All you need to know about threads

Threads! We need them, we love them, sometimes we hate them – but they are always a bit of a mystery. Cotton or polyester? What is the weight of threads? Do they age? Are there different qualities of threads? Do they effect the tension of my sewing machine?

I found this great video by Karen Brown of where she interviews Anita Zobens (@anitazobens on Instagram), Canadian quilter and thread educator who tells us all we need to know about threads. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a very informative hour.

Improv Art Deco Roses

May and June are the months for roses in abundance – gardens and parks are full of fragrant blooms and there are even wild roses in the meadows around the city. In honor of all the roses around town I made those Art Deco Roses.

The flowers are easy and fast to sew. Make three panels like I did or make just one or make only the flower and no stem and join four or nine in a grid, make a pillow, … – there are many possibilities. And you can even diminish your stash as all you need are scraps.

The roses are made in the crazy sewing technique and here is how it goes:

1. Cut an irregular piece of fabric for the middle. Irregular but with straight edges.

2. Sew a scrap on one side of the middle. Right sides together, line up the edges and sew with 1/4 inch seam allowance. Open up the two pieces and iron the seam (as with Log Cabin blocks I pressed all the seam allowances to the outside of the block). Cut away the rest of the scrap aligning your ruler with one edge of the middle piece.

3. Sew another scrap on the edge you just cut. Open up, press the seam, cut away the rest of the scrap.

4. Sew scraps all around the middle.

5. With your ruler cut the piece of fabric you just created into another irregular piece with straight edges. The piece should not resemble the middle piece of step 1. Cut other angles.

6. Sew another round of scraps.

7. Cut into an irregular shape that should by now resemble the flower.

8. Sew another round of scraps. This time using green scraps for half of the round …

… and scraps of your background fabric for the other half. Use larger pieces of scraps for this round.

9. Cut the piece into a rectangle or a square (your choice).

10. Voilá! The finished rose.

The rose looks even better if you embellish the seamlines with decorative stitches by hand or by machine. You can do this now or quilt the rose this way.

11. For the leaves take a green scrap, cut it into the form of the leaf and sew some background fabric around it (like you did on the first round of the rose). Cut the piece into a rectangle and sew background fabric above and below the leaf – so you get half of the background. Make two of them and join them with a green strip for the bottom part of the quilt.

Or – and this is faster and easier – fuse a freehand cut leaf to the background.

12. Make a quilt sandwich, quilt and bind.

Have fun sewing your own rose garden!


I’m linking this to Off the Wall Friday, Can I get a Whoop Whoop and to Brag about your Beauties. And when you are there check out the “Things I wish I Knew when I started quilting” at Off the Wall Friday – interesting points there and in the comments as well.


Tutorial: Trimming half-square-triangle squares

After telling you to trim squares made out of half square triangles when publishing star #4 of the Block of the Month I got some enquiries how to do this the best/easiest way.

In a perfect world you would sew the two triangles together along their long sides, press them and voilà – you would have a perfect square in the perfect size. In real life you are sewing together two bias sides which will make for some stretching and/or shifting even if your cutting is absolutely precise. So especially when you have a lot of these pieces in your block it’s always a good idea to trim them all to the correct and same size.

Here is how I do it:

Sew your triangles along the long side to get a square. Press, pressing the seam allowance open or to one side as you prefer.

Put your ruler on the square.
The 45° line of your ruler should line up with your seam line.
Make sure that your square fits nicely or exceeds the final measurements of your square (don’t forget the seam allowance!). I stitched this square for this demonstration so I made it a bit larger to show the extra fabric beyond the ruler. My final square should be 5 x 5.
Remember: My square is stitched a little larger. Your square might fit exactely or you might have just a few threads exceeding your ruler.

Cut away the exceeding fabric on two sides.

Turn your square, align the ruler

and cut away the fabric on the other two sides.

And here is the perfect square.

I hope this will help you to always get perfect half-square-triangle squares. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.


Sewing Shopping Bags

How about your New Year Resolutions? I believe that many of them got lost during the days of January – I definitely know that mine did (more or less). Except of one.

I decided to use less plastic and paper bags this year. To say “no, thank you” to plastic bags in the bookstore, in the drugstore and even when doing the groceries. That’s when I get out my “homemade” fabric bag to store the goodies I’ve bought.

Sewing these bags don’t take a lot of time (half an hour to be precise) and you can use any fabric in your stash. Although I confess that I did choose my fabrics carefully. I’ve got a bag for vegetables (that means groceries in general), I’ve got one for everything (the black and white one) and sometimes my bags just reflect the season. I am still searching for a fabric with books – yes, I do go to the bookstore rather often.

If you also want to avoid all those plastic and paper bags that fill up your home and the dumpsters – here is the pattern:

You need
2 pieces of fabric (might be different fabric) 18 x 20 inches (46 x 51 cm) for the bag and
2 pieces of fabric (should be the same fabric) 18 x 4 inches (46 x 10 cm) for the handles.

