Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

If there’s one thing I’ve figured out over my sewing ventures, it’s that I can’t ever be sure what kind of sewing experience I’m getting into when I sit down to work on a project. It could be an hour or so that goes as smoothly as sewing can go. On the other hand, it could be a terror of a sewing session where my thread keeps bunching up, and I have to wrestle it back into submission more times than I want to.

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

But whether or not today’s a day that I’ll sit down to sew and have those problems, I expect that those problems will happen in the future if I continue to sew. And, as much as I wish someone would’ve personally told me more about a budget and a probable no-positive-income when publishing my first book (talk about un-fun surprises!), I think it’s beneficial to step into the sewing world with open eyes as well. Odds are, you’re going to make mistakes, and those mistakes aren’t the best of reasons to throw in the fabric! Just like a new driver, a new sewer can expect to have to learn the skill.

It happens to the best of us…

Want to know something else? Even people with miles behind them in the sewing department can still make mistakes! The point is to be aware that they’re going to happen so that maybe, should you make one, you don’t feel like tossing your fabric to the side and trashing your sewing kit!

And that, readers, is the logic behind this post — to point out simple mistakes you might make, but shouldn’t beat yourself up over! They happen, and instead of letting them get you too far down, remember you’re hardly the only person to make one. Since others potentially make these same errors and keep going, use that for encouragement to continue on as well!

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

Let me count the ways

With that positive thought in place, here are some of the smaller, more embarrassing sewing mistakes you might make, but should push through:

1) Accidentally sewing your fabric to something you didn’t mean to. There are few things I’ve personally encountered in sewing that can make you feel as amateurish as figuring out you’ve sewn your project to itself in a spot you didn’t intend to (as in, your fabric was folded under itself where it shouldn’t be), or if you’re hand-sewing, that you’ve sewn your project to, say, your own clothes. But as daft as you might feel if you notice that has happened, just — as Taylor Swift might say — shake it off! Sure, you might have to redo your stitching, but it isn’t the end of the world!

2) Sewing without knowing your bobbin is out of thread. This one is particularly troublesome since you could feasibly sew for a lot of minutes on your machine without realizing the mistake. However long you invest in that flawed sewing endeavor is kind of wasted time since there’s no thread coming from the bottom to finish your stitch. So, moral of the story: Check your bobbin before you sew by machine!

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

3) Threading your needle without really threading your needle. For a sewing machine project, there are a number of steps to threading your needle, and you might miss one. As humiliating as that error might be though, it’s nowhere near as ridiculous as doing this while hand sewing. I, for one, recall thinking I’d threaded my needle, and at some point, I realized that although I’d tied it off and such, the thread actually was not through the needle. Now, that is embarrassing!

4) Cutting material you didn’t intend to cut. This could be in line with the earlier idea of sewing something you didn’t mean to sew in that while you’re cutting fabric, something else could be under it. If you do have this issue, depending on how important the now-damaged material is to you, it could be a big deal! Beyond the possibility of forever ruining Great-Grandma Trudy’s sewn-by-hand quilt that has been in your family for over a century (try replacing that one!), you could also harm your current project by cutting your fabric where you don’t need to or cutting a stitch that’s necessary to your work. This is something, in particular, to keep in mind when making a rag quilt since part of the process is to shred your edges. It would be crazy-easy to shred too far and snap a stitch or two, but imagine the pain of having to re-stitch an up-turned quilt block that’s already sewn to other quilt blocks!

Five Easy-to-Do Mistakes While Sewing

5) Thinking up strategies or tackling projects that you’re not ready for. For this one, I’ll give you an example. I didn’t know anything about using a border on a quilt/blanket project, and once I’d learned about it, I labeled it a waste of time and/or not for me. To my way of thinking — and for my past strategy — simply bending the fabric used for a backing to fold over against the front would work. And, yeah, it might… If I were a better sewer! At this point, I’m not advanced enough to comfortably pull this strategy off so that the sides are one-size at all points. So, don’t be like me! Start simple and with the recommended strategies, and work your way up from there!

Even if you manage to do all of these mistakes in one sitting, don’t give up! If you can keep that determination in mind, you might have a bright sewing future ahead of you!

Basting Your Quilt: Sprays and Pins

Basting Your Quilt: Sprays and Pins

Last week’s post was on batting, but as I freely admitted within that post, there’s more to finishing up a quilt than deciding on that detail. As the time approaches to dive into those final stages for this quilt, I’d say it’s a logical decision to explore those other topics.

Basting Your Quilt: Sprays and Pins

This week’s subject of interest: basting.

Coming off of the holidays, it might be easy to think of basting a turkey, but baking isn’t the only realm that has a form of basting! For quilting, this is the stage where you’re preparing to sew your quilt sandwich together. All of the layers are ready to be connected, and basting allows you to make sure those layers are level and even for sewing. You smooth them out, line them up, and do something to make sure they stay in line as you join the layers together through whatever method you choose.

It’s a simple idea, but there’s more than one way to keep those layers in line. For this particular post, two of those possibilities are the focus as I weigh the pros and cons of each to decide which option to use for my quilt. Those possibilities are straight pins and spray basting.

Straight pins:

I would think that straight pins would be the more recognizable and common of the two approaches. In fact, according to one source, straights pins (in some form) date all the way back to Ancient Egypt.

Straight pins are the more recognizable & common of the two approaches.

Straight pins are the more recognizable & common of the two approaches.

The benefits:

1) They’re financially friendly! You can pick up a pack of these for a small amount of money, which is wonderful for me since I am, like I’ve mentioned before, cheap.

2) They’re reusable! Unless you damage or lose the straight pin, you can pull it from the fabric when you no longer need it for a project, then you use it again and again for endeavors to come. So long as it’s in good shape, it doesn’t need to be replaced.

3) They’re common! Because of this trait, they’re easy to find at a store, meaning you might not have to go too far out of your way to pick up a set.

4) They’re easy to store! They’re small, after all, so you can keep them comfortably in your sewing kit.

Problems:

1) They’re easy to lose! I don’t know how many times I’ve spotted straight pins that have fallen around my sewing area when I’m finished working on a project for the day. Not only is this bad because losing them can lead to replacing them, but these pins are sharp! Losing them could equal pain if you accidentally find one in a not-good way!

2) They’re sharp! Yes, I stated this in the last detail, but it’s worth noting as its own issue. Just like your needle can cause pain if you let it slip, straight pins can do some finger-damage. Using a thimble might help, but I guess I’m a rebel since I don’t usually use one!

3) Quality varies! This is something I learned from my own experience. I have two different sizes of straight pins, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the tiny ones are lacking in comparison to the others. They potentially fall out more easily than the larger ones, which could leave extra spaces of fabric that are unpinned and straight pins that are lost in my workspace. Neither of those things are necessarily good!

My two different sizes of straight pins.

My two different sizes of straight pins.

Spray Basting:

This is a method I haven’t tried, but I’ve done some research on it. I first became aware of it through a Craftsy.com class, and it intrigues/puzzles me. A spray that holds your quilt together? For some reason, that seems bizarre to me! Still, there are supporters for the spray basting method, so who am I to toss the possibility aside without considering it?

A spray that holds your quilt together.

A spray that holds your quilt together.

Benefits:

1) You won’t poke yourself with a straight pin! With how many times I’ve accidentally stabbed myself with a pin or needle, this is promising to me!

2) It’s less time consuming! You don’t have to go through the entire quilt to place pins all over it. You just have to even it out, spray sections at a time and smooth it back out. How easy is that?

3) The effect doesn’t seem to be permanent! Instead, it apparently washes out of your quilt, so its effects are temporary.

You just have to even it out, spray sections at a time and smooth it back out.

You just have to even it out, spray sections at a time and smooth it back out.

Problems:

1) It’s more expensive! A can of basting spray can cost more than a pack of straight pins. Remember how I’m cheap? Yeah…

2) It’s not reusable! Unlike pins, you can only use this product once. Sure, you might be able to space it out to use for more than one project, but once your can is empty, you have to replenish your supply (if you want to keep using this method).

3) It’s messy! As with any spray product, there’s no guarantee that you’ll never get said product on things surrounding what you intended to spray. For this reason, you might have to do some cleaning once you finish your basting.

4) It’s dangerous to your lungs! The fumes can be hazardous, so it’s recommended that you only use this method in a well-ventilated space — like outside.

For me, I’m torn between wanting to dive into the ease of spray basting, but I can’t see myself being okay with hauling my quilt outside to spray it down. Sure, I might be able to find a suitable place indoors. I might even decide that working outside isn’t a big deal. For now though, I think the fume concern is significant enough to keep me unintentionally jabbing myself with straight pins! That’s not to say the day won’t come when I leap into the world of spray basting. It’s just a current decision to keep things a bit more tried, true, and non-toxic!

Choosing the Right Batting

Choosing the Right Batting

I have definite plans and goals for the new year, and not just the ones that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I want to take another class. I want take better care of myself. I want to read more. But one thing that I want to do under the sewing umbrella is to finish up the quilt I’ve been working on for a while now. That goal happens to come in steps. Firstly, I need to finish with the patchwork design I have going on (the goal is to have twelve rows of patches) to get this top layer ready for the next two.

The quilt I’ve been working on for a while now.

The quilt I’ve been working on for a while now.

That step, though it’ll take time, is pretty cut and dry. I plan, I pin and I sew.

The steps that follow are the ones that merit consideration beyond those general details — like how I plan to join my quilt sandwich. Do I stitch? Do I tie? Do I spray? Decisions! (Details can be found here).

Hungry? Have a sandwich

Quilt sandwich.

The more immediate topic to debate is what kind of batting I’m going to use for the middle of my quilt sandwich. This will be, by the way, the first time I’ve used batting since I only recently realized that quilts do, in fact, need three layers to fit the official definition, thus the term “quilt sandwich.” Before, I just used the backing and the front, but I want to be more by-the-books for this one! Given that I have little to no experience with batting though, it seemed reasonable to do a bit of research on the matter so that I could make the best decision for me.

