family, featured, holiday, make something, quilting, quilts

Let’s Talk About Big Stitch Quilting

I was introduced to big stitch quilting in 1993. Maybe 1994? It’s been a while and I can’t quite remember the exact date.  25 years and all. Anyhow, I was working at a quilt shop during my summers home from school, and a woman that taught classes there used big stitch quilting for a lot of her quilts. It was new to me. I’d never seen it. I’d only seen teeny, weeny hand stitching – all very traditional (and lovely) – and I immediately fell in love! I thought it was the coolest way to quilt.

Ever.

I mean, tiny stitches are great but who needs 11 or 12 stitches an inch (and I most definitely couldn’t do that when I started!) when I can get away with 4 or 5, right? Besides it’s so much faster.

The first time I made a quilt with big stitch quilting was for a Christmas gift for my Dad. I used reproduction Smithsonian prints (very masculine and I still love those fabrics) and a 12 weight cream colored perle cotton. I probably (details are fuzzy here since it’s been a while) struggled to get the thread into the needle because I didn’t know to use a needle with a bigger eye. I have vague memories of fighting with a needle threader?? Nevertheless, I somehow managed to make it happen.

And I was so proud.

And I showed my quilt to said friend and she (very kindly) gave me a lesson.

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BIG STITCH QUILTING MEANS THE STITCHES ARE BIGGER. NOT ENORMOUS.

If in an ideal world of hand quilting you get 11 or so stitches in an inch of quilting, you should have less with big stitch quilting; meaning your stitches are bigg-er. 

Yeah.  So that sank in for a bit. My stitches were HUGE.  I ruined my Dad’s quilt. dang it!

So, while I was a little brokenhearted about that – you know, messing it all up (even though the quilt isn’t messed up it just has really. big. stitches), I took it as a lesson to learn about this new art I was exploring and went on my way. My Dad was (and still is) none the wiser, and loved his gift. He and Mom still have it over a railing in their house. I had to text mom for photos, in fact. 🙂

To be honest, I didn’t use big stitch quilting on another quilt for a while. I was afraid I’d mess it up. Again. That was DEFINITELY a mistake. Mess up. Learn. Move forward.

So, moving right along through the next decade or two, I would occasionally pick up big stitch quilting again, always careful to make my stitches bigger but not ridiculous.

The most recent (ahem, I say recent loosely) projects are baby quilts. One for my youngest son (he’s almost 8) and another for a friend that just had her first baby.

See how the stitches in the left photo are really big? They shouldn’t be quite so large. Remember, they need to be bigger than traditional hand quilting but not HUGE. You can see 25 years of progress in the right hand photo. Big stitch quilting should be closer to this. Bigg-er than traditional hand quilting stitches.

When you first start, your stitches won’t be small. Even big stitch quilting. That is okay. Keep practicing until you find your rhythm. You will get there. Promise!

Do:

•Use a 12 weight perle cotton. You can use a slightly thinner or thicker thread, but I have found it’s a good weight for big stitch quilting.
•Use a longer needle with a larger eye. I like to use a sashiko needle, but there are big stitch needles in a variety of sizes. Buy a few and experiment
•Remember that you want your thread to fill the hole in the needle (or close to it). If the opening is too large, your thread will fray and eventually break.
•Practice, practice, practice!

Don’t:
Get discouraged. My first big stitch quilt had ENORMOUS stitches. It’s okay.

Remember:

•Handmade isn’t always perfect.
•Handmade has mistakes.
•Handmade with love is better than anything you can buy. Imperfections and all.

family, holiday, kids, make something, personal, sewing

Adventures in Cosplay

I’ve never dabbled in cosplay. Whip up a costume? Sure. You need a Jedi robe? I gotcha covered.  Usually when I do make a costume, it’s quick and easy. Down and dirty. Nothing too elaborate.

But armor and helmets? Nope. I’m at a complete loss.

Usually costuming my kids doesn’t cause me any anxiety or stress until October. You know, when I have to figure out how to make a costume for one of them. According to thing 1 and thing 2,  I can make everything. I love that they think that. I love that I usually can make them happy (enough). Dabbling in a new medium to make it happen? Well, it made me a little nervous, and the last thing I needed or wanted in the days leading up to Halloween is to have a costume idea implode.

This year, littlest child was Spider-Man for Halloween. Easy-peasy, bought a costume. Done. Truth be told, he’s had a Halloween plan since last summer and  has been happily wearing his costume for months. months, people, months. 