Take one piece of fabric for the handle and fold it in half lengthwise, right sides out. Iron and open up again. Bring each side of the fabric to the ironed line in the middle, iron again.

Fold the fabric again in the middle along the line you ironed in the beginning, iron once more.

Stitch the open sides of the handle together. Make the second one.

Take your two pieces of fabric for the bag and lay one on top of the other. If the design on your fabric has an up- and a down-side check that it runs in the same direction on both pieces. Fold over approx. 1 inch (2 cm) at the top of the fabric and iron, doing this with both fabrics at the same time. No need to fold exactly 1 inch (2 cm) as it will automatically be the same width on both fabrics.

Now work with one piece of fabric at a time. Pin one handle to the left side of your fabric 4 inches (10 cm) away from the edges of the fabric. The handle lies exactly on the folded part. Pin from the right side of the fabric.

Fold the upper edge of the fabric (with the handle) once again, same width as the first fold. Pin.

Fold the handle outward and pin it in place. Stitch this hem close to the fold and close to the upper edge. Make the second part of the bag in the same way.

Put the two sides of the bag together, right sides out (yes, that’s correct). Stitch the three sides of the bag together using a seam allowance of only 1/8 inch (4 mm). Backstitch at the beginning and at the end of the seam. Turn the bag left sides out and stitch the three sides again, this time using a “normal” seam allowance of 1/4 inch (7,5 mm). Turn right sides out.

See – it’s really easy. And fast. So why not make a few more bags? For yourself or as a gift. Or even as a gift wrap. Choose fabric you like or find the perfect novelty print if it is a gift.

Have fun and enjoy the feeling that you create something beautiful that helps the environment as well.

I’m linking this to Off the Wall Friday, Can I get a Whoop Whoop and to Brag about your Beauties.


Tutorial: Invisible Binding

When I was about to finish the Log Cabin Wedding Quilt I realized that the best binding would be no (seen) binding at all. So I attached an invisible binding – invisible referring to the top of the quilt. I did not sew the edges of the top and the backing together with an invisible stitch but made an easy binding which looks really nice at the back of the quilt. Here is how I did it:

Cut 4 strips for the binding, each one as long as the side of the quilt minus 2 inches (5 cm) and 3 inches (7 cm) wide. If your fabric is not long enough you have to join several strips to get the right length – in this case iron the seam allowances open so you don’t have to sew through to many layers of fabric.
Cut 4 squares 6 x 6 inches.

Fold the strips in half, left sides together, right sides out. Iron. Fold the squares in half along one diagonale and iron.

On the top of the quilt pin a triangle in the corner. (I basted the edges of the quilt because it was such a huge beast.)

Pin a binding strip along the side of your quilttop but start approximately 1 inch from the corner. The open side of the strip lies exactely at the edge of the top. The strip ends 1 inch from the next corner. Pin all sides and corners this way. The strips are always on top of the triangle.

Sew around the quilt. Don’t sew into the seam allowances at the corner. Sew up to a quarter inch, take 3 backstitches, take 3 stitches forward, leave the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn the fabric 90 degrees, lower the presser foot, take 3 stitches, take 3 backstitches and start sewing the next side. Take some backstitches at the beginning and the end of the seam to secure the thread.

Cut backing and batting to the size of the top. Cut the corners to reduce bulk. You can even cut the batting down to the seam to reduce bulk but I found that it made a nice “filled” edge when leaving the seam allowance of the batting.

Now turn the whole binding strip to the backside of the quilt. The seam should be exactely on the edge. Pin the strips to the back. When turning the corners be careful to get a nice 90 degree corner – use a thick knitting needle or a pencil to push the corner out.
Hand sew the binding strip to the back of the quilt. The color of the thread should match the color of the strip not of the backing.


This is how the binding looks from the front …

… from the side …

… and this is the back of the quilt. I really like the way the backside gets a “frame”.

I hope you found this way of attaching a binding interesting. And maybe you can even use it on one of your next quilts.

By the way – this kind of binding is also called “facing a quilt” and is often used when finishing art quilts.

I’m linking this to Off the Wall Friday, Can I get a Whoop Whoop and to Brag about your Beauties.


Valentine’s gift

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner so it’s really time to think about a gift for your loved one. How about making something different this time. Not a card, not a tag, but a cushion. A comfortable pillow, colorful and soft, big (65 x 65 cm / 26 x 26 inches) and with a broad floppy border, really easy and fast to sew.

Layer a piece of foundation fabric 28 x 28 inches (70 x 70 cm) with a thin piece of batting the same size. Put a piece of fabric 18 x 18 inches (45 x 45 cm) in your background color (here dark blue) in the middle of the batting. All measurements given include 1/4″ (0,75 cm) seam allowance

Sew border strips in 4 different colors around the background piece. The strips have a width of 1¾ inches (4,5 cm). Sew through all layers – sewing and quilting at the same time. Now sew border strips the color of the background around the piece. These strips are 3½ inches (9 cm) wide.

