The Mod Marea Pillow

A tutorial . . .

I designed a pillow last fall, made from scraps, for a guild challenge.

At the time, I thought: “I should make that into a tutorial. It came out pretty cute, and it was really easy!” (If I do say so myself.)

Problem is, I didn’t take any pictures of my process . . . so . . . I made the pillow again, and took pictures this time. Besides, it never hurts to test your pattern again, does it?

I made this pillow out of pieces from the Marea collection by Dear Stella Designs. I used an ivory solid to go with them (which I think is a Moda Bella).

If you’d like to make a pillow like this for yourself, instructions follow below.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/8 yard of three different coordinating prints

1 fat quarter of background fabric to coordinate with the prints

1 fat quarter for the “flanges” around the edge of the pillow

1 fat quarter for the pillow back

16″ pillow form

4 buttons (or snaps, or velcro dots)

18″ square of lightweight plain fabric, such as muslin (optional)

18″ square of lightweight batting (optional)

We’ll make the pillow front first.

Label your three prints #1, #2, and #3.

From Print #1, cut the following (I used Marea Quint Floral Cream):

1 strip 2 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

1 strip 2″ x 8 1/2″

2 strips 1 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

From Print #2, cut the following (I used Buds Black):

2 strips 2 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

1 strip 2″ x 8 1/2″

1 strip 1 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

From Print #3, cut the following (I used Autumn Stripe Multi):

2 strips 2″ x 8 1/2″

1 strip 1 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

From the background fabric, cut the following:

3 strips 2 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

4 strips 2″ x 8 1/2″

4 strips 1 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

Pair each print strip up with a background strip of the same width.

Match each pair up, right sides together, and stitch across the short ends. Stitch both ends, so that you have a “loop” of fabric.

Repeat with the remaining 10 pairs of strips. No pressing yet.

Lay the strips out in the following order from left to right:

Print #1   2 1/2″ strip

Print #2   1 1/2″ strip

Print #3   1 1/2″ strip

Print #1   2″ strip

Print #2   2 1/2″ strip

Print #3   2″ strip

Print #1   1 1/2″ strip

Print #2   2″ strip

Print #3   2″ strip

Print #1   1 1/2″ strip

Print #2   2 1/2″ strip

Turn them all over so that the background fabric is on top, making sure to leave them in their proper positions.

Next, you will cut through the background fabric only of each pair, at a different random place on each one.

Some will be short on top, some shorter on the bottom, and some right in the middle. Make a variety. And make sure you are ONLY cutting through the background fabric, not the print.

After the cuts are made, fold the background fabric out. Press seams toward the darker fabric.

Now begin sewing them together, left to right. Feel free to rearrange them if it suits you better, too.

Flip piece #2 over onto piece #1, right sides together and stitch the long seam.

Press the seam to one side, or open, if you prefer.

Add piece #3 in the same manner, and keep repeating until all 11 strips are sewn together.

This next part is optional, but I chose to do it because I like my pillows to have a little substance and stand up better to wear and tear from being used.

I layered my pillow front with batting and backing and quilted it. You’ll need an 18″ square of scrap lightweight fabric for this. I used muslin. Batiste would work. So would a scrap of anything lightweight. It’ll never show.

You’ll also need an 18″ square of lightweight batting.

Layer the backing, batting, and the pillow front together. Pin or baste in place, and quilt it. I quilted straight lines in the ditch of every vertical seam using my walking foot and matching thread.

After quilting, trim the pillow front to measure 16″ square. If you opt not to quilt yours, then just square your pillow front to 16″.

Next, we’ll make the pillow back.

From your pillow back fabric, cut 2 rectangles 10″ x 16 1/2″. (I used Damask Cream.)

Turn under 1/4″ on one long side of each piece and press.

Turn under another 3/4″ and press again.

Stitch down the inside edge of the fold with matching thread, backstitching at both ends. Do this on both pieces.

On one of the backing pieces, make 4 buttonholes, evenly spaced, down the folded portion.

On the other backing piece’s folded edge, sew 4 buttons to match up with the buttonholes.

If you don’t wish to make buttonholes, you can use snaps, or velcro fasteners in those spots instead.

Fasten the buttons into the buttonholes (or snaps or Velcro) and make sure that your entire backing piece measures 16″ square. You may have to trim it down. Trim evenly off all 4 sides, if you do need to trim.

Stitch across the folded raw edges where the two pieces overlap to hold them in place.

Next, we’ll prepare the flanges that go around the outer edges of the pillow.

From your flange fabric, cut 4 rectangles 3 1/2″ x 16″. (I used Line Work Black.)

Fold each piece in half right sides together, along the long length. Stitch across the short ends, backstitching at both ends. Clip the folded edge at a 45-degree angle close to the stitching. Do both ends of each of the four strips.

Turn them right side out, and press. You will make four of these, and they should each measure 15 1/2″ long.

Now you’re ready to put it all together.

Lay your pillow front right side up on your work surface.

Place a flange along each side, centering the flange on the side, and lining up the raw edges.

Note how the flanges overlap at each corner. Do not pin yet.

Very carefully, so as not to disturb the flanges, lay the pillow back right side down on top of the pillow front and flanges, aligning all the raw edges. Pin in place all the way around the four sides.

Beginning in the middle of one side of the square, stitch around the entire outer edge of the pillow through all the layers with a 1/4″ seam. There’s no need to leave an opening, so be sure to go all the way around, taking care at each corner to not catch the folded edges of the flanges in the seam.

Trim the corners at a 45-degree angle, as shown, being careful not to cut into the stitching.

Unbutton the pillow back, and turn the pillow right side out.

Stuff your pillow form inside, and button it back up, and you’re all finished!

Here’s the back of my finished pillow:

And here’s the original one I made for our guild swap back last fall, just to give you an idea of another colorway:

I hope you have fun with this tutorial, and if you make a pillow, I’d love to see it!

Published in: on July 10, 2012 at 8:05 am  Comments (4)  

Saddle Up!

It’s Samantha Walker’s newest fabric line for Riley Blake Designs, and it’s in stores now!

And I’m thrilled to be once again offering up a pincushion tutorial for Riley Blake’s Pincushion Club featuring this adorable line of fabric.

The Cowgirl Hat Pincushion

Every self-respecting cowgirl needs a hat, right?

You can get the free tutorial for this pincushion here: Cowgirl Hat Pincushion.

If you missed my previous Western Star Pincushion, click HERE for that tutorial.

And stay tuned to Riley Blake’s Cutting Corners College, because on Memorial Day, I’ll be there to show you a quilt I’ve designed using this same fabric collection.

Published in: on May 11, 2012 at 9:23 am  Comments (9)  

Western Star Pincushion

UPDATE: Since Riley Blake’s redesign to their new website, the links to their older tutorials are no longer active.  You can download the tutorial for the Western Star Pincushion HERE.

I’m very honored that I’m being allowed to participate in Riley Blake’s Pincushion Club.

Each Friday, a new pincushion tutorial is featured, for a total of 52 free pincushion tutorials this year. Like my Grandma would say: “If you can’t find one you like in all that, you ain’t got no one to blame but yourself!”

Well, today it’s finally my turn, and I’m presenting this Western Star pincushion.

My pincushion features the new “Saddle Up” fabric line designed by Samantha Walker. Appropriate for someone like me, right?

I’ve used fabrics from every one of her western lines so far, and I love them all! This one is no exception. (Big surprise, huh?)

I mention in the tutorial that I made those stickpins for my pincushion so I could separate my pins and needles into sections, and that I’d show you how to make them.

So I’m here right now to do that very thing. If you’re interested in making some stickpins for your ownself, read on . . .

I’m not a scrapbooker, but you’d never be able to tell it by the collection of scrapbook paper I have. It’s just that I use the papers for other things besides scrapbooking. And it’s like fabric — I like to have some of each one, so naturally, I have a stash!

My stickpins are one of the projects I used some of my paper for. I had some western papers that had motifs on them suitable for cutting out.

I used a light-colored paper for the side I wanted to write on, so the writing would show up.

So here’s what you’ll need:

Scrapbooking paper or other paper of your choice that you can cut some motifs out of. You could just draw circles or stars or any other shape you want onto any colored paper to match your theme.

Flower-head straight pins.

Glue and scissors (that you can cut paper with).

First, I cut out (widely) around the shape — in this case, the star. I cut a piece from the light paper roughly that same size.

Then I matched them up, wrong sides together, and cut them out on the true cutting line only in the area where I wanted the pin to emerge.

Separate them again, and smear the back side of the top piece with glue.

Put the head of the flower-head pin in place, then sandwich it between the two pieces, wrong sides together, matching them up like before.

After the glue has dried, finish cutting out the shape . . .

. . . and then write on the light-colored side whatever you wish it to say.

They’re ready to use!

You could also take this idea and instead of pins, use flat toothpicks, and you’d have some cute cupcake decorations.

Use bigger motifs and bamboo skewers, and make plant pokes for your herb garden, or make one to stick in a flower arrangement for a friend as a “Thank You” or “Get Well” message.

So that’s it . . . I hope you’ve enjoyed my tutorials.

Thanks so much for visiting!

Published in: on March 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm  Comments (9)  

The Happy Tree

It’s time for my block in Kim’s Home Sweet Home Quilt-Along! Woohoo!

Kim asked several designers to design either a house or a tree block for her Quilt-Along. Since there seems to be lots of houses so far, and there seems to be lots of piecing so far, I chose to do an applique tree . . .

The Happy Tree

Easy pieces, bright colors, and no perfection required!

Let’s get started, shall we?

Click HERE for the downloadable file with the full-sized templates and printable instructions.

You can use whatever method of applique you prefer to attach the pieces to your background. The templates are full-sized, but you do need to add seam allowance if you use a method such as needle-turn. It is not necessary to reverse the templates for fusible, unless you just want to reverse the tree trunk so it will look exactly like the picture.

If you’ve never tried needle-turn applique, and would like to, here’s a link to my tutorial on how to applique leaves: How To Applique a Leaf.

First, you need a background to put your tree on. So choose a fabric for your “ground”, and a fabric for your “sky”.

From your ground fabric, cut a strip 4″ x 13 1/2″.

From your sky fabric, cut a piece 10″ x 13 1/2″.

Sew the ground to the sky along one long side. Press the seam toward the ground. (Pay no nevermind to the fact that my sky has a seam down the middle of it. This is the piece of fabric I wanted to use, darn it, and it just wasn’t wide enough, so I fixed myself right up by piecing it. The seam won’t show so bad when I’m done anyway. Feel free to do this your ownself if you have to.)

Next, using the templates from the downloadable PDF file, make a template for your tree trunk.

Cut out your trunk, and position the trunk on your background fabric. Pin in place.

Sew it down. I left the top edge of mine unsewn, since I’ll be overlapping it with leaves and the raw edges will get caught under them. No sense doing any more work than you have to!

Now you’re ready for all those leaves. Make your leaf template . . .

. . . and cut out 40 leaves from scraps.

Now, for the fun part. Just scatter your leaves randomly over your background however you want them, and stitch them down (or fuse them down). If you need fewer than 40 leaves, then scatter some on the ground, or leave them out. If you want more leaves, then just make more. Your tree can be however you want it to be.

When you’re all done with the leaves, press your block gently from the back side, and trim it to 12 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ square. It’s now ready to use in your quilt.

I hope you enjoy making this tree for your Home Sweet Home Quilt, and if you make one, please be sure to post it in the Home Sweet Home Quilt-Along’s Flickr Group so I can see! Thanks for visiting, and enjoy the rest of the Quilt-Along.

Published in: on March 13, 2012 at 9:42 am  Comments (8)  

Perfectly Round Circles

Back when I wrote this tutorial: How to Applique a Leaf . . . I also said I’d someday post a tutorial on how I applique perfectly round circles.

Well, someday is here!

I’m posting this to help those who are doing the “Bouquets for Hazel” quilt-along, but thought it might benefit others as well, so I’m posting it here. This employs the hand needle-turn method of applique.

My usual disclaimer goes here: This is just my way of doing it, so you can take it with a grain of salt. Always feel free to just do your own thing and use your own favorite method.

And here we go . . .

