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Final Project 2013

On the spur of the moment I decided to take on a last-minute December sewing project, making gifts for some of the near and dear on my Christmas list.

It started when I took up the offer presented by Maria Shell, who was giving away patterns for her Artful Oven Mitts. She has made a slew of them and they are really fun and funky looking.

Oven Mitts final batch blog

These have all the qualities of a great gift – they are artful and functional, hand made with love and care, and you don’t have to go to the mall!

Maria is still giving away patterns if you’re interested in making some yourself. The pattern comes with well written instructions; in addition Maria has a good tutorial on her blog so I won’t spell out instructions here.

I will show you a couple of things I did slightly differently and offer a few suggestions gleaned from my experience in stitching these.

First of all, don’t make a dumb math mistake like I did. I had nine people on my gift list. So I prepared enough fabric for 18 mitt sides. Quilted everything up and started cutting out the mitts. I assembled some mitts and then came my DOH! moment (similar to an A-HA! moment, except for dumb stuff).

See, I wanted to give pairs of mitts. And 18 mitt sides makes 9 mitts, which equals 4 ½ pairs.

Most people have two hands. Fortunately, everyone on my list has two hands. And giving just one mitt to a person seems inadequate. They need to have a pair of mitts.

I am neither math challenged nor math averse, yet for some reason I kept having trouble visualizing and planning how many pieces I needed for each one gift. So….. do your math properly!

4 pieces (2 left and 2 right) = 2 mitts = ONE PAIR!

My list was quickly shortened, because as I mentioned, I started this all at the last minute. I’m sorry if you didn’t make the cut. Really, I am. I meant well.

ONWARD! .......

I love the patchwork mitts, but you can also make them with whole cloth. I made some with these fun retro prints. One upside to the whole cloth is that they’re a little easier to turn right side out.

           Oven Mitts 50s kitchen blog  Oven Mitts retro housework blog


Maria’s pattern has a very squared-off thumb crotch. I modified my pattern and rounded off the thumb crotch. I found it easier to turn and I like the line better.

Oven Mitts squared crotch blog  Oven Mitts rounded blog


Stay stitch the edge inside the cutting line before cutting out the mitts.

Oven Mitts staystich edges blog


With a laundry marker I drew laundering instruction symbols on one side of each mitt. Mark it enough distance from the edge that the binding doesn’t cover it, about 5/8” up.

Oven Mitts laundry symbols blog

Although the instructions do not call for it, I finished my seams with an overcast edge. I used a simple zigzag stitch to finish the seams. If you have a serger now would be a good time to use it.

Also – I did not use pins. I rarely use pins when sewing. By the time you layer and quilt the fabric it is sturdy and stiff enough that you can simply lay the 2 mitt sides (right sides) together and seam them. A walking foot or dual-feed is good for this. Use a ¼” seam.

Speaking of layers, I added an extra layer of low loft cotton batting to the insulating Insul-Bright layer. Maria’s instructions do not include the cotton batt, but the Insul-Bright package recommends it, so I used it.

Referencing Maria’s pattern/instructions for the hanging tab: I cut and stitch one long piece for the tabs and cut the 5” lengths from this.

For the edge binding: use Maria’s pattern – cut exactly and use an exact ¼” seam to join the ends. Once again – I do not use pins to attach the binding. Hopefully for this step you have a free arm, or what I call a sleeve arm, on your sewing machine. Set the binding inside the mitt, right sides together, place around the free arm and start stitching with a 3/8" seam. TRUST that the binding is going to fit! It will appear too big/long, but it is not. It fits exactly and as you go around the edge and turn it on the free arm, what looks like excess binding is going to ease in to a perfect fit. Trust it.


Turning these things right side out is a bitch! The whole cloth mitts turn more easily than the patchwork mitts with their multiple seams and, at least in my case, heavier home décor fabrics. Turn over a “cuff” first and go from there. I found that kind of rolling them out from the heavy side seams worked well. Turn the larger “hand” part first, then the thumb. Maria uses a screw driver to help poke out the thumb. I was reluctant to do that and managed it with my fingers.

