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Monday, January 30, 2012

Viva Las Vegas

Well, have you noticed I've been gone? I'm so happy to be back though. My sisters and I took a little vacation to Las Vegas.







Nothing better than Home Sweet Home.
Love,
xoxo

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pattern Testers Needed

Thank you all so much. I believe we have it covered.
Hi there. I'm looking for a few good pattern testers for a girl's dress. Must have prior dress making experience (please send photos.) Must also have a quick turn around time. I will line up the testers this week and send the pattern to you next week. It will be in e-pattern format, so you have to have adobe reader and a printer and be able to piece it together.

I need testers for the following sizes:
2T, 3T, 6, 7, 8 and 10. I only need one person for each size and sizes 4 and 5 are covered. Please look at my size chart below to find the size of your child. For the chest measurement, measure across the bust of a well-fitting garment and double it. In other words, it will be a little bigger than their actual size around.

If you're interested, e-mail me at mstramel@melissastramel.com. Thanks!

You can ignore everything about fabric and notions on the chart -- it's from my other dress. Testers will receive a free copy of the pattern and, of course, the finished dress before anyone else. You will also be featured on my blog when the pattern comes out.
Love,
xoxo

Monday, January 23, 2012

All Dolled Up Tote Testers

I thought you'd love to see the testers projects from the All Dolled Up Tote. They did such a fabulous job.
 Here is Samantha enjoying her bag. Her mom Marie made it using Heather Ross fabrics.

 Maggie's bag, made by mom Christy, is just what she needs to carry around her dolls. It's made from corduroy in the pretty pink and black zebra stripe.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 NIV

Love,
xoxo

Friday, January 20, 2012

This and That

Well, there are several things I need to tie up today. First of all, I've been a guest on several blogs this week. Why don't you check it out?

I was on U-Create here and the Quilting Gallery here. This Quilting Gallery post I wrote is a continuation of the Very Basics of Quilting with some overall tips.

Also, my new pattern is now available from QuiltWoman and Patterns Gone Digital. Of course you can also buy them from my store.

Finally, I bet you're wondering who the winner of The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer is.
Mama Lusco said...
I love Christian fiction! I've read Levi's Will but didn't realize it was part of a series :) I recently finished my BFFs new Christian YA book, Replication by Jill Williamson. Thank you!

Yay! (And Linda, I donated my copy to our local library so you can check out the whole series there.)

Love,
xoxo

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Introducing the All Dolled Up Tote

I'm so excited to show you my sixth, yes sixth!, pattern to be published. Just out today, it's the All Dolled Up Tote. This may be my favorite pattern to date because, well, it was so necessary around here. You see, my daughters wanted the American Girl doll holder bags for Christmas. First I looked at them and they looked pretty flimsy. Then I read the reviews, which were TERRIBLE. And I thought, "I can do better than that." So I thought it out for a few months. Honestly, I did. Exactly what would I want to carry in a bag like this if I was a little girl? So I put a really cool three-dimensional pocket on the front for doll gear. On the back is a huge back pocket that holds books. Mostly because my kids love to travel with their dolls and we always have both reading and coloring books too. Finally, I put a "secret" inside zipper pocket on the interior. That's so they can feel like they're being really sneaky by bringing along a little something in there.

I also made two dividers to hold the dolls. But I wanted to make them removable in case you (or the child) ever need a plain tote bag. And a nice tote bag it is! It's super sturdy since it's stabilized with Peltex. So you're probably waiting for pictures, right? We really had fun taking these.
 I was so happy to use Thomas Knauer's Pear Tree fabric. So perfect for this.

 Here's the bag and its inside dividers.

I'm so thankful to have produced another pattern. The biggest testimony to me is that all my friends have asked me to make bags for their daughters. And my daughters and my testers' daughters won't let the bags out of their sight.

