Friday, December 3, 2010

My First Tutorial! Child's Artist Beret

Wow, I don't know about you, but this is pretty exciting for me. This is my first tutorial on this blog. I'm going to show it as a post here, but I've also made it into a PDF. It may take some wrangling for me to figure out how to add that...but it's done and just a matter of getting it to work.

I blogged about making 25 of these last winter for my daughter's kindergarten class. They were doing a unit on "Fine Art", so to get themselves in the mood to work like artists, they each wore a beret, like Vincent Van Gogh, or, if you prefer, Fancy Nancy. When the teacher asked me to make them, she gave me a photocopied sheet of someone's hand written directions. Immediately I thought I should do a tutorial, and here we are, a good 7 months later. All in good time.

Please, please, share any comments or suggestions you have if you make any of these. Without further ado...

Child’s Beret – A la Fancy Nancy or Van Gogh, or whomever your favorite artist might be

18” square piece of craft felt
2 yards of double fold bias tape
2 ½ yards of ¼” elastic
Coordinating thread


1. Cut an 18” diameter circle from your felt

2. Pin the bias tape, open side towards the cut felt edge ¼” from the edge. Do not overlap the ends of the bias tape, but put the two cut edges as close together as you can. (See Image A) The closer you’re able to get them, while not overlapping, the better the beret will sit evenly and the more “round” looking it will appear.

3. Stitch along the open edge of the bias tape, as close as you can to the edge, ensuring that you stitch through both layers. I suggest pinning a lot. This seems to help keep the layers from slipping apart, which the bias tape seems to do when you’re not looking!

4. Make sure you leave enough room in the “pocket” of the bias tape to slide the elastic through.

5. Put a safety pin through the end of the elastic to make it easier to pull through your “pocket” of bias tape. Start at one end of the opening, and slide the elastic through, all the way around your beret. Try to keep it as flat as possible as you do this, it will help to make the beret sit flatter on your child’s head.

6. Pull the ends of the elastic together to tighten the circle up and create your beret. Use your child’s head as a guide for how large or small you need the hat to be. Knot both ends of the elastic, but DO NOT CUT IT.

7. You can knot the two pieces together and tuck them up inside the beret to keep the size steady. The reason for not cutting is that you can adjust the size as your child grows.

8. Make a tiny slit (and I mean tiny!) at the very center of the beret. You can use yarn, ribbon, or rickrack folded in half to make a loop. Once your loop is folded in half, push the folded end through the slit in the center of the beret. You can either knot them together, or make 3-4 stitches to hold it in place. (Image B)

9. Voila! You have a fancy beret to inspire your little artist to make wonderful creations. (Image C)

So run, run to make your kids some berets so they can make you some FINE refrigerator art.

Monday, November 29, 2010

UFO! Baby Clothes Blanket for Jane

Because a pretty big portion of my sewing gets done in the dark (aka before sunrise) I figured what better way to photograph this baby clothes blanket than with the morning sun coming up. I made a promise to myself that I wanted better blog pictures, so I braved the cold this morning and went out on the back porch to find some natural light.

This is a small lap quilt I made out of baby clothes sent to me by my sweetie's cousin. They are from her youngest daughter (she has three, which means there are two more projects quickly to follow behind!). The back is a crib sheet. The bag of sweet baby things has been in my sewing room since JULY! Now, in the land of my sewing room, that might not even qualify for a UFO, just something that I've put down for a few days.

Jessica asked me to make something simple (thank GOD) with squares and triangles. So every time the mood struck me, I'd carefully go through the pile and cut a few more squares. When the pile looked pretty big...I started sewing. Not very scientific, or very organized, but I have to tell you, I love the way this came out.

Of course you can see that my quilting leaves SO much to be desired still...but I did learn a whole bunch of things while I was working on this project.

1. Different fabrics, even when cut into relatively small pieces, can still give you loads of trouble trying to sew straight, with even stitches.

2. Using an insane number of pins for binding makes all the difference in how straight the stitching comes out. (Speaking of which, I see some people use those hair clips to hold their you?? why?? is there something I should know about binding using hair clips?)

3. Cats love baby clothes to lay on even more than freshly laundered fabric.

4. For some reason, the sweetness of upcycling a baby's things, even when it's not your own baby, makes the project really enjoyable. I can just imagine the adorable skirts and dresses on my cousin-in-law's daughter, and I hope she loves seeing her things made into a blanket she can keep forever.

5. I have given myself permission to love satin blanket binding. It reminds me of being little myself. I always had blankets with that kind of binding on my bed, and they seemed so glamorous to me then! I had to press into half size, or it would have taken up too much of the outer squares, but it really looks cute with the clothes. It would have taken me 10 years to make a binding out of the tiny clothes I had left.

Of course, I did all of this cutting before I bought my AccuQuilt Go! cutter the other day. I got it at Joann for $199. I've been searching and hunting for it, to find the lowest price possible, and I snagged it as soon as I saw the flyer come out. I'll be cutting my next quilt with it, so I'll tell you all about how much I love it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Starry Night BOM #5

It's so hard to believe, but FIVE months have gone by. I don't think that's one of the goals of BOM clubs, but boy do they help you see how quickly time passes.

This is my fifth block.

I actually ripped out one of the rows and re-sewed it because it was so far off. I do see progress in the tightness of my corners, but boy, do I still have a long way to go.

I also signed up for a Sharon Pederson, Roses of Rememberance applique BOM that starts in January. I'm really excited about that because I have almost no experience with applique.

My next pictures will be of the baby clothes blanket I'm making for a family member. It's all cut and laid out, all that's left is the fun part...SEWING!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Babies, Babies everywhere

For the last week, the only sewing I've done is to make two baby blankets. They're done in the style of one of the projects in Betz White's book Warm Fuzzies. I've made so many variations of these great blankets since first buying Betz' book it seems. It's such a quick project, and people really seems to love them.

The first one is a very small version, for my cousin's newly adopted son, Jaden. Dave and his wife traveled all the way to Korea, and are home with their amazing new family addition. This one is traditional blues and greys.

The second was for a co-worker, who is going to his niece's christening later this week. This blanket is for a baby who lives in Miami, so the backing is quilting cotton instead of flannel. One thing we talked about is that even though they're in Miami, everything is air conditioned, so a warm blanket is still top on a new baby's list.

I try to include some vintage trim on every blanket. It feels more personal to me that way. And bigger babies and toddlers seem to like the textures to run little fingers over.

You'd think I'd learn my lesson about taking photos indoors. No more. Chilly weather or no, back outside I go. The colors are just not vibrant enough.

Up next...I picked up my November BOM project, and I have a blanket started made out of actual baby clothes. Should be fun! The blocks look really cute so far.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Wonderful Non-Sewing Weekend

I hope I don't disappoint, but this post will have nothing to do with sewing other than a reference to my NEXT post. My husband and I went to NYC overnight to go see my favorite musician ever, Bob Mould at City Winery. I've seen him probably 5-6 times before, but I go any chance I get. Besides, it was a nice excuse for a quick getaway. One of the benefits of being so close to New York.

City Winery is a great venue to see musicians. You are close enough to feel like they are performing just for you, and yet the acoustics are amazing. I was 5 seats back from the stage and in sheer heaven.

Saturday morning, we started our day with a breakfast at Katz Deli (a la When Harry Met Sally). Who doesn't like pickles with their corned beef breakfast??

Then we walked all the way downtown and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was so much fun.

This is what you see when you hit the boards that are actually the bridge. Funny, I couldn't decide if they were trying to say "yes, you CAN walk here" or something else. But I loved these walking men.

Then we have Rob, camera ready to take great shots of this really cool landmark. His pictures are amazing, and I'll have to post a link to his site. Mine are just barely enough to remember where I went and what I saw. As you can see, a lot of my pictures are of him, taking pictures!

Then my sweetie did the "hold the phone out and snap a picture of ourselves" thing. I actually think it's cool because you can see the bridge in the background.

If all of that wasn't exciting enough, on Sunday, we got in the car and told the kids we had a "HUGE" surprise for them. They have been begging for a dog for what feels like forever. Every now and then, either I would look at rescue dogs, or Rob would. And we would email each other pictures of ones we thought might be a good fit for our family. It was pretty whirlwind, and after all of this waiting, actually a pretty impulsive feeling decision, but we made an appointment to meet Ellie on Saturday and went to get her on Sunday.

We got her from Companion Pet Rescue, a great rescue and transport group that brings dogs up from Tennessee. Ellie was found pregnant in a field there. All of her puppies were adopted, and she was left. She is friendly, happy, housetrained, affectionate and basically, all around perfect for our family. We couldn't be happier.

I did manage to sneak in a little sewing on Sunday afternoon. I made a blanket and a half for my cousin's new adopted son, and for a co-worker going to a christening. I'll post pictures of those next. I also made great progress on my first tutorial. It's all written, and pictures taken. I just need to make it into a pretty PDF to link for folks to be able to print out.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fall Quilt Market 2010 - My Whirlwind Version

Last weekend I went to QuiltMarket for the second time. It was a completely different trip from my first Quiltmarket this spring in Minneapolis. Last time, I went to meet people, get the lay of the land, and experience what exactly this whole “Market” thing is about. The intention was that when I came back in the fall, to pitch my fabric line, I wouldn’t be so intimidated. Oh. Well. So much for that.

Ever since my trip in May, I’ve been working on my fabric line. I’d been compiling a book of “inspiration” long before that. I ended up with five designs in three colorways that I was happy with. Ones that I felt were strong enough to be presented. I had loads of other designs that I had started on, that were either unfinished, or “unworthy”.

I had the guide from the Minneapolis market, so I reached out to a number of companies to make appointments to show my work. After all was said and done, I had four set appointments and a few “stop bys”.

I met with the Art Directors of companies, and got some great, solid feedback. There were shortcomings in my line, which were universally pointed out by all of the companies. The positive in that, is that because the feedback was so consistent, I know exactly what I need to do to fix it. The negative part was that I had to hear “we need more than this” so many times in a row.

My path ahead is quite clear. I know exactly what I need to do. Three of the four Art Directors clearly said, make the changes and come back to me. That’s a heck of a lot better than “take this junk out of my booth and don’t ever come back here”.

One of my big goals is to blog about my sewing adventures, at a minimum of once a week. My goal for 2011 is twice a week. I hope you’ll all hold me to it.

Until then, here are the few measly pictures I took of quilt market between my appointments:

My roomie and pattern designer, fabric designer, all around sewing guru extraordinaire Bari’s amazing first booth ever

AMAZING and so Bari...loved it.

A bad blurry shot of the amazing Amy Butler’s booth, with her raincoat (I already have this pattern; I’m waiting to find just the right laminate to make it in).

And a really great quilt in Tula Pink’s booth with modern graphic alphabet letters.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This Week's Projects

This whole BOM thing is working out pretty nicely. I can usually get them done in about 45 minutes or so and I really feel like I accomplished something. Here is this month's block. I was really happy with how my points came out, until I saw what they looked like in the photo! I tried doing all of the light points first this time, just to try something new. It seemed to help with those points, but then, some of the others seemed more off as a result. Hmmmm.

My second quick project for the long weekend was this ADORABLE bag, in the Fall 2010 issue of Quilts & More magazine. The pattern is by Monica Solorio-Snow, also known as Happy Zombie. She is amazingly talented, and this quick bag is one example.

In the magazine they're shown with "treats" for Halloween, but I made mine with something else in mind. I used some Amy Butler Love for the main body and some Oliver & S City Weekend for the coordinating bottom and inside (one of my spring Quiltmarket Sample Spree scores!).

It is the perfect size and shape to hold a gift card with a little bit of tissue sticking out. I'm going to make a whole bunch of these for teacher gifts for the holidays to put coffee gift cards in. I'll probably make some for the friends and family too. They go together super quickly, about 35 minutes for my first one (bet I'll be a lot faster now too) and they are like instant gratification. I also used some vintage grosgrain ribbon from my stash. What's better than that?

I'm trying to work on a last round of edits for my designs that I'm taking to Quiltmarket at the end of the month. I can't wait to share how that goes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Green Living Market Bag by Bari J

I am so proud to be sharing this great pattern with you all! It's super usable tote bag, designed by my Quiltmarket roomie and designer extraordinaire, Bari Ackerman of Bari J. Designs and Keeping it Real Sewing Patterns.

This is the cover of the pattern.

The first time I made this pattern up it was as a pattern tester for Bari. One thing I really love about her patterns is that they give very clear directions, and usually pictures of the more difficult steps in the pattern. Another great feature is her "keeping it real" commentary. These are tips Bari includes from having made the pattern multiple times, and great bits of info about how to avoid snags, or mistakes. This was my first Green Living Market Bag made up in Bari's Full Bloom line of fabrics.

