Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Have I Mentioned that I LOVE Disney?

Let the planning begin!! We've booked our trip for Disneyland in March!!! I'm SO excited! I'm kinda sorta geeking out a bit, too.

I love Disney. So much. It makes my heart happy. I'm pretty sure that my love affair began before I can remember. I watched The Magical World of Disney movies on Sunday nights. The Disney Channel was a dream come true. I recorded Mary Poppins, The Parent Trap, PollyAnna, and many more movies onto my beloved VHS tapes. I wore those things out! I started my own collection of Disney videos in college, with the help of the likes of BMG movie club. They really knew how to help a poor college girl build an obsessive collection of videos. My friends and I would have Disney movie nights in our dorm. We really knew how to party, wink, wink.

I have been fortunate enough to visit Disneyland 8 times, and Disney World once. (There's pretty funny story about the first time I "thought" I visited Disneyland. I'll have to dedicate a post just for that later.) I had a bit of a Disney slump in my my early 30's. Being married, raising 2 little ones (too young to appreciate Disney, at the time), and growing a business can do that do a girl. It all changed when we took Sweet Boy and Little Miss to Disneyland for the first time, 4 years ago. Through their eyes, my love was renewed.
Meeting The Mouse, himself!
My Sweet Boy meeting Rafiki for the first time.
The moment Little Miss fell in love with Minnie.  
Little Miss couldn't resist Pinocchio's nose. 
My Sweet Boy & The Castle. My Favorite.
This trip will be Baby Girl's first visit to The Happiest Place on Earth. She's already a huge Disney fan. I cannot wait to see her face when she walks into Disneyland. My in-laws are coming with us, as well. They are incredibly good to us. Sharing this trip with them will be fantastic. A good friend of mine will be there at the same time we are. Eeeek! I'm excited!

I'm still in the early stages of planning for this visit. We're all set with a hotel and park tickets - 5 Day Park Hoppers, baby!!! I've got some ideas for dining and visiting Downtown Disney. I'll be making lots of lists, I'm sure. I'm also planning on making some cute princess dresses for the girls, and tie-dying some shirts for everyone.

This post could get lengthy, so I'll stop, for now. I'll be back soon with more planning details, I'm sure. I'd love to know what your favorite, not-to-be-missed, rides and things to do in Disneyland are. I love reading your comments!!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Know Thy Machine

Hi Everyone! I'm the 23rd stop on the "Know Thy Machine" bog hop. This is such a fun hop to be a part of, and I hope you enjoy you stop here in my little world. Before I get started, I have to apologize. I missed my scheduled day for Monday Nov. 19th. I'm so sorry. I had my dates completely wrong, and didn't realize that I was a no-show. 

I'm going to be answering Shruti's questions about my handy dandy Juki TL98-Q. When you get the chance, make sure you hop back over to Shruti's Blog to see more bloggers and to have a chance to win some prizes.

Most of the time, you'll find me sewing on my Juki. I fondly refer to her as "Daisy". I do have other machines: a Bernina (solely used for decorative stitches), a Husqvarna serger, and an old Husqvarna Designer 1 embroidery machine. They each have their uses, but Daisy is my beast, my workhorse, and very reliable.

I grew up with my mom using industrial Jukis in her dress factory. As a little girl, learning to sew on one of those huge, and extremely fast, machines was like initiation by fire into the sewing world. I learned how to control it, and the sewist in me was born. 
Meet Daisy - She's a workhorse!
1. What machines do you have? Brand/model?
I mentioned it above, but no harm in saying it again. Mostly, I sew on my Juki.

2. Why did you buy this particular model?
Juki machines are a part of my sewing soul. For it's purpose, there is no other option for me. It only sews straight. I use it for all piecing, quilting and other sewing. It's strong, sturdy, requires little maintenence. Daisy does like to be oiled. I have to keep her pretty hydrated to keep her happy. Other than that, she's pretty low maintenence. Also, a new Juki (the TL2010Q) is less than $900, new. Jukis tend to be easy on the pocketbook.

3. What do you like about your machine? Have you named it? Have you made a cover for it?
I could go on an on about what I like about my machine. It pretty much rocks. As I mentioned, I named mine Daisy, but I haven't made a cover for her, yet.
Here are a few specific things, that as a sewist and quilter, I find to be very important features of the Juki:
  • One little thing about the Juki, that most don't know or realize the importance of, is that as the fabric is feeding through the foot and feed-dogs, the feed-dogs stop feeding when the needle is down. Most machines keep feeding while the needle goes up and down, which is necessary for machines that do decorative stitching. Because the Juki only sews straight, it feeds only when the needle is up. This makes it more powerful and makes for better stitching. Pretty cool, huh?

