Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Fat Quarter Friendly Oven Mitt Tutorial (with patchwork option and afghan recipe)

I wrote this tutorial last year for Leanne at she can quilt as part of the 2013 Finish Along.  I've been meaning to re-post it here but came up with the idea of a version with patchwork pockets and felt like I really needed to try it out first!  So, here is the original tutorial, with some additional instructions in case you feel like making a version with patchwork pockets.  Also, I posted about making afghans, a very New Zealand biscuit*, on instagram lately, and someone asked if I'd post the recipe, so I thought I'd include it here.

This oven mitt is a pretty quick project, which I think is perfect for gifts - what could be better than an oven mitt customised to the recipient's kitchen?  It is also a solution to that gifts-for-guys dilemma we all face - it's something practical that a man who likes cooking will actually use (I made one for my Dad for Christmas 2012 and he's still using it). I personally really like this style of oven mitt because even if you don’t have any hooks in your kitchen, you can easily hang it over the handle of your oven, and it lets you use both hands.

To make this oven mitt, you only need a single fat quarter of your chosen feature fabric, which makes it a perfect project to use up those “just because” fat quarters – you know, the ones you bought just because you love the fabric, not because you had a plan for it at the time!

What you will need

- 1 fat quarter of your feature fabric
- 2 scrap pieces of fabric, 9” by 7”
- 34” by 11” piece of backing fabric
- 30” by 10” piece of low loft cotton batting
- 30” by 10” piece of Insul-Bright (insulated batting)
- At least 70” bias binding (2 1/4" or 2 1/2" wide)
- Freezer paper
- Printed template

Download templates here

Tips before you start

It's a good idea to read the full tutorial all the way through before you start.

When choosing fabrics for this project, bear in mind that they will be touching hot dishes.  For this reason, I would recommend that you stick to natural fibres like cotton and/or linen which can stand up to the heat. If you're not sure, think about whether you would iron the fabric hot and with steam.  If not, it's probably not suitable.

You need bias binding for this project so that it can go around the curved ends of the oven mitt - straight grain binding will not work. You can use store-bought bias binding or make your own.

If you use store bought bias binding, make sure it is 100% cotton, otherwise you run the risk of it melting on contact with hot dishes (I used poly-cotton binding on the first version of this oven mitt I made, and had to rip it off after I melted it with my iron...).

If you make your own bias binding, cut it the width that you would normally cut binding for a quilt.  I like a narrow binding, so I cut mine 2 1/4" wide, but with the extra layer of the Insul-Bright, it was a bit of a squeeze so 2 1/2" wide binding might have been better.

Finally, don't be put off by the inclusion of Insul-Bright in this tutorial.  I thought it might be expensive or hard to find here in New Zealand (we don't generally have as large a range of quilting goods available here as in the US, for example), but I found it easily and at several places.  I know it is definitely available at Spotlight in New Zealand and Australia, I believe it is available at Joann's in the US, and if necessary you can buy it online quite readily.

Step 1 – Preparing templates 

Print the template on A3 paper, making sure that your print settings are “actual size” or "scale 100%" – measure the 1” test square to check. Put a piece of freezer paper over your template, with the shiny side down, and trace around the template. Cut both piece 1 and piece 2 out of the freezer paper so that you have two freezer paper templates.

Step 2 – Preparing fabric 

Iron your fat quarter and fold in half, aligning the shortest cut edge with the selvedge. Square up the edges. Cut your fat quarter into two strips approximately 9” by 20”. Trim the selvedge off both pieces. Sew one scrap piece of fabric to each end of one of the fat quarter strips, and press, so that you end up with a strip approximately 9” by 34”. Press the fold line again to keep it crisp. 

If you are making the patchwork pocket version, you can use a strip of plain fabric for this step - but the principles are the same.

Step 2A - Preparing the patchwork pockets

You can make whatever patchwork you like for the pockets - you just need to end up with two pieces about 8.5" square.  You don't want to leave all the seams of your patchwork exposed though, because your pocket will fall apart after a bit of use.