I love the vintage look with the roses in the fabric and the velveteen ribbon.

The other two bags are both made with Bari's Country Lane line of fabric. One thing I really enjoy about Bari's designs and color palettes is just how many different ways you can mix them up. I could easily have mixed these in other combinations and come up with almost endless variations.

This version, again, is softer and more feminine. The biggest challenge for me with this pattern is sewing on the bottom triangles. Once you construct the bottom using french seams (great technique by the way, really makes the bag look finished, and much sturdier), you fold up the corners to make the bottom flat. See the last photo for a good shot of this.

I don't know about anyone else, but my Pfaff does not seem to like going through that may layers of fabric. I tried using different needles, I tried sewing very slowing. I broke multiple needles and kept getting my motor jammed. What worked best for me was to hand turn the wheel for 3 stitches through the thickest part. Works like a charm and gets through the super thick corner. Again, in Bari's tips, she addresses this.

This last red and blue version just knocks my socks off. I think I'll be keeping this one. A great part of this pattern is that the ribbon is used to tie the bag up so you can keep it in your purse, briefcase, diaper bag, or car for whenever you need to schlep stuff. For me, that is a very common occurrence!

After I made these three versions, I think overall the time it took was 2 hours for each one, start to finish, including cutting, sewing and pressing. Really quick if you need to bring a gift to someone, or want to change out your look with the seasons.

Bari has also written a book, Inspired to Sew, that is due out in January. It has wonderful projects ranging from small and quick to complex and fabulous. The photographs are gorgeous and inspiring.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Starry Night BOM #3

Hello everyone! I am suffering from tremendous guilt over not having posted in so long. I've been working on the same stuff, what feels like forever.

I'm back in the saddle though, and I whipped up my latest BOM in the last few days in my little 20 minute stints in the morning before I get the kids ready for school.

As usual, my corners aren't great, but I do feel like I'm improving. I think from far away, the block will look pretty. You just have to squint...

Here are the three blocks that I've done so far. Truth be told, they don't look too much like they are a set to me...but you never know. Once they're all done, if it looks like the picture we got at the beginning, it'll be beautiful.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Starry Night BOM #2 - Much better!

I'm not sure if I mentioned this with my last block, but when I was at the fabric store buying that first block, I saw a co-worker there. She bought the other colorway, and we agreed to bring our blocks into work each month to share what they came out like. She emailed me last week, and said she was going to the shop last Monday and would I like my 2nd block. Well heck yeah! Sew Inspired actually had the blocks for August ready last week, a week early!

Peggy (my co-worker) had hers done two days after she delivered me my block, so embarrassed by her diligence, I got right to work on mine.

I actually think my second block came out MUCH better. My corners are much more exact. The only thing I don't really love is the way the lime and purple look together with the black. It has a Halloween-y sort of feel to me. But I do think that mixed with the other blocks it will be pretty.

This is what the first block looked like.

And here's a pic of the finished project, I don't think I shared this last time.

I've been working on garments so much that I forget how exacting you need to be with quilting. It's actually fun for me now to go back and forth between the two. What do you think? Do you like garment sewing better, or quilting and why??

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Starry Night BOM #1

The first BOM I joined, I only managed to get through 5 of. They came with a "class" and I just couldn't get there. This BOM is with Sew Inspired in Simsbury, CT. A fantastic store, that seems to "get" how to manage all of the details of these things.

The group is called Starry Night because they are inspired by Vincent Van Gogh. There were two colorways to choose from. Black, blue and green or black, yellow and red. Funny, I chose the darker colors thinking the wouldn't show dirt as much.

Here is my finished first block.

I am definitely getting better at cutting, but you can clearly see that my top border is not even. Nor do the squares line up with the side sashing. I WAS pretty happy with my points, but I realized that I had sewn a few of the boxes in the wrong order and had to unsew them and resew. Of course, the second time, the points were not as even. Finally, the center had just the tiniest bit too much fabric, and it puckered when I sewed the four boxes together.

Of course, these are all comments for a "perfect" square. Overall, I'm actually happy with it. I think the colors are going to be really pretty together. And I'll take all the practice I can get.

