Fat Quarter Tea Towels

This week's Handmade Holiday gift idea is a fat-quarter friendly tea towel project.

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Supplies needed: fat quarter of medium- to heavy-weight fabric (see note below regarding fabric selection), ~5" of ribbon or twill tape (scraps will work fine!), thread, scissors, sewing machine, iron, pressing board, a couple of straight pins or Clover clips

Cost: up to ~$15.00 (price will vary greatly based on your fabric choice)

Time: 15-20 minutes, plus the time you spend shopping for fabric, which could be considerable

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A note about fabric selection

For a beautiful, long-lasting tea towel, you will want a fabric with a heavier hand than quilting cotton. I would recommend linen, twill, or canvas. For my tea towels, I'm using Linen Cotton Canvas from Spoonflower. I'm not just pimping Spoonflower because I have designs for sale there...there are a few reasons this works well. First, the Linen Cotton Canvas is a durable choice for tea towels. Second, while a standard fat quarter of fabric is about 18" x 22", fat quarters of this fabric are 18" x 27", which is a great size for a tea towel. Third, Spoonflower introduced a feature earlier this year where you can Fill-a-Yard of fabric with multiple designs, so one yard of fabric can yield 4 different tea towels! This saves you money, and allows you to make unique towels for everyone on your list.

Now to dive in!

If your fabric has any selvedge, trim that away before pressing.

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You'll press 1/2" on all 4 sides, and then fold that over and press again to enclose the raw edges.

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Cut a piece of twill tape (or ribbon) to about 5" long, Tuck this under the pressed edges in one of the top corners, running diagonally across the corner as shown below.

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In order to keep the twill tape from shifting during sewing, you'll want to secure it with a couple of pins or Clover clips.

Since the stitching will be very visible on the front of the towel, I like to sew from the front. Do whatever floats your boat, though! You'll stitch at the 1/2" mark around all 4 sides, pivoting at the corners.

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And that's it! You've made a beautiful tea towel that adds personality to any kitchen.

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If you're interested in purchasing the design shown in the example photos, you can find it here in my Spoonflower shop. If you'd like to learn how to design a tea towel calendar of your own, check out my calendar design class on Skillshare.

Covered Button Earrings

To kick off my Handmade Holiday series, I'm sharing these scrap-friendly covered button earrings.

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Supplies needed: covered button kit, earring posts, E6000 adhesive, scissors, pliers, pencil, small fabric scraps

Cost: ~$10.00 for 3 pair of earrings

Time: 10-15 minutes, plus drying time

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If you've not used a covered button kit before, you'll find that the back of the packaging is very instructive. It also includes a template for cutting your fabric.

Cut out the button pattern from the packaging and trace the circle onto your fabric. You'll need two circles to make a pair of earrings.

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For each earring, you'll need one circle of fabric, one button front, and one button back. You'll also be using the mold and the pusher from the button kit to assemble these.

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Center your fabric circle over the clear plastic mold and place the button front on it, face down. Using the blue pusher, pus the button front down into the mold.

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See how all of the fabric is tucked around the button front? Now you'll place a button back on top of this, and use the pusher to push it in until you feel it click into place.

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You'll need to remove the shank from the back of the button. Using a pair of pliers, squeeze on either side of the shank loop as shown below and squeeze gently. This will release it and it should pull away easily.

The button kit comes in odd quantities. My kit had 7, which is an awkward amount for pairs of earrings. You can always buy two kits and solve this problem, or consider that 7th button as insurance in case you screw one up. At any rate, here are my 6 earrings.

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Place a dot of E6000 adhesive on the button back and push an earring post into the glue.

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Let the glue dry overnight, and you have a lovely gift for someone you love...or to keep for yourself!

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Simple Circle Pouch Tutorial

Earlier this week, I was preparing for a road trip and found myself in need of some pouches to organize bits and bobs that I'd be taking with me. I didn't need anything big and fancy, and didn't want to spend much time on them. I just wanted something sturdy and cute that I could toss in my bag.

I sewed up a couple of these simple circle pouches using my Let's Play House fabric, but this project is also suitable for scraps. Altogether, I used about a fat quarter of fabric for each, including the lining and zipper tab.

To create my circle pattern I used a small plate from my kitchen, which measured a little over 7", so my fabric pieces just needed to be a little larger than that.

