Monday, May 4, 2020

Creating Dimension With Fabric

Staying at home (sometimes on furlough or being laid-off) has given so many of us the opportunity to learn new things! I see lots of new resources for sewing tutorials and classes out there - are you learning any new sewing/quilting/crafting skills while physically distancing and sheltering at home?

I've been playing around with creating depth and dimension with fabrics, and wanted to try to create a quilt based on some old color theory sketches I made in my sketchbook a few years ago.


These sketches are similar to the Colossal Blocks quilt I made last year. This quilt uses different tints and shades of colored fabrics in the same hue to create the illusion of depth in the blocks.


The shading is also a little similar to this value study experiment I did last year using layers of netting over one hue of fabric to create the illusion of value and depth.


This quilt is a combination of the two techniques, using black and white netting layered over one hue of fabric to create different values, and piecing blocks to create a block pattern with depth.


I created a little "test" piece to see how these techniques would work together.


And it looked pretty good!

I pieced the top with scraps of solid colors from my stash, using both white and black netting to overlay on top of solid colors and create the illusion of highlights and shadows.





The quilting was going well until...


I discovered that parts on the back of the sewing machine were catching and ripping the netting as I was moving the quilt around and pivoting in the corners. There were several small tears and holes by the time I figured out what was going on, but the netting is so stiff that you can't really see these spots unless you really search for them. 


I covered the inside thread cutter and the back of the Dual Feed mechanism with painter's tape to keep them from ripping the netting while finishing up the quilting. This seemed to do the trick - and I bet there's a way to remove that side thread cutter, but with my BERNINA Dealer store closed due to the stay-at-home order, this information will have to wait.


Quilting went pretty smoothly through to the end. The netting actually quilts quite nicely!



The finished wall hanging fits perfectly over my desk, I love it here!


Definitely a fun experiment, and a successful one for creating depth. I love the illusion of value and dimension in the blocks!



Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Fat Quarter Stash Tote Bag

I've been working on another project in-between mask making sewing sessions. To be honest, I've felt a little lost while sheltering at home without working, trying to navigate my kiddo's new home schooling schedule, keeping tabs on my parents who are in that high-risk category, I mean - my daily routines are in total chaos. Giving myself this kind of sewing "assignment" was a welcome way to feel like I was doing something useful, something I could control, something that had a good outcome.

My goal was to create a better tote using only fabric from my stash with as little waste as possible. I wanted to try and remedy issues I've had with other totes I made, like too-short handles, narrow bag bottoms that tip over easily, wide open tops that allow contents to spill out, not to mention how messy the bags get stored thrown in a pile (which yes, I know in theory you can always neatly fold totes and store in another tote, it just never ends up happening in real life).

After lots of sketches, measurements, and testing, I created an easy-to-sew tote bag that's roomy, features drawstring handles that fit over your shoulder, a nice side pocket, and hidden ties to keep the tote neat and tidy until you need it.


Best of all, you can make this tote from exactly 6 fat quarters with almost zero waste!




I shared a full step-by-step tutorial to make the Fat Quarter Tote Bag over at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog, go check it out. I'm loving the new totes for quick shopping trips. 


Here in Chicago our local grocery shops are no longer bagging with totes brought from home, but I can still bag my own items with these totes. I just open the totes in the cart and pop the items right in, pull up the drawstring handles, and I'm ready to go. Also - these totes are 100% washable if you are at all concerned about the cleanliness of totes during shopping trips. I leave one tote open on the back porch, to collect totes coming back from shopping. Wash these totes with warm water and regular detergent (color safe bleach if needed) on delicate setting, and use a good soak cycle if you have that option available on your washer. I lay the bags flat to dry and they're good to go for another round of shopping.

I hope you enjoy the tote tutorial, and if you end up making one please share and tag me! You can find me at @erika.mulvenna on Instagram.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Vintage Quilt Finish

I forgot to share this project with you! This project was an interesting collaboration between me and an unknown maker.

I picked up this unfinished quilt top several years ago. One large piece of the top was completed by the original quilt maker, but there were also a few rows of the triangles pieced together as well. There were also several pre-cut triangles in the bag, and the original cardboard template!

The fabrics in this quilt are an interesting mix of re-purposed fabrics. Some of the fabrics are thin and close to threadbare, possibly from items of worn out clothing. Some are thick, rough, large weave fabrics possibly left over from an upholstery project. All of these various fabrics together almost clash, and my kiddo Fidget took one look at it and said, "Oh, that's so ugly!" 


