How to Finish a Quilt

Finish a Quilt
So yesterday I showed you how to use my favorite technique – machine applique – to make a city street scene your kids can use for playtime. Today I want to show you how to take that play cloth – or any other quilt top or even large piece of fabric – and turn it into a quilt.

Finish Step 1
Before you begin quilting the first thing to do is make what we call a “Quilt Sandwich.” You sandwich the batting between the top and bottom layers of the quilts. Take your backing fabric – it’s easiest if this is larger than your quilt top so you don’t have to struggle to keep things lined up – and tape it to your floor with the right side facing down. Take your time with this, you want to get it as flat and smooth as you possibly can. Any care you take in the sandwich step will pay off with no wrinkles and neat quilting later on.

Finish Step 2
On top of that lay out your batting, and then your quilt top, taking care to smooth and stretch each piece.

Finish Step 3
Now you need to get that quilt sandwich to stay put, which means basting. There are many ways to do this, some old fashioned hand stitches, some spray glues, but I just like to grab every single safety pin in the house and shellac the quilt with them. I don’t think you can pin too much. Once you start quilting, especially if you use a small sewing machine like I do, the fabrics will be pulled and pushed and rolled in so many different directions that you’ll sew pieces together if they’re not held tightly in place. This is so so so easy to do. So take the time and lock everything in.

Finish Step 4
Now it’s time to quilt. The pattern you choose is just as much a feature of the design as the fabric you pick out. A great quilting pattern can make an otherwise ho-hum quilt sing. But for something like this play quilt, I just used a freeform stipple pattern. The video goes into great detail about this including the sewing machine foot I use and some gloves that offer enough friction to help push the quilt through the sewing machine easier. If you want to keep things as simple as possible, you could always just sew along the edges of your appliqued pieces and that would be enough for this project.

Finish Step 5
The last part of every quilt project is the binding. This part is difficult to write out, but I go through step by step in the video, so again, refer to that if anything I say here is confusing.

Trim the quilt so you get a clean edge and all the layers match up. For the binding I like to cut strips of fabric to 3″ wide and then sew them all together to create a long chain. Fold the strip in half with the wrong sides in and line the edges of the binding strip up with the edge of the quilt, so all the raw edges are facing the same way. Start sewing about 18″ from the start of the strip and sew all the way to the corner.

When you get to the corner, lift the needle and presser foot and turn the quilt to feed through the next side. Pull the binding strip up behind the side you’ll be sewing, making a triangle at the corner where the binding strip changes direction. Then, keeping that triangle in place, bend the binding strip over the top of it and down to line up with the side you’ll be sewing. Then just sew.

Finish Step 6
Now the binding is sewn onto one side, but the raw edges are still exposed on the back. So we have to wrap the binding around to the back and sew it in place. If you’re in a rush you can do this on the machine. You just hide the second line of stitches in the seam where the binding meets the front of the quilt. But I really prefer to take my time and do it by hand. It really doesn’t take that long and it just looks immaculate.

Finished Quilt
Quilting was always one of those things that lived in my imagination as something Super Women did. They quilted and made their own bread and canned fruit. It seemed so intricate and hard to me, and it can be, like any artform there are advanced and beginner techniques, but the entry isn’t as hard as I imagined it was. It probably isn’t as hard as you’ve imagined either.


City Streets Play Mat

City Streets Play Cloth
If you watch the video, and I hope you do because not only is it clearer than the few photos I took but I think I love making youtube videos even more than blogging and I’m having oodles of fun with it, you will know that this project has been in the work for, like, years. It was something I knew I wanted to make for Atti but there was always a deadline or a crisis so it’s been sitting on my desk for ages taunting poor Atti with the promise of playtime. No longer. It is finally finished and Atti is rolling around and driving his cars on it all day long. A quilt might seem ambitious to do before Christmas, and it’s certainly not the easiest thing to do, but using machine applique will speed the process up dramatically.

Top 1
The fabric for your quilt top should be whatever you want the ground to look like. Brown for a construction zone, Gray for a city center, or green for the suburbs like I did. Since this was a play size I didn’t get particular about the measurements, I believe I made it about 2 yds long and as wide as it came off the bolt. For the city you just need to cut a bunch of shapes out of whatever fabrics you want. Squares with a triangle on top make the houses, and rectangles with different sized circles make up the trees.

Top 2
To make the roads I cut strips of dark fabric 3″ wide, and then sewed them together to get plenty of length. If I wanted to make curving streets I’d have to cut these strips on the bias, but I was uninterested in that noise, straight streets worked just fine for me.

