Holiday Gifts 2014

I hope you are all having a wonderful and joyous end of 2014!  Now that the gift giving portion of the holidays is winding down, I thought I would take a moment to share a few of the gifts I created for family members this year.

I love these tote bags!  I originally created the pattern for these a few years ago when I was teaching a class to college students involving beginning sewing techniques.  I have done some revisions, and I will offer a series of tutorials for developing your own version of this bag in January.  We will start with drafting your own pattern, and move through the entire construction process.  I hope some of you may want to join in the fun!

Tote Bag A

Tote Bags


 

I posted about these cord/coin pouches last week, but I love to see all six lined up and ready for my older nieces, nephews, and their significant others!

Cord Pouches

Cord/Coin Pouches

 

I gave my parents a joint gift, but I rounded it out with these potholders for my Mom.  They are improvisationally pieced and quilted, so each one is unique.  I quilted them with Insul-Bright and a layer of cotton batting, and chose fabrics that won’t stain very easily, so I hope she will be able to use them for years to come.

Oven Mitts - Front View

Oven Mitts – Front View

Oven Mitts - Back View

Oven Mitts – Back View

In retirement, my Dad has taken on a lot of the grocery shopping, and he is really good about taking reusable bags with him to the store.  Some of the store bags have seen better days, so I made a new one using the tote bag pattern I used for my sister’s gifts.  I used a double layer of denim for this bag and omitted the exterior pockets.  It seems really sturdy.  If this works well, I’ll have to make a few more!

Grocery Bag

Denim Grocery Tote

 

I hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to a fabulous 2015!

 

I am linking this post to Santa’s Sweatshop Linky Party at Porch Swing Quilts and TGIFF hosted this week by Sew Fresh Quilts.  I hope you all take a few minutes to stop by and look at all of the lovely work being done!

Solstice Mini Quilt

I always get excited for Winter Solstice.  The last few weeks have been particularly dreary, and that coupled with the short amount of daylight everyday has made it feel like it is perpetually either dusk or night.  But solstice means we have made it to the shortest day of the year, and for the next six months we will have more daylight every day.  I felt like doing a little something to celebrate, so I designed this mini quilt.

Winter Solstice Quilt

Winter Solstice Quilt


I decided to feature evergreens since they are about the only sign of plant life this time of year in the midwestern US.  I also wanted to embrace modern shapes, and lately I have been thinking of doing something with a “Flying Geese” motif.  After some very rough sketches, I sat down to draft and eventually landed on this design.  The flying geese are paper pieced in wedges, with each triangle growing smaller as it reaches the top of the tree.  The Wedges are then joined with the background pieces to construct the overall pattern for the design.

Solstice Trees Line Drawing

Solstice Trees Line Drawing

Once the line drawing was done, I moved to color options.  I started with a standard landscape color scheme with green trees and blue sky, but quickly abandoned it.

Solstice Mini Quilt with "Standard" Color Scheme

Solstice Mini Quilt with “Standard” Color Scheme

Then I decided to try something monochromatic.

Solstice Mini Quilt in a Monochromatic Color Scheme

Solstice Mini Quilt in a Monochromatic Color Scheme

Then I went with something more high contrast and modern.

Solstice Mini Quilt in High contrast Modern Color Scheme

Solstice Mini Quilt in High contrast Modern Color Scheme

Finally, I realized that since I am thinking of this quilt as a celebration of Solstice, maybe I should embrace a dark background.

Solstice Mini Quilt with a Dark Background

Solstice Mini Quilt with a Dark Background

This is where I was wanting to go with project.  With a general color scheme decided, I went to raid the stash.  I had quite a few low volume prints and batiks in pale greys and blues, but the darker fabric proved more challenging.  In an effort to decrease her stash, my mom had given me pretty much free reign in her collection.  That is where I came across this fabulous piece of Hoffman woodblock print.  The photographs just don’t do this fabric justice- the color variation is delightfully subtle with a wide range of hues that played nicely with the low volume fabrics for the trees.

Solstice Quilt Fabric Selection

Solstice Quilt Fabric Selection

The block design for this quilt is about 18″ so I printed it out over several sheets of paper, taped them together, and cut out the pattern pieces.

Solstice Mini Quilt Paper Pattern Pieces

Solstice Mini Quilt Paper Pattern Pieces

I paper pieced the tree wedges and laid them out with the background pieces so I could keep all of the pieces in their appropriate orientations.

Solstice Mini Quilt with "Tree" wedges assembled

Solstice Mini Quilt with “Tree” wedges assembled

I assemble the quilt top by first joining each tree to the background piece to its right, and then sewing all of those pieces together.

