Finally, end of year…

seasonal snow is here! Or maybe not so much. It was 60 degrees this past weekend where I am; it’s doubtful we’ll get snow any time soon. So as usual, I have to make my own. I remember as a girl, I was fascinated by the snow machines they had in Gatlinburg, TN, to “make” a ski slope in case it hadn’t snowed enough. I always wondered, “How do you make snow?”

Well, now I know! I make it with white bias tape or appliques. Easy enough, and it doesn’t make your hands cold. I’ve put all my snow designs on sale this month. First you need “Snowfall.” All required are two sizes of bias tape and some great “sky” fabric to really make this wall hanging pop:

Snowfall cc2106 by LJ Christensen

Made in a similar way is this huge “hot” pad:

Snowflake Platter Pad cc2019 by LJ Christensen

Maybe you’d enjoy decorating a skirt? I know, I know, no one seems to be wearing skirts these days (but this denim one is cute with boots and includes instructions for ANY size and length–use elastic if you don’t want a tie). However, these darling appliques (full-size templates) could also go on a sweatshirt. Get them while they’re half-price!

Snow Family Skirt cc1010 by LJ Christensen

Speaking of sweatshirts, this is a cutie and honestly, can be made in any size:

“With Fleece as White as Snow” cc1011 by LJ Christensen

Don’t worry–it doesn’t have to look like Santa! Same pattern below:

“With Fleece as White as Snow…OR NOT”

Again, you can modify a sweatshirt of ANY size, but teens especially love the leopard (and I do, too…which reminds me that I need to look for a black sweatshirt for myself.) Fleece is on sale right now, so it’s a great time to make this. In fact, you could start your Christmas sewing for the family….if like me, you’ve vowed to start earlier this year.

Happy New Year, or at least moderately more happy than last year, right?

Joy to the World,

which we really need this coming year. While it’s too late to get this quilt done for Christmas, it doesn’t matter! Just leave off the holly, and it’s a year-round throw. If red is too harsh for your room, try it in cranberry or pine green. Actually, it’s beautiful in royal blue, but it could be any color. You could also change the tune–it has “Joy to the World,” but you could make it purple and and do Prince’s “Purple Rain” or in gold for “Fur Elise” or even pastel with “Rock-a-Bye, Baby”-hey, it’s YOUR quilt and your choice. On sale for $3.50 until the end of the year. CLICK HERE

“Joy to the World” cc1015 by LJ Christensen

What makes it amazingly more simple than it looks is the use of faux-piecing for the keys and my friend, black BIAS TAPE, for the black keys and note stems. Also use a braid for the lines of the music. I always look for shortcuts, and this quilt is full of them, yet still very impressive. Yes, some time-consuming applique, but on the other hand, very little piecing.

If you are more interested in the holly, you can get the pattern for just $1 through the end of the year. It looks hard, but the trick is in using water-soluble stabilizer and old-fashioned yoyos. CLICK HERE

Basically, you use fusible web to glue two leaf fabrics together, back to back. Zigzag around them in a leaf pattern, cut it out, THEN sandwich it between two layers of the water-soluble stabilizer and do a wider satin stitch that covers the first. Pull off excess stabilizer and soak off the remainder. If you leave a little, though, it stiffens the leaf. The yoyos are just stuffed with a little polyfill and pulled tight. Hello, holly!

I’m wishing you a fairly Merry Christmas and hopefully, a grand NEW YEAR! I’m eager to stop making masks and start making new quilts. I have lots of designs in the works….so keep tuned!

Let It Snow!

Let it snow, let it snow! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but snow? Not likely to happen in 60-degree Alabama. So I’ve put my snow patterns on sale. I make them with white bias tape–how’s that for a quickies? What a cute platter pad pattern for friends and relatives-even Jewish friends! Or January birthdays! Just $2.50 for either pattern.

Click here for more info:

Snowflake cc2019 by LJ Christensen

Or maybe you’re up to doing a little more?

Snowfall cc2106 by LJ Christensen

The beautiful sky fabric really makes it sing.

Click here

Alternatively, if you have a machine with some special stitches, you can make snow very easily. Draw an X and a big + through it to make 8 “spokes.” Then line up a variety of stitches–anything from filled-in ovals to asterisks. If you have memory–memorize the line of stitches. Then stitch each spoke from the center out. VOILA! Snowflake created and it won’t even melt.

