Friday, October 5, 2012

Maggie's Hermione Granger Costume

        I was wondering if you could make me a costume for the Halloween  party/haunted house. I want to be Hermione Granger. In the fourth Harry Potter movie/book there is a scene called the Yule-Ball scene. I was wondering if you could make me a dress like the one Hermione wore. I attached a picture below. I was also wondering if you could make me a Hogwarts School outfit. I have a white shirt, black leggings and a striped  tie.  But I was wondering if you could make me the dress/skirt thing that they wore to school.  All you have to do is cut a hole in a gigantic square.
P.S. I am 53 inches tall.I want the dress to go down past my feet.  Train is optional.   Maggie 

(See attached Hermione Granger pictures.)

Hermione's Yule Ball gown
Hermione's School Outfit



        That was the email I received last week-end from my 9 year old grand-daughter.  And I always am willing to help out, especially with a sewing project.  So, I thought, what are my options?  I checked e-bay first to see if there were any costumes already created for Hermione Granger.  Sure... I found that exact pink ball dress...  for $100.  That wasn't happening here.  There were no school outfits like the sample picture - only black cape-like costumes.  I can do better than that.  Next I checked the used kids clothing for any pieces that could be remade into one of these outfits.  I found a few possibilities that I stuck on my watch list.
Next, I took a quick drive over to the local Salvation Army store to check on their options.  Almost immediately I found a black v-neck cardigan, size 8.  Perfect. The school outfit it will be; and so much easier than the pink dress.  It was half-price day at the "Sally-Arm" so I paid my $1.50 and left with a smile. 
Once back in my sewing room, I rifled through my kid patterns.  I found a pattern that came originally from my Mother-in-Law (60's or 70's) with a gored skirt.  Perfect and easy - well, easy, except for my brain fart - more about that later.  Black double-knit fabric (also from my Mother-in-Law's stash) will work up perfectly.

This pattern is from the 1960's or 70's.
I went through my bag of old ties and picked out a few for Maggie to choose from.  Then it was picking trim to match the ties.  (All these supplies were originally from my Mother-in-Law's stash. Yippee - I love to re-use old stuff.) I sent off an email to Maggie with pictures of different ties and trim for her to choose from. She picked the blue striped tie with the blue lace trim.  Great!

Now to finish creating the costume.  I took out the 2 skirt pattern pieces.  One was labeled front and back panel; the other was labeled side panel. I cut 2 pieces of each, and proceeded to sew the skirt.  It was basic and easy construction, so I never did read the directions.  Also my 3 quilting friends were sewing at my house, so of course there was lots of conversation and distractions. (Wed. is our "Sew Therapy" session.)  I held the skirt up several times as I worked and stated, "It sure seems small for size 8." I even changed the seams to 1/4" instead of the 5/8" I knew was standard in these old patterns.  But Maggie is a very thin girl, so I forged on.  When it was time to put in the elastic, Maggie's waist measurement was an inch or so larger than the skirt waist.  Even this did not stop me.  It wasn't until the entire skirt was finished - hem and all, that I decided that something just wasn't right.  I opened up the directions, and it smacked me in the face immediately - This was a 6 gore skirt - not 4 gores. I needed 4 side gores - not 2!  Aaaagh!  Like I said earlier - a brain fart.  I have no other way to explain it.  I threw the skirt in the corner, and announced I would try again another day.  My thought at that time was to start completely anew.  However, my friends came to my rescue.  They took turns ripping out all the seams.  This was no easy task because it was very easy to put holes in the fabric. 

6-gored double-knit skirt with elastic waist
The next day I cut 2 more side gores, and re-sewed the whole skirt in less than 45 minutes.  It was a simple skirt after all - just maybe not as simple as I can be sometimes.

I hand basted the trim to the bottom and cuffs of the sweater, and the costume was done.  All Maggie has to do is add a white shirt.  It's been packaged and mailed, and I'll ask her to send me a picture of her in costume as soon as she can.

Total cost:  $1.50 for the sweater plus $5.35 for postage.  Getting to be involved in my Grand-daughter's life: Priceless!

Hermione Granger's School Outfit

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Quilt Again Rebirth

It's been almost a year since my last post.  Why?  I'm not sure. I didn't stop quilting, sewing, creating.  I simply stopped posting.  No longer do I feel that my retirement from teaching school kids is new; no longer does it seem that I have lots of time; my life seems to amply fill my time no matter what my activity. 

"Retirement" has turned into lots of "Grandma" time. Lillie my youngest grand-daughter (9 months) spends every Tuesday and Thursday with me while Mom and Dad are at work.  She demands all my time and attention on those days, but I'm enjoying her tremendously.  After all, how many more times in my lifetime will I get to nurture and nuzzle a baby. She's a sweet-heart, and it is easy to appreciate how quickly babies grow and change when you are not the over-worked, under-rested parent. My other grandchildren drop in now and again whenever their parents need a baby-sitter.  The oldest is in 6th grade and is growing up way too fast. Soon enough they will all be too busy to spend much time with "grandma", so I try to enjoy them whenever I get the chance. 

Wednesday is my day with "Sew Therapy" friends. Three of my best friends show up at my house for coffee, encouragement, socializing, and a bit of quilting.  When it comes to their sewing projects, I serve the role of mentor or guide.  I don't usually get much of my own sewing done on these days, but it feels like teaching, and that's also very enjoyable for me.

Monday is my dedicated "Sewing Day." Friday through Sunday make up my husband's weekend days.  It's our days for getting out and about with whatever we want.  If he gets sucked into his TV sports, then quilt projects call to me.  There are also church projects - I'm organist for the East Otto Methodist Church, and once a month I cook and serve a community dinner with 1 other partner. Early Bird Swim class makes sure I get out of bed at 6 A.M.  Add in a little gardening and blueberry backyard business for the summer, and I'm starting to see where my time is spent.

I guess I'm trying to explain to myself why I let this blog go silent so long.  But no more.  I'm making it a goal. I want to chronicle this stage of my life. It's a wonderful time for me. I'm enjoying myself immensely.  I've completed many fabric art projects in the last year, and I want to journal my progress as I learn new techniques and try new ideas.  Going forward, my goal is to post at least once per week.  Sunday or Monday will be my assigned posting day at least until I get this blog back into my routine.  I blog mostly for myself, but I sure do like readers - especially readers who will leave me a comment or two.  If you are one of those readers, I thank you.

So on to my projects:  One project that I'm especially pleased with was a Craftsy course learning project. is an Internet site that offers online classes in all sorts of arts and crafts including quilting. I took the Beyond Machine Quilting to improve my free-motion quilting.  And it really did.  Here's my finished project all done with free-motion quilting on my home sewing machine.

I wish you could see this in person.  The pictures hardly do it justice.

I learned so much from this class. And now I'm so much braver and competent with my free motion work.  I also discovered a fantastic online site at  This website provides hundreds of free designs for free motion work, and even little videos to help you learn each design.  Check it out.  You'll be amazed. 

Til next time... and I promise it won't be next year.....  CDudley

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quiltmaker's "Back to School" Quilt

I happened onto a fun quilting blog published by Quiltmaker magazine. ( In September, they presented a "Back to School" quilt, and gave directions day by day for a week.  It was a cute pattern, and I thought the daily directions might be just the motivation I needed to quickly get a quilt made for my family Secret Santa.

The first thing I did was shop my fabric stash to see if I could come up with fabric I already had to make this quilt.  Actually, I came up with several options.   
I could go with a Christmas theme.

Oranges and turquoise would make a fun combo.

Or red, pinks, and greens would make a classic beauty.

I decided on the third grouping (reds, pinks, and greens) for several reasons.  I liked not only the contrast in values of the fabrics, but also the scale of prints seemed right.  There was just enough of the large scale floral to make center blocks.  The stripe added the contrast needed to make the other fabrics come alive.  And, finally, I know this palette will go with the decor of its recipient.

I very much enjoyed this project. My assignment was just enough to complete and stay up with the daily directions.  It's a simple design, but the applique petals give it pzazz. I always want to put my individual stamp on my projects, and I did it this time with the borders.  The directions called for just 2 rather plain borders.  I added 3 borders + a binding that looks like a 4th border.  It was my idea to add squares and petals to the border corners, and I think that really helped carry the design all the way to the edges. 

