Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Banner

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When I was young, my family had a little wind-up musical statue-thing we called the Birthday Girl. She was ceramic or maybe porcelain, one of those idealized pretty things with a pioneer dress and bonnet, and big blue eyes, and probably clutching a basket of posies. You twisted her up and she played “Happy Birthday.” She was old, and had maybe come from Germany, or maybe not. Maybe she came from Woolworth’s.

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The Birthday Girl was a family piece, purchased at some point because they all on my mom’s side of the family thought they couldn’t sing, and thus maybe would need a little help with the birthday song. So, even when it turned out that at least two of us could sing pretty well, we brought her out on birthdays, and in almost all my childhood birthday photos, there she is on the table, next to the cake.

Well, as it happens, my entire family can sing like larks now, so we have no need of the Birthday Girl, but I did love the idea of her—the one thing that, when you see it, you know it’s somebody’s birthday; the Christmas Tree of birthdays, the Jack ‘o Lantern of birthdays. The thing that gets the party started.

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So, because I sew, I made this. I chose to leave all the edges raw and let them fray. Happy Birthday, kids!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Easy bias tape

I don’t usually like the bias tape that comes in those little cellophane packages at the fabric store. It always feels very stiff to me, and I don’t like that they only come in solids. I also think they’re made out of pretty cheap fabric. I’m sure you could find some fancier ones somewhere, but I haven’t seen any.

So, because I am impulsive and lazy by nature, I always just go ahead and use what I’ve got and do the best I can do with it. Meaning, I don’t have one of those fancy bias tape making gadgets and I don’t see why I’d ever need one. Here’s all you need to do:

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The size fabric piece you choose will depend on how much bias tape you need to make. I’m only edging a wallet, so I’m using a small piece—this is only about 12” wide—length doesn’t matter, since I’m going to cut most of it off in a minute…you’ll see. If I were making a quilt edging, this piece would have to be more like 30” wide. Okay, press your fabric and then fold down one corner so that the raw (cut) edge lines up with one of the selvedges. Or even if it’s not a selvedge, it’s okay.

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Using the folded edge as a guide, cut parallel to the fold, and then along the upper raw edge, cutting as far away from the fold as you feel like cutting, until you have a trapezoid. Geometry! Don’t freak out. It looks like this:

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Now cut a right angle from one of the points of the short side to make a parallelogram. This all sounds so mathy.

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At this point, you have a double thickness of fabric, so cut along the fold. Now, the tricky part—especially if you have used a smallish piece of fabric, like I have. You want to fold the parallelogram, right sides together, so the two short opposite edges meet, but are offset by about one inch. Stay with me:

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This looks weird because it’s a small piece of fabric—it’s making a tube where the seam doesn’t line up quite right. Once you stitch a 1/4” seam, it looks like this:

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See? That’s not too wacky. (Criminy, my hand looks old. I wash dishes in the sink…)

There’s a little bit (well, one inch, or as close as you can make it) sticking out on each side. Choose the side you feel most comfortable about (which mostly depends, I suppose, on whether you are a righty or a lefty) and, taking up your trusty scissors, start cutting.

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Keep going, around and around, through the seam each time you come to it, until the whole tube has been cut into a long 1” wide strip.

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Eventually, you might reach a point where the remaining fabric, as you’re cutting, is no longer 1” wide, and there’s where you stop. We don’t do much measuring here at Cozy Things, but we do strive for accuracy when possible, and it’s a pretty good idea to have this thing be mostly 1” wide all the way down. So when it’s not 1” wide anymore, cut it off.

As an aside, I promise you do not need to measure this . If you have cut with a relatively steady hand and are reasonably good at estimating 1”, you may proceed with confidence.

Okay, fire up your iron, and with WRONG sides together, begin folding the strip in half, lengthwise, with raw edges meeting at the top. Press.

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At this point, your bias tape is ready to attach to your project. I know! It has fewer folds than that stuff from the store! Hang on, sisters, it’s okay.

Begin pinning one long raw edge of the bias tape to the RIGHT side of your project, raw edges together. You’re pinning the tape to the FRONT of the project, with right sides together. Stitch a 1/4” seam.


(Wait, this bias tape looks different…yeah, I started this yesterday, and, well, I’m disorganized.)

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Fold the bias tape where it’s pressed (raw edges will come together) and then fold the whole thing down again, about 1/4”. You will be amazed at how readily the tape wants to do this. It acts like it has been yearning to fold down, just like that. You probably won’t even need to pin it.


Handstitch it in place. That’s it!

Getting around the corners is its own special challenge—what I do is this: if it’s a big project (a quilt) I use one loooong strip of bias tape and as I’m attaching it to the front side, when I come to a corner, I make a right angle, folding it up toward the top and then just keep going down the next side. This results in either a perfect miter, or a stupid looking mess. If it’s a quilt, I don’t mind the stupid looking mess that much and I take the risk. (Usually, I get at least two out of four perfect miters, more with practice, hey?) But on a small project like the wallet, where all the details are really noticeable, especially if I use the macro setting to photograph it, I want four nice corners, so I use four separate lengths of bias tape and treat each corner separately. Just tuck in the ends neatly as you go and it will all go smoothly.

