Saturday, December 11, 2010

Catnip Bags for Quilters' Cats

The stockings have been hung by the chimney with care, but somebody is going to have to fill!
Whether it's you or Santa, don't forget some treats for the most important person in the house. Yes, I mean your cat! At least that's the way they see it.
Chances are you also have friends who own (or are owned by) a cat...or three, or it's time to do some production style sewing. It's faster and easier to make several Catnip Bags at one time.
Look through your scraps and find some you can cut into squares about 4" x 4". Do not worry about anything being exact! We are making something that will be chewed on, for heaven's sake!
I like to use batiks because 1) they are firmly woven and 2) I have a ton of them! Can't stand to throw out a tiny scrap. And I enjoy seeing those batiks scattered around the house as they get carried and tossed all over the place.
 There's nothing like finding some "pre-sewn" patchwork, or in other words, extra pieces left over from a quilt. The additional benefit is that you do not need to think about the's whatever those HST units are.
Just find a larger scrap for the other side, then sew around the smaller piece using a small stitch (I had my machine on 2.0). 
Right sides together, of course.
 Who cares what the seam allownace is? Make it different on each side if you want! Use any part of the foot to judge, as long as you are inside the fabric.
The tricky bit with anything like this (pincushions, pillows, etc) is remembering to leave an opening. I often do it right away so I don't forget, but today I managed to make four bags that all had openings on the last side sewn!
On one side, sew for a little bit, then backstitch.
Lift up the presser foot and pull the bag along about 2", then put the foot back down, backstitch,  and then continue until you get back where you started.
 If you want to chop off the excess you can...and I do mean chop! Nobody will see the inside!
Note that there looks like a little flap up at the top...I leave the extra fabric there at the opening so it will tuck inside easily when the bag is turned right side out.
Which is what you need to do now.
If you suddenly realize you sewed the pieces right sides out, don't worry about it! Go on to the next step, and when you're done trim, the seam allowances with pinking will look like you meant to do it that way!
 I rolled up a piece of scrap paper to make a funnel for pouring the catnip into the bag.
Don't fill it completely. A couple tablespoons will do...or, as I had two small bags of catnip, I put half into each of the bags I made. Don't measure! Just do it!

Tuck the opening's seam allowance to the inside and top stitch it closed.
You can stitch all around the bag if you like.
This is about as fast as anything you can make!
Put the catnip bags into ziplock bags until it's time to give the gift!

I think these would be great items for a boutique at a quilt show. Even if you don't personally care for cats, how many quilters do you know who have cats? Point made!
With a bit more time you could actaully do a mouse or fish shape for cuteness. But I do like the patchwork look...this would be a good time to make some string pieced fabric.
Just remember to set your machine for a smaller stitch length!

Shayla O'Puss has already received her catnip bags, so Santa will be bringing her some of those plastic cage balls with bells in them!
The bags in this post are for a couple of cat friends at other quilters' houses.

Coming soon: a Challenge FAIL, fabric postcards tutorial, and more Florida quilt shops

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday UFOs: The Next Generation

Quilters' busy lives just kick into full gear this time of year.
So with all the shopping, planning, mailing, traveling (etc!), of course I figured this would be the perfect time to finish up some UFOs.
Not my own, but ones from my mother. She passed away seven years ago, and it's time now to let go of a lot of her things that I've held on to. SO...these are not just UFOs, they are second generation UFOs!

This is the one I finished today. It's not too bad in the picture, but I am here to tell you The Really Awful Truth About Other People's UFOs:
There is usually a good reason they were not finished! 
Could be that time ran out, but more often it is that the piecing was not going well and there are just too many "boo-boos" to ignore.

Mom's holiday UFOs were not her best work, and she was a casual sort of machine quilter (but did lovely handwork), so I decided to keep right in that vein of things and not treat these table runners and quick projects as overly precious. The point was to get them done and given away!
I started at the guild's retreat in November, and worked my way through most of the small pieces.
Today's project was this Karen Combs class piece. Oh, was obvious why it had not been turned into anything but a big block with a crooked border!
I persevered, especially with my "don't obsess, just sew" attitude and chose to do an all-machine binding.
Here's how:
 Make a binding and sew it on, mitering the corners as usual but sew in on the back!
After that, I went all around folding the binding up (to the outside) and creasing it.
Then I turned the quilt over to the right side and started wrapping the binding to the front, top stitching as I went.
 The white thread there is from sewing the binding on the back side. The idea is to make the folded edge of the binding cover up that stitching.
I matched the thread to the binding fabric, and sewed very close to the folded edge. But whenever you are topstitching, you can always consider using a contrasting thread...maybe gold?..and possibly a fancy stitch pattern!.
To complete the mitered corners, stop sewing when you reach the binding seam (the white thread here). Backstitch, trim the threads, turn the quilt and fold the next side's binding in place. Start sewing at the corner. 
When you get back around to where you started, finish the ends with the method you like.
 Here we are on the back of the quilt, and the white stitching is the bobbin thread from sewing down the binding on the front. Yes, it shows...this is a utility style of binding, but it's quick, gets the job done, is really sturdy, and most people are not going to care about the back. It doesn't look too bad (but it will NOT win you any points at a judged quilt show!).

As I say, it's important to know what quilt you are making: An heirloom? A show entry? A utility quilt? Something just for fun? etc etc! Each one requires a different level of time and skill.
I still have a few more of Mom's UFOs to complete. Some of them are bound to be heirlooms for family members. Those will take longer.
But the fun ones she would have made quickly to give away...those I will do in the same way she would have done them!