Saturday, December 15, 2018

How to Stitch a Cute Quilted Cactus

How's your holiday gift production? Here's a fun last-minute idea: Stuffed, maybe quilted cactii. I first made a couple out them of printed quilting fabric, like this Manhattan cactus (no watering required, just occasional dusting), in its own (fabric) custom pot. It's about 4" high.
Then I made one from a plaid scraps, with embroidery thread flowers. It's about 5" high 
I switched over to denim - specifically, worn and washed jeans. Here's a friendly flat cactus, about 5" high. 
Cross stitches serve as quilting, too. In the base, there are dimples, quilted in by machine. It doubles as a pincushion/temper tantrum doll: 
Below, the same idea, but twice as tall (about 10"). Again, cross stitches provide dimples. I accidentally poked a hole in the denim, so I sewed on a patch.  

Here he is sitting in a custom container: 
My method of making those cactii is obvious - cut two layers, wrong sides together. If you want to keep the raw edges showing, sew all the way around with a 1/2" seam allowance leaving only the bottom open.  Use pinking shears to trim seam allowance back to 1/4". Stuff it and go.  

But if you want raw seams turned to the inside (like in the Manhattan and plaid cactus), cut the two layers with right sides together, sew with a 1/4" seam, and clip all the convex curves. Turn right side out through the open bottom. 

Tip for both methods: Invest $4 or so in a curved hemostat. This tool is not a scissors - it's a small clamp that makes stuffing and turning narrow spaces much, much, MUCH easier! I couldn't have done any of these projects without it. 
The next cactus is plumper and more dimensional, with four sides instead of two: 

 Here you can see two of the four sides - one light, and one dark:
 Start off by folding a piece of paper and drawing a half-cactus. 
 Fold and cut out.
Pin it to the fabric. If you're using old jeans, like I did, save time by pinning it to a pants leg, so you can cut two layers at once.
 Cut out the fabric.
Cut two more. Alternating shades make it more interesting. You can use the backs when you need a lighter shade. You'll need four in all.
At the sewing machine, separate the panels into two pairs. Within each pair, place the pieces wrong sides together, Mark at dot at the top center of each, about 1/2" down from the fabric tip. Stitch from that central point down the right side, to the bottom edge, maintaining the 1/2" seam allowance.
Pin if you like before you sew.

Do it again. Now you have two pairs that look something like this.
Flip one pair on top of the other, wrong sides together, and pin as shown, and match the center-top dots.
 Again, start at the top dot, and sew down the sides to the bottom.

When you've sewn all four seams, it will look like this from the top (but less fuzzy, sorry about the photo).

If you stand it up, it might look like this: 
 Trim back the seam allowance using a pinking shears.

Stuff lightly, pushing the stuffing against each seam. You'll do more stuffing later - just do a little now. 
Load up a long sharp needle with strong embroidery thread, craft thread, or perle cotton. 
Starting at the top, stitch from one side all the way through to its opposite side, pulling the thread tight with each stitch.
Work your way down. You might use a backstitch, or just a forward running stitch. You'll have to keep flipping it to visually check that when you plant the needle in the correct place on one side, to make sure it emerges at the correct place on its opposite panel.
 Sew down.
 Stop a couple of inches from the bottom. Next, stitch the two remaining sides. You can either work from the bottom (where you left off), sewing your way up to the tip; or knot and bury the knot at the bottom of your first line, and start again at the top, moving downward.
When you're done, tie a knot in the thread, bury it below the surface, pull up and out, and trim back the thread, massaging the end into the body of the cactus. Use your hemostat and/or a chopstick to add more stuffing into the four compartments you've created. Stuff the base firmly too.

Time to close the base. Set the cactus on a square of denim. Cut it to a square about 1" all the way around.
Tuck it up against the inside of the opening, and stitch the bottom to the bottom of each of the  4 cactus pieces, all the way around.
 Trim back using pinking shears, being careful not to cut stitches.
I played around with a lot of different embellishment ideas for this cactus. These loops were cool, but not sustainable. 

I liked a running with white perle cotton....
A pieced denim planter on bottom looked good! In the next shot, I dressed up the cactus with a flower/brooch (wearable by the giftee)...

And a denim jeans basket on bottom....
I hot glued a jeans seam to the rim, and added belt loops, adorned with belt loops, through which I threaded this lovely embroidered ribbon - and I added snaps to make it changeable. 
 Cute, no?
Have fun making your own cactii! (And custom pots!)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Candy Wrappers, Broccoli Bags, or Both? Upcycled Polyhedra to Sew

In my last post, I showed off several polyhedron projects from my  new book, "Stitch-a-hedron: English Paper Pieced Polyhedron Gifts and Accessories to Sew." For those projects, I used quilting cotton, or necktie silks.

