He’s Here, He’s Here! The Santa Claus Block is Ready!

I’ve gotta admit it was a race to the finish, but my paper-pieced Santa Claus is ready for his premiere. He’s standing alone for now, with his unfinished clones stacked on my sewing table. I’m determined to sew something “quilty” with all the completed blocks. For you, though, I’ve got PDFs of the Santa and the Christmas Tree blocks available for printing in our Pattern Library.

So, without further ado, Santa Claus . . . however, you need to scroll all the way to the bottom cuz Santa’s got a brand new smile after a lucky trip to the bead store today!

A paper-pieced Santa Claus with beaded details for his face–his spectacles are German glass beads that are circular and clear just like old-fashioned eyeglasses.

I’m including a few photos so you can see how I tackled the paper-pieced Santa and the inset mustache. FYI:  before I jumped in with the sewing, I cut the pattern into subunits. Ditto for the tree blocks as well.

Cut the pattern into subunits: 2 arms, hat/face, mustache/body, and feet.

Then, to simplify building the Santa block, I prepped the arms, the hat and trim, Santa’s robe, and his boots.

Preparing to sew the subunits.

I made the mustache from a 1″ x 2″ rectangle sewn closed with a scant 1/8″ seam. I cut the rectangle on the diagonal, turned the 2 resulting triangles to the right side, and pressed them carefully. (You’ll find instructions on the pattern PDF.) Do make sure your iron is clean because the white fabric of the mustache stains easily. Turns out Michael Miller’s fairy frost fabric is an ideal choice for Santa’s beard and mustache.

Mark the center point of the beard (use the printed guideline on the pattern) and then pin the 2 triangles in place.
Match the hat/face unit to the beard unit by aligning to the guideline. Pin to secure and sew.
Santa’s mustache before sewing the side units to the body (it’s my photo that’s askew, not Santa).

I completed the block by sewing on the arm units first and then the boot unit. My key for a successful paper-pieced Santa block, following my so-so prototypes, was using very generous seams (3/4″ typically) and then trimming to 1/4″ just prior to sewing the subunits.

As I mentioned in the Tuesday post, Back Porch Fabric in Pacific Grove, CA stocked the wonderful tonal winter print that I used for my blocks.

Refer to the selvage for the fabric information.

After a bit of internet research of Santa Claus faces,  I decided to plumb the depths of my bead collection for my Santa. For me, well-drawn eyebrows are crucial to creating an expressive face, and, until I found a string of tiny seed pearls in my stash, I was at a standstill.  Yeah, they look like tiny marshmallows on Santa’s forehead, even so, I like them.

Santa’s face composed with a variety of beads from seed pearls to German glass beads.

Here are the blocks I’ve got so far. I’m thinking about making a table runner with three Santa blocks and two Christmas tree blocks set on point. Do consider sharing photos of your completed holiday blocks–we SHWS bloggers would love to see your creativity. Oh yes, don’t I have a giveaway winner to announce?  The lucky winner of a copy of Winter Wonders is Pamela Wall who hopes her Navy son will be home in time for the holidays.  We hope so too, Pamela!

Here’s a last-minute addition to the Santa block courtesy of a stop at House of Beads in Walnut Creek, CA today.

Hot off the press: Santa’s got a brand new smile. I found the perfect smile at the bead store today–again, German glass beads. I just love quilting serendipity–the design answers are out there . . . keep the faith.

Let the holiday season begin!

Santa is Coming . . . as a Sweet Paper-Pieced Block on Friday (Giveaway Today!)

Considering how long I’ve been cooking this idea for a paper-pieced Santa block (i.e months not hours), you’d think I could’ve managed to make some headway by now. Alas, I seem to be all thumbs or the quilting goddess is leading me astray.

First draft Santa Claus by Jennifer-where did the seam allowances go?

The prototype phase wasn’t too dramatic. Sure, I cut the edges too narrow and had to struggle with fat seams when pressing, but with those problems tackled, shouldn’t the final phase be a breeze? Nah! Everything that could go wrong went wrong plus celebrating Thanksgiving and hosting house guests took me out of the quilting game for most of this past weekend. Oh well, it’s my “When life gives you lemons” moment and maybe I’ll have that Santa block (and a partner Christmas tree block) ready for you to see by the Friday post, along with downloadable PDFs. Fingers crossed!

