Happy Anniversary, Fairfield!

You know the good ol’ Poly-Fil stuffing, I’m sure, but did you know there’s a whole lot that Fairfield makes, beyond this basic stuffing?!

One of my favorite products is their Poly-Fil Royal Silk, a softer, silkier version of the standard Poly-Fil. I’ve used it in a variety of projects and I love how soft it makes stuffed animals without getting clumpy. Stuffing seems like something so basic that there can’t be much variety in the quality, but I’m here to tell you there is and it is totally worth the extra cost.

Continue reading “Happy Anniversary, Fairfield!”

DIY Style Cutting System

I’ve been using and loving the DIY Style Cutting System for a year now and it’s one of my favorite finds. Created by a fashion designer for working with slick activewear and swimwear fabrics, the system also works great for minky fabrics, as well as quilting cottons.

If you do a wide variety of sewing and quilting, this new patented system from DIY Style will make an enormous difference in how quickly and easily you can get work done. The magnets make it easy to tackle slippery and stretchy fabrics and hold stronger than pattern weights for easy cutting or tracing.  The rulers are designed to work with the magnets making it easy to get accurate and consistent cuts.   Sold exclusively by DIY Style, the system includes:

  • DIYStyle® Magnetic Pattern and Cutting System Base Set
  • Set of 12 Powerful FabricMagnets™
  • 36″ Pro T-square ruler and fabric alignment tool
  • NEW! 24″ Pro T-Square (Add-On Accessory)

Buy it directly from DIYStyle (affiliate link): http://bit.ly/TCoatesDIYStylePCS

Starch and Starch Alternatives: which for what?

As quilters, we are often looking for ways to make things easier, whether it’s getting perfect points or removing fold lines or keeping the bias from stretching. There are a variety of different ways of doing all of those, but today we are focusing on using sprays to accomplish it.

There are a wide variety and with the array of sewing I’ve had to do over the past few years, I’m amassed my own personal collection.

These are (most of) the starch and starch alternatives that I have, ranging from Flatter by Soak to Fabric Booster by ODIF, the sprays make for a varying level of stiffness. To give you an idea of what you might use and when, I took some squares of Robert Kaufman’s Kona Cotton and sprayed each on one side, flipped them over and pressed them.  Here’s how they turned out:

SteamSteam press

Using the steam feature of my Oliso iron, I gave this a good burst of steam to get rid of all the wrinkles and then hung it from the board.  You can see the bias drape is lovely, but there’s no added stability to the fabric.  I like to use the steam feature when I press my fabric after washing it and when I do a final pressing on my quilt before sending it off to the long-arm quilter. If you have an iron that likes to spit or a dry iron, simply use a little spray bottle to apply a little water first.  There are misters out there that work beautifully for just this process.

Flatter by SoakFlatter by Soak

A popular staple in many modern quilters’ cupboards, Flatter is a great finishing spray.  It doesn’t stiffen or stabilize the fabric; it simply loosens up the wrinkles and gives a nice finish.  The pineapple and fig are my favorite scents, but is available unscented, as well.  In my studio, I use Flatter on fabric that I’ve pre-washed (yes, I’m generally a pre-washer for quilting cottons) and also when I’m ironing clothing before wearing. I don’t use it when I am sewing blocks as it doesn’t have the oomph that I want from a spray. YMMV.

Mary Ellen's Best Press

Mary Ellen’s Best Press 

Like a starch-lite, Best Press starts giving body to fabric and has been around for years. It’s a “starch and sizing alternative” but works like one: spray it on the fabric, let it soak in for a few seconds and press. It works well for removing tough creases, in my experience, and is available unscented and in a variety of scents.  It’s available in all sorts of fabric and quilt stores with sizes ranging from a 6 ounces pump spray to a gallon jug. 
I use Best Press most often in my quilting. I spray and press prior to cutting out my fabrics to make it a bit more precise.  I’ve found that this helps avoid any stretching and makes sewing bias seams much easier.  Use the spray before cutting and when pressing each seam if you really want to keep it in check. I always like to wash it out, but you don’t have to. 

Niagara Spray Starch

Niagara Non-Aerosol Spray Starch 

Starch has been used to stiffen fabrics since the mid-1400s, so there’s a long (and possibly sordid) history to it. In the last decade it’s fallen out of favor with some quilters because it is a grain-based product that can be sweet to bugs when it isn’t washed out.  My solution: wash your finished project.  I do that anyway, but storing quilts that have been made using starch without washing first can attract moths–any textile’s sworn enemy.
Starch can add a lot of body to fabrics and I tend to use it on especially lightweight fabrics such as cotton lawn and double gauze. It will stiffen it considerably, making it easy to work with fabrics that can often be a tad difficult to control. I spray the front, let it soak in then spray the wrong side of the fabric.  You can spray several times to get it stiffer and it simply washes out to give the fabric its soft hand back.

Sta-Flo

Purex Sta-Flo liquid starch 
2 parts water to 1 part Sta-Flo

Available only in a gallon jug, this concentrate allows you to mix with water for the perfect body/stiffness that you prefer. I mix mine so that is is fairly stiff (2:1) but you can easily water it down to a 10:1 and still get the wrinkle relaxation that you want.  I like to use this when I am working with fabrics that fray or are lightweight since it makes them easier to work with and a jug will last a looooong time (I bought mine almost four years ago). Available at the local grocery store, it’s a quick and easy way to add body and washes right out in the laundry.

ODIF Fabric Booster

When you need to work with fabric that feels more like cardstock, this is the right tool for you. Fabric Booster, as well as Terial Magic, are used similarly: you soak the fabric with the spray by putting it in a plastic bag, spritzing it and then squeezing, folding, rubbing until the fabric is saturated.  Allow it to air dry for a while, then you can press it dry (read the directions on the bottle!). I use a pressing cloth with it and love how stiff it makes the fabric.  It’s not a replacement for Best Press or Flatter, but it works great when you are looking to really add stiffness that will then wash out. I’ve heard of it being used for t-shirt quilts and I’ve made a bunch of fabric origami with it. Otherwise, I really just want to use it for those cheesecloth ghosts my mom used to make in the 70s.  It washes out in the laundry, as well.

Steam press vs. Fabric Booster

Whether you are trying to remove wrinkles, add body or stiffen your fabric, there are multiple products that are available to help. Depending on your preference, choose the one that works best for your need. It really isn’t one size fits all here, either (which explains why I had all of these in my studio!).

Don’t forget to check out the other blog stops in our Back to School Blog Hop:

Day 1 – September 1 – Sam Hunter: Sewing Long Seams Without Stretching – huntersdesignstudio.com

Day 2 – September 2 – Susan Arnold – Joining Binding the Easy Way – quiltfabrication.com

Day 3 – September 3 – Angie Wilson – Fussy cutting tips and techniques – www.gnomeangel.com

Day 4 – September 4 – Andi Stanfield – No-Mark HST: Let your machine be your guide – truebluequilts.com/blog/

Day 5 – September 5 – Bobbie Gentili – Say YES to Y-seams – geekybobbin.com

Day 6 – September 6 – Mel Beach – 5 Reasons to Say Woo Hoo! to School Glue – pieceloveandhappiness.blogspot.com

Day 7 – September 7 – Laura Piland – 7 Ways to Use a Laser on Your Sewing Machine – www.sliceofpiquilts.com

Day 8 – September 8 – Suzy Webster – How to solve loops in free motion quilting – www.websterquilt.com

Day 9 – September 9 – Tara Miller – Accurate Stitch-and-Flip Corners – quiltdistrict.com

Day 10 – September 10 – Latifah Saafir – Accurate Seams Using Masking Tape! – latifahsaafirstudios.com

Day 11 – September 11 – Sarah Ruiz – The Magic of Glue Basting – saroy.net

Day 12 – September 12 – Jen Shaffer – Ways to stop your ruler from slipping while cutting – patternsbyjen.blogspot.com

Day 13 – September 13 – Cheryl Sleboda – Basics of ruching (a vintage fabric manipulation technique) – muppin.com

Day 14 – September 14 – Raylee Bielenberg – Choosing quilting designs for your quilt – www.sunflowerstitcheries.com

Day 15 – September 15 – Jen Strauser – Accurate and Attractive Machine binding – dizzyquilter.com

Day 16 – September 16 – Jane Davidson – Matching points for all types of intersections – quiltjane.com

Day 17 – September 17 – Teresa Coates – Starch and starch alternatives – teresacoates.com <<—- you are here!

Day 18 – September 18 – Jen Frost – Benefits of spray basting – faithandfabricdesign.com

Day 19 – September 19 – Sandra Starley – Getting started with Hand Quilting – utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com

Day 20 – September 20 – Karen Platt – Drunkard’s Path Made Easy – karenplatt.co.uk/blog/

Day 21 – September 21 – Kris Driessen – All Kinds of Square (in a Square) – scrapdash.com

Day 22 – September 22 – Sarah Goer – Planned Improv Piecing – sarahgoerquilts.com

Day 23 – September 23 – Kathy Bruckman – Organizing kits for on-the-go sewing – kathyskwiltsandmore.blogspot.com

Day 24 – September 24 – Cheryl Daines Brown – The Secret to Flat Quilt Tops: Borders – quilterchic.com

Day 25 – September 25 – Cherry Guidry – Pre-assembling fusible applique – cherryblossomsquilting.com

Day 26 – September 26 – Laura Chaney – Getting started with English Paper Piecing – prairiesewnstudios.com

Day 27 – September 27 – Ebony Love – Cutting Bias Strips from a Rectangle – lovebugstudios.com

Day 28 – September 28 – Tammy Silvers – Working with heavier weight threads in your machine – tamarinis.typepad.com

Day 29 – September 29 – Kathy Nutley – Create a perfect facing or frame with 90 degree angles – quiltingsbykathy.com

Day 30 – September 30 – Joanne Harris – Using Leaders and Enders – quiltsbyjoanne.blogspot.com

Waterproofing cotton with Glue Gel {product review}

Back at Fall Quilt Market in Houston, the folks from ODIF came by the Shannon Fabrics booth to show off a couple new products they have.  I happily promote their 505 Basting Spray in my classes (it really is the best/least stinky), so I was excited to see what else they had. My co-worker Ellen handed me a piece of cotton that was slick and lovely like oilcloth, but not as thick.  “It’s waterproofed cotton,” she told me and I nearly lost it.  Seriously? They’ve been trying to do this for a while and it’s rarely worked.

A couple decades ago someone came out with a product that you could iron on, a vinyl coating that was supposed to make cotton waterproof.  It worked for one use and then it started to crack and peel and just generally look like crap.  There have been a couple of sprays, but they still tend to wash out and not give a nice sheen to the fabric.

This on the other hand had me intrigued.

Fast forward a few months and a bottle of OdiCoat O’Fabric Waterproof Glue Gel showed up in the mail for me at work.  It’s a weird name, but I figured I’d give it a shot anyway.

I found some fabric I’d want to use for the inside of a new make-up zipper pouch (an old print from Thomas Knauer with Andover) and a flat brush that I had from some Christmas craft I never to around to making.

The gel is thick but easy to spread over the fabric.  I did it back and forth, then up and down to make sure the fabric was well-coated.  The instructions are to brush the gel over the fabric completely, then wait an hour. Re-coat it, wait an hour and then do it once more.

It is easy to see where you’ve covered thanks to the high-gloss.  Just get it all covered then leave it there. I put the fabric on a couple sheets of paper to keep it off my board.

After the third coat, just let it sit and dry for a full 24 hours (per the instructions). At this point it has a sort of gritty feeling to it.

Use a pressing sheet or parchment paper and iron it.  I used a warm iron (at the high end of the wool setting, just at the bottom end of the cotton setting) and ironed back and forth for a good 10 minutes.  It gave it a nice sheen and smoothed down the roughness. My sample isn’t quite as slick as the one I felt at Market, but I’m super satisfied.

 

I sprayed it with my water bottle and let it sit for a  minute or two to see if it would soak through, but instead it just pooled up.

And then I flipped it over to see if there were any spots the water had soaked through and NADA! Not a bit of the back was even damp.

According to the package, it’s now washable and the waterproofing won’t come off.  I have laundry to do this weekend, so I’m just gonna throw it in and see what happens. At this point, though, I’m really happy with the Waterproof Glue Gel and will totally use it.

Good to know:

  • A little goes a long way. I used only about 1/10 of the bottle to cover a full fat-quarter of fabric.
  • It doesn’t smell strongly and didn’t leave a lingering smell while it dried.
  • The water stayed where I wanted it to, on top of the fabric and not in it.
  • Don’t rush it; give it all the time requested to let it dry.
  • I’d recommend it and will totally use it again.

It’s available on Amazon and while ODIF did send me the stuff, they didn’t ask me to review it anywhere.  I’m just telling you about it because I like you.

 

Books to Buy: The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook

Many moons ago I wrote book reviews as a part of my job. No matter what, we had to find something nice to say about the book and encourage folks to buy it, but the truth is I never liked that. I love getting advance copies of books and getting the time to peruse them, but I don’t like having to recommend a book when I wouldn’t actually do so in real life.

These days I don’t work for any publications or marketing avenues, so I get to tell you the truth about my opinion on sewing/quilting books. I’ve decided I will only share with you the books to buy, so I’m kicking it off with one of my favorite authors: Thomas Knauer’s The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook: 91 Modern Art-Inspired Designs and Exercises.

Years ago, I spied Thomas Knauer at Quilt Market sporting a shoulder tote made with his new-at-the-time Pear Tree collection with Andover Fabrics. It’s still one of my favorites and so is Thomas. He is talented, opinionated, understanding and generous. What you see is what you get with Thomas and, for that, I adore him. And did I mention how smart he is? Well, he is and incredibly so. Best of all, he’s more than happy to share that with you and he does so brilliantly in his latest book.

The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook came out from Storey Publishing last year and my admiration has only grown over the months of reading it, exploring the concepts and putting the workbook to use. I’ve read over it on planes, taken it to bed to draw out shapes, sat at cafes with it and colored. It’s become a favorite, indeed, because it’s for quilters like me.

I came into the quilting world from the craft side. I’ve long been a maker and I love being able to create useful and pretty things, but I do not have an art background and most of the fancy art-world lexicon goes right over my head. I feel reticent to share my designs with the world, unable to blather on about them with any sort of intelligence. That’s where  The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook comes into play.

Thomas divided the book up into seven different sections focusing on different aspects of modern art: Space, Balance, Chance & Intuition, Simplicity, The Grid, The Geometric Environment, and Repetition & Iteration.  Then he walks your through each, gently explaining with clear examples what he’s talking about with each. {Read his take on it here.}

It is awesome.

Each section dives into the topic, then shares examples of art and quilts that show off that aspect. But that’s not it, he then gives you the opportunity to put it to use and for me this is really the kicker. I can read about art. I understand about balance and negative space and how things are laid out on a grid, etc., etc. Except when it comes down to it, I don’t know how to take that and make it into a purposeful quilt design. The whole point of the book, it seems to me, is to help the reader do just that.

In short, I think it’s a magical book and you should totally buy it.

For a bit more info, let me share with you what I did. First, I read the entire book cover to cover on a flight home. Then I went and made copies of the different design and coloring pages. I’m one of those, yes. Then I started with the first section: Space.

Thomas talks about the idea of filling space and using space, then tells us how Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse all worked with this idea of space in their varied styles of art. He includes pictures and explanations and at the end of reading it, you just feel like you had a mini art history lesson. I kinda love it.

Then I decided to jump in and just do it. I started with the easier part: coloring. (There are seven coloring exercises and five design exercises in this section.) The Stutter Step exercise says to “[d]evelop a color system that repeated, but with an offset (that is, the shapes that are repeated are int eh same color one row up and two columns over). Play with creating a color system that is not strictly horizontal or vertical to produce a secondary visual rhythm.”


Then I picked six fabrics that would work well together, I thought and just randomly used them in place of the colors I’d used on the page. They are 2 1/2″ tall with 5″ wide bases, just in case you wondered.

Then I set to arranging them in strips, then sewing strips together until I got this lovely thing:

I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but that wasn’t the point of this exercise. It was to explore the use of color and rhythm and an offset repetition. And I’m happy with it. I like the way it jogs over. I like how it made me try to make my points match. I like how it shifts and moves.

Now onto one of the design exercises and see what that teaches me. When you get the book, let me know and we can work on one together!

Pattern Review: Sew House Seven Albert Street Pencil Skirt

Alberta Street Pencil Skirt

I first saw this pattern at work; one of our sample sewists had made it up in a cute print and it sat out on the floor taunting me for weeks. Then I saw it on Instagram. Then I ran into Michelle at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! and she was wearing it. I asked a few questions about her experience with the pattern–any problems? Instructions good? How’s the fit? Her biggest feedback: Get a fabric with some stretch. The slim fit led to more than one popped seam for her.

I happened to have some Stretch Corduroy (21 Wale) that I’d bought from Robert Kaufman Fabrics and have been holding on to, just waiting for the right project. I figured this just might be it. The bottom weight, stretchiness and my long-standing love of corduroy made it a great option and one I’d totally recommend. Continue reading “Pattern Review: Sew House Seven Albert Street Pencil Skirt”

Pattern Review: Sydney Top

Are you familiar with Seamwork? It’s an online magazine of sorts from the folks behind Colette Patterns that features articles about various aspects of sewing and includes a couple of patterns with each issue. When I got the May issue, I knew I needed to make the Sydney top that was featured.

I loved the cropped look since it would cover my shoulders in sleeveless dresses, but not cover my waist/hip curve (one of the few body parts I’m okay with).  I really, really liked the look of it. So when I had a recent Sunday morning all to myself, I set to it.  I found this grey, lightweight linen in my stash and thought it would the perfect addition to my summer wardrobe. Continue reading “Pattern Review: Sydney Top”

Pattern Review: Butterick 6168

[This is part of the Dress Up Party, hosted by Sara at Sew Sweetness. Check it out for lots of pattern reviews and giveaways!]

I’ve long been a fan of Liesl Gibson’s designs (Oliver+S, Straight Stitch Society and Lisette), so when I heard she was partnering up with Butterick to release more Lisette patterns, I was all over that one. Yes, please, where do I sign up?

20150319-145751-53871876.jpgLuckily for me I stumbled onto them back at Sew Expo this spring and bought the Butterick 6168 right away. I made it up using Sara’s new Fantasia voile, which was gorgeous, but I messed up the front somehow and was left with quite the plunging neckline (photos and dress are NSFW!).

Continue reading “Pattern Review: Butterick 6168”

Making a coat for my son

I made my son Stuart a peacoat years ago, maybe five or six years at this point. Long enough ago that the coat is showing its wear and the fit leaves something to be desired after a couple growth spurts. It was time for a new one.

Enter the Vogue 8940, a Men’s Jacket and Pants pattern, deadstock wool I’d bought for dirt cheap over the summer and leftover Radiance from a bridesmaid dress I made in the fall…suddenly I was really close to having everything I needed. Add in a bunch of buttons, some shoulder pads, new black thread (my machine really loves Superior Threads’ OmniThread), fusible interfacing and muslin.

You end up with this lovely jacket, ready just in the knick of time for my son’s first trip overseas as an adult…20150108-125026-46226883.jpg20150108-125025-46225620.jpg

I’m ridiculously proud of him for taking flight and seeing the world. (It was a secret little hope of mine when I dragged them to Asia all those years ago!) And knowing that he’ll be a bit warmer and wrapped up in some maternal love makes it all the better.

Pattern Name:Vogue 8940
Time Required: 15+ hours
Rating:  Advanced
Would I Make It Again?: Yes
What I Changed: I added an interlining of muslin to give it a little extra warmth and made bound buttonholes because they are so much classier.
Overall thoughts: It’s a great pattern and went together beautifully. I used a walking foot for most of the construction and specifically for the topstitching. This helped immensely to get it to lay nicely without any puckering. I also had to fiddle with the ease in the shoulders a bit, but on the second try got the sleeve in beautifully. I wouldn’t try this pattern as your first foray into coat-making, but if you’re comfortable with the construction techniques, it’s totally do-able.

 

 

 

Buy the Book: Quilt Talk

Quilt Talk by Sam Hunter One of the things I’m really grateful for (it is November after all) is knowing people like Sam Hunter.

I first heard of her and her amazing quilt late last year when I was working for Robert Kaufman Fabrics down in Los Angeles. Sam and I had, unknowingly switched places. She’d moved to Portland from LA just before I’d moved from Portland to LA. But she and I worked together to get her fabrics for myriad quilt and project patterns she was designing. She loves Radiance (a cotton/silk fabric from RK) as much as I do, I think, and that made her even more awesome.

Over the email conversations we became friends and I have been grateful to have her here in Portland when I returned. She is kind, supportive, generous and smart. Plus she doesn’t take sh*t from anyone. I love her for that.

Last month Quilt Talk, her first book with C&T Publishing, came out and I was lucky enough to get to try the paper piecing patterns out early and I love them! I had to wait for the book’s publication, though, to see all that she’d managed to do with this alphabet. And what she did is kick some butt.

Quilt Talk interior

The book is filled with projects that she shared with us at Market in Houston and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its arrival. Today it’s here and I’ve got my very own copy sitting on my desk. It’s taunting me, prodding me to get going on those Christmas projects that are swirling around in my head.

I can hardly wait to start, but until then I’ll let you have a little glimpse at what you can make, too. And tell you to go buy the book!

IMG_0238 IMG_0243 IMG_0246

Plus she’ll be teaching and signing books at Fabric Depot on Sunday. More info here.