Sunday, August 26, 2012

Persnickety Pincushions

Pincushion Fun – But the Cosmos were Against Me!

I love aprons, teapots, pumpkins and pincushions.  Except for the aprons they are all short, round and fluffy.  I am sure there is some psychological analysis that is possible there (Freud comes to mind). Instead, I am going to simply share a pincushion pattern that caught my eye in a quilting magazine some time ago.  Today I am feeling brave and decided to attempt to make it.  Of course, I am going to share with my quilting buddies the process and any tips or corrections I find along the way.

We are not off to a good start.  I found the link for the pattern by Better Homes and Gardens.
Their website is notorious for advertising links and “jumping through the hoop” sign ups to simply gain access to the information.  So, I decided to bite and give my adapted sign up information and move forward.  I really wanted the pattern.

Let me explain what I mean by adapted signup information.  Some time ago, I was curious about how information was shared and how I would receive mailers or emails from unsolicited sources.  The strange part was that the content was often something of interest – how did they know?  I decided on my next form to offer a shortened version of my first and last name.  This would be my code information.  If something came to me with that as my name, I knew it had been sold or shared without my consent.  It proved to be interesting.  It also gave me insight into the entire process.  Anyway, back to the project!

Hoops jumped, ready to download.  It doesn’t.  Second try, still no.  Not to be discouraged I returned to the webpage.  Most of the instructions were there, so it wouldn’t be difficult for me to fill in the gaps and attempt the pincushion.  Worst case scenario: I would end up with a misshapen, unusable product and a few hours of effort I would never regain.  It was worth the risk.

Off to the stash!  I pulled some fabrics, buttons and trims.  With my groupings chosen I am getting excited about this new project!

Based on the size of the finished pincushion, I cut two pieces (top and bottom) 4 ½” square.  For the sides, I cut one long strip 1 ½” x 17”.  Sew the short ends together to make a circle, press seam open.  You will need to snip the edge slightly to ease the corners.  Lay the circle flat, it is two thicknesses.  Where the fabric is folded (two places) put a pin.  This has marked the circle into halves. Now bring the pins together and lay flat again, this time the pins are meeting in the center.  Place two more pins on each fold.  The circle is now marked into fourths.  Where each pin is placed, make a snip for the corner along both sides (top and bottom).

Before sewing, mark a center point on the top and bottom piece, this will help when it is time for the ribbon after stuffing.

Pin the circle to one of the squares, right sides together.  The snips will go on the corners.  Sew all around, ¼” from the edge.  

Repeat for the other side of the strip and the remaining square. Leave a small opening in the seam for turning right side out and stuffing.

Turn right side out through opening.

Stuff the booger, and stuff it good.  I want it to hold pins and that takes it being snug.  Got that finished and whip stitched it closed. 

Hooray!  I think I am almost done.  

Wrong!  I start to feed the ribbon through and it is nearly impossible.  I give it to Michael, he returns with pliers.

The pliers help.  But it is still a struggle.  The problem is going through the pin cushion and not catching the ribbon you have previously pulled through.  It took several attempts to find the right spot.  But finally, it was done.
Thankfully the buttons will cover the carnage.  From pulling the ribbon so aggressively, I tore the hole open a bit more than I would have liked. 

Done!  I am happy with the outcome but didn’t expect it really to be so much work. 

I am going to try it again, this time I want to use rickrack.  That was impossible.  Trash that idea.  I picked up some cheap craft ribbon at Walmart, this worked perfectly!  I did still struggle with catching the ribbon on the pull through, but pliers were not needed.  The trick again is not to catch the previously pulled ribbon loops when you needle through. 

Ready to start the third and I figured, “Why not try to download the pattern one more time.”  It worked.  It stinkin’ worked.  At this point I am feeling there is some reason I am being made to struggle and suffer making these cute pin stickers.  The size was a bit smaller than mine, but I had successfully completed three of the four I wanted to make.  So, I tossed the printed pattern aside and continued!

What did I learn? 

  1. Websites with bad links stink.  It would have been nice to have had the pattern and complete directions before tackling the project. 
  2. Practice makes perfect.  I really didn’t need four pin cushions but each time I made one it was easier and I picked up new tricks to help me do a better job. 
  3. Good ideas in theory sometimes require big tools.  Without the pliers I would not have been able to complete the first pincushion, and that my quilting friends would have been a sad day.  Another blunder would have been sent to the island of misfit quilt projects. 
  4. Understand that sometimes you NEED to walk away from a project and give it some time.  Try to download the information later.  Try to work after you rest and think.  Realize that sometimes there are forces greater than your own that are keeping you from completion! 
Overall, I think the project is worth a go.  Thinner (cheaper) ribbon was easier, the rick rack was  impossible.  Be patient and expect it to take a while to go through the stuffing.  These little cuties would make great door prizes or retreat gifts.  I did improve with each pincushion and the time was decreased (along with my frustration level). 

I like the finished product and isn’t that all that matters?

Tia – 1: Cosmos - 0

Friday, August 17, 2012

Yucky Bananas – This Just Won’t DO!

Banana’s are cheap, easy to eat, and available from the handy fruit bowl on our kitchen table.  Unfortunately, they have a limited shelf life and before you know it you come to find this –

Yuck.  No one in this house is going to eat them at this point.  I am super picky about what stage of ripeness I eat a banana (big surprise), while Michael is much more flexible (another big surprise).  Chich won’t go near them – a texture issue.  Whatever Chich, you seem to enjoy them when they turn into BANANA BREAD!

So here is the deal.  My boys love banana bread.  I am more of an apple, zucchini or pumpkin bread girl, but twist my arm, I will eat banana bread.  So rather than pitch these mushy things, I whip up a loaf or two.  The thought of dragging out my mixer and making a mess creates resistance, but I have it down to a science.  One bowl only and cleaning as I go makes it tolerable (raise the back of my hand to my forehead and feign weakness).

Step 1 – Wet stuff in the mixer.

If you have 2-3 bananas, make one loaf.  If you have 5-6 (like I do) make two loaves.  The recipe given is for ONE loaf, but the pictures will depict my TWO loaves.  Sorry to go all “math” on you, but wanted to clarify!

For one loaf, put right into the mixing bowl:

·         1 egg
·         1 cup sugar
·         ½ cup vegetable oil
·         2 tbsp cream (or half and half, whatever you have)
·         ½ tsp vanilla
·         Ripe bananas (2-3)

Step 2 – Mixing and pan prep

Run the mixer until well blended.   

While this is blending, I go ahead and turn on my oven to 325 and oil/flour dust the loaf pans.  I really hate oiling and flouring pans but it is necessary.  Darn.

Step 3 – Dry stuff goes in.

To the mixing bowl add (I don’t turn it off – I am daring that way):
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
Run mixer until well blended.   

Pour into loaf pan.  I never owned a rubber spatula.  My sister came to visit and razzed me royal about it and bought me one.  I think about her every time I use it; and I use it when I bake.  That little thing really gets all the batter out!  This is NOT desirable when making chocolate cake however.  There needs to be a sufficient amount left for some batter snacking!

Step 4 – Into the oven.

The pans go in for about an hour.  I say about because mine always take a bit longer – could be my oven, who knows.  Now, I clean up.  There isn’t much to do, just the mixing bowl, beaters and a few measuring spoons and cups. 

I know they are done when the center is no longer doughy wet looking, but rather moist wet.  Wow, that is vague, better refer to the picture.

I have tried lots of banana bread recipes and this one is by far the easiest and best.  I don’t have to soften butter or premix a bunch of stuff.  For me baking the bread is a chore of necessity as I don’t want to waste the ripe bananas.  Yes, the outcome is delicious and makes for some easy snacking for my family.  They like it warm out of the oven with butter, or in the fridge and sliced cold.  Either way, it never lasts very long, just like the bananas.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Race Using Strips – The Winner is a Quilt

Last night I heard about a super easy quilt that uses 2 ½” strips and was great for kids. 

My grand niece had been over and we had created a new top and matching hair bow the day before.  I asked her to pick two fabrics and she chose Halloween prints.  She was really into playing with the fabric pieces (she is six), and I was grateful to have her present to frequently check the fit.  It was huge success and she loved her top and bow.  It is the beginning (hopefully) of a long love affair for fabric and creating for our little girl.  In the next few sessions, I hope to get her into using the sewing machine.

So last night on the way to “quilt group,” we were talking about my experience and Ann tells me about this super easy quilt that uses 2 ½” strips.  It is great for beginning kid sewers as it finished quickly and simply.  I made a mental note and checked it out when I got home.  Here is the link to the pattern:

As I read the directions I was totally intrigued.  The mathematics of the quilt had me right away.  I mentally walked through the steps which seemed incredibly simple.  You would sew all 40 strips end to end on the diagonal.  Then you would grab the beginning and the end and sew them together until you hit the fold, snip it apart.  You now have a long strip two wide.  You repeat this step five times and you are done.  Your quilt is approximately 48” x 64”.  A good throw size even without borders.  So, I start thinking, what if I had a different number of strips?  Since the length of the quilt is built on the powers of 2, it would jump from 64 inches to 128 inches.  I guess that would work, but that is a very long quilt!  It could be done, but I decided if I didn’t think this one was big enough I could always add borders.

40 strips – 48” x 64”
120 strips – 72” x 128”
160 strips – 96” x 128”

My mind started thinking about how cool Christmas strips would look, or maybe scrappy autumn colors.  Then I remembered some floral strips I had stashed away in a drawer.  They were very shabby chic and were the fabrics I had used to make my niece’s curtains and table decorations.  She had asked for a throw to put over the loveseat – this would work!  Now with a purpose I was ready to roll (no pun intended)!  I decided to document the progress so I could share it with you, my quilting buddies. 

I began at noon with a Sam the Cooking Guy episode on to entertain me (sewing strips takes very little mental energy).  Quickly all forty were sewn end to end.  You need to cut 18” off of one the strips so that the seams will offset.  

Oh, and a side note, mostly to myself, change your stinkin’ needle once in a while!  The results are amazing!  Okay, that was just for me.  I tend to wait until a needle actually breaks, frugal to the max.  Does not make for efficient quilting!

Okay, that did not take very long and now I have each end in hand and am ready to sew my first LONG seam (12:45 – I am taking breaks to take pictures, watch Sam, and type – you will surely be quicker).  I am a pressing mine as I go – my iron is my best friend.  As many of you know, I am not a pressing snob, just a fanatic.

Wow, that was a long, long strip.  I was expecting the strips to be twisted at the end as I just picked up the ends and started without any regard.  But, mine ended up just as a fold.  I snipped it and lap one was done!  

As I pressed the first lap it was fun seeing the different fabrics and how they looked next to the other strips.  Since my bundle had some repeats, I have some areas where the strips were the same.  Hopefully, this will play out and be okay in the end!

Time for lap two!  At the end of this one, I did have a twist in the row.  I snipped it apart and continued.  Since my snip was approximate, I was off a little at the end of the row, so I trimmed it up.  Pressed and ready, here it is before lap three!

Lap two finished!  Onto lap three!

Lap three was quick, now lap four.

Lap four done - one more to go!

Time finished was 3:12 pm.  One cooking show, one Mozart symphony, and two bible studies later – done.  Without having to pin, this really zipped along.  I did stop to do a load of laundry, answer the phone and put some groceries away.  It is really possible to finish this pattern in a short workshop time frame.  I am not going to add borders (lazy) and simply straight line quilt this on my machine and bind.  

Now that it is done, I have a few thoughts.

  1. Prewind those bobbins baby!  You will want to keep going on that long seam.  It is a total bummer to find out you have sewn several feet without bobbin (doh)!
  1. Don’t sweat what fabric touches.  I thought I had carefully sorted my fabrics.  There were some repeats in there and I was concerned on the first seam when two exact fabrics ended up next to one another!  OH NO!  The chances, right?  Okay, had to let that go, I did have some repeats in my stack so that was to be expected.  There is no planning and you have to just “let go and let fabric live.”
  1. I can’t help but think how fun this would be for a class or workshop.  A theme could be made: Christmas, Spring Florals, or Patriotic fabrics.  Each quilter would bring 40 – 2 ½” strips of the same fabric (purchase 3 yards of one fabric to do this).  As each quilter arrives, they would take their forty strips and collate them out onto the table.  After everyone arrives, each quilter receives a unique assortment of themed strips!  They would then begin making their own quilt and would leave workshop with a completed top!  If the quilter wanted to add borders, I would suggest buying an extra yard of their original fabric.  This extra yard could be cut into 6 – 5 ½” strips for the border.  Here are the guidelines for the number of quilters in your group to insure only one of each fabric:
    • What to bring:
      • 40 or more quilters – bring 40 – 2 ½” strips of one fabric.
      • 20 - 39 quilters – bring 20 – 2 ½” strips of one fabric, 20 – 2 ½” strips on a second fabric.
      • 10 – 19 quilters – bring 10 – 2 ½” strips of four different fabrics.
      • 5 – 9 quilters – bring 5 – 2 ½” strips of eight different fabrics.
    • Let’s say you have 23 people in your group.  The first quilter would collate (left to right) their strips into twenty-three piles and leave a post it note where they placed the last strip.  The next quilter would begin just to the right of the post it.  He/She would leave the post it note where they finish.  When the last of the twenty-three has finished, each pile will have 40 strips.
So in review – I love this quilt.  I enjoyed how quickly it went together without ANY pins.  There was no waste, unless you want to count the 18” piece that you removed from the first strip.  Each fabric stands on its own and there is no planning or designing necessary to make a great product.  

I also believe it would be a great quilt to make with little ones.  Seam allowances can be fudged, no pins are necessary, and no matching seams.  Would I replace this for a quilt camp?  No.  There is a place for a structured quilt class that teaches the basics and this would not fall into that category.  This is simply a fun way to make a fast quilt and would be easy to do with a "new to the quilt world kid."

Now, do you have three hours?  You could finish a quilt top!