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Organic Marking Tools

Let’s face it, not everyone likes working with chemicals of any kind. Some have sensitivities or allergies to contend with. I consider my self fortunate that I don’t fall in that category. Some just prefer not to use pens, pencils, crayons, etc on their fabric. I have some solutions for that.


Ground Cinnamon

A plus here is the smell. Fill your sewing space with the scent of cinnamon and you may never need your kitchen again. Will brush or wash off. In my previous post, I talked about Ultimate Pounce Powder. You can add a pinch of cinnamon to that powder on very light fabrics.

Old Fashioned Bar Soap

Make sure that it is plain, unscented and is free from oils. You can cut off slivers to use for marking. The soap easily washes away. I have had soap get on my iron; if that happens, wait until your iron has cooled off and simply wipe away with a damp rag.

Last for today is a Hera Marker. The edge of it is sharp (not like a knife so you won’t hurt yourself) . It leaves an indent in your fabric. This will not show up if you mark your fabric on a hard surface, so it’s not the best choice for some applications. When marking a quilt sandwich, the batting gives the squish you need so the lines show up. When marking pieces of just fabric, I use my ironing surface or lay on top of a piece of batting.

My eyes are not the best, so I sometimes struggle to see a Hera Marker line. I have found if I turn down, off, or cover my sewing machine light that I have better visibility. (My lights are LED, if yours are not, I strongly discourage you from doing this as it could be a fire hazard.)

That concludes my organic choices. Have you tried any of these options? What were your experiences? If I haven’t touched on a something that interests you, don’t worry, there’s a few more techniques yet to be explored.

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My Favorite Marking Tools

Today I am going to talk about a few different marking tools. These are my personal favorites and are listed in order of preference. I will explore more in future posts, so stay tuned.

Let us start with my go-to marking tool. I empty a Chaco Pen Style liner and fill it with Ultimate Pounce Powder. Both must be white. I use a can of air to make sure all the Chaco powder is removed; careful as the end cap can fly across the room and yes, I am speaking from experience. This liner fits perfectly in the Westalee Design Crosshair Squares. The Ultimate Pounce Powder will brush, wash, or iron off. Pounce Powder comes in different types and colors so be sure it’s the Iron Off Ultimate; again, only in white. I think I have 3 of these in various locations in my studio. If it shows up on my fabric, this is what I use. I always have one next to my machine for those times I mark on the go.

Styla
Eraser

Next up, Sewline’s Products for when white doesn’t show up.
I like this Sewline Styla Ceramic Roller Ball Water Erasable Pen because it’s a fine line and fainter than most water-soluble pens. Their Liquid Eraser is a great way to remove the lines without having to wash the entire project. It works just like a pencil eraser.
It is a liquid with a ratio of 5 drops to 4 Tbl. so, it lasts a long time.
I’ve seen other similar erasers and the nibs (soft end that soaks in the liquid) fall apart. I’ve been using the same one for a year. They are replaceable.

Finally, Frixion Markers. Yes, I have read and heard all the horror stories. No, these are not formulated for use with fabric. I get it, some people really don’t like these and adamantly discourage everyone from using them. Here’s the thing, I don’t normally make heirloom quilts. I make utilitarian ones AND I have never (knocking on wood) had a mark come back. On those occasions where I don’t want to take even the slightest chance, I don’t. Now for a few tips.

A few tips for using these.

  1. Use the color markers, not the pens with metal tips. These have felt tips and will not scratch your fabric, which is my unproven reason why marks appear.
  2. Treat your fabric prior to marking with a starch. I’ve tried a few brands. Again, unsubstantiated, but I believe it puts a barrier between the marker and the fabric.
  3. This isn’t a strength contest, use a super light hand. The mark only needs to show up enough for you to see it.
  4. A fine line marker was recently released. Not a fan. The tip on the one I tried started falling apart after a few weeks.

Well, those are the first 3 on my list. Over the coming weeks, I will share some more.

Few last thoughts: I often remind my students that all the information we find in the world is most likely based on an individual’s experiences. I have done my own tests, but I don’t run a lab. Run your own experiments, EVERY SINGLE TIME! I cannot stress this enough. And test all the variables. Farbric: was it prewashed? did you starch it? Batting; I had it absorb a marking pen once, this did not end well. Thread: Had a student suffer a mishap when the cotton thread she used would not release a wash away marker. Read the directions. Did you know that some water-soluble inks need to be rinsed in clear water? Translation: Do not use detergent to remove marks. Rinse, then wash with detergent if desired.

