I couldn’t resist buying some of this beautiful new Warsa linen at Purl Soho – the soft, muted colors beautifully offset the handwoven blanket I splurged and bought while visiting Swans Island Company this summer in Maine.
The pillows are 20″ square, in colors Fig, Celadon, Smoke and Coyote. In order to use some of the more vibrant colors, I sewed up a Forty-Minute Tote in colors Tangerine and Cayenne, and added handmade leather handles from Bolt Fabrics here in Portland.
Our summer schedule has been packed full of fun trips, activities, camps, and adventures, which is all well and good, but I was really glad for a Sunday to stay home, take a breath, and slow down a little! My youngest daughter designated Sunday as “family day”, which she defined as: waffles and fresh peaches for breakfast, a bike ride on the Clackamas River trail with her dad, swimming with the whole family (including her sisters, who these days are usually “too old” to find time to play in the pool with the rest of us), a BBQ dinner of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, corn on the cob and watermelon, garden-fresh tomatoes and lemonade, and then s’mores at the fire pit.
An at-home Sunday gave me some time to work in the garden, cut flowers, make our overflow supply of tomatoes into spaghetti sauce, and spend a little time in the pottery studio and with the current knitting project on my needles.
This year’s sunflower crop is truly stupendous – we must have grown at least a dozen varieties from seed, and they are so beautiful when they’re massed together!
Zinnias are such simple, unassuming flowers, but they’re one of my favorites – maybe because of their bright, almost neon hues. One of my recently thrown pitchers makes the perfect vase for their short stems.
I recently bought these beautiful handmade baskets from Tethermade – perfect for storing my carefully hoarded Clara Yarn and all of my knitting tools and notions.
My latest project off the needles is a cardigan knit from the incredible Camellia Fiber Company indigo-dyed yarn – it’s so luscious knit up in these big cushy cables! As soon as I get the buttons sewn on, I’ll display more FO photos.
This week’s sewing projects – quick, simple, and satisfying!
A set of four placemats and napkins, sewn from Robert Kaufman’s Studio Stash Yarn Dyes. I bought one yard of the Denim and 1/2 yard each of the Spice and Denim from Bolt, without really thinking through what I would use them for. I originally thought I’d sew a shirt and maybe a skirt, but it seemed too cutesy – maybe a little too much matching going on? So, I took a look at my quantities and decided I had just the right amount for placemats and napkins. The placemats are double-sided – I just sewed right sides to right sides, with the batting in between, then turned them right side out, sewed a top stitch a little less than 1/4″ from the edges, and then quilted them with one vertical line and one horizontal line, both down the middle.
I liked the color of the fringing on the napkins, so I fringed them out a little way (I’m sure they’ll fringe more on their own with repeated washings), and then stitched a stay stitch 1/4″ around all four borders.
My idea is to give these as a gift set, along with four of my hand-thrown mugs – I picked these because I thought they color-coordinated well:
I’m lucky enough to live near the Pendleton Woolen Mill store, where you can buy a wide variety of Pendleton fabrics as either scraps or off the bolt – 1/2 yard is more than enough to make a beautiful 20″ pillow cover.
As a birthday gift, I sewed up a six-pack of cloth napkins from Robert Kaufman’s Essex linen-cotton blend (I think this color is Taupe) – 1 1/2 yards gave me six 18″ x 22″ napkins.
My friend made me this beautiful fir peg board to display my favorite mugs – particularly the ones I’m hand throwing myself I love all the little details – the lines of the boards, the routed edges, and how the pegs angle up slightly to keep the mugs safely in place. I’m guessing I’ll have the entire board filled in no time!
Beautiful home decor-weight fabric I found while browsing at Modern Domestic – it’s from Skinny laMinx, a fabric designer based in South Africa. Her nature-inspired fabrics are amazing, and you can buy them on Etsy The print that I used for the table runner and the tote bag is Pincushion, in colors Humbug and Khaki. I bought 1/4 meter of each (they’re pretty spendy, but the quality is really first-rate), even though I had no idea what I was going to do with them. After letting them sit on my sewing table for a few weeks, I decided on simple projects, to highlight the fabrics themselves.
