I’m into Squares

AQuilt_croppeddvanced quilters will have to refrain from laughing at my puny quilting efforts. Those who want to learn basic quilting, read on. Especially if you’re an experienced garment sewer like I am, eager to expand your horizons into new prints, colors and techniques. Here’s the story of my latest simple quilt.

I have been dutifully trying to use cottons from my acquired stash. It seems to me, though, that to finish projects one has to acquire yet more fabrics because you don’t have just the right patterns, stripes or solids in quantity. This time, I put out a plea to my local recycling Web site: Did anyone have fabric they were not using, so I could “finish up” projects or make lap quilts for charity? Why, yes they did. And they would be more than happy to have me pick it up from their porches or homes. In large bins. All of the fabrics you see in the pictured sample are the result. The bluish-looking solid is actually a spruce green. The red is a floral, the cream is a leafy lattice, and there’s a floral element to the dark green striped fabric. Despite the flora, and no holiday element whatsoever, my quilt looks like Christmas. Which makes it less useful, I’m afraid, as a lap quilt or to give away. I’m less enthused about it myself, in the early summertime, though the colors are lovely.

The real simplicity to this project is the squares. It’s impossible to miss if you’re a really creative quilter. My quilt has only squares! I use a “strip” quilting method, and over time I’ve perfected the quarter-inch (1/4″) seam allowance so that in the sample above, the corners match beautifully. Though I’ve read many techniques for creating triangles, especially ones that won’t distort on the bias, I’ve never tried to cut or sew triangles! There–it’s out now! I can’t be frightened of the technique, which is well explained, but I do fear combining colors and prints. After all, a triangle meets up with another triangle, and each should complement the other somehow. But soon, soon I hope to try a whole bunch of triangles. And maybe some off-set columns (strips). You see, I have a lot of fabric to practice with!


Gift Pillow

detail of knife edge pillowA guest room at my brother’s home has rust brown color sheets, so I decided on these colors for a simple pillow. I’m happy with the result, which is neither country cute nor too modern. I first had in mind a cover for a travel pillow that was resting on the bed. Silly me, I thought all travel pillows were the same size! So this square pillow is the result instead. It’s on its way in the mail, and I hope it will be enjoyed.

I used a “knife edge” technique that makes the corners tuck in instead of sticking out — with no stuffing to give them definition. The photo below shows the detail, and it’s easy to do. Wrong side out, select a short distance in from the corners. One-half inch might do, or one inch. Draw a dot or an “X” using chalk or a disappearing fabric marker. Then use a large dinner plate or some other round flat object to taper a line towards both edges. Those lines, along with a regular seam allowance, are the lines you’ll stitch along. Proceed with trimming and turning inside out as usual.

When this type of pillow is turned to the right side and filled, the corners have a nice shape — worthy of gift giving. Of course there are many other pillow creation techniques, but it’s the one I chose for this pillow. And with that, I say “Happy Holidays”!



soundstitches sewing blog gift pillow

Clothespin Bag as Harbinger of Spring

ClothespinBagIt’s no way near warm enough or dry enough where I live to hang the laundry out on a clothesline yet. But it’s one of the most enjoyable — and energy-saving — things to do in summer because the laundry dries so quickly and smells lovely. Last year, we really got into it and rarely used the clothes dryer from July to October. (The “smalls” or undies dry in the clothes dryer, if you’re wondering; we do have neighbors!) But one inconvenience is having to, with just one hand free, clip the clothespins back onto the line for next time.

A clothespin bag will do the trick, and for this simple project (called a “peg bag” overseas), I consulted my stash and some guidance from the book Sewing in No Time, a great book by Emma Hardy with lots of projects for the house.

I did not want mine to be frilly (read, discouraging ALL the members of my family from handling the laundry!), so I chose a plaid with warm reds and greens and a bit of blue, and a solid blue backing. There’s a half moon-shaped opening for tossing in the clothespins. The ribbon is a scrap, perhaps from a gift wrapping. Looking at the photo, the ribbon seems to need a little embellishing, which I might do, but it didn’t occur to me looking at the real thing, perhaps because the grosgrain pattern shows on the ribbon but not in the photo. Sewing in No Time uses a child’s wooden clothes hanger, but there aren’t many of those anymore, so I used the last remaining little-kid size hanger I could find. Pressing and top-stitching make the seams look crisp.

Maybe it’s simply that I can’t wait for warmer weather, but having a new clothespin bag on hand will make the dry season sweeter.

Table Runner

RunnerNow that this gift has been given out and nicely received, I can post this table runner that I made for my second cousin Molly, at whose lovely house in the sunny desert we spent the holidays. I don’t tackle too many quilt projects — I favor garments — so it had to be something easy to finish and something classy and artistic (just like my recipient). I chose — and bought new — one (subtly) printed black and one printed white fabric. When I bought these I was sure I would do stripes, but I knew I had something good when I found a gray lightweight wool in my stash to provide contrast. The batting is a layer of sweatshirt material (reduce, reuse…!), the backing is the white print fabric, and the binding as you can see is the black print. To determine the width of strips, use your ultimate measurements and divide into the numbers of strips. (Very generally!) With such a small project, getting enough length in a strip is usually not a problem.

Molly’s home is black, white and cream. She’s an artist, and appreciates bold textures more than colors. This gift rolled up nicely in my baggage for a plane trip, and it looks lovely on her modern glass table. (This picture is taken on my wood table.)

When it comes to making gifts for an upcoming deadline such as a holiday, I try to keep it simple to avoid becoming overly-stressed. This was just such a gift — fun to make, easy to present, decorative and useful.

Hat With a View

IMG_0480_revisedNo it’s not Photoshop…it’s a hat with a fantastic view of downtown. This is a great project for your knit scraps, whether those scraps are fleece or some other mid-weight knit. I recently made a fleece hat to be given to a charity that will distribute winter items. I made it from blue polyester fleece that was used for pants — and if you’ve made pants you know there’s that wide piece off to the side of the center crotch seam that you wonder, “How can I use this?” And here’s how:

You will use six “Gothic window pane” pieces and one headband.

Draw a hat pattern — a single piece that resembles a Gothic church window. The height of the hat is up to you. Some like a “high hat”; others a low. The height of this pattern is about 8″. The width of the bottom of the “window pane” here is 5″.

Cut out six of the pattern. Leave the headband for later, because it will have a custom fit.

SoundStitches c 2013 Pin two panels (formerly, “window panes”) right sides together. You’ll need no more than four pins per panel.

Starting at the point, stitch the panels together using the smallest seam allowance you feel comfortable with, from a narrow 1/4″ to a wider 1/2″. The fluffier the fabric, the more issue you’ll have with a backstitch at the top. As long as you start at the very top, you can omit it. Same with the bottom edge — you will sew a band onto the hat anyway.

Pin and sew a separate set of cut-out panels together as above. Then do the same for the last set of two. You will have three sets of two-panel pieces.

Lay all three double panels out flat to see what length of band you need (picture below). It’s easier to measure the bottom edge for a headband now rather than after you’ve sewn all panels. The measurement tells you the circumference of the hat after only half of the seam allowances. Here you see a width of 26 inches. If you used a quarter-inch seam allowance, you would subtract another .75 inches. Please don’t get hung up on the math here: Simply remember the total width if you need to keep it simple.soundstitches sewing blog c 2013

You’ve got the width, but how about the height of the headband? I find 2.5 inches is a good guide for fluffy fleece — the headband is folded in half before it’s sewn on. Cut out a headband of 4.5 inches high and with a final width of the circumference you measured minus three seam allowances, and round down to a lower whole number. In this example, it’s 26 – .75 = 25.25 – . 25 = 25 inches. This lower number encourages the hat to squeeze a little bit over the wearer’s head instead of just sitting on top like a beanie!

You’ve left the panels in two-piece combos, so it’s time to join them up. Stitch one two-panel piece to another, then add the final two-piece panel. For the last stitch, take a wider seam allowance to avoid a hole in the top of the hat. A hole in a winter hat exposes the wearer to wet and weather — hardly the purpose of a hat! If this doesn’t make sense to you yet, I think it will when you stitch that last section; then you can make a larger seam allowance at the top of the hat. Try on the hat, and if it’s way too big, then use a wider seam allowance and trim away.

Now you only need to sew on the headband. The height and length was described above, but you’ll sew it “in the round,” so stitch wrong sides together on the short end to form the band. Then pin and sew. Voila! Winter hat.

Want to spruce it up a little bit? Cut a very small strip of contrasting fabric, no more than an inch wide and, if a knit fabric, as long as the length for the band you cut. (If you choose a woven fabric that doesn’t stretch, either cut on bias or add .5 inch to the length.) Iron strip in half so that you have a skinny strip. Sew the short edges together and press them open with your fingers. Hold your hat so that the raw edges are to the right. On top, align raw edges of contrast band in the same way. Finally, add the hat band whose short edges have already been stitched. Pin and stitch. The contrast fold will peek out between the band and the hat body, adding just a bit of pizzazz. No picture of the added detail, but below is a finished hat pick again.


Beheaded Turtleneck

(c) 2013 SoundStitchesNecklines have gone up, and necklines have gone down. Just now they’re rather down, though a little higher than scandalous. Do you have any knit turtenecks that you keep because you love the color, and yet they stay stashed away for most of the year, because it’s not t-neck weather or your want to bare a little more skin? Here’s a green, useful, easy and fun project.

Consider “beheading” the turtleneck. I’m a peach girl, not a pink girl, so that’s why I’ve held on to this apricot-colored turtleneck for so long. Recently, my husband came to me with an ivory all-silk turtleneck that was basically falling out of its shell. The neck part had no stretch left, and it wasn’t pretty. It was one sad turtle. He said, “See what you can do because as is I’m not going to wear it anymore.” It was my practice run. For his, I made a crewneck shirt. My apricot turtleneck is destined for a neck with a slight scoop.

Here’s what to do:

(c) SoundStitches 2013 Turtleneck captionsHave a look at the picture at left. (If you’re not ready to start cutting, just lay any knit shirt in front of you.) After the first several steps, you’ll have three pieces — the body of the shirt, and existing turtleneck band, and the cut-away seam allowances, with a tag if you have one. My shirt has a cotton body. The band is cotton plus Lycra, which helps stretch but you can do the same without Lycra.

Sit down with some sharp, preferably small, scissors. Insert the point of the scissors just under the top stitching of the body of the shirt. Carefully cut the turtleneck and the bulky seams away in a circle (in other words, don’t cut into the circle, because later you will be able to reinstall that circle as is).

Determine the new neckline. The resulting shirt body will likely still fall too high on your neck in front. Use a disappearing marker to mark while wearing the shirt. There are no fast rules, but I would not recommend cutting away more than a half an inch down in front, and you need cut off only a bit in the back and sides. Remember that the original neck band will stretch some, but there are limits to how much bigger a circumference it will wrap around.Take off the shirt, true your marker lines, and cut away.

Examine your cut-off turtleneck. Similar to your first move with the body piece, you’ll cut away all the old bulky seams associated with the neckband. Is the current fold looking worn? Then use the big band needed for a turtleneck to make a narrower fold for a t-shirt. Two and a half inches is a good new band height, regardless of whether you cut it higher (using the existing band) or lower if using the existing fold, Why 2.5 inches? A standard crewneck or scoop neck band is one inch or less — check your closet. Times two, that’s two inches. Then, you need seam allowances, say .25 inches each (.25 x 2 = .5 inches). I’ve used these numbers for a basic sewer, but it all depends on your ability to make a very narrow seam allowance with a sewing machine. You can also go a little less high such as 2.25 inches — just make sure to calculate everything times two because of the folds. (On another note, many sewers will want to use a serger, but I recommend the first seam in a circle to be made with a basting stitch, then try it on to ensure that it fits and looks good before using the serger.)

What’s next? Pinning and sewing in the round. Most basic sewing books discuss how to apply a separate neck or waistband in a circle. Here are the basics: Assume that your old neckband tube seam will again be at the back. Mark the center back on the body of the t-shirt with a disappearing marker. Fold the hold band in half and mark its opposite. Unfold and then refold so that you have four “quarter marks” around the neckline. Now pin right sides together, starting by matching the center back seam of neckband to the center back of the t-shirt body. Pin its opposite mark — that’s the center front of the top. You’ll feel some resistance now. Continue pinning. You’ll want pins at the side marks, and a few other pins. Now lay on the sewing machine, and set to a longest (basting) straight stitch on your machine. Using the seam allowances you used for the neck height math, stitch slowly around. This effort requires you to stretch the neckline, but you’ll soon see this is fairly easy. Remove pins right before you arrive at them. No need to backstitch — just sew slightly past your starting mark. Now try it on — does it lie against the neck nicely? If you had uneven seam allowances, try basting again, and later remove your first mistaken lines. See how nicely the new neckline can lie against your skin? Thinking of which jewelry to wear with this top already? 🙂

Once you’re happy with the neckline, finish with either of these two methods: 1. With sewing machine, a medium length zigzag stitch with very little “zag,” which will allow stretch but still read as a straight stitch. Often .5 or 1.0 width on the zigzag will do. In most cases, just leave on the seam allowance. 2. With serger, simply go around trimming off excess seam allowances.

Enjoy the new top and accompanying jewelry show-off!

Crafty Fashionista Contest

S_RecycledFashionTeens and adults could win up to $100 for entering a Seattle Times upcycling contest by October 15. The details: Make something that “consists of clothing or accessories made at least in part (the more the better!) from used, vintage or recycled materials. Winners will be photographed with their upcycled items for a story in Seattle Times — fame if not fortune! More details.

I wonder what everyone will create! Recently I’ve had lots of success repurposing turtenecks into crewneck shirts — that’s recycled but not terribly crafty.