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Efficient Quilt Piecing Techniques

I’m just beginning a Christmas gift quilt so I can’t show you the finished image yet, but this one has a ton of repetitive piecing.  A TON!  You know the type:  Cut 28 each of these 4 different width rectangles at 2.5”, 3”, 3.5”, etc.  And cut 128 2.5” x 2.5” squares.  Oh, and you need to keep them all organized and sorted. I literally spent almost 3 hours on my feet today standing in front of my cutting table.  This isn’t all of it. There’s sashing and borders on another table across the room.

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In my short life as a quilter, I’ve discovered that my natural tendency to be a bit organized is a benefit.  “A bit”  ha ha.  Even though I’m not one, I have a master’s degree as a Medical Librarian which is the ultimate in organization.  Maybe that’s why those Alpha Bitties called to me.   For the longest time, my thriftiness got the better of me and I just used tiny post it notes, but I found these little gems on sale somewhere and I really like them.

Cutting efficiency is everything when doing a project like this.  This pattern didn’t use a pre-cut so I ironed all the yardage before I started but I left the bolt fold un-ironed.  I normally leave the fabric folded in half as it came off the bolt and cut all selvages right away in one fell swoop.  That saves time cutting them off on each WOF (width of fabric) cut.  I normally cut multiples if possible as well.  So let’s say the pattern calls for 12 of something that is the same, I’ll stack 3-4 folded identical width cuts and cut the needed amount.  And I always start with a fresh rotary blade for these projects.

Sometimes Needle Center isn’t always the best spot on my machine for these projects.  In this case, I wanted to use the Needle Left because there is a guide mark on the face plate for the ¼” mark on this machine that is ¼” to the right from Needle Left.  I normally remove the presser foot and lower my needle into a Scant Quarter Inch Ruler.  The mark on my machine’s face plate is exact to the stitch line on the ruler.  Pretty cool huh?  I put a strip of painter’s tape down the front of my machine from that mark to use as a guide.

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The instructions in this case said to begin at the top inner background corner and sew to the lower left corner.  On the first one, I always draw a stitching line with a Frixion pen so I get it right.  The rest of the pieces don’t need the line after that.  That’s a HUGE time saver.  The trick here is two-fold:  line up the lower left corner first and snug up the starting point against the needle, and don’t watch the needle while sewing.  I watch the lower left corner of the piece to make sure it stays true to the edge of the painter’s tape.

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My sewing method is to chain piece and do as much as possible in one go.  I cut them apart on the cutter on the side of the machine and do as many as I can hold at once.

When I have a large chain piecing project, I always set up a cutting and ironing station right next to my machine.  My ironing surface is an old board covered in batting and extra fabric from my first grandson’s nursery.  He’s six now.  🙂    I have a small travel iron, a small cutting mat and cutter, and ruler if needed in this work space.

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I normally don’t use a ruler to cut whatever needs to done.  That takes too much time.

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After I cut one piece, I toss it to the side with the darker fabric to the top.  This way I can iron and press the seam allowance to the dark side without having to flip the fabric around when I’m ready to iron it all.  I do take the extra time to finger press the seams open after I set the seam with the iron.  I finger press to prevent the fabric from going wonky as I give it a final press.

Check out that perfect quarter inch!

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Hurricane Harvey

We got word of Harvey forming in the Gulf of Mexico early last week and began to think about what it might mean for our house in Port O’Connor, Texas.  It was just a tropical storm then or maybe even only a tropical depression but by Wednesday, they were predicting it would form into a full-on hurricane and would probably make land on Friday somewhere around Corpus Christi, Texas.  Our coast house is about a 2-hour drive from Corpus.  I told my boss on Wednesday that I probably wouldn’t be into work on Thursday because we would need to go down and put boards on the house.  We live approximately 2.5 hours from Port O’Connor.  The image below shows the red star where we live in LaVernia (la-vern-ya), the green circle is our house in Port O’Connor, and the triangle is where the full force of Harvey hit.  Prayers please for our fellow coastal friends in the wake of Harvey.  The devastation is incredible.  Houston is in the upper right corner where all the flooding is happening that you see on the news right now.  While Houston is all you see, we’re hearing that Port Aransas and Rockport were flattened.

