Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sewing Heaven

My sewing buddy, Martha, and I got together a few Sundays ago to do some stitching.  She was finishing up some pillowcases to donate to ConKerr Cancer, a local charity that the American Sewing Guild supports (  I was working on a gift for my daughter-in-law, whose birthday is fast approaching.  Sometimes, sewing is more fun when you have someone to talk to while you work!

But, I couldn't leave her house without asking permission to take a few pictures of her sewing space -- truly a Sewing Heaven!  The post about my sewing room organization has been one of the most-viewed since I started my blog (Dec. 3, 2012), and while I love my space, it doesn't compare to Martha's.

She lives with her husband in a lovely home in suburban Philadelphia.  Her only daughter is married and has two children, so Martha and her d.h. have the place to themselves.  Her sewing space is on the second floor of her home, next to her bedroom.  Her room is large enough that she set up a narrow six foot table for my sewing machine on the day I visited

A sewing cabinet for her machines is centered in the room.  Her serger is to the left by the window, her sewing machine takes center stage, and she has a machine dedicated to embroidery on the right. With this configuration, she can move around the cabinet to each machine, and use the wall space for storage cabinets.

Some of the cupboards are open, others have doors and drawers.  By keeping the storage units white, the room seems spacious.  Martha loves to decorate with sewing-themed items, and they are sprinkled throughout her space.

She made a great score when a local fabric store was closing.  She was able to buy two pattern cabinets for a very reasonable price, then had a formica top made to cover the tops, giving her a lot of space for her collectibles.  The drawers are used for patterns, fabrics, machine manuals and a whole lot more.

I would really love to find a pattern cabinet, but I'm not sure it would fit in my space because of the sloped walls.

A few years ago, Martha splurged on a special piece of sewing equipment, a six needle embroidery machine.

This machine can do some amazing things.  Martha helped me monogram the fronts of tote bags that I otherwise I couldn't have done, because this machine has an open throatplate.  It can change thread colors without having to stop and re-thread the machine.  It also features a very large hoop, which allows her to create large monograms and stitch large designs without re-hooping.

What you don't see here is what's behind the door to the right of this's a walk-in closet.   Martha had it outfitted with shelving so she can store her stash of fabric and supplies sorted into clear plastic bins. It makes it easy for her to find things.

Martha has a comfortable room that would be any sewer's dream.  Lucky girl!!  


Sunday, February 22, 2015

And baby makes...five!

My lovely niece Mary and her husband recently welcomed her THIRD baby -- another boy!  Yea!

When her oldest son was born, I made my 'traditional' Irish print fabric quilt, at his mother's request.

 Two years later, when his little brother was born, I decided to make the new baby something fun.  And a funny thing happened...Big Brother recognized the animals and wanted to claim it for his own!

I told my niece to let him have it, and Little Boy Two's blanket could be the Irish one. Now that Number Three Son has come along, I wonder if Mary's middle child, who is just two, will have the same reaction, and want this new quilt for himself!

This toddler blankie started life as a 24" by 44" panel called "Barnyard Counting," by Laurie Wisbrun for Robert Kaufman fabrics.  My daughter and I found it at a quilt shop in Maine 18 months ago.  It has been in my stash, waiting for the next great-nephew to come along.

As with most of my quilts, I started with the sketch.  I decided to cut the panel into blocks, which measure 8 1/2" by 11", and mix them with brightly colored prints.

Digging through my stash, I found several prints that would work.  After trimming them into the same size block, I began to lay out the rows.

Sewing this together was easy-peasy!  The blanket is five blocks wide by four rows long.  I added a solid yellow border to tie everything together.  The green polka-dot fabric was used on the back of the quilt.

I also made bias binding out of the green polka-dot to finish the edges.

I used my sewing machine to make even lines of quilting, both horizontal and vertical, including stitching in 'the ditch' between the blocks.

It's so stinkin' cute, isn't it?!  I just love it, and I hope Number Three Son loves it, too!!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yea! I Mastered the "Pinecone Delight"!!

What's that, you say?  Well, the "Pinecone Delight" is a beading pattern created by Barbara Grainger.
Beaded Pine Cones
I saw this really cool photo (above) on Pinterest, but, as happens to me a lot, when I clicked on the page for the photo, there were no directions there.  (The page was in Russian!)

I went back to Pinterest and narrowed my search, using the name of the beads used in the project (long magatama).  After scrolling down a bit, found Barbara's name and a link to a website where I could purchase the directions (
It costs $10, which you pay via paypal, and then the website sends you a link to download a PDF file of instructions.

After teaching beading and writing instructions for nearly 10 years, I can tell you that Barbara knows what she's doing.  Her step-by-step instructions were thorough, had excellent graphics and had been tested for clarity.

And, for this project, she knew to say the skill level was for intermediate to advanced beaders.  Take my word for it...she's right!  This is not a project for beginners!

Long magatama beads are elongated, and have a hole toward the top.  They have a right and wrong side, and this pattern requires that you know the difference.
The bead on the left is right side up, the bead on the right is wrong side up.

Some beads are picked up on the needle 'right side up' and others are picked up 'wrong side up.'
What makes the piece look like a pinecone is the shape of the beads, all pointing in the same direction.  The beading went quicker when I sorted the beads into two piles, one pile right side up, the other pile wrong side up.

Rights side up beads on the left, wrong side up beads on the right, made it easier to follow the directions.  
I generally use Fireline brand braided bead thread by Beadsmith for seed bead projects, and started my pinecone with that.  After four or five rows, I had a mess that I couldn't fix, and decided to start over.  Magatama beads have very large holes, and I thought that thicker thread would fill the holes and hold the beads in place better.  Size 4 no-stretch nylon bead stringing thread by Beadsmith was thicker, so I switched to that.  The change was a good one, and the project went much easier.    

The starting row of this project is ladderstitch.  Subsequent rows are worked in brickstitch.  One thing I discovered is that the tension on this project is loose...if you pull the thread too tightly, the beads will flip, over.   Most projects I've done require a tighter tension. As I added each bead, I held it in place right side up with my left thumb as I stitched through it.  It's a little awkward, but, as I said, the beads tend to want to flip over until you get them locked into place.

As the pinecone grew longer, it was getting 'squishy,'  I fixed that by dropping a 10mm bead in the center of the cone.  Just having that filler bead in place made adding the rows easier.

I ended up leaving the bead inside the pinecone, just to give it some 'stuffing' to hold its shape.  You can't see it on the finished project, so I will continue to add a bead when making more pinecones.  

One other note about Barbara's directions...she says "you work from the top of the pinecone downward, but you hold the pinecone upside down as you work it."

This is opposite of how I would describe a pinecone.  I think the TOP of a pinecone is the part attached to the twig on the tree, and the BOTTOM is the pointy part at the other end. If you think of it the same way as I do, you will be working from the bottom of the pinecone toward the top, in which case it isn't being held 'upside down,' as the instructions say.  I mention this so you don't wonder why the pinecone 'leaves' are laying the wrong way.  If you follow the directions, it will turn out fine...the top/bottom description is a bit confusing.  

Oh, the bead cap with the wire wrapped loop at the top was added by me so the pinecone could hang, either as an ornament or as a pendant. (See, I called it the 'top.'  Barbara would call it the bottom!)

The project took about three hours.  I can't wait to get some other colors of long magatamas and try this again!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Something Cute for a Baby Boy

While I make four or five baby quilts every year, sometimes I need a little something to give as a baby gift that isn't as labor intensive or cost expensive.

Now, there are a lot of cute patterns for baby GIRL things, but not so many for baby BOYS. Maybe it's because I have three sons, but I get a little frustrated when I find so much designed for little girls and nearly nothing I can make for a boy.  Then, while on vacation in Branson, Missouri, last fall, my sister and I popped into a very nice quilt shop, Quilts and Quilts (

BINGO!  I found the cutest 'boy' project that doesn't take much time or fabric.

p189It's called "Dude Babies" -- a collection of three bibs for little boys.  Designed by Barbara Brunson of Vanilla House Designs (, it includes Mr. Businessman, Mr. Formal, and my favorite, Mr. Cowboy.
The fabric requirements are minimal:  1/3 of a yard for the bib, a fat quarter for the scarf, and a small scrap for the star.  Notions include thread, three buttons and snaps or velcro.

While her pattern is great, I tend to tweak things a little, sometimes to save time, sometimes because it makes more sense from a construction point-of-view.  I did that in this case.

The pattern for the 'shirt' has two pieces, which are overlapped and stitched together on the back side of the bib.  Instead, I taped the pattern pieces together and cut just one front and one lining piece from a lightweight denim.

Two front pieces can be taped together to make just one for easier construction.
Use medical tape, and you can always take the pieces apart later!
My sister gave me a fat quarter of the bandana fabric, and I cut out the neckerchief and pocket.  The neckline application did require a lot of pins, but turned out fine.
After sewing the bandana, right sides together to the bib front, you layer the bandana 'lining' right sides together
and stitch the two neckerchief pieces together.  
The pattern calls for hand-stitching the neckerchief lining to the back side of the bib, but that kind of work slows me down.  I opted to pin it carefully and edge-stitch it, since the stitching wouldn't be visible from the front side.
Close up of edge-stitching

The faux 'pocket' was stitched down on the lower right-hand side of the bib.  It's a cute little detail that makes the bib look like a shirt.
I found three blue buttons in my would have been cuter, but alas, there were none in the button box.  The placement of the buttons was measured from the bottom up because the neckerchief covers a bit of neckline.
Zig-zag stitching the point of a star is tricky!

The star 'badge' took the most time.  There was a scrap of fabric in my stash just the right color.  I used fusible web (wonder-under) to hold it in place so it could be appliqued.  I used a 30 weight rayon embroidery thread to match.  Turning the corner at the point of the star was a bit tricky...I think I should have practiced that a few times before I did it on the bib, but unless you're looking really close, I don't think you'd notice!

The pattern called for snaps or velcro at the neckline, and behold, I found red velcro in my stash!
OMG!! Red velcro!
In under two hours, here is the cutest darn bib for a boy in the whole Wild West!  In the whole country, for that matter!  Yippee!

Mr. Businessman will be next!!

A little footnote about Quilts and Quilts.  It's a locally owned and operated business in Branson, Mo., with three generations of the same family working in the shop.  On February 29, 2012, the shop was hit by a tornado and destroyed.  The owner found a new location immediately, and the shop re-opened just FIVE weeks later.  They carry 14,000 bolts of fabric and over 2,000 patterns.  The staff is so knowledgeable, it is a pleasure to shop there.  Check out their on-line store!