How to Take Back Your Love for Quilting

How To Take Back YourHave you ever had something happen that just stole your love for quilting?  Maybe you overheard someone say something really harsh about a quilt that you worked really hard to make. Maybe it was an overly critical comment on a quilt you put into a juried show. Maybe it wasn’t one thing; maybe it was just the continual lack of time to actually do it, and slowly but surely, you just stopped making them. You didn’t stop wanting to make them, you just were afraid to make them; too worried it wouldn’t be good enough, or the stress of trying to carve out the time to quilt became too much.

I have been at this place. To be honest, a part of me still is at this place. I hadn’t lost the desire to create; I hadn’t run out of ideas. I still bought patterns and fabric; I still sketched ideas and I still sat down at my machine sometimes, but the love, the joy, had been replaced by fear and self-consciousness of what others will think of my work.

And then one day, I decided I wanted the joy back. I wish I could sit here and tell you that like an Olympic athlete, I turned those negative thoughts and comments that people had made about my work into positive fuel to get me back on my feet, but I didn’t. No, those thoughts and comments still haunt me sometimes. What I don’t let them do anymore is stop me.

These are some steps that I took to get my love for quilting back and some advice on how to not take someone’s love for quilting away from them. I am telling you this because I have a feeling I am not the only one who has been here. I am probably not the only person who has felt sadness because they just want to make something, but feel paralyzed to do so. I am pretty sure I am not the only one that has said to themselves, “I just want to sew and have it be fun. Even if it’s not perfect.”

So here are my steps and I hope it helps someone who has been in this place too:

  1. Make something small that is just for you. When you have gone many months without making anything, the best way to get back started is to make something small and simple that is just for you. Something that you don’t have to show anyone if you don’t want to. My something small was a self-lining bag, similar to this one here. The one I made was smaller to hold shoes when traveling and I didn’t do any embroidery on it. I just made the bag. It got me behind my machine and in the end, I came out with a completed project. I didn’t show anyone, I just took it to my closet and used it the next time traveled. It was a great first step. I made something and it was useful! I felt good about it. A little love came back into my heart.
  2. Go through your UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) and find one that is almost done and finish it. I had a landscape quilt that I had started when I was learning how to do landscape quilts. It wasn’t very good at all which is why it wasn’t finished. It only needed to be trimmed up, one border added and the binding. So I finished that little landscape. Yay! Finished! I got to sit in my sewing studio and enjoy the victory of a completed project. I hung it on my sewing studio wall and admired it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was finished and that made me love it.
  3. Do all the utility sewing that you have been putting off. I know this sounds strange, but when I decided to tackle that pile of pants that needed hemming, skirts that needed to be taken in and pillows with holes that needed mending, I started to say to myself, “Oh yeah, this is why I quilt! This kind of sewing isn’t fun!” But I also got that satisfaction of getting something done and I was beginning to lose the anxiety that I had previously felt every time I sat behind my sewing machine. That negative voice that had been in my head telling me that my work wasn’t good enough was starting to fade. My hemming of those pants was good enough! I patched the holes in those pillows like a boss! I started to believe in myself again…just a little bit.
  4. Make a quilt that needs to be made. You know the saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways?” That is certainly true for what really gave me my love for quilting back. I have friend who was very, very sick and I needed to make her a quilt. She was going to be in the hospital for another surgery and I just knew that a quilt full of blocks that had been signed by her friends would give her strength. I didn’t have a choice. This quilt had to be made no matter how I felt. So I picked a very simple pattern (rail fence) and I put together the top. I took the extra steps, like squaring up the blocks, and quilted it. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t fit for a juried show or even a blog post, but it was perfect for my friend. She loved it and I loved making it. I truly loved every stitch, even the not-so-perfect ones. That is when I came to my final step:
  5. Fire the Quilt Police that are hanging out in your head. I decided that I know longer cared what people thought of my work, and more importantly, I decided to stop being so hyper-critical of it myself. All too often, the negative voice is my very own. I was not going to let the comments of others, or my own negative comments about my work, steal the love I have for quilting. I made a conscious decision to start making things that I like to make, to the best of my ability and continue to get better at my own pace. The beautiful thing is:  I now LOVE quilting again! I have started working on new quilts and thinking up new projects to make. I am back behind my sewing machine with joy instead of anxiety. I am currently working on 2 new quilts and one past-project that I had been avoiding. Quilting is once again my stress relief, instead of something that was causing me stress, and I am so happy about that!

This wouldn’t be a complete post if I didn’t offer one piece of advice on how to not cause someone quilting anxiety. For most of us, sewing and quilting is more than just a hobby; it is an extension of who we are as people. It is our artistic expression and in some ways, a revealing of our soul. Be kind to your fellow quilter. When you see her (or his) work, find something nice to say about it, and only offer a critique if it is appropriate and you know them well enough to know how to tell them something that will help them be a better quilter. Telling them you just don’t like it, or that those colors are awful, isn’t helpful.

Let’s not steal each other’s joy for this amazing art. Let’s build each other up.

Be Kind To Your Fellow QuilterHappy Sewing!




Tips for Using All Sulky Threads on Longarm Machines

Tips For Quilting

By Sue Moats and Evelyn Byler

These tips are from two professional Long Arm Quilters who are graciously allowing us to learn from their vast experience. Do you have any tips or tricks for Long Arm Quilting? If so, please leave them in the comments.

donna_quilt

While all Sulky threads can be used on longarm machines, some may need special handling. Some of the most important things are: Sew more slowly; use a soft, smooth thread in the bobbin; and use a needle with a larger eye, even when the thread seems very thin, like Sulky Original, Sliver™ and Holoshimmer™ Metallic Threads. It is not unusual to need to adjust the top tension on LA Quilting Machines when using decorative threads.

needles-1416545-639x280

Needle numbers for longarm machines are usually given as 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, (smaller to larger eye). Adjusting tension is more challenging on LA machines than Domestic Sewing Machines since there are often no numbers or notches on LA machines. To simplify it, keep a log of how much you have turned the top tension either up or down (1/8, ¼, 1/3, etc.) so you can find your way back to the setting you prefer when using what is your normal sewing thread.

Position and use Sulky Jumbo Cones in the normal way. However, if you are using small or king-size spools of Sulky threads, use the small spool holder on your machine. The thread should come from the back of the spool, over the top, forward to the tension area.  (Hold spool vertically to bring either Sliver or Holoshimmer off the back of the spool and then put it on the horizontal spool holder on your LA machine).  I find that chilling the spool in the refrigerator sometimes helps too! Lengthen stitch size and sew more slowly.  

PolyLite-Grouping

Sulky PolyLite™:
Sulky PolyLite 60 wt. thread adds numerous creative possibilities. In addition to being a breeze to work with, there are a range of solid colors, and tantalizing variegated and multi-colors.  Your choice can blend into the background, or sing its own solo, adding further interest to your design composition.  These fine, strong threads work well at high speed, are lint free, require a 3.0 or 3.5 needle and tension is easily adjusted. Very few problems with the “pokie” blues here, even running threads with contrasting colors, top and bottom.

This is the ultimate thread for micro-stippling!

This is the ultimate thread for micro-stippling!

Sulky Thread pic
Sulky Rayon:

Sulky 40 wt. Rayon is available in 333 Solid Colors and 55 Variegated and Multi-Colors. You can use Sulky 40 wt. in the bobbin when you use Sulky Metallic, Sliver or Holoshimmer thread on the top. You may also use Sulky 40 wt. Rayon in the needle along with Sliver or Holoshimmer to help them work better.  Or, you can run Sulky Polyester Invisible along with any of these threads, too.

Washing restrictions for Rayon: While rayon threads are colorfast in warm or cold water, do not use bleach or detergents with whiteners or optical brighteners. (Sulky PolyDeco™ 40 wt. thread is good for quilts that will need frequent washing or bleaching.)
Labels-Poly-Deco
Sulky 40 wt. PolyDeco:
Available in 138 Solid Colors. Works extremely well on long arm machines in both the needle and bobbin. If you are having trouble with metallic threads, etc. in the needle, try PolyDeco in the bobbin.  PolyDeco is excellent in both the needle and bobbin because it is smooth and strong. Use needle size: 3.5-4.0.

invisible clearinvisible smoke

Sulky Invisible: Works well in either the needle or bobbin, or both. Sulky Invisible is a very fine .004 continuous filament thread. Many quilting teachers have recommended Sulky Invisible for years because of its excellent runability. You may need to lower either needle and/or bobbin tension. Wind bobbin very SLOWLY and NOT completely full. Use Needle size: 3.5-4.0

Metallic threads

Sulky Metallic Threads

I usually use a 4.0 needle with Sulky Metallic Threads. Lower the top tension and sew slowly. I like to put metallic threads in the refrigerator for a while before using them.  Lengthen the stitch. Sew for a shorter amount of time. Avoid quick motions and designs that cross over.

Original Metallic – Available in 36 sparkling colors. While I have used this in the needle by itself, I usually combine it with Sulky Invisible, Rayon, Poly Deco, etc. to lower the possibility of breakage. It is possible to use Sulky Original Metallic threads in the bobbin.
Sliver™ Metallic – Available in 24 shimmering colors. I usually run Sulky Invisible, Rayon, Holoshimmer, or PolyDeco along with Sliver through the needle. Some LA Quilters use Sulky Sliver in the bobbin.
Holoshimmer Metallic – Available in 24 brilliant colors. Works extremely well on LA machines. Run Sulky Holoshimmer by itself or in combination with any Sulky threads. Put a soft/smooth Sulky thread in the bobbin. Since both Sliver and Holoshimmer are flat threads, it is important that their thread come off the spool so the thread stays flat, without twisting. This means turning the spool on its side so it turns while the thread pulls off.

thread new colors 4

Sulky Cottons:

Both 30 wt. and the heavier 12 wt. are available in 66 beautiful Solid Colors and 126 fabulous Multi-colored Blendables.

Quilted with Sulky 30 wt. Cotton Thread

Quilted with Sulky 30 wt. Cotton Blendables Thread

30 wt. Cotton Thread – works well in either the needle or bobbin, or both together.

Quilted with Sulky 12 wt. Cotton Blendables thread

Quilted with Sulky 12 wt. Cotton Blendables thread

12 wt. Cotton Thread – also works well in either the needle or bobbin, but not well in both needle and bobbin at the same time. I usually have 30 wt. running in the bobbin with 12 wt. on top. The heavier 12 wt. is great for bobbin work (with 30 wt. in the needle).

laq circles

Use at least a 4.0 needle with 30 wt. and 12 wt. Sulky Cottons. If you experience any thread breakage in the needle when using 12 wt. on the top, try changing to a 4.5 or 5.0 needle.
Lengthen the stitch, especially for the 12 wt. and use it for smooth quilting designs with few points so that there is no issue with thread build-up at the points. Clean the bobbin area frequently when using the 30 wt. or 12 wt. cottons. All cotton thread “fuzzes”, even the most high quality cotton threadsAlso, it may help to lower your machine speed a little if needed.

laq yellow and blue

General Comments:

  1. Loosen your needle tension and check the bobbin tension as well. Both should be looser since these are heavier threads than you might normally use.
  2. If using a small or king-size spool, put the spool on the small spool holder in top middle of machine. Mount the spool so that the thread comes from the back, over the top of spool, toward the front of the machine. If you have the new threading mechanism, I suggest that you just come straight forward to the 3 hole guide and not go backwards into the new tensioner.
  3. With some of the Sulky threads, I just make one pass across the quilt, then tie off and go back to the beginning for the next row or section of free-motion.
  4. Avoid pantographs that have a lot of sharp points where the thread can build up. Try for smooth easy movement of the machine.
  5. Try putting the thread in the refrigerator or freezer for a while. Any threads like to be cool and moist.
  6. Do not quilt for too long a time, especially if you are having problems. Take a break and have your favorite beverage; put your feet up; let the machine, needle and most importantly YOU, cool off before trying again.
  7. The Sulky Blendables have 126 great short-run color combinations, changing colors mostly every 2 ½” to 5″, so they blend in or accent your quilts beautifully, and are very forgiving.

