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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An Aside: Why I Should Blog About Food

As a blogger who writes mostly about quilts and occasionally about other crafty projects, I sometimes wish I blogged about food. I mean I don't find time to quilt every day, but I always eat. Most days I even cook. How great would it be to have something new to write about every day. Take today. My dog was feeling lazy so our walk was cut short. That gave me an extra hour in my morning. So zippity zip...

a few ingredients

rolled together

in about an hour and a half we have a pretty pie!

Write down the recipe just so...

Apple Pie Recipe 
6 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (depending on the tartness of your apples)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour and salt, then mix in the shortening with a pasty blender. Add just enough cold water to bring dough together, and divide into two sections. Roll out the bottom crust and gently place it in a pie plate. Peel, core, and slice apples and mix them in a bowl with cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice. Pile fruit into the pie plate and mound up. Roll out top crust and place it on top of the pie. Trim excess crust from edges of pie plate leaving about an inch all the way around. Fold crust under and crimp to seal. Cut 3 - 5 vent holes in top of pie. Bake in a 450 degree oven for ten minutes then reduce heat to 350 and cook for an additional 35 - 40 minutes. 

Voila! Cooking I was going to do anyway and all I had to do was take a few pictures.

On those days when I don't cook, how easy is it to write a review of the yummy or not so yummy dishes I ate at the restaurant. Now I'm sure my food blogging friends will howl, but life would be simpler if I was a food blogger. 

Unfortunately, what this post misses is the real love of subject that I feel for quilting, apparel and home decor sewing, crochet, felting, and holiday ornaments. Guess I will just have to be satisfied with far less than a post a day.

Still, Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Making Half Square Triangles

I've been a busy bee lately finishing up projects and writing new patterns, so today I thought I would give you a little snippet of one. I made the quilt at right for the Michael Miller challenge to the Modern Quilt Guild. I call it tilt. I'm not quite ready to release the pattern yet, so here is a tutorial from the pattern on making half square triangles

When quilters talk about half square triangles, we are really talking about a square block that is made up of two right triangles. There are several ways to make them, and today's tutorial is about my favorite.
Obviously you could cut two right triangles and just stitch them together. But that is always a little tricky. You have to line them up just right to end up with a truly square block. 

The easiest way for me to make perfectly square units quickly starts with two squares that are larger than the finished half square triangles. In today's example, I cut two 4 inch by 4 inch squares to end up with two 3 ½ inch half square triangles which when sewn into a quilt top will finish at 3 inches square.
Other tutorials will tell you to calculate the size of the square you need to cut by taking the size of your finished square and adding 7/8 of an inch. However, I like to add a full inch as it gives me a bit of fudge room to square up the block after sewing and pressing.

Layer the two squares with right sides together, and with your ruler and a washout marking pen (or any fabric marker you prefer) make a diagonal line on the back of one piece of fabric. Generally choose the fabric where the line is going to show best. Here I have drawn the line on the white fabric.

At the sewing machine sew a scant quarter inch seam on one side of the line, removing pins as you sew.

Flip the piece around and sew another seam on the opposite side of the line. Trim your threads and return to the cutting board.

Use your ruler and rotary cutter and divide the piece along the line you drew (and between the two seams). Now take the two pieces to the ironing board and press each open, pressing seam allowances toward the darker fabric.

If you are anything like me these two half square triangles might be a bit wonky. This generally happens because the steam used in pressing has stretched the fabric just a bit. Never fear! That is why we cut the original squares at 4 inches instead of 3 ⅞ inches. Go back to the cutting board and using a 4 ½ inch ruler (or whatever ruler you have), trim up your square to be exactly 3 ½ inches. The advantage of this specialized ruler is that you can line up the diagonal on the ruler with the diagonal on your square to make sure you take extra fabric from the sides equally.
Voila! Two half square triangles in the time it would have taken you to make one. This is the method I always use if I want to make lots of half square triangles but they need to be from different fabrics.

