Monday, December 29, 2014

Borderline Crazy!

Does the thought of embroidering continuous designs all lined up perfectly make you borderline crazy? I know. Hooping is perhaps one of the hardest parts of embroidery. There are about a million hoop aid things etc. floating around in the great embroidery ’sphere, and some of them are quite awesome. However you probably have everything you need to create beautiful borders and perfectly placed arrangements of designs at your fingertips already.

You have a hoop, check. You have a hoop grid. That’s the clear plastic sheet that is printed with a grid and fits into the inner hoop. (Or as I like to call it, my personal paradise fan – those of you of a certain age will appreciate THAT, ha!) Got it? Check. You have a printer attached to your computer? Check. The only thing you might not have, but can easily get, is the software you need to print paper templates of your designs. Actually, you may already have embroidery software that can do that and you just don't know it can. Ask your dealer. They can tell you if your software will allow you to print actual sized templates and how to use it. If you don’t have software that will do that, there are many software selections variously priced to choose from. (Write me and I’ll be glad to tell you more about some good programs I use, I won’t use up your time here listing them all.) Also, some designers are more than happy to provide you with PDF design templates that you can print of any designs they sell. Just ask! (FYI – the PDF templates of these feather designs are included with the designs.)

Start with something simple like this feather border pillow. This is a great project to begin on as the layout is easy and uncomplicated. I’m sure you have designs in your stash that you can use to create something similar. Pick out your designs and print enough paper templates to cover your entire border design area. It took four 6x10 feather border design templates to make the center box embroidery on my sample pillow. The templates should print out with centering lines crossed in the middle of each design. If not, there should be marks on the edges of the designs from which you can draw the horizontal and vertical lines.

Stabilize the fabric before you begin. I simply stabilized the entire pillow top using iron on tear-away. Iron-on stabilizer also keeps you from stretching the fabric as you fiddle with hooping. Audition the templates on your project fabric.

Mark the centering lines for each template on the fabric.

I ended up with a box marking the vertical position lines intersected with the horizontal position lines. If your templates are of different designs or are turned a certain way, then place them in a safe, quiet spot on your work surface in the position and order they should go once you remove them to finish drawing the lines.

Stick the first design template back on the fabric using either a light coat of temporary spray adhesive or cellophane tape. Line up the placement lines on the paper template with the placement lines you drew on the fabric.

Place the hoop grid inside the inner hoop. Make sure it is correctly positioned! Baby Lock hoop grids have a very helpful “ABC” on the bottom right corner – if you can read it, it’s in right. Place the bottom part of the hoop on your work table, hoop screw loosened. Line up the inner hoop and grid on top of the fabric aligning the grid with the crossed placement lines on the printed template. Hold the hoop (with grid) and the fabric all together as you carefully move them into the outer hoop. Check to be sure nothing has shifted. Once you are happy with the placement, tighten the hoop screw and remove the plastic grid but not the paper template. Put the hoop in the machine and load the design.

Most embroidery machines have an onboard design placement tool that will allow you to find the corners and center of an imported design. Here is the “trial key” that my Baby Lock machine has on the home embroidery screen. (I absolutely LOVE this awesome little key!)

Once you click that key it brings you to a screen that will show you the design perimeter choices, like this:

Default is the center position. Press the needle down button. If you got everything lined up correctly the needle should hit the bull’s eye like this:

(Best to do this with an un-threaded needle.) What if the needle is off? That’s easy. Close out of the trial key window and locate your design positioning keys. On my Baby Lock machine that’s on the very first window, or embroidery home screen, and looks like this:

You can touch the arrows to move the design up, down, right or left as needed and as allowed by how much room you have to maneuver in the hoop. If you just need a click or two you should be able to move the design without re-hooping. Once you have moved the design check the placement again by going back to the trial key function and drop the needle in the center again to see. When you are satisfied with the placement remove the paper template and embroider the design.

Choose the next template and hoop the fabric exactly as you did for the first using the printed paper template and hoop grid to correctly align the design in the hoop. Once again, check your work by using the trial key to find the center and in this case also the bottom center of the design.

Drop the needle and check that position.

You’ll want to return the machine to the center position once you have finished checking that bottom point.

Finish that design and move on to the next,

And the next,

Roll up and secure the fabric with Wonder Clips or pins to keep it from being trapped under the hoop. (Oh woe is me when that happens!) As you know, when working on big things that tend to flop around it’s best to stay right there with your machine. Go get a cup of tea and sit and watch her stitch!

See how easy that was? Happy Bordering to you too!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oh Mr. Snowman!

Need a giggle today? Make a no-snow required snowman! (No wet, cold mittens when you're done, I guarantee!) This little guy will brighten up your day and he won’t melt away either. Here in South Carolina, this is about as close as I’m going to get to a real snowman so I’ve got mine sitting in my window bringing “wintery” cheer to my kitchen!

This snowman can be really tiny or really big - well, as big as you choose according to the size of Styrofoam balls you purchase. My snowman is approximately 3.5” tall. I used two 1.5” Styrofoam ball for the Snowman’s head and upper body and a 2” ball for his lower body. Two chenille pipe cleaners form him arms and a cone of orange felt creates his nose. Shiny black beads give him a face and buttons. Decorate your snowman anyway you choose! You might find a tiny top hat for him in the doll section of a craft store, or you could make him a “her” and give her some curly white locks with fuzzy yarn. Hehe!

Here’s what you need:

2 small Styrofoam ball (1.5”)*
1 medium Styrofoam balls (2”)*
A strip of non-raveling fabric (fleece, velour or faux suede) for his scarf
1 brown chenille pipe cleaner
A small piece of orange craft felt
Black beads suitable sized to make buttons, smile and eyes
Craft glue (Beacon’s Fabri-Tac is a great glue for Styrofoam as well as fabric related crafts. It's like hot glue in a bottle!)

*Note - You might have three graduating sized Styrofoam balls in your stash, I didn't so I had to make do with two the same size and one small one.

Carefully cut a small slice off the 2" (or largest) ball. This is the snowman’s bottom part and it needs to sit level on the cut end. A single blade of an electric knife works really great for slicing Styrofoam - used by hand in a sawing motion.

Hollow out a small shallow scoop on the top of this ball, just deep and round enough to allow one of the small balls to fit into the depression. You can use a grapefruit spoon or paring knife to carefully scoop a little of the ball away. Tamp the Styrofoam down with your fingers to smooth. Apply a bit of glue in the scooped out place and set a 1.5” (or middle sized) ball in place. This is the snowman's middle.

Hollow out a small scoop on the top of that ball and glue the other 1.5" (or smallest) ball in place. This is his head.

Allow the glue to dry. Use a pencil or pen to mark and poke tiny holes in the top ball for his eyes, mouth. Do the same for the center ball to mark and make holes for his buttons. Make the holes just big enough to push the beads in, or a little smaller. Push the beads into the holes. I used two larger beads for the eyes and smaller ones for his mouth. You don’t need to glue them in as the Styrofoam should hold them in place just fine.

Cut two 4” lengths of brown chenille pipe cleaners. Fold the ends to make them look like branchy hands.

Poke the pipe cleaners into the sides of the middle ball to give him arms.

Cut a small pie shaped piece of orange felt. Apply glue to one side and roll it up to form a carrot shaped cone. Glue the cone to the snowman’s face to make his nose.

Decorate your snowman with a scarf! Any fabric that resists fraying works great. I used a bit of fleece cut into an 8” x 3/8” wide strip. I clipped the two short ends to fringe it. Thick yarn, flannel or felt works great too.

Ha! Cute, isn’t he? Sometimes I need to make a no-sewing project just for the fun of it. I have to remind my machines that they don't really own me even though they think they do. (Well, okay, they actually DO, but don't tell them I said that!) How about you? Wanna play with glue today? :-)


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Turkey Finger Puppet

“Run run, fast as you can, you can’t catch me - I’m… Tom the turkey?”

