Novelty print charm square patchwork ruffle skirt

How’s that for a mouthful?!  We’ll get to the NPCSPRS in just a moment, meanwhile, welcome to my stop on the Plum and June Let’s Get Acquainted blog hop and [say this next part in a funny British accent] please allow myself to introduce … myself.

My name is Em.  I currently live in Virginia via Illinois, Missouri, and Connecticut.  I’ve been quilting for … let’s call it 2 years, since that’s when I decided my scrap bin from other projects was getting out of hand and needed to be dealt with.  I sew (and quilt) predominately at night (hence the name of this blog) after my two little girls are tucked in to bed.  I often just enjoy the soundtrack of my sewing machine and the absence of small voices yelling from the bathroom, “Mooomm!  WIPE MY BUM!”  But if I’m feeling musical, I usually turn on Pandora and my mood ranges from blue grass to classic rock to club dance music.

My family and I are presently in week one of seven and a half weeks away from home this summer.  We started in Virginia, drove to Illinois, then it’s on to Montana and back home via Colorado and St. Louis.  We will drive through 16 states in total.  It is the Epic Road Trip Adventure that inspired the Road Trip Quilt Along I’m currently hosting.  

Assuming I can keep up between all the events and travel, I will post a tutorial for a new state block each week.  We just started with Virginia last week, and I would love it if you want to play along.  You can join the Road Trip Quilt Along Flickr group here.  We’ll continue on to Maryland tomorrow if I can get the tutorial finished up.  My sister’s wedding is this weekend, though, so it might be Monday.

Okay.  On to today’s tutorial.  It was inspired by Beth’s suggestion to use novelty prints.  And by the great variety of charm packs that are available.  And by my two little girls.

While not technically a quilting project, quilters have charm squares, yes?  And quilters know little girls that love twirly ruffle skirts.  You don’t know any ruffle-skirt loving little girls?  Sure you do: your best friend’s granddaughter, your neighbor’s niece, you co-worker’s sister’s cousin’s kid.  Anyway, I’m sure you can find a recipient for this darling skirt if you don’t have a little girl handy (I have two in my immediate vicinity; three this week since we’re visiting my parents and my niece is here).


[This is for a skirt that will fit a 3-4 year old.  For a smaller child, you could shorten the bottom band or leave it off entirely.  In the latter case, you will just add a hem to the bottom tier of the skirt.  For a larger child, you can add a third tier of charm square.  I recommend 12.]

16 charm squares
5-inch x 37-inch strip for bottom band
3-inch x 26-inch strip for waist band
21 inches of elastic (or thereabouts, measure the wearer of the skirt)

Ruffle skirt tutorial

Lay out your charm squares in the order you would like them.  Seven charms for the upper tier of the skirt, 9 charms for the lower tier.
 Using seam allowances of 1/2 inch, (I only emphasize that because most of you are quilters and quilters usually use 1/4 inch seam allowances.  You need more here.) sew each tier together into a ring.
 Within each seam allowance, trim off excess with pinking shears and zig zag stitch along the edge so that your skirt does not fray when you wash it.  If you have a serger, use it here.  Iron all the seam allowanced to one side.
 Sew both your waist band strip and your bottom strip together along the short ends into a ring.  Iron the seam of each open and then fold each ring in half and press.
 Open the folded-in-half ring back up and then fold one edge over 1/2 inch and press.

[This next part is slightly tricky, so read carefully.]  Line up the raw edge of the bottom band with the bottom edge of the lower tier of the skirt.  The right side of the bottom band should be against the wrong side of the skirt.  (I know it seems unnatural.  Just trust me here.)  Sew the bottom band to the skirt with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Iron the band out away from the skirt, flip it up on the fold line to cover the raw edge and the line of stitches you just made and then top stitch down, very close to the edge.  Ta da!  Lovely bottom band.
 Time to ruffle.  Do not backstitch at the beginning and end!!  With a basting stitch (sewing machine set to longest stitch length), sew a line of stitches about 1/4 inch below the top edge of the bottom tier of the skirt.  (Some say to add a second line of basting stitches in case a thread breaks, but I usually just sew one line.) Firmly grasp the bobbin thread with one hand and slide the fabric along the thread to gather.  You will gather it until it is the same length as the top tier of the skirt (28 inches).
 Line up the top the edge of the bottom tier (that you just gathered) with the bottom edge of the top tier, right sides together.  Sew together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Use pinking shears to trim the seam allowance and zig zag stitch along the raw edge.

Iron the seam toward the top.  Turn the skirt to the right side and top stitch along the bottom edge of the top tier, catching the seam you just ironed up.  This will keep the seam in place and help the skirt to lie nicely when it’s worn.
 Using the same technique as you used for the bottom tier, gather the top tier so that it is the same length as the waist band.

Line up the gathered top edge with the raw edge of the waist band.  As with the bottom band, the right side of the waist band will be against the wrong side of the skirt.  [I inserted a 3 inch piece of ribbon, folded in half, between the layers in the back of the skirt before I sewed them together.  This is optional, but my daughter looks for the “tag” in her clothes.]
 Iron the waist band away from the skirt, flip it down along the fold and top stitch very close to the edge.  Leave about 2 inches open to insert the elastic.
Attach a large safety pin to one end of the elastic, and thread it through the waist band.  Sew the two ends of the elastic together.  Sew the hole shut.
 Phew!  Did you make it all the way to the end?  Are you going to make a patchwork ruffle skirt?  Who is on your list?
 Be sure to check out my blog hop buddy today, Taryn at Pixels to Patchwork.

And if you missed them on Tuesday, go visit Cinzia at Deux Petites Souris and check out Kristy’s Red Herring blocks at Quiet Play.

You can find all the blog hop participants on Beth’s blog at Plum and June.


Mei tai on a Monday: Forest life and flowers

My friend Emily was the leader of the babywearing group in Culpeper when it was active.  She taught me a whole a lot about babywearing when we first moved to Virginia, and I had a tiny Sierra and had no idea what I was doing.

Sadly, life got in the way, Emily started working full time again, and she could no longer make the time commitment to run the babywearing group.  It was 3 years ago, Emily reminded me when she came to pick up this carrier, that I first made a mei tai for her.

Early this spring, another friend, Erin, stopped me to tell me that a woman had stopped her in Target to ask about her mei tai.  When Erin replied that a friend had made it, this woman asked, “Was it Em?” and expressed that she had mei tai that I made, and would like another one, but didn’t want to bother me about it.  It really could have been only one of two people who would have been in Target in Culpeper that Erin didn’t already know.

I emailed Emily and asked if it had been her who talked to my friend, and it was.  She did want a mei tai, with bright straps.  We decided on this turquoise canvas and Emily chose this Michael Miller Forest Life print to go along with it.  I just LOVE those owls (big surprise, right?).

As much as I adore the owls, I think I might like the reverse of this carrier even better.  The turquoise in the middle of the flowers is almost a perfect match for the strap color.  This print is from Botanical Pop by Windham Fabrics and I found it in the sale section at a local quilt shop.  It was a great find, especially since the selection in the sale area at that shop can be questionable at times.

I stuck with white for the top stitching because I didn’t want to take anything away from either of the prints by using turquoise thread.  Good thing, too, as I ran out of turquoise thread and had to use a slightly different color for the last two lines of support stitching through the waist band.  But, shhhh!  No one will ever know!

Mother-daughter clutches

My friend Lorae requested a clutch from me months and months ago.  It’s been so long ago now, that I’m actually embarrassed by how long it has taken me to put this project for my sweet friend on the top of my priority list.

Last week, she chose some fabrics for a clutch for her mother as well.  I am happy to say that in under a week, I finished both of them!  That’s more like it.

The navy on Lorae’s clutch is Lizzy House Outfoxed Jewels deep purple (though it really is more blue than purple).  The band is Michael Miller Whimsy ditto dot accented by a Kona solid that is a yellow-gold color (not sure which one).

That same yellow accent provides a nice pop of color on the inside of the bag.

Her mom has this gorgeous yellow and gray version.  I’m loving this combination of colors.  The floral is Moda Salt Air Coral Blooms and the yellow dot is part of the Clothworks Joined at the Hip line.  I love it and I really wish I had more.  Too bad.  The gray accent is a print from Silent Cinema.

Meet the machines

Since this is a sewing blog, I figure it’s high time I introduce you to the sewing machine who does all the work around here.  Without her, I would be sunk.  Actually, her manual refers to her as a “sewing computer.”  We love each other dearly (most of the time) and make beautiful babies together (and by “babies,” I mean finished projects, of course!).