Top 3
To get the fabric pieces to stick until you sew them down, you’ll need to use fusible web. It’s basically a double sided iron on glue. Just cut the fusible web to the same size as your shapes and iron it on. Once it cools you peel off the paper backing and iron it on to the quilt top fabric.

Top 4
To machine applique you don’t need a special sewing machine, you just have to use a zig zag stitch and set the stitches super close together. Using a thread that matches each piece, just zig zag around the outside. I give more detailed instructions in this post, as well as in the video. Don’t forget your trusty coffee filters behind the top of the quilt to keep everything stable and smooth.

Top 5
With all the pieces stitched down, I used a little more zig zag to make the center lines of the streets. I think it’s a little touch that really adds a lot to the quilt top.

Play Cloth
If you’re not interested in turning this into a quilt – because you don’t have the time or you just don’t feel like it, you can leave it as a play cloth by just folding the edges under twice and sewing a hem. Then it can just work like a table cloth and you can neatly fold it up and bring it out with no fuss. Although, if your kid is like my Atti, you might not ever need to put it away.


DIY Christmas – Inspirational Glitter Canvas

Inspirational Glitter Canvas
Bear made me promise no new trees this year. Since you have to make multiples of every project, they are so dang labor intensive and I’m incessantly talking about what needs to be done instead of celebrating the holiday. With how craptacular this year has been, I couldn’t go full tilt.

BUT! I am eager to get things moving around here and my brain is practically boiling with ideas I need to get out of there. So instead of ornaments, I’m going to be doing another month stuffed with DIY tutorials perfect for all the people on your gift list. And since I’m doing my best to take it easy, they’ll all be projects you can make quickly. (Except for tomorrow’s, but you could make a version….I’m getting ahead of myself.)

For today, I’ve got a project that would work for anybody who likes a little bling. Teachers, tweens, sassy grandmas, anybody with a desk, anybody who could use an inspirational kick in the pants that comes covered in glitter.

Step 1
Supplies are simple. You need some kind of a backing, glue, paintbrushes, and lots and lots of glitter. You could use a canvas or a flat piece of wood, but I used a wood panel so that it would have a finished look, not require framing, and I’d have a smooth flat surface to glue on.

Step 2
I found this inspirational quote at Doodle Art Alley and loved it, so I just printed out one of their coloring pages and used some mod podge to glue it straight on to the wood. I cut the paper to have a wobbly edge so there wouldn’t be a visible straight line underneath the glitter.

Step 3
Then it’s just a matter of coloring things in. Since I have an expansive glitter library, I jumped at the chance to get as many colors in there as possible. I worked with the smallest areas first, and then went from the center out.

Step 4
To color with glitter, you just need to apply the glue wherever you want each color, working one color at a time. I love these little Martha Stewart paintbrushes for skinny little areas. I also like to water my glue down just a touch so that it’s easier to spread without clumps.

Step 5
Once you have the glue all over the section you’re working on, sprinkle the glitter over the top. You don’t want to be shy here. I also like to take another piece of paper and lay it on top of my pile, then give it a gently press so that the glitter gets good and stuck into that glue.

Step 6
Let the excess glitter run off onto some kind of a collector. I use glitter and beads and powders so much that I have this cool little tray with a funnel on one end, but before I had that I just used a piece of paper I’d folded in half to make a crease. The glitter collects in that crease and works great as a DIY funnel to get the glitter back in the jar for next time.

Step 7
Let the glue dry thoroughly before coloring in a surrounding section.

Step 8
Keep coloring in with the glue and glitter until your whole coloring page is filled in.

Glitter Canvas
I think this project is destined for Atti’s room. My little perfectionist could sure use this message, and the colors work great. But if I toned down the colors I’d hang it over my own desk too. I don’t think there’s a person out there that couldn’t use this little inspirational reminder.


Monogrammed Button Bracelet

Button Bracelet
Mom’s Day crafts aren’t always simple. Sure, they’re not as hard as Father’s Day, but it’s still hard to strike the balance between honoring the holiday and making something that looks like a school project made by a Kindergartener. You could just make something pretty, or you could make something sentimental. Or you could make this button bracelet, that’s both.

The buttons make it a charming vintage looking bracelet, but the subtle dyed monogram makes it touching and sentimental without looking like you’d have to be touched to wear it. It’s the best of both worlds.

