As I sat in my studio the other day thinking about my projects for this week, I kept looking at the winter wonderland outside.So, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk down my driveway. I live in the forest which provides ample photo ops no matter the season. Growing up on the prairies I saw many snow storms, but nothing like the sudden squalls of the eastern snow belt that leave everything looking fresh and white. I decided that I should be sewing a snowflake mug rug in a winter palette!
What is a mug rug?
It’s a small quilt ranging in size from 4″ x 7″ to 8″ x 12″ inches. It can be square or rectangle. The purpose of a mug rug is to hold your cup of coffee/tea, but also a plate with a little tasty treat. Speaking of treats, Christmas is just around the corner and my first project this week was finishing up a holiday table runner.
To begin, I gathered up a few pieces of fabric that coordinated – these hues are very cool looking – the steel blues of winter. They also have a gray look to them which means they have had a tone added. Toning a fabric is when gray has been added to the pure hue.
For the background, I chose a lighter valued fabric so the applique will stand out. This fabric has had a tint added to the pure hue, which means white has been added to create a lighter value of the pure hue.
The darkest fabric is a shade. A shade is when black is added to the pure hue to create a darker valued fabric.
Sewing the pieces together
The best way to build a checkerboard design is to sew strips together. Then, cut those strips into strips and then sew them into one piece of fabric.
From the 3 darker print fabrics, I cut 8 strips, each 1½″ x 10″. Then, I cut the same sized strips from the other fabrics — 2 from the dark blue stripe, 2 from the swirls and 4 from the fabric that looks like the cracks in frozen ice.
I started sewing the strips into pairs on the Pfaff Ambition 1.0. Then, I sewed the pairs into sets of 4. This is what is called a strip set, which speeds up the piecing process when small squares are needed. Not to mention it makes everything a lot more accurate!
Once the strip sets were made, I cut them into 1½″ x 4½″ rectangles. Eight are required in total for my project as it is going to be 8″ x 12″ when finished.
Sewing the pieces together and achieving perfect seams is a breeze when the IDT system is engaged. Prior to sewing, make sure that the seams have been pressed in opposite directions on the two pieces being sewn together. This will ensure that the seams butt up against each other when sewing.
The IDT system allows for an even feed of the pieces over the feed dogs and under the quarter inch foot. The IDT system also prevents shifting of pieces when sewing because, with the even feed, perfectly matched seams are achieved.
Which quarter inch foot should you use? With or without the guide? Either will work just fine for this job as they are both compatible with the IDT system.
With the checkerboard now made, I cut an 8½″ square of the light background fabric to sew to the checkerboard to create the full mug rug. The size of the mug rug is approximately 8″ x 12″. Perfect for holding a mug and a plate of yummy treats!
The snowflake motif
I collected snowflakes in various sizes and shapes for my mug rug. I even made one from paper like I did when I was a kid — it didn’t turn out so well! There are many places to collect snowflake designs. Try: coloring books, cookie cutters, gift bags, and the glyphs in your office software on your computer.
It would be really cool if we could use the actual snowflakes that fall from the sky. I am sure their designs are fantastic, but, possibly, a bit too intricate. It’s hard to find out without a high powered microscope! I love the big, huge flakes that fall, especially at Christmas, because they make everything look so magical.
The snowflake design I chose is one I used in my Santa Sac designs. I enlarged it for this project.
My favorite form of applique uses fusible web with the stitching done by machine. No hand stitching for me; the machine does a far better job! I drew the outline of the snowflake onto a piece of fusible web with a paper backing and fused it to the fabric for my snowflake.
I fused the snowflake design to the background square making sure to cover everything with a Teflon applique sheet to prevent getting glue in unwanted places. If you don’t have a Teflon sheet, parchment paper is a good substitute.
Thread and stitch selection
I chose a couple Sulky rayon threads to outline the snowflake and quilt my little mug rug. I wasn’t 100% sure of the thread I chose for the applique, as I thought it might be too gray. But, I figured I’d give it a go to see what it looked like. I do love how the rayon threads shine!
I sandwiched the layers of the quilt together with curved safety pins before stitching down the applique piece. Doing it this way, I don’t need a stabilizer and the stitching acts as part of the quilting.
I wanted the thread to form a nice smooth and uniform edge around the snowflake. To achieve this, I used a zigzag stitch which is stitch #4 on the Ambition 1.0. I changed the stitch width to 3.0 and the length to 0.8 to get a nice thick satin stitch. It’s very easy to change the stitch and width on the Pfaff Ambition 1.0 by pushing a button to the right of the LCD screen.
I changed the foot to the sewing stars foot, which has a large open toe area and made for great viewing of the edge of the snowflake. It’s perfect for wide decorative stitches and wide satin stitching.
Alternatively, the open toed decorative foot can be used with it’s large open viewing area to accommodate wide stitching and viewing of the area being stitched. Both of these feet accommodate the Pfaff IDT system.
As well, I made sure that the needle was in the needle down position so, when I had to stop stitching, I didn’t lose my spot on the snowflake. The needle down position also makes it easy to pivot and turn your work under the foot as you lift the presser foot slightly. Unfortunately, this machine doesn’t have the built in hover option.
The needle down button is found just to the right of the threading area on the front of the machine. It’s the top button of the three and the green light to the left is on when the needle down position is engaged.
The bottom button in that row of buttons is for the tie off option, which is a great option when doing applique with lots of starts and stops and changing thread. It sure beats manually tying off each of those threads! The tie off isn’t even noticeable and doesn’t leave a bump, knot or hole of any kind. I am impressed.
The thread and stitch are absolutely perfect. I really do love how the rayon threads shine!
Sewing a snowflake mug rug has been a lot of fun, but the quilting will have to wait until tomorrow. It’s time to curl up with my book in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa on this wintery day.