Thursday, April 12, 2018

"Pride of Annapolis" 30x40 Oil on Canvas


I get so busy with everyday tasks, I forget to share important milestones.  For instance, this wonderful commission of the Naval Academy Chapel for a collector in Texas.  It took months to complete, in oil on canvas, but was worth every minute.  I am so proud of this piece.



Finding that one perfect reference from thousands of photos taken over the years can be daunting, and being a studio artist that works primarily from good, quality images, that can be difficult.  Then, taking that image and putting my personal spin on color of light and shadows, interesting texture, and more, can be difficult at times, but ultimately, for me, I find that aspect of painting to be exciting.



I view painting as an expression of how everything makes me feel - the composition, the place itself, the person or pet, and the colors and mixtures I can use to convey that feeling.  My goal is not to make a photo copy of exactly what I see.  Rather, it is to make what I see more exciting.  Personally, I love paintings that look like ... paintings.  Although the technical heroic act of creating a painting that looks so real you could touch it is exciting, and I do love paintings in realism, I prefer painting from within and giving into color and texture exploration.  When I see a painting that is painted with whimsical brush strokes and bold color mixtures, I just want to stare at it endlessly because I seem to be experiencing more than just a painting of technical skill.  Instead, I am experiencing something that the artist experienced in creating a piece of fine art. 



And isn't that ultimately what we want to feel when we admire a work of art?  I think so.  In creating this piece, it wasn't about perfection.  It wasn't about creating a perfect copy.  It was about conveying the beauty of what I remember about that day in Annapolis.  The warmth of the sun.  The breezes that sometimes take me by surprise.  The grandness of the Naval Academy Chapel in the background looking over its small but mighty city, and the people that live and work there, together with the midshipmen who are journeying into a life experience as a Naval officer.  There are so many special moments in Annapolis.  I think it is one of my favorite places to paint.



So I will leave you with the painting in full glory - "Pride of Annapolis" 30x40 Oil on Canvas.  Commissioned by the wife of a former Naval Officer and proud Navy man.







Monday, October 30, 2017

Country Living and 12 Easy DIY Baby Gifts!


I like to check my stats.  If you have a blog, that's the fun part, especially if you haven't been blogging in a while - my bad.  But since I'm back in the swing of the saddle at my desktop again, and blogging like a pro again, I can honestly say I was surprised to see my post from 2010 of a plush stackable toy I made for my granddaughter, Reagan, shared twice in the last two days.  Yesterday it was shared on "All Women's Talk" Blog "37 Fabric Crafts that You'll Love Sew Much!" and ...



Today, it was giving the glory to that little stackable toy that I made and embroidered for Reagan.



Thank you to Kelly O'Sullivan for the feature!  I hope your readers will enjoy the post and understand the complexities involved in making a gusset and this toy for their grandchildren!



For my original post click on the image above or this link: Donuts, Flowers, Ribbons and Curls




Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pet Portraits and More Pet Portraits!


It all started in 2008, when friend, Ree Drummond, lost her beloved Border Collie, Nell.  Nell was a regular subject on Ree's blog "The Pioneer Woman" and when she disappeared with no trace, I felt inclined to do a painting for Ree and her family, hoping that it would help with the healing.  



It did, and my painting is enjoyed in her home daily - more specifically in her daughters' bedroom. 



There was something about the process of painting Nell that captured my heart, but I did not begin to pursue doing pet portraits as a choice of favorite subjects until recently.



About a year ago, I did a pastel of my precious "Adolf" sitting in his favorite chair, looking out the window, and making sure everything was well.  He loves guarding our home and protecting his human family.  We've had Adolf for 8 years, and he is, by far, the best pet we've ever had.  It feels strange calling him a "pet," because he is so much more than that to all of us.  He is a member of the family.  I swear he's human! 


Progress Animation of "Guarding the Homefront" from Susan Vaughn on Vimeo.

As I worked on the pastel of Adolf, I realized just how much my heart was into painting that portrait of him, and the painting came out beautiful.



Then, my daughter, Kim, and her family, lost their precious "Oreo."  Oreo was a black and white kitty that had been in their family for about 7 years.  He was a very special kitty, and when he became ill and passed away, it was devastating.  My heart broke for the loss of a dearly loved pet, and I proceeded to create a painting in pastel of Oreo, for my daughter and her family.  

Again, I found that my heart was in the process moreso than with other paintings I have done in the past.  There was something about painting a pet portrait that tugged at my heartstrings.



A number of friends commented on my pet portraits, and asked if I would be interested in making a donation of a personal pet portrait for the Silent Auction at the Ties & Tails Gala in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I agreed to participate and to create a pastel painting for the winner of the auction.  The Ties & Tails Gala, by the way, supports the Humane Society of Charlotte.  I was more than happy to be a part of this wonderful charity.



I placed the framed painting of Adolf as a reference on the Silent Auction Table with the many other gifts and paintings offered by supporters of the Humane Society of Charlotte, and I received many wonderful comments about my painting and offering at the Gala.



A young couple won the Silent Auction, and as a result, I donated a pet portrait for them - "Petunia" 10x8 Pastel on Paper.



But it didn't end there.  I received a commission from another guest at the Gala. He asked me to create a painting of his and his girlfriend's dog, "Riley."  Riley is a rescue and has been a joy in their life.

And so, I created a pastel portrait of Riley, and they couldn't be happier.



Next up was two paintings for our friends here in Charlotte who invited us to attend the Gala with them.  It was the least I could do.  Their Papillons are their children.  They have two, and they are beautiful.

This here is "Maxx E. Pooperdog" 10x8 Pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Paper



And this is "Nicky" 10x8 Pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Paper

Again, I found that I enjoyed the creation of the pastel paintings of these beautiful pets more and more.  I think it is a calling.  

Pet portrait after pet portrait, I find that my heartstrings get a little tug with every painting.  There is something very dear to me about pups and kitties.  To me, they are always pups and kitties.  

So, if you would like a pastel pet portrait of your beloved and precious pet, let me know.  You can contact me by going to the contact page here on my blog and sending me a message.  I'd be happy to talk to you about creating a beautiful portrait that will be cherished for a lifetime.



Friday, August 01, 2014

Three Cowballeros


Painting cows.  There is something beautiful about the animal, something peaceful about seeing them grazing in large open fields.  This leads me to have fallen in love with a photo taken in the UK of 3 Dairy Shorthorn cows grazing on the Robinson farm.  I learned that son, Jason Robinson, took this picture one day on his farm, and they were very happy that I wanted to paint the cows on their farm.



I feel connected to the country landscape - to cattle, horses, old houses and barns, vegetable stands, children, and more.  All those things that remind me of my childhood and growing up in the country, like chasing fireflies, and listening to the crickets sing loudly each night in the summer.  Or, catching butterflies in the neighboring fields as they land on the dandelions.



So, when I take a picture, or find a picture, that reminds me of these experiences, I have a strong desire to interpret those feelings onto canvas.



Meet "Three Cowballeros."  16x40 Oil on Canvas.  

Available HERE



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Burda and A Summer Maxi Dress for Sarah


Around the middle of July, I purchased a pattern from  The Island Placket Maxi Dress.  My daughter, Sarah, had asked me if I would make her this dress after looking through a hundred patterns for various maxi dresses.  

I had never made a dress using Burda patterns, but I was up for the challenge.  It was a beautiful dress pattern.



I had heard some pretty scary things about using Burda patterns, from not being able to understand the instructions to being extremely difficult to decipher the symbols.  So, yes, I was apprehensive, but I was hoping that I had enough sewing experience over the years to compensate for whatever the pattern lacked in instruction and symbols.



There is one thing that Burda lacks - visuals.  This pattern did show an illustration of the layout, and that is always helpful, however, whereas you will find illustrations showing you what needs to be done "next" on most patterns (Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls, Vogue, etc), with Burda, all you have are written instructions.  Obviously, having an understanding of sewing terms and clothing construction helps before tackling a difficult pattern from Burda.



Burda patterns do NOT come with a seam allowance.  In other words, once you have the pattern taped together (after downloading and printing it off), place pattern paper over the original pattern and trace your size, AND all the symbols, pattern #, and instructions (if any) on the pattern, onto your traced pattern.  You can get some great rolls of pattern paper from



Use your traced pattern for your outfit.  I found that if I wasn't sure what a mark was on the pattern, all I had to do was look at the picture of the dress, the drawing and the photograph of the finished dress on the model, to determine what a symbol or mark was supposed to mean on the pattern.  

TIP #1:  Remember that when you are adding a 5/8" seam allowance to your pattern pieces, only add it to the sides that will need it.  In other words, DON'T add a 5/8" seam allowance to the part of a pattern piece to be placed on a "FOLD."  Um, I made that mistake, and it will throw off the pattern.

TIP #2: Read ALL  the instructions before tackling the pattern, no matter how experienced you think you are with sewing patterns.  There might just be a  bit of information that will make all the difference in the quality of the construction of the garment.

TIP #3: If you have a Serger, serge all the edges of your fashion fabric pattern pieces before constructing the garment.  It makes for clean edges and a professional finished result.



Okay, so I tackled the Burda pattern - 04/2014 #121 Island Placket Maxi Dress.  It wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.  However, I did make some minor changes to the dress so that it fit Sarah perfectly.

First, I added a piece of elastic around the waist seam for a snug fit.  I took a 1/4" piece of elastic, wrapped it around Sarah at the seam where the bodice attaches to the skirt, then cut off 2 inches.  I turned the dress inside-out and sewed two seam allowances together creating a pocket for the elastic.  Then, I pulled the elastic thru the pocket and reinforced the ends on the sewing machine.  Not only did this create a better fit for the dress just under the bodice, but no sewing seams were visible. 

Second, the bodice, on the side of the bust was too large.  It was hanging open.  So, I added a quick dart to both sides.  This kept the side of the bodice from falling open.  

Third, I used the machine for the hem.  Usually, I hem clothing by hand, but we were in a bit of a hurry to get this dress done.  Nobody was going to see the hem.  So I pressed a rolled a hem of about 1/2" after serging the bottom edge, and just used a longer straight stitch for the hem.  Pressed it again and it was done.

Fourth, add that skirt lining!  I almost decided against adding the skirt lining.  I was tired and wanted to get this done, but ultimately, I decided to finish this dress the right way and I added the lining.  I did, however, make it about 15" - 20" shorter than the dress so that the skirt lining came to just below Sarah's knees.  I did not hem the lining.  Serged the edge all the way around.  Perfect.  The lining is an important element to the comfort of the dress as well, as you won't have all those seams rubbing up against your skin, only the soft satin of the lining.  Also, the seams will not be visible when hanging in your closet.  Seams are not pretty.



Another thing I noticed about this pattern was that the bodice looked like a "bib" with the trim around the edge of the bodice front and half-moon insert at the top of the skirt.  So that it didn't look like Sarah was wearing a bib, I chose not to add trim to the bodice front and skirt insert.



The dress came out perfect.  



Sarah loves it.  And, I'm proud of myself for tackling this Burda Pattern with an open mind.





Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to Assemble a Burda Style Pattern



This is a first for me - working with a Burda Pattern, but hopefully it won't be as difficult as it looks.  My daughter, Sarah, found a summer maxi dress on and asked me if I would make it for her.  I love making clothes for Sarah, and thought it would be fun to tackle this Burda pattern.  I've always been game for trying new things and new challenges.  The pattern claims to be "Advanced" but we'll see how difficult it is once I dig in.



The first thing I did was take all of Sarah's measurements, then ...



I padded and adjusted my dress form to be her measurements.  I have a "Fabulous Fit" dress form.  I've had it for about 15 years.  I love it.  It doesn't fit me anymore, but it does work for Sarah's measurements.



We purchased some pretty fabric and so begins making this maxi dress.



I purchased the pattern at





The Burda Pattern is for the Island Placket Dress - 04/2014 #121.



When you purchase a pattern from Burda, they send you a pdf file to print off on 8.5" x 11" printer paper.  In the case of this pattern, it was over 40 pages.  The pages will look like what you see above.  



Your goal is to piece them together like you see here.  Burda has actually made this process easy.  You will need Scotch tape and Scissors, or a rotary cutter.



Working from left to right, start matching the printer paper pattern together.  NOTE: Making sure the matching triangles are in line is NOT as important as making sure the pattern is aligned!!



When I put these two pieces together, the 5d matched up almost perfectly, as did the pattern.  This is not the case with every piece.  So, it's okay for the triangles to be off a little bit, but not the pattern.  Make sure you line up the curve, lines, etc. so the pattern looks seamless when taped together.



The first printed pattern piece no cutting is required.  The 2nd piece, you will cut off the left side, match it to the first pattern piece, and tape them together.  Continue until you have completed the first row of the pattern.  



The 2nd row will be much the same, only now you are cutting off the left side and the bottom.  



Tape them all together until you have completed the pattern layout.  Cut them out, tape as necessary, and you're ready to work with your Burda Pattern!

Now begins the hard part ... Next post will be on making the muslin test garment.  You NEVER want to cut into your fashion fabric until you know you have the perfect fit!  Believe me, I've done it.  It is a costly mistake.  Make the muslin test garment beforehand.  You won't regret it!




Thursday, January 23, 2014

Guarding the Homefront

Guarding the homefront  -- that's exactly what our wonderful Adolf does daily.  Adolf joined our family in January, 2007.  He was 10 months old.  The minute I saw him I fell in love with him.  He jumped up on the leather sofa where I was sitting and put his head and paws in my lap, as if to say "Please take me home and love me."  That was all it took for me to say "yes" and bring him home with us.


It all started with an attempted break-in in 2007, and also because my husband was traveling for his job at the time.  I wanted to feel safe at home with the children and my elderly mother, and I wanted a German Shepherd.  Not just any German Shepherd either -- I wanted one that was trained (or somewhat trained anyway).  Adolf fit the bill perfectly.  He was 10 months old, house trained, and had the sweetest disposition.  From day one, he was a gem.


Adolf quickly became "my" dog.  He follows me around the house from room-to-room, and sleeps next to my side of the bed every night.  We've had Adolf for 7 years now,  and the memories we've made together are plentiful.


For instance, Adolf has a favorite chair, a green Ethan Allen chair and ottoman that sits by a front window in our home.  Adolf has adopted this chair where he can be comfortable while guarding the homefront.  Sometimes, while I am cleaning or cooking in the kitchen, he'll wander into the living room and take up residence on this green chair.  He lets me know when the mailman has come by, or when the UPS or FedEx man is at the door.  He also lets me know when he really doesn't like someone.  Adolf is very smart.


There is something unfamiliar to me about calling Adolf my "dog" or my "pet."  We are so bonded and he is so much a member of our family, I can't imagine my family without him.  That said, I have taken a lot of photos of Adolf over the years.  One, imparticular, stood out in my mind as the perfect reference for a pastel painting.


Adolf looked so content sitting in his favorite chair and watching the squirrels, the birds, and our neighbors out for their daily walks.  My son grabbed my camera and took this picture. 

That began my desire to paint this image in pastel.  


I opened the image on my laptop and placed it to my left for reference, zooming in on areas as I paint.  Note, that you should place your computer reference on the opposite side of the hand you paint with so that you don't get too much pastel (or paint) on your laptop.  I learned that trick with experience.


I begin with Sennelier Pastel Card, a 9x12 card. Since finding a frame for a 9x12 image can be difficult, I used masking tape to tape the paper to a board and my easel by taping off a centered 8x10 image.  This keeps the pastel card securely anchored to the board during painting and makes framing and matting much easier once the tape is removed.   

Using a charcoal pencil and my laptop reference, I sketched "shapes."  


I began my painting with darks and moved to lighter shades, all the while making marks that will appear to be Adolf's heavy fur coat.


Always mindful of the dark shadows and where the soft light from the window was hitting his fur, I moved towards his ears and face.  Eyes can be challenging.  When painting eyes, you want to pay close attention to the lids, the direction of the lids, the shape of the eye, the shadows and how the light hits the eye.  At this stage in my painting I put in "information" with my pastels, but had not achieved the "look" yet that I wanted.  


Adolf's eye actually took me longer than anything else in this painting.  I stayed with it until I had achieved his special look.  I wanted to capture his personality.  And so, this is the completed pastel painting of Adolf, which I have called "Guarding the Homefront" - 8x10 Soft Pastel on Sennelier Pastel Card.


* * * * *


If you would like a portrait done of your precious pet, you may contact me at [email protected], or through the "contact" page on this site.  I require a good image of your pet taken in natural light - no flash!!  In addition, cost is determined by the composition of the painting and the size.  










Thursday, November 21, 2013

"A Bentonville Winter" 9x12 Soft Pastel on Pastel Card


I've been very busy.  Holidays are fast approaching, and my house is a mess, laundry is piling up, and I've been preparing the grocery list for Thanksgiving.  Craziness abounds this time of year at our house.



Still, preparing for gift giving involves, at least for me, painting.  This year, I have completed two winter scenes in soft pastel for my daughter, Kim, and her family, to enjoy in their beautiful home.  The first is "A Blue Ridge Winter" based on a number of images I took while in the mountains, and a bit of imaginary play to create the winter scene you see here.



Sometimes, paintings look great in pairs or trios on the wall.  In this case, I thought that one lone winter scene needed another, so Kim provided me with a scene she took in Bentonville, Arkansas in the winter of 2010.  A beautiful reference, I used it to create the second winter scene painting.



Recently, I've been hooked on PanPastels.  They are soft pastels in round plastic pans.  They are used wtih tools called "Sofft Tools" that look like makeup sponges, and palette knives with sponge attachments.  Love them!  I use them in conjunction with the soft pastel sticks to create the mood of the painting exactly as I want it to be.



Using a 9x12 pastel card from Sennelier, I tape the edges of the painting to a board that I can secure in my easel.  While working in pastel, I prefer to have my painting vertical in front of me, so the pastel dust drops, otherwise, pastel ends up everywhere and I blow it all over the place to get it off my work.  

Looking at my reference, I make a quick sketch with a charcoal pencil.  No details here, just figuring out placement and any changes I might want to make.  In this case, I removed the fence from the reference.



Next step is a simple block in.  Putting some color and information down on the pastel card gives me some information for going forward with the composition and painting. The pastel is not put down heavy at this stage because the heavier the pastel I put down, the less opportunity I have to build up layers of pastel and add depth and interest.



Little by little, adding more information.  In this case, I added the cascading shadows across the snow. and did some more work on the rough foliage and bushes.



After working on the bridge, I realized the angle of the roof on the right (in the sun) needed adjustments.  I needed to move the roof up and make it longer.  Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and make these corrections.  NEVER leave something wrong on your painting!!  Fix it as soon as you see it.



Finally adding detail.  my favorite part of the painting!



And here is the final painting - "A Bentonville Winter" 9x12 Soft Pastel on Sennelier Pastel Card.




