Category Archives: Sewing

Triple Sawtooth Star Block

The past few years, I have been part of a charity quilting group called do.Good.Stitches.  It’s run by Rachel over at Stitched in Color.  There are multiple groups and they each have quilters and stitchers.  Everyone makes quilt blocks every month that the quilters organize.  This way of organizing allows anyone, even the most time pressed or beginner sewer to join a circle and sew for a good cause.  It was a great way for me to have something to sew on a regular basis without the pressure that comes with choosing colors, etc.  I have learned a lot being a sewer and have discovered some new and fun techniques in the process.

My group, the Aspire Circle just went through a little reorganization and I decided to try my hand at being a quilter this time, not because I feel especially skilled at quilting, but because they needed more quilters and I could use a little more help in developing my quilting skills.

Quilters are responsible for choosing the colors and design of their month’s quilt.  All other members make blocks and send them to the quilter of the month.  Then, the quilter assembles the top, quilts it, and sends it off to the group’s charity of choice.

October happens to be my month for organizing and it has been quite a learning process already!  My first idea was a total disaster and had to be scrapped.  Sometimes, I get myself in a situation where I try to reinvent something that doesn’t need to be redone.  Basically, I was trying to figure out how to regular piece a block that is normally paper pieced.  It’s not that I mind paper piecing (that much), but I wanted a different sized block.  Anyhow, after I basically made two blocks that didn’t quite fit together, I decided I had better do something simpler.

Then, this past week, I had two sources of inspiration for our October quilt.  First, on a quilting show on the telly, I saw a layout of a quilt with varying sizes of sawtooth star blocks, from small 4 inch ones to really big 16 in ones.  I liked the look of lots of big and little stars all in one quilt.

My second inspiration came from this leaf that I found on a walk.  I loved the vibrant veining and the color combination.  Fall colors are starting to show up everywhere now and I thought it would be appropriate for October to work with the shades of fall: oranges, greens, yellows, orangey reds, and deep purples.

I also liked how the green veins in the leaf were enclosed within the red orange perimeter and thought it would be fun to try to get a similar effect with the sawtooth stars.

What do you think?  It took me several tries, but I think I finally got the cutting list and sewing order right.  For the Aspire group, I would like two blocks.  One should be with a white background like the first picture above.  The second should be reversed, like the one below.

Please let me know if you have any trouble putting these together.  Each block should finish to a 16 1/2  inch square and use two fall colors in addition to white.  My directions below use the no waste way of making flying geese blocks, but you can use whatever method you prefer.  Also, if you want to make it scrappy, that would be fine as long as you stick with just two colors (plus white) in a block.  The photos are a bit dark as I was working on them at night and there aren’t as many as I would like.  I guess I must have gotten carried away with the sewing and forgot to take a picture of each step.  Still, I hope you can figure out the layout, but just ask if you have a question!

For clarity, the cutting list below is ordered beginning with the smallest star and ending with the largest.

For the 4 1/2 inch star 

Color A (or white for reverse):

One 2 1/2 inch square for the center

Four 1 7/8 inch squares for star points

White (or Color A for reverse):

One 3 1/4 inch square for geese

Four 1 1/2 inch squares for the corners

For the 8 1/2 inch star, you will need

One assembled 4 1/2 inch sawtooth star

White (Color A for reverse)

Four 2 7/8 inch squares for star points

Color B (White for reverse)

One 5 1/4 square for geese

Four 2 1/2 inch squares for corners

For the 16 1/2 inch star, you will need

One assembled 8 1/2 inch star in a star block

Color B (White for reverse):

Four 4 7/8 inch squares for star points

White (Color B for reverse):

One 9 1/4 inch square for geese

Four 4 1/2 inch squares for the corners.


Beginning with the pieces for the 4 1/2 inch star, make 4 flying geese blocks as follows.

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each of the 1 7/8 in blocks.

Take the 3 1/4 inch square and lay two 1 7/8 inch blocks in opposite corners, lining up the drawn lines like this.

Sew a line 1/4 away on both sides of the drawn lines.

Cut on the line.

Press the seam towards the colored side.

Place another 1 7/8 inch square in the remaining corner of each piece, with the line going in the other direction.

Sew, cut, and press as before.  You will have 4 flying geese blocks that measure 1 1/2 inch by 2 1/2 inch.  Check this and do any necessary trimming before going on.  I like to trim those little triangles that stick out.

Sew the block together, trying to press towards the color side as much as possible, if you can.

Next, get your pieces for the 8 1/2 inch block.  Make four flying geese blocks in the same way as before but this time you will use the 5 1/4 inch block and the 2 7/8 inch blocks.  The finished geese should be 2 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches.

Assemble the 8 1/2 inch block as before.

