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).

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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!

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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)

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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

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A Comfy & Easy-to-Make Pillow Lounger

 

My pillow lounger – ready to use! Next time I might buy enough fabric to match up the print properly; but I don’t think the kiddos will mind this time.   

I love to sit on the floor with William (age 3) and Emilia (age 1) and play, but I sure don’t love trying to get up again. Nor am I impressed with how hard the floor feels after a while.  Given that and also knowing how much fun the little ones have falling/jumping/snuggling into pillows, I figured we could come up with something that would work for all of us. Continue Reading…

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Experiments in Binding – Changing the Width

In a previous post, I started experimenting with sewing quilt binding on the back of the quilt and then bringing it around to the front and appliquéing it down by machine (instead of sewing it to the front of the quilt, wrapping it around, and hand-stitching it on the back of the quilt).

I felt the experiment was successful, but the process needed refining. I’m going to give it another go. 🙂

This time I cut the binding strips 2 1/4″ wide. I still want the binding to be wider on the front of the quilt than the back (so that I don’t catch the binding in the appliqué stitching), but not as wide as in my first experiment.

I started by sewing the folded binding to the back of the quilt with a 1/4″ seam.

Then I wrapped the binding around to the front of the quilt, using Wonder Clips to hold it in place, and removed the clips as I worked my way around the quilt.

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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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How Does the Jazz Do with Invisible Machine Appliqué?

So far the Jazz is performing superbly. 🙂 

But an important test for me is how well it will do with invisible machine appliqué, as that is one of my specialties. Of course, my other machines are just great for this, but I’m excited about having much more workspace on the Jazz.  

Here is how I set up the machine:

A regular zigzag presser foot works perfectly well, but I prefer an open-toe appliqué foot as it allows better visibility.

I like to use a very small zigzag stitch for this. Depending on the machine I am using, the width and length settings are usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5, 1.5 or 2.0, 2.0. Here is how I set the stitch length and width on the Jazz:

Stitch settings on the Baby Lock Jazz for invisible machine appliqué – about 1.9 and 1.8. 

After doing some test stitching on scrap fabric, I determined (to my surprise and delight!) that no tension adjustments were necessary. The stitches were perfectly balanced – no bobbin thread visible on the top of the fabric and no monofilament visible on the back.

However, I did find that the monofilament thread had a tendency to coil off and wrap around the spool pin, causing it to break; but I quickly solved that issue with a thread net placed over the spool.

Sliding a thread net over the spool keeps the thread feeding smoothly into the machine

I prepared my appliqué pieces by ironing the edges over freezer paper templates, which I removed later.

One side of the zigzag goes into the appliqué piece, while the other side goes only into the background fabric, just off the edge of the appliqué 

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How to Sew a Decorative Pillow Cover with an Invisible Zipper

I’m planning to put my new Baby Lock Jazz through its paces by testing how it performs while making a series of different projects. I’m starting with decorative pillow covers with invisible zippers.

Spoiler Alert – this is how my pillows look with their new covers 🙂

If you’d like to make a pillow cover of your own, here is what you’ll need:

  • square pillow form to cover (or existing pillow that needs a facelift)
  • invisible zipper, preferably at least 2″ longer than your pillow or pillow form
  • home decor fabric (if using quilting-weight cotton, I recommend fusing interfacing such as Shape-Flex to the fabric before making the pillow – this will bring the fabric closer to decorator-weight)
  • zipper foot and/or invisible zipper foot 

Since I had 10 pillows to make new covers for, I purchased my invisible zippers in bulk  – saving quite a bit of money in the process.

The zippers I purchased for my pillows

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