Hooked on Needles

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mystery Quilt Project Finishing Finale -- Finally!

The last few finishing details are all that is left for this fun Mystery Quilt Project I've been working on. The next thing I did after layering the backing, batting and top, and machine stitching the quilting lines, was the binding. On other quilt projects, I have left the backing big enough around the edges so that I could simply fold over the extra and stitch it in place on the front, but for this quilt, I decided to cut bias binding from my leftover piece of backing fabric and bind it that way.

Here's an easy way to make bias binding from a square of fabric...

You can go to this handy bias binding calculator to see how big your square of fabric needs to be in order to get the length of binding you need. For this little quilt, I used a 17 inch square of fabric and drew my lines 2 1/4 inches apart which gave me enough to bind the quilt and have about 8 inches leftover.

So you figure out what size square to start with, then you cut the square in half diagonally. Sew your triangles together with two short sides right sides together and the right angles at opposite ends from each other. Mark lines
parallel to the long side of the triangles the required distance apart for the size binding you want to make.

You can either cut the strips at this point and sew them together end to end, or you can sew the other two short ends of the triangles together, matching up the marked lines but offsetting them by one. This will seem very awkward, but if you do it this way, you will only have to sew this one seam instead of having to piece all the short strips together individually. After sewing the offset seam, start at one overhanging side and cut along your marked line, going around and around until you have one long strip of bias binding. It's a real time saver once you figure it out!

Mystery Quilt Project FinaleThe next step in binding the quilt is to fold the binding in half with the wrong sides together and pin the raw edges to the raw edge of the quilt on the top side. Stitch the binding to the quilt using a 1/4 inch seam.

Mystery Quilt Project FinaleNow bring the folded edge of the binding to the back of the quilt and pin it in place over the stitching line.

Mystery Quilt Project FinaleUsing the blind stitch, hand stitch the folded edge of the binding to the backing of the quilt. To do this, you simply take a small stitch in the backing fabric, bring your needle up into the binding fabric and take a small stitch, then back down into the backing fabric and so on, in a sort of weaving motion, until you have gone all the way around the quilt. This makes an invisible seam where the thread runs along the edge of the binding, alternating between the backing and the binding.

Mystery Quilt Project FinaleThis is what it looks like on the back once the binding is complete.

Mystery Quilt Project FinaleRemember the little stitching mistake I made where I stitched the edge of the backing to the back of the quilt? I figured out how to cover it up...this is where I placed my label. It was actually a good place for it since it was close to the edge. Now that mistake can be our little secret, right?

Mystery Quilt Project FinaleOn a scrap of the gold fabric from the front of the quilt, I wrote my little label with the quilt name and date and my name on it. Then in keeping with the "criss-cross" theme again, I stitched it onto the back using the herringbone stitch, just like I used in the assembly of the "Here Kitty" scissor holder I made for my Angel Swap friend Lyn in Australia. I think it's such a pretty stitch anyway, don't you?

Mystery Quilt Project FinaleSo this is what the finished back looks like.

Mystery Quilt Project CompleteAnd here is the finished front -- finally! I think I will put this in the center of the table at Christmas with a pretty wreath or flower arrangement on it. A very satisfying finish to a fun project. Thanks Myra!

Happy Stitching!

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mystery Quilt Project Finishing Begun

Myra's Mystery Quilt Project, Criss Cross Applesauce, is almost finished! It was so fun to work on a little project like this that could be completed in such a short time. The layering and quilting is complete and I used something on my sewing machine that I have never used before -- the darning foot. You must understand that I've only had this machine for 25 years, so we can't rush into things you know!

Here's how it all came together...

Mystery Quilt Project FinishingThe backing is the same green leaf fabric as in the 9-patch blocks. I layered that with the batting and the quilt top and then pinned it at regular intervals to keep the layers from shifting while I sewed the quilting lines.

