Thursday, May 14, 2020

I Miter' Cheated!

I love to sew – even when it's detailed, intricate, and painstaking, all the sweet little fiddly bits just make me happy. BUT, I’ll be the first to admit that some days my “sew time” and what I want to make in that
"sew time” are not really compatible, you know what I mean? I bet you do. So when I decided to create new handkerchief motif designs and needed a couple (okay, who am I kidding... a BUNCH!) of prettily hemmed hankies to embroider, I got a little desperate. Good thing Mother Invention was hanging around! 

So, do you need to miter a corner or two but are not really feeling up to those antics? Here’s a little cheat to make that process a bit faster! (And keep reading to the end and see me meeting the 31st century! ...yes, THIRTY-FIRST, I’ve fallen into the future!)

First you’ll need some nice, crisp handkerchief weight fabric. I go to Farmhouse Fabrics online for my heirloom fabric needs – they’ve got it all! Handkerchief linen, cotton lawn, cotton batiste... you name it and they’ve got it in several beautiful colors and oh-my-goodness pretty prints.

Next you'll need these three items or your favorite variation of them: a fabric folding pen (vitally important), a nice see-through ruler with good marks, and some type of fusible web tape.

Iron your fabric nice and crisp with starch or fabric sizing, then cut out your block. Try to keep the fabric block on the straight grain as much as you can. Starch helps, and if you have one of those nice big square 12” rulers, they’re pretty much perfect for cutting out hankies.

Use the fabric folding pen and your ruler to mark a folding line 1” away from each outer edge of the block. Then mark another folding line ½” away from each outer edge. Mark all the way to the end of the block at each corner.

Fold over and press the fabric on the 1” marks. Press all the way across all four sides, creasing the corners well. Now unfold the edges and fold over the point of each corner as shown above. You should be able to align the crease marks on the corner fabric with the crease marks on that 1” fold (see the arrows above). Give the corners a quick press to crease that new fold.

Cut off the tip of each corner, cutting straight across from one 1” fold line to the other as shown above.

Now fold the fabric back over on the 1” marks again and press well. The corners should meet and miter themselves just like that.

Next, tuck under the raw edges of the hem, folding on the ½” fold lines, and press well. At about this time you will have fallen totally in love with your fabric folding pen if you had not already!

Cut a small triangle of fusible web tape and tuck it up into the tip of each corner under the miter as shown above. You only need a LITTLE triangle, just for the tip as shown.

Press all four corners to fuse the tape and mitered corner in place nice and secure.

Choose a pretty hemming stitch on your sewing machine and thread the machine in the top and bobbin with the same type and color of thread. I adore using shiny embroidery thread for this step! My Baby Lock Altair has a ton of lovely heirloom type stitches that are perfect for creating detailed hems. Scroll through and see what your machine has; do a few test runs on scraps to get your settings down before you hem your hankie.

A foot that has a nice wide opening but still holds the fabric down firmly works best – for me that’s Baby Lock’s “Monogramming” foot which works great for motifs.

Since you are using a decorative stitch you’ll be sewing from the right side. If you cannot see through the fabric to easily follow the edge of the fold, draw a line immediately on top of it on the right side for a visual. Turn on that guide beam (if your machine has one) and use it. I was delighted that my Altair has that wonderful feature too!

I love my Baby Lock Flexible Seam Guide because it’s long and sticks nicely to my machine. Instead of aligning it with the foot, I align it with the edge of my fabric and sew gently to let the fabric ride right alongside it, being careful not to let it flip up or scrunch.


This is what the corner looks like from the wrong side. As pretty as the right side!


Now all you need is some beautiful embroidery to finish it off. I had a bit of fun with the new IQ Positioning App and my Baby Lock Altair.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I did not realize how easy it was going to be! As a rather “tech challenged” person, this was one of the last things I explored on my new Altair. Yeah… silly me. Anyhoo, I downloaded the free app and followed the prompts to get my phone talking to my machine and my home’s wireless connection. All of which I probably could have done with one eye open whilst folding laundry – it was THAT easy, and I didn’t once have to call my son or ask the Google.