I used a solid coordinating green for the backside (It also came from my stash!).  Starting in the center and working my way outward, I quilted it using free-motion quilting on my machine.  The quilt was a good size for this; any bigger, and it would have been a struggle.  The solid fabric on the back really shows off the quilting.  I'm pleased with the results and can check 1 Christmas present off my "to-do" list.

The finished "Back To School" quilt.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pentleton Wool Quilt

During the 1980's my mother and father-in-law took a trip to the state of Washington to visit their daughter and son-in-law who lived there at the time. My mother-in-law was an avid seamstress, so while there she made a visit to the nearby Pentleton Wool Outlet.  It must have been just like a treasure trove for her, because when I cleaned out her sewing stash I found yards and yards of beautiful Pentleton wool. If you have not heard of Pentleton wool, you need to check out their website ( and blog (  The Pentleton name has long been known for high quality (and pricey) wool garments. 

Now, what to do with all this beautiful fabric?  I just don't do much garment sewing anymore.  Could I use some of it in a quilt?  I spent the summer pondering this. 

Several questions needed to be addressed before I even got started.  Was this washable wool?  I thought at least some of it was, but I decided to wash all of it in hot water and to dry it in the dryer.  If it was going to shrink, or even felt, I wanted it to do it now before I sewed with it. And I was right.  Most of it came through the washing beautifully.  There were 4 pieces that did shrink significantly, but I'm okay about that.  Now I know what I'm dealing with.

Next, what design would highlight this fabric?  Which fabric patterns could work together?  My goal was to use what I had, and to highlight the beauty of the wool.  In the end, I choose 3 earthy plaids that seemed to coordinate with each other.  As beautiful as these were, I thought they need something more to add contrast.  I had some solid black and red.  I decided to use these as contrast fabrics. I wanted large chunks of the plaids, so I decided to make a very simple block with triangle corners.  By working it out on graph paper first, I managed to have the triangle corners form alternating red and black diamonds. At first I didn't want any borders, but in the end I decided a border at the top and bottom that repeated the quilt diamonds gave the quilt just enough detail to make it interesting. 

Who was the quilt for?  My mother-in-law - of course.  She's now in a nursing home, but her mind is good, and I'm hoping this quilt will bring back some very happy memories.  I decided I wanted flannel on the backside.  Soft and warm.... it seemed appropriate to pair with the wool.  Of course, I pre-washed and dried the flannel also, since it will get some heavy-duty washings in the nursing home.

Once the quilt top was put together, I had to decide how to quilt or tie it.  I thought about using a long-arm machine and quilting a rather large all-over pattern.  But I decided, instead, on hand quilting in and around each diamond, and then adding large buttons (again, from my mother-in-law's supplies).  The hand-quilting is done with 3 strands of embroidery floss and rather large stitches.  That and the buttons are enough to hold it all together, but loose enough that, again, the fabric takes center stage.  The busy pattern of the flannel on the back hides the hand stitches; they hardly even show on the back.

Finally, a simple black cotton binding finishes off the edges.  I'm happy with the resulting quilt. I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law will love it.  My only conundrum is that I still have lots and lots of wool....  There are probably more wool quilts in my future.

The finished Pentleton Wool Quilt

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Baby's Favorite?

Super-Sized Square-on-Point
I am entering "Baby's Favorite Blanket" contest. You won't find rules or regs for this contest anywhere, but you know when you've won by the bedraggled blanket that Baby drags around wherever she goes for 2 or 3 years (sometimes even longer).  Grandchild number 5 is due to arrive next December, and even though I have not won this contest with any of the first 4, I'm trying again with a new approach. 

I've learned that looks are not that crucial; it's the feel that wins every time.  My blanket entry this time is flannel - both front and back.  I used a very simple design from Anita Grossman Solomon as shown in the September/October issue of "Quiltmaker". It's called Super-Sized Square-On-Point.  I've worked with flannel before, and know that it can easily stretch out of shape.  That's why I wanted to keep the design as simple as possible. 

