Quilt As You Go Method

My last quilt post was a traditional quilt – piecing together fabric for the front, adding a backing, and quilting (stitch in the ditch method) to attach the two.

Another method of quilting is called quilt as you go.  As the name suggests, rather than making a front and quilting the back on, you’re going to make the quilt as a whole – front, back, and quilting, all in one step.

Before we start, I’ll begin with some warnings about quilt as you go:

  1. The seams you sew are going to be much bulkier than a traditional quilt; instead of the maximum thickness being two layers of front, one of back fabric, and one of the middle batting layer (at the seams of the front side), it’s two times the back plus two times the front plus two times the middle layer (if there is one).  It saves time, but at the expense of bulk.  (That being said, I try to use this method without a batting layer, so it cuts down on the lumps)
  2. It can only be used for strips – not blocks.  You can, however, make your blocks, sew them into strips, then quilt as you go to complete the project.
  3. You’ll need to think about the order your placing your fabric layers before you sew to avoid undoing and redoing.  Again, it’s a little more work from the outset, but saves sewing time in the end.

OK, now that my disclaimers are done, let me show you how easy this is!

I’m doing a “cheater quilt” for an example here – I had some fleece given to me that was already cut, but not big enough for a blanket, so I decided to just add a couple of strips on the top and bottom to make it into a blanket about 30″x40″.  Not a lot of work, but it comes out cute (and I’ll be making a few of these to donate to Project Night Night, as in my last quilt post).

I started by placing my two fleece pieces wrong sides together (right sides facing out)… I know fleece doesn’t really have a right or wrong side, but this can be applied to any fabric, so I’m being specific here.  Then you’re going to place your adjacent fabric to the front right side down, lined up along the edge you want to attach to (you may also want to pay attention to the right side up/upside down direction, depending on your quilt).  Then fold it down (or flip it over if it’s just a small piece), and do the same with your back side – place your new piece of fabric right side down on the back.  I know that’s a lot of words, so here’s a picture to demonstrate what I’m talking about:

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Fleece is labeled since it’s not clear which is the right and which is the wrong side; I lined all the layers up at the top and stitched them together

Then, just sew along the edge.  You can see here what I mean by bulk – there are lots of layers in that seam!  Now, open up the quilt so all the good sides are showing.  You’re done the first seam!  Because of how I’m making my blanket, I’m just doing the same thing over again on the other side of the fleece, but if you want to continue from the pieces you just sewed on, just repeat the first process!  Put your new piece for the front good sides together along the edge you want it attached, flip over and do the same on the back, sew up the edge, and open it up again.

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Opened up after sewing

If you’re adding batting, it needs to go either on the very top or very bottom of all your fabric layers (cut in the same size strips as the front and back pieces).  Either way works, just make sure you do it the same for each strip you add, or your quilt seams will look different.

The first project I tried this method with was a life-size checkers set I made for my nieces – the squares were 3″, so the whole board was about 3 feet square.  I made strips by alternating black and white squares, then used the quilt as you go method to attach the strips, batting in the middle, and canvas for the back.  I used the serger on this, too, which cut down on the bulk by trimming off excess in the seams.

CheckerboardI really love quilt as you go when I’m trying to get a simple quilt done pretty quickly.  It’s definitely a time saver, and all your seams match up perfectly at the end.  If I had tried stitch in the ditch quilting on my checkerboard, it wouldn’t have turned out quite as pretty because the thread would have shown on either the black or the white squares.  This method eliminated that issue.  It also saves you from having to pin the front and the back, and you never need to worry about puckering or folds when you’re quilting.

Give quilt as you go a try, you’ll be glad you did!

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Final product, with a simple fleece binding! The bottom half was the same.

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Bowl Mitt Tutorial

Aside

My parents have a penchant for using kitchen tools in creative ways.  When they first got married, my mom had never seen a butter dish before; when she unpacked my dad’s butter dish, she decided that it was made to hold cranberry sauce (upside down, of course) at the holidays, and we’ve been using a butter dish like this ever since.  One of the gifts they were given for their wedding were some insulated things that were bowl-shaped.  So what did my dad do?  Naturally, he put them on his head like a hat and declared himself Napoleon!

