Some video tutorials – Machine Tension for FMQ and Feature Zippers

I’ve been making videos again, this time I created one about the happy accident when I made the hole for the zip too big on an internal pocket. If you want to recreate this, I’ll show you how to do that without raw edges causing problems. It’s best to choose a solid or a small print for this effect.

The other is about machine tension when you’re free motion quilting- what the top and bottom thread should look like and adjusting the top thread.


PennyDog Vlog #19 – Quilts Returned

I’ve got a couple more finished Boronias and I got a bundle of quilts returned from C&T!

A Finish: Paraffin

This quilt is Paraffin, and it was designed to look like a lava lamp. I learned about how they work while making this quilt – that carbon tetrachloride is added to the paraffin to make it denser than water, where wax would normally float. The bulb heats the wax and makes it expand, making it rise to the top in the smooth and unpredictable shapes that the lava lamp creates. The random shapes property appealed to me, since I planned to piece it in a mixture of random and uniform (the curves) ways.

This was a quick quilt to assemble, and it took 4 1/2 hours of long arm rental to quilt it. It is constructed with improv orange pieces and added curves, reverse appliqued to a solid blue background. I used a ruler foot to quilt straight lines in the orange and I free motioned like crazy with curvy designs in the blue.

I finished the edges with a facing to give a borderless look and hand stitched to the back, now I just need to enter it into Quiltcon and hope it gets selected!

Size – 38″ wide x 66″ tall
Number of blocks – n/a
Time to make – About 14 hours, including 4 1/2 quilting hours
Fabric – Background is Kona Pacific, with a mix of different oranges from scraps and stash.
Binding Fabric – A blue solid from stash that is very close to Kona Pacific
Backing Fabric –
 A Michael Miller extra wide, from the half price section at My Sewing Room.
Threads – Pieced with off-white Wonderfil Konfetti, quilted with a blue and a orange Isacord on top with a terracotta Decobob on the bottom.
Batting – 100% Cotton – Quilters Dream Select (crib size)
Quilting- Ruler work grid on the orange, feathers and swirls and feathered swirls and pebbles on the blue.

This is a Q4 Finish Along Finish!

PennyDog Vlog #18 -October 29th 2017 – Hank-bag

Handbags and Hank!

I am really pleased with my Boronia Bowler Bag that I’m putting in some bonus pictures. I’ve listed it on Etsy today too. I will definitely do a tutorial on the lining zip finish, and I did have a video I filmed last week on free motion quilting tension which will be up soon so please bear with me, more tutorials on my channel are coming!


PennyDog Vlog #17 – October 22 2017 – Short and Sweet

What do you want? Also, let’s collaborate!

I’m worried I’m getting into a bit of a rut where I’m not expanding my audience and network. I have some questions if you have a couple of minutes to answer one or two of them and leave a comment, I think it could pull me out!

How are you finding new patterns, designers, etc these days? Are blogs still relevant? It feels like it’s getting quieter out there, is that because people have less time to respond when there are several platforms to keep an eye on? Maybe there’s a cool podcast, Facebook group, forum or something totally different where you discover new quilty things, what is it?

What kind of quilt patterns are you looking for? Maybe you don’t use patterns at all. I was going to work on a series of Advanced patterns (Quilt Workout), but are advanced quilters even wanting to buy patterns? I’m wondering if I even have the right product. I know I’m quite well known for my animal quilts, should I focus more on that? Do I need to separate my two styles for a stronger identity or can I keep going the way I am?

Is YouTube the way to go? My time and technology has been a little limited, but now I have a video camera I like, that I don’t have to encode to be able to view the footage of, that is HD, that does decent audio. I just need time to film more tutorials. I’m trying to keep my hand in with my weekly vlogs. Would you be more likely to watch a vlog than read a blog post? How long would you ideally want it to be?

What tutorials would you want to see on YouTube? I’m planning on doing one on FMQ tension very soon, but it is always nice to make the list longer and have a better idea of a plan.

Would you like to collaborate? If you have a product/service/some other quilty thing you want to get the word out about, let me know. Likewise, if you think we could work together in some other way to promote me, or both of us, I’m actually pretty friendly, so you can always fire me an email 🙂

Should I host a sew along of some sort? I’m thinking a bag making one, maybe the Blanche Barrel Bag that I love so much, or since I’m still technically teaching that one, maybe the Boronia Bowler Bag by Blue Calla patterns? Or would a quilt be better? Maybe my own content like when I did the English Country Garden applique blocks each month?

Here’s a little reminder of all the important places to find me and my (very) little business.

Finished quilts, bags, etc on Etsy: 
Quilt patterns: Payhip / Etsy / Craftsy
Facebook group for updates:
YouTube channel:

Tutorial: How to make an improv Dresden block, in any size (PART 2)

Now you have your template (from part 1), let’s get ready to use it! Of course you can just use it to cut out unpieced fabric, and sew them together, turn under the top edge 1/4″ and applique to a background, but I’m going to show you how I made a few different blades too.

