The Basics of Cathedral Window Quilts

The Basics of Cathedral Window Quilts

The time has come to explore yet another quilt type, and this one seems a bit less known than your standard patchworks and rag quilts. In fact, until I was doing brainstorm-browsing for this post, I don’t recall having ever heard of this kind of quilt, but the style is noteworthy enough to merit looking into. Through repetition, pattern, and color, quilts of this variety can have an interesting look to them that makes them stand out in similar fashion to the architectural designs of their namesakes.

The type of quilt I’m referring to is a cathedral window quilt.

The type of quilt I’m referring to is a cathedral window quilt.

The type of quilt I’m referring to is a cathedral window quilt, and as distinctive as cathedrals themselves could prove, these sewing products can be straightforwardly identifiable once you know the traits to search for. Those traits, as with the artistic and structural wonder of cathedrals themselves, can catch the eye with their composition and beauty like few other quilt styles — in my opinion — are capable of doing. In this post, we’ll go through a list of typical characteristics that you can spot in a cathedral window quilt that provide evidence of its type so you can more easily identify one in a crowd of variously styled quilts. In particular, we’ll focus on four distinctive features of cathedral window quilts, starting with their…

These quilts are not necessarily known for bright coloring.

These quilts are not necessarily known for bright coloring.

Bold colors

These quilts are not necessarily known for bright coloring, but a good percentage of the fabric used in creating a work of this category could be very bold, like dark blues, greens, and reds that give their sections a real pop. Even with the cathedral window quilts that use more pastel-based colors, those color options are still varied and strong, and they could build centralized sparks of color in certain patterns. If you’re going to make a cathedral window quilt, be sure to include some very dynamic colors to give these defined and robust splashes of color throughout the product. These bits of color, to construct the right design, “are folded precisely and sewn with curves to create small windows,” and “folded blocks are added together until the quilt is the desired size.” This sounds very direct and uncomplicated, but what are those bold-colored fabric pieces added to? That would be…

The overall point though is that the juxtaposition of light & dark make each section stand out.

The overall point though is that the juxtaposition of light & dark make each section stand out.

White fabric

Along with varied colors, it’s also a good idea to snatch up some white fabric if you intend to make a cathedral window quilt. That white fabric added in contrast to the bold colors already mentioned helps to cement the notion of having stand-out sections of color on your quilt. Typically, the white fabric can completely surround portions of bold-colored fabric, but the reverse can be true as well if bold colors appear to surround the white fabric. The overall point though is that the juxtaposition of light and dark make each section stand out — the bold colors and the white sections — to result in a quilt that doesn’t necessarily have a single piece of it that isn’t remarkable and noteworthy.  The consequence is a repetitious design that follows a…

These quilts can employ very specific shapes in their overall design—ones that can be mimicked in pillows.

These quilts can employ very specific shapes in their overall design—ones that can be mimicked in pillows.

Definite pattern

Often, these quilts can employ very specific shapes in their overall design — ones that can be mimicked in pillows. Specifically, the bold colors are often in the shape of near-diamonds, but those diamonds’ sides invert inward to create a swooping motion along all four sides. That diamond-esque shape is surrounded by a circle — one that can be ringed — and those circles can overlap throughout the entirety of the project. Is this the only way that a cathedral window quilt can take shape? Well, it’s not set in concrete! But if you see this general pattern, you have very real evidence that you’re looking at a cathedral window quilt since the pattern is so common for the style. Another trademark is that it has…

If you neglect a layer of quilt, that’s a layer of quilt that isn’t available to strategically cover mistakes & such, so the work could feel more vulnerable.

If you neglect a layer of quilt, that’s a layer of quilt that isn’t available to strategically cover mistakes & such, so the work could feel more vulnerable.

No backing

That’s right! With this quilt variety, you can forego the backing detail since the “quilt blocks… stand alone as is” without that extra detail. Does that factor make for an easier project? Maybe not! If you neglect a layer of quilt, that’s a layer of quilt that isn’t available to strategically cover mistakes and such, so the work could feel more vulnerable. Once you get the hang of the process though and make the adjustment, it might actually lead to an easier quilting experience because “you simply iron down your edges and sew.” Considering the level of beauty that these quilts can achieve, it seems like a sensible prospect to push through the confusion of learning to construct a quilt without a backing in order to eventually fashion such a lovely and reportedly easy project.

With these guidelines in mind, you could be able to spot a standard cathedral window quilt among other quilt options with scarce effort. In fact, coming to that conclusion of quilt style could become almost instinct where you look at a product and say, “Yeah! That’s a cathedral window quilt!” since the appearance is so very individual — and lovely!

DIY: Reversible Tote Bag Tutorial

DIY: Reversible Tote Bag Tutorial

It is easy to sew a reversible tote bag; even beginners can make this project.

It is easy to sew a reversible tote bag; even beginners can make this project.

It is easy to sew a reversible tote bag; even beginners can make this project.

You can make these in any size. My three examples are each sized slightly differently.

To make one reversible tote bag, you need 2 different bag fabrics. Depending on the sturdiness of your fabrics, you may also need medium weight interfacing or fusible fleece. You can make your bag handles from long rectangles of one or both of these fabrics, or you can use grosgrain ribbon, as I have here.

Reversible tote bag step one: cut bag pieces

Measure & mark 1.5” from both sides of the bottom corners & cut these little squares out.

Measure & mark 1.5” from both sides of the bottom corners & cut these little squares out.

Cut two squares or rectangles of each fabric to your preferred dimensions. I made these using 13” x 14”, 14” x 15” and 13” x 17” rectangles, and I have made them both much smaller and much larger.  The 13” x 17” is big enough for my laptop. But ribbon handles aren’t a good idea for a laptop bag; follow the directions for making stronger fabric handles if you plan to carry your computer.

Then measure and mark 1.5” from both sides of the bottom corners and cut these little squares out. Do this for all four pieces of your bag fabric.

Step two, optional: interfacing

If you choose to make your reversible tote bag from home decor fabric and/or canvas, you won’t need to use interfacing.

If you are using quilter’s cottons or similar lightweight fabrics, cut fusible fleece or interfacing to fit two of the bag pieces. Follow package directions to fuse fleece or interfacing to the wrong side of both pieces of one bag fabric.

Step three, optional: pockets

You can make pockets on one or both sides of your reversible tote. The easiest way to make pockets is to start with a rectangle, fold it right sides together, and sew all around, leaving an opening for turning. First topstitch the opening closed, then pin and sew the bottom and sides of the pocket to the bag.

You can make a long rectangular pocket that stretches the full width of your bag, or make square patch pockets and sew them in the middle of one or more of the bag pieces.

Step four: sew two bag bodies

Take both pieces of one of the bag fabrics and sew along the bottom and side seams with right sides together. Press seams open. Now, miter the corners by lining up the side and bottom seams you just sewed at the middle of the new seam you will form from the square cut out. Sew these seams.

Repeat with the pieces of the second bag fabric.

Step five: handles

Use a soft measuring tape or even a string hung over your shoulder to determine how long you want your straps to be. I like long shoulder straps, so I usually cut mine about 30 inches long. If you prefer to carry your tote on your arm, cut yours shorter. You need two.

I saved time making these bags by using grosgrain ribbons to make easy straps. To do this, just cut two pieces of ribbon to your desired length.

To make fabric handles, cut two long rectangles to your desired length measurement by twice your desired strap width. Apply interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric if you like.  Fold lengthwise right sides together and press. Sew along the long open edge, then turn. Press again.  Now top-stitch along both long sides.

There is no need to finish the short ends as these will be concealed between the two sections of the bag.

Step six: assembly

They are handy for carrying books, notebooks, your computer, clothes for overnight or the gym.

They are handy for carrying books, notebooks, your computer, clothes for overnight or the gym.

Insert one bag into the other, with right sides together. If your placed pockets on one side of each bag body, insert them together so that the pockets are on opposite sides. Push down the corners to make sure both bag pieces are lined up well at the bottom. Then line up the side seams from both pieces and pin these together.

Take one strap and hold one end in each hand so that the loop hangs down. Be sure it isn’t twisted and insert it between the two bag parts on one side. Measure in from the pinned side seams on each side to be sure the straps are centered. About three inches in is a good guideline, but eyeball your bag to decide on exact strap placement. Just measure the distance between strap and side seam on both sides to be sure they are even. Pin, then repeat on the other side with the other strap.

Now sew together along the top edge.  You will have to leave an opening big enough for turning; I sew across all the straps and leave the opening on one side.  Turn everything right sides out. Both sides of the reversible tote will be pointing out.

Stick your hand into the opening and poke all the corners out from the inside. Then push one bag body into the other so that it becomes a bag with handles at the top. Return to your ironing board and press. Pay attention to the edges still open from turning; you want to press the raw edges inward and neatly align for top-stitching this opening closed.

Now stitch all the way around the top of the bag and you’re done.

Make more!

Reversible tote bags are easy to sew in a hurry & the possible variations are endless.

Reversible tote bags are easy to sew in a hurry & the possible variations are endless.

Reversible tote bags are easy to sew in a hurry and the possible variations are endless. Make them in different sizes and try different fabrics and trims. Use tie-dye, quilting, appliqué, fabric paints, or any other embellishment you like.

They are handy for carrying books, notebooks, your computer, clothes for overnight or the gym. You can use them as a shopping bag, your purse, or for handmade gift giving. Pick out some pretty fabrics and make a bunch. Happy sewing!

Gifts to Sew for Mom

Gifts to Sew for Mom

Are you looking for ideas to sew for Mom?

Moms come in all types. But most appreciate handmade gifts, especially the ones you make. Whether your mom is glitzy or sporty, a homebody or a world traveler, we’ve got you covered.

For Mother’s Day, her birthday, holiday gifts, or just because you love her, here are lots of fun project ideas you can sew for mom.

Zip bags

There are so many uses for these that zippered cases are always a good gift idea. She can use one for a cosmetics bag for her purse or travel, to hold pencils or art supplies, or anything else. I once made a matching set of these in several sizes for a gift for my mom.

