Crawfish for a Cutie Pie

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My adorable little niece G turned two this February. Living in Texas, I thought she could use more crawfish in her life (my husband and I are from New Orleans.)

I made this quick little dress for her; I found the fabric at All Stitched Up by Angela in Slidell, LA.

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Technically, it’s crawfish, shrimp and lobsters, but they are all delicious!

I added some big pockets so she can fill them with leaves, rocks, frogs – whatever she finds!

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I used my Sashiko machine to topstitch the pockets, and embroidered a double-G on one side.

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I even got to use a fun tool – a ruffler foot! A quick hint about the ruffler; you really need to do a lot of practice runs with your fabric to make sure you get the size and spacing right on your ruffle. In addition to the adjustments you can make on the ruffler foot itself, the stitch length you set on the machine also affects the results. So test, test, and test some more until you find the right combination of settings.

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If you look at the edge, you can see I also got to use another fun setting: the rolled hem on my serger.

So have fun with quick projects, they’re often the best place to try new techniques, new accessories and your specialty machines.

Spring Projects

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You need enough support to keep going round and round… I used my table’s leaf

I’ve certainly been away a while! As they say, life gets in the way of living but now I’m back and have several projects to share with you in the upcoming weeks.

This one was simple and quick, if not entirely easy. I’d been wanting to make a jelly roll rug for some time, and had even gotten the supplies from my local quilt shop – thanks QE! It took me a while to get started on it but once I did I was able to soldier through it in a couple of days.

I found the instructions a little difficult to understand, mostly about which way the folded fabric faced, either rolled around the spine side or the open side, but in the end I don’t think it mattered – I did have it backwards though.

I took it in steps – pieced the strips, pressed the strips, then joined the two layers, batting and strips. That was difficult to finagle; I couldn’t decide if I should lay them together first, or as I went; I settled on something in between, laying together a length then sewing it.

Many people online seem to fold the “rope” as they go, feeding and folding at the same time. Because I have tendonitis this was actually very hard for me, awkward and painful. I used clips to hold the fold in place and was only able to really get 18 to 20 inches done at a time. This made the project very slow for me, and not at all as fast and simple as it’s touted. But that’s just me, maybe you can work your hands and fold and feed as you go, and it will only take you a couple of hours instead of several days as it did for me.

Another disappointment is about washing. Since I was going to use this as a rug at an outside door, I would have preferred to prewash and preshrink the fabric. But with jellyroll strips, this is very difficult. To prevent shrinking, you can only really wash it in cool water and let it line dry after. These may not be the best for high traffic areas.

I only used one pack of strips, so my rug is smaller than the pattern states. But that’s OK, I wanted the smaller size anyway. A good thing about this project, you can use up any odds and ends of spools and bobbins of thread; if you use multiple colors of fabric, then it really doesn’t matter. I used yellows, creams, whites and light greys.

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I don’t know if I’ll ever do another jellyroll rug, but they are kinda fun, especially if you can get a good groove going. Maybe in a few years when I’ve forgotten how much trouble I had with this one….

When Projects Are Disappointing

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You may remember this fabric from a post last year, on keeping organized. Well I finally (finally!) got around to making it this past December. Kinda. I started it before we went on a trip, then we came back rather ill, and I was laid up the last two weeks of December and didn’t get that poor little tote finished.

Just all kind-of ugly going on….

Well, I tried to finish it last week. I mean I really tried. Kudos to Sunny, he was trooper and stitched through all those layers as best he could, but after straining my neck and shoulders wrangling it, breaking several needles (at least three) and finding the last few steps of instructions to be wanting, I decided this was a bad project. I’m going to finish it; I’ll complete the binding by hand when I have time in the next couple of days, but I am done.

These layers were horribly thick; I had trouble maintaining a ¼ inch seam allowance, let alone getting the binding to cover the edges. There were seemingly unneeded steps and excess notions, turning the curved corners wasn’t that hot, and frankly, I don’t think there could be a more difficult way to construct this bag. Was it pilot error? No doubt, I’ve never done anything like this before. Was a it a bad pattern? That is up for debate, but is the theory I’m going with for now.

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Since I only meant it as a garden tote, it doesn’t need to be pretty, let alone perfect. I scrapped the “helper handles” and tied them off in knots on the ends to finish it. If I hadn’t desperately needed a new garden tote I would have chucked the whole thing. But I doubt I’ll be making this pattern again.

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What’s up with the Dye?

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a relaxing, enjoyable holiday. Are you ready to get back to it?

My year starts off with a question; why would dye start to leach after years being of washed? Is it a green thing? A denim thing? If you have an answer, I’d love to hear it!

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What happened is this: I made this apron in January of last – no, 2017 – three years ago. At the time, I washed the denim in hottest water not once, not twice but three times to get out the shrinky-dinks as well as any excess dye. I have washed this apron, always with other towels, always on hottest water and never had a problem – until last month. I washed it with a batch of dark and red towels, so I didn’t notice anything, except the chicken – see how he’s no longer white? The next time I washed it in December, there were a couple of white towels in the load, and they are definitely no longer white!

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Well, not a big deal, the towels that are no longer white were getting a little agèd, and now I have an excuse to spruce up the powder room with new towels and new embroidery! (pictures to follow…)

What’s next in your sewing queue?

Holiday Sewing Plans

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What are your Holiday sewing plans? Or have you already finished? I made someone a cute little tote bag for trick-or-treating out of this fun glow in the dark fabric (get it at Quilter’s Emporium or your local quilt shop!) I also used glow in the dark thread for the monogram.

No, I don’t have a photo of the finished bag – I’m notorious for not photographing the gifts I make. But I did still have the sample monogram, which was done with puffy foam so it really stands out. I got both the thread and foam from Uncommon Thread, who carry quite a number of Sulky products.

After this, I have two Christmas gifts to finish, and then my sewing plans are about done for the year! I tend to wind down my personal sewing so I can really enjoy the Holidays. What’s on your sewing queue for the rest of the year?

How Was Your National Sewing Month?

I attended a few sewing seminars at local stores; saw lots of holiday sewing inspiration; got to see – and play with! – some of the new machines, as well as other new products; and got a fun new upgrade for my new Solaris machine, which includes embroidery couching!

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I used a contrasting thread so you can see how the yarn is attached to the fabric.

But mostly with this post I want to thank my local sewing stores, who put on these wonderful seminars and classes for their customers – for free! I don’t get anything from these stores, except excellent customer service and wonderful support.

Humble Sewing Center in Humble, Tx

Quilter’s Emporium in Stafford, Tx

Sew Much Fabric in Sugar Land, Tx

And a new store I found for you Bernina sewers in Houston,

Sew Special Quilts in Katy, Tx

Support your local sewing shops, not just buy purchasing but attending classes and seminars.

And next month is Quilt Show in Houston – don’t forget to stop by your local shop’s booth while you’re there. Not a quilter you say? It’s not just for quilters! If you have a passion for any of the fiber arts, there’s something there for you too! Garment fabrics, machines, accessories, hand embroidery, hand-dyed fabrics, yarns, laces ribbons – just go down and be inspired!

Project Organization

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How’s your summer going? Are you keeping cool? We finally have some slightly less hot – slightly – weather in the Houston area coming this weekend.

A sewing friend asked me recently how I keep all my different projects organized; between garment, home décor, quilting, Sashiko and embroidery sewing, I usually have at least three or four (and sometimes many more!) projects going at once. She picked up a few new ideas from me, and maybe you will too after reading my tips below.

Collect Everything You Need

I gather all the supplies I have for a project: fabrics, interfacings/ underlinings, buttons, zippers hardware, threads, decorations (rhinestones, decorative threads, embroidery pattern etc.) and of course the pattern! I make a list of everything, check off what I need, and add what I don’t have to my shopping list.

Make A List or Two

Then I make list of things I need to do: an FBA, lengthen a sleeve; pre-quilt the fabric and batting, cut bias binding; mark out the quilting lines, print embroidery templates, fuse interfacing – whatever preliminaries need to be done before I can start assembly. This list stays with the project, along with a list of my progress so I can drop a project and pick it up again, no matter how much time has passed. For example, I’ll write that everything for a shirt has been pre-cut, but I next need to fuse on the collar and cuff interfacings. Maybe I did the FBA already, but still need to lengthen the sleeves – keeping a running list of your progress lets you put down a project and pick it back up without missing a step.

Keep it Together

I keep my individual projects in zipper bags; these can be ones you purchase or you can collect any that come with your fabric orders. For clothing, I keep the pattern and the adjusted muslin in a clear string folder; all the notions and little items go into yet a smaller bag, and all of that goes into a larger plastic bag with the lists to keep it collected and clean.

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A Dedicated Storage Space

For my current and “on-hold” projects, I have a set of drawers in my sewing room. For items I want to complete eventually but don’t have space to keep in my drawers, I have a shelf in a closet where I keep a couple of very long-term projects.

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How do you keep your projects organized?

Fixing a Designer Mistake

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Or how to delay mowing the lawn, even on a nice day.

I used to have respect for fashion designers, especially of handbags and luggage, but I’ve lost some of that respect recently.

I finally bought a really nice bag, not the biggest designer, but one I had been looking at for several years. It’s a lovely, faux alligator in a deep brown, just the right size for weekend trips or as a carry-on bag for the plane or train. It’s really lovely – except it’s poorly designed. Apparently they don’t bother to actually use the products they design – or they have underlings struggling to carry their bags for them.

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You see the pad for the shoulder strap is made from the same, shiny, hard, slick leather as the rest of the bag – which means it slides right off your shoulder. Ironically, the bag is lined with exactly the material that would have kept the bag on my shoulder had anyone bothered to sew it on – a flocked, velvety material.

What to do? Well my first thought was pull out a leather needle and sew on a patch of faux suede that I have. I tried to take the pad off the shoulder strap, but apparently it’s not made to come off – another point of poor design. So then I thought I just could sew along the edge, working around the strap.

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But then I thought again: wouldn’t it be easier to sew a wrap to put on there? Handle wraps for luggage have become very popular, more so as identification than as a comfort measure. I had two choices readily available in my stash: a nice fabric with a bit of no-slip sewn on, or a piece of faux suede. While the faux suede would have been OK on its own, in the end I decided to use both.

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I cut the suede to the length of the existing strap pad, then cut it wide enough to wrap around comfortably. Then I cut strips of the no slip, and of Velcro to close the wrap. I sewed the no-slip in place, sec –

Wait a minute, shouldn’t we be embroidering this? Of course we should – is that even a question? I searched on my machine for a fun little design, duplicated it three times, then added my initials to the bottom of the wrap. Don’t forget to use a topper with suede, so the stitched stand out better. I used a wash away topper as faux suede is washable, but if you use real suede or leather use a heat away topper instead.

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OK, back to the story… I sewed the no-slip in place, secured at the ends with a bit of double-sided adhesive stay tape so it wouldn’t move. Then I flipped it over and sewed the Velcro on opposite sides of the wrap (you can use the double-sided stay tape here as well if you’re having trouble holding it in place.) You’ll notice in the photo I had to add a piece of stitch-n-ditch (or you could use a spare piece of pattern paper) on top of the no-slip because, well, it stuck to the machine like it’s supposed to, didn’t it? You could sew on the Velcro first, or not use the no-slip – either way. In any case, you will want to use a walking or roller foot with the Velcro to help it feed through your machine.

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Seventy-five minutes later, I have a fun, pretty, personalized solution to a dumb-as-mud designer handbag problem. (And yes, the lawn got mowed after that.) What kind of fixes have you made on the fly?

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Your Serger is Not for Sewing Knits




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The pillow on the left uses a Baby Lock Wave Stitch to make flat tucks; the other pillow is featured below

When I first started sewing, I didn’t really see the need for a serger – many sewers don’t. I constructed knits just fine on my sewing machine with its variety of “lightning” and triple-stretch stitches. I was finally sold on sergers though when I went to a demo and saw what they could really do – decorate! And they certainly do it well.

You know all those fancy threads that would never fit into a needle for sewing with? Yup, your serger can use them just fine. Because sergers have loopers they can use much larger diameter threads than a traditional sewing machine. Your coverstitch can use these threads too, as it has a lower looper. I happen to have a combo machine, which converts from serger to coverstitch.

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Yes, all of that goes in your serger – the pearls and rhinestones are used with a beading foot, the lace and wide ribbons with a lace foot, the fishing line and beads with no foot(!) and the rest goes into your loopers

I think the most fun part of a new decorative serger project is auditioning all my decorative threads – I have dozens and dozens! And not just dozens of colors, but dozens of types; silk ribbon, pearl crown, décor 6, 12wt cotton, 30wt in cotton and rayon, candlelight, Cotona, decora 8 and 12, serger ribbon, variegated, glamour… not to mention crochet yarn, embroidery floss, hemp and linen cord, and basically anything you can get through your looper.

A while back I wanted to do something fancy for my bedroom, and got some nice silk dupioni to make boudoir pillows. (I’m not sure why I call them that, I just always have for as long as I can remember; maybe because they’re usually frilly and satiny.) Vogue Fabrics Store has silk dupioni that’s great for garments and home décor; it washes well and irons just fine.

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The fun part starts with choosing colors – I just lay out the fabric and start piling on the threads.

Here I’ve cut a strip so I can sample my threads: what type, which color, which stitch do I want to use? I started with a three-thread wide, but something is up…

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That is an ugly stitch as Ms. Joan would say… and she knows a lot about sergers!

Aha, I left the differential feed on from the last project! Let’s fix that and we get – still something funky.

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Ok, let’s try again with different settings and – still not great. What do we need? Interfacing! Or underlining as some may think of it. In this case I reach for my tried and true home décor interfacing, fusible tricot. Our wonderful local fabric lady Roz carries it in white and black, and at $6 a yard for 60” wide, there’s no reason not to have this in your sewing room at all times. This interfacing gives just enough weight and body to a variety of fabrics: dupioni, linen, light canvas, quilting cotton, and many other fabrics you might consider for your home décor. Unlike most stabilizers, interfacing stays with your project, providing support for your stitches after you’ve finished it.

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So much better!

You will want to sample different interfacings and maybe even stabilizers or underlining; you never know what’s going to give you the look you’re going for. Always try out exactly the combination of fabric, interfacing/ stabilizer/ lining/ underlining, threads and stitching that you want for your project.

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I re-threaded and ran several rows of test stitches, and in the end I chose a narrow hem (as opposed to a rolled hem) with a silver white décor 6 in the upper looper, and a dark grey 12 wt cotton for the lower looper (it wasn’t going to show, so it didn’t really matter much.) I also decided on a 60° diamond pattern, in which I did not use the knife; this allows the thread to bunch up a bit at the intersections and gives this nifty scaled look.

pillow close up

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I also used a flatlock stitch on the back side of the pillow, and wove those fun threads in and out like ribbon insertion.

I did not come up with these ideas on my own; I got them from several Craftsy classes I watched on sergers. (Craftsy is now bluprint but I understand these classes are still available on subscription.)

Here are a couple of tips for using decorative threads in your serger:

You may need a thread cradle – a loop of serger thread that you pull through first, then put the end of the thicker thread into so you can pull it through the looper.

Also, your decorative threads may need different support from regular serger threads, like spool caps and holders

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Or thread nets.

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Have fun decorating your next project!

Do Your Machines Play Nicely Together?

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Do all your machines play nicely together? I heard this phrase from Evy Hawkins of Bit of Stitch. I was watching her in a Sashiko machine video on Sew at Home Classes, and she described her use of multiple machines in a project as her “machines playing nicely together.” I thought that was a fun way to remember that we often have more than one machine in our sewing room, and we don’t have to limit ourselves to one machine or technique for each project.

I’m lucky enough to have a Sashiko machine; it only does one stitch but it’s a fun stitch you can use in a variety of ways. You can use it for quilting of course, but also for applying binding and other decorative tasks.

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I found this fun citrus print from a favorite shop when I visit back home, Sew This! in Abita Springs. As soon as I saw it I knew it’d make great place mats and napkins.

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I quilted the place mats with the Sashiko, and then used it to apply the binding. How fun is that tiny pick stitch? The body of the mat is done with a stitch length of 2mm and a space of 5mm, and the binding is done with a stitch of 5mm and a space of 2mm.

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It’s almost more fun choosing the threads and finish for a project!

I also have a very nice serger, and it makes quick work of napkins with a variety of decorative stitches. In this project I used a three-thread wide stitch with 12-wt thread in the upper and lower loopers.

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Sometimes when you serge around a curve, the stitching is a little uneven


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Just a wiggle of the threads and a quick press later and you have flat, even stitches
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To finish, run of the edge, tie a knot and weave the tail into the back threads
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All layered and lined up for quilting

How did I come up with the shape for my place mats? I got the idea from Sew 4, a website that has lots of great home décor projects and ideas. The original project is here, but something wasn’t quite to my taste with the trapezoids.

Then I thought I’d like it a lot better with rounded corners, so out came the trusty lid from my faux malachite box.

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And I rounded the corners of the napkins too.

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Hmm, maybe I don’t like this binding as much as I thought
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Making new binding – I love my AccuQuilt® for cutting binding if nothing else!


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I cut my bias binding a bit too small, and probably should have trimmed down the seam allowance, but I did a pretty good job and it turned out OK. In one small area I didn’t catch the under-lap, but a few fell stitches with a needle fixed it fine.

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This shape fits much more nicely than traditional rectangular mats

A little while later – and lots of fun stitching! – and I had a lovely new set of place mats and napkins.