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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ribbon Quilt Masterpiece

Okay, it might not be a perfect masterpiece. But I thought for my first ribbon quilt it turned out very nice. The important thing is that my friend Cathie who I made it for absolutely loved it! I used a star pattern to stitch in the ditch and it came out really nice on the black backing fabric. Check it out below! I think it's beautiful.

Paper Piecing 101

I made my first paper pieced block! I pulled it from the Carol Doak website. She has a lot of free patterns on her website.  You guys should check it out because some of the patterns are pretty neat. It's just

I have been wanting to try paper piecing for a long time, but have been scared to try it . I found this pattern on the Carol Doak website because it was labeled Paper Piecing for Beginners. That's me!

It was not as hard as I thought, but you have to pay attention to how you place the fabric before you sew it to make sure it's going to cover the entire space correctly.

The picture above shows the paper with the lines that you sew on. The middle picture is how the finished block looks before you trim it.  Do not tear the paper off until after you trim the block to the proper size using the paper as your  template .  The third picture is the completed block  after  it's been trimmed to the proper size .

The easiest thing to do is to place your first fabric right side up, find your first sew line and place your second fabric right side down ( so that right side - right side are facing each other).  Make sure you've allowed enough fabric to give yourself a quarter inch seam allowance along the sew line. Also make sure that you set your Stitch to a small size to make tearing the paper easier.  I used a 2 mm length. Then flip everything over and sew on the backside of the paper along the line. The picture below shows this detail. Oh, do not forget to back stitch at the beginning and at the end of the line. This helps when your tear the paper off. It keeps your stitches in place and prevents them from tearing out.

I used Mary Ellen's best press after I trimmed the block when I ironed it. This helps to stabilize the block. The finished block is shown below! Another important tip is to make sure that you pay attention to the materials, colors and placement when you are making a block like this. Otherwise you lose the pattern if the colors are too scrappy looking. Look at the picture of the finished block before you decide on the materials and colors you are going to use.

The wonderful thing about paper piecing is that all your seams miraculously lay nicely. Have you ever sewn a block that had a lot of points come together, and you have a big bulky spot where all the seams come together and you cannot figure out how to lay it right to get rid of the bulk? Well, somehow with paper piecing all of the seams end up laying nice and flat.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Another member of the family

We all love our kids and want to keep those old baby clothes.  I've made a couple of memory quilts with old kids clothes.  I need to post pictures of the last one I did because I made a huge boo boo.  But my quick thinking husband helped me figure a fix.  That's not what I want to write about now.  I want to write about our pets.  Our other kids that we love.  The ones that don't talk back and actually listen to you.

A good friend of mine lost her beloved dog.  He was a great dog and she took him to a lot of shows.  He was her baby.  So she was very, very sad when he passed.  She asked me to make a ribbon quilt out of his old show ribbons.

Ribbon quilt?!  What is that?!  I have never heard of that before.  And I've been quilting a LONG time!  So I Pinterest-ed (is that a word???  It is now.) it.  And there are beautiful ribbon quilts out there.

She gave me three boxes of ribbons and a few of her favorite pictures.  One box had all of his AKC ribbons for agility in it.  These are the ones she wanted me to use.  I was so afraid to break those ribbons apart because I knew they mean a lot to her.  But one by one, I pulled staples out and separated the ribbons from the rosettes until I had piles of ribbons all over my floor of all the different colors!

She had emailed me a picture of one quilt layout that she really liked.  It basically had the dog's picture...OK...I need to introduce you to Samwise (or Sam) so I can quit calling him just a dog.  Because he wasnt' just a dog.  He was her family.

Meet Samwise!  Sam is a Belgian Sheepdog. This is what she said about this picture:

"Here is a picture I took of him with his RAE ribbons.  To earn an RAE you have to compete in both the Excellent class and the Advanced class on the same day (and qualify) 10 times.  Sam’s Excellent scores were almost all 95 and above and he took first place (in the Excellent class) many of those times!  

It took a while to figure out what to do.  I had the picture of the quilt that she liked, but I don't like to copy quilts.  I use a pattern like a a suggestion to deviate from.  So I thought I'll just sew a few ribbons together and something will come to me.

