To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
Things have been quiet here. Everything in non-sewing life caused me to retreat from sewing for a solid two months, somehow. So, with my guild’s first ever retreat quickly approaching (this past weekend), I needed to get my sewing mojo back. The guild provided the perfect opportunity: a few mug rugs to give to women from the larger traditional guild in the area who provided space and support during their semi-annual retreat for us to do our own thing. I managed to pull three together in the week before the retreat.
#1: A scattering of hexies
I had a mini charm pack promo pack (~10 2.5″ squares?) from Windham sitting on my shelf, and was inspired by some of the hexie mini quilts that have been going around. I used plain gray fabric to turn out hexies, stuck them on to a background with spray baste, then used the quilting to secure them. The binding was leftover from a previous project. It’s a strange color scheme, but I thought it worked out well. I wish I’d ripped and fixed the top right corner, though.
#2: Masochist Shaman
Last winter, I used a bunch of 1/2″ off-cuts of Shaman by Parson Gray as leaders and enders and ended up with a strip of fabric. I’m not sure what possessed me to do something that fiddly, and had no plans for the finished piece. I cut into that, pieced it into some gray, and ended up with an interesting mug rug. I still have a few more cut strips from it, so there may be a matching one in the future. It didn’t take long to matchstick quilt something this small. I bound it with mostly matching leftovers from another project.
#3: The running out of time
I needed one more to meet my pledge and was lacking inspiration. I challenged myself to just pick some scraps within 2 minutes and start sewing. So, I grabbed three more of the Windham charms, leafed through a stack of orphaned full-sized ones for one that matched, and happened upon a scrap of solid that was the perfect compliment. It worked out surprisingly well. Quilting it was another matter, so again, I just started sewing and it worked out okay. I had a 2.5″ strip of green that made a great frame as binding.
For some reason, while machine binding the other two went very well, this one missed three of the corners. So, time being limited, I decided to topstitch all the way around in the binding to secure the corners on the back. Shh—that’s what we call a design decision, not an accident. 😉
So, those were my mug rugs. I didn’t actually complete anything at the retreat, but I made a dent in a couple of projects, so I should be posting about those soon. First, I have to go back to real life, which includes another retreat (or leadership summit, if you prefer) this week and a extra few vacation days where Carl will join me down in Austin, TX. Life never stops!
The curriculum for one of the coding classes I teach used to have a meet and greet question that everyone would answer: “what’s your favorite dinosaur”? Without fail, I’d forget to plan for it, and have to wrack my brain for one from Land Before Time or Jurassic Park (those movies being the extent of my familiarity with dinos). I’ve found my new favorite (a bit too late, c’est la vie): the inimitable Winosaur!
I picked this embroidery up from Urban Threads a while ago, when it was featured as a freebie. It was perfect for a set of tea towels (wine towels?) to give as a hostess/housewarming gift to friends who recently moved and threw a BBQ.
Rwaar. Glug glug.
Learn from my mistakes
I’m glad that I bought a full yard of the waffle weave fabric I used to make these towels out of, as my first attempt and a half at stitching out the embroidery went awry. Most of this is Machine Embroidery 101-level stuff, but I thought I’d share everything I learned. I tried to cut corners and it bit me, of course.
Use a fresh needle. An embroidery one. In the right size. No, that one you just finished using to quilt something is not okay.
Buy the right-sized stabilizer. Yes, you may have the right type stashed, but if it’s sized for a smaller hoop, just go buy the right size.
Double (or triple) up your water-soluble stabilizer according to their directions, particularly with an unstable fabric and heavy line stitching.
Use spray baste to attach the stabilizer to your fabric.
Have your machine baste the design outline before stitching.
The Large Metal Hoop, while awesome, doesn’t ship with enough magnets to secure unstable weaves. Steal more from your fridge (TMNT to the rescue! Cowabunga, dudes!).
The towels themselves are simple. They’re a fat quarter of waffle weave fabric, hemmed with mitered corners on one short edge, and the fringed selvage left bare for that towel-like look on the other. I used a contrast thread with a zigzag for aesthetics. I couldn’t help making a spare set for myself in the name of ‘testing’ the final product! And by that, I mean I kept the awkward learning curve versions for myself.
Having free motioned text as quilting in the past, Angela Walters’ Mighty Lucky challenge did not strike me as the most inspiring—not that it’s a bad challenge, but it was nothing new to my skill set. I was all set to not make a project for it (just like the last few months… shhh…), until I remembered that I signed up at the beginning of the year to talk about the challenge at my guild meeting this month.
A pillow cover seemed the perfect project to showcase both cursive and block lettering in the form of my favorite Louisa May Alcott quote.
“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” Work: A Story of Experience (1873), Louisa May Alcott
Because my handwriting is horrendous, I arranged the text in Illustrator, then printed it out to trace. While not feasible for a sandwiched quilt, I was able to use my window as a lightbox to trace the lettering onto the top fabric of my pillow cover.
It’s quilted on linen, with wool batting and no backing, using a rayon embroidery thread. I considered doing additional quilting with a whitish thread, but my time was limited and I was happy with how the quote looked alone.
I finished the case with an envelope backing that matches the thread color and stuffed it with a purchased 12×16″ pillow form. It’s perfect as a bolster pillow for a reading nook!
My sister’s bridal shower is fast approaching, and we’re planning it with a tea party theme. (The whole concept of what one does at a bridal shower is a bit of a mystery to me, having not been given one when I married, nor having attended any for others.) Seeing as I’m 1,300 miles away, my ‘hosting’ status is mostly honorary, but I am able to lend a hand with the decorations. Armed with a few embroidery files from Urban Threads and some half-yard cuts of Park Life by Elizabeth Olwen for Cloud9 Fabrics, I whipped up bunting for the party. Where by whipped, I mean I spent a lot of time at my machine over the course of a week or so, considering the 40 minute stitch out time of each of the embroideries.
I dare say the final result is pretty sweet. I made two of these strands, each 9’ long.
Here are a few tricks I found helped with creating it. When making your own, you can actually get a lot more bunting out of just a quarter yard of each fabric than I ended up making—my cut triangles had 7” bases and were 9” tall. I have so much fabric left over—stay tuned for future projects with it.
Cut strips of fabric, then rotate your template (or cutting marks) for easy cutting. If your fabric is directional, you can use the upside-down cuts on the back of your pennants.
Trim the seam allowances and use a chopstick to turn the point. I’m not great at sharp points, regardless of how I trim the seam allowances, but the chopstick is awesome.
Cut a template out of card stock to help with pressing. If you cut the template to the finished size, then slide it in with the seam allowances behind it, you get a nice sharp edge to your pressed pennants.
Use packaged double fold bias tape for a quick and easy finish, and a glue stick to hold everything in place while you sew the flags down.
January’s challenge from the Mighty Lucky Quilting Club was to use bias tape to construct curves based on something in your sketchbook. I’m not much of a sketcher, nor do I have a sketchbook, but I do occasionally snap photos for inspiration, and often find it in my surroundings. The bit of inspiration I decided to memorialize was also an accomplishment of mine during the month. Seeing my newly-retired yellow belt hanging alongside my white belt sparked the idea of a design, with the added complexity of knots in the bias tape. The result is this 11″x14″ mini-quilt.
Rather than add the bias tape to the block, then quilt, I made a quilt sandwich and sewed down the bias tape through all layers after quilting the background. I used a walking foot for all of it to reduce shifting. The knots wrap around one strip of bias tape that was intentionally left with a gap in the top-stitching.
The technique of using bias tape isn’t any more of a challenge than other types of applique—so long as you don’t try using straight cut strips to get curves (it’s bias for a reason). The intent part of the challenge was much more difficult for me. I’m not sold on the idea of making a normal-sized quilt just to try a new technique unless I’m really excited about it—both from a materials and time cost standpoint. At the same time, I’ve never been a huge fan of mini quilts.
I suppose this isn’t even technically complete. I haven’t decided how to finish off the edges of the quilt. I don’t want to bind it. I considered doing a faced binding. I’ve also thought about just leaving the edges raw and framing it. But for now, I can call my foray into bias tape on quilts done, and admire all of the gorgeous creations being posted on social media under the hashtag #mightylucky.
Like many quilters, my scrap bin (boxes, cubes, bags…) is out of hand—unorganized, jumbled, and overflowing. This year, I’ve tried to be mindful of what is leftover from my projects and keep it organized in some way so that I don’t add to the existing problem. One solution has been offering up the leftover fabric to guild members—particularly when I’m “over” working with that line and there’s a substantial amount leftover. This especially made sense for my #mqgfabricchallenge scraps, since it meant another member may be able to enter. I already have more scraps than I think I’ll use in my life—particularly since I don’t make many scrappy things.
But, after packaging up my challenge scraps, I still had a few left that were already pieced together in various ways (cut-offs from piecing the bag). One thing I always appreciate having around are zip pouches—they’re handy for packaging up projects, carting things around, and organizing. So, I threw together a quick zip pouch from scraps, the ribbon from the fabric challenge bundle, another embroidery, and a recycled zipper from one of those free-gift-with-cosmetic-purchase vinyl pouches that always seem to clutter up my bathroom cabinets.
I didn’t spend much time on it, nor is the scrappy piecing the most aesthetically pleasing, but it’ll serve its purpose just fine.
When I make baby quilts, I typically whip up a doll quilt with the leftovers—a winning solution that adds another gift for the kid and eats up scraps. Mustang Summing isn’t a baby quilt, per se (or maybe it will be whenever I give it away), but I needed something that could be bound with facing for a quilt guild demo I gave in November, so I played with scraps and made a doll-quilt-sized wall hanging.
The top is just a couple hours of playing around, growing it out from the center of the log cabin block, sewing things together that seemed to work. Cut, sew, press, trim, cut, sew and on and on.
I went simple with quilting, stitching out a square spiral in a gray thread that blends well with just about anything. In a few places, I added highlights using the heavier russet thread I used on Mustang Summing.
Since it’s a wall hanging, I just used a solid from the stash on the back and finished it with facings using binding strips that were leftover from the other quilt.
This is the first time I’ve used this type of binding, but it seems to work well for this sort of application. I especially like that the top can double as a hanging sleeve. For shows, I imagine you’d have to increase the size of the facing piece to create a standard 4″ sleeve, but I wasn’t too concerned about that for something at home.
It took me three months to sit down and take 30 minutes to sew the facings down by hand (and another two weeks to photograph it), and I still haven’t figured out where to hang it (not to mention that I need a better hanger)!
If you’re looking to learn this technique, I cobbled together my method from memories of various things I’ve read, so I can’t direct you to a specific tutorial for exactly how I made this (should have taken photos and made my own, huh?). Here’s one that seems similar: Super-Duper Easy Way to Face a Quilt (but doesn’t include the hanging sleeve). I know I read about turning the top into a hanging sleeve somewhere, but can’t find the article or blog post. Sorry!
It’s right around this time every year that I remember how much I dislike the season of giving. I love giving presents when I find/make just the right thing for someone; I dislike having to buy something just because it’s xmas. I hate, hate, hate being on the receiving end when someone clearly felt required to give me something—it takes all the fun out of being able to appreciate the thought behind the present.
Growing up, giving holidays were always followed by a series of trips to the store to exchange all manner of things that didn’t fit or really weren’t my style—that, or trying to find a way to donate things that couldn’t be exchanged (which generally didn’t happen, so they became clutter in a mini-hoard). So, that’s the long-winded bah-humbug excuse for why my tween and teen niblings are all getting gift cards this year—instead of having to go return things from us in the days after Christmas, perhaps they can go to the store with us while we’re in town that week and use their gifts on things that suit them best.
Gift cards are boring to unwrap, so I made a few gift card stockings as well. I personalized them with embroidered initials, and topped them with a bit of stashed fleece. Really, I was procrastinating on working on a quilt that I’ve lost the drive to finish.
The easy way would be a single layer with pinked seam allowances to stop potential fraying. I made mine with a lining, because it means neat insides and I wanted to experiment with ordering of seams (that is, sewing the lining, cuff, and outside for one half together, then to the other, rather than some complicated nesting process).
Charm squares are the perfect size for these if you want to make a few of your own—you’ll need four per stocking. The cuffs are 3.5″x5″ rectangles (quilting cotton can work there too, or stash bust some fleece/Minky scraps). You can download the template I used if you want to muddle through construction on your own.
Despite my current lack of Yuletide gaiety, I am looking forward to the vacation time and chance to head back to MO to see my family! What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?
Near the end of every semester, I send finals week care packages to my younger sisters (which also happens to conveniently fall near their birthdays in the spring and autumn). While they mainly contain tea, chocolate, pens/markers, post-its, and something relaxing, I try to slip in something me-made every time as well (to varying degrees of success).
This semester, they moved into an apartment together, so I thought of the perfect gift: a set of kitchen towels with awesome embroideries that I found on Urban Threads. Useful, not so precious that they can’t be used, and amusing.
There is one embroidered towel and one plain one in each set, each measuring around 16″x21″. One of these days, I’ll be making a set of my own from this one, which perfectly sums up my introverted down days: “Happiness is a cup of tea and a really good book.”
We’ve always ganged up a bit on the younger one, who claims she now reads, but didn’t for many years, so she got a different design (which could double as a coffee cup, since that may be her caffeine-delivery vehicle of choice). It may also be fitting for me to hang at work, if you ask my coworkers about my state of mind at our scrum every morning: “Death before decaf.”
I made the four towels from a yard of textured cotton I found in the utility section of JoAnn Fabrics. While not explicitly labeled toweling, it’s a great texture for a hand towel. I used cotton Gutermann thread to embroider them, matching the needle and bobbin threads. The 150m spools had just enough thread on them to get through the embroidery, then I switched the bobbin up to feed through the needle and put a cream bobbin to hem the edges. It made for an efficient use of a single spool that could have ended with a run to the store had anything gone wrong (I like to live a little dangerously some times).
Now, to start scheming about what to make for November’s package…
My latest quilt is being shipped off this weekend, so its debut here will have to wait until it arrives. In the mean time, I dug into my stash today for a small gift for that quilt recipient’s sister. I still had a few bits and pieces left over from the quilt I made her in 2012—the Impressions Baby Quilt—so I thought it high time to round out her gifts with a doll quilt (prop Vermont Teddy Bear not included).
It was an extraordinarily fast project; all the half-square triangle blocks were already sewn up and sitting in my scrap bin from the original quilt piecing, waiting to be stitched up into something. Finished size is 15″×20″.
A scrap of 80/20 batting and a bit of stashed cuddle-type fabric that’s cut edge shed so much I’m amazed there’s still fabric finished up the quilt sandwich. I quilted it with just a few straight lines following the HST seams, which is how the larger quilt was quilted. I bound it with more scraps from the line that were already conveniently cut into 2.5″ strips.
More of my stash was busted and one little girl won’t be so sad when her baby sister receives a package next week. That’s not too shabby for an hour or so on a lazy Saturday afternoon.