{Double staircase}: A quilt block tutorial

This tutorial first appeared on A Girl in Paradise back in May for her Building Blocks with Friends series.  I thought it was time to bring it back to this space as well!

You will need:

Focus fabric:
Eight (8) 1.5-inch x 5-inch rectangles

Background fabric:
Eight (8)  1-inch x 5-inch rectangles
Four (4) 2-inch x 8-inch rectangles
Four (4) 2-inch x 5.5-inch rectangles
Four (4) 2-inch x 3-inch rectangles

Choose your focus fabric and cut out eight (8) rectangles, 1.5-inches x 5-inches.  You might choose 8 different fabrics or a combination of a few fabrics in your desired colors.  Since these pieces are 5 inches wide, this is great project to use some charm squares.

Now, cut out the fabric for your background.  For each 12.5-inch block, you will need 2 strips of background fabric 2-inches x width of fabric (WOF).

Iron the fabric (you can still see wrinkles in mine, but trust me, it lies flat) and fold it in half so the selvedges line up.  You might have to slide the fabric along the selvedge a bit so that the fold is even.  Place the background fabric on your cutting mat, lining up the fold with one of the guide marks.  Trim off any uneven excess perpendicular to the fold.

Now line up your clear ruler with the horizontal guide marks and cut two, 2-inch strips of background fabric.

Lie the two folded strips of background fabric on top of one another so that you now have 4 layers of fabric (two stacked strips, each folded in half).

Cut the stack of strips in the following lengths (you will have 4 rectangles of each size): 8 inches, 5.5 inches, 3 inches, 5 inches.  I love this block because with these two 2-inch strips, you get all the pieces you need with very little waste.  This is all that’s left at the end of the strips:

Cut the 5-inch strips in half lengthwise, so that you have eight rectangles that are 1-inch x 5-inches.

Now you have all your background pieces cut.  This is what you will end up with (the leftover is the little bit in the bottom right of this photo):

Match each of the eight 1-inch x 5-inch background pieces with one of the 1.5-inch x 5-inch rectangles of focus fabric and sew them together along the length.

When you’re finished, iron the seams either open or to the side.

Decide on the arrangement of your steps.  You can construct the block so it appears to have the same structure right side up or upside down.  In this case, the lower four steps will be arranged so that the background fabric is toward the bottom.  The upper four steps will be arranged so that the background fabric is toward the top.

Alternately, you can arrange the steps so that the background fabric on the steps is always to the same side.  With this arrangement, you will have the effect of a continuous staircase across several blocks, should you choose to put more than one together.

Add the rectangles of background fabric to the focus fabric.

I usually only pin the pieces with a rectangle of background fabric on either side so that all the pieces stay together.

Line up your pieces and chain piece them together.

When you’re finished, you will have to attach the other side of background fabric to those pieces with background on both sides of the “step”.

Iron the seam open or to the side and sew the rows together.

Between rows, I actually prefer to iron seams open for this block.  It makes the block lie flatter and you don’t have to worry about the direction of the seam if you are putting more than one block together.  I sew the rows together in pairs, then sew sets of pairs together, then sew the top half of the block to the bottom.  Trim to 12.5-inches.  Finished!

In the block I used to take the photos for this tutorial, I arranged it so that the background fabric with each step (the “space” between the steps) was toward the outside of the block.  The block has the same look  right side up or upside down.

In the blocks I made for this baby quilt, I wanted the steps to continue across the quilt, so the space between the blocks is always on the lower side of the focus fabric.

I made a mistake when I was putting the blocks together for this quilt.  Did you notice right away?  Can you see it now that I mentioned it?  (I’ll show you in a minute.)

I think I like the back of this quilt as much as I like the front.  Each piece of the rainbow solid has the addition of two charm squares in that color.

I quilted it by following the step pattern above and below as well as 1/4 inch into the white space in the border pieces.

Remember that mistake I mentioned?  Here it is.  On one block, I accidentally flipped the bottom half of the block so that there is no white space between those two steps when the quilt is put together.  I didn’t notice when I put the block together and I didn’t even notice when I put the quilt together.  I didn’t see it until I was actually quilting it, and there was no way I was going to take all that stitching out!

I love it.  I love it so much I almost want to have another baby who will use it.  Ha!  In any case, I don’t think I can give this one away.  I still need to bind it, though.  I’m thinking red.  What do you think?

If you’d like to see more photos of this delicious quilt, click back to May!

SMS Giveaway Day Spring 2012 Round Up

For a blogger like myself, who just started her little sewing blog space 4 short months ago, I was so very thankful for all the nice people who came by for the Sew, Mama, Sew Giveaway Day and left me a comment.

According to the WordPress stats, I usually have somewhere between 60-100 visits per day to my site.  Over the course of the 5 days that Giveaway Day (week) was happening, nearly 1400 clicks to my site showed up in the stats (and then when the giveaway was over on Saturday I had 69 again.  Ah well, back to normal!).  I had my most comments ever, with 210 nice folks giving me some feedback, and I am slowly trying to reply to all of those and say “hi” to people who bothered to take the time enter my giveaway.

I asked this question: “Tell me what you’re looking for in a sewing/quilt blog; what sorts of projects and posts would bring you back to visit again?”

The overwhelming response was that people want tutorials.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, as we are all here to learn from one another, but admittedly, I was a tad surprise to see that response so frequently.  Behind that, readers want to see pictures, pictures, and more pictures, as well as posts about what’s in the works in the sewing room.

The next most common responses to what readers look for in a blog were inspiration, tips and tricks, finishes, and a little bit of personal life.  People want to feel like the author is a friend, not just a voice behind the computer.

I started this blog because I wanted a way to be a part of the very active online sewing and quilting community.  I made this space as a forum to share what I’ve been working on, but I also want to interact with other sewing enthusiasts, and perhaps provide some inspiration to someone else or help a beginner learn something new.

Summer Road Trip Quilt Along starts tomorrow, and I hope that will satisfy many desires of this blog, both my own and my readers.  There will be tutorials about the blocks, perhaps the project will inspire someone else, and I’m looking forward to seeing how other interpret these blocks.  Happy travels!

Rainbow double staircase baby quilt

Good morning!  Today I’m guest posting at A Girl in Paradise as part of her Building Blocks with friends series.  If you happened to wander over here from there, welcome to my space!  I’m new to this sewing blog thing, but I’ve made a few tutorials, and you can check out a sampling of my work under the Sewn by Moonlight tab.

I’m sharing the tutorial for the double staircase quilt block that I used to make this rainbow baby quilt.  To see the tutorial, head on over to A Girl in Paradise.

I am so very excited to share this quilt because I just love the way it turned out. I used the charms I received in the 5 Yard Color Wheel Charm Swap (well, some of them.   I have a lot left!).

I quilted in straight lines, following the pattern of the stair steps, above and below, as well as quilting within the white spaces in the border.

You can see the stair step quilting a bit better on the back of the quilt.

And speaking of the back of the quilt, I think I love it almost as much as I love the front.  It so colorful and happy that I can’t help but smile when I look at it.

I still need to bind the quilt.  I’m thinking red.  What do you think?

Thanks for stopping by!

On being a better blogger

I started this blog in January, just four short months ago, as place to put all my sewing endeavors, projects, ideas, processes, et cetera, et cetera.  It’s sort of like a digital portfolio of my creative medium of choice.

Of course, if I just wanted a digital portfolio, I could simply document my projects photographically and save the digital files.  Part (a big part) of why I want to put my art online is the community aspect.  With a blog, I have the opportunity for interaction, conversation, sharing of ideas.  I don’t often get to sit in the same room and sew with friends in real life or ask someone in person what she thinks about a certain project or what direction I should go.  I want to be able to learn from those who have been doing this longer than me or who have a different perspective just as much as I would like to inspire and teach with my own projects, ideas and experience.

I was thrilled to have a real life sewing play date with Katie of swimbikequilt, Amy of amylouwhosews, and Kim of mygogolife.

That brings me to this: if I want to be part of a community, I need to have something valid/interesting/useful to contribute.  I want this blog to provide content that inspires.  Inspires someone to comment, “Hey, nice to see what you’ve been up to/great idea/lovely finish/better luck next time/did you think about x?”; inspires a project idea in someone else; inspires you to try something new, or a new take on something old.  In order to do that, this blog space needs to hold information that people actually want to read and comment on!

I’m pretty confident in my ability with a sewing machine.  As a writer/blogger?  Um … notsomuch!  I’m trying to be proactive about making my blog better, though; I signed up for an online class!

Content Brew is presented by Melissa, the author of MomComm, a blog about helping bloggers be better bloggers.  Who knew!  Anyway.  The course lasts 7 days and promises to give me lots of ideas about brainstorming new/interesting topics to write about in this space.  There’s going to be homework.  Imagine that!  It’s been awhile.

But since I’m thinking about it right now, I’m interested to know what you’re looking for on a blog like this.  What would you like to see me write about?  Do you want to read about projects I’ve finished?  The process I work through to complete a project?  Supplies and fabric I’m using?  Tutorials?  A look into what’s in the works in the sewing room?  Where I’m finding inspiration?    What else?

The welcome email for Content Brew is expected Friday; course starts Monday.  I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll let you know how it’s going next week.

Social media icons: little thing, big deal

I am so excited!!  My site now has social media icons (those little symbols under the navigation bar that link to Facebook, twitter, flickr, etc.).

They are customized to my blog’s them colors (see how the first one is the same blue as the owl and there is a color gradient to the last one, which is the same purple as the accents?!)!  They actually link out to those social media sites!  And I did it myself!

Perhaps this does not seem like a big deal.  They are, after all, just one small row of five very small icons.  However, I am an infant when it comes to technical computer-y stuff, a helpless newborn, I tell you.  So the fact that I managed to figure out not only how to get those there, but that they actually work, is HUGE.

I modified the icons in Photoshop, adding the rounded corners and changing the background color, and saved them as a .png file.  As far as actually getting them on my site and getting them to work, I owe a HUGE thanks to the author of this post, who made it seem really quite simple and without whom I wouldn’t have had clue what to do.  I also read a great tip in a WordPress forum regarding the white space between images.  To make those little images sit next to each other so that they all fit on a single line, I set the horizontal space to a negative five (-5).

And one more fun, technical tidbit: if you click on the “Contact” tab in the navigation bar, you will go to a page with an invitation to email me and my email address.  Clicking on that image will open the email client on your computer so you can just type in your email and hit send!

Go ahead; send me an email!  And while you’re at it, you can connect with me in other ways on the ‘net as well!  See you there!!

Font Snob call to action

I think I have a serious problem.  Sometimes, I can’t just let it be.  Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?  Confession: right now, I’m totally sweating the small stuff.  I have been obsessing over font choice all day.  Seriously.  And it’s been in my mind longer than that.  Admittedly, I am beginning to annoy MYSELF.  Not good, people, not good.

When I admitted just that on Facebook, my friend Liz offered her opinion.  As an easy way for her to see, I’m just going to throw all my fonts up here, and let anyone chime in.  And I hope many do.  Knowledge is power, right?

Here’s the issue: the woman who designed my header, Nicole, did a fantastic job.  While I loved the nice bold Gotham she chose for the main font, I wasn’t content with the secondary font, the one used for the tagline.  I changed it, but my friend Maddie, who has been helping with some web design, suggested that there is a disconnect, stylistically, between that font and the nice, clean style of the Gotham font.  I trust her opinion, and thus, I’ve been font searching and auditioning, looking for something better/more appropriate.  Here are the contenders (I won’t tell you which I’m leaning toward; don’t want to influence your opinion).

EDIT: My cry for help on Facebook elicited some good responses.  

Here is one from my friend, Katie:
I think that Gabrielle is probably my top choice because it is still modern like your logo but not so modern that it feels like it’s trying too hard on the ‘d’s like with Tangerine. I also like that it is italicized and does not take the attention away from your main logo, allowing it to be the focus. My eyes are able to easily move from one thing to the next without being distracted by text that is too bold and it’s easy to decipher. Take this with a grain of salt.

And my cousin Amy had the best “none of the above” response:
Em, Gabrielle is good, but I don’t think the serif font goes with the san-serif headline. Tangerine is the right weight but too many flourishes steal from the thread image. The bolder fonts (like lobster) steal from your bold ‘moonlight’. The serif fonts or ones with embellishments are not stylistically comparable with the Gotham. To juxtaposition your bold modern typeface with something softer in the tagline, find a modern sans serif font either script or italicized. 

Currently in the header: Chantelli Antiqua
Auditioning {in alphabetical order}:

EDIT: All auditioned fonts from the first round can be found in this set on Flickr.  They included Amperzand, Better Heather, Gabrielle, Kingthings Exeter, Lobster, Sail, and Tangerine.  Based on Amy’s suggestion above, here is the next round.  


Dream Orphans:

 Linux biolinium:




After these two rounds and then a little more searching, check out the fonts that made the final call back audition.


Change (will do you good?)

I changed the header on this blog again.  For the 7th time.

Last night I asked my dear husband if he liked this one better than the last one.  I think I may have exasperated him a tad.  “Em!” he said, “You are being completely neurotic.  Stop changing it!  I like them all.”  Well.  I’m glad he liked them all.  And maybe I am being just teensy bit neurotic.  But I do like this one better than the last one (and I liked that one better than the previous one.  And I will change it again.  And I will like that one better than this one.).

Let’s see how far we’ve come in the past four short weeks.

We started here.

I didn’t like that weird brightness at the top.  And the tagline “custom and handmade bags,” is good for the store I will soon have, but not so much for general writing about sewing and crafting stuff.

So, now the tagline is gone, and the brightness is reduced a bit.

I decided that I didn’t like how the texture in the background looked.  Too cluttered.  I took it out.

I was pretty happy with that last one, but then I thought of the perfect tagline for the blogging portion of this business: “Fabric and thread when the kids are in bed,” because that is just exactly what I do.

[At this point, there was another one with all the elements reduced and a tiny tagline.  I didn’t save it.]

I enlarged both the title of the site and the tagline.

After this point, my friend Suzanne connected me with a graphic designer friend of hers, with whom I am now working.  My initial correspondences with Nicole were insightful, and I realized that while I do love the purple, it didn’t give the vibe I wanted on my website.  While my company is “Sewing by Moonlight,” I still want my website to be bright and happy.  I also came to the realization that I really do love the more open look of a white back ground.  So, silver moon changed to harvest moon and I bumped up the color a bit.

We’re getting there, right?  I didn’t like that my little owl was kind of see-through against the moon.  My friend Maddie does web design and she has been helping me get this site functional.  She advised I lose the stars, and she also introduced me to this site for color inspiration, which I used when I recreated the header for the following result.

So, that’s where I am now.  Nicole is going to be helping refine the look of my logo and brand so I can have a cohesive internet presence and things like website, Etsy store, business cards and fabric labels will all tie together.  Maddie has offered her experience to make the actual design of the site look how I envision it will.  I’m excited.  Good things are coming.

So, am I being neurotic, as my darling husband claims, or is this actually getting better?