Try it out!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Linen and calico wallet

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I am so in love with this little wallet! Here, look at the back:

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Now look at the inside:

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I know, right? I’ve been carrying it around in my purse, empty, just because I want to keep looking at it. I love it. I LOVE it. Did you see this little detail?

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I can’t stand how cute that is. Sigh! I used Wonder Under to fuse the (super tiny!) shapes to the front section and then stitched around them before I sewed the whole thing together. Not my favorite method of applique, but those small circles are about the size of a pencil eraser. I don’t know how well it’ll hold up—I’ll let you know.

As is my way, I made this thing up, after having been inspired by a photo—this time it was a picture in one of Blair’s blog posts about a Japanese craft book (goodness, how I wish some of those books would find their way to me someday…*fingers crossed*)

I want to show you how I make bias tape without one of those fancy bias tape makers—tutorial coming tomorrow!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Totally Unnecessary Blanket

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Apart from my apparent need to just be crocheting, there is no reason at all for me to be making this blanket. Okay, here are my reasons: Berroco Vintage Wool is lovely to work with, and most of what you see up there is from that line. Also, Tif made/is making (is she done with it yet? I don’t know…) a random-stripe blanket like this, and hers is divine. Divine! So is her furniture and everything else. Go see. Finally, it appears I am the kind of girl who needs to have a Big Project in progress at all times, whether I like it or not.

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I don’t mean to sound flip, either, because I’m being sincere when I say I will pace around like a distracted cat, rearranging pencils and absently moving things around unless I have a Big Project around the place.

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That’s not even all of them. We’re so warm and cozy around here.

It’s kind of interesting to me that one day my little four-day scrap quilts will be divided amongst my descendants, and loved and washed and reused into oblivion, but these crocheted blankets, which take weeks and weeks of work and cost far more to create, will likely be collected by someone using only two fingers and a wrinkled up nose, and swiftly sent to the Goodwill, where they will languish at the price of $4.99.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sweet Home Sweet

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I made this pillow on Sunday while watching “Bonnie and Clyde” (Warren Beatty in the 1970’s! Sooo handsome…)

I used oatmeal linen, vintage calico scraps, and a 20” down pillow (thrifted and washed in hot water—threw the ugly cover that came with the pillow away) and was more than heavily influenced by a photo in the British Country Living magazine of a beautiful something similar by Jasmine King. Good heavens, if you haven’t seen the British Country Living, get thee to your nearest Barnes and Noble and buy yourself one. Three pounds fifty is about seven dollars, and worth every cent. Jasmine uses keepsake fabrics to make small cushions and doorstops, and I knew this would be a great project with which to make use of my delicious turquoise ball-fringe.

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It was so hard to get a good photo this gloomy weekend. Every time the sun peeked out, I jumped up and ran for the camera, threw all the laundry off the bed, arranged the SHS pillow, and then…a cloud went over the light. Sigh.

I really sort of hated to even use the beautiful ball-fringe, because once I had used it, I wouldn’t have it anymore. You know? I kind of wanted to hoard it and just pet it once in awhile. It really was crying out to be on a linen pillow, though, and once I had figured out what I wanted to do with the front panel, it wasn’t so hard.

(You can see the Sick Quilt has made it’s way onto the bed. Sneaky thing.)

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Sweet Home Sweet. I really like that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blue Henley Pullover

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I’ve had this sweater in the workbasket for quite awhile, and the damp, chilly weather finally compelled me to finish it. I designed it to fit me, based on the incredible custom-fit top down raglan (lots of tutorials are available—here’s one.) I love the way you don’t have to know what kind of edging you want, or whether you want 3/4 sleeves or even if you want it to be a cardigan or a pullover, until you are well underway and can be thinking about those things as you go. I knew I wanted to wear this lovely yarn (Berroco Vintage Wool) next to my skin, so that meant a pullover with not much ease. In fact, this fits me pretty much exactly, with hopefully not too much vavoom.

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My favorite part is these little buttons, which I made using self-cover buttons found at the thrift shop, and vintage fabric scraps. (Save all your scraps! You never know.)

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I love them so much! And I love the macro setting on my camera! I see a thread I need to clip…

This yarn is a wool and acrylic blend, which I would have shunned six ways from Sunday a few years ago, but it’s wonderfully soft and drape-y, and it comes in a wide range of great colors. Someday soon, I’ll show you the blanket I’m making, using most of them. There is great pleasure in working with it, which is almost the whole point in doing anything, at least for me. And as my husband pointed out, the sweater I’m wearing right now is practically identical to this one, which begs the question of why I needed to make it, but you all already know the answer to that.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Isn’t she lovely?


I have really begun to feel I can never have too many of these quilts. I say this because I already want another. They are so satisfying! The end result is so much more than you expect when you start laying out all the mismatched leftovers of somebody else’s scrap basket and using some whatever piece you have lying around that’s big enough for the backing. As soon as it’s quilted and you put on that seam binding (I always use red or hot pink) it is suddenly a quilt, a keepsake, something that will shelter your family and comfort them. It is suddenly worth a lot. And, if you’re like me, you will begin craving a big floppy stack of them, more quilts than anyone would ever need.


My husband said this could be the “sick quilt,” as in the quilt that doesn’t get too precious, the one that can be thrown up upon, or full of somebody’s fever sweat, and I thought that was great—of course it needs to have it’s own job, since it’s too late for it to go on somebody’s bed (oh, to have more beds) and it’s too late for it to be the Napping Quilt. But isn’t it lovely? Maybe the next one can be the Sick Quilt. This one looks like it’s for picnics.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rainy Day quilt


It was a gloomy and rainy weekend, which made me want to make another quilt. Something about that damp chill triggers my cozy mechanism, and depending on my whim, it’s either quilts or mittens. There’s no need for mittens at the moment, but quilts are perfect for summer—they are snug and cottony, and can be laid out on the grass for picnicking, or for firework-watching, or can be spread over a clothesline rope to make a perfect one-man tent. Then they can go straight into the wash to be made even softer and floppier, which is a quilt’s magical destiny—to become as soft and floppy as possible.


None of my quilts are particularly good. I should say, they are not particularly well made, because I really just want to have the quilts, and really find no thrill in spending weeks and months messing with them. Because, you know, it’s chilly and none of the other seventy-two quilts I have will do, so I want it right now. (Really, the weird truth of it is also this—a quilt is not actually that warm. At least not where I’m from. We need goose down here in Upstate NY.) But there is something so appealing about them, so basic and homey, and they are, in a word, cozy. So when it’s a dank and dismal and I am feeling up to my neck in fabric anyway because the stash is teetering, the natural thing to do is make a quilt.

But I like it to be done in a hurry, which means there is no hand-quilting happening here, oh dearie me, no. That would take me twenty years or more (ask me how I came up with that number) and it is raining today, so that means patchwork squares and machine quilting, and it also means sloppy seams and, sometimes, odd fabric choices.


For this quilt, I really wanted to use what I had. Part of what makes a quilt so wonderful for me is the thriftiness of using scraps, really using up the odd bits you have leftover from other things, which is the honest beginnings of quilts, and it is really what I love about them the most. So for this project, I went to the Rummage Sale box—a big pile of calico half and quarter-yards that came in a box at a church rummage sale, one dollar for the whole pile! That, my friends, is a find.

I have concluded, too, that when it comes to a quilt like this, there is no such thing as fabric that Goes Together. It all goes together, anything you’ve got hanging around in the stash, and thus I have orange next to pink and rust next to red, and a decorator would cringe…


This looks like the quilt my mother might have made for me in 1978, using leftovers from my third-grade school dresses, which all looked straight from the pages of the dear Holly Hobbie. (Remember her? Oh, sigh! Her calico aprons and gigantic bonnets, her little daisy stems and brown boots. Holly, I love you.)

It still needs quilting, which I plan to accomplish this week. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 4, 2010


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Don’t you just love it when you go a-thrifting and manage to find all the sorts of things you hope you’ll find? That’s three vintage aprons there, a set of English tea china and a little bunch of ball-fringe. The tea set was not what you’d call complete, but there is more of it than would fit in the photo—and not that I have ever served tea, but I have a weakness for dishes, and a weakness for things English, and I always get distracted by the Merchant Ivory-style movie that plays in my head when I see things like that for sale somewhere, cheap, and then I can just picture the scene—me in a drifty white dress on a lovely old quilt, sitting down by the river under a willow tree, pouring something perfect into a cup and saucer—this exact cup and saucer, yes!—while a golden dog rests her whiskers and my companion (wearing rolled-up shirtsleeves, white linen trousers and a straw boater) tries to figure out how to make me fall in love with him.

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Also, I love the ball-fringe to distraction. It’s turquoise! It was 25 cents! Whimsical pillows to follow.

The aprons are already in heavy rotation, and some of the stains you see on them could be my own sloppy fault.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Towel peg labels

There are four of us in the house, so I've been meaning to do this for a long time, and it was just a matter of getting my act together. I freehanded the letters, stitched them--with raw edges showing and everything—to four-inch squares of oatmeal linen, and then punched an eyelet into the top so they can hang on a nail. You wouldn't believe the drama that followed. Nobody wanted to hang their towel in the corner, some felt the letters should spell a funny word, and there was a strong argument for having them in boy/girl order. So it's a good thing they can be rearranged as our whims dictate.

Aren't they cute? Now I want to get all new towels to match them. I just love that calico/linen combination. I'm thinking aprons and potholders now, too…