7 Reasons to Own a Serger

I know. You’re a quilter.  Or maybe you enjoy machine embroidery. You don’t need a serger to have a happy life.

But I’m here to tell you that you can use it in many useful ways, even if you think you won’t.  If you never want to have one, that’s OK.  But let me try to persuade you just a little.

Why You (Might) Need a Serger:

  1.  To make quilt backs.  I use my serger all the time for this simple reason.  It is the fastest machine to do a very straight and very sturdy stitch on long pieces of fabric.  Afterward, I just iron the serged edge to one side. This is especially helpful when the back of the quilt is rather scrappy and I am assembling multiple pieces.  Just keep your edges straight, and off you go. Easy peasy.
  2. To make duvet covers. You may or may not want to do this, but I use a nice comforter on my bed that needs a duvet.  I always make my own, never purchase one.  I piece them together just like quilt backs.  Usually I have one print on one side and another print on the other, so when I flip the comforter I get a contrasting, yet coordinating look.
  3. Curtains and valances.  This is the very best way to make things for the home.  I have different valances for different seasons in my kitchen.  They get lots of washing and re-hanging over the course of the years. They have to be able to withstand all of that and a serger keeps the raw edges from unraveling. Of course, the edges that you will see are turned under but seams and ruffles really last with a serger.
  4. Pillow cases.  I use the easiest pattern for pillow cases ever (not the burrito style–google it if you don’t know about that.) The Ready Set Serge is great for simple serger ideas and I have used a number of her patterns over and over and over again.
  5. Garments.  This one is a no-brainer, but if you’ve never sewn garments, it may not be obvious to you.  It’s the best way to give your sewing a finished look without elaborate things like french seams or other couture techniques. This is the tool for quilters who occasionally sew a garment.
  6. Knits and any stretchy fabric.  Sergers were designed for this.  They can pound through sweatshirt fabric like nothing else. Leggings? Bathing suits? Stretchy fabric for a skirt?  All perfect on a serger.
  7. Simple bags. With the onset of the “bring-your-own-bag” movement, I have often found myself using leftover fabric (sometimes not-so-leftover fabric) as grocery bags, farmer’s market bags and carry-alls. I prefer cloth bags to anything else because I can throw them in the washing machine…and often do. The finished serged edges keep them from fraying and they withstand wash after wash.

I hope this persuades you to think again about a serger.  I know that for folks who do more garment sewing than I, the serger is priceless.  But even as someone who is mostly a quilter and machine embroiderer, I find that the serger is the perfect complement to my sewing.

And here’s the thing.  Once you have one, and learn to use it, you won’t know how you ever did without.

Happy 75th Anniversary Joann’s!

This August, Joann’s Fabrics is celebrating its 75th Anniversary by giving a gift to all of us who love fabric, crafts, paint, DIY, etc.

They are getting a makeover, and all I can say is: It’s about time.

I do like to go to my local Joann’s, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to throw things on the floor at the checkout line (or the fabric line) and walk away. Either they don’t have enough help, or the help doesn’t care, or the place is just a mess or all of the above.

And yet, if I need plastic snaps, or a white button, or home decor fabric, or any number of sewing notions and I need it NOW, it’s the place we go.

They are starting with a name change…from Joann’s Fabrics to just Joann’s. Because they want folks to remember they are so much more than just fabric. (Honestly, I think that’s just their marketing department catching up to real life, because who of us already didn’t know that’s where to go for storage or plastic flowers or beads or…whatever.)

But the most exciting aspect is that they will be updating their 800 stores this fall and into next year.  They already have a prototype store that’s been updated in Columbus OH.

Who’s up for a road trip to Columbus?

New features in Joann’s stores:

A cutting bar:  You’ll be able to check in, and get a text when your fabric is cut.  In the meantime, you can wander around the store. Anyone who’s ever stood in line while folks dawdle and chitchat or worse, know this can be a frustrating and time-consuming wait.

Creator’s Studio: I love this idea. You can rent a sewing machine, grab a cup of coffee, a cookie, or attend an event or class. The studio is positioned in the middle of the store, not shoved away in a corner.  It’s meant to revolve around community…possibly a place for bees to meet? I don’t know how this will work but am anxious to see it in action.

A Custom Shop:  Tailoring, custom design? Sounds like they are working toward a specialization that very few other places have. (With good reason.) I’m guessing this would be a place for alterations and some custom services, possibly home dec.

Expanded merchandising:  They are planning on carrying more sewing machines from different manufacturers, for every budget.  Obviously, this gets complicated because sewing machines need service, but we’ll see where this goes.

All of this is great news for anyone who loves crafts of any kind. And we already know that all crafts overlap. Sewists are often also knitters or scrapbookers or bakers (or gardeners…hey, Joann’s don’t forget about that!) We need a place to go that’s inspiring and caters to customers’ needs.

