Sunday, January 21, 2018

January Therapy

We arrived home from the midwest the first week in January and went into some serious funk.  December handled us badly on several fronts:  holiday frenzy, traveling, sewer crisis, four new tires, viruses and extreme temperatures below zero.  I couldn't sew when the house wouldn't get above 66º, but on warmer days I experienced what is meant by "quilting is therapy."  I closed myself up in my sewing room with an audiobook and the sewing machine, and just sewed.  The quilt is going well, but it was to a point where the end of the centerpiece motif was almost done.  The stitching was monotonous.  The bugs had been worked out.  The end was in sight and the sewing machine sang its lovely chorus.  This was what I needed to get my mind off the bigger worries and discomforts for a couple of hours each day.  It is amazing what a little sewing can do to rest your brain and restore your spirit.

It also helps to finally make progress on the quilt.  I have now pulled out most of the paper and am ready for the first border.  It is exciting to start a new phase of any quilt, but especially this one.  I reached this point once before and that is when I decided to start all over again from the beginning.  Soooooo glad that I did!  Putting the blocks all together was challenging as there were many points to match up.  However, with the precision of paper piecing most of them went together easily.

Below is a sneak peak of the main part of the quilt.  Borders, appliqué and quilting still ahead of me.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you some productive therapy sessions.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

More Fusing

I promised to continue sharing my fusing process for creating a dog in fabric so I will get right to it.  All the prep was explained last week (scroll down) so now we start the phase 2 step-wise tutorial.

Step 1:  Iron one of the freezer paper drawings to the ironing board.  I use a portable ironing surface,  18 x 24 inches, for this.  Cover the freezer paper with a silicone ironing sheet that you can see through and secure it with pins or clamps.  You will fuse all fabric pieces to the ironing sheet.

Portable ironing surface, freezer paper drawing, silicone pressing sheet.
Step 2:  Now you will use the other freezer paper drawing as your pattern.  Cut out one piece carefully.  You don't want to cut away wantonly and destroy the other pieces you have so carefully outlined.  I start from the outside and work from there.

Freezer paper drawing
Step 3:  Cut a piece of fusible just a little bigger than your little pattern piece.  I usually cut a rectangle because it is easier to manage than odd shapes.  Iron that fusible to the back of the fabric and cut it out.

Fusible fused to back of fabric.  Placement was determined
by the shading that I wanted.
TIP:  When cutting the fabric be sure to cut it close to the edge of the fusible.  You will be cutting the pattern piece with the right side up and won't be able to see where there is fusible on the back...or not.  If your pattern piece misses some of the fusible it won't fuse.  On the other hand, if you leave any fusible on the back of your fabric you may end up with an unanticipated mess next time you use that fabric.

TIP:  If you are using fusible encased between two pieces of paper you should pull one paper off so it will fuse to the fabric.  Leave the other paper in place for now.

Fused fabric carefully cut away from the rest of the fabric - 
wrong side with fusible up.
Step 4:  Turn the fabric right side up with fusible down, leaving the paper on the back.  Iron the freezer paper piece you cut earlier onto the fabric shiny side down and press it to the fabric.  Cut out the piece leaving a scant 1/16 inch around the outside of the pattern.  This way all the pieces will overlap just enough to hold the whole thing together as you progress.  The joy of this process is that you don't have to worry about the pattern being in reverse.  That drove me crazy when I was taught to do it that way.

Freezer paper pattern piece pressed to right side of fabric that
has fusible on the back.
Step 5:  You will be able to see through the silicone sheet to find where your newly cut piece belongs.  Peel off the paper from the back and the freezer paper pattern, set the fabric in place and iron it down.  Continue until you have created the critter.

TIP:  What if you decide you don't like a piece that you have already fused?  You can heat up that piece and carefully pull it off.  If there is any residue it will be covered by the new piece.  It you want to replace a piece that is already buried by the edges of other pieces, just cut your new piece and fuse it over the old one.  I save all my cut paper pattern pieces in a plastic bag.  Although a nuisance to find, you will have the original paper pattern piece to use again if needed, or retrace from the mylar version of the drawing.

The start of the dog still missing her nose!

Yes, there is some waste, but how many of you consistently avoid waste in quilting?  Unfortunately, it is inherent in the craft.  If I have any sizable pieces of fused fabric I save them for smaller pattern pieces, but there aren't very many nor are they very big.  My method avoids preparing large amounts of fabric ahead of time so less waste.

TIP:  You can find a use for much of your waste.  I save unfused scraps in a trash bag to donate for dog or cat beds.

I have completed the dog and am working on the background by cutting pieces and slipping them under the edge of the dog.  Another way would be to pick up the fused, finished dog from the silicone in one piece (it will hang together if carefully fused) and iron it onto a background.

This project will be put aside for awhile as I return to the major quilt on which I have been working.  My paper piecing paper has arrived.  It is convenient to have the dog on a portable surface that I can set aside until I am ready to return to it.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a lot of sunshine from these winter skies.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Back to Fabric

I'm Home!!  We were in WI for a week and Christmas, and in MN for a week and New Year's Eve.  The family in MN were all virused up, daughter with pneumonia.  My husband brought his own personal virus from home and guess who avoided all of them.  How?  No clue, but I am not complaining about not getting sick!

I did not take my sewing machine because my quilt was in disarray with a nasty surprise.  I made a slight change in the pattern and somehow my block pattern on the computer grew bigger.  It took me a few tries to figure out why the new blocks didn't fit to the old blocks.  Probably pilot error, but the pilot has no idea how the error occurred.  That has now been remedied, but 12 blocks must be redone.   Now that I am home all is stitching up smoothly.  Then I ran out of paper to piece with, and am still waiting for it to arrive.

I did take a new project on our trip because I knew I would be spending a day with one daughter at her weekly Sew-In.  I am doing another dog and have to fuse all the fabric pieces before I need the sewing machine.  Those of you who have followed me for awhile read about creating a fabric rendition of a dog in the summer of 2016.  I had a lot of problems due to the materials used in the class I took.  Well, I am doing another dog, a different dog, and I have developed my own method.  Based on two classes I have taken I am combining techniques which I believe make it much easier and less confusing.  I will share and you can be the judge.

Lea McComas does beautiful, photorealistic paintings in fabric.  Her technique requires a lot of time drawing a pattern according to value and detailed labeling on each piece.  She avoids dark fabric under light fabric.  Her method is very precise and her fabric choices are the "real" colors of the photo from which she starts.  She does mostly people.  See her work here.  She fuses her pieces onto a background and thread paints heavily on her long-arm machine.

Barbara Yates Beasley specializes in animals.  Her animals look like the photo with which she starts, but her fabrics are abstract and fun.  A black dog may be done in blue or multiple colors.  Her method also requires a drawing based on value, but her labeling is less intense.  She teaches you to use double paper fusible, trace the pattern piece in reverse on the back paper.  This had me standing on my head and making many mistakes. She quilts moderately, not thread painting, on her domestic machine.  You can see her work here.

Now for my method. Here is how to prepare a photo to turn it into fabric art.

Step 1: Create a black and white photocopy of the animal photo.  This is to show the values from lightest to darkest.  You can do anything with color, but must have the values right or the creature won't look right.  In a photo editing program you can posterize it to separate 4-5 values.  I don't think I did that with this photo because the dog is pretty much black and white already and the values are clear.

Step 2:  Blow up the black and white photo to the finished size.  I taped together a magnified version, but you can take it to a professional printer to do the job too.  Print an 8 x 10 color version to remind you of color variations.  This dog has a little tan on her so I find the color version a big help.
Lady the Collie (we lost her in 2013)
Step 3:  Fasten the full-size black and white picture to a foam core board with masking tape or office clamps.  Overlay that with a piece of clear mylar.  Using a fine, black Sharpie pen draw around the different values and label each one with a number to define the value.  #1 = lightest to #5 = darkest.  If you make a mistake you can erase with rubbing alcohol on a paper towel or Q-tip.  Redo when dry (quick).  When the drawing is complete remove the photo.

Pattern for fabric pieces (12" x 16").
Step 4:  Secure the mylar drawing to the white side of the foam core board.  Cut two pieces of freezer paper a little larger than the drawing.  Dry iron it shiny side down, pull it up and iron again. This shrinks the paper.  Secure one piece of this freezer paper over the mylar drawing and trace it with the Sharpie.  You can easily see the lines and numbers through the paper.

Step 5:  Repeat with the other piece of freezer paper.  You can trace this one with either pen or pencil.  You will be cutting it apart.  I know this is a lot of tracing, but it goes pretty fast.

(Stay tuned for the next steps next week)

Now you are ready to gather some fabric.  By all means check your stash.  All your pieces are going to be smallish so you can use up odds and ends.  It works nicely to add some extra color with prints.  For my black dog I threw in a few blue pieces and some black and brown prints.  They add sparkle.  A couple of inches of shiny, dark gold was more than enough to add a glow to brown eyes.  White-on-whites are great for white fur.  For a white dog, light blue can be used for shadow.

You also need fusible material.  My choice is Soft Fuse (I buy it by the roll), which has paper on only one side.  Beasley uses Steam-a-Seam II, paper on both sides, but that gummed up my machine and made a mess when I went to do the quilting.  That may be a function of my own machine, but I will not use it again.  Maybe your machine will handle it.  No clue.

Work on the prep this week and I will lead you through the rest of the process next week.

Sew or fuse some happy seams this week.  I wish you fun time preparing to quilt an animal.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Resize a Sweatshirt

I will not be blogging until January.  We all need a break!  I will be enjoying the Christmas festivities with two of my daughters and their families...and their dogs.

I have only one sewing project that I hope to get done.  I got a really pretty sweatshirt for Christmas last year.  As soon as I tried it on I knew it was a little too small.  I like my sweatshirts roomy enough to wear a long sleeved T-shirt underneath on cold winter days.  After one round with the washing machine I knew I could not wear it.  What to do?  I really like the sweatshsirt.  My daughter had the answer because she solved the same problem with a fleece jacket she had purchased.

First stop:  Joanne's where I picked up a yard of heavy, cotton knit in a suitable color.

TIP:  Be sure to check which way has the most stretch so it works with the sweatshirt.  One direction is more stretchy than the other.  Same with fleece.  Make your cuts thoughtfully.

My plan is as follows:

1.  Cut away the underarm seam through the waist ribbing to 2 inches above the sleeve cuff leaving the cuff ribbing intact.

2.  Two to three inches above the cuff cut the sleeve all the way across its width and insert 1 inch of the new fabric, thus lengthening the sleeve by that inch.

3.  Insert a 2 inch strip of new fabric into the long underarm seam, tapering above the cuff.  This will increase the width around the sweatshirt to accommodate Christmas dinner and holiday baking.  There will be an interruption in the ribbing at the hipline, but for me that will be a plus.  If I don't like that part I may be able to find some ribbing that will work or taper the seam and restitch the ribbing seam.  Not that great an issue.  I'll wait to see how it works before making a final decision.

Sweatshirt and my canine supervisor, Dixie.
 Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to get your mending done.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Reading or Sewing?

I love my sewing magazines.  They are a source of information, ideas and colorful pictures of other peoples' art.  I get three that lean mostly toward art quilting where I get to see what the supremely talented sewers are creating.  They are my creative stimulation.  I also get some other magazines that provide intellectual stimulation. "Archeology" has many designs from ancient cultures as will as great articles about them.  Mosaics are just quilts in stone.   Love them all.

Unfortunately I don't have room to store them and I have found that when I keep the whole magazine I never know where to find the article for which I am looking.  Sometimes I read a magazine and keep it for two or three months, then go through it again.  Ultimately they are all destined for the recycling bin, but not before I cannibalize them, pulling out articles that I believe I will at least look at again.  I staple an article together in one corner and slip it into a plastic sleeve that goes into a three ring binder.  They are readily available when I am in need of instruction or inspiration.

I also keep a library of books, but rarely buy a new one.  I try to read through a potentially helpful or interesting-sounding book from the library before I buy it.  I have been very glad I did on several occasions when the title was tempting, but the contents did not live up its promise.  Actually, I have donated quite a few of mine to the local library for their book sale.  Some techniques no longer interest me or have gone out of date with the arrival of new methods and tools.

TIP:  There is no point cluttering up your space with things you never use anymore, especially when you work in limited space.

What did we do without the Internet?  There is so much out there to admire and learn.  I have paid for a few Craftsy classes and am not averse to viewing some of the many YouTube productions.  I have learned a lot, incorporated some and discarded others.

A favorite, which I have watched often without cluttering up my sewing room.
So, which do you prefer:  sewing or reading?  For me it is no contest.  I love to read for pleasure and education.  I love to sew just about anything.  I learned to do both in first grade.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the opportunity to read about something new to you.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Walking on the beach, almost dumped by a wave, seeing dear relatives, eating an awesome Thanksgiving dinner, seeing grandkids, hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, driving across the Mojave Nat'l Preserve, 300 miles of gridlock north of Las Vegas, enjoying the red rock canyon of Moab, returning home to our Dixie dog and the mountains (even if they are hiding in the fog). Wonderful memories and lots of pictures.

Joshua trees - a variety of yucca!
Piles of eroded rock in Joshua Tree National Park.
Monumental hunk of red rock.

Colorado River and the red cliffs of Moab, UT.
I haven't gotten back to sewing yet, but will tomorrow.  DH ran over to our storage and brought home a styrofoam board to put behind my design wall, which is currently the backside of a tablecloth. I decided I would like to be able to put my paper-pieced blocks up by sticking a pin through them.  They won't stick to the flannel with paper on the back.  With styrofoam in back I will have the best of both worlds.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to energize in the midst of the coming holiday chaos.

Monday, November 20, 2017


Best wishes to all for a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

Eat heartily and enjoy your family and friends.

Have fun!

Sew some happy seams this week if you have time.  I wish you a time of fellowship, love and gratitude.

Monday, November 13, 2017


Is there really a word or concept such as "cross-learning?"  I don't know, but sometimes I get creative with words as well as fabric.  What I mean is that you may learn a new technique and then decide that it is not for you.  When you move on to a new project you suddenly realize that something you learned in the discarded technique will be helpful now.

The quilt I am re-working has lots of seams and points that require matching and/or aligning.  This is tedious and often requires post-stitching adjustments, which are a nuisance, so I made a proactive, minor adjustment.  Below is the original pattern:

Six points to bring together perfectly.  Urggggggh!
Notice that six points come together in the center.  This can be a challenge, and with the high contrast any displacement will be noticeable to the eagle eye of a judge.  I changed the the pattern so that the larger triangles on top are combined and cut as one big one.  The two bottom parts are stitched together and the single, big triangle is added last.
One single triangle.  Now to put it onto the bottom pieces.
This is where my experience with paperless paper piecing comes in.  I folded the seam allowance over heat resistant plastic, painted starch on the fold and then ironed.  This provides a straight, crisp fold.  In the photo below it doesn't look very straight because the heat-resistant plastic warps a bit up and down, but the edge actually remains straight.  I had to stick pins through the plastic to hold it steady as I couldn't manage to hold it, turn the seam allowance and paint all at the same time with acceptable results.  I only have two hands!

TIP:  Try cork board under your ironing board cover.  This is where it is extremely useful.

Folding the seam allowance.
Next I laid the triangle right side up on the lower part of the block (also right side up), aligned the crisp fold carefully so no points had cut-off tips.  Then I squeezed a little clear Elmer's glue in the seam allowance and pressed.

Pinned in place ready to glue and press.
After pressing I opened up the big triangle and stitched along the seaming crease.  Perfect every time!  This saved time, curse words, hair pulling and un-stitching.  The crease you see in the triangle from tip to bottom assisted in matching the center of the triangle to the center seam of bottom piece.

Creases help in the attempt of achieving perfection.
TIP:  I had to stitch in the crease over several layers of fabric in some places.  I found that a stylus helped me to stay in the ditch of the crease as well as kept the seam allowance from rumpling up under the needle.

TIP:  I know I sound a bit OC (obsessive-compulsive).  I'm not, but I make every quilt as though it is going to be shown.  If you are interested in showing a quilt and maybe winning a prize you must start at the very beginning by being as fussy as possible, and that means perfect points.

Stitching all done:

All it needs now is to have the edges trimmed.
This is a perfect example of a part of a discarded technique being used to good advantage elsewhere.  It is amazing how the little things you learn along the way can help solve future problems.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the opportunity to combine techniques for a satisfying outcome.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Stitching Away

Progress on the second incarnation of my quilt is going beautifully.  Happy dance!!  I took time to figure out how many of each kind of block I need.  There are three end pieces on the pattern that are different colors so every block is not quite the same.  Having a plan to do a bunch that are the same is speeding up the process.  Chain stitching with paper piecing does not work for me, but doing several  blocks that are alike helps in the efficiency department.  Today there are no problems to address and no photos of any interest.

I mentioned a while back that I make birthday and graduation cards for my grandchildren with photos of them.  I use Photoshop to create collages.  Reports are that the kids love them so that is gratifying.  One of my readers expressed interest in my cards so I will use today's blog to share some.  I know, they have nothing to do with sewing, but they have everything to do with creating.  I get antsy when I don't have anything creative going on.  The cards are each printed on half of an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of card stock and are folded in half.  Below you can see the front and back.  On the other side of the paper (the inside of the card not shown here) are a couple more photos and a personal note.

Sew some happy seams today.  I wish you time to spend with your family.