Merry Medallion Quilt-Along: Putting it all Together!

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Yay! Almost there! This week’s tutorial will put everything together, which is a lot of pinning and sewing, but really not very many seams to sew. You’ve already done the hardest work. By the end of this post, you’ll have a completed quilt top – hurrah!!

What You’ll Need

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

– your three low volume half-meter cuts
– and one mid-volume fat quarter

Cutting The Pieces

Before anything else, we have to cut up those fabrics above. I didn’t have you cut these fabrics at the beginning, with the others, because seeing all the other elements together might help determine which of these fabrics you use where. I didn’t decide on my ‘mid-volume’ fabric until yesterday, and the arrangement of fabrics for my border rounds (this isn’t exactly the right term, but these rounds are more than sashing, so we’ll stick with ‘borders’) fell perfectly into place once I laid all the bits on the floor. So, if you look at this quilt diagram:

Merry Medallion Borders

You’ll see each border round marked with a label, numbered from the inside working outward. Choose which fabric will be Border 1, which will be Border 2, etc. Then cut:

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Border 1:

– With fabric folded (as shown above, the fold on the left), cut four 3.5″ strips across the width of the fabric. Take care that the fold is perfectly perpendicular to your cuts, or you’ll end up with v-shaped strips!
– Without moving the fabric, trim down each of those strips to 24.5″. Note: measure out 12.25″ from fold to end up with 24.5″ strips.
– You’ll end up with four 3.5″ x 24.5″ strips.

Border 2:
– Just as before, with fabric folded, cut four 3.5″ strips across the width of the fabric.
– Without moving the fabric, trim down each of those strips to 42.5″. (Measure 21.25″ from fold, but this will be little more than trimming off the selvedge edges.)
– You’ll end up with four 3.5″ x 42.5″ strips.

Border 3:
– One last time, with fabric folded, cut six 2.5″ strips across the width of the fabric.
– Cut two of these strips in half (along the fold crease), then sew a half-strip to the end of each full-length strip to make four really long strips. Trim each to 56.5″ and press seam opens.
– You’ll end up with four 2.5″ x 56.5″ strips.

Mid-Volume Fabric:
– (8) 3.5″ squares
– (4) 2.5″ squares

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Prepping Borders

Prepping your borders is easy-peasy and will take less than five minutes. Ready? On two strips of each border fabric, sew an equal-sized mid-volume square to both ends. This is exactly what we did with the diamond-blocks last week. The strips are long enough that you can even chain-piece this step, feeding one end in right after the other.

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Just like last week, for each border round, you’ll have two plain strips and two strips with mid-volume squares on either end.

Final Assembly!

Here we go! All the pieces are ready and they just need us to slap ’em together. We’ll put everything together in rounds, working from the center star outward, and attaching each round will be exactly the same as the first.

Pin your two shorter Border 1 strips to the top and bottom of your center star. Sew all the way across and press seams towards the border.

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Then pin your two longer Border 1 strips to the sides of your center star, lining the corner squares up with the previously attached border on each end. Sew all the way across and press seams towards the border.

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

That’s it! Simply repeat that same process until your quilt is all finished, one round at a time – the short geese strips on top and bottom of your center section, press towards border, then the long geese strips on each side, press towards border (take care to make sure your geese are flying in the same direction!). Then Border 2, then the HSTs, then Border 3 – and that’s it! Seriously, that’s really it – you’re done!

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

My only comment on putting it all together is that the math for medallion quilts really depends on every tiny seam of the previous round being perfectly accurate. That sounds obvious, but think about each of those geese being off by a tiny bit, you could work up to a half-inch off by the time you tally it all up. Chances are very good that some of your strips will end up being a little bit off – mine totally were, and a little bit more so as I got to the outermost rounds. I mean, c’mon, nobody’s seams are really that perfect, are they? If you are off a little, it’s probably just a very little, and you should be able to just ease that difference in along the seam – when you pin, make sure that any excess of one side is distributed evenly along the seam, and you’ll be fine!

Finishing (When You’re Ready)

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

I promised you a finished quilt top in a month and you did it! Pat your darn self right on the back. I really, really hope you love your quilt as much as I love mine!! We now have four full months to quilt and bind our Merry Medallions to have them ready by the beginning of December – this series won’t go into these steps, but you can follow these tutorials to complete your quilt, down to the very last stitch:

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

I hope you’ll email me or leave a comment on these posts if you make a Merry Medallion of your own – there’s seriously nothing I love more than seeing your versions of projects. And of course, I’ll be back sooner or later to show you my finished quilt!

Merry Christmas in July, peeps!

Merry Medallion Quilt-Along: Round Two (Flying Geese)

Merry Medallion Round 2 - Flying Geese

This week we’ll work on round two – the section highlighted below:

Merry Medallion Round 2

We won’t worry yet about the border in between the center star and this round – we’ll get to that when we put everything together at the end. We’ll deal with the corner blocks of this round next week.

This will be the round that takes the most work and is most time-consuming. The rest of the quilt will be pretty quick-n-simple compared to this round – but even so, we only need to learn one thing this week: flying geese. Flying geese are absolutely NOT difficult, but they are easy to get a little wonky, especially in the final pressing stage. Why not try one or two on some scraps before working with your Christmas fabrics?

What You’ll Need

– all of your 6.5″ x 3.5″ rectangles (40 green)
– all of your 3.5″ squares (80 low volume)

Making The Pieces

Merry Medallion Round 2 - Flying Geese

Making flying geese is not dissimilar to making half square triangles, which we did last week, except that you will add two low volume triangles to each green rectangle, resulting in a green triangle that is set into the rectangle – see above if that sounds like goobletygook. I really suggest you read through this week’s instructions before you start, because there’s another thing going on at the same time and I don’t want it to be confusing!

First you’ll need to prepare your pieces, just like last week. On each 3.5″ low volume square, mark a diagonal line from one corner to another:

Merry Medallion Round 2

If you were just making flying geese and nothing more, you’d stop there and sew. But we’re going to multi-task and make some more half square triangles from these same pieces, which we’ll use later. On 12 of your low volume squares, mark a second line, a half-inch away from the first:

Merry Medallion Round 2

Pair a low volume square with a green rectangle, and place them right sides together, square aligned at one end with the diagonal as shown:

Merry Medallion Round 2

(My apologies for the time travel – yes, this rectangle is already sewn! I forgot to get a photo of the square placement before everything was sewn! Ignore the stitching and just note the way the marked diagonal lines are arranged.)

Now we’ll sew along the first, corner-to-corner, diagonal – this is the normal flying geese line (i.e., if you weren’t multi-tasking, this would be your only sewing line). Unlike the HSTs last week, for flying geese you sew right on the line – nearly. We actually want to sew just a touch outside the line, which will help us get a neater shape in the end.

Can you see how my needle is hitting the fabric a teensy bit outside the line?

Merry Medallion Round 2

Merry Medallion Round 2

We can chain piece these, same as last week – just be careful to stay just a tiny touch outside that line on each block. Ignore your second marked lines for the moment.

When you’re done with all 40 rectangles, clip them apart (assuming you chain pieced) and gather those with a second marked line. Now sew through those 12 again, right on the second marked line (no need to be outside it this time):

Merry Medallion Round 2

Note: For the Merry Medallion quilt, you only need to mark / sew this second line on 12 pieces, which will give you, in a moment, 12 small half square triangles. OR you could go ahead and do this on all of them and end up with a whole stack of spare HSTs for another project! The fabric that gets trimmed in the next step will go to waste otherwise, so you might want to consider taking the time to mark and sew all of your low volume squares with the second line!

Now we can trim all 40 rectangles. Use your sharp scissors or rotary cutter to cut right between the two lines, if you have them – or 1/4″ outside the line, if you don’t.

Merry Medallion Round 2

Press seams toward the darker side. This is important: flying geese can go wonky very easily during the pressing state and we won’t trim them later, so take your time to press them very carefully. I actually lightly finger press the seam first, then just place my iron (with steam) right on the seam and hold for a moment. Resist the urge to tug on that low volume corner or move your iron around. You’ll get the hang of it after a few, and that’s why I recommend making a scrap goose or two first, just to play with the pressing method that results in the neatest geese for you.

Now you have a half-completed flying geese block and a small half square triangle:

Merry Medallion Round 2

(Actually, there’s no need to press or trim the HSTs now – just set them aside and we’ll come back to them next week.)

To complete the flying geese, simply repeat the same again on the other side, pairing the remaining 3.5″ low volume squares with the half-completed geese:

Merry Medallion Round 2

And sew in just the same way as before! Again, very carefully press to the dark side. You should end up with 40 flying geese, each measuring 6.5″ x 3.5″. And also 12 (or more) unpressed / untrimmed half square triangles, set aside for later.

Round 2 / Flying Geese Assembly

Now we’ll sew our geese into four strips, each ten geese long. Arrange your geese in a way that makes you happy (please pardon my weird-time-of-day photo – I gotta sew at night sometimes!):

Merry Medallion Round 2 - Flying Geese

And then sew them into four long strips, with all the geese pointing in the same direction. Be careful with your seam allowances or you’ll cut the tip off of your geese! Press seams towards the greens.

When finished, your four strips should each measure 6.5″ wide and 30.5″ long.

Merry Medallion Round 2 - Flying Geese

Considering that’s the hardest week, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Next week, we’ll make round 3, which will come together even faster!

Tutorial: How To Bind A Quilt (OPQA)

And for our very last trick (man, it’s been so long we’ve been quilting together, quilt-alongers, I’m going to miss you guys so much! Good thing I have another quilt-along coming up in July! ;) ), we’ll bind our beautiful Orange Peel quilts. We done so good, let’s enjoy this last step.

Binding is actually my favorite part – particularly the hand-stitched finish. There’s something so satisfying about finishing off that last bit with the quilt in your lap, going around the whole thing, admiring your hard work as you stitch. I know some people machine stitch the finish, and that’s fine for them, but the few times I’ve tried have gone very badly, and I just enjoy the time with my quilt. It takes longer, sure, but we’ve spent six months working on this one – do we really want to scrimp on time now??

Just so you know, I use straight (not bias) binding and I join them with a straight (not angled) seam. I’ll walk you through the entire binding process, but first you have to figure out how much binding you need to make.

For this quilt, I’m using 2.25″ strips, because I want to attach it with a strict 1/4″ seam so that I don’t overlap any of my peels. (I do sometimes use 2.5″ strips for a slightly wider binding.) My quilt is 70″ square, so the length to cover is: 70″ x 4 = 280″. My fabric is 43″ wide, once the selvedge is trimmed off, so: 280″ ÷ 43″ = 6.511 (7) strips to cut from my fabric. Let’s make a nifty formula for that:

(2 x quilt length) + (2 x quilt width) ÷ width of fabric = number of strips

So now, press your fabric and get it nice and lined up on your cutting mat (line up the fold so you don’t cut wonky strips), trim the selvedge, and cut the number of strips your calculation told you to cut:


With right sides facing, sew each strip to the next with a 1/2″ seam, end-to-end. You’ll have a monstrously long strip.

Press seams open, and then press the entire thing in half, wrong sides together:


Huzzah! You’ve made binding! Good job. Now we’ll attach it to the quilt, which should now be all quilted, and the excess batting and backing trimmed away, nice and neat:


With raw edges aligned, pin your binding to the top of your quilt, starting about halfway down one side:


When you reach a corner, first fold the binding away from the quilt:


Then back over itself to continue along the next side:


You’ll have a funny little flappy fold there at the corner.

Now continue in this way around all sides. The only thing to watch out for is that one of your binding seams doesn’t fall on a corner. If this happens, unpin and start over at a slightly different point. Trust me, it’s a real pain in the ass if the seam is on a corner, it’s just not worth it.

When you get back to the beginning, fold each end so that they meet at the fold, and finger press. Sew the two ends together along that pressed crease (it’s awkward, but it’s only a tiny seam) and trim excess binding with a 1/2″ seam allowance. I’m terribly sorry, I was working on auto-pilot and forgot to take a photo of this step, but you can see it in this tutorial, and this is what you will have in the end:


You now have continuous binding pinned all the way around your quilt. Starting about 6″ or so from the top of one side (where I’m pointing – though it’s not important exactly where, just not at the top):


Start sewing the binding in place, with a 1/4″ seam. Remember that your peels are only slightly over 1/4″ away from the edge, and you don’t want to overlap them with the binding, so take care to make a neat seam!

Sew all the way down, stopping 1/4″ from the end:


Fold the flap over and start the next side, from the very top this time:


(Don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of each side!)

Continue along the remaining three sides in the same way. When you get back to the last / first corner, do just as you did with the previous ones: stop 1/4″ from the end, fold the flap back, start from the top and sew down until you meet the point where you began. Backstitch and huzzah! That’s it!

Now you have to stitch the folded edge to the back, covering all the raw edges in the process. Binding is kind of ingenious, isn’t it? You’ll need a sewing needle you feel happy with, a thimble (optional), sewing thread to match your binding fabric, little scissors, and binding clips:


I love Clover Wonder Clips ’cause they’re totally awesome, but you can also use hair clips or even pins to secure the binding while you sew. Again, starting near the top of a side, but not at the actual top, secure a length of binding around the edge:


Now cut a length of thread about the length of your arm, or a bit shorter. Fold that in half, and then thread the cut ends through your needle. (I’m using a green thread here to make it easier for you to see, but I will use the navy Aurifil above to sew for realsies.) Take your first stitch through binding and the back, scooping up just a teeeensy weeensy couple of threads of each. Don’t pull the thread all the way through, but instead pass it through the end loop before tightening up the first stitch:



Now take stitches every 1/8″ – 1/4″, like this:



Basically, just like you stitched your peels! You can just see my little stitches there, which would be much more invisible if using matching thread. Some people prefer to ladder stitch, others have their own preferred method – this is just the stitch that I feel I can work fastest while being neat and secure.

When you run out of thread, sew a knot and bury the end inside the binding or quilt before trimming the thread, then start a new thread just as before. Hand-stitching corners is very similar to how you handled them on the front – sew to about 1/4″ the end, then fold over the next side, making a nice neat corner, and continue up the next side (I like to make an extra stitch right at the corner there, before turning):


Continue in this way until you get back to the beginning! And now, my friends, you have a finished quilt. How much do you love it??

OPQA: Quilt Basting Tutorial

I’m calling this post part of the Orange Peel Quilt-along, but really it’s just a general quilting tutorial / post about how I baste quilts. I’m sure other people do this differently, and I’m sure this isn’t necessarily the best way ever – it’s just how I do it in my particular basting environment.

(Note: this post contains the worst photos evar. I’m not even worrying about it. It’s been dark and gray for weeks now, and this room never gets good light even on a good day – and anyway, basting is not a pretty process, it’s just something we live through.)

Ok, so let’s get this out of the way: I. Hate. Basting. It’s the worst process in the universe. It’s boring. And tedious. And kind of painful. And it takes hours. We’re all grown-ups here, I’m not going to pretend this is fun.

But we gotta do it. We just buckle down and power through it – put on some great music or a funny movie, or sucker a friend into helping, and try to get it done as quickly as possible. Together we can get through this. Ready?

**WAIT! Before you do anything, make sure your backing, batting and quilt top are pressed nice and flat. Good. Now go.**

First, clear a big space – bigger than your quilt by as much as possible all the way around:


As you can see, in my house, this means shoving all the furniture as far back as possible.

Then lay your backing, right side down, nice and flat on the floor:


I like to use my long and skinny quilting ruler to help smooth things out:


Now take a roll of tape – I’m using blue painter’s tape – and working around your quilt, tape it to the floor:


I work by taping opposites all around – first the middle of one side, then the opposite middle. Then the left of that side, followed by the right of the opposite side – make sense? It’s awesome if you have a buddy for this part, you can stand on opposite sides of your backing and toss the tape back and forth – much quicker than going back and forth by yourself.

You want your backing to be smooth and taut, but not stretched. This is tricksy to learn, and it took me several quilts to get used to the feel I was going for. I tend to stick a length of tape (anywhere from 6″ – 12″) to the fabric, then gently pull it just slightly towards me before sticking it to the floor:


This is what you should end up with (the blank spots here are clear tape I put down before I realized you couldn’t see them in a photo :) ):


My quilt back is uneven, but I’ll trim that after everything’s pinned.

Then lay your batting down and smooth it over your backing. Batting is like a freaky velcro – at least cotton and cotton blends, I can’t speak for other types – and won’t need to be taped. It’ll just stay put, which is very helpful of it, doncha think? Smooth it nice and flat – not stretched! Again, I like to use my ruler:


Then lay your quilt top down over the batting, with at least a few inches to spare around each side. If you have a pieced backing, you may want to be careful about positioning – check that your top is straight against any seams your backing has. My backing and batting were much larger than my top, so I positioned my top the way I wanted and will trim the excess after everything’s pinned. Smooth the top same as your other layers. The batting, again, will keep everything nice and flat once you get it that way.


