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Is it wrong to LOVE a sewing machine?

In this update on What’s Good for the Gal is Good for the Guy quilt challenge, my heart is all aflutter as I think how easy the embroidery element of this quilt is, thanks to the Designer Ruby Royale. Is it wrong to LOVE a sewing machine?

As I’m typing this, the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale is busy working on the challenge quilt and I’m as nervous as the mother of a new born child!

Well you’ll see by the end of the post what’s happening. Sort of. I don’t want to divulge too much information – I know Carla is dying to see the quilt but I’m going to make her wait until it’s absolutely complete. I’m so excited.

You know how there was a blog blooper yesterday – well let’s just say that I want NO blog bloopers today. This is serious business and there’s NO extra fabric to mess around with.

Quick tutorial on borders

Sewing a border on a quilt can be a tricky thing. I’ve seen people measure out the border length and then add an inch in case they’ve made a mistake! Some just sew on the border and hope for the best. I’ve had to cut out inches of excess fabric in a border that someone else assembled. It isn’t fun.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to properly put on the border. You want that border to be flat, you want the two sides to be equal and you want the top and bottom to be equal to each other. Corners should be 90 degrees. Are you ready?

STOP THE PRESSES – I just heard the Designer Ruby Royale’s beautiful song alerting me that my embroidery is FINISHED! I’m afraid to look.

We’ll look in a minute – let’s get back to the tutorial.

I cut my borders from selvedge to selvedge. I don’t think it makes a huge difference to cut them parallel to the selvedge and it takes a lot more fabric. However if you don’t want seams in the borders, then you’ve no choice but to cut parallel to the selvedge.

Unless the border is wider than 6 1/2″ (my standard border size), I join the border strips on the diagonal. And don’t throw those cut off triangles away. Nope – I use them to make hour glass blocks. And soon I’ll have a scrappy hour glass block quilt. 

Hourglass blocks made from cutoffs from diagonal seams on borders. Left one needs to be trimmed


In the photo below, you can see that I have NOT cut off the selvedges. By overlapping the strips this way, it is much easier to see where the intersection of the two fabric pieces is and that is where I start and end my seam.

The two border strips are joined on the diagonal. Note the pencil line from the two intersections. Pinned for stability.


Trim the seam to 1/4″ seam allowance and OH – there go the selvedges! Don’t need them any more.


Press that seam to one side and you can cut off that dog ear if you like.


Next up – measure the quilt through the center. I like to put the longest border on first. I don’t bother taking averages, but you can if you want. That just takes too much time!

Cut two pieces that are the same length as that measurement from the center of the quilt. I use a tape measure, a small cutting mat, ruler and rotary cutter to make this an easy process. It also helps if you have a table that you can lay that strip on to get a more accurate measurement.

Make sure you carefully move the measuring tape out of the way before you cut!

Measuring the length of the border strips.


Now you’re going to find the center of that border strip and the center of one side of the quilt. Pin at both ends and in the center.

One end of the border pinned (note the way the pin is placed – with the head sticking OUT)


The other end of the border is pinned


The center is pinned (I moved my pin slightly so you could see my pinch press to mark the center).


Pins in the rest of the border


I am not a pinner. It takes up too much time (I use a quilter’s awl instead), the pins get on the floor, you can’t find the pin cushion – you know how that is. BUT I do pin borders on. I want my borders to lie flat and you cannot achieve this by just sewing the strips to the side of the quilt.

When you’re pinning the border, you’ll likely have to ease the border on one side of the quilt and then have to ease the quilt on the other side. Sometimes, I have to ease the top half of the border and then ease the bottom half of the quilt. That’s why we “force” the quilt to be the same length by adding those two borders strips that are cut the same length. Makes sense right?

Bottom line – pin the borders. If you get your quilts quilted by a long-arm quilter, they’ll love you and they can tell if you pinned those borders or not.

Quilter’s awl


Something else to ponder: Remember how I positioned those pins with the head sticking out? Well look at what happens when I start to sew.

Protruding pins are easy to remove (I am right handed)


Sometimes I even use my quilter’s awl to wick those pins out of the fabric so I don’t sew over them.


I love using the Quilter’s 1/4″ Piecing foot P for getting a nice 1/4″ seam. Notice that I shifted my fabric just slightly to the left of the edge of the foot. That allows me to get the scant 1/4″.

Let’s do some applique

Now that I have borders on one section of the quilt, it’s time to get the applique done before I get everything sewn together. I changed to the Open Toe Applique foot so I could see exactly where I was going. This is especially handy if you have tight spots to get into and going around corners.

Applique using the satin stitch


Notice how my needle is in the background fabric on the extreme right of the stitch. Technically, my needle could have been one stitch closer to the applique fabric but let that be our secret!