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Evolution of the Painting "The Lakota: Children of the Prairie"


Of all the subjects I have tackled in my career as an artist, horses, sailboats, and people in their natural element are my favorite.  I can't explain it, I'm just drawn to those subjects.  So, when I first saw the image from photographer Aaron Huey's journey to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the Badland's National Park, South Dakota, I knew I had to paint it.   

I am a studio painter.  As a mother of 4, and grandmother too, and caregiver to my elderly mother, I don't get out much.  I don't have the luxury to travel and paint in plein air as I would like.  So, I rely on photographs I have taken over the years, and also on the generosity of my photographer friends who have a keen eye for subject, composition, and outstanding photography.  I believe, that all good paintings begin with a good reference, and being a studio painter as I am, I desperately need the reference to be a subject that I am drawn to.



The image is spectacular.  I contacted Aaron (who, by the way, walked across the entire country with his dog), and asked him if I could use his beautiful image as a reference for my painting.  His response "Go For It!" made my day!   

My inspiration for this painting was not simply the subject matter, but I was interested in submitting a painting to the 2013 "Paint the Parks" competition and touring exhibition.  I won recognition in 2009 for my painting of the Horses on Mt. Rainier painting which sold at the Kolb Gallery in the Grand Canyon, so this year, I wanted to create something special.  I knew my heart had to be in it - and it was.


Below are the images of the evolution of this painting ...



My palette - Burnt Umber, Transparent Oxide Red, Terra Rosa, Aliz. Crimson, Quin. Rose, Cad Red Med, Cad Yellow Deep, Cad Yellow, Naples Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Sap Green, Viridian, Turquoise Blue, Cerulean, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and Raw Umber.  The palette is the "Red Easel Master's Palette" and you can purchase this beautiful handmade palette HERE.  



Always start with a good sketch.  I prefer to take my time and do the sketch in charcoal directly on the canvas.  I simply note the shadows with the charcoal.



I put down some basic information and quickly cover the background of the painting.  I use my laptop for the reference because I can zoom in on a subject in the reference and get greater detail without straining my eyes.  



I like to focus on one subject at a time, getting down as much information and color notes as I can to bring the subject to life.  When I am satisfied, I move on - however, I am always going back and making minor corrections to value, color, or detail, as I move through the painting.  I do begin, however, by placing the shadows first, mid-tones (local color) second, and then light last.



In this painting, and with this subject, I moved from left-to-right.  After I was satisfied with the first horse and rider, I moved on to the boy to his right peeking around the head of the horse.



A few more riders under my belt, I really love the young man on the center horse - the one with his foot on the horse's backend.  I also referenced the blowing of the hair of the man on the black horse.



My Big Bear (my hubby) strolled into my studio and took this picture of me working on the painting.  I use my mother's old wood cane as a maul stick for stability.  I will tell you, though, that my knees kept unwinding the paper towels.  That was a nuisance!



Moving right along - I completed the details on the center horse and began working on the girl with the feather in her hair.  She is also on one of the largest horses in the image.



Next, I turned my attention to the young girl on the distant horse, walking up to the group.  Again, I put down shadows first, mid-tones second, then lighter tones to hint at the sunlight.  No details until I am satisfied with the colors and values and shapes of color.  



And this is the final painting.  


"The Lakota: Children of the Prairie" 

20 x 36 Oil on hand-stretched canvas

by Mary Susan Vaughn

August, 2013


Honorable Mention in the 7th Annual Paint the Parks Competition, 2013.

The Lakota Indians depicted in this painting reside in the Pine Ridge Reservation within the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  The reference for this painting was provided by photographer friend, Aaron Huey.  The Lakota have a rich history.  Around 1730, Cheyenne people introduced the Lakota to horses called šuŋkawakaŋ ("dog [of] power/mystery/wonder"). After their adoption of horse culture, Lakota society centered on the buffalo hunt on horseback. The number of Lakota is about 70,000, of whom about 20,500 still speak the Lakota language. 

Initial United States contact with the Lakota during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–1806 was marked by a standoff. Lakota bands refused to allow the explorers to continue upstream, and the expedition prepared for battle, which never came. Nearly half a century later, after the United States Army had built Fort Laramie without permission on Lakota land, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was negotiated to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. The Cheyenne and Lakota had previously attacked emigrant parties in a competition for resources, and also because some settlers had encroached on their lands.  The Fort Laramie Treaty acknowledged Lakota sovereignty over the Great Plains in exchange for free passage on the Oregon Trail for "as long as the river flows and the eagle flies."











Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Peanut" 9x12 Pastel on Fine Tooth Paper


Our little Peanut.  Precious Granddaughter.  For my daughter's 32nd birthday in April, I started early painting this pastel of her daughter, Reagan, when she was a baby.  Having not worked in pastels in about 14 years, I knew it would be a challenge creating this portrait of my granddaughter. But, I was up for the challenge.


I looked through hundreds of pictures I have of Reagan, and came across this one when she was about 1 y/o.  Her profile was so precious and I thought it would make the perfect reference for my pastel painting.


I had a lot of fun working on this pastel portrait of my favorite baby girl in the whole world.  Next, I found a frame and shipped it off to Kim.

That's what I've been busy working on these last couple weeks.  


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Scented Sachets - An Easy and Sentimental Gift This Holiday


Just like the felt coasters I made HERE , making decorative sachets is easy and fun and a wonderful, sentimental gift as well, especially if you know the favorite fragrance of someone you are going to give them to this holiday.

So, let's begin this project by asking this special person or teacher or neighbor what is there favorite fragrance.  It doesn't even have to be a female.  Male friends will like this gift too!

Once you have the favorite fragrance, sometimes you can go to the department stores and they will give you a sample.  You can even ask them if they have any samplers that were almost used up that they could give you.  Then you bring home the fragrance and you are ready to begin to make some delicious smelling sachets as a gift.


Fabric: Cotton, Canvas, Denim, or Decorator fabric

Cone-shaped Coffee Filter

Uncooked White Rice




Sewing Machine


Rotary Cutter

See-through Ruler


Stick (for pushing out the corners of your sachet)



Begin by cutting out two 4-1/2" squares for every sachet you are going to make.


I used a regular presser foot on my machine with a little greater than a 1/4" seam.  With right sides together (RST), sew 3 sides of your sachet, sewing back-and-forth at the beginning and end of each side. 


On the last side, sew 1" from both corners leaving the center open.  Be sure to sew back-and-forth at the beginning and end of each corner.


Clip the corners at an angle close to the corner seam.  This prevents bulk in the corners when you turn your project right-side-out and push out the corners.


Using a stick to push out the corners (you can also use the handle of a wooden spoon), push out the corners as far and as neatly as they will go.  


The center of one side will be open for you to add the rice and fragrance.


Using a cone coffee filter, put approximately 1/3 cup of uncooked rice to the filter.


Add your favorite fragrance by spritzing several times and then shaking up the rice to mix it in.  Spray a couple more times shaking occasionally to mix the rice together.


Pour the rice into the sachet.


Fold the seam under and stitch as close as you can to the edge of the hole in your sachet.


There you go!  You now have beautiful and decorative sachets that smell so good!!  The rice holds the fragrance for a very long time and they are wonderful for throwing in your lingerie drawer or sock drawer.  You can even add a ribbon loop to one of the corners when you are sewing your sachet together and you can hang them on a hanger in your closet.  I love sachets!


For a gift, I wrapped up 3 sachets with a pretty red ribbon and gave them to a dear friend yesterday.  She loved them.  

An easy and sentimental gift, sachets are a wonderful way to let someone special know that you were thinking of them.

Happy Holidays!!




Friday, December 09, 2011

A Simple Handmade Gift this Holiday


Sometimes you just need to make something that is fast and easy and that you know will still be appreciated.  Inspired by a craft on Martha Stewart, I made it even better.  So, if you are ready, we'll get right to making this fun craft!  

Several days ago, I was looking for a craft that I could make for a few of my children's teachers.  That is when I discovered a craft on the Martha Stewart site for creating felt coasters.  However, the tools and instructions left much to be desired.  So, I improvised, threw away her instructions, and created my own coasters ...



FELT: If you don't already have felt in various colors at home, you can pick them up at Michaels for .29 cents for a rectangle of felt.  I purchased about 20 of them in various colors, including about 10 rectangles in white.










HOLE PUNCH:  I purchased the Crop-a-Dile Big Bite while I was at Michaels.  A regular hole punch will NOT punch through felt!!  The Martha Stewart craft instructions pictured a regular hole punch - Not.  The Big Bite is great for punching holes in felt, leather, cardboard, cardstock, paper, and more, and it will punch holes up to 6" inside of a project.  I used it for this project and love it!


HeavyStabilizerSTABILIZER:  Heavy craft Stabilizer is what you need.  The same type that is used in making handbags.  If you are unsure, simply ask someone that works at your local fabric and/or craft store.  They should be able to help you find some heavy stabilizer that DOES NOT tear away!!  Make sure you are not purchasing the tear away stabilizer!


WEBBING:  Pellon Wonder-Under transfer webbing is what I use and recommend.  It is used for applique work, and in this case, for binding multiple layers of felt together securely.


SCISSORS: Any small pair of scissors will suffice.



Ready to make your coasters?!!  



Begin by cutting your felt into 4-1/2" squares.  Set the colorful pile separate from the pile of white felt.


Cut your heavy stabilizer into 4" - 4-1/2" squares.  Press the stabilizer to the back of your "colorful" felt pieces. (** See Tip below before pressing stabilizer to the back of your felt!!**)


I have all of my colorful felt pieces stacked with a piece of stabilizer ready for pressing.


**TIP: When you begin to press your stabilizer to the back of your felt pieces, make sure you have a cotton press cloth over the felt and stabilizer.  This prevents sticky stuff from the stabilizer from getting all over the bottom of your iron.  


I use a steam iron all the time.  So steam blast that colorful felt to your hearts content - well, maybe just for about 20 seconds or so.  Then, when you pull away the cotton press sheet, it should be adhered well to the back of the felt.


Take a colorful thin-line marker and draw central lines as shown above.  DO NOT follow the corners of the stabilizer!!  Line up your ruler to the corners of the felt square and draw diagonal lines, and then draw lines that divide the felt square in half as shown above.  This is necessary so that your design is symmetrical and attractive.


After you have decided what you want to create, take your hole punch and punch little 1/8" holes or larger 3/16" holes in your felt and stabilizer.


When you are done, your design will look something like this on the felt side.  Simply take a little pair of scissors and clip these bumps away from your felt project.


I put a piece of white felt behind this first coaster and see how nice it looks?  


The green felt has stabilizer on the back.  The white felt needs to be attached to the back of the colorful felt. Press a piece of webbing to the top of the white felt square.  Use your press cloth to press over the paper that you will pull away revealing the webbing stuck to your white felt.  Using your press cloth again, press the colorful felt (stabilizer down) to the white felt (webbing up against the stabilizer) and press them together.  Repeat this step for 1 more piece of white felt on the bottom so that they are sandwiched together.  

The top will be your colorful and decorative felt with stabilizer backing.  Then the bottom will be 2 pieces of white felt squares stuck together with webbing.


Create some more designs.  Be creative!  You can also take a little pair of scissors and cut out tear-drop holes for a more interesting pattern.


Folding your coaster in half along your lines to punch out the holes will create a symmetrical design.



I made 8 coasters.  Each coaster has a different design pattern.  Then, I wrapped them in a bow and they are ready for gift giving.  



What's really nice about these coasters is that if your drink sweats, it will keep your tabletop completely dry.  Your friends will love these creative coasters and you will be remembered every time they are enjoyed.

Happy Holidays!!







Friday, September 16, 2011

Sometimes You Just Need To Paint Cows


I love cows.  I grew up in the country in Maryland and there were always cows looking at us in the morning from the fields beside our home.  Of course, there were the ones who thought the grass looked greener on our side of the fence and would break it down and be watching us eat breakfast on our back porch. 


Sometimes I tone my canvas, and other times, like this, I just do a quick sketch and get down to painting.  I like to work from back-to-front and darks (shadows) - to - light.  So, in this case, I worked on the sky first since that is behind the cows, and I threw in some clouds with character, then I layed in the darkest-darks on Bessy and her friends.


Here is my palette table set up and ready to work.



Here, I worked on Bessy - mid-tones, shadows, reflective light on the underside of her chin, and sunlight hitting her face, hair, and top of her neck.


After I worked on Bessy, I moved on to the shy little fella beside her and the shadows cast by the crew of cows on the grass.


Coming right along, I added the sunlight on the grass.


Next, I worked on the cow in the middle, adding some violet tones to the shadows on his coat.


Here is a closeup of Bessy's face


And here is a closeup of the middle cow.


I kinda like her hair!



And here they are ready to join you for breakfast. 


Now, don't you think Bessy & Company would look great over your fireplace?

Bessy & Company
30 x 40 Oil on Handstretched Canvas


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Painting - Painting - Painting

Hello dear friends!  I know I haven't posted here in about 2 weeks, but a lot has been going on.  Some good news - I am now represented by the Bellus Lux Lucis Fine Art Gallery in Clarence, New York, and I sent Bonnie (the gallery owner and director) 6 paintings to sell:


"Apples" 8 x 10 Oil on Panel (220.00 Framed)


"Garlic" 8 x 10 Oil on Panel (220.00 Framed)


"Haystacks" 8 x 10 Oil on Canvas (220.00 Framed)


"Hope Road" 14 x 18 Oil on Canvas (510.00 Framed)


"Big Red" 9 x 12 Oil on Canvas (290.00 Framed)


and, "October Glory" 9 x 12 Oil on Canvas (290.00 Framed)

If you are interested in any of these paintings, they are available through the Gallery. 


I have also entered a competition - the BoldBrush Competition sponsored by FASO, Fine Art Studios Online.  My painting "A Charlotte Summer" needs votes - via Facebook "Like"  button by the painting on the site.   Just click HERE first, then click on See the Most Popular Paintings on that page.  That is the only way your Facebook "Like" will be counted.  The competition uses the Facebook "Like" button so that the contest can't be rigged with false votes.  You have to have a Facebook account and be signed in to vote.  Right now I believe I am third, so I will need lots more votes to win!  The winner will receive $1000 cash!  And, anyone who has been hanging around my blog knows that we sure could use the extra cash.  

Bob is still out of work, but just today he was at a job fair sponsored by Congresswoman Sue Myrick, and he introduced himself to several prospective employers and handed out his resume.  He is waiting to hear back on several interviews that he has been on in the last 2 weeks.



In the meantime I have been pounding the pavement and applying for representation by numerous galleries, working on commissions, and working on a painting of a group of cows that I am calling "Bessy & Company."  I might even have this painting done today.  Cows seem to be popular these days, and to tell you the truth, I enjoy painting cows. 


My last cow got rave reviews and was sold at the Matthews Alive Fine Art Festival last year.


So, the most important thing here is that I am very busy in my studio.  Bob has been busy doing lawn maintenance for neighbors and that's been good for our family as well.  However, I could really use your vote via your Facebook page by going to the BoldBrush Competition homepage, clicking on See the Most Popular Paintings from the homepage, finding my painting, "Charlotte Summer" and clicking the "Like" button next to my painting.  Every vote counts to helping our family get through these very difficult economic times. 

Thank you!!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Artwork: Sweet Corn


I started this painting last year, but with commissions, I set it aside.


Finally, I had the chance to focus on this painting and I was looking forward to getting it done.



My reference - Photographer Patrick Schneider's image of a boy and his sister sitting comfortably on a rocker at a South Carolina vegetable stand.


I started on the right of the canvas, wanting to work on the boy and girl first.


One thing I probably should have done is tone the canvas, but I had already started the painting and decided to just go with it.

Here are some close up images of the painting:





And the finished painting:


"Sweet Corn"
24 x 36 Oil on Canvas

Interested in this original painting?  Go HERE

Have a great day! 



Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Perfect Studio Tabletop Palette

Every artist is different, but for me, I like clean and organization, but when it comes to an artist's studio, they are usually anything but clean and organized. One thing I've noticed over the years is the many different ways artists prepare their studio palettes.


For instance, this is the glass studio palette of artist Brian Kliewer.  A piece of glass over a light gray (possibly white) background - sometimes the way the camera captures color is tricky.  This is very much how my palette has looked in my studio for over a decade.


This was my studio palette for years.  I had a piece of tan canvas under a sheet of glass which I had cut for me to fit my tabletop.  I also had the edges of the glass smoothed and rounded so that neither I nor my children would get cut on it.  The color of the canvas beneath the glass was suitable for me to see the lights and darks for years, although in my subconscious, I knew it should be darker.  I was too lazy to change it.


This is the glass palette of my artist friend David Darrow aka "Dave the Painting Guy."  Dave is a fabulous artist, mostly portraits in oils.  He has a UStream show that you can visit HERE  and a blog that you can visit by clicking on his name above.  He is a wonderful teacher and very funny.  I love his show on UStream and have learned a lot from him over the years.  He talks to visitors of his show while on the air too, so you can ask him questions when he is live and on the air. 

One question recently posed to Dave was "why don't you scrape off all the paint and clean your palette?"  To which Dave replied "I like to see where my paint goes" or something like that.  He didn't want to have to think about how to lay out his colors each and every time he set out his paints.  I can understand that.  He said he leaves his globs of paint on his palette and then scrapes off the skin and puts on more paint. If you watch his UStream show enough you see him doing this frequently.  I cringe every time I see him peel off the paint skin.

Now in my opinion, he has one big mess there, and personally, I do not like having dried oil paint skin anywhere on my palette because it always manages to find its way onto my painting.  I hate having to pick off the bits of dried paint from my painting and my brushes - I know you know what I mean!!


This is Nelson Shank's palette.  In the traditional sense, he uses his wood palette, even in the studio from what I have heard.  He sets out his paints meticulously on his handheld wood palette with medium attached.  As organized as this is, it is definitely crowded.  The color of his wood palette, however, makes for a wonderful ground in which to see his lights and darks.



I don't know whose wood palette this belongs to.  He uses a lot of cool colors though.


This is the glass tabletop palette of Richard Schmid.  In the same respect as David Darrow, he leaves some dried paint around the perimeter of his glass palette to see the colors, making it easier and faster to lay out the palette for a new day of work.  If you notice, the color of the ground beneath the glass is gray - again making it easier to see the lights and darks.


So today, I decided to change things up a bit while I cleaned my studio.  About a year ago, I took a piece of tan canvas 24 x 36 (the size of my glass tabletop palette) and I made a semi-circle listing of all the colors I like to use for most of my paintings.  Then, I put this canvas under my glass palette.


The other day, while at Michaels Craft Store, I found some golden dark tan canvas.  I'm talkin' the perfect dark golden tan - not too hot, not too bland, not too light, and not too dar - "just right" said the three bears.  "Wow" I thought, "That's exactly the color I want to tone my canvas before I start a painting."  And so this Bear of an artist purchased this perfectly toned canvas and took it home.  And pressed it. 

