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Archive for the ‘Piecing’ Category

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!

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!

Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows (part 1 of 2)

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Today’s projects are floor cushions and toss pillows from Michael Miller’s adorable new fabric line, SuperFred and Space Pals. As soon as I saw them I knew I’d love to make some floor cushions for my daughter-in-law’s Kindergarten classroom! You can find part 2 here as of March 12, 2020.

Pigwidgeon was asleep in front of the wood stove but allowed me to move him to another comfy spot to be my model. I am a Michael Miller 2020 Brand Ambassador for 2020, for which this is a monthly project. I’m also a Janome Artisan since 2003.

With the help of my trusty (just try to pry it out of my cold dead hands! I’m taking it with me) Janome M7 Continental, and some experience having done custom home dec work in a previous life, sewing these cushions was easy, and I’d like to share a free pattern for Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows with you and show you just how easy!

Super Fred! Ask for the collection at your local shop!

Fabric requirements are at the bottom of this post and on the free pattern (link in the previous paragraph). The pattern also has all the other “stuff” you’ll need (zipper, interfacing, and so on) and ridiculously detailed instructions. I will focus on bigger pictures for the “how-to” things in this and my next post even though there are plenty of photos in the pattern.

My Deep-Pocket Placket

So many home dec books and pieces of furniture are made with skimpy zipper plackets that gap open and show the zipper teeth–boo hiss! The designer for whom I worked eons ago had *very* high-end clients, so I developed what I think is a much nicer zipper method. Yes, it uses a couple more inches of fabric, but the zipper is fully concealed, doesn’t gap, and even has a little “garage” at the end to hide the zipper pull. I have leftover (miles of leftover) upholstery zipper tape and pulls from doing custom home dec work, but you can order #5 weight zippers or use heavy duty zippers available at big box stores.

If you’re going to make it at home, make it better than stuff you buy!

The pattern has exact cutting dimensions for the finished zipper gusset (the section of the boxing/sides of a cushion that has the zipper), but honestly I usually cut my strips about an inch wide than I think I’ll need. This gives me some fudging room to get the zipper centered. Once the zipper is sewn in, then I trim it to the desired finished measurements and complete making the gusset.

For this project, I knew the cushions would get a LOT of wear and tear, so I decided to reinforce all of the quilting-weight-cotton fabric with mid-weight fusible interfacing. Then I began assembling the components starting with the zipper. Of course, I was so excited to get started that the interfacing isn’t (yet) on the fabric shown below….I fixed that!

Attach the bottom part of the zipper gusset with the zipper foot. I set the foot so the left edge is next to the zipper teeth; this helps me sew a consistent distance. I set the needle to the center of the foot at first, but decided after checking that was too far away, so see the needle position in the next photo. Be careful not to move the needle to where it will hit the foot. Hand-walk the needle to test position!
Here’s I’ve adjusted the needle position to use the left opening, but moved to the right–again, hand-walk after changing needle position to make sure you aren’t going to hit the zipper foot itself. I use the fingers of my right hand to squish the fabric down so I can see and feel where the teeth are.
This photo shows the second pass along the zipper, this time with the overcast foot. This is similar to using a serger to clean-finish the edges and it reinforces the stitching. On the M7, it is stitch 15, but there are several choices for an overcast edge stitch. Use something similar on your machine.

The video below shows me using the Janome M7’s “M” foot. Most machines have something similar. The three little wires help hold the fabric flat, the blade keeps the stitch perfectly positioned on the edge of the seam so you get a good-looking, functional, and non-puckered stitch.

Once the lower fabric strip is sewn and edge-stitched (orange arrows point to edge stitching…hard to see black on black!), I press it away from the zipper teeth and edge stitch. This prevents the fabric from trying to roll up toward the zipper teeth and further reinforces the seam since there is a fair amount of pressure once the cushions is stuffed and being used. This photo also shows that I have attached the upper strip. See photos below for more on how to create a perfectly even and deep placket.

Next, sew the wider upper side of the zipper gusset to the zipper tape using the edge-stitch foot only–you don’t need to do the straight seam close to the teeth as you did with the lower side of the gusset.

This photo shows TWO zipper gussets. The one on top is as-sewn so you see zipper-interfaced lower edge, upper edge. The lower zipper gusset is the one I’m working on. Pin the lower edge of the zipper to your ironing board, making sure it is perfectly straight–long ruler helps.
Pin the top edge of your zipper gusset to be 5″ away from the lower edge. This will form a placket to cover the zipper teeth. I found the green Clover hem gauge to be the best tool because the dark green bit snugs up against the raw lower edge and the “wings” are wider making it easier to keep it aligned properly (tilted ever so slightly in this photo), but a small quilting ruler also works to measure width. I highlighted the edge of the placket with orange in Photoshop because you can’t really see the fold of the black fabric!
Press the placket. Then, pin the placket along the folded edge (out of the way of sewing in the next step). Turn the whole shebang over and stitch about 1/8″ from the edge of the zipper tape. This secures the upper side of the zipper. Notice the pinheads holding the placket in place–so glad I got that ginormous wool press thing-a-ma-doo-dad which makes this easy-peasy.

Your next step is to attach the rest of the boxing a.k.a. sides a.k.a. gusset–the fabric that goes around the edge of the cushion. First, use the overcast foot to sew the ends together. BE CAREFUL to NOT stitch through the ZIPPER TEETH! Just lift your presser foot and move over the clunky zipper teeth before finishing that seam. Repeat on the other side.

This image shows the seam, edge-stitching, and forming and pinning the “zipper garage”–the little pocket that hides the zipper pull.

Make the first of the little zipper garage / pockets at the zipper ends. You really only need one at the closed end, but I like the cushions to be symmetrical (about the only time I love symmetry in my work!) so I do both ends the same way. In the photo above, you can see that I have made a pocket about 1 1/2″ deep by making a Z-fold (or S- depending on which side you look at). Pin in place (lower part of photo above) and then stitch a straight line about 1/2″ from the raw edges.

At this point, before sewing the second zipper garage, I place the gusset on the dacron-wrapped foam cushion for a test fit. You want it QUITE snug–fabric is flexible and you don’t want it looking stretched out and worn! Center the zipper on the one side, pinning the boxing/gusset onto the cushion from the sewn garage all the way around to the other side. Your excess fabric will create the second zipper-pull garage.
I like to use the triple-straight stitch, a basic stitch that is found on almost all machines other than straight-stitch only.
The photo waaaaay back at the top and this one show the stitched zipper garage. You might notice that I have also basted the sides of the garage within the seam allowance–it makes sewing the boxing /gusset to the top and bottom easier.

PHEW…that’s Zipper Wisdom according to Sarah. We are now blessedly done with the zipper–I swear it takes longer to explain it in writing than actually do it…well except for the fussing to make sure it is absolutely perfectly straight and nice! In my next post I’ll show constructing and stuffing the floor cushions. And, there are TONS of photos in the pattern, too. One more time, here’s the PDF for the Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows. Check back in 3 days for Part 2!

And one last minute goodie–my fellow Brand Ambassador Charisma Horton has made this adorable quilt out of different color ways of Super Fred–what a great combination for a kiddo: my cushions and pillows and her quilt! Check it out here on her blog, or the Far, Far Away pattern in her Etsy shop, in both download or paper versions.

Both print and digital versions of Far, Far Away are available in Charisma’s Corner Etsy shop, here. Go to page 3 of the Etsy shop and scroll down to find the patterns.

Fabric requirements for two 24” square floor pillows and two 14×20” toss pillows:

Preshrink all fabrics!

NOTE:  Yardage is to make two floor and two toss pillows. Additional materials (zippers, foam and so on) as well as cutting and construction details in the free PDF show measurements and how to make each pillow. 

Available now–ask your local shop to order it

  • Focus Fabric 1:  Space Pals Black                 3/4 yard (will yield two 19” center squares)
  • Focus Fabric 2:  SuperFred Grey                 3/4 yard (will yield two 19” center squares)
  • Solids:  
    • Yellow                                         1/2 yard
    • Apricot                                        1/2 yard        
    • Acid                                            1/2 yard
    • Lilypad                                        1/2 yard
    • OPTION:  you can use the same fabric for all of the sides if you prefer
  • Boxing / sides fabric:  Galactic Black            2 yards

Peek Into Batik Quilt Along

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

Michael Miller Fabrics is having a year-long batik quilt-along, and you’re invited! Each of the 2020 Brand Ambassadors (including yours truly) was sent the fabrics and invited to play. “My” block will be in October, but I made Miss January too, LOL! If you’d like information, go here to find more information, including free pdfs with yardage requirements.

If your local fabric shop doesn’t carry Michael Miller (ask them to!), you can order these exact fabrics from Fabrics.com. And let me tell you, MM Jet Black Cotton Couture fabric is famous for good reason…it isn’t an over-dyed something that didn’t work the way some other companies do. It is SPECIFICALLY dyed black, really, Really, REALLY black, and it is consistent batch to batch. I have some Cotton Coutures from a 2014 project, and the colors are SPOT ON perfect match to the 2019 color swatch card and the fat quarters from the box I won last year. Amazing!

Peek Into Batiks Quilt Along with Michael Miller Fabrics, January block

I used the AccuQuiltGO! to cut my pieces following the directions in Michael Miller Fabrics’ free PDF pattern. The only change I made was to cut the flying geese black triangles by hand–the pattern by the way comes in two formats: traditional cutting and using the AccuQuiltGO dies. I used the dies with this one exception since I didn’t want to make two half-square triangles and sew them together for that outer unit of multi-batik and black. Instead, I cut a rectangle and placed the half-square triangles cut with the die on it, sewed, then trimmed away the extra black.

Each Brand Ambassador gets a “month” and will post their block. You can follow along via the MM blog, here’s that link again. Have FUN!

When to pre-shrink!

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Over the past week to two weeks, I have been working on ….sit down and prepare yourselves for this… a **pieced** quilt. Yes, me. A very simple pieced quilt, but nonetheless.

Eye-candy…my 214 colors, test-driving super wide borders with possible squares or rectangles. I’m going with nothing to distract from that glorious grid of color. Hopefully the quilting will make the wide borders look good. Want them that big so they will fit on a king size bed–we’ve got a queen but the pug takes up a ridiculous amount of room for such a small dog! The center is 72″ and overall I’m hoping for about 100″ square.

I’ve also been experimenting with the AccuQuiltGO! that was given to this year’s crop of Michael Miller Fabrics Brand Ambassadors. To my distress my block was not perfect–too small! I KNEW it had to be something on my end (it was), so I triple checked my seams (perfect to scant). I checked the size of the fabric cut on the dies: perfect. I checked that I used the correct dies: I did. Then I noticed something. After ironing, the block seemed off. Look at what I discovered:

First I placed my half square triangles on the dies, and look how much smaller the pieces are after sewing and ironing! So then I checked the start of the square-in-a-square center of the block. Same thing: after steam ironing/pressing, a unit that finishes at 2″ and one that finishes at 3 1/4″ are each 1/16-1/8″ smaller!

I decided to get a bit more scientific about it: Cut, measure, dry iron, measure, steam iron, measure. Here is what happened with the Cotton Couture, a delightful solid with a glorious feel in the hand:

Batiks are made using hand-dyeing processes that include a resist being applied (usually wax of some sort), then the wax is washed out, more dye applied, and so on. This means some of the shrinkage should already have happened.

As cut with the AccuQuiltGO! Perfect 4 1/2″
One last image: Here I created the center square-in-a-square for a pieced block. I cut the purple fabric to 4 1/2″ thinking that might help my accuracy, and sewed on two half square triangles. I then used navy for the central square and piled on identical half square triangles. All are cut with the lengthwise grain as suggested by Accuquilt for accuracy. LOOK at how much smaller due to more pressing and moisture from the iron. ERK!

So my lesson is, when I am not fusing things up, I really need to either pre-steam-iron everything, or prewash and mostly-dry it and then iron dry and smooth. I can now use the perfection of the AccuquiltGO and actually achieve as close to perfect as I will ever get! Now, off to order backing fabric for my BIG quilt.