I have been researching and practicing my free motion quilting skills, eager to quilt my sampler quilt. But realizing my skills needed a little work,I am brushing up before I am really ready to tackle a big project. This quilt has already taken so much time that I can’t bear to use it to practice on, it deserves a nice clean finish.

Enter, Leah Day of The Free Motion Quilt Project, and she is nothing if not creative and reassuring!  She does NOT, however, candy coat this process. She reminds us to spend LOTS of time practicing.  One thing I love about her is, she is not afraid to throw out all the rules and find her own way.  We definitely benefit from her time dedicated to trial and error, and experimentation to get the best results.  Why reinvent the wheel when you can just purchase Leah’s Craftsy class and watch it as many times as you want until you get it?  I bought her Free Motion Quilting a Sampler class, and she has lots of tips to share there.  One of the things she does is modify her quilting foot – and it works, I’m so glad I tried it!

Modified FMQ foot: open toe, trimmed bar, elastic rubber band

Modified FMQ foot: open toe, trimmed bar, elastic rubber band

I have a Pfaff Grand Quilter 1200, and it’s quilting foot from the manufacturer is a) high shank b) hopping foot and c) closed toe.  My first hesitation with following Leah’s lead on modifying my quilting foot is, it’s expensive AND what if it didn’t work…? Replace my $40 foot for the sake of experimenting?  No thanks!  I couldn’t find many testimonials verifying her method – so I felt insecure about jumping right in, and that’s also why I am telling you about my results.

The key, for me, was buying a cheap foot to test the theory, and use it until it wears out.  Then, I will know whether I want to adjust the factory supplied foot. Here is what you do: First, determine whether you have high shank or low shank machine feet, your owners’ manual should tell you that.  Then search online and make your purchase.  I bought mine for around $18 including shipping, the low shank feet are even cheaper.  Follow Leah’s instructions in the craftsy class, and you won’t be disappointed.  Please, please don’t ruin your expensive quilting feet without first testing this out!

Before this modification, I had trouble seeing my stitches with the closed toe foot.  Clipping that foot into open toe really helps with visibility, go figure!  Also, this machine had a hopping foot which irritated me.   I found making smooth and straight lines difficult with the hopping foot, and it also caused problems stitching over thick seams.  My sampler quilt in particular has lots of seams, and some of them get quite thick at certain points, and the hopping foot seemed to make passing through those areas difficult.  Clipping the extra bar on the foot eliminates the hopping motion, while the rubber band gives you the flexibility to raise the foot to a place where it won’t catch on seams.  It’s a brilliant system, and I have had wonderful stitching results using this foot.  Fingers crossed I will perfect my skills and FMQ my sampler soon!

It’s been a while, but that’s not because there is nothing going on…

Do you support local schools with auction items?  This year I decided to make and donate a bag to the auction for my daughter’s elementary school – I’m hoping it at least makes as much money as I spent making it!  This bag is made from the I’ll Have One of Everything Bag pattern from Anna Maria Horner’s book Seams To Me and includes upcycled denim and corduroy. I added some hand stitching for interest, and a couple of prints for color.  It turned out quite nice, if I do say so myself, fingers crossed it finds a good home.

auctionpurse

Book and torn strips for the purse handle.

Book and torn strips for the purse handle.

During spring break around here Big Sis went away for a couple of days, so Li’l Sis helped me make these really fun jellybean bean bags.  It’s amazing how quick these came together with a little helper, she was the felt cutter and right side out turner and also bean filler!  (Didn’t leave much for me to do)  The girls and their cousin each got 3 – unfortunately their shape doesn’t lend themselves well to juggling.  I’m sure they can be used for mischief somehow.  We found the tutorial from Purl Bee, here. 

Jellybean bean bags!

Jellybean bean bags!

Also during spring break, I found myself stitching up these sashiko napkins at every idle moment for Mom’s birthday.  These unadorned spring colored napkins practically threw themselves at me at Target.  I thought they were the perfect canvas for some nice, simple hand stitching.  Since Mom’s birthday was right around the corner, I couldn’t pass them up.  Two of my favorite tools for sashiko are my Clover brand transfer paper (not pictured) – love that stuff – not cheap but it works great and can be used multiple times over before the sheet is done and my Clover brand adjustable thimble as you see in the picture.  If you are searching for a good thimble, I recommend it – highly.