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You will need to cut:

 - 2 circles each from exterior fabric, lining fabric, and batting

 - 1 rectangle at 2.5" x 5" from lining fabric (or a suitable size for your circle)

You will also need a zipper that is longer than the width of your circle. For my ~7" circle, I used 9" zippers.

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Set aside one set of circles, and cut one of each fabric/batting exactly in half. These will make the front the pouch. I did this by folding them in half and cutting along the fold.

Take one of each half-circle and pin with the top edge of your zipper in the following order, bottom to top:

 - Lining fabric, right side up

 - Zipper, right side up

 - Exterior fabric, wrong side up

 - Batting

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Sew through all layers using a zipper foot. If you don't have a zipper foot, use 1/4" seam allowance and sew carefully!

Flip the fabric/batting away from the zipper and press. Top stitch through all layers 1/4" from the zipper.

Flip the unsewn edge of your zipper up, and repeat the steps above for your remaining half-circles.

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Take the rectangle of lining fabric, and press it in half, long edges together.

Unfold the rectangle, and iron the long edges in to the middle line you just creased.

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Fold along the crease and press again, making sure the long, raw edges are tucked in. Sew along the open edge with 1/8" seam allowance. Set aside.

Open the zipper slightly, and pin the opening closed. Baste the opening, across the zipper teeth, close to the edge of your circle. Go slowly - be careful not to break your needle on the zipper teeth.

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Now fold the zipper tab in half, and place at the opening you just basted. I put mine inside the circle by about 1". Leave the raw edges to hang with the ends of your zipper (we'll cut the excess away later), and baste in place.

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Take your fabric circles, and layer as follows, bottom to top:

 - Lining fabric, wrong side up

 - Batting

 - Exterior fabric, right side up

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Make sure the zipper on your pouch front is open and layer it with your fabric circles. The pouch front should be lining side up. Pin in place all around the circle.

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Using 1/4" seam allowance, sew around the entire circle through all the layers. Take care as you sew over the zipper teeth. (Can you tell I've broken a few needles in my time?)

Using sharp scissors, trim through the excess zipper tape. I also trimmed the raw edges of the pouch with pinking shears to prevent fraying.

Flip the pouch right side out and press. Topstitch through all layers using 1/4" seam allowance and a long stitch.

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Now your pouch is ready to be filled with whatever goodies you'd like!

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Let's Play House!

The wait is finally over! I'm delighted to share that my first line of fabric for Robert Kaufman - Let's Play House -  is now available in stores and online.

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I'll be visiting Silk Road Textiles in the Cincinnati area on 9/12 to share my fabrics and have some fun giveaways, and I will be hosting a workshop for the Let's Play House Pillow on 10/14 at Sew to Speak in Columbus. if you're local to Ohio or will be passing through, I'd love to see you!

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Kismet Trinket Boxes

This weekend, I sewed up some Kismet Trinket Boxes by Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness. I'd been wanting to give these a try for some time - I had so much fun making her Crimson & Clover train case pattern, and this set of itty bitty cases was just too cute to pass up.

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I made the large and small versions of the square case using some of my upcoming fabric, Let's Play House.

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This fat quarter-friendly project was easier than I expected. I had to take my time on the small curves, but the boxes came together pretty quickly, and I'm really pleased with how they turned out.  

 

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Dreaming of a Hawaiian Vacation

We're going hiking in the Utah desert this July (yes...we know it will be hot), but that hasn't stopped me from daydreaming about one of the two remaining states we need to visit before we can say we've hit all 50.

Every week in June, Spoonflower is hosting a contest with Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki to find patterns that embody island life at the property. Here are the designs I submitted for each week's theme.

Rainbow Tower

 

Mid Century Modern Hawaiian Village

 

Blue Hawaii

 

Friday Night Fireworks

Post Haste

I've finally wrapped up my snail-mail themed collection, Post Haste!

This collection makes me want to send, receive, sort, and deliver mail. I had so much fun designing all of the elements.

I've done these patterns up in two color ways - the classic shown above, and a more lively, modern scheme shown below.

Next up? I think these are crying out to become coloring pages. Stay tuned!

A love letter to snail mail

I'm working on a new collection of patterns and spot graphics inspired by old-fashioned mail.

