Llama Mama Sleep Sack

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Here’s another quick project I did recently, a sleep sack for my niece. I’d never hear of a sleep sack before, but it’s basically a sleeping bag with arm holes, I imagine so little ones don’t get tangled in the blankets.

I found a pattern here, from Peek-a-Boo Patterns. It was unfortunately PDF only, so you do have to spend time printing, trimming, taping and tracing – thankfully it’s only a small pattern.

Her Mom requested I make Lil’Bit’s sleep sack without foot-holes, so I traced the larger size straight across the bottom and proceeded as for the other sizes. (My niece is known to me alternately as Lil’Bit, Sweet Pea and Goober Girl, for when she’s really acting up.)

The fabric is a cute Riley Blake print I got From Harts Fabric – my niece is now a llama mama!

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I also embroidered her initial on the shoulder, and since it’s for her to wear while sleeping, I thought a little extra itch-protection would be nice; I used a fusible tricot to cover the back of the embroidery. Most stabilizer manufacturers sell a product just for this, something like Gentle Touch or Light ‘n’ Soft Fuse-On. The truth is, they’re all just fusible tricot, and if you’re a garment sewer, you probably have some at home already. The specialty stabilizers tend to be pricey compared to garment interfacing.

I like the one my local fabric maven Roz sells here in black and white (temporarily out of stock); hers is great for knits, light wovens and is excellent for home décor, especially if you’re using a quilting or fashion fabric for your home dec project. If you’re using a very light weight or sheer fabric, the elegance fusibles from NY Fashion Sewing Supply are excellent as well.

For this flannel, I used a 3 oz cut away stabilizer. I didn’t bother with a topping because the flannel was pretty smooth, and I used a tatami-type stitch for the monogram, instead of a traditional satin stitch.

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For those of you who noticed, yes, the fabric is upside down on the front of the sack. I figure Lil’Bit will just get to see the llamas right-side up from her point of view for a change – it is a good reminder though to always double check your pattern placement when using directional prints!

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….

Quick Project – Monogrammed Bag

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When I buy bed linens, they often come in a nifty little drawstring pouch. Depending on the size you buy, they might be large enough to make a shoe bag, or just a nice size bag to organize small things in your dresser or suitcase.

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(And you don’t have to wait until you buy linens; as you can see, these are constructed very simply on a serger. Or, use the overcast stitch or French seams on your sewing machine.)

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Here’s how to turn those freebies into quick monogrammed bags:

Choose your embroidery thread,

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Load some sticky wash way stabilizer in your hoop (or use a light cutaway and basting spray)

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Lay the bag inside out on the hoop if you have a single needle combo machine

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Or hoop the fabric right side out if you have a free arm machine

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Press start on your machine and – two minutes later, a personalized bag!

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Needle Pads

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While I’m one for changing needles with each project, maybe you only sewed a couple of quick seams or replaced a button on a shirt – we all need a place to keep our needles that aren’t quite used up. I was keeping them, machine and hand needles, on a magnetic pin cushion. Well, that got to be a mess. Not all machine needles have a nifty color code system for size and type; hand needles don’t have any system – and I’ll be darned if I can tell the difference between a size 8 appliqué and a size 9 sharp.

At our last Fashionista meeting, our member Nateida showed us her latest notion: a needle pad. So much tidier than my old system! But nice as a pre-made one is, it didn’t quite fit my needs. I have three machine stations where I use multiple needles, but I don’t necessarily need all those types at each station. And I wanted one for hand needles as well so I made my own! I made of list of which type and size of each needle I wanted at each station; I then used my embroidery software to create the lettering for each pad, and then embroidered them on my new machine, Sunny.

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For the main fabric I used a white sateen that was laying around, and I stabilized it with Décor Bond. I then floated each onto cut away mesh stabilizer in my hoop. Next I cut it down to size, and backed it with a foam product (I don’t know the name or where I got it from, but it’s very similar to ByAnnie’s Soft’n’Stable) followed by another layer of the sateen.

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On my first attempt I tried to sew the layers together, turn it out and topstitch it – that did not work well, the foam was too thick.

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So I rearranged the layers and bound it with a very pretty batik I had just gotten – much better! All of them are the same, except the serger needle pad; I placed a large washer in the back so it would stick to the magnetic spot in my serger table. And there we are, custom needle pads!

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There’s a washer in there!

What to Do with Leftovers

What do you do with your leftovers and scraps? Generally, if I have enough left over for another project I hold onto them; but if it’s not enough or I don’t want to do another project with that fabric I cut it down into quilt blocks (if they’re cotton) or I just toss them.

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I recently made myself this lovely, rather luxurious robe from a terry velour, here from Vogue Fabrics, in this pattern from Butterick. There was a bit left over, not enough for anything much, but I wanted to play with some decorative threads I recently purchased for my serger – pearl crown rayon and décor 6 from Uncommon Thread. They were just enough though to make some nice face cloths for myself, and I got to play with fun thread!

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I used a three thread overlock narrow stitch, with pearl crown or décor 6 in both loopers, and a white polyester serger thread in the needle.

