Birthstone Quilt Sew Along,  Quilting

June Birthstone Block: Gemstone Quilt Sew Along

The June Birthstone Block by MJ Kinman is the first block I’m making to create an entire Birthstone quilt. Here is the process I followed to piece the block, following the expert instructions from MJ in her pattern.

I worked from the June Birthstone Gem kit, which includes the pattern, fabrics by Paintbrush Studio and Sulky rayon threads. Yes, MJ uses rayon thread for quilting! And she switches colors for each facet to not compete with the hues or color value. It’s an amazing process that really leaves you with a work of art.

I have the complete thread collection, as I plan to make each Birthstone block. Plus, I love a slimline storage box that keeps everything tidy! Also available is a Mega kit, including supplies and patterns for all 12 blocks.

If you’re unfamiliar with MJ Kinman or her process for creating these gemstone quilt blocks, everything is explained in her Sulky webinar. In the webinar, she also teaches how to do her Wild-Motion Quilting technique, which I can’t wait to try once I have all the blocks done!

Pattern Approach

When I opened the pattern, I was a bit overwhelmed. There are a lot of numbers, markings and nothing makes sense until you read the directions. MJ is also very positive and encouraging with her instructions, so I knew I could do it despite my initial apprehension.

I began by cutting out the pattern pieces. Keep in mind that seam allowances are NOT included here. Definitely read all the instructions before beginning, because I got ahead of myself and had to reposition some of my freezer-paper templates to accommodate for seam allowances, which was time lost.

June Birthstone Block

Use a rotary cutter for this. It is really essential, though MJ says you could also use scissors. My rotary cutter is a cutie from Olfa–don’t you just love the teal color? I have a different blade that I use for paper, and this cutter makes it super easy to swap blades for paper and fabric.

Fusing Process

Then the temporary fusing process begins. MJ has a system for each section (or facet) of the gem, so the numbers and letters represent sections as well as colors of fabric to use. Again, be sure to include room around each piece for seam allowances.

June Birthstone Block

After re-fusing some of my pieces, I cut them out, swapping my rotary cutter blade for the one designated for fabric. The cutting really takes some time and you want to be accurate. So play some music, get in the zone and make friends with your rotary cutter.

Piecing Process

Then the piecing begins.

June Birthstone Block Kit

MJ gives you a “key” to continually reference throughout the piecing process. I’m not sure how you would do this project without it! It’s absolutely essential.

June Birthstone Piecing Plan

With typical foundation paper piecing, the paper is on the fabric wrong side. Not here, ladies and gents! The paper is on the RIGHT side of the fabric. Your seam allowances must be accurate to avoid stitching over the paper. This is the reason for all the markings. Mine were pretty darn close to being perfect, if I may say so.

After piecing each section/facet, I constructed the block following MJ’s recommendations for which one to piece when. The iron is your best friend with this process.

June Birthstone Complete

All in all, I’m pretty impressed with my first June Birthstone Block. Once I have them all finished, I’ll add sashing and take you through MJ’s quilting technique.

Grab your kits to follow along with my monthly sew-alongs! Next up is July, the Ruby!

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I am the Director of Content for Sulky of America. The former Editor in Chief of Sew News and Creative Machine Embroidery magazines, I hosted Sew it All TV on PBS for nine seasons. I've appeared on It's Sew Easy on PBS, DIY Network's Uncommon Threads, Hallmark's Marie Osmond Show, MacPhee Workshop and more! Come sew with me!


  • MJ Kinman

    Hi, Ellen! MJ Kinman here. You did a GREAT job with your first Birthstone block. Congratulations!

    Alexandrite is one of my favorites. Did you know that it was designed with an antique French cut? I wanted all the Birthstones to have their own unique cut.

    Also, Alexandrites are real divas of the gem world, because they change color depending on the light. They’re usually a blue or greenish-blue in natural light, but turn a lovely purplish-red or raspberry red in incandescent light. That’s why in the gem industry they say that Alexandrites are “Emeralds by day and Rubies by night.” Wouldn’t it be cool if one of your viewers made a purplish-red Alexandrite?

    Looking forward to seeing what you do with the Ruby next month. Shine on, dear Ellen!

  • Angie

    What a great tutorial! I must say Ellen, I had my trepidations as well about completing a block. You’ve given me the courage to try it for myself! I have the full series and can’t wait to try my hand at the Sapphire, my birthstone 🙂

    • wackyauntiem

      Hi, Angie! MJ here. I’m delighted that you’re ready to dive into the Sapphire! That’s my favorite block (my birthstone, too) and actually one of the easiest and most fun to put together. Have a great time and be sure to share your results! — MJ

  • Julie Wall

    I too was hesitant to tackle sewing a gem block. I read the instructions which are very well written. MJ did a great job putting the lines for matching the pieces. I’ve made two and want to make more.

  • Anne Marcellis

    I’ve made several of MJ’s gemstones but am at a loss how to free motion quilt them. I’m an advanced fmq’er on my Bernina 880 plus. Thx for ideas

    • wackyauntiem

      Hi, Anne! MJ Kinman here. I’ve seen people quilt their gems in many different ways. You can do a free-motion stipple, or a horizontal or vertical straight stitch with your walking foot (I’d use a very thin neutral), or you can try the “match stick” straight line stitching so popular these days with modern quilters. I’ve also seen swirls and loops…the options are endless. The only thing you might want to consider is to change your quilting thread to white (or very light neutral) when quilting the white/lightest facets…and to black (or very dark neutral) when quilting the black/darkest blocks. It will help those facets pop more. Have fun and THANKS for your enthusiasm about the Birthstone Series. (And check out the newest Diamond Diva “Elizabeth” on my website. She’s a 48″ Princess Cut. We love her…and Sulky and I created thread packs to go with her.) Enjoy!