After all, who doesn't love receiving a beautifully hand-addressed letter that we're sure doesn't contain a bill?

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And stamps...stamps are a source of never-ending inspiration and delight! I've loved digging through photos of old stamps from all over the world - such beautiful, whimsical artwork at such a tiny scale!

I'm having so much fun with this one, and can't wait to share the final product with you!

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Cross stitch family portrait

When my sister and her husband adopted their first child earlier this year, I wanted to make them a family portrait to commemorate the occasion. I know my strengths, and they don't include illustrating people very well, so I decided to make a cross stitch family portrait.

My thumb shown for scale...the portrait was freakin' tiny!

My thumb shown for scale...the portrait was freakin' tiny!

I used this tutorial from Martha Stewart as a starting point, and I love the way it turned out (they did too!).

Simple swaddling blankets

I know there's been a lot of baby gift making lately, but it's new baby season in my circle, and these projects are just so much fun to share! There are so many great choices for fabrics and baby items are typically pretty easy to make.

Today I'm sharing some simple swaddling blankets I made for a new arrival. These flannel blankets are made with serged edges and take very little prep work - a stack can easily be completed in under an hour.

I bought one-yard cuts of flannel fabric, and pre-washed them. Begin by folding one yard in half one way, and then in half the other way (this would technically be called 'folding in quarters', but I want to be clear that it gets folded one way and then the other.)

In the photo above, the folded sides of the fabric are on the right side and the bottom. All of the selvedges (the edges with copyright and printing information) are now on the left hand side, and the raw edges are on the top. Now we'll trim the selvedges off - don't worry about the top/raw edges just yet.

Now we'll round the corners of the blanket. This gives it a nice, soft feel - and makes the sewing process much easier! I used a rounded plate as a guide for my corners. Your trimming doesn't have to be perfect...the serger is going to clean it up nicely for you. Just be sure you are trimming the upper left-hand corner - the one without folds. If you cut through your folds, you're going to be sad.

That's it for prep - you're ready to serge! Start in the middle of one side, in the straight area. This will be much easier and more secure than starting with one of the rounded corners. You don't need to factor in any seam allowance - just run your fabric right along the edge of the knife blade. It will trim away any wonky strings, but you don't need it to really remove any of the fabric.

Take the corners slowly, just following the curve you cut.

When you get close to the beginning of your stitching, lift the presser foot and tuck your thread tail under the needle. This will lock that thread tail into the seam and keep it from breaking loose with repeated use and washing of the blanket.

Once your stitching is overlapping where you started, just sew off the edge of the blanket. This will leave a thread tail that needs to be tucked in.

Using a large needle, tuck that thread tail into the stitching to secure.

Now trim the tails and you're done! You've made a blanket (or more likely, a whole mess of blankets) that are perfect for swaddling and tummy time. Babies everywhere will adore you, and so will their parents.

My Skillshare class is now live!

I'm excited to share with you that my Skillshare class, Lettering with Motifs: Using Graphics as Type, is now live! I've thought about doing this for a while, and in the month of March I planned, rehearsed, recorded, and edited this class, and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Check out this intro video, then head on over to Skillshare to enroll, and get a free month using this link!

 

 

Learning new skills, sharing old ones

This month, I am publishing my first class on Skillshare. I've been threatening to do this for a while, but couldn't quite work up the nerve. I couldn't decide what to teach, unsure that I had anything new to offer. Over the years, I've taken many classes that have helped me grow and become more skilled in my design processes, and I just didn't know if I had anything to add to the mix. After repeated hounding from the Skillshare team, I decided it was time.

My class is Lettering with Motifs: Using Graphics as Type to Create a Themed Postcard. I'll be sharing my process for creating high-impact, beautiful lettering from icons and motifs. Using existing letters as a template, students will arrange motifs drawn by hand or digitally into lettering for a postcard.

Lessons will cover:

  • Best practices for research and brainstorming
  • Digitizing your hand drawn artwork (scanning, cleaning up, and vectorizing your motifs)
  • Adding color to and recoloring your artwork
  • Arranging motifs to create letterforms that are readable and beautiful

These are all skills I have. The skills I'm now trying to master include screen capture, video and sound editing, and not sounding like a doofus. Here's my super-professional setup:

And yes...I AM filming at my kitchen table, because the lighting at my desk is...well, not good. Not good at all. If I stay on track and hit all my milestones, the class should be launched for April. I'll keep you posted!

