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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Quilt As You Go Patriotic Pillow

I've always wanted to do more quilting, but I'm pretty intimidated by the big projects.  I recently discovered an easier way to learn a little quilting by making pillow covers.  This technique is called "quilt as you go."  In the context of a pillow, all you need is a piece of batting the size of the pillow form and some scraps.  I made two pillows, but like most things, the second is better technique than the first.

Take the batting (here I started with a 14.5" x 14.5").  To keep it easy, all the scrap pieces should be 2" in width.  On this pillow I started out with a bigger center which will quickly get your scraps off center.  In the end, I trimmed this down to 12" x 12" to fit a 12" pillow form.  Sew the center piece on the center of the batting.  (You can find the center by folding the batting twice and then noting the center point.)  Instead of sewing around the perimeter, I used a wavy stitch and "quilted" lines across the center piece.  It's a great chance to try free motion, but I wasn't brave enough for that just yet.

Take your next scrap piece and line it up along the side of the first piece, right sides facing.  Sew a seam onto the first piece, directly onto the batting. Continue to add pieces around (see the diagram below for an order), trimming the length of each piece to match the next side of the quilted portions.  Quilt as you go allows you to do the entire quilt in a single step because you are piecing the quilt directly onto the backing instead of making a quilt top and then quilting the entire piece at once. 

For each piece you attach, immediately add the "quilting."  In these pillows I kept it easy, quilting straight lines parallel to the seam you just sewed.  The spacing doesn't matter as long as it's consistent.  Because the pillow is small, I just used the presser foot on the machine as a guide to line up the stitches.

The quilting lines should not be all in the same direction for each scrap.  Keep the lines parallel to the seam for a more interesting look.  Begin and end each line of stitching on the batting so there is no need to backstitch.  The hardest part is keeping the design square with the batting piece.  The batting provides one side of your pillow cover and if you quilt the pieces off center or not square with the underlying batting, your pillow won't look right.  You can see a little of that in my first pillow.

To keep things interesting, I changed the thread color as I started a new "layer" or "row" of scraps.  Notice the white on the initial inner square and blue thread on the outer layer.  On my first pillow, I used a plain canvas fabric to border the design, but quilted it using wavy lines.  Use whatever you need to as a guide to keep your spacing consistent.  Here I used a piece of blue tape that I readjusted for each row to create a visual guide.

Once you have covered the batting in scraps, you are ready to trim it around the edges. 

The finished cover should be 12" or 12.5" square to make a cover for a 12" pillow form.  The difference in size is a preference based on the fullness of the pillow form and how snug you like it to fit.  This one was 12" square (or 16" square for the pillow with the canvas border).  While I gave instructions on making an envelope pillow here, those instructions were for using one fabric piece.  When making a quilted pillow, you will need two other fabric pieces to form the back of the pillow.  Here is the chart which shows the dimensions for various size envelope pillow covers:

12" square = 12" front and two 9"x 12" back pieces
14" square = 14" front and two 10.5" x 14" back pieces
16" square = 16" front and two 12" x 16" back pieces
18" square = 18" front and two 13.5" x 18" back pieces
20" square = 20" front and two 15" x 20" back pieces

On the back pieces, make a 1" hem on one the longer sides on each of the back pieces.  Then with your quilted front piece face up, layer the two back pieces on top of the quilted front piece, right sides of the fabric facing each other.  The back pieces will overlap.  Sew a 5/8" seam around the 3 pieces.  Here is a finished pillow cover on both sides, inside out.  Notice the quilting stitches on the backside of the batting, which forms the front of the pillow cover.

Turn the pillow cover right side out, insert pillow form, and you're ready to go!


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Saving Money with Greeting Cards

If you're like me, you rush into a grocery store on your way to a party to grab a card.  It could be a birthday card, thank you card, new baby, graduation, whatever.  A card goes with the gift, or in the case of gift cards, a card IS the gift.  The right card is important, but it's always been the "extra" thing.  Recently though, the card has become an expensive part of gift giving.  Some of this can be attributed to the complexity of cards with sound and delicately cut designs, but let's face it - greeting cards are getting really expensive!

Recently, I decided that if a standard greeting card is going to cost $5.00 or more in a grocery store, at least I'm going to find something handmade and unique.  Look no further than Etsy.

