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One of the best new books we’ve received in the last few months is Fun of the Fair by Melanie McNeice of Melly & Me. This book has 5 different stuffed animal patterns with a fair and circus theme – a seal, an elephant, a lion, some monkeys, and a pony. I must confess that I love how inexpensive it is, too, for including all of those awesome patterns.
For my Fun of the Fair animal I decided to make the lion, although it was a very close race. The lion is made up of the body and a head, and the body does have a gusset, so I would not recommend it as your first stuffed animal project. That being said, he’s actually very easy to construct, and includes a few fun details to make him extra special: his ric rac mane, which is easier to include that I anticipated, the shaping on his face, and his adorable little tail!
My Fun of the Fair lion was made with two of my favorite prints right now – a yellow pearl bracelet and this cute orange print from Best. Day. Ever by April Rosenthal. I accidentally centered one of the pearl rings on the bottom half of my lion’s face, but I think that makes him extra-super-cute!
The one modification I made to this pattern was to change up his tail. In the Fun of the Fair book the lion’s tail is supposed to be made with cording. Well, I was just too lazy to find some cording the appropriate size and color, so I made my tail from fabric instead. I cut a piece longer than was called for and about 1-1.25″ wide. I pressed it half, then pressed the edges into that center fold, leaving me with a piece about .25″ wide and with all the edges enclosed. I just top stitched along either edge, cut it to the appropriate length, and then used it as I would the cording.
Ack – isn’t he so cute? I can’t decide if I want to make the seal, the baby elephant, or a monkey next – my wife thinks I should make the pony. I think I’m going to have to end up making at least one of every critter in Fun of the Fair!
I know it’s been awhile since we’ve done a giveaway – so this week will be the week of the double giveaway – today we’re giving away one copy of the Fun of the Fair book! To find out more about Tuesday’s giveaway, click here. Want to win a copy of Fun of the Fair? Leave a comment below telling me what your favorite snow day activity is (besides sewing!), and we’ll pick one lucky winner using random.org. The deadline for comments is 8AM EST on Friday, March 6. (If you are reading this on Facebook, please click here to leave your comment on the original blog post; Facebook comments aren’t counted towards the free drawing.)
Edited 3/3/15 – Thank you to all who entered! I loved reading all of your bits of advice. Our lucky winner is Margaret who said “Just try it. You don’t know if you can until you try it.” Congratulations Margaret! I’m sending you an email about your prize. If any of you didn’t see our second drawing last week, you still have a few days to enter – check it out here.
Have you seen the new Elizabeth Hartman patterns? Well, if you haven’t, they’re super cute, and would make great kids quilts – there’s a pattern for a hedgehog quilt, a fox quilt, and my personal favorite, Preppy the Whale! This pattern features these cute whale blocks in 3 different sized quilts, that are perfect for all ages.
We often have questions from people asking us for “boy” quilt patterns, and I think Preppy the Whale is another one to add to the list! However, we didn’t really want to make it in regular whale colors, or in a rainbow like the pattern cover, we wanted something totally different. So, we followed the hint provided in the name and went preppy – just little girl preppy. These awesome pinks and greens highlight the beautiful design of the quilt, but still make it playful and fun. The pattern calls for either fat sixteenths, layer cakes, fat eighths, or fat quarters (which makes it SO EASY to buy fabric for). For the child’s size quilt that I made I chose 6 assorted pink and green fat quarters, with my 7th fat quarter being a floral to tie it all together – I used one from Up Parasol from Heather Bailey. For the background I used Robert Kaufman Prima Vintage White – I didn’t want a true white.
The pattern for Preppy the Whale has you make one white whale and one black whale along with all of the other colored whales. I didn’t like those, especially with my design, so I just bought enough black for the mouths and eyes and enough of the Vintage White for the background. The 7 fat quarters that the pattern called for were still enough for the whales.
One of the things that I really, really love about this pattern is that it’s very easy to just make one whale and use it for other things, or reformat the design to make larger quilts by making more blocks. Lately I’ve seen a whale beach tote bag and a whale zipper pouch – I think I need one of each! That being said, if you are making a whole quilt, I would highly recommend that you do the piecing assembly-line-style. Cut all of your pieces first. Decide which whales are going to go where, so you can distribute the colors evenly. Make all of the right-facing whales, then make all of the left facing whales. I think doing it that way makes the whole process much smoother.
