Working With “Leather” from the 1970s to Now

When I recently got my new Bernina 880 plus, I also got a number of intersting new feet, including leather roller foot 55, teflon foot 52D (for dual feed), and teflon zipper foot 54, and other feet and attachments to go with the collection I already had from my erstwhile Bernina 830 that I traded in.  Sew I have a number of interesting projects I want to try that my wonderful studio can now handle that I might have not done before.  One of these is working with leather.

 

Leather roller foot 55

Teflon zipper foot 54

Teflon dual feed foot 52

 

 

 

 

 

As some of you probably know, I have started a project of tailoring a faux leather, aka “leather”, overcoat for my youngest son David, the moderately popular sci-fi/fantasy writer, who is a cute, big and tall man in his early forties.

Decades ago I had my own fashion design and tailoring (real tailoring, not alterations) business in Ithaca, New York.   During that time I did some leather work…making a few bags and re-styling a couple of old fur coats.  I did this on my two machines…a beautiful antique White machine, which I still have, from the early 20th century that has a powerful motor that only has a straight stitch, and my Singer Golden Touch and Sew that was the Singer top of the line at the time before they  went greatly downhill as a machine.  It was a good little machine, but truly insufficient for what I was using it for. But I did not have any special feet that sew smoothly across leather, a dual feed mechanism for keeping the two layers together of slick lining fabrics, for instance, and the buttonhole program that has a simple rectangle for assisting in the making of bound buttonholes.  I didn’t have YouTube to look up reminders on how to do a bound buttonhole or a welted pocket, for instance.

What I did and still do have is a wonderful treasure of a long out-of -print book I found in the library and Marvin later bought from a used book store.  It is called How to Make Men’s Clothes by Jane Rhinehart published in 1975. Years ago when I had my shop in Ithaca, I wrote to her and obtained permission to use her book for instructional purposes and the illustrations in her book as needed in my own manuals. She was delighted, actually. I have yet to write that manual, but I am thinking of doing one now adding leather techniques and updated available supplies. As you see if you click on the link to her book, it is still available as a used book from Amazon.  There are other used book places you can find it…some grossly overpriced.  I highly recommend this book if you want to improve your tailoring abilities (much of it works for women’s tailored clothes too).  I made my dearest Marvin several jackets shortly after we were married using these techniques.  He wore those jackets for most of our life together and said he could throw them in the corner, sit on them, pick them up and put them on and they looked like they had just been freshly pressed.  It is really a construction manual that helps you to “build” tailored clothing from inside out.

Sew now I have a powerful Bernina 880 Plus with feet designed specifically for leather and vinyl work using the dual feed mechanism and a wide harp space in a large cabinet to assist me in keeping things together.

The faux leathers have vastly improved over the years.  The one I bought for this project (I bought a whole 8 yard bolt of 60 inch wide “leather”, which allowed me to get it at a reasonable price per yard, and I plan on making myself a jacket from the remaining fabric) feels almost exactly like the true leather samples I obtained before starting this project and even the back side resembles a smoother version of the back of the real leather.  It has about the same weight as the jacket-weight leather samples.  From a short distance, and maybe even up close, you will not readily be able to identify this as faux leather once I have it sewn up.  Yes, I would really prefer the real leather, but this is a wonderful substitute and is a quarter of the price.  So be aware that if you prefer not to use real leather for whatever reason, you can still make that smart “leather” jacket.  I will say that you might still want to use real leather if you are going for a quilted leather project.  It can take the heavy stitching that type of project requires and I am not sure the “leather” would.  Also I found several good suppliers of leather if you want to go that way…just let me know in the comments.

I remember the older faux leather.  It was too shiny, too stiff, and in a year or so it would crack and peal.  The back was not as good either.  You could tell from a distance it was not real leather.  I used it for Ithaca opera costumes (I was the chief costumer for several of their operas back when I lived in Ithaca) from time to time…not fun to work with.

When I worked on the leather projects of the past, I used tissue paper under my needle, and I just tightly held the sides together and stitched slowly.   Now I use clips to hold the sides together, stitch normally with the dual feed engaged, and have even better results.

When I worked on the leather projects in the past, I glued down the seam allowances and hammered them flat with a wood mallet on a towel.  The glue was a heavy goo similar to that gooey paper cement only worse.  It smelled too.  Today they have a double sided leather strip and I got some white leather glue, actually from the same manufacturer that made the old gooey junk.  What an improvement!  Now I use the double sided tape or the much nicer white leather glue and my little wood wall paper roller to make a nice flat seam.

