Category Archives: Tutorials

How to Make a Monogram Quilt Block

Monogram Quilt Block Tutorial by Waterpenny.netIf you are making a wedding signature quilt – here are some of my thoughts on that!

You’ll need

    • Computer and editing program (I use Word)
    • This text document if you want an example monogram 
    • Fusible webbing (I prefer Wonder Under by Pellon)
    • Marker
    • Fabric
    • Matching thread
    • Starch (optional)
    • Sewing machine

Make a Monogram QuiltStep 1: Pick a font!

Then make your monogram in a word processing document (or use this one). You can use any program, of course. I generally use Cambria, which is a nice common serif font. You can also find fun swirly fonts that wouldn’t be that hard to applique. I personally prefer simple clean lines – they look good and are a lot easier to sew and cut out!

You generally want your middle initial about twice the size as your other letters; in my example, I have a 500 font middle initial and a 250 font for the others – and I bold them. But you can futz about with it till you get it how you like it.

I do the letters as Wordart so that I can nudge them around and reverse them, etc. I’m sure all the graphic designers are rolling their eyes so hard they might get stuck – but it works for me! If you want to flip your letters around backwards, here is a tutorial that will let you do that. I do the smaller side letters as a different text box. Here is an example text document that I made that you can pop in your own letters.

Step 2: Pick the size of your block and letters. In this case, my block is 16×16 inches.  Cut it out and I also starch my fabric using my home made starch.  I want my letters to be 12.5 inches wide.  If you like you can print out samples of your monogram to see how it fits onto your block.

Cut your fusible webbing to the appropriate size. A note about fusible webbing – with Pellon Wonder Under, there is a paper backing, and a light filmy plastic webbing that acts like glue when melted – it holds your fabric in place and keeps the edges from fraying.  Leave the paper on for now!

Step 3: Trace your letters BACKWARDS onto the paper backing of the fusible web. I do April 2Make a Monogram Quilt013 076this by just tracing the letters right off the screen — I zoom in until the letters are the size I need and trace away using a permanent marker. It’s easier in a dark room. You could also print off your letters and trace onto the fusible webbing using a lightbox or window.

(A side note: if you don’t want to reverse your letters, you can trace them directly onto the webbing material).

Step 4: Iron your fusible webbing onto your fabric and cut out.Make a Monogram Quilt

See how the letters are backwards on the paper here? That is what you want!

(A side note: if there is an area larger than two inches, I generally cut that out of the fusible webbing – leaving at least a quarter inch on each side. The webbing can add stiffness to your quilt so I try to avoid large areas of it.)

Make a Monogram Quilt

 

I sometimes use a rotary cutter to cut out the long straight edges.

Once your letters are cut out, pick off the paper backing – it’s much easier if you use a pin to start the peel.

Make a Monogram Quilt

Make a Monogram QuiltStep 5: Lay out your letters and center them. I use two rulers! In my example, the long straight edges letters are 1.5 inches apart and 1.75 inches from the top and bottom of the H.  You can use temporary fabric pencil/marker to mark your measurements. When you get ‘em where you want ‘em, Iron ‘em down. Press down carefully; don’t move from side to side, as you don’t want to stretch or crumple the letters.

Make a Monogram Quilt

Step 6: Sew them down. Use any stitch you like – I prefer a zig zag stitch – to sew around the letters to secure them. They will fall off in the wash if you don’t secure them with sewing.

I have done a lot of fused applique and tested it in the wash, and I have not noticed a big difference in fraying if you just use a straight stitch, buttonhole stitch, etc. So your stitch choice is really just a matter of personal taste. I recommend you try out a few stitch widths and lengths on a scrap piece of fabric to know which looks best on your letters.

Step 7: Iron it again. I prefer to iron from the back so I don’t flatten my sewing. Admire it. Doesn’t it look great!

Make a Monogram Quilt

If I’m sewing the monogram into a quilt, I free motion applique using matching thread around the edge of the letters to quilt them down. The stitches aren’t really noticeable, but it looks so much nicer, in my opinion.

Sew it into a quilt? Make a pillow? Frame it?

 

 

Make Your Own Spray Starch

Fabric-Starch How To by Water PennyI’ve been making my own spray starch for a bit now. I am really happy with the effect. I generally like my fabric to be nice and stiff, so I add a lot of starch.

Commercial starch gets expensive if you buy a lot of it. I suppose that is true for anything. Am I blowing your mind with my wisdom?

Anywho, it’s super-easy to make your own starch – just dump in a tablespoon or more of starch in a bottle of water, and shake shake shake! The starch will settle out fairly quickly, so I give it a quick shake every time I use it. I also add a little fresh scent – just a drop of smelly oils I like.

Pluses: Never running out of starch in the middle of the night. Less wasted containers and less money. I don’t know if it’s a plus, but it is edible and if, say, you were trapped in your quilting studio after an earthquake, you could drink your starch for sustenance.

Drawbacks? Well, the shaking could be annoying if you don’t like shaking stuff.  Since bugs can potentially eat starch, you need to wash your starchy things before storing them. I wash all my stuff so this is no problem. Plus I generally store stuff with cedar which I hear bugs don’t like.

Sometimes it can leave starchy white blotches on your fabric. These wash out and some commercial starches do this too so it doesn’t bother me.

I have been using Tapioca Starch, because that’s the kind that  we have. I think cornstarch would be a more common option but we used all ours up thickening sauces and keep forgetting to buy more. I use tapioca starch when making ice cream and sorbets to keep them softer when they freeze and I use it to make my quilts nice and crispy. So there you are. Science!

A side note, several recipes on-line recommend cooking your starch into the water such as here. I imagine this would give you a better product, but would take away from the extreme laziness bonus of the no-cook method, which I deem “perfectly good enough” so do the fancier version at your own discretion.

Madrona Road Challenge Finish

After mulling over it for a few months – we’ve known about the challenge for a while before we even got the fabric – Wednesday night I got my vision for my Madrona Road Challenge piece. It is pieced using the wonky nine patch technique which Oh Fransson explains really well here.

Madrona Road Challenge
The Madrona Road Challenge is a national challenge with guilds across the US participating. There’s no “winner” but it’s a fun way to get folks thinking creatively. The Columbus Modern Quilt Guild’s guidelines were to do something on the Stars and Stripes theme, and have it at a max of 30×30 inches.

Madrona Road Challenge
We were given 7 fat eighths to work  with and I used every last scrap. I had a few triangles left from the front and I used those to make the smaller star on the back.

The only way I may have deviated was that you weren’t supposed to add any prints that weren’t the Madrona Road line. I used a linen-look-alike fabric from Robert Kaufman that has the linen cross-weave drawn onto it, so it looks like a linen solid.

Madrona Road Challenge

As you can see, it’s snowing really heavily right now – it’s so pretty out! I just shoveled my front step and it’s already buried. Such is life.

Madrona Road Challenge

I ran out of fabric for the binding so had to sneak in some solid blue corners. I think I like the look! I hand-sewed the binding which I never do and it even took me a minute to remember how but I think it turned out. It is nice and puffy compared to machine sewn binding.

Matt came in while I was hand-sewing the binding and asked in great shock – “Why are you hand-sewing it!!!” I think he thought my sewing machine was broken. I actually enjoyed the process but I don’t think I’d do it for a larger than 30×30 quilt.

Madrona Road Challenge

Once again, I think I might like the back more than the front! Madrona Road Challenge

To see the other awesome quilts that folks are making for this Challenge, check out the flickr pool – it’s already making me re-think my choices! I love them all!

Square Tote Bag Free Tutorial


I love making reusable shopping bags and totes and decided to whip up a little pattern for one of my favorite bags that I have – here is the tutorial at this link. I did a pdf because I find it so much more convenient for me to make documents than blogposts -sorry for any inconvenience to you!

Essentially this bag is just a half yard of fabric folded in half.  You can also use two fat quarters sewn together. The fabric here is an upholstery weight cotton from ikea – but quilting weight is great too!

Instead of just sewing up one side and along the bottom like a basic tote, you sew on all four sides and square the bottom. It’s just a tad sturdier with very little extra bulk.  Let me know if I have unwittingly copied someone here – this is just how I’ve made a lot of my shopping bags for years.

Hopefully my instructions aren’t tooooo horribly confusing.

Tote BagTote Bag

You can paint a laminate bookshelf!

Painting a Laminate BookshelfPainting a Laminate BookshelfI decided on Sunday that I wanted to make an armoire and re-paint the living room. In one day. It’s dragged on a bit, but we’re getting there. And by “we” I mean “I” because Matt has been too busy with school and research to do much painting.

The best part of all is that I painted these two laminate bookshelves. This is just such a revelation to me, as there are SO MUCH ugly laminate furniture for SO CHEAP or FREE and now I know that I can make it not ugly! Or, Less Ugly! These two were a horrible dark brown with gold accents, so, you can’t get much worse than that.

