Category Archives: family

The Perfect Hostess Gift?

Tomorrow the Dear Husband and I will go on our first social outing since we began sheltering in place in March. The big event is a Happy Hour with good friends at their home. We’ll rendezvous on their spacious deck where we can chat (and eat and drink!) while maintaining proper social distance.

Here’s what I’m bringing as a hostess gift:


I never thought I would be bringing face masks as a hostess gift. On the other hand, I never expected to be living through a pandemic.

Here’s a look at the inside of the masks:

You can see each one has a channel at the top to hold a nose wire.

I made a new mask for myself and added a channel for a nose wire. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and attached it to the wrong side of the mask lining. When I sewed the lining and the main mask piece right sides together and turned them, the channel was nowhere to be seen. Silly me!

I’m not going to take it apart. There’s an easier solution, which I will share in my next post.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

 

 

Posted in face masks, family, update | 3 Comments

More About Masks

I’m shifting gears in my mask-making endeavors. Since mid-March, when the Dear Husband and I started sheltering in place at our Portland White House, I’ve made several dozen face masks using one of the first tutorials I came across, that of ER nurse Jessica Nandino. Between then and now, I’ve tried a few other patterns and haven’t found any I liked better.

Until now:

This is PJ Wong’s design. (I haven’t met PJ yet, although we both teach for Montavilla Sewing Centers. She’s an expert on designs and projects for machine embroidery and leads several clubs at Montavilla devoted to sewing, serging, and machine embroidery.) On the Montavilla website I came across this link taking me to instructions for two masks PJ has designed: one with a vertical center seam and one with three pleats. Both designs include instructions for an optional filter pocket, and the pleated mask also includes a casing for a nose wire. The site includes pdf patterns, written directions, and video tutorials.

I tried PJ’s design for the mask with the center seam (often called a duckbill mask) and proclaimed it a winner. What I like most about her design is the inclusion of a facing, separate from the mask and lining pieces, that gives the mask a beautifully finished look — inside and out. What’s more, the facing creates a casing at the sides that allows the mask to be secured with ties or elastic or — a new discovery for me — “t-shirt yarn.” (More on that below.)

As you see in the photo above, I used quarter-inch double fold bias tape on my first mask. All I had to do was stitch the tape closed and thread it through the casing. I cut my lengths of bias tape 36″ long, leaving a length of 18″ on each side at the top and 15″ at the bottom. That leaves plenty of tape to tie at the back of the head and the base of the neck. If you look carefully at the casing, you can tell that I stitched a little bar tack in the middle of the casing to maintain those lengths.

Here’s my first effort:

PJ’s duckbill pattern comes in four sizes, small through extra large. The one I made first is a medium and felt a bit large on me so I decided to try making a mask in the small size. And while I was at it, I wanted to try a different method of securing the mask in place. To be honest, cutting bias strips and sewing fabric ties was the one thing I found rather tedious about the other mask design I’ve been using, although it certainly has other features I really like.

I had seen several references on Instagram to using t-shirt fabric to make ear loops for masks. It is said to be softer than elastic hence more comfortable around the ears. All roads pointed toward a tutorial by craftpassion.com on making t-shirt “yarn.” It was a breeze to make and now I have a small ball of yarn made from one of the DH’s t-shirts, enough for a few dozen masks. (I haven’t told him yet about his sacrifice.)

Here’s my second effort, with t-shirt yarn for the ear loops:

The ear loops are very comfortable. And look how cute the mask is on the inside:

See what I mean about the nice finish? PJ’s directions call for the facing (green fabric) to be stitched down right next to the lining (yellow dotted fabric), which is left open so that a filter can be slipped into the center of the mask. Since I’m not using a filter, I stitched the ends of the lining closed.

The next version I made was for my twin sister, Diane, who needs a mask to go with the dress she is planning to wear to a wedding later this month. The dress is a navy knit wrap with a gray leaf design on it. She wanted a mask that would complement her dress, and she asked for a mask that would hold a nose wire. I made this one for her:

Take a look at the inside:

How cute is that lining fabric? Even with the addition of the gray leaf strip at the top, which holds a nose wire, the mask is nice enough to wear inside out:


Kidding, of course. But now I may have to make a mask for myself with the lemon fabric on the outside because it goes so well with my top!

 

 

 

Posted in bias tape, face masks, family, tutorial, update | 8 Comments

Tie One On!

The face masks I’ve been making over the last several days are finished with fabric ties. For the most part I’ve been following the tutorial of ER nurse Jessica Nandino but I departed from her instructions by pressing my strips of straight-grain fabric in the manner of double-fold bias tape before sewing them onto the mask rather than after. This allows me to insert the raw edges of the mask into the center of the binding strips and stitch once through all the layers. The finished product is very neat looking (as in neat and tidy) but the ties aren’t as flat as I would wish. In addition, the process of pressing three separate folds into those fabric strips is time-consuming and tedious. Oy, is it ever!

I have a bias tape maker on order that converts strips of bias fabric into ⅜”-wide double-fold bias tape but it will be several days before it arrives. In the meantime, I decided to try something different:  I cut ⅞”-wide strips of fabric on the bias, pressed them only once in the middle, then encased the raw edges of the mask in the folded strip, leaving the raw edges of the bias strips in plain view. I chose batik fabric for the bias strips because it’s very tightly woven. My assumption was that when a mask made this way goes through the washer and dryer, the raw edges of the straps won’t fray and the finished product will still look neat and tidy.

Friends, it worked! Granted, the finish isn’t as fine but I think it looks pretty darn good. Here’s my first attempt:

This mask has been through the washer and dryer.

Here’s a close-up, looking at the inside of the mask:

If you look carefully you can see that the raw edges of the binding are just the teensiest bit fuzzy but there is no raveling. That stitching you see on the inside mask fabric is the nose dart. The nose and chin darts in Jessica’s design give the mask its close fit. It’s a feature of her tutorial that I really like. No need to make a casing to insert a pipe cleaner or floral wire to shape the top of the mask, as I’ve seen in some face mask tutorials.

For my second attempt at a raw edge binding finish I used a zigzag stitch:

I think it gives a neater finish and may prove to be more durable than a single line of stitching.

Here’s a photo of the mask after having been laundered:

Again, no raveling of the raw edges, just the slightest bit of fuzziness.

Here is the same mask being modeled by moi:

These masks are not medical grade but they’re certainly better than no protection at all. And you can add an additional layer of protection by inserting a coffee filter in the mask:

I did have to trim the top and bottom of this 12-cup coffee filter to make it fit.

Thus far I’ve been making one mask at a time because of my tinkering with the construction method. Now I’m at the point where I can move to assembly-line production. A very low-key assembly line, to be sure. I’m not a speedy seamstress but my output should increase significantly.

I did figure out a faster way to cut fabric. Jessica’s pattern represents half of the mask. It was designed to be pinned in place with the center of the mask on a folded piece of fabric and cut out one at a time. To speed up the cutting process I made a full-size freezer paper pattern and pressed it to the top layer of fabric. With a sharp blade in my rotary cutter I can easily cut several layers of fabric at a time.

Then I simply peel off the freezer paper pattern and it’s ready to be used over and over again.

When my next batch of masks is done (I’m still sewing for friends and family) I’m going to reward myself by taking a break from maskmaking and sewing something new.

 

 

 

Posted in face masks, family, update | 10 Comments

Strapped

In my last post I showed you some face masks I made following ER nurse Jessica Nandino’s tutorial posted on a craft website called instructables.com. Jessica’s pattern calls for cutting strips from cotton fabric but I made my first few masks using packaged double-fold bias tape in ¼” and ½” finished widths. I wanted to give ⅜”-wide tape a try, thinking it might be more suitable — less bulky than half-inch wide tape but more substantial than quarter-inch — knowing I would have to make my own. I don’t think ⅜”-wide tape is made commercially. Even if it were, I wouldn’t be going to the store for some. This is all about making do with what’s on hand.

Some of my readers were interested in my experiment so I’m showing you the result.

This is what Jessica’s mask looks like when the two layers are stitched together:

Next step is pinning and stitching three pleats on each side of the mask. Normally when you sew, the fabric you are handling is to the left of the needle. In the photo below, the fabric is to the right of my needle. This enables me to sew with the pleats rather than against them:

(When I sew the other side, the mask will be to the left of my needle, the normal way, and I will also be sewing with the pleats rather than against them. And just so you know, I remove each pin before stitching the folds in place.)

To make my binding strips I cut several strips of fabric 1½” wide, cutting on the crosswise grain (from the fold to the selvages). I could have cut bias strips but I wanted to try it first with straight grain fabric, which would give me at least 40″ lengths (no need to piece the strips). Another plus: no struggling to iron folds in stretchy bias strips.

Double-fold tape is pressed in such a way that one side of the tape is slightly narrower than the other (from the fold to the outside edge). The narrow side always goes on the right side of the fabric. When fabric is inserted into the fold of the tape, the wider side of the tape, underneath, is caught in the line of stitching from the top.

Here’s a piece of double-fold bias tape opened up:

You can see three press lines: there’s a fold in the middle, then each end is pressed toward the middle. That’s exactly how I folded my strips, with one long edge pressed a full quarter-inch and the other side a scant quarter-inch, giving me the result you see below:

My finished binding actually measures a little over ⅜” wide. Next time I’ll cut my strips 1⅜” wide.

Now I’m ready to encase the left and right sides in my binding. The raw edges of the mask are snuggled up to the center fold of the binding:


The binding is folded over the seam allowance and pinned in place:


This is how it looks from the back:

The binding is stitched from the front through all layers. You can see how the stitching caught both layers:

The ends have been trimmed . . .


. . . and now it’s time to add the top and bottom strips, which measure about 40-42″, depending on the width of fabric after selvages are removed.

I mark the middle of one strip and match it with the dart in the center of the mask (remember, there’s a nose dart and a chin dart in Jessica’s pattern). I put in three pins only: one at the dart, one where the side of the mask meets the top strip, and one between those two. The pins go through all the layers:


Now I’m ready to start stitching at the far end of the strip, holding the binding in place as I stitch very close to where the two folded edges meet. When I get to the center dart, I insert the next section of mask fabric into the center of the binding fabric and continue stitching, stopping as often as I need to adjust the layers of fabric. My stitch length is short — 2.2 on a computerized machine or about 12 stitches to the inch — because the binding strips are going to get some stress when they are tied behind the head.

I don’t bother finishing the ends of the strips because I’m going to trim them at a 45 degree angle when I’m done . . .

. . . and it’s quite likely that someone winding up with one of my masks will find the strips too long and want to trim them anyway. As long as the ends are trimmed on the diagonal, they shouldn’t ravel, even after being washed multiple times.

My experiment turned out pretty well although the straps still feel just a tad bit bulky. For the next mask I might try making bias binding to see if it makes a noticeable difference. By the way, I like the fabric on this mask so much — it’s from an older line called “Birdie” by Pam Kitty Morning for Lakehouse Dry Goods — that I’m keeping it for myself. The mask I was wearing in my last post was laundered and mailed to my twin sister in Georgia.

I hope you are all staying as safe and protected as you possibly can and maintaining social distance. It’s the least we can do . . . and it’s so terribly important. As I continue to shelter at home, I have some great advice to follow: Keep Calm and Sew On.

 

 

 

Posted in face masks, family, update | 6 Comments

Making Masks, Making Do

And hoping to make a difference.


Like so many other quilters, crafters, and those who sew, I am making face masks, initially for close friends and family, then to meet the growing need for first responders who may not have access much longer to official PPE (personal protective equipment).

After looking over several tutorials this week and trying a couple, I settled on the pattern you see above. It was designed by Jessica Nandino, an emergency room nurse, who posted her tutorial here.

She points out that research on the efficacy of fabric masks is conflicting and stresses that nothing homemade will ever compare to medical grade PPE. These masks are not sterile and they’re not medical grade. But they’re better than nothing. The fact that our first responders will most likely be wearing homemade masks because of a shortage of PPE is downright scary in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notice that the mask above has nose and chin darts, and it covers the entire face. The top straps go over the ears and tie in back. The lower ties go under the ears and are tied at the back of the neck. It’s designed to fit in two ways: first, directly over the face, and second, over an N95 respirator as a way to provide a protective barrier in hopes of extending the lifetime of the respirator.

