Another day – another crazy photo set-up here at Shiny Happy World.
This one is more cobbled-together than usual, so I thought I’d share some details.
a – That’s my regular tripod set up at full height on top of my main cutting/work table.
b – That’s a neat antique square yardstick clamped to my tripod. (It was an insurance company giveaway and it is NOT accurate. I keep it around because I like how it looks and it’s super useful for things like this.)
c – That’s my gorilla tripod wrapped around the end of the yardstick – with my video camera screwed into it and looking straight down. It’s just kind of dangling there, so I had to wait for it to stop swaying every time I moved this whole contraption.
d – That’s one of my childhood stuffed animals – a very heavy lion – working as a counterweight because without it the whole thing was tipping over.
e – That’s the project I was recording. It’s one of the BIG applique projects for the Think BIG! giant applique class coming soon. 🙂
The summer holidays are just starting here in the northern hemisphere, which means it’s time for me to start getting a lot more questions about teaching kids to sew. 🙂
Summer vacation is a great time for some sewing lessons!
Kids love to learn from other kids – so I’m rerunning here a video my daughter made with me a few years ago. (She was 11 at the time.) In it she shows how the machine works, how to sew wavy, straight, and parallel lines, how to use decorative stitches, how to turn corners, and more.
It’s a no-pressure way for kids to get a feel for how the machine pulls the fabric through on its own, how (and how much) they need to steer, how fast and slow they can make it go and more. And they’re not just practicing on random scraps of fabric that they’ll throw out! They’ll use these fancy fabric strips to sew up a horde of slithery snakes!
Every time I teach a group of kids – those snakes are the #1 favorite project. They make so many of them!
If you have a kid just starting out on the machine this is a great way to practice some basic skills. It’s also a good (sneaky) way to see if they’re ready for a book like Creature Camp! Set them loose with this project. It uses a lot of the same skills they’ll learn in the very first project in the book, so if they can handle these snakes they can jump into the book!
Here’s the video. . .
Jo used the same color thread for all her stitching just to keep the pace of the video going. But encourage your kids to change threads as often as they like! It’s a great way to practice re-threading the machine. 🙂
Making those snakes is easy!
Get the Snake Charmers pattern here. It’s a free pattern that’s usually made with regular fabric – but follow the special instructions below to use your practice pieces to make your snakes extra special.
Cut strips of fabric 3 inches wide and 10 inches long. That’s a little bigger than what the instructions call for. All the stitching on the fabric can make it shrink up a bit, so the extra is good. It also can be hard for kids to sew right up to the edges, so this gives them some extra room.
Stitch all over the fabric in any design and colors you like. There’s no right or wrong way to do it so this is a totally no-pressure way to practice. Have fun!
When you’re happy with the stitching, press the fabric nice and flat.
Using the Snake Charmers instructions, trim the pieces to size and sew up some snakes.
Every once in a while a fabric company asks me to work with them on a project – usually for a booth at Quilt Market. When it’s the right company and the right project these collaborations can be really fun. Every once in a while lightning strikes and they’re so perfect that it’s almost magical.
Maybe you saw some of their posts tagged #mmfpets during Quilt Market?
I had SO MUCH FUN making these guys!
Did I mention they’re BIG?
Each block is about a yard wide!
When Michael Miller approached me about the project and shared a sketch of their booth, I actually squealed out loud. The concept was just so cute!
They had a bunch of BIG paper doll blocks, with outfits made in soon-to-be-released fabric collections. I would be making their pets – also in brand new fabrics. 🙂
It’s so much fun (and feels so sneaky) to play with new fabrics before they’re even released! Here are some of my favorites from this project. Each image links back to the Michael Miller site if you want more info. (Maybe you want to ask your local fabric store to be sure to bring in your favorite.)
So the whole booth concept was super cute, the fabrics were super cute, and their idea to incorporate my applique patterns was super cute. Of course I said yes!
Before I even started the project, I was already thinking of ways that YOU might want to use some big applique patterns. My plan was just to tell you to enlarge the blocks and then make some suggestions for what you could do with those supersized cuties.