She can use these to hold anything.

She can use these to hold anything.

Quilt

Whether she likes to get comfy in her favorite chair or she babysits grand-babies, a lap quilt is a perfect choice to sew for mom. Make one in her favorite colors, to match her décor, or choose a special pattern.

The blocks in these quilts were pieced by my mother's and my husband's grandmothers. I found them in their sewing boxes & put them together with borders to make these lap quilts for our moms to share with their grand babies.

The blocks in these quilts were pieced by my mother’s and my husband’s grandmothers. I found them in their sewing boxes & put them together with borders to make these lap quilts for our moms to share with their grand babies.

And speaking of grand kids and special quilt patterns, you could get the kids involved and make a handprint quilt for their grandmother.  You can make a handprint quilt using washable fabric paint and the kids’ hands as stamps. Or you can have them trace and then cut out their hands and use these as appliqué patterns.

Handbag

Most ladies will appreciate a beautiful new handbag. Depending on your mom’s style, you could make her a clutch, a wristlet, a structured bag, or a casual cross-body purse or messenger bag.

The possibilities are endless here. Choose suede, an elegant stamped faux leather or other fancy fabric, a distinctive or wildly patterned print, or build her a bag based on a small piece of patchwork created just for her.

Totes

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful.

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful.

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful. Make her a stylish and sturdy tote bag for her library books, groceries, or other shopping and she will appreciate it endlessly.

Make a gorgeous XL tote in a special fabric and she will be thrilled to use it as a stylish everyday bag. Especially if you add in ample pockets and/or smaller zip bags for organizing contents.

You can make a reversible tote bag in any size and give her two bags in one.  Make a canvas tote with ample pockets inside and out to create a custom beach bag she will love. Or make her a few of these cute shopping bags that collapse into their own pocket.

And consider smaller totes, too. Here is one as pretty as a purse meant for toting her tablet.

Pillowcases

You can’t buy pillowcases as pretty as the ones you can sew. Make her a luxe pair trimmed in vintage lace. Choose a colorful patterned fabric to dress up her bed or a special motif she adores. Whether she loves owls,  Star Trek, or her favorite sports team, you can make her a pillowcase from a yard of any novelty print.

You could make a pillowcase covered in hearts to remind her how much she is loved.

You could make a pillowcase covered in hearts to remind her how much she is loved.

Sew a bouquet

A bouquet of flowers is a standard Mother’s day gift. You can sew her a bouquet of flowers that will never wilt and fade away.

Here are a lot of different ways to make fabric flowers.

Rice Pack

Whether she suffers from pains in the neck, back, tummy, or general monthly pains, an oversized microwavable rice pack heating pad will be a welcomed gift of comfort.

Slippers

There are lots of ways to sew slippers, here are some slipper sewing tutorials to choose from.

Pajamas

You can sew cozy pajamas from silk, cotton, flannel, or fleece. Make them ultra feminine with batiste and lace, or pure fun in a funky print. Start with an easy pattern from Simplicity, McCall’s, or Butterick, or use one of these tutorials.

Easy robe

Like pajamas, you can sew a robe from a lightweight or dressy fabric or from something heavier and more cozy. Robes are easy to sew. You can buy an easy robe sewing pattern or here’s a great tutorial showing how to make your own pattern using rectangles.

Apron

There are so many ways to sew aprons.  You can make her a pretty half apron from just a fat quarter of fabric plus trim, a full coverage bbq style apron from a yard, a reversible apron, or a garden or craft apron.

  • Oven mitts/ pot holders
  • Table runner
  • Placemats
  • Napkins

Travel bags

If your mom travels a lot, there are a lot of great gifts you could sew to help her

Project link at Positively Splendid.

Project link at Positively Splendid.

Pareu

I got this idea from the book Travel Gear and Gifts to Make, by Mary Mulari. She says that a pareu (pa-ray’-oo) is actually a colorful Polynesian wrap skirt. But it can also be used as a shawl, head cover, scarf, swimsuit cover up, light blanket, picnic blanket, or even a knapsack for carrying stuff.

This is probably the most used and loved gift I have ever made for my mom, and it is also the simplest. She travels a lot as a car passenger, and she likes to nap with a light blanket while riding.

A pretty pareau works perfectly for that plus more.

To make one, you just hem a square or rectangle. You can make one from a 44″ or a 60″ square. Since I knew she would use it as a blanket, I made my mom’s in the larger size. And I sewed a small matching tote with a strap, for storing the pareau rolled up while not in use. I bet it has been over ten years since I made it for her, and she still raves about and uses this gift all the time.

Needlebook

If your mom sews a lot or even just a little, she will certainly treasure a needle book you make with love just for her. You can make a simple one from felt or create a patchwork cover and include a zippered “page” for holding small scissors and other supplies.

I like to make needle books with a zippered page inside.

I like to make needle books with a zippered page inside.

Fabric necklace or bracelets

Jewelry is another go-to gift for moms, but have you ever sewn jewelry? Here are some ideas you could try:

I hope this list gave you some good ideas. What will you sew for mom?

