Posted on Leave a comment

Sewing Cuddle Strip Quilts

Teresa Coates Fat Quarter Shop video

I’m often on the road teaching quilters and sewists how to sew with minky/Cuddle fabrics, and this summer I was able to film some videos with Fat Quarter Shop. In this video I share a bunch of tips and tricks for making the most popular kind of Cuddle project: the strip quilt. Shannon Fabrics offers a wide variety of quilt kits, from 27″ squares to 58″ x 72″ throws, but regardless, they are all constructed in the same method. If you’ve been wanting to make one, but weren’t sure how, this video is for you:

Still have questions? Go ahead and ask!

Posted on 1 Comment

What’s What: Top-stitching, Edge-stitching, Under-stitching

 The Back to School Blog Hop is back and I’m excited to participate again this year.  We had a great run last year (I talked about all sort of pressing issues – pardon the pun) and it’s back again with 32 sewists and quilters sharing our hard-earned wisdom with y’all.  Thanks to the amazing Sam Hunter for spearheading this yet again! Check out the end of this post for a link to all the participating blogs.


If you got your start with sewing in the quilting realm, top-stitching, edge-stitching, and under-stitching can seem a bit foreign when you find them in your apparel/bag/accessory patterns. They sound pretty similar, and they actually are, but each serves different functions in the construction of your sewing project.

Let’s start with the most common: Top-stitching.

This is the one we are most familiar with; it’s used to emphasize the structure of a garment’s design and gives a nice, flat edge to collars and cuffs, pockets and necklines.

Technically the top-stitching should be 1/4″ from the edge, so if you have a 1/4″ foot for your machine, this is the perfect time to break it out.  You will get a much straighter stitch line and since the whole point is for the stitch line to show, it’s important. If you don’t have a 1/4″ foot, use something that will bump against the edge of your fabric to keep it in place (a stack of Post-Its work great).

The top-stitching on the denim jacket was done with two stitching lines, 1/4″ apart, but if you’re doing this kind of top stitching someplace where the back won’t be seen (along a waistband, a mock flat fell seam, etc), you can use the wide double needle instead.

The purpose of top-stitching is really two-fold: keep the edge flat and add a design element. The second aspect means it’s a time you can use fancy and/or heavier threads. If you have some nice 30 wt. threads, this is a great way to use them, especially on heavier fabrics such as wool, denim and linens. I used 30 wt. (Coats and Clark) and 40 wt. (Aurifil) red thread on this piece of wool and you can see that the top one shows up a bit better.

But the real difference is the stitch length.  Take note that extending your stitch length on top stitching is important. When I use a 4.0mm stitch length, it looks best to me.

On these I used the wide double needle to create parallel top-stitching on wool, merino wool, and canvas. You can see the the coarser wool eats the thread a bit more, so I’d probably want to use an even heavier thread for top-stitching if I really want it to pop, while it shows up beautifully on the canvas.


Edge-stitching is a close cousin to top-stitching, but makes for an even crisper, neater edge. It’s generally used on collars and cuffs, as well as alongside zippers on pouches, pocket edges, bag straps and bag openings.

   
Stitching line is about 1/8″ (or less) from the edge/fold and is used more as a tool for keeping the edge flat than as a decorative addition. Use a standard weight thread that matches your fabric.

But how do you get it to stay straight, you wonder… a lovely little invention called an Edge-stitch foot (sometimes it is referred to as a Joining foot or Stitch-in-the-Ditch foot). I first stumbled onto it about five years ago when I was teaching at Modern Domestic.  I was instantly sold and if you don’t have one already, I want you to head over to your local sewing machine shop and pick one up. Now.

The little guide down the middle keeps your edge straight and with a tick of your needle, you’ll be sewing a consistently straight line down the edge of your piece.  It’s a little magic for your machine and adds a whole level of ‘pro’ to your sewing, I promise.


And for the one that confuses too many: Under-stitching.  Used almost exclusively in garment sewing, it can be a bit bewildering.  It’s a technique that is very important when sewing apparel, though, so make sure you don’t skip it because it seems unnecessary. It can make a huge difference in how a garment lies on the body.

First, you’ll sew your seam, then press with your iron (on an appropriate heat seating) to set the seam.  From the wrong side, press the seam allowance toward your facing/lining.  Turn it over and press from the right side (use a pressing cloth if needed), keeping the seam allowance to the facing/lining side.

Use your edge-stitch foot, ticking your needle over just slightly to the left, and run the guide down the seam line, sewing the facing/lining to the seam allowance.

 

You will use a standard weight thread that coordinates with your fabric so it doesn’t show (i used red only so you can see it).  Then fold the lining at the seam and it will automatically pull toward the inside, hiding the lining and the hard edge of the seam.

This is the lining of a little girls dress, made with Embrace double gauze, and you can see how neat it makes the whole neckline look, both the back where we can see the facing and the front where the outer fabric curves over beautifully.


So there you have it: Top-stitching, Edge-stitching and Under-stitching.  Each has purpose and learning how to master them will make all your sewing and quilting better, more handmade and less homemade.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to check out everyone else in the Back to School Blog Hop 2017!

Day 1 – August 15 – Sam Hunter: How to spray baste a BIG quilt – www.huntersdesignstudio.com

Day 2 – August 16 – Mandy Leins: Thread Dread: removing stray bits after quilting – www.mandalei.com

Day 3 – August 17 – Nancy Stovall: The Sweet Creamy Filling – www.justquiltingpdx.com

Day 4 – August 18 – Ebony Love: 7 Indispensible feet for your sewing machine – www.LoveBugStudios.com

Day 5 – August 19 – Michelle Freedman: Machine throat plates – www.designcamppdx.blogspot.com

Day 6 – August 20 – Teresa Coates: Edge/Under/Top stitching – www.crinkledreams.com

Day 7 – August 21 – Kelly Cole: Ten ways to regain your sew-jo – www.vintagefabricstudio.com

Day 8 – August 22 – Megan Dougherty: Choose to Fuse: tips for working with fusibles for applique – www.thebitchystitcher.com

Day 9 – August 23 – Kim Lapacek: Tricks to being productive while hauling your kids around – www.persimondreams.blogspot.com

Day 10 – August 24 – Yvonne Fuchs: Circuitboard quilting on Domestic and Longarm Machines – www.quiltingjetgirl.com

Day 11 – August 25 – Sandi Hazlewood: Chain Piecing Quilt Blocks Tips – www.craftyplanner.com

Day 12 – August 26 – Juliet van der Heijden: Paper-piecing with children – www.thetartankiwi.com

Day 13 – August 27 – Maddie Kertay: Fabric folding for any storage solution – www.badassquilterssociety.com

Day 14 – August 28 – Cath Hall: Working with Lawn fabric – www.wombatquilts.com

Day 15 – August 29 – Tracy Mooney: Tips for the perfect seam – www.sewmuchcosplay.com

Day 16 – August 30 – Teri Lucas: How to bury thread – www.terificreations.com

Day 17 – August 31 – Debby Brown: Securing machine quilting knots – www. higheredhands.blogspot.com

Day 18 – September 1 – Flaun Cline: How to put some sparkle in your fabric pull (part 1) – www.ipleadquilty.com

Day 19 – September 2 – Jessica Darling: How to put some sparkle in your fabric pull (part 2) – www.jessicakdarling.com

Day 20 – September 3 – Trish Frankland: A bigger blade really IS better?! – www.persimondreams.blogspot.com

Day 21 – September 4 – Lynn Krawczyk: Build a simple design with hand stitching – www.smudgeddesignstudio.com

Day 22 – September 5 – Jane Davidson: How to make scrappy HSTs – www.quiltjane.com

Day 23 – September 6 – Linda Pearl: Low cost tips for organizing your sewing room – www.onequiltingcircle.com

Day 24 – September 7 – Christa Watson – Top 10 tips for quilting on a domestic machine – www.christaquilts.com

Day 25 – September 8 – Sarah Nunes: To Starch or Not to Starch – www.berrybarndesigns.com

Day 26 – September 9 – Suzy Webster: Testing fabric for bleeding – www.websterquilt.blogspot.com

Day 27 – September 10 – Sarah Goer: Machine bind your quilts like a pro – www.sarahgoerquilts.com

Day 28 – September 11 – Vanda Chittenden: Beginner paper-piecing tips – www.chittenden.co.za

Day 29 – September 12 – Cheryl Sleboda: Needle threading tips – www.muppin.com

Day 30 – September 13 – Kim Niedzwiecki – Different thread weights and when to use them – www.gogokim.com

Day 31 – September 14 – Sandra Healy: Conquer Your Fear of Machine Appliqué – www.sandrahealydesigns.com

Day 32 – September 15 – Sandra Starley: The Basics of Antique Quilt Collecting – www.utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com

 

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

 

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Posted on Leave a comment

Curves Ahead: Freeform curves

It’s about time to kick off this sewing curves series and we’re going to start with (what I think is) the easiest of curves: freeform.  You’re in complete control of how curvy your pieces are, how wide they are and how simple (or complicated!) the whole piece is.

Let’s start with what you’re going to need:

  • rotary cutter
  • cutting mat
  • 3-5 different fabrics that coordinate (fat quarters or scraps)
  • sewing machine/coordinating or neutral thread
  • pins, optional
  • snips
  • iron/ironing board/fabric spray

Start by giving your fabrics a bit of a press with a touch of spray starch/Best Press for some added stability. It isn’t vital and lots of people do without it, but I use it so that my fabrics don’t stretch or fray as much as they might otherwise.

Now lay two of your fabrics on the cutting mat, overlapping by at least two inches.


With a nice, fresh, sharp blade in your rotary cutter, cut a smooth curve from side to side, through both fabrics.


Remove the extra bits from both fabrics and move to match up the curves. Now mark a little line at a couple of places along the curve, including the top and bottom of the curve. These will serve as your guides to make sure it comes together right.


Flip one fabric onto the other, right sides together. This is where some people pin. You have to pin very close together and work the fabric so it will ease into each other as the curves form.  I think it’s obnoxious and unnecessary, but I’ve been known to do things differently than others anyway.

  
If you want to try it my way, you can still get a pretty darn accurate match by using your hands to guide the fabric. Hold the top fabric up so that they only touch as they go under the foot. You will use both hands to feed it through. Keep an eye on your markings and put a little tension on on whichever layer is convex at the time.

Press seam allowance away from curve.Ta-dah!  Your first curved piece.  Now let’s try it again with a couple wonky curves in it.  You’ll do the exact same thing but with an additional wave in it. You can press the seam allowances all in one direction and with a little steam for a beautiful finish.  

Keep going with your gentle curves, varying the width and depth as you go.

The more you practice with little bits, the better you’ll get, so don’t be afraid to put those scraps and what-was-I-thinking fabric choices to use.  Add in a little wonky quilting and you’re good to go!

Posted on 1 Comment

Dear Jane: My Favorite EPP Tools and Tips

I’m still plugging along, albeit very slowly, on my Dear Jane and already I’m a whole month behind. I’m trying not to panic, but I may have set up a little morning stitching time if I ever plan to keep up. Sheesh.

Work life has been busy lately with Road to California and this past week’s trip to Sewposium in Orlando. If I were thinking more clearly, I would have brought a couple of the Dear Jane blocks on the plane with me. Five-plus hours each direction is plenty of time to get some sewing done, but instead I read the entirety of A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Then I got bronchitis and still didn’t sew anything.

But I digress. Let’s talk English Paper Piecing (EPP).

This sewing/quilt-making technique has been around for  at least a couple hundred years, which seems both crazy and wonderful. I love the long history of textile arts, somehow connecting a thread between generations and continents, preserving a craft, an art for the future as well.  Luckily for us, these days, we have the high quality tools and this lovely thing called the Internet to make it a bit easier than the ladies had it back in the 1800s.

If you’re just getting started with EPP, or struggling a bit with it, let me tell you what I use and do to make it a fun and not-so-laborious venture.

•   Kai 4″ Scissors  

Small and sharp, these 4 1/2″ serrated scissors come with a cover that keeps them safe and easy to stash in the zipper pouch. Perfect for trimming pieces and clipping threads.

•   Clover Wonder Mini Clips  

I use a Wonder Clip on on the opposite end of the seam I’m stitching to keep the washi tape in place.

•   Washi Tape

Since I sew my pieces flat and washi tape keeps the seam aligned and even without trying to use pins.

•   Bottom Line thread  

Honestly, this is my favorite EPP thread by far. There are a few lightweight threads designed specifically for the task, but the Superior Threads version is super strong and never snaps. You can get it on pre-wound bobbins or spools.

•   John James needles

I like this brand, but as proven by the needle testing we did for Sew,Mama,Sew, it really is personal preference. I like a slightly longer needle without a sharp butt (I’m prone to stabbing it into my finger).

As I mentioned, I prefer to sew my pieces together when they are flat. I can get a tighter stitch that is not seen from the front. I used to simply try to clip it together, but they would slide apart. I started using blue tape because it doesn’t stick to the fabric. I switched to washi tape for the cuteness factor only.

Here’s a pictorial rundown of how I sew my pieces:

First, I pin the pattern piece to whichever fabric it needs to be made with. I’ve coded these as BG=background and G= grey.

I cut the fabric pieces as I go, trimming there to a heavy 1/4″ seam allowance. They are rarely even and often not-quite-straight, but in the end it doesn’t matter at all.

Using an obvious-color thread, I stitch right through the Dear Jane paper template. For my hexagons, apple cores, etc. I do not stitch through the paper, but because this project will live for a long time in a box and there are a lot of triangles and squares, I want to make there that papers don’t shift as I sew and then store them.

I get each square going by sewing just two pieces at a time. As I get pairs together, I’ll start putting the pairs together. No matter the order of assembly, all the seams start this way.

From the right side, I tape the pieces together, making sure the edges are even and correctly aligned.  Then I clip the end that I’ll sew last o that it all stays in place as I make my way across the seam. One of the issues I have when I don’t do this is that the pieces shift ever so slightly and the end won’t match.

I start by knotting the thread and securing it away from the corner/edge. Then I stab the needle through the very corner of each piece.

Working my way across the edge, I take tiny stitches, then tug them tight. It might look a little crazy-making, but once you get a rhythm going they piece together pretty quickly.  In the end, the stitches look fine from the back and are invisible from the right side.

  

I toss these back into my little zip pouch and keep putting them together, two pieces at a time until the block is finished. Now that life is a little more on-track, I’m hoping to get a few of these done this week. I’ve already got the templates for Rows B and C waiting for me, so I have to try to catch up a bit!

Are you doing the Dear Jane, too? How are your blocks coming along? Check out everyone else’s blocks on Instagram with a quick search of @dearjanegoesepp.

Just keep stitching!

Posted on 4 Comments

Three Ways to Make that Fancy Fox’s Nose

We started with the Fancy Fox this week for the Fancy Forest Quilt Along because it’s the easiest of the blocks, but there’s one part that seems to bug a lot of participants–that nose! It either get chopped off or ends up narrower at the bottom than it should be.

The way that Elizabeth has you do it in the pattern is by marking the center of the block, corner to corner, then stitching down that line.

fox nose, pattern version

You then trim and press. image

But I could only get this to work out right infrequently and at times it ended up way, way too narrow and I’d start over.

So I thought I’d try trimming the seam first, lining up the 1/4″ line on my ruler with the corner to corner where I’d stitch.

image

image

That didn’t work much better.

I wondered if it was because of that background square. It had two issues: it’s on the bias and on top. This gives it all sorts of opportunities to get squirrely, so I decided I should sew it from the other side.

First I cut the background 1/4″ bigger than originally used in the pattern.

I used a ruler to mark the 1/4″ seam allowance, then marked the middle by folding in half and adding a little mark. This is where I wanted the nose to come to a point. Both seams need to intersect that mark.
image

Using the 45-degree lines on my ruler, I lined up the ruler until the edge intersected the mark I’d made, then I drew the stitching line.

Marking the nose

 

I pinned the background to the right side of the fox face and pinned it to keep it from shifting under there while I stitched it on.image
Trim, press and repeat. Press from the front (use a little spray starch for good measure). image

Then I trimmed it up with my handy 6 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ ruler. 

Yay for a perfect little fox face!

SaveSave

Posted on 1 Comment

Thoughts on: Making the Bartow

Bartow-2As part of the 30th anniversary of Kona Cotton, 30 different designers were asked by Robert Kaufman Fabrics to design something to show off the beauty of Kona colors. I was particularly enamored with Carolyn Friedlander’s quilt: Bartow, so when my young friend Maya asked for that one, I was pretty excited to get the chance.

I still have a nice stash of Kona Cotton (one of the perks of working for RK in 2014), so Maya and I dug through the them. She chose the Elizabeth Hartman Patchwork City: Autumn bundle, which includes a whole lot of purples, blues and green. Then I chose an additional 20 from a 10-Square of the Dusty Palette Konas.

Then I start cutting hundred and hundreds of strips.

Then I sewed hundreds of strips together. A bunch after work, then the rest at home.

I pressed them to the color side and organized them with the infinitely handy Wonder Clips.

I organized strips and then sewed them together into rows. Then started putting those rows together.

Which went just fine until the fifth row, when it didn’t quite fit… 

What the what?!

So, come to find out, the 1/4-inch stitch on the machine at the Fabric Depot sewing studio doesn’t give me the same 1/4-inch stitch as my machine as home. I didn’t realize it, but sewing all of those strips together and losing just a smidge on each seam caused my strips to be almost THREE INCHES too short.

Three inches. That’s what happens when one machine is stitching a quarter-inch seam just 1/16th of an inch larger than the other.

So for now, I’m picking out some of the seams to re-sew them and hope I can make this work without re-doing it all.

Lesson learned: Check your quarter-inch seam when switching between machines. I should have listened to you, Mandi.

Posted on 1 Comment

How to: Add Weight and Emery to Your Pincushion

Four Patch Pincushions So I have a little pincushion addiction. I love making these little guys and after making a few dozen of them, I’ve figured out a few tricks to make them even more useful. The most important part is adding some weight. I also add covered buttons for a special pop. For my own and those I sell locally, I make emery balls.

The weight is really a necessity to make the pincushion usable. If you’ve ever had one that was filled only with polyester batting, you know how light it is. Great for shipping, but sucks for keeping your pincushion on the table. Instead it seems to just float away.

I use a few things to weigh down my pincushions. Generally I use the ground walnut shells. You can buy them in bulk at pet stores, but for personal projects, it’s just as easy to pick up a small bag at your local quilt shop. They come in plain and lavender scented, if that’s your kind of thing.  You can also use short-grain rice or lentils if you are in drier climates. Even here in the PNW I’ve never had an issue with rice, but I’ve hear that others have.

But how do you get the weight in there? I’ve seen a few where they just mix it in with the stuffing, but I prefer to keep it strictly at the bottom, so I add a layer to the bottom of mine. Continue reading How to: Add Weight and Emery to Your Pincushion

Posted on 48 Comments

Handmade Holidays Time!

hh2015I’m excited to be the one to kick off the Handmade Holidays over at Sew,Mama,Sew! If you’re new to the series, you’re gonna love this. Every year Handmade Holidays runs through November, each day offering up tutorials gathered by a variety of designers, authors, and bloggers.

My focus was Gifts for Crafty People and I included tutorials for a pincushion, apron, clock, lanyard, crochet hook case and my own needle book. Plus there are a couple of my favorite recipes (mmm!) and some printables. Continue reading Handmade Holidays Time!