Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quilts in progress

Despite spending most of the weekend and a few hours here and there sewing after work, there isn't much to show for it in completed projects. But here's a peek at some of the projects I'm working one:

Appliqueing each flower using the needle-turn method is going faster than I expected, but each block still takes about 2 hours to complete. Two flowers down, four more to go. I hope to have this quilt completed just in time for spring 2011.


I started this quilt at least 2 years ago and have been making the monkey wrench blocks in fits and starts. 70 blocks completed, only 36 more to go. My goal is to piece the top by the end of this year. Doable, yes?


This one was supposed to be a birthday present, but I missed that deadline by a mile. It's on track to be a Christmas gift instead. The backing, which is what is shown here, is a soft cuddly fleece, perfect for warding off those "chilly" Southern California evenings.

And I still have to quilt and bind my sister's "I'm Blushing" quilt in time for Christmas. The top is done and so is the quilt back. I just have to figure out how I want to quilt it and then actually do it instead of thinking about the quilt design some more.

Then I can get started on some baby quilts and more Christmas quilts gifts and other quilt patterns I've been eyeing and some handbags and...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Think It, Make It Pouch Giveaway winners

Picking a winner was super easy with just two comments to choose from. Cynthia and Pinkbeary, you will both be getting a pouch.  Cynthia, next week I'll drop off a green and pink one for your nano.  Pinkbeary, would you email me your mailing address so I can send you your pouch?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tutorial: Make Life... Charming Table Runner


Sometimes it's fun to make blocks just to get in some sewing, but then what to do with those blocks? Like those from last week.  Table runners seem to be a popular quilting option in blog land, so I made one up using the three blocks made from one charm pack. If you don't have time or the inclination to make a whole quilt, why not try making a table runner instead? It's a great excuse to buy some flowers, too.

To make the Make Life... Charming Table Runner, you will need:

  • 3 - 2.5" x 11.5" strips of white fabric
  • 2 - 2.5" x 42" strips of white fabric
  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the backing
  • 1/4 yard of fabric for the binding
  • 3 Charmed Gentleman Quilt blocks (or other blocks that are 11.5" square)
Sew the 11.5" strips to the blocks: white strip, block, white strip, block, white strip, block, white strip, like in the picture above. Iron open the seams.

Then sew the 42" strips. Iron open the seams.  Your pieced should like the picture below.


Then make your quilt sandwich (pieced top, batting, and backing fabric), baste and quilt.  I wanted to pick up the red in the quilt, so I used a red fabric to bind the quilt.


In less than 2 hours, you have a new table runner to grace your table or anything else that needs a little sprucing up.

Oh, Fransson has some great tutorials on quilt making basics.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quilt: Flower Garden



While a first year law student in Chicago and about my second year into quilting, I quickly discovered that quilting was waaay more fun than reading case books. So I made a lot of quilts. This is one of the first that I made and was either a birthday gift or a mother's day gift. Can't remember now. (I am terrible about tracking what and when I made something. This blog is an attempt to keep better track. Anywho, back to the quilt.)

The design is fairly simple, but I really like the flowers because they were fun to make and add a great textural element to the quilt. The law school I was attending at the time is across the street from the Harold Washington Library in the Loop and the library had lots of quilting books. One book featured fabric folding and creating fabric flowers and so because my mom likes flowers, I wanted to make her a fabric garden.

Plus, as I am remembering now, it was still winter (which means I made the quilt for mother's day) and it had been winter for something like 9 months, so I needed something spring-y.

I like the contrast between the pink and the green


The quilt came together fairly quickly; it is a wall quilt and so quilting it was also fun and relatively easy.

Look, butterflies!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tutorial: A Charmed Gentleman Quilt Block

I was playing around with some triangles cut from a Make Life charm pack to create a quilt block (picture below). I was so proud to think that perhaps I had created a new block. But c'mon, really? Of course the pattern already exists. According to one of my quilting books the block is very similar to the traditional quilt block called Gentleman's Fancy. But mine has a slight twist in that the block is entirely made up of triangles. Want to make one with me?

I'm calling this "A Charmed Gentleman"

Step 1 - Select your charm pack squares
Each quilt block uses 12 - 5" squares. Try to select squares that vary in scale and color for maximum contrast in the block's layout..

Step 2 - Cut 2 triangles out of each square


I used a triangle template to cut 2-3" half-square triangles (HST) from each square.  If you don't have a template, you could also just cut each square on the diagonal and end up with 2 HST.

Step 3 - Play with your triangles until you like the layout.
This is the fun part. In my example I decided to alternate between darks and lights to play up the contrast and define each "ring" of the block. You'll likely find that the color placement of your triangles can make a huge difference in the look of your block. For example, in the sample block, the look would totally change if the green triangles were changed to blue.

Step 4 - Make the center hourglass block


To keep track of your layout, I recommend taking each triangle out for piecing as you need to and leaving the rest of the block in place.


Take your four center triangles and pair them up, right sides facing each other.  Sew each pair with a 1/4" seam. You will need to make two pairs of triangles. Press the seams open.

Now join your resulting two triangles together, right sides facing each other, to make your center block. Press the seams open.


Step 5 - Add the first ring of triangles to the center hourglass block


Still using your layout as a guide, piece together each pair of triangles with a 1/4" seam. Press each seam open.


To align the center of your triangles with the center hourglass block, mark each center point in the back of your hourglass block.

I used my ruler to draw a line down the middle of the center hourglass block
Now align the center seam of your triangle with the line you drew on the back of the center hourglass block.


Sew one side, then sew the opposite side of the center hourglass block. Press seams open. Your block should now look like this.


Go ahead and trim the triangles' dog ears.


Now add the triangles to the other sides of the center hourglass block. Press seams open. Your block should now look like this.

A look at the back of the block
Step 6 - Add the second layer of triangles
Still referring to your layout, carefully piece the remaining triangles to make the four rows to complete your block. Sew with a 1/4" seam and press the seams open. You should have four pieces that look something like this.


Mark the center of each row in the back to help align the row with what you've pieced so far.

I drew a center line all the way down the middle triangle
Align the center of your row with the pieced block center.

The drawn line in the middle triangle aligns with the diagonal seam of the center hourglass block
Use a 1/4" seam and press the seam open. Then add the opposite row. Trim the resulting dog ears.


Now add the two remaining rows to your center block. Press the seams open. Your block should now look like this.


Take the time to admire your handiwork.

Step 7 - Add the setting triangles.
Cut 2-5" squares diagonally to make your setting triangles. I chose to use white to emphasize the shape of the pieced block, but you could also use additional squares from your charm pack.

Align the center of your setting triangle with the center seam of your center block. Then piece using a 1/4" seam and press open. If you find that the seams are getting too bulky, you could just press the seams to the least bulky side.

Making sure that the triangle is centered is easy; just match the triangle's point with the center seam of the block.
Add the setting triangles to each corner of your block. Your block should now look like this.


Step 8 - Square your block

finished square: 11.5"

I used a 12.5" square ruler to trim the setting triangles and square my block. The finished size was 11.5" square.

That wasn't so bad, right? One charm pack plus some fabric from your stash to make the setting triangles yields 3 blocks.


Please let me know if anything is unclear. If you do make the block, I'd love to see it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tutorial: Think It, Make It Pouch

Details on a giveaway at the end of this post.


The single best thing about taking up sewing has been the ability to make things as I need them - throw pillows, gift bags, last-minute birthday gifts, passport covers, etc.

This past Sunday, I was going home to visit my parents as is my usual wont for Sundays, but also wanted to bring some quilting stuff to work on. Well, I decided I needed a pouch (the green one in the picture above) to contain my scissors to prevent any accidental poking or holes. I showed it to my parents who said that I should show you all how to make one.

This pouch is extremely easy to make and goes together quickly. It's also versatile. You can size it to fit whatever you need (covers for a kindle, iPad, small electronic, laptop, paperback, etc.) and it can even be waterproof if you use laminated fabric or vinyl. Use the directions below as a general guide for when you want to make your own.





I recently joined an ugly quilt contest and was paired up with a quilter in Tennessee. The challenge requires me sending her some fabric from my stash for her to use to make her quilt; she will send me some of her fabric that I will use to make a quilt. I wanted to send the fabric in a nice pouch.

You will need:
- fabric
- new hair tie
- button
- plus usual sewing items (sewing machine; needle; thread; scissors or rotary cutter)

all you really need: exterior fabric, pouch lining, hair tie and button

Step 1 - Cut out your pieces of fabric
The desired finished dimensions of the pouch are 11" x 5" with a 3" overhang. Including a 1/2" seam allowance means that I need a fabric piece that is 12" x 14". Here's the math:
[11" wide + 2(.5" seam allowance)] x [2(5" inch height (one front and one back) + 3" overhang + 2(.5" seam allowance)]

(I used pre-quilted fabric because I wanted to give the pouch some body and a bright fabric for the interior to add a pop of color. You don't need to use pre-quilted fabric; really any fabric will do. If you do want to add some softness and cushion to the pouch, you can also just use some low-loft batting in your fabric sandwich.)

Step 2 - Baste your hair tie in place
Find the center of the edge of your exterior fabric where your pouch will fold over and pin your hair tie in place so that you can staystich it. You could also just use ribbon, but I like the hair tie for its stretchiness.

You want to pin the hair tie to the right side of your fabric. In my case, my exterior face doesn't really have a right or wrong side because both sides look the same.


I started my staystich about one inch before and after the hair tie and about 1/8" from the fabric's edge.


Step 3 - Make your fabric sandwich
Place your lining fabric on top of your exterior fabric, right sides facing together.  Your basted hair tie should be in the middle of your sandwich. Pin the fabric together at regular intervals to prevent the fabric from shifting.

You can see that the edge of the hair tie is just peeking outside of the fabric sandwich. That's because when you turn your fabric sandwich inside out, the hair tie will be facing out.

Step 4 - Sew your fabric sandwich together
Use a 1/2" seam allowance to sew all around the fabric, but be sure to leave an opening of at least 3" along one of the sides of your fabric sandwich so that you have enough room to turn the fabric sandwich inside out.

Do not sew over your pins. It's potentially dangerous because your sewing machine needle might break and fly into your face. Remove the pins as your sewing machine needle gets near them.

To minimize the look of a messy finish, I chose to leave my opening along one of the sides where the pouch will fold on itself and not on the bottom or top edges of the pouch.

where the pouch will be turned inside out
Step 5 - Turn your fabric sandwich inside out
Trim the corners of the sandwich so that you will have nice corners when you turn your fabric inside out.

be careful to not cut into your actual corner seam
Your fabric sandwich will look like when turned inside out; use a chopstick or other small instrument to help push the corners out, but don't push too hard. You don't want to make a hole.



Iron your fabric sandwich to create a clean edge. You may have to fiddle with your sandwich to make the edges lie flat.

a shot of the back

Step 6 - Topstitch the bottom edge of your fabric sandwich (optional)
Find the side opposite of your hair tie and topstitch about 1/4" from the edge. The topstitch is both decorative and functional. It reinforces the edge, but also maintains the design element for when you have to stitch your fabric sandwich together to make your pouch.


Step 7 - Sew your fabric sandwich together to make your pouch
Fold and then pin in place the edges of your fabric sandwich to make your pouch as deep as you want. Remember that you still haven't sewn your opening shut. You will now.


Starting from bottom edge of your pouch, topstitch a 1/4" seam all the way around your pouch. Do not sew over your pins; remove them as your sewing needle gets near them.

Step 8 - Sew your button in place
Fold over the top of your pouch and position your button into place. Handsew your button.


I wanted the pouch to have some give, so I positioned the button a little bit higher than I had originally planned, but that's okay because the elastic hair tie can stretch to fit an overstuffed pouch.

Step 9 - Use your pouch!
Congratulations! You've made your pouch.



Now use it and make many more to give away as gifts or to just use around the house.


Would you like a custom-made pouch?

Leave a comment by next Friday, September 24, with your favorite color. Depending on the number of comments I receive, I will select one or more names at random and each person will receive a pouch in the color mentioned in the comment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quilt: Pink Polka Dots


A few months ago, my sister asked me to make a baby quilt for her best friend. The friend is pregnant with her first child, a girl. I was more than happy to make it and told my sister to pick a quilt design from the Moda Bake Shop. There were two top contenders (here and here) so I combined design elements from both of them (hearts from one; the words and simple form from the other) to make the quilt.

close up of the quilting


I had a lot of fun quilting the hearts in the white border and think that the jumbo white ric rac is a fun tactile addition. (If I were the baby, I would find major comfort in sucking my thumb while playing with the ric rac. Just sayin'.) The quilt is backed with a super-soft fabric because baby quilts are meant for cuddling. The final size was roughly 40" square.

I hope she likes the quilt and that the baby uses it to literal pieces.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Creative Diversion: Flowers and Ice Cream

My mom knit a super cute sweater for E. using yarn left over from a blanket she knit for me

some serious knitting awesomeness
and asked me to select some buttons to finish the look.
Flowers and ice cream, anyone?

hooray for sewing machines

Using the buttons as inspiration and with some felt I had on hand and lots of scratch paper to make some cutting patterns and some trial and error, I created an ice cream brooch and a flower brooch to decorate the sweater.

Ta-da!

Lots of fun to make. And a quick and easy project.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The creative process is...

messy. But, that's part of the fun - looking at fabric and considering all the possibilities. I plan to turn this


into this

because the quilt is pretty, don't you think?  The design is called "Fanciful Flowers" and in a book called Material Obsession.  The big flowers are supposed to be appliqued onto the quilt. Generally I dislike sewing anything by hand and would normally use the zig zag stitch on the sewing machine to applique an image, but not this time. So I will try to applique the flowers by hand using the needle turn method which means that the quilt will likely take me a year to finish.

You can see a close up of one of the flowers here.  Don't you agree with me that a visible zig zag stitch on the flower would detract from its appearance?
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