Where I live

On the way down we called other friends in LaVernia and Weimar, TX who have houses there and asked to see if they needed their boards put up as well.  Friends take care of each other in these situations.  One friend had gone down the day before and pulled the boat from the sling and parked it on high ground but still in P.O.C (as we call it).  It was becoming obvious that we really didn’t want to leave it there.  I also wanted to get the perishables out of the freezer and fridge.  Nothing worse than coming back to a fridge of rotten food.  I’ve done it and oh my,…it’s awful.  You might as well just strap it up and tow it fully closed to the dump.  It took a year to clear that out the last time it happened from a power outage and we tried to salvage the fridges.  Here’s a hint if that happens to you.  After fully power washing the refrigerator, put paper plates of high-end kitty litter on every shelf and change monthly.  It will absorb all the odors.  And yes, it takes about a year.

Now, …about the Weather Channel.  I know these guys are not only in business to report the weather but also to make money.  They also don’t want to be liable if they under-report the weather and people die as a result of their under-reporting.  I get that.  But there also has to be a balance.  We heard reports such as “Port O’Connor will be leveled”, “9 to 12-foot storm surge”, and “35 inches of rain”, none of which happened.  They did get the increased rating of hurricane correct from Category 1 to a Cat 4 but that’s because of the verified wind speeds by all the sophisticated weather equipment in the world.  I think we all need to realize that the weather forecasters report the weather in a vacuum.  They don’t know the on-the-ground conditions that the city planners have put in place to deal with enormous amounts of water that can come from a hurricane.  Heck, when we bought the place at the coast, I held the firm belief that eventually, one day, it might blow away.  We would do what we could to protect it and I would only decorate it in Early Modern WalMart, but still, one day it might be gone.  In fact, because it is a mobile home within 40 miles of the coastline, it cannot be insured for flood, wind or hurricane damage.  Fire and vandalism?  I’m covered.  I’m paying about $200 a year for that.

So Keith and I went down on Thursday and boarded up our house on a blue sky day and prepped it to prevent things from flying around.  It’s a 4 bedroom, 2 bath trailer across the street from $750,000 homes with wet slips.  🙂  Location, location right?

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And boarded up the guy we bought our place from across the street.  It’s a two story…with 13 upstairs windows and 9 downstairs windows.  That’s the other end of my house in the background.

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And our friend’s house a few streets over.  That’s my 3-legged dog Harley.

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Let me tell you.  That’s some WORK!   Keith was on the ladder screwing in the boards and my job was to move the ladder and hand up the plywood to him.  All told, it was about 50 sheets of plywood.  And 13 of them had to be hauled up a flight of stairs.

Then we went and hitched up the boat from the high ground and headed home.  By the end of the day, as we say in Texas, “We were give out!”  I did bring back my sewing machine and my margarita machine too.  A girl has to have her priorities ya know!  The Honda Metropolitan scooter and family antiques?  I’ll cross my fingers.  But by golly I brought home what was important!

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On Friday, Keith stayed home from work but I went in to my job in North East San Antonio.  However, we were released about noon because of the frenzy to get to the stores to buy supplies to hunker down for the impending storm.  Can I say I’ve never been so glad to be “old-school” as I am in a storm?  I like to shop at the big box stores like Sam’s and Costco so I have multiples of literally everything.  Zipper bags, foil, toilet paper and paper towels; canned veggies, soups, frozen meats, chips and bread.  My house is stocked like a prepper!  Not because I am a prepper mind you, but because my mother is from Wisconsin and there was never an empty shelf in the basement pantry.  She froze everything and always bought or made things in quantity.  It was helpful in my early years when the electricity went out every time a cloud passed over but I really have no excuse now.  I just can’t help myself.  Keith is from Kansas and grew up with tornados so we’re pretty compatible in that sense.  Good thing too, because the grocery stores had empty shelves.  The only thing I really needed was beer. 🙂   Come to find out, hurricanes and cookies go hand-in-hand.  The cookie and chip isles were empty and there wasn’t a can of Spaghettio’s or a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese to be found.  I guess people need comfort food in a disaster ya know?

