Friday, March 27, 2020

Safe Travels!

So we've just started a twelve-week free machine embroidery stitch-a-long project. To keep our spirits up, we're now going on an extended "vacation" around the globe and we'd love you to join us! The link to the first destination's design is at the bottom of this post--
we're starting in New York!

I always love historical quilts-- and we are definitely experiencing a moment in time. So I've decided to make my designs into a bit of a token of how we all survived by making a quilt. You can do that, too, or just make single projects, or a smaller project by just stitching the embroidery blocks together. It's all up to you.

In this post, I'm going to quickly show you how I'm centering my embroidered postage stamps into a Sawtooth Star. We'll have at least twelve 8" (finished size) blocks by the end of three months-- 
and we're hoping this nightmare will be far behind us as well.

These are the pieces you will need:

(1) completed New York embroidery cut to 4-1/2" x 4-1/2"

(8) squares 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" for your star points
(we're using a Tim Holtz map fabric)

(4) squares 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" and (4) rectangles 2-1/2" x 4-1/2"
for the star background
(we're using the newspaper fabric)

It just hit me-- maps and newspapers are all too appropriate!

First, we're going to make four flying geese blocks. I'm going to assume you've never made one before-- and you can go ahead and assume I never have either, because the older I get, the more seems to escape me, heehee :-) Together, we'll figure it out.

On all 8 of the star points, draw a line from corner to corner.
I actually do this with my little square ruler and a mechanical pencil, as shown above, to make sure it's super accurate.

Now layer one of the star points on a rectangle as shown below, right sides together. Stitch across, right on the line, making sure you stitch right into the corner.

Trim off the excess...

then press the piece flat. 

Repeat on the other side. The trick is to get the point exactly 1/4" away from the edge of that piece-- that way your point will be right on the seam line when it is stitched to the neighboring piece.

Make four of those, in all, with your other rectangles and star pieces.

Now lay out your block. Stitch the top, middle, and bottom rows together with 1/4" seam. After each seam, press AWAY from the flying geese units in every case.

When stitching the pieces to the center, stitch right through the point of the flying geese unit and you'll get a perfect point!

Now stitch the rows together. The seams will be opposing, so you can just "feel" that they are nestled up to one another. We used five pins. This is an important seam-- make sure it is 1/4" all the way across, especially at the beginning and end, and there's also another star point to cross.

If you've followed along carefully, your should have nice points where the flying geese point inwards to the embroidery.... AND the outside star points should be 1/4" away from the outside of the block.  That's a huge help when we will sew these together.

   If something is not right-- try to figure out what went wrong and consider what you might do differently next time.

There's another word for that--


So that's the Sawtooth Star-- it's such a good one if you love to combine embroidery with your quilts. We're planning about one new city a week, but we may get more than that done. Be sure to subscribe to our email list so you won't miss anything-- after a number of days, we do charge for the designs!

Stay well, keep calm, and we will all stitch on!



Friday, March 20, 2020

Just 280 Days 'til Christmas!

Yesterday was the first day I was able to focus and put what I consider a full day's effort in. The news has taken on a degree of sameness which makes it easy to turn off. Instead I find my mind wandering to obvious, yet serious questions-- how long will this last? Do we all have to slowly get the virus before we can go out again? When am I going to be able to go out and pick up more chocolate and Diet Coke? 


So I had a nice finish-- this is the new
Christmas Advent calendar I am working on-- all done. 
Mind you-- it's not coming out until October! I am strategizing that it just doesn't feel right to promote sales right now and no one is buying anyway, but I can really make up months of sales over the holidays this fall. So if I have a stack of new collections for the fall, we can still pull off a good year.

Yesterday, I completed the base layer-- it takes two 5x7 hoopings. This is easy to do with built-in guidelines.

I then sandwiched it together with this gorgeous Christmas print-- I believe it is one of those Hoffman metallics. Thank God for a well stocked sewing room! So proud of myself for adding the invisible pocket, by fussy cutting it. That is where you will store your pieces.

