How to Clean a Cutting Mat

How to Clean Cutting Mat - Shiny Happy World

I love Quilt As You Go and use it for almost all of my quilts – but cutting the batting squares and then trimming the finished blocks to size makes a real mess of your cutting mat. All those cotton fibers get embedded in the mat and no amount of rubbing with a rag will get them out.

But there’s a really easy solution – easy, fast, and cheap.

How to Clean Cutting Mat - Shiny Happy World

Yep. One of those inexpensive white artist erasers.

Just rub it on the mat wherever it’s fuzzy, like you’re erasing the fuzz.

How to Clean Cutting Mat - Shiny Happy World

It pulls all the fuzz right out of the cuts and balls it up so you can just brush it into the trash.

Easy peasy.

How to Clean Cutting Mat - Shiny Happy World

In five minutes your mat will look almost like new, all ready for your next quilt. 🙂

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

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Fish Quilt Step 4 – Final Quilting

Fish Quilt - bubble quilting from Shiny Happy World

The Fish Quilt pattern will be released tomorrow! All week I’ve been sharing a peek behind the scenes at some of the design decisions I made for my sample quilt.

In this post I showed how I quilted my background blocks in a fun wavy pattern.

In this post I talked about choosing fabric – especially the color.

In this post I talked about how to work with the print/pattern of your fabric – using the example of the striped fabric I used for some of my fish.

Today I’m talking about the final quilting.

This is different from the waves I quilted into the background blocks. This is the final round of quilting – just over the seams joining the blocks – that holds the backing to the quilt.

Usually I do either straight line quilting 1/4″ on each side of all the seams, or a fairly open and narrow zigzag over the seams.

But sometimes I find a decorative stitch on my machine that will be perfect for a quilt – and that’s what I did for this one.

Doesn’t this look like bubbles?

Fish Quilt - bubble quilting from Shiny Happy World

I used it for all the vertical seams, because streams of bubbles like this travel straight up. 🙂

For the horizontal seams I used a small wavy stitch to echo the wavy quilting within each block.

Fish Quilt - wave quilting from Shiny Happy World

I used a variegated blue thread for both of them.

Decorative stitches like the bubbly one CAN BE TRICKY – so I recommend doing some test stitching on a swatch to make sure it’s going to work for you.

The biggest problem is with stitches where the feed dogs move the quilt back and forth to achieve the stitch, instead of always steadily forward. It can be very hard to manage that back and forth motion with a large, heavy quilt in there!

Here’s where I went wrong on my quilt.

Fish Quilt - problem with bubble quilting from Shiny Happy World

I didn’t have the quilt “fluffed” loose enough and it was hooked on the corner of my working surface. That was keeping it from feeding through properly, and you can see in the top of the photo where the stitches are all scrunched together and those bubbly circles are distorted and almost overlapping each other.

Instead of properly fixing the problem, I gave the quilt a tug – and ended up feeding the next section through too quickly, so that I made distorted wavy spirals instead of circles. 🙁

Sigh. I really know better. I slowed down and “stuffed and fluffed” properly for the rest of the quilt and everything else looks great. 🙂

Fish Quilt - bubble quilting from Shiny Happy World

(If you don’t know what I mean by “stuff and fluff” this post about quilting a full-sized quilt in a standard machine will explain.)

So – the moral of the story is. . .

It’s a lot of fun to use decorative stitching for the quilting, but only do it if you have the patience for it. If not (or if this is your first time machine quilting) use either a straight stitch, or a wide stitch that moves steadily forward, like a zigzag.

I hope some of you will share close-ups of your quilting in the Shiny Happy People Facebook group! It’s always so much fun to see what design decisions everyone else is making!

You can order the Fish Quilt pattern here.

You can read about how I quilted my background blocks here.

You can read about how I chose my fish colors here.

You can read about how I worked with the striped prints here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Fish Quilt Step 3 – Use Pattern Wisely

The Fish Quilt pattern will be ready on Friday!

In this post I showed how I quilted my background blocks.

In this post I talked about choosing fabric – especially the color.

Today I’m talking about the print/patterns on the fabric I chose.

In addition to the crosshatch and tiny polkadots prints I used from the Rainbow Brights fat quarter bundle, I also used the Little Stripes fat quarter bundle. It’s those stripes I want to focus on today.

When you’re working with stripes, you really want to pay attention to the way you position the applique pieces. I actually do that with all kinds of fabrics. See how the crosshatching on Gerald’s body runs at an angle, and on the spot and his tail it runs straight up and down?

Fish Quilt - Gerald - from Shiny Happy World

I actually did that on purpose, but most people don’t even notice it.

That’s not the case with bolder patterns like these stripes. You really have to think about how those stripes will run.

On Hank here I made the stripes run horizontally.

