hand sewing

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: How to Applique Peels

Orange Peel Quilt-Along!

Today I’ll show you how to applique your orange peels onto your backing squares. This is the last thing you need to learn in order to go off on your own and whip up your 36 / 144 blocks!

First, press your peels. Leave the freezer paper and basting stitches exactly as they are, just press them so they lay nice and flat.

Then, place your peel on your backing square so that it is on the diagonal and centered. But don’t forget, our squares are a little larger than we really need, so there’s no need to go crazy being exact about it. The simplest way to mark your square for placement is to just make a light finger-pressed fold on the diagonal and align your peel ends to it:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

You’ll want to place it so there’s even spacing on either end – but again, eyeballing it will be fine since we’ll trim it to the exact seam allowance later. Place a couple of pins, keeping everything as flat as you can.

Now, we want to start sewing at around the mid-point of one side so that we can stop a couple of inches short at the end to pull the freezer paper out. Basically: sew around the peel, leaving a 2″-ish gap at the end – does that make sense? This is one of those things that’s silly to describe but easy to do, so read through the rest before start and you’ll see what I mean.

Thread a hand-sewing or applique needle with thread that matches your peel, tie a good knot, and then come up through the backing square, catching a tiny bit of the edge of your peel – about mid-way along one peel side. (Note: You want to catch a few threads of your peel fabric but not the freezer paper inside! Yet again, if you’ve sewn any paper pieces hexagons together, this is very similar.)

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Your knot will be at the back of your work, and your thread will now be coming out through the peel, having caught the tiniest stitch possible on its way through. In this same way – taking a stitch through the backing fabric and catching a teeeensy stitch of peel at the same time – work your way all the way around your peel, stopping about 2″ from where you started.

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

In the above photo, I’m mid-stitch and I’ve already done about a inch. Your goal is to catch so little of the peel fabric that your stitches are barely visible. This is why you use a thread to match the peel fabric, it helps to keep them as hidden as possible.

When you reach the pointy ends, take one stitch exactly at the point and tuck in (or fold under) that little tail as you go:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

When you’ve got about a 2″ gap remaining, pause your stitching and remove the basting stitches with a seam ripper:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Then reach inside your peel and remove the freezer paper:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

This isn’t always easy, sometimes you have to root around a bit to get it unstuck, and sometimes they tear. This is why I said you can usually re-use the applique shapes. If they come out in one piece, they’ll be a little rumpled, but that’s ok, just set it aside to re-use for another peel.

Now you can simply continue stitching until you’re back where you started (the shape’s edge will be nicely defined because you pressed your peel before you started), then bring your needle to the back and tie off with a knot. Huzzah, one block done! This is what your finished block will look like on the back:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

And from the front:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Now you are fully equipped to make all 36 / 144 of your blocks. From today, we have just about 7 weeks until the next tutorial, during which we’ll all be peel-ing and applique-ing away, and hopefully sharing our progress regularly. (I’ll post here about every 10 days or so, and leave link-ups on each post.) Of course there’s no obligation to be finished with every single block by then, but if you aim to, here’s a little progress guideline:

– For the wall quilt, you should aim for about 5-6 finished blocks per week.
– For a lap quilt, your goal is 20-21 finished blocks per week.

Honestly, that sounds a lot more serious than it is, especially for us lap quilt (or larger) makers. It takes me about 20 minutes to make each block, basting and applique combined. Admittedly, I’ve made a whole bunch now and I’m used to the process, but after a few, I’m sure you’ll be just as quick. That means it’ll take me around 6 hours a week, or the equivalent of 2-3 hand-stitchy evenings. In my world, that’s totally do-able.

But of course, don’t feel that those are anything more than guidelines. Go your own way! You might like to make one finished block at a time, or maybe you’d rather make all of your peels first, then applique them (but keep in mind that you can’t reuse your freezer paper peels if you go that route). However you approach it, let me know at any time (by email / blog comment / Twitter @juliezryan / Instagram @juliezryan) if you run into trouble, and promise you’ll show your progress often!

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Back to Long-Term Projects: Grandmother’s Flower Garden Quilt

Do you guys remember my New Year’s Resolution? Less Projects, More Often. (Which I suppose is grammatically shady, it really should be Fewer Projects, but then you don’t have that cool less/more thing going on.) It’s really been working for me – finishing up projects that have been lingering for a long time and not just going out and starting twenty more.

Grandmother's Flower Garden Progress

For one thing, it’s allowing me to spend some time with my beloved long-term projects, which always had to be put aside for the million other WIPs in the basket. It’s been such a long time since I posted about (or even worked on) my 1930s reproduction Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, most of you have probably never even seen it! But I’ve finally gotten it back out and I’m up to a whole 33 flowers sewn! By my last estimate, that makes me about halfway finished – with the flowers, anyway. I’ll have to stop procrastinating and start surrounding them all with a million white hexagons pretty soon – and diamonds if I decide to put a little path between them all.

Grandmother's Flower Garden Progress

In the meantime, I’ve put together this little travel EPP box, which contains everything I need to work on my hexies. It’s perfect to just toss in my bag for train rides and pub nights – and even has a teensy-tiny pincushion inside!

EPP Diamond Pillows FO; or, How it Took 18 Months to Sew Two Pillows

EPP Diamond Pillows

Huzzah! The EPP diamond pillow covers are finished!

I can’t believe this project took me a year and a half. I do think I was a bit overzealous taking these on when my only EPP experience was with a bunch of hexagons: for one thing, hexagons are magic to sew together. I can’t really say why exactly but they are just easier than other shapes. Or at least I think so. And the other thing: I hadn’t hand-sewn anything more than a few coasters on a deadline when I thought this project up. I somehow didn’t realize at all how long this would take, with each round of diamonds larger than the one before, and so very much basting to do. There was a point where I was so frustrated with how slow it was going, I had to put it away for a while (ahem, months) before I was able to face it again.

EPP Diamond Pillows

So perhaps it was a little foolish to take on such an involved project with a deadline – as a gift. But luckily, Mom is understanding of these insane things and didn’t make me feel bad about it. When I did pull them back out again, I’d done some more involved EPP in the meantime and that little bit of extra experience made a big difference. (I can tell I’d learned some stuff in between, because the stitching on the second pillow is far better than the first.)

EPP Diamond Pillows

So finally, finally, they are done and ready to be given to their new owner. The tops are completely hand-sewn, then machine quilted and assembled. The fabrics are all Kona Cottons with one print from Tula Pink’s Plume line (oh, how I love Plume and desperately wish I could have some more – those feathers!!!). And, well, that’s that!

EPP Diamond Pillows

Now I’m thinking about some new pillows for my own bedroom – but not sewn by hand. Probably.

There’s more photos of these pillows in my Flickr photostream if you’d like to see!

Big Week Off: Sewing

Continuing my what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation-esque tour through my week off last week (there’s a mouthful for ya), here’s a few things I sewed.

Because of my ouchy hand / arm, I did a lot of sewing over the week. Sewing is also the thing I often run out of time for, so it was nice to play with fabric for a bit. I’m not really a good sewer (sewist?), and I don’t say that to hint for a disagreement from readers. I don’t mean that I sew badly, more that my sewing skills are seriously limited – and to be totally honest, I’m not especially driven to expand them. I mean, I always like learning new crafty things of any kind, but I’m happy to learn new sewing skills in bits and pieces as I need them.

So anyway, if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (gotthebutton on both) you probably saw some of these in progress. I made a pouch (fabric rescued from a handbag I made and didn’t love) and two box pouch project bags:


I don’t really know what I’ll use the pouch for, I just wanted to save that fabric and this was the best use I could think of for it. The pieces I’d saved were almost exactly the right size. The project bags (yes, that top one needs an ironing touch-up, I just noticed – it honestly doesn’t look that blumpy in real life!) are just adorable and I had to have some. And once you start, it’s hard to stop putting together cute fabric / zipper / lining / pull tab combos. I actually have one more pile that may be made into a box pouch yet! I used a tutorial from It’s A Pretty Modern Life, which was recommended to me by Jaclyn from Urban Crunch (she made some crazy cute box pouches!).

I also pulled out my precious Tula Pink Plume charm pack and some leftover Ikea canvas to make this door stop, using Oh, Fransson’s tutorial:


This was a much more practical project, solving an actual need in the room I work in. I like to keep the door ajar, but it tends to swing back open. I was using a partially full bottle of water to prop it, um, closed; this will be significantly more attractive.

And I couldn’t do any hand sewing, but I played around with the beginnings of this little project:


Oh, how I love paper piecing and hand sewing! I made a whole bunch of these hexagons a while back with a quilt in mind, but then decided I’d rather do something different with them. Typical. So they’ve sat for ages while I think on how to approach the change of plan – until last week when I realized I could borrow a few of them to make … yup, another little pouch.

This one has a specific purpose though – a little embroidery kit. It may seem odd that I don’t already have one, but so it is. I guess I usually keep my tools with whatever project I’m working on at the moment, but now I’m at a point where it’d be helpful to have them in one place. But, see, I’m a giant dork and I like when things match. If I have a variety of project bags, one will match whatever project I want to put in it. But this type of pouch will have to (yes, have to) match all of my stitching projects. So I’m using all natural linens and grays , which just wee touches of muted color. I know, I know. But I don’t even like my pyjamas to clash, so no way I could let it happen to my embroidery!

More on that mini-project as it happens, and Big Week Off stitching progress tomorrow!

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