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!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sara's Quilt, Block 3 Tutorial

Sara's Quilt, Block 3 (10 1/2" x 10 1/2"

So far, I've made six sampler blocks for Sara's Quilt. The sewing is going too fast for me to keep the patterns up to date. I'll try to get one out every week or two. Block 3 is a very basic pinwheel in a star. I loved making it because it's so quick and easy to piece.

Fabrics

Three reds, one cream, one wheat. This could be done very nicely with one light and two medium to dark fabrics of any color combination.

I forgot to photograph each fabric before cutting, and I don't have scraps of one of the reds left. This photo should help to explain the color arrangements.


Cutting and Piecing
1/4" seam allowances are used. 
 
I like to cut any pieces used for triangles just slightly larger than needed. This way I can line seams up on the diagonal lines of my ruler and trim than back to get exact measurements and perfect points.  It's so much easier to trim than to deal with pieces that are too small or a bit wonky.

Small Pinwheel
This block within a block is made with quarter square and half square triangles.

1. To make the small Pinwheel section, cut:
  • one 4" square of Red 1 and one 4" square of Cream. 
  • two 3 1/2" squares of cream

2. Cut each square in half diagonally. Turn and cut on the other diagonal making four triangles.
 3. Lay the triangles out in pairs as shown below. Make sure the positions of fabrics on all four of the pairs are the same.



3. With right sides together, sew the matching short legs of the triangles together. Press seams open.

4. Cut each 3 1/2" square of cream in half once diagonally. You will have four triangles.

5. Sew each cream triangle to the long side of the triangle made from the two smaller triangles. Press the seams open.


6. Line the seams up with the diagonal measures on your ruler. The short seam on the half square triangles should fall exactly at the corner of the 3 inch mark. Trim each square to 3" x 3".

7. Sew the patches right sides together to make the pinwheel.

8. Press the seams open. The pinwheel block will measure  5 1/2" x 5 1/2".



Outer Star

To make the outer star, cut:
  • two 3 5/8" squares of Red 2
  • two 3 5/8" squares of Red 3
  • four 3 5/8" squares of Wheat
  • four 3" squares of Wheat 

1. Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each 3 5/8" Wheat square.


2. Place each Wheat square on top of a red square, right sides together. Make two half square triangle sections by sewing a 1/4" seam on either side of the drawn line.


3.  Cut on the line, fold open, and press the seams open. Line the seam up with the diagonal line on your ruler and trim each half square triangle patch to 3" x 3".

At first, I pressed the seams to the dark. When it came time to sew the patches together, I realized that I'd have a very thick layer of fabric on one side of each seam. Back to the ironing board to press those seams open.

4. Arrange the half square triangle patches in pairs so that the reds are in the same positions for all four pairs.
Half square triangle sections will be sewn down the center where the wheat colored pieces meet.
5. Sew with right sides together. Press the seams open. The sections will measure 3" x 5 1/2".

6. Place one of the red and wheat sections on either side of the pinwheel block.



7. Sew 3" squares of wheat to either side of each of the red and wheat half square triangle sets. The sections will now measure 3" x 10 1/2".



8. Sew these last two sections to the top and bottom of the pinwheel block. The finished block will measure 10 1/2" x 10 1/2".



That's it. Happy Stitching!

March arrives this week! Spring is definitely on the way. 










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:
https://www.craftsy.com/quilting/patterns/sara-s-quilt-block-2/481272



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

Sare'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.


Cutting: 
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

 
 
Fabrics
   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).

Cutting
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".  

Instructions:
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".