Friday, August 29, 2014

college apartment pillows

It's been a fun summer with little bits of sewing here and there, but last week was VERY productive! Thing 1 is preparing to move into her first apartment at college, and she needs some fun pillows to decorate her new space. She did most of the sewing, I did most of the cutting, and with a few days of  intense work she has three new seriously stylish floor pillows...


And two lumbar pillows for the couch/futon!


I'm going to dive right into the "how-to" for the most difficult pillow - the 24" round Honey Bun Pouf pillow made from Amy Butler's pattern in this fun geometric print we found in the Home Dec section at JoAnn's. The pattern calls for 2 1/8th yards of 54" decorator weight fabric for the 24" size, but even after careful fussy cutting to match the print I still have 3/4 yard leftover. That seems an excessive amount of extra fabric, but I guess that just means a few more toss pillows :)

The pattern also gives directions for constructing the pillow with quilting weight cottons, but you need to back each pillow segment with heavier weight cotton canvas to provide the required sturdiness and weight for a floor pillow. In my opinion the home dec weight was perfect - not too bulky to work with , one less construction step, and the finished product feels durable.


First step - trace the wedge template provided with the pattern. I made 5 pattern tracings on freezer paper so I could iron the patterns to the fabric for easy cutting without pinning. 30 total wedges are needed to make the pillow - yikes!


Mark your pattern pieces with information from the pattern. This is an OCD type habit that I have, but it has saved me from making cutting mistakes several times. The information also helps if your patterns get separated from the instructions, and you find them two years later and wonder "what the heck are these?!" Ask me how I know this ;) The center of the pattern outer edge is marked to help me with the fussy cutting.


Since this geometric print is a mirror image from left to right and top to bottom I was able to stagger the pattern pieces across the fabric this way. I could fit my 5 wedge patterns across 26" - half the width of this decorator fabric - so 10 would fit across one complete width selvage to selvage. If your fabric has no specific pattern you want to match in cutting, then you could cut two layers at a time. But since I wanted (needed!) to match the fabric pattern, I cut each wedge individually. And notice no pins! Freezer paper is fabulous for patterns like this!


Each wedge is backed with a layer of lightweight cotton batting, which means you need to cut 30 pieces of batting using the wedge pattern.  The pattern supply list includes a twin sized batting, but that seems an excessive amount.  I can't say for sure the actual quantity needed since I used my scraps, but it seems to me a throw size (60" square) for the 24" pillow will be sufficient. The lightest weight cotton batting is what you want. Anything with more weight and bulk is going to give you problems sewing. Quilter's Dream Request batting (the blue label) is a good choice.


The batting is basted to each wedge section and then trimmed away to very near the basting stitches - by far the most tedious step of the process. The pillow top and bottom are sewn into three segments of five wedges with all seams pressed in the same direction. Here is one completed segment - 1/3 of the pillow top.


And here is the completed top. That fussy cutting was totally worth the extra time, right?!


The underside of the pillow top shows how the seams all spiral in the same direction. Loops of twill tape are sewn to the center of the top and bottom to achieve the tufting effect. I initially questioned the necessity of this step thinking I could just use a long upholstery needle to attach the buttons at the end after stuffing, but this method is genius.  Do it this way!


A 12" zipper provides the side seam opening for stuffing. Inserting this zipper was easy peasy. I was anticipating much more difficulty because of all the fabric bulk, but it went very smoothly.


Two self-covered 2.5" diameter buttons and 4 pounds of fiberfill stuffing completes the pillow.  None of the local sewing supply shops had this size button kit in stock so I ordered them from amazon.


The medallion motifs were fussy cut from fabric that we used on another pillow - they were the perfect size!


Since this is such a lengthy and photo-heavy post, I'm going to save the details about the other four pillows for the next post.

I hope you all have enjoyed your summer as much as I have - with the exception of the rotary cutter incident of course!  Here's to a great fall season.  Back to school and back to sewing!!

Are there any other Honey Bun Pouf pillow makers out there?

Monday, June 30, 2014

quilting is dangerous business!

I've been at this sewing and quilting business for a LOT of years, and until yesterday I've remained injury-free. Which is sort of remarkable because I'm a tad clumsy - always bumping into furniture bruising my knees, elbows, feet, and hands. But yesterday I cut myself with a rotary cutter not just once, but TWICE! The second cut earned me a trip to urgent care for stitches :(


Nice huge bandage, huh? There wasn't much pain involved, and I almost didn't go thinking I could just wrap it really tight and keep going. But my friend Kelly (who raised three boys) assured me that it did indeed require stitches - three to five stitches to be exact.

