Snow in Alabama

It doesn’t snow often here in the Deep South, and some years we just have to make do with our imaginations. But not today–today I have a cute and quick wall hanging with snowflakes made using my friend, Mr. Bias Tape! Just follow the clear designs and graph to make and place them. A gluestick will hold them in place until you edgestitch. It’s a fun way to play in the snow (and not as cold as making snow angels!) On sale until mid-February for just $2.00! Click here for more infor

Snowfall cc2106 by LJ Christensen

Just to prove we DO sometimes get some of those beautiful icy flakes, I have some photos I made two years ago right from my house. The first one I took from my front porch.

“Snow Down the Lane” by LJ Christensen

Here’s the back yard.

Libby’s Back Yard with Snow by LJ Christensen

The last few are some of the plants/trees with snow.

Snow on the Hydrangea by LJ Christensen
“Snowbuds” by LJ Christensen
“Alabama Snow” by LJ Christensen

This year I may just have to make my own–well, I DID so! Now you can, too.

“Strawberry Fields Forever”? Remember?

If not, listen to this lovely rendition of an old Beatles classic:

This was an inspiration for the quilt title, “Mulberry Fields Forever”!

However, my easy bargello-style “slice and dice” quilted throw is created in muted shades of mulberry, cranberry and grape instead of strawberry. If you can quilt at all and are meticulous about straight seams and strips, you can make this. Honestly, it is simply made of just strips and slices, re-seamed. It’s also really versatile. Not only can it be done in any color range, it’s friendly for jelly roll strips or full-width scraps, AND with minimal change, can be made as a 40″x 40″ lap quilt. Is it time to quilt again?

“Mulberry Fields Forever” (by LJ Christensen)….on the couch, well, maybe not forever…but on there for now

The sample is for sale for $149. Made with my favorite Warm-n-Natural cotton batting, it will soften with every wash. I challenge you to make your own, though. The pattern is on sale for $3.50 until the end of January.

Click here to see more or buy pattern.

As I was piecing this last Sunday, I was having trouble with my thread breaking, repeatedly. Now that happens occasionally, but by the time it happened 8-10 times, I’d had ENOUGH ALREADY!!! I sighed and immediately suspected the thread was old and brittle, which DOES happen, especially to cotton thread. So with regret (because I had a full big spool I hated to part with), I switched to a different thread.

Hello–what’s this? More breakage? AARGH! Irritated now, I thought about it and realized that it could be the NEEDLE. I changed it, and voila, no more problem at all for the entire quilt. The culprit was a burr INSIDE the eye of the needle. Most sewers don’t think about that, but it can happen; sometimes in manufacturing, there’s just a goof. So, besides tension problems or brittle thread, don’t forget to check the needle, especially if you notice the thread SHREDDING!

As I’m mentioning needles, let me add that quilters generally can be happy with just size 80 universal. It’s my “go-to” for piecing. A 90 is OK, too. A 70 may be needed for very fine or tightly woven fabric. For actual machine quilting, a quilting needle (same sizes) isn’t mandatory, but it may be preferable because it’s sharper with no ball point.

The ballpoint and jersey needles are made for knits so that they slide through without breaking thread and causing a run (yes, like pantyhose–remember those?) You can get size 100 or 110 for heavy denim or canvas, not often used by quilters. There are double and triple needles as well as wing needles and leather needles, but those are really specialized and not used too often. I do like a double needle for sports hem in knits because it actually has a zigzag action underneath that gives a little stretch. They come in different widths. I’ve also used the narrow-width double needle to make pintucks or pintucks over a tiny cording, but again, that’s really specialized.

What most quilters need, though, is plenty of size 80 universal and quilting. (Plenty because you are supposed to change your needle after every project–do as I say, not as I do.) I have to add that if you have a combination machine with embroidery, more and more common these days, you really need a good supply of embroidery needles, again generally 80, but if you’re doing a really tightly filled embroidery design, you might use 70 while thick embroidery thread could require the 90, which is bigger. In embroidery needles, the EYE is also bigger, a little longer, to provide “play” because the embroidery threads don’t have the “give” that normal cotton or cotton blend/poly core sewing thread has. The Metallica needle has a longer eye yet because metallic thread is really brittle–sew SLOWLY with much, much lower tension. The flat ribbon-style thread is the hardest to deal with, but all those hints belongs in a thread article…some day.

