10 Quilty Little Secrets – A Challenge

Thirteen Spools did a fun blog post where she outed some of her guilty-quilty secrets.

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After a couple of my friends had a go (Hi Molli! Hi Cath!) I thought I’d join in… here’s my version:

1. I believe that most sins can be pressed, tugged, eased, or stretched out with a hot, steamy iron.

2. I would huff spray baste if I could, I love it that much. I know air-born adhesives are wretched things for both body and environment, and you have to keep buying it (I’ve had my pins for over 20 years), but I just don’t care. I don’t want to ever spend hours hunched over a quilt to pin it again. Glue rules.

3. What’s with deer heads in all the new fabrics? Is there a secret club that decides the cute-animal-motif-du-jour? First owls, then foxes, now deer. Bleh.

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4. I don’t bury my threads. I lock the stitch and cut. And I sometimes don’t trim the back threads off for months, especially if all I’m doing it shooting for a pattern cover.

5. I don’t hold my threads when I start a seam, or use leaders/enders. If it nests a little, who cares? It’s in the seam allowance. And it hasn’t screwed up my accuracy enough to bother me. (I always pull the bottom up to the top when quilting though.)

6. I cut off the mat on anything bigger than about 10”. I figure that if I’m off by a thread or two, then it will press, tug, ease or stretch out with a hot, steamy iron.

7. I will mix straight and bias binding if that’s what it takes to get the job done.

8. I throw away seam rippers the second they start snagging when I try to run them up a seam. I buy them in multiples so I always have a fresh one waiting.

9. I dislike PINK with the heat of a thousand suns. I’m so happy other people like it, because then I don’t have to. And I think it’s great when other people dislike ORANGE because that means there’s more for me.

10. I utterly fail at and hate stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. I can’t stay on the line, wandering back and forth on it unless I slow waaaaay down. And I hate slowing waaaaay down – gotta Sew at the Speed of Sam, baby! So I stitch a 1/4 off the ditch like an outline. And some people think I’m being crazy creative… nope, just lazy!

What’s your quiltiest secret? Leave ‘em in the comments!

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WASWI – Molli Breaks it Down

I wrote the original We Are $ew Worth It post almost two years ago, and have been thrilled to see it take laps around the world. When it went viral, it reached our cousins in Australia, and one cuz in particular took it and ran, wearing high heels!

Through the course of emails about WASWI, Molli Sparkles and I have become friends, and today, Molli has given us a great and transparent look at his No Value Does Not Equal Free quilt, a stunning tour de force in shades of white. Read it HERE.

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with "Hell yeah!" permission!

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with “Hell yeah!” permission!

I encourage you to read to the end of the post – there are many important and subtle details in there, and Molli gives us the reasons for every number in the projects sheets. He also generously gives you a version of them to use for yourself (a super beefed up version of my original simple time/materials sheets).

Perhaps the most important sentence in the post is this:

“For those in the USA, where quilting is nearly a four billion dollar industry, I created a more localised costing sheet for you. As previously mentioned, I altered the fabric cost to $10.00 / yard, and the labour rate to $14.00 / hour based on the most recently documented US median wage.”

We help generate $4 BILLION for this industry, and I know many of us struggle to charge $10 an hour.

You are worth so much more than that. We all are. We ARE $ew Worth It.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

Thank you, Molli!

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My Top Ten Tips for Sewing on the Road

I’m a member of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild, and they have a fabulous arrangement for members to sew together once a month at Fabric Depot, a huge store with a huge classroom. I love sewing with friends… the creative energy and the exchange of help and ideas is so great to be a part of.

Packing for mobile sewing can be daunting (especially when we do it at the last minute), so I’ve assembled another group of tips for you, but this time with an eye to being on the road:

1. Dedicated Crate or Tote

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If you use the same container to travel, you’ll get used to how you pack it, and will be able to see quickly if something is missing from the puzzle. I like to use a crate for my basic supplies because it fits solidly on a hand cart, and then I use totes (and zippy bags) for the projects.

2. List

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Keep a list of your basic mobile items with your container. I once arrived a retreat without the box of feet for my machine, and had to give up a chunk of my shopping budget to buy another walking foot and piecing foot. Refer to the list while you pack or it won’t really work!

3. Name that Ruler

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Put your name on everything. With most of us using similar tools, and frequently borrowing from each other, having your name on things means you’re less likely to go home without them. On rulers, I prefer a quick scrawl of Sharpie to a label, because I can still read the ruler marks through the scrawl.

