February 15, 2019

Background Fabric Guide for Quilters

One aspect of quilting that was overwhelming to me at first was background fabric. There are so many different shades of white! Not to mention all the other fun colors one can use. Today I'll share my experiences with them. Get ready to get into the details!

We'll start with whites. I break up "whites" into 3 categories: bright white, creamy white, and cream. Here's what they look like all together.  

Here is bright white (with beige), creamy white, and cream in projects. It's tricky to capture on camera, but in real life the difference is quite evident.

Specifically, these are Kona Ivory with Moda Bella 98 white, Kona Snow, and Kona Bone

It really makes a big difference which one you choose. Creamy fabrics on bright white background look tacky, and bright white fabrics on cream make the background look like it's dirty. Brightest white will show stains like crazy, cream gives you a little more wiggle room.

Here is an example of when whites don't match. I used a creamy background white (Kona Snow) with a Riley Blake line Summer Blush, which has a bright white background. In photographs it's not as evident, but in real life you really notice. It's not the end of the world, it's still a very pretty quilt, but I wish I had planned better. In this case I sewed it with dark night time indoor lighting, and didn't really notice until the next day when I saw in it natural light. Sometimes it's a tough call, as in the case, because I like the look of the colored fabrics against the creamy white better than I would against a bright, but the whites definitely don't match up. Let's talk about each one.


My favorite cream is Kona Bone. I use Konas the most just because that's the color card I have. It looks like RJR Cottom Supreme in Linen White would be comaparable, and I love their fabric too. I tend to use Bone with Fig Tree, older Bonnie and Camille lines like Marmalade, and anything with a creamy tone. If you ever used any Baby Jane by Cosmo Cricket, that's a very good example of a fabric on cream. It's an older line and one of my very favorites. 

Image via Fat Quarter Shop

Here are some projects I've used it for. Patterns are noted and linked below each picture. A lot of these go way back to when my photos were quite blurry, ha! Sorry about that.  


 No pattern, but you can check out how to put zippers in pillows.

 Garden Lattice from Simply Modern Christmas by Cindy Lammon

 Jumping Jacks again

Vintage from Simply Retro by Camille Roskelley

Creamy White
I use this by far the most. It's usually the best option, in my opinion. There are two that look almost identical to me- Kona Snow and Moda Bella 97, though I never use both in one project. I buy bolts of one or the other depending on what sales I find on Black Friday. Right now I'm using Snow for all my projects. They both work really well with most Moda fabric, particularly Bonnie and Camille or Lella Boutique. 

Jumping Jacks again, I've made 5!

no pattern, gift for my niece the Easter baby :)

You should know that some people have had trouble with Bella 97 picking up colors from other fabrics in the wash. It is, after all, their "prepared for dyeing" white. I've used it a ton though, and have never had a single problem. Just wash cold, gentle, use a color catcher, and put it in the dryer immediately! Never let a quilt sit wet. 

Bright White
For bright white I've used Kona White, Moda Bella 98, and Riley Blake Riley White. I use this shade the least because it has the potential to look tacky with some fabrics, or have kind of a blue shade to it. Sometimes it works well though if you need a lot of contrast, or if you're working with fabrics that are brighter, such as Tasha Noel, and most any Riley Blake.

For this Primrose Path Quilt, I used Kona Ivory (the beige) with Moda Bella 98 bright white. I needed a bright white to really pop against the light background, a creamy one would have blended in and the chain wouldn't have been very visible.

Photo by Quilt Photography Co. 

Same story with this quilt. This is I Heart You by Then Came June and Pen and Paper Patterns. They just had a sew along and I LOVED IT! Since my aqua background (which is Cloud 9 Glimmer in Ice, and it sparkles!) was so light, again I needed something stark against it. In this case it was Riley Blake White.

When I made this quilt for Moda Bake Shop, they sent me bright white and it turned out beautifully. Lella Boutique fabrics are very versatile! There's a free pattern for Jane's Ladder.

Low Volume White
Another fun option is to use a low volume background. Low volume just means a fabric with white background and a very light colored pattern on it that appears white from a distance. There are varying degrees of "volume", Heritage Threads has some great posts about this.

An example would be this rainbow quilt. The stripes appear white from a distance, but up close you'll see that they are Riley Blake Swiss Dots, which are on a bright white. Low volumes can add a really fun element to your quilt.

Other backgrounds

You certainly don't have to stick to white! Mixing it up with your background color can be a really fun change, not to mention a more stain-hiding option.

