If You’re Scared, Do Something

With every book that I read, there is usually one inspirational nugget buried somewhere between the front and back cover. It is something that captures my attention, as if those particular words were printed just for my eyes to behold. Sometimes, it’s a quote. It might be a helpful tip. It might be a tidbit about a topic that sparks my curiosity, thereby causing me to purchase three additional books for my pile. But sometimes, it is something as simple as a line that a character says that resonates with me in a profound way that changes my life.

I am currently reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein. It is a young adult fictional novel about the very non-fictional topic of women pilots during WWII. Anyway, Maddie, one of the characters says ”If you’re scared, do something.” That’s it. That’s my nugget. Her meaning is that you don’t freeze, or hesitate, or stop yourself from moving in a forward progression toward the best optimal result, even if your current task is not in your cards. WOW!

I perceive the word ‘scared’ as also meaning ‘afraid’, which caused me to reflect on my own fears, and how much fear really is different from (and similar to) anxiety. With fear, we read it like this: “If you’re scared, DO something.” but with anxiety, it is helpful to read it like this: “If you’re scared, do SOMETHING.” I think that we often mistake fear for what is really anxiety, and visa versa, making it difficult to overcome those separate obstacles. To me, fear can be a fear of wasps, preventing us from washing our windows. It can be fear of crowds or audiences, preventing us from giving a speech or presentation. Anxiety, is similar, but it seems so much more debilitating. We see a pile of papers and junk on a desk, then absolutely freeze and walk away, because of this sick feeling it gives us. We see projects (even fun ones!) that daunt us, and multiply quicker than our speed of progress. We see deadlines creep up on us. We see our plans fall apart, making every part of that ‘thing’ mentally impossible to finish. That is anxiety.

If we only knew how little it takes to overcome that fear, that anxiety, we would be less inclined to let it control us in the future. We would become more practiced at doing SOMETHING, or DOING something, allowing us to be more free of these fears and burdens.

This all relates to my week, and how everything kept falling apart to the point where our progression on moving to a new address became ‘sticky’.

  • Our water supply is currently being treated with chlorine at our new address, which means no drinking, no showers, no laundry.
  • We can’t move our closet stuff over until construction is done on the master bathroom water closet (more on that another day)
  • By adding lighting to the sewing room, kitchen, and living room, we have had an electrician ‘fall through’ the ceiling in the dining room.
  • My husband broke one of my IKEA shelves that holds some of my fabric, which cannot be replaced until IKEA opens again, meaning that fabric is being tossed in the room every which way.
  • He also backed into my car, causing paint damage. (he is not on my happy list this week at all.)
  • Wolf spiders everywhere
  • Wasps in abundance, both indoors and out.
  • Items for kitchen not available
  • Meals are hit or miss, and somewhat unhealthy.
  • “Where is my [fill in the blank], I know I just had it a minute ago?” is on auto replay.

Here is what I am DOING, which is SOMETHING:

  • bottled water, shower at the old house, laundry later.
  • pack overnight bags for the new house
  • have them patch the ceiling, then come fix it ASAP. Don’t look at it.
  • purchase metal shelving from Walmart to hold fabric temporarily. Make husband pay for new shelf, maybe make him go buy it, and haul it home too.
  • Wait until old house is sold, then get a quote to have car repaired. Make husband pay for it, and have him do all the dirty work of getting that done.
  • Kill all of the spiders, we have plenty more.
  • Buy some wasp nest decoys, and don’t let them think they own the place. We own it, and we’re more territorial than they are.
  • Decide on my second choice for kitchen items, and commit. Just do it, it might end up being much better at half the cost.
  • Eat when I am hungry, otherwise don’t. Meal plan when this is all over.
  • It’s right were I set it last. Figure it out, or forget about it.

Originally, I was supposed to make this post for the sweet (and very patient) ladies from my hand stitching group. Hey, you know what? Dang it, NO. This is going to happen too! I may not have been able to get a whole lot done, but I have been carrying this Grandmother’s Flower Garden pencil box around with me in the car so that I can work on it, on the go.

It is SOMETHING that I can do. It is something that I CAN do. It is something that I can DO, and by God, I will. Even if it means sewing on the floor, one Grandmother’s Flower Garden block will be done today.

I hope you have it in you to keep going on that project of yours, or pick it up again. It might not take much. It might be as simple as opening a box and assessing the situation. It might mean you have a task to do to get moving. Do the task. Do something. You’ve got this.

This hand quilt along group is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share projects that we are working on, and to motivate each other. We post every three weeks to show our progress, and to encourage one another. If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group, contact Kathy in her link below. Please visit these other members to see what hank projects they are working on as well. They always have beautiful things simmering.

