Fabric Inspiration Autumn

Fabric Inspiration Autumn

September is almost over. I always say, “When the kids go back to school, it is almost Christmas!” Time just flies the last quarter of the year. Holiday planning starts now! It is time to design and find fabric for our holiday projects for our homes and thoughtful gifts for others during the last months of 2017.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. - Albert Camus

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
– Albert Camus

Personally, the earlier I order fabric for holiday projects, the more I enjoy doing them. Holiday sewing is a great way to show your creative side and the options are so many. Fond memories of handmade things are always fun. Someday all the decorations at my house will be hand made.

Fall brings cooler weather, sweaters, handmade comfy scarves and jackets and an occasional whiff of burning wood from neighboring houses (hopefully my own).

I love fall. I love warm, dark colors and a soft quilt or blanket to cuddle up in while watching those great football games. Especially if I can sit in the stadium! Cool weather and cinnamon colors beckons me to sew cozy things! How about you?

Today, I am offering inspiration for you to follow my passion for fabric. Its great news!! Trust me!

SewingMachinesPlus.com has begun providing fabric online and in their brick and mortar store in California. If you haven’t yet looked on their website, you need to!

Let’s get going!

First visit www.sewingmachinesplus.com & on the Search Bar at the top, enter “fabric”. You can also visit the fabric page here.

Since I enjoy shopping for sewing, my desire is to fly to California and visit this mega-store in person, to see their highly rated products and experience their friendly employees and customer service, but for now, I want to preview a few things with you that I really like! Hopefully, you will be inspired to place an order for sewing products for your stash or to get a head start on the season of giving!

The first fabric I saw, and promptly ordered was:

Stonehenge Gradations Chips – The color is Bright Iron Ore. A quality fabric made by Northcutt and has colorations like stone.

A beautiful package of (forty two) 10 x 10 inch precut squares in Browns, Golds, Cream and gradient neutral colors which look like different pieces of colored stone.

A beautiful package of (forty two) 10 x 10 inch precut squares in Browns, Golds, Cream and gradient neutral colors which look like different pieces of colored stone.

A beautiful package of (forty two) 10 x 10 inch precut squares in Browns, Golds, Cream and gradient neutral colors which look like different pieces of colored stone. This was a perfect choice for me as I have designed our new home in neutral browns, cream and beiges. This reminds of of swirling marble or granite and a harmonious accent to neutral décor.

I am thinking about a table runner or napkins for our dining room table right in time for autumn dinner guests or anytime of the year paired with the appropriate colors for that season.

Burgundy shades with the creams for late winter events.

Burgundy shades with the creams for late winter events.

Or pair with the same brand in Burgundy shades with the creams for late winter events. Drumroll! Picture please!

There are (forty two) five inch squares in this package. I suggest perhaps 2 or more packages depending on the size of the project. Look for the Brights- Amethyst and Lagoon Colors as well. Fabuloso!! Rich looking colors!

Precuts are done in different sizes by the manufacturer and sometimes the shop and work great in many applications. Since they are already cut, it helps considerably when putting together projects.

For a larger taste of these pre- cuts that can go together in perfect harmony, go ahead and visit the website. Take note of all the various cuts that are available in other fabric designs. Pick the ones you love! Ask the experts about yardage on the ones you really like (I have to ask that question myself). And then, comment on my blog and tell me what appeals to you. Make the project and send us a picture. We would love to see what you make!

I’m going full circle for a while. I have ordered the fabric, started designing and will hopefully share with you what turns out to be a great addition to my handmade collection! Dream, design, shop and create!

Having a creative life is: sew good!!

Speaking of tastes, I just received a call from my husband *who is upstairs organizing his man cave*. It’s the usual question at 5:00 p.m Friday night, i.e. what’s for dinner!

Take care dears. See you again soon!

The Paradox of Fabric Markers

The Paradox of Fabric Markers

I’m just a simple girl trying to navigate her way through the quilting world, and on this journey, things sometimes strike me as odd. I might find a blog post saying that information that seemed fairly cut-and-dry for me is way more complex than I thought, and recently, I’ve taken to looking into a topic that doesn’t comparatively seem to be the basis of very much discussion online.

I mean, people talk about it, but not to the level that I think the topic merits.

If you look up websites that give you information about using markers on fabric, you’ll probably see a whole lot of results that have to do with markers designed to trace patterns or cutting lines to give you a more polished finish. This is a topic that makes absolute sense because having the right marker in that scenario means you can effectively use it, then wash it out so that it’s not a permanent part of your design.Picture 1

What strikes me as odd, though, is that sometimes people would probably want their markings to show on their quilt.

Specifically, you would want a more permanent set of markings if you were drawing or coloring a picture right onto the fabric, and you meant that drawing to be the décor for the quilt.

