Ohhhhh, so pretty!

Been keeping a few craft projects rolling along in the background here. One is the pillow project for the guest room. Loving these Art Deco – y butterflies from Embroidery Library stitched out on linen. Heirloom Butterfly and Floral Circle

Chose deeper but matching colors (Sulky threads) to the quilt will add a bit of punch. Had already made the chenille green pillows as the daybed is large and in need of quite a few more pillows to look as inviting as I’d like. I’m determined to finish these as pillows although I like them so much, I’m a bit inclined to just frame them.

 Heirloom Butterfly and Floral Square

There are clear step by step tutorials for everything (just check out the left column) related to machine embroidery at Embroidery Library’s project page. Perfect hooping, placement and stabilizer guides are available as well as hints for embroidering on any type of material. For linen – wash the fabric first as you plan to later, then starch the heck out of your piece. A medium weight cutaway stabilizer is a good choice for the weight of linen I like to work with. To later need to wash an embroidered piece, iron it while damp from the back of the piece.

Now, to border and stitch these into  pillows. Then, as this is the only frou frou room in the house, on to a ruffled pillow or two and one with a nice big bow.

This post is participating in the parties linked below.

Dash, Dazzle and Flair

I like scarves.  Take your plain dumpy outfit, toss on an attractive, long scarf and, la Voila, interesting in one fell swoop. You’ve seen one of my dyed rayon scarves – great for spring, summer and early fall – in my previous posting.  But now, with the chill of late fall in the air, we can focus on the warmer scarves of winter.

I have a friend with a beautiful crazy quilt style scarf that I love and have been meaning to make myself a version of.  When I get to it, you’ll be the first to know.  For today, we’re going to talk about the tres simple, ANYONE CAN DO IT, handmade scarf.  Oh, but knitting and crocheting take time to learn to do it well you say?  T’is true, but anyone can master a Knifty Knitter loom. It’s so simple – it seems like cheating.  And, you can do beautiful items with it.

The above scarf is Kidlin Mystic, a linen and mohair blend.  The easiest loom stitch gives you a stockinette stitch – knit one side, perl the other. Simply loop around the pegs, I go back and forth on the round blue loom, as opposed to around and around, for a scarf.  I’ve held up the bottom of the scarf in the picture above so you can see the “backside” of perl.  This really requires little concentration, so it’s great to do while with others or watching tv.  When choosing yarns remember that the beautiful wool and mohairs are hand wash – NO dryer – no Mr Bill, NO! – unless you want a potholder instead of a beautiful scarf ….).  I have some I give gifts to that simply don’t want hand wash items and would rather have scarves from acrylic yarns.  Also, forget those “one skein” yarn patterns – the ones I’m sharing take 2 or 3. You can do a short “around the neck only” style with one skein.

 This is my favorite made from Zitron Prisma yarn (82% mohair). We had a lovely yam shop in Murphys that closed down, so I started ordering my fancier selections online – mostly from ebay (as I write this I see there’s some Zitron Prisma there now) or All About Yarn in Oregon. We now have a new yarn shop with very knowledgeable help so, if you come to town, be sure to stop by Maisie Blue.

For those that insist on the washer and dryer, use a heavier weight of yarn like the Deborah Norville chunky above and 3 skeins.  With sport weight or thinner yarns, double or triple the strand you use to work with to get a nice looking scarf that won’t stretch all out of shape. You can do big loops or lace patterns on a mohair, but on a sport weight yarn, even blocked, it will just stretch and get really loooong.  Be careful with fringe and bulky weight yarns – if I added more strands to the fringe below, the knots would have been bigger and it would have resulted in those bottom rows being much wider than the rest of the scarf. I’ve seen them out there with that stretched out of shape look, not a fan.

