Thursday, March 15, 2018

Quilting is my passion!

Quilting is a facet of sewing that has become my passion.  I do all areas of sewing....home dec, garments, children's heirloom, smocking, and have dabbled in quilting as a way to share a homemade gift.  The quilting bug has bitten hard and is my "passion".  I still love handwork but guess what??? It is English Paper Piecing!!  (a little obsessed here as well).

Over the past 2 years, I have transformed my sewing space ( or "happy place" as I call it) into a quilt haven.  Learning how to create a quilt from beginning to end has become my "media" of choice.  T-shirt quilts for children precipitated the quilting bug's bite while I received chemo treatment for breast cancer.  It gave me something to do with my hands as well as a memorable gift for the upcoming Christmas season made from their high school shirts that had been sitting in a rubbermaid tote for a couple of years.  I used the "tie" method of to hold together the quilt sandwich.

Then came 2 memory quilts for a young woman and her mother-in-law.  I watched her grow up so creating something special for her since she  had lost her young husband in a tragic accident was important to me.   These were actually 2 quilts in one--becoming 4 tops made into 2 quilts.  One side was t-shirts, the other was button downs that were cut into the bow-tie block per her request.

Since making those 4 tops and my own son and daughter-in-law's wedding quilt, I decided I was tired of pushing the quilt around on a domestic machine.  Research on what long-arm would suit me best began.  It helped that we had moved into a home with a "bonus" room over the garage that was quickly claimed as my new sewing space!

What led to your quilting journey?
Do you sew other things?

Always in stitches!
Renee (Ney-Ney)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Picture Smocking Unraveled-Part 1 Blocking

Spring brings not only flowers outdoors, but a desire to sew and smock all kinds of cute clothing!
I'm re-posting my series on smocking tutorials since I have changed blogging platforms and many of my links take you to ......nothing!!!  Now, you should be able to find the tutorials!!!!

Recently I have seen picture smocking on many facebook style auctions.  You know the ones I'm talking about?  Picture smocking requires "stacking" cable stitches to create a picture.  Since I loved to color as a child (you may still catch me coloring) picture smocking affords me to "color" with  thread.

Picture smocking can be done on bishops (around the neck and shoulders)

or an insert (inset) that is placed into a garment.

To begin, select one of many picture smocking "plates" (short for template) available from many designers, available online or from specialty sewing stores.


Then have your 100% cotton fabric pleated with the number of rows required for your intended project.  I prefer the stability of broadcloth for picture smocking.

For my selection, I need 9 rows of gathering threads pleated.  Always make sure you have a "holding row" at the top and bottom of your insert.  Then you have the actual rows that make the picture smocking.  This pattern has an "H" for holding on the very top row and the row 9 serves as the second "holding row".


"Blocking" your insert is required prior to smocking to insure the piece will fit into your garment correctly!  You don't want to spend the time it takes to smock only to discover the insert has been squeezed tightly by your stitches and is too little to be sewn into your garment.:(

Next, scrunch all the pleats over to the left hand side (make sure there is a knot holding all the threads together)  pulling on the top and bottom of the insert to "straighten" any puckers.  Hold your steam iron over the insert and steam the pleats.  DO NOT IRON THE PLEATS!!!  Let this dry.

You need to make sure you're smocking on the "right" side of the insert.  Since broadcloth is essentially the same on both sides this doesn't create a problem with the fabric.  However, there is a "right" and "wrong" side to the pleating.  In order to stitch into each pleat while smocking you want as much of the pleat to be above the gathering thread as possible.  So....look at both sides of your insert.  The stitches that are longest are on the wrong side.  "Wrong is Long"  Notice that on the pleats, there is little room to take a "bite" of fabric with your needle while smocking.

Notice here that the stitches are shorter and therefore, this is the "right" side.  The pleats give you more room to take a stitch when pulled together.

After the insert is completely dry, you are ready to pull the gathering threads from the left side away from the fabric and snip off the knot.

I use the blocking board that can be purchased from Martha Pullen's website.  When I first started smocking, however, I used a bulletin board that had been covered with muslin and a grid that had been covered with contact paper.

Make sure to line up the left edge of the fabric so that it is square.  Secure with several pins.

Stretch the pleats out from the left side.

Measure the seam allowance.  My particular garment pattern requires 1 3/4 inch seam allowance in order for the insert to fit into the clothing I'm planning on making.  So I use a seam guide to find that width and notice which pleat lines up with that required 1 3/4 inch allowance.

Using a straight pin, (I've also used a seam ripper only to break my gathering threads so I don't suggest this method :( pull each row out gently along the same pleat all the way down the left side.  It should look like this....

Now you will take 2 of the tails and tie and overhand knot.

Using your right hand on the right side of the fabric, gently pull the top two gathering threads through the fabric until the first knot is "seated" right against the left first pleat.

This is a properly "seated" knot.  :)  Continue all the way down the left side.  If you have an odd number of rows (as I do in this particular design) just tie the last 3 together.  (When I pleat my inserts, I use one color-pink in this case- for the top holding row, all the smocked rows are orange and the bottom holding row is blue to help me while picture smocking)

Now it is time to count the pleats.  I use one color of (white) pins across the top of my insert and count out 10 pleats at a time and mark them with my pins.

Write this number down or put it into your handy cell phone calculator!

Look at your template to make sure you have enough pleats to cover the smocking design.

This particular design calls for a total of 162 pleats.  I have more than enough to cover that!  (I will use only the amount required since I'm making a small 6 mos size garment, if I make something bigger I like to leave extra pleats on each side to cover a larger chest area)

After dividing 162 pleats by 2 I get 81 which is the center of my smocking design.  So now I recount the white pins by 10's until I get to 80 then add the 1 pleat and mark it with a blue pin.  Take a safety pin and secure it on the center pleat.

  Determine the width your insert needs to be by consulting the pattern.  The pattern I'm using has a "blocking guide" to give me the width the insert needs to be to fit into the garment properly.

My project needs to be 12inches wide so I'll stretch out the right side of the insert on my board to the 12 inch mark.  Make sure that the edges are square and pin into place.

Repeat the measuring process used with the left side to determine where to pull out your gathering threads so you can tie off the right side. Since my project requires 162 pleats total, I'm going to be sure I have 81 pleats from center to right side in order to have enough pleats for my design. Do the same for your required number of pleats, depending on which smocking template you selected.   (As mentioned before, if you have extra on BOTH sides for a larger insert, it is ok unless it is too big for the blocking guide so refer to your pattern)  Again, I will use the 1 3/4 " seam allowance called for in my pattern.

Repeat the process for pulling out the threads up to the pleat at the end of your measurement.  Use a pin and go down the entire length of the pleat pulling out the gathering threads.
(see above pic like we did on the left side)

 Now remove all the white pins across the top of the insert and mark the center pleat top and bottom with a water soluble fabric pen.  Slide the pleats over gently using your fingernails or a wide toothed comb.  (Be careful if you have colored nail polish on!) Put your marked center of the insert in the middle of your measurement.  In my case 12 inches wide divided in half is 6, so I put my safety pinned center pleat on 6 inches.

Pin the insert at the top and bottom, making sure the center pleat is straight and squared.  Continue to adjust the pleats from the left side to the center .

Now it is time to tie off the right side.  I take a pin and secure it to the right side of the last pleat required for my design in between the first two gathering rows.  On the right side I tie a square knot using the pin for leverage to make sure I get the knot "seated" securely on the right side of that last pleat.

Continue down the right side in two's, remembering to tie an odd number of rows by using the tail of the gathering row above it.

I promise we are almost through!  Now give the gathering threads a "haircut" to about an inch within the knots on both sides.

The last step in the blocking process is to adjust the pleats with your fingernails getting them straight and no puckers, then spray starch the insert while it is still pinned to the board.

Let it dry completely and then you'll be ready to smock!
Join me on a  Spring Smock-along ---Part 2 coming next!

UPDATE:  link to Part 2
Smooth Smocking,


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Whoops! Copyright Woes

Be careful when posting pictures of someone elses' work, patterns, etc.  Always check first before posting...

Not realizing I had violated Cross-Eyed Cricket's copyright, posts dealing with picture smocking had to be removed.  I had used her "owls" smocking template to do a tutorial .  Although she praised the tutorial itself, she wasn't happy about using her template in my pictures and using the name even though I gave credit where credit was due. Based on what I had read, I thought posting the article was done correctly. She asked that in the future I got permission.  Rather than address the issue with a claim to Pinterest, she contacted me directly.  Although her email was polite, I felt like a child that had their hand slapped for wrong-doing, and removed the post.

A web article from Baylor University says, "Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder for purposes such as criticism, parody, news reporting, research and scholarship, and teaching. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one.
The four fair use factors are as follows:
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work, such as whether the work is fiction or non-fiction, published or unpublished;
  3. The amount of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, such as using a poem in its entirety, or using one chapter from a long book;
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work.

Still sewing in my happy place!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Quilting stencils with my Scan and Cut

So, I'm branching out and going to attempt "designs" in my next quilting project rather than "stitching in the ditch". I'm using a domestic machine so let's hope I don't pull what little hair I have out in the creative process!

I have recently taken my Scan and Cut out of the box in the closet ( where it has been for nearly a year) and decided to learn to use it in my quilting.  In my quick attempt to get my stencil done prior to leaving town and carrying all my supplies with me, I didn't take pictures of the process itself, but if there is interest, perhaps a tutorial later?

I found poster board sized plastic sheets at my local Hobby Lobby while getting regular poster board and wondered if I could cut my own George I did!

A few words of advice:
  1. Use a sharpie to make your lines thick enough for the scanner to read.
  2.  Make large dashed lines to keep the design in one piece.
  3. A little trimming may be necessary.
  4.  Registration marks will need to be added.

I was able to mark my quilt, starting from the corners and working my way in to adapt the "meeting in the middle" design to fit my size borders.

Hopefully when I return home, I'll be able to begin quilting!
What methods do you use to transfer quilting designs?
Do you have any favorite quilting stencils?
Where do you get them?

Trying to stitch on the road,

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Splendid Sampler-Block #4-Happy, Happy

Happy! Happy! Isn't that a popular phrase due to the "duck hunters" on TV? Or perhaps the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams which just happens to be my ringtone?

Jen Kingwell of Kingwell Designs created this block featuring her love for appliqué.
I just used my machine blanket stitch for my vase and stitched the flowers in a rather scrappy way.  May re-do this block later and attempt hand appliqué since I have two of her books and handwork appeals to me but I was on a roll with the machine and didn't quit.

Even though my block doesn't quite please me, I'm happy with it.  It's all about attitude.  Happiness is a state of mind!  
Happy stitching,

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Splendid Sampler-Block #3-Lots of Love

Life is SPLENDID!  This block reminded me of all the love shown to me from family and friends these past 5 years...I've learned a lot about nurturing, sharing, caring and giving your time to help someone else in need.

The third block in the Splendid Sampler was created by Melissa Corry of Happy Quilting.

I'll have to say, I was surprised at how difficult this block really was.  Ripping, starting over, having warped fabric from ripping and sewing again, then finally cutting new fabrics for 3 more little heart blocks.  I was pleasantly surprised with the directional fabrics and how well they matched at the seams.  Wonkiness overcome!!!

With my SPLENDID  life comparison, it reminds me of how much I have learned about loving others.  Sometimes love is awkward and frustrating, but turns out so beautiful!  I no longer feel awkward visiting someone in the hospital, saying hello to a stranger with a deftly tied scarf and no eyebrows and the time taken from my day to make the visit or cook a meal is so rewarding!

Splendid and sewing!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Splendid Sampler-"Wings"-Block #2

I'm working on the Splendid Sampler as much as life allows...that is the SPLENDID thing about is always right where I left it when I return.

This block came all the way from Australia from Jane Davidson, the other co-creater of The Splendid Sampler, along with Pat Sloan.

My block taught me perseverance....also something needed in life.  I see the little pieces and how they need to line up "just so" in order to create the "wings" for the butterflies.  Did you know that the metamorphosis timeframe is 10-15 days for most butterflies?  I didn't feel quite so bad about how long it took me to get this block to my liking.  Sometimes things don't go exactly as planned, but that's life....A SPLENDID life!

Always in stitches,