Pointy objects…

Seam rippers.  Stilettos.  Not the kind you wear.

You probably use one more than you’d like, and most of us don’t use the other as much as we could.  One is necessary to have, the other is beneficial.  Both help with piecing beautiful blocks and quilts.

Cutting-Table---My-Seam-Rippers

While I like to pretend that I rarely need a seam ripper, it would be bad sewing karma to push that too hard.  The reality is that I have several quilts that I essentially made twice because I did so much un-sewing and re-sewing.  My personal record is having to remove the same border three times because I kept getting pieces switched around.  It’s still not right but it wasn’t anything a little Photoshop couldn’t fix on the pattern cover.

These are the seam rippers I found in the drawers of my sewing room.  The white Clover seam ripper is my favorite.  I buy them by the box and I always have an extra box on hand.  I like it because the handle fits my hand well, it has a long-ish shaft, a thin point and the blade in the curve is sharp, and it stays that way for longer than most.  I like the Seam-Fix and Mini Seam-Fix seam rippers, mostly because the plastic bumpy end really does do a terrific job at removing threads from the un-stitched seam.  Genius.  The tarnished silver seam ripper was a gift several years ago and while I like it, it’ll never take the place of my Clover.

I won’t belabor how to use a seam ripper – I think it’s safe to say that we all know how.  But just in case I’m the only one with any real experience…

Cutting-Table-Picking-Stitches

Picking every third or fourth stitch with the tip of the seam ripper is the best.  When this is done, pick the thread on the other side and it should pull right off/out.  Done.

Some people like to hold the strips apart with their fingers and pick the stitches that are in the base of the “v”.  It’s not a good idea because the thread can pull on the fabric fibers somewhat as they’re exposed if you pull the strips too much.  Now… I have seen folks be able to knick those threads with a small rotary cutter and work their way through a long strip quickly.  Color me majorly impressed.  And a bit envious.  If you can do that, I’m in awe.  I can’t… not without cutting the fabric and a couple of fingers in the process.

Most of the time, I “un-sew” seams by inserting the inner curve of the seam ripper – the “u” between the point and the smaller point with the little red ball – into the seam and using the blade to cut the length of the seam.  The key here is to do it on a flat seam like this one – not one that has been pressed to one side or open.  If necessary, press it back to this.

Cutting-Table-Using-the-Blade

I hope you’ll forgive me but I couldn’t figure out how to take a picture and use my hands to hold the fabric and the seam ripper all at the same time.

A couple of warnings here – be careful with looser weave fabrics, seams stitched with very small stitches and back-stitches, and slow down when you get to seams.  If you’re a little wary of this, try it on a couple of strips of scrap fabric.  This is the sort of technique that will help you when you’ve really, really goofed and sewn lots of strips and strip sets together incorrectly.  Been there, done that.

Stilettos are so much better because they’re about helping you sew, not un-doing a mistake.

Cutting-Table---My-Stilettos-

What?!  So I like to try new things… variety is good.

This is what the search in my sewing room turned up.  Yes, Clover has a stiletto, actually they have two.  The one shown here is a tapered awl but Clover also makes an awl stiletto.  It’s the same thing – a pointy tool that I can use to guide pieces under the presser foot of my machine.  They also make a curved awl that is pretty nifty.  My favorite stiletto is one by Collins and it’s bamboo – it’s not shown because I think I’ve already packed it for my trip.  The other things in the picture include a metal knitting needle – I like them because they’re thin and long, a fancy brass one I bought because it was shiny and pretty, and two fancy “laying tools” I bought several years ago on eBay.  I use the one on the left the most but truth be told, if I’m going to mangle the tip of something under the needle of my sewing machine, I’d rather it be a $3.00 bamboo stiletto.

And just so you know, the goal is not to mangle anything.

Cutting-Table-Stiletto-1

Stilettos are for holding the fabric where you want it to be as it’s going under the needle.  Most of us are a little reluctant to put our fingers too close to that moving needle, but being able to hold onto the end of the fabric as it goes under the presser foot can make a big difference in your piecing.  Have you ever had a seam “fish-tail” at the end of the seam, it sort of curves off in one direction?  That makes it hard to match seams and points, affects the size of the pieced unit, and so on.  Using a stiletto can help with that, especially when the pieces are small.

