WIP wednesday: barn out, gypsy in

I’m finishing up my barn door II quilt (quilt along here) and today I tackled the backing. I took more design time than usual with this backing, but I found that made the piecing go more smoothly. It took about a day, which is usually the amount of time I allow myself for a pieced backing.


I really like it. The only problem is that the design doesn’t necessarily take into account the trimming that will occur after quilting. I will lose a few inches on the top and bottom square. Next time I will have to remember to think that through sooner.


One quilt is ending and another is just beginning:


This is my first block for the gypsy wife QAL! (You can read about my fabric selections here.)

I have the fabric pulled for the next block but I just ran out of time. It’ll be really fun to come back to this after our vacation.

Speaking of vacation, since I won’t have internet access, I decided not to do the mid-month barn door link up. Instead, I thought I’d motivate you by announcing the final link up prize!

Remember these baskets I made for a giveaway/Christmas present?



I decided one of these would be a really cool and special way to commemorate our quilt along! But here’s the deal: you have to at least have a finished quilt top to be eligible. So get to work, my friends! The final link up will be March 3, but it will stay open for a week. If you link up a finished quilt or top by March 10 at noon EST, you will be in the giveaway. Please feel free to link up even if you’re not done! You just won’t be eligible to win.

If you have any specific questions, please email me. I’ll be able to check my email periodically and I’m more likely to see a direct email than a blog post comment.

Wish me luck on my trip! We’re leaving the kids in very capable grandparent care, but it’s still pretty hard. Perhaps a pina coloda will ease the pain… 😉

Barn door quilt along: week 5

Let’s get some borders on this quilt!


You will need 46 strips, 3 1/4 by 8 1/4 each. (This information can also be found in the assembly chart I gave you in week 1’s post).

I used some of the leftover strips from piecing the X, as well as some of the fabrics from my fabric pull that I didn’t get a chance to use in the X.


I highly recommend pinning, as I discussed here.


You’ll need to be extremely attentive to your 1/4 inch seam. If you are even a tiny hair off this will happen:


Oops! Mine was about 1/4 inch off. If you sew even a little scant it can add up when there are this many seams in a single row. My solution was to choose a strip near the middle, get out my seam ripper, and trim off the amount of the overage. I chose a spot in the middle so my end pieces would still line up with the HSTs at the end of the last strip of the X.


I assure you if you only have to trim 1/4 inch it will not be noticeable.


If your overage is more than 1/4 inch, I would take it apart in a couple of places and trim no more than 1/4 inch from as many strips as necessary to make your border fit.

Once you’ve assembled and attached your 2 borders, your quilt top is complete! That is one of my favorite moments in the process.

When you’re ready, you might want to reference my tutorials on finishing a quilt:

I’m probably going to take the easy route on this one and straight-line quilt it 1/4 inch from each seam. That is a great option if you want the quilting to fade into the background and let the fabric and piecing take center stage. It’s also incredibly fast and convenient in this case because you can just follow the seams (no marking required). That is the same method I used for my first barn door:


If you have the skillz it’d be really cool to do a different free-motion quilting (FMQ) design in each strip. FMQ is definitely high on my to-learn list in 2014.

So that’s it you guys! I can’t say thank you enough for quilting along with me for my first quilt along. It’s been such a great experience and it’s truly an honor to think anyone would want to make something from my design!

I’ve decided to extend the date for the final link up to March 3. I’ll do another check in link up February 10. I can’t wait to see you guys finish this quilt!

Barn door quilt along: week 4

I thought you guys might need some encouragement at this point in the process! Keep it up you guys, your quilts are looking amazing. In no time you’ll have a quilt top like this:


I really like this second version. I’m going to give it to my 2 year old. We’ve already been talking about it and he reports that he especially loves the animals and bridges.


After this quilt, and my previous barn door, and my penny sampler, I think I am officially ready for a short break from text and low volume prints! My next quilt is going to be a little brighter (and yet darker). I can’t wait to show you.


I know you guys are not quite ready for instruction on borders yet, so I’ll hold off on that until next week.

Let’s go ahead with the link up though, so I can see where you’re at. Next Monday I’ll do a post on borders and have a new schedule ready for the rest of the quilt along!

If you are looking for the previous posts in this series, here are the links:

Barn door quilt along: week 3

There really isn’t a lot to say this week, except keep up the good work! I loved seeing your progress last week.

Now, if you are feeling behind, please do not stress. Let’s see how everyone is doing next week when we do another link up. If we need to adjust the schedule we’ll do it then!

