A Little Mermaid with Remnants

Google “Mermaid Blanket” and, would you believe, you’ll get way over nine million results!

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results for Mermaid Blanket

Mermaid blankets were one of the “it” gifts for Christmas this past year, for a  girl toddler,  teen or tween relative. Some were knitted, crocheted, and sewn from fabric. I didn’t jump onto the trend wagon, but I saw on Social Media that many big and little girls were posing with their fishtail blankies for the camera.

I found a couple of remnants that might go together as a cute mermaid blanket. What do you think?

fish tail remnant fabrics
fish tail remnant fabrics

This size blanket is for a tiny four-year old. The blanket sheath is a polyester teal metallic mermaid fleece, 57 inches wide, remnant of .972 yard. The tail fin is from a remnant that I’ve had in the stash for eons, no idea where it came from. It’s a stiff, satiny, iridescent fabric that looks pink from one direction and purple from another. The saran-wrap looking flap on both sides of the tail is a Bumi Pearlized sheer lilac remnant just less than a yard in length.

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fish tail

No pattern was used in the creation of this project. I just folded the pink/purple fabric, double,  in half and sketched a tail fin  shape on one side so that the fold was down the center of the fish tail, then cut it out. Thus, the tail was symmetrical on both sides. Then I unfolded it and seamed it together on all sides except for the opening at the top. Then I turned it inside out and pressed it, so that the edges carried that fishy curve.

It would have been perfect if the pearlized fabric was the same size, so I could have just duplicated it and made a casing for the purple satin. But the pearlized remnant was smaller than the finished tail. So I played with the idea of attaching the pearly fabric as a ruched flap on either side of the tail, so it would flutter and swish like a real fish’s tail swerving around in water. Maybe a hair-brained notion, but there it is.

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the plume-y tail

After ruching the sheet of pearl in several places (centers, sides, and diagonally at corners), I cut a slit in the top fold, and since the slit ended up being a few inches longer than the tail side of the blanket, I sewed a basting stitch around the edges of the slit and drew it together, pulling on the basting thread, until it matched the size of the satin tail. Then I sewed the pearl fabric on to the satin tail at the top. Turning the blanket fabric inside out, and matching it up to the opening of the tail, with right sides of blanket and tail together (a fabric sandwich of blanket, wrong side up, on top;  pearl right side up, in the center; and satin, right side up, on the bottom) sewed tail to blanket in a 5/8″ seam, making sure the pearl material was lying flat at the seam line inside.

Continuing to play around, I hemmed the top edge with a rounded Short Serpentine stitch:

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hemmed edge

It’s still a little chilly at night. This can be a toddler blanket or a grown-up foot warmer. Or maybe the kids can use it as a costume for Let’s Pretend, maybe a little kid version of  Cosplay.

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little mermaid

While technically not a quilt, it is a blanket that is pieced together so it’s pretty close…happy #NationalQuiltingDay and hope to see how others celebrated the day as well!

Reverse Engineering a Springtime Sewing Project

Last week was our Spring Break and we did a whole lot of nothing.

Not complaining,,,not exactly. Our little “first world” problems are not really problems, but choices. We did a lot of householder-type things. And we helped and connected with some other people in our sphere of acknowledgement, ha ha, our little universe. How do you decide if a project is worthy of your time, talent, and trouble?

One thing I took on was to fix some pillows at the request of someone in my circle who takes care of an elderly fellow.

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needlework pillows, before

 

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underside, wool fabric

Someone in the old man’s life had done a marvelous job of creating the needlepoint canvases on these beauties, which now showed a faded frog (?) on a toadstool in the rain and a green polka-dotted slug (?) under a cascade of spring flowers. The pillows themselves looked to be handmade out of a sumptuous yellow wool fabric. But apparently a dog had used them for sport, and the stuffing was popping out of a number of unsightly shreds.

The first step was to undo. The manual equivalent of the “undo” link was to rip out all the seams so that the pillow pieces were left intact,

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Undoing the stitching to salvage the needlepoint (to the left is the new fabric)

to be used as patterns for the replacement fabric. It turned out to be the first real workout I had with the lovely seam ripper Skip made for me, by turning it on the lathe (see kit here).

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seam ripper
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using the old pieces as a pattern

I also saved the cording that was inside the piping edges, two strips of piping for each pillow. The new fabric was a piece of cotton (as far as I know) I had in the stash.

