Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Right Border Fabric

When you're choosing a fabric for your border, sometimes the right fabric is one you've pieced together yourself! This quilt was one I made about 6 years ago. You can't see in this picture, but the words to a poem are embroidered in the light, teapot squares, which are appliqued. I had really struggled to find "just the right fabric" for the outer border. Nothing worked until I just pieced all the fabrics from the patchwork squares in random widths. In this photo, I have not yet trimmed it all to the same width.
So remember this little trick the next time you have a hard time finding the right border fabric. Maybe it's in your scrap box!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Using Tea or Coffee to Create Flesh Toned Fabrics

Many of my patterns have characters on them such as the children on this quilt. Because good skin tones are hard to find in fabric, I often have to dye my own.  In this quilt, I've used fabric dyed by either coffee or tea. You will notice that each child has a different color skin.  Coffee gives a more brown beige and tea gives a warmer beige.

 In this tutorial, I'm going to show the easy process of tea or coffee dying.

1. Materials: You will need  fabric (unbleached muslin, cream cotton, very light peach cotton, or light tan cotton are good choices) and very hot tea or coffee. Use about 2 tea bags to each 8 oz. of water. This should be a very strong tea. You will need enough to submerge your fabric. Keep in mind that you don't really need a large amount of fabric to make a face, hands and legs. A fat quarter will do at least a couple of figures. But be aware that it is very difficult to match a tea or coffee dyed color. Dye all you need for one quilt at one time. You need a container large enough to hold the liquid and the fabric. .You need 1/2 cup plain vinegar to set the dye. (Not pictured here.)

2. Add your unfolded fabric to the liquid and be sure it is completely submerged. Swish it around a little to be sure the liquid permeates the entire piece.

3. Let the fabric sit.The longer it sits, the darker it will become (up to a certain point.) At least an hour or more is needed. (In the photo I am leaving the spatula on top of the fabric to hold it under the surface of the water.) The fabric will look darker when wet thank it will when it is dry.. Rinse well under running water.( If you find that it isn't dark enough, put it back in the tea or coffee and leave it longer.)

4. Soak the fabric again, after rinsing, in 4 cups of water and 1/2 cup vinegar. This will help set the dye.
   Let it sit about 15 minutes, then rinse again.

5.Roll it up in a towel to absorb excess water and then dry it either naturally or in your dryer.

6. Press well. If the fabric is not dark enough to suit you, repeat the process. (If it is too dark, you can bleach it out.)

That's all there is to it! You might want to get some unbleached muslin and experiment a little. See how many skin tones you can make. Human skin comes in hundreds of colors.
Have fun and save all your "experiments". You never know when you might need just a little bit of flesh color.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finding Inspiration

What can I say about a scene like this? This is a photo in my files of my granddaughter in Victoria, B.C. She was 2 years and 9 months old and we had gone to visit this beautiful place.. She stopped along the way to admire every flower. Of course, she wore her red rain boots because they made her happy!
This is the type of scene that grabs my heart. This is why I quilt with bright colors and most often have childhood themes. 
Notice the colors in this photo. I added the gold of the sunny day and used black instead of blue, but if you crop out the background you are left with colors that might have been the reason behind this quilt:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cupcake Pincushion/Box Tutorial


It's a pincushion and a box! It can hold your spool of thread, embroidery floss, seam ripper, or whatever fits in the container you choose. And it looks like a  cupcake! You can make it any size you choose, from small to large.

To get started you need a plastic container of the size you want.(Mine held salsa.) If it doesn't have a lid, you can cut a cardboard circle to fit. You also need a styrofoam half ball (the white styrofoam is best although I used what I had), batting scraps, fabric, ribbon trim, tacky style glue, light cardboard such as from a cereal box, thread, needle, scissors.
1. Spread glue on the outside of the container. Wrap batting around it and trim it to fit. (If the label is not printed on, remove it first.)
2. Turn the lid upside down and glue the sytrofoam ball inside the lid. You may need to trim the bottom edge slightly to make it fit well. 
3. Cut a circle of batting the size of the bottom of the lid and glue it on. This is also a good time to cut a circle of fabric to go on the bottom of this top piece. Add 1" seam allowance all around . Set the fabric piece aside. You will use it in a later step.
4. Cut a circle of batting to fit over the ball and trim to fit. Also cut a circle of your top fabric with a 1" seam allowance all around.
5. Sew a running stitch (gathering stitch) around the perimeter of the circle. Place over the ball and pull to gather. Adjust the gathers evenly around the circle. Secure with a knot, then sew snugly to the batting on the bottom, pulling the raw edges well past the edge of the bottom.
6. Cut a cardboard circle the same size as the bottom of the lid. Run a line of glue around the edge and turn the seam allowance to the back over the glue.
7. Sew this piece to the bottom of the lid. It is helpful to run a line of glue about 1/2" inside the edge to help hold the disc in place while you sew. 
8. Cut a strip of fabric for the box. It should overhang about 1" at top and bottom to give you plenty of room to work. Sew it together along the side to make it fit snugly. (Do not stitch in the 1" allowance at top and bottom since you might trim this.)
9. Finish the bottom just as you did the bottom of the lid, except the cardboard circle should be the size of the bottom of your box (instead of the lid). (NOTE: if your container is clear, cut a circle of batting to fit over the bottom so that you don't see the gathered fabric edge through the bottom! Wish I had done that!)
10. Turn the top excess fabric over and trim to about 1/2".
11. Run a line of glue around the top edge and cover the turned down fabric with a piece of ribbon. Turn the raw edge under and sew  together. (I also needed to sew around the bottom edge of my ribbon to make it fit snugly against the base.)
12. Make a hinge for the lid by sewing about 2" of the bottom edge of the lid to the top edge of the box. (Of course, the size of your box will determine how much of a hinge you need.) You can also choose to make your lid more secure by adding hook and loop tape or a button closure.
13. Make a cherry by cutting a circle (mine was about 3" across, but if you have a larger container you need a larger circle). Make a running stitch all around the edge, gather, stuff with polyester or cotton batting, and pull the gathering stitches tight. Sew to the top. 
 That's it! You could choose to add rick-rack or cording as icing on the top. Or add a round button in place of the cloth cherry on top. Use your imagination. I can envision a chocolate version with two rows of white rick-rack across the top. Have fun with it!

Friday, March 18, 2011

An Irish Blessing and a Trip to Houston!

Irish Blessing
Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. My heritage is mostly Scottish (my maiden name was Duncan!), but I would love to claim Ireland as part of my heritage. I've never been there, but I've seen pictures of the lush, green hills, the sheep in the meadows, the ocean lapping at the rocky coastline. The pictures look dreamy! 
This new quilt pattern doesn't depict any of that. It isn't even green. BUT, it does have an Irish blessing on it that I think is a beautiful sentiment:
May God give you for every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile. For every care a promise and a blessing with each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share. For every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer. 

That would be a sweet sentiment for a newly married couple,  a graduating senior or just for someone you love. 

Yesterday was a special day for me. My sister and I drove to Houston to meet Lana, a blogger friend whom I had never met face to face! You may follow her blog, . It Seams to be Sew... 
 Lana, Darla (my sister) and I met at a local mall and because we were all "starving", we went to lunch. Unfortunately, I tried to open my car door too soon after Darla stopped the car and it wouldn't unlock. We tried all the standard things to get the door unlocked including restarting the car, putting it in gear, etc. etc. I was about to just climb over the driver's seat from the passenger seat when Lana, who was probably wondering about these two crazy sisters, gave some advice about how to get the door open. It worked. Now, I want you to realize that my sister and I are not stupid or unintelligent. We have college degrees. We have managed to get out of cars for many years! I think that if we chewed gum, we could "walk and chew gum at the same time". Anyway, we managed to make it through a meal without incident. We felt that we had known Lana for years! She is as sweet and funny as she appears in her blog. 
After eating, Lana took us to a new Joann's, where I stocked up on fat quarters 30% off and a cute bumble bee box and bumble bee buttons.
Then the excitement began. We got caught in "The Twilight Zone". We kept going in circles trying to find  Quilters Emporium. We probably made a loop three times, each time turning too soon and missing the shop. (Houston is known for its traffic and difficult freeways!) Finally, about the time we thought Lana was just taking us on the scenic route, we found it.  Quilters Emporium is a wonderful shop! If you're in the area, you should check it out. 
After this, we said our goodbyes and headed home. ( Lana, we even stopped on the way home and I was able to get my door open! I know you'll be proud of us.)  
By the way, everyone, be sure and stop back by on Monday! I will post a new tutorial for a cute little item you may want to make!! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quilt Design in Wood

