Monday, May 22, 2017

Quilter's Tool Chest: Add-A-Quarter Ruler

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Today we're sharing another nifty notion that both Mom and I keep in our Quilter's Tool Chest: the Add-A-Quarter ruler .

Add-A-Quarter Ruler

The Add-A-Quarter ruler allows you to easily add a quarter-inch seam allowance to any straight seam that you've already sewn, which is an especially amazing technique when you're working with foundation piecing (regular paper piecing, as compared to English Paper Piecing).

To use the ruler with foundation piecing you slide the ruler right up along the edge where you want to add that quarter-inch seam allowance. The ruler has two different heights on the bottom side, so you can feel when it bumps up against your seam; it's almost like it has snapped into place. Then, you can use your rotary cutter to trim off any of the excess fabric before going on to sew your next seam onto the paper foundation. This helps to keep the back of your block neat and tidy (or as tidy as one can with paper piecing), and eliminates the extra fabric from bulking up.

Was that explanation "clear as mud," as Mom likes to say? Check out this video on YouTube by the inventor herself, Carolyn Cullinan McCormick, for a video demonstration.

The ruler comes in different sizes, but we both use the 6" ruler for our projects, since most of the foundation piecing we do has seams smaller than six inches. All ruler links are Amazon Affiliate links, which help keep Prairie Sewn Studios up and running!

Have you ever tried the Add-A-Quarter ruler for your foundation or paper piecing projects? 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #7 - The Shop On Blossom Street

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Welcome to Week #7 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! This week we're back to knitting as our fiber art with The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber.


The Shop On Blossom Street tells the story Lydia Hoffman opening her own yarn shop in a quaint neighborhood in Seattle called Blossom Street. Lydia's beaten cancer twice,  and has put all of her eggs (financial and emotional) into A Good Yarn. Lydia begins a knitting class for beginners, and we get to know the four VERY different women in attendance. Each one is there for her own reason, but the journey they take throughout the books demonstrates how you don't always end up where you think you'll be. Lydia's yarn shop serves as the perfect backdrop to this shared experience of friendship, camaraderie, differences and reconciliation. 

My Thoughts on This Book:

I always enjoy Debbie Macomber's books more than I think I will. Although I found some of the characters a little over-the-top with their emotions, her writing makes it easy for me to close my eyes and pretend I'm on Blossom Street.

I reread the book to write this post, and discovered that being as I'm at a completely different stage of my life than when I first read The Shop on Blossom Street 10 years ago,  I strongly identified with a different character this time around. We really do change as the years go by!

Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Five Life Lessons I've Learned from Crafting

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

I've been crafting and sewing since I was a small child, thanks to Mom's own interests and dedication to teaching her children sewing and crafting skills. Trying new things and learning new skills wasn't just for one gender in our house (nor should it be anywhere), but both my brother and I were encouraged to try all kinds of different crafts and projects that ignored traditional gender lines.

As an adult I can look back on over 30 years of crafting, DIY and sewing adventures and appreciate the lessons that I've learned from crafting and creating. These lessons aren't just how to sew an accurate 1/4" seam allowance (although I think I'm pretty good at that one by now, too), but LIFE lessons.

Lesson 1: Patience is important, even (especially) when it's something that's challenging or new.
  • You start a new project and you are OMG SO EXCITED. And then you realize how hard it is to try a new technique. It's easy to give up or feel defeated when you feel like you're not learning or improving fast enough, but you need to fight that feeling. 
  • Learning a new skill, whether it's a new sewing technique like English Paper Piecing, learning to drive a manual transmission or memorizing your piece for the piano recital takes time. No matter how many life hacks, tricks or tips that you might try, you're still going to need to practice the skill of patience as you learn. 
Manual Transmission

Lesson 2: Sometimes you just have to rip something out and try it again.
  • You're sewing rows of a quilt together and when you pull it out of your machine you realize your seams are just not matching up at all. You have a choice to either ignore the seams and keep going, or ripping the stitching out, re-pinning your seams and giving it another go. Most of the time, this is the right option. Take a deep breath, frog (undo) your stitches and try again.
Even Kermit has to frog his stitches sometimes.
  • You won't get everything right on your first try, just like you probably didn't perfectly parallel park your car the first time you tried. But you don't give up and leave your car in the middle of the street; you realign your car and try again. 

