Minky Clean Up Tip

I’m blogging from the passenger seat of our F-350 Dually on the way home from the coast so I’ll make this a quick post.

I was cutting pieces this weekend for Dexter the Dragon out of some glorious cuddle minky I got from ShinyHappyWorld.com.  You know that stuff sheds like CRAZY! (Image courtesy of wearesewhappy.com.) No, Dexter isn’t pink, I just didn’t take any pics for this post. 😊

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Of course I got it everywhere.  I’ve recently jumped on the microfiber cloth bandwagon and if you haven’t yet, you definitely need to get on this ride! The trick to making these cloths work at their best is to use them when they are damp…not totally wet and they don’t work at all when they’re dry.

I used the microfiber cloth that is designed for screens on tablets or televisions, (it has a very smooth surface), because I figured that the ones that have the little loops on them like a washcloth would make the minky fiber embed in the loops. I got the cloth damp and then proceeded to wipe around and collect every bit of the minky that had shed all over my cutting mat, the table, and the floor.  The shreds stuck to it like glue. Then I took it outside, gave it one shake and viola’!  It was perfectly clean and all the minky was gone!

I love the other types of microfiber cloths for every other type of cleaning too but for minky the smooth one is the way to go.

Educational Swatch Packets

Blogging for my Garment sewers!  (Sorry quilters; next week I promise!)  I have the most amazing find!  Educational Swatch Packets from Fabric Mart.  If you buy fabric online, then this post is for you.

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Each of these fabulous swatch packets are just $4.99 each.  They offer them in Silk – 18 swatches, Wool and Suiting – 19 swatches, and Stretch Knits – 20 swatches.  Each swatch is a very generous 4″ x 5″ so you can really grab the fabric to feel the texture, weight, translucency, and hand (use your imagination here a bit).  I always read the fabric descriptions but after awhile, they all sound the same.  I bought these because it all sounded so abstract to me.

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When I found these I really just wanted the one for knits.  I’m mean honestly, who can tell the difference online between a Polyester Ponte Knit, a Hacchi Sweater Knit, and an ITY knit – all of which are made from Polyester and Lycra?  Well, that might be an easy one for you pros, but if you’re like me and all you see is “knit” which means it’s anything but a woven, then these gems are invaluable.  I do know enough about fabrics to know that the swatches are in the packets in the order described in the pages so that helps a bunch.

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So that’s it!  Best $15 I’ve spent in a long time.   🙂

#GettingToKnowHue : Getting to Know Yellow-Green

I’m in a Block of the Month (BOM) put on by #LoneStarQuiltWorks and it’s a gorgeous Nancy Rink pattern called Getting To Know Hue.  In addition to designing the pattern, she also designed the fabrics.  All colors have the same hue and the same dots and weave prints even though they are all different colors.  April’s BOM is Getting to Know Yellow Green.

This entire quilt is really pushing my piecing skills.  It seems like everything is on the bias so I’m learning to starch all fabrics on the wrong side before cutting.  My favorite is Faultless with the blue cap.  No flakes.  I learned that trick from Amy Gibson at StitcheryDickoryDock.com Love her!  If you pop over to her site, she has a free Paper Piecing cheat sheet she is sharing if you’re interested.

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When I know I’m going to be cutting bias cuts, I never push the iron over the fabric, rather I place it top to bottom and use plenty of steam.

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When I turn it over (above) I run the iron over it by barely touching the fabric until all the iron marks are gone.  That’s better.

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As with any pattern, reading it first is key.  This month, I nearly made a mistake and cut the fat eighth long-ways instead of side ways.  Whew.  It was a narrow miss!

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I love seeing all the neat stacks ready to become something beautiful!

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I swear by my painter’s tape.  The edge is the sewing line and I mark 1/4″ in for making the HSTs (half-square triangles).  However, after the first 4 of these, I gave up and went back and drew the actual sewing lines. With all this bias, I wasn’t taking any chances.

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And a short 6 hours later?  Ta-da!!  Two pretty good looking blocks if I do say so myself.  Please don’t look too closely at my wobbly seams.  I’m hoping they won’t show after it’s all together and quilted. Getting those exact points on the bias…what a chore!  But I’ll take wonky seams over tipping a triangle any day.

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Here are the blocks from Jan (blue), Feb (teal), and March (magenta).

