Monday, December 28, 2009

Handmade gifts, part two

For Christmas, I made my DGS a 'quillow' of those quilts that fold up into a pillow. It has a pocket on one end and my kids love these...they call them 'foot-pocket blankies" (yeah, my kids are adults!). Since my DD loves her 'quillow' so much, I thought I would make one for her son (my DGS).

I picked a pretty night-sky fabric and layered it up with some Warm and Natural batting. In retropsect, this was NOT the best batting choice, because it creates a more old-fashioned quilt, whereas I would have preferred the fuller, puffiness of a polyester batting. Next time.

I put it on my Handiquilter and did all the quilting in one day (it was a LONG day, though!) using my Brother Nouvelle 1500S. I started out creating meanders and curls that crossed back over themselves, but I decided I wasn't thrilled with that...I prefer it when they DON'T cross back over and retrace, so I gradually transitioned to a slightly different quilting pattern with spirals and the night air. The fabric is so busy, no one will ever really SEE the quilting anyway! I could have gotten away with a lot less stitching, but I wanted to practice. And actually, the quilt would have been softer with less time.

I printed a 9x9" quilting pattern that was found several years ago on-line in pdf form, then enlarged and duplicated it until it better fit on my 15x15" pocket. Then I traced it onto examining table paper and layered it on the pocket 'sandwich'...two layers of fabric with batting in the a little quilt.

I just sewed right through the paper, folowing all the lines. Each round was done in a different color, so I had to change bobbins, too....remember, this pocket become a pillow, so both sides have the potential to be on the outside.

After sewing, the paper was removed. When I do paper piecing and things like this, I find it easier to remove the paper if I score the stitched lines with the point of my seam ripper before attenpting to pull away the paper. After scoring, it just begs to pop off!

Here is the pocket before I put on the binding. and really, it is like a mini-quilt...a little quilt that will be sewn onto a larger one!

Here's a closeup of the star stitching on the pocket. AFter removing the paper, I restitched the inner star using a satin stitch, to make it show up a little more.

I realized at the last minute, just before wrapping this gift on Christmas eve, that I had not 'signed' the piece. I don't know WHAT I was thinking...I picked up a needle and some embroidery thread and did HANDWORK! UGH! You can see the quality of my looks like it was done by an old blind granny! :)
(He calls me "Mimi")

I had left one spiral on the fabric unquilted, thinking I would put in some big hand stitches there (I don't know why...but it seemed creative at the time!). So at this last minute, I also popped in a few of those big stitches with a knot at each end, on both front and back. Of course, as soon as I started, I made a mess of the very first French knot I tried and spent nearly a half hour trying to undo the tangle I had created! Then again when I ended in a pair of knots (one on each side) I again made a little I said, I DON'T do nice handwork!

Here is the final quilt. You cannot even see the quilting...nor the handwork...nor the pocket (at the bottom)!
But it's there.

If you click on the picture to enlarge it, then hold down the CTRL key and hit the +key, the picture will enlarge...hit the + over and over until the image is large enough to see some quilting. To restore the screen to actual size, hit CTRL/0 (Zero). You probably already knew you could do this, right?

I didn't do handwork on the binding, though, as I ususally would do for a quilt. Instead, I zigzagged it down. This is a quilt to be heavily used. Hopefully. :)

Doing the quilting on this once again reinforced the notion that I NEED to get some handles for the Handiquilter that will enable me to quilt from the needle side of the machine, rather than from the fly-wheel side. It was SO hard to see what I was doing or where I was going! I am also thinking it might be time to modify my darning foot to remove the plastic insert, as shown here.

DD called tonight to tell me that DGS has been sleeping with this blankie...that he loves it and has two stuffed dogs that he is putting in the pocket to sleep with. Cute!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The grey plaid skirt

This cartoon reminded me...I still haven't mentioned the skirt I made!

That's right...I recently sewed a skirt for myself! I know...will wonders never cease?

I have had this fabric for a while (ok, not 'years' but 'months'!) and I decided it was perfect for a holiday skirt.

I had a December wedding to attend and thought a sparkly grey skirt might be just the ticket!

Plus, the theme of our December sewing guild meeting was 'SKIRTING THE ISSUE' and we were supposed to make/bring some type of skirt. It could be a table skirt, bed skirt, flared skirt, whatever. So I decided that was incentive enough to make a skirt for my body!

I used PMB. I have not made many skirts with PMB so I was not certain what settings I should choose.

Turns out I need ZERO waist drops...the level waist fits me best. The perfect amount of ease is still a bit fuzzy, because I had to take this one in. I made it 24" long, and used a facing at the waist and a back, (almost!) invisible zipper. :)

The fabric is a poly/rayon blend with a little silver metalic thread in the plaid. For the lining, I used black Ambience (Bemberg Rayon) that I purchased through a fabric coop.