First I got my newly hemmed miter-cheat hankie in the hoop. This called for Dissolve-Away Mesh Self-Adhesive stabilizer hooped release paper side up, paper scored and removed to expose the sticky side after hooping. I tried to get the hankie pretty well centered, not really worrying too much as I knew I could rotate and move the design onscreen as needed later, but I was careful not to cover up the techie stuff on the hoop. My phone needed those to “read” the hoop.

Then I set the hooped hankie on my table, opened my IQ Positioning App and clicked the top choice, “Photo frame for easy positioning.” That smart little app did its magic; I just held the phone and moved it until the whole hoop was in the photo frame, and *SNAP* - it took the photo. All by its little self, EEP!

And it said “Sending…”

And *BING* - there it was on my Altair! Wowsie! I may have done a little happy dance, but let’s keep that between us…

I wish I could take a really good photo of what the screen looked like because it’s a photo, not a scan. The difference is quite amazing and I’m not easily amazed, but I sat there and admired it a full minute before I got busy and used the onboard tools to position my pretty little design right where it needed to go.

Voila! Sew much fun! Now to make another one, or twelve. 😊

Happy Stitching!


Click HERE to find these handkerchief designs in the A Bit of Stitch shop!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Sew Crazy and Lovin' it!

Yay for babies! There are TWO new babies in my family! Little baby Marlow arrived in February - we are all smitten, as you can imagine - and Baby Lock Altair arrived in my studio, yay! Yes, I’m totally smitten with her too. Even though she’s not quite as cuddly as Marlow, she sure stitches sweetly and I’m thoroughly enjoying learning all about her!

As you might guess, I had to put my new baby through her paces right away. First some machine embroidery (because who can’t resist that feature, right?) and then straight to some fancy stitching with a few motif stitch try-outs. It all came together in a fun new pillow for my sewing studio’s chair! Want to make one with me? Read on!

This machine has a new Wi-Fi phone/camera function that I am looking forward to exploring a LOT more, soon. But for now, since I was in a hurry to see her embroider something, I just popped a piece of fabric in the hoop and stitched up a pretty! 

You can find the “Sew Crazy and Lovin’ It” design HERE, or you can use any design you may have in your stash. The Altair has a nice, big 9.5” x 14” embroidery field, so this design fits perfectly in her largest hoop.

I stabilized my background fabric (pre-shrunk fabric) with a piece of Ultra Soft Fusible cut slightly larger than the pillow top I planned to make; I fused lightly – just enough to hold – so it would be easy to peel up and trim away the excess fabric after the embroidery. Then I added a layer of No-Show Mesh behind that and hooped the sandwich so that the design would stitch in the very center of the fabric block. (Find both of these stabilizers at your local Baby Lock Retailer.)

Before taking the fabric out of the hoop, I used a wash-away marker to trace around the inside perimeter of the hoop.

The traced line gave me a template to use so that I could measure and mark a rectangle around the design. I left about 1” of space around the perimeter of the design. Then I gently peeled the fabric away from the Ultra Soft and cut on the newly traced rectangle. (I love using my hoops for frame templates!)

Now we’re ready to add the scrappy borders. (Read more about lovely scrappy projects from Heather at The Sewing Loft. Such good tips for scrappy projects found here.

I created border pieces from random scraps sewn together however they would fit; I needed two shorter, narrower pieces for the sides and two longer, wider pieces for the top and bottom. I trimmed the edges that would meet the embroidered rectangle and each other so that they were straight and even.

At the machine, I used the J foot with the needle in the left position and sewed the two side strips on first.

Next, I sewed on the top and bottom border.

I like using the inside edge of the right side of my J foot for a seam guide when my seam allowance guides are covered up and I can’t see them. It’s an easy visual for me and works great for a nice, narrow seam allowance!

Finished and trimmed! (Note – You can always create your pillow top completely before adding the embroidery; then you won’t need to do any trimming and adding. However, I hadn’t yet decided what I wanted my project to be. So, flying by the seat of my pants as usual, I created it as I went along. Remember, that little Altair app on your phone and her special hoops will allow you to snap a photo, send it to the machine and perfectly place the embroidery design!

Now comes the fun part! Do you love those pretty little on-board motif stitches that come with your Baby Lock machine? I adore them and am always looking for ways to use them because they are just so fun! I love that the Altair (like other Baby Lock machines) allows you to mirror image, resize and edit these motifs. 

The first thing I do is create a sampler using the same type of fabric and stabilizer, recording my settings as I go. I discovered that while the regular sewing bobbin case worked perfectly fine with these motifs, the motifs looked even better when I switched to the embroidery bobbin case and bobbin weight thread. Nice!

It’s fun to try out different threads and see what they will look like when stitching these pretty motifs. I love Madeira’s Aerofil sewing thread, Madeira’s Cotona variegated thread, and Superior Thread’s King Tut variegated thread. Follow the thread manufacturer’s needle size recommendation whenever you can. If you don’t have the right size, try a size 80/12 metallic thread needle. That usually does the trick for me with heavier threads. (You can find these great threads at your local Baby Lock retailer.)

If you press and hold the “back up” button on the machine when you begin a line of motif stitching, it will sew in place a little bit. This helps to secure the thread end. If you are worried that even that may come undone, simply use a regular straight stitch in the center needle position and sew forward and then backward three stitches at the beginning. (The presser foot is raised in the photo above so you can see those stitches.) I made sure to end my motif lines at the edge of the pillow top so that I wouldn’t need to worry about securing them there.

When finished, give everything a good press.

Do you know about the Nancy Zieman Showcase Throw Pillow Corner Template? It’s a great little tool for trimming the corners of decorative pillows so they won’t have “dog ear” flaps that the pillow form can’t fill. I love it! Read more about this in the Peony Pillow Perfection post.

Time to add the piping! Piping really makes a pillow perfect, doesn’t it? My favorite piping trick is shown above. As you can see, I trim away the cording inside the piping fabric so that the ends of the cording meet flush. Then I fold the extra fabric from the trimmed cord end back and then around the other end of the piping, and finally sew it in place using the Narrow Zipper foot.

Clip the corner as shown above to make it easy to sew. Three clips is better than one or two!

You’ll need two pieces of backing fabric; each piece should be the width of the finished pillow top and 1.25” taller than half the height of the pillow. In other words, if your pillow top is 16” wide and 16” tall, you will need two pieces of backing fabric cut at least 16” x 9.25”. (Why the extra one quarter inch? You will need that if you trim off any when serging the edges… better plenty than too little!)

I like to interface the opening edges with a 1” strip of fusible interfacing. Serge or zigzag stitch the raw, interfaced edges, and then fold those edges over 1” and press well.

Choices, choices! I love the assortment of pretty buttonholes on my new Altair. And best of all, I discovered that she will let me adjust the density of the buttonhole – yay! Just check out the functions at the bottom of the screen once you have chosen a buttonhole type. Lower the “length” option to the shortest possible and your buttonhole will be nice and tight!

This little buttonhole foot is so easy to use. Just pop your button in the back clamp, clip the foot onto the machine, and pull down the lever so that it rests against the back of the little bar that sticks up on the foot at the left. Mark the buttonhole placements. The machine will begin sewing at the bottom of the buttonhole, so keep that in mind when you are marking them.

Sometimes I go ahead and sew on the buttons before adding the backing to the pillow front. It seems easier to get them lined up correctly.

Now it’s time to sew it all up! I love Clover Wonder Clips… so much better than pins for projects like this. Overlap the pillow back pieces at the button closure and clip the pillow front and back pieces right sides together. Be sure you overlap so that the pillow back piece with the buttonholes will be on top when turned right side out.

One of my favorite features on my Baby Lock machines is the ability to move the needle to exactly where I want it to be. How cool is that? Simply turn ON the width control in the menu, and now when you slide the “speed” button it will move the needle to the right or left. This means you can adjust the placement of your stitching line to be just to the inside of the line of stitching that attaches the piping to the pillow front. So, when sewing from the pillow front side through all layers (backing included), this will ensure that you get nice and close to the piping and that no extra line of stitching will show at the pillow’s edge. Now that really makes me happy!

I like to serge the raw edges of the pillow with a 3-thread overlock before I turn it right side out. Makes it nice and tidy.

Use your Clear Curve Foot for your Baby Lock serger. It really helps you get around those corners! Plus, the clear foot makes it super easy to see where you need to be.

Ta-dah! How fun! I am sew crazy and lovin’ it… how about you? 😊

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Sew Powerful Purse Project

Who doesn’t love to make purses? There’s just something so satisfying about making a project that is pretty, functional and goes with you where you go. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found out Baby Lock was sponsoring the Sew Powerful organization’s purse making project for National Sewing Month; I was tickled to have a really, really good reason to make a few purses!

