Sunday, June 4, 2017

From Ants to Picnics

"Summer Picnic" 20" x 24" Pattern Link

Ideas can come from the oddest places.  The new summer picnic wall hanging was inspired by the ants who woke up and discovered my kitchen this spring. Every year we have the battle over who owns the counter top and the area under the sink. Eventually, I won, but I still check my kitchen thoroughly every morning.

With ants on my mind and a need for a fun summer pattern, the picnic wall hanging was born. Who ever heard of a picnic without ants?

I started with the basket and the food, then I pondered the ants. How big should they be? I didn't want the ants to be the main focus, so I kept them tiny and unobtrusive, a surprise to be discovered by the close observer.

I embroidered them, but it would probably be much easier to draw them in with a permanent marker - a very fine tipped marker.

I think the little pests would look better with thinner legs and antennae. It's a bit late now, but if I were to do them over, I'd use medium gray sewing thread instead of the single strand of black embroidery floss.

In case you were wondering, I discovered a super weapon in my battle with the ants. I normally use vinegar for cleaning, and if it's used regularly, it does help to keep the ants at bay. One day, I ran out of vinegar, so I cleaned the counter top with leftover Formula 409.  I also sprayed a bit into the under the sink and into the dishwasher, which was their main point of entry. The little pests are totally gone. I don't blame them. I don't like the fumes of chemical cleaners either.

Wishing you a lovely week!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

"F" is for Fish

The pattern on Craftsy. 
Last week it was "G" is for Giraffe, and this week "F" is for Fish. What am I doing with the sudden onslaught of alphabet mug rugs? I have no clue how this all came about, and I don't know if this is the end or just the beginning of something altogether new.

I knew that I would surprise myself with the next project, and I surely did. I had no intention of making a mug rug with whimsical, imaginary fish, but it rained and rained last week. Everything was drenched, as water was poured off the roof, the trees, the plants, and everything else. It must have been all the water that filled my head with visions of fish.

It took more than two weeks of constant struggle to design the giraffe, but this one was sketched in just over an hour.  It's such an easy pattern that I stitched it together the same afternoon. The fabrics came entirely from my stash, too, so I didn't even have to go out in the rain to get supplies. So much fun!

Bubbles are insubstantial, so I simple outlined bubble shapes with white thread and my handy dandy, favorite machine blanket stitch. My stash of 1/4" buttons was raided for eyes, and I quilted a wavy pattern to give the water a sense movement.

My pattern is finished and, today, the sun came out! The sky is bright and blue, flowers are perking up, and, my goodness, but those birds are singing! It's definitely May.

I'm going to go for a walk in the sunshine, now. I can work on other things later.

Wishing you a fantastic week!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sara Quilt, Block 5

This is the last of the patterns for the blocks I made for Sara's Quilt. It's taken forever, and it feel so good to have this done. 

Block 5, Double Dresden 
Click on this link to find the free pattern on Craftsy. Block 5, Double Dresden.

 I'm waiting now for Sara to find time to come over and help me design the border. She's in no rush to have her quilt, and I would much rather go slowly and have it turn out perfectly for her.

I'm really pleased with how this has turned out.

This afternoon, I'll be sewing up more schoolhouse blocks. Never a dull moment.

Friday, May 12, 2017

"G" is for Giraffe

After so many trials and errors, the giraffe mug rug finally came together. It reminds me of the pictures in a child's alphabet book, so I had no choice but to name it, "G" is for Giraffe.

There were so many missteps along the journey to finding the right design for this mug rug. I made a short list of some things that I need to keep in mind. 

  • I have the greatest success when I stick to designs that are lighthearted and fun. When I try to expand into something more artistic, I often run into trouble. 
  • Working too hard on an idea often backfires. 
  • It often takes several attempts to get things right. 
  • When I'm stuck, I need to take breaks and do things that are entirely different. Eventually ideas gel, but only when I'm relaxed and not overthinking the design. 
  • Fabric choices are everything! Fabrics that look perfect laid out on the cutting board may not look good at all when sewn together. 
  • Trial and error is part of the process.

