Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Adventures in Cross Stitch - September 2019 Aurifil Artisan Challenge

Have you ever woken up one day and decided that you wanted to try a new hobby?  I've done that more than once.  That's how I started sewing, and now I've done it again with my latest obsession - cross stitch.

Cross stitch seems to be making a comeback as a hot new hobby, and I am super excited to see what designers are releasing.  From the snarky (my favorite) and profanity-laden to traditional designs, there's basically something for everyone.  

This year's batch of Aurifil Artisans have been invited to participate in challenges.  Each month has a different theme, and September is all about embroidery and cross stitch!  Of course that means I couldn't resist signing up to participate.  Without further ado, here's my featured project:



For this project, I used a design by Subversive Cross Stitch with Aurifil's 100% cotton floss (aka Aurifloss) in colors 2692 (Black), 2250 (Red), 2870 (Green), and 2120 (Canary).  To give it a bit of extra flair, I used some tiny sew-in rhinestones that I ordered from Subversive Cross Stitch's online shop.  I was so happy with how the design came out that I decided to get it professionally framed! p.s. If you really want to go the extra mile when you're having something framed, I highly recommend using Museum Glass.  It's a more expensive option, but it gives great UV protection and there's basically no glare.



I am a big fan of Julie from Subversive Cross Stitch (WARNING: some of the designs do have bad words, so it may be best viewed when not at work or when children are present) because her designs probably aren't what you expect to see when you hear "cross stitch."  If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen several of her patterns that I've stitched out, but I've shared a few of them at the bottom of this post for your viewing enjoyment (none have bad words).

While you can do cross stitch with a couple of different thread options, I've been using Aurifloss, Aurifil's 6 stranded 100% Egyptian cotton floss.  Each wooden spool has 18 yards of floss, and all 270 of Aurifil's colors are available (with the same color number as the other cotton weights).  I've been 3 strands with 14 count Aida cloth (as recommended by Aurifil), and it's worked very well.  As always, I would recommend to test on a scrap piece of cloth and see if you are happy with how things look.

When I decided to try out cross stitching, I ordered a small collection called Flossie.  The Flossie box has 5 small spools of floss in an assortment of colors that would work great to get me started on my adventure.
Image courtesy of Aurifil
After a few projects, I knew that I was totally hooked, so I knew that I would want more colors to choose from.  Enter the Best Selection 2018 collection.  With 45 spools in a lovely range of colors, my little thread-loving heart was bursting with joy and with excitement for all of the fun things that I plan to make.
Image courtesy of Aurifil

Other than Aurifloss, my other cross stitching essentials are a Q-Snap frame (I mostly use the 8"), a small pair of scissors, 14 Count Aida cloth, and tapestry needles (I'm still trying to find which I like most, but I've been pretty happy with size 24 John James Tapestry Needles).  You'll also want to have good light.  I use a Stella Sky lamp next to my living room couch that is great for when I'm cross stitching or binding a quilt.  The Daylight Company also has some good floor-standing options.  I have several of their lamps that I use on a daily basis, but they are mostly tabletop which isn't ideal if you don't have a table next to the couch to put them on. ;)

Here are a few other work-appropriate cross stitch projects that I've made with Aurifloss (information on colors used is included).


Spark Joy Or Get Out pattern from Subversive Cross Stitch made w/ Aurifloss colors 2692 (Black) & 2545 (Medium Purple)

A Cat Is An Angel That Poops In A Box pattern from Subversive Cross Stitch made w/ Aurifloss colors 2692 (Black), 2610 (Light Blue Grey), 2423 (Baby Pink), 2140 (Orange Mustard), & 2815 (Teal)
So, that's it from me because it's time to go sew!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Juniper Blog/IG Tour

Hi there

Welcome to my stop on Jessica VanDenburgh's Instagram/blog hop for her new line with Windham Fabrics, Juniper!



From snails and dragonflies to tiny, adorable mushrooms, Juniper is a sweet, whimsical collection.  You can check out the full collection on the Windham Fabrics website in more detail here.