Monkey is cut from brown, pink, and white fleece scraps. The face is a simple machine stitch.
Solomon shows a quick way to cut the square and triangles from 1 1/4 of fabric. I tried to follow the simple directions, but still found I made a silly mistake on my first cut.  Pay attention to how she folds her fabric, especially in regard to where the fold edges are.  I had to stitch my hounds-tooth square together down the middle because of my cutting error.  Oh well.  I added my own touch by appliqueing a fleece-pieced monkey on this side and that helped cover my "error". I also used this same square-on-point on the backside.  Solomon doesn't do this, but I'm not sure why since the left over fabric from the front is already to make the same design in reverse for the back.

I wanted to use free-motion quilting on this blanket, but was wary of the flannel stretch factor.  First I safety-pinned my three layers together smoothing as I went from the center outward. I used a high-loft polyester batting instead of my usual low-loft cotton batting because I was going for soft and fluffy. Next I decided to try using a large embroidery hoop to hold the layers firmly in place while free-motion stitching.  Yes, it solved the flannel stretch problem, but for some reason stitching in the hoop made my machine's tension go berserk.  Maybe I could have played with loosing the lower tension, but I try to avoid tension issues like the plague, so I got rid of the hoop and simply did free-motion like I usually do with safety pins holding everything in place. I kept a somewhat large stitching design, and it seemed to come out fine.

Because I was still focused on the feel of the blanket, I wanted to add a silk blanket edge.  I decided to use cotton seam binding on two opposite sides, and add the satin edging to the top and bottom edges. I hand basted the satin edgings to the blanket first before using a decorative stitch to secure them. That way I didn't have to worry about the underside staying in position as I machine stitched.

Ta-Da!  Not a complicated baby quilt; and I am happy with the feel.  The flannel is very soft, the monkey is fuzzy, and the satin edge is smooth and slippery. So here's my latest entry in the "Baby's Favorite Blanket" contest. Who knows? Those babies have a mind of their own...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flying Geese

I'm pretty pleased with the results of my latest quilt.  It's not a hard design; it's a spin on the flying geese block pattern.  It was actually inspired by some charm blocks I purchased from Connecting Threads.  I really liked the colors and patterns of the fabrics, and best of all... they were on sale.  So what to do with my 4 bags of 5 inch pre-cut squares? 

I decided to use that easy, go-to block, the half-square triangle, to create a flying geese quilt.  I used the same technique described in my post Half Square Triangles . After sewing 2 squares together and cutting them into 2 half-square triangles, I simply turned them into the flying geese position and joined the 2 blocks together. Now, technically, that's not a proper flying geese block. The flying geese blocks that form the border are sewn in the traditional manner - 1 isosceles triangle with 2 right triangles joined in the corner to form a rectangle. But my half-square triangle technique is quick and easy. The only thing I wished I had done differently was to get my directional fabrics going in the same direction when sewing the isosceles triangle. I could have done this by making 2 sets of matching half-square triangles and then matching up the directional fabrics that were going in the same direction. (Oh, well, next time.)

Notice in the dark isosceles triangle the squiggly lines are at right angles with each other. It's a small detail, but I should have made duplicate half-square triangles and arranged the pieces so that this did not occur.

I was careful to make sure all the leading strips and borders - and even the binding - had the squiggly lines all going in the same direction. It's something you might not notices now so much, but you sure would have if some of them had been at right angles. It would have really detracted from the quilt.

The quilt still seemed to need just a little something, so I decided to hand applique "flying geese" in the outside leading.  I searched the internet until I found a small picture of geese flying in a V formation. By grapping that image and expanding it to the size I wanted, I was able to print off patterns of my geese. I then traced the shapes onto freezer paper before cutting them out (with about a 1/4 inch seam allowance). I appliqued them onto the leading before quilting the top. I even outlined them with embroidery floss, since my DH didn't think they were very "bird-like". I usually applique with the needle-turn method, and that's how I did these. These birds were not easy to do because of all the points and corners. Curves of any kind are always easier to applique than corners.

Finally I was ready to put this whole thing together.  I chose a large print that matched one in the charm pack for the backing.  I like to use big prints or something unusual for the backs of my quilts. I like there to be a pleasant little surprise when you flip them over. This print seemed to do the trick for me.

Then it was off to my local quilt shop where they let me rent their long-arm quilting machine.  Creekside Quilt Shop in Arcade, NY gets a shout-out from me because they have always been so helpful in this department. I still machine quilt a lot of my work at home with my regular sewing machine, but for larger quilts it's just so much easier to use a long-arm quilter. These are very expensive machines; I don't believe I can justify having my own.  Creekside Quilt Shop will teach you how to use the machine, and then provides stand-along support every time I come in to rent their machine. Super!  I needed a little help (as usual), and one reason was that I was trying to use a very old batting (came out of my mother-in-law's sewing stash). This batting was meant for hand-quilting, and was very stretchy and fragile. (Recycle is my middle name.)  We made it work, and now that it's all sandwiched in the quilt, it will be fine. 

All that was left for me to do when I got home was to trim and bind the edges.  The "Flying Geese" quilt is done.  I believe it's destined as a shower gift; it probably needs a couple pillows made to match.  It was really a fast and pretty easy quilt to put together. The only part that took a little extra time and care were the appliques. I've heard a few flocks of geese returning to our neighborhood in the last week.  I'm watching anxiously for the spring weather to follow.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Zipper Art

One of the larger projects I've been working on this winter is my "Zipper Art". Above is the wall hanging, I just finished this afternoon. I completed most of the squares on my trip to Texas. It was a perfect hand-work project, since I did not have my machine with me. It's taken me over a week to get it finished and put together, but that's because I put it together twice. I just wasn't happy with it the first time, so I took the squares apart and tried a second time.  I think I'll call this good enough. This one is available for shows and/or sale, since I've put my "keepers" in frames to display in the fireplace room.

Framed "Zipper Squares"

I also have 2 more zipper squares to frame for sale or show. It's been a lot of fun designing and creating these pieces. So much so, that I may continue for a while with new designs and varied frame sizes.

These pieces were inspired by the hundreds of zippers that came from my mother-in-law. I guess I should explain that a bit. In December, it was necessary to empty my in-laws' family home and get it ready for sale. My DH and his 4 siblings worked hard to honor, but pack up, give away, and distribute the things that made up 60+ years of living in their parents' family home.  Since none of them are "sew-ers", or even crafters, they asked me to clean out their mother's sewing room. My mother-in-law was quite the seamstress in her day. She had 1 room packed with every sewing accessory imaginable, and a whole other room packed to the ceiling with fabrics. I went through it all. I sorted, grouped, and tossed. It was like a sewing archaeological dig. There were patterns and supplies from the 1950's up and into the 1980's. There were yards and yards of fabric - mostly double-knit (Yikes!), but also including some very nice Pendleton wool.  There were bias tapes, laces, and seam bindings in every imaginable color. There were elastics, hooks and eyes, yarns, needles, threads, zippers and buttons.  In fact, I ended up with over 5 large tins of buttons, and over 200 zippers. Hundreds of buttons and zippers - some were new; some were recycled from old clothing. 

zipper bow or brooch
 Now, I almost tossed the oldest zippers away; they were used and metal.  I had them all sorted out into a trash bag, but at the last minute I thought, "Oh, come on. Try a little creativity." I checked the internet for ideas, and found Martha Stewart making some "zipper bows".  I tried a few of these - not too hard to do. They dressed up a few Christmas gifts, and 1 went on the side of my friend's new hat. While searching the internet for zipper bows, I happened upon some brooches made from zippers and felt. This got me to thinking. Could I incorporate zippers into a quilt block?  I drew up some ideas, bought a little brightly colored felt and gave it a try.

Fleece hat with red zipper bow.

Actually, I am pretty pleased with the results. I incorporated some of the buttons also, and hand embroidery dressed it all up. My technique improved with each square.

Here's some tips I learned:
  • Designate 1 pair of old scissors to cut the zippers, so that you don't dull all your scissors.
  • Fabric glue doesn't work well for basting because it's too hard to hand embroider over it.
  • Use transparent thread to baste the pieces and zippers in place before adding embroidery.
  • A needle threader is a must when working with transparent thread.
  • Knot both ends together when sewing with transparent thread or you'll just keep pulling it out of the needle.
  • Clip the zipper's tape every 1/2 inch to help it bend around curves.
  • The zippers lie much flatter on a concave curve than on a convex curve.
  • I used 3 strands of embroidery floss.
  • Make the squares just a bit larger than you want them,so that you can square them up when they are finished.
Here are some close-up shots that show some of the detail on these quilt blocks.