21 May

End of School Year Crafting

It’s the end of the school year for us, and I’m thinking of a few teacher gifts. I am a big fan of cookie mix in a jar. As long as the teacher actually makes the cookies, it’s not going to clutter up a desk, and it’s easy for the kids to assemble themselves. We may be known by now at our elementary school as the cookies-in-a-jar family.

But, this year my daughter wanted to do something different for her triathlon running, cult movie watching, kinda geeky, teacher. We browsed the crafty websites for teacher gifts and decided on a binder cover — so he could organize the clutter on his desk (isn’t she nice to notice this need?).

I liked this tutorial from Lola…Again, but wanted to simplify it a bit. Here’s what we did:

I measured all around the binder (in the open position) and added 1/2″ seam allowance. Our binder is 2″ deep one:

Main fabric: 24″ x 12 3/4″. Cut one piece of fabric and one piece of iron on interfacing.

Inside sleeves (contrasting fabric?): 11″ x 12 3/4″.  Cut two pieces of fabric and two pieces of iron on interfacing.

Horizontal pocket: 11″ x 4 1/2″. Cut two pieces of fabric.

Vertical sleeve: 6″ x 12 3/4″. Cut two pieces of fabric.

Spine facing: 2″ x 6″. Cut two pieces of fabric and two pieces of interfacing.

Iron the interfacing to the wrong side of the main piece, inside sleeve pieces, and spine facing pieces.

Binder Cover

With right sides facing, sew together one long side on the horizontal pocket and on the vertical sleeve. Press with right sides out and then topstitch. Pin pocket on one inside sleeve piece, and the vertical sleeve on the other interior sleeve piece, aligning raw edges.

Binder Cover

Fold over 1/4″ and then 1/4″ again on the right side of the inside front sleeve, and on the left side of the inside back sleeve. Press and then topstitch. Go slow when sewing over the right side of the horizontal pocket as there’s lots of layers there.

Mark vertical lines for pencil pockets on the horizontal pocket. Top stitch. Back stitch for strength at the top of each pencil pocket. Pull the threads to the back and knot for a clean look on the front.

Fold over 1/4″, press, and topstitch one long edge on each spine facing piece.
Place the main fabric face up. Place the interior sleeves (with the horizontal pocket and vertical sleeve) face down on the right and left ends of the main fabric. Center the spine facings over the space between the sleeves with the long raw edges aligned with the top and bottom of the main fabric piece. Pin everything in place.

Binder Cover

Sew all the way around the perimeter using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Grade the seam allowance (trim one layer to 1/4″), and cut excess from the corners.

Turn the binder cover right side out. Fold the binder backwards and slip into the cover.

Looks pretty good! I was impressed with how easy this came together and how good it looks. Pocket options are infinitely customizable as proven by the myriad tutorials out there.

Binder Cover

I hope the teacher likes it too.

22 Jun

Adding a Line Drawing to a Quilt

I thought I’d share my process for adding the stag’s head to my latest quilt. It’s by no means the only way to add embroidery to a quilt, it was just my way for this quilt.

First, I drew the stag’s head directly onto a piece of tear-away stabilizer. I’m a confident draw-er and just went freehand using a photo as reference, but one could certainly find or print something out at the appropriate size and trace it onto the stabilizer.

Next, I pinned the stabilizer onto the front side of my quilt, which I had already quilted with parallel lines or channels. With 40 weight thread, I free-motion quilted the stag’s head, following the pencil lines I had drawn on the stabilizer. The tedious part follows — gently tearing away all the stabilizer. A seam ripper or something pointy is helpful to pick at the teensy bits in tight spaces. I also knot and bury any thread tails left from when I’ve stopped and stared lines of stitching.

Above is a detail of the front of the quilt with the machine embroidery; below is the back of the quilt showing the full picture.

For the nose and the eye, I placed appropriate shapes of fabric in position under the stabilizer to raw-edge applique the pieces as I followed the pencil drawing (you can still see a white haze of stabilizer that I haven’t yet picked out).

Once the machine embroidery is done and the stabilizer is ripped/picked out, it’s time to add the thicker lines with hand embroidery. Follow the main machine stitched lines, but don’t do the ones that define details on the interior of the image.

