Sew How’s That Retirement Going?

Ami updates after her first year of retirement.

Continue Reading December 31, 2018 at 4:26 pm 182 comments

Opulent Ornaments: A Delightful Rabbit Hole

BakersDozenOpulentOrnamentsI went off the deep end about a year ago after I accidentally came across instructions for Paula Nadelstern’s Opulent Ornaments and decided I needed to make one. Or a dozen. Get her directions here. (Embrace the bling; resistance is futile.)

I spent a long time collecting sequins, pins, beads, and other shiny objects and finally found courage to give it a try back in July when I was supposed to be catching up on crib quilts for new additions to the Simms extended family. (Knowing I should have been doing something else with a higher priority made this particular rabbit hole even more delicious.)

As you can see in the picture above, I’ve exceeded my quota, and that doesn’t count the two I have been working on. I don’t want to stop. I can’t stop. I have collected many pounds of bling and all sorts of wonderful containers to store it in.

Each Styrofoam ball is a new canvas and I can’t wait to “skin it” (cover it with Paula’s phenomenal fabric so that there are no pleats or wrinkles) and stick stuff all over it (self-explanatory).  I mostly work on the balls in the evening. I can actually carry on a conversation as I poke pins, so technically it’s “together time” with Steve. I actually volunteered to take a bump on a recent trip back from Florida so I could “ball” in the airport. (OK, so I got a hefty voucher too, but those extra 6 hours went by SO fast!) I even embellished on the plane. Apparently when you’re waiving pins around and spraying sequins in all directions the people on either side of you are willing to relinquish the armrests. It’s all good.

IMG_4030So here’s what you need to get started.

You will need Paula Nadelstern’s fabric panels like the ones on page 4 of her instructions with six large circles accompanied by 12 or 8 smaller ones near the selvage edges. They are available at Search for “mandala Paula Nadelstern” or these collections: Kismet, Chromazone, and her newest line, Super Kaleiders.

IMG_4029Styrofoam Balls
Paula’s instructions call for 6″ styrofoam balls. You can find them at,, and Dollar stores have them too, and you’ll hit the mother load in Canada if you live near a Dollarama. They’re all $1.50. Selection isn’t always consistent, but they have pretty colored cup-shaped sequins too. I hesitate to tell you how many times we have driven 90 miles to the Dollarama for balls. OK, there is great Italian food nearby, so it’s not just for Styrofoam.

Note that Paula also encourages you to try other sizes. I find that smaller ones (4″ diameter) are a little more difficult to skin, but they go fast. The 5″ diameter balls look most opulent if you’re using them as Christmas tree ornaments plus they won’t bring down your Douglas Fir. (These ornaments can get heavy!) I’ve never tried any of the green florist Styrofoam balls, mostly out of fear. Anybody used them successfully? I tend to prefer the smooth skinned balls. Much harder to push a pin in, but you get a nice squeaky sound and it feels like the pins will stay put. The rough skinned balls shed a little, but pins go in easy. Larger balls are usually rough. I’ve made an 8″ and a 10″ ball. Use a thimble to save your fingers.

IMG_4030 (1)You ca#n find sequins just about anywhere, but if you want to go overboard, visit Their website is easy to navigate and the eye candy is magnificent. Prices are very reasonable, especially if you look for closeouts.

My favorites are the hologram sequins and my absolute favorites are the 3mm Flat Hologram Mixed Colors. I use these to cover the raw edges of the fabric. (I tried to outline them in red in the picture to the left.)

Beads & Findings
Check out the beads and bracelets and other jewelry stuff at Michael’s. You can see a silver colored do-dad with a green pin in the center in the picture above. If you can string it for jewelry, you can stick a pin through it and poke it into a ball. Watch for the 50% and 70% off sales on the green label beads. I think they heavily discount them once every three months or so.  Hold off on the glass beads unless you can’t live without them. You can buy them on Amazon in bulk. (See the downloadable list in the next section.) Fla bottomed beads and jewelry “things” are better; they won’t rock with handling which might loosen the pin.

The more the merrier. I like steel and brass pins, glass or plastic head pins, short pins, long pins, corsage pins…you see where this is going, right? I’ve turned into a pinhead. The more variety in color, style, and most importantly, size, the better. As Paula says, “more is more.” (Use a thimble to insert the pins.)

Click on the blue letters to see a list of supplies and where to find them: Opulent Ornament Supplies

IMG_4032I love plastic storage boxes. Just looking at my stash of bling makes me happy. The black tray in the foreground is a jewelry tray (Michael’s). I ripped out the black ring holder thing and covered a piece of Styrofoam packing material with muslin. Makes a nice flat pincushion. The rigid tray goes on my lap and keeps my balls from rolling away. A magnetic pin caddy holds steel pins. (The brass ones fall off, duh!) I use tweezers for grabbing pins out of containers. I’m switching to plastic tweezers; see the list above. Darice makes the round little screw-top containers in a short and tall version. I use them for sequins. The purple and blue tabbed plastic container is for vitamins. Got mine at Walmart and used a solvent to get rid of the days of the week, AM, and PM labels.


Now is the perfect time to jump down the rabbit hole with me. Just dive in. It’s so much fun!

Thanks, Paula, for this amazingly fun project and your wonderful fabric!




November 14, 2017 at 11:40 pm 40 comments

Locker Hooking Tutorial: Make a Rug From Recycled Men’s Shirts

01 OverallThis tutorial is for quilters—who have sewing machines, thread, hand scissors, and rotary cutting tools—and know how to use them. Most of the photographs can be clicked to enlarge them. Back arrow to return to the text.

Step 1:  Fabric Procurement & Preparation

02 Thrift storeHead for your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, Purple Heart, second hand, resale shop, or thrift store. (My favorite one in the area happens to be called “Thrift Store!”) On the way in, look for a sign that tells what color tags are on sale. Most thrift stores either staple little squares of colored paper to each garment with the price, or they pierce the garment with a colored plastic “whatzit” that looks something like this:


Some use a clear plastic “whatzit” to affix the colored paper tag to the item. These are the colors they are referring to in the sign. The last time I was in, green tags were 50% off and blue tags were 75% off. (Colors change weekly.) Huge savings!

04 pile of shirtsI picked up about 27 long-sleeved shirts for just under $50. That’s a good start.

03 tagI ignored anything not on sale. It has to be 100% cotton, and I won’t waste my time with anything smaller than a size LARGE. Stay away from flannel (ravels too much),  thick or lumpy fabric (too hard to deal with), shirts with darts or seams in the back (pleats are fine), or shirts you just can’t stand to look at (they won’t look any better in your rug). I don’t do repeats, at least not intentionally. The more colors, the merrier, as long as they all go together. (In the picture above, you can see the clear “whatzit” holding the green tag to the shirt. M is for Men’s shirt and the price is $2.99.) Except I paid $1.50. Cha-CHING!

04 washerI go from shopping bag to washing machine as soon as possible, and wash in hot water. (De-tag first.) Dry on hot. It’s doubtful that you’ll get any color migration (these have all probably been washed many times before) but just in case throw in a color catcher. (Don’t load your washer quite this full. I was being cute for the camera.)

06LeftoversNext, “fillet” or deconstruct the shirts. That is, cut them apart with hand scissors and harvest the pieces you can use in this project. If you’ve got a straight seam (front of the shirt where the buttons and button holes are) feel free to rip. Don’t bother to cut off the shirt hem, however side seams should go.

The largest piece is the shirt back. If you’re in a hurry to start, grab the back and leave the rest for later.  You’ll be cutting crossgrain (side-to-side, perpendicular to the stripes) so you’ll get the longest strips from the back. Notice that I cut the front side (with the pocket) in half. I saved the pocket and fabric around it for another project like this quilt. You have a choice with the sleeves. I whacked off the cuff and placket on one, and I carefully cut out the placket on the other sleeve. It’s faster to whack off the cuff as you’ll only glean a small amount of fabric if you cut around the placket.

