Category Archives: Sewing tools

Pin cushion done!

Nina With Freckles - Pin cushion finished 2015-07-23

This little project, a pin cushion made by the pattern in Camille Roskelley’s Playful Piecing Techniques on Craftsy, which was started back in March (this year, phew, not 2014), finally got the last seam sewn by hand about a week ago.

I had stuffed it with cushion filling in late spring, I think, but sewing by hand wasn’t an attractive thought, until I got annoyed by using the magnetic pin dish by Prym. Turns out I’m not fond of the magnetism going on, although admittedly it’s a useful device when you manage to throw half your pin box upside down on the floor…

Anyway, here it is in use now:

Nina With Freckles - Pin cushion finished with pins 2015-07-23

I can’t recommend enough these pins for quilting by Clover, by the way. They are the finest and sharpest pins I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with!

Finishing projects will hopefully be my middle name one day. Stay tuned, there’s more coming up in a moment!

Fabric palette No. 12

Nina With Freckles - Fabric palette 12 2015-07-21

My twelfth fabric palette, this time in creamy white, various grey hues, some intense red and an equally insisting mustard green. The flower print in the middle by Joel Dewberry was my starting point, but then it got quite challenging to be honest.

While Hawthorne Threads have an impressive selection of fabrics, in many cases something wasn’t quite fitting either in colour or pattern for the auditioned print to end up in this palette. I love demanding things from myself like this, though, or things would become too boring too quickly.

I don’t think I’ve seen a quilt yet in this colour scheme, so please do post a photo if you decide to go with it!

Fabric palette No. 11 – Cool florals

Nina With Freckles - Fabric palette 11 - Cool florals 2015-07-18

Hooray Saturday! I’m celebrating by making a quick fabric palette once again. By quick I mean that I will simply let you dig out the individual fabrics yourself, should you be interested in particular names, collections, designers, and manufacturers.

I’ve used Hawthorne Thread and their swatch pictures, so that’s where you can look them up. To aid the customer in finding fabrics, they do have this nifty colour tool, and since I found all the fabrics that way, you will too. There aren’t enough hours in the day for “perfect”, so this is where that something has got to give, hope you do understand :)

Organising ironing paraphernalia

Nina With Freckles - Ironing paraphernalia in one-hour basket 2015-06-03

A while ago I made a 1-hour basket and now is the time to show how I put it in use. Back then I mentioned that the intention was to corral all the ironing and pressing paraphernalia, since my sewing studio is the kitchen table, and it is annoying if stuff is floating all around the place. Wouldn’t you say that this lovely basket is much easier to handle compared to all items separately? Yeah, I think so too…

Notice that I’ve emptied and left to dry the water compartment of the iron. Supposedly it isn’t good for the tank to stay full at all times. Also notice that the cord of the iron isn’t only rolled up, but kept in such a state with the help of a cable tie of velcro. Oh my, how this little trick makes handling the iron easier!

At first, the pressing cloth was sailing aimlessly elsewhere, until I had the presence to shove it into this basket, but the water cup of the iron and the starch bottle (make your homemade spray starch with this recipe!) have been a permanent residents from day one.

Do you have your ironing paraphernalia nicely corralled somehow? Have you made a 1-hour basket yet?

Scandibee May blocks

Nina With Freckles - Scandibee May blocks 2015-05-30

Yet another month has flown by and it is time to share what was mailed yesterday to Scandibee Queen Bee, this time Synnøve in Norway. She picked for her two 12.5-inch blocks the traditional, pretty Scrap Jar Star, which is a free block tutorial by Amber of A Little Bit Biased.

In March, I wrote about more problems with the quarter-inch seam allowance. Did they get resolved? Of course not. In fact I’m even more miserable now, because it dawned to me that the needle of my sewing machine cannot be moved to the right, only to the left. In other words, I can’t use the line of the quarter-inch presser foot, but compensate for the scant quarter inch by moving the needle a tad to the right. The result now is that the right part of the feed dogs keep dragging unevenly the fabric, which has to flow along their middle rather than outside edge. I simply can’t believe bad design like this! I looked up Bernina prices and wanted to cry.

