Friday, July 17, 2015

Christmas in July 2015

It's the middle of July, the weather is hot and sultry, but Christmas fabrics are filling the shelves in all of the fabric stores. Those fabrics are flying off the shelves faster than they are coming in, too!

My favorite winter holiday is five months in the future, but sewing panic is already beginning to set in. Will I be ready? How many projects do I really need to make this year? What do I need for gifts? How shall I decorate? What on earth can I sew that's at least a little bit different from everything else I've done?

I'm working on new ideas for patterns that will come out later, but some of you may want to get started now. A number of my projects are new since this time last year, and I hope one of these might help you with your holiday quilting plans.

Mug Rugs: 

For easy gifts or handy table decorations, nothing beats mug rugs. They are small enough that they don't take very long to stitch, and your scrap basket will likely already contain all the scraps you will need. They can also be popped into an envelope and mailed for special greeting cards.

If you are really pressed for time, "Mitten Weather" is a perfect choice. There's no need to spend long hours sewing or shopping for fabrics. This one whips together so quickly that you can make a bunch, one for everyone using favorite color combinations.

Find 'Mitten Weather" here:

"Wrapped and Ready" is one of my favorites. If you love Santa and his elves, this is a perfect project. This whimsical little elf resting after wrapping bunches of Christmas packages is sure to delight any child - or the child in any adult.

Get "Wrapped and Ready" here:

I've blogged about the "Ice Skates" pattern twice in the past couple of weeks. This is the newest of my patterns and one of the most versatile. The pattern can be used to make a mug rug, a table topper or wall hanging, or even a pillow. Anyone who loves figure skating will appreciate this design.

Get "Ice Skates" here:

A couple of cardinal families live in the trees in my yard. They are so beautiful that I become mesmerized watching them. It's harder to see them when the trees are thick with leaves, but in the winter they stand out beautifully against the bare trees and the white snow.  A while back I made a pattern, "Four Seasons", to showcase my birds, and cardinals were on the mug rug symbolizing winter. This isn't a new pattern, but it is one of my favorites.

"Four Seasons" is found here:

Table Toppers:

Table decor can have a huge impact on the overall look of a room. Table toppers are small enough, too, that they make wonderful gifts that will be appreciated for years to come. 

This square table topper is entirely pieced and contains no applique.  "Shining Star" is easy for a beginner to piece, and since it would look fabulous in any number of color combinations, it doesn't have to be made specifically for a holiday. 

Find "Shining Star" here:

"Holiday Tabletop Trio" is the most traditional of my table decor patterns. I can't imagine preparing for Christmas without decking my house with poinsettias. Last year, in fact, I didn't have much time at all for decorating, so I put up the tree and filled the house with poinsettia plants. Nothing else seemed necessary. I used this table runner and matching place mats, and everything came together as a theme.  The pattern is actually three patterns in one: a table runner, place mats, and a small table topper.

"Holiday Tabletop Trio" can be found here:

"Snow Family Holiday" is another pattern that works on a tabletop, but I hung it on a wall. There is something warm and wonderful about a family preparing for Christmas together, but a family of snow people is both magical and fun. 

"Snow Family Holiday" is available her:

Lap Quilt: 

If you want something to snuggle up under on and cold and snowy day, "Snowball Fight" is just the thing. It can be made either in cotton quilting fabric or in flannel for extra warmth. Mine is flannel, and it's so warm and cuddly. Traditional snowball blocks make the pieced center, and colorful, wooly mittens are strung around the border like Christmas lights.

"Snowball Fight" is found here:

Wishing you wonderful early holiday sewing successes!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Speed Skating


The ice skate pattern is finished!

One mug rug ...

... and one table topper - or wall hanging, if you prefer.  Wait! You might use only the center section from the table topper as a block in a different quilt, or on a pillow. As I quickly discovered, this is a multi-purpose pattern.

I was almost finished with the sewing on the table topper and mug rug versions of the design when I learned about Anna's need for a way to display her skating level badges. The timing couldn't have been better! If you read last week's blog post you may remember the story of how all of this came about.

What a delight it was to help Anna design her own background for those hard won badges! The child has a mind of her own. I pulled out tons of fabric options from my stash, but Anna was adamant. Bright colors. Pink skates! She chose the fabrics and she chose to have them made into a pillow. I personalized the pillow with letters from my "Alphabet Soup" pattern that spell Anna's name.  Look how bright and joyful this pillow turned out to be. Really bright! Anna loves it.

The pillow cover fits an 18" pillow form. It requires two 19" squares of fabric that are sewn together with 1/2" seams. I added a zipper closure, but that isn't really essential. 