Then oldest child chimes in on the subject. He wanted to be a Destiny 2 Warlock. WHAT?! I didn’t even know where to start, and after looking at the picture of the warlock online, I was really lost. I wasn’t quite sure where to begin so I thought on it for a while. I wanted something relatively easy that would get the look, but it didn’t have to be a full set of armor. At least in my mind.

warlock

It took me some time, but I figured out how to modify the costume using a black bathrobe. I found an image with the graphic S wanted to use. I cropped and enlarged the image in Photoshop, printed it, traced the reversed image (thankyouverymuch, technology) on fusible, then applied it to the robe.

bird web

Then I  made the front panel with some Kona yellow and charcoal. The charcoal tail was long enough to wrap and twist around his stomach so it kinda resembled the stomach armor. Enough for a 10 year old kid for one night of the year.

Then the helmet. The dreaded helmet. I had visions of heavily facing some black, grey, and yellow fabric and making a hat until the child found a pattern. I didn’t love the directions, but the images of how to assemble the helmet helped me figure out how to assemble the helmet (sort of) correctly.  The pattern was easy to download and print, and there aren’t a lot of pieces to make it.

pattern

Per the instructions, I used 10mm EVA foam. If I knew last week that a lighter, better foam was available to make the helmet, I would have gone that route. Sadly for me, I found better foam at market then didn’t have time to run back to the booth and get some before heading out to catch my flight. dang! But I’ll know for next time, so that’s good.

market foam

The foam is easy to cut if you have a FRESH X-acto blade. I realized halfway through I needed to change mine so some rough edges are visible. The edges with the new blade are super smooth. Unfortunately, you can’t see those.

I struggled to get the foam to mold the right way. I didn’t have a heat gun. I’m sure the higher temps would have been better than my hair dryer. I also wasn’t quite sure what I was doing. Bend, heat, repeat, and hope it held the shape. Super glue did a great job holding the pieces together but I did have to work to keep the pieces and the glue in the right spot until it took a little bit.  I’m sure there’s a less messy way to get the glue onto the foam than my approach. I was definitely feeling clumsy with this hat. The pieces were big, and not bending quite the way I wanted.

I give myself a solid C- on the helmet. You can see in the image below that S painted it so some of my mistakes are a little less visible.

halloween

You can also see that the helmet was too big. Instructions say it’s one size, and it’s definitely big. Knowing what I know now, I’d change a few things to make V2.0 better. There’s a definite learning curve to this stuff, and I’m sure a LOT of tips out there to really fine tune your work. Next time, I’ll know where to look.

Perhaps even next time, S will wear the helmet while we trick or treat.

Yep. I held it the entire time. 🙂

craft, holiday

Handprint Christmas Tree Skirt

under the tree

I was so excited when this bundle of awesomeness arrived from Michael Miller Fabrics a few weeks ago, and couldn’t wait to get started on my tree skirt.

fabric is here

What you’ll need:

9 fat quarters
4 – 1/2 yard pieces for yo-yo’s and handprint borders
buttons – approximately 80
1/2 yard solid fabric
1/2 yard for binding
1 2/3 yard for back plus an 11″ x 60″ strip of fabric
3/4 yard of ric-rac or ribbon (cut into 9″ pieces)
acrylic paint to match
something round to cut yo-yo’s
marking pen
tape measure
basic sewing supplies – sewing machine, scissors, thread, pin

I started by making my yo-yo’s. Trace circles on your fabric and cut them out. I used a 4 1/2″diameter circle for my yo-yo’s, and you’ll need to make 80.  I have a set of templates from Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Circles that made it very easy to trace, but any round object you have in your house will work. The number of yo-yo’s you need may change slightly if you use smaller or larger circles for your yo-yo’s.

circles 2

buttons and yoyos

Make your yo-yo’s, then sew a button in the middle. Any buttons that were too small were layered with another button. Put your yo-yo’s in a bag until the tree skirt is made.

yoyos

Determine fabric placement for the top of your tree skirt. I put the fat quarters on my floor and played with them until I was happy with how they looked. Once you know where you want your fabrics, cut the center block 18 1/2″ square. Sew three rows of three fat quarters, then sew the rows together. The two outer rows won’t match corners with your center block. That’s okay.

To make the bottom of your tree skirt, start by trimming the selvedge off one side of the 1 2/3 yard piece. Sew the 11″ strip to the 1 2/3 yard piece to make a 60″ x approximately 56″ square (can vary depending on WOF).

