Revamping My Sewing Room – Part I

August 29th, 2016
The first 8 months of 2016 have been a whirlwind and my head is still spinning from it all.  In the midst of all that has been going on, we were on a waiting list to have my sewing room painted for a number of months.  I have wanted to do this for eons but kept putting it off because of the sheer dread of having to move all the crap that’s in there so the painting could happen.  The last time I painted this room I did it myself and it was around 15 years ago.  The work involved in moving all this stuff lasted for days so I felt ok about paying a professional painter to do it because I went through enough “suffering” that writing a check seemed like the easy part!  I took a bold step and went with a deep green (that has a lot of blue in it, as you can see above.)  This color is a Sherwin-Williams color called “Lagoon.”  The shot above is part of the main back wall that you see when you enter the room.  Those small wall hangings are by Melody Johnson and they are mounted on felt-covered foam insulation from Lowe’s, and they are held in place with Command Strips that leave no marks when you later remove them. (That blue felt comes on a 72 inch wide bolt at Joann’s.)  I love that the room now had a bit of an “art gallery” kind of feel to it, and words cannot describe the rush I get from being surrounded by such yummy colors.
In the past, I always just staple-gunned a large piece of white felt to my wall to use for a design wall.  Ernie said the room was now too nice for that, so I covered (2) 4 ft x 8 ft sheets of foam insulation with another color of felt, this time an aqua marine from (I don’t normally buy from them but it was the only place I could find this color of felt.).   The shot above shows part of the new design wall before I’d put anything on it. Don’t think that covering these with felt is hard.  Here’s a shot of part of one of them from the backside so you’ll know about the messy part that’s hidden:
This next shot shows some pieces up on the new design wall.  These are all “leftovers,” or test stitch-out pieces from when I did the first stitching of a new machine embroidery applique design.  They are adding up so I’m trying to put some together into a hodge-podge quilt:
(This is also the view I have when I sit at my Pfaff and piece…pretty sweet, huh?!)  This table is my main sewing table for piecing and quilting.  I can tell you with complete sincerity that it hasn’t been this neat in about a million years!  This next shot is the view from the other side of the table, as you look into the walkway to get to the other machine on the opposite side of the table:
The white structures on that side wall are shoe stands filled with clear plastic shoe boxes of sewing notions and you can see that the shorter one is holding some completed quilt blocks that are currently “in play.”  (I guess that means I’m still dreaming about exactly how I will use them):
On the opposite side are some shelves and drawers that still need to be reviewed:
This large table is a very cheapo version of a sewing machine setup.  There are 4 short file cabinets that are very lightweight and cheap and were purchased decades ago at Kmart.  There is a hollow door straddled atop each pair of file cabinets.  I sewed that way for many years and Ernie said he was slowly being driven insane by having to video tape me quilting on these vibrating hollow doors, so he talked me into placing a sheet of MDF (medium density fiberboard)on top of each door about 5 years ago.  That was very good advice!  I am embarrassed to show you how much thread I have but this will give you a sense of my “habit.”  (In my defense, I really DO USE this stuff!).  Here’s how I’m organizing my thread now:
I had it just in large plastic zip lock bags for years but they frequently spilled, so I’d throw those bags into boxes to stabilize them.  Once the room got painted and had such great colors, those boxes didn’t fit in, so I broke down and bought these fabric covered aqua tote boxes from Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  (They always suck me in with those darn coupons…)  I try to subdivide my colors so I can find them faster.  As an example below, one bag had dark bluish purples, one bag has dark maroonish purples, and the center bag has light purples of any type:
I’ll show you other parts of my revamped sewing room in future posts.  I am one lucky person to have this wonderful space to work in.
In completely unrelated news, we are due to “go live” with our new web site later today (Monday, August 29, 2016).  Please bear with us as there will likely be some hiccups.  If you are having trouble finding something on the new site, please email me and I’ll see if I can find it for you!

Invigorating Color!

August 22nd, 2016
I probably should have warned you that you might need sunglasses to safely view the photos in this blog post!  The block above is a 35 inch square machine embroidery applique block created on my embroidery machine over many days last week.  It is appliqued/embroidered on a piece of hand-dyed cotton sateen that has been sitting in a drawer for a few years, just waiting for the right design.  I love, love, love the rich, saturated colors here and the way they bleed into one another.  This kind of fabric dyeing is actually very easy to do, and I’ll give you  a link at the end of this post to a short video tutorial we made a few years ago that shows you exactly how to do it.  In the meantime, though, here are some close up shots of this center block:
The “circle” that surrounds the center flower quartet is made of 5 inch swag pairs.  I was more understated than usual in my thread color choices for the swag pairs but I’m glad I was because the background fabric colors are so strong.  Here is a close up shot of the center floral design:
(I still need to trim some jump stitches in those center flowers: I just noticed those now!)  I really like the outermost flowers that encircle the block.  I was trying to make every other flower more of a “purple theme” and then every other flower a “blue theme.”  Here’s a “blue themed” one:
…and here’s a “purple themed” one:
I have been doing MEA for about 4 years now (maybe it’s been 5, I can’t remember), but it still never ceases to amaze me just how much intricate detail and texture the thread work can add to an applique design.  I am enthralled by the swirled thread work on these.  Here are a couple of them together in one shot:
Working with all this fabulous color last week was a treat for my soul.  It’s making me feel like I need to use up more of my yummy hand dyed fabrics because they make me feel so alive as I’m working with them.
If you’re interested in trying some hand dyeing yourself, this video shows you every single step I use to make fabrics like these:

Give it a try…your quilting will never be the same!


A New Ruler Work Border Design

August 15th, 2016
Coming up with new border designs using rulers never gets old to me.  I’m finding that you can easily generate lots of ideas just by virtue of how you “subdivide” the space under a basic  arched border framework.  Here’s a shot of the original empty framework before I started filling it in.  These were created using the arc rulers in the PTD ruler starter pack, but you can create this type of framework using all kinds of arc rulers:
The first fill-in was a featherette to fill in the tapered channel in the outermost position.  This featherette is in the “upside down” orientation and I call this a “waterfall featherette:”
(I used a different color of polyester thread just to jazz things up.)  Next up, I filled the 2 crescent shapes with smaller featherettes.  They look like mirror images because my goal as I stitched was to use up all available space and that results in a fair amount of symmetry:
(That last section was quilted with a deep turquoise rayon thread.)  Last but not least, I filled that center bottom section with a different type of featherette using a Floriani green polyester thread:
border-framework-4Can’t wait to add this into the border of a “real quilt!”

Ruler Work: Elegant Simplicity to Intricate/Complex Designs

August 11th, 2016



This is a center shot of a complex ruler work design that has been filled in.  This “began life” as a very simple, yet elegant rope-cabled wreath that was honestly very easy to create using the Westalee Circles on Quilts Wreath #3 template.  (You can find that template by clicking here.)  Here is what this wreath looks like in its “native state:”



(Sorry for all the color changes.  All these photos were taken in different places with different lighting.)  I think this wreath is so cool.  If you look at it closely, it’s not the traditional wreath comprised of plumes that we stitch so often.  Instead, it’s composed of repetitious rope cabling shapes.  This gives it a bit more movement, almost a “spinning”  type of effect.  Here, you can see that effect accentuated once it’s been hyperquilted with gold rayon thread:





In this next shot, I’ve created a framework in the center using my PTD arc rulers:



…and in this next shot, I’ve began creating a design just outside the wreath by adding a small double crescent ring around it:



(Notice that I am using my original soap lines as my starting and stopping points.)  Next up, I added some arced swags that reach for the outermost parts of the block:



And now it’s time for the fun filling-in portion of the designs!  I added a featherette in the center of the swagged “quadrangle,” then added a single row of pearls inside the gold double crescents:



…and now 4 featherettes have been added in an aqua polyester thread:



…and then the outer arched swags were filled in and then hyperquilted:



…and here it is with the background quilted:



In truth, the color is much more like this color below:




Totally fun from start to finish!  That baseline wreath really is very easy to create using the Westalee template.  Here’s a nice video that shows you how to do it:


New Ruler Foot on the Block

August 5th, 2016
Have you heard about the Clarity Foot by Accents in Design?  This is a clear acrylic ruler foot that fits most home sewing machines.  The benefit of this foot is that it is clear, so you have better visibility.  I have not yet tried one myself so I have no personal input on the foot, but if you’re looking at ruler feet, you might want to watch this video about it:

If you’re like me, you crave having the best visibility possible, especially when adding freehand work to fill-in your ruler work framework. Because this foot is clear, it seems like you would not need to swap to a regular free motion foot to be able to see well enough the get the freehand work done. Like the Westalee ruler feet, you’ll need to know the shank size of your machine. You can buy it from Accents in Design. Clicking here will take you to their web site.