You’ll need some sort of stiff paper, like card stock. I use plain old index cards, since I usually have plenty of those on hand. You don’t want anything too stiff, but plain paper is not stiff enough.

I also have a circle template that I use to draw my circles, so if you’re lucky enough to have one of those handy little things, now is a good time to put it to use.

If not, you can just trace your circle on to your card stock from your applique pattern, either by cutting it out of the paper pattern and tracing around it, or tracing it from beneath with a light table. You’ll want to trace as smoothly as possible.

So . . . draw your circle on your card stock . . .

. . . and cut it out.

The smoother and rounder you cut your circle out of the card stock, the smoother and rounder your finished circle will be on your block, so cut carefully.

Then trace your template onto the wrong side of the piece of fabric you’ll be cutting your circle from. I “fussy cut” my circle from a floral print.

Cut the fabric piece out 3/16″ outside the drawn line.

Thread your needle with thread that matches your fabric, and tie a knot in one end.

Holding the fabric piece wrong side up, bring the thread up from the bottom (right side) somewhere along the edge of the circle, halfway between the drawn line and the cut edge.

Make a running stitch, not too large and not too small, all the way around the circle, keeping your line of stitching halfway between the drawn line and the cut edge.

When you get back to where you started, put the needle down to the bottom so the knot and the thread tail are next to each other on the right side of the fabric. Don’t cut the thread or tie a knot just yet.

Place the piece of card stock on the wrong side of the circle, matching it up with the drawn line.

Pull the thread tail to gather the fabric around the paper circle.

Tack it in place next to the knot so the gathers can’t come loose.

Cut the thread. Tie a new knot in the end so you can start again.

Turn the circle right side up, and bring the needle and thread through to the top by barely catching the edge of the fabric circle, but don’t catch the paper.

Position the circle on your applique block where you want it.

Holding it in place with your thumb, begin stitching around the edge of the circle.

Go down in the background fabric, travel over about 1/8″ on the back side, and push the needle back up through the background and barely catch the folded edge of the circle, but not the paper.

Continue around the circle . . .

When you get back to where you started, push the needle down through to the back side.

On the back side, just inside the edge of the circle, take several little tacking stitches on top of each other to secure the thread. Cut the thread.

Now you need to remove the paper. Being very careful, snip a slit in the background fabric behind the circle, about 3/16″ inside the line of stitching.

Cut around the circle to cut the background out from behind the circle, leaving about 3/16″ of the background fabric around the edge.

Now you can see the paper circle.

Use a straight pin to “hook” the paper and pop it out.

Turn the block over, and there you have your perfectly round circle!

This works on nearly any size circle you’d like to applique.

I use it on very small circles, but when I do really tiny ones, I press the circles after I’ve gathered them around the paper, and then pop the paper out before I stitch them down, just using the pressed line as my guide.

On really large circles, I applique them without using any paper, just as I would applique any other piece. I just make sure to pin them in position carefully before I start.

I hope this helps you make your own perfectly round circles. Let me know if you try it and how it works for you.

Published in: on January 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm  Comments (3)  

Celebrate Christmas

Today it’s my turn! Woohoo! Welcome, everyone!

It’s time for my block in the Quilting Gallery’s Celebrate Christmas Quilt-Along.

If you haven’t been playing along with this, you are definitely missing out. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for 12 weeks, a different free block pattern is offered up by a different designer, for a total of 36 free block patterns in all!

Each day when a block is posted, Super Deals for Quilters are also offered. You can get some really fantastic bargains on fabric and other quilting goodies . . . you shouldn’t be missing those.

And . . . yes, there’s more . . . if you make the blocks and post them in the Celebrate Christmas Quilt-Along Flickr Group, you get a chance to win some buttons from Button Mad. They’re randomly giving away a set of buttons for every block! But you have to make your block and post it to be eligible, so get busy!

And without further ado, here is my block:

It’s called “Mare-y Christmas”. I know you’re shocked that my block has a ranch theme . . .

It features applique with a little bit of embroidery embellishment, but it’s not difficult, so don’t be afraid to give it a try. I used the needle-turn method, but you can definitely use fusible if you prefer. Click here to download the PDF instructions and full-sized templates, and get started!

Oh, and before I forget . . .

