the block.  We will be assembling each section separately and then sewing them together at the end.



Follow the photo above to sew the first set of pieces together. I pressed my seams open for this step.



Next, you’ll just sew the one little seam that the arrow is indicating.  Press the seam allowances toward the pink triangle.



Sew the horizontal(ish) seams together, beginning at the top and working your way down.



Sew the three sections together and you are done.  No paper to rip off!

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial.  Have fun sewing!


The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W; RRP $28.99 – Click here to purchase.

Diamond Superstar Pattern: Available Now!

Diamond Superstar Block

I’m pleased to announce that the Diamond Superstar Block Pattern is finished, tested and now on Craftsy!

The pattern includes instructions, coloring sheet and templates to make both a 14″ and an 18″ (finished) block.  The block went together surprisingly quickly and easily for both me and for my wonderful testers, but I would suggest having some paper-piecing experience before trying this one.

My testers were so amazing, and they found all my little errors for me.  It’s always exciting to see what fabrics people will choose.

Diamond Superstar Block

Gesine at Allie and Me made this fun block in rainbow colors.  I love that she used different colors for the skinny strips, and that lovely red background!

Diamond Superstar Block

Christine (IG name Neeneeheeb) used a delicious shade of Kona Granite to make this very elegant and sophisticated block.

Diamond Superstar Block

I am loving this muted rainbow made by Merran (IG name 123bluejumper)!

Diamond Superstar Block

Lastly, Iva at Schnig Schnag made this breathtaking pillow from Allison Glass fabrics. She is lucky there is an ocean between us, or I’d be stealing this!

If you want to make your own Diamond Superstar block, you can purchase the pattern on Craftsy or in my shop.  If you make one and have Instagram, be sure to tag it #diamondsuperstarblock.  If you don’t have IG, send me a photo!  I always love to see what people make.





Making a Right Round Medallion: A Sort of Tutorial


I promised that I would share the measurements for making my Right Round Medallion, so here they are!  These are very basic instructions.  If you don’t know how to make a particular block (HST, Economy Block and Drunkard’s Path), you will need to look up a tutorial.  Let me know if something is really unclear!


Finished Quilt measures about 73″ x 73″


Center Medallion

You will need to begin with a center medallion that is 24-1/2″ x 24-1/2″ (that’s including seam allowance).  You can use my Right Round pattern, my New York Beauty pattern, or any other pattern, as long as it is 24-1/2″ x 24-1/2″.  If it isn’t quite measuring up, just add a border around it, to bring it to size.


Border 1

This is a plain border.  Cut two strips 4-1/2″ x 24-1/2″ and two strips 4-1/2″ x 32-1/2″.  I would actually cut them each a bit longer and trim as you sew them on.  When you sew borders to your center ALWAYS lay the pieces flat on the table or floor and pin.  If you don’t, your edges will stretch and you will end up with a warped, concave medallion.

Alternate Suggestion:  If you like, you could make this border from twenty-eight 4-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ blocks.  YOU pick the block!


Border 2 (Economy Blocks)

Border 2 top and bottom: make 2
Border 2 Sides: Make 2

Make twenty 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ Economy Blocks.

I included a paper-piecing template here, but if you’d like to rotary cut and free piece them (save a tree), here are the cutting measurements (Per 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ Block):


Once you make the blocks, sew them into border strips.  The sides borders have four blocks each and the top and bottom border have six blocks each.


Border 3: Drunkard’s Path Blocks

Border 3 Top and Bottom: make 2
Border 3 sides: make 2


Make forty-eight 4-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ Drunkard’s Path Blocks and four 5-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ Corner Blocks

Use this template to cut the pieces for both types of block.  You will also need to cut four strips from the background fabric measuring 1-1/2″ x 48-1/2″ (piece the strips to make them long enough and as with border 1, I like to leave extra length)

job_928 RightRoundMedallion
Corner Block: make 4

The corner blocks go together like the diagram on the right.

