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Archive for the ‘Sewing hints’ Category

Peek Into Batiks–June Block!

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Earlier in the year I shared that Michael Miller Fabrics is doing a Block of the Month called Peek Into Batiks. It all began here. That post has links to each month as the new block goes live. Well, June is my turn! I’ve got still photos and (gasp) a video! And, drum roll here is the link to the JUNE Pattern and instructions.

Here’s the finished block! Read on for step by step instructions.

First, of course, you need to cut your fabrics. I used a hybrid method using the AccuQuiltGo! for everything except the large black triangles on the border. First, let me show you how fast it went cutting the components on my AccuQuiltGO! in this video. The video isn’t perfect–I’m improving in my editing skills. I need to mark what is within camera view though! Next video will be even better…I’m learning! When I was playing, it stopped a couple times so just click play again to continue–keep an eye on where the progress bar is. Dunno what’s up with that…another learning curve LOL!

Wasn’t that amazing? Wait until you see the Winding Ways quilt I have in progress for later this year! For now, let’s stick to Peek Into Batiks! This step is where I veer from the instructions (of course, it’s me… who follows instructions EVER completely? Not me…) In the interest of fewer seams, I chose to use the flip-and-sew method for the Flying Geese Units.

I’ve set out the large rectangles and half square triangles to make the frame for the block.
Then I chain pieced the first side of the large Flying Geese.
For the second side of the Flying Geese, same process, just make sure you get the triangles doing in the correct direction. Sew, trim, press.
And the actual sewing bit…
In the interest of not ripping out seams, it really helps to lay these out so you have theirs organized correctly.
Next up, piecing the quarter-squares for the center. First, sew two triangles together.
The Janome M7 Continental lets me piece SO accurately. Between the M7 and AccuQuilt, even *I* can be precise!
I paired up the two-triangle units to make sure I didn’t mix them up while sewing.
Then, sewing the pairs together. Using the M7’s HP foot and throat plate meant PERFECT piecing. See next pic!
And two of the quarter-squares sewn together. I can’t believe I pieced that perfectly!
Here’s the back of the block. Notice that some seams are pressed to one side, but the main seams joining the four squares are pressed open. This helped keep everything nice and tidy and perfect on the front.
Once the center unit was ready, I set up the “frame” for the block.
I sewed the sections together in three rows. Notice the only imperfection is down where *I* used rotary cutting…sigh……..
Here’s the finished block again!

Remember, go here or HERE for all the links to the six blocks so far and to check in for the rest of the year. The finished quilt is beautiful!

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.

Dress Form: Unvarnished Truth and a Game Changer

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Two years ago I made my DIL Ashley a linen jacket for job interviews. It was a revelation! Working on another body (not mine) was SO EASY–I could see what needed fitting, figure out how to make changes, assess fit and lines. So I vowed to get a dress form. KaCHING! What I wanted was over $400! Nope. So I cast about for something less expensive. A local quilty friend had a friend with one to sell…done for $75. And it still mostly adjusted and wasn’t musty!

For your listening pleasure (you’ll need to read to the end to understand why), open this in a separate browser window.

First change: using an old bra to get the boobs into the right shape for me.

However, I discovered that the dress form and I were built on different molds. I honestly didn’t look as good as the dress form even though the measurements were correct. For starters, most dress forms start with a B-cup. The only time I was that large, I was nursing my sons! So I had to shrink in the torso to get a proper full bust measurement and shape, then pad out everything else to correct ribs, high bust, etc

But even that didn’t do it. Luckily I had long planned to get proper measurements done. Fiddlehead Artisan Supply (if you ever get to Belfast Maine, you MUST MUST MUST go there; quilt fabric, garment fabric, paint, art supplies of all sorts, crafting supplies….in other words, heaven!) has a classroom. Students can pay a VERY modest fee per hour for the teacher to come and help you. When I went, there was one student sewing and me getting measured. I figured I could try and explain to hubby what to do (but do I really want him to know my actual size? NO!) OR I could get someone who sews and would do it properly. Easy choice. The following is a chart I made to use at that session.

Here’s a link for you to download this chart.

To prepare, I looked at patterns, sewing books and knitting books to figure out every conceivable measurement I might need, ever. And I put them into a chart. I have created this a PDF for you to use!

I tried using batting and whatnot, but decided to purchase this smaller set of Fabulous Fit Dress Form pads to make life easy AND give myself a surface that was more pinnable than the actual dress form which is a very dense molded paperboard covered in cloth. I didn’t understand why the slightly more expensive version of this set had TWO dress covers….I’ll explain below. Here they are on Amazon US.

I learned SO MUCH about the shape of my body in this process (and I’m fine with lumps…life is better with ice cream, although 10 pounds fewer lumps would be nice too….the 20 I need to lose ain’t gonna happen). And I learned about the pattern industry, the “blocks” (body shape bases they use) and fitting ease. I can now use my stand-by—measure a garment I have that fits the way I want and compare with what I measure on the pattern–along with the dress form and get a fit that I want!

In the coming weeks I’ll have several garment making posts. I have made a top, a skirt, a tunic, leggings, have another pair of leggings on the cutting table, and a pinafore/jumper on the design wall. Ailith (traditional Scottish name meaning seasoned warrior–my paternal grandmother was Irish but born in Glasgow, I am named after her, so I liked Ailith) has been a great help already. Can’t wait to share. Oh…and why red dress?

Put on your red dress, girl, and have FUN! BIG thanks to Marty Ornish, who makes amazing art with old quilts and dress forms….check out her website, Marty-O, here. I asked her what she uses, and for some purposes she uses mannequins with stretchy fabric pulled over. She gave me a length, so now Ailith can put on her party shoes!

The Janome HP foot and throat plate, or…The not-so-little things

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Sometimes it is the little things, that turn out to be not-so-little, that make the difference in life. In my life, watching the bubbles form and the water boil gives me joy…what can I say, I live a rural life LOL! Another one is tools that make my sewing life easier like the Janome M7’s HP Presser Foot and throat plate, which are available on select other Janome models. It also turns out, you can teach someone who has been sewing for about 57 years new tricks!

Yes, I like to watch water boil! No, I am not chanting “bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” over the cauldron! (chortle…..)

I have never been precise at piecing like my friends Krispi Staude on San Juan Island or Joan Herrick, Tori Manzi and Karen Miller here in Maine. I try, but I just never quite get it perfect. And I am Type A enough that it Really Bugs Me. Either go totally improv OR Get It Right. A couple things introduced into my life recently have helped a lot. The Janome M7 Continental (I’m a Janome Artisan, get to borrow this machine for extended periods for free, but I’d say all this good stuff if I paid full MSRP!) is one of them. I’ll share another next week or so. I’m also trying to improve my skills and learn to shoot and edit videos, so I’m practicing on these short clips.

Here I’m showing and explaining Janome’s HP system, which I think must mean Heavenly Perfection. I need to get better at holding the phone and zooming, but with each video I improve. Lookit the titles and comments I was able to add! AND I did TWO transitions! Maybe by summer I’ll be adept enough to consider online classes.

Anyway, the automatic / magnetic throat plate is one of those “little” things that make my life easier. So yeah, it’s the not-so-little things that make life good! Thank you, Janome! Here’s the video…if for any reason it cuts out part way through, click on it to go watch on my YouTube Channel.

The HP foot can be used for piecing, garment construction and quilting. I’ve just finished a somewhat “quilt Modern” top–about 34″ square–that I’ll share over the next couple of months. Next week, I’ll share a video with me actually piecing! Who me? FUN… a total and much needed mental break in the Time of Covid-19!

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!