Amy Butler Play Quilt

Finally finished! 

The quilt is from Amy Butler’s Little Stitches for Little Ones, the fabric is from Timeless Treasures’ Apple line by Alice Kennedy.  I started it last fall, and have been alternately picking it up and setting it aside.  I’m a little surprised at how long it took given that I got the cutting done a while ago, but I guess I’ve had too many other sewing projects competing with it.  Ultimately, this play quilt got done before its recipient arrived (still waiting, if you hadn’t guessed), so it got done “in time.”

This was a relatively simple quilt to make.  The blocks were just strips of fabric, assembled together into blocks which are later sewn into the quilt top.  I learned to be a bit more careful in assembling my blocks–I had some upside down which required ripping (though not too much).  I’m not so thrilled with the fabric in the end.  It’s a little too “1970” for me all put together (though I did like the 1970 aspect when I ordered it) but on the other hand when have you not seen loud colors on kids’ things?  It’s not a quilt for our bed, after all.  I also got concerned about this fabric when I ironed it–the green used for the backing and the binding seemed to discolor under heat (and even under a press cloth–not that, in my opinion, you should even have to do that for quilting fabric!)  It seems to have returned to its intended color upon cooling (green rather than rust-green) but it was a bit disconcerting to watch as I ironed.

Just a few photos from the process…

Cut fabric

Assembled quilt top

Assembled quilt, binding strips cut

Finished quilt (iPhone photos here, unfortunately).

Oliver + S Sailboat Top

I’ve been meaning to get a shot of this shirt being modelled for you by little E, but just haven’t gotten around to it.  He’s not exactly easy to photograph (moving target, anyone?), and this is supposed to be too big for him so in fact he hasn’t even tried it on.  He is on the big side, however, though so I’d better get on it before I find out it’s too small!

It’s hard to find cute patterns out there for boys, and while Oliver + S, like all other pattern companies, is weighted heavily towards dresses, skirts, and the like, the boys patterns they do have are unique and very cute.  (I can’t say the same for most pattern companies–they boys patterns they have are downright uninspiring at best, and hokey at worst).   Thanks to an online sale, a few months ago I ordered the Oliver + S Sailboat Top, Skirt and Pants Pattern (obviously I have in mind the top and pants, not the skirt) and decided to make size 3T.  Never knowing how long it will take me to finish one of these, I always make a bigger size that I need to give myself a bit of a cushion.

Oliver + S Sailboat Top, Skirt + Pants - Sizes 6m - 3T - Click Image to Close

I also wanted to use this opportunity to try my hand at sewing knit fabrics rather than woven cotton (i.e. the quilting fabric that so far is the only material that I’ve used).  I’m a bit more interested in apparel sewing than quilting (but that’s what kclever is for), but am still straddling the fence to some degree.  But apparel sewing, besides the challenges of fit and flatter, also opens up a huge array of fabric choices, from lacy sheers to heavier weight brocades and wools.  That’s well into the advanced category–first I need to get comfortable with jersey/knit fabrics–after all, that’s probably the type of fabric most of us wear everyday.

The difficulty with jerseys is that special stitches that also stretch must be used–otherwise you get ripping seams, puckering fabric–nothing  you much want in your clothing.  I found Sew U: Home Stretch indispensable to give me the confidence and technique to go ahead even with my very basic Kenmore (serious sewers would have a serger for their knits–I’m not sure I can justify that one yet!).  And as I learned when I first began to knit, child-size projects are perfect for learning new techniques–they are faster to complete and there’s less to rip out when you make those inevitable beginner’s mistakes.

And–I love the result!  The pattern I found to be well written–there’s a little unclarity about attaching the interfacing to reinforce the button and button holes, but if I figured it out, it can’t be that hard.  I did have some challenges with the fabric, as to be expected, but felt comfortable with it by the end.  I used the zigzag stitch, which works fine but isn’t ideal because it’s hard to figure out how to measure your seam allowance–rather than one straight line you have little zees back and forth making a rather wide seam.  (I have since learned of the specialized knit stitch on my machine which is a bit easier to use but also slower going, so it’s hard to say which I prefer).

I had some issues on the buttonholes as well.  I haven’t generally had problems with buttonholes since I started sewing again, but am always a a bit nervous about them.  (My mom’s heavy olive green Kenmore–1970s, need I say more–was none to sharp in the buttonhole department and the memory lingers on!).  My machine is just fine, but I think the newness of jersey plus various layers of cloth, and my poor job at marking the fabric and trimming the interior seam allowances all contributed to the fact that I had to sew and re-rip many times over–sometimes the fabric didn’t move through the machine, giving me the smallest buttonhole imaginable, other times the buttonholes ended up way too close together or crooked (which is pretty noticeable on striped fabric).  I got to what I thought was good enough, but after putting it aside a day or two pulled out the seam ripper, tried again, and finally got it just right.  (It’s hard to know in those circumstances–you don’t want to rip out “close enough” to then replace it with something worse, but you know it will continue to bother you if you don’t…).

This time at least, it all worked out.  I think that making sure to really HELP that fabric through the machine was what saved this shirt (and my sanity) in the end–though next time I’ll better prepare the fabric and hopefully avoid this problem as well.

Some “detail shots” — those darn buttonholes:

The adorable curved hem, which in addition to the button detail, also makes this more special than any old striped shirt.  While you’d have to zoom in to the photo, you can also see my zigzag seam topstitching.  (I have since learned that I could probably have topstitched with a long basting length stitch as it’s mainly decorative–can anyone confirm)?  I think the zigzag works on a little boy’s top, but not sure I’d want that on something for myself.