Last year I finally got inspired to finish up the quilt top. I left the large piece completed by the original maker and finished sewing together an additional section using the strips and spare patchwork triangles. I added a rainbow of solid colored fabric strips between the two sections of patchwork to make the quilt larger. The finished quilt is about a full-sized bed quilt.


Sir Issac and Bea Arthur immediately loved this quilt, like I could hardly keep them off of it through the entire process.


The patchwork was kind of wonky, so I chose simple straight lines across the quilt in line with some of the angles.


I don't normally create large quilts, so getting this quilt through the machine was a challenge. I also took several weeks to finish the quilting.


The backing is a few larger pieces of random fabrics, and I happened to have some vintage cheater patchwork fabric that worked perfectly for the binding.


I do love all the various, funky fabrics in this quilt, and I do love that I was able to finish it for the original maker who never got the chance. But I do also see where Fidget, or others, might find this an ugly quilt.







I'm glad I finally finished this quilt, even though it took me several years. Especially since the original maker started making this, well, probably when I was in grade school! ;)

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Shelter-in-place Sewing

Hello friends. It's been awhile since I've posted here to the blog. At the end of last month the Governor of Illinois announced a shelter-in-place initiative, and ordered non-essential businesses to close due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak. Unfortunately, my part-time, work from home job didn't make the cut, and I was laid-off from my job. So I do have a little more time on my hands these days. :)

How are all of you coping with the situation in your location? Are you sheltering in place, working from home, or are you an essential worker? Our family is probably going through a lot of the same things you are, and we're just hanging in there.

I see lots of you out there using this opportunity to sew, craft, quilt, and otherwise be creative! I have to admit, I haven't had the same creative urge to start making or sewing lately. Or I should say, it's more like I feel like I want to sew, but also feel totally overwhelmed by our current circumstances and don't have the energy to start a new project.

The one thing that is keeping me sewing is making fabric face masks for my family. I have a family member who works in a hospital and contacted me a few weeks ago specifically requesting some handmade face masks. I'm also making some for elderly family members who are in the high-risk category to wear when they absolutely need to go out of the house.

There are tons of tutorials out there for making fabric face masks, and if you are an experienced sewist I'm sure you'll find your own best way for making face masks. I found a few ways when I sew face masks to make the process go quickly, and to make sure they fit the needs of the final recipients.

I am using the tutorial first posted by The Deaconess here which I first read about at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog here.

I first made just a few for my family and asked them to try them out before making more. We found that the elastic was a bit too big, so I adjusted from a 7" length to a 6" length. I also added a layer of lightweight, non-woven, fusible interfacing to the inside of the mask as an extra layer.


My first tip is to use the batch sewing method (you can read more about this method here), setting myself up to sew about 10 masks at a time.


There are a few sewing techniques used in this tutorial, such as sewing a seam and edgestitching. Instead of switching back-and-forth between specialized presser feet (like an edgestitch foot or straight stitch foot), I use a patchwork foot that's made to help you sew straight stitches and a perfect quarter-inch seam.


The patchwork foot is perfect for sewing the quarter-inch seam around the mask (don't forget to leave that opening in the bottom to turn inside out).


After stitching around all the masks in my pile, I move over to the ironing board to turn the masks inside-out and press. You can move back to the sewing machine and just finger pleat the sides of the mask just like the video in the tutorial linked above, but I find it helpful to press them in place.


And I pin in place before moving back to the sewing machine.


I use the patchwork foot to topstitch all around the outside edge of the face mask, and this will also secure that opening used to turn the mask inside-out closed in this step.



The patchwork foot is perfect for stitching that final run all around the outside of the face mask at a quarter-inch from the edge.


This method makes a nice, crisp face mask.


The pleats open up to create the perfect shaped face mask.


And it's easy for me to feel like I've accomplished something when sewing a batch of about 10 at a time.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit! Let me know what kinds of projects you are making, or let me know how you are able to stay creative.

Stay well!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Rainbow Color Tile Tree Skirt

You know me, I can't resist adding a rainbow to almost everything I quilt. :) So when I was asked to create a tree skirt tutorial for BERNINA's WeAllSew blog...


of course it features a full spectrum of bright, saturated colors. You can find the instructions to make my Color Tile Tree Skirt right here! While most tree skirts feature a side slit, this skirt is made specifically for use with an artificial tree; a central opening to accommodate the tree during set-up and no side slit.


It's a huge version of the super card trick quilt block created with 8 different colors. My favorite thing about this tree skirt is that you get a completely different view of the colors depending on what angle you're viewing the tree from.




What do you put under your tree? Do you have a tradition of using a special tree skirt, or do you use something different each year?