Free is Fun Again!

Whenever I teach an embroidery class my students ask where did you get that design and most times, if I give them a design, it’s because I got that design for free.  Every body likes to get things free. In the quilting and embroidery world there are a lot of companies who every month, give you a free quilting pattern or free embroidery designs. My last “Free is Fun” blog talked about some of the free embroidery designs you can get.  Well here are a few more.

Check out Hatched in Africa. This is a wonderful company in  South Africa that has “All Sorts of Embroidery” as well as projects and supplies. You can download your designs and you will get a free design with each purchase. Secrets of Embroidery  has 60 different designers. Each one has their own unique style and you can go crazy trying to decide what you want.  You can download some of their free designs to try out the company. Be careful, you will get hooked and want to try more.  I told you about Zundt Designs in my last Free is Fun blog. I said their designs are beautiful and stitch out well. Try their FSL – “free standing lace”  bowls with Floriani metallic thread. Lovely! Their designs are a little pricey but whatever your buy,  you will make often,  which makes it worth the price.

Almost all the companies have free designs and some give you free designs every month like Embroidery Library.  They also have a special Christmas Club. As you buy designs, you get points towards free designs. Like your very own Christmas present of embroidery designs.

Anita  Goodesigns  have exquisite designs. Up until now, you could only purchase their designs from a store like ours, Expert Sewing Center, but now you can purchase designs direct. Register with them and you will get word each week about a $5 or $10 “mini pack” that you can download immediately.

Embroidery Garden has a lot of “In The Hoop” projects that are always fun to do.

Embroidery Panda has sooo many designs that they sell for twenty five cents. Can’t beat that price!

If you can’t afford to immediately buy “everything you love” then these free designs are a great way to build your stock of patterns and designs, try out their company and find they suit your style. Naturally, I will always buy a design or two along with my free designs.

Many of these companies will have video tutorials to answer a lot of your questions. In the future, I will add some that I think you might like.

Not an embroiderer? Quilters have just as many free things on line. Nancy’s Notions isn’t just a store to buy supplies, it also has a section where your can download free projects and quilting blocks. Check it out.

Another of my favorite sites is QuiltersCache.com . They have traditional and new style quilt blocks in all sizes, complete with instructions, etc that you can download for free.

There are so many resources of free “stuff” if you just take the time to search them out. I will have more for you in the future. It’s a great incentive for you to check my blog often to see who else I can tell you about. 🙂 I will only talk about the companies that I personally love and I know are honorable and reputable to do business with. These are companies I have purchased from for many years. To get many of these “freebies” you need to register with the website, then you will get emails for when they have sales, or you can just sign in to see what they have new.

TIP: Make sure you use the proper needle for your embroidery project. Most projects you will use a 75-11 embroidery needle. If you are working on denim or thick fabric projects, you may want to try a 90-14 embroidery needle. If using Metallic thread, use a needle rated for metallic thread. The eye is a little larger to allow the thread to travel through the eye a little cooler. Check out my blog that tells you about the various needles and when to use the.

Check all the Creative Links on the right to go direct to the various websites I talk about.

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Until next time …. happy sewing!

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Plaid

With all the heat we have been seeing around the country, it may seem a little premature to be talking about plaid flannel or even cotton plaid. But, the weather will get cooler and those flannel PJ’s, quilts and throws will be looking pretty cozy soon. Even in the south there are times when flannel feels awfully good. Flannel backing on a cotton top quilt makes your quilt feel so nice and snugly when curled up on a couch with hot chocolate and a good book or movie. Flannel quilts give your home a country cottage feel and it doesn’t matter if your decor is modern, sleek or country.  Flannel also makes nice rag quilts and you don’t need batting in between the top and backing unless you live in the frozen north of Greenland or even Northern Canada where temps average 20 or 30 below.

Flannel does need special handling and if you don’t know these things, a beautiful quilt, that you put a lot of work, heart, and soul into, can end up looking awful over time. The most important part of working with Flannel is the prep work. It’s vital to not only pre-wash, but also machine dry and starch, because Flannel shrinks significantly. Continue reading “The Do’s and Don’ts of Plaid”

Thread; Thick or Thin – Which Do I Use?

thread-clip-artI just did a class where I must have had 10 different questions about thread.  So, I thought I would update and re-run this blog with the hopes that it may answer any questions you may have.

When I teach a free motion quilting class  and I try to explain the difference between the thread sizes, I get lots of question. For some people, thread thickness can be very confusing. It’s hard to compute in our brains why the higher the number, the thinner the thread and the lower the number the thicker the thread. I am going to try to simplify  which is which.

Normal sewing thread is usually 50 weight thick. This is the standard in the industry.  This is the normal thread you buy at Joann’s or wherever you buy your everyday sewing or quilt piecing thread.

To sandwich my quilts together I like to use a 30 weight quilting thread  Iuse a 90-14 needle or higher.  It’s a little thicker and shows up nicely when you are machine quilting. There are many good brands of thread but my personal preference is Sulky quilting thread solid or variegated, or King Tut solid or variegated. King Tut has nice large spools. Great if you are quilting a large quilt that will use a lot of thread.

There is one more thread for quilting. It’s a 12 weight that is much thicker and nice for hand quilting. It gives a nice texture to the finished quilt. If you use in a machine I would use a top stitch needle like a 90-14 or 100-16

Embroidery thread is 40 weight. This  is the standard for anyone using embroidery thread for their machine embroidery designs. This thread is a little thicker than your normal sewing thread to give you more depth in your design. It can also be used for quilting your quilt sandwich when used on a machine. It has more sheen and can look very nice on the more modern style of quilts. For quilting you would want to use the same weight thread in needle and bobbin.

60 weight thread is what you use in the bobbin of your machine when doing machine embroidery. It comes in several colors ie; white, tan, cream, grey and black. You can buy it in pre-wound packets or your can buy  Finishing Touch bobbin thread in spools that you can wind on your own machine if that’s what you prefer. Also, some machines don’t like pre-wound bobbins. My Brother Quattro and Dream machines love both pre-wounds as well as bobbins I wind myself. There is also a 60 weight cotton thread you can buy to use in your bobbin if you want the back and front of your project to look the same such as in lettering. 60 weight cotton thread is also nice to use when sewing applique’s on the machine or by hand. If you are machine embroidering small lettering, like on a recipe dish towel. then you may want to look into using a 60 weight embroidery thread. It has a nice sheen and softer hand for small fonts. You can use the same thread top and bottom if you like. That’s what I do. It gives me a nice finish.

The last one I want to talk about is a beautiful thread you can use for heirloom sewing and for tacking down appliques. It’s 100 weight thread. It’s the finest thread on the market.  It can be purchased in cotton and silk. Very delicate and lovely when sewn.

I hope this helps any one who may have been confused about thread weight and  the use of each type of thread. Except for embroidery I always use the same weight thread in my needle and bobbin. My favorite threads for sewing and piecing are Aurifill, Mettler, Superior, Sulky and Gutterman. For embroidery threads I like Floriani, Isacord, Brother Madeira, Robinson Antone and Sulky. All are excellent brands.

If any one has any questions please email me through my contact page. I will try to answer questions as best I can and if you have any suggestions for future blogs, I would love to hear them. I would also like it if you click the follow button (google likes it if we have followers)  and check out the creative links of businesses I buy from.

Until next time….. happy sewing!

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Pillows Galore

molly-brown-jacobean-pillow-1Throw pillows on a couch, a bed or chair are an inexpensive way to add color and decorate a room. The pillows you buy can be quite pricey costing upwards of $40 to $80 or more, depending on what you get. If you want something nice that will last, you will spend a lot of money for them. By making your own, you can also customize your pillow with embroidered words and sayings that mean something to you or the person you are giving it to. Maybe do a small wedding pillow, a friendship, daughter, Mother, Father, or Grandparent design. They will cherish them forever.

I’ve been making pillows for my military friends and they are loving them. I found some army-pillow-2panels with the different branches of the service and I make and quilt the pillow for my friends and their particular branch. Military guys and gals are very proud of their service  and this is a way you can honor them. Want to just make a decorative pillow? That’s OK. I’m going to give you a formula that will serve you well for any design.

First; make your pillow top.  This can be as simple as a piece of fabric you like, a panel, or a pieced quilt block. You can also do a beautiful embroidery design on a  piece of fabric and then turn it into a pillow with the following steps.

