Thursday, July 21, 2016

explore your machine stitches

Hi Everyone! I know it has been a very long time since I wrote a blog post; I am just having too much fun sewing. : ) Really, I don't want to post just about whatever I've made, but I also want to help you on your journey sewing and quilting through my own experiences. Today, I would like to encourage you to explore your machine stitches.

If you know me, then you know that I DO NOT like to sew or applique by hand. Just about the only thing I really like to sew by hand is binding, but I am even finding that the machine can do this just as good as I can - most importantly, it is durable.

I currently have an orange peel piece in the works and needed to applique my orange peels down. I really love the look of straight-stitch applique, but since this is a pillow and might get washed a few times, I decided to go for a button-hole stitch (or is this called a blanket stitch?). It might be easier to do this by hand, but I am saving my hands for typing. Anyway, I first thought I wanted to use a blanket stitch with monafilament thread on the top and gray thread on the bottom spool so all of my different rainbow colored orange peels would stand out rather than a constrasting thread.

The problem I have with cleanr monofilament is that I struggle a VERY long time with tension problems. It scares me just thinking about it. A friend of mine, Katrin, convinced me to use regular thread and my trusted machine blanket stitch. I pulled out the colors I needed and bought a couple more that were missing.


I am very fortunate to have a blanket stitch or buttonhole on my Pfaff 2046 sewing machine. I use it regularly, at least once a year. Yes, that is regularly. : ) It just took a bit of time to get the right tension; I had to reduce the tension on the top thread and additionally loosened it a bit on the bottom spool as well.

If you have a Pfaff, check out these two stitches - No. 2 - a fake Sashiko and No. 28 a buttonhole or blanket stitch. I increased the stitch length on ths Sashiko to 4 on the length and increased the depth and length of the buttonhole stitch to 3.5 to get the achieved look of good even handstitching.


Here was my end result. This is really all machine appliqued and machine sashiko quilted. I promise you! Doesn't it look fabulous? I am pretty impressed with it myself. I was a little nervous with the Sashiko, because I didn't think it would come out this nicely with the machine. I used a very bright white cotton thread on the top (which I would normally never quilt with). My quilting guru, Sabine Feldmann always told me quilting with white makes it look like your quilt was just basted and not quilted. I agree, but here it totally worked especially against the "salt and pepper" lovely, yarn-dyed Essex Linen in black from Robert Kaufmann.

Click to enlarge

If you are interested in the printed fabrics I used, the charms are from Lecien Fabrics. I used two - one of cold colors and one of warm colors. Honestly, I was just waiting for a good excuse to break out these two charm packs. There is nothing more exciting than breaking open something new! : )


Now, there are a lot of other stitches on your sewing machine to test out. These were just two I decided could possibly fit this project. My machine has a lot of other decorative stitches which could really look nice too, if I sat down and played with them. Hey, that's a great idea. I think I will do just that tomorrow too - try out some more stitches on a scrap fabric and see when and how I can use them in the future. I hope you do the same?

_____________

TIP

After I finish up the packwork pieces in the morning hours, I like to put them on display. I can see them when I walk by (doing my other chores) or when I am preparing lunch in the kitchen. It helps to to see (from afar) if I need to tweek, improve or change something. I am really happy I decided on this design and the offset (asymmetrical) layout! 


Thank you for joining me today! I always get tickled when someone drops by to hear my rambling. Feel free to leave a comment here or on Instagram (@easypatchwork). I love hearing what you have to say. You really make my day! : )

Happy patching!
Karen

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

the all-knowing eye pillow

I have been totally enjoying my sewing time lately. Yes, that's true. I haven't been blogging, and there is so much to share with you. I have participated in swaps, made several pillows, gone on a retreat, had major (non-sewing) down time....Life is good! The beautiful Rike from Stuttgart asked me to post about my sew pixel play and especially the pillow I was working on for the #PCSwapAS swap organized by littleislandquilting and @imasavonasic. So, here is the juice (a juicy read) about how I came up with the pillow. : ) Grab a cup of coffee or a fresh tea to read all about this wonderful design. You can make one too!

My (secret) partner for the pillow swap liked the fabric designers Jennifer Sampou and Jen Kingwell; this was filled out on her registration form for the swap. I had a charm pack of Shimmer 2 by Jennifer Sampou (because I do love her fabric!), and thought I would start there. I wanted to make a simple design and designed these two pillow tops in EQ7 using Jennifer's fabric collection.

