Leftover Fabric: The Toss Across Edition

Leftover Fabric: The Toss Across Edition

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have quite a bit of fabric leftover from the top layer of my quilt, right? Well, I do, and it’s interesting to come up with practical, usable projects that could give that fabric a purpose. This week, I did exactly that, and I’m going to share the idea that was a two-fold win for me: Using a little bit of fabric and creating something that I had a genuine reason for making.

Frozen Toss Across set , and it comes with simple blue throwing bags.

Frozen Toss Across set , and it comes with simple blue throwing bags.

So, my niece has this Frozen Toss Across set , and it comes with simple blue throwing bags. The idea is to tic-tac-toe with Anna or Elsa (whichever character you are) to win, but the thing is that we currently only have three throwing bags out of the original set that we can use. What that boils down to is that the two of us would play the game one toss at a time, and we’d have to keep going over to the board to retrieve the bags for the next round. Sure, it’s doable, but it isn’t as convenient as only having to go bag-retrieving every third toss or so!

Get resourceful

Yesterday, it occurred to me that I have small pieces of material and fewer throwing bags than we used to have. Why not use some of that fabric to make new throwing bags?

It’s a simple idea, and the process was fairly to-the-point. All I needed beyond the sewing essentials of fabric, needles, thread, and pins was something to fill up the bag, which I honestly had to think on for a while — maybe until I was ready to fill the throwing bag. I thought about trying small rocks, but I was sewing at night. Since I didn’t want to wait until morning to finish my trial sewing bag or go rock hunting at night, I needed another option. At some point, it dawned on me that I have blue sand that could work, but you might find something just as fitting for the purpose around your house. Just think a little outside of the box, and the fillings might take shape!

Time to begin

I took one of the pieces of fabric & folded it in half since the fabric size was nearly ideal to make two separate throwing bags.

I took one of the pieces of fabric & folded it in half since the fabric size was nearly ideal to make two separate throwing bags.

Now that we have the list of supplies, it’s time to get into how all of them came together into a Toss Across throwing bag. First, I took one of the pieces of fabric and folded it in half since the fabric size was nearly ideal to make two separate throwing bags. These bags needed to be small enough to flip spaces on the board, after all! Once I cut the fabric in half, I again cut it in the opposite direction so that what started as one piece of material was now four individual pieces — two for each throwing bag.

Luckily, these are small products, so I only needed about three pins to hold them!

Luckily, these are small products, so I only needed about three pins to hold them!

Then it was time to pin them. Luckily, these are small products, so I only needed about three pins to hold them! I took two pieces of the fabric and placed them together so that their printed sides were facing one another and pinned them on three sides to hold them steady. Note: This is also a good time to trim off any excess fabric on the ends if they’re terribly uneven with one another, though these seams will be inside the bag anyway. You don’t have to be too careful to make things perfect!

From there, it was time to sew, which was a pretty straightforward process! Three sides needed to be closed up completely, but I needed to keep that fourth side open to fill the sewing bag before I closed it as well. I simply sewed one side, then the next, and then the next. Then, it was time to flip the bag so that the printed fabric was now on the outside and add in what I decided would be blue sand to fill it. Again though, you can try a different tactic to fill the throwing bag — sand, beads, etc.

You can try a different tactics to fill the throwing bag — sand, beads, etc.

You can try a different tactics to fill the throwing bag — sand, beads, etc.

Be sure though while you’re filling the throwing bag that you don’t fill it too full. It’s important that it’s weighty enough to be able to turn one of the Toss Across spaces, but if it’s too full, you might have a hard time sewing that final side together. As it happens, I ended up towing the line, so for future projects, I might use a little less filling!

Once I’d finished with the filling, I sewed that final line together. I did this by folding the edges inward, kind of like I was wrapping a present, then folded the line downward to pin it in place. After that, I just had to sew what I’d pinned and cut the thread.

I did this by folding the edges inward, kind of like I was wrapping a present, then folded the line downward to pin it in place.

I did this by folding the edges inward, kind of like I was wrapping a present, then folded the line downward to pin it in place.

I have plenty of fabric to keep making these, but already with this one bag, I’ve evened up the throwing bag numbers so we can play two rounds at a time!

Raggedy Coasters

Raggedy Coasters

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and as you might know from previous posts, I’m a holiday fan! In fact, I spent time researching Valentine’s Day projects for a post, and I chose one specific sewing craft that I thought was a cute idea. That concept is a raggedy coaster with a heart in the middle, which seemed simple and pretty. It was also useful since I have a Valentine’s Day party coming up with my nieces and nephew. I have plenty of leftover fabric from my latest quilt, so using it for homemade décor for the party sounded like a good notion!

That concept is a raggedy coaster with a heart in the middle, which seemed simple & pretty.

That concept is a raggedy coaster with a heart in the middle, which seemed simple & pretty.

Unfortunately though, one detail of the project did get derailed because I decided I didn’t like the Cupid cutout that I had planned to use in the center of my coaster. It looked amateur and out of place, so I made the executive decision not to use it. That meant that the coaster wasn’t very Valentine’s Day-ish since the top portion is a general floral pattern, but I was still interested to see how things would play out. And, as I’d been wanting to try a rag quilt for a while, this was a good time to test the waters. If I didn’t like the process of making one rag coaster, an entire rag quilt might not be something I wanted to dive into!