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creating new piping with old cording

The machine has a special foot that I love to use when applying mini-piping, the pre-packaged kind made by Wright’s, but that little groove was not going to work with this larger cording.  So I used the narrow zipper foot, an attachment that is handy for a lot of tasks.

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narrow zipper foot

Next, I needed to sew the piping onto the new pillow backs, and then onto the side panels.

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attaching a side panel

On the first pillow, I went ahead and attached the top piping to the side panel, then sewed the needlepoint panel on 3 sides to the sandwich of piping and side panel. The fourth side would be hand-stitched after the fabric was turned inside out and stuffed with the pillow form. On the second pillow, I sewed the piping directly to the needlepoint panel, then sewed the piped needlepoint piece onto the side panel: I believe this is how the pillow was originally made because I could see the hand-stitching that closed the opening in between piping and panel, after the pillow had been turned inside out and stuffed.

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hand-stitching the opening between the piping and side panel
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turned, stuffed, and ready to be hand-stitched

On the pillow in the forefront above, I hand-stitched directly to the needlepoint canvas, which I didn’t really feel good about, because the machine-stitched one behind it will probably hold up better. I reused the original down pillows, which were scrunched-up a lot inside the smaller pillow casings. But apparently that’s how the owner liked them and they’re very cushiony.

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Eucalan sponge bath

The needlepoint panels were a little faded and soiled-looking, but I didn’t know if I should try to wash them. I finally went to the yarn store and procured a bottle of Eucalan, a highly recommended no-rinse washing preparation for wool and other delicate fabrics. As the brand name hints, it’s made from eucalyptus oil and lanolin. The lady at Yarn Works cautioned that the article shouldn’t be soaked in a liquid because that would remove the sizing from the needlepoint canvas. So I mixed about a spoonful in a bowl of warm water and dabbed a clean wash cloth in it, then wrung it out and gently rubbed it over the smudgy areas of the needlepoint. It didn’t come out looking brand-new; actually I can’t tell any difference in the color or brightness, but after it dried it smelled a little better than before.

I wonder what the story was behind those little pillows–were they made by his wife, who has been gone for a few years now? Or were they made by another family  member or a cherished friend? I hope they bring to mind a little spring-time cheer!

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Redo with Stone and Wood

 

Recently my wife “suggested” that it might be time to upgrade our countertops from 25 year old grey Formica to granite.

old Formica countertops

So off to the big box store to look at granite samples.  Way too many choices!! But we found a sample we liked so we pulled out the check book and started what turned out to be a very efficient process, unlike any I have ever experienced.  Soon after selecting the sample, someone showed up to develop a template for cutting the granite.  A week or so later we got an email inviting us to go to Tallahassee to inspect our granite slabs. In lieu of making the trip we asked for photos and got a gallery of shots showing us what our slabs looked like. Once we approved the slabs, we soon got a call to schedule the installation. Two very experienced installers showed up, removed the old countertops in a manner so as to not damage them, so they could be recycled to a friend’s home needing new countertops, and installed our new countertops and cleaned up before leaving for home.  The next day a plumber showed up to reinstall the kitchen sink.

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Same sink

This is when I got the bright idea to “upgrade” the kitchen cabinets by adding some wood trim to the cabinet doors.  The cabinets, despite their age, are in great shape.

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new counters, same old plain cabinets

I picked out some red oak from the shop and milled out a piece about 3/16 inches thick, 1 ½ inches wide and long enough to fit on a cabinet door.  I then picked out a couple stains which I thought might match some colors in the new countertops and passed this by my wife.

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some of the various woods and finishes

She picked the golden oak stain as applied to the red oak, two applications followed by a clear coat.  After the selection of the stain, I showed my wife a selection of cabinet handles in the Lee Valley catalog.  A copper and bronze handle seemed to be the best selection for working with the wood, countertops and existing cabinet finish.  The wood strips would be applied to the opening edge of each cabinet door as an accent to the cabinets linking them to the colors in the granite.

After the handles arrived it was time to get to the wood working. Pieces of red oak were cut and milled to size, sanded and finished with stain. The plan was to fasten the handles to the wood strips and then fasten the wood strips to the doors.  Of course the screws which came with the handles were too long, made for ¾ inch thick doors and not 3/16 inch thick trim.  Off to Ace Hardware, where I found 8x32x1/2 inch machine screws to fasten the handles.  Since the wood strips were to be fastened to the cabinet doors, the screw heads had to be recessed in the wood trim.  I used a Kreg cabinet jig to drill the mounting holes in the wood trim for the handles.  Using a Forstner bit set to drill to a depth approximately equal to the screw head thickness, I lined up the mounting holes with the Forstner bit and drilled a countersink for the screw heads.

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attaching handles to wood strip

After mounting all the handles, it was time to start applying these to the doors.  I marked and drilled two holes on each door to allow screws to be inserted from the back of the door into the wood trim. I then applied thick CA glue to the back of the trim, sprayed the door with accelerator and applied the wood with clamps. When the glue had set, I drove screws from the back side of the door to further secure the wood trim.

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wood accents with handles

We were both happy with the outcome.  Now, on to the kitchen drawers, wood trim on the top edge of the drawer fronts with a matching bronze/copper knob.

Here’s a You-tube of the whole process so far:

 

Exploring Creativity and Connections

One of the things I’ve noticed about crafting blogs and You-tube channels is that creative output sometimes comes with a price.

Our creative efforts (and sometimes the efforts seem monumental) don’t always get rewarded with multiple views, likes, and comments. Some of our You-tube videos are “monetized,” that is, they generate a little payment of a fraction of a cent whenever they get subscribers and views beyond a set amount. It’s exciting to go to the analytics page and see if our projects  are popular, to see if some of our fellow creatives subscribe to our sites, or give us comments we want to  respond to.  And BTW I don’t know what happens to that fraction of a cent, do you? I’ve never, to my knowledge, gotten a check or deposit from Youtube, although there’s a couple dollars’ worth of views on the page once in a while. 

We like being creative and doing projects for the fun of it. When it gets to be a competition, that can introduce stress. And suddenly I don’t like doing stuff like that as much.

Having recently “retired” from a volunteer job I was doing for the past three years, I wanted to find something new to do. Did I want to go back to school and pay thousands of dollars to get another degree? No.  Did I want to get a part-time job? No.  I could just do creative stuff with more frequency and intensity. Sounds good in theory, But I would need to self-motivate,

I was Internet-surfing and found some free university classes, which can be accessed from the Coursera ap or web site. I signed up for Healing with the Arts and Personality Types at Work. So far, they’ve been rather transformative!

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profile pic for the site

Note that the courses are free but unless you pay the certificate fee, you may not be able to access every section of them, like the quizzes and the peer review. What’s not to like about that? No quiz and no peers judging or criticizing your work, YAY! However, I may heed Skip’s point of view that if you feel the instructor is doing a great job and you are benefitting from their time and experience, you probably ought to go ahead and pay the fee.

I’ve done some journaling on my own, and some with prompts from Julia Cameron’s Walking in this World, one of her great self-help books for developing creativity.  I like looking within to boost creativity, and also looking at other blogs and videos for inspiration.

In these online classes, I guess you could hide from the teacher and your fellow students, but you could project your true persona, too. You get to be creative and interact with like-minded and different-minded sympathetic people, and no one is grading you or goading you. No one is competing with you. No one is trying to change your mind about something you feel strongly about or maybe don’t even care about. It’s for fun. It heals your psyche. You won’t get fired if you create something ugly. You don’t have to hawk your wares. You won’t get your idea for a great project, that got you 10 You-tube views, hijacked by another You-tube personality who then gets a million and a half views. Your friends with their fine arts degrees won’t look at your picture and say, “That’s very…interesting...”

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Collage in journal for the class Healing With the Arts

Sometimes you need to give that creativity a little jump start!

With More Than One Piece of Fabric

I’m loving an article in the current issue of Threads magazine: “The Lost Art of Piecing.” This is what my former blog, Project Remnant Review, was all about, pursuing projects that can be made using fabric remnants. Somehow I’ve felt that deep down, a project from remnants is maybe, second class. It satisfies my inner cheapskate. But when I make an item, I know that I didn’t start from scratch, visualizing the finished project, then purchasing the fabric that would make it a stand-out…instead, I “made do” with something I had, and which I no doubt bought at a reduced rate, too. These things I don’t mind. Apparel sewing is nothing but a big experiment for me.