Make a template for the heart. Draw a square 6 x 6 inches (15 x 15 cm) and draw the heart into this square – so you get the right size for the heart if you want to put 4 onto the pillow. Cut out your template and draw it 4 times to the paper side of fusible web, reversing 2 of them. Cut them out roughly. Iron the fusible to the backside of your chosen fabric and cut out the hearts. Fuse them to the background piece and appliqué them by machine, appliquéing and quilting at the same time.

If you want to have more quilting now it’s the time. I was satisfied with quilting around the color-border and the hearts.

Iron. Cut the foundation fabric and the batting to the size of the top.

Cut 2 pieces of background fabric for the back of the cushion 26 x 18 inches (65 x 45 cm). On one 26 inches (65 cm) side turn the edge ½ inch (1,5 cm) to the left side of the fabric, iron and turn another ½ inch (1,5 cm) and iron again. Machinstitch this seam. Do this on both backside pieces.

Layer top with right side up and the 2 pieces of the the backside left side up on top of it. Align the edges of the top and the backside pieces. The backside pieces will overlap in the middle – that’s where the seams are. Sew all around the outside of the pillow, backstitching at the beginning and the end. Turn the cushion right sides out, iron and sew once again in the ditch between the colored and the uni borderstrips.

Put a pillow 20 x 20 inches (50 x 50 cm) in the cover. Done!

I hope you like this idea for a gift. And it’s not only for Valentine’s Day. Think about Mother’s Day, birthdays, a gift for your son/daughter at college, …….. So why not sew some more cushions while you are at it. Have fun!

I’m linking this to Off the Wall Friday and to Can I get a Whoop Whoop?


Snow dyeing

Snow in Vienna! This is rather rare.

But at the moment we do have some snow and I seized the opportunity to snow-dye (is this a word?) some fabric.

I cut my fabric into fat quarters and soaked it in a soda ash solution.

Then I put the fat quarters into individual containers. I folded some of them and simply scrunched the rest.

I gathered some buckets of snow on my balcony …

… and covered the fabric with it.

Then I sprinkled some dye onto the snow (I used Procion MX). I used way too much dye – next time I will be more careful not to waste so much.

I put the containers in garbage bags and put them out on my balcony. The advantage – the whole mess was out of the way. The disadvantage (which might have been solved with a little bit of thinking in advance) – the snow did not melt. So after a few hours I took the bags inside.

The next day I was out all day and only got home in the evening. The snow on the fabric was gone and the water with the dye covered the bottom of the containers. So the fabric did soak up the colors from the bottom for a few hours which diminished the effect of the snow dyeing.

But after a lot of rinsing, some washing and ironing I got these beautiful pieces of fabric. I really love them.

In fact I like the colors so much that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the threads that unraveled from the fabrics.

As the weather report promises some more snow in the next days I might start another snow dyeing session but this time I will put the fabric on a grill so that the melted snow can run through the fabric. I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m linking this to Off the Wall Friday.


A cover for your calendar

Are you a calendar nerd like I am? Every year beginning in October I spend a fair amount of time looking at calendars in shops and on the Internet. And each year I buy one or two new ones just because – nerd I told you! But I am always more interested in the interior of the calendar than in the look of the cover. Often they look rather plain on the outside.

So I decided that my calendar needs a cover showing my passion for fabrics. And especially for this cute fabric with colorful paw prints. This cover is so easy to do and just needs about half an hour. It’s a great way to give your calendar, your notebook, your sketchbook or a book you are giving as a present a new look. And you can even combine it with a corresponding bookmark.


And this is how to do it:

Measure the outside of your calender, don’t add any seam allowance at this point. Measure the complete width including backside, spine and frontside – a tape measure works best for this.

Add 1 inch (2 cm) to the width and to the height for seam allowance and cut 3 pieces with the seam allowance added from the chosen fabric. I did cut all three pieces from the paw print but you can use a contrasting color for the inside piece and/or the flaps.

If you want to make your cover softer cut a piece of batting in the same size.

Cut one piece of the fabric into two halves. My piece has a width of 28 cm (see measure tape in the first picture) and 2 cm of seam allowance which makes 30 cms. So I cut 2 pieces of 15 cms.

Fold each of these 2 cut pieces into half, right side out and iron them. These are your 2 flaps.

Lay out your piece of batting (if you use one). Lay the first piece of fabric (which is the outside of your cover) on the batting right side up. Lay the two flaps on the ends of the fabric and align the open ends with the end of the fabric (the scissors are just to show you where the flaps are positioned).

Sew around the cover leaving approximately 3 inches (8 cm) open in the middle of one of the long sides. Backstitch at the beginning and the end of the seam to secure the thread. Leave 10 inches (25 cm) of thread at the end of the seam.

Trim the batting almost to the seam and cut off the four corners. Be careful not to cut into the seam.

Carefully turn the right side of the cover out through the opening, iron and close the opening with hand stitches using the leftover thread.

Iron once more and put your calender, book, notebook or sketchbook into the new cover.


I’m linking this to “Off the Wall Friday”, “Whoop Whoop Party” and “Brag about your beauties”.