Completed: Pete hat

On Saturday November 12 Sinterklaas and his Petes arrived in The Netherlands. They will stay until Sinterklaas’ birthday on December 5th. During this time, children put out their shoe occasionally and it will be filled with a small toy or some candy. On December 5th they’ll receive a couple of larger presents.

A handmade green Pete hat is shown next to a tiny chocolate Sinterklaas and a shoe with a drawing in the back.

A colleague gave me a Pete costume to dress up in that his own children had outgrown and this now sort of fits my oldest daughter. She was so excited when I got it out and put it on immediately. My youngest got a little bit jealous but it is way way way too large for her. I thought she was mostly jealous of the hat, so I decided to see if I could make her one so they can both dress up.

Top view of a green handmade Pete hat (pietenmuts) with a silver ribbon and a pink felt feather.

I googled for a pattern and used the first tutorial that came up. There may be better ones but this one fit the “easy, quick and I (sort of) have all the materials in my stash” bill. I used a remnant of interlock knit, a silver decorative ribbon thing, felt and some elastic. The hat is basically a circle with a tunnel for the elastic with the ribbon stitched on in a circle and a feather sticking out from under the ribbon. I didn’t have a real feather so I cut a feather-like shape from felt.

bottom view of a green handmade Pete hat (Pietenmuts) showing the elastic tunnel.

For over a decade now, there has been controversy around the Petes, Sinterklaas’ helpers. Until several years ago the face of most of the Petes was painted completely black. They enter houses through the chimney to put gifts in children’s shoes and they turn black from crawling through all those chimneys. The black was very stereotypical though and usually accompanied by large golden earrings, curly wigs and big red painted lips. It caused pain to many people in the black community.

A green handmade Pete hat (pietenmuts) with a silver ribbon and a pink felt feather. Sideview on top of a child's head.

When this controversy started, I did not really get what all the fuss was about since Sinterklaas is just a fun children’s holiday. I’ve changed my opinion over the years though. A holiday that causes pain to other people is not ok, especially when there are easy solutions to make it fun for everyone. It is good to see that most of the Netherlands is now free from completely black Petes. They are now simply smeared a bit in the face to create a sooty look and have lost the other stereotypical items as well. Rather ironically, I think this change is for a large part due to the people that are most passionate about keeping the blackface tradition. In their protests in favour of the blackface they have been rather exceptional at proving just exactly why it is very much a racist stereotype that should disappear.

A green handmade Pete hat (pietenmuts) with a silver ribbon and a pink felt feather. Back viewn of a child's head.

I am glad that my children now get to enjoy the magic of Sinterklaas with sooty Petes. It is really fun to see how they get into the story and are excited about putting their shoes out and wondering what kind of gift they’ll get this time. And now they both have their very own Pete hat.

A green handmade Pete hat (pietenmuts) photographed from the top next to a tiny chocolate Sinterklaas and a shoe with a rolled up drawing sticking out.

On a completely unrelated note, this is probably the last blog post that I will publish on this blog. I am setting up a new website and all blog posts that were published here will be moved to infectiousstitches.com. I hope I will be able transfer everything so that you still get a notification when a new post appears on the new website. If you want to make sure that you don’t miss anything you can sign up for my newsletter and will be among the first to know that the new website is live!

Completed: Fractured Safari

A quilt with a fractured strip pieced design made from the Moda Safari Life collection by Stacy Iest Hsu hanging in a playground.

A couple of weeks ago I had some uninterrupted time to myself because my children were staying with my parents for a couple of nights. I used some of that time to finally turn a quilt top into a quilt!

The front and back of a foundation paper pieced strip pieced block is shown before it was trimmed.

The design was inspired by the “fractured” quilt from “Quilting Modern” by Katie Pedersen and Jacquie Gering and a mini quilt that I received from my quilting friend Erica that was based on that quilt. I enlarged the blocks and instead of making square blocks I made them rectangular. The top is completely foundation paper pieced and I figured that it would be easier to simply use the US Letter sized FPP paper that I had as is, instead of cutting it into squares. If you do this you have to keep in mind though that you need to make left and right blocks because, unlike square blocks, you cannot position rectangular blocks in all 4 orientations.

