Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Splendid Sampler Gallery - Short Version

This week there is only one Splendid Sampler block to show. Life gets busy, but I think that my friends will likely have blocks to share next week.

I pretty much knocked myself out with the last Kitty Craft applique block this week, so I didn't get around to Splendid Sampler until today. Block 17 was the scarier of the two blocks waiting to be sewn, so I tackled it first. It's a sweet block called "Family Ties", and the stars are meant to symbolize family members.

I really considered fabrics for a long time. We have a very tight little family, and I wanted to show that. The middle star represents my husband and me. I think of us as a unit bound by love and loyalty. The red center of that star represents love and the blue is for loyalty. The other four blocks are for our son, our daughter, my granddaughter, and our grandson. We are tied together by love, and that's why red diamonds connect us all.

Choosing fabrics is one thing, but sewing is another story altogether. Trouble is, those triangles are itty-bitty and downright intimidating for someone who can often struggle to sew a block with tiny squares. The half square triangles are only 3/4" square!

I know my weaknesses, so don't tell anyone, but I cheated. I paper pieced every single unit containing triangles. It took five hours to finish, but those triangles are downright perfect! 

Tomorrow a new block comes out and I'll be two blocks behind! How do people with small children and full time jobs ever manage to get any quilting done? I'm in awe.

Happy Weekend!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Last Kitten and Struggling to the Finish Line

I made it! I wanted this last kitten block for "Kitty Craft" to be out by mid April, but, to be honest, I didn't think I'd even come close to my deadline. He's a cutie, but this little guy fought me every step along the way.

The journey with these kitties has been quite an adventure. Fitting a busy kitten or two into a specific space was much harder than I'd imagined it might be. I threw out tons of ideas for crafts the cats might play with simply because they wouldn't stay confined to the shape and size of my blocks.

This last kitten went through quite a metamorphosis this past several day. I was sure I had it all figured out on Monday. I whipped up the block and it looked just fine. My little kitty was so cute looking straight out at me with guilt written all over him. I put him in place on the design board, wrote on the pattern for awhile, and went to bed happy.

When I walked into the sewing room Tuesday morning, though, the kitten looked just plain wrong! As I was designing and stitching the block I'd visualized the little face, but a straight forward silhouette has no face. And his head was too big!

Back to the drawing board! I redesigned and stitched the entire block again in time for a late lunch. It was perfect! I put the kitty in place on the design board. Then I took the companion heart block upstairs to work on writing the pattern. The rest would be smooth sailing. There was only one little star block to whip up quickly and then I'd have most of Wednesday and all day Thursday to finish writing the pattern.

I took the heart block downstairs quite late in the evening, and looked at the design board. The kitten looked funny. It took a few minutes to figure out that to show him trying to get to the flower, he desperately needed a second front leg. Thank goodness he's black! I carefully removed the blanket stitching on the front of his chest, inserted a leg, and stitched the new leg in place. I went to bed very happy.

Metamorphosis of a Kitten

That was the night the gremlins chose to come visiting again. They hadn't played a trick on me in quite awhile, so I guess they thought they owed me a super big one. They stole the hearts!! Honestly, they did. I turned the entire house upside down, searched everywhere - including waste baskets! Now In addition to the star block I had to make the hearts all over again. Sigh. All the pieces were finished and on the design board Wednesday afternoon, but I had no time to write on the pattern in the evening. I did not go to bed happy.

Thursday morning I wrote like a mad woman. By noon my head was woozy, my knees were stiff from sitting, my back hurt, and I definitely needed to get away. I met a friend for lunch and did a bit of shopping. I even took a nap when I came home. The pattern would just be late. 

After dinner, though, I got a second wind, and by the time I went to bed the pattern was finished!

Tonight, I truly will go to bed happy!

Look at that! 
Only one very small block and the borders to go! I just might get the last of the pattern out in May - right on schedule. 
Happy Weekend!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Splendid Sampler Gallery - Falling Behind

What a week I've had!
  1. I've done the sewing, taken photos, and written two tutorials for the Summer Purse. 
  2. I made two mug rugs and a pattern to go with them.
  3.  Thursday was my monthly book talk day school. I presented 12 books to each of two groups of students and tried to get them excited about reading every single one of them.  This is truly one of my favorite things to do. 
  4. I was in Omaha with my son for most of the day on Friday.
With all of that activity, I fell behind with the Splendid Sampler blocks, but I did manage to make one of them today. That one, though, is a doozy. (Does anyone even use that word anymore? My age is showing again.)

The Splendid Sampler Gallery

 "Family Affair" is paper pieced, and some of these pieces of fabric are so tiny! The white strips are terribly narrow, so getting the whole block to come out perfectly is a matter of patience. I like paper piecing. It usually goes very quickly, but today I really had to slow down. There were moments of frustration when I was putting the four sections together, but now that it's finished, this block is one of my favorites. It has a bit of a kaleidoscope effect.
Block 15, "Family Affair"
What I like about paper foundation piecing:  I love the precision! Those sharp, sharp corners make me happy. It's usually much faster than other methods, and I love the excitement of discovering the unexpected in the finished block. It never looks like I thought it would. in this case it's way better than I'd guessed. A lot of people hate tearing off the paper when the sewing is done, but I really don't mind at all. It's one of those activities that is slow and monotonous so your brain can wander here and there. I try to save it for the end of the day when my energy is low. Tearing the paper helps me to relax.

What I don't like about paper foundation piecing: The amount of fabric that gets wasted. There is waste, and with good quilting fabric costing upwards of $11 per yard, it's hard to toss out so many tiny bits of fabric that are too small to salvage.

 Your Blocks

Marjorie Colleran

Marjorie sent Block 12 to me yesterday. All of those little 1" squares nearly did me in, but Marjorie's block is absolutely perfect. I really do like the blue and white checkerboard effect.

Marjories' Block 12
Marjorie's email made me smile. She's been terrifically busy with family and friends recently, but I have a hunch that she'll be able to find more sewing time very soon.

She wrote, "My 'fabric solvy'  arrived and I'm hopeful that this will be the week for catching up."

Isn't that the truth of it, though? It's easy to find time to sew when you have the perfect fabrics.

Dixie Moore

Look at the progress with these blues! As blocks accumulate we're starting to get a feel for what the finished quilt will look like, and it's starting to get exciting - and addictive, too.
Dixie's email said it all.  " I just sent you a photo of my completed blocks, all but the paper-pieced. Now that I’ve had a day or two to remove myself from the frustration, I’ll try again, a few more times.  Never took a class…never really wanted to learn it.  My fabric life is more about appliqué and regular-pieced quilts.  Don’t mind stepping outside of the box now and then, but if you don’t know what you are doing, this paper-pieced block is daunting."

April is zipping by at breakneck speed and I have a Kitty Craft block to make this coming week. I wonder where the cats will be playing this time. Hmm...

Have a super duper week!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Summer Purse: Part 4, Zipper Choices and Preparing an Encased Zipper

The recessed zipper won't be sewn in place until the lining is complete. I like to prepare it in advance, though, because encasing the zipper is just about the right amount of work for one sewing session.

From your main fabric, cut the following:
 You will also need: 
  • one 12" x 13" piece of light to medium fusible interfacing
  • one 18" nylon zipper 

    What type of zipper should you choose for your bag? 

    I've discussed four types of nylon zippers in this post. Metal zippers have many wonderful uses and can be very decorative, but they are not my usual choice for purses and bags.

    Each of these four zippers is just right for some bags, but not the best choice for others. I'll go through them one by one starting at the top of the photo.

    1. A standard dressmaking zipper 

    These zippers are tremendously versatile and they are found in any shop that carries sewing goods. They have so many advantages. They are not very expensive, they come in every color under the sun, they can be easily cut and shortened, and you can stitch right over the top of the zipper teeth.

    A standard zipper can be used on any bag, but it isn't as sturdy or durable as the others shown. If your bag is fairly small, and the zipper isn't strained by overuse or overstuffing, the standard zipper is just fine. I use these zippers on small pouches and clutches, and for internal pockets on bags.

    2. A specialized zipper for purses

    I've shown two purse zippers in the photograph. The major difference between them is the type and number of zipper pulls. The YKK zipper has a single large zipper pull. I bought a number of these in bulk on eBay for a very reasonable price. The Coats purse zipper with two smaller zipper pulls is available in most fabric stores. Color choices for purse zippers are limited.

    Both of these zippers are very durable and will hold up through heavy use. Both zippers can be cut and shortened easily even though the teeth are larger than on a standard zipper. You can sew right over the teeth of the YKK zipper teeth just like you can on a standard zipper.  You will need to go more slowly over the Coats zipper, and your machine might skip a stitch of two over the zipper teeth. . Sometimes I'll sew right up to teeth on one side of the zipper, backstitch and cut my thread, then sew up to the zipper on the other side.

    The double pull zipper is especially nice for larger bags. You can open and close it from either end or from the middle.  It's an excellent choice when a zipper needs to go around squared or curved corners, as it might on a travel bag or a laptop case.

    3. A sports zipper

    This is the strongest of the nylon zippers, and not really needed for an everyday bag. It's wonderful for a really heavy duty bag, though. It would be the best choice for a duffle bag or a backpack. Cutting and shortening this type of zipper is not recommended. It's best to try to find the exact length of zipper you will need.

    Construction of the Encased Zipper

    Note: Although it isn't really essential, I always back my lining and zipper casing fabrics with interfacing. It adds an element of stability and strength to those pieces that I really like. Pockets are firmer and less likely to rip out, and everything seems to lie more smoothly. 

    Make the Zipper Casing

    1. Cut the interfacing into four pieces, 3" x 13" each. Iron one piece onto the wrong side of each of the casing strips. Fold the ends of the strips 1/2" under on either side and press.

    2.  Center the zipper on one section of casing. Lay the zipper on the right side of the casing strip. Align it along the edge of the fabric with the pull side facing down. Use a zipper foot to stitch close to the teeth of the zipper, but not so close that the stitching will interfere with opening and closing the zipper.  

    3. Lay the zipper, pull side down, on the right side of a second piece of casing strip exactly as you did in step 2. Take care that the folded edges of the two casing strips are exactly aligned and that the strip you attached first has been folded back out of the way. Sew close to the zipper teeth as before.

     The two casing strips will fan out to either side of the zipper. Top and bottom ends of the casing should line up perfectly with each other.

    4. Place the third zipper casing strip on one of the back sides of the zipper. The right side of the fabric will be against the back of the zipper this time. This piece will sandwich the zipper between two casing strips. Line the folded ends up with the first casing strip. Pin the two ends in place.

     5. Sew directly on the stitching line that was made when the first strip attached.

    A zipper sandwich

    6. Fold all three casing strips back out of the way. Sew the remaining strip to the opposite side of the zipper just as you did in step 5. Open the casings on both sides of the zipper and press smooth. 

     7. Line up the folds on the paired ends of the casings and top stitch together.

    8. Trim each side of the casing 2" from the seam next to the zipper.

    9. Sew the long sides of each pair of casing strips together close to the trimmed edges.

    Zipper End Pieces
    Make 2

    Note: I used heavy starch on these 3" x 4" end pieces. The creases need to be sharp and to hold their shape through several folds. This works so much better with the starch than it does without.

    1.  Fold each edge of the long (4") side in 1/2" and press .

    Note: The next step helps to determine the exact width the zipper end cover needs to be.

    2. Lay your zipper over the fabric with the folds on either end. Now, fold the raw edges over the zipper to encase it. Press

    3. Remove the zipper and press the folded fabric again so it will hold its shape.

    4. Now fold the cover in half. From the opening to the fold at the end the piece will be just over 1" long. Press.

    5. First add the end cover to the end of the zipper that does not have a zipper pull. Close the zipper. If you need to shorten it, measure about 3 1/2" from the end of the casing strips and cut the zipper off.

    6. Tuck the end into the top opening of the end piece. Slide it as far in as you can. 

    7. Fold the section firmly together. Pin to hold it in place. .

    8. Sew close to the edges around the two sides and on the top. Sew right across the zipper.

    Next you will add a cover to the end of the zipper that does have a zipper pull. 

    Note: If you need to shorten the zipper, be careful not to cut the zipper pull off! Been there and done that. Oh my goodnes what a mess! I completely destroyed my zipper and had to take it out and start from scratch. 

    9. To shorten the zipper: Open the zipper part way. Now cut about 3 1/2" from the casing as before.

    Do not close the zipper until it has been sewn in place. 

    10. If the zipper has been shortened, tuck the two open ends of the zipper into the end cover. If the zipper has not been shortened open the zipper a few inches so you can tuck the end into the cover. Pin in place and sew as you did with the other end of the zipper. Close the zipper.

    That's it! The zipper is ready install in the bag with the lining. 

    In the next session, I'll explain how to make the lining. 

    I hope you like pockets!

    I hope you like installing zippers, too, because
    there will be one more zipper - this one on the inside of the bag. 

    Sunday, April 3, 2016

    Summer Purse: Part 3

    The assembly of the bag is an exciting sewing session. All of those prepared sections come together and you can see what the finished purse will look like.

    From here on out you'll notice that some photos are of the hexi design and others are of the blue bag. I've tried to choose the best photos I have.

    Make the Handles

     Note: I continued to use Soft and Stable batting for the handles. The thickness and texture are very comfortable on my shoulder, and the material holds it shape well over time. 

    I'm most comfortable with 24" handles, and the measurements shown here are those I used. Make your handles a length that suits you.  You might measure the length of the handles on your favorite purse to determine the length you like best. You may want them longer or shorter than mine. The width measurements will likely remain the same as above, but cut the length 1" longer than you would like the finished handles to be.

    1. Starch and press the handle fabric. Fold one edge over 1/4" and press a sharp crease.

    2. Lay the batting on the fabric. Fold the segment with the crease over the top of the batting. It should come almost, but not quite, to the other edge. Press a crease.

    3. Lift the top fold of the fabric. Now fold the bottom piece of fabric up over the edge of the batting. Press. Fold the top of the fabric back down over the raw edge and press. If you are using Soft and Stable, the fabric should cling to the batting enough that you won't need to pin it.

    4. Top stitch about 1/4" in from both edges. Sew the overlapping edge down first, making sure that you are catching all layers of fabric. Stitch the other side to match.

    Set the handles aside..

    Assemble the Bag

    Note: All seams use 1/2" seam allowance unless otherwise stated. 

    1. Sew the sides of the bag to the front section. Press the seams open.

     2. Sew the back piece to the side panels. Press seams open.

    Sew the bottom of the bag in place.
    Be careful that you don't make the mistake I made on the hexi bag. When the bottom was completely sewn in place I turned the bag right side out and discovered that I'd sewn the bottom piece to the top of the bag. Gotta love that seam ripper. 

    3. Mark a dot 1/2" inch in from both sides on each corner of the bottom of the bag.  

    4. Sew a long side of the bag bottom in place first. Line the dots up so they are exactly on the center of the seams where the front of the bag joins the sides. Pin in place. Stitch from one dot to the next. Don't sew beyond the either dot. Backstitch a few stitches at each dot.

    5. Sew the other long end of the bottom to the back of the bag in the same way.

    6. Sew the short ends of the bag to the side sections. You will have to tug the corners straight and pin in place, then stitch from one dot to the next just like you did on the long sides.

    Stitched all the way around.

    7. Turn the bag right side out. 

    8. Fold on the seams of the sides and bottom of the bag, and press with steam to give them those edges sharp creases and squared corners.

    Before pressing                                                         After pressing
    Attach the Handles

    9. Start with the front of the bag. Align the outside edge of the handle with the seam of the pocket and the front side panels.

    10. Pin the front handle in place.

    Check to make sure that the handle is not twisted. I like to turn the side with the folded edge face up.That will place it on the underside of the handle.

    11. To position the back handle, align the seams of the sides and pinch the front and back of the bag together. Place the back handle exactly in line with the front handle and pin.

    12. Sew the handles in place by stitching them 1/4" in from the edge at the top of the bag opening.

    That's it for today. 

    My big Ott light hold the handles up for a photo. A light with many uses. lol
     I hope your bag is coming along beautifully. 
    The next session will be short. I'll prepare the recessed zipper for installing, but then it will have to wait for the lining.

    Happy Stitching!!