Put your napkin in your lap-kin

Cloth napkins are a great way to dress up your holiday table, and also make a beautiful and practical gift. We use cloth napkins as our everyday napkins - they're durable, eco-friendly, and can be made from a variety of fun and interesting fabrics. They're incredibly simple to sew, so you have plenty of time to whip them up for a party you're hosting this holiday season or as a host/ess gift for one you'll be attending.

Supplies needed: Two yards of fabric per 4 napkins - cotton and linen fabrics recommended. I used different fabrics front and back (1 yard each), but you can also make them from the same fabric.

Cost: This will depend largely on your fabric choice, but you can ballpark at about $5.00 per napkin.

Time: Under an hour for each set.

I like to use two fabrics, one each for front and back, when I make napkins. There's no rule saying you have to do this, but I think it makes them more versatile. I chose a print in shades of white and green and a solid. The solid is a cross-weave, meaning the fabric is woven from two colors of thread - in this case, bright blue and green were used to create a darker blue-green.

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You'll need to cut your fabric down into fat quarters, approximately 18" x 22" - which is essentially cutting your yard of fabric in half each way. Since fabrics will vary in width, work from the dimensions of your narrowest fabric and trim as necessary.

Pin your fabrics together, right sides facing, and sew around the edge with a .25" seam allowance, turning at the corners, and leaving an opening about 2-3" unsewn so you can flip them right side out.

Trim the seam allowance diagonally at the corners so you'll get a nice, crisp point when you turn them. Flip the napkins right side out and press, ensuring that the seam allowance from your opening is tucked inside.

Topstitch around the edges about 1/8" from the edge, turning at the corners.

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Now your napkins are ready to gift and enjoy!

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Making Friends

This week's Handmade Holiday gifts are a lot of fun to make and even more fun to play with! I'm sharing how to make stuffed toys from cut-and-sew panels and fabric.

This type of project holds a special place in my heart...a few years ago, I designed a doll house pillowcase for my niece for Christmas.

She loved it and ultimately it became my first commercial fabric line, Let's Play House. That project is now available here as a free pattern from Robert Kaufman.

Today I'll be sharing 3 different cut-and-sew toy projects that sew up in no time and are sure to delight the little folks in your life.

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Supplies needed: for the Matryoshka dolls, I used a fat quarter of quilting cotton. For the Nutcracker friends, I purchased a panel of Alexander Henry fabric and some green dotted fabric for the backs. For the Cactus Family, I used my cut-and-sew panel from Spoonflower, printed on a yard of minky. You'll also need a bag of stuffing, thread, and a needle for hand-sewing.

Cost: for the Matryoskha dolls, everything I used was scraps from my stash. The fabric for the Nutcracker friends cost about $15.00. The cut-and-sew Cactus Family is $27.00. A bag of stuffing will cost about $4.00.

Time: about an hour for each set.

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For the Matryoshka dolls, I began with a small amount of standard quilting fabric. Your fabric could have animals or trucks or anything you'd like to make into a stuffed toy. Cut out the doll shape, leaving about .25" seam allowance around the print. Then cut out a matching piece from the fabric to use for the back of the doll.

Place the pieces together, right sides facing, and pin around the edges. Sew using a .25" seam allowance, leaving the bottom open for stuffing. I also recommend clipping the curves after sewing so the doll will turn right-side-out nicely.

Flip the doll right-side-out, and fill the doll with stuffing. You can hand stitch the opening closed in a number of ways - do whatever type of hand sewing is easiest for you.

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The Nutcracker panel has plenty of white space around each of the characters. Since these characters were more detailed than the Matryoshkas, you can leave the cut quite rough, planning to trace a wide outline using the sewing machine. Likewise, the backing fabric doesn't need to be cut to shape - only to size.

Place the pieces together, right sides facing, and pin around the edges. Sew a loose outline at least .25" away from the print, and trim the excess fabric.

Flip the doll right-side-out, stuff and sew closed.


The cut-and-sew Cactus Family has cut lines to follow, and a piece for the back of each character.

Pin the pieces together, right sides facing and sew around the edge using a .25" seam allowance, leaving the bottom open for stuffing. Flip right side out, stuff and sew closed.

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Ugly Sweater Mug Rug

It's been a while since I participated in an Instagram swap, but this year's Ugly Sweater Mug Rug Swap was too cute to not join in.

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Supplies needed: scraps of Christmas-y cotton fabric, 7" square of cotton batting, thread, fabric for binding

Cost: assuming you work from scraps of fabric and batting, the only cost will be for the pattern - $6.00

Time: about an hour - if paper piecing intimidates you, check out my tutorial for a freezer paper method that won't make you crazy.

Using this pattern from Kid Giddy, I created an ugly Christmas sweater for my partner from scrap fabric I had on hand. The pattern comes with two styles of sweater - a crew neck and a v-neck. Hopefully this is ugly enough for my partner! I had a lot of fun quilting the plaid design, and I like the way it looks from the back almost as much as from the front. You can check out all the photos from the swap on Instagram.

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The Pajama Game

Pajamas make a great Christmas gift because they're easy to make, easy to customize, and easy to fit since they're so forgiving. This week, I'm sharing three of my favorite free pajama shorts patterns with you. When paired with a coordinating cami or tank top, any lady would be thrilled to receive these handmade jammies.

City Gym Shorts

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While technically not a pajama pattern, there's no reason these can't serve as jammie shorts. You can make them from voile or rayon for a soft, luxurious feel, or from flannel for a cozy pair. I made a pair from cotton because I love this print but wasn't sure it would fly as actual clothing on a grown ass lady.

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The City Gym Shorts pattern is available in sizes for all ages from Purl Soho. They have a distinctly athletic look, which I love. The pattern calls for bias tape, so be sure to check out my easy bias tape tutorial to make what you need for this project.

 

Madeleine Bloomers

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This pattern from Colette is feminine and cheeky as well as a breeze to sew up.

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The little details like the bows at the legs and the frilly, cinched waist make these really special. I sewed mine from some beautiful sheer cotton voile, but there are so many luxurious fabrics you could choose from.

 

Easy Boxer Shorts

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Last but not least, these easy boxer shorts from eHow are incredibly comfortable and incredibly simple to make.

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I used some soft waistband elastic in a fun color as suggested in the tutorial, and I couldn't be happier with how they fit and feel.

Bias Tape from a Fat Quarter

If you're making something this holiday season that requires bias tape or bias binding, I've got a nifty trick to share with you. You can make 5+ yards of continuous bias tape from a single fat quarter!

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I know...you're wondering why I would bother going to the trouble of making my own when it comes conveniently prepackaged at JoAnn's for the same price as a fat quarter without having to do all the work. There are two reasons I like to make my own. First, the prepackaged stuff has been chemically forced into unnatural stiffness. Maybe that's your thing, but I feel like when you're working on a project that needs bias tape to flow along the curves, it should, well, flow along the curves. Easily. Second, the prepackaged bias tape doesn't have a great selection of colors. One red, one blue, one pink, etc. Sometimes it looks best to customize your bias tape to your project. I'll admit to occasionally using the store-bought kind on the interior of garments and bags, but when the bias tape is going to be visible, I like to coordinate or match it to the project.

Let's begin with a fat quarter, which is approximately 18" x 22".

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Take one corner and fold it down to square off the fat quarter. Press a crease along that fold line with your fingers - no need to iron.

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Using a ruler and a rotary cutter, cut along the crease line.

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Take the triangle you just cut from the right side of the fat quarter and move it around to the left side as pictured below.

Place these pieces wrong sides together as shown, and sew along the edge using a .25" seam allowance and a short stitch length. We'll be cutting through this seam, so we want it to hold up well. I used a 1.5mm stitch length for mine.

Press the seam open.

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Using a clear ruler, mark lines along the fabric every 1.75". While I do own fabric marking pens, you'll see that I'm using a trusty old mechanical pencil. There's one more seam to press open before we finish with these lines and I don't want my iron to wipe them out...hence, the pencil.

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Now comes the awkward part. We'll fold our fabric and pin the two diagonal edges together. The fabric is going to bunch up big time, but it is my solemn promise to you that no one will die as a result of this. We'll begin with one section hanging off the edge of our fabric, and pin by matching the pencil lines together. When matching these, it's important to match where they meet up .25" in from the edge. If you match them up along the edge, they won't match up once they're sewn.

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When you're done pinning, it'll look roughly like this. Yes - it appears to be a hot mess. But it will be 5 yards of continuous bias tape when it grows up. Really.

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Sew along the pinned edge, taking care to keep the fabric smooth where you're sewing. Just push the bunchy bits off to the side and take your time.

Press the seam you just sewed open.

Starting on either side where that excess fabric is hanging off the edge, cut through one layer of fabric along your marked line.

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See? I told you it would be 5 continuous yards and NOT a hot mess!

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Now comes the pressing part. If you have a bias tape maker, congratulations! You are much fancier than I am. In case you aren't any fancier than me, here's how I press mine. First, I press the tape in half.

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Then, I press both raw edges into that center line I just pressed.

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As I go, I wind it around an index card or whatever's handy...in this case, a paint swatch.

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And that's it! 5 yards of continuous bias tape from one fat quarter!

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.