Monday, November 28, 2011

In The Meadow We Can Build A Snowman...

You should all be very thankful that you can't hear me singing! Even though I think I sound pretty good, I have it on trusted authority that when someone strikes up a tune, I should keep my mouth shut. Instead of singing about snowmen, I'm going to stick to telling you how to sew one. Use this photo for reference, I don't have step-by-step photos to share - but I know you can do it if you just follow along!

This great big gift bag is the perfect alternative to paper gift wrap for those of you that are going "green". Totally machine washable and cute as the dickens, this bag can be used year after year. Why not start by personalizing a bag for each recipient? I used a basic blue dot fabric for the body of the bag, but for those that don't like snow, how about a Hawaiian print? Pink candy cane stripes for the girly girl in your family or what about an ultra conservative plaid for Dad? Check your stash, you know there are fabrics in there and you can't remember why you purchased them. This is a great opportunity to put a nice size piece to good use.

To make one bag you are going to need:

1 1/8 yard of bag fabric, trimmed to 36" by the width of fabric

1 yard of black or whatever you like for the hat

1/4 yard of red, or any color for the hat band or 2 yards of wide ribbon

scrap of orange for the carrot nose

scrap of black for the eyes and mouth

18" square of PUL waterproof fabric for the face, you can order that here:

18" square of flannel for lining

2 yards of cord for the drawstring

threads, fusible web and basic sewing supplies

I have an instruction sheet that details exactly how to make the bag step-by-step and also includes the applique shapes for the snowman face. If you order the package of PUL fabric we will happily include one with your order. You are probably wondering why you need PUL for the face. You don't. It is just a beautiful bright white fabric with an exceptionally smooth texture and it makes a great looking snowman! The 18" square of flannel is to be used as lining for the PUL. Like any white fabric, depending on the print you are using behind it, you might get some shadowing. I like to line the white to make sure that doesn't happen. After all, you will be looking at this bag for years to come!

Step one is to construct the snowman face. You are going to draw an 18" circle on the PUL. If you have a Quick Trim & Circle Ruler that I designed for Creative Grids, flip the ruler over, find the center, count 9 spaces away (that's half of 18) and draw the perfect circle. If you don't have a ruler, start rummaging around the kitchen for something round that is around 18" that you can trace. If you want to see what else the Quick Trim & Circle Ruler can do, click here to see the video:

Now that you have seen it, I'll bet you want to order one, click here:

Now back to our Snowman Bag:

Layer the PUL on top of the flannel and draw the circle that will be the snowman's face. If you have the pattern, trace the eyes, nose and mouth pieces onto the fusible web. Press the fusible web onto the appropriate color fabric. If you don't have the pattern, cut the shapes out freehand. You know what a carrot looks like - just cut! How bad can it be? Coal comes in all shapes, you can't get that wrong!

Fuse the facial features to the PUL keeping everything inside the circle. You will want to use a pressing cloth when you iron on the PUL. Stitch the features down before cutting the circle out. If you have kids, get them involved with arranging the face, they know how to create personality!

Now stitch the face centered on one 36" edge of the background fabric. The head should extend past the edge of the fabric by about 2 inches. This helps it to look like the black hat is on the snowman not hovering above it. Trim the snowman's forehead even with the edge of the fabric.

Cut the black hat fabric into two sections measuring 18" by 36". Match the raw edges and stitch one section to the top of the snowman's head and the other to the opposite side. If you know how to make the pillowcases with the finished cuff seams (we call it the hot dog method) add the hat fabric using that method and all of your raw edges will be concealed.

If you have never used the roll-it-up method before, my friends over at American Patchwork & Quilting have a great step-by-step tutorial on their Million Pillowcase Challenge site. You can click here to see it:

Now cut the hatband fabric into 2 strips measuring 3 1/2 inches by 34 inches. Fold about 1 inch of fabric to the backside on each end of both pieces and press. Stitch both pieces into a long tube. Press the tubes flat. Center each of these strips 1 1/2 inches up from the seam line on the black fabric. Top stitch along both long sides on both fabric strips. You can also use a nice wide ribbon to make these casings - faster and easier, but don't forget to finish the ends!