Before I sign off, I want to give an update. The Sewgocreate Studio is almost finished–not loaded up and organized by any means, but the construction is FINALLY–at long last– nearly done. Still waiting for drawers and doors on a desk and cabinet, plus a few other tiny tweaks……but I get to report that THIS PATTERN–“Mulberry Fields Forever” was quilted by Molly (my quilting machine) last night in the studio. Good light, padded floor. YEA!

Libby quilting “Mulberry Fields Forever” in front of “Log Cabin in the Pines” in new studio
Waiting for drawers and doors…..! Sewgocreate Studio
Organization in progress!

Next project….knee doctor tomorrow to figure out knee replacement plans. UGH! To be continued….

Put away holiday decor and china…

but get out the Wedgwood! It’s time to stop decorating and start sewing! We all know the winter months are the best for quilting, so here’s a nice little throw to consider. I based the design on the classic blue china with white bas relief by Wedgwood, using folded half-square triangles to give the suggestion of texture. They are optional, though, if you don’t care for 3D. Just twelve simple 12″ squares make a 44″x 56″ throw and you’re done, but in the pattern, I give the number of squares needed for bigger quilts as well as full instructions for half-square triangles and binding. The pattern is on sale for $3.50 until the end of January. Click here if you want to see more.


“Wedgwood Plates” cc2307 by LJ Christensen

This sample quilt is for sale for $199 if you’d like to buy it–I’ll include shipping for my followers. It’s cheaper to buy the pattern, though, and make your own!

Here it is shown in a recent art show. It’s not the right colors for my house, but I think it looks gorgeous in the art scenario! I’m doing my best to introduce quilting/fabric art to the regional art shows.

The Kelly Artists Market, December 2019

My photo on canvas on the right of the picture is for sale, too, for $99.

“‘One Is the Loneliest Number'” by LJ Christensen

Eventually, I plan to have more quilts and maybe photos for sale on my website. I just have to have build up enough I’m willing to lose. I get really attached to my designs, and I’m not going to sell them cheaply because fabric is expensive these days and even the simplest designs take a big commitment in time. But aren’t they worth it? I have some family quilts I’ll always treasure, and I love the interplay of colors, prints, textures and designs. I’m looking forward to seeing where the spirit will move me THIS week. Not that I have NO IDEA–I just have so many to choose from. Which way to turn?

Joy to the World

and a Happy New Year! I’m celebrating with song. This quilted throw is primarily a music quilt, but the pattern includes the 3D Jolly Holly I showed in the Christmas blog. It’s a lovely touch, but optional. (Try the 45″x60″ quilt in royal blue, for instance, without the holly!!) While the music in the applique is the actual opening of “Joy to the World,” it wouldn’t be difficult to insert any favorite tune–what a wonderful gift for someone.

Don’t hesitate, though, at the level of difficulty. While there is some work on the appliques, the piano keys are a cinch! Really, the ivory ones are faux-pieced from the back with tiny rows of stitching, not piecing, and the black ones are BIAS TAPE. (My friend, Mr. Bias Tape, comes through again!) Also, the lines of the music are made of tubular bias or narrow braid–very easy. Lots of step-by-step instructions with diagrams show you how. I dare you to try–it’s on sale for just $3.50 until Jan. 15. Click here!

