Sunday, August 12, 2012

Travels With Bobbi

Saturday noon and I’m squeezed into an airplane seat obviously designed for a garden gnome. My computer is wedged between my tummy and the back of the seat of the row in front of me. I’m tap, tap, tapping on the keys, trying to recreate my last week in words. It was a hard week, but a great week, filled with 24 - 7 teaching.

The week began in a Reno casino, where a group of dedicated embroidery enthusiasts ignored the call of slot machines for that of their sewing machines, and embroidered and learned.

Every year the folks from Ray’s Sewing Center in San Jose pack up shop and move to Reno for a four-day Janome retreat. The retreat includes classes, a cocktail party, a dinner banquet, and even a slots tournament. After a few days the attendees wander the halls, eyes spinning in their sockets, heads so stuffed with information that even a slight tilt of the head produces showers of threads and buttons falling from the ear.

 I love the classes I taught this year. In my first class we made a round jewelry box. My friend, Tecla, talked me into giving this class, and I had my doubts. She had found the idea on the internet then simplified the project incorporating my zipper insertion method and her new improved seaming process. You’ll see more about this when I write up the instructions. What a great project! Everyone in class finished their jewelry box and I forgot to take pictures. What was I thinking?

I taught a continuous cut edge design class. By the end of the class every student’s eyes were alight as the new skill made sense. I wrote about this technique in the current issue of Designs in Machine Embroidery, so you can see more about it there.

In the evenings, when brains had stopped functioning, I taught embellishment classes. It’s like being five years old again: dirty hands and lots of blots and gooey stuff, all coming together to make exquisite fabric - a grandiose vision. The idea was that every student in the embellishment class would use the finished fabric in later classes. The reality was that one person used her fabric in one of my classes. Maybe the others were planning on framing their pieces, or entering them in art shows.

Two of the classes produced bag ladies. The picture above is of one of the bags using the cut edge from the Monday class, and the snap bag pattern that comes with my Mandela set.

The picture below is more of my bag ladies. These made pet screen bags, bags using a plastic mesh as the base fabric.  You can buy pet screen at your local home improvement store or search fabric stores for the same item in a variety of colors. The fabric on the bag on the right is from the embellishment class. Can you believe she created that gorgeous fabric herself?

From Reno I traveled to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, to teach an event at Nancy’s Notions. I woke before the crack of dawn to take a 4:30 AM shuttle to the airport and spent the whole day in planes and airports. I think the correct term for travel from Reno to Beaver Dam is “You can’t get there from here.”

In Beaver Dam I taught my easy-peasy method for multi-hooping. It went great. It’s the method I teach in my Regency Living Large design set.

 Regency Living Large

 Some of the Ladies From the Nancy's Notions Class

I’m looking forward to being home. In real time I’ve been away a week, which is two months in teaching time. I’m ready to examine the garden inch by inch, count the red tomatoes, note the new eggplants and check to see how many more suggestively shaped cucumbers have emerged. Hmm… maybe there's an idea for an embroidery set in shades of grey in the garden. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Throttling My Excess

Today I culled fabric from my fabric closet.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is only one of my three fabric closets. This closet houses garment cottons and blends, not to be confused with the closet for fine silks and suiting fabric, or the linen closet overflowing with knits.

The cotton closet is the least visited. My first fabric closet love is the silk closet. I spend hours and hours in the silk closet. I fondle the pieces, admire the colors, or rearrange the contents as an excuse to touch each luscious yard. Though I seldom sew knits, I seem to visit the knits closet fairly often. The poor cotton closet seldom gets more than a brief nod as I toss a wad of fabric on a shelf or drop more fabric on the floor.

Well, no more! No more piles on the floor, and no more wads of fabric on the shelves.  Everything is neatly folded and categorized. I would be proud to host visitors in this closet.
And… I’ve honed down my stash. There are four thrift store bound bags in the front hall and our trashcan is two bags heavier.

Sorting was different this time. In the past, when I sorted fabrics, my routine was simple. I would pick up something and ask myself, "Is this beautiful? Is it valuable to me? Would it be hard to replace” If the answers were yes, the fabric reclaimed its place on the shelf.

But I’ve added new questions, "How many fabrics do I have that are more appealing to sew before I would pull this one out of the closet?”  and “Is there any chance I could all of those (and get to this one) before I die?"

As you can imagine, these questions are a fast path to paring down.

I actually loved spending time in the closet (the fabric closet – get your mind back on track.) For one thing, I found fabrics I couldn’t remember buying.  It’s not that I have a perfect memory. I often forget my husband’s name and it’s not unusual to for me to stumble over my son’s moniker but I have never forgotten a piece of fabric. I know my fabric I know where and when I bought each and every piece; I know the content and how much I paid. But… there was fabric in that closet I’ve never seen before. Could it be breeding?

And there are fabrics I remember, but can’t figure out why I would buy them. For instance, the 10 yards of deep wine (almost brown) silk broadcloth. 10 yards, really? Or the cotton that’s almost exactly the same color. Nine yards of that one. I could re-cover every chair in the house with those.

Now that I’ve rearranged, I have a gray section. Oh, the fabrics are luscious, sweet cottons, a pale gray tweed, three coordinating gray and white prints, even a silvery gray knit that had to be in this closet to be with its color mates. The section shimmers richly. But, I look terrible in gray. OK, maybe I need a piece or two to round out my samples, but a whole section?

And I have obviously done a good job of purchasing white fabric for testing embroidery designs. I was unfolding each piece and measuring, but at 40 yards I stopped counting. I’m stocked for the rest of my life and several other people’s as well.

After going through this closet, I’m glad that stretch jeans are “in'”. I won a Jalie jeans pattern and am looking forward to trying it. Luckily, I have enough stretch denim to make six or eight pairs of jeans and still leave enough for my fitting muslin.

In general, I have changed my attitude towards my stash. I want to use it, and use the best. Why not? What am I waiting for, till I’m 90 and tottering around, looking for fabric?  A few weeks ago I went wild and crazy and used some 4-ply silk for a luscious, flowing summer dress. The silk drapes beautifully, a nice heavy fabric with a perfect hand.  This sold me. The next time I sew I’m going to use my best fabric. That’s another reason to weed out the least desirable fabrics in my stash.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sew Expo 2012

Two of the definitions for the word pleasure*  are:

Something or someone that provides a source of happiness


A stimulus with desirable consequences

Sew Expo

What’s interesting is that I can use these exact same phrases to describe Sew Expo.  (I can also use these phrases to cover something that happens in the privacy of our bedroom but that’s for a different blog).

Held in the Puyallup, Washington State Fairgrounds, Sew Expo is one of the largest sewing shows in the country, the largest show not devoted exclusively to quilting. Each year, over 25,000 beautiful women with sewing stars in their eyes visit the show’s hallowed halls.

The good news is that I get to go to this show every year. The bad news is that because I teach and have a booth, I don’t experience the show in the same way as most of the participants. The only classes I attend are the ones I teach. And while I do learn from my students, it’s not the same as attending class sessions as a student.  Because our booth is so busy (more good news!), I almost never leave get out to visit other booths. (Ask me about my trips to the ladies’ rooms. That story could rate its own blog.)

One thing I do get to see is the beauty that walks into my booth --all of our wonderful customers. We take pictures of those who come into our booth wearing garments with our embroidery designs.  They’ll go on the website, eventually, but you get to see them first, here.

Our Designs as Used by Our Customers / Friends


These designs are from our Cutting Edge set. It gets a lot of attention because of the cut edge designs as shown in the picture below which was featured in a Designs in Machine Embroidery article.


However, there are other fun designs in the set like these circles that Jean used.


And, in a totally different direction, our designs were used in a beautifully subtle way on the tee-shirt below.



It’s so much fun when I see a beautiful woman wearing our designs.  This is the Regency Design set on a purchased tee.

Another example of the designs on a purchased item is this jacket with our Fresh Cut Designs.


The designs on this jacket are tone-on-tone, a subtle and elegant addition.


Another drop-in was Naomi who just had fun with the Variations Design set.


Naomi is a Crystal of the Month Club member.  She received some of these designs in the Design of the Month (which is actually a mini-design set, not a single design). She calls the Design of the Month a Teaser which gets you hooked so that when the full design set comes out, you have to buy it. (Club members get a substantially reduced price).  These designs are from Variations.  Look how differently she used them than I did (below). They so match her personality, bright and funny and quirky.


We also were able to visit with Mia, with whom I worked last year in the Sew Expo mentor/mentee program. My apologies, Mia, that the only picture I took had your eyes closed.


The designs are Slow & Steady.

Mia is wearing the capelet she wore in this year’s fashion show.

We had more people come by to show us how they’ve worked with our designs. It must be that the camera gremlins came in and ate those as these were all I could find.

On Another Note – A Very Stable Note

Preparing for a show like Sew-Expo is quite a challenge. It’s important to have enough of each product for all of your customers and not so much that you’re overstocked when you get home.


Unfortunately, this year, we miscalculated. We came home with enough stabilizer to wall paper our house and our neighbors’. (That’s some thought, stabilizer wallpaper). We have the option of sending the stabilizer back to our supplier, but that’s rather expensive. Our solution is to sell our excess. Our ordering error is your gain. We’ve priced these stabilizers at ridiculously low prices. Order now before we get tired of tripping over the things and send them back.

So Now We’re Home

So now we’re home and back in our usual routine.  I’m looking forward to more sewing, and embroidering. I’ll keep you posted.


Monday, January 23, 2012

That Teeny Tiny Line

In my last blog posting I promised to post how I add my narrow line of fabric between the edge of the quilt and the border.
I love it when something that looks really hard is actually very easy.  Separating your border from your quilt body with a thin line is one of those things. It’s a cinch to add a quarter inch, half inch or 3/4” inch separating line to your quilt creating a perfect frame.
(And yes, the line is close to perfect, the minor curves here are actually where the fabric is relaxed.)
So, what’s the secret?  How do you do it?
Start with Straight Sides:
Start with a quilt where the 4 sides are straight. Your success is requires that the edges of your quilt be perfectly straight.
Cut the Fabric for your Line:
Cut the fabric for your narrow border (the cream shown here) 1/2” wider than the width you want the finished line. For a 1/4” line, cut your fabric 3/4” wide. For a half inch line, cut the fabric 1” wide, etc. The length of the fabric depends on how you plan to finish the border. For a mitered corner, make sure the length of your narrow border fabric is the length of the quilt side plus twice the width of your narrow border. For example, if your quilt is 70” long and your narrow border 1/2” wide, the fabric for that side of the quilt should be 70” + 1/2” + 1/2”.  At this point you can add an extra inch or two for safety. 
Stitch your Line to the Quilt:
Carefully match the edges of your narrow border fabric with the edges of your quilt, right sides together.  Stitch with a  1/4” seam.

Attach the Next Border:
Next you will stitch on the next border, the wide one, (A in the drawing above). Place this border against the narrow border, right sides together, with the narrow border on top.


Use Your Presser Foot:
As you stitch the border to the narrow border, your first impulse is to make sure that your stitching is a consistent distance from the edges of the fabric. What is actually important is keeping your stitching a consistent distance from the first line of stitching (shown here as B).
To keep your next line of stitching a consistent distance from the first line of stitching, keep the left side of your presser-foot right next to the first line of stitching.  Move your needle to the left or right until it is as far from the first line of stitching as you choose to make your narrow border.
Using this technique I can add a perfect narrow border between the border and the edge of the quilt.
Although the instructions here are for a quilt, the same technique works for adding a narrow line of fabric in a garment or any other project.

A Note of Self Promotion:
We're releasing  my newest design set today, Flights of Fancy.  Make sure you stop by our site to pick up the free sample.