The Need to Make

crocheted wrapMan, was I in a bad way last week. I don’t know if it was the steroids and antibiotics I was taking for my sinus infection or the fact that the week started out with my husband enjoying MLK Jr. day off while I worked away. But I was fussy and annoyed all week. By the time Thursday rolled around, I found myself thinking, “If I could just sew…” or something, anything, that was real.

I’m lucky that my job does involve making things: books and online classes. But still, books don’t become real until well after I’m done with them. And online classes get posted, but it’s not like I can touch them. After a hard week of making virtual things, I needed to make something that I could touch.

Friday night I finally got my chance. I worked on the crocheted wrap above while we were watching TV. As I was happily going along, I actually found myself thinking, “Oh, I’d better save.” But that’s the great thing about making something real. You don’t need to save! It’s right there! Yeah, it took me a while to get out of the work frame of mind.

Saturday, I finished sewing the rows onto my yellow and pink plus quilt top. It’s not squared up yet, but another big check in the “done” column.

Plus top on chair

And I was still so intent on working with my hands that I actually started working on my T-shirt quilt again. I had started quilting it at least 6 months ago, but I had decided I needed to start over. And unsewing the quilting is the worst, in my mind. It seems like such a huge step backward. But the quilt was going to sit there until I did.

T_shirt quilt portion Once the old quilting was out, I re-basted it, and started again. For right now, I’m just quilting around the blocks of fabric (be it T-shirts or other). I’ll go in and add a bit of quilting to the T-shirts (I got the idea to use a decorative stitch to tack down the T-shirt blocks here and there from a blog post by Nancy Zieman). And I may add some more quilting lines to the fabrics, too.

T_shirt quilt quilted

There’s still a long way to go on all of these projects. But, man, did it feel good to work on them.

Child’s Birthday Craft

All hatsThis past weekend, Greg and I had the pleasure of hosting a birthday party for a 3-year-old! Mistress Abigail, our sweet goddaughter, and her parents, Chris and Annie, made the trek down from central Ohio just in time for Abby’s birthday.

The party wasn’t large—just the five of us and some cupcakes. But I did want to make it a little more of a party than that. And when there’s no room for Duck-Duck-Goose, the next best thing is a craft project!

The party hats we had bought were very plain, so I thought decorating them would be a nice little project.

Craft supplies

I pulled out some of my scrapbooking supplies, trying to base my choices around what a 3-year-old girl would like. Sparkly pink letter stickers? Matte pink letter stickers? Pink ribbon? Check, check, check. Plus a few things for grown-ups, too.

Abby is a crafter in the making, to be sure. She was watching what everyone was doing and coming up with her own designs.

Abby watching Greg

Her first hat was a lovely pink number with a spot of orange.

Pink hat

But she branched out for hat number 2, with a little yellow to spice things up.

Abby yellow hat

All of us got in on the fun, too. Greg, doubling the fun with two hats.

Greg hats

Chris working hard with those letter stickers.

Chris working

Here’s Chris’s hat (dad rulz) on the left (I like the fez look to it), and Annie’s on the right (Abby is 3).

Chris and Annie hats

And my hat, on which I really wanted to use pink glitter stickers, but I couldn’t decide what to write. “Rock on!”

My hat

I was happy to see how much the birthday girl got into it. And how much all the adults did, too.

Abby and Annie

When 1/8-Inch Really Matters

Plus Quilt so farI’ve admitted here before that maybe, just maybe, I’m not the most careful sewer. There have been times when I’m cutting that my ruler slips a bit, and I just shrug. And I can sometimes be loose with my seam allowance. Consistent, mind you, but loose. I don’t think my quilting projects have suffered from my less-than-precise practices. Until now.

Now I am working on a project that is kicking my butt.

I decided back in October to make a “plus” quilt using my stash of yellow and gold fabrics. I found a tutorial that had much smaller plus signs, so I did the math to enlarge the pieces to the size I wanted. In that tutorial, the crossbar of each plus sign was one piece, rather than three squares, making the cutting and piecing much quicker.

Plus Quilt cut piecesSo I cut my fabric and started piecing. I had to lay the quilt pieces on the floor several times to get the rows right, but after that they sewed up quickly. Next, I went to sew the rows together. And none of the seams matched. I tried easing and got huge puckers. Something was definitely amiss.

It was my seam allowance. I had used a very consistent seam allowance. It was consistently 5/8-inch. I thought the line I was using as a guide was a 1/4-inch. Turns out it wasn’t. And normally, it wouldn’t matter too much. But this time, I took that crossbar shortcut (saving myself from having to piece together three squares), and the length of that crossbar was figured with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. So I really had to use a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Rats.

