Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Little Miss Fleecie All Dressed Up

Yesterday, I made this silly fleecie doll for my granddaughter, and Big Bear, in his usual growling form, said "she looks like she needs more hair and some clothes."  Clothes?  On a doll made of fleece circles and pony beads?  Are you kidding?

Big Bear has taken it upon himself to be my quality control expert from my paintings to my sewing. Funny thing is, I keep his letters and documents in good form.  I suppose that makes us a good team.  Taking his advice into consideration, Little Miss Fleecie went from this ...


to this ...


More hair to cover the bald spots, a fleecie skirt, and ...


Can you see them?  I put 2 bows around 2 pigtails on top of her head. 

Much better don't you think?  Big Bear thought so.  He approves now.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Fleece, Fun, and a Bouncy Doll


All this week, I am preparing for my trip to Arkansas to visit my daughter, Kimberly, and her hubby, Zak, and my granddaughter, Reagan.  Reagan is 14 months old and this will be the first time I have seen her in person.  I can't wait to put my lovin' arms around her and kiss her and hug her and spoil her rotten I'll have you know!!! 

We've spent the best part of every week Skyping and talking on the phone, so she knows my voice and knows how ridiculous I look and how silly her Grandma Susan can be at times.  Wait till we're playin' on the floor!!  I can't wait (I think I said that already).

So, today, I began preparing for my trip.  By "preparing" I mean making things for Reagan - like this:


Yep, I made this silly looking doll thing today for Reagan.  It sure is bouncy - just like Reagan.


I started by making paper circles of various sizes and cutting them out of the fleece.


Then I made a pattern for the hands and feet and cut them out too.


I had some Pony beads to put between the fleece circles that will be the body, arms, and legs.


Using heavy duty Coats & Clark waxed thread.  Being that this is the first time I have made such a silly doll, I doubled the thread when I went through the first round of circles and beads for the body, however, just to make sure it would not come apart for any reason, I went through it again with another double set of heavy-duty thread, knotting it a couple of times in the process.  Better safe than sorry.

This is the body by the way!


Of course, if you do go through the circles and beads a second time, go through the center of the beads and out through the top, then taking the thread around to the fleece circle, knot it - and knot it good.


I made these silly fleece feet.  I just drew a basic shoe pattern on paper and cut out 4, stuffing them lightly and then hand sewing the top together after tucking in the top by about 1/4". 


Then I made the legs beginning with the shoes and sewing them onto the first leg circle and then alternating beads and contrasting fleece circles.  By this time, Matthew was taking it from me and bouncing the legs around the room.


Then came the arms, and I attached them to the top of the body.


Then began the dance of this headless pink and blue wonder ...







This pink and blue wonder doll needs a head.


So, I started to make her one.  A rather fat one I might add.


And with a little bit of embroidery thread, some blush, and some fluffy bright pink yarn, on went her head.


I think she looks pretty cute.  I even trimmed her bangs.


She knows how to sit back and relax.


A bit like an alien with funny hair and too much makeup, but I don't think Reagan will mind.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

e-Boutique Open!


I finished my Jitterbug quilt and it's now in my e-Boutique.  Take a look! 



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - All Done!!


Today is the day we finish our table runner!  Yay!  Think how wonderful your holiday table will look with this delightful table runner on top, maybe with some candles in the center quilt blocks.  So, let's get to it!  Let's finish this puppy!


We finished all the machine quilting.  I did "stitch-in-the-ditch" and also some stipple quilting in the center blocks.  I also used turquoise thread throughout the quilting process to add character to the design.  I decided not to quilt inside the big blocks that have the words "Peace" and "Joy" because I thought it would take away from the embroidery and the statement.


Trim away the excess batting and backing from the quilt.


With your remaining red & white holiday fabric, cut at least 5 long 2" strips.  They should be the width of your fabric by 2" and they do not need to be cut on the bias, although if you have enough fabric for the binding (and I didn't) to cut on the bias, you'll get better corners on your finished quilt.  Because I was running low on fabric, I just cut the strips from selvage-to-selvage in 2" strips.


Sew them all together to make one really long binding strip.  Place 2 strips, RST (right-sides-together) as shown.  With your transparent ruler, draw a diagonal line with your fabric marker and pin the 2 strips together.


Stitch across the diagonal line and then cut off the corner leaving about a 1/4" seam allowance.


Now we are going to begin to sew our binding to our beautiful quilted table runner!  Always begin your binding in the center of a side - never on a corner.  With RST, fold down the short edge of the binding by about 1/2" and line up the long edge of your binding with the edge of your quilted table runner as shown above.  Pin the binding where it begins at the folded edge.


With a 1/4" seam, stitch down the entire long edge, lining up your binding along the edge neatly. Place a pin about 1/4" from the corner and stop.  Backstitch to reinforce your stitching.  Remove the pin and now I will show you how to make a perfect corner. 


Fold your binding up so that it is a perfect 45 degree angle from the corner.


Now fold back down, keeping your angle underneath in place.  Pin the binding in place as shown, lining up the fold along the short top edge and pin into place.  Continue from the top edge with a 1/4" seam and finish sewing your binding onto your quilted table runner, completing each corner as shown in these last few steps.


Press your binding along the seam away from your unfinished edge.  Turn over and fold up about a 1/4" seam to the wrong side.  I stick pins into my folded seam to hold it in place on the ironing board and then I press it.  That's my neat little trick for pressing hems without burning my fingers.


I pinned the hem along the stitch line on the back and then I added a nice zig-zag stitch along the top seam to sew the binding into place.


And the result?  This beautiful quilted table runner!


I love it and I hope my daughter does too!  I'm excited to tell you that I am taking a little trip just before Thanksgiving.  I am flying to Arkansas to visit my daughter Kim, her dear husband, Zak, and my granddaughter, Reagan!!  For one glorious week, I get to spoil them all!!  I can't wait.  I'm like a kid again.  I used to get so excited when my Dad would come home and tell the family that he was taking us all on a vacation.  Of course, as you know, times are tough here, and my sweet baby girl surprised me with the plane tickets.  I'm as happy as a clam at high tide!  And this table runner?  It's all hers.  She and her family just moved into a new home and this is my gift to them.  I think it will look wonderful on their table this holiday, don't you?



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oh, to Make a Mole


The other day, Sarah came home and said, "Mom, I need your help with a Chemistry project."  That's when I told her she better talk to Dad about that.  She said "No, Mom, I need you.  I need you to teach me how to sew before Friday."  That wasn't going to happen and I even think Sarah knew that.


What could sewing possibly have to do with Chemistry?  Have you ever heard of Mole day?  Neither have I. 


Did you know that October 23rd is the one special day of the year when all good chemists gather together to celebrate the most elemental day of the year? 


And, here's the kicker, there are all kinds of activities associated with Mole day, like eating guacamole and chips for lunch and drinking a toast to Avogadro at 6:02 (am or pm).


One of the most popular activities that Chemistry teachers across our country have their students work on is to make a stuffed Mole and to write a story about it. 


Sometimes, the teachers have their students include science, other elements, or chemistry into their story.


It's weird, especially for a Chemistry project. Sarah had to make a Mole.  She doesn't know how to sew and couldn't sew a straight line if she tried.  So, Sarah did what any good student wanting to get an "A" would do - she asked her mother (that's me) to make her Mole.  She'll supervise of course.


Sarah did a good job of supervising, and I made her Mole.  Her Americium Mole.  And, she wrote a story about her Mole that was really funny.  I think she might just get an "A" on this silly project.


I had fun making her Mole.  We decided to call him Herman.  Monsieur Herman Americium. 


I think he's pretty darn cute.  He absolutely has no sense of fashion, and Sarah will give him to her teacher tomorrow where he'll be in the company of Moles from a lot of students.

I must admit I'm fairly proud of myself for figuring out how to make those plaid pants.

So, do you need the pattern for this silly Mole?  Here you go!  Just click on the sewing machines below for the pattern and the instructions.






Happy Mole Day!


Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 6


Today we begin by basting and then we quilt the table runner!  Your quilt top and layers are pinned together, and we are now going to baste the layers together.  Set up your table runner so that the needle is in the middle in your machine. 


When you turn on your machine, it probably automatically goes to a straight-stitch setting with a  normal stitch length.  We want to increase this - a lot, so that it is a basting stitch and easy to remove once we have all the quilting done.


I increased my stitch from a regular 2.5 straight-stitch to a longer 6.0 straight-stitch.  I also changed the thread and bobbin in my machine to a dark thread that would clash and be easy to see after I have all the quilting done.


I begin basting in the middle of the table runner, leaving the tail of the thread on both sides.  DO NOT knot the ends!!  You will want to be able to easily pull these threads out after you have your quilting done.


The most important thing you need to understand about basting is this: 

1) All basting must begin in the middle of your quilt!!  This way, as you baste, your feed dogs and stitching will push your layers out to the edges.  This is an important step, because if you rely solely on your quilting pins and don't baste, you will end up with bunched up fabric underneath, or pleats where you don't want them.  By basting, you almost certainly ensure that your quilt top and backing will not have unwanted bunches or pleats!

2) Baste in this order always beginning in the exact center of your quilt:

        Center --> South        Center --> North

        Center --> East           Center --> West

        Center --> SW             Center --> NE

        Center --> NW            Center --> SE

What this does is push the layers out to the edges and the corners of your quilt layers.

3) The bigger your quilt top, the more basting you will have to do!  After you do all of the above, then go down the center line and baste center line --> edge and so on until your quilt layers also are basted like a checkerboard.  Then remove all your quilting pins and plan your design.


When you are done basting, your quilt layers should look like this.  See how easy it is to see the basting stitch?  That's because I used a dark thread that did not match my quilt top or backing.  If I had used a complimentary thread, I'd have a hard time seeing the basting stitch after I got the quilting done!


One more thing about basting - you don't have to be perfect with your lines.  They're coming out anyway.  As long as you have basted the entire quilt layers so that they don't slip around while quilting, you'll be in good shape.


I did put an additional basting stitch to the left and right of center for more stability of my layers.  Again, I started the stitching on the center line and worked to the edge on both sides of the top.  And leave those threads hanging!  You want something to grab onto and pull when you are finished quilting all the layers.


Even though you have basted your quilt layers together, you still want to start "quilting" in the center of your quilt somewhere.  It doesn't have to be the exact center, but somewhere thereabouts.  I chose to begin inside the green center block and I decided to use a stipple quilt stitch.  I begin by putting my straight stitch setting back to 2.5, but you can put yours back to your normal straight stitch setting.  I changed my presser foot to a free-motion quilting presser foot, and lowered my feed dogs.  I also put up my IDT (that is the piece of my Pfaff that moves the top evenly with the bottom layers.)  Your machine may not have IDT, but that's okay.  You don't need it free-motion machine quilting.

I began in a top corner so that when I was done you hopefully won't see the beginning of my stitching because I will have begun in a seam.  I'm sneaky like that.


And there you go, I stipple-quilted the cream center of the green block and I am going to do the same now with the red block.  I used an aqua colored thread.  I thought that would be a nice compliment to the entire quilted table runner.


After finishing my stipple quilting in the 2 center blocks, I decided to just do "Stitch-in-the-Ditch" quilting for the center section that is pieced together.  I start somewhere near the center inside a seam and begin stitching (make sure you aren't using your basting stitch!!!).  Before you begin "Stitch-in-the-Ditch" though, you need to change your presser foot again, and raise your feed dogs, and lower your IDT if you have it on your machine!


Lower your needle into a corner seam and then lower your presser foot.  Follow the seam and begin quilting.  I go as far as I can go with the seam and the stitching and then rotate with the needle down and keep going around the seams of the quilt top until I can't go any further, then I do a knotting stitch and clip my hanging thread. 

Find another seam and follow it around and around until you can't go any further.  Before you know it, you're done!


And there you go!  We have most of the quilt top quilted!  We'll put the finishing touches on the quilting on Monday and I'll show you how to bind the quilted table runner perfectly and you'll have a beautiful table runner for the holidays!!



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 5


We're coming down the homestretch!! We're gonna get this baby quilted!  Now that your quilt top is completed, you have to press your quilt backing.  The backing should be at least 2"-3" larger in diameter than your quilt top.  Lay your quilt backing right-side down on the mattress of your bed.  Smooth it out with your hands like a fresh clean sheet.


Using straight pins, pin the backing to the mattress so that it is taut and flat.  Place your batting on top of the backing and your quilt top, face up, on top of the batting.


Smooth it out nice and flat.


Do you have "quilt basting pins?"  They're the best.  They have curved bottoms so that they are easy to pin the layers of your quilt together without fuss.  Pin the layers together, careful not to cause wrinkles in the layers.  You want all three layers to be flat and wrinkle free!


I place pins about every 7 inches apart or so.


When you are done pinning your layers together, take out the "straight-pins" that were holding your backing to the bed.  You may have taken some out while putting in the basting pins.  That's fine.  Leave the basting pins in place and trim any excess backing and batting to about 2" - 3" the diameter of the quilt top.

Tomorrow we're going to machine quilt our table runner.  It isn't as intimidating as it sounds.  First of all, a table runner is much smaller than a wall, lap, or bed quilt.  Try putting one of those under your machine and you'll learn a whole new vocabulary, and it won't sound friendly.  But this?  This is fun, and if you have never quilted before and are just learning, this is the perfect place to start!



Monday, October 18, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 4


On Day 3, we finished the center quilt blocks for our table runner.  Let's give it a hand embroidered touch.  Begin by measuring the each side of your blocks.  They should have the same measurement - somewhere between 12" and 12-1/2".  After you have your blocks trimmed and even all the way around, cut 2 pieces of cream fabric - the width of your block (mine was 12") by 5" (I cut 2 pieces of cream fabric 12 x 5 inches).  Lay one piece of cream fabric over a printed pattern of the word "Joy," centering the design; and, lay the other piece over the printed pattern for the word "Peace."  Pin in place and trace with a water-soluable fabric marker onto your cream fabric. 


Place your pattern in an embroidery hoop and pull out 3 strands of embroidery thread.  Thread your needle.  Your ready to embroidery the words "Joy" and "Peace."


If you look closely, you can see my blue marker.  I work from left to right with a chain-stitch.  I think this is called a chain stitch.  


After you complete your embroidery, press each piece and stitch to either end of your blocks with the words facing "out."  Next, stitch your blocks together like you see above.


Cut 3 strips of red-white fabric - 2" x the width of the fabric.


Stitch a 2" section to the end of "Joy," trimming the excess and using it for the other side.


After you have sewn on the red-white border to either end of your runner, sew the remainder of your 2" border to either side. Press. 


Cut 5 strips of cream fabric - 2" x the width of the fabric.  Repeat the process with the red-white border, sewing the cream border to either end and then either side.  When you hold your longest piece of cream fabric up against the longest edge of your table runner, it may not be long enough.  You'll have to piece 2 - 2" sections together.  Place one piece RST with the other piece and draw a diagonal line like you see above (corner to corner).  Sorry it is so faint.  I can barely see that line myself!


This is how I drew the line. 


Stitch the 2 sections together and trim 1/4" from the stitching in the seam allowance.


Like this.


Press and stitch the cream border to either side.  I place the "pieced" border stitching in the middle of either side of the table runner.  That way it doesn't look like you pieced the border because you came up short.


Cut 5 pieces of aqua fabric - 3" x the width of the fabric.  Repeat the process for stitching on the borders.


Piece the aqua border just as you did the cream border.  Line up your angled piecing, pin in place and stitch RST.


When you are finished stitching, the best way to trim the excess is to set your piece down RST with the border and trim off the excess ...


Like this.


When you are done, your Table Runner top is done!


Isn't it beautiful?!!  Tomorrow - onto making the table runner back!!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 3


This is where we left off yesterday.  We stitched the rectangle onto the square, lining up the points.


We need to make 3 more red rectangles and 3 more green rectangles.  Lay them out on your table and then stitch them together exactly as you did the first rectangle - beginning with the center square.


TIP: If you want to pick up several pieces at once and stitch them together, put a single pin on the edge that you are stitching ...


... then, when you lay them next to your sewing machine to stitch, you won't accidentally stitch the wrong edge and you can chain stitch a number of pieces in one shot.  It sure makes the piecing process go faster.


After you do your chain stitching, trim the chain and press all your pieces open - pressing towards the dark fabric and trim off your dog-ears.


Stitch your rectangles together just as you did the first rectangle and press.  Line up your 2nd rectangle opposite the first on the other side of the square.


Check your points.  You want to be sure that your points line up nicely.


Press open and your points should look like this.


Make 2 more rectangles (and don't screw up like I did when I sewed them together.  If you look at the rectangle on the left (red block), you will see a red triangle where an aqua should be and vice versa).  Oh well - that's what I get for rushing and probably being distracted during the process. 

Lay out your full block just like you see above with aqua squares on each corner.


Separate the rectangle and 2 aqua squares from the block like you see above and stitch the aqua squares to either end of the rectangle.  Press.  Repeat for the other side. 


Stitch the long rectangles to the center section to complete your red and green blocks.


Trim your blocks.  They should measure 12" square after you clean up the edges.


Beautiful.  More to come next week! 



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 2


Continuing our table runner.  Take 2 green charm squares and put them together matching corners exactly.  Cut them to 3-7/8" x 3-7/8" square.


Cut the 2 green charm squares in half diagonally and set aside.


Take 3 more green charm squares and cut them to 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square.  Cut them in half twice as shown.  Take 4 aqua charms and cut to 3-1/2" x 3-1/2" square.  Set aside (Do not cut them in half! - Picture not shown).


Take 2 aqua charm squares and cut to 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square.  You will then cut them in half diagonally twice.  When you prepare to cut in half diagonally, especially if you have several squares on top of one another, make sure that they are layered perfectly.  When you begin cutting, be careful not to slip your rotary ruler.  After you have made the first diagonal cut, simply cut the square in the other direction diagonally without moving the square.


Now, separate your triangles and set aside.


Let's build the center red  block.  Take 4 red triangles and place on the 4 sides of the cream square. 


Notice that the points of the triangles extend past each corner of the square by about 1/4".  This is exactly as it should be.


Begin by sewing 2 red triangles to opposite edges of the cream square.  Always use a 1/4" seam.  I follow the edge of my presser foot because it provides me with a clean 1/4" seam allowance.


Press open the triangles - pressing towards the triangles.  Trim off the dog-ears.


Place the other 2 red squares on opposite sides of the cream square making sure they are centered and that the seam allowance that extends past the edges is equal on both sides of the triangle.  Stitch in place.


Press open and clip off the dog-ears.


Measure your block.  It should measure 6-1/2"


Repeat this process for the green square.


You should have 2 squares that look like this - one red and one green.


Lay out a red and cream square and a green and cream square as shown.


With right-sides together (RST), stitch together as shown to make 2 small squares.  Press.  Trim off the dog-ears.


With RST, lay a red triangle on top of the red/cream square you just stitched as shown.  Do the same for the green square.



