red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

sixteen candles

MK's keychainYet another dear and special friend of Daughter #2 hit the driving-age milestone, so we worked up this Union Jack keychain for her. We learned that the Union Jack is a superposition of the flags of St. George (for England), St. Andrew (for Scotland) and St. Patrick (for Ireland)–no wonder it is so complicated. The diagonal stripes posed a challenge in needlepoint interpretation, but we think it came out well. As is our way, St. Christopher was added as a passenger.

MK is as old a friend as a 16-year-old can have–the two girls used to nap together in the same crib. The first time I made MK a pillowcase, I asked for her input: what was her favorite color? Rainbow! I made her a pillowcase with tie-dyed–looking fabric, which happily suited MK’s 5-year-old design sensibilities. Several years later, this well-worn pillowcase accompanied MK to sleep-away camp where, during a pillow fight, the cuff with her name was torn from the rest of the pillowcase. I carefully detached the cuff, found new material, and fashioned an updated version.

MK's pillowcaseDaughter #2 and I decided that it was time for MK to have a pillowcase with all new parts. We thought this bright, modern print would be perfect: it matches MK’s room and remains in keeping with her colorful tastes and vibrant personality.MK's 5th bdayHere’s a photo from MK’s 5th birthday–note the tie-dyed tablecloth!

Happy 16th Birthday, Mary Kate!

organic matter

organic matter frontA friend celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday–a mere babe. She is a plant scientist, so I knew I wanted to make her something that suggests vegetation in a funky modern way.

I was inspired by two quilts I saw out in the blogosphere: Pick Up Sticks by Faith of Fresh Lemons Quilts and Bright Birch Trees by Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts. I like how they call to mind bamboo, corn stalks or birch trees.

I sewed scrappy strips and cut them to various widths (finished: 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch). I chose a solid charcoal fabric for the background. After deciding how I wanted the strips placed, I worked left to right, cutting the background, sewing the strip in place, cutting the next piece of background, sewing it in place, and so forth. I enjoy this kind of piecing because there are no rules and I had no final dimensions in mind. I simply squared up the block at the end–easy.

organic matter backFor the back of the mini-quilt, I used fabric that looks like rows of seeds. I found it on the sale table at Jackman’s–bonus! I bound it with Quilter’s Linen by Robert Kaufman in a spring green color, which contrasts well with the gray on front and complements the blue seed back. I made the hanging sleeve from a scrap left over from an apron I made a few years ago.

Using a free-motion foot, I quilted it with loose waves–to me, they look like topographic lines on a map. The finished dimensions are 20″ x 22″.

Happy Birthday, Julie!

happy, happy

keychain for s

Sixteenth birthdays continue to tumble from the calendar. Today is the 16th birthday of a long-time friend of Daughter #2. She loves anchors as a design motif, so we worked one into her keychain. St. Christopher is going along for the ride.


I made her a personalized pillowcase years ago, and we decided it was time to replace it with one that was more grown up. We found this ikat fabric (oh so hip) with green highlights, which will match her bedroom–perfect.

best soccer buddies

Here’s to best friends. Happy Birthday, Sarah!

literary amnesia

stones in the gardenRecently members of my book club were discussing potential books via e-mail, and a book by Marilynne Robinson was suggested. I reminded the group that we had read another book of hers, Home, back in 2009. Some did not recall having read it and were dismayed at this lapse of book memory. I confess that the only reason I remember is that it had been my pick. The responsibility of choosing a book for others to read is weighty and leaves a deeper impression.

Today Daughter #2 told me that her literature class is working on a poetry unit: did I have any poems I suggest she read? What a delicious invitation.

This evening I pulled poetry books from the shelves and we began to read our favorites out loud. We came upon this one by Billy Collins.


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never
even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses good-bye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins
Sailing Alone Around the Room

fajita seasoning

spices for fajita mix #1 son has returned to school and, when saying his goodbyes, he asked if I could ship a box of books and other items to him–please?

He has downsized his meal plan and is doing more cooking on his own, so I thought I’d send along a jar of fajita seasoning mix. He likes things hot, so this fajita mix will add some spicy flavor to chicken or ground beef. You can find the recipe here.

jars of fajita seasoningWhile I had all of the ingredients out, I doubled the recipe and made a jar for him and a jar for us.

