Friday, October 26, 2018

One hundred and sixty some years ago singer introduced a household treadle sewing machine. Since then sewing, quilting, and embroidery has come a long way.

Recently I began backing up the huge library of photos that I have converted to digital files. I am using the new Google photo tool library to store digital photos in the cloud. You've got to try this! Google offers and unlimited storage. And I didn't know how many photos I really had.  Looking through them recently I found photos that I totally forgot I had.

I found photos of my grandparents and their new farm north of town and a very young family. Pictures of my grandfather farming with their two horses reminded me of how far farming technology has come.

Both of my grandmothers quilted and used very primitive means by today's standards. They quilted at home and with groups of other women at church. Today I am participating in a quilting mystery with women all over the world. How times have changed!

If you're interested in all things modern and computerized sewing and quilting, I have a new blog just for you. The Digital Quilting Bee talks about computerized quilt design, quilting and machine embroidery digital creation, and long arm computerized quilting. I'm a quilting geek at heart and love anything  that I can create on the computer, share with others, and create something fabulous. Join us!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Pre-school to Quilting

Pre-School Scribbles to Free Motion Quilting

A news story yesterday gathered my attention recently. It was a local piece about a young lady who had won a handwriting award from a national society. I can't remember seeing an award such as that recently or maybe it's just not reportable anymore. There has been buzz lately regarding how cursive writing is no longer taught in schools. It is one of the archaic subjects the educational gurus feel we no longer need.

I beg to differ and see handwriting, cursive in particular, as one of those necessary subjects. Sure we're all on the computers these days and keyboards have taken the place of our scribblings on paper. We jot down the grocery list on an App on our phone or talk to Google or Alexis to remind us to buy milk, toilet paper, and eggs. But in order to fully communicate with each other, it is necessary to put into writing, or to put down on paper, our thoughts, feelings, and expressions. It is also necessary to be able to read the communications from another. Receiving a hand written letter still can't quite take place of an email or a text message.

The very performance of handwriting trains our brain to move our hands in a particular direction. It requires the firing of those little neurons to move the muscles in our hands to perform a ballet of swirls and swishes to create sensible scribbles of communication.

As quilters, handwriting is transformed into our quilting motions to create free-form designs for our finishing stitches applied to our quilt tops. In teaching free motion quilting, I often start new quilters with what they know – writing their name in cursive. It is the motion they are most familiar with. So that leads me to the subject of the next string of blog posts. We're going to talk about free motion quilting on a domestic sewing machine or long arm. You can be a beginner or more experienced quilter wanting to improve their free motion quilting skills.

So grab a notebook with plenty of paper and sharpen your pencils. Were going to brush up on our cursive skills and who knows, maybe you'll be up for a handwriting award next year!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Game Day Mug Rug in Art and Stitch Plus

There's going to be a "BIG GAME" this weekend!  Have you heard?

I whipped up this mug rug design in my machine embroidery digitizing software.  Yes, you might ask me for the FREE design if you don't have embroidery software.

Check out the video (and other videos) on my YouTube Channel.

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Part 2-Purchasing an Embroidery Machine

So we discussed some things to think about when you set out to buy a new sewing machine.  Now let's talk about another option.  Maybe you've seen some fun things done with an embroidery machine.  Monogram on towels are great, but there is so much more.  But hold on to your hat!  Like starting up any new craft, it can get expensive quickly.

It may have crossed your mind that this may become a business.  Again, do your homework before jumping in with both feet.  An embroidery business can be rewarding, but it does require investment of time and money.  Let's talk about embroidery as just a hobby.

First, deciding on a machine.  Again-lot's of choices.  And if you have NO experience, you'll want good support AFTER the sale.  Is the support within an easy travel distance?  You will probably have to take your machine and all your supplies to a class. You can take embroidery classes, but machines can vary with functions.  You'll want to learn on your machine.

Capabilities of the Machine.
Hoop Size
The more affordable machine may only have a maximum hoop size of 4x4 (inches).  That will be fine for the majority of designs out there.  But then comes that one design you find (that you have to have) that won't fit inside that hoop.

Someone says, "Oh, that's easy!  Split the design!"  Well, yes and no.  You will need to buy software to split the design and then have the skill to re-hoop your project and re-align the design.  There are some re-positionable hoops that assist with split designs without re-hooping, but that's another purchase.  (Beginning to understand why we need to think this through?)

Machine Communications
There will be some designs (and maybe letters or fonts)  included with your machine.  They are installed.  But you will need to get other designs (whether purchased or downloaded) to your machine.  Some machines require a direct hook-up to your computer, or designs can be transferred via a thumb drive.  Older machines may have a "card" option. This option requires a "card writer."  Yes, another option and purchase.

Depending on the machine you select, some design editing can be done by the machine.  Changing machine formats (not all machine brands speak the same language), enlarging a design, monogram designs, changing thread colors, combining or splitting designs, and digitizing (creating) your own designs are just a few things that software can do.

Here, again, there are lots of choices.  And many have free trials.  I encourage you to try them.  You most likely will not be able to save any work.  You will just be able to play and explore the capabilities.  And you should have some computer knowledge.  Some programs will work with Macs as well as PCs.  Some will not.

And, I assume, since you are reading this, you have a computer.  You need a computer.

Threads, Needles, and Stabilizers

Yes, there's more to buy to get started.  They are all necessary to get a good sew out.  It's another big subject - too many variations to get into here.  Just put it on your shopping list.

My intent is not to discourage or dissuade you from wading into the "embroidery" pool.  Just don't get in over your head.  Embroidery can be so much fun and very rewarding. I want to see you enjoying the processes and not frustrated by them.

If you missed our previous discussion about starting the sewing machine purchase process, click HERE to begin.

Want to know more?  Just ask...

Happy Sewing!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Purchasing a Sewing Machine - Things You Should Know

So you have decided to purchase a sewing machine.  And it's overwhelming - the choices available.  Let's break it down and look at what this all means.  Today, more than ever, there are so many choices.  It can be confusing and you may be left frustrated after your purchase without carefully considering your options. 
I don't want you to have a machine, in the box, occupying a corner of your closet.  You could just pile your money there right now if that's the case!  We don't want that!  So let's get started!

First, what are your needs and requirements?  And what is your budget?

Is this your first machine?  Or are you replacing a sewing machine - maybe the old machine isn't working (too expensive to repair)  or you are wanting to upgrade?
What do you sew?  Or want to sew?  Will a simple mechanical machine with a straight stitch, or a few zig-zag and button hole stitches, fit the bill?  Will you require more decorative stitch features?  Are you wanting to try some machine embroidery?  

Wow!  That was a lot of questions! Let's try some answers...

A simple machine will do...
Ok.  Do you need new?  Or will a vintage machine do the trick?  Second hand stores, auctions (estates, local and on-line), yard sales, church rummage sales, basements, barns, and even back alleys are full of inexpensive quality machines that still have years of service left in them.
Look for a clean, rust free, model with no cracked wiring and a hand wheel that turns freely.  Accessories and a manual are a bonus, but bobbin case, power cord and foot control are a necessity.

If this is your first machine, or you are new to sewing, and you are NOT feeling particularly adventurous, I WOULD NOT suggest you purchase your machine from Amazon or Wal-Mart.  The UPS man or the guy in tires will not be able to help you choose a needle for your next project or solve that tension issue.
Look for a local sewing center or quilt shop that may offer classes and knowledgeable staff.  And be sure to look for or ask about that support BEFORE you purchase.  If there is none, move on!  Yes, you might pay slightly more, but chances are that, if any difference, it will be recouped and worth the slight extra.

WORD OF CAUTION!  Trucks that pull up in a parking lot with "Classroom" machines, machines that sew leather, or are a "Serger-Combo" ARE NOT a good buy!  Your money and support drives off into the sunset when they pack up and leave the parking lot.  These guys are kind of like the vans that drive around your neighborhood with a load of great buys on meat!  Sketchy!

I've never seen a nice, well loved Home-Ec Classroom machine.  They have been abused by teenagers, and have broken or missing parts.  And really, where are these school that still offer Home-Ec?
Any machine will sew leather depending on weight of leather and if you use a leather needle.
"Serger-Combo" refers to an attachment.  It is a foot with a cutting attachment that does not cut very well, and guarantee you will want to throw it at the guy who sold it to you.  The machine sews a stitch resembling a cover stitch.  But Sewing Machines and Sergers are two different animals.

Final words.  Sit down and drive several brands.  Some sew smoother and quieter. Some will sew faster.  Find the model and brand that meets your comfort level.

So this is getting long.  Lots to digest.  We'll continue tomorrow with Part 2 - Buying an Embroidery Machine.

Happy Sewing !

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fresh New Year

I haven't seen quite as many news stories this year about New Year's resolutions.  Maybe we're just so happy to put 2016 behind us.  It was quite a year.

I have seen the sales, though, on items that are going to get us organized!  Not falling for it.  Plan to use up or continue to purge my ginormous stash.  And that's not to say I won't buy anything new.  There's always another "pretty" out there.

This is not MY stash, BTW, just a picture from Facebook that I hope I never resemble!  Something to show my DH that there are real hoarders out there.  I, happily, am still an apprentice!

Have my eye on Alex Anderson's new line from RJR due out in April.
What can I do with this?  Just love the colors and have a lot that will work with this.  Can hardly wait.  Something will come to me...about 3 A.M.  That's when my brain come up with it's great ideas.  Guess it's too distracted when I'm awake and need great thoughts.

So what are you up to during these dreary winter days in the Northern Hemisphere?  Lucky, Aussie's and New Zealander friends.  You are in the warm, sunny days of summer.
Drop me a line.

I'll be working on some upcoming happenings for 2017.  So stay tuned.......

Happy Sewing

Friday, October 21, 2016

Block 3 - A Little Birdie Told Me - Be My Neighbor

Applique can add beauty, or a bit of whimsey to a quilting project that piecing or creative quilting design cannot match.

Of all the the techniques that I have taught over the years, applique seems to stir fear in the hearts of my quilting students.  Never have really understood why.  Maybe it's the four-letter word - "hand." Applique is best known to be done by hand, but can also be achieved by machine.

Block 3 in our Neighborhood Sew Along has a sweet little bird sitting atop the roof singing a tune, I'm sure.  To encourage you to give applique a try, I have a couple tips and will show a couple ways to achieve success.

Option 1 - Finished Edge Fusible Applique

You will need Lightweight Fusible Interfacing and a pen or fine tipped marker. Trace the needed shapes on to fusible.

Next roughly cut apart pieces, placing them with coordinating fabric.  Leave at least a 1/4" margin around all pieces

With right sides together (right side of fabric and bumpy-fusible side of interfacing) sew interfacing to fabric following drawn lines.  Cut out shapes leaving a narrow 1/8" margin.

Cut  small slit in the center of interfacing being careful not to cut fabric as well.  Sharp, pointed scissors are best.  

Using that wonderful chopstick (we talked about in previous post) carefully turn the pieces right side out.  Use the chopstick to aid in turning and pushing out tight corners.

Since you cannot apply a hot iron at this point,  use the flat edge of chopstick and the heat from your fingers to press edges flat.

Here are two pieces of the bird.  You would next place the pieces on the block and fuse them in place according to interfacing instructions.  Then tack in place by hand or machine.

Because the edges are finished or turned, it gives more of the appearance of being "hand" finished.  It also gives "lift" or a 3-dimensional look to your work.

But we have some really tiny pieces with this project, so not all can be accomplished with this method.  The tiny beak is just too small to turn.

So let's look at my favorite method.....

Option 2 - Raw Edge Applique

This method requires a double sided fusible - like Heat N Bond or Steam A Seam Lite (I carry both).  Again trace pattern pieces on the paper side of fusible.

These fusibles have a paper and a fusible side.  When you fuse it to the backside of fabric, allow to cool, you can remove the paper backing to reveal a second fusible side.  This fusible side is slightly tacky (like a Post-It Note) and helps with placement.

 Roughly cut pieces apart, leaving margins and place on the back side of appropriate fabric.

Take pieces and fusible to ironing board and fuse to backside of fabrics.  Allow to cool and then cut shapes on drawn lines.  Remove (peel) paper backing off.  If you are having trouble removing, bend a corner back or pop up with the point of a pin.

Next apply pieces to your block. When happy with placement, iron in place.  Pieces CANNOT be moved or removed easily so be sure you have it where you want.  Use that chopstick again to move or place small pieces.

Pieces can be secured with machine stitching.  Work on a sample scrap trying different stitches on your sewing machine and don't forget to adjust both stitch length and width. You may choose a tight narrow zig-zag, a blanket or blind stitch, or a simple narrow topstitch.  Choose whatever you find pleasing.  I choose a blindstitch.

 Here's a little BlueBird for my block.  I didn't add a eye yet.  Maybe a button or bead when the quilt is finished.

Happy Sewing!