Now, you might be thinking that this is a very cheap and amateur way of doing things, but let’s not forget that some people are fantastic artists with this kind of thing. If that weren’t the case, how many cartoons would we have missed out on over the years? And the bottom line is that if a part of your skillset is drawing, you should be able to add hand-drawn and hand-colored details to your quilt to let that skill shine through for something that goes beyond adding an iron-on design.Picture 2

Another benefit of bringing this element into the equation is how much sentimental value it can place on a quilt. If you’re grandmother not only sewed a quilt, but drew or colored the designs by hand, how much higher does that boost the personal value of that final product?Picture 3

In addition, this drawing your designs on fabric opens plenty of doors about what you can showcase on your quilt because all you need is for someone to be able to draw it. As your primary objects to display, those drawings can act as the stand-out qualities so that the actual fabrics and block placements can be basic. You don’t need special fabrics and tricks—just general fabric and a person with great drawing skills.Picture 5

One of the best things I’ve found that you can do with markers and materials though is to begin with a blank surface, and then hand over the markers to two or three children. I currently have curtains in my room that are the product of two of my nieces tackling the project with happiness and a package of Crayola fabric markers. Sure, the child-friendly nature of the markers has led to the images softening a bit, but you can still get a sense of the original artwork so long after the curtains were decorated by my nieces.Picture 4

As I said though, you don’t hear too much about marker possibilities that are built for staying on the fabric, so it’s a bit harder to come up with recommendations in regard to what markers you should use for what purpose. Currently, I can recommend those Crayola fabric markers because the designs are still visible on the curtains. When allowing children to do the decorating, that fuzziness of the image design over the passage of time is worth knowing that they’re using markers that are age-appropriate. I have a younger niece now, and you can bet I’m not handing her a permanent marker to fancy up material in the near future!

There are other types of markers out there—ones that are non-toxic, ones that are Sharpies, ones that are metallic… I’m fairly convinced that since so little was found in my search of fabric markers for this kind of project that I’ll be the one who explores different types of markers that work well and can last through their time spent in the washing machine. Whether for sentimental reasons or just because you love the design, once you put your marker to fabric for these projects, you sensibly won’t want your design going away bit by bit every time it needs to be washed!Picture 6

So to begin this journey through fabric markers, I would give the Crayola brand 3 out of 5 stars. As I said, they did their job to get the images on the curtains, and I can still see the images there. The markers were child-friendly, and that was definitely something that I wanted for that project. But since the images have faded somewhat over time, it’s hard to give them a 4 or 5 rating since it means that over time, I might lose all traces of the images—which wasn’t what I was going for!

I look forward to exploring the possibilities involved in this marker fiasco, determined to find one fabric marker that suits each of these purposes: Marking fabric with my nieces (must by kid-friendly) and taking on these drawing assignments alone (more lenient with regulations). Stick around while I sort through the options, one at a time!

Picture 2

The Basics Photo Quilts

Once again, we come to the point on this blog where it’s reasonable to look into a new quilt type. The reason for this specific interest for this post is because I happened to figure out that making a certain type of quilt is a lot less difficult than I expected. In fact, I’m toying with the option of making one of these for a Christmas present this year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s look at the quilt type I’m referring to, and then we’ll go into the ease and benefits of making one.

The type of quilt in question is a photo quilt, and it gets its name in the way you might expect—it includes photographs in its design. Now, you can order a printed throw like this through a store, but if you’re going to own or gift something that’s as sentimental as a series of personal photographs, it makes sense to add in that additional personal touch of sewing it yourself.Picture 1

Up until recently, I never realized how simple this prospect could be because I couldn’t grasp how printed photographs made their way to a quilt—unless, of course, you bought the quilt that way. As it turns out, the process is actually simple. You can treat it like a general patchwork quilt—so long as you have printable fabric at your fingertips.

With that one addition to your sewing supplies, you can browse through your pictures to find the perfect ones for your project.Picture 3

If you’re going to create a photo quilt for a wedding gift, for instance, concentrate on images of the right couple together. Once you find enough fitting photographs for the prospect, scan them if you only have print copies and get to printing on that fabric! From there, you’ll need to rinse it and iron it to keep the ink from ruining in the wash or bleeding where you don’t want it to go. You can find those details here.

You can pick and choose other fabrics that complement the theme and look of the images to build the rest of the quilt, and you can tend to the trimming and sizing of the photo blocks in the same manner that you would any other fabric style. Essentially, you’re doing nothing differently expect printing and preparing some of your fabric rather than purchasing all of the fabrics already printed.Picture 1

This is a simple prospect, but it’s a wonderful idea to add personalization to quilts for your own home, for a nursery, for a gift… The process shows care because you searched for the right pictures and because you took the time to piece everything together yourself rather than run to a store to have it printed for you. In a world so technologically advanced, this is one of the ways to use technology to bring a personal quality to something homemade.

Remember that the fabric you pair your photographs with can add value to your work in that they can carry out a particular theme that you’re going for. If you’re creating a graduation quilt (like in the link provided) and you want to showcase all of the graduate’s high school friends for a keepsake to take to collage, choosing fabrics that represent their school’s colors or mascot would be useful, as would ones that reflect typical graduation items—like caps or diplomas.Picture 1

For a Mother’s Day present, you could consider what your mom’s favorite colors and items are and use them for inspiration in regard to other fabric choices. If she adores light blue and lilac, pairing the photographs with those hues can add a level of care to the overall product since it’s another bit of evidence that you know the recipient well enough to pattern the design for them.

You could also use these for your own purposes as well, such as printing off photographs from your trip to Rome or Venice for a European-themed work that showcases the pictures you took during your stay. Even a moment that might seem trivial could be represented through one of these quilts, like the first time you baked with your children. Just take enough photographs to commemorate the experience, then pair your printed photographs with colors that reflect the baked goods you created together. It’s a big way to remember in detail such a small moment.Picture 1

Overall, I’m very much interested in trying my hand at this quilt type, and you can expect updates as I go through the process of trying to construct one. It’s so personal, and I look forward to testing the waters on the matter—especially to see how well the ink stays in place through my own personal experience.

Have any of you ever tried a photo quilt? Suggestions? Let me know!

Flat Patterning: Nothing to Fear

Flat Patterning: Nothing to Fear

I spent part of last week flat patterning a period vest and coat for a ten year old actor for a new Amazon series based on the book Dangerous Book For Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden.

Let’s get technical

Flat patterning is one of my most favorite things to do. It’s very mathematical & systematic.

Flat patterning is one of my most favorite things to do. It’s very mathematical & systematic.

Flat patterning is one of my most favorite things to do. It’s very mathematical and systematic. I find it strangely soothing. Many people are intimidated by flat patterning and don’t think it’s something they would ever be able to do themselves. But, the thing about flat patterning is, if you’re good at following directions, anyone can do it.

Have you ever seen the opening sequence for the movie Tailor of Panama? In it, you see a hand drawing in chalk on a piece of fabric. The hand presumably belongs to the tailor who appears to be free handing the outline of a suit jacket front. Now, that’s something you probably won’t be able to do until you’ve drafted some thousands of suit jacket fronts but, flat patterning onto a piece of brown paper by following the instructions in a flat patterning system book is something you can do.

Take a look – it’s in a book

Every person who starts out flat patterning is following someone else’s directions on how to do so.

Every person who starts out flat patterning is following someone else’s directions on how to do so.

Every person who starts out flat patterning is following someone else’s directions on how to do so. If you take a flat patterning class you’ll work from whatever book the instructor likes. A flat patterning book provides step by step instructions for drawing specific pieces of clothing – things like draw a line equal to back neck to waist and square off from both ends (a and b).

What this means is you need to know the measurement from the neck to the waist of the person you’re drafting for. You can also use standardized measurement charts (which is how commercial patterns are made). Most flat patterning books include such charts, or you can do a search online for them. The instructions for drawing the pattern will continue with the labeling of points by letters using measurements. Directions will say things like: connect e and f with a curved line or mark a point 3/8″ from g and square out.

The right pattern book for the right job

Each flat patterning will produce slightly different results as they are each based on a system developed by the author. Some systems factor in more ease than others, depending on what period the clothing is. For instance, a book on flat patterning a man’s suit jacket from the 1880s will produce a garment different than one written for patterning contemporary men’s suit jackets.

You can also use standardized measurement charts (which is how commercial patterns are made).

You can also use standardized measurement charts (which is how commercial patterns are made).

So, how do you know which book to work from? It honestly doesn’t matter all that much when you’re first starting out. But as you get more comfortable with it, you can try different books to see what end results you like better.

One of my most favorite patterning books is Dress Design: Draping and Flat Patterning Method by Hillhouse and Mansfield. The book, written in 1948, gives instructions for a variety of really cool 1940s dresses and suits. It’s not always useful if I’m making something that isn’t a 1940s garment but it’s a wonderful book to study and try out different techniques.

Some other excellent patterning books that are used often in colleges are Norma R. Hollin’s Pattern Making by the Flat Pattern Method and Designing Apparel through the Flat Pattern by Rolfo, Kopp, Gross, and Zelin.

I also like Metric Pattern Cutting books by Winifred Aldrich, though these do require being able to convert your measurements into the metric system. Some pattern makers believe that the metric system allows for increased accuracy when patterning.

Pattern Making by Tomoko Nakamichi is a creative non-traditional approach to patterning and gives instructions for unique geometric Japanese garments.

Tools

A few other tools that are handy to have when you’re flat patterning are a clear see-through ruler, a curved ruler, & an L-shaped ruler.

A few other tools that are handy to have when you’re flat patterning are a clear see-through ruler, a curved ruler, & an L-shaped ruler.

A few other tools that are handy to have when you’re flat patterning are a clear see-through ruler, a curved ruler, and an L-shaped ruler.

Most pattern makers use a regular old pencil to draft the initial pattern. If they need to go back and make corrections, they’ll often use a red or blue pencil so they’ll know which line is the new line. I, personally, am a fan of the red pencil for corrections as it’s easier to see than a blue one.

If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at flat patterning but didn’t know where to start now’s the time to get yourself a book and start learning! If you don’t want to purchase a book (some of them can be quite expensive), check out your local library. You can, also, of course find used pattern books on Ebay – just don’t get too caught up in auction frenzy and pay too much.

