Spring in the Garden


Daffodils ushered in our early spring with joyful color. For my Sundays in My City friends, I hadn’t really been snapping shots lately – so went on a binge 🙂 .

Absolutely love my Galanthus (snow drops).


And, it’s time to make a chard, onion and cheese quiche. The chard is just going gangbusters right now. The other 3 veggie beds have been prepped with manure and are just resting until the soil heats up a tad more. With row covers to help that out, it’s just about planting time.


If you like checking out what others are doing in their neck of the woods, top by Sundays in My City at Unknown Mami’s blog – always something interesting happening there.


Joined the hoardes


I’ve ventured into a new-for-me crafting area with the Brother Scan N Cut 2. Days spent with an aching back, tense neck and fingers permanently clenched in holding-the-cutting-knife-position are a thing of the past.  No more laboring strained over a mat with cutting knife and templates for me.

Automatic cutting machines have been around for quite a few years. The first ones just cut rudimentary proprietary images and were used predominantly by papercrafters. You can cut all sorts of materials with the newer ones and design your own images to cut. The industry has spawned  masses of folks making YouTube videos and selling cut files. Unfortunately, the whole living rurally thing means that YouTube videos chew up the monthly data allotment on satellite service. Not to mention the fact that surviving a YouTube video viewing often means enduring torturous tinny music. Don’t know why anyone thinks that’s a good idea. And, some of the folks selling cut files haven’t got a clue about copyright – you’ll find files for sale that you know the seller doesn’t own the image rights to and Pinterest boards full of “free” images that are not free – the owner of the image would really like to be paid for their work.  It’s a messy world out there.

All that said, here are my learnings. First, the machine is light. Set up is relatively easy. You can follow along with their picture instructions and go right out of the gate. The gotcha for most folks is blade depth setting.  Although Brother has recommended settings, some of them ruin your cutting mat by slicing right through it. Luckily, I’d browsed the internet and saw that warning before I set mine up. Brother recommends you do a small test cut often and every time you change your blade or the material being cut. They’ve built an easy test capability right into the machine.  Some new blades in their carrier arrive not calibrated, I had to turn mine around once as it was loose, and now it works beautifully at setting two for vinyl, pressure zero.  Some folks send their blades back, but I’m not a patient type.  I don’t plan to repeat all the detailed instructions as I found the Brother sheet easy to follow and recommend new folks use that. If you flick back an edge of vinyl and look at it’s depth – barely more than a hair – you know that you barely want the teeniest tip of a blade to show on your cutting tool – really, just a smidge past not there at all.

What I had seen and did not pay enough attention to, was that new mats can be too sticky. You place your item to be cut on their mat – a standard mat comes with the machine and should work on most items (again see those instructions, it won’t work on tissue – you’d need a light tack mat for that). The crumpled looking owl and samples above plus large bits of paper stuck to the mat are to let you know it wasn’t smooth sailing right out the door. Didn’t want to scare anyone off by putting these  images first. Getting the image off the mat took TONS of scraping – I didn’t think I was going to be able to for awhile – the effort almost rendered the image unusable and got paper bits on the sticky side of the viyl that also had to be picked off so it would stick. I cleaned the remaining bits off  the mat with a non-alcohol baby wipe and used the wipe to scrub at the map to make it less sticky.  This isn’t something Brother recommends, but many users do. I am so glad I started out with vinyl as card stock would have been worse to get off the ‘tacky’ standard mat and the cut pieces would have been unusable. It is better now.

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Being a thrifty sort,  with what some might call too many craft supplies, I worked to save both the lettering for the words and the label for the words by rolling as I peeled them off.  This gave me two labels from each small piece of vinyl as you can see below.  Another Internet tip that worked well for me was using Press N Seal instead of transfer tape ( it does not work as well sticking to heat transfer vinyl – HTV if you mess up and also cut the transfer sheet that comes with it – but that’s another post…). The machine arrives with all parts to get you started except that it does not come with any vinyl test sheets or transfer tape.


I’m also using the free Brother cloud software-  Canvas (wish it were downloadable as people report the servers are unusable a lot depending on your area). I started using it before my machine arrived, so I was set to go with that 12 X 12 vinyl sheet full of labels and decals. You can load a picture (many formats accepted), SVG or Brother Cutting File (.FCM) and edit in the software to make your own cutting files with images any size (that fits on their mats – up to 12X12 standard included mat or optional 12X24).

Laptop decal 1
The owl artwork is from Urban Threads – they do allow people who have bought a machine embroidery design to use it in their own personal crafting (no sharing or selling of their images, a lot of folks get tattoos from them). Many machine embroidery design companies only allow you to stitch the designs they license to you – always best to check. I worked an image of it from my digitizing software in photo editing on the Mac then used the Brother Canvas to get my laptop decal cut file. The vinyl pictured is from a roll of Brother brand adhesive re-positional vinyl I bought at the same time as the machine. I’ve also bought and am happy with Oracal 631 and 651 vinyl.

