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Automated Machine Embroidered Applique with Brother Scan-n-Cut & Simply Applique

I know “Automated” and “Machine Embroidered” sound redundant, because just the fact that the machine is doing the embroidery means it’s automated, right? I’ve taken it a step further! Last year I blogged about how I’d like to automate applique quilt blocks.  I’ve been working on it and I think I’ve found some success!  I adore applique quilts but I have a bit of arthritis in my hands so cutting out applique pieces with scissors is not much fun, and I’m not a fan of all the stops, starts, and turns in the sewing part.  Being a techy kind of girl, I knew there had to be a better way.  Enter the Brother Scan-n-Cut and Simply Applique software.

I have a cute pattern for a Rhino Quilt that I kept from a magazine from back in 2014.  This rhino is one piece and a very simple line design so I figured this would be a good one to test on.  I cut out the pattern page of the Rhino from the magazine and scanned it in to the Brother Scan-n-Cut.  I have the wireless model that uploads the image to the free Brother Canvas Workspace.   This place is amazing.  You should check it out.

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In this cloud environment, you can edit to your heart’s desire.  Basically, you want to remove anything that you don’t want cut or stitched in some way.  Here he is before.  I think those lines are from a fold in the paper and the bottom of the page that the scanner picked up and then there were some words or marks on his body.
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And here he is after.  Ready to go!
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Once you have your image the way you like it, you can download it to your laptop or back to your Scan-n-Cut machine.  For this project, I have to do both.  When the file is downloaded, it comes in a Cut file format of .fcm.
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First I download it to the Scan-n-Cut where I have a piece of fabric stuck to the mat that has Heat-n-Bond ironed to it.  Paper side up!  Ask me how I know!  What a mess!
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I load the mat, press a button, and in less than a minute – ta da!!  One cut rhino!
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Then I download the file to my laptop and pull it into the Simply Applique software. (File/Import fcm).   I’ve messed around with the stitch depth settings a bit for placement, tack down, and satin.
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Then I save the file to a USB I can load into my embroidery machine.  The software will save to virtually any type of embroidery file – it is not proprietary to Brother or Baby Lock.
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I loaded a hoop with a piece of fabric and cut away stabilizer and let the machine do its thing!  I love how this turned out!
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This sample was all done with cheap fat quarters from a non-quilt store (don’t want to ruin my good fabric if it failed!).  wp-15374873227454877274604283714793.jpg

OK, so one single shape is a good start.  But what about applique with multiple layers in the design?  I’m working on Ocean Friends by Pamala Jo Designs.  I wanted to make this quilt for a little neighbor boy at the coast.  Using the same process I described above, within an hour, I had this block done!  I need to work on the settings for offset stitches because sometimes the tack down missed the fabric completely even if the fabric was exactly where it needed to be on the placement line.

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To keep everything straight in my head, I pulled a screenshot from the Brother Canvas and printed it out so I could keep track of which color needed to be placed in the correct order.
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In Simply Applique, I renamed each stitch in the left menu with the sequence number, part name, and color I was going to use.  One thing I haven’t worked out yet in the software is how to remove covered stitches on the final satin stitch.  I had to watch the embroidery closely to stop the satin stitching where a piece of fabric would overlap and then begin it again when needed. I used a run stitch on the whites of the eyes and the pupils vs. a satin stitch.
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Here’s the final sample.  I had some machine issues with skipped stitches but that had nothing to do with the software.  Oh, and if I made the white fabric large enough, that would have helped too.  🙂
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In addition to continuing to test the offset placement and tack down stitches, I’m going to experiment with adding embellishments after the fact like satin stitched eyes or maybe a stitched smile. That can be done in the software so I need the practice.

DIME Stitch Lab 2018 Haul

I just took a fun little overnight road trip to The Woodlands (just north of Houston) to attend a Designs in Machine Embroidery (DIME) Stitch Lab.  I’d never been to one and wanted to check it out.  It was held at the Homewood Suites and that’s where I stayed the night as well.  I think there were about 45 in attendance and it was sponsored by the Sewing & Vacuum Warehouse.  They did a great job of hosting and feeding the herd for two days.  They even took into consideration my low carb diet and had specialty meals for me.  Nice huh?

