#StayHome #StayHome #StayHome

How’s everybody holding up?

Everyone I speak to is frightened, anxious and agitated about the future. We have no road map for this pandemic. But I think this much is clear.

We are permanently changed–physically, psychologically, financially, mentally.

Perhaps the way we were “doing” everything before was not ideal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am changing my daily life. First of all, I stay close to home. I don’t run around unnecessarily, I don’t shop at 5 different grocery stores to get a little bit of everything for each person in my household.

Second, I’m not spending any money now on things that are throw-away. I’m not purchasing that cute top that I know will only last a season. I’m not buying earrings that go in and out of fashion like the wind. I’m using the fabric that I already own to make things other people need, instead of catering to my own whim and fancy.

Third, we are wasting less. Do we really need to use that many paper towels? Do we know when we will be able to get more? What about that food? Time to make something with what’s currently in the pantry or the fridge because going out for something else is not much of an option. We are eating home-cooking more.

Fourth, I am caring deeply, anxiously, and actively about others. My mind is constantly on healthcare workers, grocery clerks, truck drivers, mail delivery people, folks who keep the lights on and the water flowing and even the Internet bubbling and Netflix churning.

Of course, I am worried about all those who now have no income. Can they move their business online? Can the local plant shop or chocolate shop or quilt shop be nimble enough to move online and are we all willing to purchase online to keep our friends and neighbors employed?

What about restaurants? I don’t have the answer here, but I certainly think we should be able to order takeout. Have the days of crowded, chattering, noisy restaurants passed us by? Maybe not for everyone, but for those of us getting up in years or with health problems or compromised immune systems, the answer is yes.

What will the future look like? I think that’s the question that torments me the most. It almost certainly will not look like the past. As I said, we are permanently changed. And if we are not, then we will learn lessons the hardest way possible.

How about this paper device created by Chinese company Meituan? You can order takeout to eat at your desk, but every meal comes with this paper shield that protects your food from any droplets that might be shed by a passing stranger. I don’t know how I feel about that, but at least it’s the way China is starting to think and create, as they begin to reopen their economy VERY slowly.

The doctors are thinking that even after this first wave, the virus will head to the Southern hemisphere and then be back for round two next fall. That may or may not give us enough of a reprieve to prepare with equipment, masks, gowns gloves, respirators etc.

But for now, I am still creating masks for local nursing homes, assisted living centers and anyone who wants them at the moment. For the first time in my life, I ordered groceries for delivery. My area of the country has been identified as a growing hotspot for the virus. I have a husband who still must go in to work three days a week.

May we learn how to live a little better together on this planet. May we learn to care for one another. May we learn how absolutely interdependent we are on one another.

And may we all be well.

Love in the Time of COVID19

These are frightening times.

No matter how prepared we are, we know that something is coming that is just not what we’ve experienced any time in our lives.

Talking to my 86 year-old father, I asked him if he ever remembers anything like this.

“No!” he says with wide eyes. “This is the whole world.”

The whole world.

I watch images from Italy of people on their balconies, singing to and with each other. I see Chef Jose Andres from World Food Kitchen shaving his beard in order to serve others food while wearing a mask.I read about the elderly couple waiting anxiously in their car to ask someone who looks kind to take their money and go purchase groceries for them, because they are terrified to go into the store–they both have existing conditions that put them at risk.

I see air pollution drastically cut as factories are shut down. I see the fossil fuel industry being reduced in a way none of us could EVER have corrected on our own.

I think this virus has reminded us that we in the whole world are dependent on one another like never before. It has reminded us that we cannot control our entire ecosystem, but that we are simply a part of it. We don’t write the rules. Even when we think it’s all under our control…it’s really not.

It’s humbling. It’s humbling if we are wise enough to recognize these things.

As I write this, I am suffering from a sinus infection from a head cold I had two weeks ago (which I get every year at this time). Should I go to the doctor? Will I end up with something worse than a sinus headache?

I don’t have any answers.

Wait. Yes, I do.

We have the only answer that has ever really existed. (At the risk of returning to my sorry seventies self.)

Love is the answer.

Please take care of yourself, stay healthy, love one another, and support your local quilt shop.

Prepper Vs. Hoarder

Our time has come, sewists.

Admit it. Those of us with an unmentionable amount of fabric at home (not to mention all those UFO’s) are ready.

With the onslaught of the novel coronavirus #COVID19 , we have all become either preppers or hoarders. My husband came home from work a week ago and asked me, “Are we prepared to be stuck in this house for 30 days?” I took it as a challenge to stock up and, like all good Americans, I did what Americans do during any weather event, football game, or public health emergency.

I went shopping.

What I purchased will not last very long, but it may get us through the first wave of whatever it is we are expecting to come. In fairness, I have been following a number of highly educated medical specialists and they are sounding the alarm. The CDC has recommended that air travel be limited for those over 60 or 65 as well as anyone with a fragile health condition. I have an elderly parent who lives alone in an adjacent state. I’ve driven to his house and stocked him up with at least 2-3 weeks of food.

