Month: April 2016

SPRING TUNE-UP

Minnesota is having an unusual weather year, as is the case in much of the US. For us it means a mild winter and an early spring.  Even though the snow and ice is gone, we know we can still get some very cool weather, but for the most part this nice weather sends us all mentally to spring activities.  I know I can’t even consider putting any plants in yet, but  I certainly start thinking along those lines.  It takes a good two weeks or so to get the gardens and yard cleaned and ready.  There is always a lot of pruning, weeding, transplanting and raking to be done each spring before any planting is done.

This is what my front courtyard garden looks like right now.  Plants are emerging and starting to leaf out but far from the glory of summer.  Stay tuned for an updated photo when summer roles around.

2016-04-27 09.46.47On the rainy, cool days like today, I will tackle the indoor projects on my to-do list.  They all need to get done before the really warm weather hits. I always have a few things lined up in my sewing room that beckon me when I can’t work outside.  I have a whole line up of miscellaneous items on the list to get done. You know how that feels…they just sit there nagging away until they are complete.  Once I get into each one I will enjoy them.  I just need to get started.  Here is the stack of random things to do…(left to right)…tea towels for aprons, fabric for pillows for my outdoor patio chairs, a flannel quilt to bind, pink striped decorator fabric for curtains for my granddaughter’s room at their cabin, and cotton knit for 2 dresses for Ella.  I will post the finished projects when completed.  First up…tea towel aprons.

2016-04-27 08.59.17I recently happened upon great displays of kitchen tea towels while shopping at Crate and Barrel and Anthropology.  Granted, these are a lot nicer than my normal fare for kitchen towels.  All the prints and colors were very tempting.  While it is time to replace some of my very worn and well used towels in my kitchen, I actually purchased a few more to make very simple aprons.  I prefer the light weight towel fabric over the heavy canvas so many commercial aprons are made of and good tea towels are generously sized and make perfect aprons.

IMG_1655IMG_1653To make apron, fold back the top two corners of the apron angling the fold to fit where you would like the waist ties to be and how wide you want the top of the apron bib to be.  Press and stitch a 1″ wide casing that the sash can be pulled through.  I stitch down the excess part of the folded triangles so that the apron can always become a towel again if desired by simply pulling out the switching. The print of the apron generally hides the stitching.

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To form the sash, cut 3,  2-1/2″ x 44″ strips of cotton fabric.  Stitch end to end to make one long strip. Fold in half lengthwise and press. Now unfold the strip and fold raw edges of both long sides of the strip to meet the fold line in the middle.   Refold back in half folding in the ends as well and edge stitch to finish.  Attach a large safety pin to one end of the sash and thread through the casings stitched on the apron.  Adjust to form the neck strap and waist tie to fit. I love my new apron!2016-04-27 13.41.242016-04-27 15.02.55

TEE TIME / SEWING TIME

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My husband loves to golf… I do not. So when he is off playing golf on the  weekend, I hit the sewing room.  Strangely however, I do like to watch professional golf tournaments on television.  Last weekend, I was kept company by the golfers at the Masters Tournament on the TV in my sewing room.  Granted, most of the time my back is to the screen, but I can keep up with who is in the lead and who has just lost the lead by just listening.  Neil always says I still treat TV like a large radio. It is true, I rarely watch anything without having my eyes on something else I am doing with my hands.  Today, I made a really fun accent pillow with some bits of a new line coming out soon, Autumn Landscape, and a random scrap of fabric that had an interesting decorative weave that I had used on another throw pillow a few years ago.  I’ve noticed patchwork pillows with a mix of fabrics and decorative stitching seem to be the hot item this spring in stores like Pottery Barn, West Elm and Crate and Barrel.  Also, small rectangular pillows and small bed pillows are the new shapes used with 20 inch throw pillows.  I admit, it is a good look.  To start, I sketched out a design on graph paper and then assembled the fabrics.  I decided to use a decorative stitch on my machine to embellish one of the fabrics.  I used a cream thread for the decorative stitch to tie the mostly brown fabric to the large floral with the cream flowers.  It seemed to lighten it up a bit.  When using a decorative stitch, I test it to determine the width and the length of the stitch that I like before stitching on the piece I’m going to use.  I also like to back the fabric with a foundation to give the fabric more weight which always results in a nicer stitch.  I fell back on my usual product for this purpose…paper toweling. I always have it in the house and it tears away easily after stitching.  I have been using it forever, and it always works.

IMG_1699After finishing the edge with a binding (just like a quilt) I then decided to add a decorative hand stitch with a double strand of #5 pearl cotton in the ditch right next to the binding of the pillow to add an outline and accent to the patchwork center.  I used a simple stem stitch and stitched only through the top layer of the pillow.  It’s easier that trying to go through all the layers of the pillow covering.  Because of the thickness of the pearl cotton, you will have to use a hefty needle with a very large eye.  Since you will be stitching through just the top layer, the big needle will still go through nicely.

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As with so many of my pillows, I made an envelop back to avoid putting in a zipper. Instructions for this technique can be found in many of my past Thimbleberries publications. The fabric used on the back of the pillow was also a scrap of decorator fabric from years ago. I have just enough left to make one more pillow.  As usual, scraps just never seem to go away, no matter how many times I attempt to get rid of them and throwing away is just not a option.

Baked Italian Cabbage

This is a hearty and tasty Italian dish with very few carbs, if you are trying to avoid those kind of ingredients, by replacing the pasta with cabbage. When the cabbage cooks down, it becomes very sweet and loses the “cabbage” flavor some diners might object to it in its raw state. It is a great, low calorie option with lots of health benefits. The brown rice adds more fiber (more…)

SWEET FEET

IMG_2163I recently mentioned we had been on family vacation with our grandchildren.  We had a relaxing stay and a great time watching the kids experience new things.  They spent so much time in the ocean and pool that their swimming skills increased by leaps and bounds which really bodes well for cabin and lake time coming up soon here in Minnesota.  They loved every minute of the trip.  I think what they liked most was the undivided attention from all of us.

