Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Resize a Sweatshirt

I will not be blogging until January.  We all need a break!  I will be enjoying the Christmas festivities with two of my daughters and their families...and their dogs.

I have only one sewing project that I hope to get done.  I got a really pretty sweatshirt for Christmas last year.  As soon as I tried it on I knew it was a little too small.  I like my sweatshirts roomy enough to wear a long sleeved T-shirt underneath on cold winter days.  After one round with the washing machine I knew I could not wear it.  What to do?  I really like the sweatshsirt.  My daughter had the answer because she solved the same problem with a fleece jacket she had purchased.

First stop:  Joanne's where I picked up a yard of heavy, cotton knit in a suitable color.

TIP:  Be sure to check which way has the most stretch so it works with the sweatshirt.  One direction is more stretchy than the other.  Same with fleece.  Make your cuts thoughtfully.

My plan is as follows:

1.  Cut away the underarm seam through the waist ribbing to 2 inches above the sleeve cuff leaving the cuff ribbing intact.

2.  Two to three inches above the cuff cut the sleeve all the way across its width and insert 1 inch of the new fabric, thus lengthening the sleeve by that inch.

3.  Insert a 2 inch strip of new fabric into the long underarm seam, tapering above the cuff.  This will increase the width around the sweatshirt to accommodate Christmas dinner and holiday baking.  There will be an interruption in the ribbing at the hipline, but for me that will be a plus.  If I don't like that part I may be able to find some ribbing that will work or taper the seam and restitch the ribbing seam.  Not that great an issue.  I'll wait to see how it works before making a final decision.

Sweatshirt and my canine supervisor, Dixie.
 Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to get your mending done.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Reading or Sewing?

I love my sewing magazines.  They are a source of information, ideas and colorful pictures of other peoples' art.  I get three that lean mostly toward art quilting where I get to see what the supremely talented sewers are creating.  They are my creative stimulation.  I also get some other magazines that provide intellectual stimulation. "Archeology" has many designs from ancient cultures as will as great articles about them.  Mosaics are just quilts in stone.   Love them all.

Unfortunately I don't have room to store them and I have found that when I keep the whole magazine I never know where to find the article for which I am looking.  Sometimes I read a magazine and keep it for two or three months, then go through it again.  Ultimately they are all destined for the recycling bin, but not before I cannibalize them, pulling out articles that I believe I will at least look at again.  I staple an article together in one corner and slip it into a plastic sleeve that goes into a three ring binder.  They are readily available when I am in need of instruction or inspiration.

I also keep a library of books, but rarely buy a new one.  I try to read through a potentially helpful or interesting-sounding book from the library before I buy it.  I have been very glad I did on several occasions when the title was tempting, but the contents did not live up its promise.  Actually, I have donated quite a few of mine to the local library for their book sale.  Some techniques no longer interest me or have gone out of date with the arrival of new methods and tools.

TIP:  There is no point cluttering up your space with things you never use anymore, especially when you work in limited space.

What did we do without the Internet?  There is so much out there to admire and learn.  I have paid for a few Craftsy classes and am not averse to viewing some of the many YouTube productions.  I have learned a lot, incorporated some and discarded others.

A favorite, which I have watched often without cluttering up my sewing room.
So, which do you prefer:  sewing or reading?  For me it is no contest.  I love to read for pleasure and education.  I love to sew just about anything.  I learned to do both in first grade.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the opportunity to read about something new to you.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Walking on the beach, almost dumped by a wave, seeing dear relatives, eating an awesome Thanksgiving dinner, seeing grandkids, hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, driving across the Mojave Nat'l Preserve, 300 miles of gridlock north of Las Vegas, enjoying the red rock canyon of Moab, returning home to our Dixie dog and the mountains (even if they are hiding in the fog). Wonderful memories and lots of pictures.

Joshua trees - a variety of yucca!
Piles of eroded rock in Joshua Tree National Park.
Monumental hunk of red rock.

