Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A whole lotta bright fabrics!

This past week I've been trying to work thru my current project pile while not starting anything new!  It has been quite challenging for me as I tend to start more than I finish.   But believe me when I say my WIP list is a mile long!  So no more new until I bust thru some old...

When I was loading my pictures I noticed that all my current projects contained crazy bright fabrics, so this week it's all about the brights!

These blocks were part of a swap I did the end of last year.  I needed to make a few more blocks to get the quilt to the size I wanted.  Thankfully I have now finished the extra blocks and have a completed top!

 My doll quilt top is done!  Yay!  I am very happy with how it turned out.  All those tiny pieces worked out just the way I'd hoped.  Now onto quilting options...
This one's got to be done an mailed by April 1st.

Whipped up some pinwheel blocks last minute for Carin.  Some might say that these are too bright/ugly for anyone's liking, but I say no. :)  My kids think they are awesome, so I'm guessing some other child will love them, too.  I made enough blocks for a small-ish sized quilt. 
 I'm liking the sub-pattern created by the stripes.

And, finally I busted my way thru the leftovers from my daughter's quilt and ended up having enough for a good sized child's quilt.

It feels great to do some stash clean up.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sewing Group Night---Shirred Scarves

On Tuesday night this week we had our second sewing night with about 10 ladies in attendance with about half the group that was different from our first night(and Amber let me know her quilt block is finished so we can add it to the quilt top and then finish it off.)

We followed this great tutorial from Make It and Love It and made shirred scarves using elastic thread.

One of the things I really like about these kind of things is to see what fabric everyone chooses for their project.   It kind of gives you a glimpse into personalities.  Almost everyone got finished. And those who didn't were in a good enough spot that they assured me they could get it done once they got home.  Once again we had some "newbies" as well as those who have sewn for awhile.

I had made a few, yes few, scarves (I do have 3 daughters) before we put this night together.   And even though the "plan" is to share, not everyone likes the same colors, etc.  And it was nice to get rid of some of my scrap stash rather quickly. 

Click HERE for some other elastic thread tips.  Our biggest issue that night was with the tension and getting it adjusted properly for everyone's individual machine.

I highly recommend you practice a bit on some scrap--preferably from your actual fabric for the scarf, but if not, then something similar in weight and stretch. This will give you a feel for how you need to move your fabric as well as to check the tension and make sure it will shirr up like you want. I found that for my machine I didn't like as big of a stitch as was recommended in the tutorial.

For example: The largest stitch length on my machine is 4 and I made my scarves at about a 3. Most of the ladies tonight were using a stitch length of about 3. Only one was a bit longer, at a 5 for her machine. Just check it before diving into your actual scarf project.
Materials needed:
  • 2/3 yd. knit fabric 60" wide (which is usually how wide knit fabric comes--then cut 2 - 11" wide strips the full 60")
  • 1 spool of elastic thread  for the bobbin (one spool will make about 3 scarves & you can find this is in the notions section of your fabric store near the packaged elastic.)
  • Thread to match your fabric
We might have to do a round 2 of this project as there were a number of ladies who wanted to come and then couldn't because of other commitments.  I'm happy that we're getting a good response and everyone is willing to come try.  Thanks again ladies for a fun evening.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

T-Shirt Series: Needles

I think that many a seamstress becomes frustrated sewing with knits because they just don't have the right info and understanding about what they are working with.  I love knits. Tiffany loves knits.  And really they are not that difficult to use if you know a couple of things about them.  Some we've already addressed. 

Our absolutely #1 Tip and MUST do is
use a Ballpoint needle when sewing with knits. 

Let me repeat that once more, use a BALLPOINT needle. 

So what does "ballpoint" mean.  This is going to be either a needle packaged as Jersey / Ballpoint or Stretch needle.  Using one when sewing with knits will make your life so much happier.  Based on the way the different needles are made (and I don't know the details) using a Universal needle on knits will actually cut holes in your fabric so that down the road you will start seeing little tears or runs at the seams of your garment.  I know this from extended experience, before I knew using the right equipment (i.e. needles) can make such a difference.  Ballpoint needles are designed so that they don't damage or break the knit fibers.

So last time...use a Ballpoint needle

The slight differences between a Jersey needle and a Stretch needle, per the packaging, are that a Stretch needle is made "for elastic materials and highly elastic knitwear" (i.e. swimwear).  It also says that it is "designed to prevent skipped stitches".  A Jersey needle is "for use on knits and some stretch fabrics." 

