Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Quilt Binding 101

 When I got the urge to start this quilt, the fabric had been sitting on my sewing table for quite a while and I really had no plans for it, so a quilt seemed like a good choice.  I wanted something simple and mindless.  I wasn't in the mood to think too hard about measurements and fabric placement.  I just wanted to sew.  I came up with a VERY simple quilt top, which I figured I'd try free motion quilting on.  I wasn't too excited about the free motion quilting part of that idea, so when I finished, the quilt tops sat there for about half of the year.  Finally, I decided it was time to get these quilts out of the craft room and into the family room.  While I was at it, I took pictures of the quilt binding process.

If you've ever wanted to learn to bind a quilt, here's the step by step tutorial.  If you really don't care, please don't waste your time reading this, because it's very picture heavy.

I use 2 1/2 inch strips when I make quilt bindings.  I use a cutting mat, rotary cutter, and quilting ruler to make sure my strips are perfect.

Once the strips are cut, it's time to join them together.  I place two pieces (right sides together) and sew from corner to corner.  I overlapped a little on the ends of each piece because I knew I'd cut that part off.  You can draw a line to follow if you'd like, but I just eyeball it.

Cut off the extra fabric.

When you open in up, it looks like this.  Press the seams to one side and then keep adding more strips in the same way.

Next, you need to iron your fabric.  In the past I would fold my fabric, wrong sides together, finger press it down, and then iron it.  It's not hard and it's not too time consuming, but then I spotted this cool contraption on a quilting show on PBS. (There I go again, admitting that I spend my spare time watching sewing shows on public television. Nerd alert!)  This is a binding maker from Singer.  It is so cool! It folds, presses, and spits out perfect quilt binding in about 2 minutes. 

It comes out of the machine perfectly pressed.  That little piece on the end is the iron. It has a little roller in it so everything is automatic.  If you sew, you know how cool this is!  It even makes piping, although I haven't tried that yet.  Ok, so if you don't have this cool machine, just fold the fabric in half and iron.  That's the way I have made it for the past 15 years and it works just fine. 

Just one more picture of my fun new toy doing its thing.

Ok, maybe just one more.  See how it fold the fabric for you before going into the iron.  You can get that tip in other sizes too.  It's "sew" much fun!

When you're done pressing, you'll have a pile of quilt binding.  Get ready to sew.

The first thing I do is trim my starting edge at an angle.

Then I open it up and fold it back.

When you close the fabric back up, it gives you a clean edge.

To start binding my quilts, I usually don't start at a corner.  I just pick somewhere in the middle, at the bottom, and line my binding fabric up.  You'll notice that I have the raw edge of my quilt lined up with the raw edge of my binding fabric. The over hanging fabric is my quilt batting, and you can't see it but the backing fabric is there too.

Line the presser foot up along the edge of the fabric, backtack a few stitches and then start sewing a straight line.

When you get just about to the end, maybe a quarter of an inch away, backstitch about an inch.

Pull the binding fabric back on top of itself, so it folds into a 45 degree angle.

Then, fold it back on top of itself, lining the edge up with the next side you need to sew.

I know that's kind of tricky.  Let's try that one more time.  I'm close to the edge.

Backstitch an inch.


Fold and line up with the new side.

Then, you can lift your presser foot, turn your quilt, and get ready to sew the next side.

When you get to the end, turn the fabric under again, like you did at the beginning.  That gives it a nice clean edge.

Finish sewing the binding down. 

Hey, look at that!  Someone got a pretty new cutting mat!  I really needed a new cutting mat and found this one in red.  I've never seen a red cutting mat before, but I'm loving it!

I use my ruler and rotary cutter to remove the extra batting and backing fabric.  I line the quilt ruler up along the edge of the binding fabric and cut.  This still leaves that 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Don't cut that off, because it's what makes the binding fluffly.

When you're done trimming, the quilt will look like this.

Flip the quilt to the back side, roll the fabric around the edge and pin.  I really hate pinning, so I only do it when I really have to.  The first couple of times you bind a quilt, you'll want to pin.  After that, just hold it with your fingers and go for it.