Mystery Quilt Project FinishingI got my darning foot all attached and my thread and bobbin ready, then I folded up the quilt so it would be more manageable at the sewing machine. Then I stitched diagonally from corner to corner, right through the green squares making a big X of green machine stitches on the quilt. I then stitched in the same manner the four shorter rows of green squares. This wasn't enough quilting so I decided to stitch an X through each of the four big tan blocks and extend those lines through the border blocks as well.

Mystery Quilt Project FinishingI am not very good at eyeballing longer straight lines, so I used masking tape to mark where I wanted this second set of stitching lines to go. Stitching just along side of the tape, I was able to stitch four pretty straight lines starting from the corner of one border block, going through two big tan blocks and finishing at the far corner of the other border block. I used tan thread for these stitching lines.

Mystery Quilt Project FinishingThis is the design that the quilting lines made on the back of the quilt -- nice neat squares, unless you look too closely. Then you would see that this really is my first experience with the darning foot and having to guide the piece myself and move it along to regulate the stitch size. Some stitches are longer and some are shorter, and sometimes the stitching strays from the path just a bit, usually from where I had to stop and adjust the quilt and then start again.

Mystery Quilt Project FinishingAnd here's another mistake I made. Can you tell what happened here? The edge of the backing was folded underneath the quilt and I stitched it to the back. Ooops! Luckily I was able to cut around the stitching and not cut into the fabric that was needed for the back of the quilt. Whew!

Mystery Quilt Project FinishingSo here's what it looks like with all the quilting done. I really enjoyed using the darning foot once I got the hang of it. I liked how it raised itself up with each stitch so that the fabric wouldn't bunch up on the top and leave puckers. I also like the simple straight line quilting design I did on this, sort of in keeping with the "criss-cross" theme of the quilt.

Now all that is left to do is the binding which I will show you next time, along with a super easy and efficient way to make a really long piece of bias binding from a square of fabric. If you've never tried this trick, you won't want to miss it!

Happy Stitching!

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Friday, November 28, 2008

A Fun Find - Red Delicious Mystery Block of the Month

I've always wanted to do a Block of the Month (BOM) quilt, but have never been brave enough to take the plunge and just do it. I was browsing around some new websites and came across Esther's Blog for the first time and I liked what I saw there. Her fabric stash is amazing and she is offering a very fun Mystery Block of the Month pattern to use up some of that stash.

Red Delicious Mystery Block of the Month
The Red Delicious Mystery BOM pattern will be available for download from her website sidebar for a short time each month. Once a new block is available, the previous block will be removed. So if you are interested in doing this mystery quilt, you might want to bookmark her page or add it to your following list.

I don't have a very extensive fabric stash myself, so I think what I will do with this is use the fabrics I have anyway which will make the quilt not so Red, but hopefully still Delicious! We'll see.

I thought this sounded like a fun project to do for the new year and I'm looking forward to having a little something to ... well ... look forward to each month. Won't you join me?

Happy Stitching!

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Easy No Sew Fall Wreath

Here's a quick and easy no-sew wreath that can be made for any season and looks great hanging on the front door. All you need is a straw wreath of whatever size you like, a yard or so of appropriately festive fabric, pinking shears, and a ball point pen or Philips head screwdriver. You can use all one fabric, or mix several fabrics.

Take a look at how easy it is to make...

First, using pinking shears, cut the fabric into strips about 3 inches wide. Save one strip for later. Cut remaining strips into squares.

Wrap a piece of florist wire or other hanging wire around the wreath, forming a loop at the top for hanging. This is easier to do before you start adding fabric to the wreath.

Take your ball point pen or screwdriver and place the point into the middle of the right side of a fabric square...

...and push it into the straw wreath.

Continue pushing the fabric squares into the straw wreath until the whole top and sides are covered in the fullness that is pleasing to you. I like mine quite full, but some people space their fabric squares out just a bit so more of the fabric design shows. Leave the back of the wreath uncovered so it will sit flat against the door or wall.

This is what mine looks like.

Find the wire hanger you made and orient your wreath so the hanger is at the top. With the strip you saved, wrap it around the wreath in a place that is pleasing to you and tie a nice bow.

Easy No-Sew Fall WreathHang on your front door to greet all your visitors.

This is a wonderful project for anyone who thinks they are 'craft challenged' but still wants to create something nice. It can be made in any size or shape that you can find in a straw wreath and any print or color of fabric can be used.

Have fun experimenting with this and see what you can come up with.

Happy Stitching!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ceramic Thanksgiving Bear PilgrimsThis little Pilgrim Bear Family seems to have a lot to be thankful for.

So do I...




Good Health






Ceramic Thanksgiving Bear Pilgrims
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours,

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Easy Crocheted Oddball Afghan

After working on many different knit and crocheted items over the past few years, I accumulated quite a few partial skeins of yarn. Any whole skeins, I return to the store. Any very small scraps, I throw away. But somewhere in between, I hang on to the remains and figure that someday I'll use it for something.

The other day my daughter was cleaning out her closet and found a crochet project she had started quite a long time ago out of some leftover variegated yarn. She started working on it again and quickly ran out of yarn. She wondered how she should continue the project without having to make a trip to the store to try and match the yarn and I suggested to her that she make an 'oddball' blanket using the remains of other yarns I had stashed in my sewing room, much like the blankets I have signed up for on the knitting forum I have mentioned here before. She thought that was a great idea, being as frugal as her mother, and this is what she has created so far...

Easy Crocheted Oddball AfghanShe had started with Red Heart's Aspen Print variegated yarn which was leftover from the Ripple Stitch afghan I made for our bedroom. I showed some pictures of it at the end of the article on how to do the Ripple Stitch in crochet.

Then she picked up the variegated blues yarn also leftover from a Ripple Stitch afghan I had made for a friend.

After that is Red Heart's Painted Dessert variegated yarn, leftover from another Ripple Stitch afghan I had made for a wedding gift.

Then she decided she wanted bright colors alternating with the more neutral colors, and she bought the red, white and blue variegated yarn. She found a few more neutral yarns from my stash that she will use, and she bought a few more bright colors for in between.

Isn't this a great way to use up leftover yarn? Take a look at the way this afghan is made...

Easy Crocheted Oddball AfghanThis is the center, started with a simple chain of 8, and worked in single crochet around in a continuous spiral, adding 2 chains at each corner. I'll write out the pattern at the end in case you want to try it.

Easy Crocheted Oddball AfghanThis shows one of the corners made by the chain 2, and also clearly shows the nice ridge line that is made by working the single crochets in the back loop only. How to crochet in the back loop only is demonstrated towards the end of my video tutorial on single crochet if you would like to see how it is done.

Easy Crocheted Oddball AfghanHere's another close-up of a corner. Elizabeth does nice even work and her afghans always turn out cozy and warm.

The beauty of working an afghan in a spiral like this is that you can actually use up all of each yarn crocheting over the tails each time you join a new one, then when all your yarn is gone, simply pull the tail through the last loop and weave in the end and the afghan is finished. You don't have to worry about having enough yarn to work some kind of color pattern. You also don't have to figure out how wide to start the blanket and hope that you can get enough length on it before running out of yarn. This spiral pattern allows you to simply crochet until you run out, and then you have a square blanket and no leftover yarn.

This is also a very easy pattern which, once you get established, doesn't require much attention at all. You don't have to count stitches or worry about missing that last stitch at the end of the row, or how many chains you need to turn. So if you're looking for a very easy crochet afghan pattern to use up the yarn you have on hand, here's the pattern for you...

NOTE: Single crochet in back loop only if you want the ridge line on the front of the piece. If you don't want that ridge, then work each single crochet through both loops.

Chain 8. Single crochet (sc) in the 8th chain from the hook forming a loop and in the next chain. Chain 2. Sc in the next two chains. Chain 2. Sc in the next two chains. Chain 2. Sc in the next two chains. Chain 2.

Single crochet in each single crochet across, then in one chain. Chain 2.

*Single crochet in chain, then in each single crochet across, then in one chain. Chain 2. *

Repeat from * to * until your afghan is as big as you want it, or until you run out of yarn. Weave in ends and enjoy.

You may also add any type of border you like around the outside edge of this afghan. The Reverse Single Crochet border is one of my favorites for a blanket like this. Or you could use a simple scallop border you make up yourself or use this one I put onto a knitted blanket.

So there you have a simple pattern to use up leftover yarn, or even to make with freshly purchased yarn for a special gift.

Happy Stitching!

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Embroidered Christmas Cards

I am still in the process of getting organized after finishing up all the upholstery fabric sewing for the Holiday Fair which was this past weekend, but my older daughter started working on a project I thought you would enjoy seeing. Perhaps you will even want to make some yourself this Christmas season. She is embroidering cards to give to the other clarinet players in the band. She is the section leader and really loves the other kids in her section and they just love her too. I think she will miss them next year. So she is always thinking of nice things to do for them. Take a look at what she started last night...

Embroidered Christmas CardShe picked a simple font and printed out "Merry Christmas" in a size that would be just right for the cards she wanted to make. Then she cut pieces of card stock and pricked the design into it using a straight pin and my bobbin lace pinning board, just like I did for the hand embroidered card for our favorite swim teacher, the bookmark for my wonderful cousin, and the note cards I made for the PTO auction.

Embroidered Christmas CardThen she took two strands of my sparkly gold sewing thread and backstitched through the holes she had pricked to form the letters, taping the thread ends onto the back of the card.

Embroidered Christmas CardIsn't that pretty? She also purchased some three dimensional scrapbooking stickers on sale at Michael's that she will use to further decorate the cards. The stitched card stock will be attached to a pre-folded greeting card which is about an inch bigger than the green card stock and then she will hand write a personal message inside each card.

This would be a quick and easy way to make some extra special cards for those extra special people in your life this Christmas season.

Elizabeth has watched me do my crafts all her life and it is so satisfying to see her starting to create on her own. She is also quite an accomplished knitter and crocheter. Next time, I will show you an afghan she is making and share with you her favorite pattern. It is a simple single crochet pattern where you don't have to worry about your rows getting shorter from missing that last stitch! So easy and versatile too.

Happy Stitching!

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Last of the Tote Bags and Pillows -- Finally!

Our school's annual Holiday Fair is now over and it appeared to be quite successful with many of the booths selling out and lots of people moving through all day long. It was quite cold, in the 20s all day, and windy too which I think kept some people away, but at least it wasn't raining or snowing. I spent the day from about 8 in the morning until about 6 in the evening manning the 'Handcrafted Items donated to the school' booth, along with another lady who spent a good long time knitting and crocheting blankets, hats, sweaters, mittens and scarves for the fair. I found out at the end of the day that our booth brought in close to $700, with $365 of that coming from the tote bags I had made. I was quite happy with that result, considering many people don't have extra money to spend these days.

Here are a few last pictures of this marathon fabric-tote bag-pillow-sewing series before I get back to my regularly scheduled programming.

Holiday Fair TableOur booth was just inside the doors to the big gym so everyone who came in had to go by us before getting to the other crafters' booths. These are the pillows I had made. Everyone commented on them, but none sold. I was a little surprised at that, but again people just weren't as free with their spending as in past years.

Holiday Fair TableThis is the long line of tote bags ready and waiting for the shoppers. I had set this up the afternoon before the fair opened to the public and was able to make three more that night, so here they are...

Tote BagThis one turned out to be one of my favorites. The outside fabric is so soft and I love the design since it reminds me a little of leaves but not quite. The neutral colors are nice too.

Tote BagThis is another one made out of that fabulously funky fabric with a soft shiny gold fabric lining.

Tote BagAnd this little one was made from small pieces of fabrics leftover after making other bags. The bottom is actually square and measures about 6 x 6 inches. It would make a nice purse.

Pool Table ReappearsAnd look at the pool table now! You can actually see it! Whew! After Thanksgiving, all this fabric will be neatly stowed away in totes and stored at the school for anyone else who would like to sew things with it, or for the art teacher to use for projects, or for the drama teacher to use as backdrops or costumes, or for the teachers to use for their bulletin boards or what-have-you.

