Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

I love to make clothes, but quilting isn’t really my thing. From afar, I admire and drool over gorgeous handmade quilts and ponder the patience involved in creating such intricate designs. In high school, my love of fabric crafts had me relegated to one of the unpopular groups – not that I fit in with any of them either. In college, I was lucky enough to have a roommate who discovered a passion for quilting her senior (my sophomore) year.

Friends and benefits

Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

Her passion for quilting became a gift to me! One that keeps on giving, even though we’ve since lost touch. In college, it meant I finally had someone to geek out with me over awesome fabrics and different sewing machine options. I admit, I’m not the easiest person to live with, so the commonality of fabric crafts is what probably saved our roommate relationship.

After she graduated, she made me a quilt for my bed using my favorite colors: purple and teal. I still use it today. I’ve got it draped over my lap right now, in fact because in my part of the country, it’s cold and rainy. The quilt she gifted me has served me well in the nearly 15 years since I graduated college. Not only is it warm and pretty, it consistently matches the décor in my home, no matter how many times I move. And it reminds me of my first fabric craft friend.

Practice makes perfect

At some point, for practice, she also made me a smaller, square quilt with a variety of black and white fabrics. It’s not large enough to cover me and keep me warm, but I love it and the thought she put into. I’m not sure how’d she feel about this, but I used it to make a cat bed under one of the window sills. It’s great because I can easily wash it and the cats love the softness and cushioning it provides to what would otherwise be a wooden bench.

Just like the clothes I make are made with love, so too are homemade quilts. That love combined with the utilitarian factor of quilts make them the gift that keeps on giving. Whether they’re given for big life events like wedding or births or simply as a way to say “I care,” homemade quilts are a gift that the receiver may carry throughout their lives.

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?

How to Sew Valentines: 33 Project Ideas to Show Your Loved Ones How Much You Care

How to Sew Valentines: 33 Project Ideas to Show Your Loved Ones How Much You Care

Sew valentines this year

I challenge you to sew valentines this year to show your love.

I challenge you to sew valentines this year to show your love.

I challenge you to sew valentines this year to show your love. Anyone can buy trinkets, but making something with love infuses more meaning into even simple gifts. Heartfelt gifts don’t need to be elaborate to mean a great deal.

From simple sewn hearts to labor of love quilts, the web is full of fun ideas that you could use to sew valentines this year. You can make a little something for every person you love. And there is nothing wrong with sharing a little love with people you just like, too. From your sweetheart to your grandma to your neighbor or teacher, everyone who you bless with a handmade gift will appreciate that you spent time making something just for them.

Sew valentines: my simple ideas

I’ll start by sharing three simple ideas of my own that I’m using this year to sew valentines for my family and friends, including an easy way to add a homemade touch to candy I’ll pick up at the store.

Felt or fleece hearts

These couldn’t be simpler to make. Just draw a heart pattern on paper, cut out, and pin to two layers of fleece or felt. Cut these out, then sew them with right sides together, leaving an opening for turning. Stuff, and then sew the opening closed. I’m stuffing them with dried lavender flowers to make simple sachets for my friends. I once made a pair of these and filled them with baking soda to stuff in my gym shoes, and this worked well to eliminate odor. You could also use lentils and make a set of heart bean bags for a game for your kids.

You could also use lentils & make a set of heart bean bags for a game for your kids.

You could also use lentils & make a set of heart bean bags for a game for your kids.

Valentine novelty fabric pillowcases

There is nothing easier to make from a yard of cute fabric than a pillowcase. To make one, hem across one long side. Then fold the fabric widthwise, with right sides together, and sew or serge the other two sides. Turn right side out. That’s it! Of course, you can dress these up with decorative trim. But choose a cute enough fabric and there’s no need to dress it up further.

Attach trim after hemming, before sewing together.

Attach trim after hemming, before sewing together.

