Completed: Daycare birthday treat

Sometimes I make things that do not contain any fabric, shocking right? My youngest daughter recently turned two years old and I made a treat she could take to daycare to share with the other children to celebrate. What they bring has to be healthy, a policy I fully endorse but a single box of raisins just doesn’t look so festive.

The past three birthdays I picked a nice children’s book and made something to decorate the raisins that fits in with the theme of the book. The children can enjoy their raisins and as a group they get a new book to read with the teachers.

This time I picked a book about a boy and an elephant that play hide-and-seek, David Barrow’s “Have you seen elephant?”. It’s very cute, the elephant is not particularly good a hiding as you can already tell from the front cover but the boy can’t find him at all. My daughter loves elephants and hide-and-seek, even though she doesn’t really get the rules yet. She still runs out of her hiding spot the moment you’re done counting, usually from behind the floor length living room curtains, but she has so much fun!

In Adobe Illustrator I drew a box with an elephant on one side to fold around the box of raisins. I am quite proud at how recognizable the elephant turned out! I had to omit the tusks though because whatever I tried they just looked ridiculously out of place.

Happy birthday little girl!

Completed: wholecloth handquilted pillow

With the Dutch modern quilt guild we have a theme each quarter and we are challenged to make things that fit inside this theme. Last summer the theme was modern traditional. The challenge was to create something with a modern twist using the churn dash, ohio star, dutchman’s puzzle or basket traditional block.

I played around with the idea of doing a wholecloth quilt where the quilting defines the shapes of the traditional block. I got as far as making a small quilt sandwich and machine quilting the outlines of the Dutchman’s puzzle. Then I got sort of stuck on what to do next and it just sat in one of the piles on the desk next to my sewing machine.

The first theme of 2021 was slow stitching and we did a Zoom hand quilting workshop for which I needed something to practice on. Instead of making another quilt sandwich I simply pulled the unfinished Dutchman’s puzzle from the pile and started stitching in the background triangles without much of a plan. Just starting is sometimes the best way to get out of indecision. I used the Sulky 12wt Cotton Petites thread that I had received from the DutchMQG for this theme and I really liked sewing with it. It sewed smoothly and didn’t tangle.

After filling in the background triangles it was time to do something with the geese and I thought the piece needed a bit more colour so I switched to the thicker Wonderfil Perle 8 thread that I already had in my stash and picked green, blue, pink and yellow. After finishing I didn’t like the yellow so much because the contrast with the green background wasn’t as good as with the other 3 colours so I replaced it with a light brown which worked much better.

At some point I also started to hate the black machine stitched lines and pulled those out as well. Much, much better.

For the back of the pillow I picked a quilting cotton from my stash and underlined it with another piece of cotton before installing an invisible zipper. I am very happy with how this pillow turned out. I am now toying with the idea of doing a larger wholecloth quilt to create a handquilted sampler using traditional block shapes. I do tend to overthink these things and am currently stuck on what to choose for the background fabric since that is going to define the look of the piece so much. Suggestions anyone?

Sewing room tour

Despite always finding it interesting to take a peek into other people’s sewing spaces to get inspiration on how to improve my own set up, I have never shown my own sewing room on this blog. In February I spend a couple of days doing a much needed clean up and decided that would be a good moment to also take some pictures of the room. It is usually not as tidy, but since taking these pictures I’ve been pretty good at keeping it in this condition.  

I am lucky to have a large space to use as a dedicated sewing room. When we bought our house a little over 6 years ago I sewed very often and a proper sewing room was very high on my list of requirements. This room is on the top floor of our house and while the ceiling is slanted it does not really reduce the amount of usable space since the roof only starts about a meter up from the floor. I can stand upright in most of the room. The large window provides a lot of natural light and the high ceiling makes it feel very roomy. I love this room.

My sewing machines are on a large IKEA desk. I usually have it set up like this with the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9400 on the right, the Janome 3160 QDC in the middle and the overlocker on the left. I absolutely love being able to use two sewing machines at the same time. I mostly use the 3160 for piecing quilt tops and then use the 9400 for quilting or garment sewing. It saves a lot of time changing threads and needles when I am working on different projects at the same time which is nearly always. Next to the sewing machines I have some containers in which spools of thread are stored and some often used notions and accessories for the 9400.

Our old dining room table holds my cutting mat. I find it ideal that I can walk around the table to cut or mark things from every side. At some point I’d like to raise the table so I don’t have to bend down to cut fabric but at the moment I’m also occasionally using this table to work from home so that’ll have to wait a little while longer. Next to the cutting table I put my dress form. I’m not making a lot of clothes for myself these days so I am not using it all that often. It’s a good space to store measuring tapes though.