When I worked on the leather projects in the past, I avoided top stitching as much as I could because I almost had to hand crank my machine stitches to make them go through all the layers (try keeping that straight!).  Today, I don’t mind it at all because the machine stitches right through all those layers with no problem.

Sew for my current coat project, I could not find a pattern that fit my tall nobly-shaped son.  They do not have big and tall men tailored clothing patterns published by any company that I could find.  They absolutely need to fix that!!!!  The closest I came was a couple of costume coats for cos-play, and even those still would not have fit well.  So I ended up taking a Burda pattern, a McCall’s costume pattern, some instructions from How to Make Men’s Clothes, and Frankensteined a sloper together for him.

The Franken pattern ready to chalk and cut.

Then I made a muslin fitting shell…one that did not quite work but headed me in the right direction, and one that did work after that.  Then I transfered all the corrections to the flat sloper pattern and have chalked the pattern while weighting the pattern on the back of the “leather” (one side at a time) and have cut out the “leather” with my newly sharpened big scissors.  I know you can also do this with a small-blade rotary cutter, but it requires a bigger mat than I have and the scissors work well.  I have an idea the rotary cutter would work best on true leather.  I still have another 18 pieces of interfacings, linings, and pocket bags to cut out before I start construction.

Here’s my pattern on the “leather’ with my “fancy” pattern weights…LOL…I should make myself some nice pattern weights, but who has the time?!

I have, however,  made a sample to see how my machine uses it, practice the seam finishing, and so forth.  What a dream!  I may be doing a lot more in this “leather”.  But I really do want to get back to my quilting. So I am thinking I can make a practice welted pocket in a square piece big enough to later use on a bag.  That way if I ruin it, I can try again without ruining the coat.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new you haven’t tried before, or something you did long ago in the past that was more difficult than it would be today with today’s machines and products.  Now…back to cutting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satin Sampler

OK.  I have been working out a satin sampler to test markers, techniques, threads, paints, and background designs for several projects, one being my Mom’s memory quilt.  The cool thing about this is that I am making it with polyester crepe back satin.  It has a lovely beefy hand and I wanted to test it for future projects.  Why?  Partly because I can get a 58 inch wide piece for about $5 per yard for a lighter hand up to $8 a yard for a heavy satin instead of the $17 to $40 a yard for 43″ wide fabric, and partly because there are some wonderful colors available in the polyester that don’t run when washed.  I am using the heavy polyester crepe back satin for this sampler.  I will be making it into a pillow top for my bedroom since I can tell I will like it when finished.

Sew I have layered it with a cotton backing, and a double bat of Quilter’s Dream 80/20 select loft on bottom and Quilter’s Dream wool on top.  I marked it with a heat-away gel pen (see my blog on marker testing for this satin) that I do not recommend unless you are prepared to go through a removal process that requires much effort and time.  This ink returns when frozen (such as in the airplane when you check your luggage or ship it someplace). Also, my marker testing is incomplete, because I want to finish the sampler, freeze it, and completely test the removal process again on this sandwiched piece. I am quilting it with 40 weight Superior Magnifico and, where needed, 100 weight microquilter.

I painted this sampler with a combination of Setacolor and Jacquard Lumier fabric paints in order to get the colors I wanted.  Their steadfastness will also be tested in the freezing/washing test.

Here is a little look at my work on this little sampler thus far.  I am really having fun with this.  While most of the stitch work has been on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, some very small amount was done on my new B 880 Plus machine, just to see how it quilts.  LOL

 

 

So my conclusion about good quality polyester crepe back satin as a quilting fabric…it works, it’s beautiful, and it both paints and quilts well.  I do back it with a very light weight pellon fusible to make it behave well.

* * * * * * *

Something I didn’t tell you all earlier is that just after I got Odette all sorted out with a new machine from Bernina because the first one seemed to have a serious problem, I made a mistake in threading it and got a huge glob of thread nest in it that I could not remove myself.  So I had to take it in to the dealer to get it fixed.  It made me weep. I was really gloomy when I found that Lew, the magical tech guy, was out for two weeks and so I had to wait.  He fixed it almost imediately when he got back and I got it safely home on Tuesday and have done considerable sewing and embroidery on it since then.  It is clearly a wonderful machine.  It was my mistake, and I have since figured out what I did wrong (with Lew’s suggestions).  I didn’t want to whine again or have people tell me I was wrong to buy it in the first place because their prefered brand works so much better they think.

