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Want to see how awesome it is in action? You’re going to love this!
I’m going to say it again – wow!
This makes the process so easy! Especially for folks who are using cutting machines and have had a bit more of a laborious process to transfer those placement markings in the past.
I know some of you have been using a light box forever and can’t believe I didn’t know already how awesome they are.
I’m usually really slow to use new gadgets. I just don’t want a studio full of tools I’ll rarely use.
I’ve used a light box exactly once before – in a Craftsy class I taught several years ago. It was really huge and cumbersome and not something I had space for in my studio. I had no idea how slim and lightweight and inexpensive they are now!
Moving forward, all of my patterns will have numbers on the reference images and corresponding numbers on the template pieces.
I’m in the process of a year-long project to update all my quilt patterns. That update will include adding SVG files for use with cutting machines, and these numbered templates.
I’ll continue to include the placement markings for those who don’t want to get a light box. You can find a tutorial showing how to do that method here.
For those of you about to get a new light box – enjoy!!!
I get a lot of questions about sewing machine feet. Mostly people want to know one of two things. What kind of specialty feet should they buy for their machine? And do they really need to have a walking foot?
Well – it all depends on what you want to sew!
There are so many specialty feet out there! I have a few I’ve bought for specific projects – a ruffling foot when my daughter was little and liked ruffles and gathered skirts, a piping foot for I-don’t-even-remember-what. You get the idea.
But there are a few feet that I use ALL THE TIME – and they’re what I want to talk about here.
I don’t sew much clothing, but I do like to make little zippered pouches and pillows with zippered backs. A zipper foot is pretty essential if you’re going to sew zippers. I guess technically you can do without it – but I wouldn’t want to. 🙂 The good news is that most machines come with a zipper foot, and if yours doesn’t, there are lots of inexpensive universals available.
A zipper foot is also really handy for sewing piping or other fancy trims where you want to sew right up against a chunky bit.
If you like to machine quilt, a walking foot is essential. Basically, what a walking foot does is give you feed dogs that sit on top of your fabric, pulling it through at the same rate as the feed dogs built into your machine below the throat plate. This keeps the top and bottom layers feeding evenly through the machine. Genius!
A lot of fancier machines now have a built-in walking foot, but there are universals available for every brand and some of them are pretty inexpensive. I highly recommend getting one!
This isn’t one of the essential sewing machine feet, but I really love it for when I want to be super precise in my seam allowance.
Here’s what mine looks like.
That weird piece sitting beside the foot actually screws into the machine and becomes a wall that you butt your fabric against, to help you get an exact 1/4-inch seam allowance (or whatever depth you set it to). This is perfect for joining quilt blocks – especially for quilts with half blocks and double blocks where the seam allowance needs to be really accurate.
For some machines, the quarter-inch foot has the “wall” built right into the foot, but those aren’t adjustable. They ONLY do a quarter inch seam allowance.
I saved my very favorite sewing machine foot for last – a clear applique foot.
If you do ANY machine applique (or any topstitching or edgestitching) this foot is absolutely necessary.
Here’s what a typical sewing machine foot looks like.
It’s metal and it might have a small opening like this one – but you can’t see much. And there’s very little visibility where the needle is actually going in – that smaller slot behind the main “toes.” It’s REALLY hard to see where you’re stitching with this foot.
Here’s a clear applique foot.
Look at that! The base of the foot is made entirely of clear plastic – giving you total visibility as you stitch. That ability to see what I’m doing is what allows me to outline applique shapes like this so neatly.
Want to add a baby to any block in my quilt patterns?
You just need to print the baby at a reduced size!
There’s a post here with more info. (scroll down to the section called “Print at 100% Size – No Scaling”)
In a nutshell – tell your printer you DON’T want to print at 100%.
Here’s an example of my print screen. The exact layout and terminology will be different for every printer and operating system, but they all have the same basic info.
In order to print patterns at the “correct” size you make sure the scale is set at 100% – but really you can set it at anything you like!
How do you know what size to use? Well, that takes a little trial and error and I recommend doing some test printouts on inexpensive paper before you print on your fusible adhesive. Here are some samples I tried for my cats. In all the samples below, the mama is printed at 100% size – I just changed the size of the baby.