Colorado River and the red cliffs of Moab, UT.
I haven't gotten back to sewing yet, but will tomorrow.  DH ran over to our storage and brought home a styrofoam board to put behind my design wall, which is currently the backside of a tablecloth. I decided I would like to be able to put my paper-pieced blocks up by sticking a pin through them.  They won't stick to the flannel with paper on the back.  With styrofoam in back I will have the best of both worlds.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to energize in the midst of the coming holiday chaos.

Monday, November 20, 2017


Best wishes to all for a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

Eat heartily and enjoy your family and friends.

Have fun!

Sew some happy seams this week if you have time.  I wish you a time of fellowship, love and gratitude.

Monday, November 13, 2017


Is there really a word or concept such as "cross-learning?"  I don't know, but sometimes I get creative with words as well as fabric.  What I mean is that you may learn a new technique and then decide that it is not for you.  When you move on to a new project you suddenly realize that something you learned in the discarded technique will be helpful now.

The quilt I am re-working has lots of seams and points that require matching and/or aligning.  This is tedious and often requires post-stitching adjustments, which are a nuisance, so I made a proactive, minor adjustment.  Below is the original pattern:

Six points to bring together perfectly.  Urggggggh!
Notice that six points come together in the center.  This can be a challenge, and with the high contrast any displacement will be noticeable to the eagle eye of a judge.  I changed the the pattern so that the larger triangles on top are combined and cut as one big one.  The two bottom parts are stitched together and the single, big triangle is added last.
One single triangle.  Now to put it onto the bottom pieces.
This is where my experience with paperless paper piecing comes in.  I folded the seam allowance over heat resistant plastic, painted starch on the fold and then ironed.  This provides a straight, crisp fold.  In the photo below it doesn't look very straight because the heat-resistant plastic warps a bit up and down, but the edge actually remains straight.  I had to stick pins through the plastic to hold it steady as I couldn't manage to hold it, turn the seam allowance and paint all at the same time with acceptable results.  I only have two hands!

TIP:  Try cork board under your ironing board cover.  This is where it is extremely useful.

Folding the seam allowance.
Next I laid the triangle right side up on the lower part of the block (also right side up), aligned the crisp fold carefully so no points had cut-off tips.  Then I squeezed a little clear Elmer's glue in the seam allowance and pressed.

Pinned in place ready to glue and press.
After pressing I opened up the big triangle and stitched along the seaming crease.  Perfect every time!  This saved time, curse words, hair pulling and un-stitching.  The crease you see in the triangle from tip to bottom assisted in matching the center of the triangle to the center seam of bottom piece.

Creases help in the attempt of achieving perfection.
TIP:  I had to stitch in the crease over several layers of fabric in some places.  I found that a stylus helped me to stay in the ditch of the crease as well as kept the seam allowance from rumpling up under the needle.

TIP:  I know I sound a bit OC (obsessive-compulsive).  I'm not, but I make every quilt as though it is going to be shown.  If you are interested in showing a quilt and maybe winning a prize you must start at the very beginning by being as fussy as possible, and that means perfect points.

Stitching all done:

All it needs now is to have the edges trimmed.
This is a perfect example of a part of a discarded technique being used to good advantage elsewhere.  It is amazing how the little things you learn along the way can help solve future problems.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the opportunity to combine techniques for a satisfying outcome.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Stitching Away

Progress on the second incarnation of my quilt is going beautifully.  Happy dance!!  I took time to figure out how many of each kind of block I need.  There are three end pieces on the pattern that are different colors so every block is not quite the same.  Having a plan to do a bunch that are the same is speeding up the process.  Chain stitching with paper piecing does not work for me, but doing several  blocks that are alike helps in the efficiency department.  Today there are no problems to address and no photos of any interest.

I mentioned a while back that I make birthday and graduation cards for my grandchildren with photos of them.  I use Photoshop to create collages.  Reports are that the kids love them so that is gratifying.  One of my readers expressed interest in my cards so I will use today's blog to share some.  I know, they have nothing to do with sewing, but they have everything to do with creating.  I get antsy when I don't have anything creative going on.  The cards are each printed on half of an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of card stock and are folded in half.  Below you can see the front and back.  On the other side of the paper (the inside of the card not shown here) are a couple more photos and a personal note.

