Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One More Finish for the Year

This quilt started with two little fat quarters. They were purchased a couple of years ago with a special friend in mind, but I never could figure out what to make with them. He works in an open office/cubicle environment and I knew he'd appreciate the humor of the office setting. The fabric with all the messages has one very special message, "LUNCH W/ DEB TUES 12:30". Yep, a lunch date and a quilt all wrapped into one.

Somewhere along the way, I cut the fat quarters into 5-inch squares, added some teal and black scraps and made nine tossed 9-patch blocks. Those sat for a little more than a year until I recently decided that it was time to finish this quilt. It needed to be a bit larger than just the blocks so I added black sashing and a wide border. The finished size is 58" square.

To quilt it, I stitched straight lines a quarter inch away from each sashing seam and also on either side of the center seam for each block. Each line goes from edge to edge of the quilt so that the borders are quilted along with the rest of the quilt rather than as a separate design.

Since this was another stash busting quilt, the back is solid black. It's the only thing I had on hand that worked with the front and that I had enough of to make a back.

I'm trying to get better about adding labels to my quilts. There are many of my quilts out there in the world without a label.

John hasn't actually received this quilt yet. I thought about waiting until it was in his hands before posting this, but he'll enjoy reading about it here and quilts are always better in person. Maybe we'll even meet on a Tuesday at 12:30. That would be fun.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Break from Knit

I don't knit or crochet very much but when the weather starts cooling off, I can't resist playing with a little bit of yarn. The novelty yarns are especially fun for knitting up a quick scarf and the best part is that the yarn tends to hide the stitches so it's okay if the tension isn't perfect or if a stitch is gained or lost along the way.

Each one of the four scarves shown here was made with a simple garter stitch. I love it that each one looks so different yet was made in the same way. These are all going to special homes over the next few weeks.

And I just couldn't resist crocheting a beard/mustache mask for my boys. They'll stay warm and look very manly with their full beards. Too fun.

These projects were a good addition to all the sewing I have been doing lately, and reminds me once again, that everything gets better with practice. I was feeling quite comfortable with those knitting needles by the time I got to the fourth scarf.

I plan to keep going for a while. I recently started using a knitted cotton dishcloth that was gifted to me. I love it way more than any of my other dishcloths so I'm going to keep on practicing by making a few of my own in the new year. So instead of knit one, purl one, my mantra will be...knit a while, sew a while, knit a while, sew a while.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teacher gifts - Personalized Bell Ornaments

Between the two kids still in school, I needed fifteen teacher/helper gifts. FIFTEEN!? Time to figure out a fast sewing project. Ornaments are always a good choice.
Here are the results from the first round of sewing. I pulled out all of my Christmas/Winter fabric scraps and grouped them. I let the kids choose which combo best suited each teacher. Then, they wrote a personalized message on the backing of each bell.
I want the kids to be part of the gift giving process, especially for people who they know better than I do, and this was a great way to make it personal and special for each recipient.

To make these, I reduced the size of the bell, and used the same process as my Bell Door Hanger. Five down, ten to go.The template for both bells can be found here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fabric Scrap Ornaments

While I've been sewing on one end of the project table, my daughter Erica has been crafting on the other.

She took scraps that were small enough to throw away and cut them even smaller.

Then she painted a glass ornament with Mod Podge and stuck the scraps to the ornament.

They were hung to dry on a skewer laying across two glass jars.

She had quite a variety of ornaments, each one made with a special person in mind. They will become part of the package decorations for the wrapped gifts her friends will receive. She was kind enough to make several for me so that each person who receives a small quilted gift from me will also receive a matching ornament.

I love it that even the tiniest of scraps can be used in a beautiful way.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tutorial - Dresden Mug Rug

Dresden Mug Rugs are great gifts and fun to make. I've made a few lately and put together a tutorial so that you can make some, too.

I took pictures while I was making both of these, so if the color combinations switch back and forth, that's why. The question I get asked more than any other with this project is, "Where did you get such small dresden templates?"

The first (and only) dresden templates I use are from Sew Mama Sew. You can find them here.
After printing these templates, I reduced them by 50% on my copier. That is what makes this cute, smaller size. I print them on card stock so they will last longer.