To show off the collection, I opted to make a set of all 5 sizes of the Clam Up bag pattern from ByAnnie. The pattern makes a great gift, and it's quick to sew!  Another reason I love this pattern is because it includes instructions for using quilted fabric, un-quilted fabric, and for using Slicker, a fusible vinyl product to give the bag an easy-to-wipe clean interior.  I chose to quilt the fabric using a 3/4" grid set at a 45 degree angle which should probably come as no surprise to anybody that might follow me on social media.  LOL.  The simplicity of the grid quilted on the ByAnnie's Soft and Stable foam stabilizer is super for adding texture without distracting from the prints or colors of the fabric.  40wt Aurifil thread is my thread of choice to add the perfect blend of strength and texture.  With 270 colors and multiple thread weight options, I love how I can find the right thread for my projects with Aurifil.

Yes, I really did use all of these colors!
Without further ado, here's a pic of each bag that includes the part # for the fabrics and the colors of 40wt Aurifil thread that I used:

Extra Small - 51318-2 and 51918M-3 with Aurifil colors 2311, 2435, 2520
Small - 51315-3 and 51317-7 with Aurifil colors 2311, 5002, 2423
Medium - 51318-1 and 51319M-9 with Aurifil colors 2783, 1320, and 1231
Large - 51316-4 and 51317-6 with Aurifil colors 2311 and 1148
Extra Large - 51314M-1, 51315-2, and 51315-1 with Aurifil colors 2783, 1320, and 4225

And look how adorable the Clam Up bags look when nested together!
Thanks for spending some time with me today.  I hope you enjoyed seeing how I used Juniper, the new collection by Jessica VanDenburgh of Sew Many Creations for Windham Fabrics, and I hope that you will check out all of the other super awesome makers that are participating!  Jessica is giving away a fat quarter bundle of Juniper to one lucky winner.  You can find out more info on how to enter by following the instructions on Jessica's first post for the tour (August 18).

Here's the full schedule :

August 18 - Jessica VanDenburgh @sewmanycreations
August 19 - Shayla & Kristy Wolf  @Sassafraslane
August 20 - Natalie Crabtree @njcrabtree
August 21 -  Nikki Maroon @thegirlwhoquilts
August 22 - Lee Chappell Monroe @maychappell
August 23 - Heather Givans @crimsontate
August 24 - Leslie Meltzer @lelliebunny - YOU ARE HERE! :)
August 25 - Tammy Silvers @tamarinis
August 26 - Tiffany Sepulveda @sewtiffany
August 27 - Alison O'Grady @sewbeeitclothier
August 28 - Kate Colleran @seamslikeadreamquilts
August 29 - Jamie & Jill @Sunflower_quilt
August 30 - Sherry Shish @poweredbyquilting
August 31 - Linda & Carl @colourwerx
September 1 - Karen @LadyKQuilts 
September 2 - Stephanie Soebbing @quiltaddictsanonymous
September 3 - Jessica VanDenburgh @sewmanycreations

Thursday, July 11, 2019

It's time to make a choice...of thread colors!

I'm selecting thread today for an upcoming project, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to share more about the way I go about picking colors.

For basic quilt piecing as a general rule, I will often piece in a neutral thread, such as a light grey (Aurifil 2600) or white (Aurifil 2021), that will blend in with most of the colors of the quilt top.  Depending on the project, sometimes that "neutral" is anything but neutral.  When I'm going to work on a project where the thread will be entirely visible, such as quilting or topstitching on a bag or garment, I get a little more picky on what I use (this is a massive understatement).  ;)

I like to select thread weights and colors before each new project so I can have the right thread on hand and ready to go when I need it.  My process usually starts with comparing the fabric (or zippers/mesh/ribbon) with my trusty Aurifil color card. If I'm torn between a couple of colors or if one isn't quite a perfect match, I will grab a couple of options and go from there.

Based on what I see next to the color card, I would pull color 2588 as a likely match to coordinate with the fabric.

I recommend color cards that have actual product on it when possible for thread or fabric. Purchasing the color cards have saved me a ton of time and money when I need to order online or simply if I can’t remember exactly which solid fabric I used.  In a pinch, I've used pre-printed swatches, but they aren't usually as accurate as the real thing. I wrote a blog post about color cards and DIY versions a couple of years ago that is still applicable, so here's the link.

From there, I pull the colors and unwind a few inches from the spool to see if I like the match or not (this also gives me a chance to see if I need to order more).  If you happen to be thinking, wow, you person must have a lot of thread, please also remember that I have been using Aurifil since 2013, so I've amassed a pretty good stash of colors.  I really do have a lot of thread, but it wasn't purchased at one time.  :)

It's a little hard to see, but the grey thread is spread out over several of the colors so I can see if I like how it looks.

If I unwind a bit and I'm still unsure, I will actually take a small scrap of the fabric and stitch a line of each thread to see how it actually works.  Sometimes you just do what you gotta do, right? ;)  If I am pleased with the color but I think it needs a bit more or less texture, I may decide to use a different thread weight.

One of my favorite things about Aurifil’s cotton thread is that that the color numbers are consistent across the weights, including floss! So, if I have the right color in the wrong weight (i.e. I have it in 50wt, but I want 40wt for my project), I can order with confidence that I’m getting the right color. That makes me super happy (and reduces my stress level)!

As a side note, I also record the colors that I use with each project so that I don't necessarily have to go back through the whole process if I'm using the same fabrics in another project.  :)

Well, that's basically it.  Now it's time to order one spool of thread for my upcoming project so I can get started!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Pattern Review - Wander Skirt by Gentle Clothing

I realize that it's been ages since I wrote my last review of a pattern, but this seemed like a good one to write about.  So, here are my thoughts on the Wander Skirt by Karen LePage of Gentle Clothing (Instagram: @gentleclothing).

In the interest of full disclosure, Karen and I are friends.  We were introduced by a mutual friend after Karen moved to the Pacific Northwest.  I received a copy of the pattern from Karen after I had expressed interest in making it.  She did not ask me to write a review or anything of that sort in exchange for the pattern.  This review is based on my honest experience with making the pattern.

Now that I got that out of the way, are you ready to hear what I think about it?  GOOD!  Let's go!

I wouldn't really consider myself a garment sewist.  I've made a few pieces, but mostly I find something that I like and then I make it a few times as I've done with my favorite t-shirt pattern, favorite cardigan, and PJ shorts/pants.  I can literally count the number of skirts that I own on one hand (and not even get through all of my fingers), so this pattern was pretty out of the box for me.  I've had issues with wrap-style items being a little scary when a slight breeze happens, but Karen showed me how this skirt was different in terms of overlap.  She was right (and I even experienced some pretty substantial wind while wearing the skirt, so I can personally attest to it).

The first thing that caught my eye about the pattern (when I saw pictures on Instagram) was that it can be made with a variety of different fabrics.  Some of the fabrics mentioned as suitable for making the skirt include: cotton lawn, quilting cotton, linen, and denim.  Perfect!  Right after I saw how cute it was, I read that it was reversible!  YES!  That's even better!  I decided to use fabrics from the Observatory collection by Alison Glass for Andover Fabrics for the main and contrast.  The fabrics in the collection are created by hand using the batik process, but they don't feel like most batiks (which is probably why I like them).  Just to mix it up a little, I decided to make the waistband/tie out of my favorite print from Alison's Adorn collection.  The one that I selected is a cotton lawn.

Fabrics are from Observatory by Alison Glass for Andover Fabrics
With fabrics in mind, I moved into selecting a size - not my favorite part of any pattern.  There are 11 sizes included, so it is designed to work for lots of bodies.  The pattern also gives some tips on selecting sizes, fitting tips, and options for variations including length modifications and widening the waistband (p.s. I did not make any modifications on mine).  Perfect.  I picked one and off I went to trace my pattern onto Swedish tracing paper while my fabrics were in the washing machine.  Don't forget this step (if your fabrics can be laundered) because fabric will often shrink, so it would be a real bummer to make a finished garment then wash it and have it not fit in the end.

I found the instructions on laying out the pattern pieces to be easy to follow.  I can never seem to remember which color is which (right or wrong side) on garment pattern illustrations, but thankfully, the pieces were labeled in the illustrations.  YAY!  After I got all of the pieces cut, I interfaced the waistband/tie (because it recommends to do so when you're using a lightweight fabric) using Palmer Pletsch PerfectFuse Interfacing in Sheer weight to give the lawn a bit of body and to try to minimize the wrinkling.

Construction of the skirt was straight forward (and it's made using a straight stitch on a sewing machine - no serger required).  The only tricky part was trying to figure out exactly where I needed to create the pass-through hole for the tie, but once I wrapped the skirt around my body, I understood where it needed to go.  To be honest, the pattern illustration was spot on.  I just got a little paranoid that I would put it in the wrong spot.

I love the topstitching along the bottom edge in 40wt Aurifil colors 2692 and 1200
With that crisis averted, I finished my skirt.  I washed it and packed it before I left for a trip to Kansas City where I wore it, and then I wore it a few days later with the reverse side out!  Yes!  I really did.  Here are a couple of less than ideal pictures that I snapped in my hotel room (the cardigan is Universal Standard for J.Crew if you're wondering):

I wore it first with the purple (contrast) side out to a trunk show 
Then I wore it with the black (main) side out  a few days later
A better pic of my completed skirt where you can see the colors.  40wt Aurifil in color 2630 was used for the waistband/tie
This pattern is very well written.  Karen's years of sewing and pattern writing expertise are evident.  She's made this skirt a ton of times.  She's worn this a ton of times.  She's taught this pattern as a class a ton of times.  I do believe it really is suitable for a person for a confident beginner sewist or even a quilter (who has sewn for years but never made garments)!  LOL.

So, I've made the skirt.  I've worn it.  It's a skirt, and I liked it (yeah, for real).  I think I'll even make another one...or two.  Would I change anything on the next one?  I think the only thing I may change the next time I make it is to make the waistband/tie a little bit longer so I can have a longer bow, but that's it.  It's not an issue with the skirt.  It's just personal preference.  It was super windy on the second day that I wore the skirt, but it did not let me down.  Everything under the skirt stayed under the skirt (and aren't we all thankful for that?)!  I even sat cross-legged on the floor while wearing my Wander Skirt without any exposure/incidents/issues (take your pick of word).  YES!  YES!  YES!  I'm a happy camper.  :)

There's only one thing that I wish it had...pockets.  :). Maybe that's a suggestion for a future pattern!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Anna Maria Horner + Aurifil Showcase!


Hey!  I'm super excited to finally be able to share my project for the Anna Maria Horner (Instagram: @annamariahorner) + Aurifil (Instagram: @aurifilthread) Showcase featuring Anna Maria's beautiful Passionflower collection for FreeSpirit Fabrics (Instagram: @freespiritfabrics)!

Let's get the basics out of the way, and then I'll share more details (plus a few tips)!


Fabrics from Passionflower:  Imposter in Medieval, Migration in Dahlia, & Passiflora in Silver

Thread:  Aurifil 40wt in 1248 (Dark Grey Blue), 2479 (Medium Orchid), & 4241 (Very Dark Grey)

Pattern:  Easy Does It from ByAnnie (Instagram: @patternsbyannie)

For this project, like many of my others, I wanted to match the thread color to the fabric so I added in a few extra colors. :)  My favorite thread for quilting, making bags, and binding is Aurifil's 40 weight Mako Cotton (I do my quilt piecing in 50wt Aurifil).  The 40wt thread is a little more beefy, so it adds definition to the stitches without dominating. When selecting thread, don't forget to choose a needle that is appropriate for the thread and fabric that you are using because it really does make a big difference.  Here's a link to a Aurifil's Product Guide which lists recommendations for needle types and sizes based on the thread weights.

If you've been with me for at least a few posts (or if you follow me on Instagram), you have probably noticed that I have a bit of an affinity for grid quilting, especially when the quilting is set on point.  There is such a beautiful simplicity to it, and it is a great way to add texture without distracting from either the fabric or the pattern.  With the size of the bag and the scale of the prints, I decided to go with a 3/4" grid (I usually use grids between 3/4" and 1 1/4" depending on the project).  I quilted the fabric to the ByAnnie's Soft and Stable® and cut the pieces to size as instructed.

When I am quilting a grid, I like to actually mark the lines rather than using the guide that I can attach to the foot on my machine.  Clover's #5032 Air Erasable Marker (Instagram: @cloverusa) is my favorite tool for most fabrics.  Please note that you should ALWAYS test your fabric + marking tool combo to make sure that you get the intended result.  I love this specific marker because the ink will disappear on its own,  or they can be removed immediately with water using either the eraser on the pen or a spritz of water from a spray bottle.  Factors like temperature and humidity may impact how long the marks will stay, so I like to mark a couple of lines at a time then quilt them right away.  Whenever possible, I also prefer to mark on the lining side of the fabric just to be extra safe.

I find that I have the best results with my quilting if I use a walking foot and a longer stitch length.  The walking foot helps the fabric to move as one unit because pressure is applied from the top and the bottom at the same time.  When using different colors of thread in the top and bobbin, I am extra particular about my thread tension.  If I am sewing with the lining side up, I will often increase the TOP tension VERY slightly (basically the smallest amount that I am able to adjust) so the stitches on the main/exterior fabric look perfect.  The tiny adjustment still allows for the threads to meet in the middle of my "quilt sandwich", but it gives it a nudge toward the lining.  I will fully admit that the change isn't something that most people would notice because it looks excellent without any adjustment, but it's still something that I do.  Maybe try it and see if you think it makes a difference.

Quilting on marked lines with the lining fabric face up in 40wt Aurifil 2479
After I've marked a few diagonal lines (I line up the 45 degree line on my ruler with the bottom edge of the fabric to make it easy for the first line then I use that as a guide for the other marked lines) for my stitching, I start sewing by working from the center toward the edge.  Once that side is complete, I work out to the other edge starting from the center again.  After all of those parallel lines have been quilted, I place my ruler across the piece perpendicular to the sewn line and mark a couple of lines and repeat the process until it's all finished.  If you look closely at the lower left section of the picture, you will notice that the grid is not yet complete.

Main/exterior fabric quilted with Aurifil 40wt color 1248
Remember, this is the side that was underneath when I was quilting (I used the Dark Grey Blue as my bobbin thread).  It looks pretty great, don't you think?

The Easy Does It is a free pattern from ByAnnie (featured in Issue 6 / 2019-2020 catalog) was designed to use 3 fat quarters, so it was great for this challenge.  I love the size of the bag, and I think it would be great for a variety of skill levels especially with their free Add-On Video (the link should be active soon)!

Just to wrap up, I've got a couple of extra pictures for you!

The finished bag interior.  I love the bound seams!

What could be cooler than getting a picture of my finished project with the amazing Anna Maria Horner at Quilt Market?!?!

So now that I've spilled some of my secrets, I hope you may find some of the information helpful!  Much thanks to the wonderful folks at Aurifil and FreeSpirit for providing the fabric and a spool of thread to those of us that participated in the Anna Maria Horner Showcase.  I am so happy to have the continued opportunity to work with Aurifil as I am a returning Aurifil Artisan for 2019-2020!

p.s. (and a reminder to my future self) - lint rollers are only useful if you don't forget to use them to get all of the little bits of charm pack floof out of the interior of your bag before you take a picture!  Oops!

p.p.s. I made the skirt that I'm wearing in the picture with Anna Maria!  It's the Wander Skirt pattern by Gentle Clothing (Instagram: @gentleclothing).

Friday, April 19, 2019

Adventures in foundation paper piecing

Like many other techniques, foundation paper piecing (FPP) has its share of people that love it and hate it.  I fall into the group in between.  I do not love it, but I do not completely hate it.  For me, it's simply a means to an end - I WILL do it if I must, but I will probably complain about it because I honestly do not enjoy the process.

I've put together a list of a few things that I've learned along the way which help to make the whole thing more enjoyable/less painful for me.  As always, your mileage may vary.

As a side note for anybody that might be new to my blog, you will not find affiliate links in my posts.  If I should happen to use them in the future, they will be noted as such.  Many of these products may be available at your favorite quilt shop, sewing store, or Amazon.com.  I'm providing links from the pages of the manufacturers because they are likely to be the most reliable in terms of whether or product is still being marketed/sold/available.  :)

My setup when doing FPP (my iron is to the left of the Wafer)

Let there be light!
In my first FPP projects, I would hold my pieces up to a lamp.  It worked ok, but sometimes it was hard to keep the pieces aligned where I needed them and hold it up to the light.  Buying a lightbox was really a game changer for me.  There are a lot of options available from different manufacturers, but I use the Wafer 1 from Daylight Company, the smallest of their three size offerings.  It's a convenient size to store, and I love that they offer a translucent cutting mat so you can see and cut without moving to a different surface.

You aren't going to get very far without thread.
It should come as no surprise that I use Aurifil thread when I do FPP.  I use the same 50 weight thread that I use for all of my quilt piecing. It is a 2-ply thread, so it's fine enough to not add a lot of bulk in my seams, and it's strong enough to withstand the dreaded removal of paper.

Press it real good.
This is one of the best ways to improve the finish of your sewing projects.  I find that I'm happiest with my results when I use an iron, but I don't use my regular iron.  You want to make sure that you are using a dry iron.  I use a Clover Wedge Iron when I do FPP.  It has a pointy tip which is a feature that is important to me in an iron, and it seems to get suitably hot (and it's a great size when I'm making mini quilts too).  There is no water reservoir, so I don't have to worry about accidentally having water in the iron.  My biggest complaint about the iron is that it takes a while for it to get hot. If I'm working somewhere that an iron isn't available, I will use my Violet Craft Seam Roller.  I think it's the next best option.

Go big.
I try to be as effective and efficient as I can when cutting fabric, so FPP was a bit challenging to get my head around.  FPP is not a method that super low waste.  It's just how it is.  On top of that, unlike a lot of traditional/conventional patterns, many patterns do not tell you what sizes pieces you should cut.  I've realized that I'd rather deal with cutting away more fabric as waste than deal with having pieces that are too small and having to rip the stitches.  Generally, I will cut pieces that are 1" larger than the size that they need to cover to account for seam allowances.  If I have a piece that is rectangular, I won't push it out that far.  It's one of those things that you just have to look at for each piece.  The bottom line is that you should cut to a size that is comfortable for you and adjust as needed.

You rule.
When I FPP, I like to use the Add-A-Quarter Plus ruler by CM Designs.  I love how one side has a beveled edge that allows me to fold my paper back easily and one side with a 1/4" lip for trimming without the need to line up things on a ruler.  Just place it down, butt the lip up to the seam, and trim  using your rotary cutter. You can absolutely use a regular ruler, but I love how much time I can save when I don't have to stop and measure.  They also make a regular Add-A-Quarter ruler without the beveled edge if you don't fold your papers, and there are even rulers for other seam allowance sizes!

It IS worth the paper it's printed on.
There are a lot of different options you can use to print/copy your patterns.  Some people use plain newsprint, vellum, or cheap copy paper.  I like Carol Doak's Foundation Paper by C&T Publishing.  It prints without issues in my laser printer, it tears easily when I need it to do so, I haven't had any problems with line crispness or ink bleed, and it isn't bright white which sometimes gives me a headache if I look at it for too long.  I also like the texture.

Size matters.
When you are printing (if your pattern is a PDF) or if you're making copies of the templates, make sure that they are printing the correct size.  Many patterns will include a size guide on at least one page that you can measure to make sure that things are printing as intended.  If things are not printing as expected, it is often just a simple, easily resolved misconfiguration of your printer settings.  Personally, I also like PDF because it's pretty straightforward if you want to resize the pattern templates.  The last FPP project that I made had blocks that finished at 4" square.  I wanted to make them a little bigger, so I printed them at 125% so they would finish at 5" square.

Write it down.
FPP can be a bit of a challenge to wrap your brain around when you first get started.  You sew on the printed side of the paper, so you sewing everything as a mirror image of how the finished block will appear.  Some designers may shade areas of the pattern so you have an idea of what color to put where, but that's not as common in my experience.  For that reason, I take the low tech approach and grab a pencil and write which fabrics I want in each section (on the printed side of the paper).

Embrace it or don't.
Maybe you will love the process of FPP or maybe you won't. You know what?  It's ok either way!  As I wrote at the beginning, it's just a means to an end for me.  I am glad that I know how to FPP, and I feel confident that I can successfully make something using that method if I felt inclined to do so.  Will it ever be my preferred method?  I doubt it, but things have been known to change.  I guess we shall just have to wait and see.

We've come to the end. I've basically said all I have to say on the subject right now, so let's all go forth and make.