Oven Mitts turn cuff blog


Expect a lot of waste after cutting out the mitts. I am typically a saver of every scrap and this is hard for me. Now that the fabric is layered and quilted I’m not sure I can use the excess for something else. Then again, I might just find a way! Or, I might just have to throw it away. It’s too bad so much gets cut away, but it is necessary. Oh, well ……

Scraps from cutting mitts blog

I really enjoyed making and gifting these Artful Oven Mitts. I even made a pair for myself. Maria sells them at a gallery near her and they are priced at $60. each – yes, each, as in per mitt. Considering the materials and time that go into them I agree with her pricing and think it is totally fair. That said, I’m not convinced most people will pay $60. for one oven mitt, even as cool and beautiful as they are. So for me they will be made as a labor of love and gifted to those who will appreciate them.

As for how well they work? Well, no one has broken down and used them yet! Including me.  I actually mended and washed my crappy old oven mitts to avoid messing up my new Artful Oven Mitts! But I will use them one day soon, I promise.

Remember, you can get a free pattern from Maria to make your own mitts. She is aiming to give away 100 patterns. (Scroll down to the bottom of her post to see how to request a pattern.)


Until next time -



P.S. I'm linking up over at Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays". Why not click on over to see how others are wrapping up 2013 and diving into 2014!

Oh, What a Tangled Web I Weave

It’s hard to blog very often if 1.) you are working on a top-secret project that you’re not supposed to really show too much of, 2.) you aren’t working on much of anything, 3.) you get too sick to get out of bed, much less get into the studio or to the computer, or 4.) you can’t make a decision on what comes next.


Work on SAQA’s Radical Elements feels like the Lost Weekend, except it was more like two months. We aren’t supposed to show anything more than snippets of our work until the show opens, which isn’t until April 2014. That piece was shipped off to SAQA at the end of September and it almost feels like something I never did, a black hole. I’m hoping my excitement for that project gets rekindled once the whole show premiers in April.

Winter Nest Hilltop 2013 blogWinter Nest, 5" x 7" framed to 8" x 10"  ©2013 Martha C. Hall
his small textile collage sold at Hilltop. Click image to enlarge.

I did have work in the local Hilltop School Exhibit and Sale last weekend. Those were my smaller, framed Birds & Nests textile collages and also a selection of Birthstone Jewels. Two of the pieces sold, which made me happy. Of course, more sales would have been better! But I do enjoy participating in the Hilltop Show and having some kind of art out in the world provides a bright note.


In the midst of all that I got laid low by what I guess was a common cold, except it felt much worse than “common”. Two solid weeks of basically doing nothing except lying in my recliner, reading, coughing, aching, sleeping, and trying to feel better.

Being sick did a real number on my artist’s head. I felt ready to throw in the towel. Not only could I not work on anything, I started thinking that I’d give it all up for good. I’m pretty sure that was my sickly, addled mind at work. Many artists know the feeling in the best of times of “why am I even doing this?” and “what’s the point?” and “everything I make is crap” etc. etc. etc. Combine that with a miserable feeling body and no motivation and the whole thing devolves into total negativity.


Though I wasn’t making art, that didn’t stop me from thinking. So I guess I could blog about my thought process when I don’t have work in progress to show. I’ve been thinking about my next steps in art making. I have too many ideas and get distracted by the notion of doing it all. But that goes against the advice of creating a “style” or a “body of work”. I fight that advice all the time even though I know it’s right. At least it’s “right” if you really want to progress in the quilt art world.

So I have to pick one path to follow, at least for now. Mark says, “finish that blue one that’s up on the design wall”. I abandoned it about six months ago, probably for some other grand idea. The work is about a third to half done and it’s probably worthy of completion. Then there’s a whole list of ideas for my credit card quilts. Oh! and then! another idea came to me. So I started puttering around with that. And I’m not really sure if it’s a good idea or a dorky idea, but there is something about it that appeals to me.


On top of all that the thought of moving house is coming to a crescendo. We’ve talked about it ad nauseum. Probably no one even believes us anymore. But everything I do lately is backed by some ulterior motive of selling our big house and downsizing. Today I went and bought paint samples. Whew! Talk about distractions! I know from doing a big move 16 years ago what a time consuming process it is. And at that time we were moving bigger and I didn’t have to unload half our belongings. Now I just look around me a wonder what I’m going to do with all this “stuff”.

These are all the thoughts my mind is spinning into a tangled web. And it leaves me confused and unproductive. I know about the advice to narrow my focus in order to accomplish more and better work. Setting limits can free you to be more productive. I’m beginning to accept that advice and leaning toward my work of choice. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the credit cards……

Maybe after I finish that blue quilt ……. Or paint the powder room…….

Yours, in Indecision –

P.S. I'm feeling much better now. Thanks for asking!

Building a Bird

Here is a basic "time lapse" of my process for constucting a textile collage.

Goldfinch process 1

Select fabrics, cut randomly, and lay in a background 

Goldfinch process 2

 The main color blocks of the bird are fused onto parchment. Previewing the placement of bird onto background.

Goldfinch process 3

 Overlay of tracing paper to sketch in the tree.

Goldfinch process 4

 I've committed to the background and fused it down. Previewing the tree placement.

Goldfinch process 5

I pulled away some of the green at the center so it won't show through the bird later. 

Goldfinch process 6

 Quilt the background layer.

Goldfinch process 7

More quilting, with rusty/orange thread.

Goldfinch process 8

 Lay in the tree again.

Goldfinch process 9

 Check the tree placement with the bird.

Goldfinch process 10

 Fuse and quilt the tree.

Goldfinch process 11

 Tree needs foliage. Looked out the window at the autumn colors for inspiration.

Goldfinch process 12

 Goldfinch is ready to perch and stitching is started.

Goldfinch process 13

Another branch is needed in the upper right. Can you see the difference? 

Goldfinch process 14

 Continue stitching on bird including a little sparkle in his eye.

Goldfinch process 15

Satin stitch edging to finish. Click on final picture to enlarge and see details.

And that is how I build a bird!

Until next time --

More Deadlines?

I’ve been so immersed in making work and meeting deadlines I forgot I have a blog!

I finally finished the Radical Elements piece and shipped it off to SAQA. We’re not allowed to show the complete work until after the show opens (next April!) so here is a peek at a detail. (If you go to the link you can read details about the concept of the Radical Elements exhibit.)

Hall Chloros detail blog

My element is chlorine and my piece is titled “Chloros”.

Because Chloros can’t be folded or rolled I made a custom travel case for it. I could have at least shown you my awesome travel bag, but in my haste to ship I completely forgot to take any pictures of it – dang!

I keep telling myself I’m going to stop pressuring myself with deadlines. So of course while in the thick of Chloros work I committed to another show.

Next up is the Hilltop Art Exhibition and Sale. I’m not feeling terribly pressured about this show because I have completed work ready to go. I did want to add some new inventory though, so I’ve been making a few new Birds & Nests the past two weeks.

Here’s one of them . . . . .

Winter Nest Hilltop 2013 blogWinter Nest  5" x 7" textile collage  © 2013 Martha C. Hall


Until next time –

By The Numbers

I’m still working on my Radical Elements piece.

I laid out all the cut up pieces of credit cards and now I’m “stitching” them together with wire. Very much like a scrappy patchwork quilt only not fabric and thread.

As with hand piecing and quilting it is a time intensive process. Because I’m working with a deadline I’m keeping track of my studio hours so I can gauge how long this will take me. (Actually, I keep track of my studio hours on every project – helps me with pricing, time spent, etc.)

As soon as I started “stitching” this I thought, “Oh, crap! This is going to take forever!”  The reality is, there are a finite number of pieces to be joined together, which means it absolutely can get done. I just want to have an idea of how long it will take so I can sleep a little easier.

I marked my board into thirds so I have benchmaks along the way. It's a little easier to envision reaching the pink arrows than all the way down to the blue arrows!

By the Numbers blog
ink arrows - a third of the way there          Blue arrows - the end in sight

Here’s how it looks By The Numbers, 1/3 of the way so far . . . . .


Total Hours spent            25

# of days worked             6 out of the last 8

Average work day           4 hours 10 minutes

Longest studio day          6 hours 30 minutes

Shortest studio day         2 hours 40 minutes

# of 18” strands of wire (standard cut)      32

Feet of wire used               48 feet

Square Inches complete    264 sq. in.

Average time to determine stitch path, drill holes for wire, and stitch an 18” piece of wire   45 minutes


Twenty five hours in the studio is a productive work week for me. So, I figure two more weeks to get this entire thing pieced together and that doesn’t include constructing the additional layers that are going to be part of it. And somewhere in the middle of that I’m throwing a birthday bash for my old man who turned 60 this month!!

Slow and steady . . . . .

Until next time -

Addendum: I'm linking this post up to Nina Marie's "Off The Wall Fridays"  Check out what all the other artists are up to this week. I know they all love comments, too.  smile

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