Sew some happy seams today.  I wish you time to spend with your family.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Revisiting Paper Piecing...Again

I am back on familiar ground as I begin making the blocks for a new start on the quilt I designed months ago.  The paperless paper piecing did not give me the precision that I was expecting and I was not happy with the result (scroll down to read my last two posts).  I have now stitched up several half-blocks with Sulky Paper Solvy and I love how they look.  I have not sewn any of the half-squares together yet to yield full squares, but I don't anticipate any problems since I made triangular blocks for each corner with the paper method and they look great.

When I have paper pieced before I have cut the fabric in long strips and just worked along them, slicing, dicing and stitching as I went.  Sometimes this involved a little guesswork as to where to cut.  Other times I would fail to cover the outline of the paper, which meant I had to rip and replace.  There was a fair amount of waste.  This time I spent two hours cutting out the fabric pieces and arranging them in labelled piles.  Just cutting economically limited waste significantly.  There was also very little fabric lost in trimming during the stitching process.

What about time?  With the pieces already cut for both the paperless and the paper methods the time spent came out in favor of the paper method.  With paperless, I still had to stitch the seams.  With paper I still have to remove the paper.  All in all about even, I think.  I use Sulky Paper Solvy, which is water soluble so tearing out the paper is optional.  I like to get it out, but I don't worry about getting each and every tiny piece.

BTW the "bad" quilt top, which was stiff and icky after a 2-hour soak came out soft and nice after 30 minutes in the washing machine with the normal amount of soap.  I will use it later, cut it up (no seam ripping) and stitch it into a new quilt.

TIP:  When cutting pattern pieces you can cut rough.  The cut pieces should mimic the pattern piece with a tiny bit extra, but do not have to be precisely in line with the edges.  Any extra will be trimmed as you go.

TIP:  It is nice to work with batik because you can use either side of the fabric.  If the pattern calls for an odd shape you can use it on one block or turn it over for the mirror image block.  That's called 'mistake reduction.'

TIP:  The secret to precise paper piecing is the pressing of each and every seam.  Don't use an iron because the paper gets scorched and brittle; same with the fingers.  Instead use a small roller or a point-to-point turner, both made by Clover (or how about a spoon?), to press each seam completely back over the stitching each and every time before you add the next piece.

There is nothing photogenic going on this week in my workroom so I will share some of the photos that I have put on Facebook for a black and white challenge.  A black and white photo must have significant value variation to be interesting.  Black, grey and white express the values that are so important in making quilts, even your most colorful ones.   In this day of digital expression you can take a photo of your chosen fabrics, then turn it into a black and white photo in an editing program to make sure your quilt has some dark/black, medium and very light/white fabrics.

In the Olympic Mountains, WA state.
Bighorn Ram.

Somewhere in the Southwest USA.
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a week of great value.

Monday, October 23, 2017


I have done a lot of paperless paper piecing and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  I was very optimistic and did the main part of my quilt using that process.  This large square of 36 blocks will sit on point in the center of the quilt.  When I finished that part I still needed to piece 8 triangles with the same pattern to place in the outside corners of the quilt top.  In order to scientifically compare the two processes (paperless vs paper piecing) I decided to do the corner pieces with paper.  The result came out highly in favor of using paper.  The increased precision when stitching the main seam is amazing.

TIP:  Start small when you are trying a new method.

There are two main points to address:

1.  Squaring  up the blocks.  This was not as precise with the paperless piecing and thus it was often difficult to match points in the main seams.  Lots of do-overs, but imperfection reigns.  Since I add seam allowance on my paper patterns every piece is trimmed perfectly with points exactly at the seam line.

