Cork and the Clydebank Tote

Have you ever heard of cork fabric? I was dimly aware of it, but it hadn’t really registered for me as something I’d like to try until I came across this post on the Sew Sweetness blog by Sara Lawson. In conjunction with an online book club she is hosting, Sara is posting a free project pattern and video tutorial every month. The first project was the Clydebank Tote, and several of the sample projects featured cork fabric on the side panels. I was intrigued!

I first purchased some cork fabric from Fabric.com, but wasn’t quite happy with the color match when it arrived. So I went back to Sara’s site, which has a great selection in a wide variety of colors.

Note: watch out when you are searching for cork fabric – the fabric I’m referring to in this post is high quality cork with a polyurethane backing and a smooth, leather-like hand. It is NOT regular quilting-weight cotton that has been printed to look like “cork”. Cork fabric is also sometimes referred to as “vegan leather”.

Selection of cork fabric and the Clydebank Tote pattern. (I have plans for the Clammy template and Glam Clam pattern later!) Note: the black cork I eventually used in my tote isn’t shown in this photo.

I opted to use fabrics from my Winter Romance collection in my Spoonflower shop for my tote. Continue Reading…

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Checking Out Lightweight Cotton Twill

So I’m in love with the Kona Cotton Ultra from Spoonflower.com – it’s my go-to fabric choice when ordering, but when the site ran a promotion on Lightweight Cotton Twill, I took a chance and ordered some.

I’m so glad I did!

Lightweight cotton twill fabrics from my Winter Romance collection in my Spoonflower shop. These are all my own designs; but as far as I can tell, you can buy any of the 750,000+ designs at Spoonflower.com in this fabric.

I find the lightweight cotton twill launders well, is super easy to work with (easy to pin and presses well), has a subtle sheen I really like, and is sturdy enough that I don’t need to add lightweight fusible interfacing such as Shape-Flex as I usually do when using quilting-weight cotton to make bags, purses, or home dec items. (I still use foam interfacing when I want a structured bag – even with the twill.)

Here’s a comparison of the two fabrics (info from Spoonflower.com): Continue Reading…

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Fun with Cathedral Windows

Cathedral windows has been a favorite pattern of mine since I first saw this traditional quilt style many years ago, but I’ve never made more than a few blocks at a time because the handwork proved too frustrating for me to manage wth my peripheral neuropathy. So I was immediately intrigued when I heard about the Cathedral Window Pillow episode from Angela Walters on her Midnight Quilt Show. I checked out Angela’s demonstration on YouTube and was excited to see how the process had been reimagined and reengineered to make it relatively quick and easy to create by machine.

You can also download the (currently) free pattern from Bluprint 🙂

The cutting instructions are for two 20″ pillows, but I opted to make just one this time. Angela was using a charm pack (precut 5″ squares), but I raided my scrap bin and leftover bits and pieces from other projects and cut my own squares and triangles.

I decided to make my pillow with a mix of scraps of my custom fabrics from Spoonflower and of my carefully hoarded Kaffe Fassett fabric. The white fabric I’m using is Lily & Loom Brilliant White from Bluprint (formerly Craftsy).

Continue Reading…

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Adding Structure with Soft and Stable – Review & Tips

One of the really great things about sewing is that you aren’t dependent on what you can find (or afford) in the store – you can create or customize all kinds of things to your specific tastes and needs.

Lately, I’ve been on a streak of making totes, bags and purses.

Since my work (both as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing and as a quilt/textile artist and designer for my own business) requires a lot of intense focus and creativity, I find it relaxing to take a bit of a break and let someone else do the basic designing and let me have the fun of customizing to my heart’s content.

I really enjoy it when I get a chance to make something quick and (relatively) easy. And bonus points if it is functional, too!

One of the products I’ve been playing with lately is Soft and Stable from ByAnnie.

Product info from the ByAnnie.com website:

BYANNIE’S SOFT AND STABLE® OVERVIEW

ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable® is a new product which I developed to use in place of batting or other stabilizers in purses, bags, totes, home dec items, and more.

Why use ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable®?