It’s hard for me to throw anything out, so I wad up what’s left and bag it. Leftovers can be used to make quilts like these.  Or these!

Shane'sQuiltOn this “Shirt Quilt,” I buttoned shirt cuffs one to another for the border and covered the raw edges with front placket pieces. (Sorry the photo isn’t the greatest; I made this quilt before I got a good camera.)

Step 2:  Acquisition of Supplies

In addition to shirt fabric, you’ll also need:
Supplies1. Rug Canvas (3.75 mesh).  A 36″ x 30″ canvas will yield a rug about 34″ x 28″ which is the size of my rug pictured above.

2. Locker Hook. It’s a crochet hook at one end with a very large eye on the other.

3. Yarn Needle. Perfect for beginning and for finishing the rug. It has a huge eye and a blunt point.

Visit my web page for information on where you can get the supplies listed above.

PQuilll4. Porcupine Quill. Excellent tool to open holes in folded canvas to allow needle and locker hook to pass through those tight places. A high-end, very pointy chop stick will also work, but it’s not nearly as smooth. Porcupine quills make excellent stilettos too, helpfully pushing wandering quilt patches under your presser foot. Unlike metal stilettos, if the sewing machine needle accidentally hits the quill, the needle will go right through it rather than break off the needle.


Gloves5. I also found these Arm & Hammer “rubber-dipped” gloves extremely helpful. I wear just one: on my locker-hook-grabbing hand. (Look in the $1 stores, or places they sell gardening/work gloves.) The rubber adds significant and necessary padding to the palm and fingers. Without the glove I had finger cramps and bruised a finger so badly I had to stop “hooking” for 6 weeks until it healed!

6. A pair of tweezers are handy when sewing the canvas and to adjust fabric tension as you hook.

BlackBias7. You will also need a yard or two of black, navy, or other dark BATIK fabric. While it shouldn’t ever show, dark is better than light if something were to go wrong and it did show. Wash, dry, and iron the fabric. Cut it into 1/2″ wide bias strips. Each strip will be about 60″ long.


Step 3:  Preparing the Batik


Straighten one side with a cut perpendicular to the selvage edge.


To get a 45 degree angle, fold the just-cut edge to the bottom selvage. Press.


Cut off the fold and set the triangle aside for later.

Image04Cut a dozen 1/2″-wide strips to get started. Repeat as needed. These strips will be threaded onto the Locker Hook and will be pulled through the crocheted stitches. You’ll be using one strip at a time. Then, when you get near the end, you’ll machine or hand sew another strip to it. I know; this is as clear as mud. Hang with me here.

By the way, the rationale for using batik bias fabric strips instead of yarn or twine is four-fold. First, it fills the space and keeps the crocheted shirt strips from coming out of the canvas. Second, sewing fabric strips together is better than knotting them together which makes the joins bulky and lumpy. Third, bias strips don’t ravel or produce long thready hairs which will get tangled as you work with these long lengths. And fourth, batik fabric is tightly woven so the strips will be stronger than regular quilting fabric of the same width.

Step 4:  Preparing the Canvas

IMG_6608First, you’ll need to square up the canvas.  Remove the selvage edge if your piece has one, and trim all four sides so that they look like the picture. All those little pokey things should be just like the picture.  (You can ignore the blue lines. You won’t need them.)

IMG_6609Then, one side at a time, fold over the edge by two rows of “boxes.” Zigzag the fold in place.  Use strong thread, any color, any weight, and use a wide zigzag. The object is to have the “boxes” perfectly aligned and to pierce the horizontal lines (pieces of twine? I have no idea what to call them) with the needle when it passes over.  You’ll “sew air” when there are no horizontal “twines,” but the thread will wrap around and tighten along the vertical “twines” in the canvas.


Tweezers really help yank the canvas over so the boxes line up.


The more you can line up the boxes, the easier it will be to hook the rug when you begin. If the boxes are misaligned, the area in each box will be smaller and much harder to poke the Locker Hook through and bring the fabric up.

Cut out the cornerTo reduce  bulk at the corner cut through two horizontal “twines” (see photo), then turn your scissors majorly toward the left (a 90 degree angle) and cut through the one vertical “twine” which in the example happens to be blue. You will have removed something that looks like this:

Next Side

Now fold up the next side and continue on. Do be careful about aligning the boxes. You’re going to have to jam the Locker Hook in every single one of those boxes, including what’s left of that one at the very corner and pull fabric back up through it. Yikes!

NextSide2Once you turn the corner it will look like this. You have folded and secured the canvas edge so that it will not unravel. Continue zigzagging all the way around.


Then, zigzag all the way around a second time, one box over from the fold. That second round will be much easier, except perhaps for the corners. Use the porcupine quill to open the corner box before you zigzag.


It should look like this.


Step 5:  Starting the Rug

Find a shirt back with the thinnest, most tightly woven fabric. (I like a dark fabric.) Press it, and cut about about a dozen 1/2″-wide strips.

Miter With matching thread,  join two strips together with a mitered seam, back stitching at both beginning and ending to lock the stitches and to keep the seam from coming apart. Trim the seam allowance to a very scant 1/4″. (That’s why you picked a tightly woven fabric.) Press the seam open.

A mitered join (shown) is less bulky than a “butted” join. Bulk is bad.

Thread the yarn needle. Staring anywhere on canvas except  a corner, poke the needle up into a box. Draw the fabric through, leaving a 3″ tail. Poke the needle up and into the next box, wrapping the fabric around the edge of the canvas. Un-bunch and adjust the fabric so that it covers as much of the canvas edge as possible.

As you approach each corner, check to see that the the fabric seam will not wind up at the corner. It would be worth the effort to pick out miter stitches and cut the first strip shorter to avoid having the seam at the corner. Put two stitches in each corner, one for each side.


The porcupine quill will help open the corner box if needed.

TIP: If you forgot to pick a thin, tightly woven fabric for this step, you may want to trim about 1/8″ off the fabric strip as you approach the corner and as you leave the corner. It gets pretty tight around the corners.

The two tails will be tucked under future stitches on the back of the rug later. If you think this is tedious, it is. But don’t give up as soon as you get away from the edge locker hooking actually gets fun. Really.


Step 6:  Cutting & Preparing the Shirt Fabric

Use the shirt backs first. (Then, as the rug progresses, chop up the sleeves, and then shirt fronts*.) Fold the shirt backs in half, press the crease and stack two backs. Rotary cut them into 1″ strips. A dozen strips from each shirt is a good start. Cut fabric from 6 different shirts for now. (You’ll be cutting more later, but I know you want to get to the fun part.) 

CutBackOne could cut strips with the grain on plaid shirt fronts and backs to get longer strips. That is, instead of cutting horizontally across the shirt (imagine the shirt being worn), one would cut vertically. This would not work well on striped shirts as you’d lose the stripe.

StripsArrangedI clip like strips together and pin them to my design wall so I can see fabric choices as the rug progresses. (You can get the cute plastic coated wire clips here.)

ChainMiterChain miter the strips together. Make sure right sides are together and ends are lined up at right angles before you sew through them diagonally. Do not even try to line up the stripes. Use neutral colored thread and dial the stitch length shorter if you’re afraid the stitches will come out. No need to backstitch at beginning or end. Just feed the strips in one after the other. Do one or two colors at a time, or however many you can stand to prep.

 For every inch of batik you thread through the rug, you’ll use 3″ of shirt fabric.  My finished rug (28″ x 34″) weighs 3 pounds. Seven ounces of that is the canvas. Time to buy more shirts?

ClipApartClipApart2Cut seam allowances to a very scant 1/4″ . Chop off the “ears” (little triangles at top and bottom) as you clip the threads that join the chain.

FingerPressSpread the joined strips out on the ironing board, wrong side up. Finger press the seam allowances open. Don’t go crazy, just fiddle with them enough to separate the seam allowances so you can hit several at once with a hot iron. I like steam.

FoldedFold the long strip in half, wrong sides together, lining up the raw edges as you press. If you’re not getting the fold to stay closed, try steam or a hotter iron. If it keeps bouncing open, it’s probably not 100% cotton.

