Quilt Reveal

A week before my excellent niece graduated from high school, I started work on her quilt. (For the record, I have seven excellent nieces, each one very different.) This quilt had to be special, because she is so special.


She gave me a clue two years ago, when she was here and mentioned she liked my porch quilt.

And then like an idiot, I waited till the last possible second to begin sewing.  When she and her family rolled through on their way to California this June, the quilt wasn’t done. A surprise? Um, no.

Anyway, I whipped the top out with time to spare but had a terrible time with the back.


I wanted some really fun fabric, something that represented a mutual love.  Something… literature-y.  And I discovered Spoonflower, who made this Jane Austen fabric for me. (Okay, not just for me… but it’s perfect for this quilt.)

Once I had the backing on, I used my amazing birthday weekend away to quilt it.  I planned to bind it on the way to California.  (We know how that went.)  But it turns out the hospital was a perfect place  to do the binding.


And off it went to California to meet my awesome niece.  I’m so proud of her!


needle and thREAD: Lunch Bags and Poultry

We had lunch bags last year,  Actually, we probably still have them, but they’re in a box somewhere in the basement.  So when I bought our little bento-style lunch kits, I needed something to put them in.  And bags that could be thrown into the wash seemed just about right.


I used the pattern from this tutorial but didn’t bother with oilcloth.  I had these old, green curtains (just call me Fräulein Maria) which had ties on the top.  To make sure they were all different– we can’t have Owen and Moriah mixing up their lunches!– I put other fabric panels in two of them.


It was just the easy project I needed right now.  My mom, on the other hand, agreed to make doll clothes.

I’ve been reading some backyard poultry books my friend Kathie passed along.  The Luttmans’ Chickens in Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide makes me think poultry will be messier than I thought.  Who was I kidding?  Next up: ABC of Poultry Raising.

For more needle & thread, check out In the Heart of My Home.
needle and thREAD

needle and thREAD: the porch quilt and Give Them Grace

At the end of last summer, as the days cooled, I thought, “What a great thing it would be to have a porch quilt!”  You know, a quilt that wasn’t an heirloom.  One that wouldn’t mind a little rain (not that we get much rain.)  One that could sit outside overnight without protesting.  One that would make the swing a little more inviting in the cool of the morning or evening.  Or in the late autumn or spring.

In my usual manner of sewing=procrastination from other projects, I began the quilt immediately prior to my Thailand mission.  When I should have been studying, praying or reading.  And then it went in a box of fabric and disappeared from sight and mind.

But it’s April now, and I should be doing some spring cleaning.  (If you’re on Pinterest, you’ll see how much spring cleaning  conversation is flying out there.  How much of it I’ve pinned.)  So instead of cleaning, out came the sewing machine, and I finally finished the porch quilt.

Here is the quilted top, before I bound it.  Calling it a Porch Quilt gave me some mental room not to do any intricate quilting.  And not to stress when the tension was off and the back ended up with some extra loops here and there.  I even sewed the bind on the machine.  I’ve never done that before.

I had so much fun sewing it that I made two pillow cases to go with it.

There were many volunteers to test and model the quilt.


And then the minute Sam came home, he brought it all inside so it wouldn’t get rained on or dirty.
I think I’ll have to remind him what the point of the Porch Quilt is.

Last night I read one of the closing chapters of Give Them Grace.  I’m almost done now.  I have to say I love the concept: dazzling your children with the love of Jesus.  I love the questions it asks, specifically, How does the gospel inform our parenting?  I find that so much of the Christian polemic on discipline centers on Proverbs– which is good, but missing a huge piece of the puzzle.  And the author points out, Solomon (for all his wisdom) still raised a son who lost himself completely.  There is no magic formula, no do-this-and-all-shall-go-well guarantee in parenting.  I really like the idea of parenting from a place of grace, and offering that to our children.  But I find the book’s practical models off-putting.  One of the model conversations lectures (that are to occur at a time of discipline) I read yesterday was more than 400 words long.  I lost count, actually.  It was small print, almost a full page of text.  Another one that struck me earlier in the book was 327 words long, to be addressed to a preschooler after a tantrum about leaving the park.  Seriously?   I’ve already lost my kids at, “Can you tell me what was wrong with that choice you made?”

