Freestanding Lace for the Holidays

freestanding laceI found these wonderful designs on Urbanthreads.com.  I immediately thought of Valentine’s Day, although these were likely meant for the Christmas Season.  I have not yet whip-stitched these together, but I love the look of them.

If you are not familiar with freestanding lace, a lot depends on the density of the designs and the stabilizer you use.

I used OESD Aquamesh, 2 layers for each piece.  Each envelope has 3 pieces.

freestanding-lace-4You can see the double layer of washaway stabilizer in the above photo.  Each section of the envelope took at least an hour to stitch out, so be sure you start with a full bobbin, a well-oiled machine, a new needle and plenty of thread.  I matched the bobbin thread to the top, using Isacord on everything.

free-standing-lace-2There were two different envelope designs to choose from, one was roses, as shown above.  The other was holly leaves, and I stitched that out in red.  Both of the envelopes I stitched were about greeting card size.

But I do have a smaller size design that would be perfect for business cards or a gift card.

freestanding-lace-3Once the design was complete, I trimmed away all the stabilizer, leaving 1/4 inch or so around the outside.

drying-frestanding-laceEach piece gets rinsed in warm water.  Some people recommend filling the sink and letting the lace soak.  That will work, but I usually keep the warm water running and rinse it thoroughly until all the stabilizer has dissolved.

The design needs to dry overnight, and I use a piece of florist’s styrofoam as a base, and flatten each design and pin in place.  This prevents any curling as they dry.

After that, it’s just a whip stitch to assemble the front and the back, and then the top to the back.

I had the most fun searching for just the right button for each of envelopes.  I plan to make a few more…I want the rose design in red. (Shhhhh…I think that’s part of this year’s Valentine’s Day gift.)

knitted-scarfFinally, I thought I’d share my scarf, which is moving along nicely now.  In fact, it’s probably twice as long as this photo shows…but not quite long enough to be complete.

The scarf will also have to be gently washed and stretched flat to dry. That way it will hold the shape.

If you enjoy designs from Urban Threads, you’ll get a kick out of their new holiday Look Book.

They also have their own line of fabric from Spoonflower now.

I actually have created my own fabric on Spoonflower with some of my black and white photography.  But I’ll have to save that for another post once I come up with how I’m going to use the fabric!

Designers Have Finally Discovered Wearables

For a number of years now, I have been following this industry.

I love wearable technology.  For starters, I have a fitbit on my wrist at almost all times. For someone who has a data obsession to begin with, there’s really nothing better than having  a constant flow of data. About myself, no less.

But beyond that, I have been keeping an eye on all wearable technology.

If the truth be known, we haven’t really found that huge breakthrough that brings it all mainstream and into the lives of every human being.  We are getting close, and this is my favorite time in any industry…when the possibilities are endless.

I was working in the field of marketing and advertising when the Internet came along.  I begged, pleaded, talked to superiors, made presentations, wrote papers, power points, sent emails telling anyone who would listen that this was the future of retail.  The future of basically everything.

The early reaction from executives…yes many VERY highly paid executives…was that the web was a passing fad.  Seriously.

But not everyone felt that way, and when more voices chimed in, things began to change.

I feel the same about wearable technology.

We basically have no idea where any of this is going, but it’s going somewhere. Now is the fun part..where all the entrepreneurs get to try things, where the experimenters get to experiment.

Last year, I made a vest using Adafruit’s circuitry. Here’s a link to the end result, but if you want to see the whole process, just click “previous” on the post and it will take you backward through the whole painful journey. (FYI…I wasn’t a STEM student…when I grew up STEM was part of a flower).

But now.

Ah, but now, people like Karl Lagerfeld are on board.  His whole spring 2017 fashion collection had a technology theme.  But my favorite is the large clutch.

I had to laugh at the reaction of the crowd.  Once you’ve built something, it’s not hard to understand how it’s done. But before, it’s a mystery held only by physicists.

The latest thing I’ve seen is this bag from Lisa Perry and Leo Villareal.

Again, it’s another bag that lights up, but trust me LED lights are fascinating to watch, and they are very bright.  We humans are so attracted to bright, shiny, flashy things.

Not everyone is working with the blinking lights though.  Here’s a great article from WIRED magazine about high tech fabric that helps to cool you down during a workout.

But by far my favorite so far has been this lovely fiber optic Cinderella gown from Zac Posen.  So lovely.

I haven’t given up on any of my sewing, quilting and embroidery.  But if I were ever to start over, this would be my new field.  Who knows?  I might have a third act left in me!

‘Tis the Season…Or is it?

rosesRunning around doing errands yesterday, I stopped in my tracks.  I pulled the car over and began to take pictures.  It’s a miracle.  Who sees roses this beautiful at Thanksgiving?

I did what I always do. I documented it.

The weather has been very disconcerting.  It was the warmest Nov. 17 in 40 years.

I remember being in Miami during the holidays one year.  It must have been around 20 years ago now.  I was about 2 blocks from South Beach, and we had been doing a photo shoot. But we wrapped a bit early and I had a free evening and found myself…midwestern girl…in a Walgreens in Miami Beach a couple of days before Christmas. I had received a call from friends who had gone sledding and skiing and were spending the weekend in Wisconsin.  Could I get home in time to meet them there, they asked.

I wandered the aisles, listening to the holiday music, taking in the lights, the decorations.

I was so lost.

I couldn’t imagine anyone being able to celebrate the holiday without at least the CHANCE of snow, and a cold breeze and a winter coat.  Walking outside, I was greeted with the soft warm breeze, and the tealest of teal ocean colors. It was breathtaking.

But not Christmas.

I had that same feeling again today, even though I am playing holiday music. The weather report calls for storms tomorrow and snow flurries on Saturday.  Maybe then, just maybe, things will start to feel a little bit more normal.

I have been working on the knitting that had me turned inside out.  I spent 45 minutes just studying the scarf, trying to recognize my mistakes.  Finally, in what seemed like a breakthrough, I realized that I was not paying attention to the wrong and right side of the pattern.

Once I had it figured out, I decided to continue and not rip out the incorrect stitches.  I decided that this scarf would be a great reminder of a difficult time.  Things leave scars.  My scarf would have a scar.  It’s not horrible.

right-side-knitting-mistakeAs you can see, on the right side of the fabric, it’s hardly noticeable.

wrong-side-knittingThe wrong side is much more obvious.  I decided that I didn’t want to go backward.

The only way to continue is to go forward.

I think I just might have a scarf by the time the snow falls.

And it’s time to get back to sewing too.

 

War and Peace and Knitting

War and Peace and KnittingRight before my mom went into the hospital for the last time, I began reading War and Peace. Honestly. I was about..oh, maybe 100 pages in. I had it at the hospital with me.

That was last February.

(I should mention that I love the Russian authors.  War and Peace is one of the great Russian novels that I haven’t read yet. Tolstoy is very different from Dostoevsky, but if you are looking for characters that embody the totality of the frail human condition, you can’t beat the Russians. They understand pain.)

Anyway, after she died, I put the book down and couldn’t look at it again until summer.  At that point I decided to throw it into a box headed for charity. Then I fished it out again. Then threw it back in. Fished it out. I wasn’t ready to walk away completely.

So it’s been sitting on my bedroom floor ever since.

At that same time last year, while in the waiting room at the hospital, I also started knitting a red scarf.

Now you should know a few things:

  1.  My mom taught me to knit.
  2. I am not very good, but find it very relaxing.
  3. I do OK with a simple pattern, but I don’t really know how to un-knit if I make a mistake.
  4. I made a mistake.

Not right away, you understand. I didn’t make the mistake in February.  Like War and Peace, I put the knitting project down and couldn’t look at it again.

The day after the election, I picked it up and tried to knit.

But I did it wrong.  Somewhere along the line, I was supposed to knit and I purled.  And where I was supposed to purl, I knitted.

An experienced knitter would know how to go backward, to reverse the stitches and fix the problem.  I can remember hundreds of times when my mom would rip the yarn out. But I am afraid to do that.

I am afraid I won’t be able to pick up those ripped stitches and continue.

I am left with something that feels like garbage and I don’t know how to fix it.

If I could go back in time and change it all, I would. If I could just abandon both projects I would.  But something in me longs for continuity, for clarity, for perseverance, closure, fortitude and maybe just a teensy bit of hope.

Now what?

 

Machine Embroidery Valance

I love one-of-a-kind.

If it  hasn’t been done before, I’m in.  Even if it has been done before, but it can be done slightly differently, I’m in.

What I’m not really interested in doing is creating exactly what someone else has already created.  Let’s be honest, here. Nothing under the sun is really new any more.  We all receive our inspiration from someone, or something, or some technique.  Original ideas come from many places, but they almost always require inspiration from somewhere, and we all learn from one another.

That’s OK.  As long as it’s new to you. I don’t judge people who take a pattern and re-create it exactly as the book dictates. That’s how we learn. We aren’t all designers. I’m not…at least I don’t get paid to be one.

But my favorite projects come to me like a whirlwind, and I have all to do to scribble them down before they disappear.  The end product is not always exactly what I had planned, but I know when I have a starting point.

My challenge:  To create a project based on some digitized rulers created in Artwork Canvas within Bernina Embroidery Software 8.

I started with the 3 black ruler shapes, wondering how to place them in an interesting project.

I knew I wanted to use a sewing theme, and I also wanted to incorporate Amanda Murphy’s Sewing Room embroidery designs. I thought they were cute and fresh. (See the link below).

Sitting at the computer one day, I had an idea.  I don’t ever design on a computer.  It’s just not fast enough to capture the idea before I talk myself out of it.

So I grabbed the back of the closest sheet of paper and scribbled out this initial design.

valance-plan2I thought I’d make a table runner, with all the embroidery designs lined up in a row.   I thought about adding buttons scattered around the design, since the theme has thread spools, scissors , rulers, etc.

I didn’t have any fabric at home that was close to my reach that was in the right shape to hold all the designs.

So I stitched a number of half fatquarters together (fat-eighths).  I think they were leftover from this project.

And I printed out some templates to see if I was getting close to my original thought.

valance-plan1It was going to work.

I began embroidery, and once the embroidery was complete, a friend at work (hey Bobbie!) asked if I was making another valance…this time for my sewing room. (You can check out the last time I made a valance here.)

I had actually been thinking of it as a table runner, but when she said valance, I suddenly saw that too!

I continued with the quilting which for some reason was a part of the original scribble and I couldn’t depart from it.  Here are a few of the detail shots.

sewingvalance3sewingvalance2sewingvalance1

 

I’m sure you can see why I wanted to use Amanda Murphy’s embroideries…but it actually works pretty well with the digitized rulers.

Here’s what it looks like complete.  It’s quilted all over using a walking foot, and the back is turned down to form a rod pocket.

sewingvalance4It will be at the shop for a while, but I can’t wait to hang it on the window in my sewing room. I moved the random-sized buttons to the middle to give it a look of continuity. I love the Barbie-style dresses.

You can make the rulers if you attend Bernina’s November Software Inspiration class at your local dealer.  And if you don’t have software, I’m sure you can find a measuring tape embroidery or replace it with another design.  The point is not to make the same valance I made, (although you certainly are welcome to do that) but to make it your own!  Have fun with the idea, and create something new and original for your own home.

October Projects, Bernina Excitement

Is it really mid-October?

Will this election ever be over?

Like the whole country, I feel like I have had enough.  And when I’ve had enough of anything, I turn to sewing.  Usually, I find something completely new to occupy my mind…an outlet to create something I haven’t before.  But the past few weeks have been spent mainly finishing projects, working, taking walks, and finding mindless sewing work from time to time to de-stress.

Here is a little gallery of images showing some of the things I’ve been working on.

In late September, I attended training at the Creative Center at Bernina. They are introducing some new products and I am excited about them.

Bernina 700 Embroidery Machine

b700-straight

Without a doubt, one of the coolest machines Bernina has introduced in a while. It has all the same features as the 790, with these new features:

  • Pinpoint Placement – you’ll never have to worry about hooping something crooked again. (This is cool…and easy.)
  • Thread Away – Never stitch over those loose threads.
  • Programmable jump stitch cutting – it will cut jump stitches as small as 1 mm…no more cutting those tiny jump stitches!
  • Multiple Spool Holder – Put all the threads for a design in one place.
  • 320 designs included
  • 18 alphabets (I love them.)
  • New Monogram Alphabet with ornaments (gorgeous!)

Honestly, I loved this machine.  The engineers definitely had heart to heart conversations with actual people who embroider. Everything we could have asked for is right here. LOVE!

Bernina Embroidery Software 8

The improvements to the software are worth the upgrade.  Even if you don’t use some of the main new features, just the improvements to existing features is worthwhile. For instance, when choosing your hoops, now you tell the software what machine you have and it will only display hoops for that machine.  Remember when you had to scroll that long list just to find your hoop? Not any more.  Also, for newbies, you can turn on labels for all the icons..how helpful is that in learning the software?? (Very, for those who are not familiar.)

Features:

  • New! Color Photostitch – This is a vast improvement on Photosnap which was pretty particular in the types of images that would work.
  • 3D Globe Effect – Great graphic effect.
  • Alternating Pattern Fills
  • One-click Auto Digitizing – Simplified and made easier to use.
  • Couching
  • Quilt Layouts
  • Automatic Quilt Backgrounds
  • 3D fonts

I spend a lot of time in software, so for those of you who use the software a great deal, it’s completely worth the cost to upgrade.  For those of you who use it only occasionally, only you can decide if you need these new features.  It is still a very familiar layout, with colors moved to the bottom.

If you are someone who has held out from upgrading for a few versions, especially if you have been holding out with version 5 or 6, now is the time to move up.  Version 7 was a big change, and was a very user friendly upgrade. It made the software much easier to use.  Software 8 builds on that.

That’s all I have for the moment, with a few new ideas brewing.  More to come, as always!

Crazy is Good

I was sitting at the kitchen counter one day, staring at the valance over my window.  I’m ready for something new.  I get this from my mother who changed curtains in the kitchen to match every holiday and season.  In the fall, we had leaves, after Thanksgiving, holly and berries, in the spring, the lovely florals went up…you get the picture.

I don’t have cafe curtains, though I have thought about them.  But sitting there, staring away, I had an idea.  What about a quilted valance?  Better yet, what if I made matching seat covers for the chairs?

Suddenly I was excited about a project.  All I wanted was colorful and different.  So that’s what I made.

window3The valance is made of crazy quilt blocks, 8 1/2 inches unfinished. I grabbed all sorts of scraps I had lying around…some were from fatquarter bundles, some random, some leftovers from other projects and just began sewing.

The beauty of this project is that it doesn’t take any real focus or concentration.  The 1/4 inch seam doesn’t have to be perfect.The colors can be anything you want…no matchy-matchy stuff. Just square it up to 8 1/2 inches, then sew them together.

crazyblocks1 If you have never sewn this way (improvisational is what some call it) you will love it. Well, some people like me love it, and others find that they need more guidelines.  But, the freer you are with the blocks, the more fun it gets (if you can let go of the need for perfection.)

And the result is happy crazy.

window1For this valance, I assembled 3 rows of blocks, measured the window and the rod, and created a quilt sandwich and quilted the whole thing.  Then I came back and added the scallops and bias binding.  From the top, I just folded it down enough to form a rod pocket and sewed it in place with a couple of straight seams.  The binding goes all the way around, it’s just turned down at the top so you don”t see it.

And because the quilt is heavier than plain fabric, even with a lining, it hangs nice and flat.

I love it.  It’s exactly what I wanted.

Then I turned to the chairs.

chair3Each chair requires an additional 9 blocks.  I only finished one chair so far, but it goes fast. The blocks on the chairs are not quilted…just nine blocks sewn together.  I studied the chair to see how the cover was attached, and I could see that they started in the back. ( I am NOT an upholsterer, but would love to be…I don’t think it’s as easy as it looks when you get to armchairs and things like that!)

Anyway, I started in the back and pulled the fabric to the front, using a staple gun.  I did allow myself enough fabric to double the seam where it’s stapled…I didn’t want the fabric to fray and unravel.

chair2Just pull taut from the back  to the front and staple it down.  It doesn’t look very taut in this picture, because my hands were on the camera, but when you are working, you really need to pull tight, with one hand and staple with the other.

chair1You can do this.

I am loving how this turned out.  I know it won’t last forever, but now that I’ve changed the covers once, I can do it any time.

sinkwindow1Finally, I made another little valance to go over the sink, which is a smaller window.  Same process, fewer blocks.

This was fun stuff.  If you can make a quilt, you can make these valances and chair covers.  It’s just taking the same principles and adjusting to different shapes.

The Back Story of One Quilt in Madison This Weekend

When you work in a quilt shop, you talk to people.  You get to know them, you share stories, you find out their struggles and generally share tips, life hacks, experiences, and sometimes we even talk about quilting and fabric.

Yesterday, a young man walked into the shop.  I’d seen him many times before, he does gorgeous and unusual piecing…technical stuff. He likes to bring them in to show us, and we love to see his work.  Honestly, we love to see everyone’s work, it’s so inspiring.  But his is always a bit different.  One quilt he brought in was completely Harry Potter themed, with books and potions and characters all arranged on a series of shelves, with tiny pieced accents and Harry Potter memorabilia.  Cool stuff.

I turned to greet him, “Hey, haven’t seen you in awhile!”

He shuffled his feet a bit, as uncomfortable early twenty-something young men do, and said, “Well my mom got sick and had a long illness and died.”

At that, all of us working stopped in our tracks and went over to him. We offered our condolences and then he said, “After she was diagnosed, for the next 9 months we worked on a quilt together, and it’s showing in Madison. She died the day before it came back from the quilter.”

At this point I needed a Kleenex.

I asked if he had a picture of the quilt.  It was stunning…gorgeous…meticulous.  It reminded me of a Judy Niemeyer. He said he did all the cutting, pinning and pressing, his mom did the machine sewing. He told us that they matched every single thread, and if something wasn’t absolutely perfect down to the thread, they corrected it.  He said the medallion in the middle had 24 pieces of fabric coming together at the center and he managed to get it down to about 1/8 of an inch thick. He said Best Press is his friend. When they went to square it up it was 100 inches by 100 inches precisely.  They worked on it in the nine months that she was still feeling OK.

I cannot include a picture because it’s in competition in Madison at Quilt Expo this coming weekend Sep 8-10.

As part of the show, he’ll be having his picture taken with the quilt.  He said he’ll be bringing a picture of his mom to hold up so she’s in the shot.

If you will be at Madison Quilt Expo this weekend, you may want to send a little love and encouragement his way.

And, I don’t know, his quilt may or may not take Best of Show or any award at all.

But it sure is a winner.

 

 

 

Keepin’ It Together

So I finally got around to making one of these Sew Together bags.  Have you seen them?

sewbag5sewbag6

Here’s your convenient link to purchase the pattern. Or ask your local quilt store to get it in for you.  It’s from a designer named Sew Demented.  That should give you a hint.

One blogger noted that everyone wants to receive one as a gift….because no one wants to actually make one.

Here’s the thing.  It’s not a difficult bag to make.  It’s extremely functional.  It just takes a little time and patience and the more varieties of fabric the better.

And all the cool kids are making it.

Take a peek at Pinterest.

sewbag7I had never heard of this pattern until I made the sample for our Bernina Software Inspirations class.  Turns out the “software” part was the easiest thing to do. (And the embroidery software is optional…you can quilt or just leave the front of your bag plain).

sewbag1The idea behind this bag, is that you can carry all your sewing supplies in it and keep things organized.  You will see in the pictures that the bag has 3 zipper pouches with pockets in between.  If you have a fear of zippers, you will overcome it completely with this bag. In my humble opinion, the hardest part of any bag project is getting everything cut ahead of time.  And with this bag, you’ll want to use as many different types of fabric as possible.  The fun part is how scrappy and colorful and interesting each one can be.

Grab a fabric line you love and get a bunch of fatquarters from that line.  The brighter the better, and a fun binding doesn’t hurt either.

At this point, I highly recommend using this tutorial to assist in your assembly.  Read the directions in the pattern, then read this tutorial.  They are very helpful.

sewbag2The pattern calls for you to lay your fabrics in order and you install the zippers assembly-line style.

sewbag4After the zippers, you attach the sides, then the exterior of the bag is attached and binding added all the way around, including the zipper which holds the bag closed.  It’s pretty ingenious. Between the instructions and the tutorial, you should have no problems.

I started at 9:30 in the morning, and stopped to shop, get lunch, talk to my son after school, eat dinner….and I finished by 7 pm.  The next one would go even faster because I now understand the construction, and wouldn’t have to spend as much time reading.

So go ahead! Step out of your quilting comfort zone and try one of these fun bags.

 

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Farm…

I didn’t grow up on a farm.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago.  Went to high school in the Marquette Park area, spent countless hours on the CTA as a kid. I rode the bus to go to the library, the movies, to meet friends and to visit relatives. I knew every stop on the 62 line, from my house through Bridgeport and Chinatown and into the city.  I knew when I could catch an express bus and when it might be just as fast to take the local.  After that, I went to college across the street from the Water Tower downtown.  And then I got a job at the Sears Tower, where I worked for years til the corporation moved to the suburbs.

I know the city.  I am a product of the city.

But.

My grandparents on my Dad’s side had a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin.

We traveled there a couple times a year and almost always during haying season, because my Dad (and other uncles) helped them to bring in the hay and get it into the loft.  For those of you who don’t know, August is usually the best time for that sort of thing.  Hot, dry, with long days. Fill up the hayloft with bales so the cows have enough to eat all winter.

Me, I could not wait. Could. Not. Wait.  To wake up early with Grandma and Grandpa, around 5 – 6 am to milk the cows. I would wear a little head scarf (like Grandma) and follow them around the barn, play with animals and taste fresh milk.  And by fresh I mean straight from the cow before it goes into the strainer while it’s still the temperature of the cow.

I spent hours in the milkhouse afterward having conversations with Grandma while she cleaned all the equipment. I watched her hands, I studied the underground “cool pool” where they kept the milk cans up to their necks in cold water til the milk man came to pick them up. I fed and petted cows, guided them into the pasture, shoveled poop, chased kittens and chickens, and sat down to true, hearty meals.

farm1farm2I was a farmgirl.

To this day, I live as far west from the city as possible, on the edge of the suburbs, where the land becomes fields and the fields become grain and the horizons are long and rolling.

I drive past farms every day. I shop at their stands, I take cooking classes there, and in these long, last, few hot days of summer, I miss the work of the land and the animals.

But I remember the farmhouse kitchen, where my mom and aunt always had a hearty breakfast waiting after milking time. I remember the canning and the baking and the processing of fruits and vegetables. It was a tiny room, so well-organized, and was the absolute heart of the house.

Yesterday, I made a blueberry croustade.

I have been tweaking the recipe for awhile.  For a long time I fiddled with making my own pie crust every time.  But I soon grew tired — and frustrated — by that, and these days I mostly settle for Pillsbury which gets me 80% of the way there in .0001% of the time.

Here’s to farms and haying and long summer days. Here’s to fresh baked pies cooling on the counter top. Here’s to whip cream made from actual cream. Here’s to homemade goodness and the people in our lives who make it good.

Blueberry Croustade (Pie)

–2 pints (large) or 4 cups  blueberries

–1/2 cup sugar

–3 T corn starch

–2 tspns lemon juice

–1 T fresh ginger

–1 package Pillsbury pie dough.  You need 2 rounds.

Be sure to use enough corn starch…3 teaspoons is too little.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line the dish with your pie dough.  I cut up the second round to use it to curl up over the top. One pie round is not enough. You need both.

Combine the rest of the ingredients.  I use a cheese grater to shred the fresh ginger. I would not recommend substituting powder. At all. Use the actual ginger, peel and grate.

Bake for about 30 minutes but keep an eye on it.

The whole prep takes a total of about 5 minutes. Seriously, maybe 10 if you include rinsing the blueberries.

Whipped cream is a must, ice cream optional.

Have a great end of summer season.

blueberry1blueberry2