Tag Archives: modern quilts

Make a reusable advent calendar!

As I shared earlier this week, I love the way my reusable advent calendar turned out! I had so much fun making it, I thought others might enjoy making one, too, so I wrote up a tutorial. Check it out below!

NSB - reusable advent calendar header

A couple notes:

  • This tutorial walks through two different construction methods, starting with the more involved patchwork-style calendar and then looking at a simpler, non-patchwork calendar.
  • My calendar was designed with 25 days, rather than the more traditional 24 days. For this tutorial, I depict construction for 25 days, though I also include details & dimensions for 24 days and share a completed version after this tutorial.


For the patchwork-style advent calendar with 25 days

  • 25 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 3.5” wide for windows
    • While I used many different fabrics, you could easily select just two fun prints or solid colors and alternate them.
  • Fabric with numbers for each day; while these can be as large as you please, they should be cut to a minimum of 1.5” square (including a ¼” seam allowance on each side)
  • 1/2 yard fabric for the pockets

For a non-patchwork calendar with 25 days

  • 5 cuts of fabric 5″ tall x 15.5″ wide for the ‘windows’
  • 5 cuts of fabric 6.5″ tall x 15.5″ wide for the pockets

For all 25 day calendars

  • 2/3 yard (approx.) fabric for the backing, facing/binding, and hanging sleeve
    • I used one fabric for the backing and a second for the facing and sleeve
  • 2/3 yard thin quilt batting or cotton flannel
  • Thread
    • I used three colors: light grey for piecing, red and green for quilting
  • Dowel for hanging (I use 3/8”)
  • Ribbon for hanging


  • Rotary cutter (recommended) or scissors
  • Quilter’s style see through ruler (I use 6.5” x 24”)
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Sewing machine
    • I used two needles: sharp for piecing and general construction, twin for quilting
  • Iron
  • Needle for hand sewing
  • Hera marker
  • Water- or air-erasable marking pen (optional)
  • Fabric safe tape (I like to use artist’s tape)
  • Quilt basting pins
  • Drill for adding holes to the dowel (optional)

Finished dimensions: 22.5” tall x 15” wide, each pocket finishes at 3” x 3”

Seam allowance is 1/4” throughout. For all piecing, sew fabrics with right sides together.




Prepare your windows

If you are creating the patchwork style calendar, you will need one 5” tall x 3.5” wide cut for each day.


1. You will make five rows of five windows. Determine layout for the rows.

NSB - advent calendar window fabrics



2. Using a 1/4” seam allowance, sew together the five pieces of each row along the 5” long side, pressing seams open. Set rows aside.

NSB - ReuAdvCal piece windows



Prepare your numbers and pocket pieces

Some great ways to make your numbers include embroidery, cutting out and appliquéing felt numbers, using a number print fabric (either store bought or printed at home), painting numbers by hand, or using rubber stamps and a fabric ink pad. Numbers can be as big or as small as you like; I recommend somewhere between 1” and 2.5” in either direction.


3. For the patchwork style calendar, you will need to cut out each number so you have at least 1/2” on every side of the digit; each number should be a minimum of 1.5” in both height and width.

 NSB - advent calendar numbers


4. Begin piecing your numbers to the pocket fabric.

I will walk through the steps, but a quick view of order of construction will look like this:



5.You will have to do some math based on the raw (unsewn) size of your numbers, but the aim is to have 3.5” wide raw pocket fronts for each number.

  • For example: if your individual unsewn number pieces are 1.5” square, you will need two 1.5” squares cut from the pocket fabric, in addition to a 1.5” x 3.5” rectangle (this allows for 1/4” seams on all pieces).
  • If your raw number pieces are 2.5” square, you will need two cuts at 2.5” x 1” and one 1” x 3.5” rectangle.
  • If your unsewn number pieces are 2” tall x 2.5” wide, you will need two pieces 2” x 1.25” and one 1.25” x 3.5” rectangle.

Basic quilt math: raw piece measurement – 0.5” = finished size. When in doubt: cut the raw pieces too big and trim after sewing.


Note: Keep track of the height measurement of the base piece you add to the number/sides.