Somewhere in the Desert

Somewhere in the Desert

Camel fashion in Petra.

Camel fashion in Petra.

I just spent a week cycling from the Dead Sea in northern Jordan to the Red Sea in the south – spectacular views and a whole bunch of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences. Among other things, I spent a day wandering around The Lost City of Petra and a night in the desert in a Bedouin camp. The Bedouin are Arabic speaking nomadic people of the Middle Eastern deserts.

One of the most interesting things I noticed were the beautiful and unique fashion styling the Jordanian men displayed, especially in Petra. In the depths of that city, amongst all the rocks and caves and roman ruins, I saw where Johnny Depp’s Pirates of Penzance look was born.

Many of the young men lined their eyes with a dark substance made from the ash of a burnt tree and mixed with olive oil. As well as having a soothing humidifying affect, the mixture protects the eyes from the sun. It’s really a brilliant concoction. And it makes the lashes look especially luxurious. The camels, as well, were decked out in beautifully colored tapestries. The whole city of Petra was simply stupendous.

Desert fashion

As most cultures who live in a desert climate, Jordanian’s dress in clothing that covers most of the skin. The young men were most often in skinny pants of some kind and flowing tops, sometimes in layers. But the most fascinating and beautiful component of their attire were the creative and intricate ways they wrapped their head scarves – many of them were truly works of art.

Young men in Petra.

Young men in Petra.

I watched one gentlemen as he wrapped his, twisting and turning and tucking it in a series of complicated moves I couldn’t even hope to follow. When done, the scarf was piled high on his head in twists with two twirling pointed ends hanging down to his shoulders on either side. Some men implemented designs with one cascading side corner, others in the more traditional technique of shielding the back of the neck.

The scarves, or keffiyeh as they are called in the Arab world, were in various colors, though the most prevalent were the ones us westerners are used to seeing – the back and white checkered and red and white checkered varieties. This pattern is thought to have originated from an ancient Mesopotamian representation of fishing nets or ears of grain.

In Jordan, the red and white keffiyeh, also know as a shemagh mhadab, is associated with the country and its heritage. They have decorative cotton or wool tassels on the edges – the bigger the tassels, the greater the garment’s value and the status of it’s wearer.

My cycling guide, Anas, wore a black and white one that he told me was representative of his Arabic heritage. I asked him where to buy a traditional good quality authentic scarf, not one from tourist shop. He told me that downtown Amman was the place to buy them and that they would be cheaper there than in the stores catering to tourists. A scarf like his, with smaller tassels and no border, would cost anywhere from 5.00JD to 10.00JD. A fancier one with a border all around could cost up to 20.00JD. He also told me that men tied the shemagh in different ways for no other reason than how they were feeling that day. I love that.

(Just a note on currency: the Jordanian dinar is a pretty strong currency: 1.00 JD equals about 1.40USD.)

Making friends around the world

Me with a one of the Beduoin people.

Me with a one of the Beduoin people.

I also loved the long garments worn by the Bedouin. They were most often dressed in light colored pants and a long matching light colored tunic (down to mid calf) with button closures on the front. They all looked extremely well put together. The long dress like tunic is called a thoab and is made of lightweight fabric. Under the thoab, the men normally wear a t-shirt and the long wide leg trousers called a serwal. I love how, though they all basically wear the same garments, there was still so much individual style and personality conveyed through their clothing. I think one of the most fascinating things about fashion is individual expression and how people are able to wear something in a way that allows their personality shine through.

I absolutely loved my time in Jordan. Everyone was extremely welcoming and hospital. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with, “You are welcome in Jordan.” What a truly wonderful thing.

I’m in Egypt now, writing this as I look out over the Red Sea in Dahab (I need a day of relaxing after cycling through Jordan). I know I promised to write about Egyptian textiles and the markets and I will. I’ll be in Cairo tomorrow trying out my bartering skills and will provide a full report next week.

Until then, take care and don’t forget to let your own personal style show through in whatever manner you desire.
Ma’is salama.

A Little Bit of History from the Desert

A Little Bit of History from the Desert

Here's a picture from my balcony in Madaba, Jordan. I hope to find some interesting textiles in the bazaars as I travel through the country.

Here’s a picture from my balcony in Madaba, Jordan. I hope to find some interesting textiles in the bazaars as I travel through the country.

I’m in Jordan today. Yes, the Jordan in the Middle East, northeast of Egypt and Israel. I woke up in Madaba to a beautiful sunrise and rose blooms over the desert. I’m here on holiday, to ride my bike and spend the later afternoons looking for textiles in the bazaars.

The Middle East has always been a nexus of textile production. Trade routes commonly known as the Silk Road terminated on their western end in the eastern Mediterranean ports. As a result, these markets were also the centers of textile production.

Textiles of the Middle East during the Middle Ages were highly prized goods. I’d venture to say they still are. Many of the words we use to describe textiles in the English language are derived from Persian, Arabic, and Turkish – terms like damask, taffeta, cotton, muslin, seersucker, and mohair.

