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!


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.


Slipcovers and Community

2013_Blog_KarenErickson_ChairI snapped this picture of “raw edge” upholstery in an unlikely place — an art gallery. It fits right in, don’t you think? Very recently I had a long talk with its creator Karen Erickson at her studio. The owners of 3231 Creatives in Everett, Washington, Iris and her husband, have created not just a gallery, but a cafe, artist studios and a shop to sell re-fashioned clothing in an otherwise vacant space. There’s more to this 25,000 square foot space, but I couldn’t fit it into one sentence so here’s the list: pottery studio, silk screen printing room, and music stage. Karen is teaching upholstery and basic sewing classes from the lower level and has lots of room to spread out. Several machines are in great condition, surrounded by fabrics and work tables. A serger is the latest addition. She teaches the skills a home decorating business owner needs, including sales and marketing. What a great opportunity for those who want to sew for themselves and for others.

Karen, like myself, loves to network. She’s traveled with many of the home sewing “greats” over the years, and I’m so glad to add her to my network. She wants people to take risks to promote their skills, and she says this doesn’t need to be costly or high-tech. Your church or other affiliations, exchanging for meals, child care or other services might work depending on your community.

We both lamented that fabric stores no longer promote local businesses — many don’t even have areas to post a business card. To make up for that gap, Karen is active in the Washington Professional Workroom Meetup group. (Anyone can join or start a Meetup.com group.)

Are there some ideas here for you? If you’re not in business, seek out these communities near you for a great place to see art, enjoy coffee and support local. If you’re in business, how can you grow it? Is there a vacant space with an owner who’d rather be bringing in some income? Could a large room be set up as a local art gallery? Think of what that room needs, and how sprucing it up will get locals to work: Sprucing up, painting, cleaning, and lighting. Every gallery room needs a piece of furniture from which to contemplate the art, and needs upholstery or table dressing skills. Know an existing gallery? Offer to make the pillows or slipcovers. Can you see that I was inspired by 3231 Creatives?

Laminated Cotton Says Outdoor Living

Ah, the time for reliable outdoor living is almost here and these are my favorites in laminated cotton from PacificFabrics.com. They’ve got colorful owls and ducks and chickies and florals. Which are your favorite patterns and what have you made from laminated cotton?

I test-ran some snack bags from interfaced cotton to achieve the stand-up stiffness the laminated cotton normally creates. And who wouldn’t want to eat goldfish cracker treats from a cool reusable stand-up bag? So orange… and so green. Remember that oilcloth (which is actually plastic) can’t be used with food, but laminated cotton is suitable.

Here’s another snack bag project made with laminated cotton. Note: Your sewing machine really needs a Teflon presser foot for laminated cotton and oilcloth. (An older method is to tape electrical or smooth thick tape to the bottom of a regular presser foot.)

Gift Idea for You and Yours

SoundStitches sewing blog pyjamasA simple project that I’ve made over and over again is casual elastic-waist pants. Call them whatever you like — pajama pants, house pants, or yoga pants — I highly recommend them as a quick gift that you can complete in less than two hours. For summer, use a lightweight woven print. For fall and winter, choose a cozy flannel or fleece. (It’s a great beginner project, but it’s also great for advanced sewers — sometimes we just need a gift that’s quick and simple!)

Last summer, my mom picked out this lovely cotton print at a quilt shop nearby. The background is aqua and the flowers are poppy-red and periwinkle-purple. On a recent visit I made the pants and she’s very happy with them. I customized basic pattern Simplicity 9505 for myself, my mom and my husband. Some things I’ve changed about the pattern: Instead of using the recommended 1/2″ elastic, use 1″. This creates more of a smooth yoga-pant look, and it’s more comfortable. To accommodate the wider elastic, add some to the pant upper edge using tissue paper or similar. If you can’t find Simplicity 9505, any unisex or ladies’ elastic waist pants pattern will do, and there are similar patterns for children. All you need is a waist measurement and an approximate length.

Think about how much you spend on pajama pants and consider sewing them for yourself and some other worthy someone this season!

Snack Bags with Reduce-Reuse-Recycle Style

My sewing student Sheri recently made her second reusable snack bag. We were both inspired by the book, Sewing with Oilcloth. I mentioned the book briefly at the end of a sewing lesson and showed her my first effort in cotton. Before I knew it, she had bought oilcloth, and during the next lesson I had to explain that for snack bags, laminated cotton is recommended instead to avoid over-exposure to PVCs. We also decided that my version was too big. Not kidding: If you filled that thing with the quantity of goldfish pictured in the book, no child would eat anything else in the lunch! So we made a smaller template and a prototype from leftover cotton and denim (repurposed jeans, no less). These things take no time at all to whip up.

By the next lesson, Sheri had made the bag pictured here, and the original was no longer available because it was at school with her oldest daughter! The bag pictured repurposes a reusable shopping bag that had lost its handle. The “F” is from the word “Fresh” and it closes using Velcro strips. Who knows what Sheri will use by next time!

She knows that since the needle punched holes into the reusable bag “fabric,” it’s not truly waterproof, but she plans to use it for damp snacks like carrots and dry sandwiches. She already washes her plastic sandwich bags and is looking forward to reusing her near-oilcloth substitutes. Personally I don’t plan to buy oilcloth or laminated cotton: I’m going to continue with two layers of regular cotton, interfaced, with double-wide binding and a Velcro circle or snap at the top. (The binding is needed because with cotton, unlike with oilcloth, there are raw edges.)

A local store, Nancy’s Sewing Basket, recently made an entire store display of Sewing with Oilcloth. They had on display virtually everything described in the book, along with cool props like a bicycle. I snapped the picture below through the window and I do hope they took the time to send a nice picture to the author and publisher!

Sewing with Oilcloth, Kelly McCants, Wiley Publishing

SewUp Seattle Event

SewUp Seattle is hosting a free event to build beginning sewing skills. On August 25, you can create either “Potholders or a Tiny Quilt.” Sounds fun, especially for beginners. You can bring your machine or use a donated one. Donated fabrics are available, or you can bring your own. SewUp Seattle has a relatively new location, so if you haven’t visited, try it out!

To register (and to confirm the time, which wasn’t provided to us), e-mail sewupseattle@yahoo.com or call 206-784-7117

Other events at SewUp Seattle:

  • September 22 – Scarves (for fashion and/or warmth)
  • October 27 – Hats (chef, warm, costume, etc.)
  • November 24 – Home Dec items (coasters, place-mats, cloths, stockings)
  • December 22 – Hands and Feet (wrist warmers,legwarmers, more stockings)