Tuesday, August 15, 2017

An Easy Bath Mat


Miss Abigail and I went shopping last Friday to get a few things for her college apartment, and I was appalled at the price of bath mats! I was reluctant to buy one anyway because it would be a single item in the laundry and I'm afraid it wouldn't get washed as often as needed. So... I made a quick one out of an inexpensive towel that can be washed with her other towels and sheets. I just cut it into thirds, added some Cluny lace, sewed the layers together and turned it inside out. So much cheaper than a rug and easier to care for. We also made a first aid kit. I just kind of hate to think she will need it and I won't be there. Sigh. I know you all are sympathizing. Thanks for that!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Rag Rug for Miss Abigail


Hello everyone! I know I have been missing in action for almost a year. What can I say! I just have been busy and blogging just hasn't been in the cards. But, things are slowing down a bit and I have a number of things to show you...but first - thank you for missing me!

Just a bit of an update and news. Miss Abigail had a great year at the community college this last year. She did very well in her classes and learned well how to drive in roundabouts. There were FIVE roundabouts on the way to school and after she got her driver's license she had to be independent in her 40 mile commute everyday. Independence is great for Abigail, but it was a little hard on me. My own mother declined in her health from about October of last year, fell and broke her hip in January and then passed away in March. All of this was huge for me! I'm finally getting more used to doing without her, but even as I thought I expected her inevitable passing, it really rocked my foundations. So transitions all around for us this last year. I also enrolled in an online class in January to study Permaculture and am very proud to have my Permaculture Design Certificate now. I won't go into that here...perhaps another day.

On to the rag rug! Even though I haven't been around here on the blog, I still have had projects going for the hope chest. This rug is one. Abigail is now preparing to leave home this year for college. She will be attending an out-of-state school in Arizona - another step towards her independence. We are in the process of choosing which things out of her hope chest she will take to brighten up her apartment. The floors in her room are tile, so this rug will be a blessing. I hope she will enjoy the bright, scrappy colors.

This is what is called an Amish Knot Rug and this tutorial is for an oval style. It is sometimes called a Toothbrush Rug because folks modified an old toothbrush to use as the tool. It is simply made with fabric scraps and "half-hitch" knots. This type of rag rug is very easy once you get started, but making the initial few rounds can be a little confusing and seem awkward. There are a number of videos on YouTube if you think these instructions are insufficient. Sometimes we learn better by actively seeing something done. You can also find directions online for a round rug if that style is what you prefer. I'll start with what you need to make the oval rug.


This is the tool I made to carry the fabric through the knots. I cut a 1/4-inch dowel down to 4 inches, sanded it smooth and sharpened one end to a gentle point. I used a small sturdy screw eye in the other end to carry the fabric. It is basically a large needle and one could even use a big paper clip, a very large safety pin or any other similar "tool."


You'll need MANY strips of scrap fabric, both muslin and various prints. I used 100% cotton fabrics, leftover from my many fabric projects. I wish I could give you yardage, but because I used scraps there is no way to tell. I just know you will need a lot! I didn't mix T-shirts or knit fabrics in with the cotton, nor did I use cotton blends as I wanted it to wash well and not distort with too many different fabric types. If I had been making a rug for myself, I may not have been as picky as to the fabric. The muslin strips are used as the "core" strips for the rug and the printed strips are knotted over the core. My strips measure 2.5 inches wide. This makes a nice thick rug. If you wish for a thinner rug, you can reduce the width. The strips will be sewn or knotted together, end to end, as you proceed to make the rug.


Begin by knotting the initial two strips together. Make two small slits about 1 inch from the end of each strip. Overlap the slits and, from underneath, bring one end of a strip up through both slits and gently pull until the knot is formed. (If you would rather, you can also sew the strips together.)


Attach the strips to a firm surface - I used a large safety pin and the ironing board. This anchor helps in the beginning as you begin to form the knots.


Begin making half-hitch knots down the length of the muslin core strip.



 A word here about size. This initial length determines the size of your rug. The measurement needs to be 1/3 of the desired finished size. So if you want a rug that is 60 inches long, then you should make knots along the length of the core until you reach a measurement of 20 inches. Then you will turn and go down the other side. As with all such handmade projects, these measurements are not exact!


When you reach the desired length, turn and pin the bottom of the strip to the top. Because this rug will be an oval, I need to make an increase to come around the curve at the end. Make a second knot in the last knot you made. Make another knot around the core strip and turn.