2.  With the paperless method everything is glued together, then stitched.  It looked fine, but when it came to matching points at a main seam, the glue added thickness and my sewing machine tended to skew the stitching slightly when going over the thickness.  I had two particular points (yellow) that were supposed to meet, but they did not do so in any of the blocks.  They did come out about the same in every block so they looked OK...I guess.

TIP:  Save the paperless paper piecing for simple blocks.  Use paper if you are making lots of points (no photo of the failed blocks - I want to forget them).

Corner piece with perfect points.
What shall I do?  I think I will soak the quilt top for a couple of hours to dissolve all the glue.  As it is now it will be very difficult to get even quilting stitches when the needle has to negotiate glue lumps.  As I press it afterwards, I will try to adjust points.  If that doesn't work I may just do it over, because this design is worth it.

I soaked it.  I didn't take the Sulky Solvy paper out of the spiral in the center.  When quilt top dried, the spiral center was all stiff and there were bits of paper fiber stuck to the top of the quilt top.  So....into the washing machine next time I have weather to wash...maybe Wednesday.  It is a bit horrifying and I have made the decision to redo all those blocks.  This would not have happened if the top had been quilted when soaked because the quilting would have contained everything.  The glue?  Did it dissolve into the water and get all over everything?  I don't know.  I think soap and water will get it all out.

This means shopping for a new fabric to take the place of the fussy-cut fabric I used throughout. The remains of that fabric looks like a huge moth got to it.  There is a rainbow after all.  Searching for fabric is like buying candy.

Now, don't worry, I am excited to get this quilt beautifully correct and as perfect as possible.  I will paper piece and I will tear out the paper before quilting.  I have also decided to cut up the "bad" one and create another quilt with it.  I think that will be fun.  Below is my idea, but it is not fully developed yet.  I will be looking for inspiration and thinking about details in the next few months.  No rush.

How cool is that?  Created using the graphic version of the quilt on my computer.

TIP:  Failure is a dirty word.  Don't let it discourage you.  Find the bright side because there always is one.  Mistakes can be a jumping off point for improvement and new ideas if you keep an open mind.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you bright thoughts as you stitch this week.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

To Laugh or To Cry

Are you a person who tends to laugh or do you cry when things go wrong?  Believe me, it pays to be a laugher.  Laughing is good for the soul, the brain, and the body.  Wouldn't you rather have laugh lines on your face as you age instead of frown lines?  You will get lines on your face someday.  Ask me how I know!

I finished the major portion of my quilt top.  It is 42" square with a very complex design, which will sit on point as the major attraction.  I can't remember how big it will be when finished...about 50-60 inches I think.  We'll see as it develops.  I am not hung up on size, but it will be a wall hanging.

Day of finish:  I put it up on my design wall to admire.

Day 1 post finish:  Look at that fussy cut triangle: it 's backwards!  Oh, good grief.  Thank goodness it is a small isosceles triangle cut from batik. One hour to remove, press, turn over and stitch back in.  Ah good.

Day 2 post finish:  What is that brownish mark on the pale turquoise piece?  I tried to wash it out, but finally decided it was a scorch mark.  How on earth did that get there?  There wasn't any glue or starch in that spot.  It was just on the fabric.  This must be repaired, so I ripped out the offending piece and put in a fresh piece of fabric.  One hour.  Ah good!

Isn't that just sickening?
Day 3 post finish:  Oh my gosh...there are two more scorch marks in a different place.  What is going on?  This time I figured it out.  My Clover mini-iron is on the end of my ironing table.  While I was fixing yesterday's scorch, the quilt top must have landed on the tiny iron and gotten re-scorched.  Two more pieces to rip out and replace.  Ninety minutes down the drain.  All irons have been moved to a tiny wooden table near the ironing surface, but out of the way.  I think this will be permanent as I am always scorching me as well as my quilt.  I am so thankful that the little iron didn't cause the quilt top to burst into flame.  That's better.

