Thursday, July 31, 2008

Making a minkee and flannel blankie

Here's how I made my minkee and flannel blankie. This is not an original idea. I saw it at a local quilt shop several years ago but am just now getting around to making one. Their model used pieced strips of flannel (kind of like the first minkee blanket, but bigger squares). I don't remember what they used for binding. It might have been plain cotton.

First, ask your Quilting Supervisor to get her furry little butt off the rulers so you can cut your fabrics easier. [I love you, Emma!]

For the center, I cut a rectangle of double-sided minkee-type fabric, about 20" x 30". For reasons you'll see a bit later, I recommend cutting it a little shorter than that - maybe 20" x 25". The flannel strips are cut 10" wide, selvage to selvage. Cross-cut 4 pieces at 30" (or 25") and 4 pieces at 39".

Starting with the long sides of the minkee and your 25" or 30" pieces of flannel, layer the minkee between two pieces of the flannel, with the wrong sides out, matching the cut edges, as shown:

Pin well and sew together. I used a 1/4" seam allowance, but it might not be a bad idea to go a little wider than that, since flannel tends to be a bit ravelly. Do this for both sides.

Fold the flannel layers back on both sides, matching the cut edges. I pinned along the edges to keep them from shifting around as I moved them.

Next, layer the 39" strips of flannel across the other edges the same way:

Stitch and flip just like before. After that, I pinned all the raw edges together and stitched about 3/8" from the edge all the way around to keep everything together. You now have a reversible blanket, ready for binding.

I used packaged bias cotton quilt binding for the first one, but I like the satin blanket binding better. I folded back about 3/8" of the satin binding, pressed the fold and lined it up at the edge of the blanket. You can see this part in the last picture. Tuck the flannel edges into the binding, right into the fold. Pin every 2-3", since the satin is slippery. I used a 3-step zigzag stitch all the way across. Must be patient, since the 3-step takes a while.

Fold the binding around the next side, adjust the mitered folds on both sides and pin in place. I started stitching right in the corner to avoid having to hand stitch the folds, or leaving them unstitched. This is what the corners look like:

If you don't like that look, you could pin the binding around all 4 sides, stitch just the edges and leave the folds unstitched.

This, my friends, is why I recommend making the minkee a bit shorter (or the flannel strips a bit narrower):

Yep, ran out of binding with 7" to go. Urgh! So I'll go back to JoAnn Fabrics tomorrow, get another package of binding, sew it (diagonally) to the end of this one, trim it a little longer than the end of the blanket, fold the end under so it's even, miter the corners and stitch it from end to end.

I'm *much* happier with this one, short binding notwithstanding. I have enough flannel and minkee to make one more of this type. I'm going to change it up a bit, though. I have some scraps from other baby quilts, but not enough to use the same fabric all the way around. So I'm going to use what I have and clear out the stash. Pictures this weekend.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stash busting, baby steps

Now that my servers are built and D. is back at work, it's calmed down quite a bit. Since I'm less stressed at work, I'm getting more done in my sewing room. After my last post, I got this little receiving blanket done:

It's two layers of flannel that have been in the stash for 3+ years. I trimmed them both to the same size, basted some jumbo rick-rack to the right side of one piece, layered that right sides together with the other piece, stitched and flipped. Then I topstitched all the way around about 1/2" from the edge to keep things from shifting. I got the idea from a local quilt shop last fall. I knew I had this fabric in the stash, so I bought the cream rick-rack for it. If I were to do it over, I would have rounded the corners instead of angling them like I did here . I think that would have worked and looked better.

Last night and tonight, I made this little blankie:

The center is a square of the blue minkee I used in that other blanket last month. I found the flannel on the clearance rack at JoAnn Fabrics a week or so ago. You can't really tell, but those are pirate ships on it. I cut 9.5" wide strips and sandwiched the minkee between 2 layers (lining up the cut edges, wrong sides out), stitched, folded the flannel back, then added the next round. The flannel wasn't quite as long as I wanted, so I had to use the partial seam method. All of the strips of flannel are the same length. As I was digging through a drawer in my sewing room, I found some old pre-packaged single-fold quilt binding, which I used along the edge. There was a little rectangle and another package of binding left over after I made this, so I bound it up and put it in the cats' favorite spot on the couch (no picture). I'm sure they'll like it - cats like fuzzy things, unless it's another cat. :)

I *still* have a piece of blue minkee left. It's about 20" x 70" - enough to make two or three more blankies. I have another piece of clearance flannel - frogs playing golf - that's a bit longer than the pirate ships. I'll cut a rectangle, about 20" x 30" and layer it up like I did this one. I'll use satin quilt binding instead of the packaged stuff I used on this one. I like the look and feel of that better. I think I have a piece of the dark blue flannel that I mixed in with the first blanket that I can use for the third blankie. I'd just need to get another package of satin blanket binding (with my 40% off JoAnn's coupon). Such a deal!

I'll keep the pink blanket for the next acquaintance I know who has a girl baby. This first blue blankie is going to charity. If I like the other two better, I'll keep them in the stash for future baby gifts. One of the guys on John's pool team will have another baby soon, so maybe one of these will be for him.

Time to go dig through the stash some more. I have 2 more pieces of coordinating flannel for another receiving blanket (need to find some jumbo rick-rack for that). I know there's a no-sew fleece blanket with duckies on it in there somewhere. I'm not a big fan of the no-sew blankets, so I'll probably stitch/flip/topstitch it instead. Depending on the size, I could get two baby-sized blankets out of that. I also have a piece of pink minkee that's 60" x 72" or so. I initially figured I'd cut it in quarters and make layered blankies like the blue one. I'll need to get more flannel and satin binding for that, though, so it might have to wait for a good sale and/or coupons. That minkee is soft, but it's wicked messy. I have little blue fluffy things all over the sewing room. Thank goodness for hardwood floors and a Swiffer!

If I can get rid of some of the fleece pieces, I'll have more room in my sewing room closet. I might actually be able to close the door then. :)

Wish me luck....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Too pretty to eat (almost)

I had dinner with a friend of mine the other night at Wild Mango. It can be a bit pricey, depending on what you order, but she had a BOGO coupon (up to $16 value), which helped. We're both trying to curb our spending habits. This is one of those places where they serve not just food, but art:

One the left, the Chicken Trio - chicken cheesecake, chicken breast and drumstick with various accompaniments. On the right, sweet potato fries, topped with romano fried shrimp, steamed spinach and crunchy rice(?) noodles. The presentation was lovely and the food was really tasty!

We shared the tiramisu for dessert, but I apparently forgot to save the picture of that, with it's caramelized sugar tower. All very delicious.

Even the restrooms are cool in this place. Here is one of the sinks in the ladies' room:

Pretty wild, huh?

In crafty news, last Sunday I put together these blocks for a group project:

That's 24 blocks worth, fortunately all strip-pieced from various batiks and some very cool white jacquard shirting fabrics. I started these before some work-related ugliness, and finished them after. I sure hope they're the right size!! :-)

I finished Stealth Project 2 yesterday!! All the ends are woven in and it's just waiting for pictures to be taken and to be given to it's intended recipient. Once that's done, I'll post the pictures. Right now, I'm heading to the sewing room to work on something. I haven't quite decided what, exactly. I was going to baste The Ugly, but I don't feel like it. I'll post pictures and the story of The Ugly once I get it basted. Instead, I think I'll clear up some of the baby-related stuff I have in the sewing room. I have some girlie flannel & ric-rac to make a receiving blanket, and I bought some flannel to use up the rest of the blue minkee. Then I'll be ready the for the next acquaintance who has a baby - boy or girl. :-)

That's all. I can't believe my 3-day weekend (boss gave me a comp. day on Friday) is nearly over already! You'd think I would have accomplished more, but I did do a lot of knitting on the Stealth Project, I guess. That's something....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The spoils of a company picnic

Every summer my company throws a lunchtime picnic for it's employees. They set up a huge tent on the lawn at the lower campus on the river, with lots of food and a DJ, along with carnival games and live music outside the tent. These people know how to throw a party! The food is always excellent and the games are usually pretty easy to win. Everyone got a free green glass mug, since the company is trying to be more eco-friendly.

This was my total haul for the day, not including the airbrush tattoo - a blue star on my upper arm. Sure hope it comes off soon. :)

The balloon animal is supposed to be a cat, but looks more like a mouse. It's hard to do pointy ears with latex. Everything was fine till a guy from a different group made a comment about the view from the back:

Perhaps the peach color wasn't a good choice. My co-worker, T. got a teddy bear that had a "handle" so it could be stuck through a bird cage that the balloon animal guy had with him. We turned it upside down and.....

The guy in the background is not the one who made the comments, but he was laughing at us girls giggling over and taking pictures of balloon animals.

T. also picked up a mysterious inflatable object which we all thought was a beach ball or something. The mood in the office further deteriorated when she unfolded and inflated this:

We really don't know what it's supposed to be, but I'm surprised no one took us next door to HR for it. Especially after K. made a reference to Barney the Dinosaur.

Perhaps we spent a little too much time in the hot sun....... :-D

Getting back to the intended content of this blog, I delivered Stealth Project 1 earlier this week. Here it is:

It's a bookmark from the Fancy Folds pattern that I picked up at the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo this spring. I also picked up a sample pack of Cherrywood fabrics while I was there, which I used to make it. I have fabrics to make 1-2/3 more. On the third one I'll use a batik for the back.

And to appease those who think Emma gets too much publicity, here's a recent picture of Blue. He's the biggest of the furries - 13+ pounds, but pretty much solid muscle. You can't see his blue eyes here, but clearly, his fur is beautiful, too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Falling off the, twice

My spending diet was doing really well. I went about 21 days without spending money on anything I didn't need. Probably not a record, but an accomplishment of late. The first fall-down happened when I met my friend Ann at a quilt shop. I needed to get a fat quarter to contribute to my guild president's thank-you gift. I had every intention of buying just that (which doesn't really count), and leaving. However, the shop was having a 5-year anniversary sale, and I got 30% off everything. So I bought the charm pack and the two 1/2-yard cuts shown in the picture thinking they'd make a nice tote. No, I really don't need another tote, but I had a really, *REALLY* crappy week at work, was feeling sorry for myself and I bought it. Not pictured are the batiks for the thank-you gift and a couple of other cuts of fabric from the SSS-Silly Safari line, that will go with my snakes quilt kit. I don't like the border fabric they included in my kit, so I got a different one. I sure hope I got enough of it....

I got home and looked for a tote pattern that uses charm packs and found this. The charm pack I bought doesn't have enough to make the tote, but I figured if I use an embroidery design in the center instead of the applique, make the bottom and handles solid and add one square of the pink spool print (not in the charm pack), I'd be okay. I'll use the pink and blue fabrics for the bottom, handles and lining. The only problem was, I wash all my fabrics as soon as they come in the house, but I didn't plan to wash the charms, for fear of them unraveling. Therefore, I didn't have any unwashed white fabric to embroider on.

That led directly to fall-down number two. I went to Joann's to get background fabric for the embroidery. Since I wasn't sure what design I was going to use, I couldn't decide between a solid cotton, or a white-on-white, so I got a few different ones. I also couldn't resist the clearance section, where I found some beads that might make good stitch markers, and some yarn that will make a couple of hats and a scarf (pattern already printed, as you can see). I got all 3 skeins for less than what one of them would cost on the Lion Brand web site, and the resulting items will make good Christmas gifts once I get them done. All told, my fall-downs were just over $50, but worth a good bit more than that. I only paid full price for the white fabrics, which totaled maybe $6. I've fallen down much, much harder before. :-)

I did make a good bit of progress on Stealth Project 2 over the weekend. When I decide on an embroidery design for the tote, I'll post. Maybe this week. Maybe not.

Last thing, I was at the library today and saw this (picture taken on my cell phone, so excuse the quality):

It's a vending machine filled with office supplies - highlighters, pens, Post-It notes, even a 1GB flash drive for $15. I admit to not spending huge amounts of time hanging out in libraries, but I've never seen this before. Anyone else? Not a bad idea, but I have to wonder if it would be cheaper to go across the parking lot to the grocery store or Target for supplies.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Weekend progress

I expected to get a little more done on a long weekend, but....

I finished Stealth Project 1, but you'll have to wait a day or two for pictures. I officially reached the halfway point on Stealth Project 2, but no pictures of that, either. I suppose I should be taking pictures of that as I go, but I'm not. The finished product will have to do.

I did get the pillowcases embroidered, though. Two are for kids in a local children's home. I started to post pictures, but decided against it. I figure these kids have enough to deal with, without some lunatic looking them up after seeing their names on my blog. Not that I think that many people read this, but you just never know. At any rate, I got two pillowcases embroidered for some kids who are having tough time of it. They get a pillowcase for their birthday, along with a goodie basket of stuff, donated by some very kind people in the area. I do two or three of these every other month or so, and I almost always wait till the last minute to do it, even though I always say I won't.

I do have one picture to post. This pillowcase is for a kid who is the cousin of my friend's kids (on the ex-husband's side). She doesn't know the kid and I have no idea where he lives, so I figure this is okay to post.

