Monday, November 30, 2015

My Favorite Half-Square Triangle Tools

Happy Monday! I have a fun post for you today! In my book, Patchwork Essentials: The Half-Square Triangle, I provide a list of some of my favorite tools and notions for making half-square triangles (in the back). I wanted to share those with you here as well, plus a few of my favorite general sewing tools. Since I was making so many half-square triangles, I tried out lots of different methods and tools. These are the things I grabbed for over and over. These would make great gifts for any quilter (or yourself, hehe!).

I want to dive right in with my all-time favorite half-square triangle tool. The 6 1/2 Triangle Square Up Ruler by Quilt in a Day. This ruler has you trim down your half-square triangles before cutting them apart or pressing open. It cuts your cutting per half-square triangle in half. Instead of having to do four cuts, you're only doing two. You do have to be careful not to distort the block when pressing, but if you are making a lot, it's worth the risk. I don't know how I would have been able to trim all the blocks in the book without this ruler. It also comes in 4 1/2 inch and 9 1/2 inch sizes.

Continuing on with another ruler, the Bloc-Loc rulers are awesome! If you press your half-square triangle seams to the side, this ruler locks right into the seam and makes trimming a breeze. There is no slipping and sliding around when you make your cuts! It comes in many sizes, and they make rulers for other types of blocks too. I prefer the 6 1/2 inch size myself!

Rotating cutting mats are another great tool to speed up your half-square triangle trimming. I have two, an 8" Fiskars mat and a 12" Olfa mat. They really come in handy and I love traveling with them. Since they have a second layer they are a bit thicker than a traditional mat which is nice when you aren't sure what kinds of tables you'll be working on at a retreat or event.

For drawing those pesky half-square triangle lines my favorite marking pen is the black Frixion pens. They are nice and smooth so I find them easier to use than pencils, but they are still nice and thin. I recently picked up the clicker version (vs. the ones with the cap), and I really like them. I was constantly loosing the lids, and it's just one less thing to do when I'm ready to use it. You can get refills for these pens, which makes them a little more economical, and eco-friendly!

Locals: The Sewcial Lounge sells the capped black ones individually!

My second favorite half-square triangle tool is The Cutting Gizmo by The Gypsy Quilter. This is useful for all types of quilting. It is a quick and easy way to cut apart chains from chain piecing. I love to chain piece, and do it as much as possible, so I get tons of use out of this tool. I have another one by Fiskars that's orange, but it is really short. This tool is the perfect height, and really saves a lot of time when cutting apart long chains. It uses a regular razor blade, which can be easily replaced when it gets dull. The base is nice and sturdy with a rubber grip, it has never tipped over or slid when I'm using it.

When making half-square triangles using the four-at-a-time method or when working with really large pieces of fabric, I love setting them with Flatter by Soak. It's a starch alternative spray, than does the job without leaving crunchy residue. I went through a few bottles working through the book quilts. It comes in lots of great scents, but my favorite is the scentless. Michael's desk is right next to my ironing board, so he appreciates the scentless when we are working at the same time! I also use this spray when using the triangle square up ruler, helps prevent potential distortion! This is an awesome all-around quilting tool.

Locals: The Sewcial Lounge has a few different scents!

Now for a few general notions/tools that I love! First up is a stack of tiny bowls. I always keep a number of these little Biscuit bowls from Anthropologie (which seem to be no more, boo!) in my sewing room at all times. I use them to hold pins, catch threads, hold wonder clips, machine feet, or wound bobbins. They come in so handy, and any type of small bowl will do!

Aurifil 50wt cotton thread is my favorite for piecing, especially for half-square triangles. It's a finer weight than most threads, so it takes up less "room" in your seam. I can get my piecing to lay extra flat this way. I make sure I always have plenty of neutral colors on hand, my most used colors are 2024 and 2600.

Locals: The Sewcial Lounge sells the large spools of neutral colors.

I use pins when I baste my quilts, and have been using the Kwip Klip by Paula Jean Creations to make it easier for years. It is a handy little tool that helps to open and close the safety pins. It really helps save your fingers from getting torn up or sore. This little tool has more than paid for itself, it's awesome!

These tools are all in heavy rotation in my sewing room. My favorite pins are Dritz glass head pins. They come in short and long, but I use the short the most. They're thin and sharp, perfect for piecing. I never bind without Clover Wonder Clips, and have found so many different uses for these clips. They come in handy for making bags, home decor projects and garments too. Easily my most used tools are for cutting. The Quick Change Olfa Rotary Cutter is my absolute favorite. It's the easiest for me to hold and is just an all-around great cutter. I've been using it heavily for years and it has almost no wear. Ditto my purple Dritz seam ripper. It's easy and comfortable to grip and gets the job done. Did you know you can sharpen seam rippers?

Next up is a Clover Hera Marker. I use this when I'm binding. When I am working on a corner, instead of pressing the binding strip at 90 degrees with an iron, I use the marker to crease my fold. This works great in tandem with the Frixion marking pen because I don't have to wait for it to cool. I use it to mark lines sometimes too, which is the intended purpose! Finally, my favorite snips, are these little Olfa scissors. I am meticulous about trimming threads, and these are perfect for that. I have two pairs, just in case! Haha! They come to a nice sharp point so they are nice for clipping into seam allowances as well.

Locals: The Sewcial Lounge sells Wonder Clips and the Dritz seam ripper.

Finally, Omnigrid Square Rulers. These get used a lot, especially the 6 1/2 inch ruler. They are so handy for trimming down blocks or just cutting in general. I seem to have collected a set of the green non-slip ones, but the regular yellow ones work just as well. I have a few 6 1/2 yellow ones. I recently added the 8 1/2 inch and find I use it quite a bit. And you can't go wrong with the 12 1/2 inch for trimming down quilt blocks.

Locals: The Sewcial Lounge sells the 6 1/2 inch square ruler.
Don't forget, signed copies of my book are available in my shop!

Happy Quilting!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's Sew Easy Episodes

Quilted Pillows
Happy Tuesday! Today I want to share a project that I worked on back in 2014, that works out to be quite relevant now. I flew home to Cleveland in early 2014 to film two episodes for It's Sew Easy, which airs on PBS. I adapted two of my older tutorials for the episodes, which is fun.

Color Me Retro Half-Square Triangle Pillow
The first episode is 706 and features my Vintage Sheet HST Pillow Tutorial. For the episode, I remade the pillow in Color Me Retro! I wanted to share this because this episode is available to watch on Youtube (here), so if you are still unsure about trying half-square triangles, you can watch me make them on video!

Color Me Retro Half-Square Triangle Pillow Color Me Retro Half-Square Triangle Pillow
It's a cute little pillow, and doesn't take too long to put together. I also brought along a number of other half-square triangle projects for the shoot. My Dreamin' Vintage Half-Square Triangle Sampler quilt, my Warm Cool HST Quilt, my Nordika HST Pillow, and my Quilted Grocery Bag Holder.

Nordika Log Cabin Quilted Coasters
The second episode I taped is 707, featuring my Logcabin Quilted Coasters. For this episode, I remade the coasters in Nordika. These turn out really cute and make a great gift.

Nordika Log Cabin Quilted Coasters Nordika Log Cabin Quilted Coasters Nordika Log Cabin Quilted Coasters Nordika Log Cabin Quilted Coasters
These are a fun way to try out different quilting techniques, I used a different pattern for each coaster. Love making these!

Nordika Logcabin Mini Quilt
I made another sample for the episode, this log cabin mini quilt, also using Nordika. I cut 2.5" strips to make four small log cabin blocks. I really need to plan a full size log cabin quilt, these blocks are really satisfying to make. This mini lives under my sewing machine folded in half, to help muffle the noise from my machine.

Nordika Logcabin Mini Quilt Nordika Logcabin Mini Quilt
I quilted all of these projects with 50wt Aurifil threads from my thread box. I especially enjoyed using the teal thread in my mini quilt!

Part of the reason why I put off sharing this experience and projects is that it wore me out. Even though I was doing smaller projects, the amount of prep work involved in taping these videos was huge. I have at least 7 versions of the pillow (plus enough HSTs to make more) in various stages as step outs for the episode and back-ups in case a part with sewing needs to be shot again. That and I was SO nervous. It was really far outside of my comfort zone to do something like this. I did it, but it showed me that it is not something I enjoy doing. But that's okay! I tried it, and it wasn't a disaster, so all is well.

You can check your local listings for these episodes (if you want!), here.

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Handmade Holiday Gift Ideas
Happy Thursday! This week I finally sat down and started some of the handmade Christmas gifts I have planned. I would have liked to make them sooner, but at least it's not the week of the 25th, so I think I'm in pretty good shape! I am also looking forward to putting up my holiday decorations early this weekend, yay! There is still plenty of time to make handmade gifts this season. While I have it on my mind, I wanted to share a few of my tutorials and patterns that are great for gifts!

Maybe a bit of handmade decor is still your style? Make this easy wrapped wreath
You can't go wrong with a Lined Drawstring Bag (tutorial/pattern) for gift giving. It makes a great gift itself, or as an eco-friendly reusable wrapping! Plus they whip up in no time!

Who doesn't need a few roomy zipper pouches? The Triplizip (pattern) pouches are great for everyone. Fill with soaps, yarn, treats, or cars for your favorite kid. The uses are endless!
Scarves are always an easy gift choice if you ask me, and a handmade one is even better. My favorite combo is voile and flannel, for an extra cozy scarf! See tutorial here.
Looking for a fancier zipper pouch? Try my HST Zipper Pouch Tutorial, plus bonus instructions for making Key FOBs. I love using mine, and actually wore the patchwork one out. Just switched to the twill one!
With more than a month until Christmas, there is still time to make a quilt! I love using big blocks to make a quick quilt, like the Giant Vintage Star Quilt Tutorial. It makes a nice throw size!
The Arithmetic Quilt (tutorial/pattern) is a great universally appealing design. Changing up the fabric and colors completely changes the look. Don't forget the pattern version has a larger square option, for a quick finish!
A handmade Coffee Cozy (tutorial) would make a great gift for any coffee lover along with a cute mug and/or gift card to their favorite coffee shop. Would be a good teacher gift!
Show your appreciation to your host at that holiday party with a set of Fabric Embellished Dish Towels (tutorial). These are a really cost effective gift, and you can tailor them to any style.
Get in the baking season with a Jolly Apron (tutorial). Gift with a jar cookie mix or nice wooden spoons!
Make it easy to recycle plastic bags with a Quilted Grocery Bag Holder (tutorial). Use a special piece of fabric for a plain version, or piece a patchwork one!

Happy Making!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cabin Sewing Weekend

Happy Tuesday! For my own personal record, I wanted to post about this past summer's cabin weekend. We have made a Wisconsin cabin weekend an annual thing, and this is the third year we've done it. I look forward to it all year, and can't wait for next! This was back in July, hence the pretty green scenery! (Year one and year two recaps.)

We decided to stick with our location from last year, in New Glarus, WI. It's perfect for all the things we want to do and is tucked away from the city which is nice. Plus it has a barn quilt, PLUS it has sheep!

We did our traditional indigo dyeing of course! This year I dyed two pieces of lawn. The top one I resisted with rubberbands in a symmetrical pattern. The bottom piece I stitch resisted. You can see the pre-dyed resisted pieces here and here. I have no idea what I'll use these for, but I am thinking a shirt from the bottom one!

I also re-dyed the t-shirt I dyed last time. It had faded from washing, so I did a little resisting on it and now it has a really subtle pattern. Yay!

We dyed yarn again too! I tried out kettle dyeing this time around and dyed two skeins of DK. I'm calling this color "Gruple" part gray, part purple. Perfect! See more photos of my skeins on Ravelry here.

There were so many delicious treats all weekend, these are chocolate rolls made by Deedrie! YUM! We did lots of good eating, including at the Grumpy Troll in Mt. Horeb (tradition!), and at the New Glarus Hotel Restaurant.

This year there was a sheep that actually liked me! I was so happy! I may have given him a few treats of outside grass!!

The sweet ladies pulled off a major surprise and threw me a bridal shower! I had absolutely no idea, it was awesome! Amanda sneakily asked what my most wanted Pyrex was, and they surprise me with my most lusted after set!! I had never seen yellow Butterprint in person until I opened it up. :)

Speaking of gifts, I made everyone a half-square triangle pincushion (tutorial). It was fun to make a little something and use up some of my solid scraps!

As per my usual, I didn't do much sewing! I primarily worked on the bunting I made for our wedding. Plus a little knitting. Mostly talking!

We didn't get a big group photo this year, but I did have Michael take some photos of Amanda, Jacey and I. We haven't been in the same place since 2011, it was so nice to reunite at last! Our full group this year: Amanda, Anna, Brianne, Deedrie, Emily, Faith, Holly, Jacey, Lee and myself! Can't wait for next summer!

Thursday, November 5, 2015


Work in Progress
Happy Thursday! I realized that I haven't done a catch-up post since before the wedding, so it seemed like a good time to go ahead and do one! I'm slowly working on putting together a new quilt pattern. It's been in my head for a couple years, and I'm finally making it. This shot is from a few weeks back when I was early in the process.

Michael + Jeni
Our wedding photos came in on Monday, so I didn't want to keep you all waiting for a shot! We had a really special day and wonderful trip to Disney!

Photo by Dennis Crider for Imagen Photography.

Lined Drawstring Bag
A lined drawstring bag I stitched up! I love the main print. I used it for a quilt back and was able to use some of the leftovers for this bag!

Glamp Stitchalot Fabric Pull
Glamp Stitchalot is right around the corner! I've been working away on my sample quilt top, but remembered to take a photo of my fabric pull before starting.

Visible Mending
Did a little visible mending on a pair of jeans with a few tears. I have been waiting for the opportunity since receiving a Cannonball Collective Revival kit! It was full of inspiration and all the tools I needed to do a bit of fun mending.

Gourmet Pyrex Casserole
Bought a piece of Pyrex for the first time in a while! I finally found a Gourmet Casserole. I've had my eye out for this one for a while. The entire thing is blue delphite, and the outside design (white and gold) are painted on. Pretty cool!

Apple Pie
Baked my once a year apple pie last weekend, yum! I use this recipe for the crust and filling, but I subbed in Cortland apples.

George bunny!

Have a great day!