Stabilizers without book

Sulky Stabilizers:

  1. Use Tear-Easy™ to make quilting designs to stitch over instead of marking the quilt.  Or print them onto Sticky Fabri-Solvy, if you’re okay with wetting the quilt afterwards.
  2. Totally Stable™ may be used the same way. These quilting designs can be “attached” to the quilt with either Sulky KK 2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive or pins.  You want an even, controlled medium length stitch with these stabilizers.  A very tiny stitch length may grab fibers.
  3. Regular Solvy® is good for designs to see through to quilt. Solvy and Super Solvy generally pull away without any residue.  Any bits remaining can be released with a damp Q-Tip.
  4. Ultra Solvy™ is great for stitching lace, appliqués, constructing faux “designer” fabric for garments and scarves, etc.
  5. Fabri-Solvy™ – This NEWEST water-soluble Sulky stabilizer has the firmness and feel of fabric, but it washes away.  And now there’s a sticky version (mentioned above).
  6. Soft ‘n Sheer™ Cut-Away – I have enjoyed using Soft ‘n Sheer as an inner layer in several of my quilted garments.
  7. Sticky+™ can be used to make templates of designs to stitch around by layering several pieces together.

For answers to other questions about Sulky products, check out our FAQ page on Sulky.com.

Tips For Quilting on LA




Why September Is The Best Month

Just the other day I got out of my car and took in a big breath of air. I could hardly contain my excitement. I could smell the promise of fall. That slight bit of crispness, the low to possibly no humidity in the air; I have to admit, I went straight home and started pulling out my fall decor for the house.

Fall leaf
I love the fall. It is my favorite season full of my favorite colors, my favorite temperatures and my favorite activities. But September is truly my favorite of all! Here is my list of reasons why:

Birthday Cake
My Birthday! My birthday is in September. When I was growing up I truly believed that we had labor day because that must have been the day my mom went into labor to have me. My birth gave the whole world a day off. You’re Welcome 🙂 ! We celebrate birthdays big time in my family. You get a party, a family dinner, lots of happy birthday phone calls, cards and well wishes. Your day starts with a cupcake and ends with your favorite cake. In my house growing up, birthdays were like birthdays on Facebook before Facebook was invented.

National Sewing Month logo
September is National Sewing Month! Yes, it’s true! You are allowed to sew every day for the whole month and no one can stop you. It’s basically the law. Tell your hubby I said so. You don’t have to cook, clean the house or do laundry. Just sew! In case you need some inspiration, check out our Free Projects page on the website, follow me on Pinterest and you can always follow my blog too!

FSU Stadium
Football starts. I am a southerner so loving college football is basically a requirement, and I really, really love college football. It certainly doesn’t hurt that my beloved Florida State University Seminoles have great colors, Garnet and Gold, that are perfect colors for decorating and sewing. Here is a blog post I did last year about getting ready for football season.

School Supplies
School Starts! I love having my kids at home for the summer but the routine and structure brought on by school starting is wonderful. Not only am I more productive but I am more creative! I believe that knowing your boundaries gives you the space you need to unleash your full creative spirit.

apples
Apples! Yummy, yummy apples! One of the perks of living in North Georgia is being able to pick apples off the trees when they are in season. Apples have been a big inspiration to me lately. You may see some fun apple inspired projects on the blog soon.

Potter
Fall Festivals! Whether it’s the North Georgia State Fair or my kid’s fall festival at the elementary school, I love them all! I love getting hot apple cider and looking through all the fun craft booths. I am always inspired by the number of creative people in the world and how people use their hands and minds to create art. One of the art festivals I attend every year features wonderful ceramic pottery and amazing things carved from wood. I love having one of a kind art pieces like these to sit on top of my quilted table runners or a beautiful wood turned bowl for my sewing supplies in my sewing room.

gift box
It’s time to start giving! With the end of the year holidays fast approaching, it’s not surprising that we start to think about gifts and giving around September. I will begin highlighting lots of fun and easy to make gifts on my blog from now until the end of the year, but I will also be doing a series called Sulky Supports, that highlights the charities that we specifically support and want you to be able to support as well.
National Sewing Month logo
For the entire month of September I will highlight a new charity every week, tell you what we do to support them and let you know how you can support them as well. All of these organizations are near and dear to my heart so I can’t think of a better way to spend National Sewing month than to sew a few things for these awesome charities.

Happy Sewing!




How to fold your fabric so you have room for more fabric

I was doing a little sewing room clean up last week. I had let thing get really messy and it was no longer a fun space full of inspiration. Instead it was a really cluttered space that was paralyzing. Do you ever let your sewing room get that messy?

someday I'll get organized

Part of the issue was I had a ton of fabric that need to be folded and put away properly.

A few years ago, I took a class from Lois Hallock who wrote a great book called, “Creating Your Perfect Quilting Space.” In her book she gives a wonderful way to fold fabric that not only keeps all your fabric uniform and easy to see, it also gives you more space! I have been folding my fabric this way for years so I thought I would show you.

fabric folding 16

First start with your fabric. I separate it into pieces larger than a half yard and pieces between a fat quarter up to a half yard.

folding fabric 6

Let’s start with the bigger pieces. You will need an 8 1/2″ x 24″ acrylic ruler. I know this might be bigger than what you already have so you have my permission to go buy this size ruler. I promise, you will use it for more than folding fabric. (If your hubby complains, have him read this post :).

FOLDING FABRIC 5

Put your fabric on the table with the fold closest to you and the selvages at the top. Have the bulk of the fabric to your left. (NOTE: If you are left handed, you may want to flip this)

folding fabric 4

Lay the ruler on top of the fabric and flip the cut edge over to cover most of the ruler.

folding fabric 3

Use the ruler to wrap the fabric around it.

folding fabric 2

Once all the fabric is folded onto the ruler, turn it so it is perpendicular to you and slide the ruler out about half way.

folding fabric 1

Fold the fabric up onto itself, then pull the ruler all the way out.

yardage fabric folded

Tada! You have a wonderfully neat piece of fabric and even when they are all stacked up, you can see enough of the fabric on that folded edge to know what fabric it is.

fabric folded yardage

Now onto the smaller pieces.

fabric folding 13

For these I use a piece a cardboard cut to 4″ x 12″. You could buy another ruler if you wanted. I believe 4″ x 14″ is a fairly standard ruler size, but the day I started folding my fabric, I didn’t have one that size so I took the top of a shoebox and cut this one.

fabric folding 16

If you are anything like me, you are mostly folding fat quarters and every store and every person folds and cuts fat quarters differently. But one thing that they almost all have in common is a selvage edge.

fabric folding 15

I put the selvage edge at the bottom and the cut edge at the top.

fabric folding 14

Then fold the selvage edge up to the cut edge.

fabric folding 12

fabric folding 11

fabric folding 10

Put your ruler or cardboard piece on top of your fabric and fold over it just like you did with the big pieces.

fabric folding 9fabric folding 8Once it’s all folded, pull the cardboard halfway out, fold the fabric onto itself and viola!

folding fabric 7

If you have a piece of fabric that is smaller than a half yard, but bigger than a fat quarter, you can fold it this same way, just put the folded edge at the bottom and the selvage edge at the top, have the folded edge meet the selvage then continue to fold as before.

NOTE: Since I do a fair amount of applique, I often have pieces cut out of my fat quarters, but if the fabric is still big enough to fold this way and put it up on my shelf, then I do. If it isn’t, I have a bin of fabric chunks that I put those in. I will do another post another time about cutting and storing scraps.

Once all your fabric is folded the same and put away, you end up gaining about 30% more storage space. Do you know what that means? You can go by more fabric! Yippee!

mm photo

Now reward yourself for all of your hard work with some chocolate.

Happy Sewing!




7 Reasons to Sew Everyday

7 Reasons to Sew

Sewing is my favorite hobby. I really would rather sew than just about anything, but life, kids, the house, the hubby , the job…it all seems to drown out that precious time to sew.

One the my favorite bits of advice that I received when I asked you to send in advice to new sewists (see that post here) was to sew for at least 20 minutes per day! I love that and have tried to put that great advice into practice ever since then. It has been an amazing change for me in my life! Today I want to motivate you to do the same thing by giving you seven reasons to sew everyday.

Seven Reasons to Sew Everyday

  1. You will finish things! – You know all those projects you have sitting around (probably in zip-lock bags) that are past the fun stage and are now just in the finishing-up stage? You know…putting on the binding, adding the buttonholes, piecing the finished blocks together, etc. If you set aside 20 minutes every day, these little things start to get done! sewing at machine
  2. You will be more creative – Sometimes all we need to get the creative juices flowing is to just sew. Even hemming a pair of the hubby’s pants can spark an amazing idea. Just being in my sewing studio is inspiring, but when I am actually at the machine or doing hand stitching, it is like the creative part of my brain gets turned on. Sewing everyday is often what gives me the next project to be excited about.italian dressmaker
  3. You can make gifts for your friends and family – If you are sewing 20 minutes a day, you are finishing projects. Some days, you will walk into your studio and think, “Hhmm, what should I sew today? Those are the days you should look at your calendar (or facebook page) and see which family member or friend has the next birthday. Then, check out this post and make them something! Maybe you have a friend who is having a baby. This Taggie is quick and easy to make and could be finished in a couple 20-minute sewing sessions. If you dedicated 2 of your 20-minute sewing session a week to making gifts, you would never be without the perfect homemade gift again.finished taggie close up
  4. You can actually make something for yourself (and not feel guilty) – If you are dedicating 2 of your sewing sessions to others, you can have the rest for yourself and not feel guilty! Finally, you will have the time to update the throw pillows on your sofa or work on the quilt that you want for your bed.Using Sulky Blendables in a serger
  5. You will be a happier person – I love to sew, quilt and craft. When I am sewing, I am happy, content and calm. And I am less likely to bite someone’s head off 🙂I Quilt
  6. Your sewing skills will improve – This may seem like an obvious one, but I must say, this was the most surprising for me. It makes sense that the more you sew, the better you will be, but I have been sewing as a hobby for years at basically the same skill level. I don’t know what it is about sewing for 20 minutes everyday, maybe the repetition? Maybe just the sheer volume? Maybe because I am not rushed to get a project completed? But I have seen a vast improvement in my sewing skills simply by sewing everyday.sewing machine
  7. You can try new things – You know all those times you have seen a cool new project or technique in a store and thought, “I would love to try that, but I have so many things already, I just couldn’t add anything new to my plate.” If you are sewing everyday, adding a new project or technique to learn doesn’t seem so daunting! Maybe you even dedicate one 20-minute session a week to new things!

So what do you think? Will you try it? Can you think of other benefits to sewing everyday? If so, put them in the comments below.

Happy Sewing!




Advice to Sewists in 2015

Have you noticed this picture making it’s rounds on the internet lately?

advice from 1949 Singer

Since this was the advice given to women who had just purchased a sewing machine in 1949, I wondered what advice we would give today. So a few weeks ago, I asked my eNewsletter readers to send in the advice that they would give to a person who had just purchased a brand new sewing machine. I received over 100 responses! After combing through all the advice: some gave the same advice, some gave funny advice and yet others had conflicting advice! I have sorted through them all, consolidated it and here is what Sulky fans came up with:

sewing machine

If you haven’t purchased the machine yet:

  1.  Make sure the dealer offers machine How-TO classes AND take them.

  2. Be sure you like the dealer and the dealer likes you. A good deal is not a deal if you can’t get service, support and education.

