Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Pattern comparison - Patterns by Annie's Travel Duffle vs Get Out of Town Duffle

If you are thinking about making a duffle bag, I highly recommend the Travel Duffle or the Get Out of Town Duffle by Patterns by Annie. I've made both of them, so I figured that I should share a few things that I've learned.

Front view of both bags
Until I took a few pictures of them together last night, I don't think I ever got how significant the size difference is between the two bags. According to ByAnnie.com, the Travel Duffle measures  21" x 13" x 8" while the Get Out of Town Duffle measures 16" x 10" x 7". I'm pretty good with visualizing dimensions, but I still wasn't quite prepared for what I saw in the pic.

Pretty big difference, isn't it?
I've used the Travel Duffle on 3 airline trips in the 11 months since I finished it - a larger Bombardier regional jet, an Airbus A320 and a Boeing 737. On all of those trips, I had no problem placing my bag in the overhead bin. If I had really overstuffed the bag, it might have been a little iffy on the regional jet. 

Stowed safely in the overhead bin
I love this size because it can hold a lot of stuff, and it's a piece of cake to remove the bottom stabilizer (I have a piece of acrylic in the base) so it can be folded down and packed into another suitcase.  As a side note, the Pfaff Passport 3.0 sewing machine fits great in the Travel Duffle. LOL.

My Pfaff Passport 3.0 inside the Travel Duffle (made with fabrics from Katarina Roccella's Avant Garde collection for Art Gallery Fabrics)
The Get Out of Town Duffle is a great size that would be perfect for a weekend getaway or to be stored under the seat in front of you on a plane as a smallish bag. Like the Travel Duffle, it also has a removable stabilizer base so that it can be folded down (or be carried as a more slouchy bag).

My Get Out of Town Duffle in Galaxy Cats fabric by Timeless Treasures
Both bags use ByAnnie's Soft and Stable to provide structure and support without adding a lot of weight.  They also both have slip interior pockets, 4 slip exterior pockets, and zippered exterior pockets (1 on Get Out of Town and 2 on Travel Duffle).  In addition, both bags have adjustable shoulder straps that are detachable.


I really love both of my bags, and I'm glad that I made both sizes. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sharing the love - The Love All Around Block by May Chappell

There's been so much anxiety and stress over world events in the last year, and that seems to have spread out across social media in the form of negativity.  On a personal front, I'm still reeling from losing both of my beloved feline children (one in August 2015 and the other in June 2016), my father in December 2016, and my father-in-law 10 days after losing my Dad.

So, I'm trying to do my part to spread love and positivity by introducing you to the Love All Around Block by May Chappell (aka Lee Monroe.)  I was thrilled when she asked if I would like to participate.  I'm a long-time fan of her stuff (and she's pretty awesome too), so I jumped at the chance.

Here's where you can find the tutorial - Love All Around Tutorial.

I think that Lee's instructions in the tutorial are easy to follow, and she provides excellent tips.  If you haven't had the chance to try one of her patterns, this is a great way to get a feel for her style of pattern writing.

The block works very well for a variety of fabric styles, color palettes, or designers.  As for mine, I opted to use some beautiful fabrics from the Seventy Six collection by Alison Glass for Andover Fabrics] that I found at Circa 15 Fabric Studio.

The first four fabrics that I picked for the starting block

The 8" block (finished size) goes together quickly, and it's a great block to use for practicing your piecing accuracy (if you are into that type of stuff.)  Most importantly, in my opinion, it's a fun block to make.

Voila!  One block down and an undetermined amount to go!
Now I need to figure out what I want to do with the block.  I know that I want to incorporate it into a larger project, but I'm still not sure as to what.  I could easily see this block used in a table runner, a bag/pouch, placemats, pillows, or as a quilt.

Once I figure out the plan, I'll post an update!  For now, go check out the Love All Around Tutorial on maychappell.com!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bring on the Tacky Table Runner!


A while ago, I was asked by the folks at Timeless Treasures to come up with a project for a tacky table runner that features their Ugly Christmas Sweater fabric.  With LED lights and pom poms, this epic project certainly falls into that category!  This project makes me laugh, and let's be honest, sometimes a good laugh is what we need.

So, go check it out! http://ttfabrics.com/make-it-now-ugly-christmas-sweater-table-runner/

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Slicker Tote by Lazy Girl Designs

It's been a while since I did a review of a pattern, so let's see if I can remember how this works.  ;)

I'm a pretty notorious stasher of patterns.  When I see a pattern that looks interesting, I'll buy it and save it for the right fabric at the right time.  It turns out that it was the right time to pull out a pattern that I've been sitting on for the last 2 and a half years.  Yikes!



So, the pattern that I'm reviewing today is the Slicker Tote by Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs.  It's a pretty straightforward tote that uses a nifty iron-on vinyl product, Slicker, that you apply to laminate the exterior fabric on the bag.  Slicker doesn't add a lot of thickness to the fabric, and it remains very flexible.  The pattern also recommends using Stiff Stuff, a firm sew in interfacing, to give the tote body while still remaining lightweight (and it doesn't feel stiff).  I've used it in several projects, and I'm a big fan.

Stiff Stuff helps this tote to stand on its own.

One of the reasons that I haven't made the pattern was that I was a little afraid of the Slicker.  Seriously.  Now that I've made it, I feel a little bit silly because it was really easy to apply.  If you have you ever tried to put a screen protector on a phone?  That sort of terror filled, nightmare experience?  Yeah, that's what I was envisioning.  It was even easier than standing there watching the guy at Best Buy put the screen protector on my phone for me after I shelled out the cash.  The hardest part was trying to make sure that I didn't have any fuzzies / thread bits that got sandwiched in between the fabric and the Slicker because I'm pretty finicky about that type of stuff.  There actually is a little piece of fuzz under it, but you can't easily see it unless you know where to look.  Oops.

You can see the glossy finish that Slicker gives to the fabric.

Another reason that I haven't made the pattern was that I have a pretty big (and well documented) weakness for fabric that has a very definite directional print which is not ideal for this project.  Tula Pink's new Slow & Steady collection has several prints that I love and actually are not directional.  Perfect!  Road block eliminated.

In Joan's typical style (I think this is the 6th pattern of hers that I've made), the pattern uses photographs to illustrate the steps.  The written instructions are also clear, and they include information on how to apply the Slicker.

For construction, I did opt to use my machine's Teflon / non-stick foot for part of the process.  I really don't think it was necessary, but I already have one so I figured that I might as well use it.  With simple straight seams, this pattern is rated for a Confident Beginner, and I would agree with that.

While laminated fabric isn't totally waterproof (you are stitching through it which means that you are putting holes into it), it's generally pretty water resistant which is a big bonus for me living in the rainy Pacific Northwest.  It can also be wiped clean.

To be completely honest, the biggest issue that I had making the bag was that I almost pressed the Slicker with my iron directly on the fabric (you can press it from the WRONG side of the fabric without worry on medium heat with no steam).  That's a pretty big no-no for laminated fabric.  The problem wasn't with the pattern (which is very good about reminding you to use the paper backing of the Slicker as a pressing sheet).  It was totally me.

One of my favorite things about this pattern is that using the Slicker product means that I can grab just about anything from my stash of quilting cotton.  Buying pre-laminated cottons are often expensive and offer a significantly more limited selection.  So, making my own is a great option.

Overall, I think this was a great pattern.  It's well written, and it is a nice introduction to Slicker, Stiff Stuff, and Lazy Girl patterns.


It's even kitten approved!

I was not asked or paid to write this review.  As always, my opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I got to check out the August Stash Builder Box!



In the interest of full disclosure, this box was provided to me at no charge.  However, my comments and opinions of the product and contents are my own.  

You may have seen my post on Instagram about the August 2016 Stash Builder Box  (SBB) that I was given the chance to check out, so I wanted to give you more details about it.

Before I get into the contents, Stash Builder Box is a subscription service that sends a box out every month filled with sewing/quilting related goodies.  They offer plans for month to month all the way up through annual plans, so there are a lot of different options.  You can read about the options here.

If you like the specific box that I am featuring, you need to sign up on their site before August 14, 2016 at 9pm MST.

With that said, let's dive into this!

The included goodies in the August SBB!

My love of Aurifil thread is well documented.  I use the 50 weight thread for a variety of applications including quilt piecing, making smaller items (pouches, etc), quilting, hand piecing (the small amount of it that I do), and binding.  In addition to it being my favorite cotton thread, the spool included in this box is GREY - one of my favorite colors.  The spool included in my box was color 1246 (appropriately named Grey).  It's a nice medium-dark grey that will blend in well with a lot of my projects.

There is also a 10 pack of Neon Green Wonder Clips by Clover.  I use Wonder Clips for so many things.  I use them in place of pins when I'm sewing with leather, vinyl, or other materials that pins may irreparably damage.  They are also great for holding my quilt or bag binding in place while I'm hand finishing it.  Have you ever bent a pin trying to pin through a lot of layers or through heavy fabrics like canvas?  I have bent more pins than I want to even think about.  Wonder Clips are great for keeping bulky items together.

In the way of fabric, this month's box includes 3 fat quarters from Dear Stella's Junebug collection.  I loved this collection the first time I saw it.  Two of the prints are specific to Junebug and the 3rd is a Dear Stella Basic from their Net collection.  I've used Net in quite a few projects, and it's one of my favorite basics.  I really like how the team at Stash Builder Box gives its followers a chance to vote for the fabrics that will be included in the box.  One of my favorite prints wasn't in final selection, but one of the ones for which I voted did make the cut (the turquoise Demi Circles).  It's a great idea to get those of us involved that are "playing at home."

One of my favorite sayings as it relates to a variety of projects is "measure twice, cut once."  Though I sometimes find myself in the  measure twice, cut once, curse and repeat group, it's something that I try to really be diligent about following.  Accuracy is key for a lot of the projects that I do.  The pencil included with this month's box really resonates with me.

There are a pair of patterns inside the box.  The first is the Bundle Buster quilt pattern from Quilting Jetgirl (I follow her on Instagram) to make a fat quarter friendly quilt that finishes at 60" x 80".  That's pretty similar in size to most of the quilts that I make, so it's right up my alley.  I have a bunch of  FQ bundles that are begging to be sewn into something cool, so this pattern in on my to make list.  There's also a pattern for the stash block of the month.

Finally, the box includes a card that features a quote on one side (this month has a quote from Henry James) and a list of the box's included items on the reverse.  Whoever said that something can't be functional AND pretty at the same time!

In addition to all of the lovely items included in the box, the thing that I really like the most is knowing that one of the missions of the box is to give back.  You can read more about it on the Heart Builders page  (SBB does cycle through different organizations so I don't want to get into too much detail).  There are so many groups that are in need, and I think it's a great way to have a positive impact in the life of somebody else.

So, that's about it from me.  I want to take the opportunity to say thanks to Amanda from Stash Builder Box for sending me a box to check out.  Again, I want to remind you that the opinions stated here, for better or worse in some cases, are my honest opinions.  I'm highly opinionated and quite unwilling to sacrifice my own integrity or beliefs just to get stuff.  I won't do it.  It's not who I am.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Just a few thoughts on a sunny Wednesday afternoon

To say that life has been a little crazy would be an understatement of massive proportions.

From high points like meeting online friends face to face and attending Spring Quilt Market to the low points of losing both of our beloved feline children (our boy was 14 and our girl was 20), the last year has been a blur.

In addition to the pattern testing and editing work that I've been doing, I've also traveled to Ann Arbor, San Diego, and Salt Lake City in the service of following my sewing dreams.  I've met some truly amazing people, attended some super cool classes, and I couldn't be more thankful to have the support of my friends and family.

There are so many positive aspects of having the opportunity to work within the quilting industry, but the downside is that I can't share most of my projects for months after they've been completed.  Trust me when I say that there's nothing that I'd enjoy more than being able to tell you about some of the cool things on the horizon, but I really can't spill the beans.  They aren't my beans to spill anyway, and I'm not willing to risk my relationships to satisfy your curiosity.  I apologize if that sounds harsh, but I have entirely too much respect for the people that I'm working with to compromise my own integrity and beliefs.  Plus, it's pretty cool to be in on some of these secrets.

So, that's that.  With less than 3 months to go before Fall Quilt Market and a pair of kittens to now worry about, my intermittent disappearing act will almost certainly continue.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tips for success with specialty rulers

When I was recently at a quilt shop, I was asked about how I get really good results with matching points on my quilts, especially when using specialty rulers.

I fully admit to my mild (yeah, who am I kidding) obsession with rulers.  My most frequently used specialty rulers are probably my Jaybird Quilts Sidekick Ruler (both regular and Super sizes) which can be used for cutting 60 degree equilateral triangles / diamonds / half triangles and the Jaybird Quilts Hex N More Ruler for cutting hexagons / half hexagons / triangles / jewel shapes.  I love both of them for the variety of shapes that they can cut.  I also love just about any ruler made by Creative Grids.

Now, on with my tips. The key word to success, in my opinion, is accuracy. So, how can you really achieve that?

1.  Press your fabric before you cut
This might seem really obvious, but I know for a fact that not everybody does it. If your fabric is wrinkly, your cuts will almost definitely wind up being inaccurate. I loathe pressing, but it really does make a difference. Set yourself up for success and take the time to do it right. 

You may also consider using starch or a starch alternative to help better manage the bias edges.  I can honestly say that I don't use a lot of starch/starch alternative. This is due, mostly, to my allergies. Starch (think of the cans of spray starch that you may have seen your grandma using) gives me a rash and/or hives, so I usually opt for a product like Flatter by Soak or Best Press.  I prefer Flatter if you are curious. I find the scent (even the unscented) to be less overwhelming, and I like that they list the ingredients. 

If you are going to use starch, you will want to do this before you cut the fabric as starch can make the fabric shrink. 

2.  Cut accurately
I absolutely cannot stress how important it is to be accurate with your cuts. This starts when you make your first cut.  As an example, if the pattern tells you to cut strips at 2.5" wide, make sure they are 2.5". If you are using manufacturer precut fabric, you will want to measure the strip and trim off any excess (I've seen strips that are closer to 2.75" in a precut pack).  Yes, I realize that pre-packaged fabric might say that it measures 10" square, but it isn't always the case.  I know that it isn't ideal, but it's reality.

Many of the patterns that I have made begin with strips of fabric of varying sizes (I've used strips that may be as narrow as 1.25" or as wide as 12.5").  Once your strips are the right size, you can proceed to cutting out the appropriate shapes listed in the pattern. Whether cutting pieces with multiple bias edges (a triangle, for example) or simple squares/rectangles, why would you not want to give yourself a higher chance of success by starting off on the right foot?

In the following 2 pictures, you can see that my strip is lined up with the top edge of the ruler and at the 8.5" line that the pattern specified.  With the left edge also properly aligned, I am ready to cut the other side of the triangle.

Another favorite ruler of mine is the 12.5" Creative Grids 60 degree equilateral triangle ruler
Note the alignment on all 3 edges of the ruler.
Some patterns may require the use of templates or rulers.   I prefer rulers because I find them to be substantially more time efficient for cutting and cost effective because you don't have to spend time tracing out each size on template plastic (and inevitably re-tracing because I've lost one piece or cut through it accidentally). Plus, I can cut way more accurately using a precision cut piece of acrylic and a rotary cutter rather than by tracing a line.

Try as I might to make my cuts perfectly, I'll be honest, I've had some pieces wind up being a smidgen off. Can I make it work?  It really depends on how far off I cut it. If the pattern says to it your strip at 3.5" and you cut it at 3.25", it probably won't work.

3.  Pin at intersections 
I don't normally pin every few inches with most of my sewing, but I do place a pin perpendicular to my seam at intersections where lines will cross.  This will hold the fabric in place.  I do NOT advocate sewing over pins.  It can be dangerous to do so.  I like to sew close to where my pin is before I remove them.

This piece had 4 pins in it.  One at both the top and bottom and one at each of the seam intersections.  Note that my pins are perpendicular to where the seam will fall.

4.  PRESS
Don't iron.  Press.  Ironing is often done with a side to side motion that can quite easily distort your pieces, especially since many of them have bias edges. 

Many of the newer quilt patterns instruct you to press your seams open. This is a very important step and you shouldn't ignore because you were taught solely to press to one side.  

Why does this matter?  Unlike some of the simple, traditional quilt blocks with only 2 sets of seams at an intersection, you may find yourself with 4 or 6. Pressing your seams open will reduce the bulk and make them easier to sew and quilt. Yes, that means that your seams won't nest like you may be used to, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just different. Again, the purpose is to reduce bulk. Pressing seams to one side can also unintentionally lead to shrinkage.  

I'm a big fan of pressing with steam, but you have to be extra careful about using steam if you tend to iron. Using steam plus ironing (not pressing) can be a disaster for accuracy. Also, since you are pressing your seams open, take extra care to not give yourself steam burns (they REALLY can be painful - ask me how I know this). There are some great tools that are available for people like me. 

The Hold It Precision Stiletto by Joan Hawley (Part of the Clover Press Perfect collection of notions).  This handy tool can hold your seams open while you are pressing.


Dritz Thermal Thimbles can be worn on multiple fingers and can shield your fingers from some of the heat.  These are not a total heat shield, but they are WAY better than naked fingers.

The downside to accuracy
The only negative aspect to all of this is time.  A few seconds here and a few seconds there can add up.   It does take a little more time to do things like make sure that your fabric is pressed, it takes more time to cut your fabric, and it takes more time to stop and pin, but it's worth it for me. In the end, I'm happier with the results. Does that mean that you can't make one of these projects quickly?  Absolutely not. 

If you are really in a crunch for time, think about the pattern and consider selecting a less complex pattern or making a different size.

A few other tidbits to help you on the path to success

1.  Keep the handling of the pieces to a minimum
Bias edges can easily stretch, so I try to keep my handling to a minimum. If you don't need to keep grabbing your pieces, why do it?  Hang them on your design wall, leave them in a stack, or store them together in a box. The geometric nature of these patterns depends on shapes fitting together properly. Shrinking or stretching out the pieces can have a cascading effect as the blocks are assembled.

2.  Don't fear the ripper  (Yes, I totally said that. I'm very punny, you know). 
Seam rippers can be your best friend.  I will admit that I'm a little OCD about my seams matching, but it doesn't always happen for me the first, second, third time, or ever. If I have a section that is slightly off (and I know that it will really bother me), I will usually rip the stitches out for about .5"-1" on either side of the mismatched seam. If it's off by more than that, you will probably need to remove additional stitches. 

3.  Be realistic
One thing that I do try to tell myself is that some of my "less than ideal" seams will be hidden by quilting due to shrinkage of the fabric/batting or they may even be covered by thread.

It's also important to think about the integrity of the fabric itself.  If you are ripping out stitches, the fabric can only recover so much from the stress.  With high quality quilt shop quality quilting cotton, the most that I will ever rip something is 3 times.  If it still isn't fixed, it stays.

Accuracy is often the first to suffer under the crunch of time.

It can also be helpful to tackle some of these projects in stages.  Maybe you press your fabrics before cutting on one day and cut the following day.  You don't have to sit down for a single marathon session (unless you happened to be a procrastinator and waited until the day before you had to have it done).

4.  Practice, practice, practice
The more you make, the better you will get.  Techniques become second nature and you become more comfortable and relaxed with the process.  I think this really comes through in your sewing.

5.  Hang on to the instructions
Most of the specialty rulers that I've purchased have a set of written instructions included.  While I don't find that I refer to these on a very regular basis, they can be very handy when you are cutting a different shape or if you haven't used the ruler in a while.  I keep all of my ruler instructions together in a clear bag.  There are some great videos on the Internet that demonstrate how to use quite a few of these rulers, but sometimes going back to the printed instructions can be faster.

So, a quick recap:
1.  Press first
2.  Cut accurately
3.  Pin at intersections
4.  Press


Now you've heard my tips, go forth and make awesome stuff!