A really popular background is Moda Crossweave. It feels and looks different than quilting cotton- a bit rougher, and has a beautiful texture. This quilt uses the Black cross weave.

I used the Moda crossweave in Gray for this Valentines quilt.

I've also used Robert Kaufman chambray dot in Indigo. This one is a little slippery and shifty to work with, but if you stick to a pattern with no bias cuts it's no problem at all. I should also point out that all of these kinds of weaves are very messy when you cut them up! Lots of dark lint and fluff. Keep a Swiffer top and lint roller handy :)

 Scrap quilt for charity

 Cakewalk by Thimble Blossoms

Finally, in my world aqua is a neutral and very much worthy of being a versatile background. This is Moda Bella Ruby Ice with Moda Bella 98 bright white in my First Snow pattern. This one was sewn by Julia of Red Rainbows Handmade.

Remember that background fabric is like choosing paint for the walls of your house. It may look light on the swatch, but it's always waaaay darker in mass quantities than you think it will be. When in doubt, choose the lighter shade. Both this aqua and the beige I used for Primrose Path look super pale on the swatches.

I hope that is helpful and wish you luck in all your background planning and sewing! 

February 5, 2019

New Mini Quilts- Sweet Marie and Summer Blossoms

Hello again! I finished up two mini quilts this week (that were 98% finished already, why is that last push so hard?) and I'm excited to have checked them off and joined with their mini friends.

Pattern links top to bottom and left to right:
First Snow, Clambake, (swap mini, no pattern), Rise

The ones I just finished are Summer Blossoms Mini, and Sweet Marie Mini, both patterns in my shop

Summer Blossoms took a while because I decided to add the embroidery around the centers to make them look like zinnias, one of my very favorite flowers. I did the crosshatch machine quilting first, and then added the embroidery stitches, not worrying about the chicken scratch on the back since it's a mini quilt and will be staring at the wall for all it's days.

 The mini blocks are 7", half the size of the regular sized ones. I loved making both! Here's the original quilt with the larger blocks.

Next up is Sweet Marie Mini. The first time I made this pattern was for Quilting in the Rain's Quilt Market booth over a year ago. I ended up selling that one for charity to donate money to the Puerto Rico hurricane victims. Funny thing- the person who bought it and donated the money was Jera Brandvig, the designer of the fabric :) She has it framed in her house! I'm so honored, her house is gorgeous.

I also made a pillow to go with it, using the block pattern from the regular sized Sweet Marie quilt. 

These mini blocks are also half size at 6", a great size to add sampler or Farmer's Wife quilts. I've got one in my 6" sampler that I'm so close to finishing! I think I only need 5 more blocks!

Here's the original Sweet Marie quilt for reference. I made the crib size, but it also comes with instructions for a throw size.

This is the fabric pull I started with for the Sweet Marie Mini. I ended up adding some fussy cuts to the tiny little squares. These are mostly Tasha Noel, Bonnie and Camille, varying lines, and a few basics and blenders from other favorite designers like Sedef Imer, Vanessa Goertzen, and Elea Lutz. 

It's nice to check those off! To celebrate I'm having a mini quilt sale, as well as a discount on the larger size of these two patterns. Minis are marked down already to $5, and large quilts to $7, no code needed!

January 21, 2019

Rainbow Remix Quilts Tutorial

Today we are talking rainbow quilts! I find such satisfaction in sewing colors into rainbow order. I've started a little tradition of making rainbow baby quilts for charity, you can see some of them here.

Remember last year when I made this twin sized simple striped rainbow quilt using soft muted colors? There's a free pattern for it if you missed it! Fabric Bubb still has color bundles too.

It was such a fun project that I wanted to do something like that again, but with a brighter rainbow this time. Because I need two baby girl gifts right now, I took the same cuts, and instead of a twin sized quilt like I did with the muted colors, I created two smaller quilts and a pillow. The quilts are a generous crib size at about 42" x 56".

Before I share how, let me say that Stash Fabrics is carrying kits for the bright version, as well as the muted colors.

Bright Rainbow Kit

Muted Rainbow Kit

They will also be giving a kit away on Instagram for one of their #workingmystashoff February participants!

You could use either bundle for either project (the twin sized quilt or the trio of smaller projects).

Alright, on to the trio of small projects.

You start with 14 quarter yards.

