Chicken Soup and Embroidery Software

It’s a chicken soup kind of day.

My son came home after his first few days of high school with a nasty cold.  I’m not surprised.  The place is a breeding ground for experimental teenage germs.

On top of that, the weather turned cooler today…for how long, I’ve no idea.  But it’s cloudy and cool right now.

Furthermore, like everyone else in the sewing industry, I read Nancy Zieman’s latest blog with a heavy heart. Whether you watched her show or not, you know Nancy.  You buy her notions or you attend Quilt Expo in Madison. I’ve learned many tips from Nancy along the way, but my favorite line was this: ” I sew at least one quilt a year for charity.”  She never said “You should…”  She told us what she did, and then she did it, among all the other wonderful charitable contributions she made within the industry (and outside of it).

So, yes, it’s a chicken soup kind of day.

While the soup bubbled away, I sat down with my laptop and organized some of the Halloween designs I want to make in the very near future.

I use Bernina Embroidery Software 8, and I’m planning on making tiny pillow-like ornaments to hang on my Halloween tree.

The designs I’m using came from urbanthreads.com, a favorite of mine for cute and/or spooky embroidery.

It’s hard to see the design in this shot but it is a single thread color of a cat.  I used a feature that people rarely take advantage of in the ‘design” menu. Click on “background” and change the background color in the hoop.

Now you can actually see what the design will look like stitched out on dark grey or black fabric. In the prior shot, you can see where I added stitching in a square around the outside.  Before I stitch that, I will add a square of fabric and a ribbon for hanging.  I’m not stitching out today, but I promise to share when I do.

In this design, I’m stitching the profile of this cat, but it has multiple thread changes for each cat.  For some reason, the.exp file I’m using has changed all the colors from shades of purple to random colors.  I did not take the time to fix the thread colors on screen because I will just use the correct ones as I stitch out.

The important thing to note here is that on the side, in the color film, I used the “Sequence by Color” tool.  This way, I’m able to stitch all the same colors at once instead of changing threads each time for each color on each cat. Whew!

It makes a big difference in the amount of time it takes to stitch out.  Also, I will have to cut the jump stitches in between each thread change, as I have the thread moving around quite a bit.

 

Still, I have loaded all this onto my USB stick and am ready to stitch as soon as I prep some fabric, stabilizer and fabric for the backs of these cute little ornaments.

Can’t wait to get started, but I won’t have time for a couple of days.

My Halloween quilt is complete, and ready for its debut! Stay tuned. It may be early September, but it’s already time for a cool change.

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!

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.

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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

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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!

Needle Punch Felting with Machine Embroidery

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I’ve been playing with wool lately, and was reminded by the upcoming Bernina Inspirations class, that I can do needle punch using my machine embroidery.

For anyone who is a Bernina software user, Designer Plus allows you to do needle punch.  All you need is the needle punch accessory (which you can use with or without embroidery).

needle punch toolWhen you set up your machine for needle punch, you need to do a few things:

  • Inset the needle punch needles in your needle holder in place of your regular needle.
  • Change your stitch plate (there’s a special one for needle punch) and be sure to tell your machine that you made the change.
  • Put on the correct needle punch foot.  This not only helps to glide over roving and other wool or fabrics, but it also keep your fingers away from those needles.  You’ll often want to hold the roving in place to keep your design intact.
  • Completely remove your hook system, not just the bobbin.  Take everything out, and close the bobbin door.
  • Turn off your top and bottom thread sensors.

needle punch feltingIn the software, you literally just go to the Digitize toolbox, click on the PunchWork icon and digitize a shape.  Any shape.  And the software will generate one thread color to outline the shape, and then fill it with needle punch.  It’s amazingly easy.

I digitized the shape of this tree, measured it out and laid out the roving within the parameters of the shape.

And then I watched the machine do all the needle punch work.  Pretty impressive.

However, I did follow along with my fingers positioning and re-positioning the roving to be sure it stayed where I wanted it to be while the needle was punching.

Next, I layered an embroidery design on top.  Since I had gone with a tree shape, I was reminded of the tree of life embroidery design in the Sepia Petals collection from OESD. I ended up using the tree background file.

The result was interesting both visually and texturally.

Still exploring my love of wool.  It’s freeing and almost unpredictable as an art form or craft.  I think that’s why I enjoy it so much.

If you are interested in learning more about Bernina Embroidery Software or needle punch, think about attending your May Software Inspirations at your local Bernina dealer.

You just never know what you’ll be inspired to create!

needle punch felting 3

The Splendid Sampler — An Update

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Since this project goes on for 100 blocks, I thought I would give an update every 10 blocks or so.

For now at least, I am really looking forward to every block, searching for the time to make it before the next block rolls out.  (New blocks come out every Sunday and Thursday). Even more than that, I am enjoying seeing all the other work that others are creating, on the Splendid Sampler Facebook page.

Here is a look at my blocks so far. This grouping includes one of the bonus blocks which I did before the group even started.

IMG_0397 They include everything from hand embroidery to digitizing and machine embroidery, as well as needle-turned applique and raw edge applique.  I have not done any paper piecing, though some of the blocks have made that available.  I am holding out for a slightly more complicated block…one that would be more difficult to piece traditionally than to paper piece.  Maybe a little flower or something like that.  With 90 or so blocks to go, I’m sure something will come along!

Luckily, I’m still finding time to do some of my own work as well, which I will share in an upcoming post. I’m really into neutrals these days, with a pop of color, so I see a theme emerging. A peak at my next project.

wool

 

The Splendid Sampler — The Beauty of Sewing With Others

I am loving the Splendid Sampler.  If you’re not on board, jump in at any point, the water’s fine.  So are the people–from all over the world.  And everyone’s blocks are all so different!  I was afraid we’d all end up with the same quilt, but everyone’s personality is shining through.

Here’s your link to jump in.

Here’s the Splendid Sampler Facebook page.

Because of recent happenings in my life, I got started a little late, and many people haven’t started at all.  Some are just enjoying looking at others’ blocks.

I’ll share with you where I am so far.

splendidsampler2I am missing one of the blocks which I haven’t had time yet to go back to, but another block came in today that I think will be fun to add.  The fourth block, the vase and flowers (kudos to Jen Kingwell) probably inspired some of the most creativity so far.  The blocks have been stunning and all different.

splendidsampler5splendidsampler4I created mine in Bernina Embroidery Software, but many others stitched theirs out by hand or did machine applique.

splendidsampler6Like others, I am keeping a file of all the blocks and their instructions.

While I am in love with the color story of “Black Tie Affair” which I have been using, I am also adding some little touches from my own stash.  As Bonnie Hunter reminded folks, a quilt is always more interesting when all the fabric doesn’t come from one collection.  I agree.

In fact, I also did the little vase block in a whole other color story, just to see how I’d like it.  It’s a little more ‘folksy” as I free motioned it, and I think it has it’s own charm. So maybe I’ll run some parallel blocks with these brighter colors too!

splendidsampler1Truth is, anything can happen this year!  I intend to do as much as I can, when I can.

A few things I’ve learned:

  1.  Don’t try to keep up with everyone else.
  2.  6 inch blocks sound easy.  They’re not. They take more time than many 12 inch blocks.
  3. Slow down and enjoy the process.
  4. Enjoy everyone else’s blocks: get inspired, be challenged, but do your own thing.
  5. Try new techniques.
  6. Purchase the designer’s books. (Pat Sloan has 2 great books — one on applique and one on triangles)
  7. SHARE!  We really do want to see what you’re up to!  On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram #thesplendidsampler

Going in Circles

Whipped up a little tabletop quilt with inspiration from Sylvain Bergeron, Bernina educator. One of his Software Inspirations tutorials included a couple of fun embroidery designs in circles.  It was part of a much larger presentation, but I wanted to stitch the circle designs out for my students to see.

circlesIn this overview photo, it’s hard to see the detail inside the circles, but the effect of stitching them on vibrant colors offset by simple background fabric is striking.

The background fabric is 4 or 5 variations of Modern Background Paper by Zen Chic, one of my new favorite lines.  I want to use this background fabric on everything….and I do.  It’s so versatile, it looks great everywhere.  Anyway, on this quilt, I just crazy pieced some variations together and cut them to fill the “on point” circles.
circles4

Sylvain called this one “Dragon Scales” and I guess if you think about it, that’s what it looks like.

circles5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The green one is called “Snake skin” for obvious reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you work in Bernina embroidery Software at all, these are very simple.  You just digitize a circle and morph the fill.  Of course, you’ll have to play with the settings of fill spacing and morphing, but that’s basically the way these are created.  You’ll have to attend Software Sampler at your local dealer to get all the details.

I added another circle to the quilt, using the ripple fill.

circles3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All are mesmerizing to look at when you get close enough to notice the detail.

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christmasrushUp next, the first block for a disappearing hour glass quilt for my 13 year old son, who has requested it be made entirely of junk food fabric.  Hoping to finish as a Christmas gift. Also hoping not to gain any weight while working on it.

 

Things that go bump in the night…

ornamentsI have always enjoyed Halloween more than Christmas, or whatever mid-winter holiday you celebrate.  Too much pressure, too many gifts, too much hype.

And when you work in retail, Halloween isn’t much better.  Most chain stores start putting their Halloween decorations out July 5.  But when that first crisp fall breeze rolls in, and those first few leaves begin to fall, I get inspired.  Many people do. Once the kids are all back in school and the “official” fall season starts, it’s amazing how many of us turn to our craft, our hobby or our passion once again.

So this year I am teaching some students to use the cross stitch program in Bernina Embroidery Software 7.  I am not a big fan of cross stitch..at least not actually DOING it.  However, I love the way it looks, and I love how easy it is to get some things done in software (which I DO love to use).

I stumbled across some lovely cross stitch designs in Just Cross Stitch Magazine.

They always include many  many patterns for people to use.  I scanned a few of their Halloween “ornaments”, and brought the jpegs into the cross stitch software.

Then you can use the software to create stitches following the image in the background.  I wanted to keep these very simple so I could make many, but not take a lot of time.  The cross stitch program within Software 7 saves the file as .arx extension.

pumpkimcrossstitchThe next step of course, is to bring the cross stitch design into the actual embroidery software.  I love this technique because it turns all those little x’s in the Cross Stitch program into machine-readable stitches.  And then it’s just an embroidery design.

pumpkinspngOnce one file is in the software, you can repeat it multiple times.  I also rearranged the color film, along the right, to stitch all of one color at once instead of all the colors in one pumpkin at a time.  This is a huge step and really cuts down on thread changes.

At the end, I added a double run stitch around the outside of the ornament, leaving the bottom open, so the little critters could be turned inside out and stuffed.  Before that last double run thread stitches, I added the backing, with right sides together. Under the backing I taped down some ribbon, so that they could be hung.  As you can see, in the hoop, they look like little ravioli.

inthehoopWhen all is done stitching, I cut everything out, clipped corners, turned it inside out, stuffed them with polyfill, and used the machine to stitch along the bottom closure.

cat doneVoila!  Six or eight of them will fit into the jumbo hoop.  I managed to create a cat, a witch and a pumpkin.  I also made some larger ornaments with regular embroidery on them.

pumpkin hoopI bought a cheap Halloween tree for the house and one for the shop…these will be on display for awhile!  And if I have time, I’ll make more…it’s a little addictive.  And really pretty fast and easy when you make use of technology!  Gotta love it.

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Bag Obsession

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I’ve been making these little cosmetic/chotchke/jewelry bags now for a couple of days.  So easy and fun to make.

They’ve become an obsession.

All the ones I’ve made (8 of them in total, so far) are made from Art Gallery Fabric, Sketchbook.  The look of the fabric is artsy and lends itself well to these small bags. They are approximately 6 x 8 in. finished.

These are all done in embroidery, by the way.  I digitized the lines for the bags, and all the work is basically in the cutting of fabric.

First stitch is a placement for the zipper, then you lay down the zipper, then folded fabric with batting in the middle across the top of the zipper, stitch a line, same thing with the bottom layer of fabric, stitch a line, then lay the lining/backing down (a quilt sandwich) and stitch around the outside.

bag4Voila! That’s it. You’re done. Trim and turn it inside out.

You use a sticky back stabilizer, so you end up picking that off the back at the end, but other than that, these bags go REALLY FAST.  Use batting in between every layer to give the bags a nice hand.

I’m thinking these would make great holiday gifts. I have gone through my stash and have come across some old home dec fabric that I think would be fun.  Denim would also be great.  Who doesn’t have an old pair of jeans that need to be repurposed into new life?  Add some embroidery or a little bling…anything is possible.

These in-the-hoop projects are great stash busters.  Gotta run, I need more zippers.

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