Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mitered Corners Tutorial

Miter your corners folks!  It's awesome and easy.  Here's my tutorial on how to do it... 

 If you want to see a video on how to miter corners that is excellent,  it's by Piper's Quilts Mitered Quilt Tutorial.  Check it out, you won't regret it, it's life transforming!  Start by sewing on your binding.  See my tutorial on how to cut and sew binding.  Remember, don't iron your binding strip in half.  you just need to watch as you sew that all your raw-edges are aligned with the edge of your quilt.

When you are a few inches away from the end, you need to start prepping the corner.  First you fold your binding strip over itself to the right.  It's important to make sure that your lines are straight.  You want the bottom of the binding to line up with the bottom of the quilt and you want the top fold of the binding to make a nice straight "L" shape.

Now, you are going to fold the binding back over itself.  Take your binding and fold it back to the left, making sure that the vertical edges are still lined up.  This will make you a flap of binding.  This is important because you need to move the flap depending on what side of the quilt you are sewing the binding onto.

See... a flap.  You need to fold it down from it's original position so that it lays straight along the bottom of your quilt.  In this position you can continue sewing the binding down to the bottom on the side you are working on.
Stop sewing and back stitch once you get almost all the way to the bottom. 

There will be a diagonal crease where the flap moves back and forth. You want to stop before you sew the crease down.  It will be approximately 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch away from the bottom.

Now after you've back stitched, cut your threads and flip the flap (haha I like that, flip the flap) so that it is going back the other direction.  Turn your quilt and begin sewing the next side. Back stitch a couple at the beginning.   Again, make sure you avoid sewing on the flap's crease, you want to sew just after the crease.  And then sew, sew, sew until you get to the next corner and repeat.  When you sew the binding onto the other side, you will be amazed at how easy the corners fold and look nice.  If you notice that you have sewn the crease, you'll just need to unpick a little bit so that it folds without a pucker.  No biggie.

Once you have sewn all your binding onto the front of your quilt with your sewing machine, you move onto the hand sewing portion on the underside of your quilt.  Sew until you get to the corner.  Carefully fold down the corner flap on the opposite side from the one that you are tacking down, making sure that that both sides meet in the middle (hopefully at a perfect angle).  I always stitch up the fold to make sure that it lays nice and flat and there are no unfortunate gaps.  Continue on down the other side until you reach the next corner.  Just make sure to always meet up both sides in the middle of your corner and they will look beautiful and tidy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Productive Weekend

I do enjoy a productive weekend.  Because in crafting, this means that my family mostly stayed home and I was able to do stuff and it was relaxed and lovely, and the kids were good and my loving Husband, Mr. Because I Can took the kids to the aquarium for a Daddy Daughter Date and Mommy got to stay home and attach the binding to her quilt that she had cut and sewn the night before!   There was bbqing and I was informed that any time I bring home steak, not only will Mr. Because I Can cook the dinner, he will also do dishes...I am thinking that steak is going to be my #1 go-to dinner item from now on!  Not to mention that my oldest who is a meatasaurus would love it too.  My Youngest who is a carbasaurus will have to be force-fed, but I think I can manage.   The gutters were cleaned (not by me).  I wupped my Sister at  California Speed (after much gloating and bragging from her that she beat her husband and he only had 4 cards to play, there was much rejoicing on my end after she got smoked!)  So good times.

I will start with the BBQ.  This is what I had and my Youngest had.  It's a portabello burger.  Yum!  With Jarlsberg cheese, spicy mayo grilled onion on a toasty grilled bun.  It was marinated in some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spicy mustard Very tasty!  I did have a bite of steak too to be honest.  It was slightly difficult though with My Oldest consuming every morsel she could lay her hands on.

This is the raw asparagus salad we had as a side dish, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.  It was tasty, but Mr. Because I Can said he only liked the bites that had plenty of pine nuts in it.  It also had pecorino cheese, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.  I thought it was good, and fun, but maybe not my favorite salad of all time either.

