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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ornaments Past and Present

For the last several years I've made ornaments each Christmas that reflect a new skill I've learned or as a tribute to an artist I admire. I attach these to packages, give them away as favors at holiday parties and as hostess gifts, and keep a few to hang on our own tree.

In 2006 I was interested in needle tatting and made little beaded snowflakes and wreaths

In 2007 I was all about crazy quilting as I worked on a Victorian bed sized quilt similar to an antique one that my mother had from her mother. More on that here.

2008 was the year of wet felting. I was crocheting and wet felting everything in sight. If you would like to try making them, here is the pattern

I guess I must have skipped 2009, but by 2010, I was enamored or an embellishment technique I had learned from an article in Quilting Arts magazine. More on this idea here
And again in 2011, I totally stole this technique for a large size reverse trapunto quilt and used it for ornaments. Here is the blog post about the technique.
Last year a friend introduced me to Natalie Chanin, the awesome designer behind Alabama Chanin. After looking at her gorgeous apparel, how could I not make hand sewn cotton jersey ornaments. Natalie offers finished product, kits, and workshops, so take a look at her website.

This year I was a bit stumped for an idea, and then right around Thanksgiving I was looking at an email from Sew Daily right before going to sleep. The message included this image.
I'm one of those crazy people that problem solves in my sleep. Well of course I woke up in the middle of the night with an understanding of how I could make these.

It couldn't be easier. Use stiff double sided fusible interfacing and bond fabric on both sides of a sheet. Use a rotary circle cutter (or draw circles and cut them out by hand). I made mine about 3 1/2 inches. You will need a total of four circles for each ornament, but it you fuse up larger sheets, you can cut multiples of one fabric. I fused fat quarters (or scraps from other projects that were about that size) and was able to get  up to 16 circles out of each bonding effort. If you have a sewing machine that can handle a really thick stack, then stitch two of the circles together right down the middle (I used a vanishing marker to draw a line in the center of each circle from top to bottom). Now fold both of those circles back on themselves to make two sets of wings. Match up the remaining two circles with the previously sewn pieces and stitch down through all thicknesses. If your machine chokes on that much fabric, these are just as easy to stitch by hand, and a good "in front of the TV" project. Open out the eight wings. If desired you can hand stitch a small bead between each wing to help them stay open. The final step is to take a 7-8 inch piece of embroidery floss and centering it on the bottom of the ornament, bring it up between the wings. Tie it close to the top of the ornament, and again at the ends of the floss to create a hanger. That's it. Easy-peasey!

Friday, December 6, 2013


I wrote the following post in the car on Sunday, but of course didn't get around to posting it until today. Such is life at this time of year...

Another Thanksgiving weekend is coming to a close as we wend our way south to Atlanta. We had a full house at the Gilliland’s (my husband’s family) 17 people spread across the kitchen and dining room tables and two more card tables set up in the living room. 
The groaning table was set on an old door propped atop two vintage singer sewing machine tables – treadles of course. One of the new additions to the family is a delightful teenage girl participating in a Foreign Exchange program from South Korea. After dinner she and Grace spent time cutting coupons to go shopping later. Of course none of us realized until later that we had neglected to explain what a coupon is. We all had a good chuckle over that.

Later in the weekend we had dinner out with many of my husband’s friends from school days. He is so lucky that so many of his close childhood friends have stayed close together in this rural patch of Southern Illinois where he grew up. We see them all often and have been able to keep up with their lives.

Tucked in here and there were trips to Aunt Pat’s basement studio to see what she is working on, and I had a little quilt fashion show with the three quilts I've been working on for Christmas gifts. I even managed to find a few minutes to finish the binding on the last one. Whew! Didn’t know if I would ever get those finished in time and now I have time to spare.  Patterns and pictures coming after the big reveal!

On a sad note we and our dog Lady said our final farewells to Buster, a family dog that has been a joyful playmate for all the years we have been taking her to the Farm. He isn't doing well, and we know he won't be there the next time we visit, but we are glad that we all spent time with him, and he seemed happy despite his infirmities. And it was sweet to see how gentle Lady was with him. This is how we will remember him.
So we head back to Atlanta, and our normal life – or as normal as anyone’s life is in this crazy season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The next couple of weeks will be crammed full of busy. Food to make, a house to decorate, gifts to make, purchase, and wrap. And I have a neat idea for this year’s holiday ornament. As always, it seems in my head like it will be a snap and quite unique. Tomorrow I’ll head to the studio and give the technique I have in mind a try. I hope you are ready for the controlled chaos to come. Personally I can’t wait!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Call it Serendipity

or kismet (have always loved that word), or just happenstance.
For Christmas 2011 I made a quilted throw to hang in front of the fireplace - because honestly in Atlanta even in winter - you almost never use the thing. 
As evidenced by the houseplants still sitting on the porch when I took these photos the following fall.

Despite my over-the-top affection for Christmas, you've got to love The Grinch that Stole Christmas!
and all those sweet folks living down in Whoville. Thank you Theodor Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss. And thank you Robert Kaufman Fabrics for licensing the designs and making the fabric available. By the way, I notice it's still available at (and elsewhere), and now I see they have it in flannel!

So here comes the wonderful coincidence. My guild held a pillow swap recently, and when I pulled a number out of the hat, which pillow did I get?
Why this fabulous bit of Grinchmas of course.

My fellow guild member, Linda Petersen-Smith made four of these panels with scraps from another project, and then sewed them up with coordinating fabric to make the pillow. I couldn't be happier with the pillow or the little bit of serendipity. Funny how things work out sometimes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Colorful, Crazy, Craftsy BOM 2013 Finished?

I know. This quilt top is crazy busy already, but believe it or not, I don't think it's done. First of all, it's basically square now, and that's sort of bugging me. It feels like it needs to be more of a rectangle. Also, I still have piles of fabric left, and those flying geese and half square triangles seem lonely. I think we need a bunch more of those. I'm thinking about adding more of both at the top and bottom. And maybe some more spools too. Love those spools.
If you remember, it was supposed to look like this. I did eliminate the flower basket and add the New York Beauty Circle of Flying Geese, more or less in the center. And I banished all of the pink and blue.

Somehow none of that made my version look any less busy, and I know I'm nuts to think about adding more detail and making it bigger. In my defense, when I showed it to my husband, he thought it was "cool" and especially liked the "tumbling blocks" (though he did mention that they didn't look like they were tumbling). His appreciation makes me want to press on, but I will set it aside for a few weeks and see if I find enlightenment in my sleep. Maybe if I finish it and use it as the couch quilt, we can snuggle under it and manage not to fall asleep while watching TV. I really can't imagine falling asleep under this one. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tetris Hex

I really seem incapable of designing a quilt with fabric I don't love. When a guild comes up with a challenge related to a particular fabric line, I'm always happy when they say I don't have to use all of the fabric I'm given because invariably out of ten prints, there are two that leave me feeling somewhere between meh and ick.

That wasn't really a problem with the latest quilt I'm working on. Yes there are a couple of colors and one print design in the "Glimma" line by Lotta Jansdotter for Windham Fabrics that don't send me.

But there are plenty to choose from that I love. These are the ones I ordered with no idea how they would come together. Some designers are adamant about not using multiple prints from one fabric line, but I'm so much more interested in the shapes and putting the quilt design together. If the fabric designer has done some of the work and assembled a collection of prints and colors that works together, I'm fine with that.

Some of these prints are big, so I needed to to design something that worked with the scale. Also, I've been sort of obsessed - as have most of the people I like best in the quilting community - with the hex shape for over a year.

Voila. The majority of the Hexagrams in this quilt are six inchers, with a few half size thrown in for interest. I wanted a design with lots of negative space to allow for dense texture in the quilting, so when I started laying out the hexies on a solid background with big gaps in between, I quickly started thinking of the old computer game called Tetris. Do you remember it? All those differently shaped blocks (called tetriminos I've just learned) were falling from the top of the screen, and you had to twist and turn them so that they fit into the stack already at the bottom. I was somewhat addicted to the game back in the early 90s. But I digress.
I have a plan for lots of point to point quilting in that negative space to really emphasize the geometric shapes. Unfortunately I went ahead and spray basted this and then rolled it up to get it out of the way. I can see I'm going to have to do more pressing before I can begin on the quilting.

Like the last few quilts I've designed, the back of this quilt is also pieced, so it can be reversible. I just hope the dense point-to-point quilting planned for the front doesn't mess up the look of the  back. Ah well. Nothing ventured and all that rot.
By the way, those hexagrams aren't appliqued. I actually pieced this puppy, and developed a new love for Y seams in the process. I used this specially designed hexagon ruler to cut out the shapes and it was easy peasy to sew them together.
This will also be a Christmas gift for a special woman. I wonder if she will read this post and guess that it is for her? Well that is, it will be a gift for Christmas if I get busy and finish the quilting and binding. I did make the label for the back today, so I'm making progress.  And no, I'm not giving everything away with that label. Christmas always calls for a few surprises.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Modern Neutrals Block of the Month

October - Lucky Star
I'm really starting to love the quilt I'm making with Amy Gibson's Sugar Block Club. The designs are all modern twists on traditional blocks, and making them up in solids instead of prints gives such a different look to the project.
I fell behind on this one and had to scramble during October to make July, August and September blocks as well. 
July - Lime Sherbet

August - Camp Out

September - Come Fly with Me
Now I'm starting to think about how I will lay out the entire quilt. As I mentioned here, I've also been making smaller versions of each block, but haven't begun to figure out how (or even if) they will be included in the final quilt top. Stay tuned with just two more months to go!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blend Hip Holiday Table Topper Update

I've just published the pattern for this holiday table topper here. It will make a great gift for family and friends, so check it out.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Blend Hip Holiday Challenge

This year our guild is participating in the Blend Fabrics challenge to create new quilty things from their Hip Holiday line designed by Josephine Kimberling. Each participating guild member has been provided with a ten by ten square of each print in the line. We are allowed to add additional fabric from the line, or any coordinating solid, and completed pieces are due this month.
Wonder of wonders, I completed my piece last week, a full two weeks before it was due at our guild meeting.
The best part of this challenge is that all we submit are pictures, which Blend Fabrics can use as they see fit. The finished pieces are ours to keep.
Those who have been following me for awhile know that I go all out to decorate for Christmas. Every room gets the full treatment, and I have quite an assortment of items I've made for this purpose. For this project I decided to make a table topper that I can use in the den on our coffee table. This is what I came up with for a design. The central focus print shows old woody station wagons headed hither and yon with Christmas trees strapped on top. That sure said "road trip" to me, so I used flying geese to suggest the round-about journey in search of the perfect tree.
Not satisfied to use a simple backing, I also decided to piece the back and echo the geese and blocks from the front. I'm glad I did that as I now have a reversible table topper that can work with different decorations depending on my mood. Also, the red side probably won't show so much of the dog hair that seems to embed itself into every textile around the house. Sigh.
When I got around to quilting it up, I had just finished a section of Leah Days' Free Motion Quilting a Sampler class on In the video class she demonstrated how to make the wandering clover design, so I had to work some of that into the project. Don't know if you can see it too well in this picture of the actual quilt, but it's a really easy and forgiving filler that is just a bit more interesting than a standard stipple. I've added a line drawing to show it a bit better. Every inch or so you pause in the stippling to add a three petaled clover. Note that even my line drawing isn't perfect. I have a few lines too close to each other and (gasp) I actually crossed my own line once or twice. It's OK. I've given myself permission not to be perfect. How about you? Give it a try

So that's it for today. The holiday sewing is officially underway!

Update: I've just published the pattern on Check it out here.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Floating Frames

Are you familiar with Hawthorne Threads? I know I've written about this online shop before, and not to go overboard, but they really are smart about how they present their product. They have the very best newsletter, at least from their point of view. They send me a newsletter via email every week, and every week the photos suck me right in and I start imagining what I will make with some newly arrived fabric line. Isn't it funny how a well designed newsletter can make a product irresistible while poor photographs or a busy, busy newsletter design can turn you off completely?
A couple of months ago a newsletter showed up with pictures of P&B Textiles new design Hello Dahlia. It wasn't a minute before I knew I needed to buy some of it... perhaps even lots of it. I think at first it caught my eye because of the name. My mom grew really pretty deep crimson dahlias and I always loved them. What you don't get from this group photo is the dramatic difference in scale in these prints.
I bought mostly greys and blacks with just a few prints with some red. When the package arrived I was delighted to find that the prints with names like Abstract Floral, Mosaic, and Printed Lines, were quite subtle, but the focus print called Hello Dahlia indeed says HELLO! I still didn't know what the quilt would look like, but I knew I needed a piece of that to focus the design. I also knew that these colors were just right for a woman I was planning to give a quilt for Christmas. And I thought that something rather improvisational would be right for her as well. At first I thought about doing another wonky log cabin, but I thought she deserved an original design - not something I had done before.  
What I ended up with is a collection of frames - some filled with images and some appearing empty - all floating on point in a sea of the black abstract floral. There is a lot going on in this design, but still plenty of neutral space for interesting quilting.
And the back is pieced too, so hopefully it will work as a reversible. Can't wait to get quilting on it. I think I can make some of those frames pop and others recede with some careful free motion quilt work. Once I get it finished I'll write up the pattern and give you a heads up that it is available. That was my finish for the week. How about you?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Another Finish

About a year ago I wrote about making napkins. In a couple of cases I made napkins to match table runners I gave to friends and family. I've made quite a few of the insulated table runners that can serve as one big hot pad in the center of the table. This pink and cream one was designed to match my mother-in-laws dishes, and I fussy cut roses and appliqued them hither and yon.
This one has a similar story. It was made for a favorite aunt to go with her Franciscan Apple dishes. And I made a few others. 

Even before I made these gifts, I had one planned for myself. Mine was going to be big and I planned to use it on the kitchen counter to the left of my stove. I have a granite countertop to the right which I can set hot pans on, but I thought it would be nice when cooking for a big group to have plenty of surface to take something hot.
Well guess what! After only about a year and a half. I finally finished mine.
Truth be told, now that it's finished, I don't know if I will ever use it. With family far away we don't have lots of big family dinners here at the house, and the only big party I cook for at home is at Christmas. This fabric definitely doesn't say Happy Holidays. But at least the project is out of the  UFO pile.

And it does have a really adorable little girl and pup for a back. In fact the whole design was predicated on using this panel for the backing. I don't usually go for cutesy images or sayings, but I really liked the cherry pie fabric, and for some unknown reason felt I had to order the panel which was part of the collection. But for the rectangular panel I wanted to use for the backing, I might have designed something square, like this.

But that's another  project for another time. Right now it's time to dig through the UFO pile and finish up a few more projects! How about you? What are you finishing up this week? Month?  Year?