The Tote Bag Dilemma

Besides my second apron for Project Apron, the other sewing project I finished over the long, hot weekend was this tote bag. The Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild is having a tote bag swap at the June meeting, and since I’ve missed the last few swaps, I wanted to be sure to get in on this one. Plus, I really like making bags.

The pattern I followed is for a very simple reversible bag, but I added the flat zipper on the inside, as I like to do. This makes it slightly less reversible, in my mind, but much handier. (By following the instructions in The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam, you can add this, and other pockets, to any bag. I love this book.)

I’m really pleased with the shape of the bag and the combination of the two fabrics.

But it feels a little…flimsy. The pattern didn’t call for interfacing for either the front or lining pieces…or the handle for that matter. And I guess I’m just an interfacing kind of gal. I like the bit of added heft and shape that interfacing brings to a bag. The bag feels sturdy enough, so I don’t know that interfacing would make it that much stronger.

So the dilemma is: Should I leave well enough alone or should I unsew most of it to add interfacing? Time isn’t really an issue, since the meeting isn’t for a couple of weeks. But would you be disappointed to get a bag in a swap that didn’t have interfacing? Or do you like highly fold-able bags that you can fit into a small space?

I’d love to know your thoughts! Thanks!

Project Apron for Haiti #2

This weekend was hot in a big way, so we didn’t do much in the way of outdoor activities. That left plenty of time for sewing and watching all the Lethal Weapon movies on BluRay! (Alright, I admit, I watched only #2 and #4.) And during my sewing time, I was able to start and finish my second apron for Project Apron, sponsored by Craft Hope for the benefit of Haiti by Hand.

Instead of making a half apron like my first one (you can find the tutorial here), I decided to try making a full apron. I found a free pattern online from Michael Miller fabrics (scroll down and find the Classic Apron pattern on the right side of the blog). The pattern was easy to follow, and I really only made a few modifications. I simplified the pocket a bit, as theirs showed only a bit of the secondary fabric, and wanted to show off the dot fabric more.

The pattern called for the adult apron to be cut to 25 inches long. Once I got the front cut, I realized that it seemed a little short. So I cut the lining fabric a bit longer, and then brought the back around to the front for a little added length. It ended up being very little added length, but it makes kind of a nice design feature anyway.

As I mentioned in my first post on this topic, the Craft Hope effort ends on May 31, so they can move on to other worthy causes. But Haiti by Hand will be collecting the aprons until July. So there’s still time to make one if you’d like!

Project Apron for Haiti

I first heard of Project Apron for the women of Haiti on Maureen Cracknell’s blog (a lovely place to visit filled with tutorials and inspiration), and as she explained there, new handmade aprons are being collected to send to women in Haiti who often have nothing pretty and new just for themselves.

The project is being organized by Craft Hope, a group formed by Jade Laswell to share handmade crafts with those less fortunate. A new project is posted each month or so on the group’s Facebook page, for now, until their new web site launches.

The aprons that are made are being sent to another organization, Haiti by Hand, formed by Rebecca Sower. I had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca at the 2010 The Creative Connection Event, and I very much admired her dedication to helping the people of Haiti. Rebecca and her family make regular trips to Haiti, bringing with them donated craft supplies that they share with the women there. These women then make beautiful jewelry and other craft items to sell. In addition to the craft supplies, Rebecca has collected donated quilts, glasses, shoes and other necessities that are still very much needed.

With all these women working to make Project Apron happen, I couldn’t possibly turn down the opportunity to participate. So make a bright, cheery apron is what I did.

I looked through my sewing project books for an apron pattern I liked, and then turned to the internet, where I found a free e-book from FaveCrafts featuring eight apron projects. No one apron had everything I was looking for, so I pieced together instructions from several patterns to make my apron.

To make the apron the same way that I did, gather fabric for your apron front, lining, ties and pockets and include a bit of ribbon embellishment if you like. Cut the front and lining pieces to 32 inches wide by 22 inches long. I started making the apron with just a front piece, but I decided to add the lining to make it feel a little more special.

Before sewing the lining to the front, make and attach the pockets to the front, so the pocket stitching lines won’t show on the lining side. Cut 4 pockets pieces to 5.5 inches x 6 inches, then make two piles each with two pieces right sides together. Fold the first pile in half and use a round item and marking tool to draw a curve on the open corner (I used a spool of ribbon and my beloved Chaco Liner). With the pile still folded in half, cut the corner piece off and open to reveal the pocket pieces with two rounded bottom corners.  Repeat for the second pile of two pocket pieces.

Sew around the edge of each pocket with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, leaving a couple inches open at the top of each pocket. Clip the seam allowance in the top corners and notch the seam allowance around the curved bottom. Turn each pocket right side out and press.