Stock up

The needed supplies are fairly minimal. All you really need are the bare essentials of a sewing project, like a needle, thread, fabric, pins, and scissors. Once you have those, you’re ready to start work on your coaster!

First, pick out the material you’ll use. Ideally, you would have batting in between the top and bottom layers because this raggedy craft can be, in truth, a miniature quilt sandwich. For me though, I didn’t have any batting available, so I decided to layer four pieces of fabric together. That way, there’s more thickness than what I would’ve gotten from just three pieces of thin fabric.

Let’s get started

Once you choose your material, make sure the pieces are cut into similar-sized bits that are more or less quadrilaterals. This is actually one benefit of a rag coaster or quilt. You’ll be shredding the ends anyway, so it doesn’t matter if they’re the exact same length at every point. Just make sure they’re close enough that, with the raggedy edges, they’ll look the same!

You’ll need to allow extra space beyond where you sew the pieces together for your ragged edges.

You’ll need to allow extra space beyond where you sew the pieces together for your ragged edges.

From there, you layer those fabric/batting pieces in the correct order and pin them together — but not necessarily right at the ends of the material. You’ll need to allow extra space beyond where you sew the pieces together for your ragged edges. Also, if you find after pinning that you have a bit of extra material that’s going to really stick out once your coaster has been shredded, feel free to trim off those ends.

Feel free to trim off those ends.

Feel free to trim off those ends.

Time to sew

Then you can start sewing! Remember to try for a box shape within your block of fabric, and to keep that space away from the edges. After you’ve sewn all the way around to finish that box shape, cut off the excess thread and get ready to do some shredding!

Be careful to give a decent number of cuts as you go around the fabric because the more you cut, the more thorough your raggedy quality could be!

Be careful to give a decent number of cuts as you go around the fabric because the more you cut, the more thorough your raggedy quality could be!

Now, shredding happens to be a bit more time consuming than I expected, but it’s a simple process! All you do is take your scissors and cut from the edges of the fabric inward, but never so far that you cut your stitches since that can seriously damage your final product! Also, be careful to give a decent number of cuts as you go around the fabric because the more you cut, the more thorough your raggedy quality could be!

Common mistake

Another tip on shredding is to make sure that you’re cutting through all layers of your coaster or quilt. I noticed a time or two that I’d left the bottom layer uncut for some of my shreds, so missing a space here or there is an easy thing to do! For a thorough job, check your results as you go along!

Once the shreds are finished, you’re ready to throw your product in the washing machine! Believe it or not, the washing and drying process makes those simple cuts attain that raggedy appearance!

What I learned from this experience is that making a rag quilt is going to be more complex than I expected. I’ll need to cut fabric, layer it, sew it, then shred it, and shredding is pretty tedious! I honestly wasn’t mentally prepared for what awaited me, and I think I have a better idea now. Although it’s different than the quilts/blankets I’ve made before, I’m still interested in making one. So, basically, the hunt for a Valentine’s Day project worked out differently than I thought — but still well!

Planning Your Pieces

Planning Your Pieces

One of the most important things you can do when beginning a quilt is to plan out your pattern. By this idea, I don’t just mean picking what pattern you want to buy in a store, but also planning out how the pieces of your project will fit together. That kind of pre-thought can make a difference in the appearance of a final product!

Let’s say, for instance, you decided to make a blue-based quilt, and you have a number of types of fabric to use for the product. If you don’t plan out how the pieces will go, you could end up running out of one particular style before the end, so the final portion is suddenly void of that one fabric. If you, like me, want a quilt that looks more balanced than that, then planning ahead can give you that quality.

Let’s think about where this is going…

Beyond that point, making these decisions beforehand can also ensure that you don’t pile a series of similar fabric all in one area. Otherwise, your product could look like this not-so-beautiful piece of artwork I created with my not-so-wonderful skills at Paint.

Otherwise, your product could look like this not-so-beautiful piece of artwork I created with my not-so-wonderful skills at Paint.

Otherwise, your product could look like this not-so-beautiful piece of artwork I created with my not-so-wonderful skills at Paint.

See how the same shades of blue are really close together? Now, imagine, what it would look like had I just mixed the fabrics in a more thorough way. The overall result could’ve been much more balanced, which to me, is a better strategy! And that’s the beauty of planning: No matter what your preference is, you can make sure you end up with a quilt that reflects it!

Lay out your quilt pieces on the floor & continue to adjust them until you come to a pattern you decide is right.

Lay out your quilt pieces on the floor & continue to adjust them until you come to a pattern you decide is right.

Options

So the question arises about how to plan out those details. There are a couple of options available that you can use right in your own home! The easiest and least-costly method between the two I’ll cover is to lay out your quilt pieces on the floor and continue to adjust them until you come to a pattern you decide is right. You don’t need any extra materials for this stage at all, and so long as you have the free floor space, you have this opportunity right at your fingertips!

A quilt design area on your wall.

A quilt design area on your wall.