The room was set up with nine sets of three 4 ft tables in U-shape groupings for 3 to sit at each table – total of up to nine folks on each table set.  On each table was the brand new Brother Luminaire sewing and embroidery machine (comparable to the Baby Lock Solaris I believe).  This thing is a beauty and it lights up like a runway!  It has a whole host of very cool features like the ability to edit your designs right on the iPad-sized screen and project your design onto the stitching field so you know exactly where the design will go and what it will look like when it’s finished.  I think it has a camera in it too so you can take a picture of what you want and it will show up on the screen so you can edit it.  This thing is pretty high tech.  They sold 5 or 6 of them at the event, but not to me.  lol
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This seminar was not a Brother demo though so we didn’t get schooled in all the cool features of the machine, but was instead an opportunity to try out all of the DIME products on the machine.  They had fabric and stabilizer for us to make six projects:  a dog bandana with 3-D raised foam lettering, a hot pad trivet, a giraffe Embroider Buddy, a wall hanging, a t-shirt, and a burp cloth.  All things were donated to local charities and the giraffes and burp clothes went to a children’s hospital.  Nice huh? 🙂  This is my table partner Terri.
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The bottom line of this event (while incredibly fun) is that it is a sales pitch.  And what stitcher doesn’t love a good sales pitch where you get to test drive fun goodies?  I know I do.  They had little paddles with numbers on them for each of us and our shopping bags were all lined up against the back wall.  When they were finished doing a product demo, Cheryl the head DIME Educator, would ask who wanted one and we’d all raise our paddles and she’d call out our numbers like an auctioneer.  The girls in the back would stuff our bags and in the end it was like Christmas!  Shopping while sitting down in front of a gorgeous toy and making friends along the way.  I loved it!  Here is Cheryl.  She was awesome!
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Note:  The links to the products below are affiliate links so if you use that link to buy something, I get paid by the vendor so I can buy more stuff.  Win win!

My haul included Word Art in Stitches software which I bought specifically for the 10 micro-fonts.  My son is a pastor and wants me to embroider scripture on small items and you simply can’t do that with regular software when the smallest font size is 1/2″.  It also digitizes for the puffy letters that is so popular now on ball caps.  This software can be used for any brand embroidery machine and comes with over 140 fonts.  The demo was amazing.  Most of my embroidery includes lettering so this is well worth the expense to me.  I’ll also use it to embroider on quilt backings vs. hand stitching on a separate quilt label.
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I also picked up Perfect Stitch Viewer which allows you to see a preview of your design on your laptop in the file library so know what the heck it is you’re looking at.  When you download design files from any online vendor, it comes with a file name like UT123456 and what the heck is that?  You can’t open it to see without opening your design software and pulling the file in.  Even if you re-name the file to say like “Snowman”, do you know how many snowman files I have?  Scads!  I have the Embrilliance version of this and it works great, but while I can see the preview of the .pes files, I can’t see the preview of the .jef files for the new 7 needle Janome machine we have (I’m not sure why – probably operator error).  AND this software allows me to see a preview of long arm files!  YAY!  That’s what really sold me on this version.  Worth every penny.
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Next is the Bird’s Nest tool.  How this works is when you have a bird’s nest, rather than attempt to remove the hoop – with the nest refusing to let go – and doink up your machine’s timing while you’re at it, you use this long hook to reach under the hoop and lift the stabilizer away from the machine.  Then use the long blade to get under there and slice the nesty threads.  Then you can remove the hoop safely and clean it up.  It comes in a handy zipper case with an extra blade and blade cover.  Of course, I’ve never had a bird’s nest happen to me so I don’t know why I bought it.  HA!  I wish!  Plus, it doubles as a weapon if needed or I can remove my appendix.  Money.
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I’ve wanted these little Hoop Guards for a while.  Have you ever embroidered a newborn Onesie?  Absolute miserable experience.  Nuff said.
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I’ve looked around for an off-brand version of this Print & Stick Target Paper and haven’t found it.  This makes life so much easier when hooping.  I usually print out my design on regular paper and then pin or use spray adhesive to adhere it to the item I’m hooping.  That method has a success factor of like 50% or less for me on hard-to-hoop items because inevitably, the paper comes off or I poke myself.  The tack on this paper is great and it doesn’t leave any residue when you lift it off.  They call it paper but it’s really like a lightweight sticky interfacing that bends along with the item it is stuck to and seriously stays put. You can use the printed paper many times over and over (that’s redundant I know but it’s important so I’m leaving it).  You print your design on this paper using your regular printer, cut it out and then stick it to your item and hoop your item as usual.  Since the paper is stuck firmly to the item, you can be exactly sure you’ve centered your design where you want it in the hoop.  This is especially helpful for big designs that require multiple hoopings like up the leg of a pair of jeans.  Then you load your hoop into the machine, make sure your needle is coming down exactly on center and remove the sticky paper.  Playing with this stuff at the seminar, I really found the value in it for me.
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And last but not least, is the Unicorn Embroider Buddy.  Isn’t she cute?  They had a wall full of these cute cuddly creatures of all kinds, but there was only one unicorn.  I saw her early on the first day and I went to the back of the room and asked the lady to put her in my bag right away.  I knew she’d be gone in an instant.  You can remove the insides from these creatures and then hoop their belly in a 4×4 hoop for any design you like.  On the 2nd day when I was waiting in line to check out, one lady came up to me and asked me if I’d be willing to part with it.  Was she serious??  Fat chance!  She said that the shop could order her one and she hoped that it would come in by the time she went to Ft Worth to see her granddaughter because her granddaughter just LOVES unicorns.  Well what granddaughter doesn’t?  I’ve got one too ya’ know?  You think I’m buying this for myself?  Sheesh! You snooze you lose sister!  I asked if she lived nearby and she said yes.  I said I well I don’t so I’d have to pay shipping if I didn’t get it now.  So she says, “Oh well OK, you should keep it then.”  HA!  Well gee, thanks!  Like it was ever an option that she was going to get this unicorn from me.  I was bigger than her so I’m sure I could take her but you never know about those ladies.
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Because my purchase was over $250 I got a free font.  That was nice I suppose.  Not sure when I’ll use it but hey, it was free!
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So that’s it!  I left a little early to start the 3-hour drive home.  I really had a great time!

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WIPs Mother’s Day Weekend 2018

Just a short note to share the latest things recently under my needles.  We just came back from the coast with my step-mom for Mother’s Day Weekend 2018 and we had an absolute ball.  My mom is so much fun and early every morning while hubs was still sleeping and the  house was quiet, we had our coffee and she and I would chat and I’d work on quilt piecing while she kept one eye on FB and shared videos of adorable lab pups.  Really…does it get any better than that?  Mom, coffee, quilting, and cute puppies?  I think not!  🙂  My latest is a Riley Blake design called The Corner of 5th and Fun.  This little gem is so adorable!  I’m making it for a little tot across the street from us at the coast who is just as adorable.  Her mom designed her room in neutrals and I thought this would be perfect.

Corner of 5th and Fun Quilt

This weekend I finished the pinwheels and made it halfway through the 2.5″ squares around the border.  The images are from a panel.  Once I get the border squares finished, it will go together in no time.  I ordered the 4 yards of backing material when we got home.

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Last Thursday we had an office picnic and I was asked to bring our grill.  Of course I needed a cute apron so I hopped over to Emblibrary.com and found “Smokin’ Hot”.  Gotta love it!  The apron is a blank I bought in a pack of 3 from Sam’s Club for like $12 – that is the BEST place to buy white and black apron blanks. They are good quality at a great price.  I used a single layer of black cut away stabilizer and floated the apron in my jumbo hoop.  It stitched out beautifully and wasn’t too dense.  Here are my co-workers and I:  Juan, moi’, Kenny, and Tabitha who was born and raised in New Orleans.  I let her admire my BBQ pit (inside joke) and she shared a killer gumbo recipe with me.  This was Kenny’s 2nd time to cook with me so he got to wear an official team apron – we are Nice Rack BBQ.  Last March, I took 4th place chicken out of 26 teams at a BBQ sanctioned by the International BBQ Cook-off Association.  It’s kind of a big deal around here and I’m fairly serious about grilling my chickens.