6. Once you have cut the side and base pieces, sew the sides to your number, using a 1/4” seam allowance. Press seams toward outside. Trim, if necessary.

NSB - ReuAdvCal piece numbers to sides


7. Sew base piece to bottom of number/sides. Press seam down.

Repeat steps for all 25 numbers.

NSB - ReuAdvCal piece windows framed numbers

8. Lay out the framed number pieces in rows of five (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25). Sew the five pieces of each row together, pressing seams open. Trim top of row, if necessary.


NSB - ReuAdvCal number row


9. It’s time for a little more math as you finish piecing the pocket panels. This next piece becomes the top of the pocket front and the pocket lining. Add the height measurement from the base piece to 3.25”. Cut five pieces that are this new dimension by 15.5” wide.

  • For example: if the base piece for framing the number is 1.25” tall x 3.5” wide, you add 1.25” to 3.25” for a sum of 4.5”, so you would cut five 4.5” tall x 15.5” wide pieces.


Sew each row of pocket fronts to one of these pieces. Press seam allowance toward the larger piece.


10. Turn full pocket panels face side down. Measure 3.25” up from the bottom front of the panel and use your hera marker to draw a line along the full width; this creates a crease that will allow you to fold the pocket panel with ease. When folded, there will be slight overhang on the bottom of the pocket panel back.



NSB - ReuAdvCal mark crease line

NSB - ReuAdvCal fold crease line

11. It is time to pad the pockets! If you are using quilt batting for your quilt, cut five pieces 3.25” tall x 15.5” wide. If you are using cotton flannel, cut five pieces 6.5” tall x 15.5” wide. For this tutorial, I am using batting.

With pocket panel laying open face down, place your pocket padding on the backside. If you are using batting, nestle one long edge along the crease you made with the hera marker.

***If using cotton flannel for padding, it is helpful to use the hera marker to draw a crease in the flannel just as for the pocket panel. At this step, nest the folded edge of the flannel inside the fold of the pocket piece.

NSB - ReuAdvCal pad pocket lay flat

Fold pocket around batting and pin in place.

NSB - ReuAdvCal pad pocket fold over

12. Sew through all layers close to the folded edge. I sewed my panels using two hues for additional cheer.

NSB - ReuAdvCal stitch pocket panel edge

13. Measuring from the folded edge, trim pocket panels to 3.25” tall.

NSB - ReuAdvCal trim pocket panel

Trim side edges of pockets panels, if necessary. Each pocket panel should be 15.5” wide.NSB - ReuAdvCal trim pocket panel edges

14. Place each pocket panel over its corresponding window panel, aligning bottom raw edges and pin in place.

NSB - ReuAdvCal align pocket panels to windowsNSB - ReuAdvCal pin pockets to windows

Baste the pocket panels to the window panels along the bottom edge.

NSB - ReuAdvCal baste pockets to windows

15. Sew the pocket/window rows together, ensuring the seams are aligned.

NSB - ReuAdvCal rows stitched together

16. To create a little depth to the pockets, we are going to press the seam allowances ‘up’. To start, press the seam allowances flat to set the stitches.

NSB - ReuAdvCal press calendar flat to set stitches

Starting with the top row, pocket front face down, use your steam iron to press the windows up.

NSB - ReuAdvCal press windows up

Next, understitch seam allowance to the base of the windows.

NSB - ReuAdvCal understitch seam allowances

Using your steam iron, press the pocket panel up. Pin into place to prevent flapping.

NSB - ReuAdvCal press pockets up

Repeat for rows two, three, and four; the bottom row should be left flat.

NSB - ReuAdvCal calendar ready to sandwich

17. Next, create a quilt sandwich:

Cut the batting or cotton flannel so it is somewhat larger that your calendar front; cut the backing fabric so it is larger than the batting/flannel.

Lay your backing fabric (right side down) on a clean, flat surface. Smooth the fabric and secure the perimeter with tape. Layer your batting or cotton flannel over the backing fabric, smoothing so it lays flat, then layer the calendar front (right side up) over the batting.

Starting in the center of the calendar front and moving outward, pin baste through all layers.

NSB - ReuAdvCal make quilt sandwich

Quilt sandwich: ready to go!