I think it would have looked better if the letters were bigger, but that's as big as I could get them in the hoop, and I wasn't keen on multiple hoopings. Hopefully the kid will be excited that his name is on there and not care how big it is.

That's all. Time to round up cats and brace myself for a very busy day at work tomorrow.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thursday was Not Good

I woke up around 3:45 and realized (after a few disoriented minutes) that I had no power. The power at my house is normally *very* reliable. I looked outside and didn't notice anything unusual, so I turned off the beeping UPS units and went back to bed. Around 6:20, I woke up to the smell of burning plastic. I panicked a bit, since it looked a little smoky outside. I determined it wasn't my house on fire, and since I still didn't have power, I grabbed my BlackBerry to check the news. This is why I had no power, and why I smelled smoke. Fire. Big fire.

I used to drive past that building every day on my way to work at my old job. It's about 4 blocks from my house. It's looked more or less abandoned for years, with lots of broken windows and gated doors. Kind of a creepy place. I called John, who was at his house (with power) and he watched the news for me. They said they were evacuating a 5-block area, but that appears to have been the 5-blocks on the other side of the fire from my house. I did have some bits of charred stuff in my yard yesterday morning, though.

Once the news reported that the fire was under control, I decided it was safe to leave the cats here, so I closed all the windows, and went to work. Once I got there, I found out that something "not good" had happened overnight, and since I was one of the first people on my team in the office, I got yelled at for something that clearly wasn't our fault. As other people came in, they also got an earful from various people. Our boss wasn't in so he couldn't run interference for us, unfortunately. We mitigated the problem as best we could within The Rules (that some of the unhappy people put in place), and we'll deal with the rest of the fallout next week. My co-worker, D. is going out of the country for 2 weeks starting Tuesday. I'm *not* looking forward to my July. :-(

On the plus side, we got to leave at 3:00, because of the holiday, which was good. I stopped at the store and got some extra kitty carriers, since I realized yesterday morning that I have 5 cats and only 2 carriers. This works fine for vet visits, but not so much if I'd had to evacuate the furries. I came home, reset the clock on the microwave, took a much-needed nap, and started watching Star Wars for the billionth time on Spike (I want my CSI!!!). Around 7:00 the power went out - AGAIN! I called the automated outage number and they said the outage was due to emergency equipment repairs, presumably damage from the fire. I'm glad I took up knitting, because it's one thing I can do without electricity. I did make more progress on Stealth Project 2. I'm slowing getting to half-way.

The power came back on after about an hour, and has been fine since. It was never out long enough for anything to melt in the freezer, which is good. I checked when I got home from work, and the ice cubes in the bowl weren't any more stuck together than they'd have been after a defrosting cycle. Yay! I killed the batteries in the answering machine, though. Maybe I'll get Blue to record the new outgoing message. Rowr? :)

At any rate, Thursday is over, it's Friday and I'm not at work. I have no real plans for the day. I've already finished all the shredding (sorry, Emma), and I'm going to head to the sewing room to do something. I have some pillowcases to embroider and I figure I can work on Stealth Project 2 while those are going. We'll see what else I get into while I'm in there. I'll post pictures of what I can.

Happy 4th of July!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cats are funny people

I have made progress on Stealth Project 2, but since I can't show it here, you get cat pictures. Hey, it works for Crazy Aunt Purl.

In the last post I mentioned that Emma has this crazy new habit of burying her food dish, using the pile of papers destined for the shredder. This is doesn't require a huge effort on her part, since the papers are right next to her dish. I have 5 cats, and they are fed in 4 different rooms to keep anyone from eating more than his or her fair share. Anyway, I keep stacking up the papers, and Princess Emma CrabbyPants keeps burying her dish when she's done eating.

"Must hide the dish from the Evil Kittens!" [Notice the dish is empty.]

"I love a job well done." [Also notice how well the cat blends in with the horribly ugly carpet. Hairballs blend in, as well. This is both blessing and curse.]

"What? This is perfectly normal behavior. Now put the camera away and feed me. Oh, and can you get rid of those kittens, please? I hate kittens. They're stupid and they smell funny."

She looks rather svelte in this picture. She has lost some weight, which she needed to do, but y0u can see from the other pictures that she's still not a skinny kitty. And she hates kittens. I think it must be a 3-color cat trait. Crazy Aunt Purl has a tortie named Sobakowa who hates cats, too. :)