This is Victoria, so named for all the victorious sewing projects I anticipated we would conquer together (so far, so good on that front).  She goes by Tori and shares a birth week with my baby girl.  I distinctly remember walking into my local quilt shop/Bernina dealer with my mother, and my 5 day old baby snuggled in a wrap on my chest (just the baby was in the wrap, not my mother) and walking out with this machine sewing computer.  Sigh.

Tori is a Bernina 330.  I had been looking at purchasing a new sewing machine for well over a year, and after much research, I decided that a Bernina was the way to go.  I had actually planned to purchase a different machine, as this one was not available when I did my initial research.  As it turned out, though, the 330 was meant to come home with me.  For a trade off of fewer decorative stitches, which I don’t use that much anyway, I got some nice upgrades and a sweet deal in an introductory sale.  Thanks to the “Bank of Mom,” I also had an interest free loan (which now payed off, by the way).

Tori has been recently joined by a new baby sister.  

Her name, Beatrix, or Trixie for short, means “voyager,” and she was purchased specifically to be used during our travels this summer.  We are going to be gone for the better part of two months and I decided that Tori was too large, heavy, and expensive to be hauling all around the country.  I have some sewing bee commitments that I will have to maintain through the summer, not to mention, I’d like to keep posting on this little blog without a 2 month lapse, so I needed a solution for sewing away from home.  Trixie is my solution.

Trixie is a Janome Sew Mini and she is still sew new that I haven’t even sewn a stitch with her yet.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  She was somewhat of an impulse purchase; I only read a few online reviews before I purchased her on a sale from Hancock fabrics.  She is very basic.  She does a straight stitch and three widths of a zigzag stitch, she doesn’t have a light and is definitely not made to go through the rigorous work Tori does, like stitching the straps of a mei tai.  Still, she should be fine with a few layers of cotton, not to mention she is only about 5 pounds, so she will certainly be easy to pack around the country.

I’ll certainly miss Tori this summer, but I hope Trixie can fill my sewing needs while we’re away.

(by the way, anyone else name inanimate objects, like sewing machines, appliances, or cars?)

Giraffeliqué mei tai

What, you may ask, is a giraffeliqué??  And my answer is this:

Giraffe.  Appliqué.  Get it?

This cute little guy resides on the sleeping hood of a mei tai, requested by my friend Hilary.  The main print is Michael Miller giraffe garden gray and the sleeping hood and reverse of the carrier are a white with little silver pinstripes.  The silver pinstripes look great with the gray canvas I used for the straps of this carrier.

I’m a little bit in love with this little giraffe, peeking up over the waist band.

Here is a better view of the Michael Miller Giraffe Garden print.

The body of the carrier has a double layer of top stitching and coordinates nicely with both the strap fabric and the pinstripes.  If you look closely, you can see the silver pinstripes are metallic and result in just a tiny bit of sparkle.

Hilary and her husband thought that all the bright colors in the giraffe print would be balanced nicely by solid white and I suggested they take a look at this pinstripe fabric, which they eventually selected.  It works well on the sleeping hood and gives a slightly more formal option for carrying a little one than those darling giraffes if the situation requires.


Tina Givens Opal Owl mei tai

Making a mei tai is such an involved project that I get a high every time I finish one.  It’s so great to see this wonderful creation that is not only beautiful, but functional as well.  I smile just thinking about these pieces of fabric that I put together being used to snuggle babies close to their parents, right where they belong.

I delivered this one today.  The fabric is by Tina Givens for Free Spirit, and I used the exact same print in a different color once before, when it was requested by friend, Liz.

The blues in the fabric look lovely paired with the gray canvas for the straps (in my opinion).

And here’s a close-up of the print, called magical forest.  It’s just so much fun.

There are some places where I really try to pay attention to details, and I often try to match up the print of the sleeping hood with the body of the baby carrier, especially when using a large scale print like this one.  You can see the two lines of top stitching along the edge of the sleeping hood where it falls against the body of the carrier.

That double row of top stitching is repeated all the way around the carrier.

The reverse is a solid blue, and the mei tai can be worn with either side facing outward.  This blue picks up on the blue in the print and I think it looks awesome against the gray straps.

I hope the new baby and the parents get lots of use out of this!

Ruffled curtain tie backs tutorial

I mentioned in my works in progress post that I did not make any progress on making curtain tie backs, as requested by a friend.  Well, now I have.

But seriously.  They’re tie backs.  For curtains.  They have ruffles.  It’s not really very interesting.  Functional, sure.  But interesting?  Notsomuch.  However, I thought maybe you have curtains (perhaps you made them?) and you want to make some pretty ruffled tie backs to match.  Maybe you’re just not sure how to go about it.  Well, I can help.

Here ya go.

Alright.  First up: construct the top part.

Here’s what I did.

Fold the fabric along the length and then in half so there are 2 folded edges.  Then cut out the shape.  In this case, the patterns was 12 inches wide, so when the tie back is unfolded, the fabric is 24 inches long across the length.  The pattern tapers across the length from 4 inches at the fold on the short side to 2.5 inches.  The curve is very gradual near the fold and increases in steepness about halfway across the length.

When the fabric is unfolded, you’ll have a shape that looks like this.

Fold that in half lengthwise and iron along the fold to make a nice crease.  Carefully fold the edges in about 1/2 inch along the curve on each side and press.  Do the same with the two straight ends.  Fold the shape along the center crease.  Set this piece aside and make the ruffle.

For my ruffle, I wanted a piece that was twice the length of the top portion of the curtain tie backs, in this case, 48 inches.  Since I didn’t have enough fabric for a piece 48 inches long, I cut 2 shorter pieces, 24 inches long x 4 inches wide and connected them.  You could cut them wider than 4 inches if you wanted a larger ruffle.  I pressed the seam open and then zig-zag stitched along each side of the seam so that I would not have any unfinished edges.

Now, fold the lower edge up about 1/4 inch and press.  Fold it up once more to enclose the raw edge and press again.  Stitch close to the folded edge to complete the hem of the ruffle.

Do the same with the two short sides.  Fold inward twice to enclose the raw edge, then stitch close to the fold.  You now have a long piece of fabric with three finished edges.

Time to ruffle the ruffle.  Set the stitch length on your sewing machine to the longest setting.  Increase the thread tension as high as it will go.  Place your ruffle piece in your sewing machine and sew along the length, about 1/4 inch from the remaining raw edge.

Return your machine tension and stitch length to normal.  When you removed your ruffle piece from the machine, leave the thread trails about 6 inches long.  With one hand grasp the bobbin thread only and slide the fabric so it continues to gather the ruffle.  You can slide from the opposite side as well, if you need to.  Continue gathering the fabric until the ruffle piece is the length of the top portion of your curtain tie back.

Place the ruffle between the two layers of the top portion of the tie back, tucked inside about 1/2 inch (it works well to line the raw edge of the ruffle up with the raw edge of the top portion that was folded in and pressed).  Pin all the layers together, catching the top layer, the ruffle and the lower layer with your pins.

I used a lot of pins, placing one every 2 inches or less.  I wanted to make sure the layers didn’t shift as I was sewing them together.

Beginning along one short side near the fold, sew very close to the edge to close the opening.  When your needle gets close to the lower edge, stop with your needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn the tie back to sew along the length of the curve to enclose the ruffle, again stopping with your needle down when it arrives near the final open edge.  Lift the presser foot again, turn the fabric, then sew the final open edge closed.

Time to finish this off!  I was making these for a friend and she bought these little plastic rings to attach to the tie back.  If you don’t have them and don’t want to go buy them, you could use a small loop of fabric, or a piece of strong string, or a little loop of thin elastic.

I attached them by setting my zig zag stitch to a wide width and no length and going back and forth several times.  Do the same thing on the other side.

Now do the same thing and make another one.


And look: no unfinished edges.  All looks very professional, yes?  You can do it!

So, was this useful?  This project was a special request from a friend, and I honestly do not even know if people are using tie backs in their decor.  This is what happens when you don’t have cable and no longer get to watch HGTV!

Festival of Half Square Triangles: winter table runner

Today, at noon, is the final day to enter a project in the Festival of Half Square Triangles at Canoe Ridge Creations.  And here it is, nearly 10am and I am writing this little post about a project I just finished last night very early this morning, so that I can play, too.

Yes, there are some great prizes up for grabs, but with well over 100 entries already, I realize my chances of actually winning any of them are slim.  However, I still wanted to finish this up and link up over there because these sorts of “link parties” are really great for the community aspect of them; it’s tough to get that in the digital world.