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What’s on the pockets? I tried out my Sashiko machine just to see what it would do on terry – turns out not much. It’s pretty fluffy fabric, so the Sashiko stitches get lost. But, that’s why we try out new things, to see what else we can do, what we can create next. What are your sewing plans for Spring?

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A tatami-style stitch with a topper helps keep the velour down and improves the stitch out

Quick Summer Project

It’s so hot outside – how about a quick embroidery project inside? I had some old, boring napkins lying around and decided to spruce them up a bit for next week’s holiday. An hour later and I have something “new” for my 4th of July table!

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This is a set of purchased napkins; had them for years, was considering getting rid of them. Then I thought, why not play around a bit? I chose a cute little hibiscus design (this one from Embroidery Library) that would be fun for summer.

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Where to put them on the napkins? I wanted all of them on the lower left corner, so I laid them out to make sure I had the correct position. If your napkins are square, this won’t matter so much. Mine are “hand woven” and were cut before washing so they shrunk into a rectangle.

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Let’s pick a color; it’s a hibiscus, so something bright – maybe one of these?

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Four napkins, four embroidery runs – how to make this quicker? Well if you have a large enough hoop and a small enough design, you can lay all four corners into one hooping and have a single run on your embroidery machine.

For these types of projects I like to use a product called wash-away tacky. I believe that’s a proprietary name for a Floriani product, but almost all stabilizer companies have a similar product. It’s a mesh, wash-away stabilizer that has a very sticky side. You could also use a similar product that lets you iron your stabilizer to the napkin, if your napkins are heat-safe. They usually come in wash-away and tear-away types.

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Here’s a tip: hoop your wash-away tacky, then peel off the paper backing – don’t try to peel off the paper and then hoop the stabilizer! You’ll have a stuck-together mess.

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I like to use a small cutting mat to help align multiple items; see how this stabilizer is translucent? I can line up my hoop, then lay down the individual pieces. No need to hoop the napkins, this stabilizer is pretty sticky. You want to overlap some, but not so much that your napkins will be stitched together.

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Now for your design: I have software that let’s me duplicate and rotate and then save it as a single design, but most embroidery machines have this function too. Just duplicate and rotate your design, and space it out enough so you don’t stitch through multiple napkins.

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If your machine is very new, it may even have a fancy camera so you can see just where your design will be!

Press start and watch your machine go – 40 minutes later mine was done.

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Now pull up your napkin from the stabilizer and cut very carefully around the design; you can leave a bit of a border to be safe. You can now rise out the remaining stabilizer, or be lazy like I am and just toss them into next week’s wash and wait to get the extra out.

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A note on stabilizer: I chose a wash away for this project because I had a light design that was going on a fairly stable and thick fabric. If you have a very heavy design, or you have very lightweight fabric you may want to use a leave in stabilizer instead.

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And here we have it – four “new” napkins for next week’s barbecue!



Refresh Your Sewing Room

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Definitely Time for a New Cover!

Here’s a quick way to brighten and refresh your sewing space – a new ironing board cover. Best of all, it takes less than an hour.

First, pick a fabric – I chose “Miss Scarlet” by Minick & Simpson for Moda – 100% cotton is best. For a wide variety of quality fabrics, try your local quilt shop (the ladies at QE are the best!) You’ll want enough yardage to cover the length of your board, plus extra for shrinkage and underlap. For example my board is 48″ long, so I purchased one and half yards. Then, wash your fabric really well on hottest water. Remember, you’ll be ironing and steaming on this fabric so you want to get all the shrinky-dinks and any color transfer out first. If you have a high heat cycle or hot water rinse, choose that; then dry on high heat.

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Don’t forget to save the cord…

Next press out your new fabric so it’s smooth and wrinkle free. Lay out your fabric in a single layer in a place where you have some room to work, your cutting table for instance. Then remove your old ironing board cover. Lay it out as flat as possible over your new fabric. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but make sure any motifs you want to show on your board are under the old cover. Now we’ll just cut out the new shape. This doesn’t have to be perfect, a rough cut is fine.

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Don’t forget to save your old cord; if you can’t then make sure you have enough new cord to go around the perimeter of your board. Now you have a new cover cut roughly to shape, a cord and you will also need one to two packages of double-fold bias tape – make your own or use pre-made, either is fine. My board is 48″ long by 18.5″ wide, so I need one and third packages.

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Now the sewing; I simply tuck the cord into the crease of the bias tape as I go around the edge of the fabric. No need for precision here, it’s just to encase the cord and the edge of the fabric. I pin the cord to the beginning of the bias tape to make sure it doesn’t slip out. Then, just sew all the way around.

When I get to the end of the tape, whether to add the next piece or finish it off, I just fold under the raw edge and overlap – no need to do any fancy sewing. Make sure you leave yourself a couple of inches of cord on either side of the opening so you can get a hold of the cord. Place the new cover on the board, smooth it into place then pull – pull tightly now! – and tie off your cord. Voilà – new ironing board ready for duty!

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