We’re almost ready to pin, but first, your cat will come and make sure everything’s nice and smooth:


Ah, thanks, Oscar.

Now we pin! You’ll need a buttload of those curved basting pins, though of course there are other methods – hand basting, basting guns, basting spray, etc. This is just how I roll.

If you know how you’ll quilt, you can position your pins accordingly. I’m not sure yet, so I’ll just place one in the middle of each peel, and one at each block intersection. That’ll keep things nice and secure – they’re about 3″-4″ apart:


When it’s all pinned, I cut away the excess fabric and batting, a few inches around my top, and then lift it all off the floor. Your back is probably aching and you may want to poke some of those damn curved pins into your eyes, but it’s done now. You made it. I’m proud of you.

And woohoo! Now you’re ready to quilt!

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Assembling The Top

Orange Peel Quilt-Along!

Hello again, quilt-alongers – welcome to the last tutorial on your way to a finished quilt top! Eeep!

Hopefully you’ll now have 36 / 144 / some other crazy number trimmed blocks, and you’ll have decided on your layout. If you haven’t played with your layout yet, read on, because this post might help you with that.

OPQA - Assembling the Top

Of course, I’m sure you’re all quilty enough to know that assembling the top is nothing more than sewing all of your blocks together (except for taking care to keep your peels each pointed in the right direction). Most quilts with single, same-sized blocks would be sewn together first in long rows, then each row together. You could totally do that. It would make pressing seams nice and simple (all to the right on Row 1, all to the left on Row 2, etc). But, to keep our peel points meeting nicely, and keeping the focus on the rings (or x’s, depending on the layout you choose!) that the peels create, we’re going to first sew bigger blocks, then join those blocks into blocks, and so on. The risk of the row-by-row system is that a couple of slightly-off seams will shift along the row. For a design like this one, it could get messy.

So instead, we’ll make larger blocks from 4-peel combos. From your layout, take the top left four blocks (the corner four, if that makes sense) and join like so:

OPQA - Assembling the Top

First sew (with a 1/4″ seam and thread to match your backgrounds) the top two, and press seam to the right. Then sew the bottom two, press seam to the left. Then join top to bottom, and you should have a nice peel-y ring (we’ll call them ‘ring blocks’ – or, with the peels meeting in the middle, you could choose to have ‘x-blocks’, that’s totally up to you):

OPQA - Assembling the Top

Note: You’ll notice I haven’t pressed that horizontal seam yet. If you press the vertical seams as above, you’ll always have alternating seams when you join your ring blocks. To make sure my horizontal seams alternate, I’ll hold on pressing them until joining the ring blocks, just to make it easier to keep track of.

Here I interrupt this tutorial to talk about layout for a moment. If you are making a gigantic quilt and deciding on a layout for the whooooole thing out of tiny peels is a little daunting, you could leave it up to chance and first make a stack of random ring blocks, THEN lay THOSE out. This isn’t that helpful for wall quilt makers, there’s just not enough blocks to play with, but could make it a little less crazy for large quilt makers. BUT! If you do that, don’t forget to mind your seams when you lay out the ring blocks!

OPQA - Assembling the Top

Label your first block ‘1’, with a pinned post-it or something, to keep track, and set aside. Repeat for the next four peel blocks, repeat, repeat, repeat.

To assemble the rest of the top, continue in the same exact way, now using four ring blocks to make an, erm, quadruple-ring-block, and so on. For wall quilt makers, your assembly will be a slightly abbreviated version of the same:

OPQA - Assembling the Top

And huzzah, you’re finished with your quilt top! Sit back and admire it for a few minutes. You done good. Lookit all that glorious hand-stitching and all those beautiful fabrics you picked out. I’m so damn proud of you all!

I will post a check-in late next week, to give you all time to work on these steps and myself to catch up (yikes!) and then I hope you’ll show us all your progress then. If you are making this quilt as a holiday gift, you’ll probably want to just get on with the next steps, so go on, get quilting – but pleeeeease stop by next week and show us how it’s going! If you are going to stick with me to the bitter end, we’ll discuss how to progress next week.

Happy assembling – and, as always, shout if you have any questions!

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