My first choice would have been to place the zipper on the seam at the very bottom of the pillow, but as my fabric was a bit short, the back had to be made in two sections. As a result, the zipper is oddly placed - off center in the middle of the back. I don't think Anna minds that the back of her pillow is less than perfect. 

This excellent tutorial for making a zippered pillow cover is found on the blog, "My Tiny Sidekick". 

Now I need to get to work on the next project. I wish I could make up my mind! I still haven't figured out the pumpkin pattern, and I have an idea for a small basket with matching mug rugs.  I'm imagining something to use for afternoon coffee with friends. The mug rugs could be a bit oversized, but still not as large as a regular placemat, and the basket could hold muffins or cookies. Napkins, too, maybe? In country cottage colors? Red and white, perhaps?

Eenie meenie minie mo ....

Pumpkins, table setting, pumpkins, table setting...

Didn't I just go through this?

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!!
It's July!!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Cha-Cha-Cha and Winter Ice on the 4th of July

I found this on Facebook a few days ago. It fits me perfectly! I've definitely been cha-cha-cha-ing for quite a while now.

The back and forth dance stepping began two weeks ago when I was trying to decide on a theme for the next pattern.  Cha-cha-cha.
Pumpkins ... ice skates ... pumpkins ... musical notes ... pumpkins ... sunflowers ...  There were stacks of fabric everywhere!! Stacks and stacks. I had several piles for every single one of those ideas lined up across my cutting table, and I was running into a brick wall with ideas. It was back and forth for days! Then, suddenly ice skates scooted to the front of the line, and everything fell into place.

I've stitched a wall hanging (or table topper) and a mug rug to be included in the pattern, and here I am today - writing a pattern for ice skates on the 4th of July. I'll publish the pattern later in the week.

There's a story to go with this.

If you happen to be walking across the grass or standing by my front door, my sewing room is clearly seen through a large window just above my cutting table. My neighbor and I share a flower bed under that window. She was working on weeds when she happened to glance into the room and see the ice skate projects I was ready
If you look closely, you can see fabrics on my cutting table. 
She rang my doorbell. "Anna would love these!" she said. "Could I bring her over to look?"

Anna is eight-years-old. I knew she was taking ice skating lessons, but I didn't know that she was rapidly progressing from one level to the next and had already collected three badges. The child is obsessed with skating and I definitely understood. Ice skating was my favorite winter activity ever.

I learned to skate when I was exactly Anna's age. I didn't have lessons, but I became an avid skater. In Sioux Falls, where I grew up, the baseball diamond a couple of blocks from my school was flooded for skating every winter. It was kept smooth and clear of snow for skating until the weather became too warm. There was no charge for use of the rink, so we could skate to our hears content. All winter long our skates went with to us school and from school straight to the skating rink. There was a warming house with a wood burning stove where we could buy hot chocolate and candy bars, but who had time for that when the days were short and we had to get on home before dark? We wanted to skate!

Back to Anna. It turns out she needs a place to display her badges as she acquires them, so I'll soon be working on another project for the ice-skate appliques. What should it be? A bulletin board? A skating tote? A pillow? Anna has chosen her fabrics, but she has more decisions to make.

The skates HAVE to be pink! With blue blades!

Oops, the timer on my stove is binging and I hear potatoes calling. They seem to think that the 4th of July is a potato salad kind of a day. 

Happy Independence Day!!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Traffic Jams and Roundabouts

This week my brain has been functioning like summer traffic moving through road construction. The traffic is barely crawling and I keep running into unexpected detours. I'm getting nowhere.

The first plan was to do something with the pumpkins that designed last year - maybe a table topper or a table runner. I had a couple of ideas, but when I pulled out my autumn fabrics and sat down to sketch I found myself drawing ice skates. When I was young, ice skating was my very most favorite winter sport ever, so I've wanted to do something with that for a very long time. Skates, however, were not at all what I had planned for this week.

I tried to forget about them and get back to pumpkins, but still, the skates wouldn't go away. I previewed fabric options, but none of them make me go, "Ahh, yes!"

 These are the best of my choices so far.

Our quartet of quilting buddies is heading off on our summer fabric shop hop around southern Nebraska this Monday (hooray!!), so I'm hoping to find the perfect skate fabrics then. I know they're out there. We'll have a lovely giggle-fest, too, and that is so good for the soul.

In the meanwhile, skates have been forced to the side, and I'm back to pumpkins. This detour is taking me around and around in circles!

My fabrics with last year's pumpkins

Square table topper, rectangular table runner or something else? Help! 

