Category Archives: Machine Sewing

“Berries with Lemon”

When I was at the fabric store yesterday looking for an older fabric (Pepe in Paris Main White–which they had long ago sold out of) that my son, Prim, saw and loved in a charm pack I was cutting up for hexagons, I ended up filling out my medium blues.  I hope it’s enough, but that’s a post for another day.

Today’s all about my two year old, Sec.  He came with me to the fabric store, and since it was the first Friday of the month, fat quarters were on sale for half off.  Not only that, they had a whole slew of extra FQs for sale aside from the usual display.  I need to go every first Friday.

He immediately started touching stuff while I was looking for blues, but I realized he was trying to take a particular red fat quarter.  I decided to get it for him.  He also wanted another red, and a light blue.  I told him to pick one more, maybe a yellow, and he did:

Sec's Fabrics HP

First, I’m amazed at how true to color this photo is, except for the blue.  Second, he has really good taste.

When we got home, I freaked out about what to make for him from these fabrics.  Four fat quarters (essentially a yard of fabric) isn’t even enough for a new, bigger couch blanket for him and I didn’t want to ruin his color story by adding prints from my meager stash.

The prints are old(er)–only three had selvages.  The top one didn’t, then below that are Magic Vine by Eleanor Burns (which I think I’d bought a FQ of previously), Sand in My Shoes by McKenna Ryan, and Stonehenge Starry Night by Deborah Edwards.  I could have sworn I just saw that last one on clearance online somewhere.  I searched and quickly gave up on ordering more of any of them.  I could go back to the fabric store for more FQs (I think I saw some of each) to make a twin bed quilt for him (he needs two bed quilts since he’s a little kid), but I also like a challenge.

I thought about adding some color-matched FQs and featuring large swaths of each print, since I’d like to get something done for him soon.  I considered making Boho Girl by Amy Smart, but the quilt ends up a weird size (I’d like my twin bed tops to finish at about 74″ x 92″ before quiling) and it isn’t FQ friendly.  Then I thought I’d do a large-scale improv herringbone, with just five long strips of the herringbone and narrow white borders, but that would take a bunch more fabric and wouldn’t be quick.  I’d like Sec see the fabric he chose become something soon so he can make that connection.

Then it hit me.  We just got him a twin bed AND A NIGHTSTAND!  I’ll make him a little quilted topper for the nightstand.  Four FQs is probably enough to make the top, piece the backing, and have some left over for binding.  If not, I can pull a smallish piece of coordinating fabric from my eBayed scraps or use the matching yellow FQ I bought previously, if nothing else.

It took me five hundred words to say: A small quilted nightstand topper, “Berries with Lemon”, using Sec’s fabrics is my January goal for 2015’s A Lovely Year of Finishes.  I’m thinking about doing tumblers, since I’ve never done them before, they seem fairly simple, and they’re not squares.  Alternatively, I’ll do bricks, since I won’t have to match any corners.  Yeah, I think I talked myself into bricks.

“Pumpkin Patch” Change of Plans

Sec, my toddler, has decided it’s time for him to move out of his toddler bed and into a bigger bed.  I should have worked on his toddler bed quilt more.  Now it’s going to be a twin-sized quilt.  I’m a little sad I couldn’t make it for him faster, but I’m happy because he’ll get more use out of a twin-sized quilt.

Pumpkin Quilt Cutting HP

Also, I get to make more bigger pumpkins and/or use a lot more floaty white-on-white background for a more modern look.  I haven’t decided yet, but I’m leaning toward more pumpkins (or maybe adding some machine-appliqued leaves), since too much white on a little-kid quilt is asking for trouble.

I have a cut a bunch more pumpkin bodies, leaf units, and half-stem units (they need background on the other side).  I also have a stack of various-sized white-on-white print pieces.

I’m all ready to get going on this again in the new year, and I plan on powering through until it’s done.  I need to get a cabinet for my sewing machine so I can take advantage of fifteen minutes here and there during the day (Ter’s naptime, after the kids are all asleep, etc.) to sew.  I’m browsing cabinets and sales now.

Pumpkin Block 3

Pumpkin Block 3 HPAnd the third!  This one’s looking nice and stumpy, like a pumpkin should.  Well, a little more wrinkly than a pumpkin should, buy you know how it is.

The broader stem looks better to me than the thinner on in the second block, but I’m going to keep changing it up.  Same with the leaves.  I like that they’re different for each block.  I think that’s the kind of variety that would interest a toddler.

I love the green fabric for the leaf.  It’s from my eBayed scraps.  I have a feeling those are going to be the scraps that keep on givin’.

I’m thinking three more of these big pumpkins (the very first one is going to go on the back) for a total of five, then I’ll lay them out on the floor (no design wall yet) next to a tape measure and figure out the range of sizes I can use for the smaller pumpkin blocks.

I’m really excited about this project now that I figured out that my seam consistency problem was really my machine’s problem all along.  When I was using my 1/4″ foot, the feed dogs were too wide to both grab my fabric, so it would shoot off to the side as I sewed, even slowly.  I switched back to a regular foot and just moved my needle position so that I can line my fabric up with on the of lines on the needle plate and be sure of a 1/4″ seam.  I also bought a walking foot, which helps.  My lines are still a little curvy, but THAT’s where practice will make (almost) perfect.

Third Scrap Class

For the third scrap class, we were supposed to bring scrap strings (narrow strips of fabric).  As usual, I came with nothing and used some of the instructor’s scraps.  She said to grab random ones, but I’m not so good at that, so I grabbed blues and greens.  We sewed them together the long way, then used a 60 degree triangle ruler to cut six triangles.  She said to do the same thing again with new scraps.  I chose reds and oranges and ended the class with this:

Pieced Triangles Warm & Cool HPEach of those is a stack of six and I love love love them.

The class project was the make a star out of them with a white fabric background, and I bought the white fabric for it, but I didn’t love it.  When I put the pieces on black to take this photo, wowza!  I fell in love with it.

Now I just need to get up the courage to attempt (AGAIN) to sew straight 1/4″ seams and get this put together.  It’ll be too big for a pillow cover, so it’s going to be a wall hanging–I even know who it’ll be for.


Pumpkin Block 2

Pumpkin Block 2 HP

This one, I like.  The little stem still reads “apple” to me, but I think this pumpkin is loads cuter than the first one.  It can live on the front of Sec’s toddler bed quilt.

I realize that I like a print for the pumpkin body way more than the solid I used on the first one.  This block is a little smaller, but still close to 12″ square.  I’m planning on making a few more in this size, and then a bunch half or a third of the size, and then floating them all in a scrappy white-on-white background.

I still haven’t decided if I want to quilt it myself.  It’ll be small, so maybe, but I think (hope) it’ll turn out nice and I don’t want to ruin it by learning to free motion quilt on it.  I also don’t want to put it off until after the possible whole-cloth toddler bed quilt for Ter.

The local quilt shop gave me a local long-arm quilter’s number.  Maybe this is the quilt I have her work on first to see if I can go local or if I’ll have to send my big quilts away to get quilted.  That can get expensive, though.

Do you quilt your own quilts?  Use a local long-armer?  Use someone states away?  Let me know in the comments!

Finished Toddler Aprons!


Finished Toddler Aprons Flat HP

Finally!  I got the other eight aprons for the school(s) done.  Four will go to Sec’s teacher to join the one I already made.  The other four will go to the kids’ old school.

I still have two more cut out and with the lightweight stabilizer fused, but not yet assembled.  Those are for home use, and I’m trying to decide if I want to add a little velcro to the neck strap or not.  It would be safer, but it would get grungy fast, and might even stop working, since the strap is so narrow.  Decisions!

And another “natural” shot, so you can see the variation on the backs:

Finished Toddler Aprons Hanging HPThe more I look at the colorful stripe fabric on black, the more I like it.  Maybe it needs to be a toddler-bed quilt backing for Ter, even though he won’t move out of the crib for months yet.  Ooh!  Maybe a whole-cloth quilt so I can practice quilting?  With the white of the same print on the back?  More decisions!

I don’t love that green fabric with the state names on it.  I got it because I thought it was educational, but it’s pretty ugly.  AND, to add insult to injury, since it’s directional, I cut out two pieces upside down, since I didn’t even think about that when I was cutting, so you’ll see it again in whatever green or multicolored scrap quilts or projects I make in the future.

But look at all of the other lovely fabrics I got scraps of.  Also, see the neck straps that aren’t the multi stripe on black print?  Those are all from my eBay scrap purchase.  A couple of them were already ironed in half, like binding.  I thought they added a little more interest.

I’m so glad that these are done.  I’m putting the other two away for a while until I make a decision about the neck straps.  Of course, by then, Prim will need a longer apron.  Another problem for future me!


First Pumpkin Block

With all of the orange fabrics on hand now, I couldn’t put off starting Sec’s pumpkin quilt (I’m calling it “Pumpkin Patch” because, really) any longer, even though I’m a little intimidated by the piecing (and pressing) I’ll need to do for each block.  They’re improvisational and forgiving, but I like to feel I have a handle on what I’m doing.

First Pumpkin BlockI don’t like it.  And I couldn’t get it to lay flat for the picture, even after pressing the heck out of it.  That bottom right corner just keeps flipping up.

The pumpkin itself reads too small to me (even though this block is well over 12″), likely because of that HUGE leaf hanging over the edge.  It looks like an orange apple.  I should unpick those seams and cut the extra part of the leaf off, but I just can’t find the energy to do it.  I like the way the scrappy white-on-white background looks, though.

Bleh.  I worked so hard on it and it’s my first real quilt block.  I guess I can just put it on the back of the quilt.  Since it’s a bed quilt, the back won’t show much.

I guess I learned what not to do.  Now, only a bazillion more.  I exaggerate.  I only need half a bazillion more, since it’s a toddler bed quilt.

Progress on Aprons

Not the most scintillating post name, I know, but you get what it says on the tin.

Aprons Progress 1 HP

I finally got over my mental blocks and started cutting out all of the fabric I bought for toddler aprons.  It’s really too much and I’m going to have too many aprons at the end.  I figure I’ll send some to the kids’ old school and maybe keep a couple for the house, though I might need to modify one for my almost-four-year-old.  They’ll go over his head, but they won’t protect his trousers well.

Yes, I’m using cans of beans as pattern weights.  What of it?

I love all of these fabrics, except the one with the circles, but even it’s growing on me.  And I’ll have scraps of them all!  I probably shouldn’t get so excited about scraps, but it’s nice to come by some scraps in the usual way– that is, work on a project and have some fabric left over.  Revolutionary.

The crayon fabric is especially for my toddler who LOVES a shirt he has of a different crayon fabric, which I don’t think they make anymore.  One of those aprons is definitely going to his classroom.

Aprons Progress 2 HP


And a blurry picture of the stack of cut and paired pieces.  Now I need to motivate myself to iron the interfacing on.  That’s going to be at least an hour of wet, hot work.  The sewing should be quick after that.  (Famous last words.)

First Scrap Class

The scrap class was a lot of fun.  I had to attend with my baby, which was less fun, but he stayed quiet in his stroller through most of it.  Well, about half of it, but I’d not planned on staying the whole time anyway.  Kid’s gotta nap.

The instructor had scraps for us to use, so I didn’t have to buy and fabric, which was awesome.  I was there for all of the first project, which was sewing the 10″ blocks together around the perimeter, then cutting them into non-equal ninths, then opening them and pressing and flipping them into new combinations and sewing them back together.  I do’t have progress pictures, but here it is finished:

Scrap Block 1 Front HP

I learned that my seams are TERRIBLE.  Nothing matched.  I don’t think it’s the machine, but I can’t imagine it was me.  I was going super-slow and it should have worked.  I need to practice a lot more.  Here’s the back:Scrap Block 1 Back HP

I got my second sewed together and immediately cut it wrong, which is a shame because I really like the fabrics.  I suppose I can cut it more and use the center pinwheel and the half-square triangles for something and the rest can go in my scrap bin.

Aborted Scrap Block HP

The instructor told me to dip back into her scrap piles and try to make another block.  I managed to measure right this time for the cutting, but my seams were still awful.

Scrap Block 2 Front HP

I have a picture of the back, but I’ll spare you.  I chose fabrics I thought Prim would like, but I have no idea how to use this in anything, short of cutting it up and salvaging the owl on the bottom right.  I guess these two blocks will form the beginning of the “orphan blocks” pile.

The second project was English Paper Piecing.  She gave us each a 3″ paper hexagon (3″ for one side, 6″ from point to point) and some fabric to loop over the shape and baste closed through the paper.  Then we were supposed to sew them together on one edge to make a needle book (or something? I dunno).  I had to leave before really working on this, but I did take some very cool fabrics and cut them to size.  Who has time for hand sewing anyway?

Scrap Class Hexes HP

And if I really wanted to make a needle book, I’d make it more like a rectangular book so it would be more stable.

See, super-cool fabrics.  Now I’m thinking I need to use them for something and they’re already cut so much that if I cut them more, I’ll lose the interplay of shapes in the fabrics.  <sigh>  Well, these’ll go in my “I just don’t know and even if I did, I need more skills” pile.  I have a feeling a lot of things from this class are going to end up in that pile.

Bonus front of onion fabric picture:

Scrap Class Hex 2 HP

Fixed Apron Strap

I’ve been thinking about quilting all week, but I made myself shorten the strap of the toddler apron I made, as well as the existing ones in the classroom.  The teacher said they were all too long and I wanted her to have useful aprons while I worked on the new ones.  I couldn’t bring myself to do all of the cutting and ironing-on of interfacing.  Bleh, ironing, especially with a damp pressing cloth.

The strap fixes turned out okay except for the one where I cut the diagonal wrong.  (See?  I’ll need that skill for binding my future quilts.)  But I patched it with a different print and it’s not too bad.

Fixed Apron Detail HP

I felt bad about it since the one I messed up was one of the ones from the classroom, not the one I made.  But I fixed it and it’s a Montessori classroom, so they’re all about making mistakes and learning and fixing.

Fixed Apron HP

Maybe it’s even a little fun?  I went for a contrasting fabric on purpose since there was no disguising what had happened.

You’ll note the pockets on this apron.  The teacher said they weren’t necessary on the ones I made, so the project became that much easier for me.  She said what I thought, that the kids just filled them with dirt and random stuff and they caused more harm than good.

Anyhow, this part is done.

I’m searching for scraps.  I wish I had sewing/crafting friends.  I signed up to take a “Scrap Quilt” class at the local quilt shop, so maybe they’ll have some leads on scraps.  I feel kind of silly buying fabric for a scrap class, but I’m going to have to.  They said to bring 10″ squares for the first class.  I don’t think a 10″ square is a scrap, but to each her own.