“Joy to the World” cc1015 by LJ Christensen

So what is awaiting YOU in the new year? Don’t we always have projects—and more projects? Well, once my new Sewing Studio is somewhat organized, one of my latest plans is to make a Kaffe Fassett quilt. His designs are simple, and his fabric prints are really big, bold and bright. I’m drawn to them, but I confess I waited until a bunch went on sale (hello, Hancock’s of Paducah–thank you!!) I have my own design, but I’m planning to use all Kaffe prints, which’ll be a first for me. This will look very different in big prints:

Sneak Peek at “Which Way to a Kaffe Medallion” in progress by LJ Christensen

I usually start my designs on Inkscape, which is a free vectoring program with a grid. That’s what this is. I export it as a .png, then save it as a .jpg. In the program, I can change colors and sizes, using basic square/rectangle forms. It’s NOT a quilt program, but it works for me. Sometimes I start on graph paper, but I quickly move to the computer because it copies and pastes!

I have lots more designs to do and hope to keep with a new pattern every week…or at least make it to 100 before the end of the year. OK, I said it–you’ll have to hold me to it.

I also want to enter the Alabama National Fair again this year in October–I skipped last year because there was just too much turmoil with the Studio. Entering the fair gives me the competitive motivation to really push for excellence and for breadth as you only can enter one item per category. I made 65 ribbons 2 years ago. Can I do more? That means knitting and crocheting and embroidery and more. I can’t pledge to win, but I can pledge to try! (and while doing so, I get my Christmas presents all made early!)

One thing I love to do this time of year is get out old quilting magazines and books and just flip through, seeing what speaks to me. It’s funny how you see something new every time you flip through. Another thing I like to do is sort my scraps. Sometimes, just seeing and touching them give me ideas (or make me feel guilty and want to use them up in a scrappy quilt). Here’s a good scrappy quilt: Click here for more info.

Kite Charmer: Sleeping on a Cloud

The “Kite Charmer” is a paper-pieced wall hanging that I made of all different fabrics. It’s a little challenging to get all the points right. However, I have a regular pieced scrap quilt started out of this “pocket lozenge” block, an elongated “snowball,” which is easy and very different from the patriotic look. It can be made ANY size. Click here!

“Salute the Colors” close-up by LJ Christensen

What else is coming in 2020…? Well, for me, it means knee replacement surgery, which I’m not looking forward to. It’ll very likely slow me down. However, it won’t stop me. I’m thinking some cross-stitch or maybe even some hand quilting may be looming in my future. My son tells me, “When you can’t quilt, get out your laptop and design...” Good advice.

Have a Jolly Holly Christmas!

Decorate your house, yourself and your quilts. We certainly don’t have time to start new quilts this time of year. However, sometimes you can cheat just a little and simply whip on or pin on an embellishment to change the look, such as wreath and bows I added to “Log Cabin in the Pines“:

“Log Cabin in the Pines”cc 2305 decorated for Christmas!

To help you decorate, I have a simple way of making holly. “3D Jolly Holly Applique“cc2205 explains just how to make fun double-sided holly leaves and stuffed berries, using paper-backed fusible web and water-soluble stabilizer. Once you know the technique, you can use it for all types of flowers, leaves, and other appliques. I’ve put the pattern on sale for just a $1.00 until the New Year, so don’t miss it! click here for more info

“3D Jolly Holly Applique”cc2205 by LJ Christensen

I have to apologize for letting down my blog this month. Like all the other elves out there, I’ve been so busy wrapping, packing, trimming and participating in two art shows….that I finally ran out of time (not to say energy). But I have to say I’m really blessed this year. My son is home, and he and my sweet husband have been extremely supportive in helping me move into my new Christensen Creations Sewgocreate Studio. No, it’s still not finished (I say, gritting my teeth), but outside of a custom desk, cabinet and a couple of tweaks, it’s nearly there. Now….what to put on which shelf? (What a wonderful problem to have!)

Sneak peak of Christensen Creations Sewgocreate Studio by LJ Christensen

As I look at the photo above, I’m realizing the lavender quilt on the quilting machine does NOT look good with the log cabin quilt. However, what it means is that soon in the new year, there will be a lavender castle pattern. Also note the blue/white one on the top right, called “Wedgewood Plates.” It’s close, too! Many more to come. I counted about 25 new patterns in various stages of development. New this week is “Check Out my Purple Heart,” which I hope to have ready before Valentine’s Day. Then there’s “Sssnakes” appropriate only for intrepid youngsters and “Snowflake,” a simple wall hanging. I had planned to finish it before Christmas, but as we’re experiencing the 70’s here in mid-Alabama, somehow it just didn’t seem seasonal. Maybe Jan and Feb will bring some snow. We’ll see. I like to design when and where the spirit moves me. Right now it’s hard to settle and sew, though, when there’s a new studio that needs to be outfitted and loaded. I confess to discombobulation!

But I’m definitely having a GREAT Merry Christmas! I hope you all are, too!

HO, HO, SNOW

Thanksgiving over, and it’s suddenly time to start a rush on Christmas presents! No snow here, but it’s certainly moving around other parts of the country. This is not a new pattern, but it’s worth featuring again because it’s so very cute for a child of any age and size–“With Fleece as White as Snow…or NOT.” I guarantee there are some 39+ persons who’d like it, too.

Because it’s fleece applied to a sweatshirt, it’s EASY–no fancy fitting, no seam finishes, simple elastic button”holes” and optional snowman applique (which can be on back or even on front of another sweatshirt). Use pompoms for snowballs. This really doesn’t take long!

Be sure to peek on line to see the very different one with leopard fleece. (You COULD add a white snowman on the back wearing a leopard scarf–sure to delight a teen or preteen girl. Zebra is also a “cool” choice.) Another color besides red takes this design easily into the new year, and the general instructions work for any size. On sale between now and Christmas for $3.50:

click here for more info

“With Fleece as White as Snow” cc1011 by LJ Christensen
“Snow Family Skirt” cc1010 by LJ Christensen

Let’s do a two-fer! Since I’m thinking about snowmen appliques….if you like the Santa pattern with snowmen, you might be interested in the “Snow Family Skirt” appliques as well. They certainly can be made out of fleece, too, instead of quilting cotton, and applied to a sweatshirt instead of a skirt. The snowflakes are darling, too, and really easy to make.

How cute would it be to make everyone in the family coordinating, yet customized sweatshirts? There’s definitely time, and it just might be the answer about what the heck to do about Uncle Bob, Aunt Susie or Gramps. Sweatshirts are genderless and ageless. This pattern is also on sale for $3.50 until Christmas…..” Click here

Now for a tip or several:

  1. When appliqueing cotton, I nearly always use a paper-backed fusible web. It’s better to apply it in a big swathe and then cut out the pieces because that way, the backing gets all the way to the edge.
  2. When appliqueing stretchy fleece, you may find the Wonder Under doesn’t work so well. However, you might take a look at interfacings because there is a STRETCHABLE iron-on now that can at least give the fleece a little stability.
  3. Fleece really doesn’t ravel, so it’s fine to just do a fairly wide-apart zigzag instead of a satin stitch.
  4. Loose pieces like scarves don’t need edge finishes. Just tack the pieces down a little and let them fly.
  5. You CAN use satin stitch for branch arms or sled blades, but it’s best to tuck some tear-away interfacing underneath so that the knit doesn’t stretch…maybe even add some wash-away on top as well. (I always keep a little bag of scraps of those items after I embroider.)
  6. In a pinch, use some paper for stabilizer–my mother used a roll of adding machine paper. (You can get pads of news print style paper in the children’s sketching dept–Walmart, etc. that’s easier to tear and easier on your needle, though. I print paper-piecing patterns on it.)
  7. Play with embellishments such as buttons, ribbon, and even teeny pompoms. (There’s usually a staple inside the pompom you can catch with the needle to whip it on.) You’ll feel like a kid dressing a real snowman, but it’s not so cold!

Have a Happy Holiday--try to hang loose and ENJOY yourself and have relaxed, fun time.

Do you work for a cat?

If so, this latest design will look VERY familiar. If not, I imagine it could relate to your other family members, especially at Thanksgiving. Just give up and have a chuckle. Keep this great “Demanding Cat” Platter Pad in mind for a wonderful gift. You can easily change the cat color as required and make the pad large, medium or small size….even use the applique on a quilt block or sweatshirt! On sale for $1.50 until Christmas! Have a happy holiday!

Click here for more info and cats of many colors.

“Demanding Cat Platter Pad” cc2010 by LJ Christensen

I can’t say I have many photos of cats–What can I say? I grew up in a dog family!–however, here are a couple:

“Raggedy Cat” by LJ Christensen
“Lazy Cat” by LJ Christensen

and my favorite:

“CAT is ART” by LJ Christensen

Get your TURKEY $1.50

It’s getting to be that time of year that you really NEED a turkey, either for yourself or your hostess. So gobble up this “Terrified Turkey Platter Pad.”
No whining–it doesn’t take that long to applique. Use fusible web to place the pieces, layer by layer, and a satin stitch. It isn’t rocket science. Add “Where’s the beef?” embroidery for a hoot. This huge platter pad is on sale until Thanksgiving for just $1.50, so get it while it’s hot….though cold turkey can be good, too, especially with mayonnaise and pickles. (Well, I like pickles!) For more info on the pattern, click here!

“Where’s the beef?” says this “Terrified Turkey” by LJ Christensen

Some people like to JUST use fusible web like Wonder Under. Certainly, that’s quicker. However, if you do want to wash and dry the item, I recommend making the effort to ALSO satin stitch because a hot dryer can cause a fused piece to UNfuse and lift a bit. Some tips:

  1. Take the time to pre-wash the fabrics several times if it’s an item you plan to wash. (I don’t bother with wall hangings, but hot pads are a different matter!)
  2. Better to fuse a section of fabric FIRST before cutting pieces. (It gets a much better fuse all the way to the edges–very clean.)
  3. Follow the pkg. directions–usually the iron is not supposed to be TOO hot.
  4. Let the piece cool completely before removing the backing.
  5. It’s easy to remove the backing if you “score” it slightly with a pin.
  6. For a satin stitch, adjust stitch to wide but make the stitch length very short, just not zero!
  7. Embroidery thread has a nice sheen and is usually THICKER as well.
  8. When working on smaller areas (like the feet above), reduce the stitch width.
  9. Sew SLOWLY, keeping your eye on the needle!
  10. Sew very slowly around curves, but steadily…don’t jerk (unless you want “jerk chicken,” that is!)

One more tip. What to do with leftover turkey? I know a lot of people make casseroles, but we really love Hot Browns. Look it up. It’s an open face sandwich created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY. You need turkey, bacon, toast and a lovely creamy cheese sauce. YUMM!

Loving Quirky Curves!

Being all too generously curved myself, I can’t say I ALWAYS love curves, but they are definitely lovable in this quirky, curvy memory throw (or large 45″x55″ wall quilt). I originally made”Curve Appeal” for a Curves exercise group, but the pattern is appropriate for many types of groups or memories. Imagine Grandma getting photos of grand-kids, or a daughter graduating with scraps of her favorite clothes and picture of her wearing them, a retirement gift or best friend gift (sneak her vacation pics off Facebook).

Did I mention scraps? Yes, indeed, this one is scrap-happy to use all those wonderful colors and strips (1 1/2″x 6″pieces) you’ve been saving. Get a wild and crazy piece for the border, match the colors in the three background sections and you’re ready to go, so go create!

Click here for more info–on sale for $3.50 until end of November. Use “guildxmas” to get $3.00 off. (I like to give my “followers” specials!)

“Curve Appeal” by LJ Christensen (middle bottom)

I love color! Each piece of fabric is valuable to me, like a shiny coin. I always loved all the crayons in the box and memorized all the colors. Do you remember sea green and the now-retired “flesh” (not p.c. enough today)? There are differences between hot pink, fuchsia, magenta and mauve. My slightly color-blind husband doesn’t understand. There are cool reds and hot reds, and 30 yrs. ago, my best friend told me she only wore “tomato red”–I got it! I like red-orange myself. For the blue-eyed gals out there, there are certainly Mediterranean blues and denim blues and bluegreens and greenish blues as well as sky blue and Wedgewood blues.

That reminds me–I’m currently working on a “Wedgewood Plates” pattern! I’m also doing a “Mulberry Fields Forever” (sorry, Beatles, this one is mine though I’m shamelessly borrowing the title). As you might guess, it’s in shades of mulberry with hints of grape.

So what can I give you about COLOR for a tip? Well, I’m personally buying medium-sized, rather flat, plastic bins, which I’m using to sort fabrics: reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, indigos, violets (yes, I always go by the roygbiv rainbow spectrum–in my closet, too, and in my thread colors). I also have white/cream, black/gray, multi-color prints, landscape prints and Kona solids. You probably don’t have the 1000’s of fabrics I do, but you could still separate into warm colors and cool colors, and/or prints, solids, neutral, etc.

I made an executive decision to only put 1/2 yd. to 2+ yd. pieces in the bins and wrap 3 yds. or more around empty bolt cardboards I get from the fabric store. I’m having special 2-ft-deep shelves custom-built in the new Sewgocreate Studio (due to go in next week after painting–I can’t wait!) to hold those bolts and bins comfortably.

I also save small scraps, under 1/2 yd in special bins, all nicely lined up in color order. I’ve already found this is a marvelous method for easily finding what I need. Because I’m a hoarder at heart and in practice, I even save little bitty scraps. Those are in one big bin under the sewing table (where they happily collect as I cut). When I have time to “file” them, they go into little plastic bags, by color, of course.

When the bags get too full, it’s time to tackle a scrappy quilt like this one. I love to use down to the last inch. It makes me so happy for those precious little orphans to find a home!

Playing with Lincoln Logs–

I did. Did you? How I loved to build and rebuild. Plastic blocks are more versatile, I know, but something about that real wood spoke to me. I relived the experience this week building a “Log Cabin in the Pines.” I have to admit that it grew and grew. I originally designed it as throw, but then I decided to go for a twin bed quilt. However, when I started cutting, I accidentally followed the notes for the double bed size, and ended up making an X-long 108″ double!

I went back and tweaked the pattern so that it’s easy to choose twin, long double, extra-long double or even queen size by changing the borders….and what fun it was to go through my stash and put together lots of different woods and pine greens, meadow, weeds, and even “pebbles” for the path. There is so much variety in fabric colors and patterns these days.

Click here for more info.

Log Cabin in the Pines: Quilt in Multiple Sizes by LJ Christensen

So if this one appeals to you, just click and get it–on sale for only $3.50 this month. Keep watching the blog–I’m building a castle next and have some great Christmas ideas like my “Joy to the World” quilt with music and over-the-door quilt and Santa outfit from a sweatshirt. Oh wait, first comes Thanksgiving, and I have a funny Turkey Platter Pad–hmm, which to feature next?

Speaking of building, the Christensen Creations Sewgocreate Studio is (slowly) coming along. The ceiling is done now and hopefully, painting will start this week. If they don’t get to it soon, I may get crayons out and start coloring the walls, but what I REALLY want is shelves and more shelves. Notice that I already have a great cutting table in there (it actually has 2 more leaves). It’s a genuine “find” from the Abdullah House Thrift Shop–very big and very sturdy! I love recycling! Some family had wonderful dinners around this table.

Christensen Creations Sewgocreate Studio cutting table!

Back to log cabins, though, I’d like to point out another log cabin quilt of a very different kind–I love 3D embellishment, so I made a flag with 3D log cabin blocks. It’s not hard. You simply cut normal log cabin pieces, but make them twice as wide and fold them. The trick is to trim the seam layers underneath because they get bulky. I really didn’t want to quilt over the layers, so instead I tacked it (like tying) with the little asterisk motif. We don’t use our fancy stitches enough! Click here to see the flag:

Closeup of “My County ’tis of Thee” by LJ Christensen

Since I’m on the subject of log cabins, I’ll sign off with a photo from Wetumpka, near the river and the library. A true historical log cabin in the flesh! Go see it if you’re in town, but “Watch Your Step!”

“Watch Your Step” by LJ Christensen (Wetumpka, Alabama)