IMG_4329 IMG_4327

Having been smitten with leather lately, and leather accents on bags and such, I’ve decided to give it a try.  Up next, a faux Midori Traveler notebook with leather cover – except I’m going to use notebook inserts from Field Notes.  The little journals are made in the USA with high quality papers, and are simple yet elegant AND I sourced them from a local paperie which I was excited about.  Will let you know how this all goes, onward! Apologies in advance for the horrible picture today – rain in the sky and my dark house do not make for nice photos.

IMG_4372PPS.  Just to let you in on my plans… I hope to start a series of posts about how to use Inkscape as it relates specifically to quilting – and for newbies like me who know nothing!  I’ve been really interested in the Quilt Design a Day blog, and want to give things a whirl but need to learn the computer program first – and who can afford Adobe’s Illustrator anymore?!

I feel like each time I complete a quilt I struggle with how to label the quilt.  How does the quilter define what NEEDS to be on the label, and what is nice to have on the label?  It probably seems difficult because the answer changes each time depending on what the quilt is for.  And, I am openly admitting that I don’t label all my quilts.  I know, it’s horrible.  Usually, the ones I make for my own family to use are the ones that never get that label.  Why?  I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with FINISHING things… all – the – way.  Okay, well, this can be fixed.

So, I have decided, at minimum the quilt needs 1. the year it was completed 2. my initials  Then, sometimes, I add who the quilt is for (often for baby quilts) and the location the quilt was made, and my whole name not just initials.

After I decide what goes on the label, there is a debate.  Oh – do I embroider the label?  It’s so sweet that way – but oh, my, I want it finished and writing with a Micron pen is so much faster.  I don’t have alot of faith that the Micron pen stands the test of time, where embroidery probably will last longer.  Then again, embroidery can unravel or work its way out too.  (Does anyone have experience with this, how long will the micron pen endure? with regular washings?)  I often resort to fast and DONE.

For the future, I want a custom stamp that I can stamp directly onto the back with fabric paint, and then customize with additional details if I need to.  I’ll get working on that – as if the to-do list isn’t a mile long already!

Now for the photos…

The quilt label: this is a baby quilt and the gator is a private reference that the recipient will adore.  It had to go on the label, no question.

IMG_4263 IMG_4267 IMG_4270 IMG_4278 IMG_4279 IMG_4262The quilt began 1.5 years ago, right – I am focusing on finishing this year…  It sat, even basted, waiting for me to be brave enough to free motion quilt it.  Well, it’s a baby quilt and the world is not going to end if its not perfect.  What’s that saying… finished is better than perfect.  So, now it’s FINISHED and not perfect, but perfect enough.  Each color on the quilt was free motion quilted with a unique pattern. The patchwork stitched together very quickly, and came to about 70″ square.  I found the tutorial from Jeni B of In Color Order.  Her instructions are very thorough.  She calls it the Giant Vintage Star Quilt.  But guess what – this baby was one of TWO!  I better get cracking so I can at least give both quilts by the time they turn 2 years old!

Yes, it’s small and was a quick project, but it’s finished!  I’ve discovered how much I like to start things, yet finishing them seems to be much more difficult.  This year I am trying to change that.  I started this little pouch because we needed a way to keep all our dice in one spot.  Our tradition at home is to have game night on Sundays, and recently we taught the girls to play Liar’s Dice, and well, now we have LOTS of dice.  Our spotty dice needed to live in a dotty pouch, so here we are!  Plus, in college I always wanted a ladybug tattoo but never got one so this is the next best thing (and probably much nicer to look at). Hah!  Singing praises THAT never happened, yes indeed.   In case you are wondering, the ladybugs are Charley Harper fabric produced by Birch Fabrics.

Dotty Pouch

I made Noodlehead’s Open Wide Zipper Pouch, she writes concise, clear tutorials.  I used quilt batting scraps to interface the pouch so now it’s nice and squishy.  And sturdy.  I’ve made these for teachers’ gifts too, perfect to stuff a gift card into, and when I’m really planning ahead I have the kids sign the inside lining which is a fun thing.

