Thursday, February 16, 2017

Machine Applique - Adjusting the Size of Your Applique Templates

One of the questions I get asked a lot is if my mug rug patterns can be made smaller or bigger for place mats and other things. Just because I put these appliques on a mug rug doesn’t mean that you have to make a mug rug. For me, they are the perfect size to use for decoration either on a wall, bookshelf, or in a china hutch. Since most people use them for decoration, maybe they’d like a bigger display for their wall or for a quilt. In any case, it’s very easy to adjust the size of the appliques.

First and foremost, I always recommend using the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print all your patterns. It’s extremely reliable, easy to use, and you can download it free from the adobe website. I have used other PDF readers and some won’t allow you to adjust the sizes of your printout.

I’m going to first show you how to make your patterns smaller. For demonstration purposes, I’m only going to be cutting out the pumpkin and not the other vegetables, leaves, or acorns.

When I look at the photo of the pumpkin that comes with the applique template, I see it has a leaf, a stem, and a tendril with it. I have to take this into consideration as well. The easiest and most accurate way of doing this would be to cut out the pattern pieces and put them together the way they are intended. A rough cut is fine, nothing fancy. Just make sure that at this point you are cutting them out at 100% / original size.

Let’s say I want to put the pumpkin on a child’s pocket which only measures 4 inches by 4 inches. I’m going to reduce the size of all four pieces so it will fit. I’m going to measure my entire piece across, and top to bottom. First though, for just this one pumpkin, I see no need to use the entire tendril, so I’m going to cut it so my pumpkin will be centered nicely. This gives me a measurement of 5 inches across, and 5 1/4 from top to bottom. I’ve decided I want my pumpkin to measure 2 3/4 inches tall. I am using the measurement of the height because it’s the bigger number. This will assure that my pumpkin fits both ways.

To get the pumpkin the size I want, we use basic math. We are going to divide 2 3/4 by 5 1/4. Remember, to make the pattern smaller, we divide the big number into the smaller number. To make it bigger, it’s the opposite. When I do the math (2.75 ÷ 5.25), I get .52. This means that I’m going to reduce my pattern to 52% of its original size.

Now go to your print box (of your Adobe Acrobat Reader) and choose print. Under “Page Sizing and Handling” you will see options. Check the one that says Custom Scale. Type in 52, then Print. You are printing this out at 52% of its original size. That’s it! Easy peasy!

When you adjust a pattern to be smaller, sometimes there are pieces that will be so super tiny, it will be impossible to applique around them. For these instances I use a straight machine stitch, and if it’s still too small, use your imagination and bring out your fabric paint, 3-dimensional paints, buttons, and beads. 

Enlarging the pattern is a little trickier because if you adjust the size of the pattern to be larger, your pattern pieces will more than likely go off the page. Don’t worry because if you are using the Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can have everything print out the way you want it the first time!

So, we already know that the pumpkin measures 5 1/4 inches tall. I’ve decided to put this one on a 10 inch quilt block, and again, I don’t want the entire tendril. So I’ve decided to make my pumpkin 8 inches high. Math time again! 8 divided by 5.25 equals 1.52. This will translate to 152%. If I put this number into my Custom Size box then print, it’s going to cut a good part of my design off, so there is a little different way to do this when enlarging.

This time, when you bring up your print window, Actual Size should be the default. Look above that setting and you will see four clickable boxes. Choose the one that says Poster. Type in your 152% where it says Tile Scale. Just to show you what is going to happen, click the box that says Size, then go back to Poster. Now you will see (in the preview pane) that your new printout will take up four pages. Choose Print. You now have four sheets of paper, and now all you have to do is tape your pages together and cut out your applique templates!

I hope this article not only helps you with sizing your appliques, but also inspires you to take all those mug rug and applique patterns and put them on all kinds of fun things like aprons, pillows, tablet sleeves, jar cozies, etc. The possibilities are endless!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Machine Applique - Tips and Tricks - Part 2

Last week we focused on supplies that will make your machine applique life easier. Today I’m going to share some of the tips and techniques that I’ve learned through the years. If you missed last week’s article, you can find it HERE. So, let’s begin on the next article. 

Before tracing around your appliques, make sure you are following the designer’s instructions about the tracing process. Some will already have the pattern pieces inverted, while others like myself, instruct you to place the pattern pieces ink side down onto the paper side of the paper backed fusible webbing. You don’t want any letters, numbers, or other images to be going in the wrong direction. 

When cutting out your pattern pieces and your paper backed fusible webbing, I find that you get best results when cutting exactly on the line or at the inside of the line (still touching the line). Some pieces are so precise that if you cut your pattern pieces outside the line, they may not fit project precisely, and it makes it much easier to become sloppy. 

When fusing the applique pieces to the background fabric, be sure to look at the designers photograph and/or illustration to see which edges of the pieces are the ones that overlap other pieces. 

When you have designs that have several tiny pieces that are similar in shape and size, it helps to mark or number the backs of them on the paper backed fusible webbing, then don't tear it away until you are ready to fuse them. That way they all end up where they belong, and they won't get mixed up!

It always helps to gather up your thread and bobbins in advance and keep them by your machine. Let’s say I have green, red, and blue thread. I always do all one color first, then move onto the next color. I also save any straight stitching or accent stitching for last. I don’t want to change the settings on my machine mid-way through applique because I want all my stitches to be exact and even. I'm afraid if I switch stitches, I won't be able to get my stitches exactly where they were before.

Before beginning any stitching on my project, I do a test stitching on a piece of fabric that is the same type as the one that I’ll be stitching on, and has the same stabilizer I’ll be using. Sometimes it takes a few adjustment on the sewing machine setting to get the stitches the size and length I want them. I always have several of these “practice pieces” on hand.

It’s also fun to experiment with different stitch designs. For my appliques, the stitches I use most are the blanket stitch, the straight stitch, and a loose zig-zag stitch. Occasionally I’ll use some of the fancier stitches my machine has to offer as well. When I have an applique that has really tiny pieces, I find that the straight stitch on my machine works best because the other stitches are too big and overwhelming.

Always keep your needle at the outer edge of the applique piece. When beginning your stitching, manually place the needle into the fabric before stitching to make sure it lands where you want it. And now that you are ready to stitch, and you already know (as discussed earlier) to secure the beginning and the ending of all your stitches. Also be sure to set your machine so that it stops with the needle in the down position. Some much older machines don’t give you this option but you will at least be able to stop the stitching with the needle down. This is important when it comes to turning corners and curves.

Corners, curves, and points can be tricky until you get the hang of it. Just make sure that when you turn your fabric to stitch around them, you are turning when the needle is at the outer edge of the fabric applique piece. It also helps to know how many stitches your machine takes to make the stitch you are using. For example, my machine uses four stitches to complete a blanket stitch. I know that there are two stitches between each “blanket” stitch. It makes it easier to know this when I’m about to turn a corner, point, or curve. I want to make sure that my needle is on the outer edge of the fabric applique piece before turning or moving.

Most importantly, take your time. I always feel that if I’m going to make a project, I’m going to make it good and rushing through never gives you good results. Also note that mistakes are going to happen, and a stitch may not be perfect, but guess what? Nobody will ever notice this but you!

So have fun and get creative!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Machine Applique - Tools and Tips to Make the Job Easier - Part 1

By far, the biggest sellers in my pattern shops are my applique templates and mug rug patterns. Judging by the feedback I get from my customers, most of them use the machine applique method. I’ll admit, it’s my favorite way as well. When I first started designing them I used the hand applique technique, but once I discovered how fast these go together when using the sewing machine, I changed my method quickly! I’ve learned a lot during my four or so years of designing mug rugs. I’ve always known how to machine applique, but I’ve learned a lot of tricks and tips along the way that will give excellent results.

First and foremost, there is a difference between machine embroidery and machine applique. I get so many people write me and ask me if my appliques are, or can be formatted for their embroidery sewing machine. I have to tell them no and explain to them that the appliques are made up of fabric. Machine embroidery is getting so popular right now, I can understand how some may become confused. Most of my customers already know, but for those who may be new to sewing, I’ll explain. Machine applique is the process of stitching around appliques that are made up of fabric, where machine embroidery is when your entire design is made up of machine stitches. I know that a lot of my readers are seasoned sewers and crafters, but I like to help those that are new as well.

Before we begin, I think we should talk about pre-washing your fabric. If you are one that does this, you will want to be sure NOT to use fabric softener. If you do, it could prevent your adhesive to sticking to the back of your applique pieces.

Let's discuss some of the supplies that will help make your stitching easier. Next week we'll focus on tips and techniques. Lets get started!

If you plan on doing a lot of machine applique, I would suggest investing in an Open Toe Foot (photo above). I purchased mine for under $10 at Amazon. I’m telling you, this sewing machine foot will make ALL THE DIFFERENCE! Even if you have a clear, all purpose foot, you will not believe how much easier this will make your stitching. The area at the needle is completely open so you can see exactly where your stitches will go. This is especially handy when you are going around pieces where the colors are very similar or the same. Trust me, this will make your applique life so much easier.

When it comes to stabilizers, use what is easiest for you, just be sure you use something or your stitches will not be nice and even, and your fabric will more than likely pucker or bunch up. When I am placing my applique on items such as tote bags, aprons, or anything else that will not be quilted or backed with batting or fleece, I like to use one that you iron on, then tear away. When making my mug rugs, I just iron my fusible fleece to the back of my main fabric and it makes a nice stabilizer. There are so many different types and brands to choose from so pick one that you are comfortable using, and will give good results. If you are new to this, try a couple different kinds until you find one you like best.

You are going to want to use a paper backed fusible webbing on the wrong side of your applique pieces to keep them from shifting around on the background fabric when stitching down. I always use Heat N Bond LITE. Again, there are so many to choose from, and at some point I’ve tried them all, but this particular one is designed for stitching through. It holds nice and secure with the least amount of adhesive. I’ve made well over a thousand mug rugs and other applique projects, and I have never had a gummed up needle, or an applique piece that has come off. You can always get it for a great price at JoAnn’s with a 50% off coupon, or at Amazon. 

And while we are on the subject of the pattern pieces, it will make your tracing so much easier if you print your pattern pieces onto card stock. I always use this method because your pen will just glide around the edges!

If you plan on washing your item after it’s stitched, you will need to really secure your stitches on the backside. Either knot them, or use your lock stitch on your sewing machine at the beginning and ending of each line of stitching. To make it extra secure, add a tiny drop of washable fabric glue on the beginning and end of the row of stitching, on the backside of the project. I only do this when something will be washed. For my mug rug samples I never do this because I never wash them. They are used strictly for decoration. When making things such as tote bags, baby bibs, or aprons, I find this an important step.

It always helps to have a tiny pair of scissors with a tiny and sharp point when cutting your threads. You can get nice and close to the fabric with them.

Did you know that you can enlarge and reduce the size of you pattern pieces by changing the percentage of you printout? You may have purchased one of my mug rug patterns but want to use the applique on something else that is either bigger or smaller than my mug rug. This is so easy if you are using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. That is the PDF reader that most pattern designers recommend using because it’s so user friendly. It also makes it so easy to adjust the size of the printouts. It comes pre-installed on many computers, but if you don’t have it, you can download it free from the Adobe website. And since it’s Adobe, you can definitely trust the website an the download. 

While we are on the subject of PDF readers, NEVER print from the Internet viewers that open in your browser from the Internet. Always download your patterns to your computer and open them in the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The default Internet PDF readers seem to print horribly! You will even notice missing pieces in some of them. As for the other PDF readers, I’ve used some and they didn’t allow me to change the size of my printout, but I’m sure some other ones do. At least with Adobe, you have a dependable reader.

When I first started writing this post, I didn’t realize how long it would be, so I decided to break it up into two segments. Now that we’ve discussed our helpful supplies, next week we’ll focus on some tips and techniques!

Part 2 can be found HERE

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Create Your Own Mug Rug Pattern Bundle

I'm so excited to add a new section to my shop! As many of you already know, I have some mug rug pattern bundles in the mug rug sections. Some of my customers have actually emailed me asking if they could choose their own patterns for the $4.95 bundle. Since I love my customers so much and want them to have the best, I always do it for them.

I decided to add a new section to my shop with special prices for bundles of 4, 6, and 8. The only difference is that the patterns will be emailed rather than downloaded instantly. They will get to you within 24 hours but usually much quicker.

You can visit my new section right HERE

Thursday, December 29, 2016

More "Selfish" Sewing in 2017

It’s hard to believe another year has passed. Has anyone made any resolutions for 2017 yet? I’m not big on them but early this year I did decide to make more time for personal sewing for myself, and my family. Success! I made travel bags, cosmetic bags, laptop sleeves, table runners, tree skirts, wallets, and more. I made them for myself and my loved ones. I’ll be doing that again this year as well. For me it seems like since my business is sewing related, the “magic” and excitement of creating things tends to get a little lost. I still love to design and create patterns, but sometimes I just like to get online and choose a pattern from another designer and make something for me or someone else. Sometimes I like to be a follower and not an instructor.

Above is a sampling of just a few things I made for myself and loved ones. What do I have in the plans for this year? Some more Christmas presents and “just because” gifts for my people and myself. You might have already noticed (in the lower right photo) that I made a catnip stuffed toy for my cat Punkie!

As for business, I have a lot of plans for there too. I have a book that I’m hoping will be ready to publish by late summer. It’s been two years in the making, but I’m such a perfectionist, I keep tweaking. There are also more blog tutorials in the works. And don’t forget that long list of mug rug ideas people are sending me. I’m working on those as well. If I haven’t gotten to your idea yet, hang in there, I’ll get to it!

Whatever your plans for next year are, I wish you the very best in every aspect of your life. Bring on 2017!

New mug rug patterns to inspire you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Chicago - Take a Break and Enjoy the Season!

For many people December is absolutely crazy. I am one of those people. Between my business, occasionally filling in at the animal clinic, and the holidays, I'm swamped! In my older age I've discovered that sometimes you have to put the smartphone away, step away from the fabric (if you work with it like me), and concentrate on having fun and creating memories with those you love.

I did exactly that this past weekend. It all began Friday when my granddaughter spent the night. We had so much fun baking and doing a craft project, one that is suitable for a three year old of course. The next morning we got up bright and early and hopped on the South Shore Train to Chicago! Of course we picked up mommy at the Portage stop, then off we went!

Our first stop was Winter Wonderfest on Navy Pier. It is the ultimate place to take kids of all ages. There was so much to do and quite surprisingly, the lines weren't that long for the children's rides. Our favorite part, and actually the part that cost nothing at all, unless you count our trip into the Disney Store, was walking down Michigan Avenue and seeing the holiday lights. Chicago is such a beautiful City. It's especially nice since it's so easy to get to with the train station just a hop, skip, and a jump away!

For a more local holiday treat, a trip to the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets is always fun. It's always so congested in the summer when people come from all over to shop the most beautiful outlet center in the states. But in the winter, it's nice and peaceful, and most of the out of towners don't know about a cute little coffee shop across the street called Lakeshore Coffee. You will never find a better panini anywhere. And of course lots of great coffee and teas. They have lots of fun, holiday specials, and warm drinks. And the atmosphere is so sweet!

So, isn't it time you took a break and spent some time just enjoying yourself and your loved ones?

Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tutorial - Super Duper Quick and Easy Tablet Sleeve

Is Santa bringing you a shiny new tablet for Christmas? If so, you might want to make a protective sleeve for it. Here is the fastest sleeve you will ever make! They are so fast that I made three of them in under 2 hours! After I made one for my tablet, I decided that I needed one for my keyboard (the one that attaches to my tablet), and one for my travel mouse. This is also perfect if you like to throw an e-reader into your bag! I didn't want a flap of any kind, I wanted to be able to put the tablet in my purse and just pull it out of the sleeve. I did however add a KamSnap to the center to keep it from sliding out if my purse or tote bag were to fall over. The snap is optional. If you want a snap and don't have the KamSnap system, you can use a regular sew-on snap. OK, let's get started!

First, you're going to need the following items:
Exterior fabric
Lining fabric
Fusible fleece
    The amounts for the above items will be determined by how large your tablet or device is. 

Another note about the fabric, if you pre-wash it, don't use fabric softener. It can prevent your fusible fleece from sticking properly.

You will also need:
Thread to match fabric
KamSnaps or sew-on snap (both optional)
General sewing supplies such as scissors, pins or clips, needles, iron, sewing machine, etc. A cutting mat and rotary cutter is helpful, but not necessary.

1.  The first thing you need to do is measure your tablet or device. If you have any buttons or ports that extend beyond the device, you will need to be sure to include that in your measurement.

First, determine how you want your tablet to slip into your sleeve. I like mine to have the opening along the longest part of the tablet since it will fit in my purses and totes best. I will take that measurement first, it will be my "width." Be sure to include the tablet's depth in this measurement. I will then add 1 1/4 inches to that number. This will allow for your 1/4 inch seam allowance and give you a perfect fit. You don't want it too tight.

Example: My tablet measures 10 3/4 inches (including the depth), so I'll be cutting my fabric at 12 inches wide. 

To get the measurement of the height (top to bottom when it's in the sleeve) you are going to measure all the way around, and add 3 inches to that number.

Example: My tablet measures just under 15 1/2 inches all the way around, so I will cut that fabric 18 1/2 inches. This will give plenty of room if you want to add a snap at the top. If not, any excess can be cut away later.

Note: If your exterior fabric has a one way design such as words, you can add another 1/2 inch to this number, then cut the fabric in half, place the two pieces right sides together, then stitch along the bottom edge using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Only do this with your exterior fabric, unless your lining fabric has a one way design also.

2.  Now that your exterior fabric is cut, cut these same amounts from the fusible fleece, and lining fabric.

3.  Iron the fusible fleece to the back side of the exterior fabric. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for the brand of fleece you will be using.

4.  Fold this piece with right sides together and stitch down each side, leaving the top open. Repeat this with the lining fabric. You can cut away some of the bulk from the seam allowance if you want, just don't get too close to the stitching.

5.  Turn the exterior fabric right side out and iron. Slip the lining inside the exterior fabric (wrong sides facing each other) and pin at the seams to hold temporarily. Slip the tablet inside and fold the upper edges to the inside, where you want the opening to end. If you kept your seam allowances at 1/4 inch, your tablet should fit in perfectly. As you can see, before I folded my edges in, I had quite a bit of excess fabric at the top. I decided that I want a snap, so by folding my fabric about 3/4 inches, I will have enough room for my snap. Now, take out the tablet and remove the pins. Fold the edges 3/4 inches to the wrong side and iron. Repeat this step with the lining.

Note: If you don't want a snap or closure of any kind, you can simply cut away the excess so that you only have about 1/2 to 3/4 inches to turn under.


6.  Slip the lining back into the exterior, lining up at the seams and the folds. Take back to your machine and stitch along the upper edge, close to the folds. Your open arm works well for this step.

7.  If you have a snap to attach, you can do that now. That's it! You are done!

Do you prefer a flap on your tablet sleeve, or maybe you'd like to make a simple wristlet? I've got you covered! I just happen to have a tutorial right here on the blog, where I made one with a flap. You can find it right HERE.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tutorial - Festive Table Runner and Pillows

It's been a few years since I've brought these to the front! Here are two super easy tutorials to get  your home in the holiday spirit, or just make them up in colors to match your every day decor!

Pillow tutorial can be found HERE

Table runner tutorial can be found HERE


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you all a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Be sure to stop by Sher's Creative Space on Friday when we begin our Black Friday sale where every pattern is 20% OFF when you use coupon code:

Let the holiday crafting begin!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Stitch Up A Memory!

In the photo above you will see one of my favorite gifts ever received. My daughter in law had it made for me using one of my dad's favorite shirts. She didn't know it when she was having it made, but I actually bought that shirt for him the previous Father's Day. I will treasure this forever!

There are so many great things you can stitch up from clothing that belonged to loved ones for either a special occasion, or as a memory project.

I've seen so many great ideas for this. In one of my sewing groups a lady made boxy zipper bags for her family members from some of her mother's favorite skirts. She shared a picture and the were beautiful!

Other great ideas would be making a christening gown out of a wedding dress, or sachets from clothing items. How about Christmas ornaments from some of their jewelry or clothing? There are so many small things that you can make from a loved one's clothing that other family members will cherish.

I was very lucky because I had two dad's growing up. My biological father who is living in Florida with my bonus mom (aka stepmom), and I also have the dad that raised me. He passed just under two years ago. I wrote him a poem for his 80th birthday and I'm sharing it below. As much as I believe in a bloodline, I also believe 100% in a LOVE line!

That Special Someone
As we walk the path of life
we will meet many people.
Some people will come and go
with nothing more than a glance or a nod,
while others will come into your life
and leave an impression one way or another.

But every now and then
you will come across someone so special
who will touch you in a way
that will change you forever.
When you are blessed enough
to have this person in your life,
you will treasure them, and love them,
and hang on to every moment,

and hold a place for them in your heart forever.

Written by Sheryl Lynn Hastings
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