Paper-pieced Christmas tree with light strands! Check out that fabulous snowflake background purchased at Back Porch Fabric in Pacific Grove, CA.

In the meantime, though, what’s so new and fun about my paper-pieced Santa block that you might want to try it? Well, mine is a fab-u-lous riff on a Santa that was featured in a book of quilted Christmas projects from C&T Publishing that I co-edited with Catherine Comyns a few years ago called Winter Wonders. We selected a series of holiday-themed projects from Nihon Vogue’s Quilts Japan magazine and translated them for use by English-speaking quilters.

A paper-pieced Santa tumbles across the quilt–the block, though, it’s about 4″ in size!

I loved their idea of Santa Claus somersaulting across a quilt, but the original block was too tiny for my taste. I’ve re-imagined the block on a larger scale and added details to lively-up the guy: a mustache inset in the beard seam plus more bling and “fur” for his clothes. Once I drafted the new Santa, I realized there were more seasonal ideas to explore following the prototype layout, thus the Christmas tree block with strands of colored “lights.” I think an angel with inset wings isn’t far behind, but for now, I need to finish the Santa block.

The Quilts Japan Santa block with pieced setting triangles finishes to 5″.

Don’t you think alternating the Santa blocks with the Christmas tree blocks could be the makings of a fine holiday table runner? I’ve also wondered about enlarging the Santa to the dimensions of a Christmas tree skirt and arranging the Santa blocks (without the arms) into the tree skirt’s characteristic doughnut layout–mind you, I’ve not thought through the details so there may be hideous construction challenges.

To launch the holiday season I’m offering a giveaway of my very last copy of Winter Wonders–this is a super-quick promotion so leave me a comment by this Thursday, November 29 and I’ll announce the winner in my Friday post. Here’s the question to answer:  What’s your Christmas wish?

See ya! Remember:  fingers crossed!

Gotcha Covered! Stitch Up a Stylish (and Easy) iPad Case for Gifting (or Keeping)

I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age; I’m much more comfortable in an analog world. I like to keep my technology at a minimum.

Welcome to my analog world, where clocks have faces; books and calendars have pages.

A few years back, when the iPad made the scene, my reaction was typical: “Why would I ever want one of those things?” Then, about six months ago, my husband (a true acolyte of technology) upgraded and offered me his castoff. I’m hooked.

One of the biggest advantages to “the Pad” is its portablility. There are tons of sleeves, cases, covers, and carriers out there, but to me, they all looked so–well, so uninteresting. You can guess what happens next.

This is a fun, easy, and super creative project–fast too, depending upon how you decide to embellish it. It makes a great gift, although I suspect you’ll want to make one for yourself as well. The finished size is approximately 9 1/2″ x 11 1/2″.

What You’ll Need:

Cotton batting, fusible, lining fabric: one 11-1/2″ x 19″ piece each

Fusible, outer (front) fabric: one 13-1/2″ x 21″ piece each

Scrap of 1/8″-wide ribbon and a decorative button (for closure)

Fabric and fusible scraps, decorative threads, beads, buttons, trims, and other embellishments as desired

Directions:

1. Fuse lining fabric, right side up, to batting using the 11-1/2″ x 19″ piece of fusible.

2.  Apply 13 1/2″ x 21″ piece of fusible to wrong side of outer fabric.

Left: Outer fabric/fusible (13 1/2″ x 21″); Right: Lining/Fusible/Batting (11 1/2″ x 19″)

3. Center prepared batting, lining side up, over fusible side of prepared outer fabric. Starting with the two long sides, turn outer fabric to the lining; press to fuse. Repeat for both short sides, squaring the corners; press. Clip excess fabric at corners on the diagonal.

Fold edges of outer fabric over lining; clip excess corner fabric on the diagonal.

4. Fold unit in half, lining sides together; press. Unfold and use an erasable fabric marker to lightly mark crease. This identifies front area of case for embellishment.

Fold and mark.

5. Quilt as desired. I quilted a simple wavy-line pattern in matching thread; finished in no time.

Wavy-line quilting; fast and easy

6. Use fabric scraps, decorative threads, ribbons, trims, rubber stamps, buttons, and/or other notions to embellish as desired.

7. Center and stitch a decorative button close to top edge of case front. Knot tails of a small ribbon scrap; center and stitch to inside top edge of case back.

You could substitute elastic for the looped ribbon.