Two stacks of foundation paper pieced strip pieced rectangular blocks showing that you need to make left and right blocks when you make rectangular blocks.

I used a jelly roll of the Safari Life collection by Stacy Iest Hsu supplemented with a couple of fabrics that I thought looked nice with it. There is a lot more brown in this fabric collection than I am usually drawn to but these fabrics are so much fun with all the animals on them that I couldn’t resist them.

The blocks were made over a year ago (yes, I am kind of slow at finishing quilts…) and the FPP strip piecing did not take that long. Choosing a layout did take a while though because I kept changing the position of certain blocks until I was finally happy.

Quilt hanging in a playground. The back of the quilt is shown. It is pieced with black, ochre and blue Makower Linen Texture fabric. The the name Thomas is pieced. Gridline quilting with yellow thread.

For the back I tried to find a print that would work with the front but locally I couldn’t find anything that I got excited about. They did have a pretty good selection of Makower Linen Texture though. These fabrics read as solids but there is some subtle pattern in them. This was the first time I worked with these fabrics and they are soooooo soft. I will definitely use them again in future projects. I bought 3 colours that worked with the colours in the front and essentially pieced a second top incorporating the recipient’s name.

A quilt is being prepared for a photo shoot. The quilt is draped over a park bench to attach a row of gaffer tape to the top so it can later be taped to a beam in an playground.

I am trying to be a bit more adventurous with my batting choices so instead of using Hobbs Tuscany cotton wool I used Quilters Dream Cotton Deluxe. This batting also quilted easily and I really like how the finished quilt feels but it is quite a bit heavier than the cotton wool blend.

Foundation paper strip pieced quilt made from Moda's Safari Life collection by Stacy Iest Hsu draped over a yellow railing in a playground.

For quilting I already had a perfect dark yellow in my stash and I went with a 2 inch grid which is a lot denser than what I usually go for and I LOVE it. Totally worth the extra time it took to quilt (not having children around helped a lot here). Even though the quilt is rectangular I chose to do a square grid. Because I sewed the first quilting lines through the center and worked my way out from there I think it works very well. On the back the quilting is much more visible than on the front and I think it looks amazing against those almost solids.

Detail of the center of a strip pieced quilt. The quilting was done with dark yellow thread in a 2 inch grid that intersects at the center of the quilt.

For the binding I decided to use some strips that were left over from making the top. I didn’t want to frame the design on the front of the quilt with the binding which I think would have happened if I had used the ochre fabric that I used on the back which was another option I considered. A bonus of these fabrics in the binding is that there are hidden animals in some spots which I found super fun to discover when I was hand sewing the binding to the back.

A quilt is folded so that all corners of the binding are visible. The quilt is made from Moda's Safari Life fabric collection by Stacy Iest Hsu.

Before washing the quilt measured 98×130 cm and I believe it shrank a little bit but not much. It’s a good size to snuggle under on the couch. Or build huts and tents, which is what my kids tend to use quilts for.  

A folded quilt made from Moda's Safari Life fabric by Stacy Iest Hsu placed on a grey chair.

I am super happy with how this safari quilt turned out. It has already been gifted and it has found a good home where it will be loved.

A quilt hanging in a playground. It was a windy day and the quilt is blowing almost horizontal in the wind.
It was sooo windy when I took these pictures. I was lucky to get a couple of shots in which the quilts were hanging semi straight! My little helpers were making sure that everything went alright. Did you spot both of them?

Completed: pencil roll

My daughter’s school participates in a project that collects shoeboxes filled with some school supplies, personal care products and small toys. These are then shipped to other countries and distributed to children living in poverty so they receive a gift with some practical and fun items.

handmade pencil roll rolled open showing 12 coloured pencils.

