Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Home Dec Round to Its

Last week, my "Round to Its" focused on the Home Dec projects on my list--and I'm proud to say, I've crossed most of those off the list. The majority centered around repairing items in the family room.
By the way, making a list and keeping it on the computer has been helpful. As I complete something, I highlight it in color—that way when I look at my list, I can see how much I've accomplished. It feels good to knock a few projects off the list each week. My list is divided into categories, such as Home Dec, Creative, Work, etc.

Here's what I knocked off the list last week.

Six years ago, I ordered two custom-made couches in a fabulous Jay Lang floral print. They each came with two feather-stuffed accent pillows, trimmed in piping. I got to choose the fabrics for all three, so the couches are just what I wanted. However, I was never really crazy about the red fabric for the pillows—it was too much toward the orange side for my taste, even though it definitely matches one of the other reds in the floral print. Because my area rug is really red, as are the lap quilts I use in the family room, the orangey red has always bothered my sense of aesthetics.

Shortly after we moved into our house, I purchased a redder red fabric to replace the pillows—that was five years ago! Finally, I got around to making new covers for the pillows on the couch in the family room. (Last year I made covers for the pillows on the sofa in the living room, using fabric that matches the sofas.)

Because the new fabric was a smooth satin weave, I decided to add a bit more texture on the front of the pillow. I drew a 2"-wide grid of diagonal lines on the square using dressmaker's chalk, and then layered it with thin cotton batting, and stitched on the lines. Notice the handle on my rotary cutter--and read about it at the end of this post.

I'm much happier with the color and love the quilted fronts—which will probably look more textured after the covers are washed the first time. The photo shows how much different the two colors are. The darker red is also in the floral print, but the furniture store just didn't have anything like it when I ordered the sofas.

Since these pillows belong in the family room, and will be washed (not dry-cleaned), I did preshrink the fabric, which removed the stain-repellent finish. After completing the pillows, I restored the finish with a spray-on repellant—I'll do that each time I wash the pillow covers.

To refresh pillows between cover washings, I toss them into the dryer for 5 minutes. That fluffs them and refreshes them beautifully.

I made new piping, using the same fabric as that on the sofas. Shortly after I purchased the sofas, I found the same fabric at Calico Corners and bought 20 yards—just in case I needed it for repairs, or seat cushions, or valances, or whatever! As it turned out, I used some of it to make a floor-length tablecloth for the small table in our eat-in kitchen that is open to the family room.

I learned something while making the piping that had never occurred to me before. First of all, piping fabric needs to be cut on the bias in order to fit smoothly around square corners. When applying it, you need to stop at the corner and clip the piping seam allowance to make it fit around the point. I've always just clipped it in several places in the area that will go around the corner--and things usually work out fine, but often the corners are a bit "rounder" than I would like.

Clip the piping seam allowance at
the precise point where you will
turn the corner.

To remedy this, I tried something I had never seen in a sewing book. I clipped the piping seam only once, precisely in line with the 3/4"-wide seam allowance I was using to sew the piping in place. This results in a rounded corner that is more toward the "square" side. Unfortunately, I didn't try this on my pillow covers. It dawned on me after the fact so I did the samples you see here.

When I made the floor-length tablecloth for the eat-in kitchen, I didn't think to preshrink the fabric first—and a big spill made it necessary to wash it—bad idea. That made the tablecloth 2-1/2" shy of the floor all around. To remedy that, I used some of the same fabric to make a 2-1/2"-wide finished band to sew to the lower edge.

First I removed the original 1/2"-wide finished hem and then used a 1/2"-wide seam allowance to join the band to the lower edge of the tablecloth. I cut the band on the bias in order to maneuver around the curves and was very careful not to stretch or distort it while I stitched so there would be no wrinkles in the finished band. I cut it twice the required finished width plus two 1/2" seam allowances, so, in this case, the bias strips were cut 6" wide. I used rotary cutting tools to make quick work of it. I also serge-finished one long edge. Matching raw edges, I pinned and stitched the band to the lower edge of the tablecloth.

To join the ends of the band where they met, I followed my own good advice in my book, The Quilting Answer Book, so the join is on the bias and less bulky and noticeable than if I had used a straight seam. This method is a bit tricky, but worked like a charm.