Lastly, add the final layer by making four more flying geese blocks with the 9 1/4 inch square and the four 4 7/8 inch squares.  These blocks should measure 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches when done.

Assemble the final block together, press,  and admire.









One Cool Day at a Time

So far, this has been a really hot summer.  We were told when we moved to New England that it is normal here for houses not to have central air conditioning.  Why install an expensive air conditioning system when it will only be used for a few weeks out of each year?  Well, all I have to say is that we have most certainly wanted/needed air conditioning for more than a few weeks so far this summer and the summer is far from over.  Although we have some window AC units, we are not able to cool every room in the house with them which means some rooms are pretty much being unused during the hot days.  One of those rooms contains my sewing/quilting supplies.  As a result, even though I usually sew quite a bit over the summer when our daily schedule is lighter, I have not been sewing much lately, except on days when the temps don’t reach 80 degrees.  Those days have been few, but with much relief, we have had several this week.

This past weekend, as soon as the highs dipped below 80, I started sewing.  Right now, I am working on getting caught up with Amy Gibson’s Sugar Block Club.  She releases one block pattern a month.  I abandoned the project back in March when the kitchen renovation took over our lives.  Here finally is April.



And today I finished July.

My goal is to combine these blocks with the blocks from her free Craftsy Block of the Month class from 2012 to make a new Queen sized quilt for the guest bedroom.  As long as the weather is cool and my schedule stays uncluttered, I’ll be attempting to make a block a day until I am caught up.  The blocks are fun to make and there is a good deal of variety, so it does not get boring.  I also like the scale of the blocks.  They are not so small as to be fiddly, but also not too big and cumbersome.  I’m trying to use scraps as much as I can as I feel they have been getting out of control lately.  Hopefully, this will not make them look odd together?

Of course, the forecast is calling for another hot spell, so I’ll have to find something else to occupy my time for a few days.  Maybe this will help.


There are two days left to decide what I am going to knit during the Olympics and as usual, I am in the throes of indecision.   Should I knit a sweater, a shawl, or socks? It has to be easy enough to knit while watching the Olympics, so I dug out all my worsted weight and chunky yarn, but now I am concerned that it will be too hot to knit something chunky in August.  Maybe a lace shawl would be better?  But lace can be complicated and the last thing I want is to lose my place in a chart while watching the swimming finals.  I could just knit plain socks and see how many I can churn out over the course of 17 days.  I did this with mittens four years ago.  Hmm.  The only thing I know for sure is right now is that I will be casting on something new during the opening ceremonies on Friday.  What about you?  Do you knit or craft while you watch tv?


Day 10: Easy Drawstring Bags

It hasn’t felt very much like Christmas this week with the warm weather we have been having and today is just rainy and dreary.  We have all been a little grumpy this week, despite the fact that we are in full Christmas prep mode.  Today, to help us find some Christmas spirit, we listened to the first half of Handel’s Messiah while we sewed.  That helped me along a little and I was able to get today’s quick gifty item done.


I like bags.  I think they are useful for all kinds of things and I really feel that a person cannot have too many bags.  My favorite bags for knitting are made by my friend Michele at ThreeBagsFullStudio on etsy.  They are really well made, have a lot of great features, and are pretty as well.

In my bag collection, I also have a couple of simple drawstring bags that are especially useful for holding extra yarn for a bigger project.  They help keep the yarn from rolling around with my project pieces and getting all tangled up.  These easy drawstring bags are fun to make and very quick.  I think I was able to sew six of them up in an hour after I had the prototype made and the process ironed out.

First, cut the fabric.  I had a yard of mystery green fabric.  I thought it was quilting cotton when I bought it, but I think it really must be some kind of blend because when I tried to iron it, it wrinkled up on high, which is the temp I usually use for cotton.  Plus, it’s a little thin.  Anyway, all of that was just to say that most any type of fabric can be used here, though I would stay away from the really expensive stuff and just use plain cotton.

I cut the fabric into 11 by 21 inch pieces.  I also took a fat quarter that I had in my stash and cut it in half, so that I had two 9 inch by 21 inch pieces.  Exact size is not super important here, so I wouldn’t worry about an extra inch or two here and there.  As long as the corners are square and the sides straight, it will all work out.


Fold the fabric in half so that it is now 11 inches by about 10.5 inches.  The fold will be the bottom of your bag and the opposite edge is the top.


At the top, make a mark an inch down from the top edge on each side.


Sew each side, beginning at the marked line and down to the bottom.  Repeat on the other side.


Now, at the top opening, with the wrong sides still out, make a fold about  quarter of an inch along the edge that did not get sewn towards the wrong side of the bag. Do this on all for unsewn top edges.  If this sound a little confusing, look at the photos and all should be clear.


To make this next step easier, you can iron that fold down, which will also force you to iron open the side seams a little.