Here’s a mama at 100% and a baby at 90%. Too close. It looks more like a mama and papa – which would also be fun!
Here’s the mama at 100% with the baby at 80%. Maybe the baby is a teenager?
Here the mama cat is 100% and the baby is at 70%. This is getting closer to what I was imagining.
Here the baby is printed at 60% size. This might be perfect! But I’m going to go down one more step just to see. The eyes might be too small to work with if I go smaller.
This is it! The baby is printed at 50% to make a tiny little kitten. The eyes are JUST big enough that I can still applique them, and I love the look.
And here’s the link to the Cuddly Cats quilt pattern where this cutie is just one of the fourteen cats included. But you can do this with any blocks from any of my applique patterns. Just play around with the sizes until you’re happy with the look you get!
Fusible applique is my favorite applique method. It’s fast and easy and it really lets me play with my designs.
I’ve been using this method for some time now, and I’ve refined the method I use. The most recent big change was adding SVG files to my patterns for use with electric cutting machines like Cricut and Silhouette – and that meant a change in how I design some of my template pieces.
Time for a new tutorial! This video shows all the steps for how I do fusible applique. It’s on the long side, and I mention several other tutorials, so scroll past the video for a list of topics at each timestamp, and all the links I mention in the video.
If you want to skip the placement markings, there’s a tutorial here showing how to get perfect placement without them.
Layering and Positioning the Fusible Applique Pieces (14:43)
I show how I layer all the pieces together – with extra info about how to mark your fusible adhesive to help you get a directional pattern to run in different directions to help create contrast between overlapping pieces. (Look at the legs on the chameleon block at the top of this post to see what I’m talking about here.)
All of my quilt patterns include supply lists and details cutting instructions for three quilt sizes – crib, nap and twin.
You can always make a quilt larger or smaller by adding or removing blocks. I make the math super easy for that by having all my quilt blocks finish at 10 inches square.
But there’s no reason for every individual to have to calculate all the math for all the different quilt sizes. I can do that once and then share it for everyone!
I do have a couple of caveats, though. . .
This math (and cutting information) only works if you’re making quilts with all square blocks and no sashing or borders. If your pattern includes half blocks or double blocks, the results will be a tiny bit different. The amount of fabric needed will probably be the same, but the cutting instructions will change a bit. If you’re adding sashing to your quilt, you want this post instead – How to Add Sashing to a QAYG Quilt.
All the fabric calculations assume you’re using fabric that’s 40 inches wide. If you’re using a different width (cuddle fleece, minky, special wide fabric for quilt backs) that will change the amount needed.
So let’s jump in to the most popular quilt sizes I get requests for.
Itty Bitty Baby Size
My patterns include instructions for crib size, but it’s a pretty generous crib size and sometimes people want one that’s a lot smaller – better for tucking around an infant in a car seat. For that the Itty Bitty Baby size works well.
Dimensions 30 inches x 30 inches (3 blocks x 3 blocks)
Binding cutting instructions Cut 6 strips 2 1/4 inches wide, the full width of the fabric.
Backing 2 1/2 yards
Backing cutting instructions Cut one piece 56 inches long. Cut the remaining piece in half the long way so you have two rectangles, each roughly 20 inches wide x 34 inches long. (The exact width will depend on the actual width of your fabric.)
Backing assembly diagram (not to scale) – join the two smaller pieces along the short edge, then join that piece to the longer piece. The pieced section will be longer than it needs to be – this sketch is just a guide.
Appliques 1 1/2 yards, any combination of scraps and fat quarters
Fusible adhesive 3 packs of 10 printable sheets (or three 17 x 45 inch sheets) is enough for most patterns (This is the brand I use.)
Nap Size Quilts
This is the size I use on the couch. It’s included in all my patterns – but I’m including it here as well for those who want to assemble their own design using individual block patterns.
Dimensions 50 inches wide x 60 inches tall (5 blocks x 6 blocks)
Total blocks needed 30
Background blocks 3 1/3 yards total (buy in 1/3 yard increments for minimal waste)
Please understand that this is by no means a definitive list! It really depends on what birds YOU want to make. I’m making sample blocks (and including instructions for) 100 birds, but there are THOUSANDS of bird species out there – and when you consider the fact that male and females of the same species often look very different. . . well, that’s a lot of variation.