New setup for my irons.  Cords reach the ironing table and plug
into a power bar on the table leg to the right in the photo.
Day 4 post finish:  I can't believe it:  the upper left corner block is turned 180º.  Check the other corners.  They are all in the correct orientation.  How long have I had this quilt on the design wall?  How many times have I checked it out critically?  How could I have missed this glaring error?  I told DH and we both had a good belly laugh.  That's the problem with complex designs.  It has been a challenge to make the blocks properly as well as to orient them in the right direction.  Thirty minutes to rip, turn and re-stitch.  Looking good.

It is done!  It had better be done! Tired and silly.  Thank heavens for glue basting.  It really saved the day and allowed me to insert the new pieces gracefully.   I am ready to move on.  There is a little more piecing to do beyond this center part, but it will be easier and quicker.

TIP:  You have to laugh when your quilt plays tricks on you.  Life is too short to cry.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time for fun and laughter.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Evaluation Time

Now, I have completed 36 blocks using paperless paper piecing.  I absolutely loved doing it!  However, I find it has a couple of downsides.

1.  I had to stand at my ironing board the whole time I was gluing.  Two or three hours on my feet standing pretty still is very tiring.  I could have worked sitting down, but my room is so small and I would have been jumping up and down for fabric in a very cramped space.  The iron (in my situation) would be awkward.  I am sure you could do this sitting down, but it didn't work well for me.

2.  After stitching the seams each block shrunk up a tiny bit because I had 14 pieces and therefore 14 seams.  You don't usually think about this, but when it came time to square up the blocks, the shrinkage was visible.  The end result is that I am having a dickens of a time matching the millions of points in my design.

TIP:  If I had to do it over I would make a squaring block (guide) that is a little smaller.  I could do this on my computer and transfer it to template plastic, but it is too late now.  I will work with what I have and do the best I can.  It is looking fine, but I am being very critical.

Squaring triangle.
 When doing the usual paper piecing I always print my pattern with the seam allowance showing.  When I am done sewing I just place a ruler on the line and use the rotary cutter.  Any shrinkage is incorporated in the paper pattern at the same time.  I believe it would all fit together better.

TIP:  In the future and for your interest, the paperless method is great for simple blocks, but next time I will use traditional paper piecing for complex blocks with lots of seams.

Short blog today.  I make birthday cards for the grandchildren from the many photos I have taken of them.  We have five birthdays in November, and I have to spend time getting those all made well ahead of Thanksgiving.  My creative energies are going in a different direction at the moment.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you happy, creative moments.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How Long is Forever?

While I was gluing and sewing all those small pieces I had moments of thinking that it would take FOREVER to finish them all.  Lo and behold, by sticking with it and doing a few each day I actually got them all done.  That is the way with quilts.   There are a lot of tedious tasks and sometimes you might wonder why you do it.  On the other hand, I find that doing boring jobs takes my mind to a dreaming place.  Sometimes you need full concentration and that takes your mind off some of the other tedious tasks of life.  That's why it is called therapy by some.  I also enjoy listening to music or books on tape that I don't have time to do any other time.  I love watching my progress on the design wall.

My 36 blocks have now been sewn together in fours and thus reduced to 9 large blocks.  There are many, many points to match and some have been difficult.  Here is what I do when I find an offensive point that needs to be brought into line:

---I rip about 1 inch each side of it and pull the glued edges apart.

---Sometimes I need to readjust one of the side seams slightly.

---Then I turn it over to work from the right side and manipulate the seam fold until the points match perfectly.

---Glue and press.

---Turn to the wrong side and stitch a new seam along the fold line.

Usually it works like magic without any major distortion affecting the size of the block.

TIP:  Elmer's clear glue is a wonderful tool.  It holds the fabric together so you can sew accurately, but washes completely out when you soak your quilt later.

It is always fun and exciting to start the next part of a quilt.  I still have those nine big blocks to stitch together, but I have a spiral to appliqué in the middle and it will be easiest to stitch it in place before the final assembly.  The spiral is paper pieced in the usual manner.  I tried doing it with paperless paper piecing awhile ago, but when it came time to sew the seams, I got lost in the center trying to stitch those tiny pieces together.

I printed the pattern on plain paper, cut it out and found that it was too small for its allotted place.  I'm glad I didn't waste my Sulky Paper Solvey, time or fabric on the wrong size!  I enlarged it on the computer, re-printed, and cut it out to verify the fit.  Perfect!  I was ready for the final print so I could sew.
Center spiral (hexagon in a circle)
The graphic above shows the way I printed my spiral.  I reduced the opacity of the colors to about 25% but left the sewing lines at 100%.  Seeing the colors helps prevent mistakes, but I also labeled each piece with the row number and a letter designating the color.  Double check!  When sewing you stitch alternate pieces (1K, 1B, 1G), then fill in with the other three colors (1T, 1R, 1Y).  Continue row after row in this manner.

Here is the finished spiral pinned to the center of the quilt top.  The paper on the back will dissolve so I am not going to pull it out at this point although I may do so later.  It will help to have that bit of stiffness to keep it from bubbling as I appliqué it in place.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you bright colors and joy in your endeavors.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Error of My Ways

I would dearly love to have a quilt go together with no problems.  Is it possible?  I guess it would be if I did a really simple one without complicated piecing and color arranging, but I am not drawn to simplicity.  You get to listen to me vent as I try to solve the problems.  Sorry!  It does help to clarify the difficulties by writing about them.

I am making 36 square blocks with the same pattern. Each block is made of two half-square triangles, but each of those triangles is made with 14 pieces.  The finished blocks will each be 7 inches square (not counting seam allowance).  Three of the 14 pieces that make up a triangle vary in color in order to produce a complex design.  Below is the part of the design that threw me a curve this week and forced a bit of ripping and redoing.

Graphic of four blocks on point.
Note the four triangles with check marks.  They have to go the right way to create a bit of structure to the center of the quilt.   The checked black triangles must all be north and south, while the red ones must be in the east and west positions.  Those checked triangles are each a corner of a different block.  It really makes a difference when you look at the total design.  The graphic above shows one of four exact groupings that occur symmetrically in the quilt.  I am sorry, but I am not going to divulge the complete design so you just have to take my word for it.

Two of those four checked triangles were going the right way and two were oriented the wrong way - grrrrrrr!  I  had switched black for red and red for black.  A secondary design had vanished.  Some required the rip-and-redo treatment.  The others hadn't been sewn yet, and were only glued so they were really quick and easy.

I am so glad I discovered the goof before I went any further, and it only took about an hour to re-establish order.

TIP:  This is where a design wall is helpful.  I walk into my sewing room frequently and look at my work on the wall, analyze design and color choices, and find mistakes.  My wall is cheap.  I hung a flannel-backed tablecloth flannel side out, and it works great.

Off topic TIP:
I found a website with a solution that might help some of you.  It tells you a simple way to clean a cutting mat if it begins to hug fuzz in the cuts.  Here is a great fix.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you easy fixes if you run afoul of perfection.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Signing In

Signing in to say I am still alive, but not writing this week.  Last week was very busy with guests, hiking, and way too much food.  We had a wonderful time with people we love.  This week the night time temperatures are dropping into the low 30s so that means getting caught up with laundry while I still have water to the washing machine.  I am getting all my houseplants back into the house before they freeze.  I got the garage (aka Guest Cottage) sorted out with towels and bedding put away, and made it ready for storing the outdoor furniture cushions.  It has been a great summer, but we must look forward to winter now and be prepared.  Too tired to sew!

TIP:  Don't sew when you are too tired, if you can possibly avoid it.  It is way too easy to make mistakes when your brain and body are crying for rest.

Photos are from a lovely hike...short, but steep up to tree line with our visitors.  We were lucky in missing the downpour that drenched the mountains an hour later.

Poudre Lake straddling the Continental Divide (Rocky Mountain NP).
10,758 ft. elevation.  That's where we started hiking!

This beautiful mule deer buck posed for us in the sunlight.

Lovely alpine flower called Arnica.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you fatigue-free stitching and will catch up with you next week.