Two Lovely Beginner Books

I am charmed by a couple of new little books for beginners in sewing or quilting.

Jump Into Patchwork and Quilting is an approachable introduction to quilting. It is not completely basic, as it assumes you have a sewing machine and know how to use it. However, it covers basic information about quilting, including fabric selection, batting, basting, and so forth.

I found the level of detail exactly right. For example, there is a well-illustrated explanation of how to use a rotary cutter safely, without getting into the eternal debate about whether it’s OK to use the lines on your mat for measuring.

The book begins with easy projects and proceeds to a final sampler quilt. This seems to me an encouraging way to teach a beginner to quilt, as these earlier projects can be completed fairly quickly. Here’s part of the Table of Contents showing some of the projects:

Photo courtesy of C&T

The final project is a typical beginner sampler quilt. It is done in cheerful colors and has a modern look while using some traditional prints. I like the combination, which should allow those drawn to both traditional and modern type quilts to enjoy the project.

Phot courtesy of C&T

The one additional thing I would have liked to see in this book is encouragement to allow for mistakes. There is the usual explanation of the importance of a consistent 1/4″ seam, but it would be nice to see acknowledgment that even “imperfect” blocks can be beautiful.

This would be a great book for a series of classes, or for teaching a friend to make quilts. It is available here.

Jump Into Sewing is bright and cheerful without being childish. There are many useful illustrations.  It starts with “Anatomy of a Sewing Machine”, which will be especially useful for those who may have inherited a sewing machine without knowing anything about it. There is a section of clear explanations on troubleshooting common machine sewing problems such as thread snarled on the top or bottom of the fabric.

Photo courtesy of C&T

The first project is an easy pillow. It gave me the idea of helping my 5-year-old make a pillow. He enjoyed decorating a tote bag and the pillow would be a fast project.

Photo courtesy of C&T

More advanced projects include making a buttonhole and putting in a zipper. The final project is a substantial-looking tote bag, which, like the other projects in the book, could be gender neutral.

Photo Courtesy of C&T

Jump Into Sewing is available here.

The book does not offer any information about garment construction, though of course the techniques would transfer. I hope this new series will progress to “Jump Into Garment Sewing” in the future.

These are fun books that make me think of the non-sewers on my holiday list 😉

P.S.: The links above are for your convenience; they are not affiliate links from which I make money.

The Rest of the Story

True confession: The reason I made that shirt a couple of weeks ago was to work out the kinks in the pattern so I could make THIS shirt:

I found this fabric at Studio Stitch a couple of months ago and knew I just HAD to make a summer shirt from it! But of course I didn’t want to risk ruining it, so the first one was a practice piece made from inexpensive fabric. (A sewing teacher a number of years ago encouraged me to make my fitting “muslin” from fabric I could wear so the work wouldn’t be wasted.)

I love this fabric because it reminds me of Japanese summer yukata. I’m pretty sure the sharks are quirky American humor, though.

I wanted little red buttons in the shape of blood drops, but of course there were none to be found. Perhaps it’s just as well. The pin, a vintage James Avery sand dollar, surely is more socially appropriate 😀

Side Trip Into Clothing Construction

I made my own clothes for years before I started quilting, as did many women my age. Once I had a steady income and a family, it became much more efficient to buy clothing than to make it, but I still get the itch to make something to wear from time to time.

I recently found this interesting fabric on a sale table and the bug bit.

I have had this pattern for years but haven’t made anything from it, so I decided it was time.

And here’s the shirt.

It fits fine and is comfortable. This is an easy pattern, so it took only 4 hours to make. If my time is worth even as much as federal minimum wage, I would have been ahead to buy something ready made.

That probably won’t keep me from making clothing, though.

Before and After

First, just to say I’m making masks like everybody else. I did verify where they are actually needed locally before I started. Enough said.
Now, back BEFORE everything was turned on its ear, we had this fun “Easier Than It Looks” class at Studio Stitch. It was fun to see the fabric choices!

And best of all, Betti sent me a picture of her finished top!  I think it’s spectacular!

One of these days the pandemic will be contained and we’ll have classes again.  See you then!  I will continue to post about quilts weekly; you can just take it on faith that I’m washing my hands and leaving home only to deliver the masks I’ve made 🙂  Take care!