Why did I press it you ask?  Because I am going to use it beneath my glass palette and if I don't press it, then it will have creases in the fabric that cast shadows where I don't want them.  Pressing is good for the soul anyway - unless you're in a hurry.


Then, I cut it to the size of my glass palette + a little bit bigger than the finished size of 24 x 36, and I pressed it again for good measure.


This was my palette this morning before I changed things up.  Oops, didn't clean my palette.


I had some foam board and cut it to the size of my palette table (24 x 36), and in the process left some dents where my knees were.


With the beary nice dark golden tan canvas beneath the foam board, and some beary nice craft glue from Martha Stewart, I glued the canvas to the foam board - but only on the back.  There is no need to glue the canvas on the front of the foam board.


Isn't it pretty?  This canvas is actually darker golden tan than you see here.  The light from outside was filtering in through the windows.


I placed it on my palette table and admired it.


Then, I took some paper and mapped out my palette, deciding which colors I wanted to leave in and which colors I wanted to remove.  Basically, I wanted to figure out my color plan.  As for colors on my palette, I am not a minimalist.  I am more a Richard Schmid (12-14 colors) or Nelson Shanks (20-30 colors) type who would rather have the immediacy of the colors at hand rather than having to mix everything, although I do a lot of mixing and have used a minimalist palette of 5 colors in the past.  Yes, you learn a lot from a minimal palette, and when I paint in plein air - the minimal palette of 5 colors goes with me.  But for my home studio - well, I think you can see that i have about 14 colors on my palette. 


You probably have to squint to see it, but with pencil, I drew a light semi-circle on my canvas leaving room to write the names of the colors and place color squares above the names.


Next, starting with Cadmium Yellow as the color at the top of my color wheel palette in the middle, I wrote in marker the colors I wanted on my palette - warm colors to the left (light to dark) and cool colors to the right (light to dark) except for the Portland grey at the bottom right of my color wheel palette.


Next I took a paintbrush and my paints and I painted 1 inch squares above the names of the colors on my canvas tabletop palette.


And I left some blank space on the left in the warm colors and on the right in the cool colors for any colors I might add to my palette for a specific painting.


Next, I cleaned my glass palette and placed it on top of my dark golden tan canvas with my color palette all laid out in full view.  Not only can I see the colors on the canvas, but I can see the the lights and darks much better.  I am also able to keep my palette clean between sessions in my studio - and I like that.

How do you lay out your palette in your studio?


Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Easy Apron - Fun to Make!


I enjoy making aprons.  They're fun and easy to whip up in just a few hours.  For this project I wanted to make an apron for the July 4th holiday, so naturally it would have to be red, white, and blue.  Also, I was in need of an apron to wear in my art studio as the old one I've been wearing for years was looking pretty bad, all covered in paint and shredding at the edges.  It was an old cotton apron, probably from the 1960s or something.  It had seen it's last day, so this project of making a new apron would be a good idea.


I have a great pattern - Butterick Waverly B5263 - so run out and get this pattern and make this apron right along with me!  I'm going to show you every step of the way right here.  I decided to make Apron "C"  - it is wrap around with a tie at the waist and 2 buttons in the back.  It has 3 pockets in front.  Easy.  Comfortable.


Since the sizes were Sm-Med-Lg and I was making the "Lg" I decided that it was no big deal to just use the original pattern to make this apron.  Usually, in preparing my pattern pieces, I transfer the size I need onto pattern paper to preserve the original pattern and all the sizes.  I will be doing a post on how to transfer pattern pieces so that they fit "your" measurements.  In the meantime, you can go HERE to read more about preparing your pattern before you sew.


You do NOT need to cut the pattern pieces from the tissue paper perfectly.  Just use your rotary cutter and skim around the perimeter of each piece, leaving a 1/4" or so around the pattern piece so you can see the edges.  Then, when you pin the pattern to your fabric (or use weights to hold it down) and cut it out, you will be more precise in your cutting.


Then, with a small rotary cutter, cut out your pieces from the fabric.  I use a small rotary cutter because it is more precise and is easier to cut around curves.


TIP: Use little scissors to cut out the notches "before" you cut out the pattern with your rotary cutter, that way you won't accidentally cut off a notch.


Your ready to start sewing your apron!  I used a blue and white checked cotton fabric for the apron itself, red and white patterned cotton fabric for the tie, and off-white bias binding for the edging.  Perfect for the July 4th holiday!


Make sure you mark your fabric with all the dots and markings before you remove the tissue pattern from the fabric.  Use a fabric marker that will disappear when you spritz it with water.


Begin by folding your tie in half with RST (right sides together), matching edges and dots.


Leave the straight short end open (for turning) and with a 3/8" seam sew the tie together.


It will be tough to turn this right-side-out unless you have a handy-dandy turner like you see here.  The end grabs the fabric and pulls it right through - easily.  Once you have turned your tie, press and set aside.


On the front of the apron pattern, you will see markings for a dart.  With red fabric tracing paper, a tracing roller, and my water-soluable fabric marker, I transfer the dark to my fabric.


Always be sure you have made all the markings on the right side of the fabric when placing your tracing paper between the tissue pattern and the fabric.


I know it is tough to see in this picture, but your dart and dot markings should look like this.


You will want to match the dots on the tie to the dots on the dart.  Just like a puzzle and easy.  Go ahead and pin the ties to the apron front panel where indicated.


Now I have a little trick for you. TIP: After you have marked the front of the fabric with the dart using tracing paper, it can sometimes be difficult to sew a perfect dart without the markings on the wrong side of the fabric as well, so with a long basting stitch, sew over top of the dart marking.  And, in this pattern, you will also be sewing the waist ties in place as well so that you can remove the pins.


Pin your dart together, matching the basting stitches.  Stitch (with a regular stitch length) knotting the ends with your sewing machine (usually I just sew back and forth a few times).  Simply remove the basting stitches by pulling out the thread on one end.  You'll be left with a perfect dart!


The back of the apron has a facing.  You will want to press on some lightweight interfacing to each piece, and if you have a serger, go ahead and serge (finish) the curved edge after you have pressed on the interfacing.  If you don't have a serger, simply use a zig-zag stitch close to the edge.  This will prevent unraveling of the fabric facing.


Pin the facing WST (wrong sides together) to each of the apron's back panels.


Baste the facing to the back panels.  The facing adds stability where you will be putting a couple buttons and using your sewing machine to put in button holes.


With RST, stitch the 2 back apron panels to the front panel at shoulders and sides. Press open the seam allowance on the inside of the apron.  I always press after each step in the pattern.  It keeps my work looking great throughout the creative process.


Baste the raw edges around the neckline, arm holes, and all of the remaining raw edges.


I used Wright's Wide Single Fold Bias Tape to finish the edges.  I also pressed the bias tape before I sewed it in place on the apron.


Start sewing on the bias tape to the top raw edge of the long pocket panel.   


Fold over the bias tape and press. Then, stitch from the front side close to the inside edge of the bias tape so clean stitching can be seen from the front and the bias tape on the inside is stitched in place at the same time.


Fold the edges short side edges to the inside about 1/2" or so and press. 


Pin your pocket panel to the front and sides of the apron and baste in place.   Then, stitch across the pocket panel where you want your pockets.


Now you are going to finish all the edges of the apron around the neck and arms and edges.


TIP: with RST, pin the beginning of the bias tape in place along the raw edge of your apron.  FOLD over about 1/2" on the short end of the tape so that you will have a folded edge when you are finished sewing it in place.  If you fold the short end, then when you arrive back where you started and fold over the tape to the wrong side, it will be a clean finishing edge.


Corners are not as difficult as you may think.  When you get close to a corner like this, stop stitching at the point where the stitching will begin going in the other direction.  In this case, I stitched to about 3/8" then folded the remaining tape up like you see above.  See the angle of the tape at the corner?  That's important!  Make your angle perfect.  Fold the tape down ...


See how I folded down the tape?  And, I pinned it in place for several inches.


When you are finished sewing the tape to the front of your apron, you will have crisp corners.


Press the bias tape away from the apron like you see above.  This gives the bias tape a clean pressed edge against the right side of the apron and makes it easier to fold it to the wrong side and stitch it in place to finish.


For curved edges that need pressing open, I use a ham that my mother made about 60+ years ago.  It makes pressing curved areas like armholes and necklines so much easier.


On the wrong side, you will see the stitching where you sewed the bias tape to the front of the apron.  TIP: When you fold over the bias tape, press the tape just past the stitching and pin in place.  That way, when you stitch close to the edge of the tape on the right side of the fabric to finish, you will also be stitching the tape that is folded to the wrong side.


All done!  I'm ready to throw it on and go paint.  I love it!


It is roomy and comfortable and it has just the right amount of pocket space.


The back buttons at the top-back and ties around the waist.


Of course Matthew walks into my sewing room being silly.


Wearing his hat over his face.  He obviously has too much time on his hands.

Hope you like the pattern and my tutorial and tips!  Please send me your pictures if you make this apron and I'll post them here!


Friday, June 17, 2011

A Summer Dress for Sarah


Yesterday I sewed.  All day and all night.  Literally.  For Sarah.  I had purchased a summer dress pattern and some nice, cool, summer seersucker fabric to make myself a summer dress, but when Sarah saw it, she said "Oh please Mom, will you make it for me instead?"  How could I resist that face, her smile, those pleading eyes?  I couldn't.  And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that it would look a whole lot better on Sarah than on me.


The fact that Sarah was going to be leaving me for a week and flying to Arkansas to see her sister - my daughter, Kimberly - and Kim's daughter - my grandbaby, Reagan - and Kim's hubby, Zak, well, that probably had something to do with it too.  I wanted Sarah to feel pretty and comfortable for her long trip to see her sister. 

Sarah Trip 002

Sarah has not seen her sister since this picture was taken in 2006. 


Now Sarah looks like this.  So grown up, and looking very pretty in this dress I made for her yesterday.

Big Bear and Matthew and Sarah's boyfriend, Walker, all drove her to the airport.  Sorry, I don't do well at airports, especially when the one getting on the plane is my baby.  I make an emotional mess of the entire experience.  So, I opted to stay home and write this post instead.


So, Sarah is on her way to Arkansas, for a week of girl-time and changing diapers and chasing after a very energetic almost 2 y/o niece - precious Reagan.  Oh, and they are going to have some quiet time together too, going for manicures, and pedicures and shopping and just having fun.

Sarah Trip 053-1

While I sit here at home and think about all the fun their having - the stinkers. Of course, this pic was taken in 2006 too.  Sarah and Kim sure have grown up since then!!

Sarah Trip 011

From this (Kim, Sarah on her visit, and Zak) ...


To this in 2011!  (Kim, Zak, and their baby girl Reagan) ... I have a feeling that Kimberly and Sarah are going to have so much fun that their cheeks and stomachs will hurt from smiling and laughing so much.


As for this dress I made Sarah yesterday, this pattern is Simplicity's pattern 2884.  The dress is fully lined with a nice slip beneath the full skirt as well.  I was impressed with the layout of the instructions.  The illustrations were numbered and on the left and the written instructions were numbered and on the right.  It made for reading and understanding a lot easier. 


I was surprised they said this dress was an "It's so easy."  I am a fairly advanced seamster, but I thought the hidden side seam zipper instructions were a bit complicated.  So much so, in fact, that I threw the instructions to the side and simply put the side zipper in - hidden - from my own experience.  It turned out perfect.  It could be that I was simply exhausted by the time I got to the point of installing the zipper.  It was 11pm and my eyes were blurring over by that point.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Selling My Kenmore 150


Well, I finally decided to sell my trusty Kenmore 150 sewing machine.  This is the first sewing machine that Big Bear purchased for me in 1994, and in all these years it hasn't as much as needed a tune up.  I think I changed the lightbulb once though. 


It is in like new condition and has everything that came with it when we originally purchased it from Sears in 1994 for $800.  Can you believe that?  I know, but it was one of the first to have an LCD screen.  It was one of the first Kenmore computerized sewing machines made. 


Just so you know, the Janome plant is where this machine was made. 


It has 150 beautiful stitches and is very easy to use.


I will ship to the 48 contiguous United States and asking $350 plus shipping.




Simply email me at [email protected] with any questions.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Garden Market - In Progress


In addition to several commissions that I have been working on for a few of my collectors, I have been working on a painting of my own that I may or may not sell (I haven't decided yet).  I'm calling it  "The Garden Market."  


As an artist who doesn't paint in plein air all that much (painting outside in the open air), I need excellent reference images - images that are professional, no flash, and excellent, natural lighting.  One of my favorite photographers who I have the honor of working with is Photographer Patrick Schneider. His photography is outstanding and captures the emotion within each photograph he takes.  His images are natural, full of life and energy, and always make me smile. 


It's my hope that my paintings will have the same affect on viewers.  Because I don't get out much and paint mostly in my home studio, having a photographer in my back pocket that has opened up a plethora of images for my reference in consideration for promoting his work on each painting I create from one of his images - that is a very special relationship indeed.


The image that I am using as a reference for this painting was taken a number of years ago in South Carolina, and I've just been waiting for the time when I knew I could sink my teeth into this painting.  It is a good size -  24 x 36. 


I sketched it out in charcoal last year, but this week, I jumped right in and started the painting.  Actually, this is the first painting in a long time that I am truly enjoying the process and the subject matter. 


From what I understand, the 2 boys in the image are brothers, who were hanging out at a local garden market.  The older boy is holding squash.  They look like they are enjoying their time at the garden market.  I love images like this!



As you can see throughout this post, I've been busy.  I wanted to start on the right - working towards the left side of the painting, because I wanted to get in there and work on the boys, since they are really the subject of the painting.  As you can see, Sarah was working on her own painting in the background.  She enjoys hanging out with me in the studio and I love having her there!


This is my palette.  I have a glass top over a piece of tan canvas and then I have my paints organized from light on the left to dark on the right with Titanium White in the center with my mixtures.  As you can also see, I keep my oil paints in jelly jars.  They keep my paints fresh longer and I don't have to mess with nasty tubes and waste paint.  At the end of my day in the studio, I put the paint that is not compromised by other colors back in their jelly jar, then I put the mixed paint colors on a disposable palette and place it in the freezer until the next time I paint.  It preserves the paint longer.

My Big Bear built me this nice palette table setup about 10 years ago and I love it.  I turn on my iPod music and paint for hours.

I'll update you all with my progress as I work on it!

Hope you like my painting! Well, at least up to this point anyway.





Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Memories of a Bernina


When I was 6 years old, my father bought my mother a wonderful gift for Christmas - a Bernina Sewing Machine.  My mother loved to sew and prior to her Bernina, she had a trusty black Singer sewing machine that she used often.


My father knew that she would enjoy a top-of-the-line machine and they both went shopping for just the right one.  For Christmas that year, he bought the best of the best - a Bernina 730 Record.  It was the first of its kind to do embroidery and had over 20 stitches as well. 


It came with an attached organizer for thread, bobbins, presser feet, and other tools.

It came in a nice hard case too.  It was my mother's dream machine.



For over 30 years, my mother enjoyed the many hours sewing on her Bernina.  She made clothes, drapes, linens, dolls, gifts, and more. 


My memories of my mother sitting at her Bernina sewing are numerous.  I used to pull up a chair beside her when she sewed, and watch as she worked with the fabric and patterns, and made me dresses and tops and pants. 


Most importantly, I recall with great clarity the look on my mother's face during those hours of sewing.  She was focused and happy and seemed to be in her element.

My grandmother, Margaret (My mother's mother) was also very creative.  She made quilts and clothes for my mother and my mother's sister, Helen.  She also had her own brick and mortar milliner's shop where she made and sold hats.  She was quite the entrepreneur for her time!


Well, about 7 years ago, my mother sold her Bernina to my brother's wife, Marsha, and Marsha has been enjoying this amazing machine ever since.  The Bernina 730 Record is a workhorse.


For the past 5 years or so, I have occasionally stopped by eBay and Craig's list looking for a Bernina 730 Record (1965) in as nice condition as my mother's machine, and I occasionally came across a machine like hers, only they weren't working or very worn and almost damaged.


As luck would have it, I popped over to eBay about 2 weeks ago and came across a Bernina 730 Record from 1965 in beautiful condition.  It was missing the original foot pedal and the knee control lever, but the presser feet were there.  The seller had a foot pedal with the machine but it was broken, unfortunately.

The case was in excellent condition as well.  I was hooked.  I talked to my mother about it and she agreed that we would share in the cost and bring this baby home.  We won that auction and yesterday I received my vintage gem.


It is about 40 lbs so I had Big Bear set it up in my sewing room.  I love the color of it!  That creamy-olive tone that looks so nice.  It is in excellent condition.


The model # confirmed that it was one of the rare versions manufactured in 1965.  The same year as my mother's Bernina.

I have her set up in my sewing room.  She looks so pretty.  I can't wait to hear her hum.  She needs a name, don't you think?  Well, and a working foot control too.  I can't think of a name for her and would like your help. 

What name should I give this wonderful Bernina lady from 1965? 


Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Mysterious Boat

For the last several months I have been working on 2 commissioned paintings, and in the last 2 weeks decided to get the smaller of the two out of the way.


I was requested to paint "The Mysterious Boat" by Odilon Reddon.  Having never heard of this artist, I did my due diligence and researched his work.  Bertrand-Jean Redon, better known as Odilon Redon (April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916) was a French Symbolist painter, printmaker, draughtsman and pastellist.

"My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined."

Redon's work represent an exploration of his internal feelings and psyche. He himself wanted to "place the visible at the service of the invisible"; thus, although his work seems filled with strange beings and grotesque dichotomies, his aim was to represent pictorially the ghosts of his own mind. A telling source of Redon's inspiration and the forces behind his works can be found in his journal A Soi-même (To Myself). His process was explained best by himself when he said:

"I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased."

This is my first encounter with this artist of the late 19th - early 20th century.  His work is interesting although I wouldn't classify him as one of my favorite artists.


The Mysterious Boat was the painting I was asked to render with my interpretation. I notice that not only does the original image look different from the original painting online, so does my image.  I don't think mine is as saturated as this image.

Anyway, this is my painting and what I've been doing this week!  I hope you like my interpretation of Reddon's painting.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Yes, I Have Better Things To Do Than To Posterize


But hey!  It was fun!  And that's what artist's do - have fun, right?  Who cares if I have about 10 loads of laundry to get done, or dishes to clean, or carpet to vacuum, or paintings to work on.  I was inspired by the original artist of the Obama Hope Poster, Shepard Fairey.


Have you seen his other work?  Or heard about him?  I love his work because he reminds me of Peter Maxx, and I love Peter Maxx.

Obey-thumb Frank Shepard Fairey (born February 15, 1970) is an American contemporary artist, graphic designer, and illustrator, having emerged from the skateboarding and street art scene - who would have guessed.  He first became known for his "Andre' the Giant Has a Posse" (...OBEY...) sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic supermarket tabloid the Weekly World News.  

