email Youtube

Home
Galleries
Blog
Workshops & Calendar
Store
Resources
About
Contact

Archive for the ‘Crafty’ Category

Easy Peasy meets Soft ‘n Stable

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

In my last post I shared the Clam Up bag from byAnnie.com, and earlier I shared my AWESOME Running With Scissors bag made for her patterns. I love bags and baskets and boxes and things to organize. One of my favorite classes to teach is my Easy-Peasy Inside-Out Bag, which makes a great 3 hours quickie class for a bag (or two if you are fast) or full day class where you can learn more details and extras. I decided to try Annie’s Soft ‘n Stable stabilizer instead of batting to see how it would work in MY bags, which are quick quick quick and FUN! (Like potato chips, you can’t make just one!)

Here it is: the Easy Peasy process using Soft ‘n Stable and accenting the zipper with “binding” the way Annie Unrein teaches in her patterns at byAnnie.com The fabric used is courtesy of Michael Miller Fabrics–the main fabric is from the Lost in Paradise collection (shipped May 2020) and the other fabrics are the Garden Pindot collection on the outside and the inside (and that’s Hash Dots on the backing of the quilt you see awaiting quilting on the back of the table).
This is a sampling of the fun bags I teach in the Easy-Peasy Inside-Out Class…. if you think you’d like me to teach this for your guild–including LIVE ONLINE workshops, leave me a comment! They are fast and fun and can be customized so many ways.
This shows the Clam Up bag and my Easy-Peasy next to it. I made this bag long enough to hold my large Fiskars flat on the bottom. Frankly, it is large enough it could hold a small knitting project or paper piecing supplies! One thing I will do differently next time is FUSE the lining to the back side of the Soft ‘n Stable. I didn’t use the walking foot and it shows. Oh well…lesson learned!
Before installing the zipper and sewing the seams, I pinned it together to check size and how I wanted to finish it. Most of my Easy Peasy bags leave the boxed corner triangles on the outside (see that photo above with the many colorful bags made with batting). Leaving the triangles outside acts to stabilize the bag and keep it upright. With the Soft ‘n Stable doing that job, I chose to tuck the “corners” inside for this bag.
Next, before boxing the bag into shape, I used the 3-stitch zigzag to secure and tidy up the edges.
The narrow accufeed foot on my Janome M7 makes it a breeze to sew zippers to a quilted, puffy base without distortion.
Here I’m adding a decorative element to the zippers. Gotta love wonder clips!
On my Janome M7, I the three-stitch zigzag looks like this, but it is available on all but the most basic machines as a standard utility stitch. The M7 allows me great flexibility in both stitch width and length–not all machines do!

My Easy-Peasy Inside-Out process is fun, fast, and infinitely adaptable. I’ll be making a new version of my notebook cover–I’ve also got an iPad case, a business card case, and a few other goodies up my sleeve. Maybe I’ll self-publish a book of patterns and variations on the theme…what do you think?

Next up, I’ll share a basket pattern that again modifies what I’ve learned from the byAnnie.com patterns! Stay tuned!

Found in Paradise: a clam!

Monday, June 8th, 2020

OK, that’s a bit punny…. I’ve used some of the fun Michael Miller Fabrics Lost in Paradise fabric to make a byAnnie.com pattern called Clam Up. Before COVID hit, I was thinking about my travel teaching, and I made the Running With Scissors tote and blogged about it, here. I wanted a companion bag for bulky stuff I needs to schlep with me. Both of these bags are good for use in your sewing space, retreats or a whole bunch of other things!

The Clam Up bag pattern allows you to select various sizes. I chose a Large to use for travel teaching. I used the Lost in Paradise print as well as the Garden Pindots (the magenta) and Hash Dot in an aqua color way. A quick google showed lots of the Lost in Paradise prints available on Etsy–the collection came out in May 2020.

I really like bags that open up wide, where I don’t have to root around–I can just open ‘er up and SEE what I need to grab. The large was big enough to set my mug inside…at least unzipped.

The Large bag is large enough to fit a 45mm rotary cutter on the bottom (flat) and in this photo shows my MUG inside! The gussets on the side allow the bag to open up (like a clam, get it?!) wide so you can see what is in the bag, but prevents stuff from falling out.

Annie Unrein and her staff suggest quilting up your fabrics, using her Soft n Stable instead of batting. The Soft n Stable is a foam with a soft, grippy fabric on the outsides. I love that it stands up and holds it shape, the cotton doesn’t slip ‘n slide around, and doesn’t require a ton of quilting to look good in the finished project.

