How to Shorten a Metal Zipper

I found myself with a couple of spare minutes and am playing around with some of these Moda fabrics I have heard so many others blog about. Mochi Dot and Cotton and Steel are both a 70/30 cotton and linen blend. They are still fluid, like you think of linen, but in a firmer way. It is heavier that quilting cotton but not as heavy as a canvas. Somewhere in the middle, just a really nice-bodied fabric. Perfect for almost anything I can dream up. I am so happy to have a local fabric store that stocks all these cool fabrics! Mochi Dots and Cotton and Steel at Sewfrench And because I have Soooo much spare time on my hands, HA, I decided I needed another little project. And to do it, I needed to shorten a metal zipper which I already owned. It seems as if you can never get interesting zippers in the exact size you need…. I had always heard you could shorten them, but I would just barrel through, break a few needles, and I was good to go. Yeah, yeah, yeah…. You can’t sew through metal and sometimes your broken needle falls down into the bobbin area of the machine and has to be removed with pliers…. Sometimes it throws your timing off and it has to be taken into the shop…. Not recommended. Ever. And besides you could put your eye out with a flying broken needle. This was so easy, I didn’t even photograph it. I will never try to sew “between” the teeth of a metal zipper, again! How to shorten a metal zipper at SewfrenchI measured my zipper from the bottom (the end of the metal part of the zipper) up to the length I wanted. I then marked it with a water erasable blue pen. Now I used my wire cutters and clipped the zipper teeth off above my marks. Once you get one, or two, off you can cut multiples in one cut. The teeth on this zipper are aluminum, not too tough to cut. The wire cutters don’t easily cut the zipper tape, so that isn’t a big concern, be careful nonetheless. Once you have removed the standard amount at the top of a zipper (maybe 5/8″) you can move on to removing the zipper stops at the top. Using the tip of a small pair of wire cutters you just lift them off. They are just bent over the tape, above the top teeth. They are easy enough to pry off. Once you get the first one off you will realize it is not that difficult. Now you just put the zipper tops back on above what is now the new top teeth and pinch them on with a pair of pliers. It really is just that easy! Now cut the zipper off and dispose of the top part of the old length and you have your perfect length metal zipper! Let me know if you try it or have any questions!! …now back to Christmas wrapping. The next time I find a few minutes I’ll finish up the project I am going to use this newly shortened zipper on! Linking up with: Crazy Mom Quilts Can I Get a Whoop Whoop LAFF

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Wrapping Odd Shaped Gifts part II

Pillowcases. That’s what I’m talking about.

Who can’t use an extra one? This year, instead of using up a roll of disposable wrapping paper and then having to deal with the trash, I am making pillowcases for some of my bulkier gifts. I wish I had time to make reusable wrappings for all my gifts, but not this year. I’ll just settle for wrapping the odd-shaped ones in fabric.

Pillowcase at Sewfrench

I use one yard of fabric per pillowcase. If I am using a different fabric for the cuff, 3/4 of a yard is all you need. Square up the end, cut a strip 8 1/2″ for the cuff. I cut/use a 1 1/2″ strip for the trim, this is from a different fabric. You could use ribbon or rickrack, or not use it at all but I think it adds interest. The rest of the fabric is used as the case, no waste. If I have less than a yard, I make the cuff out of a coordinating fabric. Because I don’t have time to write and tutorial, (busying wrapping gifts) I won’t reinvent the wheel. You can check here, here and here for directions. I do always use the french-seam, magic pillowcase way of creating them.

Pillowcase as gift wrap at Sewfrench

Are you wrapping any gifts in reusable materials this year??? Any great new ideas, patterns or tutorials out there to share???

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Wrapping Odd Shaped Gifts

I feel like I’ve gotten in over my head with ideas, projects started and now Christmas will be here in a blink of an eye. I did start shopping this week. And unfortunately, that leads to wrapping… Sometimes when you end up with odd sized, or bulky items, paper wrapping just doesn’t cut it.

When Deb at A Quilter’s Table posted a tutorial for these adorable Trim-Tied Gift Bags I decided I needed to stop everything and see if I could adjust it to fit some odd-shaped gifts I had been given to wrap. (Because apparently I can’t do anything just as written.) I have to say she did a great job. Her tutorial is beautifully written and easy to follow. She even developed a second size with instructions on using directional fabric that works well with piecing your fabric, too.

Digging into the depths of my stash I came up with some Christmas fabric from 30+ years ago and gave it a go.

Trim-Tied Gift Bag @ SewfrenchI altered everything about Deb’s beautiful bag. I butchered her perfect tutorial. I made it in reverse order, lining it after it was put together, even sewing on the ribbon ties after I completed the bag, didn’t want to waste the ribbon if the altered size wouldn’t work. That trick is accomplished by turning the bag inside out and working from inside the bag. It is just the same as when sewing knees patches on little boys’  pants.

As you can see, even with huge changes and an awkward shaped gift inside, it still worked!

And while I did line this soft, old, quilting fabric, it is still a little limper than I would like. I think I’ll head out later this week and see if I can find something a little sturdier like the 70% cotton/30% linen recommended. I plan on making the next version a bit taller, too.

If you decide to give this a try, be sure and add it to Deb’s A Quilter’s Table flicker page!

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Best Book of 2014

Everything I Never Told You


Everything I Never Told You,” the début novel by author Celeste Ng, tells of the tragedy that strikes the Lee family when their 16-year-old daughter Lydia goes missing one morning. The author effortlessly weaves in the back story of the parents, a cross-cultural couple that encounters prejudice both within their family and at Harvard, where the couple met. Things are no better in small-town Ohio, where they move in the late 1950s.

This book was recently chosen as Amazon’s best book of 2014. It topped the list of 100 Good Reads, which included fiction and non-fiction works, selected by editors at the online retailer.

The writing in this is beautiful. There are no shocking or huge revelations as usual ‘family dramas’ do have, but the author is still able to enthrall the reader throughout the story. Each family member’s story is deep and detailed, allowing us to see why each one behaves the way they do. Truly heartbreaking.

This book snuck up on me; I wasn’t convinced it would rise above the predictable but I think it really does. The portraits of each character are totally convincing and their efforts to communicate are moving, sad and believable. A surprisingly original variation on a family tragedy.

I have to agree with Amazon, this is one of the best books I have read all year.

Celeste Ng is a winner of the Hopwood Award and a recipient of the Pushcart prize. Her work has been featured in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and other publications.

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The Cay

The Cay (The Cay, #1)The Cay by Theodore Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Cay is an adventurous work of fiction that shows a beautiful relationship between Phillip and Timothy, the story of a blind white boy and an elderly black man stranded together on a Caribbean island during World War II. The text has themes of survival and trust. It shows Phillip overcoming his racism and being thankful that Timothy is with him. The line “Are you still black?” has to be the key turning point in the story.

I melted into this tale as Phillip and Timothy struggled to survive while awaiting rescue.  Excellent lessons on ethnicity. This would be a milder approach to Mark Twain’s similar lessons in the Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn stories.

A wonderful adventure story to add to your Christmas gift list for the tweens in your life. I think buying books for young boys is especially difficult and this one is perfect for both the boys and girls. This book makes a great read-a-loud, also. It is not too long and gives the opportunity for lots of great discussions. Hooray all around!

Another thought that occurred to me as I was reading was how many blind child hero books are there out there? Outside of the Helen Keller books, not many from what I’ve read and how cool is that?!!

This is another book that was made into a movie called The Cay. I had no idea. Looks as if it was a pretty well received movie, back in 1974, when they were still making movies for television. I have to find this one because James Earl Jones, starring as Timothy, has to be worth the search!

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Pecan Pie Muffins

I may just make these every Thanksgiving from now on. They are a perfect fall feeling snack. A perfect little snack for your fall brunch. They feel like a special treat over your plain ole muffins. Born and raised in the South, I love all things pecan.

I have read and studied so many different variations, of these muffins, that my head was spinning. I then decided to just dive right in and figure out what I wanted to serve at my house and take notes as I went.

Pecan Pie Muffins @ Sewfrench

Pecan Pie Muffins V1
printer friendly version

1 c pecans, chopped
1 c light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c flour
2 eggs
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Fill a muffin tin with muffin liners.
In a large bowl beat the eggs until foamy. Add the softened butter and mix.
Mix in the sugar and vanilla, lastly the flour and pecans and stir only until moistened.
Spoon the batter into 9 regular size muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 full.
Bake for 18-23 minutes, 20 minutes in my oven. Don’t over bake.
Remove muffins from pans immediately.

If you can stand the wait these are a bit easier to remove from the paper liners if you let them cool completely.

Pecan Pie Muffins @ Sewfrench

Mini Pecan Pie Muffins V2
printer friendly version

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c butter (1 stick), softened
1 c light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c pecans, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease and flour 24 mini muffin cups. Baker’s Joy would be the easy way out, it combines flour in the nonstick spray. Don’t think about only using Pam, because of the sugar content in these muffins, you will have a mess trying to get them out.

I did more than chop my pecan pieces, in this version. I put them in a mini food processor and chopped them fairly fine, not as much as ground, but because I am making mini muffins, I didn’t want huge inclusions in them. This worked perfectly well.

Now stir together your dry ingredients, brown sugar, flour and pecans.

In a separate bowl beat the butter, eggs, vanilla together until smooth. Stir into the dry ingredients until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Cups should be about 2/3 full, mine seemed a bit fuller.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes on until done, check them early, in case your oven runs hotter than mine. Pop them out of the the pans as soon as possible to prevent sticking. I had to run a knife abound the edges to “help” them out. Cool on a wire rack.

I have read you can grease your tins with butter, then sprinkle them heavily with sugar, as opposed to flour, and they will pop out even easier. Not sure if that is true or not, but it may lead me to try a third version! I’m betting they would have an even crunchier, caramelized crust that would be delicious, too!

Between the two versions, we settled on liking the mini ones best. You get a crisper crust, not using cupcake liners, which is delicious. The best part though could be that you get to eat two instead of just one. :)

I have not tested these using gluten-free flours, but because of the small amount of flour in them, I suspect they will work out well using one of the commercially available blends.

I suspect these will be found at my house over the Thanksgiving holiday. Maybe yours, too?

Speaking of Thanksgiving, can you believe it is in less than a week?? Where has the time gone?! Yikes!


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Kansas Twister Quilt

This quilt has been around a while, too, but is finally finished. It was last spotted here, back in January. Under a year isn’t bad, for me, with so many ideas swirling in my head.

I suspect this pattern has been around since the beginning of quilting, it has enough names to have been, anyway. Whirligig, Kansas Twister, Texas Trellis, Whirling Triangles in a Hexagon…. are just a few that I  have heard.

I see others currently making it and calling it all kinds of crazy “new-fangled” names. For me, I try to stick with the traditional quilt names when possible. You?

I hand-quilted this one 1/4″ inside the twisting shapes, using Aurifil 28wt thread, leaving the little background triangles unquilted. I used Quilter’s Dream Select batting, in cotton. It creates such a nice, old-fashioned feeling quilt, but still easy to quilt through as opposed to some of the other cotton battings out there.. Every so slightly thicker than Request. I love them both.

Kansas Twister quilt by Sewfrench

This pattern is made up of 60° triangles cut from 2 contrasting strips. The higher the contrast the better, that is the key to making them pop. No match-matchy here. The strips  are cut 2 1/2″ wide then sewn together. To make a whirling hexagon, you need to cut 12 triangles, 6 matching triangles with the same color on all the bottoms, meaning as you cut, every other one will match. My  fabric is two deep, so you are only seeing half of what you need.

Cutting a Kansas Twister pattern @ Sewfrench

You end up with enough triangles for two hexagon shaped blocks, one with the light on top, one with the light on bottom. You have to decide whether you want them all in one quilt or not. It does change the look. I used them all, in this one. My goal was to use up as much old fabric as possible.

Pinwheel quilt by Sewfrench

I had some larger pieces of calico that I was struggling to use up and this turned out to be the perfect spot for them! Some hand quilters refuse to use a quilt back with seams. Obviously, I’m not one of them.

Pinwheel quilt by Sewfrench

I think it matches perfectly. I’m finally beginning to see my fabric collection evolving from the 1980s to current times. It feels good. :)

What do you call this pattern? Have you made it? Did you use matching tips (the background fabric behind the twister)? All light tips, all dark tips or some of everything?

Kansas Twister quilt by Sewfrench

Kansas Twister
a vintage inspired quilt by Sewfrench
58″ x 70″
machine pieced
hand quilted
using Aurifil 28wt thread

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Posted in 2014 completes, Design, fabric, Finishes, Quilting, Tutorial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments