Sue Spargo’s Textured Embroidery Craftsy Class

You might recall that I signed up for two Craftsy courses earlier this year. Today, I present to you my first finished project, from Embroidering Texture and Dimension from Sue Spargo.

I ordered her fabric kit but could not justify spending an equal amount on the threads (once I become “pro”, I won’t mind spending for upgrades!). Instead, I used what I have left of a starter pack of cheap stuff Boy bought me many moons ago. Honestly, that wasn’t a terrible idea – most of the colors worked well and were chunky enough to stand out from the felt. Shrug.

My first challenge with this course is that the course itself was not what I expected. I am new to Craftsy and did not understand two important things: 1) that the cost of the class does not include supplies (this was a “DUH!” moment, considering how cheap the courses are), and 2) more related to the class itself, I had expected a step-by-step guide of how to replicate one of her pieces. What she offers is the inspiration to go at it yourself, explaining how she chooses combinations of colors and textures, and she does show you step-by-step on some stitching. In the end, that method of teaching is more valuable as it teaches you critical thinking skills on how to pull something together with your own imagination, but until I realized that, I was uncomfortable!

But my second (and largest) challenge was that my imagination is picky. Though I do enjoy looking at Sue’s bold and vivid work and I relish in her texturizing, overall it is not my personal style. I am not a fan of butterflies, and I felt very uncomfortable having so many “clashing” colors in the fabric kit without explicit directions of how to put them together so that they look as great as Sue’s. And toss that in with no step-by-step, use-these-stitches-together guide and I found myself squarely outside of my comfort zone. For a while I was frustrated (not with the class – with myself!); ya’ll know me: I generally whip out projects as fast as I can (sometimes too fast!) because I have clear ideas of the final product. This? Not so much. I didn’t even know what I was going to do with it once I got it done because I just sort of kind of hated the whole thing (no offense, Sue!)! Give me color combinations I swoon over, or shapes I collect in my mind’s inspiration vault, and I’ll go to town with ideas! But this… this was a challenge, for sure.

I figured a good inspriation would be to order Sue’s Creative Stitching book and make a small practice sampler of them. It probably helped, but honestly I am not quite sure how to explain that, somehow, it all did eventually come together. I cut out all the felt butterflies, and then continued to hold off working on the project. I finally added the cotton appliqué to them, and then sat on it. I began figuring out the background embellishments and was able to finally begin stitching on that. But then once the background of soft oranges was completed, guess what? It was shelved once again. Finally, I made the bold move to Just Make.

The background was the easiest part. I just had to keep things in the same general color family and hue. Here are just a few things I worked on for that: bullion knots couching twine as a border; small seed beads arranged around the edge of a micro-fiber cloth (found object from some tech item, I’m sure); and finally colonial knots anchoring ric rac along a pinked strip of felt as well as colonial knots decorating printed fabric, attached with the buttonhole stitch. Other stitches for the background were simply quilting (running stitch) and backstitch on cotton, varying sizes of Algierian eye stitch on cotton, flystitch outlining cotton, seed stitch on velvet, couched yarn along a piece of upholstery fabric, and ladder herringbone stitch along a ribbon with variegated thread. Look for them in the close-ups of butterflies below!

Adding the stitches to the butterflies seemed daunting at first but really once I started, the process just went. I stopped stressing over it – the idea was to learn, and surely I was doing just that! I will list a few, if not all, key stitches used in the individual butterflies below each photo. All the bodies were outlined in outline stitch, stem stitch for the antennae, topped off with colonial knots. (Note: I did not keep a record as I made each one, so it is entirely possible I have some mismarked!)

Stem Stitch, Whipped Woven Circle, Crested Chain, ZigZag Chain Stitch

Buttonhole Scallop, Stem Stitch, Back Stitch, Bullion Rose, and what I call “reversed” Blanket Stitch

Stab Stitch, Colonial Knot, Outline Stitch, Pekinese Stitch

Double Laced Running Stitch, Scroll Stitch, Colonial Knots, Split Stitch, Straight Stitch

Italian Knotted Border, Colonial Knots, Straight Stitch, Scroll Stitch

Colonial Knots, Straight Stitch

Straight Stitch, Bullion Knot, Back Stitch, Chain Stitch, Stem Stitch, Crested Chain Stitch

Closed Fly Stitch, Staight Stitch, Coral Stitch, Split Stitch, Woven Wheel Stitch

Split Stitch, Scroll Stitch, Seed Stitch, Blanket Stitch

Triple Chain Stitch, Detached Chain Stitch, Chain Stitch, Straight Stitch, Stem Stitch

Woven Circle Stitch, Straight Stitch, Palestrina Knot, Chain Stitch

Chain Stitch, Colonial Knot, Bullion Knot, Coral Stitch

Colonial Knot, Straight Stitch, Split Stitch, Pearl Stitch

Bullion Rose, Colonial Knot, Stab Stitch, Chain Stitch, Buttonhole Scallop Stitch, Straight Stitch

Double Whipped Chain Stitch, Colonial Knot, Stem Stitch, Straight Stitch

Some stitches were much easier than others, and some took a lot of work. Many people who have seen the pillow ask how much time it took. I estimate, based on the number of Netflix shows I watched, that each butterfly took about 2 hours to embroider (not to cut out, and not to appliqué). The rest of it was done in piecemeal throughout much of the year, so it is hard to really know, but I would hazard a guess of maybe 60 hours, give or take. Cutting, ironing, planning, seam-ripping, youtubing/reading for instructions, and so on – maybe I should hazard a higher guess, huh?

And once I realized my new window seat just had a boring white pillow, I checked the measurements of the panel and realized that with a little top and bottom border (reclaimed from fancy faux suede napkins), I’d have a pillow case. Tada!

