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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sunflower Purse - Stitching Complete

Just a quick update for today everyone. I finished up the stitching on the sunflower purse yesterday:

Sunflower Purse

I picked up some handles for it when I was in WalMart this morning and I do expect to do the machine finishing on it sometime in the next week.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Valentine Finishes

First, I thought you would like to see the cover of my upcoming E-Book:

Elegant Crazy Quilt Seam Treatments

I'm so please with how this came out! I no idea what I was going to do when I took the photo but somehow, it came together perfectly! The project is right on schedule so I still anticipate a release date between 2/7 and 2/10.

I also have a few finishes to share to with you. I made a few Valentine gifts and finally have them all put together. First, these little cellphone pouches:

Umbrella Pouch

Valentine Cellphone Pouch

Next are the little cat dolls that I made for gifts:

2 Cat Dolls

Finally, my Redwork Cat:

Redwork Cat

I also made some little 3-D Valentine tags to go with these:

Valentine Tags

It's a little difficult to see in the photo but these were done by cutting and layering portions of the same image, one on top of the other. In between the layers, are little foam pop-up dots and of course, this was a good excuse to use some glitter. To finish them, I glued them to some gold paper heart doilies and then added a ribbon bow.

I still want to make a nice Valentine card for Scott's grandma using this same technique. I'll share a photo of that with you when I get it completed.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Give Away

First, I thought you would enjoy seeing an update on the Sunflower Purse:

Sunflower Purse

I finished beading all of the seam treatments which I mentioned last week are from my upcoming E-Book, "Elegant Crazy Quilt Seam Treatments" Volume One.

The daisy trim was just too bright for my tastes so I dyed it. And it came out a bit darker than I had wanted it to. There are no mistakes in crazyquilting though. For everything that doesn't come out quite right, there is a way to fix it. As you can see, I added bright flower sequins to the daisy centers and now, it works perfectly with the rest of the block.

The big sunflower in the center will go on next. That didn't work out quite the way I had planned either but again, I think I have that problem solved. I'll explain more once I get it sewn onto the block.

In the meantime, I have another cross stitch magazine that I would like to give away. It's the February, 2008 issue of The Cross Stitcher:

TCS Magazine

I will send this off to the first person who leaves a message for me in the comment section requesting it. US Residents only please!

For today, I'll be running my sewing machine. I want to sew up the couple of little Valentine gifts that I made so I expect to have a few finishes to share with you soon.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sunflower Purse Continued.....

A quick little update on the Sunflower purse:

Sunflower Purse

I started beading the seam treatments yesterday and will continue on with it again later today. Several of my readers commented that these colors are a bit out of my norm. Yes, that is quite true, although I really do like these colors! This is a custom ordered purse so the colors were chosen by it's future owner. This will be my last custom order for quite awhile. I have a stack of things that I want to make for myself and I want to get back to making some more Comfort Cats to send to Pat.

For now, my mom is coming over and we're going to treadle again! I just love that old sewing machine!

Tomorrow, I will reveal the Valentine Mystery design.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Is Waste Canvas?

I received several emails yesterday, from stitcher's who weren't familiar with waste canvas. I was asked if I would go into a more detailed description of what it is and how I use it to stitch on crazy quilts. First, here is an excerpt from my book:

Waste Canvas is a loosely woven mesh, coated with starch. Originally created for stitching charted designs on non-cross stitch fabric such as tee-shirts, the mesh is gridded with a blue thread every 5 stitches.

Waste Canvas 1

Waste Canvas 2

The purpose for using Waste Canvas in crazy quilting is to create perfectly sized and spaced stitches. With Waste Canvas, the stitches are counted out rather than free-handed.

Waste Canvas offers endless possibilities for borders using basic stitches:

Sunflower Purse

The Waste Canvas is pinned or basted into position and working from the charted pattern, the stitches are counted out and duplicated on the block:

Working With Waste Canvas 1

Once the border is complete, the Waste Canvas threads are pulled out one by one, from under the stitches:

Working With Waste Canvas 2

And I must tell you, pulling those Waste Canvas threads out is way more fun than it should be! I mean honestly, I love that part!!!!