I’ve designed the templates to be mix and matchable – so you can use them to go way beyond the 100 samples I made. That means you’ll probably also go way beyond the fabrics I used. BUT! I can give you some guidelines to create a really useful stash to start with. Just be aware that you may need to go searching for just the right fabric for some of the birds in your quilt.
Before I go into specific colors and patterns, I want to include just a couple of the “rules” I used for my sample blocks. I often decide on rules for a quilt before I choose fabrics. It helps me keep a cohesive look to a jumble of different blocks. For my bird samples, the only solid I used was solid black for the eyes. ALL the other fabrics are prints or batiks. I did this because even the smoothest-looking birds have some variation/texture in their feathers. So I used batiks for the very smooth, uniform-looking birds (less common) and other prints for the rest (more common).
I recommend choosing one color palette for your background blocks, but I’ll have more info about that (and lots of sample photos) at the end of this post.
Not surprisingly, you’re going to need a lot of neutral fabrics. A LOT of backyard birds are colored to blend in with their backgrounds. I used the Warm Neutrals bundle as a starting point, but I definitely needed to go beyond that. That bundle gives you five shades of grey (ranging from almost white to black), five shades of brown (again ranging from very light to very dark), a rusty brown and a golden color. You’ll definitely want more variety in the browns and greys – I often liked to use different prints of the same shade to get some contrast between different parts, like you see in this yellowthroat.
The wings, tail, and back of the bird are the same brown – but I used different prints to help create definition.
When you shop for browns, make sure you’re also getting some reddish browns (cinnamon) and some greyish browns (taupe).
You’ll also want at least one white-on-white print, and one very dark grey-on-black.
All of these that I’m talking about here are the tone-on-tone prints that read as solids.
Now we’re talking stripes and spots. You actually don’t need many of these fabrics – but what you need is pretty specific. Here’s a list of the most common prints I used.
streaky brown – cream or tan with darker brown streaks or stripes
cream or tan with darker brown spots
brown with cream speckles
a darker brown and a lighter brown dappled print (all-over florals can work here)
brown stripes – medium brown with darker brown or black stripes
grey with black stripes
Of course, this is not comprehensive – but it’s a good start.
Black and White
You’re going to want some black and white prints.
wide black and white stripe – very useful for birds with black and white heads
white with black spots
white with black speckles
narrower black and white stripes (mainly for woodpeckers)
black and white check (also mainly for woodpeckers)
You’ll definitely want some yellows. I was surprised by how many birds have yellow! Get a couple of bright egg-yolk yellow, and also some more dull mustardy shades.
Blue. Lots of birds have some very bright blue. Get a couple of prints in the same rich shade for the definition I talked about in the neutrals section.
Red. Most red birds tend to be orangey red rather than blue-ish reds, so keep that in mind as you shop.
Pink. We have a lot of pink and pinkish-purple birds here on the east coast. You’ll find a pink with grey undertones (or even grey streaks) pretty useful, and also a bright mulberry shade for several finches.
Greens. Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of green birds here in the US. You’d think that would be good camouflage. You might want to decide on your birds before you shop for greens, because you could need anything from emerald to olive.
Orange and dark purple. Again – these don’t come up as often, so maybe shop as needed.
The fabrics you choose for your background blocks can affect the whole mood of your quilt.
For my quilt I chose realistic colors for all the birds, and I played around with several different background palettes using my fabric bundles. I recommend choosing either solids or batiks for your background blocks – but don’t mix them. Besides thinking about the overall look you like, think about the quilting here. Quilting will really show on solids, and will be almost invisible on batiks.
Here are the background palettes I’ve already experimented with.
The Batik Rainbow bundle will give you very vivid background blocks with nearly invisible quilting. The background fabrics are as vivid as some of the most colorful backyard birds!
The Warm Neutral Batiks bundle will give you a more subtle, forest-floor background. The colorful backyard birds really pop against these neutral fabrics, but when you’re putting a brown bird on a brown block (or a grey bird on a grey block) you’ll need to be sure to get good light/dark contrast.