Cut your ribbon embellishment a bit longer than the width of each pocket. Pin the ribbon in place and hand stitch to secure. Wrap the ribbon ends to the back of the pocket and tack down with several stitches to secure. Top stitch the top edge of the pocket to close the turn opening.

Find the center of the apron front by folding in half with short ends together. Mark the center with a straight vertical line about 8 inches long. Measure 6.5 inches down from the top edge, and draw a horizontal line about 12 inches long that intersects the center line. From the center line, measure along the horizontal line 5 inches to the left and mark this spot. The upper right corner of the left pocket will be placed here. Mark 5 inches to the right of the center line and mark this spot. The upper left corner of the right-hand pocket will be placed here. Pin the pockets in place.

Sew along the sides and bottom of each pocket to secure to the apron front.

Pin the apron front and lining pieces right sides together. Sew along the sides and bottom only. Clip the two bottom corners and turn right side out. Press. Set the apron aside while you make the waistband/ties.

Cut your waistband fabric 5 inches wide by as long as you prefer. I cut mine to 96 inches long because I like to wrap the ties around to the front of my aprons. Fold the waistband in half with right sides together, so it’s only 2.5 inches wide. Sew along the long edge to form a long tube. Turn the tube right side out and press flat so the seam runs down the center. Fold the ends of the tube in about 1/4 inch, so the ends have a finished looked, and press.

To add some gathers to the apron, thread a needle with a contrasting color thread, making sure the thread is at least as long as the top edge of the apron. Tie a knot in the thread. Hand-stitch a running stitch very near the top edge of the apron. Make gentle gathers in the apron and once you’re pleased with the gathers, knot both ends of the thread. After I made the gathers, the top edge of my apron was about 25 inches long.

Find the center of your long waistband piece and line it up with the center of the apron front. Pin the waistband, seam side up, to the top edge of the apron.

Sew the waistband to the top of the apron with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Fold the waistband upward and press at the seam. Fold the waistband down and around to the lining side of the apron. Pin the waistband to the lining side, making sure the waistband covers the stitches you just sewed.

With the front of the apron facing up, top stitch along the bottom edge of the waistband about 1/8-inch from the first seam. Because the waistband extends past this seam in the back, the waistband is being attached at the same time you sew the top stitch to the front. Begin and end this stitch at the side edges of the apron.

To finish the ties, fold the front edge under about 1/4 inch and then pin the ties in half. (The seam allowance when you first sewed the waistband to the apron is 1/4 inch, so I folded the edge of the tie in this same amount so the waistband and the ties were the same width. If you prefer not to make the waistband and ties this way, check out other apron patterns for ideas, including making the waistband and ties separate pieces.) Sew around the bottom and end of each tie with 1/8-inch seam allowance.

I’m a size 8 and the apron wraps around my sides but is still open in the back.

You could enlarge or reduce the size of the front panel and lining pieces in both length and width to make an apron that’s either larger or smaller than this.

The Project Apron through Craft Hope ends on May 31. But Rebecca Sower and Haiti by Hand will continue to collect the aprons through July. So I’m hoping to make at least one more apron to send, playing with the pattern some more to see what variations I can come up with!

If you’re interested in make an apron for Project Apron, please check out the Craft Hope or Haiti by Hand sites for all the details. Then send your aprons to:




Quilt Labels—Tips and Inspiration

As I mentioned in the post “Quilt Labels—Because You’re Worth It,” I had the honor of giving a presentation to the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild recently about quilt labels. In that first post based on that presentation, I shared my thoughts on why quilt labels are important and what to consider including on them. In this post, I’ll share  five different methods for doing the writing on your labels.


The earliest quilts that are labeled were simply embroidered. I like labels embroidered directly on the quilt because they’re so integrated into the quilt. And it’s really a fairly permanent way to label. Below is one of my first quilts where I’ve embroidered my name and the date in a matching color, so it’s barely noticeable. If you don’t want the label to detract from your quilt design, this is a way to do it.

In this example, my mother, Rose Doyle, embroidered her label right on the quilt, but incorporated it into the quilted design.

Because I hadn’t embroidered a label in a while, I decided to make a sample to see how long it would take. The sample below took me just under an hour to embroider.

Hand Writing

Unlike quilt makers in the past, we have tools at our disposal to make writing easier. Like permanent pens. The type of label I most typically make is one that I simply write on with permanent pen. Micron pens and even Sharpies are permanent and won’t bleed. The label below is one that I wrote, sewed print fabric around the written part, and appliquéd it to the quilt.