So that's what Waste Canvas is all about. It's available in 3 sizes, 14 count, 10 count and 8.5 count. For a beginner, I recommend 10 count or 8.5 count. I use all three sizes depending on my project.

I hope this basic explanation helps. If anyone has any questions, please don't hesitate to email me.

I was also asked about available payment methods. For US Residents only, I can accept US Money Orders. For international payments, I accept PayPal. Payment can be made with a credit card through PayPal. Ordering and payment can be made through my Etsy shop. Again, the book will be available somewhere between February 7th and February 10th.




Tuesday, January 22, 2008

To Knot Or Not To Knot

Do you knot or not knot? I thought I'd clear up the mystery as to when knots are appropriate and when they're not. Ha, ha, ha! Okay, enough of the not, knot stuff!

With counted cross stitch, it's generally recommended that the thread tails be woven in behind the stitches on the back. Cross stitch fabric, esp. evenweaves and linens are thin so knots would show through on the front, giving the finished stitched piece a lumpy appearance.

With crazy quilting, I would say that it's a matter of personal choice. For the most part, I knot my threads. With the foundation fabric and all the various surface fabrics, any knots on the back will not show through on the front:

Sunflower Purse

There is one exception to that in crazy quilting. With Silk Ribbon Embroidery, I weave the tails under stitches in the back. I used to knot them. But too many times, while working in other areas of the block, I'd catch that knot and end up pulling the Silk Ribbon, messing up my stitches on the front. It's best to weave those tails under other stitches.

With redwork and outline embroidery, lumps from knots can show through on the front. The choice however, is really up to the stitcher. Most of the vintage embroidered pieces that I've seen at flea markets and antique shops have knots on the back. My own grandmother taught me to knot my threads so I will openly admit, that I knot when I do redwork and outline embroidery:

Redwork Cat

I hope you find this post helpful. Instead of just posting photos of my stitching, I've been trying to offer you helpful hints along the way.

If you like my Redwork Cat and would like to stitch him, you can find the patterns for him and his friends here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

To Hoop Or Not To Hoop

That is the question that was posed to me last week. I thought for today, I would discuss the pro's and con's of hooping.

The purpose of using a hoop is to keep your fabric tight while you stitch. This prevents bunching and buckling around your stitching.

Be it cross stitch, embroidery or crazy quilting, I always use a hoop, with only one exception in my almost 40 years of stitching. Yes, I am older than I look. Older than I behave too!

Lucky Crazy Quilt

My Lucky Crazy Quilt is a 29 inch square whole cloth quilt meaning, it was pieced on one very large piece of fabric. I worked this quilt entirely in-hand and by the time the stitching and embellishing was complete, I was just as crazy as my stitching!

Now you're probably wondering why I didn't just hoop the area I was working on and then move the hoop. The reason for this is that certain fabrics will not recover from the tension of a hoop. Plush fabric such as velvet will be crushed by the hoop and it won't bounce back. Silk and satin will retain the hoop-mark as well. And certainly, once the beads, sequins and buttons start going on, well I'm sure you can imagine that moving a small hoop around on a large quilt would be impossible.

Redwork Cat

With cross stitch and embroidery, moving the hoop the around is certainly feasible although when possible, I do try to use a hoop that's large enough for the entire design. This isn't always possible but when it is, I see it as a time saver!

With crazy quilting, you most definitely want to use a hoop that your entire block will fit into:

Sunflower Purse

My favorite hoop is a 12 inch Quilter's hoop. Nine inch blocks fit perfectly in this hoop. I've also found that the wooden Quilter's hoops are a better quality hoop than the wooden embroidery hoops.

For my cellphone pouches and ornaments I use a 7 inch round screw type plastic hoop. The one that you see in the photo of my redwork cat.

For projects larger than 9 inch blocks, I have some custom frames that my husband made for me. I think he used a good quality pine which a soft wood. When I attach my block to those, I simply use thumb tacks to hold the block in place. Blocks can be laced on to frames as well but in my opinion, that's a waste of perfectly good stitching time.