The year end nears;…

it’s time to switch gears! Yes, indeed, with frostbite nipping at our toes this past weekend, even those of us in Alabama got the message that winter has arrived, and it’s almost Christmas. While it may be too late to get a full Christmas quilt done, you CAN easily finish this quick runner. Made like the “Maple Sugar” I published a couple weeks ago, it’s just 1/2 yard of fabric with pieced ends added, which lengthens it quite a bit. I used simple squares and half-square triangles to form simple holly and old-fashioned yoyos for 3D berries. Not difficult! Add an autumn print backing to make it reversible!

“Holly Berries Table Runner” by LJ Christensen This sample was shortened–this easily can be 65″-75″.

I’m beginning to feel the pressure to get my Christmas gifts finished–time is flying, and I’m STILL making masks. For goodness sakes, I never dreamed we’d still be wearing masks this season! I definitely need Plan A, B, and C in case I run out of time, and I need every shortcut I can find.

One shortcut I use when making masks is THE “Shortcut” by June Tailor. It’s a plastic template about 14-15″ square with 12″ cuts in it every half inch. You can line it up and cut both sides of a block, then rotate it and cut the other two sides.

For strips, I prefer a 24″ ruler, but when I have to cut them into squares, I stack up several strips, line up the Shortcut and slice, slice slice. That truly saves time. I usually cut 4-6 layers and then stack them in dozens, a convenient multiple of four (or six). If I’m using the squares right away, I just leave them in stacks, but if I have to leave, I use a long, sharp flower pin to hold each dozen.

When making half-square triangles, I mark all of the diagonals at one time, either with a heat-erasable Frixion pen, or if that won’t show against a dark fabric, I fold them diagonally and press for a seam line. I chain-stitch them, trim and press to get them all ready. Then it’s anchors away! and time to simply piece.

Even if Thanksgiving is small

this year, you can quickly make up this runner for a beautiful table. Made up of just a few squares and half-square triangles, the ends add length to a 1/2 yd. of beautiful fall print, up to 65″-68″, depending on fabric width. You can easily shorten it or lengthen it to perfectly fit your own table or buffet. On sale for $3.50 until the end of November–click here for more information

Maple Sugar Table Runner cc2405 by LJ Christensen

Notice how well it coordinates with “Autumn Maple Platter Pad cc 2201” —more infor

The lovely large hot pad is still on sale as well. While the pad design is “on point,” and the table runner is not, if made in the same fabrics, they are very complementary.

Autumn Maple cc2021

If you don’t have the time or the fabric, go to the Market Shoppes in downtown Wetumpka, Alabama, and you’ll find them both for sale! First come, first served!

I feel like I’ve been juggling 4627 things at once, from masks and wine gift bags to photo to jewelry made from yoyos to full quilts, with way too many UFOs (quilter are all too familiar with UnFinished Objects!) However, I find it exhilarating to be planning Christmas presents and objects to sell this time of year. One design begets another, and I simply don’t have time for any bad tidings.

So I’m thankful that my new knees have healed and that I have my new studio and plenty to do to keep busy and happy. But time is an issue, so here are just a few tips.

Like Nancy Zieman pointed out in her well-known 10, 20, 30 Minutes to Sew series and book, you have to get organized. That’s one reason my patterns are all organized with a good old-fashioned outline structure–ABC, 123. It’s simple to do all your cutting, making half-square triangles or other mini-blocks all together at one time. You assemble tools just once, focus, and get to work.

I pre-wash fabrics in color batches. In fact, I even sew in color batches. This may sound silly, but I look for several things I can sew with one color thread instead of re-threading. For instance, if I’m making masks (yes, I’m STILL making masks!), I sew several red Christmas ones, then maybe switch to some with back backgrounds or green. Even though re-threading takes barely a few seconds, for me it’s psychological, a feeling of checking something off.

I look for ways to streamline. For instance, I have two wastebaskets, one for left hand and one for right. That may be overdoing it. However, I recently found a wonderful weighted bag that hangs off the side of the table for threads/scraps. (Hobby Lobby). It can be moved from cutting table to sewing table as needed. I have a magnet on a long pole to pick up pins, “Wonder clips” and even seam rippers. (EXTRA HINT–never buy a seam ripper the color of your floor–my brown one seems to disappear too easily!) AND my 4’10” mother taught me the wonder of long tongs. (May be available in medical disability supply stores?) She called them “devil-catchers,” and I inherited several pairs. I never caught a devil, but Wow–they pick up rolling thread and other paraphernalia that always seems to roll under tables or fabric pieces that fall off.

