Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Three Quarters of a Century Plus One

I had a birthday earlier this month. I've become old enough that I turned my age into a math problem. I'm a retired teacher, so everything becomes a lesson. It's automatic. Maybe I'll even remember my own age this way. All that counting backwards to 1942 gets harder every year.

I volunteer at school every working with and for my former fifth grade teammates. One of the teachers told the students that I'd just had a birthday, and, of course, the kiddos wanted to know my age. They had no trouble with the math, but there were some very large eyes. A few of them have never actually known anyone so ancient.

Working with my former team is one of the highlights of my week. I give book talks, help students with reading issues, shelve books in the library, and then enjoy lunch with my friends.

That brings me to this newest mug rug pattern. I'm trying to design a mug rug for each of the teachers for Christmas. I want to create designs that fit their own unique interests, and I don't want to use anything that I've already made.

The newest addition to the teaching team is a young man who is an actor in his spare time. I haven't seen him perform, but those who have, say that he's fabulous. I started there.

The Greek muses of comedy and tragedy seemed fitting for his mug rug. I'm sure that there are thespians in almost every family, so some of you may be looking for a gift just like this.

Muses, Masks of Comedy and Tragedy: Etsy Listing, Craftsy 

Summer officially exits the stage this week, and colorful, cool autumn will make a dramatic appearance.

Wishing you a fabulous season. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Inspired by Puppies

My daughter has two adorable little dogs named Watson and Willow. They are inseparable buddies, snuggle pups, forever together.

These puppies are so much fun, and I don't see them very often, so, of course, they found their way into a pattern. I didn't expect three variations of a pattern, but that's the way it worked out. Goodness knows, I'm not in control of any of it. Inspiration takes over, and I can only go with the flow.

Buddies Trio Pattern Click for Etsy Click for Craftsy

Although the pups are in all of them, each of the projects is very different from each of the others. A person can add as much embroidery or thread work as liked. Nothing more than mouths and eyebrows works well, too

The 9" x 9" quilt block can be used as part of a quilt, a small wall hanging, a hot pad, or a large mug rug. It could even be left unquilted and placed in a picture frame.

The pups have eyebrows, mouths and a few little bits of stitching to add dimension to Watson's hair and Willow's ears. The quilting on this one was fun. I just followed the leaves so it required no thinking about the design. This was the first of the three projects that I finished. It's cute as can be, but I changed Willow's mouth on the other two.

These little guys lent themselves beautifully to pillows. The background on the !2" s 16" unquilted pillow was chosen by vote on my Facebook page. I wasn't sure about using the black, but I really like it. The contrast in colors really makes the pups pop. This time I accidentally left out the stitching on Willow's ears, but it doesn't detract from her at all.

The 16" x 16" pillow was the most fun to make because it had the most detail. This one was pure play.

I quilted the front of the pillow cover and I added rickrack so it wouldn't look so plain. The gray background and rickrack were special choices to go with my daughter's decor. You can see her colors in the puppy photo at the top of the page. Yes, she gets this project, too, poor thing.

The real fun, though, came when I added extra thread play to the puppies. Something was needed to make them stand out better against the fabric background.

Now, I'm thinking ahead to the next project. I'm not sure what it will be for sure, but it will likely have a Halloween theme.

Wishing you a lovely last week of August.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Summer Progress

It doesn't feel like it's been a full two months since I posted here, but it has. I'm just beginning to find my footing in this new reality of life without the support and comfort of my sweet hubby. Summer sunshine, working in my garden, evening walks, visiting with neighbors, and spending time with my friends have been the best therapy possible. 

Etsy Listing,
Craftsy Listing
After I returned from a trip to visit my sister in June, I spent most of the summer setting up my new Etsy shop and writing a pattern for my tote design. I was still unable to come up with new design ideas, so writing the pattern was a welcome challenge.

I would never have gotten through writing the tote pattern without the help of four amazing and very patient ladies who volunteered to test the pattern. I"m afraid that none of us knew what we were getting into when this journey began.

