Tutorial: Cover Ugly Ceiling Tiles with FABRIC!

Zita with smiling cat fabric.
Zita with smiling cat fabric.  (Isn’t every craft project easier with a kitten underfoot?)

I’ve been feeling crafty lately.  Even more so than usual, I should say.  In our new home, I have the luxury of having space for a sewing room.  It is dubbed the “Creativity Room” by a friend, so I’m going with that!

One of the problems with my new space is the UGLY ceiling.  It is one of those drop ceilings that are often in basements.  (Yes, my Creativity Room is in the basement).  Not only is it ugly when brand new, it is even uglier when it is old.  Mine is also grimy and yellowed.  I thought about replacing the tiles with new ones but money is a bit tight now (with the move and all!).  I also thought about just painting them white or something.  Nah, too much work!

Then I realized — I have yards and yards of fabric!  What if I covered those ugly tiles with fabric that I like (but not LOVE, of course, that fabric must be saved for possible quilt projects).

The question though, was HOW to attach the fabric to the those awful tiles.

I talked it over with my daughter and we decided to try starch.  I remembered reading somewhere that it was possible to use starch to make fabric stick to walls, and we thought it might work on fabric and the tiles.  Long story, short:  It didn’t.  We couldn’t mix the starch thickly enough that it would stick and then dry without having the fabric fall off once it was back on the ceiling.

Hmmmmm. I wondered about Mod Podge or maybe some sort of adhesive.  We considered duct tape, but we thought the fabric would sag in the middle.  Finally I decided to try Aleene’s Tacky Glue.  This seemed to do the job!

The basic steps:

1.  Buy a house with an ugly dropped ceiling with old, grungy, yellowed insulated tiles.

2.  Be a quilter who has a humongous fabric stash (or know one).  Alternatively you could visit a fabric store and buy a bunch of fabric on sale.  Goodwill or Thrift stores could be a source for fabric, too, if you think creatively.
Tacky Glue

3.  Gather a pair a scissors, an iron and ironing board, some Aleene’s Tacky Glue, a large work surface and a tall person (or be one).  A very long needle is helpful, too.  You’ll see why later. Having a kitten underfoot is not mandatory, but it does make things more annoying.  Oops.  I meant “exciting.”

remove one of the tiles
remove one of the tiles

4.  Remove one of the old, grungy, yellowed insulated tiles.  Lay it out on your work surface with the plastic side up (insulation down).

5.  Choose a piece of fabric that is large enough to cover your tile.  (If you are a fan of crazy quilts, you could, of course, use smaller pieces of fabric and make each tile a collage — but I didn’t do that).

measure by eye, hold the spot, then clip
measure by eye, hold the spot, then clip

6.  Measure along the longest edge (by eye is fine), hold the spot, make a snip with some scissors, and then tear the fabric.


tear were you snipped
You might not need to tear it all the way across so don’t go crazy with the tearing (unless you don’t care about wasting fabric then tear away).  When you think you’ve torn about the width of the tile — check it to see.  Again do this by eye. Make a snip going the other direction and then tear away.

holding the "width" spot; snip then tear
holding the “width” spot; snip then tear

This time you can tear the whole thing because you should be heading back toward the edge where you started measuring. You’ll end up with a rectangle about the size of your tile.  I gave a little leeway on the fabric on each wide — about 1/4 to 1/2 inch on each side or so.  You can cut it exactly, but this is my project and that isn’t my style.  I won’t judge you though, if you have a streak of persnicketiness and/or perfectionism.  (You probably don’t or you would have stopped reading by now.)

But I digress.

7.  The next steps need to be done, but it doesn’t matter which order you do them in.  Iron, Glue, Apply.  You need to iron the fabric and you need to apply glue to the plastic side of the tile. I’ve done it glue then iron then apply the fabric to the tile.  I’ve done it iron then glue then apply the fabric.  It works either way.

Iron that fabric!  I like this spray starch.
Iron that fabric! I like this spray starch.

Ironing:  Most of my fabric has been stored in bins for years, even decades (not kidding) — so it needs to be ironed.  I like to use steam and some spray starch.  I like Mary Ellen’s Best Press.

glue squigglesGlue:  Cut the top off the glue like you mean it.  No little hole for you!  You need to let that glue pour.  Apply a stream of glue around the edge pretty thoroughly. Then I wiggled it around everywhere covering the surface with squares and zig-zags and squiggles.  I also experimented with pouring a glob of glue on the tile and brushing it around with a square of cardboard. (You could use a brush, but I didn’t want to go find one).

glue squigglesYou may have figured out by now that one of my mottos for creative projects is “IT’LL BE FINE!”