8. Refold cover, lining sides together. Starting with a few backstitches, topstitch 1/4″ from each side edge. Finish with a few backstitches.

Stop and start side seams with backstitching for reinforcement.

Slip your iPad inside the case, button up, and you’re ready to go!

I used a luscious, deep gray, hand-dyed solid for the outside of my case–I absolutely love the sueded look of those Cherrywood cottons!–but the fabric choice is up to you. Substitute ribbon ties, snaps, or even velcro for the button-and-loop closure. If you like, add handles. Personalize for the recipient with a monogram or other favorite motifs. Possibilities? Endless!

So much fun…and so easy!
Jennifer’s famous jewelry pouch!

On the subject of hand-crafted gifts: If you’re a relatively new visitor to See How We Sew, visit our archives from last November and December. There are instructions and patterns for a few terrific holiday gifts: a super-easy, super-cool jewelry pouch (great stocking stuffer!); an autumn-leaf bedecked and an elegant snowflake pillow; a sweet little pincushion (perfect for your stitching friends); and a cute miniature stocking that doubles as an ornament/gift-card holder.

Finally, I’m happy to announce that the winner of the random drawing for Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays from Tuesday’s post is Marilyn Chapman. Marilyn, please email your snail-mail address to seehowwesew@gmail.com, and I’ll pop your book in the mail so you can start stitching up some holiday goodies. (And Marilyn? Your comment was beautiful.)

Whoops…not so fast! I just received an email from Martingale & Company, publisher of my books (with friend, Chris Porter), Cuddle Me Quick and A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue. They’re having a huge online sale now through Monday:

Click here for the link to the sale.

That’s it for now (honestly). ‘Til next time, happy stitching!

Giving Thanks for Quilts, Quilters, and So Much More (Hurry! Giveaway, too!)

Don’t you just LOVE this time of year?

Autumn: my favorite season!
More autumn splendor, courtesy of Chris Porter

I know that this is a very busy week for our readers here in the States as we prepare for that quintessential American autumn holiday: Thanksgiving!

“We Give Thanks” (30″ x 30″) by Charlotte Warr Andersen. Available as a pattern from JWD Publishing. Details at the end of this post.

With that in mind, I’ll simply tell you how grateful we are for your continuing support of See How We Sew. We’re just six months past our 100,000th view, and we’re already inching up on another very impressive milestone…all thanks to you.

Submit your comment by 10 pm (PST) Thanksgiving night and be eligible to win!

As a way of saying thanks–and to help you get ready for the late November/December whirlwind to come–this week we’re giving away a copy of a book filled with lovely holiday projects, Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays by John V. Adams (aka Quilt Dad). Published by our friends at Lark Crafts, this book includes 30+ seasonal (Halloween, autumn, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) projects, ranging from smaller goodies–pillows, gift bags and tags, ornaments, tablerunners and placemats, stuffed toys, and more–to wallhangings, baby and lap quilts, and even a few bed-sized quilts. Here’s just a sampling of the fun and easy projects tucked in its pages.

Read Between the Lines Pillow, made by Kelly Lautenbach, for Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Gift Card Givers, made by Mo Bedell, for Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays. These make great tree ornaments, too!
Modern Heirloom Quilt, 70″ x 80″, made by John Q. Adams, for Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays. Fun and easy!

To be eligible for the random drawing, just submit a brief comment telling us what you are most thankful for in your quilting life. In order to get the book in the winner’s hands ASAP (so the stitching can begin!), please post your comment by 10 pm PST, Thursday evening, 11/22 (yep! that’s Turkey Day) and I’ll announce the winner in my post this Friday.

Reminds me: we’ve got a winner for the autographed copy of my new book, Cuddle Me Quick, co-authored with my dear friend, Christine Porter, and that winner is Beth B. Beth, please email your snail-mail address to seehowwesew@gmail.com, and I’ll get your book out to you right away.

Before I sign off, here’s the link for the lovely Thanksgiving pattern shown above. This colorful wall quilt, designed by Charlotte Warr Andersen, includes a full-scale drawing with color-keyed layout hints, descriptive fabric requirements, and clearly-written instructions.

That’s it for now. Have a safe and joyous holiday, and–if you have a moment–slip in a moment of stitching or two! See you Friday.

A Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipe – Date Torte

When I was growing up, there were certain foods that my mother made only around the holidays. One of my favorites was “date torte,” which is a delicious bar-type cookie. It’s an easy recipe that’s perfect for taking to a cookie exchange, or for tucking into a decorative tin, as it travels well. You might want to get creative and substitute another dried fruit for the dates. How about cranberries or apricots?

Here’s the recipe: 

Filling

1 cup chopped pitted dates

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tsp. lemon rind

1 cup chopped nuts

Cook dates, sugar, and water in a sauce pan for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened. Cool. Add lemon rind and nuts. 

Torte

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups quick cook rolled oats

1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix in brown sugar and oats. Add butter and work with your fingers to a crumbly dough. Divide the mixture in half. Pat half the dough in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Spread with the date filling. Crumble the remaining dough over the top and pat down gently. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

       

 

A Little Holiday Inspiration and a Quick and Easy Project!

The holidays are fast approaching and it feels like the retailers have been decked out for weeks. Are you looking for a little inspiration? We’ve got something for everyone.

For quilters, here’s a fun project that’s quick and easy to make for your “quilt worthy” family members and friends. Take a look at Fa-La-La, a wall hanging (24″ x 40″) that’s one of my favorite designs to make and teach. The construction is straightforward – sew the strips, adhere the fusible web, cut out the tree, fuse it to the background.

Samples using poinsettias in mint on the left and in aquamarine on the right.

There’s still time, as this top can easily be completed in one day. This season, my favorite holiday fabric was Nancy Halvorsen’s poinsettias, from Nancy’s Holiday Favorites line by Benartex.  I used it for the outer borders and in the trees, and liked it so much I couldn’t decide between the mint and the aquamarine, so I made one from each. Check your local quilt shop for the pattern Fa-La-La from Artichoke Collection. If they don’t carry it, you can purchase it on my website.

If you’re a baker, what could be more satisfying than something “gingerbread?” Here are a couple of little treasures to get you going:

My kind of architecture!
How could anyone bite the head off that sweet face??

For the decorator, a colorful, yet simple project. I bought special ornaments to make one of these last year and never got them out of the package (the story of my life!).

Super simple!

Here’s to the holidays!

All My Bags are Packed, I’m Ready to Go…

These lyrics feel appropriate today as I prepare to leave for Denver. I’ll have some exciting news to share with you when I return. Wish I could tell you now, but sometimes I’m superstitious about these things, so I guess you’ll just have to wait.

We were all excited to see so many “blog tourists” on our site this week. We hope you enjoyed visiting and will stop by again. We’ll have another new post for you on Tuesday, courtesy of Christie.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Blog Tour

Hello Fellow Bloggers. We are happy to be participating in the Quiltmaker’s 100 Block’s Blog Tour. Several months ago I (Laura) was asked to submit a block for the most recent issue of this inspiring publication. The magazine is scheduled to be on the newsstands November 13th. This is a must have for all you quilt block lovers.

Here’s the block I made.

The inspiration came from a room divider I spotted at my favorite Zen Restaurant. I was enjoying a casual lunch with some of my friends after we attended one of our local quilt shows. I purchased a stack of lovely Asian prints, not knowing how I might use them until I saw this design. I’m a sucker for grid work of all sorts.

The rest was easy. Just drafting the design and inserting the fabrics into the spaces. I love it when inspiration comes easily.

Be sure to  follow the blog tour the rest of this week, Nov. 5-9 at The Quiltmaker Blog Quilty Pleasure.  There you will find inspiration, ideas and lots of giveaways. To be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of the magazine, please leave us a comment telling us one of your favorite sources of inspiration. Three lucky winners will be announced with my next post on December 4th.

I have jumped in a little early this week so want to make sure you don’t miss visiting the new exhibit in our Gallery. It features photos from our recent show at Alden Lane Nursery.

Enjoy and Happy Blog Touring Everyone!

Bye-bye African Quilts, Hello Quilting in the Garden at Alden Lane: New Exhibit Debuts Today at SHWS!

Hello All! We’ve got exciting doings today at SHWS–a photo tour of a fabulous al fresco quilting show in Livermore, California.  Join us for a stroll through the 2012 edition of Quilting in the Garden by clicking here or the Gallery tab above.

“See How We Sew Central” at the 2012 Quilting in the Garden at Alden Lane

Our wonderful photographers include Kim Butterworth, Mike Harding, and Nelly Schrager.

Adieu to our exhibition of African quilts and many thanks to our incredible contributors!