Love,
xoxo

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Very Basics of Quilting Part 7

Last week in the Very Basics of Quilting we found out how to prepare our quilt tops for a long arm quilter. This week is all about learning how to quilt it ourselves. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not an expert in this area. However, I know enough to be able to finish a small quilt and be proud of it. I'm going to share my super easy tips with you, so that you too can finish a small quilt top on your home machine.

You will need your finished quilt top, a backing just a little bit bigger than the top (for our purposes an extra two inches on each side is sufficient), a fusible quilt batting (fusible on both sides), a water-soluble marking pen and thread.


 Here is the quilt we've been working on with added borders. I thought it was going a little more traditional than I hoped for, so I added six inch gray borders. Pretty, huh?

 Lay your batting out very flat on the floor. Scoot the kitty off of it.

 Smooth your quilt top out on top of the batting.

 VERY IMPORTANT: Read the directions on your fusible batting. I'm not sure if they're all the same, but for mine, if you were fusing one side at a time, you did NOT use steam. I *MAY* have fused my quilt to the floor of my sewing room the first time. I *MAY* still have some batting sticking to my carpet. So using NO STEAM, slowly iron the quilt top to the batting, moving your iron from the center to the edges. Always returning to the center and moving outwards.

 Go ahead and trim the quilt top to the size of the batting. NEVER do this if you're sending the quilt to a long arm quilter. But on your machine, you want it even so the batting doesn't get caught by the feed dogs.

 Now flip the quilt fused to batting over, so that the batting is up and place the backing over the batting (right side up of course). Fuse again, just like above except this time you can use steam. Trim again, this time leaving an inch extra all around the back. You can flip it over and steam the front for a stronger hold now.

 Take your water soluble pen and draw straight quilting lines. If you own a darning foot and want to try freestyle quilting, be my guest. I've never been very good at that. But for the simplest quilting, just use straight lines.

Now if you own a foot kind of like this, called a walking foot, go ahead and attach it to your machine. If you don't own one, your regular open toe foot will probably work just fine. After all, we fused this baby together pretty well. The walking foot helps keep the same tension on the top fabric as the feed dogs keep on the bottom fabric.

 Choose a thread color, either something that will blend in or something that will stand out. I chose a bright pink to contrast with the gray and complement all the pinks in the quilt. Sew down the lines you marked with the pen.

To keep everything smooth, place one hand to the left of your foot and the other on the right, pressing down lightly. My right hand isn't in this photo because I was taking the picture. When you've finished all your lines, look your quilt over and see if you need to add more quilting anywhere. If so go ahead and mark more lines. Square up the quilt by cutting off the extra batting and making sure everything is straight. You may also want to baste any sides that don't have much stitching, which will make it a little easier when you put on the binding (next week!). After everything is square, remove the water soluble marks by squirting them with a little water.

 You'll have a gorgeous back . . .
and front! I hope this will give you the confidence to try quilting yourself.

Love,
xoxo

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's All Roses Headband Tutorial

This is a really fun little pattern that I think you'll enjoy. Sometimes it's nice to throw a headband in your hair and be done with it, right? So here's a one-size-fits-all people headband PLUS a little one for the dolls. I think it's really, really cute. Find the instructions for the It's All Roses Headband here.

Hope you LOVE it!

Love,
xoxo

Monday, January 16, 2012

Simply Charmed Blog Hop

Today's the day! The secrets out! Announcing the Simply Charmed Blog Hop! Isn't Valentines Day great? A day focused on telling those we love just how much they mean to us.  And what better way to show someone you care than to give them something special made by you just for them!
Thank you to Melissa from Happy Quilting for pulling this entire blog hop together and inviting some of her blog friends to join in -- including me!
February 1 - Melissa from Happy Quilting 
February 2 - Heather from Quilt Story
February 3 - Melissa from Lilac Lane (that's me!)
February 6 - Angela from Cut to Pieces
February 7 - Amy from Diary of a Quilter
February 8 - Natalia from Piece N Quilt
February 9 - Jessica from Twin Fibers
February 10 - Katie from Swim, Bike, Quilt
February 11 - Jane from Want It, Need It, Quilt
February 13 - Corey from Little Miss Shabby
February 14 - Happy Valentines Day and the Grand Prize Winner Announcement!!!!
From Happy Quilting Melissa, "Thank you so much to each of these ladies.  I have had so much fun working with each of them on this Blog Hop.   They are all so very talented and the projects they have created are just amazing!!!  Trust me when I say, you are all in for a treat!!! The Simply Charmed title came about because each of us created our project using 1 Charm Pack and  added yardage if necessary but only for backing, lining ect.  The bulk of each project is made using just the 1 Charm Pack of Always and Forever by Deb Strain.   And trust me,  you are going to be amazed with what you can create using a single charm pack!!!"
And what fun would a Blog Hop be without Giveaways???
Thanks to the generosity of our amazing sponsors, there will be a giveaway along with each of the 10 tutorials. So when the time comes, make sure to enter at each of the contributors tutorial post for your chance to win some major fabric cash.
     
Fat Quarter Shop has graciously sponsored the fabric used in making the tutorials.
They will also be sponsoring the Grand Prize of  a $200.00 Gift Certificate to 1 lucky reader.
Burgundy Buttons has graciously sponsored three $25.00 Gift Certificates for 3 lucky readers.
 The Intrepid Thread has graciously sponsored three $25.00 Gift Certificates for 3 lucky readers.
       The Green Fairy has graciously sponsored three $25.00 Gift Certificates for 3 lucky readers.
A huge thank you goes out to each of our sponsors!!!  They are a huge part of making this Blog Hop.  So pop on over to their shops (their icon's are links) and find the special Charm Pack or 2 for you.  (And whatever else might tickle your fancy :)  
And last but not least, we would love it if you joined the Simply Charmed Blog Hop Flickr Group.  This will be a place to show us your amazing projects made using the Simply Charmed tutorials!!!  We can't wait to see your own personal take on these special gifts :)
So are you ready to hop along with us???  Are you excited for February 1st?????  
Well then grab a button and spread the word!!  
Let's see how far we can spread the homemade love this Valentines Day!!!! .
Love,
xoxo

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quilt Market Help

Well, I've taken the plunge. I just turned in my contract for booth space at the Internation Quilt Market this spring in Kansas City. There I will launch a small line of embroidery patterns that I have been working on for quite some time.

If any of you are stitchers, particularly cross-stitchers, and would like to help, would you leave me a comment or e-mail me at the address on my sidebar? I can provide a tiny bit of monetary compensation, all the supplies you will need and possibly your name on the back of the pattern.

Thanks so much!

Love,
xoxo

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Very Basics of Quilting Part 6

Can you believe we're already at part 6? Just a couple more parts and we'll be more advanced than the very basics! Today I have a special treat. Lisa, from That Crazy Quilty Girl, is here to tell us all about preparing a quilt top to be quilted by a long-arm quilter. Is she qualified? Oh yes! She's one of the best quilter's I know. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. She's won awards for her quilting all over the country, but most importantly at MQS -- the machine quilter's equivalent of Quilt Market. Not only that but she quilted BOTH samples of Ricky Tim's and Alex Anderson's Block of the Month for this year. And one of those she pieced -- (seriously, go check it out.) It's even in the current issue of the Quilt Life!

Without anymore gushing, let's just say it's an honor to have Lisa here. Lisa, take it away:

Hello everyone!  I'm Lisa, and I'm a longarm quilter.  You may have seen my name thrown around Melissa's site on occasion because she likes to make pretty things, and then I get the pleasure of finishing them for her!  I'm happy to be here to continue with you her Basics of Quilting series.