I’ve looked around my sewing room and determined that I have enough fabric to last for the rest of my lifetime (however short or long that may be.) Even so, I ordered some fabric online and I’m expecting a delivery soon.

But here’s the thing: Even if we are not going out in public as much as we used to, or gathering in large groups as much as we used to, we still need to keep our local quilt shops in business.

So what do we do?

Buy online.

Some of the shops in our area already have an online presence with all of their products available. Others do not, just yet. However, I will bet that if you called your local quilt shop and asked them to mail you fabric in a flat rate box, they’d be happy to do it. I know it’s hard when you cannot see the fabric, but I’m betting that they would rather send you a pic, have your business, then go without a sale.

Many quilters are in the high risk category for this illness.

So let’s check in with each other. This doesn’t mean sharing the illness, but we can move our social gatherings online for awhile. Text, email, stay in touch. And sew your way through it.

Preppers or hoarders?

Does it matter? At our house, I think it’s a little of both. In the face of uncertainty, my family eats. And sews.

Cotton Knit Serging

So this is the easiest garment pattern you will ever see. It works with knits, wovens, tissue knits, you name it.

It’s from Grainline Studio and if you’ve never heard of it, you might have been under a rock.or maybe just busy quilting. The name of the pattern is the Hemlock Tee. It’s available for free if you sign up for their newsletter.

I am not the fondest of pdf patterns but I managed to assemble this one without much trouble, and then used 810 gridded interfacing to trace the pattern. I got the interfacing at Joann’s with several coupons and spent, I don’t know, less than $2 for 6 yards. Seriously.

I went a size or two larger than normal, because I wanted a really comfy, swingy fit, but I think I’ll try it smaller as well.

The whole pattern is really 5 seams and then hemming. That’s it. So the fun is all in the fabric, the variations, the sizing, the sleeve length, cropped, long, whatever you want.

As far as the hemming, I was so thrilled. I have never owned a machine that does a cover stitch, and I never really thought I needed one. Until I started to use it.

This particular shirt is made from 100% organic cotton knit from Hawthorne Supply Co. The fabric is from a line called Redwood, which I just loved. I can’t pass up anything with trees on it. Honestly, the knit was a dream to work with and feels like pajamas when you are wearing it.

I used a narrow cover stitch on both the sleeves and the hem. Yes, there’s a bit of fiddling with the thread and needles on the serger, but really not bad at all to switch from overlock (which I used on all the other seams) to cover stitch and back. After having switched back and forth a few times now, it’s like changing from sewing to embroidery. Switch a few things around, change a nob or button…done.

Wrong side sleeve hem.
Right side hem, bottom and sleeves.

I have a number of patterns to work on next, but I stepped outside yesterday, and GAHH. It seems too early for this! The daffies are coming! Anyway, happy first signs of spring.

Serger Dreams

I did it.

I bought a new serger. I am not very good at videos, so here’s an unboxing blog. But before I get into that, let me tell you why I purchased what I did.

This is a Babylock. Babylock sergers have been the best in the industry for years. They lead the way in “air puff” technology, making it easy to thread those loopers. I trust that they know more about sergers than basically anyone else in the industry.

My all-time most popular blog post is about where sewing machines are made. You can check it out here.

This Babylock serger is made in Japan, where Babylock actually owns factories.

I already own a Babylock Imagine serger. It’s a solid machine, still has a great stitch, and will become my back-up serger. But it’s well over 20 years old.

The new machine is an Accolade, which as I understand it, is the updated model of the Evolve. It has a cover stitch and that was the main selling point for me. I have never owned a serger with a cover stitch. On top of that, I got a promotion that included 15 different serger feet, handling everything from beading to ruffling to binding. To be honest, I have no idea how to use most of these features, so it will be an interesting learning curve for me. A real growth opportunity!

Of course, I purchased from a reputable dealer with a series of classes available. This is something I recommend to anyone purchasing any machine.

I was also given limited-time access to a full range of Babylock online classes, including all the instructions for my serger PLUS lots of technique and project classes.

Serger instructions are terrifying. They will frighten you. But you cannot let fear guide you. It’s just a mechanical machine, and it works more mechanically than any sewing machine you have ever used. That’s all. Mechanical machines like things done in a certain order. You can do this. Before I did anything, I watched the online video for the Accolade on Babylock SewEd. I have guide classes set up for next Saturday. But in fairness, I’ve owned a serger and after the video I only glanced at the instructions once.

It’s not as difficult as the instructions make it look. I promise.

I immediately set it up for a 4 thread overlock, my go-to stitch. I wanted to hem my husband’s pants, which were frayed from dragging on the ground. But first, a test stitch.

Ladies and gentlemen. Perfection right out of the box.

And that, my friends, is why I purchased a Babylock serger.

I went ahead and did the finishing stitch on my husband’s pants before I hemmed them on my Bernina. Could I have finished them on the serger with a cover stitch?

I think so, but danged if I know how yet.

Something exciting to learn!

In this time of slow fashion, slow food and environmental awareness, making one’s clothes is coming back around to be a thoughtful move toward sustainable living. I don’t want to throw everything in the garbage any more.

These pants and others now have new life. And I know that doesn’t change the world.

But it’s a step in the right direction.

Valentine’s Day Kraft-Tex Project

I make ridiculous projects for my husband every Valentine’s Day. Some are useful, some are decorative, some silly and some just for fun. You can see some past projects:

My Practical Valentine, Buttoned Up Valentine, Valentine’s Day — Then and Now

This year, since I have Kraft-Tex in abundance, I made another small project for him combining machine embroidery and a really simple bag design. Seriously, it doesn’t get any simpler than this. Here’s a link to the video from Mr. Domestic.

A couple of things:

  1. I used a zipper foot when sewing in the zipper. I think this is just personal preference. I like to see where I’m headed and I thought it was just easier.
  2. Here’s a link to the Valentine’s Day machine embroidery design that I used.
  3. Two layers of cutaway, with the Stabilstick cutaway on top were almost enough. As you can see in the following picture, I still had a problem because the design had so many stitches it perforated the Kraft-Tex. It was no big deal because it was only in one area, and I stitched over it, and all was fine.
  4. The reason this occurred is because I did not have the Kraft-Tex fit the hoop so it was hanging over the side and pulling just enough to rip the fabric.

I cut out the design in a rounded square and stitched the whole thing down onto one side of the bag.

After that, I just followed the directions in the video. Other than the embroidery design, seriously, it took minutes.

In the video, Mr. Domestic uses pre-washed Kraft-Tex, and I used unwashed. I want to try using the pre-washed at some point.

I do want to point out that Kraft-Tex is biodegradable, but doesn’t fall apart in the wash. In the ground, it detriorates after two weeks. Compare that to 100% cotton fabric, which may take around 5 months, and synthetic textiles including polyester, spandex, nylon, and rayon may take between 20 to 200 years to fully biodegrade*. Kraft-Tex is OEKO-TEX certified, which is standard in the textile industry in that the end product is certified to be non-toxic. It also holds an FSC accreditation (Forest Stewardship Council) Essentially, this means that the product is regulated to be using forestry resources responsibly as defined by the highest industry standards.

So that explains one of the reasons I try to use Kraft-Tex when I can. I wish I could make clothes out of it, but that’s for the chemists and engineers to figure out how to make it just a bit softer.

* I got this info from a website called Edge Expo. It is targeted to sustainable fashion.

The Biggest Trend 2020 and Beyond

If you know me, you know I love to follow the big trends. What’s happening in the world that can affect our daily lives and the sewing world? What’s changing? What’s new?

It’s always a good question to ask at the beginning of a year, but even a better one at the beginning of a decade.

I pay attention to the research all the time, but it’s grown louder and the number one trend of the future is simple:

Sustainability

This is a BIG category. And it can mean anything from recycling to eating less meat to driving a hybrid or an electric car to purchasing organic to turning down the heat in your home.

One of the trend-watching groups I monitor says that we have moved from eco-aware to eco-shaming. I thought this was significant. They did not break this down by age groups and I suspect that’s pretty important. I do not hear as many Boomers worked up about their SUV’s as I see young people who don’t really want to even learn to drive. The kids do, but only because it’s a necessity. And they almost certainly don’t want to have the burden of owning cars.

Like everything, that’s a generalization.

But, like it or not, it is reality. Humans need to be sustainable in everything. And we’re not. Not by a long shot.

If you understand anything about Climate Change, it’s this: Fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. You’ve seen the folks out there protesting – #KeepItInTheGround . That’s the biggest impact possible and the reason the Earth is warming. This is not my opinion. It’s backed up by research from every possible sector of science. Except, of course, the fossil fuel industry. (Even they are making changes. When Tom Skilling asked the CEO of Shell Oil “What is the future of Shell Oil?” he responded, “Not oil.” They are busy doing R and D on longer-lasting, more efficient batteries.) Just know that it took thousands of years for those fossil fuels to form in the Earth and burning so much of it in a matter of decades simply does not give the planet the chance to self-correct. And I assure you, the planet is self-correcting. But we’ve over-burdened it. And we have the technology to change, but not necessarily the political or financial will to fix things.

Tangential to that is the rest of the idea of sustainablity which might affect sewists in a more direct way. I wrote a blog about organic cotton right here.

Every aspect of our modern way of living is up for improvement.

What’s that ancient Chinese curse?

May you live in interesting times.

We certainly do. We can and must do better than we are doing now. I have made a pledge to myself to purchase only organic cotton in the future. But, you may argue, the cotton is only half the story. What about the processing? What about the dyes? To that I answer: GOTS certified organic cotton (Global Organic Textile Standard). They are doing the work of research for all of us.

We can no longer deny our place on the planet and our impact on it. Individual activity will almost certainly NOT solve the whole problem. We must work together within and across nations for the benefit of ourselves and others.

That is a challenge sewists can understand.

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?

It Was a Very Good Year

I’ll end the decade and year the same way I end every year, with a gallery of projects, moments, photography and meaning.

We all only have one life to experience, one world to cherish. May the new year and new decade bring us closer to appreciating the fragility and beauty of both.

Happy, Peaceful, Worthwhile New Year, friends.