Mom Made

Bunting Banner

Where have I been for the last month? I wish that I could say that I was on a beautiful tropical beach. But…. poor baby me.  I have been making decor for my school’s Annual Gala! And the most exciting thing that I made was a huge bunting banner.ps84

At first fabric banners may seem like a big job but it’s a decoration that can be used  year after year. A colorful bunting also makes a cute room decoration.

bunting7

Materials:

bunting-materials

 

Directions:

  1. Determine the size of flag that you want to create. Your flag does not have to be a triangle. It can be a rectangle, scallop shape or a dentil.
  2. If you are creating your own design, sketch the shape on your cardboard and verify that the outline is perpendicularly aligned. Note that the finished design will be 1/4″ smaller due to the sewn seam. Cut out your design with a non-sewing scissors. (I personally prefer to use my acrylic quilting triangle.)
  3. Iron your fabric on high heat and starch. Move to cutting mat or clean table. Place template on the wrong side of your fabric. If you are double stacking your fabric (folding a larger piece of fabric to cover both sides) place the fold at the top of your flag. Use the calk marker to outline.bunting-layout
  4. Cut out your flag from the fabric on the chalk line. Take the two fabric sides of your flag and place them right sides together (pattern side to pattern side.) Then place batting under the two layered fabric pieces. The batting should be touching the wrong side of one piece of fabric.

    bunting-sanwich

    See the batting under the two fabrics.

  5. Pin the fabric and batting together with safety pins. Cut the batting about 1/2″ from the fabric’s edge.bunting2
  6. Sew the sides of your flag with a walking foot attachment on your machine. You should have a 1/4″ seam allowance. This means that the middle of your sewn seam is 1/4″ from the fabric’s edge.             bunting3
  7. Remove your pins and cut a small V in the tip of your flag where the sewn seams meet. (This is so the tip of your flag will be pointy.) If you have double stacked your fabric, cut the fold at the top of the flag open. Trim the batting at the sides to within a 1/4″ or less of the sewn seam to reduce bulk.
  8. Turn the flag inside out so that the batting is now on the inside and both right sides of the fabric face out. Iron your flag flat.
  9. Place this flag aside and finish the rest of your flags.
  10. Choose which side of your flag you wish to be in the front. If you want to do any lettering on your bunting, do it now. The most simple way is to use a iron-on fabric applique. (See the method described in this previous post: Appliques Away!)
  11. Use your walking foot to quilt across the surface of your flag. You can sew straight lines across or on the diagonal. Leave a long tail at the start and finish of your stitched line. To achieve equally spaced lines attach a quilting guide to your walking foot.
  12. Use your flag template to cut off the top of each flag and trim the quilting tails so that all the flags are the same height.
  13. Knot and bury any tails remaining on the sides of the flags.
  14. Take the 2-1/2″ jelly roll strips. These strip will join to hold the flags. Estimate how long your bias will need to be with three 3″ between the flags and 18″ on each end. To join the strips, place them perpendicular to each other.
  15. These joined fabric strips need to become bias tape. Fold the strip in half and iron. Then fold the upper and lower edges inward to the newly ironed seam. Pin these folds in place and iron along the length of the strip as you remove the pins.
  16. Pin the top of the open bias strip to the top of the back of the  flag.  Pin the flags at the same distance apart. Be sure to place the flags in reverse order while pinning because the flags are upside down. Sew the bias tape in place with a 1/4″ seam. (Note that I am using a foot attachment for a 1/4″ seam. This makes it a lot easier!) You don’t have to do each flag separately to the bias tape, it is easier and smoother to sew along the bias tape in the area between flags.
  17. Turn your flags over so the fronts face up. Wrap the bias tape over the top of your flag and pin in place. Fold and pin the bias tape in between the flags too. Match the color of your thread to the bias tape.
  18. Sew the bias tape down using a 1/4″ seam across the entire project. Be sure to back-stitch at the beginning and end. Cut the bias tape on a 45 deg angle at 18″ from the outside flags.

    All done!

    All done!

 

School Spirit in Patches- Quilting by Students.

My best school memories are from Kindergarten. My Teacher’s name was Mrs. Swan and she owned a farm with her husband. She loved taking the class to her farm for field trips. We even got a Pumpkin picking trip and hayride back to school out of the deal. Well, whatever, I still think that was super cool.

Oh the Nostalgia!

Oh the Nostalgia! Just kidding my elementary school was built during the Eisenhower administration. It was single story concrete block construction and it had a flat concrete slab roof with carport.

Now I know that my kids, who live in Brooklyn, will never have the same experience as me. And this is not particularly bad. After all, my kindergartener and second grader get to skate at Rockefeller Center and are serious doughnut connoisseurs. But there are moments when nostalgia for a bucolic childhood weakens me and I do crazy things. LIKE volunteer to organize and make a class quilt project. Yes that was totally crazy.  Again Cray Cray.

The basic concept of a Class Quilt is to give each student a white cotton square of fabric and have them draw with fabric markers images that describe their heritage, family or neighborhood. The fabric squares are then collected, ironed and sewn into a quilt that displays their collective heritage and school spirit.

Let’s go through it.

Supplies:

  • 1 White cotton Layer Cake of fabric (A layer cake is quilting slang for 40 pieces 10″ by 10″ squares of light weight cotton.)
    Depending upon the quilt design which you wish to use, you may want to cut down your cotton squares before the kids get them. I have found that 10″ square make a huge quilt while 8″ squares leave enough room without the extra 2″. I asked the kids to leave a 1″ border on the cotton squares so I could leave room for seam allowances ect, but they totally ignored this.
  • One or two Jelly roles. These are packages of fabric composed of 2-1/2″ strips. The strips are perfect for making sashes which are placed between the blocks.
  • Colored Fabric Markers. Make sure that they are designated as fabric markers and not just permanent like a Sharpie. (Sharpie does make specific fabric markers which are good. But I prefer Tulip.)
  • Light Box. Or just get the app to make your iPad into a light box. It’s called Light Box Illuminator Viewer.
  • Masking Tape (blue painters tape.)
  • Stencils or black and white photocopies of Flags, country shapes, symbols or figures.
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Quilt pattern or simple idea of how you want to layout the patches.
  • Sewing Machine with an adjustable blindhem foot or a 1/4″ quilting foot.
  • White Standard weight thread.
  • Bobbin Washers
  • Various cotton fabric depending upon which pattern you choose. Most of my fabric was bought on Etsy. But the most simple of quilts will only need one Jelly Roll either in a solid color or varied patterns to be used for sashes. (Again a Jelly Roll is quilter slang for 40 strips of fabric measuring 44″ by 2.5″)
  • Rotary cutter, ruler and board.
  • Square-up template

Directions for the Kids:

  1. Sketch out your designs on pencil and paper. Think about images which celebrate your family, your heritage, your community or all three. Then outline your designs with black marker on the paper.
  2. In school transfer the drawing to a fabric square and color it with fabric markers.
  3. If transfer is difficult use stencils, a light box or shapes that you can trace around to help you.
  4. Be sure to have you name or initials on the fabric but not too close to the edge.

Notes to Consider:

It is very important before you start this project that you pick out quilting pattern to follow. This is because the pattern will determine the size of the fabric pieces that you give to the kids. (I really recommend using fabric pieces of 6″ or larger.) The pattern will also determine the finished size of your quilt. (Otherwise you could end up with a huge quilt or a lap size quilt.) You must also consider the total number of student patches to be integrated into a design and use this number to select your pattern. The smaller the class the more flexibility you may have with pattern selection. If you have more than 20 students, simple is better.

Since I am still new to quilting and not exactly a pro, I decided that the easiest method  for me was to pick a pattern which required the minimal need to have exact corners meet. I chose a pattern called “A slice of Life” from Missouri Star quilting.heritagequilt-missouri If this pattern seems too complicated, because you really have to keep track of your block orientation, just use a simple frame pattern. I would recommend the French Window Panes from Sweet Jane. Sue Pfau’s book Quilts from Sweet Jane has loads of other options too.

Directions for the Adult:

  1. To set the fabric marker designs, lightly iron each student patch with the design facing down. Make sure that your iron has absolutely no water inside. Do not wash these patches either! If you are concerned about your ironing board discoloring, place a sheet parchment paper down first.
  2. At this point you can proceed with your own pattern if you choose. I followed the above pattern for one quilt. (But cray-cray me. I volunteered for another class quilt too. Needless to say, the second quilt had a simpler design.)
  3. To start, thread your machine and place a bobbin washer in your bobbin case (if you have a top-loading bobbin case). This will prevent knotting of the thread while sewing. Don’t forget that unlike regular sewing, quilting only has a 1/4″ seam allowance. So use the quilting foot or adjustable blind hem foot.heritagequilt-sashinng
  4. As per my pattern directions, I made six huge nine-patch blocks with 2″ sashing. (Each nine-patch block had 4 student blocks, one on each corner. The four center blocks were made from patterned fabric.) (6 nine-blocks x 4 student designs per nine-block = 25 spaces  the for students) heritagequilt-blocka
  5. After this I cut down each large nine-patch into four blocks (each 16.5″ by 16.5″.)The cuts were made a cross vertically down the middle and horizontally through the middle of the nine-patch…………. Because the final block orientation of these new blocks were to be different from the initial giant nine-patches; I had come up with a system, layout and a key.The arrows on the key indicated which way up should be for the student block.

    As per my diagrams the letters are located above the grid and numbers are located on the grid’s side. This system worked like a Punnett Square. Each new square was labeled by the location in its original nine-patch. (Example A1, A2, B1, B2, ect.) The layout had each space for a student design labeled. So by looking at the final block orientation and location, I could go back to the initial nine-patch block diagrams and determine the correct orientation to sew each student block in its nine-patch. (Yes, I know my brain hurts too.) But you can use a new app called Quitography to test out a design before the massive headache.

  6. I squared up each 16-1/2″ patch. This means that I re-measured each patch and cut it down as necessary. (Don’t panic if many of your patches are less than 16-1/2″! Just cut an extra 1/4″ around each patch so that every patch is now 16″ by 16″.) You must use a “square-up” acrylic template for this.
  7. Sew your patches back together to form your quilt top. Congratulations, you are halfway there.
  8. But this was too complicated for another quilt!
    So you can tell that the second quilt’s pattern was much simpler with a ladder pattern.

At this point if you are a beginning quilter like me, I would really recommend to send your quilt out to be basted, quilted and bound. This means that a professional will create a quilt sandwich, sew that sandwich together and then finish the edges.

I would recommend sending your quilt to Missouri Star Quilting. They are super nice, profession and reasonable in terms of time. They did a fantastic job on mine.

All Done!

All Done!

Pillow Talk? – Let’s Clean It Up!

Do you have various fabric in your closet and don’t know what to do with it? I do. I particularly have lots of shawls, wraps and head scarfs that I have been given as souvenirs from other people’s vacations.

Let's Clean Up!

Let’s Clean Up!

So for many years the fabric has piled up in my small Brooklyn apartment, taking away space from more useful objects like towels and sheets. I even packed away my wedding china in a storage facility to make room for the growing pile of fabric. Well, now that New Years is here, I can delay no longer! TIME TO CLEAN STUFF OUT! (My New Year’s resolution is to make use of my existing fabric or donate it.) And one great way to use my fabric is to make pillows!

A few months ago at Loop of the Loom studio, I saw a kid (really a 12-year-old kid) get out the sewing machine and make a pillow out of his loom project. I was amazed at both the simplicity of the idea and its practicality. It was explained to me that this is a traditional method of making pillows in Japan.