And since I am such a nice mom, I am sending along granola and taco seasoning to round things out.

tea time

tea cozyHere is a case of fabric inspiring the gift. This line-up of retro tea cups made me think of my friend, Jill, whose beverage of choice is tea. Ahh–a teapot cozy would be the perfect Christmas gift for her.

I used this tutorial as a guide, but I altered the dimensions slightly (finished 8 1/2″ x 12 1/2″) and created my own template to make it slightly larger to fit my robust little teapot.

I wavy-quilted it, made a simple top loop, and bound the bottom in bright blue. It was finished quickly.

tea cozy at workThis tea cozy is now atop Jill’s teapot, warding off the winter chill.

the tale of a t-shirt quilt

IMG_1049For Daughter #1, this Christmas gift was a long time coming.

Grinnell reunion206I took a t-shirt quilt class at Jackman’s a few years ago. Immediately afterward, I made my first t-shirt quilt for a college reunion fundraiser using both my husband’s and my college t-shirts plus a few that fellow alums donated. I quilted it myself on my machine–uff da!–and a classmate generously bought it.

Both daughters liked the idea of having a t-shirt quilt, and building a stash of quilt-potential t-shirts became a way of getting them to cull their drawers: those t-shirts they just could not part with but that no longer fit went down to the sewing room in a bin. In addition, we saved fabric from special sources: their first sewing projects, pj pants and favorite purses I had made them, and handmade Halloween and school-play costumes.

IMG_0788When Daughter #1 was a high school senior, I got to work. The t-shirt blocks are 12-inch finished squares, and I pieced the remnant fabric blocks and the smaller pieced t-shirt logo blocks to the same finished dimensions. To stabilize the t-shirt stretchiness, I used lightweight fusible interface on the t-shirt backs and framed them with 2-inch borders with 2-inch square cornerstones.

I had the top pieced and was ready to put together a backing when my daughter handed me two more t-shirts that simply had to be included. In dealing with this design challenge, my math-addled brain made a mistake: rather than adding 4 inches per side to the width and length of the backing, I added 4 inches total to the width and length. And of course, I didn’t notice this mistake until the backing was complete–argh! According to what I had read, that meant it could not be quilted on a long-arm machine because there wasn’t enough extra to mount the backing properly on the frame. I called one local quilter and left a message, asking if quilting this blunder on a long-arm machine was possible–I never heard back and I took this to mean that the answer was no.

I felt doomed to quilting it myself on my machine, and I didn’t want to re-make the backing, so I did what I usually do: I put it aside. The unfinished quilt sat on a top shelf, looming over me every time I sat down at my sewing machine.

Then two things happened. I read this blog entry, which stuck in my brain, and then I finally decided to clean my sewing room.

I love the Creative Chicks At Play blog–it is written by three sisters who sew, cook, and create. Their blog has a family-rooted, independent vibe, which I appreciate and enjoy. After having read their blog and admiring their handiwork for a while, I knew I could trust their recommendations. I contacted their quilter, Lynn Peterson, who is featured in the above-mentioned blog entry, told her my sorry tale, and asked if she thought she could take on this quilt. Lynn said yes–hallelujah!–and I bundled it off to her before she could change her mind. A short time later, it was beautifully quilted and back in my grateful hands. I will be sending my quilts her way from now on.

IMG_1046I put the binding on and embroidered a quilt label in time for Christmas. Here’s a view of the back that gave me so much grief but that in the end I am so glad worked out. The finished dimensions are 58″ x 72″.

IMG_1079Daughter #1, now a college sophomore, is very happy to have finally received this quilt!

pillow talk–part 3

I wanted to make one more gift and I had one pillow form left–providence.

sarah's pillow frontFor this 14-inch pillow, I used up more of the little squares, surrounded the chunk of squares with a warm brown, and positioned it off center.

When it came time to quilt, I was working late at night. I took two passes and the stitching was not right, which was especially apparent since I was using brown thread on these bright squares. Was there a problem with the tension? Was the scrap backing too slippery? I seam-ripped it all out (argh), cut out a new piece of backing, safety-pin basted it together again and went to bed grumpy.

Early the next morning, it came to me–had I checked the walking foot?

Head slap–when I had installed the walking foot last, I had failed to align the lever on the right side of the presser foot with the needle clamp. It was resting on top of the needle clamp instead of fitting around it. Problem solved and quilting resumed.

