How to Get a Layer Cake, Charm Squares and Jelly Roll Strips Out of a Fat Quarter

I am excited to share with you a little tip I learned. I recently bought a bundle of Aloha Girls Fat Quarters by Fig & Tree for Moda, which I shared in my last post. 

I am still searching for patterns, (and probably will be for a few weeks to come), to use these fabrics for a quilt I want to make for my cousin; a soon-to-be-second-grader, who lives in Chicago. 

This is a typical quandary I often have. Do I purchase pre-cut jelly rolls, layers cakes, charm packs, yardage or some other type of pre-cut? I don’t like to waste fabric, and I am very budget conscious. That said, I usually purchase fat quarter bundles or yardage, when I find that, “must have” fabric, but I haven’t found that “perfect pattern” for the fabric.

I searched the internet and found these diagrams that are helpful. The first one shows how to efficiently cut yardage into two fat quarters. A fat quarter is usually 18″ X 22″, so this is an inch shy of a true fat quarter.

This great diagram below, shows how to divide a fat quarter into 2 layer cake squares, (10″ X 10″), 4 charm squares, (5″ X 5″), and one jelly roll strip, (2.5″ X 20″ long).

Linking up with Late Night Quilter Tuesday Tips and Tutorials.

Enjoy this tip and the rest of the week!!  Happy Quilting.

Great Deals – List of Online and Brick and Mortar Stores with Great Sales – Part 2

About six months ago, I posted 28 fabric resources, which included brick & mortar stores and online fabric stores that offer great deals. Let’s be honest, we quilters all love fabric, and building stash can get pricey. I am a very careful spender, and I love a good bargain.

One method that helps me is, to subscribe to the newsletters of these fabric resources by e-mail. When they are having a sale, and some have daily and weekly specials, a newsletter telling you what’s on sale and when, comes right into my inbox.

Some online fabric stores offer point systems, or loyalty programs. After purchasing a certain amount from some of these resources, you can earn a credit of $10, (this is just an example). An important caveat; When purchasing fabric online find out what their return policy is. Sometimes the photo will look great on your computer, but not when you open the package at home, and audition it with other fabrics you may be planning to use for a project. 

Some offer a screen where the buyer can audition choices on it. Because many of the online shops sell in 1/4yard, 1/2 yard or 1 yard increments, they will take the fabric back as long as it hasn’t been removed from the packaging. The same goes with pre-cuts. If the online shop doesn’t state their return policy on their web site, contact them by e-mail and ask. 

I am always updating this list, and will post it every six months. If you have a recommendation, please leave it my comment box. This is Part 2 of the list. In no particular order, here we go….  

1. – This is a wonderful etsy shop, specializing in Japanese and contemporary fabrics. They carry fabrics that are fun, have quirky text driven prints, and are strong on the basics. They keep prices low and have ongoing sales. The owner will put together custom orders, and she is very gifted at that.

2. – A huge selection of fabrics covering all genres. 
They offer ongoing sales at 20% – 50%, under the “Thrifty Deals” category. There are also great savings offered each week.   

3. – Huge selection of fabrics including home dec., notions, crafts, etc. Sales happen a few times a week. Great customer service. I have returned fabric to them, and they are kind and courteous.

4. – Great choice of basics, including bundles, prints and solid fabrics. Good prices and weekly sales. They are currently on a short maternity leave. Look forward to their return!!

5. – Wide choice of fabrics, patterns and notions. Lots of good sales. They offer daily sales, and have a loyalty program which includes five options. They have continuing sales at 10%-50% off, and there are always great deals.

6. – Always a wide variety of fabrics at great prices. Besides offering low costs on fabrics and notions, they always have something on sale. Free shipping on purchases of $50 or more.

7. – A large variety of all types of fabrics and good sales. Check out the “Bargain Shed” for ongoing sales at price points between 20% – 50%, $4.50, and remnants. They offer a lay-a-way plan.

8. – Great variety of fabrics and designers. Prices are very reasonable. Regular sales and end of bolt sales.

9. – Good selection of fabrics and pre-cuts. They have a loyalty program based on the amount the customer spends. Points can be used for gift certificates and future purchases. This is an online shop that is just about a year old. I am very impressed by their high level of customer service and knowledge. Can’t wait to see more of them.

10. – Recently this online store was recommended to me by someone in my quilting group who I think has fabulous taste. They have a great assortment of contemporary and modern fabrics. There is an ongoing sale at increments of 10%, 15%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, and 75%. How consumer oriented is that?  AND, they offer 5% off on orders of $50 or more everyday. They have a brick & mortar store in Paso Robles, CA, called Birch Fabrics/Fabric Worm. Check out the FAQ’s. You can purchase three swatches for a minimal fee, before you make a commitment. *

11. – In January I visited this brick & mortar store in Wilmington, NC, and interviewed one of the owners, Sarah Devens. variety and selection is nothing short of spectacular. They have great sales and end of bolt sales. Fabulous customer service.

12. – A brick & mortar store, and online fabric store in Fullerton, NE. The selection is strong, especially in 1930’s and 1940’s reproduction fabrics. The owner, who is so kind and customer service oriented, put together several custom jelly rolls of those reproduction fabrics for me. She used fabrics I’ve never seen before, and that are perfect for the project I had in mind. 

13. – This is a brick & mortar store and online fabric store. Huge selection of fabrics. They offer great ongoing sales and special sales, as well as great monthly fabric clubs. Don’t forget to check out the “Sale Fabric,” category. They also offer a retreat every season.

14. – They have a lovely selection of fabrics and good sales. The ongoing sales are also good, and periodic sales are offered to purchasers by creating an account with them, and signing up for their newsletter. Check out their loyalty program, and the tab for $6.00 and under for some really good buys.

15. – Great selection of modern, contemporary and juvenile fabrics. Great prices and sales. The owner will put together custom orders.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the following two fabric resources, because they are both so good at what they do. You may not find big bargains there, but you will find that they offer a custom online fabric service. This means that if you create your own fabric designs, they will print it for you for a fee that this blogger feels is fair value.
16. – This custom online fabric and wallpaper shop is rather unique, and is fun. They offer some fabrics at various price increments, which are very contemporary and modern. Spoonflower will also create fabric, from your own designs, or create an out of print fabric, and respect copyright fees. The pricing depends on what you order, so read the web site and FAQ’s carefully. They offer a lot, and provide excellent customer service.

17. – This online fabric store also offers to make fabric from your own designs. See “custom designs” tab. They carry a variety of fabrics produced by designers as well, but they are sold at regular market prices.

*Omition from Monday’s post. Fabric Shack offers swatches before buying too. They provide five for free.

Building Stash Without Breaking Your Budget Part 1

I love to buy fabric. Don’t all quilters? It’s hard to say no the this…..

 It’s always hard, isn’t it?  

Stash building is a somewhat serious topic $$, but is also so much fun. I truly believe in Social Responsibility in the business world, and it was a required class when I was in B school. That said, I gonna get the serious part out of the way first.

Suze Orman, who I’m sure most everyone has heard of, taught me how to budget.

I read three books when I was young and followed the rules. I do save, and pay our savings account first. Every year I set up a quilting budget, which includes; 

1. Sewing Machine Maintenance. 

2. Replacement of essential notions; i.e. rotary cutter blades, thread, pins, batting, needles, thimbles, template plastic, books, patterns, rulers, seam rippers, and marking pens. The list is endless. Think of all those little things you need in order to enjoy using your fabric in quilts and other projects, and make a list. Refer to it often. Add to it. some things you won’t have to replace every year, such as a cutting board, which you’ll probably replace every ten year.

3. Embellishment supplies if you use them.

4. Classes, Conferences and Guild dues. 

5. All sewing issues relating to the use of your computer such as the printer, ink cartridges, and paper. And last but not least…. 


If you are new to quilting, this can seem overwhelming. All fabric shops online, or brick and mortar, have sales. For example, the store I used to buy most of my fabric from, which is sadly now out of business due to retirement of the owner, had a huge, blowout sale every February. I spent less during the rest of the year, and saved for that sale, so I could really enjoy it and not walk away with buyer’s remorse, or guilt. 

As you go through your first year of quilting, take note of the stores you like and purchase from, and when they have sales. You can always ask the owner, or send an e-mail to an online store, asking when they have regular sales. Note those dates on next year’s calendar, and set your yearly fabric binging accordingly. I promise, you will look back and feel proud of your fabric purchases, and that you are not in debt. 

Some brick and mortar shops have key tags. 

Each denomination indicates how much you purchased. For example, if I spent $43.00, the cashier would punch a $25, $10, and another $10.  (They round up or down closer to where your purchase falls).  When the tag is filled up, it’s generally worth $25 of free purchasing. And if you save those tags for a sale, those savings will really add up.

I really like those stores, and tend patronize them more than any others that don’t offer that cool discount. They tend to appreciate the repeat customer like myself, and I find that to be good business sense. It builds loyalty and that shopkeeper will get to know you, and be more likely to help you find a “must have out-of-print fabric,” or that exact shade of citrine that you need, or your favorite special sized needle.

Big chain stores such as Michaels, AC Moore and Joanne’s are good for stocking up on notions. They have a lot of fabric and many sales. Sometimes the quality of fabric may not be as good, but if at the end of the bolt there is the name a manufacturer printed there that you know and trust, then you shouldn’t worry. 

I tend to always buy fabric that is always 100% cotton, and sometimes some little linen. I like to know if something spills on it, it can go in the washer and dryer without shrinkage or other misdeeds sometimes caused by household cleaning machinery. Seriously, I don’t buy what I can’t afford to pay off in full each month.

Shopaholics and Fabricholics are the same breed. Pay in cash if that helps you stay within your budget. But set a realistic budget, and stick to it. I know how hard it is to say, “no” and walk away from that pretty rose printed fabric printed on a yellow background, but if you don’t, down the road you won’t be a happy and productive quilter or sewist. Okay, I’ve said enough about this, but return to this post if you find yourself wandering off the fabric spending track. 

So with my very first quilt, I spent my money on the necessary tools and equipment to begin. I didn’t own a sewing machine, and wasn’t positive I was going to fall in love with my new hobby. So I bought a used Kenmore sewing machine for $80. It wasn’t until three years later, that I bought my Bernina 130.

I picked out an easy pattern, and had one of the shopkeepers help me pick out only the fabric I needed to make that first quilt, which was for a beginner’s class. Every week I would come a little early and look around at the amazing bolts of colorful fabrics, engaging prints and soothing batiks. I watched other buyers, and observed their purchases. I began to develop my own sense of style. 

I generally like smaller prints, and have a lot of yellow, purple and green. The first two are my favorite colors, but green seems to be my go-to color blender, and I’ve done a lot of floral applique quilts, including Honoring The Seasons. 
(See in Quilts tab).

I am always short on orange, and not because I don’t like i. It just isn’t what I am drawn to. I am branching out to more modern fabrics that are colorful and bold. My Modern Quilt Guild members are challenging me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing. I am approaching buying modern and contemporary fabrics slowly, and picking and choosing carefully as I add these new treasures to my stash.  The same goes with solids. When i began quilting 20 years ago, solids were not so popular. Today, I am beginning to see and use them in a whole new way. I am collecting them during sales, and mostly as fat quarters. 

One big lesson I’ve learned over the years is that when any shop is having a major sale, I stock up on background fabric, because I will always need lot a of that. 

Part 2 is coming and I will write more about choosing those fabrics that will fill your fabric shelves and bins, that we call stash.

Tutorial: A Favorite Time Saver – Chain Piecing

I love this technique, because it saves so much time, especially when you are sewing 90 squares for a king size quilt. After sewing the first few squares it almost becomes a zen like experience. And before you know it, you are done.

It definitely helps to start with a full bobbin, full spool of thread and a new sewing needle. I use a universal 80/12 or a 90/14. To begin the first piece, I sew a scant 1/4″ straight stitch across a small piece of scrap fabric. When I get to the end, I line up the ends with my first square. I sew across the two fabrics, and back stitch to lock the threads of my first block.

I continue sewing a scant 1/4″ seam down my block.

When I am almost at the end, I line up my next block, ends matching. Put the two blocks back under the presser foot gently, so the alignment doesn’t move.

When I get to the end of the first piece, I back stitch for a few stitches to lock the threads, and then go forward sewing onto the next block. Then I back stitch for a few stitches on the second block to lock those threads in place. 

