Best Bag Handles

I can’t seem to quit making tote bags, and I’m especially happy to have discovered foam batting, which makes them nice and stiff and doesn’t need to be quilted unless you just want to.

This is one I made several years ago

As a bonus, I’ve discovered that foam batting makes terrific handles for large totes.  I just wrap fabric around it and sew it down, avoiding the awful task of turning a fabric tube inside out to make a handle.  The resulting handle is quick to make and comfortable to carry. Here’s how:

Cut 2 pieces of foam batting about 1-1/2″ wide and about 1″ longer than you want the finished handles to be.  Cut fabric for handles about 4-1/2″ wide and about 3″ longer than the finished handles will be.

Use a heat-resistant straight edge to turn under a crisp 1/2″ on one long edge of each handle.  (I’m using a metal tool made by Dritz for turning up hems.)

Now turn the same long edge under an additional 1-1/4″ and press well.

Tuck the batting into the handle, centering it between the ends, so that one long edge of the batting is firmly inside the handle.

I like to use clips to hold everything in place

Now turn the remaining long edge of the handle fabric snugly around the exposed long edge of the batting and tuck this raw edge under the folded 1/2″ edge.  The ends of the handle will have raw edges, but the long edges will all appear finished now.

Topstitch close to the folded edge.  Place a second line of stitching near the other long edge of the handle so that you have a nice professional-looking handle.

Attach handles as usual, allowing about 1/2″ of the batting at each end to be sewn down to the bag.  The rest of each end, without batting inside, will go smoothly into the side of the bag so you won’t have much of a bulge where the handles are attached.  Sew that down, too.

And you’re good to go!

 

 

Bag With Kraft-Tex Base

A while back I made a bag for carrying stuff to guild meetings and used some scraps of Kraft-Tex to reinforce the base. I have enjoyed that addition, both because it helps the bag stand up on its own and because I don’t have to worry about putting the bag on the floor.

Kraft-Tex for bags

Then recently I saw this Alexander Henry fabric and of course I was forced to buy it 😉

Alexander Henry fabric showing melodramatic “sewing woes”

I decided to make another tote bag using this tutorial from Bijou Lovely Designs, Holly DeGroot’s blog.  Her tutorial includes the free pattern, so go make it if you want to.  Her instructions and illustrations are excellent.

Here are my modifications for making the base of Kraft-Tex.

Holly’s instructions used the same fabric for the bag lining and the base, so of course I didn’t do that.  I cut the Kraft-Tex base 1/2″ narrower (top to bottom measurement) than Holly’s instructions, because the base on her bag is joined with a 1/4″ seam and then pressed back.  I just appliqued the Kraft-Tex to the bag.  Naturally, that required clips rather than pins–don’t want holes in the Kraft-Tex!

You can see that the fabric wasn’t printed entirely straight; the other side was straighter.  Luckily, this bag is for fun.

You can see my top-stitching here. This is the straighter side 🙂

When it came time to press the seams open, I just folded back the seams that contained Kraft-Tex, then ran the handle of my scissors along the seam to crease the Kraft-Tex into place.

You can also see where I stitched around the edge to hold the Kraft-Tex in place before assembly

The seams were not as bulky as I had anticipated, and gave me no trouble.  The only difficult part was turning the bag right-side-out through the opening in the lining.  The Kraft-Tex was a little stiff for that, but not too bad.

The Kraft-Tex stood up but the bag sides above it drooped

When I got the bag done, the Kraft-Tex part was great, but the rest of the bag was limp despite interfacing.  I took the bag for a shakedown cruise when we went to the big city Saturday, and it was a pain to get things in and out of it because the sides collapsed.  So…

I took out the top seams, inserted pieces of Peltex cut to fit, and stitched all around them.  They needed to overlap the Kraft-Tex a little to make the whole thing stand up.

That makes this “Holly’s bag with significant modifications”, but you can still get the measurements and construction details from her blog.  I like the bag now, and it is a good size.  Next time I’ll use Peltex from the get-go, probably still with the Kraft-Tex.

Fun with Rickrack

Or ricrac, or rick rack, whatever. I found a lot of spellings when I was trying to decide!

This fun way to piece curves was part of a class I taught this past weekend, and it was so cute in the blocks the students made that I just had to do a tutorial.

We were piecing quarter circles as part of my quilt YOW, which you’ve already seen:

So here is a partially assembled block with one curved seam left to go:curved piecing tutorial

Select rickrack and lay it along the edge of the convex piece.  Probably would work with the concave piece, too, but I haven’t tried that:rickrack curved piecingSew the rickrack down with the usual 1/4 inch seam

Now turn the raw edge and attached rickrack to the back along the 1/4 inch seam and press.  Here’s the front:tutorial use rickrack in quilts

And here’s the back:curved piecing tutorial

Lay the convex piece on top of the concave piece and line up the edges.

Flip over and try to line up the raw edges all along the seam on the back.applique curved blocks

Applique the convex piece to the concave piece by stitching in the ditch.  I used silver metallic thread just for fun, but matching thread works well, of course.  And here’s the finished block.applicurve

Sort of modern-retro.  Go try it!

Some Fine Discoveries Online

I’m always looking for better ways to quilt, and recently I learned several things online that I think you may like, too.

First, I just finished an art quilt that I wanted to face rather than bind.  I’ve faced quilts before with variable success, but I wanted a refresher on just how to do it, so of course I did an internet search.  I found this great tutorial by Terry Aske and followed it.  The quilt came out MUCH better than my previous attempts!  The secret is in NOT sewing around the corner and then trying to turn it.  Here’s one of my corners.

facing a quilt

Look at that nice, sharp corner!

But wait!  Aren’t those spots on my new art quilt?  Why yes, they are!  For the first time in many years of using it, 505 basting spray made spots on the front of my quilt!  UGH!  After failing to find a satisfactory remedy in a web search, I wrote to the manufacturer of 505 and got a prompt reply:  Try Dawn dish liquid, and if that doesn’t work have it dry cleaned.  I’ll let you know…

Sandy and Cindy at Gray Barn Designs mentioned putting scraps in a “starters and enders bowl”.  I call those little scraps “bridges”, but the idea is the same:  we need scraps to sew onto and off of when we chain piece in order to save time and avoid having the machine “eat” the thread when starting a new seam at an edge.  I thought it was a great idea and I’m putting a bowl for such scraps in my studio right now!  No more digging through the trash when I need a scrap to start or end a seam (yes, I know why they call bridges “starters and enders”).

scrap bowl

I made this bowl myself in a previous life, so I especially enjoy having it in my studio

Finally, I ran across this article, by a quilter in Romania, suggesting that quilts be washed and blocked BEFORE they are bound!  I had never heard of this idea, but in a lot of ways it makes sense.  I have not tried this, but if I ever decide to make a show quilt that needs to hang smoothly, I probably will do so.  The only thing I can’t figure out is how/where I would lay it out to block it.  Somebody must have more open floor space than I do, or make smaller quilts!

So I simply must know: Has anyone reading this tried washing and blocking a quilt before binding?  I can see how it might make sense, but eeeek!  The extra work!

Building A Better Pincushion

My modern guild loves dirty Santa games and loves pincushions, so a recent challenge involved making a pincushion to swap.  I found a nice cup and saucer at a thrift store and decided to make that into a pincushion.pincushion tutorial

I previously researched tutorials for making pincushions and learned that ground English walnut shells are one of the best types of stuffing for them.  The shells are heavy (dense) enough to keep the pincushion from coming up with the pin you are trying to remove from it, and they are ground fine enough to allow pins to be stuck in easily.  Ground walnut shells are available in pet stores, where folks apparently think I want them for my pet lizard to use as desert sand.  (They’re mistaken about that, but I bought the ground walnut shells anyway.)what to fill a pincushion with, pincushion filling

The problem was how to get the walnut shells firmly packed into a nice round ball that would fit smoothly into the cup.  I solved that problem by rescuing a discarded athletic sock from the trash, which is why there’s a sock in the picture of the cup above!

I cut off the toe of the sock, stuffed it with ground walnut shells, and closed it tightly with a rubber band.how to make a pincushion

I patted the filled sock into shape so that it fit nicely in the cup.easy pincushion instructions

Then I cut a circle of fabric and gathered the edge with a long machine stitch.better pincushion tutorial

After drawing up the edge of the circle as much as I could around the base of the sock, I finished drawing it tight by adding another rubber band.make a pincushion in a teacup

And before you ask, the size of the circle was a guess–I just used the largest circle on my circle cutting template.

Finally, I stuffed the whole thing into the cup, rubber band side down.  It was heavy enough and fit tightly enough that it did not need to be glued in.  I did glue the cup to the saucer, however.teacup pincushion tutorial

And that was it!  So easy and so fun!

 

Tech Shirts in a T Shirt Quilt

I’m making a T shirt quilt for a friend, so she sent a large sack of T shirts to be used.
This friend and her future husband are both very athletic, so many of those T shirts are tech shirts–meaning they are 100% polyester knit!

I searched the internet for specific instructions for using polyester T shirts in a quilt and found NOTHING useful. So, here’s how I solved the problem, and I expect it will work for you, too.

The blocks for T shirt quilts are backed with fusible interfacing to stabilize the knit fabric. I buy lightweight interfacing so the quilt will drape well. A while back, I bought a bolt of Pellon 906F for that purpose. It is very lightweight and is intended to be used with semi-sheer fabrics, so it bonds at a relatively low temperature–very important for polyester T shirts!Polyester T shirts in a quiltAs you can see, the 906F is lightweight and thin.  It fuses just fine at a temperature between the silk and wool settings on my iron. That setting requires only a few seconds to fuse, so there is no damage to the polyester shirts! Score!

This interfacing is working fine with the 100% cotton shirts as well. All that’s needed is a backing that keeps the T shirt from stretching as it is sewn and quilted, and this does the job.Tech shirts in a T shirt quilt

Here’s a look at some of the quilt blocks, waiting for final arrangement on the design wall.  My husband came along and said, “How did you get T shirts so flat?”  The answer, of course, is the backing 🙂

I’ll have a picture of the finished quilt as well as more information about it in a few weeks. Meanwhile, be warned: another friend who requested a T shirt quilt ended up making it herself (with my help)!

A Nice Surprise and a New Scrap Project

ribbonFirst, the surprise: One of my quilts, Cherrywood Toss, won first place in the Modern category at my local show! Needless to say, I was thrilled!

improvisational quilt

Cherrywood Toss. Read about it here.

And then it was on to a new scrap project!  I’ve been wanting to make a scrap quilt with a zillion pieces ever since my friend Jerri made her postage stamp quilt.

I came across the “lego quilt” on Pinterest and followed the links to this post by Tonya Ricucci of Lazy Gal Quilting, which gives specific directions.  Go visit her post–there’s a cool picture of an antique quilt that gave her the idea.

lego quilt

Strips on my design wall

Tonya made her 10″ (finished size) blocks using 1-1/2″ strips composed of scraps of various sizes.  She mentioned that there was some difficulty getting them to come out the right size.  Because of that, I am making my strips 11″ long unfinished so I can trim the blocks to 10-1/2″ wide after they are assembled.  Also, I’m making the first strip in each block 2″ wide unfinished so I can trim in that direction as well.  lego-2

So far I’m just making strips and putting them on the design wall to be sure I have a balance of values throughout the quilt.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  This takes a LOT of time!  And like most scrap quilts, it doesn’t seem to use up even 10% of the available scraps!  So far I’ve used only one drawer of the scrap cabinet!!!!

This might be a good leaders-and-enders project, since it seems like it could take forever.  I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂

Tutorial: Spray Baste a Small Quilt

I’m putting this up because I will be teaching a class soon in which students will be doing some spray basting before class, and I’m hoping to make it easier for those who have never tried it.

The quilt shown here is about 40″ x 40″, an easy size to spray baste.  I have a variation for spray basting larger quilts, but I won’t cover that here.

Start by taping the quilt back to the floor, right side down.  Pull enough to get rid of wrinkles, but do not stretch the fabric.

spray basting

Backing

Next, sweep the porch 😉  If all you have is a deck, that will do, but sometimes the spaces between the boards are a bother.Baste3Lay a large clean piece of discarded fabric on the porch floor.  This is a sheet from a long-ago pre-teen room.  Baste4

Lay the batting on the clean cloth and spray baste it evenly according to the directions on your can. It’s best to do this outdoors to avoid inhaling the spray.

The batting here is Quilter’s Dream Green. It’s made out of recycled plastic bottles.  It works great, and as you will see it doesn’t look green even through this cream colored backing.Baste5

I generally use either 505 or Sullivan’s basting spray.  The only one I avoid is the one that breaks down with heat. I follow Michele Scott’s method of ironing each section of the quilt just before I quilt it, and that obviously won’t work if ironing destroys my spray basting!

Baste6Lift the batting carefully and transfer it to the backing, sticky side down.  Usually I center the backing on the batting, but this quilt is an exception because the design on the front is meant to kind of “wrap around” to the backing.  Keep reading and you’ll see it.

Next, put the quilt top on the clean cloth right side down.  Spray it with basting spray.Baste7

Transfer the quilt top to the batting, sticky side down.  I do this by grasping the top on opposite sides, about at the midpoint, and letting it fold in half (non-sticky sides together) as I lift it.  Then I place the first half on the batting and gently fold out the second half to cover the batting.

Smooth it all out and you’re done!  Remove the tape, quilt and bind.  Here are the front and back:

Questions?  Better ideas?  I’m all ears 😀

 

New Design Wall!

I have had several types of design wall over the years, most recently just a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth hanging on the wall. However, a few months ago I read Katie Pedersen’s instructions for her design wall, and decided I wanted THAT one!  She used big sheets of foam insulation covered with a flannel sheet, so fabric sticks to the flannel and pins go into the board easily if needed.

A non-messy part of my husband’s shop is in the same space as my studio, so it made getting him to make the design wall for my birthday really easy!

design wall for quilter

The shop corner of the studio!

I e-mailed my husband Katie’s design wall tutorial, then e-mailed Katie for further help. (She washed her flannel sheet twice, drying it on hot both times.)

My husband had a few ideas to make the whole thing sturdier, so he added a thin sheet of underlayment material behind the insulating foam board.  Then he added a wood frame on the back to stabilize the whole thing.  This shows the back side with tape holding the foam to the underlayment, as well as the wood frame.  We glued the insulating foam and underlayment together, as well.

Back side of quilt wall, showing taped seam where pieces were joined and a wood frame to reinforce the whole thing.

Back side of quilt wall, showing taped seam where pieces were joined and a wood frame to reinforce the whole thing. Tape at the edges wraps around both board and foam to hold them together as well.

Then we wrapped the sheet, taped, and stapled per Katie’s instructions.

Despite all that, every project has its glitches:

We were NOT successful in putting bolts or screws through the whole thing to attach it to the wall.  Finally we decided to hang it with a French cleat, which you can see here if you want to know what that is.  That meant that nothing from the hanging apparatus had to go through the front, so no holes in the flannel!

And finally, here it is:design wallI’ve used it quite a bit already, and it works beautifully!  Thanks for the idea, Katie!

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Fixing an Oops

I’m quilting a lap size quilt on my home machine. I’m not fond of the process, but custom quilting isn’t in my budget, so here I go. About half way through the process, I discovered a loose seam where, despite paper piecing, one seam allowance had been TOO small and the seam had opened up.  There wasn’t enough fabric to allow me to just overlap and top stitch the seam.  The edges barely met and, while one was a folded edge, the other was a raw edge.

fixing a quilt mistake

The opening was about an inch long

Luckily, I have a tool from garment sewing I used to fix it.

using stitch witchery to fix a quilting mistake

Stitch Witchery is a heat-activated glue in a strip

I used the Stitch Witchery to bond both sides of the seam to the batting.  This also stabilized the edges so they won’t fray.  Then I zig-zagged across the place.  Thank goodness it was a black-to-black seam so there’s no problem of one side of the zigzag showing on a colored block.

Fixed with minimal fuss

Fixed with minimal fuss

I’m not glad it happened, but I’m satisfied with the fix.  I will NOT be pointing it out to anyone looking at the finished quilt 🙂

Now I’m back to the quilting.  The piece is about half done.  I’ll show it to you when I finish.