These two designs were my starting point.

Criss Cross Tumble

Windmills

Both of these designs appealed to me as far as simplicity and color; I like it simple. I was ready to start my project and looked up my partner one more time on Instagram to see if I could find out some more information about her tastes and style. Then I read in her caption that she was the former editor of a patchwork magazine. My heart sunk. My simple designs were not going to impress her, I thought to myself. She is used to something a little more cutting edge. Okay. Time to get the ol' thinking cap on. I thought about it for a couple of days and this idea jumped into my head.

My starting point - Design - Fabrics

I opened my charm pack and separated the colors into lights and darks. This collection is quite even, so it was a little tricky to get the right amounts. I started cutting one-inch squares with my handy grid ruler. I layered a few, but since the fabric shifted a little, and I was cutting rather small, most of the squares were cut out individually. I arranged them onto a fusible fleece with the lighter fabrics towards the middle to make a shadowed sphere or eye. I tried not waste the fabric on the outer circle that were not needed. Since this sheet measures over 24 inches, I ironed small sections of fabric at a time. This was probably the most difficult step. : ) It did drop once (or twice) on the floor.

Starting with over 24" of fusible fleece and 1" squares

After everything was ironed and set in place. I sewed in rows just as outlined in the Sew Pixel Play Tutorial. I ironed all seams open and had no concerns with the seams opening since I sewed with a smaller stitch length. My advice is to turn off your steam, otherwise you will get burned. (Experience!) You do not need a small iron, just one without steam.

Ending with half of what I started with!

The next step hurt a little - to cut the circle, but it really looked nice in the end. Not all of the edges were cut off that had fleece showing, but they would be covered by the next fabric in the seam allowance. So much work and now I was cutting it all apart. ; (

Circle cut

The first phase was now finished. It turned out exactly the way I wanted it to. : ) Now onto the tricky "improv" part. I drew out on full 18" piece of paper what I wanted to achieve. I erased and re-drew until I got my circles just the way I wanted. (This is what I call "controlled improv.") I tried to use EQ7, but it just wasn't doing what I wanted it to do. This is a total lack of operator error!! I did print out the inner circles from EQ7 though.

Phase Two begins

After my center circle was finished, I cut out and labeled the rest of the sections and template carefully and traced onto the correct fabric with a 1/4" seam allowance. I sewed them together in full circle sections. The inner part sewed together perfectly. I had to work a little more on the outer part to get them a little more even. My 1/4" seam allowance was not that accurate. Granted with improv, it doesn't matter that much, but I was trying to achieve exactly what I had envisioned and what I had drawn out.

Sewn together in sections with templates

Goal achieved. It worked! As with most steps throughout the creation process, I usually sew something together in the morning and hang it up somewhere in the house. I look at it, analyze it, re-think it, and modify in my head. After a couple of days, I move on to the next step. This is where I stopped and thought the most. The inner ring was not jumping out enough and the yellow was blending in too much with the linen.

Pillow top sewn together

I decided to throw in a bit of hand stitching around the inner circle to make the eye come alive. I hand-traced over the seam allowance from the inner circle with a Frixion pen and bought some matching cotton floss. Which one do you think matches the best? I think I used the bottom one.

Time for some hand stitching

I finished with the hand stitching and machine quilted the rest of the pillow with matching threads. If you haven't noticed yet, there is no batting in this pillow. I (think I) used a fusible fabric on the backside of the main pillow top. I didn't want it to be puffy.

I used a large echo quilting outlining the eye on the linen fabric as well. You have to look twice to know it is really quilted. : )

Quilting

The top was finished - onto Phase Three - the back. Now, I could have done a simple backing with zipper, but I wanted to show off with some fabric manipulation. I took some of the backing fabric and folded it into thirds as well as strips from the linen. I inserted the blue into the linen so no seams were visible. I top-stitched the blue strips in place with blue thread on the top and linen on the bottom.

Making accent insert strips for the back of the pillow

I made six or seven of th inserts and debated about how long they should be. I didn't want them too short or it might be too puffy when it sits on a sofa. I cut them to about five inches long, twisted, and basted to the other fabrics before assembling. It is a quick accent to really make a "wow" on any patchwork piece!

