Monday, January 16, 2012

Recycle, Reuse, Be Warm!

We have a cozy, but time-worn (and kid and cat worn) queen size, white duvet/comforter for our bed. Big fluffy thing, like a down comforter.. but you know, not down, so it is washable and not allergy abusing. It’s a sturdy thing, soft, nice weight, smells clean and nice, etc., but It’s ugly. That really shouldn’t matter, because how often do we use it anyway, and it’s not that bad, really… But it has stains and uneven aging/fading, etc. and it bugged me. (What kind of dingbat buys white stuff with kids in the house? oh wait… ) I could replace it, I suppose, but it’s too good to waste. Fortunately, I save stuff. Material scraps, old flannel sheets… and I like to play with the sewing machine. Honor also likes to play with the sewing machine… at least, now she does, as in, she has just recently learned how to use it, and when I started planning a cover for this duvet, she decided to help as well. Here are some photos of her making her first quilt blocks. LINK

I didn’t want to get too much of a headache trying to be precise with the piecing of this project. The fabric scraps were all crazy shaped and random. Also, as this is made with scraps, some of them from recycled clothes, I figure that this case will only hold up for a limited time… material wears out in the wash!… so time invested in nitpicky precision and fussing would be a waste. Besides, simply covering the duvet was only part of my goal with this project. I also wanted to see what I could come up with. What could I construct? A practice piece, if you will.

I decided to recycle the queen-size flat sheet as the ‘back’ of the duvet case, and to make blocks for the front using the fitted sheet, cut up, plus fabrics that coordinated with the dark blue of the sheets.

I measured the duvet cover  (as it’s been washed numerous times, I couldn’t go by a standard size) and planned to make the case about 5” bigger all around… for the fluffiness of the duvet, and wiggle room.

I had a 6” square plastic template (which includes seam allowances) in my quilting supplies. I measured the fitted sheet and estimated how many 6” square blocks I’d be able to cut out of it. Then, using a simple quilt design program, Quilt Design Wizard (think: advanced graph paper) I came up with a pattern for the quilt. Basically, using my measurements for the duvet, I found that I needed a 15x15 grid of 6” squares. I had my estimated number of solid blocks of flannel sheeting (from the fitted sheet; dark blue) and I set that up in a pattern that I liked, leaving all the other squares of the pattern blank/white. I printed that out.

Next, I looked through my stash for blue and green coordinating fabrics, plus a bit of fabric with some reddish colors for a bit of contrast. I cut a number of the bigger pieces into solid 6” squares and using colored pencils, I filled these new blocks into my pattern… I came up with this:


The colored squares were solid 6” pieces, all of the squares left blank/white, were to be random piecework using all the fabrics. Many would be made using 4” and 2” squares, cut somewhat precisely using my smaller quilting templates. Some would be pieced in a totally random manner. To make them ‘match’ the size of the 6” solid squares, I just sewed them, then slapped the 6” template on top of it, and trimmed it to size!

btw – the writing at the top of the pattern is by Honor. She objected to it being “Unnamed” and called the quilt “Winter Blossom Scrap Quilt” and wrote under that: “Honor and Mommies masterpiece”

Anyway, I cut all of the solid pieces, then Honor and I made and trimmed all of the needed pieced blocks. With much cat (non-)help, and using this pattern as a guide, I laid all the pieces out on the floor in a way that the colors of the finished blocks looked nice and balanced, and then stacked them carefully by row (one on top of the other from left to right). I stuck a little numbered sticker on each row pile to keep track. (1-15, top to bottom).

Next step was to sew all the blocks in each row together (the vertical join between each block) and then to sew each row together (horizontal lines). I was a bit worried about alignment (as perhaps some of my blocks were not exactly 6” or whatever) so I sewed the rows together from the middle out… ie. I sewed row 7 on top of row 8, then row 9 beneath row 8, etc. Working from the center, to the top and to the bottom. That precautionary measure probably wasn’t necessary, as the rows came together just fine.

The finished top:


The finished top being cat tested:


After putting the blocks together, I felt that the plain blue flannel sheet was terribly boring. Sure, it was for the back, and it won’t be seen much, but it was boring. So, I lay the sheet flat out on the floor, threw down a bunch of leftover blocks at random, and sewed them on with a big zig-zag stitch… patches on a patchwork quilt!

The trickier part was construction because the flat sheet wasn’t square like the blocked top that I wanted to attach it to. Seams, connections, and closure devices were also required. Basically though.. this whole thing is a sack. A pillowcase. How hard can that be?? Not at all!

Putting right sides together, and matching 3 of the edges, I sewed the two long sides of the flat sheet to the sides of the blocked piecework. The blocked top piece was wider than the flat bottom sheet, but that’s ok. To close the bottom of the case, I put the center of the blocked piece, and the center of the flat sheet together, and sewed from the centers of the bottom edge, out to each corner.  The top, blocked pieced wraps around to meet the bottom (flat sheet) equally on both side. Tadaaa… three sides of the cover (sack!) were made. 

