Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017... Always Believe Good Things Are Coming!

   We’re sure you are all getting ready for the big night... but most of us will not be standing elbow to elbow in Times Square or flying the Concord around the globe and celebrating New Year’s ten times over! We are happy to sit in front of TV, with the fireplace glowing, and a little glass of champagne. Wherever you are, we wish you the Happiest of New Years! And while none of us knows what 2017 holds… always believe good things are coming!

   Here’s a little look back and little look forward from San Francisco Stitch Co.:

   Series Three Baltimore Album designs were some of our best work to date... it might surprise you to know that our sample shown in the instructions is really a bunch of test stitch outs cobbled together—we went back to re-stitch the final versions for our show quilt version, and this is the state of that project...

   So wherever you are in the series, don’t get discouraged… top priority for January is to finish this up, and we will all cross that line together, oh, yes, we will. Stay tuned. And yes, there will be a Series Four!

   Our Twelve Days of Christmas has six down, six to go… we had hoped to have the Four Calling Birds for you today, but the birds had a different idea. We want to salute our Aussie friends with a   Kookaburra... in addition to a crazy call, he has rather a large head and beak and just wasn’t looking the way we wanted. (Yes, he's auditioning for the Sydney Opera House in the background.)

 It’s been our mantra that nothing comes out of this studio we're not thrilled with… so we're moving on to Canada and Geese for now, and we're sorry, you’ll have to wait. We hope to have the series wrapped up well before Valentine’s Day... (that's well, well before next Christmas!) Here’s a picture of a gorgeous setting block we plan for between each star block to keep your taste buds watering...

   And now for some new business…

   Most of you know that while our hearts will always be first and foremost with machine embroidery, our roots are in quilting… so for the past six months, we have been collaborating with award winning quilter, Tere D’Amato, to make our first ever, all patchwork design. It’s called the Summerhouse Block-of-the-Month and you will have your choice of Sampler, Row by Row, or Medallion quilt designs. If you don't want to commit to a large project, we're also making a one-off creative project each month in 2017. (Check out the sew cute Bath Mat Tere whipped up below!

So sign up for the series, or just visit month to month to see what’s new at the Summerhouse! We’ll be posting it for sale on the website at the crack of midnight… or maybe just as soon as we finish that glass of champagne!!

Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

City Sidewalks and Memory Lanes

I took a break between the "Days of Christmas" to join my college student in NYC for some city sidewalks siteseeing and shopping.  What business I had taking a vacation at this time of year in retail, well, let's just say when your daughter asks you to come down and spend time with her after the semester is over, you don't say no!  And in all my years of living and working in the city, I don't think I went out of my way to see Rockefeller Center in December once. Dancing Ladies and Calling Birds will have to wait!

First stop... Rock Center, of course! They had metallic flags lining the rink which must have been made of the lightest fabric imaginable, because even thought there was very little wind, they were whipping and flying in the most beautiful way.

The tree... needs no comment!

From there we walked up and down Fifth...

Saks Fifth Avenue definitely gets top prize for over the top decorations. The whole building was covered with a six-story pink castle and every ten minutes a light show complete with music would play. Try as I might, I could not get the picture at the millisecond when the entire building was lit. So you'll have to settle for this. I went back later to try again, but the sidewalk was so jammed, I couldn't have lifted my arms to take a picture. There was even a line to get into the store!

So we contented ourselves with window shopping...
Bergdorf's had these exquisite fairy forest themed gems.

For a minute I thought one store had a Twleve Days of Christmas theme... you can imagine with our current stitch-a-long how excited I was to see that! But these geese appear to be laying more than eggs... 

This item is actually NOT on my wish list... and would probably end up in a drawer at my house, sad to say. I'd have to wear it somewhere, and that would take me out of my sewing room wouldn't it?

After all the walking, we needed a break... 
this is a gift more to my "taste."

Loved these cute little building models at Cartier...

Always a classic...


Then we headed over to Sixth Avenue... the buildings on "Publisher's Row" seemed bent on a LARGE scale theme. Loved these bulbs reflected in a fountain...

But glad I don't have to untangle these!

Along the way, I kept trying to master the art of the "selfie." My DD tried to teach me, as easy as 1,2,3-- compose, make a cute face, SNAP! But I think my expression here shows how that went.

All I wanted was one little picture to use in this blog with a warm holiday greeting for you all... This was my best solo effort...

Glittering lights, laughter... 
don't you think that it captures the season so perfectly? 

In that spirit, now matter how quirky, imperfect, and awry your situation this holiday season, however well or badly the year treated you, wherever, however you find yourself, take the time to hold friends and family tight and just be HAPPY!

from the San Francisco Stitch Co. Gang!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Twelve Days Stitch-a-Long Progress!

So last we left it, I had found eight Christmas star blocks in my UFO pile... and I decided on a whim I would stitch my Twelve Days of Christmas designs in the middle of them, thus completing TWO projects at one time. At some point, I will need four more, so I made one at night this week. I realize why I got hung up now-- this one had 45 pieces!

The blocks are all from a gorgeous pattern called "Among the Stars" by It's Sew Emma from the Fat Quarter Shop. It was released as a block of the month in 2012 and having always wanted a Christmas quilt, one with stars, I jumped on the bandwagon and actually kept up for eight months. I checked and the pattern is still available just in case anyone out there has always wanted a Christmas quilt, a Christmas quilt with stars, and now a Christmas quilt with stars and the 12 Days of Christmas embroidered in the center.

The fabric is no longer available-- it was made by Basic Grey but I can't recall the name. Every year Basic Grey comes out with a new Christmas collection that I have to resist buying. This year's is called "Evergreen." And it has all those beautiful teals but maybe not as much black. Anyway, it gets my endorsement if the spirit moves you. We love anything Basic Grey-- the studio is filled with their "Grunge" fabric, and most of our test stitch outs are on Cream Grunge--in fact, our entire Baltimore Album project is on that cream-- it just adds such a nice little bit of texture.
It takes guts to hoop one of these beauties up for embroidery-- they are "on point" no less-- so I'll show you the process here. There are two main ideas when hooping. First, don't overtighten. Set your hoop loosely enough so that it's not going to be wrestling match to get block and stabilizer hooped. Once your hoop is pressed together, just tighten it a couple of turns with your screwdriver, then, ever so gently pull out any slight bubbles. Don't distort your block! The fabric is not supposed to be drum tight in there. And we've never had a project jump right out of the frame in the middle of stitching because it was too loose.

The second important thing is to just get your block hooped straight. You can see in the photo above, the design, while not centered, is nicely squared up. (Most machines have a design rotation feature-- our best machine can even rotate as little as one degree, but true confessions: I've never successfully positioned a design with the rotation feature.) I draw an X on my blocks with a purple disappearing marking pen and use the machine to center the design. Once I use a purple sharpie by mistake--that's why the occasional rotary cutter left open in the studio is tolerated in this establishment, but purple sharpies are strictly banned.
Now run the first color change-- you can see that design is really right where it should be, and can be confident to start the embroidery.

That being said, someone will always, always, always be in the room while these stitch-- maybe you have noticed this about machine embroidery in general-- nothing ever goes wrong until you leave the room.

Now let's speed time up and show the finished block. As a kid, I always loved the cooking shows when Julia Child would disappear down under the counter and pull out the finished dish immediately after putting it in the oven. I guess I'm an instant gratification type.

Hail the power of the blog and voila! 

You'd never guess five hours elapsed, with a list of between thread change activities that includes but is not limited to running out for diet soda, watering the Christmas tree, and making turkey soup. Machine Embroidery Rocks! And that is a pretty little piece of work, wouldn't you say?

