Monday, 25 June 2012

Zakka Pot Holders

I love Zakka Mondays - I almost jump out of bed ready to start the current week's project.  And this Monday was no exception - I was eager to start on the lovely pot holders designed by Kim Kruzich of  (Note this weeks' blog hop is being hosted by Lindsey of LR Stitched in a change to the programmed blog host.)

Unfortunately, like two of the previous projects in this book, there is an error in the instructions which you need to be aware of.  The pocket binding and pot holder binding cutting measurements are incorrect.  Thankfully Kim has provided amended measurements and a very helpful tutorial on binding these beauties - so be sure to check it out before starting this project.

So, how did it go?  Well overall this was a fairly straightforward project once I had got the binding measurements updated.  The pattern required enlarging but, as I don't have a scanner at present, I used a plate which measured exactly 8½" in diameter.  Like any sewing project, the hardest part is choosing the fabric - so many choices, so many colours, oooh, yes, no, maybe, some of that with that, or that but what about that ..... you know what I mean don't you?   I finally opted for one bright green and one red pot holder.  I was tempted to make two red ones as my kitchen has accents of red in it but the greens just called to me - "pick me, pick me" - so I did!

And here is my only real disappointment with this project ...... I love gingham and had included a red gingham fabric as the first strip (strip 1) in the red pot holder (you can see it above).  However, the pattern calls for 6 cotton fabric strips and one linen strip, sewn together to create a 10½" block.  It is from this block that you cut an 8½" round.  And herein lies the problem - 8½" from 10½" means 2" of fabric goes to waste.  Not a problem you would think but strip 1 measures only 1" after binding and strip 7 measures 2½" after binding.  So either strip 1 remains and strip 7 reduces to ½" or strip 1 goes and strip 7 remains.  Or maybe it is my cutting as the ones in the book seem okay and Lindsey has posted hers on Flickr and it looks really good.  As you can see from the cutting - I lost the red gingham totally.
It is true that I could have centred the fabrics more but I would still have lost most of strip 1 after binding and, as you can see in the finished potholder, there is only a very little of strip 2 showing right at the very top:
Even with the green pot holder, where I did try to centre it more, I still lost one strip - a lovely olive green fabric that had pleaded so nicely to be included - oh the sorrow!!
Never mind - there will be other projects that call for red gingham and olive green - I feel sure of it.  Other than losing two fabric strips, the project went together without a hitch.  I used a double layer of batting as I didn't have any 'insulated fleece' and ironed it relentlessly until it was thin enough to go through my sewing machine.

The binding went on a treat although I did cut it down - the amended measurements recommended 3" wide binding for the potholder but I found this far too wide and cut it down to 2".  I also reinforced the pockets on the back by double stitching the binding on where it overlapped the pockets.

I also think a loop fixed to the back would be a good addition although I am using my pot holders as mats at present.

But I can't stop and chat - there are things to do - like making it up to a little olive green fabric and a red gingham strip ...... until next time.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Zakka Hand Warmer Pocket Fresheners

Hand warmers?  In summer?  Really?  Well yes actually - especially when they double for pocket fresheners in the summer and revert back to hand warmers in the winter.  How you ask is this possible?  Is the Patchsmith really that magical?  Well the answer is yes she is........

If you are following along with the Zakka Style sew along then you will know that Zakka relates to useful household products in Japan.  This week's project is a very sweet pair of hand warmers created and designed by Holly Keller.  The embroidered hand warmers are encasing muslin pouches full of rice which can be warmed in the microwave and then popped into your coat pocket when going out into the cold and wet, keeping you nice and toastie. 

Can you see where this is going?   Yes, it is simple ...  to make these wonderful little items useful all year round you will need to create an additional two muslin pouches and fill them full of dried lavender.  Then, when you store your winter coat or jacket, just pop the lavender filled hand warmers into the pocket of your clothing to keep your item fresh and ready for winter wear.
I have to admit, embroidery is not my strongest talent but I wanted to keep in the spirit of the Zakka project so I hand appliqued gingham hands onto soft red cotton fabric instead.  As I was doing so, it occurred to me what a wonderful gift this would make for a grandparent if you traced around the hand print of a little grandchild.  That way, grandma or grandpa can hold the hand of their little one even when they are miles and miles away. 

For those of you who do not have access to little ones I have created a PDF of a coaster template I designed which also includes a heart, start and moon.  Just click here or on the page on the right.  Feel free to use it as often as you like.
This project was very, very easy and only took one hour from start to finish.  The hardest part was filling the muslin pouches with dried lavender (I used a teaspoon!).  I also made the overlap at the back of the hand warmers bigger so that they didn't gape.
I was going to attach a loop prior to sewing up the hand warmer, so that they could hang on the coat hook beside the coats.  Unfortunately, I forgot to do so (doh!).  Never mind, I could always attach a button to the back and make a loop. 

