East Dakota Quilter


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The Good News, Bad News Dresden

When there is good news and bad news, I like to get the bad news out of the way first. The bad news is two-fold: (1) the photo I took was a nighttime shot that doesn’t make the project look great but does a FANTASTIC job of capturing the threads on my couch, and (2) this pillow cover was meant to be a decoration for the holidays last year.

But I think the good news outweighs the bad by far this time. This is my first-ever Dresden block, and it worked great (once I took out one of the pieces)! It was finished well in advance of Christmas this year… which means I got to put out one decoration in advance of my husband’s strict day-after-Thanksgiving rule. I’m such a cheater! And I no longer have a WIP mocking me from atop my scrap fabric cart. Or at least there is one less of them. Plus, this project was a great scrap buster for all my leftover red, green, and Christmas fabrics. Success!

Dresden Pillow by East Dakota Quilter

In the spirit of finishes, I also made the unicorn herringbone skirt I mentioned in an earlier post. It fit okay, which was a small miracle considering all the changes I made to the pattern without knowing the first thing about sewing or designing clothes. There was enough room for improvement that, although I wore the skirt to work one day, I don’t think I’m quite ready to post it here. Stay tuned, though. I’m sure to have a more promising clothing finish soon!


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Sewing A Rag Doll

I have gotten some great gifts from my Great Aunt Carol over the years, but perhaps the most-loved of all were the dolls she sent my sister and me one year for Christmas. The dolls were the same style without being identical, which we loved. I named mine Elise; my sister named hers Gretchen. Here we are opening the presents. (I’m on the left with the new permanent teeth and awesome gold scrunchie.)

Christmas Dolls

Some of my earliest sewing (and hot gluing) projects were clothes for Elise. My sister and I created a doll suitcase out of a gutted casette tape holder. We loved the dolls and still have them–only a little worse for wear.

dolls from carol by EastDakotaQuilter

Remembering how much I loved my own doll, I wanted to make a doll for my friend’s daughter–the same girl who received the first quilt I ever made and the Sunday Brunch Jacket. I scoured the internet for a pattern. None of them seemed right. I concluded I didn’t just like having a doll, I liked having the specific style of doll I received from Carol–not too big, not too small, and cuddly. I had to make that doll.

Fortunately, my mom was able to help me create a similar pattern.

doll by EastDakotaQuilter

I bought the materials when my friend’s little girl was born… two years ago this Easter Sunday! But I was too scared to start. I was especially worried about sewing the hair. For one thing, my mom’s pattern didn’t have a seam in the back like Carol’s did, and Elise had yarn hair sewn into the back seam. For another, I wasn’t certain exactly how much hair (yarn) would be needed. And I was scared the yarn would be difficult to distribute evenly. What if it was thin on top and bunched at the nape of her neck as I worked my way down the seam?!

It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but I will say I have an even greater appreciation for the doll Carol made me after trying to make one of my own!!! I definitely learned a few tricks in the process. And she looked like Frankenstein in the process.

unfinished doll by EastDakotaQuilter

One of my favorite things about the doll I got from Great Aunt Carol was the number of outfits she had. She could be dressed for tea one moment and wearing pajamas the next. I knew I wanted to make several outfits for this doll, too. My favorite is the pair of pantaloons made out of a lacy material.outfits by EastDakotaQuilter

doll outfits by EastDakotaQuilter

I also made one of Jeni’s drawstring bags to hold the extra doll clothes. She was gifted wearing the outfit most like a salwar kameez.

clothes bag by EastDakotaQuilter

My friend’s little girl scooped the doll up to give her a big hug right away. She “changed the doll’s diaper” (pantaloons) and wiped the baby with a baby wipe. Then she put the doll on a chair, realized it was as big as she was, and got scared, haha.

Did you have a favorite doll, or do you have a favorite doll pattern? Little girls seem to remember their favorite childhood dolls, so I hope this will be a happy part of my friend’s sweet little girl’s childhood.


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Homemade Christmas Gifts 2013

It seems as though most people have already shared the gifts they made for Christmas LAST year. (I can’t believe we’ve already begun 2014!) I didn’t want to ruin any surprises before the holiday. Afterward, I got caught up trying to finish some projects/errands before the year ended. I am finally sharing some photos of the projects I made for family this year.

My absolute favorite was a case for my mom’s new Kindle Fire. I used this tutorial, but with substituted measurements for the Kindle. Does it fit? I can’t really say. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize my mom bought herself the Kindle Fire Tablet instead of the normal-sized Kindle Fire. Hopefully this little guy can find a new purpose.

2013 kindle fire case by EastDakotaQuilter

Next up, my sister asked for potholders for Christmas. Between these and the Kindle case, I broke exactly 43 needles in just over a week. Time for a new machine! (I did try servicing my current machine to no avail. Thankfully, one of my gifts this year was a price match on the model I’m thinking of getting, a Janome.) But I think the potholders turned out okay.

EastDakotaQuilter Potholders_2013

I used this tutorial for the oven mitt (except I quilted 9″ x 15″ rectangles, drew lines 1/4″ inside the pattern edges and sewed on the line, and then cut out the mitt shape 1/4″ outside the lines) and this one to add loops to the potholders, which were quilted 8″ x 8″ squares with one layer of batting and one of Insul Bright. I practiced machine binding all these items… with some challenges because of the continually breaking needles.

My godmother asked for a breast cancer awareness magnet for her car. A series of errors caused me not to get the magnet, but I did make her a breast cancer awareness mug rug (free paper piecing quilt block pattern here) and a Starbucks You Are Here mug from D.C. for her mug collection. Sadly, I forgot to take a photo.

I also made a gift for my dad. He’s the kind of guy who wore every ugly M&Ms tie we bought him for Father’s Day and proudly displayed our macaroni art. A cardboard “Buckle Up For Me” reminder I made him in third grade stayed in his Buick, sun faded, until he sold the car almost 15 years later. He’s exactly the kind of person who I thought would appreciate a homemade gift. I presented him with a tractor pillow for his camper.

2013 tractor quilt block and pillow cover by EastDakotaQuilter

The back has cowboys, as his favorite shows include Gunsmoke and Rawhide. I found the fabric at a thrift store in Chicago (Unique Thrift) and knew I would someday incorporate it into a gift for my dad.

cowboy fabric pillow by EastDakotaQuilter

If you want to make a tractor pillow (or quilt block) of your own, I suggest using this tutorial, which my iPhone Google didn’t find (but my computer Google did–a few weeks too late!). Otherwise, I’ll try to post the pattern I made for my dad’s pillow soon.

Finally, a non-sewing gift I made for a friend was a version of The Nutcracker starring her two kids! Using an assortment of photos, I turned her kids into cartoons and included as many details from their home as possible: a shot of the house from outside, their real kitchen cabinets, their sofa, etc. The kids’ great-grandpa also starred in the book (instead of the uncle, it was Great Otata who brings the Nutcracker as a gift). Below are some of the in-progress illustrations. I took advantage of holiday sales to have the final version printed via Shutterfly.

kids illustration by EastDakotaQuilter

nutcracker illustrations by EastDakotaQuilter

Note: The pages were cropped down in Shutterfly, which meant the wonky edges were all edited out. Text was also added over the images where you see blank space.

Hope you all had a nice holiday!

I am seeing a lot of resolutions for the new year on Instagram, and I am pleasantly surprised that most other quilters/sewers are posting about 4-5 projects each. Sometimes I feel like I am the slowest finisher EVER! Knowing that other people have a similar number of creative goals for the year makes me happy… even if it’s not a good idea to compare. Thanks to slow progress in 2013 (a project begun in July), I almost have my first finish of 2014! I’ll post when it’s done. For now, I just wanted to focus on the great creative start to a new year.


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‘Tis the Season… to finish sewing any gifts you want to give this year

Inevitably, I reach December every year and think, Huh, I guess it’s way too late to make any of the gifts I hoped to make. Guess they’ll have to wait for next year. I am the slowest sewer on earth, and I am only able to carve out a few hours each week to sew. The formula doesn’t exactly make for an abundance of handmade holiday gifts.

However I started early this year and kept the projects simple. I showed off this Alexander Henry print (“Hurry Down the Chimney”) at my first meeting of the D.C. Modern Quilt Guild. Everyone agreed it was outrageous and wonderful.

Thanks to Jessie of the DCMQG for this photo

Thanks to Jessie of the DCMQG for this photo

My plan was to make a pillowcase for my sister.  Each year since I have lived too far to come home for Thanksgiving, I have sent each member of my immediate family an ornament so they can think of me the day after when they decorate the tree. (Never mind that the tree decorating has been pushed back over the years until now we usually do it on Christmas Eve when I’m home.)

The first ornament I gave my sister was a hideous flamingo. I sent it with a story about how my sister and I used to shop together and laugh and laugh at all the tacky things. The flamingo reminded me of her because no one else would have appreciated the humor in such an ugly thing. Only my sister saw the ornament before she read the card and asked, “Why do I get the ugly one?!” After that, you’d best believe my sister got every ugly ornament I could find: a pinecone squirrel (“enhanced” beautifully when her dog ate a big chunk of its tail), a flamingo wearing a Hawaiian shirt, roosters, handmade monstrosities, etc. Her apartment-sized tree now bends under the weight of these awful baubles each year. I thought a tacky pillowcase would be a nice way to mix up the holiday cheer:

pillowcase by EastDakotaQuilter

What do you think? Awesome or mean?

Don’t spoil the surprise! She doesn’t read this blog and won’t open the package until the day after Thanksgiving.

If you want to make a quick pillowcase of your own for the holidays, this is the tutorial I used.


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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!