Sew that’s it for now. If there is a product you want to know more about, let me know. If I have experience, I’ll share. If I have the product and haven’t used it yet, I will run a test and let you know what I find out. Are you curious to see what’s next on my list?

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Westalee Snowflakes; Tips and Tricks

Thinking about snow in October? Some places have already had their first flurries, but I suspect it will be a while before we see any in the Desert Southwest.

Thinking about snow in October? Some places have already had their first flurries, but I suspect it will be a while before we see any in the Desert Southwest. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be making them out of foam board, pom poms, pipe cleaners, paper & glue, or any other items you can think of.  I’ll be sticking to fabric, batting, and Westalee Templates this season.

Like the other templates in the Spin-E-Fex collection, the Snowflake templates have reference lines that work with the 8 point Crosshair Square. I want my snowflakes to have 6 points. Oh, and I don’t want to mark my fabric. Then it occurred to me. I don’t have to if I spend a little time preparing my templates. In the following video, I show you how to mark your templates instead of your fabric, how to stitch out the snowflakes and stick around to the end for how to clean your templates.

These are the products I used.

Mini Cross Hair Squares

Snowflake Templates

Grid Glider

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Proceed with Caution

Searching for Answers
                      Searching for Answers

There is an awful lot of information out there in cyber space. I’ve said it before, not all of it is accurate and honest. Some of it is just outright garbage.  Anyone can publish anything about whatever. Don’t misunderstand me, most of it is fabulous and has greatly supported my most recent obsession with nail art. I recently read some information on a sewing forum that has led to the following.

Just because someone published a blog or a video, doesn’t mean it will work that way for everyone. This is especially true in the sewing world. Possibly other worlds as well, but this is the world I’m comfortable in. There are too many factors that contribute to, “it worked for them, why doesn’t it work for me?” Those variables include, weather, needles, thread, thread color, fabric, prewashed or not, and on and on. Let’s look at some of these.

Weather: I live in the Southwest of the United States. Most of the time it is very dry here. When it does rain, I find that I need to adjust settings on my machine to get the same stitches I get when it doesn’t. I’m sure the same holds for when it gets super cold, but I haven’t personally experienced this. Obviously, what I do may not work for someone who lives in Minnesota.

Needles: I am the first one to ask, “did you change your needle?” and then not do it myself. Yes, sometimes a brand new needle can have burs, etc. Make sure you are using the right needle for the fabric. Click here for more info on needles.

Thread: I would not have believed that thread color could make a difference, until it happened to me. I changed thread color in the middle of a project. I did not change the bobbin, only the top thread, same brand, same line. My stitches were not as perfect. Then there are different manufacturers. I have 3 Berninas. Only one of them likes a very popular thread brand.

Are you with me now? You are the only expert on your machine and all its  nuances. No one sews like you; the combination of your hand weight on the fabric and speed. Your environment.

The only suggestion I can offer is to use what you read/see as a jumping off point. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to play with the knobs on your machine; most of them have a way to easily go back to the default settings.  Once you get a setting you like for a type of project, write it down. Needle, thread, settings, fabric, etc. This is no guarantee it will work exactly the same way the next time, but it’s a great place to start.

Lastly: for a lot of people, sewing is a hobby (“an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure”). Pleasure should be your guideline. Have fun, experiment, stretch yourself creatively, and enjoy the process. By all mean, scour the internet for information, just be open to what you find.

**I generally like to go to manufactures websites for information on their products. I really like Superior Threads education section of their site. This is definitely a great place to start.

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Partial Seams

I’m working on a quilt where the designer chose not to use partial seams where they would have worked really well. This decision might have been based on classifying the pattern as suitable for beginners.  I have always thought that less seams means not only less work, but less room for error.  This is the way the block was designed, which requires 8 seams.

Original Design
Original Design

I went with this design, which requires 4 seams.

Redesigned block
Redesigned block

This is the math. (Don’t be afraid, it’s not complicated)

The strips are the width of unfinished border x (length of inside unfinished block + the width of the unfinished border – ½”) Subtracting the ½” takes a ¼ “ seam allowance into consideration.

If your inside block is 6 1/2” x 6 1/2” and the borders are 2 ½ ”, cut the strips 8 ½ ” (6 ½” + 2 ½” – ½ “) x 2 ½ “

Here’s how it goes together.

Step 5
Step 5

This is the finished block

I hope that you will incorporate partial seams in future projects. It really is a nice way to border a block.

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December: Classy is Always in Style

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Classy is Always in Style

The final Christmas gift.

I love a simple pattern that packs a lot of punch. My daughter loves classic designs and hounds tooth is one of her favorites. I took her shopping last spring to buy some fabric. You probably can’t tell in the photo, but the white is a white on white hounds tooth. Even though she had seen the fabric, I kept the project hidden until she opened it.

Most of the patterns I found wasted a lot of fabric, and I mean A LOT OF FABRIC! I knew there had to be a better way.

Missouri Star Quilts to the rescue. I love how Jenny Doan breaks down a pattern and makes it simple. Her Hounds Tooth Quilt was exactly what I was looking for. Simple, quick, and very little waste. Even if I tried, I couldn’t improve on this method.

The quilting is boring; in the ditch with light grey thread. I used aurifil thread and I should have used something thinner. Do as I teach, not as I do!  OOPS. I know a lot of quilters who cover up mistakes with fabric markers; I know….brilliant! I grabbed a black fabric pen and went to work covering up those few lines of stitching that didn’t exactly go where I wanted them to.  A pressing to set the ink, a label and off it went to be wrapped.

My daughter loves it! I do too.

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November 2nd Project: Microwave Bowl Pot Holders

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In my excitement to get these wrapped, I forgot to take pictures. So this is one I made for myself. It’s a little smaller than I like, but you get the idea.  I plan on making another one for me.  These little handy pot holders for your microwave make great gifts. There are tutorials all over the internet on how to make them.  They are machine washer and dryer friendly. Basically you set your bowl in the holder, pop it in the microwave, and use the corners to lift your now hot bowl out of the oven. **Contents will be hot, so use caution.** If you stop reading at this point, please note; YOU MUST USE 100% COTTON PRODUCTS WHEN MAKING THESE BOWLS. I have heard of fires starting because someone used what they thought was cotton batting or polyester thread.

I purchased a Layer Cake (a package of 42 pre-cut 10″ squares) knowing I wanted to make a bunch of these and it was faster than cutting the squares myself. I used a product called Warm and Plush for the batting and cut them into 10″ squares. That’s when my mind went off again. There had to be a better way to stitch each square corner to corner, but with 10″, simply marking a center line on my sewing surface wouldn’t work. Then I came up with template. Basically, I took a 10″ square piece of construction paper (cause I had some) and cut it in half on the diagonal. Then I trimmed a quarter inch off of that. I clipped the paper to my fabric/batting layer and stitched along the edge with a quarter inch foot.

Template for corner to corner

 

 

Next were the darts, and my mind went thinking again. This time I used cardboard and marked the top and the side with my dart markings. Cut that off, and then trimmed off a quarter of an inch.  I just held the template in place and stitched my darts.

Dart template

 

I could have just as easily marked my lines, but each bowl has 4 lines of stitching and 8 darts. Multiply that by 10+, well you get the idea. I normally use my #10 foot on my Bernina for top stitching, but I found the #20 foot seemed to work better on the bulk. I was able to butt the fabric against the inside of the right toe and moved my needle to the left.

Everyone on my list got one.

 

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November 1st Project: Grocery Bags

Stand 'N Stow Bags
Stand ‘N Stow Bags

So Christmas is over and now that the gifts have been opened, I can finally update everyone on what I was up to the last 2 months.

Grocery Bags: I love the Stand ‘n Stow pattern by Atkinson Designs.  I first made this bag about a year ago and promptly left it somewhere. The secret to this bag, in my opinion, is the use of Pellon’s Peltex 71F stabilizer.  This gives the bag shape and allows it to stand upright, like the paper grocery bags of my youth. Plus they fold flat so they are easy to store. I keep mine in the back seat of my car. The large one holds gallon milk bottles and tons (ok maybe not actual tons, but a lot) of groceries.

My Sassy adjustments:

I either want straps that are long enough to be shoulder straps or short enough to carry without the bag dragging on the ground. I made the straps 27″. This measurement is perfect for me. The added plus at this length, is that you can wrap the straps around the bottom of the bag to hold it closed for storing. There is still enough length to carry the bag when it is full.

I found inserting the peltex to be easier if I put a ruler in the fabric opening to slide the stabilizer on. This really sped up that step.