His work became more widely known in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, when he created the campaign poster "HOPE" for Barack Obama.  The Institute of Contemporary Art (where he is pictured above) calls him one of today's best known and most influential street artists.

Shepard Fairey's work is included in the esteemed collections at the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Musem of Modern Art in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  

So there you have it.  I may not have been posterized by Shepard Fairey, but I had fun creating my own personal version of his famous poster.

Want to posterize yourself?  Go HERE and have fun!




Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Laptop Sleeve For My MacBook

Today I was productive.  I've been procrastinating making my own laptop sleeve because I didn't have a pattern (not that I needed one really) and after looking around the web for the right instructions (because I don't have confidence in myself to do these things without instructions) I finally gave in to my will to do it and I made the dang thing.

I sometimes get turned around in my head when it comes to putting in zippers and linings and padding, and yet, I did it all in less than 90 minutes. Go figure.


First step was measuring my laptop.  I wrapped my tape around the long side and took the measurement. 32 1/4"


Then I measured the short side. 22 1/2" (I have a 17" MacBook Pro).


After taking the measurements, I wanted to be sure I had some room inside the sleeve.  I'm not very impressed with the laptop sleeves you can buy retail.  They are awfully tight and difficult to manage.  That's another reason why I wanted to make my own.  I picked this cotton fabric from my stash for the lining. 

I wanted my sleeve to have the folded edge at the bottom and stitched at the sides because I wanted the sleeve to insert from the short side, not the top.  So, I folded the fabric and after dividing the measurements in half (16 1/8" x 11 1/4") I added 2 inches to each measurement (18 1/8" x 13 1/4") and this would be my final cutting dimensions.  I cut out a piece of lining fabric (18 1/8" x 13 1/4") and a piece of fabric from my exterior fabric with the same dimensions.


I didn't take pictures of the entire process because I was still unsure of myself and I wanted to make one all the way through before I take pictures and post the instructions here for you to make your own!  I added the zipper having cut it to 1 1/2" past each edge.  I also left a little bit of an opening (about 1") on the sides just under the zipper for easier access.


I love it!  I like the red plaid on the inside and the floral on the outside.  I also really like the textured, somewhat quilted looking upholstery fabric.  I purchased a remnant from Hancock Fabrics.  The remnants are great for making handbags and laptop sleeves!


And my laptop fits perfectly. 


It looks so cozy in there, don't you think?  I purchased some auto interior foam from Hancock too for the padding.  Perfect.  Just a note: if you ever make your own laptop sleeve, do NOT use fleece as the lining or padding!  It sets off an electrical charge that could screw up your computer.


Isn't it pretty?


After I finished I thought I should at least take a picture of the padding I used inside the laptop sleeve.  You can usually find this at your fabric store (not quilt shops).  It is an automotive foam, mid-weight, that they put in ceilings of cars or something like that.  Works for me.


I hope you like my laptop sleeve!  I was thinking of selling these in my e-boutique.  Can you give me an idea of what you would pay for a nice sleeve like this? 


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Wonderful New Studio

SewingRm5515This is my sewing room "Before."  I had the cutting table under the window
and that wasn't good for my Olfa cutting mats.

I've been cleaning up and cleaning out my house.  Getting rid of things we don't need or use and organizing too.  Of course, I started with my sewing studio - aka our sunroom.  One night last week, our neighbor called Big Bear and asked him if he could build him a workbench for his garage.  Big Bear is really good at projects like that and it got me thinking (I think too much if you haven't figured that out yet).  Anyway, I was working in my sewing studio and asked my honey if I could show him something in my studio and get his opinion.

I had a tendency of running into the corner of the cutting table.

Big Bear wandered into my sewing studio and said "what's up sweetie?"  I said, "do you think you might be able to build me a simple cutting table with shelves beneath for storage?"  He said "I might be able to do that.  How about you draw me some plans of what you are thinking about with dimensions too."  I got right to work on it.

This cutting table has served me well all these years.

The cutting table I had been using for 17 years had served its purpose well.  The only problem I have with it, really, is that it sticks out from the wall a little too far and I run into the corners often.  Also, it has legs on hinges that fold out to support the top left and right sections of the tabletop.  There is no storage beneath the table.  And I really need storage space.

As you can see, the cutting table got in the way of the sofa too. 
Oh well, it is a great room for me to sew in and I love it.

So, that was the end of that conversation with Big Bear.  I had showed him some pictures to give him some ideas of what I was thinking of, but only if we could fit the cost into our budget.  We really can't afford anything extra right now, but I have been busy with sewing and crafting projects and selling them too and hoped that maybe we could afford something.  I spend a lot of time in my studio.

Isn't it beautiful?! It's perfect and just the right size too!!

A few days later Big Bear went out to run some errands with Matthew and when he got home hours later he asked me to come outside because he wanted to show me something.  I wandered outside in my pajamas and slippers (I know, but hey, I'm comfortable), and there in the driveway was a beautiful butcher-block table with 3 drawers and 2 shelves for storage.  "Will this work as a cutting table?" Big Bear asked.  "Are you kidding!!  It's Perfect!!"  I couldn't believe it.  Then again, Big Bear has a tendency to do things like this.  He listens, and then the next thing you know, he comes home with a surprise.

Really nice setup, don't you think?  I love the hanging clips under the shelves.

He was thrifty though.  Very thrifty.  He looked online at IKEA and found this Varde table in their kitchen section and was all set to go to IKEA and pick it up.  It sells for 349.00 (before tax) at their store, which really is reasonable.  I mean, this is a great table.  But, because that is a lot of money for us right now, he went on Craig's List and typed in Varde and would you believe some guy in Matthews was selling this very table and throwing in a set of wall shelving too for 275?  Plus, the table was already put together and in good condition. That is where Big Bear and Matthew went several days ago - to pick up this table and the shelving.

The table is no longer in the way of the sofa! Yay!  Now my mother can lay down in the sun filled room in comfort and not worry about hitting
her head on the cutting table.

The only problem was that there was a finish on the butcher block top that wasn't looking so good and Big Bear sanded it off and cleaned up the table top for me.  Then they brought it into my studio and set it up and hung the shelves and I can't believe the difference!

I love it.  I have more room to move around, more storage, and plenty of comfort too.

I am so excited about my studio now.  I had a nice studio before, but it is more functional and organized now.  I love it, and Big Bear gave me a great big bear hug and said "Happy Anniversary Sweetheart."  I sure do love this man.  Thank you so much Honey. 

Everything in its place.  Neat, organized, and comfortable.

So, for the last few days, I have cleaned up and cleaned out my sewing studio, getting ready for the new year of projects, crafts, quilts, dolls, and more.  I am really proud of the way the room looks now and will be able to use the new Varde table to stand behind when I make crafting and sewing videos for the Her Channel!  I'm all set now.

Now that I moved the little wood table under the thread rack, I have more room
and a place to put my craft books too!

Thanks for stopping by my studio!  I'm anxious to begin creating more fun projects, sharing tutorials with you, making craft videos and more.  It's going to be a fun year.

Happy Crafting!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Crafty Little Clowns Are Fun to Make!


Last Monday, I made a funny little Fleecie Doll for my granddaughter, Reagan.  It was pretty cute and fun to make.  That day, Glen came home from school and handed me an invitation to a classmate's birthday party.  His classmate, Ashley, was having a birthday party at her house on Thursday (it was a school holiday) and he wanted to know if he could go.


So I said "yes," and wondered what we were going to do for a gift.  He saw Little Miss Fleecie that I had made for Reagan and asked if I could make another, but different, for his friend.  I said "Sure, Glen, that sounds like a good idea."


"Do you think she would really like one of these dolls?"  Glen replied "Yeah! I want one too!"



So, in crafty fashion, I got busy, cutting out some 90+ fleece circles of various cool colors and I made this Fleecie clown for Ashley for her birthday.


I have to say, though, that I am not so sure about the face.  There's gotta be a better way to make the face.  I used off-white fleece for the head, embroidery thread for the eyes, nose, and mouth, Sarah's pink blush for the cheeks, and a permanent pink marker for the eyebrows.  


Maybe it's the hair?  The hair was the hardest part of making these dolls.  With Reagan's doll, I used yarn that looks exactly as you see it here, all fuzzy, and I cut about 10-15 strands at a time and hand stitched them onto the head until she had a lot of hair.



With this Fleecie Doll, I wrapped yarn around my fingers, pulled the loops off my hand, and hand stitched them onto the head using the same color thread.  TIP: Definitely use a thimble when stitching on the hair or you will rip the pads of your fingers to shreds.  I know all about it because that is exactly what I started to do until I found my thimble.


Together they look so cute!


They would make a great decoration for a baby's or child's room too, don't you think?



So, Miss Fleecie Clown went on to become Ashley's new friend.  I dropped Glen off at Ashley's house where there were about 70 - 5th graders all running around the back yard and bouncing in those bouncy blow up things you can rent.  Glen placed the wrapped gift on the table with all the others and ran off to play with his classmates.  


I took Sarah to lunch and returned to pick up Glen a couple hours later.  When Sarah and I walked into the back yard, there was Ashley, Fleecie Clown in hand, running around and poking her friends in the face with the doll.  Ashley was smiling and sliding down the blow-up slide, and all the time, Fleecie Clown was in hand and held close to her.  I smiled at Sarah and said, "Do you think she likes that silly clown?"  Sarah said "Ya think?"



Ashley's mother approached me and said "That doll is her favorite gift, I can't thank you enough for making that for her."  That certainly made me happy, not just for the validation that I had made something special for Ashley, but that Ashley loved it so much.  She ran up to me and said "Mrs. Vaughn, thank you for this doll, it's great.  I love it."  With that, I smiled, wished her a happy birthday, thanked her for inviting Glen to her party, and we all drove home feeling good about our day.

Would you like a Fleecie doll of your own?  Well, you have 2 choices here, you can buy the wonderful pattern Vogue V8105 and make it yourself (click on the image below) or, you can go to my e-Boutique and I would be happy to make a custom doll just for you and your special little girl or boy.


I think they would make great Christmas gifts don't you?

Visit my e-Boutique!



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Preparing Your Pattern Before You Sew


Another Sew-A-Long!  Would you like to make a fun fall dress?  McCalls Pattern M5923 is so nice that my daughter, Sarah, insisted that I buy it and make it for her.  Sarah has a nice figure, and this being a somewhat fitted dress, it would look best on her.  Me?  No way.  At 51 and after having given birth to a basketball team - well, let's just say my hips would look silly in this dress.  If you are going to make your own clothes, know what is flattering and stay away from anything that might remotely make you look ridiculous.  Just some friendly advice from a woman who looks ridiculous in just about everything now.

I am making this dress, McCalls Pattern M5923, for Sarah for the fall.  She likes wearing dresses to school now and then and she always looks so pretty when she does. 

I drove Sarah to Hancock Fabrics and she chose the softest cotton blend plaid fabric she could find.  It is really nice and perfect for this dress.  It even has a little "give" to it, and I am sure that will add to the comfort.


Before I even open my tissue pattern, I want to understand, or at least "try" to understand the pattern instructions.

So, I sit down in my favorite chair, prop up my feet, grab my glasses and study each instruction so that I can visualize it in my mind.  This way, when I have questions in the back of my mind as I am reading, I'll most likely remember what they were when I am actually working with the pattern and the fabric. TIP: Sometimes I will make a mark on the pattern if I can't visualize what the instructions are trying to tell me to do, that way when I am actually working with the pattern and fabric, and I come to that mark, I'll take a closer look before I stitch anything.

After I have read the instructions, I fold them up and set them aside, because now I am going to begin to prepare my pattern before it even touches the fabric.


Don't be over anxious to begin any pattern!!  I'm guilty of this myself, and every time I jump in with enthusiasm to begin a pattern that I have not studied or prepared beforehand, I end up messing up and pulling out a lot of seams - and a lot of my hair too.

Open your tissue pattern up - all of the sheets - and lay them out on your cutting table and rotary mat.


One sheet at a time, begin cutting out the pieces of the pattern.  NOTE: DO NOT cut along the lines!!  And, DO NOT cut out your size!!  Instead, just take your rotary cutter and trim around the pieces leaving about 1/2" around the perimeter of each pattern piece.  It doesn't have to be exact in any way, we are just separating the pattern pieces from the tissue sheet.


After you have cut out all of the pieces, whether you are using them or not, head on over to your iron and ironing board.

One at a time, lay out each piece on your ironing board and press each piece on a medium heat setting on your iron.


If the edges curl after you have pressed a tissue pattern piece, simply flip it over to the other side and press lightly again.  NOTE: You may have to pull gently on the pattern pieces to stretch out the seams that were the original folds and creases in the pattern, otherwise it could result in a faulty size when you cut it out of the fabric!!


Lay the pressed pattern pieces out neatly on your cutting table until they are all pressed.  I use "sock pattern weights" that I made several months ago to hold down the pattern pieces.  I don't want them to blow away!  Every time one of my children comes barrelling into my studio, the pattern pieces go flying.  Weights are good. : )

Next, pick out the pieces that you are going to be using for your pattern and set them aside neatly (you don't want them to get wrinkled).  Fold the other pieces neatly and place them back in the envelope.  You are now ready to make adjustments to your pattern to fit yourself or the sweetheart you are making the dress for.


In my case, that sweetheart would be my beautiful teenage daughter, Sarah.  In this picture she is wearing the last dress I made for her this past summer.  You can read about it HERE!

We're on a good start with this new fall dress.  In my next post I will cover how to prepare your pattern so that the dress will fit perfectly - I hope. : )



Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Little Miss Fleecie All Dressed Up

Yesterday, I made this silly fleecie doll for my granddaughter, and Big Bear, in his usual growling form, said "she looks like she needs more hair and some clothes."  Clothes?  On a doll made of fleece circles and pony beads?  Are you kidding?

Big Bear has taken it upon himself to be my quality control expert from my paintings to my sewing. Funny thing is, I keep his letters and documents in good form.  I suppose that makes us a good team.  Taking his advice into consideration, Little Miss Fleecie went from this ...


to this ...


More hair to cover the bald spots, a fleecie skirt, and ...


Can you see them?  I put 2 bows around 2 pigtails on top of her head. 

Much better don't you think?  Big Bear thought so.  He approves now.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Fleece, Fun, and a Bouncy Doll


All this week, I am preparing for my trip to Arkansas to visit my daughter, Kimberly, and her hubby, Zak, and my granddaughter, Reagan.  Reagan is 14 months old and this will be the first time I have seen her in person.  I can't wait to put my lovin' arms around her and kiss her and hug her and spoil her rotten I'll have you know!!! 

We've spent the best part of every week Skyping and talking on the phone, so she knows my voice and knows how ridiculous I look and how silly her Grandma Susan can be at times.  Wait till we're playin' on the floor!!  I can't wait (I think I said that already).

So, today, I began preparing for my trip.  By "preparing" I mean making things for Reagan - like this:


Yep, I made this silly looking doll thing today for Reagan.  It sure is bouncy - just like Reagan.


I started by making paper circles of various sizes and cutting them out of the fleece.


Then I made a pattern for the hands and feet and cut them out too.


I had some Pony beads to put between the fleece circles that will be the body, arms, and legs.


Using heavy duty Coats & Clark waxed thread.  Being that this is the first time I have made such a silly doll, I doubled the thread when I went through the first round of circles and beads for the body, however, just to make sure it would not come apart for any reason, I went through it again with another double set of heavy-duty thread, knotting it a couple of times in the process.  Better safe than sorry.

This is the body by the way!


Of course, if you do go through the circles and beads a second time, go through the center of the beads and out through the top, then taking the thread around to the fleece circle, knot it - and knot it good.


I made these silly fleece feet.  I just drew a basic shoe pattern on paper and cut out 4, stuffing them lightly and then hand sewing the top together after tucking in the top by about 1/4". 


Then I made the legs beginning with the shoes and sewing them onto the first leg circle and then alternating beads and contrasting fleece circles.  By this time, Matthew was taking it from me and bouncing the legs around the room.


Then came the arms, and I attached them to the top of the body.


Then began the dance of this headless pink and blue wonder ...







This pink and blue wonder doll needs a head.


So, I started to make her one.  A rather fat one I might add.


And with a little bit of embroidery thread, some blush, and some fluffy bright pink yarn, on went her head.


I think she looks pretty cute.  I even trimmed her bangs.


She knows how to sit back and relax.


A bit like an alien with funny hair and too much makeup, but I don't think Reagan will mind.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - All Done!!


Today is the day we finish our table runner!  Yay!  Think how wonderful your holiday table will look with this delightful table runner on top, maybe with some candles in the center quilt blocks.  So, let's get to it!  Let's finish this puppy!


We finished all the machine quilting.  I did "stitch-in-the-ditch" and also some stipple quilting in the center blocks.  I also used turquoise thread throughout the quilting process to add character to the design.  I decided not to quilt inside the big blocks that have the words "Peace" and "Joy" because I thought it would take away from the embroidery and the statement.


Trim away the excess batting and backing from the quilt.


With your remaining red & white holiday fabric, cut at least 5 long 2" strips.  They should be the width of your fabric by 2" and they do not need to be cut on the bias, although if you have enough fabric for the binding (and I didn't) to cut on the bias, you'll get better corners on your finished quilt.  Because I was running low on fabric, I just cut the strips from selvage-to-selvage in 2" strips.


Sew them all together to make one really long binding strip.  Place 2 strips, RST (right-sides-together) as shown.  With your transparent ruler, draw a diagonal line with your fabric marker and pin the 2 strips together.


Stitch across the diagonal line and then cut off the corner leaving about a 1/4" seam allowance.


Now we are going to begin to sew our binding to our beautiful quilted table runner!  Always begin your binding in the center of a side - never on a corner.  With RST, fold down the short edge of the binding by about 1/2" and line up the long edge of your binding with the edge of your quilted table runner as shown above.  Pin the binding where it begins at the folded edge.


With a 1/4" seam, stitch down the entire long edge, lining up your binding along the edge neatly. Place a pin about 1/4" from the corner and stop.  Backstitch to reinforce your stitching.  Remove the pin and now I will show you how to make a perfect corner. 


Fold your binding up so that it is a perfect 45 degree angle from the corner.


Now fold back down, keeping your angle underneath in place.  Pin the binding in place as shown, lining up the fold along the short top edge and pin into place.  Continue from the top edge with a 1/4" seam and finish sewing your binding onto your quilted table runner, completing each corner as shown in these last few steps.


Press your binding along the seam away from your unfinished edge.  Turn over and fold up about a 1/4" seam to the wrong side.  I stick pins into my folded seam to hold it in place on the ironing board and then I press it.  That's my neat little trick for pressing hems without burning my fingers.


I pinned the hem along the stitch line on the back and then I added a nice zig-zag stitch along the top seam to sew the binding into place.