I'm trying to plan ahead, but I'm not getting very far. In the meantime, I do have some short term project plans, so that's a start.
  1. If the world will slow down, I'll make the last block pattern for Sara's quilt.
  2. I'm waiting for Sara to find time to come over and help me choose a border plan for her quilt.
  3. I still want an old-fashioned schoolhouse quilt, but I'm planning to use more modern fabrics.
Tomorrow is Mother's Day! 
I wish you were here, Mom. Miss you!
Wishing you all a wonderful day.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sara Quilt, Block 7, Tutorial

We've had a of hectic couple of weeks with emergency rooms and doctor appointments for my sweet hubby. Getting older in combination with poor health isn't the least bit fun. I'm hoping it all slows down for a bit now.

Today, I have finally found a few minutes to hastily write up this pattern.

Sara Quilt, Block 7. 10 1/2" x 10 1/2"
This is a very basic variation on a star block, and so quick to stitch together.

You will need four fabrics, two creams, one main red, and one contrast red.
From the main red, cut:
  • Five squares 2 1/2" x 2 1/2"
  • Four squares 3 1/4" x 3 1/4"

From the contrast red, cut:
  • Four squares 2 1/2" x 2 1/2"

From Cream 1, cut:
  • Four squares 2 1/2" x 2 1/2"

From Cream 2, cut:
  • Four squares 3 1/4" x 3 1/4"

Make eight half square triangles.

1. Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the wrong side each of the 3 1/4" x 3 1/4" Cream 2 squares.
2. Align one of these squares on top of each of the 3 1/4" x 3 1/4" red squares, right sides together.

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

4. Cut on the line and open the half square triangles.

5. Press to the red. The patches will be slightly larger than needed. 

I made two versions of this block. The fabrics shown here are used in the second version.
6. Trim each half square triangle to 2 1/2" x 2 1/2".

Assemble the block.

1. Make rows 1 and 5, the top and bottom rows of the block. From left to right: Cream 1 square, half square triangle, contrast red square, half square triangle, Cream 1 square.

 2. Make rows 2 and 4. From left to right: half square triangle, red square, Cream 1 square, red square, half square triangle.

3. Make the middle row. From left to right: contrast red square, Cream 1 square, red square, Cream 1 square, contrast red square.

 4. Assemble as show above. Be very careful to place the half square triangles in the right position or ...

.... you just might wind up with an undesirable block!

I did take it apart and fix it. This quilt is for my granddaughter, and I really didn't like the accidentally invented block.

Now, on to writing up the pattern for Block 5, the final block pattern for Sara's quilt.

First, though, I'm going for a walk. It's such a beautiful day.

Sunshine in our little neighborhood park.

Wishing you a beautiful day!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sara's Quilt, Block 9, Tutorial

All of the blocks for Sara's Quilt are finished!! The patterns and tutorials are all mixed up in order, I know. It's just another example of how my brain bounces around from this to that at random.
Block 9, 10 1/2" x 10 1/2"

This was the final block that I made for Sara's Quilt, but there will be one more tutorial on my blog for block 7. The Dresden blocks will need a template, so that will be on Craftsy as a free pattern. Just more confusion, I know.

I can't believe that I forgot to take enough photos for this block! As a result, writing this blog took ten times as long as it would have if I hadn't had to make all of the diagrams. Sometimes I am such a scatterbrain! Sigh...

The diagram will be a useful guide to fabrics and their placement.

Eight different fabrics are used.
Cutting Instructions:

1. From each of the reds in the top row, cut one 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" square and one 3 1/4" square. Cut the 3 1/4" squares in half diagonally. 
2. From the Medium Red, cut four 3 1/4" squares. Cut each in half diagonally.

3. From Cream 1, cut four 2 1/2" squares and four 3 1/4" squares. Cut the 3 1/4" squares in half diagonally. 

4. From Cream 2, cut four 2 1/2" squares.

5. From the Center Cream, cut on 2 1/2" square.

Make half square triangle patches: 

1. From each of the main red fabrics you will have two triangles. Sew the triangles into half square triangle patches as shown. 

Sew one triangle of each with a Cream 1 triangle. Sew the other triangle with a Medium red triangle. 

2. The patches will be slightly larger than needed. Trim each to a 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" square.

 3. Four Medium red triangles and four Cream 1 triangles will remain. Sew each Medium Red triangle to a Cream 1 triangle to make four half square triangle patches. Trim each patch to 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" as before. 

Assemble the block.

Arrange the patches into rows and sew together.  


Next up, Block 7.
We are nearing the end.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Two Patterns and Light at the End of the Tunnel

All of the blocks are finished - but I'm not celebrating quite yet.

When I saw  all of the blocks on my design wall, I realized that the quilt will need sashings and cornerstones. I love almost every one of my blocks, but except for the Dresden plate blocks, the quilt looks too crowded for my taste. I think I need to redo the center Dresden block as well. It's 1/2" smaller than the others and in the photo, I can tell that that small difference will be exaggerated when I add the sashings. I may change the fabrics on one other block. Can you tell which one doesn't quite seem to fit?

With 1" sashings, Sara's quilt will grow to 56" x 56" without a border. I'll consider whether or not to add that later. If the quilt gets too large, I won't be able to quilt it on my sewing machine. That may or may not be a good thing. More decisions to make later.

I've also added two free paper foundation patterns on Craftsy, Block 6 and Block 8. Either of these blocks could have been made with traditional piecing, but I got lazy. It was so much easier to draw the paper piecing patterns than it was to figure out all of the cutting measurements. Math really is my weakness.

Block 8

Block 6
There will be two more tutorials on my blog this week, and then, I think the entire pattern for Sara's quilt will be finished. I'll be happy dancing for sure when the entire quilt is done!!

Heigh ho, heigh ho. Off to work!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Dance and Other Spring Mug Rugs

This mug rug makes me smile. I do love spring.

When my daffodils came into full bloom a week or so ago, I knew that I had to make a mug rug for them. I added a crocus for color, even though crocuses bloomed earlier. The butterflies haven't made an appearance yet, but the ants are out, so the butterflies will be fluttering about in no time. I used my artistic license card and tossed them all on the same mug rug. I love that card!

I know I've said this before, but when there several small pieces in an applique, it really helps to use an applique pressing sheet. I put each flower together one layer at a time. The pressing sheet is almost clear, so with my layout sketch underneath, it was easy to see where to place each piece of the applique. When a flower was completed, I peeled it off the sheet in one piece to arrange on the background.

The layering process.

A bit of embroidery adds detail. You know that I love those little details. I used free motion quilting to add depth and movement. The butterflies and daffodils really do seem to be dancing in the spring breeze.

Easter, May Day, and Mother's Day will be her soon, so here are a few other mug rug ideas for the season. All can be found in my Craftsy pattern store.

2015 Quilt Along, Bunny and Basket
Mom Mug Rug

Lily Mug Rug
Spring Tulips Mug Rug
Baskets for Mom
Have I missed a spring flower in my mug rugs? If so, I'll need to correct that.
Happy April!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marathon Sewing and the One Day Tote

Shelley came over last Friday to sew a tote with me.  She quilts a lot, but she only makes totes at my house. Shelley is too young to retire, so getting together outside of school doesn't happen easily during the school year. Friday, though, was the last day of spring break in Lincoln and, miraculously, neither of us had other commitments. 

We thought the sewing would take two days, but we pushed right on through and finished the tote in one session.  We started just after 10:00 in the morning and, with only a short break for lunch, we worked almost constantly until 5:00 in the afternoon. What a crazy marathon!

Shelley's a cat person, but she chose a puppy print. Once upon a time, her mother had a dearly loved Boston Terrier. The fabric reminds Shelley of her mother. She paired the black and white terriers on a teal background with hot pink polka dots. Love, love, love the pink! It really adds pop to the tote.

Shelley didn't have a pattern or even a photo. She wasn't sure what she wanted, except that the tote had to be big with pockets inside and outside. Oh, and no zippers. She hates sewing zippers.

I've made so many totes and purses, that I usually just design as I go. This time, though, it didn't go quite so smoothly. Conversation and concentration don't really go hand in hand. Bleeding doesn't aid concentration, either.

A primary rule of quilting is, "Always slide the guard over the blade of your rotary cutter when you aren't cutting fabric."  You know where this is going, don't you? Shelley forgot the rule, and nicked her thumb with that razor sharp blade. It wasn't deep, and I should have taken a photo, but I was too busy chasing up the stairs for a band-aid while yelling, "Don't bleed on the fabric!".

We didn't have a pattern, so there was no list of steps to follow. I got a couple of steps out of order. It was all Shelley's fault, of course.  Some of those steps were pretty important, too! It's a good thing that I have more than one seam ripper.

Shelley did most of the sewing, but now and again, I helped out. While I was sewing the edge stitching on the pocket, my needle slipped off the edge along one entire side. More seam ripping. When the tote was completely finished, we discovered that I had cut the button loop at the top of the tote too short to go around a button. Just when I thought we were finished, the seam ripper was back at work. As I said - all Shelley's fault.

There was more. Shelley had eyeballed the amount if fabric she thought we'd need, and told the clerk to "cut it here". We were stuck with what we had, but we made it work. We ran a bit short, and we had to use pieces of both of her fabrics for the tote lining. There was pink gingham in my stash that lined the pockets. The interfacing also ran short, but I had plenty of that in my stash. Have I ever mentioned that I love my stash?

Look at all of those pockets!

A big pocket for one side of the lining.

Four small pockets for the other side of the lining. One is for pencils, one for a cellphone, and two are for whatever falls into them. 

The big front pocket is just under 12" x 12". Fussy cutting got those pups centered. If you look closely, you can see that too small loop at the top of the tote.

I was watching the clock, and even as we neared the end, I was sure that we would need  one more sewing session. Then, as if by magic, the tote was done!  

 Almost 5:00 P.M.: Shelley still needed to buy a button, but everything else was complete.  We discovered the too short button loop right after taking this photo. Thank goodness, it was a quick fix.

Shelley sent me this photo the next day. The toggle button is perfect. The loop fits!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sara's Quilt, Block 4

The pattern has finally been posted on Craftsy, and, as promised, it's free.

Block # 4, 10 1/2  " x 10 1/2" before being assembled into the quilt.

I made this block for Sara's quilt several weeks ago, but I only got around to writing up the pattern this week. Some people write the pattern and then follow it to sew the project, but that doesn't work for me. When I was teaching I had to have my room completely set up at the first of the year before I could even think about lesson plans and such. Quilts patterns are similar. For one thing, I need to have the photographs and the diagrams ready to go so I can insert them into the text. I can't do that unless I have the finished piece in front of me. I also use that finished piece to double check and triple check my measurements.

Some patterns are more difficult to write than others are. I don't know why, but this was one of the trickier ones. Now and then, I could really use testers and editors to find the mistakes in a pattern. Please let me know if you'd be interested in doing that. Volunteers would have to make a commitment to sewing a pattern in a relatively short time, but they would also receive the pattern free.

I'm feeling very proud of myself. I actually hand stitched four of the center applique pieces in place.  I used the same freezer paper, baste, and starch method that I used in making Block #2, but I wasn't to excited about how the machine stitching on that applique looked. I started this block by machine quilting the flower's center circle, and then I decided that even my less than wonderful hand stitching would be an improvement.

Not perfect, by any means, but not awful, either.
Sara prefers the geometric, pieced blocks in her quilt, so this may be the last one with applique. I love the mix of styles, and this is one of my favorite blocks so far. I played around with the block to see how a quilt made only with these would look. That's another reason I take so much time writing patterns. I keep getting sidetracked.

I'm not sure that I like all of the identical flowers, but what if the background fabrics were all pure white and there were different appliques in the centers of the blocks? It might look even better in a mix of dark, medium, and light fabrics of other colors. Scrappy is always fun. What do you think?
There really isn't any more time for daydreaming about this. I have too many other projects all lined up and needing my attention.

Cooking dinner is first on the list. Food before fun. Seems a bit backwards, don't you think?

Spring begins next Monday!
It may be cold outside right now, but it looks like I'll have daffodils before long.

Have a lovely week!