Another Wall Hanging Done

I couldn’t back up far enough to get it all in the frame; I’ll have to update the photo after I install it.

I’ve finished my latest (big) embroidery project, the Golden Tapestry by Anita Goodesign. I talked a bit about it here, as well as in a few other posts with embroidery tips.

I have to say, I always forget how much there is to these projects; not to discourage anyone from doing them, but it’s not just the machine embroidery time! I usually forget to consider assembling the blocks, assembling any sashing or borders, then there’s the backing, which gets quilted down, then the binding to finish. And in this case, the blinging – which I was itching to do, so it just made all the other steps seem longer!

All set up for hand sewing – and Midsomer Murders in the DVD player too!
A hangit Dang it, the largest size, checking the position of my sleeves

How long was that exactly? The run time on the machine itself was about 60 hours. The construction, backing and binding was another 4.5 hours, and decorating it was another 4 hours – about 220 individual rhinestones. Many of those were tiny, and could be applied a few at a time, but the majority were larger – 4mm and up, so they can only be put on individually. All told, about 70 hours give or take.

A close up of the some of the bling

It is large, about 64 by 52 if I recall. I’m using a Hang it Dang it, which means a hanging sleeve. The Hang it Dang it website recommends a full length sleeve, but I find the clip on the back caused a bubble, and I use a split sleeve instead. The sleeve has to be put on by hand, so a good ninety minutes for that – thank goodness British murder mystery episodes are just about that long!

The Finished Skirt

Just for you, Samina! The skirt is finished, and was super comfy to wear on my recent vacation – no, no photos – sorry! I didn’t bring my camera, and I don’t think to take them with my phone.

It has pockets of course…

But here it is, finished. It’s that same ol’ Kwik Sew 3877. But wait, that’s not an elastic waist pattern you say? You are correct. I converted it to an elasticized waist, and very easily too. The first thing is to make sure your pattern has a waist band, so you have someplace to put the elastic.

It is hard to see, but I topstitched in the ditch

Then, leave the darts out; make up a muslin or baste your skirt together, and make sure you can get it over the widest part of your body – for me, the hips. Extend your waistband to match the new waistline circumference, then instead of sewing in a zipper, just sew up all the seams. If your waist isn’t smaller (or smaller enough) than your hips to pull it up, you’ll need to add some width. You can probably do it at either the center front or back, or at the sides – or a little bit all over, I don’t think it matters much where for most people.

Getting the length of the elastic can be a bit tricky; my skirt was a bit loose so I shortened the elastic by an inch and half when I got home. It stayed up fine before that, I just couldn’t put anything heavy in my pockets or it would get dragged down.

I used the serger to finish all the edges, then topstitched the waistband on my sewing machine, and did a blind hem which disappears beautifully in this scuba knit. It was a roll end I got from Mr. Halpern a couple of years ago, so no longer available I’m afraid.

See you here next time and happy sewing!

Lumps and Bumps

Sometimes we have a fabric that we want to treat a little more delicately; or sometimes, we just don’t know what it is, and don’t want to take any chances. That was the case for this particular fabric, a French scuba knit I recently used to make a skirt.

I washed it on delicate, then hung it on the line to dry – which in this case, is actually a garment rack. The garment rack pole isn’t entirely smooth though, so while drying it stretched out a bit and caused a lump in the fabric. Not to worry! Many fabrics can be put back into shape with a bit of low steam; a silk or wool setting is usually gentle enough.

Here it is after – smooth!

Another tip this fabric brings up; it was a roll end, and fabric can, especially when it’s a knit, get rolled off-grain when put onto a tube or bolt. By the time you get to the end, it can be very uneven, especially after you wash it and the fibers snap back into position.

When you lay out your pattern, remember to accommodate those uneven edges – check both sides of the fabric before cutting!

Not Enough Fabric?

Here’s a tip for when you don’t have quite as much fabric as you need! See if there’s some way to adjust the pattern.

I didn’t think I’d have enough to get sleeves

You can of course, just choose a different pattern, but I really wanted to make this top in this fabric, so I reduced the cowl overlap. All of that extra is really just to give weight to the cowl so it hangs nicely, and also partly so the edge doesn’t show – especially with this particular pattern, which doesn’t instruct you to finish the cowl edge (but you could of course, you are making it after all!)

I folded back the extra for the cowl so I had room for the sleeve pattern piece

In the end I wound up not needing to save; the overall top was too long, as were the sleeves. Here’s the “finished again” top on the right, with shortened bodice and sleeves, and with both sides taken in by one inch – much nicer looking! (Except for the wrinkles….)

How I Got All of That Done…

Hi! You may have seen the recent blog post I did for Roz over at Sew Much Fabric; a couple of people wanted to know how I got so much sewn all at once! That’s eleven pieces I got done, in just about 10 weeks.

I’m having trouble myself believing I got all this done!

