Children's Corner Louise pattern to make a Minnie Mouse Halloween Costume

Monday, October 29, 2012

Doesn't this face say it all?

I've sort of always been a Halloween person. I love dressing up and seeing everyone else's costumes. So, when I had my first child, I just knew this would quickly become one of my favorite holiday's. Instead of crafting a costume for myself I got my wiggles out by making an absolutely adorable costume for Braelyn. I mean, those store-bought, generic costumes never fit right, anyway.

Beginner Quilting Series: Final Two Blocks

I can hardly believe it but I'm halfway through my eight-week quilting class. Last night we started on the final two blocks! They are somewhat intricate which excites me because I love seeing all the pieces together.

The first is the Maple Leaf block.

Sample Quilt's Maple Leaf
As you can see it consists of a series of half-quare triangles and one funky one in the bottom, right corner. This is called a stem. We sewed our stems into the seam, but you can also hand applique the stem into the solid square.

Speaking of hand applique, here's how mine ended up turning out.

As badly as I spoke about hand applique last week, I really did learn to appreciate it. Note that I did not say love it. It was a great thing to keep my hands busy while watching TV, but I don't know if I'd be able to commit to it, or enjoy it any other time. I am mostly pleased with how mine turned out especially considering this was my first go at it.

But, back to last night. The next block we worked on is called the Spinning Star. This one might be my favorite.

Sampler Quilt's Spinning Star block
This one uses a combo of half-square triangles (green) and something called quarter-square triangles (purple). The block that make up the star's outer points are actually pretty tricky and without the guidance of my instructor I can easily see how I'd get them mixed up. The key is making sure your star "spins" the same way all the way around. If you swap a purple for a yellow, you're in big trouble. Well, maybe not...but you will be seam ripping and no one likes that.

You can see that my star point blocks are a little wonky.

See how the bottom curves up ever so slightly? That's on my nerves, but the teacher swears that it will blend when I attach the rest of the blocks to it. We'll see about that.

Stay tuned for next weeks blog when I show off my six completed blocks and discuss hand quilting vs machine quilting.

Need to catch up on the whole series? Check out previous posts by clicking on the titles below.

Week One: Beginner Quilting
Week Two: Stripping and Half-square Triangles
Week Three: Hand Applique

Hand applique: Friend or Foe?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

There's no more messing around. No more playing games. No more laughs and giggles.

Ok. I lie. There was still a lot of laughing...mostly at everyone slipping out curse words while learning a few new techniques. This weeks quilting class was seriously no joke.

We didn't even turn on our machines. Instead we fiddled around with needles and thread. Yup. Real life hand sewing. What have I gotten myself into?

First things first, we learned to threading a needle. How hard can it be, right? Just stick the end of the thread through the eye of the needle and you're done. Well, it should be that simple, anyway. But, for hand sewing we needed these super small, super thin needles specifically for applique. I think they were number 10. Anyway, we all used those plastic or metal needle threaders. All of them broke. We tried a table-top threader that was a waste of money and didn't work. One student had a super-duper threader that got us through the night, thankfully.

Now that the needles were threaded, we needed to tie off the end. Twist it over your fingers and pull through the middle? Oh, I think not. Or should it be "knot"? Get it? Anyway, quilters don't mess around with that little knot because it's not cool enough or complicated enough or, most likely, permanent enough. I guess those slip through the fabric. Who knew? So, instead we learned a quilter's knot. It's a series of pinching and wrapping thread around the needle and pulling through and hoping for the best. Admittedly so, it's pretty magic.

Finally, we got our hands on some fabric, but just scraps because our instructor must have known how bad we'd all be at it and didn't want us to waste our good fabrics. We used the freezer paper technique. It's simple enough in concept, but being as I haven't touched a needle and thread since that last cross-stitch project I started (and never finished), I found myself fumbling around pulling my thread out of the needle accidentally, wearing a thimble on the wrong finger, and endlessly poking myself. It's gotta be some small form of torture, I'm convinced.