As much as I love working with gorgeous fabrics, I also get a kick out of working with upcycled materials - aka the trash.

First, we have a half stellated dodecahedron with a message. It's  made with candy wrappers wrapped around cardstock templates, and sewn together by hand. It sits mysteriously on a surface with a peak pointing upward.
When you flip it over and look inside...
...there's a luscious photograph of vivid green vegetation (from a frozen broccoli bag). The message; Eat a balanced diet, five parts chocolate to one part broccoli. Maybe a broccoli executive needs a paperweight? It might also make an educational holiday ornament.

Next, some slightly more practical items, stitched from the same brand of candy wrappers (Two summers ago, at a reunion, there was an industrial-sized bag of Lindt truffles that my friends conveniently demolished. I followed them around as they chewed, snatching their discarded wrappers.) The dish below is a partially truncated cuboctahedron. It's hand sewn, with holes punched using an unthreaded sewing machine. This bowl requires four squares, four hexagons, and one octagon in the middle. All are folded around cardstock templates. 
 The bottom:
The next dish was made from the same brand of truffle wrappers, but with a brown coffee bag covering the hexagonal base:

And finally, unusual winter holiday decor: An icosidodecahedron poinsettia-shaped bowl, made from sides and printed portions of a coffee bag. This shape has pentagons and triangles, and it's machine stitched. 

The polyhedron book includes step-by-step instructions for these projects, using a sewing machine, or sewing by hand. 
More projects are in last week's blog post and on the book's main page.  A PDF edition of the book, for instant download, is sold in my Etsy shop, and paperback copies are on Amazon

Friday, November 30, 2018

My New Book! English Paper Piece a Polyhedron!

I am having an out-of-body experience - after two years in the works, my new book just went live on Amazon! And on etsy, too! It's not about's about the joy of stitching polyhedra! 

What, I hear you asking? Polyhedra? You probably haven't given a dodecahedron or icosahedron much thought since high school (unless you play Dungeons and Dragons).  Neither did I, until last year. So how did I get from quilts to polyhedra? 

Through English Paper Piecing.

If you're a quilter who's tried English Paper Piecing, you know it's a fun, addictive way to make a quilt. It involves wrapping fabric around individual paper shapes, sewing the pieces together along the edges, then removing the papers.
 Voila, it makes tricky quilt blocks easy and accurate. 
English Paper Piecing a polyhedron is accomplished is almost exactly the same way - by machine or by hand. Individual papers are wrapped with fabric, then stitched together.  The paper is then removed. But instead of laying flat like a quilt, polyhedra curl into the third dimension.
Results? Stuffed balls, which make fascinating toys, ornaments, and pincushions. And open forms, which can become bowls, baskets, toys, purses, and decor. 

I became completely obsessed with polyhedra, and once I started, I couldn't stop. Here are some of my favorite projects that are laid out in the book.

- A dodecahedron that includes Spock, Kirk....
...Little Red Riding Hood...

...and, of course, Franklin Roosevelt.

Another dodecahedron, but done in sophisticated necktie silks, with mother-of-pearl buttons:

I fell in love with the truncated octahedron - 14 sides, a fascinating combination of hexagons and squares. One of my pattern testers, the talented Andrea Shlasko of Venice, Florida came up with this awesome "Blah Blah Cats" polyhedron. Her squares are cat fabric, and the hexagons are "blah blah" fabric! 
Here's the same shape  - in an open form, with stiff fusible interfacing inside, turned into a  basket/bowl. It's a beaded planetarium for my husband's desk (he's an astrophysicist.) It's about 6" high. 
 Seated in the planetarium is a tiny baby in a rocking chair: 
Next, a truncated cuboctahedron, with hexagons, squares, and octagons - as a  pincushion....
...and another truncated cuboctahedron, using candy wrappers instead of fabrics (The book explains how to use upcycled materials.)
Here's an icosahedron zip-up purse/basket to wear or place on a table, or even hang from a bush?
Next, an icosidodecahedron - I call this one Jane's Dish, because it's made from Jane Austen text fabric. 

The most complex form in the book is the truncated icosahedron, aka soccer ball. 

  One of the many odd things I learned while making stellated dodecahdrons is that they stack nicely without any additional support.
One of the most fun aspects of writing this book was feedback from pattern testers. Along with the blah blah ball above, Andrea Shlasko made these, some of which she's selling at craft fairs,

And Glenise from Australia made these. 

This 71-page sewing book is available in paperback form from Amazon, or in PDF form for instant download, from my Etsy shop, here. The projects are fairly easy, but you should have some sewing experience. They can be entirely hand-sewn; or mostly machine sewn with just a little bit of hand sewing to finish. More photos of projects from the book are on this page.  Contact me if you have questions!