The other option is a quilt design area on your wall. This one might cost you a bit of money since you have to buy the supplies for it (though those supplies can be as simple as clips!), and you might find that you have to rearrange your wall décor to make room for it. Still, it’s a better candidate than the floor method if you want to eliminate the possibility of having your quilt-in-progress trampled by feet or if you just don’t have the right amount of space available for a clear plan-out area. Once you construct the design wall, you can start pinning and planning, shifting around your fabric blocks until everything fits in a way you’re comfortable with!

Start pinning & planning, shifting around your fabric blocks until everything fits in a way you’re comfortable with!

Start pinning & planning, shifting around your fabric blocks until everything fits in a way you’re comfortable with!

From that point, there are a number of ways to remember the quilt structure that you’ve planned out. Sure, if you’re using a quilt design wall, you could take it a bit at a time over to your sewing machine and just leave the extra pieces in place on the wall until the time comes to use them. But if you want a method that doesn’t involve leaving your pieces there — or if you’re using the floor method — you might want to think about alternative tactics!

One idea is to take a picture of what you come up with. If you do that, you can use it as a point of reference as you go through piecing your quilt together. By following the design you created, your quilt can turn out just as beautiful as you meant for it to!

Collate your blocks

Another option would be to keep your pieces in the order that you’re going to use them. As you take them up from the floor or off the wall, make sure you’re doing so in the exact order they’ll appear. You could start from the top or the bottom corner and progressively layer your quilt pieces on top of one another as you go. With this strategy, your blocks are in the order you wanted them, so you can just go through your stack one piece at a time to recreate your pattern!

But whatever your planning and preserving methods are, the important thing is to be thorough with them. Take your time, both in pinning or sorting those pieces, and in keeping them in sequence, so that errors are less likely to happen. When you have a well-balanced and well-considered quilt as the reward for your efforts, you’ll be glad you did!

Pressing: Side or Open?

Pressing: Side or Open?

Once upon a time, I had an extended conversation (argument?) with a friend as we — as adults — threw all of our cards on the table in regard to the matter of who had it worse: Pluto or Goofy.

The point of referencing this conversation is that sometimes some of the smallest details can be points of major debate, and that idea is as true in the sewing world as it is for preferred cartoon characters. For instance, pressing your seams while sewing is a common thing, but there are two methods that are seemingly at odds among seam-pressers: side pressing and open pressing. It’s a small detail, but both sides have very real support! Don’t believe me? Do some Googling!

Some of the smallest details can be points of major debate.

Some of the smallest details can be points of major debate.

I’m not sure I personally lean too heavily in either direction, so let’s go through them and see if we can come up with a winning method! The competition will be based on a point-gained system, and it will include the understood sewing project of a quilt for reference. Sound good? Then let’s go!

Let us begin

How about we start with the to-the-side method?

How about we start with the to-the-side method?

How about we start with the to-the-side method? One advantage would be that it’s easier to push the material to a single side for ironing than to force the pieces apart and iron openly. That’s something that, to me, a general consideration of the matter would support. You don’t have to hold both pieces of fabric in separate places like you might with the open method, so one point for side pressing!

Another benefit would be that, as a certain source pointed out, open pressing would logically weaken your product. With that technique, you would have an easier time seeing your stitches after the pressing because there isn’t that barrier of fabric to snuggly nestle them. Stitches are more protected with material covering them, and with the effort you put into your quilt, simple things to keep it intact are good! So, two points for the to-the-side notion!

One nice aspect about pressing to the sides is once you start pinning it's much simpler than pinning fabric pressed in the open fashion.

One nice aspect about pressing to the sides is once you start pinning it’s much simpler than pinning fabric pressed in the open fashion.

One other aspect about pressing to the sides is that, should you need to pin things following the pressing, doing so is much simpler than if you attempt it once it’s been pressed in the open fashion. Since I’ve been known to take a straight pin to the finger anyway, this advantage seems very tempting! Side pressing 3, open pressing 0!

Let’s open up

The open method isn’t altogether a bad idea.

The open method isn’t altogether a bad idea.

But, then again, the open method isn’t altogether a bad idea. For one thing, you don’t have to concern yourself with what direction you’re pressing your material. There’s no need to go back and see how you pressed a nearby seam because you can just assume it was open, like the rest. The uniformity is already there without having to come up with a pattern. Point one for the open strategy, then!

Another detail worth mentioning about this open approach is that you might find that you have a less lumpy final product. Again, this is logical. If you press your material to the right, then on the right, you have both sides of the seam and the fabric it’s laying against. That situation makes for three layers of fabric on the right for every pressed seam (not including batting and backing) while the left side — the one you pressed away from — would only have one. And that’s not counting places where your seams would overlap with other seams. Now, of course, the open approach doesn’t make everything equal across the quilt as not every piece of overlying material would have a seam pressed behind it. Still, for the areas where those seams would be present, having two pieces of material on one side and two on the other would be a more balanced situation and could lead to a smoother quilt (though as one source pointed out, “smooth” might not be your goal). So, one more point for this method!

The open approach doesn’t make everything equal across the quilt as not every piece of overlying material would have a seam pressed behind it.

The open approach doesn’t make everything equal across the quilt as not every piece of overlying material would have a seam pressed behind it.