Here’s my first batch:

Although mask-making is a sobering enterprise, I can find some enjoyment in choosing complementary fabrics from my stash for the inside and outside of each mask:

Jessica’s pattern calls for the straps to be made from strips of fabric. I thought I might be able to make masks faster by using commercially made double-fold bias tape I already had on hand. I tried both 1/2″-wide tape (on the pink mask in the middle) and 1/4″-wide tape (the remaining masks). Both sizes work but the half-inch wide tape seems bulky to me and the quarter-inch wide tape was difficult to work with in terms of fully encasing the raw edges of the mask in the fold.

I’m feeling a little bit like Goldilocks. Will 3/8″-inch wide (homemade) be just the right size? I’ll give it a try today and let you know.

 

 

 

Posted in face masks, family, update | 5 Comments

A Spot of Green . . .

. . . in honor of St Patrick’s Day. It’s rather nice to be thinking about St. Paddy’s Day and not about the self-confinement the Dear Husband I have entered as part of our responsibility to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic. I’ve read a lot of posts today about how people are coping and I deeply appreciate the perspective that Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home brings to the situation. She lives in France some 5,000 miles way from my home in Portland, Oregon but we are definitely on the same page.

So back to the wearin’ of the green, or rather the sewin’ of the green:

That’s the last of the 20 roofs on my Dresden Neighborhood quilt (based on the pattern of the same name by Persimon Dreams).

I stitched all the roofs using the blanket stitch on my new Janome 9450QCP sewing machine. I confess: it was harder than I expected. Not because my machine is new. No, it’s because I’ve never machine appliquéd with a blanket stitch before! How did I get to this advanced age without learning that skill?

I had to practice — a lot — on scraps before attempting it on my funky little neighborhood. The most difficult part was stitching around the sharp corners. I couldn’t find a decent tutorial on how to do that so I fiddled with the points, trying different approaches until I was satisfied. And I matched my thread with the roof to minimize the imperfections.


See that zebra print roof above at about the 8:00 position? It’s the only roof that’s rounded and it was very easy going around it with the blanket stitch. Had I known that when I was cutting out the roofs, I would have made more of them rounded!

Uh-oh. There’s a dark smudge just to the left of the roof in the 11:00 position, made of the same zebra fabric. Here’s a close-up:


I have no idea how it got there. It definitely wasn’t there when I stitched around the roof. I tried dabbing it with a wet Q-tip but it looks like ink. The next time you see this there will probably be a chimney covering that sooty-looking spot. How appropriate.

What’s left? Doors and windows; a circle appliquéd in the center; and then it’s time to sandwich and quilt my little neighborhood.

As I was sewing the last roof on, the name for my quilt-in-progress popped into my head: Uptown Funk.

 

 

 

Posted in appliqué, family, Janome 9450QCP, machine applique, update, wall hanging, wonky Dresden neighborhood | 5 Comments

Throwback Thursday: Dragonfly Kisses (2016)

My plan to showcase one quilt made each year between 2010 and 2019 by posting a photo every Thursday is showing me how quickly time flies. It seems I posted my quilt for 2015 just yesterday but no — an entire week has passed!

We are up to Week Seven of the New Year and I am pleased to show you a quilt I absolutely loved making:

Dragonfly Kisses, 50″ x 59″ (2016)

It’s called Dragonfly Kisses, made from Chic Diamonds, yet another pattern by Sew Kind of Wonderful, creator of the Quick Curve Ruler. The quilt gets its name from the fabric line “Dance of the Dragonfly” from Benartex Fabrics.

I made some changes to the pattern . . .

. . . resulting in more background space, which shows off the beautiful edge-to-edge quilting by Sherry Wadley.

This quilt was given as a gift to a special family member. I have a feeling I will make another version if I come upon the perfect combination of fabrics.

 

 

 

Posted in family, Quick Curve Ruler, Throwback Thursday, update | 4 Comments

Throwback Thursday: Honeymoon in Paris (2013)

Here we are at Week 4 of Throwback Thursday, in which I’m looking back at quilts I’ve made over the last 10 years. By coincidence, my choice for 2013 is, like last week’s pick, a design by Sew Kind of Wonderful using the Quick Curve Ruler.