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I’m still having a bit of trouble with my longarm giving me long stitches but I’ve discovered it’s not the machine at all – it’s the frame.  Right where the two halves of the frame come together, a couple of the front wheels on the lower carriage don’t touch the rail.  It causes the carriage not to know exactly what to do.  I end up getting long dragging stitches and usually a thread break to boot.  It happens in the same location on every pass regardless of whether the carriage is moving right to left or left to right.  I took the frame nearly apart last month to figure it out and I was able to solve almost all the issues.  But that one spot has me frazzled.  Is there an engineer out there who can come over to help?  It’s totally level, the rails are parallel, and the frame is square.  I simply cannot figure it out and it’s preventing me from finishing my BILs t-shirt quilt.  I’m terrified to snag the nylon in the t-shirts and create runs that cannot be repaired.  Can you see the long stitches?  I was able to push down slightly on the base of the machine right near the needle at this spot to prevent a thread break but wasn’t so lucky on the next pass.  I still have to fix this even though the thread didn’t break.  The Grace Frame company is going to be getting a call from me soon.

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I’m stitching the Sasquatch Quilt with a computerized design – Ebb and Flow from Intelligent Quilting.  I really like it.

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Tomorrow I leave for a two day trip to Austin for a Master’s in Quilting Degree with Claudia Pfiel who is from Germany.  I booked this class at Over the Top Quilting last December and I’m spending the night in Austin (Cedar Park actually) tomorrow night so I don’t have to make the 2 hour trip back and forth between the days.  I’m SO excited!  It was my Christmas and Mother’s Day gift to myself.  I’m a very, very beginner in FMQ and I’m sure I will be a trial to her.  She teaches at the International Quilt Fest in Houston so she’s one of the best in the world and I’m certain I’m totally out of my league.  I’m determined to do my best though and hopefully I gain some confidence on the longarm while I’m there.  I’ll be sure to blog my experience!

Purely Gates American Eagles Machine Embroidery

Have you ever heard of machine embroidery with mylar?  Yes, that plastic iridescent stuff for gift bags.  A company called Purely Gates has an entire line of embroidery designs specifically for use with mylar.  It’s pretty cool because it spaces the stitching just far enough apart to allow the pretty sparkles to show through.

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This particular CD has a total of 20 different designs.

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I bought a Carhartt denim jacket just for this project.  I edited my design just a bit to remove the silver block from under the eagle’s feet and added the letters “USA”.

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I centered the design between the lower edge of the jacket’s yoke and the top of the bottom band.

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Here’s the finished project up close.  See the iridescence in the red and white feathers?  Pretty!

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Centering it just a bit lower on the jacket let the design show when I wear my hair down.  I’m SO wearing this to work tomorrow!

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I’m thinking about adding design #09 with just the eagle head and a collar of stars to the right front yoke of the jacket.  What do you think?

Oh, and since we actually had snow in my little South Texas town last week for the first time in like 30 years, I decided to allow snow on my blog for December!  Too fun!  Here’s some shots from my back yard.  This is my pool and the roof of my house.

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My view out back.  It was all gone by 2pm.

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Applique, Stitch Artist, and Silhouette Cameo 3

I’m recently all about a new technology/skill/craft that is creating pre-cut fabric applique pieces with a cutting machine and adding them to a quilt block with an embroidery machine.  I’m not sure what that is (lazy?) but you just can’t pick this up and go unless you’re super savvy and have the right equipment and embroidery digitizing software.  At least I need to be super savvy.  🙂

About two years ago or so, I bought a Silhouette Cameo3 from Woot.com for $199.00 which apparently was a great deal.  Have you heard of Woot.com?  Awesome daily deals and shipping is always $5.  This company was started by 2 guys from Texas and was bought a couple of years ago by Amazon.  I digress, but check them out.  Anyhoo…  So I bought this thing with the idea that it could make latex logo labels for hubs to use in his custom fishing rod business.  It came with a starter pack with a bunch of blades and tools and an extra mat I think.

