Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Snap with Scraps

Everywhere I look lately I see cute coffee coozies selling for $8 to $12 each. Whether made of yarn or fabric, reusable coffee coozies are a great way to save a tree. Instead of grabbing a cardboard holder when you run through your favorite coffee shop in the morning, just slip your cup into a cute handmade and reusable cover.
But would I pay $8 for one? In typical “I can make that” mode, I decided to experiment.
First I snagged one of the cardboard coozies and pulled it apart to get the dimensions and shape I needed.

Then I traced the cardboard piece and added a ½ inch seam allowance.

Next I found a scrap of fabric – literally a piece that is 12 inches wide by 10 inches tall will do, so stop throwing away scraps. I laid out my pattern piece on this scrap and cut out two of the pattern. I found a scrap of batting and cut out one pattern piece in the batting. I used Insul-bright, a batting with an insulating layer sandwiched inside. However, any batting you have on hand will provide sufficient insulation to keep your hand from becoming uncomfortable from the warm cup.
To assemble the coozie, I layered the two fabric pieces with right sides together and added the batting on the bottom. Sewing all the way around on the seam allowance, I left an opening to turn the piece right side out. After stitching I clipped the seam, turned it right side out, and pressed and turned in the seam allowance at the opening. The opening was closed with a bit of fabric glue. I used fabri-tac but any fabric adhesive will do. Then I top stitched around the margins ¼ inch from the edge and finally folded the piece as shown in the original cardboard templar.

To secure the edges, I just tacked it in two places on the machine.
Start to finish this project took less than 30 minutes, and cost me nothing. Now I can think of lots of modifications. You could close the coozy with Velcro or a button. You could even make it reversible with different fabrics on each side – especially helpful if the scraps of fabric you have saved are even smaller. You could even make a patchwork coozy. Just piece together small squares of the scraps you have saved until you have a piece large enough to cut out the pattern.
Not sure you want to go to the trouble to make your own pattern; you can download a pattern with detailed directions and a pattern piece you can print out at my shop on

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Coffee Buzz...

Today I was supposed to give a friend a sewing lesson. She had a baby a few weeks ago and to save her sanity and for my enjoyment we get together (with him) every Wednesday for lunch and something. A few weeks ago we checked out a new fabric store called Whipstitch. We saw some really cute fabric from the Coffee Buzz collection by Kathy Hall for Andover, the American (North and South) division of Makower, UK, ltd. Wouldn’t this fabric make really cute napkins?
Another project is born, this one for my friend to practice her cutting, pressing and hemming skills. We planned to work on them last week, but then she remembered an appointment, and it was Cinco de Mayo so there was a margarita with lunch, and then somehow it was just too late to get back to the studio.
So this week we decided that she would come straight to the house with lunch in tow and we would make them up. No problem. But the fabric still needed to be washed, and the baby was fussy, then hungry, then napping on mom’s chest in his cute little carrier. And we had so much to talk about over ice tea. So here we are again with the afternoon pleasurably spent but no sewing done. Next week for sure…

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

That Quilt I’ve Been Meaning to Make

For several years I’ve been noodling on a quilt idea for my spare bedroom. It was born out of a project I took on way back in 2006. A friend was opening a yarn shop and asked me to design and make some unique project bags for her to sell. I came up with several prototypes. One of the ones that I didn’t follow through on has a quilted front and back. When I was auditioning fabrics, I bought ½ yards of several shades of blue, aqua and teal. When I saw the pile of scraps, I thought they would make an interesting sort of variegated quilt top. But I did move forward with another bag design, and so for the next six months or so I was busy making project bags, and matching accessory bags. The fabric sat in the bottom of a chest, nearly forgotten, while I kept buying new fabric for new ideas.
In 2007, I bought a bunch of yellow fat quarters for the star on a Christmas wall hanging. Of course I couldn’t be content with just two colors; I bought eight different fabrics and again was left with a pile of remnants. About this time I started thinking about that pile of blue scraps as sky colors, and these yellow as sun colors. Now this idea was really starting to take shape.
I decided I didn’t want a regular pattern to the quilt; I was going to go for something more abstract – dare I say even cubist. So I started cutting those blue scraps into 2 x 2 inch squares. Now a 2 x 2 inch square yields a 1½ x 1½ inch block once joined with all those other squares. I calculated I would need about 2,000 of those little babies to make a full size quilt. Low and behold I didn’t have enough material, so I went to one of my favorite online fabric websites, and ordered about a dozen more ½ yards in assorted colors. When they arrived I eagerly cut them into tiny little bits. Then reality set it. I was going to have to sew all those tiny little bits together. It was going to take days and days. It made me so tired just to think about it that I stuffed all those little pieces into some of those plastic baggies that all crafters can’t see to do without, piled the lot into a lovely project bag and forgot about it.
Time passes. About a month ago I realized I was spending an awful lot of time working with yarn and sewing for other folks, but not doing much of the sewing I wanted to do for myself. Maybe it was time to pull out some of those quilt projects I had designed and cut out but not assembled. Yes, I actually have several of these projects sitting around. First on the list is that spare room quilt. I’m not much of a computer sketch artist, but I’m hoping it will end up looking something like this. For those that care about such things, the quilt will be 13 blocks wide and 15 blocks long. Each block will be comprised of 16 of those little 1½ by 1½ squares. That’s a finished quilt top that is 78 x 90 inches – perfect for a full size bed. And yes, that is 3,120 tiny little squares. Sigh… I have started. I have ten of the 195 six inch blocks completely. Wish me luck won’t you?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Doing What You Should Do and Doing What You Want To Do

