December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  We were blessed to be able to spend time with our families at home again this year.  We even got a surprise visit from Santa!

I know, I know, he’s clean shaven and younger than you would think.  :)  This is my little nephew Myles. 

I’ve had some time to work on several projects, I’ll try to get some pictures up tomorrow. Also, Mom, Aunt Teresa, and I developed a new way to do binding that we used on my brother’s quilt – his made Christmas gift.  I’m putting a tutorial together for you.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my old way again.

December 16, 2010

New Sewing Cabinet

Here is a picture of my new sewing cabinet that my oh so sweet husband built - minus the drawers, they are still being painted (by our awesome friend Cody).  The table is 24" deep and 99" long with 16 drawers and 3 pull-out counters!  The drawers to the right were specifically designed to hold my different types of thread - sewing, embroidery, and serger thread.

This drawer will hold my serger and I'll just pick it up and set it on the pull-out counter and have an extra sewing area.

My machine will obviously sit in the middle section and it's acrylic table will meet the height of the towers on each side to make a continuous counter top across the whole cabinet.

I am so excited to get this big fella in my sewing room, but that'll be a challenge!  It is going to take up an entire wall, so some serious rearranging is going to have to take place.  Here are some pics of my current sewing space.  Be warned - it's really messy since I'm in the middle of making Christmas presents (at least that's my excuse)!  :)

I think the cutting table will go in front of the window on the left, the current sewing cabinet will get folded up and moved in the corner where the dress form is (if it'll fit).  The chair will probably have to go - so sad, I take really good naps there surrounded by all the fabric.  :) 

If anyone has some really good spacial orientation skills I'd love suggestions on how to best maximize the space.  I'm hoping to also take this opportunity to reorganize all my fabric.  I've had a couple very brave friends volunteer to be color sorters - I'm depending on you girls!  I'll keep you all posted on the progress.

December 7, 2010

Handmade Christmas Gifts

Handmade Christmas gifts are the best!!  I don't think there is any better way to tell people that you mean a lot to them than by making something with your hands.  I think this is the main reason I get so overwhelmed at Christmas time, I want to make something for every special someone in my life.  Since I have been so blessed to have so many special people in my life, the "I'll make that up real quick" craft list gets a little out of control - ok, a LOT out of control.

Even if you're not a sewer or crafter, you can still make your loved ones something - bake something, write up coupons for whatever they like (make supper, do the laundry, clean my room, give a big hug) for them to redeem during the year, attempt a craft, the ideas are endless.  I think some of the best gifts are NOT precisely made, professionally executed, exactly matching pieces of work.  It's the thought and time - that is the precious gift.

I received a very precious handmade gift (it's even more special because I don't get a lot of handmade gifts outside of my family - my family rocks at handmade gifts, by the way).  My friend Yolanda, who is in her 80s, hand sewed this entire apron including the embroidery along the bottom and on the pocket.

Isn't that the neatest embellishment for gingham?  Click on the picture for a closer look.  This guy didn't touch a sewing machine, she hand tacked all the hems, attached the strings and pocket by hand, everything.  I think it's just great!  Fun to think about how our grandmothers used to sew all their garments by hand.  What a treasure.  :)

We had our beginning piecing class this past weekend.  It was a lot of fun, I think all the ladies enjoyed themselves.  Here is a picture of them showing off their first blocks in the quilt.  They are all quick learners, we may have some budding new quilters among us!  :)  Great work, ladies!

Completely unrelated, but I'm so excited that I have some type of gardening skills - my Christmas cactus is blooming for the first time since I brought it home from the nursery.  Just had to post proof that I've kept something alive and thriving.  :)

Ok, going to get back to that handmade Christmas gift list.  Are you making anything handmade this year?  I'd love to hear about it - and see pics, of course.

November 29, 2010

The Christmas Rush

Being a basketball coach's wife, my Christmas rush is really before basketball season starts.  Once the season gets going, it seems like what little spare time I had goes with it. We do love basketball season and especially our players (and all of his other students too, of course) - so it's well worth the sacrifice.

I say all this as an explanation to my absenteeism.  I've been trying to get as many things on my Christmas to do list done as possible the last few weeks.  I have lots to catch you up on!

