About CrispyKristin

Quilter, pattern designer, and mother to three little troublemakers!
Jan 19

52 zippers week 3: Reverse applique letters and scrap fabric pull tab

January 19th, 2017|

If you’re new to my 52 zippers project, you can read the backstory, see all the zipper pouches, and download basic zipper pouch instructions here.

For this week’s zipper pouch, I wanted to make a pouch out of Liberty Tana Lawn. I also have been wanting to make a mini pouch to hold a few tea bags in my handbag. I love having a few packets of peppermint tea with me just in case, and the plastic zip-top bag I keep them in right now is ugly. So the idea for a Liber-tea pouch was born. (Ha! I usually don’t like puns but I find this one amusing).

I used the font “Berlin Sans FB” at 120 pt. for the letters. I reverse appliqued them using the freezer paper technique, but using a much smaller seam allowance and starch to make it more secure. (Trace the letters onto freezer paper, cut them out, iron the freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric, snip the fabric within the letters & clip the curves right to the edge, and then tack down the snips: brush the snips with starch and set them over the edge with a stiletto and my Clover mini iron.) I hand stitched around the edges of each letter to tack them down, and I embroidered the letter centers with a bit of cream thread.

I will say that this was extremely putzy and fiddly and probably took me close to two hours. If you’re not a putzy person, I would not recommend doing it this way! I would just embroider the letters, or do a freezer paper stencil combined with fabric paint.

I didn’t put zipper tabs on this pouch because I find that on little pouches, the tabs take up too much of the zipper, which would make me have to make the whole pouch larger. I am testing a new zipper method and I still don’t have it perfected, but I hope to be done prototyping soon and will post instructions when I have it down.

I lined this pouch with a bit of indigo linen. I had a tiny sliver of the beautiful Liberty fabric left over and I used it to make a zipper pull. It is just a strip about 1/4″ x 4″, put through the zipper with a lark’s head knot. The edges are still raw, and frayed a little at first but have mostly stopped now.

Zipper pouch specs:

  • Outer pieces (2): 5″ w x 4″ h
  • Lining pieces (2): 5″ w x 4″ h
  • Zipper tabs : none
  • Zipper pull (approximately): 1/4″ x 4″
  • Zipper teeth length, including bottom stop: 4.25″

See you back here next week with another zip pouch!

Jan 13

52 Zippers week 2: How to add a flange to your piecing

January 13th, 2017|

If you’re new to my 52 zippers project, you can read the backstory here. In my previous post there are instructions on how to make a basic zipper pouch.

For this week’s zipper pouch, I decided to use this super cute cat print that I’ve been seeing everywhere lately. I bought it months ago, but I obviously couldn’t cut it up into small pieces! It’s Sushi’s Antiques in Navy. The line is From Porto with Love by Sarah Watts/Cotton + Steel.

This bag I made to fit 8″ x 8″ zip-top bags or quart sized zip-top bags. I use these bags to kit up small EPP and hand piecing projects. I am trying to kit up several projects for the summer over the next few months; this pouch will be a great place to stow them.

I only had a fat quarter of the cat fabric, and when I cut the fat quarter into quarters, the bag was not quite long enough. So I added a 2.5″ strip of Essex yarn-dyed linen in Denim to the bottom. I wanted to use this lovely royal blue zipper and thought that adding a little accent of the same royal blue (Kona Surf) to the body of the bag would look good. I lined the bag with a little blue calico print.

I am testing a new zipper method so I only added a zipper tab to one end. I hope to be done prototyping soon and will post instructions when I have it down.

To add a flange, I cut a 3/4″ strip of Kona Surf. I folded it in half and pressed it, and then glue basted it to the top edge of the Essex strip, lining up all the raw edges. I then lined up the cat fabric on top of that just as if I was piecing it normally, right sides together with the Essex and raw edges aligned. After stitching all the layers together with a 1/4″ seam I pressed the seam towards the cat fabric and then topstitched near the edge of the cat fabric.

