Coming Out of Your Cocoon?

Maybe, maybe not, but certainly these butterflies have! I got really inspired to sort through my batiks and use some of the scraps and stash pieces for butterfly wings. Then I wanted to work out a way to make them fly–3D! I ended up with an interesting combination of piecing and applique.

3D butterfly block by LJ Christensen

You make the wings and tuck them into a seam, then fuse/satin-stitch applique the body on top. Add antennae and voila! A beautiful butterfly! I quilted around them by stippling with my longarm, but then used my sewing machine to finish the echo stitching on the side triangles and some quilting inside the wings, leaving the edges free.

Back of quilt, showing quilting and label

The hardest part is the intricate applique, but the hand-cutting took more time than technique. It was fun, though, to make such a stunning throw. For fun, I even added glass beads to the ends of the antennae.

3D Butterflies Fly Free cc2319

If you dare to try, this time I added extra photos, not merely diagrams, to show every step–marking, cutting, sewing, quilting, binding. If you are comfortable appliqueing by machine, you can make this quilt and get rave reviews. If not, it’s for sale in Market Shoppes in downtown Wetumpka!

Click here to buy the pattern It’s on sale for just $3.50 for a week.

While sewing this quilt, I thought about tips for machine applique:

  1. Be sure to insert good stabilizer underneath. The butterfly wings have interfacing, but I added several layers of interfacing under the heads/antennae to stabilize and also put them on the same level as the thicker body. (I actually used little scrap pieces I always save after my embroideries.)
  2. For a satin-stitch, the stitches need to be close together, but since they are also wider, it’s a good idea to loosen the top tension just a smidge.
  3. Rayon or polyester embroidery thread gives a good sheen, but because it’s a little thicker (40-weight rather than 50-weight of normal thread), use an embroidery needle with a larger eye. (I used regular sewing thread because I’m on a mission right now to use up a lot of my old thread before it dries up to dust!)
  4. Slow down, especially in tricky areas, such as around a head. It’s better to be slow and steady rather then fast or jerky.
  5. As you pivot around a curve or tail, always make sure the needle is in the down position before raising the foot, and move as slightly as possible.
  6. If you make booboos, don’t dry. It’s really easy to snip out satin-stitch. Just insert sharp little scissor points, a snipper or a seam ripper under those long stitches. Go back and resew; it’s not the end of the world
  7. Keep tiny scissors, tweezers and if you have them, needle-nose tweezers by the machine. They are helpful for that unsewing and picking out threads.
  8. For goodness sake, don’t forget the open-toe foot. That really makes it easier to see as you sew.
  9. Make a point to remember the numerical machine settings for length and width of the stitching. If you have to go to another stitch, you can go back to the satin-stitch and not have to guess.
  10. If you want to make antennae that go to a point, you can actually turn the width down as you sew. Sometimes that’s helpful for a corner, too.
  11. Practice before you make the first one of a difficult shape–seriously, practice helps a lot. I got almost good by the time I made it to butterfly 32, but I didn’t count how many times I had to rip on the early ones.
  12. Don’t worry about imperfections. We focus on them when we’re sewing, but most people will never notice……unless it’s going to be judged. Then you can worry.

Hope you get to come out of your cocoon soon!

There’s still time!

…but July 4th is almost here. If you don’t have time to make a new quilt or runner or set of placemats, don’t worry. I have a very special “Kitchen Stitchin’ Collection” for you. These SIX patterns are little and quick and a fantastic way to use up scraps.

CLICK HERE to buy on sale for $5 for just one week. It’s a good bargain for all the instructions, two full-size templates and 25 diagrams. If you can sew, you can make these! Which ones sound fun to you?

Oven mitts made with leftover cotton batting and a quilt binding?

Simple napkins to just cut and hem? (Jo Ann cotton-surprisingly perma-press, thank goodness! I press when sewing, but I hate ironing.)

How about those hanging towels our mothers/grandmothers had? (Sew cute) I use Velcro instead of bothering with a button…but you can do what you please.

Had to have a Flag Pad to show my patriotism. (Sew simple!)

