How to Sew a Yoga Mat Bag from Precut Strips, Fat Quarters and Ribbons

Bargello Yoga Mat Bag

Bargello Yoga Mat Bag

This Bargello Yoga Mat Bag is one of my favorite designs from Precut Patchwork Party. It’s a fun way to use a roll of coordinating precut fabric strips. Two lengths of ribbon form the straps and two fat quarters make the lining. Sew a little gift for a friend…..or for yourself!

Materials Needed to Make Yoga Mat Bag

Materials Needed to Make Yoga Mat Bag

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T-Shirt “Quilt” Tutorial

A few years ago I made a quick and easy T-shirt quilt for my daughter Emily, and I recently made a coordinating one for her hubbie, David. It’s was a great way to use T-shirts that were full of memories and just too special to toss. (It also got rid of that box of old T-shirts sitting in a crowded corner of their apartment.)

David's T-Shirt "Quilt"

David’s T-Shirt “Quilt”

By definition, a quilt is made up of 3 layers – top, batting, and backing. I hesitate to call this a quilt since it does not have a batting middle layer. The top is the patchwork of T-shirts and the backing is polar fleece. I didn’t feel the need to add any batting. So if you are a member of the quilt police, you an call it a throw or a blanket or a “quilt” (with quotes).

I began by separating the T-shirts into four groups, based upon the width of the printed images I wanted to use. Then I cut off the sleeves and a sliver off the sides and the neck openings to rough cut each shirt into a square or rectangle. I divided the pieces into four groups that would become the four vertical columns of my finished quilt. I determined that the finished columns would be 16″, 11″, 14″, and 12″ wide so as to use as much of the printed T-shirts as possible. I calculated how long each finished rectangle would have to be to end up with four columns about the same length. I moved a few pieces around until the measurements worked. To the width and length measurements of each square or rectangle I added about 2″ extra for trimming and seam allowances.

Organizing T-shirts and rough cutting them into rectangles.

Organizing T-shirts and rough cutting them into rectangles.

T-shirts are made from knit fabrics, and knits can stretch and be tricky to sew. Fusible knit interfacing (Pellon Easy Knit) is a great stabilizer that makes knits easy to control. It comes in white and black. (Use white on white and light colors. Use black on black and dark colors.) Cut squares or rectangles for each rough cut T-shirt piece. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fuse the interfacing to the back of each piece. Be careful that the hot iron does not touch the printing. Sometimes the inks will smear. Trim the squares and rectangles to the desired finished size, allowing for 1/2″ seam allowances on all sides. Line up all the pieces in each of the four columns and double check your calculations to make sure the columns will be the same length (Gotta love my old school calculator and paper and pencil…so high tech!). Then sew the pieces together in each column to make four long pieces. Press the horizontal seam allowances open. Sew the four columns together and press the horizontal seam allowances open.

Iron on fusible knit interfacing. Trim each rectangle to the exact size needed. Double check to make sure the 4 columns will end up the same length. Sew the rectangles in each column together and press seams open.

Iron on fusible knit interfacing. Trim each rectangle to the exact size needed. Double check to make sure the 4 columns will end up the same length. Sew the rectangles in each column together and press the horizontal seam allowances open. Sew the four columns together and press the vertical seam allowances open.

Use polar fleece yardage for the “quilt” backing. It should be 3″ or more wider and longer than the finished dimensions of the patched T-shirts. Lay the fleece right side down on the floor or a large table. Center the wrong side of the patchwork front against the fleece. Smooth and pin to hold. With thread that matches the color of the fleece, machine stitch down the vertical row seams (stitch-in-the-ditch). Stop and start the stitching at the edge of the front, back stitching a few stitches to hold at each end. Start with one of the seams at the center of the “quilt” and work out to each side Stitch the outer edges of the front 1/4″ from the cut edges. In the same way, sew across the horizontal seams of the quilt, starting in the center of the “quilt” and backtracking and over-stitching as necessary where the squares and rectangles do not align straight across. Stitch the outer horizontal edges to the backing 1/4″ from the cut edges.

Lay out fleece backing. Center patched T-shirts on top of fleece and pin. Stitch-in-the-ditch to quilt along the vertical and horizontal seams.

Lay out fleece backing. Center patched T-shirts on top of fleece and pin. Stitch-in-the-ditch to quilt along the vertical and horizontal patchwork seams.

The “quilt” is now ready to be bound and rather than apply a separate binding fabric, I brought the extra fleece to the front to cover the raw edges of the T-shirts. Use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim the excess fleece 1 1/4″ beyond the edge of the T-shirt edges. To finish the edges, fold the excess fleece to the front of the the “quilt”. Begin by folding one corner down and securing with a drop of glue 1/4′ from the cut edge. (Elmer’s School Glue works great and it washes out when the quilt is laundered.) Fold down the excess fleece along one edge and glue, taking care to keep the glue about 1/4″ from the edge. Use a few pins to hold the fleece in place until the glue dries. Fold down the excess fleece along the adjoining edge and glue. Continue to glue the remaining corners and edges.

