Do you ever have one of those weeks that turns into one of those months? You think you have everything laid out in a timely fashion and suddenly it’s a few weeks later and you haven’t done half of what you meant to do? That’s been my September! I can’t believe October is almost here. I picked two big buckets full of walnuts out of my yard yesterday, the sugar maples are just starting to turn, and the ragweed (and my allergies) are in full bloom. It’s officially Fall.
I love to bake when the weather gets snappy, but when I went to pull some cookies out of the oven last night, I discovered I was down to a single pot-holder. Our dog, Jaclyn, has been growing up the last year, and I’m afraid a few pot-holders fell victim to her puppy need to destroy.
So today, we’re going to make a pot-holder, perfect for all your cooking and baking needs as well as for gifts! I have a couple orphan blocks I want to put to use today, but you can use any block or piece of cotton fabric.
Two squares of fabric or two blocks – approximately 8″x8″
Insul-Bright or other thermal batting
3″ of cotton ric-rac or other natural fiber ribbon for loop handle
Sewing supplies (e.g., machine, thread, scissors)
To get started, cut your fabric or size your blocks to the desired size square. Cut a square of Insul-Bright batting the same size.
Fold the ric-rac into a loop and place it in the corner of the right side of the fabric, pointing in. Layer the two fabric squares right sides together and the batting on top.
Sew a quarter inch all around, leaving a 2″ opening. Trim corners.
Press opening to the inside and top stitch to secure closed.
Finish quilting on the machine, or get some perle cotton and do some big stitch hand quilting.
Voila! Now I’ll be ready for all my baking adventures.
If you make a pot-holder, we want to see it! Share with us over on Facebook or Instagram. And while you’re over on Instagram, join me tonight from 7-8pm (CDT) for a live craft-in. I’ll be playing some tunes, working on a sweet little hexie project that’s near and dear to my heart, and answering any questions y’all have. I won’t get to do one next week because I’ll be in Des Moines at QuiltWeek, but I’ll be back to our regular schedule after that.
It happened a couple weeks ago. Sitting on my porch, drinking my first cup of coffee for the day, carried there by a breeze chilly enough to have me wearing a sweatshirt in August, a yellow leaf fell at my feet. It happened again yesterday while mowing: I ran over the first walnut of the season. Autumn is arriving early for Missouri after an uncharacteristically cool summer. I, for one, welcome our autumnal overlords.
Fall is the start of prime crafting season! Cooler weather means more time in my craft studio, but it also means time to start thinking about… dare I say it?
I know, I know, I know, but we’re crafters! We must face the truth. If you haven’t already started thinking about what you’re making loved ones, now’s the time to start! For the next couple months, we’ll be bringing you a free project every week to jump-start your creativity and gift stockpile. This week, we’re getting organized with our to-do list. Click on the link to download our Holiday Gift List and fill yours out, at least with who all you’ll be giving a gift to this year.
We’re also starting a new thing over on our Instagram. We’ll be going live every Wednesday night at 7pm central time crafting, listening to music, and answering your questions. So be sure to follow and join us for a chill little weekly craft party!
And last but not least, if you’re at Fall Paducah QuiltWeek September 13-17, come say hi to me in the AQS booth! I’ll be the cute lil’ redhead working register.
The ubiquitous half square triangle block. (Often called in HST.) They’re just about unavoidable in quilting, but many do avoid them! There are so many methods for making them and I could easily write a post just on all those methods, but often the reason a quilter would avoid an HST is because you go to all the effort of making them, and then they easily end up wonky and points get lost. It’s really discouraging to do a lot of work for a result that doesn’t look like you wanted! So today I’m going to show you the most consistent way to get accurate, beautiful half square triangles: sizing.
All you need are some HSTs, a cutting board, a rotary cutter, and an acrylic ruler.
Unless a pattern already included instructions to “size” your HST, make your HST bigger than the dimensions given in the pattern. An eighth to a quarter of an inch should be plenty of extra. For instance, a lot of patterns make HST by marking the center diagonal across a square, sewing a quarter inch seam on both sides of the line and cutting that apart to make two HST. The measurements for these squares end in the size of the finished block plus 7/8″ which I always round up to make a whole inch. So for this 6″ finished block, I cut a 7″ square instead of a 6 7/8″ square.