Now put two knots in the same space as the opposite double knots, enclosing the core strip within the knots. This creates the turn and the end curve of the rug.


Now, make the same half-hitch knots in each knot back down the length of the rug. It is a little awkward to turn this initial curve. Just keep trying and remember to keep things a little loose around the top. The whole strip is going to want to twist. Don't worry about this and pin it down, if necessary, to help keeps things straight. I like to use my left hand to hold the core as I pull the long printed strip through the fabric. Don't actually pull on the core as that might distort the rug, just hold on to it so that it doesn't bunch up as the knot forms.



When you get to the bottom of the strip you'll need to create the second curve. In the second to the last knot, place to half-hitch knots. Then put one knot in the last hole.


Curving the core strip around the end, turn the rug and make two knots again in the hole opposite of the other double. Pin the end again, if that helps keep things straight.


 As you make this next knot, starting down the side, place a knot around the core from the last round. This will snug the space.

 

Before you continue, mark the double knots with large safety pins. This will indicate the beginning of the curve on each round. You will make these double knots to increase each round and can make addition doubles only on the end curves of the rug. You will never make a double along the sides as this would distort the rug. These pin markers will keep you on track.


Having marked the doubles, resume making knots in the outside row as you go down the side.


 You will eventually run out of fabric on your "needle." Just add another strip, using the knot method, or sewing the two together. I like to sew the strips because I find it easier to pull through the holes, but many people just use the more convenient knot attachment.


 At this end curve you will again place two half-hitch knots in the space before the end space. Place one loose knot in the end space, turn, and then two more knots in the space opposite the others. Mark these double knot spaces as you did before.



 Continue making knots down the length of the side and when you reach the markers, put two knots in that space and repin the marker.


 You can make single or two knots as you go around the curve each time. You'll be able to tell if you need to put a double knot in a space if the curve pulls up or seems distorted. Be gentle with the core strip. Keep it loose as you go around the curve. If the rug seems distorted, it may be that you are pulling the core strip to tight. Continue to add rounds, remembering to increase with double knots in the correct spaces and adding additional doubles, if needed, as you round the curve. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.



When the rug gets too big for your lap, lay it on the kitchen counter and work standing up. The bigger it gets, the easier it will be to make the knots and the rug will stay flatter. You'll need to adjust the tension of knots as you go and flatten the rounds with your fingers. If the rug is getting distorted, remember to keep the core strip loose. At one point, I steamed the rug as if I were blocking a crochet project, and that helped it to lay flat.


 

Finish the rug on the curve, just before you go down the side. Cut the core and then make a couple of knots a little tighter to cover the end. "Thread" the end under a stitch or two in the previous row, cut the end, and sew securely under a knot.





Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Freebie: Felted Crocheted Mug Rug


I'm giving away my secrets over on our Hyer Wools website today. I've been busy again, working on wooly items for our 2016 Heart of New Mexico Fiber Gathering. The festival begins tomorrow! But I did take the time to create a tutorial for this cute mug rug and I decided to teach the world how to make one, if you're interested. It's easier than you might think, but you do have to use 100% pure, untreated wool yarn for this project. Just slip over to Hyer Wools for the photo tutorial and pattern. And if you pin it from our blog over there - I'd consider it a favor! Thanks.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tips for Using Iron-On Emroidery Transfers


While I love embroidery - the stitching part, that is, I don't much like all the decisions about design and the preparation before stitching. I especially don't like the design transfer step, but it has to be done. Iron-on transfers seem to be the easiest way to get the design on the fabric, except when you can't get a good transfer, then it's just frustrating! The following tips come from my own hard-won experience. I hope they help. Some of these tips seem obvious, unless you are a beginner - then nothing is obvious.

First of all, follow the directions for the transfer. Each type is a little different, so follow the instructions the pattern company gives you. With one *exception, which appears below.

  • Use a good iron. Sometimes old irons develop hot spots and won't deliver the heat evenly over the plate. You probably won't notice it if you're sliding the iron back and forth over fabric, but it is a problem when you want a even transfer. A classic, dry iron with flat sole plate actually works the best.

  • If you only have a steam iron, don't use steam! Turn the steam off and even empty the water from the reservoir. Steam will cause the lines to be blurry or thick and you want clean, crisp lines. Get rid of the steam.

