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!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Have a Hearty Halloween!

Make a pretty with me today! The weather is turning (maybe, possibly, hopefully) a little bit brisk here in SC and that puts me in the mood for sewing something new for the house. AND, Sassy and I have not had much time to play lately so I needed, ahem, to remind her that I still loved her. What better project that a no-stress crazy-pieced, quilted, stuffed heart!

Since I have rather few décor items of the spooky nature (the children being all grown and gone - sigh) I thought I’d make this a Halloween project. You could make it an anything-you-want project. Just choose embroidery designs that tickle your fancy, or don’t use embroidery designs at all, if that floats your boat better. The designs on my Halloween heart are from my Frightfully Nice and Halloween Extravaganza collections. This stuffed heart would be equally sweet with pumpkins, apples, autumn leaves or even a monogram! Most 4x4 designs should fit nicely.

Let’s get started. I used cotton fabrics from Riley Blake Designs, Quilter’s Dream cotton/poly batting, various 1/8” wide satin ribbons, black flag yarn, fiberfill and skinny twisted satin cording for a hanger.

On a piece of paper, draw a simple heart shape large enough to accommodate your chosen embroidery design; if the heart is a bit lop-sided, that's even better - more spooky! Cut it out to use as a pattern. Choose the main fabric. For one side I chose a red/orange circle print and I embroidered “Boo!” on it. For the other side I chose a gray/gray big dotted fabric and I embroidered the little witch on a broom on that one. Make sure the embroidery design you choose will fit into the heart easily with room around it to accommodate the other fabric pieces.

(This is truly crazy piecing. I just kind of squinted and didn’t over-think it.) Pick another fabric scrap. Slap it down wrong side up on the right side of the embroidered fabric piece somewhere close to the embroidery design and pin it in place. Check to be sure that seam won’t be catching the embroidery design before you sew. (It helps to have a straight edge on this new fabric piece so you can use it to align the foot with as you sew it to the background (embroidered) fabric piece. OR, if you are lucky enough to have one of Baby Lock’s awesome machines that has a laser light guide, you are set!) Sew with a ½” seam allowance or slightly less, leaving room to trim some off later.

Smooth the fabric over the seam and check with your pattern as you whack off some of the excess of this new piece as shown in photo #1 below. Next, flip the fabric piece wrong side up and use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim through both layers leaving a ¼” selvage past the seam as shown in photo #2 below. Then press the seam open and check the pattern against the newly pieced fabric again, photos #3 and 4 below.

Add another piece where you need to just as you did for the first.

Check to be sure the design won’t be stitched over and the heart will fit on the new fabric again.

Trim the seam allowance and press again.

If you are having trouble keeping track of where your embroidery design is, trace the pattern on heavy weight clear or frosted plastic. Some fancy boutique shopping bags work great for this or you can use plastic page protectors (the kind you put paper in inside a notebook.)

Cut out the hearts; make sure you flip the pattern for one side so that they will fit together correctly when sewn. (You’ll need two hearts that are mirror images in shape.)

Time to quilt! Rough cut the batting slightly larger than the cut-out hearts. Quilt as you desire. 

I used my sweet Sashiko machine to quilt my hearts. I set the stitch length at 2 and the space length at 5. I love how it just “picks” the fabric with that stitch setting – like little dots of thread - so cool! As always, when quilting with Baby Lock’s Sashiko machine use good thread - I used Madeira Cotona in color #514 which is one of their wonderful new variegated cotton quilting threads. Remember to set the presser foot pressure dial to 4. That’s the dial on the very top of the machine at the left. This is a good setting for one layer of thin batting and one layer of fabric. Do the Sashiko hop over and around the embroidery design! ( You can watch me do that in my "Sashiko Hop" video found HERE. Since this is a wonky heart I didn't worry about straight lines of quilting. I just used the presser foot as my guide and didn't even try to keep the rows straight. It turned out delightfully off kilter. (Do you ever have off kilter days? THIS is the project for that kind of day!)

Trim away the excess quilt batting when you are finished.

Cut the desired length of cording for the hanger. 18” seemed about right for where I planned to hang mine. Pin the cut ends to the tops of the heart on both sides and curl up the excess in the center as shown in the photo on the left below. Mark the point of the heart on your stitching line (I used approximately ½” seam allowance), pin and sew. When you come to the point stop one stitch away from it, take one or two stitches across the point and then continue up the other side. Don’t forget to leave an opening for turning on one side and back-tack both ends of the stitching line.

Clip the curves. Don’t stint on clips. Use plenty! Just don’t clip completely TO the stitching line. Clip the point, removing tiny triangles of fabric as shown in the photo below right. Turn the heart right side out.

