Monday, April 7, 2014

Snack Mat and April Showers

April, 2014, is one week old today, and April showers are in full force, with thunder and lightning in abundance.  One of the things I like best about living in Cincinnati is that we seldom have a day that doesn’t give us sunlight at some point, but today will be the exception, I think.  The temperature is in the mid-50’s, and the grass is green.  Perhaps the rain will bring some early blooms, which often occur in March in this part of the country.   It’s a good day to stay inside and sew!

I recently bought a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2… my first Pfaff purchase.  I’ve always been a Viking woman, and perhaps coming from Minnesota, that was appropriate.  This is my first experience with the Pfaff IDT walking foot system, and I have to say that it is an excellent design!  I have sewn blocks for a couple of quilt tops since I got it a few weeks ago… I had to become familiar with my new toy, after all.  All the while I was sewing the tops, I was thinking about the basket of flimsies I have waiting to be quilted. 

My excursions into the world of machine quilting have been less than thrilling… and I am not being modest!  Now, as I stitched,  I was harboring dreams of becoming a fantastic quilter, able to make the most graceful feathers and perfectly even stitches on my domestic machine, now that I had this beauty at my disposal.  After the 2nd top was finished, I decided to make a snack mat and have a small project to quilt, as my first quilting task with this machine.  I worked out an easy design, inspired by the 10 minute table runners, cut the fabric and batting, and sewed it together.  I was ready to quilt.

 I struggled to attach that little free motion sensormatic foot, which I have to admit is a feat in itself.  I’m no stranger to snap-on feet, and usually they are superbly easy to change, but this one is too small for my little sausage fingers to manipulate easily.  I finally got it attached and lowered the IDT device, securing it to the foot.  I was confident… but just in case, I had ordered a spring-type free motion foot for quilting, if the little sensormatic foot didn’t accomplish the feat. The e-bay seller assured me it would work on my machine.  I adjusted my settings and lowered the feed dogs, put on my quilting gloves, and put my foot on the pedal.  It skipped large areas of stitching, broke thread.  I rethreaded, adjusted the tension and pivot height (this machine thinks of everything!) and tried again with the same result.  Finally I took off the sensormatic free motion foot and installed the spring-type foot.  The only change was that now I was breaking needles, as well.  However, this machine came with a handy tool that makes changing the needle extremely easy.  That was something I hadn’t had occasion to try yet… until now.

The manual didn’t give me many details on settings, etc., for free motion quilting, so I turned to Google for assistance.  Watching a video on this machine, I found out the IDT system is NOT supposed to be engaged for free motion quilting.  I made up another practice “sandwich”, struggled some more to attach the foot AND now the ankle, as well, and was ready to test it.  It worked!  It actually worked!!! 

You can call this a mug rug or a snack mat, or a small quilt… your choice.  I call mine a snack mat, and it's about 9-1/2" square.  Here is how I made mine: 
Cut a background piece 12” square.  The edges will wrap around forming your “binding”.
Cut a contrasting piece 8” square.  This will be in the center of your snack mat.
Cut a piece of scrap batting into a 9” square.

Fold the background and contrasting piece in half to find the center of each piece.  Mark that by pinching the fabric to form a crease or using a pin, if you prefer.  See photo at right.

Centering the contrast piece on the background matching creases on each, right sides together, stitch ¼” seam on both sides. Turn right side out.  You now have a tube, and have about 1” of the background fabric showing on each side of the contrasting piece. See photo below.
Press well, with steam.  Insert the piece of batting into the center, between the two pieces, making sure approximately the same amount of batting shows at the top and bottom of the contrasting piece. 
Fold the corners of the background piece in to meet the batting, forming a small triangle on each corner, as shown in the photo, above right.  Press under ¼” seam allowance on each raw edge.  Fold the two ends down over the center contrasting piece, and they will automatically form neat, mitered corners.  Pin at the corners and center of the edges to secure for sewing. 
If your machine does decorative stitches, you can attach both ends with a decorative stitch… no need to stitch it down separately first.  I used a decorative stitch all the way around, removing pins as I came to them.  After completing the stitching, I returned to a straight stitch and sewed the mitered corners down.

You can use a straight stitch to sew corner to corner, or any way you like, if you don’t want to do free motion quilting.  However, this is a great little project to practice free motion quilting on.  I did not use a pattern for mine; I quilted diagonally across the snack mat, then did a freehand tear drop in each space, and echoed that inside the first one.  I was so carried away, I decided to do 3 teardrops in each corner.  It went well until it started skipping stitches on the last corner.  I do not know what went wrong… but for 5 minutes, my stitches were even, whether I sewed slow or fast, or moved the fabric slow or fast.  This machine really DOES make a difference!  Or there was an angel on my shoulder guiding the whole process, and perhaps she gave up when I got to the last corner! 
Friends Sandra and Priss have the same machine I bought… and it is going to be fun exchanging ideas and tips with them.  Priss and I got our machines the same day, and we were burning the phone lines between Minnesota and Ohio, as we encountered problems that were operator error-related, or discovered new things we could do with our new machine.  I'll make a few more snack mats and then I will graduate to quilting actual quilt!  Life is good, even if it is gloomy outside!


  1. very cool! But who has time to quilt? Doreen

  2. Love your projects! Thank you and keep sharing. :)

  3. very nice alaena!!! great job

  4. This is the easiest mugrug/snackmat on all the internet! I have always wanted to make some as gifts, but it just seemed too much work what with binding and all ....but with your technique it is DO-able! I am inspired! Thank you!