Pixelated Spectrum Placemats: A Sewing Tutorial

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Pixelated Spectrum Placemats Tutorial

I LOVE these placemats!  At first glance they might look like a lot of work, but the construction is just simple patchwork.  They’re also less expensive that you might think, thanks to the use of just one pack of Michael Miller’s Cotton Couture charm squares, which makes it easy to have this gorgeous range of colors without the huge investment of multiple yardage cuts.  The charm pack contains 85 five inch squares in an absolutely beautiful spectrum of color.  (For more with Cotton Couture, check out this Spectrum baby quilt I made with one charm pack of Cotton Couture and two packs of white charm squares!  I think it’s my favorite quilt so far.)

Pixelated Spectrum Placemats

To make six placemats, you’ll also need backing fabric (about a yard and a quarter), batting (crib size) and if you decide to use binding, one yard of fabric for that as well.  (Note: you may want to read the entire tutorial before beginning, because there are a couple alternative methods offered.  All seams are a quarter inch.)

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Tutorial

First, separate your colors into six stacks, one for each placemat, with at least 14 charm squares in each.  Think about the way you want the colors to blend from one side of the placemat to the other when dividing them.  Then cut each charm square into four equal 2.5″ squares.

New Project

Line your squares up into nine rows of six squares each.  I added a square of white or cream for just a bit of “sparkle”, as if light were being reflected.  Be sure to blend the colors a bit, but not too much, so the hues shift as your eyes move across the placemat.  Pretty!

Spectrum Placemats

Sew each row of six together, taking care to keep them in order.  It helps to pretend the points of the pinked edges are the top of a flat edge, like this:

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

Then press the seams open.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

Pin the rows together, carefully matching and pinning at the seams.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

Sew the rows together.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

And press the seams open.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

If you are new to piecing patchwork, you may want to take a look at Ayumi’s basket tutorial on Pink Penguin, a legend of internet sewing tutorials, which shows another method of lining up patchwork seams.  This is actually the way I learned to do patchwork and would work nicely for these placemats as well.  I chose the open seams method to make the seams just a little smoother and flatter since drinking glasses will be used on these, and I hoped to lessen the chance of any spills.

After finishing the tops, it’s time to quilt the placemats.  You have a couple choices here as well.  If you’d prefer to make the placemats without binding the edges, quilt only the top and batting together, then put the backing fabric face down on the top, pin in place and sew around the edges, leaving a few inches open to turn.  Carefully trim the corners close to the seam (but do NOT cut your stitches) so that the corners will be less bulky.  Then turn right side out and sew a finishing seam around the edges of the placemat.  (I apologize for not having photos of this method.  I like the way binding frames each placemat and went with that.)

If you are using binding, layer your backing fabric face down on the bottom, then stack batting on top of that and your finished placemat top face up on top.  Your backing fabric and batting should be slightly larger than the placemat top.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

I use a quilting spray to keep everything in place while I sew, but you could also pin the layers to keep them from shifting.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

Using a walking foot (which helps pull the layers of fabric evenly), stitch about a quarter inch from the horizontal seams.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

And do the same for the vertical seams.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

Trim closely around the placemat.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemat Sewing Tutorial

And now you’re ready to bind!  If you’ve never made or used binding before, I think the best tutorial is by Heather Bailey.    I like to cut my binding strips three inches wide.  The fabric I used is “Weave” in Coal from the Summersville collection by Lucie Summers for Moda.   I wanted to keep going with that grid vibe, but a solid black or something with a dark texture would be beautiful.

Pixelated Spectrum Placemats Tutorial

And enjoy!  Here’s a picture before washing:

Pixelated Spectrum Placemats Tutorial

And after they’ve been washed and dried, with all that crinkly, quilty goodness:

Pixelated Spectrum Placemats

Pixelated Spectrum Placemats

Pixelated Spectrum Placemats Tutorial

Finished size will be about 11.5″ x 17″.  If you make them, I’d love to see them — share a link to your pics or post, please!