Here’s a recap with links to the posts:

  • Week 1 (January 6) – center rows (9-15)
  • Week 2 (January 13) – top rows (1-8) & link up for week 1 progress
  • Week 3 (January 20) – bottom rows (16-23)
  • Week 4 (January 27) – borders & link up for weeks 1-3 progress
  • Week 5 (February 3) – quilting & finishing
  • Week 6 (February 10) – final link up celebration & giveaway

Why pin? (a tutorial)


After some interesting email discussions with some of my barn door quilt along participants, I decided to take the time to talk for a minute about pinning.

Every quilter has to determine her (or his) own personal pinning system. Most quilters are not going to pin every single seam they sew. Some quilters never pin at all. I’m going to share what I do in case you find it helpful. The goal is for you to make your own decision in order to maximize your enjoyment of quilting and your satisfaction with your results.

When I first started quilting I used pins whenever my strips were longer than 6 inches because that is what the Learn to Quilt DVD instructed! I didn’t understand the hows or whys, and I didn’t have good results. I got really frustrated when my strips didn’t seem to line up so I started over cutting and trimming afterwards.

(Edit: by “over cutting” I mean cutting the strip longer than it needs to be, sewing, and then trimming).

This went on for some time and I made several very useful and pretty quilts that way. They always had a little wonk to them but I did my best with the information I had at the time.

In fact, allow me to show you something you probably didn’t notice the first time you saw barn door:

barn door oops

Woopsa-daisy! The triangle should be a normal, complete HST (half square triangle) and the first piece of the bottom border should line up with it. Completely not a big deal and not anything you’d notice if you view the quilt as a whole.


When I make mistakes that don’t ruin the quilt, I frequently leave them in. I’ve said before that it’s not fun anymore if I have to sew it twice. But I do try to understand what went wrong and how to avoid making that same mistake again.

In this case, the mistake was over cutting and trimming instead of carefully measuring and pinning.

I had similar problems with the solid stripes quilts I made my nephews. In that case my incorrect pinning technique caused my quilt top to completely refuse to lay flat. I don’t have any good pictures of that because it was before blogging. You’ll just have to trust me: it would not lay flat and it was extremely frustrating. (By the way, if you have trouble with your borders “waving” or “smiling” this is why!)

After watching a few Craftsy classes and receiving some very expert instruction from my husband’s aunt, my results (and enjoyment!) have improved quite a bit.

Here’s what I learned.

Most importantly, you have to pin in the right order. Besides the over cutting, this is the biggest thing I was doing wrong.

Line up and pin the outer edges first and then place a pin in the middle. If this was a longer strip I would add additional pins in the middle of these pins and then keep adding pins in the middle until I had pins every 3-4 inches.

If your strips are slightly off, you still line up the outer edges. Use even more pins (every 1-2 inches) and leave them in until your needle is just about to hit them. You’ll be amazed by the way that extra fabric somehow eases into the seam and disappears. If it doesn’t, that may be because your strips were too far off for “easing in” to work. Then you have to decide whether to go back and redo something or live with it the way it is and try again on the next strip!

If your strips have seams that you want lined up (as is the case for barn door) you line that area up and pin it first. Then you proceed with normal pinning procedure: outside edges followed by the middle.


On this strip I pinned my 2 triangle points first

That’s all there is to it! It’s simple and effective and I’ve personally found it worth it because of the frustration it saves me later in the process.

As always, if you have any questions please let me know via comment or email. And if you have any additional pinning tips or techniques we would all love to hear them.

Barn door quilt-a-long: week 2


Welcome to week 2 of the barn door quilt-a-long!

Confession time: it occurred to me last week that there is no reason in the world to write “quilt-a-long” rather than quilt along. So if you see that change soon you’ll know why. (English major fail.)

This week we’re going to sew the top rows (1-8). Don’t worry if you’re behind! If you’re able to focus a few good hours on this project you’ll have no trouble catching up. You may have seen hints on Instagram (@sarahschraw / #barndoorqal) that I am actually almost done with my quilt top. Once you get rolling it truly does come together fast. And good news: all the math is working perfectly!

There’s not a lot of new information this week. Last week’s assembly chart is all you need for the first 3 weeks of the quilt along. (You can reference the week 1 post here). Here is how your quilt will look at the end of week 2:


After some good email discussions with a couple of you I decided a little more instruction on the pinning step might be helpful! I’m going to do that under a separate post later this morning (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise).

Now, the link up. I’d love to see your progress, even if it’s still just a pile of fabric!

Link up by clicking below. I’ll leave the link open one week (until January 20).

Barn door quilt-a-long: week 1

Welcome to week 1 of the barn door quilt-a-long! (If you missed the post about fabric requirements, you’ll find it here.)

