Saturday, March 31, 2012

Crochet Flower Mobile

I'm away from my sewing machine this week so figured this would be a great time to do a crochet post.  I was actually motivated to do this when I saw this link you stuff post on Annemarie's Crochet Blog.

To make the mobile, I just took yarn scraps and crocheted flowers using various patterns I found online and ones that I made up myself.  I made the mobile last year so I don't remember all the patterns I used.  I am sure that I would have used patterns from one of my favorite crochet bloggers - Lucy at Attic24.  I also used some simple circles.  I strung the flowers and circles on ribbon yarn that I knotted at the end - if I was do a project like this again, I think I might try using a thinner thread or even something that would make it seem as if the flowers were floating.

I hung the strings of flowers from the center piece of an embroidery hoop.  To cover the hoop I measured the diameter and then crocheted a rectangle the same length which I wrapped around hoop to create a tube.  I then crocheted 6 individual chains and attached them securely to the hoop on one end and to each other in a giant knot on the other.

I have this mobile well out of reach of any little hands since I do not know how secure it is.  And I wouldn't put it anywhere near the baby's crib or let her sit under it without adult supervision.  It is just for decoration.  Although the baby does love staring at it!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quilting with Kids - free motion sketching

As I recently wrote, I got a new sewing machine in December and passed down my old one to my daughters.  As excited as they were to have their "own" machine, the cool features I have been discovering on my new machine have definitely piqued their interest.  My 9 year old is especially taken by free motion quilting and has sat so patiently by my side watching me practice this new skill these past few weeks that I decided to let her have a go at it.  And 4 mini quilts later, she is even more hooked than I am!  Thus inspiring my first post about crafting with kids.

I got her started by making a quilt sandwich using cotton batting in the middle and ironing it together (which must have made it hold together well enough because she didn't have any puckering issues.)  I didn't want to use any quilting pins to avoid her having to worry about accidentally sewing over one but if you need the sandwich held together better, maybe long basting stitches might work?  I also set the stitching speed to medium for her and explained that she should push the pedal down all the way but that she would have to experiment to figure out the speed that she needed to move the fabric around to avoid too short or too long stitches.  And reminded her to reinforce the stitches at the beginning and end.  I then basically left her on her own to design and stitch.  

I don't know - maybe because she is 9 and doesn't obsessively read quilting blogs and books, she didn't go into this thinking it would be any harder than regular stitching so because of mind over matter, it wasn't???   

I don't know enough about free motion quilting to know if there is a better answer to this but we also realized that if you make a mistake, it is better to redesign to fix the mistake rather than remove the stitches.  Maybe it is because the stitches are in the middle of the quilt or maybe it was the fabric we used (which also is impossible to iron) but I found that ripping out the stitches just left obvious needle holes.  

I'm still not comfortable letting a 9 year old use an iron so I made the binding for her but she wanted to sew it on herself.  I showed her how to make mitered corners and told her where to stop sewing to leave enough of an opening so that I could put the ends together.  I then folded the binding over to the back of the quilt and ironed it for her.  It was good that I did this because I noticed that she missed in a few places either because she got too close to the edge or because the raw edges weren't lined up correctly especially near the corners.  This was easily fixed at this point and we made a note to always check before moving on. 

For her first quilt, she attached the binding to the quilt top and used a zig zag stitch with the quilt top facing up to sew down the binding.  I haven't been using pins when attaching the binding so she didn't want to either (which works fine for me since I wouldn't want her accidentally sewing over the pins and breaking the needle.)  So, for her first quilt, she missed the back of the binding in several places.  For quilt #2, we attached the raw edges of the binding to the raw edges on the back of the quilt, folded over and with the quilt top facing up, used a zig zag to attach.  This worked better and was much easier for her to manage (and she didn't mind or really even notice that the binding was a bit uneven on the front.)  We decided this was the way to go but on quilt #3, we mistakenly attached the raw edges of the binding to the front of the quilt again.  Since the binding on quilt #1 didn't work out as well as quilt #2, we decided to have the quilt back facing up and sew near the middle of the binding - voila, this was our favorite method!  As you can see from the photos, the binding is certainly not perfect but we were both happy with it so for quilt #4, she used that method again. 

This was how we did it.  I'm curious as to your suggestions for machine sewing with kids.