Using two strands of embroidery floss and a small chain stitch, I was careful to only go through the top layer of the quilt so as not to mar the look of the thread drawing on the back. Make a small quilter’s knot at the start of your floss, insert the needle into the top only of the quilt an inch or two away from where you want to start stitching, exit the needle where you want to start and pull it gently to pop the knot through the top and into the middle of teh quilt sandwich. When you’ve embroidered your way to the end of the floss, make similar knot by wrapping your thread around the needle twice and pulling it down the length of the needle and floss until it is close to the fabric (it helps to stick a pin into the knot while it’s loose to facilitate sliding it down the floss); enter the needle into the fabric at the end of your stitching and exit the fabric an inch or two away (being sure to go through the top layer and some batting only). Gently pull the needle and floss until the knot pops down into the quilt.

Enjoy the many possibilities of combining patchwork shapes with embroidery lines.

16 Apr

So Many Paths

What to do, what to do? I’ve been thinking a lot in recent months about what I want to do with my art, or even if I want to do anything. I’ve whined before about watching my peers seemingly pass me by, but then done little about it. Well, little tangible. I’ve been thinking about options — and there are so many.

I could focus on art quilts. Enter more shows. Focus on marketing that side of me. (I might need to cut back on the public handbag-making, knitting, and kid-art crafting though.) To that end I’ve entered four shows this year and submitted two project proposals to a magazine. The results to date are three rejections, one still-waiting, and one acceptance. Yay! I’ll post more closer to the date, but my latest “Rooted” quilt will travel the US with the “Tactile Architecture” show.

I could pursue fabric design. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m not really sure where to go next, or if this is even an avenue I want to commit to. To that end, I’m happily drawing away on my computer here and there, slowly building a collection of patterns for a rainy day.

I could succumb to my crafty side and grow the blog with more tutorials, swaps, community building, and reproducible inspiration. I could submit more proposals to magazines and crafty web sites. Maybe this is where my kid-inspired art takes the lead. This area is already chock full of more qualified people than I though, and actually the least enticing direction. But I have to admit that I do tend to post a lot of projects that would be just as happy on a dedicated “craft blog” as here.

I could focus on writing that parent/child picture-book-with-project based on our butterfly adventure. To that end, I’ve considered a few illustration styles and made a short list of possible publishers, but then lost it.

I could just do what I enjoy doing each day, and try not to worry about it. This is what I’ve been doing lately, and although it feels right, it also feels like it may just be the path of least resistance.

When my dad was here, we talked about defining individual success and priorities. How important is tangible success like a booming Etsy shop, or published articles? What would it take to make those goals a reality? Would those steps fulfill me? There is a certain honesty in being my multi-faceted self even if it means I’d be sabotaging myself by muddling the definitions (artist, crafter, designer, writer) that make us “marketable.” Embracing that self and accepting that that person will probably never be outwardly successful is definitely a goal of mine. However, speaking of sabotage, I still want the outward validation. I’m in the enviable position of not having to support myself or my family with my art, so why DO I want to be successful or marketable? Do I even feel comfortable selling things or ideas? Why is it necessary (for any reason other than to place value on the work itself) since I don’t need the income? Besides, I’ve always had a problem with convincing others to buy things they don’t really need (the advertising world and the design world overlap and I was always aware of that grey area I didn’t want to cross).

So, if I don’t need the income, and I’m not much of a marketer; if I like my hand in many pots; if I can wrap my head around not needing outside validation, then perhaps my path is not the one of least resistance, but the one of self discovery. My mom suggested I just keep doing what I’m doing and throwing the ideas out there in hopes that one may take hold and show me the way. And that does seem to be the direction (if one can call it a direction) right now. Underneath this hodge-podge of a blog about art quilts, ripple blankets, sewing, backyard bugs, motherhood, military life, travel and cultural exchange, there is but one journey.

*It occurred to me after writing this that part of why I keep coming back to this need to define success and to decide whether I need it or not is a cultural predisposition to need to always be growing and moving forward.  Perhaps I need to get out of my American head and look for other perspectives.