Simple gift bags

Use the pillowcase instructions above in miniature form to create simple gift bags to fill with chocolates or other candy from the store. Or for children, include dollar store trinkets such as small toys. Tie with a ribbon. You could amend the directions slightly to make drawstring bags instead.

Use the pillowcase instructions above in miniature form to create simple gift bags.

Use the pillowcase instructions above in miniature form to create simple gift bags.

I’ll also be making some projects that I have collected from all over the web. Follow these links to find the perfect projects to sew valentines for everyone that you love:

Sew valentines: more easy ideas

I might make one for myself!

I might make one for myself!

  • Fabric Heart Bookmarks: Here is another project so easy that you can whip up several in mere minutes. This is the kind of sweet gift that most anyone could use. I might make one for myself!
  • Felt Heart Ornament and Garland: I plan to make a couple of these ornaments to share as gifts, and the garland for my house.
  • Warm Heart Coffee Cozy: Here is another simple idea that makes a nice gift for most anyone.
Warm heart coffee cozy.

Warm heart coffee cozy.

Sew valentines: cards

Here’s how to incorporate your love for sewing by hand while making paper cards.

Here’s how to incorporate your love for sewing by hand while making paper cards.

Sew valentines: a game and a toy

There are lots of ideas for softies to sew, but none are as cute as this sweetie.

There are lots of ideas for softies to sew, but none are as cute as this sweetie.

Sew valentines: bags and purses

This change purse includes a key ring.

This change purse includes a key ring.

Sew valentines: pillows

This pattern features reverse appliqué.

This pattern features reverse appliqué.

Sew valentines: quilts

Valentine quilt roundup.

Valentine quilt roundup.

Whichever projects you choose, I hope you have a happy Valentine’s Day!

The Joy of Quilting

The Joy of Quilting

You remember that cookbook “The Joy of Cooking”? It was ubiquitous when I was growing up. Full of stuff we’d never eat today. Since I was a kid, for me, the joy of cooking was really in the eating…My dad would take a recipe from that cookbook, modify it in some way and serve up the tastiest meals.

Similarly, for me the joy of quilting is in the using. I’m not a quilter, but I love the results of someone who is. I prefer projects that are quicker and involved bigger pieces. I’m not into small details…but I appreciate the skill and expertise of those who are.

The Joy of Quilting

Your imagination is the limit

What amazes me about quilting is the amazing patterns. Everything from Acorn to Zig-Zag and everything in between. I find it fascinating that using the same pattern, but different fabrics can generate such different, yet similar, quilts. Each one is personalized and special.

To me, quilting harkens back to a previous era…to our roots. And that fact makes me wish I could get into it the same way I have knitting or spinning yarn. I appreciate modern conveniences like electricity and indoor plumbing, but have always felt pulled to master more basic skills.

Family tree

Another thing I love about quilting, and quilts in general, is that they can capture and carry a personal or family history. They tell a story. By using blocks made from worn clothing or other well-loved items or new fabrics that represent something, quilts become a means of carrying history forward.

Quilts are works of art. I think most people think of them as something to put on a bed and a way to keep warm. That’s true, but they’re also works of art. If a quilt is used to capture a story or family history, a better display might be hanging on a wall or displaying on a rack. This way, they preserve the story and act as a conversation starter so the story can be shared.

I may not be a quilter, but I love quilts. The sense of history and a hint of romance. I find them inspiring and feel they connect us to our roots, What’s your joy of quilting?

Methods to Conquer Half-Square Triangles (HSTs)

Methods to Conquer Half-Square Triangles (HSTs)

If you plan on diving into the world of quilting, you will soon run head first into half-square triangles, or HSTs in common quilting parlance.

These deceptively simple looking squares can be arranged innumerable ways to make an unending canvas of lovely. When you decide to tackle HSTs you are going to need figure out the best method for you. The most important thing to understand about HSTs is the math behind the size you want. This post does not cover that math. There are many, many charts available online to help you figure out what size triangles & squares to cut and sew in order to get the finished size you want.

