Applique and zippers, oh my!

Before Thanksgiving, my students made hot pads.  Some people call these pot holders, but to my mind, those have handles or cuffs where you put your hands.  These were more like trivets.  We used one piece of regular 100% cotton quilt batting as well as a special kind, called Insul-Bright, that absorbs the heat and keeps fingers and tables safe.  Several bloggers show making pot holders without the extra precaution, but I prefer to play it safe and keep our final goods usable and long-lasting.  While easy and fun, this project built on our previous skills and added in a few new ones.  I taught them how to make a 4-patch and despite initial grumbling, most students jumped on board and elected to do a 4-patch on both sides of their hot pads.  I am learning that sometimes having two fifth graders can make the younger students step up their game.  As usual, I forgot to take photos until the very end, so here are only two students showing their work.

Hot pads for Thanksgiving

This week we jumped from hot pads to sewing with zippers!  Yes, I’m a little crazy to attempt zippers with 1st graders! I do like to change projects frequently though to avoid boredom.   I know the kids are always asking about the many different stitches on the sewing machine.  This week, I decided to give them a chance to use a different stitch.  We are incorporating applique along with our zipper pouch projects.  This made it feel special, even to students who made one last year.  Thankfully, several girls were wearing shirts that had applique designs, albeit with sequins, so I was able to show practical uses of this technique.  This was my first time teaching applique to these kids and they loved it!  They felt inspired with so many novelty fabrics to choose from.  The cupcakes continue to be a big hit, but we also had  donuts, princesses, puppies, unicorns and lots of other fun stuff.

I explained how to use interfacing on the back of the applique patch.  Most students did fine with this, but my iron did get tacky from one 1st grader ironing the wrong side of the interfacing.  I only caught the mistake after he had melted some glue onto the iron.  No big deal, but I did review the right and wrong side to iron.  Staying on the edge of the patch being sewn was a bit of a challenge for most students.  However, the free-form stitches are charming and adorable in my opinion.  We have practiced free stitching and that seems to be the style everyone loves the most.  I think that getting to use a different stitch on the machine was a wonderful addition to this project.  The more aspects of the sewing machine we learn, the better.

I like how one first grade boy alerted me to his broken needle by saying, “the machine just screamed at me!” I assured him that a broken needle is scary, but common, when sewing with zippers.  I guess I could have mentioned that ahead of time, but eventually we all found out the hard way as more needles broke.  I explained that needles also get dull and that it was time for us to change them anyways.  We then had several older students get excited as they changed needles on all 3 of our machines.  These same boys are now great at making bobbins as well as rethreading the machines.  I’ll have them repairing machines in no time!!

I am trying to keep the students slow and steady as they do this zippered project.  It requires more precision than our previous projects, but it seems everyone is always impatient and eager to go as fast as possible.  They make things into a competition and I constantly have to remind everyone that we all end up with a finished project eventually.  I hope to have our zippered bags finished in a week or two, but for now…you can see some of the applique work in progress.

Student Applique Work in Progress

My own sewing has slowed down a bit as my Baby Lock machine is in for a tune-up.  It is always hard to let it go for a few weeks while it’s being serviced.  I have been using my back up Janome machine, which is in need of repair itself.  I plan to swap out the big machine for my back up when the Babylock is ready.  Meanwhile, here are some blocks I’ve been working on for (CIL) Covered In Love.  If you don’t know this her charity, click the name and you’ll learn more!  The quilts go to chaplains, nurses and others to give out to patients and families who are dealing with end of life situations in the hospital.   During these difficult times, the simple act of a quilt can have an incredible on everyone involved.  Each month Kat, who runs the charity, requests a certain block design and colors that are to be used.  I adore her amazing work and feel so privileged to be a regular participant of her charity.

The November/December CIL request was for a design she is calling Patchwork Surprise. The blocks are simple 9-patches  with a mix of pieced and solid squares.   Kat asked for reproduction, “almost muted” fabrics, which are not my usual thing.  It turns out that I was able to dip into fabrics that I haven’t used much.  I went back to the box of fabrics donated by Beverly and voila, here they are being put to good use again.  Kat has a great way of changing up classic block designs as she’s done again with a nine patch and some fun add-ins.  I admit to enjoying these blocks more than I initially thought I would.  I think it’s fun to attempt new things and to use color schemes that are out of my comfort zone.  So here are my blocks for November/December.

Covered In Love Nov/Dec Blocks 

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I had fun with some paper piecing favorites like the bird, a house and heart.


An unhappy Annie because I shooed her away from her favorite activity, digging to China.  Why does she always have to pick a spot where I am literally standing at the time!???

In addition to paper piecing, I did some strip blocks, four patches and tried out some modern slice and dice designs.  That’s all for today.  I can’t wait to get these in the mail and have them on their way.




4 responses to “Applique and zippers, oh my!

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