Some of them I made with points, here’s how I did those.

1) Fold the top of the right side of the blade  so that the top corners meet.

2) Sew a 1/4″ seam from the fold (using tiny stitches at the fold part and then increasing to normal size.

3) Turn right side out, so where the fold was is now a point. Align the seam centrally and ease the seam open with your fingers, then press the point.

Then the improv piecing… I cut the fabric into smaller pieces, and sewed together whatever pieces were to hand and looked good until I had a piece a little bigger than the template. With the plastic being clear, I could see what I would get where, when I was happy with the layout, I then cut around the template.

Some of the improv “recipes” I used-
1 – Small squares/rectangles – not measured, sewn together both horizontally and vertically until the size is right

 2 – The above, but slashing and inserting another strip at an angle.

 3 – Using left overs from the slashing technique and piecing them with fabrics as per recipe 1.

 4 – Two larger pieces of fabric seamed diagonally – Then cutting out a few plates with the line intersecting at different heights.

 I also had some plain ones in there. There’s lots more you could try too, like tiny crumbs of fabric sewn in a grid where seams don’t have to match.

When it came to sewing them together, I arranged them to look pleasing, and sewed together mostly as I went, I didn’t wait until I had all 20 blades done and I worked my way around the circle. It’s probably a good idea to make two halves though, because a small discrepancy can create a bigger problem at the end (which is why I have a sharp triangular piece, the tops were smooth but the seams went a bit weird in the central part, making it baggy there).

Points shorten the sides on the adjoining blades, so where they joined a flat one, I added a bit of glue pen to hold the seam allowance down on the back.

If you want to make a circle to be appliqued in the centre (I didn’t in case the guild wanted to turn under the centre hole and applique it like a window when it came to assembly), measure how wide you need to make the circle, divide that measurement in half and add 1/2″. Then set a pair of compasses to that width and draw a circle template on cardboard. Roughly cut out fabric about 1/2″ bigger and also cut a piece of aluminum foil a little bigger still. Layer foil, fabric (right side to foil) and cardboard, and wrap the seam allowance to the back of the cardboard smoothly with the foil, press with an iron, unwrap and glue baste the circle of fabric to the centre of the dresden.

In preparation for applique-ing to the quilt it is part of, you could also turn the top edge over 1/4″ and secure with glue stick if you wanted to.

And that was it! Have fun making big (or small) Dresden plates!

Oh one more thing, my piecing curves tutorial video went live today so if you could give it some love that would be great! Remember, if you subscribe to my YouTube channel and you’re in the first 200 people (today’s count stands at 69) you will be entered into the draw to win your choice of precut from my stash – there’s a layer cake, a jelly roll and 3 charm packs up for grabs!

Tutorial: How to make an improv Dresden block, in any size (PART 1)

*** No vlog last weekend which was completely intentional, I felt like I needed a little break but there will be a video tutorial on piecing curves this week so keep on subscribing to my YouTube channel (and you could win a precut prize)! ***

Hi everyone, today I thought I would bring you a tutorial on how to make an improv Dresden plate without the need for a special ruler. I really enjoyed making this Dresden, even if I did make mistakes along the way I had to fix! I needed to make a 30 inch block, and I couldn’t find a Dresden ruler that big, so I made my own template. You can make your template as big as you want,  and then I’ll show you how to use it tomorrow. Here we go!

A pencil
Large sheet of paper
Sheet of template plastic and scissors to cut it with
Protractor ( you don’t need a fancy one, a plastic school one works)
Tape, if your template plastic is shorter than your block size

First off, I had to decide how many blades I wanted, and divide 360 by that number to work out what angle the sides needed to taper by. It also was important to me that it was an easy number. I went with 20 blades, 360/20 = 18 degree angle for this tutorial. Turns out, this is a pretty standard Dresden ruler angle, so if you wanted something different, here’s some suggestions.

10 blades – 36 degree angle
24 blades – 15 degree angle
30 blades – 12 degree angle
40 blades – 9 degree angle

I actually decided to mix the widths up a bit so for my real example I made 2 templates – I had 10 14 degree blades and 10 22 degree blades. 10×14=140 and 10×22=220, 140+220= 360. So you can be create with the sizes as long as it all adds up to 360!

I wanted my block to be 30″, and the hole in the centre to be small. I decided the width of the narrowest point on my template should be 1/2″ finished- if I went right to a point there would be a ton of bulk. You still need to draw your template as a triangle though, to make sure the block finishes the right size and takes account of the space in the centre. I used freezer paper for my template because it is what I had to hand, but you could use any kind of large sheet of paper. Here’s what I did.

1) I started out by drawing the finished size, before adding seam allowances. For a 30″ block, I started with a line 15″ long, because I’m only concerned about the radius of the dresden for the template.

2) Use the protractor by lining up your line with the 0 degree line, and the end of your line with the dot where all the lines meet at the centre of the protractor, then mark a dot for your angle – my dot is at 18 degrees.

