Original Sewing and Quilt Expo – Minneapolis, MN 2014

I have written about the OSQE before, and I was not complimentary. I have a new experience to share this year!

I have attended the OSQE four times now, and this was by far my best experience. To get the negatives out of the way right off the bat, the venue was not big enough for a conference of this size, making the vendor hall(s) and finding rooms confusing and frustrating. Next year they will be at a different location, which should solve this problem.

In the past I chose my classes according to the techniques or projects I thought sounded interesting, and I was consistently disappointed in the instruction and often in the projects. This year I took a different approach and chose the teachers instead of the topics. My classes were all I hoped for and I learned something in every class. The class I learned the least in was with an excellent instructor, but I apparently knew that topic better than I realized.

The instructors whose classes I chose were: Linda McGehee, Laura Murray, Cynthia Guffey, and Cindy Losecamp. Instructors I know are excellent, but I was unable to attend classes with this year are Lorraine Henry, Linda Lee, and Carol Steinbrecher. If you ever attend the OSQE, try to take at least one class with a few of these instructors and I think you will go home with new information.

Cindy Losecamp has great hands-on classes. The challenge is that although her projects are designed to be completed in the time given, and I have always finished mine, they are always tight on time. It helps if you know how to run an embroidery machine before taking her class, just because it will help you complete your project in the time allotted. Her projects are always beautiful and full of techniques you can replicate at home with your own embroidery designs.

Laura Murray is “the” Paintsticks lady, as far as I am concerned. I have owned paintsticks for a while, but I never took them out to play. It was fun to use them without being responsible for the clean-up. What a great workshop!

Cynthia Guffey is personality plus, but regardless of what you think of her personality, she is one of the most experienced dressmakers you will meet. She knows so much, and what I most admire about her is that she is constantly learning herself, and continually experiments and tries to improve on current sewing techniques. In her classes you will learn how to be accurate and sew more and rip less. She is one who believes in doing it right the first time. I tend to rush more than she would like… 🙂

If you want to learn about how to fit and alter patterns, Lorraine Henry is the teacher you just can’t miss! She will teach you how to alter patterns using the seam alteration method, and her experience as an excellent dressmaker means she knows how to fit patterns and then put them together beautifully. She is also one of the sweetest, most giving people you will meet.

Anyone who sews has probably had a friend or family member ask her to mend some clothing item, and we all know it is not as easy as it sounds. Carol Steinbrecher alters and mends professionally and knows all the ins and outs of replacing zippers and hemming pants, to name two commonly requested repairs. Take her image class also to learn about personal style and how to dress to impress.

I hope I will get more opportunities to take classes with these awesome instructors. I am so grateful that they take the time to pass on their incredible skills. If you get a chance to take even one class with them, do so. Not everyone is willing or able to share their knowledge or talents in a way students enjoy, so it is special when you to study with someone who can teach you something, whether you are a beginner or an experienced needleworker.

Sewing and crafting classes online

Have you heard about Craftsy? If not, be sure to read on. If you have, I hope you’ve had a chance to take one of their wonderful, reasonably priced courses, especially since once you buy a course, you can watch the videos as many times as you want over any time frame. Learn in the comfort of your own home at your own speed. Not only that, but they have free classes you can download to try before you buy.  They also have apps for your tablets and handheld devices so you can learn anywhere.

My favorite way to watch video courses is to watch them all the way through first, then go to my sewing machine and try things out, referencing the video along the way. You may have a different style, which is why these courses are so wonderful; they fit everyone’s learning style in some fashion.

The downside to independent learning, of course, is the lack of social interaction, either with your fellow classmates or with a teacher from whom you would like feedback on that seam you just sewed. Craftsy and YouTube and other sites like this will never completely replace the classes offered by qualified teachers at your local dealerships and sewing machine shops, but they sure expand the range of who can learn and when, making them a fabulous resource!

Go ahead, jump in! The water’s fine! Sewing, cake decorating, knitting, and on and on and on…

Here is what Craftsy has to say about itself:

What is Craftsy?
Craftsy is a worldwide craft community offering online classes. It also has a patterns marketplace where independent designers can sell their patterns; a supplies shop with great deals on yarn, fabric, and class kits; and a projects section where members share pictures of their latest craft successes. With over two million members and counting, Craftsy has something for just about everyone, in categories ranging from quilting, sewing, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, and more.

Why should I take a class online?
Online education isn’t just for schools and universities anymore. Craftsy courses provide you the convenience of a world-class instructor in your home, whenever you want to learn. Online education, no matter what subject, is a great alternative to in-person classes for a number of reasons.

With many online learning opportunities being on-demand, you are able to learn at your own pace, anytime. Online learning is a fantastic alternative to in-store craft classes for people with busy schedules or who have difficulty leaving the house. It also allows you to watch a troubling section over-and-over again, so you can see exactly how a technique is carried out, or refer back to your class for relevant concepts before beginning any new projects.

Favorite sewing projects

I have been thinking about designing a nice beginner – intermediate project for those of you reading and following my blog, as a thank you, but I am having a terrible time deciding what type of project would be best. I do know I would like to include a serger component, and my preference would be to incorporate machine embroidery as well, but sometimes I know I get carried away and try to include every technique I know into the same project. Does anyone else have that problem?

So, with that in mind, I have created this poll and I would greatly appreciate your input on what I should do, at at least what I should do FIRST. I do hope to create more projects as we go along.

Since I am still recovering from my horseback riding accident, mentioned in a previous post, the project itself won’t start for at least a week, so there’s plenty of time for your input.

You can choose more than one option, but if I left off your favorite idea, please leave it for me in a comment. Thanks! I am excited to see the poll results.

Another Sale Not to be Missed

Craftsy is currently having its wonderful up to 75% off summer sale. That means you can sign up for up to 4 classes for the same price as you would usually pay for one class. Wow! And once you “buy” a Craftsy class, you can watch it and refer back to it over and over for the indefinite future.

To be honest, I have not tried the beginner serger class, since I didn’t think I needed it, but I have heard excellent reviews of that class on my Yahoo groups. The diversity of classes offered just keeps growing, so click on over to the Craftsy Sweet Summer Sale 7/17-7/21 and see what they have to offer!

Other Free Sewing Videos on the Internet

I belong to quite a few Yahoo Groups, which I absolutely love. (If you don’t know about Yahoo Groups, look into it. There are groups for every topic imaginable, and most groups are informative and very helpful. There is a lot to learn in a Yahoo Group!) Although one of the big reasons for the existence of these groups, especially in the sewing world, is for people to help each other out and to learn from each other. Sometimes, though, people will come to the group with very broad “how to” questions that would generate a large amount of material in a simple Google search. Is it that we don’t think to look it up ourselves, or that we think it would be easier if we just ask others for the information?

Others complain that the only help they can find is help they have to pay for (taking classes at a dealership, buying a course online, buying a book or DVD, etc.) Our expectation to find everything for free on the internet is really unreasonable.

Still, to satisfy both of these groups of people, there IS a wealth of FREE information on the internet, and much of it is visual, with either still or video pictures to explain the specific concepts. As many of us know, much of this is on YouTube, which takes a little search savvy to navigate, but if you try lots of different search terms, you can find all kinds of information for just about anything, including things you never wanted to see in your life! Beyond YouTube, what is there?

There are private and commercial websites all over the place that have videos on them, it’s just a matter of searching for them. One of those sites with high quality FREE videos is Nancy’s Notions. Nancy Zieman has an online TV channel, but did you know that she also has great videos on her store site? Check out her sewing videos and you’ll find all kinds of different video clips, many of which answer those “basic” foundational questions. It’s quite a treasure trove. Take a look today!

Choosing a stabilizer for appliqué and stand-alone embroidery

Which stabilizer should I choose to create stand-alone embroidered appliques as described in the lettering post last week?

Tear Away:

Pro:

A crisp tear away can be very nice because you just tear the letter out and tear the stabilizer away from behind the fabric when the applique is finished. You don’t need any fancy tools or scissors. Just tear.

Con:

There may be some fibers that stick out from the edge through the satin stitches on the applique.

THE FIX: If you have a Sharpie or other permanent marker, you can run the marker along the edge of the stitches to color the fibers to match the thread and POOF, everything blends together and looks beautiful.

Wash Away: (be sure to use a mesh or fabric-type wash away)

Pro:

You can cut the letter out when finished and then wash away the extra stabilizer, so all stabilizer disappears and none shows along the edges, or you can run a damp Q-tip along the edge to dissolve all the little bits sticking out.

OR – you can use a heat cutting tool to cut out the applique for lovely, clean edges. Any remaining stabilizer can come out in the first wash.

Con:

Use only on either embroideries that will be washed before applying, or will be applied to washable projects.

You will want to wash the stabilizer out of your project for most applications because you do not want it getting wet unexpectedly and getting stabilizer goop or stiffness on your project. Plus, you do not want to leave the wash away stabilizer in the project if you are adding a fusible web and using an iron on it. That would make a big mess. So, as long as you wash out any excess stabilizer, this can be a good way to go.

Polymesh Cut Away:

Pro:

Again you can use a heat cutting tool to cleanly cut out the applique for a lovely edge when finished, and you can leave the stabilizer in the project, even if adding a fusible web to the back.

Con:

The stabilizer will stay in the project, changing the hand of the fabric. You do need a heat cutting tool for this to work well. You can also use scissors, but you will rarely get all the stabilizer cut away. Just like with the tear away, you can use a maker to color the excess around the edges, but it will be more noticeable with the cut away in most cases.

My choice:

I usually prefer the cut away. I do use a heat cutting tool, so I get a clean edge, I like that the stabilizer gives the applique a little more body, and it is usually cheaper than a mesh wash away stabilizer, which is my second choice.

Embroidering lettering to add later

My daughter is a member of a sorority in college. When the girls sponsor a little sister, they make all kinds of stuff for their “little” with the sorority letters on the stuff. In anticipation of my daughter’s “little,” I made her some letters she could add to t-shirts, towels, blankets, and other things later when she was at school. I used large applique letters. Although this can be done with fill-stitch embroidered letters, with a couple of changes to the procedure, applique is much easier.

Set up your embroidery machine with two layers of stabilizer. I used a polymesh cutaway for this, and I will explain why in a later post. There are advantages and disadvantages to using each of the different types for this kind of application.

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I stitched out the first color, the placement line, directly on the stabilizer, then covered the stitches with my chosen piece of cotton fabric. I chose a cotton quilting fabric because I wanted a fabric that would take the heat of an iron later on when I wanted to fuse it down.

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On some applique designs, there is a tack down stitch as the next color stop, but if your letter does not have this, simply go back to the first color and stitch it again. Then I took the hoop off the machine, BUT LEFT THE FABRIC IN THE HOOP, and trimmed the fabric from around the edge outside of the stitches. Each digitized design has a different tolerance for how closely you need to or can trim the fabric, but usually you want to be pretty close, to within 1/8 inch.

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I replaced the hoop back on the machine and stitched out the rest of the design. I again took the hoop off the machine when the stitches were finished, and placed the still-hooped fabric on a glass cutting board. This step is why I chose polymesh stabilizer. I used a heat cutting tool, similar to a stencil cutting tool, to quickly and easily cut around the edge of my letter.

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My final step was to iron fusible web onto the back of the letter. I placed the letter wrong-side up on top of a teflon ironing sheet. If you do not already have one of these, you can also find them as “applique ironing sheets” or something like that in the quilting section of your sewing store. I placed some fusible web, fusible side down, over the letter and fused it down with my iron, following the directions for the fusible web. The extra fusible fused to my teflon sheet instead of my ironing board. I then trimmed the paper from the fusible web close to my letter and it was ready to go. My daughter was able to peel off the paper and fuse the letter to whatever surface she wished when she returned to school. The fusible that was on my teflon sheet just rubbed off with a little finger rubbing.

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All quick and easy. A great way to use up small pieces of fabric to embroider appliques to send to family. Have a nephew who wants an applique on the front pocket of his bib overalls? Send his mom one of these fusible appliques to iron on instead of sending the overalls back and forth through the mail. Your son wants to put his girl friend’s name on something? Embroider the name on a patch shape of fabric, put fusible on the back and send it to him. College dorms will often have irons, even if they don’t have sewing machines. And if the girl friend changes – well, we can make more appliques. It’s better than a tatoo!

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