Stars for Stephanie

Stars for Stephanie 2 Stars for Stephanie 1

The Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild recently put out a call to help them honor one of their founding members, Stephanie Hicks, who had passed away in February from cancer. They named the project Stars for Stephanie and asked that people from all over make Stephanie’s favorite block, the wonky star, in solids of all her favorite colors. This post on their blog lays out all the details and even includes color swatches to help you pick your fabrics. They’ll take all the blocks they receive and make them into quilts to donate to cancer patients.

So this weekend, I made up two blocks to contribute. Stephanie’s favorite colors are mine, too, so I had plenty of solids in my stash to choose from. The only color I didn’t have was cream, which I must have run out of somewhere along the line.

The tutorial they recommend using is super easy to follow, and it makes wonky squares large enough that I was able to trim them down to size with no problem.

All the wonky star blocks are due to the Knoxville guild on April 18, 2015, so there’s still time to make up a few if you’re interested in participating. And if you’re a member of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild, we’ll be collecting the blocks at the April meeting so that we can send them all at one time.

Good luck to the KMQG on this project—what a wonderful way to honor a quilting friend.


I Finally Tried Pieced Curves!

Blue and gray curved piecingI started making quilts more than twenty years ago, and I’ve been making them with passion for about ten of those years. For that entire time, I’ve skillfully avoided pieced curves. It always seemed like sewing a straight seam and getting everything to match was challenging enough. But last month at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild meeting, our education chairperson, Brooke, gave a talk on pieced curves (and reverse applique, both as ways to sew circles). More than just show us how, she issued a challenge for us to try either or both of the techniques and bring our work to the March meeting.

So this past weekend, I pieced my heart out. Brooke demonstrated the technique with templates and pieces that were probably about 5 and 6 inches wide. Once home, I decided to just pull a template from one of my books and found some that were 2.5 and 3.5 inches wide. That’s quite a bit smaller, it turns out.

I cut the pieces in blues and grays thinking that, if the piece turned out, I could make it into a pillow for our front room.

Curved piecing 1

Next came the pinning. Just like every tutorial I’ve read, Brooke stressed the importance of pinning the pieces. With the concave (larger) piece on top, I placed seven pins around each tiny, tiny arc. I started in the center, pinned the sides, and then filled in the rest.

Curved piecing 2Curved piecing 3

The little guys didn’t come close to laying flat. Which made them extra scary to sew. But like Brooke and all the written tutorials suggested, I sewed slowly around each one. And then I pressed the seam allowance to the concave side.

Curved piecing 4

Watching the pieces flatten out as I was pressing them was like witnessing a miracle. Who would have thought that misshapen mass of pins and fabric would ever lay flat?

Blue and gray curved piecing

Obviously I have some perfecting to do—I’ve got some tucks in the concave pieces and my circles aren’t exactly round. But I’m pretty happy for it being my first try. And I do believe I’ll try it again, probably with larger pieces, just to see if that truly makes it easier, as I suspect it would.

Click here to read the minutes from the February CMQG meeting that include Brooke’s demonstrations, with step-by-step photos.

Orange Structured Messenger Bag

Orange messenger front detailEver since I first used By Annie’s Soft and Stable in my kiss clasp purse, I’ve been wanting to try it with my favorite messenger bag pattern. The Soft and Stable gives body and structure to bags that you just don’t get with interfacing and batting. After regular use, my kiss clasp purse still sits up by itself (although the fabric is getting to be a little worse for wear).

Soft and Stable

The messenger bag pattern is one I made last year in blue and orange. So this time I decided to not only make it with the Soft and Stable but to mix up the palette, going with orange and blue.

The pattern I used for the kiss clasp purse suggested that you use a zigzag stitch to sew the Soft and Stable to your cut pattern pieces. Here’s my messenger bag flap stitched and ready to go.

Orange messenger flap

The instructions for the kiss clasp purse called for cutting squares from the corners of the fabric for the boxed bottom, rather than trying to match the seams and then trimming off the corners. I found the square method so much easier, so I applied it to this bag as well. I layered my lining pieces, right sides together, cut squares from the bottom corners, then stitched the sides and bottom. I repeated this with the exterior pieces.

Orange messenger boxed corners

With the corners removed, you can easily match up the side and bottom seams to finish the bottom.

Orange messenger boxed seam

As usual, I added all the pockets I like to have. The interior includes a zipper pocket and a simple flat pocket. As always, I turned to The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam for reminders of best practices when it comes to pockets.

