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

Can you feel the love?

It’s in the air. Due to politics? Nope, not on your life! It’s because February, the month of Valentines, has arrived. What a relief to have a little love and maybe a little romance. How “lovely” is it to sit and sew in the winter and use up a bunch of scraps? To me, it feels like cleaning cobwebs…if I ever cleaned, that is. I’d so much rather play with fabric than dust.

The Log Cabin block has been around forever, but I’ve found it’s ten times easier to paper-piece when it’s small, like these cute little 3″ blocks. It keeps the lines of your seams honest! “Love in a Little Log Cabin” has templates to print as well as the usual full directions and tons of colored diagrams to follow. On sale for $3.50 until Valentine’s Day, CLICK HERE for more information.

Aren’t these colors just yummy? I actually hand-quilted mine and won 2nd Place in the Alabama National Fair.

Love in Little Log Cabin cc2108 by LJ Christensen

When I say I hand-quilted, I should have written HAND. It was a red letter day–well, probably more like a month–and it’s just a 24″-square! Whew! I know people enjoy it, but I thought I’d never get finished.

I’m really not the person to give tips on hand-quilting, but I’ll attempt a few.

  1. Use a tiny quilting needle. They have sizes 10-12 for quilting so thin that they pass through the layers easily. Just be aware that they are hard to thread, so have a threader handy.
  2. Use a thimble. Do as I say, not as I do. I just never got the hang of it. But be advised that you may tear up your fingers with pricking if you don’t. I have long nails, which makes it hard, but that’s no excuse because these days, there are special leather thimbles open at the top for the nail. Try some different styles. There’s one style that has elastic over the knuckle to keep the thimble from falling off. I’ve also seen little stick-on pads to protect the fingers.
  3. I’ve heard that you shouldn’t thread more than 18″ at a time because when it’s too long, thread gets tangled. Do as I say, not as I do. “They” also say you can run your thread through beeswax to….lubricate? keep it from tangling? strengthen it? I’m not sure I ever knew exactly why, but some quilters swear by it, so I suppose I should mention it.
  4. You can get different size hoops for lap projects. Check them out.
  5. Ideally, load 8-12 stitches per inch on your needle. Right. Well, do as I….you get it. I did try, but it takes practice. It’s better to be even in the stitches than tiny; of course, tiny AND even is the goal. I have heard of some “big stitch quilting,” which is sounding pretty good to me. I believe it’s done on informal projects with thick thread…like you’re a pioneer woman who only has string to work with?
  6. Bend some rules–now that’s really me talking. Just for fun, I quilted some of this heart with metallic embroidery thread. It doesn’t slip in and out of the fabric too well, but it adds a pretty sparkle. I also added a few glass beads here and there to add more sparkle. They are very tiny, but they’re there!
The white spots are sparkles. Beads on the tiny hearts. By LJ Christensen

7. Final word–don’t kill yourself…the quilting originally HAD to be done because the cotton batting fell apart. However, newer battings don’t have to have so much quilting–do as much as you like. Me? I’ll head back to the quilting machine for the most part and just tackle hand-quilting once in a great while.

Alabama Snow seems to be…

non-existent this year. Of course, there’s always February, but since it was nearly 70 degrees today (Jan. 26), I’m not holding my breath. So I did what I invariably do each year–made my OWN snow!

This time I actually got a lap quilt made. I really want to dig into more quilts, but life has been hectic for me, even after Christmas. This one was really fun. I got to use some sparkly accent fabric. As usual with my patterns, it’s mainly straightforward squares and rectangles with a few folded triangles for a little texture. It’s even jelly-roll friendly. “Snow Crystal” was designed as a 43″ square lap quilt, but it’d also be a wonderful winter baby quilt! The pattern is on sale for just $3.50 through the end of the month. Move quickly to get it before it melts! Click here

“Snow Crystal” cc2314 by LJ Christensen

The reason I’ve been so tied up since Christmas is that Christensen Creations is sponsoring and loaning about 40 pieces to a special “Home and Hearth” art exhibition. The Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery in Wetumpka, Alabama, has over 100 stunning pieces of needlework on display: quilts (antique and new), clothing (adult and children), embroidery, hand-sewing, needlepoint, knitting, crocheting, crewelwork, even some hem-stitching and weaving. It’s an amazing exhibit that will be up through April 28. Here are a few of the items I loaned them:

“Soaring over the Mountains” 1st place in Make-a-Man-a-Vest National Contest by LJ Christensen
“Purple Reigned” wall hanging honoring Prince by LJ Christensen
“Rainbow Castle” single bed quilt by LJ Christensen
Prize-winning teeny miniature quilts by LJ Christensen

To see this exhibit, you can enter any weekday through the Chamber of Commerce door. We expect to have a guide there on Thursday and Friday afternoons and possibly Saturdays. To bring a small group, you can also call the Curator, Carol Hickman, at 391-5090, and she will arrange for someone to meet you, even on the weekend. However, we also have an 11-page guidebook with photos that gives details on every item. If you are local, you really should make the effort to see this wonderful needle-friendly exhibit. Needlework is often overlooked as a form of art, but not this time!

PS The castle is coming soon as a pattern…I’m not promising next week, but hopefully, I’ll get to it sometime in February.

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!