There is also a difference in price between a Jersey needle and a Stretch needle.  Having just bought new needles to replenish my supply a 5 count pkg. of Jersey needles was $3.79 and a 5 count pkg. of Stretch needles was $5.49 at Jo-Ann's (before coupons).


Stretch needles are coded yellow--you can see this right below the portion of the needle that you position into your sewing machine.

I almost exclusively use a Schmetz Stretch Needle 130/705 H-S size 75/11, exactly as pictured above.
The Schmetz website has great info about needles and their uses.  For as much sewing as I do with swimwear the Stretch needle is my better option.  You wouldn't need it specifically for making t-shirts, unless you are having issues with skipped stitches. 

The other needles you'll probably want to invest in down the road are some Stretch Twin needles.  They come in either a 2,5/75 size of 4,0/75 size. 

Unfortunately, I can only buy these needles at one store here locally, and it isn't Jo-Ann's.  You will need to check your local fabric stores to see if they carry them.  Remember it must say STRETCH.  You can buy twin needles that are Universal, Metallic, Embroidery, or Jeans, but you must have a STRETCH twin when using it on knits.

A Twin needle is great of hemming (still allow some stretch) as well as great details on the collar/neckline to give your garment a more professional finish.

Next up we'll show you some different options for your shirts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Mad Hatter {a finished quilt}

Forgive me if I'm not very wordy today.
I wrote this post last night, and when I woke up this morning to post it, there was nothing! 
I have no idea what happened...
So you get version 2.0 which won't be nearly as clever or wordy.

Today is my quilt club day! Yay!
I'm taking this for show and tell.
 It's my completed Mad Hatter Quilt.
(You can read more about it here.)

I had some issues with waviness due to the triangles being cut on the bias. 
You can see that it doesn't exactly lay flat.  
Oh,well.  It was a learning experience.  Next time I will know better.

 For the record, my husband thinks this quilt is "hideously ugly!"
And when I took it to my quilter, her husband agreed! :)
I don't think it's THAT ugly, but I can see their point. 
It's definitely not my taste or style (other than being scrappy), 
But I am choosing to think of it as "beautifully ugly!"

The border fabric is the same as the backing.
It it's previous life it was my daughter's bed sheet, 
until the day she left her mark all over it with a ball point pen.  Nice, huh?

With the addition of the border it now measures 54" by 68".  
In our house that qualifies as a small throw.

I'm sure the ladies will be happy that I've finally finished my "flower garden" quilt.  
I think they have visions of displaying them all together this summer at our town's small quilt show.
We shall see.

Until them, I will add it to the rotation of TV watching/fort making blankets.

Linking up to Quilt Story

Friday, February 17, 2012

Class Quilt--5th Grade 2012

Happy day!  I finished the last class quilt for this school year.
And just in time.  Next weekend is the auction.

The kids did a great job on their blocks.  Some did more than one and some others, mostly boys, only wanted to do one.  But hey, we got at least one from everyone.  And even though I would've preferred it to be 6 across by 7 down I still think this will be large enough to use and stay toasty. 
It'll certainly hide my 6' 2" body.

Finished measurements:  53" wide by 76" long
Cut 3" blocks to make the 9 patches.
5 blocks across and 7 down for a total of 35 - 9 patch blocks.
3" white strips for the sashing and border.
Thrifted plaid sheet for the backing.
Solid yellow for binding (By the way love this method of attaching binding)

This morning I'll head to school to take a picture of the entire class with their creation.

I have to say that I got smarter this time around and cut out the strip piece for the kids to sign their name.  Instead of going back to class one day after the quilt top was completely put together, I just had them sign a strip(s) when they were putting their block(s) together.  It worked out great.  So they will be surprised when we go take pics.  They haven't yet seen the quilt assembled in any form.

I also linked up over at Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday.

More Class Quilts:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A block at a time...

You know we love charitable sewing around here, but sometimes reality proves you can actually do less than your heart desires. 

I'm always on the lookout for meaningful sewing opportunities.  
Last week as I was browsing around I came across this group on flickr. 

After some more digging and reading I decided to help out.  Because even though my heart says "I can make a quilt a month for someone in need" my mind says "No you can't!"  So I've decided to focus some of my attention and desire towards this type of thing.  Besides, I've seen what one idea and one person can accomplish with the help of others who are willing to make just one block.  

