It’s Almost Time!

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Some of you may have guessed that I recently filmed a new Craftsy class! Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques will be launched soon. Do you want a chance to win a free class? Click here to be entered into a drawing to win – Craftsy will draw a random entry, and I’ll let the lucky winner know the day the class goes live.

Look at some of the things I teach in the class…

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…and lots more!

Stay tuned for more photos and info. Be sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss any updates. And remember that with a Crafsty online class, you can take it as many times as you want, whenever you want, and you can ask me and other students questions and post photos of your work! Super-sharp HD quality video and audio make it easy to see exactly what I am doing each step of the way.

Dont’ forget to sign up for that free class!

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Learning Something New – Day 4

I’m still taking advantage of the Craftsy sale, and taking classes. Actually, this post is about the first class I took this week, not the fourth, but I was so thrilled with the class that I wanted to make a sample, and I wanted to be able to show it to you!

This is the class I took:

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I’ve admired Cindy’s work for a while. She has much the same quilting style as I. What I love most are her wonderful quilts using embroidered and cutwork linens as the top! I discovered that her method for quilting around the embroidery is exactly the same as I use to quilt around my machine embroidery! And like her, I quilt a lot of repeating lines, both echo quilting and parallel straight lines, as a counterpoint to flowing, focal motifs like feathers. But I learned other, new tips, and had to try them out.

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I wanted to try using linens, so I found this little silk embroidered handkerchief in my “stuff.” I layered it over shimmery gold silk/cotton Radiance, then over batting and backing, and quilted it with Superior Kimono silk threads in several colors. Then I added a crocheted doily to the plain center of the hanky after it was quilted.

The new techniques I tried are making parts of the feathers “hide” under the edge of the hanky, so it looks like the hanky is floating over the quilting.

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I also used the fill pattern in the center of the handkerchief for the first time. I’ve seen it before, but the instructions were great, and I was able to do it easily. I love this Art Deco repeating fan shape!

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Another technique suggested in the class was the use of beads to secure and embellish. She suggested fresh-water pearls for crochet work.

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Wow! The color is perfect (even with inexpensive pearls from a hobby store), and the pearls don’t get lost in the crochet the way smaller seed beads might.

Because I’m a detail person, I added tiny rickrack piping to the outer edge.

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There’s only one thing I wish I’d done differently on this little quilt. I wish I’d used wool batting instead of 80/20 cotton/poly batting. I didn’t have any scraps of wool batting, and I didn’t want to cut into a big piece, because I have a big quilt ready to layer, and I didn’t want to run short. The wool batting would have made the feathers puff more. But even so, I’ve very pleased with this. Thanks for the help, Cindy!

If you’d like to try this class, click here on my affiliate link.

Learning Something New – Day 3

Several months ago, I was working on a challenge quilt with a friend, and was trying to figure out the design for my part of it. I started with a block of black fabric, and stitched radiating lines of triple straight stitch in silver metallic thread. Well, I didn’t like the way that looked with the embroidery designs I was using, so I tried out this beautifully digitized dragon design by Lindee Goodall.

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I suppose I’ll quilt it at some point and make a small wall quilt, but that will have to take a back seat for now. In any case, I think the dragon looks great!

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My goal for this week has been to take a new class every day (or as many days as possible!) and learn something new. I am almost entirely self-taught, and have rarely taken classes, although I have read extensively and worked very hard to develop my skills. But I figured it was time to get a fresh perspective, and be the student for a while, even though it is as an online student.

The Craftsy class I chose for today was “20 Things Every Embroiderer Should Know,” taught by Lindee. Lindee has been digitizing, embroidering, and teaching for a long time. I remember meeting her in an elevator, although I don’t remember where that elevator was! I have also been machine embroidering for many – about 20 – years, but figured there would be things in her class that could help me make my work better.

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If you do any machine embroidery, this is a great class! It covers hooping, stabilizers, needles, threads, tension, and avoiding “un-embroidering.” Most of it was not new to me, but I did pick up some very helpful tips; I especially liked the ones involving duct tape and a disposable razor! (Honestly – nothing kinky here!!!) The last segment on using Embrilliance software didn’t do much for me, but I don’t do any digitizing at all; if you do, you might like it.

If you’d like to improve your embroidery, you might like to take this class, which, like all Craftsy classes, is on sale this week. Click on my affiliate link here to sign up!

Learning Something New: Day 2

Several years ago, I taught this tote bag at a couple of the Martha Pullen schools.

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The animal print is an upholstery fabric, the ivory and orange fabrics are silk dupioni, and the brown is cotton sateen. The embroidery designs are from Zundt. The ivory tiger panel is a large pocket, edged with double piping. The side pockets are piped with single piping, and are just the right size to hold a bottle of water.

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The body of the tote – like the back shown here – was easily made this way…layer lining, lightweight batting, and outer fabric, then machine embroider the light, open designs to quilt the layers. Student loved it because the positioning and orientation of the designs was random! Hoop wherever you want! Quick and easy. You can see the folded prairie points at the top of the back; they are on the front, as well. Again, easy – folded squares of fabric, stitched into the top binding, then secured at the point with a feed-dogs-down zigzag.

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Here you can see the zipper that closes the tote. I used a heavy-duty coat zipper. And you can see the detail on the straps, too – straight-grain strips of fabric run through a bias tape maker, then stitched to the backing fabric for the strap in random spacing and angles. The backing is cut wider than the animal print strip, so that when it’s turned right side out, the backing wraps around the seam allowances and forms a kind of built-in bound edge.

I’ve used this tote a lot, which is quite surprising, considering that I rarely wear brown, and I am NOT an animal print kind of person! Leopards, zebras and such are not in my closet or home (well, unless cats count!) But the tote is sturdy and a good size, and it has a secure zipper closing, which most totes do not.

Okay, this brings me to “learning something new.” I am also not a purse person. I don’t change purses with seasons or outfits. I put my stuff in my purse and leave it there until the purse falls apart. I have a good quality black leather shoulder bag that I’ve been using for at least 10 years. Before that, I had a nice black leather shoulder bag that I used for 10 years. The problem is, my current one is worn out, and good quality leather purses give me sticker shock!

Soooo, here comes another Craftsy class for me! I’m taking advantage of this week’s big sale and learning some new things.  This afternoon I watched this class

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…and I’m ready to make my own leather bag! What a great class! The instructor goes over designing, choosing and cutting leather, supplies, sewing on a home machine, adding zippers, pockets, and lining. He really made it seem very do-able. Leather is one material I’ve never sewn, but I’m more than ready to try! If you’d like to try this class, too, click here.

Maybe if I make my own, I can have a new purse more frequently than once every 10 years!

This post contains affiliate links.

Learning Something New!

Because Craftsy is having a BIG sale right now, I thought I’d try taking some classes for myself! The first class I tried was “Sweet Elegance: 16 Cookie-Decorating Techniques.”

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Now, I like to cook, but I’m not much of a baker. But these cookies look like lace, and I’m a sucker for lace (okay, I’m a sucker for cats, too, but we won’t talk about that right now!) I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and came away convinced that I could make cookies almost this lovely. Amber covered decorations that look like netting lace, eyelets, quilted looks, monograms, painted roses, and, my favorite, embroidered flowers! She also included a recipe for not only the royal icing she uses, but a very tasty-sounding cookie recipe. I kind of wish I’d kept those Wilton cake decorating supplies from the class I took way back in the early 1980s!

Use my affiliate link below to try out this fun class:

http://www.craftsy.com/ext/SusanStewart_4873_CP

Those lacey cookies reminded me of the very first class I taught at a Martha Pullen school, in 1991, I think.

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It’s really just a lace collage stitched on cotton netting. I always thought this looked kind of like a lace turtle! This was supposed to be a pillow, but it never got a back or pillow form. Actually, I’ve taught a lot of pillow class projects, and almost none of them have pillow forms – they take up too much room in luggage and storage, so they are all flat pillows!

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The very center was a little embroidered netting motif, surrounded by mitered insertion and edging. Curved insertion and edgings were stitched around that.

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I cut out little flowers from the gorgeous wide insertion, and appliqued them to the netting background in various places. A wide 3″ edging was gathered around the outer edge. The laces used in this project were really exquisite!

A Very Versatile Machine Embroidery Design #3

You may have noticed that I use a lot of machine embroidery designs that are not “things.” No animals, no people, no coffee cups, no still lifes. Sometimes floral designs. But mostly, I really like swirl designs that lend themselves to many different looks. I’ve written about two other designs in this post and this post. Today I’m featuring a set of designs (yes, Zundt!) that I’ve used in several ways.

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The designs have a satin stitch outline around a long, open, running-stitch filled center.

Here I used just the smallest design, repeated and mirrored to form a border.

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When those center fill stitches are stitched with metallic thread, it creates a soft, shimmery look that almost looks like it’s been painted.

All four of the designs were used in “Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining.” (2010)

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The swirl design here is just to the left of the butterflies. I also used a couple of large floral designs and free-standing lace. The fabric is silver gray Radiance, and all of the embroidery (all Zundt) was done with gray Isacord and silver metallic thread. The butterflies, the large lace motifs (the quilt was cut from behind the motifs) and the wide lace edging (not visible in this photo; look at the full shot above) are free-standing lace. It is 85 inches square, and the embroidery used approximately 47,000 yards of thread and nearly 5,000,000 embroidery stitches. After the embroidery on the fabric was done, I free-motion quilted with Superior Threads silk Kimono thread.

This photo is from before it was completed, but it really shows the sparkle from the metallic thread (and Stella the cat says she needed to be in this post!)

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This quilt won the Pfaff Best Machine Workmanship award at Houston in 2010

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and a first place at Paducah in 2011.

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But I wasn’t finished with these designs! This is a very different look in “Distraction.”

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I pieced white and dark gray Kona cotton, then embroidered swirls over the pieced fabric. I love the way the piecing shows through the metallic-filled swirl centers – a lovely transparency!

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One of my favorite parts of this quilt is that I pieced the binding to match the pieced stripes in the fabric! Details matter! 🙂

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Actually, I wasn’t pleased with the way the edge of the quilt was slightly stretched, so I later took off the binding and re-did it so it would be smoother, but I couldn’t find a picture of the final edge.

Finally, here is a little quilt I made, “Lime Frost”, which will probably be a donation quilt at some point.

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It is Radiance, apple green and silver metallic thread, and a few Swarovski crystals. Besides the large central swirls that were also used in the other quilts, the smaller corner swirls are from my Craftsy class project.

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I hope this has inspired you to think of using those embroidery designs in multiple ways, and to use them as the base for lovely quilting!

Teeny, Tiny Squares

All of my previous posts have been about my work from the past.  This is a current project.

I made this needlepoint for my Dad in 1978.  I was finishing up college, and for some reason made needlepoint projects for my family that year.  This was from an illustration in a farm magazine!

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As a tribute to him, I decided to do this in fabric – pieced – about 6 squares per inch – then quilted!  I know, crazy!  This is hanging on Mom’s wall, so all I have to work from is this photo.

Here is the completed sunflower from the lower left.  You can see how tiny the squares are!

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Here, I’ve worked my way up to the cornstalk.  Even doing some strip-piecing, this is tedious, painstaking work!

Don’t sneeze!

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The squares are cut 1/2″, then trimmed slightly after piecing. After the squares are sewn into strips, the strips are added to the slooooowly growing piece.   I try to match every single seam – 22 seams per strip in this section.  Here is a strip pinned to the right side of the piece.

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Then I flip to the wrong side…

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and stitch, using the previous seam (not the raw fabric edges) as a guide, with my needle in the far left position.

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Then I check the right side to see if the seams line up.  At least half the time, there are sections of the seam that don’t, so I have to take out some stitches and re-stitch.  Now mind, these stitches are only 1mm long – they have to be that tiny to keep the eensy weensy seam allowances from fraying.  And they are stitched with Superior Threads Bottom Line thread, which is a very fine 60wt. poly thread.  I use this fine thread because I wanted a thread that took up less space in the seam than regular 50wt. piecing thread.  I did what I could to reduce the bulk, and the Bottom Line is strong enough for this particular piecing. Those stitches are hard to un-stitch!

Once everything is lined up as well as I can get it, I trim the seam allowances a bit, then press those seam allowances open on the wrong side.  Oh, by the way, the seam allowances on the squares were pressed open, too.  I thought the ridges created from pressing to the side would be too noticeable on these tiny squares.  Again, not an easy task!  Each seam allowance is 3 layers of fabric, and I’m pressing them open over the previous seam allowance.  Altogether, each square is 9, yes 9, layers of fabric thick.

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I found that running my thumbnail down the seam, separating the seam allowances, then pressing with lots of steam worked best.  Here’s the right side of that strip.

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Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat, seemingly ad infinitum…

I have finally finished the sunflower/cornstalk panel.  Twenty-three squares by ninety squares – 2070 squares, and this is only about one-fourth of the project!  Whew!

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I have a great ability to tolerate tedium, and I usually work on only one project at a time, but this calls for a break!  I embroidered, pieced, and quilted my Craftsy quilt in less time than this 4″ x 16-3/4″ panel took!

So for now, I’m putting these teeny, tiny square away and working on something bigger!

This Magazine Changed My Life

In December of 1988, I saw this issue of Sew Beautiful on the magazine rack at a grocery store.  I picked it up, looked through it, and felt prickles go up and down my neck.  I knew how to sew very well, but I had grown up on a Missouri farm, and had never before seen such lacy confections!  I was immediately hooked.  I knew I would try my hand at this new-to-me type of sewing.

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In that time before online shopping, I was lucky to find a few kinds of heirloom laces and some Imperial batiste at a machine dealership about 50 miles from my home.  I read and re-read the magazine, and also Mildred Turner’s book, which I got at that same store.

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Okay, so heirloom sewing isn’t hard, it just requires certain materials and techniques, and attention to detail.  I’m really good at that “attention to detail” part, so with the book and magazine and some batiste and lace, I was off and running!

This is the first heirloom dress I made.  I don’t know what the basic pattern was, probably a McCall’s/Simplicity/Butterick that I adapted.  The sleeves and collar were from Mimi’s book.

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The dress is pale pink Imperial batiste and narrow (really too narrow for the templates, but it’s what I could find) white French Val insertion and edging.  There are teardrop insertion shapes on the collar, and a double row of scallops on the sleeves.  I used serger thread, which was the finest thread I could get.

Annie wore the dress for Easter 1989.  And don’t you love David’s expression?!

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Unfortunately, I no longer have that dress.  It was probably loaned to a friend, and never made it back home.  But I do have the second heirloom dress I made!  This one was made from real Nelona Swiss batiste and Swiss embroideries.  The basic pattern was one from one of those early Sew Beautiful magazines.

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Surprisingly, the Swiss insertion and edging were purchased a couple of years before this, before I discovered Sew Beautiful.  I got them at Eunice Farmer’s store in St. Louis, because I thought then, and still do, that they were some of the most beautiful trims I had ever seen.

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I remember that when I called Martha Pullen Co. to order the precious Nelona, Kathy McMakin answered the phone and took my order!

Well, that magazine was the start of an amazing journey for me!  Soon, I was sewing and writing and teaching for Martha Pullen Co.  I am so grateful for the opportunities this gave me!  At the time, I had two lovely children, but was in a dismal marriage.  The ability to stretch my creativity, do things I had never imagined myself doing, and create so many beautiful things gave me a self-confidence that eventually helped me to get out of that dismal marriage and then later marry a wonderful, supportive man.

Fast forward 26 years… I have authored two books, had my work featured in countless books and magazines, won top prizes at major quilt shows, taped a Craftsy class, and have four quilts in the National Quilt Museum.  Yes, I’ve endured my share of heartbreak and tragedy – no one is spared that.  But what a ride for a farm girl with a chemistry degree!  Just last week I went to Albuquerque, NM, because my quilt “Snow Flowers” won the “Best Home Machine Quilted” award (and $3500!) at the AQS show there.

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Just like those white dresses, white quilts are difficult to photograph!  But you can clearly see the heirloom influence – lace insertions and edgings on a quilt!

I wonder what will be on the journey next?

Free Class Giveaway!

This past April, Craftsy contacted me and asked if I would be interested in taping a class on machine embroidery and quilting.  After working on the class much of the summer, I travelled to Denver in September for three days of taping.  What a great experience!

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I learned so much.  I really found the production process fascinating!

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And now, the class is ready to go live later this month.

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To celebrate, I am offering a free class giveaway!  Click on this link to enter

http://www.craftsy.com/ext/SusanStewart_Giveaway

One lucky person will be randomly chosen, and at the end of the giveaway, I’ll email the winner to let you know and give you the info on accessing your free class.  The class will be yours to keep – watch any time, and as many times as you like.  And the class is interactive, so you can ask me, your friendly instructor, and your classmates questions!  In addition, you’ll get exclusive Zundt embroidery designs (and if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know how much I love Zundt designs!)

I made the quilt up in three different colorways, so you can see how the choice of fabric and threads affect the look of the piece.

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As always in my classes, I squeeze in as many tips as I can to make your sewing easier and more precise.  Wait til you learn my newest uses for some very common – and inexpensive – products!

So enter today and don’t miss your chance to win The Machine Embroidery Inspired Quilt class!