  • The Juki is perfect for quilters because the space around the needle is high. This lets you see in reverse, as you're quilting. SO smart!! The needle plate is a single needle hole, so your needle doesn't flex around inside the space. And, as your feeding any quilting or piecing projects, your fabric won't get sucked down into your machine.

Free-Motion detail from Maggie's String Quilt
4. Does your machine give you any problems? Can you tell us a few?
Overall, Daisy is a good girl. Most recently, the check-spring broke. It was an easy fix, less than $20, but she was in the hospital for 3 days. I had a lot of sewing to do, so it was just really bad timing. Otherwise, in the 5 years I've had her, she has only needed a couple of tune-ups and a new light bulb.

5. What do you sew on it, mainly? How much time do you spend sewing on it? What are the features of the machine that let you improve your work?
If it requires just a straight stitch, Daisy will get the job done. I make quilt tops, simple blankets, pillows, tote bags, cloth diapers, aprons, dresses and skirts for my girlies, and do free-motion quilting with Daisy. There are weeks that I will sew almost every day. I have lulls, too. I've been home from Quilt Market and Festival for two weeks now, and she's still resting in her storage bad. Sad, huh? I miss her.

I noted a couple of features of the Juki above. In addition to that, I like that when my needle is down, I can still raise my foot up to pivot, the thread tree is fantastic, and the shank of the foot is industrial, so it's tough and sturdy. 

I made this sweet little dress with Daisy
 6. What advice would you give others about which machine to buy?
Most often, I suggest that people take into consideration the main purpose of the machine, what their budget is, and whether or not someone nearby can service the machine correctly. Take your time, and make the best choice for yourself.

7. Will you share with us a special memory associated with your machine?
Of course!! When I was little, I used to sit on top of my mom's sewing machine table while she would sew (it was a big table). That made me feel close to her, safe. I loved the hum of the machine; I'm sure it lulled me to sleep as a baby. As a mom, I love that my kids are finding their own love for sewing, and appreciate what I make for them. In the picture below, my daughter was quilting part of a sleeping bag for her stuffed animal. My husband, my son, my daughter and I all did a little quilting on it. Now. that little sleeping bag is a special family heirloom.
My Little Miss - A Quilter in Training
8. If you had unlimited resources in the world, which machine would you choose to buy and why?
I'd keep my Juki TL98-Q, of course, and add a Juki Exceed, for decorative stitches, and the new Juki longarm machine. I'd love a new embroidery machine, so I'd invest in a fancy one of those. Maybe a Brother, Janome or Bernina.

Thank you for visiting!! I hope you come by again soon.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

String Quilt Block: A Foundation Piecing Tutorial

String quilts are pretty fantastic. They're so much fun to make, a great way to use up scraps, and can help build a lot of confidence if you're just beginning to learn to piece and quilt.

How to make a string quilt isn't new, and there are lots of other great tutorials out there. I learned how to make my first one from a blog I adore: Film in the Fridge.

I use a similar foundation piecing, aka paper piecing, technique, except for one VERY important part that I changed. I don't use paper. Are you shocked? Well, not regular paper, anyway. I use the same  applique foundation that I use for my turned edge applique. Which means, NO tearing the paper off at the end. Once you trim your block square, you're done! When your quilt is complete, and washed, the fibers of the foundation bury themselves in the batting, and your quilt is soft and wonderful.
I think you're going to love doing string quilt blocks this way.
Are you ready for some paperless paper piecing (as my mama fondly calls it)??

First, collect all of the supplies that you'll need:
Fabric (for this, I used Lilly Belle by Bari J. It's SO purty!)
Basting Glue with a fine tip (You can find the tips {here})
Elmer's Washable School Glue Stick
Rotary Rulers and Cutter
Hot, dry iron (no steam)
Sewing Machine

I'd like to tell you a little bit more about the foundation paper that I'm using. It's a product that my mom, Sharon Schamber, and I have been using for machine applique for many many years. It has helped change how many appliquers do their work. Those who use our technique have more accuracy, work with ease, and don't have to cut out the back of their applique pieces to remove other types of foundations. This foundation simply stays in the applique piece.

Most string quilt tutorials, that I've seen, use printer or scrapbook paper as the foundation paper. There is a downnfall: it all has to be torn away before you can piece the blocks together. I hate tearing the paper away. It can take a lot of time. Also, you always run the risk of distorting your blocks when you tear the paper away from the seams. Using this foundation paper eliminates tearing it away. It stays in, which helps keep your block measurements more accurate, and helps you finish faster. I love efficiency!! After you wash your quilt, the foundation becomes soft, and the fibers blend in with the batting. Oh, and it's really easy to quilt over! Bonus!!

Now you can cut your foundation paper to size. You can really go with any size block, for string quilt blocks. I've seen amazing 12" blocks, and super cute 6" blocks. I'm using a 9" block, here.