To write on fabric, I find it’s easier to iron the fabric onto a piece of freezer paper to make it more stable. I sketch lines to follow using my wonderful Chaco Liner and include a centerline to try to keep things looking nice. Below I’ve also added a rubber stamped image, again using permanent ink, to indicate it was a baby gift. If you have a collection of rubber stamps, look at them with a fresh eye, and see if any can be used to spice up a quick quilt label.


You can even get a rubber stamp made with your vital information on it and then you can just add a date as you finish each quilt. Here’s a link to a stamped label that I found on the Flickr group Quilt Label Fun. I love that she uses a regular old date stamp for the date.

Printing on Your Computer

You can also print your labels on your home computer printer. This isn’t my favorite method, because I struggle making it look the way I want. But it can be fast and effective once you get the method down.

To make sure the ink won’t bleed, you can purchase special fabric that’s meant to be printed. Read the labels carefully to make sure you’re purchasing the fabric that will work best for your printer and desired method of washing. You can also pre-treat regular fabric with solutions like Bubble Jet Set that will prevent the ink from bleeding.

To feed the pre-treated fabric through the printer, many people again use the freezer paper method, ironing the fabric to the freezer paper and feeding it through the printer. It works best to cut the fabric/freezer paper to a size your printer will recognize, but that can be as small as index-card size.

On the rare occasion that I print a label on the computer, I print the label on regular paper first, use Scotch tape to tape my fabric over the printed words, making sure there’s enough fabric around it for seams, and then I send it through the printer again. My printer gets a little smudgey, so it’s usually the second attempt that works the best. I printed this clothing-style label that way, putting a piece of interfacing inside the label to keep it a bit stiff before sewing it into the binding. This type of label is super easy and quick for pieces that won’t be getting a lot of wear and tear, like wall hangings.

Printing Fabric Professionally

Finally, you can go to someplace like Spoonflower and have your own labels printed onto fabric. If you have a blog or business logo, you can incorporate it into a label that has some blank room for the quilt specifics. Julie Herman, of Jaybird Quilts, has a great tutorial for setting up label files for printing on Spoonflower on her blog. Here’s a sample of a label printed at Spoonflower from the Quilt Label Fun Flickr group.

Finally, here are a few more label examples to inspire you, all of which use one of the five writing methods mentioned above.

My mother has a nice stash of store-bought labels that she writes or embroiders on. You can find these labels at most fabric stores. Many of the designs are traditional, but you may find ones that speak to you.

Here Mom wanted to share the story of the blocks that she received from her sister and used she used in the quilt.

In this sample, Mom had a busy back going on already, so her quilt label fits right in. I love that when she noticed she had a bit too much white space on the right side of the label, she simply attached three simple squares with a line of stitching down the middle to fill in the space.

In this sample from the Quilt Label Fun Flickr group, the label information is handwritten on a print fabric. Here the printed fabric is doodly, so the hand-doodled label information fits right in. These are just a few of the many examples of different labels at this Flickr group, so head over there for more inspiration. And don’t forget to add your own labels to the group, too!


A huge thank you to my mother, Rose Doyle, for the quilt labels she provided. She’s an amazing quilt maker, and I hope to feature the fronts of some of her quilts in an upcoming post.

Thank you, too, to Heather Jones and the other women at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild who contributed to the conversation after my presentation and helped fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge.

Quilt Labels—Because You’re Worth It

When Victoria, the chairperson of the education committee at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild, asked for suggestions for topics a few months ago, the first thing to pop into my head was “quilt labels.” In the couple months that I’d been attending the guild meetings, I had noticed that a good number of the fabulous quilts at show-and-tell didn’t have labels. So last night, I gave a presentation to the CMQG on quilt labels, and I’d like to share the information from the presentation with you in this blog post and the next (titled “Quilt Labels—Tips and Inspiration”).

Now, I’m not an expert on quilt labels. My simple hope with the presentation and these blog posts is that those of you who don’t do labels will consider it and that those who do put labels on your quilts will come away with a few new label ideas.

I titled this blog post (and the presentation) “Quilt Labels—Because You’re Worth It” because I believe that to be true. I’m consistently blown away by the quality and creativity of the quilts at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild show-and-tell and all around the internet, and I truly believe that every one of those quilts deserves to have a label that tells the story of the quilt and its maker. I believe that someone in the future is going to want to know who you were.

Some people see a quilter labeling a quilt the same as an artist signing a painting. But to me, it’s even more important for a quilt to have its maker identified. Because a quilt is so much more than a painting. It doesn’t just hang on a wall. A quilt is a wonderfully usable item in a home. It’s something that brings beauty and warmth. A quilt brings comfort. And whether you can believe it now or not, it could very well be wrapping people in comfort and warmth more than a hundred years from now.