Orange messenger inside panel 1

Orange messenger inside panel 2

I also added a zipper pocket on the exterior. I was a little nervous about this because I would be cutting through the Soft and Stable, which just seemed really thick.

Orange messenger fat lip

In my first attempt (above), my zipper had a fat lower lip. I didn’t get close enough to the fabric edge, so too much of the Soft and Stable pooched out. But I tried again, and I was happy with the result.

Orange messenger side and back

The bag does have great body—I love that it can sit up by itself. The added structure makes the gaps at the sides of the flap a bit more pronounced, but if it’s not tipping over, then the contents should stay put.

Orange messenger hanging

About the fabrics: The orange and white piece is a home decor fabric remnant that I picked up at Creativities, an art studio just a few blocks from my house. The rest of the fabrics are from my orange stash. I kind of liked the idea of a travel theme for this bag, since I think it will be great for trips of all sorts. So I was glad I had some camper and bicycle fabrics to use.

Orange messenger open

Overall, I’m very happy with the bag. I’ll be taking it on our upcoming beach trip, so I’ll see what it’s like to use. But for now, I plan to use Soft and Stable in all my bags.

Orange messenger side view

Cat Skirt

Cat Skirt hanging

Greg and I will be spending a week on the beach this winter, and whenever we do that, I feel the need to make a skirt for the trip. So this past weekend, I got started on it.

The pattern I used came from the book Gertie Sews Vintage Casual by Gretchen Hirsch, which Greg gave me for Christmas. The skirt I made is the one on the cover.


As usual, I threw myself headlong into the project with only a vague idea of how I was going to proceed. I really need to stop doing that. Especially when sewing clothing.

I cut out the two halves of the skirt, guessing at my size rather than looking at the sizing chart. Then I decided to add a patchwork panel in the front, just for fun. I had seen something like that in a magazine, but I didn’t know if they placed the panel on the grain of the fabric or at the same angle as the flare of the skirt. With a skirt this flared, it would make a big difference. But rather than dig out the magazine, I put the panel on the grain (which seemed more stable than sewing it on the bias of the flare).

Before sewing in the lapped zipper, I tried on the skirt and could tell it was too big at the waist. So I took a little from each side seam. Then I sewed in the zipper (which ended up being a bit crooked) and tried on the skirt again. I could pinch a two-inch section of excess fabric from the waist. I must have cut out the wrong size.

First I just sewed a giant dart in the back of the skirt to eliminate the excess fabric.

Cat Skirt center dart

But that moved the side seams (and zipper) to off my sides and onto more of the back of the skirt. So I took that seam out and took in the waist the right way—at the seam.

Cat Skirt side adjustment

Next came the waistband. The pattern called for a lapped waistband, which seemed easy enough. Except I realized after it was sewn on that the longer end was wrapping toward the front of the skirt rather than toward the back.

Cat Skirt lapped waistband

My first solution was to place a snap on the waistband as the closure. Then I accordion folded the excess fabric and sewed a decorative button on top, which served to secure the folded lapped fabric and hide the stitches of the snap.

Cat Skirt closure

However, when I tried the skirt on again to take another photo of it, the button came flying off. So that wasn’t going to work. Again, I decided to do it right and make the button the closure and cut off the excess lapped fabric. My waistband was a little too narrow for the size buttonhole I needed, so I really have to force the button through the hole. While I was at it, I top stitched the waistband. Because while I don’t always have a solid plan or read the instructions thoroughly, I do insist on top stitching everything.

Cat Skirt button closure

So here’s the finished skirt. It fits well. The patchwork panel is a little odd. The angle, as I said, is with the grain of the fabric, but it is still a bit jarring. And I have to say, I didn’t intend this to be a cat skirt. I wanted a skirt with a patchwork section, and one of the fabrics I chose for that section was cat fabric, because it matched. But I pretty much have a cat skirt now.

Cat Skirt full view

Cat Skirt on

The book had all the information I needed for making the skirt, and all the information made sense. To make the skirt, though, I needed to do a lot of flipping around the book—to the zipper section, the waistband section, the hemming section. In this case, I sometimes chose to guess rather than flip, and that’s completely my fault. Next time I need to do what the instructions always say to do: Read through the whole pattern first, flipping to all necessary sections, and then start.

Girl’s Peter Pan Collar

Peter pan collar frontAfter three years as a freelancer working from home, I can say with confidence that I have no idea what is fashionable. Knowing what’s on trend is for people who see other people every day and/or who buy clothes. I find I don’t do either with much regularity.

So I was a bit surprised when my sister Jenny suggested I make a detachable Peter Pan collar for Stella’s seventh birthday. It turns out these collars have been a thing for a few years now, and Jenny noticed that Stella comments each time she sees one in a catalog or magazine.

I searched for patterns online and finally found some that were sized for children. I really liked the shape of this collar from My Sparkle. It was just what I had in mind except I wanted the tie to be in front rather than the back, and after seeing some other collars, I wanted it to be reversible. The construction method in the pattern wasn’t going to work for the reversible aspect (the pattern called for slitting the collar lining to turn it inside out), so I figured out my own steps.

I cut the pattern from two different fabrics and from a medium-weight fusible interfacing. I fused the interfacing to the front fabric pieces. I then cut my ribbon ties to several inches long and pinned them to the top of the front collar fabric.

Peter pan collar step 1I would be sewing pretty much all the way around the collar shape, and I didn’t want to catch the loose ribbon end in the stitches, so I secured it to the center of the collar with a pin.

I placed the back piece of fabric right sides together over the front and sewed around the edges, leaving a few inches open for turning. Then I trimmed all the seam allowances with pinking shears.

Peter pan collar step 2

I turned the pieces right side out, pressed the edges flat, and top-stitched around the edges, closing the turning hole in the process. Then I realized I’d made a mistake.

Peter pan collar mistake

Gah! I pinned one of the ribbons to the wrong edge of the collar. Since the whole thing was sewn together already, I got lazy, and just picked out the stitches in that corner. By the time I got the stitches out, the fabric in that area was a bit worse for wear, but I moved the ribbon and closed up the seam as best I could. Now the ribbons were in the right place.

Peter pan collar halvesThe pattern called for hand stitching the two collar halves together, but I machine sewed the back edges instead. Here’s the front and the back.

Peter pan collar frontPeter pan collar reverse

I hope Stella likes at least one side of the collar and wears it a few times. I don’t know that it will hold interest to her (or hold up) much longer than that. But that’s fine considering how quick and easy the project was to make. Then I’ll just make her whatever she tells me is in fashion next.

18″ Doll Dress and Tote

kitty dress and backpack

This Christmas, my sweet niece Stella was the recipient of some of my homemade gifts. Stella’s still very much into her American Girl doll, Julie, so I decided to try my hand at making a doll dress.

After a bit of searching, I found this dress pattern from All Things with Purpose. Several years ago, I had edited a book titled All Dolled Up by Joan Hinds about making clothing for 18″ dolls, so I had some idea of what the process would be.

kitty dress on Julie

While the pattern recommended using a tie to close the dress in the back, I decided to add some narrow strips of Velcro to make it easier for Stella to secure the dress. I also added top stitching around the neck and armholes, just because I think it makes the dress look more finished.

kitty dress detail

Since I had plenty of kitty fabric left, I decided to make a little backpack for Stella to use. This pattern I got from the book Because I Love You Sew by Trish Preston. The book was one of the many awesome swag items I received at the OHCraft sew-in in October.

The backpack was meant to be used by a small child. But it wasn’t until Stella received the bag that she realized it fit Julie perfectly! Her little face just pokes out of the top.

backpack with Julie

The closure on the backpack is a bit unusual. The straps cinch the top closed, form the straps of the backpack, and then lace through tabs at the bottom of the backpack and are tied with a bow to secure. That’s a bit complicated for a seven-year-old, but hopefully Stella will get the hang of it.

backpack closure


Merry Christmas, Stella!

Christmas Table Runner

table runner 2

Happy new year!

For the first few blog posts of the new year, I’ll be playing a bit of catch-up. I sewed quite a few gifts this Christmas, and now that everything is with its new owners, I can share them here.

First up is the Christmas table runner I made for Annie of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. At the November meeting, those of who wanted to participate filled out a short survey as to what fabric we liked and what our ideal swap gift would be. I received Annie’s name, and she said she liked Cotton + Steel fabric and wanted a holiday table runner.

I got a bit of a slow start on the project, and I didn’t have time to order any fabric for the project. So I stopped by Sewn Studio to see what they had for Cotton + Steel. They had several fabrics from the line, but nothing looked remotely Christmasy.

tablerunner block1

So I decided to make it a low-key Christmas. I picked up some tan and red Cotton + Steel, as well as some red Charley Harper fabric.

The star block I went with is from the book Modern Blocks by Susanne Woods. It’s my go-to book for these kinds of projects, and this has become one of my go-to blocks.

To mix it up a bit, I added a wintery tan and red fabric from my stash for the center block and sashing fabric.

tablerunner block2

tablerunner 3

The quilting on the table runner caused me some fits. For some reason, my machine insisted that the thread in bobbin be the exact same as the main thread. Not just the same brand, but the same color, too. The tension was completely off unless they matched. Needless to say, that wasn’t what I had planned for the look on the back of the table runner.

table runner back

But, as I mentioned, I was a bit behind schedule-wise, so that’s the way I quilted it. Even then, the quilted ended up being on the light side, as are most of my projects. But this year, I’m thinking I want to resolve to make my quilting a bit denser. We’ll see.

table runner

At the December CMQG meeting, I gave my gift to Annie, and I received a gift from Wendy. Wendy recently gave a talk to the guild about making hexies, so I was pleased that the gift she gave me was filled with them!

Wendy table topper

The table topper fit perfectly under our shoe Christmas tree. And it couldn’t have matched Greg’s Cthulhu ornament any better. Thanks, Wendy!

Wendy table topper 2

Kiss Clasp Purse

clasp purse 2

While I haven’t had much time to blog, I have, thankfully, still found time to sew (I’m not sure I could go too long without that). One project that I finished recently was this winter purse.

It started with the OHCraft sew-in I attended in October. One of the fabulous swag bag items I received was a free pattern from Sew Sweetness. I love all her bags, but something about the Silver Cinema Bag really struck my fancy. I loved the retro look, and I had just edited a book that included a bag with this kind of closure, so I had a bit of confidence that I could pull it off.

So I ordered the pattern. Then I ordered the metal frame closure the pattern called for from a shop on Etsy called WhileBabyNaps. While the metal frames were still in the living room waiting for me to take them upstairs, I received a package from a friend who’d just returned from Italy. Before he left, he’d asked me to make some easy curtains for his bathroom. When he asked if he could get me anything from Italy, I said, “Well, if you see some fabric I would like. . .”

clasp purse side detail

And this is the fabric he bought for me. Can you believe it?! Absolutely gorgeous. I immediately put the fabric by the purse frames and suddenly couldn’t wait to make this bag.

The bag pattern calls for By Annie’s Soft and Stable to help hold the shape of the bag. I hadn’t used it before, but I really like the way it gives structure without being rigid. I can’t wait to try my spring messenger bag pattern again using the Soft and Stable instead of batting.

I made one modification to the pattern, which called for rounded pieces of fabric to hold the metal D-rings.

clasp purse rounded fabric

I, obviously, can’t sew circles, and I knew I’d hate the purse if I used those tabs. So I made rectangular tabs instead, which I think turned out fine.

clasp purse hardware

The trickiest part was definitely gluing the sewn purse into the metal frame. The exterior fabric is pretty loosely woven, so it wasn’t super easy to get into the narrow slot. I was pretty successful at keeping glue off the outside, but the inside got messy. After I took this photo, I tried covering the glue with black ink from a stamp pad, and that kind of worked.

clasp purse glue

The next time I make this purse—and there will be a next time since I purchased three of the metal frames—I’ll be more careful with the glue, of course. I also think I’ll make the straps a bit wider and longer just because I prefer to wear my purses on my shoulder.

I kind of can’t wait to have a whole collection of these purses. Not all the fabric will be as amazing as the fabric on this one, but I’ll see what I can come up with.

Apron and Pot Holder Set

Benefit apron potholder set

I got word a few weeks ago that the co-workers of my friend with cancer were having a benefit to help her with her medical expenses. One of fundraisers at the event would be themed raffle baskets, and the organizers were looking for handmade items to include in the baskets. I love raffle baskets, and anytime I’m at an event that has them, I have to put in at least a little money to try to win one.

Anyway, I thought one possible theme that would work for the benefit was a kitchen theme, so I decided to make up an apron and pot holder set. I found a tutorial titled  Retro Half Apron with Matching Hot Pads from Sew4Home that seemed perfect. I started with the apron, since I’d made a few of those in the past.

Benefit apron

The fabric I chose was all pieces from my stash. The lady fabric was some I had picked up at Creativities craft shop and school here in Madeira. I loved the fabric, but I had no idea what I would use it for. But it seemed perfectly suited for an apron when paired with a few solids I had around.


Benefit apron pocket

The apron pattern has a cute pocket detail that I decided to make with another print from my stash. It’s not super noticeable on the apron, but I like to think of it as a happy surprise if you do happen to see it.

Benefit apron lining

The pattern didn’t call for a lining, but once I put those pockets in, I didn’t like the thought of having the reverse side unlined. It just seemed too unfinished. So before I put on the bottom binding and the waistband, I lined the apron. To do this, just cut a piece of fabric to the same size as the apron, place wrong sides together, then sew along the two sides and the bottom, leaving the top open. Turn the apron right sides out, and edge-stitch around the two sides and bottom to make the edges nice and crisp. Then just follow the rest of the pattern for the waistband and bottom binding.

With the apron finished to my satisfaction, I went on to make the pot holders. Ugh. Those were difficult.

Benefit potholders

The pot holders themselves were easy enough, but the binding really got me. I was very low on the red fabric, so I tried binding them with strips cut on the grain rather than on the bias (cut on the bias, the strips have a bit of stretch to them). That was a fail. The corners were super bunchy and just bad.

So then I bought some bias tape to bind the edges. But the white bias tape from the store was so sheer the other fabrics showed right through.

I was going to have to find some more red fabric. I thought the fabric I was using was a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton, and I’d heard a store I’d never been to in Cincinnati carried some. So I went to Silk Road Textiles and was very happy with their selection of fabric and yarns. And they had a red that matched almost perfectly!

I cut the bias strips from the new red fabric and used that to bind the edges of the pot holders. It turns out, I just don’t have much experience sewing curves or sewing with bias strips. So after a couple of attempts, there’s still a good bit of bunching and a few misshapen corners, but they look better than they did.

Benefit set detail

I do think they look pretty cute as a set. Anyway, I hope the organizers of the benefit can use them, and that whoever wins the raffle basket is happy to have them.

Shark Halloween Costume

Shark before

Here’s the way I like to tell the story. Greg and I were in Target a few weeks ago, and he said, “Oh, we need to get you a gray hoodie for Halloween.” “Why,” I asked, as I didn’t remember any recent discussions about Halloween. “You’re going to be a shark. I’m going to be Quint, and you’re going to be Jaws.” Oh.

It’s true I didn’t have a better idea for a Halloween costume, so a shark seemed to be as good an idea as any. And since Greg’s philosophy is the comfier the Halloween costume, the better, I knew it wouldn’t be too bad.

So we bought that gray hoodie, and a week or so later we stopped by Joann to get some felt. I was very pleased with their selection, as they had both regular craft felt and stiff craft felt. Of the regular craft felt, we bought one sheet of black (for eyes and gill slits) and two sheets of white (for the belly). Of the stiff felt, we bought one sheet of white (for teeth) and one sheet of gray (for the dorsal fin).

Since Greg is the resident shark expert, he cut out the teeth, fin, and eyes. I sewed the belly on first. I just cut one corner of each 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of white felt into a curve and sewed them to either side of the zipper on the hoodie. This, of course, covered up the pockets, but that was a small price to pay for an authentic shark costume.

Shark belly and gill slits

Space was a bit tight for the gill slits, so I just sewed three on each side, right under the arms of the hoodie. So much for authenticity (a great white has 5 gill slits on each side).

Shark hood

Next, I sewed the teeth around the hood. I’m sure the regular craft felt would have been fine for the teeth, but I wanted to be sure they didn’t droop, so I used the stiff felt. With the teeth pointing out from the hood, they didn’t poke me or get in the way, so it worked out well. With my belly, gill slits, and teeth in place, I put on the sweatshirt and had Greg place the eyes for me (“lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes”). Then I just edge-stitched them in place.

Shark complete

The front was looking pretty good! (And I think the gill slits look really sporty!)

I really didn’t have a great plan for the dorsal fin, but I asked Greg to leave 1/2-inch or so at the bottom of the fin shape so I could attach it.

Shark dorsal fin

I ended up making a cut in the middle of that edge and folded one half to the right of the fin and the other to the left. Then I laid the two edges flat on the sweatshirt and sewed them down. The sweatshirt bunched a bit at those two seams, but the fin stayed perfectly erect, even after folding it to one side to ride in the car.

For Greg’s role as Quint (the Robert Shaw character in the movie Jaws), he shaved his beard into mutton chops (what good is growing a beard if you don’t have a little fun with facial hair!) and paired that with a hat from Target, a green jacket from a thrift store, and an old denim shirt.

Greg as Quint

We wore the costumes to a party last Friday night, and we managed to get a few votes for best and funniest costumes, so we considered that a success. I had to keep my hood up, though, so people could tell what we were.

Quint and Jaws

Greg captioned the photo above: “All you need is love . . . and a bigger boat.”

Part of the reason I decided to sew the costume, rather than glue it, was so I could take everything off and use the sweatshirt. But now that it’s all together, I really like the way it turned out. So I think I’ll leave it intact. You never know when you’ll need a comfy shark costume.


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