My ironing board is set up next to the basin. This is mostly due to how the sockets are distributed across the room. Ideally it would be a bit closer to the sewing machines so I wouldn’t have to walk back and forth so much.

On one side of the room a previous owner installed some shelves and a built in closet with sliding doors. The shelves hold my sewing books and patterns. The build in closet is really deep so I can store huge amounts of stuff in there and to be honest the contents of this closet are only semi-organized. This is certainly a part of the room that could still do with some improvement. This closet contains large things like batting and fabric yardage, both quilting cottons and apparel fabrics, but also several coats that we’re not using because they’re out of season and lots of other random stuff that I may or may not need at some point. Above the closet I installed a curtain rod to display the mini quilt and quilted postcards that I received in swaps from fellow members of the DutchMQG so I can enjoy looking at them when I’m sewing. It also holds many artworks created by my daughter while she was playing in this room as I was sewing.

On the other side of the room I put 3 IKEA MALM chests of drawers. The left one currently holds sewing machine accessories and notions like elastics, interfacing and overlocker thread. The middle one contains smaller cuts of quilting fabrics like fat quarters, layer cakes and jelly rolls. The one on the right is a more jumbled collection of yarn, apparel fabrics and miscellaneous stuff. The two on the left are lower so I can store sewing machines that are not in use on top to create more space on my sewing desk when needed. Next to the chests of drawers there are also two large containers that hold a lot of fabric. One container contains woven fabrics for either bag making or clothing, the other container mostly contains knit fabrics. At some point in the past all my fabric fit in those containers. Imagine that! This was prior to my taking up quilting seriously.

Fat quarters somewhat organized by colour. I obviously don’t get too obsessed about this.

One downside of the slanted ceiling and the big window is that there is not a lot of straight wall space that can be used for a design wall. The only space where it fits is in between the door and the basin. The design wall is just a piece of white flannel with a hanging rod at the top and a smaller rod at the bottom to keep it hanging straight. I sometimes would like it to be a bit wider but most of my quilts fit well on this size.

By nature I am not a super tidy person. I’ve found that the trick to keeping your sewing room organized is to have a dedicated place for each item so you know where to put it back after using it. Yes, this probably seems very obvious, but it has made a huge difference for me in being able to find that specific ruler or fabric marker that I need. I am still super happy with the mobile pegboard that I came up with several years ago. I use it to store my rulers, scissors, rotary cutters, markers/pens, bobbins, even more spools of thread and works in progress. The tutorial for the mobile pegboard is currently the most popular post on my blog and I sometimes wonder how many of these are already residing in other people’s sewing rooms.

During the clean up I realized that I still don’t really have a good spot for storing my hand sewing supplies and that is something I will need to fix because currently I am just moving these items from one place to the next which is a well-tested recipe for creating chaos. One thing piles on top of each other and before I know it complete table surfaces have turned into mountains of stuff.

I’d also like to get a better container for storing scraps. They’re now in 2 open containers on the floor. A situation grown from sewing with my daughter so she could easily grab the fabrics that she wants to use but it is messy. Something with a lid is probably a better idea.

Well, this post turned out much longer than I expected. Do you also enjoy peeking into other people’s sewing rooms?

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Completed: a set of fabric crowns

One of my nieces turned 4 years old so we needed to come up with a gift to celebrate. She likes to dress up and is very much into princesses so I thought it might be fun to make her a fabric crown. I was also in a sewing funk and thought a relatively simple project would be a great way to get out of it.

There are already plenty of tutorials and patterns out there for fabric crowns and yet I decided to make up my own. One reason was that I didn’t have a printer at hand when I wanted to make the crown so I couldn’t print a template. The main reason, however, is that I’ve realized that the designing of these kinds of items and figuring out the best way to construct them is one of the things I like best about sewing. It may take longer to make something but it is a lot more fun when you figure everything out by yourself. At least for me it is. I also understand that some people prefer to know where they’re going when they’re sewing and use a fool-proof pattern.

I did scroll through a list of Google images of fabric crowns to decide on a style before I started drawing the pattern. I liked the pointy ones where the spikes become lower from front to side so that’s what I went for. After drawing I wrapped the template around my daughter’s head to determine how far the sides of the crown should extend to allow for some room for the elastic I put in the back.

Because I used my daughter as a living dress form to determine the size she quickly realised I was making a crown and immediately decided that she wanted one as well so I ended up making two. She also specifically asked for a green one.

