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Archive for the tag “gifts”

birthday warmth


Some of Daughter #2’s friends turn a year older soon, so we thought fleece blankets would make cuddly gifts. They can be left in the car to be available for soccer games and picnics or brought inside for use while TV watching and studying. Their high school colors are blue and white, so we chose fleece with some blue for the top layer.


For the bottom layer, which wraps around to make the binding, we went with the usual heather gray for its ability to camouflage lint.


These double-layered fleece blankets are easy to sew, wear like iron and are extra warm. I love when I get these mitered corners right–it’s so much easier with fleece than cotton! You can read how I make these blankets here.

lanyards in production


I am working on making a bunch of lanyards so I will have a stash later for birthday gifts and stocking stuffers. (You can read how I make them here.)


It’s fun playing with my 2 1/2-inch wide scraps. The random piecing process allows experimentation with color and pattern on a small scale. I have been fussy-cutting these cute corgis from Spoonflower and inserting them here and there. The corgi fabric was originally purchased for a special mini-quilt; now I find excuses to tuck the scraps into new projects–they are such charming fellows!

the story of a wedding gift


Encoded in this gift are the bride and groom’s shared professional field, what each wore on their wedding day, where they were wed, and even the day they were wed.

Here’s the story.

A little over a week ago, we were invited to our friends’ house for a solstice party. It was June 21, the longest day of the year, a lovely, sunny Friday. We arrived to learn that actually we were attending a wedding reception: Jason and Amy had been married at their home a few hours earlier–what a wonderful surprise and a delightful party! I knew the jars of pickles and salsa we had brought, though appreciated, would not do as a wedding gift. The next day, as I recalled Amy’s wedding dress, I remembered a spare quilt block in my stash with the same coral color. It was a leftover from a still-unfinished quilt top I made using a pattern (called Neighborhood) in Elizabeth Hartman’s book, Modern Patchwork. Here was my inspiration.


For borders, I used fabric from Carolyn Friedlander’s Architextures collection, which gives a nod to the bride and groom’s professions (he’s an architect; she’s an interior designer).


For the back, I found a blue and coral stripe that reminded me of the tie Jason wore.


And to hide the zipper, I used a strip of white on white with various-sized dots. It made me think of the sun and the planets–a subtle reference to their solstice wedding day.

Congratulations and best wishes, Amy & Jason!

kudus and kudos


Daughter #2 leaves early tomorrow morning with fellow St. Louis Zoo interns for Costa Rica, so we have spent the past few days getting her ready for departure. D#2 decided that she’d like to bring along some needlepoint to do, so we designed a couple of keychains as thank-yous for Eve and Laura, the patient Zoo educators who will be accompanying this posse. She plans to work on them during layovers and downtime. We incorporated the St. Louis Zoo’s logo, a stylized image of the male lesser kudu (a shy east African antelope) and the educators’ first initials. I am grateful to these wonderful professionals who are chaperoning this group of teenagers/young adults and enthusiastically sharing their knowledge and love of the environment, nature and animals.


Although preoccupied with D#2’s travel preparations (and the associated worry), I did manage to get a couple of quilts mailed off to the quilter. Boy, did that feel good!

cathedral windows demystified


A friend who is a violinist with the St. Louis Symphony is celebrating a significant birthday today, so I thought I’d finish a little project for her as a gift.

I pieced this mini-quilt a few years ago following a Sew Mama Sew tutorial by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh Fransson fame. It sounds weird, but you fuse the squares to lightweight fusible interfacing and then fold and sew the rows. For the beginner quilter (me!), it was very satisfying to have the seams of these bitty 2-inch squares match perfectly. At the time, I made several, and over the years I have reached up to my works-in-progress (WIP) shelf and quilted one every so often as a birthday gift for a friend. This process has allowed me to experiment with different quilting designs in a small (14-inch square) venue. “Mistakes” are hard to detect–it helps that I used no solid fabrics. I gained practice and confidence, and the gift recipients were none the wiser (I think!).


Here are a couple of others I did. The one with the yellow border I quilted with an all-over free-motion curly-que–very brave of me. For the orange-bordered one, I used an Elizabeth Hartman-esque free-motion wonky-box pattern (it’s in her book)–even braver.


This time around, I had fun with a new technique for me: cathedral windows/orange peel quilting. I have admired it but thought it was beyond my abilities. Then I read a blog entry by Katy of I’m a Ginger Monkey in which she confesses to being a reluctant quilter (I can certainly relate) and then explains how to do this orange peel quilting with a walking foot–cool! I had to try it out, and it worked like a charm. I am pleased to have another quilting technique in my repertoire.


It looks great with the backing I chose.


For the borders I used my other favorite walking-foot quilting design (explained here by Faith of Fresh Lemons Quilts). It created a little puzzle-piece pattern in the corners.


I added a hanging sleeve so it can either be hung on a wall or used as a decorative piece on a table.

Happy Birthday, Wendy!

playing with HSTs


My mother-in-law has had this double wedding ring quilt as a layer on the bed in the guest bedroom for as long as I can remember. My husband is fond of its red/aqua combo, so I thought I’d explore that color pairing in my next project.

I recently came across this brilliant video from the Missouri Star Quilt Company demonstrating a quick and easy way to crank out half-square triangles (HSTs)–it’s genius!

This video and the multitude of HSTs made me remember a gorgeous HST quilt by Mary Fons that I saw in Quilty last summer:



The Pink Waves quilt is made up of 2 1/2″ squares–the idea of making over 1200 little HST squares is mind blowing to me. I decided to start with 7-inch squares of fabric to end up with 4 1/2-inch HST squares (finished size: 4 inches), which works out this way:

beginning square size x 0.64 = HST size

I found this clever equation on That Girl That Quilt. Jennifer offers a clear explanation of various HST techniques and tips that you can read here.


I have gotten to work. My aqua and reds are more vibrant than those in my MIL’s quilt, but I like bright colors that give a visual jolt–they match our current hot temps. I am hoping that this project will tame my red fabric stash, which is teetering on the ridiculous!

Priya and polka dots


This weekend we made a trip to the zoo to see the new baby elephant, Priya. She’s the smallest one in the photo, standing next to her half-sister, Kenzi. One of the larger elephants is her mom, Ellie, and the other old girl could be Pearl or Donna–not sure. We are convinced that Priya got her name because fans of The Big Bang Theory stuffed the naming ballot box!


Afterward, my husband and kids went to the movies. Since I am not a fan of Iron Man, I stayed home and made this fleece blanket–another graduation gift. You can read how to make them here.

the final 16th


The birthday outlier among Daughter #2’s friends is turning 16 today–she is the last one in the group to join the legal driving set. Inspired by the gorgeous mountain sunsets where she now lives in Colorado, D#2 and I chose a simple design for her keychain that suggests her new home.

prek soccer

Happy 16th Birthday, Nicole!

fleece blanket with faux blanket binding


In my earlier post on high school graduation gifts you can sew, I forgot to include fleece blankets. I am making some in college colors as presents for a few high school grads.


The technique I use is simple. I buy 4 yards of fleece–2 yards of one color, 2 yards of another. After removing the selvages, I trim them both so that the bottom layer (the layer that will wrap over the top layer as the binding) is 2 inches larger on all sides (eg, bottom layer: 56″ x 72″; top layer: 52″ x 68″). I trim a 2-inch square from each of the four corners of the bottom layer as shown above.


I then fold the bottom layer over the top layer by 2 inches, overlapping at the corners, and pin. I check my measurements all the way around with a hem gauge as I pin.


I use a walking foot to sew the binding edge down, with the needle positioned to the left so it is close to the edge.


With the needle in the needle-down position, I lift the presser foot at the corner, pivot, sew to the corner point, and backstitch.


I trim this little triangle close to the stitching and get . . .

IMG_1869a nicely finished mitered corner!  I then turn the blanket and, beginning at the inside corner, sew along the binding edge down to the next corner. I repeat till all four sides and corners have been sewn.


The result is a double-layered fleece blanket that is warm, washes and wears well, and can be used in a variety of ways: in the bleachers, on the sidelines, on a dorm bed, as a spare to keep in a car, or for a picnic. You could use sports team fleece and make one as a Father’s Day gift. And you could sized them smaller to make baby and children’s blankets.

Some tips:

  • gray fleece works great as the bottom layer–it doesn’t show lint as readily.
  • I have found that solids work best as the bottom layer. Fleece prints like the checkered fabric in the blankets above are seldom printed so that they are perfectly square–this is easier to hide on the top layer. If you do choose to use a print on the bottom layer, try to choose one with an all-over random pattern–it’ll mean less frustration for you.
  • fleece can be expensive, but if you look for sales and use coupons, you can get it at affordable prices.
  • be patient when cutting fleece. This is probably the most time-consuming step. I use my extra-large rotary cutter and often return to my cutting mat to trim to get the measurements right.
  • I like to fold over 2 inches for the faux binding, but you might prefer 1 1/2 inches or 3 inches–up to you. You will have to adjust the size of the squares you cut from the corners accordingly.
  • avoid stretching the fleece when cutting, pinning and sewing. Otherwise, the blanket ends up catawampus and askew diagonally, with the layers out of alignment–I learned this the hard way!
  • use a new needle for each blanket. Fleece is tough on needles and sewing machines. After each blanket I make, I use a Q-Tip to catch the lint in my machine.
  • use polyester thread. I was having a terrible time with skipped stitches and broken thread while sewing one blanket. Thinking my problem was with the thread tension, I looked online for a solution. A helpful soul mentioned that you should use 100% polyester thread when sewing fleece–ah ha! I changed my thread and problem solved.
  • use a thread the same color as the bottom fleece layer. The stitches then disappear into the fleece.

ahoy 16-year-old matey


Yet another dear friend of Daughter #2 turned 16 this week. She and D#2 took driving lessons together, so they have a special automotive bond.

This friend is fond of nautical motifs, so D#2 and I thought it’d be fun to design a keychain spelling out her name in nautical flags. We decided to orient them vertically as if they were on a flag hoist. So these flags signal echo mike mike alta–EMMA!

Happy Birthday, Emma!

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