Those are both affiliate links to Amazon. If you buy something using them, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you – but if you have a local store that sells these things, please support them!
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.
When I say 10-inch square – that means that’s the FINISHED quilt block size. After you sew it all together, then the block is ten inches square.
To get those finished 10-inch squares, I like to cut my blocks 11 inches square. That way I have a little wiggle room – and I LIKE wiggle room. I quilt my block, then applique it, and then trim it down to 10 1/2 inches square so that when I sew the blocks together using a quarter inch seam allowance, my finished blocks are ten inches.
Easy peasy. Cut all blocks 11 inches square.
But what about half blocks? And double blocks?
Varying quilt block sizes is a great way to break up that straightforward grid.
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)
Choose any of my square applique patterns. They’re all designed to finish at 10 inches, so they’ll all fit in the Polaroid frame dimensions we’ll be working with here.
If you don’t have any of my quilt patterns, you can buy one here, or choose one of the free patterns available here.
Prep your materials. For a single block (good for a pillow cover) you’ll need. . .
1 piece of cotton batting cut 18 inches square (or a little larger)
1 piece of fabric for the background of the “photo” cut 10 1/2″ square
scraps of white fabric (I like using white on white prints for a tiny bit of texture) cut into the following strips
two strips 1 1/4″ x 10 1/2″
1 strip 1 1/4″ x 12″
1 strip 3 3/4″ x 12″
1/3 yard background fabric (the part around the Polaroid frame) – for best results, use a fabric that is a random scattered pattern that works in all directions. I love the speckly polkadots I used and I’ve got them on order in a bunch of great colors for the shop.
Sew the 1 1/4″ x 12″ strip to the top of your block, opening and pressing the strip like the side strips.
Complete the Polaroid frame by adding the 3 3/4″ x 12″ strip to the bottom of the photo.
See how the raw edges at the bottom of your applique are all hidden now? It looks just like a photo!
Now it’s time to cover up the rest of the batting.
Pick any side of your Polaroid and sew on a strip of the background fabric, using the same “stitch & flip” method.
The rest of the photos will be zoomed out like this one so that you can see the whole block. The background fabric should completely cover the batting and there will be some overhang.
Continue adding strips to cover the batting. I moved on to the right side next.
And then the top.
And finally the last side.
You can go in any order you like – just continue until the batting is covered.
Oops! I still have a little sliver exposed!
I’m not going to worry about it. I know I cut my batting square on the big side, and my next step is going to be to trim the block down to size. I’ll keep an eye on that sliver. If it doesn’t get trimmed away, I’ll use a scrap of the same fabric to add one more strip to cover it.
Trim the block to 17 1/2″ square. That way when you sew it together with other blocks to make a quilt, it will finish at 17″ square.
My first step in trimming is always to flip the block over and trim away the excess background fabric from the batting edges. That way I know exactly where the batting ends.
I just use my rotary cutting tools to cut away those red triangles showing around the batting square.
Then flip your block back over and trim to size. make sure you leave at least 1/4″ of background fabric around each corner of your Polaroid frame. You don’t want those corners to get buried when you sew your blocks together!
I was careful to trim away that uncovered sliver of batting.
Here’s a little mockup showing just four blocks together. If you use the same fabric for all the backgrounds, it looks like a page in an album with a bunch of Polaroids scattered on it!
Here are some dimensions and yardage requirements for all three of my standard quilt sizes.
My crib quilts are usually 50″ x 50″ but for the Polaroid version it will be 51″ square. Make 9 blocks total, arranged 3 x 3.
1 1/4 yard total of fabrics for the “photo” backgrounds
3/4 yard white fabric
2 3/4 yards background fabric
at least 3 fat quarters for applique, though you’ll probably want more for variety
My napping quilts are usually 50″ x 60″ but for the Polaroid version it will be 51″ x 68″. Make 12 blocks total, arranged 3 x 4.
1 1/2 yards total of fabrics for the “photo” backgrounds
1 yard white fabric
3 1/2 yards background fabric
at least 3 fat quarters for applique, though you’ll probably want more for variety
My twin quilts are usually 70″ x 90″ but for the Polaroid version it will be 68″ x 85″. Make 20 blocks total, arranged 4 x 5.
2 1/4 yards total of fabrics for the “photo” backgrounds
1 1/2 yards white fabric
5 3/4 yards background fabric
at least 5 fat quarters for applique, though you’ll probably want more for variety
You can get a lot of the fabrics you need in my shop.
The fat quarter bundles are all shown in the shop as a stack of fat quarters and are ideal for the appliques.
Fabric bundles (shown in the shop as color-coordinated strips of fabric) are all precut 12″ strips perfect for the “photo” backgrounds. The bundle sizes are all based on my normal quilt layouts. For Polaroid quilts a crib-sized bundle is enough to make all the photo backgrounds in a twin-sized quilt.
For the white fabric, I really like using white-on-white prints. The White Architextures print I have in the Warm Neutrals fat quarter bundles is perfect, and I have some leftovers available. You can get that here.
Finally – I’m adding some great fabrics for the backgrounds to the shop. I’ve got that terrific scattered speckly polkadot print like I used in my sample coming in in lots of great colors. They’ll be available by the half yard.
But my favorite method is actually to add fake WONKY sashing to my blocks. That makes blocks that dance around in your quilt, tipping slightly in different directions. It makes the appliques look like they’re peeking out of slightly Seussian windows. 🙂
It’s really easy to do! Here’s a video showing how. . .
Here are those dimensions. . .
Cut your background blocks 10 1/2 inches square
Cut your batting 13 inches square (you’ll trim it later to 12 1/2 inches square)
Cut your strips for the sashing 2 1/2 inches wide
And here are the rest of the links I promised. . .
Let’s Make a Quilt – free video workshop teaching my Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive method