Applique Pressing Tip

Have you ever had problems pressing your completed applique blocks? I’ve been sewing along with the Triplett sisters on their current block of the month. We are making 8″ blocks with a lot of applique detail. Since they are smallish blocks it’s sometimes challenging to press the block without leaving iron shine on the appliques.

In this first photo the applique is completed. As you can see it’s been crumpled and stuffed in my sewing bag and needs a good pressing.

Birds and Daises

I like to press with a hot iron and steam. Here the block has been pressed but I’m not satisfied with the bubbles that remain in between the appliques. If I were to press again with more emphasis on those areas I might end up with iron shine on some of the thicker pieces, especially the bird’s beak.Here’s my trick: Spread a terry cloth towel on the ironing surface. Place the completed block right side down on the towel. Press using a hot iron and steam. You don’t have to press the living daylights out of it. Just pressing across it once is usually all it takes.Here’s my finished block after pressing it on the towel. Really, I promise you, I only pressed it once on the towel!

Bird and Daisies Block

When I was a teenager my aunt taught me to press my completed embroidered blocks with this same method so it’s nothing new! Try it the next time you have an applique block that needs a little extra attention.



Bigger Berries Tutorial

I’m sewing along with sisters Lori and Kay Triplet on their appliqued Block of the Month project. Here is my August block: Grapes.

Grapes Block

Earlier I posted a picture tutorial about back basting the tiny berries on the Pokeberry block. They were itty bitty berries! See the post here. Next came the Grapes block with more circles to applique. Normally I may have groaned when I saw all those grapes but having just tackled many more berries that were much smaller in the earlier block I almost cheered to see bigger berries.

Kay posted a tutorial on Facebook showing how she was making her pokeberries using her grandmother’s thimble and a button. You can see it here. Look for the Aug 3, 2017 post.

I often use a similar method using Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Circle makers – and I was perfectly happy cutting all those circles by hand until I figured out a way to cut them in bulk – with a die cutter. Ah yes, die cut circles, that’s what I’m talking about! Let’s take a look.

You will notice in the photos that I have cut green circles and red circles. The Grape Block is one of the few blocks that repeats in this BOM so I figured I might as well make all the grapes at the same time.

The 1″ circle is a good size die to own because it can be used for many of the smaller sizes in Karen’s circle maker set.

I use my die cutter for other things but even if I didn’t I would be happy to have it just for cutting circles!

Cut the fabric approximately the same size as the die. I stacked the red and green fabrics to cut multiple layers at once. Crank the handle and run that puppy through the machine (follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the die cutting machine).

Viola! Circles galore!Hand stitch a running stitch close to the edge. Tips: Start with a back stitch! Leave a tail. Use hand quilting thread or another strong thread.

Find the circle maker in the size you want. Karen’s original set has four of each size. I lost one of them in the size used in this tutorial so my photos show making the grapes three at a time (but I’d rather make them four at a time!)Pull the thread tail gathering the fabric around the teflon disc. Give it a spritz of spray starch or magic sizing. Pull the tail again tightening the gathers.

Gather the fabric around the circle maker


Tighten the gathers

Press from the wrong side with a hot, dry iron. Flip the circles over and press again from the right side. Let them cool. Think cookies: if you touch them too soon after taking them out of the oven you will burn your fingers!Loosen a stitch across from the tail. It helps to use a straight pin to slide under the stitch. Pop the teflon disc out and pull the tail to snug up the gathers and smooth the circle. It may be tempting to press again at this point but I find that if I leave them alone I get rounder finished berries/grapes.

If you aren’t quite ready to applique, string the berries onto a thread. Just put a knot in the thread and string them on, sort of like stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree. Leave a long tail so they don’t fall off the thread.

Position in place using the pattern as a guide. Hand applique using matching thread. I have a friend who does the basting step with matching applique thread leaving a long enough tail to thread into her needle with when she’s ready to sew.

Here’s my completed red grape version.

Grapes in Red

And here are the blocks I’ve completed so far.

For more information about the Triplet Sister’s Block of the Month check out their website here.


Pokeberry – Applique BOM Block 2

Today’s post is Pokeberry, the July block of the Triplett Sisters BOM. Click here to go to their page or here to see my earlier post.

I’m stitching these charming blocks using Back Basting Applique and will be posting photos, tips and tutorials as we progress.

When I saw the pattern for the Pokeberry block for a tiny moment I regretted that I wasn’t buying the pre-fused, laser cut version of this BOM (available from the Triplett sisters). It certainly would have been sweet to have all those 61 berries already cut out for me!!

Lori’s block. Pre-fused, laser cut. Perfect berries!

Being a great fan of Karen Kay Buckley’s perfect circle makers I first thought I’d make the berries with them. But these pokeberries are so tiny! After letting it bounce around in my head for a few days I made up my mind that I would stick with Back Basting Applique and post a picture tutorial to go with my finished block.

Then came the color choices. I love the vintage red and green color combination of the original quilt but I’m using my Waddington Road prints in my sample. The pokeberries in the original were stitched in plain red fabric (as were the stems).  I have pokeberries growing wild in my yard – they are interesting and grow to gigantic plants (but they are invasive so I pull them out by the roots before the berries ripen). The berries are a gorgeous bluish purple color. Since I didn’t have purple in my fabric palette I made my pokeberries blue.

Pokeberry – Block 2 of Triplett Sisters BOM

In my book Back Basting Applique Step by Step I describe completing the basting step on the machine – my favorite method. (Refer to pages 14-15 for Back Basting by Machine, Appliqueing by Hand.) The  basting stitches, once removed, leave a perforated line in the fabric marking the seam line – it’s helpful for needle turning the seam allowance.

I drew the entire pattern (reversed) on the wrong side of the background block then I appliqued all leaves and stems saving the berries for last. Go ahead, call it procrastination! I used one piece of fabric (instead of a tiny bit for each berry) and basted every other berry. Skipping every other berry left enough fabric for a seam allowance. Note: I use regular 50 wt thread in the bottom and Mettler 40 wt thread in the top with an 80 universal needle. I drop the feed dogs and use free motion stitching.

Berries machine basted, and trimmed with the first one appliqued

Trim around each berry leaving a scant seam allowance. Clip the seam allowance with 5-6 clips creating tabs. Don’t clip all the way to the stitching, a little more than halfway is enough.  Clipping too close can cause fraying at the seam line.

Remove the basting stitches from half of the berry and needle turn the seam allowance turning one tab at a time using the needle or a toothpick to tuck the seam allowance under the berry. Stitch one or two stitches then turn a little more seam allowance under. I like this method of clipping the seam allowance creating tabs because I can work with a very small area at a time and there is  less tendency for the turn under to roll back out. Shape the berry as you applique. Stitch all the way around to get the seam allowance tucked in, then stitch a second time around the berry with smaller stitches to fine tune the edges.

Applique all the berries that were basted in the first set.

First group of berries appliqued

Using one piece of fabric again, baste the alternate berries that were skipped in the first round.

Trim around each berry leaving enough seam allowance to turn under.

Second group of berries basted and trimmed.

Applique the second group of berries. Repeat for all four branches of berries (which took me days and days to stitch!)

With a dime for scale. See, those berries are tiny!

Here is my completed block.

Pokeberry Block 2 of Triplett Sisters BOM

Other tips:

Use fine cotton or silk thread in a color that closely matches the berry fabric.

Poke the needle slightly under the berry as you begin each applique stitch. This helps round the edges.

I’m a tight appliquer, meaning I pull the thread snugly after each stitch. On tiny berries my tight stitches leave a little divot which tends to distort the smooth edge of the berry.  I find it helpful if I don’t pull my thread as tightly as usual.

If your berries a little wonky here’s a trick: Embroider around each berry using either a back stitch or a stem stitch with one strand of embroidery floss in a color that matches your berries. The embroidery can help camouflage irregularities in the berries.

If you’re on Facebook there is a page dedicated to this BOM. Click here for the Triplett Sisters Block of the Month Facebook page.


Day 3 of Ruby’s Block Hop!

It’s day 3 of the block hop and today we welcome Theresa Ward. Hop on over to her blog at Always Quilts and check out the tutorial and two examples of her block made with, Ruby’s Treasures fabrics!

As I was designing the fabric collection I dug into my own treasure trove of 30s prints. I have scrap bags, quilts, and unfinished blocks as well as a toy dog made by my grandmother. I studied all of these old textiles looking for charming prints that I thought I’d like to include.

One of the prints in the collection was reproduced from fabrics found in a pair of antique Sunbonnet Sue blocks. The blocks were given to me by my 96 year old friend Marguerite who told me they were made by her older sister Emily. I had already decided on the color palette (see my post for Day 2) and was delighted that the colors in the original fabrics were already included in the palette. img_7865

We reproduced both the violet/green sprigs and the pink/blue sprigs. Aren’t they sweet?


1-color2I wanted to include these two prints since they came from the gifted Sunbonnet blocks but also because I had queried a few of my friends who love vintage 30s prints. They told me they thought the 30s prints that were available were lacking in prints with light backgrounds.

The other light background print in the collection is this happy little dot. dots-pink-and-green

dots-viloet-and-yelThe original print came from a stuffed patchwork dog made by my grandmother.

Patchwork dog made by my grandmother Mary Martin

Patchwork dog made by my grandmother.

I had to take the fabric swatch off his nose in order to have it reproduced! img_9112-2

Theresa used both of these light prints effectively in her blocks. The blog hop/block hop continues for the rest of this week so check back – I’ll continue sharing about designing Ruby’s Treasures.

And hop around collecting block tutorials. Leave a comment at each stop to enter to win great prizes and ask for Vintage 30s Ruby’s Treasures at your favorite quilt store!

Here’s the rest of the schedule:

Friday 11/4: Barb Eikmeier @Barb’s Favorites

Monday 11/7: Donna Lynn Thomas @DonnaLynnThomasQuilter

Tuesday 11/8:Theresa Ward @AlwaysQuilts

Wednesday 11/9: Pat Speth @NickelQuilts

Thursday 11/10: Reeze Hanson @MorningGloryDesigns

Friday 11/11: Kelly Ashton @KellyQuilter

And our blog host Inspired by Fabric


Day 2 of Ruby’s Block Hop

Thanks for stopping in! It’s Day 2 of Ruby’s Block Hop! If you haven’t already been there hop over to Donna Lynn Thomas’ blog and see the beautiful blocks she made for the block hop! Click here to get to her blog and detailed tutorial.

If you missed the first block (posted by yours truly!) you can see it here.

I thought this Block Hop would be a good time to write about designing the Vintage 30s Ruby’s Treasures fabric collection.

I was working with Merrily McKim Tuohey, Ruby’s granddaughter, to write magazine articles to help spread the word about Ruby’s 100th anniversary. One day she opened the family archives and let me peek into Ruby’s scrapbooks. Among the treasures was an original applique kit for a vase filled with flowers. The fabrics were all solids.

Some weeks later, when I began designing the Vintage 30s Ruby’s Treasures fabric, I started with those solids from that little kit. Paintbrush Studio had just introduced their scrumptious Painter’s Palette line of solid fabrics so I compared their color swatch card to the solids from the vintage kit and selected these 9 colors. They became the palette for the reproduction collection. I love how the bolts rearranged themselves in the back of my car on the way home!


Check back tomorrow for more about Ruby, her treasures, and the fabric collection she inspired! And check out Merrily’s website McKim Studio Revival for more about Ruby and her patterns.

Here is the schedule for the rest of the blog hop.  Leave a comment on each blog to be entered to win great prizes.

Friday 11/4: Barb Eikmeier @Barb’s Favorites

Monday 11/7: Donna Lynn Thomas @DonnaLynnThomasQuilter

Tuesday 11/8: Theresa Ward @AlwaysQuilts

Wednesday 11/9: Pat Speth @NickelQuilts

Thursday 11/10: Reeze Hanson @MorningGloryDesigns

Friday 11/11: Kelly Ashton @KellyQuilter

And to visit our host, Inspired by Fabric blog, click here.


Ruby’s Treasures Blog Hop Starts Here!

Let the Blog Hop Begin! 14958545_10157615643450527_1228008125_nThe Ruby’s Treasures fabric collection was created to celebrate 100 years of Ruby Short McKim. In 1916 Ruby’s first quilt pattern was published by the Kansas City Star newspaper launching her career as a quilt designer. Throughout the 20s and early 30s she published numerous patterns but only one book: One Hundred and One Patchwork Patterns.

For this blog hop I’ve joined together with a five of my quilting friends to bring you blocks from Ruby’s book. You can access the original patterns for free online at www.101patchworkpatterns.com

I’ve asked each participant to choose one of Ruby’s blocks and make it as a 12” block then share a tutorial making the block in two different color ways, using, of course, the Vintage 30s Ruby’s Treasures fabric collection.

Hop around and collect all 6 tutorials to make a 12 block quilt. Leave a comment at each stop to be entered to win great prizes!

I’m kicking things off with Eight Pointed Star. Often called LeMoyne Star, in her book Ruby refers to the pattern simply as Eight Pointed Star. She wrote, “There are ever so many star quilt blocks … the diamond pattern here fits together eight times into a perfect eight pointed one, which is perhaps favorite in the galaxy.” Click here to see Ruby’s pattern.

Here are my two color waystut-14


In my first example I’ve paired the violet floral print with a pink solid in a classic layout. For this version we’ll rotary cut the pieces and construct the block with set in seams. Don’t stop reading just because you saw those words ‘set in seams’. It’s not that hard, you just have to take it one step at a time – and I have tips!

In the blue and cream version we’ll use Marti Michell’s Perfect Patchwork Templates and I’ll show an assembly method that does not require set in seams.

Let’s get started!

Violet Block


Cut (1) 3” x 22” strip of the violet/pink/yellow print

Cut (1) 3″ x 22”  strip of pink solid

Cut (1) 4” x 18” strip of violet/yellow dot; crosscut into (4)  4” x 4” squares

Cut (1) 6 ¼” x 6 ¼” square of violet/yellow dot; cut diagonally twice to make (4) side triangles.

Stack the pink strip and floral strip of fabric right side up and cut four diamonds from each. Use the 45° line on the ruler to trim the end then cut in 3” intervals. Cut (4) of each fabric. tut-1



There are several ways to sew the eight pointed star block together. This is my favorite.

Mark a dot at the 1/4″ seam lines of the pink diamonds. If you have trouble eyeing the 1/4″ seam line draw intersecting lines and use the point where the lines cross.tut-5

Sew the diamonds into pairs starting the stitching ¼” from the outside edge, backstitch, then stitch all the way to the end on the inside point. Press the seams toward the pink fabric. Repeat to make 4.tut-7

Sew the pairs into halves the same way, by starting at the outside edge, ¼” from the end, backstitching, and sewing all the way to the other end.tut-8


Sew the two halves together, match the center and pin. You might find that your center points come out better if you sew from the center to the outside, stopping ¼” from the outside edge and backstitching then cut the threads and go back to the center to stitch the other side, again stopping ¼” from the edge. Sometimes stitching across the center will push the center to one side making a less than perfect center.

Now comes the fun part – setting in the corners and side triangles. I’ve laid out all the pieces so you can see where they go.img_9039 I prefer to start with a corner and work in one direction going around the block alternating a corner with a side triangle. You could also set in the four corners then go back and set in the four triangles. Or you could set the triangles in first. img_9040


The block will come out the same no matter which way you sew it together. It’s not necessary to press until all the pieces are set in. Here’s a tip: No matter which order you choose to set the pieces in, sew all the way to the outside edges and leave the seam open ¼” on the inside corners and backstitching whenever there is a seam that stops at that 1/4″ seam line.

Mark dots at the 1/4″ point on the corners of the background squares and triangles. Align one side of the square with the edge of a pink diamond. Poke a straight pin through the dot and pin it through the dot on the diamond. Sew from the outside edge toward the dot. Back stitch at the dot.tut-10b

Remove from the sewing machine and rotate so you can align the adjoining side of the square to the floral diamond. Repeat the stitching sewing from the outside toward the center. Backstitch at the dot. tut-11

Add the adjoining side triangle in the same manner.tut-12Tip: When sewing set in seams if you have trouble hitting the dot perfectly it’s better to stop too soon vs stitching too far.


Continue around the block alternating a corner square and triangle until all background pieces have been set it.

Give your block a final pressing and measure it. Does it measure 12 ½” x 12 ½” at this point? Then congratulations! You did an excellent job!tut-14

Let’s make the block again, this time using templates to cut out the block.

For my second color way I’m going to use Marti Michell’s Perfect Patchwork Templates to cut out the shapes. Template Set E is the eight pointed star set, and I’m also using one of my new favorites, the Multi-sized Half Square Triangle Ruler. In this example there are extra seams in the background pieces which is a way to avoid set in seams. Try it both ways and decide which you like better.


Use Marti Michell template set E and the multi-sized half square triangle to cut the pieces.

Cut (1) 3” x 22″ strip of blue/yellow tulip print

Cut (1) 3” x 22″ strip of blue print

Cut (1) 4” x 22″ strip of plain background

Cut (1) 3” x 22″ strip of plain background

For the diamonds use template E 30 and cut (4) from each 3″ strip of print fabric for the stars (4 blue/yellow tulip and 4 blue print) Nip off the points.tut-15



Use template E 32 and cut (8) large triangles from the 4″ strip of background fabric for the corners. Nip off the points.tut-18

Use the multi-sized half square triangle ruler and cut (8) small triangles of the background fabric for the side triangles using the 3” line on the ruler. Nip off the points using the corner of the ruler.tut-20


Sew a small triangle and a large triangle to each diamond as pictured. Make sure the orientation is correct. img_9057On the blue diamonds press the small triangle seams toward the diamond and the large triangle away from the diamond. Press the seams of the floral print units the opposite way with the small triangles going away from the diamond and the large triangles going toward it. Make 4 of each.img_9058

Place the units right sides together. You will notice that the seams nest perfectly since they were pressed in opposing directions. Sew and press the seam toward the blue diamond. Make 4.img_9059Sew together in pairs and press the seams toward the floral diamond. Make 2.

img_9060Match the center and sew the two halves together. Press the seam open. tut-26And there we have it, another beautiful Eight Pointed Star.

Which technique is for you? Set in seams or not? Do you like the pink or blue star best? Have you ever tried Marti’s Michell’s perfect patchwork templates?

Leave a comment to enter the giveaway!

I’m giving away a Craftsy Class Connect the Blocks – it has sashing ideas to complete the blocks in this hop into beautiful quilts and Marti has donated Template Set E and the Half Square Triangle Ruler. And don’t forget, if you haven’t already been to Inspired by Fabric blog, hop on over there, sign up to follow (if you don’t already) and leave a comment – they are giving away fat quarter bundles of Ruby’s Treasures!

Here is the schedule for the rest of the hop. Stop by here each day as well, I’ll be sharing more about Ruby and the fabric collection she inspired.

Friday 11/4: Barb Eikmeier @Barb’s Favorites

Monday 11/7: Donna Lynn Thomas @DonnaLynnThomasQuilter

Tuesday 11/8:Theresa Ward @AlwaysQuilts

Wednesday 11/9: Pat Speth @NickelQuilts

Thursday 11/10: Reeze Hanson @MorningGloryDesigns

Friday 11/11: Kelly Ashton @KellyQuilter

And here’s the link to Inspired by Fabric, our blog host


Ruby’s Treasures Blog Hop

Starting tomorrow, Nov 4, 2016, a new blog hop. This time we’ll be featuring my Vintage 30s Ruby’s Treasures fabric collection. Hosted by Inspired by Fabric blog, a total of 6 quilting teachers will be posting block tutorials and showing the blocks in two colorways. Join the fun, learn something new, and enter for giveaways at each stop.collection


License Plate Quilt – free pattern

It’s almost summer and with summer comes the Row by Row Experience. If you collect license plates as you travel from quilt shop to quilt shop and are looking for a project to use them in consider my License Plate Quilt. I designed it using a package of tone on tone 2 1/2″ pre-cut strips and 30 license plates collected from hither and yon.

