Boring Socks II

Adding interest

I bought four balls of reasonably boring variegated yarn during the summer. The challenge has been to come up with ideas to liven up the color contrasts. In this case, what works is the single row of turquoise near the top of the sock and again in the instep. The rows of burgundy and rust add very little contrast. 

So the next pair in shades of blues and greys will want something that pops out – need to think about a bright green or a red.

Sleeping On It…


Partially quilted light areas

Never ceases to amaze me how my brain keeps working while I sleep and when I wake I have a solution to the problem I walked away from (temporarily). I trust my sleeping brain implicitly – it always comes through; there’s always a solution the next day. That was how I worked when I was writing – stop when I got to a place where I wasn’t sure how to proceed – next day, ideas were just there! Always! Same with the quilting – walk away from a decision point, come back next day and there’s a way to work things out.

Last night the problem I needed to solve was how to quilt the light diagonal spaces in the quilt because the fabric expanse was too big (4″ x 20″) to lay flat – I needed to fill the space with something. I thought about just straight line quilting but that seemed too boring. I woke this morning thinking about stippling and knew how to set that up. I traced the light diagonal shape onto paper, sketched in some stippling, scanned the drawing, opened the image in Photoshop and scaled it to the right size, saved the image, imported it as background into my TruEmbroidery Create software and created a design based on my sketch (had to do some adjusting to balance the fill). I did a test run to see  how the stippling worked out – it was perfect! Just the right size for the space.

So far, I’ve quilted in eight of the spaces – I have four large ones, four light triangles and eight smaller diagonal pieces to go – that’s three different embroideries, in all, to fill all the different shaped light areas. I’ll probably work at this some more this afternoon, and it will still take at least another day, if not two, to complete the fill work.

Cost of table topper?

Overhead: $0 – I won’t cost the electricity to run the machines, the iron, the lighting in the studio, rent for the studio space.

Supplies: $100 – the backing fabric alone cost me $40 (cotton fabric these days is ~ $20/m) – then there’s the four half metres of red/green printed fabrics, plus the metre of dotted cream fabric – so $100 is an estimate, my materials may have cost a bit more and I’m not counting in thread or machine needles.

Batting: $30 – batting is $26/m plus tax – the cotton needle punched batting I buy is 90″ wide so I needed a metre.

Labour: $20/hr – I’m a skilled artisan, my time is worth more than minimum wage! My education consulting hourly rate used to be anywhere from $100 – $200/hr, my web design hourly rate is $50/hr. I should be charging the same kind of rate for the sewing/quilting but let’s go with $20.

I will have put in at least 15 hours (probably more over 7-8 days) to make this Christmas table topper so labour = $300.

Total cost for the topper were I selling it: $430.

However, the topper is a gift for a long-time friend; it’s a labour of love.

Christmas Table Topper


Table Topper

I’ve worked on this project all day – started quite early piecing all the small blocks together. Then I discovered I hadn’t bought enough backing fabric so I had to go out (just as the storm was starting) to pick up 2.1 m of backing fabric to be able to cover the length (81″) in one piece.

I’ve done about half of the stitching in the ditch. I got bored, so I set up an embroidery design to quilt the eight small squares and the “diamonds” in the centre. That’s now done. I’ve stitched around the outer edge 2″ from the edge to establish a border. I chose not to bind the project, instead, again I did a pillow case finish with the back.

Because the edges of all the blocks are cut on the bias, I’m having trouble getting every section of the topper to lay flat – it’s most obvious in the light diagonal sections – the way to solve that, of course, is to embroider/quilt each section and I may actually do that tomorrow. It isn’t quite as simple as it sounds because each of the long light diagonals is 17″ – I don’t have a hoop large enough to do that. so each of those sections would have to be done as two embroideries. Hooping each of those areas, however, would stretch the fabric flat and the stitching would hold the fullness in place so the topper would look flatter. I’m going to sleep on it!

Finished dimensions: 35″ x 81″ (to fit a 34″ x 80″ table with both extensions open).

Christmas Table Runner

Christmas Table Runner

Christmas Table Runner

I used the leftover fabric from the table topper to make this runner for another friend. It should look nice on her dining room table. It’s constructed on the diagonal – that’s how it’s possible to have the central “diamonds” overlap the triangles on the sides (with the addition of a narrow strip attached to the light strips to create the illusion of  overlap).

Took a bit of fiddling to piece the top and I made some mistakes that I took apart and redid – which is why the two mid-side triangles are a different fabric! (They were meant to be the same as the other red/green fabric). In the end, however it all worked out with the fabric I had on hand.

I chose not to bind the runner, instead attached the back using a “pillow case turn” – I just didn’t have enough of any one of the prints to do a complete binding and the point was to complete the runner without having to buy more fabric and, besides, I like the neatness of the finished edge – nothing to distract from the basic elements.


Blocks stacked, ready to chain stitch

Now back to the table topper – the pieces are all lined up on my sewing table ready to be chain stitched and the top assembled. It’ll take a couple of hours and it will be done, too.

Christmas Table Topper


Christmas Table Topper – in progress

Zippered bags finished, I’m back at work on a Christmas Table Topper for a friend. Her table is 34″ x 80″ extended – with my half-square triangles finished size = 5 3/4″ I’ll finish at 35″ x 80 1.2″ which will work on her table.

So back to half-square triangles – in this instance I have four strong printed fabrics with a light background. I wanted to try a truncated “Starburst” but the layout looked like nothing with my finished dimensions so I’ve opted for “flowers” with two different square print centres which will alternate from section to section. The square print fabrics are tying the coloured triangles together and providing some continuity to the design.

This is one end of the topper – there are two more sections of three rows each and a final end section of four rows for a total of 14 rows. I have backing fabric which I’m not going to bother to piece and I’m not planning on using batting but plan, instead, to use a panel of muslin to give the topper a bit of heft but no puffiness – balancing wine glasses on a quilt topper can be problematic. The muslin should provide just a small bit of substance to the topper. I plan on stitching all three layers using “stitch in the ditch” – but you never know, I might do something more complex once I get the topper assembled.

I’m also planning to use a pillow case assembly for the back – no binding, the back is placed on the top, right sides together; you sew around the outside (1/4″ – 1/2″ seam allowance) leaving an opening on one side so you can turn the whole thing inside out like a pillow case, press, hand stitch the opening closed, then quilt – the fastest way of completing a quilt.

No time tomorrow to work on this but I will likely be able to get the top pieced on Thursday. Finishing the topper will take no time at all. I’m not in a rush – don’t need to give it away until Christmas Eve.

Then a table runner using the same fabrics but NOT half-square triangles! I want something with more density for the runner.

So the Christmas sewing, which I never intended doing, is moving right along.

For the Mah Jongg Player

I heard from my friend Karen this morning:

I have an idea… if the larger bag could hold a Mah Jongg card, and a smaller matching little zippered change purse inside that could hold $3-$5 in change, you’d have a terrific gift for Mahj players no matter what the fabric, but especially if it were in an Asian pattern…

So here we are:


Small bags for the Man Jongg player

Didn’t take long to make. A trip to my scrap boxes for some small Asian fabric leftovers. Some batting and lining and zippers. Putting it all together went quickly as well.

Now to get it in the mail – just not today!


A Nova Scotia Blizzard

We’re being advised to stay at home, it’s obvious why. I’m not budging from the apartment!

Zippered Gift Bags

Zippered Bags

Zippered Bags

It’s that time of the year when I need to replenish my stash of zippered gift bags. I always try to have a supply on hand to use as gifts. Sometimes the gift is the bag itself, other times it may hold a surprise. Today I sat down to make 15 bags as gifts for the gals in the Friday afternoon knitting/sewing group here in the apartment building. There are 11 women who attend regularly to knit/sew for a couple of hours each week. I made some extras – just in case…

I started with two fabric collections like the one below – samples from fabric suppliers – I had three sets on hand from the day-long quilting workshop I attended a couple of weeks ago. There isn’t enough fabric to make much of anything – maybe a pieced place mat, sometimes a small table runner. But there is enough to make a bunch of bags.

Fabric Samples

Fabric Samples

I laid each fabric collection on my cutting table, used my ruler and rotary cutter to divide each collection into 4-6 triangular / quadrilateral shapes – enough to mix and match using a stitch and flip technique. Next I cut out thirty (15 x 2 for front and back of a bag) pieces of batting (from leftover pieces) 6″ x 8″. I also cut out thirty pieces of lining fabric from my leftover stash (same dimensions) in preparation for the bags. The last bit of set-up was to create 15 zippers from some zipper tape I had on hand, adding slides and cutting the zippers two inches longer than the bag width – in this case 10″ (I also stitched both ends across the tape to prevent the slides coming off while making the bags!).

Tip #1: It’s very helpful to use a zipper 2″-3″ longer than your bag – that way you can position the slide to one end, let it hang beyond the bag edges while attaching the zipper – no worry about hitting the zipper slide with your needle or having to veer around it while you’re sewing!

Tip #2: Take a  piece of batting and cover the surface by laying down a piece of cut fabric, place a second piece at one edge right sides together, stitch and flip, and press open. Keep adding pieces of fabric until the batting surface is covered. Press and trim to the size of the precut batting. 

Because my batting pieces were relatively small, to took me about an hour and a half to do all thirty pieces (two sides for each of 15 bags, right?). Working in production mode, I matched up two sides, two lining pieces, and a zipper and stacked all 15 bags beside my machine and began assembling the bags. I’m not going to give detailed instructions about making the bags, there are lots of helpful bag-making tutorials around but let me say one thing – lots of people bind the ends of their zipper, I don’t bother with the extra work. I find my zipper is fine incorporated in the bag side seams, but I will mention a couple of techniques that will make the bag-making go smoothly.

Tip #3: You’ve got one side of your zipper attached to one piece of the outside (fabric/batting) – align your lining piece face down on the zipper tape (not the batting side), making sure the sides are matching up with the sides of the fabric. Now add the second side of the zipper to the second side of the bag – and again place lining face down on zipper tape, sew.

You can see I do two seams to attach each side of the zipper – first sewing it to the main fabric, then stitching a second time to add the lining. A little more work, but it makes it much easier to attach the zipper within the seam. I find something always moves out of position when I try sewing main fabric, zipper, and lining in a single pass.

I now have the zipper attached to both sides of the bag (with the lining also attached). I open the bag flat and press the zipper seams on both the outer side and the lining side. Next I separate the lining from the fabric/batting, lining up rights sides of lining and rights sides of fabric. The next step is critical:

Tip #4: Start by sewing the side with the closed/back end of the zipper, starting at the lining (the slide is at the opposite side), stitch toward the zipper, folding the zipper down toward the fabric/batting pieces, stitch carefully over the zipper, finish seaming the fabric/batting. When everything is finished and you turn the bag right-side out, the zipper will be beyond the fabric/batting, not tucked inside.

Tip #5: Reach between the fabric/batting pieces and open the zipper all the way to the seam you’ve just completed! (If you make this routine, you won’t find yourself in the situation where you go to turn the bag right-side out and the zipper is closed!)

Now I sew the second side seam, again starting with the two pieces of lining right sides together, past the folded zipper which is pushed down toward the fabric/batting (zipper seams are up toward the lining), and on to the fabric/batting pieces. Now you have both sides stitched.

Next seam is along the bottom of the fabric/batting outside of the bag (remember, you’ve already opened the zipper before you sewed the second side so you can get into the bag later). Finally I sew a little distance in from each side along the bottom of the lining to form corners when I turn the whole bag right-side out – this lets me fold in the seam allowance easily so I can top stitch a needle width from the bottom edge of the lining before pushing it into the bag.

Tip #6: I use a 1/4″ seam allowance on the outside (fabric/batting) portions of the bag, but I use a 5/8″ allowance at the bottom of the lining – the bag itself is bulky and this makes the lining just that much smaller to fit inside the bag without a lot of bulk. 

Carefully reach inside the opening in the bottom seam of the lining, pull the fabric/batting through (remember, your zipper was opened after you sewed the first side seam!). Push out the bottom corners of the bag, as well as the end of the zipper where the slide is currently sitting, close the zipper, press the bag.

You’re done.

And I’ve got 15 new gift bags in my stash ready to give away!


Completed zippered bags

(Actually I used the third fabric collection and some quilted fabric from a coat I’d made last year to make 14 more bags so I finished 30 in all.)