Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My first quilt!

If you remember, (as I'm sure you do because of course you mentally catalogue all of my posts), I am in the process of making my first quilt. I had no idea how many (meticulous) steps are involved in making a quilt. I will say this is by no means a tutorial.

According to the great Wikipedia:
Traditional quilting is a six-step process that includes: 1) selecting a pattern, fabrics, and batting; 2) measuring and cutting fabrics to the correct size to make blocks from the pattern; 3) piecing (sewing cut pieces of fabric together) blocks together to make a finished "top"; 4) layering the quilt top with batting and backing, to make a "quilt sandwich"; 5) quilting through all layers of the quilt sandwich; and 6) squaring up and trimming excess batting from the edges, sewing the binding to the front edges of the quilt and then stitching the binding to the quilt backing.

Here are a few notes on the process.

First, a few key things you need:
- One fabric rotary cutter
- One large cutting mat (so you don't dull your blade on other surfaces)
- One 12.5" x 12.5" cutting square. This size is great for large strip cutting, and checking your squares.

- One trusty sewing machine that makes an exact 1/4" seam with the presser foot. This is important for sewing accurate seams, so that your blocks line up throughout the process, and in the assembly stage.
- A pattern to follow. This is something I didn't think was entirely necessary. I thought I would make a random patchwork quilt. But I found an easy pattern to modify and it has been SO useful in determining how much of each fabric I need, how many squares of each size, how to lay it out, etc.
- Someone who knows how to make a quilt. I have learned so much on every step of the process from my teacher, Justin's step-mom, Diann. From proper cutting techniques, to ironing/setting the stitches, graphing the layout, and all the shortcuts, it makes me wish I had taken better notes. I predict I she will be on speed dial for my second quilt too.

On my quilt, I'm currently on steps two and three of the six step process. I've put about 20 hours into it so far (which includes shopping/selecting the fabrics).

These are some of my cut squares, with a few of the smaller squares sewn together.

Below is my first assembled large block. My finished quilt will be five large blocks wide, and five long, plus a thin and thick border around the outside.

So far I have really enjoyed the process. It was sort of intimidating knowing once I began, there would be a LOT of hours until completion, but it's been rewarding to see each of the blocks come together. It can be tedious (cutting the strips and squares, sewing, sewing, sewing) but it's also relaxing. I think I actually enjoy the repetition at times. I definitely think you need to like sewing, which I do. Already my sewing techniques have improved a ton which was one of my major goals in this project.
I'll update you later on with the quilt's progress. In the meantime, recipes, quick crafts, and other projects forthcoming!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A sweet party for a sweet girl

By all counts, Avery's birthday was a success. From the candy shop party favors to the outdoor games, the craft table, the birthday cake, the and the perfect weather, it all came together and everyone had a blast. Here are some pictures from the party.

I'll see you next Tuesday with a crafty new post!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Avery J!

This birthday shoutout goes to the sweetest girl on the block, Miss Avery Juliet.

Happy 1st birthday Avery! I'm so excited to spend your big day with you. Eat the whole cake!

XOXO! Love Auntie B

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Birthday Banner #2

Want to make a cute party banner?

I know what you're thinking: I don't own a sewing machine. I don't know how to sew. I don't even care about sewing.

Well, my friend, this post is for you...
Last summer, before I gained a bit of confidence and experience on my trusty sewing machine, I decided that I wanted to make Justin a banner for his 30th birthday. But I needed a no-sew option. I also happen to love hot glue guns. And so this is what I did, and you can too.

1. Figure out what you want the banner to say. In my case, I went with Happy 30 Justin, so that I could avoid the super long "Birthday" and still get his age in there. Count your letters. Then count any spacer flags you want.

2. Go on down to your local craft store and pick up some cheap felt. It's probably in the kid craft section, or poster board section. It comes in 9x12" rectangles and they usually carry it in all the primary colors, plus a few more. It's super cheap (probably $.25-$.50 a piece?). You will need half a piece per finished flag, and half a piece of white per letter. So for mine I bought 8 colored squares, and 7 white. Pick up a spool of craft jute (its like twine) for a few bucks. Each flag is going to be 6" wide so if you decide to use string or ribbon you already have, the length will need to be 6"x (number of flags) + 1' extra to allow for loops at the end. If you don't have a glue gun, get one! They're super cheap and you'll come up with a zillion uses for it. Buy it! Plus, I'll show you how to make some magnets later.

3. Decide on your layout. I went with a gradient of four blues. Cut each of the rectangles in half (short way). [Yes, the piece below is green. I cut all my blues before I remembered to take a picture. But you get the idea.]

4. Turn on your glorious hot glue gun. Make sure its hot enough so that the glue flows nice and gooey. Decide on your back side. At my craft store they put the price tag on each felt square, so when I took that off there was a funny square spot, thus this became the back. Lay a line of glue along the top edge of the back side, then fold it down 1.5". You will need to be able to pass the jute through this fold/hem. Lay it aside to cool. Repeat with each flag.

5. Cut your letters. I made mine about 6 inches high by 4" wide. So technically you could probably get three letters out of each white piece of felt if you want to buy less. I'm just not that into careful cutting. And I wanted big bold letters.

6. Now that all the flag hems are glued and cooled, glue on the white letters. I waited for this step to glue the letters to ensure the letters would line up with each other. Allow them to cool really well.

7. String up your lovely work. I put glass balls between each flag (benefits of dating a glass blower...) but you could experiment with other things or nothing if your flag is long like mine. I tied a loop to both ends of the string to easily hook to some nails.

Piece of cake! Mmmmm...cake....

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Little Suzy Homemaker

My friend Jennifer recently celebrated her birthday. I decided that I needed to make her an apron. I didn't really know how to make an apron, but it seemed easy enough. I searched online for free patterns and found this one. And then I took the liberty of not really following it.

My modifications to the pattern:

I knew I wanted a stationary neck strap rather than ribbon so I cut a 4 x 30 inch length of striped fabric, folded it in half lengthwise (print side out), ironed it, and then tucked both raw edges under 1/2 inch, ironed over those, and then zigzag stitched the edge closed.

I did the same thing with the waist ties, except I wanted those to be a bit wider so I cut two 6 x 44 inch lengths of fabric and used the method above. I cut one end of each tie diagonally. (The square end was sewn to the apron, the diagonal end is the end of the tie.)
I didn't make a pocket. It seemed unnecessary.

I really wanted to make a ruffle along the bottom except I didn't know how. Back to the internet
I went. Some things I learned:
  1. Cut the ruffle fabric longer than the fabric you will join it to, so that you get lots of ruffles. (In my case I cut a 3" x 44" strip. Hem the length of one edge of the strip.

  2. For the other (raw) edge, change your machine setting to a wide zigzag stitch. Fold a hem. Lay a string (I used embossing thread) on the middle of the hem, centered under the presser foot.

  3. Zigzag over the string, but don't hit the string with the stitches. The presser foot should have a little space that will keep the string in the middle as you go. When you reach the end, pull on the end of the string to gently to create ruffles. Be careful not to pull the other end of the string through.

  4. Pin each of the ends of the ruffle to the ends of the under side of the apron, then another pin in the middle and then pin in the middle of the end and the center.

  5. Stitch the ruffle to the apron, making sure your ruffles stay ruffly as you go. Yay, a ruffle!

When I was done and tried on the apron, I noticed that the top edge of the apron was wider than it needed to be. Since I had already connected the neck straps I wasn't sure what to do to fix it. I decided to sew two darts in the middle of the fabric. It successfully made the top a little narrower and gave it a little more (womanly) shape.

Happy birthday, Jennifer!