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Singed Flower Headband

Dyed Headband
My organza flower tutorial is, still, one of the most popular things I’ve ever done on this site, and every time I see another link to it I chuckle to myself, remembering that it was a total accident and not what I intended to make at all. There’s little I love as much as a good happy accident.

After all this time I wanted to revisit that tutorial and update it with a fresh technique and a fresh use. Perfect for Spring and Summer, everybody needs a flower headband, and if you’re the type that doesn’t love headbands – like me – you can use it like a fascinator by just making your flower extra big.

Click through for the full tutorial.

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Reupholster a Kid’s Chair

Reupholster a kids chair

Reupholster a kids chair

Atti has had a fabulous but hideous chair in his room for the last few years and literally every time I go in there I twitch, looking at that cover. It’s faded and stained, and totally not hygienic. But the chair was just too perfect for Atti’s needs. It was just the right size for him, is easy for him to get in and out of, easy for him to sit in, and has sentimental value because it was given to us by one of Atti’s former therapists. Even if the chair was just like any other chair, I couldn’t bear to get rid of our reminder of Miss Margie. I had to rescue it from the crust of cheerio dust that had overcome it.

Click through for a full tutorial, including a coupon for a steal on fabric! [Read more…]


Make a Child’s Bean Bag Chair

Beanbag Chair

Beanbag Chair

There are lots of dreams that came true with my little Atticus, but one of my favorites is getting to pass on my love of reading. My little guy is every bit as obsessed with books as I am, and he loves to while away the hours by playing with all the books in his bookshelf. He still plays pretty rough with the books and every once in a while I’ll hear, RIIIP “Oh no! The book!” One of these days he’ll be stretched all over the furniture reading, but right now he’s still pretty active with them.

Which means that the best thing I could put in his reading corner is a beanbag chair. Right now he can roll over on it and toss it around, but as time goes by he’ll still be using it as he’s slouched up against it turning pages.

Click through for the pattern and a great coupon to Michael Levine Fabrics!
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DIY Nail Stickers

DIY Nail Art Stickers

DIY Nail Art Stickers

So with the DIY Nail Art tools I shared yesterday, I’ve been practicing my nail art skills and come to the realization that I’m not great. There are a few things working against me – not being terribly ambidextrous, not putting in any practice time – but the thing that gets me every time is waiting for all the layers of pretty paint to dry. I botch my nails EVERY TIME I put paint on them. Literally. I cannot seem to wait for the paint to dry, and then if I’ve managed to be still long enough for it to dry, I always forget about giving it time to cure and mess it up with dents and gouges. You add multiple layers of paint or, oh for goodness sake, pools of paint like in polka dots, and I don’t have a chance.

I’ve gotten in to nail art stickers, but they’re pricey. And as a rule I can’t stand paying for something I’m technically capable of myself. So I needed to come up with a way to make my own.

DIY Nail Art Step 1
The secret is parchment paper. It has to be parchment paper – not wax paper. There is a very significant difference. On parchment paper the polish lifts up like a dream. This might work on tinfoil or plastic bags, but I didn’t bother experimenting. It’s so dang perfect on parchment paper.

Paint ten rectangles bigger than your nails. Paint two or three coats, as necessary, to get the base color you want.

DIY Nail Art Step 3
Decorate to your heart’s content. After coming up with this I’ll never try and do polka dots any other way. It’s amazing to just leave these to dry overnight and know you’re coming back to completely cured polka dots with no smearing.

DIY Nail Art Step 2
Peel the stickers off of the parchment paper, being careful not to tear them. Paint your nails with a base coat and while they’re still wet apply the nail sticker and press firmly to smooth it in place. Depending on how neat you painted your rectangles, you may want to trim the base in a rounded curve to give you a smooth place to start applying. Just cut the sticker with a small pair of scissors.

Nail Art Stickers ApplicationApply just as you would any other nail stickers. Use a nail file or orange stick to press the sticker into the cuticles and nail bed and tear the extra away. I also used a pin for this for good results, but the best results of all came from just using a fingernail. The stickers are so thin that they’re super easy to tear. Which is a bit of a problem when you’re lifting them off the paper, but the best when you’re smoothing them to the nail.

Whenever I use nail stickers I finish with a couple of thick layers of top coat, paying extra attention to the sides. With a thick topcoat you can make your manicure last for over a week.

If I was just painting a solid color I think it’s more time efficient to just paint your nails. But once you start adding all the decorative flourishes, I don’t think I’ll do it any other way. I get to ensure that everything gets all the way dry before I mess it up, I get the benefit of using my dominant hand for everything, and I get to do it on a flat surface and not worry about coloring outside the lines. It’s almost too good to be true.


DIY Nail Art Tools

DIY Nail Art Tools

DIY Nail Art Tools

As firmly on record as I am with not obsessing about the condition of my nails, I’m also not immune from pretty things. And when I feel so inclined, it’s a really nice treat to have my nails looking pretty. But because of, you know, life, I can’t spend a lot of time making my nails pretty. So I’ve been paying attention to how to get great results in the easiest way. For today, it’s nail tools. The pros and the artists use professional quality tools. There are dotters and liners and all kinds of special nail art brushes out there. But I don’t want to pay for specific tools when I barely do my nails, and when I have tried a brush I was frustrated that I could never get the nail polish out. One use and a brush felt like a brick.

Here’s my perfect solution: disposable, do it yourself nail art tools. Nearly free so you don’t need to worry about tossing it or making another if you want to switch up your colors.

Nail Art Tool Step 1
Snip off a tiny amount of hair. I mean tiny. A bang trim is more than you’ll need in length and depending on how thick you want to make your brush you really only need a few hairs. Liner brushes should be a bit longer and thinner, painting brushes should be a bit shorter and fatter.

Nail Art Tool Step 2
Rip off a piece of duct tape, about 3 inches long. Tape your hair snips to the very corner of one end.

Nail Art Tool Step 3
Then roll it up to make your handle. Give your brush a trim if you have any wayward hairs or to create the effect you want.

Nail Art Tools
If you want to make dots, all you need is a dull pencil. The size of the dot changes based on how much paint you have on the brush. Between your little disposable brushes and items you can find around the house, there’s no need to spend money on tools.


Crochet Circle Cuff

Crochet Circle Cuff

Crochet Circle Cuff

The idea for this bracelet has been cooking away in my brain for nearly two years, always getting bumped down the priority list for other things that seemed more important than decorating my arm. But a new friend I made at CHA made me put myself first for a change. I met Michelle from Simplicity at a blogger party where I was wearing my crocheted necklace, and she instantly recognized those little circles (apparently they’re actually called cabones) as coming from her company. I met up with her at the tradeshow the next day and we were hugging like long time friends and she gave me all kinds of great stuff under the condition that I make something great with them. So here I am, keeping my promise, getting this project out of my head after all this time, and giving myself a new bracelet for Valentine’s Day.

Crochet Circle Step 1
If you can single crochet you basically know all you need to know to make this bracelet. Watch the video below for a full demonstration in action, but I promise, even if you’ve never held a crochet hook you can make this bracelet.  I’ve already gotten a jump start here, but the process is the same. Begin with a slip knot on your hook.

Crochet Circle Step 2


Push the hook down through the circle. Grab the yarn and bring it back up through the loop to where you started so you have two loops on your hook. Grab the yarn again and pull it through both loops so that you’re back down to one loop left on the hook. You’ve just made a single crochet stitch. Now do that over and over again until you’ve covered the whole cabone with neat little stitches.

join crochet circle


When you meet back up with where you started you’ll need to join your circle together. If you have a favorite way of doing then, go for it. I just made another single crochet stitch by pushing my hook through one of my first stitches, grabbing the yarn, and then pulling through the loops as usual. Snip your thread and pull it tight, leaving about a two inch tail.

Second Crochet Circle


For your second ring and every ring after, you’ll start it just the same way. You always want to get your crocheting started before you reach a point where you’d have to join it to another ring, even if that’s only a few stitches.

Connect Crochet Circles Step 1


Hold the rings how you want them to be arranged on the bracelet. Once you reach a point where they’ll join up, begin just as you would a single crochet stitch. Push your hook down through the center of the ring, but when you come back up the other side, come up through one of the stitches on the other ring. Then grab the thread and pull it back up to the front and finish your single crochet as normal.

Connect Crochet Circles Step 2


Repeat this everywhere your rings touch, but to keep it good and stable I’d recommend at least three stitches to join each ring. When you’re all done weave in all your ends and snip off whatever threads remain.

Crochet Bracelet Closure


Once you have your whole bracelet put together the way you want it, you’ll need a way to keep it on your wrist. Luckily those cabones make perfect toggle closures all on their own, you just have to add the toggle part of it. On my last ring I joined the circle together as usual and then instead of snipping the thread I chained a few stitches. Then I threaded the yarn through the toggle and tied a great big knot.


What I love about this bracelet is how the open circles in a variety of sizes makes such a mod pattern, but the crochet on top makes it so homespun, and the two together just make magic to me.