Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tip for Checkerboard Borders

I have several patterns that call for a checkerboard border. If you're new to quilting or just to working with checkerboard fabric, you may want to know a few little tips about it.
I love the look of checkerboard. It often gives a quilt a little "pop" and makes the colors stand out even more. I think my love for it comes from reading old children's books. The old Mother Goose books had covers with a checkerboard border. 
Checkerboard can be either very easy or very difficult, depending on whether or not you know the tips about working with it. 
Using it can be like working with a built in measuring tape. You can count the squares to match up lengths, for instance. (If you have 52 squares down one border, you know you need 52 squares down the opposite side. 

When sewing it to a section, cut it so that you can sew along a row of squares instead of a 1/4" seam allowance. (On my quilts, you can fudge the size of your borders without any problem.) Always flip it over so that you are sewing from the checkerboard side and can see the row of squares easily. This will prevent you sewing down the middle of the squares and gives a nicer look.

Press your seams toward the checkerboard (on both sides) to give it a more raised appearance. If you are new to quilting, the side you press the seam toward will be a little more raised than the other side. So if you want a border to recede, press the seams away from it. If you want it to stand out slightly, press the seams toward it.
The corners are easy if you have measured your squares correctly. They should come out the same in each corner. You may need to fudge your border size one square larger or one square shorter to make the corner come out without having two black squares or two white squares butted up together.  If you just can't change the size and it doesn't come out right, you may need a solid square in the corner. 
Checkerboard comes in many sizes. The squares can range from over an inch wide to about 1/4" wide each. If one size doesn't look right, try a different size. If using the 1/4" wide squares, there is no need to fudge your border sizes.
 It is easy to piece strips together because the seam just blends in.
I've been making my Irish Blessing pattern (on the right) as a sample in a different fabric/color combination. (It's not really crooked although the photo angle makes it look that way!)

I'll show you more when I get more done. So, until next time.....
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flossy, the Dust Bunny's Cousin

 I'm back! I've been having major internet issues this week, but hopefully, they are fixed.
Easter is not far away. That made me think of bunnies - soft, furry Easter bunnies. Then I realized that although I wasn't likely to see one of those this year, I did have an entire family of dust bunnies living under my bed. Then I walked into my sewing room and saw the threads all over the floor. (I have a bad habit of throwing the cut threads over my shoulder onto the floor so I can sweep them up afterwards. It works fine unless I'm called away before I sweep up!) I decided that I needed a "thread catcher bunny" so I made this little gal out of batting since it seems to catch every stray thread around. She was super easy to make. 
 Cut 2 layers of batting (see the threads they picked up from the ironing board?) into a shape similar to that above. It is not quite a half circle. Also cut two little ears from white felt (or you could use the batting, but you might have a flop earred rabbit) and some ear "insides" from pink felt. 
Sew the 2 pieces of batting together along the arc. Open it at the flat end and lay it on another piece of batting to make a bottom. Pin and then sew to the bottom, leaving a 1" opening for turning.
Trim the extra batting off the bottom. Turn right side out through the turning hole.
Stuff the bunny body firmly and sew the opening closed.
Glue the pink lining to the ears and pinch the bottoms together. (I did not glue the pinch closed, but the felt holds the pinch long enough for you to sew it to the bunny that way.)
Sew the ears on and embroider a little face. If I had found little pink beads, I might have used them for eyes. You might even prefer a different color for the eyes.
Sew a little white pom pom on the back for a tail.
Make a little grassy patch for your bunny by layering batting, your top fabric, and then your bottom fabric (all cut in a square a little larger than your bunny). Sew around the edges leaving an opening space. Turn right sides out and top stitch all the way around. Slip stitch your bunny to the top and you're finished.
 So here's Flossy.  She'll hold your clipped threads while you sew. I found that she's pretty good at holding my embroidery floss strands, too, while I'm embroidering. She can sit by your machine, on the arm of a chair, or you can even pin her to your shirt while you sew. If you want, she'll even hold your pins and needles. 
Until next time....                                        
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Winners Announced and a New Design Shown

I've been pretty busy lately working up new designs for my patterns. This is the latest. It's called The Gardener.
I have been working really hard trying to get three new designs worked up. I have to make samples of them all as well as writing them up.  I decided that I was pushing myself too hard when I sewed completely through my finger yesterday with the sewing machine! I thought I would make it through life without ever doing that! After all, I'm careful. At least I thought I was. It didn't hit the bone and I'm fine although my finger is a little sore. The idea of it is worse than the actual "accident"! It's a shame though that I had to change a needle only 5 minutes after putting a new one on!
And now for something pleasant! The winners of my giveaway from the post on Tuesday!

