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.


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!

Project Round-up

I’ve been working on a lot of different projects, but rarely finishing anything.  I seriously need to stop starting new things!


This is a 26″ x 36″ “block” for an Improv Bee I am in with Jess at The Elven Garden.  I really love how it turned out and I would love to make an entire quilt from these wonky triangles.  My inspiration was this quilt by Rossie at Fresh Modern Quilts.

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I also finished up my “Round the Blocks” quilt top.  I just need to find time to quilt it! I am really drawn to top and bottom borders and polka-dot backgrounds right now. I want to use dots for everything!

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Look at those great dots!  They are called La Creme Swiss Dots by Riley Blake and they look and feel as yummy as they sound.

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I participated in the Instagram Mini Swap late last year and this was the quilt I made my partner.  It measures 24″ x 24″, so those half-square triangles are each 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″.

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This is another quilt that I would love to do again, but as a full sized quilt with larger squares.   Yes, those are more dots!  The grey and white are from Jennifer Sampou’s Black and White Collection.


Lastly, this was a design I was playing around with just to see if I could make it.  I call it “Argyle Socks”.  I thought about writing up a pattern for it, but it’s I bit complicated, so I think it is just going to become a pillow.

Have a great rest of the week!

The Speedy Zip Dress + a giveaway!


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Miss Emmeline turned three last week and two days before her birthday I mentioned that I wanted to find time to make her a new kitty dress.  My friend, Ramona, was kind enough to share her new Speedy Zip Dress pattern with me and the result was adorable and super fast!


 I used a cat print from Aneela Hooey’s Hello Petal fabric line, dark pink pockets and navy binding.

Ramona’s pattern was very easy and the fit was perfect.  I am in love with those little pleats at the neck and Emmeline adores the pockets.  I have to say I am rather jealous and I want one in my size, (though I don’t think it would look quite the same!).  I think I will be making a zillion of these dresses in every color and print.

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Ramona is so awesome and has offered to give away a PDF pattern to one of my readers!  You may choose from the Speedy Zip Dress, or the PE Playdress, which is the knit version of the dress (I can’t wait to try that!).  Just leave me a comment (maybe tell me who you’ll make the dress for or what fabric you would use).  I’ll pick a winner next week!  The contest will close Wednesday, June 4th at 11:59 Pacific Time.

If you can’t wait to see if you won, you can check out the Speedy Zip Dress in Ramona’s pattern shop.

Countdown To Christmas Quilt-Along: Link-up and Prizes!


How is it the final week of the Countdown to Christmas Quilt-Along already?  I am SO happy that Melissa asked me to run this quilt-along with her, because I finally got the advent calendar done after being on my list for four years and working with Melissa was a joy (thank you, Melissa!).  I can’t wait to see everyone’s finished advent calendars and what you are putting in them!

Advent Calendar at Better Off Thread

Here is my finished calendar, again.  I’m so thrilled with how it turned out. If you would like more information on the quilt-along and the great pattern by Elizabeth at Oh Fransson!, click here.

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I debated a lot over what to fill the Advent Calendar pockets with.  My children are younger (2 & 4), so I didn’t want them to start each day in December with candy and I also didn’t want them to get some sort of toy every single day, because they are already greedy little toddlers!  I decided to make the calendar activity-centered, with a couple candy/gift treats thrown in here and there.

Here is my list (mostly, but not all in order):

1. Visit Santa
2. Make family photo ornament
3. Donate toys to charity
4. Trip to the library for Christmas books
5. Make paper snowflakes and paper chains
6. Make christmas ornaments and felt wreaths
7. Pizza night out
8. Get a new Christmas book
9. Make Christmas cards for Grandparents
10. Picnic under the Christmas tree
11. Christmas shopping for Daddy (shhhhhh)
12. Go out for hot chocolate
13. Donate canned goods
14. Ice skating
15. Drive around the neighborhood and see Christmas lights
16. Make a gingerbread house
17. Get Christmas coloring books
18. Get gold chocolate coins
19. Make cards for the teachers, make /get gifts
20. Christmas movie night w/ popcorn
21. Make christmas cookies and take to neighbors (give little cookie cutters)
22. Christmas train ride
23. Snowfall at Americana
24. Special candelit dinner and Mass

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I purchased these gift tags at Jo-Ann’s to write each day’s activity on the back.  I added the gems and red ribbon to embellish them a bit.  I think when the kids are older and can read, I’ll use little notecards sealed in envelopes (no peeking!).

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My son is VERY excited to get started!


Now it’s time for the prize link-up! We have 4 amazing sponsors giving away a variety of prizes:

A $30 gift card to Green Fairy Quilts



A fat quarter bundle of “Holiday Sweet Tweets” by Laurie Wisbrun from Robert Kaufman Fabrics



A fat quarter bundle of “Santa’s Little Deer” by Benartex from Fat Quarter Shop



A $50 gift card from Sew Modern 



The link up will be open until Sunday, December 1st at 11:59pm EST.  Show us your finished advent calendars! You can link-up a blog post, or from your Flickr account, but make sure you mention the Countdown to Christmas Quilt-Along.

On Monday, December 2nd, Melissa and I will announce the winners (randomly selected).

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Oliver + S Art Museum Vest + Pants Pattern

Art-museum-pattern copy

I have adored Oliver + S patterns  ever since I made the Family Reunion Dress for Emmeline’s first birthday.  The patterns are simple, classic, designs, with beautiful details that really give a garment a professional look.  Sew Mama Sew asked for six bloggers to test three new Oliver + S patterns that are being released today and I jumped at the chance to have the opportunity to make one early.


I was sent the new Art Museum Vest + Pants pattern and I made a size 4 for Liam (who just turned 4 yesterday!).  Liam is tall and skinny and the fit was perfect.  It looks great on him now, but there is room for him to grow and keep wearing it all year.


Picking fabric for a boy is tough!  I wanted something unique, without being too wild.   I ended up using Robert Kaufman’s Essex Yarn Dyed Linen in Denim for the vest front, along with a green plaid shirting fabric for the lining and back.


The pants are a green fine wale corduroy from Michael Levine Fabrics.


The pattern is very easy to follow and I love all the details, like welt pockets on vest and pants, faux fly, side pockets and belt loops.


I have made many, many welt pockets (though it’s probably been 10 years!) and I found the Oliver + S technique to be the easiest I have ever done.  Don’t let them scare you.  Once you make your first welt pocket, you’ll be a pro!


The cute belt on the back of the vest.


I love the bias tape binding along the edge of the pant’s facing.  The great thing is that you can do all the beautiful details, or you can choose to make the garments simpler and quicker and just stick to the basics.


The only thing I (accidentally) changed was adding a facing to the side pockets.  The pockets were supposed to be cut from the corduroy, but I didn’t realize that until I had sewn them in.  I just added a corduroy facing, so the plaid wouldn’t show.


Little man was very excited about his new outfit and wanted to wear it all day.  It was 100 degrees out, so he will have to wait until Thanksgiving!


Please check out Oliver + S for their new patterns and Sew Mama Sew for their features on each one.  Also, be sure to stop by the other bloggers in the challenge, so you can see what they made:

Becky – Patchwork Posse

Beth – 110 Creations

Vanessa – Punkin Patterns

Mary – Mary on Lake Pulaski

Christina – The DIY Mommy


Have a great weekend!

Waverize It: Mini Suitcase


Have you heard about the “Waverize It!” challenge going on at Jo-ann Fabric’s Facebook Page right now?

It’s national sewing month AND Waverly Fabrics 90th anniversary! Jo-ann’s and Waverly are giving you a chance to win 30 yards of Waverly fabric and a $250 Jo-ann’s gift card (pretty sweet, huh?!). That’s enough to Waverize your entire house! All you need to do to enter is sew a unique project using Waverly fabric and upload a photo of the finished project to the contest site.

You can find more details by clicking on the photo below.

Jo-ann’s is also hosting a blogger contest and I was contacted to participate!  I was sent 2 yards of Waverly fabric and asked to sew up a project with it.  I always love a new project and a contest, so I jumped at the chance.

Now, I will always strive to be honest with my readers and I will let you know that I was less than satisfied with the fabric they chose to send me.


I received this floral print in my surprise package.  I think anyone who reads my blog will know that this is just not my style.  I do love SO many Waverly prints and I had my fingers crossed that I would receive one of these beautiful prints:

PicMonkey Collage

I was pondering what to make, when my daughter started oohing and ahhing over the fabric and asked if it was for her.  We were also headed on a trip and I thought it would be a great idea for her to have a small suitcase to carry her toys in.


So, now she has her very own quilted, Waverized, suitcase!  I used the Sidekick Mini Suitcase pattern from Sew Fearless as a guide, but I decided to add a front pocket  on the outside and a zip pocket on the inside for smaller items.


I love the bubble-gum pink piping and that kelly green double zipper.  The pattern was easy to follow. I would say it is about the same level of difficulty as Amy Butler’s Weekender bag, so if you’ve made one, you can make the other!


The inside is big enough for all her accessories.


And the suitcase is still small enough for her to tote around.


She let me shoot one photo before running off to fill her bag!


Now it’s your turn!

You have until September 22nd to get sewing and get Waverized.

Have fun!
••Keepin’ It Real Disclaimer: I received 2 free yards of fabric to participate in the “Waverize It Blogger Challenge”, but all opinions and project ideas are my own.•••


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It’s all robots all the time at my house right now!  My kids are Wall-E crazy, so when my friend, Ramona, made adorable stuffed robots for Quilt Market, I had to sew them up, too.  Ramona designed these “Funbots” to complement Ann Kelle’s Fun bot fabric, and fun they are!

IMG_4611 I used all fabrics from my stash (kitty print for Emmeline, dog print for Liam) and I let Liam choose what they would look like.  He wanted one red eye on his Funbot and a Hello Kitty Funbot for Emmeline.


I love that they are so big and cuddly.  You can see the size next to my very tall 2 and 3 year-olds.  Liam named his robot “Roboty” (very original) and Emmeline named hers “Hello Kitty Darth Vader”.


Going for a car ride.


Out for a swing.



I don’t think there is anything sweeter than your child falling in love with something you create.

Kate Spain Blog Hop

Kate Spain Blog Hop

Alyce at Blossom Heart Quilts is a very sweet bloggy-friend of mine. Recently, she asked if I would like to be a part of a blog hop where we share projects we have made from Kate Spain fabric.  After accessing my finished projects, I quickly emailed Alyce back and told her that I have never used Kate Spain fabrics, but I would love to join in.  I think Alyce probably fainted on her side of the computer monitor and I was a little embarrassed that my fabric collection is not very diverse!

I really have no idea how I have managed to never use any of Kate Spain’s fabrics.  Kate’s fabrics are gorgeous, fun, whimsical and bright.  Everything I look for in a fabric line.  I feel like a whole new world has been opened up to me!


I’ve been wanting to make a quilted purse and my friend Jenn at Sunny In CAL recently patterned a really adorable duffle which comes in three sizes. When I saw the Cuzco fabric line I knew that it would be perfect for the purse, so I purchased a fat quarter bundle to play with.


I made quilt-as-you go panels using batting and duck cloth on the back to give the purse some stability.

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Jen showed me how to sew it all together and she made so easy. Isn’t that the happiest bag ever?


I love the extra deep side pockets and that peacock fabric is so fantastic.


View from the top.

I love that the zipper is visible and Jen showed me how to make little fabric tabs on either end of it , which is such a great finishing touch.

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View from the bottom.

The straps go the whole way around!!

I have become a total Kate Spain convert.  I’m making a quilt for Moda Bakeshop right now and my #1 fabric request was her new line, Sunnyside.  My fingers are crossed that it arrives in the mail for me.  The cloud fabric is dreamy!


Make sure you visit the other stops on the blog hop and link-up your own Kate Spain projects.  There are giveaways, tutorials and an interview with Kate herself!

Monday June 3rd – Interview with Kate Spain
Tuesday June 4th – Interview Part 2 and Jane at QuiltJane
Wednesday June 5th – Christa at Christa Quilts
Thursday June 6th – Kimberly at Fat Quarter Shop
Friday June 7th – Laura at Quokka Quilts

Monday June 10th – Chrissy at Sew Lux
Wednesday June 12th – Julie at The Intrepid Thread
Thursday June 13th – Kristy at Quiet Play
Friday June 14th – Link up your favourite Kate Spain project! and Lynne at Lily’s Quilts

Monday June 17th – Alyce at Blossom Heart Quilts
Tuesday June 18th – Heidi at Fabric Mutt
Wednesday June 19th – Melissa at Ms Midge
Thursday June 20th – Jess at The Elven Garden
Friday June 21st – Janice at Better Off Thread

Monday June 24th – Diane at From Blank Pages…
Tuesday June 25th – Gemma at Pretty Bobbins
Wednesday June 26th – Kara at Me And Elna
Thursday June 27th – Readers’ Q&A with Kate Spain at Blossom Heart Quilts
Friday June 28th – Link up your blog hop projects!