Friday, April 25, 2014

A Mug Rug for Mother's Day

I was thinking about my mom the other day, missing her of course, and remembering how much she loved spring and the delicate new blossoms that are beginning to appear in advance of summer. Mother was one of those special gardeners. She had the magic touch, and everything she planted and nurtured flourished with health. Her flowers bloomed like no others, her vegetable garden overflowed with wonderful fresh produce, and even the grass around her home seemed to grow a little greener than it did anywhere else.

I inherited none of this talent, I'm sorry to say, and I'm sure I sighed with nostalgia remembering this beautiful, gentle woman who influenced me in so many ways. Then it dawned on me that Mother's Day will be here in just a few weeks!

I always gave Mom a basket of flowers or a pretty plant for Mother's Day. Being who she was, she gave me a new geranium every year because I was a mom, too. She knew I'd kill it, but she also knew that I loved her for giving me a new chance every summer.

Last year I made a trio of mug rugs to remember her. Each one was a basket filled with one of her favorites - pansies, sunflowers, and strawberries. I called the pattern "Baskets for Mom". You can find it in my pattern store.

This year, though I wanted to make something a bit different. It had to be floral, of course, and of all the flowers in the world, she loved roses best. So, I created a rose. Because small mug rug sized roses are so difficult to reproduce in fabrics, I chose a simple, yet elegant stenciled rose. I added the word, "Mom", and that's what I named the pattern. "Mom".

Flower patterns often contain many very small pieces. Thick, applique stitching can detract from the shape of petals and leaves on smaller pieces, so I used raw edge stitching on all of these mug rugs. It's a very easy technique that involves fusing the pieces to the background and stitching near the edge with a straight stitch. 

I really like the way raw edge applique looks on nature subjects. Yes, the edges will fray a bit over time, but most things found in nature do not have perfectly smooth surfaces. This stitching just looks so natural. It's super easy, too!

I love you, Mom. I so wish I could give these little gifts to you, but I'm sure you know that I give them to you in my heart. 

To my mother, and for all the moms, grandmas, aunts, and other women who influence lives, 
I wish you a Happy Mother's Day. 
Every day of the year.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Made it on Friday

Friday was one of those days when everything went perfectly. I woke up to beautiful sunshine and an idea. I've been wanting to make happy faces for some time, now, but this was the morning when it dawned on me that those faces should be on flowers.


Right after breakfast I trotted down to my new sewing room and began sketching. Three flowers, not perfectly centered, but balanced. Three different smiles. Zip, zip. The applique pieces were cut out and ready to press onto the background by lunchtime!

I think I gobbled lunch. I couldn't wait to get back to the mug rug. I embroidered the faces, ironed everything in place and by dinner the applique stitching was finished.

What to name it? My hubby and I tossed around names - Sunshine, Happy Days, Smile. "It's only Friday," he said. "What's the rush?"

Only Friday. Thank goodness! "TGIF"! A name!!

And Done!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Cookie Jar, Quilt Along Block #5

Have you ever been traveling down a road and suddenly been tempted to take a little side road just to see where it leads?

Happens to me all the time.

That little side road has always intrigued me. It knows my name. "Karen," it whispers. "Karen, come see what I can show you."  I'm always up to an adventure and I find these calls so hard to resist.  I've wandered off the main path over and over. I've left it on foot and in I've left it in my car. Sometimes there is nothing of interest of all, just a dead end, but you can never know unless you look.

Now and again, though that little path can lead a person right into a bog. Literally. Like the time I loaded up my mom's car with teenage friends and we went on an adventure! 

We were on the highway going nowhere in particular when one of the girls saw a small gravel road leading into some trees. With much encouragement from my giggling friends I slowed down and turned onto that gravel road. It did look interesting. 

This could have been us except my mom's '49 Ford was dark, forest green.
Soon we came upon an even narrower road. It was just a deeply rutted pat that wound through deep weeds. Of course, we simply had to see where it led. Where it led us was to a stop. We were suddenly mired deep in mud. Up the hubcaps! Soundly stuck. 

We couldn't just sit there, so we all piled out of the car and trudged through the muck, across a field, and up to the farmhouse to ask for help. The farmer eyes went to our mud-covered shoes and legs as he listened to our story. I'm sure I heard him snicker, but he just nodded, straight faced, and headed for his tractor.  He drove to our car, hauled it out of the field and pointed us back to the road. As we climbed back in the car he turned away shaking his head and mumbling something about "girls".

That's the one and only time I've been stuck in mud. But even that didn't cure my curiosity when I see an interesting path. The temptation to follow never leaves. More often than not, taking that turnoff has taken me somewhere wonderful - a beautiful meadow, an almost hidden fishing hole, a charming little town. 

