Sewing so easy even I can do it: Nursing Shawl

Nursing Shawl 18

Okay so it’s official: I’m going to be an aunt (again).  This time, though, unlike my lovely instant nieces Tego and HG I get to meet this niece or nephew at birth!  Krystopf and Atlas, the expectant parents, are coming to visit at the end of May.  It’s my big brother’s first time in Newfoundland, though Atlas was here back around the time of Doodle’s Newfoundland Express.  And neither Atlas nor I will let Krystopf forget the fact that SHE bravely came to visit us (by herself!) when she was a just brand new girlfriend, and HE (my own eldest brother) can’t organize himself enough to book a flight.  But for reals now they are coming and I couldn’t be more excited!  It’s a very brief trip but we’ll be sure to cram it with all sorts of fun stuff.

Nursing Shawl 15

While I fully plan to have their wedding present (from last July) finished before they get here,  I thought I would also get cracking on some baby-related things they might find useful in the near future (the baby is due in October).  Now we know that if you put me in front of a sewing machine I am likely to break it.  Like for real.  But this one I think I can handle, because it involves sewing precisely one line.  Even I can do that.  I hope.  Anyway, this post also kicks off my new Kidlet category here at Ali Does It.  Who says you can’t do it yourself when there’s children involved?

Nursing Shawl 14

What we’re going to make today is a nursing shawl, and it’s so simple it’s almost stupid.  But the great thing about this shawl (I think) is that it’s an easy (and fashionable) alternative to nursing bibs and trying to gather blankets around your shoulders and whatever.  And it covers your back, too, like a stylish poncho.  And it’s small enough you can just jam it anywhere in your bag.  And it doesn’t wrinkle.

Start off with some fabric, a nice jersey knit.  I found two that I liked, this pink cotton and then a silky gray polyester blend.  They were $2.99 a metre, which struck me as a good deal.

Nursing Shawl 1

After washing and drying the fabric (to remove sizing and get any shrinkage out of the way), fold the fabric right-side-in along its width (which should be about 60 inches (or about a metre and a half).  This will leave you with something about 30 inches wide.

Nursing Shawl 2

Because fabric stores cut this stuff very quickly, the edges are not exact.  I lined mine up as best I could and then used some sharp sewing scissors to cut along the outer edge to make it more square.

Nursing Shawl 6

Next, use a measuring tape to measure 25″ from the outer edge and pin several times to mark your place. This will run perpendicular to the folded edge.

Nursing Shawl 4

Cut along your markings so you are left with a rectangle that is about 25″ x 30″ (or 25″ x 60″ if you unfolded it).

Now you’ve got one folded edge and three open edges, right?  From one corner of your folded edge, measure 13″ along an open edge and pin to mark it.  This will be the head hole for your shawl.  Pin along the rest of the fabric to hold it in place.

Nursing Shawl 7

Nursing Shawl 5

Now all you have to do is sew along that line, from the edge of the head-hole to the end of the fabric.  It’s only 17″ of sewing.  Of course, my sewing machine and I don’t get along.  And so rather than throw it across the room I just did these by hand with a needle and matching thread and it took no time at all.

Nursing Shawl 8

Then you just flip them right side out and they’re done.  Jersey knit doesn’t fray so you don’t have to worry about hemming the other sides (though you can if you want to, or embellish them with ribbons or whatever you would like).

Nursing Shawl 9

It’s a nice comfortable, breezy fit!

Nursing Shawl 19
At this point, Fussellette laughed and said, “I’m not fit yet for motherhood.”

Nursing Shawl 22

Thanks to Fussellette and Teddy Two for being my models!

Nursing Shawl 16

Quick Cushion Cover

Quick Cushion Cover

My mother made the Pie a cushion a few years ago out of a lovely soft brown corduroy, and he uses it to prop himself up whenever he’s reading in bed.  My mother DID NOT make me a cushion, so you can see who the favourite is right there.
Quick Cushion Cover

She did, however, give me this utterly fantastic fabric remnant as part of my birthday present.  Isn’t it ridiculously awesome?

Quick Cushion Cover

I wanted a bed cushion of my own, and I thought this fabric would do the trick.  It’s almost exactly the right size, after all.

Quick Cushion Cover

And if I just overlap the back part, like so, then I won’t need to add any fasteners. And using the selvages as my open edges means that I don’t have to hem anything either. I love selvage.

Quick Cushion Cover

After cutting the fabric to fit more closely on the sides, I pinned it in place on top of my cushion to line everything up.  I then removed the cushion and added some more pins to keep things in place.

Quick Cushion Cover

A simple seam, reinforced, will do the trick.

Quick Cushion Cover

Then you turn it right side out again.

Quick Cushion Cover

And add another seam, just for security.

