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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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”

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!”