Research, I did, and I’ve come to a potential fabric for the job: Cotton.

The fabric of our lives

There are plenty of batting types to choose from.

There are plenty of batting types to choose from.

There are a number of reasons for this choice, and I urge anyone who is going to make a quilt to consider their own purposes and situations when choosing the right batting. While cotton might be a good choice for me, it might not be the best option for another person or another project. There are plenty of batting types to choose from — polyester, wool, blends — and to make the best decision, maybe spend some time looking into the pros and cons of each. You can find details about the possibilities here and here.

So with those other possibilities in mind, why did I choose cotton? There are a number of reasons. For one, it’s cheap. Yes, I know, cheaper isn’t always better, but for a learner on a budget, price can definitely be something worth considering! Remember that this is my first time adding batting, so it would be not-so-good to spend a bigger amount on a batting type just to mess the whole thing up! It’s also worth noting that this quilt will be for personal use, which leads into the reasoning that everything doesn’t have to be top-of-the-line quality like I might strive for if a company name was on the line. It’s for me, it’s my first experience with batting, and I think testing the waters on a smaller money scale is a good idea!

Synthetic but equal

Now, this might make you wonder why I didn’t go with polyester. Simple answer: Itchiness leads to polyester not always being my best friend! This is a personal decision, but the idea is something to keep in mind should you choose to make any kind of sewn product. If you have an allergy or a bad reaction to a certain fabric, keep that in mind so you can steer clear of it!

Choosing the Right Batting

There’s also the issue of loft, or how thick the batting is. Something like wool is high loft, meaning it’s very thick, so a quilt made with wool would be thicker. If you’re a person who gets cold all the time, wool might be your fabric for batting! For me, I want something with a lower loft so that the final product will be thinner. For one thing, I like the size that the first layer of my quilt will be, and I don’t want to shrink it too much by having it cover a thicker middle layer. For another thing, to me, higher loft looks more like a comforter, and I don’t want to go that route with this product.

Cotton is a better choice then, and it’s a fabric that I know is easy to work with on sewing projects. There’s no known itchy detail that I need to worry about, and I can feel comfortable knowing that I’m accustomed to it. I like cotton and — as weird as it might sound — I trust cotton. In addition, the recommended stitching distance for cotton is wider than other fabrics, giving more freedom in that respect.

And all of that, my readers, is a pleasant combination to deal with for my first dive into batting! How about you? Do you have a preferred batting option?

The Scraps of Christmas

The Scraps of Christmas

It’s officially Christmas week, guys! The day is just around the corner, and soon we’ll be heading into a less twinkle-lit world. Until then though, there’s still time to revel in the holiday for one more blog post! For this particular one, how about we go with a nice wrap-up idea?

You see, I’ve covered a tree skirt, ornaments, and homemade gifts, but if you chose to go all of those routes, you potentially would have collected a series of Christmas fabrics. Each project could have its own material, so there might be quite the variety. Another decent assumption would be that you didn’t have just enough material for all projects, so you could easily have scraps of Christmas fabric left over from your handmade-Christmas-extravaganza.

The Scraps of Christmas

Sure, you could stash it away for future use, but if you keep every scrap of material you ever come across, you’re treading on fabric-hoarder territory! There’s nothing wrong with keeping the pieces that would reasonably be user-friendly in the future, but I’m talking about the small bits that won’t be much use without other smaller parts to make something happen, or for a small enough project.

So, maybe this post will help keep that fabric stash a little smaller and farther from hoarder territory by answering one simple question: What projects can you do with those small parts of leftover Christmas fabric?

Answer: Plenty, and I plan to take you through a number of those options!

Possibility #1: Make a banner

This is such a simple option, but it can add a classy touch to your Christmas decorations. All you need to do is pick a shape for your fabric, cut the scraps in that shape, make sure those hems are smooth, and link them together—maybe with some ribbon or yarn. If you’re feeling particular, you can make sure that each of those shapes is two-sided by sewing two pieces together—maybe spice things up by using more than one fabric for the cause. With that method, you could have (as an example) a bell-shaped addition to your banner that has Rudolph on one side and Frosty on the other! If you’re good at embroidery, use enough shapes to embroider a message across. You could even do this laundry-line idea if you had the right fabric! The options on this idea alone are numerous!

The options on this idea alone are numerous!

The options on this idea alone are numerous!

Possibility #2: Make fabric garland

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn. I mean, sure, you could add gems and such, but the draping quality of the fabric is kind of its distinctive factor, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the Merry Christmas message! Still, this is a simple, elegant idea that could add a touch of holiday cheer to your house by hanging from your mantel. And, as is the main idea of the post, it’s a great way to use that extra Christmas fabric you might have once you finish your holiday sewing projects!

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn.

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn.

Possibility #3: Make a Christmas tote

While you might not have enough material to make the entire tote in one style (then again, maybe you will!), you could create a patchwork look for a homemade Christmas tote! You can find patterns for totes here, and Sewing Machines Plus offers free patterns for bags as well. Can you imagine a patched-up Christmas tote in this design! I would definitely carry one of those!