Now we have a question for you... we have our French hens with the Eiffel tower and the Lords are a Leaping over Parliament... and we'd love to continue this little Christmas around the World flavor in the rest of the series. The Six Geese could be Canadian geese... can you think of any other tie ins for us? We have Golden Rings, Birds, Pipers (Scottish Bagpipers?) and drummers left.. we'd love to honor our Aussie fans... please add your comments below!

Three down, nine to go... thanks so much for making our Twelve Days part of your Christmas!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Winter Stitch-a-Long...

So, of course, my previously mentioned rotator cuff repair pretty much totaled the fall sewing season! And I am still lamenting the fact that there's no Santa's Helper Club this year. Especially since those Santa's Helper's office samples made for some pretty nice Christmas gifts for friends and family. I may have to shop this year! But you won't bump into me out there today.

My shoulder is getting better by leaps and bounds now... So at the studio we brainstormed what fun thing we could do to salvage Christmas this year? And the answer is.... "The Twelve Days of Christmas Winter Stitch-a-Long!" 

We've been wanting to digitize our very own version for quite a few years. Heck, six of them are birds-- what do we love to digitize more than that? Then there's the ubiquitous golden ring-- should be no more difficult than drawing a circle. But then comes those last few days with people...  people doing weird things! Leaping, piping, dancing, milking cows- that could be a bit challenging to render in thread. Before committing, we sketched up Lords-a-Leaping, just to make sure we got this-- and... I think we got this! 

To keep the stress off, notice we're calling it a "Winter Project"-- we can all start now, stitching as time permits through the next busy month, and then have the early, quiet months of next year to finish it up. Our projects will be ready way ahead of time... for Christmas 2017! In addition, to the beautiful 4x4s shown, there will be a free 2x2 charm size with fewer colors that's much quicker to stitch.

And now, just because we LOVE bigger projects and making things even more complicated, detailed, time consuming, and now have all year to do it... we found these 12" Christmas star blocks made about five years ago... (there's a benefit to having a bunch of UFOs lying around waiting to leap out like lords at exactly the right moment...)

We're going to stitch our designs in the middle of them. Just an idea, folks. You can just stitch yours on white and your finished project will be just as spectacular.

So we welcome you to our winter project... The first block has posted today-- (it's number seven, the swan-- no, we're not going in order because inspiration rarely comes as 1,2,3...) Download our free easy and quick to stitch 2x2 charm size, or get tempted by our 4x4 fully detailed version-- who else doesn't love a bigger project!

Be sure to take a quick read of the general instructions provided so you don't miss a stitch... the link to the series is below, add it to your favorites for December!

...and allow us to wish you the happiest of holiday seasons ahead!


Monday, November 14, 2016

Where've Ya Been?

It’s been quite a while since my last post,  but I have a good excuse....

This happened! That makes it sound like I had an accident, but that's not the case... apparently, my rotator cuff has been wearing away over time like a piece of cheap fabric until finally it ripped in half like a hole in the knee! (It figures I would have a health problem brimming with sewing metaphors.) For over a year, I had been having excruciating shoulder pain which at first was controllable by cortisone shots, but by the end of this summer, was totally unbearable and left no choice but surgery.

Initially, I feared all the hooping and free motion quilting finally caught up with me... But NO! My doctor assured me, it is just because of my AGE! Which I guess is good news, because I do intend to hoop and free-mo some more for quite a few years yet. A benefit of enjoying a pastime associated with grannies is that you’re never forced into retirement.

Not having any MLB pitcher friends to tell me about their experience, I went into it totally not knowing what to expect. When I went a couple of days before surgery to get fitted for a sling, I was not offered the cute pink silk version with Swarovski crystals I had in my mind--but this horrendous black appendage with huge foam brick attached to it and no less than four straps! At that moment, my heart sank.

It has been slow going, but the good news is I am eight weeks out already. I burned the black appendage couple of weeks ago and apparently, my new seams are holding strong. Many thanks to my OTHER right hand, Meg, not to mention the rest of the gang who kept the business running flawlessly. My biggest concern was keeping the Baltimore Album series going…did you notice the huge lapse of time between the September and October blocks? Well, the November block will be out in just a day or so, and we're even hoping to have December’s block (last one!) by the first week of that month... can't believe the whole year has gone by!

The bad news… having any sort of Christmas Club this year was just not possible. But as I am so fond of saying, there's always next year. We are hoping to pull off some shorter notice fun like a 12 days of Christmas series... With a little free charm version and an upgrade every couple of days after Thanksgiving. Even saying that makes me fearful I can’t keep up, but I’ve always wanted to do it, so I reserve the right to finish it in January if needed!! It wouldn't be San Francisco Stitch Co. if we weren't behind a bit.

As soon a s I could sew two pieces of fabric together I did, and that combined with not being able to drive and stuck home, I finished the first of my road trip quilts of valor. Not sure my doctor would have approved, but the joy of it kept me off of pain meds! :-)

We also have an exciting new plan for 2017... some of you know I was a quilter before I was a machine embroiderer… I have partnered with an award-winning quilt designer to offer our first ever quilt BOM patterns in 2017... these do not have machine embroidery, but are strictly for quilters. Each month there will be a new block with a project idea, or you can save your blocks and make a full-size quilt. We hope you'll join the fun and tell your quilting friends! Apparently, “Tropical” was quite the new trend at Quilt Market this year, and we are ahead of the game. This will keep your sanity in the winter months to come. Sneak peek… below.

So that’s what has been going on in our world! Let us know what’s happening in yours below… we LOVE to hear from you. XOX

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What's in YOUR Threadbox?

Here's a little peek at the secret life of our thread... and a little discussion of our own color mantra.
We'd love you to join in with your observations down below!

Just a little look at our green drawer will tell you a lot... no, we're not partial to one brand of thread. Sulky, Madeira, Magnifico, YLI, and even AdMelody live in perfect harmony here. You've seen our bumper stickers... you know, "Coexist." Once, upon a time, an intern had them all organized by hue, shade, and tint, but that was days ago and this is where we are now.

The truth is, you can argue about the color fastness, durability, and strength of all of these brands, but to us, having the absolute perfect color needed at any given moment trumps all. We'll let the machine embroidery archivists deal with the faded, shredded mess of our stitch outs in 100 years--immortality was never a goal of ours, and in 1,000,000 years anyway our Sun will breathe its last anyway, thus turning the lights off on our little corner of the universe. So we're living for the moment.

Having a business where all this thread is a write off and sometimes even a gift is a big advantage, but even if you don't, we do find ourselves reaching for some of the same colors again and again. Here's the lowdown on our essentials.

Yup! Here's the perfect pair... although black and white in the purest form do not really occur anywhere in nature, they're are bound to be in just about every embroidery design... if only the highlight in an eye, or the darkest single stitched line in a shadow. So be sure to never run out! We buy the big spools.

Add a beautiful cream and a smooth, warm gray and you have a quartet. If these were the only four colors you could have, think about it... any design, from floral, to seasonal, to decor, could be reduced down to these four values and would stitch out, without fail, to be the classiest, simplest, most sophisticated thing you'd ever seen. Need proof? Here's our brand new Summer's End flower basket reduced to a fabulous four:


But in the end, ROY G. BIV was right. A little pop of color is a good thing. So for our next thread essentials, be sure to have the following always in your arsenal: a fire engine red, carrot orange, bright yellow, grass green, royal blue, and purple.

Now we're going to expand our rainbow... to your red, a little burgundy makes a great dark accent. And in general, a light, medium, and dark tone is all you need for some beautiful shading. Although not the greatest fans of pink, we have hot pink, medium pink, and light pink just for flowers.
 To shade through orange to yellow, pick a golden orange, then a gold, a bright yellow, and a pale one.
 Leaves can usually be stitched effectively with just two shades.... but who can resist a hunter green...
 To your blue, add a pale and a navy... purple is already a dark color, so just add a lavender.

 We are not big into browns, not being neutral types at all, but you do need a couple... we love rust, a light brown, and where would we be without chocolate?

So those are our essentials... just 25 in all. But quilters are allowed their fabric stashes, so embroiderers may have their spools... be sure to always have your favorite colors, in thread. A design stitched in YOUR colors will never go badly. Left to right, we love gold.  And yellow orange was my personal favorite crayon color from kindergarten on, back in the day before the 64 pack came out with the fancy names like Macaroni and Cheese and Mauvelous. Next, peach--- so much easier on our eyes and dearer to our hearts than pink, and our favorite fruit to boot... and why not try a variegated or metallic, too?

So what's in your thread box? Do you have lifelong favorites or do your colors come and go with the wind? Are you a brand snob? We'd love to hear about it!

Friday, September 2, 2016

The End of the Road... Road Trip 2016

Our 2016 Road Trip is over, and the summer with it! So here's one last look at the ride.We'll show you how we added our borders, and also how our Quilts of Valor are coming along. And if you make to the end, there's even a cute kitty picture!

In case you have been feeling tired lately, here's why! If we had actually driven this, it was 6,883 miles, or 109 hours and 6 minutes in the car. (I love MapQuest.) That side trip to Vegas was worth it, though, don't you think? 

But what we really did, was sew 212,750 stitches. If every stitch was a mile, we drove around the earth 8-1/2 times. ( I love math.) So that is definitely taking armchair travel to new lengths!

Now back to reality. Here's a quick photo tutorial if you'd like to add borders like ours. Just load the design provided on the Road Trip web page with 2 layers of heavy stabilizer in a 5" x 7" hoop. Pick two colors; one for the words and one for the stars. We used white, then blue. We made four of these in all for all four sides.

Unhoop and trim your pieces apart right on the stitched line between them. Cut them into 2-1/2" high strips. Then cut 1/2" away from the letters on each side. At this point, remove as much stabilizer as you can, and trim up any of the larger jump stitches between the letters.

Sew the saying together with 1/4" seam. 

Pick a corner accent fabric, (we used a navy blue with stars), cut two pieces 2-1/2" square, and sew one to each end of the piece; there's extra, so just trim it even with the sides of your main piece.

Do the same for the top border. Then the side borders are done the same way as well, except out of the corner fabric, you'll need a longer scrap, roughly 5" x 2-1/2," for the ends of the side pieces.
Voila! (I love saying, "Voila.")

If you are too tired at the end of this whole trip, just buy some nice red, white, and blue fabric, cut it to 2-1/2" strips and use that for a border. Or you could just make one saying for the bottom border and do the rest out of fabric. It's all about you. <3

We were SO tired after last year's trip, nothing ever happened with it! So this year, we plan to finish it. These big breaks in projects are something you may have noticed with your own work-- it's okay, it's just a bit of resting time before it becomes clear what the embroidery wants to be. Sort of like dough resting. There are no UFOs in our studio-- just resting dough.

Et Voila!

And look how impressive they look together! Makes us want to go ahead and digitize every city in the whole world, huh!

And finally, in between cities this Road Trip, we did get a few more star blocks finished for our Quilts of Valor-- that is what we will have when this project is fully baked. A little photoshoppin' here, folks, but honestly, we're pretty close to finishing one now that the centers are done.

And that makes it a wrap! We were going to post a picture of a sunset last to symbolize the end of the road for Summer 2016... but all we could really pull up was one of the office cat taking a sip of water from his teacup while the rest of us groveled on the floor with the above quilt blocks. 

If you enjoyed the road trip, please comment below with your first name, town, state, country... it's like carving our names in a tree when we all reached Seattle. Happy Fall! <3