4. Ribbons

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Not keen on having all your stuff labeled like you are still in grade school? Use ribbons to tie through anything that has a hole or loop. Mine, of course, are ORANGE.

5. Old Mats

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When your studio mat starts getting worn, put it aside for mobile use when you buy a new one. That way you’ll fret less if the old mat gets bent or warped from being transported. You can also cut old mats down to a more packable size.

6. Trash Container

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Let’s face it, to sew is to create trash of threads and shreds. Be kind to your host by capturing as much of it as you can. This one was a gift from a friend, and collapses for easy packing.

7. Machine Cleaning Kit

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Take your machine oil and Q-Tips with you in case your machine needs to get de-fuzzed while you’re out. There is nothing more frustrating than setting up for a sewing day (or weekend) and then having your machine act up. Having oil and cleaning supplies on hand is the first step for a fussy machine.

8. Needles and Blades

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The second step for a fussy machine is a new needle. Bring a packet with you. And if you’re gone for more than a day, or your rotary cutter blade is on the old side, pack a spare blade too. Blades are easy to dent, and when you’re cutting in unfamiliar spaces you’re more likely to drop your tools.

9. Extension Cords

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I usually travel with these two – the big one for getting the wall power to my setup, and the little one to share the power locally. I also carry a “ground cheater” plug in case I’m in an older building that doesn’t have grounded outlets.

10. Let There Be Light!

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The Fabric Depot classroom is well lit, but I’ve sewed in many a hotel conference space that wasn’t. I keep this portable light in my mobile kit just in case. There’s never enough light once you head north of 40!

11. Magnetic Pincushion + Lid

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I prefer magnetic pin cushions to the traditional variety, and this one, made by Clover, has a lid that also clips onto the base when you’re using it. The lid keeps the pins covered while they’re in the kit, so that they don’t stab me when I’m least expecting it.

12. Band-Aids

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Because you never know when you (or a friend) will need one!

Please share your tips in the comments!

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Olfa’s Rotary Cutter is Having a Birthday!

(and psst… they’ve given me a present to give to you, so read on…)

I made my first quilt without a rotary cutter, and was pretty unimpressed with how it turned out. There wasn’t a single seam that matched, and it took me three years to consider making another. When I decided to take a class to make my second, I was introduced to the classic yellow Olfa cutter, and while my seams still needed help, the cutting part went well enough that I made my next quilt almost immediately.

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Although I no longer have my original cutter (I wore it out) I’ve stayed with Olfa over the years (despite handling many other cutters as a teacher) because I like how it feels in my hand. I have good blade closing habits, too!

The rotary cutter is having it’s 35th birthday this year, and Olfa reached out to a bunch of bloggy people to join the party. They sent me this, and asked for a block in exchange:

IMG_5384The block rules were 6” finished, and use “Olfa yellow” in it somewhere. Easy!

I have a great paper-pieced font at my disposal, so I thought I’d use it :-) First I fussed a design together on the computer:

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I chose the turquoise to match the Splash cutter released last year. I always precut my fabric for paper-piecing as I find it speeds things up:

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I keep a separate cutter for trimming the paper-piecing so that I don’t dull my freshest blades – and the rotating mat makes trimming these blocks so much easier:

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A few quick seams later and the block was done!

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Thank you to Olfa for including me in the party!

Olfa is giving away a birthday present to one of my readers, too, so please comment below for a chance to win! UPDATE: I’ll chose a winner on Thursday morning (August 31).

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Square Pegs for Hoffman – plus a fabric giveaway!

If you didn’t already know, I frequently sew for Hoffman Fabrics: they send me pix of their new stuff; I choose a couple of colorways and offer pattern choices; we shake hands on an idea; they send fabric; and I start sewing.*

New collections are ready to debut, so they reached out for a quilt. This time, we chose one of my newest patterns, Square Pegs:

SquarePegs - Cover -.72dpi

While the cover quilt leans more “modern” with its clean colors, I’ve been interested in seeing it rendered in batik. There’s been much discussion of late in as to whether batiks can play well in the modern quilt arena (I contributed to an article in the latest Gen Q mag about it). My answer to the question is YES, of course batiks can be “modern.” I think how you categorize a quilt is as just as much a function of the pattern design as it is the fabric choice, and as long as you play by good fabric choice rules (mind your values… watch out for too much medium tone mush), batiks are a fabulous choice.

Hoff + Mod

Batiks are also a fit for our current hand-made vibe – they are still hand printed, even at the volumes the quilt world consumes. And if you need more eco-assurance, Hoffman has some lovely environmentally careful practices around the water used to make their pretty fabrics.

Anyway, back to that quilt. Like last time, I posted Instagram pix (@huntersds) in real time, and shot them out to the HDS FB page (please go like it! thank you!), answering questions along the way. And feel free to ask more questions over there or in the comments below.

So – fabric choices! The pattern needs 12 quarters (fat or long, or a mixture) and a chunk of background. As you know, I usually lean ORANGE, but this time I was intrigued by the elegance of these cooler colors:

Hoffman for Sq Pegs

They are much prettier than they look in the long shots on Instagram! The background is not pure white, it’s a subtle, very light, mottled blue-gray – it’s part of the Watercolor series (Snow 1895-307) which are the solid-reading batiks. The light gray at top right became the binding. And look at the bold graphic designs in the prints!

For the curious, it took approximately 22 hours over the course of 3 days. Yes, I’m pretty speedy (#sewingatthespeedofsam was coined by my friend, Z-Girl) BUT – truly, this is a speedy quilt to make. It’s all straight seams and easy construction, with lots of negative space for you to quilt-doodle through. Yes, I sew fast, but the pattern choice didn’t hurt!

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For an even faster finish, you could skip the pieced border if you like, or sew these parts together as “leaders and enders” as suggested by one of my Stunt Peeps** if you sew that way. I also copied the quilting I had done on the earlier one, which meant I didn’t spend design time testing different quilting ideas. It’s easy straight lines following the lines of the blocks, and simple stippling in alternating spaces for extra texture.

On the first day I made the blocks and the border; on the second I set it into a quilt top, made the back (ran errands, had the car break down, got towed), and basted it; and on the third, I quilted and bound it (catching up on Mad Men) – and in a rare moment of having it all together, got the sleeve and label into the binding process rather than putting them on, cussing, as an afterthought! If making it for a client, I would bid 28 hours of time to allow for more unique designing if needed, and possibly surprise them with a discount if I beat my time.

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And so to giving away fabric! I have 2 bundles…

Bundle 1: A Square Pegs pattern plus 14 almost Fat Quarters – I cut a couple of the fabrics wrong, so they’re a tad short (wasn’t wearing my glasses… sigh) so you get the 12 you need for the pattern and a couple extra because I’m a goof (and the pattern doesn’t use the entire FQ so you’ll have plenty if you want to use them for this).

Bundle 1

Bundle 2: A Square Pegs pattern plus all my big scraps – most of which are 1/4 yard or more. You’ll have enough to do the non-background parts of the top, but might need to be creative with how you cut. And I might put in some ORANGE just because.

Bundle2

Comment below to win – and tell me what you think of batiks as potential modern fabrics. And yes, you’re welcome to disagree with me – I love the discussion! I’ll choose winners on Friday. And yes, this is open to international folks too.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

* I disclose my arrangement with Hoffman Fabrics out of a desire to be transparent in the name of my commitment to the We Are $ew Worth It movement. That said, I love working with Hoffman, and like and respect their people – and wouldn’t play with them if I didn’t! I only do what works for me with people I like :-)

**Square Pegs was test driven by Stunt Sewist Peeps Karyn, Jennifer, Karen and Julie!

My Top Ten Sewing Studio Hacks

Do you have tips, techniques, tools or hacks that make life in your sewing space easier or more efficient for you? Here are some of my favorites… please share yours in the comments!

1. Table Extensions

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Whether you sink your machine into some kind of sewing furniture (I use both the Janome Table and the Sew-Ezi table), or spring for the portable extension for your machine, having the bed of your machine extended across a table will allow you sew with more accuracy. The table gives you space to line up and straighten out your fabric before it reaches the needle.

2. Velcro on the Foot Pedal

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I sew on carpet, so my foot pedal is fond of going walkabout. A chunk of the hook side of sticky-back Velcro allows it to get a grip on the carpet. Your space isn’t carpeted? Try a decent sized square of the rubber mat sold for lining cupboards (I carry one in my portable kit so that if I sew somewhere else I’m ready for either).

3. Noodle on the Knee Lift

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The bigger machines of today all have knee lifts, and as the machine throats (or Harp Space, if we’re getting technical) get bigger, the knee lift gets further out to the right. Reaching it can be a bizarre form of inner thigh stretch. Buy a pool noodle that has a big hole through the middle, saw off a chunk (a bread knife is perfect for this) and slide/tug/push it on. It will bring the knee lift edge closer to you, and you won’t have mismatched thighs! Bonus: One pool noodle will get you three or four pieces so share with a friend!

4. Different Rotary Cutters for Different Uses

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I keep a selection of cutters around so that I can make it easily through different techniques. The 60mm one is for batting, fusible fleece, and when I’m cutting through more than 4 layers of fabric. I have an extra 45mm one specifically for cutting paper, or trimming paper pieced blocks (this gets my older blades). The 28mm is for smaller pieces and curved templates.

5. Cone Stand Hack

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Don’t have a cone stand? Do this instead… Grab a big coffee mug or a big canning jar. The base of the cup or jar needs to be bigger than the spool’s base or it will wedge. If using the jar, go wide-mouth so you can get your hand in if needed. Pop the thread into it and set it up next to your machine. Tape a safety pin (closed, sharp point down) to the edge of your machine such that you can go from the jar into your thread path in as straight a line as possible. Thread through the end hole in the safety pin and into the thread path.

6. Slider on the Machine

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Cover the path to the needle of your machine with a chunk of Supreme Slider (I had a damaged one that I cut in half for this). It will help stop seams from flipping the wrong way underneath as you come into the needle. For paper-piecing, it helps the paper slide across the machine bed, and stops the dreaded flip of the underneath piece. Tip: rinse the slider off at the beginning of every sewing session to keep it sticking on the bed.

7. Needle Threader

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If you can see to thread a needle easily, huzzah! File this away for the day after your 40th birthday for when, suddenly, your arms need to be longer to read anything. This little goody is the Desk Needle Threader made by Clover. Put the needle in eye down, lay thread across the path, push the lever, pull out the threaded needle. It also has a cutter across the top so you don’t have to risk your scissors to the capriciously enforced rules of the TSA.

8. Sticky Notes

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Do you go back to same machine settings over and over? Keep them close by on sticky-notes. I also use them to mark cuts of fabric when I need to keep it all straight.

9. Zippy Bags

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I use these relentlessly to corral projects and their parts. Being as I paper-piece a lot of words (and always precut for them), I bag the parts for each word as I’m cutting. I play a lot less 52-pick-up when I move things around in bags.

10. Tweezers

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I keep two sets on hand – one has teeth in the tip, the other has flat ends. I use the first mostly for pulling paper out of paper-pieced seams, and the flat ones for pulling up threads at the machine.

11. Non-sticky Hand Lotion

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Fabric will steal the moisture from your hands, so I use these little tins of hand lotion bars. Lavishea and LoLo Bar make my two faves, and I like the citrusy smells. Dump the bar into your hands, give it a quick rub, pop it back into the tin, and massage the lotion into your hands. Neither of these products leave a sticky residue! Bonus: when your hands have some moisture, you’ll be able to grip the fabric better, and pick up single pieces from stacks.

12. Scrap Pillow Case

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No matter how many scraps you keep, there’s still a point at which you’ll toss out the smallest bits of fabric. Put together a simple pillow case from that “what was I thinking?” fabric you bought a while back, and throw your scraps into it. When it’s full, run a sturdy seam down the edge, and drop it by your local animal shelter next time you’re out running errands.

Ooops – that was twelve! No matter!

Please share your fave tips in the comments.

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Embroidery as Animation

Animation is probably the first way we experience visual stories in movement. Saturday morning cartoons were definitely mine, and mostly the pioneering fast frame (limited animation) stuff of the Hanna-Barbera team. Top Cat and the Wacky Races were my faves from the sixties, while the Ninja Turtles and Transformers ruled my son’s early years.

Image credit superbwallpapers.com

Image credit superbwallpapers.com

I even borrowed a phrase from Dick Dastardly’s dog Muttley for my upcoming book Quilt Talk! (psst… a hint… it doesn’t involve words!)

Despite beginning to sew at about the same age I was watching these cartoons, I never imagined that sewing and cartoons could be integrated. But that’s out the window now, because of this:

 

The artist, Nicos Livesey, created the drawings for animation, then digitized them for embroidery for a music video. I can’t say the music is my bag, but I’m in awe of the rendering of the concept. Stunning stuff. And a whole new way to show off mad needle skillz to the masses. Sewing machines are indeed power tools!

H/T to Kathy Loomis at Art With a Needle for the link.

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