18. To create the individual pockets, quilt straight lines from the top to the bottom, centered between numbers.


The seam lines between windows and numbers double as excellent guides, but it may be helpful to mark your quilting lines. Columns should be marked as 3” wide.

NSB - ReuAdvCal layers quilted

I used a twin needle with thread in two colors to achieve a festive look.

NSB - advent calendar pocket rows

19. Trim the quilted calendar so it is 23” tall and 15.5” wide.

NSB - ReuAdvCal trim calendar

  1. Finish the edges by adding a facing. This tutorial from Victoria Gertenbach offers very clear step-by-step instructions.

 NSB - ReuAdvCal add facing

21. In order to hang the calendar, you will need to sew a hanging sleeve to the back. I like this tutorial from Jacquie Gering, though I cut my piece 4.5” tall (the sleeve will finish as 2”, which is more appropriate for a quilted piece of this size).

NSB - ReuAdvCal add hanging sleeve

22. Cut your dowel to the finished width of your calendar and drill two small holes for your ribbon (I like to drill just beyond the width of my finished hanging sleeve).

NSB - ReuAdvCal hanging sleeve and dowel

23. String ribbon through the holes…

NSB - ReuAdvCal string ribbon through holes

…and hang it up!

NSB - reusable advent calendar complete

Enjoy using your reusable advent calendar for the first time!



Prepare your windows

For the non-patchwork style calendar, you will need five cuts of fabric 5” tall x 15.5” wide. Iron and set aside.

Prepare your pocket pieces

For the non-patchwork calendar, you will add your numbers directly to the pocket fabric. Begin by marking guidelines on the five 6.5” x 15.5” pieces with the marking pen:

  • Measure 3.25” up from one long edge and mark the full 15.5” width
  • Measure 7.75” in from one short edge and lightly mark on each edge and on the marked line
  • From center point, measure and mark 1.5” to the right, along the full 6.5” height.
  • From this new line, measure 3” to the right and mark the full height
  • Repeat last two steps to the left of the marked center point

You will have two rows of boxes; on the bottom row of each piece, add your numbers inside the guidelines using your preferred method. The five pieces should be numbered 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25.


After preparing all fabric pieces, follow steps 10 through 23 as for the patchwork style calendar.



I reworked the layout of my 25 day calendar a bit for those who prefer a more traditional 24 day advent calendar.

NSB - ReuAdvCal 24 day non-patchwork

This is the layout for the 24 day calendar, made following the non-patchwork instructions. The numbers were cut out of felt and stitched to the pocket fronts with embroidery floss.

Alternate dimensions, supplies, and directions are as follows:

For either style of calendar (patchwork or non-patchwork) with 24 days

Updated row layout is four rows of six numbers (1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24).

Finished dimensions of the 24 day calendar are: 18” tall x 18” wide (pockets still finish 3” x 3”).


SUPPLIES (24 days):

For the patchwork-style advent calendar with 24 days

  • 24 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 3.5” wide for windows
  • Fabric with numbers for the 24 days, can be as large as you please though they should be cut to a minimum of 1.5” square (including a ¼” seam allowance on each side)
  • 1/2 yard fabric for pockets


For a non-patchwork calendar with 24 days

  • 4 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 18.5” wide for the ‘windows’
  • 4 cuts of fabric 6.5” tall x 18.5” wide for the pockets


All other supplies and tools as listed for 25 days calendar



For 24 day patchwork calendar

Alt.9: cut the pocket lining piece as calculated height x 18.5” wide.


For either 24 day calendar

Alt.11: cut batting as 3.25” tall x 18.5” wide or cotton flannel as 6.5” tall x 18.5” wide.


Alt.13: pocket panels should be 18.5” wide.


Alt.16: follow the steps for rows one, two, and three; row four should be left flat.

Reusable advent calendar

Who can believe it is already December 1st? As we start counting down the days to the holidays, I thought it would be fun to share a handmade project that helps to do exactly that!

Inspired by one of my favorite holiday traditions, I decided it would be great to make an advent calendar that can be reused from one year to the next.

NSB - reusable advent calendar header

When designing this calendar, I wanted to capture the essence of the classic window style advent calendar, choosing to feature individual fabrics for the days. In lieu of doors, I created small pockets, which can be filled with a variety of objects, like small gifts or treats.