Okay, getting my holiday jingles crossed here but if there ever was a good line for a turkey around Thanksgiving it would be that one, ha!

Here’s a turkey that won’t have to skedaddle – make this fine fellow from felt and fabric and keep a little one occupied (thankfully) for a bit while you mash the potatoes this Thanksgiving!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Tom the Turkey embroidery design (The free offer has expired, but you can still get him HERE for a few dollars!)
Embroidery machine with a 4x4 hoop
Dark brown felt (big enough to fit in the 4x4 hoop)
Lighter brown felt (4x4” piece)
Small piece of red and bright gold felt
5x5” blocks of cotton fabrics that are colored on both sides (batik fabrics work great)
Sewing thread to match felt (brown, red, gold)
Black embroidery thread
Scissors (short blades, long blades and small curved blades)
A cup of tea (optional)

Print out the PDF Beak & Wattle pattern that is included with the design and cut them out. Then cut out a red felt wattle and a gold felt beak.

This turkey has a “feathered” fabric tail. Choose fabrics, like batiks, that are the same on both sides for prettiest results. Cut at 3 different prints/colors into 5” blocks. Hoop the dark brown felt and stack the 3 printed blocks on top. Be sure to cover the stitching field. If you don’t know where that is you can use your onboard design perimeter finding tool or just check the plastic hoop placement grid.

Thread the machine in top and bobbin with regular sewing thread in a color that matches the brown felt. You can either put a darker brown in the bobbin and a lighter brown (to match the lighter brown felt) in the top or just choose a shade of brown that blends nicely with both. Sew the first stitch sequence while you carefully and gently hold the stacked fabric blocks in place.

Remove the hoop from the machine (don’t remove the felt from the hoop!) and cut away the fabric layers straight across the bottom of the stitched outline as shown below.

Next, use your short curved blade scissors (or these Snips!) to trim away the fabric layers within the body part of the outline. Leave a small selvage past the stitching line.

Place the lighter brown felt block over the inside body outline shape. Be sure the felt covers it completely.

Sew the 2nd stitch sequence.

Thread the machine with black embroidery thread in the top. (Usually I would suggest that you change the bobbin thread back to embroidery weight bobbin thread, but as these eyes are so tiny it is really not necessary for this project.) Sew the 3rd stitch sequence to complete the eyes.

Thread the machine on top with red sewing thread. Sew the 4th stitch sequence. This is the placement line for Tom’s wattle. (WHAT a weird word, but oddly satisfying to say, heh!)

Fold the red felt wattle in half and line up the center of the wattle with the placement line.

You might need to put a bit of cellophane tape on the top edge of the wattle to keep the machine’s foot from catching in it as it stitches up and down. Make sure the tape is stuck so it won't come off on the foot.

Sew the 5th stitch sequence. Clip the top right and left sides of the wattle to remove a little felt there to make more room for the beak placement.

Thread the machine on top with gold sewing thread. Sew the 6th stitch sequence. This is the placement line for the beak. Fold the beak in half and line up the center of the beak with the placement line. Sew the 7th stitch sequence to secure the beak. The stitching begins in the middle and travels to one side and then the other so you shouldn't have trouble with the machine foot getting caught, but if it makes you nervous, tape the beak in place then sew it down. (Note – Scotch brand “Magic” tape works great for projects like this one as it leaves no sticky residue on fabric or needle and tears off cleanly and easily.)

Thread the machine in the top with brown thread.

To make the back pretty you can add a piece of fabric to cover up the thread knots there. This step is optional, Tom will play just fine without it, so if you don’t want to take the time, just skip this step and advance your machine to the final stitch sequence. If you do want to cover the back messiness, here is what you do. Cut a 4x4” block of one of the fabrics you used for the feathers or plain brown cotton fabric. Fuse a piece of fusible web to the wrong side. I like Steam-a-seam 2 and Wonder Under 805. Peel off the release paper and place the fabric fusible side against the wrong side of the hooped felt. It will probably cling just fine to the felt (especially if you are using Steam-a-seam 2, which is sticky) but if it seems to want to slide around spray the fabric – not the felt in the hoop – with a light spray of temporary spray adhesive to hold it in place.

