Friday, July 31, 2015

Alex Anderson Workshop Tomorrow -- Woo Hoo!

Quilt Basket Rendezvous by Alex Anderson
I am SO EXCITED to be attending a quilting workshop with the legendary Alex Anderson tomorrow!  The workshop is hosted by my Bernina dealer, Lee's Creative Sewing and Vacuum of Charlotte, Hickory and Shelby, North Carolina, and we're going to be making a smaller version of Alex's Quilt Basket Rendezvous project.  I really love her version made with Kaffe Fassett prints, shown above, but my Bernina dealer says the kits for tomorrow's workshop are all batik fabrics.  This makes me pout -- I love me some batiks for applique projects, and I like to mix them with other fabrics, but I'm not a huge fan of quilts that are made ONLY using batiks.  I don't even like the idea of making a quilt using fabrics that someone else picked out for me...  But I'm not taking the class for the quilt per se, I'm taking the class so I can meet Alex Anderson!

Smaller Batik Version of Quilt Basket Rendezvous for Workshop
If it were up to me, I'd probably choose 1930s reproduction prints for this project, but I'm just going to have to make the best of whatever kit I get stuck with.

Alex Anderson
What I love about Alex's quilting books is that she is so encouraging and makes quilting accessible for total beginners.  Whereas some of my other favorite quilting authors like Harriet Hargrave, Diane Gaudynski and Sally Collins go into excruciating, exacting detail to teach mastery, Alex's books give new quilters the essentials they need to get started and achieve results they can be proud of -- without overwhelming and intimidating them with too much information.  I'm looking forward to meeting her and learning as much as I can from her class.

Also, since Bernina is providing machines for us to use in the workshop, I'm curious about which machines we'll be using -- and grateful that I don't have to pack up my beast of a 750 QE sewing machine to take to class.  If any of you in the Charlotte area are going to be in the workshop with me tomorrow, please say hello!

Happy stitching, everyone!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Crayola May Not Make a Color for Your Eyes... But Sherwin Williams Does!

When my kids were younger, we used to listen to the Kids' Place Live channel on Sirius XM in the car.  There was this one song by Kristen Andreassen that I loved, "Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes" and maybe that planted a seed deep in my brain that finally sprouted yesterday, when I decided to take close up photos of all of my family members' eyeballs and use the Sherwin Williams Color Snap app on my iPhone to determine once and for all just EXACTLY what color my kids' eyes are. 

Anders' Eye Color: SW6223 Still Water
How cool is that?!  As you can see, you can tap anywhere in the photo to get a whole palette of colors, each with its corresponding Sherwin Williams paint number. 

Lars's Eye Color: SW6216 Jasper
It was interesting to see that my son Lars, whose eyes look chocolately brown overall, actually has a lot of green in his eye color as well.

My Eye Color: SW 6181 Secret Garden
I was surprised to see that my own eyes, which are a yellow-brown hazel, actually have a lot of green in them as well.

Bernie's Eye Color: SW 0016 Billiard Green
Even my blue-eyed husband Bernie's eye color matched up as predominantly green, although he doesn't have any of the amber yellow coloration that Lars, Anders and I all have.

Rebecca's Mom's Eye Color: SW 6488 Grand Canal
Then I had to do my mom's eyes, which are the most beautifully vivid turquoise blue that I have ever seen.  No real surprises there, but isn't it fascinating to sort out all the different colors?  Now you have to listen to the song:

You're probably asking yourselves, "So what?"  Well, I suppose I could now paint a room to match the color of my mom's eyes, or one of my children's eyes.  That's what Sherwin Williams is hoping we do with their app.  You can see how it works to suggest paint colors to go with fabrics or carpets:

Colors from my Dining Room Carpet
Here's what the app came up with for color matches from my dining room carpet (above) and my master bedroom drapery panels (below):

Colors from Master Bedroom Drapery Panel
Not only could I use this tool to help me find paint colors, but I could also use it to find coordinating fabrics for upholstery, accessories, or whatever.  And here's the quilting application: Those dots of color are just like the color dots on the selvages of print fabrics that isolate all of the colors used in the print, very helpful for matching up coordinating fabrics in the quilt shop.  You could use the Sherwin Williams Color Snap app to create a palette of colors for a new quilt that you want to use in an existing room in your home, or snap a picture of the colors in your friend or relative's home on the sly and use it to create a quilt that coordinates beautifully with that person's personal style.  You can also use the app to create a color palette for a quilt based on a favorite photo from your travels or anything, really.  I have a Pinterest folder where I collect color inspiration photos, and here's what the Color Snap app pulled from a few of those photos:

Pretty cool, isn't it?  You can delete the colors you don't want from the palette by touching the color to select it and then touching the little trash can icon.  You can add colors to the palette by touching anywhere on the photo to select that color.  It works with pictures you take yourself with your phone, or on pictures you have downloaded from the Internet or elsewhere. 

Or you can just weird everyone out by insisting on taking close up photos of their eyeballs. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A NEW Quilt Top On My Design Wall, and a Smidgeon of Skirt Progress

New Quilt Top Finished: "Math Is Beautiful"
Since I am currently in the middle of three different quilts AND a skirt project, I decided to ignore all of them and start something new this weekend.  Remember the doodle I found in Lars's math notebook at the end of last school year?  Ta-da!  This is the fastest quilt top I have ever made!  After putzing around for weeks trying to get the fit just right on my skirt pattern, and months and months of working on my hand applique project, I just felt like I needed something quick and easy thrown into my mix.  This is baby quilt sized, 45" x 45" right now, and just needs borders.  I'll probably stow it away in a closet until the next time I need to come up with a baby shower gift.  I got the top pieced on my 1935 Singer Featherweight in just two afternoons, leaving the Bernina 750 set up in skirt-making mode.  

Piecing on my 1935 Singer Featherweight
Not that changing the presser foot, needle and thread on the B 750 is that much of a big deal to do -- but psychologically it would imperil my chances of seeing the skirt project through to the end.  And I DO want to finish the skirt.  Which technically, I still haven't started yet since I'm still playing with muslin and pattern tissue and haven't touched the fashion fabric...  But I am getting closer to starting my skirt!

Earlier last week I was trying to make a muslin of my silly skirt (New Look #6708, OOP) to make sure I was sewing the right size, and I discovered that the contoured waistband didn't fit me very well in ANY of the pattern sizes.  I tried cutting the waistband so that it was a size 14 at the top of the band and a size 12 at the bottom of the band, and as you can see in the pictures that got me a good fit with no ripples, but created weirdness at the side seams:

Hybrid Size 14/12 Waistband Muslin
My mom suggested that I should leave it alone because I probably won't tuck a shirt into the skirt anyway.  NO WAY!  It's not even about leaving it alone, because this is just a muslin.  It would be deliberately cutting into $78 worth of fashion fabric and spending hours of my precious time to make something that I knew would look so wonky and misshapen that I would never in a million years have paid $5 for it on clearance.  I am not going to waste my time sewing a skirt that I know I would be embarrassed to wear.

So I used my French curve ruler to redraw the curves at the top and bottom edges of the waistband pattern pieces, making sure to keep the waistband a consistent width all the way around with exactly the same curve at the top edge as at the bottom edge, and working with seam lines first and then adding the 5/8" seam allowances back in:

Redrafting with French Curve Ruler
I just barely had enough time to sew up a muslin of my new waistband before we left for the theatre, which is why I'm trying it on over top of my dress:

New and Improved Waistband Muslin, Front View

No More Wonky Side Seam!

Yay!  That's a pretty custom fit, wouldn't you say?  Pardon the poor quality of the photos -- my husband was yelling at me to hurry up and get in the car.  Anyway, I am happy with the fit of the new waistband, and my next step will be to make sure that I didn't inadvertently alter the length of the seam line where the waistband attaches to the body of the skirt.  Theoretically, since the bottom edge of my new waistband is size 12, the size 12 skirt should be a perfect fit -- but I might as well check to be sure before cutting into the good fabric.  I just didn't feel like doing it this weekend. 

Maybe tomorrow!  I'm linking up with Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times, Sew Darn Crafty at Sew Many Ways,Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story, and Show and Tell Tuesday at I Have to Say. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Skirt Shenanigans: Threads to the Rescue

July and September Threads Magazines
Well, now, isn't THIS timely!  I recently renewed my Threads magazine subscription, and I just received both the July and September issues in my mailbox.  One issue has a feature explaining how to clip the seam allowances prior to seaming opposing curves together.  DUH!  How long did I stare at those muslin skirt pieces, wondering why the fabric edges of the contoured waistband/yoke and the curved top of the skirt were not meeting up properly?! 

Shoulda Woulda Clipped That Curve
So now I know what to do differently with THAT when I make up the skirt in my good fabric.  Why didn't the pattern instructions tell me to clip the curves?  Moreover, why did the pattern instructions include this VERY misleading illustration that makes it seam as though the two pieces SHOULD match up without clipping?!

Misleading Pattern Illustration
The other issue had a useful article on zipper insertion that will help with my skirt as well.  I've put lots of zippers in throw pillows made of home dec weight fabrics, but the Threads article has tips for pucker-free zippers in very lightweight fabrics like my cotton voile.  So far, I'm getting my money's worth from that subscription.

As far as sizing goes...  The size 16 muslin was gigantic, so I made a size 12 waistband to try.  It fits, but too snugly for my taste, so I'm going to split the difference and try a size 14 waistband before making a final decision.  Hopefully I'll get back to the skirt today, but I need to finish up some laundry and housekeeping first. 

In quilting news, I did get my fabric prewashed, pressed, and cut out for my Math Is Beautiful quilt, based on Lars's math notebook doodle:

New Quilt Cut Out and Ready to Sew!
This should be the fastest, easiest quilt top I've ever put together, just gigantic squares and half square triangles.  I think I'm going to set one of my Featherweights up in the dining room for this one so I can work on it at the same time as my skirt.  So I have my skirt going on in the studio, my needleturn applique in the family room, and now a little quickie quilt on the side in the dining room.  I'll get back to my pineapple log cabin blocks once I've finished my skirt.

Otto Guards the Pineapple Log Cabin Blocks
Meanwhile, Mister Puppy-Pants is keeping me company and guarding the design wall.  His sister Lulu is temporarily banned from the studio for leaping at the television when Anders was watching Tom and Jerry cartoons.

I'm linking up with Show and Tell Tuesday at I Have to Say, Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, WIPs on Wednesdays at Esther's Quilt Blog, and Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts.  Have a great day, everyone!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Silk Serendipity and Skirt Stymied, Stagnating

FrankenWhiggish Rose Meets YLI Silk Thread
Happy Friday, everyone!  It's been a mixed week in my sewing world, so let's start with the good, shall we?  After breaking my left thumb and right collar bone in a bicycle accident on March 22nd, I was able to resume my FrankenWhiggish Rose needleturn applique project this week.  Yay!  I still can't bend that thumb normally and it hurts too much if I try to use my left thumb and pointer finger to precrease the applique shapes along the stitching line, but I can do that with my right hand.  A mere fourteen weeks after breaking my thumb, I can finally use it enough to manage hand stitching again.  I never before realized how important it was to be able to pinch and hold the folded fabric edge with my left hand in order to successfully stitch with my right hand.  And it feels really good to have a relaxing slow-stitching project in my lap again in the evenings and when I'm away from my sewing room.

Oren Bayan Mercerized Cotton Machine Embroidery Thread
However, what has NOT been fun or relaxing is the way-too-frequent thread breaks I've been experiencing, and that was happening before the accident, too.  For my first needleturn applique blocks (for my not-yet-finished Jingle BOM quilt) I was using spools of Oren Bayan, a Turkish mercerized cotton machine embroidery thread collection that I bought by mistake on eBay several years ago.  That worked pretty well for me, but I have not been able to find that brand in the U.S. and I didn't have good color matches for my FrankenWhiggesh Rose fabrics.  So I purchased Mettler 60/2 fine cotton machine embroidery thread instead, which looks pretty much the same as the Oren Bayan to my naked eye.  But, for whatever reason, it's breaking and snarling ferociously on me despite generous applications of Thread Heaven conditioner, and the thread breaks are really slowing me down.

I know that some people do use Mettler 60/2 cotton thread successfully for hand applique, but I also know that I tend to make really tiny stitches when I get my groove going (some have told me that my stitches are TOO small) and that means that my length of thread might be pulled through the fabric twice as many times as it might be for someone else.  I'm pretty sure that my thread breakage is due to my Mettler thread not being strong enough to withstand that repeated stress and friction.  I briefly considered that my needle might be the culprit, either due to a microscopic burr in the eye of the needle or friction at the eye from a too-small needle eye for the thread diameter, but if either of those scenarios were to blame I would be seeing thread breaks happening right at the eye.  I'm using a length of thread roughly the length of my forearm, and I'm having my thread break approximately halfway to two-thirds of the way in after I've taken at least a hundred tiny stitches without a break.  The kinking and snarling tendency happens throughout stitching.

My Successful Applique Combo: YLI #100 Silk Thread and Size 12 Bohin Applique Needles
I'm not about to go to a heavier thread like a 50/3 cotton, because I want my stitches to remain invisible.  Instead, I decided to try YLI Silk #100, which is the preferred thread of Jeanne Sullivan and many other (though not all!) applique experts.  As with the Oren Bayan thread, no one carries the YLI Silk thread locally, but there are a lot of online sources for YLI.  I ordered a selection of colors from Uncommon Threads, which is located right around the corner from me in Rock Hill, South Carolina, so I got my thread pretty quickly via USPS.  After experimenting with a lot of different needles for applique, I've settled on the Bohin applique needles (thin enough to leave tiny holes and precisely placed stitches, but stronger than the milliners or straw needles which constantly bend and even snap on me).  The size 12 Bohin applique needle is a perfect match to the YLI Silk #100 thread, and when I tested this combo last night I was in stitching heaven.  It feels very different to stitch with silk thread because it is SO slippery smooth -- I'm used to the way the cotton thread kind of grabs the fabric with each stitch.  However, I had zero kinks, zero knots, and zero thread breaks -- which means zero profanity and a happier household.  One annoyance with silk thread is its tendency to slide right out of the needle and unthread itself constantly, but I used a trick that I read about somewhere, threading the eye of the needle and then looping around and threading it again from the same direction.  That worked really well for me. 

So, one sewing problem solved for me this week.  Hooray!  I'd love to tell you that my skirt project was coming along just as nicely, but...

Tracing Skirt Pattern onto Pellon Sew-In Interfacing
The first thing I did was to carefully trace all three of my OOP (Out of Print) New Look #2708 skirt pattern pieces (in what I THOUGHT was my size) for my skirt onto nonfusible Pellon interfacing.  I did this to avoid cutting the original pattern in case I wanted to make a different size after sewing up the muslin, or in case I want to make the pattern in another size several years from now.  I'm glad I took the time to do that -- the interfacing pattern is a lot sturdier than the flimsy pattern tissue anyway and if I like the finished skirt, my traced pattern will easily stand up to repeated use for multiple projects. 
Traced Pattern Pieces, Ready to Go
I traced the pattern pieces with pencil, by the way.  I considered using fine point Sharpie or another ink pen so I could see the lines and markings more clearly, but it bled right through the interfacing and the underlying pattern tissue, and the last thing I need is Sharpie marks all over my butcher block worktable surface!  Then I used those pattern pieces to cut out my skirt from cheap cotton muslin fabric.  I started sewing the mock up skirt together according to the pattern instructions, and I panicked when it came time to sew the waistband to the top of the skirt because the two fabric edges did not seem to be matching up. 

Yikes!  Why Is There Extra Fabric???
There seemed to be a LOT more fabric along the waistband edge (or the "yoke," as the pattern instructions call this piece) than there was along the edge of the skirt to which it should be sewn.  Could this be a pattern drafting mistake, or something I did wrong in construction?  All I had done so far was sewn the side seams on the skirt and on the waistband, and I sewed those seams at a precise 5/8" as per the pattern instructions.  When I texted this picture to my mom, she said that it was possible that my stay stitching at the top edge of the skirt pieces had drawn that layer in imperceptibly.  But I did not see ANY visible puckering when I was stay stitching.  Well, part of the reason for the test garment was to figure out how to construct the skirt, so I decided to pin the two pieces together within an inch of their lives, sew the seam, and then evaluate it afterwards.  I am familiar with sewing a concurve piece to a convex piece from my Drunkard's Path quilt blocks, but quilt piecing uses 1/4" seams instead of the 5/8" seams in this pattern.  It made sense to me that even if the opposite curved pieces matched perfectly at the seam line, the wider seam allowances could cause it to look like one piece was too long for the other at the cut fabric edge.  So I pinned the two layers together very closely, matching the notches, right side seam, center front and center back, and I carefully sewed them together.

Pins, Pins, and More Pins
Now, I pinned these pieces together and sewed them according to the pattern instructions, with the waistband piece on top, like this: 

However, when I sewed those drunkard's path blocks together, I put the convex outer curved piece on the bottom and then pinned the concave inner curved piece on top.  I think that was a lot easier to pin and sew accurately.  Does anyone know of any reason why I shouldn't sew my skirt the same way -- with the contoured waistband piece on the bottom, next to the feed dogs, and the concave curved top edge of the skirt pinned to fit along the edge on top of the skirt?  I'm going to pin it just like I did in the photo above, and I do have Dual Feed on my Bernina 750 sewing machine, if that makes a difference (I know some people like to sew with any fullness on the bottom so the feed dogs can help ease it in).  The curved seam came out just fine regardless, but when I tried on the muslin skirt to check the fit --

Custom Fit?  Hah!
UGH!  YUCK!!!  It is so big that it's in danger of falling off -- unless I wear it with suspenders.  Keep in mind that the skirt is supposed to sit 1" below my natural waistline, even higher than I was holding it in the photo.  Yes, I remembered to press the edges of the skirt opening in 5/8" on each side, and it's still ginormous. 

So, half hoping this was evidence that I had lost weight since I'd measured myself, I grabbed my tape measure and measured my waist AGAIN.  I still got 30", the same as last time, which is a size 16 according to the pattern sizing chart.  So why is the skirt so HUGE??! 
Obviously this means I should make the skirt in a smaller size, and it's a good thing I made the muslin first, but it still bothers me that the skirt is so big because now I have zero confidence in my ability to use a tape measure.  If I had chosen a pattern size by my hip measurement instead of by the waist, I'd have made the skirt in a size 14.  But I don't know -- this test skirt is SO big.  Will a 14 be that much smaller?  Should I make a 12?  I did pull the tape measure snug when I measured, but does the pattern company expect you to suck in your gut and hold your breath, and pull that tape measure as tight as a tourniquet?

The only good news from this muslin misfortune is that I'm pretty sure the skirt has enough fullness for my cotton voile fabric to hang nicely.  I wasn't sure based on the pattern photo and I was a little concerned that my lightweight voile might hang too limply if there wasn't enough fullness at the bottom of the skirt.  I think the length will be good, too, when the top of the skirt is up where it belongs and the hem is turned up at the bottom.

SO...  I'm going to wait until my Mom comes over tomorrow to find out what size SHE thinks I should make.  Mom to the rescue yet again!

Meanwhile, back to my hand stitching!  I'm linking up Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts, Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation, as well as with Can I Get a Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, because Sarah is a sweetie and she understands that sometimes we need encouraging feedback (and advice!) even more when we're struggling than we do when we finally hit that finish line with a completed project to show off.  For those of you in the United States, happy Independence Day weekend!