One thought.
Maybe I should start all over with a completely different something for this weekend. Something like a quick mug rug, maybe, or that sewing machine cover I need to make.

Then, again, I may just stay away from my sewing room altogether for a few days to give my creative brain a bit of a rest. Maybe it's time to pull a weed or two from my flower bed and wait for the road blocks to come down. 

Wishing you a wonderful week with smooth traveling all the way!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On Vacation ... If Wishes Were Fishes

"If wishes were fishes, we all have a fry." I could really use a vacation about now, but I'm afraid a real vacation will have to wait awhile. At this moment, though, we are completely finished with workers coming and going along with those headaches of dealing with the house. That's enough to make the days feel as relaxing as a vacation.

Oops. Shouldn't have written that! I'd better knock on wood quickly now! Hope I'm not too late!

Our neighbor girls are unbelievably excited about the new tenants. They've been the only girls in the neighborhood, but the new family has an eight-year-old girl. That makes for two eight-year-old girls and one 6 year-old girl right next door to each other.  The three girls can't seem to get enough of each other,  so we live in a very happy building. There's a whole lot of giggling going on!

"On Vacation" has another meaning this week. After seemingly endless interruptions, the pattern for my vacation themed table runner/wall hanging is finished! Talk about happy dance time!

Making the pattern didn't seem as difficult as getting the photographs for this one. I must have taken twenty or more photos over the past few days, and I'm not entirely thrilled with any of them. Because of that I had a horrible time deciding which photos to use on the Craftsy pattern page. Please pop over there and take a look. Should I choose one of the others for the main photo? I've been switching back and forth half the day, but I'm still not sure.

These are the current first and second choice photos - in no particular order. Both were taken in the same location, but one was in bright sunshine and the other taken later in the day when the area was shaded.

The sunny photo feels more artistic, but the shaded one shows the details of the quilt better. I really would like to hear your opinion on this. There are other photos on the pattern page, too, so several to choose from. It's very easy for me to switch it up. 

I made another trip to the fabric store this afternoon, and this time I came home with some autumn fabrics. These are totally different than my usual color and design choices. Instead of bright whites and softer colors, I'm staring at black and bright, bright orange! I'm also wondering if I've lost my mind. How on earth am I going to make this work?

Have a super week.

And, keep cool!!

We've suddenly jumped straight into summer heat and humidity. Even though I moaned and groaned, I'm going to miss the cool, rainy first part of June. 

I'm ending with a pair of blocks made by Hannah Ford for the Quilt Along 2015. Adorable, aren't they?

Friday, June 12, 2015


The Good Part

Let's begin with the sewing progress, because that became the highlight of my week. I wasn't able to even enter my sewing room until Thursday!

I was so excited to finish designing the appliques for the summer table runner!  All are now fused to the background and ready to be stitched in place. If the stars align, the runner may be completed next week. If not next week, then I'll definitely I'll have the pattern out the following week.  Knock on wood! Fingers crossed!

Indoor photos taken on a cloudy day are never the best.
Oh, no! A hubcap has been snitched! 

The trees filled up those empty spaces quite nicely, didn't they?  I may or may not throw in a few little embroidered bits just for fun, but I don't think they're actually necessary.

On to the madness! 

This week's craziness was all my fault. I had told everyone that was we were finished with tradesmen for awhile. I really ought to know better than to say such things out loud. Even thinking them can cause it all to backfire.  Murphy's Law, you know. Self-jinxed again.

Our tenant moved out on Sunday, and when I walked through the empty home the wear and tear of five years occupancy by a man living alone really showed. He'd kept it clean on the surface and was tidy as a pin, but - well, you know.  The work on getting that unit ready began in earnest. We were really fortunate that we were able to coordinate everyone and have it completed in only three days.

Painters: We'd thought that the kitchen alone would need painting, but it turned out that the entire main floor was in need. Why would a person scrub a painted wall with a scouring pad?

Cleaning crew: So many people simply don't have a clue how to keep bathrooms and kitchens from becoming disgusting, and I swear the baseboards hadn't been dusted since he moved in.
Locksmith: The front door couldn't be opened from outside. A latch wouldn't pull completely open. We had to go in through the garage.
Carpenter/handyman: A bifold door was in the closet and missing a part, there was some damage to the front door that needed to be repaired and sanded, and black, moldy bathtub caulking came out.
Plummer: Replaced a broken kitchen faucet.

Carpet cleaners: Good golly, I thought those carpets would never come clean, but a bit of scrubbing and magic steam pulled out those nasty stains and accumulated dust.
Handyman again: Replaced the old bathroom caulk and the bathrooms looks fantastic.