Top portion of the backside

And after sewing both sides together, this is what you see. Now doesn't it look better with the accent hand stitching around the center eye? I think so! I also asked a few people if I should put piping around the pillow. I love piping, but I think it would have ruined the design of drawing your eye into the middle or to the corner rather.

"Das Auge der Weißheit" - Front

And if I were to do this back a second time, I would either make the inserts shorter, or make the zipper so it would fall in the middle rather than at the bottom. : )

Back of "Das Auge der Weißheit"

And because I wanted to make something to match the pillow, I made a cute little mug rug too. This time I cut out 3/4" squares instead of one inch, and they were reduced to just 1/4" after both side seams were sewn. Here is a photo of just the columns sewn and pressed open. I think I like the idea of long bricks, and think I will try this once withe pixel method.

All columns are sewn and pressed

I cut out another circle with my handy-dandy (cheap inexpensive) circle cutter. I think this circle measures about 2 1/2 - 3 inches. I don't quite remember. It must be that lack of estrogen. : )

Two and one half inch pixelated circle

I wanted to create the same type of eye on the mug rug and wanted to make rings around it as well. I started with cutting a whole in a charm square slightly smaller than the original size. This method did not work!! Although I tried twice, it was just not the right technique.

A very daring technique that didn't work for me.

Then I remembered seeing this great tutorial from Allison at Campell Soup Diary for her Freezer Paper Drunkard's Path. This would be an excellent way to use it. I appliqued right over the freezer paper and left the paper inside. I cut some of it back later.

The freezer-paper method worked like a dream.

I layered the circle until I got a similar pattern as the orginal. I loved to watch it grown. I think I should have stopped here. What do you think?



And here is the final mug rug...


Matching mug rug

I used a simple single-fold 1 3/4" binding and machine stitched in the ditch to keep it in place.

There is just no comparison to the original pillow though. I think the framing in the blue totally killed the design on this mini. It might look okay, but I really should have stopped at the blue fabric. It just really looks so much more colorful and vibrant.


"Das Auge der Weißheit" pillow and mug rug

Thank you for joining me today and reading about how I designed and created the pillow for my pcswapas partner, Michelle, called "Das Auge der Weißheit" or "the Eye of Wisdom" as you would translate it into English. I think you might even say the all-knowing eye, but I couldn't find information on this exact term. I don't normally pick a German title for my creations, but it just seamed better! Michelle was totally happy with her pillow. You can see more pictures on my Flickr Feed or on Instagram @easypatchwork.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

sew pixel play pincushion tutorial

Hi Everyone!

If you don't already know me, my name is Karen. I studied International Business with an unofficial minor in German. After working a few years in Germany as a productions planner/controller/analyst, I tied the knot and opted for the simpler life as a mom. I now live in southern Germany with my bi-national family close to Ulm which is between Stuttgart and Munich (or closer yet, Augsburg). I do not have the opportunity to talk too much to other Americans, since I am totally integrated into the society and don't live in a major city where other Americans live. So, I use my blog, website and Instagram account to keep my English active. I discovered my passion for "patchwork" over a decade ago and have been trying to learn every technique known in the quilting world since then; I love learning! Some of you might know me as a mini quilter, but I truly love all techniques, as well as traditional and modern quilting.

I have been posting lots of pictures lately on Instagram of a technique that I have been using on pincushions, mug rugs, and pillows that I call "sew pixel play." A lot of your have been asking how I do it. This is actually a very old technique. I am very happy to be bringing it back again, because it brings up so many new possibilities.

First, let me tell you how I learned about it... I had always seen gridded fusible fleece in the stores for sale and wondered about it. I remembered seeing a video or demonstration about adhering squares to the fleece and sewing in rows with one long seam. I couldn't really understand why someone would use this technique, because I thought this was just too time-consuming for "normal" chain piecing rows together. So this technique logically didn't fit into my repertoire. At this time, I was also participating in the Doll Quilt Monthly swap and wanted to learn more about miniature quilts. Then I found this fantastic book by Paula Doyle called Mini Mosaic Quilts. It re-explored this technique and used it for making small, miniature quilts. Since then, I have been incorporating it into my patchwork when I can break down a design into pixels or squares. For sewing on a small scale, this technique is quick and extremely accurate. Some of you may know this technique as "Quick Piece Tiny Squares" or "Using a Quilter's Grid." Since I do it usually on a small scale to get my seams perfect; I call this technique "Sew Pixel Play."


