Thursday, June 6, 2019

Dandy Bandy Pockets

Pockets! Everyone loves pockets, especially wee girls who have things to treasure and tote!

Hidden pockets that are just utilitarian are awesome, but how much fun it is to make pockets that are part of the scenery – right out there, flaunting their prettiness! This is when I LOVE having an embroidery machine. (Okay, that’s an understatement… I always love having an embroidery machine, who am I kidding? You too, right?) Making pockets is a lot less stressful and a lot more fun when made in the hoop. The machine does all the “sewing” for you, and if the pocket has a curved edge, it will be a perfect curved edge! Plus, you can add bits of fancy embroidery on the fly like the little border across the top of this pocket.

Want to make one? Here’s what you’ll need:

Banded Pocket design found HERE (free until June 25, 2019)

  • 1 piece of pocket fabric cut large enough to fit in your 5x7 hoop (this design measures 4.82” x 5.06”), stabilized with a crisp fusible tear-away; I recommend Baby Lock's Tear-Away Firm which you can try a sample of in my package of favorite stabilizers HERE.
  • 1 piece of pocket fabric cut approximately 6" x 7" and interfaced with a very lightweight fusible woven interfacing (Find the perfect interfacing HERE at Farmhouse Fabrics.)
  • 1 piece of contrast pocket band fabric cut approximately 6” x 3” (interface if very lightweight)
  • Sewing thread to match the pocket fabric (bobbin and top)
  • 1” to 2” piece of narrow fusible web tape
  • Embroidery designs of your choice if you choose to embellish the pocket (Find the Woodland Folk designs I used HERE.)
  • Sharp scissors
  • Dritz Point Turner Tool (Find in fine sewing stores and HERE at Farmhouse Fabrics online) 
Stabilize the pocket fabric with crisp fusible tear-away and hoop right side up in the 5x7 (or suitable) hoop. If your pocket fabric is woven, try to keep the grain line of the fabric straight in the hoop. Sew the first stitch sequence. This will be the outside pocket cutting line and horizontal alignment position line for the band.

Place the band fabric wrong side up over the hooped fabric, aligning one long edge approximately ¼” above the horizontal band placement line.

Sew the second stitch sequence. This seam attaches the band fabric to the pocket fabric.

Flip the band fabric right side up over the seam. Use the flat edge of your Dritz Point Turner to crease the seam OR use a mini-iron or small iron to press the seam nice and flat in the hoop on a heat-protected surface. (That’s optional… I’m usually in too big of a hurry to do it, but it’s helpful especially if you are adding embroidery over that area!)

Sew the third stitch sequence to tack down the band fabric.

Now’s your chance to add embroidery! If you have a fancy machine that can scan what’s in your hoop or project the image of your design onto the fabric (I know…WOWSIE!), by all means do that. Click HERE and HERE to see two of those awesome machines by Baby Lock. Otherwise, print a paper template of your design, place it where you want the design to stitch on the pocket, and align the design accordingly. Taking into consideration the seam allowance of the finished pocket, the actual width of the pocket across the top at the band is 4.35”, so make sure the design is centered within that area.

When using a printed template, I find it helpful to use my machine's design tracing tool or perimeter tool to travel to the center and four corner points of my design, dropping the needle (unthreaded) into those points and adjusting accordingly if needed. Click HERE to read a blog post that details those steps clearly.

If the design you are using is dense or covers a large area of the pocket, you may wish to float an additional layer of soft tear-away under the hoop before embroidering the design.

After the embroidery has been completed, change the top and bobbin thread to regular sewing thread in a color that matches the pocket fabric. (You may need to tighten the top tension a bit to keep the stitching even – it’s advisable to test stitch to see what settings work best for your machine.)

Place the 6” x 7” piece of interfaced pocket fabric WRONG SIDE UP over the hooped fabric, generously covering the pocket outline. If your pocket fabric is woven, try to keep the grain lines of this pocket fabric straight and aligned with the grain lines of the fabric in the hoop.

Sew the final stitch sequence; this is the actual pocket outline seam. It will begin on the left side of the pocket just below the band and travel around the pocket, stopping about 1.25” away from where it began, and then travel back to the beginning to create a nice, sturdy, double stitched seam.

Remove the fabric from the hoop. Cut out the pocket by cutting right ON the outside pocket outline stitching (the "pocket cutting outline" from the first stitch sequence) which is visible from the stabilized side of the pocket.