First, I sewed a very simple table runner (backing it in a heavier weight neutral) and paired it with these cafe bowls from Heath Ceramics in San Francisco. I then used all of the remaining yardage to make a tote bag, based on the Forty-Minute Tote pattern from Purl Bee. I altered the dimensions a little and made the straps a little longer, so that it’s the perfect size and fit to load up all of my goodies at the Portland Farmer’s Market every Saturday.
Next, I used a fat quarter meter of Solid Orla Fog to make two boxy pouches, using this tutorial. It’s really well-done — especially in getting the details of sewing in zippers just right – and not at all complicated, but one word of advice: DON’T follow the tutorial when it comes to boxing the corners! The tutorial’s approach is very difficult – a much easier way to box corners is demonstrated on many of the Purl Bee’s tote bag project demonstrations, including the Forty-Minute Tote. I boxed each corner by sewing my line at the point where the corner is three inches wide. Then, to sew in the handle, I ripped out a few stitches in the middle of two of the exterior boxed corners, inserted each end of the handle, and sewed the corner back up.
I used decor bond interfacing, along with the canvas weight fabric and cotton batting, so the pouches are very sturdy and hold their shape well. I quilted the fabric, interfacing, and batting together before I started sewing – I experimented with quilting one horizontally and one vertically, just to see how it would change their appearance. They are really cute – not that big, but the perfect size for make-up or sewing notions or tons of other things.
How cute is this?! I swear, Brooklyn Tweed patterns never fail to amaze me. This is Winslow, one of the patterns from the new BK Kids lookbook. I used Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter yarn – 5 skeins of Faded Quilt, 1 skein of Fossil, and 1 skein of Almanac. I knit on the recommended US 6s (US 5s for the moss stitch button flap). I think my gauge must have been a little off, because the pillow pieces turned out a little large than they should have, but I wouldn’t have wanted to go down a needle size, because the US 6s made for a pretty stiff fabric.
I love all of the small details of Brooklyn Tweed patterns, for instance, the moss stitch detail on the button flap, or sewing the pieces together with selvedge edges exposed. I had the perfect handmade ceramic buttons in my button bowl, and I used an 18″ square pillow form, although I think that the knitted cover fits a little more loosely than I would like. I thought about trying a 20″ square pillow form, but I didn’t want the knitting to get all stretched out.
My only negative comment is that I found the intarsia to be a lot more complicated than I thought it would be – mostly because at some points, I had six different balls of yarn working on a single row (even though I was only using three colors, I had to have multiple balls of yarn for each color because otherwise the floats would have been too long). As a result, the intarsia slowed me down a lot more than I thought it would. Still, I love the end result enough that I’m already planning another one in a different color scheme. I’d love to make one in each of Brooklyn Tweed’s color groupings – purples, reds and pinks, greens, and blacks and grays. Then I’m going to pick the one I like best and knit the matching cabled blanket in a corresponding color
I raided my stash fabric for matching colored prints for the striping. I started by cutting rectangles of front and back fabrics approx 17″ x 21″, then I sliced up the front rectangles with uneven cuts, and improv pieced them together, then finish-cut them to 16″ x 20″.
Next, I sandwiched batting between the fronts and backs and quilted with irregular vertical lines (to emphasize the improv and asymmetrical nature of the piecing). Finally, I cut 1 3/4″ strips of the back fabric and used those to bind each placemat.
Luckily, I remembered to pre-wash all of the fabrics (a step I usually forget!) so that they can be regularly used – and washed. The idea is for these to be our “everyday” placemats, and everyone gets to choose a color. I think that they’ll really brighten up the dinner table!
Quart-size mason jars, some faux snow, pine cones and pine needles gathered from outside, lace and twine – add some tea lights, and these candles make beautiful table centerpieces throughout the holiday season and into the wintery New Year!
I spent the weekend sewing three of the projects on Purl Bee’s blog, all designed for use in the kitchen: an apron, dishtowels, and hot pads. What distinguished these projects, however, is the beautiful fabrics that came in the Purl Bee kits – linen for the apron, soft double cloth cotton for the dishtowels, and gorgeous, fuzzy oatmeal wool for the hot pads. It’s really true that working with high-quality fabrics makes all the difference!
I ended up making two gift sets, each comprised of one apron, two dish towels, and two hot pads. Here are the specs:
I didn’t add in the cotton twill loops for a dishtowel on the aprons, but otherwise, made no modifications to the pattern. I didn’t wash the linen first – kind of wish I had, it’s really stiff right now, but I’m sure it will soften up beautifully once it’s been washed a few times.
I hand-stitched six Xs on each hot pad to hold the lining in place, but I didn’t stitch on the wool side as the pattern called for – instead, I marked my Xs on both sides, and then ran the thread through all layers, from one side to the other, to form matching Xs on each side. Otherwise, I followed the pattern as written.
I love projects like this – working with gorgeous fabrics, quick and (largely) mistake-free sewing, and a perfect gift package when you’re done!
Throughout this past summer, I used Sharpies to record some of the fun activities our family did. I included both big vacations, and small moments. Then, at the end of the summer, I baked the porcelain plate in the oven – instant summer memories! Learning from my experience with the teacher mugs, I baked the plate at a higher temperature – 425 degrees for 30 minutes. The upside – I think it’s finally waterproof (and maybe even dishwasher proof, although I’m reluctant to test that out). The downside – the Sharpie colors really faded, so the final product isn’t nearly as bright or colorful as I thought it would be. I figure that’s okay, though, because you can still read all the memories!
This was a fun and simple project – we purchased inexpensive white mugs at IKEA and used Sharpie markers. We used stickers for the teachers’ initials, then used the Sharpies to put dots all around the stickers, creating negative space. Once the stickers were removed, we baked the mugs in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Then, we put a few chocolates in cellophane bags, and tucked a bag into each mug.
I learned about this technique online, and the directions said that this process would make the mugs safe to wash, but not to put in the dishwasher. However, one of the teachers told me that the markings on her mug had already smeared. I’m not sure why the baking didn’t “set” the marker – I’m going to go back and experiment a little, see if I can figure it out.
This project was a beautiful way to show off different stitch patterns and tonal color combinations, and it was also an ideal summer knitting project, because knitting with linen is much better than wool on hot days! I used the free Purl Bee patterns here and followed the instructions without modifications.
The yarn is Louet’s Euroflax, and I chose the color kit with cream, natural, and pewter (although I loved the kit in the blues, too). I knit on US 3s, and was happy with the drape and density of the resulting fabric.
Because knitting three of these got a little monotonous, I paced myself, setting a goal for a certain number of inches each day. It would have been a breeze to just knit one, but one’s the point of one dish towel? I liked all three patterns, but I think that the three-and-one tweed pattern is my favorite – which is ironic, because it’s the one I made a mistake on. Because of the repetition of the pattern without a break, you can really see where I got off course. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice until I was way too far along to be interested in frogging it back to the error row; it really bothered me for a while, and then I just decided, those little variations are the beauty of hand knits!
This is the three-and-one tweed pattern:
This is the basket stitch pattern:
And this is the triple L tweed pattern:
Per the yarn instructions, I machine washed and dried the finished dish towels; it definitely softened up the yarn, although I’ll have to wash and dry them numerous times in order to really get a feel for how the fabric ultimately wears. Unfortunately, while the dryer softened the yarn nicely, it also tweaked the shape and made the sides curl, so I re-wet them and dried them on a blocking board. Nice-looking finish, but very rough! So, I guess you either get soft and shapeless, or rough-feeling perfect rectangles The upside to the rough feeling, though, is that I think that they’ll dry a lot more effectively than many hand sewn dish towels I’ve made.
My goal is to actually make myself use them – it’s hard to put to hard and dirty work something I’ve spent so much time and effort to make, but what’s the point of making beautiful things with thought and care, if they just end up sitting in the closet, waiting for a special occasion? I’m a big believer in the philosophy of using your “special” things every day, since it is the every days that, taken together, become the special times in life . . .
I’ve got all sorts of great ideas for fabric stamping tea towels (and napkins, and place mats, etc, etc), but I wanted to start simple, so I took an afternoon and a basketful of fruits and vegetables, and played around with mixing colors of fabric paints.
My first complete project: a set of fruit-themed tea towels, stamped with apples and pears. I used simple flour sack tea towels and fabric paint – that was it! I learned that you need to cut the fruit in half very precisely, so that one side isn’t higher or lower than the other. I mixed green and yellow paints until I liked the hue for the pears, and used a ruler and fabric pencil to make sure that my placement of the stamps was straight and even.
After finishing the pears, I wasn’t sure that they really looked like pears (especially the upside-down ones), so I used a small paint brush and added the stems (which I think was a huge improvement). Once the paint was dry, I heat set it with an iron accordingly to the directions.
Next, I’m going to play around with carving stamp blocks and try a set of vegetable-themed prints – I’m thinking beets and carrots, maybe asparagus running top to bottom down one (or both) sides of the towel?
Another beautiful project from Purl Bee – I love how their simple designs, when paired with such gorgeous fabrics, come out perfect every time! This sewing project is for tea towels, but Purl Bee’s attention to detail and the finishing touches really makes these stand out.
The fabrics do, too – I used creamy porcelain Prairie Cloth as the base (a large gauge upholstery weight fabric with a handwoven feel), and Liberty of London Tana Lawn Seasonal (designs Pink Irma and Midnight Flora Eve) for the ends. I bought 1 1/2 yards of the Prairie Cloth, and was able to make five tea towels with very little left over; I bought 1/2 yard each of the two Liberty prints, and used up all of the Pink Irma, with enough Midnight Flora Eve leftover to have been able to make a sixth towel.
I made all five tea towels in an afternoon, even after forcing myself to slow down and pay attention to the stitching detail – the instructions are spot-on, and the finished product comes out exactly as advertised. Love it! These will be a great addition to my gift closet – the perfect go-to gift for birthdays, housewarming, hostess, or any occasion.
Such a quick and easy, but gratifying project – the perfect items to tuck away in my gift closet until I need to put together a handmade package for a birthday, or a housewarming, or a hostess gift . . . this sewing project is from the Purl Bee and uses Essex yarn-dyed denim and Flora Eve print from the Liberty of London lawn fabrics. The cotton twill tape (color navy) is ingenious, because you don’t have to create your own binding, and I really liked the construction detail of the mitt hot pad.
I quilted the hot pads with the diamond pattern used in the project instructions and, while I usually favor machine sewing, I followed the instructions and hand sewed on the twill tape with Valdani Pearl Cotton embroidery thread (color 114). In this way, I could be sure that I’d catch the edges of the twill tape on both sides (which would have been impossible using the machine). It didn’t take too long, and I like the finished look.
I used Insul-brite batting, an insulated lining for heat-sensitive projects – it’s not very thick, but does the job. This is a great project for fabric scraps – you could put together quite a few sets of these in an afternoon. I’d highly recommend using the twill tape, it’s a beautiful finishing touch and a real time-saver!
This is a project that took me a LONG time to finish – one of those that doesn’t look like it will be near as time-consuming as it turns out to be. I’ve been wanting to make some simple but beautiful placemats in a neutral palette to go with some of the brighter colored dishes I’ve collected, and this seemed like the perfect project. Reversible sashiko placemats, a free pattern on Purl Bee, gave me an opportunity to use Robert Kaufman’s Essex, which looks like linen, but at 55% linen and 45% cotton, it’s more cost-effective and machine washable.
I bought Essex wide-width in color Flax – I can’t even remember how many yards, as I had to re-order twice once I decided I wanted eight placemats instead of six, and then that I wanted to make cloth napkins, as well. I bought Sashiko thread in color White 01, and Sashiko needles, as well (because you really do need large, long needles to make the embroidery work). I followed the pattern exactly, and quickly found that the embroidery took a really long time – plus, I couldn’t just churn out placemat after placemat, because it got to be a little dull. I decided to pace myself, and worked on finishing the embroidery for one placemat every two days. Then Christmas projects intervened, and the placemats were set aside for a while. In all, it took me over two months to get the eight placemats done.
I bought a hera marker for marking the grid pattern on each placemat, but I didn’t find it to be very effective, so I stuck with the chalk. I used craft-size batting between the placemat front and back, which gave it just the right amount of loft and was still easy to embroider through. Although I have a bias tape maker, I’ve never really figured out how to use it, so I just made the bias tape by hand by pressing it with the iron.
I do love the finished product, though. The hand embroidery is just rustic looking enough, without being too kitschy, I love the flax linen with the white thread, and both sides of the placemat are equally attractive. I struggled a little with the binding directions, particularly the mitered corners and joining the two ends of the binding together, but with eight placemats (32 corners!), I had ample opportunity to practice.
The finished size of each placemat is approximately 16×20. Because I wanted a complete set, I made napkins to match – a simple process, I just cut two 20″ x 20″ squares for each napkin, sewed the squares together with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 2″ opening for turning, cut the corners, turned the napkins and poked out the corners, and then top-stitched 1/8″ from the edge, which also sewed closed the opening. Then I carefully pressed each napkin (the placemats required a fair amount of pressing, too).
Overall, I’m glad that I did this project, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to put in a significant amount of time, or unless you’re just making a set of two or four placemats – that would have made for a lot less embroidery!
A quick and easy gift project – so easy, it feels like cheating! The fabric – called “dish towel fabric” – is already hemmed on the long sides, so it took only five minutes to do a rolled hem on each short edge. Done!
I purchased the fabric at Bolt Fabric Boutique – an amazing custom fabric store on NE Alberta in downtown Portland – 1 1/2 yards made two dish towels. They had a wide variety of colors and patterns. A perfect last-minute gift, to be boxed with other kitchen accessories – quick and easy, but still with a handmade touch.
My mom and Bella, my eight-year-old daughter, worked on the perfect beginning sewing project over the holidays: placemats and napkins. Bella made these as a Christmas gift for her uncle, aunt and cousins. The placemats were easy piecing for the front, then sewing the tops and bottoms right sides together (with batting in between), then turning and top stitching. My mom helped with the pressing, and I used my embroidery machine to sew on each family member’s name.
The napkins are really cool – they’re just half circles, sew fronts and backs right sides together, turn and press, sew the opening closed – the key is how they’re folded. Beautiful!
Bella was very excited to share her finished product; I think maybe we’ll try another set come springtime with some cheery, spring colors.
A typical scenario for me – find fabric I love, order fabric, get fabric in the mail, have no idea whatsoever what to make with fabric . . . this time I decided to make a Christmas present for a friend and fellow chicken owner – I think this fabric is so bright and cheery, it would be perfect for the kitchen. The fabric is Metro Market by Robert Kaufman (licorice chickens and yellow chickens) and Lecien Dots (medium black), all 100% cotton. I ordered both online from Purl Soho in New York City.
I started with double-sided placemats – for each placemat, I cut two pieces of the red chickens and two pieces of the yellow chickens (13” x 13 1/4” and 13” x 3 3/4”). Then for each placemat I cut two pieces of the black dots fabric (13” x 3”). I pieced together each side as shown, then sewed the two sides right side to right side, leaving a little opening to turn the finished piece right side out. I clipped the corners, turned the piece right side out, and carefully ironed it (pressing is very important here!) Then I top-stitched at 1/8” with a contrasting color thread around all four sides. Done! I decided not to put any interfacing or batting inside these placemats – I was afraid they’d end up feeling too flimsy, but I actually light the lightweight feel and they don’t seem too unsubstantial for placemats at all.
Next up – dishcloths. These were even easier – I just cut one piece of each color of chicken fabric (22” x 22”) and rolled in a 1” hem on each side (1/2” then 1/2” again), pressed in the hem and sewed. The fabric worked well for this – there was no need to make it double-sided and the dishcloths still feel sturdy enough for their intended purpose.
For the potholders I cut 8” squares (two squares of each color) and a little larger square for each of batting – put each of your squares wrong sides together, with the batting in the middle, and quilt together (I just freehand quilted a random design). Trim around the edges. Then I cut 1 1/2” strips of the black dots fabric and sewed those strips onto the edges just like binding a quilt (with a loop tucked into one corner).
Finally, using a free tutorial on Purl Bee, I sewed a simple drawstring bag out of the red chickens fabric to hold all of the gifts inside. I saw these plates – I love the shape and the deep red color – at Crate & Barrel, so I paired them with the sewed projects for a complete gift package.
Even though these sewing projects were really easy, they kind of pushed the envelope (sewing-wise) for me because I’m not very skilled at making up my own sewing patterns – I usually need an established pattern that I can follow exactly. I struggle to look at a sewed item (or conceptualize one) and figure out what sizes the unseamed component pieces should be cut, and how to sew it all together (and in what order) so that no seams are showing, etc. I think you almost have to be able to “see” three-dimensionally in your mind in order to do this – of course, it helps to have a lot of experience with sewing, too, because you can remember back to a similar project you’ve done in the past.