Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The "Burrito" Style Pillow Case Construction - Easy-Peasy!

Pillowcases are a fun, inexpensive and easy way to spruce up a bedroom.  They also make great gifts -- the fabrics available can reflect the interests of just about anyone, and the recipient will know it was made just for them.  With two of the fabrics I purchased for a master bedroom comforter, I made coordinating pillowcases. How easy will it be to make our bed?  Just pull up the comforter, and fluff the pillows on top!

My friend Sherrie once asked me how to make a 'burrito-style' pillow case -- one with a 'cuff' made from a different fabric than the 'body', with no seam allowances showing where the two are sewn together. It really isn't hard to do, but I find it's easier for me to learn by seeing it done (in person or with good photos) than by reading instructions alone. So, let's see if I can teach you how to do it!

For a standard size pillow, you will need 3/4 yard (27") of the body fabric, and 1/3 yard (12") of the cuff fabric by the width of the fabric (usually 42" - 44").  I use my rotary cutter and mat to cut the fabric, to be sure the raw edges are even. (Note:  cotton fabrics work best...they get softer after each washing.  Pre-wash your fabric before you begin cutting to remove sizing and prevent the finished pillowcase from shrinking.)

Lay the 'cuff' fabric right side up on your work surface.  Pin the 'body' fabric along the 42" width, right sides together, to the 'cuff'.  

The yellow fabric is the'cuff.'  The print is the 'body.'

Now roll the 'body' fabric from the bottom into a tube, all the way up to the pins.  You will expose the right side of the cuff fabric as you get close to the pins.
Roll the 'body' fabric into a tube, starting at the un-pinned end.  
Now, fold the free end of the  'cuff' fabric over the tube of 'body' fabric, and align all three raw edges.  Pin along the 42" width, keeping the raw edges even.

Both raw edges of the 'cuff' are even with the raw edge of the 'body', encased inside.  Pin securely.

You have just pinned the 'cuff' fabric right sides together, with the 'body' fabric sandwiched in between.
The 'cuff' is pinned and ready to sew!
Stitch, using a 1/4" seam allowance.  Press the seam flat.

Using a serger makes the job go faster!
Carefully pull the 'body' fabric out of the inside of the 'cuff'.
In this photo, the 'cuff' is print and the 'body' is yellow.
Flatten the 'cuff' and press carefully.  The seam allowances are encased!

There are two ways you can finish the pillowcase at this point.

If you have an overlock (serger) sewing machine, pin the right sides together, and serge across the bottom and then up the side of the pillowcase.  With a large-eye needle, bury your serger 'tail' in the stitching, or, take one stitch beyond the end of the pillowcase, loosen the needle thread with your finger slightly, and flip the pillowcase over and stitch over the previous stitching, going in the opposite direction, stitching off the fabric after about three inches.

If you do not have a serger, you can finish the pillowcase with a 'French' seam.  With wrong sides together, pin the pillowcase across the bottom and up the sides of the 'body.'  Stitch, using a 1/4" seam allowance, pivoting at the corner. Press the seam flat.
For the first step of a French seam, pin wrong sides together!
Turn the pillowcase inside out, now with the right sides together.  Press the pillowcase flat, being careful to press the seam flat.  Pin, then stitch again across the bottom and up the side of the 'body,' using a 3/8" seam allowance (this will enclose the raw edge of the fabric).
The second stitching, right sides together, encases the seam allowances.
Turn the pillowcase right side out and press well.    

Look Sherrie!  No exposed seam allowances!
Either way, the raw edges of the 'cuff' will be covered, and the pillowcase will wash and wear well!

Now that you know how to make a pillow case, here is a way to practice your skills and help out sick kids at the same time.  Make one for "A Case for Smiles"  -- check out the webpage for ConKerr Cancer (www.conkerrcancer.org) for more information.  The organization's goal is to provide a bright, cheery pillowcase to every child with cancer or a life changing illness or injury across North America.  ConKerr Cancer started when Cindy Kerr’s son was diagnosed with cancer in 2002.  She began making pillowcases to brighten up his hospital room and to put a smile on his face. He loved it and so she began making pillowcases for other children on the Oncology Unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

This Philly-based organization has donated over 800,000 pillowcases to sick children since then. School groups, sewing circles, church groups and fabric stores have all pitched in and are making pillowcases for the kids.  Even if you don't know how to sew, you can help by donating fabric or cash or helping at a sewing event by cutting out pillowcases or pressing finished projects.

Since my 'kids' are older, when I make ConKerr pillowcases, I look for fabrics that will appeal to teens -- skulls, guitars, realistic animal prints, college-licensed prints and sports-themed fabrics. There are lots of fun cotton prints out there...I even found fabric for my alma mater, Southern Illinois University!  Go, Salukis!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

We'll Be "Snug as a Bug" Tonight- the Comforter is (finally) Finished!

It's been over a month since I've posted last...and it's not that I haven't been busy!  I had several projects in progress, mostly Christmas gifts, and was occupied with getting them finished and given away.  So, I'm going to try to get several new posts finished over the next week, so I can share some of what I created this fall.

I'll start with the thing that I finished just today -- a comforter for our master bedroom!
We'll be sleeping under the new comforter tonight!
What possesses us to redecorate right in the midst of planning a big family event?  Last May, my husband and I decided to re-paint our bedroom and re-finish the hardwood floors.  We've been in the house 18 years now and had painted the room once, but it was due to be freshened up a bit. Of course, my son was getting married in June, and we would have company for several days, but that didn't deter us. So, for two weeks, every piece of furniture and clothing was in the hallway and we slept in the spare bedroom.  Talk about motivation to get the job finished as quickly as possible!

I had purchased some coordinating fabrics almost a year ago when I found them on sale at the local fabric store.  I knew I wanted to make a quilt from them, and bought several yards of each. The color palette was just right for a master bedroom -- not too feminine, but clean, bright and airy. The light grey wall color was selected by matching a swatch of fabric.  
I bought all six fabrics at the same time.
My friend Sherrie has been telling me about the modern quilt guild meetings she attends, and it piqued my interest.  She lent me a couple of books for inspiration, and I found a block that I thought I could use. It's called "Just Passing Through" and was designed by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.  It appeared in Modern Blocks.  The instructions called for four fabrics.  I had plans for the remaining two fabrics.

I don't know if it would be considered 'modern' quilting, but one of my favorite techniques is to find a quilt block pattern and 'blow it up.'  For instance, if a finished block is supposed to be 4" square, I may enlarge all of the pattern pieces and make my finished block 12" square.  I frequently do this for baby quilts -- the quilts go together faster and I can successfully use large print fabrics.

Since I wanted to get this comforter finished fast, I decided to 'blow up' the block design.  For example, the instructions for the 12"  finished block called for 2" and 1 1/2" wide strips...mine are 11 1/2" and 8 1/2" wide.   Instead of making several small blocks and sewing them together, I made one, huge queen-sized block that would cover the entire bed.

'Blowing up' a block does require some thought, especially to determine what size to cut the pieces and the finished size of the quilt.  My d.h. had one request...he wanted to be sure that the comforter was wide enough that when I rolled over, he didn't freeze because the blanket rolled with me.  A standard queen mattress is 60" wide by 80" long.  The finished comforter is 90" x 95".  I sketched everything out on graph paper before I began cutting.
Sketching and coloring the design on graph paper gives me a pattern to follow, both when cutting and sewing the top together.  
Because of the larger width, I discovered I didn't buy enough fabric for the back of the quilt.  Rather than run out and buy more grey fabric, I pieced together a strip wide enough to close the gap.  It adds interest to the back of the quilt.

Another consideration was the weight of the batting that went in between the quilt top and the backing.  I wanted something with a little more thickness and loft, so I decided to use a polyester blend batting.  I ordered it through www.batt-mart.com.  This is an American company that sells made-in-the-USA batting by the roll or piece.  Their website is a fantastic resource, and David, who took my order by phone, was so very helpful that I'm sure I'll use his company again.

My long-arm quilter, Susie, and I discussed the quilting pattern to use and settled on the interlocking squares design.  I liked it because it was masculine and modern.  She used light grey thread, which blends nicely with the fabrics.

With the remaining two fabrics, I made two simple pair of curtains for the windows and four coordinating pillow cases.  Another scrap was big enough to recover a flea-market bench that I re-painted.  Believe me, there weren't many scraps in the end.
The flea market bench (about $10) got a fresh coat of paint and a new cover.  And I have a place to sit down to put on my shoes and socks!
My friend Sherrie once asked me about making a 'burrito-style' pillow case.  I used that method to make these; my next post will include the 'how to'!  
So glad that the redecorating is (finally) finished!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas

I'm back in my home state of Missouri this week for a visit with my dad and my sister's family.  My dear brother-in-law is a bit obsessive about decorating for the holidays, and took full advantage of the warm weather last weekend to hang his outdoor lights.  He also managed to set up the 'small' (that would be 8 feet tall) Christmas tree).  So, when I arrived last Saturday, I was greeted by this:

This is their 'Travel' Christmas tree.  It's covered with ornaments that my sister and her husband have purchased on trips they've taken over the years, plus a few that friends have brought them from far flung places.  My brother-in-law enjoys unwrapping each ornament and reminiscing about the trip when it was bought.  

Some of the ornaments are really fun, but I did notice a lot of moose on the tree!
It's actually a pretty neat idea, if you travel a lot.  My family tree has a few ornaments that we've picked up when we're away from home, but not this many!

So, even with this beautifully decorated tree up, my brother-in-law kept talking about the 'Cowboy' Christmas tree, until finally I said, "Oh, come on!  Let's put up that tree too."  It didn't take a lot of arm twisting for him to run to the basement to fetch the other decorations.  (We first had to move the Travel tree into their living room, 'because the cowboy decorations need more space.')

I helped unwrap the ornaments, but the decorating part was all his.  

In addition to the tree, several Cowboy Santas decorate the fireplace mantel
My sister and I contributed our sewing skills to the Cowboy Snowman Christmas tree skirt.  I think there are more cowboy ornaments than there are travel decorations!
The tree includes chili pepper lights, rope and faux barb wire 'garland.'
I could be guessing here, but I think the Cowboy Christmas tree is an off-shoot of the Travel tree.  My niece and nephews took many trips to the American West with their dad (thus the moose on the other tree), and probably started picking up ornaments like these, which evolved into a set of decorations in their own right. So where ever they see them, they buy Cowboy Christmas items.  Too bad they only put it up every-other year, except this one!  
The barb wire garland is pretty realistic.
I've already been warned that I will be pressed into service when the 'big' (that would be 12 feet tall) tree goes up on Saturday.  I'm anxious to get home and get my house decorated!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

On a Creative Roll

Do you ever feel like you're in the 'zone' when you are working on a project?  You know, you get so tied up in what you're doing that time flies by, but the project is going so well, you just don't want to stop?

I had one of those days last week, and I love the feeling!  Want a peek at what I was working on?

Leather and Stone Necklace
I'm so excited about this design that I immediately started another sample.  It was inspired by a piece in an old issue of BeadStyle magazine by Marcy Kentz.  I will be teaching the techniques on how to create this necklace at The Bead Garden in Havertown, Pa., on December 19th. (To go www.thebeadgarden.com to sign up.)

Just a few details, then, on this piece.

If you've been reading my blog, you know I like to 'recycle' stuff.  In this case, it's the leather that is re-purposed.  Someone gave me a black suede vest that was too small for me, and rather than donate it, I cut it apart and saved the suede pieces.  I have other similar pieces of leather, from garments or leather items (including a soft-sided briefcase).  I trimmed the leather using my rotary cutter, making strips that were 1" wide.
Trimming butter-soft brown leather that was once a jacket sleeve.
I rounded one end of each strip with scissors, then used my Japanese screw punch to put three tiny holes in in each strip, about 1" from the rounded end.

A Japanese Screw Punch is a great tool for leather work, book making and other hobbies.
The screw bits come in various sizes; this one is 1.2 mm.  
 Softflex beading wire is my stringing material of choice for natural stone or glass beads.  I cut three pieces of wire, and inserted them through the holes.  A small seed bead and a micro crimp bead secured them to the 'wrong' side of the leather.
A clamp on one end keeps the beads from falling off.

After stringing on the stones, I attached the other end of the wire to the second strap in the same manner.  A little E6000 glue on the end was a little added insurance that everything would stay together.  

After determining the finished length of the necklace, I trimmed the excess leather and added a 1" ribbon clamp and a clasp.  

My mind is racing with other stone, metal and color combinations that I can put together to make more of these statement necklaces!  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Recycled I-Pod holder

My d.h. was working in the basement (it's a long story...) and was struggling to keep his i-pod from falling out of his pocket.  During lunch break, he asked if I could 'rig up' a band to go around his arm to hold the i-pod.  I think my son has one of those work-out bands for the i-pod, but I have no idea where he got it.  We talked about the design a little bit, and I took some measurements and got to work.

I have to explain something...I recycle fabric and findings from manufactured items, especially if they are unusual or difficult for the home sewer to purchase.  I knew I would need stretchy fabric, and started digging through my fabric stash to find something appropriate. Low and behold, I came across this:

I know you can buy neoprene somewhere, but it sure isn't anywhere near me!
It is a neoprene laptop computer sleeve.  It had a zipper that went around three sides, which I took the time to remove (you never know when you'll need a 20 inch zipper with double pulls).  Once all the stitching was removed, there was plenty of fabric to work with.

The deconstructed laptop bag.
I cut out a pocket the size of the i-pod, then I pieced together two longer strips equal to the circumference of his arm, plus three inches for a tab to make it adjustable.  Using a narrow zig-zag stitch, I stitched the pocket in place, then trimmed the ends of the strip so it would fit through a sliding buckle.

The pocket stretches a bit so the i-pod fits snugly.
Again, I found just what I needed in my stash.  Whenever my husband or kids throw away something like a backpack, I cut off the hardware and toss it into a bin.  There have been many occasions when I dig through that bin to find just the right hook, buckle or D-ring.

My tray of various buckles, clips, D-rings and other bits and pieces of hardware.
Next, I added a bit of velcro that I removed from something else once upon a time.  This piece has both the hook and loop part on the same side. The tab with the 'hook' part slips through the buckle, then folds back onto the 'loop' part to hold the armband in place.

Here's the final product.  Looks great, works great, d.h. is happy!  Now that he has tunes at his disposal, maybe the basement will be finished by Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Gets a New Life

Several years ago, I saw one of these lamps and admired it quite a lot.  I always hoped that someday I'd be able to own one.  When I stumbled across a vintage Singer sewing machine at a flea market a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to make my own lamp.  The man wanted just $20!

One of the great things about vintage Singer sewing machines is that you can use the serial number to search for the year the machine was manufactured. (www.singerco.com/support/machine-serial-numbers)

This serial number indicated that this model was made in 1925.  Imagine...a machine that's nearly 90 years old!  What is really surprising is how great the gold graphics still look!

The challenge was how to attach a light fixture to the back of the machine.  Luckily, this model already had a small work light on the back.

I was able to unscrew the work light from the machine and disassemble it.   Once I took it apart, I realized I could use the bracket to attach the new lamp to the machine, and the black base was threaded and would hold the new pipe.

The hardware store had a lamp re-wiring kit and a white silk shade.  I had to buy a threaded pipe and a nut separately.  The entire bill was about $40.  After cutting the electrical cord of the old lamp, I ran the new wiring along the same path..  I changed the position of the lamp bracket from horizontal to vertical, and followed the instructions on the back of the lamp kit to thread the pipe, attach the socket base, wire the socket and add the harp, shade and light bulb.  

The new threaded pipe fit snugly into the existing hardware, but I did
turn the bracket 90 degrees to hold the lamp upright.
Next, the sewing machine got a bit of TLC.  I dug out the brass polish, Orange Glow wood cleaner/protector and good ole' fashioned Johnson's paste wax to shine up the metal case of the machine. I also added felt pads on the bottom of each corner of the wooden case, to prevent scratching the furniture.

Time for a little clean up!
Although I'm not generally very mechanically inclined, the step-by-step instructions on the lamp re-wiring kit were easy to follow and I'm proud of myself for finishing this without any help from my d.h. (truth in reporting here -- I did have my son tighten the nut and screw on the bracket holding the pipe...I just couldn't get it quite tight enough!).  The moral of the story -- don't be afraid to re-purpose something neat into a lamp!

My vintage Singer sewing machine lamp!
[After taking another look at the photos of the lamp, I realized the shade didn't cover the base of the socket.  For $4, I bought another harp, two inches smaller than the one pictured, and swapped it out...that solved the problem!]

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Walk in the Fall Leaves, Made Possible with Rubber Stamps

It's a beautiful time of the year for a walk in the woods, and the changing leaves make the perfect backdrop for a glorious fall wedding!

My nephew and his bride were married in upstate New York in late September, and their reception was held in a picnic pavilion near a lake.  This card was inspired by that unique venue.  It's been a while since I did any rubber stamping, but a stamp set I picked up a year ago was perfect for the theme.

Designed by Kittie Caraccido, "Kittie Kits - Cause a Scene" are manufactured and sold by Rubbernecker Stamps (www.rubbernecker.com).   This kit was Scene 9, and contains 43 stamps.

Some of them are what I call a "micro-stamp," a single image that is very tiny, like one falling leaf or an ear of corn.  The kits are designed for scenic stamping -- creating a 'picture' using the various bits and pieces.

Obviously, for a wedding card, I needed a bride and groom, and found the happy couple in my binder of cling mounted rubber stamps.  The stamp is by Another Stamp Company, and came in two sizes (www.anotherstampcompany.com).  I used the small size for this card.  (By the way, most of the stamps I buy now are cling mounted...they store in binders and take up less space in my studio.  I have acrylic blocks in a variety of shapes to use with them.)  I also found a couple more stamps to incorporate into the scene in my stash.

To begin, I stamped out the scene on scrap paper to determine what would be in the foreground and what elements would be in the background.  Then each image was stamped onto a post-it note or masking paper (a thin, white paper that is covered with the same low-tack adhesive as post-it notes) and trimmed out carefully.  These 'masks' will allow me to stamp over an image, without having the lines of the second stamp show up on the first image.  The image in the foreground is stamped first, then masked, and the images in the background are stamped next. (For more on masking go to http://simplydevinecrafts.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-tutorial-on-rubber-stamp-masking-i.html )  Using black ink, I stamped the bridal couple and the farm stand first, layered the masks over those two images, then overstamped the walking path, trees and pumpkins.  The grass, leaf piles and sand were added next, and to finish the scene, I stamped a cluster of leaves over the trees several times, using an 'Autumn Leaves' Kaleidacolor ink pad.
The scene was stamped on a half-sheet of 8.5" x 11" cardstock.
Now comes the fun part -- coloring!  I worked a rubber stamp show for a company last year, and asked them to 'pay' me with Copic markers.  I have 56 colors, and I'm still playing with them, trying to improve my technique.  I decided to use them (instead of Prismacolor pencils, my other favorite coloring tool), and started with the leaves on the trees.

Ultimately I used six different colors for the leaves.  The farm stand and pumpkins were colored next. The grass created a challenge, because most of my green markers are pretty vibrant, but I discovered that lime and light olive, together with grass green, looked pretty good.
Copic markers blend well with each other. You can go over the same place with a different color
to achieve a realistic look.  
Without a sand colored marker, I opted to use the Prismacolor pencils to color the walking path.  Here's a technique I learned just last year -- Gamsol, an odorless mineral spirit, is great for blending pencil coloring.

'Before' using Gamsol

In the first picture, you can see the 'scribble' lines of the three pencils I used.

Using a rolled paper stub, I applied Gamsol to the coloring, rubbing it in a circular motion.

It blends the colors and brightens them somewhat.  I was happy with the way the path looked when I was finished.

'After' using Gamsol.

The final thing to color was the sky.  For some reason, coloring skies always trips me up.  It's hard to come up with the right shade of blue, and I debate whether to put in some clouds for good measure.  Coloring a sunset a bit easier, but that's not the look I was going for here.

Thankfully, Copic has a color called 'Cool Shadow.'  It falls on the blue-green spectrum, but it was just perfect for the sky on this fall scene.  

To finish the card, the panel was trimmed to 4.25 x 6.25 inches, mounted on a patterned paper, and then affixed onto a 5 x 7 inch card.  I added the sentiment "...and they lived happily ever after...' to the inside of the card (stamp by Another Stamp Company).

Doesn't it look like a nice day for a walk in the falling leaves?