In reality, these devices were like bowl mitts, used to hold a hot bowl without burning your hands.  Growing up, we only ever used the “Napoleon hats” for French onion soup, since it comes straight out of the oven.  When I bought my first house, my mom made me the first generation of homemade Napoleon hat, designed based on the originals (no idea where they were obtained, but I’ve never seen anything like it since).  It occurred to me that these could be used for more than just French onion soup – they are actually great for reheating anything in a bowl, since they are microwave safe!  My mom has made several variations for most of our family members since then, but all of hers had a seam across the middle of the bottom which made the bowl tip from one side to the other.  I’ll be sharing here my own design, which eliminates that seam (and I think is easier to put together than hers are).

Supplies (to make 4):

  • 1/3 yd outer fabric
  • 1/3 yd inner fabric
  • 1/3 yd Pellon (think insulating – thicker is better; iron-on makes assembly easier)
  • 3.5 yds wide bias tape (single or double fold)
  • Coordinating thread

All seam allowances will be stated for each seam, as they vary.

Start with the pattern found here, printed on a standard sheet of paper (there’s a 1 inch square for reference): Bowl Mitt Pattern – when you print, make sure to print it “Actual Size” or it will shrink a little.

You have a couple of options for cutting out your fabric.  You can fold your fabric twice and cut using the pattern, or you can cut 11″x11″ squares and just use the pattern to cut the notches out of the corners.  I’ll leave that up to you.  You’ll need to cut out 3 pieces for each mitt – 1 outer, 1 inner, and 1 interfacing (if you use iron-on, attaching to the outer piece before cutting eliminates a cutting step).

Next, you’re going to sew together each of those notches on the outer+interfacing and the inner pieces to make bowl shapes (right sides together so the pretty side has no seam showing).  Use a 1/4″ seam allowance for the outer and interfacing seams, and just a little more (about 3/8″) for the inner so that it fits nicely (I used a similar method for the lining of the tote bag).

Once you’ve made your inner and outer bowls, it’s time to attach them.  Place them seam sides together, line up the seams, and pin.  Then topstitch “in the ditch” from the top of one corner down, across the bottom of the bowl, and up to the corner that is kittycorner from it; repeat with the other corner.

Now, you have probably noticed that your “bowl” has points where each of the seams are.  While this does not prevent you from using it, they do make sewing the binding on a bit harder.  I recommend trimming and rounding each corner as shown below (it doesn’t need to be perfect – the binding will cover any imperfections):

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Now, just pin your bias tape on, folded over the top unfinished fabric, and sew into place close to the edge (but make sure you catch the back side).  When you get back to the beginning, fold the tail under itself so you don’t have any fraying edges.

Voila!  You have a handy bowl mitt (or 4)!  My favorite use is when I make soup and I want to reheat it the next day, I put the bowl in my mitt before I put it in the microwave, so I don’t burn my fingers pulling it out.  We’ve even been known to flatten them and use them for plates around here!

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Once Radar was converted to my new design, he asked me to make him another one specifically for his lunch Pyrex.  The plane he flies only has an oven, not a microwave, so he has a mini Pyrex dish with a lid that he uses for his meal during each flight.  DISCLAIMER: THESE MITTS ARE NOT OVEN SAFE!!!  Radar learned this the hard way when he caught one on fire 🙂

So, if you have a different shape, you’re going to use the same general idea, just tweak the measurements.  I measured from the top edge, down around the bottom, to the other top edge in both directions on his Pyrex, and got 10.5″x12.5″.  So I cut rectangles of outer, inner, and interfacing that were 11″x13″.  The edges are pretty steep and 2 inches tall, but not quite straight up, so I marked 2.5″ squares on each of the corners of my inner fabric (it was solid, so it was easier to see my marks).  Then I just put a tick mark 2″ in from each corner on the edge.  I then cut from the tick mark to the intersection of the first marks, making a notch in each corner:

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You can see the 2.5″ lines, and the cuts start on the edge at the 2″ tick marks

Then I used this one as a pattern for my outer and interfacing pieces and cut them the same.  Alternately, you can use the pieces you cut off as a pattern – just depends on what works for you.

Once you have your 3 pieces cut out, construction is essentially the same as the bowl version above.  The only difference I found was that I didn’t have to trim the corners here – the sides were so steep, I didn’t end up with much of a corner, and it was easy to wrap the bias tape around it.  My finished product has a snug fit, so it won’t wiggle around and he won’t burn himself using it:

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We went to Georgia Tech, can you tell??

This would be a great application for a larger Pyrex that you want to bring somewhere, or even put it in the fridge or on the counter when it’s still hot.  Really, once you’ve got the basics of the design down, the sky is the limit!