Place your ruler over the HST so that the diagonal line of the HST matches a 45° angle, and adjust until the whole block fits within the size of the unfinished block with some hanging out all sides as shown. I’m using an Olfa Frosted 12.5″ ruler, and it’s my go-to for sizing because of that diagonal line and great visibility with no slipping. (Not sponsored, I just love the Frosted line so much and am always surprised more people don’t use them.) If your ruler doesn’t have a 45° line to the corner like mine, notice that the inch intersections also line up, and align to that. Aligning the diagonal to the 45° line is what makes for perfect points later.
Trim the first side, and the top if you feel confident in your cutting skills. If you’re only comfortable trimming one side at a time, turn the HST now to trim the side opposite your first cut, lining up the45° angle once again.
Line up the ruler to the trimmed sides of the HST. If you trimmed the side and top, your HST will look like my picture. If you trimmed the left and right sides, turn to now trim the top and line up the diagonal again. When you trim the bottom, your HST will resemble this picture.
The HST is all trimmed! A perfect 6.5″ square for my 6″ finished block.
The picture in the header of this post is a closeup of the stack of 68 HST I need to press and size. Far from the most I’ve done in one go, but still a little daunting when I look at it! More than anything though, I’m impatient to get through them, because they’re for a quilt I’m designing just for y’all! Be sure to check out our Instagram for more sneak-peeks and and behind-the-scenes.
All the kids in town go back to school next week. If I was still in college, I’d probably be leaving for resident assistant training this week. I love this time of year—mostly for stocking up on office supplies—and it always gets me in the mood to learn something new. In fact, I’ve been focused lately on improving my applique skills across the board. I learn the most basic of basics many years ago, enough to say I technically knew how to needle turn applique and had made one bag with a machine applique octopus. It’s one area of quilting I consistently skip over because I don’t do it well enough to enjoy it! Well, enough of that, I told myself, and went to work improving my skills. That’s when I realized a lot of what I was doing to set myself up for learning success can be applied to most any skill one wants to learn. So today I’m going to walk through the steps I take to learn a new skill.
Zero In On What You Want to Learn
The first thing that stops me from learning a new skill is vagueness. For example, I often say I want to get into wood working, but if pressed, I don’t have a clear goal of what I want to learn about wood working, I just like how it would sound to tell people I am great at wood working. Applique was different because I knew what I specifically wanted to learn. I wanted to become faster at machine applique, to learn the freezer paper method, and to learn needle turn applique well enough that I would no longer be intimidated by it. Decide what you want to learn and to what degree you wish to master that skill.
Set a deadline
The difference between a wish and a goal is a deadline. When you decide you want to learn a new skill, set yourself a few deadlines. I like to set a deadline for acquiring a teacher, practice time, and my first test. Usually at this point, I write a little outline in my day planner laying out my specific goal(s), deadlines to meet, and leave room for notes about teachers, supplies, projects, or whatever else might come up on my quest for knowledge.
Find a Teacher
These days, teachers come in all shapes and sizes! I can learn to start a fire using the cabin method off of a WikiHow in a few minutes—that’s a teacher! I often start on the internet when looking to pick up a skill. I read a couple blog posts with pictures about how to do the freezer paper method, but it all came together for me only after watching a video of someone using the method. There are also phone apps for lots of different kinds of skills. Looking up knitting apps I found apps with video tutorials teaching you how to knit, resources with libraries of different stitches, and various helper apps like row counting apps. And of course, there are more conventional, local resources for learning skills in person. I like to see if there’s a shop that caters to a skill I’m learning because they’ll often have either classes or resources to connect me to for learning. Most crafts also have local groups who get together and those can be great places to learn. I love going to my local quilt guild because I always pick up some new trick or skill.
Practice Smarter, Not Harder
It’s impossible to achieve proficiency without practice. I studied cello intensively throughout high school, so I’ve had a lot of practice with practicing. The number one thing about practice is that there’s no way out but through. Schedule practice time. When I’m learning a new skill, I like to set aside about an hour a day. I spend the first quarter of that time either reviewing my learning materials or reviewing what I’ve done. I’m practicing in my head before ever acting. I then spend half the time in practice, going through the act, and I don’t critique myself during this time. For the final quarter, I take stock of what I’ve done, and this is when the critique comes in. I see what I can improve, and I finish by noting what I’ve done well so I finish feeling proud and accomplished. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, especially when first starting to learn a skill, shorter practice periods more frequently can really help. The goal is to have lots of little successes to build your confidence.
