FreeStanding Lace Embroidery

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any freestanding lace. A friend recently gave me a few spools of white Isacord thread and so what else would I do with it?

I immediately purchased a few designs from OESD. Collection 12724 was perfect for what I had in mind.

When you are working on freestanding lace, you’ll want to use 2 layers of wash-away stabilizer.  I used AquaMesh from OESD. Not to be confused with Aquamesh PLUS, which is also a wash-away stabilizer, but has paper, almost like contact paper on one side, so the stabilizer is sticky.  You’d use that on towels or something where you want the stabilizer to disappear, but don’t want to hoop your fabric.

A quick look at the machine in action:

Now comes the finished product.

Once the design is complete, remove it from the hoop, trim away as much excess stabilizer as possible, then rinse it in warm water until the stabilizer has dissolved.

Next, pin it down to a piece of styrofoam or floral foam.  Cardboard will work as well, but it will get a little soggy. I invested in this piece of styrofoam years ago in the floral department of a Michael’s, JoAnn’s or Hobby Lobby. I don’t remember where. The point is that it will last for years.

When you pin, feel free to use all those pins that are bent or just not perfect for quilting or intricate sewing. These pins don’t matter much, they just have to hold the design in place. It WILL curl and stick up in strange places if you skip this step. Overnight is usually the perfect amount of time for a design to dry completely.

machine embroideryIt’s a perfect accent to a delicate teacup or a small jewel box.

I have been working on a larger project and I planned it out in Bernina Software 8. It requires a few of the pieces repeated and arranged and sewn together. I don’t know how it will look when it’s done, but I’m envisioning that it will make a nice centerpiece on a round table with a festive color underneath. It’s about 18 inches across. (It’s over half a million stitches, so…yeah, we’ll see.)

Freestanding lace, Bernina Software 8

For some of my previous postings on freestanding lace, you can click here.

And here.

Tell Me What You’re Reading

These precious last few days of summer (school starts back in less than 3 weeks) are the perfect time to settle in with that last book you wanted to read. Me, I spend my whole summer looking for something perfect.  My favorite thing in the world is to read books set in the season I’m currently living.

In the fall and winter, I like to read about cozy fireplaces, and blizzards and storms and the crunch of the leaves or the quiet of the snowfall. In the summer, I want to read about warm breezes and the sound of crickets, the scent of meadows, and long horizons of farmland.

I have no problem shifting from brilliant classic to current thriller.  It’s like a light dessert after a heavy meal. Or getting to eat a treat after my vegetables.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I also like to cover my books. You can see a bit of that here.

So here’s a list of some of the books I read this past summer.  I haven’t found a bad one in the bunch:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Maybe you read this in school. I certainly did not, and I cannot imagine anyone teaching it now.  Just way too controversial, though it is brilliant in its capture of a time and place.  I sank right into it and laughed out loud at some points. Some may have difficulty wading into the mind of a young boy, but…I truly did not. I entered and never left until I was done. Mark Twain is a genius. At many other times I was sickened and appalled by the norms and lifestyles of the times. It is mind-blowing as an adventure story, and Hemingway famously said “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.'”  I agree. From this book comes Indiana Jones and every other Hero’s Journey that followed. If you’ve never read it, jump aboard the raft and travel the Mississippi with Huck. You won’t regret it. And you learn a bit about true friendship.

 

 

 

Gideon’s Sword  and Gideon’s Corpse by Preston and Child

This is a series I started with the most recent book, “The Pharoah Key.”  I bought it in hardback, and I got about 10 pages in when I decided to put it down and go back and start with the first book in the series and read them all through in order. Wow. Is all I can say. Start with Gideon’s Sword, and buckle your seat belt.  This is like watching an action flic.  I cannot say this is great literature, but man, it’s fun to read.  Some of it is a bit on the gory side, but they are thrillers. You can never imagine how our hero is going to get out of his next scrape. This author partnership will never win any awards for their character development of women, but still…fast-paced page turners. Reading this duo is like riding a roller coaster. Hang on.