Then continue sewing on the second block. I continue that way until I am finished with all the blocks, which in this case is 90 blocks, because this is a king size quilt. When I am finished, I carefully snip the blocks apart, before ironing. 

If you guessed that ironing the blocks is the next tutorial, you are correct!! Or as my British friends would say, “Brilliant.” 

I posted a short video on the Hudson Valley Quilt facebook page on chain piecing. For some reason it wouldn’t upload to the blog. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments box. Happy Chain Piecing. 

2 Works in Progress

Happy Fall. This is my favorite time of year. I love the crisp morning air. Taking a walk by the Hudson with the breeze which is so invigorating. 

I attended Ithaca College, and we used to call this sweater weather. The teddy bear quilt is completely quilted; in the ditch, and then around the 24 bears, I did a meandering stitch, and added some loops. It was a little tricky getting around the heads of the bears, but I love the way it came out. 

Now all that’s left to do is trim it, add the binding by machine, and finish it by hand; one of my favorite parts of the quilting process. 

Transforming the quilting studio is moving along really well. Almost all my fabric and stash is up on the shelves. Thanks to my wonderful husband.
Still two more large boxes to organize!!

Basting Tutorial

I finally basted my teddy bear quilt. I did the safety pin basting method, and it was so much less time consuming than hand basting. I usually hand baste, but now, whenever I can I safety pin baste, because it is a huge time saver. I’m not abandoning hand basting forever, because I have four WIP that are king size quilts, and I don’t think safety pin basting will keep the three layers smooth and taut when I quilt them together, and that is key for successful basting, quilting and finishing.

As some may know, a quilt is like a sandwich, and is made up of three layers; the top, the batting and the bottom. The three layers need to be firmly structured together for the quilting part of the process, and when finished, the safety pins, or hand basting thread are then removed. 

It is not a good thing when the three layers shift while quilting, because then you get an icky pocket or bump in the back, and it’s there forever, because ripping out all your quilting and going back to the basting stage takes an enormous amount of time, and is painstaking. (This is the voice of experience talking, so take my word for it). Make sure you’ve basted the three layers so they are completely smooth and flat, before you begin quilting. The goal is to have all three layers smooth and flat when you are finished quilting.

Below is a diagram of the quilting sandwich concept 🙂

Isn’t it easier to visualize a concept when fun food is involved?

So I am using big clips to clamp down my bottom layer, or backing on a high and large table,courtesy of my favorite place to quilt, and hang out with other creative and interesting quilters, Pins and Needles in Mt. Kisco,NY. I have known the owners, a Mother -Daughter team, Deb and Lisa,for 15 years, and they are the nicest people and fabulous teachers. 

These clips can be bought at any store where they sell office supplies, such as Staples or Office Depot. When I baste big king size quilts, I use these big yellow clamps which I bought at Home Depot.

Here is the backing layer, clipped down.

Because the end of the quilt doesn’t reach the end of the table, we used packing tape to secure that end down securely. I usually use 2″ blue painters tape which works really well too.

The next step is to place the batting on top of the backing layer, and smooth it out from the middle to the edges.  By the way, both the backing layer and the batting are at least 4″ larger in diameter than the quilt top. This is important because, not only will I need a little extra room to add my binding to the quilt after I’ve machine quilted the three layers, but the extra room provides insurance that the quilt top won’t overlap the batting and the  backing layer.

So I brought the clamps up carefully from the backing, to include the batting.  I used Hobbs 100% cotton batting, which is my batting of choice. I like the feel and texture of it. I also like that all three layers are 100% cotton, and can be washed and dried easily in any washer and dryer.

Then the top is added and smoothed out from the middle to the edges, but not clamped to the other two layers. If I were hand basting, I would have included all three layers in the clamps.

I started safety pinning from the middle out in an X shape. Then from the middle, top to bottom and across the sides in a cross shape. Then I randomly filled in with safety pins in spaces where I thought the extra security would be useful so no bunching would happen on the back.

And there you go!!  Happy Quilting.

We’ve made a lot of progress on the new sewing room, and one of my king size WIP. I am excited to show how both are shaping up later this week.