Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Winning Combination! Cone flowers, fabulous fabric and perfect thread

More fun than a barrel of monkeys - that is how the saying goes...

You see I've been preparing for an upcoming Needle Turn Applique Workshop (more on that later) and wanted to stitch-up a sample for the shop display.
Now what to stitch ?

I looked through my needle turn UFO's and was inspired by a Cone Flower (Echinacea) that was part of a larger block in Blackbird Designs "Quilting the Garden" book.

You remember ? This one...
You can see more images of my "Quilting the Garden" blocks by clicking here.

After scouring the internet (and peeking in my own back yard) I proceeded to draw a "new to me" version of the cone flower.  I added a couple of leaves that would enable me to teach inner and outer points (basically -- I made them up!!) and....

Viola!  Meet my new mini - perfect for teaching basic Needle Turn Applique techniques.
Here's where the barrel of monkeys come into play...  This little guy so much fun to prepare.

1.  Needle Turn Applique - Oh it felt so good to be back in the groove.

I chose fabrics from my stash of  Blackbird Designs Chelsea Boutique for Moda.  It's always hard to part with these precious fabric swatches...  The Chelsea Boutique line is, by far, one of my favorite...

Also, I had loads of fun choosing just the right Aurifil 50Wt Mako Cotton thread for my needle turn hand work.  Aurifil 50Wt is very similar in thickness to a Mettler 60Wt thread and works perfectly for Needle Turn applique.   Here is an image from my Instagram feed that shows the fabric and thread selection in-process - sew much fun!!

You can learn more about my Needle Turn technique by checking out my free blog tutorial "Teardrops of Love - a Needle Turn Applique Tutorial".  I share my favorite tools along with detailed and illustrated steps outlining my technique for creating beautiful applique. Read and see for yourself at this link.  Teardrops of Love Tutorial  I would LOVE to get your feedback.

As indicated in the tutorial, I use a plastic or freezer paper template to cut out and mark the needle turn line on the right side of the fabric.  If possible, I'll use a soapstone pencil to mark the design -- otherwise SewLine Leads work very well.  I also use my Clover Hera Marker to score the turn line so it folds under easier.  (More details in the Teardrops of Love Tutorial).
next I thread or pin baste my pieces onto the background and use Aurifil 50Wt Mako Cotton thread and Jeana Kimball's Foxglove Cottage Size 10 or 11 Straw Needles to stitch them down.
Here is an image from my Instagram account that shows the front and back of the needle turn.  It's been a few months since I've stitched -- so the stitches are a little inconsistent.  
But just like Free Motion Quilting, the more you practice, the better you get.

Once the applique is stitched, I used the Hera Marker to "score" or crease the fabric at 1" on-point lines across the quilt background.  These are used a reference marks for the continuous curve or Orange Peel quilting (coming up in a few steps).
The next fun monkey in this barrel was....

2.  Free Motion Quilting Feathers - I Love, Love, Love to quilt feathers

Oh my goodness feathers are fun!!  I wasn't quite sure how to quilt this mini but I decided to stitch some feathers and I'm so happy I did!!  Whenever I free motion quilt feathers on my domestic machine, I mark the feather spine with a blue water/air soluble pen -- you can also use a Hera Marker (by Clover) or Sew Line leads to mark the feather spine.   This is what it looks like after I've marked the spine.

Now that all my marking is complete, I layer the quilt top, batting and backing and pin baste the mini.  Because I really wanted the quilting to show, I used two layers of Quilter's Dream - Dream Wool batting.  I love how wool quilts...  If you've not tried it you should give it a go!
Before I get started stitching I gather all my 50Wt Aurifil thread to determine which color will work best.  I try to use a color that will complement the background fabric.  Always unwind the thread from the spool to test it against the background fabric.   On the first go-round I misjudged the color match and needed to rip out a bit of feather.  I recovered nicely and switched to Aurifil color #2314 for a perfect match.  
To stitch the feathers, I start at the bottom of the spine stitching bump back feathers up the right side of the spine and adding a top pearl.  Next, I travel (stitch) down the spine and begin again, stitching bump back feathers up the left side of the spine.  It's so rewarding to create feathers.  Even if they are not perfect they are pretty.   In this case I also echo stitched the cone flower and stem/leaves...

Here are a couple progress shots:
Oops - sorry for the image color changes.  Some images were taken using my machine lighting and some were taken using full spectrum lighting.  Rest assured this background fabric is beautiful no matter how you light it.
     3.  Free Motion Quilting an Orange Peel Design - a simple motif that provides so much texture

Moving on to the remainder of the quilting.... I had already marked the background fabric with 1" on-point grid lines (See image above).  I continued using Aurifil 50Wt #2314 to stitch continuous curves on the background fabric, crossing over at the grid intersections.  I stitched one direction and then back in the opposite direction, moved to the next line in the border and repeated.  
 Once I had enough lines stitched on one axis, I stitched a few on the other axis.  It came together wonderfully.
I've recorded a couple of video's for stitching the continuous curve (Orange Peel Grid design) on a domestic machine.  
You can view them on my YouTube Channel here:  Karen's Redbird Quilt Co YouTube Channel   

The one difference is that on the Cone Flower Mini I only marked the grid design, I did not stitch it.

4.  A New to Me Flanged/Piped Machine Binding - wow - fast, simple and really pretty.

And last but not least in the barrel of monkeys was this neat new Flanged/Piped MACHINE binding.

I watched a couple of different tutorials for this binding and then tweaked things to meet my requirements.  Initially I was going to add some actual rope piping, but I decided to take baby steps instead.

Here are the steps and measurements that worked for me.   If you're interested in a real tutorial with images, please leave me a message in the comments and I'll pop that out to My Tutorials page.

1. Choose a primary binding color (rose) - and an accent/piping/flange color (teal).

2. Cut the primary color (rose) 1 & 7/16" wide (by WOF for number of strips necessary)

3. Cut the accent/piping/flange color 1 & 3/4" wide (by WOF for number of strips necessary)

4. Piece the WOF strips of each color into the correct length with mitered (or diagonal) joints to help cut down on bulk.

5. With the single length of the primary (rose) and the same length of the accent (teal), sew them together with a 1/4" seam allowance (long edges).  I'll refer to this is the binding.

6. Now fold the binding in half, wrong sides together (TIP: Press wrong sides together with a steam iron, avoiding pressing the actual fold (I didn't want to flatten the fold of the accent color). Pressing  will help keep the binding raw edges aligned.

7. Next, align the binding raw edges - PRIMARY COLOR DOWN with the edge of the trimmed quilt ON THE BACK SIDE and stitch in place with a 1/4" seam allowance.  NOTE: This is being attached to the back, not the front of the quilt.  Follow the standard process for attaching a binding to a quilt sandwich, folding for mitered corners as you go.

8. NOTE: When I get a 1/4" from the corner, I always stop and stitch a 45 degree line to the corner of the quilt before turning and continuing to stitch from the top.  This helps give a really neat finished mitered corner.

9. NOTE: A few months ago I learned how to Miter finish binding and I just love it.  If you aren't sure how to do this, check out this Lisa Bongean/Fat Quarter shop video -- remember though, this is just how I miter finish the binding (good stuff around the 2:00 minute mark).

10. Next, finger press the finished binding to the front of the quilt, smoothing the seam that you just stitched.   I avoid pressing at this point because I don't like to press my wool batting.   So finger press the batting from the back to the front and be sure the wrap is firm against the raw edge.

11. Use Clover Wonder Clips to secure the wrapped binding in place on the front of the quilt - being careful to fold and secure crisp mitered corners.

12. Now to stitch the binding to the front of the quilt....

12a. Use a 90/14 needle with a complementary color Aurifil 12Wt thread on top and 50wt in the bobbin.

12b. If you have one, use a walking or even feed foot on your machine.
12c. Start stitching with a small stitch length (to lock your stitches) and increase the stitch length to 3.0 or a good "top stitch" length for your machine.

12d.  Stitch just outside of the primary/accent color ditch with the Aurifil 12Wt thread all the way around the perimeter of the top of the binding.   It came out wonderfully -- I really LOVE how it looks, front and back!!
The back:

Here's a full shot of the front:
And a full shot of the back with folded hanging sleeve corners included.

And no new quilt is complete unless we've taken a picture on the dock:
Many thanks to Aurifil Thread, Moda/United Notions Fabrics and Quilter's Dream batting for their awesome products.  I just love it when a plan comes together -- and it really was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

I would love to hear your feedback - would you like a step by step image tutorial of the binding or any other part of the project ?

Oh - one last thing: I'll be using this mini in my latest workshop, Needle Turn Applique - a Techniques Workshop.  I'll be teaching it for the first time in Arcade, NY at Creekside Fabrics, Quilts and Yarns on October 3rd.

To learn more about my upcoming events - visit my Facebook Events page.   No Signon Required.

Thanks so much for stopping by.
Be sure to visit me on
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on My Tutorials (above) and
on  The Moda Bake Shopand on my Craftsy page...

Happy Quilting!!


  1. gorgeous! Loving the textures all your applique and pretty quilting does for this beautiful piece. I have been wanting to try that peeper binding, it looks so nice.

  2. I'm in awe. You are able to turn the simplest into the most beautiful, but what blows me away is how you take the time and effort to so generously share your visions with us. I love appliqué but am not to fussy for the prep work required for the more complicated designs. The coneflower is one of my favorites, too. I was looking out at my garden just two days ago and thought I should do a few! This year I introduced a white coneflower to my little patch. Thank you, Karen. You are such an inspiration. I love your work and your creations. XO

  3. PS. The binding.....a tutorial.....absolutely!

  4. Your class is going to go wonderfully ... you are fully prepared and have a GREAT sample. It's beautiful!!!

  5. Beautiful in every way! I second the tutorial on the binding!

  6. this is so beautiful.....I love your details and explaining your design process. Better than a tutorial! I have been wanting to try the flange binding.....thanks for the instructions. Only wish my old fingers could grip a needle long enough for some applique because yours is stunning. Much success in your class.

  7. I've watched this coming together on IG and loved every step of it. The final piece is just gorgeous. Would love to come to one of your classes, but you are half way across the world! :(

  8. Hi Karen, this is just beautiful. I guess I need to keep practicing my needle turn as it sure doesn't look like yours! I'm still appliqué in my Cardinal from Red Bird and Berries. I think I should just go buy some wool! I would love to take this workshop- just too far. I was waving to you when I drove past Keuka several weeks ago. Thanks for sharing your beautiful projects! Susan Gray

  9. What I wouldn't give to take an applique class from you ... as fabulous as the tutorials that you graciously share are, I can only imagine how wonderful some hands-on teaching would be! And the binding ... I love how you've done yours, with the topstitching adding some delightful charm.

  10. What a fabulous post. Thank you for sharing sew much. I know a lot of time and effort went into this and I appreciate it. I am off to watch some of your work on UTube. Your mini is just beautiful.
    Thank you again.

  11. Karen, your work is beautiful and I always love seeing your current project!!

  12. Love this project! Yes, please share a pictorial tutorial on your PERFECT flanged binding!

  13. HI, love this method+will surely use it! A tutorial would be great! Thank You for all ♥

  14. Love it! Have never done needle turn, but will watch your tutorial and give it a try! Thanks !

  15. I would love to see a video tutorial on the machine binding. Love your work.

  16. I love this... thank you so much for all the tips and tutorial...

  17. Gorgeous! I love the binding and would love a tutorial! I would also love to see video tutorials for your needle turn applique technique.

  18. I would love to see the binding tutorial! This is such a beautiful quilt!! :) would love if you could come back to the comments and let us know when the tutorial is posted. Can't wait to see it and try it out! :)

  19. Beautiful Karen, such a pretty class sample, a lovely design. Love the fabrics you have used and how you have quilted it. I would love to try that peeper binding one time and also the mitred corners, very classy :-) I have a friend who uses the Hera marker a lot for marking for quilting, but I cant seem to make it work - I guess it's a matter of pressing harder?

  20. Shoot! I don't have time to watch your tutorial now, but I do have a project I would like to complete this winter, and so I will Pin this and come back to it later. Thank you! Also, I love the way you've marked your quilt with the Hera marker to do the orange peel - Awesome Sauce!

  21. Hi love this project ! Thanks for the Tutorial! Left Bear Creek a note! Thanks to You, Aurifil, Bear Creek for sharing a great giveaway !

  22. Happy to follow You,Bear Creek, Auriril all on FB !

  23. Such a great tutorial on FMQ. Great job!

    jturcotte.on @

  24. Your tutorials are amazing! So glad that I found your site, and I can't wait to find you on youtube. Cannot find quilting classes out here in the boonies, so tutorials and videos are the way I am learning. Thank you so much!

  25. Love the detailed instructions. I just found you thru Moda Bake Shop. Thanks for the great ideas!

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