On Charlie I chose vertically.

You could use striped fabric on some fish and skip the smaller applique stripes, Like Louis here.

If you wanted to simplify that fish, just skip the purple applique stripes and use a striped fabric set vertically for his body. Easy peasy!

On Angelina I used the stripes to mimic the way a lot of fins have ribs in them, and how the angle of the ribs change – kind of sweeping back as the fish moves through the water.

In both of her fins, the stripes are parallel with the front edge of the fin.

I fully admit that that last example may be overthinking things a bit. 🙂

But I do stand by the notion that when your pattern is bold, you need to put some thought into how you use it in your applique.

Have fun with your fish! And play with pattern! I can’t wait to see what kinds of prints you use for your fish. I hope you’ll posts photos as you go in the Shiny Happy People Facebook group.

You can order the Fish Quilt pattern here.

You can read about how I quilted my background blocks here.

You can read about how I chose my fish colors here.

You can read about how I did my final quilting (bubbles!) here.

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Fish Quilt Step 2 – Choosing Fabric

Fish Quilt - Dan - from Shiny Happy World

The Fish Quilt pattern will be ready on Friday!

In this post I showed how I quilted my background blocks.

Today I’m talking about fabrics. What color will your fish be?

I opted for the brilliant colors you see in a coral reef. Think bright, bright, BRIGHT!

Fish Quilt - Gerald - from Shiny Happy World

I used two different fat quarter bundles for my fish. Most of the colors come from the Rainbow Brights fat quarter bundles.

That bundle has a darker and lighter shade of each color in the rainbow. That allows me to combine the light and dark for contrast in one fish, like this. . .

Isabella is made with the two shades of green in that bundle.

For a little extra contrast, I also added the Little Stripes fat quarter bundle. I love stripes so much!

Even though the fabrics in the two bundles come from different companies, I picked them so that the colors would still work really well together. 🙂

If I was making this for myself – and not as the sample quilt for a pattern – I probably would have also included fabrics from the Dots fat quarter bundle.

Dots Fat Quarter Bundle from Shiny Happy World

Those irregular dots and the crosshatch background would have added another nice texture to the fish – and the colors coordinate well with the other two bundles.

But I try to keep the numbers of fabrics I use in my samples to a minimum because I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to buy a TON of different fabrics to make the quilt work. Fabric is expensive! But if you have some Dots left over from making a Dinosaurs quilt – add them into the mix!

But what if you don’t want to make brightly colored tropical fish? What if you want to make fish that look like what you can pull out of any freshwater lake or stream?

For you I recommend the Warm Neutrals fat quarter bundle.

Warm Neutrals fat quarter bundle - from Shiny Happy World

That will give you fish that look trout-tish and bass-ish and perch-ish.

(All of my fish are Ish Fish. The only fish in the quilt that really looks like a very specific type is the angler fish – and even on him I eliminated the exceedlingly-scary-looking-very-sharp teeth.)

Which brings me to my final topic while we’re talking about color.

Camouflage.

I designed most of the blocks so there would be a very high contrast between the fish and the background water. I really wanted those fish to pop!

But I made a few be lower contrast. Angler fish (mine is named Kevin) have a very dull, practically invisible body so that all you really see is that glowing lure. I tried to sort of duplicate that (without making him too invisible) by making his body and the background the same darkness of fabric. You can see that really clearly when I switch his photo to black and white.

I added the lighter purple fin to help you spot him a bit, but you could go all dark for a more hidden fish lurking down there.

I chose purple on the blue because they’re in the same color family – both cool – so there’s even less contrast.

(If you want to read more about my normal “rules” for choosing applique fabrics (which I break here for Kevin) check out this post.

So Kevin is the lowest contrast, and most of the blocks are very high contrast, but I added in just a couple of low-ish contrast blocks to help make the overall quilt mimic a bit the look of a school of tropical fish – where some really stand out and some are less noticeable. Like this block where the lighter purple fish blend a bit with the lighter dapples in the background.

These guys appear in another block where they have higher contrast, so it’s only this pair who tend to recede into the background just a bit.

So there you go! That’s how I chose the colors for my fish. I can’t wait to see what you all do! I hope you’ll post photos as you go in the Shiny Happy People Facebook group. It’s awesome to see samples with additional fabric choices!

You can order the Fish Quilt pattern here.

You can read about how I quilted my background blocks here.

You can read about how I worked with the print of the fabric here.

You can read about how I did my final quilting (bubbles!) here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Fish Quilt Step 1 – Quilting the Background Blocks

Fish Quilt Step 1 - Quilting Your Background Blocks

The Fish Quilt pattern will be ready for release on Friday. Woo hoo!

You can click here to pre-order your copy.

I’m going to take the week leading up to the release to share some of the behind-the-scenes design decisions I made for my sample quilt.

Today – quilting the background blocks!

I used fabrics from my Blue Batiks bundle and cut all my blocks and batting pieces 11 inches square. They’ll be trimmed down to 10 1/2″ square so that gives me a bit of wiggle room. You can cut yours a little bigger if you like more room for error. 🙂

I usually do different quilting in each block, but for this quilt I decided to use a double wavy line for every block. It gives a nice watery/wavy look that’s perfect for the fish.

Fish Quilt Step 1 - Quilting Your Background Blocks - sample block

You can see how I quilt those wavy lines (no marking!) in this video.

One other change for this quilt is in my choice of quilting thread. I usually match the thread pretty closely to the background fabric, but this time I wanted those waves to stand out a bit more. I chose thread with a little bit of contrast – either darker or lighter blue, and sometimes veering into a blue-green.

Here’s one with slightly lighter thread.

And here’s one with slightly darker thread.And here’s one with some blueish green thread.

It’s subtle – but I like how it adds to the dapply, watery effect.

Read all about choosing colors for your fish here.

Read about how I worked with the print of the fabric here.

You can read about how I did my final quilting (bubbles!) here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Free September Calendar

Free September Calendar from Shiny Happy World

Happy September!

This month’s wallpaper uses one of my favorite blocks from the Parliament of Owls quilt pattern. I love that grumpy owl. 🙂 You can get 20% off that pattern all month – just use the discount code WHOO.

Here’s the free wallpaper for the month in common sizes for computers, tablets and phones. 🙂

Download the 2560×1440 wallpaper.
Download the 1920×1280 wallpaper.
Download the 1280×800 wallpaper.
Download the iPhone wallpaper.
Download the iPad wallpaper.

Changing the wallpaper on iPhones and iPads can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. Here’s a tutorial I found that looks pretty clear.

Enjoy!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

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Free August Calendar

Free August Calendar from Shiny Happy WorldHappy August!

(a tiny bit late)

This month’s wallpaper uses one of my favorite blocks from the Fancy Doodads quilt pattern. I love that silly beanie hat and glasses. 🙂

Here’s the free wallpaper for the month in common sizes for computers, tablets and phones. 🙂

Download the 2560×1440 wallpaper.
Download the 1920×1280 wallpaper.
Download the 1280×800 wallpaper.
Download the iPhone wallpaper.
Download the iPad wallpaper.

I don’t have an iDevice, but I’ve heard that changing the wallpaper on iPhones and iPads can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. Here’s a tutorial I found that looks pretty clear.

Enjoy!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

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Free Numbers Applique Pattern

Free Numbers Applique Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Ever since I released this free alphabet applique pattern, I’ve been getting requests for some matching numbers.

Of course!

It makes total sense that you’d want to add birth dates and other numbers to your quilts!

It’s finally here. 🙂

These patterns are just the templates. Watch this video for complete instructions for how to applique with fusible adhesive – my favorite method.

Use the regular orientation numbers for needle-turn applique.

Download the regular PDF here. (Use the PDF file for the easiest printing.)

Download the regular JPG here. (Use the JPG file for the easiest resizing.)

Use the reversed numbers for applique with fusible adhesive for freezer paper.

Download the reversed PDF here. (Use the PDF file for the easiest printing.)

Download the reversed JPG here. (Use the JPG file for the easiest resizing.)

Why no nine? Just turn the six upside down. 🙂

Oh – and those adorable gingham prints I used for the numbers? They’re all from the Gingham Play collection from Michael Miller Fabrics.

You can get fat quarter bundles here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

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How to Sew a Zippered Pillow Cover – a video tutorial

How to Add a Zipper to a Pillow Back - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I’m pretty picky about pillow covers.

I don’t like the envelope backs. They’re easy to sew, but they don’t cover the pillow as snugly as I like.

I like zippered covers, so they cover tightly and can be removed for washing – but I don’t like when the zipper is in one of the side seams. They never “sit” the same way as the other seams, so the finished pillow shape is always a little distorted.

I like the zipper to be somewhere in the pillow back (it doesn’t have to be the exact center) but I don’t like it to extend all the way to the edges, because the stiffness of the zipper again can distort the overall look of the pillow.

So here’s how I sew a pillow with a zipper in the back.

  1. I make the cover a little small. If the pillow is 18 inches square, I cut my fabric 18 inches square. When I sew the front to the back using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, the pillow cover ends up 17 inches square – perfect for the nice snug fit I like.
  2. I make the zipper a little short. Specifically – two inches shorter than the cut fabric. So for an 18 inch pillow, I buy a 16 inch zipper.

Here’s how I assemble the zipper back.

See how easy that is?

(Do you like that super fun, slightly wobbly gingham print? It’s part of the Gingham Play collection from Michael Miller Fabrics and I have fat quarter bundles in a rainbow of pretty colors.)

I make a LOT of these pillow covers.

My daughter doesn’t like using regular rectangular bed pillows. Instead she has an enormous pile of square pillows – mostly with quilted and applique designs on them. 🙂 She doesn’t like the inexpensive “hard” pillow forms. She likes these Fairfield brand Home Elegance pillows. They feel like down pillows, but they’re a LOT less expensive and they’re machine washable. Win!

You can use any quilt block pattern to make a pillow cover.

How to Turn Any Quilt Block into a PIllow

There are basic instructions here, and the Think BIG class (coming soon) will have instructions for making giant floor pillows!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Tutorial – Make a Tablet Cover

Quilted Tablet Cover - a free tutorial from Shiny Happy World

This post is originally from November 2013. I updated it in July 2017 to add the quilted batik tablet cover I made for my iPad Pro.

The day before I left for Quilt Market I decided that a really efficient use of my time would be to make myself a tablet cover using some of my new patterns. 🙂

Here’s the result.

Tablet cover with dog applique pattern from Shiny Happy WorldI posted it on Facebook and I got a bunch of requests for a pattern.

How about a free tutorial instead?

First you’ll need to measure your tablet. Of course, they’re all just a little bit different.

Add one inch to each dimension – length and width. This is your cutting size. If your tablet is 8″ x 11″ your cutting size is 9″ x 12″.

Cut four pieces of fabric to your cutting size. Two are for the outside and two are for the lining.

Oh yes – it’s lined.

Applique whatever you like to the two outside pieces, using whatever applique method you prefer. You can find video tutorials for hand and machine methods here.

The puppy is Harold – one block in the Puppies quilt pattern.

Of course, you can use any applique pattern you like! Maybe one of the critters from the Safari Quilt? Or a Silly Sloth?

For those who don’t like applique – how about embellishing it with some stitching? I’ve got a bunch of easy embroidery patterns here.

Or just make it out of the most fabulous fabric you can find!

For the new iPad cover, I used a fabulous hand-dyed batik fabric from Malka Dubrawsky of Stitch in Dye and added Big Stitch quilting around all the circles.

Quilted Tablet Cover - a free tutorial from Shiny Happy World

These are the tablet cover front and back, all quilted, trimmed to size, and ready to assemble.

Shop for Malka’s fabulous fabric here.

Learn how to do Big Stitch quilting here.

Back the outside layers with some thin cotton batting and hold the layers together with some machine quilting (if you didn’t already quilt it as part of your embellishment). For the cat/dog cover, I just followed the line of the zigzags in the fabric. Easy peasy! Since the tablet is lined you don’t even need to back the batting.

So. You’ve cut your pieces, added any fanciness you like, and quilted in some padding. Time to start sewing it all together. This is super easy.

Sew your front to your back, right sides together, using 1/4″ seam allowance. Sew down one side, across the bottom, and up the other side. Don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitching.

Do the same thing with your two lining pieces except leave a 3-4 inch opening in the bottom for turning the whole thing right side out later.

Turn both the outside and the lining right side out and press.

Make a tablet cover - free tutorial at Shiny Happy WorldI’ve got my turning stick poked through the opening I left in the lining. See how I pressed that too? That’ll make it a cinch to sew up when you’re done.

Now turn the outside inside out again. Leave the lining right side out.

Measure a strip of elastic 3 inches long. I used soft fold-over elastic in a pretty color (I get mine here) but you can really use any elastic in any size or color.

Fold the elastic in half and pin it to the center of the front of your cover. (Fold the cover in half to quickly find the center.)

Make a tablet cover - free tutorial at Shiny Happy WorldI like to leave a little extra hanging over the raw edge.

Slip the lining (right side out) inside the cover (inside out). Line up the side seams and pin or clip the layers together around the top. The elastic loop should be sandwiched between the two layers.

Make a tablet cover - free tutorial at Shiny Happy WorldYou can really see my quilting lines here on the batting.

Sew the outside to the lining all the way around the top using 1/4″ seam allowance.

Make a tablet cover - free tutorial at Shiny Happy WorldI go back and forth over the elastic a couple of extra times. It’s a stress spot and I like to reinforce it.

Now comes the fun part.

Pull the lining out of the bag. Then pull the whole thing through the opening in the bottom of the lining. Sew up the opening in the lining using either whipstitch or ladder stitch and tuck the lining down into the bag.

Flip down the elastic loop to see where you need to position your button and sew the button in place.

Done!

Tablet Cover with cat applique pattern from Shiny Happy World

Here’s the back of my cover. Of course I had to decorate the back too!

And here’s a full view of the batik cover.

Quilted Tablet Cover - a free tutorial from Shiny Happy World

It’s the same font and back. 🙂

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World