So, no sniffing and turning up the noses on the little plastic contraptions you can get at the hobby store. You can make beautiful items with them.  It’s very easy to make horizontal stripes by just knotting in a new yarn every so many rows or using a variegated yarn as I have. You can mix yarn and the ribbon yarns, you can tie in yarn with longer ends on the knots to make fringe along the vertical sides where you change yarns, you can bring in beads and you can weave or tie in other fibers or yarn, decorate with fiber roses and so forth to further customize your creation. 

I’m coming back in to edit this post as I think I need a few picture of the loom to illustrate how absolutely simple this is. You simply wrap yarn around the pegs, make a second row and use the little hook to pull the first row up and over thesecond. Wrap, hook, wrap hook – repeat. Mindless, fast and simple. I flipped the end of the scarf in the bottom picture so you can see the perl side as well as the opening where I don’t go round and round (you can make tubes and with the large size round loom really fast cowl/hoods).

Special thanks to Andrea over at Train to Crazy’s Make It Wear It for highlighting this post.

 

   Resurrecting this post to appear in the Gallery of Favorites hosted by April of The 21st Century Housewife and Alea of Premeditated Leftovers.

Bond, James Bond

Thought I’d post about a few miscellaneous machine embroidery projects. For those without an embroidery machine but with a basic understanding of sewing and an imagination for adding your own embroidery, appliqués or image transfer designs – this post will still have some ideas for you.  I’d mentioned early on in this blog that I’d been searching out non-vendor blogs related to machine embroidery and coming up empty. So, I’m on a mission to highlight a few more projects.  The starring role today goes to Milo.  Sis takes care of mom (monumental task) and likes dressing her pooch, so sis gets the goods she likes from lil ol’ seamstress me.

This first design is an “in the hoop” project from Moose Be Stitchin.  It’s a casing for the collar with a simple triangular bib, embroidered “buttons” and a bow tie you hand stitch on.  Very easy, fast, oh so cute on and pretty much easy for the pooch to wear.  We call it “Bond, James Bond”.

This shot is a sewn and not embroidered at all (in case some of you stitchers are still with me) dog bandana with Happy Birthday embroidered kitchen towel (it does match the apron sis also received). The Happy Birthday design is Embroidery Library (you’ll see their name popping up a lot as they have good pricing and consistent sales with fantastic pricing  – if you’re an embroiderer, sign up for their Christmas Club plus Happy Hour Fridays to get truly tempting prices coming to your inbox).

As long as I’m discussing Embroidery Library, here are cupcake napkins that go with the whole birthday/cupcake theme for sis. I prefer cotton or linen hemstitch (I get mine on eBay from Napkins Online) but sis has her hands full and requires no-iron polyester.  The cotton and linen, though lovely, must be ironed when damp to look good. I’d sewn some solid ones to decorate, but at $1.50 each decided I’d rather start with the eBay hemstitched ones then toil with my iron and machine carefully making mitered corner napkins.

Another, “probably easy to replicate with a tad of thought” project is the Zippy Designz duster made from your fleece scraps (fits 99cent store duster or Swifter handles).  Don’t want to step on Carolyn at Zippy’s toes so won’t give pics or details, but you just need 3 rows of stitching to hold this together and you have a green, washable, re-usable duster that gets in crooks, crannies and all around those books. I’ve whipped up a bunch. They also make pretty good cat toys if your kitties chase your dusting activities the way mine do (not the vase, no … L).

With fall holiday season opening up to full swing, it’s time to bake those warm goodies to share at gatherings with friends and family. I was always finding myself rushing off with casseroles or baked goods fresh from the oven, wrapped in towels to not burn me or the car seat. Time for the age old classic – a casserole cover.  Now some lovely patterns call for such a nice handle – Beware.  I know someone who actually carried the casserole by the handle, which, of course tipped, swayed and dumped said casserole on the pavement (they were lucky it didn’t happen inside the car, eeewwww). Save yourself and appointed casserole carrying helpers the temptation of using that handle. A simple slide-in case that you carry is the best all around bet and simpler to sew.

 

Embroidery Library showcased a project (here) where the stitcher simply took two quilted placements, sewed them together leaving one end open and placed a nice big button and buttonhole on the open end. I like the look of the scalloped placemat edges. You don’t have to add a design with some of the lovely patterned placemats available. I made an extra large case for my extra large casserole by simply starting with some cotton pre-quilted solid fabric. The design is lettering is from my Husqvarna Viking Topaz with an edited combo of Embroidery Library’s border from their chocolate pack and Embroidery Design.com’s Machine Embroidery Designs cupcake.  (Embroidery Designs.com carries multiple vendors).  I made the bias trim from fabric in my stash.  Always make an easily washable casserole cover as some drips/spills and food smudges should be expected. I’ve picked up a bunch of placemats with these on my Christmas to do list.  No worries – I haven’t yet hooked gift exchanging friends and family to this blog just so I can write about the crafting here without ruining any surprises. Those of you who do stitch can imagine how fast the placemat version of these carriers goes together.  Besides, how better to showcase those fancy buttons you pick up at quilt shows or create from Fimo?

I’ll close with another doggie project.  This for close friends who acquired a Rottweiler while living in South Africa. They are now crazy about her. Their gift was pillow covers in their guest room colors. My friend helped me pick the right Rottweiler design (this is Embroidery Library but Embroidery Designs.com has a bunch, a lot of their obviously males) and match the thread colors to her dog so this would be personalized and correct.

With Christmas wish lists begun, if any of you have questions about machine embroidery –I’ll be happy to answer what I can.                   

Respite from the Vortex of Halloween

I’ve been sucked into the vortex of Halloween in the blogosphere lately. Time to wrench myself from its gravitational pull and highlight a few other things. Looks like I’ve been light on postings on machine embroidery, so time to address that.  In sharing machine embroidery projects, I want to be careful not to tread on the rights of the digitizers whose patterns I use.  If you purchase a pattern, detailed instructions with pictures accompany them (or at least they do for the ones I’ll highlight).  If you don’t do machine embroidery – you may still garner ideas from the post as long as you keep in mind you can hand embroider, appliqué or photo transfer an image in any of the places I use the machine to make a design. 

My little Queen of Hearts Tarot Bag was made for a friend.  The Queen of Hearts design is from Urban Threads. I used the drawstring bag pattern from MooseBeStitchin. It gives you 2 perfectly stitched buttonholes plus drawstring casing stitched lines – definitely worth the price of the pattern (drawstring bags are very easy to construct sans pattern, here’s a free ehow pattern).  Plus, you can add machine stitched windows to the bags if you like. However, I wanted it lined, this pattern was not, and I did not follow the cardinal rule of doing a pattern once as instructed before messing with it. So, I did muck it up a tad, requiring more effort than would have been needed had I thought it through (you can see the little squares of black I used to cover exposed stitching inside the bag below). However, I’m pleased with the end results and will be stitching up a few more. The Fabric is JoAnn quilting cotton and the lining is charmeuse (polyester).

I’m partially through a wine bag that will also have a drawstring top.  My favored restaurant in Murphys, Grounds, allows you to bring in a local wine for your dinner with no corkage fee.  A few others do the same.  So, friends and I are often lugging in a bottle in a brown paper bag as though we were some wino walking down the street. Crafting abilities to the rescue J. The fabric is upholstery weight microsuede I have left over from another project.  It’s heavy enough that I won’t line it but will utilize a nice size upper hem to give it a polished look. For stabilizer I turned to a black tear away from Allstitch.com. I thought the fabric was heavy enough that it should be fine, but you’ll notice it puckered, I should have gone heavier weight. The design is a combination of Embroidery Library grape bunch sheer plus their word wine.  In the hoop below you can see I rolled the fabric that will be the back and used an inexpensive plastic hair clip to hold it out of the sewing area.  These things are a must.  If you’re doing t-shirts or other completed garments you want to be sure you keep the fabric that shouldn’t be stitched on outside of the stitching area and you don’t want that fabric to create a lot of drag on your hoop (the machine does the design by moving the hoop with the needle always going straight up and down). The plastic hair clips are a useful tool.