Now onto the step-by-step tutorial for making a pincushion using this technique.

You will need the following materials in addition to your basic sewing notions:
  • Lightweight scraps
  • Gridded fusible fleece
  • or graph paper + glue stick 
  • or waxed paper + ruler + pencil
  • Small grain for filling the pincushion + funnel

For the pincushion, I used the one-inch fusible grid. I prefer to use waxed paper and draw lines on the rough side with a regular pencil and ruler. Although this is more time consuming, it is more accurate when you crease your lines. You may also use regular paper and a glue stick. Draw your own grid at one-inch intervals or print out from EQ7. Make sure you are accurate when you crease along the lines. Use a good light source.



Cut 7/8 inch squares
  • 5 white
  • 5 magenta
  • 5 dark green
  • 4 light green
  • 4 red
  • 4 pink
  • 4 purple-blue
  • 5 single misc. colors

Cut one backing fabric 3 1/2 inches.

Cut fleece or prepare your paper to get a 6 x 6 grid. No need to worry about added seam allowance; it is already included in the one-inch squares.

Lay out your squares onto your fleece making sure you have the fusible side up! You will not be able to see the lines very well. If you are using waxed paper, your lines will be on the backside. If you are using paper/glue stick, your lines will be also be on the backside as well; you need these lines for folding and sewing later.


Fix with a warm iron. And yes, my ironing board cover looks this crappy. I go through a new one about every two months, because I am so hard on it!



Fold over the first column inward right sides together (RST). Make sure your "fold line" from the gridded fleece or paper is exactly in the middle when folding over. This is to ensure you sew an accurate line.



Take it over to your sewing machine. Reduce your stitch length. I reduced mine from 2.5 to 1.5 stitch length. This is to keep the seam together when press the seam open to reduce bulk.



Feed your sewing machine. Sew an exact scant 1/4 of an inch.



When you are finished with the first vertical column, flip your piece over front to back. Fold your next column inward matching up the line again which becomes a guide for sewing. Sew the next seam.


Flip front to back. Fold next column inward using your line on fleece as a folding line. Sew.

Continue sewing, flipping and creasing until all columns are finished. If you forget to flip your piece, don't worry, it will just  bow to one side. ; )




This is what you get when all columns are finished.



Cut your seams open by cutting the back of the seam allowance as shown. Repeat for all columns.





Finger press and then set all seam allowances OPEN with a hot iron with the steam off. Sorry about that ironing board again. It really looks used up!




Now lets work on those rows.

Fold your first row inward RST, making sure you see the "fold line."






Sew using your fold line as a guide. Pull your piece slightly taut as you sew.




I find it easier to keep the rows straight by lining up the outer edges and pinning in place a couple of times. Flip and repeat sewing as you did in the columns.




This is what it looks like when you finish all rows.




Now it's time to cut open the seams for the rows.




Press all of the seams open. Press the hell out of the front so it lays flat. Leave all paper and fleece inside. Do not attempt to tear it out. It won't hurt the pincushion but only stabilize it more. Square up and trim to 3 1/2 inches or whatever you get. (Mine measured 3 1/4 inches in the end.)




Trim backing fabric to the same size.




Lay Front on the backing fabric, RST. Sew around pincushion leaving an opening for flipping. Backstitch at start and stopping points.




Trim the corners and flip right side out. Use a pair of scissors to get the points sharp.




Thread a hand stitching needle with thread matching the backing fabric. Start to stitch the opening closed using a blindstitch. Stitch half of the opening closed. Carefully fill the pincushion using the funnel and cornmeal or other grain; shake some grain into the pincushion shaking it down and pushing into the corners with the small funnel. (I used polenta or cornmeal.) Continue sewing the opening shut and adding more grain until the pin cushion is nice and plump.



It is now finished! The possibilities of this technique are endless I look forward to seeing what you make with it. Please share with us all using the hashtag #sewpixelplay.

I hope you enjoyed this Sew Pixel Play Tutorial.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. You can always email me directly. Thanks for stopping by!
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