Friday, August 31, 2012

Making Square Blocks

I had a request for instructions in making square quilt pieces, so here's how I do it.  It is somewhat time consuming, but the are perfectly sized when I'm done with them!

To make square blocks, you can purchase or create your own template using this method and then trace it onto your fabric.  For simple squares I have better luck just drawing on my fabric, since sometimes I don't get the traced pieces lined up precisely and then I have a lot of extra cutting.

First iron your washed fabric (assuming this is a project that will be laundered at some point, otherwise iron your unwashed fabric).

Create a straight line with your yard stick and mark it in pencil or a fabric pencil on the 'wrong' side of the fabric.  At first glance one would assume that the fabric edge would be straight, but I've found that to be unreliable.

Next create a parallel line the depth of your square.  You will make many adjustments as you measure repeatedly, moving your ruler or rulers to be sure that this line is completely parallel.  At this point, create a front end to your blocks with a line near the left side (see the brown ruler).

 Next, measure your width on the yard stick and top ruler, both set with zero at the front line you drew.  Your vertical ruler should measure the depth of your squares as a simple check.  Draw a line and you have your first block.

If you want, you can do two rows at a time after you have made another parallel line to the original, by simply doubling the depth.

Finally, cut.  You can use standard shears or a rotary cutter and mat.  It depends on the project which I use.  For cutting large sets, you can also double up your fabric by layering more than one fabric or folding your fabric, but you must be mindful that your underlying pieces are just as flat and come at least to the same edge as the fore piece if they don't extend past it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rainbow Dresses: And how to make them

I saw a beautiful patchwork rainbow dress online.  I was smitten. While I didn't have and extra $100 for each girl laying around, I did have a lot of fabric scraps.  I bought some red fabric for the bodice and a few small pieces (1/4 yards or fat quarters) to round out what I needed to finish the project.  All told, I probably spent about $10.  It will cost quite a bit more if you don't have fabric scraps though!  Be sure to pre-wash the fabric as it may shrink--not good after you've labored over making the fit just so.

First, measure your daughter at the widest part of the chest, be generous in this measurement, you don't want it to be too tight.  Add 3".  Cut a piece of red material to that width and the height you want the bodice to be (from under her arms down) plus 1 1/2 inches.  Empire waists would look very nice.  My girls are tall, so I wanted to get every inch I could out of everything I used though.

Iron the red material so that there is a 1 inch fold at the top (long side) (wrong sides together).  Also iron the two sides in (about 3/4 of an inch each), in the same manner.

Ironing the edges--this is the top ironed in

Next, cut a lining, I used white, of the same dimensions.  You will want to create the same type of folds, but make the folds a little further in, so that this panel ends up being a little smaller than the red, but the edges are on the folds.  Pin, but do not stitch.

Making straps

You'll take some of the scrap red fabric and cut it into two widths of 4 inches and the length you would like the straps to be (plus 2 inches).  Iron the fabric in half (long way).  Then iron the two edges to the middle.  You will stitch at the outside edge. to form the straps.

Determine the right place to set the straps (the dress will have an overlap of 1 1/2 inches, you should take into account).  To set the pins, you can place it on your daughter (careful of pins!) or use another dress that fits well.

 Please note, this picture was taken after the bodice was stitched to the skirt (it won't be at this phase).  You can see here how the white fabric is away from the edge a bit and the straps are set.

I carefully separated the white and red at the point for the straps (one at a time) and stitched the straps onto the white fabric.  I repinned the white lining and stitched the three folded sides together.

The next big step is determining the size of all your blocks.  The simplest method is to place the bodice on your daughter and measure for the length you want, from the bodice to where you want it to hit her.  Next divide that number by 5 (if you want Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple) and add 1/2" seam allowance.  If you want an extra row (Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet), divide 6 and add 1/2" seam allowance.  I did one of each, so that I could use the same sized squares on my different sized daughters.

Length/5 (or 6) + 1/2" = block side

So how many do you need?  Take that original measurement of your daughter's chest and divide it by the width of your blocks WITHOUT the seam allowance (essentially the number you got above before the 1/2" is added in).  Round up if it doesn't fit evenly. Add one extra block (That is how many orange blocks you need).  Add one extra block for each row beyond the row above it to make the dress grow fuller in each layer down.  (For example, a dress that has 7 orange blocks will have 10 blues.)  I used at least 3 different prints for each color, but you can divide them up however you want.

My daughter's chest is 21"  I want a drop of 20".  I will use 5 colors (not 6). 
My blocks will be 20/5 + .5 = 4 + .5 = 4.5" square 
I will need 21/4 + 1 = 6 orange blocks
7 yellow, 8, green, 9 blue, 10 purple

Note the pin holding the tuck

Stitch each block of a certain color (1/4" seam allowance on each side) until you have them all together, then finish it into a circle.  (I don't own a surger, but I did zigzag stitch the edges to prevent fraying of the seams.)  I pinned one small tuck as I pinned each new row onto the previous (right sides together, keep the tucks and pins up on the machine).  You can make minor adjustments to make each row fit on the next that way.  To make it less bulky, I hemmed the purple/violet row before I added it to the dress.

the 'wrong' side of the skirt

When you sew the skirt onto the bodice, be sure that the ends of the top over lay as they should (1 1/2 inches).