Here I have quilted the sandwich of inside and outside fabrics. I chose to piece the outside so it would have the magenta on the bottom, feature the print, and use a coordinating magenta/fuchsia bag zipper (wider zipper tape) from byAnnie. You can see I’ve used the walking foot for simple outlining for the feature fabric and a simple grid on the base.
Here, I’ve used paper from the recycling bin to create a full-size pattern. Son had asked me to print the video game he was giving his brother as a gift…definitely not my game LOL! Now it is time to cut out the bag.
Annie has some great tips about sewing zippers, and has started doing “add-on” videos to help teach you how to make her bags to perfection. I’ve been sewing 50 years and am pretty adept, and I’m picking up great tips. I am also developing a great fondness for the Garden Pindot (the magenta) and the Hash Dot fabrics…they are really great blenders. Have been adding to my stash!
LOOK at all that can fit inside here: rotary cutter, roll of package tape (for when I need to ship a box home from a venue), and large spools of thread. I often let students borrow tools to try them out (sometimes I sell them, too, but always tell them to try mine out to see if they like the tool before purchasing it). Now I can set this bag out as a “ok for students to use stuff” and keep my things that I need at the teacher table to use in the Running with Scissors bag.
Originally this was designed as a travel-teacher duo. Don’t know when I will be able to travel teach again, but these are great in the studio and for guild sewing days and retreats, too. And a whole lot of other things. Here’s the link to the blogpost again for the Running With Scissors bag. I have quite honestly kept that bag out as what now appears to be a permanent addition to my cutting workspace!
And here’s a closer look at the pattern, the blender fabrics (always available from Michael Miller), and the zipper from byAnnie.com . I LOVE being able to get coordinated components from byAnnie–the mesh, elastic, zippers, all the colors match or coordinate for tons of fun! I must have about a dozen (or more) of her zippers and a stash of bag-making components now!

Next up: inspired by Annie’s construction techniques and materials, I made one of my Easy-Peasy-Inside-Out bags merging my process and her materials. Check back soon!

Note: for this post, the fabric, pattern and zipper are courtesy of Michael Miller Fabrics and byAnnie.com–THANK YOU! But I love the stuff so much I have spent a goodly chunk of my own hard-earned money buying more of the fabrics and notions.

Lost in (a Tropical) Paradise AND quilty things

Friday, April 24th, 2020
Today’s blogpost is my Michael Miller Brand Ambassador project for April. I was fortunate to receive my fabrics and things just before everything shut down! I knew I wanted to make up the Running With Scissors pattern from byAnnie.com, so I wrote to ask permission. To my utter delight they not only said yes, but what do you need and we will send you supplies! So thank you also go byAnnie.com for the mesh, vinyl, stretchy elastic stuff, Soft & Stable foam “batting” and scissors. I actually placed a wholesale order with my regular wholesaler for about $95 more of byAnnie goodies — I have been buying her patterns for a couple years and this is the perfect year to make them in conjunction with Michael Miller Fabrics.
Here is part of the collection. I used the Postage Stamp fabric in charcoal/black background for the outside of the bag, and the Tropical Leaves on white on the inside.

When I selected this fun line of fabric for one of my second quarter projects as a Michael Miller Brand Ambassador, a global pandemic wasn’t even a blip on most of our radars. But who wouldn’t love to be on a beach with a balmy sea breeze, enjoying the turquoise waters and lush green foliage of a tropical splendor. Well, now that COVID-19 and hunkering down at home are the order of the day, a virtual escape is even MORE fun.

Fabrics are from top to bottom: Garden Pindots in Raspberry, Lavish Leaves in white, Garden Pindots in Marine, Hash Dot, Garden Pindots in Fern and , and Tropical Getaway in black, the feature fabric with “stamps.” The Garden Pindots and Hash Dot fabrics are Michael Miller Basics and always available, while the two prints are from the Lost in Paradise line that should be shipping to stores in April/May, though we now know that all previously planned schedules are now subject to change!

For some time now, I have been “collecting” patterns from byAnnie.com. I decided now was the perfect time to try at least one of them out.

These are the items I used for my project. I made a few changes (small) to the pattern and the supplies. Two of those are the magnets from byAnnie.com (little box to the left of the green elastic) and using the thermal barrier fabric we were given at the Janome Education Summit nearly two years ago.