If custom needlework frames aren't an option, Michael's Craft Stores carry wooden snap together frames in sets of two and in a variety of sizes. You can mix and match them to create whatever size frame you need for your piece. I have several of these as well and my husband actually glued them together with wood glue which makes them quite sturdy.

Another way of supporting your stitched piece is a style of hoop called Q-Snaps. I have some of these and honestly, I don't care for them. They are so heavy to hold and I've found that they slide around a lot. Whenever I've used them, I was constantly taking my piece out and readjusting it. I don't recommend them but I know there are stitcher's out there who swear by them!

So, in answer to the question I mentioned at the beginning of this post, yes, I do recommend using a hoop. There are times when it isn't an option, as in the case with a large whole cloth quilt. When possible though, you'll be much happier with your final stitched piece if you use one.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Just A Quickie

A quick little post before we head out in -12 degree temps. for breakfast. I finished stitching on this little cat yesterday:

Purple Cat

I'll be taking myself a sewing day this week to do the finishing on my Valentine projects. I have one more little Valentine that I'm going to make, one of my little Redwork Cats:

Redwork Cats

I'm sure I can stitch that up in a few hours.

Kathy asked me what type of fabrics I use on my blocks. Anything and everything Kathy! I use cotton prints and Batiks, silks, satin, velvets, velveteens, panne velvet (heaven help me, it's so stretchy!). I use lace fabrics, drapery and upholstery fabrics, linens, sequined fabrics and anything else that I like. One of these days, I'll post some photos of my stash. Ya'll better set aside a whole day for all those photos to load!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Button Clusters

If you look closely at this block before I started stitching on it, there were some very sharp corners on it:

Umbrella Cellphone Pouch

I find harsh corners like this to be distracting and quite less than attractive. Button clusters are an excellent way to soften those areas:

Umbrella Cellphone Pouch

I used a mixture of new plastic buttons and a few antique glass buttons. I kept it simple. I didn't want the buttons to compete with the umbrella pin so I used white and cream colored buttons. They show up, but blend into the block.

Groups of 3 or 5 buttons work well together for small blocks like this. Choose buttons similiar in size, color and shape. Pick one to sew down first and then sew the remaining buttons down close to the first one. Overlapping them gives the impression of flowers in a garden. You can add a few tiny leaf beads or some crystals to give them the flower effect.

My next project will be this little cat doll. A gift for my mom for Valentine's Day:

Purple Cat Doll

Stay tuned to see more seam treatments from my upcoming book.

Soon To Be Discontinued.....

The following designs will be discontinued shortly:

Winter Landscape

Spring Landscape

Summer Landscape

Autumn Landscape

Smiling Blackwork Snowmen

Patriotic Love Birds

There is one copy of each design available in my Etsy shop. When they're gone, I won't be relisting them. They will be retired permanently.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Elegant Crazy Quilt Seam Treatments Volume 1

I'm now looking at a tentative release date of February 1st for my E-Book titled, "Elegant Crazy Quilt Seam Treatments" Volume 1. The book will feature 60 charted seam treatments (plus a few bonus designs) along with instructions on working with Waste Canvas for perfect seams, what thread sizes are suitable to the various Waste Canvas stitch counts and how to do calculations.

I'd really prefer to publish this a "real" book but at the moment, doing it electronically is the most cost effective way. Perhaps, if it does well, I'll eventually be able to re-publish it as a "real" book.

Umbrella Cellphone Pouch

Each of the seam treatments on this block are from the book. Basic stitches used in the designs are cross stitch, straight stitch, detached chain, french knot and satin stitch.

I will post updates periodically as the final stages take shape.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tutorial - Washing Vintage & Antique Lace

Valentine Cellphone Pouch

I recently received an email from a stitcher who just purchased a bagful of Vintage Lace at an antique shop and she wanted to know the proper way to wash it.

I'm sure many people are intimidated by old textiles, fearful that washing them will somehow cause deterioration. Honestly, it's quite the opposite. Dust & mold is what causes damage to lace & fabric so washing it is indeed a good way to preserve it.

