Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finishing it up!

Now that my quilt top is finished, it's time to plan for the backing. I had quite a bit of rectangles and squares left over from the top so I have a nice amount to work with. I also have fabric left over from the 17 fat quarters I used to cut my "footballs" from so I collected all of those pieces and started cutting.

Just one example of a piece left over from the applique cutting.

I trimmed both long sides and got one piece that was at least 5 1/2" wide which is the common width of the rectangles and squares I had left over from the top. I cut the smaller rectangle just in case I needed it. (I don't waste a lick of fabric!)

I trimmed up the ends to square them off and here is what I had after cutting from all my scraps and using the top leftovers.

Totally busted but I don't work without them this time of year!

I randomly started piecing long rows by sewing short end to short end using the long floral pieces and the shorter rectangles and squares from the top. Then I just pieced those rows together. It looks really cool and I didn't have to match any seams! Good news for me!

I tried to casually place the fabrics so no prints were too close to each other. I started driving myself crazy so I just let go of my OCD and sewed it all together. It's a backing, really, what's the big deal?

As for the quilting, since the quilt is only 50" square, I decided me and my BFF (My Pfaff) could handle it ourselves. I spray basted it all up and used a cotton/bamboo blend batting. (Nice and light and a dream to quilt!) Inside the footballs I spiraled the shape and kept it 1/4" apart. So I didn't have to keep spinning my quilt under my very short neck domestic machine, I stopped at the tip of the football and threw ole' Pfaffy in reverse. I was using my 1/4" foot so it allowed me to see the stitching clearly as I was sewing in reverse. It took a couple rounds to get the hang of it but it worked well. (And I only forgot to switch directions a couple times!) On the outside of the footballs, I shadowed the applique about every 1" for a total of 4 times. I eyeballed it. I wanted to prove to my customers that come by the booth that they CAN do this themselves! It was super simple and I think the effect looks great!

As for thread, I use Aurifil 50 wt Mako in nearly everything I do. Piecing is a dream using this thread. Very little lint collection in your machine when you use this stuff. I had an Aurifil variegated thread in my box so I decided to use it to quilt as well. I made this to showcase the fabric so I didn't want the thread to stand out too much. The colors go from a peach to a light yellow, a little lavender and beige. It was enough to add a nice texture but didn't outshine the fabric.

You can't really even tell it's variegated unless you get up close and personal.

So, it's all quilted and squared up! AND I still have some fabric left that I am putting away for another project! You really could make this quilt bigger if you wanted to. You certainly have enough fabric if you buy the full set of Soul Blossoms fat quarters.

Now I need to figure out what to bind it in. I'm leaning toward the blue Laurel Dots you see here in the middle. I'm stepping away for a few days and I'll return with a fresh eye!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fun With Soul Blossoms!

I've been in search of a pattern that I could use to really showcase the Soul Blossoms line by Amy Butler. We start our show schedule in March and time is ticking! I need to get these samples finished! I was strolling through Amy Butler's Web site and looking at some of her older patterns when I happened upon her Charm quilt. Now, I've seen this quilt pattern about a hundred times but it just never spoke to me...until now! When I clicked on the pattern to see the details, it was a match made in heaven when the pattern requirements said "33 Fat Quarters". What a co-inky dinky!! Soul Blossoms has exactly 33 prints! Like I said, match made in heaven! And even better was, it's a super easy pattern! Here is a picture of her original quilt from her web site. You can click the link above and follow her site to the free patterns to get a copy of it.

Isn't it pretty!? I don't know why I've never made it before. (Lord knows I'm hoarding enough Charm fabric to make about 5 of them.) Now, I think it was some divine intervention because this pattern was perfect for Soul Blossoms! Take a look!

The background is made up of rows of squares and rectangles...can it be any more simple? Then she gives you a pattern piece to cut out your "footballs". They look more like marquis cut diamonds to me but I suppose"football" was easier to use in the pattern! Her directions have you turning your "footballs" under 1/4" and pressing then either using a blind hem stitch on your machine or hand-appliqueing. I started the hand thing....that lasted about 5 minutes. I quickly realized that I would much rather use my machine so I found some invisible thread and used my blind hem stitch. I just pinned it all down real good. Now, for those of you who like to fuse your applique; You absolutely can do that here. I would recommend the lightest stuff you can find. Just enough sticky to get it flat while you sew around. And why not use some decorative stitching? You could use just about anything in any color thread!

I used every single print in the Soul Blossoms line and had a bunch of fabric left over! I can't wait to get piecing my backing with the leftovers. I'll let you know how much extra fabric I needed to complete the back. The finished quilt is 50" square. You probably have enough leftovers to do a nice border. I was thinking of putting a small solid border around and then using the extra fabric from the fat quarters to piece a scrappy looking outer border. However, I was quickly told "NO" by the booth designer (aka Chief/Hubby). I have exactly 52" left for Soul Blossoms so this will fit perfectly!

Here's a close up of my work. I took the straight stitch as close to the edge of my football as I could get and then every 5 stitches, it takes a zig-zag to the left to catch that edge of the fabric. You can barely see it since I used invisible nylon thread.

When I look at this quilt, I see a treasure chest full of jewels! This might be one of my all time favorite projects! And I got it done in two days which is always a plus! If you are interested in this fabric and pattern, please visit my shop, A Joyful Soul Fabrics. Head to the Soul Blossoms Pre-Cut category. If you purchase one fat quarter set of each color palette (Bliss, Joy and Passion), I will include a free printout of Amy's pattern and you'll be ready to make your own jewel filled treasure chest for your lap!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Meet my Heffalumps! No Woozles Allowed!

Winnie the Pooh was one of my favorites growing up! I had all the books, loved the Disney movie and even decorated my baby's nursery in Winnie the Pooh...Classic Winnie the Pooh. Because of my love for Winnie, elephants have always been "heffalumps" to me. Thought I needed to explain my title to those unfortunate few who haven't had the Winnie 101 Course yet!

I was so excited when Heather Bailey came out with her Effie and Ollie Elephant pattern. Now, this has been a while ago, maybe even over a year, and I am just now getting around to sewing up a circus of these cuties. This cute little heffalump can be used as a soft toy or pincushion. My dog prefers "toy". He's been eyeing my Ellie's with a truly disturbing look on his terrier face. I've hidden these little gems away where he'll never find them!

The cover of Heather's pattern has her three Ellie's towered like above. These are my "cool" Ellie's. are my "swell" Ellie's!

Yikes! This tower looks like it's teetering!

And here are all my Ellie's on parade!

What a fun and easy pattern! I can honestly say that I don't have any tips for you on this pattern because all the tips I could think of that would make this pattern easy are already in the pattern. I've raved about Heather's patterns before. They are SO easy to follow. Her language is right up my ally! I truly understand the instructions and the sketches are exactly what you see in real life. She is a master pattern writer. I'm always amazed at what I've accomplished when I am finished with one of her patterns. Because of Heather, I've added "Toy Maker" to my resume! So cool!

These elephants will be traveling on the road with me in my own personal circus called "The Quilt Show Circuit". How appropriate!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reversible Sunday Sling Pattern Review/Tips

I finally sat down and forced myself to do a little productive sewing! I love to review patterns and let you, the reader, in on my experience step by step...however embarrassing it might be for me! I LOVE to sew, but I have a couple personality traits that make it difficult to complete a project as the pattern designer intended. First challenging trait? I don't like to read instructions....yeah....big one, right? Second one, I stink at organization. I entered into this sewing commitment fully intending to concentrate on my weaknesses and not let them sway me from a positive sewing experience. So here goes! For those of you who have purchased this pattern, go get it. You'll need your pattern, a pencil and a cup of coffee/tea or whatever you prefer. (I suggest against anything with alcohol until after your project is complete. I speak from experience.)

The Reversible Sunday Sling by Amy Butler

First, your needed tools: These are your basics...scissors, seam ripper, pressing cloth, hand-sewing needle, straight pins, iron and ironing board, turning tool, ruler and fabric marker.

Tip: She suggests a closed pair of scissors as a turning tool which I suppose could work but my scissors are heavy Ginghers and have a very sharp point. I have bought HUNDREDS of turning tools from the Wonder Buddy to the Purple Thang. All of them work great...that is if you can actually find them when you need them (organization thing again). For this project, I used a manicure stick or "orange stick". I always have those in my medicine cabinet and it works GREAT for getting into small spaces!

Another Tip: In every pattern she writes, she suggests using a pressing cloth. This is to protect your board AND your iron from the fusible "glue" on your interfacing. I've used everything from muslin to home decor cotton. I recently started using BIRDSEYE cloth diapers. Birdseye cloth diapers are thinner and will allow the heat from your iron through the layers. They're also inexpensive, washable and reusable.

A note about your machine settings:

When I sew handbags, I like to use my straight stitch needle plate. This is a plate that was actually designed for piecing quilts. I find that when I use this plate and engage my built-in walking foot function, my straight stitch is AMAZING! This is important when putting together a handbag, especially on your decorative top stitching. Make sure you don't try and zig-zag anything with this plate inserted. You'll be dealing with a broken needle and a jammed machine!

Also, when I'm sewing my handbag pieces together, I like to decrease my stitch a little. My standard stitch is at 2.5 so I decrease to 1.5. This gives you a nice close stitch and will increase the integrity of your bag. Now, if you make a mistake and have to get that seam ripper out, it does make it more difficult to pull out your stitches but this issue is easy...don't make a mistake!! (Just kidding! I'm Queen of Mistakes!) So, for piecing the handbag together I use a 1.5 stitch, for top stitching a 2.5 and for basting a 4.5. You'll be doing all of the above on this pattern.

Fabrics required for the SMALL sling are 1 7/8 yards for the exterior, 1 3/8 yards for the lining/reversible side, 5 1/2 yards of fusible woven interfacing, 7/8 yards of fusible fleece and 1/4 yard of fusible peltex. This is using 44"/45" wide quilting cotton. She has other requirements when using 54" wide Home Decor. A note about the interfacing...USE IT! Don't think you'll get a great outcome without using interfacing. AND use what she suggests! I've used whatever I could find in my craft closet before. Doesn't work out well! She suggests Shape-Flex SF-101 by Pellon (the best interfacing ever made) for your woven, Thermolam Plus (awesome!) for the fleece and Peltex for your interfaced bottom of your bag. Please don't deviate from these products unless you are confident in the similarities of your choices compared to her suggestions.

When choosing your fabrics: Keep in mind that this bag is reversible! Make the most out of your fabric choices! I regret using a solid. I thought it would quiet the bag down and make it more soothing. Now I think it's just boring! Your exterior pockets will be trimmed with your lining/reversible fabric and your lining/reversible pockets will be trimmed with your exterior fabric choice. Go NUTS!

Step 1: Cut out pattern pieces.

A few pattern pieces are labeled with multiple numbers. You'll be using this one pattern piece for two or three different pieces. She makes this easy by labeling exactly what the piece is used for, where to fold and a number/letter combo. Pattern piece 1 is actually 1a, 1b and 1c and each piece has a solid, dashed or dotted line to follow. Pattern pieces 2 and 3 are the same. To better my organization, I put a label on each piece I cut out as soon as they were cut.

Step 2: Cut all pieces from your fabrics/interfacing.

Self explanatory. Use your paper pattern pieces to cut out your fabric (keeping in mind your fabric print direction!). Use your fabric pieces as full size patterns to cut out your interfacing. I didn't do this, I used the paper pieces to cut out the interfacing. Using your fabric pieces just closes the gap of mis-cutting your interfacing too big for your fabric piece ( I assume). Since I used a pressing cloth, I wasn't too worried about this. Amy has awesome sketches on how to lay out your pattern pieces to maximize your fabric with plenty of room to move your pieces around and get exactly what you want out of your fabric.

Step 3: Apply interfacing and fleece.

Follow the manufacturers instructions for doing this. I use a damp pressing cloth with a dry iron. The steam setting on your iron will always mess with your interfacing. You want a dry heat iron setting (hot!) and a slightly damp pressing cloth (I spritz my cloth with my iron water spray).

Step 4: Making pleats.

If you've done pleats sweat. If you've not done pleats's the easiest thing you'll ever do! Amy's directions and sketches are superb!

Step 5: Make and attach straps.

Here's where you'll need that turning tool. I also have a little trick when top stitching your strap. I like to get about 1/8" from the edge on my top stitch. Well, when you hit that point on the strap, it's difficult for your feed dogs to pick that fabric up and drag it under your presser foot. I put a piece of regular printer/copy paper under the strap tip and sew right through all layers. This stabilizes your strap and also gives you something to maneuver as your sewing. Use that paper to pull the strap through after you've pivoted at the tip. This will give you a much smoother sew line and will prevent your strap tip from getting stuck under your presser foot. When you're done sewing, just tear the paper out (like an old school stamp, tear to the side, not up).

Step 6: Make and attach side pockets.

Easy step! I love how the pockets are put together so the lining fabric trims the exterior pocket!

Step 7: Sew side and bottom panels together.

Step 8: Make the exterior.

You'll be easing a bit of a curve in the bottom of the bag in this step. Her directions for this are great. My suggestion is to pin in the center bottom then pin in each top corner. Then work down the sides and across the bottom until all that's left are those curves in the bottom corners. Now you know how much fabric needs to match up and it will be easier to ease and manipulate that fabric so all fits smoothly.

Step 9 and 10: Mark and place your cell phone pocket.

Cool, super secret cell phone pocket! Love it!

Step 11: Make and attach Main Pocket.

Your main pocket is made of your lining/reversible fabric choice with the exterior fabric choice as the pocket lining. Your exterior fabric will actually be the trim on this pocket. Gosh, I hope that makes sense! I wish I would have known this before I chose my fabrics. Again, it all goes back to not reading instructions!!

Step 12: Complete the reversible side of the sling.
You'll actually go back to Steps 7 and 8 to complete this with one VERY important will leave an opening at the bottom edge of your lining so that you can turn your bag right side out once it is all sewn together.

Step 13: Sew exterior and reversible sides together.

I pressed the side seams open to reduce the bulk around the top. You will have a huge amount of bulk under the straps but that's okay. You don't have to top stitch over those...thank goodness! Match your raw edges all the way around and pin making sure that you match up those corner seams.

AND WATCH THOSE STRAPS!! You want your 1/2 inch seam allowance to hit right at those straps in the top of your bag. Just feel around and stop stitching once you hit the beginning/end of your strap and pivot your bag to continue stitching. Again, the sketches included in this step should clear up any question you may have. You may even want to fold the straps under and pin them so they don't get stuck in the side seams as you sew around the top of your bag.

When you've finished sewing around the top, she'll have you trim and notch so when you turn it right side out, your curves will press out perfectly. You'll have that hole in your lining/reversible side so you'll hand-sew this shut. Just a quick whip stitch will do. Remember to be neat if you plan on using the reverse side!

I had a great time making this bag and it was pretty quick. Give yourself about 3 days. The first day I cut everything out in less than 2 hours or so. The second day I had the interfacing attached and most of the sewing done (spent about 4 hours). The third day was under a couple hours finishing it all up. Your household may not be as crazy as mine and it may take you less time. If so...lucky. (My best Napoleon Dynamite impression!) If you're a beginner, it may take a bit longer. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the written instructions before sewing. This is not in my DNA. Had I done this, I don't think I would have chosen a solid for the reversible side.

I really hope this "play-by-play" has helped you! If it has, please let me know! You can post a comment here or you can email me at If I'm missing something, let me know that too! I'm still learning and can use all the advice I can get! If you are interested in purchasing this pattern or any of Amy's fabrics, you can find it in my online shop, I carry all sorts of contemporary fabrics and patterns and I deliver stellar customer service! If I can be of any assistance at all, please let me know!