Friday, February 7, 2014
Log cabin hot-pads
Sometimes I get an idea for a crafty project and enjoy it so much that I get stuck on it. Where I meant to make just one, I end up making two - or three, in the case of these hand-quilted log cabin hot-pads. I was enjoying myself so much, I just couldn't stop.
I made the pieced tops with strips from a jelly roll of 1930's reproduction fabrics. I really love this cotton quilting fabric, which is made in the style of Depression-era feedsack cloth. I love the real stuff too, but it's not really in my budget. Actually, even the reproduction fabrics can be expensive, which is why I love jelly rolls; you get lots of different fabrics in a versatile format. This jelly roll contained 30 strips, each one different and each measuring 2.5 inches wide by 44 inches long. I've been cutting some of them in 2.5-inch squares for another project too. It's a lot of fabric. I love jelly rolls so much that I asked the Bear for one for Valentine's Day. Well, to be more precise, I ordered one on Etsy, another assortment of feedsack reproductions, for him to "gift" to me. Obviously, we're very romantic people. But, hey, we love what we love. And I love those pretty fabric strips.
My hot pads were easy to make. They are my own design, which is very simplistic, but I think they'll work well. I'm not actually keeping one for myself, though. The green and yellow one is currently winging its way to my mother for her birthday and the other two will be given to friends for their birthdays. I guess I'll just have to make another...
I started by cutting strips into appropriate lengths for a traditional log cabin-style quilt block. There are lots of ways to create a log cabin block (and you could use any quilt block here, it doesn't have to be a log cabin block, but I've been into those lately, so that's what I used here). I found a great little diagram and piecing tutorial which I used for my measurements. It was really quick and easy because the strips were already the correct width, I just had to zip my rotary cutter through them a few times to get the right lengths. The center piece is easy too, just a 4.5-by-4.5-inch square, which I cut from other coordinating fabrics from my stash. After the pieces were cut, I stacked them and carried them over to the sewing machine. You piece a log cabin block from the center outward, so it's all just straight 1/4-inch seams, building the blocks around the center square. Press each seam allowance open as you make it, and pin the seams open to prevent bunching when sewing perpendicular seams.
When your quilt block is pieced together, it's time to sandwich it with batting and a backing fabric. I used my pieced top as a guide for cutting out the batting. I prefer natural cotton batting; it's soft and it wears well. For these hot-pads, I used two layers of batting. I wanted to make sure the hot-pad would withstand heat and protect the surface underneath. (I'm sure that more layers could be added if desired, but two seemed okay to me. Maybe it's not enough insulation for hot pans right off the stove or directly out of the oven, but it should be fine after a little cooling time.) I did not make quilt binding for these hot-pads; it seemed excessive for such small projects. Instead, I decided to use the backing fabric to bind the edges. I laid the top and batting on the backing fabric, which I trimmed to within about 1.5 inches of the edges of the top and batting. The excess backing fabric became the finished edging of the hot-pad.
I folded the excess backing fabric twice around the edges, to make a sort of rolled-hem edging. Then I pressed it and pinned it in place. At the corners, I folded the fabric in twice at the point, and made diagonal folds on either side. I wanted the hot-pads to have nice, pointy corners. I used lots of pins for this process, to keep everything where it needed to be.
Next, I hand-stitched the binding using an "invisible" stitch. This is not difficult, but it takes some maneuvering, especially when there are lots of pins in the way. Basically, you want to hide your stitches as much as possible, so you're sewing underneath the binding. You're putting the needle through the "unseen" parts of the fabrics you're joining. I stitched all the way around, making stitches about a half-inch apart. I stitched through all the layers at each corner, to tack them down securely. I really enjoy the hand-stitching part of a project like this. I don't think I would much enjoy piecing the blocks by hand, but I like to do some of the construction this way.
I quilted each hot-pad by hand too, which I enjoyed very much. I chose a simple quilting design, just tracing the insides of the outer squares of the blocks. I wanted the center square to stand up, a little puffy, and for those outer squares to have a little bit of puffiness too. I used regular white cotton sewing thread for the quilting, making straight lines of small stitches along each side. It looks neat from both the front and the back, and there's just enough puff.
I pressed them again after quilting them, and they laid nice and flat, and the corners looked pretty good. The corners are the trickiest part for me. It has taken me years to get them (mostly) right. I still get frustrated at times. I made my first quilt, twin-size for my own bed, when I was fourteen. I was more patient then, I think. I also had fewer pictures in my head - fewer ideas about how things should look. My friends were impressed; there weren't many quilters in the eighth grade. All I knew is that I liked to sew and I thought it would be fun to make something big that I could really use. Sometimes I think the internet has hurt crafting, in a way; now it's much easier to compare your own work to that of others, and if you're like me, to beat yourself up over the imperfections. But it's important to me to try to maintain my old youthful mindset about my projects as an adult. I remind myself of the self-confidence I felt then, and the way creating felt then - pure, clean, uncomplicated - and it helps me enjoy it more today.
I really like my hot-pads. I hope their recipients will like them too. They were fun to make; each hot-pad has a very different color-scheme and I enjoyed putting together fabrics for them. The backings are from my stash, cuttings from large, multipurpose bargain-buys I've used for a lot of projects. They're good quilting blenders as well as backing material. Any chance to raid the stash is appreciated, of course. And those jelly roll strips, in all their kitschy, retro glory, always make me really happy.