  3. Spend as much as you possibly can. The more features a machine has, the more versatile it is, and the more fun it is to use. I know it does not make sense but it is true. An added bonus, you will not outgrow the machine features as fast.

Read the directions

Almost everyone said these top four:

  1. Take the machine out the box and plug it in – I can’t tell you how many people I know that have bought a machine and then been too afraid to ever try it out.

  2. READ THE ENTIRE MANUAL and stitch out every stitch your machine will do.

  3. If possible, have a place where you can leave your sewing machine and sewing supplies always set up. If you have to put it away every time, you won’t sew as often.

  4. Take classes! Whether you are taking the classes from the shop where you bought the machine, at a sewing expo or on-line. Classes will help inspire you, improve your skills and help with trouble shooting when you run into problems.

These next words of wisdom are some of my personal favorites:

  1. Don’t be afraid of it.  It won’t bite.  Someday the workings of the machine will be 2nd nature to you.

  2. Play with your machine. You are the boss, not the machine. Get to know it. Learn the stitches, feet, and adjustments.

  3. Keep scraps to practice and mistakes to remember.

  4. As you read the manual, page-by-page and try out each foot.

  5. Invest in an adjustable chair and/or table

  6. Get a sewing buddy and connect with a local group of sewers to enjoy sewing together

  7. Set a goal to make something every week, month, quarter, etc.  Just set a goal for a specific time period.

  8. Take online classes and/or go on a retreat.

  9. Don’t expect perfection…at least not in the first dozen or so projects. Know that everyone (every. single. one.) that has ever worked on a sewing machine has struggled with sewing straight lines, keeping even and perfect seam allowances, and remembering to put right sides together. You are no exception.

  10. Don’t sweat the small stuff, relax and enjoy the creative experience!

  11. Set a timer to get household chores done. Reset the timer to do sewing projects. There are only so many hours in a day and a part of each day should be spent doing something we enjoy. Remember there is only today. Tomorrow never comes.

  12. Look at the thread you’re going to practice with. The thread label give you a clue as to what kind of needle to use in your machine.  Put the correct needle in for each type and weight of thread you’re going to use.

  13. Never underestimate the power of a woman with a sewing machine.

soup

The 2015 Sewer has some great advice on cooking:

  1. Don’t feel guilty when you forgot to cook dinner because you were so into your new project

  2. My best advice is to find a husband/partner who loves to cook so you don’t have to waste sewing time in the kitchen.

  3. Find some great crock pot recipes and make big batches for leftovers. Soup is good too. HAVE FUN sewing.

canes shirts satin stitch

We received conflicting advice on what type of project to start with:

  1. Start with smaller projects

  2. Choose something that can be made in 30 minutes to an hour for a first project.  Make something useful so you can enjoy the accomplishment, showing what you made.

  3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with a small project

  4. Do Not Limit Yourself.  People will tell you to start with simple patterns.  Balderdash!  Start with something you would like to own, something you will wear or use, something that says “I want to live at your house!”  I tell my beginning quilters to start with a Cathedral Window Quilt.  For the rest of their lives, when they see an intricate quilt, they can think to themselves “Doesn’t look too hard.  After all, I’ve made a Cathedral Window already.”

  5. Make sewing part of your life. Take some time to know your machine before tackling a big project.

pin cushion

We got some great practical sewing tips:

  1. My advice is to “Sew with a relaxed bottom.”  When I took my first Stretch & Sew garment construction class (in 1973, when I was 10 years old), there was a poster on the wall in the classroom to remind us to let the feed dogs take up the fullness if one piece wasn’t exactly the same length as the other.  However, the picture that accompanied the statement was of a woman’s backside, sitting in a chair.  42 years later, I still sew with a relaxed bottom!

  2. Always have a fresh cup of coffee (or tea or ice water or whatever your favorite beverage is) within reach.

  3. Having a secret stash of chocolate nearby makes it all feel like a ‘good’ guilty pleasure.

  4. Buy the best thread and fabric you can afford. Time is money.

  5. Just sit down and sew!!! You can’t really hurt the machine and most mistakes are repairable.

  6. Use good light; a fabric you like; and your left foot if you are right handed (or right foot if you are left handed); I find the machine stitch comes out straighter.

  7. Have a place for everything.

  8. Practice threading your new machine over and over, at least 2-3 times every time you sit down to sew.

  9. Practice making stitches longer and then shorter, practice zigzag stitches if your machine has the capacity; practice any decorative stitches that might be on your machine.

  10. Practice sewing 1/4-inch seams, 1/2-inch seams and 5/8-inch seams on scraps of fabric; watch your seam allowance not the needle (the needle will go up and down on its own without you watching hit), keep your eyes on the fabric as you sew it together, keeping your seam even.

  11. For the quilters: Don’t get hung up on following someone’s pattern, Make it your own! Flip the block if you like it another way!  Same goes for the colors that are being used!

  12. For the embroiderers: Change the colors in the pattern, if you don’t like the color of thread that it called for, stop the machine, back up and try another color!

  13. If you do not have a room to dedicate to sewing, and if the dining or kitchen table are the only options for the machine, set up an area close by where you can move the machine for meal times.

  14. Get a Real Thread Chart from Sulky and sew until your heart is content.

  15. Some parts of sewing will be very easy for you. Some parts will be more difficult. Do your honest best, but be willing to forgive yourself when things don’t work out exactly how you planned. Try to find someone – a relative, a neighbor, someone at the local shop or in a local guild – who can help you through those rough spots.

thinker

We received lots of wisdom on time:

  1. Clear your calendar, just stay home and enjoy themselves.

  2. If you can sew 20 minutes a day you will be able to complete projects. 30-years-plus of raising 4 kids, caring for aging parents, keeping grandkids and just doing life, I have found this to be so true.

  3. Set aside an hour or two each day to play and learn your machine.

  4. Remember it will take time. Do not rush the process.

  5. If you wait until all the house work is done, you will never get to sew.

  6. If you plan to sew, don’t take ‘just a minute’ to check your email.  It always take longer than expected–eating into sewing time.