Trimming fleece and folding the edge to the front of the "quilt" to create the "binding".

Trimming excess fleece and folding the edge to the front of the “quilt” to create the “binding”.

A neat miter will be formed at each corner. Use a few pins to keep the folds in place. Sew the fleece binding to the “quilt” by machine stitching 1/2″ from the folded edge. With small sharp scissors, trim the excess fleece close to the stitching line. Zig-zag stitch over the trimmed edge to neatly cover the straight stitching and finish the cut edge of the fleece.

Pin mitered edges at corners. Machine stitch 1/2" from the folded edge of the fleece. Trim excess fleece close to stitching. Zig-zag stitch over the raw edge of the fleece to neatly finish the binding.

Pin mitered edges at corners. Machine stitch 1/2″ from the folded edge of the fleece. Trim excess fleece close to stitching. Zig-zag stitch over the raw edge of the fleece to neatly finish the binding.

I used 30 T-shirts (backs & fronts) to make this “quilt”. You may need more or less, depending upon the size of the T-shirts and the dimensions of the printed areas.

I think you will find the finished “quilt” nice and heavy and warm and won’t be missing that extra layer of batting that would make it an official quilt.

Ribbon Petal Cockade Tutorial by the “Ribbon Whisperer”

While I was lolling at the beach last week, the folks at Sew4Home were hard at work and posted a tutorial I had written for them before I left for vacation. Click here to see the complete tutorial for how to make a ribbon petal cockade, similar to the one featured on the cover of my book How to Make 100 Ribbon Embellishments.

Ribbon Petal Cockade

Ribbon Petal Cockade

This cockade is built with three layers of ribbon sewn to a buckram circle. The first row is made with folded loops.

Row 1 - Folded Ribbon Loops Stitched to a Buckram Circle

Row 1 – Folded Ribbon Loops Stitched to a Buckram Circle

The next row is comprised of overlapped ribbon loops.

Row 2 - Overlapped Ribbon Loops Stitched Between the Folded Loops of Row 1

Row 2 – Overlapped Ribbon Loops Stitched Between the Folded Loops of Row 1

A gathered rosette fills in the center and covers all the raw ribbon ends of the loops..

The Third Layer is a Gathered Ribbon Rosette Stitched to the Center to Cover all the Ends of the Ribbon Loops

The Third Layer is a Gathered Ribbon Rosette Stitched to the Center to Cover all the Ends of the Ribbon Loops

And a coordinating decorate button is sewn to the center of the cockade to cover the center of the gathered rosette.

I get such a kick out of Liz Johnson of sew4home.com when she calls me the “ribbon whisperer”. That just makes me giggle. Actually, I don’t think I am the one doing any whispering to make the ribbons do what I want them to do. In every case, the ribbons are doing the talking (much louder than a whisper!).

These three beautiful Amy Butler ribbons by Renaissance Ribbons were actually shouting to be made into this large cockade. These beautiful coordinates are woven jacquard ribbons with a pronounced right and wrong side. So I knew that I had to select techniques that would only allow the front of the ribbons to be visible in the completed embellishment.

Other techniques incorporate folding and manipulation where both sides of the ribbon will show. Solid vintage Petersham ribbons, have a wonderful “hand” and pleat beautifully so they “whisper” to be made into folded ribbon cockades or manipulated trims. Woven stripes also appear the same on both sides and work for these types of techniques.

Folded and Manipulated Ribbon Cockades and Trims

Folded and Manipulated Ribbon Cockades and Trims

I invite you to take a look at the techniques featured in How to Make 100 Ribbon Embellishments. Then go and listen to the ribbons in your stash and see what they are “whispering” to become.

My Improv De-Railed Fence Quilt

Modern Quilts Unlimited  Spring 2014 issue

Modern Quilts Unlimited
Spring 2014 issue

The spring 2014 issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine just arrived in my mailbox. And look what’s on page 20…..my Improv De-Railed Fence Quilt!

Improv De-Railed Fence Quilt

Improv De-Railed Fence Quilt

I had so much fun designing this quilt.  I was inspired to make it after I attended a Nancy Crow strip piecing retreat last year. I hadn’t played with strip piecing that much before the workshop. and I was totally inspired with the creative potential of this technique. I chose to make a jumbo block to showcase the strip piecing. And when it came time to organizing the blocks, I liked how they looked when arranged in alternating rows and orientations, similar to a traditional rail fence pattern, but a little “de-railed” as a modern quilt approach.

