Friday, April 20, 2012

Creativity & Inspiration -- Where Do YOU Get It?

I work for a bunch of engineers and planners.  They're heavily into the calculated and precise.  Measurements are made in minute increments.  Stress levels and capacity are known quantities and have to fall within predetermined tolerances.  Slide rules and calculators are the norm.
I work in the accounting/finance field.  There are the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles that dictate your actions on a daily basis.  Numbers have to meet budgeted expectations within a prescribed percentage, a SMALL percentage.  Endless analysis takes place when you miss the target!

My vocation is finance but my avocation is fiber arts. 

Let me say that the left brain, know for mathematical ability, critical thinking and logic never leaves town.  It's what allows me to structure my time to get tasks accomplished, helps keep me organized so I can locate things and remember where they are, and helps me think through processes to solve problems.  But my creative right brain will often bring in the crazy or unusual to make the project spark, or use old things in new ways.  Sometimes it lets you take inspiration from unusual sources.

Did you ever read the book "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"?  Yeah, sometimes the answer is very simple.  You can get it from a child.

For example, if you don't have a piece of fabric the color you need, why not make another fabric into that color?

And you can use lots of little pieces to make a big piece.  If you don't like something, you can cut it off...

Be proud of yourself!!  Present a happy face to the world.

Don't take life so seriously that you can't have a little fun.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Learning to Sew

This is a reposting of the day I was guest blogger on the American Sewing Guild web site, in March.

If you have a child or grandchild or know a child, maybe they want to learn to sew.  My grands have always played in my sewing room while I worked.  My kids did that too, although for many years they didn't have a choice because I sewed in the kitchen or a bedroom!  You might have small people underfoot while you're sewing too.

One of the first things I did when the kids wanted to sew too was to establish some basic rules.  Don't touch the scissors or the rotary cutters without permission, don't sit near the foot peddle, don't cut anything except your OWN stash, etc. (A cut a chunk out of her hair, so we now have a rule about who cuts hair too!) Once they understood the rules, they each got a plastic bin to keep full of their own treasures.

The most recent acquisitions

Two of my grands have their own stashes. I let them pick things from my scrap box, and have taken them shopping at the 'scrap sale' at a local quilt shop, where at the end of the year they sell their left-overs by the pound. They also have ribbon, trims, rick rack and buttons, and beads for bracelets and necklaces. They add small balls of leftover yarn, and I bought a stack of plastic canvas sheets for their use. This is theirs to use as they choose.  Of course they have design in their genes!   

E's Fabric Collage

A's quilt, designed by her but sewn by me!  Yes, I sewed everything just where she placed it!

At the age of four to five to six, I taught each one how to thread a big-eyed needle with some yarn and pull stitches through plastic canvas.  That got them used to using an instrument with a pointy end, and how to go in and out of a base material.  These gems are now wall decorations and coasters.

My oldest grand, E, progressed to hand sewing with regular fabric and thread at about the age of 8.  Once she asked me how I managed to do this without sticking my fingers.  I said "I still stick myself once in a while."  We both laughed about that.  (If you bleed on your work, your own spit will remove the blood!)

At some point E wanted to make a doll sized quilt.  She was able to reach the foot control of my sewing machine, but when the needle started to whirr she removed her hands and decided she wasn't quite ready for this!  We sat next to each other on one chair and she worked the foot while I guided the fabric.

Our next projects were all hand sewn.  But last year when I was sewing doll garments for nieces and cousins, E wanted to try the machine again.  So we had a lesson on where to hold your hands, she sewed on some scraps, and she sewed some lines of decorative stitches on the bottoms of the pants legs for some 18" doll outfits.  I then finished the pants.

Some suggestions for teaching, from E and me:
  • Wait until the child expresses interest and is not afraid of the machine.
  • Start simple, with a project they pick.  Or just let them play with stitches on the machine.
  • If they pick a project that looks kind of advanced, offer some interim choices or do practice pieces.
  • Slow the speed on your machine.
  • Tell them to watch the fabric and the foot, NOT the needle!
  • Boys can sew too.  Sewing machines are power tools... 
  • Finishing the edges is optional on some fabrics, and those make good first choices.
  • Let the kid choose his/her own fabrics.  Even if you don't think they go together, they will enjoy it more if it's their choice!
·        Give them some scraps to practice on.  E sewed on striped fabric to get used to following a line. 


Practice on scraps... us paper for stabilizer if you need it.
  • If they get bored, let them finish another day.  (Encourage them to finish though, because that's what gives the sense of accomplishment.)
  • It doesn't always have to be a project.  Sometimes we just like to play with the materials.
  • Do cool stuff.  Make things they will use, like pillow cases and iPod/iPhone bags, and tops they can wear.  Or sew dog or cat scarves and hats.
  • Relax the rules sometimes.  DON’T be surprised if they don’t want to hem knits or do French seams!!
  • It’s fun to embellish ready-to-wear garments. 
  • Listen to music while you’re sewing and sing along if you know the words.
  • Try all the fancy stitches!!
  • Have fun with it!