I’m already at work on another smaller version of this shirt, plus pants, in a slightly smaller size.  Don’t want Don Segundo to have only hand-me-downs after all.  (Don Segundo is my dorky way of trying to make “#2” sound a bit more special until the “big reveal” of his name–and putting my college degree in Spanish to work!)

Birthday Potholders – Amy Butler Style

While in Cycle class on Saturday morning, I had a spark of panic and then a spark of creativity.  For a moment I was convinced that I had forgotten — completely forgotten — my friend Becky’s birthday.  The landmark of MLK day and a previous birthday celebration in 2008 over the long weekend concerned me and my timeliness.  That was the panic part, then I decided that I might as well get a little crafty over the current long weekend, knowing Becky would easily forgive me. Throughout that class and the next one, I played around with what to make and how to make it.  Yes, I was THAT excited.

As it turns out, I hadn’t missed her birthday at all, and there were a lot of exciting ideas on thelongthread.com to explore.  After perusing the options, I decided to craft up some potholders, adapted from a tutorial on sew mama sew.  Going through my crate of scraps, I came across the fabric from my Sampler Quilt — which is still incomplete, ahem. The fabric is predominantly Amy Butler’s designs.

After looking at the pieces available I decided to start with 2 1/2 inch strips of varying varieties.  I cut a few strips and sewed a lot together (yes, that’s my approximation) along the 2 1/2 inch width side.  It was just one long string — almost looked like a flag.

I snipped apart each sewed piece and then sew them together, again, until I had one long continuous strip of fabric about 2 1/2 inches in width.

The next step was to iron or press along the folds. Ideally, I would have finger pressed and then iron pressed, but I just didn’t care that much for accuracy.  This is a tedious step, but 30 Rock On Demand certainly helped.

I then cut the 2 1/2 inch strips into 9 inch segments.  I sewed about 4 or 5 strips together, along the 9 inch length side.  I managed to get about 4 squares out of this.  I “squared” up the squares making sure that each was a true square with straight edges.  One pattern suggested having the front and back of the patchwork, but I opted for quantity over quality and used large 9 inch square solid pieces for the back.  I pinned the patchwork square and solid square together on a 9 inch square of batting.

The fabric fronts were facing together first and then that was pinned on the batting. Imagine it this way:  Place one fabric square, right side up, on the backing.  Next place another fabric square, right side down (the right sides are essentially facing each other) on top of the first square.  Pin.

I probably should have used some specialized insulation batting, but Becky, just beware.

Next, I sewed three of the four sides together, and then turned it inside out.  This made the batting inside and the right sides facing outward.  I pressed the loose ends inside with about 1/4 inch seam and sewed tight.  I opted to sew a fabric loop in the end in case Becky wants to hang it…

Next came the quilting part.  I opted to quilt length wise across the quilt rather than every single square.  I pressed the entire potholder beforehand which made this much easier, especially with the help of the quilting foot.

And, Voila!  The potholders are completed!  I wish I could say the same for the quilt.

Amy Butler Apron from “In Stitches”

Just under a year ago, I bought the fabric for the apron pattern in the Amy Butler book, “In Stitches.”  I had seen some cute kitchen-themed fabric on Sew Mama Sew and thought an apron was a nice simple project that would be very apropos to images of apples and eggbeaters.  Plus with this apron I would learn to pleat on a “low pressure” project.   (I.e. if the pleats looked a little funny, it’s just an apron!  No stress!)

Even though I ordered intending to use the apples as the main fabric (rationale:  black will camouflage stains), I went back and forth on which fabric to use  as the dominant and which to use as the accent–though it was always pretty clear that the red print was meant to be the waistband and trims, and the black for the main skirt panel.   “Clear” as it may have been, I just found that I loved the eggbeater print far more than the apples and hence I wanted to emphasize that design.

Cutting out the fabric is accomplished by creating a series of rectangles and cutting.  I didn’t have a good work surface for marking my lines, nor did I have a yardstick, each of which would have helped considerably.  (Yes, I have since acquired a yardstick.  Of all the specialized equipment not to have!).  Let’s just say my rectangles were a bit “abstract” in places.  I pinned carefully enough so that the irregularity was hidden in a seam allowance that shifted in width, rather than stitching up an apron that looked off kilter, but it was just more evidence that my cutting was not quite up to snuff.  I probably could have done even better with a rotary cutter, but my rotary mat is small and I thought it might be too hard to get some of these pieces done that way (folding, doing lots of math to figure out the new dimensions to cut that would magically unfold into the correct size, etc…).

The apron is not all that hard to put together–the instructions are clear, and it’s fun to see how the raw edges are all nicely hidden by folds and seams as you progress along.  For me, the fun part of this was learning to make pleats.  I’ve never made pleats or darts (not much use for either on clothing for baby and toddler boys!) but I know that in order to make clothes for myself one day, these are essential techniques to get under my belt.  The pleats were easy enough with the help of an iron followed by basting the folds in place.  (I don’t actually know how similar the technique is for darts, but I imagine there’s some crossover).  And I was pleased to have another “technique” up my sleeve.

My poor job of cutting resurfaced when it turned out the waistband didn’t entirely match up with the skirt of the apron.  I could have ripped it out and fixed it, but ultimately I didn’t think it was much of a problem, nor did I *care* enough about this project  to bother (or, I was too excited to get on to the next ones). 

I finished this project over 3 days at Thanksgiving.  So here it is, a three-day project that actually took 10 months to make (if you count the time the fabric was sitting there between being ordered and actually dug out of storage).  And two months later I am finally posting.  The catch is that I am not in the ideal shape to be modelling much of anything that is not specifically a “maternity” item, and that is particularly true of items with a waistband as you can imagine.  So my friend Liz who visited a few weekends ago is kindly working the apron for this post!