Current Series: Blue Ridge

My first Blue Ridge quilt just returned from the Vermont Quilt Festival and will next go to the Asheville Quilt show.

art quilt

Meanwhile, Maria Shell published a tutorial on how she makes flying geese blocks for her quilts, so of course I had to try it.The result is Blue Ridge II.

The colors of the quilt blended with the colors of my chimney, where I stuck it up to be photographed

In case a viewer doesn’t get why there is a red triangle among the earth-sky-water tones, I backed the quilt with cardinal fabric 🙂 The fabric is from Cotton + Steel in 2018, before they left RJR.

The quilt is faced using the technique from Terry Aske’s tutorial, which worked very well.  Here are the quilt stats:

Blue Ridge II

  • 28.5 inches wide, 26.5 inches tall
  • The fabrics are batik scraps left from other projects
  • The backing is from RJR, a Cotton and Steel fabric from 2018
  • The piecing was inspired by Maria Shell’s tutorial on flying geese (link above)
  • The facing was done using Terry Aske’s tutorial (link above)
  • Quilt was pieced and quilted by me.  The batting is Quilter’s Dream Cotton, Request loft.

 

 

Tutorial: DIY Gift Card Wrap With Kraft-Tex

We’ve been doing recyclable wraps for many of our gifts for years now, so I decided it was time for the gift cards to have their own recyclable presentation case as well. Here’s the first one.  I am a Kraft-Tex Ambassador, so I cut this from one of the free rolls of Kraft-Tex the folks at C&T sent to me for use in projects for my blog.

I took out a gift card and checked the size, then made a paper pattern 5″ x 7.5″.  I used a spool to round the corners and tested where I wanted the pocket to fold up and the flap to fold down.

I then cut a 5″ x 7.5″ rectangle from some yummy pre-washed Kraft-Tex. (The color is Madeira.) This is the first time I’ve used the Kraft-Tex that comes pre-washed, and it has a very pleasing visual and tactile texture.  I cut the Kraft-Tex with my rotary cutter as I would fabric, and it worked well.

I used the same spool and a pencil to mark rounded corners on the Kraft-Tex, then cut the corners with my good paper scissors.  Even though it sews like cloth, Kraft-Tex is a paper product, so it’s better to use good quality paper scissors to avoid dulling your fabric scissors.

To be sure the Kraft-Tex would fold evenly, I first scored it with my Hera marker then folded it along the score mark and pressed the fold by running the marker over the outside as well.  Note that the sharp point of the marker did make a mark in the material, so be careful.  The mark went into the fold, so it was no problem here.

I then sewed this gold metallic rick-rack (from a yard sale!) around the outside edge.  To do this, I lengthened the stitch on my machine to 3 (on Bernina) and sewed with a straight stitch along both edges, catching the points of the rick-rack.  It’s not a good idea to back-stitch on Kraft-Tex, so I just sewed a couple of stitches over at the finish so the start and finish overlapped.  I did treat the ends of the rick-rack, as well as the ends of the ribbon for the tie, with Fray Check, which dries clear and doesn’t show.  Here are pictures of both sides.

After the rick-rack was attached, I again folded along the lines I had scored previously and marked a spot on the middle of the lower flap that would form the pocket.  So, I made a tiny mark 2.5″ from each side of the piece and 1.5″ below the upper fold as a placement mark for the ribbon.

I cut an 18″ piece of 3/8″ wide ribbon and sewed it to the place where I’d put the dot.  To avoid making too many holes in the Kraft-Tex, I sewed it on with a little Z.  I then pulled the threads to the back where I tied them together to avoid having to back stitch.

Note that the ribbon has to be attached before the pocket is sewn to the back along the sides!  At that point, I checked to be sure the pouch would be the right size for the card when I eventually sewed the pocket up.  Yep, so far, so good.

After attaching the ribbon, I folded the carrier shut along both fold lines and pulled the ribbon out straight to the sides so I could see where to put the holes for the ribbon to come through.  (It may help to clip the flaps down with paper clips to hold it shut for this step.)  I made a little dot 2″ in from each outer edge so that I could punch holes 1″ apart for the ribbon to come through.  I made the holes with an ordinary hole punch.

Then it was time to sew up the sides of the pocket so it would hold the card.  I folded up the pocket and zig-zagged over the rick-rack to stitch the pocket down to the back of the carrier.

Done!  I threaded the ribbon through the holes and tied it in a bow!

And don’t forget to sign your work!

 

Three Great Free Bag Patterns

There are so many free patterns on the internet that it can be overwhelming. Therefore, I’m here to tell you about 3 of my favorite free bag patterns.

1. Pyramid bag, I adore this pattern, and it is so easy that I’ve made a few many.  Available with an excellent tutorial at Loganberry Handmade.  After you’ve made one per her instructions, experiment with different sizes.  So cute and so fun!

2. Tote bag.   The instructions for this “market tote bag” at Bijou Lovely are very clear, with great photos.  I’ve made several of these because they are an excellent, practical size. Of course, I’ve modified this pattern, but it is great just the way it is on her site.

3. Noodlehead’s Open Wide Zippered Pouch.  Anna Graham is the queen of bags of all kinds, and there are some great free tutorials on her site, Noodlehead.  Of course, she has excellent patterns for sale, and I’ve bought some of those, too.  Anyway, go try her free zippered pouch tutorial if you’ve had doubts about zippers.  Her instructions and illustrations are clear and easy, and you CAN do that zipper!

I’ve made a bunch of these in different sizes, as well.

Please tell me if there are free online patterns or tutorials that you love!

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 🙂