The pillow’s size is determined by the dimensions of the fabric available. (Standard pillow inserts may not work. This pillow type is usually stuffed by hand and sewn closed. You can also make your own pillow inserts for the ease of washing.) This pillow can be made out of any rectangular fabric whose length  is a minimum of 3.33 times its width and a maximum of 3.5 times its width. The length of the fabric selected will become the diagonal dimension for the finished pillow. C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill

Directions:

  1. Follow the above diagram to determine if your fabric is large enough to make a pillow. (Cut down the A dimension if needed.) Iron your fabric and fold at the center line with the fabric’s wrong side facing outward. The fold that you just made is FOLD A.
  2. Pin the fabric with the wrong side facing outward. Sew a 1/2″ seam along one long side of the folded fabric so that two sides of the folded fabric are closed (one sewn closed, one closed by the fold) and two sides are open. This seam is labeled: SEAM B. C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill
  3. Sew along the side opposite to the fold with a 1/2″ seam allowance.  This is SEAM C. You should now have a fabric pouch.
  4. Draw two lines with chalk. The first line will be 1/2″ from the pouch’s opening on the outside or wrong side of the fabric. Turn the pouch inside out so that the right side of the fabric is facing out. pillow-step3        Draw the second line at 1″ from the pouch’s opening. Turn the pouch inside out again so that the wrong side of fabric is on the outside.C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill
  5.  Trim the pouch’s opening with pinking shears above the 1/2″ chalk line. Trim the corners of the pouch by cutting a diagonal slice from seam line to seam line. The wrong side of the fabric should still be facing outward.C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill
  6. Fold the pouch in half again so that you have almost a square. Iron the pouch so that the side SEAM C and FOLD A meet.
  7. Unfold your pocket so that the new fold (FOLD D) is now a crease. Iron open Seams B and C. Open the pouch. Take two pins. Place a pin on each side of FOLD D.C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill
  8. Fold a cuff over along the inside 1″ chalk line. Sew the cuff with a 1/4″ seam allowance for only half of the pocket. This means that you only sew from one pin to the other.
  9. Turn the pillow inside out so that the fabric’s right side is outside. Pull the fabric out so that the Seam B is flat on the on a table. This seam will be pillow’s center diagonal. Pull the pouch cuff’s ends outward to form a square. Make the sewn cuff and the pinked edge meet to form another diagonal line.  Move the sewn cuff to cover the pinked edge. You may have to fold and tack extra fabric at the cuff’s corner edge. Iron the pillow flat.

  10. If the pinked edge and the sewn cuff do not overlap enough, turn the pouch inside out again. Then re-sew Seam C inward in 1/2″ increments until they meet. Don’t forget to cut off the old seam with pinking shears!
  11. Stuff the pillow with poly fill and close the open seam with a blanket stitch or snap buttons.

Here is a print out of the pattern:

pillowsheet1, pillowsheet2, pillowsheet3, pillowsheet4
Happy New Year Everyone!

2016 happy new year concept with sand and clock

 

Twinkle Twinkle Winter Lights

The Holidays are Here! …….Hooray?……. This can be a racing, frantic and utterly overwhelming time. And of course, most of us over-commit to dinner cooking, card writing, present buying, cooking baking. It is almost impossible to slow down but I still try to.

I like this season of growing darkness before the Winter Solstice. The sun sets earlier and earlier each day making it feel like the end of time. The air becomes crisp and clear. And the sky takes on yellow sodium hue. The cold is like an ancient relative coming to visit.

Beautiful landscape of winter forest with wild river. Tranquil wild landscape

Bank of the Fox River in Winter, Waukesha, Wisconsin.

I grew up in Wisconsin and remember the landscapes well. The snow would cluster in patches around trees and fences each December. The last light of the day would ooze among the black tree trunks like a candlelight slinking down stairs. The natural world around seemed to snuggle down for a cup of hot Coco and a nap. Nature has wound down to a white silence. And into this quiet deepness comes the warm lights of Christmas.

bubblelites-1

My favorite Holiday decorations have always been lights. As a kid my Grandparents had Christmas lights from the 1960’s that were a complete fire hazard but still beautiful. Some of the lights were lamps filled with colored water that boiled inside and created a mesmerizing trance. It seems like I spent hours staring at those lights. (Maybe I did.) But I wanted to make some lights that didn’t need electricity, in fact, not really lights but a garland that resembled glowing lights.

litepaint-13

Glitter Lights  

Materials:

Directions:

  1.  Place each wooden light in a small hobby vice that will attach to your table or counter top. Take a 5/64″ drill bit and your electric screwdriver. Drill a hole straight through the stem.litepaint-14
  2. Place a tooth pick through the hole and paint the bulb of the light white. Suspend your lights so they dry. I tried many methods with varying success. By far the best method was to use the Imperia pasta drying rack with parallel dowels. Repeat until you have three dry coats of white paint.
  3. Remove the painted bulbs from the pasta drying rack and paint the necks of the wooden bulbs silver. Either return the bulbs to the rack or place the bulbs in a test tube rack to dry. Repeat for a second coat of silver. (I got my Styrofoam test tube holder from the lab at my doctor’s  What a find!) litepaint-9
  4. Paint the lower half the bulb section gold by filling a very small cup about the size of a shot glass with paint. Then dip the tip in gold paint. This will create a smooth line at the bulb’s center. Let this gold paint dry for two hours.
  5. When your bulb is completely dry lightly paint the top of the bulb with glitter paint. Then when dry, paint the bottom. While the paint is still wet dip the bulb into a small container of glitter only to cover the gold paint. Place the bulbs back on the rack to dry and leave over night.
  6. Remove the toothpicks and thread the braided cord ribbon through your holes. Use tweezers to help you tease the cord through the hole. Make a small knot before and after your bulbs so they stay in place. Repeat with other finished bulbs spaced equally along the cord.                                             litepaint-12

Happy Holidays and have Wonderful New Year!

 

Snowflake Ornaments

This coming Saturday, December 5th is P.S. 84’s Winter Fundraiser and Family Portrait Day. It a great deal because you can get your little darlings photographed by some of New York’s most talented professional photographers and parents!