Just search "handmade greeting cards" to find over 70,000 listings.  You can find intricate hand cut cards, hand drawn illustrations, funny cards and photo cards.  You can buy them individually or in sets and spend much less than you would at the drug or grocery store.  Here's a few I found (click on the link below the picture to visit that Etsy store):

Now if you're like me, about now you are saying - who buys greeting cards in advance??  I did, but as a set of general cards.  You can really save money this way too.  I bought this set of 8 cards of my choice for $20.  Even with the shipping costs added in that is less than $4 a card.  

I don't even have to make a stop on the way to my next party!  As an extra bonus, I don't have to worry about whether the graduate or birthday card recipient will be getting a duplicate card from another guest!

Have a few minutes?  Shop Etsy for a huge selection of unique greeting cards.  Buy from the comfort of your living room 24 hours a day for delivery to your door!  Support small businesses!


Saturday, June 9, 2018

One Week Until Father's Day . . .

I'm happy to report that my childrens' father is already secured for Father's Day and we are still a week out.  However, if you don't have a gift (or a plan), I have been in your shoes some most years.  Never fear, here are some great ideas for gifts Dad is sure to love.  Here are suggestions by category (links to products included):

Personal Care

Lillian Vernon Personalized Grooming Bag  $42.99 at Amazon
No more Ziploc bag for Dad!

Goby Brush Kit (Includes Subscription)  $50.00 at Goby
This includes a subscription for a new brush head every month (or whenever you tell them)

Harry's Winston Shave Set  $25 ($15 more engraved at Harry's

Loris Azzaro Chrome $40.95 at Amazon

Interests and Vices

Personalized Hammer  $21.00+  at Etsy

Personalized Humidor  $52.79 at Etsy

Cornhole Bags  $25.98 at Amazon
Assorted colors and designs for the man who loves to play cornhole

Unique Gifts

DNA Test   $69 from  Find out Dad's ethnic background and backstory!

Holy Stone Drone  $279.99 at Amazon

Magnetic Wristband for DIY  $12.99 at Amazon

Holds all those little things he needs while completing the "honey-do" list!

Free (if you have an Echo)

If "Alexa" lives at your house, you can teach her to give Dad compliments on his special day.  It's very easy to do, and they provide suggestions as well as let you say exactly what you want.  If "Alexa" doesn't live with you yet, why not get an Echo Dot from Amazon?  They start at $39.99 and an Echo Show with a screen to view images and video is $149.99.

Hope your Father's Day is fun!


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Holy Guacamole!

It's summer and nothing says summer snacking like fresh guacamole.  Fresh is the key here, so don't make it too far in advance!  The best guacamole is made to your taste - so don't sweat too much about exact measurements as long as you have all the ingredients.  Here's an easy recipe for my favorite summer pleasure.  This is enough for a big party, so feel free to scale back for a smaller quantity.


5 medium avocados
2 vine ripened tomatoes (plum tomatoes work well too) diced
3/4 c. diced red onions
3 cloves garlic
lime juice (I used two small limes)
3 Tablespoons cilantro
sea salt to taste
red pepper to taste

To start, you need to know the right way to cut and peel an avocado.  Here are the experts from the California Avocado industry with a short video to show you how:

After you have cut and peeled your 5 avocados, slice a few times to get this:

Notice the pit in there too?  To keep your avocados (and resulting guacamole) from turning brown quickly, keep the pit and stick it in the middle.  When you cover guacamole for storage, use a plastic cling wrap and make sure it touches the guacamole in the bowl.  Now, back to your recipe.

Chop tomatoes, onion, cilantro and garlic.

Go back to your avocados and squeeze the juice of two small limes over the top.  The key to your own special recipe for guacamole is lime juice and cilantro.  You can experiment with how much you use to get the taste you like best.  After adding the lime juice, gently MASH the avocados, using a fork or a potato masher.  Don't MUSH them.  The best guacamole is not pureed or even smooth, but has chunks of avocado.  MASH don't MUSH!

Add the other ingredients and gently stir to mix them.  Again, be careful not to mush your avocados or tomatoes.

And that's it!  Serve with your favorite tortillas or use on tacos or burritos.  Fresh guacamole doesn't have a long shelf life (more because of how it looks as opposed to how it tastes), so plan on making your guacamole the day of your party.  If you want to chill before using it, don't forget the tips about using the avocado pit and plastic wrap placed directly on the guacamole.