Additional Gifts from Near and Far

I am a lucky girl! I have such nice friends who give me presents sometimes. 😉

First, I got a gift certificate for some fabric. Above is what I bought. Dots, of course, but also some of Mark Lipinski’s Califon line. I like the delicate designs. Not sure how I will use it, but something will come up. Now I can rest assured that the FOTY 2009 quilt will have some fabric in it. Thgift certificate came from TFQ for Christmas and the fabric just arrived today. I still owe her a thank you note.

How do you like this gift bag? The bottom has something slightly stiff in it, so it stands nicely up to attention. It is made out of felt, so I may be able to make lovely designs with embroidery (using my machine’s embroidery function) on the front instead of the applique’. The blanket stitch can be done on the machine as well. I’ll have to try it. One thing I like about it is the cute size.

This little teapot pincushion was in the gift bag. My friend, Leah, gave both to me. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time and when we got together, she produced this little package for me. It is a very sweet treat, and unexpected.

I have been transferring my pincushion between sewing machine and ironing board, so this came at the right time and, perhaps, I can start thinking about just keeping one near each workstation? I am definitely going to have to buy more pins!

Quilting for Christmas

Quilting for Christmas doesn’t mean things that I made for Christmas, though it may mean that sometime in the future. It means gifts that I received for Christmas.

Julie sent me this great journal. It is a small square journal with a combination of blank handmade paper and graph paper. I already did one page of drawings and decorated the title page.

This was inspired by the pattern on The Child’s Christmas stocking.

Paul sent me the Civil war quilt book and Julie also came through with the Ruth McDowell and Katie Pasquini Masopust design books. I guess I had better start working on my design principles.

I also received The Quilt: A History and Celebration of an American Art Form. One of the things it has are ads of quilts from the 30s, which I really like.

Gift Bags From Afar for the Luckiest Girl

I got a surprise on Thursday! Kristen and Mrs. Kristen sent me a dotted package filled with fabrics and gift bags. I was so thrilled and it was just the pick-me-up I needed.

I saw this sunflower fabric on Kristen’s blog and asked her to get me some earlier this year. I never saw it and know that she is really busy, but was so pleased to see it come to live with me.

The dots, of course, will come in very handy.

While they were at it, they worked on some gift bags for me. Aren’t they pretty? They have little cuffs on them, which is wonderful and different from mine. I am so pleased to add them to my collection. I am also pleased that the gift bags phenomenon is spreading. Hope you will make some, too!

They put it all in a gift box covered with dots, which made me happy even before I opened the package. Thanks, ladies!

Clever Holiday Gifts

CraftSanity Napkin
CraftSanity Napkin

I am mulling over hostess and cousin gifts as the holiday season officially arrives with little to no inspiration. I really just want to sit around and work on what I want to work on. Fortunately, Jennifer Haywood- Ackerman, creator of the CraftSanity podcast, also has a great blog. Today she is talking about these fun napkins. The folding is the key to making these look great and she includes the directions for this and another project.

Ode to Mother

My mother once told me, when asked how old she was, that she was 29 . I don’t know if she actually was 29 at that time. Ever since then, when asked, I start to tell people she is 29 and then I have to remember that I am older than 29 so she can’t possibly be 29! The 29 effect means that I always have to do the math to figure out how old she is.

Today is her birthday and she is once again, 29. In honor of her birthday, I thought I would show some of the quilts she is working on.

This is a quilt for a friend who took care of the dog when my mom was running back and forth to hospitals and the nursing home earlier this year. The print is a dog print and, as you can see, she is clearly influenced by my dot habit.

This is the back and I think the way she highlighted the Very Hungry Caterpillar motifs is a good use of the Eric Carle fabric.

This quilt also uses pet fabric as the background for the hearts. The hearts are a pack from Keepsake Quilting and are raw edge applique’d to the background. I like way the placement of the hearts creates movement.

My mother is quite prolific and willing to try anything. As a result, she is a great inspiration to me.

Teacher Pillows 2008

Yes, I made Teacher Pillows again. I know I am going to get flak for reprising the project that made me so insane last year. This year my timing was off (summer, which, as you know, happens NOT to be before the end of school) and they turned out to be a lot easier. Spring was just too crazy with work to be able to get to this project in time for the end of school. I think doing them while I was on vacation and not worrying about regular life was a really good thing. The first day of school is Monday, so the teachers will get a little boost from a gift then.