The proper way to wash lace is to do it by hand, just as you would any delicate hand-washable item. I fill my kitchen sink with warm water and a bit Orvus. Orvus is technically and chemically not a soap. What it does is, it makes the water "wetter". To read more about Orvus, visit Martha Beth Lewis' article on Orvus and Needlework. Orvus is available at most fine needlework shops.

I use Orvus to wash all of my needlework pieces that are indeed washable. Crazy quilting for the most part, is not.

With my old lace that I find at flea markets and antique shops, I put them in a large strainer which I then set down in the sink and I let it soak for about 1/2 an hour. I swish it around a bit and then drain the water from the sink. I then refill the sink with plain warm water and let the lace sit again for about another 15 minutes. After swishing one more time, I drain the water and let the excess drain out of the lace through the strainer.

Many times, you'll find that the water is extremely yellow or gray in color. You'll want to continue draining the water and re-soaking until the water is clear.

After draining for about 15 minutes, I lay it all out on a big, fluffy bath-towel and roll it up. After 1/2 an hour, I lay it out again on a dry bath-towel. This time, I don't roll it up, I just let it air dry a bit.

When it comes to pressing it, it's best to do that while it's damp. Use a cotton setting on your iron for crocheted & tatted pieces and a cooler setting for nylon or anything for which you do not know the content of.

If you like, you can use a bit of spray starch on your lace but please keep in mind that cottonworms and silverfish love starch. Which leads me to speaking of storage. Textiles of any kind should not be stored in plastic bags. They need to breathe. I store my lace in an old dresser. The drawers are lined with acid free tissue paper. A good way to prevent cottonworms and silverfish from dining on your lace stash is put a few cedar-balls in with your lace. Those icky bugs don't like the smell. Mothballs would work too but oh, I hate that smell! Cedar-balls are available at Wal-Mart.

So that's how you do it! It's very simple and well worth the effort if you like to use beautiful vintage and antique lace on your crazy quilting. One last thing that I should mention about deterioration is this: look it over before you buy it. Lace that's deteriorating will literally fall apart when you touch it. It will feel dry so to speak and dust will fly everywhere! That's the fibers breaking down. If you give it a very gentle pull and nothing happens, it's in good shape!

Umbrella Cellphone Pouch

Monday, January 14, 2008

Valentines

As I mentioned last week, I'm working on a few little Valentine gifts. I finished up this little cat over the weekend:

Red Cat

I decided to stitch this all in Ecru and then embellished with red & gold. I may make a cat for my mom too. She's more of a dog person, but she likes these little cat dolls.

My next Valentine is a cellphone pouch:

Valentine Cellphone Pouch

I'll start on this later today.

I've often been asked how I get so much stitching done. Honestly, I make it a priority. Just like with cleaning and laundry, I make the time to stitch. I also make time to read and sew. It has to be a scheduled event. Many people don't set aside time for themselves. They take care of chores, kids, meals and errands but when it comes to themselves, they put it off. I don't do that. Yes, there are days that don't quite work out to my scheduled plan, but for the most part, the reason I get so much stitching time in is because I schedule it.

If you're having trouble getting some stitching time, set aside just 20 minutes today to start with. Find a quiet place, take your things and insist on having that 20 minutes of peace and quiet to yourself. If the TV has to babysit for that 20 minutes, then so be it! The world will not stop turning if you take a little time for yourself. My philosophy is this: if we don't take care of ourselves, we're no good to anyone else.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Goddess Cellphone Pouches

I finally completed these little cellphone pouches:

Sea Goddess 1

Twilight Garden Goddess 1

I don't know which one I like more! I think the Ocean Goddess is my favorite. I love doing seascapes!

These pouches are available here.

After doing my January Take It Further Challenge Block, I decided to do just a few small things for Valentine gifts. I'll start on this little cat later today.

Red Cat

I think I'll stitch and embellish this one all in white.

