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”

The Joys of Metallic Thread!!!

Today, I want to tell you about using that “dreaded” metallic thread in our home embroidery machines that sew every other kind of thread so beautifully.

Metallic thread is known for being problematic when it comes to doing embroidery on our home machines.  However, if you know how to work with it, you will love how beautiful it looks, especially in your holiday designs. The sparkle metallic thread gives the design, just makes the design look so gorgeous.

The first thing you do is SLOW DOWN YOUR MACHINE. Our machines work so fast that the thread has a tendency to heat up, then stretch and break. I slow mine down as far as they can go to 350 or 400 speed.

Next, you must have the thread feeding off the spool the same way it is wound on the spool. Don’t lay it sideways in your thread holder. The thread will twist as it feeds into the machine. Second, DON”T put the thread standing upright in a cup or thread stand along side the machine. The thread will still twist as it comes off the thread. Instead, lay the thread on it’s side in a cup so it feeds off the thread the same way it is wound on the spool. Again, the object is not to let the thread twist as it feeds into the machine.

Another way is to put the metallic thread on a secondary thread  holder on your machine if you have one, providing it will let the thread feed off the spool the old fashioned way our old machines used to do.  There are some new attachments you can purchase from sewing supply stores such as Sewing Supply Warehouse or Nancy’s Notions. (links on the right). These are neat and work very well.

When purchasing metallic thread, remember there are many different brands and thicknesses. Floriani has one that has a polyester base and sews out beautifully. Madeira sells a couple different types of metallic. One thicker and one standard. Also, Sulky makes a nice metallic. These are only a few of the brands that make metallic. Shop around and try different brands until you find the one you like and most importantly, the one your machine likes.

If you read my blog on Needles, then you know it is advisable to use a metallic needle. These needles have a slightly larger eye opening so as to let the thread flow easily.

One final piece of advice I have learned. Don’t choose a design that is so dense that you will risk breaking the thread in the needle, or the thread in your design.  Let your metallic be a highlight on a design. Why not  decorate a Christmas towel with a beautiful design that will show off that pretty metallic thread. If you want to be adventurous, Try making the Anitagoodesign special edition called GOLDEN TAPESTRY.  This one was made by Cindy at Expert Sewing. She used Floriani metallic thread and it was sewn on Silk Dupioni fabric. cindy-tapestry-sm

If you have any questions about sewing with metallics, please feel free to contact me. I will answer all questions as best I can. Don’t be afraid to  try it. Just remember the do’s and don’ts of using this lovely edition to your embroidery.

Until next time, Happy Sewing!

Be sure to check out past blogs to see some interesting articles about sewing, embroidery and quilting.

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The “How To” of T-Shirt Quilts

jessica-t-shirt-1Ever wanted to do something with all those t-shirts your kids get from school, sporting events, or dance recitals? How about all the ones your brother, husband, or sister have that they just can’t get rid of. Here’s the perfect solution to save those memories and make something that they will cherish for a long time.

T-shirts are tricky to work with. They are very stretchy and not conducive to behaving when trying to sew them like quilter’s cotton. Consequently you have to back them with a permanent iron on interfacing to make them stable. My procedure is to cut the design from the front or back of the t-shirt as large as you can get it. For adult t-shirts you will probably need to cut as much as possible or more, so as not to lose any of the design. Eventually you will cut the finished block to 12.5″  You can cut children’s sizes accordingly. Next,  I recommend using Pellon lightweight or medium weight interfacing that is ironed on the back of the block/design. Another great product to work with is Pellon Wisper Weft. It works the same way as shirt weight interfacing and is just as stable to tame the t-shirt stretch. The light weight interfacing is a softer hand and will show more old fashioned quilting puffiness. Medium weight interfacing gives a flatter look. Whisper Weft is between the two. Continue reading “The “How To” of T-Shirt Quilts”

Embroidery Tips & Tricks

I taught a class the other day called “Embroidery 101”. In this class I teach new and returning embroiders about the new stabilizers, how to use which needle and which thread for different applications in embroidery.

hankieOne of the questions I was asked was the best way to embroider on handkerchiefs. Yes, people still like to carry a handkerchief. They are also wonderful gifts for weddings, birthdays, or for a special occasion like a graduation. Anything that you want to remember. You may want to give a lady a lovely handkerchief with crochet edges or lace. Maybe a nice manly handkerchief with his initial in the corner. Handkerchiefs are best embroidered on a wash away stabilizer. I like Floriani Wet n Gone, Wet and Gone Tacky, and I have used a product called Vilene. Most water soluble stabilizer will do. You can hoop the stabilizer and hankie or you can also “float” the hankie on top of the tacky if you don’t want to hoop both. There’s a wonderful video and tutorial on EmbLibrary (link at right) if you are like me, and want a visual to help you learn.

Remember to wind a bobbin to match your top thread because the design will be seen on both sides. You can use regular 40wt embroidery thread, or you can use can use a nice heirloom cotton that’s anywhere from 60wt to 100wt. 6owt is a nice look if you want a delicate look. Thread  Art (see links at right) carries 60wt polyester thread in all colors to use as main thread, or bobbin thread to match 40wt embroidery thread. Be sure to use a 75/11 embroidery needle so your hole punches aren’t noticeable.

Check out All About Blanks (link at right). They have some lovely blank handkerchiefs.

I’ll be writing more of these short “Tips” that will answer a question someone may have.

Until next time …. happy sewing.

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Never Enough Fabric!

We’ve talked about threads, needles, stabilizers, etc. but let’s get to the best part of sewing, …. fabric! We’re getting ready to start a new project and we  look through our “fabric stash” but somehow we just don’t have all the right fabrics and colors we need for what we want to do. Sound familiar?  So, we have to postpone starting the project until we can get to our local fabric stores. They have some of what we want, but not all. We go home with our new purchases and then go online to find the rest. Now we  wait until  the newly purchased online fabric arrives…… Meantime, we are itching to make something, so we go back to our stash and find something to temporarily satisfy our desire to create.

Solution! When you see a fabric you like, buy it! Don’t know how much to buy? Decide if the fabric is a “focus” fabric or a small print or marbled “blend-able”. If it’s a focus fabric like a large print that’s very distinct, buy at least 1 yard and if you can afford it buy 1 1/2 or 2 yards. Distinct fabrics are generally only produced one time. When the fabric is gone from your local quilt shop, you won’t get it again. If desperate,  you might find it online at Equilter.com, Fabric.com, Connecting Threads,  Missouri Star Quilt Company or Keepsake Quilting.  (see creative links on right).  They have the warehouse space to purchase a lot more bolts than your local quilt shops can. Continue reading “Never Enough Fabric!”