We sat outside on Friday evening under the car port and watched the weather on the TV hooked to the RV.    Once it started seriously raining, we went in.  It is Sunday evening as I write this and it hasn’t quit raining since Friday night.  I’m SO grateful I’m a quilter/seamstress!  I had a ton of projects to keep me busy all weekend.  Keith however is a different story.  He can’t go to the ranch or even piddle around outside.  Even though we never lost power, we lost Dish Network cable on Friday night because the dish got shoved around by the wind.  Finally, on Sunday afternoon, he broke out an old-school antenna to hook to the TV and can now get local stations.  I had bought that antennae to put up at the house at the coast but one day Keith found some Dish guys on another job and paid them cash to run cable in the house so the antennae has been under the pool table here at home for months.  Good thing huh?  At least now he can watch TV.  This rain is strange.  No thunder, no lightening, but just a steady downfall of a what I’d call a soaking rain for the past 30 hours.  The wind felled two 50 foot trees in our backyard and has left the entire yard, front-and-back, in a total mess.  My pool is a disaster.   And even though I lost two trees, you can’t tell.  There’s another 40 back there to make up for them.

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On Saturday there wasn’t much to do.  We actually pulled out some lawn chairs and sat on the front porch of our house for the first time in the 11 years that we’ve owned the place because we had the house itself to block the wind and rain.  Keith likes his cigars so we hung out outside with the dogs, drank a case of beer, and watched the trees blow around.

On a bright note, I got a call from my State Farm agent to check on me and to remind me that my trailer at the coast isn’t covered for flood or hurricane.  Gee thanks.  But she was happy we were high and dry.  How nice.  Good ol’ State Farm.  Like a Good Neighbor…

Update – Monday evening.  We’ve had updates from those hardy few who stuck it out in Port O’Connor and there was about a 2.5 foot storm surge.   There’s my yellow trailer on the left.  Look at all that water.  That’s nothing in Port O’Connor.  That little fishing village is ready for it and handled it like a champ.

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The floor of my house is about 5.5 feet off the ground so it seems there was no interior flooding thank goodness.  We did lose a board off the master bedroom window which is double paned.  The exterior pane broke and bent the frame but the interior pane held so there wasn’t major water damage I don’t think.  The power has been off since last Friday so I’m glad when we went down we grabbed all the perishables.  They don’t think it will be back on until Wednesday.  At least my bill will be less for August.

Keith and I spent this evening cleaning up the yard.  He cut up one of the felled trees that fell over the neighbor’s fence with his chain saw and I took a big rake to the yard.  I live on an acre and a half so it’s a lot of yard.  I managed to clean up one half of the back yard and we tossed all the tree branches back onto our side of the fence that fell in the neighbor’s yard.  I’m going to have Popeye shoulders if I keep all this heavy outdoor work up.

So that’s my Hurricane Harvey update.  More to come if anything else happens.  We plan to go down on Thursday night or Friday unless the power isn’t back on.  This girl isn’t going to do without air conditioning!

 

 

 

#2017FALQ3-PowerToolsWithThread

I have a lot of UFOs (Unfinished Objects) and I’m very happy I found the 2017 Finish-a-long even if the year is half over.  It will give me the motivation to finish a few of them.  These are NOT WIPs.  They have been put down and walked away from for months…years and still need to be completed.

UFO #1 – Dinosaur QAYG from ShinyHappyWorld.com.  I’ve got the blocks cut, background batiks applies, and some of the blocks are quilted.  Some of the applique pieces have been cut by hand but I’m no where near even halfway through.  It’s been sitting for months and I want it done for Christmas.  I have a Cameo Silhouette and what I REALLY want to do is some serious magic with this.  Not only do I want to cut out the dinosaurs in fabric on the Silhouette, but I want to load the image into my Embrilliance embroidery software and then machine embroider the applique onto the squares in the hoop.  I’ve seen it done on YouTube and I really want to figure that out because I HATE to applique on the sewing machine.  I’m seriously wondering why I took this project on.  Probably because it’s such an adorable quilt and I’d had too much wine when I ordered it.  Hey, don’t judge.

#2017fal

#2 A Starry Night Quilt.  I started this before Christmas in 2015 with the full intention of finishing it before the holiday.  It’s one of those where you punch out the stars and add a little light pack behind it so the wall hanging lights up.  I got the wild idea that I’d do a small meander all around the outside of the tree.  I got about half way finished before I got bored.  You can see where I outlined the tree shape to meander around.  I started the meander on my sit down.

#2017fal - Starry Night

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#3  Lap size pink quilt.  This is a Villa Rosa Designs pattern but I’m not sure which one.  I didn’t think it was going to be THIS pink but it will make a nice gift for a young girl.  I still need to get backing fabric.  I made this top in summer of 2016.

#2017fal - Pink Villa Rosa Quilt

#4  Another Villa Rosa Designs – lap size.  This was a kit and the backing for it is around here somewhere.  This one I put together in Spring of 17.  I thought it would look good in my living room.

#2017fal - Villa Rosa Living Room Quilt

That’s enough UFO’s for this quarter.  I hope to get just one done but I’m glad to have finally put thoughts-to-blog in this #2017FAL to get me going on them.

Link up your UFOs.  I’d love to see them!

 

Bag Making Tips, Arabesque by SewSweetness

Last weekend I made the Arabesque Bag from Sew Sweetness, by Sara Lawson.  You can get the free pattern here from Craftsy.  This is probably the 3rd bag I’ve made from one of her patterns and they never disappoint.  The instructions are always very clear with great photos and she takes you step-by-step to create a great bag.  The purpose of this bag was to have a special one to traipse around on quilt shop hops.  I changed up the pattern a tad to make it cross-body so I have my hands free to fondle all that pretty fabric.  🙂

I found this adorable fabric last week at my local quilt store.  I had a variegated teal thread I thought would be perfect and a bright blue zipper in my stash.

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Tip #1:  When you have to cut foam or interfacing that must match exactly in shape and size to form one piece when fused or sewn to another, cut the fabric to size and cut the other piece just a bit larger all around.  Then sew and trim.  You will save yourself a ton of wonky-seam frustration and the end result is a beautiful smooth perfectly sewn piece.  In the case of fusibles, I iron in the center first to within about an inch from the edges with the sticky side of the interfacing up and the wrong side of the fabric down.  Then I trim and go back afterwards with the iron to fuse the edges together.  This prevents sticky residue on my iron and ironing board.

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Tip #2:  When sewing the zipper, leave the pins in the pin cushion.  Sorry I didn’t capture photos of this but I NEVER use pins or clips on a zipper.  If you want to master zippers, 1/4″ Steam-a-Seam (Lite or Regular) is your best friend.  Put the SAS on the zipper, adhere the zipper to the fabric in perfect placement with your iron and then sew.  Easy and a perfect result every time.  I checked on YouTube for a video showing how to use SAS in zipper placement but couldn’t find one.  There’s a lot of SAS videos, but not one for zippers.  I guess I will have to do one myself!

Tip #3:  When sewing bulky fabrics, begin sewing in the middle of the stitch line somewhere to give yourself something to hang on to from the back to help the feed dogs do their job.  The box seam on a bag is the shortest sewn part of the bag.  If I had started on one end, no forward movement would occur because of the bulk.  I pin down the seam allowances on both sides so they don’t get all smushed up under the presser foot and begin a couple of stitches behind of center seam.  Pull the pins before sewing over them.

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Whatever the seam, either with foam or Soft-n-Stable, I begin the stitch a couple of inches down from where I would normally begin and sew to the bottom.  Then I flip it over and finish the seam from the other end.  It’s an extra step but I don’t need a leader and the seam is always straight and true from one end to the other.  Here I’ve done the first part and have flipped it over and starting  the finish.

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Here’s  the finished product.  I totally forgot to quilt the bag darn it.  Side #1.

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Side #2.  I fussy cut the center designs on both sides.

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See how straight that zipper is?  That’s Steam-a-Seam my friends.  It comes in sheets or rolls and you can get it everywhere from Walmart to Amazon.

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I cut the length of strap to fit me perfectly.  I’m ready for a Shop Hop!

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Embroidered BBQ Apron, Towel, and Weekend Projects

Hubs spent last weekend at the coast with his buds so I was left from Thursday through Sunday without adult supervision.  Y’all it was BLISS!  I lived in my sweats and only left the house to get the mail.  The dogs and I weathered a storm that dumped so much rain I called hubs asking for an ark and prepped for sandbags.  This deck for my hot tub is 14″ off the ground.  During the storm I didn’t have any of my machines on at all because I learned that lesson once several years ago.  $235 later my first embroidery machine was back in business after a power surge during a storm blew out the internal power supply.  So during this storm, I ironed applique pieces to fabric for my grandson’s dinosaur quilt.  Anyhoo…

Before the storm, I made hubs a new BBQ apron with an embroidery design from Urban Threads.  I think it turned out great!  Their designs always stitch out truly top-notch.

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And a friend of mine has the most amazing garden and she cans like nobody’s business all summer long.  I couldn’t resist making this for her.

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We are leaving for the coast this coming Thursday for our 16th wedding anniversary weekend.  We got married on July 3rd so we’d always have a 2-day holiday and there’d be free fireworks.  Smart huh?  🙂   We won’t be back until Tuesday the 4th so I’ve already prepped a UFO, a WIP, and 2 new projects to keep me busy.

The UFO (Unfinished Object).  The very first quilt I ever made in 2010 is off the longarm.  It’s a hot mess but it’s mine and I can’t wait to hang it over the deck at the coast to show off our patriotism.  Hopefully, from a distance at the street, the tipped stars will be overlooked.  ha ha   I need to add a navy blue binding and it will be finished.  Finally…7 years later.  It was the first full quilt I ever put on my new longarm too so yes it has issues but I truly don’t care.  On the whole, it’s beautiful with a few flaws I can live with.

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I found some really cute fabric at my local quilt store yesterday that just screamed “MAKE ME INTO A NEW BAG!”

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Goodbye Valentino has inspired me to give a try to some bucket hats from Oliver+S.  The free pattern is here.  Now that Cars 3 has been released, I thought I’d make up two for my grandsons and I found some long lost fat quarters in my stash for one for my granddaughter.

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And last but not least, the WIP (Work in Progress).  I’ll put some time into the Dinosaur QAYG project from ShinyHappyWorld.com that I’m hoping to have ready for the grandboys for Christmas.

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I think that’s enough to keep me busy during the quiet hours this weekend (if there are any).  What do you have in the works?  Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

DIY Embroidery Target Stickers, Dexter the Dragon, and a Machine Embroidered Apron

Those who know me know that I make no bones about being thrifty in my pursuit of my hobbies.  While I’ll spend money where quality is required, I’ll also DIY where I can to save a buck… or two…or twenty…or ten thousand as in the case of my longarm.

Let’s take Machine Embroidery Target Stickers.  Nice, but not necessary.  Most professionals just chalk a 90 degree crisscross and call it good.  But if you’re using a fabric that doesn’t take chalk well like a towel, or you don’t want to have to remove chalk lines like on a satin, or you can’t find said chalk, then a sticker works great.  It stays put and provides a great pinpoint to see where you want to start.   There are pre-printed stickers out there you can buy where you get 250 stickers for (sales pitchman voice here…) “An amazing low price of just $19.99!” ($24.99 on Amazon Prime)  Or…you can buy 525 Avery removable dot stickers # 6736 and draw your own 90 degree angle on them, for just … wait for it… $10.58.   More than twice the number of stickers for half the price.  And here’s a cool little tidbit – it doesn’t matter where the crisscross is on the sticker just so long as the lines are at a 90 degree angle.  Easy peasy.  I just penciled in a page of them here.

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Dexter the Dragon’s baby sister Darla.  Y’all remember my last post about the failure on the blue dragon from Shiny Happy World?  I gave it another shot with fleece instead of Minky and success!  Here she is!  I bought some blue fleece for her big brother and will finish him this weekend.  Don’t you love her rosy tummy?

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I did some extra stitching on those wings at the spine because if my granddaughter is anything like me (and she looks EXACTLY like me) then those wings will be swung like a boomerang prior to launch at her brother.  This pretty girl is double stitched everywhere!

Apron Embroidery.  A co-worker, Diane, is really into competition BBQ cooking just like hubs and I are.  She is hosting her daughter’s high school graduation BBQ this coming weekend and they are smoking 23 beef briskets to serve nearly 400 folks.  One aspect of BBQ cooking is Showmanship.  Her sister bought all of them matching aprons and she asked me if I’d embroidery hers with her nickname DeeDee.  She told me how she wanted it and I let her proof 4 different fonts via text prior to stitching.  I just love it and so did she.

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Her apron isn’t over the trash can ya’ll; that’s aluminum can recycle in my laundry room next to my front loader.  🙂

Have a great weekend!

Failure is Part of the Journey

We all see the pictures of perfect stuff all over Facebook, Pintrest and IG of perfect sewing projects, perfect quilts, perfect lives, perfect this, perfect that, blah blah ad nauseum.  And so many of my friends think that when I sit down at a machine, miraculously perfect things happen immediately.  Well, I’m here to tell you that is not true.  While I might consider last weekend completely wasted because my project was a COLLOSSAL FAIL, I actually learned a great deal. The trick is not to allow failures to deter you from your goal, no matter what the task at hand is.  Try, try again.  Right?

I’m making this little guy.  Isn’t he adorable?

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He was going to be for my grandson’s 6th birthday this week, and I’d diligently planned it all out. I bought the softest, most cuddly blue Minky fabric for the body and had some gray Cuddle Bubble on hand for the belly. Someone put a pic of the blue/gray version on FB and I just had to make it. I found some awesome silver scuba knit at Walmart for the wings, I ordered the safety eyes from Amazon, and was all ready to go… on time.  Then I sat down at the sewing machine and every thing changed.

First of all, I cut the pattern wrong.  No biggie, I had plenty of fabric.  That’s normal in my world so I wasn’t discouraged.  Mind you, I’m covered in Minky shreds from hair to flipflops but that’s part of the adventure.  I was prepared for that.

Now the wings.  The pattern says to cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of foam in the shape of the wing, and then to sew them together.  Sounds easy enough but the result was a silver blob that no way resembled a wing.  See top wing in first image below.  Things shifted everywhere in the machine, pins/clips or no, and was a real beast.  Needless to say, I’m glad my grandson wasn’t around because a sailor appeared somewhere in the room.  On my 2nd attempt, I cut the foam and sewed it to two squares of fabric (2nd photo) and then cut out the wing around the foam.  Success!  See bottom wing in top picture.  This method allows the best shaping possible.  Also, if you do sharp points like this, there is a little garment sewing trick for collar points to take a small single horizontal stitch (or two) at the tip before beginning the next upward angle.  This single stitch gives the fabric room enough to make a beautiful point without a bunched up rounded wad.

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The hands and feet were no trouble and sewed together just fine (after I figured out I had to hand-baste the bottom of the foot to the top) and I placed them in the same location on each side of the body pieces.  I added the wings – no problem and he was coming along nicely!

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Now the tummy.  You’d think the biggest piece would be the easiest.  WRONG!   Much like sewing a sleeve into an armscye (arm hole), the tummy must be positioned perfectly to make it all match up.  There are points on the pattern for notches to match but I couldn’t see them in the Minky.  So I gave it my best shot and sewed the tummy gusset to the body.  The result was a lopsided, unbalanced, wonky kinda dragon thingy.

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My husband was a sweetie and said to finish him anyway because my grandson wouldn’t care, but oh no.  That’s not how I roll.  There’s perfection or close to it (which would be nice) and then there’s something that will embarrass me every time I lay eyes on it.   After 10 hours of this project, I tucked it all into a drawer, got myself a cold beer, and ordered him a set of binoculars on Amazon.   However, I’m not deterred.  I’ve already picked up a half yard of blue fleece to give the next dragon a try.  Cross your fingers!