For now, my mom is coming over and we're going to run my beautiful antique treadle machine! Yep, I finally get to learn how to treadle and I can't wait. Once I get the hang of it, I want to piece some blocks just for the charm of it!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Take It Further -January - Day 5 & Redwork Cats

I was able to use all 12 of my vintage dyed Mother Of Pearl buttons on this piece:

January

I really wanted to keep them all together so it worked out great!

I didn't get too carried away in beading the lace and trim. Because those pieces are antique, I wanted the beauty of those pieces to stand out. The vintage buttons and simple pearls seemed to be just enough to highlight the lace without overpowering it.

I'm almost ready for a few larger embellishments and I still want to add some pansies to the patch on the right of the tea lady.

In other news, the long awaited Redwork Cat designs are now available:

Redwork Cats

You can find them here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Take It Further Challenge - January - Day 4

I started the beading on this yesterday:

January

I still have a way to go on it. I want to add some pansies to the right of the tea lady and of course, it needs some butterflies.

I remembered that I had these vintage dyed Mother Of Pearl buttons that Scott's mom gave me a few years ago:

Purple Buttons

On one hand, I hate to take them off the card because they are old and the card is complete. On the other hand, I've been saving these for something special and I know this project is perfect for showcasing them. I will use them because they aren't doing me any good sitting in a drawer. I do think they're perfect for this block.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Take It Further - January - Day 3

After spending several hours yesterday afternoon reorganizing the drawers in my rolling carts, which my husband did indeed fix for me, I finally got in some stitching time on my Take It Further January block:

Take It Further Challenge January

I have all of the seams embroidered now so today, I'll start beading.

I added to the border at the top right using another of Carol Samples Dream A Seam Templates. Those are really fun! The templates offer an endless variety of border possibilities. You can find them at Carolyn's Evening Star Designs website. And don't think of them just in terms of crazy quilting. Some really lovely band samplers could be created using the templates as well!

I did the Maidenhair stitch in the center right, the Cretan stitch with some fans to the left of the Tea Lady and then above the lady, is a new border which I've never used before. I did Lazy Daisy flowers with Eyelets in between the flowers.

I've decided that it would be fun to offer you the charted patterns for any new borders that I come up with during the Take It Further Challenge so I charted this border out:

Lazy Daisy And Eyelet

Just click on the image to go to my Flickr site where you can download the large version. I used 8.5 count Waste Canvas to stitch my seam but I'm sure you can free-hand it if you like.

So that's my update for today on my January block.

On another note, I've been tagged by several bloggers for the "You Make My Day Award". I'm quite flattered and so happy to hear that my blog is enjoyable to my readers. I must say however, that every blog I read has already been tagged. So I will simply say thank you for tagging me.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Take It Further - January - Day 2

I spent most of my day yesterday doing machine finishing and bit of the hand-finishing. I didn't quite get my cellphone pouches completed but I'll work on those some more later today. My regular stitching time was a wee bit limited but I did manage to work one more seam on my January block:

January

I used one of Carol Samples Templates to mark the seam. I started with the chain stitch and then free-handed the lazy daisy stitches. Then I added the little black straight stitches. I'm thinking of adding to that seam on the top. I haven't decided what to do with it yet but I'm thinking I could make it even more interesting.

I'd like to thank Debra S. for mentioning that the point of this Challenge is to move beyond our comfort zone. Yes, that is quite true! And I very much intend to do so. That's why I chose to work with both the concept and the color scheme. On the other hand, I have to keep in mind that in the end, I want to have a nice quilt to hang on my wall. If the end of 2008 comes along and I don't like the blocks that I did, if they don't appeal to me visually and don't suit my personality and my decor, they will end up laying in a drawer and never make it into a quilt for my wall. I would find that very sad and I would feel that I have wasted my time. Escaping my comfort zone is not enough for me. Learning something new is not enough for me. In the end, I have to have a useful and beautiful quilt, something that I'm proud to display. So my intention is to make these blocks work on all levels and I know I can do that. For some blocks, I may be well outside of my comfort zone and for other blocks, I may have to walk the fence. Somehow though, I will work with both the concept and the color scheme and I will see to it that I personally find each of my blocks visually appealing and suitable for a wall-quilt.