Historical value

Long ago, textiles in this region were also often accepted as payment of taxes or other moneys owed. Visiting officials and ambassadors were given gifts of cloth or garments. In a part of the world where much of the population was once primarily nomadic, interiors were furnished with textiles used to cover floors, walls, cushions, and to create beds and storage of all kinds.

Traditionally, gifts of any kind were also presented in a textile wrapper. The more elaborate the wrapper the greater honor was intended. Textiles were thought to be able to hold powers of protection or harm, depending on the symbols and inscriptions incorporated into them.

After the death of Muhammad, representation of living creatures was banned in most cultures of the region. As a result, Islamic design developed a beautiful metaphorical language all its own, utilizing geometry, calligraphy, vegetal, and architectural forms (though in many Persian & Central Asian silks and carpets, human and animal figures do appear).

Silk

Elaborately patterned silks were produced throughout the Middle East in all sorts of complex weaves – such as twills, lampas, and brocades. Silks of a more simple nature, tafta and satin weaves, were also quite numerous. A cloth made from a silk warp and a cotton weft, known as alaca, produced a more “economical” textile.

Tiraz textiles are a silk fabric, particularly important from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries, embellished with a border containing inscriptions of religious quotations and often woven in gold thread. Baghdad was the best known source of tiraz but it was produced in many other Middle Eastern locations. The borders appear most commonly on upper sleeve bands. They are were also found on burial shrouds and ceremonial textiles.

Cotton and linen

Both cotton and linen, ranging more heavy canvas to lightweight gauze, were widely produced in the Middle East. Textile printing also existed and, by the sixteenth century, a printing industry existed in Syria, later expanding into Anatolia.

Mohair and wool

Mohair, camel hair, and goat hair – referred to as cashmere or pashima, is used to weave soft and beautifully patterned shawls throughout the region. These shawls became very popular in the west during the nineteenth century.

The patterns, woven in twill tapestry or other complex compound weaves, featured colorful and elaborate designs. One such design was a complex vegetal one known as boteh. In the west this design became to be known as the paisley motif, named after Paisley, Scotland where textile mills produced copies of the design in the latter nineteenth century.

The best known wool textiles of the region are the pile and flat cloths made as rugs, bags, wall coverings, and the like. The oldest surviving example of Islamic carpet weaving is the “Fostat” fragment from the ninth century found in Cairo.

Carpet design can be divided into 3 categories

  1. Tribal carpets, produced by nomadic or village households for their own use, tend to be geometric in design and reflect regional affiliations.
  2. Court carpets, created by the finest artists of the day, are usually the most intricate and finely knotted.
  3. Urban manufactured carpets are the third category. These are often technically fine but most often have less intricate designs.

Adventure time!

I’m excited to see what kinds of things I’ll be able to unearth over the next week as I wander about Jordan. Hopefully, I’ll have some interesting finds to share with you!

Textiles, especially those that are handmade, have such a deep history. I love learning about a design or technique that is unique or specific to a certain village or area. I also enjoy meeting local artisans who still produce works of art in the same way their ancestors always have.

This all ties into one of my previous posts about passing on skilled expertise to younger generations. Its a tradition pretty much as old as human civilization and one very much worth sustaining.

I wish you all a week of amazing discoveries (whether they be ancient or not). Next week I’ll be posting from Cairo. Arak qaribanaan.

Tell-Tale Traits of a Primitive Quilt

Tell-Tale Traits of a Primitive Quilt

As I step further into the world of sewing, I find that there’s plenty of information out there that I didn’t even know to look for. My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, and I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work. I’d love to have a patchwork purse, patchwork clothing, patchwork pillows…

My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, & I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work.

My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, & I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work.

But I’m not sure I fully realized how many other avenues there are to plan out a quilt before I started looking, and those are details that can be interesting finds! Some of them, though, require a bit of an explanation to truly understand what a quilt of that nature is, and this post will explore one of those types in particular.

Once upon a time

I was in a social media marketing program where, for two of the classes, I had to keep a blog for a business. For one course, I used my author career as the business. For the other, I created a could-someday-be-real quilt company. It was fine, by the way, for the company to not actually be real in the current world!

The idea was that we were to explore marketing concepts through the blog and end up with a marketing plan — at least generally — by the end of the semester. During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me. At the time, I focused mostly on the social media presence of one particular company, but I find myself now thinking on what exactly a primitive quilt is.

During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me.

During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me.

If I claim to be quilter, after all, it might help to know the basic terminology!

After research and consideration of a number of quilts with the label of “primitive,” I offer you a number of details that help to make a primitive quilt… Well, primitive! Note: These are commonalities — not necessarily requirements through and through!

A primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red & dark blue can make appearances.

A primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red & dark blue can make appearances.

Basic Coloring

By this, I don’t mean a color-equivalent to no-artificial-flavoring! I mean that the colors are typically more straightforward than neon oranges and vivid pinks. Instead, a primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red and dark blue can make appearances. These quilts often employ the colors that you might think of when words like “rustic” come to mind — which rationalizes why red and blue are used in regard to red barns and blue skies. In the end, if you plan on making a primitive quilt, you might want to keep the lime green fabric stored away for another project!