After determining the size and shape of this advent calendar, I began pulling fabrics from my stash, picking out a few novelty prints, which all have a fun, retro quality, and then selecting coordinating prints and yarn-dyes from our store. My color palette ended up as classic red and green, which I updated slightly by adding a pale grey for the pockets and any framing for smaller cuts.

NSB - advent calendar window fabrics

Inspired by talented embroidery artists, like Yoko Saito, Rebecca Ringquist, and my coworkers Susan and Kitrina, I decided to embroider the numbers for each pocket. I began by finding a font I liked for the numbers (Desdemona), which I printed onto Sticky Fabri-Solvy™. To pick up the colors in my fabrics, I selected three hues each in red and green.

NSB - advent calendar embroidery supplies

I had fun experimenting with different stitches and let the shapes of the numbers inform some of my designs. For a bit more visual interest, I embroidered the even numbers in green and odd numbers in red, adding an occasional silver stitch for effect.

NSB - advent calendar pocket rows

I am particularly fond of the last row of numbers, because each number has some red and some green. Plus, 22 is a pair of candy canes and 24 is a little house, which were so fun to stitch out.

Though embroidering the numbers took some time, the rest of the construction was very simple. And I am so pleased with the result!

NSB - reusable advent calendar complete

While the calendar I made will house little treats and gifts, in keeping with the concept of reusability, I love the idea of filling each pocket with an ornament that can be added to the tree after retrieving from the calendar. Alternately, it would be very fun to track the days by moving a small holiday token forward each day.

If you like this calendar – and want to make one for yourself – stay tuned later this week for a tutorial on how to make one of your very own!

Interview with a store department: the quilt shop

In a similar vein to our interviews with Nancy’s employees, I have a fun new series planned for the NSB blog! Let’s get to know the store, one department at a time!

NSB - quilt shop header

Who are you?
Hello! I am the quilt shop at Nancy’s!

Where do you reside at Nancy’s Sewing Basket?
We recently rearranged a few sections of the store and now I live just inside the front doors, to the right of the stairs.

NSB - quilt shop angle view

It’s especially great because I get a lot of natural light through the big front window, so it is easy to color match. I love my new location!

NSB - quilt shop birds eye view

Do you have a special focus?
I specialize in fabrics that are appropriate for quilt making and craft projects. I house all the printed and solid cotton broadcloth, along with some cotton/linen blends that are suitable for quilting. If you are looking for fun, bright prints, this is likely where you will find them!

NSB - quilt shop low view

I also house the quilt batting-by-the-yard. We have a lovely selection in a variety of qualities: light and lofty polyester batting, heirloom quality washable wool batting, classic cotton batting, and a nice cotton/rayon from bamboo blend that has an exquisite drape.

What is your most recently received product?
We just got in a fabulous set of Halloween themed prints, that I adore. One of the prints is actually designed as bunting, featuring a few different motifs, so it’s a fun and fast-to-complete project!

NSB - Halloween bunting

The collection also includes a large panel print that I think will make an awesome wall hanging or banner to display for Halloween! I love the historical costuming aspect, in addition to the wordplay. It is ‘sew scary’!

NSB - Halloween panel print

Do you have a current favorite product?
Nancy’s recently started carrying a fabulous new line of prints called Cotton + Steel, which are incredibly charming and come on a variety of base cloths. While the majority of the prints are on cotton broadcloth, C+S also makes lovely cotton lawn, cool linen/cotton canvas, sumptuous cotton double gauze, and smooth rayon challis. We’ve received two shipments so far and I love every single print.

NSB - C+S prints

Any favorite projects you’ve seen made from your wares?
One of my favorite projects is something called a “me doll”. The local schools make them every year, meaning we get a rush of enthusiastic younger students who come in looking for fabrics that represent them, which they usually find among the cotton prints. I’ve never actually seen a finished doll, but I imagine them to be perfect and adorable.

Thanks, quilt shop! Any questions about what is available in this department? Let us know in the comments below!

New classes starting soon! Introduction to Modern Quilting

I am really excited to make this announcement! Nancy’s is introducing a new series of classes, to be taught by yours truly: an introduction to modern quilting.