Of course, we still love our independent quilt shops, and they will ALWAYS be our first choice for quilt fabric. But in a world where so many shops are disappearing because of online competition, it’s good to know that someone is investing in us.

And in our $3.7 billion in discretionary spending.

Do Your Flying Geese Need Their Wings Clipped?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Til then, may your goose be hanging high.

Persistence Pays Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was thrilled.

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

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

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

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

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

But I feel complete.

When Your Sewing Machine Needs to go to the Spa

Well, I finally broke my machine.

Actually, I’m not sure I did anything wrong.  I just changed thread colors during an embroidery, started the machine up again and WHOA.  Needle broke and gears of death appeared.

It’s all OK.  I cleaned everything out and could only find 2 pieces of the needle.  A tiny tip is missing.  Normally I can set everything back to normal and just continue, but I think that little needle tip is scraping somewhere, so off to the tech we went.

Tech Update for Bernina 7 Series Owners

I chatted with my new tech for a while and told him about my machine issue.  He asked me if I knew that we were not supposed to oil in the top reservoir any more.

I did not know that.  I had heard some buzzing…questions from customers around the time the shop I previously worked for was closing.  However, we had not received any definitive information from Bernina at that time.

So here’s the deal:

–If you own a 7 Series, DO NOT put oil in the red-ringed reservoir under the stitch plate.

–DO oil the two felt pads in the hook and around the outside of the hook.

Heirloom Creations has a nice video showing and explaining this.

It’s important to know about this change.  If you purchased your machine longer than 6-7 months or so ago, you were likely taught to fill that red reservoir, and keep it filled.

The tech told me that too much oil was spreading, not only into the hook but also getting into the auto-thread cutter, and pieces of felt were working their way into the mix as well. I remember our tech at the store showing me how the machine looked with the thread cutter pulled out and oil getting on everything. At that time we had not heard the official “fix” from Bernina. Now it’s here.

With that resolved, I now have an embroidery design that’s not complete.

See those cute little flower buttons?  They are supposed to be embroidery.  Luckily, my “breakdown” occurred in a convenient place, and I think I can just add those flowers instead of embroidery.  Not exactly perfect, but it’s effective and I think it will work.

I’ll share the rest of the project as I get further along.

I’m determined to THINK SPRING. It has to get here eventually, right?

In the meantime, of course I have another sewing machine that I can use to continue piecing my quilt project. And it won’t hurt for my larger machine to be in the spa for a bit.

Old World Re-Discovery

I re-discovered a layer cake (10 x 10 in.) of this fabric from Moda that had been hiding in my fabric stash for a decade. Not exaggerating.  I no longer know the name of the collection. I tried to find more of it online, and it’s basically unavailable.

Now, like many of you, I have stashes of fabric that just don’t interest me any more. Sometimes I look at something I own, and wonder what in the world I was thinking. It’s dated or seasonal, or, heaven forbid, it was trendy and had a shelf-life of about 15 minutes.

But that’s the stuff I give away.  And, frankly, over the last few years, I’ve done quite a bit of giving away.

But this Old World fabric (that’s the name I’ve given it), is still fabulous.  Every time I look at it I think of Europe, of Jane Austen, of carriage rides and chats by a fireside, and afternoon tea..and maybe a croissant.

I still love it.

And so I recently found a pattern that’s perfect.

That’s a picture of the pattern on the cover of Miss Rosie’s Farmhouse Favorites. While it’s not a complicated quilt, it’s not terribly simple either.  Especially since the pattern calls for fatquarters and all the cutting instructions are tailored for that. As usual, I am switching out colors and modifying the instructions to accommodate the fabric I have and not what is called for in the pattern.

I have been cutting for days.

And I’m still not done as many of the squares will end up cut into quarter and half square triangles.

Still, because I fall in love with these fabrics anew each time I look at them, I am willing to start a project without thinking about how many hours it will take me to complete.

It’s like having a baby. Whatever you do, don’t think about how much it will cost or the hours of your life you will spend devoted to that project.  Don’t think about diapers or doctors’ visits, or bumps on the head, or homework, or cub scouts (or girl scouts) or spills on the sofa or orthodontic appointments or puberty or girlfriends or boyfriends or college exams.  Don’t think about the worry, the tears, the laughter, the arguments, the sleepless nights, the unexpected hugs.

It’s all just process.

And when we think too hard about it, we end up doing nothing at all.

So for today, I will enjoy.  And after all that cutting, I can finally start to sew.

The Zen of Mindless Sewing

Cake Mix Recipe, Layer Cake Mix, ModaIf you’ve never used one of these Cake Mix Recipe packets, you’re missing out on one of the most relaxing ways to sew.

