Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pincushion tutorial

I love making pincushions.  Sometimes when I'm tired from looking at quilts that I've been working on for awhile, I'll take a break and make a pincushion using the scraps at hand.  I went wild and made quite a few so I would like to share them with you.

I like to use unusual containers for my pincushions.  I've been collecting milk glass for quite some time and have built quite a collection.  I would buy them wherever I see them; in a thrift store while we were on the road, garage sale round town and gifts from family and friends.

You'll need some fabric, crushed walnut shell (I got mine from a pet supply store), strong thread and sewing needle, hot glue, and a container of your choice with an opening between 3-5 inches wide.

This is how I make my pincushions.  I cut a circle of fabric at least twice the diameter of the opening of the container.  Let's say your container has a 4 inches opening.  You have to cut an 8-inch circle.    Using a sewing needle with strong thread, I sew running stitches around the circle of  fabric, 1/8 inch from the edge.  Fold in the raw edge is optional.  Pull the thread to make a pouch.

Fill 2/3 full with crushed walnut shell and stuff the rest with polyester stuffing.  Put in enough stuffing to make a firm ball, not too tight that you have a hard time pushing a pin in. 

  Sew the opening close completely.

Hot glue the cushion to the inside of the container.  Be careful of the hot glue.
Below are samples of different containers.

If your container has a straight side like these, add 1/2 inch to the diameter of the fabric circle.

If you want a ruffle;  cut a piece of matching fabric 2 1/2 x 42 inch.  Fold the fabric in half, lengthwise.  With the same strong thread, make a running stitch 1/8 inch from the raw edge.   When you reach the end of the strip, pull the thread and evenly distribute the fabric along the line and secure the end by tying a knot.  Start by gluing the ruffle to the container, overlap the end.  Trim off the excess.   Position the pin cushion on top of the ruffle, then glue it on.

These are great gifts for your sewing buddies.  Have fun making them.  Hope this tutorial is helpful.  Come back and share some pictures of your own creations.  You can send me an email to

Have a great day!!

My hand quilting experience continue..... Part 2

After the first quilt, I still didn't have the confidence in hand quilting.  I felt I didn't do it right because I mixed hand quilting with some machine quilting.  I was impatient and didn't have the right skills.  The machine quilting looks terrible too so I stopped after a few squares done.  Until today that poor quilt is still not done.

Then a few months ago, a daughter of a very dear friend of mine gave me a sewing machine and a quilt top that her mother made because she knew I'm a quilter.  This quilt is a California-king-size double wedding rings quilt.  My friend made this quilt top before she had a stroke.  Now living in an assisted living home, she can't use her right arm or leg.  I told her daughter that I'd finish the quilt and give it back to her.  I feel that this quilt should be with her family.  I want to hand quilt it because I knew my friend loves hand quilting.  She traced all the quilting patterns on all of the squares and hand quilted on one square already. 

I approached another dear friend, Jo Ann, who I know has done hand quilting on all her quilts.  Jo Ann is a quilter, a sewer and a crafty person all around.  Her husband is also a crafted metal worker.  Jo Ann agreed to teach me and help me with this project and we set out to do just that.  One fine day on her back porch, we set the quilt on a frame that her husband made for her.  So in the past few weeks I got to sit down and quilt with her.  It was so nice and relaxing.  We got to share stories and we laughed a lot.  Times went by so fast and I really had a good time.  In the mean time I also learned to make bread and jam from Jo Ann.  She is a wealth of knowledge.  She is also kind and always doing some- thing for someone.  She'll make bread or treats for friends when she hears that they're in a distressed situation.  What a great gal she is!

With Jo Ann's easy going approach, I have gained confidence and enjoy the process more.  We didn't strive for perfection.  We didn't count the number of stitch per inch.  She just said, 'make the stitch as even as possible', and that's what I focus on.  On one of the square, I took 3 hours to finish.  Jo Ann works so fast and the quilting is almost done.  I'll post more pictures later when it's done.

Now I feel confident that I can do hand quilting.  I will take off the machine quilting that I did on my first quilt and finish hand-quilting it at last.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

My first quilt - a guinea pig for my hand quilting. Part 1

My quilting hobby started when I quit my computer career over 20 years ago to become a mother.  In 1991, our young family moved into our first home.  Soon I decided to make a tablecloth for our bare dining table.  I had seen quilts on magazine covers and fell in love with them.  I thought a nine patch quilt table top would be perfect for me.  I started sewing nine patch blocks but they looked terrible.  My blocks turned out uneven; no two blocks were the same size.  Having no clue of how to fix them, I put those blocks in a closet where they languished.   Two years later, we welcomed another child to our home.  My life was quickly filled with babies diapers, mommy and me classes, PTA and Booster Club meetings and church callings.  Fifteen years later I found those blocks and decided to take a quilting class in an adult education program at a local high school.  With help from a great teacher, a square ruler and a rotary cutter, I trimmed them all to the same size.  I also made some more half triangle blocks to finish the quilt top.

I decided to try hand quilting.  I saw my friend's quilt that she hand quilted and I thought, 'oh, it's so easy, she uses running stitches.'  So I did the same.  After quilting almost half of the half triangle blocks, I showed it to my teacher and she almost passed out.  'No, no, no she said, 'that's not the way to hand quilt!'  So she showed me the correct way to hold the needle and how to move it up and down.  The stitches came out more even and looked better.  I finished the other half of triangle blocks.  When it's time to do the nine patch blocks, I would try all sort of motifs on them.  Because there were a lot of seams on the nine patch blocks, I had a hard time hand quilting through them.  I started to lose interest and became very impatient with them, so I decided to machine quilt instead.  In another words, I was trying to learn machine quilt at the same time.  But then I found myself starting and stopping the machine many times within one block so I changed to a different motif design.  By this time my poor first quilt had so many weird looking quilting motifs on it.  I told myself, 'it's ok, no one will see this quilt.'

Needless to say the quilting on this quilt was terrible.  But I love this quilt still and use it every time the weather turns cold.  It's a lap quilt and it's perfect for watching TV with.  As you can tell, I changed my mind about using it as a table cloth.  I didn't want anyone to spill any thing on my hand quilted first quilt.  Are you kidding?  I spent many, many months on this quilt, so I bought an inexpensive table cloth instead. 

That was my first experience with hand quilting.  Next post, I'll tell you about my other experience with hand quilting.