Category Archives: Sewing
Hi everyone! I can’t believe it is October already. Time seems to be flying by this year. It’s already fall. Fall is really my favorite season of the year because it is such a huge relief after the heat of the summer to have cool weather. I love the crisp air and the changes in color and light during this season. The evenings seem cozier because the sun is going down earlier. I start to think about baking things all the time because the house is finally cool enough to turn on the oven. However, that did not happen last week. Last week, we had a heat wave in which temps around here in New England reached almost to the nineties and we had our air conditioners on every day. That wasn’t very fall-like weather! I think the heat got to me because when I remembered that October is the month for me to plan the quilt for my charity quilt, I turned to bright summery-springy colors instead of autumn.
This month, I really wanted to keep things simple because I just don’t have a lot of time right now to do anything too complicated. I also wanted to try this technique of making trip around the world blocks. Basically, you sew strips of fabric together in a tube, slice them, and then rip out one seam in each slice to create a block that has a diagonal pattern to it. When you put them all together, they can make a nice all over repeating pattern. If that didn’t make sense, I’ll show you step by step.
First, you will need 7 strips of fabric, each 2.5 inch by 18 inches long. For my Aspire Circle friends, I am requesting:
1 strip of white
2 strips of pink
2 strips of green
2 strips of yellow
Arrange them like this: Pink, green, yellow, white, pink, green, yellow
Using a Scant 1/4 inch seam sew them together along their length. The last seam, you will sew the first and last strips together to get a fabric tube. Pay attention to your scant. If you are off a little, the accumulation of all the seams will make your block too big or small if the seam allowance is not just shy of 1/4 inch. Ask me how I know.
Now, line up a bottom seam with a line on your cutting mat and trim a little off the edge to make it nice and straight. Then, you want to cut 2.5 inch strips. You should end up with 7 identical strips, each in a tube and two little trimmings to just throw away.
Now, here’s where it can get a little tricky. You’ll need to make sure you go in the same direction when opening up the seams for each strip. Pick one strip and open up a seam next to the white block. Lay it on your work surface so that the white block is at the top. Then, look at color at the bottom of the strip (pink). Rip the seam that will make that color the top of your next strip (between the pink and green).
Continue in this way until you have 7 nice strips making a diagonal pattern on your table.
Next, you should iron all your strips, one at a time, with seams alternating directions. This is important for creating those nice nesting seams. Basically, I took every other strip to my ironing board, ironed them all at once in the same direction, and then put them back in the proper sequence. Next, I took the remaining strips and ironed them in the opposite direction. Nesting seams are not only nicer for quilting. They also make it easier to sew the strips together because your machine doesn’t have to sew through 4 layers at once.
Lastly, sew the strips together in the same order as your layout. You should a have a nice diagonal sequence of white blocks on the center, with other colors forming diagonals on either side. The block should measure 14.5 inches square.
The white blocks will create a nice diagonal effect when they are all together. Friends in my sewing circle should make at least 2, but 3 would be awesome! I think this will be a cheerful quilt and hope that it will brighten up the day of the person who gets it!
A couple of nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, and, in that semi slumber state when I was letting my mind wander while trying to go back to sleep, I thought of a solution to a puzzle that had been nagging me for a couple of weeks. I love it when things like this happen. It proves what I tell my kids all the time when they are working on something and having trouble with it: Go away and do something else. Your brain will keep working on it even when you don’t think you are thinking about it. This is especially true for creative endeavors like writing, but can also be true for more quantitative puzzles. Our brains are amazing.
Now, the result of my midnight ponderings is this block for the June quilt of my do. good stitches group, aspire circle. I wanted something really scrappy because my scrap bins have been filling up lately, but I did not just want to dig through my scraps for pieces that would “fit” in a pattern. What I really wanted to do was use up were those little odd shaped triangle scraps and other little odd shaped scraps that are hard to fit anywhere else. However, I didn’t want it to turn out to crazy looking, which is often what happens when you just throw a lot of scraps together. I had been playing around with an idea to make heart blocks and, in the middle of the night, I hit upon an idea to marry the two ideas together.
The heart portion of the block is pieced using an improvisational piecing method that I read about here. I started off by piecing together a bunch of little odd shaped blocks.
Generally speaking, I just tried to pick two pieces that had one side that were approximately the same length and then sewed those sides together. Sometimes, I chose a few at a time like below, and sometimes I started with one piece and dug through my scrap bin until I found one that matched nicely.
Once you have a bunch of little pieced blocks, it’s important to trim them a little before going on to add more. You want to cut off those little tails and just straighten up the edges to make it easier to keep piecing. I tried not to add pieces that would make it look too regular because I was going for a more random look.
Generally speaking, I tried to have mostly straight edges with obtuse angles. Once your pieces start to get bigger, this becomes more important. You don’t want all those inside angles because it is hard to add pieces at those spots.
The goal was to get a piece that I could trim to 6.5 by 12.5 inches for each half of a heart. When my pieces started getting bigger, I started to try to match them up a little to make rectangular-ish shapes.
For each pair of hearts, you will need two of these pieces, with some extra for the middle of the smaller heart. The final pieces before trimming looked quite crazy!
However, once trimmed down, it looked much neater. If your trims a big, save them. You might need them for the smaller heart.
Once you have two rectangles each measuring 6.5 by 12.5 inches, you will need cut your background pieces. I used just plain white. You will need:
two 6.5 inch squares in white
four 3.5 inch squares in white
Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each background square.
Here are the pieces you need for the big heart.
Right sides together, match a large background square to one end of a scrappy block and sew on the line. Then, sew another line 1/2 inch away from the diagonal line on the corner side.
Now, do the same with the 3.5 inch blocks in the top corners of the scrappy block. Here’s what you will have after this step for each half heart.
Now, cut in between the sewn lines.
Do this again to the second scrappy block, making sure that the diagonal line is mirrored for the bottom of the heart. In the picture below, you can see how I made sure I was mirroring the pieces before I got too far in my sewing.
Iron the pieces and then add the other corner block in the same way. You will end up with two halves of a heart.
Sew the two halves together to make a big 12.5 inch square scrappy improv heart block.
Now, we will use up those odd half square triangles to make the smaller scrappy heart. You should have 4 small and 2 large half square triangles.
You will need to trim the half square triangles (HST) down to make an 8.5 inch square heart.
Each small HST should be trimmed to 2.5 inch squares.
Each large HST should be trimmed to 4.5 inch squares.
You will also need:
One 2.5 by 8.5 inch scrappy rectangle.
For this, I sewed some trimmings together to make a piece big enough to trim down. How’s that for using up scraps!
For the background, you will need to cut
two 2.5 by 8.5 inch strips in white
two 2.5 by 12.5 inch strips in white
Altogether, you should have this:
Sew all the pieces together, beginning with the heart and then adding the background sashing pieces to make a 12.5 inch square block.
My favorite thing about making this is that you essentially can make two blocks for not much more effort than making one. I must admit to feeling a little proud of these blocks and they were such fun to make. I still have a lot of scraps, so more of these might be in my future.
For now, I am really looking forward to seeing what my friends from the aspire circle will make with this method. It should be a fun and cheerful quilt!
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.
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?
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!