Make a tassel! You can use whatever combination of ribbon and yarn you may have on hand. I used a red, black, green dotted and skinny flagged black yarn. Cut a piece of cardboard 4” wide. Cut a small slit in the center of one side. Gather all the different ribbons/yarns together and catch the ends in the cardboard’s slit. I wrapped the ribbons/yarns around the cardboard approximately 10 times. You might want a bigger tassel or a skinnier one – wrap more or less to do so. Slip an 6” length of ribbon under the wrapped bundle at the fold and knot tightly as shown in the photos below.

Slide the bundle off the cardboard. Cut another 8” piece of ribbon and tie it snugly around the top of the bundle to make a tassel “head" as shown below. Wrap some of the excess ribbon tie around the tassel and then thread both ends down and through the center of the tassel using a large eyed blunt needle. You can leave the loops or you can cut them open. If the ends are uneven and you want to make them even, flatten the bunch with a ruler and whack across the ends with a rotary cutter.

Insert the ribbon tie at the top of the tassel into a large eyed blunt needle and wiggle it into the bottom point of the heart. Pull it through until the tassel head rests slightly under the tip of the heart’s bottom point. Make a nice big knot with the excess ribbon inside the heart and then sew the knot to the seam allowance selvage on the inside. (You’ll need to turn the heart partially inside out to do this properly.) 

Stuff the heart with fiberfill. Hand sew the opening closed by slipping your needle through the seam allowance selvage from side to side and pulling the stitches snug. This way you can hide most of the thread within the seam allowance and only tiny stitches will show on the outside edge. When you come to the end take two or three stitches in place then slide your needle down and out the “ditch” of the seam a little way, take a couple or three stitches in place there and clip the thread. No knots to show!

Make it even cuter, add a bow! (I’m still having withdrawals now that my girls have long past out-grown hair bows. They may still be getting therapy for over-bow-idness in their young, tender years, so I guess we’re even.) Whack out a 16” by 1.5” piece of fabric with pinking shears or a wavy edged rotary cutter. Starch the fabric strip. Fold it up like a butterfly making all legs even, or not - if you are having one of those days, heh. Now fold all legs toward one side and whip stitch through the layers up the fold. Fold the legs two to each side and wrap the thread tail around the middle to squeeze it together. Take a stitch or two to secure.

Cut another small piece of a different fabric – about 5/8” wide and 2” long. Wrap and sew this piece around the center of the bow and then sew in place. Sew the bow slightly off-kilter to the center of the heart at the top.

You might get really creative and add other fun stuff like beads, dangling charms or buttons. Slip something sweet smelling in with the stuffing and have a hanging sachet!

Thanks for playing today, I hope you had fun!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Amazing Applique!

Appliqué, appliqué - how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

You let me cover ground fast. (That means bigger statement, less time!) You let me use up my precious scrap bits that I cannot seem to throw away. (Which makes the pack-rat in me say “see I KNEW you’d need that one day!”) AND, when I need bigger pieces you let me use up my stash, which means I have to go buy more. (I mean really, folks, what’s NOT to love about that!) PLUS, you are perfect for using all those “charm” packs and other wee bundles of tiny pre-cuts that I so love to collect. (Which means I can justify stockpiling more of them, ahem.)

I was a fan of appliqué back in the days of no-home-embroidery-machines even when it required a lot more work. Now that my fancy embroidery machines have taken all the huffing out of the job it’s really gotten fun! If you are new to machine embroidery appliqué, have never tried it (and want to), or just want to polish up your skills, this weeks glob of blog is dedicated to making YOU an appliqué pro AND getting you hooked on it! (That’s a forewarning; don’t blame me when you start walking around the house looking for stuff to appliqué. Hide the dog. And the cat!)

Things you will need:

            (You can skip the face and just make a pumpkin if you wish)
Something to stitch it on
            (I used a linen tea towel from All About Blanks)
Appliqué fabric – quilt weight cotton works very nicely
            (You’ll need a block of pumpkin fabric and a small piece of stem fabric)
Fusible web with release paper backing
            (Steam-a-seam Lite, Wonder Under or whatever brand you like best.)
Embroidery thread
            (Match the pumpkin and stem fabric plus black for his face)
Bobbin weight thread
            (White is fine)
Fusible tear-away stabilizer
            (Sulky’s Totally Stable or your favorite brand)
Soft tear-away
4x4 Embroidery hoop

Let’s get started. First of all let me emphasis to you the importance of pre-shrinking your project fabric and your appliqué fabric. You may chose not to do so, but if you plan to wash this project (at all) keep in mind that different fabrics reduce somewhat when washed. This can cause wrinkles and ripples later. Stitches do not reduce. Fabric does. You get the picture!

Back your appliqué fabrics with the fusible webbing and go ahead and remove the release paper so you won’t forget to do so later.

Apply one layer of a fusible (iron-on) tear-away stabilizer to the wrong side of your project fabric. This piece of stabilizer should cover an area larger than the hoop.

Why am I recommending a fusible tear-away? It does two things very well. It keeps the fabric from shifting, stretching, distorting or moving at all while it is in the hoop. And it keeps you from having to tug on the fabric to remove any wrinkles, etc. while you hoop it!

Hoop the stabilized fabric in your 4x4 hoop according to your design placement.

Load or send the Jack-o-lantern design to your machine. Print (or have handy on your computer) the color chart that came with the design.

Turn on your mini-iron. Make sure it isn't touching anything and don’t forget where you put it! (I've melted plastic stuff and scorched fabric with mine. Yep. Some days I need a minder.)

Thread the machine with embroidery thread on the top and bobbin weight thread in the bobbin. Match the top thread to the pumpkin appliqué fabric. I like to use a size 12 needle for my appliqué designs. Satin stitching is tough on needles, but a too-big needle seems to mess with tiny detailing – a size 12 is usually just about right. A metallic 12 has a little larger eye, meaning less stress on your thread.

Attach the hoop to the machine. Make sure nothing is impeding the movement of the machine’s embroidery arm.

Slide a piece of soft tear-away stabilizer under the hoop, centering it within the hoop. This piece of stabilizer should be just a little larger than the 4x4 hoop.

Sew the first stitch sequence. (Step 1 below.) This is the first pumpkin outline, named “Appliqué Material” on the design’s color chart. (Ignore the colors on your machine’s screen. Just watch the sequences.) This outline shows you exactly where the pumpkin appliqué fabric needs to go.

Place a piece of your fusible backed pumpkin appliqué fabric over the outline, covering it completely. (Step 2 below.) The appliqué fabric must be right side up and fusible side down. (Did you remove the release paper already? If not, do it now!)

Sew the second stitch sequence. This is the second pumpkin outline, named “Appliqué Position” as this step sews the appliqué fabric into position. (Step 3 below.)

Carefully remove the hoop from the machine and place it right side up on a hard, flat surface. (Ahem. This is not your lap.) Use small, sharp scissors with curved blades to cut away the excess appliqué fabric. You’ll want to cut closely, but don’t cut into the stitching line.

Clean up the messy bits with a little masking tape, painters tape, cellophane tape or whatever type of tape (or mini-lint roller) you have handy.

Fuse the appliqué fabric to the background fabric using your mini-iron. Make sure the surface beneath the hoop is heat protected, hard and flat.

Pop the hoop back in the machine. Always hold the hoop by THE HOOP and not the fabric in the hoop. In other words, don’t touch the fabric inside the hoop while you are moving the hoop around.

The third stitch sequence for this design is the pumpkin segment detail lines. They travel down the front of the pumpkin on the right and left and designate the pumpkin segments. I used the same color (matching my pumpkin appliqué fabric) for my pumpkin. You can use the same or a slightly darker shade if you wish. Sew the third stitch sequence now.

Stitch sequence four is the final satin stitching around the pumpkin. Use a thread color that matches the pumpkin appliqué fabric. This should be already in your machine unless you chose to stitch the pumpkin segment lines in a different color. (NOTE – this is why it’s important to always, always read the designer’s color charts and instructions. We like to change things up and keep it lively cause we're sneaky like that!) 

Thread the machine with embroidery thread on the top in a color that matches the pumpkin stem appliqué fabric. Sew stitch sequence five. This is the first outline for the pumpkin stem. Continue, following the same steps as you did for the pumpkin fabric. Cover, stitch down, trim, fuse and satin stitch. It's that easy!

You’ll notice that I was being careful where I placed my mini-iron while I fused the stem appliqué fabric in place. I tried not to place it directly on top of the satin stitching on the pumpkin. Sometimes that can’t be avoided. In those cases I’ll place a piece of the scrap release paper or a pressing cloth over the design first and then fuse the appliqué part through the paper or press cloth.

The final stitch sequence is Jack’s face. You can skip this part of the design if you’d rather just make a pretty pumpkin.

You are finished! All that’s left is to remove the stabilizer and give your new pretty a press from the wrong side. Boo to you too!

Wasn't that fun? There’s a FREE little purse appliqué design HERE that you might enjoy for extra practice.  And I also have a tutorial on my video page that you might find helpful HERE.

Thanks for visiting, now let’s get stitchin’!


P.S. Yes, that’s a sweet sassy Sashiko ruffle on the towel’s edge. You know I can’t resist playing with my Sashiko... and ruffles are so fun!