To assemble your bag, fold it in half with the right side showing, matching the seams. Stitch both sides using a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance. Clip the corners and turn the bag inside out. Stitch the side seams a second time using a heavy 1/4 inch seam allowance and all of your raw edges will be hidden.

Insert the cording through the hatband to use as a drawstring.
Enjoy - for years to come!

Bibs, Bibs and More Bibs

I love having grand kids. I also love having an embroidery machine. If you have both of them, you can make absolute magic!

Our Granddaughter Madeline just cut her first tooth and her brother Grant is following right behind. They are in the drooling-all-over-everything stage so some quick and easy bibs sounded like a great idea. AnitaGoodesign has an adorable embroidery CD to stitch out bibs in the hoop, so I decided to give it a try.... I loved the results!

To make the bibs you have to have an embroidery machine and a hoop that will accommodate a 7 or 8 inch stitch area. I use a BERNINA 830 with a Jumbo hoop, so I had all the equipment I needed.

You will want to have the following on hand:

8 1/2 inch square of fun fabric for each bib

8 1/2 inch square of PUL water resistant fabric for each bib

Thread to match or coordinate

No-Tie shoelaces or ribbon for ties

Water Soluble Stabilizer

The bibs are available on the CD in two sizes and two styles. Select the one you prefer and load it into your machine. I stitched out the larger size, and naturally I had to make both the boy and girl versions!

Hoop just the stabilizer and thread your machine with the same thread top and bottom. Any brand wash away stabilizer will probably work, I had OESD Aqua Mesh and it worked great! Because I planned to make more than one bib, I didn't cut my stabilizer to the size of the hoop. I cut a long length, about 40 inches and started my hoop at one end. See the photos below.

Stitch out the placement line on the stabilizer.

Place your fabric and the PUL wrong sides together, the same way you want them to look in the finished bib. The PUL is wonderfully soft, but water resistant, so nothing will soak through the bib. It is easy to sew, in fact this is the material that they are using for the newfangled diaper covers. It also works great for purse lining, it stays clean and everything in your bag stays dry. Back to the bibs....

Place the fabric/PUL over the placement line with the PUL on the bottom and stitch the tackdown stitches.

Take the hoop off the machine (but don't take the fabric out of the hoop!) and trim the excess fabric. I trimmed one layer at a time to get a nice clean cut. It also allowed me to take extra care not to snip the stabilizer layer!

Put the hoop back on the machine and stitch the satin stitch.

Your done!

The satin stitch finishes all of the edges, including the neck edge. It also stitches two small eyelet holes, one on each side to insert the "no-tie" shoelace into. You can pick-up these curly shoelaces in any discount store. They are permanently curled and stretch. To use these to hold the bibs in place you poke a hole in the eyelet and slide the shoelace end through the hole. If you prefer ties, you can always tack a ribbon in place instead. I found the no-ties in white, red and black.

Because I left a long length of stabilizer all I needed to do to make the next bib was gently tear the first from the stabilizer and slide my hoop further down the length. This photo is of the first two I stitched, then I realized I could put them even closer together. Very little waste. When you have them all stitched out, rinse away the excess stabilizer and let them dry. You can press the bibs if you need to, but do it on the cotton side. If you find that you have to press the PUL, press on the woven side or use a pressing cloth.

Once I got going, it was very hard to stop! The scalloped edges took a few minutes longer to trim, but they were just as quick and easy to make. Speaking of quick, I am lucky enough to have several machines to stitch on, so while the 830 was humming away making bibs, I was able to use another machine to stitch up a quilt top.

The package of PUL is enough to make a dozen bibs, which makes the cost for the PUL about 44 cents each. A set of bibs would make a killer shower gift for a new Mom. You can even personalize them. I passed over the decorative stitching on some of the bibs and added names or initials using the fonts built into the machine.

These things are like potato chips - you can't make just one!

If you are just joining us, scroll down through the previous posts to see additional ideas and a peek at future projects.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Button Tree Sweatshirt

I love this project for several reasons. Not only is it festive and easy to make, but it is really fun to wear. The buttons make a little jingle sound when you move that kids absolutely love.
First, lets get the "Don't make this shirt for anyone that is small enough to bite the buttons off the front" warning out of the way. Grant and Maddie are going to have to wait a few years for theirs.

You are going to need:

1 bag of Laura Kelly green buttons. (One bag is probably enough for 2 kid size shirts.)
Green sewing thread

1 sweatshirt, the color of your choice, it doesn't have to be red.

1 embroidery hoop. Hand embroidery or machine embroidery, the hoop just needs to be a bit larger than the size of your tree.
1 triangle pattern - you are going to make this yourself so you will need 1 sheet of paper.

1 small rectangle of brown fabric if you want your tree to have a trunk

Brown thread for the tree trunk applique

A Button Sew-On foot for your machine, it's a #18 if you are a BERNINA owner.

Basic sewing supplies

Create your triangle tree shape by folding a sheet of paper in half lengthwise. Place your rotary ruler on the paper so that one edge extends from one corner of the folded paper to the opposite diagonal corner. Cut. (Yes I know that cutting paper with your rotary blade will dull it - use an old one. Having an extra rotary cutter with a not-sharp-enough-for-fabric blade at this time of year helps with gift wrapping too!) This is your tree pattern. Trace it on to the front of your sweatshirt using a removable marking pencil.

If you are adding a trunk to your tree, use a bit of paper backed fusible web fused to the brown fabric and cut a rectangle. Fuse it in place and stitch around it. The trunk isn't necessary, everyone will realize the green triangle is a tree without the trunk. I just added that step for you purists. Not making a trunk has one added benefit. After the holiday you can cut the buttons off and replace them with red buttons in the shape of a heart! Same shirt - new look!

Now put the shirt into the embroidery hoop. You want the shirt flat on the bottom of the hoop as you would for machine embroidery. For you hand stitchers, this is upside down. Put the outside of the hoop on the inside of the shirt. Push the inside of the hoop down from the outside of the shirt and secure. This will allow the shirt to sit flat on the surface of your sewing machine.

You didn't think we were going to sew those button on by hand did you?

Look at your buttonhole menu. Is there a picture of a button? Press it. All machines that do a zigzag stitch are capable of sewing buttons on. If you think about it, all that is required is a zigzag stitch that doesn't go anywhere. If you don't have a button sew on feature, set your stitch length to zero and your stitch width to match the holes in the buttons. The holes in buttons are pretty standard, so once you determine the setting you are good to go.

Set your machine up for free arm sewing. Slide the hooped shirt under the presser foot. You might have to take the foot off to get the hoop past the needle depending on what type of hoop you are using. When you have the shirt ready to sew, secure your Button Sew-On foot in place. - What? You don't have a Button Sew-On Foot? Ok, you can use another wide base zig-zag foot, but the process isn't going to be as much fun. Having the right tools makes the whole process SO much easier. BERNINA's #18 foot has little rubber feet that hold the button in place as you stitch. If you don't have that foot, you are going to have to sew slowly and keep a careful eye that the button doesn't slip and break your needle.

Place a handful of buttons on the shirt and scoot them into position inside the tree shape. Arrange them randomly using only the sew-through buttons. Save the ones with a shank for another project. Hop from button to button as you fill in the shape. If you have scissors built into your machine, this is a great place to use them. If you don't have scissors, just hop from button to button, you can trim all of the carrier threads later. Fill the entire triangle shape with buttons. Trim threads and enjoy!

Here are some helpful hints:
To keep the stitch spacing, some 4 hole buttons get stitched in parallel lines, smaller ones get stitched in an X. Look at the distance between the holes to tell the difference.

Make sure the whole tree is inside the hoop you select, you can't move the hoop after you have started to sew buttons.

Don't use a t-shirt, the buttons are too heavy. You need a sweatshirt for support

Turn the sweatshirt inside out to launder it so that the buttons don't get caught in the wash.

If you don't have a button sew-on stitch or scissors built into your machine, let Santa know, he might be in a generous mood this year!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas

For those of you that didn't get up in the middle of the night on Black Friday to forage for bargains at some big box store that insisted you show up before dawn to get a deal, this post is for you.

Over the next week or so I have decided to post my favorite gift giving ideas. Most of the projects don't require a long involved explanation and those that do have materials or patterns that you would probably need to purchase. I am going to make that easy too. I've added links to our website for those items. If you order the product to make the project and we have an instruction sheet, we will toss it in your package, free of charge. We also offer FREE SHIPPING on our website.

How's that for a little bit of Holiday Cheer?

This is a sneak peek at the projects for those of you that might want to product shop a little early:

Number 1 on the list is our Button Tree Shirt. The photo is a close up of a red sweatshirt that has been decorated with green buttons. Where did I get all those green buttons? I ordered them - don't try dying them yourself.... ask me how I know.

Sundays post will give you the tips and tricks for making this project unbelievably simple. I know you will be too busy supporting your local small business on Saturday to get any sewing done! Click here to order the buttons:

I have twin grand babies, Grant and Madeline. This is their first Christmas and as any Grandma with an embroidery machine knows, you have to sew like crazy for them before they are old enough to have an opinion!

These bibs are an "in the hoop" project from Anita Goodesign. You can order the design CD here:

I will give you my tips for making them fast and efficient later in the week.

For those of you that are going "green" our Snowman Gift Bag is the perfect alternative to paper gift wrap. This huge reusable bag is large enough to hold an entire stack of gifts for one person. You supply the fabric - which might just be in your stash - and when you order the white for the face we will include the instructions for making the bag.

The snowman face is made from PUL waterproof fabric. You are going to want some of that to back the baby bibs too! You can order it here:

Our 12" by 16" Gingerbread Button Pillow kit is a customer favorite! There is plenty of time to make this great little pillow because you won't have to waste any time running around town looking for the embellishments. We include them right in the package! The gingerbread men are already pre-cut and pre-fused in the kit as well. All you do is the fun part. We will talk zippers around Wednesday.


Speaking of customer favorites, have you made the Microwave Potato Bag? Amazing, simply amazing.

Click here for fabric by the yard:

Click here for Warm Tater Batting:

If you are looking to dress up some bottles of wine for the gift giving season we have the perfect pattern for you, Wine Butler! A few tips and one of my secret tricks and you will be making these in quantity faster than you think possible. The pattern is available on our website:
When you order the Wine Butler we will toss in a copy of our more family friendly Holiday Mix Gift Bag. It works for wine, but it also works for some non alcoholic mix that I will share with you as well.

It is going to be fun!

Let's stitch up a festive holiday together!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Small Business Saturday

Remember when Black Friday happened after Thanksgiving?

This year it seems that nervous big box retailers are doing everything they can to jump the gun and offer Black Friday deals as early as possible. Is that really necessary? Is it really a deal? I've never been one to get out of bed at some ridiculous hour to stand in line in the freezing cold to push and shove my way to a "deal". For years our family made the trip to the downtown department stores on the day after Thanksgiving. Not really for the deals, more to support our downtown shopping district, enjoy lunch out with the kids and check out the decorations.

I like to shop local and being an independent shop owner I am acutely aware of what it takes to support an independent business. In the past two years there has been a growing movement to dedicate the Saturday after Thanksgiving to small business. The movement is called Shop Small. The idea is that small, local business contribute far more to your local economy than big box retailers. We tend to support other local business as our suppliers, we employ your neighbors and more of the money you spend with us stays in the local community.

Added to those efforts this year is the idea that you can and should shop local for those on your holiday gift list. For example, instead of the hot new toy that was most likely made in China, why not purchase an enrollment in one of our museums programs for kids? Instead of a shirt and tie that was stitched in some third world country why not get Dad a gift certificate for some lawn work from the guy around the corner? You get the idea.

If you live in my neighborhood and you are shipping packages to friends and family I recommend that you use Barry at The Shipping Depot in Shoppers Plaza on Rt 8. Barry and his staff are the friendliest people I know and they always go above and beyond to satisfy their customers.

The Hartwood Restaurant and Whispers Pub have been a favorite place to send our customers for lunch for years. My daughter worked there through high school and although the kitchen staff has changed the owners are still dedicated to providing a unique place to eat with excellent food. Located on Harts Run Road in Glenshaw, I know anyone on my gift list would love a gift certificate for a meal there.

Another excellent lunch spot is the B&Z Deli at the corner of Harts Run and Saxonburg Blvd. Casual dining with sandwiches made to order and take-out available. I'm not really sure if they offer gift cards, but a ready made meal is always welcome over the busy holiday season.

Speaking of ready made meals, pop into A Fare To Remember in Shoppers Plaza, right next to The Shipping Depot when you are visiting Barry. You can stock your frig or freezer with delicious, gift worthy, meals to share with family and friends.

I absolutely love Sarah that cuts (and colors) my hair at Super Cuts in Gibsonia. Unless they are bald, everyone on your gift list gets their hair cut. While the salon may have a name that seems like a national chain, most are franchise stores that are locally owned.

Obviously I also want to recommend that you purchase gift cards from local specialty shops, like your local quilt shop, that would be of interest to people on your list, but I also want to use this space to allow you to make additional suggestions of independent business that you recommend. Make a suggestion by leaving a comment. None of the business I've mentioned here ask me to advertise for them, I'm just a satisfied customer.

For our part in Small Business Saturday we will be offering free demonstrations in the shop from 10:00 - 4:00 featuring all American made products. If you are in the area, stop by, bring a friend, and shop small!

Friday, November 4, 2011

What is Karen up to now?

Busy, busy, busy. When you own your own business there is always a laundry list of things that you need to do. If you are working on controlling expenses, you think you should be working on advertising. If you are working on advertising someone has probably called off sick and you have to cover... well, you get the idea.

This week I am working on FUN. Nothing but FUN and I am having a blast! Last week I was in Houston attending International Quilt Market. To be honest, I can't remember the last time I came home feeling so totally jazzed about what I found. Fabrics, yes. There are always tons of fabrics to choose from and this season there are about a dozen new companies from which to choose them. Some years there is an obvious "hot" new item that everyone is excited about. Not so this year and I like it better that way!

When there isn't that special "one thing" that everyone gravitates to, you have to be more creative in your buying. You have to dig a little deeper to find the gems that you can polish and make sparkle in your own store. This Market I went out of my way to attend workshops and demonstrations that I normally wouldn't have time for. WOW! Talk about inspiration! I packed my overweight suitcase with fun stuff that I couldn't wait to get home to try.

This week is where the rubber meets the road for those new products. Sure they look good under the sparkly lights of the convention center, but before we offer them to customers I have to test them myself. Can I make them perform their tricks here at home? More importantly are they well designed enough that my customers will want to play with them too? Here in the "test lab" where I am creating new projects for our upcoming Handmade for the Holidays event I am happy to say that all of the new products have passed the test with flying colors!

In addition to new products I also gather a ton of ideas for projects that I create and write instructions for here at home. We have a huge button bin that we use on a regular basis but somehow it never seems to get any smaller. I saw some great dyed button projects at Market. Instead of purchasing the dyed buttons I decided to come home and dye our white and clear ones. How hard could it be? Hard. I sorted for about an hour, dumped the white and clear buttons into Kelly Green Rit Dye and waited... swished, stirred and waited. Then I waited. 36 hours later I had the buttons in the photo. These were all in the same dye bath for the same length of time.

Why some are light blue and some are lime green and absolutely NONE of them are Kelly Green is a total mystery to me. Frank Panion, my beloved high school chemistry teacher always said I made more chemistry in the hall than I made in class. My husband wondered why I thought I could dye buttons. My staff wondered why there was a strainer of buttons in their lunch sink! Easy fix. I ordered the already dyed buttons from our distributor!

So the button dying didn't work. Big deal. They are cool colors and I will find a use for them... eventually. I still enjoyed the thrill of seeing what would happen. Meanwhile I stitched up some batik rayon samples that are going in the wash tonight. I played with the new spritz dyes until I absolutely had to stop myself or there wouldn't be any left for customers. I steamed, fused, gathered, clipped and stitched. I've made the mistakes, learned some lessons and now I absolutely can not wait to share the success stories with my customers so that they can roll up their sleeves and have some fun! Sometimes the best thing you can get is permission to play for awhile.