Patterns for bags and totes are not at all like patterns for quilts and mug rugs. In all honesty, I stumbled and bumbled my way through the entire process. My testers were terribly patient with me, and found every one of dozens of mistakes. Every time I fixed one area, I seemed to screw up another. When it finally seemed like the pattern was finished, I got in a hurry and published it too soon. Then, I had to make corrections to the pattern that had already been published - not once, but three times!

These are two of the darling totes my helpers stitched. I'll post more photos when they come in. 

I love sewing bags and designing bags, but it will be awhile before I even consider writing another purse or tote pattern.

With the completion of that pattern, my mental dam cracked, and new ideas have begun trickling through..  The first to reach completion is this pair of rainy day mug rugs. I'm publishing on both Craftsy and Etsy now, so buyers have choices.

  Etsy Listing,  Craftsy Listing

Wishing you a wonderful August!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Let's Talk Piping

Whether brightly contrasting or sublimely subtle, piping can be that little extra element that takes a simple dress, pillow, or bag from "nice" to "wow". It adds a finished, tailored element to the simplest designs. Adding a bit of piping isn't complicated, but it can appear intimidating for inexperienced makers. Once you've gone through the process, you'll be surprised at how truly easy it can be.

I'm going to talk a bit about piping in general, explain how to make your own, and then show how to place any piping into the seams of your project.

You can to buy ready made piping by the yard in most fabric stores. It's often seen in huge displays right next to zippers and bias tape.  More specialized styles and sizes are availabel in some craft stores and online.

The packaged tape on the above left, is the right weight for shirts and lightweight dresses. Although it's inexpensive and comes in multiple colors, this product is not the best choice for most bags and pillows. The poly-cotton broadcloth fabric used in the piping doesn't hold up well to the wear that bags and pillows often receive, and the cord is too narrow to stand out on quilted or stuffed projects.

Spooled tape sold by the yard may be made with sturdier materials, but it can get pricey. Choices of color and fabric are limited, as well.

If you're going to put the effort into adding piping to a bag or decorative pillow, it usually makes more sense to make your own piping. You can choose a fabric of the same weight and in the perfect color to make your project stand out as special. The process is uncomplicated, no magic involved. You only need basic sewing tools: a quilter's ruler, a cutting mat, a rotary cutter, and a zipper foot.

How to make your own piping:

1. Gather necessary materials
  • piping cord at least 1" longer than the seam it will be inserted into
  • fabric strip  to encase the piping at least 1" longer than the seam (Width will depend on the thickness of the cord. See #3 below.)
  • thread to match the fabric of the piping
  • A zipper foot
  • Strips cut on the straight grade work fine for straight seams, bias strips are necessary for curved seams. (Commercial piping is cut on the bias.)
  • To sew strips together for long or multiple sections, cut the ends of the strips at a 45 ยบ angle. Sew together as you would strips for binding. 

2. Choose the cording that is the best size for your project. You can buy cording in weights from barely there, to heavy duty.

For totes and pillows,  I almost always use polyester cord with a diameter of 5/32". If you only need a small amount, it may pay to purchase it by the yard. I use a lot, so I buy packages of 10 yards each.

3. Cut the fabric for the cord casing.

A rule of thumb to determine the width of the fabric strip is to double the diameter of the cord and add 1 1/4".  Cut the fabric strip and the cord about 1" longer than the seam the piping will be sewn into.

If the piping will be in a straight seam, the fabric strips can be cut on either the straight grain or on the bias. If seams are curved, the fabric strips should definitely be cut on the bias. 

4. Encase the cord inside the fabric strip.

Attach the zipper foot to your sewing machine. If using 5/32" cord, cut the fabric 2" wide.

Center the cord on the prepared strip of fabric.
Fold the fabric over the cord and match the edges.
Sew along the cord, getting as close as possible to the cord.

Use the fingers of your left hand to push the cord up snuggly against the zipper foot. When stitched, the fabric should fit tightly around the cord.