  • Great lasting body and stability
  • Lightweight
  • Maintains shape
  • Gives a professional finish to your project
  • Easy to sew
  • Fabric can be quilted to ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable® or just sewn around the edges of the pieces — no need to quilt every 2 to 4″ as with batting
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Washer and dryer safe

My summary – I love it! But…

I am very happy with the shape, structure, and finish of bags I’ve made with Soft and Stable. They look great, hold their shape, and don’t collapse under the weight of the straps or handles – all while remaining lightweight and easy to carry.  The extra protection for the contents is pretty great, too – especially for things like a phone, tablet, laptop, sewing machine, etc. I’ve given the sewing machine travel bag I made with Soft and Stable away as a gift, but here is another great example of a well-used bag still holding its shape after a couple of years and a lot of use:

One of my favorite travel bags is this duffle, designed and made by my friend and colleague, Laura Witt. Not only did Laura use Soft and Stable to support the bag, she also inserted a strip into the shoulder strap to make the bag more comfortable to carry.

But I don’t always find it as straightforward to use as is sometimes implied…    Continue Reading…

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The 241 Tote from Noodlehead – Review, Part 2

As anyone who sews or quilts can tell you, individual patterns have gotten more and more expensive over the years, especially if you like to seek out and support independent designers. Being able to download patterns and save them as pdfs can help (as opposed to buying printed patterns, with or without paying additional for shipping), but it’s still enough to make you think twice – especially when there is actually a lot of free content (albeit of varying quality) out there.

Here are the factors I consider when thinking about buying a commercial pattern:

  • Clarity – Are the instructions well-written and all measurements accurate? Are the photos and/or illustrations clear and to the point?
  • Value – Am I likely to use this pattern more than once? Can I envision it made up in different colorways or fabric styles?
  • Versatility – Does the pattern offer more than one option? (e.g. different sizes, embellishment possibilities, or optional design elements that can be mixed or matched)
  • Giftability – Is it a design that is likely to appeal to multiple generations (e.g. Would my mom like it? My kids?)

I mentally award bonus points if the pattern gets my own creative juices flowing with lots of possibilities for additional customizations of my own.  🙂

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead (see my previous post for more details) ticks all of these boxes.

In fact, I think it’s one of my favorite commercial tote patterns!

Here is my latest version of the 241 Tote:

The 241 tote – pattern by Noodlehead, adapted by Beth Ann Williams; fabrics from Changing Seasons Collection by Beth Ann Williams at Spoonflower.com

As you can see, I’ve made some changes in the original pattern!

Continue Reading…

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The 241 Tote from Noodlehead – Review, Part I

Did you ever experience a breathless moment in time when you looked up and knew in that brief instant that THIS was THE ONE? 

Ok, let’s get our minds back on track here… I don’t know what you are thinking about, but I’m talking about tote bags. 😉

I love totebags. Cute little purses just don’t have enough room for me to haul all of my necessities around – especially since those necessities usually include a least a few file folders and maybe even a yellow pad. I’m always on the lookout for ideas for new totes – be it different fabric combinations, different bells & whistles (zippers, hardware, pockets, etc.), or different shapes.

What captured my attention about the 241 Tote (2-for-1, get it?) pattern from Noodlehead was the unusual shape and fun side pockets.

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead (photo from pattern page)

Continue Reading…

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December Wrap-Up & Link Love

What a month! Not only is late November through December extra-busy with the holidays AND one of the most demanding times of the year for my day job as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing, but our plumbing saga continued with more water in the basement, where my studio is located. Needless to say, my creative plans for the month had to be adjusted.

But I’m happy to say that I did manage to squeeze in at least a little sewing fun.

Below are 3 of my December projects, plus links to the free patterns I used. All 3 patterns are keepers for me – ones I’m sure I’ll use again. 

Scandiavian Star Ornaments

I was first introduced to these folded & woven fabric ornaments through a delightful instragram post by misterdomestic linking to this tutorial on his YouTube channel.

I also found a handy photo tutorial by Anna Curtiss.

Stow-Away Shopping Bag

I resized the free pattern from Moments Designs (pattern download offered through Craftsy) to make giftable shopping totes that fold into their own snap pouches for storage. I enlarged the pouch slightly because I used heavier fabric than was used in the original pattern. The instructions are terrific, with step-by-step photos for every step. 

Bohemian Bag

Continue Reading…

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Quilts on the Grand 2018

So I’ve been offline for a bit, for both good and not-so-good reasons. First, the good – John and I took a WONDERFUL trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. While we were there, we were also able to get together with my parents and with my brother and sister-in-law and their amazing kiddos. So lots and lots of fun all around!

But what a different story when we got home… we first found the dryer broken (unfortunate, but not so bad), then drips in the basement (somewhat alarming), then standing water in the basement (red alert!).  The hot water heater had sprung several leaks, couldn’t be repaired and had to be replaced; and then the technician let us know that our furnace also needs to be replaced asap, as well as the chimney (fire hazard). Whew!

Since my studio is downstairs (along with the dryer, water heater, furnace and chimney), and everything had to be packed up and/or pushed to one side in each of the large rooms downstairs in order to mop up water and create space for the repair crews to work, my creative activities will be a bit curtailed for the immediate future.

But a very bright spot in the midst of all this – the biennial Quilts on the Grand show put on by the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids, MI. Continue Reading…

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Straight Line Machine Quilting with the Jazz

I was perplexed when I realized that the Baby Lock Jazz, which is marketed as a quilting and sewing machine, doesn’t come with a walking foot among the 9 included presser feet. It seems like a counter-intuitive omission. Not that big a deal for me, since I already have a deluxe Baby Lock low-shank walking foot for another machine that will also fit the Jazz, but definitely a first add-on purchase if you don’t have one on hand.

I truly enjoy free-motion machine quilting, so I tend not to do a lot of straight-line work. But I was intrigued with the number of quilts – particularly in the Modern Quilt exhibit – in the recent AQS show that featured simple straight-line channel quilting. The trend in show quilts of very dense, elaborate free-motion quilting seems to be still going strong, but the pendulum also seems to be swinging in the other direction – simple, but very graphic and effective, straight line quilting.

Since most of the fabrics I’ve designed for sale in my shop at Spoonflower.com (more on this another time) feature fairly complex designs, I’m thinking that straight line quilting might be an effective way to complement an overall quilt design without adding another layer of elaborate patterning.

Here is how I set up my machine:

    • Aurifil 50 wt. cotton thread in the top and 60 wt. Bottom Line in the bobbin
    • Schmetz Quilting Needle, size 75
    • Walking foot with guide bar set 3/4″ from the needle (this width is purely personal preference)
    • straight stitch
    • stitch width: 3.5 (straight stitch setting on the Jazz, as discussed in my previous post)
    • stitch length: about 2.25  (this is slightly longer than the stitch I used for piecing the quilt)

Stitch width and length settings I used for machine quilting with the walking foot

I started by using my white Clover Chaco Liner to mark one vertical line through the center of the quilt.  This is the only marking I’ll need, since I’ve attached the guide bar to my walking foot. Since I don’t want to have any more than half the quilt going through my machine at a time, I will work from the center of the quilt to the right-hand side of the quilt, and then rotate the entire quilt and quilt from the center to the (new) right-hand side of the quilt again.

Side view of Baby Lock walking foot with adjustable guide bar attached

Continue Reading…

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Piecing on the Jazz

Continuing my evaluation of the Baby Lock Jazz – It’s time to piece a quilt! 

One of the first things I looked for is a straight stitch throat plate, as I have found that very helpful for sewing perfectly accurate, consistently straight seams on other machines, especially when strip piecing. I was initially disappointed to find that there is no straight stitch throat plate available for the Baby Lock Jazz. But I decided to give it a go before making up my mind as to whether or not this poses a significant problem.

Here is how it went:

Since the last stitching I had done was a zigzag stitch, the first thing was to switch the machine back to a straight stitch. No problem.  However, when I adjusted the stitch length to 0 (stitch width is not applicable for a straight stitch, right?) I immediately realized I had a problem:

I initially assumed I should set the stitch width to 0 for a straight stitch

Notice the problem – the needle hits the presser foot!

So I consulted the manual – which is terrific, by the way; very clear and well-illustrated.

Following the manual, I reset the stitch width to the dot marked on the dial.

This is the correct stitch width setting for a straight stitch

Perfectly lined up! Continue Reading…

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