13 Dec

Mele Kalikimaka..

…which can’t literally mean Merry Christmas in Hawaiian since the Hawaiian language existed long before the arrival of Christians on the islands, even if only in spoken form. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it’s simply a Hawaiian transliteration. So here’s our melding of influences:

Gingerbread Hula dancers — some with poi-colored skirts!

While the kids were decorating gingerbread people with Opa (German for Grandad), I went to the Hawaii Quilt Guild’s annual Holiday party. We had lunch overlooking Kaneohe Bay, ate homemade cookies, raised some money for the guild with both a live and a silent auction, swapped gifts and sang a silly, on-the-spot version of The 12 Days of Christmas. Each table had to come up with a quilting related gift from Tutu (Grandmother). After much giggling, the final verse of the song ended up like this:

Number twelve day of Christmas my Tutu give to me:

Twelve Handi-Quilters,

Eleven finished bindings,

Ten yards of fabric,

Nine spoo-ools of thread.

Eight pairs of scissors,

Seven Fat Quarters,

Six quilting hoops,

Five Fea-therweights.

Four quilting baskets,

Three Jelly Rolls,

Two quilting needles,

and one Bernina underneath the tree!

Not a bad Christmas if you ask me.

I bid on a set of fat quarters partly because they were “modern” Christmas prints, of which I have none in my stash and could maybe make some cute gift bags or something next year, and partly because they were folded up so cleverly and we all wanted to de-construct the package. I won the bid, so now we can all learn to fold a Fat Quarter Tree.

To start, fold each of your fat quarters in half lengthwise and then in half again so you have a long rectangle. Fold one in half cross-wise two or three times to make a “tree trunk.” With each of the remaining fat quarters, fold the lower left corner up a little at about a 60° angle. From the left side, take that folded angle and fold it down to match the lower edge of your rectangle. Next, take left side and fold it up to meet the upper edge of your rectangle. Then, fold from the left again, to meet the lower edge. this is just like folding the American flag if you’ve ever done that.

Keep folding until you don’t have enough fabric to make a complete triangle shape. Tuck the last end of fabric into the pocket on the right side of your fabric triangle, folding up the bottom right corner if necessary.

Stuff the trunk you folded earlier into the pocket at the bottom of one of your fabric triangles.

Stack the remaining fat quarter triangles on top to make a tree. Wrap your tree with some ribbon so it doesn’t fall apart (there’s an X of ribbon on the back of the tree). Gift to a sewing friend!

The trees had stickers from Mad Hatter’s Quilt Box, but I don’t see the trees on their web site, so I don’t know if they are sending out holiday fat quarters like this, or if someone from the guild made these cuties after purchasing the fabric.

05 Dec

Rainbow Drawstring Bag

I’m fascinated by the bottoms or sides of bags that have the little sewn-in triangle thingie to poof the bottom out a bit and give it more shape. I think I cracked the code today! If you want the triangles to be on the bottom of your bag, you need a bottom seam, and if you want the triangles on the side of the bag, you need side seams. Why this was not immediately obvious to me, I don’t know.

What I do know is that I made a pretty cool drawstring bag with triangles on the bottom today and I’m willing to share. These instructions make a good sized bag — just a bit smaller than a plastic grocery bag. It’s great for holding odd shaped gifts or kids’ toys.

First, cut about 19 fabric strips 2.25 inches wide by 20 inches long. Mine are arranged in a rainbow, but you could, of course, use whatever you want. Sew them all together on their long sides, using a .25 inch seam allowance. Press your seam allowances open. Cut a piece of lining fabric 13 inches wide by the width of your sewn stripes. Sew the lining piece to one short end of your stripes. Press seam toward the lining fabric.

Fold in half lengthwise and sew up the long side creating a tube. Press the seam open. Fold the lining fabric down to meet the bottom of the striped section, allowing about 3 inches of stripes to fold over as well. You should have a tube with the right sides of your fabrics showing both on the inside and the outside. It will be folded at one end and raw edges at the other.

Trim the bottom of the strip section straight if you haven’t already, and press the upper fold in place.

At the bottom end, tuck in about 2 inches of both inner and outer layers, as shown, making sure that all the raw edges are even. Do this on the other side as well. Pin in place.