I keep a little bag of my most frequently used little tools and sewing machine presser feet right beside my machine. Fancier ones are put away in proper containers, but there are some I use all the time. I have a couple magnetic pin “cushions,” which I’d never do without, and I’m back to using a pin cushion on my wrist. The pins kept getting knocked off a magnetic one, so it IS a cushion, and it IS convenient.

My NUMBER ONE time-saver convenience is my ironing board. It’s set up waist-high to the right of my machine. I have a swivel office chair, so I swivel to press and swivel 180 degrees to an old breakfast table, where I can trim and stack. My husband calls my chair and surroundings my “nest.” Yeah, that’s about right, but when thread is on a rotating holder and all your tools are an arm’s length, you can keep your eye on the prize, eliminate distractions and really get things done! (unless, like me, you are sitting at your computer blathering)

Have a peaceful Thanksgiving and get ready to shift gears to Christmas.

Here’s a quickie for you!

This simple little quilt is a pieced hot pad with instructions for 8″, 10″ and a super 12″ by varying the borders. The basic design is a simply beautiful maple leaf–“simple” being an operative word here. “Autumn Maple” is made of just squares and a few half-square triangles, but when made up in rich fall colors, it’s lovely.

“Autumn Maple” cc2021 by LJ Christensen

Click here to see more and/or buy the pattern, which is on sale for $2 until the end of the month. A great companion pattern is “When Autumn Leaves Start to FallClick here. Similar, but different, they can live together in harmony, and my original samples of both are currently for sale in the Market Shoppes, downtown Wetumpka, Alabama, where I have a vendor’s space now.

Also available as a pattern is this fabulous matching runner, “Running to Fall.” Like the hot pads, you can make it in different sizes. I loved using a bunch of my stash pieces. The piecing goes together very fast.

“Running to Fall” cc2021 by LJ Christensen

Click here for the runner pattern.

As I was sewing the Autumn Maple, I was marking the half-square triangles and thinking about all the ways we have to mark. Do you remember tracing paper? I recall using it primarily for clothing, especially when marking darts. It’s still available; in fact, I think I’ve seen it in wash-away, nicer than the 60’s version.

We’re all very spoiled with the wash-away blue markers now….and then along came the purple markers, which disappear with the humidity of the air as well as with water. Don’t iron the marks, though, because it can set in. My biggest problem with the purple is that sometimes I can’t get to everything I’ve marked in one sitting and end up having to re-mark. Both blue and purple tend to be rather thick, but they’ve come out with smaller-point pens now.

Actually, the truth is that some marking I do with a pin instead of a pen. For instance, if it’s hard to see the difference in front and back of a fabric, that’s a good reminder. Ditto if you’re trying to keep track of the grain or of the lay of velveteen. In that case, I often put a pin in the TOP of each pattern piece or quilt piece. If you’re quilting and have lots of blocks or lines of piecing, I found that you can WRITE on the flat flower pins. I’ve used a thin permanent marker to number my pins and stick them into piles of different sizes or mark my rows in numerical order. They do make some numbered ones now, but they’re pricy and you can easily make your own.

I don’t do much hand-quilting, so I’m not too familiar with pouncing, but it seems to be a way to use powder sifting through little holes of a pattern template, faster than trying to draw on a design and more even.

My real contribution to the discussion, though, is something called tailor’s chalk. It looks like white chalk and is great for woolens (like tailoring men’s suits!) and cottons, but get this! It’s not chalk at all, but kind of a wax-based compressed white substance that MELTS AWAY when pressed. Don’t ask me how or why because I’m baffled! But the cool thing is that you can use it for those blacks and navies and dark colors like burgundy or pine green. I’d be very careful with polyester or silk and be sure to test it because it’s possible the oiliness could react badly. I’ve not had any issue with cotton, though. The problem is where to find it. I never see it in sewing stores, but I ordered a whole box of it from a notions supply company, so I’m sure it can be tracked down.

One more special marker has thrilled the quilting world. If you haven’t yet gotten a “Frixion” pen, you must do so! It’s an erasable pen readily available in office supply stores. The name is based on the fact that the friction of the eraser erases the ink easily. Get this, though! Friction produces heat, and what makes it disappear is heat. Yep, like an iron! You can make a thin line that looks like a ballpoint pin, and simply erase it by pressing later! It comes in about 5-6 colors, but certainly the plain black is good for 90% of our colors. Then find some tailor’s chalk for the other 10%. That’s my advice this week!

HURRY

Boo Day is almost here! I don’t carve pumpkins, but I’ve been making jack-o-lanterns out of fabric. I pulled out all my oranges and designed an entire family of Dad, Mom and 3 kiddos (or maybe 2 kids and a dog?) They got to be more and more fun with different eyes, mouths, even eyebrows and gold teeth. (They don’t show up well in the photo, but I assure you I found some gold metallic fabric!) Then I added a spider!! Too cute–made from a button, with a silver web.