Here is the back of the skirt with the zipper open and the vent exposed.

With the skirt inside out, you can see the lining and facings and vent (oh my!).

Here is a close-up of the vent lining. I always have to pull out my instructions to remember how to do this, since I do it so seldom.

I created a template to use with PMB to cut away the lining on one side of the vent. It saves me the trouble of figuring it out every time I do this!

BTW, the lining hem is even in real life...I should have straightened it up on the table before taking this picture!

I love this Bemberg is so luscious against the skin!

WEll, I guess I have skirted THIS issue, eh?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hand-made gifts, part one

Back in March of 2009, our local Walmart stores started clearing out all their fabric departments. When the markdowns began, I purchased some of this orange and white fleece with the University of Tennessee logos on it. I mean, who could resist, right? It is SOOOooo lovely! (not)

But being a student there, my DS is a Vols fan. He had actually asked me to make him a Snuggie a while back, and when I saw this fabric, I thought...How hard could it be? So I bought some and stashed it away for cooler weather.

The instructions I used were created by Welmoed Sisson, and I had stashed the printed instruction with the fabric. However, she still has the instructions for this SNUGLET on-line, if you wish to use them...look here.

There is only ONE correction I should warn you about. Her instructions have you cut 24" off one short end of the fleece to later use for the sleeves (that piece will be 24" long x 60" wide).

Then you are told to cut this piece in half, into two 24" x 30" pieces. All is well.

But then the instructions say to fold each piece in half to make a tube that is 12" x 30". That didn't work out for made the sleeves too small (around) and puts the sleeve length on the cross-grain.

Instead, FOLD THE PIECES THE OTHER WAY, so that the tube is 24" x 15". That way, you have 24" long sleeves (instead of 30" long sleeves) and the width of the sleeve is 15" (which creates a circumference of 30" for the armhole). This keeps the lengthwise center of the sleeve piece aligned with the lengthwise grain of the fabric.

I had sewn the sleeves in (including serging!) as the directions instruct, but the armholes were constricting. I had DH try it on to tell me what he thought, and with no hints or prodding, he immediately said, "The armholes are too tight." After removing the sleeves and reinserting the other way, the sleeve actually seemed better suited to the size of the armhole opening cut in the fabric, so I gotta think Welmoed probably just 'halved' the wrong number when writing out the instructions.

To finish the outside edges, I just turned under a narrow(ish) hem and stitched.

This Snuggie is very long! When I showed it to my fiber arts group, I stood in a chair so it wouldn't drag on the floor. They said I looked like the Statue of Liberty!

DS was tickled to receive this for Christmas!

It wasn't too long at all for him. It wasn't too wide between the armholes, either, as it had been for little ole me!

This evening, I received a text from DS...saying, "Another successful Snuggie nap!" I think it is a hit!
Thanks for the instructions, Welmoed! DS is happy and it was a cinch to make!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I ran across this article by Christine Kane and wanted to share it.
For me, it was like a whack on the side of the head...but encouraging!

See what you think.


How to Be an Extreme Encourager

Many years ago, when I first shared my dream of being a songwriter with one of my best friends, she knitted her brows and said, “Huh?”

I can’t say I was deflated by all of the warnings that followed. After all, I had always been surrounded by this kind of “practical thinking.” In fact, I probably shared my dream with her just so she’d talk me out of it.

During this fumbling stumbling time in my life, I met a man who became an unlikely best friend and mentor. He was a brilliant jazz musician, and he could do pretty much anything on the computer.

One night, after he performed at a local jazz club, we were walking towards my car. I told him my dream of being a songwriter. Without even blinking, he said, “Honey (he always called me Honey), you’d be a fabulous songwriter. That’s perfect!” And he meant it.

At that moment, I felt like I was falling into a soft clean bed. I had never experienced such direct and truthful encouragement without a single “practical” warning attached to it. This friend set me free by offering one simple thing:


Fast forward many years and successes and failures later. I’m surrounded by encouragers. I’m sure there are doubters around. But they don’t register anymore.

Also, I have become an extreme encourager myself.

I’ve observed extreme encouragers. I’ve also recognized some traits that they all have in common. Here they are:

• An extreme encourager lives by example

The best encouragers are the ones who live it. Whether they’re just getting started, or they’re veteran risk-taking creativity-living wild-women – the encouragers are the ones who want a bigger life for themselves and are willing to “go there.” This is why my jazz musician friend could simply offer encouragement when my other friend could not.

• An extreme encourager actively listens

Encouragers know that encouragement doesn’t mean you just tell people to “buck up” or “get over it.” They know how to listen. This means looking at the speaker, listening to her, setting agendas and judgments aside, and honoring the speaker as a wise soul.

• An extreme encourager avoids clichés

Avoiding clichés is actually a result of actively listening to someone. Being an extreme encourager doesn’t mean that you blindly tell people “You can do it!” or “Let go of fear!” It’s deeper than that. It’s seeing the truth of the other person, especially when they cannot.