Simple Fabric Patterns

Like the coloring, the fabrics, too, are less elaborate than what might be common for a more vividly styled work. Typically, patterns — rather than fabrics — steal the focus in primitive quilts, so no fabric should be so busy or stand-out that it takes attention above and beyond the level of the quilt pattern as a whole. For this, solid colors or very simple patterns on your fabric are your best bet for forming your primitive quilt.

Basic Shapes

Don’t fancy it up!

Don’t fancy it up!

While the overall quilt might have a remarkably interesting visual in regard to its structure, the pieces of fabric that make up that visual are often based on the simplest of designs, like triangles, squares, and rectangles. This doesn’t mean that only geometric shapes can be used for your quilt though! Other shapes can come into play, but make sure to keep them simple to provide that outdated appearance that’s so synonymous with the rustic, primitive design. Think to yourself what the simplest method of delivering an object or shape is — don’t fancy it up!—and you could have the right look!

Empty space

The patterns for primitive quilts are structured, but those empty spaces between the distinct pattern formations can be just as organized. Now, this isn’t necessarily the case for every quilt! It’s not unheard of though for darker, geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece. It creates an overall repetition to the quilt, and the result is an almost soothing effect in that the contrast softens the appearance to something calming and steady. As I said, this tactic might be more pronounced in some primitive quilts than others, but don’t be shocked if you notice it fairly often for quilts of this style.

Geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece.

Geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece.

If you keep these things in mind, you’re on your way to planning a primitive quilt!


References:
Alcorn, J. (2014, September 10). What Is Primitive Home Decor? Retrieved from: https://www.primitivestarquiltshop.com/blogs/quilt-shop-gathering-place/24406593-what-is-primitive-home-decor
Craftsy. (2017, April 24). Can You Spot a Primitive Quilt? Retrieved from https://www.craftsy.com/blog/2017/04/primitive-fabric/
Cactus & Succulent Fabrics for You to Love

Cactus and Succulent Fabrics for You to Love

California’s deserts are super blooming right now thanks to a long and wet winter. While we still have over 15 feet of snow in the ground here in Mammoth Lakes, California, I am not immune to dreaming of spring and the beauty of a flowering desert.

With that in mind, I give you NINE fabric lines featuring cacti, succulents, and the beauty of the high and low deserts.

Desert blooms

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

Lovely llamas

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

California dreaming

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry, and the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry & the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry & the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Joel Dewberry’s Cali Mod fabric continues with the California theme. He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant and metallic colors combined.

He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant & metallic colors combined.

He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant & metallic colors combined.

Back into the desert

The next two lines are both by Hawthorne Threads and they each coordinate with the other, as well as with Palm Springs above. Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

And this is Coyote, also by Hawthorne Threads. They basically have the market cornered on any type of desert, cacti, or succulent-themed fabric you could want. The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt and wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt & wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt & wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

Heading to Arizona

Bari J. Ackerman’s fabric line, Sage, moves us from the California deserts to her home state of Arizona. These fabrics are individually works of arts, together, they are really visually stunning. The maximalist floral and fruit prints combined with repetitive patterns, bright colors, cacti, and desert animals render me incapable of picking a favorite fabric. I love and want them all!

I love & want them all!

I love & want them all!

Succulence

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine and Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line. The only plants I can keep alive are succulents; it’s nearly impossible to kill them. They thrive in amazing conditions. Bonnie has paid homage to this amazing ability to survive with even tiny amounts of water in this retro-inspired line of succulent fabrics.

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine & Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line.

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine & Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line.

Did I miss any? Do you have any other favorite cacti, succulent, or desert-inspired fabrics you love? Let us know about them in comments!

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
DIY Chicken Aprons and Hen Saddles

DIY Chicken Aprons and Hen Saddles

Who knew chickens wore clothes?

Who knew chickens wore clothes?

When my girlfriend, Ella, asked me if I could make her a ‘chicken apron’ I thought perhaps she meant something like a heavy duty cover for when she is out in her yard working with her chickens. I of course said yes, but she quickly corrected me and explained that the aprons in questions were actually for her chickens.

Who knew chickens wore clothes?

It turns out that other chickens can be mean and may pick on or peck a member of their brood (even to death). Additionally, roosters can sometimes be too aggressive with hens. Chicken aprons, also called chicken capes, or hen saddles, can protect their backs from the claws of the roosters.

While I often create my own patterns when I sew, creating something like this for Ella’s chickens was beyond me. She found me a free pattern, which you can also follow here, and I got to work.

Heads up that this project is perfect for any pre-cut layer cakes (10″ x 10″ squares) you may have on hand.

Photo credit, left to right: Ella Sherman, MyPetChicken.com & WeAllSew.com.

Photo credit, left to right: Ella Sherman, MyPetChicken.com & WeAllSew.com.

My oldest daughter helped me pick out some fabrics and we sent a picture for Ella to choose from. I planned to make her three reversible aprons.

Here’s another interesting thing we learned

Never dress your chickens in pink, or red; it brings out their cannibalistic instincts and could result in the chicken getting pecked to death. Red & pink = no no.