Sometimes I will see parcels of fabric at the remnant rack, that I believe I have some of already, home in the stash. In that case, I might buy the remnant and add to what I have, opening the possibilities for making something out of that fabric.

Take this skirt, for instance:

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stretch satin skirt

I had a little remnant of this that was less than a yard. So when I saw the Vogue pattern V8882 for a pleated, full skirt with a sash, my hopes to make a cute outfit for Valentine’s Day were dashed, because View D of the pattern asks for more than 5 yards of material. I got on the Internet and looked at the store where I originally bought the remnant to see if there was any more of it anywhere, and it referred me to my local Joann’s, which had only 4 yards in stock.

I went and got the 4 yards, but I didn’t have enough to make the article, without piecing fabric together for some of the pattern pieces. This skirt has an interfaced hem facing sewn to the bottom of the hem, then blind-stitched. I pieced the hem facing, since after all, it will be underneath and most likely will not be seen unless the wearer wants to go all out Moulin Rouge, with the high kicks.

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pieced hem facing

The sash is also a remnant, of sheer fabric. Rather than doubling the fabric, folding it, seaming and turning,  like the instructions said, I used one piece of the embroidered chiffon  for each sash end and hemmed the edges of them with a 2mm hemming foot.

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pieced top

This top, view E  from Vogue 8792, was intended to be made from the same fabric, with pieces cut on different positions of the fabric grain. Instead, I made it from two different but similar remnants, one with the multi-colored stripes and one of white, gray and orange stripes. And instead of matching fabric for the neckband, I used black rib knit.

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Vogue 9183

Like the top, this dress was intended to be pieced from two different fabrics, or the same fabric. I’ve seen lots of dresses like this in the middle-age and plus size clothing catalogs I’m apparently a target audience to receive in the mail, I guess because the black panels at the side are supposed to give an illusion of slimness.

panel dress jennyskip
pieced from different or same fabrics

And then there’s this project, Butterick B4597 View C.  The sash/scarf was a remnant, of double-sided red and grey plaid. But the dress fabric I thought I had plenty enough for this view, and I must have screwed up cutting it out to where suddenly, the last pieces to be cut had to be pieced. The two backs could not fit on my remaining fabric, so I pieced them so that there was a seam across the waist area in the back, which made the zipper area at the seam a little bulky, but I pressed it down hard and top-stitched the seam, then top-stitched the neckline and front slit to make it all look intentional.

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pieced dress

Here’s the pattern:

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dress pattern

The finished dress reminds me of something Guinan would wear. I like it although the Ponte knit is really more suited to cooler climates ….on Valentine’s Day here it was in the 80’s.  I have also made this dress before, a few years ago, as shown in this former blog post.

 

Raised Bed Garden Love!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Our garden is about 3 months old now, so we wanted to post a little something to show the progress.

It’s exciting to roll with the possibilities, puzzling to respond to the problems!

Possibilities:

Fresh, wonderful, veggies and fruits

Interesting new recipes, tried-and-true old recipes

Reading about gardening, talking about it with friends

Combining rows of plants that are compatible

 

Problems:

Something has been nibbling on the cabbage leaves

The Savoy Cabbage died off for some unknown reason

What to do when it gets cold enough to freeze

 

Here’s a tiny documentary of our progress:

Meanwhile, we’ve been enjoying the fruits of our labors.

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fresh-picked and lightly steamed broccoli for dinner
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Quinoa burgers with fresh parsley from our garden

The quinoa burgers recipe came from the cookbook Eating the Alkaline Way. It has some unusual ingredients, but we found it to be very tasty! (Even Skip! Normally he can’t even pronounce the word “quinoa” without a smirk, haha!)

 

Round and Round with Small Window Covers

I got this little circle-making attachment in an after-holiday sale at A-1 Sewing, our local Husqvarna Viking store, and I’ve been trying to get some projects going, so I can make use of it.

circle-sewing jenny skip
circle-sewing attachment

First off,  I used it to decorate some window coverings for a superadobe building. (If you want to see more about this particular building, go to this PlenitudPR website under the heading “Bio-construction.”)

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window coverings

You may see this photo and think, “But that looks like a pillow, not a curtain!” True! The proprietors (who happen to be very dear to us) mentioned that their superadobe house could sure use some window coverings, that the windows to be covered were like portholes, about 12 inches in diameter and some were more oval-shaped than round.

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some windows in the super adobe house

They were currently using pillows to stuff in the windows. We came up with some options that did not work, then a few that were more useable.

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window cover attempt #1

This was the first attempt: it looked like a big circular potholder. I used white blackout fabric for one side, batting in the middle, and fabric on the other side, and edged it with double-fold bias binding, with a little strap for pulling it out. Unfortunately, you can see here that it was not quite big enough to plug the hole.

For the second attempt, I tried out a new design, sketched here:

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hopeful sketch

The diameter was increased to about 26 inches, the center circle was padded and sewn around, and the outer circle was supposed to slide into the cylinder of the wall thickness to be held in place. But again, this design didn’t work well, although they were able to fold it a certain way to keep it from falling out, so it was somewhat useable, see it in the next pics:

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window cover attempt #2
#2 jenny skip
window cover attempt #2 from the opposite side

The third attempt included the brown dragonfly “pillow” shape shown above. Since they were already using pillows, and that worked…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I increased the diameter to about 16 inches and added a lot more fleece padding. Since the diameter was larger than was usable for the circle-making gizmo (maximum diameter for that is 10 inches), I did snap it on anyway and sew some circular designs in the centers of the covers, to quilt the fabric and batting layers together in the middle. The attachment comes with templates to make circles, 4-petal flower shapes, or 6-petal flower shapes.

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attempt #3 with 16″ diameter

And I should be glad to mention that PlenitudPR is an organization that teaches and promotes sustainable living, so we kept that in mind and used fabric remnants for our window covers, and thus kept those leftover pieces of fabric from potentially clogging the landfill.

More about the process here:

Easy, Earthy Presents From the Back Yard

It’s the day before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve) and we decided to make a crafty Christmas present we’ve been wanting to make ever since Thanksgiving, when some of our grown children showed us how to do it and asked for dad’s help.

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Candle holder made by son

Natural-edge log tea-light candle holders were easy, earthy, and a breeze to make. We have a big pile of firewood out back, which probably won’t get burned any time soon since it’s been in the 70’s and 80’s this and the past few Decembers. And we have a pile of Yankee tea-light candles with delicious-sounding names like Christmas Thyme, Gingerbread Maple, and Christmas Cookie. I bought a bunch of them online for a friend’s son’s school band fundraiser, but you can also get a bag of tea-lights from the dollar rack at CVS pharmacy (although they may not smell as good!)

Skip explains all the steps we took to make a couple of these things, in the You-tube video:

They look good as single candle holders, completely natural with no embellishments, or grouped together and tied with a ribbon or raffia.

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candle centerpiece

Thanks for all the interest and love this past year. We wish you a very happy holiday the next few weeks, and hope for the best for each of you in the coming new year.

 

Quilting Assembly Line

In a previous post, I referred to the multitude of quilt tops I had ready for quilting.

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future table runner on Realtree camo fabric

Since I got the Qnique and Grace Frame, I may have quilted about 5 or 10 items. I hoped to have acquired expert status with this set up by now, but it hasn’t been like riding a bicycle. The  brain and muscle memories haven’t automatically renewed every time I tried a new project. Each project has its own set of peculiarities!

Since most of the pile (seven of them) consisted of table runners, I thought maybe I could pin several of them up to the Grace Frame, and quilt them all at the same time, and see how it went.

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5 table runners pinned up to the quilting frame

This frame is supposed to accommodate fabric to make a king-size quilt. I was able to comfortably fit 5 of the 7 table runners across the width, with a little space in between each. The backing is pinned (with the right side facing down) onto the first (top, furthest back) leader cloth, and to the second (center) leader cloth. I have marked on each leader cloth a mid-point. Normally I would fold the fabric of the top, bottom, and batting in half and pin that half-way point to the mid-point on the corresponding leader cloths. To match up the mid-points on all these separate fronts and backs of the table runners, I just counted the marks on the top leader cloths and lined them up with the marks on the bottom leader cloths. I realized later, that not all of the table runners were the exact same length,  so that was one major problem with this set up!