Tomato Chicken Alfredo

Those of you who know me know that I’m not the world’s best cook.  I feed my family, and it tastes ok, but I’m definitely not a gourmet chef.  However, every now and then I come up with my own concoction that turns out pretty well.  Today, I’m going to share my tomato chicken alfredo – a simple recipe that has become one of our family’s favorites!

Ingredients:

  • 4 raw chicken breasts (only 3 if they are large)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 (1 lb) package frozen peas
  • 1 jar sun dried tomato alfredo sauce (I use Classico brand)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (any flavor you like)
  • 1 lb your choice of pasta, cooked

Makes 4 healthy portions.

Cook the peas most of the way by boiling.  While they are cooking, dice chicken into bite-sized pieces, and cook through in olive oil in a pan, covered.  Add jar of sauce, can of tomatoes, and peas, and cook on medium until bubbling.  Serve over pasta!

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It was so good, I forgot to take a picture until it was halfway gone!

I like this meal because it’s versatile.  You can swap the peas for broccoli if you prefer, change up the shape of pasta (I actually used elbows with vegetables cooked into it this time, which was really good, but in the past I’ve used penne), add onions or garlic… really anything goes.  I also cook the pasta in the same pot I cook the peas in – one less dish for me to wash before bed!  Monster loves it, it gets Radar to eat peas, and it’s an easy, healthy meal for me to make in about 20 minutes.  It also reheats very well!

I hope y’all enjoy it!

Easy Scrap Quilt

One of my favorite blogs, Crazy Little Projects, is hosting a monthly challenge all year long, and this month’s challenge inspired me!  The task is to make something for a baby, and she suggests making a blanket for an organization called Project Night Night.  I really enjoy working with charities, but I can’t always donate time or money.  This opportunity gave me a chance to do something I love – sewing – to benefit little ones who don’t have a home.  It was fun to do, and I got the warm and fuzzies doing it!  I ended up making 3 blankets because my fabric stash is out of control.  So, here’s a tutorial on making a scrap quilt without too much work!

Supplies needed:

  • Scrap fabric (more details below)
  • 1 yard cuddly fabric (I used minky)
  • 1 (4.5 yd) package satin blanket binding
  • Coordinating thread

As always, seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise noted.

Start by cutting your scrap fabric.  You can do this however you like!  I cut 2-inch strips because a lot of my scraps were around that width.  As far as length, I varied anywhere from about 3 inches all the way up to about 12 inches.  You could also do all of your pieces the same length, but then you’re going to have to make the seams match up to make pretty corners; by doing random lengths, I didn’t have to worry about it!  As far as how many to cut… it really depends.  My goal was a 30″ x 40″ blanket, and I got so sew-happy that I ended up with enough for almost 4 blankets (3 to donate and a smaller one for myself to remember all the fabrics I’ve used in my past projects).

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I sorted my scraps – boy on the top, girl bottom left and neutral bottom right

Then start sewing!  Begin by attaching two pieces along the 2-inch edge.  I recommend sewing a whole bunch in a line without cutting between, then trimming when you’re done (or when the pile behind your machine gets too big).  Also, if you’re OCD like me, pay attention to the direction of prints – keep them right-side up in the same way if they’re adjacent.

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I think it’s quicker this way, but maybe I’m just stringing myself along (ba-dum-ch)

Once you’ve attached all of your 2-pieces and separated them, do the same thing again, putting 2 2-piece pieces together to make a 4-piece; then 8, then 16.  At this point they got pretty long (like 5 feet plus), so I stopped.

Next, cut your strips into 31 inch lengths (I found giving an extra inch made it 30 inches when it was all lined up and I trimmed off the excess to make it square).  If you did 2″ strips and you’re going for a 30″x40″ blankie, you’ll need 27 strips – keep in mind you’re losing some width to your seam allowances.  Now it’s time to start assembling the front of your quilt.  I alternated a boy or girl strip with a gender neutral strip so I didn’t have to worry about similar fabrics touching one another, but as mentioned above, I’m slightly OCD.  Do it how you please!  Similar to assembling the strips, I made 2-strip pieces, then combined those to make 4-strip pieces, and so on and so forth, until all 27 strips were put together.

