Friday, February 28, 2014
A couple weekends ago I attended a Scrap Management Workshop taught by Amanda Jean Nyberg of Crazy Mom Quilts. The workshop was hosted and coordinated by the Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild. I'm the current VP of the group, so it's always fun to bring in people you really want to see and learn from, so I was very excited about this workshop.
I have a lot of scraps so I was looking forward to this workshop. Amanda Jean taught us tips for organizing your scraps and lots of ideas on what to do with them (even the smallest scraps!). The organizing advice was great for me. I have a hard time dividing up fabric lines (even in the scraps), but I finally just dove in and started sorting and I really like how it turned out.
I started with just a small pillow since I've got a lot of other projects going on and I didn't want anything too big just now. I love rainbow scrappy projects and this was just so much fun to make. I think I'll need a pillow form that fits a little better (a longer one), but for now it works.
The workshop was a lot of fun and I hope to do more scrap busting projects in the future. That is once I organize all of my scraps!
Thanks Amanda for a fun workshop and for the inspiration!
Friday, February 21, 2014
Even though winter may be almost over (well, we hope), this is a fun pair of projects that can be made quickly and that are useful year round. The hand warmers can double as "bean bags" for games and even for juggling when it's not cold. The neck wrap is good in the winter to warm your toes or sooth your muscles after shoveling the driveway or also good for after doing yard work in the summer.
These cherry pit hand warmers and neck wraps are pretty much the same as their rice cousins only they use cherry pits inside instead of rice.
I was introduced to using cherry pits by my good friend Kristin of a little crispy. You can get the cleaned cherry pits here. You need about a 1/3 cup for each hand warmer or 2 lbs for a neck wrap. You get get a large bag and share some with friends or make some nice gifts with the rest.
I really like the cherry pit versions. The neck wraps sound like rain sticks when the pits move inside and they hold the heat well. I've been told you can wash the finished products but I haven't tried yet. I'll have to let you know how it works out.
To make the hand warmers:
Cut two pieces of fabric 5" square. Place right sides together and sew around three of the sides with a 3/8" seam allowance. Trim the corners.
Turn it right side out using a chopstick to poke the corners out.
Fold the raw edges of the top down (inside the pouch), about 3/8" in.
Measure 1/3 cup of the cherry pits. You can also use the same amount of rice if you'd rather.
Pour the cherry pits into the pouch.
Pin the opening closed.
Stitch the bag shut as close to the edge as possible. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end to lock the stitches.
You can make lots of these quickly. To heat them, place in the microwave with a mug of water (it's never a good idea to heat dry things in the microwave without moisture) and heat in small increments to the temperature you desire.
To make the neck wrap:
Fold the fabric in half so it's 9" x 25", right sides together. Sew the bottom and one side closed with a 3/8" seam allowance, leaving the top open. Turn it right side out.
Place approximately 2 lbs of the cherry pits (or rice if you want to use that) inside. Fold the raw edges of the opening in about 1/2" and stitch shut as you did for the hand warmers. Heat in the same manner as the hand warmers and enjoy.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Once you've mastered sewing a straight line, learning how to sew a perfect corner is the next step. It's really easy.
Sew along your fabric and stop the same distance as your seam allowance away from the edge. Here I was using a 1/4" seam so I stopped 1/4" from the end. Make sure your needle stops down. If you don't have an option on your machine to stop with the needle down, use the hand wheel on the side of the machine to manually move the needle down.
Lift the presser foot (keeping the needle down) and rotate the fabric.
Put the presser foot down after you've rotated the fabric completely. The edge of the fabric should match up with your seam line you used before. Since we here we're using a 1/4" seam with a 1/4" foot, the fabric edge should line up with the edge of the foot again.
Continue sewing your seam and you've got a perfect corner.
There are a couple simple tricks to make sure you stop at the right distance. You can eyeball it. With experience you'll see a 1/4" distance easily (or 3/8" or whatever seam allowance you use most often). You can also measure and mark it. That is a great way.
In this photo, I'm using a 3/8" seam allowance so that's what we measure in from the end and mark. You can mark with a water soluble pen or pencil or just a pin.
Continue sewing and stop at the pin (or mark you made). Continue as instructed above. It's that simple.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Sewing straight lines is crucial for making your projects look professional. It's an important first step to master and it is much easier than you think.
First off, let's talk about what a seam allowance is. A seam allowance is the distance your pattern gives from the edge of your fabric to where the seam should be sewn. You should always follow the seam allowance recommended in the pattern or tutorial. Everything has been worked out to use that seam -- especially when it comes to making clothes. This will ensure that you get the completed size you are supposed to and the project comes together well. Flat projects like quilts or napkins have a bit more wiggle room on this issue, but it is best, especially when first starting out, to use what is recommended.
On the sole plate of your machine, there are seam guides right there. I took my machine's foot off so you could see them better. Each machine is slightly different, but this is what mine looks like.
If the needle is in the center position, you can use these measurements as your guide. The most common seam allowances are 3/8", 1/2" and 5/8". If you're a quilter (or want to be), the 1/4" seam is what you'll use. You notice that a 1/4" is not marked. We'll get to that in a minute.
