Sunday, January 22, 2017

Changing Focus

I seem to be struggling with my sewing more and more these days. I really think that it's because I'm distracted with everything else that's going on. Between family health issues and wishing the world were a kinder place, I'm feeling pretty stressed. It's so hard to focus and be creative when your mind is filled with clutter.

I don't know if it's the fabrics or the vision in my head, but something isn't translating as well as I'd hoped. I spend more time asking myself questions than I do sewing.  Do I need to eliminate the black? Do the little birds help or hurt? Should I forget about a treadle and make the sewing machine large enough to fill the block by itself? How and where can I add those great little details that bring things to life with this design?

Thank goodness, the appliques are either pinned or so lightly fused that any of them can easily be moved or removed. I've changed up some of the fabrics and I've rearranged blocks somewhat, but I don't know if I'm making it better or worse. I'm trying too hard, and that never works. I need to put it all aside for awhile and move on to other things. 

A bit of early spring cleaning might be just the thing. My house needs to be organized from top to bottom. A lot of somethings have to go. The kitchen will be the starting point. After all, how many pots and pans do I really need? I'll move on to closets from there, and take it one space at a time. Maybe sorting through my house will help to clean the excess clutter out of my head as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Mug Rugs for Valentine's Day

The February hearts pattern is named "Love". The design was such a struggle in the beginning, but once I got my head together, I had so much fun that I found it hard to stop making little variations. 

I do like to mix things up a bit, so I designed this pattern in a reverse style of applique. The more common method would be for the  smaller shapes to be appliqued on the top of the he heart. Here, the heart is made with cutouts that let the contrast fabrics peek through from underneath. 

From the beginning, I wanted this pattern to be versatile, and I had planned to make two mug rugs in different fabric combinations. 

I stitched up the first mug rug in red and black because it's always a striking combination. My granddaughter dropped by for lunch yesterday, and this one that went home with her.

I wondered how the pattern would look in softer colors, so I made another mug rug. My mother would have like this combination of fabrics.

And then my eyes fell on this newly purchased piece sticking out of a basket that sat on the other end of my cutting table.

I don't know about you, but my self control goes out the window in fabric stores. There are so many fabrics depicting items used in sewing, but I couldn't resist this piece. I may turn it into a tote, but the options are endless. It became the inspiration for a new design idea to use in the valentine pattern, one for those who love to sew. With the little sewing machine placed in the corner, it will make up beautifully in any favorite fabric.

This one is all mine!
The little sewing machine takes up quite a bit space, so I shrunk the word "love" and embroidered it by hand. I also switched up thread colors on the heart applique for a very different look.
I love how the contrasting thread "pops" against the black of the heart.

A lot of my friends have other loves. Like cats. My cat loving friends go all glassy eyed over anything showing cats.

I had to tear myself away from making more designs, but there is a B.O.M. quilt waiting for it's turn to be made. That's a first priority right now.

Oh, a little helpful hint. If you do a lot of applique, I strongly recommend that you get an applique pressing sheet. With that you can press large sections of applique pieces together before placing anything on fabric. It really does simplify things.

I'm sure there must be others, but this one by Bear Thread works beautifully for me.

I've made some progress on the goals I set last week. Four are checked off, two are left, but I still have the weekend to work on them.
 1. Finish the heart mug rug pattern.
       2. Design several smaller blocks and a couple of larger sections for the 2017 B.O.M.
✔  3. Give book talks introducing 10 books to four classes of fifth grade at my former school.
       4. Try a new cornbread recipe. 
✔  5. Cook up a batch of "un-stuffed" cabbage rolls. (Disappointing recipe.)
✔  6. Take down the Christmas tree.

I wouldn't mind snow, but we've been getting ice, and more is predicted over the next several days.

Stay safe!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Late Start to January

I'm off to a very slow start this month. The fist week has flown by, and the one thing I can say I've actually accomplished is finishing off the Christmas cookies. I hope that counts for something - aside from the extra three pounds on my thighs.

After a full week of struggling with a mug rug pattern for February, I can finally see the end in sight. Things are looking up as we enter January's second week.

The mug rug that I thought would whip up in a couple of days ... didn't. It was one false start after another until yesterday when it suddenly came together and turned into something fun.

I'll complete at least three of these mug rug options for the pattern. I really hope to have it finished by the end of this week. Fingers crossed!

As soon as the mug rug pattern is complete, I'll put most of my focus into designing this year's block of the month wall hanging and putting it together. I hope to do this differently this year. Instead of designing only one block or section each month, I want to have the total design including the layout finished first. Mystery quilts can be bit scary - especially if the final outcome is a mystery to the designer as well as everyone else. I don't want to go through another series of sleepless nights like I did last year when I had a deadline to meet and a head empty of ideas.

