Friday, May 28, 2010

Gift Bag

Here's a gift bag that I made for birthdays at our house. I make these bags to put gifts in to (1) use up fabric I know I won't use for something else and (2) because I find wrapping presents to be so wasteful. A waste of time and materials. I spend time wrapping the gift and it takes about 2 seconds for the recipient to tear off the paper. I spent money on the paper and tape and ribbon which then all goes in the trash and later to the landfill.

So I've started making these bags for my family to use. They are pretty easy to make and can be made in many different sizes. I am thinking about writing up the pattern and offering it free on my blog. I need to figure out how to have these things stay on the sidebar. A project for another day.

My mom and dad are here for the weekend. They arrived on Tuesday evening. Yesterday was Parker's birthday. He had his party last Saturday but we didn't give him any of his gifts from family until yesterday. So we had a small gift opening party. He got to pick where we went to dinner and he chose Chili's - mainly because it is one of the few restaurants in town where they sing to you on your birthday. My little extrovert! The whole dinner he was so worried that they would forget to come sing to him. He was just beaming when they did. So cute!

So I'm going to take blog break for a few days while my folks are here. My dad has built me a small deer resistant herb garden (stay tuned for photos soon) along with some other not so glamorous jobs - fixed a toilet and changed two light fixtures. Yay Dad!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Circle Flower

Doesn't look much like a flower now, does it? But add some stitching and the flower appears.

I saw a design similar to this on a skirt in a catalog. I really liked the skirt and the design. Unfortunately, the skirt is $98 so it won't be coming to live at my house. However, the design idea will find a home here.

This is another small sample piece for an idea I have. It is about 8" square. I used the end of a spool of YLI thread as a pattern for the circles. I'm guessing they are about 1 1/2" in diameter. The thread is a variegated orange DMC floss but the color changes are really subtle. Probably too subtle to be effective for this piece.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stitched Tree is Finished

I finished up this little stitched tree recently. I don't really like it. However, I learned a few things along the way. I tried a new "binding" technique. I drew a line around the edge of the piece then laid black yarn on the line and zig-zagged over the yarn with black thread. After the first time around, I trimmed the excess batting and backing away close to the edge of the zig-zag stitching. There are two layers of yarn on this and I zig-zagged three times around. I like this finishing method and will use more in the future.

One of the problems with doing this finishing technique is that the sewing machine tends to eat the quilt at the corners. I've tried this technique in the past only to give up and use traditional binding because a corner got so mangled that I needed to just cover it up. If you look closely at the photo above you will see little threads dangling from each corner. I removed them after taking the photo but I wanted you to see them because I used these to prevent my machine from eating the corners.

Here's how it works: (1) Cut four approximately 6" pieces of thread. Any color/kind of thread will do just make sure it is strong. I used black because I was going to be sewing with black and I figured that if I sewed over it, it wouldn't show if I used black. (2) Thread a needle with one of your 6" pieces and stitch it into the corner about 1/4" to 3/8" from the edges. I just went in from the front and out the back. Do not tie a knot because you will be removing this thread later. You just want equal amounts of this thread hanging out from the front and back. (3) Do the same on the remaining three corners. (4) Now you can zig-zag around the edge of your piece. I started in the middle of one side and sewed all the way to the corner. Then turn the piece and continue sewing up the next side but pull on the corner thread to help the machine get started at the corner without eating the corner. Just pull back on the thread. Continue sewing around the edges, pulling on the corner threads as necessary to keep the corner from being eaten. It worked great for me!

So I'm glad that I didn't really like this piece when I finished it. If I had I probably would not have been brave enough to try a new finishing technique on it for fear I would ruin it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More baking

The first attempt at baking a ball cake was a flop. We baked it for the length of time recommended for a bundt cake.

The center was like runny pudding.

The second attempt we reduced the oven temperature from 350 degrees to 325 and baked the cakes for 45 minutes then I put little aluminum foil rings around the edges to try to keep them from drying out while we continued cooking them for another 25 minutes. Wow! It took 1 hour and 20 minutes for the cake to cook.

But it didn't burn and tasted great! My husband frosted it and used a large marshmallow cut in half for the center button. Here is what the finished cake looked like.

There was only one small piece left. We had eight 8 year olds come to the party, including the birthday kids. A good time was had by all but the parents are now exhausted.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Here's my creative product for today - pokeball cupcakes. I'm taking these to school this evening for Parker to celebrate his birthday with his class. Yes, you read that right, I'm taking them this evening. His class is getting to stay for a "late night at school" today. My understanding is that his class will be the only one at school for this because they got the Attendance Award. They are going to play games, do crafts, watch a movie, have dinner at school and celebrate Parker's birthday. They get to run in the halls and be as loud as they want from 3 pm until 8 pm!