I'll probably take about this a bit more as I work through this challenge so stay tuned.

I also want to answer a question that Dee asked of me. She asked how I go about adding lace and trim after my blocks are sewn up. I open up the seams, I tuck the ends of the lace or trim into the seams and then I take just a few tiny stitches to hold the seams down until I get my fancy stitches on there. I almost never chose my lace and trims until after the block is sewn. Thank for the question the Dee.

Before I end my post for the day, I thought you would enjoy seeing a photo of the my Kitten In A Basket Ornament:

Kitten Ornament

This little one is already spoken for so I'll package it up now and ship it off to it's new owner tomorrow.

For today, I have some new beads that I want to organize. I like to keep my beads and sequins in little ziplock baggies so I have to sit down and take them out of the packaging and put them in the bags. I used to use the round, stackable plastic bead containers but they're so heavy, the weight of them put so much pressure on my roll-carts that the caster wheels broke off! My dear husband is at this moment, making wooden frames for the bottoms of the carts and attaching new casters to them. He told me that when he's done with this, I'll never have any trouble with my rolling carts again!

My stash is stored here in my computer room but when I stitch, I like to sit on the sofa in my living room so I roll my carts out there and then I have easy access to my entire bead stash!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Take It Further Challenge - January

I had my sewing day yesterday just as I had intended and I sewed up my January Take It Further Challenge block along with a few other things.

I started by pulling the DMC thread colors that matched Sharon's color palette and I thought to myself, "EWWWWW"! They just weren't colors that I would normally put together.

I doubled checked the DMC colors against my monitor and printout again and they did match up, however, and quite thankfully I'll admit, I did not have any fabric that matched DMC #964. The closest match I had in fabric is more like DMC #504. With a sigh of relief, I went for it:

Take It Further Challenge January

My photo is a little fuzzy but this is the ready to stitch block with the original DMC floss colors. Since my light green fabric matched DMC #504, I switched the thread color as well and began stitching:

Take It Further Challenge January

I did add some black crushed velvet to my palette to give it a very Victorian feel and to bring out the black in the image.

Now, onto a few special things about this block! First, the lace that I used on the bottom is from an actual Victorian cuff. It's hand crocheted and some of the tiniest crocheting I've ever seen! I bought it a flea market a few years ago and have been saving it for something special as it was quite pricy. I bought a second cuff at the same time, a little different than this one and hope to use it for this challenge later on.

The gold braids were a gift to me from one of my readers, Sandra G. I believe Sandra told me that the braids were from Germany and that they were old. I love my old stuff! Thank you Sandra! Again, I've been saving these for something really special.

The spider web of course, is a traditional Victorian crazy quilt motif and ya'll know I had to put a spider web on here or I just wouldn't be able to sleep!

The Herringbone stitch at the bottom left is an example of me not wanting to stop stitching! For some reason, I just kept on adding to that border until I couldn't add anymore. I thought perhaps some of my readers might enjoy using this seam treatment so I charted it out:

Herringbone And Fan Stitches Variation 4

Click on the image to go to my Flickr site where you can download the large version.

So that's where I'm at for now. I pulled out my Penny McMorris book, or rather "the Holy Grail of crazy quilt books" as Allison called it earlier this week, to get a feel for more of the popular CQ motifs from the Victorian days. Not only did the Victorians love their elegant and ornate things, but they had a true appreciation for nature. Something I can very much relate to! This block definitely needs flowers so I'm thinking of either some pansies or some violets. Oh, and speaking of Allison, do stop by her blog to see her January block! She does some gorgeous and very creative things with flower images.

One last thing that I want to mention is that DMC #333 purple is quite, I'll use the word "loud"! I will be using it but I'll limit that color to beads. The color will be there, but it won't jump out of the block like it would had I used it for the stitching.

My plans for today include sewing up my latest cellphone pouches. I'm not sure I'll get the handwork done today but I at least want to assemble them. I also want to do some heavy duty stitching on my January block because at the moment, I'm really into it and it's all I can think about!
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