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Happy Thanksgiving!

Grateful Cat with Quilt

And we are so very grateful for you, dear quilting friends. Happy Thanksgiving from Quilter’s Diary. Here is hoping your year will be full of things large and small to feel thankful for.

Photo by Eric Soenstrom, Flickr.com.

For Throwback Thursday, reposting a favorite Christmas project of mine: fancy fabric gift bags. I make piles of them every December.  These bags are a great excuse for buying gorgeous, splashy fabrics that you would never, ever use in a quilt. 

Make your gift extra-special by wrapping it in one of these beautiful, reusable fabric bags. I’ve given gifts in these bags for years, and many times, the recipient likes the bag just as much as the gift inside! It’s like adding a little extra treat to your gift.

Use the instructions in this post to make lined drawstring bags in three sizes:

  • Small (9-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ )
  • Medium (11-1/2″ x 10-1/2″)
  • Large (19″ x 15″)

Supply List for Fabric Gift Bags

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • 1 piece of focus fabric for the outside of the bag. It’s easiest if you use a non-directional fabric that can be cut either vertically or horizontally. Cut the fabric 7″ x 20″ for a small bag, 11″ x 24″ for a medium bag, or 16″ x 40″ for a large bag.
  • 1 piece of coordinating fabric for the bag lining. Cut the pieces of coordinating fabric the same size as the focus fabric.
  • All-purpose thread in a matching color.
  • Two pieces of decorative cording, wide grosgrain ribbon, or laundry cord. If you use ribbon, choose a thick one. Thin ribbons get tangled easily when tied into a bow. Cut each piece of cording to the following length:  30″ for a small bag, 35″ for a medium bag, or 45″ for a large bag.
  • Sewing machine.
  • Rotary cutter.
  • Large see-through cutting ruler, ideally 6″ x 24″.
  • Scissors.
  • Seam ripper.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Use the rotary cutter and ruler to cut a rectangle of the focus fabric a same-sized rectangle of the lining fabric.  
  2. Fold the two rectangles in half with right sides together and the fold at the bottom, like this:  
  3. Sew the side seams on each rectangle, using a ¼” seam allowance.This will make two fabric pockets.
  4. Turn the lining fabric pocket right side out. Leave the outer fabric pocket inside out.  
  5. Stuff the lining pocket inside the outer pocket. Match the side seams and bottom corners. Both pockets should have their right sides together. Pin around the top edges if desired. (I don’t usually bother.) 
  6. Sew around the top edge of the bag with a ¼” seam allowance. (This is a lot easier to do on a free-arm sewing machine, if you have one.) Leave a gap of about 3″. You will use this opening  to to turn the bags right side out. 
  7. Reach into the opening. Pull the lining fabric right side out through the opening, then pull the outer fabric through and turn both parts of the bag right side out.  I use a chopstick to poke out the corners. This is the only tricky bit in making the bag.  When you’re done, both bags should be right side out and attached at the middle, like this: 
  8. Push the lining fabric down inside the outer fabric.Now the lining should be inside the outer bag with right side of the lining facing in and the right side of the outer bag facing out. Poke the corners of the lining into place with a chopstick or stiletto. 
  9. Press the bag. Pay special attention to turning under and pressing the seam allowance in the unsewn area. 
  10. Topstitch around the top seam of the bag, using a 1/4” seam allowance. Make sure the opening where you turned the bags is stitched closed. I often use a decorative stitch like the one shown in the photo below to secure the entire seam allowance area at the top of the bag and make sure I haven’t left any little gaps. 
  11. Next you’ll make a drawstring casing. Stitch around the bag 2” from the top.  I used 1″ blue painter’s tape to mark the 2″ spot on the bed of my sewing machine.
  12. Stitch a second seam around the bag 1 inch below the first seam.  With the 1″ painter’s tape marking my sewing machine bed, I just aligned the top of the bag with the far edge of the tape.
  13. Use a seam ripper to pick out the side seam stitches between the two casing seams. Don’t remove the stitches from the inner bag.
  14. Cut two pieces of cord or ribbon. (See the proper lengths for each size bag in the supply list above.)
  15. Tie a knot in one end of the first piece of cord. Attach a safety pin to the knot and close the pin. 
  16. Insert the pin into the opening at the side seam.Work the pin through the casing with your fingers, pulling the cord behind it, until the pin and cord come out the same opening where you started. Knot the ends of the cord or ribbon together. 
  17. Insert the second cord or ribbon at the opening on the other side of the bag, work it through, and knot its two ends together.
  18. To close the finished bag, hold the two cords at their knotted ends and pull them apart. The bag will close automatically.

