Friday, July 26, 2013

cutting strips from directional print fabrics

Do you sometimes use directional print fabrics or plaids and need to cut strips? Here is how your should be cutting those strips to ensure your print stays the same or your lines are relatively even on your plaids.

I was reminded of this problem just a couple of days ago when I needed some strips from this gorgeous turquoise and white fabric (with small repeating dots). When the fabric was folded, everything looked okay, at least on one side. When I flipped it over after cutting, I realized it was not very well lined up. I pulled on the fabric trying to get the grain in line again, but it just wasn't lining up right. It is frustrating when you just want things to go smoothly and speedy. Hhhmmpf.

So, here is what I did to correct it. I unfolded the fabric. Yes, I did. It can be liberating when you don't follow rules. I got the fabric as straight as possible on the cutting mat after ironing and stretching to get it lined up better. I evened one side with the  rotary cutter as much as possible. I extended my ruler to the other side of the fabric and evened it up at the same dot lines as the previous cut and continued cutting. It is that simple you say!? Yes it is, but this is one valuable step you shouldn't be skipping. If you want everything straight and perfect, this one step that should not be forgotten. You could get a little fancy and fussy cut your strips, but that seems like an overkill, at least for my project.  {Fussy Cut DEFINITION: Every piece you cut looks exactly the same - the design in the fabric will create a design in the block.}

Okay, now were are rolling on. Once my strips were straight, I cut with my 6" square ruler to the size I needed.  I am working on a nine-patch block (I see it as a five patch) for the Doll Quilt Monthly and wanted all of my dots relatively straight. This is how it ended up. (Foto left)

This method doesn't always work though! Usually when working with plaids, I have to get out the old scissors and cut along the lines, because the fabric will never be straight enough to cut with a rotary cutter. It is a little more time consuming, but well worth the effort.

Enjoy your weekend. The weather is great! Summer has finally arrived. It almost feels like North Carolina weather here in southern Germany!

Friday, July 19, 2013

leipheimer kinderfest 2013

Hello everyone and welcome to the Karen Ackva's easypatchwork blogspot. Here I like to ramble on about (1) patchwork & quilting (2) my life in Germany as seen through the eyes of an American.

The weather has been really great the last couple of weeks. We have had barely any rain since the big flooding. (Our city water supply was washed out and now have to rely on a smaller emergency water reservoir; we have learned to live with less water!)

Last weekend we celebrated the Leipheimer Kinderfest which went on for three days. It was a huge event for the entire school, because the kids HAD to participate. They even had class on Saturday morning, because they practiced during regular school hours!

The Leipheimer Kinderfest is a festival primarily for the kids and seen as a thankfulness celebration. The first festival took place over 150 years after a long hunger period and is also seen as an Erntedankfest. For those of you in Germany, it is more like a Kürmis oder Jahresmarkt. For Americans it is more like a parade, dance show, carnival with a large Biergarten. The kids started out in unison from their school and walked to the center of the town where the mayor gave a short speech. We all proceeded with the parade of students and other important people throughout the town and down to the sports field where the students proceeded to perform dance and rhythm routines to bedazzle their audience.

My son's class worked on a scarf dance to "Walking on Sunshine." He had been practicing at home and in school for the last few weeks. And for a boy who doesn't like to dance too much, he performed very well!

I heard on the radio that over 40,000 people visited over the weekend. I think that is quite impressive. It is also host to the largest Biergarten in Schwaben! Biergarten(s) are really great in the summer months and you can enjoy the weather. My husband even put on his Lederhosen. I chose to leave my Dirdl at home. ;-) Yes, I do have one, but it is a little more "festive" and it was really hot. Excuses, excuses, I know!

If you live in the region or would like to visit something interesting on your vacation to Germany, check out the Leipheimer Kinderfest in July. It is something your really shouldn't miss.

Friday, July 12, 2013

the casually pieced Rückseite - FREE PATTERN

Hello everyone! Here it is...the long awaited free pattern for the BACKING of prairie Traditions. This very simple pattern can also be used for the the front of a quilt, of course. It goes together in less than one morning.

I made the backing from scrap pieces and just improvised the whole thing until it was large enough. I need to do a little more improv in the future. It does the soul good!

You can download a PDF version on my pattern download page. Remember to please leave some thanks if you decide to use the pattern for your own personal use.

I made my original quilt backing from "HONEY HONEY" fabrics from Kate Spain for Moda. The colorway is so trendy with color popping & blocking everywhere in oranges and blues.

I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

a sweet little cake for such a sweet little lady

Hi everyone! I wanted to share a little post with you about a birthday cake I recently made for my daughter.

Every year I think about and talk with my kids about what kind of birthday cake they would like. {In the recent years, my son has had the more elaborate cakes, so I thought I would go all out this year on my daughter.} I remembered we had looked at "How to make a Barbie Cake" video on the Internet. When I mentioned it to my daughter, her eyes lit up.

It really isn't that hard to do, either. It is just a regular white cake baked in a Pyrex glass bowl. You could also use a Gugelhupfform if you have one. You don't need to level off the top, because it will give you added height that you need. I used a teen Barbie; the regular sized Barbie was too tall. Wrap your doll first in Saran Wrap or Klarsichtsfolie before you stick her in the cake. You might want to hollow out a bit from the center first. Let your daughter(s) help you decorate. Make sure you take the doll out before you cut the cake. I don't thin Barbie will like all those cuts on her legs.