Anyway, that meant that I was without my main sewing machine for nearly three months with the exception of a day or two twice!!!  So I did a lot of sewing on my little Bernina 350 and a lot of free motion work on my Q20, and a lot of non-machine prep work for future projects, and stacked up quite a bit of work for the new machine.  I will, therefore, be missing a few deadlines I had tentatively planned on.

I have begun attacking the stack of work and have been having a huge amount of fun and the icy fear of further machine problems has begun to melt away over the past week.  In addition to some “regular” sewing, I did some in-the-hoop embroidery last week that came out so perfect and beautiful that I was nearly weeping again, this time in joy.  You should know that I seldom cry for anything much, and am known as a “tough old bird” as one of my former colleagues told me.  But this machine saga seems to have loosened a few tears from me.

Sew happy everyone!  May your stitches be beautiful and your machines play well with you for many years.  Hugs to you all!

 

Fall Is In the Air

Color Swirl by Kevin Tatum (my grandson) using Corel Painter.

Ever since I was in High School, which was a long long time ago, I have gotten excited when I started thinking about fall and winter sewing and quilting.  This year is no exception.  In fact, having just reorganized my fabric, thread, paint, and notions stashes, and purchased a new Bernina 880 Plus, I am more excited than usual about the projects I have before me this year.

One of the things I always like about going through my studio to sort things out is finding pieces of fabric I had forgotten about or had at least pushed to the back of my to do list.  This is for both clothes and quilts.

When I cleared up my studio this year, I also went through my clothing patterns, pruning out about 75 percent of my old patterns and keeping only those that seem right for me now.  The remaining patterns and fabrics for clothes on hand are inspiring me  to think about making some new clothes. My wardrobe really needs an update too.

When I bought my new machine, I got it at a time when they were providing a gift that includes new feet, some machine luggage, additional embroidery motifs for use in the hoop and a variety of other neat things.  I was able to exchange some of the feet that duplicated those I already had for some new ones.  So now I have a lot of feet that are inspiring ideas for using interesting techniques.

Remember when I talk about all  the things I have found in my studio, I have been sewing since I was five years old and I am 72. I retired in 2012 to be a full time fabric artist.  So some of the things have been hiding for a while from me in some of the closets, in boxes under my bed, and even in plain sight…LOL.  I feel very blessed.  Because of all the things I recently rediscovered stashed away I don’t have to buy anything new for most of the projects I want to make.  I did restock some threads and paints that I anticipate needing.  So I have resolved to myself that for the next year I will attempt to do m work without new stuff.  Now I want to make:

  • a new bag, in leather (I now have feet for use with leather and vinyl and some leather).
  • a new suit, in black denim (I have a stash that includes a fair amount of denim) with embroidery
  • a blue denim jacket
  • a new dress suit in wool with a silk top to go with it
  • a new jacket in raw silk, maybe 2 since I have 2 nice pieces
  • several new tops and use some heirloom techniques  (I have a nice collection of feet to use for this now) and embroider some of them.
  • I also want to make several new show and utility quilts.

It is fairly certain that  I won’t get all of this done this year, but it’s nice to have them on the list to pick from as I do have time.

Clearly I have an exciting and busy time ahead that will last well beyond fall and winter, and I have already started.  I will have to plan my days in order to fit other important things into my life.  I’m excited!  I’m sure the nicely rearrangement of my studio, and my wonderful fleet of machines will help me accomplish a great deal of these projects though.  So I won’t have to buy any new clothes for fall through spring either. I don’t have much in the way of summer fabrics, unless I use my quilting cottons.  LOL

Oh, and last year I made a new dressy overcoat with a “fur” collar using some of the fabrics on hand.  It’s warm and cosy.  So I really do complete a lot of these dream projects.

Messy work table with coat pieces


Progress Report on My Mom’s Memory Quilt

I have made a good start on my Mom’s memory quilt, which is going to also be a show quilt, but I have a long ways to go on it.  It has a large pentagon in the middle of it on which I am appliqueing her needle work.  The pentagon fabric is a lovely medium blue dupioni that sets off the beauty of her crocheted lace.  It’s a pentagon because I thought I only had five of the ten inch squares I found in her work basket, but during the reorganization I found a sixth square.  It’s a slightly different shade of crochet thread, though, so I will find something neat to do with that one.  The color difference is probably why it was in a separate  place.  There are  some more crocheted items, but they don’t work with this quilt.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to make a perfect pentagon that has 21 inch sides.  It was a challenge.  A good friend of mine sent me a Corel Draw pattern for one to print in tiled sheets and taped together.  I thought that it would then be easy to get it right, but putting the tiles together that way gave many opportunities for slight variations in the shape.  I had to try it several times until I got it right, but finally succeeded when I started using a lot of rulers to help.

So yesterday I cut out the freezer paper pentagon, cut out the fabric, and then glue basted the edges down.  I checked the edges for straightness and measurements.  It’s very good.  the sixteenth of an inch off I had on the paper pattern disappeared as I worked the fabric from it.  I love how it looks.  I placed the crocheted pieces around  it in a way that forms a star in the middle, just laying them down to see how it looked for now.  (No pictures until its debut show, whatever that will be).

It is in many ways a gift to my Mom. It would be so much fun if she were still here to show it to her, but I am having a lovely time making it while thinking about all the great things she taught me and the lovely things she made herself. She did not quilt, but she was a real expert seamstress.  She has been gone now  twenty years, but sometimes I think she is nearby.

Sew happy everyone!  What are your planned projects for this fall and winter?

 

 

 

Exciting New Beginnings

So I’m excited.  Bernina came through and replaced the original Bernina 880 Plus with a new one.  I will get it either Tuesday or Saturday next, depending on several factors.  So I have been working on preparing to start a new show quilt, which is my Mom’s memory quilt incorporating her pieces of crocheted lace I found in her work basket and have held on to for the past 20 years.  It’s time.  I have completed the design, which really took me days and days and days, and have printed it out full size and taped it together (that’s a project, believe me).  It is one of my biggest…59″ x 59″ and will be satin and dupioni and include painting and beads, and ……well, we will see as I go along.

I will also finish my appliqued bed quilt I started a while back using a Sue Nickels pattern I bought from her at MAQF a couple  of years ago.  And clothes…I have tons of fabrics for fall, winter, and early spring clothing and the best patterns I kept from my pattern pruning when I reorganized my studio.

I also have to complete the sampler for my fall workshop on embellishment.

Sew let the sewing begin!   Did I say I am so excited?

Sew happy everyone.  It’s time to start sewing for fall, winter, Christmas, and next year’s shows.

Meet Odette, the New Machine

After what seemed like a very long wait, I finally got my new big machine to replace Gibbs (my old 830 LE that bit the dust about a month ago).  As you know I name my machines and that is for some silly reason very important to me.  I try to name them for some significantly important figure in the sewing, quilting, or fashion world.  My new machine, a Bernina 880 Plus is named “Odette” after Odette Ueltschi, the daughter of Fritz Gegauf, the founder of Bernina.  Odette took over lead of the Bernina company in 1959 and their were many advances in the machine under her leadership.  So it seems appropriate to name my new machine after her.

Odette the machine’s namesake, Odette Ueltschi.

I named my Bernina Q20 “Fritz” after her father (and coincidentally Nero Wolf’s chef, just for fun). I also have “E.Claire” my little Bernina 350 I use for travel and some specialty sewing named after Edith Claire Head..a fashion design great during the glory days of old Hollywood.  So that is my Bernina Fleet.   I sold “Betsy” (after Betsy Ross) my great old Bernina 1230, to my good friend and student Anita, whose name you have seen in my blog posts from time to time.  She also got a big bag of Bernina feet, because they don’t fit on the newer machines.  She loves the machine, and any of you that have a 1230 know it is a workhorse that will last her many more years.

I look back over my years of sewing and think about all the machines I have had.  I started learning at about 5 years old both on my mother’s great old Singer and she gave me a child’s machine, which was wonderful and I wish I still had it.  When I was in high school I bought an inexpensive machine from the hardware store.  I don’t even know its brand.  It did ok for a few years, but Mom gave me a Singer Golden Touch and Sew somewhere along the way, which I used for decades and even used as my primary machine when I had my fashion design and tailoring business in Ithaca, New York as a new bride to Marvin (my second husband).I added a great old black White antique which had a powerful moter and only a straight stitch.  I used it to do tailored suits and heavy coats on. It is a beautiful antique, but it needs rewiring.  I still have that one.  It’s name is “Eli” after Eli Whitney.  I traded the Singer in for my first Bernina, which was Betsy shortly after we moved to Washington, DC in the 1980s.  I bought a floor model Bernina 200E, and oddly can’t remember its name, which I later traded in on Gibbs (my 830 LE) when the LEs came out.

So you see I have worked my way up from a very basic machine to my wonderful fleet I have now across the years and to this latest new friend Odette.

I started sewing on the dining room table, and moved to a corner of my bedroom, and finally I had larger section of my large bedroom in my last home.  After Marvin died I moved to my current townhome and took the two smaller rooms and a small section of my bedroom for my studio, where I am now.  You can see the studio without my new machine in it in the video I shared in my last blog post if you haven’t looked at it yet.

Here is the unpacking of Odette:

The two big boxes:

The main box

The embroidery module box

Everything out of the boxes

And finally:

Meet Odette, all set up and ready to sew. It fits exactly as Gibbs did, and the embroidery module is in one of the drawers especially designed for such a module. I have this wonderful custom cabinet…very practical.

Sew if you are sewing or quilting using a simple machine on your dining room table, there is so much you can accomplish…and maybe, just maybe, you can move up the sewing machine/studio ladders a little at a time.  My advice for this is go for the practical, not necessarily the most beautiful, but functional is the key.

Sew happy everyone!  Make sure you take good care of your equipment…clean and oil on a regular basis, at least at the start of every project, and  change the needle when needed (I listen for the thump thump indicating it is dull).  Every few years go through your stash and supplies and reorganize, get rid of what you aren’t going to use, and clean everything.  I apparently do mine about every 6 or so years..LOL.

Now let’s go sew (or quilt, or embroider)!

 

 

An Organized Functional Studio…Waiting for Machine…Then What?

My computer work station in my studio with colorful bubbles. This is where I do my design work mostly.

This is an odd point in my fabric arts career.  I am between projects and without a main sewing machine as I await my new Bernina 880 Plus to arrive.  It will be another week or two at least.  I still have my little B 350 and my wonderful Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm available, but to add to that I do not have a UFO except for my bed quilt that requires the 880 to finish the top appliques.  I could do this on my B350 if I hadn’t already started some of the special touches on the 830, but it would look too different I think on the narrower width stitch area of 5mm vs 9 mm.  So there you are!  Between projects.

And wonder of wonders with the help of my friend Anita I finished organizing my enormous stash of fabrics, threads, and other stuff related to my fabric art work!  The last time I did this was over five years ago.   Here’s a link to a video walthrough of my studio, if you are interested:  Walkthrough

But I do have a lot of ideas and concepts and even a few designs nearly completed for upcoming projects.  And I am SOOOOOO looking forward to my new machine.  Maybe I should complete those nearly finished designs, cut them out in preparation, and also work on my books.  That’s a great idea, except I came down with a little cold yesterday (Sunday July 6) and am sneezing or nose blowing every few minutes.  Sigh.  I absolutely intend to get over it really soon and get back to work!!!  Meanwhile I will look at videos on YouTube and The Quilt Show.

Sew the second half of this year looks to be really fun and maybe a little sparkly.  You all KNOW how I love sparkly things.  Here’s a sparkly fashion show that makes me think a black and gold and sparkly quilt would be really fun to make!  Fashion Show

Sew happy everyone!  Get your studio sorted out and have some FUN!  You’ll be amazed what you find stashed away in the corner of that shelf.

 

Turning Pages in My Studio and Practice

Sew my second workshop on quilting with feed dogs up at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD went well on Friday and I am nearing completion of preparations for workshops three and four, which are both reportedly full and may even have a waiting list.

Ruler workshop sampler/design just completed the quilting. Ready to block and bind.

Yesterday I finally completed designing and quilting the sampler quiltlet for my fourth class, which is ruler work for sit down machines.  I had quite a challenge with that one, because G Street asked me to use the Bernina ruler set for sit down machines.  So it has taken me several designs and test samplers, but I wasn’t pleased with them until the one I finally finished yesterday (I still have to bind it).  I will now adjust the schematic for the handout to match the end results and that is all I have to do to complete the handout.  I was so happy to get this class designed.

Now I can turn the page to creating for the rest of the year and can think about my new show quilts I will make.

Speaking of pages, I created a new page with a link at the top of the blog on the right called Downloads and Links of Interest.  This page so far has schematics for markging guidelines for practice quiltlets.  In all my classes I am recommending that the quilters make themselves more quiltlets and practice, practice, practice. Actually, that sounds like work, but really it is more like play.

One of my students said she has been making a baby quilt to perfect her quilt making, though she has no baby in her family coming and was going to give it away.  I suggested she give it to Project Linus, so I added a link to that on the new page. This is a wonderful way to improve your quilting and do something wonderful at the same time.  Don’t send them real disaster quilts, but as you get some that are pretty and nice, though not necessarily perfect, wash them and go ahead and send them.

I also added links to rulers I like and videos of their creators using them.  I will be adding more links in time, and plan on making videos myself of work at my machines and more Bernina V8 embroideries, and I will provide links to those on this new page.

I was considering stopping making show quilting earlier this year, wondering if I was accomplishing anything with them.  So after some thought and prayer, I woke up one day really excited about work in my studio.  I decided I can use my show quilts for examples in new books and showing how tos for my classes.  Making a show quilt keeps me on my fabric art toes.  I don’t let things that should be unstitched and restitched go by.  I fix what is “wrong”, and I come out with a better quilt.  So for a few more years at least I will continue to compete.  I always get excited when I start working on a show quilt.  I get frustrated too, but will usually come up with a solution when I run into a problem.

So the future in my studio now seems bright and interesting with a concentration on show quilts and books, together with the occassional set of classes.  Join me in my journey…check out the new page.  I am also planning on providing more little tutorials here in my blog space and alerting you to my videos in the future.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new in your sewing space and practice…consider it playing because it is fun!  Be sure to branch out and make a beautiful project.  Smaller quilts are great first items…table runners, lap quilts, baby quilts, dog quilts, vests, and quilted bags.

 

 

 

Happy Easter and Workshops

Our Savior’s Way Lutheran Church Easter Banner designed and made by Betty Jo and Anita Born, completed 4/15/19

Happy Easter everyone!  The Lord is Risen!  Above is the banner that my BFF Anita and myself made for Our Savior’s Way Lutheran Church in Ashburn, VA.  You can see this banner in person this coming Easter Sunday at the church.  We added ribbon streamers with brass bells on each side of the banner so it rings happily as it is moved down the aisle.  there are three dimensional embroidered butterflies and the lilies are in-the-hoop embroideries I did.  Anita painted the lamb and I added its curly fur when I did a light bit of quilting.  This banner is technically a quilt, although the batting is extremely light (Hobb’s Thermore Ultralight), and really is more like a soft interfacing.  But it really does not have the loft a quilt would normally have.  Still it needed a bit of very light quilting to keep the layers hanging nicely together over the years we anticipate it being used.  So I stitched around all the appliques, added some curly fur on the lamb, and did some glory rays coming from the cross.  We shared the making and stitching of appliques, and Anita made the background with the hills and beautiful fabric we found for the sky.  I did the final batting,  facing, edge stitching, and quilting.  We are hoping the church enjoys the banner for many years.

So now that I have my Fabric Arts Workshop 1 on applique techniques behind me, we have finished the banner, and I have now prepared the kits for Workshop 2 on quilting with feed dogs up and optionally a walking foot.  I am well along to getting the kits for Workshop 3 on organic free motion quilting done, and I still am a little bit behind on preparations for Workshop 4 on Ruler Work for a Sitdown Machine, but I have a month to get that done.

Once I complete all the Workshop preparations I will joyfully return to making show quilts, and taking pictures along the way for use in my books.  I’m really looking forward to getting to that point.  Several months back I felt nearly buried with things I had to do and was a bit overwhelmed, and I am now having much more fun in my studio.  I really appreciate the assistance my BFF (aka my “apprentice”) Anita has provided to help me get unburied.  Just picture a quilter buried under stacks of fabrics, threads, battings, deadlines, and paper and a friend comes along and rescues her.  That’s Anita.  In return, I continue to teach her what I know and help her with her own projects.  Plus we have a lot of fun gabbing.  She’s the same age I am and we have a lot in common.  Meanwhile Mei-Ling Huang, my other BFF who is also my Bernina dealer, has also been helping me get the pieces together for my kits, and David, my youngest has picked up much of the things around the house I had to do.

So God bless you all!  Sew happy! Take time to be creative and enjoy your work.

Adventures and Misadventures in My Studio

Wow, what a week in my studio. It was full of both frustrations and accomplishments.  So I thought the picture above, which is something resulting from one of my playful edits in one of my digital art software programs seems about right.  LOL

So anyway, this week I realized I am only a few weeks away from my first quilted art workshop at G Street Fabrics in Rockville Maryland.  April 12th!  Yikes!  It’s almost here and I’m not ready!  Well, I know what I’m going to teach, because I have given this class once before, and I have the kits figured out…but I frantically found the bag I had left over from the last class to see if I have enough pieces to make any kits at all for the class.  I put together five finished ones ready for use, three that are partially finished, and I need ten altogether.  Yes, it’s just a little class of not more than eight students and not less than three.  Sew I make ten kits..eight for the students, one for me to use in demonstration, and one for oopsies.

A frantic text to my friend Mei-Ling, who is the Bernina dealer there and with whom I am running the class, solved the problem of missing pieces.  She has the thread.  She has the needles.  I shopped my stash and found I have the fabric.  I can print off the handouts.  SO all I need now is time.  Well, in truth, I can do all the things I have left to do for workshop 1 in one day.  I’ll tackle that early next week.  And then I must put together kits for 2, 3, and 4, but they are less difficult and take less time.

There is also the Easter banner my friend Anita and I are making for the church.  It seemed to be progressing very slowly for a while, and I was feeling a little frustrated, but yesterday we got the main top or front together and it is looking fabulous.  We just need to stitch down the embroideries, which are large sets of lilies I edited from an old design and stitched out in the hoop.  There are two sets and each set took about five hours to stitch out, but they look really good.  There were some odd skips of stitching and missed outlines, probably resulting from the wrong setting on pull compensation and other editing errors on my part, but I took them to the machine and free motion stitched the repairs and corrections…so they look great.  We have them glue-basted on to the banner and all we have to do is zig zag them on with monopoly.  The cross, the lamb, and the little applqued banner at the top are all on.  And yes, I will be taking pictures and posting them here for you to see.

So I have been trying to solve the problems related to making instructional videos for posting on YouTube and to give a little taste of some of the things in my Bernina V8 book, Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.  I also want to develop a series of videos on quilting using both my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm and my Bernina domestic machines.

So I had first to learn to use the software…that was and is a challenge.  But I have succeeded in making several test videos now.  Then I couldn’t get the software to connect to my microphone, but today, I finally figured out where to find the setting on my computer to allow this to happen.  Eureka!

The first voiced video showing how to take a simple design and turn it into a really pretty wreath design on Bernina V8 is really quite funny,  I am thinking I will leave in all my mistakes and backups and fixes along the way because it shows how to overcome things and is much more amusing too.  In the end I managed to crash my computer and will have to take it up again and edit the pieces together.  Gosh I wonder how hard it is to add additional RAM (random access memory), which is what I need to not crash the computer.  I thought I had plenty in my current machine, but when it gets into making videos coupled with advanced software like Bernina, it isn’t quite enough.  Oh sigh.

Anyway, when I finish this first demo I will put a link here so you can find it if you are interested.  Even if you don’t have Bernina software you may find it funny enough to watch it.

Sew now I’m going to work on the sample for my fourth workshop, which is on ruler work with a sitdown machine.

I am so looking forward to getting the workshops prepared, the Easter banner done, and getting back to making quilts.

Sew happy everyone!  Stay tuned for future videos.  Also, would you like a podcast about once every couple of weeks?  I think it would probably be just me talking to you, but once in a while might include a guest?  Let me know.

 

Project Management for Fabric Art

Since I retired in 2012 to become a full time studio fabric artist, I have found a need to develop a system to keep things organized for time and technique management. Initially, I felt that taking time to keep records cut into my creative time and resembled work too much.  After all, I was here to have fun and make fabric art, right? 😄

Lately, I have added teaching local workshops and for several years have been working on writing several books.

So I found it necessary to figure out a way to keep up with all of this.  In fact, the multi-faceted system I came up with saves time and reduces stress, and some of it is kind of fun. Without records I would spend a lot of time figuring out where I was within a project, what was next, and making mistakes I would not have made if I had notes I could refer to.  This is especially important if there is an interruption in a specific project and I have a gap of time, or if I am working on more than one project at a time, which I often do (a show quilt, an approaching teaching session, a bit of writing, and even something just for me like clothing or my current bed quilt project).