The theme for this year's B.O.M. will be sewing, and the colors will be light and bright. This is the set of 10" squares that I'll use for much of the quilt. There will be other bits and pieces thrown in, as well, and I'll decide on borders and such when the blocks are all together.

The fabric line is "Hazelwood" by One Canoe Two for Moda.

During the the coming week, I hope to make up for last week's lack of progress. My goals are set.

1. Finish the heart mug rug pattern.
2. Design several smaller blocks and a couple of larger sections for the 2017 B.O.M.
3. Give book talks introducing 10 books to four classes of fifth grade at my former school. 
4. Try a new cornbread recipe. 
5. Cook up a batch of "un-stuffed" cabbage rolls. 


6. Take down the Christmas tree, for goodness sake!!

Wishing you a warm and lovely week!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Quick Zippered Pouch - a Tutorial

Last year was the year of fleece robes for everyone. This year, Christmas sewing time was short. It's hard to find quick projects that are suitable for the four guys in my family, and since I needed a quick project, it became the year of the zippered pouch for everyone. I even have an extra for one myself.

My family loved the pouches,  but the "stuffing" I put inside of them turned out to be the most fun of the day. You can see what it was at the end of this tutorial.

Seven pouches in four easy days.

I thought the sewing might go quicker with instructions, so I researched a few tutorials searching for a good one. The first one I found was so hard to follow that I looked up another. And another. And another. I finally gave up and figured out my own method.  The pouch is fully lined, and after I'd made the first one, I found I could whip up one in the morning and another after lunch. I still had time left over for grocery shopping, cooking meals, frosting cookies, and catching up on my favorite Netflix show.

This is how I made them.

Fully Lined Zippered Pouch - 5" x 5 1/2" x 10 1/2"

Fabrics and Materials
  •  2 fat quarters of coordinated fabrics for the outside of the pouch
  • 1/2 yard of lining fabric
  • 1/2 yard of fusible fleece (45" wide)
  • One 18" or 20" zipper (If the zipper is too long it can easily be cut to size.)
  • Thread
Cutting Instructions

 1. From one fat quarter, cut a rectangle 11" x 16". Cut a matching rectangle of fusible fleece and iron it onto the wrong side of the fabric. Cut a 2 1/2" square from each corner of the rectangle of fused fabric and fleece. This will be used to make the bottom half of the pouch.

2. From the second fat quarter, cut two rectangles 6" x 16". Cut matching rectangles of fusible fleece and iron them onto the wrong sides of each piece.  Cut 2 1/2" squares from two corners on the long side of each of the rectangles of fused fabric and fleece. These pieces will become the top half of the pouch.

3. Cut two rectangles, 2" x 5' each, from one of the main fabrics. These will be the handles on the ends of the pouch.

Sewing and Assembly

 Make the Handles

1. Fold one long edge of the fabric down 1/4" and press. (a)
2. Fold the bottom edge up about 1/2" and press. (b)
3. Fold the top over so that the total width of the strip is about 3/4". Press. (c)
4. Stitch close to the folded edge. (d)

Sew the Zipper in

1. Place the zipper with the right side facing the right side of one section of the pouch top along the long edge. Sew in place with a zipper foot.

2. Fold the sewn side back out of the way, and place the zipper face down on the right side of the second section of the pouch top. Make sure the two sections are evenly aligned. Sew in place with the zipper foot.

The two top sections with the zipper as seen from the right side and from the wrong side.
3. Place a section of the lining for the bag top on the wrong side of the zipper.The right side of the lining should be facing the right side of the main fabric. Align the pieces. Sew on the wrong side of the main fabric right on the same row of stitching that was made when attaching the zipper. Do not sew all the way to the ends of the lining fabric. Begin and end the stitching 1" from either end of the lining fabric.

4. Fold all of the sewn sections back out of the way and stitch the second section of lining to the other side of the zipper in the same way as the first.
5. Press the main fabric and the lining away from the zipper. The lining will be loose on each end.

6.Top stitch along both sides of the zipper. Sew from the right side of the bag. Start and stop the stitching 1" from either end of the zipper in order to keep those edges of the lining free.

Assemble the Pouch 
Use 1/4" seam allowances.

1. With right sides together, sew the top and bottom sections of the pouch together.

 2. Sew the top and bottom sections of the lining together. Leave an opening of at least 5" on one seam of the lining. This will provide a space to turn the bag right side out when it's finished.

 You will have two tubular shapes attached at the zipper.