  • Put the dial on the proper setting, as per instructions, and let the iron heat completely.

  • Check to make sure the iron temperature won't harm the fabric. Most transfers direct a high temperature, usually cotton or wool. Test the fabric in an inconspicuous area to see if it can tolerate the temperature.

  • Speaking of tests, there is a test design on the pattern page for a reason. If you use the test design on a scrap of the same kind of fabric, you can determine how long to hold the iron in place to get a good transfer. Since you want to get it right the first time on your project, you'll get better results if you use the test design and gain some valuable information. Depending on how dark the test transfer is, you can adjust the amount of time you leave the iron on the paper.

  • Press the fabric first to remove any wrinkles and make a smooth surface for the transfer. Pre-warmed fabric will take the transfer much quicker and more evenly.

  • Use your fingers to hold the paper in place. Obviously, keep your fingers away from the iron, but your fingers are better than pins. Why? Because the thickness of the pin creates space between the paper and the fabric and your transfer will be patchy. Seriously, your fingers do a better job - just be sure to keep the paper from shifting.

  • Place the iron in one position over the design until the ink transfers. But don't leave it on any longer than you have to as this creates a dark transfer with more ink than you really need. Keep placing the iron over the design until it is transferred. *Some directions say to move the iron back and forth on the paper. This is likely so that the heat doesn't "burn" the transfer too dark or darker in one place. The problem with moving the iron, though, is that the paper can shift ever so slightly. This makes for blurry lines and, particularly with a cross-stitch pattern, the movement can distort the design. I think it is better to hold, lift and place the iron on a new section, rather than sliding the iron back and forth. If you'll use the test pattern, you can determine the length of time to hold the iron, without causing problems.

  • Be very careful not to shift the paper! Before you move the iron to a new spot, carefully lift an edge of the paper to see if the transfer has taken place.

  • Use a padded hard surface. The ironing board works unless it has a nice cushy cover. Cushy again creates thick, blurry lines. If you do a lot of embroidery, you might want to make a surface from a thin board covered with wool felt. (Don't use acrylic craft felt as it will melt at high heat.) Or, use a very thin cotton batting, like Warm n Natural, covered again with a muslin top. This creates an ideal surface for the transfers and you won't ruin your pretty ironing board cover. In a pinch, I use a scrap piece of foam core board that I covered with a couple of old dishtowels.

  • If you choose to use your ironing board, protect the cover somehow, even with an old cotton dishtowel. The ink will likely come through and you don't want to spoil your cover. I sometimes think I can be careful or quick and I so often have a bleed through onto the cover. Seriously, just protect it to begin with.

  • You may not even realize that the ink is likely permanent. Sometimes it will fade with time, or wash out eventually, if the fabric is 100% natural fiber, but if there is any synthetic fiber in the fabric, the ink cannot be removed.

  • Remember that all of the ink on the pattern page is transfer ink. I mention this so that you can be sure to cut off any lines that you don't want to appear on your design. Even the words and directions. Cut those off so that you don't accidentally transfer them to your project. Also check for smear marks from the design being folded and stored or other, unwanted lines of any kind.

  • Cut the paper away from the design close to the edges. This makes it easier to position the design on the fabric. You'll know better where the edges are and get the design positioned just right.

  • Go for as light a transfer as you can manage. Obviously, you need to be able to see the pattern, but thin, crisp lines are better than heavy dark lines. It is harder to cover up thick lines and a thick, underlying color of ink will make your embroidery look muddy.

  • If you are working with 100% natural fabric, don't transfer the design until you're ready to embroider the piece. Sometimes the transfer will fade a little and it may then be harder to see. Keep the project folded and away from bright light until you finish the embroidery.

Do any of you have experience or other tips to share about this process?

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Milestone: College for Miss Abigail


Well, today is a milestone for both Miss Abigail and I. Abigail is starting classes at the community college in Santa Fe and I'm finished with homeschooling. What a change for both of us. She is excited and a little nervous and I am kind of heartbroken that my serious, hands-on mothering is at an end. All of my children are adults! Honestly, if it were possible, I think I'd have another baby and begin again. This is the first time in 24 years that I'm not beginning a year of homeschooling! That was quite a commitment and Abby is the last little chick to try her wings. I'm so proud of Abigail. She's such a sweetheart and we're excited to see what the future holds for her now. Excuse me while I go find some chocolate!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tutorial: Microwave Baked Potato Bag

You may not know that August 19th is National Potato Day! So this tutorial is just in time to celebrate potatoes. I love them all ways, especially scalloped, but I also like them baked.

