Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sara's Quilt, Block 2

There hasn't been much progress on Sara's quilt this week, but I do have the pattern for Block 2 ready. It's the first in Sara's quilt that's made with applique on a pieced block.

This blog post explains details about how I did the applique, but I can't make PDF downloads of the templates available on my blog. I can only give a link to another site, so I'm publishing the instructions for cutting and assembling the block in a free pattern on Craftsy.

This is the link:

The templates can be used with fusible web, and that's the method I almost always use. I want this quilt to be special, though, with turned under edges. I love the look of hand applique, and with turned under edges, I can avoid the stiffness that can come with fusible web.

I'm not an expert at all when it comes to hand applique. I've experimented with lots of techniques, from needle turn applique to ironing heavily starched edges around templates. I'm pretty hopeless at turning edges as I sew or with an iron, so I used freezer paper, basting, and starch. Yes, it's much more time consuming than fusing, but this is a once only, very special quilt.

1. I traced the templates onto the dull side of freezer paper and cut them out on the lines.

2. I put the freezer paper shape shiny side down on the wrong side of the fabric and ironed it so it would stick.

3. When I cut the fabric I cut it about a quarter of an inch larger than the freezer paper template all around.

4. Now came the not so fun part - basting. Hand sewing is not my thing, but my O.C.D. has kicked in and I'm being fussy. Hand work is something I can do to keep my hands busy in the evening, and basting doesn't require much finesse. I have to admit that the basting  went very fast. I had all the pieces basted in less than an hour.

5. Normally a person would stitch this onto the quilt by hand and later snip the fabric behind the applique and pull out the freezer paper. This block was an experiment with trying to use machine stitching in such a way that it would imitate hand stitching, so stitching it down first wasn't going to work. I feared that some of the stitches would pierce the freezer paper and I'd have bits of paper stuck permanently in the quilt.

6. Starch next. I poured a little bit of liquid starch into a small plastic container. Then I used a small brush to saturate the turned edges of the fabric on the back of the freezer paper. I ironed it dry, and removed the basting stitches and the freezer paper. I was a little bit surprised that it held it's shape perfectly.

7. Next came glue. I put a few drop of quilt basting glue on the starched edges.

8. I placed the applique pieces onto the quilt block. Then I gave them time to dry.

I fussy cut the center part of the flower to get the large dot exactly in the middle.

9. Finally I sewed the appliques in place with a tiny machine blanket stitch. Matching thread for the faux applique was recommended in one of Pat Sloan's books, but even on the dark reds, the stitching didn't totally disappear into the background. That was a bit of a disappointment.

I think I'll go back to using the polyester microfiliment thread next time. It's practically invisible to start with. Then, again, I might just bite the bullet and applique my glued pieces down by hand.

I hope to make another pieced block this coming week. Fingers crossed!

We're experiencing a strange record breaking heatwave in Nebraska right now. I've never seen temperatures near 80 degrees in this part of the country in February! I may have to break down and do some yard cleanup.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sara's Quilt: Block 1, Tutorial

Sara's quilt is a sampler with some pieced blocks and some applique blocks. This is the first pf the pieced blocks, so I'm calling it Block 1 for now. It looks a bit like four fish in a pond to me. Eventually, I may name it Fishpond. Or not.

I'm working with a layer cake and cream background yardage from "Miss Scarlet" by Moda. 

The block goes together so quickly. It's made entirely of squares and half square triangles (HST).
10" s 10"
I used six fabrics in this first block, but you could make the block with four. The cream fabrics in the blocks could all be made with the background fabric without changing the effect.

From Red 1, cut two 3 1/8" squares
From Red 2, cut six 3 1/8" squares
From Red 3, cut four 2 1/2" squares and two 3 1/8" squares.
From Cream 1, cut four 2 1/2" squares and two 3 1/8" squares.
From Cream 2, cut four 3 1/8" squares.
From Cream 3, cut one 2 1/2" square.

Make the half square triangles.

You will need to make eight of A, four of B, and four of C, and one of Cream 3.

Red 2 and Cream 2 are used to make Unit A.
Red 2 and Red 3 are used in Unit B.
Red 1 and Cream 1 are used for Unit C
Cream 3 is used in the center of the block.
The squares for these are cut a bit larger than the exact measurement. I cut them down to 2 1/2" x  2 1/2" after they were sewn.

1. Choose the two 3 1/8" squares that are used for each unit. Place them right sides together in pairs.

2. Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the wrong side of one of the squares in each pair.

3. Stitch 1/4" from the drawn line on each side of the line.

4. Cut along the line. You will have two HST units. Press seams to the dark.
5. Square up and trim each HST to 2 1/2" x 2 1/2.

Assemble the block.

Diagram of the block assembly.

 1. Make four 4-patch units. Use one of each HST in each as shown below.
Make four.

2. Make two 2-patch units from 2 1/2" squares of Red 1 and Cream 1.
3. Sew one of the 4-patch units to either side of the 2-patch unit. Make two of these sets.

4. Sew the remaining 2 1/2" squares together in a row of five squares with the Cream 3 square in the center.

5. The sets from step 3 will go on the top and the bottom of the row of five squares. Sew together.

That's it. Easy-peasy. 

If you find a mistake in this tutorial, please let me know right away so that I can correct it. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Mug Rug for St. Patrick's Day

Sara's quilt is coming along nicely, so I decided to take a break and work on a small project.

It's been ages since I made a new mug rug pattern. I had an idea for a St. Patrick's Day design, and the timing couldn't have been better. I named it, "I'm Irish". I'm not the least little bit Irish, but like so many others, I wear something green on this one day each year and declare myself Irish for the day.