Kids love to sew in groups, just like adults do.  However, they need to be kept ‘engaged’.  Have enough machines so they can work in small groups.  They can watch each other and learn, but if they have to wait too long for a turn you can lose their interest.  We have sewed with Girl Scouts and 4H groups and church groups.  Two years ago the kids at our church sewed over 100 dresses for the Little Dresses for Africa project.  Girls as young as 6 tried their hand at some pillow case dresses. 

Next time E and I will talk about a second phase of sewing with kids – choosing a project.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Catching Up on the Sow Along

Finally I got situated to sew some more Phone Guy's Wife blocks!  Three hours in the sewing studio yielded a number of new blocks.

I think I'll take the corners off the block on the left and
replace the outer triangle with white.
 This is a new attempt at Churn Dash, along with the one I sewed in February (?)... neither makes me particularly pleased.  It's amazing how different they look in the photos.
 This block is called Calico Puzzle.  I should have made more contrast between the two darks. Honestly, the leaf pattern looked more medium in person. 

Maybe it will grow on me...  I love all three fabrics.
 The block - Butterflies at the Crossroads -- caused me untold stress.  The book we're not talking about doesn't give measurements.  I did the math -- a 6 inch finished block divided by five elements equals 1.2 inches per element.  Add .5 for seam allowance and you get slightly less than an inch and 3/4 cut.  Allows for inexact seam allowances, right?  Except for some reason I could not get the size right!! 

I finally resorted to half square triangle paper and threw away all of my unsuccessful pieces.

I'll tell you about the triangle paper later in this post.

Four Winds.  56 HST and 8 1-inch finished squares!!  Oh yeah!
This Four Winds block was actually pretty much fun to sew, believe it or not!  It has a crazy number of pieces altogether -- 64 total.  The HSTs finish at one inch.  I cut out all of the pieces so carefully, counting the number I needed of each and checking them off.  Then when I was sewing them together, I discovered that I had miscounted the green/light green HSTs and I had to make two more.  Plus I sewed one quadrant together with one square upside down.  Twice!

Friendship Star.  A sewist-friendly block if there ever was one!   Except that I ran out of the light green background so the corner squares are a slightly different fabric.  Hardly noticeable in real life but it shows up pretty well in the photo.
There are lots of ways to make a HST, but my favorite has become using triangle paper.  You can use Thangles or Triangle Paper or you can find various directions for doing them without paper.  I just bought software that makes about three dozen sizes and prints on whatever kind of paper you can put into your printer.  It's called Print and Sew from 1-2-3 Quilt at  I'm not endorsing it and I haven't been paid any money to say this so take it with a grain of salt.  But I like it.

I get nice crisp squares with hst paper... and once I cut off the dog ears my pieces fit together well!
These are some of the 64 pieces of the Four Winds block.

Next I hope to be finishing up the raffle quilt for the preschool class.  I also have to get back to my DD's blue and brown quilt one of these days.

Happy sewing!

Lost My Place... and found it.

Last night I went downstairs to my sewing studio to straighten up from the weekend and get started on my April pile of Phone Guy's Wife Sow-Along blocks.  I had a pile of half square triangles sewn, and another pile ready to pin and sew.

But I forgot to mark what blocks I was planning to do!  I couldn't find my place, where I left off, what my plan was when I finished up last time I sewed!!  Have you ever done something like that? 

I remembered going through the block patterns and placing HST paper in between the pages where the finished sizes matched, along with some strips and squares of fabric I intended to use.  But something must have gotten into the plastic bin and rearranged everything because some things were obviously mixed up...

...hmmm, Miss A was working on her project this weekend.  I wonder if, while I was busy with E working on HER project, A wandered over to this bin and went shopping.

Oh oh!!  Under the table sits a little pile of scraps.  On this pile of scraps is a little piece of patchwork.  Not a WHOLE piece, mind you.  A chunk of a piece, cut from a block I had in a bin of practice blocks.  It was a portion of a mariner's compass.  If you've ever done one of these, bless you!  They are gorgeous but kind of intimidating.

You paper piece or template cut all these triangles and when you're done it's amazingly beautiful.

The one I did was very basic.  One row of points in an arc that would have made a quarter of a circle if I had sewn the last piece in.  It was to have had a quarter of a circle sewn to the center, with the arc around the outside edge.

I had used a pack of fat quarters that were reproduction fabrics from the Civil War era. 

I'm quite sure I would never have made a whole quilt with this pattern.  Heck, I couldn't even finish one square before I lost heart.  But seeing that little pile of scraps under the table made me sad.

However, I am quite sure that Miss A loved that piece of patchwork, so I cannot be TOO sad for it.  The piece has served a purpose, and after all, if something I did brought a little joy to at least one other person, I am happy.

But I'm going to make sure that the things I really care about are put away high up on a shelf!! 

Lesson learned.

Keep on sewing!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Follow Up to Spring Tasks

I am loving these new underthings!!  Jockey briefs with fabric covered elastic is definitely worth the extra bucks I paid.  The package of three pair was $25 but I bought them on sale. 

The elastic on my previous brand was sewn together at the side seam on the inside of the panty.  That created a bump which tended to rub on the skin at my waist.  Combine that with the waistband of pants and it's tolerable.  But add pantyhose, a slip and a skirt and it's miserable!

To those of you who are thin enough not to require elastic waists in trousers or skirts, this may not be a big deal.  But I am feeling very happy today!!

Thank you, Jockey brand!