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I’m almost embarrassed to write this post, but since I have found it so helpful, I’m hoping that someone out there will too.
I used to have this issue with the dishtowel in my kitchen. It always seemed to be this rumpled, soggy mess carelessly tossed on the counter, somewhere close to the sink. I felt like I was forever refolding it and neatly setting it next to the sink, only to find it on the floor a few minutes later. Hanging it over the handle on the dishwasher or oven never really worked for me. If I put it on the dishwasher, it touched the floor whenever I loaded the dishwasher, and I have stainless steel appliances, so I didn’t want to hang on the oven door where it was going to leave spots. (First world problems, I am well aware!)
But then I bought a cheap set of Christmas dishtowels and lo and behold they had a little loop in the corner! (Like the center towel above.) I was able to slip it over the knob of my cabinet right next to the sink, and there it hung in all it’s glory–always in the same place, with enough air circulation that it drys out pretty well, and…well let’s just say it made me very happy! I will say that the towel in this part of the kitchen is mostly for just drying hands. I love absorbent bar mop towels for actually drying dishes, but I digress.
So, I picked up some white twill tape at Joann’s and proceeded to sew loops onto every dishtowel in the house. That was a few years ago, and it has worked splendidly.
Then I picked up the adorable dishtowels above at Trader Joe’s about six months ago (similiar ones here). But I never used them, because–no loops! So I sat down to remedy this a few nights ago and thought I’d share a bit with you. It’s super simple and it took me like 5 minutes.
When I was digging through my basket to find the twill tape, I came across some cuter trim that I decided to use on two of the towels. I actually sewed the tab on three different ways, to see if I have a preference. (It turns out I don’t.)
Twill tape or decorative trim
Cut the twill tape to about 5″.
2. For a looped tab, fold the twill tape in half and sew to one corner, or halfway along one side, on the wrong side of the towel.
3. For another option, sew corner to corner on the wrong side of the towel. Trim excess twill tape.
That’s it! Let me know if this mundane issue has plagued you and if you find this a useful little homemaking hack.
I came across this fabulous idea online the other day. An advent calendar for introverted moms. Now, I’m not truly an introvert (though I seem to be inching that direction more and more each year), but this is really a self-care advent calendar.
I find this time of year so overwhelming. So having a little built-in downtime seems just about right. Here are a few examples of activities that you might pull from this:
Make your favorite holiday drink and sit down and drink it without multi-tasking
Light a candle, put on your favorite Christmas music, and sit down to draw or journal for a few minutes
Free choice: Do whatever you want!
I don’t want to give too much of it away, but you get the idea. You can download it here. Cut them out and put them in something festive. And most importantly, take 15 minutes each day to pull one out and slow down a bit. And if you miss a day? No worries! There’s always tomorrow.
This quilt went together so fast! If you start with jellyrolls, you already have such a head start on putting this quilt together. I started with a jellyroll of the background, and cut strips from yardage, and it was still super quick.
Here’s a little secret–I love nothing more that sewing fabric together. This quilt is chain piecing at its finest. And because it is scrappy, I literally just picked up the scrap nearest to me and started sewing them together. I wondered if I would regret not having a plan when it came time to sew it all together, like would I get stuck with too many of the same fabrics lining up, etc. But it worked out just fine. There are a few places that that I had to let go of my perfectionism and let two patches of the same color touch. Which is what happens with random, right? But I like a little more “controlled random”.
Another new-to-me technique was pressing seams open. It was a great idea for this quilt because then you didn’t have to worry about which way to press your seams to have them nest. And since it was so random–I didn’t really know how the final layout would go. I have to say–the blocks lie so flat! This little tool really helped to get them opened up before pressing. I had to set my stitch length quite a bit smaller, as I noticed that the edges of blocks would start to come apart–so there was a bit of a learning curve. You definitely need pin to get those seams to line up. But I got pretty good at getting a pin right in the seam line and had good results with it. All in all, I love how it came out.
The Quilting (Nightmare)
This is where our story takes a dark turn. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but this quilt is headed to Quilt Market to show off both Christa’s pattern and fabrics in the Benartex booth. So, of course, I wanted it to be perfect (sigh). I decided to quilt it pretty much the way Christa showed in the book. It looked perfect for the quilt and very doable.
My newly beloved Juki started breaking thread in a way it never had before. I did all the things. I re-threaded, I cleaned out the bobbin case, I changed the needle. It broke three needles in a row. I started wearing glasses every time I changed the needle, just in case, (I didn’t want to lose an eye over this). If it worked, it would start skipping stitches after a few minutes. This quilt has so many stops and starts in the quilting–something that of course, I was trying to minimize.
