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!

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Purge, Donate, Up-cycle, Recycle

Before you throw out or toss to the side, see if you can bring that old item back to life!

I pull off any embellishments such as zippers, buttons, and purse hardware before tossing the item, especially from purses. If you sew, you know how valuable zippers and hardware can be. For the zippers, I keep a basket in my sewing room to store them until I can get a chance to separate them from the fabric. This is a great project to do while watching a movie with the hubster. 

My daughter is a master of up-cycling. When I was out visiting her this summer I was admiring her pegboard that she made for her office/studio. I couldn't believe it when she told me the cute little holders used to be Crystal Light containers! After spraying them with a plastic paint, she put a sealer on them and added some embellishments. How cute!

In the photo above you will also see how she took old book pages, tea dyed them, and decoupaged them to the table and lampshade. She even made the lamp base out of old books!

My next project will be this really cute Collapsible Thread Catcher from The Fabric Therapy Blog. Can you believe it's made from parts of a Pringles container?

Next time you think about de-cluttering, think about the many different things you could do with the items you no longer want.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mug Rug Patterns Ideas - Trucks with Tree and Camper!

I asked what you'd like to see on a mug rug and you told me! I have quite a list and I'm hoping to get to each and every one of them. Some are for Christmas and New Year's, so obviously I'll get to those first. 

My first two are from Melanie and Carole. How fitting that they both involved a truck! This made it easier for me to do two at once. 

Carole asked for a camper on a truck, while Melanie wanted to see a truck with a tree that had just been cut down for Christmas.

You can find the Perfect Christmas Tree Mug Rug Pattern HERE, and the Let's Go Camping Mug Rug Pattern HERE.

Thank you ladies and everyone else for sharing your fun and creative ideas. If I haven't gotten to yours yet, don't worry, it's on the drawing board and will be published in the near future.

Keep the great ideas coming!!!
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