Second; Cut your top to the size pillow you want to make. Pillow forms come in all shapes and sizes. You can get them at any craft or fabric store, like Joann’s. I get mine there when they have a pillow sale, or save with my 40% off coupon. The sizes I like best are 12″, 14″ and 16″ square. If you want a bolster size, then 12″ x 16″ is a nice size. Whatever size you decide to use, I cut my top to the same size or 1/4″ bigger all around. It depends on the weight of fabric and if batting is used.

Third; “Sandwiching” your pillow top. I like to make a pillow top in layers. I start with muslin for the lining, then batting for body and last I put the finished decorative outside of the pillow on top. Then I quilt the three layers with a simple free motion meander pattern or a quilters “cross hatch” pattern. “Cross hatching” is the simplest way to finish off the top. It only involves straight stitching and it can be done on any size machine.  All you need is an erasable marking pen and a straight stitch foot or a walking foot.

Fourth; Planning the back of the pillow. There are a few ways you can finish the back.  1. is a simple way of just cutting the back fabric the same size as the front and with right sides together, sew all around pillow leaving about 3 or 4 inches open at the bottom. I suggest sewing a straight stitch first, then go around again with a zig zag stitch to finish off the edges. (you can use a serged edge if you have a serger.) I do this, then I do the back with the same three layers and cross hatch that also to give the pillow cover body. Once it is all stitched, turn right side out, stuff your pillow form inside and hand stitch the opening to finish off.envelope pillow back 3

2. is the “envelope” style back where you use 2 pieces of fabric wrong sides together with your folds  overlapping about 2 inches in the center. Then you attach the the back to front (again right sides facing each other), and you can stitch all the way around four sides. Once done, you turn it right side out using your fold over and again, stuff your pillow form inside and you are done. This makes it easy to remove pillow case to wash when needed. zipper pillow back 3

3. is  to put a zipper near the bottom to make installing pillow form and removal easy. This is the most secure way to have a removable cover, but you need to be pretty comfortable with installing a zipper.

The envelope style is the most popular finish and to make your cover a little more snug, you can put decorative buttons to hold the folds together or put hidden Velcro on the folds to keep the backing snug.

You options are endless, and you can have or give a pillow that has meaning and is different from “off the rack” ones you can buy in a store.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me. Use your imagination and create something really nice and fun.

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Embroidery Designs Galore

It’s been a busy “Snowbird” season and I have been busy teaching. It’s slowing down now and I plan to get back to finishing several blogs I stared last summer and fall.

Because I teach machine embroidery, I get a lot of questions about where to get good embroidery designs. There are A LOT of great places to buy embroidery designs, but the links I have on the blog are people I have done business with. I know they are reputable and the quality of designs is excellent. Most, also give free designs each month. Like EmbLibrary.com. They give you 2 free designs in all formats and sizes every month. They also have an amazing website with lots of tutorials, idea books, and THOUSANDS of beautiful designs that stitch out well.

molly-zipper-bag-2

Something else neat, most companies  have a place to look up past orders so that when the dreaded hard drive dies and you lose all the designs you downloaded, you can go back in and download all your orders again. It’s like having a back up to all your designs. Continue reading “Embroidery Designs Galore”

New! Needle in A Haystack (sewing basket)

Sorry I haven’t posted a new blog lately, but I’ve been sooo busy.  I also went away for the holidays to Pennsylvania during the time that they had 1 degree temps and -10 wind chill. Brrrr!!!

Back to sunny Florida.  I taught a class this week that my students asked  “why so many different needles”? So, I decided to re run my needle blog as a refresher of, why so many different needles.

I have several new blogs in the works and will get them ready for you as soon as I can. Now, read on and thank you for your support and good comments.

No, we are not going to look for needles in a haystack, but we do need to dig out all those schmetz-machine-needlesneedles in our sewing box and organize them. I teach an  Embroidery 101 workshop, which covers the use of stabilizer, threads and needles. It still surprises me when my students ask me the difference in needles. I’m going to try to simplify this mystery and give you a place to go back to when you need to choose a needle for a certain sewing, quilting or embroidery project.I have worked with most of these needle types and when you use the correct needle, your project will always look the best.

You want to choose needle size according to thickness of your thread and needle type according to your fabric application. Continue reading “New! Needle in A Haystack (sewing basket)”