Cutting-Table-Stiletto-2

Call me crazy but sometimes I get a better, tighter seam junction when I don’t pin.  And if I do pin, I’m supposed to have removed it by now, right?  So how do I keep that seam from being pushed back by the presser foot?  That’s right, with a stiletto.

Using one takes a little practice, mostly because it will feel odd holding it in your hand while you’re stitching.  You’ll want to keep putting it down, which means stopping to pick it up when you get to seam junctions and the ends of seams.  But I think the results will help make it easier to get used to.

And that’s it for today.

I hope you have a Happy Wednesday!

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Make. Piece. Sew.

That was the phrase used in a Moda Fabrics ad several years ago and I always liked it.  It also fits the occasion – tomorrow is National Quilting Day!

I’m almost hoping for snow – I did say almost! – so that I won’t feel guilty if I stay in tomorrow and sew all day – just me and Bernie.

We have 764 half-triangles to make and after giving it a lot of thought – okay, about 1 minute’s worth – I decided that I was going to use triangle paper.  It was either that or trim them all to size… so I needed triangle paper.  Since I didn’t have any on hand, that meant a trip to the warehouse.  I know… it’s such a long, long walk over to the other building.

The truth is that it takes me forever – F O R E V E R – when I go over there.  It isn’t that it’s all that far, it’s that I can’t bring myself to walk quickly… that would mean rushing by a sight like this…

Moda-Warehouse

Moda Dotties – I knew you’d ask.

Then I get here… United Notions.  All these lovely notions, united in one place.

United-Notions

And I get lost.

Not in thought… not in discovery… lost.  (Reference:  needles, haystsacks.)  The lovely people who work here have been amazingly patient with me, and they’re bonafide brilliant!  I’ve yet to ask a single person where to find something without them knowing exactly where it is.  Even from 50 feet away, they can direct me to where I will find it – no, one more aisle over… on the left side… three shelves in… second shelf from the bottom.

No Carrie, your OTHER left.

Fortunately, I found the aisle with the triangle paper I was looking for – Primitive Gatherings – fairly easily.  (I am starting to learn my way around.)

Why this one?  While I like almost all of the papers I’ve tried, there is one feature that makes this one was perfect for this project.  I’m using Layer Cake squares for my fabric so I can make 18 – 2″ finished half-triangle squares from each square.  Thinking in terms of squares, I can fit a total of 9 squares in the layer cake, a 3 x 3 grid.  The Primitive Gathering paper is printed in a 3 x 5 grid.

Primitive-Gatherings-2-Triangle-Paper

So I just stacked the paper and cut it on the line to make my 3 x 3 grid – with a 2 x 3 grid left for something else.  I don’t have to draw any lines or grids and this paper fits my layer cake squares perfectly – how perfect is that?  But while I was nosing around looking for the correct paper, I found these…

Primitive-Gatherings-Charm-Triangle-Paper

Primitive Gatherings also makes triangle papers that are specifically sized for using with charm squares.  For someone whose made as many quilts with charm squares as I have, I want to know why I didn’t think of this.  (Don’t answer that… Lisa is… well, Lisa Bongean.)

Then I got really side-tracked… I think it was the bright, pretty colors.

Smartneedle-Tulip-Bobbin-Clamps-2

These are called Tulips.  They’re by a company called Smartneedle and they’re bobbin clamps.  I think I’m going to need these – doesn’t the orange clamp look good on my bobbin?  (And it doesn’t hurt that these clamps are a little bigger than the ones I use now.)  They come with a little chain if you want to keep them together for traveling, or doing some handwork.

The same company names these Bobbinis.  Bobbinis… you had me with that name.

Smartneedle-Bobbini

They kind of look like mini pacifiers, don’t they?  What I like – and what is making me think I’m going to need some of these – is that the bobbini is very secure.  The bobbin isn’t loose at all, and it’s very secure in the spool of thread.  Trust me, I was knocking them around to see if they’d come out or the bobbin would come off.

