Thursday, July 12, 2018

Whip Up a Wall Hanging!

Whip up a FAST wall hanging using in-the-hoop quilted, pieced, stippled and/or embroidered block designs! This is my hands-down favorite way to finish up a quick wall hanging. All of A Bit of Stitch's in-the-hoop quilt block designs will work for this type of project. You can use more than two blocks too if you want! Just add more sashing strips to join the blocks in the centerpiece, easy as that! The size and number of blocks determine the size of the finished wall hanging. The wall hanging shown above is 19" x 14" - a really nice size for my foyer wall. šŸ˜Š

I added some sewn-in-the-hoop fabric flowers to this version and a scattering of fun buttons from my button stash! Click here to see the "Pretty Posy" design set - more flower options that are perfect for quilted projects.

Are you ready to whip up a wall hanging?

1. Stitch two same-sized quilt block designs. (They only need to be the same size in the dimension where you plan to join them.) For this sample I used the 9.5 x 14 flag block design from the Old Glory set and the 9.5 x 14 Welcome to my Roost farm block design. 

2. Trim the finished blocks leaving 1/4” selvage past the block outlines.

3. Cut strips of 1.25” straight grain sashing. You will need three pieces that are at least the width of the trimmed blocks and two pieces that are at least the length. For this sample, the same fabric that was used for the Welcome scene was also used for the strip joining the two blocks.

4. Join the two blocks together with one strip. Use 3/8” (or just slightly more than a 1/4") seam allowance. Once both blocks are joined together, the selvage edges of the blocks should support the sashing fabric nicely. There should be no gap between the two blocks under the sashing, as shown in the photo above.

5. Sew two short strips of sashing to the top and bottom of the joined blocks, once again with a 3/8” seam allowance. Press the strips away from the seam on the right side. Sew the remaining two long strips to the left and right of the joined blocks. Press the strips away from the seam on the right sides once again.

6. Measure the finish sashed top. Cut a piece of backing fabric the exact same size. If you wish, add a hanging rod sleeve to the backing fabric before joining it to the pieced top.

Or make rod pockets instead of a sleeve! To do so, cut squares of fabric (4” squares worked great for this 9.5 x 14 block project) and press in half to form triangles. Place them at the upper corners of the backing fabric with the folded edge facing down/inward as shown in the photo above on the right. (A friend brought this idea to my attention on Instagram; it was originally posted by @elnorac - go check out her photos on IG! So many great ideas!)

7. Place the backing fabric piece and sashed project top right sides together. The pockets will be sandwiched in between as shown above.
8. Sew together from the sashed top side. To do so, align the left side of the presser foot of your machine with the selvage edge of the blocks. (Baby Lock owners: Use your J foot and put the needle in the left position. Other machine owners: Use your regular sewing foot and, if possible, put the needle in the left position. If it is not possible to move the needle to the left, you may need to use a narrower foot.)

9. Sew all around the project, leaving an opening for turning at the bottom edge.

Tip! Instead of pivoting to turn the corner, just sew right off the edge. Then line the foot up again on the next side and sew from the edge straight across the corner and continue the seam as shown above.

10. Stay stitch the opening selvage edges.

11. Clip the corners before turning your wall hanging right side out. Turn right side out, push out the corners gently, and press well. Hand sew or fuse the opening closed with fusible web tape.

Looks like "real" binding, doesn't it?! But it sure is easier than folding it over and worrying about getting the corners right!
Cut a wooden dowel to fit the back and insert the ends into the pockets (or into the sleeve). Now you can hang up your wall hanging with a simple push pin or thumbtack in the wall. (Oh, and no need for a saw... you CAN cut a 3/8" wooden dowel down to size by scoring it with old scissors and snapping it carefully on the score. Then bang the ragged cut end against something hard like concrete, and that will smooth it right up.)

I hope you enjoy this super easy way to finish quilted-in-the-hoop designs into pretty wall hangings!

Thanks for reading!
Easy Piece-y blocks finished with this technique. It works for single blocks too! I sewed rings to the top of the birdy block and inserted a twig from my backyard for a hanger. :-)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Stretch Your Stash! Butterfly Project

Do you have a stash of machine embroidery designs? Any of them appliquĆ©s? Did you know that the first running stitch sequence can be used to create a “sewn in the hoop” project? Yes, it can – let me show you how! This is one of my favorite techniques and one I talk about often during my lectures, so if you’ve been in one of those lectures, here’s a closer look at what I was attempting to explain there. šŸ˜„

Nearly all appliquĆ© designs have either a tack-down stitch sequence or a material outline and tack-down stitch sequence. We use those to apply the appliquĆ© material to our project fabric when stitching out an appliquĆ© design. That running stitch sequence is your “seam!” By sewing two layers of fabric together in the hoop and leaving an opening or creating an opening later for turning, you can easily “sew” in the hoop to make 3D projects using that stitch sequence.

I wanted some 3D elements for my new Easy Piece-y quilt block of the month project. Butterflies seemed like the perfect choice to accompany my cheerful tulip, so I hunted through my stash to see what I could make… as usual, working in the last minute and not wanting to take the time to digitize something new! I found the perfect butterfly shape in my Seasonal Coaster collection.

Cool, huh? Want to make some? Let’s make this one.

I’ve made this tutorial a little easier by re-digitizing the design file to take out all the parts you don’t need. (Note: If you are following these directions to make sewn projects with designs from your own stash, you don’t have to edit out the parts you don’t need… just don’t sew those parts. The original butterfly design had a body part and extra detailing on the wings. I just skipped those.) Click HERE to find the newly edited butterfly design containing only the parts you will need. 

Let's get started! šŸ˜Š

Gather up your supplies. You’ll need one block of quilt weight cotton fabric sized slightly larger than your 4x4 hoop. Back this block of fabric with a fusible, crisp tear-away stabilizer. Don’t fuse it on too much, just enough to hold the fabric lightly. (This butterfly design has a little bit of detail stitching, and because of that I am using stabilizer. Just so you know, stabilizer is not always necessary when stitching a simple running stitch outline.) Cut another block of the same fabric about 5” square.

Choose matching sewing thread. Wind a partial bobbin with the same thread. Hoop the stabilized fabric right side up. Make your butterfly pretty with a printed fabric and center the fabric and design so that the wings will be evenly matched. This is when that on-board camera comes in handy!

Sew the first stitch sequence. This is the vein detailing on the butterfly wings. I used a slightly darker thread color so they would stand out. Now place the 5” block of fabric on top of the hoop, wrong side up.

Sew the final stitch sequence. This is a single running stitch outline. If you chose a fancy fabric (something other than quilt weight cotton) and think that this line needs to be double strength, then by all means back up and sew it again!

Done! Now you are ready to pop it out of the hoop and remove the stabilizer. Take care not to dislodge the stitching while you do so! It helps to press your fingertip against the stitching line and tear the stabilizer against your fingertip.

I find it helpful to very carefully remove the stabilizer around the outside of the design first. Then the inside parts peel away easily, and the detail stitching is tougher than the single running stitch outline so you don’t have to be as careful there.

Cut out the butterfly leaving slightly less than ¼” selvage past the outline. Clip around the entire design. LOTS of clips work better than a few! Take out some notches of fabric here and there at the sharper curves. I’ve noted some clipping in blue to give you an idea about how close that clipping should be.

Sometimes I pick out stitches on the outline stitching to create an opening. But this isn’t a good design to do so because there aren't any really straight edges. Sometimes I create an opening in the fabric applied for the back. But for quick projects I just create an opening by cutting one in a place I can cover up later. So go ahead and cut an opening in the very center of the butterfly between the two spread wings. Cut only one layer of fabric (as shown above) and make the opening just big enough to get two fingertips inside.

Turn the butterfly right side out. Use your Dritz Point Turner! It has nice rounded ends that won’t poke through the stitching line. Click HERE to check out that tool at Nancy’s Notions if you don’t already have one.

Once you have wiggled all the edges smooth, give the butterfly a good press. Pull the opening pieces flush with each other as you do so.

Poke a bit of fusible web inside the opening. Align it so that it will be directly under the opening, catching both sides generously.

Fuse the opening shut with a hot iron.

I liked the look of buttons for butterfly bodies, but you could easily substitute a pretty piece of rickrack trim or ribbon, or cut a bit of felt into a body shape. I love to use Sulky’s Petites 12 wt. cotton thread for sewing on buttons. Less sewing and less tangling! Click HERE to go see all the colors this lovely thread comes in.

That was easy! I hope this post has inspired you to take a long, close look at your machine embroidery stash and all the possibilities it holds. Happy Stitching!


P.S. Take Evy’s MP University class and learn more cool tricks for getting the most out of your embroidery machine! Click HERE to get all the details.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Binding Burpies!

There's not much that is more useful than a soft, cushy burp cloth when it comes to baby tending, is there? I love giving burp cloths as new baby gifts because I know that they will be well used and loved, especially when it’s super easy to make them pretty too!

Once upon a time I thought the only way to bind anything had to involve cutting bias fabric strips and doing a LOT of handwork. Thank goodness for my quilting friends who taught me that bindings can be straight grain and stitched down by machine. Here’s my new favorite method for adding pretty fabric ends to pre-folded diapers for burp-cloths. I hope you'll try it!

You will need pre-washed, pre-folded diapers. Find them in packs at big box retailers, online, and at some baby specialty shops. (I love finding the colored ones!) You’ll also need some nice quilt weight cotton fabric cut into two strips that are 2" wide and 1” longer than the short ends of the diaper. (Note: You don’t have to pre-wash, but some brands of pre-folded diapers will shrink a lot, so it's nice to get that out of the way so your pretty bound ends don’t curl up later.)

Choose a right side. One side of a pre-folded diaper is usually prettier than the other; you can tell by examining the stitching on the extra folded part in the middle.

Align one fabric strip with one short end of the diaper: Place the fabric strip wrong side up on the WRONG side of the diaper. Make sure you leave a little extra fabric hanging off at both ends, as shown in the photo above. Sew the fabric strip to the diaper with a 3/8” seam allowance. (You’ll notice that there’s serging on both short ends of the diaper, and it might not be very straight. Just sew the fabric strip on as straight as you can; don’t worry if it doesn’t meet exactly flush with every bit of the edge.)

Repeat for the other end of the diaper.

Press each fabric strip over the finished end of the diaper.

From the right side of the diaper, press one fabric strip under 3/8” to ½”, all the way across. Repeat for the strip at the other end.

Next, press the folded edge of one fabric strip over to meet the seam, covering the serged edge of the diaper. Repeat for the strip at the other end. Make a good crease at the newly folded ends.

Unfold the strips along the crease you just made and fold them backwards to the wrong side of the diaper. Align the first fold’s edge with the seam (where the strip is sewn to the diaper). Sew across the short ends of each strip a scant 1/8” away from the diaper's edge as shown above. Back-tack securely. 

At both ends of each strip: Trim the seam (leaving a small selvage) and clip the corner a tiny bit as shown above.

Refold the fabric strips back to the right side, poking out the corners smoothly. Re-press if necessary.

Choose a good appliquĆ© type stitch from your machine’s motif stitch menu. I love using the Shell Tuck Edge on my Baby Lock. This stitch has a “bite” stitch that goes sideways from a line of regular stitching, so it’s nice and secure. I set my Shell Tuck Edge stitch at a width of 1.5 mm and length of 1.6 mm. You might want to practice on a scrap of fabric to see what stitch and settings you like best.

A clear open toe foot is a great choice for doing this type of stitching if you are like me and want to SEE exactly where the needle is landing. You might also like the edge stitch foot which has a guide to help you follow the fold. Experiment to see which foot is easiest for you to use.

Here’s the tricky part: It’s rather difficult to start on the end of a bit of fabric that’s thick. Sometimes that causes a nest of wonky stitching, yikes! So try this - instead of starting with your needle at the very end, put your presser foot fully on the fabric at the end, as shown in the illustration below on the left:

Starting with a REGULAR stitch (not the pretty shell stitch yet) and the center needle position, sew backwards immediately beside the fold, right where you will be sewing the shell stitching (see illustration above on the right). Remember, you are sewing from the right side of the diaper next to the folded over edge of the fabric strip which has not been sewn down yet.

Stop two or three stitches away from the edge; leave the presser foot down. Raise the needle and set the machine to the shell stitch motif. Sew immediately next to the fold so that the “bite” stitch catches the folded edge while the regular stitching line between the "bites" ends up only on the diaper part next to that folded edge.

When you get to the opposite end, stop a couple of stitches away from the edge, raise the needle (leave the foot down) and reset the machine for regular sewing, center needle position. Then sew backwards right at the fold (not on it) to secure your thread tail.

Pretty, isn’t it! And faster than hand sewing, woo-hoo!

Add some pretty appliquƩs!

This appliquĆ© design is from the Curly AppliquĆ© Alphabet collection. One thing to remember is that for projects like this that will be well-washed, it’s best to add fusible web behind your appliquĆ© material. Click HERE to read a blog post about appliquĆ©. Use those little curved bladed trimming scissors to keep from cutting into the diaper when you trim, and don’t forget to use a press cloth when you fuse the appliquĆ©!

I hope you find a lot of use for this little binding technique. I’m quite hooked on it! It ends up on so many of my projects - not just burp cloths - because it’s fast and neat!

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fastest Draw in the West!

The fastest draw in the west…okay, it’s actually the fastest drawstring bag in the southeast, but let’s not get picky - this is an awesome quick and easy gift-giving project for all ages! Not only can it be the gift packaging, but it can be the gift as well. And it’s a great stash-buster... ahem, something that’s rather nice all on its own, right? (Click HERE to find the llama designs!)

Here’s what you need:
  • A piece of fabric twice as tall and twice as wide as the desired size of your finished bag, plus one extra inch both ways for seam allowances.
  • Something to draw it up with – ribbon, cord, twill tape or whatever you have that will make a sturdy drawstring 
  • Sewing thread
  • Optional: big hole beads to put on the ends of the drawstring cord and embroidery designs (if you want to get fancy!)

Let’s get started. I have this set of toy car tracks for my grandson and, yeah, there are lots of little parts which I’m sure his momma is going to love (not!)... but Gramma is fixing that ‘cause I’m making him a bag to keep those pesky parts in! So I needed four times as much fabric as the bunch of stuff I wanted the bag to hold.

I cut a big piece of fabric and folded it in half, then in half again. You can see all four layers up there at the right hand corner of the photo. The left and bottom edges are folds. When you choose what size your bag needs to be, make sure you leave plenty of room for drawing up the top and for the seam allowances. (This is just an example of how to quickly tell how much fabric you will need.)

There is a super fast option for creating the opening for the drawstring, and there is another option that requires one more step – a buttonhole. The only advantage of having a buttonhole is that you can use it to put the drawstring opening anywhere you want. For instance, if it is a gift-giving bag like the one I’m making here, you might want the bow tie to be in the center of the bag when it’s finished, like this:

But if it’s a bag for storage and the bag IS the gift, you can just make the drawstring opening in the seam, and the tie ends up on one side like this toy bag:

(Knobby Letters appliquƩ shown on the bag - click HERE to find them!)
If you choose the buttonhole method, draw or crease a horizontal line through the center of the fabric block (you can simply fold the block in half from top to bottom and iron the fold to crease), and then find the midpoint of that line by measuring its length and dividing by two. Mark the position of your buttonhole just below the midpoint like this:

Go ahead and sew in the buttonhole before you proceed. It’s helpful to use a bit of stabilizer beneath the buttonhole stitching to keep it neat and sturdy.

More options! If you want to add embroidery, a patch, or a pocket, then do that before you sew up the bag. Here are your options for that:

The blue dotted lines show the fold marks (the bisecting horizontal and vertical lines) and the seam allowance areas (the box all around the edges). The two block sections on the top half of each graphic will become the lining of the bag. The two bottom block sections will become the outside of the bag. If your drawstring opening will be in the seam, then put your embroidery within the yellow box in the image on the left. If your drawstring opening will be a buttonhole in the center front of the bag, then put your embroidery within the yellow box in the image on the right.

Important Note! If your fabric has a directional print this:

...then make sure when you fold the bag to finish the bottom seam, the print will be heading in the right direction on the finished bag. (Curly AppliquƩ Alphabet shown here for the name, click HERE to find it!)

Okay, let’s whip this bag up. Fold the fabric right sides together along the longest sides (if there are longer sides; your bag might be even) and sew together with a ½” seam allowance.

Press the seam allowance open. Take care not to crease the tube elsewhere while you are ironing.

Turn the tube right side out. Fold what will be the right side of the bag down into the inside, and align all the raw edges. (Important! This folded edge will be at the top of the bag, so make sure you choose the end of the tube that is at the bottom of your directional print to fold down into the inside.) If you put embroidery on the bag, that should now be on the inside during this step. If you have a buttonhole, that should be on the inside too.

Sew across all four layers of raw edges. Serge or zigzag to finish.

At this point you might want to turn the bag right side out to sew the casing if you have a free-arm machine and can stick the bag over it. Or, if you want to use a nice seam guide like my Baby Lock stick-on one, sew from the inside of the bag. You need to sew all around the top of the bag, immediately below the buttonhole if you made one, or at least 1” from the top of the bag if you didn’t. Let the start and stop of your seam line overlap a bit to secure the ends. If you want, you can sew another seam all around the top to make a tighter casing, this time about 3/8” from the top folded edge.

If you choose to put the drawstring opening in the side seam, then bar-tack across the casing stitching lines at the side seam of the bag to stabilize it. When you go to insert the string, you’ll need to pick out the stitches along the seam between the bar-tacks as shown below.

Thread big holed beads onto the ends of your drawstring if you like:

Bam, finished! That was easy, wasn’t it? What are you going to put in your “fastest drawstring bag in the southeast” bags? Shoes, laundry, groceries, games, fabric? Make great big bags for lots of stuff or wee little bags for something special!

(Click HERE to find the fun little festive llamas!)
I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial - make lots of bags!