Part of this event includes a craft fair and I will be selling some of my holiday creations. Some of these creations will include decorative snowflakes! And I am totally glad to share my process with you!Snowflakes-materials

Materials:

  • 100% cotton Yarn in a fingering or DK weight. (Cotton fabric is best because it will distort the least during starching. Cotton is always a good fiber or non-clothing items such as toys and dish cloths because it can hold up to repeat washing.)
  • 3.5 or 3.75mm crochet hook in wood. (Everyone has their preference but I think that wood hooks work best with cotton because they don’t split the yarn strand like plastic or metal.)
  • Sharp scissors
  • Tapestry needle to tie in ends. (Clover is my favorite)
  • Cornstarch powder
  • Epsom Salt
  • T-pins or blocking pins. You can use regular sewing pins but make sure that all your pins are new. Old pins can rust onto your snowflakes. And note that the cornstarch will destroy the pins for fabric.
  • Blocking board or clean cardboard covered in Saran wrap.
  • Parchment baking paper
  • Clear thread or fishing line.

Close-up woman knits crochet Christmas decoration - snowflakes

I used several patterns to make my snowflakes and some were original. But for the purposes of this blog post I will refer you to the ultimate snowflake pattern book: 100 Snowflakes to Crochet by Caitlin Saino. This book is fantastic because the patterns are presented in both written and chart form. The patterns are also ordered in degree of difficulty, size and yarn required, which is especially useful for time management.

Once you have made your snowflake you must starch it. Unstarched, they look like sad limp jellyfish. But starched they are elegant creations. (Or alt least I think so.) The method that you use to starch greatly depends upon your final use. You can use many methods using liquid starch, salt starching, cornstarch and even Elmer’s Glue. I used the cornstarch method. This method is hard as concrete but still has the ability to be washed out and re-starched.


Directions for Starching and Blocking:

Snowflakes-paste

Making the Starch:

  1. The starch mixture ratio is 1 part cornstarch to 4 part cold water. (I use 1/4 cup cornstarch to 1 cup water.) Combine cold in saucepan and whisk until fully blended.
  2. Set the stove flame to medium and bring the mixture to a very slow boil. You must watch and whisk continuously for about 10 minutes. If left unattended, the starch will scorch and turn brown. Cook until the mixture has the thickness of paste and then remove from the flame.
  3. Let the mixture cool down to handle. Place one snowflake in the pan and immerse. Use a wooden spoon to press the paste into the cotton fibers.
  4. Remove the snowflake from the pan and massage the starch into all the fibers. Press out excess starch from the fibers with your hands. Wash your hands clean and place the snowflake on the prepared blocking board. (After starching many many snowflakes the starch dried and chapped my hands so much that I eventually had to use gloves. so don’t forget to moisturize!)

Snowflakes-blocking1

Blocking:

  1. Whether you are using a blocking board or plain cardboard covered in Saran wrap it is important to cover it with Parchment paper before laying down your snowflake. The paper will make removal painless and cleanup simple. If you choose, lightly sprinkle the surface with Epsom salt. (The Epsom Salt adds a crystalline texture and has the added benefit of preventing your house pets from eating your flakes. But I really prefer to use Epsom salt on the white snowflakes only.)
  2. Position your snowflake so that all the arms are flat and straight. Step back to see if the arms are aligned and proportional with each other.
  3. Start pinning in the center of the snowflake and work your way out. Use Q-tips to wipe the excess starch from the spaces between the yarn. If using Epsom Salt, sprinkle on top while wet.
  4. Let your snowflakes completely air-dry before removing your pins. (If the snowflake’s center is not fully dry before you remove the pins; the flake will bow and look like a potato chip.)

    Warped Snowflake like a potato chip

    Warped Snowflake which now looks like a potato chip.

  5. Depending upon humidity, the snowflakes will dry in 24 to 48 hours.
  6. Once removed, break off the loose starch and hang with invisible fishing line.

Snowflakes-finished

Yay! It is an indoor blizzard!

Thank you to everyone who has bought my Snowflakes. I really appreciate your support. I wish everyone a merry holiday season.

Appliques Away! Three Kings Banner

Things around here have been super crazy as I race towards my Christmas Craft obligations. Wwwwwhat? Isn’t it still Autumn? Why am I being a crazy and starting Christmas projects. Alas, time allocation and logistics make it impossible to do otherwise. Jingle, Jingle Jingle. When is Christmas over?

My Finished Banners

My Finished Banners

My main WIP is a trio of banners for my church’s Nativity play. Each banner is to be carried by one of the Three Kings of the Epiphany. (Or carried by the kings’ servants, depending upon the number of boys that sign up.) I tried to find a good (not country kitsch) patterns to follow while making the banners, but no luck. (It is actually pretty hard to find Christmas quilting or Applique patterns that do not have Santa, snowmen or candy canes in them.) The best source for images of the Nativity is Adoration Quilts by Rachel Brown. It is a lovey book with great designs and loads of great ideas. But I required patterns for a larger scale. So I had to design my own.

Mosaic of the Three Magi offer gifts to the Virgin Mary in Saint Apollinare Nuovo. This Arian church was dedicated in 504 to Christ the Redeemer in Ravenna Italy on November 4 2012

Mosaic of the Three Magi offering gifts at the Church of Saint Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna Italy. The mosaic dates from 504 A.D.

The Three Kings of the Epiphany (sometimes called the Three Wise Men or Magi) visited the new born Baby Jesus in Bethlehem by following a great star in the sky. Most modern scholars think that these men, the ultimate number is not  known, were Zoroastrian Astrologers from the region of Persia in modern Iran. But European Christian tradition and folklore, especially during the Middle Ages, created a very different narrative.

TOURS, FRANCE - AUGUST 8, 2014: Stained glass window depicting the Three Kings who see the Star of the East in the Cathedral of Tours France.

Stained glass window depicting the Three Kings who see the Star of the East in the Cathedral of Tours France.

The traditional version of the Magi’s Visit depicts three kings from three different kingdoms in Asia, Africa and Europe. John of Hildesheim, a writer and Carmelite friar in the 14th century, wrote one of the most popular folk accounts of the three kings named the Historia Trium Regum. John of Hildesheim was highly educated and traveled extensively within the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne, so he was very influential among the clergy. His writings describe each king’s life before the journey to Bethlehem, their lives after reaching the Baby Jesus, and the history of their relics.