Anyway, this block is a lovely sea of quarter-inch seams, and (through no fault of Queen Bee) the experience was nerve-wracking once again. I lost count of how many times I had to use the seam ripper to ensure sewing a 12.5-inch block rather than a 12.17953-inch one.

Another interesting thing is the needle itself. Up until recently I’ve used Schmetz, but ran out on them, and had to grab one from Singer. Oh my the difference (not good)! I also have a collection of miscellaneous threads to use up, and can tell from how much they produce lint that they certainly are made differently, too. Can’t wait until I have used all my white 50-weight thread, so I finally get to buy a delicious cone of Aurifil!

Now I’m wondering why all these sidetracks get baked into my bee blog posts, and I think it is because I pay extra attention to all the components of sewing when making my blocks for someone else. The bee ladies are such great sewists and know what to look for as far as craftmanship goes :) I feel like I’m really stretching myself each month this year!

What remains to be said about the May block is that I hope it arrives safely in Norway and Queen Bee approves of it. On Instagram she already exclaimed appreciation, but you never know when they get to scrutinise the stuff in person ;)

Have you participated in bees and swaps? Do you sew “differently” when creating for others, perhaps more accomplished than you?

Labelling fabrics with numbered binding clips

Nina With Freckles - Labelling fabrics with numbered binder clips 1

Have you ever needed to keep track of your fabric piles in a way that their “chronology” matters? I have! A typical situation is when you want to chain piece columns of patches, or when you’re working on a larger paper-piecing project.

My solution was to write a series of numbers in Scribus, print on white sticker paper, cut, and, um, stick. I used up all the binder clips that I already had, and then needed to purchase a few more, since you can end up using quite a lot of colours in paper piecing, should you happen to catch the FPP bug.

Nina With Freckles - Labelling fabrics with numbered binder clips 2

My basting pins came in an acrylic (I think) box, but in between basting I don’t want to close them unnecessarily, and so they won’t fit into this box anymore. It happens to be the perfect size in all dimensions, however, for this batch of labelled binder clips! For ease of use, I keep them in number order, too. Don’t you just love happy coincidences like that?

How do you label your fabrics? So far I’ve heard of labelled masking tape, labels at the end of safety pins, and labelled ziplock/minigrip bags being used. And clips of a different kind, like Carol Doak does in her Craftsy class; the origins of my binder-clip idea.

New supplies, Enchanted April and a Whoa!

I can’t believe almost all of April is gone already (first Whoa!), and hopefully, the month has been treating you well. This means I also haven’t been very active here on the blog this month (second Whoa!), which is a bit sucky really since I enjoy babbling about various sorts of crafts-related thoughts. In fact, I reached 9 April when realising the monthly ALYOF registration had already closed, and all that was left to do was to shake my head at myself. Oh well :)

I do, however, have some news about supplies, which is nice. New-supplies news are always nice, right? In this case, I’m talking about a looong zipper for a zabuton, and a bag of pillow stuffing. The latter will be used in one – or a few… (there’s lots of it, third Whoa!) – pin cushion, which translates to my possibly finishing a project this month. Luckily, I’ve already decided to make more pin cushions, but there is a car pillow in my future as well.

Enchanted AprilAnd what about Enchanted April? Well, it is a film. A few years ago I decided to watch it in April, and ever since I’ve put the dvd on each April. The shocking thing this year is that it was fresh in my memory still, in sort of a visceral way, yet a year has passed. Life is strange. In 2014, I wrote about my ponderings on my other blog and you can read them in Swedish here. Actually, there is a second shocking thing to mention, and if you’re familiar with this film, you might be stirred as well. It was made in 1991, which I cannot wrap my head around, as my life seems to stand still each time the wisterias are in bloom at San Salvatore. Have you seen this film? Are you as enchanted with it as I am? If you have yet to watch it, please know that it is a most quiet yet oddly refreshing film without any sort of Hollywood, but heaps of Europe in it.