On a side note, sewing ribbons are not hard, but you have to sew a really small seam allowance, like about 1/8th of an inch to keep most of the words visible.  The laser guide on my Babylock Unity comes in very handy in times like these!  Some people use glue and glue them down to the backing fabric and then applique stitch all of the seams.  But you know me, I have to do it the hard way because I think it will hold up better in the long run.  And I'm not sure what the glue will do to the ribbons since I don't plan to wash this quilt once it's done.  I do plan to stitch in the ditch around all of the ribbons with decorative stitches like stars...I think....

Ok.  Back to the quilt...she really liked a star pattern around a picture.  So I resorted ribbons.  I wanted to make sure that I had a long row of at least one of each kind of ribbon he earned.  Then the extras I could cut to make the patterns I needed.

It took a while before I actually cut through one of the ribbons.  But after the first cut, I was fine.  I plan to make the other picture of Sam a center of another star, probably using yellow to surround him and the blue ribbons as a background.  I had to resort to my Electric Quilt 7 software to layout the star pattern.  There's a small miscalculation that I won't point out.  That's why I had to turn to my software. But it's there and I can see it.  The bad part about sewing ribbons is once you sew through them, there's no ripping out stitches and redoing it.  The needle leaves small holes and they are very visible if you pull out the stitches.  I know from experience...but decorative stitches are a great way to cover them up!

I plan to make two long rows of ribbons.  Then I'll use the extras to piece it all together.  I'll post more pictures of the finished quilt.  I think it's coming together beautifully...just like Sam!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Playing with Pictures

I've told you before that my Babylock Unity embroiders also.  I bought the digitizing software a few years ago that goes with the Babylock called the Palette.  I think I have version 10.  I use it to digitize designs...well, ok..I'm learning still.  Digitizing is not easy!  I figured that since I'm a mechanical engineer and I work on CAD software all day, digitizing would be a breeze.  Well, it's not!  There are a lot of little tricks and order matters. 

I played around with the picture aspect of the Palette.  Supposedly, you can scan in any picture, tell Palette that you want to digitize it and voila! You have a digitize picture that you can then embroider.  So I used one of my youngest son's senior pictures.  Isn't he handsome?  I had to crop his face or the file would have been huge!

It took a few tries and I had to adjust the number of threads, the contrast and brightness a few times before I got an image that I liked. 

It took a while to embroider it.  Oh.  One important tip.  When you're digitizing, always group your thread colors so that it will embroider one color at a time...unless you need to layer colors.  If I had not grouped this image, I would have changed out thread three million times!  Ok.  That's a slight exaggeration.  But it would have been a ton!  Here's the final image. I planned to do it on patch material so I can burn the edges.  I made a coaster for my office.

 I think it turned out pretty well.  I still need to play with it more.  But I can have some fun with the kids' pictures! 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Coiled fabric basket

I know.  I know.  I haven't posted in a while.  I've been extremely busy and I haven't had the time.  But I wanted to share with you a little project that I made this weekend.  It took longer than I thought and my sewing machine didn't like to cooperate.  But I finished it and it's really cute...more importantly, useful!

I decided I needed a basket to keep all of my receipts till I file them.  So I used clothesline rope and wrapped scrap fabric around it and made a basket.  It's called a coiled fabric basket.  There are several blogs and help online.  The only tip I can suggest is to sew along the rope with a straight stitch to attach the fabric to the rope and it kind of flattens the rope, making it easier to sew.  I used the largest zigzag stitch and a heavy blue jean needle.  Don't forget the large blue jean needle. Or you will break needles.  Trust me...I speak from experience!  I even asked my husband to bring his needle-nosed pliers to help me get part of the needle out of the basket at one point!

I'm not sure if it's my sewing machine, but it didn't appreciate the thickness.  So probably using a smaller diameter rope will also be helpful.  This is a great way to use up old scraps.  I would also suggest sewing together the small scraps and cutting 1 1/2 or 2 inch strips to use.  I found that if I sewed a long strip together (kind of like sewing binding), it worked better.  Oh, another tip is I used a binder clip to hold the material to the rope until I got it sewn on.

Speaking of binding, as I was in the sewing department at Walmart to get cheap orange fabric to use (by the way...Walmart has a great selection of cheap fabric for projects like this!), I stumbled upon binding packs that are 3 yards each.  This would be a great thing to use if you want to take a shortcut and not cut strips.

To start the basket, just fold the rope and hold it firmly under the presser foot and sew a zigzag.  It's better to go counter-clockwise as you are winding the rope.  I actually had to stop and flip this over to start sewing the sides of the basket.  You'll see in the next picture.

Like I was saying, you want to rotate the basket counter-clockwise.  To start the side, just hold the basket up (like the picture above) to force it to start building the side.  

Just keep sewing the zig zag and wrapping the fabric on the rope until you get the basket to the height you want.  I plan to get a smaller diameter rope and make a tote for the guild to give away at Christmas. 

To build the handle, just form a loop and keep sewing along the edge of the side.  I double-backed (reverse stitched) where the handles attached.  Some people recommend doubling the handle and I would have.  But my sewing machine was giving me fits.  So I figured I better quit while I'm ahead.  

That's the finished basket.  It's really cute and you can use any color that you have.  You can use an assortment of colors to get rid of the scraps you've collected!  The basket below is one I made several years ago.  I had it in the back of my car to keep the road atlas, a flashlight and a few other necessities.  But I replaced it with an organizer.  So now it's my scrap bin!  It's about the size of a small laundry basket.   Speaking of which, I need to make one of those too.  I also plan to make a trash bin to hang near my sewing machine.  

And if you have a small piece of rope left, you can make a coaster...or two...or three..and a trivet...makes great Christmas gifts!  Just saying...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Let there be light!

My eyesight seems to be getting worse and worse. Quilting on the Handiquilter at night gave me headaches. I even borrowed my husband's headlamp.

I went by Huntsville Sew and Vac and looked at all of the accessories for the Handiquilter. I saw this pack of LED lights that stick onto the frame. It made so much of a difference! I cut a section of the strip off and it made the rest a little brighter.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bits and Pieces

Sorry I haven't posted in a few weeks.  I've been so busy working on several projects.  I completed two t-shirt quilts in time for graduation presents!  I also finished a baby quilt for my brother's baby who is absolutely adorable!!  (I'm not biased at all!  💗 )  I am now working on another t-shirt quilt!

OH!  Before I forget...I officially opened my little online shop.  It's A Cynch! is open for business! Like the name??  I can't take the credit.  My sister came up with it.  She's more creative than I am!  The link to my Facebook page is .  As soon as I figure out how to add the Facebook link on this blog, I will.

I also got a new toy to help stabilize t-shirts faster.  I bought a heat press.  I researched and checked reviews and this one had really good reviews for the price.  It is quite heavy though!  But what would have taken me an entire day of watching Dr. Who on Amazon while ironing stabilizer onto thirty t-shirts turned into only two hours (YES!!! You heard me right!) using the heat press!  That is worth the money in time saved!!

I watched a few YouTube videos on how to properly use it without damaging the shirts.  That's a tip for you.  When in doubt, watch a YouTube video...actually watch several.  YouTube is a great learning tool!  Just be aware that some of the videos are more what NOT to do, than what to do, if you know what I mean.

To use a heat press, you need to buy teflon sheets to sandwich the fabric or shirt for protection from the heat.  I used 375 degrees for 13 seconds.  That worked pretty well.  Another tip is that if the shirt has a vinyl design on it already, you need to let it cool before you peel the teflon sheet off.  (That's from personal experience!)  I can also use the heat press to make t-shirts with vinyl designs!  That's on my to do list.

One of the features that make my t-shirt quilts unique is that I like to add extra details.  The examples below are for the quilt I am working on now.  It is for a friend of mine's daughter who played soccer and is going to college to play soccer!  Ok.  She is also going to get an education.  I found a few digital designs on Etsy and Embroidery Library.  I added the name of the school or team mascot to them using my digitizing software.  The digitizing software I use is Palette 10 by Babylock.  I also did her monogram on one of the squares.  I like to do this if I see a blank space on the quilt.

Another embroidery detail I added is her first team name on her first little soccer shirt!  That way when they see the shirt on the quilt, they will remember the name of the team.

The last thing I want to share is what I do with the leftover pieces.  I got the idea to just sew them together willy-nilly and then cut them into crazy quilt blocks!  I put all of the embroidered blocks with the crazy blocks as the center row.  This is perfect because there are seven rows in the quilt. I am sewing the rest of the shirt pieces together for her mom as a lap quilt.  Then she gets her own quilted memories too!

I will post a picture of the completed quilt when I am done.  Hopefully in a few days!  Whew!  I better get busy!

Happy Quilting Y'All!!!