My daddy is pretty much good at anything he tries. He worked in architecture most of his career, but spent weekends as a wedding photographer for several years. He also spent some time cutting gems. He became president of the local gem cutting society and had a cut published in a magazine after a very short time in this hobby. He built houses, he is a great cartoonist, and........he builds furniture. When my mama started quilting in earnest a short time ago, my daddy watched, knowing that this was right up his alley - only he didn't want to work with cloth. He did design a quilt and choose fabric for HER to make, and it turned out beautiful. But you have to remember that men in his generation just didn't quilt. They built furniture. So that is just what he did. He drew out a quilt design and pieced it with different types of wood. You can see the results above. It's beautiful! It has a clear sealer so that only the natural colors of the woods he used shows. 
Quilt designs transcend time, gender, and even materials. You would be surprised how many places you might find inspiration. Floors, windows, even garden layouts. 
So, Daddy, even though you didn't use fabric, you did a great job of "piecing". I am envisioning a quilt studio floor.........hmmmm. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Making Over" or Re-designing a Quilt

Designers and artists don't always "get it right". I'm sure even Da Vinci (and I'm not really comparing myself to his genius!) had works that were not his favorites. 
This little quilt is one of those for me. For one thing, the colors are just not as bright and cheerful as most of my quilts. SO........
I've decided to give her a makeover. 
She is a different version of my more popular pattern,"Rain, Rain Go Away" (see below). I don't know exactly why I redid her originally, but one reason is that I wanted to offer a pattern with no words and a different colorway. 

There are many ways to change a quilt that you've already finished but are not completely satisfied with. With applique, you can just applique a new color over the old, even if it has been quilted. So I started by changing the umbrella color. I wanted more color. Then I gave her striped stockings. That still didn't give me the punch I wanted, so I sewed a "rainbow" colored rick-rack over the seamline between the first two borders.  I was happier, but if I wanted to offer this as a pattern, completely different from the first, I needed to add more. I decided to call it "Singing in the Rain". I added singing birds, a singing dog, and a singing cat. Then I added embroidery to make the little girl singing instead of smiling.
Singing in the Rain it is. Made over. What do you think?

Here is Rain, Rain Go Away (still available):

Monday, March 7, 2011

Applique Tutorial

 A great big THANK YOU to everyone who is visiting here for the first time and an even bigger THANK YOU if you are returning!
Some of you have seen this tutorial on my website, but if not, here it is on my blog. This is not the most common freezer paper applique method. You would be surprised how many people tell me they already know how to do this only to be surprised when they see it actually done. In this method, the freezer paper is ironed to the FRONT or RIGHT SIDE of the fabric. The edges are turned to the wrong side. The freezer paper makes it easy to turn the loose edges under. The glue stick makes them stay in place. When finished, you have a figure with all edges turned under. You can see exactly what it will look like on different backgrounds. This is not a good method for tiny pieces although it works well for pieces as small as leaves, etc. I've used it for letters, too. It makes large applique pieces extremely easy. So......take a look and see if this is something you might want to try!
1. Trace the pattern piece off onto the DULL side of the freezer paper.