Organising my fabric stash – Round 2

NWF Fabric stash organising 1 2015-04-12

In the past, I’ve written about both organising and storing my fabric stash, but in particular how I categorise fabrics has changed a bit, and so here is round 2, an update on the order in which I store them. I’ll also show the bolts I have in use now. The Ikea Kassett boxes are as much a favourite as before, and the collection has grown by a few.

The pencil palette starting with yellow is still how I think of the colours, but I’ve moved pink to go between red and violet rather than orange and pink. The rainbow colours fit into two boxes of the Kassett size, which is one step larger than dvd. In the photo above, there are six boxes of that size, one of the dvd size, and two of the cd size.

Here’s an outline of what this post is about:

  • Organising fabrics:
    • Quilting cottons:
      • Patterned fabrics
      • Solids
      • Some pondering about cut sizes
      • How to handle earmarked fabrics for various projects
      • How to handle scraps
    • Canvas-weight fabrics, cotton-linen blends, double-gauze, fleece, etc. and embroidery fabrics
  • Folding fabrics:
    • Mini bolts
    • Micro bolts

Let’s begin!

Patterned quilting cottons

For some reason, when I think of fabrics and categorising them, I begin from the patterned fabrics, so here goes! In box 1 there are yellow, orange, red, and pink fabrics, whereas box 2 contains violet, dark blue, light blue, turquoise, and green fabrics:

NWF Fabric stash organising 2 - The rainbow 2015-04-12

After the rainbow comes beige and brown (the stack in front only), and then the multi-coloured fabrics:

NWF Fabric stash organising 3 - Beige brown and multicoloured 2015-04-12

If you compare the height of the folded fabrics in beige, brown, and multiple colours to the rainbow fabrics, you will notice that the former aren’t on bolts yet. I’ll talk more about the bolts below.

Next up are the grey and black fabrics:

NWF Fabric stash organising 4 - Grey and black 2015-04-12

Some fabrics have been purchased to be used as collections in projects, even though I usually prefer to make my own mixes and matches. Also, I have a few fat quarters (whereas most of the fabrics above are in fact skinny quarters or half-yard cuts), which all go into a dvd-sized box:

NWF Fabric stash organising 5 - Fat quarters and project bundles 2015-04-12

A quirky thing is that fat quarters certainly are a quarter of a whole unit, but maybe you can see which fat quarters originate in the EU? Up on “top”, the Bonnie and Camille fabrics are metric fat quarters, as is the only batik in my collection down in the right-hand corner. Apart from the end-of-bolt cut navy B&C in the middle, the rest are fat quarters from North America, which are based on the yard. 1 yard is 91.44 cm (or 0.9144 metres), whereas 1 metre is 1,0936133 yards.

The larger project bundles are stored in a Kassett box two steps larger than the dvd-sized box:

NWF Fabric stash organising 6 - Large project bundles 2015-04-12

These are fabrics that I have earmarked but not begun cutting into yet. I do have other boxes for various works in progress, but for these neat stacks of fabrics, the quilt-shop bags used for shipment work beautifully when repurposed like this.

Solid-coloured quilting cottons and miscellaneous other fabrics

My solids are in a sorry state still. I’m drooling whenever I see projects made by others where they clearly have been swimming in the Kona pool. While the current stash doesn’t exceed 20 colours (some solids are elsewhere right now), the intention is to expand this category in the future; hence the spacious conditions of the current fabrics.

The miscellaneous box contains canvas-weight fabrics as well as cotton-linen blends, linens, a Nani Iro double-gauze (which I have no idea of how to use but it’s so pretty…), and a black fleece. In the same living quarters are the embroidery fabrics:

NWF Fabric stash organising 7 - Canvas linen blends etc and Solids 2015-04-12

Lately, I’ve looked at the canvases again, but haven’t yet been able to decide what to use for an embroidery basket.