The beginning piecing class I've been working on is this Saturday!  It's been a lot of work, but I'm excited it is finally here.  Here are some of the kits that the students will be using to make their quilts - for several of the students, this will be their first quilt - so exciting!

I wanted them to look special so I packaged them up with Mom's help (thanks so much, Mom - you really need to move closer!!) and added some little tags using my new Sizzix Christmas dies. 

I reused the cardboard squares that came in some of the fat quarters as the base for the tags so they would be sturdier.  On some of them I used a Stampin' Up snowflake punch (who doesn't love snowflakes?!) - those wound up being my favorites.

I finally finished the example quilt top this evening that we will be making in class.  This guy is also doubling as my brother's Christmas gift - I'm not too worried about him reading my blog, so I feel safe telling you about it.  :)

Sorry the picture is so dark - silly daylight savings makes it dark before I can even get home from work.  My tree has been decorated for a couple of weeks now - again, if it doesn't get done before basketball season, it doesn't get done.  If you look closely (click on the picture for an enlarged view), you can see my newest decorations.... pheasant feathers.  I love how they look in the tree.  Mom came up with that idea last Christmas when we were decorating her tree so I took some feathers back with me to decorate my tree this year.

I have plans to start 2 different "series" on my blog, I'm in the process of gathering information and resources, so stay tuned, I think they're going to be a lot of fun.

Speaking of a lot of fun, a blog I follow, Lolly Chops, helped post 12 days of Christmas tree ornaments tutorials on the Little Blue House blog - use the blog archives links on the right to see all the days.  This one is my favorite!  I would love to make some of these and decorate my whole tree, but I'll just have to live vicariously through them.  :)

November 12, 2010

Painted Fall Plate

Isn't that a cute little dish?  I think I just need some yummy pumpkin muffins or mini pecan pies to go on it now.  So who wants to make them for me?  :) 

My sweet friend Kendra had a plate painting party at her house where we all painted plates following this tutorial.  Of course I can't do any kind of craft without incorporating fabric somehow, so I dreamed this up.

I free handed the tree and wording, then used leaf and flower shapes from one of my Sizzix dies to trace the outline of the leaves and flowers.  (Sorry I don't have any in-progress pictures here.)  I cooked the paint to let it set, according to the instructions in the tutorial link above.  Then, I used the same Sizzix die with some fall-colored fabric to cut out the colorful leaves and flowers.

I Mod Podged the flowers and leaves to the plate.  Just like when you are painting, you need to think in reverse and the items you want in the "front" need to go down first

After all the flowers and leaves were on, I traced the shape of the tree onto some paper by holding the plate right side up to the light, then cut it out.  Now, trace the REVERSE image of the tree onto the WRONG side of the fabric.  This will make sure the right side of the fabric is up and that you won't see any tracing lines once it is cut out.

I noticed that even though the Mod Podge dries clear, you could still see traces of it through the glass, so I just took advantage of the look and painted on Mod Podge in swirling patterns to imitate the leaves blowing in the wind.

This was a really fun and pretty quick project.  If you really get motivated, you could make some cute chargers for your Thanksgiving table.  :)

When I can put some time together, I want to share my pictures from the International Quilt Festival.  It was AMAZING, as always.  I am always blown away by the talent that is out there!  So, stay tuned, there are some really pretty pictures coming your way!!

November 1, 2010

A Relaxing Weekend

My husband and I got to spend the weekend at Round Top Retreat for our friends' wedding.  It was so beautiful and relaxing!  The retreat has several houses the guests stay in that are chalked full of antiques (it is Round Top after all) and quilts - I was drooling the whole weekend!

The day of the wedding the string quartet practiced outside of our bedroom, it was magical.  Between the house and the music, I felt like I was in Pride and Prejudice.  :)

I'm not sure how I have not talked about this before, but I'M GOING TO THE QUILT FESTIVAL FRIDAY!!!!  The International Quilt Festival is in Houston this week and I am going this Friday.  I put in a vacation day with work about 2 months ago in anticipation.  Ok, I really can't get to talking about it or I'll never go to sleep tonight and it's getting late.  Much more to come on this topic - I'll share some pics of the AMAZING quilting talent I see from around the world.

Going to find some chamomile tea to get me calmed back down...

October 27, 2010

Things to Consider When Buying a Sewing Machine

I have been asked this question several times so I thought I would share my thoughts and opinions on some basic and more advanced features on sewing machines to consider when making a purchase.  I don't want to get into brand comparisons or any of that, but just explain what some of the most common machine features are and how they are used.  Hopefully this will help you make an intelligent cost/benefit decision on the level of machine that fits your sewing needs.

Make an Investment if you like sewing or see yourself sewing regularly. When I was first out of college, I decided to purchase a cheap machine because I knew I liked to sew, but didn’t know how often I would use it.  I almost gave up sewing because of the frustration from that machine!  So, I suggest making at least a small investment (around $350+ MSRP, but you can always find sales and good refurbished machines for cheaper).  Also, if you enjoy sewing, you will likely outgrow the most basic machine quickly and will be looking at making another purchase in the near future.

Auto Tension is a must!  This was the worst thing about my cheap machine. Every time I switched fabrics, if their thickness was even slightly different, I would have to sew a scrap piece of fabric to test and adjust the tensions every time - maddening!  If you do this when you sew - there is hope out there.  It is absolutely worth the money to get this - it will wind up saving you hours!!  Not all brands/models have this feature, you’ll have to watch for it.

Automatic Buttonhole stitches are obviously handy for clothing, but I have found myself using buttonholes a lot for home décor (curtains, pillows, etc), baby car seat covers, even as jewelry fasteners.  Look for buttonhole features that allow for variable hole length that can be based either on your button size or a specific length.

Walking Foot is used when machine quilting straight stitches.  It has dog feeds (the little teeth you can see under the foot) on the foot itself to help move all the layers of fabric together when you quilt.  Make sure the machine comes with or has a walking foot available for purchase. 

Needle Down feature tells the machine to stop the needle in the down position whenever you stop stitching. I absolutely love this feature and won’t buy another machine without it.  It is invaluable when I do appliqué, make stuffed animals, free motion quilting, even piecing sometimes. Not all brands come with this and in some brands this only comes with the higher end machines.

Free Motion Foot and Dropping the Dog Feeds are used in free motion quilting (not straight stitches, example below), the machine has to be able to “drop the dog feeds” (which prevents the fabric from being pulled to the back of the machine) and come with a free motion foot or have one available for purchase.

Blanket Stitch is used for appliqué (highlighted below). The zigzag stitch can also be used for appliqué either as a normal zig zag or with very short length to get the satin stitch look. I feel like the satin stitch is a little more technical since it takes some practice to get the stitch to look smooth on appliqué.  The blanket stitch, in my opinion, is cuter and easier to sew with. This feature will throw you into the $350+ price range because it tends to only come on machines with more than the standard amount of stitches. Applique is one of my favorite techniques, so I personally use this stitch often.  Below is the very first machine applique I ever attempted (before I had been appliqueing by hand) - click on the image for a closer look. 

Decorative stitches typically come with the higher end machines. The image above shows examples of a few decorative stitches. These are a nicety – they make fun embellishments on clothes and burp rags.

Knee Levers come on some of the higher end machines and allow you to use your knee to lift the pressure foot, leaving your hands free to guide or hold fabric.  This feature is extremely helpful when doing a lot of turns in applique or any time you need both hands on a project.

Embroidery only comes combined with sewing in the very high end machines.  You can expect to pay in the $2500+ price range for a combined sewing and embroidery machine.  I suggest buying a separate embroidery machine from your sewing machine. You can get the 2 machines for less than the price of the combined machine. A combined machine has more points of failure and when it needs servicing, you are out 2 machines until you get it back.  Also, I have found that there have been many times when I am sewing while the embroidery machine is doing it's thing - multitasking at its finest!  :)

Servicing your machine is important.  Find out if you have a store locally that can service your machine - be sure to mention the brand because some machines require special training to maintain.  It's better to know up front if you will have to pay for shipping your machine to get serviced.

Ok, I tried to hold off, but I just have to plug my Janomes. I have 3 - sewing machine, embroidery machine, and serger - and absolutely love them all!

I hope this is helpful information.  Please ask any questions about features you've seen or don't know what they are used for, I'd be happy to answer them or get in touch with someone with answers and pass the knowledge along.  :)

October 25, 2010

A Little Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin Carving - a required tradition for the Fall.  :)  We had a lot of fun playing in the pumpkin guts! 

Tip:  Something my husband and I have done over the years is to put Vaseline on the cut or carved areas to keep the pumpkin from withering so quickly.  To keep your hard work even longer, cover with saran wrap and store in the fridge (when not displaying) after slathering with Vaseline.

We also baked our pumpkin seeds, they turned out pretty good.  :)  The kitchen smelled good with pumpkin and cinnamon!  Makes me ready to eat some sweet potato pie - yummo!  This is our new friend Ann modeling our seeds.  This was her first pumpkin carving - she said that this is not a tradition in her home country of Nigeria. 

October 20, 2010

Projects out, Projects In

I love the Fall!  We bought some pumpkins today at the local patch.  I absolutely love this grayish-green pumpkin!  I had no idea they came in that color.  I'm planning on these guys being my main Thanksgiving display, so if I can steal some time I'd like to add some embellishments. 

I have completed my friend's upholstery project, and she dropped off another as she picked it up.  :)  I think this footstool is going to be a fun to redo.  I took lots of pictures of the finished project as it went, so I'll share that process with you guys soon.

I also made a small care package for my sister's baby.  He's already one month old - the time just flies!

I also got some really awesome neck ties in the mail for 2 Dresden Plate blocks orders.  I'm excited to see how they turn out.  Check out those swirls - I think that one is my favorite!

October 13, 2010

Important Date and Some Eye Candy

A date has finally been set for my next quilting class - yay!  The class will be on Satuday, December 4th - just in time to make a Christmas gift for that special person on your list!  It is designed to be a beginning piecing class but it is still a fun pattern for all skill levels - it works up very fast. 

If you live in the Bryan/College Station area and are interested in attending, please leave a comment or email me at and I'll be sure you receive additional information about pricing, times, and location.  If you don't have a machine or yours is in disrepair, don't let that stop you!  My friends at Sew Vac City will supply machines (with the option to purchase, when you fall in love with it, of course) for those who need them.

Also, I am making up kits for the class that will be available to purchase.  Do you like the fabrics above?  That is going to be one of the kits!  The ladies at my quilt store (Lonestar Quiltworks) were giving me a hard time about the blue matching the cardigan I was wearing.  Haha - guess I was just in the mood for brights today!  I also plan to make up a kit in wovens/flannels for a masculine option.

If I have any kits left over, I will make them available in my Etsy shop.  That way, if you can't make it to the class, you can still have fun with us.

October 6, 2010

We Interrupt the Progress to Make a Quick Announcement

I'm juggling quite a few projects at once right now - as always, but I wanted to give a quick update.

The baby quilt really needs another border so it's on the cutting table patiently waiting its turn.

The upholstery project for my friend is ready for fabric to be sewn.  I've stopped cutting and measuring fabric to type this quick note.  I have been taking pictures as I go along so I hope to show you that finished project very soon.

I am working on a beginning piecing class.  I have designed a very simple quilt for the class and I am planning to make kits available.  I am finalizing the date now and hope to give more information on that very soon.

My new sewing cabinet has been designed and my oh so talented husband is working on his cut list right now.  I can't wait, it's going to be so awesome!  I'll have extra storage coming out of my ears!

Sorry to make this so short, but must sew!   : )

October 2, 2010

How to Make Your Own Applique Pattern

Applique is one of my favorite sewing techniques.  Sometimes I have a pattern to follow, but I usually want to do something original or personal (for baby gifts and such).  So how do you go about making your own applique pattern?  I hope this tutorial will inspire you to come up with your own designs and let the sky be the limit.
  1. Sketch out a simple drawing.  Try to keep all the pieces bigger than 1/4 inch so that you will have room to stitch around the edges.  Otherwise the edges will fray - unless that's the look you're going for, of course.  For this tutorial I'm showing a bird I created for my sister's baby quilt.
  2. Once you have a drawing you are pleased with, outline with a marker or thick pen to where you can see the outline from the back of the paper.
  3. Trace the outline to the back side of the paper to get a reverse image.  If you have a light box, they are very helpful with the tracing steps.  If you don't have a light box, any window works well and it works out your shoulder muscles at the same time. :)
  4. Trace the REVERSE image to the paper side of fusible adhesive.  My favorite brand is Heat n Bond.
    • Trace each shape independent of each other.  For example, the head, body, beak, and wing should all be traced separately.
    • For nice joins between the pieces trace them to where they will overlap each other.  for example, continue the shape of the body as if the head were not there and add about 1/8 inch to the length of the beak so it can go under the head.  The dashed line on the beak is the portion that will go underneath the head.
    • Tip:  When doing a very elaborate pattern, it may be helpful to label your pieces. 
    • Tip:  If I have to stop before I can iron the pieces on, I store them in a zip lock bag so no small pieces go astray.
  5. Roughly cut out each piece leaving at least 1/8 inch outside of the traced lines.  You want to go outside your traced lines so that when you cut the fabric, you will have glue all the way to the edges.  Iron according to the package directions to the WRONG side of your fabric - adhesive side down.  I know that's a duh, but if I had a nickle for every silly shape stuck to my iron...
  6. Cut out your fabric and shape exactly on your traced outline. **I used a different method for the wing that is described below.
  7. When you are ready to assemble your pattern, remove the paper from each shape and iron to your background fabric.  Be sure to iron in layered order - so that the pieces that go underneath others get ironed down first or are tucked under as you iron.  Note: Iron according to your adhesive instructions - these instructions may differ from the steps you took to iron the adhesive initially in Step 5.
  8. Once all the pieces are ironed on, you are ready to hand or machine stitch the outside edges.  A blanket stitch is a common stitch to use.  If you don't want to sew the edges, there are some iron-on adhesives that are strong enough to hold in the wash without stitching.  Be sure to read your labels.
** I did the bird's wing a little differently.  I could have easily followed the same instructions and ironed the wing directly on top of the bird's body and stitched around the edges, but I wanted it to stand out a little more.  Here are the alternate steps I took:
  1. Cut the shape traced on the iron-on adhesive out directly on the traced lines.  Typically you do a rough cut here so that you can cut the paper and fabric at the same time - see Step 5 above.  I'm doing this with the intention of the glue not going all the way to the edge of my pattern.
  2. Iron to the WRONG side of the fabric leaving enough room to cut at least 1/8 inch bigger than the paper, then cut around the paper, leaving about 1/8 inch all the way around.
  3. Remove the paper and iron the shape to a coordinating fabric.  This fabric will become the underside of the wing.  Cut the coordinating fabric following your other fabric wing.
  4. Cut very small slits down the top and bottom of the wing about 1/8 inch apart.  This will frey and kind of look like feathers.
  5. Sew a small dart in the middle of the top of the wing to give some shape.
  6. Attach the wing to the bird body with a blanket stitch or straight stitch.

September 29, 2010

Autumn Inspiration

I started out a while back to make a card with some earth-tone colors and a cute little owl.  Then I totally went down another road and decided to make it into a shadow box decoration.  I didn't take any picutres along the way, but I'll describe how I made it.

The background paper is a copper/rust metallic so it has a nice shine to it.  I started out with the leaf cluster stamp and stamped them like branches - one a little higher than the other.  Then I freehanded the tree trunk around them and cut the whole "tree" out.  I stamped another leaf cluster and cut it out close to the image (this is the cluster in front of the owl).

For the owl, I simply stamped him then cut out close to the image.  I used foam dimensionals to affix the owl and the top leaves to give some depth.

For the moon, stars, and swirls around the trunk, I used some of the Sizzix dies I have:
I stamped "Autumn" onto the circle off-centered for a little interest.  I used a sponge douber like this one to ink the edges of all the swirls, stars, and the moon to also give some dimension and "dirty" it up a little.

And here is the final project out of its frame:

While we were looking for a cabinet last weekend, we went to Goodwill and I bought both of these scarves for a grand total of $3!  I am a total scarf fiend - I have a ton of them.  In South Texas, any day that touches below 65 degrees warrants wearing one, otherwise I wouldn't get them all worn.  In my own little way, it feels like I'm doing my part to "will" the weather to get colder.  :)