I’m going to pause here to talk for a second about pressing seams on a quilt like this.  Generally, I’m a press-the-seams-open sort of girl, to reduce the bulk of the finished product.  However, when you press seams open on a quilt, it can create a gap between adjacent pieces, and make the quilt weaker over time; not something desirable in a security blanket!  So, be sure to press your seams to one side.  I did all mine to the left for the strips, and down for the assembled quilt front.

So, now that our quilt front is assembled and all nicely pressed, go ahead and use your plexiglass ruler to square up and trim the edges and make it all nice and even.  Then, lay it flat on top of your cuddly backing material and safety pin the back to the front.  (Usually I’ll add some Pellon batting in the middle, but it does make the quilt a little stiffer, and the minky fabric is just so soft and cozy, I just didn’t think it was necessary here.)

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Hard to see, but the safety pins are in there

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See that funny little bend? That’s what makes quilter’s safety pins so awesome! If you quilt on a regular basis, I recommend investing in some of these babies. Lets you pin on a flat surface with minimal effort.

Now you’re ready to start quilting.  I do not own a fancy quilting machine, and I haven’t yet tried to use the quilting foot on my machine (that will come at a later date, when I’ve built up my courage), so I usually stitch in the ditch.  Well, sort of… I have a lot of trouble keeping the seam right in the ditch, and I think it looks really sloppy if it’s not perfect.  So, I purposely move to the side about 1/8″ – I think it gives it a neat effect on a quilt like this.  Also, if you pressed your seams all in the same direction, you can sew right over the seam allowance, decreasing the bulk in the finished product a little.  I stitched over every other row, so it was just under 4 inches between.  I wouldn’t worry about vertical quilting – every 3.5″ or so horizontally will keep the front and the back together.  Then stitch all around the outer edge, and trim off the excess backing.

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I quilted just to the side of the “ditch,” so my stitches are visible and work like an accent

My mom makes “cuddle blankies” for all the grandkids; she put the fear of God in me about using satin blanket binding.  She said it’s too slippery, keep the seam ripper handy, watch YouTube videos about sewing satin, and have a back-up plan.  Being the chicken that I am, I almost just went to Plan B (binding the old-fashioned way, which I’m not a huge fan of) right off the bat.  But I had already bought the binding, so I decided to give it a try.  You know what?  It was the easiest way to bind a quilt that I’ve ever done!  (To give my mom credit, her experience with satin binding is using it not on a cotton quilt like this, but on ultra cuddle material, which is super stretchy and very “squirrelly” to begin with)  I started in the middle of one of the sides, and just sandwiched the quilt between the two sides of the binding (one side is slightly wider than the other; put this on the back side of where you’re sewing so you’ll be sure to catch it with the thread).  I pinned it until I got to the corner.  I wanted a mitered corner, so when I got to the corner, I bent the binding at the corner of the blanket and pinned it straight on the next side; it creates a bump of binding on the front and back.  Just lift the flap of the binding on one of the sides and tuck the bump in; it will create a nice 45 degree angled corner.  Do the same on the back side, and pin both with one pin.  Continue all the way around the blanket.  When you get back to where you started, just leave a tail for now.

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The bump at the corner; you can see I pinned right at the corner to make the turn in the right place

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Pull the bump all the way under one side, and flatten to get a mitered corner

Then start sewing your binding on!  Begin at the start of the binding.  I used a zigzag stitch for strength and because it’s pretty.  When you get to a corner, stitch outwards, then pivot and stitch back in (you can peek on the underside while the presser foot is raised to see if you need to aim right or left to catch the mitered corner fold on the back side on your way back in), and continue on to the next straight side.  Every so often I would check to make sure that I was catching the back side of the binding, but it was perfect the whole way.

When you’re approaching the end, cut the binding about 4 inches past the beginning.  Fold it back under itself to create a finished end, and pin in place.  Finish your stitching by going past the fold, then backstitching back over it.  I also recommend tying a knot, as demonstrated in my applique post – this blankie is going to get a lot of loving, you don’t want the stitching to come out!

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Showing off my mitered corner and the end of my binding

As I said, I ended up making 3 (2 girlie ones, 1 boyish one) to donate to Project Night Night.  I had a lot of fun, feel good about doing it, and learned something along the way – that’s a successful project in my book!

