Saturday, July 24, 2010

Denim Scraps become Functional

Denim is so awesome. It's cotton, it's tough, it's soft, it's comes in a plethora of colors, every blue under the sun.  I'm goofing around with some denim scraps and I made these potholders yesterday.  Well, they're in progress.

I'm intrigued by the Modern Quilting movement lately. It is improvisational with thoughtful use of shape and color.   Simple shapes make sophisticated designs and the pattern of the fabric gives personality. That was the inspiration for my pot holders, although in this application, the denim really doesn't have a pattern.

I use Insul-Bright insulated batting combined with a piece of 100% cotton batting to line the potholders. This combination works well in the kitchen, and the demin will provide anther layer of protection. Above all, I want these pot holders to be functional!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Skulls in Design

Skulls are so popular as a motif for accessories, clothing, and jewelry. I'm into them for my scrub caps. They're nice for the men who want to show they're tough while working in a caring profession.

I like the whimsical skull designs, too.

With Halloween coming up in a few months, I'm designing some skull themed caps.

I found this "rhine-stud" applique in the clearance bin at a fabric or craft store (I forget which store). It is made by Dritz. I can try it out for cheap! So cute, but how does it work? How good is the adhesive? Will it interfere with my sewing?

When you unwrap the applique, it is sandwiched between a sticky mesh piece of plastic (back) and a clear piece of plastic (front). You peel off the mesh and place the design on the fabric. I used the faint lines you see on this fabric to help me center it.

You place a pressing cloth (a.k.a. rag) over the clear plastic and iron without steam. This melts the adhesive slightly and adheres the design to the fabric gently. Then you flip the fabric over and iron again. This melts the adhesive the rest of the way. Don't iron too much or you'll melt the whole thing and end up with a mess.

Let it cool, then gently peel back the clear plastic.

This step was difficult. Some of the little rhinestones wanted to stay stuck to the clear plastic layer and detached from the fabric below. I repositioned the clear plastic (restoring the design) and ironed it again, then resumed peeling. This helped but it didn't eliminate the problem. What finally worked was to re-iron, then massage the plastic over the design while it was slightly warm.

It still required a delicate touch when peeling off the top plastic.

I'll make up the cap, give it a wash and maybe test drive with one of my coworkers before selling.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Presser Feet: The Quarter Inch Foot

The Quarter Inch foot is a mainstay for quilters. This is because piecing a quilt usually requires a 1/4 inch seam allowance. That is, the seam is sewn 0.25 inches in from the raw edge of the fabric. An accurate 1/4 inch seam is necessary for accurate piecing, in which the pieces fit the design precisely. For example,
here is a quilt block:

Here is the back of the block, notice the seam allowance as indicated.

Other sewing techniques use a 5/8 inch seam allowance. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure why it's a quarter inch for quilting. That's what I was taught, and everyone does it that way. It's probably to reduce the bulk of the block. makes sense that you'd want a presser foot to help you make nice, straight, accurate 1/4 inch seams. Here are my quarter inch feet for my Pfaff:

Above, the upper foot is a plain quarter inch foot. The lower one has a guide (a non-sharp blade) on the right side.  You line the raw edge of your fabric up along the blade as you sew.

In the photo above, the arrow on the upper foot shows the slot for the Integrated Dual Feed feature of the Pfaff. Yes, you can disengage Dual Feed, but I find my piecing is more precise while using it.

The arrow on the lower foot points out the guide.

I almost never use the foot without the guide. Try as I may, I just can't sew a straight accurate 1/4 inch seam without the extra help of the guide. It really does make that much difference for me.  I ended up with the plain quarter inch foot because it was included in the Quilter's Toolbox accessory pack for the machine.

Notice also that the opening for the needle is a small hole, not a slot. This foot is intended to be used for straight stitch, not zigzag or decorative stitching. It works best with the straight stitch needle plate.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another Review of my Pfaff 2046

My review of my Pfaff 2046 was published on Sewing Machine Reviewer. Check out this site, too, if you are considering buying a new sewing machine.

Review of Pfaff 2046

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Presser Feet: Introduction and Narrow Edge Foot

There are many many presser feet for a machine. In my experience, I find I use a small number of feet 90% of the time, and every so often, when I have a specific task, I pull out the other feet. Most people don't know what these feet are for and don't realize how much easier they can make things, if they knew how to use them.

So, here is my tutorial series on presser feet. 

Of course, I will show presser feet for my Pfaff 2046, but most machines have something similar to these feet. Either they came with the machine or you can buy them separately.

The Narrow Edge Foot

I am starting with this foot because it's my favorite.  I don't use it all the time, but when I need it, it is invaluable.

The narrow edge foot is a basic foot with a non-sharp blade positioned in the middle. The blade guides your stitching and helps you keep it straight. See the picture on the left.

Originally, this foot was designed to join two fabrics edge-to edge, not overlapping, like attaching lace to a finished hem. I've never used it for this purpose; I just don't do many clothing projects that need this technique. The foot has a slot for the needle opening, and you can use zig-zag stitch, a decorative stitch, or even offset the needle position because of the slot.

(Make sure you have on a zig zag needle plate before you do the decorative stitches or zig zag stitch! See my post on needle plates for details.)

The Pfaff has the integrated dual feed (IDT) feature and the slot in the back of the foot (see the photo on the right) allows for the dual feed mechanism to be engaged. You can disengage the IDT and use the foot without it, too.

Precision is the reason I like this foot so much. You wouldn't think that a simple blade would make that much of a difference in the ability to sew a straight line. It really does. 

Straight Line quilting, including Stitch-in-the-Ditch

Because of the dual feed feature of my Pfaff, I don't need to use a walking foot to do quilting. If I want to quilt in stitch-in-the-ditch style, I simply engage the IDT, follow the seam lines with the blade on this foot, and my stitches are positioned perfectly in the ditch.

If I want to quilt an all over straight line design (like a grid or parallel lines), I mark the quilt top with a ruler and non-permanent fabric marking pen or pencil, and then follow the lines with the blade. Straight quilting lines!


In many projects, you need to sew a line of stitches right along a seam or folded fabric edge, offset by a few millimeters.  For example, you might need to attach a patch pocket to a shirt. Here's where this foot earns its keep. You line up the blade with the seam or fabric edge, then offset the needle position to the right or left (as needed). As you sew, run the blade along the seam, and voila! Perfectly spaced straight stitches running parallel to the seam/fabric edge!

I have also used this foot to make narrow hems by rolling the fabric and gluing it in place (with wash-away fabric glue).

I purchased this presser foot separately; it was not part of the default set of presser feet included with my machine. It was well worth it. I use it all the time. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Published Review

I recently had a review of my Pfaff Quilt Expression 2046 posted on Best Sewing Machines Reviewed site. It has a slightly different focus than my articles here. Take a look!

Pfaff Quilt Expression 2046 Review