All you need to begin is:

  • 10 in. layer cake of 42 squares, various colors
  • 10 in. layer cake of background fabric, all the same color. (Option:  2 – 10 in. layer cakes of background grunge fabric.  They normally come 20 squares in a packet, so you’ll need at least 2 packages.  I then purchased another fatquarter so that I had a total of 42 squares.)
  • Your choice of any 10 in. Cake Mix Recipe from Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co.

You can see above, that I chose to use a Tula Pink layer cake…lots of bold colors, paired with a Moda grunge that was very neutral.

All you need to do is layer one brightly colored 10 in. square against one neutral, right sides together.  Then just take one sheet from the recipe pad and follow the dotted lines when sewing.

Don’t forget to decrease your stitch length.  I lowered mine to 1.60. This makes the paper easy to perforate when you pull it off.  If you’ve ever used Thangles in a past life, this will all seem familiar.

But here’s where it gets relaxing.

Friends, you do not have to worry about perfection, except to follow the lines. Your paper can be slightly off center. If you’ve ever used layer cakes you know that no two manufacturers cut them exactly the same way, so they never exactly match up.  But it doesn’t matter. You have a good 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch all the way around as excess. It all gets trimmed off.  Just get it close to layered correctly and don’t worry. Follow the arrows, sew on the dotted lines, cut on the solid lines.  That’s it!

With these Cake Mix Recipes, you’re working entirely with half square triangles.

When cutting, if you have a rotating cutting mat, that really helps, so I would recommend using one. But here’s another little tip:  Use one of these clover rollers instead of pressing with an iron.

I fell in love with this little baby a while ago when I was making 1/2 in. half square triangles.  Yeah. 1/2 inch. Try pressing that.  Anyway, the tool works best when you are pressing only one seam open…perfect for this task, and any half square triangles.

As usual, I’m not sure where this is headed.  My chosen blocks will look like this, and I’ll just have to wait until I get more done to see how it comes together.  But that’s the fun of it, right?

I don’t have to think much.  I just sew sew sew.

Eventually, it all comes together.  Just like everything else in life.

Mindfulness gets a lot of press these days.

But sometimes, over-thinking is over-rated.

Document Your Quilt

This week, I finally finished my Splendid Sampler quilt. (And I promise, this is the last post I will be writing about it. If you are still working, I would love to see yours…post to Instagram #SplendidSampler.)

Anyway, I got to thinking about the way we document quilts.  Everyone does it differently, and plenty of folks don’t label their quilts at all.  What a shame!  I think all quilts deserve a label, even if it’s just your signature at the bottom.  They take so much time and effort. While we are working on them, we spend time thinking of the people who will receive them. Life is going on around us while we are sewing.

I remember one of the first quits I ever made was done in the aftermath of 9/11.  So much of the news, the change in our lifestyles, the culture, all got sewn into that quilt.  It’s nothing special, just a Christmas quilt sewn in flannel and hand-tied.  But I never made a label for it.  I just tucked it away. Even now, when I pull it out, it brings me back to that time when we were all huddled around our TV sets getting information. And it brings me comfort.

So now, when I create labels for my quilts, I try to capture the moment or at least the sentiment that carried me through the project.

You can do this many ways.

I have embroidery software and am comfortable using it.  However, I know a lot of people who create their labels in Word or something universal and print it out onto fabric.  Printed Treasures printable fabric works well for this purpose and so does the printable fabric from Electric Quilt.  Just follow the directions.

You can also just hand-write the label with permanent ink.  Some people like to sew it into the binding in the corner. Others, like me, just like to hand-stitch it to the back of the quilt.

Whatever your chosen process, just make it your own.  When you give quilts to people, you’ll find that after enjoying the initial beauty of the quilt, they are always charmed a second time by the label, the sentiment, the love.

It’s like the card, the thought, the capture of that moment in time. And even if it’s only for yourself…ESPECIALLY if it’s only for you and your family. Take the time to document.

Your effort is worth the credit.

(I deleted particular names off the labels for privacy here.)

 

The State of the (Sewing) Union

Friends, Quilters, Sewists, Designers, Artists and Fiber Lovers of all flavors:

Today we gather to review the state of our industry, and to hold a mirror up to ourselves – – for the fun of it.

The 2017 Quilting in America survey just came out.

The main headliners: 

  • 7-10 million total estimated quilters in the U.S.
  • $3.7 billion in total estimated quilting industry spending for 2017. (Holding steady from 2014, which was at $3.76 billion.)
  • $442 is the amount the average quilting household spent in 2017. (Up by 48% from 2014.)

The survey found two main groups of quilters: Dedicated Quilters and Under 45 Quilters.

Dedicated Quilters:

  • Female
  • Average 63 years old
  • Well educated (70% went to college).
  • Affluent ($95,900 household income).
  • Spends average $3,363 per year on quilting.
  • 85% prefer traditional style, 37% modern quilting, 20% art quilting.
  • Account for 72.2% of total industry expenditures.
  • Purchased an average of 99 yards of fabric the last year (Well, this made me laugh.  How many quilts can you make out of 99 yards of fabric? Quite a few. Hence, the reason we all have a wonderful stash!!)

Under 45 Quilter:

  • Affluent ($98,000 household income)
  • Prefer modern quilting
  • Websites (75%) and online video (63%) play a stronger role for education and inspiration than total sample
  • Blogs are important to this group
  • Even though they are employed, they still devote 10+ hours a week to their craft

Some things to consider: 

  • 97% of Dedicated Quilters are purchasing fabric in person at a retail location. But 66% also purchase online.
  • 83% of all quilters will purchase 100% cotton thread (hello Aurifil) in the next 12 months.
  • 54% purchase batting in queen size
  • In the last year 26% purchased a new sewing machine. Average price $2212.
  • 50% of Dedicated Quilters use social media, like Facebook. (Up from 14% in 2014.)

But what’s happening in the garment industry?

If you are a garment sewist, you have seen some major changes lately as well.  Many quilt fabric distributors are now also featuring rayon and denim in their current lines, and often include garment patterns as part of their collections.

CSS Industries, Inc. now owns: Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick and Vogue.  That’s a LOT of consolidation.  Why?  Because new indie designers and pattern makers are basically taking over the industry, and leaving the old brand names in the dust.  Those “Under 45-ers” listed above want to sew their own clothes.  They want it in their own patterns and in their own sizes.

But the old guard garment industry didn’t realize that patterns as currently packaged are incoherent to someone learning on their own.  In the old days, of course, your mom or grandma taught you to sew clothes.  That doesn’t happen any more and younger sewists need help. Along came sites like colettepatterns.com.  (Patterns that teach, in current trendy designs.)

Furthermore, distribution channels are basically gone for garment fabrics.  JoAnn’s, Walmart, Hobby Lobby?  Please. If you’re making a Halloween costume, sure.  But something you want to wear and spend some time and effort making by hand? Not a chance.

So where does this leave the state of the sewing industry?

In a creative and strong place.  With the Nextgen sewists/quilters already on the rise, and technology and social media filling the gaps in learning curves (not to mention our physical curves like cashmerette.com), the industry is poised for change and growth.  We seem to be insatiable in our desire to create and to learn and to connect.  Social media makes all this possible in fresh ways.

Yet we are still addicted to the feel and touch of fabric, making me believe that we currently have a brick and mortar “hole” to fill. Who will transform the retail and customer experience for us? Who will bring the online and offline advantages together?  Consider it a challenge.

And let the sewing games begin.  Happy 2018!

 

Splendid Sampler on the Move!

Finally, I am moving forward with my Splendid Sampler quilt.  I wrote about it here and here.

I would like to say that I completed all 100 of the blocks, but alas, life happens and I am a firm believer in stopping while I’m ahead.  At first I did every block that came my way, regardless of the techniques.

I quickly realized that I never want to sew hexies.  I mean *never*. Especially not 1 inch ones.  And I realize that I may make enemies this way, but not everyone likes the same thing and that is just fine.  If you love tiny hexies, bless your heart. If you like bunnies and squirrels on your quilt, bless your heart as well. And if you really love tiny paper-piecing, you’re probably going to heaven too.

It is laid out in our foyer, and I am finalizing the way to finish it.  As you can see, I was pretty strict about the color palette.  Thankfully, I still love the colors.  Something about the neutrality of it makes it slightly less traditional.  As you can see, I’ll probably stick with the dark inner border and a “piano key” outer border. I have so many scraps left over, I will easily be able to use them up as the border. I gain a little size there too.

I vowed a long time ago not to make quilts that are larger than twin size because:

  1. I have no room to store them.
  2. I don’t want to pay someone else to quilt them and I absolutely cannot handle queen size on my domestic machine, at least not with any quality.

But I did learn some new techniques.  And I reignited a love of hand embroidery, which is quite popular right now.

 

It really does take a lot of time.  As you can see, the left side is done by hand, the right side I just digitized and stitched out in machine embroidery.  Sometimes the new block would be announced and I would think (I’m being honest here), “Not another hand embroidered block. I don’t have time this week.”  At that point I was reminded of  Indiana Jones in the scene with the Samarai wielding the giant sword. Indy, exhausted,  whips out his gun and shoots him. After days of finishing one hand-stitched block, if another came up, I just went to the computer, digitized it in software, and within an hour, machine embroidered the next block.  It’s cheating, I know.

But it looks great.

Over 20,000 quilters started this project back in February 2016.

I would love to know how many finished a quilt!