I've been sewing since I was a teenager, but didn't take quilting seriously until 2017. Since then, I've fallen head over heels in love with quilts and anything quilting related. I tend to make modern quilts (and pillows!) and I'm dipping my toe into the world of pattern design.
When Rachel of Wren Collective asked me if I’d test a collaborative quilt pattern that she and Suzy Quilts designed, I said yes before I’d even read the entire message! What an exciting project and what fun it was to test the pattern before it was released to the rest of the quilting community. Now I think most quilters know that agreeing to test a quilt is always the easy part…fabric selection is usually another story. But this time, that was a simple choice too. Figo Fabrics had just released their Christmas line, Wintertide, and I am head over heels IN LOVE with it! It is so charming and cute, and retro and basically everything you want in Christmas fabric. I had already snatched up a bundle from Fabric Bubb and was wondering what I would make with it when Rachel reached out to me, so clearly it was meant to be!
This was my first time using Figo Fabrics and I’m so glad I discovered their fabric! It’s so ridiculously soft and retains its color perfectly. Sewing with it was such a dream and it quilted up beautifully. I’ve loved every quilt I’ve made but this one definitely holds a special place in my heart.
Tail Feather is the perfect fit for Wintertide because the large quilt pieces mean all of the gorgeous prints are highlighted beautifully. Each print from this collection is delightful but my favorite…well, I used it for the backing so I could use as much of it as possible! As usual, I did some straight line quilting in the form of a 1″ grid. I didn’t want to obscure the beautiful prints and I think the grid highlights the pattern perfectly.
After the photo shoot, I popped the quilt directly in the wash to get it all nice and crinkled and ready for using. This is actually the first holiday quilt I’ve ever made and I’m not sure what the policies are, but I’m pretty sure this quilt is going to be used outside of December!
It might be hard to believe, but I didn’t start sewing with solids until 2017! Prior to then, I had only used prints in my quilts and it felt like a huge leap to start using solids, but once I started, I never looked back. I love how much creativity shines through when I sew with solids–my quilts feel more “me” and my quilting really stands out. These days I sew almost exclusively with solids and I can’t believe that it took me this long to start using PURE Solids from Art Gallery Fabrics. I’ve used prints from Art Gallery Fabrics for my backings before and always loved how soft the fabric was, but the PURE Solids weren’t really on my radar. But once I started seeing them pop on Instagram, I knew I had to try them. Deciding to use them was the easy part…choosing the perfect color combo was tougher since I’m so indecisive! After lots of deliberation, I settled on a bright, summery palette and decided to make another version of my Triangulation quilt. It’s my favorite pattern for solids since it shows off so many different colors and has such a cool look once finished.
Since I was using such bright colors with a white backing, I decided it would probably be a good idea to prewash my fabric. I don’t do this too often anymore, but I didn’t want to risk any dye running when I washed my completed quilt. It turns out I shouldn’t have worried! I put two color catchers into the wash with the fabric, and they both came out spotless…seriously. I even took a picture of the color catchers like a weirdo, in case anyone doubted me! No dye on the color catchers means the fabric was just as bright and beautiful as when it arrived in the mail. No fading fabric and no crying from me! Not only did the dye not run, but the fabric was amazingly free of fraying and tangles after being dried. How often does that happen with quilting fabric? I knew before even starting that this was going to be a fun and easy quilt to make.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve used Art Gallery Fabrics before and loved the softness, but I had never used it for an entire quilt top. What an absolute treat it was to sew entirely with this supple fabric! Not only was it soft to the touch (it turns out it’s made of pima cotton!), but it went through my sewing machine like butter. Does this make me sound like a weird, hungry person? Maybe, but I don’t care! The fabric really is that lovely. Before I knew it, I had cranked out a divine quilt top and was ready to start quilting. And luckily for me, there is the most adorable fabric line out right now with a print just PERFECT for the back of my summery quilt.
Yep. Those popsicles were destined to be a part of my quilt. They give the quilt such a fun little kick on the back and always make me smile. I’ve admired Dana Willard’s fabric for a loooong time and this print was just what I wanted for this quilt. Honestly any of the prints from this collection (Summer Side) would have been perfect, but this one was my favorite. Psst, it’s “Popsicle Party in Watermint” if you want to use it too! Having popsicles on the back of my quilt really completes the summery vibe and everyone who has seen the fabric can’t resist a chuckle (and an attempt to steal my quilt)!
I did a minimalist quilting design to really let the fabric and colors shine, and I’m so pleased with the end result. This is my favorite Triangulation quilt yet! It’s so perfect for these hot summer days, and I know it will really brighten up my house once colder weather arrives. The PURE Solids from Art Gallery Fabrics were such a delight to sew with and I’m already dreaming up my next project. If you’d like to make your own version of this quilt, the pattern is currently on sale in my Etsy shop (yay!) and I’ll list the colors I used so you can snag your own PURE Solids. Curious about using PURE Solids? Give them a shot…I promise you’ll love them!
