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, July 29, 2011

Roll and Go Baby Changing Pad

Earlier in the week I shared a quilt with you that I made for a young couple who are having their first baby (a boy) next month. I've also made them another baby item that I've made in the past. This roll and go changing pad has been a real hit.
In fact, based on advice from moms, I've made this couple two to coordinate with the custom quilt I designed to match her nursery colors. The fabric is Aviary 2 by Joel Dewberry for Free Spirit (Westminster Fibers) and though it’s not at all babyish, I think the gray, cream, and yellow works for a boy. 
Though I found the original pattern in this book, it doesn't really require a pattern. Just cut out two pieces of coordinating fabric 18” by 22” (or square up a couple of fat quarters). Add a piece of thin batting the same size, and a piece of 7/8 inch grosgrain ribbon that is 16 inches long. Fold over one end of the ribbon and sew a small square of hook and loop (such as Velcro) to cover and secure the end. Now flip the ribbon over and sew the other half of the hook and loop 8 inches from the end (about the middle) of the ribbon.
Your next step is to layer one piece of fabric (the one that will be the inside – in this case the solid gray) and the batting with wrong sides together. Stitch three seams from one long side to the other as shown in the diagram.
Layer the piece you just joined with the other piece of fabric (the outside), with right sides together. Batting will be on the outside. Insert the ribbon half way down the long side between the two pieces of fabric. Make sure that the hook and loop piece on the end of the ribbon is facing in the same direction as the outside fabric and that the opposite end will be caught in the seam. Stitch all the way around the four sides of the rectangle leaving an opening to turn the piece right side out. Trim corners and turn right side out, making sure to get corners sharp, and press. Top stitch close to edge on all four sides to secure the opening and finish the edges.
Fold and roll the changing pad as shown in the video and secure it with your ribbon/hook and loop strap. Toss it in the diaper bag or bottom of the stroller and you will always have a clean place to change the baby, no matter where you are.
And about that book, buy it! Even though this simple project doesn’t need a pattern, there are so many other cute baby things in there you will be glad to have it. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Blogging with Intown Quilters

Wrote a "Tips on Tuesday" guest blog over at Intown Quilters today. It's about the quilt measurement guidelines I wrote about here last week. If you are local to Atlanta or visiting the area, don't miss visiting the shop. Owner, Sarah Phillips makes sure this is one special shop with the most interesting fabric and classes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Another Baby Boy Quilt

How is it that a 50+ year old woman with no children of her own is constantly making things for babies? Just lucky I guess. 
Here is the baby quilt I designed for a mom who is due in August. It’s probably one of the most ambitious projects I’ve taken on because of all the hand work. The images in the light blocks are all hand appliquéd and embellished with hand embroidery. Also the quilt is completely hand quilted. It’s not that any of those techniques are particularly difficult, but all that close quilting is time consuming. I've been anxious to give it to her, so that I could then share it with all of you, and that finally happened Saturday evening. 
The colors are quite unique. Mom and I went shopping for fabric not long after she found out she was pregnant, and she told me she was thinking about gray and cream with just a little bit of yellow. Then she sent me this e-board. Isn't this a clever idea? She has a friend, Christie Chase, who is an talented artist and designer. Christie put this together to provide inspiration for the nursery. The link is to a post on Christie's blog that shows the finished nursery.
It just happened that I stumbled upon another post that day with a couple of these fabrics identified, so I looked them up and ordered a half yard of each pattern in the grey/cream/yellow colorway that Mom favored. You can find the whole line at this link: Aviary 2 by Joel Dewberry for Free Spirit (Westminster Fibers).
As I usually do, I sat around and looked at the fabric for a long time. I had been thinking I would make a quilt of big blocks and embroider cute boy vignettes in several of them. Once I saw the fabric though – especially this wood grained yellow – all I could think about were wooden toys.
I bought cream fabric and dug through the stash to find an assortment of solid grays then set to work on the design.
Those of you that know my work also know I’m not a huge fan of symmetry. So it should come as no surprise that the soldierly rows of blocks are broken up into uneven clumps with shashing. But the real fun came with the images. I pulled many from clip art images on the internet and narrowed it down to these:
A rocking horse          
A ball and bat                        
A wagon                    
A teddy Bear                         
A blue tick hound (because these parents have one)
And a pile of blocks that spell out a name.
I loved that I could make some of those traditionally wooden toys out of wood grained fabric.
If nothing else, this quilt is a reminder that whatever you are making, you should be having fun, and that gifts should always reflect the recipient’s interests.
If you would like to make this quilt, or need a guide to make something similar but tailored to the interest of someone you know, find the pattern here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quilt sizes: How to Measure for Specific Projects