There are tons of tips, tricks, shortcuts, and sneaky ways of getting this done without all the tedious nipping, tucking, pinching, poking, and tugging, but it's not truly applique and you'll end up with a different looking quilt.

All six students struggled with the idea of hand applique. Is it worth all the aggravation? Does it get easier? Would anyone really be able to tell if I just glued these suckers on? But, our instructor insisted that it was her favorite part of quilting and that once we got the hang of it, we'd really start to like it. So, for the sake of this blog and to really give this quilt my all, I promised her I'd hand applique all of the leaves. All. Twelve. Leaves.

Our block with hand applique leaves.
In the example quilt, there's a mini nine-patch block within a nine-patch block. In each of the corners, there's three hand-applique leaves. So, that's like two blocks sewn into one with applique added to the party.

Needless to say, I'll be busy this weekend.

**Are these posts piquing your interest in quilting? We are excited to announce we will be hosting our very first Quilting Class this January. Classes will take place on Saturday's in January from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Space is incredibly limited (to six spaces only) so if you are interested, please call us ASAP!**

Week One: Beginner Quilting

The importance of sharpening your sewing scissors

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

For seamstresses, having a nice, sharp pair of scissors is almost as important as having a sewing machine. Our scissors, when functioning properly, allow us to cut our clean, straight lines for quilts as well as navigate even the smallest curve for patterns. There's nothing worse than clipping away only to snag an edge and fray the raw edges of our fabric and there's nothing more frustrating than only having half of a good blade on our scissors forcing us to chomp, chomp, chomp away every couple of inches.

Beginner Quilting: Let's Strip and Make Half-Square Triangles

Friday, October 12, 2012

Week two of my Adventures in Quilting is underway. After so much success in the first class, I was eager to see what was next.

Turns out it was stripping...not that kind of stripping, obviously. You have a dirty mind! We are just a bunch of quilters, after all. Rather, it's piecing together long strips of fabric and then cutting them down to your square size. You didn't think we actually cut those teeny strips and sewed them together individually, did you?! Silly girl (or guy...I don't judge)!

We also learned to make half-square triangles, which take a careful and patient person to get the corners just right. I'll tell you, the people who made up those quilting rulers are genius. Have you ever noticed the diagonal lines running through them? Yep, those are for Half-Square (and Quarter-Square, too, I suppose) Triangles. The ruler did help tremendously in ensuring I didn't end up with a wonky-square triangle.

So, ready to see what I left with??

Strips (top), half-square triangle (middle), half-square triangle prep (bottom)
Ta-da! Aren't my fabrics coming together nicely? Everyone in class loves this Valorie Wells Cocoon- Butterfly cotton. It looks so cool when they are all cut up into little squares and triangles.

You can see I've still got a ton of work to do like cutting down the strips to size, making the last few half-square triangles (on the bottom), then actually placing all the pieces together into a block. But once I'm done with all my homework, I'll have what they call a Golden Gate block. It looks like this...

Golden Gate Quilting Block
Can you see the combo of the half-square triangles and the strips? I'm excited to play around with the squares a little. Your blocks can look very different just by rotating them around and flipping the backgrounds around.

See Last Week's Beginner Quilting Post where I talked about choosing fabrics.

Beginner Quilting

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Quilting is probably not a project you'd expect a modern sewer to take on. But, more and more, the 20 and 30-something's in our Sewing 101/102 classes are asking about it. Whether they used to see their Grandmother working on them when they were children or have no experience with them at all, quilting is piquing the interest of a new generation.

Although we do not offer quilting classes nor do we claim to have a deep understanding of quilting, we do love the idea of piecing together an heirloom and we fully support our customers while they take their sewing skills to another level. Thankfully, we have a great Community Education Center here in Charleston and they offer affordable classes for any sewing level.

Throughout the next eight weeks, we'll track my newbie experience with beginner quilting starting with today's post about picking fabrics.

Instructions for picking fabrics for the beginner quilt were to choose one main fabric for the border, four coordinating fabrics for the blocks, a neutral fabric for the background, another fabric for the sashing and binding, and a final fabric for the backing. Yea, that's a lot of fabric. Not to mention, what do all of those things really mean? How do they really all work together? Maybe, I'm a little OCD (ok, a lot OCD) but I like to plan, I like to visualize, I like to know what I'm getting myself into. So, needless to say I was immediately overwhelmed.

