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Mug Rug Workshop

Posted at June 24th, 2011
Posted by Ebony
Tags: - -
Categories: Studio Projects

The Chicago Modern Quilt Guild is having a Mug Rug exchange (suggested by yours truly.) I thought it would be fun to do something outside of a guild meeting, and maybe help get some participation from online members who can’t make it to a meeting.  Really, my motivations were just simple envy at other people who do these fabulous online bees and get the most lovely items, and I wanted some too!  :)I signed up to exchange 6 mug rugs – which is completely insane but totally worth it in my estimation. Of course, I don’t seem to understand that when I add “just one more thing” to my ever growing list, it means never being done with anything!  And yet, I persevere.

After my show, I decided it was time to get cracking on a project, but I didn’t actually want to work on anything that had a specific deadline.  So I pulled out another project that I’d been saving for about a year, and started piecing it.  When I went to Utah back in March, I took this project along with a rotary cutter, mat, and ruler, and in the evenings after dinner I would cut the pieces for this quilt, so it was ready to go.

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The pieces have to be mixed up, so I laid it out to do the swaps in an orderly fashion.


This is from a commercial pattern, which I don’t normally buy, but at the time I was visiting a local quilt shop owned by someone whom I admire, and I wouldn’t have dreamed of passing up the opportunity to show my support. So I bought a couple of patterns and the fabric to make this quilt. The piecing went together pretty quickly:

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And I actually finished the quilt top and quilt back pretty much in one day.

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Boxed Squares by Cozy Quilt Designs


With that complete, I took a look at all the scraps I had left over, and decided to see how many mug rugs I could get out of the scraps.  So I christened the day my Mug Rug Workshop, and set to work!

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The scraps in the lower left corner are actually from my handbag frenzy!

I don’t normally do tiny piecing, but I felt a bit inspired as I worked, and I thought it would be a good time to do some playing with some dimensional aspects on the mug rugs using some techniques I haven’t tried before.  At the end of the day, mug rugs are supposed to finish around 6″ x 10″, so they make great little palettes for experiments without a whole lot of commitment.

The mug rug exchange isn’t blind, so I’m not going to show photos of all of them just yet.  However, this is one that I don’t think I can keep under wraps just because I am cooing over how cool it turned out and I wanted to share a bit of the process to make it.

For this mug rug, I had a bunch of really narrow strips that were 5″ long, but varied in width from about 5/8″ to maybe 1-1/4″.  I also had some 2″ squares that I pulled in, and a long 2-1/2″ wide strip of indigo fabric left over from my Dragon quilt.  From the 2″ squares I made little prairie points, but from the indigo strip, I decided to try a gathering technique.

To make this piece, I pulled long thread tails on my machine, put on my invisible zipper foot, and set my machine to a basting stitch (the longest stitch length.) I then stitched down both sides of the strip 1/8″ from the edge (that’s what the zipper foot is for.)

On one end of the strip, I tied knots in the thread tails, and then got to pulling.  I suppose I could have used my gathering foot for this, but I didn’t really feel like going through all those mechanics to put that foot on and set it to what I wanted, since technically I didn’t know what I wanted yet.

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When you are pulling, only pull one of the two threads (it doesn't matter which.) The important part is the knot on the opposite end!


Anyway, once I got it to a smaller size, I cut a piece of muslin to the exact size that I needed the gathered strip, which was 6-1/2″ x 2-1/2″. This muslin provided the foundation for the gathered strip so I could lock in the gathers.   I pinned the gathered piece to the foundation, adjusting the gathers to a pleasing form, and then used a normal stitch length to attach the gathered piece to the foundation (still using the zipper foot.)

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Lots of pins, because the gathered piece doesn't like to lay flat!

At that point, I treated it as one layer of fabric. I did take care not to have gathers all the way to the end so I wouldn’t catch them in the seam allowance during the binding step. This was the centerpiece of my mug rug, so I stitched the two sides on:
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I did really simple straight line quilting on this through two layers of batting:

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Don’t stitch down the prairie points!

And then finished it off with a knife-edge binding. Some people call this the birthing or pillowcase method.  I do mine a little differently though!

Most people leave one of the edges open, but I find that leaving one of the edges open, especially when you have so much thickness on the edge, just makes it more likely that your piece will look wobbly there.  So instead, I piece the backing, and leave a hole in the backing fabric instead.  But, even that I do a little differently!

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This is the backing for a different mug rug... sometimes I forget to take photos. :)

I start sewing the backing seam from one edge using a normal stitch for a few inches.  Then, with my needle down, I change to a basting stitch and do that for about 4″, then change back to a normal stitch and finish the seam.

Now I am able to completely press the seam and the pieces will be perfectly aligned.  After pressing, I stitch the backing fabric to the piece with RST, all the way around, clip the corners, and then I’m ready to clip the basting stitches to allow me to turn the piece right side out.  I hand-stitch this opening closed.  Sure, maybe it’s an extra step, but I love not having to fight with a 1/4″ seam that also happens to be 1/4″ thick.

Mug rug ready for use!

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I had to go to the kitchen to snap this photo because that's where the mugs are.


Oh – and then while I was upstairs, I decided that the first day of summer warrants homemade lemonade. Yum!

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I love my little lemon squeezer thingy, but forgot that it sends juice EVERYWHERE... there's definitely a technique to squeezing lemons.


To endless possibilities,



5 Responses to “Mug Rug Workshop”

  • sue

    Love the colors in the boxed squares quilt..I’m crazy for oranges!! As for mug rugs….I feel like it was a bumpy trip to say the least!! Love yours! Original and inspired as always!

  • have i seen the boxed squares quilt? boy it certainly is luscious!
    love those fabrics and now i know where they came from.
    your mugrugs are too sweet, especially the gathered one

    • Ebony

      You haven’t seen the boxed squares one; I put the zippers on it already for the long arm so it’s in the basement in queue. I’ll bring it in after it’s finished!

  • Oh I hope that one is for me! :) hehe!! I like your method of sewing up the back. Perfect. A little less “birthing method” for me. The gather is perfect and so are the prairie points. I’ll have to try those points someday!

  • Nikol

    What a great way to finish your mug rugs. I find that by leaving one of the ends open it stretches after i turn it, forcing me to sew in the extra bulk. Grrrr! I’ll be using your method from now on!
    BTW- that quilt is beauuifull!

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