I decided to sew the new seams first in each row, then go back and unsew the old seams.

Plus Quilt Resewing seamsThere are a lot of seams in each row.

Plus Quilt seams

With the rows, finally set, I went again to sew the rows together. The seams matched up this time (hooray!), and I sewed the rows in sets of two. For more than half of my sets of two, however, I sewed the wrong edges together. Ugh. This I’m blaming on my lack of visual-spatial intelligence.

Plus Quilt strips sewn wrong

Here you can see that the next row should be the row that’s at the bottom, not the row that is sewn to it. And flipping the row around won’t work. More unsewing.

Finally, I’ve decided I need to just sew one row on at a time. It’s taking a lot longer, but at least I’m sewing and not unsewing.

I do like the way it’s coming together, and I’m not going to give up on it. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time I get a bit more serious about seam allowances.

The Last of the Christmas Gifts

Growing up, I remember receiving gifts of gifts to come. The gift was fabric and a pattern. The gift to come was the skirt my mom would make for me. I pulled pretty close to that same thing on my niece Emma this Christmas.

Way back in November, I asked Emma if she would like me to make her a skirt for her Christmas gift. Being the sweet, crafty girl she is, she was all for it. So she and I went to the store, and she picked out a pattern and the fabric. Although Emma is 11 and quite petite, she really liked the adult patterns best.

Emma pattern

As with nearly everything I sew, this ended up being a learning experience. Did I learn that there was no way the skirt was going to take just the 1 hour advertised on the pattern? No, I knew that as soon as I bought it. What I learned was clothes really do need to be adjusted for petite people.

The version of this skirt that Emma received on Christmas Eve was the adult version in a size that was close to her size.  I had planned on taking it back when I gave it to her, but I needed to see just how off it was. The waistband and bow were huge compared to her tiny frame. I ended up nearly halving the width of the bow and waistband. Yeah, she’s pretty petite.

Emma skirt detail

She tried it on once more after Christmas to make sure the proportions were closer before I finished the sewing. Then, finally, last weekend, Emma got her finished skirt! She wanted to keep it long, and she’s got a bit of room to grow in the waist as well.

Emma skirt 2

Emma picked out the fabric herself. As we were getting it cut, I told her Grandma Rose was going to be pretty proud because Emma had picked out fabric covered with Grandma’s all-time favorite design motif: paisleys!

Finally, the last of my Christmas gifts was one I didn’t get a chance to photograph before I gave it. I made this paper-pieced mug rug as a hostess gift for my sister Brenda, Emma’s mom. I used the Quatrastar pattern from Sew Happy Geek, and it came together really quickly.

Brenda mug rug

So, that’s the end of my Christmas sewing! Next, onto new projects for 2013!

A Few More Christmas Gifts

In the week before Christmas I found myself in the perfect sewing zone. I was feeling creative with time on my hands, but I felt none of the pressure that often comes with sewing gifts. So I took full advantage of that zone and whipped out a few more small items.

Our niece Haley had asked for a jewelry box for Christmas, but I felt a little weird giving her an empty box. So I made a buttoned cuff bracelet using some of her favorite fabric.

Cuff bracelet 2

Cuff bracelet

The bracelet is just a regular quilt sandwich cut into a rectangle the size of a very skinny girl’s wrist. I quilted it with straight lines, including an H for Haley (upside down in the photo above), and added the button and rickrack loop for closing it.

Nephew Jacob was all about the gift cards this year, but I couldn’t gift him just a gift card. So I used some of my leftover shark fabric and made a quick gift card holder.

Shark giftcard holder

I added interfacing between the two layers of fabric and sewed on a snap for closing it.

For Mom, I made up the infinity scarf kit that I had gotten at Sewn Studio last Christmas.

Mom Infinite Scarf

The pre-cut pieces seemed like they would make a scarf too large for my petite mother, so I trimmed both the width and length of the fabrics. The fabrics (a luscious voile and velveteen) and instructions were from Anna Maria Horner. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the way she finished off the scarf, though, so I followed an infinity scarf tutorial from Skip to My Lou for that part.

The handmade gift recipients all seemed very appreciative. Here’s the Stella girl in her shark skirt.

Stella Skirt

(In both this photo and the one above, you can see Mom’s stripe quilt that’s hanging on the wall in her living room. Two of my sisters are already duking it out for that one. I don’t know whose foot that is over Stella’s shoulder.)

And finally, here’s that same little girl working on her lacing cards.

Stella Sewing

The next generation of family sewers in the making!