Yesterday I did what I should do. I wrote up a pattern, published it on, promoted it on Facebook, twitter and this blog, blah, blah, blah. It’s the price of underwriting my hobbies by selling patterns. Of course I also did the laundry, washed dishes, cooked dinner, and walked the dog. These are the things I have to do. Somewhere in there though I found a little time to do something I wanted to do.
I’ve had an idea for a lightweight gauze shawl or scarf rattling around in my head for months. I even bought gauze in a couple of different colors. My idea was to somehow embellish the scarves with thread painting or embroidery. Then a funny thing happened.
I was shopping online for an outfit to wear to a wedding. One outfit had a recommended wrap to go with it. I didn’t examine it too closely, but it was navy and appeared to have some sort of design on both ends. I ordered it and to my surprise, when it arrived it was navy gauze with same color embroidery designs. Hmmm.
I know. It’s a terrible picture, but hopefully you get an idea of what it looked like. Of course the outfit didn’t fit and I ended up wearing something else to the wedding, but after that shawl went back in the mail, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would do something similar but unique.
So I prepped one of the gauze pieces. First I washed it and thankfully I washed it separately and in cool water because the color ran like mad. After it was dried and pressed, I split the piece lengthwise and sewed it end to end to make one long piece (about 72 inches by 26 wide) and hand hemmed it.
Next I sat down with a sketch pad and started to draw design ideas. This is the rough design I came up with
It’s not a great image because my scanner isn’t at big as the sketchpad I was using, but you get the idea. The solid dots were to be French knots and the open dots would be beads. I even had some beads that I thought might work.
Initially I just used a large embroidery hoop and started stitching, but it soon became apparent that, gauze is almost as stretchy as jersey knit.
So I ripped all of that out and started over with some Sulky water soluble stabilizer backing it up. Oh, and I always split a 6 strand embroidery thread in two and work with three stands at a time. It makes a more delicate design and is easier to get through the eye of the needle, but some might object. At any rate, yesterday afternoon I finally found a couple of hours to sit down and work on the embroidery, and here is what I have so far.
Like many occasional embroiders, I’m a knotter. I have never mastered the art of making the back look as good as the front, and my stitches aren’t nearly small enough, and, and…. Anyway, because this fabric is so light, I expect I will sew two pieces back to back to cover the mess, but who knows when I will get around to that? Now I’m off to order flowers for the Mother-in-law. Something I know I should do.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pattern Writing is Killing Me!

But I keep doing it. This last project was much easier to make than to document. It was a pretty organic thing that changed and evolved from the original design as I found things that didn’t work or were harder than they needed to be. The bag was made for a favorite Aunt’s birthday in February. It should have been for Christmas, but you know how that goes. Anyway, the pattern is finally done and posted on
I’ve made quite a few bags this year. This one was for my Mother-in-law for Christmas, and is a modified and embellished version of my basic project bag pattern. It included a matching accessory bag and features a patchwork pocket on the front and a piece of handmade filet crochet lace on the back pocket.
That piece of lace was my beginner project in filet crochet and I had no idea if I would ever use it for anything – it makes a good argument for never throwing anything away.
I also designed a sweet little bag for my grandniece. She is five and mad about pink. This Rowan handknit cotton was perfect. It will hold up to childish handling and if necessary is even washable.
I lined it with a little scrap of quilter’s cotton that I had left over from an earlier project. What was that I said about never throwing anything away?
This bag is only about six inches across and I decided it would be a cute little evening bag for mom too. So I made up that version as well with a sparkly beaded yarn from Tilli Tomas’ Flurries line. I added a button hole and used a bead I had hanging around for the button. What did I say about…
And yes, these patterns are online too. In fact it’s two for one since I always try to include some variations and options at the end of my patterns. Here's that link.
But enough about bags. Today I’m working on an embroidery project. Picture paisley designs worked in thread and beads on a deep teal gauze. I thought it would make a fun summer wrap. More on that as it progresses.