Zipper pouch specs:

  • Outer pieces (2): Cats: 11″ w x 9″ h, Flange: 11″ w x 0.75″ h, Linen: 11″ w x 2.5″ h.
  • Lining pieces (2): 11″ x 11″
  • Zipper tabs (2): 1.5″ x 2″
  • Zipper length: (if you’re using two tabs) 9.75″

See you back here next week with another zip pouch!

Jan 6

52 Zippers week 1: Basic lined zipper pouch instructions

January 6th, 2017|

In 2017 I have a few lofty goals. One of the bigger ones is to undertake a project I’m calling “52 zippers”: this year, every week I will sew a new zipper pouch and post about it. I have kind of the perfect storm of reasons for doing this–I have too many zippers, too many cute fabrics that I’m not using because I don’t want to cut them up, lots of fabric embellishment ideas that I want to try out but not on a whole quilt, and of course a lack of organization.

My other thought is that while I know many people have mastered zipper pouches, I think it is a common thing to fear the zipper. I’ve written up a set of basic lined zipper pouch instructions, which you can download for free! As the year goes on I will be adding more modifications and techniques to add to the simple zipper pouch. Look for more handouts to come! These handouts will be free for a limited time; at the end of the project I’ll be compiling all of the handouts into a comprehensive zipper pouch pattern.

I’m going to start out the year with the simplest pouches and get more complex as the weeks move on. My handouts, plus any measurements, modifications, or tips I give in future posts will be enough for you to create or recreate any zipper pouch you please!

To start off the project, my first zipper pouch is about as easy as they come with no exposed/raw seams. My 8-year old son is very into magic tricks lately and  I wanted to make him a little zip pouch to store his main deck of cards so they stop being spread all over his desk.

He had a lot of fun digging through my stash and picking out fabrics! He chose a red-orange plaid that was from a thrifted men’s shirt and a tiny orange houndstooth from Jennifer Sampou’s Studio Stash line. He also chose a 6″ dark red zipper, which looks great with the fabrics!

The sizes of the pieces I used for this pouch are as follows:

  • Outer pieces: 6.75″ w x 4.5″ h
  • Lining pieces: 6.75″ w x 4.5″ h
  • Zipper tabs: 1.5″ x 2″
  • Zipper length (cut):  5.5″

I used no interfacing on this pouch.

See you back here next week for the next zipper!

P.S. I get my zippers online from Zipit on Etsy. I order 14″ zippers, which are not much more expensive than the short ones, and trim them to the size I need. She also sells extra zipper pulls, so if you cut off more than a few inches of zipper, save it and add a new pull and you’ve got another zipper!

Dec 30

UFO Saturdays 2016 recap

December 30th, 2016|

It’s the end of the year and everyone is writing their year-end recaps and their goals for next year, so here goes!

Next year I have three main goals as far as sewing and quilting goes. And they are pretty big ones! But go big or go home, right? I’m going to talk about just one of them today and the other two later.

My first goal is to finish any and all sewing/quilting projects that I started before 2017. Yikes!

So in 2016 I only had one major goal: to spend most Saturday nights working on old UFOs and post progress on Instagram with the hashtag #ufosaturdays. My goal was to finish the nine UFOs that I chose by the end of the year.

While I didn’t finish all nine (or really, even get close!), I made great progress on quilts that probably would have gone untouched all year if not for this project. I think it was a success! I might have grumbled at first, but every week I wound up getting into the project and would often continue working on it a fair bit over the following week. For me the biggest problem is almost always getting started, so having something force me to get started worked out swimmingly.

I plan to continue UFO Saturdays into 2017, as I think I’m ending 2016 with more UFOs than I started! (I started a bunch of quilts this year.) I am very eager to have a much clearer mind and less of a project backlog. While I am perfectly happy to have a handful of recent WIPs around, things have gotten way out of hand the last few years.