Once you have your blocks made, sew the drunkard’s path blocks into four border strips of twelve blocks each.  Then sew a 1-1/2″ x 48-1/2″ strip to the top of each border.  Trim the excess fabric from the sides.  Sew the corner blocks to two of the border strips (use the Border 3 images above as reference).


Border 4

This is another plain border (woo-hoo!)

You will need to cut two strips 1-1/2″ x 58-1/2″ and two strips 1-1/2″ x 60-1/2″ (again, piece as needed and cut them longer than needed. Trim as you sew them on).


Border 5: Half-Square Triangles (HSTs)

Border 5: Make 4

This is the tricky border!  You will need to start by making sixty 3-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ HSTs.  To do this, cut thirty 4″ x 4″ background squares and thirty 4″ x 4″ squares from your main fabrics and make those HSTs!

Next, cut twenty-eight more 4″ x 4″ background squares and cut them in half diagonally and cut thirty-two more 4″ x 4″ main fabric squares and cut those in half diagonally too.

You are going to very carefully piece each border like this:


Sew diagonal strips with a HST in the middle and triangle on the top and bottom, then sew the strips into a border. I did another pattern with a border very much like this and you can download it for free here for more information.

Once the borders are made, sew them on, stopping 1/4″ before the end of each seam.  You are sewing bias, so the border is going to look too long, but it will ease in.  Pin the middle of the border to the quilt top, pin the ends and then gently ease the rest in with it laying flat.

Once you sew the borders to the quilt top, then sew the mitered sides.


Border 6

You almost made it!  This is another plain border.

Cut two strips 3-1/2″ x 69″ and two strips 3-1/2″ x 75″.  You’ll obviously need to piece them to make them long enough.  I would cut them longer, but mark the exact length on each strip.  Border 5 was all bias, so you want to make sure you don’t stretch it when you sew the Border 6 on.  Lay your quilt top flat, pin the middle and each end and then ease in any excess fabric.


You did it!!!

Below is a diagram of how the entire quilt goes together.  You can print it out, if you like, here. assembly

Do not be surprised if your last border is a little wavy, or your center is a little concave.  Once you quilt the top, you won’t notice.  I also had you cut Border 6 extra wide, so you can true the quilt up once quilted.

Enjoy your quilt and if you post photos on Instagram use the hashtag #rightroundmedallion and tag me (@betteroffthread) so I see it!

For reference:

Economy Block Templates

Drunkard’s Path Templates

Assembly Diagram

If you want more information on making Medallions, check out my book: The Modern Medallion Workbook.

The Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Quilt-Along


Have you heard about the biggest quilt-along of the year?  Angie at Gnome Angel is hosting a year-long quilt-along (say that ten times fast!) to make the epic quilt in Laurie Aaron Hird‘s new book, The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them.  The quilt-along begins September 28th and we will be making two 6″ blocks a week, for a total of 99 blocks.

Angie will be sharing tutorials with guest bloggers each week (I am happy to say that I will be one of them!), so you can learn all of their tricks, tips and secrets for making each block.  If you would like to join in (and you know you do), you can find out all of the information on Angie’s blog at the Farmer’s Wife FAQ.  There is also a Facebook group with almost 2000 members already!!


I have been very busy planning my Farmer’s Wife Quilt.  The quilt can be rotary cut using templates and free-pieced, or you can choose to paper-piece the more difficult blocks.  I normally paper-piece as much as humanly possible, so I have decided to challenge myself by HAND-PIECING all 99 blocks.  I really wanted to stretch my skills, and it’s soccer/swimming/ballet season (when is it not), so it should be the perfect project to work on while sitting at various sport practices.  Two 6″ blocks a week shouldn’t be bad to hand sew, right???? (I’m soliciting encouragement here.).


The printable templates are included with the book, but I am planning to use Marti Mitchell’s Perfect Patchwork Templates to cut my pieces.  She is working along with Angi to provide a list of templates that will be needed to complete the quilt (This info is also in the FAQ).  I will probably English-Paper-Piece the sharp “Y” seams.


I am still waffling on my fabric.  It’s so hard to decide!

The Farmer's Wife 1930's Quilt Along

I was thinking of using my stash of Japanese prints along with this bundle of Modern Background Paper by Zen Chic:

The Farmer's Wife 1930's Quilt Along

 I LOVE this combination, but I am worried that the Japanese prints are too large scare for the 6-1/2″ blocks.

My other choice is this:

The Farmer's Wife 1930's Quilt Along

On the right is London Calling by Robert Kaufman and on the left is my collection of Liberty prints.  I thought I would use the Liberty prints and mix in some of the London Calling.  They would be paired with coordinating Kona Solids.

I am leaning towards using this combination, but I don’t know if I want to hand-piece lawn fabrics!

My third option is to simply go scrappy, scrappy, scrappy and utilize my entire stash.  I have a month to mull it over and I think I will make a couple samples to help me decide.

Are you planning to join in?  It’s going to be a fun year!

Diamond Superstar


Last week, I finished the 18″ version of my newest paper-pieced block.  I also chose a name:

Diamond Superstar!

I’ve been busy perfecting the templates for both the 14″ and 18″ block and I’m hoping to release both in PDF pattern form very soon.


My daughter immediately claimed the block as her own (as she does with all of my sewing) and asked for a pillow.  I have to say, I’m pretty jealous, but it looks better in her room!

Spring Bouquet PDF Pattern

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 10.12.20 PM copy

I am happy to announce that I FINALLY have finished the Spring Bouquet Sampler Quilt Pattern!

This one was a doozy to write and I am really excited to share it.  The pattern gives step-by step instructions and templates for making ten different blocks of increasing difficulty.  I have broken the cutting measurements down by block, so you can choose to cut all the fabrics before sewing (I think my hand would fall off), or select and cut fabrics as you sew each sets of blocks.  In the end, you will have an 84″ x 84″ Queen sized quilt top.

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Sample Pattern Page

It’s the perfect project for skill building.  You will make half-square triangles, quarter-square triangles, flying geese, sew curves and do simple paper-piecing (I have provided links to my curve and paper-piecing tutorials, if you need extra help, but I am always here for advice and to hold your hand!)

The featured fabric is Bella Caronia’s Spring Bloom and it was my inspiration for designing this sampler in the round.  I wanted to create a quilt that looked like a bouquet of flowers, or an arial view of a beautifully landscaped flower garden.

I also mocked up a few other color ideas, to get your creative juices flowing:

job_828 Spring Bloom

Scrappy Rainbow.  You could make this one with bits from your stash.


The colors in this mock-up along with the quilt blocks remind me of Mary Blair’s art. I’m thinking of making this as a 1/3 scale wall-hanging.

job_885 Spring Bloom

Choosing one color, or one fabric for the “flowers”, gives it a bold and entirely different look.  The yarn-dyed linen in denim makes it more of a cozy, casual quilt.

I am selling the pattern for $5 over the weekend.  You can purchase it from my Craftsy store, or from Big Cartel.

If  you make this quilt, be sure to share a photo with me and give feedback.  I strive to make patterns that are clear and easy to follow, so I love to hear if there are any issues.

Have a great weekend!

Starry Night Quilt

I was recently asked to design a quilt for Jennifer Sampou’s upcoming Shimmer II fabric line.  I loved her original Shimmer fabrics, and the new colors are even more beautiful.

The metallic print fabrics have a wonderful balance between traditional and modern tastes, so I wanted to design a more traditional block-based quilt with a modern flair.

Starry Night Quilt pattern by Janice Ryan, featuring Shimmer II by Jennifer Sampou

Starry Night measures 51″ x 62-1/2″ and is partially paper pieced.  The piecing is simple, so the blocks go together pretty quickly.  I love the optical illusion created when several blocks are sewn together.

Starry Night Quilt pattern by Janice Ryan, featuring Shimmer II by Jennifer Sampou

The pattern will be available in June as a FREE download from Robert Kaufman, but you’ll have to wait until September for Shimmer II!

Starry Night Quilt pattern by Janice Ryan, featuring Shimmer II by Jennifer Sampou

Happy Wednesday!