Tacky GlueApply the fabric:  This part is easier if you still have help from your tall person/daughter/random person but I managed it alone for most of my project.  Hold your nicely ironed fabric close to one side or edge of the glued tile.  Place it gently on the glue, pretty side UP away from the glue and smooth it carefully from the center.  You can adjust the edges and even lift the whole thing and re-position it if you do it quickly enough.  If you have massive amounts of fabric hanging off an edge feel free to trim it off.  I found most of the small excess fabric I had folded nicely up into the metal frame.

better?  YES!Ceiling tiles covered with fabric8.  When you are satisfied that your fabric covered tile is ready to go back up into the ceiling (no wrinkles, etc.), carefully flip it upside down and maneuver it back into the space it came from. I did one tile at a time after I discovered that, at least in my ceiling, not all the tiles were the same size even though they looked the same.



doll needle
doll needle

If you can’t get the tile to lie flat again, this is where the long needle is helpful.  I had a doll needle that is hugely long.  It is used for sewing eyes and sometimes limbs onto dolls.  I poked it into the insulated tile and pulled gently down at a slight angle and it worked!

Use the doll needle to poke and pull the tiles unto place if needed
Use the doll needle to poke and pull the tiles unto place if needed

You can also raise the tiles on either side a bit and reach above and push down.  But then that other tile is out of place — IT’ll BE FINE! adjusting the tile

I’m trying to decide if I should paint the metal frame black or possibly cover it with some sort of black tape. (The tape idea sounds easier to me than painting all those little frames).

I’m thrilled with how my ceiling is turning out.  I have just about six squares left.  I am planning to paint and do some other decorating before I show photos of the whole room.  I will keep you posted.


Mini Ironing Board Tutorial

This is a really good idea for any quilter friends out there! I’m going to make one of these. Thank you to Measured and Slow blog for such a great post!

Measured and Slow

I’ve been doing a lot of paper piecing and scrappy blocks lately, which requires a lot of ironing. The way my sewing space is situated, there isn’t enough room to have the big ironing board next to my desk, so I have been having to get up and down to iron my blocks. This is okay when I’m doing just a little bit of piecing, but with paper piecing, that can mean getting up 12 or 15 times! My hip quickly let me know that this was not a situation that was going to last for long, so I started thinking of solutions, and what I ended up with is this:


Originally I was going to make just a mat that could be rolled up and put away when not in use, but I really just don’t have the space on my sewing table, especially when I’m in the middle…

View original post 746 more words

Today is National Quilting Day!

I know this is not an exciting announcement for most of the world, but I am a quilter through and through so just knowing today is a day to celebrate quiltmaking makes me happy.

National Quilting Day info: (and a free downloadable pattern!) http://nqaquilts.org/

How did I become a quilter?

I began quilting in 1989.  I had a friend who taught at the same high school that I did.  She taught art, and I taught music.  We became good friends.  She convinced me that quilting was something I should try.  (She also taught me how to weave baskets and many other cool things, but I digress!  Thank you, dear Annette!)  We went to a nearby fabric store and I picked out 10 fabrics.  Half were shades of blue (light to dark) and half were shades of tan (light to medium).  It was decided I would be making a log cabin quilt for my first project.  I decided to “fussy cut” a center square that had a little design in it — I think it was a rusty colored flower.  (So long ago!  It is hard to remember for sure…)

I cut the strips using a rotary cutter and a cutting mat.  Annette showed me how to piece a block.

I already knew how to sew.  When I was in middle school all girls still took home economics, and we all learned to sew aprons, dresses, pants, etc.  I also was in 4-H (briefly for a couple of years).  Most importantly, though, my mom sewed quite a lot and had always made clothes for us as we were growing up.  I already loved picking out unique fabrics for making trendy clothing (think mid 70’s — lots of wild colors and prints!).  So, the love of fabric, textiles, and creating was already there which made it easy for me to become a quilter I think.

The construction of the log cabin block was pretty easy, and Annette was a patient and skilled teacher.  It took me a while to get the blocks all made.  Putting them together and putting on the borders was not a huge problem, but by the time I was ready to quilt it — Annette and her husband were living in a different state!

log cabin detail
log cabin detail (Photo credit: Britt Willis)

(This is not my quilt block, but it is a log cabin block very similar to what I made.  Mine was blue where the dark browns are.)

I turned to PBS and Kay Wood for help.  (See video above) I bought a couple of quilting books.  I forged ahead.  I taped the backing to our kitchen floor and somehow managed to get the thing basted and then machine quilted on my sewing machine.