Beware of chicken scratch. Red & pink = no no.

Beware of chicken scratch. Red & pink = no no.

Sketch it out

With my six fabrics decided, I drew out a pattern on each one. All of these are layer cakes squares I had in my fabric stash.

All of these are layer cakes squares I had in my fabric stash.

All of these are layer cakes squares I had in my fabric stash.

Ella lives in Southern California so she didn’t need any type of warmth or real thickness for batting. Still, I wanted them to be crisp, so I added a layer of Pellon 931TD, Fusible Midweight Interfacing to one side of each apron.

I wanted them to be crisp, so I added a layer of Pellon 931TD, Fusible Midweight Interfacing to one side of each apron.

I wanted them to be crisp, so I added a layer of Pellon 931TD, Fusible Midweight Interfacing to one side of each apron.

Once three of the sides had interfacing, I turned to decoration. If you plan to add rick rack or bows, do it before you sew the sides together.

Once three of the sides had interfacing, I turned to decoration.

Once three of the sides had interfacing, I turned to decoration.

Cut out a 10.5″ piece of elastic for each bib. You will pin each end where the arm (wing?) holes would be.

You will pin each end where the arm (wing?) holes would be.

You will pin each end where the arm (wing?) holes would be.

Place the layers, right sides together and pin (here you can see the elastic sandwiched between the layers).

Here you can see the elastic sandwiched between the layers.

Here you can see the elastic sandwiched between the layers.

Ok, here we go…

This is how it should look before you begin sewing. The pattern I used called for a ½” seam allowance, probably because it also called for thick batting. Choose your own seam allowance and sew all the way around, leaving only the neck hole completely open.

This is how it should look before you begin sewing.

This is how it should look before you begin sewing.

Here’s how mine looked after sewing all the way around. I trimmed away the excess fabric and made small snips around the inner and outer curves so they would lie flat once I turned the fabric right sides out.

Here’s how mine looked after sewing all the way around.

Here’s how mine looked after sewing all the way around.

Two important things to do once you’ve turned the fabric

  1. Take your time and run your fingers along the inside seam, popping the fabric out so it shows a great shape.
  2. Iron! I both ironed and starched mine once I had turned them.

Next, turn the neck hole down first a ½ inch then another ½ inch. Tuck the piece of elastic into where you’ve turned it, creating a casing. You will sew across the bottom of the folded fabric, taking care not to catch the elastic. When you are done, you should be able to move the piece of elastic freely back and forth in the casing.

When you are done, you should be able to move the piece of elastic freely back & forth in the casing.

When you are done, you should be able to move the piece of elastic freely back & forth in the casing.

Top stitch!

Have fun with your top stitching. I used a different decorative stitch on each apron.

And there you have it

This is easily a 20 minute project if you have all your supplies at hand. It’s wonderful for layer cakes and if you have friends who own chickens, these would make great handmade gifts.

It’s wonderful for layer cakes & if you have friends who own chickens, these would make great handmade gifts.

It’s wonderful for layer cakes & if you have friends who own chickens, these would make great handmade gifts.

Pop your presents in some pretty wrapping and send them off to be wild with some hens!

Pop your presents in some pretty wrapping and send them off to be wild with some hens!

Pop your presents in some pretty wrapping and send them off to be wild with some hens!

Have you ever made chicken aprons or a unique piece of clothing for an animal? Tell us about it in the comments!

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

I was thinking about writing a post this week about some of the favorite things that I’ve made throughout the years. But, once I really started trying to decide, I realized I had way too many ‘favorites’ to put in just one post, mainly because I’ve made a ridiculous amount of stuff. Truth be told, I can’t remember a lot of it.

Also, ‘favorite’, is a bit of a shifty word. I have favorites for all kinds of reasons: favorite fabric, favorite pattern, favorite last minute construction miracle, favorite vintage piece, favorite thing made without a pattern, favorite complicated pattern, favorite funky design detail, favorite sewing technique.

So, I decided instead to write a little about some of the most memorable things I’ve made. Most (perhaps all) of them listed here were for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, designed by John Dunn and Lisa Padovani.

And speaking of designers…

I just want to clarify that every show and movie has a Costume Designer. Sometimes, on low budget and indie or college productions, the costume designer is the same person who also makes and shops the clothes. This is not the case on any mid to high budget shows. It takes a village to create the finished product. I didn’t design anything for Boardwalk Empire or any of the other major television shows and movies I’ve worked on as a tailor and pattern maker. I just make what is in the designer’s head.

How do I know what’s in the designer’s head?

Sometimes I get a sketch, sometimes pictures and photos from magazines and catalogues, sometimes vintage garments to use as a starting point, and sometimes it’s just a conversation with a scribbled line drawing on a manila oak tag.

And one other thing about the village: I made the patterns for all of the pieces to follow but, most times, I had the help of very talented tailors in the construction of the finished product.

A (partial) list of most memorables:

Outfit from an existing vintage pattern.

Outfit from an existing vintage pattern.

I used an existing 1930s vintage pattern for this ensemble. I altered the pattern slightly for fit. It’s a bit hard to see in the photo, but the jumper has an asymmetrical over lap opening in the front (that button is functional.) If I recall correctly, I did put together the blouse but I know that the jumper was constructed by one of the tailors in the shop, Amy.

Showgirl ensemble:

Showgirl ensemble.

Showgirl ensemble.

We made quite a few showgirl ensembles for Boardwalk but the sailor girls were my favorite. The trickiest part of any of the showgirl things was always the time constraints. We routinely had a week (at most) to construct the outfits, and this was on top of all the other things we were making and altering. Thankfully, the actresses playing the showgirls remained the same throughout the season so once I had their measurements I was able to pattern (relatively) efficiently and go straight to fabric without doing any sort of mock up. Any showgirl extravaganza was always a true group effort, as in the day before the costumes were needed, almost every single person in the shop was working on them.

Costume involving fish:

Costume involving fish.

Costume involving fish.

We made two of these for the final season of Boardwalk Empire. The fish have batting and wire in them to make them slightly three dimensional, and there are two more on the back. These took an especially long time as all the pearl trim had to sewn on by hand.

Complete outfit in shortest amount of time:

Complete outfit in shortest amount of time.

Complete outfit in shortest amount of time.

I will always remember this one. I had literally two days to get this done. On the morning of the first day, the actor came in for measurements. I started patterning as soon as he walked out the door. John (designer) found fabric he wanted to use that we already had in house so I was able to cut as soon as my patterning was done. I handed off the jacket pieces to one person and the pants to another and I put together the vest. The very next afternoon, I did the fitting. As you can see from the photo, the only changes needed were a sleeve and pant hem. This illustrates the importance of proper (and extensive) measurements.

Strangest costume:

One of the oddest costumes I’ve made were these lobsters, again for Boardwalk.

One of the oddest costumes I’ve made were these lobsters, again for Boardwalk.

One of the oddest costumes I’ve made were these lobsters, again for Boardwalk. I think the over bodice and sleeves were attached to the tail bit and it was put on like a coat, snapping and tying center front. I do remember the use of quite a large amount of wire.

Most adorable:

Most adorable.

Most adorable.

I patterned all of the boys’ things for Boardwalk. The principal men’s suits were made by Greenfield’s in Brooklyn but the in house shop that I ran always did the suits and jackets for the younger boys.

So that’s a short list of some of my most memorable projects. There are definitely many more though. One of the best things about my job is that there is always something new to make.

Sewing Circles for Charity

Sewing Circles for Charity

Many people have items related to charitable donations on their new year’s resolutions list. If you’re one of them, you can use your sewing skills to spend more time with other sewers and achieve your charitable donation goals for the year by having a charity-focused sewing circle. Here’s how to get started.

Get out in your community and find a cause to support.

Pick a charity

Sewing Circles for Charity

Are there local organizations that would appreciate handmade items? Perhaps a shelter would appreciate clothing items or hospital would appreciate baby hats? Animal rescues may appreciate blankets or pet shirts. Get out in your community and find a cause to support! Ask to speak to the director or someone in charge of community relations. Tell them you want to contribute handmade items on a regular basis and see what they can use. Once you find a charitable organization in your community and understand their needs, you can get started planning and promoting your group.

Find a pattern

Once you know what the charity needs, find an easy to make pattern. It should be simple enough for a beginner to make while interesting enough to engage more experienced sewers. Make sure you have numerous copies and bring them with you to each sewing circle so newcomers or anyone who forgot theirs can get a copy without hassle.

Pick a date, time, location

Will this group be in your home? Do you have space for several sewing machines to run simultaneously? If not, you’ll need to find somewhere more suitable. Local libraries, churches or community centers may be able to host your sewing circle. Make a few calls, send a few emails. Most people and organizations rally around good causes so it shouldn’t take long to find a suitable place.

Working with their availability and yours, pick a recurring date for the sewing circle. Once a month is a good frequency. It’s often enough to keep people interested and excited, but not so often as to feel like a burden. Decide what time of day you’d like to meet and get that room booked with your site.

Invite and promote your sewing circle

Facebook and other social media outlets can be a great way to promote your sewing circle. Create a public event and include all the details about the charity as well as meeting time, location, etc. Invite your friends who sew and encourage them to invite others. See if the location hosting your charity sewing circle is willing to promote the event too. Ask the charitable organization if they’re willing to promote it to their members and donors.

Post fliers (with permission) in community centers, craft stores, fabric stores, senior centers, etc. Include an appealing photo or graphic along with the text information to entice people to look at it.

No matter how you promote it, make sure people understand what they need to bring (fabric, sewing machine, etc.) Also, be sure to include contact information as well in case people have questions.

Collect finished projects

As the charity sewing circle meets over the course of several weeks or months, projects will be completed. Collect them and deliver them to the designated charitable organization. Be sure they understand about your sewing circle – they may promote it to their members and donors now that they’ve seen results. Keep doing this on a regular basis and provide any feedback from the charity to group members. This will keep them engaged and motivated to continue donating.