Two new knits

I haven’t yet written much about knitting on this blog, mostly because I really haven’t done much this year. I’d have to be honest and say that while I like to knit, for a number of years now I haven’t loved to knit.

But there are days when sitting with a skein and needles is the perfect way for me to spend my time. It’s a good thing, too, because my stash is really large.

Recently, I got out a couple of skeins that I bought to make a Harry Potter scarf and never started. Instead, I’ve knit the two skeins together in garter stitch to make kind of a mottled cloth. Take a look:

photoNow, this picture is a little deceptive in that it’s not going to be a pillow cover to go with my couch, even though it matches perfectly. Actually, what I planned to do with this is felt it (washing in hot water so it shrinks and melds the fibers together) and make a potholder.

The first time I tried making a felted purse I wasn’t happy with the result, but I was too cheap to throw it away. I cut it up and and used the lining fabric to make binding (you can find instructions at the bottom of this post) to cover the raw edges. They weren’t going to fray, I just thought it looked pretty.

It worked like a charm. In fact, the two potholders I was able to make are two of the best ones I’ve ever had.

Next, I’ve started a simple baby blanket that I plan to give to charity. It’s a free pattern on TLC’s website you can find here.

photo-1Not much yet, but I find the repetitive motion very relaxing!

XOXO,
Sandra

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Tutorial: Cuddly reversible fleece blanket

I am beyond excited to share with you my first tutorial today, one of what I hope will be many more to come.

This is for a cuddly, reversible fleece blanket. I started making these a few years ago, and have yet to make one for anyone who didn’t wind up loving it. They’re warm, they’re soft, they’re machine-washable, and you can make one in less than an afternoon.

Supply list:

  • Two yards solid or printed fleece fabric
  • Two yards of an alternate print or solid fleece (This is optional, but you’ll need four yards total. For a child-sized version, you’ll need one-and-a-half yards of each or three yards total.)
  • 1/2 yard cotton flannel. (I tend to buy a little more and whatever I don’t use goes to the scrap bin for a flannel quilt or saved to bind another blanket. For the child-sized version, I still recommend getting half a yard, just to be safe. )
  • large flat surface
  • thread
  • sewing machine
  • serger (optional, but really helpful)
  • 1/4-inch foot (optional, but also really helpful)
  • stitch-in-the-ditch foot
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • rotary cutter, rulers and mat

Let’s begin: (Warning, this post is very photo-intensive.)

DSC_0002I love picking out the combinations of fleece and often use the flannel (which will make the binding) as a way to give a pop of color, as you can see with the combo deal on the right. There isn’t green on the blue monkey or brown dot fabric, but there are brown and white dots on it, and who doesn’t love blue and green together?

If you’d like to put a label of some kind on one of the sides, do so before you put it on your flat surface for pinning. Don’t be like me and forget to do this (every time!) Be sure it’s not too close to any of the edges or where you need to trim so you don’t accidentally cut it off.

Next, place your fleece fabrics on a flat surface, wrong sides together, smoothing the fabric as much as possible, until you’re satisfied there are no lumps anywhere. I like to use my bed, because I can pin the two layers without killing my back or knees like I would using the floor. You just need to be careful and not pin the fabric to the comforter.

Tip: if you make this during winter and use microfiber fleece sheets, they will help keep the bottom piece stable, since the two fabrics will stick together. Also, sometimes it’s difficult to tell which is the right and wrong side. A good place to look is the selvage. You can often see the darker (or right side) ink there.

When you pin the fabrics, you want to pin about every six inches, and pin about an inch from the selvage. Working with such big pieces of fabric, there’s a tendency for them to shift, so having lots of pins now will help you later. They’ll also serve as a cutting guide.

DSC_0007Also, be sure to check how wide the selvage is on both sides before you pin, so that you’ll be sure to cut it all off. The last thing you want to do is trim and overcast, only to have to redo it. For example, the selvage on the other side of this monkey fabric was two-inches wide.

DSC_0009Trim off the curled selvage using your pins as a guide to keep your cut line straight. If you do this on your bed like I did, obviously be careful not to cut your comforter. You could always wait to do this until laundry day when your bed is stripped.

Sometimes, in fact, more often than not, your two pieces of fleece won’t be the same size. When that happens, put the larger piece on the bottom so you can see the top and don’t accidentally cut it more than you need.

DSC_0022This next photo may be overkill, but I find it helpful to fold the fabric lengthwise when taking off the bed, rather than grabbing in a bundle. Since it’s a lot of fabric, it just makes it easier to carry it neatly to the serger. Try to ignore my wrinkled comforter — someday I hope to finish a bed-sized quilt …

DSC_0012Also, be sure you scream loudly when you go to put your pillows back on the bed and find a large spider crawling all over them.

Next, you’ll serge all four sides together. If you don’t have a serger, you could stitch a straight seam with your sewing machine about an eighth-inch from the edge. The edges are not going to fray, so the serging and stay-stitching just help keep things together when you put the binding on.

DSC_0014One of the advantages of the serger, is that the blade will clean finish your edge for you. You don’t need to remove much, only whatever jagged parts your edge might have. This is partly why you pin/trim the fabric first. I’ve made this without trimming, and my serger really didn’t like dealing with the curled bulk on the selvage. I later found it was easier to keep the lines straighter and neater overall, too.

DSC_0015When you get to a corner, just serge a little beyond the edge, enough to give the threads enough slack to turn the blanket and start the next side before the blade. Since the serging will be covered, you don’t have to worry about the excess stitches, you’ll trim them off later.

DSC_0016After all four sides are done, it’s time to make the binding, exactly the way you would for a quilt.

Start by pressing your flannel and trimming off any excess with a rotary cutter on one edge to ensure a straight line.

DSC_0025Then, cut your flannel into 2.5-inch strips. You should have seven strips total, which will be enough for the blanket, possibly more.

Next, sew the strip right sides together, making sure you’re past the selvage on both sides.

DSC_0028You can sew these in a continuous chain, leaving enough room between the sections to clip. I take the end of the strip I’ve just sewed and put another strip on top, right on the machine (as in the photo above).

DSC_0031Once you’ve clipped the sections, trim the edges to 1/4-inch away from your stitch line with the rotary cutter.

DSC_0032Note: I chose to do straight seams on the binding here. If you prefer, you can sew the pieces together on the diagonal (putting them right angles first) and then trim to create bias binding. I’ve done it both ways and don’t find the the bias necessary since you’re not going around a curve at all.

Next, press your seams open.

DSC_0033Then fold your strips in half lengthwise and press. Trim the excess stitching on the corners of the blanket.

DSC_0034Attach the binding to the blanket with the raw edges facing outward and leaving a 10-inch tail. You’ll only pin the first side until you reach the corner. To begin, place your binding near the corner, but not too close; stitching at least five inches away is good. I find this helps prevent having to deal with one of the seams landing at the corner, which on these would be way too much bulk. Pin until you reach 1/4-inch from the edge of that side.

Tip: If you’ve forgotten to put whatever label you want to use on the back (like I do) and have serged all the edges together, instead of taking one side apart, you can attach your label in this first seam. I have tape labels, so I fold them in half and pin them with the cut side to the edge, leaving enough room when I fold the binding over so my name still shows.

Backstitch a few stitches at the beginning and then sew a 1/4 inch seam. When you’re 1/4-inch from the corner, backstitch a few stitches, lift your presser foot and turn the work.

Next, take the binding and fold it to make 45-degree angle at the corner. Make sure the edge of the binding will line up with the edge of the next side.

DSC_0039Then, fold the binding back on top of itself like so:

DSC_0040Sew a few backstitches on the next seam and then continue straight until you reach the next corner. I find if I can hold the layers together with my hands at this point and don’t need to pin. Just remember to go slowly so the edges stay properly aligned.

Repeat until you’ve gone around all four sides; stop stitching about 10 inches from the beginning. Fold the two pieces of binding on top of themselves, leaving a little bit of a gap.

DSC_0042Then, open the folds of two pieces, and matching the lines from the iron, pin them right-sides together.

DSC_0043I like to pin on the fold lines and remove it once I have the binding safely under the presser foot.

DSC_0044Before you stitch this seam, just make sure to see that it will look fold correctly before you trim it. Then, trim it to 1/4-inch with your rotary cutter (careful not to cut the blanket) or with scissors. Now you can pin the unstitched portion of the binding and stitch it to the blanket. Clip the corners, making sure not to cut into the stitching.

Next, I like to press the binding away from the blanket to help me when I pin it to the back. Just to be sure not to get the iron on the fleece, and use just a little pressure.

DSC_0045To attach the binding to the back, you have a number of options. You could pin it and hand sew it, which I believe creates the best look, but it takes a long time and I don’t think it’s as secure as what the machine can do.

DSC_0046Some people like to use wonder clips (It will take two boxes.). The advantage with clips is that they’re easy and you can see if your machine will catch the back when you pin them.

DSC_0047Since I didn’t have enough for the whole blanket, I used straight pins with a flat head. I pin them right in what’s called the ditch — right against the binding. That way I can see where it will catch on the back.

DSC_0049

DSC_0050Here I can adjust how much to leave for the machine to grab. I like it to be close, but not too much, since even with pinning, the fabric can slip. You’ll also want to pin this heavily. I find it worked best to place the next pin where the previous one ended. It’s time consuming, but worth it.

When you get to a corner, you’ll see that folding the fabric over the front to the back creates and angled seam. When you pin the back, make sure that you fold one side over in the opposite direction from the way it looks on the front.

corner1In the photo above, the left side is over the right side. On the photo below, it’s just the opposite. To pin the corners, I found it worked best to put the pin in diagonally, catching both sides in the process.

Once you’re all pinned, put the stitch-in-the ditch foot on your machine. I forgot to take a photo of this, but line up the metal ridge up against the binding. See that the needle will land in the ditch, the part closest to the stitching. You’ll want to land in there so your stitches don’t show.

DSC_0063-backAlternatively, you could stitch the binding to the back and then stitch the top next to the edge. The down side is you’ll have a line of stitching all the way around the back, but if that doesn’t bother you, that’s a good way to make sure you stitching is even around the edge. I don’t find the minor imperfections a problem.

That’s it, you’re done!

DSC_0063Here’s a look at the three I made, in less than a day.

DSC_0064As for cost, these aren’t the cheapest gift. I try to buy fabric when it’s on sale, but on average, one of these blankets will cost between $25-30. But I can tell you, they’re worth every penny. They wear like iron, and they keep you nice and toasty.

If you’d prefer something a little lighter, you can use flannel for one of the sides. Since flannel is only 45-inches compared to 54-58 inches for fleece, I tend to use it for baby blankets so I don’t have to piece the flannel to make it wide enough.

If you make one, I’d love to see it. If you have a blog, send me a link to the post at onemillionstitches@gmail.com, or you post the link or a photo on my Facebook page.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first tutorial. Here’s to a cuddly winter!

XOXO,
Sandra

A little office love

A couple of posts ago, I shared with you my attempts and improvisational block making. Here’s where we left off:

office_pillowI added a few additional pieces to make a 16.5-inch square to fit my 16-inch pillow. Take a look:

DSC_0004Because the front was so busy, I decided to do a plain back, to give the eye (and me!) a break.

DSC_0005Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, but I definitely think I’ll follow some kind of pattern with the rest of this fabric. I’ve certainly got enough of them on my Pinterest quilt board to give me all the ideas I need.

XOXO,
Sandra

Practice makes perfect

In the past few months, I’ve seen quite a few posts and pins for DIY towels to use instead of the paper version. In preparation for my eventual painting of my kitchen to a fun, black/white look, I bought a bunch of cute fabrics and took a fraying towel out of my rotation.

Here’s my first attempt:

DSC_2107

DSC_2108I forgot to take a close up, but hopefully you can see how the edges have started to curl up. That’s because I didn’t pre-wash the fabric. Don’t be like me. Don’t make this mistake if you want to make these. Let me say it again, especially to all of you who normally, like me, don’t pre-wash your fabric before you quilt:

PRE-WASH YOUR FABRIC!!!!! These are going to get laundered a bazillion times, so eliminate any shrinkage possible by a quick trip to the laundry before you make that first cut.