I’m really glad that this festival is happening because it provided the motivation to finish a half square triangle project that I started (and had hoped to finish) way back in January.  I thought I was being all sneaky and clever posting a sneak peek of my completed half square triangles.  They looked lovely, and I thought I would unveil the final project shortly after that.  Um … yeah, that didn’t happen.

Earlier this week, the link party for the HST festival opened up and I didn’t think I would be able to finish this project in time.  I had something to strive for, though, and some time shortly after midnight this morning, I completed the binding of my winter table runner.  Hooray!!

I wanted this to be an obvious “winter” decor item without being holiday themed so I chose to use purple, navy, ice blue, gray and white.  I designed it so that the HSTs of the same color (purple) would form the background for some snowflake appliqués.

That background purple, which I also used in the binding, is great because it has some tone on tone variation so, in person, it really adds some great texture and dimension to the project.  It’s Kona dimensions purple.  In this next photo, you can also see a little bit of the sparkle in the snowflakes.  This white, which I used for the snowflakes and also the outer white border, is Michael Miller Fairy Frost glitz zirconium.

I knew that straight line quilting would be the way to go with this project, but when I was invited to a sew/play date (which I mentioned but never posted about) with Kim, Amy, and Katie, I sought their input and they agreed that some echo quilting following the lines of the chevrons would be lovely.

The back is just pieced with some of the leftover and a few extra half square triangles.

I’m really happy with how this project turned out, and it looks great on my dining table.  Too bad it’s not really appropriate decor for April!  Ha!  At least it will be ready to go when December rolls around!


Quilt square pouch + mini patchwork pouch

My youngest sister called me the other day and her lead in was this: “Em!  I think you should go back to school and get another degree!”
Me: “Um … no.”
She:  “Yes!  You really should get another degree in fashion design.”
Me:  “Ah.  So, I guess your gifts arrived and you like them?”

I was intending to make Jenn a quilt square pouch for Christmas, but it got pushed to the back burner and I didn’t get around to it until now, just in time for her birthday.  I used the quilt square I made for my sunset squared tutorial.   It’s a 12-inch quilt block, and resulted in a 12-inch square pouch.

All I had to do was add a fun, red zipper.

I picked this Michael Miller fabric to line it because it’s a great black-white-red print that coordinated with the colors in the quilt square.

I used Kona black for the back and added a patchwork strip made from the fabrics in the front of the pouch.

Since I was so terribly late on the Christmas gift, I gave myself penance and constructed a tricky patchwork pouch for her accompanying birthday gift.  The design is simple, but the tricky part is that the patchwork squares finish at just 1 inch!

I kept the reverse simple with this cute black and white polka dot print.

And I tied the two bags together as a “set” by using the same red zipper on the mini pouch.

I lined the little one with the same print as the larger one as well.

Here they are together, ready for sis to pack them up for her travels.  I think they are a great set.  The big one is large enough to pack delicates or other things you don’t want getting lost in your luggage, but it’s small enough that it can still be shoved in to the corner of a larger bag.  The mini pouch could be used for cosmetics, or jewelry, change, or even an iPod and ear buds!

Enjoy, little sister!!

Happy mail

I cannot tell you how happy I was when I went to the post office yesterday and found this package in the mail.  I knew it instantly because *I* had addressed it way back in March when I packed up my 5 yards of neatly cut red-orange charm squares and sent them off to Utah with that self-addressed stamped envelope tucked in next to them.

I didn’t even make it home before I ripped open the package just to take a peek.  And, oh! They are beautiful, these 280 little 5-inch squares of fabric in every color of the rainbow and more!

I cannot imagine all the work that went into the sorting and stuffing of 280 charm squares multiplied by 56!!  I am eternally grateful to Kati of from the blue chair, who organized the 5 yard color wheel charm swap, assigned the colors to the participants and then took care of collecting and sorting 280 yards of fabric and putting 56 packages of rainbows back in the mail to their new happy owners.  WOW!

My head is already spinning with all the lovely things I could make with these treasures.  I think I would really like to make a whole quilt out of my double staircase block.  It would be awesome in rainbow colors.  I wonder if I should radiate from the center outward in the rainbow colors, or start in one corner and have the rainbow sweep across the quilt from corner to corner??

This is a project for some undermined time in the future.  But!  Since I cannot possibly wait that long to play with these pretties, I’ve already pulled 16 for a dresden plate wall hanging.  It’s about time I actually have some fabric art in my sewing room!