For these, I lightly sanded them – just a whoosh over with 120 sand paper, just enough so you can see the white dust from the top layer of laminate being scuffed up.

I then added a layer of primer intended for shiny/glossy surfaces. I used Bulls Eye 1-2-3 which was the cheapest at Lowes and I had seen it recommended on-line. And it doesn’t have to sit that long before the next coat. Then I painted it with my leftover paint from the living room – which had primer in it as well.

You can add protective top coats to make them super scratch resistant.  I decided I didn’t care. I scratched at them with my fingernail and they didn’t scratch after about 4 hours of drying, and paint will continue to dry for 7 days so I figured that was good enough for me.

As a side note – this is the first time I have ever painted a room cream. This weekend we sold our record player AND painted a room cream. Two serious milestones on the journey to “Not punk rock anymore.” However, the glossy corally red the former tenant painted this room was slowly eating at my soul and I had to get as far from it as possible. The room looks about 10 times the size now.

So anyway, I have my cream bookcases to match my cream walls. The backing is the next thing – as you likely know, the flimsy cardboard backings have the potential to be ruined by water based paints, and they are horrible looking. We could have purchased or salvaged some plywood for a new backing, but I decided to cover the old cardboard with fabric. I used my Elmers Adhesive Spray to add a layer of quilt batting (I used some scraps) and then put another layer of adhesive spray, and added the layer of fabric. I wrapped it around the edges and glued it to the back, then taped the edges with packing tape.  I don’t especially recommend this brand of glue, and have no glue expertise, though I do love it’s description as “a temporary and permanent” glue. Very existential.

The fabric is from a thrift store, maybe? I have no memory, but pretty sure I didn’t pay for it. It isn’t quality enough to quilt with, so this is a great use for it. The print is little pheasants, bowls of fruit, and other 1970’s farmhouse chic designs, which I thought was fitting, as our house was built by a mad farmer in around the 1870’s.

Eventually, I’ll build doors for the larger bookshelf and call it an armoire. For now, I want my living room put back together. I have a pretty high tolerance for messy things, but I am bored again of home decor and want to be able to walk to the bathroom without the risk of stepping on a nail.

And the cake plates are leftover from our wedding. Anyone want some cake plates?

More Wedding Signature Squares

I have been busy making up wedding signature squares for a few custom orders. These are neatly starched with the white areas bordered in white artist’s tape to keep people from writing in the seam allowance. Though I have had a few come back with guests writing ON TOP OF THE TAPE. I try not to be a disdainful person, but I have some disdain for these people. I just hope they were good and drunk when they decided that the masking tape would be featured in the final wedding quilt. For way more thoughts on Wedding Signature Quilts check out my earlier post.
Quilt squares prepped for Wedding Signatures!
It’s somewhat strange to make the squares in advance like this, send them out into the universe, and have them come back several months later to sew them into a quilt. I take lots of photos so I can remember what I was thinking. Anticipating the way that the squares will be handled by the guests, and protecting the squares from that add a complicated middle step to the quilting process.

I do love the neat and tidy stacks of unfinished blocks!

Quilt squares prepped for Wedding Signatures!

Fall Classes

I’m signed up again to teach a few classes at a local store – Wholly Craft – which, btw, has an AWESOME craft supply trade section, where people donate old craft supplies, and then other people buy them. Proceeds go mostly to charity, some to the store. I think it’s great and came up with some classes designed to teach a few quilting basics and to use up some scraps from the scrap bin.

I have been offering and Intro to Cross-stitch and done a few intro to quilting classes. But I wanted something simpler than even a baby quilt for these classes – something that could be finished comfortably in 3 hours…hopefully…

A foundation pieced scarf – featuring an old wool sock and flannel scraps for extra warmth…

Scarf for Scarf Class

I made two versions of the same scarf – this one draws from my ridiculous corduroy scrap pile. Wasn’t thrilled with either, but it gives a good idea of what can be done.
Scarf for Scarf Class

Quilted Coasters

Coaster for coaster class

Pillow case with 3-D flowers – This takes a whole fat quarter, unless folks choose to piece it.

Pillow for pillow class

I also made up a class sample of some scrappy placemats, napkins, and napkin rings, but apparently forgot to take pictures of those. We’ll see if anyone signs up for my classes – either way, this was a fun way to think about what I can do with my own burgeoning scrap pile. It’s also great that I now have a local place to take my fabric scraps guilt free for other sewists to enjoy! If you live in Columbus, be sure to check out Wholly Craft ‘s new Supply Closet!

