Sunday, May 17, 2020

Me Made May - Aurifil Artisan Challenge May 2020

Welcome back for the final challenge for the 2019-2020 Aurifil Artisans.  It's been a great year!

Anyway, I'm excited to share my project with you.  I wanted to do something that was a little different than what you may expect to see during Me Made May, but it was important that the project still fit with the theme for the month.  So, without further ado, I present to you...a hat!

Can you tell that it's actually partly sunny here in Seattle?

This is the Reversible Bucket Hat pattern by Betz White.  I love how the pattern includes multiple sizes (kids through adult), and I think the idea of it being reversible is cool because it's like 2 hats in one (even though I expect to wear the grey side out at least 99.9% of the time)!

Here's the reverse side of the hat.

For my hat, I chose a cotton/linen blend fabric from Trefle by Kokka and a Linen Mochi Dot from Moda.  The grey and neon yellow colors seemed very appropriate for spring/summer, and I think dots pretty much go with anything.  It's also important to note that I wanted my hat to be a tiny bit more floppy than the canvas/denim/twill exterior mentioned in the pattern, so there was a method to the madness as they say.  Just as a side note,  I chose to use a white fusible interfacing because I was more concerned about the possibility of black interfacing making the light grey exterior look darker than I was about the white interfacing making the black linen look lighter.

Once I had my fabrics chosen, I selected thread.  I knew that my project would be sewn with a straight stitch on woven fabrics, so I chose to use Aurifil's cotton 40/2 thread.  I made the decision that I wanted the thread to blend in well but there wasn't an exact match, so I selected the thread color that was just a smidge darker than the fabric.  My choice for the exterior was color 2620 (Stainless Steel).  I really like how it turned out.  For the lining, I chose to keep it super simple, so I used 40 weight thread in Black (color 2692).  As I've mentioned before, I love how the 40/2 weight thread is great for construction and for details that matter like topstitching.

I think my thread choice was perfect!

Overall, this was a fast and fun project that I can absolutely see myself making again.  Other than attaching the brim to the hat which didn't require any exceptional sewing/pinning gymnastics to ease in, this pattern seemed like a good way for a quilter to make a garment/accessory that isn't super intimidating and it doesn't require a lot of fitting (though you do need to measure around your head to determine which size to make)!  I think it's would be an appropriate project for a new sewist to get some practice with curves and topstitching.

Totally cute, right?

So, that's it for me today!  I hope you are all staying healthy and safe.  I would also like to say a special thanks to the folks at Aurifil for giving me (and my fellow Artisans) a platform on which to share my thoughts and experience with their products.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Favorite thread weight - April 2020 Artisan Challenge

Hey everybody!  After a few health challenges earlier this year, I'm to happy to be back here with you.  Our Aurifil Artisan challenge for April was favorite thread weight.  This one was tough for me because I use different weights for different tasks.  I thought I'd take the opportunity to write it all down and hope that it would lead me to a clear winner starting in the order that I really discovered Aurifil.

So without further ado, off we go!

A thread pull from a recent project that I promise to show you soon!
Top row (50 wt): 2692, 2435, 2600
Bottom row (40 wt) 2435, 5004

50/2 weight - the orange spool
My first Aurifil experience was with 50 weight thread that I purchased at a big sewing/quilting show.  It's a thread that I've been using for 6 years, and it's the weight that I use for all of my quilt piecing.  I use it for traditional patchwork and foundation paper piecing, but I've also used it when I've experimented with projects that had machine appliqué and English paper piecing.  Before I started using 40 weight (coming up next on my list), I also used it for making some bags and machine quilting on a domestic machine.

Why do I like it?  It's fine enough so that it doesn't add bulk in my seams which is super important for accurate piecing, but it's strong enough to give a lot of integrity to my seams. It blends in beautifully and helps me to get the super flat seams that I love.  With 270 colors to choose from, it's rare that I have issues finding the right thread color for my projects.

50wt Aurifil in color 2600 (Dove Grey) used for foundation paper piecing.  Each piece is just over 1/8", so thread weight makes a big difference!