Closing the opening took some thinking, but it turned out to be not difficult, despite the uneven sizes of the back and front. The flat sheet was already hemmed. I simply rolled and hemmed the pieced edge too. To create a way to close the cover, I had to measure again, so I put the cover on the duvet and laid it out flat on the floor with the wrapped-around side edges adjusted evenly from top to bottom, and folded the longer top of the flat sheet over the pieced front. Going across the top opening, using the blocks as a guide, I put safety pins to mark the locations for buttons (on the one piece) and more safety pins to mark the buttonholes (on the other piece. I selected 6-7 mis-matched buttons… more recycling(!)… about 1” diameter, in various colors that match the fabrics. It didn’t have to be sealed, just folded and held closed.

Before sewing the buttons, I also marked the top//left/front corner of the duvet (so I won’t have to worry about fit/measuring – I will just know that the top/left/front goes to the top left opening of the duvet cover).

Also, to keep the duvet from getting tangled up inside the case (although the flannel material keeps it in place fairly well), in two places on each of the 4 sides of the duvet itself, I pinned pieces of soft cord (more recycled bits), about 10” each, to the edge. In matching locations on the INSIDE of the duvet cover, I pinned 8 more pieces of soft cord bits. The idea being to tie the case and cover together, on the inside, in 8 places around the edges, to keep it neatly together when in use.

Ok.. after all that pinning, I took it apart, sewed the strings onto duvet and cover, made the buttonholes and sewed on the buttons.. and it was done.


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The back of the cover…


It’s a little dark here (sun went down – flash was too bright, but no flash was too dark!), the main fabric is the same color as the dark blue squares above(!) but I think the patches (in real life/lighting) are whimsical and give a little bit of needed color… it’s definitely not as ‘blah’ as it would have been without the patches.


I still need to trim the little threads here and there, and wash it now that it is all finished… but I might just leave it on the bed for the rest of the week. It’s been chilly here lately!

Ana Ahib Del Monte and Other Recent Stuff.

We had such a nice lazy and relaxing winter break. Didn’t do much, but it was wonderful family time. Kids are back in school now, and Brad back at work, so I suppose our routine has officially started anew for 2012. Here are some things to catch up on though.

One of the most important things to happen recently is Brian’s birthday… how in the world is he 11yo already?? He is such an amazingly smart and sweet kid…I love our boy!… I can’t believe how fast he is growing! Time really flies! He was born in the year of the dragon, and this year is also the year of the dragon, so he asked for his favorite dragon cake to celebrate.


This is the 3rd time I’ve made this cake for him. I think that the first time I made it, for a shared birthday party with his ‘birthday sister’ Eliza, the dragon looked the best. The second time was pretty good, but I simply had no clue how to make red frosting! This time around, we were lucky it turned into a dragon at all! The cake was incredibly poofy and soft… which meant that it tasted heavenly, but was falling apart right out of the pans! I had also had no luck finding plain white frosting in a can (which best suits my talent level when it comes to baking) so I had to make my first ever homemade cake frosting… it also turned out to taste absolutely scrumptious! Molding all that yummy goodness into dragon form, though, was very difficult!


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This guy looks a little rough around the edges, but this was decadent, and taste is what matters – and Brian loved it - so I claim a total success! Especially as it was topped by homemade vanilla ice cream that Brian made for us.

We also had homemade burritos for dinner on Brian’s birthday… his favorite meal. 


Honor gave Brian a box full of stuff that already belonged to both of them… including a catnip mouse from the cats!… Brian had a good laugh at the joke.


and we gave him a bunch of books that he’s been asking for. He’s getting tough to shop for, but fortunately there are some series he enjoys, and he likes science & fact books. Honor thought “The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements” was quite a book title!


She’s right, but it still looks like a very interesting book, and when he’s done with it, I plan to read it too!

Best of all though, Brian got the laptop he’s been begging for… begging for, for years and years! :D

As much as they use it for/at school, we thought it was a good time. And, as long as he ‘shares’ with her, Pixie approves …


Pixie also approves of our new dustmop… I’ve had to track it down and take it from her on numerous occasions. DSC02193

Seriously, what is it about this thing that says ‘prey’? I guess we’ll be ready and defended if our house is ever invaded by long skinny tropical birds…


Also, being back in school means homework, and the best way to have dad check your homework, is while snuggling…


oh.. and about Del Monte. There are several signs in Arabic and English around town that say “Ana Ahib Del Monte” and “I love Del Monte”

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And that makes me think of this…


Ninja LOVES to taste whatever I get out of cans. Our cats eat cat food, as it is the healthiest option for them(!), and they only get very small nibbles of people food as treats. When I open a can, Ninja wants to taste .. beans, veggies, corn, whatever. Doesn’t matter, and she doesn’t eat much, a few licks on the can lid usually, but she really wants to know what it is and sample it! I had emptied this can of tomatoes, tapped the juice out, etc. but the little bit that was left… oh! Yum! Ninja really enjoyed it… she had to reach in and dig out the last little drops with her paws!


Not sure if Del Monte would actually hire a ‘spokescat’ for their products, but she has the enthusiasm for the job if they ever do!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pixie’s Pizza – by Honor

A poem by Honor



Honor made her poem and picture in Paint, so in case this is difficult to see, I’ll type it:

“What Pixie would like

would be so delightful

but she wouldn’t invite

any of us

she would want some pizza

and not just a taunt

What Pixie would like

would be so delightful, Yes it would!

But she’s not going to invite!”