After pressing and turning the band to the inside, measuring carefully to make sure the band was 2-1/2"-wide on the right side, I pinned it in place with the serged edge extending beyond the stitching line, and then stitched-in-the-ditch to secure it. I also topstitched through all layers 1/4" from the seamline. I'm so much happier with how it looks. This photo is very true to color, and you can see both the true red and orange red colors in the print.

I had also made a red-and-white-checked table topper, and like the tablecloth it shrank in the wash. I had purchased 15 yards of this fabric to complement the sofa/tablecloth fabric, again, not knowing how much I would need. I started with a 48" square, but it shrank more in length than width so it was no longer square. It was driving me crazy. Since I also had extra fabric, I made a new topper, this time preshrinking the fabric first. If it shrinks again, I may add ball fringe to the outer edges!

When we moved into this house, I made pleated valances using the checked fabric as the predominant fabric, with the sofa fabric peeking out of the pleats and as the casing along the top. For the lower half of the window, I purchased pale yellow sheers and added a yellow print casing. I've never seen anything like these two treatments and am happy with the results—they garner lots of compliments. However, because I didn't preshrink the yellow print, the casings are now too short—and the outside of them has faded from the sun. 
If you look at the right end of the rod, you can see that
the bands shrank a good inch, leaving the tension rod
exposed--not very pretty!

You can see how damaging
the sun can be by comparing
the top and bottom halves of
the casing band I removed.

That meant replacing the headers on the sheers. They've been driving me crazy—and even Stan noticed they were "too short." I've been going to get around to it for at least two years; I wasn't looking forward to unstitching, but it really only took an afternoon to cut new casings, remove the old ones, and replace them. It was worth it! I'm going to invest in spray-on sun protector for the back of the casings, too.

I also made a valance for the kitchen window—it's been "naked" since we moved here; I ran out of steam after finishing the valances at the windows in the family room and eat-in-kitchen area. Instead of multiple pleats like those in the family room, this valance has only one pleat at the center and rests on a tension rod between the two cabinets. Sorry about the bad angle on this shot--I should have stood on a chair, but I think you get the idea.

At Christmas time, I will remove the valance to expose the ribbon-wrapped rod where I hang many of my favorite Santa ornaments. (My dear husband has dubbed this "the Santa gallows." Shame on him!)

Before I put away the fabrics, I also made a tissue holder so my beautiful room wouldn't be marred by an ugly tissue box. Stan just laughs at me but it makes me happy! And, it's so Victorian, in keeping with the house!

Grip It!
The sales personnel at my local quilt shop use a handle with rubber grippers on their rotary cutting rulers. It always looked pretty handy, but somehow, I just couldn't cough up the price (and purple doesn't go with my sewing room colors), so I've never had one. Last week, I was wandering the aisles at Harbor Freight when I spotted a suction gripper for the bathroom—and it works on my rotary ruler just like the one I saw at the quilt shop—it's just a different color. The good news? It was under $7.00, more in line with my budget. I bought one and put it to use right away as you saw earlier in this post. Boy, is it a help when cutting through multiple layers of home dec fabric! It made it much easier to cut the wide bias bands for my tablecloth.

Let me know what you're sewing and send any sewing or quilting questions you may have and I'll try to answer them! Don't forget to check out my "Answer Books." Both of them are now also available as e-books at Amazon.com.

Until next time, keep sewing and smiling,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pierrot Perfected

There was just something about my Pierrot doll that wasn't quite right. After looking at him next to his mate, I decided he needed a shirt with some of the same fabric that I used in Pierrette's skirt.

For the shirt, I actually constructed a gathered skirt made with a piece of fabric that was twice Pierrot's circumference at the underarm--where the arm/sleeve units join the body--underneath the ruffle. After turning the pieced fabric panel into a tube and hemming the upper edge, I added gathers, slid the shirt on and decided it was too short. Off it came so I could add a bottom band of the same camel/burgundy print that I used for the contrast panels in his shirt.

After adjusting the gathers so the "skirt-shirt" fit under Pierot's arms, I hand sewed the shirt to his body.
With his shirt

I'm much happier now that Pierrot has a shirt. How about you?
Keep sewing and smiling,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One More "Round-to-it" Bites the Dust

Open another closet and find another project! That's how you finish up all those "round-to-its. This time, I dug out my Pierrette doll that I  finished in 1990, because recently her underarm tore as she was too tightly stuffed.

I took a class with elinor peace bailey (she uses no capital letters in her name) at Daisy Kingdom in Portland, OR, not too long after I moved there from Portland, Maine. During the class, we could make a doll of our choice using one of her patterns. I chose Pierrot and Pierrette.

To repair Pierrette, I needed the same print fabric I had used for her body so many years ago so I could add an underarm patch. I was lucky, though. I knew just where to find that fabric, along with the pieces to her companion, that I had cut out and left in pieces oh those many years ago.

As a demonstration, elinor was kind enough to help paint the faces for both of my dolls. Actually, I had embroidered Pierrette's face (the nose line, eyes, and mouth following the pattern directions before I arrived at class. Then elinor added the special details with pens and a sticky, iridescent gel-like medium. I hadn't yet embroidered Pierrot's face, so it is strictly elinor's work. My faces would never have been as beautiful as those elinor did.

I finished Pierrette shortly after the class was over and I have enjoyed her over the years. Making her was a stretch for me as I used fabric and colors that I wouldn't normally choose—part of elinor's challenge!

With Pierrot's head finished and all the other parts cut and some in stages of construction, I was ready to finish him. I started yesterday afternoon—and just finished him this afternoon. I'm pleased with the results and glad to remove one more project from my list of "round-to-its." I was able to use up more bits and pieces of trim from my stash and buttons from my button box, in lieu of Pierrot's typical pompoms. One more thing I'm doing this year is trying to use up things I have rather than running to the fabric store for some little finishing bit. It's been fun digging into my storage tubs and finding things I'd forgotten I had.

Now, aren't they a wonderful pair?

Here are some additional shots so you can see some of the details a bit closer.



Now, to find the perfect place to display these companion dolls—maybe on the wall in my sewing room—I'll have to add loops to their backs in order to do that though.
'Til next time, keep on sewing and smiling.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Printing My Own Quilt Labels

I've declared 2012 the year to finish up unfinished projects and all those little things that I call my "I'll get around to its." Shortened, that's "round to-its."

One of the things on the "round to-its"  list—make labels for the quilts I made last year, based on designs I created in Electric Quilt 7. Patterns for all of them are available for purchase as PDF downloads on my website, www.joyofsewing.com.

In this post, I'll show you the quilt labels I designed and attached to quilts this week—along with photos of the quilts to which they belong. One more "round to-it" is crossed off my list!

To make the labels, I used the Microsoft Publisher program and fabric pretreated for inkjet printing. You can purchase my favorite fabric for this purpose at www.electricquilt.com. After printing each one and treating the fabric as directed to set the ink, I trimmed the excess fabric away 1/2" from the outer edge of the printed design to allow for a turn-under allowance. Then I slipstitched each label to the backing of its quilt.

There are lots of ways to make labels. I love finding a way to incorporate photos relative to the quilt design or the quilt recipient in mine. Sometimes I make an extra block and use that as the label, but that means I have to hand-write the details on the block using a permanent ink pen. Designing my own labels and printing them on fabric makes it possible to use interesting fonts, import photos, incorporate colors, and proofread the label before it goes to the printer.

Let's Be Friends…A Friendship Sampler Quilt

Let's Be Friends© is a colorful friendship quilt, featuring twelve blocks, set with sashing rectangles and multiple borders. Use it for a lap quilt or a wall hanging. Each block features a light-colored strip so that you can have friends sign the blocks like an autograph album. Use the design to create a keepsake quilt for yourself or for a special friend. Commemorate a birthday, a special occasion, or simply friendship.  Simple rotary cutting and machine piecing techniques make it easy to create the blocks for your sampler. Two of the blocks require a simple template for the signature strip. Several blocks also feature foundation-paper-pieced sections, a great technique for ensuring accuracy without making time-consuming templates before you even begin to sew! The pattern includes fully illustrated directions for each of the 12 blocks, including full-size templates for the required foundations, plus complete directions for assembling the blocks into the finished quilt. Tips for paper-piecing are also included. The pattern has everything you need to create a truly special quilt. Perfect for a block-of-the-month project, too. Organize your friends and get stitching!
Finished Size: 56 1/2" x 66 1/2"

I used a Publisher label template for this design, changed the default color scheme to match the fabrics in my quilt, and imported Electric Quilt Jpgs of three of the blocks in the quilt.

Peony Garden

Cheerful “Peony Bouquets” surround a bed of “Peonies in Bloom” in this design to use as a lap quilt or wall hanging. Choose prints in two shades of pink for the peonies. You’ll also need a yellow print for the flower centers and three green prints in related shades for the stems and leaves. All floral pieces are set against a light background solid or print. The corners on the pieced setting triangles form a “garden fence” around the pretty bed of flowers. The “Peony Bouquet” block features appliquéd leaves and stems; directions are included for fusible as well as traditional methods.
The “Peony in Bloom” block is an adaptation of Nancy Cabot’s “Peony and Forget-Me-Nots” block. This new version eliminates corner intersections that were in the original piecing to make block assembly easier. I imported jpgs of both blocks into the label I made, using the same label template as for the "Let's Be Friends" quilt.
Finished Block Size: 12" square
Finished Quilt Size: Approximately 63" square in a diagonal setting

Hearts Entwined

This special quilt was designed as a gift for my newest grand niece, Abigail Marie Glennon. She lives in Beijing with her big brother, Han Thomas (you can read about his quilt in a previous post). She was born in late November to nephew Tom and his wife Cindy, who is from Beijing. Tom teaches Chinese children how to speak English.

For this quilt, choose two prints in coordinating values or two complementary colors. Pay careful attention to the color placement of the patches in each block and when they are joined, two large hearts entwine on the surface of your quilt. Choose prints of equal value if you want both hearts to pop, but if you want one to stand out more than the other, use prints in two values--Dark and Medium against a Light background. It's but it's pretty in pink, too, for a baby quilt, or it makes a wonderful Christmas quilt in red and green. Try two red prints against white or pink for your special Valentine.  Make it for a bride in her wedding colors--or try it in cream and tans for a wedding keepsake quilt.

Foundation paper piecing makes it easy to create accurately pieced Diamond blocks without making templates. It’s also easier to accurately piece the Small Economy Patch blocks using paper foundations. The pattern includes full-size templates to copy for the paper-piecing foundations and tips on paper-piecing.

Abby's quilt label includes the national flags of her parents' homelands, just as Tommy's quilt does, along with photos taken just after her birth. I think Tommy loves his Mai Mai (Chinese for "Little Sister").

'Tis the Season…A Holiday Wall Hanging

'Tis the Season…to decorate your home for the holidays with a pretty quilted project. You'll have this colorful wall hanging done in no time with quick-and-easy fusible appliqué and simple piecing to join the blocks and sashing and finish the quilt top. For added fun, deck the tree with an assortment of buttons, gems, sequins, and trims after you’ve completed the quilting. All appliqué patterns are given full size for easy tracing and application with your favorite lightweight fusible web. Choose assorted scraps and fat eighths from your stash for the appliqués. Finished Size: 31-1/2" x 36-3/4" 

The label for this quilt is pretty straightforward.


I made one more quilt in 2012, but it's under wraps for now. It's being quilted by my long-arm quilter and will be photographed for a catalog, due out in March. More about that one, including a photo and its label in March when it debuts.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Santa Chronicles: Part Six

Santa is finally dressed. We're down to the nitty gritty finishing details.

The biggest remaining challenge was deciding how to finish the bottom of Santa's body and how to stabilize his body in his sitting position. Thanks to my handy husband, I have a custom-made platform with a dowel that he made to fit inside the tube in Santa's body. The dowel is securely bolted to the platform, which I painted with black acrylic paint and finished with a coat of Dull-Cote Lacquer. It fits inside the cardboard tube in Santa's body with just a bit of "wiggle room."

The bottom of the platform was left unfinished so I could use a permanent marking pen to "sign" my work.

As for the bottom of the body, I had to find a way to encase the fiberfill. I cut a piece of lightweight faux suede and sewed it to the seamline around the bottom edge of the body, encasing the seam allowance and the upper edge of the gathered legs. That covered the hole in the tube. I felt for the tube edges and marked them with chalk. Then working from the center of the circle out, I carefully cut pie-shaped wedges, ending at the chalk mark. To hide the wedges, I put glue in between the fiberfill and the outside of the tube and then tucked the wedges into the glue and allowed to dry. The suede is nonwoven so it won't ravel. Another problem solved!

 My husband suggested I glue the dowel inside the tube, but instead, I used push pins through the upper legs and into the wooden base to secure Santa. I may decide to go the glue route later.

After I signed the base, I realized that I forgot to add the name of my finished Santa, so I designed a fabric label to sew to Santa's body under his jacket. I adapted a Christmas card design from my Microsoft Publisher program and inserted a photo of Santa's head. I added pertinent details, including his name, "Santa in Toyland." I printed the label on my inkjet printer, on specially treated fabric for the purpose.

You can order this fabric for inkjet printing  from www.electricquilt.com.

After trimming the label, leaving 1/4"-wide turn-under allowances on all four edges, I turned the edges and slipstitched the label to Santa's back underneath his jacket. In retrospect, it would have been easier to do this before sewing Santa's jacket to his body--but I hadn't named him yet. Usually names come easily, but this one didn't come to me until after I added the bag of toys (see below), so I couldn't have made the label anyway. I think it's a nice touch. How I love what the electronic age has made possible when it comes to creativity.

To finish up, I added a few embellishments to Santa—silver star buttons on his boots and little plastic wreaths from my button box on his mittens. I also tacked the mitten in place at the thumb joint to keep it in place.

Santa also needed a sack full of toys, so I cut one from black silk scrap and stitched it up, adding a plaid flannel casing with ribbon at the top. I stuffed the bag with a little polyfil fiber and drew up the ribbon drawsting. Then I tucked in a vintage toy soldier, a little tin toy locomotive, and a small teddy bear, all of which I had purchased in Missoula when I learned to sculpt my Santa head in 1999. After adjusting the ribbon to secure the toys (I didn't glue them), I tied it in a bow. I tacked I brought Santa's left arm forward and tacked his sleeve to his jacket. The bag of toys sits just in front of it.

I also used a few discreet stitches to secure Santa's right arm to his jacket in the desired position with a  and then tucked a small bisque doll, a Swiss miss, into the crook of that arm. (Her feet are tucked behind his arm in this shot (they slipped out for some of the photos I've used). I purchased the little doll in Switzerland in 2006 as a memento from my Bernina trip. She is secured to Santa's jacket with several small safety pins inside her clothing.

And now, my completed Santa is ready for his big "reveal." Drum roll please!

First, here's a closeup of his sweet face!

And, here he is in a casual mood! His soft legs can be "posed." I've also placed his left mitten on his leg. Note his spiffy belt made from a scrap of Ultrasuede and a silver buckle I found in my button box. It's been such fun to use up treasures and leftovers in my collection. Also note that I put a little polyfil fiber in his hat to give it a bit of "oomph," making it easy to put in the desired position.

And here he is in all his finery, my  finished "Santa in Toyland!"

I am so pleased with my Santa, and so proud of myself for figuring out how to finish him, all on my own, step-by-step, even it did take 13 years to do so. All things in their time, right? It took about 3 weeks for the problem-solving and execution to finish Santa, but it was well worth it, don't you think? I don't know if I'll ever sculpt another Santa head, but I certainly learned a lot and have great respect for the Santa and doll sculptors out there and appreciation of how much love and energy goes into a project like this one! Whatever they charge isn't enough. My Santa is a priceless heirloom to hand down in my family.

In some ways, I'm sorry to get to the end of this story--I had such a good time with this project. It was one of my "round to its." My goal this year is to get around to finishing my "round to its." There are several on my list and is this one has been checked off the list!

The End

The Santa Chronicles: Part Five

Santa is ready for a bright red, fur-trimmed jacket and matching hat. The fabric choice revealed itself quickly. Several years ago I bought a boiled wool jacket at my favorite outlet for $20. It fit pretty well and was trimmed with loopy red yarn around the neckline, down the front, and around the cuffs. I couldn't pass it up because the fabric was worth more than the price. However, every time I put it on, I felt like a clown. Removing the trim didn't help—I just don't wear true reds very well. I took the jacket apart by cutting along the seamlines—no need to take time removing the stitches—and thought I might fashion Christmas stockings from the pieces. That didn't happen.

While searching my stash for red velvet, it dawned on me that the jacket pieces were the perfect choice for Santa's costume! First I had to draft a pattern for the jacket. The only way I knew to draft a jacket pattern was to place Santa on paper and trace around his general torso shape, then draw oversize shapes for the jacket front and back, based on my tracing and my knowledge of basic pattern shapes. I drew the shapes on my favorite pattern-fitting tissue, gridded Perfect Pattern Paper by Pati Palmer and available at www.palmerpletsch.com. I also backed the paper with her Perfect Fuse sheer white knit fusible interfacing to make the paper more like fabric so I could pin-fit it to Santa's shape.

These are the shapes I used for the first pin fitting. Notice how the shoulder and side seams are pinned with the pins parallel to the stitching line for fitting.

I tried the pinned jacket/front back on Santa and then moved the pins until the pattern was a pretty good fit. As I worked, I trimmed away excess tissue around the neckline. Because I was using boiled wool, which doesn't ravel, and because there would be fur trim and Santa's hair and beard would cover the neckline, there was no need for a neckline or front edge seam allowance on the pieces. I allowed for an overlap at the center front, plus 1/4"-wide seam allowances at the shoulders, side seams, and center back and the cut away any excess tissue in those areas. I also adjusted the pattern so the pieces were 3/4" longer than Santa's body because by that time, my husband had made a platform for Santa from 3/4" plywood. You'll see that later.  There was no need for a hem allowance at the bottom because the fabric doesn't ravel.

Using the adjusted pattern pieces, I cut two fronts and two backs. Then I machine-basted the pieces together, ready for the fitting.

I tried the jacket on Santa wrong side out , so I could pin in any necessary adjustments. 

Because my Santa has sloping shoulders, I fashioned multi-layered shoulder pads from scraps of the boiled wool and fit them inside temporarily.

After finalizing the shoulder and side seams, I permanently stitched the shoulders and center back seams and trimmed them to 1/4" wherever necessary. They were pressed open. I marked the side seam stitching line, trimmed the seam allowances to 1/4" and then removed the basting so I could use the  armhole as a guide for drafting a sleeve pattern. I made the pattern plenty large and then cut it from the boiled wool.

After several attempts at fitting the sleeve cap into the armhole, cutting the cap flatter and flatter until it fit the armhole curve, I set the sleeve into the open armhole, like you do for a man's shirt. Then it was a simple matter to stitch the sleeve underarm and side seam in one step. Next, I tacked the little shoulder pads in place.

As I did for the boots, I cut strips of fake fur, stitched them into tubes and then sewed them to the neckline, the wrist edge of each sleeve, and the left front edge of the jacket. I also made little patch pockets for the jacket and stitched them in place.

When I tried the finished jacket on Santa, the back was just too big, so I pinned in and then stitched darts to get rid of some of the excess fabric. Also note that Santa has a belt—made from a scrap of Ultrasuede and a silver buckle from my button box.

To complete the jacket, I sewed the right front edge to Santa's body, followed by the overlapping left front.

Before I could fashion Santa's hat, his wig had to be glued in place. I used the Fast Grab Tacky glue and coated his head and the inside of the wig with it. Once positioned, I pressed down firmly to make sure it was adhered all over and set Santa to dry while I worked on his hat. It was the easiest part of the process. I cut two large triangles from the remaining boiled wool, basted them together, and turned up a wide hem that allowed for a turned-up brim. I adjusted the fit, then permanently stitched the seams and the hem and trimmed it with a  fur tube—on the turned-up brim.  Next, I fashioned a ball of fur for the tip of the hat and sewed it in place.

 Keeping the hat in place posed a challenge as I didn't want to glue it onto the mohair wig. Instead, I used small safety pins in several locations underneath the brim to keep it in place by catching some of the mohair.

Now that Santa was completely clothed, I could attach his beard with the tacky white glue. I positioned and glued only the section on the chin area and allowed it to dry thoroughly, then attached the sides in the same manner. The Fast Grab glue was a lifesaver through the entire process of assembling Santa.

I'll keep the completely dressed and finished Santa a secret until the final post, which is about the finishing touches, toys, stand, and label.

To be continued…..