Thursday, June 20, 2024

Decoding Quilt Patterns: Essential Tips for Beginners

 Reading quilt patterns can be a new skill for some. Today, I'm sharing my best tips for reading quilt patterns so that you can avoid some frustrations and enjoy the process.




Starting out on a new quilt pattern venture should be fun, but sometimes it can be frustrating. The instructions are confusing, there are skills you haven't yet mastered, and what in the world does HST or SIS mean?? I'm sharing how I read quilt patterns with you today. This is how I read my own patterns when I'm testing them. P.S. HST means Half Square Triangle and SIS means Square In a Square. 💜





The first thing I do is plan *when* I'm going to read through the instructions. For me it's usually in the morning, when the house is quietish (there are two golden retrievers and two cats living here after all) and my brain is fresh. The fresh brain part is the most important.

I sit down with the instructions, a cup of coffee and a highlighter (or pencil if I know I'm going to make this pattern in different sizes).




Friends. We say this all of the time, and we mean it. READ through all of the instructions first. Don't do this as you are starting the pattern, or after you have got yourself all turned around and frustrated. Do it first. Then, read them again. They may not all make sense, especially if you are like me and you do better reading and doing at the same time. It will make a difference, though, when you get to a set of instructions and you can remember what is coming up soon and *that's* why the designer has you doing this step now.




I like to read through all of the instructions and then go back and start highlighting or circling the size I am going to make. I use pencil if I know I'm going to make multiple sizes (like when I'm testing a pattern).




I'll use a highlighter if I think I'm going to just make this pattern once.




I do this for the assembly instructions as well, not just the cutting.




I also like to underline or highlight important pieces, like what units I am supposed to use, and trimming sizes.




Reading through the instructions first also gives you a chance to see what skills you may need. What are the units being made, do you know what the designer means when they say "cut twice on the diagonal" or once? Double checking that you know how the designer is using the terminology now will keep things running as smooth as possible as you work your way through the pattern.




At the top of my patterns I add the acronyms that will be used throughout the pattern. When reading through a pattern check to see if a designer has added any helpful tips or hints for you. Reading them now will be so helpful.

I think these steps are even more important if you are stretching your comfort zone and trying a new skill. Reading through once or twice (third times the charm?) can help prepare your quilting brain for what is coming up.

Now go grab that pattern, your favorite way to hydrate and a writing utensil and,

Go make something Extraordinary.



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Thursday, June 13, 2024

10 Tips for Choosing a Quilt Pattern

 Choosing a quilt pattern to make can be an overwhelming task, especially for new quilters. Today I'm sharing my top 10 tips for choosing the right quilt pattern.



Understanding skill levels.

Beginner: A pattern that includes easy shapes like squares and rectangles and has minimal piecing.

Examples: Nine-patch, simple squares or Rail Fence patterns

Intermediate: These patterns use more complex shapes, like triangles and curves. There is more piecing involved and the quilter has more experience.

Examples: Pinwheel, Flying Geese or Log Cabin patterns

Advanced: These patterns have more intricate piecing patterns that may include things like applique or paper piecing.

Examples: Bargello, Double Wedding Ring or Baltimore Album patterns


Broken Panes


Tips for choosing the right pattern for you skill level.

1) Be honest about your skills. This isn't a competition. Take the time to hone each skill, it will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

2) Read the back of the pattern carefully. Look for skill level and/or needed techniques. If you aren't comfortable with a technique needed, wait to try it at a later time.

3) Start small. Projects like table runners, wall hangings, and placemats are projects that are easier to learn with. It's a chance to try a new skill without having to spend the money on a lot of fabric.


Star Light, Star Bright Sampler


4) Ask the shop owner/employee if they would be willing to let you look inside the pattern just to see how the instructions are written. If they say no, please respect that, and ask what their opinion is of the written instructions. It's hard for shops to sell patterns that are bent/wrinkled because they have been taken out of the sleeve and not taken care of.

5) Take a class or look up tutorials. Often they come with a recommended pattern. Remember that pattern that you didn't know how to do the technique for? Look up a class for it!

6) Learn new techniques one at a time. It's easy to get confused and frustrated if you try to learn them all at once. One stitch at a time goes for new techniques, too.


Square Illusions


7) Look at the complexity of the pattern and be honest with yourself. Is it something that you truly think you can do, one step at a time? If it looks too complicated, give yourself some practice time and then pick it up again later.

8) Are you looking at a pattern to make as a gift? Take stock of the time you truly have to make it and decide if the pattern you are looking at will fit in that time line. I always try to double my guestemate for time, and I'm usually still going over that guess. The truth is, patterns take time and being honest about the time you have will help you enjoy the pattern and piecing so much more.

9) Ask your fellow quilters or the shop owner. Get recommendations from those who have experience and let them guide you towards the right pattern.

10) Trust your gut. If your inner quilter is hesitating, listen to her/him. If you truly think you are ready for the pattern in your hand, go for it. You can always ask for help, or set it aside to come back later after you've practiced.


Turning Wheels


Bonus tip. When you get the pattern home, read through the instructions. We all say to do it, but we rarely do. It will save you some frustration if you take some time to read through them. I like to do this in the morning when my brain is fresh. I pour a hot cup of coffee, or iced coffee if the hot flashes are visiting, grab a highlighter and give my attention to the cutting and sewing instructions.

Next week I'll show you how I read through and mark the pattern instructions.


Let's make something Extraordinary!

 


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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Ready, Set, Quilt Show! Tips for a successful visit

Next week I am attending the Minnesota Quilt Show in the beautiful Duluth area. I love a good quilt show and I am excited to see all of the quilts and vendors. The MN Quilt Show has so much to offer and I hope to take advantage of my short time there. I want to share my tips for making the most of your quilt show time, and how to make it as enjoyable as possible.




Make a plan

Decide how many days you are going to attend the show. Quilt shows will have their schedules planned and posted in advance. Take time to look at what they are offering and decide what you must see, want to see and, if you're short on time, can miss. Don't forget to plan in some down time to sit and fawn over your purchases and eat lunch.

When you arrive take a minute to learn the layout of the show (don't forget to find those very important bathrooms!) and see how it fits with your preplanned schedule. Will it be easier to check out the judged quilts later, while checking out the vendors first? Or vice versa?

Will you be taking any classes, attending any lectures? Add the class times and lecture times you've signed up for to your phone's calendar so you don't get distracted by quilts and/or vendors.


"Let Freedom Ring" by Barbara Clem


Photo etiquette: If you are going to take photos to share on your social media, even if it's "just" your private Facebook page, take the extra moment to also photograph the information. Who pieced it, who quilted it, etc. Give credit to those awesome quilters who not only are letting us see their beautiful work, but have put in hours of time to do so.

What to wear

I'm obviously going to start with comfy shoes, because you will be on your feet for hours. I'm also going to say, I usually wear flip flops because my feet get so hot and I am miserable. This is a case of do as I say, not as I do. 😂

Do you sew your own quilty vest or other type of clothing? Why not wear it here and show it off. I know I get so inspired when I see the work of other quilters, whether it's quilts or clothing.

Don't forget to grab your reading glasses. I hate when I forget them and I can't read the back of patterns or the information next to quilts.

What to bring with you

This is where the list gets a bit lengthy. There are a few things I like to bring with me to make the day(s) enjoyable.

Water. Make sure you have something with you to help keep you hydrated throughout the day.

Snacks. You will want to plan a time to eat a meal, but when you are taking a short break a quick snack and water will keep you going.

Cash. Cards are so easy, but the fees can add up quickly for the vendors. Consider paying with cash instead.




Hand Sanitizer. Germs. Yuck.

Shopping bag, or two. If you shop at multiple vendors you'll want a larger bag to carry around the smaller bags. I like to bring one that has a pocket on the inside so I can grab business cards and/or pamphlets from vendors and keep them from floating around the bottom of the bag.

Notebook and pen. I like to have something to jot my thoughts on while I'm at a show. Sometimes it's a quilting idea, an embellishment idea, or a vendor I really want to make sure I look up. It's nice to have a small note pad to keep it all in one spot.

I always bring ibuprofen, because I inevitably get a headache in the afternoon. Whether it's from dehydration or over stimulations, or both, it's pretty much guaranteed.

Chapstick. I hate dry lips and it seems to happen in a large space filled with lots of people.

Kleenex. Lotion. Gum. These are a few of the things I like to have handy throughout the day.

If you think you will be taking a lot of pictures, consider bringing along a battery pack to keep your phone charged. Don't forget to make sure you have lots of space available!

That's it. Those are my best tips for attending a quilt show and enjoying the time spent with other quilters. Did I miss anything that you love to take with you? Share in the comments!

This year the Minnesota Quilters Mystery Quilt entries will be featuring my quilt design "Up North." This was their mystery quilt for 2023. I can't wait to see their quilts! If you have one hanging, let me know!


"Up North" by Patterns By Jen

Let's make something Extraordinary!

 


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Saturday, June 1, 2024

2024 June Monthly Color Challenge Block

 It's spring in the Upper Midwest where I reside and we're about a month away from ripe raspberries!




Our challenge this month is inspired by tropical fish. Such beauty lays under the water, it's hard not to be inspired.




This month our color is raspberry and we look to the Harlequin Rasboras for our inspiration. 




From ModestFish Colorful Freshwater FishHarlequin Rasboras are a stunning little freshwater fish with a vibrant, ruby lozenge-shaped body with a black wedge running from their dorsal fin to their tail. Excellent in a peaceful community tank, due to their active schooling behaviors, Harlequin Rasboras will really create some colorful spectacles as they race across your tank.




I love raspberries, and this block has me so excited for fresh raspberry season!



I'm using Benartex's "Burlap" fabric line. I love the texture of the fabric, sooo much. 

Our featured blogger this month is:

Raylee - Sunflower Stitcheries and Quilting

Find her on Instagram


Ready for the  block? It's a fun block, but definitely requires a little more attention when piecing it together.



Join the Quilt and Learn with Patterns By Jen Facebook group (make sure to answer the questions so I know you are a real person 😉) where you will get a lot of support and questions answered! If you aren't on Facebook you can also follow Patterns By Jen on Instagram. Use #2024MonthlyColorChallenge when sharing so I can be sure to see your block.



I hope my feed is swimming in raspberry this month!

Ready to get the pattern? Go to Payhip and download it now!Go to Payhip and download it now! The block is free for the month of June! Each set of instructions includes a "How To" video.

It's too late to receive the January through June block instructions through email, but you can still sign up to have the July - December Monthly Color Challenge blocks sent directly to your inbox. Sign up HERE.

 

PS! Watch the blog later this month for a Monthly Color Challenge surprise! If you receive the blocks by email, watch your inbox. 💜


Let's make something Extraordinary!

 

Jen


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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Accuracy in Quilting - Binding

 Binding - you either hate it or you love it. I love it, but only the hand stitched kind, because I still haven't figured out how to do a nice machine stitched binding. 💜




You are almost done with your quilt top, all you need to do is the binding, but that can be just as daunting as the quilting part.

Machine binding

As stated above, I don't do machine binding. I know there are so many quilters who will only do it this way, but I haven't been able to perfect it to the point that my perfectionistic heart is happy. There are many tutorials out there, though, so if this is something you want to try, you will probably have better luck than me. I also really, really enjoy hand stitching the binding because I get to just sit with this quilt that I've made and soak in the beauty that I have created. That may be why I haven't tried too hard to figure out machine binding.

Hand binding

This is my baby, I admit it. I love it from start to finish. I think some of the tips I will share with you will transfer to machine binding as well, so don't walk away from me yet!

Prepping your binding - To prep your binding you will cut the strips at the desired width (I do 2" strips, but 2 1/2" is a pretty universal width, and easier to work with), then sew end to end. Trim off the extra fabric and press the seams. I press to the side.

Next press your strip in half length wise. Once the strip is pressed I like to roll it to keep it from getting tangled. There are fun little tools that you can use for this as well, I just roll as is.

A walking foot is a great foot for stitching your binding to your quilt. It will pull the layers through the machine evenly and you won't have to worry about stretching the fabric as you feed the layers. For this step I use the grey that I use for all of my piecing.

When you get to the end here is how to finish the ends:




Next you can fold your binding over and give it a press. I don't do this step, but it may make it easier when folding it over to stitch. I do use wonder clips to hold the folded binding down.

Match your thread to the color of your binding. This will keep the stitches from showing.

Use 18" to 24" pieces of thread when stitching. This helps to keep your thread from tangling, but is also helpful if the thread breaks from usage (hello kids and pets) and you need to repair it. The area won't be too long.




Thank you for joining me in this month of Accuracy in Quilting! I hope you found a tip or two helpful. This is week five in the Accuracy in Quilting Series.


Make something extraordinary!


Did you get my 5 Free Tips for Accurate Piecing yet? I would love to send it to you, sign up HERE!



New to Patterns By Jen?

 

Don't forget to sign up for the Bites of PBJ newsletter while you are here!

 

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2024 Monthly Color Challenge

 

Find paper and digital patterns in my Etsy shop

 

Find fun PBJ merchandise at Teespring


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Join the Quilt and Learn with Patterns By Jen Facebook page.