The way the British weather is going at present, I may need to heat up the rice pouches very soon.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Mug Rug Addict

It all started approximately six weeks ago with the Zakka Style sew along mug rug.  Up until this point I hadn't come across a mug rug - I asked around at work and people thought it was just another name for a coaster.  In fact they are larger than a coaster and people swap mug rugs across the seas!  Well the Zakka Style sew along mug rug turned out lovely and I really enjoyed making it. 
Then, when I posted about it on my blog I was invited to swap with a lovely lady, eamylove in the United States of America.   Of course I jumped at the chance and received not one, but two mug rugs in the post. 
I made my second mug rug and sent it across the Atlantic to Amy. 
At this stage I am totally unaware of the addiction which is coursing through my veins.  The addiction was about to take a stronger hold as I started a sew-along at work and suggested we make a mug rug each whilst deciding which book we should follow.  I explained to the group what a mug rug was (there is a need for a mug rug awareness group here in England) and I took in the two beauties Amy sent me and my Zakka project. 

Then, this Monday whilst at my sister's house, I designed and made my third mug rug for the swap at work.  It was loosely based on Patchwork Pottery's tea cup purse and gave me a chance to practise my free-style quilting (still needs a bit of work). 
Well, my sister, being my sister and wanting everything I make (but she can't have EVERYTHING!!) wanted one exactly the same for herself.  So I made her one - it isn't exactly the same (obviously) - the fabrics are different.
My sister was thrilled and thought she would attempt to design a mug rug of her own which is a bit like trying to run before you can even sit up, let alone crawl, seeing she didn't know what a mug rug was two hours earlier!  Needless to say, she fell at the first hurdle and got disheartened.  So I looked on-line for an easy tutorial that would turn out good every time.  I found a Dresden mug rug tutorial by Ryan Walsh and, aside from the border measurements being incorrect, my sister completed a vibrant mug rug of her own.
What a success.  Of course, I made a mug rug alongside her to assist and help her.  (Note here that I'm not denying my addiction as there is nothing to deny - I am NOT addicted!)
My sister then embarked on another - can you see the frenzied look in her face - no that isn't concentration - it is compulsive madness with no withdrawal patch in sight. 
Of course, I had to make another to help her along and to make sure she was not getting ahead of me herself.
My fifth mug rug is partially bordered because the girls at work want to see how to mitre their binding (see the Mug Rug Basics tab above for a tutorial on how to do this).    Maybe I should make another using strip binding - mmmmmm - now that is a jolly good idea me thinks.

But before I do, there is just enough time for me to stand up and say "my name is Amanda and I am a mug rug addict - I have only been an addict for under a month but I cannot stop.  Worse than all of this though, I have peddled my addiction onto my sister!"

Monday, 11 June 2012

Up the Orchard Path - Zakka Week 11

After last week's project, Week 11 on the Zakka trail is a walk-in-the-park, or to be more precise - a walk-on-the-orchard path. One small zip and a few hexagons, neither of which should present too much of a problem if you have been on the trail from the start, and you will be done in a couple of hours at most.  Just follow Amanda Jenning's straight-forward instructions.

This week I am staying with my sister, Lea, for a nice relaxing break. The fact that I brought with me more sewing equipment than clothes tells you I had watched the weather forecast and was ready for the torrential rain we are having. So this Zakka Monday Lea and I sat down, side-by-side to chose fabrics and set up our sewing machines. My sister chose a black background with applique hearts whilst I stuck pretty closely to the pattern with a black-and-white check and hand-stitched hexagons. However, we both decided to change the size of this project as, rather than the 9½" x 6¾" pouch detailed in Zakka Style (compiled by Rashida Coleman-Hale) ,my sister and I both wanted a little coin purse for our handbag.   
This was easily achieved by not enlarging the template provided in the book.  Instead we added ¼” sew allowance to the pouch template.  We used the corner detail placement markings again adding ¼” seam allowance all around, to create corner detail cut outs.   Lea created small heart appliqué shapes, fusing them onto Bondaweb before hand-stitching them to the pouch.  I used the hexagon template exactly as sized in the book and folded in ¼” all the way round, before tacking and stitching as detailed in the book.  As you can see, I slightly changed the placement of the hexagons so as to fit neatly on the pouch.
Both of our Orchard Path coin pouches went together fairly easily, measuring 5” x 3½” when completed.  Lea hadn’t inserted a zip in anything before and this was only my third project which involved zips.  All went according to plan with no problems so I have no tips to give as none are needed.  Needless to say we are both feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