Useful links:

There are some I see in Facebook groups who are frightened to set up and use their machines – or who tried once or a few times, had issues and gave up.  You need to be willing to experiment and even be willing to lose some material to the learning process. If you can do that – it’s a pretty nifty piece of equipment to have in the craft arsenal. I have so many things lined up to make – the cake carrier is just in progress, I’m on my way for some indoor and outdoor signs, HTV on t-Shirts, more laptop decals for the nieces – I just need more hours in the day!


A little gift

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A friend of my mother had drawn a sweet design, nabbed this quote and embroidered it for her. My sister could recall the wall hanging, but no one knows what happened to it. She decided she really wanted it, so I set about creating one for her.

maggie tea

The original had a little boy and tea cups, but I couldn’t find a ‘ready to purchase” design of a boy that fit my concept and I did really like these stacked tea cups from Embroidery Library. I tried it with a few different fonts (loading up Embrilliance’s font program as my TruEmbroidery digitizing program is not good with purchased fonts and doesn’t have all that many to choose from). Once I had the quote, I gave it a very slight slant and saved it; then edited with TruE to place tea cups, move the paragraph lines, nudge things. Also made and added the apostrophe there.  The font is Jolson’s Hand Print Floss Stitch. Below is one of many samples that were part of the design creation process (also a Jolson’s floss font – I was really going for hand look embroidery).

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I’d Google searched the tea quote and found references to a quilt that it was stitched into in the 1840’s (Wisconsin statehood was 1848, and this was brought into the new state with settlers). Found another where a son had quotes his mom had written in a notebook – he thought they were hers – many ladies in the 40’s kept collections of Valentine quotes or things to do needlework in –  theirs was after the quilt by a hundred years and now two websites are crediting that mom with this little poem (yes, I am a nerd and love tracking down data). It shows up in a few places as being one of those short quotes you see on Valentine’s cards. Bottom line, it’s been around a very, very long time.

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Also had my nerd hat on for mounting – had looked up all variations and will save you some of that detail, went with an archival self-adhesive foam core board for ease, they make them for needlework and you can usually find them in the major craft stores with the needlework supplies. I used something called Needleart Nucor foam mounting board from JoAnn. The frame was just barely deep enough for the embroidery plus foam core – no room for a glass pane. Something to be aware of when shopping for frames. I hope to get the supplies to do what has been around for awhile in needlework – short steel pins (short common pins) that you use to stick into the edge of foam core and all the way around to attach without that self adhesive bit – this way, if your piece is washable – you can take it off the mounting and wash it down the road (tutorial). But, truth be told, the self adhesive I used was certainly easier. 🙂  The stabilizer was a cut away and I did not trim it down, but left it the size of the framed picture.

Editing this as I got a question on Facebook. There’s a Facebook group Embrilliance if you have questions on how to use it. https://www.facebook.com/groups/582705468485594/?fref=nf. If you buy the Jolson’s font and download the BX format, it comes with a PDF telling you how to download Embrilliance and use the software. The free version will let you load a purchased digitized font and then use your keyboard to type. It sometimes interferes with TruEmbroidery. Best to put Embrilliance on a USB and just plug it in when you’re using it. TruEmbroidery also has a Facebook group – http://www.facebook.com/trueusers/ and a Google+ group – https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/102963886496719470234 . If you have trouble getting in to Google+ (you need a free Google+ id), let me know as I started and run the TruEmbroidery Users group.

I am so pleased with this one, been wanting to make some time to stitch one up for myself 🙂 .

Ricotta Pie

pie slice ricotta

I did cook up a few new items over the holidays that I’m head over heals in LOVE with. First up is an Italian Ricotta Pie. It’s so easy! Can’t believe I haven’t baked one before.

Ricotta Pie 1-1

So, for Unknown’s Mami’s Sundays in my City, know that Sunday is often baking day for me and this is what’s on the agenda for a repeat performance this morning. I love to know that no matter how busy or harried the work week, there’s a little treat of some sweet, or a ready to go lasagna or casserole waiting to greet me at the end of an exhausting day.

Obviously, I’m not one of those who worry about cracks in cheese pies 🙂 It comes out of the oven poufy and settles a bit. I know it’s a traditional Easter pie for many Italians, but was in the mood to try it now. This is a delectable, yummy dessert with significantly less sugar than other dessert choices (it’s great for breakfast too!).