This is me attaching my binding to a Queen-Size quilt...yeah, that's a major under-taking.  I had a massive pile of quilt all over the's quite tricky to maneuver.

400 inches of binding all for me...yes please.    - Puss

Hi-yaaaa!  Mine.      -Puss

Chicken Pin Cushion.  For my Mom's B-day.  I used some of my precious gooseberry fabric.  It's a family thing.

And lots of yellow on the other side.  Yellow and Orange are her favorite colors!

And the Grand finale!  My Chubby Stars quilt.  Thanks TraceyJay for the lovely pattern for the Chubby Stars.  I improvised the rest after I used 6 of my original Chubby Stars to make my delicious niece a baby blanket.  I pretty much love it.  More to come on this quilt tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pleated Pillow Goodness

Brilliant!!!  It's always fun to try out new crafty things.  It's always better when they turn out perfectly after the first try, but in this case it took me at least 3 tries...and it's still not perfect, but cute anyway so I'm going to call it done.  I've convinced myself that multiple attempts are okay because as it turns out I think I'm going to be on a pleat and fabric manipulation kick, so I might as well take my time and learn as I go.

I am a member of the Modern Quilt Guild (my husband thinks it's pretty sweet that I'm a Guild member.  I mean, he is a former D & D nerd so it's understandable that my guild status would be a real thrill for if only I could turn into an Elven warrior-maiden who throws fire darts and wears a leather vest...getting off subject...) and we just had our first meeting a month ago and we decided to do a pillow swap using at least one solid fabric along with a patterned fabric and as I am a fan of yellow, I knew I had to do something with my favorite be honest it's only my favorite color right  now.  It changes on a regular basis. 

I really like the combination of grey, white and yellow and so that color scheme in my head was my starting point for fabric selection.  I found my print, a white and black modern floral.  Found a yellow I really liked and then used the grey and black that I already owned. 

Finding the exact side measurements was a bit tricky considering the stretch the pleats gave, but after stretching both sides, I found a good measurement.

All borders added.  I gave the yellow a funky twist by pushing the horizontal ends out, you don't notice it too much on the final product, but it was an experiment.

I chose to do a pocket back, but I wanted to give it a decorative know, to be flashy...but well...let's just say I had to find my seam-ripper as the order in my head was backwards.  So if this is what your pocket back looks like when it's inside-out...then you've done it wrong.  Because when you turn it right-side out...

Where is the decorative border?...I sewed it as the underneath flap on accident instead of the top flap.  You see, it's right-sides together and in my head...well, I got mixed up.  Easy enough to do.


It's lucky I didn't have to completely unpick the entire back as to make the pocket-back you have two equally sized pieces of fabric that over lap in the middle.  You take the size of your pillow front, which in my case was 18.5 inches and divide in half which gives us 9.25 inches and then you add 2.5 to each piece.  So you have two pieces of fabric that are 18.5 inches wide and 11.75 inches in length.  They overlap in the middle, so I really only had to unpick the a bit of each side so that I could re-arrange how I was overlapping...
I might just have to keep it. 

Cute backside.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pick your Battles

I'm a little irritated.  Yesterday I had a lovely blog post all about my home-made bread and the goodness and loveliness that it has brought to our lives...of course it was almost ready to post when Blogger decided to go kapoot.  And kapoot went my post.  So, here's something a little different...a little more angry as I'm in a feisty mood.  I'll get to bread tomorrow.

I try to give my kids the best.  The best I can afford.  The best of me.  The best education.  The best nutrition.  Nutrition is a huge on my priority list.  I am so grateful that my kids live in a time where I have been able to educate myself about what good nutrition is.  Forever people have debated what kind of diet is best and I'm guessing that it's not about to stop any time soon as everyone has their own opinion.  But I do feel that we know some good basics.  Gone are the days when all fat is bad.  Gone are the days where bread is bad.  Gone are the days when juice was just as good for you as water.   Everything in moderation, right?  We've all heard it.