The winner of the two little red lipstick towels from Tuesday's post is #6 (chosen by random number generator). That is Cheryll, from Gone Stitchin'.Congratulations, Cheryll!
The orange towel and the pink one (shown in the tutorial) go to #21(also chosen by random number generator), Charlene S. of Geema's Wonderings. Congratulations to you, too, Charlene!
Be sure and check out their blogs by clicking on their blog title.
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Pin Cushion that Protects Your Pins - Tutorial

Most of us grew up with the standard of pin cushions - the tomato! I have an entire collection of pin cushions of all shapes and sizes, but when I think "pin cushion", this is the image that comes to mind. The problem with any pin cushion is that it is not practical for carrying to class. The pins crush down into the cushion or get caught on things. You might even find one in your finger if you reach into your tote to pull something out!
I was in my local grocery store last week and saw this little tomato keeper. I immediately thought PIN CUSHION! It is made to keep a tomato in and has a screw off top. (If your grocery store doesn't have one, you can find one HERE. (I paid around $4 for mine.) It also comes as an onion, a lemon, or a lime!
In about 5 to 15 minutes, you can have a pin cushion that will protect pins, needles, and even thread. 
1. Put a 4" styrofoam ball into the bottom of the tomato holder.  Cut it off level with the bottom. Bevel the edges so your screw on top will still operate. (Test it.) You may want to do this outside as styrofoam is really messy.
2. Put glue in the bottom of the holder and push the styrofoam into it. 

3. If you want a thread holder in the center, snap off a plastic stir stick or a skewer to about 3" long (test it by trying to put the cover on) and pushing it into the center. Remove it. (You needed the hole to make finding the center easier later.) Cover the top of the styrofoam with a circle of batting if you want to make it smoother.

4. Cut a circle of felt a little larger than the styrofoam. Tuck it in all around using a butter knife.
 5. This step is optional, but gives a nice finish. I trimmed the seam allowance on some enclosed cording trim. I ran a line of glue around the edge, deep down under the screw ridges, and pushed the cording down between the holder and the felt. A contrasting color, like green, might show up better, but it makes the felt snug and looks nice. Test to be sure your lid will close.
6. Find the center and punch through the felt with the tip of some small scissors. 

7. Cut a little piece of green felt like the top of the tomato and make a snip in the center of it. Put the stirrer through the snip. Put glue in the hole and push the stirrer into the hole. Put a little glue under the green to hold it in place. Let the glue dry, but before that, be sure your lid will screw closed. 

 Put your pins in and screw on the lid. That's all there is to it! Now it is safe to carry around in your tote bag. It will hold a LOT of pins, too!
                           Wouldn't this be a fun little gift?
(Note: I use small spools of silk thread for my applique and they fit perfectly on the little thread holder. Large spools will not fit.)
Of course, it has not escaped my attention that you could just plop your old tomato pin cushion in the tomato keeper to put it in your tote, but what fun is that? This is much nicer I think!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Hodgepodge of Tips

