April showers bring May flowers

I recently helped host a baby sprinkle (like a baby shower, but smaller in scale) for my friend Laura.  We didn’t go all out with a theme, per se, but my co-hostess and I tossed around the idea of “April showers bring May flowers.”  The shower was in April; Laura is expecting a little girl in May … makes sense, right?

Anyway, I put together a couple of do it yourself decorations to represent the theme.  The first was a raindrop garland, following the tutorial at Made.

It was beyond easy to make, and came together pretty quickly.  I took the various shades of blue out of a couple multi packs of felt sheets and stacked two together at a time.  I drew raindrops of various sizes on the top felt sheet and then cut them out.  After that, I just made a pile of mixed raindrops next to my sewing machine and grabbed them in a mostly random manner as I stuck them through my machine.

It is a little delicate since the thread between each raindrop is just polyester sewing machine thread.  This garland would have been stronger if I had sewn the raindrops together top to bottom, so felt was always touching felt without any open space between.  But, I wanted the raindrops to hang down in the same direction and not end up with upside down raindrops.  Or, I could have attached each hanging down raindrop to a stronger piece of ribbon or string that extended along the length of the garland.  Next time, perhaps, but you can keep that in mind if you make one.

So that covers the “showers” part of the theme.  You can see the “flowers” part of theme in  the raindrop garland pictures.  This was also a pretty simple project, and my 3-year-old even helped with part of it!

I think I saw this idea in Disney Family Fun magazine (could have been Martha Stewart), but for the life of me, I can’t find it now to confirm that, nor could I locate this project online.  Anyway.  I bought the flower shaped paper punch specifically for this project, and I could definitely see myself making this project again.  It was easy, fun, and turned out really great!

You’ll need:
A styrofoam wreath form
3 yards (depending on the size of your wreath) of wide ribbon
a length of ribbon for hanging
flower shaped paper punch
various colors of scrapbook paper or lightweight cardstock
pins (I used the jewel head kind with the pretty colors!)
scissors (to cut ribbon)

I started out by punching out a pile of paper flower shapes because I wanted all my materials ready to go.  If you prefer you could probably punch them out as you go to avoid having any extra flowers lying about.

I had … (ahem) … “help” with this step.

Next, prepare your wreath form by wrapping it in ribbon.  I started out by securing one end  of ribbon to the back of the wreath with 3 pins and then wrapping around them to hold it in place.  I wrapped it pretty snuggly, and just let the ribbon form little gathers as I went around.  When I had covered the entire wreath with ribbon, I simply secured the loose end to the back of the wreath with a few more pins.

Now, start pinning on your flowers.  Just stick a pin through the center of the paper flower and into the styrofoam wreath.  I started out using single flowers and then I realized that my flower punch was designed so that if I staggered two paper flower on top of one another, I had a perfect double flower.  So I took them all out and started again.  You could cover the entire wreath if you were so inclined, but I “artfully” (ha ha) left some of the ribbon exposed.

Then I made another one (but somehow failed to take a picture of it).  One adorned the door to greet guests as they entered the party.  The other decorated the mantle with the raindrop garland.  They were a great backdrop for Laura opening her surprises for her baby girl!


{Sunset squared}: A quilt block tutorial

Look at that, I finally made a tutorial for this quilt block!  Be warned, this is going to be a picture overload.

This is the block I constructed for the 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee in the 4th Quarter of 2011.  I’ve been intending to make a tutorial every since.

This block is composed of two separate parts: 1. the upper portion (the “sunset”) finishes at 7.5 inches x 12 inches 2. the lower portion (the squares) finishes at 4.5 inches x 12 inches.  [When I say “finishes”, I mean when it’s sewn into a quilt, the block will be 12.5 x 12.5 inches.]

The upper portion is paper pieced so we will start by making a template and paper piecing those 9 rays.  I am going to use the method of paper piecing in which you fold back the paper along your piecing lines and sew next to it rather than sewing over your lines and tearing the paper off later.  Freezer paper allows the template to stick to your fabric.

First draw a rectangle on the paper side of the freezer paper (as opposed to the waxy side) that is 12 inches x 7.5 inches.  Add another rectangle 1/4 inch to the outside of that one (12.5 inches x 8 inches) to account for your seam allowances.

On the inner rectangle, mark the center of the lower edge.

Find a protractor (ack!  math!) and line it up with the mark you just made on the center of the lower edge.  Mark every 20 degrees all the way around.

[Note: you could also mark every 30 degrees and then you would end up with 6 rays rather than 9.]

Draw lines that extend through the center mark and the every-20-degrees marks, all the way past the edge of your template.

You finished template for the upper portion of this block will have 9 rays that meet at the bottom center of the template.

Choose your fabric for the rays.  You could alternate 2 colors every other ray or select a different fabric for each ray.

Cut your rectangles of your fabric pieces for the rays 3.5 inches wide.  The longest pieces (the two on the corners) will need to be at least 10.5 inches.  I usually cut them at 11 inches so I have some extra fabric to work with.  The others don’t have to be quite that long, so just keep that in mind if you’re working with scraps.

[Assuming the rays are numbered left to right from 1 through 9, the fabric for 3 and 7 should be 11-inches long, the fabric for 2, 4, 6 and 8 should be 10-inches long, the fabric for 5 should be 9-inches long and the fabric for 1 and 9 should be 8-inches long.

Line up the fabric for your first ray with the template.  The wrong side of the fabric should be against the waxy side of the freezer paper.

Iron the freezer paper to the fabric.

Fold back the template along the line between the first and second rays.

Trim the fabric to 1/4 inch beyond the fold.

With right sides together, line up fabric for the second ray with the edge you just trimmed.

Sew the two pieces of fabric together right along the fold of the paper without piercing the paper with your needle.  

Unfold the template.  Iron the second ray open.

Iron the freezer paper to the second ray.

Fold the template back along the line between the second and third rays.

Trim the second ray to 1/4 inch beyond the fold.

Line up the fabric for the third ray even with the edge you just cut, right sides of fabric together.  Sew right along the fold without piercing the paper with your needle.

Unfold the template.

Iron the third ray open.  Be careful not to touch your iron to the waxy side of the freezer paper.

Iron the freezer paper to the third fabric ray.

Fold back the template between the third and forth rays and then trim the third ray to 1/4 inch beyond the fold.

Continue with these steps until you have completed all 9 rays.  Trim around the template.

I like to trim the bottom even with the seam allowance line and add an extra 1/4 inch on the 3 remaining sides so that I have a little extra fabric available for squaring up the block at the end.

Ta da!  Congratulations, you’ve finished the upper portion of this block.  The rest is easy.

Cut out 6 2-inch squares of fabric.  I like to use the parts I cut off the rays from the upper portion of the block.

From a background fabric, cut 2 2-inch squares and 2 2-inch x 12-3/4 inch strips (they really only have to be 12.5 inches, but again, I prefer to have the extra little bit and then trim it at the end).

Sew the squares together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, creating a 2-inch wide strip.  Make sure the two squares from the background fabric are on the ends of the strip.

Sew the three 2-inch strips together with the pieces strip in the middle of the two background fabric strips.

Sew the top portion to the bottom portion, taking care as you go over the middle, which will be rather thick from where all the rays came together.

Trim your block to 12.5 inches, square.

Voila!  Sunset squared!

Tree block inspiration

I joined a group on Flickr called Bee a {modern} swapper.  Basically, the premise is this: every other month, we alternate exchanging quilting blocks (an online quilt bee); and on the opposing months, there is a swap of some handmade item that you are welcome to join (or not).  During each of the bee block months, one member of the group is the “Queen Bee” and all other members of the group make her (or him) two quilt blocks to her specifications.  Thus, during your month being “queen bee,” you receive 10 quilt blocks (2 from each other member of your group).

The schedule of fun for the year looks like this:

February: Pin Cushion Swap
March: Bee Block Month
April:  Pot Holder Swap
May:  Bee Block Month
June:  Pillow Swap
July:  Bee Block Month
August:  Hoopie Swap
September:  Bee Block Month
October:  Mini Quilt Swap
November:  Bee Block Month
December:  Secret Santa Swap
January:  Bee Block Month

I joined the first month pin cushion swap, and that resulted in my Pin Cushion Caddy Tutorial.  We were asked to hold off mailing until closer to the end of the month, so I’ll send that lovely out Monday.  I can’t wait to see what my (secret) partner came up with for me!

Meanwhile, I have the honor of being the Queen Bee for the first bee block month in March.  I decided that I want to make a little tree quilt wall hanging and made this inspiration mosaic to give my group members some ideas.

1. Blue Tree, 2. BBC February blocks- trees on white… Group #1, 3. Bonus Triangles Central Park Tree Block for Kari, 4. Mod Trees Quilt Block, 5. Tree Block- Rainbow, 6. Fall Tree Block, 7. January Blocks Quilting NewBees, 8. Tree for Carmen, 9. Sunni’s Tree Block, 10. tree swap block, 11. tulip tree for Melissa, 12. BBC February blocks- trees on white… Group #2

If you’re interested in attempting a tree block of your own, or just want to see how it’s done, check out these tutorials:

*This one is great because there are several different sorts of trees at the bottom of the post.
*This tutorial is for overlapping squares, but just add a trunk at the bottom and (bam!) you have a tree.
*Here’s a fun way to do trunk and branches, but I think I would like it more with more leaves.
*Scrappy tiling would make a lovely treetop.
*The tutorial for the tree with the paisley-looking leaves on the bottom left of my mosaic is here.
*You could try a ticker tape tree. Basically, you just slap some scraps on your background fabric and stitch it down. Looks like this.
*A couple other good tutorials for evergreen type trees can be found here and here.

Pin cushion caddy tutorial

I’ve been thrilled with how some flickr groups I’ve joined lately have really encouraged my creativity.  One of those groups is
Bee a {modern} swapper.  Every other month for the next year, we will make two quilt blocks for one of our group members.  On the opposing months, there is a swap of a different sort.  The first is a pin cushion swap.  I have never made a pin cushion before (but it’s been on my to do list for some time; those tomato pin cushions are so uninspiring).  This gave me just the push (ha ha!  get it?  pincushion?  pins?  push?  Oh … nevermind) I needed.

Do you think I would keep it simple for my first project of this sort?  Oh no, of course I wouldn’t do that.  I had to go and pick one of the most complicated designs for a pincushion out there.  It turned out really well, though, so I hope my secret swap partner is pleased.

I had seen some pictures of a pin cushion caddy, and my secret swap partner had included a photo of one in her inspiration mosaic, so I decided to try my hand making one for her.  There is apparently a pattern for one in Anna Maria Horner‘s book, Seams to Me, but as I don’t own that book, I had to come up with a different plan.

I came across this tutorial on Penny’s Hands and saved it on Pinterest.  The concept is great, actually, and just what I needed, but Penny’s version uses the English paper piecing method and is sewn entirely by hand.  My sister thinks this is awesome, but hand sewing is just not my cup of tea (my cup of tea is most often chai tea, or some other sort of black tea with a flavor).  If you love that sort of thing, please, head over, and Penny will show you how to put it together.  If you’d rather have “date night” with your sewing machine, here’s how I modified her idea.

From thin cardboard (like a cereal box), cut:
6 rectangles, 4 inches x 2 inches
1 hexagon with 2 inch sides
(Note: Penny links to a website for hexagon template, I just used a protractor.  Draw a line, 2 inches long, from one end, use your protractor to draw another 2 inch line, intersecting at a 120-degree angle.  Continue this process around until your 6th line intersects the first line you drew.)

Use the cardboard hexagon to cut out a paper hexagon of the same size.  Fold the paper hexagon in half.

UPDATE: I created a printable PDF with hexagons of the proper size for this pincushion.

Click here: Hexagon Cutting Template PDF for Pincushion Caddy.

You are going to use the paper half hexagon to make a pattern for the outside pieces of your pincushion caddy.  Trace the half hexagon (I suppose we can call it a trapezoid, right?).  Now, from the lower, widest edge, draw a 2 inch line straight down from each bottom corner, perpendicular to that bottom edge.  Turn your half hexagon (trapezoid) 180-degrees so the corners are touching the ends of those 2-inch lines you just drew.  Trace around the three outside edges to complete a modified octagon.