The answer is – I did it in steps. And a lot of planning….

First step – what do I need, and how best to get it? Roz suggested simple TNT patterns with familiar fabrics so the process would be pretty painless. To the pattern stash Robin!

Second step – selecting all the fabrics. Everything was in my stash, save the cotton lawn for the two-piece dress, and the yellow knit. So those were ordered, along with any notions like matching thread that I needed.

Third step – prepping all the fabrics. A few were pre-washed, most weren’t. But they all went into the washer, and most of them went into the dryer, so not a lot of ironing or line drying.

Next – cutting it all out! Since many were the same patterns and similar fabrics, it was easy to layout, cut out, then load up the next fabric on my cutting table.

Afterwards, sewing! I used my serger as much as I could. In fact, the tees were all done on the serger and coverstitch, and even the skirts were all done on the serger, except for a bit of hand sewing and waistline topstitching (did you know you can do a blind hem on your serger? Yup…) Same for the pant and shirts; serged seams, then “faux-felled” with topstitching on the sewing machine.

The only exception to all this speed and coordination was the butterfly blouse; it was new, the pattern was a bit of a puzzle, and I thought it might frustrate me. (Which it did; I haven’t gotten cranky and teary-eyed over a pattern in a long time.) I started it early on, went slowly, took my time, then took a one week break from it all so I could get back in a good place to finish the remaining sewing.

And now, I’ve got all my sewing done, I can relax and make myself some matching travel bags for shoes, my shave kit, perhaps even more hair scrunchies for the beach!

Happy Fall!

Or last of the summer sewing, however you’d like. It’s hard to accept today is the first day of fall, because here in Houston we’ll be pushing 100 for a high, and will be close to breaking record highs later in the week (which is really sad to think about, because the record highs were in the 100’s – in September – which is just, wow.)

I’ll be going to the beach with my grand-nephew soon, and since he’s eight that means playing in the sand and water. I wanted a coverup that would be easy to wear, and get on and off, especially over a wet swimsuit. I thought a two-piece would be nice, so I pulled out Kwik Sew 3203. It’s nothing to look at – about as boring a pattern photo as you could pick. But with a pull-on pant and pull over tunic, it was just what I needed. A quick note on pattern alterations: the sleeve and pant leg both taper; I changed them to be straight because I thought getting them on over damp skin would be easier. This gives the sleeve and pant a very box look, but the fabrics are so lightweight, it doesn’t affect them much.

I used a cotton double gauze from Roz of Sew Much Fabric for the pant, and a printed voile (?) lawn (?) from my stash for the top. I don’t remember from where or when I got it, I just remember thinking it was acceptable for pink, and then when I washed it, the pink ran into the white, so now it’s two shades of pink… yeah, I should use color catchers more. Again, both fabrics are very lightweight, and will dry very quickly too while wearing.

The printed fabric doesn’t need any embellishment, but plain white pants needed something, so I embroidered all over them! I picked a variegated thread that matched the colors from the top, and chose a nice tropical feeling design. Only problem was, I couldn’t decide which design I wanted, so I did all five. These designs are in-machine on my Solaris, but if you have a newer Baby Lock (and I think Brother) embroidery machine, you’ll probably have them too. The designs are of hibiscus and anthuriums, birds of paradise and one other plant whose name I can’t remember.

Embroidering on the gauze was actually very easy; choose a lightweight pattern and use a sticky wash away. I didn’t even use a topper, but you could if you wanted to be careful. My sample turned out really well though, so I didn’t feel I needed one.

If you want a heavier design, you’ll need a permanent stabilizer, like heavy weight cut away, that is left in after embroidery. But this will leave a very lightweight fabric with very stiff areas which might make wearing the garment unpleasant. Don’t forget to save your fabric scraps for hair accessories! Your metal barrettes and combs will not thank you to be in salt water (or chlorinated pool water for that matter.) So do yourself a few headbands and scrunchies while you’re at the machine. There are many, many tutorials online for those.

Fixing Block Bubbles

When you’re making blocks in the hoop, whether for a wall hanging, a quilt, or really any composite project, the regular order of operations is: stitch a placement line, place then trim batting, place background fabric, then stitch out the design.

I’m not too worried about this bubble, since the project is for my own home and won’t be terribly noticable when it’s in place at the top of a tall wall.

Sometimes the batting has enough “grab” to hold the background fabric, sometimes not; the photo above is what can happen.

To fix that, you have a couple of options: the first is tape. There are several embroidery-specific tapes, like OESD’s Expert Embroidery Tearaway Tape or Floriani’s Pick Perfection Tape. And some like to use paper medical tape or low-tack painter’s tape. I like OESD’s when I use a tape in embroidery, either their tear away or their wash away. Depending on the weight of the fabric and the density of the stitches, you may need a little or a lot of tape.

