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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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.