For each crown I cut two pieces of Decovil light slightly larger than the crown template. This is a fantastic fusible interfacing; it is firm, yet flexible and ideal for a project like this. These pieces were fused to the front and back pieces of fabric for the crown that were also cut slightly larger than the template. On the right side of the front piece I traced around the template so I knew where to put the decorations. I used a set of iron on glitter stars that were sold as elbow/knee patches. You can’t go wrong with stars and glitter on a crown. Each crown was also decorated with some sequins that I sewed on by hand. For my niece I only picked a couple of colours but my daughter wanted all the colours.

The front and back pieces were then layered on top of each other wrong sides together and I put some fusible stuff in between that had come with some IKEA curtains to make a fusible hem (I obviously used a sewing machine to hem those curtains…). During pressing I protected the sequins with a pressing cloth. Fusing the two layers ensured that they stuck together when I cut out the final crown shape. It was also very helpful for keeping everything in place when I used a zig zag stitch to finish the edge of the crown.

Deciding on what to use as a closure probably took the longest. Since I didn’t have the intended recipient on hand for try-ons I wanted it to be somewhat adjustable. I considered snaps and Velcro but both those options will probably require help from an adult to adjust and as a parent I really like it when my children can play with their toys without adult assistance. I am also not so sure that Velcro is so desirable to use close to hair as it may get tangled in the male part. So, in the end I decided that the fabric part of the crown would not go all the way around the head but at the back a piece of soft and stretchy elastic would supply some adjustability. That probably makes my crowns a sort of crown-tiara mashup. For the elastic closure I cut some fabric that was the same width as the back of the crown. Sewed the elastic to one side, folded it and attached it to the crown with some vertical stitch lines and some more zig zagging around the edges to get a neat finish.

My daughter is very happy with her new green crown!

Completed: Kantha running stitch pillow

Some days I simply crave a finish. Luckily I have plenty of unfinished projects lying around to satisfy that itch. One was half a pillow that I started for one of the projects in the Alison Glass stitch club 2020 that focused on hand stitching. This was a project from the June issue to get familiar with the Kantha running stitch. The idea was to create a piece of patchwork from strips and just fill those in with the running stitch and then sew it to a back to create a pillow.

I gave it my own twist by using a single background colour and a couple of floating colourful rectangles. The colour of the Wonderfil perle 8 cotton threads I used for the Kantha stitching were matched to the colour of the strip I was sewing and I think this looks really nice in the strips that have a splash of colour in them.

The front of the pillow was completed in just a couple of days. I enjoyed doing the running stitch and once I got the hang of loading multiple stitches on the needle sewing was pretty quick. Then I got kind of stuck on the back. I had found a fabric in my stash that I thought would look nice but I wasn’t sure what kind of closure I wanted to do. Envelope? But I felt the print on the back might not look so good cut up. An invisible zipper? But I didn’t have a matching colour… And so the piece sat unfinished for more than 6 months even though I picked it up a couple of times but I kept asking myself the same questions.

In the end I decided that an invisible zipper would look best and that this pandemic is taking too long to wait for matching zipper colours. I’d have preferred to use a black one but I did have grey on hand and since the zipper is invisible you only really see the zipper pull anyway.

The front was already constructed as two layers and I only trimmed it square and did an overlock stitch around the edges to prevent fraying. For the back I also cut a lining piece because I feel that pillows do look better when they’re lined instead of a single layer of fabric.

Whenever I make a project like this I think I should do hand sewing more often since I enjoy it so much when I am doing it, but then usually I end up not not doing any hand stitching for months. This quarter my guild’s theme is slow stitching though and that is a very good reason to pick up some hand sewing needles soon.  

I also should buy more pillow forms because each time I make a new cover I have to remove one from another pillow. Or I should stop making more, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon right?

Completed: Dress 18 from Knippie December 2019/January 2020

I made a dress for my daughter using a pattern from Knippie December 2019/2020. If you feel it doesn’t really look like the line drawing you’re absolutely right. The pattern came from a party issue of the magazine and it features a lace ruffle at the shoulders and a detachable overskirt. I am not big on ruffles and detachable skirts aren’t really all that practical for everyday use. I was looking for a basic dress pattern for knit fabrics and couldn’t really find anything else in my stash that fit the bill so decided to give this one a try skipping on the extra frill.