Now, this is the fiddliest part.  You have to sew those folded edges so that there will not be any raw edges at the drawstring openings of your bags.  I start on one side, then turn the fabric just past the one inch mark where the side seam starts, sew just a few stitches to get past the seam, turn again, and then finish sewing at the top edge.


Here’s what it looks like when you are done.


Now, fold down the top edge down about three quarters of an inch and sew a seam all around the top about a half inch from the fold.



Go all the way around the top of the bag.  You will be sewing down those corner edges as well.


When you are finished, turn the bag right side out.

To insert the drawstrings, tie one end of some cotton yarn to a safety pin.  Insert it through one side opening and move the yarn around the bag top until you come back to where you started.


Cut the yarn about 3-4 inches long, with the bag undrawn and then tie your ends together.  Now do the same thing with another piece of yarn using the opening on the other side.  The bag should draw up at the top when you pull both pieces of string.


For a festive look, I stenciled on some snowflake designs.



The smaller bags from the fat quarter are just right for a skein of sock yarn.


The larger green bags I made can fit two or maybe even three skeins of yarn.


Of course, they can also be used for other things besides yarn.  They are a great reusable alternative to wrapping paper or could be used for packing on trips.  Basically, they have all sorts of uses!


These can be made into all sorts of sizes if you want to customize them for certain things.  One of these will definitely make its way into the Christmas giveaway box.  Just leave a comment for a chance to win.  Tell me how you would use one of these bags and which size you would prefer!

It’s Coming

For many, this winter has seemed interminable and never ending. We have had more than the usual number of winter storms and some unusually cold days for our area. Many of my friends and acquaintances and even random people at the store have expressed some despair over this cold, wet winter we have been having. For me, this winter has been one of the most pleasant in recent memory. I always feel that cold weather without snow is a waste and I have not been disappointed in that respect this year.


We’ve had multiple snowfalls and a couple of ice storms, which turn the world into some sort of glassy wonderland. If I am going to be stuck in the house because of the temperature, I like to be able to look at some beauty outside as well.

Despite all of this, I can sense that Spring is coming. The days are getting longer and the sun seems a tad more intense. I am thinking more about spring colors than deep, rich tones or grey shades.


The other day, I made these cute little pin cushions using this tutorial (oops looks like their server is down. I will add the linky later). Isn’t this a fun little project to get into the mood of spring?


In the process of making these, I used these little clover clips for the first time. Where have these been all my life? I love them! So much easier to use and lays flatter than pins. I think I need about a hundred more! Seriously, if you sew or knit, you need some of these. They come in different sizes and I plan to get them all.


I’m also finished with my hoegaarden cowl, which goes with the hoegaarden mitts and hat that I made last year. Whoa.


This is my first ever completed set of accessories that all match. Usually, I look a bit like that lady who can’t find matching sets of anything, so she goes out with five accessory items that all clash, but at least she is warm.


Now, I will look like I have it all together, which I SO totally don’t, but that’s ok, because we all know that looks are deceiving, right?


And now, it looks like I will have to cast on something new. And pink. Because spring, it’s coming.


After countless broken threads and struggles with slippery, shifty, t-shirt material, I was able to finish the top for my friend’s t-shirt blanket. Thanks to all who left comments on how to deal with the material. I decided in the end to just deal with the thread breaking every foot or two instead of adding any interfacing. Most of this was just because I had already done a good portion of sewing and the thought of undoing and redoing was too much to bear. If I were to ever deal with t-shirts again, however believe me when I say I will be buying bolts of the stuff. My machine and I developed a funny dance of sewing, thread breaking, and re-threading. I can only hope that it will not revolt on me when I go back to my usual quilting cotton later on.


Once I added the fleece backing, sewing went a lot smoother. Most of the tying was done during the Superbowl on Sunday night. Since my friend loves football, I thought it fitting to work on her blanket while the game was on. Good thing I was not too interested in the game because the blanket took all my attention. Everyone assures me that I did not really miss much and I was happy when the husband consented to let me watch Downton and Sherlock since that game was more or less done.


Today, I finished the edges and, suddenly, I find myself done. Even with all the pauses for breaking thread, it took about 15 hours to put this blanket together, which must be a record for me. For all the trouble it gave me, it wasn’t a huge investment in time and gave me some opportunity to reflect on how special this friend is to us. In the end, I am pleased with the results. I hope she likes it.


The blanket has the designs of more than 20 t-shirts and the finished size is roughly 75 inches square, big enough to snuggle under on the couch watching football. The fleece backing makes it nice and fuzzy and cozy and warm. Hopefully, it will bring lots of happy memories to her mind when she uses it. As for me, I think I will be pretty happy not to see another t-shirt in my sewing room for a very long time.