In the end, I hope this stays with her memories. It is the little things in life that count.

Enjoy your weekend!!

Friday, July 5, 2013

june '13 doll quilters monthly swap

I am so happy that I joined the Doll Quilters Monthly (Swap). Leonie over at strand-korb introduced me to the nicest and friendliest group of ladies. There are monthly challenges that make me think and create. I am a quilt designer and love a challenge!

This month's challenge is "fantasy." I thought about it a lot and wasn't quite sure what to do. Then I saw some really cute, bright fabric at our local fabric & drapery store. I bought a small amount of blues and greens, came home, and worked on some ideas involving mermaids. I thought I was onto something.

Then I received our swap partner's name and info from the very warm and supportive, Barbara. My very interesting partner, Mary Pat from Wisconsin, and I exchanged information to our likes, wishes, styles and dimensions. After I learned that she was more of a "traditional" quilter, I canned the idea with the mermaids. I thought the fabric would be just too loud. She also likes the darker colors such as reds, blacks, golds and brown - the more earthy color palette. And most importantly - she mentioned the theme of houses....okay...what can I whip up here.

I remembered I had a panel with fall colors, apples, orchards, and barns? Could that be something? I really love the fall colors. They remind me so much of home..huh..getting a little homesick. Back to the topic. I found the panel. I measured it and thought about what I could make to get a cute little quilt about 12 inches squared.

This is what I whipped up:

Birds in the Orchard

I originally wanted a little bird on a twig coming out of the apple and wondered how I could do this. I wanted to embroider it, but I have very little experience with embroidering. After I finished sewing it, I thought I would just leave it. It was pretty enough.

Since the flying geese are rather small (1 x 2 inch finished blocks), I thought I would use a technique I learned last year that makes the flying geese 3-Dimensional. It is so simple and easy and you don't have to worry sewing on a bias or stretching the fabric.

Okay, I designed the mini quilt and made a sample block and everything worked out fine! Wow! I made the center block 8,5 inches square unfinished. You can use a self-made block or fussy cut something. All options are open here. The rest of the blocks are 2,5 inches unfinished.

I really had so much fun with this that I made a second one in my favorite colorway - bright colors including somewhat of a turquoise. The name stays the same, because once again, it has an apple tree surrounded by birds. Go crazy with the pattern.
I am offering this as a free pattern and tutorial for those of you who would like to make a cute little quilt in just one day.

You can download it here.

Please remember - this is for personal use only and not for commercial use. If you would like to publish this pattern, you must request permission from easypatchwork first.

Thank you for your understanding and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

a long awaited publishment

For those of you who know me, you would also know that Birgitte Heitland is my praised long-arm-quilter and colleague. She is such a creative and successful woman and a pleasure to know. She has quilted several of my quilts, and we have worked together on coming up with wonderful quilting designs for them.

When the Spring Quilt Market 2012 was coming round, I offered to help her sew one of her debuting quilts called "OHO". I didn't know what kind of challenge I was getting myself into. She sent me the fabric including a Layer Cake™ from her fabric line - Juggling Summer. This is a really great fabric that reminds me of fall and it was really enjoyable to work with.

We had one big hindrance with this project. Brigitte wanted to use the "Sew Kind of Wonderful" curved ruler and ordered it from the United States. Now, if you live abroad and order something from outside the country, you know you are gambling. You never know when those things are getting to get delivered and will usually be stuck in Customs for six to eight weeks. We waited and waited and waited, but it wasn't passing through. I offered to make some plastic templates from her sketches. Of course, I made two templates of everything, because when you start cutting with a rotary cutter, you are bound to cut part of the template away.

I put everything else on hold for one entire week to sew together and "practice" sewing half circles. If you have ever worked with circles, you may know, they can be challenging. They were! I felt a little bit like the Karate Kid with "wax on - wax off." I have now mastered the art of sewing curved seams. Yahoo!

There was one faux pas in the quilt, but I will leave this one little secret between Brigitte and myself. I hope she forgave me for it as well.

Anyway, Brigitte was happy with the result and dearly compensated me. After a really good presence at the Quilt Market, she also told me that OHO would be published in the Fons & Porter magazine and they would publish the sewers name - that being me!! I was so tickled and started scanning the magazine every couple of months to see if my name was in there.

A few weeks ago, I was curious to see if anyone else had sewn OHO. I googled, and found that it was listed online at Fons & Porter. It was FINALLY PUBLISHED. I no longer subscribed to the magazine, so I had to find a company here in Germany that stocked it. I ordered it, opened it and found the page and laughed out loud! My name was misspelled! As always, my name is spelled wrong. I had the problem when I was a young girl that people exchanged "ou" for "au" in Trautman. But this way, I had never seen it written before. {Trotzdem war ich immer noch begeistert und auch stolz.} This was my five minutes of fame. It made my day.

I am still curious to see other renditions of OHO. I would like to see those photographs and to hear about your experiences sewing this baby together.

I must compliment and praise the artist, Brigitte Heitland. She is a fabulous woman - eine echte Power-Frau! She is creative, innovative, bewunderswert! I have followed her career for the last couple of years, and she is totally on fire. Everything she touches turns to gold. I was truly honored to be a part of her circle if just for a short period of time.

Congratulations, Brigitte!! You can learn more about her at or

Yours truly,
Karen (Trautman)-Ackva