July 15, 2024

Merry Mini QAL - Week 3 - Tree borders

Welcome to week 3 of the Merry Mini QAL! Isn't it fun seeing how different your mini looks once you've added the alternating squares borders? Here's how my three look at the end of week 2.
Merry Mini QAL - Week 3 - DevotedQuilter.com
A quick update about my embroidered text block. When I wrote last week's post, that text block was still drying after being soaked in water to get rid of a bit of stickiness after dissolving the Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy. I'm happy to report the stickiness was gone when it dried after that soak. I do find the fabric doesn't look as pristine a white as the other two (they were all cut at the same time from the same fabric), but it still looks white, if that makes sense.

Week 3 - The tree borders

If you haven't already joined the QAL, there's still plenty of time to join in for some Christmas in July fun! You can pick up your pattern here. From now until the end of July, the Merry Mini pattern is 20% off with the code MERRYMINIQAL, which should already by applied if you click on the link. Once you have your pattern, enter your email address here to have the weekly emails sent to your inbox so you don't miss any of the QAL blog posts.

As a reminder, here's the weekly schedule. Click on the links to go to the previous posts.

July 15 - Make the tree borders
July 22 - Quilting
July 29 - Binding

This week we're making the tree borders. There's a little bit of strip piecing going on and the trees themselves are foundation paper pieced.

Strip piecing is oddly satisfying. It feels great to stitch strips together - it's fast and it's easy - and then cutting them apart reveals these perfect little units. The tree trunk units would be fiddly to sew with individual pieces, but they become perfectly manageable with strip piecing!
Merry Mini QAL - Week 3 - DevotedQuilter.com
If foundation paper piecing is new for you, or you haven't really conquered the technique yet, don't worry! These tree units have only two seams per tree, so they're the simplest paper piecing you could do.
Merry Mini QAL - Week 3 - DevotedQuilter.com
I have two paper piecing tools to recommend for you. The first one is freezer paper. If you've been around here for any length of time, you've probably heard me sing the praises of freezer paper for paper piecing. If you're new here, trust me when I say I talk about freezer paper every time I talk about paper piecing 😊In fact, I love this technique so much, I teach it for guilds and for workshops I host myself once or twice a year. Now I'm excited to say I also have an on-demand workshop to teach the magic of paper piecing with freezer paper!

Why do I love freezer paper so much? My absolute favourite reason for using freezer paper for all my paper piecing is that I never have to rip out the bits of paper when I'm finished making a block. I used to hate that part! Now I don't have to do it. At all. Ever. Where I used to avoid paper piecing because I didn't want to have to rip out the papers, now I can paper piece whenever I want without subjecting myself to that frustration and annoyance. It's fantastic.

The second reason I love freezer paper is that you can reuse your templates. These templates I'm using for my current three Merry Mini quilts were used to make my first two Merry Minis last year and they're still perfect. After this week, I'll have made 30 trees with these two templates, plus one template printed on regular paper to be able to make these templates, instead of the 30 templates I would need if I were using regular paper. 
Merry Mini QAL - Week 3 - DevotedQuilter.com
If you'd like to reuse your templates and never rip out bits of paper again, be sure to check out my on-demand workshop!

If I haven't convinced you to give freezer paper a try, and you're going to stick with regular paper, then you might like this tool instead. Carolina Moore designed the Foundation Piecing Water Pen to make removing the papers easier. When your block is finished, you fill the pen with water, then run it over the seams on the paper side. The water softens the paper, making it easier to pull away from your stitches. While I prefer using freezer paper, I have tested this out and it worked really well, so I recommend it if you're paper piecing with regular paper.

Once your tree borders are added, along with the spacer borders you'll find in the pattern, your Merry Mini quilt top will be finished. Can you believe how quickly that came together??? Next week we'll get to baste and quilt it! Do you know how you'll want to quilt yours yet? I haven't even thought about it for mine yet.

Remember, if you share your Merry Mini QAL progress on social media, use the hashtag #MerryMiniQAL and tag me (devotedquilter on IG and devotedquilterdesigns on FB) so I can see. I'd love to cheer you on!

July 10, 2024

2024 Mid-Year Review

We are just past the middle of 2024, which means it's time for me to pause for a few minutes and see how I'm doing with my goals this year.

Before I dive into that, though, I have some exciting life/work news to share 😊 I've been wanting to move out of childcare for a long time, but there aren't a lot of work opportunities in our small town, so I stayed with what I knew (and what gave me summers off!). Early in the spring, though, one of my childcare moms told me they would possibly be moving away over the summer, leaving me with only one little that I could count on for next school year. That wasn't going to be enough income for me, so we made the decision that when school ended, I'd be finished with childcare. Cue the angel chorus! We didn't know what I'd be doing instead, and I kept saying it was entirely possible I'd be checking in people's groceries. However, I've started working part time as a virtual assistant for another pattern designer, doing for her business the same kinds of things I do for my own Devoted Quilter business, like blog posts and creating PDF downloads. I'm only a little more than a week into it, but I'm enjoying it so far and it's a lot quieter than childcare, that's for sure.

Right now it feels like my regular summer break from childcare, but I know it will really hit me when Paul and Nathan go back to school in September and no littles are dropped off here. I'm quite looking forward to soaking in the peace and quiet that first day! I'm also looking forward to putting more time into my own business, since my 'regular job' is now less than half the number of hours each week.

So that's one big life goal achieved, even though I never actually wrote it down anywhere 😊 How am I doing with the goals I did write down?

1. Keep making small quilts

I've finished 3 small quilts so far this year, which I define as a baby quilt or smaller. One hasn't been blogged yet, but I do have pictures, so I should get to that soon. The others are Rippling and Shining Through, which are both baby quilts.
Rippling quilt | DevotedQuilter.com
I've also started 4 more small quilts recently (three Merry Minis for the QAL, plus the test version of the next Stash Artists BOM pattern), so I should have plenty of small quilts to celebrate for the second half of the year, too.

2. Sew some clothes

So far this year I've made two shirts, but I don't have pictures of them. I wear a lot of dresses in the summer and want to make a couple of new ones, but I haven't taken the time to do that yet. Maybe soon.

3. Moments with Jesus Easter QAL

I loved this year's QAL! For the past four years, this has been one of my favourite projects of the whole year. Because I love it so much, I've already started planning for next year. Not that I've quilted either of this year's two quilt tops...or any of the ones from the previous years...
These Three quilt | DevotedQuilter.com

4. All things Stash Artists

Stash Artists just passed its first birthday and I love the members! It's wonderful to get to sew with some of them every other month, and I love planning new patterns for them, like Ombre Twirl.  I'm excited to see what the second year brings 😊 If you love stash-friendly patterns and virtual sewing sessions with friends, get on the waitlist so you won't miss it when the membership doors open again.
Ombre Twirl quilt | DevotedQuilter.com

5. WIPS-B-GONE 2024

This is coming up quickly! I mentioned an abundance of unquilted tops sitting and waiting, didn't I? I need the WIPS-B-GONE challenge as much as anyone else! Sign ups will open in September.

6. Finish my Hexie Rainbow top

I'm making progress! At the start of the year I was working on squaring up the second corner, which is now finished and I'm working on the third. Here's what it looks like today.
Hexie Rainbow quilt progress | DevotedQuilter.com
Paul and I will be traveling to Jasper National Park next month for our 25th anniversary, so there will be lots of plane time and time in the Airbnb for hand stitching. I think it's entirely possible I could finish the top this year.

7. Regular workouts and 300,000 steps a month

Well, this one is a yes and a no πŸ˜… My goal for workouts is to do 2-3 yoga or strength training workouts from Youtube each week and I've only missed that target two weeks in the first half of the year. I like Yoga with Adriene and Nourish Move Love, if you're needing some recommendations. I can notice an improvement in my strength, which is great motivation to keep going.

The 300,000 steps a month on the other hand...I've only reached that goal once so far, in May. 300,000 a month averages out to be about 10,000 steps a day. In April I averaged about 9,700/day, which is pretty close. In March I averaged about 8,200, which isn't close at all. Altogether, my average for the first half of the year is 9,064/day, and I'm fairly happy about that.

One other thing I noticed was that if I did a workout, there often wasn't time/energy/interest for a walk, so I usually only did one or the other on a given day.

Overall, I'm not stressing about the 300,000 per month, but I'm going to keep trying to get more steps in. I definitely feel better when I move more, whether that's yoga, strength training, or walking.

I'm feeling pretty good about my year so far! Did you set goals for 2024? If you did, how are you doing with them after half the year?

July 08, 2024

Merry Mini QAL - Week 2 - Alternating Squares

It's week 2 of the Merry Mini QAL! How did your embroidery or colouring of your text block go? I thoroughly enjoyed working on the embroidery for my third text block. Some of it was done sitting in the backyard, and Saturday morning I lowered it after finishing a thread and found this guy on my lap.
white satin moth caterpillar | DevotedQuilter.com
Apparently he's a white satin moth caterpillar. He's also very lucky I didn't flick him off before I registered that he was just a caterpillar and not something yucky like a spider. After taking his picture, Paul coaxed him onto a leaf so he could be gently deposited back on the ground.