Next, cut up some strips of fabric: multiples of 1", 1.25", 1.5", 1.75, 2", and maybe even 2.25" strips. There's a lot of flexibility here to be super scrappy, or to plan out the color order of the strips in the blocks. This, of course depends on you and your personality.

In addition, you'll need 1" strips of your center stripe color (you can make them wider, of course). I chose white for mine, but you can easily go with any color you wish.

Can I just tell you how amazingly soft and lucsious Bari J's Lilly Belle is?
Good quality fabrics make a huge difference. They can make your projects look better, and make them more fun to make (and finish, lol).

Once your strips are cut, take one of your white ones, and measure it along the diagonal center of one of the pieces of foundation paper. Trim it about an inch too long on each end. You can go ahead and cut all of your white strips this same length, as their length won't change.

Now, glue it on down. I use Elmer's Washable School Glue sticks. They start out purple, and turn clear when dry. By far, they are my favorite anytime I need a glue stick for any quilting or sewing project.

Heat set it with a hot, dry iron. With this glue stick, you'll see a bit of purple show through the strip. No worries though, it will be clear once it cools off.

Are you ready for my next little twist??
More glue!!!!
I rarely use pins when I piece, whether it's regular piecing or foundation piecing. I prefer using Elmer's Washable School Glue as a basting glue. I attach a fine tip to the top, apply the glue and heat set it. It works like a charm! Everything stays where it's supposed to, and there's no shifting when I sew them up. Also, I drastically reduce the risk of poking myself with pins, or sewing over them and breaking a needle on my sewing machine. I think you'll really like this way of piecing, without pins.
**Heat-setting is VERY important. It stabilizes the fabrics, and the glue won't gum up your needle.**

Apply a line of glue close to the edge of your white strip. Carefully place your first strip on top of the white one, right sides together. Be sure align the edges of both strips. See how the glue is on th edge of the fabric, and not really on the sewing/seam line? 

Heat set the glue with your dry iron.
Sew it on up! Use a 1/4" seam allowance. Often with foundation piecing, you have to reduce your stitch length so you can tear the paper away more easily (hopefully). No need here. You can keep your usual stitch length. I like 2-2.5.

Press the strip open with a dry iron. Apply another line of glue to the edge of the strip, align the next fabric strip, right sides together, heat set, sew, and press open. Repeat the process with the rest of your strips, to fill up the entire piece of foundation paper. Remember to heat set your glue! This makes all the difference in the world.

Oh! It's soooooo pretty!!

Now you're ready to trim it up. Use your ruler and cutter to cut right along the edge of the foundtion paper, while keeping the same block measurement that you started with.

Now that it's all trimmed up, it's ready for a bigger and better project. I have something in mind for this little beauty. I'm sure it'll be up on the blog soon!

You can stop here, with that block, and continue making more string quilt blocks.

This technique is also great for chain piecing. You can easily prep multiple blocks, and their strips, and sew a bunch up at a time. Also, once you get beyond the first two or three strips, you can prep the strips on both sides of the white stripe, at the same time. Glue the next strip on the right side, then the next on the left, heat set, then sew them up.

I really hope you enjoy this technique, and share it with your friends. I love sharing my little tricks and tips, and am always here to help.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Making Tie-dyed Shapes: Tutorial

In my former life, I taught arts and crafts to kiddos, at summer day camps and sleep-away camps. I taught tie-dying, basket weaving, sewing, and other fun crafty stuff. Now I get to use my skills for fun projects with my own kiddos. 

Fun, bright, tie-dyed shirts, with shapes in the center (or anywhere!), were always a big hit with everyone. They seem hard to make, like they take some sort of super-human tie-dying skillz, but really, they don't. Here's my little (haha) tutorial (warning, it's VERY picture heavy), to guide you through making some fun shirts for your kids, you, or anyone you like enough to
make a super cool shirt for.

First, decide on a shape or design to trace on the shirt. The simpler, the better. My kids wanted Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter's scar. (sorry, I don't have a link for the scar, but you can draw one, or Google it.) Cut it out, and get the rest of your stuff ready:
needle, thread, pencil, rubber bands, soda ash, big bowl of water

Next, trace your shape, with a pencil onto your shirt.

Thread your needle, and tie a nice strong knot at the end. I double up my thread, to keep it from slipping off the needle, and it's a bit stronger. Start sewing along your traced line with a running stitch. Sew all around your shape.

When you get to where you started, start to slowly pull your thread to gather it all together, nice and tight.

Tie off the end with a really strong knot. This is how the gathering should look.

Once you get all the shirts sewn, that you're going to tie dye, they need to soak in a mixture of soda ash and water (1c soda ash to 1gal water). Please don't skip this step. It makes the dye react to the fibers of the fabric to make the dye more permanent. Pool supply stores often have it, if you don't want to order a bunch online. If you have a pool, you might have some sitting on a shelf.

Let it soak for an hour or so. Wring out the excess and get ready to do some dying!!

Okay, here comes the fun part! Dying!!
Here's what you'll need:
powdered dye, urea, bottles, rubber bands, gloves, old rags, prepped shirts (they should be wet)
I buy all of my dying supplies from Dharma Trading Co, online.
They have a great starter kits, too.

Prep all of your dyes, in the bottles, according to the manufacturer's instructions. The urea is used when mixing the powdered dye and water in the bottle. It helps keep the colors nice and bright. We don't want all of our hard work to fade away with a couple of washes.

Wrap a rubber band right along/just below the gathered stitching line. Wrap it nice and tight. Continue wrapping rubber bands along the length of the shirt. Space them out, how you'd like.

If you've got a cute little helper sitting around, ask him to join in. Zip-lock sandwich bags worked great as gloves for him.

Pull out a length of plastic wrap, then lay an old rag and your prepped shirt on top of it.

Pick your first color. Little Miss chose fuschia for Mickey's head. Gently sqeeze the dye to saturate the area. Poke the tip of the bottle in between the folds to make sure you get it in all
of the cracks and crevices.

Continue dying the rest of the sectioned areas with the colors of your choice. Remember to poke the tip of the bottle into the folds of the shirt, and squeeze some dye in there. Otherwise, you'll end up with big areas with no dye.
After it's been saturated with dye, remove the rag, and place the shirt on top of the saran wrap.

Wrap it up like a little tye-dyed burrito.

Place your colorful little burrito in a ziplock bag and leave it alone for 24 hours. This time is very important. The dye needs time to set. If you skip this step, your shirt will fade. We don't want that. The brighter, the better!

Remember to wear your own gloves, or your hands may suffer the same fate as mine.

24 hours later...
Go ahead and take your shirt out of it's burrito, and put it under warm running water. Rinse it under the water, letting the water soak in, then squishing it out, rinse, repeat. Do this, with the rubber bands on, until the water runs mostly clear. Turn the water to cold, and continue to rinse until the water runs completely clear.

Go ahead and remove the rubber bands.

And now for the best part! Very very carefully snip one of the knots at the end of the thread. Gently pull the thread out. And... TADA!!!!! 

After you have all of your shirts rinsed, and the threads removed, it's time to do a final wash.
In your regular washer (top or front loader, it doesn't matter), wash your shirts on warm with the detergent of your choice. I do an extra cold rinse. It just makes me feel better. If you see any color in the water or suds, give it another go in the washer. Dry on medium to high heat.

If your kids didn't already think you were the coolest, they will now!
Enjoy your new shirts! My kiddos love their's and wear them as often as possible!
I think the Mickeys need some extra bling, though.
Maybe some heat-fix crystals? I think, yes!

Hindsight is 20/20, right?
When I do this next time, I'l make sure to get extra dye in the folds of the shirts that the boy worked on. He did all the dying for his sister's shirts, and, as you can see, a few areas are lacking some color.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Blank Slate. A Fresh Start.

It's a little empty, isn't it? Not much is here yet, but I'm pretty sure that will change.

I had grand plans for having an amazing design done for the blog. It's on my list of things to do, but it will be later, rather than sooner. My "plan" was holding me back from just jumping in and getting started (not unheard of for me, which is something I'm working on), so I decided to jump right in, instead. That was a hard decision for me. I generally follow my "plans", but I decided to throw it out the window (for now) and just get started. So here we go...

Sewing is a part of who I am. I come by it honestly. My mom started her own bridal designing and manufacturing company when I was teeny tiny. The hum of her industrial Juki lulled me to sleep. Her dress mannequin, fondly known as Bertha, wore the most beautiful gowns. And, often fashioned lovely dresses made of random scraps of tulle, taffeta, satin and organza that I pinned right to her.

I stepped on my fair share of straight pins buried in our avocado green shag carpet, wore some pretty fantastic dresses as a little girl (yes, there are pictures), and had handmade "Cabbage Patch Dolls" when we couldn't afford the real thing. By her example, my mom has been my guide, taught me, and shaped my life.

I can't wait to share more with you, maybe tell some stories, share some pics of all the handmade love that my mom created for me. This blog is going to become a fun, and very special place for all of us. Tutorials on quilting, sewing and other fun stuff will be coming soon. And I'm sure I'll throw in some pictures of my hubby and 3 kiddos, too. They are pretty darn cute.

Okay, I can't wait. Here are my girlies. They're wearing skirts I made for them. They think they are modeling for something much more important than this little blog, I'm sure.
Baby Girl and Little Miss
Well, if I show off the girls, I have to show off my boy. Just look at that face!
My Sweet Boy
I'll be back soon!