I hope this inspires you to make a blanket for a baby you love.  The satin is so smooth on the edges, and the minky is soft and cuddly.  Even better if you can make one to donate to a charity!  There’s nothing like making everybody feel warm and fuzzy 🙂

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Diaper Changing Kit with Fat Quarters

I think we all go through a time when all of our friends seem to be getting married, and following that there’s a slew of babies being born.  At 27, I’m pretty much past the weddings, but it seems like everyone I know is pregnant or recently had a baby!  So, I’m going to post a tutorial on making my favorite baby gift.

The reason it’s my favorite is because it’s so ingenious and useful.  I don’t know about other mamas out there, but my diaper bag is an abyss, full of toys, cracker crumbs, crumpled receipts, mismatched socks, sippee cups, lollipops, coins, sand, and who knows what else.  So, I need an easy way to keep my diapers and wipes handy at all times (and preferably crumb-free).  I also despise the changing pads that come with diaper bags.  They are awkward to fold and carry, and they don’t keep the clean parts that touch your baby clean.  This easy-to-make product solves both problems.

First off, here’s a picture of the one I’ve been using since Monster was born:

Diaper Kit CollageI didn’t have any fat quarters handy, and this was just as I was getting back into sewing, so I had to combine fabrics to make it big enough.  But you see how the changing pad rolls up like sushi?  When you fold it in half, you are keeping the clean side touching itself (the yellow/green on mine), and when you roll it, the dirty side only touches itself too (blue/red)… so the part that touches the less-than-sterile changing table at Target never touches Junior’s bare bum (I am so not a germophobe, but those changing tables skeeve me out).  It’s also nice and compact for easy carrying in the diaper bag.  I’ll also point out my Tide pen sticking out of the diaper and wipe envelope.  I don’t normally carry it like that, but it is always in the bottom of that pouch – it’s super handy to carry one all the time!  That’s my mama product plug for the day.

So, getting started, here’s what you need:

  • 2 fat quarters of your pretty fabric (the state fabric in my instructions below)
  • 2 fat quarters of your coordinating fabric (the orange here)
  • 1/2 yd of thicker Pellon (I do not recommend the iron-on kind for this project, just the standard quilt stuff will do)
  • 9 in thin elastic
  • 1 in hook side of Velcro
  • 3 in loop side of Velcro

Note: All seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise stated.

Technically you could get away with 3 total fat quarters: the changing pad uses 2, and the envelope uses 2 halves.  If you want the whole envelope to be the same color, you’ll just use 1 whole fat quarter for it.  I’ll leave that up to you.

Cut the fabric for the pouch by cutting one of each fat quarter in half, so you have two halves that are 18 in by 11 in.  Then cut an 18 in by 22 in piece of Pellon (creating your own fat quarter).  Once you’ve done all your cutting, all your pieces should look like this:

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Not pictured: Velcro and elastic

As you can see, I appliqued a Florida and an Alabama onto the orange part of the changing pad – for this gift, Mom is from Florida and baby will be born there, and Dad is from Alabama and it’s where they met (at Auburn, hence the orange), so I thought I’d highlight these states.  Also, Dad is in the Air Force, so it’s likely little baby will get to visit a lot of those states on the fabric 🙂  (For instructions on applique, visit my applique post here)

Start by sewing your two Velcro pieces to the fabric for the pouch.  Use a pen to mark the midway point (5.5 in) along the 11 in side of each piece on the very edge, so it’ll be in the seam allowance.  Then sew the 1″ hook piece onto the center of the outside piece, and the 3″ loop piece onto the inside piece (see picture below); make them just over 1/4″ from the edge so they’ll be just outside the seam allowance.  Next, place the two pieces right sides together with the Velcro at opposite ends.  Sew around the edges, leaving an opening about 3″ long on one of the long sides, near the short hook piece of Velcro (in the picture below, near the bottom left or right corner, but not AT the corner).

IMG_2281Likewise, place the two fat quarters you didn’t cut right sides together.  Place the elastic, folded over itself into a loop, between the layers about 1/4 of the way from the corner on the shorter edge, with just the “tails” sticking out.  Place the Pellon on top, and sew around the edge, leaving a 3-4″ opening to turn.  I recommend backstitching at the elastic, because it will take a lot of pulling during use.

Clip the corners on both the pouch and the mat and turn right side out.  On the mat, turn the edges of the opening in and topstitch around the whole edge, 1/8″-1/4″ from the edge.  On the pouch, turn the open edges in, fold the bottom (with the short hook piece of Velcro) up about 3/4 of the way up and sew along the 2 sides to make a pocket.  Again, I recommend backstitching at the top because it will take a lot of stress in use.  That’s it, you’re done!