Here’s what it will look like when it’s finished.  What are you working on?  Please reply or post a link.  I’d love to see!

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Projects in-the-works for PTWT

Hi everyone!  I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since my last blog post.  But I have been very busy on a special secret project I’ll share very soon.  I’m SO excited about it!

So what have I been up to?  I know that has been at the top of everyone’s mind (ya right).  😉  I finished a Villa Rosa quilt top from a kit that I picked up at the Cedar Chest Quilt Shop in El Campo, Texas (SAH-LOOT!!) — a little HeeHaw humor for you U.S. readers of a certain age 🙂 —  It was a stop on the Taste of Texas Shop Hop I did in Feb with one of my junior high besties, Lee Ann.  It’s in the queue to go on my longarm.

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Have ya’ll heard of Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World?  She was a children’s book writer in a former life and now designs quilts.  She has a Craftsy class for Woodland Friends that I’m enrolled in and I’ve made a total of um…one block.  BUT THEN… She came out with this absolutely adorable Dinosaurs pattern and I had to have it!  I purchased the Dots fat quarters and the pattern at the same time.  Look how she includes a Thank You note in every order and she signs it!!  On top of that, you get a coupon code for a future purchase.  Sweet!  Really, how stinkin’ cute is this quilt?  It’s a quilt-as-you-go and she has a ton of videos on YouTube on how to make it all.

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Unfortunately, she was out of the dinosaur skeleton sashing and the batiks for the earth and sky.  So sad…  Not really!  That means a trip to my favorite local quilt shop, The Scrappy Quilter. Seriously, I’m in there so much I should have my own parking spot (hint, hint!)   Look at my haul!  I picked up three blues, three greens and I can’t wait to stitch up that pretty grassy batik.  Wendi uses a lot of the Burlap Brights from Benartex in her quilts for the trees, leaves, and whatnot and Scrappy had a roll of 2.5″ strips with my name on it.  I really didn’t find it but one of the sweet ladies who works there did.  On my last trip to Scrappy, I had earned (another) $25 gift card for them so…why not?  I had this dark gray grunge print in my stash I’ll use for the sashing and I’m thinking the backing will be either a gray or deep blue minky.  I can’t wait to get started!

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She recommends printing the applique pieces on pre-cut printable iron-on fusible web.  Well, I don’t have any that’s pre-sized for the printer however I do have a bunch of Wonder Under on the bolt.  So what’s a girl to do?  Why cut out 8.5″x11″ pieces from the bolt of course!  I got a total of 8 “pages” of printable iron-on from my bolt with 4″ leftover pieces from each cut.

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So being ever-practical as I am, I took those leftover 4″ pieces and taped two of them to a piece of printer paper and ran it through the old HP.  And viola!  Four more pages!  I still need more so there’s another trip to WalMart.

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On another front – I follow a blogger called GoodByeValentino.  Her name is Sarah and she used to buy very expensive RTW (ready to wear) and decided to begin buying designer fabrics to sew them herself.  Her blog says she’s saved thousands.  Ohhh kay??…Obviously, she and I don’t shop in the same locales.  ha ha  Thanks to China, and Kohls, I still can buy cheaper than I can make it most of the time.  But I love her concept.  Well Ms. Sarah put a book out called The Tunic Bible and I’ve always been intrigued because who doesn’t want to sew a top that covers the backside, amiright?  One day I was surfing on FabricMartFabrics.com and you wouldn’t believe it, but I got 4.8 yards of an amazing knit navy blue paisley print for under $5…more than FOUR yards! That stuff just screamed Tunic!  So I bought the fabric, and headed on over to Amazon to buy the book.  I have enough fabric for a muslin and the final garment.  Nice.

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One of her posts was for an out of print Vogue pattern #9047.  I love this dress!  I looked on Etsy and I found it from LanetzLiving and it was just $6 with free shipping.  The pattern arrived within a week and the vendor sent along a signed invoice a free little flip flop charm!  Cute!  Don’t you love freebies!  This will go on a necklace I wear at the coast. I will definitely order from her again.

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Back to quilting – Missouri Star Quilt Co had a Daily Deal (that’s how I built/build my stash for pennies on the dollar), and the other day they had a 10″ square pack of the Heritage line and while I didn’t sign up for the deal, I did pick up the coordinating panel, backing, binding, and the Placemats kit.  Two more projects are now in the queue for a patriotic wall hanging and placemats.  Perfect for The 4th of July!