Lesson 3: But sometimes you need to move on from something.
  • Despite Lessons 1 and 2, there will likely come a time when you just need to give up and move on. This might be giving up on a project that no longer brings you joy, and getting it out of your house. It might also be the realization that you've ripped a seam apart so many times that the fabric is now frayed and pulled out of shape. At that point it's better cut fresh fabric and start over with the sewing on that block. 
Frayed Fabric

  • Things that I've moved on from in my life: studying German, figure skating, backpacking trips, jello shots, and bad relationships. 

Lesson 4: Don't be afraid to try new things.
  • You never know what new adventure might lead to your next great project or skill. Mom was hesitate to try English paper-piecing and only went to a lecture on it because I wanted to go (and she's a great Mom). Turns out she liked the technique and it inspired a whole new world of creativity for her. This led to developing the English Paper-Piecing style technique that we use to make our 3-D fabric containers, which in turn led to our first published book! (Contain It! English Paper-Pieced Style Accessories). 
Prairie Sewn Studios Cube

  • New adventures that have rewarded me 100x fold: studying Russian, moving to California, taking my first Spin class and making an appointment to speak with a publishing editor at a quilt show! 

Lesson 5: Practice is important; develop that muscle memory.
  • The first time I used English paper-piecing to sew a Grandmother's Flower Garden block it took forever. It felt like I was all thumbs as I tried to correctly position the paper template, fabric and needle to sew the seams together; all while attempting to avoid getting blood on my block by stabbing the needle into my thumb. But how I've made hundreds of these blocks, so when I start a new one my fingers move into position automatically. 
  • It took me a loooong time to learn how to ride a bike. I'm not sure what my hold-up was, but it really was a struggle to me. Now, of course, I can just hop on a bike and ride off without any thought, but that's only because my muscle memory is firmly in place for me. 

We'd love to hear any life lessons you've learned from crafting! Share your experiences in the comments below. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #6 - The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Welcome to Week #6 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! I'm super excited to introduce a series and an author that was brand new to me: Amanda Lee and her Embroidery Mystery Series, starting with the first book The Quick and The Thread


As the first book in the series, The Quick and the Thread quickly introduces Miss Marcy Singer and the new embroidery shop that she's just opened in Tallulah Falls, Oregon. Marcy's also a brand new resident of Tallulah Falls, having moved there from San Francisco when her best friend suggested she open the embroidery shop. Luckily for Marcy, her new shop (The Seven-Year Stitch), is right next to Sadie's coffee shop, so Marcy has ready made friendship and support when things start to go awry the night after the shop's Grand Opening party.

Marcy comes into the shop that morning to find one of the party-goes dead in the storeroom, having scratched a mysterious and incomplete message into the storeroom wall with a tapestry needle before succumbing to his death. Shortly thereafter another man is found dead, but this time foul play is immediately evident. It seems like everything is linked together through a fraudulent financial scam that had occurred several years previously. Four men are in jail, but now it seems as if a secret and silent partner is now cleaning up what he believes to be loose ends.

Marcy quickly gets wrapped up in the ongoing investigation, both as a victim and as a sleuth. She starts to piece together the various players and scandals from the white-collar crime, ending up in a precarious and dangerous situation. 

My Thoughts on This Book:

Well-written cozy mysteries are some of my favorite stories to read and this combination of a cozy-mystery and the setting of an embroidery shop means that I might have a new favorite series! The author has made this a fairly believable story with characters that you want to get to know and love.