And the result?  This beautiful quilted table runner!


I love it and I hope my daughter does too!  I'm excited to tell you that I am taking a little trip just before Thanksgiving.  I am flying to Arkansas to visit my daughter Kim, her dear husband, Zak, and my granddaughter, Reagan!!  For one glorious week, I get to spoil them all!!  I can't wait.  I'm like a kid again.  I used to get so excited when my Dad would come home and tell the family that he was taking us all on a vacation.  Of course, as you know, times are tough here, and my sweet baby girl surprised me with the plane tickets.  I'm as happy as a clam at high tide!  And this table runner?  It's all hers.  She and her family just moved into a new home and this is my gift to them.  I think it will look wonderful on their table this holiday, don't you?



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oh, to Make a Mole


The other day, Sarah came home and said, "Mom, I need your help with a Chemistry project."  That's when I told her she better talk to Dad about that.  She said "No, Mom, I need you.  I need you to teach me how to sew before Friday."  That wasn't going to happen and I even think Sarah knew that.


What could sewing possibly have to do with Chemistry?  Have you ever heard of Mole day?  Neither have I. 


Did you know that October 23rd is the one special day of the year when all good chemists gather together to celebrate the most elemental day of the year? 


And, here's the kicker, there are all kinds of activities associated with Mole day, like eating guacamole and chips for lunch and drinking a toast to Avogadro at 6:02 (am or pm).


One of the most popular activities that Chemistry teachers across our country have their students work on is to make a stuffed Mole and to write a story about it. 


Sometimes, the teachers have their students include science, other elements, or chemistry into their story.


It's weird, especially for a Chemistry project. Sarah had to make a Mole.  She doesn't know how to sew and couldn't sew a straight line if she tried.  So, Sarah did what any good student wanting to get an "A" would do - she asked her mother (that's me) to make her Mole.  She'll supervise of course.


Sarah did a good job of supervising, and I made her Mole.  Her Americium Mole.  And, she wrote a story about her Mole that was really funny.  I think she might just get an "A" on this silly project.


I had fun making her Mole.  We decided to call him Herman.  Monsieur Herman Americium. 


I think he's pretty darn cute.  He absolutely has no sense of fashion, and Sarah will give him to her teacher tomorrow where he'll be in the company of Moles from a lot of students.

I must admit I'm fairly proud of myself for figuring out how to make those plaid pants.

So, do you need the pattern for this silly Mole?  Here you go!  Just click on the sewing machines below for the pattern and the instructions.






Happy Mole Day!


Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 6


Today we begin by basting and then we quilt the table runner!  Your quilt top and layers are pinned together, and we are now going to baste the layers together.  Set up your table runner so that the needle is in the middle in your machine. 


When you turn on your machine, it probably automatically goes to a straight-stitch setting with a  normal stitch length.  We want to increase this - a lot, so that it is a basting stitch and easy to remove once we have all the quilting done.


I increased my stitch from a regular 2.5 straight-stitch to a longer 6.0 straight-stitch.  I also changed the thread and bobbin in my machine to a dark thread that would clash and be easy to see after I have all the quilting done.


I begin basting in the middle of the table runner, leaving the tail of the thread on both sides.  DO NOT knot the ends!!  You will want to be able to easily pull these threads out after you have your quilting done.


The most important thing you need to understand about basting is this: 

1) All basting must begin in the middle of your quilt!!  This way, as you baste, your feed dogs and stitching will push your layers out to the edges.  This is an important step, because if you rely solely on your quilting pins and don't baste, you will end up with bunched up fabric underneath, or pleats where you don't want them.  By basting, you almost certainly ensure that your quilt top and backing will not have unwanted bunches or pleats!

2) Baste in this order always beginning in the exact center of your quilt:

        Center --> South        Center --> North

        Center --> East           Center --> West

        Center --> SW             Center --> NE

        Center --> NW            Center --> SE

What this does is push the layers out to the edges and the corners of your quilt layers.

3) The bigger your quilt top, the more basting you will have to do!  After you do all of the above, then go down the center line and baste center line --> edge and so on until your quilt layers also are basted like a checkerboard.  Then remove all your quilting pins and plan your design.


When you are done basting, your quilt layers should look like this.  See how easy it is to see the basting stitch?  That's because I used a dark thread that did not match my quilt top or backing.  If I had used a complimentary thread, I'd have a hard time seeing the basting stitch after I got the quilting done!


One more thing about basting - you don't have to be perfect with your lines.  They're coming out anyway.  As long as you have basted the entire quilt layers so that they don't slip around while quilting, you'll be in good shape.


I did put an additional basting stitch to the left and right of center for more stability of my layers.  Again, I started the stitching on the center line and worked to the edge on both sides of the top.  And leave those threads hanging!  You want something to grab onto and pull when you are finished quilting all the layers.


Even though you have basted your quilt layers together, you still want to start "quilting" in the center of your quilt somewhere.  It doesn't have to be the exact center, but somewhere thereabouts.  I chose to begin inside the green center block and I decided to use a stipple quilt stitch.  I begin by putting my straight stitch setting back to 2.5, but you can put yours back to your normal straight stitch setting.  I changed my presser foot to a free-motion quilting presser foot, and lowered my feed dogs.  I also put up my IDT (that is the piece of my Pfaff that moves the top evenly with the bottom layers.)  Your machine may not have IDT, but that's okay.  You don't need it free-motion machine quilting.

I began in a top corner so that when I was done you hopefully won't see the beginning of my stitching because I will have begun in a seam.  I'm sneaky like that.


And there you go, I stipple-quilted the cream center of the green block and I am going to do the same now with the red block.  I used an aqua colored thread.  I thought that would be a nice compliment to the entire quilted table runner.


After finishing my stipple quilting in the 2 center blocks, I decided to just do "Stitch-in-the-Ditch" quilting for the center section that is pieced together.  I start somewhere near the center inside a seam and begin stitching (make sure you aren't using your basting stitch!!!).  Before you begin "Stitch-in-the-Ditch" though, you need to change your presser foot again, and raise your feed dogs, and lower your IDT if you have it on your machine!


Lower your needle into a corner seam and then lower your presser foot.  Follow the seam and begin quilting.  I go as far as I can go with the seam and the stitching and then rotate with the needle down and keep going around the seams of the quilt top until I can't go any further, then I do a knotting stitch and clip my hanging thread. 

Find another seam and follow it around and around until you can't go any further.  Before you know it, you're done!


And there you go!  We have most of the quilt top quilted!  We'll put the finishing touches on the quilting on Monday and I'll show you how to bind the quilted table runner perfectly and you'll have a beautiful table runner for the holidays!!



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 5


We're coming down the homestretch!! We're gonna get this baby quilted!  Now that your quilt top is completed, you have to press your quilt backing.  The backing should be at least 2"-3" larger in diameter than your quilt top.  Lay your quilt backing right-side down on the mattress of your bed.  Smooth it out with your hands like a fresh clean sheet.


Using straight pins, pin the backing to the mattress so that it is taut and flat.  Place your batting on top of the backing and your quilt top, face up, on top of the batting.


Smooth it out nice and flat.


Do you have "quilt basting pins?"  They're the best.  They have curved bottoms so that they are easy to pin the layers of your quilt together without fuss.  Pin the layers together, careful not to cause wrinkles in the layers.  You want all three layers to be flat and wrinkle free!


I place pins about every 7 inches apart or so.


When you are done pinning your layers together, take out the "straight-pins" that were holding your backing to the bed.  You may have taken some out while putting in the basting pins.  That's fine.  Leave the basting pins in place and trim any excess backing and batting to about 2" - 3" the diameter of the quilt top.

Tomorrow we're going to machine quilt our table runner.  It isn't as intimidating as it sounds.  First of all, a table runner is much smaller than a wall, lap, or bed quilt.  Try putting one of those under your machine and you'll learn a whole new vocabulary, and it won't sound friendly.  But this?  This is fun, and if you have never quilted before and are just learning, this is the perfect place to start!



Monday, October 18, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 4


On Day 3, we finished the center quilt blocks for our table runner.  Let's give it a hand embroidered touch.  Begin by measuring the each side of your blocks.  They should have the same measurement - somewhere between 12" and 12-1/2".  After you have your blocks trimmed and even all the way around, cut 2 pieces of cream fabric - the width of your block (mine was 12") by 5" (I cut 2 pieces of cream fabric 12 x 5 inches).  Lay one piece of cream fabric over a printed pattern of the word "Joy," centering the design; and, lay the other piece over the printed pattern for the word "Peace."  Pin in place and trace with a water-soluable fabric marker onto your cream fabric. 


Place your pattern in an embroidery hoop and pull out 3 strands of embroidery thread.  Thread your needle.  Your ready to embroidery the words "Joy" and "Peace."


If you look closely, you can see my blue marker.  I work from left to right with a chain-stitch.  I think this is called a chain stitch.  


After you complete your embroidery, press each piece and stitch to either end of your blocks with the words facing "out."  Next, stitch your blocks together like you see above.


Cut 3 strips of red-white fabric - 2" x the width of the fabric.


Stitch a 2" section to the end of "Joy," trimming the excess and using it for the other side.


After you have sewn on the red-white border to either end of your runner, sew the remainder of your 2" border to either side. Press. 


Cut 5 strips of cream fabric - 2" x the width of the fabric.  Repeat the process with the red-white border, sewing the cream border to either end and then either side.  When you hold your longest piece of cream fabric up against the longest edge of your table runner, it may not be long enough.  You'll have to piece 2 - 2" sections together.  Place one piece RST with the other piece and draw a diagonal line like you see above (corner to corner).  Sorry it is so faint.  I can barely see that line myself!


This is how I drew the line. 


Stitch the 2 sections together and trim 1/4" from the stitching in the seam allowance.


Like this.


Press and stitch the cream border to either side.  I place the "pieced" border stitching in the middle of either side of the table runner.  That way it doesn't look like you pieced the border because you came up short.


Cut 5 pieces of aqua fabric - 3" x the width of the fabric.  Repeat the process for stitching on the borders.


Piece the aqua border just as you did the cream border.  Line up your angled piecing, pin in place and stitch RST.


When you are finished stitching, the best way to trim the excess is to set your piece down RST with the border and trim off the excess ...


Like this.


When you are done, your Table Runner top is done!


Isn't it beautiful?!!  Tomorrow - onto making the table runner back!!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 3


This is where we left off yesterday.  We stitched the rectangle onto the square, lining up the points.


We need to make 3 more red rectangles and 3 more green rectangles.  Lay them out on your table and then stitch them together exactly as you did the first rectangle - beginning with the center square.


TIP: If you want to pick up several pieces at once and stitch them together, put a single pin on the edge that you are stitching ...


... then, when you lay them next to your sewing machine to stitch, you won't accidentally stitch the wrong edge and you can chain stitch a number of pieces in one shot.  It sure makes the piecing process go faster.


After you do your chain stitching, trim the chain and press all your pieces open - pressing towards the dark fabric and trim off your dog-ears.


Stitch your rectangles together just as you did the first rectangle and press.  Line up your 2nd rectangle opposite the first on the other side of the square.


Check your points.  You want to be sure that your points line up nicely.


Press open and your points should look like this.


Make 2 more rectangles (and don't screw up like I did when I sewed them together.  If you look at the rectangle on the left (red block), you will see a red triangle where an aqua should be and vice versa).  Oh well - that's what I get for rushing and probably being distracted during the process. 

Lay out your full block just like you see above with aqua squares on each corner.


Separate the rectangle and 2 aqua squares from the block like you see above and stitch the aqua squares to either end of the rectangle.  Press.  Repeat for the other side. 


Stitch the long rectangles to the center section to complete your red and green blocks.


Trim your blocks.  They should measure 12" square after you clean up the edges.


Beautiful.  More to come next week! 



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner - Day 2


Continuing our table runner.  Take 2 green charm squares and put them together matching corners exactly.  Cut them to 3-7/8" x 3-7/8" square.


Cut the 2 green charm squares in half diagonally and set aside.


Take 3 more green charm squares and cut them to 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square.  Cut them in half twice as shown.  Take 4 aqua charms and cut to 3-1/2" x 3-1/2" square.  Set aside (Do not cut them in half! - Picture not shown).


Take 2 aqua charm squares and cut to 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square.  You will then cut them in half diagonally twice.  When you prepare to cut in half diagonally, especially if you have several squares on top of one another, make sure that they are layered perfectly.  When you begin cutting, be careful not to slip your rotary ruler.  After you have made the first diagonal cut, simply cut the square in the other direction diagonally without moving the square.


Now, separate your triangles and set aside.


Let's build the center red  block.  Take 4 red triangles and place on the 4 sides of the cream square. 


Notice that the points of the triangles extend past each corner of the square by about 1/4".  This is exactly as it should be.


Begin by sewing 2 red triangles to opposite edges of the cream square.  Always use a 1/4" seam.  I follow the edge of my presser foot because it provides me with a clean 1/4" seam allowance.


Press open the triangles - pressing towards the triangles.  Trim off the dog-ears.


Place the other 2 red squares on opposite sides of the cream square making sure they are centered and that the seam allowance that extends past the edges is equal on both sides of the triangle.  Stitch in place.


Press open and clip off the dog-ears.


Measure your block.  It should measure 6-1/2"


Repeat this process for the green square.


You should have 2 squares that look like this - one red and one green.


Lay out a red and cream square and a green and cream square as shown.


With right-sides together (RST), stitch together as shown to make 2 small squares.  Press.  Trim off the dog-ears.


With RST, lay a red triangle on top of the red/cream square you just stitched as shown.  Do the same for the green square.



Stitch the triangles to the squares and press so that the result looks like you see above.


Grab 2 aqua triangles and pin to the red and green pieces as shown.


Stitch and press towards the aqua triangle.  Lookin' good!


Take 2 cream triangles and and 2 aqua triangles (mine are cream and aqua because I ran out of aqua charm squares - oops) - and put them together as shown.


Place them RST and stitch (always a 1/4" seam.  Press towards the aqua fabric.


Now, line up your pieces as shown, being accurate by lining up the seams before you pin and stitch.


See the seams?  If you want them to match perfectly, you have to line them up.  That is why having an accurate 1/4" seam, pressing, and pinning accurately makes a big difference in the result!!


Next, with RST, check to make sure that your seams are up against each other as perfectly as you can get them.  NOTE: Don't assume that just because the seam matches at the top edge that it will match when you finish stitching.  Wanna know why?  Because you are stitching 1/4" from the top edge of the piecing.  If you think about it, you need to check to make sure that your edges match perfectly from the 1/4" edge to the top edge.  Then  you'll have nice, straight seams!


Pin that baby in place.  If you don't pin (beginning with the seam you just lined up), you are bound to screw up the alignment.  Don't take a chance.  It takes a few seconds to pin it in place and then stitch.


Press Open towards the triangle you just stitched on.  Trim off the dog-ears.  Smile at your perfect seams and nice piecing.


Take a cream and red triangle set and a cream and green triangle set and lay them next to the block you are piecing.  When you do this you are less likely to stitch across the wrong edge.  Check your work as you go and you'll have fewer mistakes.  I prefer to have my seam ripper collect dust, but it never seams to happen.


Just making sure.


When you have your pieces stitched together and pressed, take your transparent ruler and place the 1/4" seam marking at the top of the triangle.  See it under the ruler?  That tells me that I have a perfect 1/4" seam allowance that I can stitch this piece to another section and the tip of the triangle already stitched together will be a nice, clean point. 


In other words, you don't want to stitch this piece to the first block and cut off the tip of your triangles in the process.  I know, I've done it and it isn't pretty.  Check your accuracy by lining up the horizontal marking on the ruler with the vertical markings, placing the 1/4" marking at the tip of the triangle point beneath the ruler.  If necessary, trim away any excess.  If you look closely at the picture above, you will see just a tiny bit of excess past the edge of the ruler.  I took my rotary cutter and trimed it away.


Lookin' so nice!  Check out those points!! And those perfect 1/4" seams past the center triangle points!!  Yep, this is going to be very pretty when it is all pieced together.


Your completed rectangle should measure 3-1/2" x 6-1/2".  Check your work.  I always do.



Now, pin the red rectangle you just finished onto the red square.  Check your points!  your matching center seams! At the 1/4" tip from the top edge!  Then pin in place.


Notice this isn't a perfect match.  That's okay.  Why?  Because I know I have cut accurately and stitched accurately and at this point of the process, I need to make sure that the top edge that I am getting ready to stitch has the "center" tip of the "center" triangle matching the tip of the cream square beneath it.  If these seams match perfectly and you pin from the center out to the sides, you'll be fine.


See what I mean?  Check that out.  Tip-to-tip.


Press it open and it should look like this.  Repeat these steps for your green square and rectangle piecing and we'll be set to continue tomorrow!  See you then!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Let's Start This Table Runner!


Table runners are so pretty on a table.  I remember the first time I ever saw a table runner. I think I was in my 20s and I remember thinking it was a nice way to decorate a table without covering up the nice finish with a table cloth - something that I had done my entire life and still do at times.  But when the holidays roll around, I like to have a selection of table runners to decorate more than just the dining room table.  I enjoy having them in various sizes for other pieces of furniture throughout my home as well.  

This week, I am making a Christmas table runner and I want you to sew along with me!  If you haven't prepared yet, you will need:

"12 Days of Christmas" Charm Pack by Moda Fabrics or 32 Charm Squares (5" x 5") or ... Christmas fabric of your choice.  I purchased some nice Moda fabric from 2 different designers with a Christmas theme.  Feel free to be creative!

1 Skein of Embroidery Floss - Red (pictured is a collection of 36 skeins of embroidery floss, but you will only need red for this project.  If you are close to a "Michaels Craft Store" or fabric store, you can find the embroidery floss there.)

 Cotton quilt batting - 24" x 44" or just a baby quilt size will be enough to make several table runners!

* about 1/2 yard of green ribbon (You can find this at your local fabric store)

* about 1/2 yard of red ribbon (Preferably 1"  to 1-1/2" width for bows on the top of the table runner)

You will also need:

* 3/4 - 1 yard of 44" fabric - Creme or Winter White

* 1/4 yard of 44" fabric - Red and White print  (You might see if your fabric store carries the "12 Days of Christmas" fabric collection by Moda and use the same red & white print that is in the charm pack!) 

* about 1/2 yard of 44" fabric - Aqua

* about 1/3 yard of 44" fabric - Red (includes binding)  You can get several different red fabrics if you like.  Make it your own!

NOTE: You can find most all of these supplies at your local fabric supply and/or craft store like Michaels Craft Store.  It is probably easier to order the pattern and the charm pack, however, online through a reputable supplier.  I linked to the "Fat Quarter Shop" because they are a great online resource and are fast to ship!

* * * * * * *

Let's get started!