This is what we’ll be doing this week:


Week 1: the 7 center rows

I originally intended to start this week by doing all of the cutting for the quilt. But as I was working on it myself (had to double check that math!) it occurred to me that it would be way more fun to start assembling it right away. You’ll get the satisfaction of seeing it come together quickly and you’ll be able to play around a little more with your fabric selection and layout.


This will also give us the opportunity to have a periodic link up to see how the quilts are looking!

So here’s the new schedule (and I do apologize if you were terribly attached to the last one):

  • Week 1 (January 6) – center rows (9-15)
  • Week 2 (January 13) – top rows (1-8) & link up for week 1 progress
  • Week 3 (January 20) – bottom rows (16-23)
  • Week 4 (January 27) – borders & link up for weeks 1-3 progress
  • Week 5 (February 3) – quilting & finishing
  • Week 6 (February 10) – final link up celebration (with at least one giveaway, possibly more!)

Here is your Barn door assembly chart, containing all of the measurements for the entire quilt. This week we’re going to start in the center and work our way out.

Without the borders, barn door is a 63 3/4 inch square that forms the primary “X” design of the quilt.

Barn door diagram

Image credit: Anne at play-crafts.com. Thanks Anne!

This X is composed of 23 strips. To create the assembly chart I numbered the strips 1 to 23 from top to bottom. Most of the strips in the quilt are composed of one middle strip, 2 HSTs (half square triangles), and 2 side strips.

Edit: All of the strips are 3 1/4 inches wide.

You can find my HST & hourglass unit tutorial here, and my cutting tutorials here and here. For even more basics, read through my beginner’s series

When you assemble your strips, be sure you join each unit with a true 1/4 inch seam. As in most quilt patterns, the math for this design depends on an accurate 1/4 inch. Anything more or less will cause trouble when you are lining up your rows.

I like to keep a small ruler right by my sewing machine and I frequently check my seam allowances.


The 1/4 inch line of the ruler should line up with your thread

(You’ll note that my HST/hourglass tutorial encourages a scant or “less than” 1/4 inch seam for making those units. Don’t be confused by this! Just remember that you can always use a scant seam for a unit that will be trimmed, but when you are joining multiple units into a finished block or quilt, you will most often use a true 1/4 inch seam because that is the amount accounted for in the math.)

For this quilt, I think it’s helpful to be able to nest your seams when you are lining them up. I press all of my middle pieces toward the middle and all of my outer strips toward the outside.


Your triangles and hourglass don’t have any abutting seams so you can press them any way you want. I chose to press them open so my quilt top will lay flatter. If you don’t want to have to think about which way to press your seams, pressing them open is always an option. It just makes lining up the points slightly trickier (in my opinion).


The hourglass and triangles are pressed open; the center strips are pressed toward the center; the outer strips are pressed toward the outside; the seams joining the strips together are pressed open

Once you have your first 2 rows assembled, joining them immediately will help you determine whether you’ve cut and sewn accurately up to this point. If your points are not lining up, try to figure out what has gone wrong. Double-check your measurements and your seam allowances. This is another advantage of assembling a little at a time!

I advocate heavy pinning and I’ll tell you why: fabric stretches. Pinning doesn’t just ensure that your components line up, it offers some resistance to the tugging of the presser feet and feed dogs on the fabric. If you often have a small amount of fabric that sticks off the end of one side of your work, that is why. I know it’s an extra step, but it’s worth it to avoid dealing with the uneven edges later.

Focus on lining up the angles of the triangles. The lines of the triangles create the “X” design of the quilt.


Pin where the triangles meet first.


Then place one pin at each outside edge of the strips. Keep adding pins in the middle of the pins you’ve already placed until you have pins every few inches. Sew your strips together, removing the pins at the last possible second before your needle reaches them.


Continue assembling strips until you have your center 7! Or of course if you’re on a roll keep going. You now have all the information you need to complete the entire quilt top.

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions. One of the benefits of a small quilt-a-long is the opportunity for more extensive interaction and collaboration.

Don’t forget to post your progress on our Flickr page! Let me know if you guys are Intagram users. I could dust off my account if it’s something you guys want to do. #barndoorQAL anyone?

Barn door quilt-a-long: my fabric choices

I loved Carolyn Friedlander’s line Architextures. It’s getting hard to find, but her new line Botanics is most certainly the next big thing. It started popping up here and there after Quilt Market and now it’s just hitting shelves. I got mine from Fat Quarter Shop when they were offering 25% off on black friday.

I gotta tell ya, I was sorely tempted by the beautiful stack of fat quarters. It’s just so pretty! But I’ve been quilting long enough to know that, for me, fat quarters are never enough. It makes more economical sense to force myself to choose my favorites and buy half yards.