An additional benefit of open pressing is that it’s more convenient when dealing with different colors of fabric, particularly if you’re pairing a dark one with a light one. If you press them to the side, there’s the chance that you’ll end up seeing darker fabric through a lighter one if you don’t plan and choose the correct side to press to. If you’re pressing them openly though, each color could be behind its own pattern, potentially hiding your dark fabric behind the same type of dark fabric. Seeing as how noticing a different pattern through the top of your quilt might not be aesthetically pleasing, I think the open method gets one more point in this contest!

And the winner is…

That makes the score three-to-three. So, what’s the tiebreaker?

Preference! I can toss all kinds of facts and details at you, but in the end, your quilt is, in fact, yours! Work with what makes you feel the most comfortable for these aspects. For some people, habit might lead the way. For others, it might be a logical deduction of what seems best. In the end though, there’s not an across-the-board right or wrong answer to this dilemma. Either/or, sometimes this one and sometimes that one… Sewing is a world of opportunity, and this small factor is one of the many to choose from!

Storing Your Fabric

Storing Your Fabric

As I wind down in the steps for making my quilt, I’m finding that I have fabric scraps left over from the endeavor that I really don’t want to toss. One of the problems though is that I have a very lacking fabric storage setup. In fact, it consists of stuffing fabric into a remarkably unprofessional Hello Kitty pail (Note: I don’t even like Hello Kitty). Once that happens, I put the pail into my closet. Since said closet kind of overflows at times, the method is even more lacking than it would otherwise be.

I want to keep this fabric, but I’d like to have a better strategy of doing so. That idea had me browsing some possibilities online, and some of the options I saw were pretty basic.

Simple Solutions

For instance, clear storage bins or canvas bins.

For instance, clear storage bins or canvas bins.

For instance, clear storage bins or canvas bins. While these are simple and efficient ideas for keeping my fabric in order, the truth of the matter is that they’re also, at the moment, things that would probably end up getting stashed away in my closet. As one of the qualms is that my fabric is stored in my closet, neither option fixes that detail.

At least, not alone. If I had a method of storing those bins out in the open, they’d work fine. In any event, the insufficiency could certainly lead to more searching in regard to the best (complete) fabric storage option.

The most fitting right now is the notion of keeping excess fabric pieces in a jar.

The most fitting right now is the notion of keeping excess fabric pieces in a jar.

So during my search, did I have find the perfect one? That might be a complex question since I’m not sure there is a perfect one, but I did find some that are worth mentioning. The most fitting right now is the notion of keeping excess fabric pieces in a jar. I’m not sure I’d ever considered using my extra fabric in a way that actually makes it decorative even before I use it for a sewing project, but I like this concept. Most of the fabric that I have remaining is block-ish, and that smallness of leftovers seems spot-on for the store-in-a-jar method. All I’d have to do is get a jar, fold up my scraps nicely, and let the storage add accent to a room before the pieces potentially add accent to a future project. A similar idea is to store those scraps in kitchen bowls or strainers, like you can find here, or maybe a flower vase.

A similar idea is to store those scraps in kitchen bowls or strainers, like you can find here, or maybe a flower vase.

A similar idea is to store those scraps in kitchen bowls or strainers, like you can find here, or maybe a flower vase.

One is to take the drawers out of a dresser, and once the furniture has been treated so that it looks finished and ready, fabric can be stashed where the drawers used to be.

One is to take the drawers out of a dresser, & once the furniture has been treated so that it looks finished and ready, fabric can be stashed where the drawers used to be.

Two of the more intriguing fabric storage options I found might be more suitable for a time when/if I have more room and/or extra cash. One is to take the drawers out of a dresser, and once the furniture has been treated so that it looks finished and ready, fabric can be stashed where the drawers used to be. I adore this idea, but it’s a project itself! Be aware though that if you don’t want to go through all the sanding and painting to prepare the furniture, you could still use a dresser, drawers intact.

Be aware though that if you don’t want to go through all the sanding and painting to prepare the furniture, you could still use a dresser, drawers intact.

Be aware though that if you don’t want to go through all the sanding and painting to prepare the furniture, you could still use a dresser, drawers intact.

Another option is this square shelf idea that hangs on the wall. This one is particularly of interest if, like me, your bedroom, sewing room, etc. is already pretty full of furniture. When that’s the case, going upward seems like a reasonable option, and that’s exactly what this shelf would do! Being the nerd I am, this square setup appeals to me more than a different shelf idea might because it’s comic-book-ish, but that’s not to say that squares are the only possibility for this method. In fact, you might find that you have some kind of old furniture around your house that can be repurposed for this prospect — like a headboard. There might be plenty of possibilities if you spread your imagination to find them!

Another option is this square shelf idea that hangs on the wall.

Another option is this square shelf idea that hangs on the wall.

Another option is a lot simpler, but might cost more — and that’s to buy a piece of furniture that’s specifically for this purpose. This hutch, for instance, makes a wonderful and aesthetically pleasing storage area for fabric, and other than price and space, I wouldn’t hesitate to have one of these in my home.

This hutch makes a wonderful storage area for fabric, and other than price & space, I wouldn’t hesitate to have one of these in my home.

