“That reminds me….”

Today was a day to start wrapping up my holiday sewing:  sewing the finishing touches on those last minute projects before Christmas Eve (yes, I have been known to sew up until the hour before the gift needs to be wrapped and given!)  Since this year I vowed to be done early, I have tried very hard to keep that promise made to myself.  As I was working on the last of the zippered bags (remember those from my January 27th blog?) and the Santa’s Cookies and Milk place mat for the great niece and nephew, I was noticing how many different presser feet I was using while sewing.

I used at least four different presser feet in the making of this “Cookies and Milk” place mat for the 2 and 5 year olds in the family. This is the Changeable Dual Feed foot with the open toe attachment: great for clear visibility during stitch in the ditch binding attachment.
The finished place mat.
The place mat backing and binding proved the perfect place for a fun novelty print.

Using four different presser feet for one project reminded me that Bonny had sent out an email earlier in the week announcing a sale on all accessories and that led me to my blog tonight.  If you haven’t checked out the Husqvarna Viking and the Pfaff Facebook pages lately, you may want to take a peek at the different feet and sewing inspirations they are posting.  The holidays are a great time to get some accessories you may not normally get, so take a look at the following posts and see what you think (especially while Bonny has accessories on sale!).  There are embroidery ideas on each Facebook page that you should check out if you have an embroidery machine, but the techniques on the posting dates I am listing can be done by most sewing machines as long as you have the presser foot.  I hope these posts give you some inspiration as they did me.  I’ll be trying out some of these ideas as soon as the holiday projects are complete.  I am only able to link to the Facebook page itself, not to the individual posts, so please continue to scroll down the page once you get to Facebook.  Happy Sewing!

Husqvarna Viking Facebook posts:

December 6 – Multi-line Decorative Foot and twin needles

December 1 – Plaid effect with decorative stitches

November 29 – attaching cut materials to add texture

November 25 – Straight stitch patterns

Pfaff Facebook posts:

December 5 – Couching foot

November 19 – Pintuck foot and twin needles

November 14 – Creative and Performance Icon Radiant stitches at unusual angles

November 11 – Pintuck foot with Decorative Stitch Guide

October 28 – Ruffler

October 25 – Candlewicking Foot

It turns out five more people will be coming to the Christmas Eve family gift exchange, so I needed to quickly make five more zippered bags. Details on this project can be found in my January 27, 2019 blog entry.
The quilting has been done for each bag and now all that’s left to do is trim the material, add the zipper and sew up the sides. A very fast and fun project.

“Special Project, Special Feet”

My nephew’s little girl is two and will turn three during the first week in January.  She is never seen without a doll in her hands, so for Christmas and for her birthday, we are getting her dolls and I am making them some outfits.  She loves pink, purple and blue, so those are the colors of the clothes I am making.

A few of the fabrics I have to choose from. These are quilting cottons and knits.

What is fun about this gift is that I am using materials and embellishments that have some family history to them, which she might appreciate when she’s older.  As I have been working, I have been making good use of some special feet I have for my machine.   If you are tackling a project like this one, you may want to use these same feet that might be in your stash of presser feet too!

In making doll clothes, you use all of the same techniques you would in regular garment construction, just on a smaller scale.  Since all the seam allowances are ¼”, I used my Adjustable ¼” Piecing Foot with Guide (Husqvarna Viking, Pfaff).

Due to its versatility, this is my go-to presser foot whenever I need to sew a 1/4″ seam.

The foot, with the oblong needle opening, allows me to stitch an exact ¼” seam but also gives me the flexibility to create a scant ¼” by moving the needle position to the right using the width adjustment control or make the seam allowance larger by moving the needle position to the left.  I frequently use this foot for piecing quilt tops and love its versatility.  (If you decide to use a regular ¼” piecing foot with center needle position ability only, please remember to set your machine’s stitch width safety in the Settings Menu!)

My next task in this clothing adventure:  gather 40” of skirt material down to fit a 10” waistband. 

The task: gather 40″ of material down to 10″ to fit the green fabric waistband (on the left of the long piece of fabric)!

Using basting stitches to gather was not going to be strong enough for the task, so I zig-zagged over an inexpensive piece of perle cotton using my Narrow Braid Cord foot (Husqvarna Viking, Pfaff) and its guide.

The perle cotton I use for this is very inexpensive but strong enough to hold the gathering.

I just set the perle cotton inside the machine bed and made sure to keep enough unwound from the spool to keep it feeding nicely into the guide.  I didn’t even have to guide it with my hands:  the foot and guide did all the work for me.

The gathering cord is stitched just inside the seam allowance so I won’t have to remove any stitches after I’m done. Once the skirt is gathered and attached I simply pull out the cord to lessen the bulk.

The zig-zag stitch just needs to be wide enough to cover the perle cotton so it moves freely in the casing of thread.

The zig-zag is just big enough to allow the perle cotton to move freely. Gathering is a breeze!

Since the perle cotton is fairly heavy, it is able to handle the large amount of gathering needed for this skirt that uses 2 different layers of fabric gathered together as one.  As you can see, there are 4 dresses and 4 play outfits, so this little girl should have fun for hours.

4 new dresses…..
…and 4 play outfits.

Doll clothes are a great place to use those fun mini embroidery designs, too! Happy sewing!

From “Amazing Designs Mini Emblems” embroidery collection.
From Pfaff’s “Mini Decorator” embroidery collection.

“2 + 7.5”

Late Friday evening I went into my sewing room, looking for a particular piece of fabric.  Of course, I could not find it immediately, but as I was going through my bins of fabric (yes, that was bins plural!), I came across two pieces of fabric I had forgotten I had (this is the “2” in the title).  Has that ever happened to you?  As soon as I saw them, an idea popped into my head.  The fabric seemed to be speaking to me, so I wrote down what it said it wanted to be.

Not exactly a professional quality pattern, but I knew what I wanted. My finished product was projected to be between 48″-49″ long and between 16″-17″ wide. By the way, wof stands for Width of Fabric.
These are the two rectangles of fabric. They are my sister-in-law’s favorite color and her favorite subject! The table runner is for her.

With my drawing and fabrics in hand, I went to my computer to look for the embroidery designs I knew I wanted to use and then went straight to the cutting table (i.e. the dining room table) to cut out the pieces.  Within an hour I had found the fabric, sketched the design, found the embroideries and pieced the top.  Not bad!  Next I marked the center of the middle of the table runner and laid out the paper templates for the embroidery placements.

Once the top of the table runner was assembled….
….I marked both the vertical and horizontal center of the table runner’s middle piece…
… and began laying out my paper templates…
…until I was happy with my arrangement.
I marked my centers for each template and I was ready to start stitching. Did you notice the backing is attached with the batting and top to make the quilt sandwich?

At this point I made a decision on my batting:  I decided to use OESD’s Fusible Fleece and I fused that to the backing fabric.  This way I knew my work would be stabilized as I embroidered and I had no chance of the backing fabric creasing without my knowledge.  (Ask me how I know that can be a problem!)  I used my 200×200 hoop for the center embroideries and used the plastic alignment template that came with the hoop to make sure I was centered when I got to the machine.

I put the template on when I get to the machine to check my alignment.
Once I’m sure the center is lined up, I remove the template and begin the embroidery.

Remember that embroidery always uses less tension on the top thread than in regular sewing.  I order to make the embroidery look like quilting rather than an embroidery design the top thread tension must be increased to form a more balanced stitch.  I wanted to use the Active Stitch Technology on my Pfaff (known on the Husqvarna Vikings as the Deluxe Stitch System) to give me the best thread feed, so I increased it from 50 to 80.

My Pfaff has this adjustment in the Stitch Out Progress area in Embroidery Stitch Out. The Husqvarna Vikings usually have this adjustment in the Settings Menu when in embroidery mode.

Once I finished embroidering the center panel it was time to quilt the borders.

I usually use my Endless Hoop to quilt the borders.

Since you can’t see the design as well on the borders, here it is:  from Pfaff’s Brilliant Blocks and Borders collection.

