Sunday, February 26, 2017

An Update on the Chicken

The chicken in a top.
In December, I worked a number of hours appliquéing a stem and leaves on the chicken project. I felt good, so I just kept stitching. . .well it was about three weeks before I could really hold a needle again because I didn't take breaks and didn't break my stitching into sessions!

In January, the push was to finish Winter Ice and this month my plan was to return to that chicken project. . . again! (I've been down that "again" road many times since I began this project in 2007!) I've posted the same in progress photo for the last two years!

I keep telling myself this is the year that I am finishing this one! I also tell myself that I will make more progress if I actually stitch on it!

I have learned that if I have a section that is thread basted and ready to go; I'll get it stitched. If I have to figure out what is going where and remember which places to leave open so that other pieces can be added later. . .well, it's too complicated and I don't do it.
Detail of center panel

So this week, I pulled out the project, the pattern sheets and mapped out a section. It took some time. I found one of the leaves that I had cut, really didn't show against the background so I replaced it with a fabric that did.

In my prepared stitching section our sweet Bailey dog, chewed one of the flowers. I was able to reclaim it although, the edges are suspect. Let's see if I can coax those edges to turn!

Now, all that is left is to stitch it! The project is next to my chair and stitching it is my plan for the evenings. Nancy Chong talks about stitching one length of thread each day. Sometimes, you might stitch more than one length of thread; but, even with one length of thread, you will be making noticeable progress. So this is my plan.

The next section ready for stitching
Perhaps, there are 10-12 sections like this left to appliqué and a pieced border for the outer edge to stitch before it is a top.  I am on the downhill side of the project!

I'll use this space to post my progress because sharing with you will help me stay the course rather than diverting that chicken to a container where I would forget about it. I started this project long ago so the urgency of finishing it has long passed. My family teases me about the mummified chickens, petrified chickens and roosting chickens which I take with a good heart. I tell myself that the finish will be so sweet!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Second Bag--4th Finish 2017FAL

Front and back with the decorative stitches
I didn't wait for four months before I started the second cell phone bag! Based on my first experience, I made some adjustments using  notes from the last bag I finished. Unfortunately, I didn't have the same size piping on hand that I used on the first bag. I had either a really tiny polyester or a large cotton cording. I used the large cotton cording. In retrospect, I should have waited and purchased a better size because that large piping was a bear to stitch,. Although, I did like how it looked!

In my zipper stash, I had the beige zipper for the back and what I thought was a brown zipper for the top of the bag. Turns out it was a dark green! It worked better than a brown one would have!

Finished back

I had hoped to purchase brown elastic for this bag; but, brown wasn't available. Black was the best of the options. This is a Christmas gift, so I plan to keep my eye out for some brown. I have time! I like the texture that decorative stitches made on the back. I also like how comfortable the elastic is as a strap and it sure was easy to add a couple buttonholes to it!
Finished Front
The person that will receive this bag loves the color brown like I love the color red. She is also a gardener and the batik that I used for the accent fabric reminded me of the color spots that she has in her yard.

She also likes sparkle and the focus fabric has some metallic paint in it. Stitching in that paint section was challenging because the stitches didn't show up as well as I thought they might. The stitches also covered up the bling!

The buttons are from my grandmother's button jar. These were the last two on a card marked ten cents! This grandmother taught me to sew and to cook. She had the patience of a saint. So using her stash always makes me remember our times together which makes me smile! Besides, I never know when buttons from the button jar will find a home!

I'd like to make more of these bags; but, I need to change the design a bit. It is a little hard to get my hand into the bag. I'm still not all that "pleased" with stitching the piping. There has to be a few piping tips to employ; but, I just haven't discovered them yet!

I'm thinking about making the body of the bag an inch bigger which would allow the zippers a little more room to float. I'm also considering stopping the piping at the accent fabric so that there is less bulk to deal with at the top of the bag. I'm also considering cutting the piping at the corner. . .I don't need the bulk there and I doubt that I would miss the amount that is in the seam allowance! However, I have to figure out how to remove it without removing the fabric. Isn't there always something to consider? I'm even wondering about flaring the top of the bag a bit to make it easier to slip my hand into it. For now, though, I have other projects to stitch!

This is my fourth finish from my Finish A Long (FAL) list which you can read here.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Embroidery--Taking a photo to stitches

The photo
Last September, I attended an informational class on the V-8 Embroidery Software. It was terrific that Thea Jirak, owner of Quilting Delights, brought Claudia Dinnell in to provide an overview of the new software.

Thea schedules Claudia for workshops at Quilting Delights several times a year; however, this was the first time that I had the pleasure of attending a class she taught. She is a motivating instructor. She shares tips and short cuts. I'm glad I attended!

I want to be comfortable with the embroidery software! The problem is that I don't spend time applying the lesson to the software after the class. Sometimes, the project doesn't interest me. Sometimes, I have to buy a pattern to make the project and sometimes, I'm up against a deadline so I don't make the time to practice!

Goal number five on my annual list is to improve my embroidery skills. Last month, I actually embroidered a letter on a project. This month, I decided to try the January software lesson which was to turn a photo into a stitch out!
First try
One tip listed about choosing a photo was to use a photo that didn't have a defined background. Another tip was to limit the subject matter. I chose a photo I had taken of the daffodils in our yard.

It wasn't a difficult project to make the adjustments using the embroidery software. Because the stitching is dense, the maximum dimension recommended to be stitched is about six inches.

This is about an eight inch wide by 10 inch long project. That is why you see four blocks. I was surprised at all the different colors and even though I printed the print preview, the thread colors in the stitch out didn't match up to the photo on the screen at the end.

I'm new at embroidery so the probability that I was the cause of the error is probably 100 percent! Although, there were parts of the stitch out I liked, there were other parts not so much.
After adding more stitches
I decided to add more thread. After all there are more than 140,000 stitches in the project so I didn't see a problem adding more stitches!

I liked the results better. I stitched this on a piece of felt using two layers of cut away stabilizer. The preview stated it would use 663 feet of bobbin thread! The preview listed how much of each thread it would use as well which is a nice feature.

It took about six hours for the machine to stitch the design. The run time suggested in the print preview was about three hours and 15 minutes!

I don't see myself converting other photos to stitches. Other than framing the work, I don't know how to utilize this piece of art. Although, I'm wondering if this piece could be incorporated into a tote bag somehow. Hmm. . .that could be a project for next quarter.

Friday, February 17, 2017

One Bag--Finish #3 for 1st Quarter 2017FAL

The bag
Last September, I took a fancy stitches class. The class was designed to help us use more of the decorative stitches in our machines.

We started to make this bag; but, we ran out of time to finish. I thought that it was a cute project and decided that I would make another. Unfortunately, September was a long time ago and I couldn't remember what size the pieces were or what the steps of the project were.

The bag is large enough to put a cell phone in it. On the other side, there is a pocket where a few dollars, car keys and a lipstick would easily fit. The strap is a piece of elastic and you wear the strap across your body.

I e-mailed the instructor because she said that she would be sending instructions on the project during the class; but, the instructions never arrived. I also didn't get a response to my e-mail. I decided I could finish it. After all, how hard could making this little bag be?

Pin tucks and decorative stitches
It was fun to stitch the decorative pin tucks and add decorative stitching between the tucks. The beauty in using this particular foot is that I could use the same foot to make the pin tucks and add the decorative stitching! I couldn't believe how fast it was to do this step!

Lining finished in class
Before the end of class, the instructor had eliminated the invisible zipper at the top of the project. She said that the piping made it too bulky to put in the zipper.  She gave us a piece of elastic and a button.

I planned to give this as a gift and I didn't think a button closure with a piece of elastic would work for the recipient.
I wanted to add the zipper closure. I decided it would be less bulky if I inserted the zipper like a welt pocket.

At the end of class, I had stitched the front/back; completed the pocket, stitched the piping, added the decorative accent and had the lining ready to attach. We didn't have time in class to make the round appliqué with the initial like the instructor's bag.

I wanted to add the initial. I thought I could finish the bag in a few hours. Ha! It took me all day to get to the step to add the buttons!

Good resource
I even needed to consult help along the way. I was able to find what I needed in the book, "The Bag Making Bible." My favorite aid/tool for inserting zippers is wonder tape. I so remember my early days of clothing sewing, basting the zipper in place before stitching. This tape holds it in place beautifully! What a terrific invention wonder tape is!

Personalizing the bag
  The "V," I stitched using an alphabet in my sewing machine. I didn't hoop it and another time, I would because I could have also drawn a perfect circle; but, this worked. I like that crazy decorative stitch on the outer edge of the appliqué.

Finished back
Here are the final finished photos. The finished size is about 6 " wide x 6 1/2" long. I plan to make another cell phone bag. I hope the next one goes more smoothly! It will be a gift too! This is the third finish on my list which you can read about here.

Finished front

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Valentines and a Tea

Tea time!
Last month, JoJo over at Through My Hands, had a birthday and we went to tea. Of course, I got to wear my red hat that Luann over at Let's Create Today, had sent me. My favorite part of the tea was the lemon curd. I think I'm going to have to make some!

It was a nice day. We even had sunshine which was a welcome departure from the snow and ice the previous week! We talked about our quilt projects so it was a terrific day!

Tuesday is Valentine's Day. This year, the grands and I made our cards. Miss J likes to thread the machine; but, the process doesn't move fast enough to keep her three year old mind engaged. She would rather be hopping and jumping!
Glue stick action.
Miss K is a serious designer. She selects her materials and quickly adheres the materials to her project. At 4 1/2, her glue stick work is better than mine!

I fused some fabrics to some Steam-A-Seam 2 that I have had for years. The fusible disintegrates over time. This has held up well probably because I've stored it in a sealed plastic bag.

Then when either Miss J or Miss K picked what they wanted, it was easy to press it with an iron and it was on the card stock.

The blanket stitch was a favorite.
We made a birthday card too! Once the pieces were fused or glued, then we stitched. We found that binding clips worked well to hold the edge in place. Miss K is still working on steering; but, she did enjoy picking out the thread, the stitch and then completing it!

Although, I learned that I needed to streamline the process because it took us a couple visits to make four cards and Valentines would have come and gone before we could have finished all the cards we wanted to make!

So, the next batch, we glued and talked about the stitching and then I did it!

I gave the designer credit.

Button eyes courtesy of J

This is a card J designed for her daddy.

Flower for Momma

K was particular about this card. I cut several hearts before she had the "right" one to go on the card for her momma!

It took a long time to select the buttons!
Buttons and sparkly trims were favorite materials.

I wouldn't have thought of using the leftovers from the circle; but, both girls used the leftovers. I like what they did with the parts. How would they know to request a stitched line around the outer edge of the card? It sure added a lot!

I chuckled over the lime green card in the foreground. This is one piece of purple cording and one piece of orange Razzle Dazzle thread. I wouldn't have thought of not being concerned if the thread ran out. I liked how they dealt with the purple end. . .they just added it to a previous section.

Three cards ready for "words."

The blue yarn received a lot of discussion
The grands also had a sleep over so we had some extra time to make cards. I plan to make a few cards to have on hand. This project was sure a fun and different way to use thread, fabrics and trims!

Candy containers
Speaking of hearts, I made a couple candy containers. JoJo sent me the link and they were quick. The grands are going to have a blast finding them!

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you. May you have a sweet day!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Start--8 Month QAYG

Batik fabrics for the front
Since I finished "Winter Ice," I started a new project. (Starting new projects was number three on my yearly goal list!) This project runs for eight months, so it is sort of like a Block of the Month (BOM) project.

Only, it is a Quilt As You Go (QAYG) project that uses rulers for the quilting designs. QAYG is a method of quilting the blocks and then joining them together. The quilting process is easier because the quilter isn't dealing with cramming large layered sections through the harp of a domestic sewing machine!

I was disappointed with my efforts at using the set of artistic rulers on "Winter Ice." Before I threw in the towel on quilting with rulers, I decided I would take this class because perhaps, my problem was with my tools and how I used them!

Cotton fabrics for the back
I selected fabrics from my stash for the front  fabrics--the pink and green fabrics in the photo are batiks that have been on the shelf for many years!

I was making great progress shopping my stash for fabrics for the back. However, I was short of the green to cut all of the pieces so I 'had' to make a run to the local shop and pick up that purple! Ah. . .the sacrifices we make for our art! :) I purchased two yards because I will have a use for the leftovers in another project.

Fabric requirements for this project were six yards for the front and six yards for the back. Yes, some of the batiks and the yellow cotton fabric will be left at the end of the project. It is probable that these scraps will find their way in other projects later! But, the great news is that my initial outlay for the project was $14! This is a time when having stash fabrics was just the ticket!

Layered and ready for stitching
(I operate on the principal that anything in the stash longer than a year is "free!")

I prewashed all the fabrics and then ironed them. I prewash because I don't want a fabric bleeding into another! Batiks, especially dark and light ones seem to bleed the most! Just the other day I prewashed cream batiks, the amount of yellow and brown dye that was left behind in the sink was eye opening. I still am surprised when a light batik bleeds colors not in evidence on the fabric! Yes, bleeding still has happened; but, to a lesser degree than had I not prewashed!

I also pieced the batting from previous projects. I do this at the end of a project. Then when I want to make a bag, a placemat, I have ready to use batting. Using those batting scraps, is upcycling at its best! I've already purchased the batting so I might as well get the most use out of it!!

Grid design
I included a photo of all the parts layered and ready for the quilting directions. It was not fun to complete this part. Now that it is done, it will just be a matter of selecting the appropriate stack and quilting. For that part, I'm grateful. No searching for fabric and wondering if it will be okay and no cutting. I like that the decisions are made and now the project is all about the play!

