Tag Archive | Sewing

Why I love to Sew

Credit goes to Smashed Peas and Carrots Facebook Page

Credit goes to Smashed Peas and Carrots Facebook Page

Found this on my Facebook page the other day accompanied by, “This is your thought process, right?”

A few other comments followed making reference to the cost and need of expensive computerized sewing machines.

First let me admit that I don’t make doilies and probably never will, but yes, an expensive machine would more than likely be necessary. Who wants to attempt heirloom sewing without the proper tools? (Feel free to compare this to your favorite past-time or profession; drills, sanders, paintbrushes, high-end cookware, etc.Don’t even get me started on motor sports; bikes, cars, airplanes, boats…..oh my.)

So why make it, when you can buy it for less money?

First of all, the sheer joy of creating is in itself reason enough. Now imagine your family and friends admiring your work and cherishing that Halloween costume,  table runner, quilt, wall hanging, tea towels, whatever and associating that feeling with YOU; the creator. Memories made..,by you! How awesome is that? Perhaps they will fight over it when you die. (Ok, that might be stretching it, but one can dream can’t they?)

Regardless, said homemade creation is now being enjoyed by future generations. That $2 doily has long been trashed and decomposed…. or not. If it wasn’t made with 100% natural fibers it’s sitting in a landfill; who wants that guilt?

Eventually one of yours or your friend’s great great great…..great grandchildren will make a snap decision to part with above mentioned memory. All they know is that some person, generations ago made it, rendering putting it in the trash unthinkable. So after many many years of being loved by countless people, it will be donated to a charity. This act will provide job security to some, much-needed support to others and create countless volunteer hours to a few thankless individuals.

Still need a reason?

I made all my daughter’s Halloween costumes from the time she was 1 until 18. Many years, she helped. While she was in elementary school, Hippy costumes were all the rage amongst her friends. On the day of the school party, she had the most fabulous flower power print outfit, along with a headband, wire rim glasses, and crimped hair. Walking out the door, my eyes got teary eyed when she exclaimed, “Mom, I’m gonna have the best hippy costume, cause you made it.” Honestly, I’ve never looked back and will continue to make things that my family loves and cherishes.

You can’t really put a price tag on that now can you?

Protect Your Electronics

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Living in the desert southwest, we get our share of glorious thunderstorms, aka monsoons, in the summer. They are one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular shows and I cherish the evenings I can sit on my covered patio and watch the lightning fill the sky with color and listen while the thunder echoes off the mountains.

These storms can also raise havoc with our electronics. So…unplug your sewing machines, sergers, irons, etc when you’re not using them in the summer. These toys  tools of ours are expensive to replace. I, for one, would not want to do so.

Yes, there’s another one coming and I have double checked that all my tools are no longer tethered to the wall. Perhaps an afternoon on the couch with one of my favorite quilting books is in order.

Jimmy’s Journey

Jimmys Journey

I like my quilts to mean something. This one is for my brother. He recently came to visit and helped me clean out my garage. This is my Thank You to him. Jim loves to drive and takes road trips on a regular basis, even just for a day. He hates to drive on interstates and is much more likely to spend 8 hours on the road getting to a destination where most of us would spend less than 4. Makes him happy; I’m good with that. I wanted to make something that would reflect that sense of wandering. The printed fabric represents the roads. The quilting is where my brother drives. The backing is a blue batik that reminds me of Hawaii. It also happens to be where Jim goes for vacation annually. I think all in all, it is absolutely perfect!

I found this pattern in the Moda Bake Shop. Mine is 64″ x 80″. It was labeled easy, so I knew I could get it done quickly.

I thought I had a color palette all picked out, but once I started auditioning fabrics, I started second guessing myself. As you can see from the photos below, taking fabrics out and laying them together will often give you the answer you’ve been agonizing over.

Background Choices 1 & 2

Background Choices 1 & 2

Background Choice 3

Background Choice 3

 

 

 

I didn’t like the look of the printed fabrics  on both of the background choices (1&2) on the left, but the one on the right was the perfect color for the jelly roll I had picked up. Plus his car is orange, so the decision was actually quite simple.

I don’t always follow directions to the T and instead of using a second jelly roll for the background, I cut my own. I chose sewing the strips together and then cutting them down instead of cutting first. Next time, I’ll try to remember to do the math first, as I think I had enough left to piece a binding with the printed fabric. Unfortunately, they were all cut up by the time I thought of that. Putting the top together was a snap and was done in less than a week.

 

piece 1piece 2

The blocks are coming together!

Quilting Process

I used QuiltMotion by Grace for Bernina for the quilting with a curly q pantograph.

I’ve yet to put it in the mail, so I hope he doesn’t see this.

WordPress Swag

wp tshirt backpack

Sometimes I open my mouth and by the time I realize what I’ve said, it is too late to take the words back. I went down this road again recently at a WordPress Meetup event. I am always motivated after these monthly meetings and apparently the adrenaline kicked in a little early on this particular evening. Someone had shown up with WordPress swag as gifts for a contest. I don’t know what it is about swag that gets me excited, I just know that it does. I’m not sure, but I think winning both a coffee cup and sunglasses added to my already altered state of mind.  Anyway, I opened my mouth and said, “I can turn that t-shirt into a backpack and bring it back next month.”  In a nano second, the t-shirt appeared in my hands.

