Thursday, December 11, 2014

Quick Gift: Microwave Bowl Cozy

Sewing a last minute gift is practically a tradition for most quilters. This year the Microwave Bowl Cozy (yes, it just a giant pot holder!) seems to be all over the web, so here are my directions for making it:

Microwave safe 100% cotton batting--TWO 15" squares (see fabric below)-- I used Wrap & Zap by the Warm Co. They are no longer making Warm Tater, but say that Warm & Soft is the same...I could not find that in the Big Box store. You want something without a scrim (which Warm & Natural has, even though it says 100% cotton). I have never heard a personal experience of batting catching fire in a microwave, and suspect it might happen only if you cook something too long! But I also did not want to run my own test!

100% Cotton fabric-- TWO 15" squares-- you can measure a bowl or plate and make a custom size, but I think this will fit anything pretty well. It could be larger or smaller, but cut the batting to same size, to make two pairs of fabric & batt. They can be different prints/ colors, etc.

MACHINE SET UP This is the stuff nobody thinks to tell you about before you get started!
Use a size 90/ 14 needle, because you will be going through a lot a layers before you're done (esp. if you have a chosen a BATIK for this or pieced the squares).
Match your bobbin to the top thread! Just do it now so you don't have to wish you had later.
You can sew the whole thing with a walking foot if your machine handles lots of layers better with one. If so, put it on now.
Use a slightly longer stitch not sew this with teeny tiny stitches.

1. Sew an X on each fabric/batt pair, corner to corner.
The two pairs, different sides up
You can see a little zig-zag at the bottom right! It's perfectly OK to piece your batting so you can use the whole package.

2. Make a dart in the center of each side: fold the square in half Wrong Side out, and mark 1" away from the fold, and 2.5" down along the fold. Draw a line to connect the dots (I used a Sharpie). Pin to hold. 
Draw a sewing line for the dart
You can mark two sides, then re-fold the square and mark the other two before sewing.
Each square/pair gets four darts. You can start sewing from either end, and it only has to be back stitched at the point on the fold.
Zig-zag batting join will never be seen!
3. Use your scissors to trim the excess dart fabric. The sewing and  trimming do not have to be precise. be sure you have 4 darts in each square/pair before the next step!
Nobody cares how wide the seam allowance is
4. Place the two square/pairs Right Sides together, one "inside' the other. Pin to match at the darts and corners. Take my word, you want the darts in BEFORE you sew it all together! Unless you'd like a cozy that matches my personal one, which was supposed to be a gift, but ended up with darts on the outside.
Don't worry, it looks better when it's done!
5. LEAVE AN OPENING about 3" when you SEW all the way around. You know why I put that in caps right up front! Sometimes I start by back stitching, then lift the pressure foot and pull the item though a few inches, then back stitch and sew the rest of the way around. The seam allowance can be 1/4", or less, or maybe different on each side!

6. Turn the cozy Right Side out...poke out the corners (nobody cares if they aren't fact, you may want to sew the next one with rounded corners!). Top stitch all around.
I like to close the opening as I top stitch, and usually trim the batting out of the seam allowance there first. You could hand stitch it closed, especially if you want to top stitch more than 1/4" in from the edge and avoid the extra batting layers.
Lots of layers do well with a walking foot. My Janome 7700 has a special one.
7. Most of the instructions end there, but I like a final step to hold the two layers together. In the center of the bottom, sew a little square or just tack in place. That X sewn can be pinned to line up, but it really doesn't matter.
This means you can throw it in the wash, which is a good thing for any item that is used in the kitchen!
One stitch in the center would be enough
Well, that's it! Quick and easy, as well as being very useful. Tell your giftee it just goes right in the microwave with the bowl or plate, ready to protect their hands when they remove the dish. And remind them it can be washed!
I even patched batik scraps for this
Sure, you can use patchwork for one or both sides (it's really 2-sided) or maybe a nice holiday fabric. If the shape seems a little odd, I'd just put a plate of cookies in it, fold in the corners and tie it up with a ribbon. 
Be sure to mention if the plate is microwave safe OR NOT! I got some metal ones from the dollar store, and they are NOT.

As with any simple item, you can get quite creative. But you can also make one of these cozies pretty darn fast!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Scrappy Gift Tags

Holiday gift sewing can sure cause a blog to go can I show what I'm doing when you-know-whos will be reading?
So as slight diversion, here is a little tute on what I did today: Making gift tags! Fused, naturally...and of course with SCRAPS!
Often holiday theme fabrics are kept as a separate collection, but the scraps work just the same. There are always more-more-more, no matter how diligently you apply yourself to using them.