Jackson-O-Lantern Five cc 2313

I have to admit that if you want to make this one for THIS year, you have to start NOW–lots and lots of squares to cut and sew–350+. However, all the many grids/graphs I include make it really easy to pull out just one or two pumpkins for this season and work on the lap quilt later. Yes, lap quilt or wall hanging–it’s 36″x 43″, a big hanging or cozy lap quilt. This will make a happy family, and it’s on sale for just $3.50 until the end of the month.

Click for more info or to buy

In the spirit of Halloween, I’ll also put on sale “My Little Monster.” This is actually a wonderful starter quilt because it’s easy with big pieces, and whether Jr. sews it or just helps pick out the details and colors, it’s a great interactive quilting experience.

My Little Monster cc2300

Click for more info or to buy

Both of these quilts have little quirky 3D details, which I love to add. You can leave them out, but I think they add a little dimension. Both of them are kid-friendly, too. The little monster is a 4’x5′ wonderful size for a snuggle quilt, not quite big enough for a bed, but big enough for a nap! It was fun to use up some wild colors, too–the ones we adore at the shop, and then reality hits that they don’t go with our furnishings….ha!

A few words of wisdom to pass along….I used Sulky’s “Sliver” silver thread for the web. It’s hard to use. Definitely use a special metallic thread needle. (I use mine and then put it back away in its case because they are a little more expensive than normal needles–in a pinch, use an embroidery needle.) You absolutely MUST loosen your tension, I said LOOSEN!!! Otherwise, it will snap and break every few inches. If it still doesn’t work in your machine, try the other types of metallic threads, which are a little more stable. But sew slowly. I used black in the bobbin (because it was there); however, you might try light gray or even white with silver. I wouldn’t bother to wind a bobbin of the metallic.

I have to add the it does WORK in the bobbin, though. That’s how I quilted an entire vest one time–from the back side, it never broke. The judges were impressed and gave me a 1st prize….so that’s another trick. Quilt from the back using a metallic thread in the bobbin–how cool is that?

Now order a pattern and get to work–Boo day is just around the corner. Next week it’ll be time to talk turkey!

Fall fell…

…and suddenly it’s Pumpkin Time. Geez, it doesn’t really feel like it in Alabama, but I’m afraid Halloween is just around the corner. What I have on sale for you this week is my super-simple “Halloweensie-Weensie Spider.” Perfect for an intrepid little girl or boy who loves Halloween decorations! What makes it so easy is that the legs and web are made from bias tape. On sale really cheap!

For more information, click here

However, if you prefer not to have creepy crawlies around or you prefer to PIECE your pumpkins, how about this gorgeous seasonal runner? It takes a little more time, but it’s well worth the effort, especially as it’ll last from October through Thanksgiving for decor. (Instructions included for three lengths.)

It’s on sale as well through the end of the month. Click here

Enjoy decorating and stay tuned…coming soon “Jackson-O-Lantern Five”! My orange squares are cut and waiting for me-just gotta find my mojo to get to work.

Time to go somewhere….

…ANYWHERE! You still may not want to go too far afield, so don’t pack a suitcase–just take your new fabulous tote! Truly a winner, this tote is chock full of optional pockets–zippered, patch, bottle and even has a keyholder (or maskholder) hook. The best part is that it’s made from scraps! Just use twenty 2 1/2″ strips or a jelly roll to make all of it–front, interior, handles and even pockets.

Jelly Roll Pieced Tote cc2209 interior
Jelly Roll Pieced Tote interior and cc2207 mask
Zippered pocket of Jelly Roll Tote by LJ Christensen

To encourage a little toting–I’m tempting you with ALL tote patterns on sale this month, not just this one. If you search a bit, you’ll find gym bags made from towels, a potential beach bag, a baby bag, and even child-sized totes. Maybe it’s time to start sewing for Christmas!

I’ve had it with the staycation. Nice for a while, but I’m rarin’ to go. I’ve had two knee replacements this summer, which I’ll blame for my lack of blogging. Really, though, I’ve been obsessed with mask-making and fallen behind on quilts. However, even those are a bit obsessive. The most recent one I’m working on is called “Alabama Bending the Covid Curve”:

Alabama Bending the Covid Curve by LJ Christensen

Yes, indeed, it has real masks plastered all over it (in tone-on-tone whites/muslins) to go with the Alabama crimson and white colors. And yes, it’s wrinkled because it hasn’t been quilted yet. The good news is that I’ve recently upgraded my quilting machine, so as soon as my knees allow, I’ll be tending to that detail!

My new favorite wall hanging is a 3D douzie! For an art show, I decided to build a stiff wall around the coronovirus! I did so, using stiff muslin, stiff interfacing and a layer of fusible fleece, plus a LOT of tiny individual bricks. The virus is stuffed, too! This one was really fun to make (if, admittedly, a bit tedious!)

Building the Wall by LJ Christensen
Building the Wall Closeup by LJ Christensen

So what else is new? I actually am moving my quilt samples to be sold in a booth in Market Shoppes in downtown Wetumpka, Alabama. There’s going to be a BIG fall festival day there on Nov. 7, so if you’re local, you might want to check it out. (I’ll be bringing my Banana Slush Punch and some delicious chocolate brownie/cakes.) I’ve almost closed down on mask-making, but I’ve switched to scrunchies for using up scraps. Also, I’ve been working on crossbody Boutique Bags–I expect to have several patterns soon. I have a new Cotton Pod block for a quilt in process, plus some fall items, such as a “Jackson-o-Lantern Five.” I’ve just been lollygagging a bit about getting the patterns out. They are definitely coming, though! I promise! Keep tuned!

“Schooner or Later”…

The (pattern) design is for a totebag with a 12-inch insert of an appliqueed schooner sailboat.

…we can sail away on a wonderful vacation. In the meantime, we can dream about it. This beautiful appliqueed schooner (in the 1800’s they were heavily used for coastal trade) skims along the waves against a beautiful sky. Simple appliqueed shapes are really enhanced by beautiful fabric, and there are many exquisite water and sky prints available.

“Schooner or Later”cc2208 by LJ Christensen

The design is for a totebag with a 12-inch insert, which could be made again and again with other applique designs, orphan quilt blocks or embroidery. It’s also really convenient because it has a pocket made for a cell phone or sunglasses and another for a water bottle or small umbrella.

“Schooner or Later” pockets

Just as the tote pattern could be re-used, so could the applique. It’s perfectly sized for a quilt (12 1/2″ finished at 12″) or could be placed on a sweatshirt or even into a larger wall hanging! Click here to buy (On sale for just $3.50 now through August 15.)

I love this tote! I made a point to interface the lining, which takes the brunt of the load so that it can be made from quilt fabric instead of the canvas used here. Interfacing supports the pockets, and I used extra heavy, stiff interfacing for the bottom. The added edgestitching and piping really “sharpen up” the look. The 18″ handles slip easily over the wrist, leaving hands free. I like to have totes of different colors, and this one is a great “wearable art” project because I designed it to easily showcase any sort of needlework.

One of my hints, included in the detailed directions, is to use a bladed edgestitch foot. The edgestitch foot is one of about 5-6 feet I keep out and use frequently. It looks like a hemming foot, but it’s flat underneath. I use it to edgestitch and square up not only the outside edges of this tote, but the pockets, too, and even the piping. Run the blade along the right edge of the fabric and move the needle to the left a notch or two. It really helps keep the little seam absolutely straight. I use it to line up against piping and move the needle over just a bit. (It w0rks fine on most piping that’s not too thick–for thicker, use a special piping foot with a channel, or try a zipper foot) I use it afterwards on the outside along the seam edge to hold the lining down.

Similarly, I use it to edgestitch my quilt bindings. I sew them on the back, pull them around to the front and edgestitch with the blade to the left along the binding edge with the seam just inside the binding on the right. Very quick and very neat!

In other projects, I even use it for elastic plackets. I sew the elastic ends together, place the ring of elastic inside the top edge of pants/skirt, and pull the fabric up and over the elastic for the placket. Then I run the blade against the elastic, with the needle to the left so it doesn’t catch. I stretch the elastic as I go, occasionally stopping with needle down to pull more elastic around. This is not hard if you’re careful, and it’s a lot quicker than having to thread elastic through later. My Bernina sewing machine makes a wide enough stitch that I can even use a little zigzag and not worry about catching the elastic. On little cotton shorts (like I used to make for my son many years ago), you don’t even need a zigzag (though I do like it on my on knit pants.)

OK, I admitted it. I wear elastic-waisted polyester pants–so lowering to be consider a Walmartian, but at least I don’t let my middle show…..and by the way, I’ve heard the youngsters are now approving yoga pants. Hmmph! They are polyester stretch with elastic waists, too–I just have better sense than to wear them skin tight! HA!