red flannel pantry

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

Archive for the category “sewing”

kitty-cat catch-up


Back in December, I was doing well keeping pace with Elizabeth Hartman’s Cat Quilt-Along–until my college kids came home. Their company and accompanying holiday fun derailed my block-a-day plans–that’s ok.

I’m back at it. Here are Victor, Boogie, Amelia, Max, Violet and Maslow (x 2). Only three more to go!

lunch bag–oilcloth vs laminated cotton


Daughter #2 has been hinting the past few weeks that she’d really like a new lunch bag. Her old one, which I made 6 or 7 years ago, had become beaten up, with the edges peeling off.


I looked back through my files for the original tutorial from 2007, found some oilcloth in my stash, and made this one. Cute as can be but  . . .

. . . something made me look up oilcloth, and I learned that it contains phthalates (scary, scary stuff) and is now considered not food safe–yikes. This information was not available when I made the first one–sigh. So after doing more research, I decided to make yet another lunch bag, this time from laminated cotton, which is PVC free, BPA free, lead free, and Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) compliant. You can read how oilcloth and laminated cotton compare here.

Since the edges of laminated cotton, like those of oilcloth, do not fray, I opted to use the same lunch bag pattern. There are lots of clever designs for lunch bags out there. I showed several to D#2, but she insisted on the same exact one (but no Velcro please!).

I found some pretty Amy Butler laminated cotton at the fabric store. Laminated cotton has a soft drape compared to oilcloth. I put Insul-Brite batting between the layers to provide insulation and add some structure to the bag.


Clover Wonder clips, which weren’t around when I made her first lunch bag back in 2007, hold layers together tightly without creating holes like pins would.


When making both bags, I found that after I sewed the first side panel to the main panel, I was left with exactly 1 inch extra at the top. (Is the pattern for the main panel off an inch or are my sewing abilities at fault?–a mystery.) I carefully cut it off using a ruler and rotary cutter and then sewed the other side panel in place, which fit just fine.

There’s a helpful post at Pink Chalk Studio about sewing with laminated cotton, and Debbie at A Quilter’s Table has a post about oilcloth pillows and then offers a bunch of links related to laminated cotton and oilcloth sewing tips and projects. I used a regular walking foot and regular needle to make both bags, although I should have probably used a denim needle when sewing the oilcloth. I also used a slightly longer stitch length. If I were to sew with this stuff regularly, I would consider investing in a Teflon foot. When sewing, I found the laminated cotton less “sticky” than the oilcloth.

Now, what should I do with the rest of my oilcloth? I like this bunting idea and this one. I enjoyed sewing with the laminated cotton–I could see using it for chair cushions, a double-sided picnic blanket, or tote bags.

getting a grip


Lori Kennedy, of The Inbox Jaunt, is presenting a quilt notebook series to offer help in taking control of unfinished projects. I’m guilty of starting more projects than I finish, so in channeling Lori’s message, I set my most recent unfinished projects on my sewing table and have begun knocking them out.


I had meant to make a pile of these suitcase handle wraps as stocking stuffers, but I succeeded in getting only one finished in time for Christmas as a gift for my daughter. That’s what happens when I dish too much on my pre-holiday gifts-to-make plate.

I thought today I’d sew the rest that I had cut out. I always feel silly when the task I put off takes so little time to complete–and indeed, this batch took me less than an hour to finish up.

Now that I have a feel-good mini-finish, it’s on to the next.

flora, fauna and fabric in LA


My husband, Daughter #2 and I visited Los Angeles last weekend and had a fabulous time. D#2 and I had never been there before, so traveling from our freezing temps to sunny and unseasonably warm (even for there) southern California was a bit surreal. At Griffith Observatory we spied this little hummer buzzing around plantings at the base of the Astronomers Monument. I think it was an Anna’s hummingbird. See the dusting of pollen on her beak?


Also at Griffith Observatory, this wee hummingbird paused long enough for me to snap a quick photo. My guess is that it was a black-chinned hummingbird. Like the other, she also had a pollen smudge on her beak.


While at Venice Beach, we visited with fauna of the domestic variety at Small World Books, a quiet intellectual haven in all of the craziness. Conan is the resident cat librarian; he gladly assumed a studied casual pose for us Midwestern tourists.


The Getty Center stunned us with its gardens and architecture (we bow down to you, Richard Meier).


It felt like we were at Starfleet Academy.


On our last day there, my husband and daughter indulged me in visiting Sew Modern. We arrived before official opening hours, but the door was propped open because some renovation work inside the store was in progress. The owners kindly welcomed us in and let me prowl around while I wished I had a huge empty suitcase to cram full of fabric.


However, showing a great deal of restraint, I walked out with only these lovely pieces.

birthday blankets


For a couple of Daughter #2’s friends turning another year older, I made lanyards and fleece blankets.

MKs bday tea 1.2014

What better way to celebrate than with high tea?! Happy Birthday girls!

happiness is a warm blanket


The wife of a colleague of my husband’s has been ill, and it’s been a trying and scary time for their family. A few days ago the staff put the word out that they’d be providing dinner for the family this week and would welcome dinner/side dish/dessert contributions. Instead of contributing food, I decided to make a blanket for the family.

I was given the directions to make this blanket by a local fabric shop several years ago. As you can see from the simple design, it is very easy to make. It can be assembled in an afternoon–just be prepared to deal with a lot of fluff while cutting and sewing! After I sewed the first one for my family, it quickly became the sought-after favorite blanket (meaning tussles over exclusive use!), so over time I’ve made one for every family member and then more to give to family friends.


The blanket is made from fleeced-backed suede–I wait for a good sale/coupon to buy the material. Its soft texture and heft make it comforting to lie beneath. It’s large enough to fit a snuggly group.

Sewn in place are prayers for healing, love and comfort.

finished dimensions: 57″ x 75″
wash in cold water; dry on low

star table runner with bonus blocks


I started making this table runner with the idea that it would be a host gift for Daughter #1’s home-stay family, but as it came together, she and I decided it was a bit too Christmas-y for a post-Christmas gift. So now I am ahead on Christmas gifts for 2014!


For the star blocks, I used Allison Harris’ (Cluck Cluck Sew) star block tutorial to make the three star blocks. (I used this same tutorial to make a quilt top you can see here.) I added a 1-inch blue border and then a 1 1/2-inch red pine needle border.


On the back I used a red stripe ticking fabric, which makes the runner reversible and versatile: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July–you get the idea. (Finished dimensions: 16″ x 36 1/2″)


When making the star points in the star blocks, I sewed another 1/4 inch away from the corner-to-corner seam and then cut the corners off between the two seams, leaving a narrow 1/8-inch seam allowance. I ended up with a bunch of little 2 1/2-inch blocks . . .


. . . half of them half-square triangles (HSTs) and half of them the funky layout on the left.


Playing around with the funky squares, I came up with this 4 1/2-inch block, with a perfect mini 1 3/8-inch square in the middle of the pinwheel. I couldn’t have pieced  this precise a block on purpose if I had tried!

I am sure this windmill-variation block exists out there with its own special name, but I can’t locate it. I looked through The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer but couldn’t find it. Does anyone know its name?

love and wabi-sabi


When Daughter #1 and I were discussing gift ideas for her family-stay hosts, she thought she’d like to also bring a gift for the program director. Mervyn has coordinated this program with her college for many years. He lives in Northern Ireland, and every year he journeys to her college to meet with the students a couple of times before the study-abroad semester begins. He’ll be working closely with the students while they’re on the program.