Patchwork oven mitt

The solution is to line your pockets and it is really simple to do.  Take a plain piece of fabric which is the same size as your patchwork piece (I used white fabric to line my pockets because of the white based fabrics I used).  Place your patchwork piece and lining fabric right sides together and stitch together along one edge.  Fold the pieces so they are wrong sides together and press the seam so it is nice and neat.  Topstitch along the seam to create a nice finish. 

Patchwork oven mitt

Step 3 – Cutting pieces 

Put the freezer paper template for piece 1 on the longer strip cut from your fat quarter, aligning the straight edge of the template with the folded edge of the strip. Iron the freezer paper on to your fabric using a dry iron. Cut around the freezer paper template.

Put the freezer paper template for piece 2 on the shorter strip cut from your fat quarter, aligning the straight edge of the template with the cut edge of the strip. Iron the freezer paper on to your fabric using a dry iron.

Cut around the freezer paper templates and remove.  You should now have a single version of piece 1, and two versions of piece 2 for the pockets.

For the patchwork pockets version, follow the instructions as above.  Since you will have made each pocket separately, you will need to stick the freezer paper onto each patchwork piece and cut twice.

Step 4 – Making your quilt sandwich 

Make a quilt sandwich in the following order, and baste using your preferred method:

 • backing fabric – right side down
 • Insul-Bright insulated batting
 • cotton batting
 • piece 1 – right side up

Step 5 – Quilting

Quilt as desired. For durability, I recommend that you quilt the oven mitt quite densely. Personally, I think this project is perfect for trying out a new free-motion quilting design. A small project is easier to manoeuvre and doesn’t take long to quilt even if the design is complicated or dense.  That said, I was in the mood for straight lines when I quilted this particular oven mitt, and I think they look good too!

Once the oven mitt is quilted, use the edge of the feature fabric as a guide and trim away the excess batting and backing fabric.

Step 6 – Add the pockets 

Take both of the pocket pieces and fold the straight edge over ¼” and press. Fold over another ¼” and press again to create a tidy hem. Top stitch along the edge of the hem on each piece. If you are making the patchwork pockets version, you can skip this step because you have already created a finished seam at the top of your pockets.

Pin each pocket piece onto the quilted body of the oven mitt. Sew around the edge, about 1/8” from the edge. You won’t see these stitches once the oven mitt is bound, so don’t stress too much about making them perfect.

Step 7 – Binding

Pin the bias binding around the edge of the oven mitt, attaching it to the front side (with the pockets and feature fabric). Stitch in place using a quarter inch seam.

Finish the binding using your preferred method - I hand stitched mine down, but you could machine stitch it.

And you're done!

Patchwork oven mitt

This is my version with the patchwork pockets - you can see that I made a patchwork panel for the other side as well, just for fun.  I used the Arcadia collection by Sarah Watson for Cloud 9 Fabrics for the patchwork - it's just so pretty.

Patchwork oven mitt

Here you can see that my pockets are lined, so there are no exposed seams.

Phew - if you've made it this far through this mammoth blog post, you deserve a snack.  Afghan biscuits* are a peculiar New Zealand delicacy, although why this deliciousness hasn't spread further escapes me, because they are really good and really easy to make.  Here is the recipe, from my well used copy of the Edmonds Cookbook (another kiwi classic).


200g (7oz) salted butter (use real butter, it's better)
1/2 cup (110g/3 7/8 oz) white sugar
1/4 cup (20g/3/4oz) cocoa (dutch cocoa is extra yummy)
1 1/4 (160g/5 5/8oz) cups plain flour
2 cups cornflakes (not the sweetened kind)

Chocolate icing*

Knob of butter, melted (again, use the real stuff)
Icing sugar*
1 tablespoon or so of cocoa
Boiling water

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (360 degrees fahrenheit).  Soften, but do not melt, and then cream butter.

How to make afghans

Add sugar, and beat again.

How to make afghans

Sift in flour and cocoa.

How to make afghans

Mix to combine.  Don't worry if your mixture seems too dry to start with - keep mixing and it will come together.  Use your hands if it's easier.

How to make afghans

Add cornflakes and mix well to combine.

How to make afghans

Form into balls (or thick discs, depending on your preference), and place on a greased or baking paper lined oven tray.