You have now created a gift bag that makes any present seem a little more special. Even better, the bag can reused again and again.


It’s Rag Quilting Season

It’s that time of year again in the Northern hemisphere — the season when the dark lingers longer every day, when going outdoors makes you give an instinctive little shiver, when you feel the need to snuggle up in something warm and soft (and drink something hot and steamy.) It’s rag quilting season.

I will freely confess that I make rag quilts all year long, but there’s something about autumn that makes rag quilting feel like the perfect way to spend a slow, chilly day. With that mood strong upon me, I made this little rag quilt from the first pattern in my latest book, Rag Quilting for Beginners. This quilt will go in the back of my car to be a warmer-upper on cold days.Machine Quilting Sampler Rag Quilt 101

The fabric came from leftover strips I had cut for a double-four-patch quilt a few months ago, and from fabrics I had bought for that quilt but decided not to use for it in the end. Leftover and scrap fabrics are the bane of my quilting existence. They seem to multiply and create mysterious fabric mounds in my sewing room no matter how many quilts I make from them, so it is a pleasure to stitch something up from my scrap pile that I know will be used.

I did something during the making of this rag quilt that you might want to try: I borrowed an idea from Christina Cameli’s book, First Steps to Free-Motion Machine Quilting, and made this quilt into a free-motion quilting sampler. I tried out a different free-motion quilting motif in each strip of the quilt. Here’s a vertical motif with a simplified star set at intervals along each vertical line:Machine Quilting Sampler Rag Quilt 106

I machine quilted rows of scallops in this pink strip. This motif was fun:

Machine Quilting Sampler Rag Quilt 105

And in this strip, I sewed an elongated stipple based on an old Japanese design that suggests moving water. (Can you tell I took this photo late at night?) 

Machine Quilting Sampler Rag Quilt 104

The book offers dozens of different motifs to try. These were just a few of the simple ones. After years of nothing but stippling, I’m working on expanding my machine-quilting horizons. The small sections in a rag quilt make it perfect for building your machine-quilting skills.

If you make a rag quilt this season, I’d love to see a photo. Happy quilting!

Get the books I used in this post:

First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting Christina Cameli








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Pumpkins by Moonlight Quilt October 2003I don’t know about you, but I always start my seasonal quilts a bit too late to have them done for the season. I won’t confess exactly how many times I’ve finished a a Halloween quilt the day after Halloween, or a Christmas quilt two days after Christmas. (Let’s just say it’s not an unusual occurrence.) But when it happens, I just laugh at myself and say I’m ready very early for the next year!

Here’s one that did get finished on time. This Halloween table runner from my book, Quilts for Beginners, can be made from start to finish in an afternoon. The fabric was mostly inexpensive fat quarters I picked up at the local big-box fabric store.  Halloween Quilt as you Go Table Runner

Here’s some Halloween quilt inspiration I first posted a few years ago. I wish I had the talent to make this stunning pumpkin quilt, which I photographed at the Pacific International Quilt Fair. Check out the link to see quite a few more Halloween quilts.

Pumpkins PIQF 2009

And here’s a link to a tutorial on making this cute little cheesecloth ghost quilt wall hanging:Cheesecloth-Ghost-Quilt-Large


Half-Hour Table Runner Tutorial

Half Hour Table Runner Who else likes to make projects that are super-quick and show off some adorable new fabric you just had to buy?

Here’s a table runner you can make from start to finish in about half an hour. The author of the original tutorial from Iowa Living Magazines claims that she made hers in just 10 minutes! But I am only human, and I was watching old episodes of Teen Wolf on TV while I made this, so it took me half an hour. But it really is easy! A big thanks to author Suzanne Sievers for designing this clever project, which I would never have been able to think of for myself.

All you need to make this table runner is two fabrics: 1/3 yard of a focus fabric and 1/2 yard of a coordinating fabric for the background and the reverse side. My focus fabric was this chicken print from Urban Zoologie by Ann Kelle for Robert Kaufman Fabrics, and the background fabric was a red and white polka dot from Moda. Be sure to choose fabrics that don’t face only in one direction. See how my chickens face in all different directions? And of course polka dots look the same from every direction. Directional fabrics don’t work so well for table runners because at least half of the people viewing them will see the pattern upside down.