 Right now this group is working on a quilt for a teenage girl.  So, while in the throngs of doll quilt sewing I took a much needed break and made up a couple blocks.  Easy enough!  
They are now on their way to a good home!

See the other blocks for this quilt here.
Asterisk tutorial from here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

T-Shirt Series: Purchasing Knit Fabrics

Not all knit fabrics are created equal. 

Once you've sewn with knits a couple of times you'll figure that out.  They stretch different, drape different, and bounce back different after being stretched some.  At times is it hard to distinguish what type of fabric they are talking about when manufacturers use certain names.  Here are a few brief definitions.

Double Knits--usually polyester knit, double knit basically means that the fabric looks exactly the same on both sides.  Ribbing is a good example of a double knit.  These are NOT good for structured garments.  You would use this for cuffs, waistbands, and neckbands.

Fiber content of this particular ribbing (from Jo-Ann's) is 95% cotton and 5% spandex.  The more spandex in the fabric the more stretchy it will be.  Also with spandex in the fiber content it will help the knit "rebound" back better after being stretched. 

Jersey--these knits will curl to the right side of the fabric when stretched on the crossgrain.  Right side shows a knit stitch and wrong side shows a purl stitch.  Drapeable with a moderate stretch. 

 This shows wrong side on left and right side on right
Interlock--Sometimes it is considered a Jersey knit.  However interlock tends to be a cotton / poly blend most common in 60% to 40% ratio.  It may not stretch as much as Jersey nor does it curl at the edges like Jersey does.  Great for making tees.  May not drape as well as other fiber content combinations if you are looking for something to use as embellishments.

Knit Lycra--cotton / lycra blends are used primarily for activewear, i.e. leotards and exercise gear.  Nylon / lycra blends are used for swimsuits and biking shorts.

Here is a stretch knit guide when determining how much stretch a knit fabric has when purchasing for a specific garment.  This is extremely helpful, if you are like me, and purchase a good portion of your fabrics as remnants, with no labeling available.

Stable Knits--this means that the knit stretches less than 10%.  For example: 4" of fabric stretches 1/2" or less. Double knits are an example.

Moderate Stretch Knits--jerseys and interlocks stretch 20-25%.  4" of fabric will stretch 1" to 1 1/4".

Stretch Knits--these knits stretch 50% or 4" will stretch an additional 2".

Super Stretch Knits--includes ribbing and swimwear that stretches 50-100%.  4" can stretch up to 8".

2-Way Stretch--means that the fabric only stretches in either the length or the width.  From a center point on the fabric it only stretches 2 ways: i.e. left and right OR up and down.

4-Way Stretch--means that the fabric stretches in all directions from a center point: left and right AND up and down--4 ways.

You can determine how much stretch is needed for a garment by looking at the pattern envelope.  Usually there will be a gauge printed on the envelope back showing that 4" of fabric needs to stretch to this point.

Here are a few more things to think about when talking about knit fabrics.
  1. Pre-wash everything.  Knits shrink more and in larger amounts than woven fabrics.  And if you are like me and you buy end bolts or remnant pieces, the fabric contents aren't always listed on them.  Avoid the headache of garment shrinkage and pre-wash.  In fact some info I read said to wash/dry the fabric at least 3 TIMES before cutting.  This would explain why sometimes my shirts still feel like they've shrunk after prewashing and I've worn them a time or two.
  2. Sometimes the excess finish on knits may cause skipped stitches when sewing.  (Just learned that myself--I may be doing more prewashing of swimwear fabric.)
  3. Knits do not ravel like woven fabrics, but some may run and curl at the edges. 
  4. Since knits do not ravel the seam and hem finishes may be optional. (Save yourself a step and don't worry if you don't own a serger.)
Some info found in "Sew Any Fabric" by Claire Schaeffer and "More Fabric Savvy" by Sanda Betzina.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Small and Smaller

 Today I've been working on some of my ideas for the DQS.  
I can't say too much about what my partner wants as it is a blind swap, but here is a look at one of my tester blocks. 

 At this point I am working on a classic Churn Dash block. 
This one is small 6.5 inches finished.

But this being a doll quilt swap I thought I should go smaller.   
So with the help of some other swappers I was able to figure out 
the measurements for a 4 inch block.
It's crazy, I tell you! 
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I'd be making teeny tiny blocks.  
But, sometimes you surprise even yourself. 

Here is what the 2 blocks look like next to each other.
(6.5" and 4")

I'm actually really enjoying this little project.  
Again, who would've guessed?!

Make your own Churn Dash block.

For a 6.5 inch block use these measurements:
Center block -- 2.5"
2 - 2 7/8" squares from each color for HST blocks
1.5" x 12" strips -- one from each color

For a 4 inch block use these measurements:
Center Block -- 2"
2 - 2.5" squares from each color for HST blocks
1 1/4" strips -- one from each color

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'm In...Now what?!

Somewhere in all the madness that is my daily life I signed up for the current round of the Doll Quilt Swap (aka DQS) on Flickr--and somehow I got in!  At the moment I'm not sure what I've gotten myself into.  My insecurities are rearing their ugly head today.  "Am I good enough to be in this swap?"  "Can I make something that someone else will love as much as I do?"  "I've never sewn teeny tiny pieces." "Where do I start?"  "Am I going to have time?"  yadda, yadda, yadda...

 So while I mull over some ideas, and chase away my negative thoughts, here are the mosaics I made for the person who has me.  What do you think?  Is this a good representation of what I like?
  (For photo credits check out my flickr favs page.)

And, since I'm new to the whole DQS thing, I'm not exactly sure what this is all about, but we were asked to take this pig template and create a polka dotted pig mini. There is fabric involved for those playing along, so...I'm playing!  Here's mine:

I've titled it  
'Bacon' in the Sun 
"After some time laying out on the beach
Portia Pig realized she'd forgotten the sunscreen!"

And now, I'm off figure out what the heck I'm going to do for my partner!!!  Let the stress and over thinking begin!

BTW, You can see more pigs here along with all the amazing doll quilts made over that past 11 (!) rounds.  Seriously amazing pieces of art over there!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Loveseat Preview

In the hopes that this will motivate me to actually accomplish this project in a timely manner (like before the kids destroy this couch and we get another one and it still not be recovered), I am posting my intentions.

This loveseat we just got on Thanksgiving Day from some friends who were getting rid of it--basically it has never been sat on, per the husband. 

I like the shape of the loveseat (and matching couch shown above), not so much the fabric.  And the fabric I want to use I've had for at least 2 years, originally with the intention of making a slipcover for this couch, which never made it into the house, and has long been trashed.  And here the fabric has sat in my laundry room--too big to fit into my washing machine and so I'll need to go to the laundromat to prewash that huge piece.  Which I also haven't done, obviously, in the past 2 years.

So hopefully this will encourage me to "get 'er done".

 I also bought this piece of fabric with the thought that I would make a cute bag for Spring. 

After I made the bag (available for sale at my shop here) I still have enough fabric that I am thinking it would make a nice pair of pillows for either the couch or loveseat. 

We'll see what actually happens.  First, the loveseat...maybe.

Monday, February 6, 2012

T-Shirt Series: Patterns

This is our first in a series of posts about making t-shirts.  Most of what we've seen out in blogland is how to change an existing tee into an upcycled or recycled one.  There doesn't seem to be that much, if anything, out there about actually starting from scratch and making your own t-shirt. 

We recognize that many times you can buy really inexpensive tees, or 2 of them, to make a new one.  I've done it myself.  Cost vs. time evaluation.  However, if you are an odd shape, or taller than average, or broad shouldered, can't find the right fabric you like, whatever the case, sometimes well-fitting and well-made store bought tees can be hard to come by.

I find that for us at our house, the tees are never quite long enough for what we'd comfortably like to wear.  So I've been making tees for years for myself as well as my kids, boys and girls alike.  And not looking like everyone else is a plus in my book too.

Tiffany (our cousin) and I have the same basic philosophy when it comes to t-shirt patterns:  and that is, why torture yourself coming up with something when you can buy a perfectly good pattern for a $1 or so.  Seriously, if someone has already done the work, then let them and you move on to the next step.

 The majority of basic t-shirt patterns I currently use I've been using for years...yes, years.  None of them were available anywhere I could find.  All out of print.  So, we've gone thru the pattern books and pulled out as recent as we can BASIC T-Shirt Patterns that you could use forever.  You should be able to find the majority of these patterns at your local fabric stores--Jo-Ann's, Hancocks, etc.

All you'll need to do is make some minor adjustments for the current fashion trends.  What you need to remember when looking at patterns, is not so much the fabric they are showing, but the cut and style of the pattern.  You could pick up a vintage '50's t-shirt pattern and use it today to make a modern cute style. 

So here are the picks:

Kwik Sew
I think we agree that we prefer Kwik Sew patterns over the other companies, as far as t-shirts are concerned.  The shirts seem to fit better and also they have better directions for sewing with knit fabrics.  I'm pretty sure that Kwik Sew was started and based on knit fabric patterns.  However, they rarely go on sale and therefore would cost you more ($10-$12), but invest in one pattern and you're done.
  • 3338--good basic tee w/ 2 sleeve and 2 neck variations
  • 2740--close fitting tee
  • 2900--less fitted tee than 3338 or 2740, long sleeve version with 3 different neck variations.
  • 3407--basic tank tops (this will be more difficult to adjust to make an actual tee)
  • 3036--short sleeve dolman tee w/ neck variations
  • 3741--long sleeve basic tee (I'd choose 2900 over this one if given the choice)
  • 3463--tunic (& leggings) which could be cut down to a shirt length
They currently have NOTHING for a basic tee.
Seriously....I looked both on line and at the actual book at Jo-Ann's.

These patterns are under the parent company Simplicity.  They have a number of good patterns, the only issue I have with them is that the majority have a back center seam.  Not what I want on my t-shirt.  However, you can place the back piece on the fold, minus the seam allowance and use the pattern that way.
  • 6109--basic tee with some sleeve and hem variations.
  • 6735--basic scoop neck tee (includes skirt, cardigan, pants pattern)
  • 6899--short sleeve raglan style (w/ skirt pattern)
  • 6762--easy raglan sleeve tee (w/ skirt and pants)
  • 6838--classic boatneck style tee (w/ pants)
  • 6160--workout wear, but good basic tee 
  • 6355--basic tee, tank top, and dress
  • 6400--easy dolman sleeve w/ asymmetrical hem (you can make it not asymmetrical).  I also noticed that the sleeves are not symmetrical either.  But hey, it looks like a fun shirt.
  • 6435--also good easy tee--2 tone styles, but you could make them one.
  • 5215--basic tee
  • 5525--raglan sleeve and square neck tee instead of round.  Also has set-in sleeve pattern, but sleeves are gathered on not flat cap sleeve.
These patterns are also pricey--$25 apiece.  So only buy them on sale when they go down to $3.99 each.
  • 8670--raglan sleeve w/ neck variations (I'd like to get this one)
  • 8534--dolman sleeve w/ some neck variations
Let's define the difference in some sleeve vocabulary.

Set-in sleeves are what you normally think of.
Usually you make the sleeve and then "set it in" the armhole opening.
Kwik Sew 3338 is an example of a set-in sleeve.

Raglan sleeves are typically seen on athletic tees.  Think 2-tone baseball tee.
The sleeve seam runs from underneath your armpit at an angle towards your collarbone.
This is a great style if you have broader shoulders or have a hard time finding a tee that fits the armpit area.
Butterick 5525 or Vogue 8670 will show the raglan sleeve.

Dolman sleeves are sleeves that are usually cut from the same pattern piece as the front and back.  One piece together, not 2 separate pieces.  They are really loose in the armpit area.
McCall's 6400 is a good example.

Next up we'll talk about stretch a bit.
Because not all knits are created equal.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sewing Group Quilt

Earlier this week I had our little sewing group/club/class, whatever you want to call it.  8 ladies showed up to try it out.  I must say this was an evolving project.  Mostly I wanted to try a little more randomness in my sewing and quilting and was inspired by Block Party--The Modern Quilting Bee. I decided to recruit some ladies to see who else might be interested.

We had a fun night.  I really am not a random person, but some of the ladies were way into it and much better at that part than I am.  I find I have to think to be random, which isn't really how randomness works, is it?

Anyway, I put all the blocks together and this is what we got. 

There is one block I'm waiting on as Amber wanted to make one more at home.  I added a 3" white border around it all because I want it to be a little bit bigger. 

And here is one of the crowning moments:  Jenny's block. 

She was testing me, I know it.  She kept saying to me, "I can do whatever I want?" "Right?"  "You won't get mad?"  Jenny embraces wonkiness and she loves Project Runway.  Great combination. 

Her block is the inspiration for the name of this quilt:  "Start Here".  Because that is what that blocks reminds me of.  Arrow to point you along the path of a maze.  If you look back up at the completed quilt top her block is bottom right.  Top left is the "finish" of the maze.

Not sure what we'll do in the upcoming months, but everyone sure seemed to be on board to come back again and try something else.


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