I know it’s been awhile since we’ve done a giveaway – so this week will be the week of the double giveaway – we’re giving away one copy of the Preppy the Whale pattern today, plus an additional item on Friday! Want to win a copy of Preppy the Whale? Leave a comment below telling me the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, and we’ll pick one lucky winner using random.org. The deadline for comments is 8AM EST on Tuesday, March 3. (If you are reading this on Facebook, please click here to leave your comment on the original blog post; Facebook comments aren’t counted towards the free drawing.) Make sure to check back on Friday for giveaway #2!
Welcome to installment two in our hand pieced block of the month – the broken dishes block! I hope that you had fun with the 54-40 or Fight block last month. I happy to say that this month’s block is actually even easier, with the newest technique being that this month you will have to draft your own templates!
I will confess, though, this isn’t a true broken dishes block, but more of a cheater’s version. A true broken dishes quilt is made of quarter-square triangles and this block utilizes half-square triangles. I don’t know that it really makes a difference in the long run for a bigger quilt, but here it is a bit of a cheat. However, I think it’s still a beautiful block, no matter what.
Broken Dishes Block
Drafting templates is really easy and is a useful skill to have in your toolbox. You’ll need:
- a sheet of paper
- freezer paper
- paper scissors
- a fine-point Sharpie
- a quilter’s gridded ruler
Step 1 – We need to start by creating a square. For the 12″ blocks you’ll be drafting a 3″ square and for the 6″ blocks you’ll need to draft a 1.5″ square.
- Using your Sharpie on your sheet of paper, draw a line slightly longer than the desired square. Here I am drafting templates for a 3″ block.
- Rotate the paper 180 degrees and align the 3″ (or 1.5″ for smaller) mark on your ruler with the previously drawn line. Draw a second line along the edge of the ruler. Below you can see the first line, marked with pink arrows, and the second, just drawn.
- Rotate the paper 90 degrees and, near the end of the two previous lines, draw a line that is perpendicular to the original two. Make sure you are using your ruler to compare to the original two lines to make sure that they are perfectly perpendicular. You can see my previous lines under the 3 and 6 marks on my ruler, below.
- Rotate the paper 180 degrees and align the last mark under the 3″ (or 1.5″ for smaller) mark on your ruler. Make sure that the first two lines are still perpendicular. You can see, below, that I’ve marked the 3 lines with pink arrows. You should be looking at all 3. Draw a line along the edge of the ruler – your square is done!
Step 2 – Draw a line that connects two of the corners on the diagonal. Your template is done! You can either trace this onto the freezer paper, using the paper version as your “master copy” or you can repeat this process on the freezer paper itself to draft them as you go.
Step 3 – Take the tissue and wipe off the edge of the ruler so you don’t get ink on your fabric later! You can see in the picture above how much ink has accumulated on the edge of my ruler!
Step 4 – Note that when you go to cut these templates out, you should be trimming along the inside edge of the line, not down the middle. Because of the nature of this way of drafting the templates, that’s the best way to achieve an accurately-sized block.
For both blocks:
Using the templates created above, trace and cut 16 assorted light and 16 assorted dark triangles. Make sure the grain lines fall along the shortest edges of the triangles. I cut two of each triangle from 8 different lights and 8 different darks. The edge of the templates created are your sewing lines, so this is where the mark should go (just as with last month’s 54-40 or Fight templates).
*Note: If you care about the distribution of colors in your block, feel free to plan the colors and placement ahead of time.
Step 1 - Place two triangles right sides together. Align the triangles at their corners and pin.
Step 2 – Sew the seam, remembering to do an occasional backstitch to lock your seam in place.
Step 3 – Press the seam towards the darker color.
Step 4 – Repeat with all remaining triangles.
Step 5 – Lay out the block as desired.
Step 6 – Piece the rows.
Step 7 – Piece the rows together to form a block.
Step 8 – Press seams. I just kind of went with the flow on this. Where all the points come together I tended to spiral press, and the rest of the time I just let it happen!
Ta da! You are done your broken dishes block, which means you can check off block #2! I think this one is probably the easiest block we will do, but it’s nice to have a little bit of a rest in between new skills. How did you do with drafting your own templates? If you are having trouble, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!
On another note, I hope to get a place in our blog sidebar to list all the links for these blocks, that way if you fall behind you’ll be able to find them easily. Keep an eye out for that in a few weeks!
Edited 2/19: Since I bash quite a few marking pens and pencils in this blog entry, I had at least one person ask me what I would recommend as a marking utensil. Here’s the thing, it really depends on what you’re marking, whether you want it to come out, etc. So here are a list of all of my favorite marking utensils, in various states of suitability for various projects:
- Sewline Marking Pencils (scroll down a little bit on the product page to see the color assortment) – these are great for marking quilting, piecing, or applique lines, especially since they make such fine lines. They can erase or wash out, but they will heat set, so try to avoid ironing over them or leaving them in the sun. As always, with any marking pencil, a lighter hand is better!
- Blue painter’s tape – I like the 3M brand. It comes in varying widths – I use the .7″ width. I use this to mark both hand and machine quilting lines – you just cut a piece of tape and stick it to your quilt top! Note that this should never, ever be left on your quilt for longer than it takes you to quilt the line. If you are walking away, even for a few hours, the tape should be removed so as to not leave a sticky residue.
- Hera Markers – these are very similar to bone folders, if you have ever used one of those before. They are made of hard plastic, and when you run them across the face of your fabric they essentially leave a score in the piece. They are harder to use in low light, but because the marker is just “denting” the fabric, it really isn’t permanent either.
I frequently get questions about sewing and quilting notions: which ones do you actually need? Which brand is the best? Which can you live without? So, I’m happy to bring you this two part series: the Top 10 Sewing Notions and the Top 10 Sewing Notions You Don’t Need. A few weeks ago I posted the list of the Top 10 Sewing Notions, and now I’m going to share with you all of the notions that I either A) think you don’t really need or B) think are not very good or not worth your money.
The Top 10 Sewing Notions You Don’t Need
1. Frixion Pens – These ink pens are sold as erasable pens for people who prefer that method of writing (they are perfect for crossword puzzles on non-newsprint paper). Quilters discovered that because the pens needed friction, or heat, to erase, you could mark on your fabric and then use an iron to erase the line later. The catch is that these lines can come back. The ink seems to be affected by extreme cold and/or extreme changes in temperature. Eventually, they may come back permanently. The other thing I don’t like about these is, depending on what color fabric you are using, even after the lines have been ironed away sometimes a faint white line remains – ick!
2.The wrong bobbins – The wrong bobbins? What do I mean by the wrong bobbins? That’s got to be the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard, right? Well, hang in there and I’ll explain this bit of craziness: every machine uses a different kind of bobbin. I have two different machines, and they can’t exchange bobbins. On another note, if your machine is supposed to use plastic bobbins, it will never work appropriately with metal ones, and vice versa. If you didn’t buy your machine new, from a dealer, than there is a chance that you have the wrong bobbins because the previous owner bought the wrong ones. If you bought your machine and it came with some bobbins, but you needed more and just grabbed some off a shelf, there’s a chance that they’re wrong, too! Now, if you’re not sure about this, you can often find the bobbin information in your owner’s manual, or you can go to your sewing machine dealer and ask. If there’s not a dealer for your machine in town, I would recommend going to All Brands on Broad St. and asking them.
3. Blade sharpeners – We go through a lot of rotary cutter blades here at Quilting Adventures. Many times we’ve seen blade sharpeners advertised, and we have tried quite a few, and let me tell you, none of them ever work. So, I’m not saying that rotary cutter blade sharpeners absolutely never work, I’m just saying that in our experience they never work, and therefore, in my opinion, are not worth the money. Just buy new rotary cutter blades instead!
4. Sand paper dots – Sand paper dots are used on the back of rotary cutting rulers to help keep them from slipping. And while I’m all for no-slip rulers, I’ve found that sand paper dots can actually be too much and will distort your fabric when you go to cut it. If you feel like your ruler still needs a little something extra, I would recommend purchasing Invisi-grip.
5. 1/4″ presser foot with a guide – If you do any amount of quilting at all, you’ll want some sort of foot for your machine that measures a 1/4″. There are two types of 1/4″ feet available on the market today – a 1/4″ foot with a guide or without. The 1/4″ foot with the guide is on my ick list for several reasons:
- often the guide is not 1/4″!
- it’s very easy for the fabric to bunch up between the foot and the guide and allow you to take a too-large seam allowance!
- this is seriously opinion based, but I really believe that without the guide you will pay a bit more attention and therefore end up with much more accurate seams
6. Dull and/or cheap machine needles – When was the last time you changed the needle in your machine? I rest my case.
No, but seriously, sewing machine needles are only really designed to work for about 8 hours of sewing. Now, it can be harder to calculate how much time you’ve actually been sewing at the machine (because, really, for 8 hours of “sewing”, we’re usually doing at least 4 of pressing and cutting), but a good way to think of it is to change your needle after at least every quilt, if not more frequently on the bigger ones. Also, any time you paper piece, your needle will get duller faster.
