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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Two Quilt Along blocks at once!

As always, nothing really went according to plan, but I need to begin at the beginning.

I asked all of you what you would like to make as the block for April and I received a different opinion from each person who offered an idea. Then, one of our quilt along friends suggested that I should make whatever represents "home" to me.

At once images of children popped into my head. Children playing, children laughing, children chasing through the house and the yard - and toys seemingly everywhere! So I made two blocks - a doll and a tricycle. These were among my favorite toys when I was growing up and they seem to represent children everywhere.

Summer, 1946. My first set of "wheels". 

Early spring 1948. My baby sister was on the way and I got a new baby of my own.
These are the two quilt blocks that came from those memories.

Back to quilt blocks and plans gone awry.

I definitely meant to make a doll and a tricycle, and that part didn't change. I also meant for these to be smaller blocks, 6" x 7". So that's the size I made. They were awfully cute. But....  Oh, my goodness, those tiny pieces were hard to position and fuse!

Time to rethink and redesign!

First attempt: As you can see, the tricycle frame and the fender wouldn't fit together right. The pedal is also looks odd.
Some of the pieces were a bit tricky to zigzag stitch around, too. And, I wasn't really impressed with the doll's dress. The colors looked bland when the appliques were attached.

So, back to the drawing board - actually the copy machine this time around, because there was no choice but to turn these into larger blocks.  I photocopied the finished blocks and cut out the pattern pieces for templates, then I enlarged the pieces onto cardstock and cut them out to make new templates.

A little fiddling with placement, two sunflowers instead of one, and the blocks were redesigned to fit into 10" squares. So much easier to manipulate and sew, nicely user friendly.

This is how the original 6" x 7" block and the new 10" x 10" block compare in size. Quite a difference, isn't it?

I suppose I can use the smaller blocks to make a pair of mug rugs someday. When I find time.

Today's the Day!
Movers are showing up in an hour or two to pick up my twin beds and take them to my daughter's house. Then I will run over to help her with her moving and come home in the afternoon to work on sorting out my new sewing room. Lot's of my "stuff" will remain in the former sewing room, now known as "the office", so I'll be able to spread out a bit more.

This is what my downstairs rooms looked like yesterday afternoon.

The former bedroom and future sewing room.

The old sewing room and future office.

"Stuff" piled in my family room that will need to find a home. 

So excited!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Some days are just plain crazy!

Omigosh! This whole week has been a little bit insane around my house, and it's going to continue for awhile.

Today, for example, I've washed three loads of laundry, organized fabrics, placed and ironed templates onto 2 quilt blocks and a mug rug, and baked two batches of biscotti. It's only 1:15 in the afternoon, and the rest of the day looks to be filled with sewing. And writing this blog.

Why two batches? Who knows. Maybe because I had a huge bag of almonds?

Here's the recipe if you're interested. I absolutely love the crunch and the citrus flavor.  It's "almost Italian" because I've added an ingredient not found in traditional recipes. My addition keeps the biscotti crunchy, but it isn't hard as a rock like most biscotti.

Zesty "Almost Italian" Biscotti

1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup whole unblanched almonds

Beat sugar and butter together until creamy. Beat in eggs, extracts, and orange zest. Mix together flour and baking powder. Add to the batter and beat until well blended. Stir in the nuts. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour (Can be kept up to 3 days). 
Shape the dough into 2 rolls about 10 inches long, and 2 inches wide. Flatten to 1 1/2 inches thick and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350°  for 20 to 25 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and cool slightly.

Transfer baked rolls to a cutting board and slice diagonally into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Arrange, cut side down, on the baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake an additional 8 – 10 minutes on each side to toast. Cool on wire racks.

On to other things. The new California baby has arrived! I haven't seen photos yet, but everyone says she's beautiful, just like her big brother and her big sister, with a full head of glossy black hair. So my package is off. It went our yesterday. This time around it was all baby blankets. I sent these four. 
A simple little fleecy blanket with satin binding.

The soft flannel doggy blanket from my "Doggy in the Window" pattern. 
I often crochet in the evenings. It's so relaxing and I can do while watching television or carrying on a conversation with my hubby. As a result, two crocheted blankets were in the package. (And I have more, both finished and in the works. I'm always prepared when a baby shows up.)

A lovely, soft, crocodile stitch blanket.This one took forever! The pattern is free from Bernat. You can find it through this link:

This is "Wee Ones" from Churchmouse. My daughter bought the pattern and shared it with me, so I don't have a web address.

That's just the easy stuff. I told you that there will be changes coming to my guest bedroom and my sewing room. Here's the scoop. I need more sewing space. My daughter is moving and needs more beds. We almost never use the guest bedroom and it's larger than the shared office/sewing room that I now have. So.... I won't have a guest bedroom, but I'll have a roomier sewing room, my hubby will be able to work without tripping over sewing, and my daughter gets a pair of twin beds. It's a win-win-win.

Furniture moves next weekend, and it's been a busy week. We've gone through everything in both rooms, organized "stuff", taken things off to the City Mission, hauled things out to the trash, and generally turned the downstairs upside down and inside out. Oh, and I've made a couple of fun purchases. Eventually we'll likely get a hide-a-bed, but for now we're just fine.

Nothing will be exactly right overnight. It will take a long time, I'm sure,  but I'll post photos of the progress from time to time.

That's it for now. Quilt along pattern blocks are calling my name! 


Gotta run!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Tulips Pattern and Other Things

I have just published the new spring tulips pattern. What a fitting day! The sun is shining, the temperature has suddenly climbed into the mid 70s, newly returned birds are singing outside my window, and the official start of spring is precisely ten days away.

Oh, yes, I do know it won't stay like this. Tomorrow we're expecting a 30 degree drop in temperature and rain. But, these little hints at warmer weather to come are just enough to keep our faith in four seasons alive.

On to the pattern. I really like this one. It's so simple to make as it has no teeny-tiny pieces. The flowers are large and up front, tempting one to sniff the fragrance. Wonder if I should give the mug rugs a little spray of perfume. Hmm...

As I said, I really like this one. However, I thought I'd show you some of the issues I encountered along the way. I'm so far from being perfect, and I'm constantly messing up.

The first problem arose when I fused the first mug rug appliques down. Something just didn't seem right. In fact, I didn't like it a bit. I brought the piece upstairs and plopped it on the table in front of my husband. I didn't say a word. He looked at it for a long time, but he didn't say anything either.

"Well?" I asked. "What's wrong?"

"Mainly the colors," he answered. "The background is too dark, for one thing. And, what is the name of that ugly green?" Unusual for him to be so blunt, but he wasn't done. "Something else," he said, "but I don't know what.

Back to the drawing board. I liked the blossom on the left. The others were pretty strangely shaped. And the blue background not only showed through the yellow fabrics, but it changed the colors turning them from bright into murky. I redesigned, created pink tulips on a pale blue background, and fused yellow blossoms to a white background.

That was where my second problem arose. Those light yellow colors are simply too transparent, and there was one leaf that darkened a large area on the flower on the right.

Have you ever tried to remove a section of fabric that's been fused between to other fabrics? After the applique stitching was completed? Me neither. This was a first.

Oh, my! What a headache! I like to do things right, so these were really stuck down!

I was terrified that I'd cut all the way through the front.  Things didn't slide right back into place, but I knew the white batting would hide the mess on the back.

I don't recommend this tactic for anyone!! Next time, I'll trim off that offending little segment that wants to show through before I get out the iron.

Other Things

I did add "Other Things" to the title of this blog post, didn't I. The other things are some big changes coming to my house. See these two rooms? This is the "before" shot.

My goodness! That was an amazingly clean and organized day! I think I've seen it all looking like that - maybe twice. Maybe.

At any rate, I'll post an "after" in a couple of weeks.

Tee Hee!