Monthly Archives: November, 2013

Off to New York – woohoo!!!

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Thanksgiving Squirrel Placemats Tutorial

In 6 days, RR and I are off to New York. We’ll be spending Thanksgiving with friends, visiting old haunts out on Long Island and then spending 5 days in the city for some sightseeing and shopping. I’ve not been back for 18 months, so to say I’m excited would be a bit of an understatement!

Now, I may be English, and we Brits don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but since our time living in the USA it has been my favourite holiday. It’s a chance to spend some quality time with friends and family, enjoy good things to eat, and take a moment to pause and reflect before the craziness of the holiday season descends upon us. To me, it’s like Christmas without all the stress and hassle. I love it! So we’re really looking forward to spending Thanksgiving this year with our dear friends Mr and Ms S, and their lovely kiddos, Master C and Miss S.

In preparation for Thanksgiving 2013, I have been making Mr and Ms S some special placemats. Some special squirrel placemats. Red squirrel placemats, in fact. Oh yes!

Why squirrels, you may ask?

Well, for years now we have been engaged in on-going banter with Mr and Ms S about the superiority of our beautiful British Red Squirrels over the American Grey. Never a chance is missed to remind them of the evils that befell our beautiful native reds after the arrival on British soil of their dastardly American cousins. The near-wholesale annihilation of our lovely ickle Nutkins, pushed to the fringes of the UK by the big, bad greys, who now spend their days scampering round parks in gangs and trying to steal sandwiches from innocent picnickers…

But I digress. I have been making squirrel placemats. And while the internet is probably awash with tutorials showing you how to make placemats, I was rather pleased with the ones I have made and thought it might be fun to share.

So, without further ado, here is how to make my official 2013 Thanksgiving Squirrel Placemat…

To make 6 placemats, 12″ x 9″ finished size, you’ll need the following:

  • Squirrel fabric (I used this one from Tula Pink’s The Birds and the Bees collection) – ½ yard or so – it’s hard to be exact because it depends how many squirrel repeats you get on your fabric cut, but ½ yard should be plenty.
  • Matching border fabric (I used Tangier Ikat Orange Diamonds by Dena Designs) – 12″.
  • Backing fabric (a pink Bella solid which was lurking in my stash) – 19″
  • Batting and spray glue, or fusible fleece – I just used batting remnants, but it would probably be easier with fusible fleece if you have any.

Here are my fabrics:



  • Cut 6 rectangles from your squirrel fabric, each measuring 9 ½” x 6 ½”. I fussy-cut mine so I got a pair of squirrels in the centre of each placemat. Like this… It looks like they’re having a good old natter, doesn’t it?!


  • Cut 6 x 2” strips from your border fabric; sub-cut each of these strips into 4 rectangles measuring 9 ½” x 2”
  • Cut 2 x 9 ½” strips from your backing fabric; sub-cut both of these strips into 6 rectangles measuring 12 ½” x 9 ½”
  • Cut 6 rectangles from your batting or fusible fleece, each measuring 12” x 9”

Sew your placemats

Start off by sewing a border strip to the bottom and top of each fussy cut squirrel rectangle, using a ¼” seam. Pin if you like; personally, I’m too lazy, I just line it up as I go 🙂

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Press towards the border fabric. The mat should now measure 9 ½” x 9 ½”.

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Now sew the side borders on, again with a ¼” seam, and again press towards the border fabric. The placemat top is now finished, and should measure 12 ½” x 9 ½”. Square up if necessary.

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Make the quilt sandwich

Put your placemat top, wrong side up, onto a cleanable surface, and spray lightly with basting glue (I used the kitchen floor…) On top of this, centre your batting rectangle. There should be a ¼” around the edge of the placemat that isn’t covered by batting.

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(If you’re using fusible fleece, centre this on the wrong side of the placemat as above and iron in place as per the product instructions.)

Then, put the placemat top and batting/fleece right sides together with a rectangle of backing fabric. Pin in place.

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Sew around the edge of the placemat with a ¼” seam allowance, leaving a 4” gap at the bottom, so you can turn it right sides out. I marked this with red pins so I wouldn’t forget! Backstitch at the start and the end of your sewing line.

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Clip across all four corners diagonally, being really careful not to cut your stitches. This is to reduce bulk in the corners when you turn your placemat right side out.


Finish your placemats

Pull the placemat through the gap you’ve left so it’s now right side out. Using a knitting needle or something similar, push out the corners so they’re nice and pointy.


Turn in the raw edges of the gap on your placemat ¼”. Press the placemat well.

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Top stitch all the way round the edge of the placemat, about 1/8” in. This will close your turning gap without you having to hand-stitch it closed. I use a stitch length of 2.7 for this.

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Then quilt the rest of the mat however you like. I topstitched the other side of the border, then I echo quilted the squirrel shapes at ½” intervals, because I really wanted them to stand out. But it occurred to me that this would be a great time to practice free motion quilting…


Et voilà! Squirrel placemats finished! Happy early Thanksgiving, everyone!!!!

Linking up, as ever, to Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday

Drat you, Mother!

For the past couple of years, Mum has been hinting that she’d love me to make her a quilt. It started quite subtly, but, as time has gone by, it’s become increasingly pointed, until even Mad Aunty Jean started hinting on Mum’s behalf. So I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve been stalling her. I actually bought the fabric for the quilt I want to make her 3 1/2 years ago, on my last fabric-shopping binge before moving to Switzerland, but for one reason or another I’d never got round to making the blasted thing. It was going to be all purples and whites to match her pretty, pale lavender-coloured bedroom. It was going to be lovely.


Well, about a month or so ago, I decided that I really ought to get on and make the damned quilt. I’d been putting it off again and again, and to tell the truth I was feeling bad that I’d made quilts for so many other people and not yet for Mum. So I got all the fabric out, washed, dried and ironed it, and decided that this was going to be my next big project. In fact, I was all ready to get cutting this weekend. I was even hoping it might be ready in time for Mother’s Day next year. For a while I felt the warm, fuzzy glow of being a Good Daughter – something that, sadly, doesn’t happen often.

It didn’t last long.

This afternoon I spoke to Mum to let her know that her Christmas present was on its way. As usual, 90% of the conversation revolved around her dogs. But in between learning all about the imminent arrival of Barley’s puppies, where she’s putting the whelping box, what a good girl Anna is etc., she just happened to drop the bombshell that she’s redecorated her bedroom. It is no longer lavender-coloured. It’s now raspberry-red and cream. And to be honest, from the way she described it, I really don’t think that the fabrics in my original quilt will go.

Drat you, Mother!

So what to do? Will Mum be getting the original purple, lilac and white quilt which will no longer match her newly decorated bedroom? Will I be raiding my stash to find alternative fabric? Or is it back to the drawing board and a possible fabric spree when we’re in NY for Thanksgiving?

Sorry, Mum, I may have had good intentions for once,  but it looks like you’ll be waiting a bit longer now to get your long-desired quilt…

WIP Wednesday

Sadly not much to report this week, despite all my good intentions.

I finished putting together the quilt top for the Broken Herringbone quilt along – I absolutely love it! It makes me think of beautiful, vibrant stained glass windows, and it was an absolute joy to piece. I’m still trying to decide how to quilt it, though. Any ideas?

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Then I fixed the zip on mum’s bag and made a couple of little extras with the remaining fabric – a mini make-up bag, and a glasses case. I think she’ll like it – well, I hope she will, anyway.

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These gifts are currently winging their way mum-wards, courtesy of my lovely friend Chris who has taken them back to the UK with her to post -this is going to save me a small fortune in stamps, so thanks, Chris! I can hardly believe that it’s only mid-November and I’ve already finished one Christmas present – get me, super-organised Pusscat!

I also finished my summery polka dot top – I took it in a few inches at the sides, covered the buttons with the darker turquoise fabric I’d used on the shoulders and added some more as a contrast ruffle hem using my Extremely Complicated New Ruffler Attachment. I thought it was super-cute until RR said it makes me look like a waitress in a 1950s diner. And the sad thing is, he may well have a point there 😦 Hmmmm. I do still like it, though, and I’m already dreaming up new ruffler-related projects…

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I’m now planning my next dressmaking project too – a simple tunic dress, made from a gloriously soft pink corduroy, which I’ll wear with long sleeved t shirts over the winter. RR remains unconvinced, as he thinks the fabric “looks like something your nan might cover chairs with”. He has a way with words, that one…

And whilst I worked on these projects, one of my little helpers deserted me. Mr Boy, who usually likes to chill out with me in my sewing room, has instead been helping RR re-configure the Lego Death Star after Master I’s visit. It had temporarily turned into Jurassic Death star, with the addition of bits of Lego T-Rex to make it super-fierce, but now it’s just back to being a moon-sized Imperial battlestation, soon to be destroyed by Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance…


Anyway, hopefully more will be going on next week – I’m planning to finish off my Kitty Camouflage quilt top, get started on a quilt for baby Daniel, and make some placemats to take to our friends in NY for Thanksgiving.

All the things I was going to work on this week, in fact.

Hmmmm, better get a shift on, then…..

Linking up to WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced – pop on over and see what other people have been up to 🙂