Kathy Margaret Tracy Deb Susan Nanette Edith Sharon Karrin Gretchen Kathi Bella Daisy Connie Sherrie

The Friendship Connection

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My daughter recently asked me who my best friend was. I said “JoAnn, my sister.” She said “No, mom. That’s not what I mean. I mean friend, like who isn’t related to you.” so, I said ”Daddy”.  I think this counts in her requirements, as I am not related to him, just joined in marriage until death do us part. She wasn’t accepting my answer as a viable option. But then, I suddenly felt lost, when I began to take her question seriously.

I have no friends.

Now, y’all, that’s just silly. I have friends, lots and lots of friends. I have friends that care about me, and I have friends that I care for in return. In fact I would jump into a burning building or run through brick walls to come to their aid. I have friends that I grew up with from back home with whom I will always be connected, even though they are 1,484 miles from here. I have Instagram friends that started out as Flickr friends who I keep in contact with on a daily (hourly?) basis, many of whom I have met over the years, face to face, from across the globe. I have neighbor friends who like to get together for dinners, movies, or ladies nights.

What I don’t have, is ‘a friend’. That one friend that you can call when you are sitting on the toilet and need them to bring you a roll of toilet paper from five miles away because you forgot to restock the closet, a friend that will grab your kid from school and keep them in a family emergency, a friend you can laugh with about wildly questionable topics, a friend who will hold your hand when they visit you in the hospital to tell you that you can do this (I am not headed to the hospital, just for clarification…knocking on wood), a friend that you can run to, to return all of these favors.

It just hit me like a rock to the head that I do not have this friend. And you know? It makes me wonder how many other moms there are, that are thinking the very same thing. How did I get here?

My youngest child is now 10 years old. Soon that child will be 18 and heading to college…very soon. In the blink of an eye. When she does, (and she will, so help me Elvis), I want not only to have a friend that I can rely on to be there for me during that transition; but I also want for me to be that friend for someone else. Someone who needs me in return.

Unfortunately, they don’t sell these friends on Etsy, or I would have a fat quarter pack of them sitting on my shelf with a margarita already. You can’t look for a friend. A good, real friend happens at the right time, in the right place, for the right reasons. Here is where I have slipped up. I have not put myself out there, to connect. I have stayed in my safe little hidey hole during these years at home.

I came to this realization suddenly during this time of social distancing, because I was the only one not going crazy. I am immune to cabin fever. I adapted to isolation. I thought I was content, that is, until my daughter asked me who my best friend is. Now I realize what a disservice I have been doing to these other people, who are waiting around for me too. It’s high time I pull my head out of the sand and just start being there for those that are waiting for just the right person, at just the right time, in just the right place.

   Operation Connection:

     My homework: Task number one. Introduce yourself to at least 10 homes/people on your street.  If you already know them, choose 5, and leave a plant, or small gift, and a note letting them know that you thought of them today.

 

Home

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You can believe that it has been a crazy, crazy month.  Before the Covid-19 wrench got tossed into the gear works, we had been looking for a new home. The home didn’t have to be huge, because we aren’t the McMansion family.  It just needed to hold our junk, a few bins of fabric and a place eat, sleep, shower, and repeat.  Okay, we did have one big feature requirement, and that was that it had to have a little over an acre of land to it so that we could enjoy the backyard, put a someday pool in, and maybe a little workshop for (maybe) a longarm for a well deserving household member…I will be looking for a job outside the house to work on one of these dream items, and it probably isn’t the pool.  We closed on our new home last Tuesday, which belonged to a sweet family, with four children.  Being from a larger family myself, I was filled with a sense of comfort when we chose this home, knowing that those walls held so much happiness. Last night we built a fire in the backyard and roasted marshmallows for s’mores, but had to return to our ‘old’ house since our new home isn’t quite ready for habitation.  It’s a process.

As you all know the face covering post that I made over a year ago became very useful to many of you all, and I am so happy that my little free tutorial was put to work on a grand scale. I was overwhelmed at first, because nobody told me that this was going to happen, I was none-the-wiser.  After the news and hospitals began linking my mask tutorial, I spent the first two to three days answering questions and thanking you all for your kindness.  I will try to keep up with further questions and such over the next few weeks, but please be patient, as I will be swimming in moving boxes, construction dust, and paint.

In addition to making masks, during my 15 minute breaks (I use the Pomodoro method for time management), I have been working on these vintage quilt blocks:

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I take them apart, trash the fabric that is beyond saving, then I add complimentary fabric. In this case, I needed to re-arrange the blocks from the classic ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ quilt block to one of my favorite go to scrap busters, the ‘Churn Dash’, aka ‘Monkey Wrench’. So far, they look like this:

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Maybe when this is done, I will have a pattern for the full quilt. I am currently dreaming up a border idea, as I have already decided on the setting.

I also connected with some fellow hand stitchers in blog land, so I will be posting a little about that soon, hoping that it will force me to meet personal deadlines on my hand quilting, and hand piecing projects.  I am actually pretty excited to plug away at these bins filled with treasures.

Finally, I have been designing blocks for a sew-along series that I want to share with you all.  It will have pieced blocks, some applique (but maybe I will have optional pieced blocks to replace those those of you who aren’t too excited about turning a seam by hand.) Working on that…I can’t wait!

Almost midnight here, so I am closing this, but I will see y’all soon with updates. Let me know what your plans are for this coming week, so that I can hold you to a goal.  Good luck with that structure building.  We all can use a little of that right now.

 

Snare the Innocent.

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During the last Austin Area Quilt Guild show last year, I spent most of my time (and money) visiting the vendor booths in search of my usual vintage fabric, quilt tops, and blocks.  I did find a respectable amount to bring home with me, but I was able to keep my shopping frenzy to a controlled minimum.

I also happened to have one of my daughters with me, the youngest, then at age 8.  She isn’t as interested in quilting or sewing as I was at her age, but she does dabble, and I don’t push her into that direction at all, lest I lose her quilting curiosity completely.  She may not get the quilt bug at all, and that is fine. She may pick it up later in life, when she is grown and has a family of her own.  I won’t bank on it.  I will love to see whatever she decides to do with her free time. Right now, her interest lies in destroying a ‘Wreck This Journal’ book. I couldn’t be happier.

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Anyway, while we were wandering the booths, we came to one vender called Afternoon Quilts, who had all of these beautiful little quilt kits. Most of them were small or lap size, all were simple, quick designs, and they were all-inclusive. The binding, the minkee backing, the batting, the carefully labeled pieces for the top (front of the quilt), and excellent easy-to-read instructions were all there in each kit.  My daughter was begging to have one, and so, we snagged the one named ‘After the Rainbow’ after much deliberation and one eeny-meeny-miny-moe tie-breaker.  It was pleasant to work with Katie and Debbie, the owners of Afternoon Quilts, as their customer service was outstanding. The part that really made me want to throw my credit card down, was the special attention that they gave to my daughter.  They kept eye contact and conversation with her at all times, as she was the true customer. It was a refreshing change in a place were children are not understood to be the possible next generation of quilters. I am telling you, this event might have hooked her into the world of fabric hoarding and ripping seams for the next 80 years (or so).

She came home that day all excited to make that quilt; however, I am ashamed to admit that I promised her we would get to right after (insert whatever interruptions normally happen here).  Okay, my bad. I realize and own this mistake. It’s all on me. This kit came to surface again last month when I was cleaning and purging my sewing room, so I immediately set it at the top of the ‘MUST DO!!!’ list, and we got to work.

I set her up on her brother’s Brother, and she went to town sewing these blocks together into rows, then I helped her get the rows together into a top. This was truly the perfect pattern for kids to be introduced to quilting. There is zero cutting to do (other than trimming to prepare for the binding step, and that step you can use scissors for.) It went together so fast. With kids, they want instant gratification on a project or they get bored, so this is very important to keep them motivated to keep with it.

The only notes that I would add to anyone interested in one of these kits is that the minkee/fluffy backing is not beginner quilter friendly. I had no problem machine quilting with it on my domestic machine, but I have a dual feed presser foot, which helps prevent shifting during quilting. Otherwise, I would recommended either asking if they have a cotton backing option, or you could spray baste between the backing and the batting layers before quilting.  We used plenty of safety pins, which worked just fine for the simple straight line quilting that we chose.

Another thing that could be done to make this quilt kit easy for a beginner, is to omit the binding completely. Before quilting, sandwich the three layers envelope style (batting, Backing-face up, then top-face down) sew around the perimeter leaving an opening to turn it inside out. stitch the opening closed afterward. Sew around the perimeter again to encase the outer seam, then quilt or tie the center area as desired.

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Hilariously, I decided to sew the binding to the front of the quilt by machine and hand stitch down to the back (my typical method), which is all well and good unless you have this fluffy backing.  I knew better, I really did.  I knew that I should have machine sewn the binding to the back, then hand stitch to the front, but you know how I love a good laugh. Other than that single trip-up, this was actually a fun experience. She got a new favorite lap quilt, I got a UFO out of my sewing room, and we both finished it together without any tears. 5 out of 5 stars full bobbins.

DISCLOSURE: This is an honest customer review.  I do not have a bias, nor have I financially benefited from this company by making this review.  At the time of this writing, Afternoon Quilts is unaware of my writings, which are my opinions alone. Thank you in advance for any feedback from my post, as I always value your kind words.

Have a happy sewing weekend, Y’all.

Quilt it Like You Own It

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More than once I have been lectured by Mrs. Buttinski as I seam ripped into a vintage quilt top. Someone, somewhere, was probably dying a slow death, or rolling in their grave as I dismantle their magnum opus, and Mrs. B is not shy about letting me know the true depth of my stupidity, or my apparent hatred and selfishness for all things historically textile.

While I appreciate that there are at least a few quilt police still patrolling the perimeters of our quilt world, I want them and everyone else to be comforted by the fact that I actually know what the heck I am doing.  I am not so young anymore that I am constantly being ‘educated’ by other quilters that seem to think me unseasoned; and yet I am not so old that I have become close minded to new ideas or understanding the positions of newer quilters.  I am pleasantly stuck in between the two like a happy Libra on a perfectly balanced scale.

I not only studied textiles while attending college, I continue to educate myself through research and reading books on anything textile and quilt related. I was a student of Kathleen McCrady’s, before she retired her classes on quilt and textile history and preservation. Much of the newer books regarding feed sacks could not have been as easily printed, had it not been for her extensive work in preserving the history of quilting and these textiles. I studied all of the quilt books that are the main foundation for our understanding of quilting today. Barbara Brackman, Elly Sienkiewicz, Carrie Hall, Kansas City Star, Maggie Malone, Jinny Beyer, Patricia Cox, Gerald Roy, Roderick Kiracofe, the Gee’s Bend Quilters, Sharon Newman, Doris Bowman, Patsy and Myron Orlofsky…these and many, many others I have studied. I don’t stop at simply reading about quilts; going to museums to see these antique quilts is another way to appreciate the art. So, really what I am trying to say here is that I fully comprehend and admire quilters and their work.

I don’t buy quilts. This is because I am not a quilt collector. I don’t want other people’s quilts to be eventually passed to my family, as they will mistakenly believe that I made them. I don’t hand quilt other people’s quilts or tops for similar reasons; that and hand-quilting is (usually) by far more laborious than making the quilt top in the first place. I reserve my hand-quilting for only my personal favorite quilt tops. Even my own quilts are sent to a long arm if they are not in the top 10 percent. I love buying vintage quilt tops, but I don’t like to buy quilt tops that are perfect and ready to be quilted, because if I have it quilted, I’m back to owning another person’s quilt or work. I like to buy quilts that need to be reworked in one fashion or another.  Once a top is taken apart, changed up some, certain fabrics changed out, the quilt is changed. It is now a different quilt. It is now veritably my quilt, and can now be passed to family with zero worries of passing another quilter’s work off as my own. (There is also the added benefit that it doesn’t need to go into a two person quilt category in a quilt show.)

Let me tell you about a typical vintage quilt top that I work with. The picture seen at the top of this post is of a pile of 16-patch quilt blocks that were previously sewn together into a quilt top. I seam ripped all of the blocks apart and this is why:

  • The parts that were hand stitched were done with a thick thread, like a button thread, which puckered the fabric. Also, the stitches were on the large side making them structurally unsound. there weren’t any occasional back tacking within the running stitches.
  • The parts that were machine pieced, were stitched with black thread and white thread at the same time. The black stitches show up very well on all of those lighter prints of fabric. The machine used to make these stitches had thread tension issues, and probably the presser foot as well, as the stitches were not consistent in length, most being tiny, tiny, loopy things on the back.
  • The seam allowance varied, but in most places, the width of the seam allowance was much less than the preferred scant quarter inch, making the seams fray and pop open in many parts of the top.
  • The seams flipped all over the place. They did not like to lay flat at all. Not one bit.
  • Seam intersections did not match up, so the top was stretched and misshapen. See for yourself:20190712_131048
  • There were many fabrics that needed to be omitted because of the fiber content (rayon, silk, flannel), degradation of the piece (fraying, bleeding, shattering, etc.), or the weave was not optimal, such as the brown and white striped plisse pictured here. When I omit fabric, I try to replace with a similar print of fabric that may or may not necessarily be vintage.
  • The overall view of the top was visually confusing to the eye. There were no resting areas. the pieces blended too much in some areas, and were hyper contrasting in other areas. Usually, I am open-minded about such things, but there are simple tweaks that can be used to calm the appearance of an otherwise jumbled quilt top.

This was not a quilt top destined for the Smithsonian. I did not rob future historians of a priceless artifact by taking the blocks apart. I promise that the world will continue to spin on its axis if I take this thing apart and sew it back together.

There is a second part of this that I would like to address as well, and that is the original quilter. When I acquire a top in this condition, I did so because I found it to be absolutely charming. I may have liked the quilter’s choice of fabrics, of colors, of pattern, or technique.  I would not put my money down on a quilt top that I didn’t love. That quilter is always with me when I work on that piece, and every quilt top shows a different personality.  I can tell which steps the maker disliked, and which ones he/she enjoyed. I can sometimes even tell if the pieces were scraps from making clothing. I might learn if the quilter is seasoned by their use of value, working with directionals, plaids, contrast, color, construction, etc.  I might learn that the quilter was a child, or at least a very new sewist. I might learn that the quilter had vision problems.  Maybe it was one of the last pieces this person made.  It can all be so very bittersweet.

but also let me tell you that some of these are given/sold to me by the actual people who started them, or they remember them being made. In the 30’s and 40’s, quilting was less of a hobby than it is today, so there were many quilts made, because they had to be utilized. They didn’t have rotary cutters or quarter inch presser foot. They used a wooden ruler, for dang sakes.  This was not as enjoyable for most quilters as it is for the current day quilters. Many of these tops were not as sentimentally created as you might have been led to believe.

“Here, my Aunt Ruby made these.  She cussed the whole time through, so go ahead and do your thing with ’em, sweetie.” ”My mother decided to start quilting in the 40’s, learned she hated it, and took up golf.” ”I inherited these from my mother in law…I disliked my mother in law.” ”You really want these? I was going to use them for drop cloths for painting.” ”This is not a finished quilt, so it is headed to the trash bin. Ain’t nobody got time for that.” “Please don’t tell anyone I made this.” These were all things that I really have heard when getting some of these tops. Those are my favorites, because they kind of make me giggle when I see them.

The quilt top is mine now.  It really does belong to me, every stitch and every scrap. Some divine power decided that this top was destined to land in my lap, even if the wallet helped with the process.  Therefore, I get to decide how I am going to work with it, if at all. I might add my own fabric, whether it is vintage pieces from my collection, cut up clothing cotton, or something new and trendy. I might change the block. I might change the setting. I get to do this because the critics tend to forget something important: I am a quilter too. My personality deserves to be a part of this, just as much as the quilter who first touched this project. I consider it to be a collaboration of great friends, unknown to each other. Some of these projects were made by people who may have dearly loved to see them finished, but got stuck, or life got busy, or health declined. For whatever reason, many simply were not finished. I know he or she would be tickled that I loved something about their work, and now it’s up to me to take my turn with it and make them proud. That is the kind of quilt that I want to pass down. That is the kind of quilt I want my kids to sleep under. I really do want them to know that I was a part of something bigger than just myself.

 

 

Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?

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For over 10 years now, I have not been able to spend my time in the way that I wish, in regards to my hobby.  I admit that I could have been more active, had I been a bit more driven, but I honestly feel that had I really been serious about writing a quilt book, designing patterns, or even finishing my many, many projects, something would have come up to put a wrench in the gears. I think that these years are over, and you are the ones who are setting me straight. Funnily enough, you probably don’t even realize that what you are doing in your day to day life, affects and inspires me to move forward.

In these recent years, I have had a lot of quit in me. This is where I have been putting things on the later log, but I am thinking that it is time for me to get back to my normal, driven, very productive ways.  I recently submitted a quilt to a publication for consideration in an upcoming issue.  I have had quilts published in the past, so I am familiar with the process.  I sent in the required documentation. I waited. I followed up. I waited. I never received a response.  So, I submitted to another publication, and I am waiting on that one. And you know what? I might not hear from them either. But at least I am focused. Instead of just giving up and tossing it to the side as I have been doing, I plan on driving forward with a plan B, plan C, plan D if I have to. There are so many things that I can do, and I am beginning to be excited again about actually doing them.

You want to know something? I was heavily influenced by you though. You should know that I care about what you are doing. I follow your social media to see what you are making and to be inspired by your work. I see your quilt projects, or your travel pictures, or the progress that you are making by organizing your sewing room.  I look forward to your opinion on books that you read, movies you watched, and restaurants that you have visited.  I am simply a person who cares about what you are up to.  If you have not heard from someone recently about how much they appreciate you posting to your blog, posting a picture to Instagram, responding to a comment in Facebook, or making a tutorial in a Youtube video, I want to be the person who thanks you.  I am grateful to the community of quilters and crafters that drive forward every day.  You kept me in check. Sometimes life has a bad wifi connection and the only thing to do is to disconnect and reconnect again.  Reboot.  I think that’s it.  I needed a reboot.  I thank you for that.

 

Facemask: A picture tutorial.

My allergies have been incredible this year, and by that I mean that they have been worse than they have ever been.  (Please, please, please do not suggest medical advice here.  Much appreciated.)  I see an allergy specialist who gives me 2 shots, 2-3 times a week to help with my symptoms.  They have helped a lot; however, Juniper Ash (Cedar Fever!) here in Austin is 6 times worse than average this year, and boy oh boy, do I feel it. She suggested that I wear a face mask when I go outside to help reduce the amount of pollen that is going into my lungs and sinuses.  After going to a few different stores to purchase some, I found that many other Austinites had already bought them out. No worries, right?  I know how to sew.  I will just make one.  When I finished, I had many requests for a tutorial, so here you go:

Materials needed:

  1. 1 piece of fabric measuring 8” x 14”.  Until you get familiar with this tutorial, I would suggest a non-directional print.  One that has a scattered image printed on the surface such as the one shown.
  2. 2 strips of fabric measuring 1.75” (1 3/4”) x 6”.  This will be the accent edge piece.  It can be the same fabric as the main piece or a small-scale print or solid.
  3. Two pieces of 1/4” width elastic.  These will be about 6 1/2” long.
  4. Ruler
  5. Fabric marking tool.
  6. Pins
  7. Scissors
  8. Sewing machine, threaded.

Fold the main piece of fabric in half, right sides together.  Sew along the 8 inch width edge, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

 

Turn this tube shape inside out, so that the right side of the fabric is now on the outside.  Press this flat, keeping the seam to one end of the flattened tube.

Place the tube of fabric so that the raw edges are on each side and the seam edge is at the bottom. Using a ruler, measure and mark a line 1 1/2 inches from the bottom edge. Make another line 1 inch above this line, or 2 1/2 inches from the seam edge.  Don’t use a pencil as you see in the picture, use a fabric pen, or fabric chalk.  I used a pencil for illustration purposes.

Fold the seam edge up (or down in this picture, as I turned it upside down…sorry) making the crease on the first line that you just marked.  You should have 1 1/2 inch edge here.

Flip the tube piece over.  Match the crease edge to the second line that you made earlier.  Press.  The pleat that you just created will be 1/2 inch deep. Pin the pleat down on each raw edge end.

Now you will mark the lines for the second pleat. Mark a line measuring 1/2” from the top crease of the last pleat, (or 2″ from the bottom seam edge).  It was difficult to see the top of the crease in this picture, so look at the finger indicator above.

Now mark another line one inch above the last line that you made (or 3 inches above the seam edge).  Using these lines as your guide, repeat the steps that you followed to make the first pleat.

You should now have two pleats, each one being 1/2 inch deep.  Repeat the steps you used to make the second pleat, so that you end up with three pleats total. Press.

This is what your main piece should look like at this point.

Using a 1/8” seam allowance, baste stitch the raw edges.

Repeat this step so that both raw edges are basted as shown in the picture above.

Pin one elastic piece to the raw edge, making sure not to twist it before baste stitching it to the edge at both ends. I placed mine 1/8” from the top and bottom edge of the main pleated piece. Baste elastic in place 1/8” inch from raw edge.  Repeat, to attach remaining elastic piece to the other raw edge.

Your pleated piece should now resemble the picture above.

Fold each accent strip of fabric lengthwise in half, matching raw edges, as shown in the picture above.  Press.

Place the strip on top of the elastic.  Make sure the raw edge is facing outward, and the creased edge is facing the main body of the pleated piece.  It will be a little longer on the top and bottom and that is okay, as we are going to fold some of that to the back.

Tuck about 1/2” of the top edge to the back as shown in the picture above.

 

Pin all layers in place.

Trim the other end of the accent strip, so that it is about 1/2” longer than the bottom edge of the main pleated piece.

Fold the bottom edge of the accent fabric strip to the back, just as you did with the top edge.

Pin both ends in place.

Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, stitch the length of the entire edge, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and end.

Open the the accent fabric strip seam by flipping it outward away from the main pleated piece, then press.

This is what the mask should look like if you flip it over.

fold the ENTIRE accent piece down toward the main pleated piece, encasing the raw seam. You will now see the accent piece on this side, but not at all on the flip side. Press. Pin edge down.

If you are a good sewist, you will change out your presser foot to a straight stitch foot.  If you are lazy, like me, you will keep that 1/4″ presser foot on your machine and struggle your way through this next step. 😀 Stitch this accent strip down to the main body of the mask, sewing along the edge, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and end.

This step isn’t necessary.  It just gives it a nice finished look, and helps to give that elastic a little extra stability. Stitch down the edge of the mask close to the elastic side.

The front of your mask should now resemble the above picture.

The back of your mask should look like this.  Following the previous steps, attach the remaining accent fabric piece to the other end of the mask.

 

You should now have a reusable, washable mask that measures approximately 4″ x 7″ (unopened).

It took a few hours to put this free tutorial together for you.  For this reason, I am greatly appreciative for any mentions that you can give me if you should use this tutorial. If you post a picture on social media, you can use the hashtag: #buttoncountermask. Feel free to share this page, and please tag me in your pictures so that I can see your beautiful creations.  Last, I appreciate constructive criticism, so if you notice something that doesn’t look right, or does not make sense, bring it to my attention.  I am happy to clarify any steps where you may have questions.

Enjoy!

P.S. Obviously, the elastic length can be adjusted to your facial measurements.

EDIT (March 24 2020): Because this tutorial has recently been used on a large scale, I will be adding a few things here as frequently asked and answered questions, suggestions, and reminders.

  1. This tutorial was happily shared by me over a year ago. This is not a new tutorial created in light of the current virus pandemic. I am not in charge, nor affiliated with any organization or entity requesting masks to be made. There are multiple organizations that are using this tutorial for their requests. If you have any question regarding what their requirements are, you really, really, really need to ask them. Please understand that I cannot and will not tell you what you should use, or how you should make your mask different from my tutorial.
  2. Keep in mind also that there are multiple entities that are using this tutorial for their requests. One entity may have completely different requests regarding features than another entity. (for example one organization is requesting a 4 layer mask, while another is fine with the two layer, as their thoughts are that they can be doubled up or used as a cover or liner to another kind of mask.) So, there is no correct or incorrect mask. Who are you making your mask for? Those are the people to whom you direct your questions.
  3. CHILD OR BABY MASK: After much thought, I have decided that it is in my best interest to NOT supply a mask tutorial for anyone other than an adult. One of my reasons for this is that I feel that a mask could pose as a choking hazard, and I do not want to have any part of that scenario.  My suggestion is that you really should ask each individual child’s doctor or provider what their guidelines are, and go from there.
  4. I will not be held responsible for any mask misuse or malfunction.
  5. ELASTIC OR TIES? The main reason why my tutorial uses elastic is so I don’t have to tie it behind my head and mess up my hair. That’s it. So, if you are making the tutorial, and you don’t like the elastic, or if the person who you are making your mask for, requests ties; by all means put ties in yours. My pattern is very easily adapted to your preferences. There are organizations specifically asking for elastic, and some that are asking for ties only.
  6. ELASTIC LENGTH: I have read that a few of you recommend longer elastic; however, mine ended up being slightly loose. Therefore, I will not alter my pattern. I have stated in the tutorial that elastic length will need to vary due to the fact that human heads are not uniform (Thank goodness).
  7. I don’t have a PDF or printable version of my tutorial. If I decide to do that, I will; but it will be in my own time. I have received many hateful comments (that I deleted) demanding that I provide this. I need to remind those few sour apples that I am under zero obligation to do so. If my absolutely free visual tutorial isn’t to your liking, I invite you to go find one that makes you happy. If you are a person who often finds themselves using the words ”I need you to…”, you might fall into this category.
  8.  I am completely honored that many of you are using my tutorial, or even certain aspects of it to help people in need. Even if you are using a completely different tutorial or pattern and just stopped by to check this one out, I applaud you for being a maker during this time.  I cannot express enough how happy it makes me feel to see so many humans getting together to do something for the greater good. Please continue being that human. Those are the best ones.

I am signing off now to take care of my family, who needs me now more than ever. Thank you all for your kindness and understanding. God Bless.

 

3 inch block pincushion

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Hey.  You miss me right?  I know.  I never come around anymore, and when I do, I am just trying to get you to make stuff.  But, don’t you want to make things that you can get done in just one day?  No, I mean for real.  In one day.  I tell you what.  If you don’t trust me, I understand.  I have been there with the ‘(insert project here) in a day!!!’ books, pamphlets, and classes.  I am telling you, it’s lies, all lies.  I always end up with little bits cut out of yardage, and a half-baked tea cozy…or whatever.  But this here is legit, y’all.  You can bank this one on me.

So are you with me? Quick, grab or make a block that measures 3 1/2 inches square. (This block will finish at 3 inches, which explains how I came up with the genius title.)  This could be a churn dash, a log cabin, a split rail, improv, or even a paper-pieced pterodactyl.

And so it begins.

Supplies needed:

  • 1- 3 1/2 inch block of spectacular beauty
  • fabric scraps for the border cut into four rectangles. A ten inch square scrap would be plenty. 2 rectangles will be 1 3/4″ x 3 1/2″, and two rectangles will be 1 3/4″ x 6″. *note: if you are using a directional, read or follow pattern to the end before cutting, so you don’t get mad at me for ruining your day. (Seriously! Only one day!)
  • batting scrap measuring 6 1/2″ square
  • a 6″ scrap of fabric for the back or bottom of the pincushion
  • a 6″ piece of light weight, or woven interfacing, such as Pellon Shape Flex 101 (SF101)
  • Stuffing/filling:  Buy the ten pound bag, then only use a hand full…it’s the law.
  • a small plastic grid ruler, pencil, thread, needle, and if you sew like me…a seam ripper is always good to have around.  Don’t ask me why.

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These are the fabrics that I chose for the job.  I have already cut pieces to start.

Okay, so this next picture shows the grey border rectangles already sewn to the 3 1/2 inch block, because I thought that I got a picture of the process, but like a dufus, I didn’t; however, you can easily imagine that you take the two smaller rectangles, and using a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance, sew one to each side of the 3 1/2 inch center block.  Then take the two remaining larger rectangles and sew one to the other two sides so that it looks like this:

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Place the block on top of your piece of batting making sure to center it.  You do not need the backing piece yet.  (by the way, I have also used flannel or thermal fleece for batting on these.) At this point, you can put a decorative hand quilt stitch around the edge of the block using pearl cotton, DMC floss, or similar.  It isn’t necessary, it’s just to make it look pretty, y’all.

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Whether you decide to do that decorative quilt stitch or not, be sure to put a baste stitch around the perimeter of the pincushion top, 1/8″ from the edge, so that it looks like this:

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Trim the excess batting from the edge of the block so that it measures 6″ square.  Set aside.

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Now we are going to prepare the back, or bottom, of the pincushion by stabilizing it with the lightweight or woven interfacing.  Both the backing piece of fabric and the interfacing should be cut to 6″ square.