Scraps of quilting cottons

Scraps are still stored the same way, in two cd-sized boxes, with one for miscellaneous scraps (I like ziplock-/minigrip-type of bags to keep them flat to avoid extra work) and the other for designated projects (for instance the Tokyo Subway Map quilt).

NWF Fabric stash organising 8 - Scrap fabrics 2015-04-12

There’s is a logic to the minigrip bags in the miscellaneous-scraps box, but after making the spider-web blocks for February Queen Bee of Scandibee, Lizzie, it is in a state of holy mess still. Gotta choose one’s battles and all that…

Now that we have looked at how I store my fabrics, excluding the vintage and pre-quilting-me categories, I think it’s time to dig deeper.

How I categorise my patterned quilting cottons – The rainbow-coloured, beige, brown, grey, and black backgrounds

Categorising my patterned quilting cottons makes my heart sing. There’s something about finding similarities and then pondering whether they are strong enough to cause sub-categorising or such to happen, or whether to accept a certain level of lack of “control”. I hesitate to call it lack of control, because I decide what goes where, and nobody can tell me otherwise, roughly put, but disorganisation doesn’t quite fit either, at least not when categories are named loosely. What on earth am I talking about? Let’s see :P

The first concept that I already mentioned in the first article on the topic is tone-on-tone. Hue is “colour” (a pure colour) and so I begin with fabrics, which don’t exhibit anything but either “lighter or darker colours” (forget colour theory for a while, okay, or this gets insane) of the same hue. In the pink case below, there are three fabrics starting from the left that are tone-on-tone fabrics:

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to categorise fabrics - Tone 1 2015-04-12

For some reason, the pink category is abundant in comparison with some other colours. Anyway, tone is hue with some grey added, whereas we get a tint when white is added to the same hue, and, finally, a shade arises when black is mixed into a hue. Like I said, following religiously colour theory would make the task of categorising seriously, humongously nasty, but I shortly had to mention the origin of tone to make sense.

In the categorisation of quilting fabrics, one usually sees tone-on-tone mentioned, and this is how I think of it, too, since I can’t easily determine what the hex values or such of a particular specimen would be. Suffice to say, the pink on the far left looks “dirtier”, more greyish black, compared to the “clearer” pink next to it. I let the eye decide.

Next up in the photo above, we have two fabrics of what I call white-on-tone. Next to them, I have placed tone-on-white fabrics, of which there are also two.

Finally, there’s a merry mix of tone-on-whites and white-on-tones where other colours have been added, too. These “multi-coloured tones” I sort only according to pattern size, which is either small or large, relatively speaking. I see eight small-patterned multi-coloured tones above, whereas the large-patterned category contains only two fabrics. This is entirely subjective, and also depends on what the current fabrics are in my stash. The main point is that there isn’t just the hue alone or hue combined with white in this section.

When we look at my dark-blue fabrics, the situation is this:

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to categorise fabrics - Tone 2 2015-04-12

From left to right, 3 tone-on-tones (you might choose to put the wavy fabric elsewhere but I recall it as entirely blue and that’s what matters), 0 white-on-tone, 1 tone-on-white, 4 small-sized multi-coloured tones, and 2 multi-coloured tones that could be chucked in the larger category but which sort of are small-sized as well. Subjective this is…

This same organising structure I maintain for the whole rainbow as well as beige and brown fabrics, but what about grey fabrics?

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to categorise fabrics - Grey 2015-04-12

Exactly the same. We see: 1 tone-on-tone, 2 white-on-tones, 0 tone-on-whites (the striped fabric includes black), 5 small-patterned multi-coloured tones, and 1 large-patterned multi-coloured tone. You already know the drill regarding black fabrics, but, for good measure, here they are:

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to categorise fabrics - Black 2015-04-12

From left: 3 white-on-tones, 4 tone-on-whites, 3 small-patterned multi-coloured tones, and 1 large-patterned multi-coloured tone.