Look even Playmobile subscribes to John of Hildesheim's text!

Look even Playmobile subscribes to John of Hildesheim’s text!

The three kings of the middle ages were named: Casper, Melchior and Balthazar. The kings brought valuable gifts fit for a monarch. (Kinda like bringing wine to a dinner party. It’s just rude to show up empty handed.)

Balthazar was an old King of Saba, possibly in Europe or Macadonia, who brought the gift of frankincense. Frankincense is dried tree sap from the Boswellia tree and is used for perfume or incense, particularly in religious worship. So this gift is symbolic of of Jesus’s deity.

Frankincense is still used in many religious services

Frankincense is still used in many religious services

Melchior was a small middle-aged King of Arabia who brought a gift of gold to the Christ Child. Gold is only useful to the living and thus a symbol of Jesus’s humanity.

Casper was a tall young King of Ethiopia who brings a gift of myrrh. He is depicted with dark skin in some European countries. Myrrh is dried tree sap from the Commiphora myrrha tree. Myrrh was used as an antiseptic, an anointing oil and an embalming oil. (nowadays, it used in most all-natural toothpaste. Don’t worry it has antixodent properties.) Additionally Myrrh has traditionally symbolized death due to its use in embalming. Thus this gift foreshadows the suffering and death of Jesus for humanity’s sinfulness.

I wanted to pay homage to the European narrative while not contradicting the logical modern legacy of the Magi. And so the images were simple and recognizable. I fashioned the crowns to look like a turban, an African crown and a European crown. The three landscapes are desert, grassland and snow.

The trees that produce frankincense and myrrh were from the Arabian peninsula and north Africa. So it did not seem to make sense that Balthazar, the European King would bring either of these things. Thus I switched around the gifts to make more geographical sense. The Arabian king brings myrrh. The African king brings frankincense. And the European king brings gold. I hope that historical purists are not too insulted.

There is one banner for each of the three kings. Each banner incorporates a crown, a gift and a landscape. The styling of these elements is influenced by the European tradition. The main method of construction is the use of Applique.

What is Applique? Applique (or appliqué in French) is the method of one material applied to another surface material. The technique is common in home sewing and the textile industry. The method of attachment can refer to anything from painstaking hand-sewing beads to a wedding gown, down to ironing on a 50 cent denim patch over a hole in your jeans. The method that I am going to use is somewhere in the middle.

Making and applying your own Appliquenavityquilt-1

Materials:

  • Printable Freezer Paper. This material can be bought in any supermarket and is used to wrap food. I prefer the craft specific version which is an ink-jet printable 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet.
  • Lite Steam-A-Seam 2, Double Stick Fusible Web. (I highly recommend this brand for its durability and the paper placement on both side of the fusible web.) (Very Important! If you are using a web with paper on one side you must place parchment paper under and over the applique material to protect your iron and work surface from the web glue.)
  • Sharp sewing scissors
  • Cheaper scissors for cutting the fusible web paper
  • Iron which is not used for steaming or is totally dry.
  • Parchment paper
  • Ironing board or pressing surface.
  • Pressing starch with sizing.
  • Base fabric (100% cotton quilting fabric) which will serve as “the plate” upon you will serve your design.
  • Applique Fabric in various colors: 100% cotton quilting fabric is needed to stand up to the iron’s heat
  • Sewing Machine with thread to match fabric

 

Directions:

nativity patterns myrrh-crown copy

Arabian King’s Crown

  1. Print out a pattern that you like on to a sheet of freezer paper with an ink-jet printer. Print with an ink-jet printer or draw upon the matte side of the paper. The glossy side will lie against the right side of your fabric.

    Step 1 and 2

    Step 1 and 2

  2. On your pressing surface, iron your base fabric. Your base fabric is the foundation upon which the applique gets its strength. It can be cut down to not show afterward but for now it is the land upon which your will build your house. Use the pressing starch lightly to get out all creases. Then iron your freezer paper (again mat side up) to your fabric.navityquilt-3
  3. Use your sewing scissors to cut 1/2″ around your whole design. This may seem like a lot but it can be trimmed down later.
  4. Either print out a second copy of the design on to a new freezer paper sheet or remove the first copy from your fabric to use again.
  5. Iron and starch your first applique fabric. Iron your freezer paper to the fabric and cut out the piece you wish. Repeat from step 4 for all the separate pieces of the design.
  6. Once all the fabric has been cut, put away your scraps. (Don’t throw them out, just yet!) Take out your fusible web and choose a piece which will lie below the others.
  7. Cut your fusible web to the approximate size of your fabric piece.
  8. Peal the lighter paper side off (the side without a grid). (You could draw directly onto the grid side and avoid the freezer paper step. But remember to draw all your designs in mirror or reverse.)
  9. Place your fabric on the fusible web right side up. Re-cover the fabric with the lighter paper side.
  10. Lightly iron and allow everything to cool. Cut around your fabric and leave no selvage.
  11. Remove the paper from both sides of the fusible web and fabric.
  12. Place and position this applique fabric piece on your base fabric piece. Cover with a piece of parchment paper to protect your iron and then press. Your first applique piece should now be secure.
  13. Follow step seven layering your applique pieces as desired.IMG_6238
  14. When all the pieces are secured in place. Use a sewing machine to lightly sew-down all the pieces. Practice first to determine what stitches you want to use. (I use a straight stitch for this.) If you have left a large margin between your finished design and the base fabric, you can use a blanket stitch around the design. (But be very careful to prevent the bunching of your stitches or the base fabric’s edge!) Trim your base fabric as necessary.
  15. Repeat steps 7 through 10.
  16. Select were you want your finished applique.
  17. Remove the paper from the back side. Place your finished applique on fabric in the desired location and iron. Sew to base for a secure hold.

