Category Archives: Sewing

The Crafting of the Green

Ah, the blessings and the bane of learning a new craft technique!

I’m talking about making iron-on appliqué embellishments with a cutting machine, and attaching them to fabric.

These projects are to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

tote bag jenny skip
tote bag
back of bag jenny skip
back of tote bag

This is the bag pattern from a previous post, when I made a Valentine’s Day [sort of] tote bag, using the pattern from Sew News. The main difference, besides the theme of the holiday embellishments, is the fabric of the bag. For the previous project, I used a cotton canvas remnant. But when I went to Joann Fabric to buy some more of it, I couldn’t find it in the store. I could have substituted duck cloth or twill or denim, for a similar, but not the same weight and feel. This fabric looked and felt very similar to cotton canvas, while it was on the shelf in the Utility Fabrics section of Joann’s. But it was cheaper and was 100% polyester. And once made into a bag, the fabric had a few noticeable differences.

Difference #1: it seems to be more wrinkle-prone than cotton canvas.

Difference #2: you have to use a different method to adhere iron-on appliqués to it, than you would with cotton. Cricut Easy-Press 2 Interactive Reference Guide recommends that you use their brand Iron-on Protective Sheet when applying the iron-on embellishment. I had never seen or heard of it, so I didn’t have one of those, but I did have a Teflon sheet that I sometimes use for applying Wonder Under. So I used that. Also, the temperature needs to be a little lower than cotton. Yup, I can vaguely recall using an iron on certain man-made fabrics and literally melting the fabric into a sticky goo.

Here are some finished, decorated, shirts for celebrating St Patrick’s Day.


St Pat tote bag jenny skip
St Pat’s tote bag

Put them in the bag and go!

Improv Quilting

The impetus for this post came from a magazine I subscribe to, Sew News The current issue has an article entitled “Piece Out” on page 40 about improvisational piecing. I love this for several reasons: 1) I don’t like to waste fabric, 2) I like free-form designs, and 3) I want to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth from subscribing to publications.

Very early in my artistic history, I felt pressure to conform to other people’s ideas of what art should look like. In elementary school art class, we were told to stick little torn pieces of tissue paper on a piece of card stock with paste to make (the teacher hoped) a colorful mosaic-like picture. When I was finished with the assignment, my picture had blobs of white and maroon tissue paper. Everyone else’s had various combinations of the primary colors. The teacher said I must not have listened to the directions. Probably so. I was embarrassed. But at the time, I was really into arranging those white and maroon pieces of tissue paper on a page.

Anyway, the Sew News article shows 2 improvisational quilting projects: a zipper pouch and a pillow. In both, the maker had sewn together strips of fabric, then accented the white or light-colored pieces with sashiki-style rows of hand-stitching in a complementary color of thread. They looked super cool and fun to make. And, I had one lone little pillow form lying around that was just begging to be covered.

So here is my take on improvisational quilting:

Improvisational pieced pillow

First, I sewed together some leftover strips of fabric, ironing the seam allowances on the wrong side toward the darker strip as I pieced. I decided to put a machine-embroidery motif on the front. This one is from Urban Threads Letter Perfect Alphabet.

The opening in the back of the pillow is envelope style, so I added batting and backing to two sections of the pieced fabric, right side of backing fabric facing the right side of the pieced fabric with the batting under it. I sewed the envelope edges together, then turned and pressed them.

I decided that this pillow might benefit from having pink piping around the edges. For sewing on Wright’s piping, I like to use a piping foot.

clear piping foot

I sewed the piping around the edge of the front piece, clipped the corners a little bit, then pinned the two envelope pieces on to the front, the longer one in front of the shorter one, with both right sides facing the right side of the front panel, to sew around the edge again, right where the stitching was from sewing the piping on. I just stitched over it from the other side, leaving an opening for turning inside-out. Once turned, I hand-stitched the opening closed very close to the piping.

stitching the opening closed

Another interesting thing to make out of leftover pieces of fabric is a yo-yo. I added a couple of different sizes of yo-yo’s for embellishment, even a heart-shaped one in honor of Valentine’s Day next week. The little gizmos for making yo-yo’s consist of a plastic plate tightly fitting inside a tray. You can find various sizes and shapes from tiny to Jumbo, and in flower, heart, and clover shapes. They are made by Clover, and each kit costs about $5-$10 apiece.

Here’s what the back looks like:

For some odd reason, I could NOT edit these last few iPhone photos to get them to come out rotated once to the right!

Hope you have fun crafting for your Valentines!

My True Love gave to me…

“And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” [Matthew 8:20]

Speaking of places in which to lay your head, this project is finally done:

Santa reverse redwork embroidery head rest

I looked in the fabric stash, and of course I had a suitable remnant just the ideal size to make two of these for our recliners in the TV room. Bright red, already quilted cotton and a green plaid little piece of cotton with a coordinating red stripe. Instead of trying to machine embroider the quilted fabric, I decided to stitch the Santa motif onto a thin piece of red fabric I found, that had slits all over it from something. Maybe it was involved in a knife fight? Or someone at the fabric store opened a box of bolts with a razor blade and slashed it? Or the fabric has been in the stash so long it just shredded from age?

The design is called “redwork embroidery” because it’s traditionally red thread on white background

It is a pretty close color match to the quilted cotton, so I just appliquéd it on with a satin stitch. And, I was able to use the mirroring function on the Viking to make two opposite-facing images of the Santa motif, which I bought from Embroidery Library.

Sealing the thread ends with Fray Block

I cut the plaid fabric into 5-inch-wide strips, sewed all the pieces into one long strip, then folded the strip in half and pressed it. The idea was to make it like bias binding, except I didn’t cut it on the bias, but rather, the straight grain. I knew better: bias would have been ideal, but I’m too lazy to want to try to cut fabric at the perfect 45 degree angle. Too many opportunities for it to get screwed up, and I’m done when it comes to dealing with more holiday stress! Then I folded each loooooong end of the binding strip under about 1/2″ and pressed them under.

Ironing the binding

Next step, after binding, was sewing on some Velcro strips to attach the headrests to the backs of the chairs. The sticky-back strip will go on the chairs.

Meanwhile, although it’s chilly outside, gorgeous flowers are blooming in the yard.

pink camellias

Feeling very thankful for this time, this season, this holiday! What is it like in your winter wonderland? What is making you happy?

A Cold Snap in Central FL is 60°

So far, almost every day since the beginning of October, the temperature has gone up to at least 80° F. But the nights are cooler. Which means I want to have enough blankets on hand.

Blankets are passive accessories until late at night when one is freezing in bed–then they turn into proactive warriors, intent on guarding and protecting you from the enemy.

This is my latest theme quilt for a grandkid who plays music:

center panel jenny skip
center panel

The center panel features a big appliqué of a cello (eyeballed and cut) and some musical note appliqués cut using Accuquilt templates, ironed on to the fabric using Pellon Wonder-Under, then machine-sewn around the edges with a satin stitch.  I chose colors for the note appliqués, from some American Made brand cotton fat quarters, that matched up with the colorful musical notes on a black background in the fabric I planned to use as the nearest border.

squaring jenny skip
squaring it up

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Finished quilt

I used a solid black cotton fabric backing, the kind you can buy at Joann’s that is already 108″ wide so you won’t have to piece it for a large-size quilt. And I bound the edges with black Wright’s satin blanket binding, because I accidentally ordered WAY MORE than I needed for a previous project:

buffalo check jenny skip
buffalo check blanket

Buffalo-check plaid is very popular this year. I made one of these in blue also, both with matching satiny-fabric backings because–they love it, it is ideal woobie-fabric.

Last step was washing before using, with this:

color grabber sheets jenny skip
color grabber sheets

Best as a precaution to keep those fabric dyes from bleeding onto each other. I’m not worried about the American Made Cotton bleeding, but some other fabrics–you don’t know.

Stay warm, y’all!

 

May flowers and Mermaids

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Early May flowers

We’ve been taking a break from blogging and vlogging, and it sure gives me a different perspective on life!

Changes in lifestyle–such as living through the aftermath of a hurricane, losing your vision, retiring from a high-paced career, or getting sick–can take a toll on the ol’ creative process.

Documenting our every creation adds a level of stress to each project. I like blogging; it’s Show and Tell for the Digital Age. But not having to immortalize an item via posting it, can sure be freeing. If the project does not live on in my [limiting] descriptive words, it still lives on as what it is: a creative accomplishment, a spark of ideas, a sense of wonderment, a nod for practical uses, shared audacity that might elicit a smile.

Here’s the latest, a quilt that finally assembled itself once I got on board with it…

I don’t think it would have come about if I hadn’t weeded out the fabric stash. I had a lot of fabric in there that was given to me, or that I had scooped up because it was cheap or free, and I didn’t really like it, I just kept it around “in case.” Well, that stuff was weighing down on me like a ton of bricks, creating obligations that I didn’t want to have. I had been thinking in terms of clothes I wanted to make, and it suddenly occurred to me, I hate most of the clothes I’ve made. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them. All the time and effort and angst I put into apparel sewing, and with lousy results! I’m over it! Stage One was a giveaway, now I’m waiting for Stage Two, the Yard Sale, and then Stage Three will be jettisoning the remaining cargo to the local Thrift Shop or Goodwill. And I’ll be free!  [wait, not stone-free, I’m keeping all the quilting cottons, of course.}

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Focal point of the quilt: the appliqué panel in the center

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With the patchwork border

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Quilting with the Q’nique

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finished quilt

It is lying on top of a king-size bed, so it is pretty massive, the biggest quilt I’ve made from scratch, so far. The backing is 108″ wide cotton fabric from JoAnn’s, one large sheet of fabric with  no seams down the center. The binding is a discontinued color of Wright’s Quilt Binding: I bought three 3-yard packages of it on clearance and I used all of it but maybe 6 inches. Whew! It looks gray in the picture but it’s actually a grayish light blue-green color.

End-of-May flowers jennyskip

End-of-May flowers

Simple Holiday Sewing with Buzzkill Fears and Trepidations

Which is better, cotton or polyester?

It used to be cotton all the way, however, there are so many cool polyester fabrics, it would be a shame to miss out on them. Am I right?

The idea for this Santa blanket came from looking through my fabric stash. The stash includes a big box of polar fleece, minky, minky dot and velour-type fabric remnants, mostly polyester or cotton-poly blends. Our local JoAnn store will roll up some fabric remnants for sale at 50% (sometimes 75%) off.

Most apparel remnants are less than a yard, but most Home-Dec items, including blanket-type material, can be a yard or more. I figure that one yard of fabric 50 to 60 inches wide is a good size for a lap quilt or a baby blanket. If less than .8 of a yard, it would look better pieced with some other fabric.

The main part of this Santa blanket is a high-pile red minky that’s velvety soft on both sides. I think it’s the ideal fabric for a soft blanket. The edges are trimmed with thick bands of white minky dot fabric sewn on right-side edge to back edge of blanket, folded over and sewn down, which are supposed to be reminiscent of the trim on Santa’s hat and suit.

Santa blanket jennyskip
Santa blanket

The next is a takeoff on the Santa blanket, except the center part is pieced and backed. The top is made of 3 pieces of flannel (flannel is a cotton fabric) in red, black and white. The top was sewn, right sides together at two edges, to a piece of red minky dot fabric (polyester). Actually, the back is two pieces; I had to add a strip because the back wasn’t quite big enough. The big fabric cylinder was then turned inside-out. Then two wide strips of black minky dot fabric were sewn on the two ends with still-raw edges, folded over and sewn down, à la Santa blanket above.

I wasn’t very happy with the way it looked constuction-wise, so I decided this one is going to be kept on our couch, ain’t nobady’s business if I do. If I decided to give this as a gift, I probably would have put a layer of polyester batting in the center and quilted it together.

If not tacked together in the center (which this one isn’t), these layers of fabric will probably crackle with electricity when you shake out the blanket. I always worry about stuff like that. For instance, you see along the selvage, on really cute children’s pattern flannel and other fabrics, the buzz-kill warning: Not to be used for children’s sleepwear.

You can google this and find that there are several points of view: that some of these fabrics could catch fire easily. But then, commercial pajamas for kids have chemicals in them to serve as flame-retardants to the fabric in case it does catch on fire. I can remember my kids wearing sleepers that, when they’d been washed about a zillion times, really did crackle and spark with static electricity when they were romping around in them. Wonder if the flame-retardant chemicals washed out after a while? Wonder if the chemicals contributed to eczema? Wonder if shaking out these blankets full of static electricity could cause a fire?

take off on Santa jennyskip
take off on Santa blanket

And while we’re on the subject of polyester fabrics, there’s a new contraindication going around: shellfish are eating little pieces of plastic that they find in their natural habitats, which are in turn passed on to us at the dining table. Researchers have found that one source of the tiny plastic particles in seafood is run-off water in which polyester clothes are washed. Here’s one article.

We could wall ourselves off from all polyester and acrylic contamination: wear only organic fibers, eat only organic foods, wash with soap that doesn’t contain exfoliating pellets of man-made whatever.  Or maybe it’s too late for that? Maybe it’s a step in the ultimate direction of The Singularity, where mankind becomes one with machine…it starts with our food sources ingesting plastic, and then little by little, those plastic components creep into our metabolisms, our anatomies, our selves?

I think I like cotton better.

 

Orange and Blue Solution to a Bigheaded Problem

College football got off to a slow start this year, thanks to hurricane season showing out at the same time. But a few of the games Florida has played so far, we managed to win! Amazing, considering…considering…well, you know about the things everyone is saying about the Gators.

Curiously, one armchair quarterback we know (who shall remain nameless) sustained an injury in the armchair region that we noticed about the time of the Tennessee game.  Not sure if it was before or after the fracas* during that legendary Hail Mary play in the last few seconds of the game.

chair headrest injury
ouch!

But the large cranium (which is full of knowledge, I admit) that usually resides on the breach of leather seen above, sure seemed to expand with happiness at the outcome of the next game!

We had to do something because a bad case of the bighead was making a hole in the furniture around here.  For a craft project, I could have made a doily to drape over the chair…but that would make us look like old people who sit in the house all the time watching TV with their cats….Hey, wait a minute…

Sheenah jennyskip
Get down Sheenah! You don’t want to root for those wild cats!

But also, crocheting a doily takes time. I wanted something quick, that would be ready by game time next week. Which is…today!

gator head rest covers jennyskip
gator-themed head rest covers

I used cotton batting, one thin layer, sandwiched between two layers of blue cotton fabric, and quilted together with Superior Threads’ New Brytes in a day-glo orange color. This thread is thicker than the average thread, #30 3-ply, it says on the label, which I thought might be a good thing. But when I ran a bobbin, it started rolling rough-shod onto the spool, which I know from experience, is not a good start.

bad bobbin jennyskip
unevenly-wound bobbin

I decided to do free-motion machine quilting, since they were little projects. It’s been such a long time since I’ve done machine quilting, I had to live through a learning curve.

ugly stitching jennyskip
kill me now, because of this ugly stitching on the underside

 

When this happens, I go through all the possible reasons for it: rethread the top thread, check the bobbin tension, wind a new bobbin, install a new needle, but  ultimately, I just have to turn off the machine, then turn it back on.

Ironically, I had recently read an article by Superior Threads about tension. The graphic included in the article was very informative, but ultimately, turning the machine off, then back on, worked.

After many rippings and re-doing of the quilting, I squared up the corners and added shiny orange blanket binding. The iron-on decals were purchased. Yes, I did break a few needles while quilting through the thick decal patches. The teensy quilts  are attached to the backs of the La-Z-Boy chair head rests with Velcro tape from the hardware store.

game time jennyskip
woo hoo! keep that winning streak going!

 

 

 

 

* Fracas is a funny word. I can only picture it being uttered by a big, burly hard-boiled detective in a crime novel. The American pronunciation rhymes with “rake us.” But, I was watching something British on TV, when I heard them say “fracas” in British, which is pronounced “frah-cah.” Which rhymes with ha, ha!

Restoring Raggy

Poor doll! He got involved in a fracas and sustained a few injuries:

Shaggy jennyskip
Seen-better-days Shaggy

His hands, neck and arm were shredded (dog bite?) and one arm was limp from lack of stuffing. And one shoe was beginning to separate from its ankle.

Job #1  was to repair the gaping wounds.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. This project has been on the docket for a pretty long time, but it occasionally got covered up by a pile of fabric or a stack of mail, so it was out of sight, out of mind. Finally I picked up a hand sewing needle and found some thread that was close to this skin tone, and went to work.

After I fixed up his body, a thought occurred to me. “Dude, what happened to your clothes?”  He had no comment. I figured, why not make him something to cover up with?

First set of pants bombed. The clodhopper feet were too big to squeeze through the skinny pant legs.  The revised pair had velcro closures on the inseams. These pants are made from the actual several inches of pants legs that I cut off a pair of Skip’s pants [see prior blog post from 2015: Modern Hemming].

all ready jennyskip
With some makeshift clothing…

I confess, I’ve never been a whiz at making doll clothes. This quick-and-dirty “minimal effort” little project had me grinding my teeth as the tiny seam allowances sent fabric down the throat plate hole into birds’ nests that had to be cut from underneath to extricate them. I had a feeling that the previous clothes on this toy had something to do with the gaping slash on his neck; that the simple task of playing dress-up resulted in the doll’s near-decapitation. But although I don’t have a workable intuition about making clothes for this guy, I admire the workmanship that must have gone into making him. The meticulously fringed, pieced hair style, his embroidered facial features and chin-scruff, and his slouchy posture all give true representation of the “real” character [You know he’s not real, right? He’s a cartoon]. And then again, he was mass-produced.

Somebody somewhere came up with a plan for toys like this to be created and then mass-produced. I imagine somewhere, a factory is probably humming with machines 24 hours a day, sewing goofy smiles and eyebrows lifted in surprise on cloth faces, adding darts on ankles and outlining fingers in little plush hands. The line supervisor gets an order from the shipping department saying: “Ten thousand more Shaggies” and proceeds to upload the manufacturing process specs.

I did find this enlightening video on You Tube about toy designer Longia Miller, who I now hold in highest esteem! From watching the video, I see that her sewing machine is making use of a throat plate that has a tiny hole, down which it would be fairly impossible for a fabric to slip.

According to Wikipedia, one of the first mass-produced plush toys in the US was the Ithaca Kitty, in 1892. And apparently it was a 3-piece printed pattern that the buyer had to cut out, sew, and stuff, herself. From reading the narrative on the patent, I see that inventor Celia Smith listed a few reasons why her stuffed animal design was “well-adapted to displace” the designs of some other toys that are made from  “a number of pieces of cloth (eight or more)” and could be “dragged about by a limb until they lose their original scanty ICO resemblance to an animal and fail entirely to appeal…”

You gotta love the visionary minds of the toy designers and makers,  demanding realism, durability, safety, and worthiness of entertainment value to be built into our children’s playthings.

 

Interdependence on Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!

Been busy and my little projects are humble! But I’ve had other things to do.

new old bedspread jenyskip
new old bedspread

This red satin (polyester) comforter was old and the batting inside had gotten all bunched up. I was going to throw it away, but the top of it was really a very savory huge piece of fabric. The bottom layer was a nasty old threadbare rag covered with fabric pills; if the skin of my foot ever accidentally touched the backing during the night, I would wake up recoiling in disgust. (My feet are very sensitive to substandard fabric!)

While shopping at JoAnn’s, I spotted a bolt of that extra-wide (108″) fabric that can be used as backings for large quilts, without having a seam.  So I slashed the quasimodo comforter, removed the hump of bunched up batting and the nasty backing, and replaced both with something new.  I thought of my grandmother, who told me that when she was young (in the Great Depression) they would cut the worn bedsheets down the middle and then re-sew them with the outer sides now seamed together in the middle. Waste not, want not!

cotton backing jenny skip
with new cotton backing

For quilting, I loaded it up on the king-size Grace frame, and I mostly traced over the embroidery on the satin top, and experimented a little with the Qnique.  I didn’t care about making it perfect.