I had only done one byAnnie.com pattern before, a freebie for the Petit Four box/basket. Annie is one smart and organized lady–and with a pattern with as many parts as this case, that’s a very good thing. If you are a linear thinker, you will ADORE her methodical step-by-step approach. If you are a global thinker, like me, and need to see the big picture I suggest that if you make this project skim the first 7 pages of the pattern. Then read Pages 8-9 CLOSELY so you can understand where the component parts go. Then go back to page 1 and go through it closely step by step. I don’t do well when I am being led to an end without knowing the overall picture (literally as well as figuratively) or where “pocket D” goes! Once I got the overall picture, having Annie’s very careful process and step by step approach was brilliant for me, too.

Annie’s attention to detail and fine craftsmanship also sets my heart aflutter–I am a stickler for fine workmanship and beautiful results. You can learn a lot from her patterns, so I encourage you to go ahead and dive in no matter how complex because the instructions will guide you at every step. The Add-On videos that now come with some of the patterns are also extremely helpful. You get a “just for you” code with a pattern that allows you to access extensive information on the byAnnie.com website.

By making a very small change to the overall dimensions–1″ each way when zipped closed–I was able to fit my cutting mat in an outside pocket as well as my long scissors. There is a companion pattern, the Take a Stand bag, that serves as an “easel” for this bag. Since I travel teach and my suitcase usually weighs 49.8 pounds (.2 under the limit), I knew I wouldn’t want to carry the extra case. BUT I wanted this bag to stand up for me. I have the mat on one side, some rigid plastic on the other, and added some straps (see below) so I can still use it upright on my teacher’s table!
My changes meant I needed to remember to adjust the sizes of the pockets to make each item 1″ wider and, for the outside pockets a bit longer. Luckily, the 40″ zipper to close the entire case was still plenty long.

One of the first things you want to do is take an inventory of what you want to put in the case. Here is what is in my “toss it all in” bag for teaching:

I managed to fit everything except the roll of tape, plus a few extras.
As usual, I need to customize things. My pleated pockets hold my rotary cutter on one end and my breath mints (truth: you teach and don’t hydrate enough because you don’t want to need to leave the classroom to run down the hall, but that can lead to lunch-breath! Ick! So I always have Altoids!).
Sewing with tissue or paper under the vinyl prevented sticking to the machine bed. I was impressed by the thickness and flexibility of the byAnnie vinyl–the best I’ve come across. I received one of Annie’s stilettos in the teacher goodie bag at Houston years ago but hadn’t really used it, preferring to use a bamboo skewer or something less hazardous if I hit it with the needle. I am a convert to using this tool for many (though not all) purposes. I took a 90 minute lecture/demo class with Annie Unrein at Houston during Market last year, and learned that the tip isn’t smooth but kinda grippy. What a difference that makes! And the flat back end “presses” seams open at the sewing machine. The fact that you can also “spear” the fabric or zipper tape with the tip makes wrangling the multiple layers easy.
Those new BFF Wonder Clips also make it easy to control the bulk without bending pins! And now I want to go have a pina colada on a beach somewhere….
Annie has a pretty nifty way to create beautifully finished edges. Using the ability to fine-tune where the needle drops combined with the accufeed (walking) foot meant I was able to do a nice job with the topstitching which keeps the zipper tape from misbehaving while in use.
I’ve been impressed by the M7 ever since Janome America (THANK YOU AGAIN for 16+ years of sponsorship!) sent me a loaner. I continue to be astounded at how well it works. I mean–a quarter of an inch thick through dense zipper tapes (TWO of them), foam batting, multiple layers of fabric, and not a fuss!
If I were just traveling by car, I would TOTALLY make Annie’s Take a Stand bag, the companion to the Running with Scissors pattern. You just drape this case over the top of the Stand bag, and presto. I improvised by creating straps cut from 1 1/2″ x 12″ strips of fabric. I appliquéd magnets to the inside of the outside pockets (testing to make sure they would grab, and indeed they are plenty strong). The photo below shows the testing stage.
The other minor fiddle to the pattern… I did the tabs my way. I sew a square or rectangle to the end of the zipper. Then I use my beloved glue stick (which is dynamite for sewing bindings by machine for washable things like placemats) to hold things in place before sewing.
And here is my finished bag on the inside… I LOVE IT! It’s SO PRETTY!!!!! On the right you can see how the magnet-strap tucks into the pocket (top, with green rotary cutter) and pulled out next to the Altoids tin.
At first I wasn’t going to make the optional pressing mat. The idea of it is to protect your tools: set it in the center of the case and when closed the tools won’t rub on each other or scratch. I thought–don’t need the bulk. But then I thought why not…I can take it or leave it at home as needed. But I was worried about plastic tables at guilds if I were to use the Soft and Stable foam insulation. Instead, I used a layer of print fabric, a layer of pure cotton batting, a layer of the solarize insulating material, then two layers of wool felt. I didn’t quilt them…just sewed them together around the edges. It works!

PS: that quilt top in the background is going to be called “214,” for the 214 colors of Cotton Couture solids made by Michael Miller. Stay tuned for that quilted later in the year!

I only did one thing I wish I had done differently: I didn’t quite get the measurements correct when handling the zipper on the tab end because I had modified the sizes. I expect the zipper would be easier to open if I had heeded the precise measurements, but working from the center out instead of the edge to the center. I have learned: trust Annie’s patterns (and I’m not usually one to go by someone else’s rules).

I LOVE THIS BAG SO MUCH–the Michael Miller fabrics just make me happy–those are SO my colors! I actually have not put it away, and reorganized my work table so I can keep it opened / standing up right near where I work. Stay tuned for my own take on bags and baskets in May and at least one other byAnnie pattern later this year!

A sweater-hug

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Talk about COZY and warm! I fell in love with the relaxed and comfy look of the Sunday Cardigan (on Ravelry) mohair edition and regular edition immediately and knew I wanted a slouchy, oversized hug-of-a-sweater. So I made one! And then I made another. Here’s the second one, which is what I was craving:

Yes, it feels like a hug!

Now I KNOW many of you are thinking “mohair…ITCHY!” I agree. But this one is made with Rowan’s Kidsilk Mohair, a blend of mohair and silk and it is heavenly soft and doesn’t itch me!

BUT, before I got to this one, I used up some stash. Yes, I used yarn stash! I had this alpaca boucle (according to the receipt in the bag) about a decade. Ahem. I wasn’t sure if I would have enough, so I made a size medium just to be sure. I couldn’t believe how quickly it knit up. My previous sweater was 24+ stitches to 4 inches. This was 12 (!!!!) stitches to four inches. And it knit up in a matter of a few weeks! It is quite fitted, and I’m fine with that. I like the sweater, it is comfortable, and looks good. But I wanted that huggy-oversized look.

As you can see, the blue sweater fits and looks good, but is not that oversized hug. I can tell already, though, that it will get a lot of use. And did I mention, I used up yarn stash?!!!!

So I bought new yarn at Heavenly Yarns in Belfast, Maine. Thankfully, they got in a new order of the Kidsilk before the current shelter-in-place-followed-by-quarantine-then-extended thing. I wanted mine quite long, so I used just over 4 skeins of Cascade 220 in an oatmeal color (reasonably priced) and four skeins (down to the last 30 inches) of Kidsilk (honestly, a bit expensive) in a soft white. If you want to geek out and are a Ravelry member (free to join), you can see project notes here. The blue version is here. I could have done the math and made a different size of the regular version, but I sprang for the whopping $6 for the mohair edition pattern which did the math for me. My version is a bit of a hybrid: I made the mohair version using one strand of Cascade 220 held together with just one (not two as recommended) strand of Kidsilk and got the gauge of 14 stitches to the inch. Given how warm it is, I’m glad I don’t have another strand of mohair in there!

Even after blocking, it didn’t grow longer…hooray! just what I had hoped it would be.

I opted to make the fold-over collar from the standard version and sew it down as in that pattern (even though I didn’t sew down the collar in the blue one!) and add buttons. I followed the directions in the standard pattern for opening up the stitch rather than making a proper buttonhole. Since I had no idea how long I was going to make mine, that was easier. However I think next time I will do a proper buttonhole that looks better. I also made my sweater longer, with sleeves that are neither snug nor full.

