quilting, sewing, Uncategorized

Quilting with a Tailor’s Clapper

It wasn’t until recently that I learned what a tailor’s clapper is, let alone find out it’s a great tool for quilting. Who knew?

If you’re not familiar with this funny little thing, here’s some general information. A tailor’s clapper is an elongated, rounded piece of hardwood (average size: approximately 9″ long x 2″ wide) with a routered groove down each side. Some are straight and some are a bit wider on one end, but no matter the design they can be used in either direction.

What’s the purpose of a tailor’s clapper and how is using one beneficial to quilting? This handy tool helps to achieve wonderfully flat, crisp seams which is exactly what quilters want! And in the end the results will give you a beautifully flat quilt top. 🙂

After reading quilters rave about them and doing a bit of research myself, I thought I’d give one a try. I decided to purchase this one from Amazon. I like that it’s made in the USA and it had a lot of good reviews. This one offers 2 sizes, I chose the standard size.

How does a tailor’s clapper work? Well, they’re pretty basic and very easy to use; here’s how. Once you press your seam with a hot, steamy iron, remove the iron and immediately place the clapper on the seam then hold it down for a few seconds. The clapper will trap the heat and steam leaving an amazingly flat seam.

Here’s a look at fabric I sewed and tested with and without the clapper. It’s easy to tell which one I used the clapper on and which one I didn’t…it really works!

I’m definitely seeing a better outcome in my quilting now that I use a tailor’s clapper when pressing, and I most definitely recommend using one. And what I find so interesting is that this simple garment-making tool that originated in England well over 100 years ago is still useful in today’s complex world!

Note: I am not endorsed by the product mentioned in this post; it is just an item I like, use, and wanted to share information on.

PDF download, sewing, tutorials

Fabric Utensil Wrap PDF Tutorial

With the summer season upon us and picnics in the forecast, I thought it would be a great time to offer my Fabric Utensil Wrap Tutorial as a downloadable PDF. I’d had some inquiries about making this a PDF and since I, too, enjoy having tutorials on my computer, I went ahead and created one to share.

You can download my Fabric Utensil Wrap Tutorial to any device to use at your convenience. If you’d rather follow along online, it’s still available on my February 8, 2021 blog post. You can also find it on my FREE DOWNLOADS tab.

Any which way you choose, it’s a great project for toting utensils on the go!

how to, organizing sewing space, sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

Storing Fabric on Comic Book Boards

In January I spent a few days organizing my fabric. For storage, I have a box for all 10″ squares and a 4-drawer Rubbermaid unit I’ve divided out for specific cuts for my printed fabric only. I’ve designated one drawer for each cut: strips, remnants, fat quarters and WOF yardages. I also have another unit with one small drawer just for solids.

Lately I’d been accumulating solids and my drawer was getting full. Also, when I needed a particular color I’d have to take everything out which was pretty inconvenient. That said, I decided it was time to find another way to store my solid fabrics.

I’d remembered reading about quilters using comic book boards for storing fabric, so I thought I’d take a look into the process. A quick Google search and a brief video showed me how easy and cost effective it is.

I found that many quilters use BCW boards sized 7″ x 10 1/2″ (Amazon). A pack of 100 costs around $17 so if you don’t have a huge stash, this quantity will last quite a while! The boards are definitely sturdy enough for wrapping up to a few yards of fabric, and they’re acid free so they won’t cause any discoloration.

Quilters also use plastic alligator clips for securing the fabric. On Amazon, a pack of 500 costs around $10. Again, this quantity can last a long time! The clips are really sturdy and the ridges grip and hold nicely.

After ordering these two items, I was ready to go.

For my stash, I decided that the smallest amount of fabric to be stored on a board would be a fat quarter; anything smaller stays in the drawer. I also decided to store larger yardage amounts on the boards too, as I don’t usually have more than a yard or two in any given color.

To get started, I ironed everything. I recommend doing so because of course fabric looks nicer pressed and since it will be stored this way indefinitely, flat lying fabric will give the best results possible.

Next, folding and wrapping. For fat quarters, fold selvage to selvage. This will make your piece about 11″ high by 18″ wide. Next, place the board in the center where it will fit just right vertically, then wrap the sides around. For yardage, fold selvage to selvage. Then fold again in half, bringing the fold on the bottom up to the selvage at the top. The fabric will measure about 11″ high, just like the fat quarter. Fold the fabric once again, this time from side to side, bringing the raw edges to the fold. Place the board vertically in the center then wrap the sides around.

Place clips on the ends to secure the fabric and you’re finished!

For mine, I made tags to identify the fabric. I simply cut strips of paper about 3/4″ x 2″, and using a Frixion pen I noted the fabric brand and color. It took some extra time to figure out what was what, but when I need to know later the info will be there.

I also have plastic bins for storing the fabric. Not only does it look pretty, it’s a great way to see what’s on hand and it allows for quick access.

If you have a lot of fabric that you want to store on comic book boards, you may want to do a few pieces at a time. I had 26 cuts and it took me several hours! I’m happy to have spent the time for the great results, and I plan to do this as I acquire fabric so my stash is always stored up-to-date.

sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

Making Reusable Canvas Grocery Bags

The winter months are a great time to catch up on projects you’ve been planning but have been putting off for a while. In my case it was making reusable grocery bags out of canvas.

To get started, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and high quality canvas wasn’t really necessary so I purchased a durable canvas drop cloth (for around $9) which saved me at least half. The weave was comparable to fabric off the bolt, so it was a win-win.

For instructions, I followed this excellent tutorial https://www.themakeyourownzone.com/how-to-make-a-reusable-grocery-bag/. Since the tutorial was geared for using plastic materials, I made a few changes along the way…

Because I was using cotton, I was able to press seams with an iron and I used my hot ruler for accuracy.

I also had the issue of fraying, so once the seams were sewn and the body portion of the bag was assembled, I ran a zigzag stitch along all the raw edges. A serger would work nicely if you’ve got one.

Notice the nice hem along the top? When cutting, I planned to have the factory sewn edge up top for a professional look. It was also a more substantial edge for attaching the handle and it added extra durability.

Overall, the tutorial allowed me to achieve the same results just with different materials. If you decide to make your own reusable bags, I should point out a few things regarding plastic vs. canvas.

First of all, the canvas bags won’t stand up like plastic! But they’ll definitely last longer and they can be laundered which is a definite plus.

With both types, you’ll want to be sure to add something to the bottom for support. I used fitted cardboard to give the bags a more defining shape and added strength.

My husband does the grocery shopping (he actually likes to) 🙂 and he loves these bags. And of course, if it’s green and eliminates plastic waste I’m all about it!

From start to finish, these bags (I made 3) took just a few hours and they’re a really easy make.

sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

Fabric Utensil Wrap Tutorial

Every year I look for handmade gifts to make my family for Christmas, usually it’s a quick sewing project and sometimes it’s not even quilting related. 😉 Last year I stumbled across a neat item that doesn’t require a lot of time or materials—a fabric utensil wrap. They’re great for picnics, work lunch or any meal on the go!

If you’re like me and are always finding ways to reduce plastic waste, these eco-friendly, reusable wraps are the perfect solution. If it’s good for the earth I’m sold, so I decided to make one for each of us, myself included. I also went extra green by opting for bamboo utensils.

Since these wraps were so well received, I thought I’d write a tutorial to help pass along the idea. Here’s what you need and what you have to do:

MATERIALS

  • 2 fat eighths (or fat quarters) – each a different print
  • 1 – 24″ piece of 1/2″ twill tape (or 1/4″)
  • general sewing supplies

GETTING STARTED

Since you’ll probably end up tossing this in the laundry at some point, it’s a good idea to prewash the fabric. Whether you do or don’t prewash, be sure to press your fabric before beginning. Once pressed, cut each piece of fabric to 9″ x 20″.

Next, press a 1/2″ inch hem on one short end of each piece. I used a hot ruler to keep my hem accurate.

SEWING FABRIC PIECES

First, align both pressed edges then pin together. Starting on a long side of the pinned fabric, sew a 1/2″ seam along three sides, leaving the short pressed end of the rectangle open. I used washi tape as a guide to keep my seams straight.

Once sewn, trim away the top corners the making sure not to cut too close to the thread. This will help reduce bulk and it’ll help give the corners a nice finish.

Next, from the open end, turn the fabric right side out. I used a blunt tip bamboo stick to push out the corners for a sharper point, it really makes a difference.

After your corners are nice and sharp, press. Then sew the open end closed with a topstitch about 1/8″ from the edge, backstitching at each end. 

MAKING THE UTENSIL POCKET

After sewing all the sides closed, fold the previously open end (now topstitched) up 5 inches from the bottom to create a pocket. Pin the side edges of the pocket.

SEWING IN TWILL TAPE

Fold the 24″ twill tape piece in half and insert the folded edge into the top left side of the pinned pocket. The fold should be inserted into the fabric approximately 1/2″. Pin the inserted tape about 3/8″ down from the topstitched edge.

TIP: Sew a zigzag stitch along each end of the twill tape to keep it from fraying.

Stitch a 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around the edges, backstitching at each end.

CREATING UTENSIL POCKETS

Now that the main pocket is created, it’s time to create individual pockets for the utensils. You’ll need a ruler and a fabric-safe marker. As an alternative, I used a hera marker to indicate my separations so I didn’t have to worry about any markings.

I needed 4 pockets—one for chopsticks, a fork, a spoon and a knife. I divided the width of my pocket in equal measurements from left to right: 1 3/4″, 1 7/8″, 1 7/8″, 1 3/4″. Depending on your needs, determine your measurements. After doing so, mark a vertical line from the topstitched edge to the fold at the bottom for each section. Next, sew on the line, leaving the top open and backstitching at the ends. And done!

NOTE: The step above can vary quite a bit, depending on your purpose. For example, if you want a section for a reusable straw you’d opt for thinner pocket or if you want a section for a napkin or condiments, you may want to make a wider pocket. I should note that packets of mayo, mustard and/or a rolled up napkin fit inside the sections of the wraps I made.

At last, your wrap is ready to use! Simply place the utensils inside, fold down the top, roll it up and tie.

AN ALTERNATIVE SIZE UTENSIL WRAP

For my husband and myself, I made a smaller size wrap, omitting the pocket for chopsticks. I planned for only three sections: a fork, knife and spoon. I cut the fabric pieces 7 1/2″ x 20″ and made the pocket sections 1 7/8″, 2″, 1 7/8″. Otherwise, I followed all the instructions as written.

Whether you use bamboo or regular kitchen cutlery, hurray for ditching one-time plasticware! Every step towards going plastic-free counts and these fun wraps are an excellent way to start!

baby quilts, color gallery, monday morning designs quilt pattern, quilting, quilts, sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

2020 Project Recap

It seems that staying in more than usual made for a productive year. In 2019 I’d completed 11 quilts and thought that was a lot, but in 2020 I surpassed that and made 14! Of the 14, I gave 4 as gifts and I have a few on hand should a gift-giving occasion arise.

Other than having a queen sized quilt ready for longarming, I’d quilted the other 13 myself. That’s quite a bit as I typically have one or two done professionally every year. My goal for 2020 was to use what I had on hand, so I didn’t purchase fabric to make several of these quilts.

Here’s a look at the past year: These two quilts were gifted along with two others that I can’t show—one is to be published in the Quilts & More fall edition, and the other is a pattern currently in the works. The photo on the left is a free pattern, Lucky 13, and the other is an easy tutorial for a beginner, Checkered Baby Quilt.

This is the only two-colored quilt I’ve ever made, for me red and white were the obvious choice. 😉 It’s a free Moda pattern called Illusions.

My Twinkly Stars quilts are one of my favorite makes, shown in both throw and crib size. It’s available as a PDF download in my Etsy shop. And those cute sashing strips are made from cut-away corners so there’s no waste!

This Scrappy Four Patch Charm is the second quilt I’d made from this free pattern from Robert Kaufman. I just love this design and I wouldn’t be surprised if I make yet another one. For this, I literally took every 5″ square I had, cut a few more and threw it together. It was so fun and it used a lot of what I had on hand.

Both patterns, Westerly Winds and Radiant, were released last year.

My Holiday Hemlock quilt was a challenge and a joy to design, not to mention how fun it is to watch it come together. While working on this, I decided on a second, scrappy version for all the scrap lovers out there!

Sweet Stripes is the last of my pattern releases for the year. This cheerful pattern is designed with the beginner quilter in mind. It’s fat quarter friendly and there are 7 different sizes with two layouts versions to choose from. It’s quick AND easy!

I made this baby size Sweet Stripes quilt but I have no baby to give it to, so it’s currently for sale in my Etsy shop. 🙂

The last quilt finish of the year is my Christmassy Triangle Peaks. I had to make this red and green version for my annual holiday quilt. Even though I finished it mid-December, I’m already planning for this year!

I was surprised that I made only one mini; a section of my Holiday Hemlocks. I put together a center tree and star along with a shorter ribbon and it made a lovely wall hanging. It’s a great way to display part of the quilt if you don’t have time to make a whole one.

I also added another page to my website, color gallery. It showcases several photos with color tiles to help with your color inspiration. Thankfully my family members allowed me use their beautiful images for this project. I think it’s an excellent resource.

Other projects include pillows for my mom, a pillow case for my bird-loving husband, utensil wraps, colorful rope bowls and microwave bowl cozies.

I also added several tips, tutorials, charts and plenty of other quilty posts to my website. And lastly, I updated my logo and I love it.

Coming soon in 2021…a tutorial for the utensil wrap, a new quilt pattern and more tips and sewing inspiration. I’m looking forward to a great year of creating!

home decor, sewing, Uncategorized

Rope Bowl Frenzy

Any type of maker knows that starting Christmas gifts early is necessary if you want things done on time. Since I’ve made quilts for everyone in my family, I’m always searching for new sewing projects to make instead. Luckily, sometime during the summer I saw an image of a rope bowl and thought they’d make great gifts, and I’d have plenty of time to make them, too.

I watched a few video tutorials to see how it’s done and I decided Mr. Domestic’s How to Sew Rope Bowls YouTube video was the most informative and it’s pretty funny. While he used craft rope for his, I wanted something more accessible and sturdy so I opted for braided clothesline. It’s readily available at hardware stores and it’s relatively inexpensive—one package costs around $6. While you won’t have a lot of color choices with clothesline, you should be able to find it in natural and/or white.

I definitely thought the bowls would make nice gifts, but I also liked the fun aspect of adding color with fabric. 🙂 They require 1″ wide strips in lengths of choice but there are no set rules! It’s all up to you—add as little or as much as you want. For the ones I made, I chose the recipient’s preferred color and went through my scraps.

As you’ll see in the video, starting the spiral can be tricky. Here’s a tip: once you pin your center, sew the X between the pins to completely miss hitting them with your machine’s needle. Then remove the pins and sew another X in the opposite direction. You may have to go back and stitch together missed spots, but this initial step makes it much more manageable.

I was able to get two bowls out of 50′ of clothesline. I made several, and the neat thing is that each bowl is unique. They differed in fabric color, placement, size and the tilt of the side’s angle.

While a lot of makers ended the bowl by sewing down a loop, I wasn’t able to do it very well. Plus, I wanted a bit more color on mine so I made a tab. To do so, I took a piece of the same fabric used in the bowl and cut it 1″ x 1 1/2″ long. I sewed about 1/8″ around the edge of the fabric piece, and using a pin I frayed the edges.

I stitched it on by hand on some, and on others I sewed it on by machine, securing it with an X. While it’s far from perfect, I like results because I think it gives an artisanal look.

I had a lot of fun making these bowls, it was kind of addicting too. 😉 I finally ended up making one for myself and I use it for carrying small quilting necessities…scissors, HST, fabric, pins, rotary cutter, etc. Not only are they pretty, they’re useful.

And with the little bit of rope left over I made a couple of coasters. Such fun and quick projects!

Christmas, home decor, quilting, sewing, Uncategorized

Microwave Bowl Cozies

Once spring arrived and I’d completed my 8th quilt for the year, it was time to make something else. Not that long ago microwave cozies were really popular and I was seeing them everywhere, so I figured now was a good time to try them out. I’m always in favor of making practical things people can actually use, and stashing down is always a plus.

There are plenty of tutorials available on how to make these and they’re pretty much all the same. I followed a YouTube video by The Sewing Room. To make one bowl cozy you need 10″ squares for everything—the inside and outside fabric and the cotton batting in between.

The process is pretty basic: you quilt the squares, sandwich the pieces, sew them together adding darts, turn it inside out and top stitch. After making five, I discovered a few tips and compiled them for those of you who decide to make your own.

Instructions have you quilt an X from corner to corner. For accuracy, I marked my lines with a hera marker. I chain quilted the X on all five to save some time. Is chain quilting actually a thing? Carrying on…I used my walking foot guide for the rest of the quilting. Don’t forget to pin!

I quilted mine 2″ apart, a bit closer than in the video.

By doing so, the quilting helped shape the bottom of the cozies. I didn’t expect that but it turned out nicely.

And I certainly didn’t expect the lines on my fabric to line up either! 🙂

Since you’re going through two layers of fabric and batting, take it nice and slow when top stitching.

I spent a few hours making all five of these. I kept one for myself and gave the rest to my family.

Because I didn’t have 100% cotton batting, we don’t use ours in the microwave, but we do use them to keep food warm. They work great and all the bowl sizes we tried fit just fine.

You can also make them for decoration. I made this one for displaying pine cones around Christmas. The beautiful metallic fabric and 1″ quilted lines give a festive holiday feel.

If you’re on your umpteenth quilt for the year and need a change of pace, you can quickly make a few bowl cozies to mix it up.

how to, quilting, Quilting 101, sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

How to Piece Quilt Batting

If you’ve been quilting for a while I bet you’ve accumulated quite a bit of cutaway batting—I have a fair amount myself. For me, I needed to stash down and use what I had plus I’ve found it difficult to purchase any batting because it’s either sold out or on backorder.

Since I had a couple patterns in the works, it was a good time to do some quilt batting piecing so I could finish my projects. First up was a throw quilt that will finish 56″ x 72″.

To get started, I gathered cutaway strips from other quilts I’d made. I had three strips that were long enough and once sewn together, the whole piece would be wide enough. Because the strips were uneven in length, I cut them all to an even and approximate length of what I’d need. I then was ready to get sewing.

Here’s what I did, and if you decide to piece batting too, this is what you’ll need to know. I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you as you go along.

Before you start sewing:

  1. Set up good lighting.
  2. Match the thread to the batting as close as possible.
  3. Cut fresh, straight edges using a ruler and rotary cutter OR if the factory cut edges are straight, they are fine to use.
  4. Make sure the same sides of the batting are up.
  5. To insure seams stay secure, use a zigzag stitch. I sew on a Janome Skyline S7 and this is the setting I used. Whatever you can set close to this should work fine.
  6. Choose the proper foot for your machine.
  7. Try a sample first to ensure your stitch length is set appropriately.

Once you get started:

  1. Sew slowly making sure both sides of the batting pieces are caught by the zigzag stitch. Going fast will make batting bunch.
  2. Use quilting gloves for a better grip (batting can be slippery).
Finished pieced quilt batting

Once finished and before use:

  1. If necessary, you can press the seams to help them lie flat, but make sure the entire area of batting where you intend to iron is covered by fabric or you’ll get residue on your iron that’s difficult to remove, trust me. 😉
  2. I spritzed water over my stitching to help relax the seams which worked really well. If you do use water, check that everything is dry before sandwiching and quilting.

Here’s a photo of an area beneath the quilt top where there’s a pieced batting seam…you’d never know!

Christmas, fall decor, home decor, how to, mini quilts, patterns, PDF pattern, quilt blocks, quilting, sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

2019 Project Recap

Every year I like to write a blog post recapping all the projects I’ve made. I mainly do this to have a quick reference should I ever need to know when something in particular was made. And it’s fun to see how I’ve spent my time sewing. So here goes…

First up is my Petite Hearts quilt that I made on a whim. It has a funny story to go along with it…I thought I was onto an original pattern, but while looking for a name I found it had been published before as baby quilt. Still a top favorite.

I started making a Swoon quilt by Thimble Blossoms in the spring and got it back from longarming late September. I haven’t written a blog post on it yet because I haven’t gotten any good photos, so these two blocks will have to do for now. 🙂

I started my Maple Charm quilt before we moved in April and had it finished just in time for fall. I enjoyed it the entire season.

This Five Squared throw quilt is a Monday Morning Designs pattern (available for purchase in my Etsy shop; see sidebar). I made it out of fabrics I had on hand and I love that all the colors of the rainbow are included.

Also while trying to use what I had on hand, I made a Four Patch Charm quilt. I’m hoping somebody has a special event this year so I can gift it.

Lastly, I made my son a Picnic Play quilt designed by Michelle Bartholomew. While this quilt looks innocent, it was a tough one! It was a huge project, too. My son enjoys finally having a quilt large enough to use on his queen size bed.

I made quite a few mini quilts, too. This one was completed early 2019. I’ve also written a tutorial on how to make a Scrappy Heart mini. It’s a fun and quick one to make.

What can I say about this cute crab pattern by Ellis and Higgs? The big crab was a gift for my daughter, the other one is mine.

This Radiant mini is also a Monday Morning Designs. I was fortunate to have it featured in the July/August edition of Quiltmaker. It surely brightens up my space! I plan to release the pattern this summer.

I made quite a few Little Quilted Star ornaments for gifts for Christmas. Very festive.

My pattern Wee Three Trees became available for purchase in time for the holiday sewing rush. I made two, one for myself and one as a gift for my niece.

Here’s the last of my projects. I made the microwave bowl cozy for myself as a holiday bowl for pine cones. The little holders are for gift cards; gifted as party favors, and the bottom photo shows my process on a mini Christmas tree skirt.

These pillows were also gifts…

And a pillow case for my bird-loving husband.

Lastly, towels with cute toppers made for my mom. You can download my free PDF tutorial How to Make a Hanging Kitchen Towel. It’s easy-to-follow, complete with photos, a template and lots of tips!

Well, that sums up last year, and I’m well into making for 2020!