But once I got into actually making the blocks, I realized it wasn’t quite as simple as that. It’s still pretty easy – and boy do they come together quickly! But there were a few Problems To Solve and Quirks To Work Out – so I decided to put it all together in a new online workshop.
No – those aren’t miniature scissors. Those are my regular shears, put in there for scale. 🙂
The class isn’t ready yet – but it’s going to be awesome. In addition to general tips and tricks and instructions for working with giant applique, there will be five (FIVE!) projects with all the patterns and instructions included. I’ll have more info soon as I start recording the videos.
But that’s not all!
Since the purpose of the blocks was to show off new fabrics, I needed to add some extra doodads and accessories for the pets. That way I could incorporate more fabrics!
That was so much fun that I KNEW you guys would want to play too.
I decided to create a new applique pattern with loads of different hats and eyeglasses and bows and mustaches and speech bubbles and more. I just got my drawings back from the artist who digitizes them and I’m going to start making up some sample blocks soon so you can see how they work with all the applique patterns you already have.
It’s going to be so much fun!
So there it is. A perfect partnership – one where every step of the process is a joy and takes me in directions I never even thought of – including back to you. Many thanks to Michael Miller Fabrics for making it fun!
The eyes are definitely the trickiest part of any of my applique patterns, but I have several posts that show you easy ways to deal with them!
I usually applique my eyes using solid black fabric. I like the look of it, and (after some practice) I don’t think it’s too tricky to outline those eyes. Plus I use black thread on black fabric so if my line gets wonky, nobody really sees it. 🙂
I’ve had SO MANY people ask how they can add sashing to their QAYG quilts. So many!
I don’t usually use sashing (or borders) in my quilts – but for this dinosaur quilt I really wanted them to divide the long panorama-style rows of dinosaur landscapes.
So it’s the perfect opportunity for a video!
I need to clarify one thing up front. This is NOT the sashing you often see in QAYG quilts. That sashing is designed to hide the seams between the blocks, and it’s usually pretty skinny (usually maxing out at about an inch wide).
This is more traditional-style sashing (or borders) that you can make any width you like.
It’s done just like adding sashing to a regular quilt – except that you quilt the fabric to the batting before you cut it in strips and sew it to the blocks.
It really is that simple.
Here’s the video showing how. . .
See how easy that is?
I promised links to a few more helpful videos and tutorials related to this one, and here they are.
Most of my quilts zoom right in on the animals’ faces. I like to make it look like they’re looking (and smiling) at YOU. I frame them in the block so they look like little portraits.
But that wasn’t going to work for the dinosaur quilt pattern. For dinosaurs I really needed to show the whole body.
That works just fine with my usual solid-color blocks as backgrounds.
But as I was drawing them, I kept envisioning them in an actual landscape. I wanted the pterodactyls to be flying in the sky, above dinosaurs stomping across the earth. And I kept envisioning volcanoes and clouds and palmy prehistoric plants – and those needed to be rooted in the ground and stretching up to the sky.
So I did a lot of thinking about how to make these landscape blocks. I wanted a young, jagged, volcanic panorama – and I wanted it to be easy.
I didn’t want all the blocks to be the same, and it seemed kind of silly to provide pages and pages of patterns for what are essentially squares with slashes across them. 🙂
So I came up with an easy method to make these blocks.
no fussy templates
an even mix of uphill and downhill blocks
an even mix of earth and sky
Here’s how to do it.
See how easy that is?
My fabrics are very bright and vibrant batiks (get the green batiks here and the blue batiks here) but you could achieve the same landscape effect with a totally different feel by using a selection of pastel green and blue solids.
They knew I was using Sulky Petites 12 wt. thread for all the big stitch quilting, and they knew this was a BIG project. They asked me if I’d consider designing a smaller project for people who just wanted to give big stitch quilting a try.
Of course I would!
I loooooove stitching in spirals and I had been kicking around the idea of making some round coasters. This is what came out of it!