When I was making my block, I came up with enough stuff to make up an extra block. So . . . I’m offering a block kit to one lucky winner in a give-away. All you have to do to be entered to win the block kit is leave a comment on this post. I’ll pick a winner next Monday, October 17, before the next Quilt-Along block comes out.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you’re enjoying the Quilt-Along!

Published in: on October 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm  Comments (45)  

How To Applique a Leaf

I’m offering up this tutorial of sorts to demonstrate how I do needle-turn applique.

I’m using a leaf as my example.

Someday I’ll show you how I make perfectly round circles, but I’ll have to get my act together a little lot more first.

Before we begin, let me state for the record that there is way more than one way to skin a cat (as my grandma used to always say) so keep in mind that this is just the way I do it, and there are many, many other methods out there, so don’t take this tutorial too seriously.

Quilting is fun . . .

Applique is not a bad word.

Oh, and you’ll have to excuse my horrible photography. (I need a new camera, and lessons on how to use it.)

Here we go . . .

In preparation for the applique, in this case, where precise placement is desirable, I’ve traced my design onto my background fabric, so you’ll see my pencil markings. In other instances where the placement is not so important, I don’t bother to mark. I mean, why do more work than you have to?

Since I have lots of leaves to make, I made my template out of template plastic. If I’m only going to use the template once or twice, then I just use plain paper or freezer paper and throw it away after my pieces are cut. But this quilt is going to have about a quintillion leaves, all alike, so I need my template to be able to withstand all the tracing.

I trace around my template onto the right side of the fabric using a marking pencil that will show up.

On this red, I used a Clover Fine White Marking Pen. The marks from this pen disappear when the piece is pressed.

If I needed something dark that would show up on a light fabric, I would have used a silver Roxanne’s marking pencil or something else. I have a whole stockpile of marking pencils of different kinds. Don’t be shy — go ahead and admit that you do, too.

After I trace around my template, I cut out the leaf 3/8″ – 1/4″ outside the drawn line.

Then I position the leaf on my background fabric and pin it in place. I use 1/2″ sequin pins because they don’t get in my way or catch my thread as easily while I’m stitching.

And speaking of thread, you should use thread that matches the piece you’re appliqueing down, not your background fabric. When I have an exceptionally “busy” or multi-colored piece of fabric, and it’s hard to choose what color, then I use a neutral gray.

Oh, and I use Applique Sharps, size 12, as my preferred needle.

So, go ahead and thread your needle and we’ll move on to the actual stitching part . . .

For a leaf, I like to begin about 2/3 of the way down one side, so that I can work toward the point comfortably, and I don’t have to start and stop directly on the point.

Here’s where the term “needle-turn” comes from. Use your needle to turn the edge of the piece under to the marked line. In other words, you’re turning under everything outside the marked line.

Hold it in place with your thumb, and bring your needle up from the back side, through the background fabric and barely catch the folded edge of the leaf.

Now, put your needle back down through the background fabric only, just underneath where you brought it up . . . move over about 1/16″ on the back side, and push it back up through the background fabric and again, barely catch the folded edge of the leaf.

Continue making stitches in this way until you get to the tip of the leaf, and bring your needle and thread up exactly on the point of the leaf.

Turn the piece and push the fabric under the tip of the leaf, again holding it in place with your thumb . . .

Finish the stitch right in the point . . .

. . . and begin making stitches down the other side. It helps if you take your stitches closer together as you near the point and leave the point (in other words, make your stitches smaller than 1/16″ near the point on both sides).

Do the other point the same way: Take a stitch exactly in the point, push the seam allowance under on the opposite side, and continue down the side of the leaf.

When you get back to the place where you started, push your needle down through the background fabric to the back . . .

. . . pull the thread through, and take several little tacking stitches in the background fabric behind the leaf to secure the thread.

Remove your pins, and there you have it, your perfect little leaf!

Repeat as necessary . . . in this case, for my quilt, about a quintillion more times! And yes, I fully intend to show you my quilt when it’s finished . . . in a few years.

Published in: on October 4, 2011 at 7:29 pm  Comments (6)  

It’s A Sign

Have you ever heard the Thin Lizzy song, “The Boys Are Back In Town”? Well, in that song, from way back in 1982, they mention Dino’s Bar & Grill. My cousin’s name is Deno. He’s a bachelor, loves to BBQ, and he does a lot of standing in his kitchen watching NASCAR on TV and drinking beer on the weekends. He also loves late 70s/early 80s music, so I made him this sign because it couldn’t be more appropriate for him:I thought I’d go into a little more detail on exactly how I made it. A tutorial, of sorts . . .

I wanted to make a framed sign, so first I went shopping for the frame. I found this great shadowbox frame on sale at the local craft store, so it was perfect.Then I picked a piece of scrapbooking paper to use for the background, and some other colors for the letters I wanted to put on the background (burgundy, brown, and dark green).

I picked some fonts that were on my computer that I thought would do, then I fit them into the 12″ x 12″ area I’d be working with, till they looked the way I wanted them to, then printed them out on plain paper from my printer. (I used InDesign for the layout part, but you could do it in several different applications.)Now I know there are special cutters that scrapbookers use, and there are probably easier ways of doing this part, but I’m not a scrapbooker, so I did this part the old-fashioned (read hard) way. I cut out each letter from the paper printout . . . . . . then I placed it upside down on the BACK side of the scrapbook paper, and traced around it with a marker that would show up.Then I cut them out of the scrapbook paper. Then I laid them all out on the background sheet like I wanted them to be . . .

. . . and used YES! Paste to glue them all down. I just painted the back side of each letter with the paste and pressed it into position on the background sheet.I use YES! Paste because it doesn’t wrinkle the paper, so everything stays neat and flat and smooth.Then I just put the entire thing in the frame like a picture would go. That is ALL there is to it!Deno loves it, and I like it so much that I’m intending to do one for me and My Cowboy here at the old ranch shack. I wanted it to say “Cowboys Welcome”, but My Cowboy says that might get me in trouble, especially when he’s not home! So I think I’ll just make it say “Prairie Moon Ranch”. Safer that way . . .

Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 7:36 pm  Comments (3)  

Makin’ An Apron

A Tutorial

Using a tea towel to make an apron

This is a really quick way to whip up a cute little apron in no time. Using the tea towel means there’s no work to creating the apron front, because all the edges are already hemmed!

What you’ll need:

A 20″ x 28″ tea towel

1/3 -1/2 yard of a coordinating cotton fabric

How to do it:

From your coordinating fabric, cut the following:

Two strips 3″ wide by 40″ long (or WOF, then cut off the selvage ends)

One strip 4″ wide by 18″ long

Working with one 3″ strip, fold the strip in half lengthwise, right sides together. Pin all along the length.

Place your ruler at a 45-degree angle close to one end and mark a diagonal line.

Starting at the edge without the marked line, and backstitching at the beginning, stitch a 1/4″ seam all down the raw edges to make a tube. When you come to the drawn line, turn and stitch on the line over to the folded edge, backstitching at the end.

Trim the end 1/4″ from the stitching.

Using a bodkin . . .

. . . turn the tube right side out. I used my Purple Thang . . .

. . . to poke the pointy end out nicely. Press the strip flat.

Repeat for the other strip. These are your tie strings. Set them aside for now.

Next, press your tea towel and cut the hem off of one long side. Cut off as little as possible, just enough to remove the hemmed edge.

Hand sew a long running stitch across the raw edge, about 3/8″ from the raw edge. This will be your pull string for making gathers.

Mark the center point with a pin.

We’re now ready to work on the waistband. Press under 1/2″ along one long side of the 4″ x 18″ strip.

Mark the center point of the opposite long edge with a pin.

Match this raw edge of the waistband strip up with the apron front, right sides together, matching the center points that you marked with pins. Pin the center points together.

Overlap the end of the waistband strip off the edge of the tea towel 1/2″ and pin in place.

Overlap the other end 1/2″ and pin in place.

Use your hand-sewn pull string to gather the top edge of the tea towel to fit the waistband strip. Pin in place.

Work with each half separately.

Stitch, using a 1/2″ seam, and backstitching at both ends.

Remove the pins and the gathering string, and gently press the waistband up and away from the apron front.

Now you’re ready to use the tie strings you made. Place a tie string (with the seam toward the bottom) on the waistband strip, matching up the raw edges.

Fold the waistband strip down on top of it, matching the folded edges of the waistband strip to each other, with the tie string trapped inside. Pin in place.

Stitch across the end of the waistband, backstitching at both ends, close to the edge of the apron (1/2″ seam). Trim the corner at an angle.

Repeat for the other tie string on the other end of the waistband.

Turn the waistband right side out and over to the back, letting the folded edge cover the seam. Pin in place along the seam.

Now, you can either topstitch this on the sewing machine or hand stitch it down. I prefer doing it by hand, because I do a better job that way. 

At this point, you’re basically done, but you could, like I did, choose to add some decoration to the front of your apron, such as an applique motif, a pocket, or some personalization.

Tie it up in ribbon with some wooden spoons and your favorite recipe tucked in, and you’ve got the perfect quick hostess gift!

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 8:15 am  Comments (6)  
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The Retirement Life of a Necktie

They look so pretty on display. They sell for anywhere from $5 to $300, possibly more. They’re a popular gift for men. Styles come and go . . . which gives most of them a limited wardrobe lifespan. What happens to them after they’ve outlived their original purpose? 

Our story begins at Prairie Moon Quilts . . .

Situated in a studio out in the country at Prairie Moon Ranch, the owner, that’s me, doesn’t do a lot of socializing, which sometimes usually lets my mind work overtime. During one such solitary brainstorming session, which nearly gave me an aneurysm, I came up with the idea of launching a charity project to make quilts for organizations to use as fundraisers. I had an extensive collection of necktie fabrics just begging to be used, and somehow, the Old American Cowboy phrase “Necktie Social” popped into my head, and I was off and loping. That was in January of 2009. You can read all about it here: Necktie Social.

Since launching the Necktie Social Project, I’ve been asked many times about exactly how I prepare the neckties for use in a quilt. It’s been suggested by several that I just write a tutorial on it, and although it’s been a long time coming, I’ve finally gotten it together. So if you want to see what we’re doing with all the ties that come to live out their retirement at Prairie Moon Ranch, or if you desire to turn your collection of neckties into a quilt, just read on . . .

I must first offer up this disclaimer because my Grandma always said: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Please keep in mind that this is MY way of doing it, and I’m sure there are many other methods you could use, so I’ll give you the same advice my Aunt Ruby always offered me, and I live by it to this day: “Take all the advice you can get, then do as you please!”

But here’s why I do it the way I do . . .

I like for my quilts to be washable. To me, that means that the fabrics and materials I use in my quilts need to washable. Therefore, I pre-wash my fabrics to make sure that they’re not going to bleed or shrink in the finished quilt. Same with neckties. I figure if I treat them as badly up front as they’ll ever be treated once they’re in a quilt, they should hold up in the finished project just fine. If they don’t, I prefer to know that before I’ve done all the work on a quilt, only to have it fall apart or discolor the first time I need to wash it. This way, I can weed out the pieces that aren’t going to hold up, and use only the ones that pass my initial testing phase, scientific though it may be.

So let’s proceed . . . We’ll use the following bunch of neckties as our example batch. This box of 65 neckties was generously donated by GrantC, specifically for the Necktie Social Project.

The first thing I do is throw the ties in the washing machine — gasp! And I wash them in HOT water with regular laundry detergent on a regular cycle — gasp! Purex was what I happened to have on hand for this batch. I also add a Color Catcher to the load, which helps collect loose dyes that happen to float around during the wash. If it’s an especially large load, I sometimes add two Color Catchers. Other than that, they get no special treatment, because I want to know if they can take it, and right now is the best time to find out.

When the washer stops, it’s time to put the ties into the dryer. At this point, they are usually a tangled mess, so prepare to spend about 10 minutes in front of your washing machine untangling them as you put them into the dryer. Try to refrain from cussing during this important exercise in patience.

I dry them in the regular dryer on the regular cycle, not a delicate cycle. I throw in a fabric softener sheet to help eliminate static, since necktie fabric is prone to static. When they’re all dry, I take them out and put them into a big basket. Here’s GrantC’s bunch of ties, all washed and dried.

The next task is to disassemble all the neckties to get the usable fabric out of them. I usually take a basket of ties, my seam ripper and scissors, an empty basket, and a huge empty mixing bowl, and plant myself in my chair with “Lonesome Dove” in the DVD player, and just spend an evening now and then taking the ties apart. The above picture is my starting basket with the laundered ties ready to be disassembled. 

Ties are generally sewn in one long seam down the back, and sometimes if you get it going just right, you can pull a thread, and it will unravel all down the length of the tie and speed things up greatly. Others are more meticulously stitched, so sometimes you have to use a seam ripper and rip down the entire length yourself.

Then you can strip out the “filler” from the middle, and just throw it away.

I also cut off the inside lining on the ends, using my scissors. I throw that part away as well.

You’re now left with just the tie fabric, which you will note is cut on the bias.

Here’s my mixing bowl, which I usually just hold in my lap, and it catches all the parts I’m throwing away:

I use the empty basket to hold the tie fabric once I’ve gotten the ties disassembled. Here’s the most recent batch I worked on:

When I feel like I’ve done enough for one session, I take the basket of disassembled ties to the ironing board, and set my iron on the silk setting with steam. At this point, I’d like to ask that you ignore that I am in desperate need of a new ironing board cover. I iron all the tie pieces, usually from the wrong side, since it’s easier to iron out the “curliness” . . .

. . . then I fold them and store them in a plastic bin until I’m ready to use them in a project. If there is a particularly stubborn piece, I have my bottle of Mary Ellen’s Best Press handy to use to spray it, if I need to.

Tie fabrics are usually silk or something that behaves like it, and it is thin and slithers around really easily. In order to easily work with it in a quilt, it needs to be stabilized. For this I use a lightweight fusible-on-one-side interfacing. I use the lightest weight I can find. This just happens to be Pellon I found on sale somewhere.

You first want to examine the tie you’ll be using to make sure that there are no tears, rips, stains, or threadbare places on it.If you find any, cut them out, or plan to work around them. Some ties have had a harder life than others over time! Trim a piece of fusible interfacing to fit the tie, and follow the instructions on your interfacing to fuse it to the necktie on the WRONG side. I usually just do one section at a time, and don’t even do the entire tie if I don’t intend to use it all just then. If you have one handy, a teflon pressing sheet really helps with this part. Really. Helps. You’ll be sold on teflon pressing sheets. I promise. Kelly over at I Have A Notion has a couple different choices for sale. I highly recommend one. Highly.

And that, my dedicated readers (thanks for making it this far with me) is all that needs to be done. You are now ready to cut the necktie into the patches you need for your quilt block.

Ties are generally dark colored, but now and then you come across some brighter ones. If you have lots of ties, you can sort of plan a color arrangement to keep your quilt from being too dark and dull.

Once I have a finished quilt made of neckties, if I ever need to wash it, the worst is over. I always launder a finished quilt in cold water on a gentle cycle with a very gentle detergent such as Woolite or Orvus Paste. If I dry it in the dryer, I never dry it completely dry. I take it out while still a bit damp and let if finish air drying flat. If it has embellishments, I won’t launder it in a regular washing machine. If it badly needed cleaning, I’d take it to a dry cleaners. 

For the Necktie Social Project, the first quilt we made is a BowTie design. I purchased a woven cotton to use as a background in each block, so they would all have the same background, then used the different ties to make up the blocks. Having the background fabric all the same and in a lighter color made the quilt not so dark and boring. In fact, it’s downright interesting because each tie is a different fabric, and they are very fun to look at. When the quilt is finished, you will be able to see pictures of it on the Necktie Social page on my website. I will also be publishing the pattern we used in the Free Patterns section once the recipient has the quilt in their possession, sometime this May, so keep checking back.

And then . . . we’ll be starting on the next one! 

So here’s a note to all you ready-to-retire neckties out there: Don’t ever lose hope. Just ask to be sent to Prairie Moon Ranch, or somehow get lucky enough to be made into a quilt. Retirement can be a wonderful thing!

Published in: on April 8, 2010 at 1:17 pm  Comments (4)