For the last few years I’ve participated in the 100 Day Project. Last year was the first year I actually finished it. 🙂
The 100 Day project is awesome. Participants decide on any creative activity they want to pursue for 100 days. It can be ANYTHING! A few that I remember off the top of my head are a jeweler who made 100 pairs of earrings, a potter who came up with 100 different handles, a baker who made 100 different pies, and an artist who designed 100 different alphabet fonts – the sky’s the limit!
Last year I designed a different repeat pattern every day – AND I used that pattern to mock-up a new applique design. Here’s just one example.
I hoped to have a fabric collection come out of it, but I got something else instead. SO MANY QUILT BLOCK IDEAS!
I love how it turned out – but it was relatively easy. Just design all the blocks, make a sample, record the video tutorials, and write the pattern!
But one of the ideas that the project sparked last year was a Mix & Match Backyard Birds pattern. As I was drawing some of the birds I see at my feeder, I realized that a lot of the basic parts are pretty much the same. I wondered if I could create some basic templates that could be used to applique just about any of those classic feeder birds. I noodled around with the idea for ten of my hundred days, and it seemed like it would work!
I’ve taken the months since then to draw up a bunch of templates and now I’m finally ready to test them – just in time for a new 100 Day Project!
The new tests won’t be mock-ups. They’re actually appliqued blocks that I’ll be able to join into a quilt. So exciting!
Here’s Day 1 – a black-capped chickadee, one of my favorite birds.
Will I be able to make 100 different recognizable birds using just a few pages of templates? We’re about to find out. 🙂
You can follow along with my progress on Instagram. And the applique pattern will be available at the end of the project – maybe even sooner if the testing goes smoothly and I don’t need to design too many additional templates. 🙂
Update! The project is finished and you can find the pattern here!
Want to join in the 100 Day Project? There’s more info here.
Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?
Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.
It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!
Every year (almost) I release a free holiday applique pattern.
What to do this year?
Here are the links to the patterns from previous years.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with Mix & Match patterns lately, so I decided to make a gingerbread cookie with lots of parts for you to play with!
Here’s a quick intro. . .
Now let’s jump right to the instructions!
These instructions assume you’re already familiar with the applique method I use – Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.
If you’re new to my patterns, there’s a detailed video workshop here that takes you step by step through the methods I use. It’s totally free, and you can work your way through the lessons using any pattern you like, including this gingerbread pattern!
If you’e using an electric cutting machine like a Cricut. . .
Upload the file to your machine.
Resize if needed. (To fit a block that finishes at 10 inches square, the image should be 15 inches wide.)
Ungroup the pieces and assign colors
Trace or print the pattern onto the paper side of the fusible adhesive.
I use Heat & Bond Lite for all my quilts, and I love these printable sheets because I’m lazy and hate to trace. 🙂
The image has already been reversed, so just trace or print. If you’re tracing, be sure to trace the eyes and (optional) eyelashes too. You’ll need those for Step 5.
Roughly cut around each shape and fuse it to the back of your fabric.
Here’s a video showing those first two steps. . .
Cut around each piece neatly.
This time you’re cutting directly on the solid lines.
This video has more info about that step.
Remember back in Step 2 when I told you to make sure you traced the eyes and eyelashes? Now you’re going to use that. Hold the face up to a window so the light shines through it. You’ll be able to see all the dotted lines, and the adhesive will stabilize the fabric so you can trace on it without it crinkling up.
Trace the lines to show where the eyes go. If your cookie will have eyelashes, trace those too.
Here’s a video with more info about this step.
If you’re doing Quilt As You Go (I did) then you can quilt your block before adding the applique. So easy!
Cut your background fabric and a piece of 100% cotton batting 11 inches square.
Layer the block with a piece of 100% cotton batting. Quilt any pattern you like!
Have fun! And share a photo of what you make! You can share it in the Shiny Happy People group or tag it with #shinyhappyworld on Instagram.
If you like this free pattern, sign up for the Shiny Happy News! Subscribers get a weekly newsletter full of sewing tips and tricks, free patterns, special discounts, and other things to make you smile. 🙂