Then, on my last quilting pass, I wasn’t paying attention and I ran out of top thread. More seam-ripping and redoing. Sewing reminds me–again and again–of the value of patience.

sarah's pillow backFor the back I used this gorgeous fabric that I found at Fabric Nosherie. It’s called Sinister Swarm (color: mozambique) and is from the Field Study collection by Anna Maria Horner. When I saw it at the store, I knew I had to have some but had no plan in mind–the usual fabric addict/hoarder reaction and I succumbed. I did show some restraint and bought only one yard.

tiger beetle croppedI am fond of butterflies, and my son, who had recently taken an insect morphology field study class, created a work similar to this fabric in its color palette and design sensibilities (see fuzzy phone photo above–now you know how tiger beetles copulate!). This pillow back was a great way to highlight the large-scale print.

I wavy-quilted it and used the same zippered-back techique I described in an earlier post.

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

pillow talk–part 2

I needed gifts for my niece and nephew, and with pillow forms still available in the wardrobe, I had my inspiration.

sports pillow frontFor my 8-year-old nephew, I put together a 16-inch pillow with a simple patchwork front using finished 2-inch squares of sports-themed fabric. Although he lives in Braves’ territory, he remains a Cardinals fan, so I added a few squares of Cardinals fabric from my scrap bin to keep him faithful. I straight-line quilted it on the diagonal. Although quilting takes time, I like the padding and softness it adds.

sports pillow backFor the borders and the back, I used more of the black-and-tan checked material and the same zipper-backed design I described for my son’s pillow. When my nephew becomes a teenager and wants a more grown-up look, he can flip the pillow to this side.

sprocket pillow w/chenille--front

For my niece who is closer to approaching her teenage years, I made this 16-inch sprocket pillow. No pillow form is necessary–just lots of fiberfill. I have made this pillow before; it comes together quickly. It’s a great way to use up and highlight scraps of favorite fabrics.

I was inspired by this variation of the sprocket pillow made by its designer, Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew. She upcycled the chenille from her mom’s old robe, which is a lovely idea, but since I have gobs of chenille in my stash, it was an opportunity to use up some.

sprocket pillow w/chenille--backI made the pillow back from chenille too, so it is soft, squishy and comfy–perfect for an almost-teenage girl’s room.

pillow talk–part 1

When I opened my boggart wardrobe this fall during my sewing room clean-up, I found a bunch of pillow forms whose original purpose I had long forgotten. Later, faced with my usual Christmas gift dilemma (what can I make fast?), I remembered those pillow forms.

vintage car pillowFor Son #1, I made this window-paned pillow with a 20-inch pillow form using a fat quarter of funky mini-car fabric by Echino, a Japanese import I bought at Fabric Nosherie. It has a wonderful linen-like texture, cool vintage car motif, and a great blue-red color. I decided a finished 5-inch square would best highlight this fabric. Framed by the tan fabric, it pops. I quilted it with straight-line skewed quilting.

IMG_1012For the pillow’s reverse side, I found this long-forgotten masculine black-and-tan checked home-dec fabric during my sewing room reorg. Once again, it’s helpful to take stock of what’s already in house.

zipper is hidden!I followed this tutorial to make the zippered back–what a brilliant design! See how the zipper is beneath the flap? It makes for a reversible pillow, hides whatever zipper installation flaws may occur, and hand-holds those of us who are zipper-phobic (me!) with the genius use of fusible tape. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Autum for sharing this technique.

The only tip I would add to Autum’s tutorial is to remember to top-stitch after sewing the zipper to the bottom half of the pillow back.


I liked the zipper-backed design so much I used it again for this 16-inch pillow I made for Daughter #2 with strip scraps left over from the making of her bed quilt. I sewed the strips to make simple finished 4-inch blocks.

wavy quilting alaI quilted it with wavy lines as described by Faith at Fresh Lemons Quilts–my new favorite quilting technique. I never considered quilting waves with a walking foot–again, brilliant.

IMG_1018I used Aneela Hoey’s Little Apples turtle fabric for the back. The wavy quilting looks like wind blowing through the trees.

zigzig pillow backSee how with the zippered back it looks like another pillow? This technique is a keeper.

More pillows tomorrow . . .

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