5. Trim the prepared piping.

For regular seams, trim the fabric 1/2" beyond the edge of the piping. This is the same width that most ready made piping has been cut.

This job will be much easier if you have a 1/2" quilter's ruler. If you are using a wider ruler, align the 1/2" mark on the seam next to the cord.

Watch your fingers! Rotary cutters are sharp!

For quarter inch seams, trim the fabric at 1/4" from the edge of the piping.

The piping is ready. Next comes stitching it into the seam of your project.

How to sew piping into straight seams 

1. Cut the fabrics being used with the piping.

2. Lay the piping along the edge of the right side of one of these fabrics. Align the edges. Position the zipper foot against the cording inside the piping. When stitching, try to sew directly on the row of stitching that encases the cording.

3. Place the two fabric sections right sides together.  The section with the piping should be on top.  Sew directly on the line of stitching that holds the piping in place.

4. Fold the fabrics open and press the seam open.

6. When the piping will lay on the outside edge of the seam, fold the fabrics back from the piping and press.

How to sew piping around a curve
The process for sewing piping into curved seams is basically the same as for sewing it into straight seams. 

1. Align the piping on the edge of the right side of one of the fabrics being used. Sew directly on the stitching on the piping. You will need to manipulate the piping around the curve as you stitch.

2. Pin the second piece of fabric right sides together with the piece to which piping is attached. Make sure the edges of the two fabrics are exactly together and stretched over the thickness of the piping between the fabrics.

3. Flip over so the stitching from step 1 is on top. Once again stitch directly on the previous line of stitching.

4. Clip the seam with little "v" shaped cuts to reduce bulk.

5. Open the seam and press. (In this case, you would turn the band right side out.)

That's it! Easy as pie.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Empty Chair, Part 3, Falling in Love

I've worn myself out this weekend, and it will be an early night.

It's been five months since my hubby passed away. It seems like forever and it seems like yesterday. I needed time, but I was finally ready to clean out his office this weekend. Our former guest room is now my sewing room, so I'm going to turn the office into a guest room. It will be nice to have a place where visitors can stay.

It took all weekend, but the desk, the bookcase and all the drawers of files have been sorted through and emptied. I moved important things to empty drawers in the bedroom, and listed the office furniture for sale on Craigslist.

Moving furniture around, emptying and filling drawers, and carrying boxes up and down the stairs, was tiring enough, but sorting through his things was the hardest part of it all.  Fred had tucked away little things that meant something to him, and I found several boxes of small treasures. This mug rug was in one of them.

So many of my designs stem from something in my own life experiences. I named this mug rug "Winter Romance", and  I gave it to Fred for Christmas shortly after I made it. The design was all about the winter we met.

It was in January of my junior year University of Colorado in Boulder. On the first day back from Christmas vacation, I was sitting in the student union with a friend after our last classes for the day. The room was filled with people escaping the cold and snow outside. Marty and I found it almost impossible to carry on a conversation with all the shouting and laughing from students just back from a two week break. The fragrances of wet wool and hot coffee permeated the air.

A couple of tables away from us a group of several boys was crowded around a very small table. They were all talking at the same time and laughing over something. I may not have noticed them were it not for my friend, Marty. "Don't look like your looking, but look at those boys," she said, nodding at their table. "One of them keeps looking at  you."  I glanced that direction, and I'm sure I blushed. She was right. "He can't take his eyes off you," she said. "He's really, really cute! I'm so jealous!"

"He's okay," I said nonchalantly. "Nothing special." I tugged my skirt down to in an effort to hide my legs better. Skirts were short in 1963. I had lied when I said he was "okay".  He had curly black hair, twinkling brown eyes, and a beautiful smile. He was wearing a hand knit, golden yellow wool sweater over a black turtleneck. Yes, I noticed what he was wearing, and I can still picture it as if it were yesterday. I was dressed in blue, in case you were wondering. Some things stick. But, back to Fred. He was so much more than just okay. He was the most gorgeous young man I'd ever seen! I proceeded to pointedly ignore him, but I couldn't get him out of my head for the rest of the evening.