Tomorrow we are having Parker's birthday party with another of his classmates whose birthday was yesterday. They were essentially inviting the same people and we didn't want to have competing parties, so they have invited 9 friends to our house tomorrow afternoon. That will make eleven 8 year olds at our house. Wish me luck! As I type this Parker's pokeball cake is baking. We are attempting to make a ball shaped cake using a mold. We are baking it now in case we need to try again. I'll post photos of that tomorrow or Sunday.

With all the birthday planning and festivities I won't have time to do much sewing for the next few days. Then my parents are coming for a week on Tuesday. My husband got the camping stuff out recently so I am hopeful that I will have plenty of sewing time after the "party season" ends and school lets out for the summer. Parker thinks that moms don't camp. The truth is his mom would rather sew than camp and can't pass up an opportunity to have the entire house to herself for almost 24 hours.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Stitched Design and a Book Review

Here's a photo of my latest stitched design. This is just a sample to test out an idea. It's only about 8 inches square and I'm using a design I have done previously in applique. I blogged about it here. I've had several inspiration sources for this type of work. It reminds me of Kantha, an Indian (the country India) stitch work. I know almost nothing about Kantha stitching other than a few photos I've seen. The photos I've seen have been online and I was not able to enlarge the photos enough to tell what kind of stitches were used. Just that the stitches were used to create a design, similar to how applique is used in quilting. I'm just using a running stitch or quilting stitch for this project.

For my book review I wanted to share with you the book I won from Pat Sloan's Creative Talk Radio Show about a month ago. The book is title Bended Bias Applique by Linda M. Poole.

Let me start by saying I'm not a big fan of doing applique. I love to admire other people's applique work and I think it is beautiful, but it is not my favorite technique to actually do myself. This is a bit different than other applique techniques I've tried though. The book goes over a couple different standard applique techniques but then you add a thin strip of bias tape to cover the edges of your applique shapes. It could blend in with your applique fabric, or contrast with your applique fabric and act like an outline. I think the idea is that if you do raw edge applique you can still get a finished edge look using this idea. I suppose you could also cover up bad applique stitches if necessary too.

The book has 41 patterns inside, in addition to the instructions on how to make bias tape and do the bended bias applique technique. The patterns are not full size so you have to enlarge them before doing them which is something I've heard applique fans complain about. Most of the patterns are for various types of flowers. But there are also a few butterfly patterns, some Celtic designs and hearts.

Overall, a very nice book. Not something I would have purchased (because I don't like to do applique and typically don't purchase applique books) but the technique is very interesting and something I'd like to try. Originally I thought that I would just look at the book to learn the technique and then donate it to my guild library. However, after looking at it, I think I'll hold on to it for a while and maybe in a couple of years it will end up in the guild library.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just Passing Through

While finishing up my tote bag for the swap yesterday afternoon I spied this guy through my sewing room window in our neighbor's tree. Orioles pass through our area this time every year. Such pretty birds!

My tote bag is done but the street in front of the post office was blocked off when I went by this morning. The city is replacing water pipes and making a huge mess. One of those necessary projects that is not fun to do or have to live through having done. They probably didn't have the whole street blocked but I decided to just avoid the area for today and try again tomorrow.

I spent a few hours at my LQS this morning/afternoon with my art group. We had a blast! I'll post photos of my project soon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cub Scout Top Done

I've got the top done for the Cub Scout quilt. Parker seems very happy with it. I'm taking a break today from this project to get a few other things done. I have my tote bag for the swap about half done. I am planning to finish it today and get it in the mail tomorrow. I swung by the post office this morning to pick up two Priority Mailers. I'll print out the postage from home.

My art group is meeting tomorrow so I have piles of fabric out in preparation for our project. I need to cut some strips but I have my sketch done of what I plan to make.

I have also done party shopping for Parker's birthday party this Saturday in addition to the other regular weekly shopping. My Safeway is rearranging and cleaning the shelves so I wasn't able to get everything on my list. Half of the produce section was empty as was half of the dairy aisle. I didn't want to discourage cleanliness and I was able to get everything we needed, so I'll just go back later in the week for the other stuff.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Half-Square Triangles

I feel like I've been making half-square triangles for days and days! I got the last ones finished up this afternoon and the fourth border for the Cub Scout quilt is almost complete.