License Plate quilt

License Plate quilt  by Barbara J. Eikmeier

To make the quilt you may download the pattern for free here.License Plate Quilt PDF


And the Winner is …

Thanks to those of you who joined the Vintage Shirting and Dress Prints blog hop, we designers had a great time hopping around with you! The winners have been selected and are posted at Inspired by Fabric. Click here to see the full list of winners. Each designer will be contacting their winners.

Congratulations to all the winners! Here’s who won at Barb’s Favorites:

Fat Quarter Bundle: Susan M

Marti Michell Template Set B and Encyclopedia of Patchwork Patterns Volume 1: Sandy A

Craftsy Class: Connecting the Blocks: Jen B

And I have one more winner to announce – the viewer’s choice goes to the block with the Dark Star Points with 56 votes.

First place with 56 votes

First place with 56 votes.

The Light Star Points came in second (!) with a respectable tally of 36 votes.

Second Place with 36 votes.

Second Place with 36 votes.

Thank you to all of you who voted. There were a number of “I like both!” votes too!

And now, to inspire you to make your own blocks, take a look at what Carol M. made in a weekend! Great job Carol.

Blog Hop blocks by Carol M.

Blog Hop blocks by Carol M.

This concludes the Vintage Shirting and Dress Prints Blog Hop. If you missed the hop you can still see all the tutorials. Click here to go to the beginning. If you didn’t win my Crafsty Class: Connecting the Blocks use this link to get the class for half price.5346_728x90 Connecting the blocks


Final Day of the Blog Hop

All fun must end and today is the final stop of this blog hop. Last, but certainly not least, we welcome Theresa Ward to the fun. Drawing for the prizes will take place next week – and there are lots of goodies: We have Fat Quarter Bundles of Vintage Shirting and Dress Prints – enough to make all the blocks on the hop in both color ways, plus there are books, online classes, patterns, and tools.

I met Theresa when I moved back to Kansas in 2008 – the year my husband retired from the military. One of the first things I learned about Theresa is that she is a great machine quilter. Check this out to see what I’m talking about:

Detail of Theresa Ward's amazing feathers.

Detail of Theresa Ward’s amazing feathers.

When I got a contract with a very short deadline for my book, Back Basting Applique Step by Step, Theresa bailed me out by machine quilting most of the samples in the book. I might still be in debt to her on that one but maybe not because she wrote her first quilting book recently and needed my help! Theresa is a talented designer. She, along with Sharon Lorfing, host a mystery quilt lock-in each spring with a new original design every year (I made the blue quilt pictured above during the lock-in a few years ago) Be sure to check out Theresa’s book when you’re on her blog.

Theresa Ward at her booth at the Heartland Quilt Network Meeting. I'm not in the picture because I took it!

Theresa Ward at her booth at the Heartland Quilt Network Meeting. I’m not in the picture because I took it!

But my very favorite thing about Theresa is that she is a school bus driver. She takes her big yellow bus home every day during the school year which makes it easy to find her house in the country when I’m dropping off and picking up quilts. And, in case you are wondering, she can parallel park a school bus – on a busy side street  – with a line of traffic.

I hope you have had as much fun as I have with our blog hop. If we do this again with my next fabric collection (coming soon!) would you like to see blocks again or projects?

We’ll be announcing the winners next week. Until then, happy stitching!

One last time, here are the links to all the other stops on the blog hop.

Vintage Shirting & Dress Prints Blog Hop Schedule:

Thursday 4/14: Blog Hop Introduction
Friday 4/15: Barb Eikmeier @Barb’s Favorites
Monday 4/18: Donna Lynn Thomas @DonnaLynnThomasQuilter
Tuesday 4/19: Kelly Ashton @KellyQuilter
Wednesday 4/20: Reeze Hanson @MorningGloryDesigns
Thursday 4/21: Sally Schneider @SallySchneider
 Friday 4/22: Theresa Ward @AlwaysQuilts