Values: Half Square Triangle Tutorial

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Half square triangles are amazing — one of the most beautiful and versatile quilting blocks, they’re also among the easiest to make.  I especially love the look of a values quilt done in half square triangles.  The contrast between the colors of your triangles allows you to create visual interest and depth.  Here are some photos to show you what I mean.  The squares are in the same position in each of these photos, just rotated so that the light and dark sides make different patterns.

Dark and Light

Pinwheels

Dark Center

Light Center

Diamonds

You can see more variations of half square triangles in finished quilts in this Flickr gallery.  Ready to try it yourself?

You’ll want to start with simple squares.  I like to use charm packs, packs of precut five inch squares that usually include prints from an entire line of fabric.  (The fabrics used here are Fossil Fern by Benartex, a fabric line that’s been in print for an amazing 15 years!)

Sort your squares into three piles by color value: light, medium and dark.  Then pair up colors by taking one each from two different piles, placing the lighter on top with right sides facing.  Draw a diagonal line from one corner to another.  (This line won’t be seen, so feel free to use a regular pencil if you like.)

1

Use the line as a guide to sew a quarter inch seam along one side,

Half Square Triangle Tutorial: Sew a Quarter Inch Seam

then the other.

Half Square Triangle Tutorial: Turn and Sew

Cut along the pencil line and you’ve got two new squares.

Half Square Triangle Tutorial: Cut Along the Line

Press the seam open.  Don’t worry about those wonky little bits that stick out, they’re about to be trimmed off.

Half Square Triangle Tutorial: Iron the Seam Flat

I’ve started with a five inch square, but I’m going to trim it down to 4.5″.  This will allow me to even up the square nicely.  I like to use a square template for this because it’s got handy lines for me to follow, but you can also use the lines along your cutting mat.  For the first cuts, I line up the center seam with a diagonal line on the template and make sure the fabric under the template is still larger than 4.5″, then cut along the right and top edges.  Having that perfect center line will make piecing much easier later.

Trimming Half Square Triangle, First "Squaring Cut"

Flip the fabric around so the two uncut edges are at the right and top again.  Line up the center seam with that diagonal line and make sure the bottom and left edges are at the 4.5″ marks.  Careful cut the top and right sides.

Trimming Half Square Triangle, Second "Squaring Cut"

This will give you a half square triangle made of two perfect triangles.

Finished Half Square Triangle

You’re ready to set them out in different patterns and see how you like them best!  Here are a few of my own half square triangle quilts so that you can see how versatile they can be.  (You can find more details through my Quilts page.)

Half Square Triangle Quilts Collage

Fabric Marble Maze

Marble Maze and Tag Blanket

My sister in law asked me to make a tag blanket for a friend who’s having a baby, and while I was at it I also stitched up a marble maze for the new Mom.  This isn’t something I’d give a baby (it does have a marble in it), but it’s something Mom might want to keep in her purse later on when her toddler needs a little quiet time in church or the grocery store.

It’s just two pieces of fabric sewn together, with an opening left for turning and a ribbon stitched in.  (I cut my pieces about 6″x 9″ and triple stitched around the edges, so it would be extra strong.)  Then I stitched lines about 1.25″ apart, stopping at least 1/25″ away from the opposite side to give the marble room to move.  Alternate the starting sides for the lines and it makes a nice, simple maze.

Sewn Marble Maze

Slip the marble in the opening and sew that end up, then slide the marble through the maze.  It’s so soothing, even the adults I’ve handed it to love to play with it.

Sewn Marble Maze

When it’s rolled up and tied with the ribbon, it takes up very little room in a purse and makes a nice alternative to a “quiet book”.  And it only takes about five minutes to make!

How to Make Pennants

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Pennants

Pennants are EVERYWHERE, and no wonder — they’re cute, colorful and a great way to say, “Today is special!”  They’re also really easy to make.