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So that’s it!  Actually, that’s quite enough for now.  Don’t these people know I’m away from my sewing machines for 10 hours a day while I’m at “work”?

More Lessons Learned – Buying a Longarm from a .com

Those who’ve been following my blog for awhile know I bought a longarm quilt machine,  Grace frame, and the Quilt Butler robotics system from #SewingMachinesPlus.com last November.  My friends, what a ride this has been.  Today, JUST TODAY, April 9, 2017, I’ve got it running properly and I’m happy with the robotic quilting results.

I’m a firm believer now that in order to make something work right, you have to almost be as much of an expert as the seller or possibly even more of one.  That’s kind of hard if you are new to the game.  I’ve never owned a longarm on a frame before.  Typical of my personality, I jumped in head first without knowing if there’s water in the pool.  Well, maybe that’s not a good analogy, but I certainly should have worked on a longarm by renting time on a machine somewhere before purchasing one which would have helped me know what’s right in order to know when it’s wrong.  Of course, that wouldn’t have helped with Problem #1.

Problem #1 – The sales associate at #SewingMachinesPlus sold me the wrong frame that works with my robotics.  Today, their website is very specific about the frame type that can work with the Quilt Butler but last November, it wasn’t.  I wanted the Grace GQ vs. the Phoenix that was recommended on the page of their website that sells my King Quilter (made by Tin Lizzie) because the GQ came with free overhead lights and the Phoenix frame didn’t.  The sales associate should have let me know that the Butler doesn’t work with the GQ (yet).  My husband had to do some fabrication to the frame to make it work and QuiltEZ was impressed and asked me if they could use my images of his fix as a prototype.  I must say, the folks at #QuiltEZ who make the Butler have been fabulous this entire time.  The guy who owns the company actually called me personally and spent nearly an hour on the phone troubleshooting my issues.  Turns out:  1) I had the wrong frame style; and 2) the Y-axis belt was on inside out.  Apparently that’s kind of a thing.  The Y-axis belt makes the machine go front-to-back. And during this troubleshooting, I pointed out how their tech manuals were wrong.  It was a win for both of us.  Also I must add, SewingMachinesPlus.com made everything right by sending me an entirely new machine and tablet.  And they sent a free box of 84 spools of Madiera Rayon embroidery thread as compensation for my troubles.  Steve from their technical customer service has been exceptional.

Problem #2.  Putting the frame together correctly is key.  And when it is a DIY job, there’s always room for user error.  I’ve been dealing with this…

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It’s difficult to see but there are long, dragging, skipped, horizontal stitches which accompany a gazillion thread breaks.  You cannot begin to imagine my frustration.  On the bright side, I’m a master at resetting the start spot if the thread breaks.  🙂  These long, dragging stitches always seem to happen on the horizontal plane (X-axis) on the frame’s left side.  Odd.  I searched and searched on the internet and all that was out there were posts and articles about tension issues.  It’s definitely not a tension issue.  So last week while I was in my favorite quilt shop, a lady who is an experienced longarmer was there and I asked her about it.  After I described the problem, she said, “it’s probably the frame and/or carriage” (carriage = the platform the machine sits on that travels on the frame).   Huh…  Really…   She said to look for lint balls around the wheels and to make sure the frame is level.  That’s legit because I am guilty of shoving the frame around lately while getting the quilt studio set up.  She said the horizontal issue is something between the carriage on the frame and the stitch regulator in the Quilt Butler.  The robotics unit knows what it’s supposed to do, but it can’t get the carriage to go along with the plan.  OK, so then what is going on?  And how do I fix it?

Well, first make sure the frame is level.  It wasn’t.  You cannot do this with a small level like on your phone or one the size of your finger.  You need one that will stretch across both sides of the frame front-to-back and you have to level it left, right, and middle.  I had to lower the right front foot and the rear center foot.  Once that was done, it still didn’t work right (more thread breaks).  Wait, maybe if the frame was put together properly it might help.  This sounds like a ‘no duh’ concept, but I didn’t put it together so I blindly accepted the premise when I got home that day from work that hubs had put it together correctly.  (He was so proud!) Hey, stuff happens right?  I mean, he’s good with construction and mechanics so why would I question it?  Well, it turns out, the left and right front brackets that allow the height of the belly bar to change were on the wrong sides.  Now, I only discovered this today so I’m totally taking the hit for this myself too.  How long have I been staring at the L on the right front bracket (since November) and not noticing the one behind and below it was an R?  Again, ‘duh’.  Not to hurt hubs’ feelings, I took it apart myself and swapped them.  Now they look like this.  I started stitching again, and more thread breaks.  (See?  I’m REAL good at those.)

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Problem #3.  Make sure all the wheels on the lower carriage are rolling on the tracks and connecting with the frame.  Again, a ‘no duh’ concept.  But hey, I’m new.  Apparently, if all the wheels aren’t touching the frame, the carriage doesn’t do what the stitch regulator tells it to do.   As my mom would say, “No sh*t Sherlock.”  When we built the frame initially, all the wheels touched the tracks and it was all good.  But when we put the weight of the machine on the frame, there were times that that poor carriage was only on 5 wheels vs. the required 8…with two of them spinning freely on the left side of the frame.  Eureka!  One must loosen all 4 wheel screws on the lower carriage to get them to balance properly on the tracks, WHILE the weight of the machine is on the carriage.  I did this one-quarter turn at a time on all four wheel set screws.  That right back wheel below was spinning freely before the adjustment, as was the left front wheel on the other side and the left rear inside wheel as well.  NO FREAKING WONDER!!   And I did all these adjustments with a quilt on the frame.  Genius.  I’m not entirely sure this single issue would have resolved my problems because if the frame was torqued or not level, the wheels won’t level out.  Leveling order is frame, carriage, wheels.

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Once I got these issues fixed…Zen.  This beauty is so good I’m even using a different lighter color in the bobbin thread in the border and the stitches are perfectly balanced so you can’t see it.  The bobbin thread in the blue border is the same as what’s in the lighter-colored 1st border below. I started this blue border after all the adjustments were made and I didn’t have a single issue.  It worked perfectly.  I’m absolutely tickled!

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Last Lesson: Read ALL the Instructions, not just the ones you think you should.  Again, a ‘no duh’ moment but since hubs put the frame together, why would I read the instructions for the frame?  In a previous post, I lamented that there’s not a thing out there to tell me how to load the leaders or which way the rails should rotate.  In my defense, I did look at the instructions on how to load the little ratchet wheels on the ends of the frame rails, but it didn’t specify one way or the other.  So then today, while going through the instructions to reverse the previously mentioned backwards brackets, lo and behold, what do I come across?  In the back of the booklet, there are instructions on how to load a quilt onto the frame and they tell me which way the rails should turn!  YAY!  It should be noted that this frame does not use the ‘biblical scroll’ method like a Handi-Quilter frame does.  Not all frames are the same so that is a lesson learned as well. And now that the brackets are on correctly, the frame rolls and advances the way it should.

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I’m a junkie of this YouTuber, Jennifer Alexander, who publishes detailed vids on how to work the Butler.  And this lovely lady from #SederQuilts shows how to fix oopsies that happen on a longarm.  I be using these techniques on this quilt to fix the long stitch issue I had throughout the body of the quilt…on the left side.

So in summary, I think I have all the kinks worked out and now I know enough about the mechanics of this thing to troubleshoot any future issues.  It’s been frustrating, it’s been painful, and at times it’s been the War of the Roses here at home.   But by buying online, I saved over $14,000 which is a TON of cash y’all.  My final cost was $13,365 compared to my friend who bought an APQS and a Quilt Path last year that she got from a dealer for over $27,000.  Believe me, buying from a dealer isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.  There are plenty of horror stories out there about crappy customer service, training, delivery, installation, etc., etc., etc.  Looking back, my experience was totally worth it.  Would I do it again?  You bet.  But I wish I’d of read this post in my blog first.  To anyone who is considering it, I say go for it.  Any troubles are worth the money saved.

NOTE:  The quilt on the frame is for hubs’ birthday so I can’t show the whole thing until it’s finished.  Sorry!

Easy Sunglasses Case – Free Pattern for Pre-cut Leftovers

I love finding projects to use those leftover pieces from pre-cuts and I always have a couple of leftover pieces of 10″ squares that are perfect for this project.  This can be done in less than 30 minutes (15 once you’re good at it) and it’s a great last-minute personalized gift.  I love this project because I get to keep a little bit of a quilt I made and it reminds me of happiness every time I reach for my sunglasses.  I recall the shop hop where I found the fabric or feel a kindred spirit to the person who received the quilt.  This project is a win-win all the way around.

I wear big sunglasses (wrinkle prevention you know) and not all of them come with cases.  We are on the water a lot and I prefer to wear Costa sunglasses but the case they come with is hard-sided which is like digging around a brick in my purse.   The hard-sided case took up entirely too much room so I needed a soft sided case.  My sunglasses needed a quilt!

This is from Nature Walk by Michael Miller.  I used two 10″ squares and a 10″ piece of batting.  Lay them together with the outer fabric face down, batting in the middle and the inner fabric or case lining face up.

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The pattern piece is the LargeSunglassesCase.  However, if you need a custom fit, you need to measure the widest part of the sunglasses, while closed, from one side to the other to get a measurement.  Mine were 3.5″ (x 2 front and back circumference) for a total of 7″ width and I wanted a little extra on the end so I added 1/2″ for a length of 7.5″.   I made the corner of the pattern using a roll of duct tape as a template.  Very high-tech around here folks.  If you are making your own pattern, do not add any ease in the circumference.  You do not want the case to be so loose that the glasses will fall out.  The case should fit snugly around the glasses.

Once the pattern is cut, I folded it in half to see where the rounded end met the side.  That’s 2 1/4″ down from the top so I marked the spot on the pattern on both sides with a little line using a Frixion pen.  Mark this little dash on both sides of the lining and the outer fabric where the curve ends.  It’s where you will begin and end stitching.  Note:  If you don’t have time for the whole curve thing, just sew up the bottom and side of the case and be done with it.  Easy-peasy.  But I like the fancy look of the curve on the outer fabric.

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I cut all three pieces at once.  Of course, once cut, they shift around and don’t line up perfectly but I turned mine to the right side and maneuvered the fabrics so everything lined up just right.  Then I pinned to hold it all in place.  This is not an exact science and I don’t get all bent out of shape about the edges meeting because they will be trimmed after sewing anyway.

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This is a great time to try out those pretty decorative stitching patterns on your machine that you never use.  If you don’t have any, a zig zag works nicely.  I want caution you however, if you choose a decorative stitch, go a little slower than normal.  I went too fast on my first attempt, jammed my machine, and threw out the timing.  This bad sewing mama learned a $75-trip-to-the-repairman mistake.  Before sewing the real deal, I tested my stitch choice on the left over scraps.  Another boost to this project is that when you’re finished, you still have a nice sized piece to add to your scrap bin.

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This next part, sewing the curve, is a little counter-intuitive and a bit tricky.  Starting with the lining side up, flip the sandwich completely around (top at the bottom) and beginning at the dashed mark on your left, sew what is actually the top of the case.  I kept the fabric lined up with the left edge of the presser foot.  Sew down to the “top” edge, turn the fabric and continue to stitch around the curve and then stop as close as you can on the other dashed mark.  If you are sewing a decorative stitch, try to stop at the end of the stitching sequence before it begins another.  When you reach the end, do not backstitch but do cut the threads.

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When you reach the dash on the other side, remove the case from the machine, fold it as it would look when finished, and begin sewing on the front at the stopping point where you left off.  You may need to rearrange the pins to get them out of the stitching line.  Now keep the fabric in line with the right edge of the presser foot.  The idea is not to see a visible stop/start point in the stitching.

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Sew down the front side and make a definite 90 degree turn to sew across the bottom of the case to end at the fold.  Do a tie off stitch and remove it from the machine.

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It looks a little rough now, but clip the loose threads and take a pair of pinking shears to the edges.  I begin on the long side and then continue around the curve, opening up the top edge as I go until I get down to where the back/front meet so I get one smooth cut.  Then I cut off the bottom edge.

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It fits perfect!  My sunglasses are peeking out but when I tuck them fully in, they are completely covered and protected.

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It was about time to replace the other one.  You can see where my fancy stitch jammed up my machine and I had to stop stitching along the bottom.  But that didn’t stop me!  I’ve been using it anyway.  After I posted this, I went ahead and finished off the end and gave it a press.  Good as new!  I got that mint colored fabric at a shop hop through Rockport, Texas.  See?  Great quilting memories!

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