 

Quilt Guild Mug Rug

I attended a free class at the county library hosted by a local quilt guild, Heritage Quilters (very similar to the one put on by my embroidery guild). Some of the embroidery guild members are also members of that guild, and I had been interested in seeing what they have to offer so it was a good time to do that! Plus, my neighbor (Boy’s stepmom) is a newish quilter so I knew she would enjoy meeting the ladies.

We were given a small kit that included safety/pins and needles (a quilting, between, and crewel), a thimble, “light and dark” fabrics, batting, thread, a slip of felt (for stashing the pointy bits), and a chance to win some mini-scissors (alas, neither of us won).

It was a very basic introduction to quilting and sewing in general so I knew most of it already but that bothered me none. I was more interested in learning about the guild anyway. But I did learn a thing or two! I can now make a quilter’s knot (previously, I did the lick-the-end-of-the-thread, loop-around-finger-and-twirl method which sometimes leaves quite bulky knots!). I had tried to do this a while back but hadn’t realized that I was pointing the thread in the wrong direction (which results confoundingly in no knot!). Google it – there are a lot of resources to show you what I am talking about. I must still practice popping it through the fabric though, as I tend to yank it all the way through and back out again. Boo.

We couldn’t stick around to finish our little mug rugs, but I whipped mine up today. It is not my best work by any stretch (especially the sad binding!), but I did learn some technique in planning. It was suggested to “stitch in the ditch” between each fabric, “straight stitch” across the corners of the “dark” fabric, and then quilt a shape in the “light” fabric. I can’t help but embroider sometimes, as before I even realized what I was doing, I had embroidered a red flower with whipped stem stitch. Oh well!

And I had been talking to my MIL about embroidery projects; she said that back when she was really into it for a stretch, it was quite common to date pieces (and even sign them with initials) but that she doesn’t see many people doing it today. I know I think it’s rad to see photos of old embroidery with stitches like 1874 or something. That’s probably the anthropological side of me, sweeting on the history of objects. So, I dated this one!

And totally unrelated, but if I ever got to name a quilt guild, I think I would name it Quild. Just sayin’. (And maybe Embroguild? It could work…)

thumbkin

My gramma gave me a little kit a while ago to make a thumbkin. The website written on the instructions does not work (www.louisvillenimblethimbles.com) but perhaps it is meant to be www.nimblethimbles.com which is a quilting guild in Louisville. Regardless, the explanatory poem reads:

It’s a simple little thing to use
Wherever you may go:
A place to put your pins
Whenever you choose to sew.

It’s a thumbkin and fits
On your thumb, you see,
And each time you use it,
I hope you’ll think of me.

And there you have it, folks!

cat + toilet paper

I have two cats. Sasha is the kitten of the family, and her spunky personality often gets her into trouble. Maya, three years older, is like a little old lady cat, prim and proper, and she rarely does anything wrong. The one thing she does (and Sasha actually doesn’t!) is eat the toilet paper. We have two bathrooms, but one rarely gets used unless guests are over, so that toilet paper was never safe (we can hear her usually going at it in the other bathroom to yell at her). Sometimes, we’d discover an entire roll had been unwound, with her little nibbles all along the side. Yikes!

I eventually decided I had had enough of that, and just kept it in the bottom drawer. However, nice guests thought we had just ran out and restocked it, or they were too polite to poke around and dealt with tissues rather than discovering where the TP was (since I did not always think to let new guests know). If it went restocked, the TP enjoyed a short adventurous life. If it went unstocked, I felt like a jerk for not mentioning it. So, I came up with this ugly idea:

That worked, but I wanted something much more awesome. And a bit explanatory. Eventually, I came across this image (which may or may not have originated here):

For the record, we did try hanging the roll the other way, but she just tore into it, the little bugger! So, I took that image, photoshopped it, added some words, and embroidered this:

I added some home decor fabric to the back to give it some heft.

And then sewed it around a roll to have the proper size. Dare I say, it looks so much better than the original! And, my guests get a kick out of it, too:)

O hoop

As I mentioned last time, I purchased my first pattern off of etsy from KnottyDickens and printed it directly to the fabric via a short tutorial at NeedlenThread. I never intended to stitch the phrase on it, so before I printed it, I edited the image and made the center blank. My first go was just to be a test; then, if it worked, I was going to find a cool font and use a phrase I liked. I hadn’t spent much time deciding what that would be because I was a little doubtful of the magic I was hoping for.

It worked though, and brilliantly, I must say! And so I began stitching immediately. Only about half-way through did I realize, oops, I should have printed this out on a separate piece of fabric with a phrase to follow. Of course, I could always do it the old school way and trace the words onto it, or just simply write them in my own handwriting. But I came to really appreciate the lack of words. And, for reasons untold, an elaborate O just seemed to fit, so I’ve decided to leave it as is.

I don’t know where I will hang it, so for now it is on a temporary hook. Thank you, 3M! (Disclaimer: 3M has no idea I exist.)

2016 makes

I hadn’t posted a lot there toward the end of the year, huh? I was in the midst of a tough semester, to sugar coat it. I survived, so there is that! 2017 is going great. I hope that with my new teaching schedule and perspective on life that I’ll post more often because, well, I hope to have more creations! In fact, I’ve been a busy little bee – I even signed up for my first Craftsy classes (January is buy one get one free so I bit the bullet!).

First up, I made Boy a bag for his blood sugar stuff. He doesn’t have any blood sugar problems, but the dude gets a bit crazy about health sometimes and thought it would be worth buying a lot of stuff to test it. And it is fun to check every now and then, the science-y part of me will admit. He chose the fabrics out of my stash. I adore his choice for the inside: it reminds him of his grandma. I think it’s a cute little zippered pouch – it’s got little sloping shoulders (the tabs) which, of course, is an oops, but I think they are fun! I followed the same techniques outlined here.

I learned my very first paper-piecing project! I was so excited, since I love English paper piecing, but I was a bit scared with it being on my machine rather than by hand. It was so much more work than I imagined! The two methods are not related at all, in my opinion. I really didn’t care for it, but then the end product was something I was pretty proud of, so heck, maybe I do like it! (My inner crafting self is a bit schizoid I sometimes think.)

I followed lillyella’s Undercover Maker Mat pattern which was very easy to understand. I made a huge mistake (of course!) but left it. Do you see it? (The main fabric pattern is upside down! Ack!) I added my own little touch of a felt tab to stash a couple of needles and pins (it can be tucked back into the pocket). I also used twill measuring tape to have a ruler handy at any given time! And, with the way I sew (on a coffee table!), I do not have the space for a mat – instead I toss the cover over the edge of my couch. So, on the back, I could add one of my favorite buttons!

I also learned you can print directly to fabric! With a normal printer! What!! I came across NeedlenThread’s post and just had to try it. Transferring patterns is one of the reasons, I feel, that I do not do a lot of embroidery. But now…. now the world is opened up to me! I tested it out with this Knotty Dicken’s pattern, the first pattern I ever purchased from etsy. I’m moving up! I completed it in 2017, so I’ll include that in a later post. I was scared about making those roses – what kind of complicated stitch must that be?! How time consuming?! But, you know what? That is easier than a stinking back stitch, that is! Holy cow!

I also attempted to make a compass. I found the image as a random google image search and I tried to chase it back to the original owner, but since I don’t have pinterest, I couldn’t. I am dissatisfied with it as far as my intent (I want to make a set of hoops with a travel theme for my guest bedroom) but I did a great job, considering, so I think I will turn it into something for a travel-y friend of mine.

Well, thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet. May your 2017 be a creative one!

#pixiecup

Fabric Mutt has a tutorial on making what she calls The Pixie Cup. It caught my eye for something handy that I could store my wonderclips in, so I set out to make the small version. Only …  something happened, and I went off the directions and had to kind of make it up as I went. I blame an engrossing episode of TV. Normally, I craft to what I consider B-rate shows so I can focus, but something about that episode of Once Upon a Time distracted me I guess.

Well, anyway, I was excited to embark on my first patchwork project. I had purchased a mini charm pack of Moda’s Into the Woods during my 2016 Illiana Shop Hop. The squares are 2.5×2.5 inches which seemed really tiny so I wasn’t sure what exactly I would do with them. But then I found the Pixie Cup!

moda_into_the_woods_charm_pack

So, I was suppose to only need eight small rectangles, but I ended up needing 12 because I sewed them on both their short and long edges rather than just on their long edges. And so I had no idea how big to make the circle, but as luck would have it, my “cuff” (since I went ahead and sewed the edges together rather than following the pattern) fit perfectly around a candle jar I had, so I used the jar as the measurement rather than messing around with math. Phew! (And, I can put the finished basket onto the candle jar to iron it – absolutely awesome accident!) A tweak in measurements for the batting and liner, and I was set.

pixiecup_into_the_woods_1

Rather than using fusible interfacing and linen, I used a very stiff canvas or duck cloth material (sorry, I don’t know exactly what it is – I just had some in my stash). This helps hold the shape wonderfully and it doesn’t look all loose whilst empty (not that I expect it to really ever be empty).

pixiecup_into_the_woods_2

It is the perfect size – somehow it is still just about 4 inches in diameter, but mine turned out to be about 3 inches tall. I love the leather handles. I only had some pretty thick leather on hand, but thanks to my recently acquired and magical walking foot, there were zero issues!

pixiecup_into_the_woods_3

I was so eager to make another, I kept showing Boy and talking about my awesome little basket. Finally he says “can you make me one for my dice?” and of course, I said yes! Then he says “can you make me two, one for dice and one for poker chips?” Absolutely! I knew I married him for a reason.

pixiecup_alices_scrapbag_1 pixiecup_alices_scrapbag_2 pixiecup_alices_scrapbag_3

I had two more (free!) mini-charm packs from the shop hop loot (Moda’s Alice’s Scrapbag and Moda’s Petite Prints Deux), and he requested some patterns that were alluding to a Japanese theme. This is the best we could do. Rather than quilting in an X-pattern, I zigzag stitched the ditch, deciding that would be more “masculine”. He approved.

pixiecup_petite_prints_1

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And would you look at how sturdy they are? They neatly stack – whatever that stiff canvas stuff is I used is awesome for this type of project!

pixiecup_trio_1

I can’t wait to make another… though for what purpose, I don’t know! Thanks, Fabric Mutt:D

pixiecup_trio_2

Zippered pouches

I got on a roll making things with zippers. I began with the Fancy Stitched Quilted Zipper Pouch tutorial I snagged from Joanns last time I stopped in. Obviously, I couldn’t just follow the instructions – I don’t know why I am like that but I just have to change something to make it my own, you know? So, I added a bottom panel with piping. and I made it out of canvas material for almost all of them so that they would have added durability.

I love love love the very first one I made. The bird panel and fancy zipper were things I picked up from the 2016 Illiana Shop Hop. The piping and canvas were things I had laying around. I love it when I can puzzle out things that go together from my stash! I quilted after I pieced them together, so I just left some extra tails of thread and used a needle to tie them off at the piping.

zippered_pouch_birds_4 zippered_pouch_birds_3 zippered_pouch_birds_2 zippered_pouch_birds_1

The second one I made, I gifted to an old colleague of mine. I forgot (as usual, gah!) to take photos of it so these are just with my phone at the office before I left it for her. I had all these parts laying around (except for the zipper that came in a huge bundle of colors I ordered online). The panel is from a scarf that I inherited from Boy’s grandmother.

zippered_pouch_scarf_2 zippered_pouch_scarf_1

I made a third pouch as a birthday present – I was invited to a quinceañera (a Hispanic tradition for a girl’s 15th birthday) which was awesome in and of itself. I really really liked how this one came together!

zippered_pouch_quinceanera_

I had to put everything a way for a while because the semester began again, but curiously enough, I have had a wee bit of “free-time” and had the pleasure of digging it back out. This fourth pouch went to a friend of mine from my grad school/teaching days.

zippered_pouch_liz_2 zippered_pouch_liz_1

Surprisingly, I got a spot of even more free-time so I made one for my sister-in-law. Did I mention how I just love it when things come together straight from my stash? I couldn’t have had so much fun with all these if I had to go buy materials – I don’t have that much free time!

zippered_pouch_kt_1

Then, lo and behold, another spot of free-time appeared and I made a bag for myself! Sadly, I did not have any heavy weight fabric for the bottom, but I think standard quilting cotton will do for now. I mean, it matched so who can really complain? I also recently received some fabric from my grandmother’s stash and pulled it out here – the mint and coral are hers. And you see that mint piping? I made that! I can make piping now! [Oh, and I must shout out to the creator of the Walking Foot! I finally swallowed the purchase and got one. This was my first project with it, and I feel like a HERO of sewing now. I can take on any task. Bernadette (my machine, aka Berni) and I are now unstoppable!]

zippered_pouch_cats

In the process of making them, I experimented with a few different ways to do the lining. The original pattern ends with raw seams (zigzagged stitched) on the inside. I also tried making the lining bag separate, then sewing them together. And, i tried using the original pattern but then binding the raw seams.

I liked the first way, because the liner was also quilted and stayed put – but the seams were raw. I liked the second way because the seams were hidden – but the liner was loose. I liked the third way – but it added quite a bit of bulk and was hard for me to do (before I got the walking foot, that is!). I experimented more with the second approach, hand quilting after I put the pouch together. Then, one other attempt, to quilt the exterior and to quilt the interior, separately. That is my favorite way, and it makes the pouch much more sturdy – something I could not have done without that magical foot! I am using it for my new camera storage bag. You see, Boy upgraded to a Fuji XT2 so he gifted me the Fuji X100 (I hope that means you will see a remarkable difference in photo quality!). It is bigger and bulkier than my my little Canon S95 so having the extra padding by quilting the inside and outside of the pouch is perfect.

You may also have noticed that I experimented with a few ways to add the tabs. My favorite is from the very first bag, so I might just go back to that method. I also experimented with the zippers – that first one just wasn’t long enough, and the rest needed something to top them off so I added a little band of fabric.

In addition to the Joann’s tutorial, I consulted Melly Sews’ How to Sew a Zipper Pouch Tutorial and The Sewing Chick’s Zippered Pouch Tutorial.

I had great fun experimenting with these, and I wish I knew more people who need pouches so I could make them with a purpose!

Ohio star block

A shout out goes to Carol at Rocking Chair Quilts for this post! I visited her shop as part of the 2016 Illiana Shop Hop and in her goodie bag was an Ohio star block pattern with enough fabric to make it. She told us that she selected the pattern because it was the first quilt block she had ever learned how to make – and now it is my first, too! (She also grew up in the city where I live now, just down the road from Boy’s office; small world!)

Ohio_star_block_8

Had she not included the fabric, I doubt I would have ever made it. I learned something from that, actually, but I can’t quite place my finger on it. Maybe it means I need to buy kits? Maybe it means I don’t actually know what I like? Who knows, but I love the little snack mat!

Ohio_star_block_2

Professional quilters will see my mistakes, but for my very first one, I think I did a splendid job! And I really enjoyed being able to use my rainbow wonder clips. I happened to have had a segment of old fluffy batting so I decided to try it on this piece.

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The fabric Carol gifted me was an interesting piece – I had enough to where I could have chosen to use only the blue portion, but I thought that it would be more fun to include the contrasting bit.

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A long time ago, my quilting aunt set me up with some basic tools, such as this bias square ruler. Until this project, I had only ever used it as an additional and small straight edge. Now, I totally get it. I used the markings to draw a few nested diamonds in the center, a triangle between the blue points, and small diamonds in each of the blank corners.

Ohio_star_block_5

In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t cut the whole thing down to a square, because I decided to handquilt it (I have a small rectangular “hoop” that would have worked well with just the back piece being long enough). I managed with a standard hoop alright, though. But, once I put the binding on, my diamonds were no longer centered. See the type of things you learn in a small simple project? I ripped them out, and began anew. Luckily, I’ve spent some time around my gramma who handquilts, so she taught me the nifty trick of pulling knots through the fabric. Thus, I can start sewing anywhere, even after the project is complete! Honestly, I always thought you had to come up from under a raw edge. The things you learn!

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You can still kind of see where the old seams are but I expect that to fade over time. I was also a little nervous about the binding (not included with the project). I decided on stripes, and was worried they would be all wonky in the end. But, again, I surprised myself! And I want to pat myself on the back with how awesome my hidden stitches turned out. I definitely went up a level there with this project. Boy couldn’t even figure out how I had done it for a while (not until he started pulling at things, the nerd).

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There are, of course, a few things I don’t love about it, but overall I do love it. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with it yet. I called it a snack mat earlier, but its true purpose awaits to be known.

Ohio_star_block_1

I suggest that if you have all the supplies for a project that you never thought you’d try – just do it. Even if you don’t like the end result, the experience you gain is worthy of the time spent! Happy crafting!

Sweetpea pods

As mentioned before, this is a pattern I picked up from the Illiana Shop Hop. It is from Lazy Girl Designs, and I see they have many little projects.

illiana_quilt_shop_hop_loot_1

Being my first-ever zipper project, I was a little nervous – especially since the pattern says to practice! But I found it to be incredibly easy, so much so that I can actually tailor this to any size.

These are my first three; I need to find longer zippers elsewhere (and zipper pulls). None of them are the size the pattern called for – the only zipper selections at the shops were too short, so I simply cut my fabric down an inch for the first one (on the left). Then I wanted to use some of the freebie fabric I was given for the other two, and they were already pre-cut so I lost two inches on them.

sweetpea_pods_1

The pattern does not call for a little tab, but I found that it made it more convenient to zip up so on the second pouch (middle), I added a tag to help open it. Then it dawned on me that a tag on both ends would work even better so the third (right) pouch has two. I’ll need to practice a little more with that as when I sewed everything together, the tabs aren’t perfectly centered with the zipper. I also got better at the zigzag seal for the inner seams as I went along.

sweetpea_pods_2

Just like in the photo on the pattern, I plan to make one to hold my new wonder clips (I gave all these away already). The pouches sit wide open, making them pretty handy for reaching in and tossing things back into. I look forward to making more!

Cam’s quilt

I completed my first non-rag quilt for my nephew’s high school graduation. The kind of quilt where cutting straight and sewing straight matters. I asked Cam to pick four coordinating colors (without knowing why) and he said black, white, dark blue, and bright green. Not my color pallet, but they do look pretty man-ish together – though for a while there I was concerned that I was making a giant modern baby boy blanket with the white in there:/

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The big chunks were cut to 8×30″, the mediums were 6×20″, and the smallest were 4×10″. I just kind of laid them out until no color touched itself and no seams were connected between rows and sewed them into rows of at least 80″. After I had all the rows sewn together, I trimmed the sides. Using actual math to calculate each row would have been helpful in lining them up and not wasting fabric, but I tend to just jump in with excitement and go with it. In the end, it worked, eh?

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My neighbor/step-mom-in-law Joyce has a quilting machine so she helped me with that part of the process. We picked a geometric design to favor a young man’s preference. She is still kind of new at it, but we got through the kinks well enough for me!

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I binded it by hand, and that was by far my favorite part (though black is not easy on the eyes, even at my age!). I really like hand sewing – in fact, had there been time, I would have possibly tried to quilt the whole thing by hand as well! I used this tutorial to figure out what I was doing there.

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I learned many things. For instance, a walking foot is handy to own and I should probably seek one out (I simply reset the foot and fabric every couple of inches when it was time to sew the binding on – you can’t even tell). Oh, and I’ve joined my quilting aunt in the “fabric snob” club. The black and green fabrics were Kona, but the white and blue were off-brands. There is such a difference in feel, cutting, ironing, stitching, and washing – I washed the whole thing before giving it to him (out of fear that some of my work would unravel immediately) and already the two off-brand fabrics pilled up. Terrible.

I also didn’t take any photos really, so this is all I got. Whoops! Thankfully my sister-in-law sent one of the finished product.

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Skull pillow

I am back from Mexico and will post about that trip some day, but first I wanted to share with you something I whipped up yesterday. I’ve been invited to go analyze some skeletons discovered by a road construction project and it reminded me that I wanted to make some skull pillows. These are useful for nestling a human skull so that it can be analyzed – while you may not understand the importance of doing such a thing, the remains have already been disturbed by modern construction, and it is crucially important to certain groups (such as many Native American populations) to know whether or not the individuals are their ancestors. If so, they will be repatriated to the appropriate tribe for the proper ceremonies to take place; if not, they will be reinterred elsewhere in a place hopefully to not be disturbed again. This is why I do skeletal analysis.

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The first order of business is to cut out some circles. I use a stack of pre-cut white circles that my gramma bought and gifted me, and a tupperware container as a guide for the larger circles. This pattern went through a couple of prototypes about a year ago, but I seem to have not taken any photos of that mess. This process seems to work ok though, for those of you who may do bioarchaeology or know someone who handles human skulls… Let’s be real: probably no one who reads this post will find it useful, but at least I have a record here for the next time I might need to make one.

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Next, I fold one of the large circles into a quarter and use a glass to trace around. The glass happens to fit over the white circles with a quarter-inch allowance, so it is the perfect tool for this step. I just line of the center of the glass to the corner of the folded fabric and give it a whirl with my marking pencil.

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Unfold, line up the glass to the line, and complete the circle. I did this on both sides of the same fabric, which will come in handy later.

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Then, place the two large circles right-sides together. Sew around, leaving a fairly wide opening so that you can complete the stuffing later. To sew a fairly perfect circle, I held a pin poked into the center of the circle to hold the fabric as the machine sewed (at the white dot in the image below the next). Clip the allowance, being careful to not clip through the seam.

Before turning out, align the two inner circles and pin them to the center of one side of the fabric. A single pin is better than the photo below (taken before I realized this) because you need to be mindful of how the pin is facing in order to remove it once you turn everything out – place the head of the pin pointing at the seam opening of the big circles. Make sense? Don’t do what I did here! (Marking the inner circles is also unnecessary.)

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This is where that marked line on both sides of the fabric comes in handy. First – re-pin the inner circle from the outside (now right-side). Using the same trick mentioned above, with a pin holding the fabric in place against the machine (just hold it with your fingers vertically), sew a circle in the center of the big circles, but leave a small opening in the same direction as the big opening in the big circles.

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Now, it gets a little tricky but not difficult. Using a tiny funnel, fill the inner circle with weighted fill – I use spoonfuls of rice but I heard this might not be the best choice if you are worried about vermin of any kind. This part probably doesn’t even need to be weighted, but it gives a bit of a heft to the pillow, which makes it feel like it will protect the skull more. Emotions trump knowledge, right? Otherwise, you could fill it with stuffing – the important part is that you want the center of the pillow to be sunken so that a skull doesn’t roll off it. Kapish?

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Only fill the rice bag about ⅔-¾ full, and pin all the rice to one side. Stick it back under the machine and complete the inner circle stitch. Using small wads of stuffing, stuff the donut-part of the pillow somewhere between medium and fully stuffed. Hand stitch the closure and voila!

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I just used some left-over fabric laying around that kind of sort of went together. You can have fun with the fabric choices, but it should be a fabric that is not too rough (some bone is quite delicate) and not too weak (which will become yucky with bone bits and frays).

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And obviously, my circle-stuffing skills could use a little work!

quilted pillow

I whipped up a pillow today for my mother-in-law. When she moved to Indy, she gave me a lot of her sewing room items, which included things her mother had worked on. Now that Gayle is moving into her own place back here to be around all us kids, I thought it would be nice to gift one of them back to her.

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I am not sure what Delores had originally intended with it, but I made it a pillow cover (I used the envelope-style pillow tutorial at The Happy Housie).

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Boy picked out the back fabric – he said it must have birds! I did mess up there – I wanted the opening in the back to be the other way, but at least I got the birds orientated correctly!

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It was a little tricky – the quilted top measured 21″ but I could only find pillow forms in either 18″ or 24″. I went with the larger version, with Boy’s suggestion in mind: if it was too big, I could take some stuffing out. It is a tight fit, but it seems to have managed ok!

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(Cat for size.)

weighted pincushion organizer

Sew Mama Sew posted about Elizabeth’s Fabric Focus with a free PDF pattern of a weighted pincushion organizer. Now that I am sewing a little more regularly (being mostly jobless this semester, and all), I am constantly frustrated with all the extra threads and fabric snips that seem to go all over the place. So, when I saw this, I just had to try it! One of the toughest parts for me was finding coordinating fabric in my stash since I am trying to stay frugal.

I had a lot of fun learning how to make this. It was my first time using rice for weight, and I have many more ideas for that!

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The pattern did not call for embellishments, but I just had to give it a try. My scallops are a little wonky, but it was only the second time I had tried fancy stitches so give me some credit! (Side note: my machine broke mid-project and Boy and I took it all apart and found the cause, oiled her well, and cleaned her up like new – a screw had loosened over time, allowing a spring to slip, which caused the feeder dog to fail. Thank goodness for Bernina’s build quality – she is going on 30 years old!!)

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I also added some old lacey stuff I had laying around to bring out the pockets a little more, with teeny buttons.

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A cool feature of this project is that the scrap bin detaches so I can put it wherever it is needed. I really fell in love with this pattern, and I am ever grateful for the people at SMS and people like Elizabeth to offer free tutorials. Thanks so much!

chocobo mug rug

Do any of you know what a chocobo is? It is a bird from one of my husband’s favorite game series: Final Fantasy. I came across this image from HowToDrawManga3D.com and decided to try  my hand at a mug rug one day over break.

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I embroidered the chocobo onto some yellow fuzzy fabric I had, and for the first time, I experimented with different number of strands. The bird was mostly done with 6 strands, but the beak and feet were done with one. I was impressed at how much of a difference that really can make – not necessarily with this since it was on fuzzy fabric and all one color, but for adding texture in future projects.

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I really did not know what I was doing with the mug rug, so I learned a lot here. I made it up as I went with whatever materials I had handy. (What I mean is, I did not spend time planning it, which is noticeable!)

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For the binding, I had to sew two strips of fabric together (I used some left-over canvas from the applique piece I recently did). I also decided to quilt the mug rug after I had sewn the chocobo to the front, so I had to be tricky and hand-finish some of it to complete the look without sewing over top of the chocobo.

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He loves it and I have more planned. Maybe, since my in-person classes got cancelled this semester, I will complete a few more!

Hexagon pillow case

Today, I finally finished the paper-pieced hexagon pillow case I had been working on. You can read a little bit more about it here. A quick recap is that the flowered piece was sewn by Boy’s grandmother who has since passed away.

hexagon_pillow_case_1Boy picked out the fabric for the back. he said “you gotta go with green, no one ever chooses green!” I love it when he participates.

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It works perfectly on my little couch for a little lumbar support!

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I used a 16×16 pillow form and shoved some batting in the corners to fill them out. Oh, and I used a sheet of stabilizer too, just to make sure all my hexie work didn’t come undone under pressure. Originally, I had intended on doing an envelope case, but then just decided to sew the pillow in. My hidden stitch worked for a change!

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Taking photos in the winter lighting conditions (or ever, if I am being honest) isn’t my forté so please excuse that.

Lysa’s match needle book

Here it is! This is the result of a pattern I tested for Lysa, the most generous gal to have given me a free kit to make my own (serious goodness, right there!). I truly felt that this little needle book was one of the most clever things I’ve seen around. I just had to have one, and I am so grateful she is so awesome to make that happen:)

Here you can read about the SMS Giveaway she hosted with books she crafted herself. I did not find the pattern troublesome so I am optimistic that she will have it ready at her shop soon enough so you can make your own match needle book! I also enjoyed using such a thick stabilizer; I had never used anything other than stiff interfacing and having something like stiff felt was brilliant. I am going to totally look into this option for future projects.

(Read on if you wish to hear a story about lightning, the evil doer.)

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This project was also perfectly timed. It is late June, but Mother Nature doesn’t realize it, so we have been enduring storm after storm after storm (I am listening to thunder as I write this). Thursday circa 9pm, lightning hit our house. Of course, Boy has installed all the high end surge protectors one could possibly own, but lightning is a force in itself. Apparently, and who knew, lightning can use the internet back door. It looks as if Comcast (the cable internet people) did not ground the cable outside our house, and the jolt of electricity came in that way, zapping anything directly connected to the internet (the modem, router, all the switches and miscellaneous devices to make the internet work in the house, the Vonage phone box, possibly the main phone, a smart tv, a PS4, and two media boxes). So, without the ability to do much work, or watch movies on Netflix, or play video games, I sewed!

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We thought it had also damaged our Wii U, and PS3, but when Boy brought home some equipment from the office the next day to get back online, they both magically turned on and were also able to connect to their networks. Phew. (Seriously, is there anything worse than losing all your saved games??) Now, something we cannot figure out is why our Onkyo receiver is fried as well, not being an internet device and all. But, who can say we puny humans will ever understand the force of lightning?

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Pattern testing, whoop whoop

There was one item through the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway event that I seriously wanted. I didn’t win it, but I kept thinking about it. I finally went to see what it cost, because I wanted it that badly. The shop was under construction. What to do? Well, finally I just emailed the gal. Long story short, she offered me the most generous deal: I could test her pattern and she even sent me a pre-cut kit! (And that card she sent? She drew the fabric stash!) I will have more details when I complete the project. I am always so humbled at the internet crafting community’s generosity. Lots of love out there:D

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A side story goes like this: Part of the pattern required my machine, part of it required hand stitching. So I had just finished part one of the pattern with the machine and was tidying it up with a needle and thread. Lo, I hear a *pop* and perhaps a sizzling noise. What is that?? I muted Star Trek: The Next Generation (once again, thank you, Netflix!). I had hoped it was something weird with the show, but then I hear *sssss* *sssss* and sure, it was coming from the machine, alright. I leaned in to confirm it; pulled away immediately. Was that smoke? Holy cow, that’s a lot of smoke! I yanked all the cords out of her. She smoked for probably two full minutes. Come on, I wasn’t even using her at the time!

Boy came home and his mechanically-electrically inclined ways fixed it. It seems that some poor little spider crawled in (probably the tiny Parson spider I had ignored on my table while sewing, come to think of it….) and zapped itself. The electrical shock must have coursed through the machine some how as it sprung the coil that the foot pedal used to make the machine go.

Now she is all oiled and squeaky cleaned (she had gathered dust during my grad school years). Boy even found two small faults that I didn’t even know was a problem! One, the hand knob to run the machine just pulled off (it was suppose to be screwed on) and two, the needle was staying in the cloth instead of returning to the top position once I let off the foot pedal. I had forgotten it was suppose to do that.

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The machine was a wedding gift from my mother-in-law. It is a Bernina Record 930 Electric model. When it was smoking, I looked online and was worried, based on other bloggers’ comments, that I might have to get a new one. Without a job, that wasn’t a reality – I wasn’t even sure I could justify paying someone to fix it. (A small part of me wondered what it would be like to have a new snazzy machine, to be honest, though).

But in helping Boy fix it and learning about her innards, I realized I don’t want a new machine. This one has very little plastic (ugh, seriously, when will this world make plastic illegal?). Steel doesn’t break very easily, you know. When you turn it on, it’s on – no waiting for a startup. To change a foot, it’s just a lever, not a screw. It’s just…. simple. It has 27 types of stitches, too. Since I am by no means an expert on sewing, this one fits me just right. Thanks again, Gayle!

Paper-piecing pillow – WIP

I am at them again, these addicting hexagons! I can only do a little at a time, but this project is coming along. I am using a flower Boy’s grandmother had sewn, and decided to make it a pillow for my craft room. I think… I mean, I haven’t bought a pillow form just yet but my little couch needs something cheery.

First, I am using this handy template again. I love it because you can make your own custom size, which was important since I am matching a piece already sewn.  Her methods were not as precise as mine, so the edge sizes varied from ¾ of an inch to just over 1 inch. I split the difference and made my hexies ⅞. You’ll see in a photo below that there is slight puckering, but I have a plan!

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I know, that looks really tedious. I suppose it is, but it is super relaxing for me, and I have been rewatching Star Trek : The Next Generation through Netflix. It is a wonderful way to sew away the stress. (How does one still experience so much of that when one is currently unemployed? I do wonder about the choices I continue to make in my life, ha! (It’s all good.))

This is how far I am currently. I have not taken the basting stitches and paper out just yet. I think I will try to keep the flower in the corner a little, rather than center it. And I have found that sewing two hexies together gives me just the right amount of perimeter to sew with one go of a threaded needle. (That probably doesn’t make any sense, but what I mean is I sew two hexies together, knot it, and cut the thread. Then I start at one edge of the hexies to attach them to more hexies, and my threaded needle can usually easily get me to attach the next pair of hexies – I make the thread about as long as my arm.)

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Here you can see that Grandmother’s technique is quite different than my own. I have explained this process to several people and this is a great piece to illustrate the variances. She didn’t use paper, nor did she make baste stitches. I want more practice before I dive in with freehand like that (and the paper comes right out, once you cut out the baste stitch – which is just one snip with the scissors for each hexie – if you look long enough, you can see where I did this for one hexie to demonstrate to a friend).  She cut the fabric into perfect hexagons; I’d rather rely on a paper template. She used a running stitch; I am using a whip stitch. No matter your choice, these suckers are great for packing along wherever you go for whenever the time comes to craft a little. It is a *great* travel project.

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In the closeup below, you can see that the original fabric is a little puckered here and there. My plan is that I will also quilt this piece on to some batting, see if I can get the flower to puff up some. That should help remove the puckered look, and make a really neat detail.

Remember, the plain fabric currently sports basting stitches, but these will be removed (as will the paper). And it will get a nice visit from the iron too.

You can also see here how I store the thread between sessions. I read somewhere once about how to keep headphones from getting tangled in your bag – it’s the same process. Just make a figure 8 (over your index finger and thumb) and secure your needle over the center! Works like a charm, I tell you what. No knots!

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I have a plan for the back of this pillow too (if, indeed, it becomes one). The hexies will be bigger (to save time!) and I want to quilt them also, although I am going to pick just a few here and there and use the colors from the floral fabric to make the seams pop. That will add a bit of a modern touch to it, I think. You know, jazz it up a little.

things on my table

I am sure you have been expecting pictures of my new kitchen but it has been really hectic here. Not only is there still much to be done with it, but Boy also has moved his company to a new location so that has taken a higher priority of our time. I will leave you with this tease though:

kitchen remodel wip

I also began scrapping again since I recovered my craft room. I posted all the pages I have made in my personal book, but I have yet to show you my Peru scrapbook. I started it shortly after my return in 2007, and school got crazy so I never finished. This is a shot of me trying to work out the layouts for the day trip to the national museum in Lima:

Peru scrapbook wip

I also need to get in gear if I want to participate for the Sew Mama Sew giveaway, hopefully coming up in May. I’ve had so many ideas for covers but it is time to start working them through. This isn’t intended to become a cover, more like an idea board of options while I work through the problems and creative process and await my nice wool felt shipment. (I just may have purchased the dream bundle at WoolFeltCentral, ooo la la!)

bookcover ideas

And have you ever heard of 31bits? Apparently there are a few companies out there doing something similar but I must say this one rocks – anthropology for the win! One of the founders is a cultural anthropologist who saw these Ugandan women, having survived and been displaced from the civil wars, making paper beads and jewelry but with little market in which to sell. 31bits was developed as a way to give them a client base and therefore a way support themselves and their families. Unlike other “parties” out there, this one is neat and simple – you get a box of goods, you sell what’s in the box directly to your friends, and you ship back what didn’t sell. No overhead of shipping, waiting, or returns. No obligation to try to get to a certain price-point to get discounts. Just an honest transfer from their hands to yours. I’m not much of a jewelry gal but Boy felt the urge to buy me this bracelet:

31bits jewelry

(Oh, that background? Well, one day I must tell you of the gorgeous quilting my Aunt Sandy does – in fact if she is reading this, she should really consider having a website to show case her work!)

cubicle wall art

My friend Leslie gifted me lots of crafty supplies – fabric, binding, lace, ribbon, sheeps wool – all kinds of stuff. So when I started messing around with the table runner thing she gave me, I decided it would be hers. (I posted about it here and here). She has had a major adjustment or two in her life recently so I stitched the beginning of my favorite quote on it. The original idea was to stitch the whole thing but I decided it would be too cluttered. It will spruce up her cubicle wall nicely, don’t you think?
cubicle wall art

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over,

It became a butterfly.

-Anonymous

round 2

I found a tutorial the other day to make a rose out of felt, but it was such an easy idea that i didnt save the address to give the tutes owner her due. There are lots of ways though, because when i tried googling for the one I stumbled upon there are many options. The first one looked a bit flat, so i did the spiral cut in waves and it suited me more. The idea i used is simple : cut a wavy circle, then cut it into a spiral, and wrap from the outside in. Secure with glue or thread.

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I decided that one of them would look cute on my curtain for now.

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As you can see, i still have a ways to go with better photos. But now im going to start working with the cameras own settings and see how better i fair (genius, right?). Boy keeps trying to convince me to buy a new camera, and maybe thats what i need. But for now i work with what i got.

Do you like the border on the photos?

back in the game

I hope. So a brief catch-up / things-on-my-mind post of randomness.

As you may have guessed, all crafting has slowed to a stop lately here. My craft room was taken over by furniture and tools. I got the tools out at least so now there is room to craft again and i can access my supplies. Our kitchen has a microwave, stove, sink, dishwasher, one wall cabinet and a silverware cabinet. The rest of the kitchen finds itself in random places. Once we are done removing the drywall, lights, and ceiling, then its just a waiting game for when the contractor can fit us in. Not ideal living for one such as myself, but now I can lock myself away in the craft room at least:)

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I made curtains today – they dont hold up under close inspection, but they do their jobs respectfully so I like them. I still would like to add ribbon to them like i mentioned here. Some day maybe.

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My favorite scrapbooking store is going out of business. This really bums me out but they have *everything* on sale for 50% off so thats pretty spectacular, eh? Lets just say i brought home lots of goodies. Which means that I plan on returning to scrapping in the near future. Ooh la la!

I did start a project to test something I read on the internet, but I decided to postpone it for now so this is all i got. I dont recall where i heard it, but the idea was that you can use a lazer jet printer and an iron to make a transferable image. I would suggest only using the very basic images (more plain than what you see here on the carebear) but it turns out to be true!

tote_embroidery

For all you mac users, boy found me this sweet program that keeps any window you want to stay on top while you poke around other windows: Afloat.

Around this time of year, you may see lots of donation options. Theres a million, I know – how do you choose? I dunno myself, but here are some I know like:

http://ibol.wordpress.com/ <— Iraqi Bundles of Love

http://www.heifer.org/ <— Animals for families to sustain a future (I participate through the World Builders Team Page which matches my donation, the mastermind work of Patrick Rothfuss)

http://www.wikipedia.org/ <— Knowledge for all – read about it and donate here.

http://ww5.komen.org/ <— I add this one in memory of one of my undergraduate teachers who recently passed away from breast cancer. She worked with me to gain admittance for the bioarchaeological field school in Peru. She really showed me how to write at a more professional level in just a few days (i had it in me, but hadnt learned how to hone it yet), staying late after her class with me or being available on the phone – even though we had never met before then. Later, she taught me about forensic anthropology in an adult education class. She also was a very enthusiastic member of our Anthropology Club. I will always remember her.