Many people think that when their top is completed, their work is done.  That couldn't be further from the truth!  But I'm here to help make it a little easier for you (and your quilter).  I may get a little long-winded and if I do, I apologize in advance! I can't offer much advice on preparing your quilt to quilt it on a domestic sewing machine, as I've only done just a few small projects (usually quilting fabric to make into a bag) on a domestic.  However, I can give you all kinds of tips and tricks for preparing your quilt for a longarmer.  Please bear in mind that each longarmer is different and requests different things, so it's best to check to see how they'd like your quilt and backing prepared. It is my job to make my customers' quilts look as best as they can.  But I can only work with so much.  I always start out by loading every quilt square (some longarmers do NOT load square, but flat, which is a big no-no). 

Once I've loaded it, I know what types of issues, if any, I will be dealing with before I even take the first stitch of quilting. The first piece of advice that I can give you is to follow the "rules" that Melissa mapped out for you in all of her previous entries of this series! Following the rules of quilting to construct your top is the number one way to be sure you will be happy with the end result (after quilting). Whether you're more of a traditional or liberated quilter, the best rule of thumb is to always square up as you work!  If your quilt top has a lot of problems in the piecing, it can affect all kinds of things.  Including it not getting quilted the way you'd like.  Precautions need to be taken for errors in piecing, whether you or your quilter like it or not.  If "the rules" are not followed, all kinds of things can go wrong.  You can end up with fullness, a quilt that's 10 inches longer on one side, puckers, pleats, tucks (I personally have never, nor will I ever do a tuck...  if I can't work it out then I will fix it), etc.  Why would you want that?  Properly attaching borders is the most overlooked of the rules.  And also the most catastrophic.  Would you like to see what it looks like when a longarmer loads a quilt square on the frame, but the borders weren't attached properly?  I'll show you.  And if you're not horrified by what you see, you have no soul.  KIDDING!  But I was horrified.  And that takes a lot.
That's a whoooooooole lotta fun right there.  It takes SO MUCH time and extra effort to quilt something like that without pleats or intentional tucks (and apparently very few can, my friends on Facebook were amazed when I was done with this puppy, it turned out beautiful!).  On this particular quilt, my customer didn't measure for her borders, but "sew and slashed" them, which not only allows you to stretch your fabric, but distort it as well. In this picture, there is too much fabric for the border.  In the next picture (same client), there's not enough, which leads to a whole lot of fullness within the body of the quilt.  Again.  Horrified.  This picture doesn't even accurately illustrate how bad it was, because it wasn't this one section.  The entire quilt looked like this:
And another one.  SAME client. Again.  Before:
And after:
That's a lot of work!  Which takes a lot of time.  Which will cost you more.  So do yourself a favor and follow Melissa's suggestions.  :) Now!  Other things that you don't typically think about: Thread tails and fabric fray on the back side of your quilt.  If you have a lot of light colored fabrics, you should always take the time to remove frays and clip thread tails from the back side of your quilt top.  You would really be amazed how much it shows through once it's quilted. Removing stray threads and frays that have creeped up through your seams and made their way to the top of the quilt top.  This seems like I'm being picky, but I've spent up to 45 minutes removing threads (and pet hairs, etc.) from someone's top.  My time is my most valuable resource!  (Ask me how long my waiting list is)

If your top has no borders, say a whole bunch of squares sewn together, it's best to "square up" the outer edges of the top.  By this, I mean to trim off any excess fabric that may have sneaked past your seam, so that there is a nice, straight line along the edge of your quilt.  When we're loading the top onto the frame, we need to have a point of reference, to which we load it square.  Having trimmed edges helps tremendously! Press your quilt top before dropping it off.  This seems like a given but...  yeah! I love an embellished quilt, but wait to add any embellishments (yo-yos, crystals, buttons, anything 3-D) until after it's quilted.  I learned the hard way that it's nearly, though not entirely impossible to quilt an embellished quilt.  The hopping foot can sometimes catch on the embellishments and you then run the risk of a tear in your top.  Nobody wants that!