 

Halloween Hack from IKEA

RAISIO, FINLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Sign IKEA at IKEA Raisio Store on September 21, 2013 in Raisio, Finland. As of January 2008, the company is the world's largest furniture retailer.

I go to IKEA often. However, I don’t buy furniture there because my apartment is already stuffed and hex angles give me arthritis. IKEA is not just a store; it is all full retail experience. (Unfortunately this usually means the experience of a full Saturday, ugh.)

IKEA offers no simple way to go in, get what you need and then get out. The floor plans are deliberate mouse mazes and the prices small enough that you grab lots of little things which add up to a whopping $100 at the register. But on the bright side, the IKEA cafe has delicious meat balls for sustenance on this trek of domestic acquisition.

Given this description, my sage Husband has boycotted IKEA. It stresses him out too much to go. It may the total lack of orientation while inside or the slow methodical browsing of the mouse maze. Every time that we did go, he would get lost and I would eventually find him passed out in the couch department.

This is not my husband but you get the idea.

This is not my husband but you get the idea.

On my latest expedition, alone on a weekday, the Christmas decorations were already set up and ready for sale. Perhaps there are only two seasons in the American retail market: Lawn Furniture and Christmas. Boo, now that is scary.

Among this red and white Scandinavian holiday extravaganza, I saw some unfinished balsa-wood ornaments. They came in a box of three for $10.oo. This is a bit expensive for craft supplies but I knew they were perfect for a Halloween project. Instead of Christmas ornaments, I would make Halloween ornaments.

Ornaments for a Halloween Tree

ikea-hallowen-supplies2

Materials:

  • Unfinished Wood ornaments from IKEA (papier-mâché ornaments can be used too but the wood ones hold up better overtime.)ikea-hallowen-supplies1
  • DecoArt Acrylic paint in matte finish. (If you use a glossy or oil based paint the paint layers will tend to cloud and bleed. Try to make your paint layers as thin as possible and add additional layers as needed.)paint
  • Gloss varnish for Acrylic paint. I use Liquitex medium gloss varnish. (Acrylic paint will flake off wood or paper unless sealed with varnish.)
  • Brushes: Flat tipped brushes (called brights by artists) for the larger applications. Thin brushes with long fibers (called rigger brushes by artists) for details. And use a soft bristle, round brush for applying the varnish.Brushtypes
  • Embellishments: goggle eyes, ribbon, glitter or sticky foam to be used after all paint and varnish is dry.

Directions:

  1. Paint your ornament balls with primary coat. Let this first coat dry completely and then follow with a second coat. (I used toy teacups from IKEA to hold the wood balls while I painted and dried them.)
  2. Take a hard lead pencil and draw the preliminary outlines such as a jack-o-lantern’s face or a witch’s hair and eyes. You may have to paint over your pencil marks if you use a HB lead or #2 pencil.
  3. Paint the details of the faces making sure to keep the ball steady in a small shot glass or cup. (Don’t panic if you make a mistake, you can always paint over it.)
  4. When you are happy with your faces, add a light layer of acrylic varnish with a soft round brush to prevent streaks. (Some varnishes have glitter in them but use only two coats!) Don’t over varnish your creations or the surface can actually look cloudy. Dry overnight.

    Step 4

    Step 4

  5. Add your embellishments with either a craft glue or glue gun. (I think that you know which one I prefer.) I just applied ribbons but you can do more. (Some ideas include: adding starched cheese cloth to the painted balls for ghosts or mummies, gluing foam leaves to the pumpkins or attaching pipe-cleaner bodies through the center hole.)
  6. Arrange your little ghouls for display. Boo-eautiful!

    ikea-hallowen-display1

    Ornaments displayed on an accessory tree from Muji.

To make a Halloween tree to display your beasties, the best tutorial is actually for a Wedding Wish Tree. However, I would attach a small and flat wood piece to the bottom of the tree base for added stability.

 

 

 

My Quilting Quest

I have recently discovered a hobby even MORE EXPENSIVE than Scrap booking. That hobby is Quilting and I am now tightly in its clutches. And if I don’t stop collecting craft supplies, my small Brooklyn apartment is going to become a lighting rod for all the block’s static electricity.

Nicole Susan and John. They are so cute!

Nicole Susan and John. They are so cute!

It all started when I received an adorable Save the Date postcard from my cousin Nicole and her fiancé John. I already knew that I would have to make a quilting project for the Christmas pageant but Nicole’s engagement really upped the ante. I decided to make her a quilt wedding present. (Don’t spoil it if you are family and actually reading this.)

First stop was Manhattan’s largest quilting store The City Quilter. Located on East 25th street between 6th and 7th Ave, my stop at the shop was an easy sell to the kids due to it’s proximity to Eataly ergo Gelato.

If you haven’t been to either The City Quilter, you really should. The City Quilter has a great selection of products and is currently attached to The ArtQuilt Gallery NYC.  The Artquilt Gallery is a sewing studio which has a cool collection of finished quilts with a NYC theme. You can purchase the New York themed fabric and patterns for these quilts at the store and online.

Fabric from The City Quilter: subway, times square and skyline.

Fabric from The City Quilter: Subway, Times Square and Skyline.

In the end, I decided upon a cute pattern: “Key to my Heart,” by Sweet Jane’s Quilting design. The fabric for the quilt is “Cold Spell” by Moda Fabrics. Moda has a great selection of pre-cut fabrics, which really saves a ton of time and saves money. And since I am still a novice when it comes to quilting, I am looking for easy, easy, easy. However, next time when I am more adventurous, these online stores have some fantastic fabric and patterns:
Hawthorne Threads – The Cotton and Steel Brand is my fave
Missouri Star Quilting Co. – The site has great free demonstrations
Craftsy.com – I learned the basics with these Online classes

I was initially going to do a small throw for Nicole and John but then my husband reminded me that Nicole’s intended is a really big guy and that a queen size bed quilt might be more ahem….. fitting. Well, we will see how far I get. Thankfully, I have until spring.

Twelve blocks done, only 28 more to go!