Tear away the stabilizer from within the pocket first. Then you will be able to easily tear off the bit along the selvage edge.

Clip the top corners slightly as shown below. Then clip the curve thoroughly, but be careful not to cut into the stitching.

Turn the pocket right side out through the little opening on the left side. Use the curved end of the Dritz Point Turner tool to smooth out the curve, and use the pointed end to carefully poke out the corners.

Tuck in the selvage edges at the opening to make that side smooth, and press the pocket well. Insert a small amount of fusible web tape at the opening and fuse to close it. Try to keep the fusible tape only on the seam allowance fabric; don’t let it extend into the pocket if you can help it.

Your pocket is ready to attach!

I like to use the shell stitch on my Baby Lock sewing machine to attach pockets. I start with a back-tack with regular straight stitching, switch to the shell stitch, and then when I reach the end point I switch back to a straight stitch so I can back-tack again securely. It’s helpful to experiment on a scrap to get the settings right for your pocket. Here’s a little video of that.

A blanket stitch, some hem stitch motifs, a straight stitch or a narrow zigzag stitch all work great to sew the pockets on too. I find it helpful to stabilize my dress fabric with a block of fusible tear-away behind the area I'm applying the pocket to. After the pocket is attached, I remove the excess stabilizer. Of course, if you want a really beautiful pocket attachment, slip-stitch it in place by hand! Click HERE to see a video about slip-stitching.

Pockets are for treasures and treats!

And wee little hands, of course!

Happy pocket making!


Monday, May 6, 2019

Peony Pillow Perfection

I’m passionate about pillows! They are so visually appealing with their inviting nature—soft, cheerful and comforting—and so easy to use for quick changes to my décor. Half the fun of throw pillows is displaying them; the other half is making them, and I love making them!

Nancy’s Notions is one of my favorite go-to resources for all kinds of nice pillow making supplies, and they also stock so many great machine embroidery accessories too. It's been delightful to collaborate with them and create this machine embroidered fancy flower pillow to share with you. Let’s get started and make a Peony Perfection pillow!

Gather your supplies:

· 3/4 yard of fashion fabric for the pillow & sewing thread to match (gold)
· 12” square of fashion fabric for the background behind the peony appliqué (white)     
· 6” square of pink appliqué fabric & matching embroidery thread
· 7” square of green appliqué fabric & matching embroidery thread
· 4” square of sheer pink fabric to coordinate with the pink appliqué fabric (silk organza - click HERE to find pretty hand-dyed silk organza fat quarters, wide polyester organza ribbon, or cotton organdy is recommended) & matching embroidery thread
· Clover Wonder Fuse (fusible web)
· Fusible tear-away stabilizer (firm)
· Clover Mini-iron & ironing pad
· Micro-serrated Snippers (scissors with small, very sharp, curved blades)(or to find Embroidery Snips in the Abitofstitch shop click here)
· Nancy’s Notions Showcase Throw Pillow Corner Template
· 16” square of lightweight quilt batting
· 3 buttons
· 2 yards of 7/32” cording to cover or purchased 1/4” covered piping
· 14” pillow form
· 2 strips of 15” x 1” fusible interfacing
· 14” strip of 3/4” wide fusible web tape
· Pretty Peony machine embroidery design by A Bit of Stitch and machine hoop according to the design size as noted in the color chart (Click HERE to find the Pretty Peony design in the Abitofstitch shop)

Find the notions highlighted above at Nancy's Notions. Take this link to see this project on the Nancy's Notions Inspiration page!

Fabrics shown on the sample pillow are from Robert Kaufman’s Yarn Dyed Metallic Linen collection; colors are Sand (gold), Peony (pink), Emerald (green) and Crystal (white).

It’s always a good idea to begin with pre-washed fabrics. This prevents shrinkage later that may cause puckers around your embroidery appliqué designs. So begin by pre-washing all project fabrics for best results.

Prepare the appliqué fabrics (pink and green) by applying a piece of Wonder Fuse fusible web to the wrong side of each fabric square according to the package directions. You will not need to apply fusible web to the sheer fabric as long as it is stiff and crisp. Remove the release paper.

Load the Pretty Peony design into the machine. (Visit Baby Lock to see all the pretty embroidery machines!)

Apply fusible tear-away stabilizer to the wrong side of the 12” square of peony background fabric (white) in an area larger than the hoop. Center the fabric in the hoop, making sure the hoop encloses stabilized fabric. Center the design within the hoop. Follow along with the color chart instructions included with the design and the helpful hints provided here to appliqué the peony design.

