Category Archives: projects

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

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

corrugated metal fence update

fancy metal fenceMy corrugated metal fence update- the fence is now in it’s 3rd year and I like the way it’s aging over time. The patina of the corrugated steel darkens and changes bit by bit every day and I’m enjoying watching the weathering process.

ceiling tiles on fenceThe two wide gates to the side yard are so heavy and awkward to move, we needed a solution to high daily foot traffic without having to leave the gate(s) constantly open and sagging (due to the slope in the driveway) and also a solution without the wear and tear of constantly being pushed and shoved opened and closed. So we came up with the Euro-gate solution. I’ve seen many large gates with a tiny door for daily passage all over Europe and decide this was the answer to our problem.  It works well with the patchwork look of the fence. My plan is to weld a rectangle tiny door to fit the opening that would essentially be invisible when it was closed. Since we don’t have any animals to keep in right now, the tiny door has fallen to the bottom of my list of things-to-do. Soon though.

flag stone pathThe view of the gate from the backyard, looking through the side yard to the back of the gate. I put this pathway in in the spring and the ‘stepable’ plants we put in the cracks are filling in nicely. That process- building the flagstone pathway- in another post coming soon. The shipping container will also have French doors where the flagstones come up like a patio area.

tin ceiling tiles in fenceThe inside view of the gates. After getting ripped apart in a microburst in their first year, I rebuilt and reinforced the gate panels with these metal beams based on a suggestion of a very wise friend. The gates are so much more stable now and not likely to sag or get blown away. Another key element to restricting movement of these gates, that act like sails in the wind, are the pins going down into the concrete that hold the gates in place in the center. Absolutely essential.

rust on metal fenceThe tin ceiling tiles rust very easily so anywhere the paint was thin or in some way been scraped off  has been rapidly encroached upon by rust.

corrugated metal fenceRust details on the front side of the fence. This is 3 years worth of rust. This part of the fence isn’t hit by a sprinkler but it does get pelted every time it rains which explains why the rust is more pronounced at the bottom of each panel.

ceiling tile fenceThe garden side of the house and much smaller gate. As you can see the areas that are hit by the sprinkler or rain, are much rustier than the panels closer to the house. This gate was much easier to build, open and close and maintain. I never intended to leave to 2×4 across the top of the gate area, but the post on the right side of the gate is twisting and warping, and it became necessary to leave it to slow the unfortunate movement of the 4×4 post and hold things square.

flagstone patioThe back three sides of the fence around the yard are straight corrugated metal. It is aging comfortably with a beautiful patina. I love all looks and every stage. We finally got the pergola put in in early spring. It was a kit that we had to paint ourselves and piece together lego style. Once the footings were installed, a process I find stressful, it was an overall easy project. I carried over the flagstone look to this side of the yard also.

backyard pergola, metal fencePerennials, plants and trees are growing and filling in into the look I have been anticipating and looking forward to for so long.

corrugated metal fence2We found this outdoor seating on KSl classifieds, a local market for used everything, for a great price and had some wonderful summer moments and parties under the pergola in our newest ‘room’.

Note: When we were digging the trenches for the sprinkler system, we laid electrical line alongside the pipes and ran wiring to the pergola area for easy, invisible electricity.


corrugated metal fenceThe whole backyard is relatively small and cozy (only 1/4 of an acre) but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Just enough to have to take care of, and big enough for a party.

shipping container in backyardThe shipping container is next. We found some perfectly good, durable doors and windows at Habitat for Humanity in Park City that had been pulled out of another house, I’m assuming for a remodel, that are all ready to be installed when the time comes- hopefully soon!

For a look at the making of this corrugated metal fence DIY click here.

For a look at the fence after 1 year look here.