I started with the Down Under Gray Multi Chevron (bottom left above) and starting to pick out coordinating fabrics that matched. I had a dot, a diamond, and a houndstooth when I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Krista was there as were a couple of girls from her 201 class. Krista explained that in quilting (unlike clothes-making) you could mix bold patterns and, in fact, that is what makes a quilt truly special. Everything went back on the shelves.

I knew I wanted something sophisticated, modern, colorful, and fun, so when I saw the Spa Geo Multi by Michael Miller, I knew that would be a good starting border. Next, I saw Cocoon-Butterfly by Valorie Wells. They colors in the two fabrics are the same but the pattern itself is very different. I was coming out of my comfort zone...scary! Both the Spa Geo and the Butterfly shared similar colors like turquoise, yellow, and pink. So, next I grabbed up Essential Dots in turquoise and Down Under Gold Diamonds to balance them out. I needed one more accent fabric to support my border and I wanted something with a pop. This was the hardest one to find for me...the last one, go figure. I ended up stumbling across a great coral red/orange with accents of white and pink (not picutred, sorry) and was starting to get really excited.

Next on the list was a neutral for the background. Background? What's that? To figure it out, we had to call in the big guns...Krista's mom. She's quilted before and she still didn't know what the background was. But, she did some research and discovered that it was the fabric that filled in the "holes" of the block. The best way I can explain it is that the look of the block isn't the combination of fabrics and designs as a whole, but rather one bold pattern that stands out (a plus sign, an "x", a pinwheel, etc) and the background is what fills in the parts of the block that aren't included in that main pattern.

The yellow fabric in this quilt is the background.
So, I chose a solid grey for the background. In hindsight, I probably would have chosen something with a slight pattern to it...maybe tone on tone? Maybe this!

I couldn't get that great Chevron out of my head (I mean, it's a great Chevron!) and although a little muted, the colors did work with my more elaborate scheme. So, I threw the Chevron back in the mix, but as the backing (the flip side of the quilt is one whole piece of fabric). The binding needed to match both sides because it folds over the edges of the quilt to hold it all together. I couldn't imagine choosing yet another fabric for this small portion of the quilt and the grey solid I chose worked with the Chevron, so I added on to my measurement for it. Viola, grey binding.

Now, here's where I messed up. You had to know this wouldn't go perfectly right out of the gate, right? I don't have that kind of beginner's luck. The sashing and binding in the example quilt are the same. So, I thought that's what I had to do. I got even more of the grey solid for the sashing. It felt like a lot of grey when I was buying it. I should have gone with my gut. Now, my sashing, binding, and background are all the same. That's a problem for the many areas where the background and the sashing butt up against each other. That's not going to fly. Wah, wah!

So, more shopping is in order so I can find a better sashing fabric. Maybe Michael Miller's Happy Houndstooth?! I have to alter the sashing and can't change the background because...

Nine Patch with Down Under Gold Diamond and Grey cotton solid.

I made my very first block! This is called Nine Patch (for obvious reasons). So, as you can see, so far so good. Next week we'll learn about half-square triangles and make some more blocks. I'll be back with another report on how it all went down and how my fabric choices are coming together. I'll get you an update on my new sashing fabric, too. In the mean time consider modern fabrics for your next/first quilting project and help bring quilting back to the trend reports.

Making it Maternity: How to Alter Patterns for Pregnancy

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


We all have our go-to patterns. For Laura, it's probably a great A-line skirt. For me, I've fallen in love with Colette's Iris -- a perfect-every-time-for-every-body short pattern. But, being pregnant for most of the past two years has changed the way I look at patterns and obviously how I sew them. So many of my shorts and skirts (purchased or hand-made) have wonderful stretch knit waistbands added to them. Today, I'm going to share how you can alter your skirts, pants, shorts, and other bottoms to allow for that wonderful belly expansion.
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