After making the “Running with the Stars” runner, I thought the star would be great for a hot pad, so I resized it. (Echo quilted and stippled everywhere else–also bound, just like a tiny quilt)

After I quilted 1/2 yd of fabric/lining with a double layer of cotton batting, I cut out two oven mitts and still had enough for an 8″ hot pad and a beverage cozy. (How cute is that? It holds a can or a cola, but I didn’t have a beer can to try–someone else can update me on that!)

Here’s a close-up. I added an elastic casing on the bottom to hold it tucked in, and I figured the layers of cotton would be a good insulator, so why not? AND I had enough binding to finish the top.

I know very well that we rarely think of MAKING kitchen items. However, with all the fabulous designs and novelty prints, I think it’s really fun….and I think I’m about ready to start working on Christmas presents.

Let’s see….Leah would love leopard in the kitchen, my son goes for black, gray or maybe royal blue while my sister-in-law loves florals. I’ve seen special barbecue prints, and my friend would adore one with cats. A great inexpensive gift for a teacher–a flag hot pad would be nice for man or woman.

The list goes on. Some hanging towels might be nice in the mud room-even my brother would appreciate dark towels and a car print. A cookbook with custom hot pads and oven mitt would be a great wedding gift. And beverage cozies for the patio would help keep drinks cool. Most people use paper napkins, but honestly, fabric ones can be washed and reused so often that I think they save money in the long run and feel luxurious–as long as I don’t have to iron them, that is!

Running up to July 4th…

…with a classic new patriotic runner I call “Running with the Stars.” Obviously, I made this one with July 4th in mind, but stars are great any season with any color. Also, I took the time to calculate three different lengths of runner: 42″ for the center of a table or small table, 60″ for a medium table, and 84″ to fall over the edges–just a matter of how large your table is (or maybe how much time you have.) On sale for $3.50 through the end of this month. Click here.

I get really excited about “Patriotica” this time of the year–I guess it’s after a lifetime of being an Air Force wife. Wives of several generals have bought my runners, throws, pillows and flags to decorate their houses. And vets, too, love their flag. Here’s a view of my little booth in its patriotic regalia, including my new umbrella from my flag photo–taken in Wetumpka in front of the copper doors of the 1905 bank.

My latest little creations have included hanging dish towels like my mother used to have. I spruced them up with embroidery designs to put up for sale in Market Shoppes, Wetumpka. I’m still tweaking the pattern.

I hope to have a pattern of several kitchen designs soon. I’m working on oven mitts and small hot pads.

The one below, made of scraps, sold on Saturday–I guess I should make more, huh?

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I have an idea for a BIG KING-SIZED patriotic quilt, too–fabric ready, just have to find the energy to tackle it. In the meantime, I have “Salute the Colors” in queen size out for sale. It can be made ANY size, though–it’s a one-block pattern that is extremely flexible. click here

Yes, that’s an apron made out of a pair of jeans. You’ll have to let me know what you like and which patterns you want to see. I have big, small, classic, 3D, quilted items, etc. I design the way the spirit moves me or when someone is interested and pushes me. I’m thinking about how to get the Cuddle Bear onto regular typing paper…that’s another one on the burner.

Lots happening, but it’s so exciting to be in Wetumpka of HGTV fame these days. We have visitors from all over the the US, and I love talking with them!

Take time to remember…

to bless our vets on Memorial Day and on to July 4! As an Air Force wife, I’ve been designing “patriotica” for a long time. It stirs my heart.

Whether big or small, I have a lot of projects you can choose from. Use US2021 to get any pattern for half price.

Below is “Stars and Strips Forever”–make the throw or pillow or both.

How’s this for a patriotic runner or placemats? Make it longer if you choose.

This fun quilt has a a little 3D star, almost like a little pinwheel, on the corners. Shown here as a queen quilt, it’s really versatile and can be made any size. ONE block!

Salute the Colors
by LJ Christensen

One day I decided to try making 3D, layered Log Cabin blocks and ended up designing a quirky flag.

It’s not hard. You cut bunches of strip pieces, fold and press them, then layer. Sew each layer, then baste and trim. It’s so thick that you don’t need to quilt it; however, the seam trimming helps keep the bulk out of the seams.