This hutch makes a wonderful storage area for fabric, and other than price & space, I wouldn’t hesitate to have one of these in my home.

But as breathtaking as these furniture options are, the truth of the matter is that I’ll probably have to start with something easier and more money-friendly. Given that the majority of my current fabric collection is scraps and/or block-ish pieces, my best bet for advancement might be the jar or strainer method, which I’m okay with!

Still, someday, that hutch, that shelf, or that dresser would be a wonderful addition to my sewing life!

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

If there’s one thing I’ve figured out over my sewing ventures, it’s that I can’t ever be sure what kind of sewing experience I’m getting into when I sit down to work on a project. It could be an hour or so that goes as smoothly as sewing can go. On the other hand, it could be a terror of a sewing session where my thread keeps bunching up, and I have to wrestle it back into submission more times than I want to.

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

But whether or not today’s a day that I’ll sit down to sew and have those problems, I expect that those problems will happen in the future if I continue to sew. And, as much as I wish someone would’ve personally told me more about a budget and a probable no-positive-income when publishing my first book (talk about un-fun surprises!), I think it’s beneficial to step into the sewing world with open eyes as well. Odds are, you’re going to make mistakes, and those mistakes aren’t the best of reasons to throw in the fabric! Just like a new driver, a new sewer can expect to have to learn the skill.

It happens to the best of us…

Want to know something else? Even people with miles behind them in the sewing department can still make mistakes! The point is to be aware that they’re going to happen so that maybe, should you make one, you don’t feel like tossing your fabric to the side and trashing your sewing kit!

And that, readers, is the logic behind this post — to point out simple mistakes you might make, but shouldn’t beat yourself up over! They happen, and instead of letting them get you too far down, remember you’re hardly the only person to make one. Since others potentially make these same errors and keep going, use that for encouragement to continue on as well!

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

Let me count the ways

With that positive thought in place, here are some of the smaller, more embarrassing sewing mistakes you might make, but should push through:

1) Accidentally sewing your fabric to something you didn’t mean to. There are few things I’ve personally encountered in sewing that can make you feel as amateurish as figuring out you’ve sewn your project to itself in a spot you didn’t intend to (as in, your fabric was folded under itself where it shouldn’t be), or if you’re hand-sewing, that you’ve sewn your project to, say, your own clothes. But as daft as you might feel if you notice that has happened, just — as Taylor Swift might say — shake it off! Sure, you might have to redo your stitching, but it isn’t the end of the world!

2) Sewing without knowing your bobbin is out of thread. This one is particularly troublesome since you could feasibly sew for a lot of minutes on your machine without realizing the mistake. However long you invest in that flawed sewing endeavor is kind of wasted time since there’s no thread coming from the bottom to finish your stitch. So, moral of the story: Check your bobbin before you sew by machine!

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

3) Threading your needle without really threading your needle. For a sewing machine project, there are a number of steps to threading your needle, and you might miss one. As humiliating as that error might be though, it’s nowhere near as ridiculous as doing this while hand sewing. I, for one, recall thinking I’d threaded my needle, and at some point, I realized that although I’d tied it off and such, the thread actually was not through the needle. Now, that is embarrassing!

4) Cutting material you didn’t intend to cut. This could be in line with the earlier idea of sewing something you didn’t mean to sew in that while you’re cutting fabric, something else could be under it. If you do have this issue, depending on how important the now-damaged material is to you, it could be a big deal! Beyond the possibility of forever ruining Great-Grandma Trudy’s sewn-by-hand quilt that has been in your family for over a century (try replacing that one!), you could also harm your current project by cutting your fabric where you don’t need to or cutting a stitch that’s necessary to your work. This is something, in particular, to keep in mind when making a rag quilt since part of the process is to shred your edges. It would be crazy-easy to shred too far and snap a stitch or two, but imagine the pain of having to re-stitch an up-turned quilt block that’s already sewn to other quilt blocks!

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

5) Thinking up strategies or tackling projects that you’re not ready for. For this one, I’ll give you an example. I didn’t know anything about using a border on a quilt/blanket project, and once I’d learned about it, I labeled it a waste of time and/or not for me. To my way of thinking — and for my past strategy — simply bending the fabric used for a backing to fold over against the front would work. And, yeah, it might… If I were a better sewer! At this point, I’m not advanced enough to comfortably pull this strategy off so that the sides are one-size at all points. So, don’t be like me! Start simple and with the recommended strategies, and work your way up from there!

Even if you manage to do all of these mistakes in one sitting, don’t give up! If you can keep that determination in mind, you might have a bright sewing future ahead of you!

Basting Your Quilt: Sprays and Pins

Basting Your Quilt: Sprays and Pins

Last week’s post was on batting, but as I freely admitted within that post, there’s more to finishing up a quilt than deciding on that detail. As the time approaches to dive into those final stages for this quilt, I’d say it’s a logical decision to explore those other topics.

Basting Your Quilt: Sprays and Pins

This week’s subject of interest: basting.