Skip right on down to your local Baby Lock retailer and find out when their next purse sew-along will be. Click HERE to sign up at a retailer near you and click HERE to read all about this project on the Sew Powerful site. They’ve got free pattern downloads and really great video tutorials. You might even learn a thing or two… I did when I watched them!

It was impossible to make just one! The one above sports a wee hedgie machine embroidery design from my Crafty Hedgies design set - click HERE to see those.

You know I can’t make anything without getting my embroidery machine involved, and this project was no exception. As my smart machine knows how to quilt and SEW in the hoop, I let her make the flap and pocket for the purse. Oh my, so fun!

Since you have the flap right there in the hoop with that nice big space, you can do so much so easily! Add embroidery or appliqué, or skip the stippling/quilting included in the design and just add your own fancy fill with your Baby Lock’s IQ feature. You can also piece the front flap fabric before beginning to make it even more interesting!

Want to make a Sew Powerful purse flap and pocket in the hoop? Click HERE to find the embroidery designs. They’re free and include two flaps, one with all-over stippling and one with cross-hatch quilting. The flap designs measure 7.49” x 10.31” and should fit in your 8x12 hoop. The pocket, which is intended for the inside of the purse, measures 4.25” x 6.76” and will fit in your 5x7 hoop.

Let's get started! 😊

Gather your supplies for the purse. Your Baby Lock retailer will have the free pattern and a supply list, but you can also download the pattern at Sew Powerful (click on the Purse Project tab – I used the Beginner Purse Pattern and found the accompanying video tutorial to be very easy to follow).

I love that Baby Lock added Ultra Soft Fusible stabilizer to the purses they are making in store. That stuff is amazing – it’s one of my favorite products as it’s batting AND stabilizer. So, you’ll need some of that if you want to make a nice sturdy flap and purse. I also used No Show Mesh for the flap and a fusible tear-away for the pocket.

To make the flap: Cut one piece of purse flap fabric, No Show Mesh, and Ultra Soft Fusible large enough to fit in the 8x12 hoop. Place the No Show Mesh on the bottom, the Ultra Soft Fusible on top of that (fusible side down), and the fabric on the very top (right side up). Hoop all three layers together, making sure that the fabric is smooth and wrinkle-free. Load the purse flap design into the machine and sew the first stitch sequence; this is the cutting line around the purse. Next is the stippling fill or cross-hatch quilting; this sequence looks great when sewn with a variegated thread. I used Maxi-Lock Swirls for my quilting – such pretty colors! Note: If you wish to fussy-place flap fabric that you have pieced or that has a big, pretty print stitch the first stitch sequence right on the Ultra Soft Stabilizer. You'll be able to see better how to place the fabric. Place the fabric and repeat stitch sequence 1 to tack it down.

After sewing the stippling/quilting, you’re ready to cover the quilted flap with the backing fabric. Place an additional piece of flap fabric WRONG SIDE UP over the flap in the hoop. Make sure it’s large enough to generously cover the flap outline with at least ½” extra fabric all around. As the final stitch sequence is actually a “seam”, you may find it helpful to change your thread to regular sewing thread on the top and bobbin in a color that matches the fabric.
Gently hold the fabric in place while you sew the final stitch sequence. The top edge will not be sewn as that is where you will turn the flap right side out. Remove from the hoop and cut out the flap; be sure to cut from the wrong side (stabilizer side) so you can see the complete cutting line. Cut directly ON the outermost stitching line, which was the first stitch sequence outline.

You can use a rotary cutter with a pinked edge or your pinking sheers to cut the flap out… that will effectively clip and notch the seam allowance selvages for you. Or you can just clip and notch the curved ends with your scissors.

Turn it right side out and give it a good press. That was fast, wasn’t it? (This is my kind of project!)

And the back is pretty too!

Okay, set the flap aside and let’s make an inside pocket. Our embroidery machines are perfect for making pockets in the hoop! Click HERE to read my most recent blog post about that and click HERE to read about using the on-board frame tools in your IQ Designer to sew up pretty much any shape, right there in the hoop, easier than pie!

