Friday, December 31, 2010

Brrrrr Beanies!

I have been a bit scatter brained when it comes to projects lately. I think its because I have put Sentimental Me on hold, so I feel like I really can't commit to something new 100%. As a result I have been floating back and forth between projects. Very easily distracted by a fabric sale here, a quick something for my hubby there.

One of the distractions ended up becoming a 2 hour quest to make the perfect beanie. Here is the end result...

The lip of the beanie still has some kinks that need to be worked. I think I may have to stitch it down a bit to prevent it from curling down while being worn. But, for having had not pattern, I'm pretty darn proud of the effort.

Also, I've started on my next quilt. It incorporates all of my favorite colors.

I've decided to do a 100% random pattern for this quilt. I'm excited and nervous since there really is no telling how it is going to turn out... I'll either love it, or be insane from trying to re-work it at the end :) Here's hoping for the former.

Another side effect to schizophrenic sewing is a sewing room that looks like a bomb went off. No more sewing until I can once again see my desk!

Happy sewing (or in my case cleaning!)


Thursday, December 30, 2010

King Cotton

Cotton thread falls under the category of a plant based fiber. One important characteristic to note about cotton thread is that it is a dyed fiber, and there is some risk of it bleeding (though I really have only found this true of red thread on white fabric).

Two other very important elements to cotton thread are its inability to stretch, and the fact that is shrinks when you wash it. These two points are key to keep in mind when deciding what fabrics to use cotton thread with. You really never want to sew a jersey knit or anything that has stretch to it with a cotton thread because the cotton will not stretch. Also, keeping in mind the cotton thread has a certain amount of shrinkage to it, you would really want to be wary of using it with a synthetic fabric that will not shrink, or you may get an unpleasant surprise the first time you wash the finished piece (blanket or garment)

There are many things cotton does extremely well. When paired with cotton fabrics, you really can't beat the feel of cotton. A cotton thread has a softer feel than a synthetic like polyester. It is great for piecing and quilting. It is very durable, can be washed, dried, ironed, dry cleaned, ect. with out the worry of it becoming damaged. Another bonus is that it is available in a variety of weights, from heavy duty to very fine.

One thing to watch out for, poor quality (read CHEAP) cotton threads will lint up your machines worse than any other type of inexpensive thread.

Also, if you want all of the benefits of cotton, combines with the wonders of polyester (which we will be going over next Thursday) consider opting for a cotton wrapped polyester. Often these are labeled all purpose, or dual duty. Again, cheap thread labeled dual duty can be a lint monster.

I know I've been yammering on about the evils of lint, but it can do some serious damage to your machine. At the very least cause skipped stitches, at the very worse, make your machine go out of alignment. And you can guarantee needing to have it in to be cleaned, oiled, and adjusted sooner (which runs around $80.00).

I'm not saying you need to break the bank of super fancy thread, but it is something to keep in mind. You'd hate to spend hours putting together something beautiful to have it be ruined by bad thread that is causing skipped stitches or is constantly breaking, or buy a nice machine to have it gunked up by linty thread.

Two of my favorite cotton threads are Aurofil and Mettler. Aurofil is a 2 ply thread great for piecing and quilting, however it is too weak for garment construction. Mettler comes in 3 ply, and is a great all around all purpose cotton thread that won't break the bank.

Next week, on to the synthetics! Polyester here we come!

Happy sewing,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday's thread

One area of the textiles industry I think is a bit on the confusing side (at least to me) is thread. There are a ton of different types, materials, colors, finishes, ect. And when it comes to thread, and they all do different things well, and other things not so well.

Well, I must admit, I really don't know much about thread. So for now, I am dedicating Thursdays to posting about thread. Each week I will take a type/brand of thread and talk about it. Hopefully while educating myself, I can pass a little of the info on.

Before starting off on the different materials and their characteristics, I thought I would begin with the basics of threads.

Thread comes in different thicknesses and plies. The bigger number on the spool (40 or 50 usually) is how thick the individual strands are. The higher that number, the finer the thread.

The second number (usually a 2 or a 3) refers to how many strands are twisted together to make the thread. 2ply thread break very easily, and is not good for constructing a garment. However, for quilting it is ideal because thinner thread will lessen thread buildup, and have less of an affect on your quilt block when piecing.

This thread is 40/3 which is a medium thickness, 3 ply thread. Also you'll notice they even put which needle to use when sewing with this thread, a 90/14

This thread is a 50/3, finer thickness, 3 ply

When shopping for thread you will find the better quality the thread, the more information you are going to find on the spool. So if you are holding a thread that says "dual duty" or "all purpose," with no other info on it, put it down and walk away. Most likely it is very inexpensive and will lint up your machine like none other.

Another thing to pay attention to is the finish of the thread:

Mercerized means the fibers were thread with a chemical that made them swell, better accept the dye, and also increase the strength and luster of the thread.

Silk finish is when the thread is passed through a flame or gas that burns off the excess fibers that cause the thread to appear fuzzy.

Glazed thread is wax treated, this type of thread should NOT be used on your machine. The coating is designed to make hand quilting easier so the thread slides through multiple layers easily and is less likely to tangle.

Also to note, thread is wound on the spool two different ways. American made thread is wound like your bobbin, a build up of going slowly from top to bottom, like so:

European made thread is wound in a zig zag pattern, like so:

Each type of winding, I find, has a particular way it likes to be fed through your machine. If you have the option, I usually feed the American thread from an upright spool pin, and the European thread from a horizontal spool pin. It makes for less skipped stitches, and less breaks in your thread, which is a good thing!

That's all for now, hope this was helpful. Next week I'll begin by posting on Cotton!

Happy sewing,


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saying goodbye

Death is something that, no matter how much or how little you are faced with it in your life, it never gets easier. Person or animal, it still hurts. Today we had to say goodbye to our yellow lab Luke.

Here are some pics when he was healthy and lookin' good.

I love how he is just looking on as the ducks swim around our pool. He must have decided he was "off duty" as guard dog of the back yard, because he let the avian intruders hang around for quite a while.

Despite all the digging, shedding and barking, we will miss him. Right now its comforting to know he is no longer in pain, and he had a long happy life.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Finally finished...

After many a snafu, the Sentimental quilt top is done! (Also, I have finally settled on a name, "Sentimental Me" after the Elvis Presley song.)

With the blankets as the fabric for the squares, I ran into quite a few issues. Being made by different manufacturers, they all had different stretches, causing some annoying pucker, and then seam ripping until everything was nice and square.

A little hint, always sew with the stretchier fabric on the bottom, the feed dogs do a nice job of handling it, where as the presser foot would cause it to pull and stretch.

Also, when I decided on the border, I had a slight (and by slight I mean 2 foot) miscalculation in how much fabric I had. I ended quite a bit short of being able to border the whole quilt with the 8" wide strips, and ended up going with a 4" wide border, and a little leftover fabric I hope to use on the back.

All said and done, I'm pretty happy with it. I have the binding all cut and ready to go, I only need to piece the back and baste before I get to start quilting.

Quilting is definitely the most fun part, however I'm suffering from a little sewers block. I have no idea how I am going to quilt this thing. I chose a nice simple (SUPER simple) pattern with the intention of doing some fancy pants quilting, and now I'm am scared. What to I do with it? I know I am not going to just all over quilt, but I have no idea what pattern to do where... Feathering? MacTavishing? Paisley? HELP?! I know I really want to make this special, but I am so stumped. I may have to let it sit for a while until I can make up my mind....Ugh :(

Happy sewing to those of you without sewers block...


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blogging bonanza

When I decided to start a blog dedicated to my love of sewing, painting, and all things artsy, I was ridiculed (in the most polite way of course) by my family. Dubbed the "nerd of nerds" since birth, writing a blog about these things did not come as a surprise to my family, but nonetheless they took the opportunity to poke a little fun...

Guess whose having the last laugh now!

So far I have turned 2 of my 4 siblings into bloggers :) and needless to say they are totally hooked/obsessed with blogging, thinking about what they are going to post, designing their page, ect. Everything that I have been obsessing over for the last month or two.

Here are the blogs they have started:

One sister has started a blog all about her photography, it's called Brief Stills (a nod to her being in law school) here is the link :

My other sister has yet to decide what exactly she will be blogging on, but started the blog anyway, its called Ordinary and Spectacular, here is the link to her blog:

This has branched out to friends of theirs as well:

Never be Boring, a blog about some very MacGyver'ish adventures, and the link:

I can't wait to see where they take these blogs!

Now, back to sewing, I'm still putting together the border for the sentimental quilt, that is still unnamed. While doing this I came upon a brain storm about the itsy bitsy scraps of fabric that just cannot be used. I have dedicated one trash in my office these scraps, as well as loose threads. Once the bin is filled, I will use them as the stuffing for a dog bed. This has turned my total fabric trash output to O.

If anyone has fabric scraps they are going to throw away, I would gladly put them to use, saving them from the land fill :)

This is my mini effort to go green and help to make my hobby have a slightly lesser impact on the environment.

Happy sewing & recycling!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scrappy Scottie

A sick baby does not make for much time to sew. Subsequently, a project that should have take a day or two tops, ended up taking the better part of a week!

All over blog land I have been seeing patchwork Scottie pillows. Both Sew Mama Sew and Aunt Spicy featured them recently. They were simply too cute to pass up. So, with my scraps from the Blue Skies quilt, I decided to make one.

Here are the scraps I had to work with. The darker shades of blue were from the blocks, and the white with the spirals was trimmed from the backing.

Here are the squares all cut up. I ended up with squares that were 2" squared simply because that is the approximate width of the scraps I dedicated to this project. In the pic above you can see I have bigger scraps, but I think those are big enough to be quilt worthy...

Here is the strip I cut to sandwich together the two sides of the dog. Also about 2" wide, maybe a bit bigger.

Here is the Scottie all laid out...

And pieced together...

Look closely, isn't there something wrong with the above picture? Why yes, it appears as though there are two of the SAME SIDES! Yes, I made to right sides of the dog, not left side. This is what happens when you sew late at night with little sleep. When I realized this I turned the sewing machine off and went to bed. Way to grumpy to deal with the ensuing seam ripping and re-piecing.

A few days, and some seam ripping, later I was back at it. Here it is all pinned on one side.

And with both sides sewn together, and re turned right side out.

And finally all stuffed and ready for a new home. I haven't decided yet what to do with him, but he sure is cute. Maybe a nice ribbon and some button eyes? Maybe I'll use the rest of the blue scraps to make a matching mini quilt... Or maybe a matching doggie bed for some fortunate pooch :) I'll toss those ideas around while I continue to work on my sentimental quilt...

Happy Sewing!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Camera Case

So, since I've been blabbing about my new camera, I thought I'd continue on that vein with something a little crafty. For all of the women out there who carry cameras, I am convinced that the entire camera case market is designed by and for men. Here are my reasons:

1. They are ugly
2. They are large and bulky
3. They are designed to be carried on their own, not to fit in a purse, or in my case, diaper bag
4. They start around $30.00 (way to much money for something big, bulky, and ugly)

My main issue with the commercial camera case is that I am WAY more likely to drop said camera if I cannot carry/fit it in my bag or purse. And they definitely have not made a camera case cute or versatile enough to double as a purse for any girl I know. So my response to this was to make my own case. While this did take me two iterations to get perfect, I was pretty happy with the end result.

I used fusible interfacing on the cotton for the exterior, and a polar fleece for the lining. This gave the bag a bit of rigidity so it would hold its shape, and a nice fleecy inside so the camera would not get scratched.

Here is the fabric I used:

And my naked camera:

First attempt pieces cut out:

First attempt sewn together:

Note the pockets on the inside of the lining:

I liked the fabric because it had a print of old post cards on it, making me thing "travel" and it didn't really match anything in my stash. Cute enough for a quirky case, not so cute I'd be kicking my self for wasting it on a camera case.

Unfortunately, it was after I had already cut out the fabric that my hubby informed me that camera bags usually open from the back, not the top. DOH! This bag ended up being to small for the camera anyway (I forgot to compensate for the height of the flash), but it fit my sisters Fujifilm camera, so all was not lost.

Version 2.0 went way faster. It only took about 40 min to complete, where as the failed 1.0 version took about 2 hours. Turns out opening from the back, WAY easier than opening from the top, go figure.

Here is the finished product:

I managed to get one pocked on the side for the charger.

With my camera snug as a bug!

While definitely not the cutest thing I've ever made, I think its leaps and bounds cuter than any case I saw at the camera store. And if nothing else, it serves my purpose very well. Protect the camera from bumps and scratches, while still allowing it to fit in my diaper bag, yay!

Anyone else feel the necessity to take it upon themselves to custom make something you can't find?

Happy sewing!