The Professionals Share Their Secrets – Part 2

Sewing and Quilting Basics- Q & A Professional Artists

We wanted to ask some professional artists in the sewing and quilting world to give us their tips and tricks/advice on a list of questions that will help to benefit all of the beginning and intermediate quilt artists out there.  Our goal is to post one question per week, so all artists reading can join in on the conversation and feel free to leave a comment.

Fabric Pre-Washing

We are now on Part 2 of our series on quilting basics. You won’t want to miss any parts of this series- it’s going to be stuffed with great advice from some of our favorite professional artists and will help anyone wanting to improve their artwork.

Part 2 of 10:


Now that you have read Part 1 and know which fabric you want to use the question is:  To Wash or Not to Wash? Will the reds, blues and other colors bleed? What is your take on pre-washing your fabrics?

Terry white

Terry White: I pre-wash EVERYTHING! If the reds and purples, blues, blacks or browns bleed you want them doing it before you put them into a quilt. My reasons:
1. Fabrics have chemicals including sizing, finishing and dyes which can result in skin allergies appearing over time.
2.The finishing can mask a poor quality fabric. If after washing your fabric it comes out without having much body or color left then it might not have been as nicely woven as you had originally thought. Also, it may shrink a little and you want this to happen before you put your lovely work into it. 3. Various weights and thread counts of different fabrics will stitch better together.

Leslie Tucker JenisonLeslie Tucker Jenison: When I began quilting a million years ago I always pre-washed my fabric. I was warned against colors running, shrinkage and more.
These days, I use both commercial and hand-dyed (by me) cloth. By the time I have finished the process on my hand-dyed cloth it has been pre-washed multiple times to remove the excess dye and/or print paste. I know beyond a that my cloth is not going to bleed or shrink because my final wash is always in hot water!
I do not make many bed quilts so I rarely pre-wash my fabrics. However, if I plan to make a quilt that I know will be laundered, such as a baby quilt, and I am concerned about the dye stability in the cloth, I pre-wash.

Ruth Chandler Ruth Chandler: I always wash my fabrics. I wash them in detergent with no color or scent and I always use Synthrapol. This keeps the dyes from attaching to the fabrics being washed, plus it can be found in many fabric stores for a reasonable cost. Since reds and blues are especially bad for bleeding, even after pre-washing, so I’ve made it my practice when washing my quilts to use the Synthrapol every time. Lastly, I prefer cutting the edges of my fabric with a wave blade rotary cutter or a pair of pinking shears to help lessen raveling in the washer.

Jamie Fingal

Jamie Fingal: I almost had to laugh as I was reading this question- I don’t pre-wash anything!

This is because my quilts, which are mainly made for hanging up on a wall, are never going to be washed.

On the back label, I typically will ass the words, “DO NOT WASH.”

Liz KettleLiz Kettle: I used to pre-wash everything. Now since my work has changed my need to pre-wash has also changed. Besides that, who can stand waiting to have to wash, dry and iron that fabric? I always want to get right to it.
The majority of my work is for the wall and will never be washed, so I don’t worry about pre-washing. Even for the quilts I make that will be washed I still don’t pre-wash.
I am willing to take the risk rather than take the time to pre-wash.


For more information on our featured artists click here.

Now that the pros have spilled their best advice on fabric selection, we want to know what you think! What’s your opinion? They seem to be almost split down the middle on their preferences. Do you have any helpful advice or tips that we could all benefit from? Check back next Thursday for the next part in our series with the pros!


Posted in Fabric, For Beginners in Sewing, Fun Stuff, Guest Writers, How To, Interviews, Jamie Fingal, Leslie Tucker Jenison, Liz Kettle, Quilting, Ruth Chandler, Terry White, Tutorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Professionals Share Their Secrets

Quilting Basics Q & A with the Professionals

We decided to ask the professionals some questions that are being regularly asked by beginning and intermediate quilt artists.  We will be trying to post one question per week, so all artists reading can join in on the conversation and feel free to leave a comment.

Here’s part 1 of 10:

Fabric Selection for Beginners

Question: Fabric-
How do you choose what type to use?
Is cotton the best choice for beginners?

Answers From the Professionals:

Liz Kettle
Liz Kettle:
I choose fabric based on the call of the fabric sirens. Yes, these are the same sirens who used enchanting music to lure sailors close to their islands so they would crash their ships onto their shores. They eventually must have gotten bored with sailors and took up luring quilters like myself into fabric stores.

When I make quilts that will be used to cuddle under I stick with cotton fabric. But, when I am making art quilts anything goes! I do mean anything.

One mistake I made early in my quilting days was to economize and use a bed sheet for the backing of a quilt. Bad idea! Especially bad idea if you are using high thread count sheets. They are really difficult to quilt through. Muslin makes a great back as long as it is a reasonable thread count. Muslin comes in all varieties of quality. You don’t want to see right through it. I like to piece my quilt backs so they are interesting to look at.

Terry WhiteTerry White: 
Cotton fabric is definitely the best choice of fabric for beginners for four reasons-
1. It’s readily available and inexpensive.
2. It cuts and stitches more easily than any other fabric.
3. It is totally washable with minimum shrinkage.
4. It is a good basic fabric with which to learn many techniques…later when other types of fabrics are desired, one can learn the special qualities of each fabric and fine tune the technique for that fabric.

Leslie Tucker JennisonLeslie Tucker Jenison:
When it comes to cloth, I love it all!  I use a wide variety of cloth in my work, and even use some truly weird things, such as my used, over-dyed Oil of Olay facial cloths (yes, I have been told before that I am a bit weird).

For beginners, you just can’t go wrong with a good quality cotton broadcloth.  It has a fairly high threadcount (this refers to how many threads per square inch), it is not slippery, and it is easy to stitch either by hand or machine.  The higher the thread count the more resistance there will be for a needle, so keep this in mind when looking at cloth.

Silk is lovely and adds wonderful sparkle to a quilt.  It can be a real “diva”:  hard to handle and fussy, unless stabilized in some way for stitching.  I know this because I learn everything the hard way.  I came very close to wadding up a gorgeous silk charmeuse project and throwing it in the trash before (duh) it occurred to me that some stabilizer might be in order.  I’m glad I persisted because this quilt won a best of show!

Ruth ChandlerRuth Chandler: 
Cotton is a good choice for beginners. It is easy to sew and does not have much stretch. It is best to try and pick fabric with the same density in weave for the first quilt. Batiks have a tighter weave and have less ravel. Batiks will be harder to hand quilt through because of the tighter weave. Once they are comfortable with cotton and have built up some skills they can move on to other fabrics. This does not mean they can’t but I think they will be happier with the end product if they do.  This is only true for quilts, garments are a different story I choose fabrics for their color and texture so I have a tendency to mix all types.

Jamie FingalJamie Fingal: 
Cotton is pretty easy to use, but you want to look at good cotton, with a tight weave.  The creases come out better, when ironing them flat.  They fuse better, and when fussy cutting objects, the tighter weave makes it easier to cut.  It is probably easier to start with cotton, so you can get a feel for how everything works, before you jump to Duponi silk.

 Get the same tools these professionals use here. 

Now that the pros have spilled their best advice on fabric selection, we want to know what you think! What’s your opinion on which fabric is the best choice for those who are new to the fabric arts?



Posted in Fabric, Fabric Art, Fabric Selection, For Beginners in Sewing, Guest Writers, How To, Interviews, Jamie Fingal, Leslie Tucker Jenison, Liz Kettle, Quilting, Ruth Chandler, Select Fabric, Terry White, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Free and Easy Craft Project to Create This Spring:

Fly Your Own Flag this Spring

By Jamie Fingal

I am excited to tell all of you that I am a new fabric designer and my very first line is titled Home is Where Your Story Begins ,by Hoffman California Fabrics.  So naturally, when Jackie Marsal, the account executive for Havel’s Sewing, asked me to design a “Spring Fling” themed project incorporating my new fabric line (just for fun!) I was obviously more than willing to get to work making these fabric flags for you all to create!

Fly Your Own Flag- 3 Fabric Flags for Spring

Bloom, Spring and Grow! Vibrant & fun these fabric flags are certain to cheer up anyone that is stuck experiencing cold weather!

These festive and fun flags are not only great for a variety of fabric artists, but they are also easy enough to make just in time for the upcoming Spring season.

Sample of Jamie Fingal's New Fabric Line

To give everyone an idea of what Jamie’s new fabric line consists of, here is a visual of the sample card.

 The fabric pictured below is hands down one of my favorites. It is covered completely with words, and based on my watercolors. The best part is that you can use the words available or you can easily cut out individual letters in order to create your own words, which is what we will be doing for this project. It only comes in this colorway – bright and fun!

Jamie Fingal's Word Covered Fabric

One of Jamie’s favorite from her new fabric line- It is covered completely with words, and based on her watercolors.

