The Un-Valentine

I update this sign on my door with the seasons. And I thought it would be cute to put up something for Valentine’s Day.

So I shopped around some of my favorite machine embroidery sites, looking for a charming Valentine’s Day design.

I was confronted by a trashy array of cupcakes, lips and kissing pigs. (OK, I know some of you would love the kissing pigs.) But it’s not what I was looking for at all.

And the hearts .So many hideous hearts. Big, ugly, hearts with loads of swirls and ornation. Gathered in multiples, in solid colors, outlines, curving, distorted, nouveau, deco, modern, punk, angry, broken, baroque, and dipped in gnomes.

I hated it all.

Truly, this is a message to all machine embroidery designers: You can do better on Valentine’s Day.

I would have settled for one of those vintage red trucks with a load of flowers and sweets…tastefully done, with some script. Or how about all the charming old school Valentine’s from the forties? Wouldn’t it be cute to have a line of those in embroidery? Or how about those old Victorian Valentine’s Day cards? Tell me you couldn’t create some designs that played off of those? Or anything cozy? After all, we’re still in the dead of winter.

Anything other than the selection that’s available now. Which is gag-worthy.

And I say that with love in my heart for artists and designers.

So after all of that, I settled on a design that barely hints of Valentine’s Day, but is warm, inviting and sweet. And it will look just as good on February 15 as it does right now. In fact, it will even carry into spring.

It’s a bit stitch heavy, but looks great against the black.

Here’s a link to the design.

I did the design on black Kraft-tex, which is surprisingly good at supporting machine embroidery. The trick is to use two layers of cutaway stabilizer.

I still have to figure out how to create a Valentine for my husband this year. Sadly, it won’t likely be machine embroidery, though I had hoped to find something charming. I thought about the kissing pigs, and then decided against an off-color joke about our pandemic weight gains.

I have other tricks up my sleeve, though.

So carry on, sewists. Surround yourselves with bright colors and whatever helps get you through the day.

Cross Stitch Life Hack

I love cross stitch. But I am completely inept.

I have watched the YouTube videos. I have studied people moving those needles in and out. I purchased the right fabric. I can sew, machine embroider, hand embroider, knit, crochet, do hand quilting. I’m not afraid of stitching by hand. But for the love of all that is good, I cannot figure out how to cross stitch. I. Cannot. Do. It.

So I did the next best thing.

I digitized.

I found the most adorable designs (from Little House Needleworks on Etsy.)

Using Bernina Embroidery Software 8, I got the idea into my head that I could run a border of these gorgeous cross stitch patterns around the outside of a very simple tree skirt I was making.

But as always, it was not an easy task. Like Tina Turner, I never do anything nice and easy. I do it nice, and rough.

It starts with a scan of the pattern, which needs to be trimmed to the exact pattern size in some sort of graphics software. I’m used to working in Adobe, so that’s what I used. But Bernina’s software comes with Corel, so you can use that too. Then it gets imported into the Cross Stitch application in the software.

Now comes the tedious part. Every single stitch gets reconstructed with a click, and a color choice. If you look closely enough at the above image, you can see that some of it is filled in with color, and some of it still has the cross stitch symbols shown. It took me about an hour to get everything filled in for that design.

The next step is to move it into the embroidery program. The software then converts every click that you made in cross stitch into machine embroidery stitches. And it’s pretty magical. One moment it’s just a weird looking drawing, the next minute it’s stitches that my machine will understand.

And I am absolutely loving the way these turned out.

I still have a long way to go on this tree skirt, and each design from start to finish probably takes about three hours. Could someone do it by hand in that time? Maybe someone who knows what they’re doing. That would not be me, when it comes to cross stitch. But I am just so taken in by their charm and sweetness.

I hope you are tolerating this difficult holiday season.

I leave you with this December thought:

“Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”


Doors, Doorhangers and Paint, Oh My!

How’s everyone doing out there?

I am not ashamed to say I had a rough summer. Between the pandemic, and a kid who’s still in the school system, I managed to fall while taking pictures. Hard. On my knee, but did a number on the ankle too.

Wound up in the ER, and x-rays were fine, but still healing. On top of that, I have the usual “You know, at your age…” health issues. But hard as I tried, I was not able to avoid going to a doctor until coronavirus is eradicated….as I had hoped. Who am I kidding?

So layer on top of that all the societal and natural disaster issues we’re facing and I made a decision:

TO PAINT MY FRONT DOOR CORAL.

Why? That’s a good question. I was all set to go with teal. And then I randomly saw a pic online of a coral front door. And I couldn’t get it out of my head. You need to know that my front door is a very dark, forest green. It has been that way for 18 years.

But it suddenly became my obsession. A primal scream, I think. I NEED A CORAL FRONT DOOR.

Since then I have discovered, to my surprise, that a front door that faces south should indeed be red or orange according to feng shui principles. Who knew. (Not me.) So, apparently, I did the right thing.

I used some paint called DecoArt. Find it here.

It was not my favorite. It went on kind of gloppy and was a semi-gloss. I’m generally a satin girl. And please note, that while I was doing this I was NEVER sure it was going to work. My only thought was that if I ruined the front door, we needed a new one anyway.

The first coat was pretty hideous. It was a lot of work just to get that far, and needed several hours to dry. I had to keep going back and smooth over places that wanted to drip. At this point, I was really torn. Give up now and paint it black? Or forge ahead and see where I end up. Anyone in their right mind would have hired a professional to salvage what they could.

I went for it.

Two more coats later.

My husband strolled by while I was in the process. “You’re making the front door pink?”

“IT’S NOT PINK, IT’S CORAL!”

He and my teenage son exchanged glances and backed away. They don’t really care.

But at least here’s where I get to the sewing part. Now I needed something to put on the door.

I have some black Kraft-tex, and so anyone who’s read this blog in the past, knows I love my Kraft-tex. I wanted a round doorhanger, but one that I could update seasonally. Or just when I got tired of it.

If you don’t know, cutting a perfect, professional-looking circle is hard. Really hard. So I use a rotary circle cutter from Olfa.

But the tool has a maximum circle size of about 8.5 inches. Not nearly as big as I wanted it.

So I approached my husband with the tool, and I told him what I wanted to do. He has a mill and a 3D printer. I wondered if he could help me find a way to get bigger circles.

He sniffed around the tool for a bit, while I went off to make dinner. An hour later he handed me an extender. Then he attached it.

He simply fitted it to the device, added a screw and bolt to hold it together and, like magic, I can now make circles about twice the size. It was amazing! And it worked perfectly. My new circle was somewhere near 18 ” acorss, almost the entire length of the Kraft-tex paper.

Now I just stitched my embroidery out and attached it with a single stitch to the the circle. I made slots so that I could switch out the seasonal part at any time.

I finished it up with a ribbon and hung it with a flourish.

I have no idea how anyone else is coping. I hope you are doing well.

I highly recommend doing something you’ve been afraid to do. (Let’s not get reckless here, I’m talking about painting a door, or a room, or yikes! a dresser.)

I didn’t know I needed this color in my life. Nor do I know how long I will want it. But it showed up at the right time for me.

Color heals.

I hope.

Machine Embroidery Buddies

Tell me why you sew, and I’ll tell you who you are. Isn’t that the truth? These wonderful ladies, friends of mine, wanted to learn machine embroidery. We won’t talk about how long they have had their embroidery units neatly packed away in boxes with all the best intentions in the world.

We’ve been talking about getting together for years to learn the ins and outs, tips and tricks of the trade. Finally — we did it.

They came over to my house for a day and and I gave them the basic Embroidery 101 lessons. Someday, I will write it all down in lesson form for this blog. I know there are plenty of others out there who have an embroidery unit packed away somewhere, hoping that they will use it eventually. Or maybe you gave up on embroidery entirely.

I am here to re-inspire you. Machine embroidery is truly fun. And the more you know, the more you can experiment, and the more you are inspired to try new things. The hardest part? Getting started.

You can see from these pics that one of the biggest impetuses (is that a word?) for machine embroidery is, wait for it, grandchildren. And children as well . But I think the grandkids get the machine embroidery lovin’. Why? Because they are fun. The things we do for them is done with pure love with no expectations for anything in return.

That’s also why I teach. I want to share what I know, so that others can enjoy this craft. I also want us to use our hands, machines, brains and ideas to make things and to inspire each other, and maybe that will spread into the world and make a difference.

I don’t know if it will. All I know is that they will be coming back for another lesson next week. I hope it inspires you to dig in, as well.

The old saying goes “You can’t take it with you.”

No you can’t. But with any luck, we can quilt it, sew, it, embroider it and leave some of it behind and hope it does some good.

Couching Vs. Embroidery

A friend had been struggling with adding the Wisconsin fight song to a quilt she did for her son. It was made of flannel and very cozy. It had a 2 inch inner border which really was ideal for the words of the fight song. She had already pieced it, and had it quilted professionally.

Over breakfast one day, several of us were talking about the best approach. My friend had purchased some minky-like yarn and was hoping to create the words by couching it. I suggested using the Bernina free-motion couching foot. It seemed like a good approach, but she was not sure she had the foot or knew how to use it. I thought I would test it out for her.

As you can see on my test-out, disaster ensued. The #43 couching foot let the yarn slide around too much to catch it, and basically the thread did not grab the yarn. So then I thought I would try the Bernina stitch regulator on zigzag using the free-motion foot. Slightly better results but still horrific. My experience with the couching foot has been to use very specific sizes and yarn has never worked well. I’ve had much better results with cording, which neither of us had.

I then suggested embroidery might be the best way to go.

After finding a font that was similar to what she wanted (cursive) I then created embroidery hoopings for all the words to go around the quilt. It had to be spaced decently so that it would be readable.

From the above pic, you can see that I positioned every phrase and laid it out on the quilt so that I would have a guide for spacing. The quilt was about a twin size. This took 17 hoopings, all done in the software from a TrueType font. I matched the bobbin thread to the back of the quilt, so, while you could see the embroidery on the back, it did not noticeably stand out. When finished, the embroidery words actually acted more like quilting.

We needed a satin stitch because a plain stitch of the words –or even a triple stitch–was just not visible.

In the end, I think the words ended up looking sharp, and added a lot of personalization and interest to the quilt.

Could we have managed the same result with couching? Maybe with cording, but almost certainly not with yarn.

I have seen that Bernina now offers couching inserts to attach to the #72 ruler work foot and I’m interested in seeing how easy that is to use. For our purposes, I think embroidery ended up being the best result.

What do you think?

Kimberbell For the Finish

Can you have too much Elvis in Graceland? Too many lights in Vegas? Too many labrador puppies?

I think not.

And you can’t have too much cute in Kimberbell. If you are going to do these designs, then you might as well go all the way. Get the dingle balls, the glitter paper, the froufrous and the doodads. Go all in.

I purchased the ornament designs recently to make for a group of quilty friends.

After one attempt, I realized that if I wanted them to be perfect, I needed to find not only the proper shade of gingerbread felt to highlight the features, I also needed the hoops, the accessories, glitter paper, a hot glue gun, and some patience.

Kimberbell is an exercise in excess and if you can’t do it at Christmas, you can’t do it at all. I am understanding the addictiveness of the Kimberbell phenomenon, but I don’t think it’s my permanent state. I love it at the moment and for special occasions. I’m not sure it’s my style forever and always.The same with Elvis and Vegas and labrador puppies.

Maybe you can have enough.

But for now, I’m on cuteness overload.

Have yourself a Merry Little Holiday.

Used a glue gun in 2019. Check. On to 2020.

P.S. After all the elaborate accessorizing of Kimberbell, I went back to simplicity for my holiday wrapping. I’m a realist. This stuff needs to be reduced, reused and recycled. Simple brown paper with scraps of fabric. The fabric can be saved and made into a quilt at some point, and the paper can just be folded and reused or recycled. I think we, as sewists, can balance adorable with sustainable. At least I’m going to try.

Machine Embroidery by the Book

Through the years, I’ve come across a lot of machine embroidery books. Most of the time, I find they are complex, stuck in the weeds, focused on things that are not important, or are just plain hard to get through.

But this new book from Bernina really works. Because it is written and edited by Bernina educators, I thought it might simply be a hard sell for Bernina products. And make no mistake, it has no shortage of Bernina machine specifics.

However, it really gives a good breakdown of everything you need to know about machine embroidery, including tips and tricks that make life easier.

The images, graphics, tables and info in this book are all really easy to read. And the spiral binding is helpful. Nothing worse than anything step-by-step that won’t stay open.

Don’t get me wrong.

Wherever you purchase your machine, you should be sure to take the free classes they offer so you become comfortable with your machine (and all good dealers do that.). I don’t care how many books you read, you will not learn to hoop your fabric properly by reading. You can only learn that by doing.

When I teach classes, I tell my students that there are 3 variables in embroidery:

  1. Stabilizer.
  2. Your fabric.
  3. The density and size of the design

Any of these could and should change based on the others.

The book addresses all of these right up front. But more than that, it gets into techniques, and stitching on different types of fabric. Want to learn about minkee? It’s in there. In-the-hoop projects? Free-standing lace? No problem.

I’ve done all of these things, so I read with a critical eye. And I have to admit, all the categories are thorough and succinct.

Here’s a link to many of the techniques I have written about.

Will you read the book and be an expert? No. I tell my students that they will only become experts after making their own mistakes. No book can tell you what to do when your machine is acting up. Or if your thread is breaking or you haven’t cleaned your machine in awhile. These things come from experience and the only way to get that is to stitch.

But I’m putting this one on my top shelf and keeping it handy. It’s new this summer and is available anywhere Bernina machines are sold. It’s a solid resource for any machine embroiderer.

Kraft-Tex in the Garden

kraft-tex for the garden. learn to use Kraft-Tex for lots of fun projects. Edgestitch.

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know that I have a lot of fun with Kraft-Tex, a paper/fabric that can be washed, doesn’t fray, and needs no finishing.

Here’s a link to a couple other of my blog posts on Kraft-Tex.

This time, since I am into garden season, I thought I’d try something slightly different by adding a garden flag made from Kraft-Tex. Now, I know that it has been a truly rainy season in my area, so I though it would be interesting to find out how the flag holds up during rain. I know it can be washed and dried without any issues, and I already tested the ribbon I’m using for color-fastness. So I’m not really worried about the rain.

I promise to show you what it looks like after a few weeks. We’ll all find out!

The embroidery showed up really well on white, and then I placed it on the grey or charcoal color. I find that Kraft-Tex holds up well with lots of embroidery…upwards of 20,000 stitches..as long as I use the right stabilizers. I find it best to use a medium weight cutaway, with a layer of Stabilstick cutaway on top of that — 2 layers of cutaway in total.

Then I cut out the pieces and used a bit of scrapbook tape to hold them in position while I stitched them down onto a larger piece of Kraft-Tex.

These designs can be purchased at emblibrary.com.

After assembling the flag, I added some velcro to the top, along with a fold so that it hangs nicely on the iron bar. A bone folder works great to give a nice solid crease. And the velcro makes it easy on-off. I’m thinking that I could make a number or these through the seasons…Fourth of July next.

Finally, I’m playing around with placement outside. I don’t have my annuals set up out there yet, so it’s a bit early. In the meantime, this is easy and gratifying stitching to get done for any season.

Sewing for the Generations

My friends are all becoming grandparents.

Not just the ones who had children at a very young age, but also now those who had them at a normal or not-so-very-young age.

I first started quilting in my twenties when all my friends had babies. I made dozens and dozens of flannel baby quilts, most of them hand-tied and filled with the fluffiest polyester money could buy. The parents and kids loved them.

I moved on to more traditional quilting, took classes, and eventually started teaching. But I never forgot how I got started.

Babies.

These days, I’m doing a lot on diapers and onesies. It took some experimenting, but I have found the best methodology.

Keep it simple.

Onesies absolutely do not support a whole lot of stitches. Even some fonts are iffy, depending on the number and size of the satin stitches.

Use two layers of polymesh stabilizer.

I use OESD cutaway polymesh. I experimented with one layer and just didn’t think it was enough. Depending on your design, you may even want three layers. A traditional cutaway adds way too much bulk and stiffness, so go with a polymesh. I also tried fusible, but that distorted the look of the onesie. I’m not a fan of 505 spray so I don’t use it when hooping.

Use a ball point needle.

If you’re familiar with embroidering on knits, you already know this. But if you usually embroider on quilt cotton, it’s easy to forget to change out the needle. Onesies are very stretchy and the fabric really separates when you use a ball point or “jersey” needle. It makes a difference in the longevity of the embroidery, because a ball point separates the threads of the fabric instead of cutting right through them.

Washing Instructions.

I use rayon thread (Isacord) which is bleachable and holds up well when washed. I throw onesies right into the washer and dryer…even in hot water and high settings.

The fabric, 100% cotton, always shrinks a bit. And the embroidery may curl because of that. The best way to fix this is to lay a towel on your ironing board, and lay the onesie face down against the towel — with the embroidery against the towel. Iron the back of the onesie without steam until everything is laying flat again. No problem.

I sew on a Bernina and you can see that with their free arm, it’s really easy to stitch on a onesie without a lot of pinning, clipping and gyrations to keep the back out of the way.

Finally, use a 9 month size or larger.

Maybe it’s possible, but I never attempt to embroider a newborn or 3 month size. I just don’t see how I can stretch it enough around the hoop. I’d have to switch to the very smallest hoop which has a tiny field of embroidery. Most of the onesies I’ve done are size 12 month. They still look relatively small, and get smaller after washing. But they are large enough to work on comfortably.

Sending love and blessings to all my friends and co-workers and friends of friends and co-workers who are keeping the earth populated. There’s really nothing quite like participating in the ritual of welcoming the very newest generation.