Side view: if I am not tugging on the front of the sweater, it is actually FLAT and even at the hem!
Most garment patterns are made for full busted women. I am not among that group. So I always need to make modifications. changing a front and neckline is tricky. It is far easier to do short rows on the back to even out the tilty hem. Above, the bottom of the ruler is on a single row of knitting. The pins mark where I did short rows, turning the work to add almost 2 1/2″ of length in the center back. I went beyond the side seams about 1-2 inches onto the front area. Next time, I would extend the short rows to within 3 inches of the center front. I would also do the short rows just above the hem, but I thought I was gong to make this as long as the four skeins of Cascade lasted, but after doing the short rows decided I really wanted it longer. But the short rows mean that the sweater doesn’t hang down and sag and point to the ground in the front! Problem solved!
On the blue sweater, the medium version really wasn’t large enough for my broad shoulders, so the collar–which was designed to be doubled over–got pulled outwards. So I decided not to fold the collar to the inside and stitch and just left it as is because my neck gets cold in winter. For my oatmeal version, I made a size L and made sure that I had enough rows in the yoke that I didn’t have that problem in my Hug Sweater!

So that’s what I’ve been doing in the evenings while watching Midsomer Murders on Amazon Prime on my iPad. Next up: a pattern hack of Jeri Riggs’s stunning Lily of the Valley vest. I’m attempting to do my own thing and make a linen t-shirt with two columns of the Lily of the Valley motif up the center front, mimicking one of my favorite cloth shirt patterns that has a square neck and short sleeves. The Quince and Co. linen yarn isn’t fun to work with my arthritis, but everyone tells me I will LOVE the yarn once it is all done and washed. About 24 stitches to the inch, so it is slow going, but I’m about 6 inches up from the bottom. Hopefully it will be done by the time it is warm enough to WEAR it! And hopefully we’ll be able to go out!

Dealing with the achy parts…a quick project

Friday, March 20th, 2020
Sarah Ann Smith's easy peasy arm support

How to deal with aches, be thrifty and creative

So in January I was diagnosed with bursitis in my right elbow. Seemingly overnight a big bubble popped up on the outside of the elbow–like half a golf ball big. ( I hear my father saying Keep your elbows off the table! Remember that?) It didn’t really hurt, but if I leaned on the table it was annoying. For a long while I used an empty squeeze bottle (one I use for dyeing). I had first brought it up to support my wrists at the computer instead of buying an expensive do-dad for such purpose. I realized I could use the bottle to elevate my forearm so I could sit at the table as I always do, lean on my arms, but not aggravate the bubble (by the way, two months later it is pretty much finally gone). But the cat kept stealing the bottle as a toy.

I remembered those wrist supports they sell and thought “I’ll bet I could make something.” So, I did. For a whopping $1.99 for a length of foam pipe insulation (I used the kind for 1/2″ diameter copper pipe, the one with the smallest hole in the center) and scraps of cloth, fusible and batting. Here’s what and how I did it, and what I’d do differently.

I measured how long I wanted the foam support to be, then cut a batting scrap (ya know those long skinny ones you can’t quite toss?) to fit around plus 1-1 1/2″ extra on the circumference, plus an extra 1 1/2″ on either end. Next, open up the sliced bit. Then, I used some, um…., “vintage” Aleene’s tacky glue, which meant I needed to spread it since it wouldn’t pour. Ahem.

I tucked the batting inside the slot, then filled in the hole in the center with remnants trimmed for extra pipe insulation. If I leaned on the tube, it sorta collapsed, so I just stuffed it. Do NOT glue this bit! You may opt to tuck things in.

THIS IS WHERE I’D DO IT DIFFERENT:
Next time, I think I would fuse the fabric to the batting first rather than later because the outside isn’t quite as smooth as I could like.

I refused my fabric (cheerful!) and fused it to the roll. If I were to make another, I’d fuse it to the batting first. I added the batting because I thought trying to fuse directly to the foam would not be successful–melted foam? No thanks.

I used a wave/pinking blade to trim the exposed edge of the fabric, overlapped the edges and fused together. Next time (if there is one), I would tuck the ends into the slice, then glue it shut.

For the ends, I snipped the excess at the ends to 1/4″ away from the foam pipe. I worked my way around from the underneath edge to the overlap edge of the fabric, fusing as I went. By not cutting to the outside edge I got a neat fold that won’t ravel.

Just place your iron on the end and fuse as you work your way around. When it’s all down, hold the iron on the end for a bit extra to get it to really stick.

PS: Best fusible in the world: MISTYFUSE. Hands down. The Best!

And here’s my end.

Using the roll as a support for my forearms, which keeps my wrists straight and not bent (since the arthritis in the wrists acts up when bent).

How I spend way too much of my life…at the laptop! Business and friends and internet happen!

Hope this mini tutorial will help you or someone you know. Thanks for reading!