After finishing my embroidery, I dissolved the Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy I used to transfer the template onto my fabric. I shared a sped-up video of the process here, if you'd like to see. It was pretty impressive, though my fingers stayed sticky for quite a while, even after washing. I rinsed the embroidered fabric a couple times in bowls of clean water, then left it to dry. It was still a bit sticky feeling after it dried, though, so I soaked it in warm water for about 20 minutes, then left it to dry again. As I'm typing this (on Sunday evening), it's still drying, and I have my fingers crossed all the stickiness is gone.

Week 2 - The alternating squares borders

If you haven't already joined the QAL, there's still plenty of time to join in for some Christmas in July fun! You can pick up your pattern here. From now until the end of July, the Merry Mini pattern is 20% off with the code MERRYMINIQAL, which should already by applied if you click on the link. Once you have your pattern, enter your email address here to have the weekly emails sent to your inbox so you don't miss any of the QAL blog posts.

As a reminder, here's the weekly schedule. Click on the link to go to last week's post.

July 8 - Make the alternating squares borders
July 15 - Make the tree borders
July 22 - Quilting
July 29 - Binding

This week's sewing will involve some small scraps of red, green, and white. Do you have your scraps organized so it's easy to find what you need? If not, you might like the tips in my PDF guide Escape Scrap Overwhelm.

I love sewing with small pieces! I also love chain piecing, which makes the whole process go faster. That's maybe not much of a concern for a small project like Merry Mini, but if you're sewing dozens of squares together, then chain piecing is a real time saver. 

If I'm sewing a row of squares, I usually don't sew squares 1 and 2, stop, add square three, stop, add square 4, etc. Instead, I chain piece the squares into pairs first - 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc. Here are my pairs for one of my Merry Mini quilts.
pairs of scrappy squares | DevotedQuilter.com
Then I sew the pairs to each other - 1/2 and 3/4, etc. Chain piecing into pairs first doesn't save a huge amount of time, but it does cut down on the starting and stopping required to put a row of squares together and I'll take that as a win.

Here are my alternating squares rows sewn together. Once your alternating squares rows are finished, you can go ahead and stitch them to your text block. I'm going to sew the rest of my rows before adding them to the mini quilts, so I can make sure I'm happy with the balance of fabrics for each one.
Merry Mini QAL - week 2 - DevotedQuilter.com

Leaders and enders/spider/scrap square

I love using leaders and enders when I'm chain piecing because it lets me work on a scrap quilt kind of in the background as I work on my main project, though it does require a little prep work to have pieces ready. I first learned about leaders and enders from Bonnie Hunter, the queen of scrap quilting. I'm not super consistent with it, since I don't always keep up with having pieces ready to go, but my current leaders/enders project is flying geese to make a throw size quilt with my Flying Together block, and they're accumulating nicely.

The idea is to start chain piecing by sewing together a unit from your leaders and enders project (which is the leader), then sew your main project pieces. Here you can see my flying geese unit has been sewn and I'm ready to start the first of my pairs of squares.
sewing with leaders and enders | DevotedQuilter.com
When you get to the end of the pieces you're chain stitching, end the chain with another piece from your leaders and enders project (the ender), which you leave under the needle. You can see my last red square at the back in this picture, followed by the flying geese ender (I'm also sewing bonus HSTs with these stitch-and-flip flying geese, so I guess I'm really working on two scrap quilts with these leaders and enders). Cut the chain between the ender and the piece before it.
sewing with leaders and enders | DevotedQuilter.com
When you're ready to start your next chain, the ender from the previous chain is already under the needle, ready to be the leader for this chain. Stitch your units together as usual, then end with another ender unit.

This method is especially helpful when the units you're piecing for your main project involve starting at the point of a triangle, which can sometimes get pushed down into the throat plate of the machine (aka eaten by the machine). When there's a leader, that triangle point doesn't get eaten because the threads are being pull along by the leader. Even when I'm just working with squares, like for the Merry Mini, I still like using leaders/enders.

If you don't want to fuss with having units prepped for a leaders/enders project, you can achieve the same effect by starting and ending with small squares of fabric. This small square can be reused many times, which has earned it the nickname 'spider' for all the threads hanging off it after many uses.

If you share your Merry Mini QAL progress on social media, be sure to use the hashtag #MerryMiniQAL and tag me (devotedquilter on IG and devotedquilterdesigns on FB) so I can see. I'd love to cheer you on!

July 04, 2024

TGIFF - Rippling

Welcome to the first Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday of July! It's time to celebrate our finishes and cheer each other on. After all, no one understands the joy of a finished quilt like another quilter.

Every other month I release a new pattern for Stash Artists members, and I'm excited to get to share this month's pattern, called Rippling. You know I had fun digging into my stash of blues for this one!
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
I had the hardest time naming this quilt. When I sent it to Yvonne for tech editing, I asked her for suggestions and she said it reminded her of "ripples formed in sand by lapping ocean waves." I can't believe I hadn't noticed that. There are already a couple of patterns named Ripples, so I went with Rippling. Thanks, Yvonne!
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
One of my goals again this year is to make more small quilts, which I define as anything baby size or smaller. With that in mind, I made a baby size Rippling quilt (the pattern also includes instructions for a throw size). Paul's nephew and his wife are expecting their first baby (a boy) in the fall, so Rippling will be his once he arrives. It feels great to already have it ready and waiting for him!

When I cut the blues, I skipped any fabrics that had distracting amounts of another colour. I did use a few fabrics with white, which I don't find as distracting as other colours.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
This was the fabric that made me realize I had to limit the secondary colours. I cut it thinking the kites would be cute in a baby quilt, but really they were just distracting. The pink and yellow drew the eye, taking away from the rest of the quilt.
Kite fabric | DevotedQuilter.com
There are only two seams in each Rippling block. Yes, two! As you can imagine, the blocks came together quickly, and not long after that I had a quilt top.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
A few weeks ago I said I've been leaning more towards open, all-over quilting designs lately. This quilt wasn't having any of that! It demanded custom quilting in each section. Sometimes you just have to listen to the quilt! Do your quilts make demands when it comes to choosing their quilting designs? 

I started by doing a small loopy meander in the white parts, using Aurifil 2021. You can see in this picture that the white isn't solid. I love blender fabrics that read as solid from a distance, but have a little something extra when you get up close.
loopy meander free motion quilting | DevotedQuilter.com
I wasn't sure I had enough left on my spool of 2021, so I picked up a couple more spools when we were in St. John's for Aiden's graduation. Good thing, too. Look how close I was to finishing when I got to the end of the spool.
Thread chicken loss | DevotedQuilter.com
Of course, a few days later I opened the box where I keep my cones of Aurifil, only to find an almost full cone of white (2024) I had forgotten about. D'oh! At least I know I have lots of white on hand now πŸ˜‚

Next I outlined the orange triangles and filled them in with back and forth lines using Aurifil 1133. I echoed the diagonal line about 1/4" away, too. Quilting such a bold line sure feels scary and every wobble seems magnified, but then it doesn't even show up from a distance or in pictures of the full quilt. There must be a life lesson in there about doing scary things.
free motion quilting | DevotedQuilter.com
I had left the blues for last because I didn't know how I wanted to quilt them, and the quilt wasn't making any more demands now that I was committed to the custom quilting. I pinned it up on my design wall for a couple of days while I thought about it. I kept coming back to wishbones, so that's what I did. I chose Aurifil 1158, which is a dark blue-grey that I find works nicely on a wide variety of blues.
wishbone free motion quilting | DevotedQuilter.com
I love how the quilting looks on the back! I haven't been doing as much of it lately, but this quilt has reminded me just how magical custom quilting feels.
Rippling quilt back | DevotedQuilter.com
Rippling quilt back | DevotedQuilter.com
With all those blues, I had to use a scrappy blue binding, too.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
I took Rippling and another quilt to the beach when we went for a BBQ supper last weekend and roamed around taking pictures while Paul cooked our burgers. Someone had built this tiny inukshuk on a rock and it was too cute not to use as a photo prop.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
I love taking quilts to the beach! Really, I just love being at the beach. This is one of my favourite supper time views, too, and we eat here quite a few times every summer.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
That's my finish! What have you finished recently? Link it up below so we can celebrate the finish with you. Don't forget to visit some of the other links, too, so you can help them celebrate their finishes 😊

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

July 01, 2024

Merry Mini QAL - Week 1 - Text Block

Let's get this Christmas in July party started! It's week 1 of the Merry Mini QAL and we're starting in the middle of our mini quilts, with the text block.
Merry Mini QAL - Week 1 - Text block | DevotedQuilter.com
If you haven't already joined the QAL, we're just getting started, so you're not even behind! You can pick up your pattern here. From now until the end of July, the Merry Mini pattern is 20% off with the code MERRYMINIQAL, which should already by applied if you click on the link. Once you have your pattern, enter your email address here to have the weekly emails sent to your inbox so you don't miss any of the QAL blog posts.

As a reminder, here's the weekly schedule:

July 1 - Make the text block 
July 8 - Make the alternating squares borders
July 15 - Make the tree borders
July 22 - Quilting
July 29 - Binding

Week 1 - The text block

The Merry Mini pattern is written for that text block to be embroidered by hand, which is how I made both of mine last year. I love the bit of texture the hand embroidery adds, and how delicate the text looks. You can't achieve that with applique or piecing, that's for sure!

Not everyone wants to do hand embroidery, though, so I have a couple of other options to share, too.

Hand embroidery

First, let's talk about transferring the text for hand embroidery. When stitching on white fabric, you can simply trace the design onto the fabric using a pencil. It's easy and cheap, two of my favourite things! The stitching hides the pencil lines, so no need to worry about using a special, removeable pencil, either. Most of the time this can be done on a table, but if you can't easily see the template through your fabric, you can always use a lightbox to make it more visible. If you don't have a lightbox, tape the template to a window, tape the fabric over top and voila, you have a lightbox (I've done this more times than I can count!).

This time I'm trying a new-to-me product from Sulky called Sticky Fabri-Solvy. It's not a new product, but I haven't used it before. It's water soluble, so you stitch through it, then submerge the fabric in water and the Fabri-Solvy dissolves.
Merry Mini QAL - Week 1- text block | DevotedQuilter.com
 You can print directly onto the Fabri-Solvy, but I chose to just trace the text, since I already had the template printed out. Once the design is traced (or printed), you simply peel away the paper backing and stick the Fabri-Solvy onto the fabric. This would be the perfect method if your background fabric is too dark to see the template through.
Merry Mini QAL - Week 1- text block | DevotedQuilter.com
I've made a start on embroidering my letters, and I'm looking forward to working on the rest this week. Hopefully I'll get to do some of that stitching out in the backyard with a cup of tea.
Merry Mini QAL | DevotedQuilter.com
I'm doing chain stitch with three strands of DMC embroidery floss, number 816. I love that chain stitch gives a fairly thick line, especially with three strands of floss. I do find the Fabri-Solvy makes it harder to pull the needle through the fabric, so I've been using a thimble to make that easier. Other than that, there's no difference when using the Fabri-Solvy.

Here's a link to a chain stitch tutorial from someone more experienced than me at embroidery. Alternatively, you could also use a simple backstitch. Backstitch will give a thinner line, but it would absolutely work.

Fabric marker

Instead of hand embroidery, you could use fabric markers for your text block. I bought a set of Ohuhu fabric markers to try. The colour is wonderfully vivid, as you can see. I started off using the broad end of the marker, but quickly switched to the fine tip, which gave me a lot more control.
Merry Mini QAL - Week 1- text block | DevotedQuilter.com
There's a slight bit of colour bleeding at the edges of the letters, but it's not bad. I did have to be careful not to hold the marker in one place at all, though. These are the only fabric markers I've used, so I don't know if the bleeding would be less with another brand, or if this is pretty standard. Whatever brand you use, I recommend testing the marker on a piece of scrap fabric first.
Merry Mini QAL - Week 1- text block | DevotedQuilter.com
These markers claim to be washable, but I haven't tested that out. Since this is a Christmas wall hanging, I doubt the finished quilt will ever be washed, so I'm not worried about the washability. I did set the ink with a hair dryer, though, as recommended by the manufacturer, just in case I do ever need to wash it.


If you don't have fabric markers, you can also use crayons. I've used this crayon technique for quite a few projects now, and I have a full tutorial for it here. This time I chose not to trace the letters with a pencil first, so they don't have the dark outline my other projects have had. 
Merry Mini QAL - Week 1- text block | DevotedQuilter.com
The colour is a little softer than with the fabric marker, but still plenty visible.
Merry Mini QAL - Week 1- text block | DevotedQuilter.com
I thought of the Merry Mini QAL as a way to help motivate me to make myself a Merry Mini quilt...and now I have three started. Ha! Here they are together. The question is, will I finish them all during the QAL? We'll have to see how the  month goes!
Merry Mini QAL | DevotedQuilter.com
Which technique will you use for your Merry Mini text block? I can't wait to see! Be sure to use the hashtag #MerryMiniQAL when you share on social media. Happy stitching (or colouring!).