Place the bottom of the tree skirt to the floor with the right side DOWN. Use some masking tape to secure it, then place the top of the tree skirt over the bottom piece with the right side UP.

top and bottom

Find the center of the center block, and mark it. Once you have the center, measure 4 1/2″ from it in each direction, working your way around and making a circle. I used chalk, but a pencil works better.

middle

Measure 26″ from the center in every direction to make your outer circle.

outer circle

Once you have your circles measured, pin, pin, pin! It is important to pin like crazy so you don’t get any wave in the top or bottom pieces. Once you’ve pinned the circle, draw straight lines from the inner circle to the outer circle to make your opening. I played with it until I found angles and opening sizes that I liked. You can also grab an old tree skirt and use it as your pattern. Baste the pieces together with a scant 1/4″ seam.

baste

Once you’ve basted the top and bottom together, cut off the excess fabric.

cut

cut 2

I chose to attach my pieces with bias binding, but you can finish it any way you’d like: sew the pieces together, serge the edges, add a ruffle, add decorative trim – the possibilities are endless.

bind

Attach the binding, or finish the edges however you’d like, then sew on the yo-yo’s. Be sure to pull out any basting stitches that peek out.

tack it

Cut 6″ x 7″ rectangles from the solid fabric and cut 2″ strips of fabric to border the handprint blocks. Sew the border print to the solid block, then iron the border piece in half to the wrong side. I didn’t want a huge border, and if you iron the fabric back it’s easier to attach to the tree skirt.

squares2

Use ric rac or ribbon to secure the tree skirt together while it’s under your tree. I tacked a piece of ric rac three inches, and about halfway down, on each side of the tree skirt. Ideally you’d attach the ric rac before you bind or finish the edges, but I forgot, and since this is used once a year I decided it’s alright. I stitched in the ditch to make my error less noticeable.

ricrac1

Sew the blocks you’ll use for the handprints to the tree skirt.  I tacked them down in each corner and the middle of each side so I can re-position the blocks as the years pass. Once they are in place, put acrylic paint on little hands and make your mark. If your kids are really small, it may be easier (better, less messy) to work with paint before putting the handprint blocks on the tree skirt. You can leave some of the blocks blank and add a handprint each year. You could also add photos, or generally embellish however you’d like. Just have fun!

voila 2

Merry Christmas, y’all!

 

craft, holiday

DIY Glitter Christmas Trees

I didn’t decorate the house as much as I wanted last year. Once again, I blame the renovation, but now that’s over so I can go wild. Okay, just a little.

I wanted to make some more decorations but didn’t want to break the bank. Solution? Glittered Christmas Trees. I bought a few styrofoam cones, glitter, and spray glue at my local craft shop.

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I sprayed the cones with spray glue, and poured glitter over the cones. I found it helpful to spray the glue on one side of my craft area, and glitter on the other. I applied glitter over a plastic plate so I could re-use the excess. If you spray glue over the plate the glue will stick and you can’t re-use it.

I chose to keep my tree decorations simple. The balls on top were in a set of holiday balls at the local craft store. They have a wire on the bottom so I could stick my ribbon through the wire then insert the pieces into the top.

I put my trees on a plate and decorated the base with cedar, white pine, and fir springs.

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family, holiday

Christmas Stockings

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

We’ve waited a long time to say that. Now, don’t get me wrong, we loved out townhouse, and never missed a fireplace until we didn’t have one at Christmas. Now we have two. Making up for lost time, I guess.

I always decorate for Christmas the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and this year was no different. Except we’re in a new (to us) house and have a fireplace and mantel to hang our stockings.

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family, holiday

Christmas 2010

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I just love it and if husband wouldn’t complain I might go overboard decorating the house.  Instead I just make him wrap three columns outside and the deck. It’s a good bit of work and I recognize that but it looks really pretty at night when the house is lit.

Little Mister was outrageously excited about Santa coming to visit – can you tell? We made reindeer food and put it out then I gave the boys their Christmas jammies. Santa in a rocket. I don’t think it gets better than that!

Aunt Katie had on her Christmas jammies, too!

Santa brought some fun toys for the kids.

Aunt Katie put a bow on Q man’s head

Little Mister got the pillow pet he so desperately wanted

Cute hats

And the littlest trying to find freedom on the other side of the gate

Then getting upset with me for not showing him

craft, holiday, sewing

Wrapped

I’ve been busy making some Christmas gifts* that I can whip up on days that both kids are napping.

Scarves for the boys down the street, and of course, for Little Mister, too.

And a voile wrap for my mother-in-law.

It’s the size of a pashmina and made from one of Anna Maria Horner’s lovely voile fabrics. Detail stitching about 1/8″ around all sides to add a nice detail and voile-a! (lol)

The voiles have a beautiful hand once washed. I’d love to make a spring skirt for myself using one of these fabrics.

I hope everyone likes their gifts!

* couldn’t post this until after Christmas. Didn’t want to spoil the gifts.