0 In Quilting/ Studio

Pincushions, Presser Feet and Cathedral Windows

Cathedral Window quilt block

For a few years now a queen size cathedral window quilt has been on my short list of Big Projects I Am Afraid to Start. If one looks at it dispassionately, it really isn’t such a huge project – I think I can bulk cut and assemble it in a few days if I focus, and it isn’t a conventional quilt in that it isn’t exactly quilted (although it can be) and the construction method I use leaves the backside finished. No, where things get sticky are the windows. You can machine sew in the windows, and plenty of people do, but it is not my preference as the machine stitching becomes too prominent a part of the design for my taste and the fussiness of trying to sew those curves with perfectly even, tiny little margins (and the inevitable imperfections) drives me nuts. So, I have always known that I will hand blind stitch all the windows and my quick math tells me a queen size will have around 250 windows. Sewing in a window takes me around 15 minutes, so if I spend an hour a day, five days a week, I am looking at 3 months of sewing those little suckers in -which isn’t the end of the world, but it is definitely a grind. I am trying to be more disciplined about making daily, measured progress on all of my projects, so adding the hour of little windows every day to my hour of knitting and my twice weekly Farmer’s Wife quilt blocks makes for about 13 hours of dedicated making time every week, with all of my apparel projects, computer time, and Wanton Fibers stuff on top of that (not to mention the whole stay at home mom with two kids thing). See, it makes me tired just thinking about it.

So, I have been warned. But guess what? I am doing it anyway -the cathedral window quilt has officially moved to Sampling Stage. I have always planned to do the windows in either shot cotton or silk dupioni and letting the colors gradate (yes, I am obsessed with gradation) and I am sampling the blocks themselves in two different white-on-white cotton prints, a white cotton solid, and Radiance cotton-silk poplin in ivory. For windows I am thinking pale, maybe with a few washed out florals mixed in (sounds positively shabby chic, but what can you do?) I am craving pastels and soft texture on this one. I have looked at so many Cathedral Window projects on Pinterest and I have a bit of a love hate relationship with them. Most leave me cold, but then occasionally one just blows me away. I think the darker, busier and more contrast-y they get, the less I like them so I am going to go simple and soft.

Cathedral window sample block

Here’s my sample of four blocks, which isn’t finished, but I think it tells me what I need to know. The silk is way too fussy to construct- all of that precise folding and sewing on a fabric that desperately wants to bias all the time? Ugh. Maybe for a wall hanging or a little throw, but I don’t want to deal with that added element of frustration on such a large project, plus it’s by far the most expensive of the fabrics. It’s really the white on white print with the little circles of white dots I am loving. Not a fan of the extra colored fabric between the windows and all of my windows here are darker than I want (I just grabbed a few scraps that were handy). I am not into the larger block size either it turns out, I am going to go back to the 4″ blocks I have tried in the past. Constructing this was a little harder than I remember from the few blocks I put together a long time ago, not all of my corners lined up perfectly.

I used the 411g to sew them and was definitely missing my old straight stitch foot. I had left the zig zag needle plate and foot on the machine, just because that’s how the machine had arrived and I didn’t really think about it, but my seams kept drifting and my tacking stitches at the edges would kind of bunch up the fabric. It reminded me how nice the single hole straight stitch needle plate and simple old straight stitch foot are for easy feeding and effortlessly straight seams. As soon as I was finished I ordered a slant shank straight stitch foot (and a darning foot, walking foot, 1/4″ and stitch in the ditch foot!) and switched out needle plates. My thread kept wrapping around the spool pin too and messing with my tension. I ordered a thread holder, but it hadn’t arrived yet when I was sewing the blocks together.

Since then my new presser feet have arrived and my [simple_tooltip content=’In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase anything from Amazon via this link. I only recommend products and companies that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.
‘]Superior Thread Holder[/simple_tooltip]. The thread holder is especially wonderful, I do not not know why I put up with using big spools on little spool pins for so long. I have had lots of trouble with my thread getting wound up around the spool pin and this just solved everything. It also came with a horizontal pin for spools, a bobbin adapter and a large cone adapter.

Superior thread holder

I switched my machine back to it’s straight stitch plate and foot. I cannot stress enough how much just having a little hole in the needle plate (vs the wide slot in a zig zag plate) supports your fabric, allowing it to feed easier and straighter and keeping finer fabrics from being pushed down through the hole by the needle. If you are having trouble with fussy fabrics not feeding well or bunching up at the edges when you start sewing, try a straight stitch needle plate. I even noticed a difference on quilting cotton, which surprised me.

Singer 411g straight stitch throat plate


Since my  3 year old decided to dismember my last remaining 99 cent pincushion (just… why?) and since I just bought three types of new pins, I decided it was time to make a few pincushions today. I wanted to just do something free and fast with what I had around the house, and since we use mason jars for everything else, that seemed perfect. These are really simple, and I love that I can store extra pins or needles inside the jar. They aren’t even really complicated enough to justify a tutorial, but here’s a quick rundown in case you want to make a few.

Pincushion supplies

Grab a jar, ring and lid, a scrap of fabric, some sort of batting, felt or stuffing (I used wool batting because that’s what I had around. Something stiffer would have actually been nicer), a piece of cardboard and a pen and scissors

Pincushion fabric and batting circles

Cut out a circle of fabric an inch or two larger around than your jar lid, a piece of cardboard the same size as the lid, and a series of circles of felt or batting with the largest being the same size as the lid down to about an inch around.

Pincushion assemblyStack the batting circles, centered on the wrong side of the fabric, from the smallest one at the bottom to largest on top. Put your cardboard circle on top of the batting stack and squish ’em down. Now take a moment to moisturize your hands, something I have apparently never done.

Pincushion assembly Pincushion assemblyPincusion assembly


Stuff it into the jar ring, pull the fabric down around the edges until the top looks good, fold the fabric down flat-ish on the cardboard (trim the fabric if there is too much to tuck neatly around) and put the lid on top of it to cover it. You can glue or tape the fabric to the cardboard before you put the lid over it too. If it ends up too thick to screw onto the jar, take out the inner lid and just screw it on with the cardboard to sort of squish the cardboard and fabric down. Then you should be able to put the lid back inside and screw the whole thing on. It may be a bit hard to screw on the first few times, but it flattens out in there after a bit and is fine. There you go, a 5 minute pincushion!

Finished pincushion

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