I would definitely carry one of those!

I would definitely carry one of those!

Possibility #4: Make fabric bookmarks

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it? In fact, this could be a thing you do next year — give out holiday classics with hand-sewn bookmarks in Christmas fabrics! These projects are small, and who knows how many you could make in one day? And they require little fabric, which is the theme of this post! Whether it’s to hold your place for your own holiday reading or for small gift-gestures to let someone know you’re thinking of them, these creations could bring a festive touch to a book-and-hot-chocolate December time!

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it?

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it?

Possibility #5: Make a keychain

Since childhood, I’ve had an interest in keychains. I don’t know why, but it’s true just the same. So, why not take a bit of that excess material and make a one-of-a-kind keychain? Keyrings don’t have to be expensive, and it’s possible that everything else you’d need you could find around your house—maybe even down to buttons like what you see in the picture. Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric! You can find this possibility (and #5) here!

Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric!

Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric!

So, the moral of the story is that you don’t have to be a Christmas-fabric hoarder after your holiday sewing! There are plenty of avenues to expend some of that scrap material!

The Art of Christmas Ornaments

The Art of Christmas Ornaments

We’re getting closer to that Christmas mark! I actually have a Netflix Christmas movie playing while I write out this post, so clearly I’m in holiday mode! Now, if I only had some hot chocolate…

As has been the case with my last couple of posts, I’m sticking to the holiday theme for this week as well. This is an easy thing to do, by the way, because there are so many options for Christmas projects that require a needle and thread. Honestly, a person could come up with months’ worth of topics just from this category!

So, with a variety of things to choose from, I’ve decided to focus on Christmas ornaments for this post. Obviously, you can go out to your local department store and buy ornaments — you can even shop online to find them — but there’s something satisfying about looking at a tree and knowing you made something that’s on there.

Let’s decorate!

And since this is a sewing blog, let’s focus on sewn ornaments, shall we? These are wonderful things to successfully complete for more than one reason. First, as I said, it’s satisfying to see something you crafted on the tree! They’re also potentially simple patterns, and you could finish a number of these in a small amount of time. That simplicity leads to plenty of ornaments for just a percentage of your day because the technique can be so basic! You cut the fabric pieces, you sew the fabric pieces, you tend to final/additional touches, and you attach ribbon/yard/etc. to hang it from the tree. Who can’t do that?!

Possibly the most fantastic element of this idea is that these ornaments can be so cheap to make. If you recall, I can be a frugal person, so I adore this detail! If you think about the process itself, you might see how wallet-friendly it can be. What do you need besides a needle, thread, fabric and ribbon (or yarn, etc.) to hang it from your tree? There might be additional details for each individual type of ornament, but you could easily pick something that’s limited enough in those additional supplies to be within your budget. And think about that fabric and ribbon. If you just have one yard of fabric and one roll of ribbon, consider how many three-inch ornaments you can make out of that!

Honestly, I can’t endorse this concept enough because it’s fantastic on so many sides. It’s easy enough for a beginner to try, it’s cheap enough for someone on a budget, and it’s sentimental enough to have personal meaning as it hangs from the tree. You can even make these ornaments more heartfelt by using material connected to someone close to you, like a child. One old outfit that your child has outgrown can be cut into a desired shape and design, like the Bugs Bunny ornament shown.

Bugs Bunny ornament.

Bugs Bunny ornament.

Fabric ornaments

While it might be too late this year to hand-sew a collection of ornaments, you could invest in some Christmas fabric and such this season to make some of these for next year’s festivities.

So what are some good ideas for sewn Christmas ornaments? There are plenty out there that you can find with a little Google time, but I’ll share some of my favorites that I found.

Fabric holly be for your tree.

Fabric holly be for your tree.

1. Holly: There simply aren’t words for how adorable I find this ornament, and it looks relatively simple — stitch, cut, sew, applique, stuff… This doesn’t look as complex as, say, making your own outfit, so it might be worth trying! Besides, how unique would fabric holly be for your tree?!

This one requires a bit of glue and folding, but look how pretty it is!

This one requires a bit of glue and folding, but look how pretty it is!

2. Snowflake: This one requires a bit of glue and folding, but look how pretty it is! I can even see adding some glitter and a bit of coloring to give it a two-tone look! Even if this one is a bit more tedious than some of the simpler options, the final product could be wonderful enough to make the effort worth it!

Candy canes themselves are kind of a Christmas classic, so why not have some homemade ones hanging on your tree?

Candy canes themselves are kind of a Christmas classic, so why not have some homemade ones hanging on your tree?

3. Candy canes: Candy canes themselves are kind of a Christmas classic, so why not have some homemade ones hanging on your tree? And if you wanted to branch out from the standard look of a standard candy cane, you could use more general Christmas fabric — like material covered in poinsettias or bells to cut in candy-cane shapes. The options are so vast, and the technique is very simple!

These are just a few possibilities, but there are plenty more on this site alone! You can tailor them to your wants and work on them at your convenience, so why not give it a try?

Tree Skirts and Fabric Blocks

Tree Skirts and Fabric Blocks

I’ve had planned indoor picnics with my nieces for the sake of Valentine’s Day and Halloween.

I’ve had planned indoor picnics with my nieces for the sake of Valentine’s Day and Halloween.

Christmas is even closer than it was when my last blog about homemade, sewn gifts was posted, so it seems fitting to keep with the holiday vibe! Whether or not I mentioned this earlier, I’m a fan of holidays to the point that I’ve had planned indoor picnics with my nieces for the sake of Valentine’s Day and Halloween, so don’t be too surprised if you see a good number of holiday topics when the big ones roll around!

I’ve been browsing online to try and find an interesting Christmas project to check out, and I came across a concept that is really fitting this season: a tree skirt. You see, we have one, but we changed Christmas stockings this year. The new ones aren’t the best of matches to the old tree skirt, so we’re currently going tree-skirt-less for the sake of coordination. Basically, the idea of constructing a tree skirt is a logical notion for a Christmas project this year!

Let’s decorate!

I just use pieces of material one piece per section.

I’ve come across more than one option including a fancy scalloped one that caught my eye, but being the patchwork girl that I am, I was more drawn to a patchwork-looking design. As easy as the overall pattern might seem to some, the idea of creating my own blocks with multiple patterns is a bit daunting to me. Usually, I just use pieces of material—one piece per section—and I don’t know that I’ve ever tried to piece together my own block. For that reason, it seems reasonable to do some research before potentially diving into the process. As I’ve said before, doing research can make a sewing process smoother, and should I try this, I want it to go smoothly!

And maybe certain readers are in the same boat with me on this one—interested in moving into elaborate blocks, but unskilled in the technique. If so, keep reading! I’m going to hand over some general ideas that I’ve found that could help with the process!

Where to start…

Tip #1: Press your material! This is a simple step, though one that can easily go overlooked. Even if you want to just jump into constructing your project, taking the time to level out the fabric you’ll use can help in making sure things line up as they should. So before you sew the first stitch, break out that iron!

Pressing is also something to keep in mind during the process when you sew fabric together. If you connect two blocks of fabric, press that seam! As you connect more material, your blocks will be less likely to have random bumps or puffy spots because the act of pressing as you go will ideally have smoothed out troublesome areas before additional pieces get locked in. That kind of consistency—no puffiness where it shouldn’t be—can create uniformity. You can even get pressing sprays to help solidify the effect!

Around the block

Tip #2: Learn the basics of block patterns! Are you planning a four patch product? Nine patch? It helps to think about those concepts before you start piecing your product so you can plan the design and get an idea of how you’re going to structure your work. This might be particularly true if you’re planning a five patch product since basic mathematics will let you know that such a pattern does not divide evenly by two! There’s a technique for each of these blocks, and being aware of those techniques can help you through the process. You can find out more about those pattern options here.

Crazy square block.

Crazy square block.

Once you get comfortable with the more traditional and beginner-friendly possibilities, maybe you can work your way into something less typical, like a “Crazy square block” of material.

Color theory

The color wheel.

The color wheel.

Tip #3: Get to know your color options! One site recommends the use of the color wheel, and I think this strategy might be a good one. While aesthetics might be subjective, decisions on color are still something to take seriously before you begin stitching. This, I think, could be particularly true when you’re creating your own block from a series of fabrics. Instead of just having 50 or so segments of color on one product—one per block—you could end up with various colors per block, which leads into a whole lot of color-consideration territory!

If you want to go with a cool tone, for instance, how easily could you do a nine patch product with different variations of color per block—one for greens, one for blues… That example is a perfect illustration of why knowing your colors could be so important. If you don’t know too many shades of cool colors, you might not have the background knowledge that would help you create the cool color, nine patch work. Basically, if you want a cohesive final product of multiple fabrics per block, think about those colors while you consider your fabrics!

Measure twice, cut once

Tip #4: Be exact with your measurements! This one might be a bit obvious—or really obvious—but it’s worth noting. Not only should you make sure your blocks are consistent in size for the best possibility of a final product, but you should make sure the individual sections of the block are measured accurately. Doing so could keep embarrassing things from happening—like running out of fabric in your squares before you get to the end of a block or having excess. Either mistake could lead to the overall product looking off because every block wouldn’t have the same mistakes. If you want uniformity throughout, measure!

Even if Christmas is too close for this concept to result in a 2016 tree skirt, this is still something I can keep in mind for next year. In fact, new goal!

~ Make a home-sewn tree skirt. ~

I wonder if 2017 – me will hate all of these goals I’m tossing her way? If so, maybe she can appreciate it if there’s a by-hand product decorating the bottom of the tree next year!

Homemade Gift Tips

Homemade Gift Tips

It’s the month of Christmas, guys! Are you anywhere near ready? I have some presents still to buy, but to be honest, I might start planning one Christmas before the current one is over. Love of holidays? Crazy organization? Awareness of a budget? Maybe one, two, or all three things—maybe even a few more!—but the bottom line is that a good chunk of my Christmas shopping is finished. Yay, me!