I decided to make them on vacation so I could get my SIL to give me some pointers. She has 3 boys, two of which are out of the house and college, and a lot of Teacher Pillows under her belt. I thought that if she couldn’t give me some pointers to make the process easier, I would really give up the tradition.

These are 12″ square pillows. That size choice made the whole process easier, because I didn’t have to change the size of the block or add a border and could just use the directions straight out of Around the Block. I have EQ, so another idea is that if I want to make 14″ pillows in the future I could resize one of their blocks and use the directions. They have great rotary cutting directions. (note to self).

SIL also suggested that I made the back two panels 10″ x 12″ each. This size is to prevent gaposis. It was hard to get the pillow forms into the pillow cover, but once they were all in, there was no gaposis.

The only thing I don’t like about this group is that the pillow forms are too puffy in the middle, so the corners aren’t filled out. I am ignoring that this time around. Once the teachers lean on them, I am hoping they will squish down. I will look for squishier pillow forms next time. Last time I got feather pillow forms on sale and those filled out the pillow cover nicely.

Gifts to Give Using Fab Fabric

One of my favorite blogs is Be*mused blog (link on clip). She puts fabrics together beautifully and shows wonderful pictures. This link to one of her old posts from a current post discussing Christmas gifts dovetails nicely with another fabric avalanche, this one involving DH. He was not bemused or amused. He was rooting around in my fabric closet (first mistake), which doubles as a place to store filing cabinets and Christmas gifts, when the pile of dots, conveniently, but precariously, piled right at the front of a bunch of fabric piles fell on his feet. He claims it covered his knees as well. Totally untrue, but I can see how he might think that. He told me to stop buying fabric. HA!

Anyway, Be*mused makes an excellent point. Pillow cases are GREAT for gifts as well as using up conversationals. I have some great conversations that I doubt will ever make it into quilts. They are currently in the “back of the quilt” stack. Pillowcases for the nieces and nephews might be another good way to avoid the Pineapple. Not this year as Christmas is already only 24 days away, but I could think about it for next year assuming I ever get any additional free time.

clipped from

Now that I’ve decided to hand deliver my Christmas gifts to family members at Thanksgiving, I’m awash in lists and plans.  And, ironically, still cranky over the too-early commercial bombardment of Christmas music and decor.  Scrambling to find gift ideas for those always-difficult people, I’ve had to concede that what hasn’t been decided yet will be purchased, not handmade.

Are you looking for some gift ideas that you can sew?   One of my old standbys has been the lowly and much overlooked pillowcase, which I’ve made mostly for kids, preschool to college age.  I’ve made them to coordinate with gift quilts and occasionally they’ve been an extra something-to-open when I’m sending a gift card or cash.  With all of the great fabrics available today, the theme possibilities are endless and there isn’t a simpler item to sew.  Here are a few of the combinations I’ve used.
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Make Lounge Cushion Cover

I was randomly surfing blogs and websites today (studiously avoiding the laundry, the Christmas cards and the Pineapple!) when I came across Make Lounge via Juju Love Polka dots blog. I saw this cushion cover and thought it was very fun. Sadly, Make Lounge is in London and I am not. Still, perhaps I will take out Pamela’s project and be inspired.

Appliqué cushion cover

appliqué cushion cover
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Teacher Pillows Finished!

The Teacher Pillows are done and wrapped. HOORAY!

I found the cute bags at Walgreen’s, of all places. They are so adorable (thank heaven for no boy teachers this year!) that I didn’t feel bad about not making gift bags for them. I delivered the Principal and Assistant Principal pillows before I left. P will deliver the rest next week in stages.

Now I have to think about next year. St. JCN said that he fact that the project went well towards the end made no difference to her torture threat. She suggested a different project, so I will have to think on that. Suggestions, always welcome, of course!

Teacher Pillow Success

First, some inspiration. I was inspired by Yarnstorm’s photos, so I took my camera with me yesterday and snapped a pic of these roses in my neighbor’s yard.

Now on to the Teacher Pillows.

They are done except for the hand stitching. I am thrilled that I survived. It is always touch and go at the beginning!

Above is the principal’s pillow. St.JCN said the violet was inspired. I thought so and am glad someone agreed. I saw the quilt that inspired the violet yesterday as it scrolled across the screen in my screensaver. I will post it here, if I find it again.

Above is the Assistant Principal’s pillow. I actually think this one came out the best of them all. I think having enough fabric to use on the back is key. I will try to remember that for next year.

Pineapple blocks 11 & 12 are also done. They don’t fit on the design wall properly with all the others so #12 is hanging off. I think they look nice and cheerful. Not so dark as 9 & 10.

And now for a tip. I used the Jacquard fabric (see example in circle above) that you can run through your printer for quilt labels and for the drawings for the back of the pillows. It works because there is paper stuck to the back of the fabric that helps get it through the printer. You have to peel off the paper before you sew. (I suppose you could leave it on, but I don’t) This product works pretty well, except that if you try to sew through it when the wrong side is facing up, it gums up the needle and the stitches get really small. Normally I try to sew with it on the bottom. Today, I wasn’t able to sew with the printer fabric on the bottom for some reason that I don’t remember now. I sewed through it and immediately got stopped. I had a brainwave when I saw a pile of tissue paper. The arrow in the picture is pointing to the tissue paper I put over the Jacquard fabric just along the seam allowance. It worked like a charm. No sticking needle resulting in ugly stitches. I always press this printer fabric with a piece of clean, white printer/copier paper under the sticky part. I don’t let the sticky part touch the iron or my ironing board cover.

This Week’s Progress

If you don’t have time to read much today, here’s the short version: not much.

If you do have time to read the entire post today, the long version follows. 😉

Not sure why, but this week seems to have been especially busy. I think I may have accomplished a lot in the realm of quiltmaking and it just may not feel like a lot. Somehow not working on my own project and working on gifts doesn’t feel much like I am making progress. Perhaps, it is just that I am not making progress on my color studies or on my UFO list?

I wanted to put a small border on the above pillow for the Principal, but I was kind of stymied for what color. I originally thought of a strip of white piping, but decided I didn’t want to deal with making one. St. JCN, in all her wisdom, suggested a white strip, but, somehow, that didn’t seem right. As I was drifting off to sleep one night, the little voice in my head whispered: Violet. GREAT! I tried it (see above) and thought it looked good.

The reason I wanted a small border was so that the green border would not “bleed” into the green block. The violet seems to clearly define the block. I am pleased with how it worked out.

I also put a few more rows on to Pineapple blocks 11 & 12. They are getting there. 3 more colored rounds to go. I have the background strips cut for the next round, but haven’t sewed them yet.

Special Whine Redux
Earlier this week, as you probably noticed, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and the state of my pictures. I went back and looked at Yarnstorm‘s post called Square Dance and the photos she included. I realized that while her photos are totally fabulous, one thing about how she structured this post is that she put up her inspiration and then showed the quilt that came out of it. I really liked that. As a brief aside, I like the quilt-to-be she shows, because it is simple, but not boring. She is working with color in a way that I have been trying to do lately (see Thoughts on Dots and some of the other square pieces I was working on last year). She has done a fabulous job with blues, something that I greatly admire.

The other thing about Yarnstorm’s pictures is she has a great eye and she crops very well.

So, I will stop whining, crop my pictures and keep working!

Teacher Pillows – No Torment

Despite the fact that I still can’t measure, 3 of the Teacher Pillows are close to completion. The machine stitching is complete and I only have some final hand stitching to do on them and, voila, fini!

I thought to myself this morning that I should be able to finish three. I am not sure I really wanted to buckle down and do that many, but it got stuck in my head and here I am.

I don’t normally sew during the week, but I did some stitching on Friday afternoon. I was very slow and deliberate and not out to accomplish a lot. I just wanted to make some progress, no matter how little. I think that short session got me to the point where I could put three pillow covers together today.

Teacher Pillow – Front: I am really pleased with the way this front came out. I was not that thrilled with the Economy Patch that the child chose, but piecing more of the design in a smaller format really made it look good. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the Flea Market Fancy fabric out of which I made this front.

Teacher Pillow – Back: I am not so enamoured of the back. I ran out of the flower fabric I used for the front and grabbed these fabrics. I didn’t just grab the blue randomly, but I am not sure why I chose it. My SIL came over and suggested yellow or pink (well, DUH! Why didn’t I think of that?), so I added the yellow to the outside. The back isn’t great, but done is better than perfect and, hopefully, she won’t look too much at the back.

The variety of colors, however, illustrate the way I made the back. I made two squares and then added a bit of extra fabric to the top of the front, hemmed it and folded it over. I will hand stitch down the folded over part.

Aide Pillow – Front: I sewed this one last (for the day) and it came out the best. It is small enough so the pillow form fills the entire cover.

Aide Pillow – Back

Resource Teacher Pillow – Front: the red, yellow and green color scheme has always been very appealing to me. I am pleased with the way this one came out although the pillow form doesn’t fill up the cover. C’est la vie.

Resource Teacher Pillow – Back: I had extra space on the drawing, so I added a photo. All the drawings and labels were scanned and printed on an inkjet printer.

The above photos show the different borders I tried for t he Aide pillow. It kind of gives you an idea of my process.

Not trying to make the envelope style pillow cover has been a big help. I have to say that I am still not sure what the right way to make pillows are and, as a result, I am wasting a lot of fabric. Part of hte issue is piecing the back using the drawings. For some reason that step adds enough of a wrinkle to make the project complicated. What I really need is a book like Around the Block that says how to make a pillow cover if you have a certain sized pillow form. Perhaps C&T will add such a book to their “Fast, Fun & Easy” series? That is one “Fast, Fun & Easy” tha I would buy.

Still, it makes me feel good to spread some quiltmaking and sewing out into the world.

Teacher Pillow Torment

I finished piecing all of the blocks, which is great. Above are the block for the Principal and the Assistant Principal, who are both retiring. It is the same block, but Around the Block shows it separately with different names, apparently because the colors go in different places.

My next problem is borders. I made 12″ blocks and bought 14″ pilow forms (aside from the fact that Around the Block does not cover 14″ blocks, what was I thinking???**). As a result, I need to add borders in order to increase the overall size of the blocks. Above is a possible border for the Asst. Principal’s block. It wasn’t my idea, but I like it. It really sets off the cross.

This is what I have already added to the Resource Teacher’s block. I love the dots; they are cheerful (raise your hand if you knew that was coming!).

The good is that part of the back is done. The bad, however, is that now the torment starts. For some reason, I was unable to measure once I got past making the blocks. I wanted to add 3″ borders to the Resource Teacher (RT) block. I got one side that was 3″, two sides at 4″ and one side at 2 7/8″ HUH? I don’t know what is going on with me and this project. As I detailed my sad tale of woe to St. JCN, she said that I had to make this my last year of making Teacher Pillows and if I didn’t she would torment me next year! Dear me! I don’t know what I will do next year, but I have been warned.

Part of what I am doing is trying to get it right: be able to make these in my sleep. It doesn’t seem to be happening and maybe St. JCN is correct in that I should go out in a blaze of glory with these five pillows. We’ll see.

I am taking the week off and then will work on these on Sunday.

**Actually I was thinking about how many extra borders I had to add last year so I wanted to make sure I had enough slack to cut off, if I need it.

I Guess I Do Have a Project

I have been feeling sort of at loose ends since I finished my various projects and took them to the quilter. I can’t decide if I should start the Chocolate Box quilt or just putter around. It finally dawned on me that I do have a project: the Teacher Pillows!

I don’t know what I was thinking, but these Teacher Pillows have turned into a production. This year, I am making 5: 3 for the child’s teachers and one each for the principal and assistant principal, who are both retiring. The latter two are not expected and not as important IMO, though I would like to make the gesture. On the positive side, I decided to start early and make them so I could take my time. The blocks are almost all done, with a minimum of unsewing.

Teacher pillow. This one is done with the Denyse Schmidt fabrics and came out very well, if I do say so. I love the colors and can’t wait to work more with these fabrics.

Teacher aide pillow

Resource teacher pillow. I had to make sure I have enough fabric, because this teacher will be working with the child until 8th grade. She will have a set of pillows by the time the child graduates! I really hope she likes the colors we have chosen.

Principal pillow. The child calls her the Wizard of Oz.

Assistant principal pillow.

I went through two books to see how I could make the rest of the pillow covers so they don’t have Gap-osis in the back. I am thinking of slip stitching them shut so I don’t have to worry about it. The recipients wouldn’t be able to wash the covers, though.

And on other fronts….

The fabric from eQuilter arrived. More dots!

I also worked a bit on the Flowering Snowball (Cross Block). Here is my first test of the new template and some fun [Denyse Schmidt] fabrics. I have since cut a lot of the corner pieces. I cut a piece whenever I have a piece of fabric out. I really need to get some more whites.

This is my wreck of a design wall. There are pieces of fabric and blocks everywhere. The little progress I made on the Cross Blocks (Flowering Snowball) is in the lower left corner. The blocks for the Teacher Pillows are stacked and pinned to the design wall (lower middle). I have no more space and am seriously thinking about what I can do to expand this space. First, I will move the Pineapple blocks up a few inches. That should help. Second, I will finish these Teacher Pillows, which should give me some breathing room. Something must be done, though, as this kind of design wall makes me crazy. I can’t think when it is so full.