A while back I bought 2 big rolls of batting on sale, anticipating that I would be making a whole bunch of quilts. I use one of them most of the time, for the smaller baby quilts and lap quilts. I can position the roll on the floor in front of the frame, and just roll out the batting up  onto the frame as I am rolling out the fabric to be quilted. The one end of the batting layer is pinned to the backing, and then the quilt top is pinned to those two layers, forming the quilt sandwich. I actually purchased a fourth rail for the Grace frame, onto which the batting roll can be wound. One of these days I will find that fourth rail and install it. The second of the two batting rolls is for larger-sized quilts. The batting is folded double, and then wound onto the cardboard roll. So it doesn’t conveniently unwind from the roll like the first one does. You have to unroll the estimated length of batting, cut it off, and then unfold the large section of batting in half, and pin it to the backing.

One thing I enjoy about the Qnique and Grace Frame set up is that pinning the fabric layers to the frame takes significantly less time than pinning the layers of a quilt for quilting on a home sewing machine. You pin the selvedge edge of the backing to Leader #1, then the opposite end to Leader #2, then roll it up on the rails, smoothing it out with your hands. No need for fifty-thousand pins with the little foam bobbers, or safety pins, or clips. However, in this case, since all the table runners were not the same length, and there were so many separate edges above and underneath the batting layer, a bit of mayhem ensued.

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removing the quilted table toppers en masse

All five pieces were conjoined in the batting layer, as seen above. But when the ruler base attached to the throat plate of the Qnique slid across to continue quilting the top next to it, it sometimes slipped the backing layer of its neighbor (underneath the throat plate) out of alignment, which wasn’t easily seen from the top side. And because all the tops and bottoms were of slightly different dimensions, some of the backing layers had a bit of slack, which wasn’t easily seen from the top, and which resulted in a few big puckers.

DH (Skip) suggested that next time, I sew the edges of each runner together prior to quilting them on the frame. I don’t like that idea, because I feel that the seam ripper should be used for ripping out undesirable stitches that occur by accident, not on purpose. But, if I ever do 5 at a time again, it might be worth a try to see if sewing them together causes less shifting of layers.

After the quilting, and cutting out the separate runners, and truing up the edges, I found that I would need to rip and redo several areas of quilting, due to puckers, overlaps, and other unsightly mistakes. In a couple of spots, when I slid the Qnique over to the next runner, the hopping foot got entangled in the edge of the top fabric and had to be cut loose with scissors. Sheesh.

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overlap from the throat plate sliding under and shifting the backing
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big pucker

The worst shifting and puckering occurred in the inner  three table runners. The outer two turned out with the least amount of rework needed, perhaps because the bungee clips which hold the fabric taut, are attached to the two outside runners. This is the reason for DH’s suggestion that all the lengthwise edges be seamed together for quilting, so that the tops and bottoms are one continuous piece of fabric during the quilting step. But I also feel that these errors can be chalked up to overall unfamiliarity with the process. Perhaps they could be prevented in the future by smoothing all the fabric pieces, exercising extreme vigilance of the under layer, and perhaps installing the fourth rail and rolling the batting on it, thereby keeping the batting layer more taut and uniformly stretched out during quilting.

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Best result, one of the two end runners

Next pass, I pinned up the last two table runners to the frame. These, too, were of slightly different lengths, so one of them had some slack in it during the quilting step.

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last two runners quilted together

I pinned them up closer together, practically touching, but I didn’t sew the edges together. I ended up with a couple of minor puckers and overlaps. But the one with the pink backing, because of its additional length compared to the other one, had about a 5-inch space at the end that couldn’t be passed over with the machine, because its neighbor was already at the end of its quiltable area.

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unable to finish this area

So this last little bit, as well as several areas on the previously mentioned runners that had to be picked out and re-quilted, were done on the Brother SC9500 with the free-motion hopping foot installed. BTW, that Brother is an awesome little machine, and very affordable!

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Rework on the Brother machine

I did manage to get all the quilts (3) and table runners (7) finished, reworked if necessary, and bound. Here are a few pics of the finished items.

