Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Door Valance

 I always loved those paper loop chains that kids make. They are just cute and make me think of childhood. So this year, I decided I wanted to try to adapt one of those chains to fit in with my decorations.

I opted for red and white felt for the loops. Staying with my buttons these for the year, I stitched buttons on to the red loops where the ends meet and used them to close the loop. I kept the white loops simple and just stitched them closed.

We live in a split level house, so when guests leave they will see this cute chain suspended over the door. I didn't want to just do loops, so at each end I staggered ribbon. Jingle bells and acrylic "lights" are tied to the ends of the ribbon streamers.

This is just another cute, fun decoration that can be quickly put together in an evening. I really love the childlike quality to these decorations. For me, Christmas has always been about kids and that wonderment that comes with this time of year. And my favorite decorations reflect that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let the Merry Begin!

Thanksgiving in my house means two things: A huge family dinner and time to decorate for Christmas. I don't take out or put up decorations until the day after Thanksgiving, that's always been our tradition. This year that has gotten tweaked a little due to a major home improvement project. As I type this, my wonderful hubby is finishing putting in the last of our beautiful new laminate wood floors. It's been a long week working on this, but the end is in sight and I'm so happy to finally have pretty new floors. My house should be all put back together and decorated by the end of the week.

One of the new decorations that will be up this year is this felt wallhanging. This is a really nice project to do with kids. While you are weaving and sewing the red and white background, let the kids decorate the tree with dimensional fabric paint, beads, sequins, buttons or whatever else you have handy.

This year I'm in love with buttons, so I stitched buttons around the border and used them as embellishments on both the tree and around the tree. The colored chain that hangs on one side added some nice texture and tied in the chain used to hang it. The chain can easily be substituted with ribbon. In total, this little project cost maybe $10 if you have to buy all the supplies, much less if you only need to get felt. It would be a nice activity for little ones, as I did with my granddaughters, sure to make memories that will be cherished every year when you take it out.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Finished Product

So here is the final quilt. I showed it to my hubby and he "ooh, I get a new quilt!" I am pretty happy about how the whole thing came together. You can see in the second picture how much the denim frayed after one wash and two trips through the dryer.

A few lessons I learn:

I will be avoiding the light weight, stretchy denim the next time I make one. Even though the flannel has a tendency to grip whatever material, the stretchy fabric had a tendency to move.

One thing I didn't really think about was a seam around the outside edge. I will add it before the next wash. I'm not sure why I didn't think about it. I mean, what else will keep the fraying in check?

I didn't seem to have any issues with the fact that I didn't prewash the fabrics. There didn't seem to be any excessive shrinkage. I did notice that the colors of flannel seemed less vibrant. Also, I noticed the flannel picked up a lot of the little lint pills that came out of the dryer. Those are not always easy to get off.

If you are going to be washing this kind of blanket in your home washer and dryer, be prepared to pull a lot of lint out of both machines. And you will probably have to continue pulling tons of lint every time you wash it. Small price to pay though.

This blanket didn't turn out as heavy as I was expecting it to be. This is probably just because of the denim I used. I don't know that I will be jumping to make another of these in the immediate future. It's not that it was any more difficult than a regular quilt. I will say that personally, denim is not my favorite material to use. I will make another one but I will probably wait a couple of months before tackling another one of these. I have plenty of denim to work with!

So there is all that. It was an experience and one that was not as easy as I was hoping nor as difficult as I was expecting. But one I will be willing to try again.

I am going to taking the rest of this week off to focus on a big home improvement project and on family with Thanksgiving being just a few days away. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! I will be back next week to start preparing for the Christmas season... So many possible projects to work on!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Almost done...

The quilt is in the home stretch. With the blocks being pieced and put together, the size of the blanket is becoming clear and I can start seeing how my seam allowance wasn't exactly perfect. Of course, I didn't really stress about keeping them perfect. But that's okay.

I actually like the little imperfections that can be found in this quilt. I like them because they add to the homemade feel. I like that the imperfections show that someone took the time to make it rather than just went out and bought it. So, if you are kinda new to sewing or trying this style for the first time, don't stress about imperfections! Take pride in what you do, practice it and you will do just fine.

Okay, now that the little pep talk is done, I gotta show you the next step in the process. Clipping the seams is one of the last steps in the process. This step helps the material fray and become soft. It gives it the classic rag quilt look. You can see that I opted to have the seams on the denim side. I thought, when cuddling under the blanket, having the soft and flannel close to the body would be so much nicer.

Clipping the fabric can be pretty tedious. It seems to be much easier with the wider seam allowance. Especially if you separate the layers. I noticed in researching the process, the pictures of people clipping the seams all made it look so easy. Using the tips of the scissors like you could just sail right through it.

Well, you can't. The only way to really use just the tips of the scissors is to cut each layer of material individual. At least, that is the way it worked for me. That would have taken way too long. So, being very careful, I cut through all four layers by moving the seam further down the scissors. Yes I had to be much more careful, but I think it helped me get through it faster.

Anyway, tomorrow I will show you the finished product and give you some points based on what I learned through the process.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let the Sewing Begin...

 Now that all the squares are cut, it is time for me to get to work sewing everything together. Here you can see two of the blocks I have assembled. (One is flannel side up and the other is denim up.)

You can see the quilt pattern is a super simple checkerboard. I really like this because this quilt doesn't need to be extra difficult to put together, just warm when it's done.

From my research I learned that you don't really have to do any traditional quilting on these types of throws. I opted to sew an "X" through each 6.5" block before assembling my finished blocks. I did this pretty much just for looks, and to help me hold my material straight as I pieced the blocks together.

The second picture is a close up of the back of the block. As you can see, I wasn't stressed about getting everything lined up perfectly. I feel this type of project will be fairly forgiving, of course I won't know for sure until I am all the way done.

At any rate, I am piecing this as I would any other quilt, except I am using a roughly 1/2" seam allowance. All that extra allowance is what will be frayed and fuzzy looking in the finished project. So far, I am happy with how this is going together, but I will have to see how I feel after putting some of the blocks together. I am noticing that sometimes, just because of the thickness of the materials, these can be a little difficult to get through the sewing machine.

When all the blocks are done, it will be time to assemble the whole quilt. I will work on that part tomorrow. For now, I'll focus on getting my twenty blocks (made from 80 smaller blocks) finished. Then I'll start being happy that it is almost done!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Tedious Part...

I'm one of those people that loves instant gratification. Today's part of the quilt was a little difficult for me, just because it was so tedious! I had to cut all the material!!! I know - it's hardly traumatic for a person that enjoys quilting, I just don't like it.

Anyway, I decided to use 6 1/2" squares for my quilt. For the 44"x55" quilt, I figured I would need about 80 total squares, so I set to work cutting my 6.5" squares out of both the denim and the flannel.

 Here you can see that each stack is about the same height, which might hint at the fact that I used a lightweight denim. All the denim squares were cut from the legs of the pants.

(I am working on a project for the pockets that were left over. I really don't like wasting anything that I can use. Stay tuned and see how that works out!)

In the close up picture you can also see the different shades of denim. You will notice that there is a total of 40 yellow flannel squares and 20 of each red and brown. The reason for this is that I had more yellow on hand.

From what I have gathered, denim and flannel quilts each lend themselves nicely to simple square patterns. So that is what I am going with - a nice simple checkerboard pattern.

Once you have your squares cut, take a break. I did! Tomorrow we start sewing, which won't be that difficult, but again a little time consuming. Of course, by the end of the week, it will be nice to have a quilt to cuddle under. I will just keep reminding myself that the gratification may not be instant, but it still won't take that long!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Upcycling For Warmth

It has been getting cold out there. You can't deny it, winter is upon us. I try to clean out my house in the fall to make room for all the new toys and treats I will get over the holiday season. This year, the cleaning out includes a pile of jeans that have been either worn out or just don't fit anymore. The first thing that came to mind was a denim quilt. Of course I've also been itching to do a flannel quilt, so I compromised and am doing a denim and flannel rag quilt.

So this week is all about the process of making such a quilt. Kind of a week long tutorial based on my experience. Naturally, the first step is gather your materials. I have a ton of denim floating around the house, so I gathered up the lightweight pairs of jeans for this quilt. I really don't want it to be overly heavy. (Afterall, with the fireplace we have, we don't need super heavy blankets!)

You can see there are different shades of denim in the mix which I think will help create an interesting pattern in the finished quilt. In all, I used five pairs of jeans.

I lucked out on the flannel. I found four remnants, each just about a yard. I bought them when I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them but wanted to do something autumn-ish. At any rate, those are the colors I used. Fortunately, I won't have to worry about batting for this quilt, which I really like because it is one less expense. I didn't use all of the flannel, but I'm sure I will use the left overs for something else. In all, I believe I used a little less than three and a half yards.

For those of you playing along at home, on the first day you just need to find your supplies and wash and dry them. My research showed that nearly everyone says to wash it. I only saw one site (a fabric store) that didn't say to wash it. So I am going to skip the washing step and by the end of the week, we'll know if that was a mistake or not!

To recap, you need:

-multiple pairs of jeans (don't buy them, use what you have, if you have to buy them, get them from a thrift store!)
-roughly 3 1/2 yards of flannel - I am estimating for a 44"x55" finished quilt and 44-45" flannel material
-basic sewing supplies (sewing machine, rotary cutter, ruler, cutting mat, etc.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dressing Up The Everyday

Now that you have an idea for a nice everyday pillow, I wanted to show you a way to dress it up for the holidays. Maybe you don't want to completely changed the look of your pillows. Or maybe you only want to change a few. I know it can seem like holiday overload if there is too many decorations.

For those like me that want to just accent for the holidays and not make your room look like a window display (because, I mean, really - you do have to live in that room!) I came up with the idea of having a pillow band that dresses up the pillow without taking it over.

What I love about the design: It's reversible! One band to cover two holidays which is great for saving storage space. Another cool thing about these, if you have a plain pillow that you already love, make the band in coordinating fabrics to dress it up for the holidays. (I used the Everyday Pillow from yesterday's post.) The band pictured was done for Thanksgiving/Autumn and Christmas.

The Autumn side is made of five strips of brown materials, simple light green embroidered design using a running stitch and embellished with some sparkly leaves in fall colors. The Christmas side is made from a deep, rich red cotton, with the words stenciled on and painted with metallic silver fabric paint and outlined with dimensional paint. Then I added a few buttons to fill in the empty space with a few coordinating buttons.

Again, super simple, not too expensive and these can be made as simple or elaborate as you want or as time allows. And honestly, once you get started making these types of accessories you can get addicted and fall in love with changing the look of your home whenever you want without spending a ton of money!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A More Everyday Pillow

I'm one of those people that gets bored looking at the same things day in and day out. I like to have those little changes that keep a room feeling fresh and new. It's too expensive to change furniture out everytime I want something new. So I do the next best thing and change the accessories. Our living room is done in warm browns, blues and greens to remind us of the outdoors. Plus being fairly neutral, it is easy to bring in pops of color.

For this cover, I used the 18" square form and a rich tonal green fabric. Then I decided to use up a bunch of buttons I had floating around. This was a nice relaxing, evening project for me. I kept the buttons in a little bowl next to my chair and hand-sewed them on while watching TV.

Even with such a simple design, it brings a lot "WOW!" to the room. The colors compliment the rest of the decor but don't overwhelm. A great thing about this design is that it would be great for those large scraps or strange size remnant. The front is actually two pieces of material with the seam in the middle. This worked out great because it gave me a straight line to base my buttons around. I can see myself making a few more of these, with different materials and a variety of colorful buttons.

Just think of how nice this would look on your couch, a comfy chair or on the guest bed. Why not buy the large packages of buttons, enough material and pillow forms, and make several for around the house.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pillow Bow!

Christmas is my favorite holiday to decorate for. Really the only one I decorate for. I feel like I do quite a bit, but I by no means go overboard. We have our family decorations that have become part of our traditional decorations, and every so often I add to them. Last year I made felt pointsettas and simple wallhanging to decorate the living room. 

This year I decided to add a couple of pillows to our couch to bring in more festive colors. So I made the pillow cover below, again on an 18" square form. This one was a little tricky because I had to figure out measurements on my own, instead of looking them up somewhere.

Once again, I raided my stash for remnants and scraps to make this cover. In fact, the white bow on the front is made from fabric leftover from flowergirl baskets I made for my step-son's wedding in 2010. I thought the shimmery silver snowflakes accented the fun, bright green color and cute little snowmen quite well.

This picture was taken in our family room on the old comfy couch my boys have pretty much worn out over the years. But even on an older couch that may be well past its best days, a nice throw blanket draped across the back and some pillows can really dress up the look. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Adding a little comfort...

After spending a week and a half working on nothing but flowers, I had a lot of catching up to do. Soooo, the second week of nothing on the blog was spent tackling the Mt Everest sized pile of laundry that accumulated, the huge mess of a kitchen and living room and getting caught up on my projects for the blog. I will confess that I did take one day and did absolutely nothing. Things have calmed down now and I can get back in to a nice little routine, which is extra nice considering the holidays are here! This is my favorite time of year. Personally, I only really go all out on decorating the house for Christmas, but I do like a few fall accents here and there.

What I especially love is simple accents that I can make and not have to spend a ton of money. One such is throw pillows They are always a quick a way to accessorize a room. My issue with throw pillows is the cost and space. Have you looked at the cost of pillows lately? Especially the really pretty ones that make you stop and say "oooooh!" Then there is the size of them. By themselves, they aren't too bad. But what if you want to use them to decorate for the season or just change them for a new look? What do you do with all the old pillows? 

Easy answer? PILLOW FORMS!!! I love pillow forms. For those not in the know, they are plain white, pre-stuffed pillows that you can find in fabric and craft stores. The reason I love them: You buy the pillows once, change the covers to change the look of a room. Minimal sewing experience needed. Covers can be as simple or elaborate as you choose. This week, I'm going to show a few ideas for covers that can be made at home and will focus more on the seasonal decor than everyday use.

First up is my Give Thanks pillow cover for an 18" square pillow form. I found the autumn leaf material a long time ago as a remnant and it has been patiently waiting in my stash to be used. For the front I used a strip of a fat quarter, stenciled on the "Thanks" with fabric paint and free-handed "Give" and the letter outlines with dimensional (puffy) paint. Super simple and super cheap. And SUPER CUTE! 

It would easy to make multiple sizes with the same material or coordinating fabric. The possibilities are many and the only thing that took a lot of time about this cover was letting the paint dry (overnight for each paint). Hopefully this has given you some ideas!

Monday, November 5, 2012

MIA Crafter...

So for the last two weeks I have been MIA, but I have a good reason. We have a cousin who got married on October 28th. On the 15th she asked me to make her bouquets, six ribbon flower bouquets - bridal, tossing and four bridesmaid - and I couldn't meet with her until the 17th to actually pick out ribbon colors and discuss what she wanted. Once everything was figured out, I spent the following week and a half doing nearly nothing but sewing ribbon flowers and crafting bouquet embellishments. In all I ended up with around six dozen flowers and two dozen embellishments. 

It was stressful, my whole house suffered and my poor hubby had to deal with nearly two weeks of me being cranky. In the end it was all worth it when I delivered the bouquets and saw the bride's face. She loved them, said they were better than she could have expected even though she knew they would be beautiful. 

So here are three of the six bouquets that nearly cost me my sanity. :) I am very happy with how they turned out. She had a Halloween themed wedding, complete with guests being required to wear costumes (which was more stress considering I had to make a costume for myself as well) and her colors were a rich red, black and white.
Here you can see the bridal bouquet in the vase, the tossing bouquet to the right and the maid of honor bouquet to the left. The only difference between the maid of honor bouquet and the other bridesmaid is the sparkly black pendant set to the front of bouquet. 

The bridal had several accents that made it really stand out. The bride loves sparkly, blingy accents. Knowing that, I crafted some rhinestone accents out of cup-chain with clear stones and silver wire and incorporated a really pretty iridescent ribbon both in the bouquet and circling it. This bouquet really stood out in front of her dress. The bridesmaids bouquets were smaller but made of the same style flowers and accents. They did not get any rhinestones, but they did get some bicone accents in the wedding colors. The tossing bouquet was the smallest of the bouquets but still had some major impact. It was also the biggest pain the neck to make. Probably because it was the last and I was trying to hurry to get everything done to deliver the flowers in the afternoon, the day before the wedding.

I loved being able to do this for our cousin. The joy in her face when she saw them, the surprise when I told her she didn't have to pay and they were her wedding gift. It took a lot of stress off her - especially considering she gave herself a total of 28 days to plan the wedding! Naturally, her big day was beautiful and filled with family and love. And I'm happy to know I had a small part in making the day so special for her.