Now that Lea has been initiated into the Zakka world she is eyeing up my zip organizer and picking fabrics – (“put that one down it’s mine”  - strewth – I have to watch her all the time as my stash is getting smaller and smaller whilst hers is growing and growing!!).
Aside from this small project, I am finishing off my summer ‘blackbird’ runner which I shall show you all very soon and I have completed my ‘tea and cake’ mug rug for the newly formed sew-along at work.  I used fabric from a charm pack sent in a recent mug rug swap.  What do you think?  Should I add a page with the pattern for this little beauty?  Let me know in a comment below but that's all folks - until next time.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Zakka Organizer - Week 10

I am reinventing the word Zakka as a verb as in:  "I'm zakkaed from undertaking this week's project" - it was the hardest task so far.  The project was not helped by the multiple mistakes in the book (mainly in the cutting instructions) - click here for details.  If I wasn't in the sew-along I would've been really annoyed as no 'amendment sheet' was included when purchasing the book.  Thank goodness we had a blogger who was on the ball to host this week's project - Spotted Stone even noticed an additional error in the interface cutting instructions!
My favourite part of any project is selecting fabrics right at the beginning and this week was no exception.  I chose a beige heart print with mid-blue fabrics to go with my jeans and denim jacket.  After all, this organizer has enough pockets for all the essentials that I can leave my handbag at home and just grab this wallet and go.  I added an applique flower just to jazz it up a bit.
I am really pleased with the finished project though and it was well worth the hard work.   There are lots of tips with the Spotted Stone who made three organizers in order to perfect the project - strewth, one was a lot of work I can't even imagine how long it took to make three.   I would also add that if fitting the pen holder then adding a piece of firm interfacing to it, just slightly smaller than the fabric, will make the pen holder easier to use.   It is fiddly when turning it right-side out but much better to slip a pen in and out of.

Aside from this project I have also been practising my free-style quilting on strips of fabric.  It is early days and there is plenty of room for improvement but here is a peep at my efforts so far:

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Mug Rug Swap

There is a new girl at work who sits next to me, Beverley - she is very positive, energised and inspiring.  So as a 'welcome-to-our-team' gift, I made her a little coaster for her coffee cup.  But, every time I passed her desk her mug was on the table and the coaster unused.  "I don't want to ruin it," was her answer when I enquired.  So I lifted her mug and placed it on the coaster whilst telling her "it will wash and even if it gets ruined, I will just make another".  I still, two weeks later, have to put her coffee cup directly on the coaster when I pass!!  (I will post the applique sheet for this coaster later, along with a heart, hand and moon option so come back soon.)
Well now I know how she feels!; following on from the Zakka mug rug project, I was invited to swap mug rugs with a lovely lady, Amy of 'eamylove', from America.  I jumped at the chance and designed a mug rug which reflected her tastes (I hope) and my location.  Today I received her gift to me - two mug rugs and a lovely sample pack of Moda 'Gypsy Rose' fabrics. 
Amy has given me two mugs rugs thinking I could part with one for my sister - that is never gonna happen - they are just both so lovely and very different there is no way I can possibly choose - I just can't do it.  Instead, I will keep them both on my workdesk so my sister can use the one of her choice when she comes over.  That is only, and that should be a huge ONLY, if I can watch without grimacing as she or I put a coffee cup on these beautiful pieces of work.  I will let you know how I get on with that.

I love the pretty turquoise and floral mug rug - it is so fresh and summery.  But, I am (very nearly, almost, quite possibly) decided that my favourite is the green and black mug rug - the 'unlock your dreams' theme says it all.  Also this mug rug has a block of fabric featuring crowns which, as I have received it on Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee, will always remind me of the day that I received my first mug rug swap.  How very clever of Amy. 

But what they both show me is how professional Amy's work is - the binding and quilting is immaculate.   No wonder she sells her work - she is so skilled (click here for her Etsy shop).  I am going to spend some time learning how to bind and quilt so neatly and, as Laurraine kindly told me from Patchwork Pottery, I will practise, practise, practise.   Also, Amy must have a huge stash of different fabrics - check out Amy's work here to see the prints and colours she uses?    I have quite a bit of fabric but can a quilter ever have too much?  I don't think so.  A sample pack is an excellent way to add variation to your stash and you can try different styles, patterns and colours that you wouldn't normally use without wasting fabric.  I shall indulge in more sample packs in the future.

Finally, Amy hasn't used batting in her mug rugs and this seems to be so obvious that I wonder why I didn't think of it.  Interfacing is a much better choice as it means there is less 'rocking' of the mug as the rug lays flatter on the table.  I am finishing off a summer table runner which I will show you another day - I have used batting in this but I am now thinking that even with table toppers and table runners interfacing is a good alternative. 

But for now, from a cloudy England celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee I have received a smile from across the Atlantic - a smile that will last a very long time.