Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Prairie Points Part 1–Sizing and counting

Prairie points 1

This is the first installment of the Prairie Point Tutorial series.

The prairie point tutorial I planned to post a few weeks ago is a little later than I anticipated.  As I wrote, questions that a first-time prairie point user might ask kept popping up.  For example: OK, that’s how you put them on, but how do you choose a size?  How do you know how many to prepare? How much overlap should there be? The post would have gotten rather long and unwieldy! 

With that in mind I stopped writing, sorted the thoughts popping into my brain, placed everything in what I think is a logical order, and started over.  Here’s the new plan:

  • Prairie points part 1 – Sizing and counting
  • Prairie points part 2 – Folding
  • Prairie points part 3 – Distributing them evenly
  • Prairie points part 4 – Trimming and finishing the back

If you haven’t tried adding prairie points to a quilt, I hope this series will inspire you to give it a try!


If you have a pattern that tells you what size to cut the squares to fold into prairie points, and how many you need, you’re all set and you can skip ahead to part 2.  If you don’t have a pattern but want to add prairie points to a project, read on!

1. Choosing a finished size for your points

Do you like big, hearty points, or smaller dainty ones?  This is really a matter of personal preference and will probably vary according to the project.  What looks just right on one project might look huge on another and too dainty on the next. 

You’ll need to audition different sizes, but I recommend using paper squares to do so.  Why cut up precious fabric until you know you know exactly what size will work?

Sizing points 1Sizing points 2Sizing points 3

Start by cutting about 6 squares (all the same size) out of scrap paper and folding them in half along the diagonal, then in half again.  That will give you paper prairie points to play with.

Point height 2As a guide to what size square to start with, the height H of the triangle will be 1/2 the length S of the side of your square.  (Notice that the base (long side) of the triangle ends up being all 4 sides of the square stacked together.)  So a 3” square will give you a 1.5”  tall paper triangle.

Point overlap 3Point overlap 4

Lay these paper points flush with the edge of your quilt and decide whether you like the size.  If not, start over with smaller or larger paper squares, until you find a size that you think looks good for your quilt. This is the size you’ll want your finished prairie points to be.  Play with how much the triangles overlap, too. 

Leave your paper points laid out how you like them.  You’ll need to do some measuring in step 3 to figure out how many points you will need.


2. What size do you cut the fabric?

Now you know what you want the finished size of the prairie points to be, but how big do you need your fabric square to be so that your folded prairie point will be the desired size after the seam attaching it to your project takes a bite out of it?

You will sew your fabric prairie points to your quilt with a 1/4” seam allowance.  Here’s the math to add the allowance:

Size to cut fabric square = size of paper square + 1/2”

For example, if you liked the point size you got from a 3” square, you’ll need to cut fabric squares that measure 3 1/2”.

If you’re skeptical that 1/2” is the correct amount to add, cut a paper square. For my example, I want a finished point just like the one I got when I played with a 3” paper square.  For the corresponding unfinished point, I claim I’ll need a 3 1/2” square, so that’s the size I’ll cut this paper square. Draw a line 1/4” in from the sides, all around the square, to represent 1/4” seam allowances. That gives me a 3” square with a 1/4” seam allowance all around. Fold your square as you did the paper points and look at where all that seam allowance ends up.


Yup!  There it is, all in that 1/4” at the base of the triangle.  The center 3” square made the finished 1 1/2” tall triangle, just like my 3” sample paper square earlier, and the extra all around is now stacked into the bottom 1/4” which would be eaten up by the seam when I sew this point to my quilt.

3. How many points do you need to make?

You’ll need to do a bit of measuring and a bit of math.  Don’t panic!  If math isn’t your thing, just measure and plug numbers into the formula. If you do like math and want to know where the formula came from, scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Prairie points spacing measurement 3

  • Measure the length L of one edge of the quilt.
  • Remember that S is the length of the long side of your finished prairie point.
  • Measure the distance X, as shown above, between one end of the triangle base and the spot where the next triangle starts overlapping. I marked that spot with a red arrow on the paper in the photo above.

Now plug those numbers into this formula:

Number of points = [(L – 1/2” – S) / X] + 1

Be careful to follow the math order of operations.  Calculate (L- 1/2”- S) first.  Then divide that by X.  Then add 1 to that answer.

That probably won’t work out to a nice whole number. Just round to the nearest whole number (down for a fraction less than 0.5, up for everything else) since you’ll be using only whole prairie points, no partial points.

For example if one side of my quilt top is 13” long (L=13) and I want the base of my finished points to measure 3” (S=3) and the distance X = 2 1/4”,  this is the math, step by step:

Number of points = [(13 - 0.5 - 3) / 2.25] + 1

Number of points = (9.5 / 2.25) +1

Number of points = 4.22 + 1

Number of points = 5.22

Round that to the nearest whole number, 5.  I would need to prepare 5 prairie points for this side of the quilt. 

Repeat the math for each edge of the quilt.  For most quilts, the top will need the same number as the bottom, and each side will need the same number.  However, if you’re quilting outside the box and your quilt isn’t the usual square or rectangle, just do the math for all 4 (or more!) sides and add up the totals.



For more information about prairie points,check out the rest of the Prairie Point tutorial series:

  • Prairie points part 1 – Sizing and counting
  • Prairie points part 2 – Folding
  • Prairie points part 3 – Distributing them evenly
  • Prairie points part 4 – Trimming and finishing the back



For those of you who care, here’s where the formula came from.

Number of points = [(L – 1/2” – S) / X] + 1

That 1/2” you’re subtracting has to do with seam allowances. Since we are working with the finished point size, we want to be calculating with the finished length (L – 1/2”) of the side as well.

X is the amount of space you have to allot for each prairie point except the last. You can see in the diagram below that for the very last triangle on the end of a side we have to account for the whole length S of the triangle base..


So the formula takes the finished length of the side, takes away the space S covered by the last, whole prairie point, then divides the remaining length by X to see how many times X fits in that length.  There’s 1 prairie point per X.  Add that whole prairie point back in, and you have your total.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Shrinking, but not how you think

I wanted to try some of my designs in alternate colorways but really don’t have the budget for that much fabric, or the space to store or display many more quilts.  Last weekend it occurred to me that I could remake quilts in a smaller size. Not just make fewer blocks, but just shrink everything.

Here’s the finished top for a shrunken Sparkling Trail.


The original Sparkling Trail measures 59” x 75”.  This one measures about 29.5” x 37”.   These aren’t my usual colors, and hubby was a bit hesitant to endorse this one!  The kids thought it looked good though.  I was quite surprised that I had all these black scraps in my stash.  I think most of them are leftovers from making my Geese Across the Table placemats and runner.

Next up, I think I’ll try it in 1930’s reproductions for a completely different feel.  But first maybe something with my Jelly Bean Stars block and sashing.  Or…well, you saw the fabric in my last post.  I have options!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Giveaway winners!

Thank you to everyone who left comments on my last post.  I appreciate your good wishes.  I used an online random number generator to pick 5 comments, though I forgot to take screenshots to share the results.  I did take note of the winning comments though!  Here is the list of winners:

  1. Ann  (A Good Yarn)
  2. hjrogers (no blog)
  3. Marge (creeksidequilts)
  4. Deb (VT Quilter)

I've sent the five of you emails.  Patterns will be sent out as soon as you get back to me with your selection. Enjoy!

And just because it seems blah to have a post without pictures, here's what came home with me on Saturday. I’ve never before bought this much fabric at once, ever, but it really couldn’t be avoided!


Friday, January 9, 2015

“Number 5” Giveaway and Sale!

Earlier this week my husband asked me how long I’ve been blogging and my answer was pretty vague.  Last night I took the time to go check my very first blog post.  It was exactly 5 years ago today!

screenshot of first blog post

Five years? Really?  Already?  Well, since my hubby’s question was so well-timed I have decided to celebrate with a giveaway and a sale.  Get ready to be bombarded by the number 5!


I’m going to give away one of my patterns to 5 randomly drawn winners (pattern is winner’s choice), one for every year of blogging.  Since I’ll email them out to winners as PDF files, shipping isn’t an issue so wherever you live, you can enter the giveaway.  Just leave me a comment here on this post by the end of January13th (that’s 5 days, counting today), no other hoops to jump through.  If you want to tell me how long you’ve ben blogging, that would be fun, but it’s optional.  In fact, you don’t have to be a blogger to enter. Just make sure I have a way to contact you.  If I pick your name and I don’t have a contact email for you either through your blog or in the comments, I’ll have to pick another name.  I’ll randomly pick 5 winners on January 14th.  Good luck!


In the meantime you might want to take a look at my “patterns for sale” page to decide which pattern you’d like me to send you if you win.  While you’re there you’ll notice coupon codes in the pattern descriptions.  I’m offering 20% off my $9.00 patterns in my Payhip shop.  Click on the pattern name to go to the pattern’s payhip sales page and enter the pattern’s coupon code at checkout.  It’s a bit of a clunky process, but it’s 1/5th off the regular price just the same!  Coupon codes will expire on January 13th.

And just for fun, here’s a selection of early my early quilting efforts, pre-blogging. Have a great day!

matthew's quilt 2IMG_0737IMG_1949Sport matching pillow

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fun finish

Sweet little Hoot has borders and edging.  It’s small, only 11” without the prairie points.  Now I just need to decide where and how to hang it.  My daughter is lobbying hard for her room as the location, though I think the sewing room needs a little whimsy!


Hmmm.  I think I might go back and add a little free-motion something in the blue border.  I meant to initially, then thought it would be too much, and now I’m reconsidering again.

There was quite a bit of hemming and hawing involved in getting this little quilt done.  I knew it wanted prairie points but went through a few point layouts before deciding the details.


I wanted to try denser prairie points than I have in the past, with different colors peeking from behind the points on the front. The first one was too blue.  The second was better, but still not quite right.  Too crowded maybe.

OK fine, I guess I don’t like dense prairie points!  Or maybe they were just too dense for such a small project.  Back to my usual more widely distributed points.

Then there was option 4, which appeared after I sewed the points to the quilt top. (By the way, I sew my points to the quilt top before I layer and quilt. I just didn’t get a picture of option 4 until after I quilted things.)


I think this would have been cute just like this too, with the points pointing in, and binding to finish off the edges. However, besides having way too much fun working with this little owl, I was on a mission to take pictures for a tutorial on finishing a quilt edge with prairie points, so Hoot got regular points.

Stay tuned for the tutorial.  Hopefully tomorrow if I can finish up less fun jobs and get writing!

Linking up with Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River

PS: Owl applique design is half of “Big Bro” Owl Applique by Five Sprouts Stitching.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 in Review

Happy New Year!

Looking back, I think 2014 was my most productive year of quilting so far. I finished 6 quilts, an astonishing 4 of which were started and finished the same year. Well, that’s astonishing for me!

2014 quilts

Top row: Canada Quilt, Sparkling Strings, Star Steps

Bottom row:  Starlight Wishes, Sparkling Trail, Forty-Eight

I started and finished a few small projects.

2014 runners

Snowflake runner and pillow, Christmas Snowflakes, Birthday runner, Stretch

I also started and finished the top for my son’s next quilt.  I have been hand quilting it and estimate that about 1/4 of it is quilted.  My goal is to get it into the 2015 review of finishes!

Top complete 2014-03-18

I spent a good chunk of the fall designing snowflake blocks and turning them into patterns to share in my Snowalong Sew-along. I’m still reeling from realizing that each of the six patterns was downloaded at least 700 times, some as many as 900!  Thanks for the encouragement, everyone!

Snowflake series covers

I also added 4 new quilt patterns to my shop.

Quilter's ScrapbookSparkling Trail cover 2015-01-01Star StepsStarlight Wishes

Now to start 2015! I spent the day today setting up my payhip shop so I can continue to sell to any European Union customers without falling foul of EU tax laws. I reformatted my “pattern for sale” page too (see the tab at he top of this page).  It was rather tedious way to start 2015, but now that’s it’s all set up I feel like I have a clean slate to get started sewing and designing for the new year.

Off I go!  That little owl I showed a couple of days ago is hooting loudly.  He needs borders…

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Owl applique

I was supposed to be figuring out how to post patterns for sale on payhip.com (because they, unlike Craftsy, will handle EU digital VAT collection for me on sales to the European Union starting January 1st).  Oops.  I got sidetracked.

Isn’t he just too cute?


The design is from Five Sprouts Stitching and was free in their Craftsy shop when I went browsing on the weekend. I feel almost guilty getting this cute design for free. 

If you have followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that this kind of sewing is not my usual fare.  To be honest, after one not so successful attempt I’ve been too chicken to try machine applique again.  Just how do you get around the points and curves neatly? I thought it would take too much time to learn, and there are too few hours for all the things that are on the “to do” list!  Clearly, though, this was higher on the list than the business stuff, which is why I’ll never be a millionaire!

After I commented on yet another of 2strings’ lovely applique projects, and said again how I should really put learning to machine applique on that “to do” list, she pointed me to two tutorials on her blog.  Her tutorial on how to get around the points and curves with machine blanket stitch is wonderful.  It’s very clear and takes all the mystery out of it.  That’s not to say that I didn’t goof a few times, but that was due to me losing track of which part of the stitch the machine was working on.  The tutorial told me to keep track!

I have a half-formed project idea for this little owl.  Some borders and prairie points and a pillow back…  It could work.

OK, back to business stuff.  If all goes well and I don’t get sidetracked too often there will be new links on my pattern page by the end of the week.