It positively gleams! Come live next door, and we can be sewing buddies! :)

Tomorrow I'll paint the front door and it will be totally ready for new renters. Fingers crossed that we find the right family soon. We're looking for good neighbors, so we don't rent to just anyone.

Here's hoping that all of us have time to lean back this summer, put our feet up, and put our cares away for awhile.

Sun Down, Feet Up
 Pattern by Two Strings found on Craftsy

Thursday, June 4, 2015

July Table Topper Tutorial. Variation of Disappearing Nine-Patch

Fabric requirements, templates, and layouts for various sizes of quilts from this pattern can be found in this free patttern on my Craftsy pattern page.

I'm all ready for July with this super quick 26" x 26" table topper. It was so much fun to whip up, and I absolutely love that bright red, white, and blue palette.

There aren't many designs as versatile as a disappearing nine-patch, but with just a bit of careful fabric placement this one begs for applique. I can see it in so many color schemes and absolutely any applique template can be used: autumn leaves, cat silhouettes, flowers, hearts, Christmas stocking ... anything at all that suits you.

Use 1/4" seam allowances throughout. 

Make four blocks.

1. For each block, arrange three 5" x 5" red squares, four 5" x 5" white squares, and one 5" x 5" blue square as shown here. Sew into three rows of three. 

2. Measure 2 1/4" in from the seams of the center rows. Cut straight down the middle. Then straight across the middle horizontally, again measuring 2 1/4" from the seams of the center rows.

3.  Rearrange the four segments of the block as shown, and sew together. 

4. Arrange the blocks as shown below. Sew together.

In this photo the quilt shows a quarter turn clockwise. 

 Appliqued Stars

Make four large stars and five small stars.
Large stars are approximately 5" tall and the small stars are 3".

1. Trace the star templates onto the paper side of the fusible web. Cut around the template leaving about 1/4" margin. 

2. Place the fusible web onto the wrong side of the blue star fabric and iron onto the fabric according to the instructions for your fusible web.

3. Cut the applique out, remove the paper from the fusible web and arrange onto the quilt top. Press to fuse onto the fabric.

4. Stitch the applique to the quilt top by hand or with a machine zig-zag stitch. I used a machine blanket stitch.

Make a quilt sandwich of the quilt top, batting, and backing. Quilt as desired. Bind, and it's done.

Happy Stitching!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Distractions Galore

I had so much sewing planned for this week. I meant to finish the vacation table runner at least.

Ha! It's been a great week, just not so great for sewing.

Sunday was the best day with my granddaughter's high school graduation. She's eighteen, her brother is sixteen and has grown a beard just because he can. How on earth did those babies grow up so fast?

After all, weren't these photos taken just yesterday?

In addition to that, I got to attend a retirement party for one of my dearest friends and long time teaching buddy. Then, Anne from my quilt group came by for an afternoon of show and tell. We solved a little problem with a quilt top. Yesterday, I went out to lunch with Midge. She's just returned from a trip to Disney World with her youngest grandchildren. They had so much fun.

Something else came up, too. My world has been so topsy-turvy all month. We live in a triplex of three townhouses. One of our tenants will be moving out next weekend and I'll be showing it today and tomorrow. The place looks beautiful, but even so, the painter has been called and is scheduled to give the kitchen a coat of fresh paint the first day it's vacant. If you'd like to move to Lincoln, we have a great place for rent. Just let me know. 

I did make some progress on the table runner. I think I'll need two more vehicles for it. This is where it stands now. I'm wondering what I should do to fill in the large white background area a bit more. Trees? Flowers? Birds?

Nothing is attached yet because I haven't designed the other appliques. I need those before deciding where things will fit. What else do I need? A sports car? A boat trailer? A fifth wheel? A VW bug? Decisions, decisions... 

I may have more time to consider those choices if I take another break for a few days. I think I'd like to do something  quick for the Fourth of July. 

How time flies. 
My babies are grown and tomorrow is already the last day of May!

Hello, June!

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Bit of Time to Sew - Finally!

Sewing is my therapy, my escape from everyday worries and woes, my sanity saver, and one of my greatest pleasures. I've had so little time to work in my sewing room the past couple of weeks that today was pure bliss.

The painters have gone, the sprinkler system is fixed, the carpenter has repaired the last little piece that needed doing, and the whole day was mine. I hurried through breakfast and morning chores, then raced downstairs to my play in my sewing room. (That last bit may be slightly exaggerated. My days of actually racing down the stairs are long gone, but I moved as fast as I could without tripping and taking a stumble.)  Bliss! I played and I played.  In fact, I had a frolicking good time with my new design in progress.

I'm making another table runner that could also hang on a wall. This one is all about summer and heading out on vacation. There will definitely be a car pulling a camper. Then I'll likely add such things as a fifth wheel with a truck, a hippie van, a jeep, and a sports car, plus odd and sundry other items pulled or piled on top of the vehicles. A canoe, a boat, boxes and tarps would be logical.  I don't know what else, but these are the ideas playing in my head right now. I'll stop when I run out of space on the runner, and I don't know how many traveling vehicles will fit. Would trees in the background be too much?

The car and camper were the easiest, so that's where I've begun . Here they are, laid out on a paper background.

Nothing can be fused to the fabric until I can see how they would look best. 

I have two background fabrics in mind, but I haven't been able to choose one over the other. What do you think? White on white or little gray circles on white? 

I wish the sun were shining so I could see the fabrics under sunlight. The way a fabric photographs is so important when making patterns. The photograph can make all the difference in whether people like the patten or not.  Cameras change colors in subtle ways, and sometimes a piece that looks beautiful in real life won't photograph well at all.  

I won't be sewing tomorrow, but other exciting things are in the works. My daughter's fundraiser for the NSEA children's fun takes place. I'll be over there with my raffle quilt and we'll draw for a winner.

The raffle quilt.
My granddaughter's high school graduation ceremony takes place later in the day. So much excitement in the air this weekend!

There will be more sewing when life calms down once again. 

Have a lovely weekend! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

"Windows on My Garden": Slice, Splice, Done.

Has it been forever since I posted a new pattern, or does it just seem that way to me? Spring and all that comes with that has interfered with my sewing and pattern making. After tomorrow's visit by the lawn sprinkler man, though, things may calm down a bit. It's high time, too, because I need to begin seriously thinking about fall and winter patterns.

This pattern is finally finished, though, and it was so worth the effort! I am absolutely crazy about this one.  I've titled it "Windows on My Garden".

Slice, splice, done really does describe the quilt! Perhaps I should have named it that. No, I really do see windows when I look at it. The pattern makes two different size quilts with nine duplicates of one block. The larger one has a border, the smaller one has none.

When each block is identical, the stage is set for assembly line sewing. With precise cutting and accurate 1/4" seams it all comes together easily.

I've made these two entirely different quilts, each with nine of the blocks, but I know I will soon be stitching up more items made with different numbers of the same block.

Three in a row would make a table runner 15" x 45'.
Four set in a square become a 30" x 30" table topper. Add a narrow border and you'd have a baby quilt.
Twenty blocks set in a 4 x 5 grid with an added border are needed for a twin bed quilt, and 42 blocks in a 6 x 7 rectangle are perfect for a queen size bed.

The block is made with slicing, splicing, and trimming. The pink and green quilt was the experiment that helped me figure out how to splice two strips going down the side of block and only one going across. If I'd used splices half an inch wide everything would have been fine. But, I didn't like the half inch strips. I wanted larger ones - three fourths of an inch wide. And that threw everything off. Each time I added a spliced strip into a row of patches, the row grew 1/4" wider. If I'd left it that way, seams wouldn't have lined up at all. Some rows of patches would have finished 5" wide, and others 5 1/4" wide. That last little trimming slice fixed the problem altogether.

When it's finished, each block is 15" x 15" - and the patches line up!

The first quilt, 49" x 49".
I made the second quilt to work up the pattern. I thought I might use photographs in the pattern, but I honestly didn't need them at all because I've finally figured out how to make a simple pattern like this on the computer.

Confession: I do love this pattern, and I had this lovely stack of low volume fat quarters begging to be made into a quilt.  That's the real reason I made the second quilt. And I am so happy I did!

Low volume quilt with a border, 56" x 56". 
I am so in love with this quiet quilt! Someday I may find another set of gorgeous fabrics like this and make a bed size quilt in this same pattern.  The fabrics are so subtle that nothing really pops out, so lots of quilting was needed to add texture and make it sparkle.

I like cotton batting for table toppers and wall hangings because it gives them stability and they keep their shape so well. This quilt, however, needed to be as soft and cuddly as possible, so I used Legacy 80/20 poly-cotton blend batting. No matter how densely you quilt it, the quilt remains soft and pliable. I was able to truly let myself go on the quilting without turning it into something stiff and unyielding. 

Oh gosh, I had so much fun!

Done is done, and now I need to focus on something new. There are at least 50 choices on my idea list. I'll go over them tomorrow and try to decide where to begin.

Have a lovely week!

And happy stitching!