Sew the 8th stitch sequence. Watch his beak; if it extends past the top edge of the head fold it down while the needle passes by.

Sew the final stitch sequence. These are Tom’s leg holes, sized for little fingers so if your fingers won't fit don't worry, little fingers will have plenty of room!

Remove the felt from the hoop. Trim away the fabric on the wrong side of the hoop leaving a tiny selvage just past the body outline stitching. Iron to fuse the fabric to the felt.

Trim away the excess light brown body felt on the front of the puppet, leaving a tiny selvage past the edge of the stitching outline. Cut away the rest of the excess felt and fabric layers following the stitching line around the tail and under the body’s bottom edge. Cut ON the stitching line around his fabric tail, cutting the stitching off as you go. Trim just past the stitching line on the bottom of the body, cutting away the back layer of felt there but leave a little selvage edge. Your puppet should look like this now:

Clip through all layers to form his feathers. To keep them sort of even, begin clipping at the center top of his head, cutting in toward the bird’s body and down around his shoulders. You can leave a little space between the end of your clip and the body as you go around the shoulder area as shown below.

Choices! You can cut out the leg holes completely (try not to clip the satin stitching there – if you do mend it with seam sealant) OR you can clip in a radius within the circle and leave the pointy bits to act like feathers at the top of his legs.

I hope you enjoy this project and make LOTS of Tom Turkeys for your wee friends! If you caught the finger puppet fever, check out these finger puppets – more fun! 

Finger Puppet Collection & Spring Fun Collection

My grandson has discovered some new playmates :-) Quiet toys - Yay!

Till next time! I hope you have a WONDERFUL, safe and happy Thanksgiving. Eat well, laugh lots, hug your loved ones and take a nap. (And sneak off to your sewing room to make a pretty or two if you can!)


Friday, October 24, 2014

Boo Shirt

Sewing for children is SO much fun! (Especially when they’re too little to complain about what you make for them, ha!) It’s been a few, ahem, years since I've had the pleasure of sewing for a little one belonging to me, so I've been polishing up my rusty sewing-for-bitty-bodies skills again.

I love knits for kids. (And me too, for that matter.) I really don’t love putting embroidery on knits. I love all those wee things I can put embroidery on. I really don’t love figuring out how to hoop those wee things. I have a dilemma wouldn’t you say?

Well Gramma really wanted to make a special little boy a Boo shirt. So I steeled myself against my knit-garment-phobia and got busy.

Things I’ve learned through the years about knits:

They stretch. Embroidery doesn’t. Putting embroidery on a place that has to stretch over a body part is a disaster in the making. The embroidery will NOT stretch but the fabric around it will and it will look pretty awful. I learned to choose my spots wisely. No elbows, shoulders or – worse – bosoms. (Ask me how I know THAT?)

I find that thin knits with a smooth surface seem to work best for embroidery-only designs but appliqué designs will usually work very nicely for any knit unless the knit has cables, defined ridges or other surface bumpies.

I finally got over the idea that I needed knit stabilizer for knit fabrics. Knit stabilizer is stretchy. Embroidery designs need to be sewn on non-stretched fabric. (I knew that, what took me so long to apply that rule to knits? Gah!) I absolutely love using my thin “Sheer Cut-Away Fusible Stabilizer” with knits.  Try it and see how you like it. If it will stay in place and yet allow you to peel it up later that’s the stabilizer you want. (Some fusible sheer cut-away stabilizers are hard to peel back up. TEST to be sure the brand you have will do so. Check out my big pack of this stabilizer HERE.

Knits have loft. As tempting as it is to stabilize the mess out of my knits, I've learned that all I usually need is one layer of thin, sheer fusible and one layer of a soft regular tear-away. Some cut-away, non-woven, opaque stabilizers can add too much loft and that can cause design distortion or misalignment. If I’m putting a monogram or a design with a lot of satin stitching on a knit I usually add one more layer of regular tear-away, but that’s it. And I've come to the conclusion that some designs are just not suitable for knits. Too high a stitch count, too big of a design, and too many tiny lines that must line up? Yep, I have found that these designs are best left to woven fabrics.