Linking up this post with Craft Schooling Sunday.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughts on Machine Binding and a Finish

I really am backtracking on my feelings about machine sewing the binding on my quilts.  I've made several mini's lately "practicing" free motion quilting and I have yet to hand sew any of the bindings.  Although the baby still takes 2 or 3 naps a day, I usually am only able to get to the sewing machine for one of them since I like her to have one of the naps in her stroller so that I can take a long walk.  And her third nap is either also on the go if we are out and about with her sisters or is just a short 20 minutes at home.  In other words, I have limited sewing time these days and it is very satisfying to be able to get the binding done in under one hour (for these small quilts!)

I'm still basically sticking with the zigzag method I wrote about in my last post.  However, a couple days ago, I unintentionally sewed the binding (raw edge to raw edge) to the back of the quilt.  I know I could have cut down the quilt and started again but I decided to go with it since I remembered reading this tutorial from Crazy Mom Quilts.  However, she uses a straight stitch and I stuck with the zigzag.  Combining elements of her tutorial with the the tutorial from Stitched in Color has really resulted in both a process and end result that I love (not to say that won't change since I am apparently fickle when it comes to binding methods.)

Speaking of bindings, another change for me is using bright and/or contrasting colors for the thread.  I used to just use off-white, beige, ivory, etc (you get the picture) for basically everything I sewed.  When I started hand sewing the bindings, I ordered a variety of thread colors so that I could match the binding fabric.  I've now been using those bright colors to sew the zigzag.  I like the look when I stay within the same color family as the binding but using a bright enough thread that it purposefully shows.

As for the "finish," as you can probably surmise from my pictures, it's my hexagons!  Following the same paper piecing method, I attached a border of hexies made out of one fabric and then cut strips out of that same fabric to attach to the hexagons.

I originally sewed two more borders around the hexagons BUT I somehow messed up the quilting.  I'm not exactly sure what happened - when I first noticed the fabric bunching I just kept going figuring once I washed the quilt, it wouldn't matter but the bunching kept getting worse.  I also felt the quilt was too large since I really just wanted to highlight the hexagons and plan on using it as wall art.  So I stopped quilting once I got to the border closest to the hexagons and cut off everything else.

At that point, I probably should have just put it away so that I could come at it with a fresh perspective in a few days but instead I sewed on a binding.

I still might cut off that binding and figure something else out.  I spent a LONG time sewing those hexies by hand so I really want to love the finished product - I really LIKE it, but I want to absolutely LOVE it.   So, now I am going to put it away for a few days (or maybe hang it in the baby's room) and look at it with fresh eyes in a week or so.  What do you think?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Try Something New

In one of my first posts, I wrote about how my husband bought me my original sewing machine when he misunderstood a joke I had made about wanting to sew.  Now, 10 years later, he again surprised me over the holidays with a new sewing machine (one that I had been not so secretly coveting.)  My old one was doing just okay - it wasn't working so well and it was very basic - so I was very excited to get the new machine (and my daughters are so happy to no longer have to share the old one with ME!)  My new machine has many great features - the auto thread cutter alone has revolutionized my quilting - but I've yet to use many of those features.  A few weeks ago (after using the machine for over 2 months), I read somewhere online that many machines have the ability to change the needle position - seriously?!?  I got out my manual and, lo and behold, my machine has the feature - wow did that make a difference in sewing on bindings!   So, to motivate myself to start learning the ins and outs of the sewing machine, I've decided to commit myself to trying something new at least once a week.

Up first - free motion quilting.  Well, free motion quilting drawing, is it called?  Or free motion machine embroidery?  Freestyle quilting?  I don't know the official name but I love the look of the quilts I've been seeing around blogland of mini quilts created by drawing with thread.

I really liked making these quilts - which is good because I agree with everyone who says that free motion quilting takes lots of practice!  I've made three so far and have improved tremendously with each but I still have a long way to go.  In trying to find a good rhythm between the speed of my hands and the speed of the stitch, I found that keeping my maximum stitch speed set to medium fast was best so that I can can press the pedal all the way down without the needle going crazy.  This also enables me to move my hands a little slower without getting super long stitches (which happened a lot during my first try.)  I don't have any other tips yet but I'll blog about it as I figure out what works for me.

In honor of my first Try Something New (TBD day), I tried a few other new things as well.  As you can see on my quilts, I machine stitched the binding.  I've always had a hard time doing so and as I wrote about in an earlier post, once I tried hand-stitching the binding, I realized how much I preferred both the process and the end result.  This was partly because I could never quite get machine binding to work - I tried several tutorials but it never took.  However, I recently stumbled upon this tutorial from Stitched in Color and it finally clicked (I realized after I finished that she uses a 3/8" seam - not sure how I missed that but I'll try next time.)  My first attempt didn't work well at all - I think it was because I am not usually very careful about attaching the binding with the 1/4 inch seam to the quilt top since it is easy to make up for this when hand-stitching.  But for the second and third try, I went with the premise that slow and steady wins the race and indeed, it did (I'm not posting any pics of my third try because I actually think I am satisfied enough with it that I'll be giving it as a gift.)  I was very careful to evenly stitch 1/4 inch from the edge all around and then carefully pressed the binding to the other side.  And then went slow and steady again when using the zigzag stitch.  I'm not saying that I am going to abandon hand-stitching but even going slowly, this still was super quick - leaving me time to make more quilts!

My third new thing of the day was learning how to make a blog button but I'm still working on it so I'll save that for another day.

And lastly, my 6 year old was busy drawing and decorating a few days ago but I just noticed how much I love this - not just for the obvious reasons but because we apparently share a color palette aesthetic - so lovin' aqua and red right now.

Actually, one more thing to add.  I finished the binding on my wonky, log cabin, improv mini/doll quilt.  I really love how the binding just brings it all together.  This one I did handstitch.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Accidental "T" Quilt

I very much enjoy making mini, doll, and baby quilts.  Not only do they make great gifts but with three girls in the house, these sizes get lots of use.  I also love how working on small quilts gives me the chance to try new things and experiment without a big commitment.

One of my favorite small quilts to make is what I'll refer to as my "improv, a little bit wonky, log cabin style, see where it takes you" mini/doll quilt.  It is a great way to use scraps and is a quick project (well, quick when you don't stop every few minutes to take photos!)  Here is how I do it:


I start by cutting a piece of batting in my desired size and shape.  For this quilt, I decided to go with a 24" square.  I chose the size because I used a batting scrap and that was the size with the least waste.   I haven't used many different types of batting - actually, I think I have only ever used Warm and Natural Cotton Batting.   I stock up when Joann's has it on sale online with a free shipping deal (I don't have a Joann's store near me.)  I don't know if all battings are like this but what is great about this brand/type is that the fabric kind of sticks to the batting when you smooth it down.

Second, choose two small scraps and place the first one wrong side down on the batting and the second piece right side down on top of the first piece.  Sew 1/4 from the right side edge.  Open and press.  You can iron as much or as little as you want throughout the project.  If you choose not to iron, just finger press the fabric onto the batting if you are using a batting to which the fabric (at least kind of) sticks.  Today, I was in the ironing mood so I ironed several times.  

Take another piece of fabric and place it right side down on the piece of fabric on the right.  Sew with a 1/4 inch seam.  Open and press.

I like to arrange the fabrics with the tiniest bit of the bottom fabric peeking out so that I make sure to catch both pieces when sewing.  This is because I use scraps and uneven pieces when making this type of quilt.

(Note - you might prefer to more securely attach each piece of fabric to the batting by sewing on the opposite side from the seam after you open and press.) 

Turn the batting and choose a scrap that is long enough to cover the bottom of all three pieces of fabric that are already attached to the batting.  Place it right side down perpendicular to those fabrics and sew a 1/4 inch seam.  Open and press (I'll stop writing open and press since you probably get that you do that after every piece of fabric is sewn.)

Rotate the batting clockwise and choose or cut a piece of fabric to cover the length of the fabrics already sewn to the batting.  (You can also sew a few scraps together to get the length you need.)  Attach and rotate the batting clockwise again.  Keep doing this until you have about 2 or 3 inches of "empty" batting left on each side.

I sew scraps right sides together to make strips in the needed lengths.

I measure the length I need by placing the new fabric on top of the already stitched pieces.

I even was able to include some of my favorite fabrics even though I only had tiny scraps left.

Again, just make sure you can see the bottom piece so that the stitching line is in the right place.

This method makes it easy to cover up mistakes like forgetting to cut off the selvedge. 


For the quilt I'm making for this post, I decided to add an off-white border around all four sides.  However, I've also made this quilt by completely covering the batting using the log cabin method with no sashing or border and I like that look as well.

Because I didn't want the seams to show from some of the darker color fabrics around the edge, I first attached a narrow piece of the border to all four edges and then attached the 3 inch strip on top of that. Another method would have been to leave a wider seam on the border by placing the border  right side down completely covering the bottom piece of fabric.  I don't know which method works better to cover the seams, the second would have been less waste but I didn't think about it in time.

If you can see the darker fabric under the border, use it to line up your needle.

I stitched too far over when I attached the wider piece of border so I just stitched again using the first line as a guide.

Much better the second time around.

The Quilt Sandwich:

For the backing, I just cut a piece of fabric about 1" wider on all four sides than the batting.  I put that piece of fabric wrong side up and placed the batting/fabric combo right side up on top of that.  Now, please don't cringe but I don't baste my layers when making this type of quilt.  Two of the layers are already attached and as I said, I feel that the fabric sticks well enough to this type of batting when I am making a small quilt.  That said, if you prefer, baste using your favorite method.


I don't have a hard and fast rule about where I like to start quilting - middle or edge.  I decided to do straight line quilting (well, I tried for straight but got wonky) and decided to start quilting from the middle out - after first attaching my walking foot.  For the side of the quilt that goes under the throat of the machine, I just rolled it up.

Tried for straight but got wonky!

Part 2 coming soon:
I only was able to get about 3/4 of it quilted before the baby woke up.  I'll hopefully get to finish it and complete the binding tomorrow so this is Part 1 of my how I did it.

The "T"?!?

Oh, and why am I calling this the accidental "T" quilt?  In the middle of making it, I realized that I inadvertently made what looked like the letter "T" in the middle of the quilt with the smaller scraps so I started using wider and longer pieces to highlight the "T" since there is a special little "T" in my life who would love this quilt (wow - that was sure a long sentence!)  I wish I knew how to draw on the picture to show you the "T" but hopefully it is obvious.

The "T"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A finish, a small project, and thoughts on blogging

When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I figured I would post everyday.  I mean, I thought I had lots of ideas of what to write about in addition to blogging about my current projects and entering QALs, etc.  Clearly that has not happened but for a good reason.  Upon learning that I was starting a blog, my two older daughters decided they wanted to start blogs as well and I have to say, I find myself spending the majority of my computer time helping them.  Not so much helping them with the content (they have their own ideas of what they want to post) but on designing and redesigning their blogs, taking and editing pictures, and showing them how to make their poetry into wall art for the posts.  It really is fun blogging with them and I like how I am learning how to do these things alongside them.

We especially are loving finding all sorts of fun fonts and papers to download to embellish their photos and words and I'm really enjoying learning more about photography (and am fortunate to have three very willing models!)  However, I'm still working on how best to photograph my quilts and works in progress - there seems to be lots of shadows in the photos taken inside.  It seems lots of bloggers take their photos outside so I'll try to figure out a way to do that when it is just me and the baby (unfortunately, my 5 month old isn't much help in holding up quilts for display - fortunately though she is all about modeling hats and clothes and laying on top of the quilts . . .)

And lastly, in blogging news, I opened a Twitter account but I haven't tweeted anything yet because I don't really know yet what to tweet.  I'm new to twitter so I'll have to check out some other blogger's feeds to see how people use it.  I also opened a Flickr account and posted a few photos of random projects from around my house.  As I said, I'm learning how to take photos of the stuff I make so I plan on taking and posting more pics soon.  I also put up a link to my Pinterest account.  Even though Pinterest is huge in the blogging world, most of my friends and family haven't figured it out yet so I'll be writing this out for them.  I love making stuff that I've pinned - here is a pillow that I saw on Pinterest and then made recently.  The idea came from this lovely French blog Stipa & Alpaga.

I upcycled an old maternity shirt that had a hole in the collar and then just added a strip of fabric to the back so that I had enough length for an envelope back.

In quilting/sewing news, I finished the quilt from my charm pack.  I really do love how the binding brings it all together.  And as long as I don't look too closely, I like how it came out and my daughter loves it.  Her only issue was that she expecting a quilt for her bed, not for her doll.  If she only knew.

And I decided to do a quick project this morning while the baby was napping. I bought several yards of Folksy Flannels a few months during a great sale and have loved working with it - it is so wonderfully soft.  I've been wanting to make a lightweight stroller blanket so I used two of my last three yards of the flannel to do so.  I just put the two pieces right sides together, sewed around the edges, turned right side out, and  topstitched around the edge.  And then, just for fun, I used one of the decorative stitches on my machine to add a small border to the edges just inside the straight stitch.  Cute and easy!

Okay, the baby is already up and sitting on my lap so that's it for now.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My First Time Entering a Challenge

One of the reasons I started writing a blog was to start challenge myself by entering the fun contests/challenges I see popping up every so often on my favorite blogs.  Earlier today when I saw the post from Ellison Lane Quilts stating that today was the last day to enter her Modern Mini Challenge, I thought about entering but then quickly dismissed the thought thinking I didn't have anything worthy of entering (maybe if my hexagons were done but um, they are not.)  Throughout the day, I noticed various posts on my reader from craft bloggers who were entering their quilts.  It is now 9:20pm on the East Coast and I'm relaxing on the couch with my hubby watching TV and crocheting and I just started thinking about the challenge again.  And, I've decided to go for it - seriously, what do I have to lose?  Can't think of anything so I'm entering the quilt from my header.  I made it a few months ago and it is special to me in that it was the quilt that made me realize that I love taking the time to hand sew the binding.  Up until then, I usually finished my "quilts" by sewing right sides together and just topstitching around the edge or occasionally, I tried machine sewing the binding.  Completing the binding on this quilt convinced me that my personal preference for both aesthetics and process was to hand sew the binding.  So, here it is - my first time participating in a craft challenge.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The wonderful, the not-so-wonderful, and the mistake

The Wonderful

Yesterday was a great day thanks to Lily's Quilts Small Blog Meetup.  Not only did I find lots of lovely new blogs to follow but I now have readers!!!  Yay!  And comments!!!  Again YAY!   However, I didn't know (and don't know) the differences between becoming a follower and adding a blog to my Google Reader.  I added several blogs from yesterday to my Reader but on my profile, it says that I'm not following any blogs.  I need to check into that. 

The Mistake

I don't usually buy charm packs (I plan to write a post about my fabric buying soon).  I can actually say I have bought charm packs 3 times.  The first time was Nicey Jane (love!) which I used to make a doll quilt for my middle daughter.  The second was a few months ago to make a baby quilt for the baby.  The charm pack I used for the baby quilt included strong reds, blues, greys, and whites.  I didn't prewash the fabric (I usually prewash yardage) and when I washed the quilt, the colors bled.  I still love the quilt and use it daily in the baby stroller but  . . .

Last week, I again ordered charm packs from two different online shops.  Both orders came on the same day and for some reason, I decided to divide the packs by color and prewash.  I knew this would involve lots of ironing since I probably had almost 200 charms but I decided to do it anyway (I don't know - maybe the sleep deprivation from having a baby is getting to me?)  I started with the blues, purples, and similar and put the charms and yardage in the washing machine.  I should have known there would be some unraveling but it was more than I expected so when I put in the reds and pinks, I put the charms in a mesh lingerie bag.  I also put the wet charms in a lingerie bag for the dryer.  And, here is what I ended up with. 

Lots of unraveled ends, clumps of loose threads, and several hours of ironing and sorting. 

Oh, well. 

The Not-So-Wonderful

When I opened the packages, Middle Daughter asked if I could use one of packs to make something for her (I've been making lots of baby quilts lately.)   Since I had only planned on making baby, doll, and mini quilts, I only bought one set of each design but I had about 1 1/2 yards of off-white fabric so since the Little Apples came out basically unscathed from the above experience, I chose that and this is what I made.  (I used this tutorial to make the top "blocks.") 

But don't look too close - it was just one issue after another, I messed up the seams - sewing one side up and one down. 

AND the two strips were not supposed to be wonky.  

AND the overall size was just off and since I didn't have any fabrics in my stash that I thought coordinated well, I cut it into a "doll" quilt and pillow, maybe?

I probably should have just stopped and put it away for another day but No - I chose a backing that doesn't exactly coordinate but I know Middle Daughter would choose it and then I don't know why but decided to quilt on a diagonal.

I thought with the small size, I could just get straight enough lines without marking - WRONG! 


I cut the binding but we'll see what disasters that brings tomorrow.  BUT despite all this, I know Middle Daughter will absolutely LOVE it!  And in the end, that's all that matters, right?

The Hexies

Yes, I love hand-quilting but wow, these are taking a long time.

Hmm, are my posts too long?!?

And, now that I possibly have readers (if you made it to the end of this post) - do you prewash your precuts?  I've also read about washing the final project with vinegar - does that work?  My hubby is worried it will ruin the washing machine.