 

Slide ruler inside fabric
Slide ruler inside fabric

Slide Peltex along ruler
Slide Peltex along ruler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pattern calls for covering the inside side seams with a binding. In an effort to save time and fabric, I serged those seams. It’s a grocery bag, not an evening one.

Lastly, I did not put binding on the top. I cut the fabric a little longer and folded it over and topstitched it down. I did press the fold and opened it before sewing the side seams.

So far, the reviews have been great. My daughter took hers to the grocery store this afternoon and received a number of comments/compliments. I love hearing about those.

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My Studio Makeover

I started thinking about revamping my sewing studio about 6 months ago. The more I thought about what I wanted, the more I put the project off.  Seems to be a running theme in my life, over think the project instead of actually doing anything Thunderstorms are common here in July and August so I convinced myself that it would be the perfect time. 

Step one:Empty the room.

I wanted to work with an empty pallet. I set up some tables in the family room and started hauling things out. Once the room was cleared, I began configuring the set up: 2 sewing cabinets, 3 machines, one cutting station, one pressing station. I moved the cabinets up against the walls; they had previously been somewhat in the center of the room. What a difference! I’m thrilled with the amount of floor space it opened up.

Step Two: Spend Money

Whenever I go off on an organizing spree, it somehow costs me money. I decided to get a cutting table. A super sturdy one would have been my first choice. I ended up buying a craft table at a big box store. (It was on sale half off and I had a coupon for 15% off that.Super Sturdy will have to wait until I’m rich and famous.) When I was younger, assembling furniture was a fairly regular event. The thought of sitting on the floor let alone getting off the floor sent me into a tizzy. Then I saw my kitchen table, lonely, waiting for me to use it. Using allen wrenches, screwdrivers, etc is so much easier standing up or sitting in a chair. The most difficult part was getting my new table off the kitchen table.  My next spending adventure was  wall mounted magnetic knife racks. I know I’ve seen this before, but it is genius. I got two and they hold my scissors and rotary cutters. No more cute little silverware holders lying around, ok falling on the floor. I added a magnetic pen cup to put my sheaths in so when my scissors have to travel, they can do so safely.

wpid-wp-1407507863868.jpeg
Magnetic Knife rack

Step Three: Make mistakes

Yep, we all make them.  Measure twice, cut once. I discovered this also applies to putting holes in your wall and not just cutting fabric. So now I have a few more holes in my wall then what I need, or actually want. I will either figure out a way to cover them, use them or eventually repair UGH! them.

Step Four: Step Away

Sometimes you just have to walk away. I am happy with how the space is coming together, but I really really want/need some creative time. I’m taking a break from organizing, cleaning, spending, etc. to make a table runner.

I’ll return to this project in a few days.

Sassy Notions

 

 

 

 

 

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May: Holiday Pot Holders

PotholdersBefore you start thinking that I really have it together because I’m making Christmas presents in May, know that these originally were supposed to be given out in 2012. Unfortunately, I sustained an injury with a sewing machine needle that required a trip to the ER while finishing a set of these and the project got put away until……..well now.

The pattern is called “Pot Handlers: Potholders & Oven Mitts with Personality” by Tiger Lily Press. Super simple to put together. The only change I made was to leave the hanging loop flat on the back. The holders themselves still hang nicely if one wants, but you can also use them as a mini trivet.

I came up with a nice little trick for the binding. I left just enough of a tail at the beginning to fold the binding at a 45⁰ angle. Then I put on a very light line of Liquid Stitch™ using a toothpick. I laid the ending strip of binding across and finger smushed it together. I let dry for 30+ minutes. At this time, I could trim the seam allowance and then sew the binding down. I think this is a great technique for joining the ends of binding on smaller items and will definitely keep this in my toolbox of tricks.

Place Liquid Stitch™ on the pink line.

binding one

Overlap the binding and smush down.

20140603_150722

 

When dry, trim and stitch down.

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Lesson Learned: I bought this holiday fabric thinking it would be great for this project.  Some of it was; like the little cups of cocoa. The Snowmen and Santas…not so much. You can’t tell what they are on most of my pot holders. The next time I make these, or anything this small, I will think differently when I purchase my material.

 

The rick rack was actually used to cover up a slit in the fabric.  I fixed the slit with Liquid Stitch™ and then covered it with the rick rack. No matter what the mistake, it can always be salvaged one way or another. I hope these pot holders inspire you to start thinking about your holiday sewing plans.