For keeping background fabric in place on embroidered blocks though, I prefer a second option: adhesive spray. It can be a bit messy, but I’ve done it enough that I can get sufficient adhesive on the back of the fabric without too much over-spray. I like it because it’s quick, I don’t have to worry about placement – not getting it under any stitching – and I don’t have to remove anything afterwards.

This happens to be my favorite brand, but there are many options out there; try your local quilt shop if your embroidery store doesn’t carry any.

In case you forgot to use either of the above options, here’s what you can do (if you catch it before your main design stitches out, that is.)

Forgot to put the sticky stuff, so the fabric bunched up

Flip the hoop over. I learned early on from a dealer that embroidery stitches are easier to remove by cutting the bobbin thread first. Clip the bobbin thread in several places, with either tiny scissors or a seam ripper. Be careful not to puncture the stabilizer.

You probably only need to clip the outer line of stitching that’s holding the background fabric. Depending on your design, it may be different.
Tweezers can help with the little bits of thread left.

Flip the hoop back to right side up. If you clipped enough bobbin stitches, the placement/ tack down thread should pull right up. Realign your background fabric, adhere with your preferred method, and go back to work.

See you here next time!

Marking Blocks

Many embroidery projects are composed of multiple blocks – like my current project, Golden Tapestry by Anita Goodesign. The blocks often need to be trimmed down to the same seam allowance. This makes assembly easier; if all the bocks have a ½ inch or ¼ inch or whichever measurement you like seam allowance, then you can sail through and chain-piece your blocks.

The extra stabilizer and fabric needs to be removed from the edges

Sometimes though the project fabric makes it difficult to see the outer border of the block. With this dark fabric, I’m using white chalk to mark the corners; now I can see through the ruler. It may not show up well in the photo, but it’s much easier to see in person.

A simple thing, I know, but sometimes we forget to do these simple things to make our lives easier – ask me how many blocks I tried to trim before I thought of marking them! Too many….

See you here next time!

Bobbin Cleaning

Well I thought I was all set on auto pilot for the past month with my blog posts; unfortunately, technology continues to elude me. As you may know, I injured (or rather, re-injured) myself a couple of months ago, and after several weeks rest I started physio, as the British call it (I watched a lot of British shows during aforementioned rest…) Since I was going to be on a sewing hiatus, I wrote up and (so I thought) posted for future publication a few quick tips on embroidery. But nothing was posting, and I didn’t notice until this week – oops.

But here there are now, in rapid succession, starting with cleaning your bobbin case…. See you here again soon!

The picture’s a bit blurry, but you can see how ragged the edge of the satin stitch looks.

If your embroidery designs are getting a little long in the bobbin stitches, i.e., lots of bobbin thread is showing on top, it’s probably time to clean your bobbin case. As far as I know, all multi-needles come with a vertical bobbin – the kind all machines used to have. The bobbin case looks like this:

It’s a quick and simple fix; take piece of stiff paper (I’m using the corner of a piece of tearaway stabilizer), and run it under the little spring that holds the thread down.

That’s it! Doesn’t look like much, does it? But that tiny bit of build-up stops the spring from keeping tension on the thread, thus allowing the bobbin thread to get pulled to the top side. While you have it out, you might want to run a cotton swab around the inside of the case too, just to pick up any bits of threads or lint.

If you were stitching a satin stich as I am here, you can just back up your machine and stitch right over it, no problem. See, looks much better now! In fact, most stiches will be fine if you go back over them, just make sure to clip any loopy threads or nests on either side of the fabric before stitching over it again. You can of course, remove any previous stitching instead.

A Cautionary Tale Regarding Dye Lots

Well not much of a tale, but a bit of a gripe and some mild self-kicking, and advocacy for buying “the fabric” when you see it…

I’m planning my next home décor project, which is this – Golden Tapestry by Anita Goodesign. I spent time in January and February auditioning many different color and fabric combinations, and decided on – wait for it – navy blue and gold silk dupioni, ha.

Sadly I won’t be able to use my sample blocks in my project, darn.

But the navy blue and gold I sampled is not the navy blue and gold that was available this week when I ordered. In the case of the navy, it was a matter of dye lot, which as anyone who has worked with fabric in any way can tell you, can vary wildly depending on the quality of the manufacturing process.

There’s not enough left of the samples to do the whole project

As for the gold, it was a matter of product change; I didn’t notice when, under My Account and Previous Orders, I clicked on the link of my previous purchase, I was taken to a page with the label “New” at the top. So even though I thought I was ensuring that I was getting the same product, the store changed the link on me. Curses. It’s not really the store’s fault; I didn’t notice, and they couldn’t get the same item anymore (I’m assuming), thus the “new” label.

All of which is to say, or rather encourage you, to buy it when you see it! Especially when you’re doing a big project like this and are making samples with specific fabrics and threads.

I guess they match well enough, but I’m none too happy