Sew the bottom shut through all layers. Use an overlock or zig-zag stitch to keep the seam allowance neat and tidy.

At the upper edge, sew “in the ditch” where the stripes meet the lining fabric. This will be the lower seam of your drawstring casing. Be sure to use something nice in the bobbin as well as the top thread since this will be what shows on the front.

Turn your bag right side out and stitch again a presser foot’s width or more (the thicker your drawstring the wider the casing should be) toward the fold side of the first line of stitching.

Now your casing is done and your bag bottom has those pretty triangles giving it a nice full shape.

Cut two lengths of cord twice the width of your bag plus a little more. I used ribbon here and though it looks nice, it doesn’t draw up in the casing as nice as a pretty cord would.

Using a seam ripper, cut open two seams on opposite sides of the bag, between the casing stitching. Do not cut open the seams on the interior of the bag. Using a safety pin, thread one drawstring through one hole, past the other and back out the original hole. Knot the ends together. Thread the other drawstring in the same manner, through the other hole on the opposite side of the bag and knot it’s ends together.

Find something wonderful to put in your bag, pull the drawstrings to close it and admire your work!

13 Aug

Mod Log Cabin Table Runner

Two years ago for Christmas I made table runners for many of our friends and family. Thursday and Friday I was able to free some projects from their plastic bags (the lice are all gone!!) and finish a table runner for a friend who is willing to trade handmade stationery products (yippee!).

Mod Log Table Runner

I’ve named this the Mod Log Table Runner. I’ve had instructions for it on my website for a while now, but when I decided to post this one, I also decided that it was time to tackle the larger project of making the tutorials I’ve shown on my blog and the website instructions into more professional-looking PDF files to download. This table runner is my own design, but wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to make it, so I don’t feel as if I’m giving away any proprietary trade secret of mine when I share the how-to. I’m just making it easier for everyone to have what I think is a cool and adaptable design. And I’m giving back to the generous craft-blogging community.
Now, when you click the “Patterns” tab on the blog or website you’ll go to a page where you can, hopefully, click to download the PDFs for this and two lovely hand bags. I’ve changed the links in the sidebar as well so that they also open the appropriate PDF.

I assume everyone will let me know if I’ve linked anything incorrectly, or if something doesn’t work.

08 Jul

You Asked For It

Bag Series # 8 tutorial Square Bag

Ok, Deborah and Diane asked for it, but I bet there’s some lurkers out there that want this info too. I am justifying taking the time to make another Square Bag as I have run out of shopping bags for the city quilt and must make a trip downtown to search out more. So, I couldn’t work on the city yesterday if I wanted to. I whipped this bag (#8 in the series if you’re counting) up while the kids were in school and it is the classic example of “do as I say, not as I do.”

Savvy crafters will skip to step 6 and make this with two plain pieces of fabric!

I wanted to try making my own fabric for this bag with scraps and water soluble stabilizer. While it looks good, depending on the size of your stabilizer, it can be difficult to make a large enough square, and the layers of scraps make the “fabric” a bit thick for this bag, especially if it’s small. If you want to try anyways, here’s the steps I took:

Lay out scraps on stabilizer

1. Lay scraps out on a layer of water soluble stabilizer. Pin several pieces together if you need to make a bigger square. I used Sulky Solvy because it’s what I had at home. I’ve also seen Aqua Magic which is woven and therefore more stable. I think it would be easier to use.

Cover the scraps

2. Cover the scraps with another layer of water soluble stabilizer and secure with some pins. You can do this without the top layer, but the scraps have an annoying tendency to get caught up in the darning foot of the sewing machine and this step keeps everything under wraps.

Free motion over the sandwich

3. Drop the feed dogs on your machine, use the darning foot, thread some pretty thread in the machine (I used a variegated rayon), and practice your mad free-motion skills. The quilt police will not be inspecting this, so don’t sweat it. Most important is that you stitch over everything enough to hold all the scraps together.

This step is just too over the top!