First, you need a template.  Make a square of whatever size you like.  (Mine was 6.5″ because that’s the width of my wider cutting guide, and I think that made a nice size pennant.)  Fold the square in half, then cut on a diagonal.

How to Make Pennants

Open the paper again to see your pennant shaped template. Use this as your pattern piece and cut out a little stack of triangles.

How to Make Pennants

Take two triangles of fabric, place them right sides together, and sew along the “V” sides. I used two different fabrics for each side of mine. It gives a little more variety and made good use of my scraps.

How to Make Pennants

Then carefully cut along the point to get rid of excess fabric without cutting through any stitches.

How to Make Pennants

Turn your pennant right side out and press.  You can leave it like this if you like, but I top stitched along the edges.  I just like the look.

How to Make Pennants

To string your pennants together, pin them into the fold of some 1/2″ double fold bias tape. My standard pack was three yards long.  I left about an inch between mine, but you can bump them up together or space them further out, however you like.  This string took 16 finished pennants.

How to Make Pennants

To make the ends look more finished, open the tape, fold a half inch or so up and then refold and pin. Start sewing over this point.

How to Make Pennants

Then just stitch down the bias tape, and you’re done!

How to Make Pennants

Hang and enjoy.

Pennants

Let me know if you make some, I’d love to see them!

Animal Alphabet Bean Bags and Storage Tote

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Animal Alphabet Bean Bags

Fabric panels can be a great way to make an easy sewing project.  I bought a panel called Alphabet Flash Cards Panel by Lisa DeJohn for Red Rooster.  (Click through to the link and you’ll see they have a bunch of nice coordinating fabrics and some projects ideas.)  The name of the fabric lets you know it would make great flash cards, but I decided to go with bean bags.  The squares made it so easy!  Just cut them out with a quarter inch allowance, cut a piece of backing fabric, sew, fill and hand stitch closed.  Simple!

The backs of the consonant bean bags are a simple cream flannel, but I used a flannel print on the vowels to make them stand out.  A curious younger child might ask what makes those letters special, and hopefully an older child will enjoy figuring it out on their own.

Animal Alphabet Bean Bags

The complete set of 26 bean bags took nearly all of a five pound bag of pinto beans as filling, so sturdy storage was needed.  I could have used a plastic storage box, but tote bags just seem more kid friendly to me.  I had a couple plain canvas tote bags left over from making stenciled gift bags and personalized Twitter tote bags for friends, but they seemed a little too tall and skinny, and I want the bag to be able to sit on a storage shelf.

Thankfully, this is an easy fix.  I measured the bean bags, then turned a bag inside out and marked a line along the bottom to make the bag a little deeper.

Making a Tote Bag Wider

This makes the bottom of the bag wider and the sides shorter.  I sewed right along the line, triple stitching to make an especially strong seam, then cut off the excess fabric.  Now two stacks of bean bags easily fit in the bag, and the bag stands on its own.

Making a Tote Bag Wider

The fabric panel included a title square, which I thought would make a nice label for the tote bag.  (Think how sweet this panel would be made into a little book!)  I cut out the square, then cut out a matching piece of fusible interfacing.

"Label" for the Tote Bag

I sewed them together with the right side of the fabric facing the “sticky” side of the interfacing.  When I turned them right side out, I had a square that I could iron on to the front of the bag.

"Label" for Tote Bag

I sewed a piece of green felt down first to give a little border to the ladybug piece.  It’s a little fiddly to sew on, so go slowly and make sure you aren’t catching parts of the bag that you don’t mean to sew.  I ironed on the label and then stitched around it, too.

And that’s how you turn a fabric panel, a tote bag and a bag of beans into a lovely little toy complete with storage.  If you want to make your own, I bought the fabric panel from Stitch Stash Diva on Etsy.

Animal Alphabet Bean Bags

I enjoyed this project so much, I’ll be looking for more fabric panels soon!