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.
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.
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.