The First Test
The first test takes many forms depending on the skill. If you’re learning a language, the test might literally be a test, but let’s take applique for an example again. I had three goals: get faster at machine applique, learn the freezer paper method, and grow comfortable with needle turn. I now have three applique projects going! One is a baby quilt that I’d originally designed without applique, but added to it so I’d get some practice with machine applique. Nothing makes you learn to go faster like working on a quilt for an early baby. (What did I tell you about August babies!) I have another project that uses the freezer paper method, and finally a little project with needle turn that I’m saving for last because it’s the most challenging of the skills. For most craft skills, a project serves as a test. Identify what your first “test” will be and aim for it. Once you’ve gotten through your first test, you’ll be able to tell if you need more practice to meet your proficiency goals or if you’ll have mastered what you want to learn.
There you have it, a run through of picking up new skills. Let us know what skills you want to learn or any tips you have for learning new skills in the comments. I’m off to practice my speed at machine applique because this baby quilt isn’t gonna finish itself.
It’s time! It’s time! No more having to keep this exciting news all to myself!
I designed a wallhanging called “October Afternoon” for American Quilter and it’s published in the September issue! I had so much fun making this wallhanging and am so grateful to the AQ staff for taking such great care of me and this project. You can get your copy here and enjoy all that American Quilter Society has to offer. Digital copies are available now and print copies are on their way. (My poor mailman has to see my face pushed to the window every morning.) There are kits available, too.
It never fails. Just about every summer, one of the Lynn & Rosie team says, “I know this is last minute, but so-and-so are in the delivery room. Could we make them a baby quilt by tomorrow?” I’m a sucker for a baby quilt and a challenge, so I always say yes. But I also always immediately start hearing this song on a loop until the quilt is done.
Look, ideally, we’d all plan these things ahead of time, make a little note in our day planners of who’s having a baby when and set aside a weekend every month or so to get those baby quilts done, but that’s not always what happens. In case you’re like me, here are some tips and tricks for making beautiful baby quilts as fast as possible.
Pre-tip Discussion: Fire-Safe Quilts
I like to make baby quilts that are fire-safe, which means they have no polyester or other man-made fibers that would melt and cause burns if wrapped around a child during a fire. Does that mean I’ve managed to make each baby quilt fire-safe? No. Often I’ve had to consider cost or simply use what I had on hand in that moment for expediency. In those instances, I always make sure the parents understand the quilt is not fire-safe. I get that this is a somewhat macabre consideration for a topic as usually fun as quilting, but these are the realities of responsible gift-making. Okay, on to the fun stuff!
1. Be Prepared
I know, I know. The whole point is this was an unexpected project! Well, let’s take a good hard look at ourselves with this one and acknowledge that if we’ve gotten into this situation once, we can easily get into the same situation again if we don’t take precautions. The two most important things to have prepared are battings and backings. Most crib quilts are 36″x52″ and there are pre-cut battings to accommodate that size quilt. Pick up a pack! For backing, you’ll need either 1⅔ yard of 42” wide quilting cotton, or 1¼ yard of 60” wide Minky fabric. Keep a little stock of that kind of yardage in your stash. Having these on hand saves you a time-consuming trip to the fabric store.
2. Make Fabric Work for You
“But what about fabric for the top, Emily??” you ask. Well, that question can get overwhelming fast because there are so many good options, but I use a few principles to guide me towards a beautiful quilt without tons of planning or trips to the fabric shop. I start by trying to choose some fabrics that match the nursery colors. If I don’t know those colors or don’t have any on hand, I turn to my solids stash. Gray solids are neutral life-savers. Grab a gray solid, grab a colorful print and voila, the start of a great quilt. If you prefer to use child prints, stock up on pre-cuts of kids lines. I get into specifics of using pre-cuts in the next tip. Finally, you can pretty much never go wrong with a panel fabric.
3. Use Simple Patterns
Last year, Sara and I made a baby quilt in four hours, and the top used only squares and half square triangles to make a pretty star pattern. Even that one was risky though because Sara expected us to be our usual precise piecing selves, and I had to look her dead in the eye and say, “Any points or matching seams on this quilt will be a happy accident.” Sometimes accuracy must be sacrificed for speed. I’ve utilized my precuts stash many a time: 96 charm squares, or 24 layer cake squares, or 26 jelly roll strips will all make a crib-sized quilt if just sewn together. Yesterday, I went as simple as one can and made a whole cloth quilt. I had the quilt sandwich left over from an experiment with a possible new technique that proved too difficult and time-consuming for a whole quilt. Short on time, I grabbed that sandwich and quilted it up as fast as you please. The fewer seams in a quilt, the faster the top goes together.
4. Quilt It Yourself
Speaking of quilting, this is the biggest time saver of all. Quilt that top yourself! Waiting to get in with a professional quilter is serious business, and there are tons of pros who won’t even do baby quilts because it isn’t cost effective for them. The fastest option then is to do it yourself, but that can be scary. I love piecing quilts because I can be a total perfectionist with relative ease, so the idea of managing the walking foot and messing up my top with my inexperience terrified me. Baby quilts are the perfect project to conquer the fear of quilting! They’re small enough that you won’t have to wrangle the quilt much, and if you make a mistake, so what? The quilt will keep the baby just as warm, and the gesture will mean just as much.
5. Machine Bind
This may seem like a no-duh to some quilters, but I come from a family of single-layer binders who attach the binding to the quilt with the machine, and then whip the edge down by hand. This is why I have so many quilted, but unbound quilts. When I’m up against the clock, I don’t have time for that! Plus, the baby quilts I made are meant to be used regularly, which means they’re going to be washed a bunch. I’ve taken to attaching the binding to the back of the quilt, pulling it over to the top and using a decorative stitch to finish the edge. I like that the decorative stitch adds interest and will be even stronger than a single straight stitch.
I’d be remiss if I let you go before saying the ultimate way to be prepared for a surprise baby quilt is to always have one made and waiting. I know magical, well-organized quilters who manage this regularly! But I know I’m not that person, and with these tricks, I don’t have to be. I get to enjoy an adrenaline rush, and then the long-term reward of seeing baby pictures with the quilt in action. Nothing warms my heart quite like that.
The weather in southwest Missouri gave us a break from summer this week. It’s hard to want to stay in the craft studio when it’s so gorgeous outside! So, Sara and I packed up our cameras and went for a nature walk to seek fresh air, good company, and a little inspiration.
When the natural world catches your eye, snap a picture or sketch a quick rendering. There are so many ways to get inspired. Below, Sara and I share pictures from our walk along with how they inspired us or how we plan to use them.
Emily: We had tons of rain this year, so there were lots of driftwood logs in the river bottom where we walked. One of the logs had a space packed with this dried mud and river rock. The colors caught my eye and I took a picture of it to create a palette. No need for a fancy palette generator either, because I used MS Paint!
Emily: I love this picture of my sister. She saw the drainage pipe and yelled, “I want to stand on that!” She hesitated because there was a bit of a slope to the pipe, so I offered my hand and she used me for balance. I’m inspired by my sister’s love of chasing every adventure, and I’m reminded that we have the best adventures together.
(Click through to see each of Sara’s photos individually!)
Sara: I went into the walk without expectations of what would inspire me. As we went along, I found myself getting close for pictures of details. Looking back through what I took, I was inspired by the uniqueness and intricacy found in those details.
See what I mean about loving adventures with Sara? (This is Emily, again.) Thanks for joining us for an adventure outdoors and into our creative process.
A few weeks ago, I found myself with a honey-do list—those little chores that accumulate when one is asked, “honey, will you do that?”—longer than my arm. To cope with how overwhelming I found this, I pushed aside anything I deemed non-critical and got to work on the list. In that time I learned how to mow a yard, how many hoops there are to jump through just to install a fence, how to install a fence, and what to look for in a through-the-wall air conditioner. I’m throwing a parade when the AC is installed and the path will be from my room, down the hall, into the kitchen/dining room, and ending in the living room—all of which will be 69° F.
This week, I found myself puttering out like my lawn mower putters as it runs out of gas. My mind was still trying to run at hyper speed, but with nothing much left on my list, I was only spinning my tires. Luckily, that’s when my imagination stepped in. In the middle of talking to Sara about what I needed at the grocery store, I drifted off into a hundred yard stare right over her shoulder. In between imagining the contents of the baking aisle and the frozen foods section, I imagined what could get four people on a ship to Mars at the end of the world without tarnishing their heroic qualities. This, of course, sounds like nonsense, as it certainly did when I answered Sara’s alarmed question, “What are you thinking so hard about?” But to me, it’s a problem I’m dealing with in a story I’ve been wanting to write for some time.
I commandeered my grocery list for some quick story notes, and afterwards thought, “But I don’t have time for this right now! I have so much work to do!” The nice thing about sewing is you end up with lots of thinking time, and my brain kept turning over the problem of the story. And a funny thing happened. I was excited to get to my sewing machine. Or to load and unload the dishwasher quickly so I could run to my notebook. Even talking through dialogue while mowing the yard so no one had to listen to me talk to myself.
I thought I had no time for personal creative endeavors because I had work to do. I was wrong! The time I thought I lacked was actually ripe for my creative taking. Writing on my lunch break, or calling it quits half an hour early to pick up a personal sewing project was exactly what I needed to get me excited again. Making the time for my creativity fueled everything else around me. We all fall into the trap of pushing our creativity aside, or focusing only on one aspect of that creativity. So this is your reminder thatyou have the time, and it’s actually your priorities holding you back. Your personal creativity is a lot more valuable than you may realize.
Summer’s here in spirit and almost here in fact. For many of us, that means time outdoors, adventuring, and yard work. For others of us, it means staying cool inside, pouring ourselves a cold beverage, and craft projects. No matter who you are, summer is the perfect time to catch up with friends.
That’s why this week the tip is to send a postcard or letter to a friend! We have a few great ideas for making your own stationery to fit every lifestyle.
Whether you’re going on a vacation, day-trip, or even staycation, postcards are a fun, cheap way to drop a note to a loved one. Cut a sheet of card stock into fourths, mark the half way point on one side, and you’re ready to go! Pack your art supplies and the postcards so you can sketch your adventures and discoveries while out and about.
I’m more of a letter writer myself, but writing on notebook paper gets old fast. I spruced up this blue printer paper with a little dot punch for a fun, abstract corner margin decoration.
There’s no excuse to leave the envelope out of the postal makeover. Cut some scrapbook paper slightly smaller than your envelope. Insert the paper, leaving space between the end of the insert and the bottom of the envelope for folding space. I used the sticky strip of the envelope to attach the paper and will use a sticker to close the envelope.
So there you have it, three ways to create darling stationery. Time to crack open your address book, or to ask your friends on Facebook to send your their address if they’d like a postcard from you. I’m going to pour myself a lemonade and write to my friend, Rachel. Who will you write?
A few weeks ago I gave a tip on using metallic embroidery to up your embellishment game. I improvised a little design of an inspirational phrase, and today I’m going to show you how to turn that into a pillow.
The phrase and design can be anything you want. I used my own handwriting for this, but you could type out your desired phrase with a cool font and trace it if you like for everything to be just so. Once the front of the pillow is made, cut a back the same shape and size as the front.
Layer the front and back pieces right sides together and sew all around, leaving an approximately 2″ opening at the bottom of the pillow. You can see in the picture that I reverse stitched back over my sewing line to secure the opening. Trim corner off for sharper corners.
Reach into the opening and pull the pillow through so it’s right sides out. At this point, use something pointy but not sharp—like a knitting needle—to push out the corners and seams. I like to press everything flat then because it helps set the opening, but it’s totally optional. Stuff the pillow with something inexpensive like Poly-Fil, or scrap batting, yarn, and fabric. I’ve even had friends use plastic bags as stuffing in purely decorative pillows!
Close the opening with your preferred method. I’m doing a ladder stitch in this photo, but a whip stitch or even a top stitch by machine works fine.
And all done! A perfect little reminder for myself to enjoy every day, or a great gift for a friend.