BasketLay the folded fabric in a basket or box to keep it from getting dirty, tangled, or stepped on. You can prep as little or as much as fabric as you want. Don’t do too many at once until you see how the rug looks. You can always revise your strategy on the fly if needed. 

Step 7:  Locker Hooking! (Finally!!)

There is no “right side” or “wrong side” to the prepared canvas. Start at any corner with either side up/down. Just make sure you continue to locker hook from the same side for the rest of the rug. The strategy for this rug is to go around and around, filling up the canvas from the outer edge to the middle. Skip no boxes; one stitch per box.

You’ll notice in the video that I talk about bringing the shirt fabric around the locker hook one way and then another way to keep the more or less continuous length of pieced/folded fabric from twisting as I work. (Twists can lead to tangles.) You can see how this manifests itself on the back of the rug below.

FrontBackFront                                                Back

Click once or twice (depending on your browser) on the picture above to see a very enlarged image. On the back of the rug you can see little slivers of canvas between the rows. That’s why it’s the back. But, if the front needs a vacuum, my rug goes back-side-up and I get just as many compliments. Unless you’ve got your nose in the rug, you won’t see the canvas.

As you near the end of the 1/2″-wide batik strip in your Locker Hook, you will need to add a new length. Keep in mind that you will have to haul your rug over to the sewing machine, so don’t put this off until you’re down to the nubs. Join the new batik strip to the old with a miter join as you did the fabric used to edge the canvas, shown above.  Similarly, when it is time to add to the shirt fabric do so with a mitered join using matching or neutral thread, press seam allowance open, then fold and press as before.

I use a “Manipulated Random” strategy for adding shirt fabric is to a rug. I want it to look scrappy, but I also want the rug to look like a tossed salad—colors and fabrics evenly distributed throughout the entire rug. I also know that alternating lights and darks, helps punch up the colors. So, when I add shirt fabric I do give some thought to what color it will be sitting next to. I don’t like the same exact fabric touching. This is really hard to predict because I don’t really know where one color will end. As I go around and around in concentric squares, the distance to cover is always shrinking, plus shirt backs aren’t all the same width! So, play it by ear. If the next fabric coming up doesn’t look like it will work, I cut and splice.

Step 7: Finishing

Bring thread tails to the back of the rug. Using the yarn needle, tuck them under the shirt fabric stitches.


May 5, 2016 at 8:16 pm 27 comments

Old Dog #2

OldDog#2-OverallAdding another quilt today in the Old Dog: New Tricks Series.  The original block, from my now de-constructed quilt, ended at the edge of the blue background and the bottom of the dog. I added a busy floral border and a simple cross-grain applied binding. To clarify, to make the binding I fold my fabric selvage edge to selvage edge. Then I slice the fabric as most of us do for patchwork shapes:  perpendicular to the selvage edge. Each strip has the selvage edge on the short sides. I find cross-grain strips have just enough “give” for straight-sided quilts. They’re faster than cutting binding strips on the bias.

OldDog#2-BlueBackground'Trying new things with each of these little quilts is my goal.

This time out I quilted straight lines in the blue fabric using my walking foot. I don’t think I ever quilted concentric squares before. The lines are 1/2″ apart. Rather than marking lines, I moved my needle to the left and used the edge of my presser foot as a guide. Although I traveled “in the ditch” along the edge of the dog to get to the next quilting line, there were still plenty of starts and stops. Each pair of threads (beginning and ending) were hand finished. I threaded them onto a hand needle, wove them in between existing stitches, and then buried them in the batting.


I quilted around the spiral motifs in the green fabric (dog’s body) in pale green thread.  It looks better from the front, but here’s a picture of the back where you can see the stitching more easily. Until I run out, all the quilts will have the paw print fabric as backing.OldDog#2-circle motif on back

I quilted a string of circles in the border. I’m glad you can’t see them very well on the front. (Someone needs a little more practice.)