How to make afghans

Bake for about 15 minutes.  I usually put mine in for 10 minutes and then check how they're doing, and leave them in for another 3 to 5 minutes.  You want to err slightly on the side of undercooking, rather than overcooking.  Remove from oven using your pretty new oven mitt.

How to make afghans

Allow the afghans to cool completely, and then top with chocolate icing (mix all the chocolate icing ingredients from above together until you have a thick but still spreadable icing.  It's hard to give quantities but expect to use about 1 cup of icing sugar).  If you want, put half a walnut on each biscuit while the icing is still soft.

How to make afghans

Consume with tea or coffee or just on their own.  Store in an air tight container (we are using our delightful heirloom tupperware) until they've all been eaten (I'm sure afghans would go bad at some point but we've never hit it - they don't last more than a few days in my household).

*Translation for my US friends:
Biscuits = cookies
Icing = frosting
Icing sugar = powdered or confectioner's sugar

I hope you enjoy!  If you make an oven mitt (or afghans) using my tutorial, let me know!

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Block a Day July - Week 3

This weekend I managed to take a quick photo of all my blocks so far.  I'm quite pleased with how my quilt is coming along (and that I'm more than halfway through the month).

Block a Day July - Weeks 1 to 3

This week's blocks, all in the bottom row. From left to right: 14 July - Fussy catting, 15 July - Stars, 16 July - Dreaming of summer (it's so bloody cold at the moment), 17 July - Drifting away.  Nine patch because that was what I was teaching that night, colours chosen because of that annoying but catchy song. 18 July - Nearly didn't happen but then I decided it was more fun than cleaning out the litter box, 19 July - Nearly silent, 20 July - A heart because that's a shape I can draw.

Here's the link-up for other people who are playing along.  I love seeing everyone else's blocks and there are some seriously cool things being made.

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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Caturday Wisdom #77

Get out and about, it could result in delicious cobwebs! Ralph

I suppose they're like candy floss for cats but it's totally revolting, anyone else's pets indulge in this?
I think I need to plant some more cat grass for them when it gets a bit closer to Spring.
Happy weekend!

Friday, 18 July 2014

I See Fire Quilt

For our local guild exhibition, we set a challenge based around the dresden plate block.  The idea was to make a small (36" square or smaller) quilt using one or more dresden plates, but to put your own twist on the block.

This quilt was my entry.  As you might be able to tell from the name, it was inspired by this Ed Sheeran song.  I wanted to create a fiery lava like background with dark swirling bits.  This quilt was a long time in the making - I started back in April, although I was plotting it for a while before that.

I See Fire Quilt 

The background is made up of 2" finished squares cut from my stash of peach/red/purple fabrics - a combination I've had pulled for more than 2 years.  The dresden pieces are made from a variety of fabrics, but mostly from a bundle of black based fabrics from Distressed Threads.  The added a heap of interest and variety to these little pieces (and yes, all those dresden blades were a huge pain in the neck to make!).

I See Fire Quilt

 I joined all the dresden blades together in groups of five (quarter circles), and then joined them in a slightly random meandering pattern.  I stitched all the dresden blades in place using a straight stitch.  Once the top was finished, I straight line quilted around all the dresdens, and then quilted swirls and pebbles in the background.  I used two layers of batting to make the quilting really stand out, which worked quite well.

I See Fire Quilt

Because the top is quite busy and all that quilting can get a bit lost, I wanted to use something solid on the back.  You definitely get a better look at the quilting, and you can also tell that I used a red and light pink variegated thread.

I was really happy with this finished quilt - it was definitely quite a jump out of my comfort zone and is probably the closest I've come to making an art quilt (although it's definitely still very abstract!).  I'm even more happy now because it won a merit award in its category at the show!  My Garden for Birds 2 quilt won two merit awards as well - one in its category of small bed quilt made by one person, and one as a quilt by a first time entrant.  A pretty good haul of ribbons from my first ever exhibition, I reckon!

Quilt Stats
Pattern: original design
Finished Size: approx 34" square
Fabric: many
Backing: Oakshott shot cotton
Binding: Skull Stripe, from Dem Bones by Sarah Watson for Cloud 9 Fabrics
Pieced and quilted by: me

I'll be linking up with finish it up friday at crazy mom quilts.