You want 99 percent of the applique stitch to sit on the applique piece. The needle just skims into the background on the right hand side to ensure that the outer edge of the applique piece is covered.

Rip rip rip

I do aim for accuracy in my piecing and I find that using the quilter’s awl instead of pins makes a big difference. It does take a bit of time to get used to it!

I’m careful with my cutting, pressing and the scant 1/4″ seam allowance. But sometimes – well those darn seams don’t match up. Now I know – you’re thinking that this seam isn’t so bad, but because of it’s position and coloring in the quilt – this was a big deal. So I ripped it out. Just one inch on either side of the intersection.

A not so nice seam intersection


Much better seam intersection


There was one last section that was haunting me. I struggled with this small but critical section of the quilt. It has been on the design wall and I have stared at it for days. I cut pieces for it – first they were not big enough, then they were too big. Then I sewed them together and I still wasn’t happy.

My daughter (about the same age as the recipient) came into the studio and she said NO – you can’t leave it like that. Drat! That’s what I was afraid of. So that means I have to get the stitch ripper out and replace a couple of pieces. Thankfully they are small and I won’t be wasting any fabric.

But just when I thought I was almost done!

I have to confess that I’m not a big planner. I find it difficult to follow the instructions in a pattern, I find it hard to write things out so others can follow. But if you gave me fabric and said – make something. Oh yes – but it has to ‘come to me’ as I work. I’ll rarely plan something out completely before I start. I like to dive in and see where the project takes me. That’s what happened in this challenge.

Hold your breath!

I have been watching Jennifer’s design (for the guy) with interest. (By the way Jennifer…thanks for letting me have the ‘Gal’.) If you haven’t checked out what Jen is creating – you should! Our designs are so different, but then our recipients are very different people.

I have been focused on the machine embroidery this week and my intention, almost from day one of this assignment, was to incorporate some embroidery into the design.

So – I figured out what I was embroidering. I so want to tell you, but it won’t make sense until you see the entire design. Let me just say that I put words on the quilt. Yes – I hooped the quilt top (held my breath) and hit start!

As you could tell earlier in this post – the embroidery is done. And the results…………….

I can’t tell you. Not yet. But let’s just say that I have a huge smile on my face. No – I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat. The embroidery turned out exactly how I imagined it. I’m thrilled. I’m doing the happy dance! I think you get the picture.

And thank goodness for the Royal hoop (360 mm by 200 mm) because I was able to do all the embroidery with one hooping. I was worried, because I’m not the best at hooping fabric especially if I have to line it up, but one hoop was all I needed! I feel like I cheated a bit because my design is quite basic, but there are a number of subtleties within it that I think are very special. I hope the recipient feels the same way.

I even have my Dad hunting down something for the quilt and he lives in Saskatchewan. Patience – all will be revealed in due time.

Getting ready to do machine embroidery on the quilt top


That’s all you’re going to get from me on the challenge this week. All will be revealed next month. I still have to quilt the quilt… well first I must replace those unruly parts!

Tomorrow, I’ll be showing you what you can do with the built-in stitches and the embroidery unit. I have a project that you can make. Don`t worry – it can be modified if you don`t have an embroidery machine.

Working with the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale has made all these embroidery projects a snap. Like I said – I don’t do a lot of embroidery, but I had no problems figuring out what needed to be done and where. And I want to find something else that needs to be embroidered.

What can I say – the Designer Ruby Royale has made me look like a real professional and I didn’t really have to do much! Is it wrong to LOVE a sewing machine?

Have a great day!


Elaine Theriault is a teacher, writer and pattern designer who is completely obsessed with quilting. She is a teaching specialist at Northcott and loves going to work in a warehouse full of fabric. Elaine’s Tech Tips column (originally published in A Needle Pulling Thread magazine) is now available online in e-book format at When not quilting, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Lexi and Murphy, or can be found cycling across the country. Her blog is


  1. Kathy E.

    Oh, you are such a tease! I am dying to see what you embroidered! I have a Ruby also, but not the Royale and I just love her. My husband brought Ruby home the day I “retired” from my teaching job and I have found a whole new side of sewing….embroidery and applique! It’s so much fun and such a great outlet for creating unique pieces. I’m glad you’re loving yours too!

    • Kathy – oh I love to tease! So glad to hear that you love your Ruby and what a nice retirement gift, although you are probably way busier than when you were officially working! Send us a photo of two of a project you have created on the Ruby – I’d love to see it. Elaine (thanks for following QUILTSocial)

  2. Cindy B.

    Wonderful instructions! Thanks!

    • Cindy – thanks so much for the feedback. Don’t forget to send us a picture of your project so we can post it! Elaine (thanks for following QUILTSocial)

  3. judy rager

    I love my bernina ,it don’t get any better than that.

    • Hi Judy. Happy sewing! Elaine (thanks for following QUILTSocial!)

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