3. Press the seams open.

Note: Make sure the zipper is partially open before proceeding to the next step! This will assure that you don't accidentally cut off the zipper pull if you have to trim the zipper back. You will also need the zipper partially open to turn the pouch right side out when the seams are all sewn.

4. Fold the handles in half lengthwise. Lay them facing inward right over the zipper on the right side of the main fabric. Sew one handle on each end of the zipper. The handles will be sandwiched between the top and bottom sections of the pouch.

5. With right sides together, sew the short sides of the pouch top to the short sides of the bottom section. If the zipper is longer than 18", trim off the excess length.

6. Pin the short sides of the top and bottom of the lining together. Fold the main fabric back out of the way at the zipper in order to reach the lining easily. Stitch the seams.

7.  Press the seams of the main fabric and of lining facing the bottom section of the pouch and away from the zipper.

8. Make the boxed corners. With right sides together, bring the seams on either side of the  2 1/2" squares that were cut out of the corners together.  Sew straight across. Stitch all four corners of the lining and all four corners of the main fabric of the pouch.

9. Pull the pouch through the opening in the lining seam to turn right side out.

10. Use a slip stitch to sew the lining closed. 

 11. Sew the lining to the ends of the zipper with a short slip stitch.

 12. Push out the corners and press the corner seams.

And if you need to fill it quickly for wrapping ....
 Whatever works! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Log Cabin Christmas

How do patterns begin? In this case, the idea was planted decades ago when I was a child and became entranced by the "Little House on the Prairie" books. If you didn't read the books, you may remember the television program. The very first book in the series was Little House in the Big Woods, a story of Christmas in a log cabin.

I tried to capture the essence of the story in this little quilt. The cabin is snuggled in the trees, and framed by traditional log cabin blocks. The red squares that represents a warm hearth are slightly off center to add interest to the layout.

Perfect log cabin blocks

Unfortunately, I'm not one of those quilters whose 1/4" seams are absolutely perfect every single time. It's hard for me to get log cabin blocks to finish with perfect dimensions. If the stitching is just a couple of threads too wide or too narrow, the block can come out all wonky. I'm pretty fussy about my sewing, so I sometimes cheat just a little to make things right.

Instead of cutting each strip to the exact measurements of the pattern, I fudge a bit and cut each one just 1/8" wider and longer. Then, I can trim each strip back to the exact size after sewing it onto the block. The extra effort is well worth it, and when you work assembly line style, it goes fast.

It's much easier to trim each patch back than as I go than it is to make everything fit when the patches are slightly crooked or a touch too small.
Playing with detail and telling a story

I love to have fun with my quilts, and it's adding in those little details and finishing touches that I enjoy the most.

Even with the big wreath and the red door, the house didn't look as warm and welcoming as I wanted. It needed a sign that happy children lived here, so I got to play in the snow and build a snowman. I gave him a hat and a scarf, twigs for arms, coal for his eyes, and a carrot nose. I played happily for one entire morning, and I didn't even get cold.

I played with the snowy white background, too. My free motion quilting is far from perfect, but it's so much fun.

 If you look closely, you might see a few snowflakes and some smoke from the chimney mixed in with the simple loops in the quilting.

The snow has landed in drifts, but someone has shoveled the walk.

I'm so glad this quilt is finished! It's already a full week into December, and I haven't yet begun work on my gift list or started my Christmas baking. I plan to get that first batch of cookies in the oven after lunch. It will be a start.

Not Panicking!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fowl Play - Mug Rugs for Bird Lovers

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow! I'm getting all prepared. Potatoes are cooked and ready to mash, sweet potatoes are cooling so I can peel them and get the sweet potato casserole ready for the oven tomorrow, the turkey is almost thawed, and veggies are washed and ready to go. Our little family will be celebrating three November birthdays tomorrow, too, so there's no pumpkin pie for us. Today I'll frost our traditional extra chocolatey Thanksgiving birthday cake.

Is it only because it's turkey time that it seems like I'm seeing more photos of birds every day? Facebook seems to be filled with pheasants in the fields, chickens in backyards, roosters crowing at dawn, ducks, geese, and exotic birds as pets, cardinals and robins in the bare branches of winter trees, birdwatchers in the woods, and, or course,Thanksgiving  turkeys.

Thanksgiving is also a reminder that Christmas is coming fast. Some of us could use some speedy project ideas for a gift or two. Since I have birds on the brain, I put together this group of bird themed mug rug patterns to stitch up for the bird lovers on your list.

Garden Birds

Summer Swallow


Four Seasons

Farm Fowl

Sun's Up

November Visit

Goose Gossip

Whimsical Birds
Hen Party

Run, Turkey, Run
Toy Bird
Just Ducky

Wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!