Monday, January 28, 2013

Flowered formal finish

Tada! This is the fabric for my youngest daughter's new formal. We found the silky fabric cheap at WalMart and thought what the heck. I love the high quality satins but it's fun to walk on the wild side. Not to mention there isn't an actual fabric store within 40 miles of home.

The pattern is by Simplicity. It's pleated down one side with one angled shoulder and one strap. I have made a couple dozen formals but none like this. It definitely challenged my patience. I can't really complain though, since I did manage to finish it in one day, LOL.

Silly me didn't get a pic of her IN the dress! I will try to snap one when she tries it on next. It fits great and hangs really nicely. She did ask me to add a kick pleat to the back, so she can make an actual stride and not just walk in tiny little steps. Back to the sewing machine!

Drawing the Goddess

I am attempting to participate in Leah's Day 'Express Your Love' Goddess quilt. It's a beautiful whole cloth art quilt. This is so new to me! I have done some machine quilting but simple stuff. Usually place mats or other projects. It is time to stretch my abilities. This is what I WANT to do - Learn new ways to create beautiful, useful projects.

I printed the pattern - 15 pages! Now how to transfer it to my fabric? I chose muslin as I want to embellish with color. I actually would love to do a couple of these quilts using different techniques with each. I could see the lines thru the fabric but it was tough. I traced over the lines with a black marker to make them darker and thicker. Amen! I could finally see them through the muslin.

I used colored fabric marking pencils to trace the pattern with a minor alteration on the Earth. My oldest daughter found a drawing with accurate continents and sized it pretty darn close to the Earth already on the Goddess pattern. She even leaned over the table and traced it for me on the muslin. I love this kid :)

This will be a great project that should occupy months of happily sewing along.

Time to stitch! Or not ...

My Goddess quilt is drawn! I got lucky and had enough batting left over from Christmas projects. It took me an hour and every straight pin I owned but I got her pinned to the batting and backing. I thought this was going to be smooth sailing. 


I pulled out what I believe will be my free motion quilting foot. I have not altered it yet, as Leah instructs in one of her classes on Craftsy. I'm winging it. I spent half an hour figuring out how to get the thing on my machine. Holy cow I felt dumb! 

I had my machine service this past summer and could not get the screw loosened to replace the lower shank part. I finally grabbed another presser foot and used the end as a screwdriver. Do not be like me! But I did get the regular shank off and after a good while, the new foot installed.

I went into my stitch settings and found I could not set my stitch length to -0-. Almost but not quite. I hand cranked the wheel slowly and the feed dogs didn't seem to be doing any advancing motion. Wheew! Now let's try to stitch something. 

Single layer of fabric was floating well under this foot. Argh! I need to go back to Leah's Free Motion Quilting a Sampler Quilt class on Craftsy to see how to alter and adapt this foot. In the meantime, I made a small quilt sandwich of scrap fabric and a small bit of scrap batting. 

This worked better. Until I got along an inch. Crack! The needle broke. I heard it hit the plate. 
Hhhmmm, ok I will change out the needle and try again. 
The screw holding the needle in was too tight for me to loosen by hand. My tiny screwdriver was not in my machine. Thief! The handy dandy presser foot would work though. I got the needle changed out and tried again. 

Crack! Another needle bit the dust. Now I was frustrated. 
I went over the steps in my head and examined my quilt sandwich closely. You can see the top thread tension was too tight. Surprisingly the bottom thread looked beautiful. As I pondered and tried to blame my needle, presser foot, machine, fabric, anything but me ... I realized it was completely a user error. Both times I bet.

I advanced pretty well for a beginner. While going straight. But then I moved my fabric sideways. And I am betting a million dollars that I was not stitching fast enough. I was maintaining a smooth, steady pace. A slow pace. I am guessing the needle was down in the fabric when I pulled to move sideways. I have one more needle but it is the wrong kind for this stitching. Proving my theory will have to wait until I can get more needles. So much for sewing happily along today : /

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Customizing a pattern

This is what I did with my sewing time today. Years ago, I got tired of cutting a pattern on whatever size line I needed, only to lose all the other sizes. There is no going back after you cut a tissue pattern. So I found a way to preserve my patterns and get a better custom fit to our garments. 

I had read about someone drawing patterns using the end of newspaper rolls that they got free from their local newspaper. The closest town to me with a newspaper sends their printing elsewhere. So I put my mind to finding an alternative. It took me a bit but I finally hit on exam table paper.

Yes, the kind they use at doctors offices!

I researched and bought a case from Staples for about $30. Now I have enough thin-ish white paper to last me a lifetime. Possibly several lifetimes. I'm still on my first roll. I probably use 4-6 ft per pattern. It is thicker than tissue, while still being thin enough to see through without a light table.

A huge benefit is being able to easily customize any pattern. If I need a mix of two sizes, I can simply trace the happy medium. Any changes or alterations can be drawn right on the exam paper. I am careful to label each piece with the pattern number, size and all other info. It's a system that works great for me. It keeps me happily sewing along.  


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rice bag tutorial

This is a project that I did for Christmas presents - I made rice bags to be used as a hot or cold pack. I love these little babies! We keep one in the freezer all the time, plus another on the shelf waiting to get heated in the microwave. Hot or cold, I got it covered. 

I chose some flannel to make snuggly cases, plus muslin to make the actual bag that holds the rice. Stick with cotton or wool fibers. You don't want man made fibers melting in the microwave! I was making a couple dozen bags as gifts, so I picked up the 25 pound box of parboiled rice from Sam's. It was clean and filled about 2 dozen bags.  

I wanted a bag big enough for an arm or leg boo boo but small enough to tuck on my creaky neck. I decided to divide a yard of muslin into 8 pieces, to make the finished bags about 8" by 11". You can make these any size to fit your needs. I folded the piece over to sew each side. Serged the seams to provide 2 layers of stitching in hopes of preventing rice from wiggling out. Then I stitched channels in the bag to hold the rice evenly, rather than one big lump. 

I filled the channels with rice about 2/3 of the way full. It was simple enough to use a funnel and small cup. I wanted enough rice to hold the heat or cold but not so much as to make the bag stiff. You want it flexible so you can wrap it around the curvature of your body. The open end got folded in and carefully stitched on my machine. I got lucky that I didn't drop one and spill rice everywhere, LOL. Tada! A finished bag. 


Some people stop here but living in the country, we sometimes get bloody boo boos. I wanted a 'pillow' case to add softness and an extra layer to smooth over any poky rice grains. Maybe you know more about velcro but I worried it would melt in the microwave, so I made simple overlapped bag cases. 

 The overlap meant I did not get as many cases from a yard of fabric as I got bags. I compensated by buying extra flannel. I managed to get 6 cases plus a leftover medium sized square from one yard. 

I serged the cut edge that would make the overlapped ends. It wasn't necessary but I love my serger! The overlapped opening was located close to one end, so that the rice bag didn't have to be folded in half and stuffed into the case. 

This project was super simple and whipped up in no time. I tucked the rice bags into their cases, then slipped them into big ziplock bags. We keep ours IN the ziplock when not being used. My theory is that the rice will draw mice and I despise vermin.

I have considered making a bigger, flatter rice bag to be heated and tucked into the foot of our beds during winter. You can also make a smallish bag to be kept chilled and used on puffy eyes. There are so many ways to customize these bags. They really are versatile. If you try this, be careful to only microwave for a minute or so. You don't want them too hot. My microwave can heat them for a minute and a half and still be comfortable. And unlike a heating pad, they won't get hotter and burn you. 

Happy sewing!! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My sewing corner and stash

I want to share my sewing 'handicap', LOL. It's where I sew. I actually feel blessed because just this past year, my husband encouraged me to buy a sewing cabinet. And it has been a HUGE blessing. I finally have a semi permanent place for my machines and to sew. The downside - it's in a small corner of my bedroom. 

I do not have big tables around me to hold a big quilt. I don't have a design wall. But I do have a little space just for my sewing. It's an incredible improvement over hauling my machine out of the closet to sew on our dining room table. Then having to haul it back before we could set the table and eat. 

The picture above is right before I closed shop for the day. I keep it semi closed when not sewing, so I can walk around our bed, LOL. I did say it was a small corner. While sewing, I move the serger to the left and put my sewing machine front and center. It does not fit down in the cut out area. I found my cabinet on Craigslist, used, for a great price. Hubby has said he will cut the hole bigger but hasn't had time yet. 