4. A sane woman would have stopped at step three, but I decided that it would be fun to couch some of the silk sari yarn I have over the top. It looks lovely with the batik scraps and bright colors, but for this little bag, it was just too much. I broke several needles sewing through all the thicknesses in later steps, so save this embellishment for another project.

Wash the stabilizer off

5. Put your new “fabric” in the sink and wash the stabilizer off. A couple of rinses, and maybe some laundry detergent, will get rid of any gooeyness.

Cut two squares

6. Here’s where we actually get to start making the Square Bag. You need two squares of coordinating fabric. Here’s my scrap fabric and a silky lining. For the Bag Series #6, Patchwork Square Bag I made a 24″ square out of pieced 2″ squares and lined it with polka dotted cotton. For this bag (#8) I had to use a 17″ square due to the size of the stabilizer. The optimum size for your squares would be between 20″ and 25.”

Sew squares together

7. With right sides together, sew the squares together around the perimeter, leaving an opening to turn it right sides out. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance. (For the patchwork bag I also inserted rick rack into the seam.) Turn right sides out and press smooth.

Top stitch square

8.Top stitch the perimeter of the square. This step will sew the opening closed as well as giving the piece a nice, finished look.

Fold into thirds

9. Fold the square into thirds with lining side up. Sew an on-point square in the center where all three layers overlap. This will create little triangle shaped pockets on the inside of the bag.

Sew up the sides

10. Fold the bag in half, lining side out. Sew up the sides, close to the edge. Stop 1/4″ to 1/2″ from the top and backstitch to lock. In the photo, the left side is not yet sewn, but the right side is. This is also where I started to regret the thickness of my scrap fabric and wished I had just pulled two nice fabrics from my stash.

Sew across corners

11. Squash the two bottom corners flat and sew across them. I broke several needles and lots of thread on this step. Note to self: Rayon thread is pretty for decorative stitching, but doesn’t hold up well for utility sewing like this. Now I am completely regretting the thick fabric choice, but hey, the bag is almost done and I have a half an hour before I need to pick the kids up, so I’m not turning back.
It should look something like this

12. It should now look something like this.

Turn inside out

13. Turn it inside out and it will look like this. See the little pockets?

Another view

Here’s another view where you can see the way the bottom is flatter now after sewing across the corners.

Cut casings

14. Cut two casings from lining fabric. They should be about 1 1/2″ inches wide and about the same length as the width of your bag. Press under 1/4″ on each of the long sides of the casings. Press under 1/4″ on the short ends and then turn them under again. Stitch down to finish the ends.

Sew in the casings

15. Position the casings as low down into the bag as you can. Ideally, the casings will line up with the open tops of the side seams. (Mine are a little high here due to the tiny size of the bag and the fact taht I was not paying as much attention as I should have. Sew the casings in place along the long sides. Back stitch at the ends to lock.

Thread cording into casings

15. Cut two lengths of cording each 20″ to 35″ long, depending on the size of your purse. Thread one through one casing and then across the seam and back through the opposite casing. Tie the ends together.

Thread the next cord in the opposite direction

16. Thread the other length of cording in the opposite direction so the ends are on the other side of the bag. Tie the ends together and you are DONE! Mine could be a cute little jewelry bag, but I think it’s destined to go to a certain little girl in the house. The patchwork one is large enough to use as an everyday purse.

15 Jun

Suesse Sac Tutorial

You know you need another project on your list, right?! I’m having so much fun making “sweet” little bags like this:

Moulin Rouge Süße Sac

and this:

that I figured I needed to make my first blog tutorial so eveyone else can have a “Süße Sac” too. The pattern is based on a bag I saw in a Japanese craft book, but I have changed the size (theirs was too small, though mine is not large) and added patchwork, plus yo-yo embellishment, so I think I can share this without stepping on anyone’s toes.

The first thing you need to do is make a pattern. I drew mine on some tracing paper, but yours could be on newspaper or a brown paper bag, or whatever you have handy. The following dimensions make a bag with the same proportions as the ones in my pictures. I’m really liking this one where the handles are longer by increasing the entire height by 5″ (making the 12″ section now 17″ and the whole height of the pattern 25″).