Odds and Ends Tips

I talked a little bit about how I machine sew binding here: http://waterpenny.net/how-i-machine-sew-binding

Just a note to say that sometimes I use Sulky Invisible thread in my bobbin – I used it on this ridiculously fussy ‘fabric’ and only had a few skipped stitches! Whoa! This thread is so slippery it is a pain to thread, but it also just slips through the quilt like butter. I worry about tying it off – it tends to want to slip right back out of the quilt too – so whenever I used it I use a lots of extra tying off stitches. I don’t like how shiny it is, but on the back of a quilt, it’s less of an issue.

Invisible thread

My main tip with it is something I learned a long time ago – only fill the bobbin with invisible thread halfway – the thread is so thin that’s probably more than you would have on there of the thinnest cotton thread. Less thread on the bobbin equals less pressure, breakage, and knots. So, probably you already knew that!

Binding trick - fold it by running it through two safety pinsMy next tip that probably everyone else learned years ago that I just learned recently is this trick for folding binding in half. Take two safety pins and pin them to a towel, scrap of batting, etc. about 2 inches a part.

Feed your binding through the pins and it will fold it in half for you to iron. See how clever it is? Ignore all the lint on my towel.

I go back and forth as to whether this actually saves me any time. Today I felt like it did, so I did it.

Ironing on a 95 degree day with no air conditioning will make you delude yourself into appreciating even the smallest ways to shorten ironing time…

Binding trick - fold it by running it through two safety pins

You’ll notice – maybe you won’t? That this binding isn’t cut on the bias – though it is attached on the bias. That is because it is for a quilt that will be a wall-hanging and I thought the extra strength of the threads going length-wise would help it hang straighter. Maybe it was the binding, or maybe I actually made a square quilt, but it is hanging pretty straight!

Binding trick - fold it by running it through two safety pins

Felt Origami Style Pillow Tutorial

Tutorial - Origami Cathedral Windows PillowI saw a pillow on West Elm and decided I needed to copy it.  This uses a fun cobalt polyester felt which I had bought for another project, oh, eons ago. De-stash!

I used 6 inch squares which yields a finished block of 4×4″. I made 16 squares and got a 16″ loose pillow form – or a stuffed look 18×18 pillow form. I used felt so that I didn’t have to worry about frayed edges and for the extra stiffness to make the ‘origami’ stand up better.

Tutorial time! So, first cut your squares and then: Continue reading

Deer Repellents

Back in May we had deer issues – not too bad, and I think we nipped their interest in our plants in the bud. (Get it?)

The first night they came in and chomped down several feet of tomatoes and pepper plants. We put out Irish Spring soap all around those plants by taking plastic cups, placing a half-bar of soap inside, and wrapping tulle or pantyhose around the cup. Then we hung the cups UPSIDE DOWN so the soap doesn’t get wet and wash our garden in the rain. The tulle keeps the soap in and lets smell can get out, We hung our fancy contraptions from the tomato cages. Holy cow is that soap smelly.

The next night they avoided the plants with the soap on them and ate down the raspberries and strawberries. Dang it. So we hung more Irish Spring soap, and went to the store to find some deer repellent – which is about $17 a half gallon and consists of water, eggs, garlic, and pepper. Seriously? Seriously.

So we drove right back home to make our own. I blended up an egg, a dried habanero from last year’s garden and a gallon of water and sprinkled it all around the yard from an old laundry detergent bottle.

Delightfully, our neighbors all came out during this strange ritual and asked what we were up to. I asked them to step back a few paces. Luckily, the Irish Spring soap mostly masked the smell of the rotten eggs.

Aaaaaaand it’s been two months and the deer haven’t come back! The Irish Spring is still working, and we’ve re-applied our rotten egg and pepper stew a few times.

However, as of this week, the raccoon are getting into our corn. Seeing as the raccoon actually ate several of the rotten eggs I was planning to make more deer repellent with, and are probably out washing their tiny hands with the Irish Spring right now, I don’t know what to do about it.

Our main solution to that has been to just eat the corn before the raccoon do, which means before the corn is fully ready. It’s still good with butter on it!

July 2012 Garden
Here are some more recipes: http://www.deer-departed.com/deer-repellent-recipes.html

Amaranth is so pretty! Can’t wait to make my red cornbread!

Amaranth July 2012

Note the brown ‘bells’ hanging around – they are full of Irish Spring soap.

July 2012 garden