Chela’s Journal

My blogging friend Chela makes beautiful fabric journals (and other fabric art) and recently used Kraft-Tex to make a cover for last year’s journal pages. You can read about how she did it in her post here.  However, she had some difficulty with pictures on her site, so I have some pictures of her process below:

Chela used a tool to crease the Kraft-Tex, and I do too–it’s tough enough to stand up to this

She also used clips to hold it for sewing–of course you don’t want pin holes!

She decorated the cover of her journal with stitching and buttons–Kraft-Tex can be stitched either by hand or by machine

Chela had trouble with glue for applique, but stitching worked fine. If you want glue, I use the Aleene’s Jewel-It glue with good results on Kraft-Tex

And here are some of her creative journal pages.  Click on any image for a larger view.

You can see Chela’s blog here:  colchasymas.blog

Kraft-Tex Christmas

One of our Christmas traditions is re-usable gift wrap.  I’ve made a number of fabric bags for the purpose over the years, and we have lots of hemmed lengths of holiday fabric that we use for Furoshiki style gift wrap.  (Here’s a link if you want to see an expert doing a Furoshiki style wrap.)

Enter the red Kraft-Tex recently sent by C&T for me to experiment with.  From the time I saw it, I wanted to make a flower to decorate a holiday package.  It took a good bit of experimentation, but here’s what i came up with;

This is the Crimson color of hand-dyed, prewashed Kraft-Tex

I started by cutting pointed ovals about 2″ long and then sewing a little dart in one end to make them 3-dimensional.  I did tie a knot a the point of the dart, but there was no problem with back-stitching at the other end.

I glued the petals to a button with a concave surface to give them some support, then glued a piece of discarded costume jewelry in the middle.  I’m going to glue an alligator clip on the back for attaching the flower to the package.

You may wonder how this flower will do being stored with the wraps between holidays.  The answer is: just fine!  Read on for why.

This color is “Sapphire”

I recently made this little pyramid bag from Kraft-Tex (free pattern here, if you’re interested).  There was no need for batting between layers because the Kraft-Tex has enough body to hold the bag up.

It took some DOING to get this little bag turned right side out after construction because it’s so tiny.  The material actually looked better after all that squishing and twisting than it did before!  There were no permanent creases in it, and it looks much more like leather now that it’s been manipulated a lot.  So, as I’ve said before: was the Kraft-Tex, crumple it in your hands, etc, etc.  It just improves the appearance.Please note:  C&T provides Kraft-Tex for me to play with, but the links in this post are for your convenience.  I do not make money when you buy from them.

Kraft-Tex Tray

The folks at C&T just sent me a package of the beautiful new hand-dyed, prewashed, Kraft-Tex. (Please note that they provide this to me with no obligation and I do not get a kickback if you buy it.  However, if your local quilt shop doesn’t carry it, you can get it directly from C&T here.)

The denim blue called to me first, and I needed a little tray to go beside my machine.  Unless my tools are “corralled” they tend to roll or bounce off the table when I sew.  The fabric tray I’ve been using was looking a little tired (the sides had sort of collapsed) and I thought Kraft-Tex would be a good material for making a sturdier tool tray.

I made a prototype from cardboard first to figure out the best size and shape for my tools.  Here are instructions for making the tray in case you want one, too:

Cut the Kraft-Tex 6-1/2″ x 8″ and mark (with a heat-erasable pen) 1″ in from each side.  Put a #70 needle in the sewing machine, lengthen the stitch a little, and remove the thread.  Stitch around the central rectangle without thread to mark the edges of the tray base and kind of score the Kraft-Tex so it will fold well on those lines.  Fold and press along these lines–it’s fine to fold all the way to the edge even though it wasn’t necessary to sew that far.

This picture was taken later in the process, but you can see where the material was pressed along the fold lines.  You can press either with or without steam; both work fine without distorting the Kraft-Tex.

Select your lining fabric and cut it 1″ bigger than the Kraft-Tex in both length and width; my lining fabric was cut 7-1/2″ x 9″.  Fuse the lining material to some stiff interfacing, then apply Heat’n’Bond or your favorite fusible web to the interfacing.