All packaging material has to be removed from the gifts because in the receiving countries they may not have the ability to dispose of the waste in a sustainable manner. Fair enough, but I thought it was a bit messy to have 3 pens, 3 pencils and 12 coloured pencils just lying around in the box among all the other items. So, I decided to make a pencil roll to at least keep the coloured pencils organized. I imagine that this will also be useful for the eventual recipient as a storage solution.

Two fabrics on top of eachother. The one below for the outside of a pencil roll. the one on top will form the pockets for the pencils.

I didn’t want to spend too much time making one and searched for some quick tutorials. This 10-minute one was definitely the quickest tutorial I found! Not sure I’d be able to finish one in just 10 minutes though, but it’s definitely quick. I did not follow the instructions exactly because in the tutorial the roll is made from a single fabric and I wanted to include a print on the inside to brighten things up.

A pencil roll in progress. The pockets for the pencils have been sewn but the edges still need to be finished.

The outside fabric is a curtain remnant and I used the part that was already hemmed (time saver!) for the top of the roll. It was cut to 8 1/4” x 12.5” which allowed me to make twelve 1” slots for the pencils leaving ¼” on each side to finish the edges.

A pencil roll in progress. The edges of the fabric have been overlocked but the tails still need to be buried.

The pocket is a piece of quilting cotton that I doubled up so the top also didn’t require any finishing. I simply sewed from top to bottom to create the pockets, but at the top of the pocket I did some backstitching to reinforce that part. The sides and bottom were finished with my overlocker with the threads that it already happened to be threaded with. The tails were hidden in between 2 fabric layers at the very end.

The outside of a handmade pencil roll showing the ribbon that is used to close it.

On the outside I sewed a 50 cm ribbon to one of the sides as a closure. I am happy with how this pencil roll turned out and I hope one little girl will be able to use it for a long time to make pretty drawings.

A handmade pencil roll, rolled up and tied up with a ribbon.

New Directions: Pattern tester makes!

From my work as a scientist, I know that papers improve a lot when you receive feedback on the text and figures from colleagues or peer reviewers. After reading a text again and again and again you simply no longer spot missing words or typos. When you are completely submerged in the subject, concepts that are super clear to you may not be as clear to others that know less about the topic and may require additional clarification.

So, knowing how valuable feedback can be, I had the New Directions pincushion pattern tested before it was released to make sure that there are no errors in the FPP templates or instructions. Two of my quilting/blogging friends offered to test the pattern for me for which I am very grateful! They were able to provide me with useful comments and suggestions that I incorporated in the instructions.

New Directions pincushions made by Sanne from sewbysanne.

Sanne tested both the flat and boxy pincushion options and I think she used some fun fabric combinations. The top of each pincushion has a slightly different look because of how she positioned the fabrics. Also, look at those nice fussy cut flowers in the center squares!

New Directions pincushions made by Sanne from sewbysanne.

Tierney tested the flat pincushion option, I think she used shot cottons and they give her pincushion a luscious look. I must admit I was surprised at first that Tierney wanted to test the pattern at all because she has not kept her thoughts about FPP a secret in the past!

New directions pincushion made by Tierney from tierneycreates.

As I went through the process of writing a pattern and having Sanne and Tierney test it, I started to think whether it would be good to have a peer review system for sewing patterns to improve the quality of what’s available. I quickly realised that it would probably not work because in science the peer review process is part of getting your work published in good journals. While there are several quilting magazines to which you can submit pattern ideas, most patterns do not end up in journals but are self published. It got me wondering though, which sewing magazine would you consider to be the Nature and Science of quilting?

New Directions Pincushion pattern release!

For quite a long time now I’ve had a dream to create sewing patterns. This past year I’ve taken some big steps to make this dream come true!

The most important step was spending a lot of time playing with Adobe Illustrator, to learn how to use more of this software’s many functions and how to use those functions more efficiently. As it turns out I really enjoy doing this and as a result my first pattern is now completed! I’ve created detailed instructions on how to make the pincushion that I made for the dutch MQG swap that I participated in last spring.