40/2 weight - the green spool
When I started making more bags and quilts, I started really thinking about what I was using and how I wanted it to perform.  I wanted a thread with a bit more heft, so I decided to try Aurifil's 40/2 Mako cotton.  I think it was a game changer for me.

Why do I like it?  I love it for quilting because it gives me just a bit more texture which can be a little tricky when you are the type of person that likes the thread to visually blend in to the fabric.  I use 40 weight when I make bags for the little bit of extra durability from the thicker thread.  The slight increase in thickness over the 50 weight is perfect for topstitching on bags and garments (non-stretch fabrics) too.  I also use 40 weight when I hand bind a quilt or bag.  Binding always seems to have bit more wear and tear, so the slightly heavier thread holds up to that really well.  It isn't really any more visible than 50 weight if you match the color of the thread to the color of your binding.

I love how the 40 wt topstitching looks on this skirt hem. The colors are 1200 (Blue Violet) & 2692 (Black).

Here's some 40 wt used on a bag that I quilted. This is 2479 (Medium Orchid) and 1148 (Light Jade) on the zipper.

Aurifloss cotton floss - available on a wooden spool like 80/2 weight
While I love Aurifloss, I know that it won't beat out 40 and 50 weight for being my favorite, but it's still awesome so I wanted to mention it.  :)

Why do I like it?  I started doing cross stitch last summer, and I love how this thread feels in my hand when I'm stitching.  I love that I can wash my finished projects and not worry about the dye bleeding (this is true with all of the Aurifil thread that I've ever used).  Another thing that I really like is that I can match the colors of my other threads (like the 50 and 40 weight, the same 270 colors are available in the floss).  Plus, it's super cool that I can buy it in the same colors that frequently use in my regular sewing.  Finally, those wooden spools are just so stinkin' adorable.  LOL.

A pretty assortment of Aurifloss in purples and greys.

I pulled out a couple of projects that I made using the same fabrics, the same stabilizer (yes, it's Soft and Stable®), and the same color of thread, but they were stitched with 2 different thread weights. Let's start with a photo of both projects together.

ByAnnie Ditty Bag (back) and a scaled down ByAnnie Necessories Mini Bag

They don't look that much difference at first glance, right?  Let's look a little bit closer.

Left is 50 wt.  Right is 40 wt.  Both are color 2530 (Blossom Pink)

Same photos just slightly more zoomed in
When you zoom in on the bags, I think it's easier to see the difference.  Can you see that the 40 weight (on the right side of both photos) looks a wee bit thicker?  The weight gives the stitches a little more definition and texture.  I just really love how it looks.  Personally, I don't necessarily think there's an inherent benefit to using the thicker thread other than aesthetics on these types of small projects.  They will not come under tension/weight bearing to the point that there would be a risk of thread failure due to overloading.

I do think that the thread weight can (and does) make a difference when you get into larger projects, especially those that may have a more rough life (ie., lots more trips through the washing machine, bearing heavier loads, being sewn through thicker materials).

I've shared this link before, but I think it's super handy, so I'm sharing it again.  If you've ever wondered what thread weight Aurifil recommends for different types of projects, or if you've wondered what size needle is recommended for the various thread weights, check out Aurifil's Product Guide here.

Ok, so I guess it's time to make a call.  I don't think there's really a wrong answer because I do use both of them an awful lot, but if I had to pick only one weight, my pick would have to be 40 weight. From quilting, binding to topstitching garments and bags, 40 weight is the thread that I use for most of my sewing.  With that said, if I was just piecing quilts, I probably would have picked 50 weight. Does that mean I changed my answer?

I did promise to show you my project soon, didn't I?  :)

Yes and no - sometimes the best answer is to not pick just one favorite!  This is the pillow that I made using blocks from the Mini Series Sew Along that featured patterns by Alison Glass and Giuseppe Ribaudo of Giucy Giuce.  I pieced the blocks using 50 weight thread, mostly in Dove Grey (color 2600).  I used 50 weight Black (color 2692) to sew the 4 smaller sub-sections together in the bottom left block (4 - 2" blocks are sewn to make a larger block), and I used 50 weight Peachy Pink (color 2435) to add the sashing.  Once all of the top was pieced, I lightly quilted in the sashing using the same, beautiful Peachy Pink in 40 weight.  Even though it isn't visible, the backing of the pillow is grey, so I used 40 weight Grey Smoke (color 5004).

That's all I've got for you right now, so thanks for spending a bit of time with me today. :)

Friday, January 10, 2020

Organization - January 2020 Aurifil Artisan Challenge

It's hard to believe it's January again, but here we are nonetheless!

The start of a new year is often a time that people make resolutions, and one that is fairly common is to get more organized.  I love organizing, so our January 2020 Aurifil Artisan Challenge is right up my alley.

When I first started sewing, I didn't have a cabinet that held my machine and supplies, so I pulled out my machine, supplies, and cutting mat every time I wanted to sew...and then put it back immediately after I was done.  I still do not have a dedicated sewing room, but I do have space in our 2nd bedroom/office where I can have my sewing machine cabinet set up all the time (and my husband has been gracious in his acceptance of my sewing stuff encroaching onto his side).

I'm going to approach this from a few different directions, so hopefully one (or more) will apply to your situation.  Please keep in mind that this is what works best for ME, and one solution will NOT work for everybody.  It's also important to note that I'm pretty obsessive about organization, but it may not be for the reason you think.  I use organization as a way to manage some of the chaos in my head.  If I can go to a place/room/container/location and find what I need, that hugely reduces my stress and frustration.  For me, it's worth taking an extra minute or two at the end of each project to put my thread back into its proper location.  That way it's easy to find the next time I need it.

My philosophy on organization in general
I used to work for a beloved organization company, and the thing that I would consistently tell customers is that they need to figure out what works for them, especially as it pertains to storage of personal stuff.

As an example, let's say you wanted to alphabetize your movie collection.  You've got The Avengers.  Do you put it under T for "The" or A for "Avengers"?  This is YOUR movie collection, so if you're more likely to look for Avengers, put it as an A.  If you always refer to the movie by its full title, put it under T for The Avengers.  

The same thing goes for storing fabric.  Do you store by color, collection, designer, manufacturer, or something entirely different?  It's your stuff, so thinking about how YOU work really does matter.  Struggling with something that just isn't working can make things feel even worse and more out of control which isn't any fun.

With that out of the way, let's get into it!

Storing and organizing thread (AKA where I keep my Aurifil)
When I first started sewing, I was told that thread is best stored away from light, heat, and dust, so my primary thread storage area is a narrow 10-drawer cabinet that I purchased from The Container Store.

My thread cabinet
This solution also works well for me because it's on wheels so I can move it around, and the labels on the drawers make it easy to find what I'm looking for.  Here's how I came up with my system - when I am going to pull thread for a project, I think about what I will be making which, in turn, determines the weight of thread that I want/need to use.  I primarily use 50 weight thread (it comes on an orange spool) for all of my quilt piecing, 40 weight thread (on the green spool) for quilting, binding a quilt, and bag making, and floss (on a wooden spool - note that 80 weight also comes on a wooden spool) for cross stitch.

With that said, this was a good place to start for me.  Once I know which thread weight will be appropriate for my project (if you are unsure which weight is best suited to your project, I suggest checking out this handy guide from Aurifil), it's time to look for the perfect color of thread.  Like many people, I have certain colors to which I gravitate.  I put those colors right up front because I use them frequently.  From there, I grouped similar colors together and worked that way down the line.

A peek inside the top 2 drawers
For storing bobbins, I take a slightly different approach.  My primary sewing machine uses different bobbins than my travel/backup machine, so I store the bobbins separately from my thread.  The large bobbins for my main machine live by my sewing cabinet while the bobbins for my travel machine live in the bag with that machine.

Like my spools, I store bobbins by thread weight, but I have them split up by neutrals, warm colors, and cool colors.  I added labels to each of the boxes to make them easy to identify.

I've tried other styles of bobbin storage, but this is what I always come back to using.
The exception to all of this is my Aurifloss.  I really like to have my floss be super portable, and I found a storage box on Amazon that holds ~100 small spools of thread and snaps closed.  

This Slimline Storage Box is great for helping me keep my Aurifloss tidy and accessible

Organizing my sewing space (AKA things to hold stuff that I've made with Aurifil**)
This is a constant battle for me because I like to make quilts, bags, and occasionally some sort of garment (mostly PJ pants) or home dec item (mostly pillowcases).  I also became hooked on cross stitch last year, so that's another thing to manage!  The solution that seems to work the best for me is to keep what I need within arm's reach.  Without further ado, let's get into this!

One of my favorite ways to organize is with the handy multiple spool holder that attaches to the back of my sewing machine.  This particular one is made by Bernina, but I also have one that I used on my old Pfaff. It's also super handy because it is capable of holding thread on cones when you use the adapter. If you look closely, you can see part of the cone adapter on the far right.  When I don't have this many spools on the rack, I usually keep a cone of my favorite piecing thread - 50wt Aurifil in color 2600 (Dove Grey).  While the spool holder is really marketed toward people who do machine embroidery, but I love it as a place to stage the thread and bobbins that I will need for a project/series of projects.  After each project, I put all of the thread and bobbins back into their proper locations for storage.

My Bernina Multiple Spool Holder keeps my thread easy to grab as I need to change colors

Other than thread, I keep my MVPs (the things I use very frequently or are likely to get misplaced) next to my machine in a In Control caddy (pattern from ByAnnie*) that was a gift from a friend.  It's the perfect size to sit on the windowsill next to my machine (the blinds and window shade are always closed on that part of the window).  I keep tools like my favorite air-soluble and water-soluble marking pens, a stiletto (plus a backup), the oil for my machine, my bobbins, my 8" dressmakers shears for cutting fabric (plus a pair for paper), an old pill bottle that I use for holding bent pins and old needles, my magnetic pincushion, and a few 1" x 6" rulers.  It's also a great convenient place to keep a backup pair of eyeglasses that is fairly close to my current prescription, a small notepad, and some sticky note pads.

All the pockets of In Control keep the supplies managed so they are super easy to access.
I also have a "go bag" that is always ready for a class or a day spent sewing with a friend.  Who hasn't been to a class and forgotten something essential?  Maybe it's something simple like pins, a rotary cutter, or a marking pen, but I'm pretty sure we've all done at it some point.  I'm also pretty notorious for being the person who has the thing that somebody else has forgotten.  Maybe it's a something like a bandage or maybe it's different size or type of machine needle, I'm usually the person that has the item.  I've tried to pare it down so it will fit in to a smaller bag, and that seems to work for now...until it doesn't. ;)

My Running With Scissors "go bag"
At present, I'm using a Running With Scissors bag (pattern from ByAnnie*), but one of my all-time favorite bags is Annie's A Place for Everything bag (not pictured).  Running With Scissors is significantly smaller, but maybe that's not a bad thing!  The nice thing about having a second set of supplies ready to go is that I know where I can quickly find a spare if I've temporarily misplaced an item!

When I'm working on a cross stitch project, I keep the floss I will need and a few essentials (mini scissors, a needle threader, and some extra needles) in this small case from Thread Dispenser/Sewing Case 2.0 pattern from ByAnnie*.  It makes it easy to keep what I need ready for when I want to sit on the couch or in a doctor's waiting room.

I love this little Sewing Case for holding my essentials when I am cross stitching. 
This is probably a good place to stop because I could go on for days about storage and organization, so don't tempt me! ;)

Before I end, I want to reiterate that there is no single solution that will work for every person.  It's just not realistic.  I also want to acknowledge that yes, I do have a lot of thread, but I've been building my collection since I first discovered Aurifil in 2013. Here's the blog post I wrote about it back in 2018!

*If you think you've spotted a trend with a certain pattern designer, you'd be right.  With that said, I want to be clear that I am NOT paid to make or promote her patterns, but I do some independent contracting work for her as a technical editor.  In short, I try to find errors in the patterns and try to ensure that terms and verbiage are consistent and correct from pattern to pattern.  The first pattern that I made of hers was the A Place for Everything bag back in 2013!  I started doing editing work for Annie several YEARS after I was already making many of her patterns because they are sturdy, well-designed items that suit my needs.

**When I make bags, my thread of choice is 40wt Aurifil.  If you actually scroll back through my Instagram feed, you will find posts with information about the bags I make including specific thread colors and fabrics used.