When you are sewing the binding down, you want to get REALLY close to the edge.  See how my needle is right next to the edge of the binding fabric.  I want to go right along that edge.  It takes some practice.

When you get to a corner, you'll need to fold the fabric.

It makes a nice mitered corner. When you get to the point, put the needle down into the fabric, and turn the quilt so you can keep sewing.

Keep going all the way around the quilt.

Here's my finished quilt.  I can't say I'm in love with it.  I love the fabrics, but I'm a little bored with the finished product.  

I did get to try my hand at machine quilting.  I made the swirly patterns in the big squares, which is something I've never done before.

I made two of these quilts and put them over the chairs in my family room.  They add a little color and I'm happy about that.  If you're working on a quilt of your own, I'd love to see it.  You can email me a picture at

Happy quilting!
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vintage Sheet Quilt

A few months ago I was browsing different sewing blogs and came across several different quilts made from vintage sheets.  I've never been a huge fan of the shabby chic look, and the frilly look has never been a favorite either, but I do love vintage!  I started looking around for vintage sheets and didn't find anything quite vintage enough. (80's sheets aren't quite vintage in my book.) I asked my mom to keep an eye out for me, and she found the vintage sheet motherload in about 2 days flat.

Well, those vintage sheets sat in my cupboard for quite a long time.  I didn't really know what I was going to do with them and it was a ton of fabric.  I was a bit overwhelmed.  Then, one day, I decided that doing something (anything) was better than nothing, so I started cutting them up.  (More on that later.  I definitely learned a few things about how to tackle the cutting phase.)  I decided to cut the sheets in fat quarters and then use the fabric to make a little quilt.

What do you think?  Not bad for a bunch of old sheets!  I used a combination of 5 inch squares from sheets and 5 inch plain white fabric squares. I wanted to make a small quilt because I think it's a good example of a simple quilt that even a beginner could do.  I did my own quilting on this one. I've always enjoyed taking my quilts to my quilt lady to finish up for me.  I know how to do my own quilting, but it's my least favorite part of the whole process.  I figured if I made a quilt that was small enough, I could tackle quilting it myself.  Surprisingly, I didn't hate the process and I didn't even hate the finished product.  (Usually, when I try to do it on my own, I end up cringing every time I look at it.)  This time, I think it turned out ok!  I think the quilting pattern adds to the overall look too.

My daughter's eyes lit up when she saw the finished quilt.  I think she almost had a bit of panic when she asked who this was for, probably afraid I was going to give it away.  I told her I was going to use it as a sample, but that she could have it when I was done taking pictures of it.  In her very calm voice she sighed and said, "I really love that one."

So, friends, I have several of these vintage sheet fat quarter bundles all packaged up. I have also written up the pattern for this quilt with super-easy instructions.  This is a great beginner quilt.  The vintage sheet bundles are available for purchase.  Feel free to email me and I can hook you up.  (  The bundles will be selling for $12 per pack of 7 fat quarters. For those of you who are unfamiliar with fat quarters, it is an 18"x22" rectangle.

I'm kind of in love with vintage sheets now.

Happy quilting!
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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Copper Decor

I don't know what it is about copper, but I'm loving it lately. I've been trying to find ways to incorporate copper into my decorating.

I bought this bowl for $2 at a garage sale a few years ago. I put it on my bookshelf with a few old books and it adds the perfect amount of brightness.

This is my favorite copper bowl. It's a big antique bowl that I bought on eBay a few years back. I only paid about $20 for it and I LOVE it. It was hanging on my pot rack for a long time and I've decided to let it shine on my bookshelf.

I added a few fall elements to my bookshelves too and they blend in so well with the copper bowls.

I'm not sure what I will do when it's time to change things out for Christmas. Does copper look good with traditional Christmas decor? Well, I will find out soon enough because the Christmas decorations are coming out on Friday!

Happy decorating!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

It's Almost Baking Time - My Favorite Easy Spritz Cookie Recipe

Here they are...

the first Christmas cookies of the season at our house!

