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

Dream Sewing Room

(c) 2014 SoundStitches Sewing blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came across this free-for-reuse picture of an ideal sewing room entitled “Room for a Young Girl.” It seems to have been part of an exhibition, Festival of Britain, in 1951. I’m reminded that Britain was still recovering from the devastation of World War II; there was government of rationing of certain goods into the 1950s. In the Homes and Gardens pavilion, this bed-sitting room was designed by J.D. Binns. Imagine having a room separate from your bedroom — a sitting room! — just for sewing up your next fashion. (Oh wait, I have one of those. Alas, I’m no longer a girl, and to gain this luxury of a room I had to commandeer a room from the rest of my family!)

I suppose the exhibition was designed to show off various products available to the home sewer, including, as the description says: “Dressmaker’s stand by Siegel and Stockman, London. Electric iron manufactured by Easipower Ltd, London. ‘Pillar’ ironing table manufactured by Campbell Engineering Co. Ltd., Bromley, Kent. Portable sewing machine manufactured by The Tailor Bird Sewing Machine Co. Ltd., Sandwich, Kent.”  The “portable” sewing machine listed isn’t show.

The exhibition probably also intended to help those who experienced little of a post-war recovery to imagine themselves — or a daughter — living a bit of luxury. Anyway, I love the photo in all its idealism, and I hope you enjoy too!

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.

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.

IMG_0480_revised

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.

Sewing Books

FSoundStitches sewing booksorgive me dear readers, it has been too long since my last confession, er post. Here’s a quickie before I proceed with several planned posts. I’m back!

While vacationing in New Mexico, I discovered COAS Books in Las Cruces. “The largest bookstore in New Mexico,” they say, and stretching more than two storefronts side, it’s large by any standards. It was truly a pleasure and I pointed my daughter in the direction of the kids section and stayed in the sewing and crafts aisle with no remorse. At home, I love to say that I use the library for fiction, and my bookshelves for sewing books. So true!

Here is a pic of the recent stash of books I collected, one of which dates from 1943. I managed to bring them all back by stashing two on the plane. I’ve already finished the one named Clothing and Cloth. I say “finished” because it’s truly a book you read as opposed to glance at the pretty pictures for future projects. Clothing and Cloth is a perspective of the garment and fashion industry from a 1961 perspective, and it’s given me lots of fodder for future posts!