I've used many different methods to make half-square triangles in the past. When I started quilting I just used the formula of add 7/8" to your finished size square. Cut a square that size and then cut it in half on the diagonal and sew two triangles together and press open. My squares never came out square with this method though. I don't know if I was just not accurate enough with my sewing or pressing, but I quickly realized this method wasn't going to work well for me.

Then I discovered Thangles - the triangle papers. I used these for a queen size quilt that had a lot of half-square triangles in it. They worked well but then I had to pull off the paper and that was a lot of work. Plus it left little bits of paper all over the place, which didn't make me very happy.

My next method was to cut a square 1" larger than the finished size half-square triangle needed. Draw a line along the diagonal of one of the fabrics, sew 1/4" away from the line on each side. Cut on the line, press the half-square triangles open and then square them up to the needed unfinished size. This worked great, but drawing lines on 100 squares gets old fast.

Then I discovered the Angler 2. I love my Angler.

It can be a bit of chore to get it lined up right with the needle. It's a lot faster than drawing the bunch of diagonal lines though! Once it is set up properly and taped down, I can make a lot of half-square triangles pretty quickly. I still cut my square 1" larger than the needed finished size. I line up the tip of one corner with the appropriate line on my angler and sew. Then I just flip the square over and sew the other side. Cut on the diagonal, press open and square up.

I had to make 192 half-square triangles for the border of the Cub Scout quilt. Whew!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cub Scout Quilt progress and a surprise

More progress on the Cub Scout quilt. I have two of the four borders made (a short side and a long side) and the long side is already attached to the quilt. I wanted to make sure that my measurements were correct and that the borders would fit before making any more half-square triangles. Looks like everything is working out as it should so now I get to make the rest of the half-square triangles.

And look what came in the mail for me today. A belated Mother's Day gift.

The Amazon Wish List is a wonderful thing! As I see stuff I want I just put it in my list. When there is a gift occasion my husband just picks something from my list. I love getting exactly what I want and he loves not having to do much shopping!

This is a beautiful book. It is small, just 8" square, but 1.5" thick. The kind of book you can look at over and over and see something new every time. If you are looking for some nice quilty eye candy, this book would be perfect.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Recommendation

I just finished watching a very interesting episode of the PBS show Frontline. The title of the episode was "Digital Nation." It originally aired on Feb. 2, 2010. I watched it through Netflix. We recently purchased a new Blue Ray player that came with the ability to access Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Picasa, and several other online sites. Along with the player came a free two weeks Netflix membership. We signed up for the "one DVD at a time and the ability to stream as much as we want" membership. I watched the Digital Nation on TV streamed through Netflix. I am seriously considering canceling our cable TV service, ... but I digress.

The Frontline episode was very interesting and thought provoking and well done. I expect no less from PBS. If you have an opportunity to watch the episode, I recommend it.

What does this have to do with quilting? Absolutely nothing. And everything. I have been thinking a lot lately about why I quilt (or craft). Is it just to make stuff? I don't think so because I could buy a quilt for a lot less than it costs me to make one. I haven't got a concise answer to that question yet but I believe it has something to do with the act of making something that takes time and is hand-made, one-of-a-kind. In this digital age in which I literally have the world at my finger tips when I'm online, there is something therapeutic about this process of making a quilt. Why do you quilt (or craft)?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cub Scout Quilt progress

Here is the center of the Cub Scout quilt I'm working on for Parker. The pattern is the Disappearing Nine Patch pattern. I am using the yellow and blue Scout fabric to make a pieced border. A photo of my progress on that is below.

This is just a sample of how the border will look. I've got more half-square triangles sewn than this photo shows, but not all of them yet. I plan to put a narrow strip of green between the center and this border then use the same green for binding. It is not the same green as either of the two greens that are in the center. I do not have enough of either of these fabrics to do a border or binding. I decided not to buy more of the green Scout fabric and the other green is an older print that I couldn't find in the 30 minutes I looked for it online. My LQS had a very nice green that goes well with the other fabrics and will be just fine.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Playing with Lines and Stitches 3

I finished my third lines and stitches piece. For this one I just used the pillowcase method to finish it instead of adding binding. It occurs to me that I should be telling you how big these are. This one is approximately 7" by 8". My first lines and stitches piece is a tad smaller than this one and the second one is approximately 8" by 9". So these are all small pieces. All of the fabrics used in this piece came from the box suit wool I was gifted in 2007. The brown piece was probably intended to be lining fabric. It looks like linen - very open weave - but feels like it might have some silk in it because it feels silky. The other two are wools.