The top of the pincushion is made from a foundation paper pieced 3” finished block. The sewing pattern contains instructions to turn this block into a flat or boxy pincushion. It is of course also possible to use the block in a quilt if you don’t want or need another pincushion!

I chose the name “New Directions” because the shapes in the block remind me a bit of a compass. This pattern also marks a new direction in my sewing and quilting hobby because it’s the first pattern that I’ve created for other people to use. This feels both exciting and a tiny bit scary.  

The New Directions Pincushion pattern has already been released to the subscribers of my monthly newsletter. If you’d like to get the pattern as well, that is still possible. When you sign up for my newsletter you can now download the pattern for free.

Now that New Directions is out in the world I am going to focus on the next patterns that are already in the pipeline!

I’ve also worked on developing a logo and house style. You may already have noticed that my blog looks a bit different from the last time you visited. I’ve tried to incorporate some of the house style features on my blog. The wordpress.com theme I am currently using is a bit limiting in what I can change, however, so eventually I am going to move my blog to infectiousstitches.com.

Another fabric crown

Remember how I made a set of fabric crowns for my niece and oldest daughter? Now my youngest daughter has one too. She requested a blue one.

I made it during a nice afternoon crafting session with my oldest daughter. She made a bracelet from beads while I made the crown. She was very adamant that her sister’s crown should also feature a star like hers. Unfortunately, I am completely out of iron on star patches. I did, however, have this Alison Glass iron on patch that definitely features a star. And a safety pin. Quite a funny detail to put on a crown, but I’ll go with it.

The construction was basically the same as last time. The sequin colours that I used were matched to the colours on the iron on patch. The back of the crown is an Alison Glass print.

My daughter is very happy that she now has her own crown to wear. Not only because she wasn’t allowed to wear her sister’s, but also because this one actually fits her much smaller head.

Pictures come with complimentary peanut butter stains because my daughter already wore it to daycare before I could take pictures. Fortunately, I think it’s probably safe to wash these crowns…

Going patchwork mini

This quarter my guild has a mini & MAXI theme and a challenge to go with it. We could choose from the half-square triangle, pineapple, robbing Peter to pay Paul or crown and star blocks to make something to fit the theme.

I chose the pineapple block because I had never made one even though it is quite similar to the log cabin block which I love to make. Going maxi would quickly lead to a quilt top and, since I already have several tops still waiting to be quilted, going mini seemed the wiser choice here. A postcard maybe?

Scrolling through Google images for inspiration I saw a lot of different pineapple variations but they were all square, as most quilt blocks are. Since I was thinking about making a postcard, I started wondering what the pineapple block would look like if it was stretched out to fit a 4×6” block.

So, I went to Adobe Illustrator to play around a bit and I came up with a FPP design that I thought promising. It definitely qualifies as mini with 69 pieces and the smallest less than ¼” wide.

For the fabrics I chose a simple pastel colour scheme that is a bit outside of the colour range that I usually gravitate toward but I quite like it. The background is Bella solid Mint and the triangles are Coral Rose and Pale Pink. I thought it fun to make the small triangles pop.

At the beginning it was a bit fiddly, but the block came together quicker than I had expected. After a couple of rounds it’s possible to sew the four triangles in one go before you need to press again which really speeds things up.

To finish, I paired the patchwork top with a light blue fabric interfaced with Decovil light and simply zig zagged the edges with a reddish thread.

All in all, a successful experiment!

Completed: I’ll walk you through the forest

In July I made a quilt to participate in the Modern Quilt Guild’s “Make a difference challenge”. The theme was trees and the proceeds of the challenge went to Trees for the Future, an organization that wants to end hunger and poverty by training farmers to regenerate their land by planting trees that protect the soil.  

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make but then I remembered that I had started an improv trees and stars quilt using Kaffe Fassett shot cottons in 2018. At some point I got stuck on how to proceed so I only had a pile of blocks. With the trees theme I thought these blocks would be a great start to quickly assemble a quilt top. I used most of the blocks I had made and pieced it all together filling in the gaps with scraps. The shape started to get a bit weird quite quickly and because I didn’t want to make more stars or trees and ran out of background fabric, I decided that the best way forward was to make a non-square quilt. It was always meant to become a wall hanging anyway.