So, I drove 40 minutes to the Juki dealer. They showed me a place where I was threading it wrong (although it had worked fine the way I had it threaded all summer), and of course, it behaved itself at the dealer, so I took it back home. You know how this goes, right? It started acting up as soon as I got home. I spent hours trying to get it to work. Then I finally pulled the old Babylock out of the closet.
It’s amazing how you get used to a new machine! The Bablylock felt so different and I had become so used to having all that extra harp space on the Juki. But, I pushed on. I was quickly reminded of why I wanted the Juki in the first place. The free motion tension on the Babylock is not great. And I wanted the quilting to be great! So I did all the things. Changed the needle. Opened it up to clean out the bobbin area, etc. Then I put it all back together and I couldn’t get the bobbin thread up. A tangled mess! I got up and ran it to the dealer. Turns out the bobbin hook was broken. Nooooo! Am I cursed or what?!
At this point, I am up against a deadline and I start looking for Plan B. Luckily, my friend Vicki tells me that I can send it to her and she will finish it (God bless you Vicki!). This plan is looking pretty good about now. But, I get up early on Saturday morning and drive the 40 minutes back to the Juki dealer. They understand my plight at this point and the technician sits down with it then and there to figure it out. I won’t bore you with the details–but it had something to do with the needle threader, which resulted in the timing being off. He fixed it right there. The threader will not be replaced for a couple of weeks–but in the meantime I have a working sewing machine!!
I finished up the wavy line motif that I had been struggling with before (because of the machine–the motif is fun!) and then moved onto some simple zig-zags. It was then that I felt my love for machine quilting return. It felt so good to get back in the zone.
After that nice warm-up, I got up the nerve to start on some crazy eights. They are so fun and fast! Definitely not perfect, but they keep getting better and the they give the quilt a beautiful texture.
Whew! If you made it this far, you deserve a giveaway! Martingale has generously provided each of the Blog Hoppers a copy of the book to giveaway, plus we are each throwing in some free Modern Marks fabric as well! So, make sure you also visit Vickiand HollyAnne.
Here are the details for my giveaway: There will be two winners . One winner will receive one copy of Piece and Quilt with Precutsby Christa Watson. If the winner resides in the United States or Canada, they will have their choice of a physical or digital copy of the book. If they reside outside the US and Canada, the winner will receive a digital copy.
The second winner will receive a “jellyroll” of Modern Marks fabrics. This is one 2.5″ strip from each one of Christa’s (31) beautiful fabrics! (U.S. only due to shipping costs)
You can enter below anytime between October 9-20, 2017.
Christa walks you through everything you ever need to know about quilting. Starting with the definition of what a quilt actually is, through fabric, thread, needles, and even a discussion about sewing machines. Is fabric grain a bit of a mystery to you? Christa covers it. She talks about how to read a quilt pattern, tips on starching, and how to use quilting rulers.
How to Make a Quilt–Beginning to End
Then she walks you through making an entire quilt from beginning to end. From fabric selection, to cutting, piecing, borders, making a pieced back, quilting, and binding. And this is an adorable quilt—with squares, rectangles, and even half-square triangles. It’s a very well thought out pattern; it teaches you a lot without being too easy or too hard.
This class is like having your best friend walk you through making an entire quilt, holding your hand and encouraging you every step of the way. And your best friend happens to be an award winning quilter! But the coolest thing is that you can go back and re-watch any lesson whenever you want. Do borders befuddle you? Watch that lesson right before you measure and cut borders for your latest project. Actually, I did exactly that—since I don’t use borders very often and found it very helpful. Ever wondered about spray basting? Christa walks you through it.
Have you ever wanted someone to walk you through all the steps of making and joining binding? Just pull up that part of the class to refresh your memory whenever you need it. I realized that my way of doing binding is a bit unorthodox, and I plan to watch this section again this afternoon when I cut and sew the binding for my latest project.
So Many Tips and Tricks!
Christa has been quilting for over 20 years and, as you can imagine, has compiled quite a list of tips and tricks. And she unselfishly shares those all throughout the class. Little asides like, “So, did those seams not quite match up? No problem, you can just leave them as is, or here are some ways to fix that”. Or, “You want to watch your bobbin thread when you are quilting. But if you forget and it runs out on you—here are a couple of ways to deal with it.” She basically makes every mistake that you are bound to make and then tells you how to fix it. It’s like saving you five years of learning things the hard way.
What If I’m Not New To Quilting?
Now, I am not exactly new to this whole quilting thing. So, was there much in there for me? Actually, yes!
As I mentioned before—I learned some things about borders, her approach to keeping the cutting process organized, ways to stack blocks for efficient chain piecing, ways to keep your rows organized for quicker assembly, and a better binding process, just to name a few So, basically, I feel that I have upped my quilting to the next level. I’ve already used several of these tips in my current project, and things are going much quicker and smoother.
Above all, Christa’s tone and manner are so friendly, encouraging, and genuine. I’ve actually met Christa in real life and can attest to the fact that she is just as she appears in the class—knowledgeable, friendly, helpful, and really just there to help you.
So, wherever you are in your quilting journey—I think you would benefit from Startup Library. But especially if you are a newer quilter, or just thinking about quilting—this class will be a treasured resource—one that, after the first viewing, you will refer to over and over again—and pick up something new each time.
And I have some great news! You can get the class for 50% off if you click through from this link! Let me know what you think!
(Full disclosure: I was given free access to the class for my honest review. All opinions are strictly my own.)
We are tackling the chapter called Cornered from The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting this week on the Machine Quilting Blog Hop. This chapter has some great information combining motifs and switching threads with the least amount of starts and stops. I really see the beauty of using blending threads to appreciate the texture that the quilting gives, without sweating trying to get it perfect (which it will never be).
First up was spiral flowers. This motif was so easy and fun! I see it on any kind of girly quilt from a baby quilt on up. It would also make a fabulous motif for a spring table runner. I practiced this for just a few minutes before moving on. It was good to start with a design that came easily to me and gave me confidence–because that was all about to change.
The next design to tackle involved quilting continuous curves around a square. I have seen and appreciated this motif many times in other people’s quilts, but had never attempted it myself. Ahem. Let’s just say that it took a bit of practice. The first piece of advice I have if you want to try this motif is to keep those curves shallow. If the curves are too deep, then you start crossing over the lines when you do the diagonal curves. Christa explains how to approach this design to help you easily travel from square to square. She also teaches you how to do it in a corner, or triangle shape. After a frustrating start, I started to get the hang of it–however wobbly. I simply drew some lines on my practice piece with a Frixion pen to create some squares and kept practicing.
Once I erased the lines with a hot iron, the effect was pretty good.
I was pleased to see that even my wobbly start still looked pretty good with a blending thread. And on the back it is just pure texture. I love simple, square patchwork and this is a great design to complement a project constructed like that.
So, whew! I made it through the tough design of the week, right? Well, what has Christa gone and done but mash up two of my nemesis designs: spirals and pebbles! It looks totally charming when she does it and I heard her call it “Swirls and Pearls” when I watched her demo at Quilt Market last fall (cute, huh?!). This one I really practiced. My pebbles were already getting rusty and I learned again that bigger is better when it comes to pebbles for me. Thank goodness for blending thread! Here is how I ended the week.
Again, there are a couple other designs in this chapter that I didn’t photograph–lots of awesome inspiration. I learn every week that consistent practice makes progress (not perfection).
The only problem with doing all this free motion quilting is that it is making me want a new sewing machine! I actually dropped by a dealer this week because I’ve heard awesome things about the Juki TL-2010Q for free motion quilting. There is so much space! I came equipped with practice quilt sandwiches and patchwork squares to sew. At first I really liked it–it feels very different that my sewing machine. It’s very industrial and solid feeling. It’s a little on the noisy side, but I was digging it. But then a saleswoman walked by and said, “If you want a machine for free motion quilting–then you should try this one.” I was determined not to like it–it was more expensive and I was weirdly prejudiced against the Brother brand (turns out it ‘s the same machine as the Babylock Soprano). But, oh my!!! It free motioned like buttah!! The quilting foot is not a hopping foot–so it is so smooth and quiet. I was easily quilting with just my fingertips moving the piece around. It was amazing! It only has one more inch of horizontal space than my machine now–but it just feels so different! So–all that sort of threw me for a curve. I’m still thinking on it.
If you are quilting along, please let me know in the comments or on Instagram. Just tag your post #machinequiltingbloghop.
The delightful HollyAnne of String and Story sent me a few questions to answer for her FriYAY Friends post. Pop on over to learn a bit more about my creative journey and where I find inspiration. You can read it here.
My dad dropped in unexpectedly this week. And what I mean by that is that he lives in Idaho, and I live in Southern California–and he called me at 1 pm to say that he would be there by dinner. That’s the way my dad rolls. I was so happy he was coming–I don’t see him as much as I’d like. My first thought went to what we were having for dinner. A quick check of my menu plan confirmed one of my deepest fears about hospitality: that what we were having for dinner wasn’t “company worthy”.