Faux Marimekko Brown Süße Sac
Sac pattern

Choose a fabric or two for the interior of your bag and fold over at little more than 7″. Place your pattern piece on the fold and cut out one interior piece. You can make your second piece out of the same fabric, or out of a second, coordinating fabric in the same manner. You need to also cut one piece for the solid half of the exterior of you sac. (I used the same polka dot fabric for the interior and exterior of my Moulin Rouge Sac.)

Here’s two matching interior pieces and one coordinating exterior for the green bag (you probably want to iron yours, unlike me):

Fabric pieces for bag

Now you need to cut out 17 squares of coordinating fabrics for the patchwork side of the bag. They should be 4″ square, although the ones in the top second and third rows can be a little narrower.

squares for patchwork side of sac

Sew the squares together in rows using a 1/4″ seam allowance. You can sew right off the end of one pair and onto the next to save you and your machine the hassle of all those long thread ends from pulling out each finished pair and starting the next from scratch. (This is called chain piecing.)
Chain sewing

Press the seam allowances in each row in the same direction. Press each row in alternating directions.
press seams in alternate directions

Now sew the rows together. Butt the opposing seam allowances together and pin at an angle facing away from the direction you will sew. This will ensure that the corners of your squares will line up nicely and you can sew right up to the seam before you have to take the pin out.

Sewing across butted seams

Here’s what your squares should look like all sewn together and pressed:

finished patchwork

Place one of your interior pieces face down on the patchwork and pin in place. Use the solid piece of fabric as a pattern to cut the same shape out of the patchwork. Keep the pins in place and sew the two pieces together, only along the curved side, using a 1/4″ seam.
pairing patchwork with interior piece

Sew the other interior piece and the solid exterior piece together, also along the curved side.
pairs sewn together at handles

Notch the curves and then turn the pairs right sides out and press smooth.

Open up the pairs and place them right sides together, making sure to match interior fabric with interior fabric and exterior to exterior. Sew the side seams using a 1/4″ seam and pivoting as necessary when you get to the handle seams. You can butt the handle seams here as well to avoid bulk.
Sewing the side seams

Press side seams open. (Note the patchwork seams pressed in opposite directions.)

Pressing side seams open

Match the side seams on the exterior pieces so they are now in the center and right sides are together. If you would like to add fringe to the bottom of your bag, insert it now, with fringe facing inward. Sew the bottom of the bag with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Sewing bottom seam

Match the seams on the interior pieces and sew the bottom interior seam. Be sure to leave an opening a few inches long to turn the bag inside out through. (The arrow points to the completed exerior bottom seam and the circle shows the opening in the bag interior bottom seam.)

sewing interior bottom seam

Opening to turn bag through

Really, the whole purse can be pulled through a small opening (and yes, this is a different purse).

After you have pulled the purse through, hand sew the opening shut.
sew opening shut

Topstitch the bag around the handles and opening. I like to use a sewing machine foot especially made for topstitching, but careful sewing with a normal foot works well too.

Tie the handles together and your purse should look like this! You can stop now, or embellish your Süße Sac with yo-yo flowers. To make yo-yos, cut out circles twice the diameter of the size you want your finished yo-yos to be.
Sac and circles for yo-yos

Fold over about 1/8″ to 1/4″ at the edge of your fabric circle and sew down with a running stitch. This does not have to be perfect, just utilitarian. Fold and sew in one inch or so sections until you have sewn all the way around the circle.

Pull your thread tighly to gather the circle:

Tie your thread off when your yo-yo is sufficiently gathered. I always use a neutral or matching thread because inevitably a little does show. Smooth the yo-yo into a round “patty.”

Cute, huh? And easy. Now make a bunch more. Make a few extra to sew onto a T-shirt, or sew a bunch to make a doily or a bed-cover!

lots of yo-yos

Now Sew your yo-yos onto your bag. Add a few buttons too, if you’d like. I covered buttons with some of the fabrics I used in the bag for the Moulin Rouge Süße Sac. Beads would be pretty too.

Ta Da!

This one went to the “Mad Hatter” in exchange for one of her cute Candy purses (in her Mai archive). I can’t wait to see what I get! Now that she’s gotten her package, I can share this without spoiling her suprise 🙂