"Ok, nice little story," you say. 

"But what does it have to do with the Quilt Along block?" 

It has everything to with the block! Truly. 

You see, I was planning to make a sewing machine. I had the sketch all planned out in my head. But, when I sat down at my desk I couldn't draw it. My mind kept wandering away from that idea. It wanted to explore some other direction. I didn't know where it all might lead, but I gave in and let my pencil doodle around. 

Before I knew it, I had drawn a cookie jar. 

A cookie jar? I had known from the beginning that I would make a cookie jar block some day, but I hadn't planned it for this block. It just happened. 

So I stitched it up, and here it is - a cookie jar for Block 5.

I filled it up with frosted sugar cookies because those are my grandson's absolute, all time, forever favorite cookies! 

In fact, when he was in first grade he begged me to bring frosted sugar cookies to share with everybody on Grandparents' Day.  My grandson proudly passed out cookies to all the students in his class and to the other visiting grandparents, too, all the while bragging that his grandma made the very best cookies ever.

Enough of the stories! I must be boring you to tears!

I think I'll go to the kitchen and bake some cookies. Frosted sugar cookies, of course. 

Want one?

Maybe I'll make a sewing machine next time. 
Maybe not.
Wherever the road leads...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Making a Summer Quilt

A couple of months ago, I was given a gift. A friend named Norah and a couple of others got together and gave me something really exciting.

It was an entire layer cake! Forty-two 10" x 10" squares of Moda's new "High Street" fabrics! Oh, wow! But what to do with this delightful group of fabrics?

I thought about it for weeks as I worked on mug rugs and my new yellow purse. It had to be something for summer, and not anything so small as a mug rug. First I thought to do a flip-flop quilt. I made one several years ago and people keep asking for the pattern. I do help them get started, but it's a McCalls pattern, not one of my own.

Did I want to make another flip-flop quilt, though? Really? Nope. Not exactly a unique idea.

But a quilt with a whole summer wardrobe ... 
That would be fun! 
A wardrobe for a summer at the beach.

So that's what I designed, and here it is.

Oh, my goodness, what fun this was to make!

That is, it was fun once I got the wrinkles ironed out. The first plan was to use unique blocks like these. 

It was a very pretty block and on paper it looked great. So I made six blocks and put them up on my design board. 

Something just wasn't working.

I called in the hubby for consultation. We tried another arrangement.

Definitely not!

So it was back to the drawing board.

"What's wrong with simple?" my better half asked. "Can't you just keep it really simple?"

Well, of course! 

Gotta love that man!

Nice and simple to showcase the fabrics. 

Perfectly square, straight sashings, easy to sew. 

I took the little quilt outside to our park and photographed it in the beautiful sunshine - even though it's only 33 degrees today and last night's snow still hasn't completely melted away. 

It looks nice an warm out there, so that's all that really matters.

I didn't have enough of the plain gray for the back, so had to innovate. So much more fun than a plain backing, don't you think?

Now, on to the next project!

Guess what!

I have scraps!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"On the Road", a mug rug for campers

It's spring!

At least, it's supposed to be spring, and I admit we have had a few scattered spring-like days. It's certain, though, that spring will soon arrive in full force, and then before we can blink, summer will be on top of us!

It's been a long, long winter and most folks are eagerly looking forward to summer vacations. We'll have a stay-cation this year, but many of my friends are excited about going on a cross country camping trip. Campsites are popping up everywhere, and camping has become more popular than ever.

When I was growing up, my father took us on rare camping excursions. He'd wake us up before dawn and we'd crawl into the car carrying our pillows and still dressed in our pajamas. We'd wake again as the sun came up and find ourselves well on the way to a lake or a river to fish for our breakfast. Sometimes we'd stay the day and sometimes we'd stay longer. We didn't have a camper, so on the nights we camped outdoors, my father and I slept on blankets on the ground.  Mom was not about to sleep on the ground. In fact, she wasn't at all fond of camping. She was terrified of snakes and had no confidence in my dad's idea that a piece of rope laid all around the blanket was the way ward off reptilian creepers. When she couldn't talk my father into finding a motel, she and my baby sister slept in the car.

I haven't gone camping since those long ago family trips. My husband is not the outdoorsy type. In fact, his idea of "roughing it" is staying in a motel instead of a hotel! That's just fine, though. I agreed with mom. Don't make me sleep outside! I loved being surrounded by nature, the hiking, the fishing, and all of that, but waking up covered with mosquito bites is not for me. And I need a place to shower! And a bathroom instead of a bush, for goodness sake!

People keep telling me that I'm missing something wonderful. I'm sure that If we'd had a camper to sleep in and a lovely campsite with running water and such I might have become a convert.

So, I made a mug rug to show the kind of camping experience that I'm sure I would have liked.

Summertime, here we come!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finished! The new yellow purse is done!

So pleased. The yellow purse looks just the way I had hoped it would look!

I bought a new zipper yesterday, and this time it went in place as slick as could be. We learn so much from our mistakes! I'll never be intimidated by recessed zippers again. Quilted pocket flaps, though, are another story. There must be a better way!

Next time I make a recessed zipper I'll take photos so I can post a tutorial.

In the meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy all of these lovely pockets.

The bag isn't overly large at all, 15 inches wide at the top and 11 inches tall. It has a 3 inch wide base, so it's nice and roomy.

On to the next project! 

What shall it be? 
Mug rug? 
Another bag? 

Have a lovely day!

Friday, March 28, 2014

The saga of the new yellow purse continued...

I had to put my new yellow purse aside for a quite while as I worked on quilt along blocks and setting up my new sewing room. But, nothing else was pressing to be finished in a hurry, so I got the purse out and worked on it some yesterday and a bit today.

The body of the bag is finished. I added a simple large pocket to the back and stitched up the bottom. That went smoothly, but it's so easy to do. This is what it looked like.

Next, I put the handles together. They are reinforced with pieces of Stiff Stuff. I made them 24 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide. 
Top side


The purse was just a bit deeper than I wanted so I cut an inch off the top before attaching the handles.

The zipper. Oh, my...

I hadn't made a recessed zipper before, so I found an excellent tutorial online. The only problem was that I mis-measured. First off, I followed the tutorial for the width of the insert and the depth of the lining section. Not good. It was simply too wide and too deep for my little bag. In addition to that, I followed the directions for zipper length. It came out too short. I guess that my needs were a bit different than that of the person who made the tutorial.

And did I realize all of this right away? Ha! Of course not! I stitched the zipper to the lining first. Big, big oops! So, out it came. Tomorrow I'll be off to purchase a new zipper. 

In the meantime, this is what I've done with the lining. Lots of lovely pockets! Have I told you that I love pockets in my bags?

I usually put a large, zippered pocket on one side, but I decided to skip the zipper today. The lining is partially stitched along the bottom of the bag, but an opening has been left for turning it right side out when all is finished.

Done for today!

I'm off to cook up some dinner. 
Have a super Saturday, everyone!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A new mug rug for Easter and a tour of my new "studio"

It's almost April! Spring is here, more or less, but by Easter this year spring gardens should be starting to bloom. I wanted to make at least one Easter mug rug, so I went to the Craftsy site and searched for Easter mug rug patterns. I needed to know what was there so I wouldn't be repeating something done over and over.

Lots of patterns with bunnies, chicks, and eggs, but not a single mug rug with a lily was to be found. Good! I love making flowers! And lilies don't have to be white and they don't have to be relegated to Easter. A simple change of color and an Easter lily becomes a day lily or a tiger lily. So I made one, of course.

Did it all go perfectly from the start? No. This time, though the problem was with fabrics and thread rather than the actual pattern. Much easier to fix. 
There wasn't enough contrast in value in the first attempt. The greens ran together and the blue thread faded almost completely away. I brightened it up in the mug rug that I finished.

My New "Studio"

If you've been following my blog, you know that a change was coming to my house. We almost never use the guest bedroom and my daughter needed twin beds for her new house. Fantastic news! I have suddenly acquired a nice big room for my sewing mess! Not only that, but when my hubby uses his office he won't have to squeeze past the ironing board or clear fabrics off his desk.

Here's a little photo tour of my new space. 

The door as seen from my desk.  The 1905 treadle works like a charm.
There's my lovely Craftsy bag hanging from the doorknob.
My new cutting board and space to leave my ironing board set up.
Also a new white design board on the back wall.
I made it from a $13 piece of styrofoam insulation covered with a piece of an old sheet. 
Thread. Lots of thread. 
Wonderful light coming through a south window. I'll miss my view of the park, though.
My hard working black Singer 201 sits under the window in it's cabinet.
The smaller design board across from my desk.
I had to have 3 feet cut off the insulation board to get it into my Jeep, so I put the excess to good use.
Lots of drawer space for my fabrics. 
Color on the big design board behind my desk.
The quilt and mug rugs are bright, cheerful, and so fitting for spring.
I didn't spend a bundle either. The biggest expense was the cutting table that was on sale for half price at Joann's.

That's it! 

Now, I need to get to work! There's a yellow purse that has patiently been waiting to be be completed.