This is my main machine. I bought it used from a sewing shop in Oklahoma City. It is a Babylock Ellure. It does embroider, which I thought was amazing at the time but now I am less excited. It costs money to buy new designs. And all the different thread colors. Plus since my kids are growing up, embroidered clothes are not as cool. It still sews great, so I am a happy girl. 

This is my super handy dandy Brother Lock Serger 1034D. I bought it for about $200 on Amazon and I love the thing! All I do is serge seams with it so far but it has revolutionized my life. I have made purses and rice bags in addition to serging every clothing seam I can get my hands on. It took me a while to learn to thread it but it was worth the frustration. 

I did have an old Singer in a wood cabinet handed down to me from my grandmother in law but we lost it and my first Singer machine in a house fire. You don't realize how much you cherish simple tools until you are without them. My Babylock was not in my house at the time, thank goodness. I bought the Brother serger to take some of the load off of the Babylock.  

I also lost my fabric stash! I mourn it endlessly. I really got bit by the desire to quilt this past fall 2012. Money was earmarked for Christmas and other projects, so I have been patiently waiting to get past the holidays and start building a new stash. I have a small shoebox, half full of scraps from some garments I have made since the fire. But not enough! Can you tell I'm a little overly dramatic when it comes to fabric? 


This is my growing stash. I am planning in participating in a few quilt alongs this year, so I am rushing to find enough inexpensive fabric to create a quilt that is somewhat cohesive and pleasantly colored. I say inexpensive because the rising price of fabric over the past few years has really upset me. I miss fabric for $1 a yard. When I find sales, I stock up. In the meantime, I am still raising kids which is way more expensive than any other hobby. 

I wanted to get organized, so I stacked and listed what I have in my stash. Next will be sorting, matching and deciding which fabrics to use in which quilt along. So far, I have ...
27 yards of patterned cotton (1 yard pieces)
14 yards of solid color cotton (2 yard pieces)
1 yard of a unicorn fabric that I bought to fussy cut into charms maybe?
6 yards of horse patterned fabric (3 pieces - 1 yard and 2 of a yard and a half)
5 yard sized horse patterned panels to make wallhangings or add blocks to make a bigger quilt

Have you noticed my love of horses yet? I ran a horse rescue for several years, placing over 500 horses. I still have 7 rescue horses and 1 rescue donkey here on our almost-ranch. 

I have a great start on my fabric stash, though I noticed I need to add colors that are NOT blue toned. Another favorite of mine. They will all get used as I dive into the quilt alongs. I also have a new formal to sew for my youngest daughter. I'm sure we all juggle sewing projects. I'm delighted that she still wants me to make her a formal. Let's get sewing!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Here I am


Here I am. I have been sitting on this stitching blog idea for quite awhile. Quite honestly I was not sure I would find time to blog about my stitching adventures. I get busy sewing and forget to pause to take pictures. It's time you held me accountable. Be gentle with me ;)

I started sewing about age 12. My mother sewed some. My sister sewed here and there. My grandmother sewed a lot! She sewed clothes, curtains, quilts, whatever needed stitched, she bent her head to her work with a willing heart. There was nothing Grandma couldn't do. 

I was so very blessed to have her help when I sewed my wedding dress. Yes, I am that kind of crazy. I remember pausing with the scissors in my hand, pondering could I really cut such expensive lace? I cut it, sewed, then handed the bodice off to my grandmother and her sister to hand sew seed pearls and sequins. It was gorgeous!    

Sadly, my grandmother passed more than a dozen years ago, before I had time to learn to quilt. I have sewn a million outfits for my 4 children. I have made car seat covers, stroller covers, baby blankets, curtains, pillow cases and placemats. Now I want to sew 'big' quilts. Quilts to put on my king size bed. It's time for me to sew a legacy. 

Time for a quilting education! 
Join me on my journey as I sew happily along thru life. 

  This is a pic of a double rainbow after a lovely rainstorm in March 2012. It's the view from the south side of my house, looking north east over the dog yard and past the big red barn. I have a huge love for rainbows and the 7 colors of the rainbow. You will see it in my sewing.