Tuesday, February 28, 2012


My daughter is a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki's animated movie My Neighbor Totoro. Totoro is a big gray forest troll who befriends two girls and helps them in a time of crisis. It's a lovely little movie and I thought Ally might like to have a totoro of her own.


This Totoro plushie is about a foot tall and made from a super-soft gray felted lambswool sweater. All of his features are also made from recycled felted wool clothes. I did use polyfill stuffing in him as I thought my usual felted wool scraps would be too heavy for a toy.


The main body is machine stitched for durability. After
 I made the main body I appliqued Totoro's arms and fat tail with a blanket stitch. His arms and tail have additional stuffing (scrap polyfill quilt batting) in them for a dimensional effect.


Totoro's whiskers and claws are done in black embroidery floss. Really, he's constructed  using the same techniques I use with all of my primitive crafts. That Cheshire Cat smile just kept reminding me of my jack o'lantern penny rug. 


In the end, I ended up making what may be the world's first primitive plushie based on a anime character.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Free Motion Quilting Fail, or Why I'm Sewing Christmas Stockings in February

I have a quilt that I've pieced and assembled into a quilt sandwich (top, flannel sheet batting, and backing) but I haven't quilted it yet. This particular quilt is calling for something different than my usual cross-hatch or parallel row quilting and I want to use a more organic quilt pattern on it. Something with loops or wavy lines. Something I haven't tried yet. I've been waiting to master the art of free motion quilting before finishing this particular quilt. (And to perfectly honest, I've been procrastinating on learning how to free motion quilt by trying to organize my fabrics and felted wool before the produces of "Hoarders" came knocking at the door. Now that I've dragged all that stuff out and haven't found a good way to organize it, I'm tired of messing with fabric and want to complete some unfinished projects, like that quilt. The piles of fabric and wool can just stay on the floor for a while longer.)

In theory I know how to free motion quilt. I've read articles on it and watched videos on YouTube showing how it's done. I have a darning foot and my machine allows me to drop the feed dogs. However, as often is the case, *knowing* how to do something and actually *doing* it can be two different beasts. I started practicing free motion quilting yesterday morning and had some difficulty with it. The foot kept bouncing around and I thought it was much harder to maneuver my test piece around than it should have been.

Poking around on the web led me to a website devoted to free motion quilting, Leah Day's The Free Motion Quilting Project, which has some GREAT teaching videos on it. (Even if you don't quilt, take at look at Leah's website and see the beautiful quilting patterns she's produced and illustrated.) In particular, I found this video on modifying your darning foot to be very useful. Following Leah's suggestions, I hacked my darning foot and voila! That annoying bounce disappeared and I was able to maneuver my fabric around much more smoothly. I spent another hour practicing and felt much more confident in my ability to free motion quilt.

Then this morning I sat down to practice again and had nothing but problems with thread tension. Snarls with excessive loops of thread on both the top and the bottom of my practice piece. I adjusted the tension up and down, trying to get rid of those ugly bird's nests, but nothing seemed to work. 

I've learned from past mistakes that you can't force a project that doesn't want to cooperate. It's best to set it aside and try again later. And that's how I wound up sewing a couple of Christmas stockings and attempting to make fleece socks today instead of free motion quilting. The stockings had been in my work-in-progress pile for awhile, so at least that counts as cleaning up!