Thrift Store Finds!

It’s time for another edition of Thrift Store Finds.   For awhile there, I was getting disappointed because there didn’t seem to be much out there for a few weeks.  One weekend I visited all my usual thrift stores and a few garage sales and I couldn’t find one thing!  However, that all changed last weekend – I hit the jackpot!

Vintage Fabrics

The first stop was a local thrift store that’s open only on weekends.   For about $10, I walked out with several pieces of vintage fabric, some vintage hand embroidered table linens, a spice rack, and two super cute vintage aprons!

Embroidered Bluebird Table Topper
Embroidered Springtime Table Topper

These embroidered toppers need some TLC, but after I wash and starch them, they should look pretty good.

Vintage Black Checkered Apron
Grandma's Red Checkered Apron

I was especially pleased with the red apron.  When I was little, my grandma’s main form of discipline when she was watching my brother and me was to say, “Don’t do that, or I will have to put on my red-checkered apron.”  To this day, I have no idea what would happen if she actually put it on – but in my mind I envisioned her chasing me around the house with a rolling pin and swatting my bottom with it.  Needless to say, my brother and I were always concerned when she said this and usually stopped whatever we were doing and snapped to attention.  Of course, when I was little, I never actually saw this apron (although I certainly tried to find it).  I remember asking my grandma one time where she kept it and she said it was hidden in the kitchen.    Well, guess what?  I found it!

Hand-pieced Quilt Top

One other treasure I also was excited about was a hand-pieced quilt top.  The piecing is almost complete, it just needs a few more diamonds added to the outside border.  I plan to finish this and use it on my kitchen table. You can’t see it very well in the picture, but the fabrics are vintage and quite lovely.  Luckily, the fabric scraps were also included, so I can finish it up with the original fabric.

Spice Rack

The next stop was a local yard sale.  The owners were cleaning out the attic of all their children’s toys.  They had tons of vintage board games and toys from the 60’s and 70’s for dirt cheap!  She even had an Easy Bake oven (with box!) – which I thought would look cute displayed in my kitchen.

Easy Bake Oven

The last deal of the day was this Kenmore Sewing machine.  It’s about 10 years old, but hardly ever used.   You can always use another basic sewing machine.  Also, I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing offering sewing lessons and this would be great for teaching beginners.

Kenmore Sewing Machine

Keep it thimble!

Blast from the Past!

I was sorting through some things in the kitchen yesterday and I came across my first quilting project ever!  I started sewing about 6 years ago and one of the first things I made was a set of placements and napkins.

First Sewing Project Ever!

The fabric was something that I bought a years ago (while still in college) for project that I can’t even remember right now. The bright yellow and hot pink fabrics really grabbed my attention at the time, but for the life of me I can’t remember what I bought it for in the first place.

When I received my first sewing machine for Christmas in 2003 (thanks mom!), I wasn’t quite sure what to make with it, so it sat in the closest for almost two years (hard to believe that now)!!  One day, I saw a booked called “Quilting 101” and it had directions for making these cute patchwork place mats – finally the perfect project for the yellow and pink fabric.  There was not enough fabric for backing, so I just used plain muslin.  The binding is not one continuous piece, instead each edge is bound separately (so the corners are now fraying and uneven).

Once I got the place mats sewn and quilted, matching napkins were in order.  Believe it or not, Jo-Ann’s had something that matched perfectly!  I was so proud of my first project and am looking forward to using them again this spring!.

What was your first sewing project?  Or what project made you catch the sewing bug?

Keep it thimble!

Book Review – Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting

As someone who loves crazy quilting and is always looking for new ideas, I had to get Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting book.  First, it has one of the best subtitles for a quilting book:  “Modern Piecing and Embellishment Techniques for Joyful Stitching” (italics emphasis mine).  What a great way to remind us why we sew and quilt in the first place!

Allie Aller's Crazy Quilting

The book is divided into seven sections that cover all aspects of Crazy Quilting:

  • Collecting Your Materials and Tools
  • Creating Your Own “Fabrics”
  • Four Ways to Build Crazy Quilt Blocks
  • Eye Candy:  Embellishment!
  • Gallery of Inspiration
  • Projects
  • Work in Progress – A Crazy Quilt from Start to Finish

The author does an excellent job explaining all her techniques and augments this with lots of photos.  For example, in the tools section she discusses all the different types of threads you can use, and provides many photos of various samplers that show how the threads look when they are used in stitching.  This is very useful when trying to figure out what threads are needed for the look you want for your quilt.

Likewise, the embellishment section contains numerous photos of embroidery stitches and  ways to use them in the quilts.  She discusses how to use beads, lace, and other types of trim, as well as how to create three dimensional effects (flowers, leaves, insects).  You won’t want to throw out scraps of anything again!

Part of the fun with crazy quilting is using all the scraps of fabric to create a unique foundation for your embellishments.  There are tons of options for the types of fabric you can use and what you can do with them – Allie discusses all of them!  In addition, she provides step by step instructions for how to use photo transfer to create unique fabrics — even without buying the expensive transfer paper or fabric sheets from Jo-Ann’s! (hint, think freezer paper).

Four different techniques for creating foundations are shown.  I found this section extremely useful because I was looking for ways to create foundations that didn’t look like some type of modified log cabin (a piece in the center with other scraps radiating outwards in a loose spiral).  One of the methods, called “Chunk Piecing” gives you a lot of freedom and enables you to use all those oddly shaped scraps that you couldn’t use in one of the other traditional methods.

Allie Aller's Floral Sampler

Finally, the part you’ve been waiting to hear about – the Projects!  There are six small and creative projects in the book – perfect for getting a taste of what crazy quilting is like and leaving you wanting to do more.  What’s great about crazy quilting, is that once you have these instructions, you have the tools, know-how, and inspiration to make an endless number of projects that are unique to your tastes and themes!  The picture above is a floral sampler that uses large floral fabric as the base for a beautiful flower garden (perfect for my April Cornell Barcelona fabric!).  This is also the project used the example in the “Work in Progress” section.


Allie Aller's The Dreaming Maiden

The Dreaming Maiden is another creative idea and perfect for those who aren’t really interested in doing a traditional, rectangular quilt.  You can make the maiden look like the favorite girl in your life – what a great gift!

In summary, Allie Aller’s book is an excellent reference for aspiring and experienced crazy quilters.  She provides a lot of inspiration and ideas on what you can do with it.  You certainly will have a lot of fun experimenting.

Keep it thimble!

Quilted Sling Bag

Just a quick update on my 2011 Goals (see “goals” tab at the top).  I’m pretty happy with how well I’ve been able to follow through on some of my goals for this yea.  The Etsy shop is still in the process of getting set up, but I’ve set a deadline for having some inventory in there by the end of April.  A few tutorials have been posted and there are ideas for a lot more!  My only area where I haven’t made much progress is in getting guest bloggers.  A few people are definitely interested, but haven’t had time to write something – so that will likely happen over the summer.

Quilted Sling Bag
Quilted Sling Bag

This is a quilted bag that was featured in the April 2011 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting.  It is designed by Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts.  The picture in the magazine was too cute for me to pass up;  it reminds me of a Vera Bradley bag with the quilted fabric and the modern lines.

While I am happy with the finished project, it was more time-consuming and a bit more challenging than I expected it to be.  There is nothing difficult per se about the pattern, it’s well-written and straight forward, it’s just hard to make this look as good as the picture on the first try.

One area of trouble was gathering the corners so that bag had a nice round shape.  My bag looks more like a rectangle with rounded corners.  Not a super big deal, but the shape of the bag is important.

The binding was also a challenge.  In the instructions, she uses a single fold binding that is machine sewn on one side and then the other side is folded over and hand-stitched.  I machine stitched both sides since I knew this would go on the UFO pile once I had everything done except the hand stitching.

You can’t tell in the picture, but the binding around the handles is not the neatest.  There is an unattractive place where the binding overlaps and is bulky.  Also, since it is stitched by machine, you can clearly see the crooked seams on the underside of the binding.  It took a few hours to apply the binding – it is a 5 step process – you bind each of the four curves on the top of the bag, then go back and bind the handles.  Once I get better at binding, I could see making this again.  It would go much faster!

But, it’s a fun little bag and I really like the fabric.  I’ve had this fabric for awhile, and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.  It makes a nice spring bag.

Keep it Thimble!

Tutorial – Foundation Piecing – Little House on the Prairie

I really love miniature quilts – they are like little works of art and it’s a great way to use up your scraps.  However, don’t be fooled into thinking that since they are so small they will take less time to make.  It seems they actually take more time to make since you are dealing with such small pieces and there are a lot of pieces in to sew together!

Little House on the Prairie

I saw this adorable little house in a book called Little Bits of Whimsy by Kathleen Brooks Rindal and decided to attempt my first miniature quilt.  The finished product is about 9″ square and has about 175 little bits of fabric.  Almost every single piece of fabric in this is unique – look closely to see if you can find where there are repeats (one is VERY obvious – at least to me).

Since the fabric pieces are so small for miniature quilts, it needs to be foundation pieced.  This is something I have always wanted to try, but have always been a bit leery of it – it seems so difficult.  After doing it, I can honesty say foundation piecing is easy to do and the results are wonderful.   You do need to concentrate while doing it, but once you get into a rhythm it all goes smoothy.

Here is a brief tutorial on the basics of foundation piecing.  You start by tracing (with a pencil) the pattern onto tracing paper or vellum.   This paper template will form the foundation of the block.  Each piece on the pattern is numbered, and these number tell the order in which the pieces are sewn onto the foundation (see picture – Step 1).

Step 1 - Pieced Border Template

Once the pattern is traced, you rough cut a piece of fabric that is the shape of the first piece.  Include a generous 1/4″ inch seam allowance when rough cutting the piece.  Place the fabric right side up on the front of the pattern.  Next, rough cut fabric that will be used for the second piece in the pattern.  Place this piece right side down on the first piece (see picture – Step 2).

Step 2 - Placing Fabrics

Pin these piece in place.  Flip over the paper foundation and you will be able to see the lines of the pattern (this is why the paper needs to be transparent).  Sew along the line on the pattern where the two pieces are overlapping (see picture – Step 3).

Step 3 - Sewing First Seam

Once the seam is sewn, flip the foundation over to the right side.  Press the two fabric pieces open (see picture – Step 4).  If necessary, trim off any excess fabric – but be sure to maintain the extra for the 1/4″ seam allowance.

Step 4 - Pressed Seam

Continue sewing the pieces in this manner following the order of the pattern until completed (see picture – Step 5).

Step 5 - Pieced Border
Step 5 - Back of Pieced Border

Once you have the pattern completed, trim off the excess fabric while still maintaining the 1/4″ seam allowance.  To do this, take your ruler and line up the 1/4″ line measurement with the pattern edge and trim with a rotary cutter.  This section is completed!

Step 6 - Trimming 1/4" Seam
Step 6b - Trimmed Border

This little house pattern is structured so that you foundation piece the different parts (the house block, the inner border, the outer border) and then sew the whole thing together.

The last step is to quilt and bind it.  I did a little of stitch in the ditch quilting around the inner borders.  The project is so small you could probably get away with not quilting it at all.  However, the quilting around the borders makes it look more finished.  There were some places where the machine quilting is obvious, so I may rip it out and just quilt by hand (however, I have to find the time first!).

For another fun and quilty project, check out the Radiant Folded Star and Covered Box pattern!

Keep it thimble!

First UFO Finished!

My goal is to finish one UFO a month – so here is the one for February – the Patriotic Table Runner!  I machine quilted this myself on my Bernina with the BSR.  This was one of my first attempts and I can tell that I need a lot of practice with my free motion quilting.

Patriotic Table Runner

I’m also not entirely sure I am using the BSR correctly – I swear my stitches looked much neater when I tried this out in the store.  I was able to write my name and everything!  However, like anything, this is something that requires a lot of practice in order to do correctly.  I don’t see myself doing a lot of my own quilting though, as my favorite part is making the quilt top!  For something like table runners or simple quilting, I can handle it.

Keep it thimble!

Springtime Table Topper

I guess the groundhog was right, Spring is coming early this year!  For the past week, we’ve been having 60 degree weather – perfect for going outside and sewing!  Here’s a cute Springtime Table Topper I made from a Kansas Trouble Quilter’s pattern in celebration of Spring.

Springtime Pleasures Topper

This is fusible applique, which is a lot faster than other types of applique.  With fusible applique, you trace the shapes onto a fusible backing, cut them out, arrange them on the background, and then fuse them down with the iron.  The last step is to do a small zig-zag stitch around the edge of the applique pieces to secure them.  This is important because if you forget to sew them down, all the appliques will fall off when it is washed!

After I stitched down the appliques, I did “echo” quilting around the flowers.  “Echo” quilting is when you trace around the outline of the shapes in a continuous line until you get to the edge of the quilt.  In the middle of the quilt I did a simple spiral shape.  My machine quilting is not so great, so the spiral seemed like the easiest option.  After quilting, I used bias binding to finish it.

Keep it thimble!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ruffled Hearts Quilt

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is a quilt top that is currently on my UFO list because it still needs to be quilted.  However, I thought it would be appropriate for today’s post :).

This split applique is very easy to do – I learned how to do it in a class taught at Plain and Simple.  Basically you create a heart template in 3 sizes – small, medium, large.  You get scraps of red fabric and cut out one of each heart for each block you want to make. You begin by sewing small heart on top of the medium, then sewing this unit on top of the large heart, and then sewing this onto your applique background.

This is rough edge applique, meaning that you don’t need to prep the pieces to turn the edges and you don’t need to hide your stitches.  You just sew around the rough edges of each shape, about 1/4″ in from the edge.  After completing your blocks, you cut each one into fourths.  Then you randomly select 4 pieces and sew them back together as a new heart.  I really enjoyed this project, and it’s a great for people who are just learning how to quilt.

I haven’t quite decided how to quilt this yet, because I don’t want to quilt over the hearts.  When this is washed, the rough edges will ravel and the hearts will look like they have a bit of a ruffle or fringe around the edge.  It’s a nice effect for something like this.

Keep it thimble!

Tutorial – Easy Nine Patch Coasters

I promised to share a tutorial for how to quickly and easily make nine-patch blocks.  So here it is!   I even took it a few steps further to show you how to turn it into a fun little coaster!

Easy Nine Patch Coaster

This method works best for making scrappy quilts and it’s also great for hosting a block swap.  Get a group of friends together and have everyone bring in fifty 6″ squares.  Throw all the squares into a pile and have everyone randomly pick out fifty new squares.  Then use this method so everyone can create 50 nine-patch blocks that are all different!

Use this method for any sized square, although it is best to pick something that is easily divisible by three (3″, 3.75″, 4.5″, 6″, etc).  This tutorial uses 6″ squares.

Start with two 6″ squares in different fabrics.

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 1

Put the squares right sides together and sew a 1/4″ seam on the right and left sides.

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 2

Using your rotary cutter, cut the unit into three rectangles that are 2″ x 6″.  Make sure you are cutting parallel to the seams you just made.

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 3

Press the seams towards the darkest fabric to create two pieced units.  Take the center rectangles and sew them to the appropriate side of the pieced units.  Press the seams to the darks.  You now have two units of alternating fabrics (A-B-A and B-A-B).

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 4

Take these new squares and place them right sides together.  Make sure the stripes for both are running in the same direction.

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 5

Sew along the shorter sides of this until with a 1/4″ seams.

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 6

Cut this into three rectangles that are 2″ x 6″.  Again, be sure the same you just sewed is parallel to the cuts you are making.  Press the seams.

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 7

Sew the center units to the appropriate unit to make a nine-patch block.  Press the seams.  You will now have two complementary nine-patch blocks.

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 8

If you want to make into a coaster, layer one block with backing and batting to make a quilt sandwich.

Easy Nine Patch Coaster - Step 9

Quilt as desired (I just did some diagonal lines).  Trim off excess batting until each block is 4.75″ square.  At this point, you can just bind the squares for square coasters (use 2 1/4″ strips that are  22″ long).

If you want to make circular coaster, create a template that is a 4.75″ circle (or download my template) and use it to cut around the block.

Cut 22″ inches of 2 1/4″ bias binding.  You need bias binding because it is much easier when working with something circular.  I didn’t use bias binding on my coasters and you can see that the circle is not very smooth around the edges.  Bias binding would have been a better choice (although I was trying to save some time by using some binding scraps I cut for another project).

Sew binding, press, and then attach to back.  Make a cute set of 4 coasters, tie together with a ribbon, add some teabags and a mug, and you’ve got a great gift to give your favorite tea drinker!

Keep it thimble!

Easy Nine Patch Coaster