One of the first steps in designing your own quilts is to decide on the overall size of the project. If this quilt is meant to be a wall hanging only, then you can make it any size that will fit in the space where it will be hung. However, if this quilt will be used to cover a bed and keep people (or dogs) warm, then you need to start with the mattress.
If possible, I always measure the bed where the quilt will be used. Begin by measuring the width and length of the mattress top. Next decide how much of a “drop” you want on the quilt. This is the length you want the quilt to hang down on the sides.
Depending on the bed height, whether I want side rails to show, if a dust ruffle will be used, etc. I generally use a drop of 10 – 16 inches. If the quilt is just for show, then it’s all about that, but if people will actually sleep in this bed, then you want to make sure there is room for them under the covers and for the quilt to still hang over the edge a bit.
I also usually plan for the quilt to be either flush against the headboard with pillows/shams on top, or to start right at the edge of the pillows. This depends on the design and how important it is to see that upper border. If you are making a lightweight quilt that will be used as a bedspread (that is with pillows tucked inside the quilt) then you will need to allow for this as well.
When I’m making a gift, I sometimes have to rely on standard sizes. Unfortunately mattress sizes are less standard than they could be – especially when it comes to how deep they are. The Mattress depth can range from 9 to 16 inches  and box springs and the bed frame will raise the whole bed even farther off the floor. Additionally toppers like memory foam or pillow top can add 2 – 4 inches to the depth of the mattress. Despite these challenges, here is some information that will help.

Mattress Sizes

Size in Inches
Crib (Baby)
27 to 28 x 50 to 52
39 x 75
Twin XL (dorm bed)
36 to 39 x 80
Full (double)
54 x 75
60 x 80
California King
72 x 84
76 x 80

Commercial Quilt Sizes

Packaged Batting
Crib (Baby)
36 x 54

45 x 60
65 x 88
81 x 107
72 x 90
Twin XL (dorm bed)

Full (double)
80 x 88
96 x 107
81 x 96
86 x 93
102 x 112
90 x 108
California King

104 x 93
120 x 112
120 x 120

Fons & Porter Standard Quilt Sizes


Crib (Baby)
30 x 54
65 x 95
Twin XL (dorm bed)

Full (double)
80 x 95
86 x 100
California King

106 x 106

When designing your own quilt, be sure to allow for shrinkage of the quilt due to the quilting. Depending on how densely the quilting is done, you can expect between 3 and 5% shrinkage. Fabric requirement calculations also need to allow for fabric shrinkage. Remember that cotton fabric should be washed before cutting. Again you can expect up to 5% shrinkage depending on the quality of the fabric. Finally, remember that cotton fabric on the bolt may not be true to grain. This means that when it is cut at the shop the ends may look straight. However, when you take the fabric home and wash it, it will go make into its true shape. This can also cost a bit of yardage. I general allow for up to two inches on either end of a cut piece of fabric that may need to be discarded.
The same basic measurement guidelines can be used to plan for any quilting project, like this couch throw. My one rule of thumb – a bit too big is better than too small when it comes to a quilt.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

I often look at objects I find appealing and wonder how I could translate the essence of that piece into a quilt. Since visiting Acoma Sky City in New Mexico in 1992, I’ve loved the pottery of the region. When I visited it was on one of the rare days when cameras were allowed on the mesa if you purchased a permit. I had some fabulous photographs of this community that is perhaps the oldest continually inhabited city in North America. Sadly, all of those photos were lost in a flood many years ago.
These black and white images byAnsel Adams taken in the late 1930s and early 1940s don’t do justice to the astounding contrast of china blue sky, creamy adobe structures, and the smiling faces of local women making and selling fry-bread.
I appreciate both vintage works and some that are more modern.
The modern piece at left by Theresa Garcia-Salvador is a favorite of mine.  The artist is just a bit younger than me and is a member of the Red Corn Clan from the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. The paints she uses are all natural pigments from the earth. You can see pottery by many Acoma artists here.
 Of course there are other pots I admire, and which may inspire future projects, but when I saw some of the new Kaufman Kona Solids in warm earth tones along with stark black and white at a Whipstitch, a favorite local shop, I knew I had to make something that evoked these beautiful pots.
I’m still working on the design for this wall hanging, but the drawing gives you an idea of where I’m headed. I suspect the final project will include less solid black and more thread painted lines. The finished piece will be roughly 28 x 32 inches, which is fairly small and manageable on a standard home sewing machine. The real challenge will be figuring out which sections to piece and which to appliqué, but what fun it will be – mixed with a bit of hair pulling I’m sure.
Tell me. What inspires your art?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Crocheted Sampler Bag

