East Dakota Quilter

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Sewing an Owl Purse

Prowl: Madeleine bag by Imagine Gnats

I posted before that my sister loves owls. I wanted to make her one last Christmas gift with that theme and decided on the Madeleine purse tutorial I found on Pinterest. A woman with blue hair (read: probably more creative than I am) at the fabric shop told me the owl fabric I picked was cool. That made my day!

Then the project turned into a nightmare.

At the Quilt Expo, I attended a class by Nancy Zieman of Sewing with Nancy. She had this great trick for using Steam-a-Seam-2 (“SAS2”) instead of normal interfacing on certain projects. I had trouble the first time I used interfacing, compared with a stunning victory when I tried SAS2 for the next project. I decided I would save myself a headache by using SAS2 for the purse project… and learned that Steam-a-Seam has its limitations.

First, my sewing machine hates sewing through paper. I see all kinds of cute projects online and have even attempted a few, but alas, I make it about 2 inches into the project and throw my hands up in despair at the hundredth broken thread. (Preempting: Adjusting tension, stitch length, needle size, etc. doesn’t help.) When sewing through two interfaced layers of the purse, I was also sewing through 2 layers of paper, plus the sticky interfacing itself. My needle was gummed up and the thread broke constantly. Not fun. I even experimented with removing the paper in favor of a tape and wax paper concoction. (Worse!) And toward the end of the project, I had to figure out how to get the paper out from between the lining and the exterior after flipping the purse right-side-out. (Solution: I removed the paper in advance and hand sewed the seam! I hate hand sewing stitches that are not even visible when the project is finished!)

The tutorial itself was pretty good. However, I strongly urge a better interfacing selection if you decide to try this project. Some additional points of clarification:

1. The pleats are not box pleats (both left and right sides tucked toward a center point). You can just bring the pleat lines together and fold either right or left. Be consistent with your direction.

2. On the final sewing step (sewing the lining and exterior together), the wrong side of the lining should be the outermost layer (clear in the pattern) and the purse exterior, which is tucked into the lining, should have the sticky/interfaced side out, with the front side of the bag facing in toward the lining. It’s possible I did a fantastic job of attaching the two, double- and triple-securing the strap, only to find the exterior was facing the wrong direction…

finished owl purse

As an added bonus, I did the owl embroidery (patterns here) while my sister was sitting right next to me! She was just home from the ER, I had food poisoning, and we were too self-absorbed to worry about each other while we watched Christmas movies together. About 45 minutes after I started, she asked what I was working on, and I told her it was a project for another friend. She didn’t ask to see it! Whew!

cleaning pins

When I was all finished, I had to wipe down with rubbing alcohol all the pins that had secured the interfaced pieces. They were extremely gunked up!

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Sashiko Embroidery – Pillow Gift

Prowl: this quilt, called Goodnight Sweetheart by Jean Lohmar, this project by Purl Soho, and the Harujion Design blog for general inspiration

When I was at the Quilt Expo earlier this year, I saw several red and white quilts that I loved. The colors really cheered me. They also reminded me of friends I made on a business trip. These friends welcomed me into their [Austrian] home and took me hiking, touring, watching their son paraglide, and even invited me for cake during Sunday afternoon family visits. I felt a sense of belonging that I’ve never felt before on a business trip. Since their living room is decorated in red and white, I immediately thought to make them a quilt in those colors. Never mind that the fall season was already well under way and I was already working on a dozen other projects. When mid-November hit and I still hadn’t begun, I reluctantly abandoned the project for this year.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of handmade gift-giving. It’s hard to gauge whether the recipient is getting something (s)he enjoys or whether (s)he feels obligated because I spent time making it. Of course, I have received many handmade gifts I’ve enjoyed. I’m not saying handmade gifts are inherently lame, just that there can be a fine line between something the giver wants to make and something the recipient wants to receive. Quilts for me have been the exception. I can’t imagine putting in as much time as a quilt takes without first being sure of color preference, etc. I give the other handmade gifts I’ve given a 50% chance of being appreciated. All that said, I decided to do a non-quilt gift for my Austrian friends.

I work for a Japanese company, so I wanted to use the Japanese sashiko embroidery technique to make a pillow. I chose red and white to match my friends’ livingroom, and the sashiko style is meant to symbolize the Japanese company that brought me to them.

Sashiko facts worth noting: the ratio between stitches and blank space is 2:1, meaning the space between stitches is half the length of a stitch. Also, I used a typical design with lots of diamonds. The recommended method is to complete full rows/lines rather than individual boxes. A photo of the back side of my project shows the direction of the stitching.

back side of project

My first sashiko project went pretty well, and I can’t wait to explore the technique further. I am already making some mental adjustments to my next project!

sashiko pattern

embroidered paper

sashiko design - complete

finished pillow


This last image is a photoshopped image of my friends’ livingroom, showing where I thought the pillow might work.

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Sampler Quilt Update: First 12 Blocks

Lest anyone worry I abandoned my quilt, I wanted to post a status update. I have actually completed the first dozen blocks between other projects.

I am really concerned about doing the quilting myself. I think I can manage straight lines and the quilt-as-you-go method, but I don’t want the backstitching to show, and hiding all the threads with an open-eye needle seems like a lot more work than I bargained for. Perhaps I can ponder this while sewing the next dozen blocks? I’m really excited that at least that the fabrics look nice together and my corners line up (if you don’t look to closely)!

12 sampler blocks

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Embroidered Notebook Cover

Prowl: Lucky Jackson

I’m in the middle of many projects right now, but they’re taking so long to finish! As a treat, I decided to work on a project I knew would only take a few days.

Lucky Jackson does some neat embroidered portraits with two or more fabrics. I knew if I drew an original portrait or did anything very involved, it would quickly go from a 2-day project to another of the unfinished projects that make my head ache. Instead, I decided to try to apply the technique to clip art.

My boyfriend was recently offered a job with the U.S. government. His favorite time of day is the morning when he’s drinking his coffee and reading internet news. With the new job, I probably won’t see as much of him during this golden part of his day. I decided to make him a notebook cover. In the notebook, he can jot thoughts or follow-up notes from his online foray. He’s in his 30s but jokes about being a doddering old professor someday, so I thought this image, which I found for free online, would be perfect. I added the coffee cup.

Embroidered Old Man With Computer

I saw a product at the store that would’ve prevented fraying, but I’m okay with the way it turned out. I was equally lazy in tracing the notebook and adding a seam allowance instead of doing the proper measurements. I’m not bothered. If I try the technique again, I’m sure the next one will be better.


It’s so rewarding to finish a project! Frankly, I doubt my boyfriend will use the notebook much. It’s not really something you whip out in front of your professional colleagues. But he knew I was thinking about him and had a smile.