Happy patterning!

Strip Piecing for a Postage Stamp Quilt

Strip Piecing for a Postage Stamp Quilt

It seems the more I dig into the world of quilting, the more things I find that I never knew about it in the first place. The brand of creativity is like a well of opportunities, or a garden that you can browse until you find the right flower to plant in your yard. Each project and possibility is its own type of craft, and the quilter has to figure out which of them is intriguing enough to try a hand at.

This idea is essentially what I’m doing for this blog when I explore new quilt types. I look at new possibilities, and when one catches my interest, I dig deeper!

For this blog post, that’s exactly what I’ll do for what’s known as a postage stamp quilt.

Postage stamp quilt

A postage stamp quilt.

A postage stamp quilt.

If you’re wondering what a postage stamp quilt is, it’s actually not that complicated of a style to explain! Think of a roll of postage stamps waiting to be applied to envelopes, and you’ll have a good grasp on what they can look like. It’s one small block of fabric after another, like the patchwork quilt I invested time in, but with much smaller pieces. In fact, that seems to be the main difference in the top layer of a postage stamp quilt and one for a general patchwork quilt if they’re both basic block formats. For the stamp quilt, the blocks are smaller—potentially only a couple of inches!

When I was first introduced to this concept, I was a little intimidated. The reason for that intimidation was that I know by experience how much time can be spent assembling the outer layer of a larger-block quilt (something closer to ten inches), so the idea of putting together pieces that are this small felt overwhelming. Taking the process one piece at a time would require a long, long time for me, and the strategy would be so focused on such a smaller area that it would almost have to be tedious. As intrigued as I was, I figured it would be a frustrating task!

Strip piecing

Then I did a bit more research, and I realized you don’t have to sew these pieces one at a time. Another strategy is to strip piece them together.

All strip piecing means is that, rather than focusing on one square block of fabric, you’re using longer sections to sew together  — rectangles in place of squares.

All strip piecing means is that, rather than focusing on one square block of fabric, you’re using longer sections to sew together
— rectangles in place of squares.

All strip piecing means is that, rather than focusing on one square block of fabric, you’re using longer sections to sew together—rectangles in place of squares. For example, if you choose to use two-inch blocks of fabric for your stamp blocks, make sure the width of each strip of fabric is two inches, but don’t worry about creating the two-inch length yet. Rather, keep those strips longer!

As one source pointed out, how long the strips are can depend on you, what you’re able to handle, and how long you can keep cutting in a straight line (Quilt Videos, 2016). If you can go from the top to the bottom of three feet of fabric, you can have three-foot strips of fabric to work with. But if you find that you tend to get shaky or swerve-prone with extended cutting, you might want to keep those strips smaller. For me, I probably wouldn’t go beyond ten or twelve inches, but if you’re a more advanced quilter, you can try for more.

Time to put these pieces together

Once you have your strips, line them up side-by-side and sew them together in a chain fashion, two strips at a time.

Once you have your strips, line them up side-by-side and sew them together in a chain fashion, two strips at a time.

Once you have your strips, line them up side-by-side and sew them together in a chain fashion, two strips at a time. Begin with your first two strips, sewing them along their long sides so that they’re linked with both of their primary images being showcased, and then do the same with one of those linked pieces and a new strip. Once you finish, you should have a series of fabrics connected in long strips that are small enough, width-wise, to embrace the postage stamp quality in a quilt.

Once you finish, you will have a series of fabrics connected in long strips.

Once you finish, you will have a series of fabrics connected in long strips.

From strips to squares

After you’ve sewn a number of strips together—again, it can depend on how much you’re comfortable with working on at a time—it’s time to make those rectangles into squares! If your fabric strips were two inches in width, measure and cut across your connected fabric strips at every two-inch interval from top to bottom, length-wise. At that point, you should have a series of new strips, though these will be made of a series of smaller blocks of fabric—as many blocks as fabric types that you used.

If your fabric strips were two inches in width, measure & cut across your connected fabric strips at every two-inch interval from top to bottom, length-wise.

If your fabric strips were two inches in width, measure & cut across your connected fabric strips at every two-inch interval from top to bottom, length-wise.

You should repeat this process through all of the fabric you plan to use for your quilt until all of it has been transformed into these multi-fabric strips. From there, it’s time to start piecing them together into the top layer of your quilt. All you need to do is arrange them together in a way that looks appealing to you until you reach the width and depth you were looking to achieve in your quilt.

All you need to do is arrange them together in a way that looks appealing.

All you need to do is arrange them together in a way that looks appealing.

The process might sound a bit complicated, but once you get the hang of it, you might be surprised at how quickly your stamp quilt comes together!


References
Quilt Videos. (2016, March 24). Quilt Monkey – Episode 301 – Easy, Strip Pieced Postage Stamp Quilt Block [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3N7al2V8C8
Witherby, S. (2011, October 27). Dead Simple Christmas Quilt mock up [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/inkyswot/6285898784
Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

The hot weather means flowing, loose clothes that keep you cool while flattering your body. For me, it also means it’s time to sew! Sundresses are some of my favorite things to make. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve made over the years – most of them I still wear! The key to success with making a sundress is choosing the right pattern. The right sundress pattern will flatter your body.

Think About What You Want to Accentuate

We all have things about our bodies we like…and things we don’t. Start by thinking about the things you like about your body. Great legs? Go with a shorter length dress. Love your flat stomach? Make sure the dress is fitted at the waist. Adore your curves? Don’t be afraid to show them off with some well-placed darts. Keep all of these things in mind as you search for your sundress pattern. It’s easy to get pulled into a pattern that looks great on the package or model, but by keeping in mind what flatters YOUR body, you’ll be able to set aside any that won’t work.

Figure Out What You Want to Cover Up

Now, think about those parts of your body you want to cover up. Tummy not as flat as it used to be? Try an empire waist to accentuate other curves and avoid the cling around your stomach. Wish you were a little less curvy? Try something loose and flowy with material to match. Wish your legs were longer or skinnier? Go with a long sundress.

Pro tip: If you don’t like your arms, add a sheer shawl to the ensemble. Some patterns even come with the shawl included.

Match Your Skill Level

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

When you’ve determined the style of sundress you want to make based on your body and what you like and dislike about it, look at patterns that match your sewing skill level. You’ll find that using these three factors it’s easy to narrow down your sundress pattern options to a manageable number. Then, pick the one you like best and hit the fabric aisles!

Every sundress I’ve made from a pattern chosen this way is one I still wear. Sundresses where I picked the pattern simply because I liked it and didn’t think about my body or my abilities were worn once, at best, and discarded. No one wants to see that happen after the effort of making a sundress. Instead, make a sundress you’ll love to wear using these simple steps to pick your pattern.

Grain Line? What Grain Line?

Grain Line? What Grain Line?

Last week, I spent a couple days making six silk dresses for a freelance client. I did the work at home, in my fifth floor walkup apartment in New York City. I only mention this because the dresses were made from silk charmeuse and I don’t, interestingly enough, have a proper cutting table at home. This really isn’t so much interesting as it is unfortunate and slightly annoying. Because, as anyone who has ever cut silk charmeuse knows, it’s a slippery sliding thing.

I cut the first dress out on the floor. Not ideal but it does work, as long as you use enough weights to keep it from shifting around. I usually cut things on the double with the fabric folded, selvedge edge to selvedge edge, which is how most consumer patterns instruct you to cut. Silk charmeuse can be a bit woodgy (yes, that’s a technical term) but the weave tends to be tight enough that you can confidently cut on the fold.

Some fabrics with an especially loose weave where it’s hard to keep the lengthwise grain line (and cross grain) straight are best cut in a single layer.

Shall we

Grain Line? What Grain Line?

To begin cutting, I tear a straight cross grain so I have a right angle to work from. Almost all fabric can be torn in this way. The cross grain of a fabric is made from the yarns woven over and under the lengthwise fabric grain at a 90 degree angle. The over under weaving provides less tension so crosswise grains have a tiny bit more stretch than the lengthwise grain. They normally run around a person’s body.

The lengthwise grain is the one that runs parallel to the selvedge edge and is the grain marked by the arrow on every pattern piece.

After tearing the the cross grain so I have a straight line, I fold my fabric in half right sides together, selvedge to selvedge. Once I have the fabric relatively flat and smooth on my cutting surface, I place a long metal ruler about an inch or two from my torn crosswise edge. I use a metal ruler because they’re heavy enough to act like a weight.

I line up the edge of the ruler perpendicular to the selvedge edge and across the full width of both layers of fabric. Then I make sure that the edge of the fabric that extends past the ruler is even. I do this to ensure that my cross grain is lined up correctly and not sloping down or up in relation to the selvedge.

I cut the next five dresses out on my old wood dining room table. It has leaves that fold up to make it almost six feet wide. At about 39” high, my cutting tables at work are higher than a standard dining room table. This height means I don’t have to bend so far over a table when cutting and, ultimately saves my back from hurting. If you don’t spend entire days cutting out garments, a dining room table usually works just as well.

You can also buy one of the cool folding style cutting tables available.

Grain line

So, what about grain line? Do you need to always pay attention to it?

That depends. At Boardwalk Empire, we would sometimes jest (when we didn’t have enough fabric and had to get creative with our cutting layouts), “Grain lines are for suckers.”

What we really meant, though, was “As long as you know what you’re doing, you can manipulate and vary the placement of your pattern pieces.”

If you happen to have a striped fabric, playing with the grain line can be fun. Thomas Pink, who makes high end men’s dress shirts will sometimes cut one side of the front on the lengthwise grain and the other on the cross for a quirky asymmetrical look.

Striped fabrics will also naturally chevron at the side seams if you match them up correctly when cutting and sewing.

You can also turn collars, cuff pieces, and/or pockets of striped fabrics on a different grain to add an interesting design effect.

All of these things are most easily done with a fabric that doesn’t have a lot of give, like a tightly woven cotton.

Measure up

If you’re interested in getting a little creative with your next project, you may want to invest in a quilter’s ruler. These rulers have 45 and 30-degree angles marked which is helpful when adjusting grain lines.

If you’re matching stripes or other patterns, you’ll find it much easier to cut in a single layer so you see everything clearly.

This may seem obvious, but if you’re experimenting, it’s always good practice to test things out first. If you have plenty of fabric, you can use some of it to do a little practice run. If not, you can use muslin or something similar to try out your idea. If you’re using a striped fabric, you can mark lines on your muslin before cutting to show you how everything will line up.

Bias

Bias is the diagonal angle across your fabric. The bias grain has quite a bit of stretch. A dress that clings to the body closely without having multiple seams is very likely cut on the bias. When you’re making a bias garment, especially a dress or slip, you’ll want to let the bias hang out for a while if possible as it will stretch out. You’ll notice that the bottom edge of your pieces will end up uneven if you do this, which is exactly what you want. You’ll need to remark your hemline after you’ve put together the garment.

I usually stay stitch my arm and neck holes, then pin my cut pieces on a form and, if time permits, let them hang over night. It’s also beneficial to then pin the seams together while they are hanging on a form to help alleviate any puckering.

Once you have a good understanding of grain lines, there’s no reason why you can’t try different things. Get creative (just remember that bias does stretch a lot more than something on the straight so you may need to stabilize with a lightweight fusible interfacing).

Creating with Batik Fabric

Creating with Batik Fabric

Hi Ya’ll, good to see you!

I hope you are well and staying out of the heat! It is definitely summer in Texas today!

The last time I wrote I hoped to inspire you to take a step or two out of your comfort zone and try some applique projects with a great tool called the AccuQuilt GO Fabric Cutter. I hope you checked them out here at SewingMachinesPlus.com for the one that would suit you the best.

Let us talk about my fabric obsession today. It is called Batik!

Let us talk about my fabric obsession today. It is called Batik!

The reason for my suggestion of trying “improvisational” quilting or one that you create yourself, is that it brings much satisfaction knowing that no one else has put together the fabric combinations that you love. the best.

Let us talk about my fabric obsession today!! It is called Batik!

What is Batik?

It is a hand dyed textile that is made using a wax resist technique to cover some parts of the fabric so they are not dyed with the color. Selected areas of the cloth are blocked out by drawing or brushing wax over them and the cloth then several colors are used to dye the fabric.*

Contemporary batik, may have etching, stencils and different tools for waxing and dying and use things such as leather, paper, wood, silk or cotton to use in techniques to make the most expressive and subtle of wax resist projects. Note from the pictures above, some look like the fabrics tie dyed and others have small details. Using various amounts of colors, the textile looks printed, but in fact it is hand drawn places of wax resist, it becomes a unique piece of art.*

Today, keeping in line with those thoughts, I want to share with you some beautiful fabric that would be a great choice for these fabric cuts to design a beautiful quilt, utilizing the shapes you can make with the AccuQuilt Fabric Cutter. To keep it simple at first, just blocks or basic shapes or strips can be easy to cut and sew in patterns that you can replicate for your own taste.

Let’s go through the design stages. That’s the most fun!

  1. Check out the internet for new ideas about quilts
  2. Purchase magazines on quilting at the bookstores or online
  3. Many of the patterns look complicated, however don’t get discouraged. They are only for inspiration right now
  4. Depending on your quilting experience, play with paper and pencil and come up with a simple pattern using a few different basic shapes. Perhaps blocks and triangles or perhaps all strips
  5. Perhaps all squares or rectangles, it’s all your design
  6. Study the batik fabrics available in online fabric stores and curate your own choices on a design board. It is good to make notes on the particular fabrics so you can go back and order the ones you really like. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find fabric you love in the local fabric stores (I personally have purchased many yards of fabric and precuts online with no problems. It is like Christmas every time I order. Sometimes I get surprises!)
  7. Then play with how these colors look good together. There is no right or wrong. It is your creation, your taste
  8. Leave the palette alone and come back to it to see if your color choices still suit you. If not, play some more
  9. Cut out color combinations from magazines that you admire. Once you are happy with your plan, look for fabric, order online or purchase
Start a small project, a table runner, a pillow, a tote bag or go for a quilt.

Start a small project, a table runner, a pillow, a tote bag or go for a quilt.

Start a small project, a table runner, a pillow, a tote bag or go for a quilt. Any of things will be something beautiful using Batik.

Now would be a great time to check your sewing supplies!

Take a look at your rulers, scissors, pins, rotary cutter blades, and other tools you frequently use. SewingMachinesplus.com has everything you need to make your next project look precise and professional. Besides the AccuQuilt Go, I value my collection of acrylic rulers and cutters for time saving cutting and more time for designing and sewing. Having the necessary tools makes the project more enjoyable as well!

As I said last time, I believe that if I strive to keep an attitude of “I am proud to use this, because I made it with my own design and it shows a part of me”, my positive attitude brings positive results. Find your Happy Place in sewing!

Until next time, discover Batik fabric and let me know what you think! Would I ever love to try making my own Batik fabric and using them in sewing!

How to Sew a DIY Mattress Cover

How to Sew a DIY Mattress Cover

My husband and I sleep on a full-sized bed on 4” of high density foam that we bought from Keyston Brothers, a store that specializes in auto and marine foam and fabric (We use density type Q41 for anyone interested in doing the same). We find the foam lasts about five years before we need to replace it and for a full-sized mattress’ worth, it costs about $250. That is loads cheaper than a fancy mattress and we sleep like babies.

Sweet dreams!

Sweet dreams!

We discovered this foam when we were replacing the cushions in the v-berth of our sailboat. We lived aboard for almost eight years and slept amazingly. When we moved on land we decided to cut costs and stick with the foam. I made a custom cover for it but this frame we recently got from Ikea is smaller than the foam. See how it curves down into the bed and up and over the edges? My husband and I were getting rolled into each other at night so I knew I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

See how it curves down into the bed and up and over the edges?

See how it curves down into the bed and up and over the edges?

Let’s get started

I took off the cover I had made and measured the foam to a size that would fit in the frame. Then I got out my $20 electric cutting knife from Walmart and got to slicing.

Take a deep breath. We're about to slice into our bed. Ready? Let's go!

Take a deep breath. We’re about to slice into our bed. Ready? Let’s go!

Upstairs, I cut the side piece (zipper piece) off of the top and bottom of the cover. Here are the two main panels laid out.

Here are the two main panels laid out.

Here are the two main panels laid out.

Zipper time!

I had finished all my seams with zigzag stitches and there was no way I wanted to take out all those stitches. Instead I saved the zipper by just taking out the straight stitches holding it to the cover.

I saved the zipper by just taking out the straight stitches holding it to the cover.

I saved the zipper by just taking out the straight stitches holding it to the cover.

Zipper saved! Now I didn’t have to buy another one for the smaller sized cover.

Zipper saved!

Zipper saved!

Let’s sketch this out…

Math time! Here I had to work out the new size of the zipper plaque and the rest of the side facing. Plus I wanted to add handles this time so I measured out those too. I also cut the top and back panels to the same size as the foam that now fit in the bed frame.

Math time!

Math time!

I was all out of the original fabric I had used to make the mattress cover so I used some leftover Sunbrella scraps I had from another project. Here are the parts I’ll need to piece together for the zipper plaque, the rest of the sides and the handles.

Here are the parts I’ll need to piece together for the zipper plaque, the rest of the sides, & the handles.

Here are the parts I’ll need to piece together for the zipper plaque, the rest of the sides, & the handles.

I made quick work of the four handles and top stitched them for strength. The ends are unfinished as they’ll be sewn inside the cover.

I made quick work of the four handles & top stitched them for strength.

I made quick work of the four handles & top stitched them for strength.

Next I sewed the zipper plaque and side pieces together. I also made sure to zig zag stitch each join to prevent the fabric unraveling.

Next I sewed the zipper plaque & side pieces together.

Next I sewed the zipper plaque & side pieces together.

Making the zipper plaque is my favorite part. It means I’m getting close to being done. Here I’ve switched to a zipper foot so I can get super close to the zipper.

Making the zipper plaque is my favorite part.

Making the zipper plaque is my favorite part.

Next I sewed on the handles to one of the large panels.

Next I sewed on the handles to one of the large panels.

Next I sewed on the handles to one of the large panels.

Side facing

Now it was time to add on the side facing. Yes! I joined one end of the side panel to the zipper plaque and started sewing on the zipper plaque portion first. Then I just transitioned to the side piece and kept going all the way around.

Now it was time to add on the side facing.

Now it was time to add on the side facing.

I stopped several inches before I got back around to the beginning and joined the two ends. Then I trimmed off the excess, zig zag stitched the join, and then sewed that piece onto the bottom panel completely.

I stopped several inches before I got back around to the beginning & joined the two ends.

I stopped several inches before I got back around to the beginning & joined the two ends.

Pro tip: make sure you open up your zipper enough right now that you can get your hand through it to open it completely when turn this right sides out in a few more steps.

You are so close now!!!

You are so close now!!!

You are so close now!!!

Before you begin sewing on the top panel there are still two important things you need to do.

Create match up marks.

Create match up marks.

  1. Create match up marks. When you are working with large pieces of fabric, things have a tendency to shift. These marks will let you know you are joining the two pieces together where you should. If you look carefully you will see pink marks on either side of the fabric at the 19” mark. I marked the side pieces and then the top piece so everything should match up when I sew.
  2. Do your corners!!! This is crucial. Go to each corner and fold it down and back until you are sure the piece is square with each side. Then mark that spot so you know you’re at the actual corner when you get there.
Do your corners!!!

Do your corners!!!

Begin sewing your final panel to the cover. I like to put the panel that is being sewn on the bottom. Here you can see I’ve matched my corners perfectly.

Here you can see I’ve matched my corners perfectly.

Here you can see I’ve matched my corners perfectly.

When you’ve sewn all the way around you are ALMOST done but not quite. There are two things to be done first.

  1. Take the time to carefully inspect ALL seams, fronts and backs. Sew anything you might need to.
  2. Then you need to zigzag stitch both seams in order prevent the fabric from unraveling.
You may think you have finished the hardest part, but the worst is yet to come.

You may think you have finished the hardest part, but the worst is yet to come.

Pat yourself on the back

You may think you have finished the hardest part, but the worst is yet to come. It’s time for cushion Olympics. Yes, wrangling foam into cushions should be an Olympic sport.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Go slowly. Do not pull the fabric or you will rip your seams and pop your zippers.
  2. Rather, walk the foam into the cover. I like to fold it on the ends and walk it a little sideways.
  3. Patience, patience, patience. Fit your foam into the pattern just the way you designed it. It you did your math right, it WILL fit.
Go slowly.

Go slowly.

After burning some calories (always a good thing), you will have your new mattress with custom fitting mattress cover that actually fits into your bed frame. Now you may rejoice.

Now you may rejoice.

Now you may rejoice.

Look at those clean lines!

Look at those clean lines!

Look at those clean lines!

Do you make your own bedding, including mattresses? We’d love to hear about your work.

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Tips for Dazzling up a Ring Bearer Pillow

Tips for Dazzling up a Ring Bearer Pillow

I can’t recall the first time I heard the phrase, “June bride,” but it’s something that’s stuck in my mind as the years have passed. While, to me, other months might present better options for a wedding (Sue me! I don’t like 90-degree weather!), June has somehow become what could arguably be the staple month for wedding ceremonies. Since we’ve entered that month, it seems fitting to target those ceremonies for a post or two. For this particular one, we’ll focus on a tiny wedding detail that can be handmade for that extra bit of sentimental value, and that’s the ring bearer pillow.

The ring bearer's pillow.

The ring bearer’s pillow.

For instructions on how to make a throw pillow in general, you can check out this link. But because pillows can be treated as such simple projects, I won’t discuss how to construct the actual pillow. Instead, I’ll concentrate on more decorative details in regard to the pillow’s appearance. These are aspects of the pillow that could come into play while you’re selecting fabrics and such—little concepts that you can do to construct something that stands out for your big day!

Choose your fabric wisely

The most important thing to consider for your ring bearer pillow is your fabric choice, and the most obvious option would fabric that has a bright white look to it. This matches the bride’s ensemble and showcases the brightness of the day, but if you want to go with something less traditional for your wedding, you might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

You might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

You might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

For instance, I adore fairies in fiction and movies. If I were to have some kind of fairy garden theme to a wedding, it might make sense to use fabric options that are more creatively colored than basic white. Maybe a pale blue or a light green would work, or perhaps even a combination. It’s worth considering, overall, how your theme and wedding colors could be represented in the pillow for a unique look.

Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle.

Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle.

Time to accessorize!

You might also want to consider accessories for the ring bearer pillow, and I don’t just mean the rings that will be carried on it! Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle. Again, you can go with the basic white, or you can better pair the accessories’ hues with your theme or wedding colors if doing so feels like the right option.

Not only can these accessory decisions make your ring bearer pillow stand out that much more, but they can also be used as ways to fix technical errors. If you sew lace around the ends of the pillow, as an example, you might find that a spot where your stitches weren’t that fantastic on the actual pillow can be covered by the lace. If you accidentally punch a smaller hole on the top of the fabric, you can make sure that ribbon you have meeting in the middle to create a bow covers the error. Essentially, while prettying up your ring bearer pillow with visual elements, you could improve its appearance as well by making your mistakes less visually obvious!

And in regard to those accessories, don’t limit your options to fabrics either! Sometimes the smallest trinkets and gems can push a normal-level work into more amazing territory, and things like gems speckled around your ring bearer pillow or a pin that looks like a heart can create a simple elegance that adds a level of sophistication to the project. Another similar idea would be to use sequins that could catch the light of the event and shimmer to again mimic the brightness of the ceremony. Each of these embellishments are options that, if used in the right amounts and ways, could lead to a ring bearer pillow worth talking about at the reception!

Structure is key

Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow - maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape.

Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow –
maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape.

Keep in mind that even the construction of the pillow could highlight a particular quality that you want to embrace in your wedding if you’re going for something more modern and less traditional. Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow—maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape—as well as the face of the pillow itself. Instead of thinking, “How can I decorate this simple pillow,” you could make the top of the pillow its own design that doesn’t need any décor at all because the design is the décor—like a large flower, made of fabric, that covers the top. These decisions are structural elements that could create the unique, one-of-a-kind ring bearer pillow that you’re searching for to spice up your wedding!

So to give a sentimental touch to your wedding, turn this traditional addition to the ceremony into something homemade, unique, and fitting! It could add a splash of perfection to an already perfect day!