  7. Keep your project in a clear plastic box, or ziplock bag with pattern/directions thread and all you need there – next to your machine in a place you can leave it set up – this gives you the ability to work 20 minute sessions into your busy life.

  8. Set one day a week as sewing day. On that day, don’t clean or shop…just play

  9. Don’t think about what else you should be doing around the house. Just relax and enjoy. I know that when there are issues around my house, I just go down to my sewing room and put the problem behind me. After some time of relaxing at my machine, I can go back to what ever problem there might have been with a clear head. It’s good therapy for me.

oops!

Mistakes:

  1. Relax!  Never take any of it seriously.  Seams can get ripped out.  You CAN change your mind about fabric, and size, etc.  You may like your mistake, which may lead to an inspiration.  Just go back to the first word and RELAX.  Have fun with it!!

  2. Don’t get discouraged.  Walk away and come back a little later to try again.

  3. Not everything you do will turn out perfect the first time.

  4. Enjoy what you make – and mistakes are original designs.

  5. Also, learn to be able to look at any ‘oopsies,’ not as errors, but as artistic opportunities. Let go of your preconceived notions of what your project ‘should be,’ and you’ll be amazed at all the wonderful things you can create that really speak to your own creative vision!

  6. Be courageous to break away from “the rules” and add your own unique ideas to patterns and tutorials. This is what makes sewing fun!

 

keep-calm-and-get-a-seam-ripper

Seam Rippers:

  1. Buy a good, sharp seam ripper and make friends with it. Give it a sweet name because you will find yourself saying words that you thought would never leave your mouth. You need one tool in your space that is deserving of a kind word. Maybe call it “Grace”.

  2. BREATHE! RELAX! What’s the worst thing that can happen? No one is going to die because your stitches aren’t perfect! Meet your best new friend…Ms. Seam Ripper!

  3. Never make a stitch smaller than the tip of your ripper!

learning

And everyone said to keep learning!

  1. Make use of online sewing videos to help you learn new skills.

  2. Take classes for learning the care and maintenance of your machine.

  3. My advice to a new sewer would be to never, ever stop learning. Join a local sewing/quilting group, go to shows, and interact with sewers on the internet.

  4. Join a group on Facebook and watch tutorials on YouTube.

Some people just gave some great and slightly quirky advice:

  1. JUST DO IT!!

  2. Wear shoes while you are sewing.  Many of us go barefoot and a friend of mine got a needle lodged between her toes.  They actually had to operate to get it out!

  3. I often start sewing in the morning still in my pj’s. When the inspiration hits, you just have to go with it. I would advise a new sewer to enjoy her new skill, remember to play and make it fun. Also, you should brush your teeth even if you don’t get dressed.

  4. Have a stash of chocolate and good coffee nearby in your sewing room.  Do not answer your cell, and instruct family to call only if an emergency.  Keep ear plugs by the machine in case you can hear a football game or such.  Have a nice blanket on the floor for your pet. Dress comfy, pajamas work for me.  Music or favorite movie in the background is optional.   Sew to your hearts content.  Pet fabric often.  Measure twice, cut once!

Lastly, I want to share with you my very favorite piece of advice that we received and something we all need to remember:

sewing advice

We are not remembered for our pristine houses or perfect manicures, but for the special talents we possess at the sewing machine; creating items that endure and are treasured for decades.  Time spent sewing is not an indulgence, but rather it is a way to create a lasting joy for others.

On that wonderful note, I give you my personal advice:

Never give someone a quilt who calls it

Never give a quilt to someone who calls it a blanket 🙂

Happy Sewing!




Tips for Sewing with Metallic Threads

Metallic threads

For the last couple years, I have been obsessed with metallic threads. I love how they add just the right amount of pop to my piece, whether it is a little bling to a pencil skirt, sparkle to a landscape quilt or adding the dazzle to a Christmas tree skirt, I can’t get enough of these fabulous threads. I NOW love sewing with metallic threads but I didn’t always. I used to shred them, break them, curse them and then switch to an ‘easier’ thread at the expense of the look that I truly desired. Learning how to sew with metallic threads was really important to me and now that I know the right tips, I can sew all day long without a single shred, break or bad word. Here are the tips that made my life easier. I hope it helps you too.

Metallic thread on vertical spool pin

  1. Vertical spool pin – Because metallic threads do have metal in them, they act a little different than other threads. Sulky Sliver™ and Sulky Holoshimmer™ Threads are made from a thin, flat, ribbon-like polyester film that is metalized with aluminum or a holographic foil to make them brilliantly reflective.  But since they are flat and should remain flat (untwisted), putting them on the vertical spool pin and having them come off the front of the spool and then through the machine is your best bet. This ensures that they don’t fold over on themselves or twist which can cause breakage. With Sulky Original Metallic threads, I put this on my vertical spool pin also, but I have a friend who needs to put the thread on a separate thread holder a little further away from the machine. Give yourself some time to test it out on your machine and see what works best for you.

  2. Adjust your tension – The kind of metallic thread you are using and how you are sewing with it will help you determine where your top thread tension should be. When I am doing regular sewing with Sulky Sliver or Sulky Holoshimmer (the flat metallic thread), I adjust my tension down to about a 2 or 3. If I am doing free motion, I take my tension down to a 0. If I am using Sulky Original Metallic, I have my tension at a 3 or 4 for regular sewing and a 1 or 2 for free-motion. The best way to figure out what will work for you on your machine is to take a practice piece of fabric and just try the different tensions. Be sure to take the time to check the back and the front at the different tensions.  Also, most machines will perform better with a spring-loaded free-motion foot.

  3. Needle – For Metallic threads, you can use a 90/14 Metallic needle, but most often I use a 90/14 or 100/16 Topstitch needle. Mostly because I usually already have that needle in my machine. I personally love Schmetz Needles. I like that they are color coded, I love having the Schmetz App on my phone and I know the quality is great.

