Saturday, September 13, 2014

Autumn Purse: Days 3, 4, 5, and DONE!

It's finished! The autumn purse is packed with my "stuff" and the yellow purse has been put away till next summer.

This one was made with a lightweight upholstery fabric that will have much more durability than quilting cottons. It's more of an all season bag than it is something specifically for the winter months. I'll work on a real winter bag in a couple of months.

I wish I had a pattern for you, but I'm still trying to figure out how to write a pattern for something with this much complexity. If you've used any of my patterns you know that I don't want there to be any confusion about any part of the construction. A purse pattern written that way could cover up to 30 pages. I've been studying other patterns to see if there isn't some kind of middle ground between too vague and absolute overkill.

But on with the sequence of purse making.

This has been such a crazy week! I feel like I'm getting nowhere until I look back. In actuality quite a bit was accomplished.

Other stuff to do. No purse work.

I cut out the sections, stitched the seam at the bottom of the bag and made the casing for the plastic canvas insert that gives it a firm base.

I only made the straps for the bag.

Day 1 of a two day marathon of purse making. Pockets were made and attached, straps were stitched in place, and the body of the bag was done by bedtime.

I did insert the pocket flaps into a seam this time and that worked so much better!
There is one large pocket on the back.


Zipper first. 

Then the lining. 

And the rest was easy, lickity split.

I had the entire purse competed by 3:00! Feeling good!

Three open pockets in the lining.

One 9" zippered pocket .

Tomorrow, I'll take some time off from sewing, but I'll think about which idea to work on next. 

Holidays are coming!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Quilt Along Layout Ideas

"Home" Layout Options

I planned to make progress on this purse today, but Glenda finished the last of her quilt along blocks and asked about a layout plan. So the morning was spent on ideas for the plan. I actually came up with a three plans and a new idea, too.

I really want to hear your opinions on this so I'll know how to go about writing the instructions.

This is what I've sketched out so far. I like all of these plans, but the layout might be dictated by size.

One of the 48" x 48" plans would be fine for a wall hanging.

Layout 1: 48" x 48"
This plan has the house at the top of the quilt with the word, "Home" appliqued above it.  The photo shows an arrangement that could work with my blocks. The diagram below it shows the plan measured out to scale.

Layout 2: 48" x 48" 
I don't have a photo example, but I did make a layout to scale. The big difference is with the location of the house. In this plan it's centered.

Layout 3: 54" x 54"
With secondary sashing and a double border, this quilt layout has grown into a good size for a small lap quilt or a larger wall hanging. Again, I've shown the scale drawing below the photo layout.

A final option: I haven't made a sketch to go with this idea. I was thinking of taking Layout 3 and adding to both the top and the bottom with some border additions. If it grew to 54" x 72", it would be a larger lap quilt, but it would also look lovely when laid over a plain bedspread on a single bed. I have just such a bed, so it's an idea in the works. 

With borders going all the way around this quilt could grow to a bed quilt, but it would immediately become too large to quilt on my little machine. 

Do you have preference? 
Waiting to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A pair of mug rugs and a near disaster

My day started out with a lovely plan.

It was already Tuesday and I was anxious to get the mug rugs finished that I'd promised to get out this week.

These are for those folks who might have preferred a teapot or coffee block for the "Home" quilt along instead of the bookshelf block. The block size and the mug rug size are identical, and I made the pattern for both - a mix and match pair.

The quilt tops were appliqued with my favorite blanket stitch and ready for the next step.

Since I had my sewing machine set up for free motion quilting on my winter purse, I planned to finish the quilting on the pieces for that and then do the quilting on this little pair of mug rugs - kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

The bag pieces went smoothly and I set them aside. Then I "sandwiched" up the mug rugs. I thought about the quilting pattern and decided to go with something nice and swirly because that's what steam looks like.

I slipped the mug rug under my needle and focused on making nice rounded swirls.

After a bit I noticed that my needle was going "thump, thump, thump" like it sometimes will when it becomes dull. Then my thread broke.

No problem. Rethread the machine and change the needle a the same time.

Except ....

What's this?

I'd been quilting through both mug rugs!

No wonder the needle was going "thump, thump, thump"!

Oh, my gosh! Talk about appreciating my seam ripper.

