Christmas Mug Rug

Even though it's already the 4th, I still feel like it's a little early for the Christmas posts, but I'm going to jump right in because I found the cutest fabric at my local store, Stitches. I just want to take a moment here to say that this is one of my all time favorite fabric/craft stores; Amy and her team are awesome. They have a great selection of offbeat fabrics, super cute fat quarter bundles, a nice selection of Cascade yarns (local for us Seattleites), and various other odds and ends. Everyone who works there is very nice and really knowledgeable and always excited to hear about your latest project. If you live in the Seattle area (or are visiting!), it is well worth the trip! So, I went into Stitches a few days ago to find some drapery lining. They didn't have exactly what I was looking for, but I walked out with a fat quarter bundle of some Christmas fabric. I think you'll all agree that it was just not possible to resist.

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I mean, come on. I want to make all the things out of these! The first project, though, was a mug rug. As I mentioned before, I joined the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild recently, and on Saturday we're having a holiday party sew in. We're doing a little holiday gift swap, and the guidelines were to make something small like a pincushion or mug rug, or bring a sewing notion worth about $10. My back has been acting up and I haven't been able to sit at my machine, so I was going to just go get a notion, but...then I saw this nutcracker pattern (that and a shot that fixed that back pain right up!) and it inspired a bit of fussy cutting to highlight these cuties.

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I've also been wanting to try a quilting technique that's been on a couple of blogs that I follow recently: the press'n seal method. This basically involves using Glad Press'n Seal (it has to be that kind, regular Saran Wrap will not work) on top of the quilt, then drawing your designs and using them as a template as you quilt. I was really intrigued by this because a few months ago I had a near disaster when I marked a design on one of my quilt tops, and even though I'd used a washable quilting marker, it didn't come out when I washed it. I finally got it out (with Woolite pet stain remover, of all things), but it took a long time and caused a lot of stress. Ever since then I've been really hesitant to trace anything directly on the quilt top, which I think has been holding back my free motioning. This was a good opportunity to try it out on a smaller project, where it was a little less unwieldy than a larger item. Once I had my sandwich, I pressed some of the wrap on top (this is really easy, it clings really nicely without being sticky) and then traced some stars, using a cookie cutter as a template, on top of the wrap.

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Now, obviously I could have been a lot neater about tracing the stars, but in general this method is amazing! The lines were nice and dark and easy to follow, and then when I was done, it just tore off, although I will say that it's a bit more of a challenge to tear off than paper. I did learn not to use black permanent marker; the white thread picked up a bit of the darker ink while I was quilting. It wasn't a huge deal and washed out for the most part, but I wouldn't want to deal with it in a quilt that I made for someone. Other than that, I loved it and will definitely use this method again, especially for more intricate designs.

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I also used Aurifil thread for the first time. I know, I'm so behind on this one, but I've always sort of thought that no one was looking at the thread. As long as it did it's job (sewing layers together) and didn't make my machine go crazy, I didn't really give it much consideration. I've used cotton quilting thread for the last couple of years (my machine hates any kind of poly thread for whatever reason) and it's worked just fine. Aurifil has been all over the quilting universe though, so I thought I'd try it and see what the fuss was about.

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Guys, I'm converted. I went with the 50 weight in natural white, since white is really versatile. It's a lot thinner than the thread I had been using, so considerably more fit on the bobbin, which is a huge advantage when quilting, and it's so smooth! The stitches look beautiful. I will absolutely continue to use it - now I just need to get more colors! The only downside is that it's a lot more expensive than other threads, and it's hard to find in stores in my area. I would say that the quality is well worth the extra money and effort though, so I'll stock up when we have a bit extra and are ordering things from Amazon anyway. It seems like one spool will last a while, too, just based on today's project.

I used the gingerbread house fabric for the back and machine bound it (since it was teeny and I need to practice) in some red binding that I had in my scraps drawer, to match those stripes and swirls. I love the way that the quilting turned out.

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I'm still not happy with my machine binding, and I may actually take the stitches out and hand bind it if I have time. I just never seem to be able to get those stitches straight and I really prefer an invisible finish. I think it's pretty cute overall though, and since this one is going to be swapped, I'm thinking I'll make a couple more for our house!