Lastly, sew two or three button holes and buttons at the over lapping bodice.

It is a time consuming project with all the extra seams and a great deal of cutting.  That being said, it was a fairly easy project, if you know how to cut very square blocks (a guide to cutting blocks has been added here) and use your machine well.  I finished in about a week while home schooling.  It was definitely worth the $190 savings for me!

indigo & violet

ends in purple

These little gals seemed to think so too.

This fit in well with our study of The Rag Coat from the Five in a Row study as well as Joseph's coat of many colors.  Plus, it is just plain cute.

Linked to:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This past weekend (in pictures)

We spent the weekend at my parents' home.

We hung out with our Gam,

Picked up sticks in my old wagon.

Visited Grannie (my Daddy's mom),

And celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ice cream social with, well, ice cream.

Kate danced a jig.

We showed PawPaw how to get to the inflatables.

We hung out with our sister.

We slid down huge slides with no fear.

And sometimes we took our sister with us.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Funnies

I've not fallen off the face of the planet, just busy with home school and sewing.  I did want to pass on these little gems from dinners this week.

Gabby: I don't like worms
Kate: Why not?
Gabby: They are slimy and yucky.
Kate: You should like them.  They help our plants and flowers grow.
Gabby: Well, I like that about them.
Kate: You wanted to hold one.
Gabby: Well, you got me all excited about it.

*     *     *     *     *

Nate: I don't like chicken.  I like pie.

*     *     *     *     *

Me: Nate, please stop kicking your feet.
Nate: It's my booster songs.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ann with an 'E'

I have to admit it.  I was holding out on my girls.  I've shared some great works of literature with them.  Ones that are considered far beyond their years--Little Women, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, The Jungle Book, and all of the Little House books. But my very favorite book of my childhood I've been holding back.  We started Anne of Green Gables this past week.

I didn't bring this book to them, Gabriella found the audio book when we were at the library.  I honesty hesitated.  I want them to love Anne as much as I do.  I just wasn't sure that now was the right time to introduce them to her--I had planned to pull out my copy when Kate was in fourth grade.  Ultimately, I wanted to let Gabby pick the book she wanted, so we are learning about the world of Anne Shirley.

I remember so clearly reading that book...and every other book in the series and eventually every book my public library had by L. M. Montgomery.  I remember where I was when I finished that first book.  It was that memorable--I was laying across the bed in 'the pink bedroom' at my Grannie's house.  It is one of those wonderful books: the ones you want to know how it ends, but you don't ever want it to.  And perhaps that was part of holding on to this book.  If we waited to read it together, we wouldn't get to the end so soon.

But if you need me, I'll be in Avonlea.

Monday, August 13, 2012


I love arts and crafts, but I haven't done a lot of them with the kids because it requires quite a bit of mess and they often are competing for my attention during it--leaving everyone frustrated.  At this point though, the youngest is nearly three...the oldest 'baby' our family has ever had, making it easier to do these activities all the time now.

My parents offered to purchase a few of our home school wants this fall, so I bravely added pastels to my list.  If you've never worked with them, they are a lot of fun.  They write like crayons, but then you can do neat blending.  They can be quite the mess though!  I started by showing them how they work and then let them take off.

Nate got to help me on my picture, so he was staying out of the girls' work.

I had the gals stay in their nightgowns to work that morning, in case we got a little messy.

Kate, blending on her flower.

Gabby's picture was a bit more abstract.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Physical Therapy

Kate's appointments had dropped back to two days a week.  She has progressed to an active loss of about 10 degrees of use last Friday, but we could move her arm to straight!  That is a huge improvement from the days when we could barely pull her to 40 degrees.  As of last night, we have graduated from physical therapy.  She can completely straighten her arm!!

We had planned to put her in a splint to passively stretch her, but at this point, that will not be necessary.  Her therapist said Kate had the fastest elbow recovery of any of her patients ever.

I am so grateful for her huge gains.

PT, last week

Kate's graduation celebration!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Alternative Method

Apparently there are two ways to eat an ice cream cone.

I have lived my whole life think this was the only way:

Nate taught me, though, that you can actually eat the cone part first.  Who knew?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Funny

You're bouncing on my last nerve here! -Kate

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Break Time

I am very grateful that we started school early.  The gals and I have learned quite a bit together.  We've reviewed the fall of Rome, studied about monks, and learned about Justinian in history.  We've learned about maps, the make up of the earth, and rocks in science.  Gabby and I have made three lapbooks.  Kate has begun to do simple multiplication and division (first with pictures, but now we're learning the multiplication facts of x2).

Today we're taking a holiday.  We've worked hard.  Today is the first day public schools are in session where we are, and today would get us to 10% of our year completed (already?!).  Today we'll go out to lunch or stay in.  We'll read a bunch of books or maybe even turn on the TV.  We'll have to wait and see.  Today gets to be one of those fun days since we started so early.  We'll probably learn something along the way, but today isn't a day driven by lesson plans or lists.

I think they will approve.