Thursday, October 29, 2020

How to Sew a Quilted Rainbow Mug Rug

I have been obsessed with sewing triangles lately, mainly because this WIP rainbow Sierpinski's Triangle quilt has taken over my thoughts and dreams:

The sewing on it has to be really precise so that all the nice points are nice and pointy and match all the other nice points, so first I practiced by sewing lots of other triangle projects.

And in the process, I came up with this quilted rainbow mug rug that I'm super into!

It's VERY good practice for the precise cutting and sewing required with triangle pieces, but at the same time it's a reasonably quick project to get through. It's apparently a fun project, as well, because as soon as I made one mug rug, I immediately pieced a second one.. and then a third... and then a fourth... and now I have a full rainbow set of six happily at my disposal.

Here's how YOU can sew a fun rainbow of your own!

You will need:
  •  60-degree triangle ruler
  • six different fabric prints in rainbow colors
  • cotton batting
  • cotton broadcloth in a single rainbow color
  • thread that matches the broadcloth
  • universal sewing needle. This one is a good size to handle the 2-5 layers of cotton that it will be sewing.
  • small iron (optional). A regular iron can handle this project, but I LOVE this particular iron for ironing seams flat as I sew.
1. Measure and cut the triangles. For this mug rug, I think that 2.5" triangles result in the perfect finished size. Your 60-degree triangle ruler has printed lines that guide you to making the correct cuts, essentially having you cut a 3" triangle that you'll sew with a .25" seam allowance. For triangle sewing, your seam allowances have to be really, really precise (the fact that I keep emphasizing this means, I fear, that my sewing is not normally so precise...), so this is also a good time to get out your ruler and make sure you know what an exact .25" seam allowance looks like on your sewing machine.

All my photos are terrible because it's raining and it's going to rain forever and if I wait until I've got natural light to photograph things so they don't look terrible I, too, will wait forever.

After my triangles are cut out, I like to play with arranging them to make sure I like the aesthetic:

2. Piece the triangles into two rows of three. Piecing together three triangles, top points aligned, will give you a perfect 180-degree straight line. Your triangle ruler will have already had you cut each triangle with one notched point, and that notched point is the easiest place to align the triangles. Carefully align two triangles, right sides together, and sew them with a .25" seam allowance. Iron that seam open.

I had to practice and practice and practice before I could consistently sew this third triangle just right. I ripped out SO MANY seams, and walked away from my sewing machine to go do something else SO MANY times. 

So that you don't have to suffer the way that I did, here's how I double- and triple-check that I've got this last triangle lined up correctly:

See the triangle points that stick out because you ironed the seam open? Those points help you match the pieces! If you've matched the notched piece at the top and you match this triangle point at the bottom, your piece is perfectly aligned and you can sew it with a perfect .25" seam allowance.

Iron the seam open, and here's what your three triangles should look like on the back:

Here's what they look like from the front:

I took the photo at a weird angle, because taking it from directly above would have entirely blocked the small amount of light present in my study on this gloomy day, but if you look carefully, you should see that the middle triangle's bottom point does not extend all the way to the bottom of the piece. There should be .25" between the bottom point and the bottom raw edge.

If there's not, rip it out and try again. Lord knows I've done that many a hundred times in the past few weeks!

3. Piece the two rows together. Lining up the points when you piece the two rows together is also a little tricky, and also had me ripping out seams multiple times before I finally figured out a couple of tricks. First, check out the picture below:

In this picture (which is actually of my Sierpinski's triangle quilt in progress, mwa-ha-ha!), see how the back of the black triangle has a top point that meets the two blue pieces? Ignore the seam that goes off to the right to make a point, and just look at where the three quilt pieces meet at one point.

That point is also the triangle's point on the front side! If you can pin that point straight through to the point on the other piece of fabric, your points will match.

It also gives you a visual guide when you're sewing. Make sure you stitch directly over that point, and your triangle will look nice and pointy from the front:

Look at how tidy and pointy and almost exactly perfect the finished hexagon is!

4. Quilt the hexagon to the batting. For these mug rugs, I've decided that I prefer quilting the hexagon to the batting only, and adding the backing fabric later. So cut out a piece of batting that's a little bigger than your hexagon--

And then quilt the hexagon to it by stitching in the ditch with white thread.

5. NOW you can sew the backing fabric to your quilt! The backing is going to serve not just as a backing, but also as the back-to-front quilt binding for your mug rug. To that end, pin your quilt to the backing fabric, then enlarge the hexagon an extra .75" on all sides. A clear ruler makes this super easy:

Cut out the backing fabric.

Crease and pin the binding. Here's where that mini iron really comes in handy! For each side, fold the extra fabric in half and iron to crease, then fold it over again and pin it to the quilt. Here's a really great tutorial with clear illustrations for exactly how to do this back-to-front blanket binding.

And here's what it looks like in progress!

Now all you have to do is sew the binding to the quilt, using matching thread. It doesn't really matter if you use a straight or zigzag stitch, and I experimented with both, but eventually decided that I prefer the look of zigzag for my mug rugs:

And so that's what I did!

I like how clean the back looks, since it doesn't have any of the quilting:

And as you can see, it's the perfect size for a coffee mug!

I enjoy making these so much that I made a listing in my Pumpkin+Bear etsy shop so that I can keep on making them. 

You can order your own quilted mug rug in sets from one to six, with the backing fabric color of your choosing. I choose your print fabrics, but they'll always be a six-color rainbow:

Trust me when I tell you that a rainbow on your coffee table is a very cheery thing to have!

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