The lady who donated all this fabric to the school said that it was all top quality upholstery fabric selling for $40 to $100 a yard and she was very pleased to see what had been done with it. I was so happy that she was happy with my work.

This was a crazy week of pretty intense sewing at a pace that I could never keep up for too long. But it was so nice being able to have so many choices of such nice fabric to make things for the school. Now, however, it is time to get back to normal family life, actually cooking meals and maybe even doing a bit of cleaning, all of which has been neglected by me in the past week. Thankfully my husband is very understanding and generous in his willingness to help out. I even plan to get back to some of the projects I had started before acquiring all this fabric. So be sure to check in this coming week to see just what I will pick up first.

Right now I think I will just go put my feet up and maybe crochet for a while.

Happy Stitching!

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Even More Tote Bags!

I do believe this should be just about the final batch of tote bags for the Holiday Fair. The pile of fabric has definitely gotten smaller. It was so nice to have such a variety of fabrics to choose from though. I wanted to make some bags that were a little more than a simple lined tote bag, but discovered early on in this marathon of sewing that I just didn't have the luxury of time to play around with ideas or do more complicated patterns. Still I think everyone can always find a good use for a basic tote bag that is heavy duty and made well.

Here are the last few that I have to show you before I head down to the school to display them and hopefully sell them all.

Tote Bag #12I really like this one, Tote Bag #12. The fabric is interesting and it is lined with a heavy duty tan corduroy. The straps are made from webbing that I bought at Walmart to have on hand just in case. I was glad I had it because the piece of fabric for the outside of the bag was just big enough for the bag with none leftover to make the straps. I would have used the corduroy, but discovered that it doesn't take too well to ironing. So the webbing saved the day. It is strong and sturdy and the color worked for this fabric.

Tote Bag #13Here is Tote Bag #13, made with the same fabric as the two toned pillow I showed you the other day. It is lined with the same coordinating fabric too. The colors in this picture show the fabric closer to how it really looks compared to how it looked in the pillow picture. It's soft and has some nice greens in it and leaves, which is a theme that I enjoy decorating with in my home, so I kind of like this one.

Tote Bag #14Tote Bag #14 - crazy fabric, don't you think? It is the same fabric as the envelope pillow from yesterday's post, and also has webbing for the straps. This fabric was just too heavy to fold over into multiple layers to make the straps. I actually broke a sewing machine needle while stitching around the top where the side seams come together. My poor machine hasn't been worked this hard since I don't know when!

Happy Stitching!

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Even More Pillows!

I'm not sure how much more of this non-stop sewing my fingers can handle! I've come to the conclusion that working with upholstery fabric all the time must require wearing some kind of special gloves! This stuff is heavy duty and hard on the fingertips! But have no fear. I shall press on! It IS for a good cause, after all.

So today I have two more pillows to show you. This is the end of the pillow production as I have run out of pillow forms and I am very quickly running out of time as well.

Pillow with trimIsn't this fabric just plain Funky? I can't seem to think of another word to describe it. In among the piles of fabric was also a bag of trim, so this pillow got a nice little dressing up with a pretty burgundy trim.

Back pocket of pillow with trimIt also has the overlap on the back which you can see in the picture above. That makes it so much easier to finish the pillow. All you have to do is turn it and stuff it and it's done. This is also a big pillow at 18 inches square so I really didn't want to hand stitch the opening!

Envelope Pillow with Gold ButtonThis pretty little envelope pillow is only 12 inches square and the cover is actually an envelope! The button is functional, holding the flap closed, and when you open the flap, the body of the pillow opens like an envelope to hold the pillow form. Yet another way to eliminate the need for hand finishing...except for sewing on the button!

I have also made 3 more tote bags which I will show you tomorrow along with any others that I can get done before writing my post. I have 5 more cut out and ready to sew, so I just need to find the time to sit at my machine and produce.

The fabric pile is actually getting smaller. I noticed that while picking through it to make more combinations for tote bags. I can now see the cover of the pool table! Progress is being made!

Now back to work. Time is running short.

Happy Stitching!

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