I still haven’t mastered getting the bobbin tension right with the Qnique.

patriotic jenny skip
quilted back of patriotic table runner

If you look closely at the quilted back of this table runner, you can see the ugly bobbin stitches.

flag and eagle jenny skip
flag and eagle machine embroidery from Embroidery Library

table runner jenny skip
finished table runner project

This Fourth of July table runner was made from a cute little remnant, a remnant piece of fusible fleece for batting, and a collection of red, white and blue remnants die cut into tumbler shapes with an Accuquilt template. Binding is Wright’s double fold bias tape.

Are you watching fireworks tonight? Be safe.

 

Creative in Carolina!

After a fun visit to North Carolina, I’m convinced that it is the friendliest location of all, for artisans and makers of all creative crafts.

First off, I had to make a stop at the Cary Quilting Company.  The shop was busy with pending classes and folks stopping in to visit and talk with the proprietors. I didn’t do any prep work before I darkened their door, to look for particular fabrics or items, but just tried to find interesting things that mightn’t be found any where else. As so many little quilt and sewing shops seem to fall prey to underpatronage in favor of cheaper, more ubiquitous big box outlets, I want to do my part to keep them in business, if I can. Within reason, that is.

Cary quilting paraphernalia jennyskip
snagged some unique Cary Quilting paraphernalia
Clock wise from back left: a packet of patriotic Moda Red, White and Free cotton, the Big Book of Scrappy Quilts by Martingale, the Cary Quilting Company Block 3 fabric and pattern for the 2016  Quilt! Carolina Carousel Quilt, I Love North Carolina Pillow Pattern , the 2016 Row by Row Cary Quilting Company pattern and top fabric for “Home in the Oaks,” and a 2017 Plate: “Stitch Local.”

The pillow pattern is a pretty fun idea. I’ve never really seen anyone get excited about an odd-shaped pillow that represents one of the United States. I live in Florida, and I’ve never seen anyone in FL get excited about a state-shaped pillow. But in NORTH CAROLINA, the residents react with utter delight! “Oh, cool!” they say when they see it. Like they’ve always wanted a very odd-shaped, off-kilter, jaggedy, state-shaped pillow and they just now realize it! Or a North-Carolina-shaped mobile hanging from their ceilings, or Christmas ornament, or doorknob hanger! I mean, they get almost as excited about a North Carolina-shaped pillow as we do about a plushy Florida gator!

Meanwhile, we stayed in Carrboro, a creative little town that is an extension of Chapel Hill, the home of UNC. Carrboro is overflowing with charming little crafts stores and hippie hangouts. One shop, WomanCraft Gifts, had loads of handmade things from local artists, including jewelry, wooden pens that had been turned on a lathe, wood segmented bowls and boxes, paintings, ceramics, quilts, dolls, clothing, all sorts of things from the practical to the beautiful.

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apron with attached tea towel
I found this apron with an attached tea towel sewn into the waistband, and I had to get it! Why? Because the tea towel reminded me of when my grandmother taught me how to do Swedish Weaving when I was little, on huck cloth like this aqua-colored piece here. This apron is of a very soft fabric. And what a great pattern.

Another creative item on sale in WomanCraft was the Chapel Hill Toffee, which is made by a local family business. Ah, yeah! It definitely tastes as good as it looks on the box top here:

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Chapel Hill Toffee
We took a stroll through the Historic Carr Mill Mall, which has several gift shops, a perfume shop, high-end clothing and shoes, and a savory fabric shop: Mulberry Silks.

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Carr Mill Mall
We picked up some sumptuous food items from the friendly market, which was having a couple of taster specials going on. Patrons who come into the store with their little kids in tow are encouraged to shop seriously:

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free healthy snacks for shoppers’ tag-alongs
We picked up some BBQ from the Cross Ties restaurant, which consisted of a bar straddling two train cars.

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Inside the Cross Ties waiting for our take-out order
Our order included “a plethora of sauces,” including the famous Carolina BBQ sauce that is vinegar with some hot pepper flakes. When I saw the vinegar and flakes in the little plastic cup, I thought, “What are we supposed to do with this?” but when applied to the smoked pulled pork, it tasted so right!