Recipe for Spritz Cookies

1 cup butter (room temperature)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Mix butter and powdered sugar.  Add egg yolks and vanilla.  Mix in flour and salt.
Use a cookie press to shape cookie dough on a lined baking sheet. (I use a Silpat liner.)
Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes.
Frost with a powdered sugar and milk glaze.
Add sprinkles.
Let the Christmas baking begin!!!
This is my favorite cookie press. I've owned several cookie presses over the years and the Cuisinart Electric is the one I've had the best luck with. I also highly suggest using a Silpat baking mat when you bake cookies. It makes the cookies just slide ride off the pan and have the perfect golden brown tint on the bottom.
Happy baking, Friends!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Homemade Bread and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday was Veteran's Day and the kids and I were given the gift of time.  It was a day off in the middle of the week that we all needed.  My daughter's Veteran's Day concert was the night before and it was a great concert.  She didn't seem like her perky self, but I didn't really think much of it... until the fever set in.  I guess if you have to get sick, it's best to do it on a day off from school.  So, my daughter was down and out, my son wanted to hang out with friends, and I'm just trying to take it easy and ride out my back pain.  In the midst of resting and relaxing, I decided that it was a good day for baking bread and cookies.  Ok, when is it NOT a good day for baking bread and cookies??

I started with the bread because it's the easiest.  Friends, I know you may think this sounds crazy, but homemade bread is the easiest treat ever!  I use the same recipe that my mom always did when I was growing up.  Sometimes I will use whole wheat flower instead of white, but it's always the same basic recipe.  I make the dough in my bread machine, on the dough cycle, because it makes the process SO much easier.  Once the dough is ready I put it into bread pans to rise again.  I don't like the way my bread machine cooks the bread, so that's why I just use the dough cycle.

If you don't own a bread machine, you can buy one for CHEAP at Goodwill.  I use mine on a regular basis and I actually have two because it makes the double batches of cinnamon rolls so much easier.

If you're ready to try some easy homemade bread, here's my recipe:

1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups scalded milk
1 Tbsp shortening
6 cups flour
(white, whole wheat, or a combination)
2 Tbsp sugar
2tsp salt
Combine yeast and warm water.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes.  Scald the milk and add the shortening so that it melts.  Put the milk mixture into the bread machine first. Add the rest of the dry ingredients on top of the milk.  Then, pour the yeast mixture on the very top.  Set your bread machine to the dough cycle and wait for it to beep at you!  Once it has risen in the machine, form into loaves and let rise again until it has doubled in size.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. 

Yeast is very easy to work with and shouldn't be intimidating. When I dissolve the yeast in the warm water, I make sure the water feels slightly warmer than bathtub water.  If it is super hot, it will kill the yeast.  If you use cold water, it won't activate.  I also make sure the milk is about that same temperature.  Finally, when I let the bread rise in the pans, I usually turn on my oven to preheat and just set the pans on the stove.  It gives the pans just enough warmth to help them rise.

In addition to homemade bread, it was also a chocolate chip cookie kind of day.  Luckily, one kiddo was napping and the other was at a friends house, so I just ate all of the cookies myself and hid the evidence.  Ok, just kidding on that one.  Actually, after baking the cookies, I put them all into individual baggies and into a freezer container.  That way, as the kids are making their lunches, they can pull out a bag of 2 cookies and put it into their lunches. By the time lunch rolls around, the cookies have thawed and are ready to eat.  

Here's the recipe:
1 Cup Crisco shortening (original, not butter flavor)
3/4 Cup brown sugar
3/4 Cup white sugar
Mix until soft and fluffy.

2 Eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix just until blended.

Dry ingredients:
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Mix it up and add 8-12 oz of chocolate chips.

Bake for 10 minutes (or less) at 350 degrees. My oven is a standard oven, not convection, and this is what I do.

I didn't check a bunch of items off of my To Do list on Veteran's Day, but I did get to spend time with my kids, rest, and do a little baking.  All in all, I'd say that's a productive day.

Happy baking!

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