The next day I went back to the student union during a mid-morning break between classes. The union was almost empty, so I sat at a table for eight by the window where I could watch the snow coming down and people rushing by.

"Excuse me," a voice interrupted. I looked up to see the same beautiful boy from yesterday. He looked around the almost empty room as if searching for a place to sit. "Is this seat taken?" He pointed to a chair directly across from me. His eyes sparkled with humor. I laughed out loud.

We talked with the ease of people who had known each other forever. There was so much to discuss, but we both needed to get back to class. We made a date to meet at the union for lunch the next day.

I was several minutes late arriving at the union for our lunch date on Wednesday. It was bitterly cold, and the wind was blowing fiercely. I couldn't believe that Fred was waiting outside in the cold for me. The first thing I noticed were his ears. He wasn't wearing a hat, and his ears were bright red. His hands were stuffed deep in his pockets, and he looked half frozen. You may have noticed that the snowman in the mug rug wears no hat. Now you know why.

We were inseparable from the on. The rest of the winter was magical. The Boulder campus was even more beautiful than usual. Some of the wonder was from the deep white snow that we trudged through and turned into snowballs, but most of the beauty came from the two of us. Was it love at first sight? Fred always said he was in love from that first glimpse of me across the crowded room, but it took longer for me to know that he was the one - at least until the end of the first week.

I'm putting the mug rug  carefully away as a reminder of the winter we fell in love.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Bedtime Story

"Bedtime Story Pillow". 12" x 16" Pattern link  

It's a pillow top called "Bedtime Story". It's scrappy, colorful, and fun.  With the combination of books and two little pets, it had to be happy. Who could forget the sweet times spent reading a child to sleep?

Reading in bed these past few months has reminded me of those years when I read bedtime stories to small children. My children, and later my grandchildren, and I would squeeze onto a chair or tumble into bed together, and I'd read until my audience dozed off. The same books appeared over and over on the list of choices. The stories were quickly memorized, so we would "read" them together. Such warm and loving memories.

One down, one just getting started.

On to a new project tomorrow, I hope. I have a couple of ideas, so it's basically a matter of choosing one over the other.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Cheerful Baby Quilt and the Baby Box

You know how one thing leads to another and another, and before you know it, you're in a totally unexpected place?

It all started with making gifts for two young mothers expecting new babies. First I made the "Carriage Ride" mug rug.  Next I made some flannel blankets with satin binding, and crocheted baby bibs for baby showers coming up.

I was really on a baby roll, so a baby quilt came next. 
"Hearts and Pinwheels" 34 1/2" x 43 12" The Pattern
I pulled a layer cake of cheerful baby prints from my stash, and designed this little quilt that can easily be made with either 10" squares or with 5" squares. It turned out so sweetly. The photos really don't do it justice. I used polyester batting to keep it lightweight, and minimal quilting to keep it soft and fluffy. The only quilting other than stitching in the ditch around the blocks is a bit of FMQ on the outside border.

There was quite a bit of fabric left over, so I made a bib to match the quilt. I'll add a button or some velcro as soon as I can get to the store.

Since my granddaughter now lives next door, she had been following the progress of the baby quilt. "What are you going to do with it?" she asked.

"Why, it goes in the baby box."
"You have a baby box?" She sounded quite surprised. "What's in it?"

I pulled the box from the closet. There isn't a lot in it right now because I keep giving things away as gifts. There are the little bibs and blankets that I've made recently , a couple of quilts have been put aside for eventual great-grandbabies, and something very special that I've been saving for ten years.

I asked Sara, "Do you recognize this?"
"The fabrics are familiar," she said. The rest of the story surprised her.

Ten years ago, when Sara was 11-years-old, she was very interested in sewing. I'd been sewing for my niece who was expecting a baby girl. Sara decided she wanted to make a baby quilt for the new baby, too. So, she made this quilt top. She chose the fabrics and the pattern. We worked together on it during the summer.

When the quilt top was finished, Sara changed her mind. "I don't want to give it away," she said. "I want to keep it for my own babies."

Summer ended, Sara started middle school, and in the whirlwind of new school,  friends, and all that early adolescent craziness, sewing lost it's appeal. I put the unfinished quilt away for her. I hope that someday, she'll have reason to finish it.

What's in your baby box?

Wishing you a lovely week!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Empty Chair, Part 2. Exciting News

 A few days after Fred was gone, when my house was still filled with family, my next door neighbor came over to tell me that they were moving in less than a month. I was shocked. They'd been next door for seven years and I would miss them. But, their moving placed an additional stress on me well beyond the loss of a neighbor.

We live in one unit of a triplex that we own. The other two units are rented, so on top of everything else I was dealing with at that moment, I would need to find new renters and get the unit completely ready for them. She apologized for the timing, but on the day after my husband passed away, they had  received notice that they were being transferred to Kansas City . Her husband would leave in a week, and she and the girls would stay until the end of February to pack and clean the apartment.

My daughter and granddaughter were sitting together on the couch, following this conversation and carrying on a side conversation of their own.  After a few minutes had gone by, my daughter interrupted us.  "Sara has something to say."

"We'd like to live there," Sara said. "If that's okay." Of course that was okay! I couldn't think of anything that would make me happier than to have my granddaughter and her sweet hubby next door.

I silently wondered, "Fred, did you have anything to do with this?" It was exactly the kind of thing I might expect from him, and the timing was surprisingly coincidental.

During those last few months when he knew he didn't have long, he became more and more concerned about my safety and well being. He hated for me to go anywhere without him, because, what if ... ? He reminded me, "Hold the railing", whenever I went up or down the stairs, and, "Is the door locked?" was a frequent question.

Most emphatically, though, he didn't want me to ever live alone. What if something happened and no one was there to help me? He insisted that I must either go to live with our daughter or ask our son to move in with me. I tried to assure him that lots of people live alone, and they're just fine, but he was adamant. I changed the subject, but he came back to it several times every day.

I've spent most of March getting that apartment ready for my granddaughter, and her hubby. It has a master bedroom and bathroom on the main level, and another two bedrooms and full bathroom on the walkout level. They don't need all that space, so they invited my grandson to move in, too! I'll have both of my grandbabies right next door!

The kiddos have been filling cupboards and closets, and the moving van comes tomorrow. I am so excited!

No, Fred, I won't be living alone. Not really.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New Babies Everywhere!

Something wonderful is happening in my garden! Spring is really, truly arriving. 

This has been the longest, bleakest winter in my memory. I am so glad it's spring. I'm sure that with the warmer weather and all of the new life, my mood will start to lift. The babies help. Baby birds, baby rabbits, baby goats. Baby humans, too. I wish there were lots of babies in my own family, but it's too soon. My grandchildren are still in college. The time for our babies will come, but right now, there are plenty of other babies attracting my attention.

A young former coworker just had a baby girl. Another, even younger teacher friend is due almost any day now, and one of my dearest friends will have a new grandchild in a few weeks. There's a new baby a few doors down from my house and another a few blocks up the street.

My newest mug rug, "Carriage Ride" celebrates both spring and babies. Happy pinwheels, happy balloons, happy colors. I may use this for a baby shower gift. Then again, I just might choose to save it in my great-granny hope chest. It would be sweet used as a mug rug, and it would be lovely hanging on a nursery wall.

Monday, March 5, 2018

"The Girls". A New Pattern

It's been months since I've published a new pattern, but my house is quiet - too quiet, and I have more time than I ever wanted. I plan to fill much of that time with sewing. This week I finished working with the hens.  The bright colors and busy hens with button eyes make me smile every time I look at them.

"The Girls", Table Runner 11" x 29"
The baby chicks are fun, too. I hand embroidered their beaks and  legs.

I only used three hens in the table runner, but a templates for a fourth hen are included in the pattern.  I used that hen and one extra to make 9" blocks. I haven't decided what to do with them yet. They could go into a lap quilt. That might be fun. 