Sewer's Aid

  1. Sewer’s Aid – Oh I love my Sewer’s Aid! Put a dot of it on your finger and rub along the needle. This little bit of lubricant just allows that thread to flow through the needle without any issues. You can also run a bead of Sewer’s Aid on the spool of metallic thread itself. Sewer’s Aid is great stuff. It doesn’t leave any residue  on your fabric or the thread, but check with your machine dealer to see if this type of lubricant is okay to use on your machine.

Put Sewer's Aid on your needle

  1. Sew Slow! – This one took me years to learn and it’s true about most sewing. If you want something to look better or perform better, more often than not, sewing slower is the key. I myself still like to kamikaze sew but if I am using metallic threads, going slower often means I finish faster, because am not stopping to deal with breakage caused by excessive speed.

  2. Have the right bobbin thread – My favorite is to use Sulky Bobbin Thread, but if I want the bobbin thread to match more closely, then I use Sulky 60 wt. PolyLite in the bobbin. If I am doing machine embroidery, I almost always do this. You can use Sulky Invisible thread as well, but be SURE to wind it very slowly onto the bobbin, and only about 1/2 full.

  3. Thread quality matters -When it comes to any decorative thread, the quality matters. Let’s face it. If you can see the thread, then I want it to look great; it should be able to handle normal wear and tear; and I want it to be easy to work with. This is especially true when using metallic threads. Have you ever started using a metallic thread and suddenly, you look down and the thread is showing through a little bit of white? That is the core thread showing through. Most metallic threads are foil-wrapped thread around a core thread. Often that core thread is white. Not Sulky Metallic thread. Sulky matches the core thread as closely as possible to the color of the metallic. That way if for some reason the core does peek through, it doesn’t ruin your project. Sulky metallic threads are also machine washable, dryable and can be ironed with low heat.

Machine Embroidery with metallic thread

8. For Machine Embroidery, slow down – When I asked our resident expert, Sulky Vice President of Consumer Relations, Patti Lee, about machine embroider with metallic threads, this is what she said, “One of the most frequent questions I get is:  ‘When embroidering a design using metallic thread is the design digitized to use metallic thread?’  Unlikely most of the time.   Although metallic thread requires more ‘room’ than a 40 wt. rayon thread, I have found that most designs that have been well digitized and if they are not too dense, will adapt to metallic thread fairly well.  Sometimes you may need to enlarge the design slightly to accommodate the metallic thread.  BUT MOST IMPORTANT:  SLOW YOUR MACHINE SPEED DOWN.  Most machines will use metallic threads fairly well in a design if you slow down the machine – and you may need to use a thread lubricant.  A poorly digitized design, however, may not ever do well with metallic threads.  Very dense designs, even if well digitized, may not be able to accommodate the thicker metallic threads.  However, I have made it work in some pretty dense designs with patience.”

9. Longer stitch length – Metallic threads don’t like abrasion and they are meant to really be seen, so a longer stitch length is a great way to lesson the abrasion and allow mroe of the beauty of the thread to shine through.

sewing with metallic thread

  1. Practice – Like most things in life, practice makes perfect. Just the other day I sat down at my machine and was able to use metallic thread for free-motion quilting for 4 hours straight without a single issue. Partly that is because I used all these tips above, but part of that is I have practiced doing free-motion with metallic threads a lot! I have tested the theory over and over and it still proves itself true: Practice really does make perfect.



Sulky Thread’s Color Coded Spools

I love things that make my life easier: automatic needle threaders, programmable thermostats, drive-through Starbucks, and when things are color coded! I jumped up and down when Schmetz introduced their color coded machine needles. Most people know that Sulky’s stabilizers are color coded but did you know that Sulky’s thread is color coded? Here is your cheat sheet to know which color means what:

Labels-King-Spools

Rayon: 40 wt. Rayon (our most popular thread) has Blue on the end of the king spools, and the writing on the small spools is boring black (yes, that was the first thread type we introduced – who knew we’d have end up having so many!)

Sulky e-commerce catalog shoot

30 wt. Rayon has Red on the end of the king spools and the writing on the end of the smaller snap end spools is also Red

Labels-30-wt.-Rayon

Polyester: 40 wt. Poly Deco™ has a Green label on the end of the king spool and the writing on the end of the smaller snap spools is also Green

Labels-Poly-Deco

60 wt. PolyLite™ has Purple writing on the end of the snap end spools (also available in 1,650 yd. MINI-CONES)

Labels-PolyLite

Cotton: 30 wt Cotton, both solids and Blendables®, have a Brown label on the end of the king spools

Sulky e-commerce catalog shoot, table 2

Heavy 12 wt. Cotton, both solids and Blendables, have an Orange label on the end of the king spools

Sulky e-commerce catalog shoot

Hopefully this helps when sorting through some of our threads!  And, of course, they also say the weight on each spool, too.  Why is the weight important?  Well, you need to choose a needle appropriate to the weight of the thread, or shredding and breakage can occur; and you want the right weight of thread for your fabric/project, too.  Oddly, the smaller the number, the heavier the thread.  There’s a scientific reason for this that I’ll explain another time.  

If you want a PDF of this info you can get it here: Thread Labels




15 “non-sewing” Sewing Studio Must-haves

non sewing items

  1. Painter’s tape – I use this for lots of things! I put it on my machine as my quarter inch guide, I tape the backing down to my cutting table or the floor to keep it nice and flat while a spray baste with Sulky KK 2000™ Temporary Spray Adhesive for quilting and I put a little piece around the top of a needle like a flag and will write what kind of needle it is.
  2. Glue stick – My glue stick is probably my favorite non-sewing sewing supply! I use glue stick to hold my first piece of fabric when I am paper piecing, I turn my raw edges under with glue stick when I am doing real applique, I will glue stick the binding down especially at the corners so it will stay in place until I can stitch, and I have even used glue stick as a temporary hem in a skirt or pair of pants. Most glue sticks are acid-free, not too sticky and I haven’t had an issue with it gumming up my needle when sewing.
  3. Spit – How else do you separate fabric, thread a needle, or line up the edges of two fabrics perfectly?
  4. Vodka – Although it is often my drink of choice, when it comes to sewing, I am very specific about my vodka! It must be potato vodka and I use it to make my own starch. The best I have ever used, I might add! I learned this recipe from Edyta Sitar and here it is: 1 cup of Potato Vodka, 4 cups of water, 15 drops of organic lavender oil. Mix and put in a good spray bottle. Best starch I have ever used, and if you start to get frustrated with your sewing project, you can always take a swig!
  5. Stubby – Stubby is what I have named my little screwdriver! I hate the little “tool” that came with my machine, I must use stubby instead. He is just the right size and he doesn’t slip when I am trying to change a foot or throat plate. I have a flathead stubby, but I am on the hunt for a Philips head too.
  6. IPod/iPhone dock – I like to listen to music when I am sewing so when I walk into my studio, the first thing I do is put my phone into the docking station, put on my Pandora station of choice and get to work.
  7. Q-tips – Or as I call them, the Solvy releasers! Whether I a used a piece of Solvy as a topper on a towel, to free-motion quilt or used Paper-Solvy for paper piecing, dipping a Q-tip in water and running it along the stitch line is usually all I need to easily  lift the excess out without pulling on my brand new stitching!
  8. Small baby food jar with lid – besides being the perfect size, having a spill-proof lid and the fact that I love to upcycle things, little baby food jars are cute! I use mine for water to dip the above talked about Q-tip in or to hold liquid starch when preparing applique pieces.
  9. Paint brush – a cheap child’s paintbrush is the best tool I and found for cleaning the lint out of my machine, especially around the bobbin.
  10. Canned air – The most common use of canned air is to spray the lint out of your machine (Be sure to spray away from the inner-workings though, you wouldn’t want to push that lint even further into a place where it doesn’t belong). When used along with my little paint brush, you can get a good cleaning in very short order. I also use my trusty can of air to clean my computer keyboard (this may be the actual reason canned air was invented), clean the little bits of fiber stuck in my cutting mat and my design wall. Truth be told, I am not a clean freak but when I do catch the bug to clean, I need tools that make it quick. That cleaning bug never lasts very long for me.
  11. Post card – I mostly use this for paper piecing to fold back the paper cleanly in order to cut off the extra fabric. I have yet to find a better tool than a nice thick post card.
  12. Double-sided tape – I put this on the back of my rulers so they stay in place while I am cutting
  13. White Foam Core – Most often I am using it as the background for a picture I am taking but it also comes in handy when I am doing color matching. Nothing shows the truest colors of fabrics and threads than a nice white background and a full spectrum light
  14. Small Sticky Notes – I can’t live without my sticky notes! I use them to label a set of strips, to mark which side I need to sew first; as a marker for my place in a pattern; or I will grab a small stack of them and stick them on my machine as a seam guide for fabric.
  15. Fuzzy Socks – I just can’t seem to sew with shoes on but my sewing studio is in the basement of my house, which can get a little chilly, even in the summer. My orange fuzzy socks are the perfect solution.

What are your non-sewing sewing must haves?




I broke the rules and boy am I glad!

I have been quilting since I was about 7 years old. Here is my first quilt that was made from my old clothes (I think that green in there is from my Girl Scout uniform!). six year old quilt From the very beginning I had been told that quilting had very strict rules that must be followed: You must always use a scant quarter inch seam, you must quilt with a walking foot and you MUST use cotton fabric and cotton thread only. Polyester was the devil’s thread as far as my quilt teachers were concerned and must be kept as far away as possible from our precious cotton quilts.

Fast forward a few years and at this point in my quilting career (over 30 years in now!), I have broken all of these rules. Instead of a scant quarter inch, I use PPM (Personal Private Measurement that is approximately a quarter inch), I often free-motion quilt instead of using my walking foot, I have used just about every type of fabric known to man, and I often use Sulky PolyLite to piece and quilt my quilts; yes, it is polyester.

PolyLite-Grouping

Wait! Don’t leave just yet. Let me explain. I was skeptical too! When Sulky first approached me to try PolyLite in my piecing and quilting I said no. Then they said the magic words, “It won’t damage your fabric, it’s a very thin thread, 60 wt., and it’s strong.” Why would that catch my ear you say? Because I happen to know, the thinner the thread, the more accurate my piecing will be and if it’s not going to damage my fabric, why wouldn’t I try it! So I did. I started using the Sulky PolyLite #1082 Ecru for my piecing and guess what? I am more accurate! Because the thread is so thin, I don’t have to adjust my piecing for the thread width. I happen to love paper piecing and this is great for that. I can sew right on the line and when I fold the paper and fabric back, it is perfect. I also like the fact that I know the thread will be strong enough to handle the tugging when I start pulling off the paper (although I usually use Paper Solvy. I will write a post about wonders of paper piecing with Paper Solvy soon).

If you aren’t convinced yet, then maybe this will convince you. Lots of Professional Long-Arm quilters use PolyLite to quilt! Designer and long-arm quilter, Evelyn Byler says, “This fine thread allows detailed patterns to maintain their definition, even when densely quilted. It has wonderful tone-on-tone for textured background fills. Even the brightest PolyLite multi-color thread can add a spark of contrast without overpowering the other elements of a quilt.

And…I was surprised that it is perfect for piecing, and it doesn’t pull out like some other 60 wt. threads I’ve tried. Using this fine thread in the seam, means much more accurate piecing.”

So take the challenge that I took and try some PolyLite today, then let me know what you think! You can find PolyLite at your local sewing or quilting store, including JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts Stores. You can tell it’s PolyLite because the writing on the end of the spool is purple. Use it to stitch in the ditch, for micro-stippling, detailed quilting or more accurate piecing. Did I mention that it is colorfast and bleachable? If you are sewing or doing some embroidery on anything that may spend some time outside in the sun, this is the perfect thread for you.