There’s really no “how-to” with improv quilts, since as the name implies, you pretty much improvise as you go along. So why the post, you ask? It turns out A LOT of people are interested in how I make my improv quilts and after lots of comments and messages, I figured it would be easier to do a blog post rather than try to answer everyone in just a few sentences on Instagram.
Improv quilting is a great way to use up scraps, try new techniques, and most of all, sew purely for fun! There are NO rules (I promise) and while it does generate a lot of trimmings and mess, it’s totally worth it.
To get started, all you need to do is select your fabric and gather a few basic supplies. I use a small ruler for trimming fabric plus my trusty rotary cutter. For the fabric, I usually use yardage, but you can easily use large scraps. The fewest colors I’ve used is 4, while my current project has 7 colors! It’s totally up to you how many you’d like to use, but I feel like a minimum of 4 allows for nice color distribution. So far I’ve only used solids, but I’d love to attempt prints someday!
So you’ve picked your fabrics, now what? I typically start by cutting one piece that will be the focal piece. I cut this piece with about 5 or 6 sides, but you can do as many or as few sides as you like. Make sure some of the sides are different lengths and angles–this will help get your quilt take shape. You don’t even HAVE To do this larger focal piece…it’s just an easy way to get started.
Once the focal piece is cut, select the first piece you’re going to sew. If you’re working with scraps, this can be an uncut scrap. When I use yardage, I will just cut a small piece off of the yardage (with no rhyme or reason, I swear!). I try to make it big enough to cover the side where I’m sewing, but not so big that I’ll have a lot of waste when I trim. As you can see from my pictures, that doesn’t always work out! I sew my pieces with a 1/4″ seam allowance, and I always press my seams open. That’s because I’m a big fan of pressing open, but also because it helps to reduce bulk, which is especially important in a quilt like this which will have TONS of seams. After the seam is pressed, I trim the piece. With this piece, I trimmed it so it “continues” the lines of the focal piece.
Now you can start adding more pieces! It’s a good idea to do a quick backstitch over the seams as you add pieces, since there’s really no way to backstitch when initially adding a piece–the ends of the pieces often get trimmed off! This can get more complicated as your quilt gains more and more seams, but it’s worth it to make sure none of your seams become loose. I recommend having your iron nearby when doing improv, since you need to iron each seam before going on to the next piece!
Shake Things Up!
Now that you’re chugging along, you can start to get fancy. I will often sew multiple pieces of fabric together, then sew that section to the quilt. In the example below, I sewed two pieces of fabric together, cut it into strips, and sewed one of the strips to the quilt. I can then use the remaining strips in other parts of the quilt. This is an easy way to add interest to your quilt!
I Messed Up! Now What?
Guess what? You didn’t mess up. Improv quilts are amazing because you just, you know, improvise. I’m not a very go with the flow type of person, but if something funky happens with my improv quilts, it’s all good. One of the pieces I sewed on today was too short. Oops! Rather than break out my trusty seam ripper, I just got creative with my trimming! These “mistakes” are a GOOD thing, because they help guide the shape of the evolving quilt.
Do the pieces you add always need to be a rectangle? Nope! Any shape works, as you can see with the triangle pieces below.
What about lining the pieces up exactly? Not important! You can sew just about any two pieces together. This is especially helpful when using scraps. No need to trim the pieces ahead of time. Just sew them together and trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ before pressing the seam.
Should I pin? I don’t. The pieces are so small and sewn together so quickly that pining just feels like unnecessary work. And if you end up sewing a kind of wonky seam, you can probably just work with it!
What about when my quilt starts to get big and unmanageable? When this happens, I start another section (not with a large central piece, however) and then sew the sections together later.
What if my quilt is oddly shaped at the end? It probably will be! I make mine a few inches larger than what I want the completed size to be, to allow room to square it up.
As I was working on this sample today (and stopping to take a million pictures!), I was thinking about what tips I could offer in this post. Since there’s no pattern or set directions, it can feel like improv is complicated or stressful, but to me it’s the exact opposite. It’s freeing and fun! I think my biggest tip is not to overthink things. It can be easy to get caught up in perfect placement of colors or shapes but that’s really not necessary. Improv quilts will look good no matter what–it’s the very nature of improv to thrive on the imperfect!
I hope this post has convinced you to give improv a try. It’s just so much fun! There’s lots of different ways of doing it, so you don’t even have to do my method. Please tag me on Instagram if you give improv a try after reading this post, because I’d love to see what you make. Use the hashtag #peonyandfernimprov if you want me to share your picture!
Once upon a time, I pulled together a beautiful color palette. I had no plans in mind for these colors, other than sewing with them immediately. And so, I began cutting. I cut some triangles and sewed them together. They were kind of wonky looking, so I panicked. Did I just waste all that time and fabric?!? I calmed down and trimmed them. Phew, much better. Then I sewed some together and made a pillow cover. And it looked really fun! So I decided to keep going and see what these triangles had in store for me.
It turns out there was a quilt in store! After appealing to Instagram for a name, Triangulation was born (thanks again to Anne Birkett for suggesting such a perfect name)! In about two weeks, I had a rough pattern done and had made a throw sized version, since that felt like the only way to confirm my math was correct. Thanks to a few hard-working testers, I got feedback within just a few weeks and now the pattern is available! This is my first actual quilt pattern–my first pattern was a pillow and the second was a mini quilt. This definitely took a lot more time to write and I feel more nervous about releasing it than my first two patterns…which is saying a lot because I was pretty nervous about both of them too! I feel like a lot of quilters are like me and have learned by trial and error, but I also know there are some “right ways” to do things and I’m pretty sure I don’t do any of them. So that’s typically the cause behind my nervousness. What if my weird way of doing things is annoying to my fellow quilters? What if the quilt police come and arrest me?!? I guess if they do, at least I’ll have a nice quilt to bring with me to quilt jail!
This pattern is definitely beginner friendly. I wouldn’t recommend it for your first quilt ever, since matching triangle points can get annoying and I wouldn’t want my quilt to turn someone off from quilting forever! But otherwise it’s pretty easy (although people will think you went through way more effort than you did!). The fabric cutting is very straightforward and you can chain piece the HRTs (half rectangle triangles) which cuts down on sewing time. The fabric requirements are below in case you’re making up your mind about which size to make. I hope you all enjoy Triangulation and I can’t wait to see what you make with this pattern!
My second quilting pattern is available today in my Etsy shop! The Dashed Heart quilt is a mini quilt which I made with the intention of being a wall hanging, but it would be equally cute on a table or even as a large pillow!
It’s apparent that I hate matching seams, since all of my patterns thus far have no matching seams to worry about. It sure makes life a lot easier! This pattern is definitely suitable for a beginner. It’s likely evident from the picture that it is simply a bunch of rectangles sewn together. Really the only tricky part is keeping track of all the small pieces! This is definitely a weekend project, possibly even a one-day project if you have a few dedicated sewing hours.
If you’d like to replicate the quilting I did on this version, I did a simple crosshatch pattern, with the lines 1/2″ inch apart. The sections (what are they called in this type of quilting??) are approximately 2.25″ apart. I always quilt with my stitch length at 3.0.
Lastly, this version uses shades of pink/peach/purple and all the fabric is from Kona Cotton. I buy mine from Fabric Bubb. The colors I used are: Baby Pink, Bellini, Dusty Peach, Peony (gotta use that one!), Primrose, Woodrose, and Foxglove.
I hope you enjoy making your own Dashed Heart quilt, and I hope you’ll share it with me so I can admire it! Thanks so much for supporting Peony and Fern!
Copying ideas is something that gets a lot of attention in creative industries like quilting. And rightly so–intentionally stealing ideas for profit is the same thing as stealing physical property. The problem is, intellectual property is harder to prove as being stolen, and more difficult to defend from thieves, particularly online. Public sharing platforms make our work even more visible, which is a double-edged sword. Most of us are searching for exposure and customers, but the more well-known you are, the more likely you are to be copied.
My experience with the quilting community has mostly been through Instagram. This magical place which allows quilters to connect with each other has been a boon for professionals and newbies alike. There is so much information to be had, things to learn, and inspiration. Oh, the inspiration! It seems every day I’m discovering more talented people and being awed by their work. I’ve connected with other quilters and made friends. I’ve been cheered on and advised and comforted. As my profile has slowly (ever so slowly) gained momentum, I’ve started to experience glimmers of the copying I know other quilters dread.
Before I started writing quilt patterns, I occasionally designed my own quilts and shared them on Instagram. There were plenty of times where people would chat with each other in the comments of my post, talking about whether or not they could replicate the quilt I was sharing. I always tell myself people don’t mean any harm by this, but it still feels unsettling. At the very least, discuss your plans in private! When this first started happening, I usually just ignored it, but these days I will often delete the comments. I’ve also received messages from people asking me how to make quilts that I’ve shared. While I know people are just excited by a quilt they’ve seen, this is also an unpleasant request since I feel like I have to directly tell someone not to copy me. No fun for a non-confrontational person like me!
I’ve never seen any evidence of my quilts actually being replicated without credit, but who knows. Now, does it really matter if there’s a duplicate of my mountain quilt out there in the world? Not really. I made it for my son and I’m very proud of it! It’s the first quilt I ever quilted myself, and it was the push I needed to start quilting more seriously. Someone copying it doesn’t lessen my achievement, but it does sting a bit. After all, they could have given my idea credit and gotten my name out to new people who might not know about me. What is more concerning is when people sell a quilt or pattern based on someone else’s idea. If someone makes a quilt just like my mountain quilt for themselves, that’s one thing. But if they make it and sell it, well, that’s money I could have earned.
Whether it’s intentional or not, copying can be a problem among quilters, and I have a few suggestions which I’ve personally started implementing to do my best due diligence when I have new ideas!
Do Your Research
Instagram hashtags are an amazing thing, so put them to work for you! Spend some time looking up different hashtags to see if there are quilts or patterns similar to your idea. Pay special attention to hashtags specific to your idea, like #trianglequilt or #hrtquilt in the case of my Triangulation quilt. If you’re friendly with any quilters on Instagram, you can run your idea past them to see if they’ve seen anything similar already. Checking around to make sure your idea isn’t an exact replica of someone else’s idea will save you some heartache–better to check first than spend lots of time creating an idea only to find out someone else did it already!
Credit, Credit, Credit!
Let’s say you’re blown away by someone’s work and want to make something similar. Awesome! This is when you give them credit like crazy so people know where the original idea came from. If you make it clear that you were inspired by someone else, you’re being upfront and giving people an opportunity to discover the quilter who had the original idea. There are lots of prolific quilters who have very specific styles and there’s no shame in being inspired by them. But it’s crucial to give them credit! And even more than that, you need to….
Make It Your Own
Related to giving credit is another important concept–making an idea your own. I don’t mean changing it just enough to get away with it. I mean really challenging yourself to think about what you like about the quilt you saw, and how you’ll put your own spin on it. Copying something exactly is taking the easy way out. To grow in your craft, you have to take risks and be willing to mess up. It’s fun to find your own style and way of doing things, and that can only happen by trying…not by copying. And selling items that are very similar to someone else’s really isn’t cool at all. Quilters can do better than that!
I think it’s worth reiterating that most people in the quilting community are amazing people, and the majority are trying to do their best work and not steal anyone’s work. Still, mistakes happen (and there’s also likely a finite number of quilt ideas out there!) so your first step should be to reach out to the other person if you ever have a concern or feel that someone is copying you. Quilters tend to be kind, generous people and our industry isn’t exactly cutthroat, so I imagine most of the time people would simply be embarrassed (and hopefully apologetic) to have their mistake pointed out to them. I know it isn’t always that simple though, and I think this is a continuing conversation we’ll be having in the quilting community. I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts on this topic!
I have shared pictures of my sewing room on Instagram before, but I’ve never really had a chance to really share a full “Before and After” of the room, so I think this is the perfect place to do that! I personally love to look at pictures of how rooms and houses change, and it’s not often that it’s actually my house that underwent the change, so you can imagine my excitement to share! Unfortunately I don’t have many good pictures from its prior state since I never expected to be able to redo it as much as we did. Please enjoy this (blurry) attempt at a panoramic picture of the room from a few months before the changes began!
This room was initially our dining room, but it was simply never used. We have a room right by the kitchen which fits a table plenty big enough for our family, so having a big table in this room was just a waste. It’s a beautiful room and for it to barely be used was a shame, so I slowly started moving in…and taking over! When we found out we were expecting our son, the room that had been the junk and storage/sewing room was turned into his room, so I was “forced” to move into the dining room officially. Rough life, I know.
Even though I was thrilled to have my own sewing room, things felt cramped with the giant table taking up all the room, and it was so dark for a spot with so many windows. The dark cabinets and table, plus the paint color just did not do the room any favors. I had always hoped to update the cabinets, and had been slowly (slowly, slowly) saving my pennies, so just a few months before our son was born, I ordered new cabinets. To make life more interesting, they arrived and were installed right after he was born…that was a busy week!
After the cabinets were up, things all fell into place. The cabinets were bigger than the previous ones, so I was able to store a lot more in them, and clear off the table. We had paint leftover from sprucing up our main floor walls, and extended that color into the sewing room. We also had the doors removed and it looks even more open without them! The dining table and chairs were sold, and I added a smaller table, two chairs, a bookcase, and best of all, my rug which reminds me of a quilt. As I’ve shared in the past, I’ve also been adding decorations to the wall, notably in the form of my Kona Color Card board and a wall hanging I made specifically for the spot. I’m hoping to add even more someday but for now, the room is functional and pretty, and such a lovely spot to sew. All told it took about 3 years for the room to go from “Before” to “After”, but that makes me appreciate the room so much more. I feel very lucky to get to work here every day.