Stitch the triangles to the squares and press so that the result looks like you see above.


Grab 2 aqua triangles and pin to the red and green pieces as shown.


Stitch and press towards the aqua triangle.  Lookin' good!


Take 2 cream triangles and and 2 aqua triangles (mine are cream and aqua because I ran out of aqua charm squares - oops) - and put them together as shown.


Place them RST and stitch (always a 1/4" seam.  Press towards the aqua fabric.


Now, line up your pieces as shown, being accurate by lining up the seams before you pin and stitch.


See the seams?  If you want them to match perfectly, you have to line them up.  That is why having an accurate 1/4" seam, pressing, and pinning accurately makes a big difference in the result!!


Next, with RST, check to make sure that your seams are up against each other as perfectly as you can get them.  NOTE: Don't assume that just because the seam matches at the top edge that it will match when you finish stitching.  Wanna know why?  Because you are stitching 1/4" from the top edge of the piecing.  If you think about it, you need to check to make sure that your edges match perfectly from the 1/4" edge to the top edge.  Then  you'll have nice, straight seams!


Pin that baby in place.  If you don't pin (beginning with the seam you just lined up), you are bound to screw up the alignment.  Don't take a chance.  It takes a few seconds to pin it in place and then stitch.


Press Open towards the triangle you just stitched on.  Trim off the dog-ears.  Smile at your perfect seams and nice piecing.


Take a cream and red triangle set and a cream and green triangle set and lay them next to the block you are piecing.  When you do this you are less likely to stitch across the wrong edge.  Check your work as you go and you'll have fewer mistakes.  I prefer to have my seam ripper collect dust, but it never seams to happen.


Just making sure.


When you have your pieces stitched together and pressed, take your transparent ruler and place the 1/4" seam marking at the top of the triangle.  See it under the ruler?  That tells me that I have a perfect 1/4" seam allowance that I can stitch this piece to another section and the tip of the triangle already stitched together will be a nice, clean point. 


In other words, you don't want to stitch this piece to the first block and cut off the tip of your triangles in the process.  I know, I've done it and it isn't pretty.  Check your accuracy by lining up the horizontal marking on the ruler with the vertical markings, placing the 1/4" marking at the tip of the triangle point beneath the ruler.  If necessary, trim away any excess.  If you look closely at the picture above, you will see just a tiny bit of excess past the edge of the ruler.  I took my rotary cutter and trimed it away.


Lookin' so nice!  Check out those points!! And those perfect 1/4" seams past the center triangle points!!  Yep, this is going to be very pretty when it is all pieced together.


Your completed rectangle should measure 3-1/2" x 6-1/2".  Check your work.  I always do.



Now, pin the red rectangle you just finished onto the red square.  Check your points!  your matching center seams! At the 1/4" tip from the top edge!  Then pin in place.


Notice this isn't a perfect match.  That's okay.  Why?  Because I know I have cut accurately and stitched accurately and at this point of the process, I need to make sure that the top edge that I am getting ready to stitch has the "center" tip of the "center" triangle matching the tip of the cream square beneath it.  If these seams match perfectly and you pin from the center out to the sides, you'll be fine.


See what I mean?  Check that out.  Tip-to-tip.


Press it open and it should look like this.  Repeat these steps for your green square and rectangle piecing and we'll be set to continue tomorrow!  See you then!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Let's Start This Table Runner!


Table runners are so pretty on a table.  I remember the first time I ever saw a table runner. I think I was in my 20s and I remember thinking it was a nice way to decorate a table without covering up the nice finish with a table cloth - something that I had done my entire life and still do at times.  But when the holidays roll around, I like to have a selection of table runners to decorate more than just the dining room table.  I enjoy having them in various sizes for other pieces of furniture throughout my home as well.  

This week, I am making a Christmas table runner and I want you to sew along with me!  If you haven't prepared yet, you will need:

"12 Days of Christmas" Charm Pack by Moda Fabrics or 32 Charm Squares (5" x 5") or ... Christmas fabric of your choice.  I purchased some nice Moda fabric from 2 different designers with a Christmas theme.  Feel free to be creative!

1 Skein of Embroidery Floss - Red (pictured is a collection of 36 skeins of embroidery floss, but you will only need red for this project.  If you are close to a "Michaels Craft Store" or fabric store, you can find the embroidery floss there.)

 Cotton quilt batting - 24" x 44" or just a baby quilt size will be enough to make several table runners!

* about 1/2 yard of green ribbon (You can find this at your local fabric store)

* about 1/2 yard of red ribbon (Preferably 1"  to 1-1/2" width for bows on the top of the table runner)

You will also need:

* 3/4 - 1 yard of 44" fabric - Creme or Winter White

* 1/4 yard of 44" fabric - Red and White print  (You might see if your fabric store carries the "12 Days of Christmas" fabric collection by Moda and use the same red & white print that is in the charm pack!) 

* about 1/2 yard of 44" fabric - Aqua

* about 1/3 yard of 44" fabric - Red (includes binding)  You can get several different red fabrics if you like.  Make it your own!

NOTE: You can find most all of these supplies at your local fabric supply and/or craft store like Michaels Craft Store.  It is probably easier to order the pattern and the charm pack, however, online through a reputable supplier.  I linked to the "Fat Quarter Shop" because they are a great online resource and are fast to ship!

* * * * * * *

Let's get started!


I love charm packs, and this charm pack will make a beautiful table runner.  This one is "Fruitcake" by Moda.  I love the fabric designs!  I think it will make for a beautiful table runner.


Before I cut my fabric, I press it.  You should always prepare your fabric before you cut.  If you cut it with a crease in it, you may be cutting an inaccurate measurement.  Pressing is as important cutting and accurate seams!  Begin by cutting a 4-3/4" long strip from the side of your cream fabric.  


From this strip cut 2 4-3/4" by 4-3/4" squares. 


Set aside the 2 squares and now cut your long strip down to 4-1/4"


Cut 6 squares from the 4-1/4" strip - each 4-1/4" x 4-1/4".  When you are done, cut in half diagonally.  Line up your edges and corners accurately before you cut.


Now, cut the square in half again in the other direction.


Set aside your cream colored triangles.


Organize your charm pack.  In my pack I organized the creams, greens, reds, aquas, and browns.  It makes it easier to choose the colors and patterns you want to use for your quilted table runner.


Pick out 2 reds and put them together. Cut the squares down to 3-7/8" x 3-7/8".


Cut them in half once.


Set aside your red triangles.


Pick out 3 red charm squares.  Cut them down to 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square.


Cut in half diagonally twice.


Set these aside as well, but keep them together so that you don't get the wrong size triangles mixed up with the larger ones you cut before.


I love aqua with the other Christmas colors.  I picked out 4 aqua charm squares and cut them down to 3-1/2" x 3-1/2" square and set them aside.


Choose 2 more aqua charms.  Cut them down to 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square, then cut them in half diagonally twice.  


Set them aside, making sure to keep each section of this puzzle in neat little piles.

That's it for today!  Tomorrow we will do more!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

My New Blog Design!!


For 2 months now I have been working behind the scenes (all by myself I'll have you know) to give my blog home a redesign.  Kind of like moving the furniture around or painting a room, adding some new drapes or pictures to the walls, I needed a pick-me-up.  I wanted the new design to look fresh and more simplistic, and I wanted it to have a few new features too, like an Accordian sidebar navigation, and a more decorative (simplistic and easy to read) footer to each post.  I played around with images in Photoshop and created a new Masthead as well.  I hope you will like my new design!

A lot of things are changing, including the kind of content in my blog home.  For instance, with all my little ones now going to public school, with the exception of my son, whom I still homeschool until he starts high school, I won't be writing for my School Days Section anymore.  And, since my Big Bear has been out of work for over 2 years now, God only knows when we'll be able to work on those things around our home that need attention - like landscaping, a new deck, a kitchen overhaul, new flooring, and new bathrooms!  So, until remodeling the house becomes a priority again, I'm also putting the Home & Garden Section on the back burner.  


My life right now is mostly about being creative, and talking about my life in other ways - like my children and grandchildren, and how very proud I am of all of them.  My personal stories are still very much a part of Raisin Toast and you'll still find them in "My Opus," because, well, this is my opus in so many ways.

Only 1 section has been launched as of this post - the "In the Studio" section, now called simply "Atelier" for "Studio."  I wanted this to be the first section launched with the new design because Raisin Toast is being featured all this week on the site "WeAllSew.com" which is sponsored by Bernina!  How exciting!  I am having a sew-a-long all week and I hope you will join me in making a beautiful quilted table runner for the upcoming Christmas holidays.  I probably should have started with a Thanksgiving table runner, but when I saw this pattern in my favorite quilt shop, I snapped it up.  But, table runners are easy to make and I am sure that if you find a quilted table runner with a Thanksgiving theme, you can still follow along with me all week.

Bear with me while I make changes to Raisin Toast over the coming couple of weeks.  I'll be putting the finishing touches on the design and launching each section little by little.  I now know why web designers charge thousands to design blogs and websites!  Goodness, this has been exhausting.  Even the little elements take so much time to create and then code into the template.  My brain is fried.  I don't know how anyone does this for a living without losing their eyesight.  I've been looking at so much HTML, CSS, and JQuery, and Javascript, even my dreams are about coding.  I just hope I'm not sick of the new design by the time I launch the dang thing! 

The good news is that - yes - I've become quite the TypePad Advanced Template Design Pro (A TypePad Champion if you ask the folks at SixApart), and I am here to help anyone who has a TypePad blog with designing Mastheads, icons, Horizontal Navigation, footers, and more.  As exhausting as it has been, I think that is mostly because I also had to learn how to add the fancier navigation and sidebar utilities that I wanted over the course of the last few months.  Now that I know how it all works, it is all coming together a lot easier.

So there you go - I'm off to a good start.  I think.  If you happen to run across any problems on my site or with my design, PLEASE let me know!!!  Like - I cannot figure out why the sharing buttons below are vertical and not horizontal.  If you know how to fix this let me know. I've spent the last hour messing with it and I finally called it a night.

With that, I'm ready to start this table runner!



Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner Sew-A-Long!


Every day next week I will be making a quilted table runner, and I want you to join me!  I'm calling this a Sew-A-Long and together we can make the first of this year's Christmas decorations and gifts for family and friends.

I like to start early - usually September - to begin thinking about Christmas and gifts, because I enjoy making many of the gifts I give - like quilts, table runners, place mats, stuffed baby toys, and I need to make sure I have the time to get it all done.  I'm hoping that the Sew-A-Long will be a regular feature on Raisin Toast.  Won't that be fun?!!  I enjoy having a friend or two to sew with me and this is a great virtual way to share in our projects.  I will also try to create a page where I share your projects that we have worked on together with your name and link to your blog or website if you have one.  It is a great way for me to say "Thank you" for reading Raisin Toast and sharing in my life and projects.

So let's get started!  Here are the details:

You will need to get:

* "12 Days of Christmas" Charm Pack by Moda Fabrics or 32 Charm Squares (5" x 5") or any holiday fabric of your choice.

* 1 Skein of Embroidery Floss - Red (pictured is a collection of 36 skeins of embroidery floss, but you will only need red for this project.  If you are close to a "Michaels Craft Store" or fabric store, you can find the embroidery floss there.)

* Cotton quilt batting - baby crib size will be more than enough!

* about 1/2 yard of green ribbon (You can find this at your local fabric store)

* about 1/2 yard of red ribbon (Preferably 1"  to 1-1/2" width for bows on the top of the table runner, but only if you want to add this decoration when the runner is complete.)

You will also need:

* 3/4 yard of 44" fabric - Creme or Winter White

* 1/4 yard of 44" fabric - Red and White print  (You might see if your fabric store carries the "12 Days of Christmas" fabric collection by Moda and use the same red & white print that is in the charm pack!)

* 1/2 yard of 44" fabric - Aqua or Green (various shades are fine too)

* 1/3 yard of 44" fabric - Red (various shades are fine too, and this includes the binding as well).

NOTE: You can find most all of these supplies at your local fabric supply and/or craft store like Michaels Craft Store.  It is probably easier to order the pattern and the charm pack, however, online through a reputable supplier.  I linked to the "Fat Quarter Shop" because they are a great online resource and are fast to ship!

* * * * * * *

Raisin Toast is going to be featured all next week on We All Sew! And, that makes it a perfect time to start my sew-a-long with you!

I hope you will join me on this sewing adventure!  Thank you to We All Sew for featuring Raisin Toast on your site and introducing me to your readers!  

Would you like to see some beautiful holiday table runners? I thought you might like to be inspired ...


Check out these beauties from Crazy for Quilts!


Or how about this lovely runner that you can make from the Jolly Jabber's Table Runner Club at the Fat Quarter Shop!


I love this runner!  It was handmade by none other than Jingle Jolly, aka Happy Zombie, or Monica Solorio-Snow back in 2007.  I'll bet she pulls this out every holiday.  Love the pattern as much as I do?


Here you go! 


Just click on my little goodie box for your free pattern courtesy of Jingle Jolly Monica.

And while you're at it, check out Monica's Tiny Trick-or-Treat (smell my sewing machine feet) bags and pattern that she has featured on her site and also in the Better Homes & Garden Quilts and More Fall issue!

But wait!  Here's another great table runner project for you to print off!! ...


This is made with heavier fabric from Calico Corners.  Here are the instructions, courtesy of Woman's Day!

Add this to your craft box: 



By the way, if you have any questions or need help with this project, feel free to contact me at [email protected]  

* Now, let's get started by making some holiday table runners to start our season off beautifully! *


Monday, September 20, 2010

A Jitterbug Quilt


I've been busy for 2 weeks piecing together the quilt top for the Jitterbug Quilt.


Lots of piecing and lots of strips.  All from a Thirties Jellyroll.  The thing about making this quilt is that I wasn't a big fan of most of the fabric strips.  However, once I started piecing the quilt top, it looked a lot better.


And I was hoping it would look as beautiful as this quilt which was on the cover of "Layer Cake, Jelly Roll, and Charm Quilts" by Pam & Nicky Lintott.  This is the reason I picked up the book!  I fell in love with this quilt.


So, started piecing together my quilt, hoping that the Thirties Jelly Roll that I had would be as nice as the one used to make the quilt on the cover of the book.  The quilt blocks didn't look so bad and my points were pretty good too.  It was coming together nicely.


Seriously, though, it was very difficult for me to piece together fabric that didn't match.


To remind myself that I am not the only one who has made this quilt, I found this one made by a very nice lady in Georgia I think.  She has it hanging in her quilt shop.  I love it.  It is just so colorful and happy.


Today I finished the quilt top and now I think it looks great. I am really happy with the finished top.


The next step is quilting and binding.  This quilt top is 43 x 68 and much too large, I think, for me to machine quilt it.  So, this may mean pulling out my quilt frame and hand quilting this quilt. You can be sure that when I finish quilting it and binding it, I will post a picture here!  Wish me luck!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How to Choose the Best Thread for your Sewing Project


As I have taught friends and family to sew, I have discovered that many think all threads are the same with the exception of the color.  Not true.  Threads are different - in blend, color, texture, shrinkage, and their ability to work well in your machine without breakage.  Finding the best thread for your sewing project can be daunting, so I thought I would share with you some information that I have learned in my years of sewing and quilting that may be helpful for anyone just starting out or wanting to understand better how to choose thread wisely.

First of all, be familiar with the type of fabric you will be using for your project before you pick a thread.  Start by understanding the various types of thread, their usage, and their weight (size) - I have provided that information below.  The higher the number, the finer the thread where "50" is the median size.  Sometimes the size will be indicated by a letter, in this case "A" is fine thread and "D" is heavy thread.

The thread you use for your projects should be similar in fiber content to that of your chosen fabric.

General Purpose:

Spoolsofthread7 There are a number of general purpose sewing threads, and understanding how to read the spool is key to understanding what you are getting.  For instance:

Cotton: You can find a wide range of colors in a medium thickness weight (size 50).  This thread is used for sewing on light to medium weight cottons, linens, and rayons mostly.  Most cotton thread is mercerized, which simply means that it has been through a finishing process that makes it smooth and lustrous allowing it to take dye better as well.  This is important because if you use a dark color thread in your project, you don't want it to fade over time and with each washing.  Cotton thread is NOT a good choice when your sewing project involves stretchy fabrics.  If you use a cotton thread on stretchy material like knits, your stitches will break.

Cotton - Polyester Blend:  I think I have more of this thread in my collection than any other.  This is an all-purpose thread (size 50) for sewing on knits, wovens, blends, synthetic, and natural fibers.  The polyester core provides this thread with additional strength and elasticity, and the cotton exterior makes it strong and heat resistant.

Silk:   Silk thread is great for sewing on silk and wool and I love it for projects like silk and wool dresses, silk scarves, and even satin and chiffon.  The thread is fine (size A) and makes it ideal for basting as well, on all types of fabrics, because it won't leave "holes" or imprints in your fabric after you remove the basting stitches.  I like to use silk thread for basting my quilts before machine quilting.  Silk thread has elasticity too, and is suitable for your stretchy fabrics like knit. Use this fine thread with very thin, delicately woven fabrics like lingerie or sheer garments.

Spoolsofthread8 Nylon:   Nylon thread is suitable for sewing light to medium weight synthetics (size A) and is especially suitable for projects using nylon tricot, suedecloth, Faux Fur, and Fleece, as a few examples.

Polyester:  Polyester is an all-purpose weight (size 50) thread, and is suitable for most all types of fabrics, particularly woven synthetics, knits, and stretchy fabrics of any fiber.  Most of your polyester threads contain a wax or silicone finish enabling them to slide through the fabric with minimum friction.

Metallic: You can use metallic thread for both machine and hand embroidery and thread painting, just make sure that if you use this thread for machine embroidery that it is labeled suitable for use in your machine sewing.

Quilting:  Quilting thread is suitable for all your hand and machine quilting projects.  I've been asked if the "hand quilting" thread is suitable for the machine and the answer is "yes" you can use the hand-quilting thread in your machine.  Most quilting thread is "all-cotton" and has a finish that makes it easier for the thread to slip through the fabric and cotton layers.

Heavy Duty Threads:

Spoolsofthread9 Cotton; Polyester, and Cotton-Polyester BlendThese are coarse threads (size <40) and are necessary for sewing heavier fabrics such as heavy vinyl or upholstery fabrics.  If you use a size 50 weight or above, chances are that your thread will break during the sewing of your project.  I used a heavier thread to make the Happy Back PakSaks for my children this past summer.  I trusted that the heavier thread would not break while machine stitching over layers and layers of heavy fabric and batting.

Be careful not to fall prey to the 10 spools for 4.99 deal.  Chances are that these threads are not the quality that you require in your sewing projects.  Just remember - you get what you pay for, and that is not to say that you can find some good deals on good quality thread, just "know" your thread and understand what you are looking for before you tackle your project.


Do you try to match the color of your thread exactly to your project?  Suggestion - buy a thread that is 1 shade darker so that it blends in harmoniously.  If you have a multi-color print or a plaid fabric, you should pick a color thread that is the most dominant color in the fabric.

Spoolsofthread5 When threading your machine, be sure to put the top part of the spool "up."  Finding the top of the spool isn't always as obvious as you might think.  To determine which part of the spool is the top, hold the spool horizontally by the top and bottom.  Unroll about a foot of the thread.  If the thread hangs freely, you unrolled it from the top.  If it twists back on itself, you unrolled it from the bottom.

Don't use old thread you find laying around just to use it up. (I'm guilty of this).  Give it the yank test.  If the thread breaks simply by yanking it off the spool, it will break in your machine.  Toss it out.  DO NOT save it for a craft project, and definitely do not throw it out for the birds (this can be fatal to them).  Also, do not donate it to charity either.  Put it out with your garbage and purchase a new thread for your project.  

If you will be sewing with specialty threads you will want to use the appropriate needle for your project and adjust your machine tension. Remember to always adjust the upper tension of your machine with the foot down.  Your machine may not register the change if the presser foot is up.  Once you find a setting you like, write it down!  I keep a notebook of sewing tips, including samples of stitches and tension information for reference. If you play with the tensions, you will see the different effects that you can achieve by "pulling" the bobbin thread up to the top of your fabric.  Many threads perform better in the bobbin with a cotton or invisible thread in the needle.  If you like the effect, consider buying a separate bobbin case and leaving the tension set up for bobbin work.

Problems with Decorative Thread?  Try these suggestions and see if they help:

  • Slow down.  Decorative thread and speed don't mix.
  • Re-thread your machine.  Experiment with not putting the thread through the thread guide that is above the needle.  Also, make sure that when you are threading your machine, that the thread is between the discs in the guide of your machine.
  • Change the needle. Are you using the proper size?  A too small needle will shred medium and heavy threads.  Make sure the eye of the needle is large enough for heavier threads.  Always be sure that the needle is appropriate for the fabric and the thread that you are using.
  • Lower your tension.  When the top thread loops on the bottom, the tension is too loose 
  • Try another brand of thread.  Sometimes, simply changing the thread to another brand will do the trick.

If you are going to be embroidering with your machine, choose your thread weight according to the design.  Embroidery thread is available in sizes ranging from 30wt (heavier thread is good for lots of fill) to 60wt (thinner thread for more detail.) Embroidery thread can be rayon, polyester, cotton, or silk.

My favorite place to shop for thread is Red Rock Threads

My favorite brands of thread are Robison-Anton and Mettler.  I also like Superior-Masterpiece thread for quilting projects and cotton fabric projects.  Floriani has a beautiful line of embroidery threads.

I've noticed that Coats & Clark threads are not as reliable as they used to be.  You can find C & C in most fabric stores, however I haven't been as impressed with the quality since using other brands.  True, some are more costly, but ultimately, the durability of my project is dependent on the quality of my thread as well!

I hope you have enjoyed this article and learned something valuable about choosing thread for your sewing project.  I love to hear from my readers!  Let me know what you are working on! 


Sunday, August 29, 2010

8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

d300.thumbnail 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR CameraBy Contributing Author, Yanik Chauvin

I don’t know about you but not long after playing with my brand new Nikon Coolpix 4500 many years ago, I was already dreaming of owning a DSLR. Then the day came…. my very own Nikon D70! Boy, was I a happy camper! Of course, I took it with the kit lens which was a Nikkor 18-70mm. I didn’t know much about lenses back then. But I had read that this lens was a good (but not great) average lens.  And I was happy with it most of the time. But….

vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
Owning a DSLR means you’ll eventually be getting more lenses so that you can explore and develop your creativity. But which lenses to get? There are so many out there. And if you’re like me, going to a camera store is like bringing a kid into a candy store! You just want everything! You see a guy testing a Nikkor 70-200mm VR and you want it. Another person is buying a Sigma 105mm macro lens and you want that one too! But how to choose?

Here are some of the questions that I asked (and keep asking) myself before purchasing a new lens. These are very important steps so that you don’t go and impulse buy or just buy the wrong lens for your needs.

Step 1 - What do you like to shoot?

To me this is the most important question. Now, if you answered “everything," try narrowing it down just a bit. ;) In my case, when I started out, I loved shooting bugs and flowers. I was often at the cottage and always had my D70 with me. But my Nikkor 18-70mm just wasn’t doing it for me. So I asked myself, “what kind of lens do I need to get great bug shots?” And after a bit of research I found out that macro lenses were perfect for my need. So I went out and purchased my second lens ever, the Sigma 105mm macro.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
So? I’ll ask again. What do you like to shoot most? Is it birds? Then maybe a Canon 100-400mm IS would be best. Concerts? You’ll need a fast lens for low light situations so a 50mm f1.4 might suit your needs.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
Remember to ask yourself this question before every lens purchase or you might end up with glass accumulating dust at the bottom of a bag. I know, I have a few. ;)

Step 2 - Do your research

Ok, so you figured out what type of lens is best for what you want to shoot. Great! But there are many to choose from. Which one, which one? Well, you’re probably wondering why I chose the Sigma 105mm over the Nikkor 105mm. The answer is simple. I did my research. I just typed “sigma 105mm review” in Google and then the same for the Nikkor 105mm. In a nutshell, I found out that both lenses had about the same image quality but the Sigma was $300 cheaper. And since I knew this lens wasn’t going to be used to generate income (even if I get their good side, bugs don’t sell well on stock sites ;)), I went with the less expensive one.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
You can find some great  lens reviews online. You can also check out DPReview and Lens-Reviews for user feedback.

vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camerasigma 105.thumbnail 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 3 - How picky are you on image quality?

Don’t get too freaked out when you read some of the reviews out there. They tend to be very technical and sometimes, and I do stress sometimes, nitpick on the most minor details. That said, some lenses are just plain horrible. Luckily, in the lens world, most of the time you get what you pay for. Also, you have to ask yourself if this is a hobby or are you planning on making money with your photography? I know people that have bottom off the line lenses and are very happy. So go into the store and check them out. Better yet, do step 4!
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 4 - Give it a test drive

So you’ve read the reviews and you found the one you want. Super! Before forking over the cash, why not play with it for the weekend? Most cities will have camera stores that will rent out lenses. It’s usually pretty cheap to rent a lens and I personally think it’s a great investment.  You can see the results on your computer and test it out in various situations. Something you can’t do in the store when you only have 2 minutes to play with it. Test it for what you’re actually going to use it for mostly remember step 1?). If you love shooting sports, I wouldn’t recommend shooting flowers in a vase. ;)
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 5 - What’s your budget?

A very important question indeed. If you’re a pro and you know that your new lens will pay itself off with your next 2 contracts, it’s a no-brainer. But if you’re an amateur, this becomes important. You need to ask yourself how much are you willing to spend for your hobby? Make yourself a yearly photo budget that is within your means. I strongly recommend not getting into debt for a hobby.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
But if you really, really, really want that 70-200mm VR and you can’t afford it full price, try getting it used on Ebay. Sometimes, even your local photography store will sell used equipment. You won’t get super deals if the lenses are in good condition because lenses have a high resale value but you can save around 10-20%.

vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Cameranikon 70 200mm.thumbnail 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 6 - 3rd party lenses

Ok, some of you are purists out there and I respect that. But there are other alternatives from companies like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina. They also make lenses with either a Canon or Nikon mount. We call them 3rd party lenses. They used to be of lower quality but have improved dramatically over the last 5 years. They actually give the big boys a run for their money. I actually own 2 Sigma lenses.  If you’re on a tight hobby budget, 3rd party lenses can be great since they’re usually cheaper (sometimes more than 50%!).
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 7 - Image Stabilization

Should you get image stabilization in your lenses? Before asking that question, what does it do? Basically, it lets you shoot at a slower speed hand-held without blur. Usually, the average photographer can shoot hand-held as slow as 1/60 sec. without blur. With image stabilization, you could, on average,  shoot as slow as 1/15 sec. without blur due to camera shake. Image stabilization is for camera shake only. It’s there to stabilize your camera not your subjects. :) It’s great for low light situations.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 8 - How important is aperture?

I’m finishing off with this step because this might play a major role in your lens selection. As you might already know, the smaller the f-stop number, the wider the opening and the more light comes in which means you can shoot at faster speeds. Sometimes you’ll find lenses that seem the same at first glance but one is cheaper than the other and you wonder why. Check the maximum aperture. For example, you can get a 50mm f1.8 and a 50mm f1.4. The first one is $135.00 and the second is $500.00. Big price difference but if you’re shooting in low light all the time and you’re making money with your images than it might be worth it.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Final thoughts

One thing that I keep suggesting to fellow photographers looking to buy a new lens is to look at lenses like an investment. Camera technology advances at a neck breaking speed so camera bodies change fast and loose value. Lenses, on the other hand, don’t. That’s why lenses retain their resell value. You camera bodies will change over the years but your lenses won’t so get good glass right away. Even if you need to wait an extra few months to save up, you won’t regret it. Working with good equipment makes for a pleasurable experience and therefore better photos! :)



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Quilt for Baby Reagan


Last week I got busy making a quilt for my granddaughter, Reagan.  She'll be One on Sept. 5th!!  I wanted to do something special and decided to make Reagan a "First" quilt for her "First" birthday.  I did not, however, want it to be baby colors or toy pictures - something that she would outgrow.  So, although the quilt is not large, it is small enough for her to use in her crib and large enough for her to use as a lap quilt when she gets older.  


Jelly Rolls are great.  I love 'em.  A Jelly Roll is a roll of 40 strips of fabric, each different from the same collection.  Each strip is 2.5" x 45".  For this quilt, I used the Jelly Roll by Moda's Martinique collection, and I used the book "Two from One Jelly Roll Quilts" by Pam and Nicky Lintott - page 88, the "Jigsaw Quilt."  I love this book!  Great designs and beautiful quilts and instructions for making the quilts with Jelly Rolls.  NOTE: You "will" need to get the Omnigrid 96 ruler to make these quilts and many of the quilt designs with Jelly Rolls.  You can order it online or try to find it at your local quilt store.  I searched and searched throughout Charlotte and finally found it at the Creative Sew & Vac in Ballantyne.  


I can quilt fast if I get all the cutting done, lay out the pieces to be sewn, and then chain stitch them together.  You can whip right through the quilt blocks in no time flat.


Everything is a 1/4" seam in quilting.  Usually that means you only have to follow the edge of your presser foot, but not always.  Before you start making a quilt, take a scrap piece of fabric and stitch a seam along the edge of the fabric using the edge of your presser foot as a guide, then measure it.  Adjust the difference to where you place your fabric for making your quilt so that you will always have an exact 1/4" seam. Accuracy is key in making a quilt that fits together seamlessly and accurately.


Always have a hot steam iron ready and waiting.  Pressing is as important in making a quilt as the stitching!!


I try to stay organized when I quilt.  I lay out pieces by size and color, and I lay out the completed blocks in groups of 10.  Of course, I throw the rest of the jelly roll fabric to one side - hey! I'm entitled to be a little messy!! 


Here are some of my finished blocks. If you are diligent about your cutting, 1/4" seam, pressing, and piecing the seams together with pins as you sew, you'll have beautiful quilt blocks and strong points on your triangles.


I had lots of little square pieces set aside.


This quilt called for 30 blocks, so I cleared off my kitchen table and laid them out until I was happy with the arrangement.


I sewed the blocks together in rows, then I sewed the completed rows together, matching seams as I pinned and stitched.


I had 9" strips cut from the 2.5" x 45" strips from the Jelly Roll.  I sewed several together for all 4 sides to form a border.  Then, I sewed the sides onto the quilt top first, then the top and bottom border to form a beautiful completed border around the quilt top.

When the quilt top was done I cleared off my bed, laid the backing (Right Side Down) onto the bed.  I took straight pins and pinned the backing to the mattress, making sure it was taut.  After the backing was nice and flat, I placed the cotton batting on top of the backing and the quilt top on top of that.

The backing and the batting should be considerably larger than your quilt top.  I place my quilt top in the center so that all sides have plenty of backing and batting around the quilt top.  Starting in the middle, safety pin your quilt top to all 3 layers, making sure not to pin it to your bed!!  Work from the center out to each side, and then the center to the top and the center to the bottom, pinning the quilt and making sure it is flat the entire way.  You are now ready to start basting!!


By basting, I mean "Let's get rid of those safety pins and straight pins!!"  I can't work with pins in my quilt, especially if I am machine quilting, so I baste the entire quilt.  Again, start in the middle and baste to the bottom, then baste the center to the top, center to left side and center to right side.  Then stitch center to corner for all 4 corners. 


Make sure you use a contrasting thread when you baste, it will save you tons of time removing the basting stitches.  You will have a lot of long threads in the middle of the quilt. Leave them there as it will make it easier to pull them out when you are done quilting.  After I did the initial basting, I basted long straight seams about every 8 inches down each side then from top to bottom to form a checkerboard of basting. Your basting will hold your quilt layers in place and prevent puckering and shifting of layers while you machine quilt.


I wear quilting gloves when I quilt.  The gloves make it very easy to grasp the quilt layers and move the quilt for stitching.  For this quilt, I started with "stitch in the ditch" which simply means I stitched along the seams of each block and triangle.


When I was done with the "stitch in the ditch" quilting, I added some "stipple" quilting to the larger white triangles throughout the quilt.


Quilting is a system.  Once you have the system down, it is a real joy to quilt and piece together your work.  After all the quilting was done, I removed the dark basting stitches which held all 3 layers in place. 

I laid it out on my table and trimmed away the excess batting and backing along the edge of the border.


Time to add the binding!  This is my favorite part, because it goes fast and then you're done and can admire your work.  Jelly rolls make this process easy!  I sewed long sections from the jelly roll together on the short ends, pressed the seams open, and began sewing the binding on the quilt.  I did mess up one thing here - I forgot to press under one long edge before I began sewing it to the quilt.  I suppose I was anxious to finish.  So, I'll save you the trouble - after you have pressed open your connecting seams on your binding, press one long side up 1/2".  Only one long side, not both, then put the long edge that is not folded up, with right sides together, along the top of your quilt and line it up nicely along the raw edge of your quilt top.  Using a 1/4" seam (or the edge of your presser foot) and folding under the beginning short end (so that when you finish sewing on the binding and you reach the beginning again, fold the binding over to the other side and you have a finished edge), begin to sew on your binding.  Start putting on the binding in the middle of the bottom of the quilt. That is where I always start.


When you get to the edge, stop your stitching 1/4" from the corner and back stitch to lock it.  Remove it from the machine and take it to your table.  Fold the strip up and away from your quilt giving it a 45 degree angle. (NOTE:  In this picture, I folded my quilt in half on my sewing table and that is why you see the back of the quilt above the top corner of the quilt top where I am applying the binding.  I didn't want the picture to be confusing)


Fold the finding back down along the other edge of the quilt and pin it in place at the top edge.  You will begin sewing from that very corner down the long edge to the next corner and do the same thing using a 1/4" seam allowance.


Add about an inch extra to the end of the binding.  When you are done, fold the binding over to the other side and line up the pressed and folded edge of the binding to the stitching from the other side.  Now, you can straight stitch or you can add a decorative stitch to this piece of the puzzle.  I always like to add a decorative stitch for the finished edge of my binding because it looks really nice on both sides.


And here is my finished quilt!!  I am really proud of the way it turned out and I think the fabrics are interesting and will attract Reagan's interest.  She can use it in her crib, or when she goes to the park.  She'll be able to sit and play on it in her family room or playroom.  Someday, she may use it to cover her legs and read or hang it on the wall.  However she enjoys this quilt as she grows up, I hope she will know that her grandmother Susan stitched a lot of love into every block.

Here is what a Jelly Roll looks like and if you click it on, it will take you to the Martinique Jelly Roll that I used to create this quilt:


This is the Martinique Jelly Roll by 3 Sisters for Moda!  Click on the image to get one of your own!


This is the book that I used to make this quilt - pages 88 - 93 "Jigsaw Quilt."  Click on the book to go directly to Amazon and order one for your own!


I hope that you enjoyed reading about how I created "Reagan's First Quilt!"  




Monday, August 02, 2010

Name That PackSack Contest!!


I finished making Glen's bookbag/backpack today and it came out great.  So great in fact that I decided I needed to give these bags a nifty name.  I only came up with half of the name - "PackSack."  I like it.  But, I need something before the "PackSack."  Some-thing Packsack.

(If you look at the picture above, you will see that the bag has a zippered pocket on the front.)

I took elements from several backpacks the children already had, and elements from some patterns and altered them to create my own design.


I worked for a week making this bag for Glen.  He picked out the fabric and was so excited when I finally got started making it.  Today when I finished it, he couldn't wait to put it on and walk around the house with it on his shoulders.  That is why I love to sew and make things for my children and grandchildren - because of their smiles.  They're priceless.

Although it looks like most school backpacks out there, I have double seams, reinforcement stitching, heavyweight fabric and heavy interfacing, sturdy zippers, adjustable straps with quality hardware (not that plastic crap that snaps together) and plenty of room for books, folder pocket, and 4 additional pockets for car phone, ipod, pencils. 

(In the picture above you will notice that it has an exterior pocket on the side, both sides in fact, and an adjustable shoulder strap.)


So I finished this bag and I thought I would make some more and sell them in my Etsy shoppe, and I thought I would also sell the pattern, fully featured with step-by-step instructions and images to go with it.  All in all it comes with about 30 pages or more I think.  I have all the instructions typed, I just need to add the images - over 200!  Then, I would publish it as a .pdf and sell the pattern for anyone out there who is daring enough to want to try their creative hand at making their own packsack.

As you can see, there is a big interior pocket for a folder or something, and it has 2 interior side pockets as well, for pencils, cell phone, ipod, or a cold drink!


So here's the deal - help me name these packsacks.  If I use your choice of name, I will send you the instructions and pattern for the packsack for free!

The back of the packsack is padded.  This was my idea because I think backpacks are bad on the spine, and since I have a bad back, I want to protect my kids.  However, they refuse to take those book bags on wheels to school, so I came up with the idea of making a backpack with padding against the spine

The interior has binding around the edges that added an additional 2 reinforcement seams to the exterior seams of the bag for a total of 3 stitching seams around the perimeter of the bag, so that even if the weight of heavy books were to compromise it, it won't be at the seams!  


My kids go through backpacks like crazy and when I took a good look at their construction I winced. They're probably made in some sweat shop in China.  No sweating here, just time and lots of love.  I actually enjoyed making these backpacks for Sarah and Glen and now their friends are inquiring about how they can get one.  That is what inspired me to make some for sale and also to create a fully-featured pattern and instructions for sale as well.

So how about it?  What would you call them?  "........?........ PackSack"

(I even made pull tabs out of the remaining bias binding I made from the interior fabric.  Pretty cool, eh?)

Give them a name people!!

* * * * *

So, seriously, reading the comments has been funny, but I need a name for these backpacks.  My daughter thought DTK PackSack, I like the DTK and think it sounds great for marketing, but it stands for "Dressed to Kill" and I'm not sure I like that.  So keep up the suggestions!  I need something that a teenage boy wouldn't be embarrassed to say if asked who made his backpack.  Ha ha.  



Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Summer Smiles


I've been busy sewing up smiles this holiday weekend and I've enjoyed every minute.  For Reagan, I stitched up a Romper for her first July 4th celebration, and for my very special teenage daughter, Sarah, I stitched up a lovely dress for her to wear out with her special guy this weekend.


For Reagan, I used the same pattern for her Romper that I used for her Dress a couple of weeks ago, McCalls Pattern M4424, only I made the Romper and I made some modifications that were sure to make a difference in how the Romper functions on a 10 month old whose diapers need regular changing.


Isn't it adorable?!!  I found this very nice lightweight white cotton fabric with little red embroidered flowers all over it and thought it would be perfect for her holiday romper.


I didn't want the ruffle in the back to be the same fabric as the outfit, so I found this white eyelet ruffle with red embroidered hearts that was just perfect, and although the pattern called for the ruffle to go all the way around the romper, I decided to sew it just to the back.  I also added a blue button at the lap-over for contrast.


Of course, this romper wouldn't be finished without a cute embroidery for the bodice.  I went to my favorite embroidery place on the net - The Embroidery Library, and found this cute little patriotic bear for about 3 dollars.  I downloaded it to my 4D Embroidery software, made some adjustments to size and then stitched it to the bodice.


I am always happy with the quality of the embroidery designs I have found at the Embroidery Library


I hand-embroidered this label for the inside of Reagan's Romper.  I just can't seem to do it on my machine without there being too many stitches.


And this is the other modification I made to the pattern - snaps at the crotch.  For the life of me I couldn't figure out why a baby romper would not have snaps at the crotch.  Obviously, whoever designed the pattern did not have a baby.  Can you imagine having to change a dirty diaper and having to remove the entire romper?!!  Forget it.  So, the first thing I did was add the elastic to the leg opening, then I made binding for the opening of the crotch and finished it off by adding 3 pretty snaps.  Perfect.  My daughter, Kimberly thanked me for remembering that diapers need to be changed - as quickly and easily as possible.



On to Sarah - My teenage girl wanted me to make her a pretty dress for a date she is going on with her boyfriend, Walker.  It is his birthday this coming weekend, and she wanted to look especially pretty when they go out to see a movie.  We found this great pattern by McCalls - M5621.  What I liked about the pattern was that there were no zippers or buttons, snaps or ties. 


There was, however, a very challenging collar.  As a matter of fact, it was probably the most challenging collar I have ever had to sew.  The curves were difficult and the fabric kept wanting to pucker.  But, with seam-ripper in hand, I ripped out seams and re-stitched a number of times until it was perfect. 

Sarah picked out this fabric - isn't it great?!!  I love it.  It is really stylish and is "Challis," a 100% rayon that flows nicely.


The problem I have found with this fabric, though, is that if you are not very careful, you can snag the fabric.  It is best to wear those disposable latex free gloves while handling and sewing the fabric.  That is what I did.  I keep a box of them in my art studio because oil paint on the skin is toxic. 

One thing is for sure - you can't be good at sewing if you are not patient and enjoy what you are doing.  I love to sew, and I especially love making clothes for my children.  It is the process that makes it so much fun for me.


I switched my serger thread to a 3-thread serging.  I thought it made a better finish on the interior seams.  It laid flatter too.  The 4-thread serging wanted to pucker the fabric.  That is another problem with the Challis fabric - it ruffles, puckers, and snags if you are not particularly careful while sewing.


The underarm was challenging too, but that was only because the fabric was difficult to work with.  It frayed a lot along the raw edges and I couldn't see finishing the inside of the underarm facing with the serger.  I wanted it to look finished, so I added white bias tape to the raw edge of the underarm facing.  Perfect.  And it looks really nice and finished and is comfortable against the skin.


I also put a finished white bias binding across the bottom hem of the dress.  It looks great and adds a designer touch.  Sarah tried on the dress and was all smiles!  It fit her perfect and Sarah gave me a big hug.  Of course, that is why I love to sew - the smiles and hugs that come after.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Summer Dress for Our Little Lamb


There is something about having a granddaughter that warms my heart and gets my creative juices flowing, and this summer, I've been busy making Reagan some summer outfits.


Just look at those big blue eyes and button nose!  And the dimples in her elbows and knuckles make my heart melt. 



So, I got busy making Reagan this adorable outfit for summer using McCalls pattern M4424 by Laura Ashley.  


I enjoy detailing my work by using decorative stitches and embroidery.  I put this cross-stitch pattern around the base of the bodice and thought it looked really nice.


I also tacked down the bows so that they wouldn't come off.  They look so cute on the back of the dress.


I was happy with the way the lap in the back turned out too.  They can be a bit of a problem - putting in a lap in garments, but the instructions in this pattern made it especially easy and it came out perfect.


I had my daughter take Reagan's measurements for these little panties.  Whenever you make clothes for children that require elastic around the waist or thighs, it is a good idea to take accurate measurements so that the elastic won't be too tight.  In fact, I prefer to make the elastic just a little loose.  In this case, I made the leg and waist elastic about 1" longer than her actual measurements so that she had room to grow.



I also put this decorative loopy stitch around the bias binding I made for the elastic casing around the thighs and waist.  I thought it added a nice touch, don't you?!


It is the same loopy stitch I put around the hem border as well.


I also added this machine embroidered fluffy little lamb to the front of the bodice.  Isn't she cute?  I love having a sewing machine that does embroidery too.  It is a lot of fun and there are a lot of places online where you can find embroidery for your embroidery machine. I have the Pfaff 2124 and the 4D Embroidery Software.  My favorite place on the web for finding embroidery is called The Embroidery Library.  If you have an embroidery machine, you'll have to check them out.  


That is where I found this cute little lamb!  I purchased the embroidery design, downloaded it to my 4D Embroidery software program, opened it in 4D, resized it to fit on her dress, optimized the stitches, and uploaded the saved design to the card reader that goes in my machine.  Complicated?  Yes.  It took me 3 years to get up the nerve to learn how to use this machine and I still have a long way to go, but I am enjoying the embroidery journey.


I was not, however, able to make a decent embroidered label with the machine.  For some reason, there were too many stitches in the letters and that made it difficult to read.  So, I pulled out an old wood hoop with some white muslin fabric and made my own label with embroidery thread, a needle, and 30 minutes of my time.  Then, I whip-stitched it to the inside of Reagan's dress.


The most challenging part about making the hat was the 3" elastic I had to put in the back.  Getting that small piece of elastic in the casing was challenging to say the least, and I stitched over that thing a dozen times, praying it wouldn't pop out some day.  I think it's in there like concrete and it stretches nicely too to fit her comfortably.  I also made a bow out of the contrasting fabric for the back of the hat too.  


I thought it was so cute when I finished.


Here is the completed outfit.  I enjoyed this pattern!  If you have a baby girl you can sew for, you should try this pattern.  


And then make sure you get lots of pictures of her wearing it with great big smiles and dimples too!!



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The More I Sew, The Better I Am At Painting

Edgar Degas - "Woman Ironing"

The brain is a wonderful taskmaster, and I have discovered that as I pursue multiple creative interests, that the challenges I find in one thing may help me solve the challenges I find in another.

I believe that all creative people have multiple interests, many just focus on one that they really love more than the other, while others bounce back and forth from one creative interest to another - like myself.  I'm a bit nutty that way I suppose.  I have an over-active right brain - and left-brain too for that matter!  


I tend to think logically and solve creative problems with my left brain while following through with my right brain.  I've always been a multi-tasker.  Maybe that's part of my problem as well.  What do they call it "Jack of all trades and master of none?"  That pretty much sums me up in a nutshell.  Oh, I've mastered the art of painting and expressing myself through canvas and oil - but have never pursued masterclass notoriety, or performed feats of painting grandeur in front of an audience, or had workshops on the magnificent, romantic bay of Naples, Italy.  But, I have enjoyed success and some notoriety - albeit a little bit.  

Burton Silverman - "Woman Sewing"

I also enjoy sewing and think I am rather good at it.  But my quilts don't hang in galleries any more than my paintings, and my fashions don't grace runway models - but they do grace my smiling children and grandchildren!  My writing has never been published into a hardback book, and my blogs don't garner 100,000 visitors a day.  Success is relative.  Success is what makes you happy.


Agnes Nicholls - "A Mother with her Children"

I've always been a juggler.  I am a wife and mother first and foremost.  My family and children will always come first.  They are the reason I get up in the morning.  However, when I have time to myself, I thoroughly enjoy the zone I fall into - or that creative space my brain takes me to - that zeroes out the rest of the world around me while I create.  Creating is like a drug ... it takes you to another psychic element.

Mary Cassatt - "Young Mother Sewing"

So, while I am sewing and thinking about the task at hand, I find that I have become a better artist in front of the canvas ... and when I paint, I find that I have become better at sewing and quilting.  Maybe all it is really, is fine tuning what we already know.  Improving our own sense of perfection.

I'm always up for a new creative task too.  I also enjoy woodworking and paper crafts, writing and web design.

Are you a creative multi-tasker?  I'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment!

(Original Post on my blog for visual artists - Red Easel)



Friday, June 04, 2010

The "Mary Elizabeth Tote"


My dear mother wanted a tote bag, so several weeks ago we went to our favorite quilt shop and purchased some fabric, then I ordered some decorative marble-like handles online from Amazon.com.  

I had a pretty good idea of what she wanted and I planned it all out, using a number of pictures and patterns for inspiration. Here is what I did:


I determined the finished size of the tote and then divided it up in half and accounted for the seam allowances.  This is where being good in math helps.  I cut out a top portion for the tote, and a bottom section for the tote then I layered the fabric on batting and muslin that I had cut to the same sizes.

Tip: When you are working, have little slips of paper handy and use them to label your fabric pieces, and if your fabric is the same on both sides, make sure you label which side is the right side too.  I have learned that it saves a lot of time looking for something you cut out and knowing where you are in the process.  Then, just pin the little piece of paper with the information onto your piece of fabric.


After I cut my fabric into the rectangular sizes I wanted - 2 for the front and 2 for the back of the top section of the bag and 2 for the front and 2 for the back of the bottom section of the bag - I was ready to quilt.

I layered my sections and changed the presser foot on my sewing machine to the free-motion quilting foot, lowered my feed dogs, and went to town.  I started in the middle of the quilt block and worked around to the sides and corners.  The quilting technique I used is something of a personal creation.  I call it "Loopty-loop" quilting, because I can't seem to figure out stippling.

I used a mono-filament clear thread for the quilting on the right side of the fabric and a white thread in my bobbin.


I make loops of different sizes and figure 8's all over the quilt block.  It's fun!  Next, I pinned 2 front "top" sections and 2 back "top" sections together at the sides, right sides together, and prepared to make the center seam of the front and back of the tote.  I used a 1/2" seam allowance.  

Repeat this step for the "bottom" sections of your tote as well.


Press open your seam.


Then, on the right side of each panel, (2 "top" panels now and 2 "bottom panels) stitch a seam on either side of the seam you just made, making sure that your seam allowance that you pressed open on the other side is being stitched open.  Do this stitching with the right side of the fabric facing you so that you can get it nice and perfectly straight and even on either side of the original seam.  Also, this is a fun time to pick a decorative or complimentary thread for the double-stitching.


I then measured the width of my "top" section front and back of the tote, and the "bottom" section front and back of the tote.  I made sure that all 4 long rectangles were the same width - exactly.  Also, each "top" section (front & back) and each "bottom" section (front & back) should be the same height and width.  Trim as necessary.


Now here is where I put the sections together.  Stitch 1 long rectangular "top" section to 1 long rectangular "bottom" section of your tote.  Then top stitch along that seam after you press it open.  This makes a very nice intersection of seams that look great!  You should have 2 big square pieces now - each with 4 quilted panels sewn together to make up each of the 2 sections (1 is the front of the tote and the other is the back of the tote).


Measure and make sure that the 2 square-like sections you have are the same width and height.  Trim as necessary.  Next, decide the depth you want for your bag.  I thought about 5-6 inches would be good.  I measured a 3" square on the corner of the "bottom" section of the panel.  


And used a washable fabric marker to mark it on the wrong side of the tote "front" and "back" panels.


Then I cut them out.  Easy peasy, and pitched the extra piece in the trash.


I measured out 2 pieces of heavy-duty iron-on interfacing the same width and height as the 2 sections (front & back) of my tote.  Then, I deducted 3" from the width and 1 1/2" from the height and cut it out of the interfacing.  

Next, cut out 3" corners from the bottom of the interfacing.  Lay the interfacing, sticky side down, to the wrong side of your "front" and "back" panels.  Here's what you want to do, though, when you put the interfacing on the wrong side of your panels - make sure the long top edges match. In other words, lay the interfacing down so that the top edge of the interfacing and the top edge of your front and back panels are together.  Then, when you center the interfacing on each panel, you will have about a 1 1/2" allowance around 3 sides.  You can see what I mean in the picture above.  

Also, when you are pressing on the side of the interfacing, I like to use a piece of pressing cloth (all that is is a piece of white cotton muslin cut out into about a 20" square) and place it on the top so that the iron doesn't stick to the interfacing.


You've measured the width and height of the front and back panels, right?  Now, cut out 2 square-like pieces from a complimentary fabric that are those measurements PLUS an additional 1" to the HEIGHT, and then cut out the 3" corners on the bottom.  You'll see why the extra 1" in a minute.


Following the interfacing instructions above, cut out 2 pieces of interfacing to press onto the wrong side of the front and back panels of your interior fabric (the fabric that is going to be on the inside of your tote).


Okay - you've got the front and back sections completed for the exterior of the tote, and the interior of the tote too.  But, I thought interior pockets would be nice.  I wasn't sure if I wanted them to go all the way around the interior of the tote, or just on one side, so I cut out 2 strips that were just a little bit wider than the interior fabric section, and after I determined how high I wanted the pockets to be, I doubled the height so that when folded in half (minus 1/2" for the seam allowance) it is the height I want for the pockets.  I didn't want them to be so deep that they were difficult for my mother to get her hands into them for her cell phone or other things.  

I took the fabric for the pockets, and folded it in half (right sides together) and stitched a 1/2" seam down the longest edge and turned it right side out. Press it nice and flat and then, to add a nice touch, stitch close to the top edge only (the top edge that is going to be the open edge of the pockets).  


I decided to put pockets only on one interior section and not both, but that is entirely up to you.  I placed the pockets (stitched edge up) along the 3" corner clipped section of the interior fabric.  It hung over each side a little because it was a little bit wider than my interior section, but that's okay.  Then I raised it up about 1/2".  After I made the bag I realized I probably should have raised it about 1" or 1 1/2" from the bottom of the bag and that is probably what I will do next time.  Just a thought.  It's really up to you.

Pin the pocket section to the interior section of the tote.

Stitch across the bottom of the pocket section, then divide up your pockets like you want.  I divided my pocket panel into several 3 1/2" and 4" pockets and marked where the seams will go for the pockets with a fabric pencil.

Stitch from the bottom stitching to the top of the pocket along the divisions you drew on the pocket panel. Don't worry about the pieces that are open on the sides as they will be stitched up when the front and back panels are stitched together.


Take the front exterior panel and the front interior panel and with right sides together, line them up across the straight top edge and sides only.  The interior piece will be 1" longer on the notched edge.  Not to worry, we're going to make a faux binding across the top of the tote.  You'll see!

Okay, you've stitched the interior and exterior panels together right?  Do this for the front and back panels. Press the stitched 1/2" seam allowance towards the interior section like the picture above.


Pin the front and back sections together at the sides, matching seams and corners.


Stitch along the sides only where you pinned.

Stitch along the bottom of the quilted section only.

Now, I didn't take a picture of this, darn-it, but if you have any questions, you can email me.  After you have stitched the sides completely, and then stitched the bottom of the quilted section, open the bottom of the bag (of the quilted sections) at the corners where you cut out the 3" corners.  Stitch them together to form the bottom of the bag.  You'll figure it out.  I believe in you. When you put your hand inside the bag you'll see how the notched corners come together.  BUT, just stitch together the corners of the quilted section first.  When you are sure that it is together right, then stitch together the notched corners of the interior sections too, the only difference here is that you only stitch about 2" from each edge across the bottom of the interior section.  You need to leave an opening large enough to turn your tote right side out!

Tip:  Make sure you have reinforced the beginning and ends of all of your stitchings, especially where the opening is on the bottom of the interior section, otherwise, when you turn your tote right-side out, the stitching may come lose.  


Turn your tote right side out and pin the interior bottom together, tucking in the seam allowance.  Stitch it together.


Now, here's the fun part!  Push the interior of your tote inside and push out the bottom edges so that it lays nice inside the tote.  What you will notice is that the interior section wraps around the seam 1/2" seam allowance across the top giving you a faux binding.  Pretty nifty don't you think?

Once you have the interior tucked inside, press along that top edge giving the top of the tote a nice sharp, pressed edge.  Pin the interior and exterior together making sure that the faux binding is the same all the way around the top edge of the tote.  Put your pins about 2" or more down from the top edge.


The interior will look like this.


We want to reinforce the top edge and faux binding, so I turned my tote wrong-side out and stitched down the middle of the faux binding.  Remember, the color of the thread for the top stitching may not be the same as what is in your bobbin.  I wanted the red on top.  I stitched all the way around the tote top.


I made a flap and stitched that on too.  Then I took my marble-like handles and marked where they should be placed on the tote so that they are centered.  I made some little tabs to hold it to the tote, put them through the loop on the handle and stitched them to the tote, tucking in the open seams and top stitching to hold the tabs in place.


Next, I attached some snaps to the tote.  I placed a 5/8" heavy-duty snap on the front flap, and I put 2 more heavy-duty 5/8" snaps on either side after tucking in the corners of the tote.  That way, it gives the tote a nice angled look and can open up for more space to dig around.  


Don't the interior pockets look great?!!


When it was all completed, I was so proud of it.  I think this just might be the nicest tote bag I have ever made!


My mother absolutely loves it.  She told me it was the nicest bag she has ever had and that just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Now, here's the deal - I'm going to make some of these tote bags and sell them on Etsy for about 120.00. On the other hand, I am going to try to create a pattern for this tote, including different sizes, so that you can take your pick.  I'll sell the pattern here in pdf form.  Sound like a plan?

Of course it will include more detailed instructions and diagrams than here, but hopefully, this post will inspire you to make your own tote and enjoy the process as much as I did.

I hope you like the "Mary Elizabeth Tote!"  It was made with a lot of love for my mother.  She was so happy to use it today for the first time and was so proud of it.  That makes it all worthwhile.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

Donuts, Flowers, Ribbons, and Curls


This past week I have been busy making a stacker toy of stuffed donuts for my granddaughter, Reagan. The sweetest little girl on earth if I may say so myself, and I finished it today. I was inspired by the stacker toys that babies love to play with and also Heather Bailey's stacker inspired me.   Here is a basic idea of what I did:


First thing I did was cut out a pattern for the donuts out of pattern paper and my fabric and interfacing.


I burned myself frequently with the iron.


I made a lot of little snips.


I sewed together little gussets like this.


And hand-stitched them into my donuts, sticking myself regularly with straight pins.


I decorated outer gussets with pretty ribbon.


and I stitched over pins even though I know I'm not supposed to do that if I want my machine needle to last more than a few hours.


I stitched and folded, clipped and scolded, and then I stuffed it heartily with cotton.


Then I started all over again, but this time the circle is smaller and so is my patience.  But, I decided to have some fun, so I added funny ribbon knots to this circle.


And I embroidered Reagan's name onto the outer gusset, because Reagan is special and I want her to know that.


When I was done with the first 2 donuts, I was so proud of myself that I wanted to play with them too.


But I had work to do.  So, I cut some ribbon...


Folded them in half and pinned them to the 3rd donut.


I sewed them on, reinforcing them with back and forth stitching so that Reagan won't be able to pull them out with her teeth.  Kids like to do that you know.


I can now say, with a grand degree of confidence, that I am a pro at making donuts - just not in the kitchen, ...


and that nothing makes me bite my bottom lip and stick out my tongue more than this.


And this ...


And this.  Do I look like I know what I'm doing?


I suppose so, because I ended up with this ...


and this cute little stacker.  Pretty cute ay?


Then I made this little sucker.


Of course, my life and Reagan's stacker was not yet complete - not without a flower somewhere.  We gotta have a flower!!  So I made these little flower petals, sewed them together and stitched them to the smallest and last little donut ...


until I had this little beauty.  My life was now complete.  Well, almost.  I still had a pole to assemble otherwise you can be sure that donuts would be all over Reagan's nursery.


So I made a pole.


And I stuck it in the large donut and smiled because it reminded me of Pinocchio with a big nose.


Of course, I added all the other donuts I had made and I admired my creation, because ...


nothing on earth is more important to me than the little things that make my children and my grandchildren smile and shriek with joy.  Because, well - that's easy! ...


There's no better feeling in the world than this - that smile - those bright, happy eyes - that button nose, and those pinchable cheeks.

I love you Reagan.

Love, Grandma



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Fabric and Pattern Obsession


Do you know why I have so many unfinished projects in my art and sewing studios?  Because every time I see something new that looks like fun to make, I try and get it - well, some of the time.  I have a weakness for fabric and patterns, especially things for babies.  The colors are so bright and happy.  How can anyone walk in a baby store or baby isle and not smile.


I love Heather Bailey's talent for designing fabric and patterns and when I saw this "Happy Stacker," I had to get the pattern to make for my granddaughter, Reagan.  I think she may actually enjoy playing with this for a year or so before she gets tired of it.  What do you think?


I even went through my stash and found some fabric that I thought would be fun and soft.  And that's another obsession I have - fabric.  Whenever I'm in a fabric store, if I see some cotton fabric I like, I'll buy a yard and stick it in my stash.  The fabric above is a perfect example of fabric that I fell in love with in the fabric store and purchased on impulse.  I'm bad like that.  We all have our weaknesses I suppose, and mine is fabric.  Issues.  Impulses.  I can't help myself.  


And patterns.  I love patterns for dolls and baby clothes, especially baby girl dresses.  I must have made each of my girls a dozen or more dresses when they were babies and toddlers.  They looked so cute all dressed up in dresses I made them with eyelet trim or ribbons and pearl buttons.


I found these little gems online about 5 years ago.  Unfortunately, I've been too intimidated to actually try to make one.  I think I need to just jump in and try to make one, before I'm too old and arthritic to even get the pattern out of the plastic bag.


About 3 months ago, while walking through Michaels I ran across this in the yarn aisle.  Don't they look delicious?  Don't you just want to curl up with all 8 of them?  I do.  Of course, it would help if there was a baby stuck inside one for good measure.  I have a thing for babies.  I like the way they smell and look at you with that innocent look that says "I may be cute and cuddly now, but you just wait, I'm going to run laps around you one day and you'll forget how sweet and innocent I once was."  "Yeah, yeah, yeah - I hear ya, stop cooing and let me enjoy this while I'm still able."  


Back to reality - Oh my goodness, check out this French Roses quilt pattern.  I absolutely fell in love with this pattern the minute I saw it here:


Isn't it beautiful!  I love the way the quilter used vintage rose fabric for the roses in each block and around the border.  I think I'd like to do the same thing.



And I love this pattern from Alex Anderson too.  Classic Star flowers in such a beautiful array of colors and designs.  I think I might like to try to duplicate this pattern just like the cover and then hang it on my wall.

By the time I finish making everything that I have around here, Reagan will probably be going off to college.  I may not live that long.  I suppose there's no time like the present to start sewing up some memories.



Monday, May 17, 2010

Never Slip your Rotary Ruler Again


Boring subject I know, but let me tell ya - when you quilt and cut fabric as much as I do, nothing can tick you off more than when the rotary ruler slips a little on the fabric while you're cutting, and you end up messing up the cut having to start over and go through the entire slippage mess all over again.  I know - I've had it happen a hundred times.  Well, I decided enough was enough and I solved this problem for good.



I shuffled out to my garage and found a piece of sandpaper.  Then I looked in a dozen drawers to find a glue stick and a pencil.  I was all set.  Into the sewing room I went and I measured out 1/2" by 3" and marked the back of the sandpaper with a pencil.  Then I cut them out.  Don't use your rotary cutter to cut out the sandpaper or you will dull the blade.  Better to use scissors.


After I cut out the pieces, I turned them over and put glue on the back of the sandpaper, then placed them on the WRONG side of the rotary ruler.  Notice that the lettering on the ruler is upside-down.  When the ruler is upside-down, the lettering is backwards and so are the numbers.  Place the strip of sandpaper to the WRONG side - see the picture below.


Let me tell you why always using your ruler with the WRONG side against your fabric is important.  Because, if you place your ruler upside-down on your fabric (like the picture above) and use it to measure your fabric before you cut, your measurement will be off about 1/16" to 1/8".  The reason for this is because the measurements are printed on the WRONG side of the ruler, and that is the side that should be up against your fabric. When you look through the transparent ruler, you should see the lettering and measurements correctly, not backwards.  That is how you will know you are using the RIGHT side of the ruler to make your measurement before you cut.



When your ruler is upside down, your measurement changes by the angle you are looking at your fabric through the ruler.  So, the next time you place your rotary ruler up against your fabric, make sure you are able to read the name and measurements correctly from the top, then you'll know the ruler is WRONG side down (RIGHT side up), Just thought I'd throw in that important tip for all of you out there making bad cuts and wondering why your projects aren't coming out right.



So, today I started to cut out the pieces for a handbag I am making for my mother and decided there must be a way to prevent my ruler from sliding every time I cut with the rotary cutter.  That's when I had the idea for the sandpaper strips on the back and sure enough they work like a charm.  Oh, and here's another tip - label your cut pattern pieces (what it is, the dimensions, and how many pieces you cut) on a piece of paper and pin it to the fabric piece.  That way, you will know immediately what piece is what and it will save you from messing up.  I have messed up a lot - until I got organized.



Glue the 1/2" strips on the top and bottom of your rotary ruler, then cut four - 1/4" strips and place them in the middle (North, South, East, West) of your ruler.  Wait a few minutes and you are ready to cut.  Mine didn't slip at all and I was so pleased with myself I just had to share.



Then, I placed sandpaper strips on all of my rotary rulers - making it easy for me to know that the ruler is WRONG side down and up against my fabric correctly for perfect cutting too.  

Happy cutting!



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Snappy Scrappy Bibs


I've started something here. Because I love to make baby bibs, burp cloths, embroidered onesies, baby quilts, clothes, and a list of other things for baby, I decided to start a baby brand of my own - "Buttercups Baby."



I used to have my own baby boutique.  For 2 years I owned and operated "La Bonne Vie Bebe," however, when I passed it on to a devoted customer 4 years ago, the lady who took over the boutique let it go.  She didn't market it like I had hoped and she didn't advertise.  She, no doubt had other priorities that took precedent.  I know how that goes.  It happens to me all the time.  I had put so much of myself into creating a successful boutique that I am sad I ever let it go.



I recall that when I had my boutique I wanted to add some of my own creations to the products that I sold, and I did for a while. I sold Coo-Chee-Coos baby quilts and bibs and t-shirts too.  It was fun.

Well, I may not have La Bonne Vie Bebe anymore, but I do have a small Etsy shoppe now that I call "Buttercups Baby" where I am going to make all kinds of neat things for babies and toddlers - as time permits of course.  It'll be fun.



I am having a great time making bibs out of my scrap pile of fabric.  I sew piece after piece together to form a piece of fabric large enough for my home-made bib pattern.  Then I cut it out and start sewing.



Today I made a snappy-scrappy bib.  I think that is what I will call them "Snappy Scrappy Bibs."  You like that?  I wanted a name for my little business of making and selling baby clothes, bibs, burp cloths, blankies, and baby quilts, so I decided to call them "Buttercups."  When I was a kid I loved buttercups.  I used to pick them in our back yard and put them in a small cup of water.  They made my mom happy, and me too.



Do you remember putting the buttercups under your friend's chin to see if it turned yellow?  Of course that meant that you loved butter.  I wonder who thought that one up.



On this bib I embroidered "Cutie Pie."  Get it?  Wear bib - eat pie - cutie pie?  



Then I embroidered a "Buttercups" label.  I think I might change where I put it on the bibs going forward.  I haven't decided yet. 

I am taking orders.  Each snappy bib is $22.00, and you can find them as I make them in my Etsy shoppe.  If you would like one personalized, just shoot me an email at [email protected]



Monday, April 19, 2010

A Thread Rack from my Big Bear


I had a problem in my sewing room.  Thread.  Everywhere.  I threw them all into a basket and tripped over it frequently.  I had about 40 spools on a small tabletop thread rack and fell over a number of times as well.  My hubby walked into the sunroom aka my "sewing studio" and said "You really need a thread rack on the wall."  I said "Really?  You think so?  How about you make me one."  I honestly didn't think he would bite on this one, but he did.  It took him over a month working on it in the evenings and on the weekends when he had time, but in a matter of weeks, he had made me a beautiful thread rack.



He used a set of 30 x 40 stretcher bars that I had in my art studio, made a frame, then made a lot of trips to Home Depot for various things until his creation looked like this.



He put a lot of thought into making this thread rack for me, making sure that the pegs were spaced for the largest spools of thread on top and then making 2 rows at the bottom to hold lots of embroidery thread on the smaller spools.  Oh, and he also mounted a rod for holding my ribbons across the top.  He's a great guy.  I think I'll keep him.



After he built it, he painted it the same as the moldings in the sunroom.  I couldn't wait to put my thread and ribbon on the rack.



I have since added about 10 more rolls of thread that I dug out of my drawers and the left over thread I put in a drawer that I cleaned out, but this wonderful rack hangs right behind my chair where I sew so that when I need some thread, all I have to do is turn around and grab what I need.  What could be easier?

When I think of all the things that my Big Bear has done for me in our 18 years together I can't help but smile and count my blessings.  He bought me a very nice sewing machine right after we got married and set me up with all the supplies I needed to make some quilts.  After I had Sarah, I got a lot of use from that machine.  I made crib bumpers and quilts, drapes, and baby clothes galore.  I even sold some of my quilts at the local craft fair.  Then we moved from our small townhouse to a home on 3 acres and he built me a quilting frame.  Then he set me up with a studio to paint.  He knew how much I always wanted to paint and he bought me an easel and paints, brushes and books.  He wanted me to follow my dreams, and I did.

After studying and painting for about 5 years, I began to sell my paintings to collectors around the world, I had exhibitions and won a number of competitions.  Bob has always been my biggest supporter, cheering me on and making sure I had everything I needed.  



So, to my sweetie, I just want to say "Thank you."  Thank you for loving me so much and supporting me through all my hobbies, projects, crafts, and more.  

Isn't this a great thread rack?  It looks great on the wall too.  I love all the colors of the threads against the creamy yellow walls.  Looks like I am going to be doing a lot more sewing now that I've cleaned up my sewing studio.



Friday, April 16, 2010

Snap and Tie Baby Bibs for a New Mother


Mother's day is just around the corner and I wanted to make something for my daughter, Kimberly, since this is her first Mother's Day.  So, I pulled out the ol' stash of colorful fabrics and remnants from her childhood that I had saved and started sewing them together to create a couple "Crazy-quilt" bibs for my new granddaughter, Reagan, who will be 8 months + 4 days old on Mother's Day. 



Have you ever made a crazy-quilt bib?  It's a lot of fun.  I save even the smallest scraps of fabric and then piece them together and press the seams to one side on the back until I have a large enough piece of fabric to use for my pattern. 



In this case, I took the tissue paper that had come with the vinyl I just recently purchased for another project and used it to draw my own patterns for 2 bibs - one with a tie that is easy to stash in your purse if you are going out with your baby to the grocer and just want something cute to tie around their collar to keep their clothes clean, and another that is a little larger for if you go out with your hubby and baby for a nice lunch or dinner together and you want something adorable that she can drool and dribble on.

First, I pieced together some remnants of fabric I had in my stash.  Then I pressed the seams on the back so that the fabric lies flat.  

Next, I pinned my pattern onto the fold of the fabric and cut it out.



Then I cut the pattern out of the backing fabric and the batting.  I placed the wrong side of the bib top onto the batting.  With right sides together, I then placed the right side of the backing on top of the right side of the bib top. (Sorry, I didn't take a picture of how it looked during that process).



Also, I personalized Reagan's bibs with her name using the embroidery feature on my sewing machine and creating it in the 4D Software.  If you embroider the top of the bib, it is best to do that before you quilt the bib, not after or the embroidery will be reversed on the back.  I like my bibs reversible, so I embroider them before I quilt them together.  Unfortunately, I figured that out after I embroidered the smaller bib and had already quilted it and before I made the second bib.  Live and learn.



I sewed all three layers together 1/4" from the edge, leaving a 7" opening at the bottom of the bib so that I could turn it right side out.  Make sure you tie off the beginning and the end of your seam or it will not come apart when you turn your bib right side out.

Press your bib and make sure that all the seams are pushed out and smooth.

Next, sew a 1/8" to 1/4" seam around the entire edge of the bib, making sure to tuck in and pin the 7" area on the bottom of the bib that is open.  This will add a nice edge around your bib.



For the small bib, I added a tie around the top of the bib.  Now that's a real pain to turn right side out after you sew a clean seam down the long edge.  A neat trick is to put a safety pin on one end and work it little by little through the inside until you can turn it right side out.  



For the larger bib, I opted for a nice snap closure.  When I made the pattern I used the largest mug I could find in our kitchen cabinet for the template of the neck opening then I made it a tad bit larger for baby's comfort. 

As soon as I figure out how to convert my pattern from the tissue paper to the computer in Adobe Illustrator I'll post the bib pattern here for you too.

In the meantime, give it a whirl and don't forget to create some crazy fabric of your own by piecing together those scraps you have lying around your sewing room.

Note: Another great use of baby clothes that are outgrown that you would normally give to the goodwill is to take them apart and cut out the larger sections of fabric and use the pieces to make a memory quilt. That is always fun and when you look at your quilt you will remember that special dress, or that fun spring day when your little girl ran around the yard looking for Easter eggs.  Scraps can hold special memories so hold on to them!

As a matter of fact, some of the fabric I used for these bibs that I made today for my granddaughter were from fabric I had saved from when Kimberly was a baby.  I have a cedar chest filled with memories from my little girl's baby, toddler, and childhood years and I thought "what a special way to carry on these fabrics for baby Reagan McKenzie by using some of the fabrics from her mother's toddler years."



While I sewed, Sarah worked on her laptop, turned on her iTunes, and did her French homework with me in the sewing room. Tomorrow, Sarah is running in the "Event to Honor" run sponsored by her high school in honor of someone who has cancer.  Sarah is running for her grandmother - my mother, Mary - who was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2005.

Have a great weekend everyone!



Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Quilted Ava Bag


Today I tried something a little different.  I made an Ava Bag and quilted the exterior of the bag.  I really like the Vera Bradley bags and there is no reason why I can't make similar bags myself.  So, I took the Ava Bag pattern and created a quilted bag using Amy Butler "Charm" fabric.


See the quilting I did on the bag?  I made 1 inch blocks across each pattern piece for the exterior of the bag.


I did not quilt the interior.  I thought it looked nicer that way.

You like it?  It's in my Etsy shoppe! 




Monday, April 05, 2010

Another Two Bags

Did you enjoy the holiday?  We planned our Easter Dinner, Big Bear ran some errands, and I stayed home, cleaned up the house, painted, and made a handbag and an eyeglass case. Easter Sunday we went to church, went to breakfast at Cracker Barrel, came home got comfortable, Sarah had her boyfriend over, the boys played outside, and I made another handbag.



If you recall, a couple of weeks ago I made an Ava Bag for my sister-in-law, Marcela.  She loved it and showed it to her friends at Lexus of Palm Beach - where my brother, Mike works.  Next thing I knew I had 2 orders to make 2 more bags with an eyeglass case.  So, I told Janessa and Lauren to go to their favorite fabric store, purchase some fabric and send it to me.  They couldn't wait, so they went to JoAnns, bought some great fabric, and 2 days later I was making their handbags.

And here they are...



Janessa chose a black & white floral fabric with green iridescent interior and trim.  She also opted for the eyeglass case with a pink ribbon trim.



Lauren opted for a lovely Florida floral for both the interior and exterior of her bag. Tomorrow they will be shipped to Florida.  I hope they like their new bags and enjoy them too!  

So, I've got a good thing going on here.  Would you like me to make you this lovely bag too?  If so, email me at [email protected]

April 9, 2010:

Nothing makes me happier than to know that something I have created, whether it be a painting or a purse, has made someone happy.  In this case, 2 great ladies that work with my brother, Mike, at Lexus of Palm Beach - Janessa and Lauren.  They received their purses today and sent me this picture:


I think they look great!  Enjoy!  



Thursday, March 25, 2010

Making an Eyeglass Case to go with that Ava Bag


I like having a soft eyeglass case in my bag. One that is easy to get into when I need my glasses, and they are so easy to make too!  Today, I am going to show you how to make a nice one for yourself.  


I start by cutting out a square from my pattern paper.  You can use any paper you have around the house. I cut a 6 1/2" square and then I took a spool of thread and used the rounded edge to draw a rounded edge on each of the corners.  You don't have to do this, I just like the rounded edges.  I pinned the pattern on each piece of fabric I was going to use, cut it out, and then lastly pinned it on a piece of thin cotton batting and cut it out of that too.


Next, I put the batting between the 2 pieces of fabric and made sure the corners lined up nicely before I begin sewing.


I basted all three layers together around the entire square, using the edge of my presser foot to guide me.


I had some ribbon that was about 1" width that looked pretty with this fabric, so I lined it up along the edge of the 3 layers and sewed it about 1/16" from the edge.  You can see from this picture that where I am sewing is inside the edge of the foot.  That is because the ribbon wasn't that wide.  You can use a wider ribbon if you like.  I just wanted a simple, narrow, binding around my case.

Note that when I first placed my ribbon onto the case, I did so halfway down one side.  I did not start sewing on the ribbon on a corner of the square.  You'll see why in a second.


This is why you don't start sewing the ribbon on the corner of your case - especially if you have rounded edges like I do.  When you get to that rounded corner is when you get your dander up.  You'll have to stop and start, raise the presser foot (with your NEEDLE DOWN or you'll really have a mess!), twist the layers and the ribbon around the corner, trying not to sew over any creases.  I hate corners.  Thank goodness there are only four.  

When you have sewed all the way around and are back to where you started, sew about 1" of extra ribbon past where you started.  


Once you have finished sewing on your ribbon, flip it towards the inside.  Then, remove the basting stitches from the 3 layers that will be showing under the ribbon.


Turn over your square and it will look like this.


Pin the ribbon to the inside, making sure that all 3 layers of your square are tucked in nicely.  You may have to put some extra pins in the corners as you work your way around the curves.


Now, when you start sewing, you probably want to sew from the good side so that the seam looks even and straight on the side that you see.  The problem here is that your pins are on the wrong side, or at least mine were.  So, when you get ready to sew, flip your pins around so that they are easy to remove, or if you are really good at this, just put your pins on the right side when you are pinning down your ribbon.  I will tell you this, though - it really is faster and easier just to flip them as you sew because it is easier to pin down your ribbon from the wrong side initially.  Make sense?


See!  Now doesn't that look pretty?!!


Next step is to fold your square in half and pin it together, leaving an opening at the top and around one corner.  Begin sewing just under the opening and along the bottom edge of the ribbon (kinda like stitch-in-the-ditch).  Sew around to the end of the fold and secure the end by going back and forth a few times.


Nice case, eh?


And it goes perfectly with the purse I made for my sister-in-law, Marcy!  I'll keep the glasses, though.  I need them to read, and sew, and work on the computer, and, and, and ...

Happy Sewing!



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Making the Ava Bag


I've never made a handbag before, and I thought this would be a lot of fun.  I especially liked the pattern and design of this little tote bag.  The pattern is the "Grand Revival Ava Bag" by Tanya & Linda Whelan.  You can visit their blog HERE, and with my sister-in-law's birthday just a week away, I thought this would be a good opportunity to take advantage of the enormous stash of fabric I have and make her this little gem.



First thing I did was read the instructions.  I've had the experience of jumping right in and making something before I've read the pattern only to screw it up royally in the process.  Experience has taught me that if I read the pattern and try to understand it before I tackle it, I usually have far better results.  So that is what I did.  Then I cut out the pattern pieces and prepared the fabric.  This bag is reversible, so I used 2 complimentary fabrics.



I pinned the pattern pieces onto the fabric, making sure that the BAG pattern piece and the handle piece were placed along the fold. Then I cut out the pattern pieces for Side 1 Fabric and then Side 2 Fabric.  I also cut some of the pieces out of the heavy interfacing I used to give the bag stability.



I sewed the side seams together for the BAG of Side 1 fabric, then I ironed on the heavy interfacing to the BAG of Side 2 fabric and sewed the side seams together on those pieces too.



Then I sewed on the bottom.  This is where I was confused on the pattern, because the pattern did not indicate a broken seam line like it usually does for where the seam is supposed to be.  Oh well, improvise.  Sure enough, it came out just right.



Next, I placed the Side 1 BAG fabric inside the Side 2 BAG fabric with the interfacing, wrong sides together, lined up the seams and the corners and pinned it into place.  I use a lot of pins.  It makes me feel better.  Then I sewed the two sections together along the top edge.  It's not easy to sew with my left hand and take pictures with my right, but I'm managing.



Trim and handles came next and I found myself scratching my head a time or two putting them together.  I followed the instructions - (sometimes you just have to), and it came out just the way it was supposed to.  



You know what I hate about trim?  The same thing that I hate about binding a quilt - the finishing seam.  No matter how perfect I press the seams, and pin the trim and handles to the bag, and then sew the finishing seam at the bottom, the side that you don't see when you are sewing never looks as good as the side that I sewed on.  The backside always looks screwed up.  There's got to be a way to do trim and binding and have a clean looking seam.  


If you are wondering, that is why I put the decorative stitch along the bottom of the trim - to cover up the fact that the finishing seam is screwed up.  Thank you, whoever you are, for decorative stitches on my sewing machine.  They cover up a plethora of errors.



Does anyone out there know how to sew a trim or binding on a project and get the finishing seam to look as good on the backside as it does on the front where you sew it originally?  If so, please let me know.  I need help.



I have a real issue with pressing little seam things.  Why you ask?  Because I inevitably get burned by the iron and the steam.  Dang that hurts.  I pressed the seams for the trim and the handles while trying to use my little stick-pointy thing to push them out and burned myself about a dozen times.



I prepared the handles next and then decided to wing it and only use a straight stitch to sew it on the bag.  It doesn't look perfect on the backside, but it doesn't look bad either, so I left it alone.



This is the most frustrating thing about sewing - those places that need to be sewed and are difficult to get to.  I pull and poke and cram the project under the sewing foot, grit my teeth, stand up and cuss a little, accidentally knock the foot down with my thumb, then work my way through it while praying the whole time that it comes out right.



I think it is a pretty cool little tote bag.  Sarah wanted to abscond with it but I wouldn't let her.  Instead I told her I would make her one of her own and even put pockets on the inside for her.  She liked that idea.



After all the drama, I added a personal touch and hand sewed a label on the inside.

I like it, and I hope Marcy will like it too.  It's perfect for carrying your lunch to work, or carrying a few random things with you when you go out.

If you are interested in buying this pattern, I got mine at Jojo's Quilt & Gift Shoppe.  They had the best price and a lot of other goodies too.  Just click on the banner below to get this pattern.  



Happy sewing!



Sunday, March 14, 2010

Maya: Sailing Off the Coast of Cape Cod


I finished my painting today.  My Big Bear was so happy.  It is the largest painting I have ever done, but I enjoyed putting it down on canvas.  It is 56 x 44.  I'm glad to get it finished.

I thought I would take you through my process...



It started with a large canvas that I stretched and gessoed myself.



Can you see this?  You can click it on for a larger view if you like.  I sketched out the painting in pencil and then sprayed it with some really nice hairspray.  It makes it smell good and it keeps the pencil sketch from smearing.  



Next, I put in some blues.



And some greens, all the while building the "underpainting."



I painted the sails yellow.  I did this so that when a light is shining on the painting, you will see just a hint of the yellow underpainting, hopefully giving it a feeling of sunshine showing through.



The painting is coming together, however, I'm not so sure I like the clouds on the left.  Ignore the white mark behind the boat - that is the sun shining through my studio window onto the canvas.



And here is the finished painting.  

"Maya: Sailing Off the Coast of Cape Cod" 56x44 Oil on Canvas.  You can click on the painting for a larger view.

If you are interested in this painting, you can contact me at [email protected]



Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How to Make Yarn Cards - A Fun Craft!

Ever since I was a child, I have loved making my own cards - greeting cards, gift cards, thank you cards.  I think it makes the thought a lot more personal when the giver takes the time to create something special.  Not that buying a Hallmark card isn't special, it is just the extra personal touch that makes it a keeper I think.  Anyway, I put together a care package for my granddaughter, Reagan McKenzie, and I made a card too.  This is the first time I have made a yarn card, and it was fun!  I wanted to share it with you so that you can try it too.  I even have a downloadable pdf at the end for you to add to your very own craftbook.




I had several rolls of yarn, some Martha Stewart Craft Glue (I like her glue.  It goes on easily, dries clear, and has a screw-on cap that keeps it from drying out), Instructions from my Craft book, pattern, scissors, card-grade paper, ribbon (not in picture) and some stick-on letters. 



This is the pattern I am going to use for the front of the card.



The first thing I did was cut the card stock to the size that I wanted the card.  Then I used carbon paper between the design (I cut it from the pattern sheet) and the card.  I traced over the design with a pencil and gently removed the carbon paper from the top of the card.  If you touch the carbon paper too much it leaves marks on your card and you don't want that.  Use a kneaded eraser to remove any unwanted carbon marks.



I have this paper clipper design from Martha Stewart that I purchased at MIchaels last year and I love it.  It is a versatile pattern.  I lined up the pattern along the bottom of the card and cut it out.  If you go to Michaels Paper Crafts isle you'll find all of Martha's goodies - from these paper clippers with lots of designs, to craft glue and glitter. 



I started at the top of the carriage and made one line of craft glue.  I began adding the yarn to the carriage.



Moving right along.  I added one line of craft glue, added the yarn, added another line of craft glue, then the yarn and so on.  Instead of cutting the yarn at the end of each line, I just turned it.  I thought it would look better that way.



So pretty!  This is fun.  I clipped the end of the yarn when I finished this section of the pattern on the card.



Next I used white yarn and traced around the handle of the carriage and the carriage itself in one fell swoop.  I started at the handle and worked my way back around, tracing the design first with a little bit of craft glue.  Then I cut the white yarn when I reached the handle again.



I worked my way around the rest of the pattern of the carriage.  Then, I made several knots (one on top of the other) in the yarn (for one big knot) and cut it out and glued it in the center of the wheels and at the top center of the carriage.  I peeled off the letters for Reagan's name and placed them with tweezers across the top.  I probably could have centered this better, but "oh well."  Chalk it up to being the first time I have done this type of card.  You'll do better I'm sure.





Then I added little embellishments that I had left over from my baby boutique days.  If you go to Michaels, you'll find that you can spend hours in their embellishment isles (Yes, isle"s").  They have thousands of embellishments for scrapbooking and crafts.  I went blind when I was in there with my mother last week looking for little cars for her game that she is making.  (That is another story for another time though).



When I finished with the front of the card, I worked on the inside.  I cut another piece of cardstock to about 1/2" smaller in diameter from each edge of the inside of the card and glued it on.



I made a bead of glue where I wanted to place the ribbon, cutting it at the edge of each row.



Then I glanced up and took a picture of my boy, Matthew, sanding his rocket.  He is making rockets to launch at the school yard.  He and Dad love to launch rockets together.  It sure helps having a art studio (aka living room) in our home.



Of course, I couldn't take a picture of Matthew doing his craft stuff without taking a picture of Sarah doing hers.  She is making a linoleum print block.  Notice the mess she is making next to my card stuff?  Oh well, we were both making a mess. 



Okay, back to my card.  I put ribbon around all 4 edges of the interior.  The only thing I think I did wrong was that I don't think I used heavy enough card stock paper.  The glue has made indentations on the other side.  Next time I should probably try to find heavier card stock.



I wrote a personal message for Reagan on the inside using a Sharpie Ultra-Fine violet marker.  Have you seen their 24 packs?  24 colors.  It is almost as fun as a new box of 64 Crayola Crayons.  I made a bow from the ribbon and glued it to the front of the card.  I love it.  Hope you do too!

Have you made cards before?  I'd love to hear about it.

If you would like to download this pattern, click on the craftbox below for the same pdf that I used to make this card.




Monday, March 01, 2010

Machine Embroidery 101


Nothing creatively makes me happier than when I "get it."  In other words, when I am learning to do something new creatively, I am filled with apprehension and a feeling like maybe I can't do this, but then I force myself to sit down and jump right in, learning to use new software or new equipment or a new craft.  



I've been quilting for about 20 years, but embroidery?  - only by hand have I done any embroidery, until recently.  About 4 years ago, my Big Bear purchased for me a wonderful sewing machine - the Pfaff 2124.  I've made several quilts and a couple shirts and a dress for Sarah in that time, but the one element that intimidated me about the machine was the embroidery attachment and the software.  It stayed in its case for this entire 4 years.



In that time I have mastered Photoshop and learned a lot about web design, so 2 months ago I decided that it was time to suck-it-up and learn to use and enjoy the embroidery feature to my sewing machine.  So, I signed up for a class where I purchased the machine 4 years ago.  After that one class I felt more confident.  I came home, set up my sole Windows computer (We're a Mac family here), and played with the 4D Software, testing my hand at some of the sample exercises in the software and from the instruction books.



Sometimes I would just sit at my sewing machine and read the books and play with the software, but not sew anything.  There is always a learning curve while learning something new.  I am always relieved when I've crested that hump of frustration and no longer feel stressed about the process.



Although clumsily, I worked my way through a few embroidery samples.  Then I started working clumsily and slowly on my  mother's quilt top.  Then it happened - I ran out of bobbin thread mid-embroidery.  Oh crap.  Now what? I stopped the embroidery process.  I locked up.  You know that feeling you get in the back of your neck and your shoulders?  That rise of tension and pain that shoots through your muscles telling you to change the direction of your braintrack or suffer the consequences?  Well, that is exactly where I felt myself going - down the wrong track.  


I took a deep breath and thought about it for a moment.  If I take the hoop off the machine to change the bobbin, will I have lost my place on the embroidery?  I sure as heck hope not!  I had no choice.  So I took off the hoop, opened my bobbin case and changed the bobbin.  Then I said a little prayer as I re-attached my embroidery hoop.  Geezy - Peezy, if this doesn't work, I'm screwed.  I didn't want to start where the machine left off because it had already "pretended" to be embroidering without any bobbin thread for about 300 stitches before I realized it wasn't sewing. 


There is this wonderful button on my machine that lets me back up stitches.  The machine clunks backwards stitch by stitch until I stop it at the point where I think it still had bobbin thread.  I press the button to start the embroidery again, and low-and-behold the dang thing worked!!!  It was as if I had never had a problem.  Can you believe it?!!  I was so proud of myself (if I may say so myself), and I felt all the pressure in my neck and shoulders disappear and I went right back to working on Mom's quilt.  



The pictures in this post are of my mother's quilt that I am making for her.  She wanted this basket quilt and wanted embroidered flowers in every basket.  I had no choice, I had to learn the software and I had to learn how to use the embroidery attachment or risk feeling a failure and disappointing my mother.  I didn't want to do either. 


Sometimes you just have to suck-it-up and jump in and try new things.  It can be fun.  Not always easy, but fun nonetheless.  I made excuses for almost 4 years before I finally decided to learn how to use the embroidery feature on my machine. That is why I purchased it to begin with was because of the beautiful embroidery it was capable of creating.  Waiting 4 years to get the benefits from the machine is ridiculous.  I should have learned all of this years ago.



I'm not afraid of learning new things anymore like I used to be.  Confidence can be hard to come by sometimes, but if you don't try, you'll never know if you could have mastered that one thing that you really want to learn.  You can do it!  Dig in and learn something new this week.  Learn how to use a new software program or learn a new craft. 

Have you learned how to do something new recently?  I'd love to hear about it!



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Make Your Own CraftBook


Are you a crafty person?  Do you have 287 craft books?  Are you running out of bookshelf space to store them all?  Yeah, well, me too.  I finally got smart, though, and decided to make my own craft book.  I wanted a book that reflected the crafts that I want to do and look forward to trying out. 



I had printed out a lot of crafts that I had run across online.  Many from the Martha Stewart website, others from moms like me who create at home and have blogs that show you how to make their crafts.  I love crafty blogs.  I love artsy blogs.  I love blogs.  I think we've come to that conclusion already.  So, I have printed off so many craft tutorials and instructions that my file cabinet is bursting.



I got crafty last week.  I found a 2" blue vinyl notebook in our home office just waiting to be used.  I didn't have dividers, but I did have tan file folders and I had those plastic labels that stick on the paper.  I was set.



First thing I did was make a list of sections for my book and here they are:

Book Crafts
Storage Crafts
Card Crafts
Kitchen Crafts
Crafts for Him
Misc. Crafts
Clothing Crafts
Purse Crafts
Foyer Crafts
Bedroom Crafts
Home Office Crafts
Laundry Crafts
Closet Crafts
Paper Crafts
Felt Crafts
Doll Crafts
Window Treatments
Bathroom Crafts
Baby/Toddler Crafts
Studio Crafts



Wow.  I spent almost an entire day going through my printed crafts and then I used a 3-hole puncher and prepared them for the notebook.  First, though, I made dividers.  I cut the tan folders in half, prepared them with the 3-hole punch on one side and a plastic sticky label on the other.  Then I put them on the floor and made piles for each section.



After I went through all my printed craft projects, I kept the ones I wanted and shredded the ones I no longer needed or wanted.  Then I put my book together.



I'm trying to live a greener life and I hate waste.  If I can find a use for something, I try to use it again and again.  After I shred my paper, and when the basket becomes full, I don't throw it away.  I tie up the bag that holds the shredded paper and I store it in the garage for use when I mail out packages that require cushion.  Why buy those styrofoam fillers?  If you shred your paper at home, save at least some of it for use in packing up boxes.  You don't even have to take them out of the bag that they are in if you want to save the mess when the box is open.  Shredded paper makes a great packing material.



There you go!  I hope you will make your own craft book and fill it with all your favorite crafts and ideas that you find across the web.  Now, I might just pull out this book cover craft and make a book cover for my CraftBook.

Do you have a special place in your home where you craft?  I'd love to hear about it!



Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Re-upholstery a Fixed-seat Chair


Last week was very busy for me.  So busy, in fact, that I didn't check my emails but maybe twice and didn't post all week.  I had a lot to do - from re-upholstering chairs that used to belong to my mother-in-law, to cleaning the entire house and preparing for my daughter's 16th Birthday bash with a sleepover.  I'll be sharing it all with you this week as I took lots of pictures, starting with the re-upholstery of the chairs.



We have these Early American Federal Shield back chairs that belonged to BIg Bear's parents.  They had this ugly gold upholstery that I am sure looked wonderful in the 60s, but didn't add much pizazz to our home decor.  Also, the seat cushions were stained from being in storage for so many years, so they were in need of new cushion upholstery and a new look.



The first thing I did was to carefully remove the old upholstery.  I used a razor blade on the backside of the chair and sliced as close to the nails as I could, making a clean cut so that I could use the old upholstery as a template for the new upholstery.

I pressed the old upholstery (boy did it stink) and then I layed it on top of some white muslin.  I added a couple of inches to all sides of the pattern to make up for the part that I had originally cut away with the razor blade.



Before I cut out the pattern on the muslin template or the new upholstery fabric, I removed the old batting from the chair and placed it on some new batting.



I used it as a pattern to cut out the new batting.  



I placed both back on the chair to give it more cushion.



After I cut out the muslin template, I placed it across the cushion of the chair for measurement.  I wanted to make sure it laid nicely on the chair and that the corners were cut out correctly.  I used a scissors to make adjustments.  Just know that I have never done this before, so I am learning as I go along.  "Trial and error" is what I call it.



I sewed the front corners together, making sure that when the muslin template was placed on the chair again that it still fit nicely.



After I made all the corrections to the muslin template, I removed the sewed corners of the muslin and used it as a guide for the final pattern on pattern paper.  This time, though, I added an additional inch to the final pattern (3 inches extra from the original upholstery that I cut from the chair).



I used this paper pattern for my new upholstery fabric, which, by the way, was just some fabric that I had in my stash.  It really isn't upholstery fabric at all.  It is quilting fabric from Moda's Poetry Collection.  I had just enough of this fabric to cover 2 of the chairs, so I opted to cover the armless chairs first.  The 2 arm chairs I will cover in another, complimentary, fabric from my stash some other time.


Before I sew the front corners (which, by the way, is the only sewing I needed to do), I lay it across the chair to make sure it meets the corners nicely and that I can fold under the cut corners on the back legs about 1/2 inch so that the frayed edges don't show.  It looks nicer too.



I sewed the front corners of the new upholstery, and I used a 1/2 inch seam.



Then I laid it across the chair and made sure the corners were sewed correctly.  



I turned the chair over and started stapling the fabric to the underside of the chair. 


I started with the back of the chair, stapling to about an inch of the legs. Then I stapled the sides.



When I got to the back corners near the legs, I folded the fabric under to give it a nice, clean crease near the legs and then I stapled it closer on the underside only.


When I got to the front where I had sewed the corners of the upholstery, I lined up the corner of the seam with the corner of the leg of the chair, measured to the outer edge of the leg, and cut the fabric to the bottom of the chair and then I finished stapling.  I did the same with the other side.

I folded under the corner of the upholstery that wraps around the front legs and then continued stapling.


When I was finished I made a muslin template for the bottom of the chair, made sure it fit nicely, then I made a paper pattern, and cut out the pattern on my canvas for the bottom of the chair.  The original chairs had this black netting that ripped right off in pieces, so I couldn't use it for a pattern.  I wanted something heavier on the bottom and Big Bear suggested I use some of the linen canvas I had in my art studio.  Great idea!  That is exactly what I did.  



The good thing about using that linen canvas for the underside of the chair instead of fabric is that I didn't have to fold under the edges to hide the cut, frayed edges. 



I stapled on the linen canvas to the underside of the chair, turned it over, and wah-lah - I had re-upholstered the first of 4 chairs.



I wasn't as happy with the corners at the front of the chairs as I would have been had I taken more time to make them more custom to the curve of the cushion, but "what the heck" - it wasn't perfect, but it sure looked a lot better than it did before and that is all I cared about.  



If I were doing a lot of this, I probably would have aimed for more perfection.  Please accept my apologies - to all those talented upholstery people out there.  I don't claim to know what I'm doing and I did this by the seat of my pants and some common sense.  Hope you'll overlook my mistakes and make some suggestions for improvement in the comments.  I would love to know what I could have done better.



Hope this inspires you to dig out some of your old, crappy looking chairs, and create a whole new look for your home.  I put my new chairs in my music room where the new cushion fabric looks great with my George Washington Mount Vernon green walls.

Happy Sewing! 



Monday, February 01, 2010

How to Make a Quilted Heating Pad

So your neck hurts.  Or, your feet are cold.  Or, your lower back has had better days, and all you want is a comfy hot pillow right where it ails you.  I've got the perfect solution.  It will take about an hour of your time to make yourself and you won't be sorry.  As a matter of fact, you'll probably make one for every member of your family and for gifts too!

Supplies you will need:

Colorful fabric
White muslin fabric
Cotton batting
Cutting Mat
Rotary Cutter
Sewing Machine
Quilting measure attachment
Cherry Pits



Let's get started.  First thing you will want to do is pick out some fabric from your stash.  Press your fabric and then cut it to 17" x 22"



Press your white muslin or cotton fabric and cut it to 17" x 22"



Cut a piece of cotton batting to 17" x 22"



Put all three pieces together like you see here.  The colorful fabric goes on top, the batting between, and the white muslin or cotton fabric goes on the bottom.  Pin them together.



Starting on the right side of your project, sew a 1/4" seam from the right edge.  Next, line up your quilt measuring attachment to that seam and sew your next seam, then the next, then the next - each time lining up the quilt measuring attachment so that each seam is approximage 1 to 1.5 inches apart.  Do this until you have gone as close to the other side as possible.



They are lining up rather nicely.  Notice the 1/4" seam on the right of the project.



When you are finished quilting the 3 sections together, fold your project in half lining up the edges nicely and trim off about 1/4" on the end to give yourself a perfectly straight edge.  


Next, fold it in half the other way and trim off about 1/4" from the other open sides as well.  This gives you perfectly straight edges all the way around your pad.



With right sides together, fold your pad in half along the 17" side so that the longest unfinished edge is the 22" edge.  You want your heating pad to be long to wrap around your neck comfortably. 



Pin the right sides together along the long edge.  Make sure you have lined up your edges nicely.



Starting at the folded corner, begin sewing towards your long edge with a 1/4" seam.  Turn your fabric so that you can now sew along the long edge with a 1/4" seam, removing the pins along the way.  Note that if you sew over your pins you can break your sewing machine needle.  It isn't a good idea to sew over your pins - I know - I've done it and I wasn't happy about it either.



when you have sewn 1 short edge and 1 long edge (the other long edge is folded), trim your corners, but not so close to your seam that you cut through your seam.  Trim it just enough that you can make a nice, clean corner when you flip it inside-out.



Flip your pad inside-out and poke your finger in the bottom corners so that they are nice and flat.  Now comes the fun part ...



Ya see, now if I were these people, I think I would have named this "Pit Stop" rather than "Pit Stuff" but that's just me.  Anyway, I purchased some clean, dried, cherry pits online at the "Cherry Pit Store."
It was a bit more expensive than some other places but I learned something from them - first of all, if your cherry pits are not boiled and then thoroughly dried properly, they will stink when heated.  They'll probably stink even if you don't heat them.  If you get really good pits with not a lot of open shells, you will have a nice filler for projects like this.  The Cherry Pit Store takes care of all the pits before they package them - boiling, sterilizing, and drying them thoroughly before packaging and selling them.  Cherry pits hold heat well, and I can attest to that.  It was about 2 hours ago that I stuck this heating pad in the microwave for 2  minutes, and about 30 minutes ago I put it behind my neck and it is still warm.  



I went ahead and poured the cherry pits into a bowl for easy scooping.



Scoop the cherry pits into the open end of your quilted heating pad.



Fill up your pad only half way.  I filled mine up a little more than half way and I think I have too many in the pad - so about 1/2 way is about right otherwise it will be way too firm and uncomfortable.



Next, fold the open end towards the inside about 1/2" to 3/4" for a clean hem.



Pin the end together.  Before you sew it shut, be sure the cherry pits are out of the way and down towards the other end of the pad.



Sew the open end shut, first with a 1/4" seam and then with an 1/8" seam.



Throw it in your microwave for 1-2 minutes.  Don't heat it longer than this or you could burn yourself!



Now, sit back and enjoy. "Okay Matthew - hand it over."






"Uh - Matthew?"



"Aw, come on guys - when is it gonna be my turn?"



Friday, January 29, 2010

Crafty Little Fellas


Last week, as I was circulating around my favorite blogs, I came across Sharyn Tormanen's blog "Live From Tormville" and saw what her husband has been up to lately.  I laughed my fanny off.  These funny faces are golf balls that have been opened and carved into funny faces.  The artistic character of each one is truly amazing and I just had to share.  

Of course, being the complex creative that I am, I had to learn how to do this unusual craft if for no other reason than to pass the time when I can't sleep or have nothing better to do - yeah, right.  Still, I thought this could be loads of fun and would make a great gift for the golfer in your life.

So, as I was searching around the internet for instructions on how to make these crazy golf ball faces, I came across these videos.  Knock yourself out - they are delightful, funny, and will teach you how to make these darling faces on your own.  Just be careful - some of the tools you use to make them can be dangerous and should be used with caution and the proper preparation so you don't hurt yourself.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 3 of 3:

How about painting these little guys? Well, Mr. Whittler, as I call him, shows us how to paint the faces too ...

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 3 of 3:

I like what Mr. Whittler has shown us here, however, I like Sharyn's hubby's faces better.  I think he did a much better job of carving, don't you?  He created a lot more personality and detail in his faces.  Still, if you want to try your creative hand at carving a few golf balls on your own, then Mr. Whittler here has given us all some inspiration on how to get started. Thank you Mr. Whittler!

And by the way, I think Sharyn and her hubby are going to start selling their golf ball faces.  Neat idea Sharyn!

Now, where did I put those golf balls?



Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homemade Cards - More Special than Ever


Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved making cards.  I think they are more personal than if you just buy one at the store, but that is just my opinion.  You can always look through the cards at the grocery store and get some ideas of what to say inside your own card.



For this card, I purchased some heavy card stock in multiple colors, and pulled out my trusty paper cutter from Martha Stewart Crafts, and a few other tokens, including stamps, that are easy to find at your local Michaels or Craft Store. 



My project was to make a "Thank You" card to attach to a Red Easel Master's Palette that I had made for a customer of mine at Red Easel.  Instead of having custom labels made for Red Easel, I decided, at least for now, to add a personal touch to the cards when I attach them to the easel and send them out.



For this project, I chose to use my Martha Stewart Crafts Light Blue stamp pad...



And my Martha Stewart Crafts paper cutter.    Have you ever been in the paper craft isle in Michaels?  The isle with all the Martha Stewart paper craft supplies?  It's enough to make you a crazy person.  Especially if you are a chronic creative like I am.  This is the first time I have ever purchased paper craft supplies and I was so excited to start this project for my palette customers.  See this device above? - You put your paper in the cutter and squeeze.  It cuts your pattern perfectly in the paper.  Then, you just move your paper down and line up the design on the cutter with the design that is already cut out of your paper for perfect cutting every time.  I could cut paper all day with this thing.



I also grabbed some ribbon out of a bottom drawer of my sewing supplies dresser in my studio.  I wanted to find the type of ribbon that has a little bit of wire in the sides so that it can be shaped.



I have a slew of stamps, but I only needed to find the one that reads "Thank you" - and yes, I found it.



I cut the paper stock with the fancy paper cutter after I folded it in half to make it like a card.  Then I stuck one of these fancy scalloped paper things on top of it to make it pretty.



Then I took my stamp, pressed it into the blue stamp pad ...



and, I stamped the front of the card.



I took a glue stick and put glue on the back of a nice heavy stock of white paper that I had already cut to fit inside the Thank you card.  Then I wrote my message of Thanks to my customer for purchasing my handmade Red Easel Master's Palette and I used a marker that looked like the same color as my stamp pad.



I punched a hole (with a hole puncher) in the corner of my card and tied the ribbon through the card and around the palette.  I thought it looked very personal and very nice.  I hope my customer thought so too. 


It is easy to make your own cards, and lots of fun too!  I especially like all the fancy paper cutters, and heavy stock paper you can choose from.  It really is enough to make you crazy if you like doing this stuff.  Now my card wasn't anything fancy.  I haven't learned how to get all fancy-schnancy yet.  I've seen some personally created cards in books that would make your head spin.  They are so beautiful.  For now, though, I think this works for me.

If you have children, you might also want to get them involved in creating their own cards - for birthdays, holidays, and Thank you cards.  I think it teaches our children a lot about respect and gratitude, love and appreciation.

Have fun!



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Inspired by Van Gogh


10 years ago I started this pastel painting, inspired by Van Gogh's Irises, and I finally finished it.  My hubby is so happy.  I told ya this was my year for finishing all those unfinished projects lying around!



I pulled out the pastels and got to work.



There is one unfortunate fact about working with pastels.  They're messy.  Very messy.  And, you have to be very careful about not breathing in the pastel dust.  I don't have one of those air filters in my studio so I don't use pastels often because of all the mess and the dust in my eyes and lungs.  Pastel paintings are so beautiful, though.  Most artists who work primarily in pastels have air filtering systems working in their pastel tables or near their easels.  Me? - I had a hairdryer to blow the dust away, gloves, and a face mask.  Not a pretty sight.



The good news is that I finished the painting.  I removed a print from this frame and used it for the painting.  My Big Bear hung it in a prominent place in our family room.  He loves it and was so happy I finally finished it.  I am too!

So, pull out your unfinished projects.  Pick one and finish it.  You will be surprised how good it will make you feel.



Friday, January 15, 2010

My Mother - The New Grandma Moses


I've been trying for 12 years to get my mother to pick up a paintbrush and paint with me.  I don't know what finally clicked with her, but she said "yes" and I enthusiastically set her up with her own little tabletop easel, a canvas, and some paints, brushes, and all the necessities for creating her first painting.



I had her look through some reference images I had in a drawer and she found one of a Gazebo that she liked.  She decided to call her painting "Gazebo in the Park."  



She sat for about 2 hours painting away, listening to music from her era of the 30s and 40s that I have on my iPod, and I made sure nobody distracted her.



Check out this wrist action while she mixes her paints. 



And how she sits back to look over her work - just like a real artist!  I'm so proud of her.



She may be 85, but I think she has just discovered a new career.  She was completely in her zone.  I don't think she even noticed that I was taking her picture.


She has not finished her painting yet, but when she does, I'll be sure to post it here.  For her first painting, I am really proud of her.  She drew the scene on the canvas with pencil and I showed her how to mix colors.  It isn't Monet by any stretch, but it is my mother's first painting.  And that, my friends, is worth a million to me.



Monday, January 04, 2010

Sunbonnet Sarah Quilt


It's been years in the making.  Why I have so many unfinished projects I have no idea, but I really need to focus on finishing the projects I've started over the years and never finished.  I am always getting sidetracked - finding something else to do.  Maybe I have A-D-D  Which ADDs up to lots of unfinished projects stuffed in a drawer.  Well, today I made a choice to "try" (being the operative word here) to finish a quilt that I started years ago.  So many years ago, in fact, that I don't even know how many years that is.


So I pulled out the unfinished applique quilt blocks and took them into my cold sunroom.  Today was very cold - below freezing - but sunny.  Still, with ceramic tile, no carpet, and no drapes (something else I said I would do), I pulled up my britches and buckled down in front of the sewing machine.


First, though, I made sure I tested my satin stitch on a scrap piece of fabric.  I can't sew without having my seam ripper handy.  I use it a lot.



So, this year is my year - I think - for finishing unfinished projects, like this Sunbonnet Sarah Quilt.  I have paintings to finish, and quilts to finish.  I have kitchen cabinets to finish re-finishing.  Maybe I'll relieve a lot of the stress in my life if I work on these projects.



As for this quilt, I started by making appliques from the traditional Sunbonnet Sue pattern.  But then I got an idea - to take pictures of Sarah as a small girl and make appliques of her from those pictures, only with a sunbonnet on her head; and, so this is what I did.  


These 2 appliques were created using 2 pictures of Sarah as a toddler as a reference.  As soon as I find those pictures, I will post them here so you can see what I did.

Do you have unfinished projects that you need to revisit?  If so, tell me about them!  I don't want to feel alone in my failings.  



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Palettes and More Palettes


This is not my calling in life.  Or, maybe it is.  I have no idea anymore.  My creative brain takes me in so many different directions that I imagine that I am on some dusty intersection out in the country somewhere, only today, I've been saddled down with palettes. 



Aren't they pretty, though?  My deck is officially my woodworking studio.  I go out there to make a mess of everything and it doesn't matter either.  Why?  Because our deck needs a demolition team - one of these days.
I've got quite a nice one man assembly line goin' on here.  I especially love these sunny days when I can lacquer the palettes and let them dry quickly in the sun.  The sun heats up the lacquer and it smooths out nice and even - just like glass.


The only thing I hate is all the hand sanding.  Bob cuts the palettes out of the sheets of birch. 


Then I pull out my spindle sander and sand down all this stuff you see around the edges.  Then I take 200 grade sandpaper and sit in the shade and sand all the curves to a nice, smooth finish.


Then I sand the top and the bottom of the palette, and sand the curves some more.  I know I'm done when my neck is stiff and my right shoulder is on fire.



Nice curves don't ya think?  Then I admire my hard work and I pull out the stain. 


I stain the palette, then I sand it.  Then I get lunch.  Then I stain it again, and I sand it again.  Then I take a nap.

Then I pull out the lacquer and paint on one coat and let it sit in the sun for 20 minutes.  Then I sand it and lacquer it again.  Then I sand it and lacquer it again.  Then I take 3 Advil. 

But it's worth it.  I'm selling them!  And, they are beautiful and comfortable and I'm proud of them. Just know that I'm not going to be making these forever, so if you want one for a Christmas gift, you better put in your order now!



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Red Easel Designing


As some of you may know, I have a small place on the web for visual artists that I call "Red Easel."  It is where I share stories from my studio, tutorials, and it has emerged over the last 2 years to a nice little place for visual artists to share their stories, their tutorials, their paintings, and more.  I also have listings of galleries, and I have an artist directory with over 100 artist listings if I can ever get around to finishing adding those artists that still need to be added to the directory.  I even have information and resources for visual artists.  A whole bunch of neat stuff in one place.  

Red Easel was the first blog I ever had and the first one I ever designed.  I was new to all this stuff 2 years ago and I used a simple template and then added my own banner and background.  Nothing fancy like you see here on Raisin Toast.  Believe me when I tell you it has been quite the learning curve for me in web design.  Blog design.  Whatever you want to call it.


With everything going on here at home, though, I got so wrapped up in Raisin Toast, that Red Easel sorta took a back seat.  My bad.  So bad.  Anyway, that is something of past history as I am trying to revamp Red Easel.  I have over 550+ subscribers to my monthly newsletter and that in and of itself surprises me.  


Red Easel needed help, though, so this week I have been working on redesigning the site.  I will hopefully be able to launch the new design on November 1st, but that might be a bit optimistic.

Anyway, that's what I've been doing this week, if you're wondering why I didn't post yesterday, well, not only was I working on Red Easel, but I was also cutting out, sanding, and staining 4 "Red Easel Master's Palettes," and, well, I'm tired.  And yawning.  And my eyes are watering.  And I'm ready to hit the sack.

Thanks for stopping by!  Is everybody ready for Halloween?  

If it's any consolation - I'm not.



Friday, October 23, 2009

WooHoo! I'm a TypePad Champion!


I was looking around TypePad this morning seeing what they have new going on and ran across a story about TypePad Champions, and boy was I surprised that I was on the list.  Check this out!...


Our "Champions" are here to answer your questions and help you get the most out of your TypePad blog. Be sure you stop by the Get Satisfaction forum and say 'hello' to them and join the discussion. Let us know if you or someone that you know wants to be part of the Champion program and help grow our TypePad community!

Christine herron Christine Herron was ranked among the Top 20 Women in Technology in 2000 by AltaVista and is a tribal kitchen goddess in her spare time. She's been blogging about technology, society, and best practices at Christine.net since 2005. Favorite TypePad features include the easy integration of third-party sites and services through the widget gallery and using her TypePad profile as OpenID credentials.

Cynthia McCracken was previously a clinical therapist but health issues forced an early retirement and she began blogging not long after. That was 2003. She's a full-time mom as well as the author of four different blogs. Straight from the beginning she felt as though TypePad really cared about its customers, she liked the personal touch that we've provided and it has set the tone ever since.Visit her at Forever a Fangirl.

John T. Unger is the founder, lead author and developer at TypePad Hacks, an alternative knowledge base and design shop for TypePad blogs. TypePad Hacks is the leading expert in custom design and coding on the TypePad platform. As a result of his work with TypePad, Unger has also been asked for feedback by AdaptiveBlue, AddThis, Cocomment, FeedBurner and has done consulting work with PayPal 1000Markets.com, and Etsy.

Mipmup has been a member of the Typepad community since 2003 and blogs about design, food, shopping and green ideas on mipmup.com. She has provided design and set-up services to many leading blogs and web sites. Her expertise includes custom blog design and set-up on TypePad, Movable Type & Vox, advanced templates design, and integration of third-party features such as advertising, stats, search and social networking applications. 

Robin Capper lives in Auckland, New Zealand and has been blogging on TypePad since 2004. He discovered TypePad through Autodesk's company blogs and began his own site after discovering how easy it was to create and publish without the hassle of learning a publishing platform or coding a website. These days Robin blogs about CAD, design, IT and various web theories on RobiNZ Blogs.

M. Susan Vaughn is a busy wife, mother, grandmother and artist. She produces artwork in oils and has sold her paintings around the world and won a number of awards. She has been blogging on TypePad for two years and finds it to be a wonderful creative outlet. TypePad laid the groundwork for Susan to learn HTML, CSS, Javascript and code for designing her blog. Visit her at Raisin Toast.

* * * * * * *

Thank you TypePad!  You know I love blogging on your platform, and enjoy helping others, too, make the best of their blog design.  You've given me an entirely new creative outlet!



Saturday, October 03, 2009

Design is Everything - the Perfect Palette


Well, today I won't be posting the Saturday Morning Skraw, but I have been drawing things up this week.

Plato once said "Necessity is the mother of invention" and working as hard and as long as I have this week in my studio, I got so frustrated and covered in paint that I decided I was going to do something about it.  You see, I have 2 palettes that I use when I paint - a hand-held palette, and a table palette with a glass top for easy clean up.  The problem I have been having is with the hand-held palette.  After searching for hours online for a palette that would solve my problem of getting oil paint on my left sleeve and arm, and the occasional stress and pain I feel in my left arm from holding the palette a certain way, I sat down and designed my own palette - one that would put an end to paint on my left sleeve and arm, one that would rest comfortably on my left hip or belt if I wanted, and one that had the correct angle at the fingers that I could place used brushes in my left hand easily.

So you can understand what I created here, let's take a look at some artist palettes:



This is an example of the palette I have used for years.  When I hold this palette in my left hand and rest it on my left arm, the paint on the palette gets all over my sleeve and my arm.  There is also no good place to stick a medium cup onto the palette.



This is Renoir's actual palette.  I have to admit that I have wondered if the image was on the palette when he was using it.  That would make mixing colors complicated I would think.  Still, the square design does not make for comfort in resting the palette on your left arm.  I've known a number of artists that use the square palette and they are really uncomfortable - I mean, the left bottom corner of the palette gets in the way of your arm and your clothes and makes it cumbersome on your arm.



This is the palette of renowned portrait artist Nelson Shanks. He is probably one of the most outstanding living artists of our time.  Now this is better design - well, sorta.  First of all, see the opening for your fingers in front of the thumb hole?  This design makes it difficult to place brushes in your hand while holding the palette, and I've noticed in some video of his demonstrations at the Studio Incamminati that his palette is sitting on a table in front of him rather than on his arm.  In addition, the curve that would be at your stomach is too deep, and the curve that rests on his arm would again be cutting into the bend of his arm at the elbow thereby getting paint on his clothes and arm, unless, of course, he holds it at the curve you see at the bottom.  The problem with that, though, is that the palette will curve right into your stomach, so it doesn't conform to your body comfortably.



This is the palette of artist Fatima Ronquillo.  Love her artwork.  She has mingled classical portraiture with modern design by creating portraits of characters you might say.  Children, but no particular one.  You can't help but be drawn into her work.  So, let's look at her palette.  She has room to hold her brushes in her fingers, however, the palette curves towards her stomach when she is holding it, and again, the left bottom corner curves right where you don't really want it to - in the bend of your arm, making it nearly impossible to avoid getting paint on your left sleeve and arm.



So, after drawing, erasing, and cutting out multiple designs, I finally designed the best dang palette ever.  It is so good, in fact, that I am going to offer them up for sale.  Made in America I might add.  Better yet, made in Charlotte, North Carolina - in my studio and on my deck to be more precise.

I made this one out of birch, but I am going to go to the lumber yard next week and get a sheet of Mahogany and Walnut, and make palettes out of those hardwoods as well.  The only difference will be that the palette will be heavier.  This palette is nice and lightweight.  



It doesn't matter if you are left or right handed - all you have to do is turn it over for the hand that you hold your palette.  This picture was taken right after I had  finished sanding it.  My Big Bear cut it out based on my pattern that I drew on the Birch wood panel.



After I sanded the palette, I stained it with equal parts of Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber - that way it isn't too Red or too Brown.  A perfect mid-tone.

Next step is to varnish it after it dries and to prevent it from absorbing the paints when placed on the palette.

Here is an explanation of the features that were important to me in the design ...



Click on the images to see a larger view.  Pretty cool design don't you think?

Here are the dimensions:



I am really proud of this palette and its design.  I hold it and it is lightweight, comfortable, and doesn't get in my way when I paint.  It curves around the bend of my arm and I don't get paint on my arm and clothes.  I have plenty of room for my palette of paint colors and for mixing and also for attaching a medium cup.  I love the fact that it rests on my arm so comfortably and I can rest in on my hip too.



I am calling it the "Red Easel Palette" after my Fine Art company "Red Easel, LLC."  

And guess what?  I am offering it for sale right here on Raisin Toast and also on my Red Easel site at www.redeasel.com. 

I think it is a great value at 139.95.  I priced palettes across the internet that were approximately this size and a few were as expensive as 150.95.  Small ones were as inexpensive as 26.95 but very small and basic. 

Just consider this - it is entirely handmade!  On my Deck!  In North Carolina!

Hope you like it.  That is what I have been working on all week at the expense of the laundry which I promised my Big Bear I would get done today. 

If you would like a Red Easel Palette of your own, just email me at [email protected] and I'll get right on it.  I've even provided a BuyNow button below to make your purchase easy via PayPal. 

Hope you have a great weekend!  I'm gonna paint!



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Morning Skraw - Drawing Lesson 5 - Simple Shapes


When I begin to draw, I always begin with simple shapes, observing first the shape of the object I am drawing.  If you confuse your brain with all of the details surrounding what it is you want to draw, you'll end up giving up.  Start small.  Start big.  But start with a shape. 


Today, let's draw a schooner.  I love sailboats and I love schooners.  As a matter of fact, I have just started painting the largest painting I have ever done - 42 x 60 inches.  It is of the sailboat "Maya" tacking off the coast of Cape Cod.  The reference image is beautiful.  I can almost feel the humid breeze through my hair and smell the salty air deep into my lungs.  I am excited about this painting that I am doing and can't wait to show it to you.  But for now, I'm just drawing pictures in my sketchbook and playing around with pencils on this rainy Saturday morning.  Let's begin by drawing a horizontal line.  This will be the width of your boat.  Then draw another line beneath it, not quite as long.  Then connect the two lines as you see in the picture above.


Next, draw the foremast.  When you draw, pay attention to the relationships of each line and each mark you make.  Ask yourself questions when you draw - Is the mast as tall as the boat is wide?  Where is it located?  Is it in the center of the boat?  How far to the left of center is the mast?  How wide is the mast?  Drawing is all about relationships of each line and each mark you make to the last one you made.


Draw the forward boom or bowsprit off the stern of the boat, or whatever that thing is called extended from the back of this sailboat I'm drawing.  Add your birdle and your jib sails.  Add some texture to your drawing, even at this early stage, by adding some shading and pencil values to the sails.


Now draw the top mast and the top sail or fisherman's sail.  Forgive me if I'm not correct on naming the parts of the schooner.  I can only dream of sailing again on one of these babies. 


Next draw the foreboom and the main mast.  I think that's the main mast.  Crap.  Somebody take me sailin' will ya?


Draw a main sail and a foresail.  Add texture and some fun scribbling to your sails and your schooner.


How about we really get fancy and draw a couple of people inside the schooner looking out at us.  Next, add some scribbles in the water to indicate the reflection of the boat and the sails in the water.


We're almost done!  How about adding a landscape in the background, a house or two, some trees and a couple mountains.  There ya go!  Now, let's go sailing!

I want to see some pictures from my readers.  So, when you have an opportunity, please take some pictures of your sketches and send them to me at [email protected]  I'd love to see them and know if my little tutorials here on Saturday are of any value to you all. 

Everyone have  a great weekend! 



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Red Barn at Outlook Farm - The Finished Painting


Many of you wrote to me and expressed interest in seeing the completed painting, so here it is in all its glory.  It isn't a masterpiece, but it is a painting that I am proud of and the family that commissioned me to do the painting are thrilled with it.  I took it to Frame Warehouse to be framed - my favorite place in all of Charlotte for framing and they helped me and the "B" family find the perfect frame to set off the painting beautifully.  We are all excited to see the painting varnished and framed and ready to ship this week.

So, before I ship it out the door, I wanted to share it with all of you.  Here again, is the process I used to complete the painting ...









The Red Barn at Outlook Farm is located in Maine.  The family that commissioned me to do this painting is giving this 30x40 oil painting as a gift to a family member that is getting married there in October.  The reference image is below.  She wanted me to make a number of changes.  First, she wanted the red barn to be much larger, and she wanted the painting to be impressionistic.  She also wanted me to remove the white tent from the image and instead paint something else in its place.  With the information she provided, I did that, and also put a large oak tree on the right.  Here is the reference I used for the painting:





Monday, September 21, 2009

Georgia O'Keeffe - An American Inspiration


I adore the work of Georgia O'Keeffe.  It is beautiful, magical, original, and simply feminine.  The other evening I watched a story about her life on Lifetime television and received a renewed sense of artistic inspiration.  She is an inspiration to all women who want to express themselves artistically, freely, and independently and in her day was considered a remarkable woman, paving the way of independence and self-expression to woman around the world.


Georgia O'Keeffe lived a long and interesting life. Born November 15, 1887 near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin to dairy farmers, Francis Calyxtus O'Keeffe and Ida Totto O'Keeffe. She was the second of 7 children and the eldest daughter. As a child she received art lessons at home, and her abilities were quickly recognized and encouraged by teachers throughout her school years. 


During her grammar school years, she attended Town Hall School in Wisconsin, receiving art instruction from local watercolorist Sara Mann. She attended a boarding high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Madison, Wisconsin between 1901 and 1902. In the fall of 1902 O'Keeffe's family moved from Wisconsin to Williamsburg, Virginia, however, Georgia stayed in Wisconsin with her aunt and attended Madison High School. She completed high school as a boarder at Chatham Episcopal Institute in Virginia (now called Chatham Hall) and she graduated in 1905. Her mother was a large influence to Georgia and her siblings, as education for women was a family tradition. Georgia's mother, Ida, had been educated in the East and encouraged her daughters to pursue their passions and education. All but one of the daughters became professionals, attesting to her influence on them.


Art was always an interest to the young O'Keeffe, and by the time she graduated from high school, she was determined to make her life as an artist. She was encouraged by her family to pursue her passions and goals.

I am convinced, as a mother, that we must listen closely to our children's interests, and that in doing so, we foster personal growth and success in our children's life. In looking at Georgia O'Keeffe's childhood, I am equally convinced that her parent's interest in her life, her passions, her education, and her goals, laid the foundation for her future success, strength of character, and recognition.

Jimson Weed - O'Keeffe

O'Keeffe pursued studies at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and at the Art Students League, New York (1907–1908). She quickly mastered the techniques and principles of creating art that then formed the basis of the curriculum, which was imitating realism. I know, first hand, how difficult it can be to imitate realism in painting, and appreciate her early work in learning this skill, however, although principled in these techniques, O'Keeffe had not yet discovered her inner voice. She had not yet discovered how to express herself intimately on canvas. That would come years later.


While attending the Art Student's League and studying with artist William Merritt Chase, she won the League's "William Merritt Chase" award for her still life oil painting Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot) in 1908. That award was a scholarship to attend the League's outdoor Summer School at Lake George, New York.  Shortly thereafter, however, O'Keeffe quit making art, saying later that she had known then that she could never achieve distinction working within this tradition.  She was discouraged with her work and thus left the Art Student's League and moved to Chicago where she found work as a commercial artist. However, she did not as much as pick up a paintbrush.

I find this interesting, because I have experienced the same mental conflict when I paint for others or paint for the technical experience and challenge rather than painting from my gut, or from my heart.  I have become so discouraged with my own artwork at times that I have gone months without as much as walking in my studio.  Georgia went 4 years without painting, even after winning this award. I suspect it was because painting was "work" rather than "joy."  It wasn't coming from deep within her soul.


Her interest in art was rekindled four years later (1912) when she took a summer course for art teachers at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, taught by Alon Bement of Teachers College, at Columbia University. Bement introduced O'Keeffe to the then revolutionary ideas of his colleague at Teachers College, artist and art educator Arthur Wesley Dow. (painting above is "Boats at Rest" by Arthur Wesley Dow).


Dow believed that the goal of art was for the artist to express their personal ideas and feelings onto the canvas by harmonious arrangements of line, color, and "notan" which is the Japanese system of lights and darks.  His example and teachings influenced O'Keeffe and inspired her to examine alternative ways to express herself through her painting other than imitative realism.  She experimented with this idea for two years while teaching art in the Amarillo, Texas public schools from 1912-1914.  During the summers, she continued her tutoring with Alon Bement as his art assistant.


In 1916, she mailed some of these drawings to her friend and former Columbia classmate, Anita Pollitzer, who showed them to the internationally known photographer and art impresario, Alfred Stieglitz, who owned the New York Gallery "291" and was renowned for his photography.  He told her that the drawings were the "purest, finest, sincerest pieces that had entered 291 in a long while."  He wanted to show them in the gallery.  O'Keeffe had visited 291 in 1908, but did not meet Stieglitz at that time, although she had high regard for his opinions as an art critic.

In the spring of 1916, O'Keeffe returned to New York to attend classes at the Teacher's College, and also to see Stieglitz, who agreed to exhibit 10 of her charcoal abstractions at his gallery.  That exhibition took place in the spring of 1917.  Sadly, Stieglitz closed the doors to his avant-garde gallery one year later with a one-person exhibition of O'Keeffe's artwork.


Spring 1918, Stieglitz offered O'Keeffe financial support if she would paint for one year in New York.  She accepted.  By that time, they had fallen in love despite the fact that he was already married.  They were married in 1924, shortly after his divorce, and they lived and worked together at the Stieglitz family estate in Lake George, New York until 1929, when O'Keeffe left him and spent the first of many summers painting in New Mexico.


From the moment she had returned to New York in 1917 for her exhibition, Stieglitz photographed O'Keeffe.  During their courtship, he took erotic photographs of her, many of them semi-nude and nude photographs between 1918-1937 and in February, 1921, he exhibited 45 photographs, including many of the erotic images of O'Keeffe at the Anderson Galleries.  Obviously, the photographs of O'Keeffe created a public sensation - and it wasn't all good.  We're talking the 1920s here, this imagery was unheard of in those days.


O'Keeffe's artwork emerged to express her innermost feelings.  She created works of both natural and architectural forms during these early years.  In 1924, she created her first large-scale flower painting "Petunia, No. 2" 36x30 Oil on Canvas, which was exhibited in 1925.


Stieglitz organized annual exhibitions of O'Keeffe's works.  By the mid-1920s, O'Keeffe had already become recognized as one of America's most important artists.  Her work commanded high prices, and in 1928, 6 of her Calla Lily paintings sold for $25,000 US dollars.  At that time, that was the largest sum of money ever paid for a group of paintings by a living American artist. Naturally, this attracted a lot of media attention, the likes that O'Keeffe had never seen before.

3F Pelvis-With-The-Distance-Georgia-O-Keeffe-25622

From 1923 until his death in 1946, Stieglitz worked assiduously to promote the artwork of Georgia O'Keeffe, by organizing regular exhibitions at the Anderson Galleries from 1923-1925, the Intimate Gallery from 1925-1929, and An America Place Gallery from 1929-1946.  As early as the 1920s, at which time O'Keeffe first began to paint the New York landscape as well as large-scale depictions of flowers as she is most well known, she had become recognized as one of America's most important and successful artists. A remarkable accomplishment at that time not only for "any" artist, but particularly for a woman.


In 1949, three years after Stieglitz's death, O'Keeffe moved permanently to her beloved New Mexico, leaving her New York home.  She had always been drawn to New Mexico's stunning vistas and stark landscapes which had inspired her work since 1929.  Many of her paintings of New Mexico, the mountains, the richly colored landscape, the dryness and starkness of the land, the desert, and the vast skies became as well known and recognized as her large florals.  


Taos and Abiquiu, New Mexico have become known as "O'Keeffe Country."  She moved permanently to New Mexico in 1949 and  lived at either her Ghost Ranch House which she purchased in 1940 or at her Abiquiu home which she purchased in 1945 until her death in 1986 at the age of 98.  O'Keeffe continued to work in oil until the mid-1970s, then in watercolor and pencil until 1982.  In 1984, O'Keeffe felt forced into retirement due to failing eyesight.  The landscape had nourished her creative efforts until that time.  She did, however, produce objects in clay from the mid-1970s until 2 years before her death.


As an artist and a woman, I believe we can learn much from the life and paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. She realized early on that if she was to pursue her passion for art, she must seek that which is from within her soul.  She must be passionate about her work, her subject, her place in this world if it is going to express itself within her work and on canvas.  Many artists never learn this lesson.  Others learn from the onset that they must create what is within their heart.  For me, it has been a long lesson, but one that is emerging more and more.  Getting past the academics of art and what others tell me I should do, and pursuing instead what I feel to be true is far more important.  

Georgia O'Keeffe has inspired me in many ways.  First and foremost, her strength of character and personal integrity.  Her work continues to inspire and will for centuries to come.  Thank you Georgia O'Keeffe.



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