It took awhile to undo the mess, and by the time I got it all undone it was lunchtime. Both mug rugs were filled with lovely little needle holes that needed fixing, too. So I sprayed them good with water so the fabric threads could relax, and I left them to dry while I ate a nice, healthy lunch of veggie soup, a pear, and a small piece of toast and peanut butter.

Needless to say, the winter bag is still waiting for the next step, but at least the mug rug damage is controlled and the mug rugs are finished.

All's well that end's well. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Building a Bag for Autumn

We're into September and the weather is starting to cool down. My pretty yellow summer purse is starting to look out of place and I desperately need something new.

Autumn Purse: Day 1

I pulled out my heavier purse weight fabrics this morning in hopes of finding one that really excited me. Not that I found much choice in my drawer. I have black with cream and cream with black. What was I thinking when I bought two pieces in the same basic colors? I'm not excited, but both are very practical, and either one of them will do nicely.

Hmm... I'll leave choosing for tomorrow.

I had the fabric, but not the other essentials, so I ran out and bought a zipper, some lining fabric, and thread. I didn't really have to go clear across town, but my daughter lives on over there. She's only a few blocks from our two largest fabric stores, and that gave me a great excuse to drop in and visit with her for a few minutes on a Saturday.

I want something really simple in this bag because I'd like to do it and have it done fairly quickly - not so fast as to be sloppy, but I won't be adding too many time consuming design details. I'll make something wonderful later. Right now, I just need a purse!

Now for a design plan. 

I like the size of my yellow purse, so that part is easy. The little outer pockets are great, too, but I need to make some changes in how to construct them. Those pocket flaps were such a pain! And I really don't need the magnetic closures on the small pockets. 

This is my first sketch. Pretty basic, isn't it?

Do you see how I've positioned flaps so they'll be sewn into a seam? I'm not sure if the pockets, themselves, will show on the outside of the bag or not. Still thinking about that. 

Tomorrow I begin cutting. 

Autumn Purse: Day 2

I was so late getting started with sewing on this new purse today! My morning simply got away from me. It started with oversleeping. I was up too late last night, but there was no way I could put my book down with the excitement of the last few chapters. The book was worth it, but the late email responses that followed could have waited till morning. 

After breakfast with the Sunday paper I changed sheets on beds, did laundry, and baked some yummy blueberry-raspberry muffins. I did get out my sewing machine, but I used it to repair a seam on a fitted sheet that ripped out as I was putting it on the bed. By then it was time for lunch. 

Finally, with the kitchen cleaned up, I was ready to begin my purse.

Like I said, I really don't want to take forever on this project. That settled my fabric choice. I'm going with the simple floral print and no other fabric for trim. The front and back pockets will be sewn onto the outside of the bag, and quilting will be  basic and easy. 

I cut out all the pieces that will be quilted first. "Stiff Stuff" is the batting for the body of the bag, but the pockets need to be lighter weight and more flexible so I'm using good old, basic, "Warm and Natural" for those. The backing fabric is a very inexpensive, lightweight muslin.

It's easier to quilt larger segments of fabric than lots of tiny pieces. Here are my main sections laid out in quilt sandwiches. The big piece is for the body of the bag. Other pieces are for pockets and for a separately attached strip at the top of the bag. I'm definitely adding that so I can experiment with setting my pocket flaps into a seam. 

As I said, really basic quilting. I don't want the quilting to be dominant on this bag so I'm using a fine 60 weight, black, polyester thread on the top with regular 50 weight cotton in the bobbin.  I'm also using the floral pattern on the fabric as a general guide. That way I don't have to think at all - just follow the flowers. This quilting is less about being decorative than it is about holding everything together and giving the bag body.

The stitches show up clearly on the wrong side. You can see that there are some overlaps and wandering lines. Since the fabric is duck-cloth in weight and tightly woven, the black quilting barely shows. Wandering lines can't be seen at all from the right side. 

The two largest sandwiches are quilted, but I had to stop early. 

Our son came over to visit this afternoon and he's staying for dinner. Love having him here!

The bag will wait till the next time I can sew on it. Family first.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Quilt Along Blocks # 11 and # 12, Tools and a Bookshelf

I can hardly believe that the last two blocks of this quilt are finished! I suddenly feel lighter, like I've lost a few pounds! The next hurdle will be choosing a layout and putting the quilt top together. I won't even think about the actual quilting and binding just yet. For the next few days I'm going to savor the "doneness" of the blocks.

Block 11

The tools block will come as a surprise to a lot of folks. I don't know that tools were ever mentioned in our list of ideas. But, it is so fitting!

