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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

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!

Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows (part 2 of 2)

Thursday, March 12th, 2020
Today it’s time for part 2 of 2 in the “how to make cushions” tutorial! In this image, I’ve sewn the boxing strip–the bit on the edges/sides (black Galaxy fabric from Michael Miller Fabrics, Spring 2020) to one of the squares (top and bottom) to make sure I’ve got the fit right. Looks pretty good! The top on this one is the SuperFred fabric in gray (with this fun fox named Fred and a robot named Mike). Those glorious solids (SWOON) are part of the Cotton Couture collection. Colors are Acid (left), Yellow (top), Apricot (right), and Lilypad (bottom). Like I said, SWOON!

In my last post, we went through my deep-placket zipper construction that I use for home dec use. Sturdy and classy. You can find the free PDF pattern with gobs of photos here at Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows. And here’s a link to the first post. And close up views of all the pillows are at the end of this post.

I shared this photo before, but didn’t point out the very hard to see black strapping handle which is in the center of the side facing us. If you look at the pop-socket on the ruler, come down to the cloth. Then look and you’ll see two Space Aliens, fussy cut from that fabric, at the ends.
My dear DIL is a kindergarten teacher, and these cushions and pillows are headed to her classroom for wee people to flop upon and read. Or just flop upon! She’ll need to be able to move them about easily. As she is TINY, we need to make this easy (not a bear hug thing just to move a pillow). I cut some of the Space Pals fabric into rectangles, centering one of the Pals so it would show. Sew the rectangle to the end of some webbing. I could only find 1 1/2″ wide locally in rural Maine. It works but I think 1″ wide would be better if you can find it. Sew the rectangle to the end of the webbing, then fold and press the side edges in, turn under the remaining raw edge, and sew. I use–get ready for this–washable glue stick instead of pins. When doing your folding and pressing, use a swipe of glue. Presto. Stays put. When you fold things together into a nice little package, a little dab of glue will do ya! (Who else remembers Dippity Do?) Center the handle exactly over the zipper and sew. I put some squares of old denim on the inside to reinforce the fabric. See next photo.
Next step: sew the boxing to one side. Start by finding the center of the zipper. Here, you can see those rectangles of denim (with overcast stitch to prevent raveling) I used to reinforce the handle which is on the right side of the fabric. Mark 12″ to the right and to the left of the zipper’s exact center. Then measure 24″ to mark the other corners on the boxing strip. I chose to put some reinforcing stitching (triple straight stitch–see below) at each corner–about an inch to either side of th marking pin. I sewed about 3/8″ from the edge. If your overall gusset/boxing length is a little off, you may need to remove the stitching for one of the zipper garages and adjust the overall circumference of the boxing strip/gusset so it is snug.

Put the boxing strip (now a loop) on the cushion inside out. It’s much easier to assemble and pin with the fabric held upright (and not floppy on the table)! Place the top fabric face down. If you use a print that is directional, as I did, I put the top of their heads on the zipper side of the cushion. Pin all the way around.

You’ll want to clip each corner about 3/8″–so to the reinforcing stitching / almost to the very seamline in each corner. I clip right before stitching.
I like to use the triple-straight stitch when I need a strong seam with some flex. This is on my Janome M7 Continental, but almost all machines other than straight-stitch only have something similar. This is what I used to reinforce the corners AND sew the seams. Since the corners are clipped, this provides a little insurance against tears, especially in the cushion stuffing/wrestling stage. Or when anticipating wee people thumping their little bodies all over the place.
With the top of the cushion on the bottom and the boxing/gusset on top, sew together with a 1/2″ seam. I sewed this with the triple straight stitch, again because I expect these cushions to see some enthusiastic use in a classroom. Sturdy is wise. Sew RIGHT UP to the CORNER and stop with the needle down. You can see some of the reinforcing stitching just to the left of the needle. You can also see that clipping has allowed the boxing strip to make a 90 degree turn at the corner, and that a bit of the boxing has folded over and is pushing into the next side to be stitched.
With the needle still DOWN, lift the presser foot. Ease the boxing to the left to remove that little pushed bit you see in the photo above. Notice the reinforcing stitching that goes down to the pin. I will sew on or just a thread’s width to the left of that when I sew the seam. Make sure the raw edges are aligned–you’ll see a perfect little square of the fabric on the bottom as the boxing strip pivots around the corner/needle. Sew the next side.
And here we are, corner turned, ready to roll. Or sew. Or have a something rewarding. Wine? Pina Colada? Nap? Chocolate?
Anyway, Repeat until you have reached where you began!

Then do it again with the other side. REMEMBER to leave the ZIPPER OPEN just enough to reach your arm inside. Makes turning the cushion right side out a whole lot easier. Ahem. Yeah, didn’t do that when I first began working for that interior designer. I was able to fiddle the zipper pull and get it open. Trust me, gap is better.
OMG–almost done!!!!! Most furniture cushions are foam wrapped with dacron (outdoor cushions are the exception). There are different grades of foam. Softer ones are generally used for seat backs, firmer foam for seat cushions. There is even this miraculous “outdoor” flow-through foam–instead of being sponge-like and holding water, it drains out. The foam is kinda very firm, but think about it…no mildew! Anyway…back to this program. Upholsterers then use a spray glue to adhere the Dacron wrap (like quilt batting but fluffier, scratchier, cheaper I think, I had leftover, only partly mouse-munched in the shed). I had a vintage can of the spray upholsterers use but I think an artist’s spray glue **might maybe** work–check the label to see if it says anything about eating/eroding foam. And test. You can also just hand baste the edges. When using spray glue, I just spray the surface, pat the one huge, long and wide-enough-to-cover-the-edges Dacron in place and then trim it to the edges.

Next: Stuffing the cushion cover you just lovingly made. In the above photo, notice that I have used a dry cleaner bag (a big leaf bag works too) that I wrapped around the bottom of the cushion to facilitate wrestling it into the cushion cover. Do NOT put the cushion inside the bag–wrap plastic-something around the bottom. You need to be able to remove the plastic bag easily, and trying to tear a bag off the innards while stuffed inside the cover is not workable.
By having zippers that come halfway around the sides of the cushion, you have made this part–stuffing–a whole LOT easier. Place the cushion inside like you are putting a pillow inside a pillowcase. Then place the cushion on the floor, using your legs to hold it upright. Smooth and pull the cushion up the sides. Pull the plastic out, then slide your arm inside and coax the seam allowances toward to boxing on all sides. Tuck the corners of the foam on the top edge under the zipper, and zip closed . See next photo.
Here I’ve got the cushion on its side…see the zipper garage on the left? Use one hand to squish the foam/dacron down, and pull the zipper up over your hand (prevents getting dacron in the zipper). Slide your hand back, repeat. When you get to the corner, nudge the innards into the corners and continue until done. Park the zipper pull in the zipper garage on the other end. You may wish to fine tune where the seams are–straighten them, etc. Wearing quilting gloves or rubbery kitchen gloves gives your fingers a bit of grip and allows you to ease the fabric into perfect position.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!!!

Ta DAAAAA! DONE! Celebrate! Feel a bit chuffed (great Aussie word meaning proud or pleased).
The Space Pals in Gray side of the cushion. I put a different feature print on each side, so the kids can have Super Fred up on both cushions, or Space Aliens (next image), or one of each. Notice on the top of this one that black ripple? That’s the carry handle so the kids and DIL can tidy up! AND these cushions stand up on their edges, better for stashing in a crowded classroom. And yes, that’s my one and only (so far, I hope for another) magazine cover behind the love seat..my pink peony on Germany’s Patchwork magazine.
Are those Space Pals in Black not the cutest things ever? I think some pillows made in their image need to happen…
Close up of the Space Pals toss pillow. I got my pillow inserts from (Sigh…I go there sometimes…no one else within an hour’s drive has some of what they carry) WalMart for cheap.
And Super Fred in gray. Adorable. Although I think we need some gender equality…It’s gonna be Super Freddie, short for Frederica! for me.

Thanks for sticking with me this long. I know these have been long and detailed posts, but sometimes when you’re essentially teaching a day-long workshop in two blogposts, that happens! I hope you’ve learned something and enjoyed the visit. THANK YOU!

Ask for it at your local shop!

And one last time… here’s the link to the free PDF pattern!

My interview with Create Whimsy

Friday, March 6th, 2020

I was absolutely delighted when Create Whimsy wrote to ask if I’d like to do a Spotlight interview with them–so many people I admire have interviews that you can still see and read. It was even more fun when the Editor, Chardel Blaine, realized that I had taught at a shop she worked at–Quiltworks Northwest in Bellevue, Washington–and we had met about 15 YEARS ago!

Here’s the link to my interview… I hope you enjoy reading the flotsam and jetsam of my life and mind. I opened up a half dozen interviews to review and prepare which led me to a new artist I admire, and I’m planning on opening another half dozen for lunchtime reading. Thank you Chardel and Create Whimsy!

Bellish Knitting app

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

So those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I’ve been doing a fair bit of knitting this past two years. A while back while browsing in Pinterest, I saw an ad asking for beta testers for a new knitting app by Bellish. I signed up, made a sweater, LOVE the app and as of today! it is available in the App stores, and is currently free (but will probably go to paid at some point). I have been telling local friends and shops about it because it is amazing.

Go to your device’s app store and type in Bellish knitting. The name of the app is Bellish, but because it just went public today other weird stuff pops up if you use only the name of the app, so be sure to add knitting to your search.

As an intermediate, perhaps advanced, knitter, this app lets me do what I’ve always wanted:  customize a design for my taste and figure, and it is EASY.  I signed up as a beta tester when only one base design was available.  I was easily able to turn a crew neck pullover into a cardigan with lace panels on either side of the button band and down the back, add waist shaping, and it fits **perfectly.** 

This is the “Cosmos” cardigan I made in fingering/lace weight yarn using the pullover pattern. Splitting in the center is easy, of course, and I added waist shaping so the sweater was more fitted and less boxy (check out Amy Herzog’s Knit to Fit book for tips on fitting). Yarn is Meadow by the Fibre Co. in Cosmos.

The row counters are so easy to use—keep the phone by your chair—and keep you on track.  So does being able to check off a section done and using the Checkpoints to make sure you have the correct number of stitches.  I’m looking forward to even more base patterns.  I’ve recommended this app to friends and in knit shops whenever I can.  Imagine being in a shop, falling in love with a yarn, and right there in moments generate a pattern that tells you how much yarn to buy!  LOVE it!

This is what your app looks like when you open it–at least once you have created a couple designs.
This is the pattern I used for my cardigan, above. I was able to open up the color picker and select the exact color of my yarn. This is particularly helpful when using the option to create a stranded colorwork design. Notice that I titled it 40.9″ even though it is created for a 36″ bush–that is the wearing ease. Using a smaller-than-I-am pattern let me get the more fitted look I wanted.
The app has Stitch Checkpoints every so often so you can double check that you have the correct number of stitches. It also shows the row counters. I used these and loved having multiple counters: you can use one for overall length, the other for a pattern such as the lace that I inserted. You can see that there is also a highlighter, so you can mark where you leave off at the end of a knitting session. Who doesn’t forget exactly where they were in the pattern…this makes it easy, and no big pieces of paper falling all over the place.
This screen shot shows the schematic. I’d love it if they would add even more dimensions, such as width of neck, distance from top of shoulder to underarm seam, and (as someone who is broad-shouldered) width from shoulder point to shoulder point, but all things in time. OH, and another thing. I didn’t want the Cosmos sweater above with as much wearing ease as the pattern, but fitted. So I used the schematic with the finished measurements to see which pattern would yield the FINISHED dimensions I wanted. Alas, I am not a 36″ bust, but that size gave me the finished size I wanted. It worked!

SO, if you like to knit, open up your App Store (both Android and Apple/ iOS) and download this currently-free app! Yuppers, it’s five stars from me. I’m a happy sweater-wearing camper! I’m waiting for top-down cardigan with set in sleeves as a base…fingers crossed 🙂

Accuquilt GO!

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Part of every new year should be learning new things…and I’m starting with the Accuquilt GO!

As part of the Michael Miller 2020 Brand Ambassador program, we received the Ready. Set. GO! Ultimate Fabric Cutting System from Accuquilt. It includes an AccuquiltGO! plus the 8″ Qube (a set of dies to cut shapes often used in piecing 8″ blocks) and a ginormous die to cut my own 2 1/2″ strips. I’ve never seen one of these used in person, let alone done it myself. They are supposed to be lots faster than traditional rotary cutting and more accurate to boot. That makes two things where I need improvement–grin!

Lookit those amazing colors…don’t you want to dive in face first?

A while back, I was deliriously delighted to learn I had WON all 214 colors (above and below) of Michel Miller’s Cotton Couture (this was before I even applied for the Brand Ambassador program). I’ve been wanting to make a quilt I shall call “214.” As I’ve been waiting to upload this post, I realized that I can use the AccuquiltGO! to do the majority of the cutting, even the sashing! If I use the die for 2 1/2″ strips, I can then manually cut those in half vertically to get the 3/4″ finished strips I want to use for sashing. And then (!!!) I can use the die to cut 4 1/2″ squares (4″ finished) — if I am careful — to subcut the strips into 4 1/2″ lengths to match the size of squares I’m going to use in the quilt! Stay tuned…guess what I’m going to do today!

So, with that I am going to sign off and go play with my new fabric and toys!