Thursday, October 18, 2018

Nancy Zieman - The Rest of the Story by Richard Zieman Blog Tour

I started and then deleted the opening paragraph to this blog post umpteen times. Sometimes the really important things to say can’t be expressed in words because they are better felt than “telt.” So, I’m just going to say this: This blog post is about Richard Zieman’s book, The Rest of the Story, a memoir of his wife Nancy Zieman. And you need to read it.

It is a very great privilege to be part of the “Nancy Zieman– The Rest of The Story” book blog tour. I wish I could say that I knew Nancy well personally. But like many of you, I knew her through our shared love of all things sewing and was lucky enough to have been at a few events with her. And yet, like most of you who have ever met and spoken to her in person, I feel like I did know her because she just had the ability to make everyone around her feel “known” and valued.

The very first time I got to meet Nancy in person, we were standing in a kitchen off the stage at an event where I had a little demo to do and she was the key-note speaker. I was nervous as could be, having never been on a Great Big Stage with a Great Big Name coming after me, eek! She struck up a conversation and told me how much she liked my skirt. I was so dumbfounded that she knew my name and (being the sewing professional that she was) liked my skirt; I’m not sure how I responded – hopefully with “thank you!” Looking back, I’m pretty sure she recognized my nervousness and was setting about to calm me down in her gentle, kind way. That’s just who she was.

This book was a bittersweet read for me because I attended events at which Nancy was speaking during the time that Richard writes about, detailing the very great physical hurdles she faced just to get to and then through those events. Her courage, faith and strength shine through his words as beacons of light for all of us. Now I am doubly thankful that I had those opportunities… seeing grace in action is such a blessing, both humbling and uplifting. It is something I will forever treasure and hope to apply the lessons of to my own life.

So, all I can say is read the book. You will be glad you did. It will uplift you and encourage you, just like Nancy would have wanted. 

Thanks for reading...

P.S. Here’s the link to buy the book. For a chance to win a copy of The Rest of the Story courtesy of Nancy Zieman Productions, be sure to read the post at this link. You’ll also find the links to all the posts for this blog tour there…so worth reading, read them all! Leave comments, I'd love to read them too!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Time for Tea - "Petite Treat" Fabric by The Cottage Mama from Riley Blake Designs Blog Tour Projects!

“Petite Treat” fabric collection by Lindsay Wilkes from the Penny Rose fabric division of Riley Blake Designs

Lindsay Wilkes, “The Cottage Mama”, has done it again with her latest precious fabric line from Penny Rose Fabrics of Riley Blake Designs! I’ve had so much fun making pretties with this adorableness, as you can see. In fact, this set inspired a whole new set of machine embroidery designs because I really, really “needed” to make my granddaughter a tea time table topper and the works…

That cheery little dollie print was just too cute to cut up. It made such a cheerful tablecloth edged with rickrack trim! And of course a topper embroidered with my new Tiny Tea designs and napkins to coordinate were a must from the tiny stripes.

And Kate needed a new dress, of course! That blue and white stripe trimmed with the wee floral - oh my, how sweet a combination!

Don't you just LOVE ruffles? I’ve got to make her more dresses with sleeve ruffles. They are so much fun and really easy to make! And pockets make everything perfect. (Did you know you can make pockets in the hoop? Click HERE to see my online MP University class for this fun technique and so much more.)
Know what else I love? Those pretty little motif stitches we never seem to know what to do with on our fancy sewing machines. My Baby Lock Destiny has so many I haven’t even tested them all yet, but this one is a favorite already. It looks like a tiny, tightly stitched star, almost like a candlewick. It's so fun to add pretty touches so easily with my Baby Lock machines and their onboard motifs!
  Superior Thread's King Tut made the motif stitching so pretty. I also love Sulky's variegated rayon for embroidery. Check out that kitty- looks like a real striped tabby, doesn't it!

Click HERE to find these new Tiny Tea embroidery designs. This set includes all the designs you see on these projects, and more too.

And Des needed a new shirt because it turns out little boys like kitties just as much as little girls do… and this Gramma, too... I need a shirt with kitty fabric!

I used Pintucks & Petticoats “Luke” shirt pattern by Paige Alexander for the little chambray shirt. (The chambray fabric is from Organic Cotton Plus.) I love that little touch of "sweet pop" on the pocket and under the button placket, don’t you? (I had to do a pattern hack to make the placket with the kitty fabric – stay tuned, I’ll blog about that hack soon!)

And check out the Baby Lock Sashiko stitching - the perfect finishing touch!

So, y’all ready for tea time? I know I am!