If you'd like to supply your own batting, be sure that it's a good quality batting.  If you question whether or not your batting is a good quality, discuss it with your quilter.  We have to follow rules with battings, in that certain battings have to have a minimum amount of space between stitching.  Some of the low quality battings can leave a quilt limp and lifeless and it may be gross and bunchy after it's washed.  Yuck! Remember to never baste your layers together before dropping off with a longarm quilter.  Quilting on a longarm is a whole different ballgame than on a domestic and each layer must be loaded individually.

While we're on the subject of loading layers, another really, super-duper important thing is to always provide a backing that is LARGER than your quilt top.  The way your quilt gets loaded onto a longarm frame, your quilter will need an absolute minimum of three extra inches on each side.  The amount of fabric that each quilter prefers varies.  For me, it depends on what type of quilting will be done.  Some quilting requires more fabric than others.  I usually prefer at least five inches of fabric on all four sides of the top.  (For what it's worth, when I'm quilting my own quilts, I do eight extra inches on each side to be sure that I end up with the absolute best results possible)  It's a good general rule to add 10 inches to your width and lenth and buy that much backing.  So if your quilt top measure 90x108, you would need at least 100x118 inches of backing. Another important rule as far as backing goes is that it must be square.  I don't mind so much if the quilt top isn't square.  However, if your backing isn't square you're just begging for trouble!  If it's not square it can twist on the frame.  If it twists on the frame, your quilt will also twist when it comes off of the frame.  Un-square backing can cause serious pleats as well.  And, if it isn't square, there's a chance that once I get to the bottom of the quilt, there may not be enough on one side (this is a big reason why I started basting them square before beginning the quilting!).  Now I'll show you the difference between a square and non-square back.
That beauty up above?  That's a square back.  It has an even tension all across the frame.  When the back is loaded onto the frame, I first find the center of the top and bottom and work my way out to each side from there.  It is very important to have a square back so you don't end up with:
A sad back.  Do you see how it's all droopy on the left side?  There's nothing your quilter can do to help that.  Except straighten it.  Which will likely result in not enough backing. It is always best to tear your backings along the straight of the grain by clipping into the fabric just past the selvedge and then tearing it all the way through the selvedge on the other side.  If you buy wide backings at your local quilt shop, ask them to tear it.  If they don't/won't tear it you should 1) probably look for a different favorite local quilt shop!  And 2) buy anywhere from 1/4-1/2 yard extra to account for the fabric you'll lose once it is straightened. If you like to piece your backings, whether you sew a single seam to join two big strips of fabric, or like to make your quilts reversible by piecing blocks together, etc. it is best to follow the regular rules of quilting *except one!*  That one rule you shouldn't follow when it comes to backing, is the 1/4" seam rule.  For a backing, it is best to use a 1/2" seam allowance and press open.  There are a few reasons for this.  Your backing is the most "abused" during the quilting process.  It gets stretched between rollers, across the frame, and with the clamps on the sides.  A 1/2" seam allowance helps to keep everything where it should be until it comes off the frame.  There's more fabric in the seam allowance, which helps keep the seams from coming apart.  If the seams start to come apart, your nice and square backing becomes a non-square backing and can cause weird humps or waves in the quilt once it's finished.  Pressing the seams open helps to eliminate unnecessary bulk within the quilt sandwich.  Longarms can be kind of picky, they like uniformity!  Sometimes a little added bulk can result in skipped stitches, shredded thread, etc. Now that I've managed to be the bad guy for an entire guest post, it's time for me to tell you:  It's okay.  Don't be discouraged if everything isn't just right.  It's my job, and my responsibility to tell you how things are *supposed* to be.  If you have a good quilter, any "problems" can be overcome (except for the not enough backing part... so, so important!).  There is no such thing as a perfect quilt, and your quilter doesn't (or shouldn't) expect perfection if they can't also deliver perfection.  I'm giving you permission (as if you need my permission!) to "fudge it" every now and then.  It isn't the end of the world. Quilting is supposed to be fun.  Have fun!

Wow, Lisa! I learned a lot. I hope all of you did too. Thank you so much for instructing us today.
Love,
xoxo
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