To summarise:

  1. Tone-on-tone
  2. White-on-tone
  3. Tone-on-white
  4. Small-patterned multi-coloured tone
  5. Large-patterned multi-coloured tone

How I categorise my patterned quilting cottons – The ones with multiple colours on white background

In between brown and grey, I have squeezed what I think of are multi-coloured fabrics. In reality, they are on the greyscale in the sense that their background is white, whereas grey and black fabrics as presented above have those background colours.

The problem arises when I try to define a dominating colour in the pattern on a white background, and where it’s been possible, I’ve thrown these fabrics into categories 4 and 5 above.

If you look at the fabric with the pink birds on a white background earlier, you’ll see the occasional yellow bird, too, but my eyes still read it as a dominantly pink pattern. The flowers next to the birds have other colours than pink, but again, pink dominates the pattern. Then we have lots of yellow squares amongst red and pink squares, and the story goes back to there also being a similar fabric in cool hues – which I recall as mainly blue. Subjective experience once again :) The point is to know where you will spontaneously look for a particular fabric.

Here, however, is a bunch of fabrics, which my brain views as “multi-coloured” in that I recall them as a complete mix of several colours:

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to categorise fabrics - Multicoloured 1 2015-04-12

You might recall the fruits of the first fabric as red or pink, perhaps, but I haven’t been able to decide whether there’s more red or pink, and so I might look for it in both places. In fact, I also view the green leaves as quite striking, so my memory has put them in the mixed category from the beginning. Another example are the bikes, which have yellow baskets and black wheels. My eye recalls all of them, including the pink.

The newest tweaking of this category happened yesterday when I noticed a pattern for the first time. I have themes going on! Above, there are two fruits, five flowers, (on my kitchen table pulled out for this month’s bee blocks are a few animals), and four “stuff”.

Below, there are four scallops, two miscellaneous geometric patterns, three dots, two triangles, and four stripes:

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to categorise fabrics - Multicoloured 2 2015-04-12

It makes me happy to find similarities like this, and while it can be a pain to establish some kind of system, this kind of organising helps me stay motivated to clean up after I’ve finished cutting for a project.

I think I would maintain it even if my sewing space wasn’t my kitchen table, because as you saw earlier, I’m no fan of scrap baskets, but if cuts are large enough to actually be able to “do” something, I’d rather keep them “in the system” still.

This brings me on to the final section of this post, namely how to fold fabrics in a neat way.

Folding fabrics – The mini and micro bolts

Whenever I can make something easier for myself, I try to stick to it. In the case of fabrics, I don’t want to press more often than necessary, and to cut accurately one obviously has to press things beforehand. This is yet another reason for my dislike of scrap baskets, but it wasn’t only until recently that I solved the problem regarding folding cuts smaller than the mini-bolt size.

The mini bolts were introduced in 2013, which suddenly seems like ages ago. The size of these comic backing boards is 171×266 mm, and after investigation it seems like other boards wouldn’t fit my Kassett boxes as well, so pay attention to this if you are interested in creating a similar folding system for yourself.

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to fold fabrics - Mini bolts 2015-04-12

Above is a skinny quarter and a half-yard cut for comparison.

Anyway, mini bolts and too small cuts. Enter micro bolts! They are nothing but free postcards that I had floating around. I’m not sure whether they are acid-free like the comic backing boards, but the intention is short-term use.

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to fold fabrics - Micro bolts 2015-04-12

Yep, they look almost like mini bolts. What you can’t see is that three of these aren’t folded completely around the postcard, but are merely sitting on top of it. Size-wise these micro bolts fit perfectly into the tiny space in the Kassett boxes, like you can see in the very first photo of this post.