Find more needle & thREAD conversations at In the Heart of My Home.

Sewing Update

My children want to learn to sew.  I want to teach them, but it may just kill me.

At the beginning of the year, I started adding Handiworks (Charlotte Mason’s term for skills such as woodworking, sewing, knitting, etc.) to our weekly schedule, in hopes that we’d get our work done  in time to sew.  They’ve been asking for days, “Please, can we do handiworks?” but by the time we’ve done schoolwork and rest time and read aloud and done our chores, I.have.nothing.left.

And then there are bits and pieces of fabric and thread and pins all over the floor.  I ask them to clean it up and the children just walk around, poking their feet on pins, saying “We did clean it all up!  I don’t see anything!”


I may need to come up with a space– here, near the kitchen, so I can get my dinner-prep going and still be available to them– where I can leave the sewing machine and fabric “set up.”  And somehow make the clean up of said projects easier.

Any ideas?

Sleeping Bag Tutorial

I wanted to show you how easy making a sleeping bag can be.

Before we begin, remember that I sew by the seat of my pants, so if you want something that looks like someone over the age of nine made it, find a different tutorial.  This is a light-weight, sleep-in-the-living-room kind of sleeping bag.  It’s not waterproof, or even super-warm.  But it’s fun, and my children love them, and they are very cozy when Mommy won’t turn the heat higher than 68 in the winter.

First: I bought two pieces of fleece, measuring 1.5 yds by 60″ wide.  (This will yield a sleeping bag 30″ wide and 1.5 yds long if you fold it the right way.)

Second: I use Dritz (I’m sure there are other brands) zipper-by-the-yard.  That’s product #310, and the zipper pulls are #311 (see in the upper-right hand corner?)  I bought 2 3/8 yards of zipper.  Note: the directions for the zipper-by-the-foot come with the ZIPPER, not with the pulls, so make sure the lady at the fabric store cuts you a piece of the paper in the box that has the directions on it.


Third: I bought 1 yard of elastic.  This is not necessary, but it makes nice bands which will secure the sleeping bag in a nice roll.

Wash the fleece, elastic and the zipper and dry them however you plan to, so that nothing will shrink later.

Lay out the fleece with the right sides together.   Put the fabric you want to use as the OUTSIDE of the sleeping bag on the top but with the right side of the fabric DOWN.


Decide which side of your sleeping bag is the top (meaning the side from which you slide in).  We won’t be sewing this side till the end.  Find the middle of your fabric, so that you see an imaginary line between the top and bottom of the sleeping bag.  This will be the fold.  Mark it with a pin. In this photo, the GREEN pin marks my halfway point.


Figure out which side of the zipper is the poochy-side.  (The side that bows slightly toward you.)  Now lay the zipper along one side of the fleece at the edge so that the zipper is at the edge, but HIDDEN between the layers.  (We will turn it all right-side out so you can see how it works later.)  Your zipper should run out very near the pin you used to mark the halfway point at the bottom of the sleeping bag.  This is good.


Cut the elastic in half and fold each half in half, so that you have two loops.  Lay these on TOP of the zipper, but toward the right side of your half-way point.  Also, the loops need to be hidden in the fleece sandwich.  (Note that in my photo, I put the zipper on top.  Later this messed me up.  Trust me.  Put the zipper under the elastic.)


Pin the zipper between the two layers of fleece.  Please put your pins how I did the the photo BELOW, not the photos ABOVE, or they’ll get trapped between your layers and you have to stop every six inches to pull them out.


Let’s review: this is a sandwich.  In order from top to bottom, the layers are: outside-of-the-sleeping-bag fleece, elastic, zipper (poochy-side up), inside-of-the-sleeping-bag fleece.

A word about the corner.  Don’t try to do any sort of fancy mitered corner or anything, because you really just want your zipper to work.  It’s okay if your corner is a little rounded, because this is just a sleeping bag.

Now sew your sandwich together.  Make sure you are using your heavyweight needle, or you’ll be sad.  For the Singer needles I use, the purple band indicates heavyweight.

Remove your pins and turn it right side out for a minute so you can see how it works.  Cool, eh?  Mark the TOP of your zipper with a pin so you know which side is the poochy side, and which end is the top-of-the-sleeping-bag end of your zipper.  Now separate the zipper.


Note: in your process, you won’t have the zipper pull on yet, but I forgot to mark the top of my zipper before I pulled it apart,, and then I had to re-connect the zipper to figure out which way was up.

We’re going to make a sandwich again on the other side of the sleeping bag.  Turn your fleece back to the wrong side out and pin your zipper in, making sure that the poochy side is up.  I began at the center of the foot of the bag and went around toward the top of the bag, ending with your marked zipper-top.


All right.  Good job.  Now remove the pins (all of them, or you’ll be an unhappy camper– literally!) and turn your bag right-side out.  Fold it in half just like it’s a real sleeping bag, with two little elastic bands on one side of the foot so you can tie it up when it’s rolled.

Take one of your trusty #310 zipper pulls and put the two foot-ends of the zipper into the grabber.  (This takes a little waggling.)  Zip it up a little ways, and admire the fact that you made a sleeping bag with a zipper.  Now tuck the end of the zipper toward the inside of the sleeping bag and sew it in there so that your excited 6 year-old doesn’t unzip it all the way.  Ever.


This is where my sleeping bag went awry.  (Yours won’t, I’m sure, because you’re not trying to finish it and have the car packed to go camping in an hour and a half.) 

I had put my elastics UNDER the zipper, so that they faced the inside of the sleeping bag.  But you put your next to the fleece that was the outside, so you didn’t have that problem.


Okay.  Now we have to finish the top.  You can choose any stitch you’d like to finish it.  To make it look more finished, I’d recommend folding the cut edges in and pinning it so that you can do a nice finished seam.  In fact, this looks really nice if you do it all the way around the edges of the bag, including by the zipper.  (It also cuts back on the amount of fabric that gets stuck in the zipper while zipping.)  But I didn’t do this.


I took advantage of the fact that fleece doesn’t fray (and the fact that my daughter is only 3 and doesn’t know any better) and used a zig-zag stitch.  Voila!  Feel free to adapt this in any way that suits you.  If you try it and find an error, please let me know.  And if you make on, please add a link to your photo in the comments!  Happy sewing.


Sewing with the Children

I’ve wanted to teach my kids to sew for a long time.  A really long time.  We’ve had our forays into sewing-land, but they usually come with tears and frustration.

Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time [Book]

This summer I bought the book Stitch by Stitch by Deborah Moebes and had a vision to work through it with the children… and it has sat in the sewing room without being opened.  Until last week.

For December, I’ve scheduled school to be very light.  We have doctor’s appointments and a play we’re seeing.  I wanted to leave time for gift-making.  Sewing seemed to fit right into this plan.  So last week I pulled out the sewing machine.

Ooo la la!  Everyone was very excited.  And for the first time, no one cried while we were sewing!


We worked on the first two projects in the book (a stitch sampler just to acquaint us with the machine; and a drawing in stitches) and everyone learned a lot.  A few burns were had on the iron, but it didn’t stop anyone from wanting to continue.  SweetP happily cuts and pins fabric and takes her turn on the sewing machine (with me controlling the pedal).  We had a few broken needles, and not everything turned out the way we wanted, but it was so successful everyone keeps asking when we can sew again.

I think the secret is that I’m not working on a project of my own– it’s all them.  Eventually, perhaps, we’ll all be able to sew simultaneously, but for now I’m really happy with how it’s working.

Is your family getting its craft on?