3D Log Cabin block

Happy Memorial Day, but stop to remember those who died for our freedom and those who have served. It’s not always easy for them or their families. God bless them and our country.

Oh Baby, Baby!

With the spring, along come the babies…well, they actually can come any time. I was trying to get this “Nursery Windows” pattern ready for Mother’s Day (appropriate, right?) Well, life and tension got in the way…quilt machine tension. I had to pick out ALL the quilting. GRRRR. Such is life!

However, the pattern is great. It pieces up so quickly, especially because the brick-like spacing doesn’t match many seams. The big block saves you from having to cut up babies, which would not be good, or any other cute novelty print. The windows are simplified log cabin blocks, great for chain-stitching, too. They’d also be wonderful filled with embroidered blocks. If you have some baby gifts in your future, this is a good pattern to have. On sale this week only for $3.50. CLICK HERE.

Top corner of “Nursery Windows”cc2318
by LJ Christensen

My unfortunate tussle with tension was my own fault. I didn’t test the stitch well enough and didn’t find it until I’d quilted the WHOLE quilt. Did I learn my lesson–yes! Will I have to unsew something again? Definitely.

Ripping out stitching is an inevitable part of sewing. One of my relatives once said that she couldn’t sew because it made her “nervous.” No kidding! It does have its frustrations. We’ve all sewn on a piece upside down or too much or in the wrong place. It happens!

The good news is that if you haven’t CUT, the problem is generally reparable. So arm yourself with good seam rippers. Yes, plural. My sweet husband put six of them in my Christmas stocking. He thought he was being funny, but the truth is that it was one of my best gifts. I need them at the sewing machine, at the quilting machine and by my recliner, where I sit to rip…and I’m always misplacing them. I personally think they should have flat handles so they won’t roll off the table so readily. I DO try to place them on my pin magnet, but I’m only successful some of the time.

While I haven’t found flat handles, I do insist on really fine rounded points–FINE! Some of the old ones they used to make were just too big. Take a close look–they aren’t all the same size! Bernina always had a really good delicate one. Another thing I really like is to have fine-nosed tweezers. I found some on line at Nancy’s Notions I really like, but I noticed Tula Pink has some out as well, so they are available elsewhere. They are great for picking up the severed threads.

I also try to have some really tiny fine-pointed scissors on hand. Sometimes it’s easier to cut here and there before ripping. Over the years, I’ve found that if you’re trying to pull out lengths of thread, it’s best to pull the bottom or bobbin thread because the tension never seems as tight. (Believe me, it wasn’t on my quilt!) Sometimes I pull from the bottom and then pull from the top and back to the bottom. I wonder how many miles of stitching I’ve ripped out in my life?

Let’s not even talk about alterations. The UNsewing is usually more extensive than the sewing in that case. I alter because I have to, not because I like to.

But don’t feel bad if you have to redo a seam. We all do. It makes us patient. It makes us strong. Yeah, right. It makes us crazy!

Welcome back, Nascar!!

Did y’all know Talladega is just 45 minutes or so from my home in Wetumpka? I hear there are a LOT of supporters, though I have to admit I’ve never been to a race myself. However, I did have a little brother who was really enamored of fast cars. If you have family members who like cars, they’ll love this twin-sized quilt called “Fast Track,” complete with 3D race cars. They are attached by sewing through the window and the buttons on the hubcaps (though you could attach with Velcro if you think they wouldn’t be lost!)

In honor of Nascar’s restart–they’re expecting about 30,000 in the stands–I am putting this pattern on sale for a week. Click here.

“Fast Track”CC2312 by LJ Christensen

I made four cars, but you can make a whole fleet if you want. Layer them with poly fleece or cotton batting (2 layers fabric, batting/fleece on bottom), sew all the way around, trim down seam. Make a slit in the middle of top fabric and turn. Whip up the slit and put that side down where it’ll never be seen. Applique a window with zigzag stitch, then anchor it to the quilt with a regular stitch. Make the tires the same way, then sew the buttons on through the tires and quilt, too. It’s 3D, but it won’t move! (except when you go “RRR RRR!and dream!)

“Fast Track” simple race car by LJ Christensen

In honor of Nascar, I’ll also put my mask pattern on indefinite sale for just $1. For the black/white one. I adjusted the squares to stay square despite the pleats. The other four mask patterns are also included. I know you probably have a zillion masks by now, but sometimes it’s nice to have a new one. These are made with quilting scraps and 2 1/2″ strip leftovers. I also use a 3″x5″ piece of cotton batting inside for the filter. Click here!

“Five Easy Pieces”CC 2207 pieced face masks by LJ Christensen

If you have kids or grand-kids who play with cars, they also might like balls, right? Here in Alabama, the girls play a lot of softball! My pattern “Play Ball” for pint-sized totes is also on sale this week. Click here!

“Play Ball” Petite Totes CC2204 by LJ Christensen

I have 2-3 more patterns in process right now, so by next week I hope to have something new to publish. Keep following! THANKS!

I’m dreaming of …

a vacation instead of a staycation. My new quilt in gorgeous cool,breezy, water-tone teal batiks is called “V is for Vacation: Caribbean Cruise.” Easy breezy to make, too, because it’s done with packs of jelly rolls, those wonderful pre-cut 2 1/2″ strips, all color coordinated and ready to go. Honestly, the cutting is the hardest part of this simple quilt, which has just 2 seams on each row! Obviously, you can pick whatever color rings your chimes, but these teals spoke to me of tropical climes and sea breezes….ahhh. Pass me a pineapple cocktail or a cocktail in a pineapple–I’m not picky!

To see the whole quilt and buy the pattern ($3.50 throughout Apr), click here.

“V is for Vacation: Caribbean Cruise”cc2317 by LJ Christensen

I’ll share a secret. Old-style quilters will insist the backing has to be cotton and the thread has to be cotton. Yeah, yeah, supposedly it all ages the same–but they often use polyester batting and frankly, the best quilting machine thread has polyester in it because it’s stronger. So I decided to use a poly batting instead of the heavier Warm-n-Natural cotton I generally use. Then I used a cheap (Big Lots) silky microfiber polyester sheet for the backing. Oh, my, it’s silky and lightweight. However, I DID pre-wash it and found it bled a lot! So be careful.

I also pre-washed the batik, but I thought it might be a pain to do in strips. So I pieced it first, then soaked it with suds and vinegar, changing the water until it ran clear. I didn’t want it to wrinkle , so I rolled it in towels overnight and pressed it while still damp. The soaking should have gotten the excess dye out and the pressing got the shrinkage out. (I hope!) I was nervous about the quilting, but I used a lightweight poly thread (Omni by Superior Threads), and it worked just fine. The quilt’s light and airy. I love it! So when people tell you you have to use this or that, just nod sagely and go your own way.

As for the “jelly rolls”–those are pre-cut strips, always 2 1/2″ and rolled up, all the same brand of fabric coordinating colors or prints. Some realities–they are wonderfully quick and easy to use for many patterns. However, if you need a larger cut, you may be out of luck. They’re also a lot more expensive than buying the yardage because you pay for the convenience. (Sometimes they go on sale, thoughthat’s when I look at them!!)

Something I just found out today is that Joann’s now has a variety of special thick plastic rotary-cutting rulers made just for these strips. I found square, triangle, right triangle, Dresden, crazy quilt, diamond, and hexagon among the 16 “Jelly Roll rulers”! Wouldn’t our grandmothers be surprised? Heck, I was surprised!

One caution is that the name “jelly roll” can be deceptive. I’ve found 20-28 strips in a packet, so do read the fine print. Don’t get a “honey bun” by mistake because though it’s also rolled, it’s 1 1/2″ instead of 2 1/2″! (unless you get the pastry, which is delicious!) Try some jelly rolls–they are the latest rage, available in every quilting store. (I also like the raspberry ones with coconut on top!)

In case you’re not in the mood to make a quilt at the moment, try my “Jelly Roll Tote“–I used jelly roll strips for the inside, outside, handle and pockets. It’s on sale this month as well: “Jelly Roll Pieced Tote“–click here. Make it to take with you on that cruise!

“Jelly Roll Pieced Tote”cc2205 by LJ Christensen

Spring sprang and Easter…

is nigh! There is still time to make up this quick “Christ Cross” Platter Pad for Easter dinner. So simple and a beautiful way to proclaim your faith! We need renewal, spring, flowers and lots of faith this time of year. The winter and Covid concerns have bogged us down and been depressing for many, but we can now see the light in so many ways. This pattern is on sale for just $1.50 until Easter, and I’ve selected some other Easter patterns to put on sale as well. To buy, click here.

“Christ Cross” cc2022 by LJ Christensen

Another Easter icon is the Easter basket:

“Easter Egg Basket” cc2003 by LJC

I’ve made this same basket with fussy-cut flowers instead of eggs:

“Easter Basket” with flowers cc2003 by LJC

This “Charming Chapel” is, like the flower basket above, not only for Easter, but it does have a spring feel with the colorful stained glass, which is simply a printed fabric.

“Charming Chapel” cc2002 by LJC

I have patterns for other crosses if you are ready for a larger project. Below is “Risen”cc2103 with a beautiful 3D flower. It uses a jelly roll for the lovely corals.

“Risen” cc 2103 by LJC

A great pattern for trying “watercolor piecing,” this is “Leading to Easter.” Change the drape to purple on Easter Sunday.

“Leading to Easter” cc21o7 by LJC

….and finally a “basket” for baby! It’s not really a basket, but it IS woven–yes, like those stretchy hot pads we used to make! Baby Basket-Weave Blanket

“Baby Basket-Weave Blanket” cc2310 by LJC

I wish you a Happy Easter, hoping the bunny hops into your house, and I hope these patterns inspire you to start some spring thinking! (no, I did NOT say CLEANING!!!)

Marching to spring…

…marching down the path to spring, the “’Pieceful’ Border Path,” that is!  Yes, we’re on our way.  Those of you in cold states might not be believers, but we’ll soon be up to 80 here in sunny Wetumpka, Alabama.   My last pattern, “Winter Border Garden” was jewel tones; this new border lap quilt is soft, mellow beige and tan, or could be made with a restful gray, and frankly, just about any color floral or pattern border.  It’s a nice tranquil throw to gently go with a décor without standing out too much. Just cozy. It pieces quickly, too, because of large 7″ triangles and a lot of border print.

On sale for just $3.50 until the end of March, it’s a nice restful quilt to make. Click here for more information.

“Pieceful” Border Path cc2316 by LJ Christensen

While I’m generally most drawn to really brilliant colors like the jewel tones in the last pattern (“Winter Border Garden #CC2315), there are times when a more subtle approach is warranted. Years ago, one of my friends made her mother a gorgeous quilt in shade of beige and gray. While normally those colors make me yawn, it dawned on me that in a BEDROOM, maybe you want to yawn!

I had just enough of this brown/gold border print in my stash to make a throw (about 42″x55″), so I searched for really tranquil creams, beiges and tans with a slight gold tone to go with it. Colors beside each other on the color wheel are called “analogous,” but usually that refers to three colors, e.g. yellow, yellowgreen citron, green. In this case, my choice was almost monochromatic and differed more in shades than in colors.

Actually, to be technical, I should say “tints” and “tones.” A tint is a “hue” (clear color on color wheel), such as yellow, that has white added to it to lighten it, giving a yellowish cream. A “tone” has gray to darken it, like maybe a gold shade or taupey beige. Whoops. I stand corrected–a “shade” has black to darken it. If you’re painter, that’s good to know. If you’re choosing fabric, it’s OK with me if you say “shades” of a color. After all, you buy what is available and unless you dye, you don’t change it.

Using softer toned monochromatic colors can induce a tranquil look. Imagine soft, misty blues or heathery muted purples, or maybe pale sage green and gray. Those give a very different feel than stark primary colors, bright red, yellow and blue. When decorating, sometimes tranquility is better. Other times you want a pop of bright color for accent.