Cut each color quarter yard into:
(1) 4.5" x WOF strip (for the simple rainbow quilt)
(1) 3.5" x WOF strip (for the sashed rainbow quilt)

Now, if your cuts are very straight and a bit generous, you can cut the remainder to:
(1) 1.5" x WOF, subcut to (2) 20" x 1.5" cuts of each color (for the pillow)

I got mine all from Fabric Bubb or Merrily We Quilt Along, and I had no problem with the last cut. If you don't think your cuts are going to be straight enough to be sufficient, and you definitely want to make the pillow, you'll have to forego one of the crib quilts. You could make several pillows in that case!

From 3/4 yd white fabric for the sashed quilt, cut:
(13) 1.75" x WOF

For backing and binding you'll need:
1 1/2 yds backing for each quilt
1/3 yd binding fabric for each quilt
20" square backing for the pillow

Now I will describe the process for each individually.

Simple Rainbow Baby Quilt (approx. 42" x 55")

Sew your (14) 4.5" x WOF strips together in rainbow order with a 1/4" seam. If you use the bundle that I did, some of them come from different manufacturers and therefore won't all be the exact same width of fabric. That's ok! When you're finished sewing them all together, press seams either to one side or open, it doesn't matter. I pressed to one side.

To trim up the sides, fold your pressed top in half right sides together, parallel with the stripes, and line up the top and bottom edges.

Fold in half again, the same direction. It will look something like this:

Now line up the bottom fold with a line on your cutting mat, and using the perpendicular lines on the mat, trim both sides of the quilt top. When you unfold it you should have perfectly straight edges if you've sewn and folded carefully.
Baste, quilt, and and bind as desired. For this one I did simple straight lines on my Juki TL 2010Q. It quilts so fast! I started by quilting 1/4" on either side of the seams, and then added two rows of quilting within each color. At first I used my Hera Marker to mark the lines, but ended up giving up on that and eyeballing the rest. That's pretty much a metaphor for my whole life right now, ha!

I backed this one in a gorgeous floral from Sunnyside Up by Corey Yoder for Moda. I used a Bonnie and Camille Smitten aqua dot for the binding.

Sashed Rainbow Baby Quilt (approx. 42" x 57")

Sew a 1.75" x WOF white sashing strip to the bottom of every 3.5" x WOF color, except the very bottom one. Press away from the sashing. Now sew those pieces in rainbow order. Like the simple striped quilt, you will probably have different widths of fabric, and that's ok. Trim in the same way described above.

Finish the quilt as described above. On this one I used the automated squiggle stitch on my Husqvarna Viking. I used Swiss dots in multiple different colors on white for the sashing, grey Swiss dots on the back, and aqua dots for the binding.

Striped Pillow

Choose (18) 1.5" x 20" strips that you want to use for your rainbow. You'll need duplicates of 4 of the colors, but you can start and end your rainbow wherever you want. I started with the hot pink (second color in the quilt) which meant I ended with the lightest peach.

Sew all the strips together in order. Baste to batting and quilt as desired. I did a simple hand quilted running stitch with white friendship bracelet thread. You can buy a big bag of lots of colors very inexpensively. These ones I really did want to be quite straight so I marked the line with a disappearing pen and then stitched along it. You can read this more detailed hand quilting tutorial if you need to. Trim to 18" square.

Finish the pillow with a backing and zipper closure. I have a zipper tutorial video for pillows on my Instagram highlights. It's not professional by any means, I've got a long way to go in the video department! But you'll get the idea for sure. There is also a step by step photo tutorial in this post.

I always buy pillow forms at IKEA because they feel great and are inexpensive. The 20" down forms are perfect for 18" covers, you want your cover to be a bit smaller than the form for the perfect squishiness.

I backed mine in the same Sunnyside Up print, but on aqua instead of white.

Finally, here are the colors I used. I was finicky about the shades and ended up using things from different manufacturers, unlike the muted, which are all from Kona. Here are the brights:

Free Spirit Sapphire 
Moda Bella Regatta 
Kona Jade Green 
Tula Aegean 
Free Spirit Julep 
Free Spirit Cricket 
Free Spirit Pear 
Tula Limeade 
Kona Grellow 
Free Spirit Persimmon 
Tula Hibiscus 
Kona Punch 
Moda Bella Shocking Pink 
Kona Cerise

The dots in the sashed quilt are all Riley Blake Swiss Dots in nearly every color on white. I didn't use red, black, or navy, but I used pretty much all the others, which are just in my stash.

Alright, I think that covers it! Please let me know if I've overlooked any details in the comments, I haven't been sleeping much lately!