Solstice Mini Quilt Top

Solstice Mini Quilt Top

I almost went with a single piece of fabric for the back of the quilt, but decided at the last minute to mix it up just a little bit.  I decided to echo the idea of the evergreen tree on the back of the quilt as well.  I cut unequally sized triangles from some of the low volume fabrics used on the front, and stitched them together to form a larger triangle.  Once this was inserted into the quilt back, it creates another version of an abstract evergreen tree.

Solstice Quilt Back View

Solstice Quilt Back View

The quilting design proved to be more of a challenge.  Since I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired, I printed off a few copies of my line drawings and started sketching some of my ideas.  At first I thought about doing straight horizontal lines.

Horizontal Quilting Design

Horizontal Quilting Design

Then I considered echoing the shapes of the trees.

Echo Quilting Design

Echo Quilting Design

Then I started thinking about doing some free motion designs.

Freemotion Quilting Designs

Free-motion Quilting Designs

Free-motion quilting is one of my great weaknesses, so I was a little hesitant.  I have only ever experimented using scraps of fabric and batting, so this was the first time for doing any of this type of work on something “real.”  Of all my possible quilting designs, I liked the swoops in the trees and the circles on lines in the background the best.  I took a chance on free-motion, and I think the swoops in the triangle of the trees and the wavy lines in the snow are coming close to being ok.  However, I wish I had practiced a lot more on quilting circles before attempting the background design.  I almost ripped it out to try again, but I decided to leave it.  I think I’ll keep this quilt as-is to serve as a “base line” piece.  In the coming year, one of my major goals is to improve my free-motion quilting, so hopefully I can come back to this quilt in a year and marvel at my improvement.  We all have to start somewhere!

Winter Solstice Quilt

Winter Solstice Quilt

Quilt Stats

Title:  Solstice Trees

Size:  17.5″x17.5″

Techniques:  Paper Piecing, Standard Piecing

Quilting:  Machine Free-Motion Quilting on a Bernina 1008

Fabrics:  Background-Hoffman woodblock print,  Trees and Ground- low volume prints and batiks

Batting: Warm and White cotton batting

Thread:  Pieced with Gutermann Mara 100 in grey, Quilted with cotton machine quilting thread in white and navy

Binding: Bias made from the background fabric- cut at 2″, machine stitched to the front, hand stitched on the back

What would I do differently?  Oh my goodness do I ever need to work on free-motion quilting!  Otherwise, I think this quilt would look great with the background also quilted in white, just like the trees.  I think it would look like snow falling amongst the trees.  I also may have left the background a single fabric- I wasn’t happy with the dark thread on the white tree shape.  However, I really liked how the white quilting showed on the back of the quilt.

Have a happy Solstice!

 

I am linking this post to Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, Show off Saturday at Sew Can She, and A Very Merry Happy Holiday Linky Party at Quiltville’s Quips & Snips.  Please stop by to see all of the beautiful work everyone is producing!

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Fabric!

Earlier this month, Sew Mama Sew hosted a giveaway week, and I am super excited that I won a fantastic bundle of fabric from Cynthia Brunz at Quilting is more fun than Housework.  The fabric arrived yesterday and it is beautiful!

April Showers Bundle


 

All of the fabrics in this bundle are from April Showers by Bonnie & Camille, which is put out by Moda.  I always think that it is difficult to do justice to fabric in a photograph, and these are even more fantastic in person.  The colors work wonderfully with the cheerful patterns of the design, and the texture is lovely.

April Showers Fabric

 

I am so excited to get to work with these prints!

Last Minute Gifts: Cord/Coin Pouch

As my nieces and nephews have gotten older, cash or gift cards have become the favored gifts for the holidays because money always fits!  I try to get a little creative in the presentation of this not-particularly-original gift, so this year I am making cord pouches that hook onto a keyring.  These pouches finish at a little under 4″ from side to side, so they can easily hold a thumb drive, USB cord, some change, or even most phone chargers.  Come to think of it, I may need to make a couple for myself!

Finished Cord Pouches

Finished Cord Pouches


I knew that I wanted to put a grommet in each pouch to attach a key ring. (If you don’t have grommets laying about, a ribbon loop inserted into a seam would also do the trick.)  I thought that the grommet would look nice in a corner, so I experimented with a couple different shapes before settling on an octagon.  This project will work with most shapes, but if you would like to play along using the octagon, I have included a pattern here.  This Octagon Pattern  is a PDF File you are welcome to download.

I made six pouches, choosing an outer fabric and a lining fabric for each.  Orange tends to be pretty popular among my nephews, so I used a lot of it this year!  I cut one octagon out of each fabric, but for the front side I cut rectangles to set the zipper into before cutting it into shape.  I like to give myself some wiggle room when dealing with zippers, so I cut the rectangles to about 3″x5″.  For each pouch you should have 2 outer fabric rectangles, 2 lining fabric rectangles, 1 outer fabric octagon, and 1 lining fabric octagon.  You will also need a zipper and either a grommet or a small loop of ribbon.

Pieces cut for cord pouches

Pieces cut for cord pouches

For an exposed zipper I like to sandwich each side of the zipper between the outer and lining fabrics along the long edge of the rectangle.  I like to pin the layers in place so nothing moves out of place while I’m stitching.  The navy floral fabric will become the outside of this pouch, so it is laying with the right side of the fabric facing the top of the zipper.  The right side of the lining fabric faces the back of the zipper.  This leaves the wrong side of the fabric exposed on each side of your zipper sandwich.  I like my fabric edges to line up with the edge of the zipper.  I also place the fabric in the center of the zipper so I can sew it in place without the pull getting in the way.

A "Zipper Sandwich"

A “Zipper Sandwich”

Now you are ready to start stitching!  You will want to use your zipper foot and stitch a consistent distance from the teeth of the zipper.  I like to line up the right side of the zipper foot with the edge of the zipper, but machines can vary, so choose a means of measuring that works for you.

Using the zipper foot to stitch a zipper in place

Using the zipper foot to stitch a zipper in place

Now you are ready to press the fabric out to expose the zipper.  I like to press the outer fabric into place first.

Pressing the outer fabric into place around the zipper

Pressing the outer fabric into place around the zipper

Then you will press the lining fabric toward the back.

Fabric Pressed in place once the zipper is sewn

Fabric Pressed in place once the zipper is sewn

Next you will perform the same steps to sew the remaining rectangles to the other side of the zipper.

For added stability, I like to topstitch the fabric about 1/16″ from the seams we just sewed.  If you have an edge stitching foot, it will make this step easier, but it can also be done with a regular foot (and a little patience!)

Top Stitching the zipper

Top Stitching the zipper

Once you have the topstitching done on both sides of the zipper, take a moment to admire your work!  Now trace your octagon pattern onto the fabric, paying carful attention to where you want the zipper placed.  I decided to center the zipper across the octagon for this set of pouches.  Do NOT cut yet!

Tracing the octagon onto the front of the pouch

Tracing the octagon onto the front of the pouch

We are going to use a very small seam allowance for these pouches, so I decided it would be easier to sew first, cut later.  Move the zipper pull tab into the center of the octagon!  (If you are going to insert a ribbon loop, now is the time.  Place the loop toward the center of the octagon, with the ends sticking into the seam allowance.  Pin or Baste into place.)  Take the octagons you cut out at the beginning of this process and place the outer fabric piece right side down onto the zippered section.  Carefully line up the cut shape with the traced shape.  Layer the lining fabric octagon, right side up, on top of the outer fabric octagon.  With the zipper pull in the center of the octagon, the cut pieces may not naturally line up with all corners.  This is an instance where you should make the fabric line up the way you want.  (If you don’t, the zipper may gap in an unpleasant manner.)  I pin in each corner, but add as many pins as you need to feel comfortable.

Pinning the front and back together

Pinning the front and back together

Stitch all the way around the octagon using a seam allowance of a generous 1/8″

Stitch around the shape using a seam allowance of 1/8"

Stitch around the shape using a seam allowance of 1/8″

Check around the edges of your shape to make sure that all layers have been stitched properly.  Now cut away the excess material in the zipper layer leaving the 1/8″ seam allowance.

Pouch with Edges Trimmed

Pouch with Edges Trimmed

Carefully clip the corners in order to achieve nice points when the shape is turned.

Pouch with clipped corners

Pouch with clipped corners

Turn the shape right side out using the zipper opening.  Press to flatten the shape.  Make sure you have pretty corners!

Pouch turned right side out

Pouch turned right side out

To enclose the raw edges of the seam allowance, you will now want to top stitch 1/4″ from all edges of the octagon.  I started and ended the stitching in the corner I was planning to place the grommet since the stitching won’t be visible at that point.  When stitching over the zipper, I chose to turn the machine side wheel by hand, taking a large stitch over the zipper teeth, lifting the presser foot, moving back, and taking another large stitch over the zipper teeth.  I repeat this several times to secure the zipper.  (This should act as the equivalent of several zig zag stitches in a single spot often used to shorten a zipper.)

Top Stitching the Pouch

Top Stitching the Pouch

Since we used such a small seam allowance, I like to add another row of top stitching just under 1/8″ from the edge of the octagon.

Now that everything is sewn, it is time to add the grommet.  A grommet has two pieces: a grommet, and a washer.  You will also need a hammer, punch, and a setter to install a grommet.  I used the 00 size for this project.

Once you have decided where to place the grommet, lay the pouch on a piece of scrap wood, position the punch, and give it a couple whacks with the hammer.  You should now have a nice clean opening to insert the grommet.