Twelve blocks done, only 28 more to go!

Granny Square Starter – Let’s Go!

Now that you are familiar with yarn, hooks and the three basic stitches needed to construct a Granny Square, Let’s go.

I am going to make a blanket consisting of one large granny square. The great thing is that, I can stop at any time depending on how large I want my blanket. (When I started out, I made lots of rugs and blankets just the right size for a doll house.)


So lets put those new stitches to work!

Standard Granny Square

Standard Granny Square

This is what a Granny Square looks like. You start with a basic circle composed of 4 chain stitches, joined by a slip stitch and then make double crochet stitches clustered in groups of 3 into this circle. Corners and gaps (beyond row 2)  in each row are produced by the repetition of 2 chain stitches. As the square expands the number of openings between corners increases and the blanket grows.  The square’s corners always have a pattern of 3 double crochets, 2 chains and then 3 double crochets.

The square’s pattern is a series of repeats that alternate with each row. In a manner the pattern resembles a checker board. A Row, for those unfamiliar, is a complete circle of stitches.

Chart of granny Square

Chart of granny square

Standard Pattern

Row 1: Make a slip knot, make 4 chain stitches. (ch4) Join in a circle to the first chain stitch with a slip stitch.

Row 2: Make 3 chain stitches. (The first three chain stitches of any row counts as one double crochet stitch.) Make 2 double crochet stitches (dc)  into the circle. Then make 2 chain stitches. * Make three double crochets into the circle followed by two chain stitches. Repeat from * 2 more times. Close the row by working a slip stitch into the 3rd chain from the start of this row.

Row 3: Make 5 chain stitches. (The first three chain stitches counts as one double crochet stitch.)  Make three double crochets into the corner gap. Follow with two chain stitches and three double crochets into the same corner gap. (This is the standard pattern for the corners: 3dc, 2ch, 3dc) Make two chain stitches. Repeat 3dc, 2ch, 3dc, 2ch into the next two corners. The fourth corner should have 3dc, 2ch and then 2dc. Close the row by working a slip stitch into the 3rd chain from the start of this row. This will make the first three chain stitch of the row 3 count as one dc.

Row 4: Make 3 chain stitches (3ch) and then 2 double crochet stitches (2dc)  into the same gap as the first chain and located to the direct left.  Next ch2. *Into the corner gap: 3dc, ch2, 3dc. Then ch2. Into the next gap make 3dc, ch2. Repeat from * 2 times more. Into the last corner:  3dc, ch2, 3dc and ch2. Close the row with a slip stitch to the 3rd chain from the beginning of the row4.

Row 5: Make 5 chain stitches. *Make 3 double crochets into the next gap, ch2. Make another 3 double crochets into the next gap and ch2. Then 3dc, ch2, 3dc into the corner and ch2. Repeat from * three more times. Finish by making 2 double crochet into the final gap. Close the row by joining with a slip stitch to the 3rd chain from the beginning of the row.

Row 6 and Beyond: Continue with the basic repeats as described.

Pointers:

  • Make your first project with variegated yarn (yarn that changes colors). In the demo pictures I have changed my colors with each row in order to show a visual contrast. However, every time, that you change colors, You will have to weave in your ends with a tapestry needle.
  • If you are right-handed; you will work in a counter-clockwise direction around the square. If you are left-handed; you work clockwise.
  • Each ch2  will become a gap in the next row.
  • You will notice an alternating pattern (dc cluster, ch2 gap, dc cluster) between the rows above and below. As the area between corners grows, this alternation will resemble a checker board.
  • The standard repeat for corners: 3dc, ch2, 3dc
  • The standard repeat for other ch2 gaps:  ch2, 3dc, ch2C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsgrannysquare cor
  • There  is always confusion over how to start and end rows. Not every row starts and ends the same. The starting and ending pattern alternates between two options. And which option you employ depends upon if the row is even or odd.

C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsgrannysquare joi

Starting
Odd Rows: (3,5,7,9 cont.) (exclude    Row 1, because that is the starting circle.) Start the row with 5 chain stitches. Make the first of 3 dc in the next ch2 gap. (This gap may seem too far but it is correct. Do not crochet into the gap at the base of your ch5.)

Even Rows: (4,6,8,10 cont.)(exclude Row 2, because for this row all stitches are crocheted into the same center opening.) Start the row with 3 chain stitches. Make 2 dc into the gap directly to the left and below the ch3. Then continue with ch2 and 3dc repetition.

Ending
Odd Rows: (3,5,7,9 cont.) (exclude Row 1) In the last gap make only 2 dc. Then plunge the hook into the 3rd chain that started the row and join with a slip stitch. (The logic follows that the first three chain stitches of the row were really the last dc of the row’s last 3dc cluster.)

Even Rows: (4,6,8,10 cont.)(exclude Row 2) Close the row after the final ch2 by plunging into the 3rd chain from the beginning of the row and joining with a slip stitch.


As your square grows, the basic ch2, 3dc will repeat and expand between the corners. Once you get the hang of the repeats, you won’t need to look at a written pattern.

My blanket so far.....

My blanket so far…..

Take a look at my blanket square so far. It currently measures 12″x12″ and is 17 rows around. If I were to make another 12″ square of this, I could whip stitch the them together to make  a pillow. But I plan to make a baby blanket of 30″x 30″.

As you can see, I have lose ends which will be woven in later. My square is not flat and thus will have to be water-blocked when the blanket is finish. (but blocking will be another blog, for another time.) Thanks!

Granny Square Starter -Just the Basics

How does one start to Crochet? Most people start with a scarf of either single or double crochet. They continue until the desired length is reached or the project is thrown into a box and left to rot.

I personally think that rows are over-rated. In fact, I am convinced that turning a new row is exactly what makes most beginners throw up their hands and scream. The simple solution: the Granny Square.