This weekend is retreat weekend with my quilt guild, and I hope to have one or maybe two new finishes to share.  Woot!  Here’s to a weekend of ALL sewing and NO cooking and NO cleaning.

What are you finishing this weekend??

I feel like there is something missing from these conversations about pattern adjustments.  I understand the theory, working parts and process of a Small Bust Adjustment (SBA).  But when making a garment, one pattern piece does not act alone.  It’s just one piece of the three dimensional puzzle. In making my washi dress octopi tunic I discovered two places that required some additional adjustments.  I don’t get around alot in the garment area of the blogsphere, so maybe there are detailed discussions in this area, but I haven’t come across any in my limited meandering.  Changing one piece really does affect how it comes together with the rest of the garment.  Maybe experienced sewists just fix it along the way, not really thinking too much about it – the adjustments are not difficult and are quite logical.  But in my mind, it’s worth clarifying for posterity and thoroughness.  Here are the supplies I use:  a roll of vellum, scotch tape, clear ruler and a pencil.

Cutting mat, vellum, scotch tape, clear ruler, and pencil.

Cutting mat, vellum, scotch tape, clear ruler, and pencil.

It’s nice to have a ruled/lined cutting mat underneath too but not necessary.  I have used pattern paper that you can buy by the yard from the fabric store before, and I like the grid lines on it, but it’s thick, and hard to see through.  This vellum is thinner than that, but sturdier than commercial pattern tissue, a good compromise.

First, I take a look at the newly drafted bodice pattern piece and find the horizontal (perpendicular to the center front line) adjustment and measure how much overlap there is.  You can also line up the original pattern piece next to the new pattern with center front together and notice the new draft piece is shorter.

Side by side comparison.

Side by side comparison.

If you measure this difference, it should be equal to the amount of horizontal overlap.  In my case, that is one quarter inch.

IMG_4217 Agreed, this is not much, but if you cut your pattern without fixing this, the front pieces will come up shorter than the back.  That is annoying to fix after the fact, so I’ll fix it now.  With the washi dress you could put that quarter inch back into the bodice or back into the lower skirt. Or, you could opt to take 1/4″ out of the back.  I like a longer tunic so won’t mess with shortening the back. I am also a petite person, and think the shorter bodice will be a better fit, so opt to add the 1/4″ to the skirt.  Just think it through and do what makes the most sense for you.

Commercial patterns typically come with a line marked “lengthen or shorten here”.  Indie patterns may or may not provide this indication.  In Rae’s tutorial for the washi maxi dress she recommends lengthening by the tunic line.  I cut a tunic, so have already cut my pattern piece at the tunic line.  Therefore, there are two ways to lengthen the tunic (a) extend the bottom by 1/4 inch and redraw the curved hemline (yuck!) (b) slash the pattern just above the tunic line and add 1/4 inch there, merely redrawing the short lines on each side (Yes! This one’s for me. The time-efficient, lazy, rather-sew-than-draw-hemlines, girl).  Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Draw a line perpendicular to the center line for the skirt, about an inch above the hemline.  I like to keep the pattern piece on my ruled cutting mat to keep things straight, and use my clear ruler to line things up.  Draw your line with your pencil, and cut with your paper scissors.  (You should never, ever cut paper with your fabric shears.)IMG_4219
  2. Cut a one inch strip of your pattern paper and slip it under the slashed pattern pieces.  Use the mat to keep them lined up at the center front, separate the two pattern pieces by 1/4 inch – measure at both ends to make sure it is even.  When you are satisfied that everything is lined up, tape it down with your scotch tape.
  3. Use your clear ruler to redraw the sides where the pattern piece was extended.IMG_4227
  4. Trim as necessary with your paper scissors. And you are done!

Silly me, I began sewing my tunic without any regard for further adjustments when I discovered one more place that needed some help.  This is what I love about being a maker – always learning something new.  New skills improve the outcome of the next project.  It’s brilliant.