Howard’s End by E.M. Forster

Now for something completely different. I found this book by wandering through the Classics section of Barnes and Noble.  I’ve been trying to read as many of them as possible, and I now have gotten through all the low-hanging fruit and am venturing into some of the (in my opinion) lesser known classics. It was this or “Moby Dick” and frankly, after reading “Mutiny on the Bounty” in high school, I’m not sure I ever got back my sea legs. At any rate, this is a novel about hyper-intellectuality vs. blind pragmatism and industry. Beyond that, you’ll have to read it, as it also has a sub-layer of willful obtuseness and the last thing I ever expected…brilliant feminism.

I hope you are enjoying these warm days. September will be here in no time. If you have a minute, share what you’ve been reading. I’m always ready for another adventure.

Do Your Flying Geese Need Their Wings Clipped?

I’m not terribly big on specialty rulers, but I do have a few.  Mainly, I find that I purchase a ruler, use it once (maybe) and then have to find a place to store it for all eternity.

I am guilty of that with my WingClipper from Studio 180.

I had it for over a year and never even took it out of its original packaging.

Then, a couple of months ago, I did some layout/design work for a good friend who is a Studio 180 Certified Instructor.  In return, I asked her to show me how to use the tool efficiently.

If you are in the Midwest, you can contact her and book her for classes.  Her name is Lydia Ziegler and her contact info is themeasuredstitch@gmail.com.

I am planning to begin work later this summer on a project I downloaded from 3 Sisters.

I know I downloaded this for free, but for the life of me, cannot find the link any more. But it is a pattern that is available out there, even if you have to purchase the download.

UPDATE: A friend found the link for the free pdf.  Here you go! (Thanks Tomi!)

It looks like a pretty good challenge, and I will be using Laundry Basket Quilts’ Blue Barn Collection (shown below.) It’s getting to be a couple of seasons old so the fabric is no longer readily available everywhere.  Luckily, I think I have plenty.  But I guess I’ll find out.

As you can see, I’ll be doing plenty of “flying geese”. The medallions are gorgeous and truly intimidating to me, but the flying geese?  I can tackle those…especially now that I have made friends with my WingClipper.

This is pretty straightforward piecing and trimming.  The instructions that come with the ruler are very clear and helpful, and if you want a class, see Lydia!

The reason your piecing stays so accurate is that you create everything slightly oversized and then trim down. You are provided info for multiple sizes.  It’s really a great way to approach any pattern that has flying geese.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think.  I will be embarking on my adventure within the next few weeks.

Til then, may your goose be hanging high.

Patience and Persistence and (Im)Perfection

15-year-old:  Wow, that’s cool.

Me: Thanks!

15-year-old: It must be teaching you patience.

Me:  Child.  Raising you teaches me patience. Sewing is what I do to relax.

15-year-old: That’s wonderful.  That you could find something other than food to help you relax.

Sigh.

In fairness to the tactless adolescent living in our house, I have been making a concerted effort to eat properly, and he is fully aware of that.  I actually think that *he* thinks those are words of encouragement. It’s almost like he’s new around here.

The other day I found a “journal”, a spiral bound notebook, from when I was 14. I looked over the scribbles and cringed myself into a fetal position…pages and pages of teenage angst. So-and-so likes this guy, but he likes another girl and this one didn’t talk to me today at school, but another guy wanted to call me after meeting at the roller rink.  OMG. Could I be any more of a living breathing cliche?

Anyway, the point is, I wrote pages and pages about my weight. At 14, I went to Weight Watchers for the first time, and I weighed 104 lbs. It was the end of the world.

Yes, that’s Donny Osmond.

A little more digging and I found the rest of them.  An archive of my weight, my life, my loves.  You know you have them too, somewhere.

And I started thinking about the themes that run through our lives.

What are yours?

Do you have a way to revisit some of them and see if you’ve made any progress?

I imagine that this is the work of our lives…to choose the colors, to find the patterns, to do the hard work, and to make something out of nothing. Again and again. Over and over, and with any luck, we evolve.

We learn a little patience, a little perseverance, and we learn from mistakes. (Well, at least some of the time).

And, maybe, like me, you have some battles that just drag on and on.

As we get a little softer around the edges, those old battles aren’t quite so fierce any more.  We can slow down and enjoy the details and the journey.

And maybe, at the end, when all the quilts are done and all the notebooks are filled up, we’ll have something to show for it.

Maybe.

Public Service Announcement – Recognizing Shoplifting 101

Weird topic, right?

I was in the self-check line at a local grocery store the other day (the line for unlimited items) and a couple ahead of me had two shopping carts.  The woman was running things through the scanner and the man was at the end bagging and putting things into the second cart. Efficient.

I was only half paying attention, but was there for their whole transaction. When they were done, the woman moved the empty cart up behind the full cart and quietly transferred a case of soda to the “bagged” cart. She didn’t scan it. I glanced around and the clerk was busy helping someone else in the self-check line. The couple finished up quickly and off they went. Free case of soda.

Huh.

As someone who worked at a small shop, I can tell you that LOTS of people shoplift, and it’s not often who you think it might be.  I worked in a quilt shop, for Pete’s sake. 98% of the customers were women and more than half of them were over 50.

But some of them stole from us.  Sometimes it wasn’t much. They often purchased from us at the same time.  But we learned to get good at recognizing them.

Some stats (click for more): 

  • 1 in 11 people is a shoplifter. Think about any 11 people you may know.  One of them likes to steal things from stores.
  • 75% of shoplifters are adults, 25% are kids.
  • They are caught only 1 in every 48 attempts, and brought in front of police only 50% of the time.
  • Only 3% are professional, organized, international shoplifters. The other 97% are regular people who get a kick out of it. It’s a mini-thrill, probably the same as you or I would get from a chocolate treat.

Working in a quilt shop we had several types of shoplifters.  Sometimes we’d be visited by a team, one chit-chatting with workers while the other “browses”. When only one person is manning the store, a shoplifter will often give that person a task; cut some fabric, search for something online, while off they go to quietly grab.

Others will continue a conversation with a worker, making sure they are just out of your eye sight. They are around a corner, they stoop down to see something and in it goes into the handbag.

I’m not making any of this up. And you know, every quilter has a giant bag she carries around with her…mostly innocently.

At our shop, we established a code word.  I won’t give it away, because you never know when it will come up again. But if any worker at any time said the code word in any context, it was all hands on deck. We stopped whatever we were doing and focused on the culprit. All eyes on YOU. (Not you, of course, but the shoplifter.)

As a shop owner, you have no right to stop someone until they are out of the building. Then what are you going to do? Chase them in the parking lot over a fatquarter or spool of thread? Maybe.

We found that prevention was the best approach. Once someone was suspected, they were followed ruthlessly by workers, made to feel uncomfortable. The goal was “Goodbye, don’t come back, or we’ll do the same thing.” Were we sometimes mistaken? Possibly. But you develop a sense of these things and we were a vigilant group.

With eyes wide open, I see more petty theft all around than I ever did before.  I once knew someone who worked in security at the Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago.

Now THERE are some real thieves…well-known bands of pickpockets that worked in teams and preyed especially on older women with big bags, and pre-occupied moms. The more crowded the day, the more thefts take place.

My advice to you: open your eyes.

You will be surprised at what you see. And it will train you not to be a victim.

The good news is, most shoplifters won’t ever commit another type of crime. It’s their thing. Just don’t let it happen in your shop. And if you don’t own a shop? You don’t want it either, because prices will rise for all of us.

Eyes open.

 

Persistence Pays Off

Believe it or not, I found my fabric. Awhile ago, I wrote a post about a line of fabric I fell in love with, and all I had was a layer cake to use (40 pieces of 10 in. x 10 in.)

I searched at different shops, but because I no longer knew the name, it was basically impossible to find.

And then I stopped at a quilt shop I haven’t been to in a number of years. I seemed to recall that this MAY have been the place where I purchased the layer cake almost a decade ago.

The shop is hidden in the cornfields of Illinois, on a farm. When you pull in, it feels as though you are pulling into someone’s private property, and frankly, you are.  The quilt shop is located in an out-building, in back of the farmhouse. Two dogs run to greet you as you enter. Sam, the chocolate lab, is extremely friendly and looks perfectly at home lying on the braided rug at the entrance. The other dog (whose name I can’t remember, is more hesitant…a  spaniel mix of some kind, I would guess. But eventually, he warmed to me as well.)

I brought out the cutting samples that I carry with me, and turned to the owner.

“Before I waste a lot of time, do you think you have any of this fabric anywhere?”

The quiet woman took the samples in her hands and slowly wandered to the back of the shop. She ran her fingers over some scraps, and thoughtfully pointed, “There’s a bolt.”

She continued to scrounge through her clearance fabric and one by one found beautiful remnants of the fabric. A yard here, a yard and a half there, another yard here.

I was thrilled.

We found enough for the back of my 80 x 80 in. quilt, and more for any accessories I might like to add. All at clearance pricing.

9 yards total, and I felt like I had won the lottery.

The name of the fabric line is Evening Mist, by Sentimental Studios, for Moda.

And the name of the shop is Basketcases in Clare IL.

Above, over 120 – 4 1/4 in. 9 patch squares. The quilt still has a long way to go.

But I feel complete.

Wisconsin Quilt Shop Hop 2018

Hey you Mid-Westerners! Grab your friends, hop in a car and spend a day in Wisconsin.

That’s what we did.  And we loved it. Now, it didn’t hurt that the day was completely clear, sunny, no humidity and just early-spring lovely.

It also didn’t hurt that the towns were all really vibrant and attractive. And the drive between shops was pastoral and rural, with neat, well-tended farms dotting the landscape.

Relaxing.

Get your details here.

Of course, we did not cross the entire state.  We stayed along the I 90 corridor, and still got to see so much in one day.

The Wisconsin Quilt Shop Hop ends at the end of June.  So you still have plenty of time. And if you miss the shop hop? No problem.  The stores are still there, just check the hours.  Shop Hop hours are consistent throughout the region. 9:30 – 5:30 pm week days, 9:30-4 pm on Saturday. Maybe I’ll run into you in Wisconsin!

Industry Consolidation – Cotton+Steel and More

Cotton+Steel

Just in case you haven’t heard, the 5 original designers of Cotton+Steel have departed and are no longer working with RJR, who was their distributor.

Apparently, RJR owns the name of Cotton+Steel outright, so the designers are leaving that behind.

Craft Industry Alliance has a detailed article about the move, which the designers announced on Instagram several weeks ago. It sounds as though RJR was having difficulty with technology, and deliveries weren’t being made to quilt shops in a timely manner, record-keeping and accounting was faulty, with a lack of training and many other issues that make or break businesses.

It’s a shame, as Cotton+Steel was a very recognizable brand.  The quality of the fabric was definitely superior, and that was one of the main reasons the brand had such a following.  The last collection submitted by the original team was submitted at this spring’s quilt market, which means it will likely hit stores in the fall.  After that, RJR has in-house designers who will continue the brand. It’s hard to imagine, as anyone who has ever used Cotton+Steel fabric knows, the designs are unique.  Frankly, the designers are the brand.

We’ll keep an eye on what they are up to next.

Machine Quilting Unlimited and Modern Quilts Unlimited

If you are familiar with these two titles, you’ll be sorry to hear that they are both being discontinued.

Everyone knows that the magazine industry is truly suffering, as ad sales are plummeting and online content replaces a business model that has outlived its time.

Still, I am someone who prefers to read actual books as opposed to digital, and I like my magazines the same way.

I would rather turn pages while sipping a cup of hot chocolate than stare blankly at another screen.  Nevertheless, these are two more magazines that will no longer be available.

I will, however, recommend instead, the folks at Modern Quilt Studio.

They self-publish magazines called Modern Quilts Illustrated which are full of great ideas tips and tricks.  They adhere boldly to the modern aesthetic.  They have been around for decades and I imagine they will be around for decades more. Their magazines have no ads.  This husband and wife team are inspirational, skilled as artists, well-known and respected in the industry, and all-around nice people.

As the industry changes, it can only mean one thing…opportunity.  The gals from Cotton+Steel will find their way to new and exciting endeavors and the rest of us will have higher quality designs and talent to choose from…if less assortment for the moment.

 

My Wife Quilts…Tips on Embroidering on T-Shirts

Do you have someone in your life who loves t-shirts?

I do.  My husband is what in the old days, they used to call a curmudgeon. He doesn’t care what he wears, as long as it’s comfortable.  Being clean is preferable, holes are optional.

I do a lot of repair work on his stuff.

One day, many years ago, I was at some sort of quilt show and I ran across a t-shirt:

“My wife quilts, therefore I’m broke.”

I bought it for him and he has worn it ever since.  In fact, the first time he wore it, he said that women of a certain age were giggling at him. I should mention,  he also has a t-shirt that says:

“You read my shirt.  That’s enough social interaction for one day.”

And so, we have a sort of running gag.  As t-shirts wear out, I am always on the lookout for others that, I don’t know, fit his character. (He has Homer Simpson and the Grinch, if that helps.)

This past week, I found an embroidery design that I thought would be perfect, and decided to add to his collection.

A couple of tips for embroidering on t-shirts:

  1. Use a ballpoint needle. You should make an effort to do this any time you sew or embroider on anything stretchy.  It really does make a difference.  A Microtex or Sharp will cut right through the fibers and it might not happen right away, but after a few washings, you can end up with a hole.  Knits don’t like to be cut. A ballpoint needle will move the threads aside as it penetrates.
  2. Use cutaway stabilizer.  I had a nice polymesh.  But this design, at approximately 8 x 10 inches, had almost 38,000 stitches.  That’s not a huge amount, but it’s not low density either. I used two layers of black polymesh cutaway.  I just happened to have some black cutaway from a sweatshirt I did awhile back.

3.  Use your ironing board to help you hoop.  Just slide the t-shirt over the end of your ironing board as if you were going to iron it. Take your one or two layers of stabilizer and insert them under the shirt, taking care to lay them very flat under the design.  I also print out the design so I can get a good look at positioning, and pin it in place. You can then just insert you hoop underneath the layer to be embroidered and place the top part of the hoop on top. Easy.

 

4.  Remember not to pull on this fabric.  My experience has been that lots of people love to hoop their fabric and then pull it tight all they way around the hoop. DON’T DO THAT. Especially with knits. You want the design to lay flat after the hoop comes out.  Your cutaway stabilizer will help you, but not if the fabric is distorted and stretched when you start. The fabric should be flat, not pulled.

5. Clean and oil your machine before you start, and load a fresh bobbin.  This should go without saying before every project, but sometimes it helps to be reminded not to cut corners.  Take the time to clean out your machine NOW, make sure all the parts are oiled and the bobbin is full.  Why start out with issues?  Make your life easy by taking care of any obvious problems before it really gets rockin’.

6. You can use Gentle Touch to fuse to the back of the design when it’s complete, to keep the stabilizer from rubbing against the skin.  People use this a lot for baby onesies and kid’s clothes.  My husband won’t care.

Finally, you can see in this last shot how helpful it is to use a black stabilizer against black fabric.  It just keeps everything neat.

T-shirts like this are very cheap at Michael’s or Wal-Mart.  You can also purchase pretty decent t-shirts online, especially if you google “blank t-shirts.”

Maybe you have someone in your life who has great t-shirt “attitude”.

I hope so.  It’s entertaining.