New Sewing Projects

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as making something by hand.

I’m no master sewer by any means – I’d barely qualify myself as a crafter. I value the ability to craft my own items rather than purchase them and to conceptualize how projects can be formed by its smaller pieces and the process of assembly. I’ve found myself studying my bookshelf, a cheap purchase that is held together one of those cardboard backs and tacks, and theorizing how to best build one of our own. Making something from scratch helps you appreciate how items are held together and the purpose of each step in the creation process.

The last two weekends I picked a couple of simple projects for around the house – a couple of outdoor throw pillows and a floor cushion for the living room.

Last year, I took an old sofa frame that my husband used in his dorm room and painted and waterproofed it for our patio. This year, I wanted a softer touch to the basic frame and simple brown cushion – some throw pillows would do nicely! img_1595

I picked up a couple of pillows for sale at JoAnn’s and some outdoor fabric – while nothing explicitly stated that it was waterproof, I think these will be great additions for when we’re outside enjoying our garden and they’re easy to toss inside to stay out of the rain.

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My new throw pillows with a cup of my favorite black tea – complete with a big slice of lemon! 

When I settle in for school work and need to spread out, I enjoy sitting on the floor with papers and books scattered all over my coffee table and floor. (The kitties love all the crinkly paper to roll on, too.) I usually pull up a cat cushion to sit on but I don’t much prefer all the hair that follows me around afterwards. So, why not a floor cushion so Momma doesn’t have to steal the kitties’ pillow?

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Now the kitties can steal Momma’s cushion instead!

This project I conceptualized on my own – remember those paper dice we made at school as kids, where you cut out the series of squares and folded them together to glue into the cube?  I made this floor cushion the same way.

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Olivia brought me a toy for encouragement – this stringy spider friend cheered me on from it’s spot on the rug. 

This project could have easily gotten out of control in price had I filled it with piles and piles of fluff and batting. Thankfully, I’d recently cleaned out my fabric bin of scraps and bits that were unusable and created a stash bag of leftover fabric for just this project. All of the extra t-shirt scraps from my t-shirt quilt? Lumped together in a big pile of fabric. I stuffed all of these into my cushion and, therefore, eliminated the need to purchase bags and bags of poly-fill. I did buy one bag to soften the outsides of the cushion by surrounding the scrap fabric in a layer of fluff, much like the layer of sweet and juicy pineapple fruit surrounds the less desirable and bulky core.

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Now, I have a special spot of my own in the living room – when Cattigan and Olivia aren’t occupying it themselves, of course.

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Happy sewing!

DIY T-Shirt Quilt

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It’s here! I’ve finished my first-ever quilt, and I am so proud of this project! It is by no means perfect, but it worked for me and my amateur sewing skills and I think it looks wonderful in its imperfections. (My cats love it, too! They were glued to it during every step in the process…)

I didn’t follow any particular pattern as I made this – I did some research on Pinterest and didn’t find anything or any particular approach that I loved. I knew I had 12 KU Band t-shirts (my husband and I met and fell in love thanks to marching band, and this quilt is here as evidence!), I wanted to include sashing (the red polka-dot stripes in between each t-shirt panel), and I didn’t want anything that took me too far beyond straight-stitching. (I saw patterns where they used t-shirts offset on top of black squares to create a shadow effect – while this was a neat effect, it was a little above-and-beyond for my first go.) I gathered some info from quilting friends and diagrams, and off I went!

To preface these instructions, please know that this is not likely to be the most perfect pattern – I picked the steps I did because they made sense to me, not because I have a PhD in quilting. My measurements were not perfect – I ripped out plenty of stitches and tried to hide my cutting mistakes as much as I could – but it’s good enough for my cats and my home. img_1407

If this (and the thoughts of photos taken in the evening with poor light) doesn’t deter you, then read on below for my pattern!

DIY T-Shirt Quilt Instructions

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You will need: 

  1. T-shirts (I picked 12)
  2. Fabric for sashing (stripes between shirts)
  3. Fabric for backing of quilt
  4. Interfacing for t-shirts (I used iron-on) to keep the t-shirts from stretching while sewing
  5. Quilt batting or fleece of some sort (I used iron-on fleece) to line inside of quilt
  6. Thread to match your fabric
  7. Iron (if you chose iron-on interfacing/fleece) & tea towel or light material to guard t-shirt ink while you iron (mine started to smudge!)
  8. Sewing machine
  9. Scissors (or better yet, a rotary cutter! This was a life-saver – it’s like a pizza cutter that cuts fabric.)
  10. Measuring tape
  11. Highly recommended by technically not necessary is a quilting square – I purchased a 12×12 (measures 12 1/2 on the outer edges for seam allowances) transparent quilting square to help cut my t-shirts into perfect squares. Again, another life-saver!

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    My new favorite tools – a quilting square and a rotary cutter. (Not recommended is the piece of wood – I used a piece of wood as a buffer for my rotary cutter and I’m sure this is really bad for your blade, so I’m saving up for a self-healing cutting mat as soon as possible!)

Instructions: 

  1. Decide on numbers. Choose how many t-shirts you will use – my 12 t-shirts made a throw blanket that would not completely cover a twin bed – the more shirts you use, the bigger your blanket. Also, pick how large you want to cut your t-shirts – I purchased a 12×12 inch quilting square to help me cut my shirts and decided (randomly) to go with 3″ of sashing in between each shirt and along the border of the outside.
    1. Using your measurements, draw a diagram to help you figure out how much square footage of fabric you’ll need and divide down to find out how many yards of fabric you’ll need.I purchased 2 yards of fabric for sashing, 4 yards of fleece iron-on interfacing*, 4 yards of blue fabric for the back of the quilt.

      *In retrospect, this should have been 2 yards of normal interfacing rather than fleece to line the shirts and 2 yards of the fleece interfacing. My quilt ended up being twice as thick and it made my machine a little unhappy at the end, but it worked.
       
  2. Pre-wash all t-shirts and fabric to eliminate extra shrinkage/stretching.
  3. Cut your t-shirts & interfacing to your desired size. Using my quilting square, I cut each of my t-shirts to 12 1/2 x 12 1/2 (my quilting square has an extra blue edge that adds 1/4 inch to each side) and cut an equal amount of interfacing pieces to match. I should have been using normal interfacing rather than iron-on fusible fleece interfacing for this, so my shirts were a little thicker going into the sewing stages. Iron your interfacing to your shirts, keeping a tea towel or other cloth between your hot iron and your t-shirt ink – you don’t want it to run or smudge.img_1306
  4. Cut strips of sashing to run along one side of each of your t-shirt panels. My pieces were 3 x 12 1/2 to match the length of my shirts.
  5. Sew your sashing strip to one side of your panels. For each t-shirt, choose one side to sew your sashing to – make sure you pick the same side for all shirts or you’ll be piecing things together. I chose the right side of each panel. Face the right sides together and sew using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Repeat for all t-shirts.
  6. Take a break and lay out your panels to adore your work so far! You can also start to decide what order you want your panels to lay in – I had a bunch of colors of shirt to work with and wanted it to look balanced.screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-7-50-11-pm
  7. Sew your t-shirt panels into rows. Face the right sides together of your panels, pin as needed, and sew together with 1/4 inch seam allowance – continue and repeat until you finish a row. Repeat with the rest of your panels to form rows.img_1373
  8. Cut long strips of sashing to run in between your rows. Measure the length of each row and allow for some wiggle room – at least a couple of inches. For me, this meant cutting 53 x 3 inch strips to line the bottom of each row.
  9. Sew your sashing to the bottom of each row. As you did before, face right sides together, pin as needed, and sew using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.img_1375
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  10. Sew each combination of sashing/row to one another to create your almost-finished front of your quilt. Now it will start to take shape! Starting at the top, take the top two rows and face right sides together, pin as needed, and sew, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.img_1380
  11. Cut longer strips of sashing to complete the outside edges of your front panel. Measure the outside edges of the top and left of your quilt sides and add several inches to your total – also, make sure that you allowed for 3″ around the edge of the quilt to match the other outer edges.
  12. Sew your sashing trim to the outside of your front panel and trim edges. As before, face right sides together, pin as needed, and sew with 1/4 inch seam allowance. After all sashing has been sewn to your quilt, spread it out flat and trim any extra pieces that are hanging out or that look rough. One side of my quilt ended up off-kilter with itself – I decided just to trim this to gradually taper to the correct width.
  13. Measure and cut your back panel(s). My quilt was too wide to accommodate 45″ fabric widths (the typical width of fabric you purchase), so I needed to piece two panels together to create one big piece. Unfortunately, I didn’t write these measurements down to share with you – they should reflect the total measurements of your quilt front. I knew I was going to have a rough edge with the off-kilter right side of my quilt that I trimmed earlier – I went ahead and ignored that as I cut my back panel and I’m fine with the back panel showing a bit around the edge after finishing.

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    My backing fabric doesn’t match the size of my quilt – I decided I needed to cut two panels and sew them together to create the correct size.
  14. Sew your back panels together. Allowing a 1/4 inch seam, I sewed my two back panels together to create one giant full panel for the back of my quilt.

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    Much better! Now it’s the correct size and matches the front.
  15. Cut your quilt batting/fleece interfacing to the size of your back panel(s). As I reflect on this, you could have done this step one of two ways – the way I have described it here, or having cut and attached the fleece to the two back panels and then stitched them all into one big panel. That might’ve been easier to maneuver and manage, but this way worked, too. Using the same measurements as before, cut your iron on fleece interfacing to match your back panels.

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    One half of the fleece interfacing.
  16. Iron on your fleece interfacing to your back panel(s). I’m not sure how you would use regular quilt batting in terms of sewing this to your back panel – I used iron-on, so I pressed the interfacing to the back panels and didn’t have to worry about stitching.

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    Olivia approves.
  17. Sew your front panel to your back panel. Start by facing your front panel to your back panel, right sides facing each other. Carefully pin around all the edges and pick a corner to keep un-sewn – you’ll sew almost all the way around and leave around 8-10 inches open so you can reach in and pull the quilt inside out. (Or, technically, right-side in, since it’s being sewn inside out.) Sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
  18. Turn quilt inside-out. When you’re done sewing, snip the corners so the corners won’t bunch when you turn it inside out. Reach in and pull the quilt inside out, and admire! You’re so close!img_1396
  19. Hand-stitch corner of the quilt closed. I know you can machine-sew this somehow, but I’m not confident in my ability to stitch in a way that hides the stitches, so I hand-stitched the open corner closed.img_1400
  20. Anchor front and back of quilt to each other. Let me start with what I tried, which may or not work for you (and didn’t work for me initially).I decided to “stitch in the ditch” to anchor the front of my quilt to the back – I didn’t want repeated washes to overly-separate the two pieces and create gaps. However, having used two layers of fleece (hopefully you’ll use one layer of fleece and a layer of thin interfacing, so you won’t have this problem) made my quilt pretty thick and it tried to fight with my machine a bit as I was stitching. I used some red thread (to match the sashing) to attempt to sew a straight line through the center of my sashing, and the thickness and some slight variance in measurement of my back panel and front panel (they didn’t exactly line up) meant that I had some bunching issues – some really obvious, but most I can overlook. I’m going to go back and tear out one of my lines of stitching to try to remedy this.

    If you’re pretty comfortable that your front and back are exactly the same size and won’t pull as you stitch, then go ahead and try this method – with my thickness of quilt and mismatch front and back (just by half an inch or so), I probably should have just put in a couple of small darts by hand in the corners of my t-shirts and not sewn across the whole quilt. But hey, it’s a small problem to have, and stitches can always be torn out (albeit with much effort).

  21. Crack a bottle of wine, curl up with your new quilt, and enjoy!

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    Cattigan approves.

     

     

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    Olivia is excited for her – I mean, Momma’s – new quilt!

T-Shirt Quilt Preview

My husband and I met in marching band – our first few months as friends were spent on the KU football field and in the stands, entertaining ourselves with jokes and trying to stay cool in the late Kansas heat at the games. By the time our winter games and the cold, 6am game day rehearsals in the dark rolled around, we had swapped cell phone numbers and had a hard time saying goodbye after our evening practices. Evan was a senior at the time and I a freshman (scandalous, I know!), and now the Epperson household has 7 years of KU Band gear accumulated.

KU’s School of Music was very lucky to receive swag from our sports teams that was personalized for the marching band – every year we left one of our early rehearsals with piles of t-shirts, sweatshirts, ball caps, gloves – you name it. All of our sweatshirts and t-shirts have spent years squished in a box under the bed or rumpled up in a drawer, and sorting through them this winter inspired me to turn them into something far more useful.

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I’m grateful for the sewing skills and knitting skills I’m slowly acquiring, but I’m determined to only make useful items for our home. Our goal is not only to cut down on our carbon footprint but to also cut down on our homestead footprint – do I really need 7 potholders sorted by holiday, 16 scarves, 4 quilts for every season, and throw pillows so plentiful I can’t find my couch? It doesn’t make it easy for storage, moving, cleaning, or even remembering that those items exist. I don’t mind knitting or sewing items as gifts for family and friends, but utility and usefulness are a big part of my craft investments.

So here I was with two armloads of old t-shirts that we haven’t worn or looked at in 5 years that have just been taking up space and plastic storage containers under our bed, and I decided that a simple t-shirt quilt will be just the right thing to give them a new life. I picked out 12 shirts for a 3 x 4 quilt pattern and researched some ideas on Pinterest (both helpful and unhelpful all at once), and I’ve settled on a simple throw pattern with sashing to border the t-shirt squares and outside edge. It’ll be smaller than a twin-size quilt, but I can easily hang it or use it as a throw for my KU-themed guest bedroom. I’ll detail the full project in a future post, but here is a sneak-peek of an early step in the process:

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Strumming Along

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I’ve long been a musician and a crafter, but I haven’t been able to combine these skills for quite some time! This lovely Cordoba ukulele was my Christmas gift from my husband – I’ve played guitar for years and I’ve recently discovered the wonderful ways ukuleles can be used in the elementary music classroom – the instrument is small for small hands, nylon strings don’t hurt nearly as badly as steel, a soprano uke is pitched at the same level as their treble voices, and ukuleles perfect for the classroom run around $50! I’m pursuing some grants to secure some for my classroom, but in the meantime, I felt that getting one in my hands would be a great way to get comfortable before the kids get theirs.

We traveled to my mother-in-law’s in Wichita for the holidays, and when we weren’t playing Resident Evil 4 with Evan’s cousin I often had my ukulele in my hand. I even tossed it in the car when we went to his dad and stepmom’s house! All that travel made me start to worry, though – I ought to get a case to keep it safe from nicks and dings!

A quick check at a local guitar store (the day after Christmas, naturally) and they proved to be fresh out of cases. Then I had the idea – why not sew my own?

Now, let’s pause for a moment – I’m sure anybody who reads this who has a sewing machine collecting dust just rolled their eyes at the seemingly-tedious and difficult idea. Not so, my friend! I found a fantastic pattern from Pinterest that did not let my amateur skills down!

My sewing skills are as follows:

  1. Pin fabric
  2. Turn on and use iron
  3. Turn on and thread sewing machine, including bobbin
  4. Back-stitch
  5. Change the stitch setting from straight to zig-zag
  6. Rip out stitches
  7. Not being obsessed with perfect seams and lines

As you can see from my skills, I need some pretty simple patterns that set me up for success. Ashley at Mommy by day, Crafter by night made this beautiful pattern tutorial that has you create your own pattern by tracing your ukulele onto a piece of paper and adding inches here and there to fit everything snugly.

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Yes, you spotted my sewing companion: Lady Grantham from Downton Abbey!

This pattern took me 3 or 4 days while putting in approximately 4 or 5 hours total (allowing for errors, of course).

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I spent around $20 at JoAnn’s on fabric and the zipper!

I did make some changes and errors:

  1. The tutorial calls for duck cloth to strengthen the case – I skipped this to make it easier to sew (thinner material with fusible fleece and cotton fabric only) and because I didn’t mind a softer case.
  2. I ironed my fusible fleece to my pattern pieces instead of quilting them – my machine is simpler and doesn’t have the quilting ability, but I don’t mind!
  3. I skipped the steps about the piping – keeping it simple for some of my first projects.
  4. I also messed up and did not leave enough long fabric for the sides of my ukulele case – I had to adjust and sew some scraps together and use extra fabric scraps I had lying around (the original plan was to make it all birds on the front and all mint-green patterned on the inside with the coral for the case handle)
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Halfway done…

The seams aren’t perfect and my edges were rough, but I am so proud of the result – and my husband is, too! I wish you the best of luck on this project – I hope you will enjoy it as much as I!

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My finished project!
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Click here to visit Mommy by Day, Crafter by Night and her lovely ukulele tutorial!