Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Playing with Placemats - Part 3

This third installment of playing with placemats really points out my complete and utter failure to make a great tote from placemats. It seeems that others can make the most charming tote bags while I just seem to make a mess. My first try was with two placemats to make a large tote. Here:s how it came out:

As you can see it does not look much like a tote bag. In fact it is not really a tote bag at all but could be used as a slip case for a laptop. I failed for a couple of reasons. First I added that wondeful trim before I really thought through the process. Being heavily beaded I broke a lot of beads and a couple of needles attaching it to the placemat. The two placemats I used, while lovely black corduroy, were very, very stiff and thus had to sew together. I had a matching napkin, so I used that for a velcroed closure. I had wanted to bag the bottom but the stiffness of the placemats discouraged me.

My second attempt was a little more successful. What do you think?

I had trouble with this one as the placemats used, one for the interior and one for the exterior, were also very stiff and thus, hard to sew through. I used another napkin to make loops to attach the beaded handles and the rest of it to add a zippered pocket in the interior. The beaded handles were leftover form a previously abandoned cigar box purse project. I think I will try ths one again but with a less hard/stiff placemat and limit it to one placemat.

For very little investment ($1 - $3 each) you too can play with placemats and proably get good results with flexible placemats and all those bits that have been aging in your stash just waiting for an opportunity to shine.
Good Luck!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Crafty Kids

On Wednesday, the Arts and Crafts Club at YesPrep's North Central Campus played with fabric dyes and such to decorate silk pillow cases. I took a few photos but they really don't show the intensity of their creativity or the noise level that accompanied their work. Here's a peek at what we did:

They always seem to bunch up in little groups.

Mad chemistry going on with the silk dyes.

These four decided to rinse out their creations at the same time.

A work in progress.

Two of my 'bin boys'. I always give the kids the option of not doing the project of the day and working with anything they find in the huge bin of supplies I cart to each class. The boy on his knees is on his fourth attempt at making a durable bracelet for his Mom using glue, felt and glass stones. What I did not get a picture of is the final results of all their work. I bought some pillow forms that were slightly smaller that the actual size of the donated pillow cases. Instead of making the cases smaller they removed the covering on the pillow forms to use the stuffing loose in the pillows. Of course, a couple of them wanted to have a pillow fight to see if they could break open the pillows and have the stuffing fly around the room. I stopped that idea but I wonder if any buses ended up with a lot of fluff in them from pillow fights on the way home.

I hope not!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Playing with Placemats - Part 2

After completing placemat purses as shown in Threads, I lost interest in them until a fellow ASG member showed a whole new way to use placemats for purses. Instead of sewing seams, her method had you butting the sides of the placemat and zig-zagging them together. Then you make two cuffs and end up with one central pocket and two exterior pockets... one on the front and one on the back. Straps can be added as well as various closures. Here's what I came up with: (crappy picture... colors are much nicer!)
The best placemats for this method are identical on both sides so you can have a foldover on the exterior pockets. None of mine were identical on both sides so I did not add this feature. My placemats were pretty plain so I added the trim on both the red and blue ones.

The red and blue ones had their long sides joined while the peach one had the short sides joined.

How to use these?

The peach one just happens to be the right size for my Kindle. The blue is becoming a travel sewing tool kit and the red one... not so sure how I will use it... maybe as a water bottle carrier, or for a conference ID badge, or for a passport case or for a quick run to the grocery store. The possibilties are almost endless especially when you start exploring the possibility of additonal ticket pockets, embroidery and other embellishments.

Take a placemat out of your linen drawer and play around with it. It might be a cute purse as well as a way to keep a mess off the table.

Next - some failed placemat tote bags and maybe one success - stay tuned!.

Monday, March 23, 2009

CRAFT: along 2009

Finny and Donk of the 2007 'In Stitches' Stitch-along and the 2008 'Simple Gifts to Stitch' Stitch-along have created a new ~along for 2009. This year they are sponsoring an ~along based on the CRAFT magazine blog. Although the magazine is now defunct, the editors have promised to keep their blog going and Finny and Donk have decided that for each month in 2009 they will choose two projects from the previous month's blog to be completed. Each month there will be one sewing project and one 'other' project to be completed.

I have not participated earlier this year but this month's sewing project really spoke to me. The project was to create 'crooked coasters'. Essentially you create some simple coasters and quilt them crookedly. Hers is what I came up with:

Let me explain a little about my choices.

I need coasters for around my desk and sewing machine as I can make a mess with my beverages. In addition I have a dog that likes to drink anything I drink who is even messier than I am so you can see why coasters are needed around here.

If I make coasters they need to be able to disguise any stains that come from being messy thus the fabric choices.

Stitching crooked seemed like a no brainer. When I am trying to precisely stitch quarter inch seams for quilts it can sometimes take a couple of tries to get the seam correctly sewn thus the attraction of crooked coasters.

I did find that stitching crookedly over multiple coasters just too boring so I experiemented sewing a semi-precise reducing square, a representation of X and O, something that looks like space junk paths and one according to the instructions.

The other project for this month is '5 minute pizza dough' which is so mis-titled. It really takes hours as you need to let the dough rise for at least two hours. I long ago decided to never make yeast doughs again after many years of getting up early in the morning to punch down and form the Challah loaves every Friday morning. Not even for homemade pizza will I knead dough by hand again.

I wonder what April's sewing project will be? I might catch-up on the February and January projects just to see what I can concoct.

Playing with Placemats - Part 1 - contunied

I realized that the post from yesterday might be a little opaque without some pictures. I found these from when I made the lime green one and should be helpful. Here is the placemat laid out full size.

And here it is with the folds ironed in to make sewing simpler:
Here is where the strap is attached after sewing the long sides together but before the folds ar sewn.
And here is what the strap looks like when sewn into the side seams:

BTW - the cord used for this strap was made from scrap yarn and floss made into a twisted cord. If you have never tried this technique, here is a
site with a video demo.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Playing with Placemats - Part 1

I have used cloth placemats and napkins on my table since I had my own table. I like the utilitarian nature of them and the fact that they don't come apart in your hands. I never understood why you would purchase, let alone use, placemats and napkins that were so fancy they had to be dry cleaned. Although lovely to look at, I never purchased them UNTIL I saw an article in Threads magazine on making purses from them.

Now I look for the dry clean only ones for neat little purses.
Here are several I have made over the years. The black tasselled one is from a placemat from Pier 1 that I use when I go someplace a little fancy. The tassel and button are non-functional and there is a hidden snap to keep it closed. The bright lime green one in based on a placemat from Kohl's and I use it when I go to the communty pool. There is no closure as the rather stiff interfacing keeps this one closed enough for me. The gold one I made the other night from a Crate & Barrell outlet placemat that I thought was pretty. The buttons are non-functional and it stays closed with a ittle bit of velcro.
The construction is very simple -
  • fold the placemat in half lengthwise
  • sew the long sides together
  • fold the open ends over each other as you wish with one end making pockets and the other a flap
  • sew both sides of the pocket part of the purse together...encasing your strap (if you will have one) in the side seams
  • add embellishments or a closure as desired.

There are two pockets under the flap and the flap has an opening to a more secure storage pocket. Wouldn't one of these look great for carrying key cards at work or your ID at a conference if you added a vinyl pocket on the flap?

Until last night I never considered making one of these in the other orientation. That is, sewing up the short sides and not the long sides as in the original. When fiddling with it I also realized I could add a zipper to one of the ends for a more secure pocket. Here it is next to the gold one so you see the difference in size and another picture of the interior showing the zipper.

Before you consider playing with placemats there are a couple of things to consider. Pick a placemat that is relativey flexible. The lime green one was very hard to sew because it was so stiff and thick. Also, think about your closure, embellishments and strap BEFORE you begin sewing. Although this design is relatively easy to add onto it is much easier to do the work before you sew up the sides.

I recently saw a different type of placemat purse demoed and have seen a couple of other totes using placemats. Since I picked up a few other nice ones at Crate & Barrel and a couple of more came in through the Quilt Show Fish Pond donations I am going to try these other placemat bags. I will post about these methods at another time.

Have a good week! Alex and the girls are having a sleep-over at Paul's for the next couple of days so I will need to set my alarm clock or I will miss my morning meetings without Kimora to wake me up to let them out. Here's hoping there are no power blips during the night!


While cruising through an issue of Selvedge magazine I came across an ad for a company that sells Korean wrapping cloths or Bojagi (also spelled Pojagi). Korean wrapping cloths are like Japanese wrapping cloths except that instead of being made from whole pieces of fabric, they are generally made of patched fabrics. The tradition appears to be that by wrapping something you kept the good luck confined however there are also specific uses, like covering an altar or used as a money belt..

I am in love with these textiles.

Many examples on the web seem to be used as almost trasparent window coverings so that the you can see that geometry of the piecing. They are not quite like Gee's Bend quilts because the individual pieces are so small, the fabric is not quilted and the geometry is so precise but they have the same 'make do with what you've got' mentality to make something useful and beautiful from bits of fabric as the Gee's Bend quilts.

An excellent overview can be seen here for an exhibit of them last year at the Univeristy of Nebraska and this YouTube video is inspiring. For an idea of all the uses of Bojagi see this article.

Although Bojagi are traditionally hand pieced it appears that machine piecing is acceptable and the use of a modern flat fell seam instead of a hand stitched rolled seam would give great results.

Now I know what to do with the pile of linen pieces I have here!

That ad I saw in Selvedge? Well, it lead me to this site which sells modern wrapping scarfs .. not at all like the traditional Bojagi I have seen but still a lot of fun.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Simply "Bow"dacious

Today I completed the March installment of Stitchin Heaven's 'Perse'anality monthly tote bag series. From Artful Offerings, this bag looks like a delicate little purse complete with bow and feminine fabric, however, it is large enough to be a real workhorse during a shopping trip. At eighteen inches wide and eleven inches tall (before handles) this bag is definitely a tote. Here's how mine came out:

The instuctions were well written and there was more than enough fabric, unlike last month, to complete the project. I still wonder why quarter inch seam allowances seem to be the norm for this type of pattern especially when you are trying to keep two layers of fabric, two layers of batting and two layers of heavy duty interfacing smoothly sewn together. Half inch seams makes more sense to me even if you have to cut them down later.

A couple of other details in the pattern also bugged me.
  • There are only two pattern pieces but they are printed on top of each other so you have to copy at least one onto another piece of paper. The addition of another pattern page would have been nice.
  • After quilting the exterior, you use those pieces to create the lining pieces. I am sure there is a better way to create the lining pattern... if if the exterior shrinks a tad during quilting that doesn't really impact the lining all that much. Then again it may just be me.
  • The use of the Sulky products referenced in the pattern do not add to the project at all. I know there are some people out there who always buy whatever is shown as required in the materials list. If everyone who bought the pattern also bought all the 'required' materials they'd spend more than twenty dollars unnecessarily.
  • On the other hand, one of the materials required was 'Firm Iron-on Interfacing'. I would have appreciated which of the many available interfacings is the recommended one for this type of project.

There is a cute little cell phone case pattern included which I may attempt this evening while watching the last episode of Battlestar Gallactica. Watching that show and completing the case sound much better to me than watching College Basketball.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Log Cabin Hidden Stars - Finished

A couple of weeks ago I participated in a day wth friends working through a quilt made out of Moda Jelly Rolls. It took a while but I finally pieced together a backing and got the dang thing quilted. What do you think?
I did the quilting my self as I am too cheap to have someone else do it. That's not entirely true. I think I really don't have others do my quilting because I am afraid they will find all my errors and missed seams. I am angry enough when I find these kinds of issues so I can only imagine how a professional would feel about have a quilt all set up only to have seams pop or to discover that its not really straight.

For this quilt I quilted all the big straight seams between the blocks with 'quilting in the ditch'. I then went back and did big loppy thingys in the middle of each block to make sure everything was properly secured. I once saw a quilt that had been professionally quilted that way and realised that any inconsistencies between the blocks sizes could be ignored by only only securing the edges of the blocks and any fullness remianing in the interior of the block could be eased into submission by loopy quilting in the middle of the blocks.

I really like this quilt and I know that Alex and the girls like it as well. While it was cold and rainy here for a few days I applied the binding by hand and the dogs had a great time trying to stay under the quilt while I kept moving to a new part of the edge. It was pretty funny as in the end I had a pile of puppies in my lap so high that I could rest my arms on them while I secured the binding. As long as they were warm I don't think they minded at all.

Minty Fresh

While searching through some old fabric the other day a Listerine 'Lister Mist' breath freshener spray thingy fell out on the floor. I tried to get it to work a couple of times with no luck and assumed it was empty. I then examined it closely to see of there was a way it could be used for something else. While looking closely I pressed the little sprayer again.

Yup... you are right.

I now have minty fresh eyes!

There is a big warning on it to not spray in your eyes with a dead 800 number and a dead website referenced on the label if the consumer needs help.

How old is this stuff any way?

After about 10 minutes of real discomfort and a couple of eye washes, I have once again vowed to read and FOLLOW all warnings on products.

What's that old commercial ... Too soon old, too late smart.... I think they were talking about me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Four Seasons Swap

Months ago I signed up for the latest version of the Four Seasons Doll Quilt Swap. I had missed out on the last round so I was eager to get in on the next round. This round, the fifth, is based on a partner chosing a set of colors and a season to be created. I received a lovely, twirly, leafy quit. And was eager to get my contribution into the mail.
There was just one little problem.

After a couple of months of gathering brown fabrics, picking a title ('Hunkering Down'), laying out the intentionally slightly wonky blocks, quilting it, adding a label and a hanging sleeve I went to look up the address of the intended recipient. I went to the notification e-mail and noticed that the recipient DOES NOT LIKE BROWN AND HAD ASKED FOR SOFT GOLDEN ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How could I have missed that essential fact!

Back to the drawing board.

As the deadline was coming up quickly I fell back on my favroite type of quilt.... Ricky Tims' Covergence Quilts. I love this book and I have slowly been working my way through each of the quilts. I decided to fall back on my personal favorite that uses just two fabrics. Once that choice was made I went hunting for soft oranges. I quilted it with a wonderful variagated thread from YLI in a pattern like a blowing wind with child-like leaves blowing around. This is how it all came out:
I call it 'Whoosh' as in whooshing winds and leaves on a sunny day. I hope my partner likes it. I did enjoy working under a tight deadline but next time, if there is ever a next time, I MUST recheck the requirements e-mail many, many times to ensure I don't go off on the wrong track.

The brown autumn quilt? It's slightly wonky log cabin town on top of harvested fields makes me smile. I think I will keep it and hang it right near my sewing machine to remind me of this small debacle. Here's how it came out:
This week must be better. After four solid days of rain and cold weather I am so looking forward to opening the windows and enjoy a warm breeze. I might actually get a quilt quilted. Have a good week!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bits and Pieces

A while ago I answered an open ended question about goals for 2009 from the blog at Quilting Arts Magazine. I don't remember what I said but it was obvously quite erudite and self-efacing as my name was randomly picked from the list of commenters as someone to receive a bunch of fabric from Pokey Bolton, the editor. Here's what I received in the mail the other day:

I love all the bits as each seems to spark more ideas of what to do with some of the stuff around here. As part of the Arts & Crafts program at Yes Prep I am making everyone pencil cases from some of the fabric I have been given for their use. I know I can teach some of the techniques to the kids for some unique looking pencil cases. I hope I remember to bring my camera that day so you can see the results.

Thanks Pokey for sparking some creativity!

In the Mail

Yesterday in the mail I got the neatest quilt from the Four Seasons Quilt Swap fifth round. You may remember that I didn't make it into the final swap for the original four seasons but when the swap leader came up with a fifth round I jumped at the chance. The fifth round was for monchromatic quilts for a specific season as chosen by the receiver of the quilt. I chose orange and brown and spring. I was gently reminded that orange and brown are not typical spring colors so I changed my season to fall and the color to just orange. Here's what came from Lori:

This is a unique setting in that Lori did not just make blocks and join them together in a standard grid, instead she made the leaf blocks, scattered them on a 20" grid and filled in the resulting spaces with white fabric. Very, very nice result!

There is a very important lesson learned in this quilt....even modern fabrics can have their colors run when washed. I have tended, in the past couple of years, to not pre-wash my quilting fabrics before working with them. A couple of the leaf fabrics ran when Lori washed the final quilt and, although it does not bother me in the least, I think I will return to pre-washing my fabrics when making a special quilt for someone.

My entry for this swap? Well it is almost done but I am still fiddling with it. My challenge was to use brown for a fall quilt. Let's just say there won't be a leaf on it. Until its done that's all the hints I will give you.

Thanks Lori! I can't wait to hang this with the other swapped quilts I have received.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Special Find

I think I am becoming a bag lady.

Not that I wander the streets with all my belongings in a variety of shopping bags but I get a lot of bags every week filled with goodies for various projects. For instance, in the last 24 hours I received about a dozen bags of stuff for the knitting club kids, the arts and crafts kids, for making cancer caps and for the quilt guild garage sale. In addition, I got a ton of magazines and books for the quilt guild and several bundles of knitting needles for the knitting club kids. Most of what I collect are used items in good condition, some are new and some are meant to be tossed out. I go through it all to see where the items belong and I have no regrets about moving things from one group of donations to another ... like knitting yarn to the knitting club kids rather than the quilt club or sparkly yarn for the arts and crafts kids rather than the knitting club kids.

It all balances out in the end .

Today, while sorting through some of this loot I came across a great find..... two blocks from an old signature quilt were in one of the bags of fabric. Check these out:

They are not in good condition ... faded, dirty and very well worn. They appear to be from the same quilt and are completely hand pieced and quilted. I'm not sure what to do with them but I hope that they end up with someone who will appreciate their uniqueness and use them to advance our knowedge of the makers and their work. I wonder if either are still alive?