I’m not so naïve as to think that’s the case across the board though! In fact, someone might be thinking, “Yeah, I need to work on that shopping list…” while reading this post. If that’s the case, stick around! I have some tips coming up that you might find useful!

Make it personal

I bought a used record online for about $10 & I don’t if I’d ever seen my mom so happy opening a present.

I bought a used record online for about $10 & I don’t if I’d ever seen my mom so happy opening a present.

In my experience, gift-giving can go best when you really think about the person instead of how much you want to spend or how impressive other people might find the gift. Example: My mom had been saying for years that she wanted a certain record—yes, record!—and one year it occurred to me that buying her said record could be a good idea. Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Maybe I was caught up on the it-has-to-be-new concept for a Christmas present? I’m not sure. Long story short though, I bought a used record online for about $10, give or take, and I don’t know that I’d ever seen my mom so happy opening a present.

If you think outside of the box instead of putting a series of labels on what you’re supposed to buy, it opens a door to a category of gift that will be the focus of this post: homemade. Who says you can’t give someone something you made yourself? Sure, you might not have bought it in a store, but you took the time to craft it with your own hands! Not only can it be a beautiful gift, but there’s a sentimentality to it that might be harder to achieve from something store-bought.

Decisions, decisions…

Still, as with store-bought gifts, it pays to think about what you’ll craft instead of flippantly deciding on something. With that in mind, here are a few tips for any of you who want to change up some of your I-need-to-buy-a-present items to I-think-I’ll-make-something choices, specifically gifts that need a needle and thread to create:

  1. Know your recipient! This could be key no matter if it’s store-bought or homemade. If you have an idea of the recipient’s personality, you could find it easier to plan your gift. Your friend who loves rockabilly, for instance, might love a purse made from material with a 50’s theme! Is another friend’s kitchen decorated in sunflowers? Then maybe a table runner made with sunflower-based fabric could be an option! If you can tailor your gift for the person you plan to give it to, the level of appreciation that person has might seriously increase!
  2. Manage your time. This one might be something to keep in mind for next year since Christmas is so near! But if you decide that homemade gifts are the way to go, don’t underestimate the idea of pacing yourself! Working on a dozen gifts in three weeks might be hectic. Deciding in January that you want to do homemade gifts for that year’s Christmas though would let you space your work out over months—and trust me when I say that pacing yourself can be a WONDERFUL idea!
  3. Consider your budget. Just because it’s homemade doesn’t mean it won’t cost some money! Sure, there are cheaper homemade options than making curtains, quilts, or clothing, but I’m talking about sewing here! Once upon a time, I decided I was going to make my mom a homemade quilt, and I might have ended up spending more on the supplies than I would’ve spent on a store-bought item. But I had a certain fabric I wanted to use, and it required more panels than I thought it would… The bottom line is you shouldn’t assume homemade automatically equals cheap, so if you need to work within a budget, still consider that budget! Should you realize the supplies you need for your projects are going to run too high, tinker with your ideas. Is there a different fabric you can use that’s cheaper, but still a good option? Can you scale it back—maybe make a throw instead of a full-sized quilt? A beauty of crafting your own gifts is that you can make those kinds of calls because it’s your creation!
  4. Browse. You might not be window shopping, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for ideas online! Pinterest is a clear example of a place to find those ideas. In fact, I was inspired while writing this post, and you can now find my “Homemade Gift Ideas” board here! Even running a Google search can help you get the creative ball rolling by giving concepts that you can alter and tailor to your gift-giving wants. Though the overall idea might have come from someone else, the details—what fabric, what color, what size—can still come from you! You can find a series of sewn gift ideas here ! FYI, I love the cross-stitching lyrics one!

How about you, readers? Are you pro-homemade gift?

Quilt Museums and Goals

Quilt Museums and Goals

Once upon a time, I was a student tunneling through a graduate program in English and Creative Writing. Before you get too carried away thinking that I know all kinds of things about Chaucer and such, let me admit that there are plenty of literary classics that I haven’t read, and I only used one Shakespeare play (that I recall) during my time in the program. I did, however, write a detailed paper on Dr. Seuss. Because I’m awesome like that.

Quilt nation

Kentucky has a quilt museum.

Anyway, while I was working on that MA in English, I learned that Kentucky (my state) has a quilt museum. Weird place to discover this detail? Maybe! But I believe it was my professor who provided me that fact through a discussion board post. I guess I mentioned where I live, as well as quilting, and she was kind enough to inform me that a quilt museum is in my home state. I had no clue, but I did a bit of Google searching about it. What I discovered was that not only is there a quilt museum in Kentucky, but that quilt museums are things in more areas than just the bluegrass state. In fact, a person could find one in Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin…

So, I guess shame on me for assuming that quilting was such an unappreciated pastime? Who knew that there were places like this available where you can go and appreciate someone else’s craft? Okay, maybe you knew, but I didn’t! It was an interesting thing to discover, and it was a nice side-benefit to earning my MA! I got an education, and a piece of quilt-culture tossed my way!

This is intriguing not only because it provides me a possible place to visit to see a collection of quilts, but also because the existence of these places offers solid evidence for the argument that quilting is an art form. If someone claims it isn’t, you can come back with, “Really? They have museums for it.” That alone, I think, makes these museums worth knowing about!

No time like the present

Despite my appreciation of the possibility of going to a quilt museum though, I haven’t actually made it to one. Shame on me again? Maybe! But if you recall, I had this plan of having a list of goals for 2017, and it’s occurred to me that this failure to see a quilt museum can be something to correct during that year-long goal-reaching endeavor.

So, here you go — a new goal for the list, and that’s to see an exhibit at the quilt museum. In fact, I’ve taken the time narrow it down further to choose which exhibit I want to see. The final version of said goal, then, would read something like this:

Go to see the “Quilts of the Lakota” exhibit at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.

Go to see the “Quilts of the Lakota” exhibit at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.

This taps into my interest in quilts, and my interest in history (Did I mention I have my BA in History? If not, yeah, that appeals to me, too!), so it’s a wonderful combination for me. In addition, the exhibit is scheduled to happen between October 2017 and January 2018, so there’s plenty of time to pick a date for my own viewing! Should that happen, you might want to keep an eye out for pictures and a post from the event. You might find it interesting, and I might want to prove that I did, in truth, accomplish this goal!

Become a part of history

Other additional and awesome things about this museum, by the way, are that you can apply to have your own exhibit displayed there (a long-term goal?), and they offer workshops for quilting (another year-goal?). This little gem of a museum has been around for twenty-five years, and I was clueless!

And since I happen to live near Virginia, maybe I’ll make a trip over there as well to see that museum.

And since I happen to live near Virginia, maybe I’ll make a trip over there as well to see that museum.

And since I happen to live near Virginia, maybe I’ll make a trip over there as well to see that museum. They have a “Treasures from the Vault: Crazy Quilts” going on right now that could’ve been fun to see and a “Treasures From the Vault: Wool for Winter” option that’s coming up next year. Maybe I can make this a decade-long goal of seeing every quilt museum in the country. It’s a bit more long-term than I was looking for, but how interesting could it be to see all of these museums? It could be fun, inspiring, encouraging…

They have a “Treasures from the Vault: Crazy Quilts” going on right now that could’ve been fun to see and a "Treasures From the Vault: Wool for Winter" option that’s coming up next year.

They have a “Treasures from the Vault: Crazy Quilts” going on right now that could’ve been fun to see and a “Treasures From the Vault: Wool for Winter” option that’s coming up next year.

It’s a possibility, but at least my one quilt-museum goal for 2017 is cemented 🙂

Have any of you ever checked out one of these museums? If so, details in the comments!

Recreation, Meet Sewing!

Recreation, Meet Sewing!

Ever get the feeling that you have 2,394,093,294,032 things to do, but you only have time for, like, 3?

Ever get the feeling that you have 2,394,093,294,032 things to do, but you only have time for, like, 3?

Ever get the feeling that you have 2,394,093,294,032 things to do, but you only have time for, like, 3? Yeah, that. Between work, family, and such, I feel like I just don’t have enough time in the day to tend to everything that requires attention. But I guess that’s being an adult, right?

It’s a real issue to find time for everything that’s a major priority on my plate, but that leaves less time for recreational things that aren’t so big of a priority. You know how long it’s been since I read a book? A while, let me tell you!

But at the end of the day, I’m a southern girl. I like front porches, fresh-picked blackberries and time that’s just for enjoying life. So even with a busy itinerary, I’m all for finding time to relax and do things I appreciate.

In order to have that time, it pays to find ways to mingle productive endeavors with enjoyable concepts to get the best of both worlds, and sewing happens to be a task that allows the kind of openness to let that happen. For one thing, even if I’m working on a business project, the overall process of sewing can already be soooo relaxing. No matter what’s going on around me, it’s a basic process that gives me a structured place to send my focus—straight pin here, needle there, and I’m doing something productive!

And the relaxation element can go beyond the general details of sewing itself, since I don’t have to just sew while I’m sewing. The task is so flexible that working in other recreational hobbies with it is fairly easy!

For me, I sew when I watch TV, which would let me catch up on my favorite TV shows (I’m caught up on none of my favorites!!!) while doing something productive. I say “would let” that happen, because until I get a HDMI cable, anything that I need to watch via computer just isn’t showing up on the flat screen in the living room! Still, TV and sewing can go hand-in-hand for me!

Food Network

Of course, there might be a drawback or two for this TV-sewing notion. For instance, those with louder-running machines might find that there’s too much noise to bother trying to hear the TV. But for those with a quieter machine, those who are hand-sewers, and those who are in various stages of sewing that are before or after the sewing machine comes into play, it’s an option! I might not even know what sewing machine I’ll have in the future, but I do know that I hand sew, and that any project I can think of involves those before and/or after stages in regard to a sewing machine. Basically, no matter the project or the noise level of a machine, sewing is one hobby that I can do while watching episodes of my preferred TV shows — like ones from my darling Food Network.

Cutting fabric, shredding material along the edges, plotting the pattern for a project… These are all things I can do away from a machine, and if I can do them without a machine, I can do them in front of a TV.