We all struggle to make what we do easier, faster, more controllable, or just more efficient. I have a handful of tips that you might find useful. You may already do these things, but it might be that you find something helpful here. 
1. Do you see that little round button on the floor? The one made to make turning on your Christmas tree easier? (We call it a "stomper", but I'm sure it has a real name!)Well, it works like a dream with your iron!!! It's easier than stepping on that little switch on your power strip, and since my iron turns on and off by plugging and unplugging, it is a LOT easier than bending down to plug and unplug.
2. This one is simple. I use one of those inexpensive plastic "buckets" as a trash can in my sewing room. It has a very wide top, so throwing those tiny threads and scraps in is much easier!
3. I use hardware bins to hold my embroidery thread. Each drawer front has a snippet of floss and the number. Since I like to put embroidery on my quilts, I love having my floss so accessible. Did you know these have slots for wall mounting? Mine are mounted on the wall, one on top of the other.
4. Because I use freezer paper for all my applique and designing, I buy big rolls of it from U-Line. The paper cutter is also available from them and has made my life so much easier! I've had this roll of freezer paper for several years and I use it a LOT! At about $50 a large roll, it isn't cheap, but when you use as much as I do it is a lot cheaper than buying it by the box in the grocery store. I would spring for the extra to buy the cutter, too. It really makes it easy to use!
5. If you have a guest room that isn't used often, store your quilts under the bedspread on the bed. It keeps them flat and out of dust and light. I've even given an impromtu "quilt show" when asked by peeling back each layer to show each quilt.
6. Keep a luggage tag on the machine you take to workshops. (Since so many in my group have Featherweights, I keep my name on mine all the time.) I put a ribbon through a toggle clip (that can clip on my handle) and embroidered my name on it. I then sewed both layers of ribbon together. I've had it for several years and although it has a few spots, it has been durable.
7. Use your crockpot! If it weren't for my crockpot, my poor husband would have to take me out to eat almost every night! (Not such a bad thing, but I don't think he would go for it!) I put our dinner in the crock pot in the morning and leave it all day so I can quilt. I feel like I have a built in babysitter in my kitchen when I use mine. I don't have to run back and forth to the stove. (I also like to bake bread, so when I don't have time, I use my trusty bread machine! Another great time saver!) 
8. Use your glue stick in place of basting and in situations where you want an accurate hem or insert. (This photo is from my post about hemming napkins and using the glue stick to turn under the hem before sewing.) I use glue sticks as much as I use freezer paper!

 Well, I have other tips scattered throughout my posts, but these are the ones I wanted to share with you today. Hopefully, you found something useful. Have a great day!
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Making Ribbon Labels - Tutorial

Have you ever wanted a label to give your quilts or other handwork that little punch of "professionalism"? Maybe you just want an easier way to label simple quilts or to send a message to the recipient. This method is not my idea. I've seen it several places before. I have used it now for a couple of years and although it isn't perfect, it works really well and costs a lot less than having labels made. 
 Print out columns of what you want your label to say. You will be cutting them out, so you don't really need much spacing between them. Be sure you don't print them too large to fit on your ribbon. You will want to test this on plain paper.
 You will need fabric transfer paper for inkjet printers. Be sure to read the label. Some are made for copiers! READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! Mine said to print mirror image.Since I use Word, which does not have a mirror image option, I set my printer to print mirror image. On my Cannon Pixma printer, this option is called "T-Shirt Transfer" in the "media" section of printer options. (There may be other ways to set your printer to print in mirror image. You probably know a lot more about that than I do!!!)
Be sure you put your paper in facing the correct side. That will probably vary with your printer, but be sure you will be printing on the correct side of the transfer sheet.
Cut out what you want on your ribbon. I do this one at a time so I don't lose any!
Place the wording down on the ribbon, making sure it is not upside down. When straight and in the correct position, press with a hot iron for about 20 to 30 seconds. Check carefully by pulling back just a little to see if it has transferred. If part of the letters are not sticking, put it back down and continue to press.
Peel off the paper and you should have a nice label. This will wear off with frequent washing and handling, just as it does on a t-shirt, so you may want to do this next step to make it more permanent.
                    Brush on some gel medium and let it dry.
You should decide beforehand how you will want to sew your labels in. You can go across the corner, sewing the ends of the ribbon into the binding (you need to leave your ribbon flat, but leave enough ribbon at each end to sew it at an angle)...or..... can make your ribbon a loop that you sew into the side of a label or your quilt binding...... or.... can sew your label lengthwise into the binding. If you do this, you will want to make a ribbon loop, turn it inside out and sew across the raw edges, then turn it right side out again and press.

I found the hardest part of this entire process was in figuring out how to get a mirror image, so once you do that the rest is easy!
Have fun!!!
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