Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Half-Square Triangle Star Pillow

Here's a pillow cover that I made for my sister for Christmas.

The project was inspired by these pillow covers, which I picked up from my local IKEA per my sister's request (her IKEA is not very local at all and my girl LOVES Smaland, so I was glad to do the errand) and sent off to her in the fall.

I thought it would be fun to make a patchwork pillow to match (sneaky sneaky!), so before I packaged them up I pulled out some fabrics that matched the various stripes.

Then I played around on some graph paper with star designs made from half-square triangles, and wound up with this.

My sister loves the color orange, and I know she has a lot of blue in her house (if I'm remembering correctly, the IKEA pillows were destined for a room with a blue accent wall), so I wanted those two colors to feature prominently in the design.

And she's a vet student, so getting a couple of cats in there was a must.

The star design I ended up with was looking pretty traditional to me, so I added a few bits of randomly placed citron green to modern things up a bit.

I gave it a simple envelope back.  

My sister says she loves the result, though of course my eye focuses on the mistakes and imperfections.

Did you notice how the center of the star is all squared up and perfectly matched points, while the surrounding blocks are wonky and wavy and in some places way off? I used two different methods to make the half-square triangles for this project, and one method was far superior to the other.

I'll give you the details of the half-square triangle cage match in my next post.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Travel tissue covers for a quick and easy teacher gift

These are a couple of tissue holders that I made for my girl's teachers as holiday gifts. The outer fabric is Dandelion in Indigo from Tula Pink's Prince Charming collection, and the lining is Canyon Stripe in Piney Woods from Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley collection. Both collections are out of print I think, but there's still a bit of them around here and there.

If you are looking for out of print/past collections of quilting cottons, I've found that Hawthorne Threads is a good source -- that's not a scientific assessment, just that I've clicked over there a few times and thought: oh wow, they still have some of that? and in three colorways! (And no, Hawthorne Threads is not paying me to say this. I wish! I am, um, a good customer.)

To make the tissue covers, I used this tutorial. I have to admit I found the first part of it a bit confusing, and totally bollocksed up my first attempt. I am a very, VERY word-oriented person, so I don't always do well with tutorials with descriptions like "sew it together like this:" followed by a photo. (When sewing from Japanese pattern books, which are supposedly so great because the instructions are diagrams requiring no translation, I actually write out step by step instructions in words. True story!)

So if you are similarly text-ophilic, I'll offer that you want to begin by sewing the outer fabric to the lining fabric, right sides together, aligning the short (5.5") edges of the pieces and sewing a 1/4" seam along each edge. (You'll be left with a bleb of extra lining fabric in the middle, which is later pressed flat to form the decorative edging at the mouth of the cover.)

From there it's smooth sailing. The cover has a very clever, tidy construction, and once you know how it's done, you really can make one in 10 minutes flat. 

That the stripes of the lining fabric ended up oriented across the opening of my tissue covers (a much more attractive result than if they were oriented along the opening, so that you would just see one or two stripes and they would probably, knowing me, be crooked) was a complete accident. But if you want to do it on purpose, make sure you cut your lining piece so that the stripes are oriented parallel to the long (7.5") side of the rectangle.

I made two tissue covers, one for my girl's main teacher and the other for her math teacher. I wanted to give them something handmade, but small and unobtrusive. These seemed to fit the bill, plus they're the perfect size to tuck a gift card into. And I thought, hey, what elementary school teacher couldn't use an attractive and tidy container from which to dispense facial tissues?

Of course, those were the thoughts I had on December 13, way back in an earlier era when the idea that Kleenex could somehow be an appropriate metaphor for the care teachers show our kids, and that a few scraps of fabric could be an adequate thank-you, seemed slightly less ridiculous than it does now. 

But the best thing for my girl is for me to pretend, on some level, at least around her, that we still do live in that era. So off I send her with a couple of tiny packages tied up in thin silver ribbon, because what else can you do?

I put my girl on the bus this morning for her first day back at school and it felt exactly like this.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cat People

So December was much busier than I'd expected it would be. Most of the unexpected busy-ness was work-related, but hey, when you work for yourself you kind of have to take advantage of that sort of thing.

There was expected busy-ness too, in the form of my annual season of Must Make ALL THE THINGS. And I really did make a lot of things! Now I'm hoping to share them with you, one by one.

Let's start with these three adorable kittens!

They live here...

Inside their mama's skirt.

What an utterly lovable family, right?

I recently had the privilege of testing this pattern for Mama Cat and her Skirt-Dwelling Kittens, by Dorie of the blog Tumbling Blocks.

It's a really clever pattern with (as you can see) a super charming result. I really enjoyed picking out the different fabrics and planning how the mama and her kittens would be similar/coordinating but not exactly the same.

I love the faces, especially of the kittens, how just a few gestures with needle and thread can wind up so evocative (and of course since they’re handmade each one gets its own “personality”).

I'd recommend the pattern heartily for an advanced beginner/intermediate sewist (some of those pieces are kind of small and fiddly, so it helps to have a bit of experience--or failing that,chutzpah).

A few more notes. First, what I did differently from the pattern/instructions:

  • I find it really difficult to sew a consistent seam allowance around small curves, so I marked my stitching line (oddly enough, I actually feel comfortable eyeballing this sort of thing, so it isn't that much of a burden). I'm still using Pilot Frixion erasable pens, on Florence's recommendation, and really loving them.

  • To make toddler kitten's dress, instead of pinning the pattern to the fabric and sewing around it, I traced the pattern onto freezer paper and ironed it to my fabric. I thought it would be easier not to have to deal with pins and I think it did help.

What I would do differently next time:

  • I would stick to quilting cotton for the whole project. The white fabric from which I made the kittens' bodies and Mama Cat's dress bodice is very thick, which makes it hard to work with (especially when turning those teeny kitten bodies right-side-out!), and you can see in the pictures that the fabric choice makes the bodice a little stiff and the shoulder seams untidy.

  • I made a mistake in sewing Mama Cat's skirt--it's supposed to be a big sack that covers her feet, a maxi dress if you will, rather than the tea-length frock you see here. This error was likely due to my own thick-headedness, which tends to be exacerbated in a time-crunch, but Dorie has also updated the instructions in her latest version of the pattern to make this step idiot-proof. 

Even more than usual, my pictures don't do justice to the cuteness of the pattern (I finished with about 15 minutes to spare to get the toy wrapped and my girl to the birthday party at which it was to be gifted). You can see pictures of other versions of the cat family here, and if you want some advice on sewing the bodice of Mama Cat's dress Dorie provides some advice here.

Now go and get the pattern in Dorie's Etsy shop. Because come on, admit it, the holidays are over and you are just itching to get started on a new project, aren't you?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Fancy nibbles, per New Year's Eve tradition.
1. Fewer meals in front of screens.
(Every list of resolutions needs some low-hanging fruit, after all.)

2. Work at making* something unessential** for at least 20 minutes each day.
(* I guess a more common way to say this might be "do something creative," but in fact quite a lot of the process of making something doesn't always feel very creative, and it's that part, that steady making of a physical object with my hands--though all of the somethings I have in mind to make might not be physical objects--that I'm driving at here.

(** It's a paradox, isn't it: 'Oh, but these things are essential to you!' or 'But the world/our lives actually need these supposedly non-essential things!' Well, true. But the point is to not allow myself to imagine that making dinner, say, counts.)

Getting some materials together for a new project.
3. Ask strangers for what you want/to pay attention to you.
(Ooooooh, doesn't that sound absolutely atrocious? I can't believe I am actually typing my intention to become an epically terrible person out and posting it on the Internet. But, you know, I think it's just what has to be done.)

4. Find an attractive, reasonably priced soap dispenser for the kitchen that actually works.
(Not sure if #3 or #4 is going to be the bigger challenge here.)

My lunch today. Obviously, I like traditions when they involve food.
 And you, what are you planning? Any advice to help me keep my intentions?