Coming off of the holidays, it might be easy to think of basting a turkey, but baking isn’t the only realm that has a form of basting! For quilting, this is the stage where you’re preparing to sew your quilt sandwich together. All of the layers are ready to be connected, and basting allows you to make sure those layers are level and even for sewing. You smooth them out, line them up, and do something to make sure they stay in line as you join the layers together through whatever method you choose.

It’s a simple idea, but there’s more than one way to keep those layers in line. For this particular post, two of those possibilities are the focus as I weigh the pros and cons of each to decide which option to use for my quilt. Those possibilities are straight pins and spray basting.

Straight pins:

I would think that straight pins would be the more recognizable and common of the two approaches. In fact, according to one source, straights pins (in some form) date all the way back to Ancient Egypt.

Straight pins are the more recognizable & common of the two approaches.

Straight pins are the more recognizable & common of the two approaches.

The benefits:

1) They’re financially friendly! You can pick up a pack of these for a small amount of money, which is wonderful for me since I am, like I’ve mentioned before, cheap.

2) They’re reusable! Unless you damage or lose the straight pin, you can pull it from the fabric when you no longer need it for a project, then you use it again and again for endeavors to come. So long as it’s in good shape, it doesn’t need to be replaced.

3) They’re common! Because of this trait, they’re easy to find at a store, meaning you might not have to go too far out of your way to pick up a set.

4) They’re easy to store! They’re small, after all, so you can keep them comfortably in your sewing kit.

Problems:

1) They’re easy to lose! I don’t know how many times I’ve spotted straight pins that have fallen around my sewing area when I’m finished working on a project for the day. Not only is this bad because losing them can lead to replacing them, but these pins are sharp! Losing them could equal pain if you accidentally find one in a not-good way!

2) They’re sharp! Yes, I stated this in the last detail, but it’s worth noting as its own issue. Just like your needle can cause pain if you let it slip, straight pins can do some finger-damage. Using a thimble might help, but I guess I’m a rebel since I don’t usually use one!

3) Quality varies! This is something I learned from my own experience. I have two different sizes of straight pins, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the tiny ones are lacking in comparison to the others. They potentially fall out more easily than the larger ones, which could leave extra spaces of fabric that are unpinned and straight pins that are lost in my workspace. Neither of those things are necessarily good!

My two different sizes of straight pins.

My two different sizes of straight pins.

Spray Basting:

This is a method I haven’t tried, but I’ve done some research on it. I first became aware of it through a Craftsy.com class, and it intrigues/puzzles me. A spray that holds your quilt together? For some reason, that seems bizarre to me! Still, there are supporters for the spray basting method, so who am I to toss the possibility aside without considering it?

A spray that holds your quilt together.

A spray that holds your quilt together.

Benefits:

1) You won’t poke yourself with a straight pin! With how many times I’ve accidentally stabbed myself with a pin or needle, this is promising to me!

2) It’s less time consuming! You don’t have to go through the entire quilt to place pins all over it. You just have to even it out, spray sections at a time and smooth it back out. How easy is that?

3) The effect doesn’t seem to be permanent! Instead, it apparently washes out of your quilt, so its effects are temporary.

You just have to even it out, spray sections at a time and smooth it back out.

You just have to even it out, spray sections at a time and smooth it back out.

Problems:

1) It’s more expensive! A can of basting spray can cost more than a pack of straight pins. Remember how I’m cheap? Yeah…

2) It’s not reusable! Unlike pins, you can only use this product once. Sure, you might be able to space it out to use for more than one project, but once your can is empty, you have to replenish your supply (if you want to keep using this method).

3) It’s messy! As with any spray product, there’s no guarantee that you’ll never get said product on things surrounding what you intended to spray. For this reason, you might have to do some cleaning once you finish your basting.

4) It’s dangerous to your lungs! The fumes can be hazardous, so it’s recommended that you only use this method in a well-ventilated space — like outside.

For me, I’m torn between wanting to dive into the ease of spray basting, but I can’t see myself being okay with hauling my quilt outside to spray it down. Sure, I might be able to find a suitable place indoors. I might even decide that working outside isn’t a big deal. For now though, I think the fume concern is significant enough to keep me unintentionally jabbing myself with straight pins! That’s not to say the day won’t come when I leap into the world of spray basting. It’s just a current decision to keep things a bit more tried, true, and non-toxic!

Choosing the Right Batting

Choosing the Right Batting

I have definite plans and goals for the new year, and not just the ones that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I want to take another class. I want take better care of myself. I want to read more. But one thing that I want to do under the sewing umbrella is to finish up the quilt I’ve been working on for a while now. That goal happens to come in steps. Firstly, I need to finish with the patchwork design I have going on (the goal is to have twelve rows of patches) to get this top layer ready for the next two.

The quilt I’ve been working on for a while now.

The quilt I’ve been working on for a while now.

That step, though it’ll take time, is pretty cut and dry. I plan, I pin and I sew.

The steps that follow are the ones that merit consideration beyond those general details — like how I plan to join my quilt sandwich. Do I stitch? Do I tie? Do I spray? Decisions! (Details can be found here).

Hungry? Have a sandwich

Quilt sandwich.