I also don’t recommend using a serger around the edges. It might be easy, and look good when it’s first done, but after a few washings it won’t hold up well. Take a look:

DSC_0007Maybe it’s my skills or my serger, but this ain’t good. However, I’m way too cheap to throw them away, so I’ll salvage them instead. Here’s how I did it:

DSC_0008I ironed them as flat as possible, and then I trimmed the side with the curled excess towel and the side where it frayed with my rotary cutter to ensure a straight line.

Next, I treated the towels like quilts and made binding from 2.5-inch strips of pre-washed white fabric I happened to have on hand, which I folded in half and sewed it on the front, pressed it and then stitched in the ditch to sew it on the back.

front Nothing fancy or hand stitched. Just enough to slap it on and go, and stand up to multiple washings. Here’s the back, where I used wonder clips instead of pins and so I know I’d catch both sides:

DSC_0006Again, hardly perfect, but for something used to clean up spills, it’s just fine.

Another recommendation I’d make is to stitch the layers down with some light quilting. You can see in the photo just above, I just did random straight lines on one and an asterisk on the other. I think it helps keep them flat in the long run.

I’ve also ordered some kamsnaps to attach to the ends so I can put them on my paper towel holder, once I get a full set made. I’ll show you photos once those come in.

Now, if only I’d get around to painting my kitchen!

XOXO,
Sandra

A few WIPs and a finish

There hasn’t been much time over the past week or so to do much blogging or sewing, but I did make some progress on a few WIPs that I wanted to share with you. I even managed a small finish.

Miracles do happen, as my mother used to say.

I got a little more done on my quilt of valor that I began July 4th. To be honest, I feel guilty every time I think about procrastinating on this one. Maybe blogging about it will help push me a little. (The fabric is a jelly roll from “Nautical and Nice” by Sandy Gervais for Moda.)

DSC_0003At least now, it looks like you get a sense of where I’m going with this and why I’ve already named it (yes, my favorite part seems to be naming my quilts!) “Landing Strip.” I’ve got more free time in the next week, so I hope to get at least the top done soon.

Some of you may remember my attempt at creating a block based on the front of the magazine I work on in my day job, and how it didn’t quite work. (Julia Rothman’s “Type” fabric.)

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia39It went from what you see above to this:

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia40Definitely better. I added a little more at one of my Louisville Modern Quilt Guild meetings, and then the rest this past week:

office_pillow Eventually, (another project I hope to check off this week), it’ll be a cover for the pillow I use every day in my office. I also want to make a wall hanging from this fabric as well.

I’m fairly pleased with how the improv is turning out, but I have to admit, I’m not that crazy about working this way. I don’t like to think of myself as a color-in-the-lines kind of girl, but maybe I just haven’t been quilting long enough to enjoy flying blind yet.

One of our recent guild challenges was to make a nameplate for ourselves to help us get to know who everyone is. Here’s mine:

nametagI love how this turned out. The scraps are left over from another WIP that I blogged about on my “Designing with Excel” post. I decided to do my name in cross stitch since it would be so much easier and quicker than quilting individual letters. And, of course, I wanted to include a little plug for my labels and the blog.

For my name, I used the Sierra Madre font (how incredibly misnamed, given its look). I love the Art Deco period, especially the fonts, and thought it would look great with the fabric, which, to me, had the same feel.

It’s a little dark in the photo, but I used DMC floss #550, which is a great shade of grape, perfect for showing up on the golden scrap linen I had on hand. After making the pieces, I sewed them right sides together with the strap stitched on one side in between the two pieces and left an opening. Then I turned it right-side out, slip-stitched the bottom by hand and stitched in the ditch around the linen for stability.

Here’s the back:

nametag-backLast weekend, I made a little progress on the big quilt: (Clearly, I threw the blocks up on my design wall without paying any attention to direction before snapping this photo.) The fabric is some Kaffe Fasset and a few additional items from my stash.

8-10-13Thanks so much for stopping by to take a look at my latest efforts. I hope you’ll come back soon.

XOXO,
Sandra