Top Stitched Pouch with hole punched and grommet ready to install

Top Stitched Pouch with hole punched and grommet ready to install

Place the grommet through the hole you punched in the pouch, then place the washer over the center of grommet.  The grommet will be placed in the anvil portion of the setter.  The setter will fit into the center opening of the grommet (on the washer side), and it should then be tapped firmly several times to set the grommet.  You want to hit the setter hard enough to set the grommet, but not so hard that the grommet splits.  When in doubt, start with moderate force and increase as necessary.

Grommet

Grommet

Grommet with Washer

Grommet with Washer

Pouch in Grommet Setter

Pouch in Grommet Setter

There you have it- A useful little gift that practically everyone will find a use for.  I added some candy to sweeten the deal!

Finished Pouch, All wrapped up!

Finished Pouch, All wrapped up!

A Whirl with Hexagons

Last summer, on an impulse, I decided I wanted to start quilting again.  I had gotten away from quilting when I went off to college, and a trip to a fabric store with a phenomenal selection of quilting cotton re-inspired me.  Having seen some lovely quilts with subtle tones, I decided I would give a low volume quilt a try.  This quilt is the result.

Cassandra I Beaver Low Volume Fail Full


Starting out, I knew that I wanted to do something improvisational, and I wanted to include hexagons.  The hexagons were the starting point for this project.  Each one was created by cutting a circle of fabric and folding the sides to the center to create the hexagon.  In the center of each hexagon I sewed a small fabric yo-yo.  Then each piece was embellished with hand embroidery and glass beads.

Cassandra I Beaver Low Volume Fail Detail D

As I worked on these hexagons, which I knew would become appliqués on the quilt, I began thinking of them as flower petals blowing in the wind on a spring day.  Now the big question:  How do I create a feeling of wind in a quilt?  I wanted to develop a sense of sweeping movement and an illusion of individual gusts rolling into one another.  After a great deal of sketching and brain storming, I landed on the idea of having individual segments of irregular shapes coming together to form a quilt.  I started with the section in the upper left section, and then moved to the piece spanning the bottom of the quilt.  At this point, I realized I was going to need to create a more defined plan to develop the rest of the quilt layout.  I took a snapshot of what I had completed so far, and printed out several copies on regular printer paper so I could easily draw on top of the image.  This composition was ultimately the one I liked the best.

C Beaver Low Volume Fail Process Sketch

I used a flannel sheet on a wall to do the layout for this quilt, and to transfer the shape of each piece to the design wall I safety pinned 1/4″ wide fabric twill tape to the fabric to create an outline of each major area.  Then I began piecing sections one at a time.  Each segment is improvisationally pieced, quilted, and bound with bias strips prior to being connected to the adjoining segments.  I used a walking foot on my domestic sewing machine to quilt each segment with lines reflecting the piecing of each area of the quilt.

Cassandra I Beaver Low Volume Fail Detail A

In keeping with the improvisational piecing, I chose to make the binding using a mix of fabrics cut into bias strips.  The bias is machine stitched to the front of the quilt and hand slip stitched to the back.  I used a very small hand slip stitch to connect the segments to one another.

Cassandra I Beaver Low Volume Fail Detail C

The hexagons were appliquéd onto the quilt following the assembly of the quilted panels.  I knew that it was important to me to further a sense of movement with the hexagon placement, so I arranged the pieces to bridge the eight main segments of the quilt.

Cassandra Beaver Low Volume Fail Detail E

 

Ultimately, I did veer away from my initial goal of a low volume quilt, but in the process I have achieved a pastel success.  Because of this, I have titled this quilt “Low Volume Fail, Pastel Win!”

Cassandra I Beaver Low Volume Fail Detail B

 

My only big remaining question is which direction the quilt should go.  I originally designed this piece to hang horizontally, but once it was finished, I began thinking that a vertical orientation may be more appealing.  What do you think?  How would you hang this piece?

Cassandra Beaver Low Volume Fail Orientation

 

Quilt Stats

Title:  Low Volume Fail, Pastel Win

Size: 66″w x 47″h

Techniques:  Machine Improvisational Piecing, Hand Appliqué, Hand Embroidery, Glass Bead Details

Quilting:  Machine quilted using a walking foot on a Bernina 1008

Fabrics: 100% cotton prints and batiks

Batting:  Warm and Natural cotton batting

Thread:  Cotton machine quilting thread

Binding:  Bias, cut in 2″ strips from fabrics used in the quilt.  Machine stitched to the front, and hand stitched to the back

 

This post is linked to “Let’s Bee Social” at Sew Fresh QuiltsNeedle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation, Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric AddictFinish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, and Fresh Sewing Day at Lily’s Quilts.  Please stop by to see all of the wonderful work shared there!

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