Behold, three stitches. Luckily I didn't do any major damage to any tendons or cut through the nail.  (Note the bandage on the knuckle of my middle finger covering the first cut of the day.)


And what were we working on that was so dangerous?? Cutting fabrics for our "Steampunk" quilts using the smallest size rotary cutter and acrylic pattern templates. There are 5 different templates for this one block, and we're planning to make around 75 blocks each - lots of cutting. Here are all the block pieces laid out before sewing...


And here's the first block all sewn together. Lots of pinning was needed, and it was pretty slow going, but I think we are going to create some fabulous quilts!! After a few rotary-cutter-free days for me, that is...


You can view lots of incredible Steampunk blocks here on Flickr and on Instagram by searching for the hash tag "steampunkquilt".  I purchased my pattern and templates from The Quilt Studio while they were vending at  Paducah, KY in April, but you can order them here from their Etsy shop.  More patterns by Jen Kingwell can be found here.

 You should make one too! But be careful with that rotary cutter. And no, I didn't bleed on any fabrics - whew!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

she loved it! (a finished quilt for my Mom)

Last weekend my parents came for a visit, and I was able to give my mom her new quilt! I had finished sewing the binding and label at the 11th hour just before their arrival. The quilt is queen-sized, so that translates into approximately three miles of binding to hand sew, and (as you probably have heard) I am the world's slowest when it comes to hand sewing.


I'm sooo happy that I had the chance to sew this for her - I think it's absolutely gorgeous! The top was pretty in its own right, but the quilting that my friend Carol added makes the quilt something extraordinary. It took quite a long session of looking over quilting patterns to select all the designs for each section, but Carol was patient and insightful as I made decisions, second-guessed them, changed my mind, hemmed and hawed, and generally just agonized over making the perfect choices. In the end it was all worth it because I love it and most importantly - my mom loves it :)


Sorry for the photo overload, but there are so many great designs to see here. All of the quilting except the piano key inner border was done with a medium beige thread. The piano key border is quilted with an olive green thread.


Look at those great veins she quilted into the leaf shapes - they add so much dimension and interest!




And the oversized floral vines in the outer border fill in all that blank space perfectly.


The back of the quilt is almost as pretty as the front! I used Kona Snow so all the beautiful quilting stitches would be the focus and also so there wouldn't be any fabric print or design that might show through on the front of the quilt.



You know how sometimes a project turns out exactly the way you planned, and that outcome makes the whole experience of creating it so completely satisfying? Well this quilt is more amazing than I had planned or imagined - I simply could not be more pleased with it. And knowing that my mom loves it (she may have cried a bit when she saw it) makes this quilt the best one I've ever made :)

What was your most satisfying sewing experience?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

sailboats for Caleb

I've just finished another baby quilt top for a new baby boy in the family. Caleb was born in January - another beautiful boy for my niece Sarah!

Sarah and I spent a lot of time perusing Pinterest for baby quilt ideas, and the one she chose featured sailboats like these...


She loves the colors and graphic patterns of these Joel Dewberry Modern Meadow (and other assorted Denyse Schmidt) fabrics and opted for the light grey solid as the background. I saved the argyle plaid for the backing.


Each sailboat block finishes at 12" square and requires eight 3" half-square triangle (HST) blocks, so I cut forty-eight 4" squares each of print and grey solid to make all the HSTs needed plus several extras to ensure enough variety in the finished blocks.


You can see the method I use most often for sewing HSTs here. I use Option 2 and cut my squares a full 1" larger than the finished block size needed and trim them to the correct size after pressing. The trimmed HST size needed for this quilt is 3.5" square which yields a 3" finished block.


A 1" sashing between the blocks and a 2" border all around brings the finished quilt size to about 42" square.


The backing is made up of a 28" center square of the argyle print surrounded by 7" x 9" rectangles of other prints used in the sailboat blocks.


I haven't yet decided on a quilting pattern. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

building a summer wardrobe one skirt at a time

Over the past month I've had the great privilege of teaching several ladies in my area how to fit and make their own skirts using the book The Essential A-Line by Jona Giammalva. (You can read my gushing reviews of the book in these previous posts.) To date I've taught two sessions on making the basic skirt and one session on sewing this pleated version...