I do like sitting on the front porch with some lemonade & mountains like this around me for the visual.

I do like sitting on the front porch with some lemonade & mountains like this around me for the visual.

There are other options as well for the pause-and-enjoy life aspect that can still fit with working on projects away from a machine, and one that I haven’t tried — but might try in the future — is to sit on my front porch sewing, preparing, or plotting. As I said, I’m a Southern girl, and I do like a good-sized front porch! Sitting there with some lemonade and mountains like this around me for the visual? That’s a big yes, and a muse for that matter! Can you imagine plotting a new quilt with this kind of Autumn color scheme in mind? Talk about inspiration right before my eyes! I’m inspired just thinking about it!

I could also listen to audio books while sewing, or plot out a new project when sitting in a waiting room. Sewing truly is a hobby that can be tended to alongside other tasks, letting me do what needs to be done and what I want to do while moving those projects along. I like sewing, and this flexibility might be one of the main reasons!

I’m a TV sewer with an interest in sewing on my front porch, but as I mentioned, those aren’t the only possibilities for multitasking with sewing.

Do you have other activities you like to do while sewing or working on projects? Comment and let me know!

Tension from Scratch?

Tension from Scratch?

Baking is hard

One of the best pieces of advice my mom ever gave me in regard to baking was to buy a box of white cake mix and blend in whatever flavor of cake I wanted to make. It’s proven effective for banana cake and coconut cake, and I’m interested in trying an orange cake later on down the road. The problem with the strategy though is that I never really learned the more elaborate way to make those cakes, if you consider it a problem. I mean, the cakes taste fine, so what does it matter if Pillsbury was involved?

I find myself having a similar conundrum now that it’s potentially approaching the right time for me to buy a new sewing machine. Which, by the way, isn’t the easiest step for me. I’m a creature of habit and comfort, guys — to the point where making myself watch a new movie might be a challenge. So buying a new sewing machine? Not necessarily an experience I excitedly dive into!

Decisions, decisions.

It also doesn’t help matters that I can be a cheap frugal person, so my #1 criterion in the past might have been, “Which one is cheapest???” Well, now that I have different goals in mind for the sewing machine other than just a hobby, I’m thinking I might want to expand my ideas a bit to make a more complex decision. That decision though has led me into the Pillsbury version of a sewing problem — should I learn more from scratch, or rely on modern conveniences?+

Let me explain that reasoning!

The truth of the matter is that I’m nowhere near a sewing expert, and there are details about the process and machinery that still leave me metaphorically scratching my head. I’ve come some distance in the things that I did learn and have practiced with, but there’s still so much left to find out and excel at. One of those things — something that I haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet — is tension, which can be SUCH A BIG DEAL with sewing by machine. As one source said, “[n]o matter what stitch you are sewing, it will look terrible if the tension if off” (Lawson, 2011, “Tension” section).

That’s a hefty amount of pressure to put on any one specific aspect of a sewing machine. Basically, I could do everything else perfectly and still have a horrible final product because I missed the mark on the tension detail. I kid you not when I say that my experience and understanding of tension might be laughable to a number of more advanced sewing enthusiasts, so logically, finding a machine that can make that detail easier would be a good idea for me, like one that automatically adjusts the tension.

Or would it?

That question moves into the Pillsbury section of territory for the sewing concept. Should I get a machine that will automatically adjust it for me, like Pillsbury assists me with cakes? Is that the best strategy in the long-run?

The lazy part of my brain screams, “YES!” and can back up that idea with coconut and banana memories of simple, scrumptious treats. But the other part of my mind — the one that realizes technology has definitely eased up sewing (and baking) to the point that my grandmother would probably be disappointed — says, “Uh, no.”

Can you picture someone casually sewing on one of these now?

Can you picture someone casually sewing on one of these now?

Honestly, when I think about the history of sewing and how few tools used to be available for the process, it’s potentially hard not to be a tad bit ashamed if I lean too much on technology to do the work for me. Even after sewing machines became a thing, there were still real differences to what we now have.

The struggle is real

It’s just like the notion that my Pillsbury-based cakes lack a certain impressive quality in comparison to a tasty baked-from-scratch cake. Sure, they’re good, but they aren’t that level of remarkable.

It’s a struggle between wanting an easy route and wanting a more challenging route, and at this point, I’m not 100% sure which way the decision will go. I could buy a machine that does the tension for me, and I could end up with wonderful projects without ever fully getting a handle on how to do tension for different crafts. Or I could make things harder on me for the moment, then come away from the experience as a more advanced quilter/sewing enthusiast.

Should I Pillsbury-cheat, or go the distance? Decisions, decisions, guys!

What do you think? It is worth it to learn how to do these things by hand and my own skills, with limited technology, so I can have a better grasp on the issue? Or do you think it doesn’t matter so long as the end products are good?

References
Lawson, S. (2011, August 17). “Sewing Back-to-School: Stiches & Tension.” Sew Sweetness. (2016, November 10). Retrieved from http://sewsweetness.com/2011/08/sewing-back-to-school-stitches-tension.html