I used lots of scraps, or fabrics that had finally reached their perfect vintage***, to make gifts for the family members I will see at Thanksgiving. I dug into my Christmas collection and even made wrapping for those gifts! But I needed some tags to be sure they didn't get all mixed up.
An index card with fabric fused to the lined side seems to be just about right. To the ironing board!

First, lay down some paper-backed fusible web (I use WONDER UNDER) with the glue side up...that's the side that feels rough.
Place the fabric Right Side up on the fusible.
As a student of the Chicago School of Fusing, I have saved many large pieces of the release paper from using Wonder Under. Other fusibles do not have the same type of paper, so that's why I prefer WU.
That paper on top in the picture is one piece. By placing that on the fabric, I don't have to worry about making sure the fabric is larger than the fusible, or the fact that there are some areas not covered by fabric. The paper will protect my iron. I can move it around until all the fabric areas have been fused.

Hot steam!
Cut off the extra WU hanging over the edge, and trim the excess fabric at the side (Oh, no...looks like 2 new scraps to me! Was I brave enough the throw them away?)

This excess fabric is currently in the of this posting, anyway!
It is important in all fusing that the glue be right to the edge of the fabric (or other can fuse to almost anything that you can put a hot iron on!). I like to trim into the fabric a bit.
Trimming to be sure the glue goes all the way to the edge
The fusible needs to cool before removing the paper...especially important if you have fused a large piece of fabric and intend to save that valuable release paper.
But we do get impatient!
If it's still warm, use a pin to scratch through the paper, then crack it open and peel off. That is much better than picking at a corner!

I like a big fancy pin!
The Wrong Side of the fabric is smooth because the glue is now fused there. The paper is smooth because the glue is gone. If anywhere is rough, it needs more heat time.  Just put the paper back and press again.
Try not to over-heat...5--10 seconds is enough.

OK! Now put a large sheet of release paper on the ironing board (both sides are the same) and lay out the index cards, lined side up.
Place the fused side of the fabric on top. Check that it doesn't extend beyond the paper...if so, add some more paper. Or just be really careful ironing at the edge!

Index cards come in lots of colors, but I just had white.
Here are the cards fused to the 2 different fabrics:
A nice clean side to write on.
Then I cut the cards out and gave them a tag shaped end. You could do this with a rotary cutter and a fancy blade, too! Or cut them into ovals or anything else you like...they are your tags!
Free-hand cut the end or use a real tag as a template
I used a hole punch to put 2 holes in each one, as I decided to sew the tags onto the fabric gift wrap.
The 2 little ones were a tag I accidentally cut into...but nothing gets wasted!
Using gold embroidery thread, I went in one hole, through the fabric, and out the other. Then cut the thread very long, and used it to tie a bow. (I did write the names on first!).

There you go! Have at it and make some better/ fancier tags than these. I think it would be fun to fold some into little book shapes.

FYI: I buy WonderUnder on sale and get several yards. I keep it on a cardboard bolt center.
Another use for a string scrap!
I save the release paper sheets clipped together and hanging behind the ironing board so they are handy.
Two clips hanging on a pin in the design wall
If you can't get or don't prefer Wonder Under, I highly recommend PARCHMENT PAPER. Find it with the freezer paper at the grocery. It makes a great release paper, over and under anything you are fusing. You can roll it out as long as your ironing board!

***as motivation for using fabric (some I have had for over 30 years), the new answer to "What am I saving this for?" is TODAY! I declare that all my fabric has reached the time it was being saved for!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Singer Featherweight Model 221

A 1938 Singer Featherweight is one of the sewing machines I inherited from my mother. She got it at a yard sale for $25 because "It's a pretty small machine..." The guy was asking $50! They sell for $350 and more today. IS a small machine!

She really enjoyed taking this to classes and even sewing on it at home...among her many other machines. That collection included some treadles, hand-cranks, toy and electric models. I took the electric ones and the rest were sold to other collectors. They should be with people who appreciate and use it was my husband's nightmare that I would bring home all the machines!
(Mom had already given me a nice treadle...)

So after these almost 11 years, I decided I should take care of this baby. The local quilt shop was having a class about how to maintain your Featherweight, conducted by  The Old Sewing Machine Man, Johnny Johnson. He and wife Debbie are experts in old sewing machines, attachments and supplies. They travel to quilt shows and other events, sharing their love of everything pre-computer and providing lots of help to others. I always enjoy seeing them and admiring the machines they bring for sale.
Johnny started off with a history of the Singer Featherweight and how the original machine (made as the Standard SewHandy) was not well thought of by the sales they didn't show it to anyone! But at the World's Fair in 1933 it was on display and everyone who could sew wanted one. They weigh 11 lbs. Have you ever picked up a regular sewing machine? Back in the day, those things clocked in at about 35 lbs!
Having the original case is a nice touch:
I kept Mom's ID don't want your machine to be mistaken for the others!
The most important thing here is DO NOT let those catches snap open! The spring inside will eventually break, and they are expensive to replace. Everyone likes to let them snap open, but you should hold a hand over the latch so it doesn't fly up.
A supply tray sits on top of the also has the original book!

After that, step by step we went through the 42 places that need oil!
Modern machines are sealed up and even boast of not needing oil (some take a bit in the bobbin area). You only use a tiny drop, but some of the places to oil are almost invisible. Maybe Singer wanted you to take it to a repairman. However, these old machines are wonderful because you can do a lot of your own work on them.

The only thing I couldn't finish in class was putting in a new felt pad. It goes inside on the bottom, and acts to absorb all the oil (and grease...yes, there is that, too!) that can drip off. The felt on my machine was fused to the bottom plate, so I had to get the new part, then scrape off the felt when I got home. It had soaked up a lot of gunk since 1938.
You should be glad you can't really see what it looked like. That's the new felt on the right.
The serial number will tell what year the machine was made. Some were made until 1964, and some were made in Canada, Scotland and other places. A few versions were made in green or ivory color, but by far most are black. Some of the refurbished ones have been painted in fun colors, since the old finishes and decals may have been worn away.

I was happy to see several people I know also were taking the class! One had a newly maintained machine, but was learning for herself. Another had two machines with her...and another still at home! We had fun finding small differences in models from over the years. Most had the original foot control, which was used by Singer for most of their machines well into the 1960s:

The oldest ones have some metal parts, but the same design
I never have been able to figure out what the designer was going for with this. It is about 6" long, and the actual power comes from the button on the right. But I am positive (after so many years of teaching and seeing so many machines) that this is responsible for the many people who learned to sew barefooted, and continue to this day. 

Mom liked to give things names, like "SuzyBelle", but I cannot remember if she had one for this machine. Maybe if I sew on it for awhile I will think of one.
My quilt guild retreat is in November, and I think I'll take this along. Maybe I'll invite the other Featherweight owners to bring theirs, would be fun to see a bunch of these little guys purring along together!
They only make a straight stitch, but they do it oh-so-well! And that's all a quilter really needs.

Visit The Old Sewing Machine Man's website:

Learn more about Featherweights:
(scroll down for the chart that matches serial numbers with the year they were made).

Read the book:

Featherweight 221 - The Perfect Portable: And Its Stitches Across History ...

 By Nancy Johnson-Srebro (this includes a re-print of the original manual that came with the machines)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Making Scraps...and some progress!

I have a dream.
It is to get the commercial prints (i.e."stash" or 20th/ 21st Century Fabric Collection) off the shelves in my studio. Then I will put my batiks in there!
Have you tried some of the many "stash reduction" ideas around on the Internet? I do have to say, the idea of cutting it ALL UP and enjoying a wealth of pre-cut strips and such is a lovely idea!
However, some of these fabric s have been with me longer than my son. I know I have used bits, as the ends are cut up funny (from back in the day of templates! yes, I am really showing my age now!).
I have to trick myself into it. I have to make some "rules" or guidelines or something...but then my heart takes over and I just can't cut it all up. Do I still think I will need for "that perfect project"...the one that has not come along in over 30 years???
Yes. Yes, I actually do.
Well, now that is something to deal with! So my latest rule/guideline is if it's half yard-ish or smaller it must be all cut up. But it's OK to cut one 6.6" strip and one 5" strip first....just in case I need something wider than a strip! And I should do this as I am looking in the stash for anything else.
I needed an interior border for a scrap quilt, and found these pieces today:
I have had that dark stripey one for about 33 years!
The neutrals were what I was looking for, but I am proud to say I gave a stack of green a sort-through, and that pink just showed up! One stack at a time, I may get there...

The best way to follow through on a plan is to tell someone about it, so I shared my idea with Cherry-Cherry at lunch yesterday. She has the ability to show both support and doubt all at the same time.
It's because she knows me really well!
I did it!

This means I need yet another plastic box for those wide strips! But I really am enjoying the big box of 2.5" strips (see below), and I also like 1.5" strips, hence the little pile on the left of the pic above. All this is going to come in handy in a month when it is time to go on the guild's Retreat...I see hours of lovely, brainless sewing resulting in Log Cabins, Nine-Patches and who knows what else!

Oh...that box:

This was after making 58 scrap blocks!
I can't show the scrap quilts (3) I made with the blocks because they are for the Mystery Quilt class in February!
But the real mystery to me was that I got thinking:I  used up almost all the scraps in my scrap container...but I was sure I had more scraps!!! Where did they go?
And then I remembered. I gave a load of scraps & fabric to the guild's yard sale:
I actually gave all of this away!
Instead of feeling discouraged, I am just feeling amused, and will continue to enjoy the process.
There could be a lot of scrappy quilt tops to sell at QuiltFest next year and for  charity quilts. I know I will never be able to do the quilting on all of them!