Make sure that you’re using the appropriate needle for your project. Not sure which one you should be using? Check out our back to basics entry on sewing machine needles. I know it can be very hard to convince yourself that you’re not “wasting” money on needles when you could be buying fabric, but a new needle will not only not destroy your fabric and thread, it will help keep your machine in shape, and let’s face it, what is $5 on a pack of needles compared to $100 on fixing your sewing machine?
7. Water erasable marking pens – I have a friend who I’ve known for almost my whole life who does amazing quilting. Sometime in the early 90s she made an exquisite hand appliqued and hand quilted Baltimore Album style quilt, which is her specialty. Well, she marked all the hand quilting lines with a water erasable pen, hand quilted it, and washed away the lines. End of story, right? No! Because a decade or so later, all of those gosh-awful blue lines came back!! What happens with a water erasable pen is that when you rinse it, the ink actually dissipates within the fibers. It sits there for a little while, and then something makes the ink reactivate, and all of a sudden you have blue blobs (especially if it was washed into the batting as is done with hand quilting lines) all over your quilt! Do not go there. Your work is too precious for this kind of sadness.
8. Rulers with a lip – These are less and less common now-a-days, but I still run into them. These are long rulers that along one edge (usually the short, bottom edge) have a lip on the bottom side of the ruler. The idea is that when you but them up against the mat, they will stay straight. But the reality is that your fabric is often not completely straight on the mat anyways, so I find that they can get a bit unwieldy.
9. Portable irons – Okay, I know I’m going to get mixed reactions, and I honestly have some mixed feelings about these. In some situations I can see where they’re necessary, but usually you don’t need them. The kind I’m thinking of are the long handled ones that have a small ironing tip and the end of a long “stalk”. They are nice for paper piecing because you don’t have to get up and walk to the iron a lot, but they also have about 4-6″ of metal near the tip which means they’re harder to control, and in my case, I’m about 1000% more likely to burn myself.
10. Strip or slotted rulers – There are rulers out there that are a bit square piece of plastic that have slits in them in every inch. The idea is that it makes it easier for you to cut strips in 1″ or 2″ increments, but I have a real issue with these for two reasons: 1) they can often dull your rotary cutter blade because you will be continually cutting into the ruler by accident and 2) it’s hard to be accurate because the fabric is often not straight, and sometimes there is a bit of a gap in the slit, which will give you a little bit of wiggle room, which you don’t want.
So how does that sound for the top 10 sewing notions you don’t need? Let me know if I missed anything, or, even worse, included your favorite notion, in the comments!
Do you ever make a block or two of a quilt and decide that you hate the pattern? Or do a test block to check your colors before moving on to the quilt? Most people have an unfinished block or two hanging around the house somewhere, and I often tell myself that one day I’ll make them into a UFO quilt, but so far that hasn’t happened. Well, I’m happy to give you a quick and easy project that will use up your orphan blocks – my UFO tote bag!
The UFO tote bag is perfect for using up any lone blocks you have that are anywhere from 4-10″ – and they don’t even have to be square. When designing this tote bag I was specifically thinking of a bag that was small enough to carry a project to and from a sit-and-stitch group or something similar. I’m hoping that it will be the perfect size to hold all the supplies I need for my hand pieced blocks for the block of the month. It’s got a flat bottom, so it will also hold small containers, like your pin box, flat.
UFO Tote Bag
*Finished tote measures 12 x 14 x 2″.
*All fabrics are from the Recollection line of fabric by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics!
- 1 UFO block anywhere between 4-10″, and it doesn’t have to be square! I used 4 blocks sewn together from my scrappy 16-patch tutorial.
- 1/2 yard exterior fabric
- 1/2 yard interior fabric
- FQ – 1/2 yard pocket fabric: this will depend on how big your UFO block is. See step 1 for details.
- 1/4 yard handle fabric
- 7/8 yard interfacing (I used Fusible Fleece)
-Regular sewing supplies: pins, ruler, rotary cutter, mat, scissors, sewing machine, coordinating thread, etc. Clover Wonder Clips are especially helpful for sewing the handles!
From your outer fabric cut:
- 1 piece 15 x 16″ (bag back)
- 3 pieces 2 x 15″ (front sides and bottom)
- 1 piece 13 x 15″ (bag front)
From your lining fabric cut:
- 2 pieces 15 x 16″
From your handle fabric cut:
- 2 pieces 4 x 25″
From your pocket fabric cut:
- 1 piece 13″ square
- 4 pieces cut to measurements found in step 1, below
From your interfacing cut:
- 1 piece 15 x 16″ for tote back
- 1 piece 13″ square for pocket
- 1 piece 13 x 15″ for tote front
- 3 pieces 15 x 2″ for front sides and bottom
- 2 pieces 4 x 25″ for handles (Note: I like my handles to be poofy and have some structure. If you want less structured handles, use Pellon ShapeFlex instead)
*All seams are sewn with 1/2″ seam allowance unless otherwise noted (as in step 1).