All that to say, Botanics is my starting point for my next barn door quilt. I ordered most of the whites, grays, blues, and greens and a little orange. From there, I decided to incorporate what’s left of my Architextures stash (leftover from the fat quarter stack I purchased to make these airplane pillows). Then I went nuts and grabbed any similar shades from my stash, and landed here:


Botanics + stash coordinates

Low volumes

Low volumes


Light blues

Dark blues

Dark blues





My initial plan is to not have a plan. Ha! Seriously though. I am going to start the first few rows and then see how it develops. When I made my first version I definitely planned each fabric selection very specifically before I started sewing.

They alternate with quite mathematical precision!


This time it’s a bit more complex because I’m planning to use quite a few more fabrics, so I’m just going to take it one row at a time. Eventually a more specific plan will form, I promise.

The pattern works outward from the middle. The first row we sew will be the hourglass row at the center. From there we’ll sew both the adjoining rows and work out until we have completed the central X of the design. From there we add the top and bottom borders and we’re done! It really does come together quite quickly. The trickiest part is lining up the triangles but we’ll worry about that next year.

I’m so excited to see what you guys are thinking about using for your fabrics! Please do not hesitate to ask questions. I love talking about this stuff. If you’re on Flickr please upload your fabric stacks here! If you’re not on Flickr you should consider joining, especially if you don’t have a blog. We’re all going to want to see your quilt!

Linking up with Lee for WIP Wednesday. It’s an official WIP once you’ve got fabric and a pattern… right?

Oh, and if you’re new around here, you can always catch up on everything Barn door quilt-a-long related by clicking its tab at the top of the screen!

Barn door quilt-a-long!

So, um, do you guys maybe want to make a quilt with me next year?

Maybe this one? (More pictures here.)


Ok, let’s do this!

I plan to keep the pace pretty slow because I know there are plenty of other great projects you may have in mind for the new year. But I’ll give you the information you need to work ahead too, in case you’re like me and you get all excited and like to focus on one thing at a time.

Barn door quilt-a-long schedule:

  • November /December – fabric requirements & selection
  • January 6 – cutting
  • January 13 – assembling the HSTs and hourglass unit
  • January 20 – assembling the strips
  • January 27 – piecing the X
  • February 3 – adding the top and bottom borders
  • February 10 – quilting & finishing
  • February 24 – final link party celebration (with at least one giveaway, possibly more!)

I wanted to post the fabric requirements early so that you can plan ahead a bit. (Maybe allocate a Christmas present or 2 in this direction!)

This quilt is a little bit different because it is primarily long strips rather than small components. I used a set of 6 half yards of the Japenese text prints (available here) and a couple yards of the polka dots from my stash.

For simplicity, in calculating the fabric requirements below I assumed you would use just two different fabrics – one light and one dark. I also assumed you’d be using a non-directional print or a print that runs the length of the yardage rather than selvedge to selvedge. If you are using a print that runs selvedge to selvedge (as the text print I used did) you will have to piece a couple of the longest strips. This didn’t bother me a bit. This is patchwork, let it be patchy! 

Ok, fabric requirements. In short, you’ll need 5 yards for this quilt top – 2 1/2 light and 2 1/2 dark. But here are some more details: 

  • Light fabric: a 2 yard cut will provide enough 3 1/4 inch strips for the main X and the top and bottom striped borders; you’ll need an additional 1/2 yard for the 44 HST (you’ll have some left over, but 1/4 yard is not enough)
  • Dark fabric: same as light fabric above
  • Finished size of the quilt: 63 3/4 by 79 3/4

It might be helpful to know that the 2 longest light strips are 58 1/4 inches and the 2 longest dark strips are 52 3/4 inches. If you don’t want to have to piece your strips at all, you’ll need at least that length.

I haven’t 100% committed to my fabric choices for my 2nd version of this quilt yet. I haven’t made a quilt for my 2 year old yet so I’m thinking this one will be for him! My initial thought is to combine my men’s shirt collection with Carolyn Friendlander’s new line Botanics, but I reserve the right to change my mind.

Here’s a little inspiration to get you thinking. These are the types of images I originally had in my head when I designed this quilt.

barn door

Barn door 2

barn door 3

For more great inspiration and ideas, I’m so excited that my genius friend Anne of Play Crafts generously agreed to do a post about some color choices for us today! She also drew it up in Illustrator for us, which is way beyond my technological abilities. Be sure to check it out. Thanks Anne!

I also created a Flickr group so please feel free to start talking about ideas and posting potential fabric pulls.

This is going to be fun!