I'm not sure where to start but I think I have some hours of research ahead of me before deciding what to do with these blocks. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cuddling Up

When I am working on the computer or sewing, the dogs sometimes are so tired that they will leave me alone for minutes at a time. When they are that tired they pile into the comfy rocking chair where they can monitor me and still get some shut-eye. They are pretty cute all piled in together, sometimes under a quilt, ignoring my sightest movement. Unfortunately, that doesn't last very long.

As an example, today I tried to get a picture of them all snuggled up together, instead I got this...
They don't look real happy and snuggly to me... but trust me, it does happen at least once or twice a week.

I hope your week is going well. After a few days of near freezing weather in the mornings, it has started to heat up again and I am now really looking forward to the Sewng Guild's garage sale this Friday and Saturday. Dollar-a-Yard fabric... here I come!

ETA Dallas continues

I finally finished up the T-shirt jacket I started in Dallas. I decided that I really don't like embellished garments... or rather I am hesitant to embellish garments for fear of making something disgusting. Instead of using silk screens to embellish the T-shirt jacket, all I did was draw some circles with Crayola Slick Sticks on the blue side and left the rest of the jacket alone. Here's a bit of a shot of how it looks now:

For those of us in warmer climates, this is just the right garment to throw on when you are running in and out of stores all day doing errands. It also covers the upper arm area that many of us don't wish to show-off but we still want the fredom of bare arms between public appearances. I think this is the perfect summer garment and I am looking forward to trying out some other color combinations.

BTW - though you can't see it in the crummy picture, I offset the lime green collar just above the blue side as a bit of added color. I think I should have done it on all the edges but didn't think of it until it was too late.

PS - the picture is pretty crummy because when I saw the pictures I took of the jacket on my dress form I realised it looked kind of obscene so I trimmed most if away.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Log Cabin Hidden Stars

The Strip Club met on Saturday to try to make a new quilt top from Moda' Jelly Rols. Jelly Rolls are an assortment of forty 2 1/2 strips of fabrics usually from a single fabric line. This month we used the book 'Jelly Roll Quilts' as the source for our pattern. The pattern was called Log Cabin Hidden Stars. and was a litle more complex than our last project, the Merry-Go-Round Quilt. The complexity did not come from the construction of the quilt but from the amount of cutting (a lot) and the fact that you needed to divide your fabrics betwen lights and darks when most of the fabric on a Jelly Roll fall smack dab in the middle of the range.

I made an early cutting error so ended up with a much scrappier quilt than the pattern suggested. I also had two identical Jelly Rolls and, instead of using one fabric for the stars and centers, I used a variety of the lightest fabrics for these elements. The leftovers went into the borders and some wil also go into the backing. The Jelly Rolls I used were from Moda called Wildflower Seranade. It is generally not available now but here is another fabric collection that is very similar.

Here is the quilt, a 78" square, un-ironed and waiting for batting, backing, quilting and binding:
Now I have four quilts waiting for some finishing magic. If only there were some little fairies out there who would come in the middle of the night to finish these up for me. Until that day comes I better get off my butt and fire up those quilting genes and get these finished.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New Toy

It seems that everytime I get a new toy I make a new case/cover for it. When it comes to electronics it is important that they get extra protection from the inevitable bumps and bangs they take in the course of an ordinary day. I used some of the fabric left over from the latest schlep bag project to make this case:
front side with velcro flap:
back side with a pocket for a little bit of money and a driver's license:
interior showing the velcro closure and a lining of silk, backed with fusible interfacing:
The protection for the new toy is headliner fabric, made for cars but really a nice firm thin foam. I like the idea that protection can be had for my new toy without spending a fortune and that it looks like a sleek clutch bag.

The new toy, you ask? Well, that's a Kindle from Amazon. Pretty sharp looking isn't it?

My darling son bought it for me and, so far, I am loving it. It works wirelessly everywhere without messy WEP keys and sign-in protocals. You can even browse the Internet wherever you want. I am getting the leading articles from the local paper on a daily basis. The one thing about the daily articles I have found is that sports stories are the largest number of stories when compared to all the other categories such as world news or local and state stories. As an example, today there were 32 sports stories loaded while the total of the front page, national, world, Texas and Houston related stories was only 31. I guess that just confirms that this is a big sports town even with the economy tanking.

I wonder if Alex will start trying to bury it in the yard like he does when my camera is in its case? I'll keep you posted on that one.