On my last trip to Idaho to see my mom, I bought potato print fabric to make a microwave baked potato bag for Miss Abigail's hope chest. You couldn't find a better print for this kitchen item and it will be perfect to remind her of family "roots." I grew up on an Idaho potato farm! While you may not be able to find the potato print fabric, here's the tutorial so that you can make a bag with any other cotton print. Just make sure the materials are 100% cotton so that you don't have problems with the microwave. Directions for using the baking bag are at the end of the post.

Materials: 2 pieces of 100% cotton fabric, 1 piece thin 100% cotton batting, basic sewing supplies, including 100% cotton thread.

Measure and cut both pieces of fabric and the batting 9 x 21 inches.

 Place both pieces of fabric, with right sides together, on top of the cotton batting. Use a 1/4-inch seam and stitch across each short end.

 Turn the fabric right sides out. The batting will be between the pieces of fabric. Press. Top stitch across each end, about 1/2-inch from the edge.

 Arrange the bag with the outside fabric facing up. Fold the top down about 3 inches and pin on the edge. Fold the bottom up and overlap the top by about 1 inch. Pin securely.

 Use a 1/4-inch seam to sew both sides.

 Finish the seam edges with a zig-zag stitch or use a serger.
 Turn the bag right side out and press well.

 
Finished!

Microwave potato baking bags are designed for use in a microwave to cook any type of baked potato, including sweet potatoes. The bag works best with 2 or 3 regular Russet potatoes. Simply wash the potatoes and leave them damp. Don't pierce holes in the potatoes. Tuck the potatoes into the bag and close the flap. Cook on high, 6-10 minutes, depending on the number & size of the potatoes, and the power of the microwave. You can also interrupt the baking halfway through and turn the potatoes over, but it isn't necessary. Sweet potatoes will need about 30 seconds to 1 minute longer than regular white potatoes. You'll have to adjust the time for smaller round "salad" potatoes. After cooking, remove the potatoes. Be careful of steam as you open the flap! Simply let the bag air dry. Remember to let the bag cool completely before using it again and remember to use caution and proper supervision. The bag is machine washable, but don't use fabric softener or other additives.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tutorial: Tucked Tea Towel


This post is a tutorial for another very easy tucked tea towel. The towel requires only straight stitching. Although it is simple and unadorned on the front, it does have a surprise on the back with a finished faced hem using a matching printed cotton fabric.

Materials: 7/8 yard of 100% cotton "bottom weight" or decorator fabric, (2) 1/8 yard of matching 100% cotton print fabric, basic sewing supplies, measuring mat and ruler, disappearing ink pen.


Cut the towel fabric into two pieces and square up ends and edges. Cut the printed facing fabric into 4 strips 2.5 inches by the width of towel.


Pin one strip to each end of the towel, right sides together. Sew 1/4-inch seams on each end.



Press all the seams open.


Fold the long sides in 1/4-inch and press. Fold over again to form a hem. Press and pin.


Stitch close to the edge to finish the sides.


With the towel facing up, use the measuring ruler and place the 2 1/4-inch marking line directly over the seam separating the print facing fabric from the towel fabric. Draw a mark across the width of the towel. If you don't own one of these wonderful rulers, just use a regular ruler and yardstick to measure and mark a line 2 1/4-inches up from the seam.


Turn the towel with the back side up. Fold the facing toward the back with the raw edge towards the middle of the towel. Press carefully. Fold again, completely enclosing the facing within the fold. This step will allow you to catch the raw edge of the facing, making a nice finish on the back. Press along the previously marked line, across the width of the towel. Pin and repeat this step for both ends of each towel.


Decide how large you want your tuck to be and make a mark on the throat plate of the sewing machine in order to guide your seam. I just used the 5/8-inch marking. Sew the tuck across the width of the towel. If you sew with the right side of the towel down, you may want to check your tension before you start sewing to make sure the bottom stitching will look good on the right side of the towel. Repeat for both ends of each towel.


Open up the towel and press well again. The raw edge of the facing will be enclosed in the tuck, making a nice finish on the back of the towel.



Finished!



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