The more immediate topic to debate is what kind of batting I’m going to use for the middle of my quilt sandwich. This will be, by the way, the first time I’ve used batting since I only recently realized that quilts do, in fact, need three layers to fit the official definition, thus the term “quilt sandwich.” Before, I just used the backing and the front, but I want to be more by-the-books for this one! Given that I have little to no experience with batting though, it seemed reasonable to do a bit of research on the matter so that I could make the best decision for me.

Research, I did, and I’ve come to a potential fabric for the job: Cotton.

The fabric of our lives

There are plenty of batting types to choose from.

There are plenty of batting types to choose from.

There are a number of reasons for this choice, and I urge anyone who is going to make a quilt to consider their own purposes and situations when choosing the right batting. While cotton might be a good choice for me, it might not be the best option for another person or another project. There are plenty of batting types to choose from — polyester, wool, blends — and to make the best decision, maybe spend some time looking into the pros and cons of each. You can find details about the possibilities here and here.

So with those other possibilities in mind, why did I choose cotton? There are a number of reasons. For one, it’s cheap. Yes, I know, cheaper isn’t always better, but for a learner on a budget, price can definitely be something worth considering! Remember that this is my first time adding batting, so it would be not-so-good to spend a bigger amount on a batting type just to mess the whole thing up! It’s also worth noting that this quilt will be for personal use, which leads into the reasoning that everything doesn’t have to be top-of-the-line quality like I might strive for if a company name was on the line. It’s for me, it’s my first experience with batting, and I think testing the waters on a smaller money scale is a good idea!

Synthetic but equal

Now, this might make you wonder why I didn’t go with polyester. Simple answer: Itchiness leads to polyester not always being my best friend! This is a personal decision, but the idea is something to keep in mind should you choose to make any kind of sewn product. If you have an allergy or a bad reaction to a certain fabric, keep that in mind so you can steer clear of it!

Choosing the Right Batting

There’s also the issue of loft, or how thick the batting is. Something like wool is high loft, meaning it’s very thick, so a quilt made with wool would be thicker. If you’re a person who gets cold all the time, wool might be your fabric for batting! For me, I want something with a lower loft so that the final product will be thinner. For one thing, I like the size that the first layer of my quilt will be, and I don’t want to shrink it too much by having it cover a thicker middle layer. For another thing, to me, higher loft looks more like a comforter, and I don’t want to go that route with this product.

Cotton is a better choice then, and it’s a fabric that I know is easy to work with on sewing projects. There’s no known itchy detail that I need to worry about, and I can feel comfortable knowing that I’m accustomed to it. I like cotton and — as weird as it might sound — I trust cotton. In addition, the recommended stitching distance for cotton is wider than other fabrics, giving more freedom in that respect.

And all of that, my readers, is a pleasant combination to deal with for my first dive into batting! How about you? Do you have a preferred batting option?

The Scraps of Christmas

The Scraps of Christmas

It’s officially Christmas week, guys! The day is just around the corner, and soon we’ll be heading into a less twinkle-lit world. Until then though, there’s still time to revel in the holiday for one more blog post! For this particular one, how about we go with a nice wrap-up idea?

You see, I’ve covered a tree skirt, ornaments, and homemade gifts, but if you chose to go all of those routes, you potentially would have collected a series of Christmas fabrics. Each project could have its own material, so there might be quite the variety. Another decent assumption would be that you didn’t have just enough material for all projects, so you could easily have scraps of Christmas fabric left over from your handmade-Christmas-extravaganza.

The Scraps of Christmas

Sure, you could stash it away for future use, but if you keep every scrap of material you ever come across, you’re treading on fabric-hoarder territory! There’s nothing wrong with keeping the pieces that would reasonably be user-friendly in the future, but I’m talking about the small bits that won’t be much use without other smaller parts to make something happen, or for a small enough project.

So, maybe this post will help keep that fabric stash a little smaller and farther from hoarder territory by answering one simple question: What projects can you do with those small parts of leftover Christmas fabric?

Answer: Plenty, and I plan to take you through a number of those options!

Possibility #1: Make a banner

This is such a simple option, but it can add a classy touch to your Christmas decorations. All you need to do is pick a shape for your fabric, cut the scraps in that shape, make sure those hems are smooth, and link them together—maybe with some ribbon or yarn. If you’re feeling particular, you can make sure that each of those shapes is two-sided by sewing two pieces together—maybe spice things up by using more than one fabric for the cause. With that method, you could have (as an example) a bell-shaped addition to your banner that has Rudolph on one side and Frosty on the other! If you’re good at embroidery, use enough shapes to embroider a message across. You could even do this laundry-line idea if you had the right fabric! The options on this idea alone are numerous!

The options on this idea alone are numerous!

The options on this idea alone are numerous!

Possibility #2: Make fabric garland

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn. I mean, sure, you could add gems and such, but the draping quality of the fabric is kind of its distinctive factor, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the Merry Christmas message! Still, this is a simple, elegant idea that could add a touch of holiday cheer to your house by hanging from your mantel. And, as is the main idea of the post, it’s a great way to use that extra Christmas fabric you might have once you finish your holiday sewing projects!

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn.

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn.

