Sunday, January 15, 2017

Quilt Layout

After considering several options and laying things out on my "design wall" (aka living room floor), I came up with this layout for the quilt. That blue is ... very very blue. But the green and orange squares in my mom's stack looked even worse when laid out next to the softer pink and yellow. Plus, the quilt had to have a llama, right?

This photo is very fuzzy and it's nearly impossible to see the outlines of the animals on the colored squares here. That's OK. I took the photo so I have a record of what goes where once the squares are embroidered. I don't want to have to make this layout decision again. I got the animals to all face each other and be amused by each other. Reminds me a bit of The Brady Bunch.

The squares are about 9 inches right now. After washing and trimming, they'll be about 8 inch squares. I'll add some kind of border to each square, probably a solid color fabric. And I'm thinking about some kind of print between the squares. I'm guessing the finished quilt will be someplace around 36 inches wide by 48 inches high. I like hand stitching, so I may quilt it by hand. I've been meaning to learn to make prairie points for years, so this might be a good excuse to try that technique when I bind it. I haven't considered what kind of backing.

So many decisions to make! Ahhhhh!

I'm not sure about any of this. I'm "talking out loud" and throwing ideas against the wall. We'll see what sticks as this project progresses.

At least I know my next steps: embroider these six squares.

To be continued ...

Saturday, January 14, 2017


The is the second of the quilt squares I embroidered. I attempted to make it look like a calico cat.

The results? This is where my mom was more free with color than I am. Whatever. It's cute.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lamb with Butterfly

So here's the first of the quilt squares that I stitched, trying to match my mom's style.


Luckily, this one is centered on the square well.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What's Next

An embroidered quilt!

When my mom died 19 years ago, among her sewing treasures I found these quilt squares. They reside in a bag with a whole bunch of non-stitched squares on white, pink, yellow, bright orange, bright bright green, and nearly-electric blue squares. I'm not sure when she started stitching this quilt, or for which of her 19 grandchildren they were intended. So not being able to part with them, and not knowing what to do with them, they sat for nearly two decades on my shelf.

This year, I'm making a concerted effort to do some downsizing. Nothing radical. One item per day is enough for me to feel accomplished. In looking over my shelves, these quilt squares came to the fore.

Now I have something to do with them! My daughter Julie and her husband Jeff are expecting a baby girl in May. I've decided to embroider some of these squares and make them into a quilt for our new granddaughter. This way, Baby Otto will have something from her great-grandmother and her grandma.

There are some issues with the quilt blocks, though.

  1. The fabric Mom stamped on is very thin, so I will need to do some interfacing. Even then, I think some of the carry-over stitches on the back will show through.

  2. The stamping on several of the squares is quite close to the edge of the quilt blocks, rather than centered in the squares. (Note the yellow flower on square with the deer wearing an orange scarf). I'm going to have to take that into account when I square the blocks before sewing them together.

  3. My mom had an odd sense of color. She always liked grayed tones mixed in with bright tones. I did my best to match floss colors with the squares she finished, then added to that color pallet to expand my options.

  4. My mom and I don't have the same embroidery style. Her stitches are much larger than mine, plus she had a playful side where she freely added embellishments. I tend to be a "color within the lines" kind of gal. Or as my son-in-law said, I'm "orderly." (He hit that on the nose!)

    Mom embroidered the four blocks in this photo. I'm trying to match Mom's style so the quilt will be cohesive. So far, I've finished stitching one square. I think I've decided that it's OK that things don't match precisely. It will be apparent who stitched which blocks, and that may well add some charm to this four-generation quilt.

  5. It doesn't look like Mom washed the fabric before she stamped the images on the squares. Some of the fabric is 100% cotton, like a muslin. Others look like a cotton/poly blend. I'm hoping that doesn't become too much of a problem, but I'm afraid it might due to possible shrinkage. I think I may need to wash the squares before squaring them up and sewing them together. I could use some advice on this matter.

  6. The style of animals on the various squares morphs a lot. These four squares, and 3 or 4 others, have a hand-drawn look. Some of the other squares have animals with more cartoonish shapes (for lack of a better word). They don't exactly go together. It's likely just fine, but I need to noodle out which designs to use and how to place them for a cohesive quilt that I'll find aesthetically pleasing.

  7. Then there's the little concern that I haven't made an entire quilt by myself since college. I'm going to have a learning curve here. With my personality, that often means thinking about something for months before starting the process of hands-on working through the problem. And, well, I have just five months.

So, this will be interesting! I like that I can think of it as a series of little projects, stitching just one square at a time and showing my progress. That will be the fun part. Maybe by the time the embroidery is done, I'll have worked out the other technical issues.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Jodie's "Mom Gift"

My daughter Jodie has begun collecting postcards. She buys some vintage cards from antique shops. She also LOVES to receive postcards from friends and acquaintances all over the globe. She even has an Instagram account called postal.revival whose purpose is "Reviving old stories in antique and vintage postcards. Celebrating the joy of a handwritten letter."

So when I discovered this idea of turning a vintage postcard into a little journal, I had to try! I decided to make a special postcard journal for Jodie's special mom-to-daughter Christmas gift.

I've never attempted to make a book before, though I've long been interested. Of all the crafts I made in 2016, this little postcard journal may be the craft I'm most excited about.

Here's how I did it:

I found a vintage postcard in my stash. It was 5 ½” x 3 ½” This is the cover of the journal.

I measured on back of postcard to the center 2 ¾ " and marked a line. I then marked dots ¾” from top and bottom along that center line. I marked a third dot at 1 ¾” for the center. Then I punched holes at these three points with a ⅛” hole punch. You could also use a large sharp needle.

I gave my journal a ¼" spine by measuring ⅛" on each side of the center line. I then scored on these lines and folded them to make a crisp spine. Once that was done, I erased all lines and set the cover aside.

Next I cut 20 pieces of paper 3 ¼" x 5 ¼". You could use a handmade paper or other special paper to give a more vintage feel. I used a specialty paper that was part cotton that was translucent and had a nubby texture.

I folded each page in half, then stacked them 4 to a stack. I marked ⅝” in from top and bottom, and I marked the center at 1 ⅝” . I punched holes at these marks. Next I stacked the pages inside each other (one signature) and placed them inside the cover, aligning the holes.

To assemble the book and cover, I cut a piece of string/twine 18” to 24”. I pulled the string/twine through beeswax a few times, then put the string through fingers a few times to warm the wax and infuse it into the string/twine. This strengthens the fiber.

The next step was to thread the needle and sew from the outside of the cover through the center hole of the cover and through the center hole in each page. I needed to go through a few pages at a time to make alignment easier.

Then I sewed from the center of the book, through the top hole, to the outside.

Once again, I sewed from the outside through the center hole to the center of the book.

Finally, I sewed from the center of the book, through the bottom hole, to the outside.

On the spine, I slid the needle under the loop from the center hole to the top hole and pulled the string/twine taut. I tied a surgeon’s knot to secure the pages to the cover. I trimmed one end of the string to about ¾” and left the other end of the string long.

When I closed the book, I noticed that the pages didn’t align properly (too many pages in the single signature). The center pages stuck out more than the pages next to the cover. So I trimned the pages so they are even, ending approximately ⅛” from the edge of the cover. I chose to use scissors with deckle-edge blades to make the edges of the paper purposely uneven.

To finish the spine, I cut a piece of duck tape three times as wide as the spine. Because this journal is so small, I found it easier to work in centimeters rather than sixteenths of an inch. So I cut the tape 3 cm x 9 cm.

I centered the spine onto the tape, being sure to catch the short end of the string/twine under the tape, lengthwise on the spine. I pulled the other end of the string/twine perpendicular to the spine along the back of the cover. To tidy things up, I trimmed the tape at the top and bottom so it didn’t protrude further than the cover.

For a closure, I sewed a button to the front cover, using a second button on the inside of the front cover to act as a stabilizer. It's wise to keep this sewing a little loose so that you can wrap the string/twine once around the entire book, then once around the button to keep the journal closed closed. To make sure the string didn't fray, I tied a little knot in the end.

If you'd like to send my daughter a postcard, let me know. I'll exchange mailing addresses with her for you.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Christmas Gift Tags

Each year while I'm putting away the Christmas decorations, I take a little time to once more look over the Christmas cards I received and think of the special people who mailed them.

Then I recycle those cards into gift tags for the following Christmas.

This process used to take an entire afternoon. I'd get out my stencils and find just the right size and shape to get the most out of each image on the cards. I'd use scissors with fancy blades to make the edges of the tags sculptural.

Last year, however, I bought myself a tag punch. Now the process is a snap! It goes very quickly and the tags are more uniform. I have the Fiskars punch model #1335 to make the tags. They create a tag that's about 2-1/4" tall and 1-1/2" wide.

I used a regular-sized hole punch in the tab, then a piece of crochet cotton for the string.

This year's cards made for a nice little stack of gift tags, all ready for next year. I store them with the Christmas wrapping paper (in a hanging garment bag!) so they're easy to find when I need them.