More to come! There are just so many neat little tricks that I love to use when sewing children’s garments, and these outfits gave me the opportunity to use a lot of them. Would you like to read about them?
  Okay! I’ve divided the tips into three additional blog posts which will be coming soon: "How to clean line a little girl's dress bodice", "How to make a zipper dress into a button dress", and "Tips for sewing little boy shirts." Sign up for the Stitch Bits blog post via email and you’ll get them all delivered right to your inbox when they debut! (Sign up box is above, on the right.)

Thanks for reading, come back soon!


Children's photos taken by Lydia Maria Hawkins of Telafante. Click HERE to visit her awesome tutorial website!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Beautiful Buttonholes!

Don’t you love it when you have an “Ah HA!” moment and discover something that fixes that thing that's been bugging you in your sewing adventures? YES, you do? Well, I had a major "Ah HA!" moment this year and it has been an awesome discovery: how to make my buttonholes look really, really good - crisp, clean and super sturdy!

I’ve loved the buttonhole foot attachment that has come with each of my Baby Lock sewing machines and I've used them faithfully for years. I love how easy this sweet little foot makes the job of sewing buttonholes! However, I’ve always had a beef with the buttonholes as I just didn’t feel the stitching was close enough. I wanted a REALLY tight zigzag, no fabric showing through at all. Yeah, I know that may not be practical, but that’s what I wanted anyway. Sometimes on very special garments I would resort to... *gasp* …hand sewing a buttonhole in. (Yes, I'm that crazy!)

Lo and behold, I recently discovered that my buttonhole attachment has a cording guide on the bottom so you can add cording to your buttonholes while you sew them! Oh. My. Goodness. This has been a game changer. Now I love ALL my machine sewing buttonholes.

I mean, look at this:

And this:

And this:

Perfect coverage! Nicely packed, very sturdy and neat little buttonholes, woo-hoo!

So, whip out your buttonhole attachment and turn it over.

At the front you should see two little grooves that form a sort of hook and a more obvious hook at the back on the very end. In the plastic part that glides within the attachment as you sew and under the front part of the attachment itself there should be two sets of grooves. Those are the cording grooves that help hold the cord in place as you buttonhole over it.

I found that when I was using fine cording like 12 wt cotton thread (Sulky’s Petite cotton thread is perfect for this), the cord stayed just fine inside those grooves.

Then I discovered that embroidery floss was exceptionally suited for making the buttonholes even nicer, and I had a supply of that in every color of the rainbow, yay! However, it had a tendency to jump out of the grooves while stitching. I fixed that by applying a bit of tape to the tip of the foot. Just make sure the tape is wrapped around the foot at the front a bit so it won’t catch on anything while you work. You can see in the photo below how the tape helps to hold that thicker cord in the grooves at the front.

Here’s how you load it: First put your button in the button holder part. Cut a length of cord that is twice as long as the attachment with the button in place, plus about 6”. Fold the cord in half. Hook the halfway point over the hook in the back and pull the cords across the bottom to the front, being sure to press the cord into both sets of grooves. Keep it taut while you bring the cord to the front of the foot and tie it snugly at the front hook on top of the attachment. Put the foot on the machine and sew the buttonhole.

When finished, raise the foot, clip the cord at the front of the foot at the knot (if you need to) and tug the cord out of the hook on the back. Once the cord is free from the foot you can easily remove the fabric.

If the stitching did not extend into the cord, you should be able to pull the cord from the bottom of the buttonhole until the loop at the top is tucked slightly under the top end of the buttonhole. Then just clip off the excess cord at the bottom. This pretty much only works when using skinny and very taut cord. Embroidery floss… not so much; you’ll need to clip it off at the top and bottom. Clip carefully - you don’t want to cut into buttonhole. Use those curved snips!

You’ll find that using heavier weight threads in the top of the machine will create much better coverage than your average sewing thread. I love Sulky’s 30 wt thread for buttonholes. I use a size 16 top stitching needle and regular sewing thread in the bobbin that matches the color on top. Sometimes, though, you just WANT to use a pretty decorative thread like our 40 wt. embroidery thread. It’s nice and shiny and sometimes you need a shiny thread, right? Here’s a handy little trick for those of you with machines that have that extra spool holder on top. Load up both of them with the same thread, thread the machine as if it were a single strand... and voila! Your 40 wt. thread has now become 20 wt.!

There’s just something so satisfying about really neat buttonholes!

May all your buttonhole projects be awesome! Happy Stitching!


Find the Happy Hedgie embroidery designs HERE and find the Wildflower Friends (floral frame design) HERE. Stitch up some pretty pillows with beautiful buttonholed backs!

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!