That glasses fabric! So fun! I started sewing this skirt last fall and nearly had it completed, but then the weather turned so I put it aside. A couple of weeks ago I finished it and decided to make another to refresh my memory on how it was constructed, which yielded this summer fresh version using fabrics from Kate Spain's recent Daydream line for Moda (yep, that's a bathroom mirror selfie you're looking at)...


After sewing all these skirts it feels like I can put the zippers in with my eyes closed. I use a combination of a few different methods I've seen (one day I'll write a handy tutorial), and all of my students have been very pleased with how easy they are to insert.


My skirts on display at the LQS where I've been teaching...



And here is my fabric selection for the next skirt - a tiered version where the blue large floral print will be the main piece and the smaller floral print on white will be the bottom "layer" both separated and hemmed by the fuchsia solid.  The florals are from Iza Pearl's new line Garden Party Tango for Windham Fabrics.


It's possible that I might have enough skirts after that one is complete (possible but not likely!) so I'll be expanding my repertoire and wardrobe by making this Schoolhouse Tunic next...


New clothes for spring - what could be better?! Have you made any new clothing recently?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

center block of Dreamy Hexagons

In my last post I showed you a peek of some fabrics I have pulled together for a new Kaffe quilt project. The large center block of the quilt will have eight rings of (12) 1" english paper-pieced (EPP) hexagons.

If you're not familiar with EPPing, it is a type of hand-sewing where the fabric is basted around a paper template or insert (a hexagon shape for this quilt) and then the shapes are hand-sewn together before removing the paper template. There is an excellent two-part tutorial for making EPP hexagon flowers from Lori Holt at Bee in My Bonnet here and here.

I use the same basic method (without the paper clip) to make these rings. The quilt pattern calls for using shot cottons to make the hexie rings, and I'm using a mixture of Kaffe shot cottons, Pepper Cory Peppered Cottons, and Robert Kaufman Carolina Chambray for my rings.


After all the rings are completed, each one will have a large flower appliqued under/behind it. Here is one of the fabrics I'm considering for the large flowers - Japanese Chrysanthemum in Scarlet by Philip Jacobs. It's my #1 choice so far :)


Coming in a close second is this Cactus Dahlias in Red also from Philip Jacobs. As you can see I've got four of the eight hexie rings sewn. I'll probably make a few extra and choose the eight I like best.


I'm trying to let this quilt evolve as each border is added and not have everything all planned out from the get-go (much like my border challenge quilt last year), but here are a couple of photo mosaics that show which fabric combinations I think might work well. All these photos are from the gloriouscolor.com website. They have the largest and most comprehensive online selection of Kaffe Collective fabrics. A few local brick and mortar shops have a decent selection of his fabrics, but nothing rivals the inventory at Glorious Color. I buy what I can locally and order the rest :)


Jupiter in Red
Shirt Stripes in Red
Japanese Chrysanthemum in Scarlet
Lotus Leaf in Wine
Chard in Hot
Roman Glass in Red


Jupiter in Red
Cactus Dahlias in Red
Shirt Stripes in Red
Picotte Poppies in Red
Babble in Charcoal
Oriental Tree in Red

This glorious riot of reds, pinks, and oranges is so invigorating, but I'm trying to take it slow and enjoy the process of just playing with the colors and seeing where each step takes me. The fact that there is no deadline for finishing this quilt makes that easier!

Friday, April 4, 2014

one finish, one near-finish, and one new project

You know me - jumping from project to project! The last days of March were filled with family and some auto travel as Thing 1 was home for a quick spring break week, and then just as she went back to school Thing 2's spring break began. Thing 2 is a high school junior now, so we took a road trip to visit a few colleges in the Midwest. We visited three schools and right now it looks like we have a winner (or at least a very strong front-runner). We'll probably make some more visits though since it is a long while until applications need to be filed, and it's always good to have a Plan B, right?

On our travels to a couple of Indiana schools we were lucky enough to see our nephew John and his young family. So we met baby Zachary for the first time! I finished sewing the label on to the back of his quilt as we drove - a real "just-in-time" finish. But with all the excitement of seeing everyone, I forgot to take some final photos. Hopefully John will be able to send some photos of the finished quilt in Zachary's room.

Here are the last two shots I took of the quilt at my house. First - marked and pinned and ready for quilting...



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