I gave my daughter some options for fabrics from my stash and she picked this lovely stripe. It feels very soft on both front and back and behaved well under my sewing machine. Sewing the dress was quite straightforward. Stripe matching was definitely more successful on one side, however, and when I got to hemming I realized this was probably due to how I cut the back bodice because the stripes at the back hem are definitely not so straight…

I followed the instructions for attaching the neck binding but this is definitely not my preferred method. You start by sewing the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the bodice and then fold it over to the right side, fold the other raw edge under and topstitch. I find this super fiddly and had to use a lot of pins to get it to look somewhat decent. With a solid fabric this is probably easier than when you’re also dealing with a stripe though. The V is created by folding the attached binding at the front and sewing a small diagonal seam. One advantage of this binding method over what I usually do is that the finish on the inside is very neat. I just find it a lot easier and faster to attach the binding already folded.

One of the annoying things of the current pandemic situation is that it’s not possible to buy matching thread. I didn’t have any dark enough blue thread left and in the end decided that topstitching with black thread would be preferable to waiting until I could buy matching thread with the risk that by that time my daughter no longer fit the dress.

My daughter is happy with her new dress so that’s always a win. I do find that the V-neck finishes a bit on the low side though. It’s a too cold right now to not wear anything underneath which now sometimes peeps out. Otherwise it looks comfortable to wear and that’s one of the most important things when you’re an active 4 year old.

Completed: curvy crosses drawstring bag

In December I participated in a winter swap organized by the dutchMQG. We each had to prepare 12 gifts for another member and some of the gifts had to be handmade. They were opened in the 12 days preceding Christmas and it was a lot of fun to see what everyone received. I had to make something for Ingrid and she loves blue and plus blocks so to combine those two in an item was a given. Each quarter we also have a specific theme at our guild and at the time it was curves, so I also wanted to include some curved piecing

For my final gift I made a quilted drawstring bag. I first sewed 9 improv curvy cross blocks to create a panel for the front of the bag. This was framed in a dark blue solid fabric to make it large enough. For the back panel I used a single piece of the same dark blue solid. The front was quilted in the ditch and on the back I quilted one large curvy cross.

The front and back panels were sewn together and the corners at the bottom were boxed so that the bag can stand up on its own. I did not use a separate lining. For the sides I used French seams and for the corners the seams were bound with a strip of fabric because the layers just got too thick for French seams.

For the closure at the top I used a single layer of the dark blue solid because that would make it easier to close the bag than when you have to pull a quilted layer together. The top was folded over to create the channel for the drawstring. It was attached to the main piece and again I used some binding to cover the seam.

I dug through my collection of saved ribbons for something suitable to use for the drawstring and found this nice off white piece that was just long enough. I am very pleased with how this bag turned out!

My first newsletter goes out on Saturday so if you don’t want to miss it there is still time to sign up here! I will share a personal story of how I came to be where I am now and what my plans are for the near future.

Completed: boxy pouches galore!

My daughter turned 4 years old and as a result no longer goes to daycare but to school. Time does really fly these days. We wanted to give her 3 daycare teachers a special goodbye gift and decided (well, I suppose this decision was mostly mine) on quilted pouches with improv piecing.

My daughter dug through my scraps to find pieces she wanted to combine. For a lot of the sewing and quilting she even operated the foot pedal and scissors button. This goes better each time we sew together. The original plan was to make the entire pouch using improv pieced scraps but we ran out of time and the piece we had made just wasn’t big enough to make 3 pouches. Instead I cut it into 3 wedges and let my daughter pick a solid fabric to combine with each piece. For some extra interest I also used a piece of cork leather for each pouch that was added after the pieced panel was quilted. I love it when a change of plan results in an even better looking item!

Add a lining, a zipper and some binding to finish off the inside seams and 3 pouches were completed. My daughter was super happy with how they turned out and excited to gift them. It was funny to see how she decided that certain fabrics definitely had to go in the pouch for a specific teacher.

A new journey has started. Going to school is very different from how we imagined it would be when we enrolled her. Schools in The Netherlands will be closed for at least another couple of weeks for most of the students. On the days she can go it’s just a couple of students in the class. On the other days there is a half hour online meeting with the teacher and we do some assignments with her at home. I am happy that she does appear to be enjoying herself. That’s probably an advantage of starting school now, she has no clue what it is really supposed to be like.

Newsletter

I’ve decided to try something new and am starting a monthly newsletter at the end of January. I’ve been digging deeper into Adobe Illustrator and am now using it to turn some of my designs into real quilting patterns! If you’d like to know a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes and don’t want to miss anything you can sign up for the newsletter here.

Tutorial: Greeting cards with fabric

I’ve been using tiny scraps to make greeting cards. I came up with the idea when I wanted to send a pretty card but didn’t really have anything suitable left and didn’t want to visit a shop to buy one. It’s a super quick method and I thought some of you might be interested in a tutorial so you can use up some of your own scraps in a fun way!

What do you need?

  • Blank (coloured) greeting cards
  • White or coloured card stock (I use 160 gms)
  • Fabric scraps
  • Ruler
  • Rotary cutter
  • Sewline glue pen (or another basting glue that doesn’t leach through the fabric)
  • Thread
  • Old sewing machine needle to sew through paper
  • Sewing machine
  • Double sided sticky tape

Method

1. Use the rotary cutter and ruler to cut a piece of card stock slightly smaller than the front of the greeting card.

2. Cut fabric scraps and arrange on piece of card stock until you are happy with the layout.

3. Use the glue pen to stick the fabric to the card stock. Only use a small amount of glue, it’s just to make sure the fabric doesn’t shift around when you’re sewing.

4. Put an old needle in your sewing machine.

5. Make sure the ends of top and bobbin threads are pulled out a bit before starting to sew. Sew through the fabric scraps and make sure to also leave a thread tail at the end.

6. Pull on the thread at the back of the cardstock to pull the thread that’s on the front through to the back as well.

7. Tie a knot in the threads and either trim short or weave the ends into the stitching.


8. Put a couple of pieces of double sided sticky tape on the back of the card stock.

9. Use a ruler as a guide to make sure that you stick the piece of card stock centered on the greeting card.


10. Write message on the inside and put in the mail!

Alternatives

For an even quicker make you can also stitch the fabric directly onto the front of a double greeting card. The stitching and thread ends will show on the inside of the card but that’s part of the charm of a handmade card right? Do make sure to open the card before you start sewing though or it may be very difficult to write your message afterwards. I probably don’t need to spell out how I came up with that last piece of advice…

I also like to make fabric postcards using the method described in this tutorial that I made years ago, but those postcards take a lot longer to make so it’s not something I’ll do when I only have a little bit of time to sew. Have you ever used fabric to make greeting cards? 

Completed: Are we out of the woods yet?

Oh pandemic of 2020… I started this quilt together with my daughter during the first lockdown in the Netherlands which lasted from March to May. I did show some of the process before, including how it started and how I assembled all the trees into a quilt top.

This is an image of a quilt with colourful improv trees

Basically, in an effort to stay sane with two kids at home 24/7 and hardly any time or energy left to do stuff for myself, my daughter and I started making improv trees using scrap fabrics that she picked from my scrap bins when my other daughter was sleeping. She enjoyed spending time in my sewing room with me and I could get some sewing done. Win win.

I turned all those super scrappy tree blocks into a randomly arranged forest representing the pandemic and uncertainty we are still in.

This image shows the back of an improv tree quilt with the haning sleeve and label.

After completing the front my daughter wanted to make more trees for a while, and a house, so I just used those for the back of the quilt. Which looks quite nice, but since the quilt is a wall hanging this side will not be on display very often.

I took a long time deciding how to quilt it. I considered simple straight line quilting from top to bottom, or wavy horizontal quilting, but that just didn’t really feel right or like it would add much to the design. Suddenly I realized I could create a denser forest by quilting tree shapes over the fabric trees. I really like how that turned out, even though I vouched doing a design that requires less starts and stops and burying of threads next time. The batting is Quilters Dream Poly Select which I like for wall hangings.

This images shows a detail shot of a colourful improv tree quilt that has trees quilted on it.

For the binding I chose a tiny white polkadot on petrol that I think works well with both the quilt and the colours that we’ve already used to decorate our daughter’s room. As usual I hand sewed the binding because I really love how that looks. On a quilt this size it doesn’t even take that long.

This image shows all four corners of a quilt binding.

The hanging sleeve was made from the same fabric and since I had never added a sleeve I looked around for some tips and tricks on how to do it and ended up following a tutorial from Suzy Quilts. I also added a label and then the quilt was finally completed right in the middle of the second lockdown in the Netherlands. What could be more fitting?

This image shows a detail shot of a quilt label

Now all that is left is hanging the quilt in my daughter’s room. Due to the lockdown all home improvement stores are closed at the moment, so I’ll need to dig around to see if we have any wooden rods and screw eyes laying around that would be suitable.

This image shows a detailshot of quilted trees on a scrappy improv tree quilt.

I wish everyone a very good (hopefully physically distanced) Christmas tomorrow. I am hopeful that 2021 will bring better times. In March I was very sceptical that we’d have even one vaccine ready by the end of 2020, how glad am I to have been proven wrong on this count. Stay safe and sew!