Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Bride Wore Tennis Shoes

Yesterday, my granddaughter was married to her best friend. They met during their freshman year of high school, but never actually dated until a year ago. Then, suddenly the friendship evolved into something else, and they couldn't wait to be married. So young, yet so very sure.

It was exactly the kind of wedding they wanted - simple, casual, very homegrown, and absolutely lovely. The venue was a hall at the county fairground nearest my daughter. The kids did their own decorating, and even made the mints they served.

Everything went smoothly from start to finish, though there's always a story.

When photographs are taken outdoors at a county fairground, interesting critters can get into the act. In this case they got into the multitude of skirt layers. Sara came back into the hall and her skirt was filled with lots of little bugs. Bridesmaids, mother-of-the-bride, grandmother of the bride, and several others went through those layers to shake out the bugs. Then Sara did a big fast twirl and emptied the skirt of the last of them.

Wishing them a blessed future. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Building Babies

The wedding dress is finished and waiting in it's garment bag for the big day. I still have a hard time believing that my sweet granddaughter is getting married. I will definitely post photos!

With the dress finished, I've been concentrating on beach babies. One of the fabrics I ordered for the ocean has arrived. It looks much prettier in real life than in the photos, so I'm not sure if I'll keep looking or just go ahead and finish.

Since I'm doing these over, I've reversed the little girl that I made first. I want the two children to be facing in opposite directions, and I didn't like the way the boy looked facing left. She's a wee bit more tanned than she was in the original, too. Better before or better now? Something else for me to think about. That background fabric changes things so much.

I thought I'd show you how I built the babies.

Each of them started as a sketch, and each went through a long process of trial and error before I was satisfied that they would work well in the final design.

I spent three days sketching, refining, and re-sketching to make this one satisfactory.

I photocopied the final sketch onto cardstock and cut the templates from there. I flipped the templates over before I traced them onto the fusible web.
Next, I used my transparent applique pressing sheet to fuse the pieces for each child together. The layout goes under the sheet, and layer by layer the fabric pieces are fused to each other on top of the sheet.
Now, I can move the children anywhere and experiment with placement. I'll likely make the patterns as two separate blocks, but they would also be really cute together in one wall hanging. I'll think that through a bit more before deciding.

If I keep this background fabric, the pattern may be ready next week, but with wedding preparations moving into high gear, my guess is that this will come out the last week in June or the first week of July.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Of Wedding Gowns and Fishing Line

Two weeks of experimentation and it's down to one more quick fitting. Then, I can finish up the task of shortening my granddaughter's wedding dress. I want to double check the length of the top two layers of tulle before I continue with my newly purchased spool of fishing line.

I kid you not. I'm using fishing line for the wedding gown. Here's the story.

My granddaughter fell in love with the beautiful wavy look of the hems of the top two layers of tulle on her wedding dress. I had to cut off a good 4 inches from the bottom, and I had no idea how to recreate the curly waves. There was something stiff, like wire, set into the tulle. I was stumped, so I experimented with other finishes.

Ribbon had no stretch, so it couldn't handle the curve going around the train. A zigzag stitch with thin thread finished the hem, but it wasn't at all wonderful. Heavier rayon thread in a zigzag stitch was a tiny bit better, but nothing came near to the loveliness of the original.

Now what? I was determined to make this right. I trimmed a couple of inches off the hem of the tulle and examined the stiff stuff set into the bottom edge. It wasn't wire, but a stiff nylon cord. How had that been attached? If only I'd remember my mother's sewing lessons from 50 years ago, I'd have been just fine, but I was trying too hard and not thinking clearly.

Then I ran across a Craftsy post on Facebook. This couldn't have come at a better time! It was as if this post was meant just for me when I needed it most.  If you've never downloaded this free class, you definitely should! One of the lessons reminded me of those lessons from Mom and sent me chasing over to the Baby Lock store.

I only needed a braiding foot for my sewing machine and some nylon cord!

Next stop, Michaels jewelry making aisle.

This is the heaviest weight they carry. It was only a fraction of the thickness of the original. I experimented with it, but it was much too fine to lift and hold the weight of the skirt.

Ebay? I typed in monofilament cord and soon found myself looking at fishing cord! That's how I discovered what I needed.

It was off to the local tackle and bait shop. They carried the 50 lb. weight I needed in bright green, only, but the 40 lb. was almost perfect.

Original cord on top, 40 lb. fishing line in the middle, jewelry making cord on the bottom.


I showed the sample to my granddaughter. She was so excited. "Mama, how did you do that? It's perfect!"

"I'm just the magic grandmother," I told her.

As I said, one final, really quick fitting and this task will be done.

 Bibbity, bobbity, boo!


Saturday, June 4, 2016

First Comes the Messy Part

This week there is no Splendid Sampler block to show you, no finished patterns, no tutorial, and not even a recipe.  Quilt sewing, pattern design, and blog writing have not been very high on my list of priorities this past week. I've been a bit preoccupied with a wedding dress and getting rid of flooding in our basement storage area and my sewing room.

The water repairs started with a huge mess. Of course it did. Can you think of anything worth doing that doesn't start out messy? Sewing is messy, cooking is messy. Cleaning, painting, bathing, fixing cars, mowing the lawn, and just plain living is messy. Raising children is really, really messy.

Our building is exactly 40 years old this summer, so tackling the water issue has turned into a major project with two main phases. The first step has been to replace cracked, tilted cement with new. A section of driveway and my entire outside entry had to be redone. Fortunately, the sun shone for four solid days, and that job was completed without a hitch.

Work in progress.

New front entry.

Thank goodness, yesterday was the last day of loud machinery, workers, and curious neighbors in our yard.

I was able to watch much of the cement work from my sewing room as I made indoor messes cutting off strips of net and tulle. I measured and cut five of eight layers of wedding gown skirts.  I serged the hem of the innermost layer of satin. I'm not crazy about the look of serged hems, but this layer won't show. The second satin layer is part of the train, so if the net and tulle layers over it don't hide it well, I just might be hemming that one by hand. Ouch! Several evenings of hand stitching may be in my very near future.

I need one more fitting before I can do any more work, so the dress is back on the bed in the guest bedroom until my granddaughter can come over. I hope she can make it soon! The kids are so busy. They are out of school for the this year and both of them are working full time while trying to get ready for the wedding. They've just rented an apartment, too, so there is moving and all of that going on at the same time as everything else. In spite of it all they seem to be completely relaxed.The wedding is three weeks from today, and I seem to be the only one feeling frazzled.

There were no workers here today and nothing I could do on the wedding dress, so after running a couple of errands, I retreated to my sewing room to play with a new summer quilt block idea.

I finalized the positioning of the appliques and made good progress with the blanket stitching, but I'm so disappointed that the thread on her skin looks so light. It looked like a great match before I sewed it on. There are some other little elements that could be better, too. I haven't decided if I want to do the block over. It might depend on whether or not I can find another great piece of blue fabric. This was the very last bit of it, and it's no longer available anywhere.

Dinner is over, dishes are done. It's time for a walk, then comfy pajamas and Netflix to finish the day.

Wishing you a lovely week!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tutorial: Bias Binding on a Scalloped Edge

I love the curvature of scalloped borders on quilts. It takes a bit of patience to put the bias binding around the curves of the border, but when I buy the most perfect fabrics I can find and spend many days working on a quilt, I'm not about to cut corners at the end. I'm sure there are almost as many ways to bind a quilt as there are quilters. I'll be describing the way I work with bias binding. I'm sorry to say that I know of no wonderful shortcuts for this job. 

I think that most of us are often intimidated by something new, and at first, the very idea of working with bias binding can sound pretty scary. Binding edges with curves does require fabric cut on the bias, so it pays to at least give it a try on practice piece. Attaching binding around a  curved edge is like any other skill. Once you've practiced a bit, the fear almost always disappears.

There are two main disadvantages to working with bias binding.  First, it uses more fabric than straight binding does. In order to get binding sections that aren't too short, large triangles from the corners of the fabric will wind up in the scrap basket.

Then, there is the pinning. I don't know of a way to avoid using lots of pins to get the fabrics to lie flat and smooth in the end.

Other than the need to pin around inner and outer curves, sewing bias binding onto a quilt is very much like attaching any other binding

The "Kitty Craft" quilt shown in this tutorial has been designed with a gently scalloped border.

Part 1: Make the binding. 

160 inches of binding ready to attach.

My favorite tool for measuring 45 degree angles on bindings

1. Measure halfway around the quilt, snugging the tape measure up against the scallops. Multiply by two to get the distance around your quilt. I recommend adding 10" - 12" to that length to determine how much binding you'll need to make.

2. Lay your cutting ruler at a 45 degree angle and cut as many 2 1/4" strips from the fabric as you will need. From here on, the binding is made much like any other binding.

3. Cut both ends of each strip with the 45 degree angle going in the same direction.

4. Lay two strips perpendicular to each other. Stitch the seam with a 1/4" seam allowance.

5. Press the seams open and trim off the little ears.

6. Press the binding in half lengthwise.

Part 2: Attach the binding.

1. Pin the raw edges of the folded binding to the edge of the quilt. Leave a tail of about 6" and start pinning in the area where the outer curve begins to transition to an inner curve. Joining the ends of the binding on an outer curve is easier than it is on an inner curve.

I like to pin and stitch about 2 to 3 feet at a time. Be careful not to stretch the binding as you pin it around outside curves. It shouldn't be so loose that it gathers, but it shouldn't be at all stretched. If the binding is too tight on those curves it won't lie flat when you fold it over and stitch it to the edge of the quilt.  The inner curves need to be treated in exactly the opposite way. Pull the binding nice and snug on those inner curves. That will help to minimize puckering on the inside of the curves. Backstitch to secure the stitches and sew with a 1/4" seam.

2. Stop about 6" or so from the starting point. Backstitch.

3. Lay the binding on the curve bringing the two ends together in the middle. Pinch the ends together and connect them with a pin. 

4. Mark both ends of the binding with pins exactly where the ends need to meet.

5. This next part gets a little trickier. Work with one tail of the binding at a time. Keep your ruler at a 45 degree angle. Align the sewing line of your ruler with the pin exactly on the marked center fold. You need to cut 1/4" on the outside of the sewing line so you will have that 1/4" seam allowance for stitching. Do this on both tails of the binding.

Take extra care to cut those edges at the very same angle! When you go to sew the ends together you don't want to find that one is cut on the opposite slant from the other. I've done that. Not fun. :(

6. Pin the two ends of the binding together. Double check to make sure that the pieces aren't twisted.  Sew in the same way that you sewed the strips together to make the original long piece of binding.

7. Finger press the seam open. Fold and pin to the quilt edge. Stitch in place.

 8. Fold the binding to the back of the quilt and sew it down with neat hand stitching.

9. Press. Place the iron flat on the bound edge of the quilt, press down, and give it a burst of steam. Bias binding has a lot of give. The steam sets it so it will lie smooth and flat on the scallops.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mother Nature Brings Sewing to a Halt

If you've never spent a spring living in "Tornado Alley", you may not have witnessed the havoc of a violent prairie thunderstorm.

Trees bend to the ground under the wind and the weight of the rain, gutters overflow creating waterfalls in front of windows, hail decimates flower beds, and all eyes are glued to the weather channel radar. While tornado sirens pierce the air rainwater creeps silently from the ground onto basement floors.

The nearest tornado touched down 4 miles from our house, but when Monday evening's storm ended we'd had 6 1/2"  inches of rain in just a few hours. The water in my sewing room and in the storage area under the stairs wasn't discovered till Tuesday morning.

Everything came to a standstill. I didn't sew a stitch from early Monday through Friday, and I heated leftovers or supermarket rotisserie chicken for every meal. The pictures tell the story.
Everything was shoved together away from the wet areas. The sewing machine is almost hidden behind the piles.
It was too much for the shop vac.

Carpet pads drying outside on the makeshift clothesline.

Almost dry floors.

Lots of baking soda sprinkled under dry carpet pads.
I'll be sewing tomorrow. A cat quilt needs to be finished. 
The cutting tables sit right in the corner where water came in. They are easily collapsed, the desk is on sliders, and most of the storage drawers have wheels.

For the time being I've rearranged furniture and put the heavy dresser against a wall that stayed dry, and more easily moved furniture by the wet areas. After we get some work done to stop the water, I'll decide where to place furniture permanently. 

They say we'll have a wet summer, and more rain is expected Sunday night through Tuesday. We are hoping we can schedule something quickly, but it's taking time to find a contractor. Everyone who works with basements is overwhelmed by calls for help from all over the city. 

It could have been so much worse! The tornado missed us, and nothing more than a pack of wrapping paper was ruined. This little bit of water is a nuisance, but falls way down in the minor category on the scale of things that could go wrong. I'll be sewing again today. 

Stay dry and safe, everyone! 
Wishing you a super great week!