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lap quilt from Robert Kaufman Celebrate Suess fabric collection
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Lap quilt with Robert Kaufman Celebrate Suess IV precuts
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Christmas Tossed 9-Patch lap quilt (pieced last year) with red satin blanket binding
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Orange and Blue/Camo table runner

 

 

 

Mossy Oak runner
Mossy Oak Breakup/ stitched camo remnant runner
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Gator collegiate fabric/ RealTree remnant runner
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Red berry Tree Hugger/Real Tree remnant runner
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Pink Tree Hugger/ Real Tree remnant runner
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TrueTimber MC2 remnant runner

The last one is not bound yet, because I couldn’t find anything in the stash right away that would make it “pop.” But the cats love it already. This is a slippery, satiny fabric that is possibly meant to represent snowy winter camouflage. For a backing, I used a silvery hologram-looking knit fabric. I love all of the camo remnants!

The Tree Hugger machine embroidery pattern came from Embroidery Library.

So the Assembly Line experiment was not trouble-free, but it was an adventure!

 

 

Building a “Cat-Proof” Christmas Tree

For the first time in many, many years, we decided to forgo getting a regular Christmas tree and make our own…out of wood.  The reason became very clear as we watched our six month old kittens repeatedly try to climb an artificial plant in our TV room only to have it come crashing to the floor.  Now, we have had cats forever and we have witnessed them denuding the Christmas tree one or two feet above the floor, drinking all the water out of the tree stand and pulling the tree skirt out from under the tree to make a nest.  But this year we decided to surrender to the cats and make a cat proof tree, or as one of our sons calls it, a cat accommodating tree!

basic plywood tree jennyskip
basic plywood tree

I acquired three 2’ x 4’ sheets of ½ inch Baltic plywood, and using scraps of wood and green deck screws, fastened the sheets together to form a 6’ x 4’ pallet for my wife to draw a Christmas tree. The plan was to construct a tree that could easily be disassembled once Christmas was over and to store the tree in the attic. I asked Jennifer to outline the tree and locate two large openings for shelves and two smaller openings to use for hanging cat play toys.  When this was completed I took a jig saw and cut out the tree and large openings. I used an electric drill with a 4” diameter hole saw to cut out the smaller openings.

I painted the tree with forest green paint and took it inside for Jennifer to decorate the tree.  We covered the dining room table with brown paper and it became our inside work bench for constructing the tree. Jennifer will tell you that our dining room table is my favorite work bench!!

While Jennifer added snow, popcorn, holly and beads, I began construction on the boxes that were to provide the support for the tree. The plan was to mount a 5” wide by 10”  deep by 10” high box to the back of the tree at the center. Five inches of the box was left exposed from the front and would be decorated as the tree trunk.  Two boxes 12”x 12” x 10” deep would be constructed and decorated as Christmas presents, these would be attached to the front of the tree on the left and right side of the trunk. This provided a very stable tripod arrangement to support the tree. These were fastened from the back of the tree using the same deck screws used throughout the build. The boxes were constructed using ½ inch Baltic plywood. I used a skill saw to cut out all the parts since my table saw was still occupied by the Boy Scout Eagle project we are working on (Adirondack chairs for a homeless shelter in town. Maybe a topic for another blog… how to build chairs with 10 boys 13 to 14 years old trying to use electric drills and sanders!)

Two 12” inch deep shelves were cut from the same ½ “ Baltic plywood. These had their front corners rounded off with the jig saw and painted red. Later these had a wooden strip attached to the bottom which provided a bracket for attaching the shelves to the tree.

tripod tree base jennyskip
three wooden boxes form tripod base

The tree was moved to the TV room and placed in front of the fireplace. The backup plan for supporting the tree was to run a board between the tree and underside of the fireplace mantel.  We then loaded the tops of the boxes and shelves with treats and hung two catnip toys in front of the small openings and sat back to see what happened. Our 16-year-old cat and the two kittens immediately put the tree to use. They climbed the front, the back and in between. The tree did not even shudder! Success!

cat Christmas tree jennyskip
cats checking out the tree

Of course, after 30 minutes the newness wore off and they haven’t been near the tree again. However, my wife and I have felt stress-free! No broken glass Christmas decorations!  No throw-up from the cats reacting to the chemicals added to the Christmas stand water to extend the life of the dying tree (only kidding about the chemicals). No urine stains on the Christmas tree skirt!  No 50,000 pine needles all over the floor to clog up the vacuum!  And I figure that if I get one of those tree shaped things you hang up in your car that are pine scented, we can even enjoy the smell of a real tree! Next, we might even add LED lights, battery-powered so we don’t duplicate the cat-atrophy I saw on the movie Christmas Lampoon!

Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts