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  • Handy little secrets to make quilting easier

  • Recycle Those Greeting Cards Into – Gift Tags!

    As much as I love to quilt, it isn’t the only crafty thing I do; Paper craft is my other big love (though it definitely takes a backseat to quilting and embroidery). xmastag1

    Since childhood, I’ve been a born recycler though that term did not exist back then, it’s actually what got me interested in quilting – using up leftover scraps of fabric my mother considered trash from her garment sewing. I love making things out of paper – origami, cut paper, and paper sculpture… I also save interesting printed pieces of paper and recycle bows and ribbons for gift wrapping as long as they are in good shape. One of the other things I started to do years ago is making gift tags from this year’s Christmas cards for next year’s gift wrapping – one less holiday item to buy and it gives a second life to the cards before going into a recycling bin.

    To make these you will need:

    • A cutting mat, rotary cutter and 6” square (or thereabouts) cutting ruler. The cutter blade should be sharp but it xmastag3will probably be useless for fabric after this project so an older blade that needs replacing anyway is a good option.
    • A ‘bone’ paper folding knife or similar tool (I use the blunt backside of a seam ripper)
    • Small craft hole-punch (optional) – Fiskars makes one that makes a ⅛” hole.
    • Craft glue stick (optional); make sure it is a permanent adhesive
    • Holiday Greeting cards

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Any card can be turned into a gift tag but I like to select cards with design elements that will fit well into the small xmastag4tag format; in many cases I can get several tags from one card. The tags can be any size or shape you want as long as they are not too large.
    2. If the card is free of personal writing on the backside of the cover, you can simply cut out a square/rectangle that it twice as wide (or tall if using a top fold) as the finished size you want for the image selected. TIP: in some cases you might even be able to cut the tag near enough to the original fold in the card to use it as your fold; otherwise, you will need to score a folding crease. The crease can be horizontal or vertical depending on where you want the fold in relation to the front image (the tag can fold along the left side like a book or along the top edge). Make the crease on the ‘inside’ of the tag using your ruler to measure precisely where it should go and the bone knife or other tool to score a fold line.xmastag6
    3. Fold the tag along the crease line and burnish the fold with the smooth edge of the tool (or your thumbnail) to set the crease. Depending on how accurately you placed the crease line, you may need to trim and neaten the tag edges with the rotary cutter and ruler. The resulting tag can be fixed to the gift with scotch tape or you can punch a hole in the top left-hand corner if you want to attach the tag with a loop of ribbon or string – helpful if you are attaching a tag to an odd shaped object like a gift basket.
    4. if there is writing on the backside of the cover but you like and want to use the image, you can still cut out a square or rectangle with the part of the image you want and glue it to the ‘front’ of a piece of folded cardstock. TIP: I often salvage the blank parts of the cards to make these folded tag blanks and then trim the images to fit on them.xmastag7b
    5. Other tips: In some cases, you might be able to salvage the commercially printed ‘sentiment’ inside the card so your tag might read ‘Season’s Greetings’ or ‘Peace and Joy be with you’ on the tag cover. Cutting the tags from the cards with a rotary cutter is fast and accurate but you can add decorative edges to the tags by cutting with the contoured paper craft scissors available at craft stores. In cases where I remember who sent me the card, I often use a tag made from their card on a gift for the sender the following year (not that I’m certain they might remember it was their card but it’s fun anyway).

    I know some of you will think this is a lot of fussy work (I had one cynical person tell me to ‘get a life’ when I showed xmastag8these to a craft group) but I love the fact that I am giving a second ‘life’ to something that would otherwise go straight into a recycling bin or a landfill if the card material is not recyclable plus I’m not having to buy premade gift tags along with the other wrapping paraphernalia; so save those greeting cards and give them a little more life before discarding (pun intended) them.


  • Upcoming Event

    Greetings on this fine (if wet and gray) Monday morning. Fall is often a busy time for me with workshops and lectures and this Fall is proving to be no different. About a week and a half ago, I taught and lectured at Northwest Quilting Expo,  some of my classes had better attendance than others but all had enough enrollment for the class to proceed – no cancelled classes YAY. My Simple Sashiko Landscapes was particularly popular and you can look for it to be offered at some of the local shops during the upcoming winter/spring class season.

    Onto the next events – on Monday October 10, I will be giving a presentation for my own guild , Northwest Quilters, on Color Theory – ‘Speaking in Colors’. This lecture is perfect for anyone who wishes to better understand color and how to use it but particularly so if you struggle with picking your own color schemes or if you have ever made a quilt from colors you love only to discover you are not satisfied with the quilt but don’t know what went wrong. The lecture is educational and includes a trunk show of quilts the use or illustrate the principles that will be covered in the lecture.

    The Guild meeting starts at 7pm, non-members are required to pay a $5 fee which is refunded if the attendant chooses to become a member of the guild that evening. I personally think the benefits membership in the guild brings is well worth the $32 dues – access to the extensive library alone would lure me not to mention other activities such as programs, workshops, UFO days and retreats… plus the camaraderie of fellow quilters passionate about this wonderful pursuit.

    A few days after that, I will be in Tillamook teaching two workshops for the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center for their Adult Day Camp; more info on that to come in the next post.

    Extended color wheel of fabric
    Extended color wheel of fabric

  • I Never Met a Scrap I Didn’t Like

    Well, that’s not entirely true, there are ugly scraps I have discarded albeit with some sense of regret. It is scrap quilting that got me interested in quilting in the first place and there was a time when scraps were all I could afford. My mom sewed clothing (she was not a quilter) and she generated LOTS of scraps. Mind you, most of these were not cotton and my early quilts were made of such inappropriate materials such as robe velour and taffeta; I even put parts of a mink coat into one quilt. Once friends learned I was into quilting the influx of scraps became a torrent.

    Now when I say ‘scraps’ – I mean SCRAPS! most of what I have pulled out of classroom wastepaper baskets is what I would call ‘yardage’, a ‘scrap’ is small enough that you could fit over two dozen of them into a sandwich bag. But what to do with them? If you like applique as I do, there are always opportunities to use even very small pieces in applique work but it seems like no matter how many scraps I pull out of my boxes and baskets, the contents of these containers never seem to diminish, it’s almost like they are breeding in there like some kind of rabbits on fertility drugs.

    Every now and again I threaten to just dump them but can never make myself do it. A couple of months ago, I went to a friend’s studio and found her busily piecing tiny (3″) blocks from her scraps – a center strip with a white strip on either side. She sand the old familiar song of going into her studio that morning fully intent upon tossing these bits of flotsam and jetsam and found that she too, could not bring herself to part with them. Her quilt is several feet in diameter now and keeps growing every time I see it. When asked how large she intends to make it, she shrugs and replies that it will be done when it’s done.

    This was just the push I needed to finally start a serious assault on my own scraps. So… what do you do with scraps that are too narrow to work their way into an on-going Log Cabin scrap quilt?

    Some of my really narrow fabric strips - most narrower than 1 1/2" wide.
    Some of my really narrow fabric strips – most narrower than 1 1/2″ wide.

    You strip piece them of course! Sew them together into parallel rows in whatever lengths they happen to be. Leftover pieces long enough for another block unit can be added onto for further blocks. I settled on a 4″ square as a base size and to make that goal easier, I positioned two pieces of blue tape 4″ apart on the front of my sewing extension table; I can hold my ever widening panel of strips against it to check the progress and check that a strip is long enough to participate as well. The strip pieced panel can be a bit wider than 4″ (it will be trimmed and squared) but it mustn’t be less,

    My 4" tape gauge to check my panel width
    My 4″ tape gauge to check my panel width

    After enough strips are joined, the panel is pressed and then trimmed and squared down with a 4″ square ruler (the blocks will ‘finish’ at 3 1/2″ when sewn together. I don’t concern myself too much about colors and grouping other than a general attempt to not have glaring clashes in color or value, the idea here is just to get rid of most of my scraps.

    A 4" 'squaring' ruler makes trimming the panels into blocks a snap, a larger ruler would work as well but this is easier. Note the longer ends beyond the ruler, these will get incorporated into the next block
    A 4″ ‘squaring’ ruler makes trimming the panels into blocks a snap, a larger ruler would work as well but this is easier. Note the longer ends beyond the ruler, these will get incorporated into the next block

    The trimmed blocks get tossed into a large Zip Loc bag with all the others, sooner or later I will have enough to do something with.

    The blocks are a riot of color - anything goes as long as the strips finish around 1/4" wide. Narrower than that becomes difficult to deal with seam allowances
    The blocks are a riot of color – anything goes as long as the strips finish around 1/4″ wide. Narrower than that becomes difficult to deal with seam allowances

    Like my friend Jane, I have no actual plan or goal for how large a quilt I am aiming for, nor how I am going to lay them out though the image below is one idea.

    Perhaps I will assemble the blocks in alternating directions; or I could alternate with solid colored squares or a different block design
    Perhaps I will assemble the blocks in alternating directions; or I could alternate with solid colored squares or a different block design

    I just want to make a productive dent in these scraps that have weaseled their way into my psyche, I can’t bear to relegate them to a landfill (or even as stuffing for a dog bed though that is where the really ugly ones go as well as those too small for even me to bother with). I have a few such ‘scrap’ projects going and in future posts, I will share some of those other ideas and designs.