Half Hour Table Runner Fabrics


Cut a 12″ strip (1/3 yard) of the focus fabric and an 18″ strip (1/2 yard) of the coordinating fabric. Cut both strips the full width of your fabric, from selvage to selvage. Put the strips with one raw edge together and right sides facing each other, then pin to keep the edges aligned. The background fabric strip will be quite a bit wider than the focus fabric strip. Don’t worry — that’s all part of the plan.

Lay Fabrics with Right Sides Together

Sew the fabrics together along the pinned edge. I meant to use a 1/4″ seam, but I ended up sewing a 1/2″ seam, and the table runner still turned out looking good.

Align the other raw edges together and sew in the same way. You will end up with a tube that has a lot of extra background fabric between the two seams.

Half Hour Table Runner Tube with Extra Fabric

Turn the tube right side out. The tube in my photo is almost completely turned.

Turn Tube Right Side Out

Flatten the tube out and center the focus fabric so there is an equal strip of background fabric on each side. Once you are satisfied with the edges, press the tube flat.

Focus Fabric Centered in Tube

Square up the top and bottom edges and trim off the selvages.

Square up and Trim off Selvages

Fold the tube in half lengthwise, with the two edge strips aligned together, like this:

Fold Tube in Half with fold in center of focus fabric


Sew the narrow top and bottom edges with a 1/4″ seam. Backstitch at the beginning and end of your seams. Once you have the seams sewed, press the seam allowances open. This is a bit awkward, but do your best.

After the seams are pressed open, turn the two ends of the tube inside out. This will make a triangle at each end of the table runner. I used a bamboo chopstick to poke out the point of the triangle.

Turn triangle inside out

Straighten the triangle so the seam line is centered and the top of the triangle is perpendicular to the outer edges of the runner. Mine, you can see, hadn’t quite reached the stage of perfect alignment when I took this photo.

Center seam and straighten triangle

Stitch down the wide end of the triangle to secure it. I used decorative stitches from my sewing machine’s memory, but you could use any stitch you like, or buttons or other embellishments that strike your fancy. I also sewed down the side seams with a second decorative stitch, because I just love stitching long lines of decorative stitches.

And here is the finished table runner. It looks small, but it actually measures 14″ x 42″. I liked making this so much that I think I’m going to make another one in Fourth of July Fabrics. And since I don’t have any suitable fabrics, that means a trip to the fabric store! Care to join me?

Finished Table Runner




Strip and Flip Rag Quilt

Strip and Flip Rag Quilt with Copyright

Whenever a beginning quilter me asks what kind of quilt is best to start out with, I always recommend making a pieced strip quilt. Anyone who can sew a reasonably straight line can sew strips together. If you aren’t completely confident of your ability to choose colors that look together, making your quilt from a jelly roll of precut strips helps take away that anxiety. The colors and patterns in jelly rolls are designed to work together. (By professionals!)

Precut strips are a bit more expensive than buying fabric yardage, but they save you all the time of measuring and cutting, which is one of my least favorite parts of making a quilt.

I made this easy lap size rag quilt from the free Strip and Flip tutorial  from Allison of the Cluck Cluck Sew blog. I adapted the original pattern into a rag quilt and added white ric-rac around the outer edges to give it a decorative touch.

The Strip and Flip quilt is made by sewing a set of color-coordinated strips into a quilt top, then cutting the top into three sections, flipping the middle section around, adding white strips to the center section, and resewing the sections back into a single quilt top. Check out Allison’s tutorial for complete instructions.

I made my quilt a bit bigger than the original and changed the proportions of the three sections a bit. I also omitted the white strips around the middle section, because I could achieve the same effect by making the quilt a rag quilt.

The fabric for my quilt came from this jelly roll of precut 2.5″ strips from Moda. The fabric collection is called Pedal Pushers.Pedal Pushers Moda Jelly Roll

I arranged my strips so the color moved in gradations from navy blue to red. I love these fabrics and their cheery spring colors.


I sewed the individual strips together with a standard 1/4″ quilter’s seam. After I cut the quilt top into three sections, I used a wider 3/4″ seam to rejoin the sections, so I could have a generous clipped edge. The white polyester fleece backing fabric you can see in the rag seams substitutes for the white strips in the original pattern.

Learn How to Make Rag Quilts:

RagQuilting3dCover 400 pixels wide






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