 

Quilt binding by machine with a flange

I've always been a fan of finishing quilt binding by hand. I sew my binding to the front of my quilt using a machine, and then use an invisible hand-stitch on the backside of the quilt for a nice clean finish. Practically speaking though, this takes a lot of time. And yes...you spent a lot of time making the quilt so why not spend the time sewing the binding by hand? I (usually) agree, but sometimes quick is good. Also, machine binding can hold up a little better in instances where the quilt will get a lot of wear and tear - baby blankets, for example, will be heavily used and washed over time and machine binding may hang in there longer under that kind of love (abuse).

For the baby quilt I've been working on, I decided to add a machine binding with a flange. I think this is a great way to add a machine binding without it looking sloppy, and it gives the quilt a little something extra.

For a flange binding, you'll be using two fabrics - a main binding fabric and a flange fabric. I chose a red & white scallop print for my main binding and a black & white wood grain print for my flange fabric. I cut my main binding fabric the way I usually would, and cut the flange binding fabric .25" wider than the main binding fabric. It may seem counter-intuitive to cut the main binding thinner than the flange, but I promise it will all make sense.

Sew the main fabric and flange fabric wrong sides together using a .25" seam allowance.

Press the seam towards the main binding fabric. It will look like this front and back.

Now you'll press the binding in half, just as you would with non-flange binding. On one side, you'll be able to see the main and flange fabrics, and on the other, you'll only see the flange fabric.

You're going to attach the binding to the quilt on the back side of the quilt with the flange fabric facing up.

I'm not going to cover how to miter your corners in this post - I'm assuming you've bound a quilt before. If you haven't and need basic info, here's a great tutorial for beginners.

Once your binding is attached to the back of your quilt, fold it over to the front of the quilt. You'll be stitching in the ditch - sewing where the flange fabric meets the main binding fabric. This will keep your stitching even with the binding on the backside and nearly invisible from the front of your quilt.

 

While the binding stitches aren't invisible on the backside, they're even with the binding and if you've chosen your thread color well, they blend right in.

Quilting in circles

One of my favorite things about making a quilt is deciding how to quilt it...what sort of pattern or texture will bring out the best in the quilt top. I recently tried quilting a spiral and loved how it worked with the star shape of the quilt design. I also loved how easy it was to do on my home sewing machine. I used it again for a star-based design and am sharing the results with you today.

I used this great tutorial from verrykerryberry when learning how to quilt a spiral. You start by stitching along a small paper template of the spiral and then work your way out. I printed out her template and pinned it to the center of my quilt.

I used a short stitch length to begin with so that the paper would be easy to tear away, and a walking foot is a must - moving a decent sized quilt in a tight circle like that is no joke, but it does get easier the further you get from the center.

After I got the first few rounds out of the way, I increased my stitch length and added the guide bar to my walking foot. I aligned it with the spiral I had just stitched so that I could keep even spacing between the rounds as I went.

From there, it was just a matter of keeping the guide aligned as I went. The larger the spiral, the easier it was to spin the quilt around and I made pretty good time!

All told, this 40" x 40" baby quilt took about 20 minutes to quilt. It's a dense enough stitching pattern that I know the quilt will hold up well to the wear and tear of a small kid and I think the spiral really complements the quilt design.

Even the back looks good! And yes...that IS minky backing. (Thanks, walking foot...I couldn't have done it without you)

Foundation paper piecing that won't make you want to lay down in traffic

20-some years ago, my sister was born, changing my life for the better in so many ways. I had a playmate, a friend, a partner in crime. We have had our rough patches, but I love her dearly and couldn’t ask for a better sister. While we’re very different from each other, we have much in common – sewing, for one. She recently taught me a technique that changed the way I was paper piecing (or wasn’t paper piecing, since I was always so frustrated with it that I usually shoved those projects aside in favor of something that wouldn’t make me crazy). The method she uses isn’t radical – instead of sewing through her paper pattern piece, she uses freezer paper, a dry iron, and folding to create beautifully pieced blocks. Now I do too!

Trace your block onto the dull side of freezer paper.  Number the pieces in the same way you would for a regular paper pattern. In the example below, I added my seam allowance to the block. I’m apt to mess that part up – out of sight, out of mind – but you don’t have to. Just prepare the pattern the same way you usually would – just use freezer paper.

