Quilting Tutorial: Cathedral Windows Part 1 – Preparing the Background Squares

I’ve long admired the Cathedral Windows quilting technique and was determined to learn how to do it. Well, at last, I’ve done it and I loved the result so much that I’m eager to share the technique here with you. If this is something you haven’t tried yet, I definitely recommend you do. It’s one of those techniques that appears really hard to do but, once you get to grips with it, it’s really not as difficult as it looks. Yes, it is time-consuming but it’s so rewarding.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial Part 1

Sneak peek of a Cathedral Windows panel I’ve made.

I used a cream background fabric with scraps of Liberty prints for the windows, which I just knew would make for a stunning effect (if I could complete it anyway!!). As you can see above, I did complete it and loved every minute of making it. So on with how to do it. There’s a lot of pictures but I felt this technique warrants lots of how-to images.


Cathedral Windows Tutorial 1These are the Liberty fabric scraps and plain background fabric I used, along with some prepared squares I did earlier.

To prepare the fabric squares: cut the plain fabric into accurate squares measuring, 10” x 10”. Then cut a piece of thick paper, measuring 9” x 9” – this will be used as a guide, see below, to fold over the raw edges by 1/2”.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 2Place the paper template onto the wrong side of a fabric square, leaving equal 1/2” gaps at all the edges. Fold over and press each edge of the fabric as shown.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 2Remove the paper template and fold the square in half, matching up the folded edges, press. Open up and fold in half again, the other way, press. Open back out.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 4Fold one of the corners to the centre point, press.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 5Fold the remaining corners into the centre and press. Try to do this as neatly and accurately as possible, ensuring that the folds butt up to each other and don’t overlap. Take your time, you’ll get quicker with a bit of practice.

SAMSUNG CSCRepeat the folding process, folding one corner to the centre point and pressing.

 Cathedral Windows Tutorial 7

Fold and press the remaining corners to the centre point, press. Pin through the layers to hold securely. Fold and press more squares in the same way.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 8Place two of the squares side by side and unpin the flaps next to each other. Pin them together.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 9Sew the flaps, along the crease marks, ensuring they’re aligned neatly.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 10Open back out and unpin the sewn together flaps. Stitch another square onto the panel, in the same manner. Add more squares if you want the row to be longer.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 11Press the sewn together flaps flat again. Make more rows of squares in the same manner.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 12To make bigger panels, join two rows of squares together: place side by side, unpin the adjacent flaps and pin together.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 13Ensuring they are aligned, stitch along the crease mark of the pinned together flaps.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 14Unpin the sewn together flaps and press them flat again. Add more rows together in the same way, if you want bigger panels.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 15Hand-stitch together, all four points at the centre of a square, so they stay securely joined at the points only. Repeat with every square. Do the stitches small and as neat as possible. Once you stitched the points together, you can remove all the pins from the panels.

That’s the background panels now completed. I just made one small panel with three squares joined together and another panel with six squares joined together. You can make your panels as big as you want. I just wanted to start off small whilst learning this new technique.

See the next post CATHEDRAL WINDOWS PART 2 for how to add the prints and make the windows.

Sewing Tutorial – Using the Automatic Button Hole Facility on a Sewing Machine

Here’s a little tutorial on how to use the automatic button hole facility on your sewing machine. With a little bit of practice, it’s fairly easy and even quite fun! Practice the steps below on scraps of fabric, before doing the real thing. Please note that your specific sewing machine might do button holes slightly differently, always check your manual first if required.

Button hole tutorial 2Mark the button placement with chalk or air-erasable fabric marker – place the button at required position, mark small horizontal lines at the top and bottom of button, move button out of way and join up the marks with a vertical line down the middle.

button hole tutorial 1Place the button into the holder of the button hole foot – push the side tabs together to hold button in place.

button hole tutorial 3Remove the current foot that’s on your sewing machine (press the small button at back of foot, the foot will just fall off)  and replace with the button hole foot (most have the universal bar that you clip the presser onto by lowering the presser lever). Consult your sewing machine manual on changing presser feet if required. Take the thread through, under and out to the side of the foot as shown above.

button hole tutorial 4Pull the button lever down (it hides up in the machine workings and should be to the back left of the presser bar). When you pull it down it will more than likely end up sitting behind the back tab of the presser foot, as shown above. THIS IS NOT THE CORRECT POSITION, SEE NEXT IMAGE.

button hole tutorial 5You need to ensure you move the button lever to sit in front of the back tab of the presser foot, so that it’s now sitting in between both the sticking out tabs, as shown above. These tabs (and the lever stopping against them) are what makes the stitches go down one side of button hole and then back up the other side, so that’s why the position of the button lever is vital.

button hole tutorial 6Change the settings on your sewing machine to the button hole settings (consult your manual if need be). Place the fabric under the foot and line up the needle with the BACK horizontal bar that you marked on the fabric. Lower the presser foot lever and begin sewing. Gently hold the fabric so that it doesn’t go off-skew but don’t stop it being pulled back and forward by the machine. You should get an indication of when it’s finished stitching as it will probably slow down (or stop) the stitching at the last horizontal bar.

button hole tutorial 7When you stop stitching and pull up the presser foot lever, the button hole lever will spring back (ready to sew the next button hole). Gently pull the fabric away and out. Above is what you should end up with, whoo hooo! Honestly, the first few times you do this, that’s how you’ll probably feel, it’s so cool! (My kids would probably say I’m so ‘uncool’ for saying that!) Anyways, trim the loose threads off.

button hole tutorial 8You can use a sharp pair of scissors to open up the button hole, being very careful not to cut through any of the threads. I find it easiest to use a seam ripper. Place a pin through the fabric at the top horizontal bar of the stitching (to stop the seam ripper running away from you and ripping through those stitches, yep, I’ve done that!)

button hole tutorial 9Yay! One button hole!

button hole tutorial 10Check that the button fits through it, another good reason for doing a practice button hole before attempting the real thing.

Hope you find this useful. I think the thing that baffled me most when I first attempted sewing button holes, was the position of the button hole lever. It took me ages to work out that you need to place it in between the tabs. I’d assumed that because it pulled down to rest behind the back one, that must be the correct position. Once I’d worked out that little technicality, button holes became a breeze.

If you’d like to see how to use your sewing machine to sew on the actual buttons too, check out my next post.

If you hate hand sewing buttons into place, you’ll love using the machine for it. So quick and easy!

Adding Shape and Depth to Bags

I like to add shape and fullness to some of my bags without having to add any gussets (side inserts to add depth). There’s a couple of different methods that I favour.

The first is by adding inverted box pleats along the top edges of the bag before adding a top band. This is where you make two folds in the fabric, facing toward each other, any distance apart.

After folding the fabric over at the desired positions, I press the first few inches of the fold, so that once stitched in place the pleat is sharp at first, then the rest of the fabric has a soft fold which gradually disappears further down. Once pinned in place, I baste (temporary stitch) across the top of the fold within my project’s seam allowance.

Two folds, facing toward each other to form an inverted box pleat.

Tote bag with pleats added for shape and depth.

On some of my bags I do the inverted box pleat with the two equal folds of fabric close together, so that they meet in the middle. This gives an altogether different look.

Tote bag with inverted box pleat.

The next method I like to use is adding darts to projects, which will add body and depth. Here I have added darts to the bottom corners of a clutch, so that it now has some fullness rather than just being flat and, along with the curved edges, it looks really elegantly shaped. On a pattern, a dart will be indicated with a triangle. The dotted lines being where the fabric is to be lined up and stitched together.

Darts to give purse depth and an elegant shape.

Depth and shape added to clutch with darts.

Another method I use is the ‘sugar bag base’. You stitch down the side, along bottom and up other side of the bag front and back panels. Then you flatten the corners the other way so that the side and bottom seams align. Measure across the corner to desired base width, draw a line and stitch. Trim off excess fabric from corner, repeat with other corner and there you have it, a bag with a base!

Retro Style Handbag with Sugar Bag Base