3) Grab your ruler again and draw a 15″ long line, making a point at the bottom, through the dot you made and until you get to the 15″ mark on your ruler.

4) Join the two top points together.

5) Get your protractor again and line up as before, but mark a dot at half the angle of your first one, so my line is at 18 degrees, so my new dot is half that at 9 degrees. Draw a line from point to dot and beyond, a few inches long is plenty. Now you can see where the centre of your plate is.

6) I know I want it to be 1/2″ wide at the bottom when finished, so I am going to line up half that – 1/4″ – with the centre line I just drew, and move my ruler until one edge line meets the 0 mark on the ruler, and the other meets the 1/2″ mark, with the 1/4″ mark meeting the centre line. Draw a line to join the sides together and create a polygon.

7) This is your template but you need seam allowances now. Use the quarter inch mark on your ruler to draw an echo line around the top and sides, the bottom (shortest edge) doesn’t need a seam allowance as this area will be covered with an applique circle.

8) Trace this outer line onto template plastic (I had to tape sheets together because I bought really small template plastic sheets) and cut out, and you’re ready to start making dresden plates!

Check back tomorrow for the tutorial on using your new template, and making the improv block.


Vlog #16 – October 9th 2017 – Thanksgiving

Here’s the latest update- a quick vlog with my Quiltcon progress, bench progress and my next pattern release!

I asked my Instagram followers what pattern I should come out with next, it was relatively close (so I need to get on with my next release soon), but the Horseplay Cushion won out and you can now get your hands on a copy for yourself! I swear it’s a lot simpler than it looks, no precision or curved piecing, and it is layer cake friendly. There’s a link below, or it is available on Etsy or Craftsy.

Tutorial: How to Reupholster a Dining Chair with Patchwork

I’ve said for a little while now that I would show you how I reupholstered my sewing room chairs. I actually have one more to do but there are SO. MANY. STAPLES. Plus, painting isn’t my favourite thing to do. If you want to have a go, here’s what I did for actually removing and recovering the seat area.

An old chair
A crosshead screwdriver (probably)
Something to help pull staples out – I used a combination of an awl, a screwdriver and a pair of pliers

Fabric scraps
0.7m of Pellon Shapeflex SF101, or some other lightweight fusible woven interfacing
Staple gun with staples

Please note that I reused the same foam and base cloth, but if you have really worn out chairs, you will need some new foam and some kind of lightweight cloth for the bottom. My chairs looked dilapidated, but the insides were actually very good still.

All chairs will be a little different, but the construction is mostly the same.

1)First of all you want to flip your chair upside down and unscrew any visible screws under the pad area.

2) Once the pad is separate from the frame, you can paint the chair if you wish. You need to remove all of the staples on the back that hold the base cloth in place.

3) Under the base cloth you will see the wood that makes the structure and shape of the seat, plus where the main fabric attaches. I had A LOT of staples to contend with here. Take them all out and you should have four separate layers – your outer fabric, the foam, the wood and the base cloth. My wood was actually stuck to the foam, yours may be in two pieces.

4) This step is optional. I stuck pieces of freezer paper together and drew around the existing fabric to make a template. I did this because I was making three seats, but you could use your actual outer fabric piece as the template and skip this step.

5) Use your template (or outer fabric piece) to cut out your interfacing at the right size. My seat was a little bigger than the width of the interfacing, so I pieced mine together in two parts, cutting out part of the template on one width, and the left over bit as a second piece. I didn’t join them together.

6) You want to now randomly piece your scrap fabric together until it is bigger than the template/original outer fabric/interfacing.

7) Lay your fabric with the wrong side of the fabric against the fusible (shiny/textured) side of the interfacing. Line up your join if you had to cut the interfacing in two pieces like I did. Press to fuse together using manufacturer’s instructions, some interfacings fuse faster than others.

8) Cut away the excess fabric around the interfacing.

9) Lay your fabric right side facing down, and position the foam and then the wood over the top. You want to ease the fabric as far round the wood as you can without forcing it too hard. It should be firm, but still have a little give. Staple the top, bottom and sides in place as a starting point.

10) Work your way round methodically in one direction, adding several staples to each side to keep it neat. Before you get to a corner, you want to see how the fabric folds before stapling too close in place. I start by folding the corner across the point flat, adding a staple, and then easing in the two sides equally, possibly stapling over the top if necessary. A corner usually uses up 5 staples.

11) Finish the stapling all the way round, and cut away any excess fabric if it covers the screw holes.

12) This is where reusing the base cloth comes in handy, because you can line up the holes with the screw holes in the fabric and then staple into place. If you had to make a new base cloth, fold the edges under as best you can by 1/2″ to 1″ and press. Then line up on the back and staple over the raw edges of the outer fabric. Next, you will need to poke holes in the cloth for the screws, you can do this with an awl once you’ve located the hole.

13) Reattach seat to the chair frames with the screws. This can be a bit tricky, so start from the back of the chair and work with it upside down. And then you’re done!