“More Nuts and Bolts”

Today I’ve been working on two table runners; one pieced and one embroidered.  They are in the “design as you go” style; not following any commercial pattern.  I thought I would share with you some of the things I do to make my sewing easier and more predictable when sewing in such a fluid style!  I hope you find some tips that you might be able to use for your own projects. 

As you can see, there are several projects on the cutting table (i.e. the dinning room table) at one time today. Let’s start with the pieced table runner designed with the blue and grey blocks. Before you get after me about my really crocked seams, I want to let you know the blocks are not sewn, just laid out 🙂 I wanted to make sure no unexpected secondary pattern was coming through.
Since there was a lot going on pattern wise in the fabrics, I decided to keep the cutting simple. I cut all my pieces the same measurement: 3″ tall by 6″ long. This runner’s top ended up needing 48 blocks to complete.
The top of the runner is made up of only two blocks. This is my first block…
…and this is my second block. After creating the blocks, I simply put them together by alternating them, block #1, block #2, etc. I tried very hard not to have two of the same fabrics next to one another. (The material I used came from two small fat quarter packs: one in a blue colorway and one in a grey. Each fat quarter pack contained 5 different fabrics.)
Here I have sewn together three blocks, #1 – #2 – #1
Here I have sewn together two sets of three blocks each. Blocks #1 and #2 alternate top to bottom and side to side. When piecing like this, I press my seams to one side, nest them when possible, and worry more about reducing bulk in the piece rather than following any rules about the direction in which I press the seams.
My finished runner top is 15.5″ tall by 42″ long. I will not be adding any borders; just the batting, backing and binding. I will be quilting with an all over embroidery quilting design edge to edge.
Next steps will be to add the quilt sandwich and head to the embroidery machine for some all over quilting before I put on the binding. On to the next table runner!
My next table runner top has three embroidered blocks in the center flanked by a red flange on each vertical edge of the blocks. The flange was cut 1″ wide and folded in half. Since the color is a high contrast to the blocks, I wanted to make sure the flange was straight on each block, so I basted each flange first before final sewing.
Since I was using the adjustable 1/4″ piecing foot, I was able to move my needle to the right, creating a scant 1/4″ seam and lengthened my stitch for my basting. When I do the final sewing of the blocks together, I will move the needle back to center needle position and return the length to 3.0 (I always use a stitch length of 3.0 when piecing blocks that have been embroidered on batting.) The final seam will run alongside the basting, allowing me to remove the basting quite easily.
Here are two of the blocks joined together with the flange in between. The seam is quite bulky. In this case, there would be a big bump in my table runner if I pressed this seam to one side. When pressing the seams of embroidered blocks that use batting, I always use my wooden point presser and lots of steam. This is the “before” picture….
…and this is the “after” picture. Pressing on the wooden point presser does not allow any give in the fabric, thus producing a very sharp press.
The flange’s seam is pressed open on the back while the flange itself is pressed towards the embroidered blocks on the front. (Due to the padding of the batting, you will never get a perfectly flat embroidery on a block like this. You will also not be able to add quilting to blocks like this so you will have to attach it to the backing using stitch-in-the-ditch).
This runner will have borders. I like my borders to equal 1/2 the size of my embroidered block. In this case, my blocks finish at 8″ so I want my two borders combined to equal 4″. I cut my inner border at 1.5″ and my outer border at 2.5″. I cut long width of fabric strips and attach them where needed. I never cut my border pieces to the exact length needed until they are attached.
Once sewn, I use my ruler and rotary cutter to trim the border to the exact amount needed. This allows the borders to lay very flat since there is no stretching of fabric necessary to make the pieces fit.
My three embroidered center blocks were squared up at 8.5″ by 8.5″ each with a finished size of 8″ per block after sewing. The flange in between each block added nothing. Adding the borders gives me a finished top of 14″ tall by 30″ long.
Here is the finished top. Next thing to do is to add batting, backing, some extra quilting on the batting/backing only (under the center embroidered blocks to hold the batting and backing together there) and then quilting through all layers all around the borders. Add some binding and I’m golden!

I hope this gives you some ideas that may jump start your own projects or make them a little easier to complete. My only hard and fast rule is “don’t sew your finger!”, so as long as I follow that rule, I’m successful. Have a great week and Happy Sewing!