Other fabric and supplies you will need:
Fabric to cut 20 dresden wedges (scraps work great for this, or a charm pack of five-inch squares for fabric variety)
Background fabric - a fat quarter or scrap that is approximately 12" x 15"
Batting - approximately 12" x 15"
Backing fabric - a fat quarter or scrap that is approximately 12" x 15"
Thread - either to match or in contrast to your project
Sewing machine and basic sewing supplies (scissors, pins, turning tool, ruler, mat, rotary cutter)

Before sewing, spend some time selecting fabric. I was making these for two upcoming gift exchanges and wanted to use traditional Christmas colors. After digging into the stash, I cut one wedge each from each of the selected fabrics.
To cut the fabric, I simply lay the cardstock template on the wrong side of the fabric and trace it. For most of these, I used a regular #2 pencil or a ball point pen. The drawn lines are your cutting lines so you don't need to worry about using something that will wash out.

The black fabric in the photograph is under consideration as a background for these, so that is why they are scattered all over it. The next step is to determine your layout. Dresdens are very versatile and can handle anything from two fabrics to twenty.
Here's a monochromatic greeen,

a multi-colored layout,
red and gold,
red and green,
and finally, green and gold. After deciding which layout to use, it's time to start sewing. The first step is to fold each wedge in half lengthwise and sew across the outside edge. I chain piece these, which means I start sewing the next piece without taking the previous piece out of the sewing machine. This makes it easier to keep the pieces in the order of my design. I cut enough wedges to make three dresdens so I went ahead and sewed them all.
The next step is to turn and press each wedge. I like to take the full string of wedges to the ironing board, lay them down and snip them apart without moving them. Again, this just helps keep them in order. I will pick each one up, turn and press it, and put it back in its place in line.

I use a dull bamboo skewer to help those point be nice and crisp.
After that, pick the wedges up one pair at a time and sew them together. These can be chain pieced as well. Press the seams open, and be sure to put them back in the right order.

After the pairs are sewn, turn each pair into a group of four by the same process. Keep going until you have a finished circle of wedges.
With your finished circle in hand, audition center circles and background fabrics. I love the black background with this dresden and went with the dark green circle for the center.
This is the circle template just as it is when reduced to 50%. I wanted more of the dresden to show so I cut the circle down a little bit. I didn't measure for this, but used scissors to trim approximately a half inch away from the outer edge of the circle.
This smaller size circle is more what I had in mind. You should always feel free to experiment. That is my favorite thing about sewing and quilting; all of the rules are optional. I am not so good at following the rules anyway.

Now is the time to decide on the final size and setting for your finished project.
For the one with a red background, the dresden is fairly centered and there is not a lot of extra background space. The background for this look is cut eight inches by ten inches.
If you want more background, go with something larger. This one is nine inches by eleven inches. Scooting the dresden into one of the corners leaves lots of open background. As far as I know, there is no official size for a mug rug or candle mat, so just go with what looks good to your eye.

Cut your background and batting to the size you have decided. Keep in mind that the finished size will be a half inch smaller than the cut size. For the backing fabric, cut it a half inch bigger in one direction. For example, if you background is 8" x 10", cut your backing fabric 8" x 10 1/2". This is so there will be an opening in the back of the project for turning it right side out rather than along the edge. Cut your backing fabric in half. This will leave two pieces that need to be sewn together.
With right sides together, sew part of the backing seam. Stop about a third of the way down and backstitch. Then lift your presser foot and scoot the piece down to about 2/3 of the way to the bottom. Start sewing again, being sure to backstitch to secure the seam. I've stuck my scissors in the opening to help you see the hole. There isn't any binding on this project and I prefer not to have the opening on the edge.

Before we assemble all of the layers though, the front needs to be finished.
Lay the dresden on the background and move it around until you are happy with its position. Remember that 1/4" of the edge will be in the seam so don't put it too close to the edge. Pin it down. I use four or five pins to secure it. Then take the center circle and pin it with a single pin in the center. Stitch the circle in place. I like to use a satin stitch for this, but really, there are plenty of stitches that work here. My goal is to cover the raw edges and satin stitch works great for that.
The next step is to secure the edges of the dresden. I like using a straight stitch, and again, there are many other equally good stitches that can be used.

Now we're ready to assemble. Lay the batting piece on your work table. Lay the background with the dresden sewn on it right side up on top of the batting, then lay the backing fabric right side down on top of that. Pin around the edges to hold everything in place. Use a 1/4" seam to sew around all four sides.
Trim the corners before turning it right side out. That will help reduce the bulk in the corners. Use the hole in the backing fabric to turn your project right side out. Use your turning tool to poke out the corners. Press. The good news about the hole in the back is that it will be secured with the quilting. You shouldn't need to sew it closed.
All that is needed now is some quilting. With a small, fast project like this, I tend to stick with straight lines. This is definitely a "quilt as desired" project, so feel free to let your imagination (and sewing machine) run wild.
Masking tape is my secret for straight lines. I only use one piece of tape and move it around the project as I sew. I also lengthen the stitch on my machine for quilting since it's not critical to holding the project together. I think the longer stitch looks prettier, too.
Since there isn't any binding on this project, try not to let your quilting run off the edge of the quilt. I think you can see the stitching along the top and left edge of this one. I stop short of the edge, turn and edge stitch to my next quilting line. Sometimes I'll finish with a pretty decorative stitch around the outer edge, but I liked the simplicity of the straight stitch on these.

I hope these Dresden Mug Rugs or Candle Mats give you as much pleasure as they do me. This is another great way to use up some of those smaller scraps for beautiful gifts. I gave one away today at our guild Christmas luncheon (you can read all about that on my dear friend Holley's blog). One is going into an office gift exchange, and I have a special recipient in mind for the third. Projects are flying out the door about as fast as I can make them, and that is one of the things I love about this time of year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tutorial: Bell Door Hanger

I was looking through some of my books last weekend, trying to find lettering for another project, when I came across this:

In 2008, I hosted a year long club based on Nancy Halvorsen's Be Attitudes book. We had a great time in this club, making projects from the book and making other projects, too. I wanted the group to have a memory of our year together so I printed the club name, the shop name, and all of our attitudes onto Printed Treasures fabric sheets. Then we all passed them around and signed each others. All of these ladies were so kind and supportive of me and the club. Two of them have since passed away and a few others have moved to other parts of the country. I really loved the time we spent together and can't believe I tucked this away and forgot about it.

So, naturally, a Nancy Halvorsen memory should be made from Nancy Halvosen fabric, right? I dug into my scraps and found plenty to play with.

I stuck with traditional red, green, and gold and also found a batting scrap that was a tad bigger than the printed bell. I used a sew and flip method, using the batting as my foundation. First, put two strips of fabric right side together, covering the bottom of the batting. I wanted a wonky look, so I didn't care if the strips lined up perfectly.

I sewed a quarter inch from the top edge all the way across the strip. Then I flipped the top strip up and pressed.

The next strip is placed right side down on top of the red one, then sew, flip, and press. Work your way up the entire piece of batting.

Next, lay the bell template (or whatever shape you desire) on top of the sewn strips, pin, and cut. The bell template that I used can be found here (the large size is for the door hanger and there is a smaller one that can be used for a bell ornament). Cut out your printed sheet and lay it face down on top of the strip set. If you want to add a hanger, now is  good time to do it. I used ribbon, and just tucked it in so it would be sewn into the seam. You can see it peeking out of the top and you can also see where I backstitched to make it good and strong.

Sew around the outer edge, leaving an opening for turning. If you are working with a curved shape, be sure to clip the curves so they will lay nice and smooth when it is turned right side out.

I try to leave the opening along a straight edge when I can.

Turn it right side out. I use a bamboo skewer with a relatively blunt point to push out the edges so they will be nice and crisp.

I tucked another piece of ribbon with some jingle bells on it into the seam when I sewed it shut. You can hand sew it closed or machine sew a line close to the edge to close the opening.

Now, I can enjoy this memory year after year. This is a great idea for you, too. It doesn't have to be something printed on the computer, but could just be a piece of muslin that everyone signs. Wouldn't it be great to do this at large family gatherings and see how the hand writing changes over the years for the growing children in the family? So fun to look back in time. And, you can use any shape or size. Our club ended in December, so a Christmas bell was fitting for this special group. This was a fun project that was made extra special by giving me the opportunity to reflect on good times and good people.
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