Today I’ll post my progress on the nine quilts I worked on this year, six of which are going to roll over to next year. Next Saturday I’ll post the rest of the UFOs for next year! I think the grid is going to have to be 16 quilts instead of 9 this time. Eeek! I’m just hoping that once I do my tally it’s not actually 25!

This was my original Instagram post from January 2016 with the nine UFOs I chose to focus on:

From top left, here’s my progress for the year:

1. Scrappy kaleidoscope

I scrapped (ha!) the original plan of doing an all-over kaleidoscope because I was getting tired of making the scrappy triangles and designed a new layout. I re-cut the new pieces I need, and finished all of the scrappy fabric triangles. All I need to do on this one is actually sew the block components together. It’s a bit stalled because I’m still torn about the accent triangles–I think they look too busy but I’ve ripped them out twice now with the same thought. I’m pretty sure I’m going to wind up ripping them all out for the third time. I have a couple of ideas for what might work for the new accent color, and so one night I’ll just put on a movie and rip, rip, rip!

2. Spoolin’ around

This one I made amazing progress on. I spent probably 40+ hours cutting out close to 700 different strips from my fabric stash. Each spool in this queen-sized quilt is going to be different and is going to be a fantastic snapshot of my stash! I’m super excited to finish! I’m done about 87/692 blocks, and I plan to do some every day once my machine is back from the shop. Now that it’s just mindless piecing, this one will finish up quickly.

3. Improv kaleidoscope

I finished the top for this one earlier this year. I signed up to take Chawne Kimber’s “Improv hand quilting” class at QuiltCon 2017 and I’m waiting until after the class to start improv hand quilting this one. I’m counting this quilt as done for this project.

4. Plaid crazy

I did work on this but only a handful of times over the year. I’m happy with the direction it’s going but it’s very messy and time consuming (though super fun!) so I don’t pull it out as often.

5. Bunny mini

Done! And gifted to my daughter.

6. Orca bay

So this one I decided I was just not excited about anymore. I took the blue string blocks and repurposed them into what I’m now calling my Stalagmite quilt. It will eventually be a gift for my middle son, who loved the cave exploring we did this summer. I am still undecided as to what to do with the red plaid string blocks from the original Orca bay plan, but since my son’s favorite color is red there’s a good chance they’ll wind up on the back of this somehow. I’m done 100 out of either 200 or 400 blocks for this quilt (it will probably be 400, as that will make it a twin).

7. Hot crossed nine patch

This top is made from blocks I got in a block swap many years ago. I already had finished the top. I decided I just didn’t love it and passed it along to our guild’s charity committee. So I can cross it off my list as done!

8. Bali wedding star

This quilt has definitely been around for just too long. (I started dyeing the fabrics for it in 2011.) Last month I finished all of the blocks at retreat! But right now the outer edge is scalloped and I don’t think I like that. To straighten the edges I need to dye some more background fabric, find the templates for the outer pieces, and piece them together. So it’s definitely waiting for a day where I have most of the day to work on it. But it’s getting so close!

9. Corduroy/denim

This quilt was originally going to be just one quilt with corduroy on one side and denim on the other. I decided to split it into two quilts and finished the denim top much earlier this year. I plan to tie it with a flannel backing but have stalled because my back is kind of dreading sitting on the floor and tying it. The corduroy quilt requires a zigzag machine and most days I’m just waaaay too lazy to feel like dragging that out. 🙂 But this is the year I’ll conquer it! It is my oldest UFO and that will be fantastic to get done.

That’s it for now! Stay tuned to see the list of all the quilts I started but then stalled on this year. More UFOs on the way!

Dec 23

How to reattach a zipper pull after you’ve cut it off

December 23rd, 2016|


It’s almost Christmas! And that sometimes means last-minute Christmas sewing. My go-to last minute gift is nearly always a zipper pouch. They sew up quickly and are pretty easy. But when rushing sometimes I do things that I wish I wouldn’t have. Like cutting the pull tab off a zipper. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been partway through a zip pouch, trimmed the zipper, and then realized what I’ve done while staring at the dead zipper.