Step 1 – Determine the size for your UFO block frames. Once the frame is attached, the pocket should measure 13″ unfinished. Most UFO blocks will have a 1/4″ seam allowance built in, so for the purposes of assembling the pocket front, we will be using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Here’s how to determine how much to add to your UFO block:
- Measure the block’s height and width. My block was an 8″ square finished block with 1/4″ seam allowances, so unfinished it measured 8.5″.
- Subtract the finished height from 13″. My finished height was 8″, and 8-13 is 5.
- Divide this number in half (5/2 = 2.5).
- Add 1/4″ to this measurement (2.5 + .25 = 2.75″).
- Cut 2 pieces of your frame fabric with the above found measurement as the height and the width of your unfinished block as the length of the strip. My strips were cut 2.75 x 8.5″.
- Sew these two pieces to the top and bottom edges of your block with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Press towards the strips.
- Subtract the finished width from 13″. My finished width was 8″, and 8-13 is 5.
- Divide this number in half (5/2 = 2.5).
- Add 1/4″ to this measurement (2.5 + .25 = 2.75″).
- Cut 2 pieces of your frame fabric with the above found measurement as the height and 13″ as the length of the strip. My strips were cut 2.75 x 13″.
- Sew these two pieces to the sides of your block with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Press towards the strips.
Step 2 – Following the manufacturer’s instruction, fuse the cut interfacing to bag back, pieced pocket, bag front sides and bottom, bag front, and handles.
Step 3 – If you wish to add any topstitching or quilting details to your pocket now is the time to do so. I stitched 1/4″ outside of my block.
Step 4 – Place pocket outer and pocket lining right sides together and pin. Sew along the top edge.
Step 5 – Flip the pocket piece so the wrong sides are touching and press the top edge. Topstitch 1/4″ from the top edge.
Step 6 – Place the 13 x 15″ piece of your outer fabric right side up on your work surface. Take the pocket and align the bottom edges of the two pieces. Pin the pieces together and then baste them together using a 1/4″ seam allowance along the sides and bottom of the pocket.
Step 7 – Take two of your 15 x 2″ pieces and sew them to either side of the front pocket piece. Press seams away from the pocket.
Step 8 – Take the remaining 15 x 2″ piece and sew it along the bottom edge of the front, beneath the pocket. Press away from the pocket.
Step 9 – Using a coordinating thread, topstich 1/4″ outside the side and bottom seams.
Step 10 – Place the pieced front piece and back piece right sides together and pin. Sew along sides and bottom.
Step 11 – Repeat Step 10 with the lining pieces, but leave a gap approximately 6″ long in the bottom for turning.
Step 12 – Fold the lining so that the side seam and bottom seam align at one corner as shown. Open the seam allowance. Pin. Repeat with remaining lining corner and both corners on the outer bag.
Step 13 – Measure down 1″ from the corner and mark. Sew on the line. Repeat for remaining lining and outer bag corners.
Step 14 – Fold handle pieces in half, with wrong sides together and press. I found it best to use steam here, and really press hard and long (but don’t set the house on fire!). Open the handle pieces and fold the edges to the center, pressing again. Finally, fold them in half, again, this time with the edges enclosed, and press once more.
Step 15 – Topstitch 1/8″ from each edge of your handles. I found Wonder Clips especially useful for handling all that bulk!
Step 16 – Turn the outer bag piece right side out. Measure in 3″ from each side and make a mark. Make sure that you’ve marked both the front and the back of the bag.
Step 17 – Using one of the handle pieces, align the outside edge of the handle with the marks made in step 16 on the front of the bag. Make sure you don’t accidentally twist the handle. Repeat on the back side of the bag. Baste handles in place.
Step 18 – Slide the outer bag into the lining so that the right sides are facing. Align the side seams and pin along the top. Sew all the say around the top.
Step 19 – Turn right side out through the gap in the lining. Turn the edges of the gap inwards and either hand sew shut or use a top stitch on the machine.
Step 20 – Push the lining into the bag and press along the top edge. Topstitch 1/4″ from the top all the way around.
That’s it! You’ve finished your UFO tote bag! I think I’ll be sewing more of these as my wife has already started making eyes at mine (plus, I have plenty of UFOs to use up!).