Oh, by the way...(and this is really why there is NO END to all this) is a pic of my scrap container, which has some new contributions, plus my latest new scrap collection in the bag: stringy odd ends for a string quilt!
At least I have not been saving all those for 30 years!
A moment in time when you can actually see the studio floor!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Year of the Scraps Begins!

Now the the big quilt show is over, it's time to get back to making quilts!
In fact, there a brief respite between Judging and Hanging that allowed me to make this:
Another dark bordered quilt on a navy blue sofa...sorry!
Very easy and fun!
I don't know where I got the idea, and it certainly looks like something that several people come up with at the same time. The strips used were all 2.5". My thought was how to use 4-patches and 9-Patches in the same quilt, from the same size strips.
This is one you could play with the colors and value placements for a long time and enjoy different results.
Pat-on-the-back: I even finished making a binding for it today! Now how long before it gets quilted???

October is here, and it feels like this should be the New Year, instead of waiting for January to roll around. So I am declaring this The Year of the Scraps (for me...but you are welcome to join in!).
I've made a good portion of my stash into strips, and I want to continue that trend. I like to consider and use pre-cuts as scraps!

There are many interesting blogs about scraps. Bonnie Hunter has one that is chock-full of patterns and ideas. Joan Ford is another. They have some advice for how to cut up your stash, as does the Craftsy class with Nancy Martin, "Strip Your Stash!".

Just cutting a 2.5" strip (soooo popular!) from every fabric you own would be a great start. You might even get brave enough to cut up an entire piece of fabric and be done with it!
Just remember, if there's just an odd bit left over, is a new scrap!
And if it's a wobbly shaped strip, then you can use it in a String Quilt!

If you want to check in on my Year of the Scraps, use the "SEARCH" box over on the top of the sidebar. I'll label all these posts as SCRAPS.

Friday, September 26, 2014


It's showtime, friends!
QuiltFest is on through 5:00 pm tomorrow (Saturday Sept. 27), and the quilts are beautiful! There are 480 in the judged part of the show.
I'm giving a short talk in the demo area today at 12:30: "How to Look at a Quilt...and Then Talk About It!"
The next post will be a brief re-cap of that.
Meanwhile, here's a picture of the All-Stars' lovely table...who will win that raffle quilt tomorrow afternoon?
"Summer Solstice" won the Honorable Mention!
Looking ahead: Get ready for a load of SCRAP QUILTING!

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Toys: Open-Toe Accufeed Foot & a Needle Inserter

I love to get something new, and recently I got two new toys for my Janome 7700 sewing machine.
The first is the Open-Toe Accufeed foot:

Perfect for in-the-ditch!

I have had several sewing machines, and on every one my favorite foot is an Open-Toe Foot. It's possible to see exactly where the needle is going. While the fabric is in good contact with the feed dogs, I can still move it just a bit, which makes this the perfect foot for in-the-ditch quilting.

My Janome machine has an Accufeed system to help with multiple layers. The feet are specially designed to work with a an extra set of feed dogs that come down from behind the foot and integrate with it. This is especially nice for things like binding and, of course, quilting!
I also have a 1/4" Accufeed foot, as well as the standard one that comes with the machine.

My other new toy is amazing...because it is soooooo handy, and also cheap!
It's the Dritz Needle Inserter with Brush:
Brush for cleaning, needle holder for inserting!
I think this cost less than $2, and you can get it almost anywhere. There is a similar fancier thing that has the needle inserter and a threader.
Why I did not already have one is a total mystery!
Maybe it was easier to change needles on my other machines, but this makes it a breeze...and yes, it is just a 3" piece of plastic with a hole in one end!

I have many brushes, as I'm a firm believer in swabbing out the bobbin area as often as possible. That is the #1 repair job the shops do, so why not save yourself $89 or whatever the going rate is? OK, it's a good idea to have the whole machine cleaned occasionally, but you can avoid an annual cleaning if you do a little maintenance yourself.
The brush is a nice little stiff one, which allows you to stab into the linty areas and pull away quite a large bit. First you stab and pull out, then you brush with a wiping motion.
I never thought I'd be writing about how to get rid of lint.
And I bet you never imagined you'd be reading it!

Quilt Show Season is upon us, and I have just been through 3 days of assisting with the judging of 480 quilts for QuiltFest (Sept. 24-7).  It takes a lot of people to handle all those quilts properly! Our judge Jane Hall (NQA certified) was the best.
Next week we hang the show. I have been assigned as Team Captain for the Small Art Quilts! So look for some reporting from the show.

After that, it's time to go into a very Scrappy State of Mind as I gear up the guild for a Mystery Quilt class next February.