This block took me 1/2 hour to cut, and about 1 hour to sew (counting the unsewing and resewing!).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bare Feet Only - My first floor mat

This is a huge accomplishment for me. I am the Queen of unfinished projects. Or, if you like a positive spin, the Queen of started projects. This great rug I started a mere 3 weeks ago!!

I got a wonderful package of fat quarters from my super creative buddy Bari of her Art Journal line. The colors just jumped out at me and screamed "make something with us!". And I happened to have this pattern on my cutting table, because I was thinking it was an "achievable" project, and VOILA! I'm pretty sure I got the pattern from Above All Fabric. The idea of a sewn floor mat/rug just seemed SO cool to me.

The pattern is "Bare Feet Only" by Sweetwater. There were only three pieces to cut (6 of each), but that was a bit deceiving. I really had trouble making the circular trim pieces neat. They are only about 1/2 inch wide, and clearly, I flunked kindergarten, because I can't cut on a line to save my life it seems. I also found it challenging to cut the double sided interfacing for these pieces. By the time I was done my pattern piece was a mess, and I wished I had traced it and left it in the pattern. I will have a hard time if I try to use this pattern again.

I just love the little nests in this fabric, and I managed to find the most perfect pearlized teal buttons in my vintage button stash. They match the teal really well. The sewing itself for this pattern was simple, however, I had a few problems there, too.

I realized how difficult it is to zigzag stitch around a flower and make it neat and even. When I took the rug out of the sewing machine to examine my work I was surprised just how non-curved some of my sewing was. That having been said, I managed to convince myself it looked "authentic" that way. Ha ha!

I didn't have enough large pieces of the Art Journal for the back so I went to Sew Inspired and found this Art Gallery fabric that I think coordinates really well. The Art Gallery fabric has the most wonderful feel to it, but it's a bit more silky than a lot of cottons I've sewn with, and it didn't hold with the adhesive spray as well as I am accustomed to.

The result was that the back of the rug ended up having a bit too much fabric and being sort of bunchy. Overall, I am not thrilled with the workmanship on this project. I sort of see it as a prototype or a sample. I wanted to see what the whole process was like more than I wanted it to be perfect.

That having been said, I am THRILLED with my binding this time. A wonderful blog reader, Sara Strange (find her blog "Joy in Everything" here), posted a comment about my first quilt binding with a link to a Monkey See video for slip stitching. WOW!! The video made it super clear what I wasn't doing right before, and after seeing the video just once, my binding went from so-so and unattractive to just exactly what I wanted. Thank you Sara!

My daughter has already claimed this rug. She loves the colors and the "cute little birdies". I can't wait to upload these pics to Bari's flickr group. I am crazy excited to be pumping out projects at this rate.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

McCall's 5430 Vacation Skirt in gorgeous Timber Fabric

So this is the skirt that is one of my four projects from vacation. I did everything but the buttonhole, which I did when I got home this week. I got the Gingko Timber fabric (by Jessica Levitt) at Purl Soho when we were there this winter. I just fell in love with the colors.

I chose this pattern because I wear a lot of A-line style skirts. I think they flatter me best, and they are super comfortable and easy to move around in. Now, I don't know WHO on earth they had write this pattern up, but "skirt in an hour" is just hogwash. The pattern was fairly easy to follow, but the cutting alone took me 25 minutes. Then there was the interfacing, which took another 15. This, by the way, was NOT clear in the pattern, I put interfacing on more pieces than I needed to. Of course, if I did more than scan the directions, I might have looked at the pictures on the last page showing which pieces needed interfacing. Alas, I thought to myself "it's only going to take me an hour, how confusing can it be????" Am I the only one who deludes themselves with these thoughts?

That having been said, the only other thing that took time was adjusting the small amount of gathering to get all that fabric inside the curved waist band. Not difficult, just sort of "picky" work. NOT a one hour skirt. A two hour skirt, yes. But to my mathematical mind, they were off by 100%!!

I am very pleased with the final garment. I will definitely make another one. I made version A. I might try to make the version with the pockets next time. I did submit this also, to the Sew Mama Sew "Sew it Wear it" Challenge group on flikr. Some great submissions there, if you like to see what other folks are making.

Up next, I'm hoping to FINALLY finish the small round rug I'm working on. Super cute so far, and likely a gift for my mom. Pictures coming shortly...