I was still feeling the excitement on the drive home.  I had won a contest, met some new folks, and was filled with ideas.  Life was GRAND!

A few days later, reality set in. I had never made a back-pack out of a t-shirt, but I had a pattern. Unfortunately, my habit of test sewing a project took over my sanity. More often than not, my finished projects are scrutinized by fellow sewers; this time it was going into the hands of those who were going to judge it on an entirely different level.  I knew I had to improve the stability of the final bag. so a woven cotton lining and corded straps were added.

The bag was finished with a few days to spare. My serger became a casualty and needs to be taken to the tech, but all in all everything worked out.

On the evening of the unveiling, I wandered into the meeting nervous as hell. What would this audience think? My fears quickly vanished as familiar faces came into sight. I handed over the backpack to Lance, the WP guru guy who helps run these meetings. He asked me later if I wanted it back, to which I replied that I had made it for him and he could do whatever he wanted. He then said he was going to send it to San Francisco to the WordPress Museum.

SAY WHAT!

There’s a WordPress Museum?

Flattered and amazed in the same sentence. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

The Pros and Cons of Pre-Washing

 

washing machine

Quilting would be simpler if there were hard and fast rules, but there’s not. So, now the big question, should you pre-wash your fabric? It’s a choice. When I first started quilting, I prewashed all my fabric. This more often than not resulted in a tangled mess. Then I learned to trim the fabric with pinking shears prior to putting it in the washer.  This only needs to be done on the cut edge, not the selvage. This practice led me to purchase a pinking blade for my rotary cutter; much healthier for my hands.

Then one day, I ventured into a Quilt Shop on Block of the Month day. How fun. I paid a minimal fee to start which got me a short demo (this is a nice way of saying a commercial featuring the newest/greatest/need to sell item) and fabric to make a block. I had to provide the background, but still fun! The bonus? Every month I got the fabric for free if I brought in last month’s finished block.

The fabric pieces were really really small. I was afraid they would join the black hole of socks if I washed them and since I don’t hand sew, hand washing wasn’t even close to an option. So I eagerly attacked the block with unwashed fabric! No one scolded me and the block came out great. Tell that to the Quilt Police!

Giant light bulb moment!

What is the point of prewashing? What are the pros and cons? Will anyone know? Do they really care?

Prewashing:

Pros: May be necessary for those with sensitivity to some chemicals which may be on the fabric.  This goes both for the creator and the recipient of the quilt. Can help with colors that bleed.  If not allowed to completely dry, the fabric can be steam pressed without additional water. Your finished quilt won’t shrink the first time you wash it.

Cons: It takes a long time. If you wash any of the fabric, you need to wash all of your fabric for that project. This includes the backing and binding. Almost impossible to get all the wrinkles out of good cotton fabric without using steam, and even that sometimes doesn’t work.  More likely to fray unless you starch the fabric. I like starch so maybe that’s not a con.

Not prewashing:

Pros: You can start the project right away. Fabric less likely to fray; unless it is loosely woven in which case you may want to starch. Everything will shrink together and give your quilt that over all loved look.  You don’t need to wash the backing and since some backings require piecing….well enough said.

Cons: The colors may bleed the first time the quilt is washed. This could be heartbreaking. I use special sheets in the washer that are made to collect color and that has proven very successful. In fact, I include them with quilts that I give as gifts. The person receiving the quilt may have a sensitivity to any chemicals that may be on the fabric.

Well there you have it. As for me, I no longer prewash. I honestly don’t have the patience for it and trying to keep track of what has been washed would probably send me over the edge.  I often steam press and/or starch prior to cutting. I treat the backing the same way. Depending on the project and how I’m going to quilt it, I may water spray the batting and toss it in the dryer. Then again, maybe not.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone cares. And if anyone can tell, I doubt they’ll say anything.

So, wash or don’t wash…..like everything else, it’s your choice.

 

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.

October: Something For Everyone

Something For Everyone

Something For Everyone

I started this quilt in January of 2012. It was a block of the month at a local shop. You pay a minimal amount to join and then if you bring in the finished block form the previous month, the fabric for the next block is free. Then there’s no incentive to get the 12th block done, let alone the top finished.  Let me just say, I’m not a fan of most blocks of the month. There are usually way too many colors and not enough consistency for my taste. This quilt is no different. That being said, I do them to learn and hone my craft.

The pattern called for the blocks to surround a large colorful piece made of 3″ blocks.  I made an error in color choice and didn’t like the way it looked. So I will save that center for another project.

Once I started laying out the blocks, it became obvious who would receive it. A family with 3 small children who ALWAYS fight about color. Each has a favorite color and the others don’t want anything to do with anything that is in their sibling’s favorite color.

At first I was going to do some complicated quilting on the frame using QuiltMotion (a computer program for quilting.) The plan was a block motif for each block and then something different for the sashing and cornerstone  pieces. Then reality kicked in and I quilted it with a simple pantograph. I’ll save the complicated quilting for another time.

One major Christmas gift ready to wrap!

 

Spooky Table Runners…just because

Spooky Table Runner

Spooky Table Runner

Have you ever seen something that you just had to try? Perhaps a recipe, a patio table, or even a new route to a familiar place. For me, it’s almost always a fabric thing and if I don’t jump on in right away, it ends up in the forgotten, “Someday” file. That file exists in my head, but I’m working on getting it out of there and into a digital format. This table runner was one of those things.

The pattern is called, Triangle Frenzy™ Swirl.  I love the simplicity of cutting only one fabric and ending up with an eye-catching design. I chose Halloween themed fabric, well cause it’s that time of year and it was on sale. I made the larger one first and had enough fabric to make the smaller one. They will find homes with my two daughters.

I considered a few quilting options, but I’m really practicing not over thinking things and not making them more difficult than they need to be. I pulled out my walking foot and went to work.  I used a very narrow zig-zag stitch; perfect for the Halloween theme and much more forgiving than a straight stitch. I now have a few go to table runner projects for when the mood strikes.

quilting up close

quilting up close

 

 

My Kind of Town

My Sewing Machine Paints too!

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I’ll admit that I am spoiled. I own a Bernina 830LE. It is an amazing sewing and embroidery machine. I also have digitizing, cutwork and painting software. Paint you say? Yes. My sewing machine paints. It is a marvelous thing. I had been looking for a piece of Chicago artwork to hang in my desert home for quite a while. I love Chicago, but not the weather. The skyline is like no other and to have a reminder of my birthplace is something that’s been missing.

Then one day, I ran across an embroidery design called  Cityscapess. . BINGO!  I could embroider Chicago on linen and frame it. NO WAIT, I could paint it, on glass, on a shadowbox…..my mind was exploding.

First I had to convert the embroidery design to a PaintWork design. PaintWork is a module of DesingWorks Software from Bernina. It is really fun and allows you to do so much more than sew with your computerized machine.  Converting the design was super easy and quick. Now, how to get it centered on the glass. Since I was using glass ink pens, there was no room for error. Light Bulb. Stick with me, this is genius.  Whoa, if I painted a mirrored image, I could paint it on the inside of the glass. Quick trip back to the software.

I use stitched placement lines when embroidering all the time, why not do the same thing here? I digitized a rectangle the exact size of the glass.  I hooped sticky back water soluble stabilizer and stitched out the rectangle.  The stitches perforated the paper that covers the sticky part so I was able to remove only the paper that was the same size as the glass. Because my machine automatically centers every design, both the rectangle and the skyline design would be centered with each other.

Paper removed, ready to place glass.

Paper removed, ready to place glass.

I carefully placed the glass on the rectangle. When I say carefully, I mean protect yourself. I used old diapers to protect my hands from getting cut. I held it down with painter’s tape for extra security. I taped freezer paper over the glass so I could adjust the height of the pen. I tried using aluminum foil, but couldn’t get it smooth. If the pen was too low then the lines would be too thick.  Too high and it wouldn’t draw a continuous line. When painting on fabric, if the pen is too high you can lower it and go back; not so much with glass. Everything had to be just right before I started painting on the glass. Light bulb again. I have a tendency to over think things, but this time it paid off.  I was afraid to use regular paper for fear the paint would bleed through. The freezer paper was moving just a little bit. Glad® Press “N Seal® was perfect. It stuck to the glass so it didn’t move and came off like a dream.   Once I had my settings adjusted, I removed the Press ‘N Seal® and let it go.

All ready to test height of pen

All ready to test height of pen

When my machine, that is so awesome it paints too, stopped, I fought the urge to remove the glass right away and admire my work. I let it sit to make sure the paint was dry. The glass came off the stabilizer very easily, but I used the cloth diapers again. This not only protected my hands, it prevented finger prints from jumping onto the glass. You can easily remove any sticky residue with glass cleaner. I had very little to clean off. Then I popped (ok, carefully placed) it into the frame. I love the way the buildings cast a shadow in the back of the frame. There is a perfect place in a hallway where the light hits it just right and I can see it daily. Plus, with the paint on the inside, I can clean the frame without worrying the design will come off.

Design finished; waiting to dry.

Design finished; waiting to dry.

Note: When buying shadowboxes for this technique, look carefully for one where the glass comes out easily.  The first time I did this, I broke the glass removing it.  The glass was glued in and although one side popped out easily, the other did not. Also, please be careful when handling the glass. It is a lot sharper than you would think. Since I used a black frame, the background was black as well. I used a piece of textured white paper to create the contrast. A light tan would have worked and given it an old world charm, but I like the clean look of the white background and black paint.

So what is next? I think anything would work. You wouldn’t have to use a shadowbox. Imagine a design collection, individually painted and framed, finding a home on a lonely wall.  Or the birth details painted on the glass over a baby’s first picture. A special date floating over a picture of the event. If it fits in your hoop, why not?

Have fun playing and let me know what you create.