Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Power of a Minute

Three years ago I got sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Prior to that point, I rarely needed to set a timer. I could glance at my watch and keep all my activities on track finishing when they were supposed to. Now, however, my brain at times is mushy. I have found I have to set timers in the kitchen for everything I cook, otherwise I lose track of them, foods burn or are underdone or worse yet, I completely forget I was cooking something.

What a blessing those timers have become. I have learned the power of time in one minute. I have found that with the timer running, I race to see how many odd jobs in the kitchen I can do before the beep. Ice trays get filled. Clean dishes are put away. Counter tops are cleaned up. Trash is cared for.

With chronic poor health, all my housework is done in dribs and drabs, but finding the power of a minute has helped me keep up with things that I used to think ‘took too long’ to do in the time I had available. Now I find I’m doing more without even feeling it.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Embroidery Machine Essentials: A Book Review

Embroidery Machine Essentials: A Book Review

Embroidery Machine Essentials: How to Stabilize, Hoop and Stitch Decorative Designs by Jeanine Twigg with Foreword by Lindee Goodall. 2001 Krause Publications, ISBN 0873419995, Soft cover, 144 pages, color illustrations, includes a CD with 6 exclusives designs by Cactus Punch in the following embroidery machine formats: .art, .csd, .dst, .exp, .hus, .jef, .pcs, .pes, .sew, .shv, .vip, .xxx.

I first learned to sew on an old black Singer sewing machine. It had one stitch it could do and that was a straight stitch. As a teenager, I remember with awe my mother bringing home her new state of the art Kenmore sewing machine. It had a zig zag stitch and cams you inserted to make several decorative stitches. The little duck stitch just fascinated me. I also remember that my stepfather wouldn’t allow me to even touch that machine until I had read the instruction manual from cover to cover.

Fast-forward quite a few years to 1991. I owned a bottom of the line zig zag sewing machine and really wanted one of those machines with the fancy stitches. Something kept tickling me in the back of my though, I just knew that soon a machine would come out that could embroider. Sure enough one night I was at a grocery store flipping through a magazine and saw an advertisement for a Janome/New Home 8000 sewing and embroidery machine. I walked into my sewing machine dealer the next day and ordered one.

Embroidery sewing machines have come a long way since that time, but one thing hasn’t changed. To really get the most from your sewing machine, you need knowledge to successfully sew out beautiful embroidery designs. In those days we were all starting out from scratch on learning how to get those designs to come out perfectly. If there was any resource available that encompassed everything you needed to know to do machine embroidery, I wasn’t aware of it.

Now with the book Embroidery Machine Essentials and the companion volumes in this series (to be reviewed individually at a later date) all of us have the basics of machine embroidery at our fingertips. This book is not machine specific, but photographically demonstrates procedures with different brands of current machines.

This book begins by showing and defining the two types of home embroidery machines. Generally there is the embroidery only machine or there is the sewing and embroidery machine. Different normal and optional equipment add-ons are explained. From there the book goes on to explain the different ways to purchase embroidery designs which is a big change from back in 1991 when the only designs available came from your sewing machines dealer, were very expensive, and it seemed like forever waiting for new designs to come out. This is followed by a general discussion of the types of software available for use with you machine. Next you get a thorough explanation of stabilizers, threads, hoops, accessories and needles. The first two chapters of this book are actually a great reference for someone who has not yet purchased an embroidery machine, as it familiarizes you with what is available and the language that your sewing machines dealer will be speaking when discussing what is available.

The third chapter is one of the most beneficial for a new embroiderer. First you get a fabric reference guide that explains types of fabrics and gives recommendations for needles, stabilizers, and the best types of designs for that kind of fabric. Step-by-step it leads you through setting your material and hoop up for embroidery. Even though I have been doing machine embroidery for over 10 years, I learned things that I didn’t know in this chapter.

Chapter four gives directions for a lot of creative techniques. It tells the basics of doing cutwork, appliqué, dimensional embroidery, foam raised embroidery, lacework, tonal embroidery, making embroidered fabric, and texturizing Polarfleece.

Chapter five has 20 different embroidery projects to practice your newly learned techniques. It includes projects using the free designs that come with the book. Although many of the projects use designs from the different manufacturers, substituting designs is easy. What is being learned here are techniques, not how to use an individual design.

Chapter six is a showcase of inspirational ideas of what you can do with your embroidery machine. It is so easy to bring a machine like this home, then sit down, look at it and say “now what do I do?” This chapter shows you what you can do. Between the 20 projects in the prior chapter and this showcase you will have plenty of ideas to be your creative self.

If that isn’t enough, this book comes with an excellent resource section in the back of the book. Not only does it give phone numbers to contact companies, it gives out their web addresses. I spent a lot of time going through that list finding the different embroidery design companies to find out what they had to offer. What I found is most of them not only have designs to sell, but FREE designs to download and try out their digitizing prior to purchasing. I had never known just how many free designs were available just for the looking.

I think this book would be a valuable reference in every machine embroiders sewing area. The information is laid out well. There are plenty of pictures for those who are more visually oriented. I trust this review has been helpful for you.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Project Linus

For me, participation in Project Linus started last spring when my sister asked me to sew a baby quilt for a new grandchild that was on the way. She had picked fabric in bright, bold primary colors with sports themes. My brother-in-law also picked out some patriotic themed prints which he also wanted included in the quilt in honor of a nephew who was currently serving in Iraq (now safely home!). The only thing to do was cut all that fabric up, add some more pieces and make a scrap quilt. The quilt was a smashing success.

Well, as any quilter knows, scraps reproduce themselves at night. I had lots of child friendly prints and thought maybe with a few more prints added I would have enough fabric for another quilt to contribute to Project Linus. Things got away from me and soon I was cutting up lots and lots of fabric and over time, I had enough pieces cut up for at least 4 crib sized quilts to donate to Project Linus. I managed to get two of them made up and quilted in time to turn them in today on National Make a Blanket Day. My favorite sewing machine store was a collection spot for them.

Project Linus is a national effort to provide blankets to children in need whether from financial need, health issues, tragedy, etc. More information is available here, if you would like to be included in this effort.

After turning in my two finished quilts, I decided to clear some clutter in my sewing room. The first thing I hit upon was a box of leftover fabric from a yard sale. I started rooting through the box and before I knew it, I was cutting up and trimming scraps into 4 1/2" squares, 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" rectangles, and 2 1/2" squares. All sizes of patches that work well in a variety of quilts. By the time my shoulders just couldn't cut anymore, I had enough patches cut out for another Project Linus quilt. Now when I'm not feeling as well I can sit at the sewing machine an piece the quilts together.

While going through this box of fabric I ran into a lot of strips that were 2 1/2" wide but were hand cut instead of with a rotary cutter. Unfortunately that meant that they weren't to even and varied over 1/4" in width. Besides being in my two least favorite colors for quilting with: brown and orange. I hate throwing out perfectly good fabric strips and so convincing myself that someday I'll sew them into something, I ironed the wrinkles out and set them aside. Most likely what will happen to these poor strips is someone will find them after I die and if they too are a sewer they will set them aside and so the cycle continues.