I love charm packs, and this charm pack will make a beautiful table runner.  This one is "Fruitcake" by Moda.  I love the fabric designs!  I think it will make for a beautiful table runner.


Before I cut my fabric, I press it.  You should always prepare your fabric before you cut.  If you cut it with a crease in it, you may be cutting an inaccurate measurement.  Pressing is as important cutting and accurate seams!  Begin by cutting a 4-3/4" long strip from the side of your cream fabric.  


From this strip cut 2 4-3/4" by 4-3/4" squares. 


Set aside the 2 squares and now cut your long strip down to 4-1/4"


Cut 6 squares from the 4-1/4" strip - each 4-1/4" x 4-1/4".  When you are done, cut in half diagonally.  Line up your edges and corners accurately before you cut.


Now, cut the square in half again in the other direction.


Set aside your cream colored triangles.


Organize your charm pack.  In my pack I organized the creams, greens, reds, aquas, and browns.  It makes it easier to choose the colors and patterns you want to use for your quilted table runner.


Pick out 2 reds and put them together. Cut the squares down to 3-7/8" x 3-7/8".


Cut them in half once.


Set aside your red triangles.


Pick out 3 red charm squares.  Cut them down to 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square.


Cut in half diagonally twice.


Set these aside as well, but keep them together so that you don't get the wrong size triangles mixed up with the larger ones you cut before.


I love aqua with the other Christmas colors.  I picked out 4 aqua charm squares and cut them down to 3-1/2" x 3-1/2" square and set them aside.


Choose 2 more aqua charms.  Cut them down to 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square, then cut them in half diagonally twice.  


Set them aside, making sure to keep each section of this puzzle in neat little piles.

That's it for today!  Tomorrow we will do more!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

My New Blog Design!!


For 2 months now I have been working behind the scenes (all by myself I'll have you know) to give my blog home a redesign.  Kind of like moving the furniture around or painting a room, adding some new drapes or pictures to the walls, I needed a pick-me-up.  I wanted the new design to look fresh and more simplistic, and I wanted it to have a few new features too, like an Accordian sidebar navigation, and a more decorative (simplistic and easy to read) footer to each post.  I played around with images in Photoshop and created a new Masthead as well.  I hope you will like my new design!

A lot of things are changing, including the kind of content in my blog home.  For instance, with all my little ones now going to public school, with the exception of my son, whom I still homeschool until he starts high school, I won't be writing for my School Days Section anymore.  And, since my Big Bear has been out of work for over 2 years now, God only knows when we'll be able to work on those things around our home that need attention - like landscaping, a new deck, a kitchen overhaul, new flooring, and new bathrooms!  So, until remodeling the house becomes a priority again, I'm also putting the Home & Garden Section on the back burner.  


My life right now is mostly about being creative, and talking about my life in other ways - like my children and grandchildren, and how very proud I am of all of them.  My personal stories are still very much a part of Raisin Toast and you'll still find them in "My Opus," because, well, this is my opus in so many ways.

Only 1 section has been launched as of this post - the "In the Studio" section, now called simply "Atelier" for "Studio."  I wanted this to be the first section launched with the new design because Raisin Toast is being featured all this week on the site "" which is sponsored by Bernina!  How exciting!  I am having a sew-a-long all week and I hope you will join me in making a beautiful quilted table runner for the upcoming Christmas holidays.  I probably should have started with a Thanksgiving table runner, but when I saw this pattern in my favorite quilt shop, I snapped it up.  But, table runners are easy to make and I am sure that if you find a quilted table runner with a Thanksgiving theme, you can still follow along with me all week.

Bear with me while I make changes to Raisin Toast over the coming couple of weeks.  I'll be putting the finishing touches on the design and launching each section little by little.  I now know why web designers charge thousands to design blogs and websites!  Goodness, this has been exhausting.  Even the little elements take so much time to create and then code into the template.  My brain is fried.  I don't know how anyone does this for a living without losing their eyesight.  I've been looking at so much HTML, CSS, and JQuery, and Javascript, even my dreams are about coding.  I just hope I'm not sick of the new design by the time I launch the dang thing! 

The good news is that - yes - I've become quite the TypePad Advanced Template Design Pro (A TypePad Champion if you ask the folks at SixApart), and I am here to help anyone who has a TypePad blog with designing Mastheads, icons, Horizontal Navigation, footers, and more.  As exhausting as it has been, I think that is mostly because I also had to learn how to add the fancier navigation and sidebar utilities that I wanted over the course of the last few months.  Now that I know how it all works, it is all coming together a lot easier.

So there you go - I'm off to a good start.  I think.  If you happen to run across any problems on my site or with my design, PLEASE let me know!!!  Like - I cannot figure out why the sharing buttons below are vertical and not horizontal.  If you know how to fix this let me know. I've spent the last hour messing with it and I finally called it a night.

With that, I'm ready to start this table runner!



Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Quilted Holiday Table Runner Sew-A-Long!


Every day next week I will be making a quilted table runner, and I want you to join me!  I'm calling this a Sew-A-Long and together we can make the first of this year's Christmas decorations and gifts for family and friends.

I like to start early - usually September - to begin thinking about Christmas and gifts, because I enjoy making many of the gifts I give - like quilts, table runners, place mats, stuffed baby toys, and I need to make sure I have the time to get it all done.  I'm hoping that the Sew-A-Long will be a regular feature on Raisin Toast.  Won't that be fun?!!  I enjoy having a friend or two to sew with me and this is a great virtual way to share in our projects.  I will also try to create a page where I share your projects that we have worked on together with your name and link to your blog or website if you have one.  It is a great way for me to say "Thank you" for reading Raisin Toast and sharing in my life and projects.

So let's get started!  Here are the details:

You will need to get:

* "12 Days of Christmas" Charm Pack by Moda Fabrics or 32 Charm Squares (5" x 5") or any holiday fabric of your choice.

* 1 Skein of Embroidery Floss - Red (pictured is a collection of 36 skeins of embroidery floss, but you will only need red for this project.  If you are close to a "Michaels Craft Store" or fabric store, you can find the embroidery floss there.)

* Cotton quilt batting - baby crib size will be more than enough!

* about 1/2 yard of green ribbon (You can find this at your local fabric store)

* about 1/2 yard of red ribbon (Preferably 1"  to 1-1/2" width for bows on the top of the table runner, but only if you want to add this decoration when the runner is complete.)

You will also need:

* 3/4 yard of 44" fabric - Creme or Winter White

* 1/4 yard of 44" fabric - Red and White print  (You might see if your fabric store carries the "12 Days of Christmas" fabric collection by Moda and use the same red & white print that is in the charm pack!)

* 1/2 yard of 44" fabric - Aqua or Green (various shades are fine too)

* 1/3 yard of 44" fabric - Red (various shades are fine too, and this includes the binding as well).

NOTE: You can find most all of these supplies at your local fabric supply and/or craft store like Michaels Craft Store.  It is probably easier to order the pattern and the charm pack, however, online through a reputable supplier.  I linked to the "Fat Quarter Shop" because they are a great online resource and are fast to ship!

* * * * * * *

Raisin Toast is going to be featured all next week on We All Sew! And, that makes it a perfect time to start my sew-a-long with you!

I hope you will join me on this sewing adventure!  Thank you to We All Sew for featuring Raisin Toast on your site and introducing me to your readers!  

Would you like to see some beautiful holiday table runners? I thought you might like to be inspired ...


Check out these beauties from Crazy for Quilts!


Or how about this lovely runner that you can make from the Jolly Jabber's Table Runner Club at the Fat Quarter Shop!


I love this runner!  It was handmade by none other than Jingle Jolly, aka Happy Zombie, or Monica Solorio-Snow back in 2007.  I'll bet she pulls this out every holiday.  Love the pattern as much as I do?


Here you go! 


Just click on my little goodie box for your free pattern courtesy of Jingle Jolly Monica.

And while you're at it, check out Monica's Tiny Trick-or-Treat (smell my sewing machine feet) bags and pattern that she has featured on her site and also in the Better Homes & Garden Quilts and More Fall issue!

But wait!  Here's another great table runner project for you to print off!! ...


This is made with heavier fabric from Calico Corners.  Here are the instructions, courtesy of Woman's Day!

Add this to your craft box: 



By the way, if you have any questions or need help with this project, feel free to contact me at [email protected]  

* Now, let's get started by making some holiday table runners to start our season off beautifully! *


Monday, September 20, 2010

A Jitterbug Quilt


I've been busy for 2 weeks piecing together the quilt top for the Jitterbug Quilt.


Lots of piecing and lots of strips.  All from a Thirties Jellyroll.  The thing about making this quilt is that I wasn't a big fan of most of the fabric strips.  However, once I started piecing the quilt top, it looked a lot better.


And I was hoping it would look as beautiful as this quilt which was on the cover of "Layer Cake, Jelly Roll, and Charm Quilts" by Pam & Nicky Lintott.  This is the reason I picked up the book!  I fell in love with this quilt.


So, started piecing together my quilt, hoping that the Thirties Jelly Roll that I had would be as nice as the one used to make the quilt on the cover of the book.  The quilt blocks didn't look so bad and my points were pretty good too.  It was coming together nicely.


Seriously, though, it was very difficult for me to piece together fabric that didn't match.


To remind myself that I am not the only one who has made this quilt, I found this one made by a very nice lady in Georgia I think.  She has it hanging in her quilt shop.  I love it.  It is just so colorful and happy.


Today I finished the quilt top and now I think it looks great. I am really happy with the finished top.


The next step is quilting and binding.  This quilt top is 43 x 68 and much too large, I think, for me to machine quilt it.  So, this may mean pulling out my quilt frame and hand quilting this quilt. You can be sure that when I finish quilting it and binding it, I will post a picture here!  Wish me luck!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How to Choose the Best Thread for your Sewing Project


As I have taught friends and family to sew, I have discovered that many think all threads are the same with the exception of the color.  Not true.  Threads are different - in blend, color, texture, shrinkage, and their ability to work well in your machine without breakage.  Finding the best thread for your sewing project can be daunting, so I thought I would share with you some information that I have learned in my years of sewing and quilting that may be helpful for anyone just starting out or wanting to understand better how to choose thread wisely.

First of all, be familiar with the type of fabric you will be using for your project before you pick a thread.  Start by understanding the various types of thread, their usage, and their weight (size) - I have provided that information below.  The higher the number, the finer the thread where "50" is the median size.  Sometimes the size will be indicated by a letter, in this case "A" is fine thread and "D" is heavy thread.

The thread you use for your projects should be similar in fiber content to that of your chosen fabric.

General Purpose:

Spoolsofthread7 There are a number of general purpose sewing threads, and understanding how to read the spool is key to understanding what you are getting.  For instance:

Cotton: You can find a wide range of colors in a medium thickness weight (size 50).  This thread is used for sewing on light to medium weight cottons, linens, and rayons mostly.  Most cotton thread is mercerized, which simply means that it has been through a finishing process that makes it smooth and lustrous allowing it to take dye better as well.  This is important because if you use a dark color thread in your project, you don't want it to fade over time and with each washing.  Cotton thread is NOT a good choice when your sewing project involves stretchy fabrics.  If you use a cotton thread on stretchy material like knits, your stitches will break.

Cotton - Polyester Blend:  I think I have more of this thread in my collection than any other.  This is an all-purpose thread (size 50) for sewing on knits, wovens, blends, synthetic, and natural fibers.  The polyester core provides this thread with additional strength and elasticity, and the cotton exterior makes it strong and heat resistant.

Silk:   Silk thread is great for sewing on silk and wool and I love it for projects like silk and wool dresses, silk scarves, and even satin and chiffon.  The thread is fine (size A) and makes it ideal for basting as well, on all types of fabrics, because it won't leave "holes" or imprints in your fabric after you remove the basting stitches.  I like to use silk thread for basting my quilts before machine quilting.  Silk thread has elasticity too, and is suitable for your stretchy fabrics like knit. Use this fine thread with very thin, delicately woven fabrics like lingerie or sheer garments.

Spoolsofthread8 Nylon:   Nylon thread is suitable for sewing light to medium weight synthetics (size A) and is especially suitable for projects using nylon tricot, suedecloth, Faux Fur, and Fleece, as a few examples.

Polyester:  Polyester is an all-purpose weight (size 50) thread, and is suitable for most all types of fabrics, particularly woven synthetics, knits, and stretchy fabrics of any fiber.  Most of your polyester threads contain a wax or silicone finish enabling them to slide through the fabric with minimum friction.

Metallic: You can use metallic thread for both machine and hand embroidery and thread painting, just make sure that if you use this thread for machine embroidery that it is labeled suitable for use in your machine sewing.

Quilting:  Quilting thread is suitable for all your hand and machine quilting projects.  I've been asked if the "hand quilting" thread is suitable for the machine and the answer is "yes" you can use the hand-quilting thread in your machine.  Most quilting thread is "all-cotton" and has a finish that makes it easier for the thread to slip through the fabric and cotton layers.

Heavy Duty Threads:

Spoolsofthread9 Cotton; Polyester, and Cotton-Polyester BlendThese are coarse threads (size <40) and are necessary for sewing heavier fabrics such as heavy vinyl or upholstery fabrics.  If you use a size 50 weight or above, chances are that your thread will break during the sewing of your project.  I used a heavier thread to make the Happy Back PakSaks for my children this past summer.  I trusted that the heavier thread would not break while machine stitching over layers and layers of heavy fabric and batting.

Be careful not to fall prey to the 10 spools for 4.99 deal.  Chances are that these threads are not the quality that you require in your sewing projects.  Just remember - you get what you pay for, and that is not to say that you can find some good deals on good quality thread, just "know" your thread and understand what you are looking for before you tackle your project.


Do you try to match the color of your thread exactly to your project?  Suggestion - buy a thread that is 1 shade darker so that it blends in harmoniously.  If you have a multi-color print or a plaid fabric, you should pick a color thread that is the most dominant color in the fabric.

Spoolsofthread5 When threading your machine, be sure to put the top part of the spool "up."  Finding the top of the spool isn't always as obvious as you might think.  To determine which part of the spool is the top, hold the spool horizontally by the top and bottom.  Unroll about a foot of the thread.  If the thread hangs freely, you unrolled it from the top.  If it twists back on itself, you unrolled it from the bottom.

Don't use old thread you find laying around just to use it up. (I'm guilty of this).  Give it the yank test.  If the thread breaks simply by yanking it off the spool, it will break in your machine.  Toss it out.  DO NOT save it for a craft project, and definitely do not throw it out for the birds (this can be fatal to them).  Also, do not donate it to charity either.  Put it out with your garbage and purchase a new thread for your project.  

If you will be sewing with specialty threads you will want to use the appropriate needle for your project and adjust your machine tension. Remember to always adjust the upper tension of your machine with the foot down.  Your machine may not register the change if the presser foot is up.  Once you find a setting you like, write it down!  I keep a notebook of sewing tips, including samples of stitches and tension information for reference. If you play with the tensions, you will see the different effects that you can achieve by "pulling" the bobbin thread up to the top of your fabric.  Many threads perform better in the bobbin with a cotton or invisible thread in the needle.  If you like the effect, consider buying a separate bobbin case and leaving the tension set up for bobbin work.

Problems with Decorative Thread?  Try these suggestions and see if they help:

  • Slow down.  Decorative thread and speed don't mix.
  • Re-thread your machine.  Experiment with not putting the thread through the thread guide that is above the needle.  Also, make sure that when you are threading your machine, that the thread is between the discs in the guide of your machine.
  • Change the needle. Are you using the proper size?  A too small needle will shred medium and heavy threads.  Make sure the eye of the needle is large enough for heavier threads.  Always be sure that the needle is appropriate for the fabric and the thread that you are using.
  • Lower your tension.  When the top thread loops on the bottom, the tension is too loose 
  • Try another brand of thread.  Sometimes, simply changing the thread to another brand will do the trick.

If you are going to be embroidering with your machine, choose your thread weight according to the design.  Embroidery thread is available in sizes ranging from 30wt (heavier thread is good for lots of fill) to 60wt (thinner thread for more detail.) Embroidery thread can be rayon, polyester, cotton, or silk.

My favorite place to shop for thread is Red Rock Threads

My favorite brands of thread are Robison-Anton and Mettler.  I also like Superior-Masterpiece thread for quilting projects and cotton fabric projects.  Floriani has a beautiful line of embroidery threads.

I've noticed that Coats & Clark threads are not as reliable as they used to be.  You can find C & C in most fabric stores, however I haven't been as impressed with the quality since using other brands.  True, some are more costly, but ultimately, the durability of my project is dependent on the quality of my thread as well!

I hope you have enjoyed this article and learned something valuable about choosing thread for your sewing project.  I love to hear from my readers!  Let me know what you are working on! 


Sunday, August 29, 2010

8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

d300.thumbnail 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR CameraBy Contributing Author, Yanik Chauvin

I don’t know about you but not long after playing with my brand new Nikon Coolpix 4500 many years ago, I was already dreaming of owning a DSLR. Then the day came…. my very own Nikon D70! Boy, was I a happy camper! Of course, I took it with the kit lens which was a Nikkor 18-70mm. I didn’t know much about lenses back then. But I had read that this lens was a good (but not great) average lens.  And I was happy with it most of the time. But….

vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
Owning a DSLR means you’ll eventually be getting more lenses so that you can explore and develop your creativity. But which lenses to get? There are so many out there. And if you’re like me, going to a camera store is like bringing a kid into a candy store! You just want everything! You see a guy testing a Nikkor 70-200mm VR and you want it. Another person is buying a Sigma 105mm macro lens and you want that one too! But how to choose?

Here are some of the questions that I asked (and keep asking) myself before purchasing a new lens. These are very important steps so that you don’t go and impulse buy or just buy the wrong lens for your needs.

Step 1 - What do you like to shoot?

To me this is the most important question. Now, if you answered “everything," try narrowing it down just a bit. ;) In my case, when I started out, I loved shooting bugs and flowers. I was often at the cottage and always had my D70 with me. But my Nikkor 18-70mm just wasn’t doing it for me. So I asked myself, “what kind of lens do I need to get great bug shots?” And after a bit of research I found out that macro lenses were perfect for my need. So I went out and purchased my second lens ever, the Sigma 105mm macro.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
So? I’ll ask again. What do you like to shoot most? Is it birds? Then maybe a Canon 100-400mm IS would be best. Concerts? You’ll need a fast lens for low light situations so a 50mm f1.4 might suit your needs.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
Remember to ask yourself this question before every lens purchase or you might end up with glass accumulating dust at the bottom of a bag. I know, I have a few. ;)

Step 2 - Do your research

Ok, so you figured out what type of lens is best for what you want to shoot. Great! But there are many to choose from. Which one, which one? Well, you’re probably wondering why I chose the Sigma 105mm over the Nikkor 105mm. The answer is simple. I did my research. I just typed “sigma 105mm review” in Google and then the same for the Nikkor 105mm. In a nutshell, I found out that both lenses had about the same image quality but the Sigma was $300 cheaper. And since I knew this lens wasn’t going to be used to generate income (even if I get their good side, bugs don’t sell well on stock sites ;)), I went with the less expensive one.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
You can find some great  lens reviews online. You can also check out DPReview and Lens-Reviews for user feedback.

vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camerasigma 105.thumbnail 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 3 - How picky are you on image quality?