This design has registration marks at the beginning and end to create seamless border designs.

In case you are interested, the center embroideries are from the following collections: 

Pfaff’s Holiday Line Art Collection
Husqvarna Viking’s Holiday Felting Collection
Pfaff’s Holiday Line Art Collection

7.5 hours after I began this process, I have a finished product. 

The finished product has actual measurements of 48 5/8″ long X 16 1/2″ wide.

For all you embroiders out there, there are about 80,000 stitches total in this table runner, including the center and border designs.  The stitching took a little more than 6 hours to complete and the remaining time was spent in the table runner’s assembly. Thus the title of this writing: two rectangles of fabric and seven and a half hours of work! “2 + 7.5”

“Listening to Fabric”

No matter what type of sewing is on your project list, “listening” to what your fabric needs is very important.  If you are a quilter you probably work mostly with cottons but what happens if you decide to work with silk dupioni or flannel?  If you are creating a home décor project are you using upholstery fabric or burlap?  If you are sewing a garment, are you using a stable woven or an unstable knit?  As you sew, no matter what the project, it’s important to take notice of what your fabric needs you to do so it can look its best.  If you pay attention, your fabric will always tell you what it needs.  No one likes to hear “Bless your heart, you made that yourself, didn’t you?”  I have encountered this issue while making, for instance, a crazy patch quilt.  The different fabrics that give the quilt its beauty can also be the very reason you need to pay close attention to what your fabric is telling you.  I recently ran into this very issue while making my vest.  The striped fabric on the front was much lighter in weight than the denim on the back.

Though the front striped fabric and the back denim fabric were both cottons, they were of different weights.

In order to have the front striped fabric drape properly it needed to be stabilized, but if I interfaced the front and also interfaced the facing pieces, I knew it would all get too stiff.  Solution:  increase the width of the facing pieces and interface only them so they would support the front and back equally as they went around the inside of the garment.  Issue two came with the hem for the vest.  As with all garment fabrics, I laundered the fabric exactly the way I planned to launder the finished garment.  (I would much rather have the fabric shrink at this stage of construction rather than after the garment has been completed.)  As you can see, my denim had a significant “rolling” problem when it came out of the dryer.

This is how the denim looked straight out of the dryer.

In fact, the fabric still had a rolling problem even after it had been pressed.

Even after pressing with significant steam, the denim had a tendency to roll to the right side of the fabric.

This means that after the garment is complete, every time I sit in the car or in a chair with a back on it, chances are the hem of my vest will roll.  Not cool!  My solution:  cut a 1 ¾” piece of tricot knit interfacing and fuse it to the 2” hem allowance (cutting it a little narrower than the actual hem ensures it won’t be seen on the front of the garment).

I cut 1 3/4″ wide fusible tricot strips to fuse to the hem of the vest.
I find that using fusible knit tricot adds stability to the fabric without adding stiffness. The fabric will drape well and will move with the body.

With the fabric now stabilized on the front and back of the vest, the hem looks uniform and should I sit while wearing the vest, I should not experience any rolling of the back hem.

Interfacing fused to the back of the vest at the hemline.
Interfacing strip fused to the hemline on the front of the vest.

The interfacing along the hem also gave the fabric more support while I used the blind hem stitch for a more professional looking hem.

Here is the finished garment: from the back…..
…and from the front.

“Without Thread”

Late today I started working on a tunic length vest that uses a striped fabric on the front and a denim fabric on the back.

This is the fabric for the front of the vest. It has designs inside the stripes that I wanted to complement on the back of the vest.

I wanted to add some type of embellishment to the denim back that would complement the fabric on the front of the vest, but I did not want to use something “heavy” looking.   Felting was the answer!  Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff each have a Felting attachment and embroidery designs that allow you to felt in three ways:  Free Standing, Single Layer and Multi-layer. 

This is the same set from Husqvarna Viking

Denim is a great fabric for single layer felting, especially if it has a very white “wrong” side to the fabric.  Felting is done with a special needle with barbs that mesh the threads of the fabric so the embellishment is part of the fabric, not just laying on it.  In the case of my denim, the white of the wrong side comes through to the dark blue of the right side.  I hooped my denim fabric, right side against the machine with no stabilizer, using my 240 x 150 metal hoop.

I wanted the design to be in the center of the vest back starting about 3″ down from the neck seam.
The red marks show where the middle of the finished design will be.

After all was lined up the way I wanted it, I checked everything using the template that comes with the hoop.

The plastic template allows me to place my design exactly where I want it in the hoop.

I loaded the design into the machine and pushed start:  no thread needed!

The design is number 16 from the collection “Embroidery Felting”
Remember, the white on the back of the denim will be coming through to the dark blue front, so I have to felt the fabric from the wrong side.

Would you believe at this point, I am almost done with the design?

Can you see the faint outline of the design? Almost done!

Once the machine had finished, I was ready to remove the hoop and take a look at the design from the right side of the denim.  This is what the design looks like while still in the hoop.

I know! It’s really cool, isn’t it?

This close up shows you the “fuzzy” effect the felting produces, giving a light fluffy look to the design.

This design is the result of the meshing of the front and back of the fabric.

I will include some pictures in next week’s blog to show you the finished product.  In the meantime, you may want to check out this video demonstration of the Felting set. Happy sewing!!

“Overcoming Obstacles”

Since our cold snap arrived this past week I have been wearing my favorite jacket.  It’s warm and comfortable…. and about 10 years old.  Though it’s great for a walk in the neighborhood, it’s no longer so pretty going places where I’d like to look nice.  I decided to use some very thick sweatshirt fleece to make myself a new casual jacket and, since the material was sweatshirt fleece, I decided to use a twin needle for all the top stitching, as is found in ready to wear sweatshirts.  I set up my machine for twin needle sewing and chose a 6.0/90 needle for the job.

Anytime a twin needle is used a raised seam is produced. This is the seam from the front of the fabric.
This is the same seam from the wrong side of the fabric. A raised seam is produced by the zig-zag stitch that joins the two rows of stitching together.

(If you have forgotten how to set up your machine for using twin needles, please see my June 6, 2018 blog entry or your machine’s manual.)  I made all the necessary changes in my Settings Menu and began my first top stitching using my Interchangeable Dual Feed foot.  The foot would not budge on the top of the fabric!  I had lowered my presser foot pressure and had set everything up correctly, so what was the problem?  It turns out the plastic “feet” on the bottom of the “walking” foot that are supposed to keep the top and bottom layers of fabric moving together, were catching and getting snagged on the fashion side of the sweatshirt fleece.  The answer?  I used two scrap pieces of tear away stabilizer, placing each piece under each side of the foot so the plastic teeth could interact with the stabilizer instead of with the sweatshirt fleece.

The stabilizer kept the plastic “walking” feet of the foot from getting snagged on the fabric.
When top stitching each seam, I kept the red mark in the middle of the foot on the line of the seam. This meant each needle ran a scant 1/8″ away from the seam on both sides.

I used tear away stabilizer in case I happened to inadvertently sew over it; I could just tear it away from the stitch with no harm done and no using the seam ripper! All I had to do now was to lower the speed of my machine, which is a good idea anytime you are using twin needles, and keep my eye on the seam, repositioning the pieces of stabilizer as I went along.  The jacket is not quite finished:  it still needs side seams, a hem and elastic around the wrists of the sleeves, but I’m pretty pleased so far.  May your sewing by obstacle free this week! 

There’s still a way to go before I finish, but I like the way the raised seams show up on the jacket.
This is a little closer so you can see more detail.
Okay, okay! That’s close enough! Happy sewing!

“Using Every Scrap”

This week I started the assembly of one of the Christmas table runners I plan to make:  the one that will be going to Germany.  I’ve told you before that I like table runners because I am able to use up small scraps of batting.  When I say small, I’m talking no bigger than 8” x 8” or smaller.  When I need larger pieces, I use the bridging stitch to put batting pieces together (see my July 2, 2018 blog entry for detailed instructions).  My process here is not “Best Practices” in quilting, but it works for me.  Follow the pictures and see what you think.  There will be a promised picture of the finished market bags from last week at the end of my blog entry.  Happy Sewing!!!

This is where the process begins…. in the scrap bag of batting!
The table runner will have two different blocks: one embroidered and one plain fabric. The embroidered block already has batting, so the plain fabric block needs batting too.
I square up the batting and plain fabric block the same size as the embroidered block: 8.5″ x 8,5″
I sew the embroidered blocks and plain blocks together in an alternating pattern and press the seams open on my point presser. The seams are too bulky to press to the side.
Pressing on the point presser gives the seams a nice, flat press.
Once the seam is pressed open, use more steam and press with the clapper. This really gets your seams flat!
I next cut the border pieces with their batting and sew those to the blocks. I also added a flange to the border seams.
This is now how the back of the table runner looks with all seams sewn and pressed open.
This is how it looks so far. Now it’s time for the backing and quilting!
The top gets pinned to the backing as usual. I’m ready to embroider the quilting designs.
I stitch in the ditch of all of the seams on the runner…..
then quilt the block. The embroidery design is hard to see because I used variegated thread.
This is the design.
I then quilt the borders.
I square everything up, add the binding, and I’m done.

Here are the farmer’s market bags from last week. They have a short handle and a longer shoulder handle plus a zippered pocket on the back of each tote.

Bags from the front….
Bags from the back.

“Boxing Corners”

Today I started working on another Christmas gift; some custom tote bags for my nephew and his wife to take to the farmer’s market.  They are vegetarians and love to get all their fresh food at local farmer’s markets.  My nephew has even been known to be found playing his guitar and singing as one of the musicians who often provide entertainment for all the shoppers!  I took some time this afternoon to design the bags: deciding on the dimensions and how I wanted the bags to look.  Once the design was complete, I made a list of the cuts of fabric I needed and got busy.

I love projects like this because I am just dealing with rectangles!

I am using unbleached muslin for the bags and their lining.  I wanted the bags to have body, but I didn’t want them to be as structured as the totes I usually make, so I decided to use OESD’s “Fuse and Fleece” as the structure.

This fusible gives just the right amount of structure for these bags.

This gives the material body and a neat appearance but will also allow the bags to be folded and stored.  Since I want the bags to hold a fair amount of items, I decided on a 4 inch base.  To achieve that, I needed to box the corners.  There are a couple ways to go about this, but I decided to make cuts in the bottom of the bags’ fabric, 2 inches high by 2 inches wide.

I marked the bottom corners of the bag and the lining…
then cut them.

Because I cut the 2” x 2” squares on each piece, when I put them together, I will get a four inch base.

Here the front and back of the bag are laid together. They form the 4 inch box for the bottom of the bag.
This is where I will sew the bottom seam.

Once the corners were cut in the totes’ lining and fabric, it was time to start the assembly.  I started by sewing the lining pieces.  Since I want the lining to be a tad smaller than the outer tote, I took a little larger than a half inch seam.  I first sewed the bottom seam, then the side seams.

Having sewn the bottom and side seams, I am ready to create the box.

I then met the bottom seam with each side seam  and sewed them together.

Pinned and ready to sew. The red pin is placed where the bottom and side seams come together.
The box is now sewn.

Remember, my finished box will be a little smaller than 4 inches since this is the lining and I intentionally took a little larger seam allowance.

This is the boxed bottom of the lining. It’s intentionally a tad smaller than 4″. When the bottom seam of the outer tote is sewn and the boxed corners are made, it will be 4 inches exactly.

Once I finish the first bag and am sure I like the way it turns out, I will cut and sew the rest of the bags to that design.  I’ll make sure I include a picture for you in next week’s blog.  Happy sewing! 

“Hoop Ease”

Once you’ve made the decision to purchase an embroidery capable machine, you begin a journey of creativity and of purchasing a variety of accessories for your machine!  A variety of hoops makes so many more things possible, but sometimes they come with extra parts whose use is not immediately obvious.   One of those extra parts is Hoop Ease.  This is a tacky material that comes with some hoops and is used to add grip to the hoop, especially for thin fabrics or, in the case of free standing lace, non-woven water soluble stabilizer.  These very thin materials are not as easy to embroider as other more traditional materials and challenge the hoop’s grip under the pressure of the needle’s action while creating the design.  In case you have some of this Hoop Ease and weren’t quite sure how to use it, here is an example from my lace making adventure this past week.

This is how the Hoop Ease looks when you first take it out of the package.
Unfold the Hoop Ease completely.
Here I have inserted the Hoop Ease into the hoop.
The tabs have been inserted into their corresponding slots and I’m ready to start my embroidery.
Here is the lace beginning to stitch out. The Hoop Ease keeps the water soluble stabilizer from moving in the hoop allowing the lace to stitch out without any puckering.
Even as the lace grows in length, the Hoop Ease keeps everything in place.
See the small registration stitches at the top of the lace? This is how each section is lined up with the next so the lace appears to have been stitched all at once in a continuous line.

I hope you enjoy sewing whatever you are working on this week!

“Stitch Width Safety”

During the machine classes I teach, while exploring the machines’ Settings Menu, we talk about Stitch Width Safety.  Most customers have never heard of the setting and don’t know when they are supposed to use it.  Since most of you probably have this feature I wanted to take a moment to explain it:  what it is, why it’s needed and when to use it.

Most machines that have a Settings Menu have a Stitch Width Safety option.  This feature limits your needle position to the center only, so you can only choose a center position straight stitch.  The selection of this option is done to tell the machine that you either have a straight stitch plate on your machine or you are using a presser foot that has only a center needle position opening through which to sew.

The stitch plate on the top is the zig-zag plate and the one below is the straight stitch plate. These are both Pfaff stitch plates.
These plates are from Husqvarna Viking. The top zig-zag plate has a much wider opening, allowing for decorative stitches and different needle positions whereas the bottom plate is the straight stitch plate, allowing only the center needle position straight stitch.
These feet are examples of those used with the zig-zag or standard stitch plate. They all have a wide needle opening, allowing for different needle positions, twin needles and decorative stitches.
These presser feet are some of the many examples of feet that need to have the Stitch Width Safety option chosen in the Settings Menu. All of them have a small hole in the center, allowing the needle to only stitch in one position……the center!
Row 1: yarn couching and invisible zipper feet
Row 2: stitch in the ditch and 1/4″ piecing feet
Row 3: Ribbon couching feet

It’s important to give your machine this information since it has no way of knowing what you are sewing.  (In the case of the straight stitch plate:  top of the line machines {such as the Husqvarna Epic and the Pfaff Creative/Performance Icon} do have a sensor that lets them know when this specialty plate has been attached and will select the Stitch Width Safety setting automatically.  These machines cannot, however, tell when a straight stitch only foot has been attached).  The importance of selecting this option becomes immediately apparent if you have ever been using, say a ¼” piecing foot, without setting the stitch width safety and then chosen a zig-zag stitch that you are only going to use for a moment.  There will be a loud noise and a broken needle that will probably go whizzing over your right shoulder at astonishing speed……just ask me how I know this!  By turning on the Stitch Width Safety, the machine will know not to allow you to choose any other stitch besides a center needle position straight stitch.  The only time I do not recommend you use this feature is if you are using the Adjustable ¼” piecing foot.

Notice the opening on the Pfaff and the Husqvarna Viking Adjustable 1/4″ piecing foot has a slightly oblong needle opening. This allows for that scant 1/4″ seam allowance.

If you use the Stitch Width Safety option while using this foot, you lose the ability to change the needle position to achieve a scant ¼” seam allowance, which is the whole reason you bought the foot in the first place.  In this case, you simply have to keep your head on and remember not to change the stitch to anything other than a straight stitch.  You will also need to test the needle position for the adjusted straight stitch with that foot by using the hand wheel to carefully move the needle through the stitch before you start full speed sewing.  I have found while using this particular foot, the best way to make sure I don’t do something I’ll regret is to put on the “Lock Screen” feature, also found in the Settings Menu.  This option is found on machines that have an interactive display screen.