2. Cut out the freezer paper pattern on the lines. Do not add seam allowances.
3. Press the freezer paper onto the RIGHT side of the fabric. NOTE: Place the shiny side against the fabric and press the dull side. The shiny side will stick to your iron if you do this backwards!!!! This will not hurt your fabric and can be easily peeled off (unless your iron gets hotter than a normal cotton setting.)
4. Leave the pattern on and cut out the fabric leaving a turn-under allowance of about 1/4". Clip inside curves, inside points, etc.
5. Run a line of glue stick along the seam allowance. Be careful to not press hard enough to pull the fabric off the paper. (The new fabric glue pens make this really easy, but regular washable school glue works fine. I do not recommend the blue or purple kind, although it may be fine. Test first.) If you are not using 100% cotton, it might be harder to get the glue to adhere your seam allowance. It sticks really well with cotton.
6. Turn the seam allowance to the WRONG side of the fabric, using the edge of the freezer paper as your guide.  (It is a little hard to tell in this photo because the wrong side of this black fabric is almost white like the paper! What you are seeing is the wrong side of the fabric. The seam allowances are turned under and ready to be pressed.)
7. Press the seam allowances in place.
8. Peel the paper off the right side of the fabric. (Save it to reuse if you want. You can reuse it several times before it stops adhering.)
9. Pin in place on your quilt to see if you like your fabric choices. If so, you can stick them in place with more glue stick to help keep them in place.
10. Either hand applique or machine applique  your pieces to your background. 
That's all there is to it! Give it a try. It is really easy. 
The figures in most of my patterns are appliqued using this method. It is fast, easy, and you can see before you sew exactly what you are going to end up with. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Changing a Color Scheme in a Quilt

The Good Shepherd
This is one of my newest patterns. I thought I would use it to show you that you don't have to use the exact fabrics or even colors called for in a pattern. It always surprises me when I hear someone say, "Oh, I can't find that fabric so I can't make that." There are some patterns that do
require certain fabrics, but my patterns can be made with an endless variety of fabrics and colors.
 In the quilt above, I chose a green batik with leaves sprinkled all over the background. I took the blues and purples that were in the batik and used them for the shepherd's clothing and for the scrap border. I could just as easily have used altogether different colors. I try to repeat the colors found in the busiest fabric. To demonstrate this, I am using  pieces prepared for applique. They are not sewn down and details have not been added with embroidery (such as the lamb's face and the fingers). I am just setting the pieces on different fabrics straight out of my stash - without even ironing them. This is often how I develop my color schemes. If I decide that it would look good except for one element, I can change that element and see if it works better. All this can be done before sewing anything down if you use my freezer paper method. (There is a tutorial on my website under "Getting Started". (Many people are familiar with freezer paper applique, but usually in their method the paper is ironed to the wrong side of the fabric. Note that in the method I use the freezer paper is ironed to the RIGHT side of the fabric!) I did not invent this method, but have no idea where I learned it. I just know that it works really well and makes applique easy!

Here is a "sample" of what it might have looked like in reproduction fabrics in softer colors. Because I have a black shepherd's hook I chose to add a black and white checkerboard border. I would probably chose to embroider the verse in black instead of blue. 

I could have chosen to use a more feminine color scheme with a pink paisley background. I used the same pieces, but changed the headband to a checkered one. I used a large check in the border. I still like the idea of the verse in black. I love the contrast of black and pastel. 

But what if you really like the look of the batik with the leaves? How about using a "solid" green batik and adding leaves with rubber stamps and acrylic paint? I have done this and it works beautifully. You need to iron it to heat set the paint after it dries, but it will withstand many washings. (If you have ever gotten acrylic paint on your clothing, you know that it doesn't wash out easily if allowed to dry!) Don't attempt to get solid areas of paint. Batik is not solid. There are areas in batik where the color is very subtle.

How about those of you who are afraid to hand applique? Did you know that you can chose to sew them on by machine? With this method, the edges are all turned under, so there will be no fraying after washing. You can use a tiny buttonhole stitch to go around the figures and sew them down by machine. Or you can choose a tiny satin stitch, although I find this takes longer than hand sewing!

 I often find that what I planned to use does not look as good as I thought it would. Setting the pieces out like I did above gives me a chance to make changes early on before I have put a lot of time and work into the project.

So....have fun with your colors. Use colors YOU love. Use up fabrics that have been sitting on your shelves. Then let all of us in blogland see what you've done!

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