These were in the same aisle – also from Smartneedle.  The scissor and sewing machine USBs are very cute, as is the ladybug sewing caddy.  There is a suction cup on the underside that lets you stick it to the side of a machine, or whatever.  The little porcupine bobbin caddy also comes in green.  As with the bobbini, I was surprised that everything fits together securely and the tops or bobbins aren’t going to keep falling off.

Smartneedle-Collage

While trying to find my way out of the aisles – they look straight but with all the distractions, it might as well be a maze! – I was distracted by Maya Road.

Maya-Road-Pins-&-Buttons

The pins are purely decorative – they’re sharp but they’re a little thick to use for sewing.  But they’ll sure look really pretty in my pincushions.  I don’t know what I’d do with the buttons yet but they’d be cute on a pillow, a bag or even to embellish one of my pincushions.  Maybe I’ll make a pincushion to go with the buttons…  And the spools?  They’re just cute.

It isn’t like I really need to know what I would do with something before I bought it right?

From fabric to notions, thread to scissors… we like some of this stuff because it’s pretty.  And because seeing it makes us happy.

Or maybe that’s just me – I’m a little frivolous that way.  And I think that’s a good thing.

Have a terrific weekend!

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Snow day…

As you read this, I may or may not be in the office.

Snow-Day

While it was sunny and beautiful outside Thursday morning, there was a thin layer of ice under that snow so the roads are still a mess and probably won’t be clear until late Friday morning.  The good news is that this kind of day let’s me catch up on a few things – like my mail.

This book arrived last week and I finally had a chance to linger over every single beautiful page.

Quilt-Lovely

If you like scrap quilts, you’ll love this book.  It’s simple – the book is that good.

I can also get to some of your questions from the Tip Jar.

After I shared the tip about using fusible thread for bindings, a friend asked me if I was really going to do that for all my bindings.  No.  I think it’s a cool trick, and I know there will be times – like right before Market – when I will need a binding to look “finished” so it can be hung.  The fusible thread is perfect for that – as is glue-basting, another trick I like and use.  So I’ll still use my beloved binding clips, but I’m happy to know about this method.  It’s a great tool for my “toolbox”.

To answer two questions – no, the fusible thread doesn’t leave a hard edge on the binding.  The folded edge that you’ll be stitching down isn’t adhered to anything.  Only the underside of the fabric directly over the seam allowance is fused.  In that respect, I prefer the fusible thread method to glue-basting as that can sometimes leave the edge hard, especially if you I’ve had a heavy-hand with the glue.

And the method will work with bindings made with strips cut at 2 1/2″.  There will be a little more of the binding that isn’t fused but the thread is only there to hold the binding in place for stitching.

Cleaning your rulers – yes, you should be doing that.  Think about anything you handle all the time… like maybe your cellphone.  How often do you wipe off the fingerprints, grime and oil?  While you don’t see it on your ruler, it’s still there.  There will also be build-up on the underside from your hands, as well as any sizing or starch, soap residue for the pre-washers, and whatever is used to finish fabrics at the mill.  So every three or four months, I use glass cleaner to clean both sides of all the rulers I use regularly.  I also remove and replace any tape, sticky dots or whatever on the underside.  (Just so you know, I don’t do windows.)

Rulers

I think you’ll be surprised that you will start seeing a difference – seeing being an operative word.  It’s like changing the needle on your sewing machine, it doesn’t take long before you notice the difference.

You are changing your sewing machine needles regularly, right?

Do I use the lines on my cutting mat to align my fabric?  Nope.  I know a lot of people who do with great success but I got better results using just the ruler, maybe because that’s how I learned… back in the olden-days before rotary mats had lines.  Old dog, old tricks.  (And the lines aren’t showing on my mat because I’m using the “wrong side” until it’s used-enough to need replacement.)

While on the subject of cutting mats, yes, you should soak your mat every so often to keep it moisturized – flexible.  Full disclosure – I’m not good about doing this.  Meaning, I think I’ve done tried it twice in twenty years.  I didn’t have a bathtub big enough and I didn’t have much success trying to use a kids’ wading pool.  As soon as I started filling the pool, Rosie climbed in because surely it was being done for her enjoyment.  The best information I’ve found on caring for your rotary cutting mat can be found here.

Tearing fabric?  Absolutely!  In fact, we’re working on the pattern for a quilt kit coming later this year that will require the border strips to be torn.  It’s simple – a good quality quilting fabric will tear well without much loss on the edges.  The higher the thread count, the better it tears.  I know it bothers some quilters to do it but I’ve never had any problems.  So I let her rip!

Snow day / sew day?  Maybe just a tiny bit.  I worked on some log cabin blocks last night – they’re for a Log Cabin book I’m contributing to that comes out next year – and I have plans to sew this weekend.  After I finish that quilt top, I’ll get back to these…

Progress-Collage

No. 1.  I only need a few more of the triangles for my pink and yellow strip project so these will probably be first.

No. 2.  I haven’t made any progress with my Repro Stars but I did get enough pieces cut for another 20 blocks.  I’m now officially behind – big surprise – so I’ll try to get caught up this week.

No. 3 and No. 4… I started a new project using Gardenvale and Bella Solids in Fog and Maize.  If you’re wondering why the Gardenvale squares are hanging, I decided to try something Lisa Bongean showed on her blog.  Instead of spraying the fabric with sizing/starch and pressing it dry, the fabric is sprayed and then left to dry.  Then it’s pressed flat with steam.  Genius.

I had the clippy-things from years ago and while they’re working well, I’m going to try using a couple of Command hooks to hang a clothesline over the bathtub so I can do more than one Layer Cake at a time.  I’ll let you know how that works.  I’m also going to need more starch.

Are the roads clear yet?

(Have a good, safe weekend wherever you are!)

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That Heinz thing…

Catsup. Or in this case, catch-up.

I was so happy to read that I’m not the only one who has a hard time keeping up with that “one block a month” deadline. I can make 120 blocks in a couple of days… but ask me to make only one a month? No can do. Are blocks like Lays Potato Chips? You can’t make just one – it’s all or nothing.

That’s food for thought… and no, I couldn’t resist that one.

Daysail-Thread

This picture will seem random but I promise it isn’t.  I’ll get to that in a moment.

I promised to have an update on the status of my various sewing project…

  • Reproduction Sawtooth Star blocks. I have 20 done, but that’s only because I made 6 in one sitting.
  • Pink & Yellow X-Plus blocks. I’m stuck on three blocks, though I did get enough pieces for another 20 blocks cut out so I’ve made some progress.
  • Pink & Yellow Triangle blocks. See above – no sewing but I’ve cut more strips. Soon. Right?
  • Snapshots blocks. I’ve got Block 1 cut out and with Block 2 coming soon, I’d better get busy.

Still, there has been some sewing going on – my APQ quilt-along quilt in orange, black and cream is almost done.

APQ-Four-Patch-Quilt-along

I have to make a few more blocks – I obviously counted a couple of my blocks twice because I thought I had enough – and I’m trying to decide how to finish the sides so I’ll finish by Monday.  At least that’s the plan.

When I showed the pieces I’d been cutting for this quilt last week, I had a few questions asking if I used a Go-Cutter. I’m guessing you thought the squares and strips were just a tad obsessively stacked. That’s the result of two things – starch/sizing and the way I like to stack squares and strips. For the latter, it seems like I’ve always done that as it made it easy for me to count pieces quickly. (Perhaps I should do the same thing with blocks…)

The other reason they stack rather neatly is that I’m a “starcher” or “sizer”. Before I do any cutting, I spray my fabrics with starch or sizing until they’re damp and then I press it until dry with a hot iron. Just so you know, I use both starch and/or sizing depending on which one is handy and which one is on sale at the grocery store. Since I’ve never had any problems with flaking, shiny-surfaces or bugs, and since I go through cans and bottles pretty quickly, I tend to prioritize the cost.

Doing this serves two purposes – it shrinks my fabric and makes it very flat for cutting. First – shrinkage. I used to pre-wash my fabric but with pre-cuts and better quality fabric, the necessity to do that was less. And time was sometimes a factor. But I press with steam – a lot of it – and it was causing enough shrinkage that it affected the accuracy of the pieces before and after piecing.

The starch/sizing also helps me cut four layers of fabric at a time. I know, I know… other people can do this without requiring starch/sizing. But this is what works for me.

This does too.

CFAC-Mill-Book-1892-Web

It’s next on my “to do” list. The bundle is the coming-soon Collection for a Cause Mill Book 1892 – it rocks – and the lights are from several different collections, some of which are also coming soon.

So back to that first picture of Daysail – by Bonnie & Camille.  (Like you didn’t already know that.)  The bundle has been on the shelf in my office for a few weeks but I just found the little Aurifil thread kit.  Even though I have spools and cones of thread everywhere at work and at home, I always find myself wanting to get a few more spools.  Are you like that with thread?

And of course, that got me wondering about several thread-related topics…

What kind of thread do you use?

Do you use one kind for piecing and another kind of applique, quilting or machine-quilting?

Do you switch colors for piecing and/or binding?

Is there anything you’d like to know about thread?  Either a specific brand-question or something general.

I’ll tell you that I’m a little boring when it comes to thread.  I use 50 wt. Aurifil in 2324 for most of my piecing.  It’s only when I’ll be sewing lots of white pieces to white pieces that I will switch to white thread.   My favorite pale taupe-tan works perfectly for about 90% of what I do.

That’s it for today.  I’m grabbing that cone of Aurifil and then I’m off to buy sizing or starch.  I’ve got sewing to do this weekend!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

(I hope you make something beautiful!)

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Enabling…

Happy Monday!

Did you sew this weekend?  Did you watch the Super Bowl?

I did though I admit it is always to see the commercials.  Yes, the “Lost Dog” Budweiser commercial made me cry.

On the sewing front, it was more pressing and cutting than sewing..  I added some fabric to both the Reproductions and the pink/orange/yellow projects, and got pieces cut for blocks on both. I probably didn’t need it but I did it anyway… it’s that physical vs. emotional dynamic – I didn’t physically need the chocolate croissant I had with my coffee yesterday morning but it made me very happy.

Carrie's-Pink-Fabric

More fabric is always better, right?

I also pressed these fabrics with a little starch and got them cut.  I’m thinking I should have messed up my stacks a little bit as this looks a bit… compulsive.

Carrie's-Go-Four-It

Yes, orange and black.  Don’t ask me how it happened but I’m now working on four projects.  These strips are for the Go Four It Quilt-Along party that American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine and ModaLissa are having.  Are you quilting-along?  (Please say yes.)  I know you’ll be surprised to learn that I’m making my quilt a little differently.  I’m using six or seven different backgrounds, including the Passport New York City map print.

I also wanted to see what I could do to help with acquiring some of those nifty notions and cool “quilty stuffus” I showed last week.  It’s simple, the first best place to go is your local quilt shop to ask the owner if they’d be willing to order it for you. It’s what I did for many years.  I would show up to greet my new BFF with a stock number and credit card – I always offered to pre-pay for whatever it was hoping to order. Because there are usually minimum order amounts, I was also willing to wait until they had other items to order, or I made sure my list included several things.  I’m a firm believer in asking… the worst thing that can happen is someone says “no”.

For something like rotary cutting mats – the red Miracle Mats – shipping is the reason they aren’t available online as they have to be shipped flat. As someone who once ordered a cutting mat from <insert name of the Kindle people here> and had it arrive folded in a box. It had also been on a UPS truck all day – a 90-degree day in Phoenix. I think they regretted asking me for “packaging feedback”.

So how do you find the stock number?

Go to Unitednotions.com and click Notions – it’s right under the Moda at the top.

Image-1

Under the Notions picture, under all the tabs for Categories, Vendors, etc., there’s a Search box – Filter within results:   Type in Miracle Mat and click GO.  (Isn’t Mixologie gorgeous?  It’s in stores now.)

Image-2

At the bottom of the page are three red mats – two different sizes and a set of two. Click one of those.

Image-3

On the next page is the number you’ll want to provide to the shop owner – it’s the Manufacturer Item No. I always included the description and specifics since I do sometimes transpose numbers.

Image-4

Do you see the green banner?  That means the only place this mat can be ordered is through United Notions.

I hope this helps.

Hold on to your hats… I’ll be back tomorrow.

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