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You will attach it, following the product instructions, to the wrong side of the fabric.  Make sure that the rough side of the interfacing is facing the fabric.  If you get this wrong, it will adhere right to your iron. I have never made this mistake, but a distant cousin on my mom’s side of the family has a friend who said that it was the dumbest thing she has ever done.

Now we get to sew the two pieces together like a miniature pillow.  Placing the two pieces, right sides together, you will stitch around the perimeter of the square, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving a 2″ area unstitched, so that you can turn it right side out later.  In this picture, I marked the sewing lines on mine, purely for you to see your sewing lines easier, but you don’t need to mark yours.

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Okay, don’t turn it inside out yet.  I know you want to, but we are going to gusset the corners first.  Super easy. Pinch one corner like this:

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Then make it lay flat, so that the seams line up, and the corner is flat.  Make sure the other three corners are tucked out of the way when you mark your sewing line, 1/2 inch from where the corner stitches meet. (not the tip of the outer seam allowance). To help you see where I am measuring from, I made the line in this photo black, so that you can see the 1/2 inch.  Take a pencil to draw your sewing line, following the edge of the ruler.

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Sew the corner, sewing right on the line that you drew, using a shorter stitch length.  Make sure you back stitch at the beginning and end.  Repeat this procedure for the other three corners.  Trim the corner tips off, about 1/4″ on the outside of the stitches that you just made:

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Your pincushion should now look like a styrofoam clamshell for fast food hamburgers. 😀

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Turn this right side out.

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stuff it full of fiber fill, wool, or your pincushion filler of choice.

Stitch the opening closed. By. Hand. Duct tape is only okay if you are over deadline, or if you know you will never, ever, do this again anyway.

Please tag me (‘buttoncounter’ on social media) in your pictures if you make one (Instagram, blog, Flickr, etc.)  I would LOVE to see your version. Please remember that it is a lot of work to make a tutorial, with taking photos, uploading, typing up explainations, editing, then putting your soul out there on social media for people to critique, especially if that tutorial is free.  So, please be an awesome human, and do me a solid by mentioning me and this post if you happen to use it.  I thank you tons and tons.  Have a great and wonderful day!

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Banana!

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We didn’t celebrate Christmas at our house, which means, there wasn’t a whole lot of baking going on here.  For this reason, I don’t feel one bit guilty for making a pan of my Banana Cake.  Looks like I might need another piece.  If you want to come up with some reason for making a pan of your own, I hear that it’s national hand-washing awareness week.  Let’s celebrate!  Here is my recipe:

Button Counter’s Banana Cake

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

mix all ingredients. Make sure to dig out the egg shells that you accidentally dropped in the bowl.  Pour into a greased, 9×13 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • half a bag of powdered sugar (2 cups?)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I sometimes use imitation banana)

cream all ingredients together, then frost the top of the cake while in pan.  I like to sprinkle more walnuts on top of the frosting.

*sometimes, during more well known celebrations, such as National Potato Week, I will add chocolate chips to my cake batter. I know!

I hope you love it so much that you share only half the pan.

Five Spot

One more block to post here.  The Chuck Nohara Quilt Along started posting two blocks for a two week period, so that you can choose from one or the other to do.  I am going to try my darnedest to do both each time.  For one, it will help me to complete more blocks in a shorter time span, because we all know how fast life flies.  Another reason, is so that you are able to see how I tackled them both, instead of one or the other.  The next two blocks have already been posted, so I really need to tell you about this one, so that I can take on the next two. Let’s get started, ya?

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Here it is.  It is block number 1029. I call it “Five Spot”.  It wasn’t too tough to do.  Even if you are new to applique, there are so many methods that you could use to make this; even raw-edge applique.  I did needle-turn applique, because that is my favorite thing, but there are so many different ways to make these blocks.  I started by finding some similar greens from my scrap bin, and background print for my circle squares.  The pink fabric was also a few little fussy cut scraps from a friend, that I was happy to use here.

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Here, you can see that I simply cut my squares to make my 5” block.  If you are making 6 inch blocks, this measurement is much easier. I cut my squares 2 1/8 inches.

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Using a scant quarter inch on my sewing machine, I sewed together the nine-patch background piece.  On the back side of the piece, I traced my applique lines, using a template that I traced and cut from freezer paper.

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I used the same back-basting method that i have used on prior blocks. I used a contrasting thread to stitch my pink scraps of fabric to the front of the block, but I stitched it from the back side, following the circle lines that I had already drawn.  I trimmed the circles seam allowance on the front to approximately 1/8th inch around each circle. In this picture, you can see where I started the applique process on the center circle, by stitching a little at a time, clipping out basting stitches as I went along.

So, you see, this block is pretty easy.  You can do this one, I promise.  I really am excited to get started on the next few blocks, because I think I am going to paper piece them.  Instagram hashtag being used is #ChuckNoharaQAL.  Come join us!  There will be cake.