NSB - IMQ header

This class series will cover the basics of quilt making, focusing on the construction of several basic quilt blocks, all with a modern bent. In each section, we will cover the following:

  • basic quilt math
  • piecing and trimming quilt blocks
  • assembling a quilt top
  • quilting on a sewing machine
  • plus! we will go over how to sew the quilted blocks into a throw pillow cover, including installation of an invisible zipper

Each three-week section will concentrate on a single, foundational style of quilt block, how to make it, and it’s versatility. It is amazing to see just how far one block will take you!

First up: the ever classic nine patch! Arguably the most foundational quilt block style, the nine patch utilizes techniques that are used for making everything from the smallest to the largest quilt.

NSB - IMQ 9P pillow

A throw pillow in a classic nine patch, made with five smaller nine patch blocks. It’s like Inception, made from patchwork.

The second section of classes will focus on the half-square triangle. This is one of my very favorite blocks for its cool, graphic style, plus it can be arranged in a million ways for very different effects. Well, maybe not a literal million 😉

NSB - IMQ HST pillow

The versatile half-square triangle can be rotated to create a variety of patterns.

The third block we will explore is the log cabin. Another personal favorite, this block is versatile and provides techniques that are helpful for larger quilt assembly.

NSB - IMQ Log Cabin pillow

These log cabins have been arranged in the ‘fields and furrows’ style.

These classes will take place at Nancy’s Sewing Basket. Each section is $75 and includes all materials needed to create a black and white quilted pillow cover. As with our other sewing classes, we have sewing machines and a tool kit for students use.

Our first section of classes, the nine patch, will take place on Thursdays 8/13, 8/20, and 8/27 from 6:00 to 8:00pm.

Additional details, and our full class schedule through the end of 2015, can be found here.

Any questions? Let us know in the comments below!

Color-wheel quilt

Hello! Jessica here. Today I am thrilled to share with you a recent quilting project! (You may even remember that I mentioned this quilt in my interview!)

NSB - color-wheel quilt header

Using the pattern from Joelle Hoverson’s book Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts, I made a color-wheel quilt featuring Kona cotton solids from Robert Kaufman.

NSB - JH last minute patchwork book cover

The original design uses printed cottons to create beautiful color movement with lots of visual texture.

NSB - JH color-wheel quilt in book

I love the way this looks, but decided I wanted to try it out with solid colors. We carry the Kona cotton line at Nancy’s, offering a decent selection of the 303 colors (!) that Robert Kaufman makes. I planned to make this color-wheel using clear, saturated colors.

Because the color-wheel is comprised of 52 wedges, I set to work choosing all my colors, beginning with some of my favorites hues and filling in where necessary. In the book, Hoverson recommends creating quadrants of 13 colors for ease in planning, which was incredibly helpful. I made a color inventory to keep track of exactly what colors I would use and where I wanted them to sit in the wheel.

NSB - color-wheel quilt color inventory

I wish I’d taken a photo of my selection process, but I actually started by pulling out and lining up the full bolts of Kona, just to ensure I had the best colors. When I couldn’t find exactly the right transition color in stock, I checked against the Kona color card and made a note of what we should order in for the store.

The color inventory came in very handy when it was time to cut my fabrics and again later when I was assembling my quilt top.

NSB - color-wheel stack of fabrics

This pattern was very fun and easy to construct. The recommended quilting (straight quilting radiating from the center, using the color wedges as guides) is fairly simple and has an incredible effect. I used washable wool batting for this quilt, which has a gorgeous loft.

In addition to using solid colors rather than prints, I did one other major thing different from the book: where Hoverson calls for white fabric for the background, binding, and backing, I decided to use a very pale solid grey (Kona color Ash). I opted for this pale neutral largely because it reminds me of the Seattle sky, but also because I wanted the transition from ground to color-wheel to be less stark. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

NSB - color-wheel quilt complete

One thing I love about finishing a quilt and taking photographs is that you really get to see how the fabrics play with one another. I absolutely love that the lightest colors in my color-wheel look like they are shimmering.