I cook nearly every weeknight (I have cleverly worked it out that my husband and kids cook on the weekend). I am not a bad cook–I know what I’m doing in the kitchen, even if I’m not as creative as I wish I was. But I often don’t think that what we eat day in and day out at home is anything special. In fact, I have several friends who basically don’t cook anything more complicated than boiling pasta and heating up a jar of sauce, but they each have these fabulous, signature dishes that they regularly pull out when they need to entertain or bring a dish to a potluck. I have no such dishes. I just cook decent, humble food on a daily basis.
This particular day, when my dad was on his way, revealed my deepest insecurity. This was an especially busy week, with some activity or another–mostly music performances almost every evening. So the meal plan was fleshed out with the quick and easiest of meals. A quick look at the calendar revealed that on tonight’s menu was Cowboy Grub (worst name ever). I never would have even tried this recipe if I hadn’t seen so many rave reviews online about it. In fact, I’m feeling bad because I was going to share the recipe with you, but I just realized that it s from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook (again, with the terrible names!) and I can’t share it here. But it basically ground beef, brown rice, pinto beans, corn, diced tomatoes with chili powder, and cumin. It’s chili with rice and corn added in. The simplest of ingredients, thrown together and simmered for a few minutes–it is fast, easy, nutritious, and actually quite tasty. I was skeptical the first time I made it, but we all commented during dinner that it didn’t look like much, but it was tasty!
I asked my husband, who was home for lunch, if he thought I should make something else for dinner. He wanted to know why. “It’s just not really company food, is it?” Now this is my dad–I don’t need to impress him or anything, but still. He looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about, so I made Cowboy Grub (cringe–please can someone come up with a better name than that?!) for dinner.
And you know what? It was tasty and my dad was appreciative, especially after several days of eating in restaurants. The dinner was fine, the conversation was good and I need to learn to let my perfectionism go.
In fact, it made me think of visiting my dad years ago. I was there in Idaho with the kids and we were heading home in a couple of days. We decided over morning coffee to invite all the local relatives to come over for a barbecue that night–totally last minute. If it had been my house, I would have been freaking out–madly cleaning and rifling through cookbooks to make something “special”. But not dad. He got up and went to the grocery store and came home with a package of frozen hamburgers, a couple of tubs of pasta salad and potato salad from the deli, and a few bags of chips. He didn’t clean the house. He didn’t make anything from scratch. And you know what? That get together was my best memory of that trip–friends and family and food. There is a lesson that I need to remember.
One of my favorite websites, Quiltfiction.com, has released a serialized story to be told in five parts. How fun is that?! It’s called the Off -Kilter Quilt and you might have guessed, is the brainchild of Frances Dowell of the Off-Kilter Quilt podcast. Frances is an award-winning author and avid quilter–so she has really knows how to weave reading and quilting together in such an enjoyable way. I’ve had the opportunity to read the entire story and it is as fun and charming as Frances herself. So–do yourself a favor and pop over to read Part One.
It all started with this coaster. I was having coffee with my friend Minki the other day and as always, we talking about sewing and the things we love to make. Then she said the nicest thing to me.
“I learned from you to actually use the things I make. Not just take a picture of them and then put them on the shelf.” Aww. To think that I have had an influence on a talent like Minki’s was a nice moment for me. But then I had to confess.
“I’m kind of having trouble with that now. You know that hand embroidered coaster you gave me a couple of years ago? I do use it. And it’s a bit of a stained mess now and I feel bad about it.” I didn’t tell her that sometimes I actually tuck it away in a drawer when she is coming over, so that she won’t see what has become of her hard work.
Then she told me, “I actually think that stained linen is beautiful.”
And you know what, she’s right. (This coaster actually looks worse in real life, for some reason.)
That got me thinking about all the handmade, everyday use items I have around that house. Knitted dishcloths are my absolute favorite, but I am always a little sad when one starts to come unraveled. I actually usually merely move it to the rag drawer until it is nothing but a pile of string.
These are the coasters we use every, single day. They are about eight years old and I hope that I have learned to sew a gap together better than I did in those days. But this illustrates my point exactly. When you use things–you use them up. And sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes its hard–like not saving your fancy china for that dinner party you’ll never actually have.
I’ve spent countless hours embroidering these tea towels, and they are stained and faded and have holes in them. I will never be able to bring myself to throw them away–so I’m already starting to think about what I can do with them when their useful lives as tea towels is over. Any ideas? What I need to do is start planning for that day now and simply make some more. That’s what we makers do, right? It’s just an excuse to make some more.
