It’s a Give-Away!

November 14th, 2011


Starting today, we’re hosting a give-away for the Beam ‘n Read Light!  If you haven’t seen this product before, here’s a photo that shows you what it is:
The long black strap is an adjustable neck strap so that  you can wear it around your neck, enabling you to focus it directly on your work.  The base of the light is also adjustable, so it really is possible to find just the right angle to direct that wonderful beam of light!  Each light comes with a yellow and a red light cover, so you even have your choice of the type of light that’s emitted.  On top of all that, there is also the option of a magnifying lens that easily fits onto the light.  I haven’t gotten to the point that I need that feature yet, but the way my eyes are aging, it sure is nice to know that feature is ready for me!
Now maybe you don’t think this light sounds like your cup of tea.  I’ll tell you, I’m amazed at just how handy this product is.  If I think of just the last 5 days, here are some examples of hand work that I’ve used my Beam ‘n Read Light for:
First off is this embroidered quilt block that I stitched as a split design.  If you look closely, you’ll see registration cross hairs and basting lines that were stitched:
…and I used my Beam ‘n Read to help me remove all those extraneous stitches!  (And didn’t this block come out great?!)  Next up, I needed that light to help me separate this sheet of embroidered plumes that were embroidered onto water soluble stabilizer:
As you cut these out, you’ve got to be really careful not to accidentally cut into the stitches…
and the Beam ‘n Read light makes it a whole lot easier to see all those stitches!  Here are a bunch of these plumes in different sizes and different edge finishes, after they’ve had the stabilizer rinsed off:
And of course, the Beam ‘n Read is great when you’re trying to sew the binding on a quilt:
And the light really helped me out the other night when I worked on this binding in a poorly lit hotel room:
Ugh!  And what about pulling all these thread tails to the backside of this top?
You guessed it-the Beam ‘n Read made it possible for me to actually SEE those thread tails to pull them through!  And last but not least, this light has been making it easier to remove the stabilizer from all my embroidered snowflake blocks:
Bottom line…this is one useful product! So, one of you lucky readers will own your own, courtesy of the Beam ‘n Read Folks!  If you’d like a chance to win one, it’s easy to enter the giveaway.  Just post a comment to this blog post that tells  me what you enjoy about reading my blog and you are entered!  Entries must be posted by 11:59 p.m.eastern time on Sunday, November 20, 2011.  And by the way, these lights, as well as all fabric, Isacord Thread, YLI Thread, Sulky Threads, and Quilters Dream Batting are 20% off in our online store until 9:00 am on Black Friday.  To get the discount, all you need to do is enter “2 weeks” (without the quotes) in the discount code box during checkout!
And to increase your chances of winning this great light, make sure you run over to my buddy Kelly Jackson’s blog at I Have a Notion, because she is also hosting a Beam ‘n Read Give-Away this week! And if you don’t win one of these lights during these blog hops this week, then check out the Sew I Quilt Blog between 11/21-11/30/11, because she’ll be hosting a give-away during those dates!

Using Thread to Add Detail to Your Quilt

November 8th, 2011

I’m nearly done with the free motion embroidery and trapunto on this quilt top, so now I’m adding in some detail work into the “blank spaces.”  My first move is to throw in a few grapevine curlycues emanating from the vine structures.  To do this, I first find a “blank zone” adjacent to a vine that’s large enough to support a grapevine curly cue, like what you see below:

Once you’ve identified the space and ironed it, you flip the top over and apply a temporary stabilizer onto the backside.  Here, I’ve attached some Sulky Iron-on Tear Away stabilizer:

(You need that stabilizer to prevent puckering and gathering from forming around your stitches.) Now, I really want this grapevine curlycue to have some dimension, so I’m going to use a super heavy thread. I’m using a size 12 pearl cotton embroidery thread by The Caron Collection (it has been hand-wound onto an old empty cone):

I want you to notice a couple things in the above photo. The first is a tiny bottle of Sewer’s Aid, which is liquid silicone. This lubricant can be used to help “finicky threads” flow easily through your machine. You do not need to use this product, but I use it for any thread I feel might be problematic. (Metallic thread would be at the top of my list.) It’s very easy to use. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see a line that goes from the top of the spool to the bottom. That is a line of Sewer’s Aid that I have drizzled along the cone, and I typically drizzle 4-5 lines like that across a given spool or cone. I use a size 90 Microtex Sharp or Topstitch Needle for this thread and I choose a mid-weight cotton in the bobbin. To start a curleycue, begin by placing your needle right at the edge of the vine as below:

You can pre-draw a curlycue and do follow-the-line stitching or just stitch one out freehand as below:

Notice how the stitches lay flat, without any puckering around them-that is because we placed that stabilzer on the backside. Here’s what the back looks like at this point:

Just pull those long thread tails to the backside, tie them in a knot, and snip them off. Once that’s done, tear away that stabilizer and you’re done!

