Simplify with plastic?

Templates.  They can make cutting faster, easier and more accurate.  That leads to better, more accurate piecing… which usually makes for better results.


Do you use templates?  Since I learned to quilt when folks were still using templates cut from cardboard and I was enchanted with this amazing new tool called a rotary cutter… I wasn’t a big fan.

Then came Marti Michell’s Perfect Patchwork Templates.  I used them and really liked them but for a number of reasons, I didn’t use them very often.  (But I still have a huge stash of them… just in case.  Be prepared, right?)

But there’s no question, templates make so many things easier to cut and piece.  There are also blocks that are significantly more difficult to make without using templates.

And they’re fun.

So here are a couple of the templates and patterns that have found their way into the cupboard in my office since Market.  (And okay, a few might have magically appeared on my cutting table at home… just saying.)

First up is the Double-Wide Dresden Ruler from Barbara Groves and Mary Jacobson – the sisters of Me & My Sister Designs.

ct-double-wide-templateThe sisters have designed four patterns so far with more on the way.  The first four are Boxy Rectangle, Beachball, Dragonfly, and Double-Wide Dresden.ct-mms-double-wide

Pretty cute, don’t you think?

These Impressions Orange Peel Templates from It’s Sew Emma haven’t arrived in the warehouse yet but I’m anxiously – impatiently – waiting for them.  I love Orange Peel quilts and playing with testing these new templates will be a perfect opportunity to make something.


There are four wonderful not-your-Grandmother’s-Orange-Peel designs – Round Robin, Grapevine, Goldie ~ picture fishies – and Jewel.  The quilts are all shown in our Bella Solids so they’re wonderfully colorful and very contemporary.


I’ll let you know when they arrive.

This template is here now – Olio.  That means “a dish made with many ingredients”, making it a good name for a really scrappy quilt made with a stack of charm squares.  A big stack of them… almost 500.


This quilt was made with Pumpkin Pie by Laundry Basket Quilts, Collections for a Cause ~ Preservation by Howard Marcus, Courtyard by 3 Sisters, Gratitude by Jo Morton, Madame Rouge and Ville Fleurie by French General, Fern Hill by Jan Patek and Little Gatherings II by Primitive Gatherings.

Olio comes with the template included – or you can get just the template.  The piecing is surprisingly easy – it will take longer to pull and cut the fabrics that sew the quilt together!

One of my goals for 2017 is to take A Wild Ride with Jen Kingwell.


(Oops about that glare on the left side.)

After receiving many requests for acrylic templates to accompany her patterns, Jen has begun producing laser-cut acrylic templates to accompany her wonderful patterns.  Many of the quilts on my “bucket list” are included – Halo, Glitter, Clambake – a pillow – and Steam Punk – this one has been on my list for a long time.

Of course, Jen had to add a couple of new quilts to my list.  Delilah – a Block of the Month that will start in 2017.  These are a few of the blocks.


I know what you’re thinking, “…that’s hand-piecing.  Do you think she’s noticed that?”

I have.  This one is hand-pieced too – Florence.


Florence was designed and made by Lucy Carson Kingwell, Jen’s lovely, talented daughter.


I’ll let you know if the blocks can be machine-pieced.

A couple of things to mention about using templates – just in case you’ve not taken the plunge.  While many templates now include a 1/4″ seam allowance, not all do.  Always check before you start cutting.

Cutting.  For bigger templates that have just straight edges, I use my regular 45mm rotary cutter.  (My favorite is the Olfa Quick-Change Cutter.)  But for smaller pieces and/or curves, I prefer the 28mm size – the Olfa 28mm Cutter or the Fiskars 28mm Stick.  A few friends like the 18mm but I find it’s a bit too small, especially if I’m cutting multiple layers.  But that’s just me.

A spinning rotary mat is also very, very handy and it comes in two sizes – 12″ and 17″ – and there are several manufacturers – Olfa, Fiskars and Matilda.  I use the 12″ Olfa Spinning mat.

And finally, putting something on the back of the template to reduce slipping will save your fabric, your fingers and maybe your good humor.  There are several different products available including sandpaper dots and Invisi Grip.  There are other options but I’ve found that using something makes a difference for me.

So what do you think?  Do you use templates?

Happy Thursday!




Jump to Leave us a Comment

35 thoughts on “Simplify with plastic?

    1. Tried them?!? I have them all! I’m officially a Bloc-Loc Hoarder! 🙂

      I didn’t include them for this as they’re for trimming rather than the initial cutting and piecing.

  1. I also own a collection of Marti Michell templates that I used years ago to make a block of the month quilt. I own and love the Tri-Rec and (small) Dresden plate templates but the extra wide Dresden and Jen Kingwell’s templates look mighty tempting! (My New Year’s resolution is to finish my UFOs — you’re not helping!!) Happy Holidays!

  2. These are lovely samples. I may be ready to try the appealing orange peel quilt…(pun intended).

    I have a plethora of template and store many of them in clear 10″X7.8″ binder pouch (found with the school supplies in many stores) with the pattern.

  3. I use some templates but always find it difficult to keep them from slipping – thanks for mentioning the products available for that. As I have always loved hand piecing I find the templates really helpful – I’m sure those that never want to hand piece could care less – some of the templates you can use to make freezer paper templates and do EPP with them. I look forward to seeing if the quilters in the US will ever slow down and start to relax with their piecing and make more with hand piecing as the Australians do – a lot of hand work comes from there and they make beautiful quilts – American quilters need to learn to relax and take it slow and enjoy the process without the noise of sewing machines going.

  4. I got the Sew Emma orange peel Mylar templates in yesterday’s mail. Guess what I’ll be doing in my free time next week

  5. Must. Make. Olio. What a fantastic pattern! I cannot wait to get started on that project. I love templates. I really enjoyed using them to make Steam Punk, and have toyed with an Orange Peel template. Dresdens are lovely to make and I look forward to the double wide version. Flowering Snowball, Crumbler, and Winding Ways are some quilts for which I have loved using templates. Again, just thrilled to see this new pattern of yours!

  6. Ok stop!! You are teasing me with too many templates and gorgeous quilts! I had Olio at the top because I have so many scraps, but now you are making me rethink!~ not a good thing! I need to stick to plans. LOL Merry Christmas!

  7. When I first started quilting, I did not understand all templates and rulers and plastic squares! I thought it was ridiculous. Now I hoard them and I’ll buy one just for a pattern. I love the Jen Kingwell ones. I see a huge difference in my results when I use an acrylic template versus one that I made.

    1. Me too! The templates make a huge difference and I actually like the fussy-cutting part of it. 🙂

  8. I confess I don’t use or buy templates very often because they are mostly quite expensive and if there’s only one pattern I can make with them I just don’t wanna spend my money on it, sorry.It’s something else when I can see myself using the templates for several quilts then I’m more then happy to have it:-)

  9. There was at one time woodworker in Nebraska that made large wooden “holders” for the medium large self-healing mats. They have a lip all the way around the top so the mat stays put and he put a lazy susan turntable underneath. I love, love, love mine! I tried googling him but last time I saw him at a Nebraska quilt function, he was “elderly?” so maybe he doesn’t do these anymore. The only drawback is that the rectangle shape means I have to clear the surrounding stuff from my table before I can use the rotation part of the whole thing!

  10. Yes, I use templates when I want accurate piecing for more difficult blocks. Just finished a UFO from 1996 called Jack’s Chain. The table runner is long enough to be a bed runner. Busy hand binding it and remembering all I learned while I used my templates. Thank you for your helpful post full of useful tips; using a smaller rotary cutter and a mat that turns. Merry Christmas! Hugs, Allison C. Bayer in Plano, Texas

  11. Will Moda be carrying all of Jen Kingwells patterns.? Love her patterns & fabric !! Was going to order two of her newest patterns but shipping from Austrailia was $25 — yikes! couldn’t do it. If my quilt shop could order it from Moda that would be wonderful.

    1. Hi Leslie – That’s the plan! Many are “on order” and haven’t arrived in the warehouse yet but if Jen has the template, United Notions is going to stock it. 🙂

      1. I have the templates from Steampunk & Glitter. Love them! Was also hoping that Moda would carry Jenny from One Block & Long Time Gone. Im signed up to The Delilah BOM. Love the Aussie designers & think they nare becoming more popular in the states. Hope Moda will eventually Carry more of their stuff! Happy Holidays

    1. Hi Barbara, my name is Carrie. Olio is entirely pieced by machine – and without any y-seams. It’s as easy to piece as if the pieces were squares instead of diamonds. 🙂

      1. Carrie, Awesome. On my list for 2017! I met you at the red and white qiuilt show in NYC years ago!

  12. I use templates a lot! I own just about all the Marti Mitchel ones and use them quiet often ( a lot) actually… I started to collect Jen’s and very excited about Delilah.

  13. Absolutely! Templates, whether acrylic or handmade from template plastic, are essential to me. Templates open the door to so many wonderfully interesting shapes and designs. Life would be boring without them!

  14. Templates are good! But my organizational skills for storing templates and the patterns and/or books that go with them (and also for storing rulers) are not good. Improvement is called for!

  15. I have been known to take a pattern shape to my local plastics fabricator for the construction of my very own template. So much easier than dealing with a paper shape!

  16. Love my templates. I still have some sets that a friend had CAD drawn and laser cut back from back in the mid 1990’s. Great to use when cutting scrap quilts. I have raided my stash of templates when I need to and am very happy to own them. A second rotating mat is under the tree to prevent having to cut fabric on one floor and haul it up stairs to sew.

  17. What a treat to find the orange peel templates in the Fat Quarter Shop Sew Sampler box that arrived at my home this afternoon.

  18. I love templates. I always put InvisiGrip on the back of them and also on all my rulers. It is fantastic stuff.

  19. I’m trying to resist the urge to become a template hoarder—I have a basic set of square & rectangular rulers, a Twister ruler, and a tri-recs set. I routinely ask myself if my hobby is about actually sewing/making, or is it about hoarding tools and fabrics.

  20. I luuuurve templates, Carrie and have been designing and making them for about 12 years! I’ve converted all my friends and most of my students. They’re so accurate and efficient – can be hand drawn or rotary cut, easy to see through for fussy cutting and just a joy to use. Enjoy using yours!

  21. Hi Carrie – I love Olio and plan on making it this year. I love all of your patterns and their great names and have made several over the years. Would you happen to know the name of the pattern used to quilt Olio with? It suits it perfectly.

  22. for piecing, I copy my templates onto and then cut them out of milk jugs. Theryre sturdy, basically free so i can make a lot of them, you can punch a hole in them and theyre transparent enough for “fussy” sewing.

  23. I was hoping to stock the Delilah templates in my shop but I don’t see them on the Moda website. Will you be adding them? I’ve seen several sites taking pre orders for the start in March, so I’m assuming they’re getting them somewhere 🙂

Comments are closed.