How is it possible that I made this bag, wrote up the pattern and began selling it in July 2010, yet somehow never blogged about it? You’ve got me. I’m forgetful that way.
I designed this bag for a beginners Learn to Crochet class. Back in the day when all young girls were taught needlework, samplers where work projects used to practice various techniques such as a cross-stitch sampler. Hence the name. The project teaches the elements of crochet, including several basic stitches such as Single Crochet, Half Double Crochet and Double Crochet, as well as Seed Stitch, Rib Stitch and a couple of Post Stitches (Basketweave and Tall Cables).
If you already know how to crochet and have mastered basic chains, single and double crochet and finishing off, the fancier stitches are quite simple. Do you know them?

Seed stitch is one of the easiest:
Chain a multiple of 2 stitches +1.
Row 1 – ch 1. *sc in st, sk next st, chain 1” across ending with sc.
Row 2 – turn. chain 1. *ch 1, sk sc, sc in ch* across, ending with ch 1.
Repeat rows 1 and 2.
This pattern can also be worked in hdc, dc or tr

Rib stitch isn’t difficult either:
Chain a multiple of 1.
Row 1 – turn. chain 1. Sc in back loop only across.
Repeat row 1.
This pattern can also be worked in dc.

Post stitches are a bit more challenging, but easy once you get the hang of it. These special stitches are worked around the post of the stitch in the previous row to create texture and interest in the work. To do this you insert your hook on one side of the post and come out on the other, then yarn over and pull a loop back around the post.  You will either be working from front to back to front (called front post double crochet but worked behind the post) or back to front to back (in front of the post).
The front post double crochet (fpdc) is worked as follows:
Yarn over (YO) and insert hook from the front, around the post coming out again at the front. Yarn over again and draw up the loop. Now complete the double crochet as usual. That is YO, draw through two stitches. YO and draw through last two stitches.
For the back post double crochet (bpdc):
YO. Insert the hook from the back, around the post, coming out again at the back. YO and draw up a loop in the back of the work and complete the stitch as normal.

To make the basket weave pattern you simply chain a minimum of 6 stitches then a multiple of 3 stitches +2.
Row 1 – turn. ch 2. dc across.
Row 2 – turn. ch 2. hdc, *3 fpdcs, 3 bpdc; repeat from * to * across, ending with hdc.
Row 3 – turn. ch 2. Hdc, *3 fpdc, 3 bpdc*; repeat from * to * across, ending with hdc.
Row 4: same as row 3.
Row 5: same as row 2.
Repeat rows 2 – 5.

The cable stitch is a bit awkward, but again, once you get the hang of it, pretty easy.
Chain a multiple of 6 stitches +1.
All even rows: turn. ch1. sc across.
Row 1 – turn . ch 1. sc across.
Row 3 – turn ch 1. 2 sc *fpdc around sc 2 rows below, sk sc behind fpdc, sc, fpdc around sc 2 rows below, sk sc behind fpdc, 3 sc*. Repeat from * to * ending with 2 scs.
Row 5 – turn. ch 1. 2 sc, fpdc around fpdc and 2 rows below, sk sc behind fpdc, sc, fpdc around fpdc 2 rows below, sk sc behind fpdc, 3 sk*. Repeat from * to * ending with 2 sc.
Row 7 – turn. ch 1. 2 sc, *fpdc around sc 2 stitches forward and 2 rows below, sk sc behind fpdc, sc, fpdc around sc 2 stitches back and two rows below), sk sc behind fpdc, 3 sc*. Repeat from * to * ending with 2 sc.
Row 9 – turn. ch 1. 2 sc *fpde around fpdc 2 rows below, sc sc behind fpdc, sc, fpdc around fpdc 2 rows below, sk sc behind fpdc, 3 sc*. Repeat from * to * ending with 2 sc.
Repeat rows 4 – 9.
The bag is made up of one block of each of the seven stitch patterns in each of three colors.
I made it up in these bright Rowan Handknit cottons because I already had the pink and I thought it would be fun to add a couple more colors to make it summery and bright. Then I found this adorable retro fabric for a lining. The fabric so reminded me of all those cute mommy and me patterns from McCall’s back in the 50s and 60s.

What’s my favorite thing about this bag? You can roll it up and throw it in your vacation suitcase. When you are ready to pack to come home, you have an extra carry on for all your souvenirs or those precious shells you gathered every morning on the beach. Want to make one for yourself? Find the full pattern here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Color is Christmas?

These are the colors of Christmas right? Red, Green, a bit of gold metallic?
For dress-up our mothers would have chosen something like this red and green plaid taffeta.
Or if we were feeling funky, we might have seen this flannel with a more woodsy color of green find its way into holiday decor?

So why am I so drawn to the color combinations in this non-traditional holiday collection?
This set me to thinking about colorways and how they change over time. What was once modern is now old fashioned. Even the term colorway didn’t enter our lexicon until the 1950s.

Here’s another collection I picked up recently. Notice the lime green and aqua that has worked its way into our holiday palette.

Even hot pink is represented, and the colors and the designs are playful and fun.
I’m still seeing familiar themes like these decorated trees, but my attraction to these colors is leading me in a whole new direction as I think about holiday decorations and gifts this year.
I’m also having had a love affair with cotton crochet thread lately, and joy of joys, Royal makes it in these wonderful not-Christmas colors.

I just couldn’t stop. I made four sets of four coasters, a hot pad, a basket to hold them all, and I still had more thread.

So I made a cute table scarf…
and I still have this much…
I’m thinking I need a lace shawl to wear to holiday parties in 2011. Or perhaps just to have my head examined for stashing in so many different craft areas – fabric, thread, yarn.
Oh well. At least the colors coordinate. And maybe I’ll use that non-Christmas fabric stash to make some new table linens for our Christmas party. I realize we just celebrated the 4th of July, but THE holiday does sneak up on me, so I’d better start planning now. And after digging through the stash for all my holiday fabrics, I have lots of ideas. More to come…

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beach Quilt Update

What a busy spring. Nashville in March, Florida beach vacation at the beginning of May, Memorial Day in Illinois with family, and our very own neighborhood festival (Summerfest) at the start of June. In between I’ve been trying to find time for gardening, sewing for others, and working on my own projects.
For all my wailing and gnashing of teeth, the beach quilt worked just as I had hoped.  
Mark spent most of the vacation fishing.
And when Lady wasn’t practicing her newly acquired body surfing technique…
Or guarding the fish
She thought the quilt made a great towel. She often sought out the shady spot. Most importantly she didn’t lay her head down in the sand and come up licking a pound of sand off her nose. No sick puppy this year.
I, of course, was working on a new “quilt as you go” project, which I’ll tell you about soon.
After our return the beach quilt was loaned out to friends who took it along on their beach vacation. And I expect it will see some use at summer concerts at the Atlanta Botanical Garden as well.
Or maybe it will just be spread in the back yard for our own little picnic
All in all it was worth the pain, and the pattern really is quite simple. In fact, for my loyal followers, shoot me an e-mail at and I’ll send you my pattern gratis. Others can find it in my pattern store on here And if you need a coordinating beach umbrella...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Civil War Era Quilts on Display

This year, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, quilters will have a perhaps unique opportunity to learn about the quilts and quilters of that time. Exhibits are popping up all over the country.
Over Memorial Day weekend I had the chance to see an amazing exhibit at the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center at Rend Lake.  Naturally we were not allowed to do any flash photography of such rare and fragile textiles, so the only image is this one reproduced from their website.
Many of these quilts had never been exhibited before and each is accompanied with a story of the woman who made it and her family’s role in the war.
Only seventeen quilts are on display, which at first doesn’t seem like much of a collection. However, knowing that many Civil War era quilts went off with soldiers and were either worn to rags or used to bury the fallen, it is amazing that so many remain from the communities of central and southern Illinois.
The story of the quilting women of Illinois was one of mixed feelings and divided loyalties. Though Illinois regiments fought with the Union army of the North, many of the settlers of Illinois, especially of Southern Illinois, had come from Kentucky and other areas that supported the Confederacy. These stories made the quilts even more touching to view. Read more about the history of Civil War Quilts here.
The exhibit runs through October 30, 2011 so if you manage to be anywhere near Southern Illinois this summer or fall, I urge you to go. Find more information about the exhibit here.
As I mentioned, Illinois isn’t the only place to see amazing Civil War quilts. Every fall the astounding “Dear Jane” quilt , (made by Jane Sickle in 1863), is displayed at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, VT. Because of the fragility of this quilt it is only displayed for about six weeks each year, and I think it would be well worth the trip. Read more about the quilt here.
Is there a Civil War anniversary event focusing on textiles and quilts planned for your town? Leave a comment and let us all know about it.