UPDATE: This elongated hexagon/octagon shape can also be found on the printable cutting template PDF for this pincushion caddy.

Click here: Hexagon Cutting Template PDF for Pincushion Caddy.

Add 1/4 inch seam allowances all the way around.  Recommendation: I suggest you take in the two sides of this octagon pattern by 1/2 inch.  You can leave it as is, but your already large pincushion caddy will be ginormous.  I sewed mine up from pieces this size, but then didn’t like how wide it looked and ended up taking in those side seams by 1/2 inch to trim it down.

From fabric, cut:
6 modified octagons, using the pattern you just made
2 hexagons, using your original hexagon pattern (the non-extended one) and adding 1/4 inch seam allowances all the way around
6 rectangles, 2-1/2 inches x 9-1/2 inches

Fold the fabric rectangles in half, lengthwise, and press with your iron.  Now you will have 6 double-layer rectangles, 2-1/2 x 4-3/4 inches, with a fold on one short end.  These are going to be joined into a cylinder which will from the inside of your pincushion caddy.

Sew the six octagons together in a circle, leaving an opening at the top and bottom.  With right sides together, sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance along one of the angled sides until you are 1/4 inch from the edge.  Leave the needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn the fabric so you can continue to sew along the edge with a 1/4 seam allowance.

When you are finished, you will have something that looks like this.

Now, sew your folded fabric rectangles together, along the long side, to create a tube or cylinder.

Turn the outside of the pincushion caddy wrong side out.  Turn the inside of the pincushion caddy right side facing out.  Place the inside tube into the top of the outside portion of the pincushion.  The folded edges should line up with the top of the outside section.

Line up the seams of the six sections and sew around the top with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, joining the inside of the pincushion caddy to the outside of the pincushion caddy at the top.

Flip the whole thing inside out so that the right side of the outside of the pincushion caddy is facing out and the right side of the inside of the caddy is facing in (are you still with me?)

Flip the pincushion caddy upside down.  See how you just made 6 little pockets in that inner cylinder?  Stick your cardboard rectangles in there.

Phew!  Okay.  Almost done.

You should have one cardboard hexagon with 2 inch sides and two (slightly larger) fabric hexagons remaining.  Place the cardboard in the middle of the fabric hexagon that will go on the bottom of the caddy.  Iron the side over so that the fabric hexagon is the same size as the cardboard.  Remove the cardboard.

Now put some good craft glue on the cardboard hexagon.  Place the cardboard in the middle of the fabric hexagon that will be on the bottom of the inside of the caddy.  Fold the edge of the fabric over the cardboard and glue them down.  (I stuck mine between my cutting mat and the table and put something heavy on it until it dried.)

And now!  I’m sorry to say that the hand sewing can be avoided no longer.  Take the piece that will be on the bottom of your pincushion caddy and hand sew it on.  Be sure to catch the inside (just below the cardboard), outside and bottom pieces with your needle and thread.  I found it easiest to put about 4 pins in one side, sew that together, and then move on to the next section.  Be sure to leave one section open to fill your pincushion.

Now you’re ready to stuff your pincushion.  It was suggested to me to use crushed walnut shells, so that’s what I did.  You could also use rice or sand or plain ol’ polyfill (though your caddy will be much lighter with that one).

You can find crushed walnut shells at the pet store, in the bird section.  Pet store employees will think it strange when you tell them what you’re using the bird litter for.

Would you believe I don’t have a funnel in my house?  I use a rolled up notecard, secured with a piece of tape.

Hand sew up that last side, flip your pincushion caddy right side up and stick that fabric covered cardboard hexagon in the bottom.

Ta da!  Great job!

It’s too early to send this pincushion caddy out to my secret swap partner, so I’ve been using it next to my own sewing machine for a few days.  (sorry, partner, just breaking it in.  ha!)  I love it.  I’m going to have to make one for myself.  It’s great to throw my scissors and rotary cutter in there and it’s large enough that I can remove pins and jab them in there without having to look up from my sewing machine.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please come like Sewing by Moonlight on Facebook and check out my Tutorials Page for more.