I really like the background of two fabrics. The white blossoms stand out against the green print, and the green of the shamrocks and the letters really pop on the white. Flat buttons for the centers of the blossom would be fine, but I like the way that the three sequins on each blossom add sparkle and a festive air.

 I hope you find your very own special rainbow this year.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sara's Quilt: Chain Block Pattern

Sara's Quilt is  just getting started, but as I make progress, I'll post some of the patterns on my blog. The quilt will measure 50" x 50" without borders and will be made from twenty-five 10" x 10" blocks. This post contains the pattern for the twelve chain blocks that make up most of the quilt.

Chain Block, 10 1/2" x 10 1/2" with seam allowances

The twelve chain blocks on my design wall.

Chain Blocks
Make twelve10" x 10" blocks

   cream background fabric: 1 1/4 yards
 * red: 1/2 yard mixed reds

 *Red fabrics need to be in pieces no less than 2 1/2" wide and 15" long. I used six strips of red fabric that were 2 1/2" x W.O.F. (width of fabric).

Note: The measurements for cutting are just a bit long. I trimmed off the extra fabric when I squared up the blocks after they were sewn together. 

For Strip A

From background fabric,  cut
  • four strips 8 3/4" x 16" .
From red,  cut
  • four strips 2 1/2" x 16".

For Strip B

From background fabric,  cut
  • four pieces 2 3/4" x 16" .
  • four pieces 6 3/4" x 16" .
From red,  cut
  • four strips 2 1/2" x 16".

For Strip C

From background fabric,  cut
  • four pieces 4 3/4" x 16" .
From red,  cut
  • two strips 2 1/2" x 16".  

Note: Use 1/4" seam allowances throughout.

Strip A:

1. Make four strip sets. Sew one 2 1/2" x 15" red strip and one 8 3/4" x 15: background piece together lengthwise to make a strip set.  Press to the red. 

2. Cut six 2 1/2" wide strips from each of the four rectangles just made as shown in the diagram. You will have 24 of Strip A.

Strip B:

1. Make four strip sets. For each strip set, sew a 2 3/4" x 15" background piece and a 6 3/4" x 15 background piece to either side of a 2 1/2" x 15" red strip. Press to the red.

2. Cut six 2 1/2" wide strips from each of the four rectangles just made as shown in the diagram. You will have 24 of Strip B.

Strip C:

1. Make two strip sets. For each strip set, sew a 4 1/2" x 15" background piece to either side of a 2 1/2" x 15" red strip. Press to the red.
 2. Cut six 2 1/2" wide strips from each of the four rectangles just made as shown in the diagram. You will have 12 of Strip C.

Note: Each block will use two of strip A, two of strip B, and one of strip C.

3. For each block, assemble and sew the strips as shown in the diagram. 

2. Square up and trim each block to 10 1/2" x 10 1/2".

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Wedding Quilt and Corn Bread in a Cast Iron Skillet

I was in a creative rut last week, and it was time to step back from designing for a bit.

On the first day of no designing, I turned my kitchen inside out and upside down. I sorted, I tossed, I gave things away, and I scrubbed. The feeling of accomplishment was wonderful. On the second day, I organized closets. On the third day, I cooked a big pot of chicken soup. In the afternoon of the same day I baked a totally scrumptious cornbread in my cast iron skillet. On the fourth day, I sorted and organized my sewing room.

On the fifth day, I began to sew a wedding quilt for my granddaughter. The first twelve blocks are finished, and I've collected pattern ideas for the empty places between blocks. I think I'll include both pieced and appliqued blocks. I'll update my blog with progress reports, and, possibly, a few tutorials as this quilt develops.

The Recipe

I've used my cast iron skillet quite a bit since I got it, but this was the first time I tried baking with it. I'll never again make cornbread any other way. It was that good. I substituted buttermilk for the milk in the recipe on the cornbread box, added baking soda as well as baking powder, preheated the skillet in the oven, and shortened the baking time. 

The results were beautiful - thick, fluffy pieces of perfectly golden cornbread that were less crumbly than any I've made before. I cut the bread right in the pan, and the pieces slipped out without the slightest bit of sticking.

I couldn't resist digging in right away. I had two pieces of hot cornbread with melting butter for my afternoon snack. I meant to eat only one, but ... well, you know.

Important things to remember:

1. Pre-heat the skillet.

While the oven was heating with the greased skillet inside, I mixed the dough.

2. Separately mix wet and dry ingredients before combining.

All of the dry ingredients need to be mixed together in a medium size mixing bowl. The wet ingredients, buttermilk, oil, and egg, are mixed together separately.

3. Don't over mix the dough.  

Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry, and stir with a fork. Stir only until the dry ingredients are moist. The dough will be lumpy and thick.

Pull the oven rack holding the hot skillet out far enough to scoop the cornbread dough into the skillet. Spread the dough fairly evenly with a spatula, and bake.

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

1 1/4 c flour
3/4 c corn meal
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 egg

1. Grease the skillet with vegetable oil or shortening.
2. Place the skillet on a middle rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 °.
3. Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
4. Combine buttermilk, vegetable oil, and egg in a measuring cup or small bowl, and beat with a fork.
5. Pour wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir with a fork only enough to moisten the dry ingredients. The dough will be thick and a bit lumpy.
6. Open the oven door, pull out the rack holding the skillet, and scoop the dough into the hot skillet. Smooth with a spatula.
7. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. The cornbread can cool in the skillet on a cooling rack, or it can be cut and served hot.

Chicken soup with cornbread. Comfort food at it's best.

Hope you have a wonderful week!

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!