Back to the Swirly Flower Quilt

October 25th, 2011

I haven’t had much time for any sewing lately, but I’ve gotten a fair amount of work done on the swirly flower quilt top.  I’d started on this flower below, but wasn’t happy with the outlining I did for the center:

In this close-up shot, you can see how boring the inlining thread line is, and you can also tell that I need to do something to tack down the edges of the mirror image teardrop shapes that make the 4 “heart-like” shapes in the center:

This is still just a quilt top, so what I did here was free motion machine embroidery, and the stitching will be prominent once it’s in the final quilt sandwich.  I used a solid gold rayon thread (“24 Karat Gold” by Robison Anton) to outline the red teardrops and have them “loop” in the center of the heartshapes:

…and here’s what the backside looked like at this point:

(I still get a thrill knowing I can get away with giant knots like that, since no one will ever see them or feel them!)  I wanted the center as a whole to be protruberant, so I threw a piece of scrap batting behind it and finished the edge of that center with a gold satin stitch that was wide enough to cover my original inlining:

…and here’s what the backside looks like at this point:

Next, I placed a layer of scrap batting behind the entire flower.  This means that once the quilt is finished, the center will have 3 layers of batting and the rest of the flower  will have two layers.  I did the EKG edge finishing design in the row of green petals:

Here’s a closeup of some of the green petals that shows the stitching better:

…and here’s what the backside looks like at this point:

The last thing I did was to finish the edges of the red shapes and then the outermost petals:

…and here’s what the backside looks like at this point:

And here’s the final flower:

I’ve only got one more big flower to go on this top.  I’m still on the fence about how to handle this top.  A part of me wants to attach it to a larger background piece and another part of me wants to place it into a quilt sandwich once the embroidery and traputo are done.  Which side will win out?  Stay tuned!

Just a Bit of Quilting Done

October 10th, 2011

I haven’t had much time to quilt in the last week, so all I got done was the center section of this quilt.  With the background fill quilting done, you can see that the feathers are nice and plump because of the trapunto layer beneath them:

Here is a close-up shot of the background fill design:

This design has a lot of movement to it and it’s accentuated here by using a thread with subtle variegation.  You may remember this design from this earlier shot:

But this was the first opportunity I’ve had to use it in a “real” quilt.  It was very fun to stitch, but I kind of got into a “zone” and wasn’t paying attention and ended up sewing part of the top to itself where the quilt had doubled over on itself on the backside:

Fortunately, it only caught some of the batting, so I was able to pull all that out without having to rip out any stitching.  Phew!!

Quilting on my Newest Quilt Project

October 3rd, 2011

I’m still outlining all the applique shapes on the tulip quilt with invisible thread, and I’ve also just started the quilting on my newest quilt, which is a learning tool for me to develop some machine embroidery skills.  Here it lies on the floor of my sewing room:

I made the center by doing the embroidery on a red appliqued circle in the center of my blue block. Here’s a closeup:

It never would have occurred to me that one could adapt a traditional embroidery file into an applique design, but I learned about it by reading the Why Machine Embroidery blog and you can find it right here. I have learned a ton and been inspired a ton by this blog, so if machine embroidery is starting to become intriguing to you, start reading this blog! Anyway, my circle was not perfectly centered for the embroidery, so the edges of my circle weren’t quite right. If you look closely, you’ll see the problem. I tried to cover it up/distract the viewer by using a product called Hot Ribbon Art. It comes in all kinds of colors and comes as very narrow (I believe they are 1/8 in wide) slices of ribbon backed by fusible web, and you attach them with a clover mini iron. It was super easy to do this around a circle. Anyway, that’s the blue edge finishing with a sheen around the perimeter of the center circle. (If you were trying to really jazz up your piece, you might choose a contrasting color. As I was trying to cover up a mistake, I chose a matching color!)

Next, I embroidered all my feathers onto water soluble stabilizer. Once done, I trimmed the stabilizer and then dropped them into a cup of water like this:

(Do you see that “film” around the edges? That’s the water soluble stabilizer and it all dissolves in the water.) Once I dried all my feathers, I had a nice pile of feathers, all ready to be placed where I wanted:

There was still some remaining fusible web on the back of each feather, so I fused them into place on the quilt top. I wanted to trapunto those feathers, so I placed a layer of batting behind each one and then free motion attached them to the top using invisible thread (Monopoly by Superior Threads) in my top needle. Once I cut away the excess batting from the backside, here’s what it looked like:

(Notice that the center also has a layer of trapunto…I did that by placing a batting layer in the hoop when I embroidered that center circle at the very beginning.) Once I pieced the rest of the top, I placed it all into the final quilt sandwich and started the quilting part. I wanted to create some additional texture in that center circle, so I preferentially outlined certain stitching zones within it. I did this using Invisifil Thread by Wonderfil Threads. I chose it instead of the Monopoly because the sheen of the Monopoly would make the “invisible thread” very “visible” in this setting:

By using an ultralightweight thread here, and matching the color fairly closely to the background color, you can hardly see that thread unless you’re actively searching for it. My pictures don’t show the textures created by this internal stitching, but it’s added a nice depth to the center:

…and this photo kind of shoes how “plumped up” the feathers are:

More to follow as I get further into the quilting!