It came out a bit more muted than I expected, but I was going for subtle, so it’s ok. Given that I’m using a drawstring, I think the design puckers won’t be noticeable as such (it will look like what happens with the top scrunched together).

Another finished project is my reading chair. I actually have a lovely little standing light that peers over my shoulder perfecting this corner spot of my bedroom. I can sink onto this puppy and not move for hours engrossed in a great book. It’s really not at that barren in this corner – I simply dragged everything out of the shot except the chair. Think piles of books, two full knitting bags, cat carriers …

 

The chair is IKEA. Fabric is microsuede to match a whole gold, deep red, muted green scheme I have running throughout most of my home. Designs are Embroidery Library Fairy Fantasy Border and Corner.  The seat cushion is squared by the sewing technique explained as “mitered corner” for cushions on ehow.

 Finally, I’ll share the towels that go in the private bath.  The dragons make me smile. They are Embroidery Library’s Lightening Dragon and Cernunnos from Cactus Punch’s Dragons, Fins and Faerie Things.

Machine embroidery adds the easy ownership of cloth, design, design size and every thread color to a crafter’s arsenal of tools and I love it.

Halloween Happy Crap


I have a friend who calls chotskys and those thing picked up on vacation “happy crap”.  I like the expression for the nod it gives to those small things that make us smile.  I can be very very particular about my happy crap, don’t let the name fool you.  Just any old crap doesn’t make the cut.

Unpacking my hodge podge of things I’ve made or purchased over the years is an opportunity to discover my little treasures anew. 

My Halloween runners are one of these items.  The fabric was a find at JoAnns.  But, it had none of my requisite glitter and sparkle. So, before I could do anything else, I got out my fabric glitter paint. (tip: you don’t have to get fabric paint, just have one handy dandy tube of textile medium to add to your paint so that it dries with a better “hand” (feel) on the fabric – i.e. not stiff as a board like acrylic normally would).

On the pumpkin, I just sparkled up his eyes and mouth.

For the witches I hit most of the shaded areas on their hats and clothes. I didn’t want to cover everything, but just wanted a bit of glimmer.  The runners themselves were just the long center strip of these images with a patterned border on all four sides, medium weight interfacing for the inside and a Halloween pattern on the back. Very simple to sew.

I snagged these wood craft to paint items at an after the holiday sale.  They’re 2 separate pieces. Tip – if you are painting unfinished, inexpensive wood, give it a quick coat with spray paint first – I base coat most of what I do with Walmart’s.

Earlier posts have warned that I’ve been known to relentlessly pursue my love of fabric as Captain Ahab did Moby Dick (but I do like to think I’m a nicer person,  ah ah  – no debate from those who know me J  ).  Want that fabric, but oh, what to do, what to do with it?  Well, not every lap blanket must be quilted, knitted or crocheted. Sandwich one square of fabric with Warm and Natural, pick a backing, stitch the edges, turn  and la voila – lap blanket.  You can get fancy and add a few knots (eHow, Knotting a Quilt), I like black crochet thread for this.  This fabric is JoAnn – one they’ve carried at least four years as I did see it again this year. Surprise – no glitter, but it is shaded in such a way it seems to glow.

Next up for me is a new Halloween apron – haven’t started it yet as the decision is the challenging aspect I’ve yet to conquer.  I have some of the above fabric that I still love, some others with the cute images and multitudes of embroidery machine patterns.  Keep tuned and we’ll both see where that journey takes me.

Woo Hoo, Fall’s finally here

Ah, the heat wave is over and we’ve had a welcome bit of fall weather.  Grabbed the Halloween decorations from the garage (hint, if you live on a dusty, dirt road – place even your bins into plastic garbage bags, sealed tightly with a twisty). So, what shall I start sharing first?