Speaking of accent, I did use a strip of medium brown with gold leaves as a narrow folded border and as the binding, for a little contrast. It’s in the same color family but darker. That’s for just a little pop without going to a bright orange or clashing blue. Also, note that the cream is not a solid. It’s actually a soft white with a tiny swirl of beige, but it reads like a cream. That’s a fun thing about fabrics–some are tone-on-tone, some mottled, some with pin dots, which add richness to the project without changing the tone (or tint or shade)!

If you’re getting sick of winter….

how about growing yourself a “Winter Border Garden”? This little lap quilt is quick to bloom because it makes great use of a border print. Just pick some colors from the print, sew up some strips, and voila! A pretty little top, ready to quilt. I just did quick stippling, a bit of echo stitch above the garden and a simple flower in the center. I love the vibrant jewel tones with black, but I’m now thinking about doing one in pastels for the spring. If you want to join me, the pattern is on sale this week through Feb. 28 for $3.50: Click here.

Winter Border Garden cc2315 by LJ Christensen

I thought a lot about the colors before I started–of course, that’s really the fun part of quilting. Originally, I had in mind a lot of purples, pinks and mulberries, which I’m sure would have been lovely. However, when I looked at the piece again, the oranges and yellows really jumped out. I decided to switch up my plan. Someone asked me once how to pick colors. It’s personal, but here are some pointers.

First, take a pattern, floral or other, that you plan to use as a key piece. Consider the background because that may be key. If it had been white or cream or blue, I wouldn’t have picked a solid black.

This pattern calls for 6-8 stripe colors. I could have picked one color, such as purple or cranberry and done a variety of different shades. However, since the flowers in the print were multi-colored, I wanted to use multi-colored stripes.

“Winter Border Garden” border by LJ Christensen

The stripes in the 1st photo may look like solids, but most of them are not. Many are tone-on-tone little prints, but they read as solids. I selected from a pile of potential colors. I don’t know that my color choices are what you would pick–they are really strong here, I admit–but I have some underlying guidelines I follow, which I’ll try to explain.

“Winter Border Garden” striped center by LJ Christensen

I could have used green because there’s clearly green in the garden. The truth is that I just didn’t seem to have the right shade of green in my small scraps. I must have tried a half dozen and finally just dropped the idea. I definitely wanted the purple because I had two nice shades to use-yes, those are purples, not blues, but they do lean violet. I eliminated a plum that looked sick beside the yellow and coral.

I wanted yellow, but it couldn’t be too light because the other colors were so vibrant. Think about matching color saturation. I wanted it deep, but not brownish gold and not too orangy. (Probably not a real word, but you get it!) Speaking of that, there’s a bright orange flower that I just ignored because putting bright orange with black smacks of Halloween.

Interestingly, there’s no coral in the print, but that’s what I ended up choosing for the backing, binding, narrow folded inner border,and outer ring of the stripes. It’s a vibrant coral with a lot of orange, but softened with pink so that it actually goes well with orange and pink. I picked a very warm deep pink for the center–I tried a bright candy pink, but it was awful–I definitely needed a warm red-pink rather than a cool blue-pink. Also, the red isn’t a true red, but an orangy red that blends well with the coral, too.

It’s not really about exactly matching. You have to constantly look at the colors together and rehearse them a little to make sure they’ll blend. I even found when I lined up the stripes that I had to switch them. Some just do not like to lie beside each other–they fight! There’s a fine line where you want contrast, but not clash, even in these brilliant jewel tones.

Saturated jewel tones go together, but I could never have added some browns or tans or olives to this combination just as I avoided throwing pastels into the mix or soft muted gray-blues, gray-greens or heathery (I think I made that word up, too) lavenders. It was better to stick with warm and bright tones for the most part. That much black is strong and needs the saturated hues to balance.

I’m fairly happy with my choices, but honestly, I think it’d be fun to try it again with a white or cream background and different print for a totally different effect, something more delicate. I’m also thinking that center would make a cute pillow top, and it’d be fun to put a pretty border all around a big quilt. Or I could do all the stripes in florals–an interesting challenge. Always another idea, another project…..until later! Libby