The pattern is Metro Rings, which I believe is Sew Kind of Wonderful’s #1 seller. Here’s my version:

Honeymoon in Paris, 56″ x 75″ (2013)

This quilt was so fun to make! Instead of laboriously sewing individual curved pieces together for the rings, you sew strip sets and then cut them into curves. I used a variety of black and white fabrics, several of them French-themed. The quilting motif I chose included fleur-de-lis, another nod to France:

Honeymoon in Paris was beautifully quilted by Debbie Scroggy. The French-themed fabrics, combined with the fact that the pattern is based on the traditional Double Wedding Ring block, led me very easily to the name of the quilt.

Little did I know how significant the title would turn out to be!

You see, during the following year my dear friend Lisa received a proposal of marriage from her longtime beau, James. The proposal was followed by a lovely garden wedding and —  you guessed it — a honeymoon in Paris. This quilt was destined to be Lisa’s. My sister Diane is the one who introduced me to Lisa and together we gave this quilt to Lisa and James as a wedding present.

 

 

 

Posted in family, Paris, Quick Curve Ruler, Throwback Thursday, update | 6 Comments

Throwback Thursday: Marta’s Quilt (2012)

Continuing my look back at quilts I’ve made over the last 10 years, we come to Week 3 and this baby quilt I made in 2012 for my great-granddaughter Marta:

This is the first of 11 quilts I’ve made using the Quick Curve Ruler designed by Jenny Pedigo of Sew Kind of Wonderful and one of her very first patterns, Urban 9-Patch. The fuchsia diamonds in the interior of the quilt were my additions to Jenny’s design.

Three of the fabrics are from the “Party Dress” line, Portlander Mo Bedell’s debut line for Blue Hill Fabrics. Lucky me, I still have a few pieces from the line that I’m saving for other projects.

Marta’s quilt finished at 47″ square. I quilted it myself and bound it in the same fuchsia fabric (polkadots!) used in each block:

Did you happen to notice one of the blocks is different from the others?

 

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, family, Quick Curve Ruler, Throwback Thursday, update | 4 Comments

First Finish of 2020: Kitchen Valances

This project falls squarely in the “why on earth did it take me so long to get it done?” category. After all, last year’s major kitchen remodel — faithfully documented on the pages of this blog — was essentially completed by the end of August. (You can see one of my last posts about the kitchen here.)

The only thing left to complete the remodel was making valances for the three new windows. I already had the fabric, a vibrant Jacobean floral that had been in my stash for a few years. The fabric (from the “Breath of Avignon” line designed by Sandy Klop for Moda) inspired my choice of paint color for the lower cabinets:


I also had a picture in my mind’s eye of what the valances would look like. No simple ruffled valances like I’ve made before. I liked them well enough but this time I wanted a more tailored look. I envisioned valances that curved upward from the sides with an inverted pleat in the middle made with contrasting fabric.

Since I had covered the back wall of the glass-fronted cabinet with yellow fabric . . .

. . . I decided to use fabric in the same shade of yellow for the pleat. And for extra pizzazz, I decided to insert a navy blue flange between the pleated part of the valance and the top band.

After taking very careful measurements, I drew up a pattern on freezer paper . . .

. . . and proceeded to fashion the first valance.

Alas, it was not a success:

First of all, I measured incorrectly; the valance wasn’t wide enough. You’re not supposed to see the end of the spring tension rod at the top of the window. Second, when the valance was placed at the top of the window, you could see the bottom of the pleat. That was not the look I was going for. Third, instead of folding the ends of the upper band in to make a rod pocket, I sewed the ends shut. (What on earth was I thinking?) In order to audition the valance on the window, I had to add a sleeve on the back.

The valance isn’t a keeper but it was very useful as a prototype. With some valuable input from my sister Diane, I nixed the pleat and changed the flange from navy blue to yellow. Here’s a close-up of the updated flange:

Can you see the pattern of tiny little flowers? It’s very subtle.

I’m much happier with the look of the yellow flanges:

I fussycut the second and third valances to match the design on the first, simply because I thought it would look better than having each valance cut at random from the focus fabric.

The lining of the valances is a blue print pulled from my stash:

Before the valances went up, the globes of the pendant lights blended into the white woodwork. I really like the way they stand out now. Here’s what the kitchen looks like at night:

I can now declare the kitchen remodel officially complete. One of these days I’ll do that “before and after” post I promised last year.

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, kitchen remodel, update, valance | 10 Comments