This color-wheel quilt was super fun from start to finish. I love the versatility in how it can be made up: altering the fabric palette from prints to solids (or doing a mix of both), selecting a narrow color palette (e.g. using a two hue palette rather than a full rainbow), changing out the background color, and much more. I have had a lot of fun looking at the other color-wheel quilts that have been made using this pattern! Here are a few of my favorites:

Kelly of Purple Workbench made the color-wheel quilt as a wedding gift for her brother and sister-in-law, using their wedding palette as the color guide. Her fabric choices in teal, silver, and lime green are perfection! I also love how she quilted it using concentric circles for the wheel and added their initials and wedding date to the center.

Kristen at All Snug as a Bug changed the color of her background from white to black with awesome results. I love how it changes the effect!

Holly of Stitch Craft made one for her son, limiting her color palette to blues and greens. The effect is really lovely and very chic. She also made a matching curtain using her left-over fabric!

Dani of Knit, Stitch, Click! followed the pattern of the book quite closely, but added borders to make it fit a queen size bed! I love that she quilted the color-wheel as shown in the book, but changed the quilting in the added borders to create a kind of frame.

Tamara Kate, a talented fabric designer, used the pattern to create a modern holiday ‘wreath’ featuring her print lines Festive Forest and Festive Nest. She says it will be hung on a blank wall in her home every holiday season for additional color and warmth! Such a clever idea! I also love how she quilted this, leaving the center open, like a wreath.

Thanks for joining me today! Have a question? Let me know in the comments below!

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Jessica

Today we are introducing a new series, wherein you get to know a staff member at Nancy’s Sewing Basket! Though these posts will be interspersed with other content, we will follow the same format for each ‘get to know’. As your main NSB blogger I’d like to go first 🙂

NSB - jessica headerWho are you?
Hi! My name is Jessica. You may recognize me from my post on the E.S.P. Dress!

How long have you worked at Nancy’s?
I have worked at Nancy’s for a collective 5 years. I started here when I was a junior in college, left about two years after graduating, and returned in 2014.

How long have you been sewing?
I officially learned to sew a little over 18 years ago!

Do you have a special focus?
At present I mostly make modern quilts, but will always have a special place in my heart for making clothes.

What was your first sewing project?
My first sewing project was a pair of pinstriped pants. I was 11 and had desperately wanted a pair for what felt like ages. When I couldn’t find any in the ready-to-wear market, my mother suggested teaching me to make my own pair. It was pretty advanced for a first sewing project, but I learned a lot and took to sewing fairly intuitively.

What is your most recently completed project?
In my quilting, I completed a queen size quilt for some friends that recently bought a house.

NSB - jessica most recent quilt

In garment construction, I most recently completed a blouse and skirt using patterns from Decades of Style.

NSB - jessica most recent clothes

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
My most memorable sewing project is probably the costume I made for my high school mascot when I was 16. It was not as popular as I had hoped, but I loved how it turned out and was so proud of it. Sadly, I do not have a picture to share!

My most favorite clothing project was making my sister’s wedding dress and skirts for the seven bridal attendants.

NSB - Jessica favorite garment project

I think my most favorite quilting project to date is the modified log cabin quilt I made from plaid and solid wools.

NSB - jessica favorite quilt project

What project is next?
Right now, I am working on a dress and accessories for a 1920s Great Gatsby themed party, which are going to be awesome. [edit: Check out our blog series about this costume here!]
I am also making a modern color-wheel quilt using the fabulous Kona cotton solids we carry at Nancy’s! [edit: See the finished color-wheel quilt here!]

What do you love most about Nancy’s?
I love so much about Nancy’s: the creativity that flows through the store is incredibly inspiring. Working with individual customers on finding just the right fabric, ribbon, or button is always a fun exercise, especially when the results are better than anticipated! There is a lot of opportunity to share my own expertise and even more opportunity to learn from my coworkers! Nancy’s is so special to me because I work with some of the most wonderfully talented and supportive individuals I’ve ever known.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the inaugural ‘get to know’! Any questions for Jessica? Leave them in the comments!

Photographs in this post are courtesy of Nancy’s Sewing Basket employee Jessica, except photograph of bridal party, which is copyright Stadler Studio Photography.