• An extreme encourager acknowledges the hooglie-booglies, but doesn’t focus on them

We all have the hooglie-booglies. These are the voices that tell us we can’t, or we shouldn’t, or we’ll fail, or we’ll look stupid. An encourager doesn’t focus on those voices because she knows they’re trying to hook her. An encourager simply acknowledges that the voices are there and that you can’t make them go away by arguing with them. An encourager knows that those voices aren’t the truth. They only SEEM like the truth.

• An extreme encourager remembers that no one knows what’s best for anyone else

An encourager knows that we are all wise and that sometimes we make choices that might not seem so wise. An extreme encourager calls out our deepest desires and then helps us see the thoughts and fears that hold us back.

• An extreme encourager accepts miracles, grace and mystery as the deeper truth

Extreme encouragers are often mystics of sorts. They know that the so-called “woo-woo” stuff is more real than the so-called “logical” stuff. They celebrate the divine as a simple fact of everyday existence and don’t get caught up in the “prove it” mindset.

• An extreme encourager knows that you can develop the needed character traits as you go

In other words, she knows you’re ready now, even if you’re not perfect yet! I shudder when I read advice that discourages people from trying something because of character traits “required” in advance. “You shouldn’t blog if you’re not disciplined.” “If you don’t have focus, you can’t be a writer.” Most of the successful people I know developed these traits as they went. I certainly did. Encouragers understand the huge potential for growth in each human, especially when someone begins to follow her heart.


I must admit that I am NOT always an encourager. No, I am frequently the devil's advocate! But the line about the voices only SEEMING like the truth...that was profound for me.

I'll try harder to become an encourager...both to myself and to others!

Well, I must get back to that quilt I am working on that is to be a gift in 2 DAYS!!!
Merry Christmas, Y'all!

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? Please do! Just be sure to include this complete blurb with it:
Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her ‘LiveCreative’ weekly ezine with more than 4,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FREE subscription to LiveCreative at

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Challenge Block for retreat

This was the fabric for the 'challenge' block to be done for retreat.

I wasn't fond of this fabric at and pink? Not a huge fan.
So I decided to fussy-cut some of the flowers and use them in a 9-patch, then add various other fabrics to emphasize the red instead of the pink.
The challenge requirements say you have to use at least ONE SQUARE INCH of the challenge fabric.
This is my final block. I liked it well enough that I made a second one, to keep for myself! I will probably quilt it as a single block.

Quilt Retreat, November 13-15

November was a busy month for me and it was so easy to get behind in my blogging! The weekend of the 13 was the annual quilting retreat held by the local guild which I joined this past summer. Although I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, I did sign up to attend. However, I didn't sign up for any classes. I had a Friday afternoon conflict (attended a 'pinning ceremony' at DS's Pharmacy school) so couldn't take any classes that first day, so I figured I would just enjoy the free-sew time with others rather than take classes. Well, this is the room for 'free-sew' you can see, it is rather small! I loved being around all the other quilters and enjoyed the comraderie of it all, but I am used to ALOT more space when I sew!

This is the can see it is open and time I will sign up for classes!

Prior to retreat, the guild chooses and distributes a piece of fabric to be used to make a 'challenge' block which is presneted at retreat. These are displayed on a wall and attendees vote for their favorite. Obviously, not everyone participates in this! Here are the blocks...they were divided into 2 lots and won by 2 of the participants. Mine is the one on the far-right (middle) with the flying geese around a nine-patch. It wasn't a winner, but it wasn't MY first choice, either, after seeing all the others!

Meals were served in a lovely dining room full of round tables.
This was breakfast on Sunday morning.

There was a window in the back where the food was served...drinks were self-serve.

Quilts donated by the guild hang on the walls throught the retreat center.

Below, you can see the doorway into the dining room and the stairs beyond.

Some cool stuff was made in the various classes! I don't have pictures of everything, of course, but I thoroughly enjoyed the show and tell!

This was the Happy Villages class, taught by Jeanie Velarde (back row, 2nd from rt).

This was the Dahlia class, taught by Marge Nickels, far right.

This was from the Strip Tease class...not sure who was the teacher. There were many other classes, too.

Here are the challenge blocks in the hands of their maker.

All in all it was a fun weekend! I thoroughly enjoyed the speaker, Janet Jones Worley, who made me laugh until I cried! She brought lots of fabulous quilts to show us and also taught two classes. I don't have pictures of her, though...I sat on the front row and hesitated to hit her in the face with a flash!

This is the sum total of my weekend sewing! I did one tiny quilt top. It is not even 'layered' with the batting and backing yet...but I was happy to have done this much. Others pieced entire quilts...some even quilted them! I was working on a tiny (toy) machine, though, not my good one (which I don't travel with) so my sewing speed was limited. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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