Finished Kit

Fold the mat in half “hot dog style” and roll it up, then wrap the elastic around it to store

You’ve probably been wondering why I did 2 different lengths on the Velcro.  The amount you need will vary depending on how many diapers (and other stuff) you store in the pouch.  This allows it to close tightly whether there’s a little (2 or 3 diapers and a small pack of wipes) or a lot (I carry 3 size 2 diapers for Peach, 2 size 4 diapers for Monster, and a change of clothes for Peach, plus my Tide To Go!) in the pouch.

Now fill it up for your expectant mom, and she’ll love you for it!

Tote Bag Tutorial

Even though it’s early in April, I have decided what to make Monster’s teachers for their end-of-year gifts: tote bags!  I’ve been wanting to design my own bag for a while, and this was my opportunity.  These bags include an applique and some hand-sewn trim detail, a lining, a pocket, and two straps for over the shoulder.

Supplies:

  • 1/2 yard of main fabric (the owl fabric in this example)
  • 1/2 yard of lining/accent fabric (the pink with white polka dots); if the direction of your lining/accent fabric matters and the print is upright when the bolt is upright, you will need 3/4 yard)
  • 1/2 yard iron-on Pellon, thicker like you’d use for a quilt
  • Heat N Bond for applique
  • 1/2 yard gold trim, cut into 2-inch pieces and Fray Checked on each end
  • Coordinating thread

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Rotary cutter, cutting mat, plexiglass ruler – or whatever tools you use to cut fabric

Note: All seam allowances are 1/4 in unless otherwise stated.

I wanted to go with a sun theme, since Monster is in the sunshine class, but I couldn’t find any sun fabric!  So I found some cute fabric with owls (get it?  For his wise teachers!) and decided to applique a sun on, with each teacher’s initial in the middle.  For instructions on how to applique, see my previous post (click here).

Start out by cutting out all your fabric and Pellon.

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Not pictured: 1/2 yd of gold trim, 2 16.5″x12.5″ pieces of Pellon, and 2 2″x30″ pieces of Pellon

Create the front and back outside panels of the bag together by stitching along the 12.5 in side of the 10.5×12.5 piece and the 6.5×12.5 piece (twice, obviously).  I wanted to “sign” the bag so that his teachers would remember him, so I used my fancy machine to sew “Love, [Monster] 2014” on what will be the bottom of the bag.  I used a lot of Fray Check after I trimmed the threads between the letters!

IMG_2230Next, iron the Pellon onto the two pieces you just made for the front and back outside of the bag.  Now that the fabric is stable, add your applique and any other detailing (in my case, the rays of sun from the gold trim).

Make your straps by first ironing each piece of 30 in Pellon to the 30 in pieces of main fabric.  Then place the main fabric and lining fabric strips right sides together, and sew up both sides (I also sewed the end shut because it was easier to pivot, and for me it’s easier to turn – but do whatever works for you!  I had to take the stitching out of the end after I turned it so it wouldn’t be too bulky).  Turn right side out, and sew down each edge with 1/8 in seam allowance.  Repeat for the other strap.

IMG_2240Make your pocket by placing your 6 in squares right sides together and sewing most of the way around.  Backstitch at the beginning and end, and leave a 2 in opening for turning.  Clip corners, turn right side out, and iron flat.

IMG_2241Turn the edges of the opening of the pocket in, and sew your pocket onto one of the 16.5×12.5 accent pieces (1/8 in seam allowance).  Add compartments as desired.  I made a pencil slot and a phone pocket here.

IMG_2242Next, sew your shell and your lining by placing your outer (2-fabric pieces) and inner (accent pieces) around the sides and bottom.  Pay attention to which side is the top, and do not sew on that edge!

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I used 1/4 in seam allowance for the outside, and a little larger, about 3/8 in, for the lining to make it a little smaller so it would fit well in the bag.

Measure 1.5 in FROM THE SEAM in the two bottom corners of each piece you just sewed, and cut out a square.

IMG_2245Open up each of these holes, line the seams up, and sew across where you cut to make a square bottom.  (I demonstrated this method with the felt bag, see photo here)

Now, I’m really bad when I sew things together, I can’t visualize how it’s going to look when I turn it all right side out.  So, to prevent error, I started the construction stage by pinning the straps on the bag the way I wanted them to look in the end.

