Saturday, January 31, 2015


I was rummaging through some old fabric and came across a UFO. A UFO, in quilt-speak, is an unfinished object. In this case it was a table topper that I had pieced together a year or two ago but then was having trouble quilting. It got set aside, was found by the cat, and then spent the past year stuffed in a bag.

Table topper, design by Thimble Blossoms

Needing to feel that sense of sewing accomplishment, I grabbed the topper, backing, and batting and vowed to finish this mini quilt.

First, I threw it in the washer to get rid of any cat hairs that might still be clinging to the fabric. It seemed like a good idea, but when I took it out of the dryer, it had frayed along the seams and edges and I needed to do some clean up before I could do any quilting.

This did alter the size of the piece, but since it was just a table topper it didn't hurt to be a bit smaller.

Then I got out the instruction manual for my sewing machine. I wanted to do some free-motion quilting and had to look up how to do this. I've watched people do this on TV shows, but I've not had much experience with free-motion and I haven't tried it at all with my new machine.

I made all the correct settings on the machine, disengaged the feed dog, and attached the free-motion quilting foot. Decision making time - how was I going to quilt this?

Looking at the quilt, I decided to do a spiral design on the circles. This is definitely something that I need more practice with. My spirals aren't perfect, but I'm happy with them and that's all that really matters.

The hardest part is to keep the sewing speed and the movement of the fabric coordinated so that your stitch length is the same throughout. Since the feed dog is lowered, the fabric doesn't move through the machine unless you move it yourself. So you are stepping on the foot pedal to make the machine go, holding and moving the fabric, eyeballing your design as you go, and trying to make it fit in a pleasant manner. As you can see, it's a little wonky but not so much that I feel the need to rip it out and start over.

Then I had to decide what to do in the squares. I felt that having a template would help me to achieve better results so I drew a simple pattern on freezer paper, cut it out and then ironed it in place on the fabric.  This gave me a guide for my quilting. For the center square I made this design with four hearts coming together like a clover.

My mistake with this was that at some places I had to sew over the paper and that made the stitches loose when I removed the template. I should have separated the hearts and given enough room for me to create the design without hitting the paper. I also could have used a disappearing marking pen, but I was afraid that would be harder for me to follow. Also, this design, although simple, was hard for me to keep my speed and move the fabric so I had a lot of different sized stitches which is not that pretty, but I decided to keep it as is.

For the corner squares, I cut apart the center design and then aligned three hearts in a diagonal. This was easier to sew and gave me better results.

One decision I made was to do this quilting with just the top and the batting. When I had tried to quilt this before I had trouble with the backing fabric bunching up, which is how it became a UFO. It was much easier to quilt knowing that the back wouldn't show.

At this point, however, I did need to add the backing. I also decided that I needed to quilt through all the layers at least in some areas. I chose to quilt around the middle square and the four corner squares. I also then quilted around the border close to the stitching and also close to the edge.

My backing fabric was much larger than the finished project, so after I finished quilting, I cut the backing about one inch larger than the front. I then folded the extra fabric in half towards the front, then folded this over the front to form the binding. This worked out well. It's kind of hard to see in the photo because my ironing board cover is a print.

The hardest part was mitering the corners. I stitched this in place with my machine, stitching as  close to the edge as I could. I was able to complete my UFO in an afternoon. I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Wouldn't this be fun for a picnic on the living room floor? The circles could be like placemats.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Door Draft Doodad

It's 10 degrees outside and the wind is blowing in just the right direction to cause a draft around my door. I felt inspired to create a door snake, draft dodger, or whatever you want to call it to help keep the warm in and the cold out.

Not wanting to venture out in the cold for supplies, I raided my fabric stash and found about half a yard of this great home dec fabric.

I evened up the edge and cut strips from selvage to selvage at about 8 inches each. My plan was to make several as I have more than one door  

My doors are about 36 inches, but I wanted the Doodad a bit longer for my front door so I cut that at 42 inches. The others I cut at 38 inches. I was giving an inch at each end for the hem.  

I took one strip and folded it in half lengthwise and sewed a half inch seam down the long side and one of the short sides. I repeated this for the other tubes.

Then I turned the tubes right side out and pressed to get out the wrinkles from turning.

Now the fun part! From other DIY sites I visited, I saw that people used rice or beans to fill the tube. I didn't have enough of either, and not wanting to venture out into the cold, I decided to use something I had on hand.

Buckwheat hulls!

I had purchased one of those sobakawa pillows but neither my husband nor I could sleep on it so it has been just taking up space on a shelf. It had a zippered end so that you could remove some of the hulls to make it more comfortable (ha!).  I opened it up and carefully filled the tubes, which was a tedious process as the hulls are lightweight and floated about and clogged the funnel. 

When full, I tucked in half an inch of the fabric and topstitched.  I did the same topstitch design on the other end of the tube to match. You can add the topstitching to the closed end either before or after the tube is filled.  If you do it after, just make sure to close and topstitch the open end, then shake all the buckwheat (or rice or whatever you use) out of the way first.

I'm happy with the result!

Here's one already in use at the front door.

This was a fun easy project. If I make any other Door Draft Doodads, I think I will make them a bit wider.  My back door is raised up a little and I had to fuss a bit to get coverage. 

In addition to my two doors, I also made one to put in the track of the sliding door.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Water Bottle Carrier

A friend asked if I could make a water bottle carrier like one she had seen at a craft show. I checked the internet for a tutorial and found one on Pink Chalk Studio. This design is quilted and the batting is insulated so that the water will keep cold.

I made two, which I gave as gifts. The straps I made in the length for a child, but I ended up adding to them post construction to make them suitable for an adult.

Inspired by Pink Chalk Studios
I liked them but wanted to make my own design. I wanted to have an adjustable strap so it would fit anyone.

On a recent trip to Half-Price Books, I purchased a copy of Sew the Perfect Bag by Sew News. One of the projects is a water bottle sling designed by Ellen March.

(You have to watch Ellen March on Sew It All TV - she seems like someone you would like to meet and hang out and sew with! I found her and the show because I can't seem to sleep past 5:30 am anymore and of course the sewing shows on the local public television stations are always on at the crack of dawn. Lots of great projects that you would actually do. Love to watch this show!)

Anyway, her design had a clip for keys, an exterior pocket and, of most interest to me, directions for making an adjustable strap!

So, using what I learned from Pink Chalk, and the instructions for making an adjustable strap from Ellen March, I came up with this cute bag with dogs and cats doing yoga!

I like the drawstring, but I think that elastic would be pretty great too, so the next one will have elastic instead.

Making an adjustable strap was pretty easy. I just had to buy a buckle slide. Works like a charm! The instructions in the book were well written and easy to follow. My biggest worry was keeping the strap straight and not twisting it.

My library is having a 1K Fun Walk and will be giving logo water bottles to the participants. As a prize, I want to make a couple of covers that fit the special bottles. I made this cover as a trial run. The bottle I used is the same as the ones for the walk.

I found some really cute library-related fabric that I thought would work for a boy or a girl.

I will post pictures and a tutorial when I make the 'toad'ally cool water bottle carriers.

Book Note:  While making this water bottle carrier, I was listening to M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor, narrated by Penelope Keith. I started reading the Agatha Raisin books late in the series but with the ease of downloading books from the library, I have been listening to the series since the beginning. I find that Agatha and I have a lot in common, right down to the bum hip!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Marvel Super Hero Apron

The hardest thing about making this apron was picking the contrast fabrics. There are so many options for colors with the Marvel print. 

I wanted to highlight the red so chose a red fabric with black polka dots. It give it a great retro look, despite the comic book fabric. I chose a black trim because every other color I tried just looked blah. 

I wasn't loving it until I added the yellow rick rack which just made everything pop.

The red ties complete the look!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Retro Repro Apron

At a cute antique shop in Lodi I picked up this vintage apron:

I liked the rick rack trim and the unique technique of adding gathering for fullness without cutting a separate waistband. There is a double row of stitching around the body of the apron and the tiniest of rolled hems on the ties.

I created a pattern with a longer side that I would gather to meet the size of the front of the apron.

I didn't want to create those small hems or double stitch. Instead I sewed the ties as tubes and then turned them. I also created a facing for the top of the apron.

Here is the finished product:

I plan to make some small alterations when making the next one, mostly with the upper front. I made the curve a bit too exaggerated and I made the seam with the gathers too wide. I used a dinner plate to create my curves, but it didn't quite work the way I wanted. Somewhere I have a french curve which I am going to have to unearth for these types of things.

I think it might make a cute skirt, if I add a back.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bag Lady

I have made quite a few bags following online tutorials or using patterns, 
but there is always something that I think - hey, I would do that part different. 

This bag I made from a template that I got from Nancy Zieman. I saw her make some variations on this on her tv show and ordered the template online.

It was much harder to follow than I thought it would be and I didn't love the end result. She uses a lot of pre-made helpers for the strap and piping that I didn't have and that weren't available locally. I worked it out with things I had, but it took more time. There are template kits that come with these additional items, but I didn't buy that kit.  Will I make this bag again? Probably not.

I decided that I would rather start designing my own bags. These are the bags I made. The gray and yellow with pink accent is the prototype. Using what I learned making the first bag, I made the brown and orange bag.

 I also created my own version of a wristlet to go with the bag.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Inspir-apron, part 2

I revisited my Betty apron and created a fuller figure version. I call this the Mae apron, in honor of my grandma, who always wore a dress and heels, and frequently an apron.