Possibility #3: Make a Christmas tote

While you might not have enough material to make the entire tote in one style (then again, maybe you will!), you could create a patchwork look for a homemade Christmas tote! You can find patterns for totes here, and Sewing Machines Plus offers free patterns for bags as well. Can you imagine a patched-up Christmas tote in this design! I would definitely carry one of those!

I would definitely carry one of those!

I would definitely carry one of those!

Possibility #4: Make fabric bookmarks

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it? In fact, this could be a thing you do next year — give out holiday classics with hand-sewn bookmarks in Christmas fabrics! These projects are small, and who knows how many you could make in one day? And they require little fabric, which is the theme of this post! Whether it’s to hold your place for your own holiday reading or for small gift-gestures to let someone know you’re thinking of them, these creations could bring a festive touch to a book-and-hot-chocolate December time!

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it?

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it?

Possibility #5: Make a keychain

Since childhood, I’ve had an interest in keychains. I don’t know why, but it’s true just the same. So, why not take a bit of that excess material and make a one-of-a-kind keychain? Keyrings don’t have to be expensive, and it’s possible that everything else you’d need you could find around your house—maybe even down to buttons like what you see in the picture. Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric! You can find this possibility (and #5) here!

Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric!

Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric!

So, the moral of the story is that you don’t have to be a Christmas-fabric hoarder after your holiday sewing! There are plenty of avenues to expend some of that scrap material!

The Art of Christmas Ornaments

The Art of Christmas Ornaments

We’re getting closer to that Christmas mark! I actually have a Netflix Christmas movie playing while I write out this post, so clearly I’m in holiday mode! Now, if I only had some hot chocolate…

As has been the case with my last couple of posts, I’m sticking to the holiday theme for this week as well. This is an easy thing to do, by the way, because there are so many options for Christmas projects that require a needle and thread. Honestly, a person could come up with months’ worth of topics just from this category!

So, with a variety of things to choose from, I’ve decided to focus on Christmas ornaments for this post. Obviously, you can go out to your local department store and buy ornaments — you can even shop online to find them — but there’s something satisfying about looking at a tree and knowing you made something that’s on there.

Let’s decorate!

And since this is a sewing blog, let’s focus on sewn ornaments, shall we? These are wonderful things to successfully complete for more than one reason. First, as I said, it’s satisfying to see something you crafted on the tree! They’re also potentially simple patterns, and you could finish a number of these in a small amount of time. That simplicity leads to plenty of ornaments for just a percentage of your day because the technique can be so basic! You cut the fabric pieces, you sew the fabric pieces, you tend to final/additional touches, and you attach ribbon/yard/etc. to hang it from the tree. Who can’t do that?!

Possibly the most fantastic element of this idea is that these ornaments can be so cheap to make. If you recall, I can be a frugal person, so I adore this detail! If you think about the process itself, you might see how wallet-friendly it can be. What do you need besides a needle, thread, fabric and ribbon (or yarn, etc.) to hang it from your tree? There might be additional details for each individual type of ornament, but you could easily pick something that’s limited enough in those additional supplies to be within your budget. And think about that fabric and ribbon. If you just have one yard of fabric and one roll of ribbon, consider how many three-inch ornaments you can make out of that!

Honestly, I can’t endorse this concept enough because it’s fantastic on so many sides. It’s easy enough for a beginner to try, it’s cheap enough for someone on a budget, and it’s sentimental enough to have personal meaning as it hangs from the tree. You can even make these ornaments more heartfelt by using material connected to someone close to you, like a child. One old outfit that your child has outgrown can be cut into a desired shape and design, like the Bugs Bunny ornament shown.

Bugs Bunny ornament.

Bugs Bunny ornament.

Fabric ornaments

While it might be too late this year to hand-sew a collection of ornaments, you could invest in some Christmas fabric and such this season to make some of these for next year’s festivities.

So what are some good ideas for sewn Christmas ornaments? There are plenty out there that you can find with a little Google time, but I’ll share some of my favorites that I found.

Fabric holly be for your tree.

Fabric holly be for your tree.

1. Holly: There simply aren’t words for how adorable I find this ornament, and it looks relatively simple — stitch, cut, sew, applique, stuff… This doesn’t look as complex as, say, making your own outfit, so it might be worth trying! Besides, how unique would fabric holly be for your tree?!

This one requires a bit of glue and folding, but look how pretty it is!

This one requires a bit of glue and folding, but look how pretty it is!

2. Snowflake: This one requires a bit of glue and folding, but look how pretty it is! I can even see adding some glitter and a bit of coloring to give it a two-tone look! Even if this one is a bit more tedious than some of the simpler options, the final product could be wonderful enough to make the effort worth it!

Candy canes themselves are kind of a Christmas classic, so why not have some homemade ones hanging on your tree?

Candy canes themselves are kind of a Christmas classic, so why not have some homemade ones hanging on your tree?

3. Candy canes: Candy canes themselves are kind of a Christmas classic, so why not have some homemade ones hanging on your tree? And if you wanted to branch out from the standard look of a standard candy cane, you could use more general Christmas fabric — like material covered in poinsettias or bells to cut in candy-cane shapes. The options are so vast, and the technique is very simple!

These are just a few possibilities, but there are plenty more on this site alone! You can tailor them to your wants and work on them at your convenience, so why not give it a try?