My favorite table runner has definitely seen better days
And so has my favorite tea cozy. Okay, maybe a trip through the wash might help this one.
And even my first quilt, only eight years old, is already looking like this. But this is the most loved quilt in the house. It is exactly the right weight for our warm southern California weather and is the first thing that every family member grabs from the quilt basket each morning. It gets washed because I pick it up from the floor a dozen times a day and it comforts the child with the flu. And over Christmas it cradled my dying cat. So, I’m looking at those frayed edges a little differently now.
So, what to do? I think the only thing to do here is to embrace the beauty of the well-loved and worn. There is a story behind every handmade item. A story about the person who made it and what was happening in their life as they sewed each stitch. There are the stories of the everyday life of the people who are blessed to use it daily. To wash the dishes after a regular, weeknight dinner. To wrap the child reading a book. To set the morning coffee cup on, before dawn everyday.
And if they are not as perfect and pristine as they once were–it’s because they bear the marks of an everyday life well-lived. And I can live with that.
First let me say how much I love this pattern–the strong criss-cross elements, the secondary patterns that emerge, and the interplay of the fabrics.
Let’s start with the fabrics. I used the Playground line by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery Fabrics–plus some AFG denim and Pure Elements solid in Linen. Have you ever felt fabric from AFG? It has a lovely silky smooth, delicate feel and a beautiful drape. It feels quite different from standard quilting cotton–in a very good way.
And when I say denim, I don’t mean heavy denim like jeans. It has the awesome look of denim, but with the same wonderful lightweight feel as the other AGF fabrics. And the denim fabric has the wonderful quality that it goes with everything! Just like your favorite jeans, you can dress it up or dress it down. I am in love with the way it works with the Playground fabrics, especially the pinks and golds. This quilt has a light-weight, silky feel that I know is going make it favorite to grab and curl up with on the sofa in our house.
The Filigree Pattern
Whenever I start a new quilt pattern I first like to make a couple of blocks to make sure that the pattern is working as expected before I cut all the fabric. I would rather experience my learning curve on a couple of blocks than finding out I made a cutting mistake after I cut out all the fabric (don’t ask me how I came to this realization) . In this case it paid off in that I realized I I wanted to spend a little extra time fussy cutting one of the fabrics to get the most out of the print.
I was also reminded that I don’t like to use steam when pressing triangles–they get stretched out so easily. And speaking of pressing–this pattern includes pressing instructions, and if you pay attention to them it really pays off in the final construction. All your seams nest like a dream, which really helps keep your points sharp and the quilt top to lay nice and flat.
Obviously this is a quilt where you want your points to match. At least I do. It was the first time I have put together a quilt where the nested seam allowances were coming in on a diagonal. Pinning wasn’t really working for me to keep things in place. So I started stitch basting.
I haven’t done much of this in past–but now I know I will do it all the time in the future. Let me explain: after I nested my seams, instead of pinning them to keep them in place, I would slip it under the machine and just sew a 1/2″ seam right over that area with a 3.0 stitch length. Then I would slide the block to the next seam intersection, nest the seams and baste that intersection in place, and so on. At first I thought that this was going to be very time consuming. But in short order I got my rhythm going and I think it may actually be faster than pinning. And the results are amazing! Every intersection is so firmly held in place with perfect points and no slipping, which I find happens sometimes with pinning. I am glad to have that l technique up my sleeve for future quilts.
The construction of the quilt was pure fun–lots of chain piecing and simple block construction. FQS created a wonderful video tutorial if you want to check it out for some helpful tips. It went together beautifully. I quilted it using my favorite Warm and Natural batting and some simple, straight line quilting with a sweet pale pink thread (Auriful 2410). I love the pale pink against the denim and it is perfect for the Playground fabrics as well. I was tempted to quilt it a little more densely, but I really love how soft and snuggly it is being rather lightly quilting.
The blocks are oversized and then trimmed down to perfection–which is my favorite way to make a quilt. Trimming blocks before sewing them together really improves the accuracy and makes it so easy to do things like match up seams. I used the Creative Grids 7.5″ square ruler to trim up the blocks. I tried to use a ruler that I already had to do this, and it is probably possible–but the correct ruler made the task so much more enjoyable that I was glad that I made the investment. I’ve never used a Creative Grids ruler before, but I have to say that I am a convert! They have these little spots on the bottom that prevent them from slipping and lines are nice and narrow, which really helps with accurate cutting.