This was the first block of four blocks  to quilt using a grid design.  The rulers are smaller than what I used to quilt "Winter Ice." They are easier for me to hold. The stable tape worked better as a grip to the block than the velcro strip that was on the other rulers. I liked the results of quilting this first block!

I did do a lot of turning the block as I found I had a more challenging time to move backward and side to side. I suppose with practice, I would improve.

Twist and turn design
The directions were to cut the fabrics larger than the actual block size. Trimming will happen once all the blocks are completed.

I used a 40wt purple polyester thread on the batik and a 50wt purple cotton thread on the cotton. I'll use this same thread for the entire project.

The second block of the four used the straight line ruler in a different way. I like the design and it was  fun to do.  I liked the spacer gauge that came with the set.  If I had had this gauge, I think some of my quilting on "Winter Ice," would have been better.

Curved design one
The third block used the curved edge of the ruler.  I was supposed to leave an open space between the curves; but, I was having too much fun to stop!

Curved design two
The fourth block used a different design with the curved ruler.  These blocks will finish to six inches. In a few weeks, I will get to work on the 16 inch blocks! I'm sharing the back so you get an idea of how the thread looks on the cotton fabrics.

I'm on track! It feels good and I will try to stay the course!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Super Fun Day--Post 3

One pear
Another pear
The all day Saturday Workshop classes were popular with the members too! Lynn C. taught "The Value of Curves" which provided participants a chance to use value to shade a pear and a chance to use her fusible appliqué technique.

Another pear

Lynn on right providing feedback
The fabrics both for the pear and the background varied which made it so wonderful to see all the different colorations. Every pear was beautiful!

Placing the design
Nancy taught "Needle Turn Appliqué" and for the second year in a row, her class was totally booked. I have since received three requests to offer the class again next year!

Appliqué with needle turn

Carol talking about a paper piecing step

Carol taught "Tea Time Placemats" which used a paper piecing technique of Judy Niemeyer's. She is working through the process to be a certified Judy Niemeyer instructor.

The beginning of the stitching
The first part of the day, participants cut their fabric sections. The last part of the day, they started piecing the sections.

Colleen's Lone Star Magic blocks
Colleen taught "Lone Star Magic" and she used scraps for her sample blocks.

I watched beautiful blocks being made! Colleen said these go together "easily" because there are no Y seams!

Half a block
Three quarters of a block!

Robbie and Lela sharing their totes!

Lela taught the "Fantastic Tote" class using 5 inch squares. At the end of the day, Robbie had a finished tote! She shared with me that she had purchased the squares she used for $2 at the fall stash bazaar!

Jean moving some chairs
 Registrations were a challenge because weather canceled two of our meetings of which one was able to be rescheduled.

Turnout for this event was good. About 100 members participated in the event. It was the first time that we had held the event at this church.

Yes, I was "in charge" of the event; but, I had a lot of help! It took seven of us about 45 minutes to set up the classrooms.  Ten of us took about 45 minutes to return all the classrooms to ready for church services. . .including vacuuming!

Jean's expression was indicative of the day. There were lots of smiles and camaraderie. Participants checked out other classrooms often and new friendships formed. The day was a total success!

I've been chair of the committee for two years so next year, someone else will be the chair. I'll be available to support their efforts any way that I can.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Super Fun Day--Post #2

Book Binding Class
The group, Project Linus served us lunch. It was a cold day and the menu was a baked  potato with toppings, a soft drink and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. The only compliant about lunch this year was that the potatoes were too large! (Last year, we had a salad bar and we ran out of most everything but lettuce.)

The afternoon classes of Saturday Workshops were a good mix of activities too. Debby taught a "Single Section Book Binding" class. How cool would it be to produce your own journal?

Needle holder class
Lynn S. taught the cutest wool needle holder class. She called the project, "Sweet Keep." She brought ribbons, wool thread, lots of wool pieces for cover choices. . .well, it was amazing! You can find her patterns here:

Some of supplies used

This photo gives you an idea of the scope of the "parts" for the project! Also, I loved the finger pincushion and wanted to share it with you!

Deciding on the layout
Donna and Geneva worked on a strip quilt in "Finish It Up" using a technique that they learned in a previous Saturday Workshop!

Advanced Panels class

Sue (standing the in photo) makes the most amazing quilts from panels. She agreed to share some tips about working with panels.

Travel container for blocks
Stephanie's participants made this portable block board and a roll up style of block board that could double as a design wall. Her roll up block carrier reminded me of a smaller version of a yoga mat. Her projects were so clever!

In the next and last post about Saturday Workshops, I'll share the all day classes!