My daughter-in-law Beth, who is also a quilter and a computer professional, suggested I look into www.Trello.com, which is a free organizational program designed for businesses. I find this program very easy to use and set up.  It helps me keep up with project ideas and a general overview of where I am on each project, and you can put in a check list.  It’s especially nice when I am doing a project with another person. Beth and I set up a team “Board” of Tatum Quilters so we could share projects.  We haven’t done much in that direction, but we still talk about it from time to time…LOL  So you might want to check it out.

While Trello helps me keep up with my ideas and plans for quilts, I found I need more detailed information and some of that doesn’t fit into a computerized file.  So I also have my big black low tech notebook.  I use this from the very beginning of a project and also keep other information in it. I write up ideas, make a general overall plan, keep tiny samples of fabrics, lists of threads, and other supplies, and put records of everything I need in this book for keeping my project together. The following images may give you an idea for your own notebook.

Here I have the original design of the Renaissance banner my BFF Anita and I made for the church last year. This is her original design.  I added notes, and a list of the fabrics I ordered for the project.  I just stapled her original drawing in to the notebook since it fit.  If such a design doesn’t fit, I sometimes fold it one or two times and staple it in.

 

So here is the finished design after I put it into the computer and drew a pattern for us, making a few changes we discussed along the way. On the right side is a plan for making the quilt from start to finish, which we checked off as we completed it.  I just printed a page size of the pattern and stapled it in on one page.

 

Sometimes I just staple drawings into the book to keep them from getting lost. This is my train project I am about to start working on.  The one on the left is a copy of the drawing my BFF Anita did for me to use for this, and the one on the right has a few scribbly additions I did thinking about how I might make it.  I have pages after this with a brief list of steps to make this quilt and have space for notes on stitches, settings, etc. for my machine work.

 

Here I have the samples of the fabrics and a list of the threads for Pendragon. Ken (oldest son) and Beth (his wife) gave me this wonderful addition to my stash along with the design for Pendragon that Ken drew. Pendragon was such a major project requiring many advanced techniques I had to develop or had never used it has ten pages in my black book that includes all kinds of things related to it.

 

Here is my trial of the upper left corner of Pendragon. I digitized the outline of the ancient design for stitching just the outline in the hoop, which needed a lot of fixing.  So I had to do a stitchout before putting it on the quilt. I also wanted to try the painting to see how that would go. So I just stapled the sample into the book because I liked it and didn’t want to throw it away.  If you look hard, you can see on the right a very loose sketch of how the quilt pieces fit together.

If you’d like to learn more about Pendragon, I have several blogs in which I included the making of this extensive project.  The testing of borders and the making of Pendragon.  So as you see, I also keep what you might think of as progress reports in this blog.

You might think that would be enough record keeping, but when I started doing show quilts that went to several shows, and sometimes had multiple quilts out for shows or exhibits, I found I had to make sure I knew where they were or were going.  I needed to be careful that I didn’t enter the same quilt in a show that was being held at the same time another show that I had entered was held, or enter it into this year’s shows when they had already been shown or rejected from another year’s show (Just as a matter of principal, I never reenter a show that has rejected my quilt previously even if they accept this kind of entry).  And I found I can’t enter another Mancuso show if the quilt has received a ribbon in another Mancuso show.  So it became a kind of choreograph of the dance of the quilts.

I take care of this with a simple Microsoft Excel workbook with two spreadsheets.  One keeps up with what shows that I am interested in and the deadline dates.  The other spreadsheet keeps up with what has been where or entered where, with a simple asterisk if it placed in that show.  I include an example of my workbook here.  I don’t know if it will work on your computer or if it is anything you might want, but it was easy to include if it works for you and you are into show quilting.

Quilt Show List example

Sew there you are.  Yes, it is a complex four part system, but it also works well for me and so I wanted to share it.  Believe it or not, it saves more time than it spends to do this, especially after getting started with it all, and it really helps keep down the stress factors in my busy busy studio. One more thing, I put on my calendar when a quilt has to be shipped once they are accepted into a show.  I have occassionally waked up and wondered if I had missed a deadline, only to be happy to find I had not by looking on my calendar.

Sew happy everyone!  Try making a show quilt or a master quilt, even if you don’t want to show it.  You might want to keep your own records, with lots of pictures along the way (oh and yes, I have computer files with folders by the year for quilts made in that year.  Yes, I back up everything).  It will be fun to look back on it or if you want to remember how in the world you did that technique on that quilt some years ago.