Once all of that is fused, cut the lining down to 7″ x 8-1/2″ using either a pinking blade in your rotary cutter or your pinking shears.  Or, if you don’t want a decorative edge, just cut the edge straight.  NOTE that if you use a pinking blade in your rotary cutter, you will want to cut on the back side of your cutting mat because the blade can kind of chew up the mat.  Also, the blade will chew up the edge of your ruler, so either use an old ruler or cut about 1/8″ away from the ruler.

Now lay the Kraft-Tex down on the fusible side of the trimmed lining.  Note that Kraft-Tex has a slightly different texture on each side, but there is no “right” side–use the one you like best.  Get everything centered, then turn the decorative edge to the outside and clip it in place with something heatproof. Fuse the edges, then the central part of the lining, to the Kraft-Tex.  Again, you can use steam if it helps.

Now put some thread in the machine!  Sew around the edges of the tray bottom where you previously pressed the sides up.  I marked the edges again with heat-erasable marker to make this easier.  This step will help hold the lining in place.  Edge stitch around the upper edge of the tray as well

Now don’t do what I did 😉  I mistakenly cut out all 4 corners on my first box.  Just cut one side of each corner to create a flap that can be used to hold the box together!

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the corner will look finished–see the flaps?

Fold and press the box along the stitching lines bordering the bottom.  Fold the flaps in and glue or sew them in place.  I glued them, then sewed a decorative X in each corner.  I used the awl shown in the picture to punch little holes for the needle to go through when I made the X stitches by hand.

And that’s it!  The resulting tray looks plenty sturdy to hold those little tools beside my machine.  And besides, it was fun to make something new!

What have you been up to?

Place Setting Carrier Revisited

It turns out people in my modern guild read my blog (thanks!).  At the gift exchange last Christmas, one of the most coveted gifts was a place setting carrier for potlucks.  The woman who made it had gotten the idea from one of my blog posts, here.

A place setting carrier is used to bring a plate and flatware from home when attending a potluck so that the waste of paper plates and plastic flatware is avoided.

There is a pattern available on Craftsy (which has changed its name), but she used  this free pattern from the St. Croix International Quilters’ Guild, designed by Joline Cook.  The carrier made for our gift exchange was so popular that the entire guild decided to make carriers for our February meeting!

Since the guild LOVES potlucks, these will be used!  Do be advised that, if you use the free pattern, it takes quite a bit of thinking it through to get it put together correctly.  I’m still not sure mine is the way the instructions intended, but it is functional 🙂

Someone in the guild also suggested tucking a plastic grocery bag in the carrier so that dirty dishes can be transported home without having to wash the carrier, too.

Time for a potluck!

A Travel Sewing Machine

As I was carrying my sewing machine up the steps a few weeks ago, it occurred that the price of repair for my shoulder (if I hurt it, which I haven’t yet) would be a lot more than the price of a lighter sewing machine for travel. Of course, I have a wonderful rolling travel case for the heavy machine, but that case doesn’t do stairs.

I considered for quite a while, since it seems to me that my home already contains enough “things”. I decided that, since I’m planning more sewing travel in the coming year, a lighter machine was worth the investment.  (A little more self-justification: I was the only serious sewist I know who owned only one machine!)

After some research, I settled on a Bernette 33, which is made by Bernina and sold by my Bernina dealer.  It is just what I was looking for:  smaller, lighter, with no computer parts to worry about.

Bernette 33, my new travel companion!

So far it performs just fine.  I’ve mainly used it for piecing, since that is most of what I do when I go to sewing gatherings or teach.  It certainly doesn’t feel as sturdy or sew as smoothly as my Bernina, but I think it is “just right” for travel.  And the price was right, too.

Of course I made it a cover to match the bag that carries its accessories:

This fun fabric came in prints of two sizes, so I had one of each to use

How many sewing machines do you own?

 

Thrift Shop Finds

My friend Tierney occasionally blogs about fabric she’s found in thrift shops and I’m always envious 😉 The good news is that I recently found a new (to me) and really good thrift shop. (Better news: it’s near an excellent bakery. Oops!)

A recent trip yielded 3 flat sheets, all in the same floral print.  They seem to be twin size.

I think they will make wonderful backing for some quilts!  Back in the day before there was much wide fabric available, I usually bought sheets to back my quilts, so this is a great throwback!

On the same trip I found these pewter buttons, which I believe to be good quality because they have detail on the back, not just the front.  I will use them to decorate a quilt at some point.

Oh yes…cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, and cookies 😀