I have tried and tried to push the tab back onto the top of the zipper. Let me save you the effort. It doesn’t work. At all. I thought that once the zipper pull was off then the zipper was garbage. But this year I came across a tip to get the zipper pull back on! The trick is that you need to put it back on the BOTTOM. Hurray!

Now, this will only work to save the current project if the zipper is still longer than what you need, but at least the zipper can be saved for another project if the fix winds up making it too short. And I’m guessing this only works on plastic-teeth zippers.

The first step is to cut off the metal zipper stop at the bottom of the zipper.

Then, spread the teeth at the bottom of the zipper by pulling gently on the zipper tape on either side. You only need about an inch or two.

Then, slide the pull off of the short bit that you cut off. Take the zipper pull and slide it up onto the spread teeth of the bottom of the zipper as shown below. I found that trying to get the two ends in at the same time worked the best, but you might find that doing one at a time works for you. This is a little fiddly and will take a minute. Just keep easing the pull on. It helps to pull on the zipper tape at the sides to coax the pull back on.

When you do get it back on, chances are the teeth will not be exactly aligned as they were before and it’s going to look a little wonky. That’s ok! Slowly slide the zipper pull up to the top of the zipper and it will realign all the teeth as it goes.

When you get up to the top again, the top edge might not be straight anymore. Simply trim the two zipper tapes so they are even again. Woohoo!

I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday! I’ve got some fun plans for the new year, so stay tuned!

Dec 2

What filling makes the best hot pack? A comparison of hot pack fillings.

December 2nd, 2016|


So the weather is starting to get cold and it’s time to bring out the hot packs in my house! I have several hot packs in various shapes and sizes for warming me up or soothing sore muscles over the winter. I also love to gift hot/cold packs. It is just something everyone can use!

A few years ago when I made my first hot pack, I filled it with lentils, which smelled terrible when heated. I then switched to barley, which was better but still a bit meh. The last few years I’ve been very enamored with cherry pits as a filling for my large hot packs, but I’ve always wondered about the differences between fillings. I thought it would be a fun experiment to try out all of the possible fillings I could find in my house and also make a dozen handwarmers.

Note of caution: when researching this post, I came across many people complaining their hot packs burned or started to smell really bad after heating. It is absolutely essential to put a mug with some water in it in the microwave at the same time as you heat your hot pack. Without it your pack could possibly burn or catch fire, and you can damage your microwave. If you give hot packs as a gift, be sure to mention this to your giftee!

When heating a new hot pack, heat it up in 30-second intervals, testing after each, until you learn how long it takes to heat up your pack without scorching it. The fillings below all varied wildly with how long they took to heat up, so it’s not only the volume of filling that affects the heating time, but also the type of filling. And some fillings, like corn, get way too hot if you heat them too long.


So, I tested (sources at the end of this post):

  • cherry pits
  • wheat berries
  • whole dried corn (feed corn or bird seed, not popcorn!!)
  • pot barley (can substitute pearled barley)
  • dried whole peas (can substitute split peas)
  • buckwheat groats (can substitute buckwheat hulls)
  • whole flaxseed
  • jasmine rice (basmati is another very fragrant rice)
  • steel cut oats
  • clay gardening beads
  • coarse crushed walnut shells
  • dried pinto beans

For each of the handwarmers I sewed two 5″ squares of heavier-weight cotton/linen fabric right sides together with cotton thread, leaving a 2-inch opening along one side. Then I turned the fabric right side out, poked out the corners, and filled it with about 1 scant cup of filling. I whipstitched the opening shut.

It is important to use 100% cotton or linen for anything that will go in the microwave. If you’d like to use fleece or another synthetic fabric, sew an inner cotton bag for the filling, and sew an outer cover with the fleece to slip on after heating the cotton bag.

I found the bags had a little bit nicer weight by making them from a home dec-weight fabric, but you could also use flannel, or two layers of fabric. I’ve seen many hot packs that have a quilted cover and as long as you use 100% cotton batting that works too!


The results summary, for those who don’t want to read through the data:

  • Best overall options: Whole corn, walnut shells, jasmine rice. I still love cherry pits for larger packs, but their heat doesn’t last in a small pack. My daughter suggested adding some cherry pits to another filling; I tried 1/4 cup mixed in with corn and that made it smell lovely without the rapid heat loss. My choice would be either the corn/cherry pit mix or walnut shells.
  • Worst options: Buckwheat hulls (too expensive), clay beads or cherry pits (poor heat retention in a small pack), dried pinto beans or whole peas (beany smell), or flaxseed (even after a few heatings the oils were starting to smell a little rancid). However, flaxseed would probably make an amazing cold pack if you kept it in the freezer.
  • Best smelling: Cherry pits, jasmine rice, or walnut shells. If you choose a different filling, you can make it smell nicer by mixing in essential oils, dried flowers, dried herbs, or cherry pits.
  • Most pleasant feel: Flaxseed, whole corn, jasmine rice.
  • Best heat retention: Whole corn, rice, wheat, walnut shells.
  • Can be washed and dried and won’t mold or degrade: Cherry pits, clay beads, walnut shells. All other fillings will need a removable cover if you’d like to be able to wash your hot pack. All food-based fillings will degrade over time and need replacing. The sturdier ones like whole corn will last longer than things like rice or grains.


Table of results:

Filling Weight /
per cup
Feel Smell after heating Heat retention
Cherry pits 100g / $0.34-$1.32 Large, chunky, awkward. Pleasant sound. Lovely cherry pie Poor in such a small hot pack
Wheat 182g / $0.33 Small & grainy Grainy, neutral Average
Feed corn 181g / $0.03 Large flat, slippery chunks. Pleasant sound. Faint corn Good, heats very quickly
Barley 187g / $0.37 Small & grainy Grainy, not as strong as wheat Average
Whole dried peas 173g / $0.44 Little spheres Beany, not great Average
Buckwheat hulls/groats 168g / $1.19-$0.59 Pointy, not as slippery Earthy Average
Whole flaxseed 150g / $0.44 Slippery, smooth, luxurious Oily. Oils go rancid and over time the smell might get bad. Would probably be fabulous as a cold pack that is kept in the freezer. Good, heats very slowly
Jasmine rice 188g / $0.33 Rice-y, satisfying creaking sound when squeezing, stiff Lovely and fragrant Good, heats quickly
Steel cut oats 162g / $0.37 Smaller & grainy Grainy. Not as strong as wheat Average
Clay beads 102g / $0.11 Large, irregular, not slippery. Very awkward. None Terrible
Crushed walnut shells 143g / $0.07 Small and a little crunchy; use less filling if you want it to conform Sweet & nutty, a little like marzipan Good, heats very slowly
Dried pinto beans 182g / $0.33 Large and somewhat slippery with a flat surface, similar to corn. Beany, not great Good


If you’re looking for a unique hot/cold pack to gift (or keep!) this holiday season, check out my Comfort pack pattern, which is a hot/cold pack in the shape of a hot water bottle.

Comfort pack pattern


Notes on suppliers: Most items above are available at a grocery store, and the cheapest prices will be in the bulk section. I actually found 11 out of the 12 items above in my house already! I only had to purchase the white rice.

