Workshop Tote Sew Along: 8 Tips for Precise Piecing

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Welcome to the Workshop Tote Sew Along! Today I'm going to be sharing some tips and tricks for improving your piecing accuracy. These tips will come in handy for the Patchwork + Half-square Triangle Totes, but can be applied to any project!

In terms of the schedule for the sew along: This week's posts will focus on constructing the exterior panels and the lining. Next week will focus on the bag construction. The final week will focus on finishing!

Want to sew along? Pick up a copy of the pattern here. Post your progress throughout the sew along using the #workshoptote hashtag on Instagram. I'll be sharing the totes I'm making and featuring yours too.

1. Proper Fabric Prep

Precise piecing starts with a good foundation. Spending some extra time getting your fabric ready for cutting can make a big difference. Press your fabric well before doing any cutting. If you're working with stretchy fabrics, use spray starch or a pressing spray like Flatter by Soak, to stabilize your fabrics. Trim away any loose threads that could get in your way. Finally, clear off your mat so you have plenty of room to cut!

2. Square Up Fabric

It can be tempting to use a straight-ish edge on your fabrics to line up your first cut. Taking the time to square up all of your edges before cutting out your pieces will help ensure that everything is square. I like to start by using the selvedge and factory fold edge as a general guide for making my first straight cut along the edge of my piece. Then I line that fresh cut up on my mat or up against my ruler to cut my strips. When cutting strips down into squares, I trim off the selvedge and start cutting my squares. Now each square has a nice clean edge to work from!

3. Over cut Half-Square Triangle Squares

The common formula for making half-square triangles is to cut squares 7/8" larger than the finished half-square triangle size. This leaves almost nothing to trim off, which can result in some slightly out-of-whack blocks. I like to cut my squares a full 1" larger than my finished half-square triangle size to give a little extra room to trim them square. All of my patterns, including the Workshop Tote give you that full 1". If you're new to half-square triangles or want even more wiggle room, you can always cut your squares even larger and trim to size. Just know you may need a little extra fabric.

4. Use a 1/4" foot or Stitching Guide

Make it easy to maintain a consistent seam allowance by using a 1/4" foot or a stitching guide for your machine. This may mean investing in a new foot or tool, or can be as simple as a piece of masking tape on your machine bed. I love using my 1/4" foot, but those little edge guides can get in the way when half-square triangle piecing. Thankfully the guide on mine can be removed with a small screw. If you make a lot of half-square triangles, a guide-less 1/4" foot can really come in handy!

5. Complete Piecing on a Single Machine

This may seem silly if you only have access to one sewing machine, but try to complete your project all on the same machine if possible. Every machine is a little bit different, and your seam allowance and tension may be slightly different between machines. Sticking with one machine throughout piecing a project will help ensure that everything stays consistent! Same goes for thread too, not all threads are the same weight, so using the same thread for all your piecing in a project is a good idea.

6. Keep Your Machine Clean

Speaking of machines, keeping your sewing machine in fine shape will help you avoid hiccups while working on your project. Make sure the bobbin and feed dog areas are free of dust and stray threads. If your machine requires oil, give it a little before you start a new project. It's probably time for a fresh needle too! Make sure it's an appropriate size for your project.

7. Pressing Matters

When it comes time to press those half-square triangles or newly constructed rows, make sure not to over press. Use your fingers to gently press your seams before hitting them with an iron. Avoid sliding your iron around room much so that things don't get stretched out of shape.

8. Plenty of Pins

I'm an advocate for using lots of pins when piecing. It may sometimes seem like time wasted, but if it keeps you from having to rip out a few seams, it's worth it! No matter how small, I like to place a pin at every seam intersection. I place my pins on the diagonal through the intersection, with the pin going through both pieces of a pressed-open seam. This makes them easy to remove and keeps both squares (or half-square triangle blocks) secure.

I hope these tips will be helpful to creating your tote bags, or in any of your current projects! Tune in on Thursday for a detailed tutorial on adding an interior pocket to your tote!

Happy Sewing!

Patchwork Essentials: Radiant Quilt

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Time to share another quilt from my book, Patchwork Essentials: The Half-Square Triangle! You can find all the posts about my book, Patchwork Essentials: The Half-Square Triangle, in the MY BOOK link at the top of every page, or here.

I'm slowly going to share each quilt, in order, with the exception of a few that I've already shared. So, first up we'll be looking at the quilts in the color chapter, the last one to share is Radiant!

For more on how the book is structured see this post.
I currently have signed copies of the book available in my shop, if you'd like one!

Photo © 2015 Lauren Hunt for Lucky Spool Media.

This quilt was such a fun one to pull fabrics for. I made it back in 2014, before low-volume and black and white prints were super popular. I had to slowly build up a collection of enough prints for this quilt! Seems hard to believe now. I paired all the black and white prints up with a rainbow selection of blender prints.

This quilting is a simple edge-to-edge geometric design done by Melissa Kelley of Sew Shabby Quilting. Since there is a lot going on with the colors and prints, I knew I wanted the quilting to be pretty neutral.

For the backing and binding I pulled for more black and white prints, including some beloved yardage of Seed Catalog from Lakehouse and a geometric from Minimalista.
You may remember last year I shared this baby quilt that I made from an alternative colorway of this quilt! See more about this quilt here.

Photo © 2015 Lauren Hunt for Lucky Spool Media.

Happy Quilting!

Workshop Tote Sew Along: Fabric Options

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Happy Thursday! Today I wanted to share some recommendations for fabrics that would make a great Workshop Tote as well as my choices for the bags I'm going to make. I'm posting this now so that you have time to pick out or order fabrics if you need to, before the sew along starts!

First up, I'm including the pattern fabric requirements down below.

The tote exterior can be made with yardage, fat quarters, fat eighths or charm packs.

There are lots of different fabrics that you could use to make these totes. Let's look at a few bags stitched up and some fabric pulls I'm going to use for bags throughout the sew along!

Quilting Cotton Fabrics

Quilting cottons are perfect for these bags! Cut into some fresh fat quarters, fat eighths, a charm pack, or scrap bin for the patchwork + half-square triangle totes or show off a focal print with the plain tote. There are endless possibilities! Above you can see my quilting cotton pull for a tote using Terrestrial and Bird's Eye View collections by Sarah Watson.

And here is a beautiful bag made for me by my friend Brianne! She used black and white prints from her stash, and added a pop of color with nylon handles and a fun lining fabric. She also used a heavier interfacing (I believe Fusible Fleece), to add some extra structure and softness!

Light-weight Woven Fabrics

These are the fabrics I used for my half-square triangle tote and patchwork tote. They're a combination of shot cottons, cross weaves and peppered cottons. These solids have really lovely texture, and often are made with two different colored threads to give them extra dimension. Here are a few great options on the market right now:

- Kaleidoscope by Alison Glass
- Shot Cotton by Kaffe Fasset
- Peppered Cottons by Studio E
- Chambray by Andover
- Cross Weaves by Moda
- Cirrus Solids by Cloud 9 Fabrics
- Manchester Cotton by Robert Kaufman
- The Denim Studio by Art Gallery Fabrics

In addition to these, there are a number of beautiful fabrics that have designs woven in with different colored threads. The plain tote I made uses a fabric from Union Chambray. Here are a few great options for something similar:

- Mariner's Cloth by Alison Glass
- Union Chambray by Robert Kaufman
- Essex Yarn Dyed Classic Wovens by Robert Kaufman
- Window Dressing by Cloud 9 Fabrics

I'm using a combination of Mariner's Cloth paired with a Kaleidoscope solid for a half-square triangle tote. Each half-square triangle will be half solid and half stripe. To make one this way too, you'll need 5/8 yard of the solid and (7) fat eighths of the stripes.

Essex Linen Fabrics

Essex Linen is a great choices for these bags! It's got great structure, and is available in lots of colors. There are also a number of collections that are overprinted on Essex Linen and Homespun. Since it is a little heavier weight, you probably want to avoid using these for the half-square triangle version to avoid bulky seams. Here are a few options:

- Essex Linen by Robert Kaufman
- Euclid by Carolyn Friedlander
- Polk by Carolyn Friedlander
- Arroyo by Cotton Flax
- Forage by Anna Graham

Gingham Fabrics

Who doesn't love gingham? These woven fabrics would make lovely tote bags. I'm using seven colors of Checkers Gingham for a patchwork tote! Here are a few great gingham collections:

- Checkers Gingham by Cotton & Steel
- Carolina Gingham by Robert Kaufman
- Checks Please by Cloud 9 Fabrics

I'm really excited to be dipping into my Gertrude Made barkcloth fabric for my plain tote. Barkcloth is a really interesting fabric that has a unique texture. You can sometimes find vintage barkcloth fabric, but there are some great modern ones on the market right now too:

- Gertrude Made Barkcloth
- Cloud 9 Barkcloth

Feel free to start posting your fabric choices and tagging them #workshoptote so we can see what you've got planned! And don't forget to pick up a copy of the Workshop Tote pattern! You can find it in my online shop, here.

We'll officially kick off the Sew Along on Tuesday, August 21st! Can't wait!!

Announcement: Workshop Tote Sew Along

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I'm excited to announce that I'll be hosting a Workshop Tote Sew Along! We'll be kicking off on August 21st, and I'll be sharing two helpful blog posts each week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) with different tips and tricks for making super cute bags! The sew along will run for three weeks.

This is going to be a pretty casual sew along, so you can work at your own pace! Feel free to work ahead or refer back to the posts any time after the sew along is over. It's just an excuse to sew together!

If you want to sew along, make sure and pick up a copy of the pattern, available here. I'll share a post with some fabric ideas (you can also find a list in this post) to get you started on Thursday.

Post your progress throughout the sew along using the #workshoptote hashtag on Instagram. I'll be sharing the totes I'm making and featuring yours too.

I'll be adding links here to all the posts in the sew along, so you can find them all in one place!

- Fabric Options

Can't wait to sew along with you!

July Monthly Report

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Happy August! It's time for July's monthly report. See past reports here.

I think I'm finally starting to gain a little project momentum. I'm still mostly finishing small projects, but I finished up some quilt backs and got two quilts sent out for quilting. I also crossed the half-way mark on my scrappy pineapple blocks! 23 blocks to go. I love working on this project!

I've been stash diving lately, making things from some hoarded prints, including a few drawstring bags. For this one I used some Briar Rose, Daisy Chain, and Insignia fabrics. Plus some of my favorite ruler twill tape! This is the Everything size, which is the same as the tutorial size.

Lined Drawstring Bag Tutorial + Lined Drawstring Bag Pattern

I also stitched up a Project size drawstring bag using some barkcloth! I've never actually made anything with barkcloth, it was fun to work with. These colors and prints are so fun. The barkcloth is from In Theory, and the ties are made from my Curiosities print.

Lined Drawstring Bag Pattern

To keep myself accountable for my stash goals, I'm tracking my yardage for fabric and yarn each month. Read more about how I track my here. Here is how I did in July:

July Fabric
Used up: 11.5 yards
Brought in: 15 yards
Net: +3 yards
Year to date: +21 yards

July Yarn
Used up: 0 yards
Brought in: 0 yards
Net: 0 yards
Year to date: +218 yards

I feel pretty good about this past month's fabric. This month was my second highest for used up fabric, and I didn't even finish a quilt! It was all from small projects. I brought in fabric for a new workshop tote (I'll be announcing the details for a sew along soon!) and then picked up some Terrestrial by Sarah Watson. I've had my eye on this collection since it was shown at Fall Market last year, so it was a long planned purchase. I also picked up some garment fabric remnants on sale from Imagine Gnats.

Did a little thrifting this month and found another vintage sheet in the package! Always exciting when that happens, and this is a really good one!

I am trying something new. I have been thinking about trying out needle-turn applique for a while and I finally decided to make a little test block to see if I like it. It's based on the Aerial Grove quilt from Savor Each Stitch by Carolyn Friedlander.

My sweet George bunny. Always looking so adorable!

Have a Great Month!

Summer Indigo Dyeing

Thursday, July 26, 2018

In early July I mixed up an indigo dye vat and have been enjoying dipping things here or there over the last few weeks.

This is my fifth year experimenting with indigo dyeing. Now that we're in a house with a backyard, I have plenty of space, access to a hose, and space to store and maintain my dye vat. I've always had to dye a ton at once to get the most out of a dye vat and then dump it. Being able to store it and dye a little at a time has been amazing so far. I've never really been able to do much experimenting, with so much time in between dye sessions. Having access to a vat all summer has already allowed me to work through ideas. I feel like I've made so much progress and learned a lot.

You'd think I'd be tired of dyeing things blue, but I'm not. The entire experience is still so magical to me. The mystery of how a piece will turn out is still so exciting.

I use the Jaquard pre-reduced indigo, which is available on it's own and in a kit. For more on everything I use/do when I indigo dye, see my DIY Shibori Indigo Tutorial.

If you're interested in trying out indigo dyeing, I highly encourage you to do so! It's really fun, a great group activity, and not hard.

Below I have photos of each piece I dyed this time in it's resisted (pre-dye) state, and then after it was dyed and washed.

Accordion folded and secured with clamps.

Accordion folded into a square and secured with clamps.

Accordion folded and then folded into triangles and secured with a clamp.

Accordion folded into a square and secured with clamps.

Long skinny tucks secured with several rubber bands each.

Accordion folded into a triangle and secured with wooden resist and clamps.

Accordion folded into a triangle and secured with clamp.

Accordion folded into a square and secured with clamps.

Long skinny of different sizes tucks secured with several rubber bands each.

Honeycomb shibori using this tutorial.

Honeycomb shibori using this tutorial.

Dipped with ribbon still intact holding squares together. (mini charm pack)

Long skinny tucks secured with several rubber bands each.

Long skinny tucks secured with several rubber bands each.

Long skinny tucks secured with several rubber bands each.

Check out my DIY Shibori Indigo Tutorial for more.

This will not be my last indigo dyeing this summer, but I'm also looking forward to doing some dyeing with Procion MX dyes too!

Happy Dyeing!


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