I can think of so many other ways to use the chickens. These two would be fun on a pillow. I reversed the templates for the chicken on the left for this project.

Or, all four could fit together on a wall hanging. As you can see, I played around quite a bit before settling on the table runner.

It's time to start thinking about a new idea to work on. A mug rug? A square table topper? A lap quilt? Something pieced?

It will officially be spring in less than three weeks! I am so looking forward to sunny skies, mild temperatures, and flowers in bloom.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Empty Chair, Part 1. The Last Gift

I came home from grocery shopping today, and I almost called out, "I'm home!" Almost, but I stopped myself. There was no one to call back a greeting.

My husband passed away in January. His squeaky green recliner sits empty, and my house is silent. I miss him every day, all day. Tears come unexpectedly, like they did this morning while I put  groceries for one in the refrigerator.

I want to tell our story, but it will come in bits and pieces, and not in any sensible order. This is the story of his last gift for me.

Fred had been unwell for several years. Over time, in addition to diabetes, he had developed the neurological and mental symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Dementia was creeping up on him, and he shuffled with tiny, exhausting steps that made going anywhere very difficult.

In October, he had emergency surgery for a kidney stone. He was so frail, that he never really recovered. In spite of it all, he remained the same kind and loving man that he had always been.

Four days before Christmas, Fred decided that he wanted to go to Von Maur to buy me a Christmas gift.  He'd only left the house a few times since last October, but he said that he felt a bit stronger that morning. I tried to convince him that a gift wasn't at all necessary, but he insisted. He was dressed and ready to leave at 10:00 A.M. The  department store is only a mile and a half from our house, so we wouldn't need much time.

When Fred was all buckled up, I began backing out of our driveway. The back of my car had barely reached the street when there we felt a jolt and heard a sickening thump. The neighbor, whose driveway was directly across the street from ours, had come zooming out like she always did. This time, she'd rammed right into the back of our car.

We both got out of our cars to see the damage. My bumper had a big, cracked dent, and her car looked even worse. The woman seemed panicked. She said she hadn't even seen a car in my driveway, then she began frantically texting someone on her phone. My man was waiting, and he was my first priority. If he wanted to go to Von Maur, I would get him there as soon as I could. 

I told the neighbor, "Look, you didn't see me, and I didn't see you. It was just a freakish accident, so let's each take care of our own damage." She continued texting, and then ran into her house without responding. We left. Fred had shopping to do.

When we walked through the big doors, Fred looked around the store. "It's all clothes," he said. He seemed disappointed.  "Don't they have any jewelry?"

They do carry a small selection of jewelry. It was in the middle of the store, so we made our way down the long, center aisle.  We found the jewelry, but except for a few tiny chains, nothing was actual gold. Fred was disappointed. Costume jewelry wouldn't do.  He looked around the store again in search of something else.  "A sweater?" I suggested. "I can always use a new sweater."

"Not clothes," he said. After a moment of thought, he asked, "Do they have perfume?"

The perfume was a bit farther down the same aisle, so we shuffled on. Fred was only interested in one fragrance, Chanel #5. It had always been his favorite, and he purchased a small bottle of it. The sales clerk couldn't help but smile at this sweet, old man buying a special Christmas gift for his wife.

He carried the bag in one hand and held my hand with the other. As we made our way back through the store and to the car, he shook his head, "I'm just like a little boy with his mommy."

Once home, he handed the bag to me and asked me to put it under the tree. On Christmas morning, our whole family came to spend the day. We gathered around the tree to open gifts. When I was handed his little bag from Von Maur, I pretended to be completely surprised. Fred laughed and made a joke about his beautiful gift wrapping. Christmas was such a happy day. Fred told stories of his youth in the afternoon, and, in the evening, we shared our traditional spaghetti dinner.  It was my hubby's last good day. 

The perfume is still unopened. I can't bring myself to break the seal quite yet, but I don't know why. I'll get there eventually, but not today.