For best results use polyester or rayon embroidery thread in colors that match the appliqué fabrics. The following Sulky thread colors match the Robert Kaufman fabrics very nicely: pink 942-1113 and green 942-1287. I used Sulky 942-1055 for the golden flower centers. You will also need a darker shade of pink to match the new color that is created when the sheer overlay is placed over the pink appliqué fabric.

Helpful hints for machine embroidery appliqué!

Most machine embroidery appliqué designs have three parts: The first stitch sequence shows you where the appliqué fabric needs to go. The second stitch sequence, which is a repeat of the first, sews the appliqué fabric into position. After the excess appliqué fabric has been trimmed away, the final stitch sequence “appliqués” or satin stitches the fabric in place. There are lots of variations and special stitches or effects that can be included, but those three steps are the basics. Always read the designer’s notes to be sure you don’t miss any extra steps or special information you’ll need.

The two photos above show the first two steps. The first one shows the outline stitching of the leaves for the peony design. Notice that I am covering the outline stitching with the fusible web backed appliqué fabric—the shiny, fusible side is facing down, and the right side is facing up. In the second photo you can see the second outline stitching. Sometimes it’s hard to see that outline stitching when using matching thread; you may find it helpful to change the thread color so you can see it easily. I find that just plain white or off-white thread works great for most fabrics!

The photos below show the trimming and fusing process. ALWAYS place the hoop on a hard, flat surface to trim, and ALWAYS place it on a hard, flat, heat-protected surface to fuse the appliqué fabric. And finally... when taking the hoop in and out of the machine, ALWAYS hold the hoop by the hoop, not by the fabric in the hoop!

Continue following the appliqué instructions to apply the flower fabric in the same manner. The sheer overlay is the last part of the appliqué. The directions will tell you to stitch the “appliqué material” outline first and then place the sheer fabric over that outline. Hold it gently in place while you sew the “appliqué position” outline as it may not be necessary to fuse this fabric. Then trim away the excess before sewing the last “appliqué” satin stitching. The final stitch sequence will be the little flower centers. They look nice stitched in soft gold.

Watch the video HERE for a demonstration of this machine embroidery appliqué in action!

Pillow Construction:

Before you begin constructing the pillow, you will need to trim the appliquéd peony fabric to 9” square. I find it helpful to cut a piece of tissue paper exactly 9” x 9” in size and lay it over the appliquéd fabric so I can easily center the appliqué design within my square.

You will also need pillow fabric cut into these sizes:

· Two 4” x 9” pieces (for the pillow front frame)
· Two 4” x 15” pieces (for the pillow front frame)
· Two 9.75” x 15” pieces (for the pillow back)

From the remaining pillow fabric, create 2 yards of covered cording. I find that when using cording that measures about 7/32” (5.6mm) in width, a bias strip of 1.25” wide gives me the desired 1/4” selvage edge, which perfectly suits a 1/4” seam allowance.

Use your narrow zipper foot to cover the cord.

Sew the two 4” x 9” pieces to the top and bottom of the peony block with a 1/2” seam allowance. Press the seam allowance open. Sew the two 4” x 15” pieces to each side of the new center block with a 1/2” seam allowance. Press the seam allowance open. You should have a pillow top that looks like the one in the photo below on the right.

Locate the two 1” x 15” strips of fusible interfacing. Fuse a strip to one long edge of each 9.75” x 15” piece as shown in the photo below on the left. Serge or zigzag the interfaced edge and press over 1”.

Quilt the pillow top as desired with lightweight batting. I used my Baby Lock Sashiko machine to quilt the sample pillow. To read more about quilting a project with this machine, click HERE. To see a short video that explains “hopping” with Sashiko quilting, click HERE. As you can see in the photo below, I’m using a very high-tech tool to aid my hopping—masking tape! 

One small, nit-picking detail that I’ve always had a bit of a struggle with is the way the corners look on my finished throw pillow. No matter what, they never seem to fill out prettily with a pillow form. Usually, the corners stick up like little ears or fold and pucker. Not pretty! I used to stick extra fiberfill batting into the corners just to make them look better, but not anymore! I just discovered the Nancy’s Notions Showcase Throw Pillow Corner Template, and (wow!) it’s such a cool, simple solution to bunchy, awkward pillow corners!

Just place this nice, heavy, plastic template on the corner of the pillow, trace around it, and trim and construct as usual. Voila!  Perfect corners on your throw pillows!