The back is a single fabric that kind of reminds me of tree bark and the batting is Quilters Dream Poly Select. I like this batting for wall hangings.

In the sky I wanted to quilt something swirly, very loosely inspired by Van Gogh’s starry night. This would be a pain to do with a walking foot because it’d require constant turning of the quilt. My FMQ skills are definitely not up to that level so I decided to hand quilt with perle 8 cotton and embroidery floss. And there went my “finish a quilt quickly” idea…

I wanted a denser forest so I quilted more trees, using different shapes to fill the outlines to add a bit more interest. Through the forest runs a path that is partly hidden by the trees. This is what the title “I’ll walk you through the forest” refers to. This quilt is going to hang in my youngest daughter’s bedroom and it signifies that I’ll also be there for her in those moments that her path in life might seem a bit less clear.

To make the deadline I added the binding before I finished quilting and this worked quite well. Usually I attach the binding by hand using the invisible ladder stitch, but this time I used some big stitches which was definitely faster and also looks quite nice on the back.

I am very happy that these blocks have finally turned into a quilt. I still need to add a label and a hanging sleeve though. The curved top makes the latter a bit of a challenge, however. If anyone has any brilliant suggestions on how to hang this quilt without the top flopping down, I would love to hear them!

Completed: Stripey scoop neck t-shirt

Whoah! I sewed a garment for myself! Now, that was long ago! I suddenly really wanted something new and colourful to wear. It had to be a quick make without any fitting so I pulled out the pattern for a scoop neck tee by Meg McElwee that I’ve used before. That t-shirt is probably my most worn self-made garment ever so it seemed like a safe bet to use it for some fuss-free sewing.

The fabric is a bit of a funky striped knit that I originally bought with the intention of making a dress for my daughter. When I laid down the pattern on the fabric, I realized I could just fit it on with nothing to spare. With the uneven stripes in this print there is only so much pattern matching that you can do so I only sort of did this for the sides and made sure that both sleeves at least featured the stripes in the same order.

Yes, it’s in Dutch…

I had to laugh a bit at myself because after making the first t-shirt years and years and years ago (pre-blogging) I had written down on the traced pattern that I had made the t-shirt 1 inch shorter than the pattern. Years later I used the same pattern to make a maternity t-shirt and then wondered whether I had also removed that 1 inch from the pattern or not and wrote that question down on the pattern as well. I can now attest that yes, I did indeed cut off the 1 inch from the pattern. I think nowadays I make clearer notes when I modify a pattern, or at least I hope I do.

I wore my new t-shirt the entire day before taking pictures and I can already tell that it is going to be another winner in my wardrobe.

Does anyone else suddenly feel the need for brighter colours in their life? I wear a lot of dark blue and grey and have done so for years but now I want more purple and greens and maybe even pink? We’ll see what comes next. I probably need to get some more fabric first, this was the only colourful kid fabric that my pattern fit on.

Sewing with young children, some tips and tricks

During the past year I’ve sewn quite a bit with my then 3-year and now 4-year-old daughter. It started so that I could do some crafting while going lockdown-crazy but it turned into something enjoyable for both of us. At first, she would just sit next to me or sit on my lap and hand me fabrics. At some point she wanted to use the scissors button on my sewing machine and I would tell her when I was done sewing a seam and she could cut the thread. After a while she also wanted to use the foot pedal. This took a bit longer to master, but she can now start and stop when I tell her to. I did have to make up the “only sew when there is fabric under the presser foot” rule though, because she would otherwise just go whenever she felt like it.

If you had asked me 3 years ago if I thought it would work to sew with a 3-year-old I would probably have said “are you crazy?”, but now I think it is absolutely possible if your child is interested and capable of following some rules. I thought it might be useful for other (grand)parents to see what I have learned from this experience so today I am sharing some tips. 