IMG_2247Then, turn the outer shell inside out (carefully so as not to stick yourself!), place the lining right side out inside of it (I made the pocket touch the back side of the bag so their phones would be close to their body and not flopping around when they carry their bags), and pin around the top, removing your initial strap pins as you do so.  Then, sew around the top of the bag, leaving a few inches open to turn.  I backstitched at the straps because that’s where the bag will take the most abuse, and I wanted it to be strong.

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Turn your bag right side out and pin along the top again, turning in the edges of the opening.  Sew about 1/8 in from the top all the way around.

 

IMG_2251And you’re done!  You’ve just made a beautiful, useful gift for the teacher (or relative, or friend) in your life!

IMG_2257  IMG_2258

Are you making end-of-year gifts for your kids’ teachers?  What other ideas do you have?

Teacher Appreciation Poster – Some Silhouette Basics

Instead of doing teacher appreciation week, as most schools do, Monster’s preschool does teacher appreciation days throughout the year, because we don’t just love our teachers one week of the year!  My very first project on the Silhouette was a poster for his teachers’ door – you can see I didn’t know a whole lot about what the machine was capable of:

Orig

His class is called the Sunshine class, so I had to include a pun!

This time, I’ve learned a lot more about things the Silhouette does, so I’m going to share some of my learnings with you!  It’s still pretty basic, but I’ve found that I’ve used these techniques over and over again.

The first thing I wanted to do was create a phrase for the poster.  I HATE gluing individual letters onto a project – it’s so hard to get them spaced properly, and my lines are never straight!  So, I use a tool on the Silhouette called offset.  It makes bubbles around the letters.  I then cut these in a different (usually fancy) paper, and glue my individual letters to the bubbles – much easier to line up, then I only glue full words to the final project.

To start, you may need to adjust your line spacing so the bubbles don’t overlap.  In the font menu, it’s at the bottom (in the red box below).  If you have trouble seeing any of the images in this tutorial, just click on them to bring them full-screen.

1 Line Spacing

Then, to create the actual offset, go to the offset window by clicking the icon (outlined in red here) in the top right corner.  Then, click Offset, choose your width (0.25 in usually works pretty well for posters), and click Apply.  Bubbles will appear around your words!

2 Offset Window

Be aware that while your text is still one image, each word you made out of bubbles is separate.  So, if you want to move them as a unit, you’ll need to select them all (using Shift, NOT Ctrl), and group them using the button in the bottom left corner.

3 Separate Shapes

Now that you have your words and bubbles the way you want them, it’s time to think about cutting!  Because you are using different papers for letters and bubbles, you won’t want to just cut it all at once.  There are two ways to cut your paper.  The first is to simply move the part you don’t want to cut out of the “printing” frame, like so:

4 One Way to Cut

You can then swap out your words and bubbles, and cut again.

The other way is to use the Cut menu, located in the top right of the screen (in a red box below).  Select the cuts you wish to omit (in this case, the letters), and click No Cut.

5 Cut Style

This will make the lines fade, and they will not cut out when you send the document to the Silhouette.  When you exit the Cut menu, the red lines will return to normal (not as wide and all the same shade of red).  You can then alternate between parts to cut out.

6 Cut Outline

Another way to avoid gluing individual letters onto your project is through clever use of script fonts.  Lauren Script (included with Silhouette Studio) is one of my favorites.  You can find more scripts at fontspace.com – they are free and safe to use – but more on that in another post.

7 Teacher Names

Use the Cut menu again to make the cursive connect the words, but instead of No Cut this time, choose Cut Edge.  Instead of cutting individual letters, it will cut the outline.

8 Cut Edge

Be sure to zoom in on each word, though – as you can see here, the M was going to be separated from the a!

9 Zoom Problem

To fix this issue, use the Ungroup button in the bottom left corner (outlined in red here).  This will separate each letter in your text.  Then, simply move any affected letters around so that they touch!  If you do this with the Cut menu still open, it will be obvious when the problem is fixed.

10 Ungroup Letters

Ta-da!  Remember to regroup all the text if you want it to move as a unit again.  Once you’ve done this, though, you won’t be able to edit the words – they are treated as images rather than text now.

11 Fix to not Cut

So, using these techniques, here is the poster I made for the teachers’ door:

20140314_112310

Still has a sunshine theme!

And in case you like my flower or leaf, here is the Silhouette file to cut your own: Flower and Leaf