Quick Cushion Cover

And then you stuff the cushion back in.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  The whole thing took about fifteen minutes.

Quick Cushion Cover

The pillow of course clashes horribly with our wedding quilt but I don’t really care.  I now have my own cushion, and it’s bigger than his.  Nyah, nyah, nyah.

Quick Cushion Cover

Doodle’s Afghan, Completed

Doodle's Afghan

And about time, too!

Doodle's Afghan

My sewing machine actually broke during the final stages of putting this together.  I found the one sewing machine repair guy in the whole city and took it in to get it fixed post-haste. It was a good thing I did, as the repair guy went on a two-month vacation the day after I picked it up.  Phew!

Doodle's Afghan

After I had everything in nice discrete blocks I had to start sewing them together, which meant that I started to get things with weird corners and strange protuberances — more of a challenge to sew, but I got it done.

Doodle's Afghan

It’s amazing how much smaller the finished top is when you take seam allowances into account.  This used to be the exact size of the box spring and now it’s shrunk significantly.  but it’s nice and thick and cozy.

Doodle's Afghan

The Pie and I decided that two sides of wool pieces would be a little bulky for this blanket, and that all the seams would mean the blanket wouldn’t lie flat.  Not to mention that it would probably be itchy against your skin.  So we went with just a cotton backing, just like we did with the wool patchwork quilts a few years ago, but without the flannel lining.  Because the blanket is large, we decided to do the back in three separate panels of different colours, just for visual interest.  The Pie did the colour picking. It’s definitely funny to watch us wander through fabric stores because we are both so out of our element.

Doodle's Afghan

Doodle's Afghan

Now you see this particular square, with its row of buttons?  Not only does that add a bit of visual interest, but it’s a strategic choice.  I can undo those buttons and then pull the blanket inside-out through it and do them back up.  That way when I sew the lining and backing onto the top piece I can just do all the sides at the same time, and not worry about seams showing later on.  I know.  You can say it.  I am a bit of a genius.

Doodle's Afghan

So I sewed the back onto the front, which took quite a bit of effort and some muscle, too.

Doodle's Afghan

Then I opened up that little buttoned up section and carefully pulled the whole thing through.

Doodle's Afghan

Button it back up and no one’s the wiser.

Doodle's Afghan

Phew. That is one hefty blanket.

Doodle's Afghan

I can’t wait to see if it will fit in my luggage, together with my bridesmaid dress and a million pairs of shoes. Because that’s all I’m bringing to Oregon.  I can’t see anything else fitting in my suitcase.

Doodle's Afghan

Doodle’s Afghan, Stage 3

Doodle's Afghan

Doodle’s wedding is coming up in just a few weeks (almost exactly a month from the date on which I am actually writing this post), so it’s crunch time in terms of getting her and the Cyclist’s afghan put together and sent off in the mail (I am not hefting a giant blanket all the way to Portland in my luggage).

Doodle's Afghan

We have our old box spring set up in my office, and, when our new mattress arrives (hopefully any day now), we will be adding the mattress on top and our guest room will be ready to go.  For now, however, it serves as a handy surface to work on that is safe from corgi incursions.  So here are all the piles of cut-out squares and rectangles, all in the basic order in which I want them to be.  The piece in the middle is my “keystone”, and has many of the colours of the rest of the blanket in one small square.

Doodle's Afghan

So we started at the keystone, laying things out so they spread from the middle out towards the edges.

Doodle's Afghan

Doodle's Afghan

The Pie did most of this layout on his own, because he’s better at Tetris than I am and his arms are longer.

Doodle's Afghan

Although the corgi did help a bit.  By keeping our pieces of wool warm until we needed them. Honestly, no matter how small a piece of fabric is, be it a sock or a giant duvet, this dog will find it and lie on it.

Doodle's Afghan

And here it is in all its glory, almost exactly the size of the bed itself.  It will of course be significantly smaller once we take the seam allowances into account.

Doodle's Afghan

So now all that remains is to sew it all together, which is what I’m working on now.

Doodle's Afghan

I’ve been removing the sections of it that form discrete blocks on their own — that is, in these sections there are no pieces sticking out, and they form their own squares or rectangles when put together.

Doodle's Afghan

I figure it will make it easier to sew the larger blocks to each other when it’s ready to go.

Doodle's Afghan

I used a zigzag stitch on the machine, just to ensure that if there were any gaps in the wool the thread would still catch on somewhere.

Doodle's Afghan

So that’s the back of one block.

Doodle's Afghan

And the front.

Doodle's Afghan

And then that block can be sewn to another block.

Doodle's Afghan

Like so.

Doodle's Afghan

And so on, and so forth.  The sewing is actually coming along really quickly, despite the challenges of sewing different thicknesses of fabric together.  I started yesterday (which is the 13th for me), and I’m over half done just sewing different blocks together.  I’m starting to run out of discrete oblongs and I’m going to have to venture into the more complex polygons at some point shortly.  Then it will be a simple matter of putting them all together.

Doodle's Afghan

I have plenty of pieces left over from the original cutting-out of shapes, and because this sewing is going so well, I think I will end up making the backing out of a random assortment of the same.  Stay tuned!

Fat Quarter Napkins

Happy Birthday Rusty!

[In case you ever marvelled at my magic efficiency, please note that I started this particular project on Labour Day Weekend and didn’t finish it until the 12th of December.  If that makes you feel better.]

I love fabric.  I am the worst sew-er in the world, but I seem to adopted a love of pretty cloth from my mother.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  To assuage my inability to live without fabric and to compensate for the utter lack of storage space I have for it, I buy fat quarters.  These are squares of quilting fabric (usually cotton).

Fat Quarter Napkins

So a metric fat quarter is 50cm square, or 20″ x 20″.  But an American fat quarter (and alas, most of these are), is based on another archaic system and so the pieces are either 18″ x 22″ or 18″ x 21″.  And it’s all approximate anyway.  I’m not really sure of the logic there.  Something to do with yards and standard widths and blah blah blah.

Fat Quarter Napkins

You can also get colour-coordinated fat quarters (usually in packages of four or five).  The nice thing about these is they all go together, so you can hand someone a set of napkins, but they’re all different enough that people can tell theirs apart when they want to re-use them.

Fat Quarter Napkins

A handy home-made napkin ring will also help to differentiate.  The Pie made all of these himself by bending spoons with a set of pliers.  We then sprayed them with a metallic copper paint.

Spray-Painting Indoors

You can also use fabric remnants as well.  You can pick them up for a dollar or two in a fabric store, or use the scraps from another project of yours.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Speaking of fabric remnants, I picked this one up at Jo-Ann last year and didn’t unwrap it until now.  I chose it because turquoise and teal are my favourite colours, and I thought the design on this was pretty.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then I unwrapped it.  WOW.  Talk about a hidden gem!  This will NOT be going into a napkin.  I gotta think on what to do with this one.  Suggestions are welcome.  Just barely not enough to make a skirt, if that gives you an idea of the size.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Anyway, back to the napkins.  First thing you need to do is wash and dry your fabric.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Don’t be alarmed — they will fray.  Oh mercy did these ones ever fray.

Fat Quarter Napkins

And then this one has a slash in it.  I will have to come up with an artful patch of some kind.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then you have to iron them.  I hate ironing.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then comes the actual napkin-making.  It involves hemming and sewing in straight lines and nice edges and stuff and MORE ironing.  None of which I’m particularly good at.  But Maia from Glass Beach has a fantastic and clear tutorial on hemming napkins here that you should check out.  It’s brilliant in its simplicity.  I will try to re-create her instructions as best as I can, but hers are better.

First I used a rotary cutter and a ruler to trim all the squares so that I had right angles.  They don’t necessarily all need to be the same size as their partners (unless you’re making napkins for the Queen or something), but right angles make things a lot easier to deal with.

Fat Quarter Napkins

I highly recommend using a rotary cutter and mat for this job.  It’s very hard to get straight lines with scissors alone, and it’s easier on your hands.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Gren helped by sitting on the fabric as I was trying to cut it and making off with the scraps once I cut them loose.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Save the scraps to stuff a toy later on.  Or do something else with them.  I made mine into a placemat, which you will see on Friday.

Then I gave myself a 1″ seam allowance and traced that with a fabric marker.  Actually I couldn’t get to the fabric store and so used a Crayola washable marker.  It washes out just as well, if not better, than a fabric marker.  Guaranteed.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then you cut 1/2″ tips off all the corners.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Fold the edge of the fabric so the cut line matches up with that line you drew and iron it to create a flat edge.

Fat Quarter Napkins

To get a nice mitred corner, unfold one of those new flaps at the corner.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Fold the other flap over itself, along that marked line.  This seals in your raw edge and prevents fraying.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Now take the corner bit and fold it down so the edge of the folded part lines up with the drawn line on the side with the unfolded flap.  If you have big fingers or are in general not the most dexterous, you could use an awl or a seam ripper to hold things in place for you, like I did in this photo.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then you can fold down the unfolded part again, and then fold it over itself again to seal in the raw edge. You can either iron these new edges flat, or simply pin them.  Either way, I’d add a pin or two in the corners just to hold everything in place.

Fat Quarter Napkins

And look at that — it looks like you know what you’re doing!

Fat Quarter Napkins

Now all you have to do is sew that down, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end to keep your thread from unraveling.  Use an awl or seam ripper to hold the corners in place while you’re sewing them down, too.

Fat Quarter Napkins

And what a pretty napkin you’ve come up with. They look nice with these copper-sprayed spoon napkin rings, don’t they?

Fat Quarter Napkins

Tie them up in a nice little bundle and give them all away!

Fat Quarter Napkins

Baby Boy Blue Blanket

Here is yet another project courtesy of the felted wool sweater.  It’s a present for the newest addition to Kª and Kº’s family.  We shall have to see what young Il Principe thinks of this.  Being an only child is pretty sweet.

Il Principe, in the flesh.

Here I took four sweaters, two gray, one navy, and one black.  These sweaters were of the softer, thinner natural fabrics, such as cashmere and merino.  They felt a bit differently than regular sheep’s wool, with less fuzz.  I cut those suckers up into tons of 3″ squares.

Then I laid them out into a pattern and, like in our other wool patchwork quilt, started sewing them together in long strips.

Because of the nature of the wool I had to do it all by hand, with a needle and thread, using the blanket stitch.

Then I sewed the strips together. 

It looks rather nice, don’t you think?

This is the back of it.  It’s kind of cool, too, but it will be hidden from view.This is the soft cotton I am going to use as the backing.  The blue and the gray match perfectly with the colours of the wool.

Then with great care I pinned the top to the backing.  

The backing is a grid pattern so I was careful to line things up properly. 

I folded over the edges of the cotton to guard against fraying.

Then, with great difficulty owing to the stretchiness of the wool, I machine-basted the two pieces together.  Next time I would probably do this by hand, just because of the way the wool bunched and stretched.

To bind it, I used blanket binding, which I folded in on itself to make smaller.  Shockingly, I had to actually PURCHASE the blanket binding from Fabricland.

It was a simple matter to fold it towards its own centre …

… and then iron a new crease.

My mother was kind enough to sew the binding onto the blanket for me, in exchange for my making of kumquat marmalade.  She has more patience for such things.

The corners are a bit tricky.  You can see here how Mum pins flush across the corner.

Then folds the fabric over the pin as a guide.

Then pins it in place before sewing it down.

Its pretty slick.

You can see at the end she just folded it under itself again before sewing it down.

Embellishments are always important when it comes to babies, but you have to be careful.  No buttons, or anything that babies can eat.  Colourful yarn is a good option.  I thought the orange would look great next to the gray and blue.

The yarn here also serves to anchor the top of the quilt to the bottom so it doesn’t shift around.

I threaded a tapestry needle with the yarn.

Poked it through and back out again.

Here it is back through.

And tied a double knot.

This is what it looks like on the back.

I did that at random points all through.

Here is the finished product.

All ready to be gifted away!

Wool Patchwork Quilt

This was one of the more time-consuming DIY Christmas projects the Pie and I had on our list, and one I couldn’t manage all by myself, so I waited for him to come home before we tackled this in earnest.

This patchwork quilt is an adaptation of a project from Martha Stewart.  Instead of using old sport coats, I had actual bolts of fine wool that I cut up, and my quilt is probably twice the size of the Martha version.

I am not very good at cutting in straight lines, so if a fabric will tear for me, I’m all for it.  I started by tearing 5″ strips from three different coloured pieces of wool fabric.

I then cut those strips into approximate 5″ squares (when am I ever exact?).Now to lay out your quilt in the pattern of your preference.  We did repeating colours, in a 12 x 18 square layout.  Pile up the squares for each of the 12 18-square rows in order, just to get them out of the way.Sew your squares together with about a half-inch seam allowance.

Then have your lovely husband press all those seams flat open.Then, making sure your top ends all line up with each other (because really, nothing else will), sew all the strips together with the same seam allowance.  Make sure that the other seams are sewn flat.Then you can prevail again upon that sunshine of your life to do some more ironing and flatten out the long seams as well.Now you have the top part of your quilt.So now you need a lining and a backing.  We used an old flannel sheet for the lining and a plain cotton broadcloth for the back.  Cut the sheet and broadcloth to size and lay everything out.  The flannel sheet should be on the bottom, with the broadcloth in the middle, right-side-up, and then the quilt top on the top, right-side-down, like so:

Make sure everything is as lined up as possible and pin it all together.  If you are me, one of the edges of your quilt will be a ragged mass of unevenness, where all the square strips end at different spots.  Don’t fret about this — we will do some fixing later.

Sew three edges of the pinned-together fabric up, leaving the fourth edge open (I made the open edge the same as my uneven fabric edge).

Stick your hand into the giant sewn pocket you have created, between the broadcloth backing and the woolen front and turn the whole thing inside out.

Now simply trim the uneven edge until it’s straight and fold it into the pocket before sewing it closed.  I then went around all the edges and sewed them in a similar manner so they all matched.And there you have it folks: a cozy quilt for two.

Roll it up and tie it with ribbon for a quaint and quilted gift!