This is finals week for me so I am very busy with that. But worse is the fact that my regular schedule is now gone. I am very schedule oriented and it always takes me a couple of weeks to adjust and find my new schedule every time the semester ends or school ends for my son. In addition, my son has a birthday coming up on the 27th and multiple end-of-year activities at school. So I feel like I'm being pulled in multiple directions. I may not post as often or have time to work on things worth posting about as often for a couple weeks.

I am again working on the Cub Scout quilt I'm making for Parker. I hope to have it finished for his birthday, but I'm cutting it close. Tomorrow I will post photos of my progress on that project. The center is done. I've finally decided what I want to do for the border. Now I just have to do it. So I'd better go get on that. I've got about an hour left before Parker gets home from school.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Zucchini Wrapped Pork

I made this recipe for dinner last night. My family loved it. You know a new recipe is going to be good when ... the smoke alarm goes off while cooking. LOL! For some reason, this rule is usually true at my house. The recipe is from the latest Better Homes and Gardens magazine, Zucchini Wrapped Pork. I used my own homemade pesto and didn't have either of the "optional" items. They must have used a longer zucchini than I had because my slices weren't long enough to wrap all the way around the pork pieces. I just laid them over the top and tucked the edges underneath. It was fine. I am definitely adding this recipe to my rotation. I'll just have to make sure I only fix it when it is warm enough to open the kitchen window so the smoke alarm doesn't go off again!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Playing with Lines and Stitches 3, in progress

Somebody stop me! I just keep getting more ideas for these little "lines and stitches" pieces. I've been really busy with work this week, but have managed to find a little time to work on this.

I'm planning to applique some of the woven fabric over the top of the stitched wool when I finish the stitching. I have not yet decided exactly where or how I will applique some of this fabric, but it will go onto the stitched background in some way.

I have also started a sampler of stitches. As I have been working on these pieces I keep getting more stitching ideas. Drawing them just doesn't capture the essence of the stitches for me, so I've begun a sampler piece. I cut a 6" by length of my wool piece and am just stitching up samples as they occur to me. The 6" width is wide enough for me to get the idea of how the stitch looks, but short enough that it doesn't take very long to do the stitching. Here's what I've got so far.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Playing with Lines and Stitches 2

I finished up my second "playing with lines and stitches" piece recently. I liked the pinkish red binding better than the charcoal, so I changed the binding on the first piece.

I did not have enough of this pinkish red fabric to bind both pieces, but my LQS had some pomegranate Kona solid that is pretty close. Click here to see it with the charcoal binding.

On a personal note, today is a special day. Parker came home from school and said, "Mom, do you notice anything different about me?"

He lost a tooth at school today. This is only the third tooth he has lost and he'll be 8 in a few weeks. Many of his friends have already lost all of their baby teeth. He feels a bit self-conscience that he hasn't lost many teeth yet. So this is a big deal at our house. I'm trying to decide if we should go out to eat tonight to celebrate or if I should just fix what I have planned for dinner. I've already got the tooth fairy pillowcase on his bed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Last Science Saturday for a while

Saturday was the last Science Saturday for a while. It was just a "play day." There was no planned activity but they had several things out for the kids to play with. The marble run is always fun. There was also a microscope with slides to look at, robots to play with and program, remote control cars, a spinning stool, magnets and they got out the rocket launcher and took the kids outside for a while. However, Parker's favorite was a remote control helicopter. The director of Science Saturday said, "well, he can try it, but nobody has been able to actually fly the thing."

Parker didn't have any trouble. He got it to take off from the table and was landing it on the yellow landing zone.

He even got it to fly up to the ceiling.

He was so proud to be able to do something that the grown-ups couldn't do.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wonky Rail Fence Blocks

I tried another block style in "wonky piecing." I'm specifically using the same fabrics and fabric style from my scraps so that all these blocks can go together into one quilt. I made these rail fence blocks 5" so that when I sew four together the block will measure 9.5", the same as my wonky log cabin blocks. It is hard to see in these small blocks with small strips, but I also did some curved piecing. I'm just trying out the technique and it worked pretty well.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pokemon Paper Quilt

I mentioned to my son that since he is going to be 8 soon, he would get to go to my "sewing school" this summer and make a quilt, if he wants to. He took that to mean he could start on quilt right then. Mind you, we are having this conversation just as I am closing up my sewing room for the day to go make dinner. I remind him that he is not 8 yet and I'm going to make dinner, so he decides to make a paper quilt instead. I liked this a lot better before he wrote "pokemon" all over it. He is in a Pokemon phase right now, in case you couldn't tell. I told him I may have to steal his background idea and use it in a fabric quilt. I'll leave off all the Pokemon stuff in mine.