Monday, December 26, 2016

Quick Zippered Pouch - a Tutorial

Last year was the year of fleece robes for everyone. This year, Christmas sewing time was short. It's hard to find quick projects that are suitable for the four guys in my family, and since I needed a quick project, it became the year of the zippered pouch for everyone. I even have an extra for one myself.

My family loved the pouches,  but the "stuffing" I put inside of them turned out to be the most fun of the day. You can see what it was at the end of this tutorial.

Seven pouches in four easy days.

I thought the sewing might go quicker with instructions, so I researched a few tutorials searching for a good one. The first one I found was so hard to follow that I looked up another. And another. And another. I finally gave up and figured out my own method.  The pouch is fully lined, and after I'd made the first one, I found I could whip up one in the morning and another after lunch. I still had time left over for grocery shopping, cooking meals, frosting cookies, and catching up on my favorite Netflix show.

This is how I made them.

Fully Lined Zippered Pouch - 5" x 5 1/2" x 10 1/2"

Fabrics and Materials
  •  2 fat quarters of coordinated fabrics for the outside of the pouch
  • 1/2 yard of lining fabric
  • 1/2 yard of fusible fleece (45" wide)
  • One 18" or 20" zipper (If the zipper is too long it can easily be cut to size.)
  • Thread
Cutting Instructions

 1. From one fat quarter, cut a rectangle 11" x 16". Cut a matching rectangle of fusible fleece and iron it onto the wrong side of the fabric. Cut a 2 1/2" square from each corner of the rectangle of fused fabric and fleece. This will be used to make the bottom half of the pouch.

2. From the second fat quarter, cut two rectangles 6" x 16". Cut matching rectangles of fusible fleece and iron them onto the wrong sides of each piece.  Cut 2 1/2" squares from two corners on the long side of each of the rectangles of fused fabric and fleece. These pieces will become the top half of the pouch.

3. Cut two rectangles, 2" x 5' each, from one of the main fabrics. These will be the handles on the ends of the pouch.

Sewing and Assembly

 Make the Handles

1. Fold one long edge of the fabric down 1/4" and press. (a)
2. Fold the bottom edge up about 1/2" and press. (b)
3. Fold the top over so that the total width of the strip is about 3/4". Press. (c)
4. Stitch close to the folded edge. (d)

Sew the Zipper in

1. Place the zipper with the right side facing the right side of one section of the pouch top along the long edge. Sew in place with a zipper foot.

2. Fold the sewn side back out of the way, and place the zipper face down on the right side of the second section of the pouch top. Make sure the two sections are evenly aligned. Sew in place with the zipper foot.

The two top sections with the zipper as seen from the right side and from the wrong side.
3. Place a section of the lining for the bag top on the wrong side of the zipper.The right side of the lining should be facing the right side of the main fabric. Align the pieces. Sew on the wrong side of the main fabric right on the same row of stitching that was made when attaching the zipper. Do not sew all the way to the ends of the lining fabric. Begin and end the stitching 1" from either end of the lining fabric.

4. Fold all of the sewn sections back out of the way and stitch the second section of lining to the other side of the zipper in the same way as the first.
5. Press the main fabric and the lining away from the zipper. The lining will be loose on each end.

6.Top stitch along both sides of the zipper. Sew from the right side of the bag. Start and stop the stitching 1" from either end of the zipper in order to keep those edges of the lining free.

Assemble the Pouch 
Use 1/4" seam allowances.

1. With right sides together, sew the top and bottom sections of the pouch together.

 2. Sew the top and bottom sections of the lining together. Leave an opening of at least 5" on one seam of the lining. This will provide a space to turn the bag right side out when it's finished.

 You will have two tubular shapes attached at the zipper.

3. Press the seams open.

Note: Make sure the zipper is partially open before proceeding to the next step! This will assure that you don't accidentally cut off the zipper pull if you have to trim the zipper back. You will also need the zipper partially open to turn the pouch right side out when the seams are all sewn.

4. Fold the handles in half lengthwise. Lay them facing inward right over the zipper on the right side of the main fabric. Sew one handle on each end of the zipper. The handles will be sandwiched between the top and bottom sections of the pouch.

5. With right sides together, sew the short sides of the pouch top to the short sides of the bottom section. If the zipper is longer than 18", trim off the excess length.

6. Pin the short sides of the top and bottom of the lining together. Fold the main fabric back out of the way at the zipper in order to reach the lining easily. Stitch the seams.

7.  Press the seams of the main fabric and of lining facing the bottom section of the pouch and away from the zipper.

8. Make the boxed corners. With right sides together, bring the seams on either side of the  2 1/2" squares that were cut out of the corners together.  Sew straight across. Stitch all four corners of the lining and all four corners of the main fabric of the pouch.

9. Pull the pouch through the opening in the lining seam to turn right side out.

10. Use a slip stitch to sew the lining closed. 

 11. Sew the lining to the ends of the zipper with a short slip stitch.

 12. Push out the corners and press the corner seams.

And if you need to fill it quickly for wrapping ....
 Whatever works! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Log Cabin Christmas

How do patterns begin? In this case, the idea was planted decades ago when I was a child and became entranced by the "Little House on the Prairie" books. If you didn't read the books, you may remember the television program. The very first book in the series was Little House in the Big Woods, a story of Christmas in a log cabin.

I tried to capture the essence of the story in this little quilt. The cabin is snuggled in the trees, and framed by traditional log cabin blocks. The red squares that represents a warm hearth are slightly off center to add interest to the layout.

Perfect log cabin blocks

Unfortunately, I'm not one of those quilters whose 1/4" seams are absolutely perfect every single time. It's hard for me to get log cabin blocks to finish with perfect dimensions. If the stitching is just a couple of threads too wide or too narrow, the block can come out all wonky. I'm pretty fussy about my sewing, so I sometimes cheat just a little to make things right.

Instead of cutting each strip to the exact measurements of the pattern, I fudge a bit and cut each one just 1/8" wider and longer. Then, I can trim each strip back to the exact size after sewing it onto the block. The extra effort is well worth it, and when you work assembly line style, it goes fast.

It's much easier to trim each patch back than as I go than it is to make everything fit when the patches are slightly crooked or a touch too small.
Playing with detail and telling a story

I love to have fun with my quilts, and it's adding in those little details and finishing touches that I enjoy the most.

Even with the big wreath and the red door, the house didn't look as warm and welcoming as I wanted. It needed a sign that happy children lived here, so I got to play in the snow and build a snowman. I gave him a hat and a scarf, twigs for arms, coal for his eyes, and a carrot nose. I played happily for one entire morning, and I didn't even get cold.

I played with the snowy white background, too. My free motion quilting is far from perfect, but it's so much fun.

 If you look closely, you might see a few snowflakes and some smoke from the chimney mixed in with the simple loops in the quilting.

The snow has landed in drifts, but someone has shoveled the walk.

I'm so glad this quilt is finished! It's already a full week into December, and I haven't yet begun work on my gift list or started my Christmas baking. I plan to get that first batch of cookies in the oven after lunch. It will be a start.

Not Panicking!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fowl Play - Mug Rugs for Bird Lovers

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow! I'm getting all prepared. Potatoes are cooked and ready to mash, sweet potatoes are cooling so I can peel them and get the sweet potato casserole ready for the oven tomorrow, the turkey is almost thawed, and veggies are washed and ready to go. Our little family will be celebrating three November birthdays tomorrow, too, so there's no pumpkin pie for us. Today I'll frost our traditional extra chocolatey Thanksgiving birthday cake.

Is it only because it's turkey time that it seems like I'm seeing more photos of birds every day? Facebook seems to be filled with pheasants in the fields, chickens in backyards, roosters crowing at dawn, ducks, geese, and exotic birds as pets, cardinals and robins in the bare branches of winter trees, birdwatchers in the woods, and, or course,Thanksgiving  turkeys.

Thanksgiving is also a reminder that Christmas is coming fast. Some of us could use some speedy project ideas for a gift or two. Since I have birds on the brain, I put together this group of bird themed mug rug patterns to stitch up for the bird lovers on your list.

Garden Birds

Summer Swallow


Four Seasons

Farm Fowl

Sun's Up

November Visit

Goose Gossip

Whimsical Birds
Hen Party

Run, Turkey, Run
Toy Bird
Just Ducky

Wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Log Cabins and Bean Soup

The Log Cabins

I'm been sewing log cabin blocks while dressed in a warm winter sweater, thick socks, and my fleece lined winter slippers. Our record breaking warm weather has abruptly been replaced by bitter cold and a brisk north wind, so I couldn't have picked a better project for this week. A log cabin with a big fire in the fireplace sounds so warm and cozy right now.

So far, I've been following the original plan, but now that the log cabin blocks are finished, I'm not completely sure that I want to finish it like this.

I'm using 9" blocks, so I have lots of options and space for experimentation. It doesn't hurt that I'm not feeling pressured to have this finished by any particular date.
A Recipe for Ham and Bean Soup

Winter weather and hot soup are perfect companions, so my kitchen soup factory is back in business. This week, I cooked up a pot of old-fashioned ham and bean soup - perfect comfort food for a day that requires fuzzy slippers and warm socks.

Grandmother's Bean Soup With Ham

  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 15 oz can of chicken broth 
  • 4 or 5 oz ham cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/4 cup grated carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 15 oz cans of cannellini beans
  • 1 T ketchup
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • salt, if needed (I found that the ham was sufficiently salty, so I added no additional salt.)

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Saute the chopped onions in the vegetable oil until golden.
2. Add the chicken broth, ham, carrots, bay leaves, parsley, dill weed, and water.
3. Cover and cook on medium low for 30 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.
4. Add the cannellini beans, pepper, and ketchup. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes. Add additional water if needed.
5. Remove bay leaves to serve.

And keep warm!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Love, Charlie". How to Adapt a Child's Artwork for Applique Quilting

The Background Story
"Love, Charlie" is the first little quilt I've based on a piece of child's art. I had so much fun, and the resulting mug rug is one of my very, very favorites. I do hope it won't be the last piece to be inspired by a child.

Two years ago, Charlie made this painting in his art class. This lovely boy is the very talented son of one of my daughter's coworkers. I've sort adopted the family, and I designed the Tooth Fairy Pillow for Charlie when he lost his first tooth.

The Process

Step 1: Make a photocopy of the section of the artwork you want to use. Reduce or enlarge it to fit the size you need for your quilt.

The painting is greatly simplified, but it is definitely recognizable, and it retains much of the flavor of the original.
Step 2: Use a light table or a sunny window to trace a simple outline of the drawing onto paper. Working with fabric is quite a bit different than working with paints or a crayon.The artwork will more than likely need simplification and a bit of reshaping. The antlers were too skinny for fabric pieces, so I enlarged them and rounded them out. I eliminated some details.The black outline of the deer's head and the little white accents on the nose and ears were some of the details that I left out. The mouth ran into the chin, so I changed the shape just a bit.

Step 3: Back to the light table or the window. Flip the original drawing upside down and trace it onto a fresh sheet of paper. This will give you applique shapes that are already reversed and ready to use.

Step 4: Make dotted lines to show the overlap of the different pieces you'll need to cut for the appliques.

Step 5: Trace all the pieces you'll need onto a piece of paper or card stock and label them. You can trace them onto the paper side of your fusible web for quick fuse applique from here. This also works with freezer paper for turned applique.

Step 6: This step is optional. I always draw my pieces on card stock so that I can cut them out for tracing onto my fusible web. In this way, I know that I can make numerous identical copies of my pattern very quickly.

Finishing Touches

I embroidered the mouth, nose and eyes.

And finally, I embroidered a message to Santa. This wasn't part of the original painting at all, but when I looked at that little deer's face with those big eyes and that quirky smile, I knew this little guy wanted something.

What a blast! I do play and enjoy myself in my sewing room, but this was the most fun I've had in weeks. Charlie's deer was the lighthearted and very sweet pick-me-up that I've been needing.

I'd like to play around with other children's artwork to see how they might turn out. If you'd like to send me photos of your favorite child's drawing, I can see if anything else might adapt as nicely to applique as Charlie's deer did. No promises for using your photo, but I'll definitely respond to all emails.

Send photos to my email:

Happy Last Weekend of October! 

October Halloween.