Once you know your math, you’ll need to figure out your method. Here are a few to consider:

1. Tried and true

The most basic way for creating a HST is taking two squares of fabric, placing them right-sides-together (RST), drawing a line down the diagonal, and then sewing a scant ¼” on either side of the link. Cut the fabric along the center diagonal line, open and press.

Square that puppy up and before you know it…

…voilà, lovely HSTs, just for you.

Works best: when you need to only do a few HSTs or when each HST you need to do is unique.

2. Make the Magic 8

When I sewed these together both squares were evenly on top of each other.

When I sewed these together both squares were evenly on top of each other.

As soon as you see the visual on this you’ll get why they call it magic. Take two large squares, right sides together and draw lines down each diagonal. Sew a scant ¼” on both sides of each line for a total of 4 seams.

Start by cutting first along the two diagonal lines.

Start by cutting first along the two diagonal lines.

(For this tutorial I placed the two squares off center to show you the two fabrics. When I sewed these together both squares were evenly on top of each other.)

Carefully start cutting. Start by cutting first along the two diagonal lines.

Next cut down the center line of each side of the square.

Next cut down the center line of each side of the square.

Next cut down the center line of each side of the square. This will give you your magic 8!

8 lovely matching HSTs

8 lovely matching HSTs

You’ll need to open, press, and square them up, but in no time flat you’ll have 8 lovely matching HSTs.

Works best: when you need more than a few. Some people can really churn out a lot of HSTs this way. If you have a bunch you need to make with the same fabrics, try this method.

3. Tube Method (Tube Quilting)

Use your ruler to cut out the size triangle you need.

Use your ruler to cut out the size triangle you need.

Sew two long strips together on the top and bottom edges. Then use your ruler to cut out the size triangle you need. Here I’ve shown you the tube I sewed and the triangles I cut (I flipped the top triangles over to show you the contrasting fabric).

Works best: when you need multiples of the same type of HST, this method is a production machine!
Note: it really helps to have the exact sized ruler you’ll need for cutting out the triangles.

4. Sewn Strips (Bias Strips)

Create a massive amount of HSTs in a short time!

Create a massive amount of HSTs in a short time!

I found this the most challenging of all the techniques I’ve tried, but I’ve never been pro at cutting on the bias. There is incredible potential here, however, to create a massive amount of HSTs in a short time so I’m keeping this method tucked away for the next time I want to attempt it.

The concept is simple: take two large pieces of fabric and place them RST. Cut the fabric into bias strips (in the correct size you’ll need) and then sew the alternating colors together to create two pieces of fabric with bias strips in the colors you need.

If you did your math right, you can then cut strips of fabric that will have the HSTs already sewn together. As you can see above, I completely botched the math on this, but you live and you learn and like I said, POTENTIAL. This method has so much potential if I can just get right next time.

Works Best: when you need to make HSTs on a massive scale.
Note: take your time to get the measurements just right. If not, you’ll have a whole lot of messed up fabric on your hands. Additionally, there is fabric waste as you cut out the squares. Make sure to account for that when you buy the amount you may need.

Sew the Square

Sew the Square

5. Jenny Doan Method (Sew the Square)

I’m not sure if this method has an official name but I know it has become popularized by Jenny Doan of the Missouri Quilt Company. I consider this a cousin to the Magic 8 method. Perhaps we could even call it the Magic 4.

The Magic 4!

The Magic 4!

Take two pieces of fabric RST and sew a scant ¼” hem all the way around.

Carefully cut down the diagonals of the square and you’ll get four perfect HSTs.

You get four perfect HSTs.

You get four perfect HSTs.

Works best: this is a quick and easy method that could be easily mass produced especially when using pre-cuts.
Note: some don’t like this method means you are working on the bias. I haven’t found this to be a problem. Press carefully when you iron sew your HSTs together, without unnecessary stress or tugging, and you’ll be fine.

I hope you’ve found these methods useful. How about you? Do you use one of these methods already or do you have a different technique you prefer? Let us know in the comments!

Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in San Diego, 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