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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Molli from Molli Sparkles

Today joining me for Thursday Inspiration is the glitter-tastic Joshua Helms who goes by the nom-de-quilt Molli Sparkles.  Molli has drunk the quilting kool-aid and is now on a mission to bring quilting to the world. 

Apart from Molli's quilts (let me tell you, the man has an eye for fabric combinations!), I admire his inclusiveness and positivity.  He's really involved in the online quilting community, with a quilt-along, a number of bees, several tutorials and a linky party under his belt.  He's not afraid to get out there and talk about the tricky issues either, which is awesome.  Anyway, that's enough from me - here's Molli.  As always, my questions are in bold and his answers are in normal text.

Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter?
My exposure to quilting came at an early age because of Grandma Sparkles. I have fond memories of rearranging nine-patch and appliqu├ęd heart blocks on our living room (design) floor. She was always encouraging my input, and I’ve always felt that early development gave me a great foundation in composition and design throughout my artistic career. Oddly, I never learned to sew from her, but was always giving feedback on colour and fabrics! Opinionated even at a young age, of course!

How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for? 
I started my independent quilting journey on June 01, 2012 when I walked into Lincraft to buy the initial trappings of my first quilt. I had decided I wanted to make a yellow quilt for Grandma Sparkles as a thank you for all she had done for me throughout my life. I got my newly purchased rotary cutter, cutting mat and yellow fat quarters home and then realised: I don’t own a sewing machine! Details, details, details! I discovered that Ikea had started selling sewing machines ($79.95), so bought one of those to get me started. I’ve since moved on to my baby, my Juki, but it was a great way to start out. 

A lot of look

How would you describe your quilting style? 
I wrote a blog post talking about this exact thing! To quote: "In my first year of art school, Professor Julie Schneider said to me with her clever smile, "If you think you know your style now, you don't. You have to wait until the end to figure it out." The end? The end of what? The semester? Art school? Life? Since then, I've taken that to mean, don't let your style define what you create. Instead, let what you create define your style. Then you can look back at any stage, and confidently say, that your output is genuinely you.” Basically, I just make what strikes my creative instinct, and enjoy the journey!

Where do you find inspiration for your quilts? 
I get asked this question a lot, and it is one of the most difficult for me to answer. It’s difficult because there is no singular answer; I get inspiration from everywhere! The photos I take, the pop songs I listen to (…don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, strike a pose…), other quilters, the urban landscape that surrounds me in Sydney, fashion, and most of all the fabrics. The fabrics! Did I say the fabrics? I’ve even started having dreams about fabrics and the quilt potential. Yes, this is what I’ve become! 

Do you like to follow patterns or create your own designs (or a bit of both)?
Definitely a bit of both. I’ll vacillate between the two to keep my interesting going. That being said, even with a pattern, I have to put my own spin on it. With each successive quilt I make, I’m finding that I’m traveling off the beaten path, and looking to my own sense of design to create exactly what I want. That being said, there are amazing patterns out there, and sometime you just can’t resist!

The D!

Are you a member of a local guild? 
I’m not! I have thought about it, but my schedule is always varied and so I have never thought I could make the commitment. My sense of community is currently being satiated by the online quilting community from around the world. Also, I don’t think Mr. Sparkles could stand me devoting any more time to quilting!

Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life? 
I have, and it has been the best experience. I have found that the “niceness” of the online quilty community carries over into real life as well. On a recent trip to California, I met up with Anne from Play-Crafts.com and another quilty friend, Amoreena. I also met a heap of the Glitterati at a meet and greet at The Intrepid Thread. Then there have been several trips to Japan where I got to do some fabric shopping with Alyce from Blossom Heart Quilts. Don’t even get me started about Quilt Jane, Gemma from Pretty Bobbins, and Jenn from Penny Poppleton! Love them all!

How did you decide to start your blog? 
Oh, I was such a naive boy back then. I had this amazingly original thought when I started my first quilt, “Oh! I’ll start a blog about my quilting journey, no one’s done that before!” Ahem. Yes, clearly I was an ignorant fool, but I’m glad I did it anyway. Once I realised there were countless others out there, I just said to myself, “Oh well, just make it your own, and let your inner sparkle shine!” So that’s what I’ve done.


What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could?
My favourite thing about the online quilting community is that it even exists! I would never have imagined that quilters were taking the Internet by storm with little bits of fabric. Gosh, what would I change?! Hmmm… who am I to say, but I do wish I had the chance to meet all of the Glitterati in person. I love all the emails of encouragement I get, and I just want to give each and everyone of my supporters a hug!

How have you been received as a male quilter, both online and in real life? 
Well, it definitely hasn’t hurt! The gender card definitely has potential to be a hot topic, if you let it. Honestly, I’ve had criticism and praise of my role in the quilting community, both online and in real life. My LQS has been nothing but supportive, although I have had other customers give me stink eye when they hear me talking about quilts. I try not to think about it too much, and just get on with making quilts that I love. I still get the occasional email from someone telling me that they didn’t realise I was a guy, and I love that! I enjoy being a subversive voice in the quilt community, and I hope I can continue to defy what some people may believe about gender normative behaviour in quilting. My Masters thesis was actually about identity representation in online communities, so this is all up my intellectual alley. Somewhere along the way, I also managed to create the No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee, and the Men Who Quilt Facebook group, that now has 200+ members! 

Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now? 
Oh, you’ve caught me at a great time! I just ran upstairs to the bathtub (isn’t that where you keep your quilts?) and counted nine, plus two on our bed, so that makes eleven! I’m in the throws of preparing for the Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair exhibition so I’ve been asking for all the quilts I have gifted back. I need to start making that a contingency for gifting someone a quilt!

Sparkleworks (Molli works those batiks like nobody else!)

Do you do any crafts other than quilting? 
Okay, so the short answer is “no.” The longer answer is, I’ve tried a whole slew of things! I grew up in Oklahoma so there was a lot of crafty type of people there, and I was influenced by a lot of art teachers who dabbled in multiple disciplines. I remember doing some cross stitch as a kid, but never finished anything. Then when I got to college, I decoupaged one of my dorm room walls using magazine clippings and toothpaste. Yeah, I don’t know either! LOL! I tried to get into scrapbooking, but it didn’t fit my digital lifestyle. Then I went through a dry period, and finally found quilting. It’s definitely fits me like a couture sequinned gown!

Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that? 
Right now it’s definitely a hobby, but a serious one in both time and money. I work full time, so I can’t see quilting taking over completely. I do, however, spend nearly every free moment thinking about or creating quilts! I like all the varied aspects of the quilting world, and am happy to explore all of them to see what works for me. I can’t wait to see my designs in my own fabric range!

Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share? 
I’m always scared of giving advice on how to sew or make quilts because I definitely don’t consider myself an expert. I know the basics, and I just try to perfect the simple things. I figure if I get those right, they’ll sum up to make really amazing bigger things! That being said, I tend to always sew with a scant 1/4” seam. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to, but that’s what I do, and my seams have never been better.

Kimonos Ablaze

What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)?
My favourite part is definitely the design aspects, including picking fabrics, choosing colour ways and sketching out quilt ideas. It’s never ending! I walk past my sewing room, and I swear those damn fabrics are calling my name. “Make me! Make me! Make me!” Sometimes I stay strong and keep walking to my current WIPs and other times I turn into a big softy! I have yet to start my FMQ journey, and I haven’t fully decided if I’m that interested in getting it off the ground. So I guess the quilting would have to be my least favourite part … at the moment!

Are there any quilting (sewing) techniques you haven't tried yet but that you'd like to?
I would like to become more proficient at installing zippers. I’ve done a few, and I know I can do it, I just need to practice more. My thigh high boots could totally use some hot pink zip ups so I shall start there. Then I think I need to prepare myself about twenty pouches and then just go for gold! I guess I know what I’m gifting for Christmas!

What's something about you that people might be surprised to know? 
I actually prefer cheap bubbles over the expensive stuff! I know! How?! How!? Probably just so I can drink more of it! Hiccup!

Thanks so much to Molli for participating.  Bounce yourself over to Molli Sparkles to check out all his quilts!

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