The 25 pieces are all adorable and measure about 1" each. We're going to include instructions to just make a set of ornaments for a little tree.

They are attached with Velcro dots-- when I show the finished piece to my daughter, she excitedly grabbed a charm, and of course the entire Velcro dot came with it. So I will add in the instructions just to be careful--- it's such and easy attachment method and the little ornaments kind of "float" over the piece because it raises them up-- we're sticking with it-- pun intended.

Finally, I bound the edges, and handstitched the back-- getting away from the computer is a must for me, so I enjoy a bit of handwork. 

I then made a beautiful bow, and stitched on a little sawtooth hanger-- this has become my favorite hanging method these days and you may have noticed I've used it to hang some of my recent mug rugs. A couple of years ago, I needed a sawtooth hanger, but it was cheaper to buy a pack of 250, so expect this trend to continue.


Well, there's still some solid hours left to write instructions, but I'm saving that for the weekend. Then it all gets bundled up with the designs and will have to wait for better days! I'm going to keep mine on the design wall for now. It makes me feel happy.

Today is sketching day-- I need a break from the computer-- and I also need a "Stitches of the Sea" design-- it's all imagined in my head-- a koi pond with a gorgeous "Torii Gate" reflecting in the water. Picture the Brooklyn Botanic Garden if you've ever been. The April cottage of the month is going to be "HOPE," and yes, I had this planned before this series of unfortunate events! On the fence if I should bother with Easter... what do you think?


Monday, March 16, 2020

The 600lb. Gorilla...

    Just last week I was so excited to get three new things out... and then as it did for all of us, priorities suddenly changed! There's no news flashes here and no brilliant ideas... I just thought I’d give you an update on what's happening in my world and invite you to share what's happening in yours. We're going to need the human contact! If you’re sick of hearing about COVID, this post isn’t for you. But I'm interspersing the post with unrelated, but beautiful photos of this and that, because that's what I usually do and normalcy is a friend right now.

     I understand that a lot of this is hysteria, and that most of us aren't going to die. That being said, #flattenthecurve makes total sense to me.... if we don’t slow the spread to keep this manageable for health care providers, it's going to turn into tragedy for many people.

     So....  I did all the things I need to do for those closest to me. Business has pretty much stopped. There was no need to run out and raid stores for TP and hand sanitizer because the wonderful Mr. SFO has always believed in stocking up. (Me, after one of his frequent BJs trips: You spent $40 on paper towels!!??

   My mom is 87 and, while in good health, is our biggest concern. She is moving this week into a gorgeous new condo which we have been looking forward to for weeks but now is a huge, ill-timed, inconvenience.  We have her on lockdown with plenty of bleach wipes and hand sanitizer.  

   I drove down to NY (from Boston) and back in one day to retrieve our daughter. Initially resistant, I think being stuck in a tiny apartment with three other people was less attractive in the end than coming here, even though that tiny apartment is now referred to as "home." In the manner of youth, she is most concerned with the social justice aspect of all of this which makes me want to hug her, even though we aren't supposed to for two weeks.

  Now that the most urgent things are in place, my thoughts have moved on to those not in my inner circle. While I completely agree with social distancing right now, this is gonna kill our already fragile brick 'n mortar quilt-y world. And all but one of my family can work from home. My heart goes out to those who now must stay home with kids and have no assurance of a paycheck. 

   Some of my close friends have asked me if I am poised to make money on this... everyone will be sitting home sewing right? Maybe people will "binge stitch" the entire Cloud Club series. But everyone is so distracted, and I’ve been so absent, business is a trickle. It seems to me so ridiculous and self-serving to send out an email trying to sell something right now— I am still getting plenty of these emails from my favorite retailers, most of whom do not mention the news, and they feel hollow and disconnected from reality.

    So what's the strategy? We can't all sit here and watch the death toll rise every day or worry because our throat feels scratchy. We're thinking "Pay it Forward." The design at the top of this post is free and we hope it gives you a smile. (Link below.) And we're going to start another four week free stitch-a-long in the near future to give us all something to mark the weeks by. Stitches of the Sea will be out this month-- a koi pond, and the Cottages of the Month will continue on. Other than that, I'm not sure what I have the heart for-- the thought occurred that by working on a stock of Christmas designs, I could project myself into the future, when all of this is over!