A Square in light blue cotton

A granny square is formed in the round. Thus starting a new row requires minimal skill and you can skip all the drama of aligning rows.
The granny square is the basic building block of all crochet. Multiple squares can be combined to make a blankets, scarfs or even sweaters. One granny square can even be large enough for an entire blanket. This larger than large granny square project is the perfect beginner project. (Okay, maybe potholders are better, but who want to show-off a potholder?)

fragment of Blanket made of granny Squares

Blanket of one Square

Before we begin; let’s cover the three basic stitches and one knot that you need to learn to complete a granny square. (Yes, this sounds scary but you would need theses stitches with a scarf too.)

First you must know how to make a Slip Knot.

  1. Wrap your index finger twice. Pick up the inside (The loop closet to the palm of your hand) loop (A).
  2. Cross loop A over the outside (loop closet to the finger tip) loop (B) towards the end of the finger.
  3. Then pick up loop B, (which is now closet to your palm) and cross it over loop A towards the finger tip.
  4. Finally bring loop A over the finger tip.
  5. Pull tight on both ends of the yarn. Congratulations, you have made a slip-knot.

Second is the Chain Stitch:

  1. Start with a slip knot on your hook (loop A). Wrap the yarn strand which comes from your ball around the front of the hook from behind. You now have two loops on your hook.
  2. Pull on the slip knot’s strand to open its loop (loop A). Bring the loop closet to the hook’s tip  under the loop A.
  3. Pull gently on the ball’s yarn strand to finish. This is one chain stitch.

Third is the Slip Stitch:

  1. Start with one loop on the hook. Then plunge the hook into the desired opening. (This is usually under the top two strands of a chain or double crochet stitch.) You now have your first two loops on the hook.
  2. Bring the yarn strand over the hook from behind. Now you have three loops on the hook.
  3. Bring the hook and the loop closet to the hook’s tip under the next two loops. You now have one loop on your hook.
  4. Tighten gently. Done.

Fourth is the Double Crochet:

(Let me just have an aside here. The double crochet can refer to two completely different stitches, the American or the English Double crochet. I will be demonstrating the American Double Crochet. To avoid confusion, always check to see if a pattern is written in American or English terminology.) (The reason Americans call the stitch a double crochet is because it is essentially two single crochet stitches stacked one on top of each other.)

  1. One loop is on the hook to start. Place your free strand of yarn over the hook from behind. Now there are two loops on the hook.
  2. Plunge your hook into the beginning circle (second row only) or the next opening (conprised of a space created by 2 chain stitches) in the granny square. Bring another strand over the hook while is still in the opening.
  3. Bring your hook out of the opening. You should now have three loops on the hook.
  4. Bring another strand of yarn over your hook. (arrggghh, yes, I know this is so annoying but trust me.) You should now have four loops on the hook.
  5. Take this new loop (the loop closest to the hook’s tip) and bring it under the next two loops on the hook. Do not touch the loop closest to the palm of you hand…. for now.
  6. Currently, you should have two loops on your hook. Take your free strand of yarn and bring it over the hook to make three loops on the hook again.
  7. Take this last new loop (the loop closest to the hook’s tip) and bring it under the remaining two loops on the hook.
  8. Pull lightly. Done.

Now let’s get the supplies:

  • 3 to 4 Balls of Yarn, I like to use multi-colored (variegated)
  • 3 Crochet hooks
  • Sharp Scissors
  • Tapestry Needles

I recommend starting with three to four balls of the same yarn. An acrylic blends yarn is a great beginner yarn.  I don’t work with acrylic often but it does have a few advantages for a beginner. (#1: The strands stay together when you make a mistake and have to unravel. #2: The finished product will wash well. #3: It’s economical.) Next, Select a yarn of average thickness or weight. I think that a Worsted Weight or DK Weight is the easiest to maneuver. A yarn’s weight should be indicated on the label. (If it isn’t, move on.) If you are double-lucky the crochet hook size will be indicated on the label too.
If the crochet hook size is not listed, follow these guide-lines from the Craft Yarn Council.

Yarn weight Symbols

Some yarn weight symbols

Crochet Hooks are very personal and everyone has their favorite. I love Hiya Hiya metal hooks for wool and acrylic blends. But I prefer Knit Picks wood hooks for cotton, linen and Bamboo blends.
In the beginning my favorite brand as Addi due to the large handle. The Boye brand hooks are nice too and much more economical. You don’t need a whole set. Get three maximum: one hook at the recommended size for your yarn, a hook one size larger and a hook one size smaller.

If you get a Worsted Weight yarn, get hook sizes: 5.5mm, 6.0mm & 6.5mm (I-9, J-10 & K-10.5)

If you get a DK Weight yarn, get hook sizes: 4.5mm, 5.0mm & 5.5mm (7, H-8 & I-9)

With a Granny Square gauge is not important if you use the same yarn and hook throughout. The thickness of your yarn is what will determine the size of each stitch and block. As you become a proficient at crochet you will discover your own personal gauge.  A tight or loose hand may result in too tight or too loose stitches. To compensate for this you will adjust your hook size. But of course, double-check your work with a gauge swatch to insure that your stitches match your pattern.

I made a few granny squares to show and compare the resulting Granny Squares with different yarns. You can see the quality difference between in Picture #1.

#1: Both yarns are 100% cotton in Worsted Weight. Left: Sugar and Cream: Right: King Tut, Knitting Fever

Comparison #1: Both yarns are 100% cotton and in Worsted Weight. Left: Sugar and Cream: Right: King Tut, Knitting Fever. You can see difference in quality and gauge.

Comparison #2 Both Yarns are 100% Acrylic. Right: LBY Hometown USA,  Super Bulky weight. Left: LBY Landscapes in Worsted weight.

Comparison #2 Both Yarns are 100% Acrylic. Left: LBY Hometown USA in Super Bulky weight. Right: LBY Landscapes in Worsted weight.

Comparison #3: Both Yarns are 100% Wool. Right: Cascade, Super-wash Multis in Bulky Weight. Left: DMC Woolly in Sport weight.

Comparison #3: Both Yarns are 100% Wool. Left: Cascade, Super-wash Multis in Bulky Weight. Right: DMC Woolly in Sport weight.

To be continued……