  This project will break down how to create three fabric flags inspired by the Spring season. (Each flag will measure 6×8 inches, vertical format.)

Black Wool Blended Felt

Three pieces of black wool blended felt by National Nonwovens TOY 002.

We are going to start this project off with 3 pieces of black wool blended felt -cut 6” x 8”- as the foundation. This is made by National Nonwovens TOY 002.

I also fused all of my fabrics with Mistyfuse to prepare for this project.


House Patterned Fabric

This house covered fabric is a perfect focal point for the fabric flags.

The next fabric that we need is the house patterned fabric. This is a a colorful fabric which can be used in a variety of ways.

This particular fabric- covered in different styles of houses of various shapes, colors, sizes- is the perfect focus point for two of the flags we will create.

Next, simply cut out a house out from the fabric, which is near the size of the flag, or slightly larger.

House Covered Fabric

 Fuse this to the felt.

Fused Fabric House

If you turn it over, you can cut the excess from the back, which will make it easier to get it straight. Find the letters B-L-O-O-M and set them aside.

B-L-O-O-M Fabric

Place the letters on the side and iron into place.

Fussy Cut Flowers

Using your favorite fussy cut scissors, cut out some flowers from the house fabric.

Fabric Flower Arrangement

Place the flowers on the lower portion of the flag and iron into place. Trim any areas that overlap from the back. Set aside.

Sky and Flag Fabric Cut Outs

For the second flag, using the blue circle fabric, cover one of the felt foundations, to cover about 2/3 of the felt from the top down.This will be used to create a sky effect.

Turn the flag over and cut from the back.

It would be fun to use some of the bunting flags in this one.  So, from the landscape fabric, find a row that would work for your flag.

Fussy cut out.

SPRING Fabric Flag



Place the flags in the upper portion.

Find the letters for the word SPRING, and place them just below the bunting flags.

Iron into place, and cut the extras from the back.



Using lime green striped fabric, cut the top with pinking shears.

It makes a great little detail, and it’s fun!

Pinked Grass Fabric

Using Havel’s PInking Shears adds a fun & unique effect to your fabric.

Fussy cut out a row of houses, and the larger flowers, like this blue and pink one below.

Houses and Various Pictures

The text fabric also has little houses and artful drawings which are useful for various art.

Place the houses in place, just below the pinking line.

Ironed In Place Fabric

 Once the house is set, iron the fabric in place.

Next, cut out the flowers and place them on the flag.  DO NOT  iron this down yet.

Flower Your Flag

Using the landscape fabric, fussy cut out the stems and leaves. (So that basically you are cutting off the top of the flowers.)

Cutting Larger Flowers

The stem and leaf unit will be used for your larger flowers.

After you decide where you want everything – flower-wise, iron them to the background.

Spring Flag #2

Set this flag aside, and now we are onto Flag number 3.

This house is larger, so you need to allow for that.

Creating the house Flag

We will add the blue circles to the sky, to make up for the empty space.

You can see where I have a strip of blue on the top.

Floral Landscaping

Then you can see where I have added some floral landscaping to the bottom portion of the 3rd flag in order to fill in the green.

Next, find and cut out the letters for the word G-R-O-W.


Place the letters on the top and iron them into place.

Back each flag with a coordinating color of wool blended felt.

Now they are ready to be free motion machine quilted.

Backing the Fabric Flags

The backing for these flags is Fuschia WCF 001.

  After they are quilted, press with an iron, then trim the backing.

You want the backing to show just a tad- this helps to bring out the colors in the flag.

Havel's Rotary Cutter and Mat for Trimming

Using Havel’s 60mm Rotary Cutter and Cutting Mat to trim the backing.

Using the free motion foot,  zig zag the edges of each flag into place.

Zig Zag Stitching the Backing

Example of how the backs were easy to free motion machine quilt. You can see where Jamie went around the houses, objects and lettering with ease.

Here are the three finished flags:

All Three Fabric Flags

And individually:







I hope that you have enjoyed making this Spring Fling fabric flag project as much as I did!


Jamie Fingal

About Jamie Fingal:

Jamie is a an award winning artist & fabric designer from Orange, CA. You can contact her and order fabric at


For more of Jamie’s inspiring and creative projects, click here.


Posted in art ideas, Fabric, Fabric Art, Fiber Art, Free Quilt Projects, Fun Stuff, Guest Writers, Jamie Fingal, Mixed Media, Patterns, Quilting, Wall Hangings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

How To Create A Deconstructed Nine Patch

by Leslie Tucker Jenison

Leslie here..I love manipulating traditional block patterns into something different. This tutorial will show you how to “deconstruct” the 9-patch block and make it into something modern.

Keep in mind as you are doing this that any pieced blocks will work for this, such as larger blocks, just as long as the number is “squared” (9 x 9, 12 x 12… etc.)

Select a set of fabrics to cut into blocks.  This step-out will show a range of solids and prints.  After creating this block I have to admit that I like tone-on-tone a bit better.   This set of fabrics will show you how the pieces look, so I think it is a good “demo model”.   Try to select your colors and patterns knowing that they are going to be mixed together a lot!


First, select your fabrics.

01 select your fabric 448x336

With your rotary cutter, cut squares of 9 different fabrics. These blocks are 5 x 5 inches square. Keep that in mind, because you will be cutting and re-piecing these blocks many times, the end-result will be much smaller than a traditionally pieced 9-patch!

02 cut 9-5x5 inch squares 448x336Decide on how to position the fabrics.
To begin, it is good to have a nice balance of color and print scale.

03 position fabrics 363x336 Once the blocks are cut and positioned, stack your “rows” of blocks in an orderly fashion to take to the sewing machine. My habit is to stack from the left to right, then top to bottom (for ease in transporting).

04 stack your rows of blocks 448x336

Use a ¼ inch seam allowance to stitch fabrics together.

05 use quarter inch seam allowance 448x336Set aside rows, top to bottom.

06 set aside rows top to bottom 448x336 07 set aside rows top to bottom  448x336

Take them to the ironing board and press. Press seams to one side in alternating directions for ease in piecing rows to each other.

08 press seams in alternating directions 448x336 See how the top and bottom rows are pressed to the left and the center row to the right?

09 top and bottom pressed left_center pressed right 448x336Stitch rows together and press.

10 stitch rows together and press 448x336 Position the pieced block on the cutting mat and choose a place to cut through the block using your rotary cutter. 

11 position block on mat and cut 448x336 12 position block on mat and cut 448x336Take the cut strip, turn it upside down and move it to the other edge of the block.

13 turn strip upside down and move to other side 448x336 Stitch the newly cut strip in place.

 Now, turn the block 90 degrees. Cut through a different area of the block. Turn one of the cut portions and piece it together.

14 turn block 90 degress and cut through different area of block 448x336 Continue this process until you have successfully deconstructed your 9-patch block. How many times you choose to cut and re-piece your block is a matter of personal choice.

15 continue process as many times as you like 448x336 Position the pieced block over batting and fabric back. I like to trim most of my excess batting/backing with Havel’s pinking shears to avoid bulk and raveling.

16 position piece over batting and fabric back 448x336Corners are pinned for stability during quilting.

17 corners are pinned for stability 448x336Free motion quilting outlines an area of free motion embroidery.

18 free motion quilting outlining free motion embroidery 448x336Close up of the quilting.

19 close up of the quilting 448x336The quilting is done. Now, for the finishing, but that is another blog post…!

20 quilting is complete 392x336

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my deconstructed nine-patch, all made easier by using all my awesome Havel’s Sewing tools!

For a printable download, just click here.


About Leslie Tucker Jenison

leslie tucker jenisonLeslie has been a quilter for over 30 years, and has been dabbling in mixed media for about ten years, and more intensively in the last 3-5.  She loves combining cloth and paper, and it seems that unconventional objects and materials frequently find their way into her work. Be sure to check out Leslie’s blog


Posted in Deconstructed Nine-Patch, For Beginners in Sewing, Guest Writers, How To, Leslie Tucker Jenison, Make a Nine-Patch, Quilting, Tutorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fun Craft To Make: Fan Scissor Wrap


Fan Scissor Wrap #1

This project was so much fun, that I kept making more in different styles. The first one received enough oooohs and ahhhs from friends that I knew this would have to become presents for my girls….all my girls!!….AND, each one will suit the personality of the friend.

When you open up the wrap, there are three pockets for three different scissors. The pockets will hold scissors eight inches and smaller. This is my personal fan scissors wrap and such a fun craft to make!

The three scissors I use the most are:
1. Havel’s Bent Embroidery Scissors when I thread paint and use the decorative embroidery
stitches on my Bernina.
2. Havel’s 7″ Serrated Scissors when I cut most fabrics and slippy trims.
3. Havel’s 5 1/2″ Curved Scissors when I cut appliqué shapes.

Fan Scissor Wrap #2


  • Four fabrics: I used cotton…use anything you want!
  • 6”x12” scraps of three…and 17”x24” piece for the lining and pocket
  • Fusible Interfacing: One piece 12”x17”
  • Fusible Web: One piece 20”x20”
  • Beautiful threads for embroidery: I used Star Cottons…multi-colors (from the group which I designed) choose threads and colors which enhance your fabrics.
  • Shank button
  • Large two hole button
  • Elastic cord: 5” length
  • Beads and baubles: for decoration
  • Permanent fabric markers: to color the elastic and (optional) to color the edge before or after edge stitching all around the wrap.
  • Havel’s Jumbo Rotary Cutter
  • Havel’s Bent Embroidery Scissors
  • Havel’s 7” Serrated Scissors
  • Felt or ultrasuede scraps: for labels
  • Clear plastic scraps: for label windows
  • Cardstock for ID’s

*There are three main pieces to this project…..the decorated cover, lining, and scissor pocket.*

The Decorated Cover

1. Use pattern piece A: Trace the shape onto fusible interfacing and cut out.

2. Use pattern pieces B, C, D, E, F: Trace each shape onto desired fabric and cut out.

Fan Scissor Wrap #3 Fan Scissor Wrap #4

Fan Scissor Wrap #5 Fan Scissor Wrap #6b

3. Lay the fabric shapes side by side onto the fusible interfacing and press.

Fan Scissor Wrap #7

4. Decorate with decorative stitching and beautiful threads.
TIP: Because this is a project which will get a lot of use, I don’t add too many delicate
details…..this will be different for different styles….but add what you like!

5. Trim the excess interfacing and rough edges of decorative cover. Use this as a pattern and cut out your lining piece and a piece of fusible web. Set aside.

Scissor Pocket
6.Use pattern piece G: Trace shape onto lining fabric…this is the scissor pocket.Fan Scissor Wrap #87.Fold the top edge of the pocket piece 1/2 inch and press. Use a piece of fusible web to tack it down.Fan Scissor Wrap #98. Add fusible web to extra strips of lining fabric. Iron them to the wrong side
of the pocket along the fold lines. This adds stability to the pockets9. Decorate the top edge with decorative stitching.10. Decorate the two sides of each scissor pocket fold with a row of decorative stitches.

Fan Scissor Wrap #10

11. Lay the pocket onto the lining fabric. Stitch the pocket to the lining with a
lightening stitch along the fold lines.

Final Construction

12. Apply fusible web to the back of the decorative cover according to manufacturer’s directions.

13. Press the pocket and liner to the back of the decorative cover.

Fan Scissor Wrap #11

14. Finish edge all around. I used two threads through a 90/14 needle with an overcast stitch.
This is a great place to use a serger.

Fan Scissor Wrap #12

15. Attach a two hole button to the cover with colored elastic cord.
Use a permanent marking pen to color the elastic. Make a loop and knot it.

Fan Scissor Wrap #13

Pull the two ends of the elastic through the back of the button. Use an awl to make two holes large enough for the elastic to go through the cover. Knot the elastic on the back.

16. Sew a shank button on the cover to finish the closure.

Fan Scissor Wrap #14 Fan Scissor Wrap #15

17. Add a bead drop to the bottom.

18. The bead drop was made from parts of old jewelry and lovely one-of-a-kind glass beads. The heart pin is from a box of costume jewelry I bought years ago. The big pink button I used is vintage, but one I considered using is from Blumenthal called “Cut Outs” which I picked up in the Green Room at a Quilting Arts TV shoot!

Fan Scissor Wrap #16

19. Follow the photos to make the label windows and ID’s.

Fan Scissor Wrap #17 Fan Scissor Wrap #18

The plastic window is glued to the inside of the suede frame. The frame is glued to the scissor pockets on the sides and the bottom, this way, the cardboard ID label slides right in.

Fan Scissor Wrap Pattern A (A,B,C,D)

Fan Scissors Wrap Pattern A (B, C, D, E, F Combined)

Fan Scissor Wrap D, E, F

Fan Scissors Wrap Pattern D, E, F

Fan Scissor Wrap Pattern G (H Combined Three Times)

Fan Scissors Wrap Pattern G (H Combined Three Times)

Click here for a printable PDF version of Terry’s Fan Scissors Wrap.


Posted in Embroidery Scissors, Fabric, Free Craft Projects, Fun Stuff, Guest Writers, Patterns, Terry White, Tutorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments