Chasing Cats with Machine Embroidery

Doesn’t everyone have a Halloween tree?

It’s a silly thing, I know. But we get a kick out of it.  I make all the ornaments in machine embroidery as in-the-hoop projects.

First, the actual embroidery design is stitched out.

A placement line is stitched, so I can see where the backing will be placed. Before the backing, I tape down a ribbon for hanging. Then the backing is laid down with right sides together.

The backing then gets stitched down with an opening at the bottom which allows for turning the item inside out. Once the backing is stitched down, I can take the whole thing out of the hoop and trim 1/4 inch around the outside, clipping the corners, and turn it inside out.

Just add a bit of stuffing, stitch up the bottom and you’re done! Three at a time at this size. When I make them even smaller, six at a time is just as easy!

Finished and ready to hang on the tree.

I hope this gives you some ideas for the holidays. Happy stitching!

 

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.

Dueling Woolies, and a Couple of Tips

I’ve been working on these two wool hand embroidery pieces. One is for the shop, the other for home.  By the time I finish them, I will either have gotten wool completely out of my system, or I will have started a dangerously addictive habit.  I really like working with wool and have learned a couple of things.

(An acknowledgement of the patterns:  The first comes from a Moda book called Moda Mini Marvels. The second is a Wooly Lady pattern called Kaleidescope. Sadly, it no longer seems to be available.  But check out their site as they have many more patterns and kits that are similar.)

 

 

 

Tip Number One:

Use a long-arm stapler to attach the pieces of wool and hold them in place while you stitch.  Seriously. Skip the fusible. Skip the pins. They add bulk and distortion and take all the fun out of the smoothness of attaching wool to wool.  I  was struggling with it and our tech came over and said, “Do you want to know what the Australians do?”  Now, honestly, who doesn’t want to know what the Australians do. She suggested the stapler and I was struck by the simplicity and brilliance of the idea. Why didn’t I think of this?  Try it.

Tip Number Two:

You need this tool.  Clover Press Perfect Roll & Press. Your local quilt shop will have it and if they don’t, ask them to order it!  If you ever do piecing, this is one of the best investments you can make. I work in a quilt shop and try a lot of tools.  I like them for different things, and we all get addicted to different gadgets…it’s part of the process.

But the project I’m working on requires 1 in. half square triangles, finished size 1/2 in.  I need 84 of them.  That’s a lot of sewing, cutting and pressing of tiny pieces. But this little roller works SO WELL!  I did not need to use the iron once…it lays the seams so flat. Get it, try it, find out for yourself.

I continue to carry on, with more fun projects on the horizon.  But I find that at this time in my life, a little handwork is cathartic and soothing. I like my wool to be bright and cheerful, but who knows?  That can change at any time.  When all is said and done, we’re all evolving, aren’t we?

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!

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!

Splendid Sampler — Half Way Home

Splendid SamplerAre there any Splendid Sampler participants still out there?

I know there are.  We were in the neighborhood of 20,000 strong when we started last February.  I know many of you are up to date and still participating…and many, many more of you, like me, are hanging on…barely.

We knew when we started that this would be a long and unpredictable journey. A yearlong commitment to any project is risky, and in this one, we really had no idea what blocks would be thrown our way.

My special thanks to all the designers who have donated their time and effort to these wonderful blocks.  While I have deep respect for all of you, I may not sew out a few of your blocks.  Please don’t be offended.  Sometimes the stress of learning a new technique, combined with time constraints, just has me putting off a few blocks.  Also, in fairness, If I had the same taste as all 75 or 80 designers, I wouldn’t have much of my own. So, every now and then, a block just isn’t my thing.  That’s OK.  I still appreciate the work, and I probably would take the time to do them under different circumstances.

But, hey, it’s my quilt, and at the end of the day, I reserve the right to be a little choosy.  That said, I have ventured into many an area I never thought I’d enjoy–like hand embroidery.  Believe me, I still fall back on machine embroidery when I fall behind…or when I don’t really want to do any applique.  Then I just digitize the whole block.

Splendid Sampler

But a few of them I’ve done by hand, and while time-consuming, they have that unmistakable “slow stitched” look.

Splendid SamplerNo matter how you look at it, I am still proud that at the end of this year or the beginning of the next, I will have an amazing, interesting, unique and lovely quilt all pieced and ready to be assembled.  It will be both a tribute to fellow quilters and a learning process on my part. In this picture, I left the blocks in their cellophane sleeves so they don’t begin to fray from too much handling.

Splendid SamplerNow back to the business of filling in some of the blocks I missed along the way.

Splendid SamplerIf you are inclined to join, feel free to hop on board.  You can find the block patterns and all you need to know right here. 

The Splendid Sampler Facebook page is also a great place for inspiration and community–see everyone else’s projects!

New blocks come out every Sunday and Thursday, and bonus blocks are plentiful.  The patterns will be available for free for a year and then they will all be assembled in a book. (You know we’ll all want the book!)

Keep going Splendid Sampler lovers…we’ve rounded the corner!

 

Tiling Your Machine Embroidery

These days, we’re all finding new ways to machine embroider.  From quilting to in-the-hoop, to applique, I’m amazed at the new life coming into this part of the sewing scene.

This past week I spent some time stitching out a beautiful pattern from Embroidery Online.  Here’s a link to the collection, called Modern Expressions Tiling Scene.

tiling2I started with a great palette and moved on from there.  I don’t think I ever would have dreamed of putting some of these colors together without the designer’s keen eye.  The pdf printout shows a nice layout of the design, and while my personal colors were slightly different, they were very true to the original colors.  I also stayed very true to the thread colors of the original design.

The stitch-out was actually pretty light and easy, as nothing about the design is terribly dense.  Even at less-than-top-speed, each block took only about 20 minutes.

tiling1tiling3The pattern instructions called for two layers of tear-away stabilizer, which worked very well.  I had my doubts about how nicely it would press out in the end, but it lays really flat.

The end result is a very modern looking design, great for a wall-hanging or a table runner.  This was waaaaay easier than I thought it would be.  Read the instructions thoroughly, and you’ll have no problems.  At the end, you trim each block 1/4 inch from the final thread color, and it really keeps your block sizes uniform.  When stitching together, just hold a decent quarter inch and you’ll be fine….it’s a forgiving pattern. Press your seams open.

While I still have to quilt and bind it, I think I’ll just quilt in the ditch.  Still, a great weekend project, and I really fell in love with the finished look of this.  Have fun!

tiling scene

Are You a Happy Glamper?

glamping 2You can’t fool me with colorful new fabrics and joyful projects and slick looking retro-styled trailers and chef-inspired meals on Pinterest, cooked over wood-burning fires with tents and campers lit softly with warm beds and bathrooms and lighting.

glamping 4

I have been camping.  And there is nothing “glam” about it.

I pitched tents that required directions and patience to assemble…long before they snapped together in minutes.  I canoed down a muddy stream in a strange state in the pouring rain with a boat partner who had no idea how to steer. The couple behind us had a large black snake slide into their canoe. That’s the definition of horror.

I’ve slept on air mattresses that flatten completely by morning, on earth that slopes and slowly rolls me downhill all night till I’m shoved up against the door.

I’ve cooked real meals over an open fire and inhaled more than my share of campsites (especially in a state preserve where everyone is close to the next campsite and all are burning God-knows-what all night long.)

I’ve bathed in lakes and cold community shower stalls, discovered 5 ticks on one foot, and been terrified of the fierce growling in the middle of the night no more than 6 inches from my head on the outside of the tent.

Yes, I’ve been camping. Or do you say glamping.

Love it or not, the trend is hot hot hot.

And sewists are all over it!  Take a peak at this link to hand embroidery that everyone is into these days.

hand embroidery

glamping 3Since I’ve been obsessed with in-the-hoop bags, here’s another.

I purchased this design from an Etsy shop called Disorderly Threads.  You can purchase the design here.

It’s a lot of steps for a small design but the instructions are pretty clear. I love how it turned out and made a couple of them.

glamping 1The idea of glamping is 100% fun, and retro and cute.

And if you’re looking for me, I’ll just be enjoying the whole trend vicariously from under the covers in my cozy, warm, dry bed.

Little Ruby, Little Bags

minibags1cropSo I’ve been having fun with Little Ruby fabric from Bonnie and Camille.

At first I made some larger bags from a layer cake.  Then I made a bunch of tiny little coin purse sized bags from a charm pack.

All of this is done with machine embroidery using software.

smallbag1smallbag2I took the simple design of the larger bag and reduced the sides and bottom, keeping the zipper positioning lines the same.  Then I switched to a larger hoop and made three copies of the bag.

smallbagmulti

In the hoopI hooped sticky-back tearaway stabilizer, stitched out the zipper placement lines for all three.  Then, I placed the zippers and stitched out the line at the top of the zipper first for all three bags, then the bottom part of the zipper for all three.  Those fabrics top and bottom are just folded charm squares, with a small piece of batting in between.

After stitching the first batch, I went back to my software and moved them all a little farther apart from one another, so they don’t overlap.  I also added thread color changes between each step, just so the machine would stop stitching for me to place the fabric.

Finally, I put a tiny charm square quilt sandwich on top to form the back and lining of the bag.

multibagThen an outline stitches around each of the bags. It is set as a triple stitch and goes over the same line three times.

NOTE: DON’T FORGET TO MOVE THE ZIPPER PULL INTO THE CENTER OF THE BAG BEFORE ADDING THE BACKING!

That note is mainly for myself…believe me, if you do it once, you’ll remember not to do it again.  It’s not a terrible fix, but takes a little time and fidgeting.  You have to rip the seam to get the zipper pull through, and then re-sew the outline seam on the machine (not embroidery.)

When I take them out of the hoop, the first thing I do is tear away all the stabilizer from the outside.  Then with a little more care, I tear away the stabilizer from the inside of the bag.  This is actually pretty easy…a little bit of fussing to get it out, but not much.  Because the outline of the bag is a triple stitch, as well as the lines holding in the zipper, the stabilizer tears away very easily.

minibag2The final step is to cut away the excess fabric and zipper, and turn the little goodies inside out.  I give them a quick press and done!

minibagmultiThe final mini bags are about 4 1/4 inches by 3 inches.  My main goal was to use as much of the charm squares as possible without wasting.

If you own software…any kind…I encourage you to try building bags like this.  The digitizing is only rectangle and lines, and the corners are slightly curved.  Your expenses?  A charm pack and some matching zippers.  You likely have some scraps of batting lying around that can be used.

In a day, you can have stacks of lovely little bags to give away or to keep.  They are just about the perfect size for credit cards, ID, business cards, etc.

Here are some peonies for you, just for fun. Because they’re blooming and are gorgeous.

peonies