Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Summer sewing

It's getting really hot outside here in Virginia, and I'm spending a bit of time inside. Add to that the fact that I've officially retired, and you know how I'm going to spend that extra time - s e w i n g!

I think I'm done sewing baby balls for a while. I got into a potholder binge and have made several recently. Here's some of what I've been working on:

You can never make enough tote bags, right? And if you have a wedge ruler, it's fun to make a Dresden plate design. The cotton is from my stash of interesting calico type fabrics and the blue cotton edging the plate is a cotton faux denim that I also use for bias binding. 

A potholder using scraps of denim and some M&M fabric. I back my potholders with what started as a 9-patch recycled denim piece. I'm all about upcycling jeans, ya know.

 

 The front of these potholders is near and dear to me. I worked for years doing a hand pieced hexagon quilt top and then made another one! They came out to about twin bed sized, but we don't have a twin bed, so I made a decision to put the two together and make a larger coverlet/quilt with them. I ended up with some extra hexagon fabric, so I reinforced the pieces with zig-zag over the hand stitching, used the 9-patch denim back, and created some bias binding with the faux denim cotton. 

With all potholders I make, I use InsulBrite as the filling. It is not heat-proof, but it's about as heat-resistant as you can get. I also make the circles about 8-1/2" in diameter. The denim squares I use for the back start as 4" squares. I prefer round potholders because you can machine stitch one side of the binding and then hand stitch the other.

I also have made a doll quilt using M&M fabric triangles with denim triangles, and just yesterday, finished a lap blanket with patchwork and using fleece as the backing. I don't call it a quilt because there's no batting; the fleece serves a dual purpose of batting and backing, and it's super warm. 

Lastly, I'm working on my Cathedral Window quilt every day. I don't plan on finishing that for 5 years. 

Whew. What are y'all sewing?



Monday, March 11, 2019

Baby Balls Made with Pentagons (Tutorial in progress)



I'm newly obsessed with making balls for babies. I used to make them for my kids, but I used a sewing machine and now I'm hand sewing. The stitching is more precise with hand sewing and corners are tidier.

The method of sewing I'm using is English piecing. Basically, you have a paper pattern for the pentagon, the shape that is used for all pieces in the ball, for each piece of fabric. The fabric is basted onto the paper pattern, then the pieces are stitched together until there are 5 pentagons attached to the same central pentagon. When you have two sets of 6 total pentagons (the central one and the 5 attached to it), those two halves are attached to one another. (I'll add more about this as I construct the next one in line.) Leave open at least one seam so you can turn the ball right side out (this will make sense when I post pictures of construction), stuff it about halfway, add the sound maker (will add a photo of that too) in the center, and complete stuffing the ball. I stuff it tight, but not too tight; you want to leave enough play in the stuffing for baby's hand to be able to grab a part of it and maybe even shake it!

Color specific - brown
Black and white high contrast. 
Kid interest - Sponge Bob

I use a pentagon that I drafted. You can use pretty much any size bigger than 1". I would not go smaller than that. The side to measure is shown in the photo below. I use 2".
It's a pentagon (five sided) with each edge being 2". You can find pentagon patterns all over the internet or draw your own. There are 12 pentagons in each ball and they all have to be the same size.

I generally print off one page of templates and stack the printed page with some blank paper, then cut out a few at a time. That way I don't waste ink printing lots of pentagons. I like to cut through 4 pieces of paper at a time. Any more than that and the edges get a little off kilter. Remember, we're going to fold fabric directly on the paper pattern, so it's good to have it as precise as possible. 
After a few sessions of cutting, I have a bunch of pentagons ready to use when I'm ready to pick out some fabric and get going. 
The first step to sewing is to pin a pattern piece to a piece of fabric! I put down the paper and then cut at least 1/4" around the paper in order to have fabric to fold. Choose an interesting design to pin the paper to because that's what's going to show. 

Prepare a needle with a single thread that is in contrast to your fabric. Fold down an edge of fabric and take a couple stitches, fold down the next piece of fabric and take a stitch, and continue until you have all 5 sides basted down. I use a long basting stitch. You do not need to knot your thread. You'll be cutting the thread and taking the paper out later. For now, you want to fold all edges over the paper and baste each one down.

Here is one pentagon with the basting completed. You can see my red stitching in contrast to the white and black fabric. For each ball, baste fabric onto 12 paper pentagons.  

Here's a pretty simple tutorial on English piecing with hexagons. This one isn't mine, but I've made several hexagon projects using essentially the same instructions as I was taught them my a friend.  I'm not using hexagons, but the method of prepping the paper pattern is the same. They say it better than I can :) If for some reason you click and the site is no longer available, you can Google English piecing for several tutorials, including videos.

I'll update this post as I have photos of the steps required. It may take a while, but it'll happen!

Okay, this is what I'm working on - how about you?