To make the pocket: Cut one piece of pocket fabric large enough to fit in your 5x7 hoop. Cut an additional 2” x 8” piece of the same fabric. Cut a piece of contrast fabric at least 5” x 7”. Fold the 2” wide piece in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press the fold to crease.
Stabilize the larger piece of pocket fabric (cut to fit your hoop) with a nice, crisp fusible tear-away. Hoop the fabric right side up in the 5x7 hoop. Load the pocket design into the machine and sew the first stitch sequence using a thread color that matches but stands out enough that you can see it. (I used gray thread so it would show up in the photo for you.)

You will now have a stitched outline of a box made up of two rectangles – a larger one on the left and a skinny one on the right. Place the folded fabric strip on top of the skinny rectangle on the right, aligning the folded edge with the left side of the skinny rectangle (i.e., aligning the folded edge with the line that’s about ¾” away from the right side of the overall box outline, noted by the black arrow in the photo below). The raw edges of this folded strip should extend past the line noted by the red arrow. Now place the contrast fabric WRONG SIDE UP over the pocket outline, but do not let the right side (see blue arrow) extend past the right edge of the outline (see that red arrow again). You’ll need to lift the folded strip to check that this placement is correct. 

Because you now have a floating piece of fabric that could get hung up or moved with the foot as it sews over it, be sure to tape those areas down with whatever product you like to use for such purposes. (I used Scotch® Magic™ Tape – it tears easily and doesn’t gum up needles.)

After positioning the tape, sew the final stitch sequence. Your stitching line should pass easily over those two taped areas.

Be sure to remove the tape before you cut out the pocket!

Cut out the pocket leaving about ¼” selvage all around the outline stitching. Clip the corners.

Turn the pocket right side out and gently poke out the corners with a point turner tool. Fuse the contrast fabric band down with a bit of fusible web tape.

Now comes the fun part! Fire up the sewing machine and pick a pretty motif to sew across the edge of the pocket band. I love getting to use those lovely little stitches! For this pocket I used the little star Hemstitching motif #3-06 on my Baby Lock Destiny and set the length to 7.0 mm and width to 4.0 mm. 

I love using Maxi-Lock Swirls for all kinds of sewing. Even though it is serger thread is works great for regular sewing and even machine embroidery. And those Swirls colors are just perfect for motif stitching! Click HERE and HERE to see some projects I stitched up with these threads. (The trick is to use a size 12 metallic needle and a thread stand!)

You can use purchased purse/tote strapping for your handle or you can make your own fabric one. The video tutorial Sew Powerful has will show you how to make a super simple one. I like to cut a piece of Ultra Soft Fusible 1” wide by the length specified in the pattern and cover it with fabric. And, of course, use a motif stitch down the middle for a bit of extra pretty!

Follow along with the instructions on the Sew Powerful pattern or video tutorial to finish up your purse, skipping the parts about making the flap and inside pocket since you’ve already done that, yay!

Oh… a few quick tips! This pattern calls for an additional pocket that rests against the front of the purse right under the flap. The pocket fabric is cut twice as long as its finished size and then folded in half with the fold forming the finished top of the pocket. I use this type of quick pocket all the time, but I like to fuse a strip of interfacing at the fold to reinforce that area. This keeps it from getting stretched out with use and makes a nice crisp edge, especially if you plan to top-stitch it.

It's fun to decorate that front pocket with motif stitching too!

I find that the purse lining will fit better into the purse if it’s cut slightly shorter than the purse, so I shaved a bit off the bottom edge of the lining fabric pieces. Some of the purse instructions show leaving the opening for turning in the side of the lining, but I like to have a seam across the bottom and that’s where I leave the opening.

Also, I find it helpful to go ahead and cut the boxes out of the purse and lining fabric pieces so that when I sew the sides and bottom I can back-tack at each end of the seam. This keeps those areas strong and prevents unraveling of the seam. And one more thing – press the seam allowance selvages open before you box the corners! A sleeve board or mini-ironing board works nicely, but to really get those seams flat just press the selvage to one side with the fabric flat on your ironing board; then flip the fabric and flip the selvage edges back out and press again from the other side. It makes those seams nice and crisp!

Thanks for sewing along! I hope you get time to make a few pretty purses and have the satisfaction of knowing you gave some sweet little girls an encouraging gift! 💗