I love how it adds another dimension to the overall theme. The idea was inspired by my friend, Midge, of course.

My little camera doesn't allow me to adjust colors, so the bright, white background always looks gray. :(
Over our weekly coffee we chatted about what was needed to complete those last two blocks. "You've represented children and pets," she said, "and, there are several blocks that show women's interests, but what about men? Shouldn't there be something that has a more masculine feel in this quilt?"

She was absolutely right, of course. There are lots of very happy homes that have no men in them, but I would guess that there are at least as many homes in which the husband and father is very central to the meaning of family and home.

We brainstormed ideas. Lawn mower? Backyard grill? Fishing gear? Tools?

Tools won, hands down. How can you keep a home without a few tools?

Block 12

What to do with the last little block? I posed the question on my Facebook page and offered a choice of teapot or bookshelf.

The bookshelf won the vote by a large margin.

That would have been my own first choice, too. If I'm addicted to anything, it's books. 

And chocolate, of course, but we won't go into that today. 

I didn't even try to count the actual shelves holding books in my house. It's enough to admit that I have four large bookcases that are absolutely stuffed. Library books are scattered everywhere, too.

A home without books? Not for me at all. 

A quick little sidestep here

Have you ever used a hera marker? It's a lovely little tool, and very inexpensive. I marked the lines for lining up my books with a hera marker instead of a quilt marker.

So slick! It makes a tiny, visible crease, but leaves no residue that needs to be removed! I also like using the hera marker with anything that needs to fold smoothly and evenly - even for making my own bias tape. The crease creates a natural fold line that presses with beautiful ease.

Oh, something else! My friend, The Patchsmith, has a very clever idea for adding book titles using selvages of fabrics. Be sure to check out her bookshelf mug rug in Craftsy patterns.

Going back to the bookshelf now

I liked the bookshelf so much in all it's bright colors, and it really is the exact size for a mug rug. So I made one of those, too. 

I chose a totally different color concept for the mug rug. Black and white with just a splash of red can lend sophistication and elegance to almost anything. Even a mug rug.

But what if you want a teapot or a coffee mug in your quilt? 

Can you wait one more week?

I'll be posting a pair of mug rugs - just the same size as the quilt block. These will be mix and match. A teapot, a coffeepot, a cup, and a mug. You could easily use one of those to replace either the bookshelf or the spools block.

Now to choose a layout. Hmm....

I need better lighting for these photos!!
The original idea?

Something a little bit different?
I think I may want to redo my cookie jar in different fabrics.  When I made it I didn't know how my colors and fabrics would come together, but now the cookie jar stands out as different from the other blocks. Fortunately it's a very easy one to do over.

I need a couple of weeks to get to the layout plan. Other projects are screaming for attention!

Wishing you a lovely month of September!!

And, happy stitching!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quilt Along Block # 10 "Window View"

More silhouettes? I thought I was finished with those, but it seems I was mistaken.

Okay, these aren't solid black like all of my silhouette children and their pets, but still. A silhouette, even with color and a collar, is basically a silhouette, isn't it? 

These little guys weren't ever a part of the plan for the Quilt Along, but I simply couldn't resist. 

Our quilt has things to represent children, items that reflect traditional women's interests, but there were no pets. We needed some furry friends. There was one vertical 6" x 10" block needed, and these two fit the bill. So I placed a dachshund and a cat in the window. 

Wonder what they're watching so intently. 

I also turned these little guys into a mug rug. The size is right, the theme is fun, so why not?

With winter not far off on the horizon, I gave the mug rug pair some snowflakes to watch, but a person could choose anything. Falling leaves in the autumn - just a few embroidered stitches. A flock of birds for any season - black "v"s stringing across the window. Rain - slanted lines of quilting. Whatever one might imagine catching the interest of housebound pets.

It's time to go back to work on this quilt. It's almost done! 

I keep moving things around. Every time a new block is added, a change seems to be needed.
There are two blocks to go, one 10" x 10" in the space between the pets and the watering can, and a horizontal 6" x 10" above the current position of the cookie jar. 

Several ideas are in the works, too.

My friend, Midge has an opinion. "Things to show women, things to show kids," she remarked over our weekly coffee. "There's nothing masculine in this quilt."


Wise woman, Midge. 

I think there may just be another surprise coming along. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Snowballs in August" plus two quick tutorials

It's the middle of August, hot and humid, but I've been getting prepared for the cold and snow that are sure to come. I just finished stitching up a "Snowball Fight" in the form of soft, flannel lap quilt. Seasons don't match, but as a pattern maker, I really do have to plan ahead, and winter is really not that very far off.

"Snowball Fight"
It all started with the mittens. I really wanted to do something with mittens, but until I visited my local quilt shop I didn't know that I'd be making a snowball fight. You see, they had brought in these richly colored Woolies Flannels by Maywood.

Of course I couldn't resist touching the fabric. And that was all it took.


Soft, warm, oh so lovely. These were my mittens!

Luckily for me they had 10" layer cakes all ready to go. The idea for snowballs was born just like that!

And the best thing is that the fabrics and the whole idea of the quilt are great for boys as well as girls! How often does that happen?

Mittens + snowballs = ? 
A snowball fight! 
Love at first touch!
In addition to the layer cake I purchased some light flannel for the background, a bit of a deep red yardage for border accent, and a half yard of creamy white to make snowballs that could represent white snow.

How to make snowball blocks in any size you like: 

Start with a squares the finished size of the block. It's best to use a number divisible by three. Three inches, six inches, nine inches, twelve inches, etc. These make the math easiest.

Cut the squares the size of the finished block measurement plus 1/2". My blocks are 6" so I cut them at 6 1/2". 

Then cut four background squares for each block. They need to be exactly one third of the size of the finished block plus 1/2".

Six divided by three equals two. Add 1/2". So I cut my background squares at 2 1/2". Sewing is quick.

Photos tell the story.

Snowballs in the center, a couple of narrow borders, a wide border filled with mittens, and hand stitched scallops stringing the mitten together. 

That's it! Easy peasy! 

Well, except for having to rip out some seams and redo them plus other expected minor catastrophes along the way. You know how it goes. Just normal "stuff".

I really debated about the quilting. I considered spirals, and that idea was well liked by my facebook friends and by my friend, Midge. 

But I was worried. Flannel is thick and this little quilt has batting and a flannel back, too! Making smooth, large spirals on my little sewing machine would be hard enough on a quilt made of lightweight quilting cottons. I didn't even want to attempt stuffing this one into my machine and making large swirls. 

I considered this and that, and then I settled for stitch-in-the-ditch and straight line quilting on the snowball panel. My walking foot came in so very handy for that!

Since the inside was so plain, I decided to quilt the dickens out of the border. And, I was off on the cathedral windows free motion stitching adventure. It's a bit tedious, but I love this pattern!

If well done, the quilting looks like intersecting circles. 

Just one teensy little problem. My circles weren't really circles at all. In fact they were downright wobbly and irregular.  I needed A LOT more practice! 

This is a good sized border, so I practiced away. In fact, I got a ton of practice while quilting this border! It got a little bit better as I moved around the quilt. You can tell exactly which side of the border I started on, but who's going to look that closely?

The first side of my cathedral windows border

Stitching the cathedral window free motion quilting pattern:

Mark a grid on the area to be quilted. I chose a 1 1/4" grid. Smaller is actually easier than larger.

This is how the quilting goes. A diagram shows it best. 

Just follow the arrows. 
Down one square, over to the right, under to the left and repeat till you reach the end of the row. 

Then across to the right, scoop in on left in each square going up the grid till you get to the top. 

Scoop to the right and start over again. 

Draw your own grid or download one from the internet and practice with a pencil for a bit. Then try it on a piece of fabric. 

Here you can see my progress. I'm making my scoops too deep, but I didn't figure that out for a very long time. 

Filling in all around the mittens was a bit tricky, but I have to say, I enjoyed the work. 

I stitched up a cathedral window it each of the white snowball blocks, too. Just to decorate them up a bit. 

I'm really liking this little quilt and I've learned a lot from it as this was my very first actual quilt made of flannel. The soft warmth is perfect for cold winter evenings. 

I had lots of leftover fabric from the layer cake so I put it to use on the back of the quilt. A section of 9" strips inserted in the back cut down on the fabric I needed to buy and added a bit of color as well.

I've been thinking of other ways to work with flannel, too.

If I someday want to make one that's lighter weight, I might consider using a single layer of fleece on the back instead of batting and flannel backing. A cotton backing with the batting would also be lighter weight. For a summer quilt, two layers of flannel with no batting in between might be nice.

Happy stitching, everyone!