I don't hate on sugar.  I don't typically have a lot of sugary or processed items at my house, so my kids normally only get a sugary treat at the grocery store or if we're on an outing.  Except in the summer when I feel a daily popsicle is the only proper way to help beat the heat.  They get cereal that has sugar in it...Raisin Bran, Honeynut Cheerios, Frosted Shredded Wheat and their oats.  The reason I feel that these sugar cereals are acceptable is because I feel their high grain and fiber content is valuable.  I try to avoid giving them anything with artificial sweeteners.  I do feel natural is best, I'm a little leery of chemicals.

I am not a fan of corn unless it is corn in cob form.  Our country is obsessed with putting corn in everything.  I don't know how many people realize that so much of what we eat has corn in it.  Check the label.  Of course Corn Syrup and High-Fructose Corn Syrup (by the way the corn industry is trying to change the name of high-fructose corn syrup to corn sugar, I guess they figured it's gotten such a bad rap that it needs a new name.  Tricky tricky).  Dextrose or Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Lactate, Calcium Stearoyl, Citric Acid, Glucose, Polydextrose, Xanthan Gum...all are corn derived.  And I feel that in many cases this is just adding extra carbs and sugars that we don't need in a sneaky way.  We had a box of Corn Flakes that I had used to make Company Potatoes and my oldest had decided that she loved Corn Flakes and that was all she wanted to eat.  Luckily for her not too long ago Daddy was making breakfast and he gave her a bowl as Mama is a hater and wouldn't think of it.  Not two hours later she was desperately hungry.  That corn cereal did not stick with her where the oat or wheat-based cereals will keep her full until lunchtime. 

All I'm saying here is...this is getting ridiculous.  I don't avoid everything that has these ingredients in it, as that would be impossible, but I do make a conscious effort to take a look at what I eat and wonder why do we need all this added stuff?  Does my orange juice really need xanthan gum in it?   And is this possibly part of the reason our nation is reaching epic levels of obesity?

I have changed the way I look at food and hopefully will give my children a better relationship with food than I have.  I do not give them access to eat whatever they want, whenever they want to.  We have our 3 meals and then 2 snacks a day.  A snack for us is usually a string cheese or a banana.  We drink milk and water at home.  If we go to a restaurant...okay, they usually get milk there too, but on occasion I'll let my Oldest get a Sprite.  We have candy almost every weekend in our popcorn for Family Movie Night and usually a tasty dessert for Sunday Dinner...but that's about it.  I don't want them to be crazy about sugar like some people who never get to eat sugar are, but I don't want them to have unlimited access to it and crave it every minute 

Let's all try a little harder to make the right food decisions for our kids sake.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beanify Your Life

People aren't eating their legumes.  Why is this?  I have heard tale, that beans cause intestinal discomfort...this may be true, but I personally think that the benefits outweigh the problem of a little excess wind.  Maybe you don't like the flavor....come on, if you don't want to, you don't even have to taste the beans.  They are very mild and a few spices and seasonings will fix that. 

Beans are cheap!  Especially if you buy them dry and rehydrate them yourself.  Of course, that takes some prior preparation which I'm not always able to do, so in that case I try and stock a good supply of canned beans in my pantry.  In these times when people need to stretch their dollar a little bit, I am telling you to take the simple step of adding some beans to your meat.  This will stretch your pound of meat into two pounds.  Which means you only have to cook once and get two meals and get the added health benefits that beans provide!

 Tonight we are having tacos.  I have 1.5 lbs of ground turkey, browned with an onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Add your favorite packet of taco seasoning or season to your own personal liking.  Add two cans of beans.  I am using black beans and kidney beans today.  I am including the liquid, though you could drain it off if you want and add water or salsa.  Let simmer 20 minutes.  Serve as you would taco meat.

Beans are an incomplete protein.  This is only a problem if you don't have any of the following in your diet: Dairy, meat, eggs, rice, corn, nuts, seeds and wheat in addition to the beans.  The dairy, meat and eggs are complete proteins on their own, but the rice, corn, nuts, seeds and wheat when combined with beans provide all the essential amino acids and become a complete protein.

Some of the health benefits provided by beans are:
     a. Antioxidants.  Kidney beans rank higher in antioxidants than blueberries.  How many of us are trying to  incorporate more blueberries in our diets to get these antioxidants that we've heard are so good for us?
     b. High levels of isoflavones.  These help prevent cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve bone  and prostate health.  On this matter, I'm just going to remind everyone that heart disease is the number one killer of women in America.
     c. Fiber.  Because beans don't digest fully, they help clear out your innards, help prevent constipation and keep your colon in top form.

So, let's say yay for beans and try and include them in our diets more.  Some easy add-ins  are: taco meat, salads, soups, yummy dips and quesadillas...and that's just what I can think of right off the top of my head.

As a side note the rains may be over.  Let's all say a thank you to the weather man for listening to our desperate pleas and giving us a break from extended winter and bringing on spring.  These are just waiting to be planted in my little garden plot.  5 varieties (so far) of tomatoes, egg plant, pepper, cilantro, basil (2 of these babies) and parsley.  My poor husband who just got off work was informed that he gets to go plow the dirt and get it ready for me to plant tomorrow!  And of course it must be done now (it's going to be nice and sunny the rest of the week, I want to get them in as quickly as possible to start growing and thriving).  Luckily he humors me and my impatience.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pleats meet your match!

My mom gave me my basic crafting skills and crafting ambitions.  She taught me to embroider and cross-stitch at a relatively young age.  When I was eighteen, we tackled quilting. I learned my rotary cutting skills and how to straight-stitch on the sewing machine from her and applique (which I quite hated in the beginning, but now like).  But I have progressed onto other things, and since I no longer live with her, I've had to figure things out on my own.  Like pleats.  I mean, I figured they would be fairly simple and straight-forward.  Apparently not. 

First of all, where is the course that teaches you where to actually stitch the pleats to make them keep their shape?  Well, I've been trying to figure this out through a couple of tutorials on the web and the book...
Stitch Magic: A Compendium of Sewing Techniques for Sculpting Fabric into Exciting New Forms and Fashions
Stitch Magic A compendium of Techniques for stitching fabric into exciting new forms and fashions by Alison Reid.  Quite the name, right?  I actually love the name, it gives me visions of making the most wonderful things.  It's a compendium.  That's so...official.

It may just be because I am uniformed about pleats, but damn, I found them to be slightly trickier than I had hoped for.  I want to read a book and just know what to do perfectly and then do it.  I don't want to have to practise.  Blah.  It also could be because Alison Reid is a Brit and I am a Yank.  Scotland is right next door to jolly old England, so maybe it's just in their nature to know how to pleat perfectly.  I think her projects are absolutely gorgeous and I want to make pretty much everything in this book.  But I didn't love the sparse explanations she gives on how to do the basics.  (And to be fair, I only tried the pillow, so maybe she gives better directions on other projects).  I'm a girl who needs some basics apparently.  Maybe this wasn't the best book to start out with manipulating fabric, but it's the book I chose.  So, I guess I need to search out fabric manipulation for dummies.  I also found her hand-drawn diagrams to be...hard to decipher.  Maybe as I get better, these diagrams will make perfect sense and I'll wonder how I ever found them confusing.  But for now...difficult.

Here's a basic tutorial and how I found pleating to go.  I don't know if it's technically accurate, but it's what I did and it turned out pretty darn cute.  This is for a criss-cross pleat pillow cover

Cut a nice square of fabric.  Along both vertical sides, mark every two inches.  Start at the top two marks.  Fold fabric and make your pleat.  Pin on either make sure the pleat line is as straight as possible.  How to do this?  Make sure the folded edges of fabric line up with the main piece of fabric.

Put your folded edge aka the pleat on a grid and make sure it is straight all the way across and pin.
Then pin all the way across.  Again, making sure all your lines match up with the lines on the grid.  Vertical and horizontal.  Now sew.
Right side up.  Sew 1/4" along the folded pleat edge.  I wouldn't bother taking the pins out of the fabric as you sew, I found as long as you put them in straight, I've yet to break a needle sewing straight over them.  The needle seems to avoid the pins and this will help keep your fabric as straight as possible.

Do this down through all your 2" marks.

Now it's time for the vertical pleats.  Much more difficult than the horizontal pleats because now the fabric is all scrunched and it's very hard to figure if you've got your fabric I just took my best guess and prayed for straight lines.  It seemed to work okay.  Instead of making vertical pleats the entire length of the pillow case I did 3 on the far left and 3 on the far right leaving the middle with just the horizontal pleats.

Mark where you want your vertical pleats to go on either side of the fabric.

Do roughly the same thing you did for the horizontal pleats only this time I lined up my two pins on both far sides on my grid and pulled the fabric taught and tried to determine how bowed the middle of the fabric was.  Then I'd adjust it until I felt it was straight-ish.  Make sure you pin enough that your fabric doesn't shift while sewing. 

A fun part of this cushion is that you life up the horizontal pleats and fold them over themselves right before you sew over them one at a time. This is so that when you sew the vertical pleats, the middle kind of gives a knotted effect.  I found this to be difficult to get the knots to look right, but it does cause the fabric to lift up in a dramatic way and I really like the appearance of it.  More practise though to get it just right.

This is how my cross-pleats turned out.  Fun right?   I am going to turn this into a pillow for the Modern Quilt Guild that I'm a part of.  Our project is to use a solid and a print in an 18" pillow.  I'll show you the rest later.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Felt Needle Book Part Deux

Luckily?  My family doesn't read my blog, so that leaves me free and able to post about the projects I make for them.  Here is my mom's needle book.  I've used her two favorite colors, orange and yellow.  A couple of choicely added French knots finish it off just right.

I added a ribbon back binding to this one for fun and signed it with love.

A shot of the innards!  Hopefully my Mom and Mom-In-Law will love these little books.  They're a handy way to be able to take along your stitching or quilting and not have to worry about where to put your needles and pins!  My Youngest has declared both of them hers!!   So I guess I will be making at least two more of these, one for me and one for her.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

@#$%& Pleats

Deep breath.  I need to find a happy place...

I finally have a flower in bloom!  Yay, I feel slightly better now.   I'll get back to the pleat situation when I think my blood pressure can handle it.  They've really put me off sewing for a while.  Unfortunately I have the mentality of my 5 year old...I just want to be able to do something, the first time, perfectly!!   So I had to do something else, completely different.

Felt needle books!  Pretty darn cute if you ask me!  Besides some slight anger issues towards this project, it pretty much went swimmingly!  I was able to free-hand cut out felt flowers and arrange them as pleased me and then I got to try out my new embroidery hand book for the stems.  It's always nice when you can just be creative and not have to worry that you're going to screw up an entire project (like with pleats)  because if you cut out a small flower and it's hideous, you can just toss that scrap and start over.  No biggie.  Just what I needed to kind of refresh myself.

I made a length of cording to wrap around the button to close the book.

Perfect for me and my Oldest who has a bad habit of putting her needles back in her fabric rather precariously!  With this sweet setup I am perfectly capable of sewing outside while the babies play and I can just stab whatever pointy objects I have right there!  No stepping on misplaced needles anymore...I hope.

Happy Cinco de Mayo.  Tres leches cake courtesy of Alton Brown "I'm Just Here For More Food".  I added the raspberries as my own special touch.  Very yummy!  I personally think the raspberries made the cake.  It is almost overpoweringly sweet and so the tart berries simmered the sweetness down. Very soggy too!  So, if soggy cake isn't your cup of tea, don't make it.  My dad on the other hand would LOVE it.  He'll take a slice of cake, put it in a glass and cover it with milk and then eat it with a spoon...Graham Crackers too!
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