I traced a nickel and then attempted to free-motion quilt on the lines, making the circles in two passes. (One pass in violet, the other in teal in the photo below.) Like I said, I’ll do better with more practice.OldDog#2-CirclesFromBack


While the dog’s ears are quilted, I still have a hard time quilting through their faces.

There’s more “quilty” stuff at

March 1, 2016 at 9:29 am 10 comments

Origami Folded Fabric Ornaments


Kevin MacLeod made a great video showing how to make origami folded fabric ornaments. Thanks to his video I’ve been having a blast making Christmas ornaments! Take a look and then come right back for my tips below.

Ami’s Tips

1. Pre-wash your fabric. I know, I can hear the moaning already. If you pre-wash (and iron) you don’t have to pin anything. Because pre-washed cottons slide less than un-washed cottons.

2. Pick two, freshly pressed, coordinating Christmas fabrics and place them right sides together on a flat surface. If the selvage edges are still intact, make sure they are lined up. If they’ve gone missing, figure out where the straight of grain is and line up both fabrics so that the straight of grain is running the same way in both fabrics.

3. Flip your lid (or your mixing bowl) rim side down and trace around with a super very thin permanent pen. (You read that correctly. Permanent.) Permanent pen lines will be cut off and what little might remain won’t bleed if the pen is permanent. Then trace some more circles because you’ll want to make lots of ornaments. The lines you are tracing CAN TOUCH. In fact, they probably should, so you can save fabric. (You’ll see why shortly.)Ormer01

4. (If you didn’t pre-wash/dry you get to pin now. All over. Lots of pins. Nasty, pointy pins. Be careful.) Dial down your stitch length a notch, and sew 1/8″ from the marked line on the inside of the circle. A shorter stitch length and narrower seam allowance make for a smoother, rounder edge. When you turn the disk right sides out, the seam allowance will have shorter and less noticeable pleats. (The marked line is your cutting line.) Go ALL THE WAY AROUND leaving no opening. OH MY! Is she for real?! YES! Do you want to tuck in a 1/8″ seam allowance and blind stitch it shut? Me neither.Ormer 2

5. Do the folding thing in the video to find dead center. (I know, we’re still inside out.) Mark dead center on both fabric with the dreaded permanent ink pen. I hope it oozes through the fabric because you’ll be looking for the marks on the right side of the fabric.

6. Make a 1″ slit in ONE fabric 1″ away from the marked dead center, like this. The fabric you slit will NOT be the one that slips over the ornament corners. The slit will be on the back of the ornament cleverly concealed by something I have not not yet revealed.Ormer02

7. Turn disk right-side out. Push out seam allowance with chopstick. Lick your fingers and wiggle the two fabrics back and forth at the seam to draw out any hidden creases. You can also pick them out with a pin.Ormer03

8. Fold disk again, as in the video, to make hard creases that evenly divide it into quarters.  (Pins take over for creases in humid weather or if you’re dragging this project around for a while.) Sew a button to the non-slit side, dead center. Shank buttons are the best. If you don’t have a button with a shank, go get one. Or make a thread shank. Sew with stiff, sturdy thread like Coats & Clark hand quilting thread.  Knot off the thread after sewing on the button, but LEAVE A VERY LONG TAIL.Ormer04 (Can you see how old my thread is? $.91 WOW! And did you notice I forgot to stitch decoratively about 1/8″ from the edge? I think I’m OK with that.)

9. With the thread from sewing on the button exiting the top fabric at the button shank, pick a pin, any pin (or creased side). Spear it just like Kevin did in the video and pull it all the way to the button shank, taut. Take a stitch in the fabric right next to the thread shank to anchor it.Ormer05

10. Moving clockwise or counter-clockwise (whichever is most comfortable) take a tiny stitch to anchor the thread on the next side of the button very, very near the shank and pierce the next crease.  Bring it to the button. Take a stitch as before to anchor it.Ormer06


11. Repeat with the last two creases, take thread to the back and knot off. You can make as big a mess as you want with the knot on the back. The knot and the slit will be covered.Ormer07

12. Press the sides, then fold over and nail the point with your iron. Steam is good.Ormer08

13.  Make the final flips like Kevin showed. Press.Ormer09

14. Flip the ornament over and cut a square of Sticky Template Plastic (STP)  that is it 1/4″ smaller than the ornament. The STP insert will be covered in fabric and inserted down in Step #17.

15. Peel off the release paper, stick it on the wrong side of a piece of matching fabric and, with a rotary cutter, trim the fabric a hefty 1/4″ beyond the edge of the plastic.Ormer10

16. Cut strips of  STP 1/2″ wide by  1/2″ LESS than the width of the square above. In a two-step process, stick an STP strip to the right side of the fabric, and then wrap the fabric to the wrong side and press the STP to secure it. Don’t worry about the mess in the corners.Ormer11


17. Center the insert on the back of the ornament and then finish as Kevin suggested with a hanging cord or thread. The fabric-covered STP straightens up the ornament nicely, gives it a little heft, and lets you dress up the “back end.”Ormer12

18.  Insert something to hang the ornament with, like Kevin showed in the video. I settled on 11″ of red pearl cotton #5 and used a big fat needle.

19. Now what? Use a gel pen or permanent pen to sign and date your ornament, or write a little message to the recipient.  Maybe before you slapped the STP on the fabric you could have embroidered something? Next time.  Here’s another idea:  tape a length of ribbon to the non-fabric side of the STP  and tie a gift card to the back of the ornament. See how nicely it tucks into the corners for extra security? Fuse or sew a QR code to the STP  insert. Upload a video, photo, or favorite recipe to be accessed with the QR reader on your smart phone.Ormer13

The original post for this awesome ornament came from a woman in New Zealand. Click here to read Katrina’s Tutorials blog.

Get Sticky Template Plastic here.

Get fusible or sew-on QR codes (with subscription to cloud storage included) here.


December 11, 2015 at 7:52 pm 34 comments

Old Dog #1

OldDog#1FullHere’s the first quilt created in the “Old Dogs, New Tricks” series.  Pretty basic stuff. I’m just getting my feet wet. I added a blue border and bound it with a 1/4″ binding. It measures about 14″ square.

New Tricks
1. Believe it or not, I don’t ever recall making a bias binding using striped fabric with the stripes at an angle. I love striped binding, but I usually run the stripes perpendicular to the edge of the quilt. So, I figured if I couldn’t remember doing a bias stripe binding with the stripes at a 45 degree angle, it was about time I did it again. Or for the first time. Amazing how much more waste there is cutting bias strips. I do like the way the hot pink binding pulses around the quilt.

2. I wanted to see if I could stop quilting exactly 1/4″ from the edge of the quilt, so that the binding would touch the last stitch but not go beyond it. Not sure why that was a goal, but it’s not a very good one. I would have done better to sew off the quilt like I usually do. (I was “off” in as many places as I was “on.”) Discovering what doesn’t work is also learning.

3. I rarely quilt along a color change in a piece of fabric, but I knew I had to try with the blue on green stripe in the background. In the picture below you can see where my quilting strategy left a bit to be desired, but you can see I did OK quilting right next to the line in the border fabric. (Click the picture to enlarge it.)Olddog#1-UpperRight

Old Tricks
I’ll be including these also. What’s old to me might be new to you.

1. I pay special attention when I join binding strips (both to grow the binding long enough to fit all the way around the quilt, and where I join the two tails). I try to camouflage the joins by putting the seam in the same stripe or color on both pieces of fabric.OldDog#1-bindingjoin
Below is the final join, sewing the two tails together. I leave about 6 or 8 inches un-sewn and fold one tail up and the other down to form the miter. The ruler helps me make sure that the folds are really at 45 degree angles.

I fold and re-fold, moving the folds in the tails along until I get to a place in the fabric in both pieces that is the same color.

Binding join-A
When I’m satisfied, I bring the folds almost touching and hit them with the iron. Binding Join-B
(The weight of the iron compresses the folds so they do touch.) Then, I mark a line in the valley of each crease (sewing line) and another line 1/4″ away toward the end of each tail (cutting line).

Binding Join-C
Then I pin the ends…
Binding Join-D
… and stitch on the marked line that was in the crease.
Bindnig Joine-E
I know there are other ways to do this, but I like the control of positioning the seam exactly where I want it with regards to the color in the striped fabric.

By the way, when I make cross-grain binding (not bias) I butt my joins. It’s much easier to camouflage the seams when they are not at an angle. I don’t mind the extra bulk and I’ll tell you why in a future post. (I’m running out of room!)

2. All my Old Dogs will be wearing buttons for eyes. Buttons with shanks look more like eyes, but after you sew them they tend to flop around quite a bit. So, I don’t sew them. I safety-pin them on.

The safety pin draws the shank into the quilt so it won’t wobble. And I get the added benefit of changing my mind and swapping out one set of buttons for another, or just repositioning the eyeballs.

July 30, 2015 at 6:57 am 20 comments

Old Dogs, New Tricks

I’m developing a new workshop called Beautiful Basic Binding for Beginners. I know; that’s a lot of B’s. Apparently I’m into alliteration. In preparation for my “guinea pig” class this spring I needed samples. I had originally thought of putting some really nice bindings on pre-quilted muslin squares (ick) but I just couldn’t bear to waste my time on it. So then, naturally, I went into “overkill” mode and thought I’d make five or six new quilts just for the class.

After a shor while my sanity returned and I decided to pilfer blocks from a UFO and turn them into some smaller quilts, which I thought I might actually be able to finish in time for the class. Great plan! I got most of the mini quilts done, showed the rest “in progress,” and pulled about 75 pounds of quilts from around the house for a killer Show & Tell. (I was teaching in my @Home Classroom, after all.)

Well, the class came and went, and I learned a lot! More on that some other time. Today I want to share the deconstruction of the UFO, what has become of the blocks, and why I am so excited about this project.

PuppusDoggusDeconstruction'Those of you who took my Puppus Doggus workshop at Houston Quilt Festival way back in 2002 might remember this quilt top. Still not quilted after 14 years, I figured it was fair game.

At first I thought it was a little sad. I had spent quite a bit of time making the blocks, and sashing them together.  I had also gone a little around the bend painting all the white dots in the border fabric purple. (The white stuck out.)  Plus I had the backing fabric already pieced and the batting cut to just the right size. Should I have let sleeping dogs lie? Not with a seam ripper so close at hand. Besides it fit no known bed and was too large to hang on a wall. And, remember, I was on a mission.

I may have backed into this particular project for all the wrong reasons, but it is turning out to be quite exciting. At first, my plan was to take one block, border it, and bind it. Done; next? But, as I sewed I kept thinking what a great opportunity this was turning out to be.

First, I was working in a “series,” like all great artists are supposed to to. Variation on a theme and all that. I’m sure it’s in the Great Artist Bylaws somewhere. I have never worked in a series. (Sitting up a little taller in my chair as I write this now.)

Second, it was so much fun thinking of all the different ways I could bind each little quilt that I started thinking of all the different ways I could border the quilts too! YES! This is getting REALLY fun now!

Third, as long as I was going to bind them and border them I realized that I should probably quilt them too. How many different ways could I come up with to quilt them?

Finally,  I could share all the quilts one at a time here on the blog so that I could challenge YOU to play along with me. Aren’t you glad you’re reading this?

So lets recap, what do we get to learn, practice, experiment with, and have fun doing? Bordering, Quilting, AND Binding! Why am I so jazzed? We’re talking small quilts here. Small is “do-able.” Small is manageable. Small is why not take a risk and try something you’ve never tried before. What’s the worst that could happen?

Comment below if you want to join this Old Dog and learn some New Tricks with me. Don’t worry, I won’t hold you to anything and, as with all my challenges, you can embrace them or ignore them—no guilt either way.

The Old Dogs/New Tricks Challenge will begin officially with the next blog. If you have any suggestions, let me have them in the comments below. Just remember I get to embrace or ignore them too. Fair is fair.

June 23, 2015 at 5:00 am 223 comments

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Ami Simms

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