Toppers? Well, most things (especially for children) must be washed. Wash-away toppers wash away. That seems to defeat the purpose wouldn't you say? I mean, if there is a texture under that embroidery Murphy’s Law says it WILL worm its way back up again anyway. When I really need to use a topper I like to use silk organza. Check out the cardigan below. I used gray silk organza under the little bird embroidery design on this soft knit cardigan. This sweater is several years old, well washed and yet the embroidery still looks pretty awesome. (Read Stitch Bits earlier “Under Cover” blog post for more about toppers!)

Things I’ve learned about hooping wee things:

Don’t hoop them. AND, sometimes taking out a seam or two so I can get the thing to lay flat without throwing it against the wall is actually worth the time and trouble of sewing it back up later. (Sewing is easier for me than painting walls after all, heh.)

Painter’s tape, masking tape, Wonder Clips, binder clips – these things are my friends!

So, let me show you how I made my Boo shirt. First I lightly ironed a piece of fusible sheer mesh cut-away stabilizer (cut bigger than my hoop) to the wrong side of the shirt front.

I wanted the appliqué to sit right in the middle – centered – on the front of the shirt. So I folded the inside-out shirt in half (as exactly as I could get) both length-ways and cross-ways.

Next I drew an even cross-hatch on a piece of soft tear-away stabilizer with a water soluble pen and sprayed it with temporary spray adhesive. I hooped the stabilizer, aligning the cross-hatched marks with the centering marks on the inner hoop. (It’s a good idea to check your hoop grid and be sure that these hoop marks coincide with the center marks on the grid.)

Still working with the shirt inside-out I fold the shirt on the horizontal crease and align that crease with the marked horizontal line on the stabilizer. Before I patted the shirt down on the stabilizer I made sure that the vertical center mark on the stabilizer and the vertical shirt crease were aligned too. Those of you who know me well know that I am a fan of printed paper templates. When you can’t hoop something it’s hard to use a template and hoop grid properly, so what to do? This method – marking the design placement on the hooped stabilizer and the wrong side of the project works very well for me.

Once I was sure everything was lined up nicely I patted the shirt down on the stabilizer firmly; rolled up the shirt-back and secured them with Wonder Clips. I tried to catch the clips on the extra stabilizer bits that stuck out around the hoop. That helped keep the knit fabric from popping back.

Then I got a cuppa tea and sat right there WATCHING as the design stitched out. (No wandering off to do something else – I might have ended up with an escaped sleeve flopping around wreaking havoc and anyway it was the perfect excuse for a tea break!)

Once the appliqué was finished I removed as much of the soft tear-away stabilizer as I could. Then I gently peeled up the excess sheer mesh cut-away stabilizer and used my sweet little Snips to trim it away around the design. I left a little in places where I was in danger of poking a hole in the shirt if I tried to trim too close.

NOW I used my knit stabilizer to cover the back of the design making it soft and smooth for delicate baby skin. There are actually cover-up products made for this. Sulky has “Tender Touch” a very soft tricot fusible knit that is nicely light and flexible. “Cover-a-Stitch” by AllStitch is another soft knit product used for this application. To make sure it doesn’t peel up before baby grows out of the shirt I apply a layer of fusible webbing to it first, and then cut it to the shape I need and iron it down. It may seem redundant to add fusible to a fusible, but after two or three washings some products want to peel away. This helps to prevent that.

Easy-peasy, eh? I may have conquered my dislike of knits and wee little bitty garments in-the-hoop. You noticed that the shirt I took photos of is black and the one my little sweetie is wearing is white? Yep. Gramma is already on to the second knit shirt!

Happy Knit Stitching!


P.S. Winners of the Halloween design give-away are: Bonnie Konkle and "Mama Pea" (Stephanie in MI) :-) Message me to claim your prize!