When you look at the SBA bodice, you will see a vertical line where the pattern piece was overlapped.  In other words the width of the original pattern piece was shortened as well.  When the slightly narrower bodice gets stitched to the skirt front you need to make one more adjustment.  This you can do on the fly, it’s very easy.  I just like to be prepared, because sewing surprises are not always the fun kind of surprises. This is what you do:

Rae’s pattern includes these adorable pleats, two on each side of center front.  When you pin the bodice to the skirt (yes, yes, you should pin, it’s true) start at the center and work your way out.  Pin at center, pin at the two pleats either side of center and when you come to the last pleats, take in any excess fabric from the skirt.  Increase the size of the last pleat on each side until you get the sides of the bodice to match the sides of the skirt and pin that too.  This will make the pleats different sizes, but it is such a minimal amount, no one will notice.  It will be our little secret. 🙂  Heads up – if you basted your pleats as the instructions indicated earlier, you will have to un-baste (hello seam ripper!) the outer pleats in order to take in the extra fabric.  Now you can finish the rest of your dress or tunic as instructed.  If you have any questions, let me know.  I’ll try my best to answer them!

I suppose you might like to see the finished octopi tunic on me…

2015-02-24 I wore it to my quilt guild meeting.  We are the East Bay Modern Quilters.  So fun!  Now that the tunic is done, I have my sights set on some knits – leggings perhaps?  (yes, daring) and a cardi.  Looking forward to sharing with you.

xo MamaCat

I bought this delightful octopus fabric to make myself a tunic.  It is from Cotton+Steel and it is their cotton lawn substrate.  At first the fabric seemed very stiff and little bit heavy for a lawn, but after I pre-washed and dried it, it was soft with just enough body to it so that it didn’t feel flimsy.  Perfect for a blouse.

Cotton+Steel cotton lawn

Of course the impulse was to cut into it right away.  I love starting new projects, and was particularly eager for this fabric to arrive in the mail so I could get to it.  The grand plan being – make a lined, sleeveless Washi tunic, pattern by Rae of Made-by-Rae. You can buy her pattern and see lots of inspiration & tutorials on her website. Then that little voice inside, the one that comes from a place of logic and reason, the voice that carries wisdom and experience with it, had something to say.  Sometimes I don’t like nor agree with this voice.  Our conversation went something like this.

Me: Oh, I looove this, lets start now.  It’s prewashed and everything.

Logical me:  Um, that fabric was expensive.  Maybe you want to test a muslin first.

Me:  Naw, this pattern has plenty of ease in it.  And, the elastic shirring in the back to pull it all together – it will be fine.

Logical me: Well… have you actually looked in the mirror lately?  I mean, there’s not really much happening in the chest area (duh) and you should probably test it out.  The pattern says its made for a B cup.

Me:  [Checks all the bras in the chest of drawers.]  Humph.

Logical me:  And, ya know, that fabric wasn’t exactly cheap or anything… (yes, logical me used this argument more than once – it often works)

Me:  Dammit, I hate it when you are right.  Fine.

Sometime later…

Me:  Oh, thank goodness I did a muslin and then a small bust adjustment.  Because now, the fit is perfect.  This new blouse is going to look so gooooood. It really didn’t even take that long!

Logical me: (nothing – she’s very polite and never gloats)

Drafted bodice pattern piece.  You can see the three areas where the tissue overlaps.  This is where the pattern was reduced for a better fit.

Drafted bodice pattern piece. You can see the three areas where the tissue overlaps. This is where the pattern was reduced for a better fit.

I vowed some time ago, maybe this happens when you turn from being a kid to a real adult, to always listen to the voice of reason.  The voice of reason is almost never wrong.  Trust me, if at all possible, make yourself a muslin.  You will be so glad you went to the extra effort!  Take that button down shirt from the closet that your DH never wears, put it to some good use and cut it up for your muslin.  It’ll be fun.  🙂

P.S. I am not going to review a bust adjustment because it’s all been done before on the interwebs.  My favorite source for this type of pattern adjustment is the Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnik of Colette Patterns.  Her book not only gives step by step photos and procedure for the adjustment, but also tells you other areas you can apply this type of adjustment to.  Her book is indispensible for the home sewist and that’s a fact.  You can also find out how to do a small or large bust adjustment from Megan Nielsen  her version is nearly identical to the one in the Colette book.  Have fun sewing!

If you can believe, I created this blog in 2011 and it sat empty, languishing until now.  I have named 2015 the year of action.  I’m a do-er, and more importantly a finish-er.  That’s what I’m telling myself.  Welcome to my world!

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