  • Keep it simple
    • Don’t try to make something super complicated with a young child around. You need to focus on your child and make certain that the sewing you do together is safe. For that reason I like to make improv blocks. You can just cut the fabric with scissors and it’s not so important to sew exact ¼ inch seams or perfectly matched seams.
  • Leave perfection outside the sewing room anyway
    • With the improv sewing we mostly do I just trim the seam allowances to approximately ¼ inch. The back of those pieces are ridiculously messy and uneven compared to the other things I sew, but I don’t mind. It’s the back. It will not be on display when the item is finished.
  • Be clear about what your child can and cannot touch in your room
    • I do not want my child’s hands near the needle of the sewing machine and for that reason I am still guiding the fabric through the machine while she controls the foot pedal.
    • Rotary cutters, sharp scissors and iron are off limits. There is only one pair of scissors in my sewing room that she is allowed to use and she knows this.
    • My daughter knows she can touch some of the buttons on my sewing machine like the thread cutter and speed control (yes, the latter can give some surprises while you’re sewing…) and she knows not to touch the others. It really would be too annoying if she changed the straight stitch to a zig zag or the stitch length. Has this always gone well? Hmm, I did at some point have some tension issues with my overlocker because she had touched the differential feed and stitch length dials, she now knows to stay away from them.

  • Be clear about which fabrics and supplies your child is allowed to use
    • My daughter knows she can pick anything from my scrap bins, but not from the larger pieces that are stored in the closets. When we need a larger piece of fabric for something I’ll make a preselection and give her a limited number of options to choose from. If I would not do this my daughter would most likely completely mess up my fat quarter storage system looking for pretty fabrics. This way she will also not end up disappointed because she picked a fabric that I was still saving for another project and do not want her to use.
  • Get a seam roller
    • Pressing seams certainly results in a better looking finished project but I really do not want a hot iron in a room with my child. She knows it can get hot and that she shouldn’t touch it, but accidents can happen and I rather prefer to have my daughter’s skin intact over perfectly pressed seams. At first, I finger pressed seams and that worked somewhat but at some point I bought a Clover seam roller and that does work much better. I now just use the seam roller when my daughter is in the room and give the pieces we made another press with the iron when she’s not around.
  • Plan ahead
    • There are some steps in a project that you can’t really do without a rotary cutter or iron or that need your full attention. When we sewed a bag for one of her teachers, I cut the pieces for the bag when my daughter wasn’t around so that she could help with the construction later on.
  • Follow your child’s interests
    • Ask what your child would like to make and then turn that idea into something manageable. We started because she found some improv trees I had made that she liked and she wanted to make some trees of her own and I thought we could just give it a shot. When she wanted to make pyjamas for her stuffed animals we made a sleeping bag instead.
  • Accept that your sewing room will turn into (an even bigger) mess
    • My scraps are now super messy boxes on the floor because my daughter is always rummaging through them. I can live with this.
  • Stop when you notice your child starts to lose interest
    • Children don’t have a very long attention span. If they want to do something different after sewing only 3 seams, that’s just fine. If you continue because you want to finish something they’ll just start looking around your room trying to find something more interesting to do and make a mess. There were days we added just 1 or 2 trees to our forest, that’s fine. Eventually we had enough trees to make an entire quilt.

And finally, if you really want to sew and your child doesn’t, you can also sew while your child is sitting next to you cutting up pieces of paper, taping fabric scraps to paper, sorting your beads or watching Netflix. Just saying…

For our latest project we made her teachers mug rugs as an end of schoolyear gift. She picked the fabrics from my scrap bins and told me how they should be put together. She operated the foot pedal for some of the seams and for others I sewed them while she sat on my lap. She cut the thread and sometimes lifted the presser foot. She picked the thread colours for the quilting and edges of the mug rug and decided whether we should do straight or wavy quilting lines. I absolutely love how both of them turned out!

Have you ever sewn with young children and have some other tips that make the experience even more fun?