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It arrived, I told hubs what it was, set the box down on the floor in the game room, and that was that.  Forgotten.  Don’t have a heart attack!  My blog is Power Tools with Thread, not “power tools with paper”.  Lots of you paper craft and I applaud that.  It just isn’t me.  Maybe it goes back to a seriously bad paper cut as a kid, I’m not sure, but I have absolutely no desire in my LIFE to paper craft.

So one morning while we were at the coast and the house was quiet (hubs was still asleep) I was surfing YouTube and I came across a video of someone cutting fabric shapes with a cutting machine.  I had literally completely forgotten about the box in the game room and was like “Hey! I should get one of those machines because I HATE to trace and cut out applique shapes in fabric and I could use this for the Dinosaur Applique Quilt”.   The machine in the video was the Brother Scan-n-Cut so I watched all kinds of videos on that machine.   

When we got home I was putting things away and for no reason, glanced at the box on the floor in the game room and it struck me.  EUREKA! I have one of those machines!  I opened it up and it’s not a Scan-n-Cut, but the Silhouette Cameo 3.  Hmm.  More YouTube surfing for some OJT on that baby.  I finally got the thing working with my phone via Bluetooth, but had a disastrous outcome when I tried to cut the fabric.

Then on another day I was surfing YouTube (again) and I came across a video by Briton Leap featuring Lisa Shaw who’s a rock star in the machine embroidery world.  She was showing how to use an embroidery machine to create a placement line for pre-cut applique shapes and then sew a final tack-down stitch for the pieces.  Seriously???  I wouldn’t even have to sew them in place?  Wait…Let me get this right… If I can get the shapes to cut out with the Silhouette, and use embroidery software to create an applique file, then I wouldn’t have to trace/print, cut, or sew it down the old fashioned way?  REALLY??  SIGN ME UP!!  

My first thing was to order her recommended Heat & Bond Lite Stretch.  She showed in the video how it turns the fabric to almost paper-like so it cuts cleanly in a cutting machine.  In my previous attempts I had used Wonder Under on the back of the fabric and I tried it with the paper and without the paper on the back of the fabric and it didn’t work worth a crap either way.

After seeing the video with Lisa Shaw, I didn’t know if my Embrilliance software would work or if I needed a digitizing software like Stitch Artist?  I surfed all around the web and I guess I either didn’t ask the right question or whatever but I couldn’t find an answer.  Well, when Google fails there’s Facebook!  I became a member of a machine embroidery group and explained what I wanted to do and asked for advice.  Guess who responded to me?  LISA SHAW!  In the virtual flesh!  (I was tickled!) She said I would need to upgrade my Embrilliance Essentials to Stitch Artist Level 1 and then pointed me to the video in the link below where Sunbonnet Sue was digitized with Stitch Artist for applique. 

So that’s it!  I need time to play with all this and my initial fiddling with Stitch Artist is going well but I haven’t had time to try cutting fabric yet with the new H&B.  But this summer has been so crazy busy and I’m on a new compressed work schedule that keeps me in the office for an extra hour each day but gives me a day off every two week pay period. It’s on those off days I’ll be able to sit and think and play to get this process going.  Have you done this?  Success?  Failure?  Words of wisdom?

Embroidered BBQ Apron, Towel, and Weekend Projects

Hubs spent last weekend at the coast with his buds so I was left from Thursday through Sunday without adult supervision.  Y’all it was BLISS!  I lived in my sweats and only left the house to get the mail.  The dogs and I weathered a storm that dumped so much rain I called hubs asking for an ark and prepped for sandbags.  This deck for my hot tub is 14″ off the ground.  During the storm I didn’t have any of my machines on at all because I learned that lesson once several years ago.  $235 later my first embroidery machine was back in business after a power surge during a storm blew out the internal power supply.  So during this storm, I ironed applique pieces to fabric for my grandson’s dinosaur quilt.  Anyhoo…

Before the storm, I made hubs a new BBQ apron with an embroidery design from Urban Threads.  I think it turned out great!  Their designs always stitch out truly top-notch.

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And a friend of mine has the most amazing garden and she cans like nobody’s business all summer long.  I couldn’t resist making this for her.

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We are leaving for the coast this coming Thursday for our 16th wedding anniversary weekend.  We got married on July 3rd so we’d always have a 2-day holiday and there’d be free fireworks.  Smart huh?  🙂   We won’t be back until Tuesday the 4th so I’ve already prepped a UFO, a WIP, and 2 new projects to keep me busy.

The UFO (Unfinished Object).  The very first quilt I ever made in 2010 is off the longarm.  It’s a hot mess but it’s mine and I can’t wait to hang it over the deck at the coast to show off our patriotism.  Hopefully, from a distance at the street, the tipped stars will be overlooked.  ha ha   I need to add a navy blue binding and it will be finished.  Finally…7 years later.  It was the first full quilt I ever put on my new longarm too so yes it has issues but I truly don’t care.  On the whole, it’s beautiful with a few flaws I can live with.

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I found some really cute fabric at my local quilt store yesterday that just screamed “MAKE ME INTO A NEW BAG!”

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Goodbye Valentino has inspired me to give a try to some bucket hats from Oliver+S.  The free pattern is here.  Now that Cars 3 has been released, I thought I’d make up two for my grandsons and I found some long lost fat quarters in my stash for one for my granddaughter.

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And last but not least, the WIP (Work in Progress).  I’ll put some time into the Dinosaur QAYG project from ShinyHappyWorld.com that I’m hoping to have ready for the grandboys for Christmas.

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I think that’s enough to keep me busy during the quiet hours this weekend (if there are any).  What do you have in the works?  Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

DIY Embroidery Target Stickers, Dexter the Dragon, and a Machine Embroidered Apron

Those who know me know that I make no bones about being thrifty in my pursuit of my hobbies.  While I’ll spend money where quality is required, I’ll also DIY where I can to save a buck… or two…or twenty…or ten thousand as in the case of my longarm.

Let’s take Machine Embroidery Target Stickers.  Nice, but not necessary.  Most professionals just chalk a 90 degree crisscross and call it good.  But if you’re using a fabric that doesn’t take chalk well like a towel, or you don’t want to have to remove chalk lines like on a satin, or you can’t find said chalk, then a sticker works great.  It stays put and provides a great pinpoint to see where you want to start.   There are pre-printed stickers out there you can buy where you get 250 stickers for (sales pitchman voice here…) “An amazing low price of just $19.99!” ($24.99 on Amazon Prime)  Or…you can buy 525 Avery removable dot stickers # 6736 and draw your own 90 degree angle on them, for just … wait for it… $10.58.   More than twice the number of stickers for half the price.  And here’s a cool little tidbit – it doesn’t matter where the crisscross is on the sticker just so long as the lines are at a 90 degree angle.  Easy peasy.  I just penciled in a page of them here.

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Dexter the Dragon’s baby sister Darla.  Y’all remember my last post about the failure on the blue dragon from Shiny Happy World?  I gave it another shot with fleece instead of Minky and success!  Here she is!  I bought some blue fleece for her big brother and will finish him this weekend.  Don’t you love her rosy tummy?

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I did some extra stitching on those wings at the spine because if my granddaughter is anything like me (and she looks EXACTLY like me) then those wings will be swung like a boomerang prior to launch at her brother.  This pretty girl is double stitched everywhere!

Apron Embroidery.  A co-worker, Diane, is really into competition BBQ cooking just like hubs and I are.  She is hosting her daughter’s high school graduation BBQ this coming weekend and they are smoking 23 beef briskets to serve nearly 400 folks.  One aspect of BBQ cooking is Showmanship.  Her sister bought all of them matching aprons and she asked me if I’d embroidery hers with her nickname DeeDee.  She told me how she wanted it and I let her proof 4 different fonts via text prior to stitching.  I just love it and so did she.

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Her apron isn’t over the trash can ya’ll; that’s aluminum can recycle in my laundry room next to my front loader.  🙂

Have a great weekend!