  Our very best to you-- we'd love to hear from you below-- share your story and know that we're all listening--that's all we have for now!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Forward, ever forward...

Last week was hugely productive and we have at least three new releases coming up this week... are you ready?

First up, we thought we'd get a head start on the March Cottage of the Month-- these are beyond fun to do. I mentioned Mr. SFO is an architect, but I must have a bit of frustrated realtor DNA as well.

We went from this,

to this, in record time,

and the quilt block is stitching out now.

The quilt block takes extra time, obviously, because it's a square and there are spaces to fill in above and below the house. I wonder how many different fence designs we'll be able to come up with this year!

I have been posting pictures of machine embroidered cross stitch on Instagram just to share what we are doing with our hand cross stitching counterparts. Cross stitching is in a period of revival, and if you haven't, check out the hashtag #crossstitchersofinstagram and feast your eyes on all the new designers and styles. It's incredible!

In the past year, I have been thinking about what separates machine from hand cross stitch and how can we focus on and excel at what machine embroidery can do best.

We're never going to have a "hand" look-- it's too perfect, hee hee!

But the thing digitizing offers is the level of scrumptious detail.
I noticed the new "handwork" designers avoid backstitching-- I feel that is what really enriches the look and when you don't have to hand stitch it, there's no limit to how much you might add. We're now so overboard on the details that I don't think anyone could handstitch this anymore. Just look at that little shamrock next to a dime-- all backstitched, in seconds! So I hope we've kind of started a new embroidery style-- something that is being created for the first time.

I am going to make a "book" out of my cottage postcards at the end of the year-- yes! we can do this together... as I have already been fantasizing about making some kind of cute cover for this book. In a moment of weakness, I mailed my LOVE cottage to someone who needed a little love... I'm hoping I don't make the same mistake with my Blessings Cottage because it is just that cute! The plan is to take it to get stamped at the post office on St. Patrick's Day. Hoping to have the sets out midweek.

And here's #18 Cloud Club! It's the Cedar Waxwings...
we really went out on a "limb" with the color choices-- and it paid off. Here is the first test and we're ecstatic-- still needs some work on the blending, but the background is now in.

Hoping to have this by the end of the week-- this is the last "official" bird for the quilt-- so it's getting extra love. No doubt we'll do more birds at some point,  but this wraps up our "Cloud Club" quilt. That being said, we're fantasizing about a Christmas edition of say, four birds?

Finally, we did the little girl welcome design-- well, if you have little boys in your life, that will also be out this week. There are little boy clothes on the line, the bunny has been swapped for a teddy, and the rocking horse for a train. This is a wonderful, quick baby gift, with limited colors, and you can personalize it by hand (or not.)

After these things are released, next up is Stitches of the Sea #3...
We're thinking... Koi Pond in Japan?

Lastly, I bought something that may change my life!!

Part of the reason my flower piece was consigned to a closet for two years is because when it came to embroidering the sashings, I could not HOOP this thing!! It has a layer of 80/20 batting, a layer of wool, two fabric layers, stabilizer... all of my hoops were just not big enough for the thickness and after much struggling, it would pop right out!

I tried growing two extra arms, luring the post lady in with promises of baked goods, and even renting an octopus.

So this is Eileen Roche from DIME's magnetic hoop...
it was wicked expensive, but within ten minutes of receiving it, I already had a little cornerstone stitched.

Looks like it's a green light-- don't run out to buy this yet, but I am going to spend a chunk of time testing it out this week-- I'll let you know. I even took the trouble to finally digitize a little sashing design.

For those of you who want to play along, all I can say is, I am writing down how I am doing this, and at some point, for the seriously touched in the head-- yes, there will be another finishing kit for the flower quilt.

Still there?

Thanks so much for caring about my little world-- 
comment below--
go forth, and have a productive week!!