The lines are on both sides of your machine, but typically you only use the guides on the right side of the foot (because otherwise your entire project would have to be shoved under the arm of the machine).
The basic sewing machine foot gives a 3/8" seam when you align your edge of the fabric with the edge of the foot. You should still measure this once to double check that this is your machine's standard. This is the easiest seam allowance to practice.
Keep a gentle hold on the fabric as you sew. Don't tug or pull on it. The feed dogs (the tiny moving teeth underneath the foot -- for a review go here) move the fabric at the right pace for how fast you're sewing. You don't need to push the fabric or pull it.
I've been teaching my six-year-old how sew. We say that we use our "butterfly hands" to guide the fabric -- meaning we gently guide the fabric. Don't hold it down or push to hard. Be as gentle as you would hold a butterfly (or at least how a six-year-old might).
Moving your hands as you sew will come easily with practice. It won't take much. Here's my little one practicing her stitching using her "butterfly hands" on her first day of sewing on her own machine.
Depending on the size of your project, the fabric itself can pull on the feed dogs - like if you're making a quilt or even just a large garment. Keeping your workspace clean and open to the left side of the machine and letting the table help support your project can help. If your project is pulling at the feed dogs, you may need to help support it's weight or use slightly more pressure to guide the fabric through at the right rate to correct for the pulling.
If you're not using the easy 3/8" seam allowance, say you want a 5/8" seam (most common seam for commercial grade garment patterns), there is a seam guide line on the sole plate for that. It is however, very small and can be hard to see as you sew. An easy fix is to use a bit of blue painters tape (low tack tape) and extend that line.
You can place the tape directly onto the machine. If you use this kind, it leaves no residue behind. Just line it up with the seam line already there.
You can make the new guide as long or as short as you like. Use this blue line as the guide for the edge of your fabric as you sew. Simply remove the tape when you're done.
A quick note on sewing with pins: If you pin your project, make sure the pins are perpendicular to the raw edge (as below). They are easy to remove as you sew and some machines can sew right over them if they are like this. Check your manual to be sure of your machine's recommendation on this.
The 1/4" inch seam.
A 1/4" seam is used for quilting. As mentioned before, there are no seam guides for this length. Why? well it's shorter than the width of your standard foot. Remember that was 3/8" to the edge of the foot from the center. The simplest and most reliable way to get a 1/4" seam is to use what's called a 1/4" foot. If you're planning on making even one quilt, it is a worthy investment.
This is what it looks like. Note that the right side is the 1/4" side.
With most 1/4" sewing machine feet, you'll need to move the position of the needle to the right a bit. Move the needle and measure from the right side edge of the foot to the needle position. You can also test this on scrap fabric and measure it on the fabric itself. Note the position of the needle for future use.
Now that you've got a good handle on how to sew a straight line it's time to practice!
Making cloth napkins is a great way to practice. You can follow the tutorial here for complete instructions on making double sided napkins.
I whipped these festive holiday dinner napkins (and lunch sized napkins) up the other day. I like to think that I'm really on top of Christmas sewing for next year (instead of the truth that I just didn't get to them this last Christmas). Of course, you can make some great napkins in lots of pretty fabrics -- not just holiday themed fabrics.
Friday, February 14, 2014
I'm excited to show you this little mini quilt I created. The Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild and the New York Modern Quilt Guild came together and decided to do a swap of mini quilts with the theme of "LOVE".
I have had an idea for a thread quilt like this for a little while with a simple theme: "LOVE Connects us ALL". I was very glad to have an excuse to make it ahead of some other projects and I really like how it turned out.
How I made it:
From paper, I cut out two heart shaped templates - one large and one smaller. I used a pen with disappearing ink to trace the large one in the center of my block (12.5") and then the smaller ones randomly around the large one.
To quilt it (this was really fun), I started on the edge. I quilted a straight line into the center. Whatever heart shape I ran into, I traced that shape with the thread. When I got all the way around, I stitched out at a different angle than I went in and kept going. If I got to a heart that was already stitched, I just turned around at a different angle and kept going.
It was really fun to see it take shape since it was somewhat random.
Hope the person who gets this in NY loves it as much as I do. Can't wait to see what I get!
Happy LOVE day!
Monday, February 10, 2014
I have a large stash of Far Far Away scraps. These beautiful fabrics from Heather Ross are some of my favorites. I'm slowly making some progress with the scraps. They are so pretty you can't waste even a little bit of it. I made this pouch at the first Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild retreat back in the fall. I had forgotten about it until this last weekend when I attended a scrap management workshop by the lovely Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts. (More on that and what I actually did at the workshop later this week.)
On the inside I used some pretty green fabric for a nice surprise. I used a new fat quarter for that - so I guess I just made more scraps. But it is a pretty green.
From the top view, you can see both sides of the pouch. Sleeping beauty on one side and the owl and kitty on the other. I can't decide which is my favorite side.
The zippered pouch measures 8" high and 10" wide. It's a great size. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but I'm sure I'll find some use . . . or my daughter will.