Wednesday, March 30, 2016

(Someone Else's) New Quilt Project: K's Quillow for Bobby

Bobby's Quillow Design
Our church, Christ Lutheran, has an annual Quillow Ceremony for graduating high school seniors.  According to our church web site, "A Quillow is a quilt that folds up into a pillow. (Quilt + Pillow = Quillow). These are made by the student’s parents or a caring adult and given at Quillow Sunday to remind the students that as they leave home and go out into the world, they do not go alone. They are wrapped in the love of God, their family, and of all of us here at Christ Lutheran Church."  One Sunday in June, the seniors parade across the front of the Sanctuary in their caps and gowns and we have a ceremony in which the quilts are wrapped around the students by their parents as the children are given a blessing.  This is one of those services to which you want to bring a lot of Kleenex...

2015 Quillow Service at Christ Lutheran Church, Charlotte, NC
My oldest son won't be a graduating senior for another three years (if we all survive that long!), but a friend of mine asked for my help with a quillow for her son Bobby.  She has some sewing experience but is not a quilter, and she has limited time to work on the project because she is a single mom who works full time and also volunteers her musical talents at church several days a week, playing piano for The Bridge service on Sunday mornings as well as accompanying LOL, the middle school contemporary choral group in which both of my sons have been involved.  My friend K wanted to do something special for Bobby, and she asked for my help. 

My biggest challenge when I'm designing anything with a deadline is always my tendency to create something too complex, underestimating the time it will take to get it completed.  I went to Pinterest for inspiration and found this beautiful quilt designed by Amy Friend, who blogs at During Quiet Time:

54" x 54" Ombre Vibes Quilt, Designed and Made by Amy Friend
Isn't that beautiful?  Although this quilt wasn't marketed as a "Christian quilt," when I saw it I immediately saw a cross with light shining from the center, banishing the darkness. K's son always wears a Christian shield medallion on a necklace and K had the idea of putting Bobby's medallion right in the center of his quilt.  I think that idea would look fantastic in the center block of Amy's cross quilt, especially if we do the same quilting lines radiating out from the center block like Amy did.

Bobby's Shield Medallion

There is a verse of scripture engraved on the back of Bobby's medallion that K also wants to include somewhere on his quilt:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9 (NIV) 

Amy's quilt was designed to be made using the 6 1/2" square and HST (Half Square Triangle) dies for the Sizzix cutting system booth at Quilt Market in 2014.  The pattern for this quilt is available for free on the Sizzix web site here.  I had to adjust the pattern for our purposes because the original quilt measures approximately 54" x 54" but we need ours to be more like 72" x 96" to fit the XL twin beds that are common in college dormitories. I increased the size of the blocks to 7 1/2" finished, the largest size that I can cut out HSTs with my Nifty Notions Cut for the Cure specialty rulers.  Even so, we'll need to add 2" borders to the sides of the quilt and 14" borders at the top and bottom in order to fit the dorm bed. 

Dark to Light, Red-Orange-Yellow

Light to Dark, Shades of Black-Gray-White
K wanted to use red and gray for Bobby's quilt, Ohio State colors, and orange is great because he's also a Clemson fan.  In order to get the effect of light radiating from the center of the cross, value is even more important than hue.  I finally selected on the above assortments of batiks, solids, and tone-on-tone prints.  I especially loved finding this one, in just the right shade of gray:

Christian Fish Symbol #6594 fabric from Quilting Treasures, Our Father Collection
So now the design is nailed down and the fabrics have been selected, and I'm putting a kit together for Karen.  I cut out all of the squares and triangles and pieced the HSTs for her so she'll just have to sew the blocks into rows according to the diagram.  The long bias edges of the oversize HSTs tend to want to stretch and distort during piecing and pressing, so I measured them carefully after pressing them open to ensure they came out 8" with square corners, and then I heavily starched them to make them easier to handle. 

All I have left to do is to cut the border strips to width and write out the instructions, and then I will hand it all over to K.  While she's assembling the quilt top, I'll be thinking about the best way to handle the shield and cross applique for the center block and digitizing the Bible verse that she wants to embroider on her quilt.  I can't wait to see her finished quilt at the Quillow Service on June 5th!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Just A Spoonful of Sugar, A Chenille Upholstery Remnant, and Hot Glue: A Magic Carpet Bag for Mary Poppins

Magic Carpet Bag Prop for Mary Poppins
I've not been sewing as much lately because my whole family (except Bernie) is currently rehearsing for a production of Mary Poppins that opens on April 15th (get your tickets here!).  Lars is playing Robertson Ay, Anders is an ensemble member and a teddy bear who comes to life in the nursery, and I'm the Bird Woman.  I'm also the woman who opens her mouth and volunteers to make things like magic carpet bag props.

This is what I started out with, an old, musty doctor's bag in horrible condition that we picked up from a vintage/antiques shop for $30:

Vintage Doctor's Bag that has Seen Better Days
It stank, the leather and cardboard structure of the bag was distorted, ripped, and misshapen, the hardware was badly tarnished, and the edges of the bag frame were covered in a once-black cloth that was fraying and faded.  However, it's perfect for Mary's carpet bag because of the way this bag style opens:

Why This Nasty Old Bag Was Perfect
The top of the bag opens up to be a firm, rigid rectangle wide enough to pass other props through. 

In the show, Mary needs to pull an assortment of objects out of the bag that are obviously too big to actually fit inside the bag.  In order to accomplish this illusion, we need a trap door in the bottom of our bag so that props can be passed through by stage hands.  So the bottom of the bag was cut out on three sides, leaving one long side attached so that the bottom can be pulled up inside the bag and then put back down again. 

I hunted through my stash of fabric-remnants-too-precious-to-discard and found two small pieces of $250/yd Highland Court paisley upholstery chenille that was left over from a client's project years ago.  I wished it was a deeper red rather than a cinnamon, but I liked the luster of the fabric and the give of the weave.  By piecing the remnants together I was able to get a piece big enough to go all the way around my doctor's bag.  I serged the raw edge along the top because chenille ravels like crazy and I sewed the fabric into a tube that fit snugly at the base of the bag, with just a bit of excess fullness at the top.

Then I hot-glued the serged edge of the chenille fabric right up against the top edge of the bag along the front and back sides, leaving the ends free. 

Front & Back Edges Hot Glued Down, Ends and Bottom Edges Free
I ran a gathering thread to evenly distribute the excess fullness prior to gluing the ends. 

Gathering Excess Fullness Prior to Gluing

Once I'd gathered the fabric, adjusted the gathers evenly and knotted off the thread, it was easy to glue the top fabric edge in place at the ends of the bag.  Like so:

Top Fabric Edge Hot Glued in Place at Ends of Bag
I had left plenty of excess fabric hanging off the bottom of the bag, but I did not have enough of this fabric to do the bottom of the bag.  I hunted through my stash and found another luxurious, Mary-worthy scrap -- a Scalamandre silk ottoman ribbed fabric in crimson:

Scalamandre Silk Ottoman Rib for Bag Bottom, Highland Court Paisley Chenille for Bag Body
I cut my scrap of the silk ottoman fabric about an inch larger all around than the flap at the bottom of my bag, and I serged the raw edges to prevent fraying.  Then I positioned this piece of fabric on the outside of the flap, wrapped the edges of the fabric around to the inside of the bag, and secured them with binder clips (the kind from office supply stores).  That way I could remove the clips from one section at a time for hot gluing them down, without having to worry about the fabric slipping out of position.

Once that was done, I trimmed the lower edge of my upholstery chenille just long enough that I could fold it under and glue it in place around the edges of the flap.  The upholstery fabric actually folds to the inside of the bag around the three sides of the flap that are cut, and the bulk of the chenille helps to prevent any gapping between the bottom flap and the rest of the bag.  On the long side of the flap that is attached, the chenille is simply turned under and glued in place on the outside of the bag.  I thought about adding purse feet to the four corners of the bottom of the bag, but opted not to because I didn't want to draw any extra attention to the bottom of the bag.  After all, Mary will be holding the bag when she comes flying in for her grand entrance, and don't want the audience scrutinizing the bottom of her carpet bag!

Final steps on the inside of the bag included gluing a wooden stir stick (the kind you get at the paint store) to the long edge of the trap door flap and adding some tabs of industrial Velcro along that edge as well.  The wooden stir stick prevents the flap from falling open on the outside of the bag, and the Velcro ensures that when the flap is closed it STAYS closed.  I initially put the Velcro all the way along the wooden stick, but the Velcro was really hard to rip open and it was too loud when I pulled it apart.  I was afraid the Velcro sound would be picked up by Mary's microphone during the performance.  So I cut just a few tabs of Velcro and spaced them several inches apart instead.  This still holds the bottom of the bag closed, but requires much less effort and noise to open.

I had attempted to clean up the hardware with brass polish initially, but I discovered that it was only plated, not solid brass, and it was just a dull aluminum color once I cleaned away the tarnish and grime.  Mary is a stylish character who prides herself on her personal appearance and tidiness, so her luggage shouldn't look shabby and beat-up.  I used a black Sharpie marker to cover the fading and fraying of the fabric that covers the bag frame, and I used some metallic gold spray paint that I found in my garage to make the hardware look like shiny new brass from a distance.  I just sprayed the gold paint into an empty yogurt container and then painted the hardware with a tiny paint brush.

Bag Hardware Before

Bag Hardware After Painting
I think that came out pretty good, don't you?  I'm glad it's done and off my To-Do list!

If you're in the Charlotte area, I'd love for you to come see our version of Mary Poppins!  There are six performances April 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24, both evening and matinees.  Mary and Bert will be FLYING through the brand-new sanctuary of Christ Lutheran Church under the direction of Billy Ensley, and proceeds from the show will go to The Sandbox to support families of children with terminal illnesses.  It's going to be a great show for a great cause, fun for the whole family, and I hope to see you there.  Ticket prices are very affordable, and the performance/worship space was designed so that there are no "bad seats" in the house.  Get your tickets online here:

Feed the birds, y'all!