Don’t get too freaked out when you read some of the reviews out there. They tend to be very technical and sometimes, and I do stress sometimes, nitpick on the most minor details. That said, some lenses are just plain horrible. Luckily, in the lens world, most of the time you get what you pay for. Also, you have to ask yourself if this is a hobby or are you planning on making money with your photography? I know people that have bottom off the line lenses and are very happy. So go into the store and check them out. Better yet, do step 4!
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 4 - Give it a test drive

So you’ve read the reviews and you found the one you want. Super! Before forking over the cash, why not play with it for the weekend? Most cities will have camera stores that will rent out lenses. It’s usually pretty cheap to rent a lens and I personally think it’s a great investment.  You can see the results on your computer and test it out in various situations. Something you can’t do in the store when you only have 2 minutes to play with it. Test it for what you’re actually going to use it for mostly remember step 1?). If you love shooting sports, I wouldn’t recommend shooting flowers in a vase. ;)
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 5 - What’s your budget?

A very important question indeed. If you’re a pro and you know that your new lens will pay itself off with your next 2 contracts, it’s a no-brainer. But if you’re an amateur, this becomes important. You need to ask yourself how much are you willing to spend for your hobby? Make yourself a yearly photo budget that is within your means. I strongly recommend not getting into debt for a hobby.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera
But if you really, really, really want that 70-200mm VR and you can’t afford it full price, try getting it used on Ebay. Sometimes, even your local photography store will sell used equipment. You won’t get super deals if the lenses are in good condition because lenses have a high resale value but you can save around 10-20%.

vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Cameranikon 70 200mm.thumbnail 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 6 - 3rd party lenses

Ok, some of you are purists out there and I respect that. But there are other alternatives from companies like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina. They also make lenses with either a Canon or Nikon mount. We call them 3rd party lenses. They used to be of lower quality but have improved dramatically over the last 5 years. They actually give the big boys a run for their money. I actually own 2 Sigma lenses.  If you’re on a tight hobby budget, 3rd party lenses can be great since they’re usually cheaper (sometimes more than 50%!).
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 7 - Image Stabilization

Should you get image stabilization in your lenses? Before asking that question, what does it do? Basically, it lets you shoot at a slower speed hand-held without blur. Usually, the average photographer can shoot hand-held as slow as 1/60 sec. without blur. With image stabilization, you could, on average,  shoot as slow as 1/15 sec. without blur due to camera shake. Image stabilization is for camera shake only. It’s there to stabilize your camera not your subjects. :) It’s great for low light situations.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Step 8 - How important is aperture?

I’m finishing off with this step because this might play a major role in your lens selection. As you might already know, the smaller the f-stop number, the wider the opening and the more light comes in which means you can shoot at faster speeds. Sometimes you’ll find lenses that seem the same at first glance but one is cheaper than the other and you wonder why. Check the maximum aperture. For example, you can get a 50mm f1.8 and a 50mm f1.4. The first one is $135.00 and the second is $500.00. Big price difference but if you’re shooting in low light all the time and you’re making money with your images than it might be worth it.
vide 8 Steps to Choosing Lenses for Your DSLR Camera

Final thoughts

One thing that I keep suggesting to fellow photographers looking to buy a new lens is to look at lenses like an investment. Camera technology advances at a neck breaking speed so camera bodies change fast and loose value. Lenses, on the other hand, don’t. That’s why lenses retain their resell value. You camera bodies will change over the years but your lenses won’t so get good glass right away. Even if you need to wait an extra few months to save up, you won’t regret it. Working with good equipment makes for a pleasurable experience and therefore better photos! :)



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Quilt for Baby Reagan


Last week I got busy making a quilt for my granddaughter, Reagan.  She'll be One on Sept. 5th!!  I wanted to do something special and decided to make Reagan a "First" quilt for her "First" birthday.  I did not, however, want it to be baby colors or toy pictures - something that she would outgrow.  So, although the quilt is not large, it is small enough for her to use in her crib and large enough for her to use as a lap quilt when she gets older.  


Jelly Rolls are great.  I love 'em.  A Jelly Roll is a roll of 40 strips of fabric, each different from the same collection.  Each strip is 2.5" x 45".  For this quilt, I used the Jelly Roll by Moda's Martinique collection, and I used the book "Two from One Jelly Roll Quilts" by Pam and Nicky Lintott - page 88, the "Jigsaw Quilt."  I love this book!  Great designs and beautiful quilts and instructions for making the quilts with Jelly Rolls.  NOTE: You "will" need to get the Omnigrid 96 ruler to make these quilts and many of the quilt designs with Jelly Rolls.  You can order it online or try to find it at your local quilt store.  I searched and searched throughout Charlotte and finally found it at the Creative Sew & Vac in Ballantyne.  


I can quilt fast if I get all the cutting done, lay out the pieces to be sewn, and then chain stitch them together.  You can whip right through the quilt blocks in no time flat.


Everything is a 1/4" seam in quilting.  Usually that means you only have to follow the edge of your presser foot, but not always.  Before you start making a quilt, take a scrap piece of fabric and stitch a seam along the edge of the fabric using the edge of your presser foot as a guide, then measure it.  Adjust the difference to where you place your fabric for making your quilt so that you will always have an exact 1/4" seam. Accuracy is key in making a quilt that fits together seamlessly and accurately.


Always have a hot steam iron ready and waiting.  Pressing is as important in making a quilt as the stitching!!


I try to stay organized when I quilt.  I lay out pieces by size and color, and I lay out the completed blocks in groups of 10.  Of course, I throw the rest of the jelly roll fabric to one side - hey! I'm entitled to be a little messy!! 


Here are some of my finished blocks. If you are diligent about your cutting, 1/4" seam, pressing, and piecing the seams together with pins as you sew, you'll have beautiful quilt blocks and strong points on your triangles.


I had lots of little square pieces set aside.


This quilt called for 30 blocks, so I cleared off my kitchen table and laid them out until I was happy with the arrangement.


I sewed the blocks together in rows, then I sewed the completed rows together, matching seams as I pinned and stitched.


I had 9" strips cut from the 2.5" x 45" strips from the Jelly Roll.  I sewed several together for all 4 sides to form a border.  Then, I sewed the sides onto the quilt top first, then the top and bottom border to form a beautiful completed border around the quilt top.

When the quilt top was done I cleared off my bed, laid the backing (Right Side Down) onto the bed.  I took straight pins and pinned the backing to the mattress, making sure it was taut.  After the backing was nice and flat, I placed the cotton batting on top of the backing and the quilt top on top of that.

The backing and the batting should be considerably larger than your quilt top.  I place my quilt top in the center so that all sides have plenty of backing and batting around the quilt top.  Starting in the middle, safety pin your quilt top to all 3 layers, making sure not to pin it to your bed!!  Work from the center out to each side, and then the center to the top and the center to the bottom, pinning the quilt and making sure it is flat the entire way.  You are now ready to start basting!!


By basting, I mean "Let's get rid of those safety pins and straight pins!!"  I can't work with pins in my quilt, especially if I am machine quilting, so I baste the entire quilt.  Again, start in the middle and baste to the bottom, then baste the center to the top, center to left side and center to right side.  Then stitch center to corner for all 4 corners. 


Make sure you use a contrasting thread when you baste, it will save you tons of time removing the basting stitches.  You will have a lot of long threads in the middle of the quilt. Leave them there as it will make it easier to pull them out when you are done quilting.  After I did the initial basting, I basted long straight seams about every 8 inches down each side then from top to bottom to form a checkerboard of basting. Your basting will hold your quilt layers in place and prevent puckering and shifting of layers while you machine quilt.


I wear quilting gloves when I quilt.  The gloves make it very easy to grasp the quilt layers and move the quilt for stitching.  For this quilt, I started with "stitch in the ditch" which simply means I stitched along the seams of each block and triangle.


When I was done with the "stitch in the ditch" quilting, I added some "stipple" quilting to the larger white triangles throughout the quilt.


Quilting is a system.  Once you have the system down, it is a real joy to quilt and piece together your work.  After all the quilting was done, I removed the dark basting stitches which held all 3 layers in place. 

I laid it out on my table and trimmed away the excess batting and backing along the edge of the border.


Time to add the binding!  This is my favorite part, because it goes fast and then you're done and can admire your work.  Jelly rolls make this process easy!  I sewed long sections from the jelly roll together on the short ends, pressed the seams open, and began sewing the binding on the quilt.  I did mess up one thing here - I forgot to press under one long edge before I began sewing it to the quilt.  I suppose I was anxious to finish.  So, I'll save you the trouble - after you have pressed open your connecting seams on your binding, press one long side up 1/2".  Only one long side, not both, then put the long edge that is not folded up, with right sides together, along the top of your quilt and line it up nicely along the raw edge of your quilt top.  Using a 1/4" seam (or the edge of your presser foot) and folding under the beginning short end (so that when you finish sewing on the binding and you reach the beginning again, fold the binding over to the other side and you have a finished edge), begin to sew on your binding.  Start putting on the binding in the middle of the bottom of the quilt. That is where I always start.


When you get to the edge, stop your stitching 1/4" from the corner and back stitch to lock it.  Remove it from the machine and take it to your table.  Fold the strip up and away from your quilt giving it a 45 degree angle. (NOTE:  In this picture, I folded my quilt in half on my sewing table and that is why you see the back of the quilt above the top corner of the quilt top where I am applying the binding.  I didn't want the picture to be confusing)


Fold the finding back down along the other edge of the quilt and pin it in place at the top edge.  You will begin sewing from that very corner down the long edge to the next corner and do the same thing using a 1/4" seam allowance.


Add about an inch extra to the end of the binding.  When you are done, fold the binding over to the other side and line up the pressed and folded edge of the binding to the stitching from the other side.  Now, you can straight stitch or you can add a decorative stitch to this piece of the puzzle.  I always like to add a decorative stitch for the finished edge of my binding because it looks really nice on both sides.


And here is my finished quilt!!  I am really proud of the way it turned out and I think the fabrics are interesting and will attract Reagan's interest.  She can use it in her crib, or when she goes to the park.  She'll be able to sit and play on it in her family room or playroom.  Someday, she may use it to cover her legs and read or hang it on the wall.  However she enjoys this quilt as she grows up, I hope she will know that her grandmother Susan stitched a lot of love into every block.

Here is what a Jelly Roll looks like and if you click it on, it will take you to the Martinique Jelly Roll that I used to create this quilt:


This is the Martinique Jelly Roll by 3 Sisters for Moda!  Click on the image to get one of your own!


This is the book that I used to make this quilt - pages 88 - 93 "Jigsaw Quilt."  Click on the book to go directly to Amazon and order one for your own!


I hope that you enjoyed reading about how I created "Reagan's First Quilt!"  




Monday, August 02, 2010

Name That PackSack Contest!!


I finished making Glen's bookbag/backpack today and it came out great.  So great in fact that I decided I needed to give these bags a nifty name.  I only came up with half of the name - "PackSack."  I like it.  But, I need something before the "PackSack."  Some-thing Packsack.

(If you look at the picture above, you will see that the bag has a zippered pocket on the front.)

I took elements from several backpacks the children already had, and elements from some patterns and altered them to create my own design.


I worked for a week making this bag for Glen.  He picked out the fabric and was so excited when I finally got started making it.  Today when I finished it, he couldn't wait to put it on and walk around the house with it on his shoulders.  That is why I love to sew and make things for my children and grandchildren - because of their smiles.  They're priceless.

Although it looks like most school backpacks out there, I have double seams, reinforcement stitching, heavyweight fabric and heavy interfacing, sturdy zippers, adjustable straps with quality hardware (not that plastic crap that snaps together) and plenty of room for books, folder pocket, and 4 additional pockets for car phone, ipod, pencils. 

(In the picture above you will notice that it has an exterior pocket on the side, both sides in fact, and an adjustable shoulder strap.)


So I finished this bag and I thought I would make some more and sell them in my Etsy shoppe, and I thought I would also sell the pattern, fully featured with step-by-step instructions and images to go with it.  All in all it comes with about 30 pages or more I think.  I have all the instructions typed, I just need to add the images - over 200!  Then, I would publish it as a .pdf and sell the pattern for anyone out there who is daring enough to want to try their creative hand at making their own packsack.

As you can see, there is a big interior pocket for a folder or something, and it has 2 interior side pockets as well, for pencils, cell phone, ipod, or a cold drink!


So here's the deal - help me name these packsacks.  If I use your choice of name, I will send you the instructions and pattern for the packsack for free!

The back of the packsack is padded.  This was my idea because I think backpacks are bad on the spine, and since I have a bad back, I want to protect my kids.  However, they refuse to take those book bags on wheels to school, so I came up with the idea of making a backpack with padding against the spine

The interior has binding around the edges that added an additional 2 reinforcement seams to the exterior seams of the bag for a total of 3 stitching seams around the perimeter of the bag, so that even if the weight of heavy books were to compromise it, it won't be at the seams!  


My kids go through backpacks like crazy and when I took a good look at their construction I winced. They're probably made in some sweat shop in China.  No sweating here, just time and lots of love.  I actually enjoyed making these backpacks for Sarah and Glen and now their friends are inquiring about how they can get one.  That is what inspired me to make some for sale and also to create a fully-featured pattern and instructions for sale as well.

So how about it?  What would you call them?  "........?........ PackSack"

(I even made pull tabs out of the remaining bias binding I made from the interior fabric.  Pretty cool, eh?)

Give them a name people!!

* * * * *

So, seriously, reading the comments has been funny, but I need a name for these backpacks.  My daughter thought DTK PackSack, I like the DTK and think it sounds great for marketing, but it stands for "Dressed to Kill" and I'm not sure I like that.  So keep up the suggestions!  I need something that a teenage boy wouldn't be embarrassed to say if asked who made his backpack.  Ha ha.  



Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Summer Smiles


I've been busy sewing up smiles this holiday weekend and I've enjoyed every minute.  For Reagan, I stitched up a Romper for her first July 4th celebration, and for my very special teenage daughter, Sarah, I stitched up a lovely dress for her to wear out with her special guy this weekend.


For Reagan, I used the same pattern for her Romper that I used for her Dress a couple of weeks ago, McCalls Pattern M4424, only I made the Romper and I made some modifications that were sure to make a difference in how the Romper functions on a 10 month old whose diapers need regular changing.


Isn't it adorable?!!  I found this very nice lightweight white cotton fabric with little red embroidered flowers all over it and thought it would be perfect for her holiday romper.


I didn't want the ruffle in the back to be the same fabric as the outfit, so I found this white eyelet ruffle with red embroidered hearts that was just perfect, and although the pattern called for the ruffle to go all the way around the romper, I decided to sew it just to the back.  I also added a blue button at the lap-over for contrast.


Of course, this romper wouldn't be finished without a cute embroidery for the bodice.  I went to my favorite embroidery place on the net - The Embroidery Library, and found this cute little patriotic bear for about 3 dollars.  I downloaded it to my 4D Embroidery software, made some adjustments to size and then stitched it to the bodice.


I am always happy with the quality of the embroidery designs I have found at the Embroidery Library


I hand-embroidered this label for the inside of Reagan's Romper.  I just can't seem to do it on my machine without there being too many stitches.


And this is the other modification I made to the pattern - snaps at the crotch.  For the life of me I couldn't figure out why a baby romper would not have snaps at the crotch.  Obviously, whoever designed the pattern did not have a baby.  Can you imagine having to change a dirty diaper and having to remove the entire romper?!!  Forget it.  So, the first thing I did was add the elastic to the leg opening, then I made binding for the opening of the crotch and finished it off by adding 3 pretty snaps.  Perfect.  My daughter, Kimberly thanked me for remembering that diapers need to be changed - as quickly and easily as possible.



On to Sarah - My teenage girl wanted me to make her a pretty dress for a date she is going on with her boyfriend, Walker.  It is his birthday this coming weekend, and she wanted to look especially pretty when they go out to see a movie.  We found this great pattern by McCalls - M5621.  What I liked about the pattern was that there were no zippers or buttons, snaps or ties. 


There was, however, a very challenging collar.  As a matter of fact, it was probably the most challenging collar I have ever had to sew.  The curves were difficult and the fabric kept wanting to pucker.  But, with seam-ripper in hand, I ripped out seams and re-stitched a number of times until it was perfect. 

Sarah picked out this fabric - isn't it great?!!  I love it.  It is really stylish and is "Challis," a 100% rayon that flows nicely.


The problem I have found with this fabric, though, is that if you are not very careful, you can snag the fabric.  It is best to wear those disposable latex free gloves while handling and sewing the fabric.  That is what I did.  I keep a box of them in my art studio because oil paint on the skin is toxic. 

One thing is for sure - you can't be good at sewing if you are not patient and enjoy what you are doing.  I love to sew, and I especially love making clothes for my children.  It is the process that makes it so much fun for me.


I switched my serger thread to a 3-thread serging.  I thought it made a better finish on the interior seams.  It laid flatter too.  The 4-thread serging wanted to pucker the fabric.  That is another problem with the Challis fabric - it ruffles, puckers, and snags if you are not particularly careful while sewing.


The underarm was challenging too, but that was only because the fabric was difficult to work with.  It frayed a lot along the raw edges and I couldn't see finishing the inside of the underarm facing with the serger.  I wanted it to look finished, so I added white bias tape to the raw edge of the underarm facing.  Perfect.  And it looks really nice and finished and is comfortable against the skin.


I also put a finished white bias binding across the bottom hem of the dress.  It looks great and adds a designer touch.  Sarah tried on the dress and was all smiles!  It fit her perfect and Sarah gave me a big hug.  Of course, that is why I love to sew - the smiles and hugs that come after.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Summer Dress for Our Little Lamb


There is something about having a granddaughter that warms my heart and gets my creative juices flowing, and this summer, I've been busy making Reagan some summer outfits.


Just look at those big blue eyes and button nose!  And the dimples in her elbows and knuckles make my heart melt. 



So, I got busy making Reagan this adorable outfit for summer using McCalls pattern M4424 by Laura Ashley.  


I enjoy detailing my work by using decorative stitches and embroidery.  I put this cross-stitch pattern around the base of the bodice and thought it looked really nice.


I also tacked down the bows so that they wouldn't come off.  They look so cute on the back of the dress.


I was happy with the way the lap in the back turned out too.  They can be a bit of a problem - putting in a lap in garments, but the instructions in this pattern made it especially easy and it came out perfect.


I had my daughter take Reagan's measurements for these little panties.  Whenever you make clothes for children that require elastic around the waist or thighs, it is a good idea to take accurate measurements so that the elastic won't be too tight.  In fact, I prefer to make the elastic just a little loose.  In this case, I made the leg and waist elastic about 1" longer than her actual measurements so that she had room to grow.



I also put this decorative loopy stitch around the bias binding I made for the elastic casing around the thighs and waist.  I thought it added a nice touch, don't you?!


It is the same loopy stitch I put around the hem border as well.


I also added this machine embroidered fluffy little lamb to the front of the bodice.  Isn't she cute?  I love having a sewing machine that does embroidery too.  It is a lot of fun and there are a lot of places online where you can find embroidery for your embroidery machine. I have the Pfaff 2124 and the 4D Embroidery Software.  My favorite place on the web for finding embroidery is called The Embroidery Library.  If you have an embroidery machine, you'll have to check them out.  


That is where I found this cute little lamb!  I purchased the embroidery design, downloaded it to my 4D Embroidery software program, opened it in 4D, resized it to fit on her dress, optimized the stitches, and uploaded the saved design to the card reader that goes in my machine.  Complicated?  Yes.  It took me 3 years to get up the nerve to learn how to use this machine and I still have a long way to go, but I am enjoying the embroidery journey.


I was not, however, able to make a decent embroidered label with the machine.  For some reason, there were too many stitches in the letters and that made it difficult to read.  So, I pulled out an old wood hoop with some white muslin fabric and made my own label with embroidery thread, a needle, and 30 minutes of my time.  Then, I whip-stitched it to the inside of Reagan's dress.


The most challenging part about making the hat was the 3" elastic I had to put in the back.  Getting that small piece of elastic in the casing was challenging to say the least, and I stitched over that thing a dozen times, praying it wouldn't pop out some day.  I think it's in there like concrete and it stretches nicely too to fit her comfortably.  I also made a bow out of the contrasting fabric for the back of the hat too.  


I thought it was so cute when I finished.


Here is the completed outfit.  I enjoyed this pattern!  If you have a baby girl you can sew for, you should try this pattern.  


And then make sure you get lots of pictures of her wearing it with great big smiles and dimples too!!



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The More I Sew, The Better I Am At Painting

Edgar Degas - "Woman Ironing"

The brain is a wonderful taskmaster, and I have discovered that as I pursue multiple creative interests, that the challenges I find in one thing may help me solve the challenges I find in another.

I believe that all creative people have multiple interests, many just focus on one that they really love more than the other, while others bounce back and forth from one creative interest to another - like myself.  I'm a bit nutty that way I suppose.  I have an over-active right brain - and left-brain too for that matter!  


I tend to think logically and solve creative problems with my left brain while following through with my right brain.  I've always been a multi-tasker.  Maybe that's part of my problem as well.  What do they call it "Jack of all trades and master of none?"  That pretty much sums me up in a nutshell.  Oh, I've mastered the art of painting and expressing myself through canvas and oil - but have never pursued masterclass notoriety, or performed feats of painting grandeur in front of an audience, or had workshops on the magnificent, romantic bay of Naples, Italy.  But, I have enjoyed success and some notoriety - albeit a little bit.  

Burton Silverman - "Woman Sewing"

I also enjoy sewing and think I am rather good at it.  But my quilts don't hang in galleries any more than my paintings, and my fashions don't grace runway models - but they do grace my smiling children and grandchildren!  My writing has never been published into a hardback book, and my blogs don't garner 100,000 visitors a day.  Success is relative.  Success is what makes you happy.


Agnes Nicholls - "A Mother with her Children"

I've always been a juggler.  I am a wife and mother first and foremost.  My family and children will always come first.  They are the reason I get up in the morning.  However, when I have time to myself, I thoroughly enjoy the zone I fall into - or that creative space my brain takes me to - that zeroes out the rest of the world around me while I create.  Creating is like a drug ... it takes you to another psychic element.

Mary Cassatt - "Young Mother Sewing"

So, while I am sewing and thinking about the task at hand, I find that I have become a better artist in front of the canvas ... and when I paint, I find that I have become better at sewing and quilting.  Maybe all it is really, is fine tuning what we already know.  Improving our own sense of perfection.

I'm always up for a new creative task too.  I also enjoy woodworking and paper crafts, writing and web design.

Are you a creative multi-tasker?  I'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment!

(Original Post on my blog for visual artists - Red Easel)



Friday, June 04, 2010

The "Mary Elizabeth Tote"


My dear mother wanted a tote bag, so several weeks ago we went to our favorite quilt shop and purchased some fabric, then I ordered some decorative marble-like handles online from  

I had a pretty good idea of what she wanted and I planned it all out, using a number of pictures and patterns for inspiration. Here is what I did:


I determined the finished size of the tote and then divided it up in half and accounted for the seam allowances.  This is where being good in math helps.  I cut out a top portion for the tote, and a bottom section for the tote then I layered the fabric on batting and muslin that I had cut to the same sizes.

Tip: When you are working, have little slips of paper handy and use them to label your fabric pieces, and if your fabric is the same on both sides, make sure you label which side is the right side too.  I have learned that it saves a lot of time looking for something you cut out and knowing where you are in the process.  Then, just pin the little piece of paper with the information onto your piece of fabric.


After I cut my fabric into the rectangular sizes I wanted - 2 for the front and 2 for the back of the top section of the bag and 2 for the front and 2 for the back of the bottom section of the bag - I was ready to quilt.

I layered my sections and changed the presser foot on my sewing machine to the free-motion quilting foot, lowered my feed dogs, and went to town.  I started in the middle of the quilt block and worked around to the sides and corners.  The quilting technique I used is something of a personal creation.  I call it "Loopty-loop" quilting, because I can't seem to figure out stippling.

I used a mono-filament clear thread for the quilting on the right side of the fabric and a white thread in my bobbin.


I make loops of different sizes and figure 8's all over the quilt block.  It's fun!  Next, I pinned 2 front "top" sections and 2 back "top" sections together at the sides, right sides together, and prepared to make the center seam of the front and back of the tote.  I used a 1/2" seam allowance.  

Repeat this step for the "bottom" sections of your tote as well.


Press open your seam.


Then, on the right side of each panel, (2 "top" panels now and 2 "bottom panels) stitch a seam on either side of the seam you just made, making sure that your seam allowance that you pressed open on the other side is being stitched open.  Do this stitching with the right side of the fabric facing you so that you can get it nice and perfectly straight and even on either side of the original seam.  Also, this is a fun time to pick a decorative or complimentary thread for the double-stitching.


I then measured the width of my "top" section front and back of the tote, and the "bottom" section front and back of the tote.  I made sure that all 4 long rectangles were the same width - exactly.  Also, each "top" section (front & back) and each "bottom" section (front & back) should be the same height and width.  Trim as necessary.


Now here is where I put the sections together.  Stitch 1 long rectangular "top" section to 1 long rectangular "bottom" section of your tote.  Then top stitch along that seam after you press it open.  This makes a very nice intersection of seams that look great!  You should have 2 big square pieces now - each with 4 quilted panels sewn together to make up each of the 2 sections (1 is the front of the tote and the other is the back of the tote).


Measure and make sure that the 2 square-like sections you have are the same width and height.  Trim as necessary.  Next, decide the depth you want for your bag.  I thought about 5-6 inches would be good.  I measured a 3" square on the corner of the "bottom" section of the panel.  


And used a washable fabric marker to mark it on the wrong side of the tote "front" and "back" panels.


Then I cut them out.  Easy peasy, and pitched the extra piece in the trash.


I measured out 2 pieces of heavy-duty iron-on interfacing the same width and height as the 2 sections (front & back) of my tote.  Then, I deducted 3" from the width and 1 1/2" from the height and cut it out of the interfacing.  

Next, cut out 3" corners from the bottom of the interfacing.  Lay the interfacing, sticky side down, to the wrong side of your "front" and "back" panels.  Here's what you want to do, though, when you put the interfacing on the wrong side of your panels - make sure the long top edges match. In other words, lay the interfacing down so that the top edge of the interfacing and the top edge of your front and back panels are together.  Then, when you center the interfacing on each panel, you will have about a 1 1/2" allowance around 3 sides.  You can see what I mean in the picture above.  

Also, when you are pressing on the side of the interfacing, I like to use a piece of pressing cloth (all that is is a piece of white cotton muslin cut out into about a 20" square) and place it on the top so that the iron doesn't stick to the interfacing.


You've measured the width and height of the front and back panels, right?  Now, cut out 2 square-like pieces from a complimentary fabric that are those measurements PLUS an additional 1" to the HEIGHT, and then cut out the 3" corners on the bottom.  You'll see why the extra 1" in a minute.


Following the interfacing instructions above, cut out 2 pieces of interfacing to press onto the wrong side of the front and back panels of your interior fabric (the fabric that is going to be on the inside of your tote).


Okay - you've got the front and back sections completed for the exterior of the tote, and the interior of the tote too.  But, I thought interior pockets would be nice.  I wasn't sure if I wanted them to go all the way around the interior of the tote, or just on one side, so I cut out 2 strips that were just a little bit wider than the interior fabric section, and after I determined how high I wanted the pockets to be, I doubled the height so that when folded in half (minus 1/2" for the seam allowance) it is the height I want for the pockets.  I didn't want them to be so deep that they were difficult for my mother to get her hands into them for her cell phone or other things.  

I took the fabric for the pockets, and folded it in half (right sides together) and stitched a 1/2" seam down the longest edge and turned it right side out. Press it nice and flat and then, to add a nice touch, stitch close to the top edge only (the top edge that is going to be the open edge of the pockets).  


I decided to put pockets only on one interior section and not both, but that is entirely up to you.  I placed the pockets (stitched edge up) along the 3" corner clipped section of the interior fabric.  It hung over each side a little because it was a little bit wider than my interior section, but that's okay.  Then I raised it up about 1/2".  After I made the bag I realized I probably should have raised it about 1" or 1 1/2" from the bottom of the bag and that is probably what I will do next time.  Just a thought.  It's really up to you.

Pin the pocket section to the interior section of the tote.

Stitch across the bottom of the pocket section, then divide up your pockets like you want.  I divided my pocket panel into several 3 1/2" and 4" pockets and marked where the seams will go for the pockets with a fabric pencil.

Stitch from the bottom stitching to the top of the pocket along the divisions you drew on the pocket panel. Don't worry about the pieces that are open on the sides as they will be stitched up when the front and back panels are stitched together.


Take the front exterior panel and the front interior panel and with right sides together, line them up across the straight top edge and sides only.  The interior piece will be 1" longer on the notched edge.  Not to worry, we're going to make a faux binding across the top of the tote.  You'll see!

Okay, you've stitched the interior and exterior panels together right?  Do this for the front and back panels. Press the stitched 1/2" seam allowance towards the interior section like the picture above.


Pin the front and back sections together at the sides, matching seams and corners.


Stitch along the sides only where you pinned.

Stitch along the bottom of the quilted section only.

Now, I didn't take a picture of this, darn-it, but if you have any questions, you can email me.  After you have stitched the sides completely, and then stitched the bottom of the quilted section, open the bottom of the bag (of the quilted sections) at the corners where you cut out the 3" corners.  Stitch them together to form the bottom of the bag.  You'll figure it out.  I believe in you. When you put your hand inside the bag you'll see how the notched corners come together.  BUT, just stitch together the corners of the quilted section first.  When you are sure that it is together right, then stitch together the notched corners of the interior sections too, the only difference here is that you only stitch about 2" from each edge across the bottom of the interior section.  You need to leave an opening large enough to turn your tote right side out!

Tip:  Make sure you have reinforced the beginning and ends of all of your stitchings, especially where the opening is on the bottom of the interior section, otherwise, when you turn your tote right-side out, the stitching may come lose.  


Turn your tote right side out and pin the interior bottom together, tucking in the seam allowance.  Stitch it together.


Now, here's the fun part!  Push the interior of your tote inside and push out the bottom edges so that it lays nice inside the tote.  What you will notice is that the interior section wraps around the seam 1/2" seam allowance across the top giving you a faux binding.  Pretty nifty don't you think?

Once you have the interior tucked inside, press along that top edge giving the top of the tote a nice sharp, pressed edge.  Pin the interior and exterior together making sure that the faux binding is the same all the way around the top edge of the tote.  Put your pins about 2" or more down from the top edge.


The interior will look like this.


We want to reinforce the top edge and faux binding, so I turned my tote wrong-side out and stitched down the middle of the faux binding.  Remember, the color of the thread for the top stitching may not be the same as what is in your bobbin.  I wanted the red on top.  I stitched all the way around the tote top.


I made a flap and stitched that on too.  Then I took my marble-like handles and marked where they should be placed on the tote so that they are centered.  I made some little tabs to hold it to the tote, put them through the loop on the handle and stitched them to the tote, tucking in the open seams and top stitching to hold the tabs in place.


Next, I attached some snaps to the tote.  I placed a 5/8" heavy-duty snap on the front flap, and I put 2 more heavy-duty 5/8" snaps on either side after tucking in the corners of the tote.  That way, it gives the tote a nice angled look and can open up for more space to dig around.  


Don't the interior pockets look great?!!


When it was all completed, I was so proud of it.  I think this just might be the nicest tote bag I have ever made!


My mother absolutely loves it.  She told me it was the nicest bag she has ever had and that just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Now, here's the deal - I'm going to make some of these tote bags and sell them on Etsy for about 120.00. On the other hand, I am going to try to create a pattern for this tote, including different sizes, so that you can take your pick.  I'll sell the pattern here in pdf form.  Sound like a plan?

Of course it will include more detailed instructions and diagrams than here, but hopefully, this post will inspire you to make your own tote and enjoy the process as much as I did.

I hope you like the "Mary Elizabeth Tote!"  It was made with a lot of love for my mother.  She was so happy to use it today for the first time and was so proud of it.  That makes it all worthwhile.



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Fabric and Pattern Obsession


Do you know why I have so many unfinished projects in my art and sewing studios?  Because every time I see something new that looks like fun to make, I try and get it - well, some of the time.  I have a weakness for fabric and patterns, especially things for babies.  The colors are so bright and happy.  How can anyone walk in a baby store or baby isle and not smile.


I love Heather Bailey's talent for designing fabric and patterns and when I saw this "Happy Stacker," I had to get the pattern to make for my granddaughter, Reagan.  I think she may actually enjoy playing with this for a year or so before she gets tired of it.  What do you think?


I even went through my stash and found some fabric that I thought would be fun and soft.  And that's another obsession I have - fabric.  Whenever I'm in a fabric store, if I see some cotton fabric I like, I'll buy a yard and stick it in my stash.  The fabric above is a perfect example of fabric that I fell in love with in the fabric store and purchased on impulse.  I'm bad like that.  We all have our weaknesses I suppose, and mine is fabric.  Issues.  Impulses.  I can't help myself.  


And patterns.  I love patterns for dolls and baby clothes, especially baby girl dresses.  I must have made each of my girls a dozen or more dresses when they were babies and toddlers.  They looked so cute all dressed up in dresses I made them with eyelet trim or ribbons and pearl buttons.


I found these little gems online about 5 years ago.  Unfortunately, I've been too intimidated to actually try to make one.  I think I need to just jump in and try to make one, before I'm too old and arthritic to even get the pattern out of the plastic bag.


About 3 months ago, while walking through Michaels I ran across this in the yarn aisle.  Don't they look delicious?  Don't you just want to curl up with all 8 of them?  I do.  Of course, it would help if there was a baby stuck inside one for good measure.  I have a thing for babies.  I like the way they smell and look at you with that innocent look that says "I may be cute and cuddly now, but you just wait, I'm going to run laps around you one day and you'll forget how sweet and innocent I once was."  "Yeah, yeah, yeah - I hear ya, stop cooing and let me enjoy this while I'm still able."  


Back to reality - Oh my goodness, check out this French Roses quilt pattern.  I absolutely fell in love with this pattern the minute I saw it here:


Isn't it beautiful!  I love the way the quilter used vintage rose fabric for the roses in each block and around the border.  I think I'd like to do the same thing.



And I love this pattern from Alex Anderson too.  Classic Star flowers in such a beautiful array of colors and designs.  I think I might like to try to duplicate this pattern just like the cover and then hang it on my wall.

By the time I finish making everything that I have around here, Reagan will probably be going off to college.  I may not live that long.  I suppose there's no time like the present to start sewing up some memories.



Monday, April 19, 2010

A Thread Rack from my Big Bear


I had a problem in my sewing room.  Thread.  Everywhere.  I threw them all into a basket and tripped over it frequently.  I had about 40 spools on a small tabletop thread rack and fell over a number of times as well.  My hubby walked into the sunroom aka my "sewing studio" and said "You really need a thread rack on the wall."  I said "Really?  You think so?  How about you make me one."  I honestly didn't think he would bite on this one, but he did.  It took him over a month working on it in the evenings and on the weekends when he had time, but in a matter of weeks, he had made me a beautiful thread rack.



He used a set of 30 x 40 stretcher bars that I had in my art studio, made a frame, then made a lot of trips to Home Depot for various things until his creation looked like this.



He put a lot of thought into making this thread rack for me, making sure that the pegs were spaced for the largest spools of thread on top and then making 2 rows at the bottom to hold lots of embroidery thread on the smaller spools.  Oh, and he also mounted a rod for holding my ribbons across the top.  He's a great guy.  I think I'll keep him.



After he built it, he painted it the same as the moldings in the sunroom.  I couldn't wait to put my thread and ribbon on the rack.



I have since added about 10 more rolls of thread that I dug out of my drawers and the left over thread I put in a drawer that I cleaned out, but this wonderful rack hangs right behind my chair where I sew so that when I need some thread, all I have to do is turn around and grab what I need.  What could be easier?

When I think of all the things that my Big Bear has done for me in our 18 years together I can't help but smile and count my blessings.  He bought me a very nice sewing machine right after we got married and set me up with all the supplies I needed to make some quilts.  After I had Sarah, I got a lot of use from that machine.  I made crib bumpers and quilts, drapes, and baby clothes galore.  I even sold some of my quilts at the local craft fair.  Then we moved from our small townhouse to a home on 3 acres and he built me a quilting frame.  Then he set me up with a studio to paint.  He knew how much I always wanted to paint and he bought me an easel and paints, brushes and books.  He wanted me to follow my dreams, and I did.

After studying and painting for about 5 years, I began to sell my paintings to collectors around the world, I had exhibitions and won a number of competitions.  Bob has always been my biggest supporter, cheering me on and making sure I had everything I needed.  



So, to my sweetie, I just want to say "Thank you."  Thank you for loving me so much and supporting me through all my hobbies, projects, crafts, and more.  

Isn't this a great thread rack?  It looks great on the wall too.  I love all the colors of the threads against the creamy yellow walls.  Looks like I am going to be doing a lot more sewing now that I've cleaned up my sewing studio.



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