RECIPE: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2013/03/15/ricotta-pie-buona-pasqua/

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If you click over to the recipe  – at the bottom of the blog post, you’ll see some reviewers thought it bland. She’d mentioned grated orange peel was traditional but she leaves it out. I went and added in the finely grated peel from about 2/3 – 3/4 of a large orange using a micro-planer (makes tiny bits for mellow flavor dispersion). Also because of the few negative comments, I used the 2 tsp vanilla where she says one or two. And, as I’d seen other recipes with a regular pie crust, I did that (no graham crackers on hand so I improvised).

Saw a few in web searching recipe choices made with no crust at all – it would be a ‘one bowl, mix it up’ pie without the crust. My sister tells me that’s how the Italian bakery she buys hers from makes them. Just crack your eggs into the bowl first so you can be sure there’s no shells and you have a super fast dessert with hardly any clean up required. So yummy!!! No topping is needed if you put the orange peel in the pie. I mixed mine in the bowl of the Cuisinart to give it a smoother texture. If you care about cracks – I probably have more as had taken it out of the oven and measured temp; but had to place it back in (I’m in the mountains – higher altitude baking always takes longer, but you’re never quite sure how much longer). Know that ricotta pie is not the same as cheesecake, the texture is quite different. This recipe is a keeper. I love it.

Stop by and see what others are up to this Sunday  Unknown’s Mami’s Sundays in my City.

Embroidering Baby Outfits

UT Ireland

Still stitchin for my favorite little mister. Pick up the baby bodysuits in a four pack, so I tend to do up a few at a time. I did a run with Urban Threads designs, you’ll see I’m obviously a fan. This design is their Passport to Ireland.

UT Bunny friend

And this is the bunny from their Friends Border with a bit of grass from an Embroidery Library design.

UT Lonely Robot

In December, I’d shipped off the UT Lonely Robot and was rewarded with this happy shot.Charlie UT lonely robot

Had also sent off UT’s Free MonsterUT free monster

and Hedgie from the Friends border.

Charlie's Hedgie

If you’ve made it this far, I’ll now reward you with the best shot of me I’ve taken in years – very happy great aunt Maggie with cuddly little Charlie 🙂 .Version 2

He’s stylish in his UT Devilish Heart onsie.

I’d given details and pictures of how I embroider on baby bodysuits in this post. I have one more onsie from the last four pack to stitch, so it’s back to the machine I go!

This post is participating in Unknown Mami’s Sundays in My City, be sure to stop by and say hello.

Spiffing up the Kitchen

Stitching on towels is one of the easier things you can tackle with an embroidery machine. The material is flat ,so it hoops easily and you’re rewarded with a customized decoration of your choice that’s also useful 🙂


You might think – if you follow this blog – that I’d have stitched on everything in my home that’s not nailed down by now. But, I’m coming up to 10 years here and I’d never made a set of kitchen Christmas towels for me! They’ve all been gifts. The set is on Food Network Ombre towels and the design is BirdBrain’s redwork stitched in cotton quilting thread. In truth, the towels are a bit thinner terrycloth than I thought they’d be given the ‘regular’ price (but you can usually find them on sale plus discounts). 


This fun set in red and green is to match my sister’s Christmas decorating colors. Urban Threads designs stitched in Rayon 40 threads. Love how they came out – so cheery!

Next post up will be some holiday bath towel gifts.

For a Little Mister

There’s a new little nephew in the extended family and I’m continuing to get a few gifts for him onto the machine. This design is from Urban Threads, edited a tad. 

Although the design looks simple, I’ve decided onsies are the bane of my existence. To machine embroider this, you’re actually tugging open the crotch and using all sorts of clips to hold it back, then stitching very very slowly so you can gently push back the clips (that don’t hang on to the hoop edges well) as the embroidery gets closer to them. Centering the design on the onsie when working this way is more than a pain in the butt and exercise in frustration!

The easier way is to open up a side seam (and then tape the heck out of it). I did this for his birthday shirt. Had to rip open the side plus arm seams to hoop it. I didn’t love the new re-serged seam – my threads felt a bit rougher than what the item was originally sewn with. So, I’d adopted the wrestling with a onsie approach for the next few items.

IMG_9908-1I’d edited an appliqué number with the little appliqué elephant design (from Bunnycup) and added the ‘I’m One’ in my software. My thinking is he can wear it throughout the year as the first thing people ask when they see a little guy is “How old is he?”

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His mom loves muted colors – this green and greys are her favorites. Loved the sweet little elf design from Urban Threads.

His mom also loves elephants and when I’d shown her a few designs to pick from, immediately landed on this one from Embroidery Library.  If you have a choice, zip front hoodies are a breeze to hoop compare to the itty tees and onsies. Took a break from Little Mister stitching to do up some holiday towels, stay tuned to hear about those next.