Friday 10 January 2014

Winter Dove and Russian Doll Mug Rugs

I created two patterns to celebrate the Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014.  Firstly the Winter Dove mug rug pattern - a bird of peace and unity .....
Winter Dove Mug Rug
and secondly the Russian Doll pattern to celebrate traditional Russian crafts. 
Russian Doll Mug Rug
Both patterns are suitable for beginner and experienced sewists alike and I thought I might give some hints and tips to make them even easier.  But before I do a reminder to print the patterns to ‘exact size’.  There is a print-check-box on each applique sheet to make it easy for you to check your print out and you will find details of how to download and print here.

So let’s make a start - there is much to talk about .....
Fabric choices.  The fabrics that you choose will have the most influence on how your mug rugs turn out and the choice of fabric will determine whether the finished mug rug is ‘modern’ or ‘traditional’ or ‘country’.  Play around with your choices – lay the fabrics together, turn away and then look back at them.  Do they work? Do they contrast with the background?  Most importantly – do you like them?  I know, I know, you are giving these mug rugs away but I would urge you to make something you like because, in so doing, you are sharing your tastes and choices with another - you are giving away a glimpse of who you are – connecting with another over fabric, fun and friendship.
For the Winter Dove mug rugs I used a plain white fabric for the bird .......
and a two-tone white from Kate Spain’s ‘In From the Cold’ range ....... 
Whenever it comes to using a plain white I tend to use a thicker white cotton than normal quilting cotton to avoid the background showing through.  In fact I use fabric cut from a plain white tablecloth especially for this purpose – it is 100% cotton and I know it will wash well.  But do not worry if you only have quilter’s cotton and you think the background may show through – you can fuse two pieces together using fusible webbing and treat it as one piece.   This technique works well - I have used it many times.   Another option is to use felt.
This Ghostly Duo are created from two layers of fused white fabric
ensuring the dark background doesn't show through.
For the red Russian Doll I used a selection of fabrics from a Moda ‘Red Robin’ charm pack but there is no need to buy fabric specifically for this swap – use something you already have in your stash or scrap box. 
And let us not forget the sewing cotton as this can have a big impact.  It doesn’t have to complement the fabric. 
Complementary quilting detail
It can also contrast.  So if you do not have lots of different coloured cottons you could use just one colour of thread to stitch the leaves and add detail to the Winter Dove mug rug.  Choose a colour that will outline and highlight.  And don’t rule out black thread – a picture or drawing edged in black becomes more defined and striking – this can be true with fabric as shown in my Thanksgiving Wreath mug rug pattern. 
Thanksgiving Wreath Mug Rug (from my Special Days pattern book)
The leaf detail is created using black sewing thread.
You do not need to add any additional stitching if you prefer a simpler look.  The Russian Doll looks just as good with a fussy-cut tummy panel as she does with a heart emblem. 
And whilst we are looking at the Russian Doll pattern we should discuss ‘eyes and smiles’.  It is amazing the difference a few stitches can make on a finished mug rug.  Yet when it comes to adding those details people tend to get a little nervous.  There is no need – I have a simple way to do both the eyes and the smiles using two strands of embroidery floss.
Simple stitching brings a smile to my face.

For the eyes use five straight stitches, close to each other.  Try to make them all the same size.  There is no need to attempt to make the eyes appear rounded – they will look just fine.  As for the mouth – yet again use small, even, straight stitches.  I used four on the Russian Dolls but five would also work.  I used a running stitch with a small gap between each but use whatever stitch you are comfortable with.

If you are really unconfident with your stitching the beauty of the Russian Doll pattern is that the hair and face slip under the cloak so you can add the facial detailing to the fabric circle before fusing it in place.  Once you are happy with your stitching you can slip the face  under the cut-out circle of the cloak and position the hair in place.  From there it is just a matter of stitching around the cloak cut-out (as shown in the Russian Doll photo above) and both the hair and the face will be secure.  I also stitched along the edge of the hair as well. 
Permanent black marker (thin) was used to create this smile.
Of course you could always use a thin, permanent fabric marker and draw the face onto the fabric.  I did this with my Gingerbread mug rug and it worked perfectly.  Remember to test the marker on a scrap of the fabric before use and I would strongly urge you to draw the face prior to stitching it in position – just in case your hand slips or you make a mistake!
Simple Patched Sidebar - no matching of seams here!
So finally let us talk patchwork.  Not everybody likes matching points and seams so the Russian Doll pattern comes with a simpler patchwork option – stripes of fabric.  But a mug rug is the perfect project on which to hone your skills so if you like patchwork I would recommend you make the patched version and do not worry if your seams do not match exactly.  It will add to the handmade, rustic charm of your mug rug and, as any Patchsmith will tell you, perfection is so over-rated.  Look at the banners for the Sochi Olympics and you will see that there isn’t a matched seam in sight. 

Remember - these are your mug rugs that you are giving – my pattern is just a template – play with stitches, colour and pattern, try different techniques but more than anything else, enjoy yourself.  Join in, have fun, make friends and share a little of who you are with another.

Sew until next time ....................

p.s. I will post this page in the ‘Mug Rug Basics’ section of this blog where you will find lots more hints and tips on quick fuse applique, binding and mug-rug-swap etiquette - just click on the link or the tab above. 


  1. Interesting theme. Thanks for sharing all your tips. Your mug rugs are so pretty as usual :-)

  2. I love those Babushkas and the dove is perfect! I have just joined Amanda I am so excited! Thanks for the heads up!

    1. You'll enjoy the swap Elaine and I look forward to seeing the results on your blog (

    2. Yes, I put myself on a strict schedule this year to keep all my dates. Does this event last all year? I have some summer ideas already! Thanks Amanda! XO

  3. Thank you so much for all this information

    1. You're welcome and remember - just email me or leave a comment if I can help in any way. Enjoy.

  4. thanks for sharing all of these wonderful tips :)

  5. Thanks for sharing. The theme is so close to me. My childhood was full of Russian dolls and Russian culture. Especially like the idea of 5 different colored leaves - they looks like olympic circles.

    1. I am so glad you said that Rumi - it was my intention to replicate the Olympic colours in the leaves. I am glad the mug rugs resonate with you. They are fun little patterns that I hope you enjoy making.

  6. Hi, looks like a great swap, however, at this time I should not commit myself, is there anyway to purchase the two mug rugs w/out joining the swap?

    1. Hi Linda, Both of the patterns will be in my Craftsy Pattern Shop once registration has finished, on the 24th January 2014 for immediate download. I hope you enjoy making them.

  7. This is a fabulous way to meet a new friend, and see creativity in everybody's mug rug variations !
    Your designs are BRILLIANT! So lovely and filled with so many symbols. I can hardly wait to participate in this mug rug swap!
    And thank you for more tips for embroidery and how to make applique "come alive!"

  8. Such great tips, and I will embroider eyes like that from now on! The leaves in your photos are just exquisite - I love the colors and the stitching details!

  9. I was so excited to register for the mug rug swap. I had to quickly try out the patterns. These turned out so great that I might keep them and make another set for my swap partner. How often do you do the mug rug swaps?

    1. Am so glad you like the patterns. Quilting Gallery do swaps all through the year and I have designed for the mug rug swaps this year and last. I hope to do so again too and will post on this page when I know the dates.
      Hope you enjoy the swap and you make friends with your partner.