Before we left on vacation, I made Ella some fun balloon flip flops using ordinary small multicolored water balloons and flip flops.  This project takes very little time, no instructions…just mindless knot tying while watching a few episodes of Fixer Upper on HGTV, my go to TV show choice.  It is also one of my projects that I have received the most raves for, which is a little disturbing considering all of the other very time consuming projects I have undertaken. Most importantly, they are loved and used by our dear little Ella.

I ordered the balloons from Amazon as I was unable to find water balloons locally.  When I had the idea to make these, we still were in snow shovel mode so summer items were not available.  However, Amazon had what I needed. I found the flip flops at JoAnn Fabrics. Simply tie balloons while stretching a bit in an overhand knot.  Place them nice and close together to create what I refer to as a balloon ruffle.  Obviously these are waterproof, easy to wash off if they get muddy, and very inexpensive to make.IMG_1650

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THE FINISH LINE

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While I have been away vacationing with my family, grandkids and all, you have been stitching away on your Painted Daisy Quilt.  I would love to be a mouse in your sewing room seeing your fabric combination that you chose for this great traditional quilt.  The instructions for this week will involve putting the multiple borders on the quilt.  I have a few tried and true tips for putting on borders to keep the quilt “square” and not stretching or distorting the borders.  I also have a few opinions about batting selection to pass onto you.

 Painted Daisy Section III

 

The following steps were a mainstay at the Thimbleberries Design Studio and many quilts over the years were successfully completed for photography and trunk shows using this method.

 

Step 1…With pins, mark the center points along all 4 sides of the quilt.  For the top and bottom borders, measure the quilt from left to right through the middle.  This measurement will give you the most accurate measurement that will result in a “square” quilt.

Step 2…Measure and mark the border lengths and center point on the steps cut for the borders before sewing them on.  Often the border lengths given in the instructions are cut a bit longer than needed to give the opportunity to trim and “square off” perfectly on each border attachment.

 

Step 3…Pin the border strips to the quilt matching the pinned points on each of the borders AND the quilt.  Pin borders every 6 – 8 inches easing the fabric to fit if necessary.  This will prevent the borders and the quilt center from stretching while you are sewing them together.  Stitch a 1/4-inch seam.  Press the seam allowance toward the borders.  Trim off excess border lengths using a large acrylic square or a  long acrylic ruler.  Use all the marks on the ruler to line up seams etc. to keep border ends “square” and accurate.

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Step 4…For the side borders, measure your quilt from top to bottom, including the borders just added, to determine the length of the side borders.

 

Step 5…Measure and mark the side border lengths as you did for the top and bottom borders.

Step 6…Pin and stitch the side border strips in place. Press and trim the border strips in with the borders just added.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 7.59.51 AMStep 7..If your quilt has multiple borders, measure, mark and sew additional borders to the quilt in the same manner.

This attention to detail on all the multiple borders in your Painted Daisy quilt will produce a perfectly finished quilt top. These steps are very helpful especially when making wall quilts to keep all outside measurements accurate.  When borders get stretched, it is so obvious when a quilt is hung on the wall.

BATTING CHOICE

The availability or many high quality batting products has really exploded over the years.  In the past,  we didn’t have so many choices.  We had cotton or very poor, puffy polyester. Now there are beautiful blends, silk, wool, bamboo and yes, even high quality polyester.  The choice is probably very personal, meaning how lofty or how flat you like your finished quilt to be.  Now, all of my quilts are machine quilted by long arm quilting artists.  I will cherish my hand quilted quilts from the past, but now the reality is machine quilting for me.  I am so pleased with the results as well as the convenience and speed, that there is no going back to the quilting frame for me.  For those of you who still love the process of hand quilting…hats off to you.  But for most of us, machine quilting by a long arm quilter or on a home sewing machine seems to be the norm.  I find quilts machine quilted with 100% cotton batting are too dense for my taste, and sometimes too stiff and heavy because of the weight of the thread that has been added to the surface of the quilt. I have mentioned many times before, my family likes floppy quilts. My preference is a 20/80 blend or even a pure, light polyester.  I am still really fond of Hobbs Poly Down.  I like the light loft it gives the quilting design in the spaces between the stitching.  The loft casts a slight shadow that in turn highlights the quilting design.  The line of quilting stencils that I designed  for Quilting Creations International were designed to all work for the machine quilter as well as the hand quilter.  And they have been digitized for the long arm quilting industry as well.  You might want to check the Thimbleberries Stencil Designs available from quiltingcreations.com.   The block and border designs were designed specifically for the most standard block and border designs I use in most of my pattern designs.  Check them out if you haven’t already.

In most cases, my preference is to use a thread color that is neutral and blends with the the fabrics of the quilt top so the actual stitches are secondary to the quilting design quilting.  The exception, is of course, when decorative threads are part of the final design decision.  So far, that hasn’t happened on my quilts, but I have seen many beautiful quilts done with vibrant thread colors and a variety of thread fiber content.  If you need to change colors to blend with high contrasting fabrics used in the top and you do not want the change in the stitching to show on the back side, plan on using a print on the back of your quilt so that the change in thread will not be noticeable.   It will be a more attractive quilt back and could also be used a a reversible quilt if the backing fabric is chosen with that in mind.  It is always good to get double use from your quilt…especially a large bed quilt.

I hope your have enjoyed our quilt along.  I am working on a few more for my upcoming fabric collections, Autumn Landscape and Christmas Remembered which will be available in quilt shops this late spring.