In the northern suburbs of Texas is a small area known as Old Spring and on one corner, in an old red schoolhouse sits Cupcake Quilts. In mid-November I was lucky enough to spend two days teaching Cuddle quilt workshops there. I’d just been in Houston a week before for Quilt Market and Quilt Festival, but this was a totally different experience. The shop is set in a shopping area with a variety of old homes converted into shops: bath soaps, candles, antiques, leather furnishings, Dutch candies and home goods, Texas memorabilia, CBD oils and more. A friend had recommended that I check it out while I was there, neither of us knowing that I’d be teaching smack in the middle of it.
Cupcakes Quilts has two locations: Old Spring is their original location, the second being down the road in Humble. I didn’t get a chance to visit, but I’m sure it’s just as lovely. The Old Spring location is an old building,As you wander between rooms, you’ll find all sorts of fabrics, precuts, kits, patterns and a nice selection of Cuddle, as well.
I picked up a variety of quilting cottons, both from the
clearance and the main floor, with no particular project in mind. I’m just a
sucker for cowboys and nursery rhyme prints.
Thanks for joining me for today’s stop on the SewPINK* ByAnnie blog hop ((visit the official #SewPINK information page: https://www.byannie.com/2019-SewPINK ). Like so many others, breast cancer has reared its ugly head in my life as well. Annie asked if I’d participate and I immediately agreed; raising awareness is important.
When my best friend was diagnosed with cancer at 26, it has already ravaged her body. What the doctors thought had started as breast cancer had spread throughout her body and, try as they might, there was no stopping it. Judy left an indelible mark on me, not only because of her unfailing friendship, but also her needless death.
Early diagnosis would have given Judy a chance, but as a young adult (without health insurance) the idea that the swelling could be cancer never crossed her mind. She didn’t know it was anything deadly until it was too late. I’ve learned a lot, but maybe most importantly, I learned to keep an eye on body changes, including breasts.
People want to proclaim: “Save the tatas!” and really I want to shout back: “Save lives!” That’s what regular mammograms and self-checks can do. While I want to share my little pink pincushion and favorite tools with you, I also want to remind you to keep a finger, or three, on what your breasts are doing. That means you, too, men. It affects all of us.
For my #SewPINK project I chose to make a new version of my older Circling Geese Squished Square Pincushion. I released it in early 2015 and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since. It’s a paper piecing pattern and offers three variations. But more than the pattern, I want to tell you about my favorite sewing notion: the ByAnnie stiletto.
Seriously, I sew with this stiletto in hand for almost everything, including paper piecing, bag making and sewing with Cuddle minky. For this project, the skinny little point makes it easy to guide the fabric along (and I absolutely how the metal bit has grip rather than smooth metal). It has flat sides so it won’t roll off the table and a comfortable grip that makes it feel more like a pencil than a pointy stick in your hand.
The stiletto works great for pulling out all those silly little papers that get stuck in there. I’ve found that creasing the paper and folding after sewing will help them pop out, but there are always those stubborn few that need a little extra coaxing with sharp objects.
Speaking of coaxing and sharp objects, don’t make me do it when it comes to getting yourself checked. You can find a screening near you:
(*) The #SewPink Initiative was created by ByAnnie.com LLC to raise awareness for breast cancer during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. They have pledged to raise funds to donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through sales and to promote action through giveaways.To donate directly to the BCRF visit: https://give.bcrf.org/give/31404/#!/donation/checkout
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:
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 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
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 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.
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.
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:
It took me a few years to notice Cool Cottons, tucked into a Craftsman-style house on SE Hawthorne, but once I did there was no ignoring it. Owned by Marie, a no-nonsense woman with an amazing eye for color, Cool Cottons is filled with quilting cottons, cotton canvas and notions.
The shop occupies the first floor (the upper floor is a separate apartment) and is divided up by color. As a quilter, I love this so very much. I don’t particularly care who designed the fabric or who the manufacturer is most of the time, I want to know if it coordinates with the rest of my fabric pull. And if you aren’t sure which fabric will look best, just ask Marie–she is amazing at finding the perfect coordinates.
The front room has a great selection of novelty prints, canvas, linens and kantha fabrics. I have a soft spot for all the Alexander Henry fabrics and apparently Marie does too, so if you’re looking for the hunky firemen or hula girls, this is the place to go.
I stopped by on my last day in Portland to grab the license plates she did for Row by Row. Self-described as Rip City (a Portland Trailblazers reference from 1971), this was the perfect play on sewing terms for their license plate. Of course, I bought one and the other one, and a bit of the newest Portland-themed fabric as well. I had to bring a little hometown back to LA with me.
You can shop online or at the SE Portland location:
Over at Shannon Fabrics, we’ve started a series of tutorials and sew alongs that we’ve called Sew Together Tuesdays and I’m excited to be the host. Yesterday we did our first, a basic rundown of the seven tips that I think are most important when working with Cuddle minky fabrics. Check it out on YouTube and let me know what you think.
I’m back from my third round at Missouri Star Academy in Hamilton, MO. Put on by the folks at Missouri Star Quilt Company, the event was a little different this year than the two previous. It was held, like it was the first year, at the local United Methodist Church, but was split into two two-day sessions.
Each session had an orientation and then two days of lectures, demos and trunk shows. It was great to meet folks from all over the country, as well as several who’d traveled even further (one woman came all the way from Brazil for the event!).
I was lucky enough to get to stay in the Retreat Center for the event, jealous of the group of women who’d come down from Canada for MSA and were using the center for the week. Each day I got to walk past their projects as they grew into quilts of all sizes.
In the mornings, I taught classes on Cuddle minky fabrics, including tips on cutting, sewing and a ton of inspirational projects to show. I love getting the chance to talk with other patchworkers since my deep and abiding love is in the cotton quilt tops, but then getting to open their eyes to another substrate. Whether it’s simple blankets or backing their quilts with Cuddle, there are always a few happy discoveries with each class.
Each afternoon there were demos in the Penney’s store and I was lucky enough to have Karen Fuchs, one of the Shannon Fabrics Brand Ambassadors to take over on Wednesday and Friday. She is so great with folks and I’m lucky she lives close enough to join me each time.
I was able to join Misty Doan in the studio (you might recognize her from the tutorials and Facebook Lives she does for MSQC) and did a little tutorial on the basics of sewing with Cuddle. That will be available soon and hopefully convert a few more over to working with the fabrics (or at least take a little fear out).
Then I packed up and headed off to meet Hawke in Ohio for the holiday weekend. See you in September, MSQC!
Recently, I did a little Facebook Live for Shannon Fabrics to share information on using Cuddle minky fabrics and I figured this was as good a place as any to share it. If you’re thinking about using Cuddle, give it a few minutes and learn a few of the insider tips.
Lisa Congdon has been an artist I’ve followed casually for a long time. She first came to my attention back in 2013 when she designed fabric for Cloud9 Fabrics. Around the same time she moved to Portland and she had my attention. Then last year, Sam of Hunter’s Design Studio worked with her to create a quilt pattern from one of her designs. I was sold.
The Show Up Quilt pattern has various sizes available and I chose to do the wall-hanging size. The entire quilt is paper-pieced, which at first seems weird because it’s just a bunch of triangles. But Sam kept the whimsical, imperfect feel of Lisa’s art by making each triangle different. I love the hand-drawn feel of the quilt, rather than striving for perfection of points and smooth text.
I used Kona Cotton solids for all of it, including the orange backing. I used Quilters Dream Fusible 80/20 for the batting.