Select a scrap of fabric for piece #1. Make sure it is large enough to cover the whole space with .25″ seam allowance on all sides. I hold mine up to the light to check. If it is much larger (like my example), don’t worry about cutting it down to size. By the time we’re done with this block all of your seam allowances will be beautiful and the piece will be the perfect size.

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Hit it with an iron. You’ll want to put the wrong side of your fabric against the freezer paper and tack it in place with a dry iron.

Fold the freezer paper along the line between piece 1 and piece 2. Trim the exposed fabric to a .25″ seam allowance. I eyeball it, but you can use a rotary cutter and ruler if you like…it’s more time intensive, but if it makes you feel better, go for it.

Select a scrap of fabric for piece #2. Make sure it is large enough to cover the whole space with .25″ seam allowance on all sides. Place this piece right sides together with piece #1, aligning the edges. Sew with a .25″ seam allowance, right up against the freezer paper. If you accidentally sew into the freezer paper, it’s not the end of the world. If you can avoid doing that, you can reuse the template 3-4 times before it loses it’s stick, so try not to.

Fold the freezer paper pattern back to flat, ironing briefly over the seam allowances to hold them in place. Then fold piece #2 out and iron as well.

Continue folding, trimming, sewing, and ironing for all of the pieces in your pattern. When you’re done, it will look something like this.

This is the point where I pull out the rotary cutter and square up my block.

Once you’ve trimmed the edges, you can peel back the freezer paper template to reuse until it loses it’s stick. Your block will be beautiful front AND back!

I’m including a printable version of this pattern for you. I’d love to hear what you think of the technique!

Cotton Baby Crib Bumpers

With several family members expecting babies this spring, I've been busy sewing up baby gifts, like these easy flannel burp cloths. Significantly easier to say 3 times fast and much easier to make than rubber baby buggy bumpers, crib bumpers are a lovely way to personalize a nursery and are a great gift when paired with baby bedding. (Before you go nuts in the comments section, let me say that crib bumpers are discouraged for newborn and young infants. We are constantly learning better ways to care for infants and children, so check with your pediatrician for the latest recommendations. I haven't had a baby in 13 years and am certainly not an expert.)

I purchased a selection of prints and solids for making crib bumpers and a quilt from Fancy Tiger Crafts.

I purchased a package of Fairfield Nu Foam crib bumper pads and used their free pattern, which you can download here.

The pattern was easy to follow and in an evening I was able to make the set!

Happy Hour Tea Towel Calendar

Every year, I design a tea towel calendar as one of my Christmas gifts. My friends and family have come to expect them, and I look forward to coming up with a new theme each year. I knew that we were going to need lots of cocktails in 2017, so I featured 12 of my favorite grown-up beverages.

I sketched each of the drinks in pencil, and included simple recipes. I knew that the recipes would be too much text for the tea towel, but who knows what else I might do with these illustrations?

I inked my drawings and pulled them into Illustrator for finishing.

After I finalized the layout, I uploaded my design to Spoonflower for printing. The calendar is sized to fit on a single fat quarter of Linen Cotton Canvas, and a simple hem around the edge is all that's needed to make a towel that will liven up any kitchen or bar!

If you'd like your own Happy Hour tea towel calendar, you can purchase this design in my Spoonflower shop!

Arrowhead Quilt

Perhaps you'll remember my Autumn Arrowhead quilt block. In case you don't, check out this post to see how this SUPER easy block is constructed. (When I say SUPER easy, I mean it...I sewed all of my blocks for this quilt in under 2 hours.) While these blocks can certainly be pieced side by side, I tried something different for this quilt.

My sister and I decided that our favorite aunt should have a quilt made with this block for her birthday this year. We divided up the fabric and each made 10 blocks. We used the same neutral gray fabric for all of the blocks and a variety of solids and prints in a colorway we think she'll like. I added sashing and cornerstones when piecing the top, and I think it really added to the overall design.

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Write here...

I used free motion quilting in the neutral spaces of the blocks, and some straight-line quilting in the sashing, leaving the prints/solids unquilted. I'm usually a very dense-coverage sort of quilter, so this was a new approach for me, and it makes the prints really pop.

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Now all we have to do is bind it and gift it!