  • The cherry pits I purchased at cherrypitstore.com. The price difference in the table is the small bag vs. the large bag and includes shipping costs.
  • The whole peas I bought at an Indian grocery store, You can substitute split peas for the whole peas, they will just have a slightly different feel.
  • The corn I also bought at an Indian grocery store, but you can use feed corn from a farm supply or birdseed supplier. Feed corn is only about $7.50 for a 50 pound bag at places like Fleet Farm, so use what you need from the huge bag, and then put the rest outside to feed birds and animals.
  • Buckwheat hulls are sold on Amazon and in other online shops.
  • Clay beads are hydroponic gardening beads I had leftover from a lettuce growing experiment.
  • Crushed walnut shells are available at any pet store as lizard bedding. I used a very coarsely ground one, but I would think the finely ground stuff would also work just fine. Use a very small stitch length to avoid too much leaking!
Nov 11

How to make a big ironing board for quilting

November 11th, 2016|

A few years ago, I was getting really tired of ironing quilt tops with my regular ironing board. The kind with the tapered end is really not designed for quilters! I started googling things like “big ironing board” and came across this one, called simply “The Big Board”. I liked the idea of something that just sat on top of my regular ironing board, but am way too cheap frugal to spend $130 or more on an ironing board! It looked simple enough, so I started googling again, hoping someone would have a tutorial on how to DIY it so I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

I came across this tutorial on Wild Onion Studio, which I loosely followed to make my own. I wanted it a hair larger, so I had Home Depot cut my plywood to 24″ x 60″. I turned my ironing board upside down and traced a bit of the outline to mark where the braces needed to be.

I got my husband to screw in the small wood braces, but forgot to show him the tutorial photo, so the arrangement of them is different, but it still works. It is not quite symmetric, so I labeled one of the braces “pointy end” so I remember!

I covered the plywood about the same as how I covered my portable ironing board. One layer of aluminum foil with the seams taped, then two layers of Warm & Natural batting, then a white, 100% cotton sheet. I used a staple gun to tack the sheet down. I also made a removable cover out of another 100% cotton sheet.

The big board topper has only fallen off my ironing board once (the weight and braces keep it from sliding off), and that is when all three of my kids were chasing each other and crashed into it. To be safe, though, I never store my iron on top of it unless I am actively ironing. If you were more nervous about it falling, you could bolt it on, like in this tutorial, but that would make it much harder to put away.

Here it is, with a half yard stretched out on it. I don’t know what I did without it!

It is also nice to keep out when I want to lay out several blocks, or assembly-line press a bunch of the same pieces.


When I got a new cutting table from Ikea, I found that I loved being able to pull the table out from the wall and rest my big ironing board on top of it. I removed the wood braces from underneath the board and store the big board leaning against the wall when I don’t need it to save space. I do all of my ironing when piecing a quilt on my portable ironing board, which tucks under my sewing table. I pull out the big board and the table during quilt top assembly and it stays out through machine binding!


Oct 28

What to pack for a quilt retreat: printable retreat packing checklist

October 28th, 2016|

I don’t know about you, but Fall is about my favorite season of the year. Every Fall I try to go to at least one quilt retreat and sometimes two! Quilt retreats are a fantastic way to make quilting friends, get a bit of a break from reality, and get a lot of sewing done!

Packing for quilt retreats or sew-ins, however, can be pretty stressful. When I first started attending retreats I had no idea what to bring so I brought just about everything! And of course I would usually still manage to forget something important!

What helped me a lot is to create a checklist of everything that I could reasonably need for a retreat. That way even if I’m packing in a hurry the night before (of course, none of you would ever do that!), I can be sure that I won’t forget anything critical. You can download the list here: Retreat packing list [PDF]. Many of these things are optional–pick and choose which ones you actually need.

In addition to the list, I have a few tips I’ve learned:

  • “Kit up” your projects before you go so you can get right to sewing. Decision-making or cutting in a social setting (for me, anyway) is painfully slow and always leads to mistakes.
  • Dress in layers, and wear comfy shoes or bring slippers
  • Bring a refillable water bottle.
  • Clean and oil (if needed) your machine and make sure it is working properly before you come. If your machine is persnickety, consider bringing a backup machine that you leave in the car, especially to an out of town retreat.
  • Bring painkillers. Sewing for 12 hours can get uncomfortable. Also, a hot pack can be a wonderful treat for your neck and shoulders at the end of the day.
  • Bring a realistic selection of projects… You don’t need to bring your whole stash or all your WIPs and UFOs.

Happy retreating!

Oct 4

What to bring to a quilt retreat

October 4th, 2016|

I love going to sew-ins and retreats! But what to bring? Aside from the obvious and usual things, I thought I would post a few of my favorite retreat/sew in helpers.

I already talked about my portable ironing board. That is a must for me! To go with that I have a Panasonic cordless iron. What I love about this iron is it comes in a caddy with a lid. You can put your still-hot iron back in the caddy, close the lid, and take it home without waiting for the iron to cool down. No worries about melting anything in your car on the way home!

If you have back problems, like me, and you arrive ready for a full day of sewing, only to see that your chair is a metal folding one, you might want to cry a little. Some people bring own chair and table, but knowing me I would probably tweak my back carrying them or wrangling them into my car.

Instead, I sit on an inflatable disc (a “Dyna Disc“) that is only partially inflated. It gives some cushioning, but it also shifts my weight around often so I don’t get as stiff and sore after a whole day of sewing in exactly the same position. It has a nubbly side underneath so it doesn’t slip around on the chair. I have sewn for almost 12 hours in a day sitting on this thing and barely been sore! If you are more frugal, a simple cushion to sit on will also help a lot.

Things to bring to a quilt retreat Things to bring to a quilt retreat


This next thing I probably wouldn’t bother bringing to a quick sew-in, but for a retreat I might. I like having a little step stool for my foot pedal to prevent sciatic pain in my back and right leg. I used to have one that was a tiny bench (below left), but then I found a much larger, sturdier, and angled one at a rummage sale earlier this year (below right). If you or someone you know is handy, you could probably make one like this, too.

Also, I taped a piece of non-skid liner to the bottom of my foot pedal so it doesn’t slip around.

I would also recommend bringing a couple of buckets or bins–one for threads etc. and one for scraps to keep your workspace tidier. At the last retreat I went went to, it was the first project I made. It was really nice to have a quick finish that I could then enjoy all weekend. These fold almost flat when empty. Mine is similar to Amanda Jean’s thread catcher. Super easy, super quick, and stands up by itself if you use interfacing.

Things to bring to a quilt retreat

If you decide not to bring your own iron and board, something that is very handy is a wooden seam presser, sometimes called a Little Wooden Iron. I picked one up in Duluth this year for about $4 and love it. My fingernails would always get very sore from finger pressing. The frugal alternative is to use a wooden spring clothespin that has been taken apart, but I find this one easier to hold onto. There are very fancy ones and seam rollers, which are also supposed to work well.

Things to bring to a quilt retreat

Something I have found to be invaluable for organizing (and is cheap) is quart and gallon-sized Hefty “Freezer” zip bags. I like the Hefty ones better for organizing stuff because the slide lock is much easier to close. I use quart size bags to organize all my threads and notions, and gallon size to organize blocks, fabrics, or whole projects. I always bring along a few extras to hold scraps etc. for the way back home.

Things to bring to a quilt retreat Things to bring to a quilt retreat

I also invested in a smaller cutting mat (12″ x 18″, which was very cheap with a coupon from Jo-Ann’s) that I put beside my machine. It fits on almost any table and that way I don’t have to get up to trim things. I wound up liking it so much it now lives beside my machine at all times. Since I try to pre-cut pretty much all my projects before I go to a retreat, it is really all I need.

Things to bring to a quilt retreat

Things to bring to a quilt retreat: Design boards pattern And, one last thing I love to have is one or more portable design boards. These are washable and durable, and very handy for a complicated quilt.

Design boards allow you to lay out your block or project to audition fabrics and colors before you start sewing. They also help you keep all the pieces of a block facing the correct way as you sew and press. This is great in a social situation where it’s so easy to not be paying attention to which way things are supposed to be sewn together!

Sep 28

How to make a portable ironing board from a TV tray table

September 28th, 2016|

Today I want to talk about my absolute favorite retreat tool: a portable ironing board. People that know me well know that I am lazy efficient. I can’t stand it when something takes longer than it has to. At retreats and sew-ins, there are typically a few communal ironing boards set up around the room. This means, if you are piecing blocks, you will have to get up many times and walk across the room to iron just a little bit, and then go sit back down. Not only is that tiring, it is slow.

I had the idea to make a portable ironing board that I could bring with me, so I wouldn’t have to keep getting up. I had originally envisioned just a table-top ironing surface; kind of just a square piece of wood wrapped in batting. But, I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so I first googled it and came upon Oh, Fransson’s tutorial for a pressing table made from a tv tray. I decided to make my own, with a few modifications to suit my tastes, including a removable/washable cover. I thought I would give a really quick tutorial on what I did differently in case it helps anyone!First, I bought a tv table at Target for $10. I chose black, but I think they also came in pine. It is a little wobbly, which I am not thrilled about, but one day I will sand the feet flat.

I use a fair amount of steam while pressing (sorry quilt police!). I didn’t want to warp my table or wreck it, so I covered the table in aluminum foil. It took two widths, and I taped the seam so it is completely sealed with scotch tape. The foil both protects the table from steam and water and heavy starching and reflects the heat back, helping you get nice, crisp seams. I didn’t tape the foil or anything around the edges; I just wrapped it around. It will get secured in the next steps.

Puffy surfaces drive me a little crazy and don’t make as crisp of a seam, so I used less batting than she called for. I used only two layers of Warm ‘n Natural batting, cut to about a half inch larger around the table. I notched out the corners to reduce bulk. I also cut a piece of Kona cotton about 2.5 inches larger all around. Home dec fabric would have been more durable, but I didn’t have any lying around.

I folded the Kona over twice (each fold a bit over one inch), pulled it tight over the edge, and used a staple gun to secure it. At the corners, I first folded in the tip of the corner:

And then folded in the two sides:

And stapled some more.

This is it finished with its permanent cover:

However, I sometimes use starch, and that makes your ironing board gross. I needed a removable cover so I could wash it. I did not want to have to pry out staples every once in awhile to clean my board!

I cut a piece of Amy Butler fabric about four inches larger than my table all around.

I folded each corner diagonally, and drew a line at four inches in. I sewed across this line to box my corners. Your table might have different dimensions, so double check!

After boxing the corners, I checked the fit. You want the corners of the fabric to sit right on the corners of the table. At this point it is relatively simple to fix if it isn’t.

You can trim off the extra flap of fabric from boxing the corners if you want. Then, on the inside, draw a line about 1.25 inches from the edge all the way around. Fold the edge up about a quarter inch and press, and then fold this new edge up to the line and press, all the way around.

Stitch close to the inner folded edge all the way around, leaving a 1-2 inch gap for pulling through elastic later. Thread a bodkin or safety pin with a long length of quarter inch or so elastic and pull it all the way through.

Put your cover on your table, pull the elastic relatively tight, and tie a square knot. Before you cut your elastic tails, make sure the elastic isn’t so tight you can’t remove your cover!

Then, you are done! I’m not sure why I forgot to take a photo of the finished table, but it might have had something to do with my “helpers” swarming around while I was trying to do this!

To go with my spiffy new table, I bought a little travel iron for about $9 at Target. I hear Rowenta makes one too, if you want to get fancy, but mine works just fine. It gets plenty hot and I could fill it for steam if I wanted to.

I actually keep my table out all the time at home, tucked under the side of my sewing table. When I’m just piecing blocks and don’t want to drag out my gigantic ironing board, it works perfectly right beside me while I’m sewing so all I have to do is turn to the side.

One last thing: Elizabeth made a beautiful sleeve/carrying thing for the one for her swap, but I am far too lazy for that. I took a long piece of Velcro One Wrap (get it at Jo-Ann’s with a coupon), and wrapped it around both legs of my table for transport. Then I just carry it by the legs/leg bar, over my shoulder like a purse.

This post was originally published on the Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild website.