At the same time, before I finished the blue/tan log cabin, I had begun working on a quilt for my very young nephew.  I had chosen a sailboat pattern.  The boats would be red with white sails on a dark blue night sky complete with tiny stars printed on the fabric sky.  The sashing (the strips that go between the blocks) would be a cool medium blue wavy print.  The backing was red w/ tiny white stripes.  This pattern had triangles and other things I had not tackled before in the quilt world.  I kept forging ahead.  I would try the next step on my tan/blue log cabin quilt, then do it on the sailboat quilt.  This was true for the borders, for the basting, for the quilting and for the binding.  I eventually got both quilts completed!  (My nephew was only two by the time I finished.) True quilters will notice that I had two projects going already!!

The blue and tan log cabin quilt.  My very first quilt!
The blue and tan log cabin quilt. My very first quilt!
Basting Joel's sailboat quilt
Basting Joel’s sailboat quilt
Joel's sailboat quilt finished!
Joel’s sailboat quilt finished!

I knew my Grandmother (my mom’s mom) was a quilter, but had never really talked to her about it.  (My mom was born in 1931, the oldest of four children.  They lived in a small town in Indiana.)  When we finally talked about quilts, I discovered that my Grandmother loved to quilt.  Grandma said it often, after she learned that I was becoming a quilter.  She also said, “I would rather quilt than eat!”  (That made quite an impression on me since our family loves to eat.)

Grandma loved the actual hand quilting part the most, she said.  I remember times when I was very young when there was a large quilting frame set up in their living room.  This happened rarely, and then not at all as she got older.  I later found out that she made many extremely beautiful quilts:  a trip around the world with very small postage stamp sized squares, a blazing star, a double wedding ring and others.  She told me she used to go help pick out the bags of feed and flour so she got the prettiest fabrics.  My mom had a double wedding ring that she used and used until it nearly wore out.  (Mom washed it in Tide and always had the curtains open with the sun shining on it, too!  Quilters cringe!)

The quilts I remember Grandma making most were the Sunbonnet Sue quilts.   She loved those little girls in bonnets.  She chose fabrics for the dresses, the hats, the pockets and shoes.  There are lots of variations to this pattern, but she always used the same one.  I think I have her pattern somewhere in box down in our basement.  The pieces are traced onto thin cardboard (something like a cereal box) and have been traced around many, many, many times.

(This is a more modern and much larger version, but you can get the idea.)

Each of the pieces were meticulously hemmed (by machine, I think) and then hand appliqued using black floss with a blanket stitch around EACH tiny piece.

She died before she completed a quilt for each of her Grandchildren, or for any of us I believe.  My mom gathered enough blocks from Grandma’s stash after her death to have two quilts made for my sister and me.  An Amish woman pieced the tops and then hand quilted them.

My Grandmother wanted me to have her quilting frame.  It is still in our basement, though I’m pretty sure I’ll never use it. I’m honored that she wanted me to have it, though.

The few fabrics and blocks I have of Grandma’s are very precious.  I am proud to be in a line of quilters that reaches back who knows how far.  I know there were some other quilters because my mom was given a lovely baby quilt by one of her Aunts.  I have it now, and it is a treasure.  This picture of my then seven month old baby girl sitting on that quilt is also a treasure!  (Note:  This is a Sunbonnet Sue quilt very similar to those my Grandmother made, but this one was made by one of my mother’s Aunts.)

Sweet Sarah at Seven Months sitting on the quilt given to her Grandma Sliger in 1931.
Sweet Sarah at seven months sitting on the quilt given to her Grandma Sliger in 1931.

One of my favorite quilt related quotes is this:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without

I think this was a phrase that was often used during the Depression and during the war years.  It is a good mantra for life today, too, I believe.

Cat quilt on the wall belonged to ME when I was a baby.  Made by a neighbor lady.
Cat quilt on the wall belonged to ME when I was a baby. Made by a neighbor lady. (This is my darling baby Sarah again, at about 6 weeks old.  She is taller than I am now.)

I’m very proud that I have convinced several friends to become quilters.  I call it “pushing them off the quilt cliff.”  Most of them were already sewers, but at least one wasn’t really.  Let’s see — Amy, Sue, Wendy — there are probably more but I can’t remember right now.  Sue became a quilt teacher, works at a quilt shop, and designs her own patterns.  She even had a pattern of hers published in a quilt magazine last year!  I don’t think Amy is quilting right now, but I know she enjoyed it when she did.  Wendy often makes her own patterns and is very creative and prolific.

As for me, I have been trying to get projects finished up and bound.  I had two quilts that need bindings put on and one that just needs the binding sewn down by hand.  I can’t say how many projects I have planned, but let’s just say they won’t all fit in two large Rubbermaid tubs…

I think my Grandma would be proud of me.  I love to quilt, too, but I’m not sure about the “more than eating” part.  😉

I’m thankful for the quilting friends in my life.  They are a constant source of inspiration, joy and comradery.

Note:  The “Leave a Reply” button is at the top of this post.  I don’t know how to move it down to the bottom.  Hopefully soon I will figure that out!  I welcome your comments.