American flag quilt

American Flag quilt by Noelle Olpin

American Flag Quilt by Noelle Olpin, 36″ x 31″

I made this pattern up myself, I’ve had the idea of an American Flag quilt tucked away in a corner of my brain for awhile. A few elements that influenced it’s making: First of all, I dislike throwing any scrap of fabric- no matter the size or shape, so I had plenty of scrap fabric ready to go. Second, I admire the quilters of Gee’s Bend (this is an extreme understatement). And lastly, my love for flags has been growing throughout the years as I’ve traveled, participated in humanitarian work in Nepal and Cambodia and sent my kids on foreign exchanges and adventures of their own. All kinds of flags have caught my eye- country flags, nautical flags, Native American Indian tribe flags– all intriguing and beautiful in their representation of solidarity and national pride. And the useful (sneaky to land lubbers) messaging aspect of nautical signal flags in the coolest. Through these aligned preferences and concepts, this quilt was born.
american flag quilt1I started by collecting up all of the tiny scraps of red, white and blue fabric I could possibly find, and began randomly sewing them together.

american flag quilt, making the stripesAs I pieced things together, I tried to roughly create the shapes I needed- long narrow strips for the red and white sections, then blocky blue and white strips for the star section.
making an american flag quiltAfter continuing to piece together reds and whites into long skinny pieces, I starting sewing them together. My goal was obvious imperfection and wavy lines- which is a lot harder than you would think. I put the rotary cutter away and cut everything with scissors… in my lap and not on a flat table.
stars on the flagI made the ‘stars’ section in strips of white and blue squares.  A tiny bit of basic math went into this part because I was striving for 50 white pieces or stars in there. I tried to make the blue and white sections about 1-2″ squares. Nine rows of 5 or 6 white chunks, semi-lined up and sewn together with blue strips in between.
making the stars for flag quiltI found this actual star fabric while searching through my collection of blue fabric scraps and decided to incorporate it, a strong mental suggestion for those who aren’t compelled by abstract patterns.

american flag quilt, abstract starsLooking at the back… very messy and in my opinion it’s intriguing to see the process and framework. As you can see, I still did plenty of ironing throughout the process.
building the quilt stars back
building the quilt starsIf you look closely, you can see that some of the selvages (unfinished fabric edges) have been left exposed on the quilt top and sewn with visible top stitching. I want the exposed edges to be visible and the slightly frayed aspect to add texture and imperfection of the finished quilt.
stars and stripes quiltIn laying out the three pieces, I found that the blue and white section was too small and needed more white stars too. So I pieced and added another small blue and white section.
american flag quilt, making the starsHere’s the added-to blue section (the part to the farthest right)- finally making the entire section the right size.

american flag quiltHere are all three pieces ready to be trimmed and sewn into one.
stars and stripes

stars and stripes quilt

And, of course,  a view of the backside.

flag quiltAnother look at the back as the pieces come together.

abstract american flagHere’s a backlit look at the finished pieced flag quilt top, showing off all of the tiny pieces that combine to make up the color portions.
american flag quilt topI love looking at the light coming through the fabric, before the batting and the back fabric get put on.
american flag quiltNow, I’ve got to decide how to quilt the top. I’m picturing simple, but hand stitched… This is going to take some time, but the end result with be worth it with a very organic, homemade and home grown feel.
red and white top stitchingI did a bit of machine top stitching to hold layers in place, then finished up with an easy running stitch with embroidery floss and pearl cotton thread in coordinating colors. Mostly straight, uneven stitching with an occasional swirl built in for some fun and curvy lines.
am flag top stitch
american flag details
topstitching on american flagI added an occasional embroidered star over the white star blocks with a couching or double running stitch.
flag quilt signature

With a final embroidered signature in the corner on the back, the American flag quilt is finished.
back of flag quilt

Here’s a view of the full back side. I always sew a sleeve for hanging at the top of all of my quilts. A flat, thin piece of wood (or metal, I’m using a yardstick in this picture) cut to the just under the width of the quilt helps the quilt hang straight across the top and keeps the quilt from eventually sagging in the middle like fabric is inclined to do.

Note: A hole is drilled into each side of the pole or stick, close to the ends. Then the holes are placed over nails in the wall to hang it up.

back of quilt

funny things kids say

funny things kids say
I love hearing and telling funny things kids say.  We’ve all heard this line a million times- they grow up so fast- well, nothing could be more true. Like it or not- that’s the way it is. So, let’s remember the goods times, baby pictures and clever lines that come out of the mouths of our babes (because let’s face it my memory is like that of a goldfish) and make sure the words get preserved forever.

Here’s a good one from this week at our house. C was walking around without his shirt on, carrying Pierre the cat.
Rubbing Pierre back and forth across his chest he asked the cat, “Pierre- do you like my body??”

Fast forward a few years and after the release of the newest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, this very same cat and boy combo were found to be cuddling on the floor. I happily watched and listening I overheard C say, “Pierre, you’re my Chewbacca.”

Making a paper mache BB8 droid from Star Wars

BB8 with textA step by step guide on how to make a paper mache BB8 droid from the Star Wars The Force Awakens movie. A fairly simple project to complete. Here’s what you will need:

  1. paper mache- one small half circle, two large half circles
  2. duct tape (and perhaps an ace bandage)
  3. craft paint in white, orange, gray, black, red and blue
  4. toothpick and wooden skewer (shish kabob) stick for antenna
  5. 1 inch thick foam
  6. black Sharpie
  7. glue gun, knife, scissors, paint brushes, blow dryer
    paper mache bowlsWhen we decided to do this project, we were lucky enough to have these paper mache ‘bowls’ on hand from a previous project. The most basic of paper mache shapes, these were made with balloons and would just require a day of paper mache making pre-prep to get ready for the making of the robot.
    cutting a hole in paper mache ballSince we were making a Valentine box we needed a hole for the receiving of Valentines. We decided to make the hole look like one of BB8’s markings. We marked the area with a cup that was the right size and a Sharpie and cut it out with a sharp knife.
    paper mache ballWe placed one side of the paper mache half circle into the other side until it made a nice round circle shape.
    duct taping ball togetherFor lack of a better idea and short on time, we duct taped the two sides together and within each other. We knew that it was still not held together very well, at all. The duct tape didn’t stick well to paper mache so we needed another layer of support, this is where a bit of creative thinking came in handy.
    creative combiningI found an old ace bandage in a drawer, one that we didn’t need again, was still plenty stretchy and even had the velcro swatch for closing and holding the bandage in place.  I pulled the ace bandage as tight as possible over the duct tape, effectively holding the 2 sides together and helping out with the roundness. Then I cut off the excess bandage, just past the velcro closure.
    paper mache ball for BB8 bodyThe body ball of BB8 needed to be painted white but first the surface needed to be smoothed out to hide the ace bandage connection. I used a thick spackling sort of paint we had on hand (usually for creating a crackle looking finish on surfaces) and I painted/blobbed it on as thick as possible with a paintbrush.
    drying paint on BB8Since we were in a hurry, we used a blow dryer to dry the layers of paint as fast as possible. While I was working on the body, my son was painting the head of BB8.

painting BB8 head

He went straight for the white paint on the head since the surface was already smooth and ready to go.  Looking at a picture of BB8’s details he penciled in, then painted on the orange, gray and black markings. He used a cereal bowl to make the circle of orange and gray paint around the head nice and even.

BB8 antennaBB8 has two antenna on top of his head, one slightly larger than the other. We used a toothpick and a wooden shish kebob stick for the antenna. We cut the stick about an inch longer than necessary, then used the sharp knife to poke small holes and put the antennas into place. From the inside of the head we hot glued the sticks into place (see below).
cut foam for headWe decided to attach the head to the body with foam to give it the ‘hovering’ appearance of the real BB8 droid.

cutting foamMark the foam with the actual head for the correct size and shape, then cut the foam with a sharp knife.

glue foam inside BB8 headPut a small bead of hot glue on the edges of the foam and quickly place the foam inside the robot head and allow it to dry.

glued in foamYour finished BB8 head should look like this from the bottom.

painting BB8 bodyWe finished painting the body the same way the head was painted, but by also placing the body ball on a roll of duct tape turned on its side- or any other way you can think to protect your paint job and keep it from rolling away.

where to put the glue onTo attach the head to the body we also used hot glue. We attached the head right at the ace bandage’s lumpiest point so the lump would be hidden from view.
gluing BB8 head onWith a square of hot glue on the body ball, we lightly pressed the head into place and held it for about a minute, until the hot glue set.

painting BB8A Sharpie pen was used to create the smaller lines on BB8’s body.

BB8 back viewThe look at the painting on the back of the body.

BB8 robot from Star Wars