I used my serger to serge along the traced corners, thereby removing the excess corner fabric and giving my pillow top edge a nice, neat, non-raveling finish while I continued working.  If you do not wish to serge the edge, simply use the Corner Template tool as a ruler and trim off the excess with a rotary cutter.

You will want a 1/4” seam allowance for the outside seam joining the pillow top to the pillow back. If your piping already has a 1/4” selvage, you’re good to go. Otherwise, trim it to 1/4”. Pin the piping around the edge of the pillow top. Clip the selvage edges of the piping at the pillow corners. This will keep the piping from bunching up or pleating while you baste it on.

Pin the piping all the way around the pillow, beginning and ending at the bottom edge of the pillow top. Open the piping fabric to expose the cord and clip the cord so that the two ends meet. Leave about 1” of piping fabric remaining and trim off any additional excess, as shown in the photo above on the left. Fold the piping fabric’s raw edge under, tuck the beginning end of the piping into the folded end, and bump the cord ends together (photo above, right). Re-pin (photo right) and sew the piping to the pillow front.

Do use your narrow zipper foot, but don’t worry about getting too close to the piping. You’ll have time to do that when you sew the backing on.

Prepare the pillow back by sewing three buttonholes evenly spaced on the right side of one interfaced folded edge pillow fabric piece. On the other piece, fuse the interfaced folded edge to the wrong side of the fabric with a strip of fusible web tape.

Overlap the buttonhole fabric over the non-buttonhole fabric, interfaced buttonhole flap on top of interfaced non-buttonhole flap. Make sure that your pillow back will still measure 15” - don’t overlap too much.

Baste the edges together at the overlap on each side, as shown in the photo above.

Helpful hints about buttonholes!

When using an automatic buttonhole foot for your Baby Lock sewing machine, make the buttonhole a little neater by using a button that is very slightly smaller than the buttons you plan to sew on.  I love the rounded double ended buttonhole. Those round ends look so neat! If you want to cord your buttonholes to make them even nicer, use the straight end buttonholes and click HERE to read about cording buttonholes.

 A chisel buttonhole cutter is the best tool for cutting open buttonholes. If you don’t have one, be sure to put a pin at both ends of the buttonhole where you need to stop cutting before slicing them open. I like using a nice, sharp seam ripper to open my buttonholes, but I’m careful to always have a pin in place so I don’t slice right on through the end!

Sulky Thread’s Petite 12 wt. cotton thread is a great choice for sewing on buttons. It comes in many lovely colors and is strong, yet soft.

Pin the pillow front to the pillow back, right sides together. You won’t need to use the Corner Template tool to trim the pillow back, because you’ll want to sew from the pillow front side which is already trimmed. Use your narrow zipper foot and sew as close as possible to the piping, especially at the corners. You can see in the photo above on the right that I am making sure my seam is within the seam that tacked the piping in place. If your piping seam allowance was 1/4” as suggested, this seam allowance will be about the same.

Before turning the pillow right side out, I like to serge the seam allowance selvages. This is a bit tricky with piping and corners, so if you decide to do so, serge carefully. Another option is a simple zigzag finish. Finishing the inside seam allowance will make your pillow wear and wash better.

Finished! I hope you enjoy your Peony Perfection pillow as much as I’m enjoying mine!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, March 25, 2019

Bunny Block for Sulky's Block Party

It’s that time of year – Sulky’s Block Party! I’m so delighted to be part of it this year, and especially happy because I get to bring you a made-in-the-hoop machine embroidery version of a quilt block! Follow along with me and see just how easy, fast and fun it is to use your embroidery machine to construct a quilt block.

Here’s what you’ll need:

✔ The Bunny Block design – click HERE to find it.

✔ Sheer cut-away stabilizer (enough to fit in your hoop) – click HERE to find Sulky’s Soft ’n Sheer.

✔ Lightweight quilt batting (8” square) – click HERE to find “Soft Loft Fusible” which is my favorite type of batting to use with in-the-hoop quilt block projects.

✔ One 5.75” square of fabric for the center block and two 5.5” squares (to be split) for the triangle corners

✔ Sewing thread for construction and the stippling in the triangle corners

✔ Embroidery or sewing thread for the bunny motif in a bunny body color, very dark gray or black for the eye, and white or off-white for the tail

Optional - Fusible web backed appliqué fabric for the bunny body (Double knit, French terry knit, fleece, felt or other fabrics that will not ravel badly are recommended.)

Prepare the fabrics. It is helpful to have nice crisp fabric to work with, so feel free to press well with a bit of spray starch.

Split the two 5.5” squares in half diagonally to create a total of four triangles.

Place the batting on top of the sheer cut-away stabilizer and hoop. (If you use Soft Loft Fusible, face the fusible side down against the sheer cut-away.) Make sure there are not any ripples, puckers or wrinkles in the batting or stabilizer.

Thread the machine with regular sewing thread in the top. (Note – Some embroidery machines will stitch better with regular sewing thread in the top if you also use it in the bobbin.) Sew the first two stitch sequences, the block outline and the center block outline as shown in the photo above.

Place the center block fabric over the center block outline stitching, covering it as evenly as possible. The raw edges of the center block fabric should extend about ¼” past the stitching line in all directions. Sew the 3rd stitch sequence, the center block tack-down.

The triangle corners will be placed beginning in the upper left corner and working clockwise. Place one triangle fabric piece wrong side up with the longest side of the triangle aligned with the upper left edge of the center fabric block as shown above. Sew the 4th stitch sequence, the triangle block seam.

Flip the triangle fabric over the seam stitching, exposing the right side of the fabric. Smooth the fabric over the corner, covering the block outline stitching. Sew the 5th stitch sequence, the triangle block tack-down. Generally, the fabric will cling to the batting, but if you wish to hold the fabric in position while the tack-down stitches, feel free to do so. Just keep your fingers away from the path of the needle!

Now you are ready to repeat that same process three more times, adding the top right, lower right and then lower left triangle fabric pieces.

When all four triangle corners have been added, sew the 12th stitch sequence to add the stippling.

The bunny motif is a bean stitch design and looks perfectly fine stitched right on your center block fabric. However, it is fun to add fabric behind bean stitch designs, and any fabric that will not ravel badly and does not have much of a nap will work nicely. I used a piece of French terry knit for my bunny, applying fusible web to the smooth side and using the soft terry side as the right side of the bunny. (Note – fusible web such as Wonder Under or Steam-A-Seam will make the appliqué fabric permanent and keep it from wrinkling or pulling away with wear and washing.)

If you decide to add appliqué fabric behind the bunny motif, you’ll need a piece that is almost as big as the center block fabric. Choose a color of thread that matches the fabric but is just a little darker so the stitching will stand out a bit. You’ll need an eye color, body color and tail color. (I used the same color for body and tail.) Feel free to use regular sewing thread again or choose a pretty embroidery thread. Sulky’s rayon has a nice shine that really pops when sewn on matte backgrounds!

Place the appliqué fabric over the center block area and sew the bunny body.

Remove the hoop from the machine – holding it carefully BY the hoop and NOT by the fabric in the hoop – and set it on a hard, flat surface. Lift the excess appliqué fabric and trim it away using your little curved bladed snips. (Click HERE to find the perfect snips for appliqué trimming.) Leave a tiny selvage edge, about 1/16” past the outline stitching.

Put the hoop back in the machine and sew the eye and tail, finishing the bunny.

Remove the fabric from the hoop and trim away the excess fabric leaving ¼” selvage past the block outline stitching. Now you are ready to make more blocks which can then be strip-pieced together with 1.25” strips of straight cut sashing. When joining each block with strips of sashing, always sew from the wrong side of the block (not the sashing) so you can easily see the block outline stitching and keep your seam immediately to the inside of it. This will keep the block outline from showing along the sashing.

Just so you know, you can also skip the batting and cut-away stabilizer and piece the block directly onto wash-away stabilizer or a crisp tear-away. When finished, remove the stabilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions and trim either on the block outline stitching or ¼” away from it. Now you can traditional-piece blocks together to create a larger, un-sashed piece as desired.

If you decided to add fabric behind your bunny motif, fuse the appliqué fabric now; press from the right side using a press cloth. (Silk organza press clothes are the best! Click HERE to find them.)

Edit out the bunny motif in this block design and add your own designs!

Doesn’t that little bird look right chirpy? He’s from the Wrenly collection, and the “Hoppy Day” saying is from the Wildflower Friends set. Click HERE and HERE to find those designs. For more bean stitched motif designs – perfect for quilt blocks – click HERE for lots of inspiration!

I hope you enjoyed this project! I’ve got lots and lots of FPP blocks you might like to check out! Click HERE to find the “Easy Piece-y” collection.

Happy block making!