Marcy Singer is a strong independent woman, who's making her own way in the world and taking a leap of faith by opening her embroidery shop. Her detective skills are a bonus factor and it was a delight to watch her work everything out over the course of the novel. She has a great sense of humor and is a hard worker who values things being done right, yet creatively. Her shop is one that I'd love to sit in for a few hours, stitching away and chatting delightedly.

Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Paper-Crafted Trolley Project

Written by Linda Chaney, mother

Wow! How time flies! I remember as a child thinking that the hours could not go by fast enough, especially when I was sitting in a class I didn't like in school. Now I find there is never enough time in the day to do all the things I would like to do. That said, let me show you a project (or three) completed as  2016 Christmas presents for the clan in California.

Paper-crafted Trolley Project

I have found that I truly enjoy making three dimensional projects. Since both my son and daughter live in the San Francisco area, I thought that Laura Denison's Trolley project would be perfect Christmas presents.

An album sits inside the center area of the trolley. And the passengers aboard can easily be changed - I modified the original pattern so that the long set of windows in the front is held shut by a magnet and flips partway open to allow easy access for addition or removal of various passengers.

Paper-crafted trolley

I'm hoping that the album will be filled with favorites sites visited in the San Francisco area. Slowly some of the long standing places are being eliminated. What better way to remember those places than with a photo in an album!

Yes, it did take a while to complete. But the biggest problem was finding boxes suitable for shipping from Nebraska to California. Hmmm, next year I will be more selective in choosing my 3D project! And I know that I'll return to Laura Denison's site to find my patterns.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #5 - A Thread of Truth by Marie Bostwick

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Welcome to Week #5 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! This week we're coming back to my favorite Fiber Arts Fiction author, Marie Bostwick with the second book in the Cobbled Court Quilt series,  A Thread of Truth.


A Thread of Truth brings us back to New Bern, Connecticut community, this time focusing on the life of Ivy Peterman.  Ivy landed in New Bern with her two young children having fled an abusive marriage. Ivy and her family begin work to rebuild their lives with the help of some of our favorite New Bern residents. Ivy connects with the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop and soon begins working there. Everything is going well until her abusive ex-husband spots her in a background shot for an episode of Mary Dell's popular quilting show being filmed in the shop.

Once again, the women of Cobbled Court draw together to protect one of their own. These ladies do NOT back down from their protection of Ivy and her children, even when threatened by the abusive ex-husband. 

My Thoughts on This Book:

This is another great book in the Cobbled Court Quilt series. I really enjoy how the book is written from the perspectives of the various characters, while always keeping the story of Ivy and her children front and center. This is another powerful book for demonstrating the friendship and compassion that can develop within a close group of friends. It also brings to light the super important and very real issue of domestic violence and abuse, demonstrating how challenging it can be to escape the cycle of abuse.

Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Crafting Projects Inspired by Photos: Identify your Color Palette

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Sometimes it feels like I end up with a lot of pictures on my phone. Since I always have it with me, it's a lot easier than it once was to snap a quick picture of things that catch my attention as I go through the day (and maybe a few pictures of my cats looking adorable).

It's rare that these images make it any further than Facebook these days, but I do love the idea of making a quilt or other project that is inspired by a specific photo. This idea gets one step closer to fruition by using online color palette tools to identify the colors in the photo. This individualized color palette is then easy to either print out or pull up on my phone when I'm ready to pull fabrics and threads for project.

There are many different palette builder tools online, but the one I like the best is the Palette-Builder 2.1 by Play Crafts. It was super easy to upload my photo and download the suggested palette, which are my two primary criteria. This palette builder gets bonus points for its list of suggested Moda Bella Solids that match the color palette.

I took this shot of the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World when we were there last summer for a vacation. It's a little bit blurry since it was taken from the monorail, but I think it give it this quasi-artistic feel that is kind of nifty. We had a great experience here, and I could definitely see using these colors together in a project.

In my first attempt I wished that the palette builder had captured some of the green hues in the palm trees and grass but it was spot on in pulling the various blue-teal-grey colors. You can choose to focus on different colors in the picture by moving the color-picker circles around on the photo, which was an easy solution.