If you need a big bunch of half square triangles that are all the same, the easiest way is to take two much larger squares, sew around the outside edges and then cut twice diagonally, but that is a story for a different day.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fabric Friday - American Made Brand

I couldn't be more excited. This week I received my first shipment of American Made Brand fabrics. Have you heard about them? 

American grown cotton, spun into yarn here in the United States, woven into greige goods at one of our oldest weaving mills, and then on to an American dyeworks. I notice their latest marketing materials read "farm to fabric" and "not just made here, grown here", but I really love an earlier tagline.. "from dirt to shirt".

This may not sound so impressive until you realize how dramatic the decline in our textile industry. This may well be the only all cotton product (farm to fabric) produced in the United States. Oh we still grow lots of cotton. The South was built on cotton. But now over 70% of the cotton grown here is shipped overseas to textile mills with cheap labor, and (in some cases) questionable work practices.

Making the fabric here must make it really expensive, right? Not the case. Hawthorne Threads is selling it for $7.25/yard. Some high volume online stores have it for even less!

American Made Brand has a challenge on right now for quilts that will be displayed at International Quilt Market at the end of October. Unfortunately I just saw the notice and submissions (i.e. photos of finished quilts) are due by August 15th. Ah well. I didn't really need another deadline. 

What am I going to make with my treasure trove? Well a few more fabrics showed up that tell more of the story, and it might have to do with a couple of adorable youngsters that need more "grown up" sleeping bags.

And what girl doesn't need a pink camouflage flannel lined sleeping bag. I'm also going to have to incorporate a figure skate into this somehow. Hard to believe, but I searched high and low and couldn't find any figure skating themed fabric that would work with pink - hardly found any period.

I'm planning to use Kam Snaps instead of a monster zipper. That way they can open the bag out flat and use it as a beach or picnic blanket for years to come.

I thought this Amy Butler print might work too, but you know what? I'm just not an Amy Butler kind of girl. 

For the grown up young man, I'm thinking Star Wars. After all, even my 40 something husband still thinks Star Wars is cool. Might have to applique an X-Wing Starfighter on the carry bag!

And the best news? Thankfully these gifts won't be due until Christmas!

Monday, July 21, 2014

More Quick Satisfaction

Well over a year ago, I wrote here and here about ideas for using up some of the stash of selvage edges I've been collecting. 

Way back in February 2013 I got them all color sorted

I decided to make a long narrow wall hanging to replace this painting, which I kinda hate. It's boring and mundane and I was pressured into buying it at one of those art by the yard house parties. 


Now that it's hanging in that little piece of wall space between two doors I kind of wish I had added more neutral border at the top and bottom, and then added a dark narrow border to frame the whole piece. Ah well, next time. This went together so quickly - probably a total of five or six hours over two days - so I may well make another one soon. I am loving these quick projects.

To make one of your own, select the selvage strips you want to use overlapping the finished edge on top of the raw edge of the piece below. Sew the strips together, sewing a scant 1/4 inch from the finished edge. Cut a couple of pieces of background fabric that are the height of your selvage collection and the desired width to go on both sides of the wall hanging. Now lay these strips on each side of the selvage collection overlapping by about two inches. Use your rotary cutter to cut a wavy line through both, and discard the scraps. Now pin, pin, pin those curved edges and sew the sides on. Clip the curves and press the seams towards the center. That's it. 

Quilt and bind to suit, including either a hanging sleeve, or corner pockets for a hanging rod. I've been using this method with corner pockets and a simple piece of dowel from the hardware store lately. Easy Peasy. I hope you decide to make one and if you do, please leave a comment here with a link to where we can all see it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Love Quick Finishes - Here is "Prairie Bloom"

This is so unlike me. I started this project last weekend and here it is finished. I'm not that inclined to dawdle when I do apparel sewing or make bags. Those are often start to finish in a day or two, but quilts? Never,

It does help that this one is a small wall hanging or table topper - it finished at about 25 x 23 inches - but consider: 

I didn't know what I was making when I started building the equilateral triangles (look here for the technique); The background material was still sitting at Fat Quarter Shop and had to be mailed; used a different quilting design than I had ever tried before; and, the binding was done by hand.

You can really see the quilting in the picture of the back. 

I may have to do more small projects just to get that burst of happiness that comes from accomplishing something more often!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Delightful Distractions

I'm so easily distracted. One day last week my guild-mate, Allegory, posted about the technique she uses to make scrappy string triangles. The idea of piecing on muslin instead of paper seemed brilliant to me. So did I file that away for some future project? Heck no, I hightailed it straight down to the studio, pushed everything I was supposed to working on to one side, and started making my own scrappy gems.

Pretty, pretty

Even with a couple of days off to work on some outdoorsy growing stuff projects, I've now completed two dozen of these six inch equilateral triangles, and purchased some lovely mushroom colored sashing fabric. Yep. That's me. So easily distracted.

Until next time...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Quilt Label Brilliance

I know I tend to rhapsodize about the West Atlanta Modern Quilt Guild, but here is reason number one zillion and two for why it's great to belong to a guild. A couple of months ago we were talking about quilt labels and I mentioned that I buy special ink jet printer fabric on rolls. I can cut the fabric to size and because it has a paper backing attached to keep it firm enough, I can run it right through my printer to make labels. The only problem is that it comes in one color – white.

One of my guild mates piped up and said that she didn't bother with special paper. She prints right on a scrap of the fabric from her quilt. How does that work you ask? Perfectly.

Just start with a scrap of fabric - in my case 8 ½ inches wide by 4 inches tall.

Spray the back of the fabric with some spray adhesive. I use OdifUsa 505 brand. Make sure to place the fabric on a scrap of paper so that you don’t end up with over-spray on your table or cutting mat.

Affix the fabric to a piece of regular computer paper, and trim to the proper size.

Now use whatever application you prefer to design your label. I use Microsoft PowerPoint, but as long as you can position the text and print, it really doesn't matter what you use.

Once your label is printed, let it dry completely (about fifteen minutes), then use a dry iron to heat set the ink.

Peel the computer paper off the back of your label, fold the edges under and give it a good press, and you are ready to stitch it onto the back of your quilt.

Brilliant right? And I never would have known to try this if I didn't belong to a guild with talented and clever quilters!

I also made the label for my Michael Miller challenge quilt but you will just have to wait until I can get some decent pictures to see more of that. 

Until next time, happy stitching!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pouch Crazy

Last week I wrote about the pouch I made for my sewing buddy. Well it didn't end there.
I made a three pocket pouch for my grandniece for her birthday. 
See... three lined pockets with matching zippers. I followed this tutorial with a few modifications.  I don't usually sew from other people's patterns as I like the design component so much. However, I learned some really neat tricks working with that pattern, which I was able to incorporate into the pouch for the guild swap.
And as my reward, I received this adorable thank you note. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know that there are still kids who write thank you notes.
I had no sooner sent this pouch off and received the sweet note when my guild announced - you guessed it - a pouch swap. Because it was for someone in my guild, I wanted to make something original, so I went to the drawing board.
First I tried to think about a type of pouch that I would really use, and hope I've hit on something others will appreciate. 
Here in Atlanta it is festival season. Every neighborhood has their own festival to raise money for parks, and other improvements that taxes just can't cover. Ours is called Summerfest. Typically a festival is held on Saturday and Sunday and kicks off with a parade and road race in the morning. Key streets in the neighborhood are closed off to set up an artist market, food trucks, a stage for bands, beer sales, and did I mention an artist market? You get the picture. Me wandering around listening to music, sipping a beer, and needing a place to keep cash, ID, and a credit card - 'cause did I mention the artist market? 
Based on that need, I came up with this idea for a zippered pouch with a very long strap so it could be worn cross body.
As you can see, I used English paper piecing to make a fabric piece about
nine inches wide by 20 inches tall. The finished bag is closer to eight by nine. 
There it is all pieced with the papers still attached to the back. You can see that I used two different shades of orange combined with some gray scraps all left over from another project. The fabric shown here is from the Spot On and Metro Living collections from Robert Kaufman, and they differentiate the colors as orange and tangerine.
After I removed the paper templates, I fused a lightweight piece of interfacing to the back of the fabric to give it a bit more body and stability - I don't honestly trust my hand stitching all that well, but fusibles can fix anything.
Next I squared up the fabric, 
and cut it in half. 
Fortunately I had purchased a bulk package of YKK zippers a couple of months ago, so matching zippers were in my stash. You can see with this photo where this is headed.
I love this neat technique found in the triple zipper pouch tutorial for finishing the zipper ends. 

And I was able to line each pocket (one shallow pocket on each side and a large full sized pocket down the middle) with more Spot On (snow on white). The instructions for how to insert the zippers and line the pouch pockets in one fell swoop are included in the tutorial from Debbie at A Quilter's Table mentioned above. And yes, Debbie is a much more prolific quilter and blogger than me. Hats off to that, and to her awesome quilts.
The exchange happens on Thursday, so I really hope whoever gets this one likes it. And I have full plans to make another for myself. I'm noodling with using up some prized selvage strips for mine instead of the hand sewn hexies. What do you think?

Until next time!
Kay Stephenson for Stitching Times

Friday, June 13, 2014

Everyday Inspiration

The West Atlanta Modern Quilt Guild has hosted some of the best swaps and challenges in the past year and a half that we have been in existence, but I think the recent "Everyday Inspiration" is my favorite so far. Our President, Robyn Webb, challenged us to take pictures of things we see in our everyday life, and then to select one and create a quilt that is inspired by the photo.
As with most assignments, I chose not to completely follow directions. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I toured Heath Ceramics in Sausalito with family and friends. Even the historic factory design by Marquis and Stoller in 1959 is inspiring. Read more about that here.
But I was most taken with glaze samples that I saw hanging on the walls. The image immediately put me in mind of all the Kaffe Fassett shot cottons I had sitting in my stash - some dark, some light, and some just that shade of gold. I knew before we left the place that this image would somehow figure in my entry for the challenge.
Later that same day we were in Berkeley and stopped in a restaurant called Eureka, (which I am determined to call Bang because of their signage). When I saw that sign facing me as I sat down, I loved it! For those that aren't in the know, this is an exclamation mark, or exclamation point, but for printers and programmers, it is commonly referred to as the "bang". 
Not to stray too far afield, but the symbol was thought to derive from medieval copyists who used to write the Latin word io at the end of a sentence to indicate joy! what a perfect summation for what had been a perfect day in the bay area.
So I didn't choose just one photo for inspiration, but two. However, I didn't noodle on those images for long after we returned to Atlanta because we left a few days later for a week at the beach. I needed a hand project for the car ride and this was it! I printed out two inch squares on freezer paper, grabbed fabric and scissors and off we went. I never would have thought to make this sort of straight-forward grid using English paper piecing, but it worked out great. In the past when I've tried to work with the Kaffe Fassett shot cottons, I've found them to be a stretchy pain, but there was none of that with this method. 
I did have a bit of a fit with the big gold bang, as it wanted to move around quite a bit, and I wanted to do some thread painting prior to quilting. I compromised by spray basting it to the background and then stitching all around the raw edge to start. given the barn wood decor of the restaurant and the sign, I wanted to let the edges ravel and be a bit more rustic. For quilting I decided to use straight-forward stitch-in-the-ditch to make the "tiles" pop. 
This was a truly fun challenge that had our members stretching to try things they had not done before - like designing their own piece and working without a pattern. Check out some more of our finishes here, and consider a similar challenge for your guild in the future.