 

My current thing is black cats.  Guess why?  Meet my home mates.  (yes, her blankie has some machine embroidery on it, Embroidery Library Kashmir elephant and she loves her thermal cat bed).  Previous kitty was a beautiful white long hair (from kids with a box in front of the supermarket).  My current delights are pound kitties.  I went there thinking light colored single cat, but couldn’t bear the thought that someone might separate these little babies who were curled up with one another. Thus, I arrived home with two black terrors who could climb the drapes and shred anything not nailed down (and be ever so cute while doing it). Like me, they’ve mellowed a bit, but that youthful exuberance is not yet spent.

The kitchen towels are Embroidery Library Black Cat Filigree and bats with moon from Embroidery Designs.com.  With embroidery machines, you need to follow your manufacturer’s instructions for how to edit or load your image and the nuances of how your hoops work.  General instructions to cover every topic with full picture tutorials are available on Embroidery Library’s project website.  These stitched out very well.

 

The reversible napkins have Wrights Rick Rack trim.  For a good tutorial on making your own, check out the Film in the Fridge tutorial. Fabric is from JoAnn.  Mine started 18 inches square (hers are smaller) and I don’t stitch down the rick rack where she does it the first time. I just layer and sew, although my way you have to pay close attention to what you’re doing.

 

I’d made easy plaster black cat pins and napkin ties with the same rick rack. 

 

If you don’t know how to mix plaster of Paris, check out eHow’s instructions. You can use the inexpensive stuff from the hardware store; I haven’t found craft stores smaller packages to yield a better product. When I’m using the candy molds for shapes (the cats were chocolate lollipop molds from Wilton), I just mix the plaster in a disposable coffee cup. I always have a few of those stashed in the garage. Remember to stir without bringing extra air into the mix – bubbles mean little pockmarks in your finished items (so do not try to beat like eggs). I’ve seen instructions that say approximately 2 parts plaster to one part water. In truth, I use the water first, tap in powder until you have it peaking a few inches above the water then stir method. You can also tap your mold a bit hoping to get the air bubbles to rise.  Before you start, have everything ready. 

 

More than once, I didn’t have my hooks handy.  You can glue them on later, but the glued ones periodically pop off. Christmas ornament hooks work, paper clips you’ve snipped down with wire clippers or craft wire (on bendable on the spool at a crafts store).  You want to let them set up a bit before you put the hooks in, otherwise they’ll sink and you’ll have the metal bits visible on the face of your piece.  With larger pieces, it’s easy to rig a “hook holder”, for instance you can lay a dowel across the back of the mold and put your hook on that so it doesn’t sink.  With these small ones, watching for the plaster to get thick enough doesn’t take long. If you forget to place them, I’ve used wood glue with mixed results. Above you can see one hook on, one off and one that’s been reglued (and I didn’t bother to retouch the paint).  Most stay stuck, but about ¼ pop off and have to be reglued.  Do a few up with pinbacks to have some fun Halloween pins – everyone who know me has a nice little cheerful collection.

You do want to paint both front and back, or later seal the back with your favorite acrylic sealer, to prevent a constant brush of plaster dust on anything your items touch.

Once fully dry, I paint with acrylic paints and Liquitex Iridescent tinting medium. You can mix the medium with paint or use it as a glaze.  Here it’s the light glaze final coat.

   

Paradoxes, Inconsistencies, Contradictions and Christmas Gifts

It’s a good thing I subscribe to the philosophy that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously.  And, the longer I walk this planet, the more I’m certain I must extend that consideration to friends, relatives and acquaintances.  If we had to reconcile all the paradoxes, inconsistencies and contradictions in what we claim to believe and advocate, well that would be a pretty tough undertaking.  I’m reminded of the many bloggers who expound on their righteous adoption of simple living, no consumerism for them – yet they create, market and strive to sell you every cute chotsky they’ve carefully crafted so that you may clutter your home.  I have nothing against these folks – most have beautiful blogs and share their crafter’s journey generously.  But I smile when reading of their devotion to simple living while they simultaneously encourage you to buy items that no dyed in the wool simple living practitioner would ever call “necessary” for sustenance.  I truly mean no offense – I just find it sooo funny and I’ve come across blog after blog of these crafty sellers.

So, I will raise my right hand and admit that I love decorations and the whole gift giving thing.  I prefer to labor under the delusion that I’m not “one of those” who buy into the consumerism of the holiday season – but hey, I started working presents in July and bought more machine embroidery patterns for decorations. Make that more than I’ll use this season, or this season and next year, maybe even ever but let’s not go there. 🙂

 

Gifts – one nifty little gift that’s been adopted by many craft artisans is the zipper bag. Free or for purchase patterns abound, Etsy offers many ready to purchase and those of us playing with machine embroidery have a wide selection of designs to choose from.  The one I’ve used the most to date is a  quilted front pattern from ZippyDesignz.  I love her RikRak trim and also have her RikRak Polka Dots for machine embroidery.

First, if you are using an embroidery machine to quilt, you will layer your material and batting with stabilizer. Heavier cut away may be good for a purse or something you want stiff, a few layers of wash away for something you want very soft and degrees of other stabilizer weights depending on your project. Below, red is the top, orange the bottom, you can see batting and stabilizer in between (and that I wasn’t overly careful lining these up, I’ll just have to come in a bit when I seam). You cut the bottom larger than your stitching area and either pin the corners or use painter’s tape to adhere it outside of your stitching lines to the hooped stabilizer. In fussing about with patterns to change them, I often goof a bit – take it from me, you don’t want your machine stitching through nice sticky painters tape and you don’t want to have to pick said tape out between every stitch of your project. If you find your thread fuzzing and breaking – check that you’re not stitching on tape. Also, my machine (Husqvarna Viking Designer Topaz) doesn’t like the batting too high when in embroidery mode – something like Warm and Natural is great.

   

Most machine embroidery bag patterns allow you to add your own design at some point in the stitch out. I did monograms on these, both Embroidery Library 3 inch Script.  In the photo below, the beige floral bag in front followed the pattern as supplied. Always stitch a pattern as supplied at least once and make notes on your instruction print out.  I don’t mind sewing, so I might do part of the bag in the hoop following the instructions (here attaching the zipper and stitching the RikRak edge) then stop the machine and remove my pieces to finish on the sewing machine.  This enabled me to make the larger bags you see.

For those, I used Embroidery Library’s sashiko quilting square to quilt both a front and back piece.  On the front piece I left an inch of top fabric to fold under at the zipper line.  I also quilted the sashiko on the thinner pieces that go from the zipper to bag top, ditto with extra fabric where the zipper will be. These pieces are then used following the ZippyDesignz instructions with my stopping the machine before it stitches the quilting or around the edge.  My bags look a bit different than Zippy’s as I also had the fabric meet right at the zipper center line, not a bit away from it.  I added glass beads to the zipper pulls.

These bags are lined AND on the inside you see the stitching around the four sides (I went over mine with my Serger). 

 

I made this bag for my niece.  Her college mascot is a leopard and paw prints are de rigueur for accessories.  It’s the ZippyDesignz bag with Embroidery Library paw print and S from my machine editor. She’s an architecture major and they make models – so it’s perfect to keep her tools in one place in her backpack.

Then I took just the lower half of the top quilted piece, with rikrak edge but not attached to a zipper and made her a case for her iTouch.

I intend to take the top bit and make a tissue case (one of these days).

 

I’d done the same zipper case in a great hot pink patterned fabric with lime interior plus a reverse lime patterned fabric with hot pink interior that was very fun looking (perhaps I can snag a photo from one of the recipients).  One was part of a birthday gift for the 5th grader across the street with her full name spelled out (and lip gloss, nail polish and some other things within).  She just let me know her brother (first grade) told her to let me know he wants one as part of his Christmas gift.  Now that’s positive feedback!

In closing, here are a few tutorials by others to get you inspired and round out your knowledge: