Beginner's Guide to Bed Runners

Beginner’s Guide to Bed Runners

Mystic Connecticut on a Saturday Afternoon

Good morning from Connecticut.

Good morning from Connecticut.

Good morning from Connecticut;

I am so enjoying cool and sometimes rainy weather in this beautiful forest laden state! The history and rolling scenery and fine Colonial homes makes me think of the coziness of fall as the leaves will change color soon.

As I think of the weather change, I wanted to share with you a great way to add style and elegance to your bedroom by making a quilt to cover the bottom of your bed. When it’s not cold enough for a blanket, and a smaller cover may take off the chill, a bed runner is a great idea.

When it’s not cold enough for a blanket, and a smaller cover may take off the chill, a bed runner is a great idea.

When it’s not cold enough for a blanket, and a smaller cover may take off the chill, a bed runner is a great idea.

I have noticed a new wave of interest for bed runners has appeared in high end boutique hotels, and staging properties for sale. The look can be casual or classic depending on your style.

They are also good to change the look of the time of year using neutral spreads and decors.

They are also good to change the look of the time of year using neutral spreads and decors.

They are also good to change the look of the time of year using neutral spreads and decors.

HOWEVER, I have always enjoyed picking out fabric to coordinate with my décor, so I prefer to be inspired by personally designed articles. So to start, measure the top of the bed width-wise.

Then add 24 to 26 inches for the drop on the sides. Then measure 18 to 24 inches for the width plus seam allowances. View many options from patterns to discern your favorites so your bed runner is uniquely YOU. Proceed using the piecing method, batting and backing and of course binding to complete the project.

Pre-cuts are great for patchwork projects or take yardage where you make a one piece cover and perhaps make coordinating pillows for a classic look.

Bed runners also add protection against soil or hair from our 4 legged family members that occupy that space at the end of our beds.

Bed runners also add protection against soil or hair from our 4 legged family members that occupy that space at the end of our beds.

Another idea is make a headboard from your bed runner to add comfort and warmth to your tranquil area for rest and relaxation.

The size of a bed runner quilt can be a versatile addition to your décor. It could be used as a wall hanging, a sofa throw or a sophisticated mantle drape. Also for quick and the more casual type, a method of protection from soil or hair from our 4 legged family members that occupy space at the end of the bed.

One final thought is that I can use my Husquvarna Opal 670 machine, as well as the new Japanese Juki machines. A great addition to any quilters workroom is a machine designed for quilting as well as sewing. Quilting machines that have extended tables make quilting so enjoyable.

SEWINGMACHINESPLUS.com features these as well as other machines that will fit your sewing and quilting needs as well as your budget.

Think of it! You can have a beautiful bed runner ready for those chilly days before the leaves fall!

I would love to hear your comments as soon as I get back from the Fabric store. COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME on my blog, HAPPY SEWING UNTIL next time!

The quilts pictured above come as kits from Annie’s E-patternsCentral.com where patterns can be purchased and sewn. So many beautiful options to choose.
Sew Calm

Sew Calm

Like many hobbies, sewing can help you relax and put aside the stress of daily life. Depending on the hobby, there can be many reasons for this. For me, sewing is relaxing because it requires intense concentration, which means there’s no room left in my brain for worrying about life stressors. And then there’s the rhythms – they call to something deeper much the way drum beats do in Native American rituals.

Snip Snip Snip

Next time you’re sitting down to cut some fabric really listen.

Next time you’re sitting down to cut some fabric really listen.

Have you ever noticed the sound scissors make when cutting fabric? There’s something almost melodic about it. Try it out next time you’re sitting down to cut some fabric really listen. If you can safely close your eyes for a moment to tune into the sound, do so. The crunch, snip, clip is mesmerizing. I allow it to become like a mantra – if there’s something I’m working through, the rhythm of the scissors can help me hone my focus and energy. Try it – you’ll see.

Whirr Whirr Whirr

I don’t have a lot of experience with modern machines; I’m still using the old Singer my mom taught me on, so I’m not sure if newer machines have the same wonderful whirring sound. When doing a long straight row of stitches and keeping steady pressure on the pedal, that whirr is as rhythmic as train speeding down the tracks. The whirring helps organize my thoughts and creates a space where my only focus is the machine, the fabric, and the whirr. As my problems and stressors take a back seat, they also subconsciously begin to resolve.

As with the snip and whirr sounds, my anxious thoughts fall away and my focus hones in on the task at hand.

Motions

Sewing also has a lot of repetitive, and thus soothing, motions. The body and brain disconnect during these moments and the subconscious takes over. Just as our brains are able to work out problems as we sleep, so too can they work out problems while our conscious brain is disconnected during waking hours.

Pin and Unpin

The motion and concentration needed to properly pin a sewing project are often all consuming. I find this quite soothing. As with the snip and whirr sounds, my anxious thoughts fall away and my focus hones in on the task at hand. When I’m done, the thoughts and anxieties plaguing me don’t seem so all-encompassing.

Joy of Completion

I’m sure you know the feeling. That moment of elation when the hours of snipping, pinning, and sewing come to fruition with the final product. For me, the only thing that tops it is when I’m wearing something I made and someone compliments it, giving me the opportunity to say that I made it. Oh man! Is there anything else like that? I don’t think so.

How about you? What part of sewing speaks to your inner being and helps you relax and release the stressors of daily life?

DIY - Elegant Upscale Apron

DIY – Elegant Upscale Apron

Elegant upscale apron

Elegant upscale apron

A cherished friend gifted me some very beautiful, elegant materials. She purchased them long ago with the intention of making an apron but never got around to it. I thought, “How wonderful, I’ll surprise her by making it for her!” I designed this apron to be elegant and classy while also being functional. This Elegant Upscale Apron really hit the spot. She adores it and I hope you will too!

***ProTip: When making clothes of any type, washing and ironing before sewing are extremely important!! Measurements are based on material already washed. If they aren’t washed before sewing, they may shrink by an inch or more when washed later on, resulting in the clothing being too small to wear.

Level: Beginner
Time to Complete: In A Weekend
Sewn By Machine: 3/8″ straight stitch unless otherwise specified
Sewn By Hand: Purple thread to sew pocket accents

**Tip: Iron cut pieces before sewing and in between each step. This helps in the sewing process as well as setting the stitches to lessen unraveling with age. And the extra bonus-the end results tend to look more professional as a result. 


Materials:

These fabrics are relatively thin. Aprons generally require a thicker material to help resist staining of clothing underneath. I used a piece of thicker off-white fabric as the backing to keep the elegant style while serving as an effective apron as well. The thicker backing also eliminates the need for a middle layer of batting. 

Top:

Measurements for Top – 14″ W<
Measurements for Bottom End – 23″ W
Length at middle – 18″ L

Skirt:

1 – 23″ W x 18″ L – Lace Fabric
1 – 23″ W x 18″ L – Backing

Neck Ties:

2 – 3″ W x  20″ L – Same material as used for Pockets

Waist Ties:

2 – 4″ W x 23″ L -Same material as used for Pockets

Neck Accent:

– 13″ W

Waist Accent:

1 – 23″ W x 3″ L Accent-Same material as used for Pockets

Pockets:

25″ W x 14″ L – Same material as used for Waist Accent
2 – 5″ W x 14″ L – Backing

Pocket Accents:

2 – 5″ W – Snazzy Boa

Purple Thread:

To sew pocket accents (boa) on by hand
Cut fabric pieces.

Cut fabric pieces.

**Tip: When I’m  ready to cut my fabric, I place the line to be cut at the end of my cutting board. I use the end of the board to guide the scissors. This results in a straighter, cleaner cut.

Instructions:

I recommend using fabric scissors instead of a roller when cutting these materials. I found the embroidery and embellishments in these materials are a little too much for the roller to cut through with one or even two strokes.

These are my favorite fabric scissors. Great slicing with minimal fraying.

  1. Wash and iron all material except pocket accents unless you use a washable material for pocket accents.
  2. Cut out all material using the above measurements.
    • I cut the boa accent pieces a couple of inches longer than needed, about 7 in. in case the hand sewing with the clear thread makes it a little shorter. When done, I cut off the extra.
    • After I measured the top section of the apron, I used a pencil to trace the curve from top to bottom. Then I folded the top in half and cut the curve on both sides so they would be symmetrical.
  3. Skirt
    • Pin and sew with the lacy fabric and backing right sides together, leaving a couple inches on one end to pull the fabric right side out after sewing. Cut diagonally outside the corners to help create more well-shaped corners after turning right side out. Turn right side out and iron.
  4. Top
    • Pin and sew fabric and backing for top, right sides together. Leave an opening to pull the top right side out. Trim corners. Turn right side out.
    • Top stitch around the top part of the apron, making sure to stitch closed the opening used to pull the fabric through.

      Top and skirt sewn into one piece.

      Top and skirt sewn into one piece.

  5. Sew the top and skirt together, right sides together. Iron with the seam pointed down.
  6. Pockets
    • Pin and sew with 1/8″ seam the fabric and backing for the two pockets right sides in. Leave an opening in the top of the pockets. Trim corners, turn right side out and iron.
    • Top stitch with 1/8″ seam the top of the pockets only, making sure to sew the opening closed.
  7. Waist Accent Piece
    • Fold accent piece in half, right sides together. Iron to make crease for accurate sewing. Sew with 1/8″ seam the length or the strip, leaving one end open. Trim corners and turn right side out. Iron to create flat strip. Top stitch with 1/8 in. seam the open end closed.
      **DO NOT top stitch around strip yet. That will be done when sewing the accent piece to the apron.
  8. Waist and Neck Ties
    • Fold all 4 waist and neck straps in half, right sides together. Iron to make crease to help with accurate sewing.
    • Sew 1/8″ the length of the strip, leaving one end open. Trim corners and turn right side out. Iron to create flat straps.
    • Top stitch 3/8″ around each strap.
  9. Time to put all the pieces together. Yay!!
    • Place the accent strip on top of the apron over the seam where top and bottom pieces were joined.
    • Place one of the waist ties at the same spot but on the underside of the apron.
    • Sew the accent strip and waist tie with the X box often found to be used for ties since it creates a stronger hold.
    • Pin accent strip over the seam of the apron, making sure it is straight and level. Iron.
    • Top stitch the accent piece to the apron.
    • Sew the other waist tie on back of apron. Top stitch accent strip with waist tie behind, the same as with the other, using the X box to secure the waist tie.

      Putting it all together.

      Putting it all together.

    • Sew neck ties onto the top corners of the apron using the same X box.
  10. Hand sew boa pieces onto pockets. If you have a material more suited for machine, sew them on.
    • I couldn’t find clear thread anywhere, which is what I prefer to use with embellishments like these. So instead I used a purple thread closely matching the color of the boa.
  11. Sew both pockets on the apron using 1/8″ seam.

Pre-heat the oven. Put on your new Elegant Upscale Apron. Time to bake!

Stacey's Stitches

Stacey’s Stitches 

Hi all! I’m Stacey Martinez 🙂

I love to design imaginative custom items for my active, crazy family. Bright

colors and beautiful fabrics sing “Stacey, Stitch Me!”

Let your imagination inspire you to breathe personality into every stitch!

Please feel free to post comments, questions, and pictures of your own Elegant Upscale Aprons. I can’t wait to see your creations!

The Sewing Needle Controversy

The Sewing Needle Controversy

I have a freebie calendar hanging on my wall. Well, actually, I got the calendar in the mail from a business that I’ve done quiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite a bit of shopping through, so I guess “freebie” might be a stretch. Maybe “reward” would work better? Though if they wanted to reward me, cheesecake might’ve been the better option…

In any event, the calendar has random holidays listed, like July’s “Thread the Needle Day.” Personally, I’m not sure I ever knew that there was such a thing as a day set aside for something as small as threading a needle, but hey! If the calendar says it, let’s go with it!

Threading the needle is an action related to a topic that’s somewhat un-nice for me. That un-niceness isn’t because I can’t thread a needle, but the very idea of needles can be a bit daunting to me—and not just because I may or may not have a tendency to accidentally stab myself with needles and straight pins. Blood, sweat, and tears might be a bit more literal for me in that regard than for other people!

The issue I’m bringing into the conversation today is the fact that there are SO MANY needles, and I end up sticking to a preferred one. I couldn’t even tell you what size my current sewing needle is. It was just selected by my preferred method of sewing needle selection, which is basically something like this:

“Which one is gonna be the easiest to get the thread through? Maybe this one? Okay, that’s my needle!”

Effective, no? Well, the process hasn’t left me in too dire straights as of yet, but I’m inclined to believe that there’s supposed to be more to choosing your needle than that one tiny factor. I suppose though that I’m a person of habit, and I use needles and thread without really considering the other factors that should potentially go into selecting those kinds of elements.

I’m a rebel sewer like that, I guess? Or maybe the reason is something a lot less shades-and-leather-jacket sounding. Maybe I just don’t know those other factors, and I’m too lazy to figure them out.

Large holes in used fabric.

Large holes in used fabric.

Which is bad, because while the flaw hasn’t left me in too dire straights, as I said earlier, it is the possible culprit as to why some of the thin fabric on my current project has visible holes that seem larger than they should be where the needle and thread went through. That thin fabric, by the way, also happens to be used since I’m making this quilt out of old clothes. Especially for a project as tedious as this one, maybe I should’ve been more careful about how I chose my sewing needle. The material is fragile from use, and having fabric damaged in the process of making a quilt or blanket before it ever becomes that quilt or blanket is disappointing.

Look how well some of my corners are turning out this time!

Look how well some of my corners are turning out this time!

On a side note though, look how well some of my corners are turning out this time! The change is directly connected to that online class I shared on my last post, so you might want to check it out (Kesser, n.d.)! You live and learn, I suppose, and what I’ve learned since my last blanket/quilt project has helped me better put together this one. Maybe that I-need-to-be-more-careful-about-needles thing can help on me the next project in like manner. Then, perhaps someday down the road, I can have a quilt or a blanket that doesn’t have such easily avoided mistakes! Maybe it’s one lesson at a time, one realized mistake at a time 🙂

SEW-lutions Guidelines: Your Guide to Successful Sewing

SEW-lutions Guidelines: Your Guide to Successful Sewing

Luckily though, like with learning about my sewing machine without the printed instructions, there is assistance online to help me with this needle selection problem. One source is this PDF file that takes a hand-sewer through certain kinds of needles that could be used for projects.

Another idea would be to visit a sewing shop, the really nice kind with people who are willing to help and are capable of helping customers with these sorts of issues—instead of the one that I currently use (that will remain nameless because I’m thoughtful like that) where I might do well to find someone to cut some fabric for me. I’ve actually heard about a local shop that I could try, and if I do, I’ll try to remember to take mental notes—with exquisite mental penmanship—for a later post about my first-ever, non-department-store, non-online, sewing-material-and-tools-buying experience!

All in all though… Thread the Needle Day? Maybe I should celebrate Learn Your Needle Day first even if I have to pick a random date and assign it that name myself! If anyone has any tips for this process, be sure to leave them in the comments! I—and maybe other readers—would appreciate the input!

I guess a moral of this post’s story could be that not everyone knows everything about a subject, and sometimes a bit of research could go a long way in helping to make our projects the best that they can be. Like I might have said about my sewing machine on an earlier post, if I don’t know my tools for the craft well enough to accurately use them, I’m putting myself at a disadvantage. I can’t apply the most effective techniques, so I can’t expect the most professional results. And it takes *me* to do my homework to learn those techniques. So, dear self, do your homework on sewing needles! Then next Thread the Needle day, you could have a party hat and streamers. And that piece of cheesecake the store didn’t reward you with.

What about you guys? Do you have a particular area in sewing or quilting that just seems daunting to you?

Reference:

Kesser, G. (n.d.) “Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quiltmaking Skills.” Craftsy.com. Retrieved from www.craftsy.com/project/course/piece-patch-quilt-quiltmaking-skills/369

Finding the Fabrics

Finding the Fabrics

Sometimes, little decisions can make big impacts. Details that are minute and all but brushed aside as secondary could really have an effect on a life. Or in this case, a project! I’ve said before on this very blog that quilting is not baking, and it’s true! While I can guesstimate with my baking ingredients, specifics can be a serious deal when partaking in a sewing-related hobby. I’ve already covered that general topic, but for this blog post, I’d like to funnel that idea to one particular concept. That detail is picking out your fabrics for a project that requires more than one design of material.

In the world of sewing, matching isn’t the goal. Complementing is.

Now, I’m not saying that people don’t take this consideration seriously. I’m saying that in a world where you can find all kinds of free patterns online for sewing projects, this step is worth considering just as much as finding that right pattern, and that maybe there’s less help in regards to learning how to select a fabric set than—for instance— learning how to operate your sewing machine. After all, your fabric might not come with instructions or a series of recommendations for other fabrics to blend together into one project!

Gail Kesser helps you pick our your fabrics in her Craftsy series.

Gail Kesser helps you pick our your fabrics in her Craftsy series.

Luckily though, you don’t have to be completely alone in the matter! There are certain options for help—like asking friends, particularly ones who are involved with sewing. Likewise, you can find assistance online. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten in regards to picking out quilting fabrics came from a free class on Craftsy.com. The class was called “Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quiltmaking Skills,” and in it, Gail Kesser—the instructor—has an entire section based on fabric selections called “Choosing Your Fabrics.”

In that lesson, Kesser advises the virtual student to choose a “mommy fabric” (Kesser, n.d., Lesson #3), then “walk it around the store” (Kesser, n.d., Lesson #3) to find fabrics that work well with the initial choice. Honestly, I don’t know that there’s better advice when it comes to putting together an entire quilt—or any other project with multiple types of fabric—but I’d like to expand on the overall idea just a bit. Maybe someone reading this post can look at the mentioned video for help, and possibly get a pointer or two from me as well 🙂

So, here are some thoughts to chew on!

Picking out a series of fabrics to use in one cohesive work isn’t about making sure they match in the traditional sense. The situation isn’t like you’re planning an outfit to wear. When deciding on your clothes for the day, you might consider a list of details to make sure everything works together because the result is supposed to match. In the world of sewing, matching isn’t the goal. Complementing is. That idea of complementing can come in the form of sticking with similar colors, or even embracing an overall theme your pieces all agree with, so to speak. As long as it’s a unified idea or connected imagery throughout, you’re good to go!

The quilting-for-kids project my niece got for her birthday.

The quilting-for-kids project my niece got for her birthday.

Don’t believe me? Even the people who created this quilting-for-kids project my niece got for her birthday knew that sometimes it isn’t about matching. This design is about complementing, or holding on to one specific theme—like the collection of different colors that my niece can put together!

This concept might seem unimportant, but it isn’t since the distinction is so clear. Think of it this way. If you were picking out an outfit for a typical day, you might not go with a floral pattern top and a polka dot bottom, even if both of them are pink. Why? Because while pink might match pink, the designs don’t match. That disconnect isn’t necessarily okay when putting together an outfit, but when sewing? All you need to do is check out a set of pre-cut shapes to find evidence that the same guidelines don’t apply to the hobby of sewing. All in all, it doesn’t matter if your fabrics match like your outfit would. They can vary in design, and even color, so long as they complement one another in some way.

And that aspect of the situation, my friends, leaves a whole lot of room for exploration and gives you plenty of room to make a design that’s all your own. To be truthful, that detail might be one of my favorite things about quilting and sewing. Whatever I come up with, it’s my design, I made it myself, and no one else likely has one like it. That feeling… That’s an okay thing!

This image is based off of Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks, but I didn’t stop with socks! This fox is my “(Dressed Up) Fox in Socks” that was made by taking a general idea, and putting a hat and red attire on him.

This image is based off of Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks, but I didn’t stop with socks! This fox is my “(Dressed Up) Fox in Socks” that was made by taking a general idea, and putting a hat and red attire on him.

Anyway, a sewer or a quilter should really take charge in this detail, and maybe push it to unique, individual places. As an example, consider the work of art I created on the Paint program that came with my computer. This image is based off of Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks, but I didn’t stop with socks! This fox is my “(Dressed Up) Fox in Socks” that was made by taking a general idea, and putting a hat and red attire on him. It started off simple—just socks from the story—and imagination took it further. Disclaimer: I’m not saying this Paint project is actually impressive—just that it shows how a theme can grow with some thought and creativity!

That’s the kind of pushing I’m referring to when picking out fabrics. Consider what you’re going for, find that beginning fabric, and think outside of the box enough to choose those complementary fabrics to create a breathtaking piece of art. Don’t stay with the easy options all the time! Push yourself, because sometimes the unexpected and the outside-of-the-box things can be a whole lot of fun!

This post might be more centered around quilting, but it could be applied to different areas of sewing (or crocheting, or knitting…) that involve material. A purse that’s going to have more than one fabric, for example, could be planned out with the same guidelines. Any time you’re blending fabrics together, think it through to come up with a cohesive, beautiful work. Complement those designs and colors, or stick to a theme from start to finish. Either way, your work would come out cohesive with your final product being a one-of-a-kind gem that’s beautiful and looks just as put together as a well-planned outfit—just with different rules!

Reference:
Kesser, G. (n.d.) “Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quiltmaking Skills.” Craftsy.com. Retrieved from www.craftsy.com/project/course/piece-patch-quilt-quiltmaking-skills/369
Blending Interests with Hobbies

Blending Interests with Hobbies

Last time, I wrote about the art bug biting, and I’d like to continue with that theme this week. Why? Because when he does bite, it’s relevant to uncover what form of the virus you were infected with, and any particular interest you can bring into that hobby or artistic area.

Everyone isn’t involved with every artistic pursuit just because he or she was bitten by said art bug. Whereas one person might be a wonderful painter, another might excel at photography. One person who is awesome at sketching might be terrible at music, while a musician might not be able to draw a believable landscape. For this post, I’ll refer to this as the Artistic Division of Labor, or ADOL. Sound good? Okay!

ADOL can be driven by skill, in that someone might simply have a talent for a specific division. Maybe someone has been good at sculpting since his or her Play-Doh years, and that skill has grown in the years that followed. If such is the case, it wouldn’t be too surprising to find that said person was well-known among family and friends for that ability.

In other situations, eventual interest might lead to artistic pursuits, and that interest might be something a person has to explore to define. If that doesn’t make sense, hang on! I’m about to give you a real-world example—from my own life!

The inspirational snowball bush. So many flowers!

The inspirational snowball bush. So many flowers!

I remember picking flowers when I was younger, though they were admittedly mostly (if not completely) wildflowers. As far as actual gardening goes, one or two of the adults close to me at the time had some kind of flowers planted in a more deliberate fashion than renegade weeds springing up. Even now, my mom has this snowball bush in her front yard, which is flower-ish enough to make this post, and pretty enough when it’s in-bloom to catch my interest. Either way—whether wild or chosen—flowers were a part of my childhood, and I decided I was going to try my hand at flower gardening not too long ago. I got flowers from a store, planted them, watered them, and let them grow. And they were doing okay!

But I eventually realized I wasn’t interested enough in the gardening prospect to tend to it as much as a garden should ideally be cared for. Honestly, I don’t know that I watered the flowers at all after that initial amount, and there was little to no chance I was going to trim weeds away from them. At some point, I was told the weeds around them were moving—something that could be bad when you live in territory that has copperheads and rattlesnakes—so goodbye, flowers.

So far, what this situation amounts to is that I had a childhood interest that became an artsy pursuit I actually had the ability to see through, but didn’t have the focus to continue. The result of this predicament might seem simple: I could just give up on my flower-interest and try other ideas for artistic endeavors. The trouble though is that I still like flowers, even if I don’t have the desire to keep a garden healthy and catered to.

A possible solution then would be more along the lines of what I said earlier in this post. I could explore the topic to see if there was any flower-related ADOL that could hold my interest.

As I said in last week’s post, I tried my hand at floral arranging, and that was a fairly decent win for me. Overall, it was an ADOL I was kind of okay at, and one that could hold my interest enough to keep me involved with it. The idea has led into constructing floral arrangements for display outside of the house, as well as around-the-house projects that catch my eye. For instance, a broken down lamp could potentially use a little prettying up!

Is that a busted lamp? Or a new vase...

Is that a busted lamp? Or a new vase…

But that’s a pretty specific category, and if flowers are a particular interest of mine, that idea could surface in an ADOL that isn’t specifically built around floral arrangements and gardening. And they have! In fact, flowers have become a part of two of my primary ADOL pursuits: writing, and sewing/quilting. With writing, more than one set of lyrics I’ve written has incorporated flower and/or garden themes, including a song that a character of mine sings to his girl in Emblazed.

More than one set of lyrics I’ve written has incorporated flower and/or garden themes.

More than one set of lyrics I’ve written has incorporated flower and/or garden themes.

More importantly for this blog, floral options are available in sewing/quilting patterns, and of course there’s a number of fabrics that a person can buy with floral designs—which is okay with me! In fact, my current quilting project has had a floral arrangement design to it, in that every piece that’s been sewn on it so far has been a pattern that has some form of floral quality to it. The overall design, when all is said and done, will be floral-related from top to bottom (minus a potential border and back-overlap).

My current quilting project has had a floral arrangement design to it.

My current quilting project has had a floral arrangement design to it.

All in all, I may not have had the focus or interest to keep a flower garden going, but the world of art is so vast that there are plenty of ADOLs out there to try, and enough room to explore within each to come up with ways to utilize interests that maybe weren’t committed enough to make into their own hobbies.

Bottom line: If you’ve been bitten by the art bug, explore to find your ADOLs, and you can find ways to bring your interests into those ADOLs — even if they seem more fitting for another. For the flower-admirer who doesn’t garden, paint pictures! Make floral quilts! Do floral arrangements! Sculpt a flower! There are options to blend your interests into your art, if you look for them!

I Never Meant to Be a Tailor

I Never Meant to Be a Tailor

‘Tailor’ and ‘Pattern Maker’ never once made an appearance on my list of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

‘Tailor’ and ‘Pattern Maker’ never once made an appearance on my list of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

If someone had told me when I was young that I would end up making a career out of sewing, I would have told him or her they were being ridiculous. ‘Tailor’ and ‘Pattern Maker’ never once made an appearance on my list of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Not that any truly conventional careers were on my list – I wanted to be a professional musician, a flutist, or a writer, and maybe a fashion designer. I wanted to change the world, make it better. I wanted to be remembered.I come from a long line of talented seamstresses and tailors.

I come from a long line of talented seamstresses and tailors. My Mother, part of the Baby Boomer Generation, regularly made outfits for my brothers and me. When I visited my Nana, I slept in her sewing room next to the Singer machine in the brown wood cabinet. I don’t remember learning how to sew though I’m sure my Mother must have taught me. I just always could. Among numerous other projects, I made both my prom dresses in high school. Still, I didn’t consider sewing a marketable career skill.

I’m not even sure how it happened.

Sewing, and especially patterning, are now often, my escape from real life.

Sewing, and especially patterning, are now often, my escape from real life.

In college, I discovered the theatre and the costumes. I started working in the costume shop at Ohio University. Like most theatre costume shops everywhere, it was in the basement with only those small windows way up high on the walls that offered lovely views of feet passing by outside but little light. Then I got a paid summer internship helping two designers in Worcester, Massachusetts. The rest, as they say, is history, or my history at least. It’s all I’ve done workwise for the past 27 years.

The trick is knowing what to do when the fabric or garment or your machine throws you a curve ball.

The trick is knowing what to do when the fabric or garment or your machine throws you a curve ball.

Sewing, and especially patterning, are now often, my escape from real life. They are things that can be done fast or slow but never rushed. One of things I love most about building a garment, or even doing an alteration, is that it takes just as long as it takes. People hate that answer to the question, “How long will take you to x?” But that’s the neat thing about sewing: you just never know what might happen in the process.

The trick is knowing what to do when the fabric or garment or your machine throws you a curve ball.

To be happy in my life, I need both my hands and my mind to be busy. I need to make things. Flat patterning something I’ve never patterned before is my idea of a heavenly day at work. Looking at a picture of a dress in a magazine and working out how they made it do that, brings some of the best kind of joy. Figuring out a new technique that makes something I’ve done over and over easier and better calls for spontaneous furious dancing.

Sewing and tailoring and patterning are art forms, are skills that you can sustain you through life.

Sewing and tailoring and patterning are art forms, are skills that you can sustain you through life.

I think a lot can be learned with practice but I also believe that some people do just have an affinity for sewing and patterning. Some people speak the language of fabric. These are the people with callouses on their scissor fingers who know what an inch or a half inch or two inches looks like without measuring. These are the people who can look at a suit jacket and know exactly what alterations need to be done. My friend Anne and I often joke that we throw some pins in a thing just to make everyone else feel better. These are the people who find comfort in a plain old simple center back alteration and spend hours pouring over thread color charts. These are the people always looking for new ways to do and create things.

I worry that fewer and fewer young people are getting into tailoring and sewing. I think it’s a shame. Sewing and tailoring and patterning are art forms, are skills that you can sustain you through life. And the pride in creating something that you, or someone you love, or someone you don’t even know, can wear is simply priceless. I think it’s a pretty neat way to leave behind a bit of a legacy and be remembered

Pressing Forward – A New Idea

Pressing Forward – A New Idea

As I was organizing my new sewing room, I thought about what components I could use to make sewing organized and efficient. Sewing is my favorite part but keeping things in order can become a challenge.

Sewing is my favorite part but keeping things in order can become a challenge.

Sewing is my favorite part but keeping things in order can become a challenge.

Of course, quilting takes a few more supplies that some hobbies, but I was thinking specifically about how I can make the pressing of quilt squares and fabric as part of my desk area rather than an ironing board and standing each time I had to press.

I made an ironing table on my counter top which has an insulated pad so I could sew and turn my chair to iron. It works fairly well but needs to be adjusted at times, as the pad wriggles around, and I thought there has to be something better.

I have to say that ironing is NOT my favorite past time with all the laundry we have, but somehow when I am making quilt squares, it is not too cumbersome. I use a fabric stabilizer when I iron that smells nice when it is heated so it, it gives me ambition to sew my squares and press them neatly to look professional as I go along. I have been thinking that an investment in a Home Pressing system will be beneficial.

Thinking back, actually, when I was a little girl, my Mom had what she called a “Mangle” Iron. I have not seen those again until recently in this website. I always wanted to help her press the sheets and pillow cases and my Dad’s handkerchiefs when she set up the what seemed to be an “ancient” machine. In fact, this type of machine was first used to wring out clothes by washer women beginning in 1843. Mom had hers in the late 1950’s, and used it often.

Sheets, tea towels, table cloths and fabric scraps would be so easy to run through the iron and save time to enable more sewing.

So, with that in mind, I have been researching Pressing Systems. I have come across some great reviews on the Magic Steam Press ESP2 Electronic Iron, and the Miele B990E Rotary Ironing Board. Check out the other brands here as well. The first is a small table model and the second is a rotary iron on a stand capable of ironing most everything. This is easy to use by sitting and makes ironing a breeze! Just be careful about the buttons and zippers, please!

I think these models would be particular good for bonding interfacings and stabilizers to fabric and to make quilt squares, totes, curtain panels and much more. Sheets, tea towels, table cloths and fabric scraps would be so easy to run through the iron and save time to enable more sewing.

Check out the irons on this website, and consider using a Pressing System for your sewing and ironing needs.

The reviews are helpful to see how valuable and what a time saver these systems are.

My next purchase will be to order for one of these products. With time saved and beautifully pressed quilts and clothes, it is an investment well worth the money with energy to spare! Press forward, and enjoy ironing! See you next time!

When the Art Bug Bites!

When the Art Bug Bites!

Once upon a time, I was an academic—almost exclusively. I didn’t do well in the athletic department, and I was a bit too flower-on-the-wall to try my hand at much else. But I rocked that academic thing! I ended up being co-valedictorian of my high school class, and going to college. I did some transferring and made some stupid decisions, but eventually graduated from a university, double-majoring in Speech Communication and History.

That’s right! Two papers!

That’s right! Two papers!

The History part of the degree had me embracing academia maybe more than I ever had. In fact, at one point, I had the stacks of books you can see in this post setting on my bed for what I remember to be a grand total of two papers. That’s right! Two papers!

The thing is though, despite the non-fiction aspect of my life, I had a bit of an art-bug-bite going on. I don’t know the exact moment the bug bit me, but there was a part of me that wanted creativity through the years I was learning about the Ancient World in undergraduate classes. Even when pursuing my BA in History and planning on an advanced education in the field, I considered working at an art museum—academia with an artsy twist. Whatever path my life took, not having art be some part of it might’ve been odd!

A mildly early art-love I remember having was writing, and I’m not entirely convinced that embracing writing wasn’t connected to academia. They tell you to write in school, after all. I mean, sure, I had art classes, but drawing in a non-grid way wasn’t necessarily my forte.

Writing fiction was a creative outlet, and even when I was writing non-fiction, I still felt like it was something I had a knack for.

Writing fiction was a creative outlet, and even when I was writing non-fiction, I still felt like it was something I had a knack for.

Writing though? That one stuck. Writing fiction was a creative outlet, and even when I was writing non-fiction, I still felt like it was something I had a knack for. So if my professional life was going to take an artsy road, having writing as the first step in that journey shouldn’t have been crazy-surprising. Actually, writing has been a driving force for a number of the more artistic career/hobby moves I’ve made in more recent times. Instead of finishing up my MA in Ancient and Classical History, I got my MA in English and Creative Writing, and I have seven published fictional works for sale on Amazon.

Books, Creative Writing education… Basically, I gave the art bug a bit of leverage, and—whether or not it’s a cause-and-effect thing—he’s showing up in more areas of my life than he did in my high school/undergraduate days! Floral arranging has been a non-career activity, and baking (which I think could be creative enough to count!) has become a very real interest of mine as well.

Floral arranging has been a non-career activity.

Floral arranging has been a non-career activity.

And the idea of quilting has gained my attention, maybe more than any artistic endeavor has besides writing. I see beautiful quilts, and I might get a little disappointed in myself that I’m incapable of making them. But it’s a goal to work toward. I’ve published books. I’ve baked pretty good Reese’s cookies. I’ve used floral arrangements I’ve made for décor. Now, I want to see how far I take this quilting thing.

Right now, I know I’m a quilter/sewer at the lower end of the spectrum, but I didn’t start off writing something that was published. And it isn’t like everything I’ve ever baked or cooked turned out fantastic either. Learning is a process, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to push myself in regards to learning a craft that is of such interest to me. Being able to explore this? It’s kind of a modern dream come true for me!

But does embracing this artistic side so much mean that I suddenly don’t care about academia? Not exactly! There’s still a part of me that misses being in an actual classroom, taking notes, and learning facts about a person or people from the past. I still think art museums can be interesting, and I still wouldn’t be too surprised if I decided to watch some kind of documentary in the future.

SewingMachinesPlus.com has instructions for projects available…

Would I be happy working in a completely academic world? I think even if I tried, I’d probably end up writing verses and baking strawberry milkshake cookies in my spare time! Why? Because when the art-bug bites, you might as well embrace its toxin!

One beauty that comes with taking on quilting and sewing to satisfy that art-bug-bite is that there’s so much information available online—for free!—that can help a person with the trade. For instance, SewingMachinesPlus.com has instructions for projects available through the site, and I’m interested in both the elephant wall hang and the tea party quilt! Other sites offer free patterns for sewing, or free classes about sewing/quilting. And, of course, there’s Youtube to browse and find some helpful videos!

All in all, although it’s a pretty daunting idea to create a complex quilt, there are bits of information available to potentially help me get there, and I can take it one sewing project at a time from here on out. I don’t need to wake up and make a museum-worthy quilt tomorrow. I can just focus on getting better one step at a time, and time will tell how far I get.

Either way, the art-bug’s effect isn’t getting out of my system any time soon, and quilting is another direction to let the toxin flow!

Sewing for Myself, a Quilt for Me

Sewing for Myself, a Quilt for Me

Our December 2015 hand-made teacher gifts.

Our December 2015 hand-made teacher gifts.

Last December I found myself in the midst of a flurry of handmade gifts. I fussy cut fabric for 12 teacher presents and I laid out the plans for two quilts, one each for friends expecting babies.

When the holidays were over I took stock of both my fabric stash and my sanity and knew it was time to do something different. This time, no matter how long it took to finish, I was going to create something entirely for myself.

A few of the quilts that inspired my own. Images via Quilt for Keeps, Quilting is my Therapy, and Quilter’s Pastiche.

A few of the quilts that inspired my own. Images via Quilt for Keeps, Quilting is my Therapy, and Quilter’s Pastiche.

At the start of the New Year, in between raising my daughters, working part-time, being a friend, wife, and volunteer, I slowly brought to life a quilt that had been rumbling around in my head for ages. I’ve been salivating over quilts with negative space and dark background fabric.

Using my talent to treat myself is something I plan to try more often.

Five year old, C, sits center circle in the order of fabrics arranged solely by her.

Five year old, C, sits center circle in the order of fabrics arranged solely by her.

Out came my horded cache of cheery orange, yellow, pink, and blue fabric. I even engaged my oldest daughter, C, in the project, thus achieving both quality time spent with my kid while working on a project meant for me. C helped me pick all the fabrics for the giant star and then chose their side-by-side placement.

I do my home sewing on a Brother CS-6000i.

I do my home sewing on a Brother CS-6000i.

It took me six months of grabbing the time here and there, but finally, after a dozen or more hours, I manifested my dream into a reality. The final result is what I call the Starlight Quilt. It measures 66×89 and is backed with blue minky dot fabric. The main fabric is Floret in Turquoise by Aneela Honey for Cloud 9’s Vignette line. The star itself and its rays are pieced together with a mix of fabrics I’ve been hording and scraps that were too beautiful to let go.

Spools of thread.Using my talent to treat myself is something I plan to try more often. The pleasure people get from receiving a hand-made gift was something almost novel when reflected back towards me. I’m re-energized now to finish my current works in progress if only to pass that feeling onto someone I love and care about. There is also the sentiment of a job well done and a heady sense of completion.

Now when I sleep, I have a small treasure of my own handiwork.I can go back to my usually scheduled program, of devoting time and energy to sewing gifts for friends and family. But now when I sleep, I have a small treasure of my own handiwork. For a brief moment, the expensive spools of variegated thread and the swaths of luxurious minky were spent on me. How about you? When was the last time you sewed for yourself? If you can’t remember when, then now is the perfect time to start.

Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in San Diego, 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.