Friday, February 26, 2010

Works In Progress

Hello! I haven't forgotten to post (although it does seem like ages since I did...), but I have been a busy little bee. I'm working on a couple of projects and one tutorial for you, but they're not quite finished just yet. So, just to whet your appetite, I'm posting a couple of pictures...I should have them all ready to go in the next couple of days, so be sure to check back!
Isn't that great material? Cheerful and makes me think of spring - a hard thing to do when it's snowing and icy out.
This is a little business card holder I made for the Lumberjack, it's super-simple, and the tutorial will show you how to make one - in less than an hour, I swear.

Have a great weekend!


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Smocked, or Shirred, Sundress

I came across a book by Heather Ross in the bookstore the other day called "Weekend Sewing" - and just loved some of the patterns inside, but wasn't ready to spend the $20-something on it. I thought I would scope out the internet for a used copy, but instead I discovered that she's quite popular (I feel sooo out of touch sometimes!). What I also discovered was that many, many people have tried her pattern directions and found them, well, horrible. But really, they aren't complicated pieces, so how bad could they be? Stubborn as I am, I had to try myself. So, when I ran across this article, I decided to give it a whirl. And boy, oh boy, were the people right! She made a very, very, ridiculously simple sundress difficult! So, here is my revised directions on how to do this (and if you like hers better, by all means do whichever one is easiest for you - that's the whole point, right??).

Pick a nice material that you like, but it should be light and fold easily - I use quilting fabric (shocking, I know), but it's perfect - and you get some awesome patterns. To figure out how much you need, measure the chest and double that. Now measure from the armpit to wherever you would like the dress to end and add 1". For example, the ones I made for my daughter I wanted them to be knee length. Her chest is 18" and the length from her armpit to her knee was 14.5". So, I need a piece that is 36" x 15.5" (but I'll just round up to 16" on the length. Make sense?

(Note: I'm pretty sure this would also work for adults - if you wanted to make a dress or top for yourself. I'm planning on trying it out on myself soon, and I'll let you know the results. But if you beat me to it, let me know!).

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming....

Once you have your piece cut out, you will fold the material with right sides facing legthwise (so the short ends meet).

Sew a 1/2" seam allowance along this edge.

Iron seam flat and topstich (or zigzag stitch the edges together inside, or both, whatever you prefer).

On each of your raw edges (aka the top and bottom of the dress) fold material over to the wrong side 1/4" and then again by 1/4" and either pin or iron down (or both).

Sew close to the edge.

You should now have a wonderful tube of fabric, with all finished edges, like so:

Now wind your bobbin with elastic thread (tip: don't wind it loosely or it won't work, trust me on this one! Make sure there is some good tension in the thread, but not too tight.).

For the shirring, you can either draw the lines on (as described in the Heather Ross instructions), or you can use the edge of your sewing foot as the guide. I used the sewing foot - it's quicker, but if you want wide shirring then you will want to mark it.

Before you sew your first line, make sure that your stitch length is as long as possible. Sew your first line, and remember to sew with the right side of your material facing up.Don't panic if it doesn't look as tight as you would like - it should look something like this.

It will tighten up with each additional row added and when you dampen it after you're done.

I used the stitch from the top hem as the guide for my first line (which also happens to fall at the 5/8" mark on my machine).

I have read conflicting reports on whether or not to backstitch when using elastic thread. Personally, I prefer to tie the loose ends from the beginning and end together, that way I know for certain it won't come undone.

Anyway, once you've sewn on as many lines as you want (I did 6 - that's when my bobbin ran out). Then take out a spray bottle with water, or a steamy hot iron, and dampen the material - the elastic will get tighter and not look quite so stretched out as it does while you're sewing.

Finally, for your shoulder straps, you can either make straps using any leftover material from the dress, or you can use ribbon, bias tape, rickrack, etc. There are a lot of options. For one I used red twill tape and for another I used ribbon. I used 10" for each piece of strap, for a total of 40".

Try the dress on and mark where you would like the shoulder straps to sit and then sew to the inside of the dress - sew along your original hem line and this should hide it from the front. As well, if you ever want to change the straps, you can easily rip out the stitches and add new ones in.

The great thing about this dress is the fun you can have with it - there are so many options - and the speed you can complete one (I made two in one night, after the little ones went down). From the material patterns, to the colour of thread used for the shirring, to the type of hem you do (I had a little fun with two of the hems I did - see below):

You can also use all kinds of things for the shoulder straps (as I noted earlier), and as it's such a simple dress you can add appliques, buttons, bows, rosettes, etc. to spice them up. So, I say - have fun with this one!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

So I Tried Something New...

 I had some wonderful batik fat quarters sitting in my stash and every time I looked at them I thought "I want to do something kind of cool with them"...but didn't have any idea what that would be. The colours are so vibrant (I couldn't get a picture that did them justice, but this is a close-up of all four).

Then one day I thought I would do my own version of the Disappearing Nine Patch that I wrote about earlier. I had enough to make a small baby quilt - a little under 40"x40", and what a great baby quilt - kids love the bright colours, and there are certainly parents who prefer something a little less pastel in nature.

So...I cut all my FQ's into 5" squares (72 total), and then made a pile of 9 patches - 8 total (if you're new to quilting, check out my earlier entries that will get you through the basic steps for this).

And of course (sigh), you have to iron all your seams down.

Okay, once that tedious little task is over, I want you to pull out your mat, cutter, and ruler. What I decided to do was to cut the 9 patch on the diagonal, from corner to corner, instead of vertically and horizontally. I am positive there is an actual name for this out there somewhere (or at least a more refined way of doing this), but I couldn't find one - so if you know of one, please share, I would love to know about it!

Okay, back to work. So, you will take your 9 patch, and make one cut diagonally from one corner to the other. As the squares aren't always perfect, I lined up with the corners of the centre square instead of the actual edges of the 9 patch.

Now you have two identical triangles. For speed, I lay one on top of the other (lining up the seams on the inside square, as shown).
 Use the grid on your mat to line up the centre of the triangle.

Cut directly down the middle.

There will now be 4 triangles.

Do this with all of your 9 patches. You've got yourself a new square now. Before you move ahead you may want to lay them out on a table or the floor in order to play with the layout a little bit, which is how I worked on mine.

Once you have your layout settled, sew together each paired triangle along the long edge. Then sew your squares together, one row at a time (ironing the seams down once you're done!), and then sew your four rows together, and iron. Your quilt top is now done. That was pretty easy, right?

Baste, layer, quilt, and bind. You're done!

Hope you like this one - if you make something with it, please let me know, I would love to see it.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lap Quilt

I've been keeping busy in my spare moments over the last couple of days working on a lap quilt for the Lumberjack, and the Little Lumberjack. It's not easy to find material for a quilt for boys - so when I saw the new flannel material from Moda, Creekside Trail, I knew I had to snap some up in a hurry. Which I did - months ago. I wanted to get this finished for Valentine's Day, so I finally put my head down and got to it.

I wanted a simple, but not too fancy pattern for this one, so I looked up a favourite of mine from the Moda Bake Shop site - Lap Quilt "In A Jiffy" - I think you're going to love it. I've used her cutting tip for this quilt I did a while back:

I don't have pics of the new quilt just yet, but as soon as I do, they will be posted. I can say that when you use a Layer Cake for this pattern, you really are done "In A Jiffy" - and it also let's you see larger patterns that would otherwise get sliced and diced into nothingness with smaller squares.

While you're checking out her pattern, take a peek around the rest of the Moda Bake Shop, then add it to your favourites, just like I did once I found it.:)


Monday, February 8, 2010

Snowball Quilt

Clearly the crafty side of my brain is open to persuasion from the weather on the other side of the window. Our next quilt features the Snowball square. Although this is a relatively simple square to complete, it is rather more time-consuming than others I have discussed here. But so cute - I mean really, check that out - isn't it adorable?

Try to ignore the cards hanging around in the background, that's another project I'm working on.

Anyhow - onto how to complete this. As you can see, it is called the snowball square as they kind of look like, well, snowballs. But - you can do whatever you like with this - and should! I happened to have a lot of white squares that I was saving to use for just the right quilt, and this turned out to be it. I also had some pretty fat quarters sitting quietly in my stash that were just right. So, onto what you will need for this!

1 yard of "snowball" fabric (cut to 49 - 5" squares, I used white)
196 - 2" squares (I used 4 different colours, 49 of each colour - that was my four fat quarters with lots left over. If you are using all one colour, you will need 1/2 yard of fabric.)
1 1/2 yards sashing and backing, cut to:
         2 - 3"x34" strips for sashing
         2 - 3"x40" strips for sashing
         remainder for backing

Once all your squares have been cut, you will be sewing on four of the 2" squares to each corner of your 5" squares (make sure the right sides are facing each other!). You can pin each square and then use a ruler and tailor's chalk to draw a straight line through each. I found this to be little time consuming and that the pieces were quite easy to work with, but I did need help with the straight line, so I lined up a piece of tape on my sewing machine to run perpendicular to my needle and used that as a guide (lining up opposing corners). This saved quite a bit of time, and may or may not work for you (use whichever method is most comfortable for you.

When you begin sewing, I do suggest using the chain piecing method (I'm almost positive that's what it's called...). This is when you are sewing several of the same pieces at the same time - you sew the first, then let the machine sew a couple of empty stitches (until the first piece is no longer under your presser foot), then continue on to your next piece, without cutting the thread from the first. This will save you both time, and thread! I use this method whenever I can with great success!

Once you have all four corners of your 5" square sewn with a 2" square, then grab your ruler and rotary cutter and trim each corner off 1/4" from your seam (to the right of the seam!).

Personally, I'm keeping all my little corners since I'm sure there has to be something I can do with them, so if you have any ideas, please share. Back at the you need to iron each square open - be sure to iron your seams towards your darker material. You should now have 49 brand new 5" squares. The rest is easy as pie!

I had to choose how I wanted the colours to come together at the corners once they were sewn together. Here were the options I was considering.
1. All four colours meeting in the middle:
 2. All the same colour meeting in the middle:
3. Two colours meeting in the middle:

In the end, I chose to use the last sample - this would give the quilt a nice uniform pattern. To get this, just sew all your squares together into 7 rows of 7 squares each - making sure that all the squares are rotated the same way.

Iron your seams! Then, when you are ready to sew the rows together, just rotate every other row 180 degrees. Easy peasy.

Once all your rows are sewn together, and you have ironed your seams down, you will sew your sashings on - first sew your 34" to two opposing sides (doesn't matter which sides you choose). Iron your seams and then trim off the excess.

Then sew on your 40" pieces to the top and bottom. Iron your seams and trim the excess.

Layer, baste/pin, quilt and bind. I decided that the best choice for this quilt was to quilt "in the ditch", and I think it looks wonderful. Also, as I had more than enough material left over from my fat quarters for this project, I sewed four blocks together and used them as part of the backing - I think it's nice to do something a little special for the back, if you have the time and the material left over. What do you think?

Isn't it cute? Go on, show everyone you know!

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