At first I thought, well, I’ll make him a table runner too. But then I remembered a mini-quilt tutorial and knew it’d be the ideal gift. You see, Mervyn’s last name is Love, as in Dr. Love–isn’t that the perfect name for a professor of peace studies and conflict resolution?! So I located this true love mini-quilt tutorial by kelbysews on Sew Mama Sew and got to work.

It’s a paper-pieced project, and I had never paper-pieced before. My visual-spatial abilities are sorely lacking (to my architect-husband’s bemusement), so working in reverse is hard for my mind to grasp. I learned quickly to generously overcut each piece to allow for error (and I made a couple). Once I got the hang of it, I managed. If you’ve never paper-pieced before, this tutorial is a great first project.

I made the mini-quilt full size (finished dimensions: 15″ x 20″).


As well as embracing the challenge of a paper-pieced quilt, I also stretched myself on the quilting. My impulse, given the time crunch, was to do a quick overall pattern. But I saw another love mini-quilt, admired its pebble quilting and thought, I can do that! So I did. I straight-line quilted the letters at 1/4-inch intervals.


In my stash, I found the best fabric for the back. I bought it at least 4 years ago–snips of it continue to find their way into my quilts. The words embrace the nature of the study-abroad program–and the term wabi-sabi defines my creative approach.


I pinned a hanging sleeve in place on the back before I sewed the binding in place on the other side. Then when I sewed the binding, the top edge of the sleeve was sewn in place too–one less thing to hand-sew.  I am all about easy.


If it weren’t for the binding and the hanging sleeve, I think the entire piece would be camouflaged in the snow!

hometown gifts for out-of-town hosts


Daughter #1 will be staying with a family during her Northern Ireland semester, so she wanted to bring along some gifts for them. We thought a table runner would be a good idea: easy to pack, useful and decorative. Of course, I meant to make it before Christmas–oops. Her departure date is fast approaching, so I needed to get a move on. I have an apothecary jar filled with 2 1/2-inch squares, so my design began there. I sewed five rows, seven squares each, and then cut six 14 1/2-inch x 5-inch solid panels and pieced as pictured above–easy as could be (finished dimensions: 14″ x 37″). The runner could be made longer by adding additional rows/panels and deeper by adding additional squares to the rows and adjusting the size of the solid panels accordingly.


Despite my attempts at gently shooing, Hobbes insisted on being in the pictures (note tail above).


For the back I found this great bit of nuts fabric in the stash.


I quilted it with organic lines using the walking foot–again, easy and looks lovely.


Because I wasn’t sure if I’d get a gift made in time, I bought a back-up: this cool dishtowel from catstudio. It comes in its own decorative fabric envelope, perfect for gift giving.


You can get them for every state–so here’s our home state, Missouri. Although the design is printed, the cross-stitching is sewn.


And here’s an unexpected bonus: this wonderful card with a quotation from Nelson Mandela. Since D#1 will be studying international conflict resolution and mediation, it couldn’t be more perfect.

on the road again

In a couple of weeks Daughter #1 heads to Northern Ireland to study for a semester, so for Christmas I made her some travel-related gifts.


First, a travel document organizer. I found a helpful tutorial at thimble. It has two zipper pouches and a number of pockets to stash important documents and paperwork. I did add some lightweight interfacing to the exterior fabric cover, and if I were to make another, I might try using slightly heavier interfacing.

I had this terrific fabric . . .


that reminded me of D#1’s most recent artwork . . .


. . . so I used it for the cover.


I came across another great travel gift idea on bee in my bonnet: a suitcase handle wrap. It took only minutes to make. I used the dimensions in the tutorial (5-inch squares of fabric and batting), and it fits D#1’s suitcase perfectly. The design is meant for sewing machine handles, which are not as beefy as suitcase handles, so an additional 1/2 to 1 inch in length might be needed to achieve the best fit. This wrap makes the handle comfy to hold and identifiable on a baggage carousel (though the maroon suitcase itself is distinctive!).


And in her stocking was St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers. He’ll be going along for the ride.

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