A big thank you to Carol Zentgraf, editor of MQU, and Vicki Anderson, founder/publisher, for their support and encouragement as I worked on this piece.  Thanks also to Michael Miller Fabrics for providing me with an amazing selection of their beautiful solid Cotton Couture fabrics.  And also a big thank you to Quilters Dream for rush shipping me their Quilters Dream Fusion batting. I had never tried their fusible batting before and it worked out great.

This is the largest quilt I have made so far and between the Quilters Dream batting and my HQ Sweet Sixteen long arm, it was easy to quilt. So exciting to see it published in MQU magazine!

A Design Wall – At Long Last!

My New Design Wall

My New Design Wall

I have a new design wall! Here it is with some sample pieces I started in a Sue Benner composition workshop back in January.

I have wanted a design wall for the longest time. I just had one problem….I don’t have an empty wall anywhere around my studio. I have crammed in as many shelves, storage units, and furniture pieces in there that ever inch of available wall space has been used. (There is the back of the closet door, but that isn’t wide enough.)

I decided that the best solution would be a portable design wall that could move as needed. I did some online research and saw many clever approaches from pull-down design walls to free-standing units that pop-up and can then be folded back into a storage bag. I decided a simple, very light weight, flannel-covered board would work well for me.

IMG_2795I have one large area in my studio with long shelves full of boxes of supplies. I don’t need to get into those boxes every day so I figured I could place a design wall over them and then move it aside should I need to find something in one of the boxes. Here’s what I did:

- With the help of a contractor friend, I started with a standard 4′ x 8′ size piece of 1 1/2″ thick insulation foam. (It helps to have a friend with a truck at this point unless your car is much bigger than mine.) Since the ceiling in my studio is not very high, I had to trim the board a bit so it would be just the right height to rest against the shelves and fit under the ceiling beams. It’s made of foam and is easy to cut with a straight edge and utility knife.

IMG_2787- I decided a white flannel twin size flat sheet would make a good cover for the board.  Since it was a new sheet, I washed and dried it to remove the folding wrinkles and to soften up the nap of the flannel. I laid it on a flat surface (Luckily I have my big table, but the floor would do if your knees and hips are more flexible than mine.)

- I wiped off the surface of the insulation board with a spray all-purpose cleaner and paper towels. (I discovered this was necessary the hard way. I didn’t realize how dirty the board was until I fist placed it on the sheet. Home Depot is a dusty place.)

IMG_2789- The board was centered onto the sheet. There is bold writing on the back of the board so make sure to put the plain side down so the lettering doesn’t show through the fabric on the front.

IMG_2803- I folded the top and back edges of the flannel over the board, using a little temporary adhesive to help me stretch and hold the fabric taut. Then I angled T-pins into the foam to hold the edges securely.

IMG_2792- Working from the center of each side, I folded and pinned the excess fabric at the sides to the back of the board. I tried to neatly miter the fabric at the corners but I wasn’t fussy. No one is going to be looking at the back.

- I leaned the covered board against the shelves and it’s perfect…light weight yet sturdy, and I can easily move it off to the side to get anything I need on the shelves behind it. And should it get dirty or full of threads, I can quickly unpin the flannel, wash it and put it back on the board.

I love my new design wall. It was so easy to make. Now to the fun part….designing!

 

 

 

Bring on the “New”!

You’ve probably heard the expression the goes something like this:

“Get rid of the old to make way for the new!”

Well that is just what I’ve been doing for the past several weeks.  (Actually, I think those weeks have turned into a couple of months, but I was determined to get the job done completely.)  In that time, I made myself open every box, bin, bag and basket in this workroom and go through it all and really think about whether it was something I needed to keep.  And, if it was, then it needed to be stored in an organized fashion so I could find things when I  needed them.

Supplies like buttons, beads and threads were organized by type and color.

It makes me so happy to see all these threads organized by color!

It makes me so happy to see all these threads organized by color!

My fabrics were divided by color, type, solids versus prints and placed into labeled bins. I vow to keep it that way, but I do have several unlabeled drawers and bins of unorganized scraps perfect for some improv piecing.

It's easy to see that green is my favorite color judging by the number of green fabrics I have in my stash.

It’s easy to see that green is my favorite color judging by the number of green fabrics I have in my stash.

A vow to keep everything it its labeled place.  At least I have good intentions on doing that!

A vow to keep everything it its labeled place. At least I have good intentions on doing that.

And my library of books…amazing that once you look at them you discover treasures you had long forgotten about as well as a few dated oldies but goodies that make you laugh.  And then there are the duplicate copies of titles (I know it is time to purge when I start buying something I already owe!)

I love my textile and art books!

I love my textile and art books!

So now I have a pile of supplies to sell or donate and my studio is all neat and tidy.

Clean and organized studio.  Let's hope I can keep it that way.

Clean and organized studio. Let’s hope I can keep it that way.

Bring on the “new”.  I am ready to go.