Right now, your kids and your family know the story of your quilts, and the quilts, I’m sure, are a huge part of their lives. But in the next hundred years, there will be a generation that doesn’t “get” your quilts. They’ll put those old “blankets” up in the attic, where they’ll sit until another generation comes along and loves them all over again. But by that time, the name of the maker, where she lived, when she made the quilts and why she made them will be lost.

If you have seen many antique quilts, at antique shows or shops, you know that there are so many quilts out there without a story. Quilts that took the maker countless hours to piece and stitch. Beautiful works of art with no record of who made them.

Your quilts don’t need to suffer that fate, though. With simple labels, you can let your descendants have the joy of knowing you—through your quilts. They can follow your creative progression through the dates on each one. They can be as proud of your workmanship and creativity as your family is today.

These future people will have your quilts as part of their lives; give them the honor of knowing you—the person whose time, thought, and creativity went into making them.

* * * * * * *

Now I know that once you’ve finished your quilt, you just want it to be done. And adding a label is just one more thing to do. But labeling your quilts doesn’t have to be an involved process. You can put as little or as much effort into them as you like and include as much information as you like. Below I’ve listed types of information you can include on your label. I urge you to consider including the bare minimum of your name, city and date. But there’s so much more you can add that will tell more of the story.

What to include to keep it simple:

  • Your name
  • Your city and state
  • Date finished

For the historical record, add:

  • Your maiden name
  • Name of the recipient
  • Occasion the quilt was made
  • Story behind the quilt or fabrics
  • Quilt block name or if it’s an original design
  • Care instructions for quilt

For security:

  • Apply your label to the back before you do the actual quilting

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to write, you need to figure out how you’re going to write it. In my next blog post, I’ll share five different methods for the writing on your label and show some inspiring samples, too.

Completed String Quilt #2

And here it is! The completed String Quilt #2 wall hanging! I don’t think I’ve ever finished anything of this magnitude in this short of time in my life. So thank you, blog readers, for providing me with the motivation to get this done!

The finished size of the wall hanging is 37.5 inches square (and I did measure both length and width, and they’re actually the same!).

I’m giving a short presentation to the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild this week about quilt labels, so I thought I’d share the label I made for this piece. It’s basically a clothing-type label that I printed on my computer printer, both front and back, and stitched on at the same time as the binding.

It took a couple of times to get the printing oriented correctly (as some of you may recall, I’m not much of a spatial thinker), but I like that it’s a nice, low-key way to label a wall-hanging that won’t be getting much wear and tear.

Once I have my quilt label presentation put together, I’ll share it here, too. It’ll include why I think labeling quilts is important and some different ways to make the quilt labels. You’ll get to see some of my mother’s quilt labels, too!

T-Shirt Quilt Top

It’s been several years now since I began this quilt that I’ve titled “A Few of My Favorite Things.” It all started, as I’m sure many t-shirt quilts do, with a cleaning session. I had to get rid of some of these old, sometimes ratty t-shirts. But I loved them so much—there was a reason I held onto them. Some were gifts, many were from places where I had many fond memories, some just made me laugh. But what to do with them?

I had made t-shirt pillows in the past. And those are great for one or two super special t-shirts. (I had gotten the t-shirt above my freshman year in high school on a band trip to Minneapolis. It was well loved, believe me.) But I had a lot to move out this time. A t-shirt quilt came to mind, but I wasn’t really a fan of ones I’d seen in the past. They were so…t-shirty.

After looking at the pile of t-shirts for months, I realized that part of what I didn’t like about some t-shirt quilts was the white space around the individual t-shirt designs. To make the shirt blocks square, you sometimes needed to include a lot of extra t-shirt (thus making the quilt t-shirty).

So, if white space was my problem, I could easily fill that with embroidery! I got out my floss and needle and just “doodled” on the shirts to fill them in.

Next, I thought that if these were my favorite t-shirts, it would only make sense to pair them with my favorite fabrics. I cut strips of the fabrics to make a bit of a log cabin design around each block. I then filled in with more strips to create the three vertical panels that make up the quilt.

With the panels done, the quilt sat, and sat…and sat as I waited for the right border fabric to come my way. I took the quilt to fabric stores a few times looking for the right fabric, but nothing seemed to work.

That is until this year when I brought the quilt out again. I tried new fabrics from my stash and found that I kind of liked this blue city fabric from Michael Miller. I hadn’t intended for this to be a blue quilt, but once I put the fabric by it, it picked up all the blue that was in the quilt already. So now it’s a blue quilt!

Of course, the next step is quilting. This has me stumped again. It needs some good, firm quilting (sewing the t-shirts to the fabric gave me a little trouble, and so the top if not very smooth), which I can do in the fabric parts. But what do I do for the t-shirt areas? Really, what do I do? Let me know your thoughts—I’d love to hear them!