For comparison, a micro bolt on top of a mini bolt:

NWF Fabric stash organising - How to fold fabrics - Mini and micro bolts 2015-04-12

See, lots less pressing necessary. And it’s so cute, too!

As usual, if there’s anything at all that you feel like commenting on, or asking perhaps, feel free to do so! How do you feel about organising fabrics, is it something for you? Or do you wish your stash would be more contained, but don’t know where to start?

Scandibee March blocks

NWF Scandibee March blocks 2015-04-03

The Scandibee March Queen Bee, Ruth, asked for two 12.5”x12.5” blocks of 16 patches each. Her request were three Christmassy bright red patches among thirteen low-volume ones. Talk about picking the right colour scheme for a project that has its root in traditionally red and white Scandinavia! :)

I asked about these greyscale fabrics before cutting, as some of them read a but more black than what she might have liked. The tightest pattern reads black and hence I chose to include it only once. My low-volume stash really is challenging still, though, but I’m sure it would be a good investment to find new fabrics in this category. They simply are lovely.

Sewing machine challenges

Some of you might remember my early-day problems with the quarter-inch presser foot, or rather its quarter-inch guide. The latter was a wobbly piece of metal (junk really), which caused my seams to be larger than a quarter inch, so I unceremoniously ripped it off in anger one day. Afterwards I made some attempts at figuring out the exact placement of the elusive quarter inch, but have kept winging it since. But now Ruth made it clear (and I totally agree with her, of course!) that this was a block where a neat grid is to be expected, so I just had to figure this out.

Before sewing, I drew lines, lots and lots of lines, on a paper. First, I tested the placement of the needle and saw that the fifth position supposedly is in the middle of the presser foot – yet isn’t. I should turn the wheel down a bit to the whereabouts of 4 perhaps, but the blasted thing doesn’t move until around 3-3.5, at which point the needle is visibly off-centre in a not-so-good way. The conclusion is that I can’t trust the needle wheel the same way as the stitch-length wheel that moves in clear increments (decimal millimetres) at least in theory. I hate stuff that is supposed to work, but doesn’t… Ugh.

Next step was to figure out exactly where in relation to the quarter-inch presser foot that the quarter-inch line would move. While one line was moving through the middle of the presser foot and the other was underneath a red line on the foot (at least that marking is to be trusted, thank goodness!), the needle was off-centre by a hair. Only that hair wasn’t like the scant “hair” one should sew below a quarter inch. Sigh.

Now I have an idea of where the fabric should move to create a scant quarter-inch seam. But of course it isn’t this easy… I seriously hope you didn’t expect that…. *eyeroll* What I mean is that when I keep the scant quarter-inch seam allowance from the quarter-inch marking on the presser foot, fabric moves in unpredictable ways, because the feed dogs refuse to cooperate.

What I have to figure out still is exactly where to place the needle (with the help of aforementioned inexact needle wheel), whilst moving the fabric underneath the quarter-inch marking. That’s the only way to have enough fabric to produce an even movement and hence an even seam allowance, but right now I don’t have it in me to test more stuff to ensure a super-precise result. Deep sigh. If you’re a Bernina seller and feel like having someone test one of your new Bernina models, I’m your woman…

The blocks

But back to the blocks before I get too worked up about my sewing machine. Cutting 3.5-inch squares was easy enough and quite quick. Sewing was annoying due to the machine, rather than the pattern itself, but pressing taught me new things, which I love!

Ruth asked for nested seams (which I detest quite frankly), but they do have their place in patchwork and so I went all out trying to produce as neat a result as possible. In this 16-patch block you must consider how to press rows later, and in my first block I didn’t see this before pinning like crazy two rows together.

It is preferable to press the row closest to the feed dogs in such a way that the run smoothly over the seam allowances. When you nest the seams, this means that the seam allowances on top, touching the presser foot, will approach said foot in a way that can cause the fabric to pucker up. But since you see what is going on, you can adjust the fabrics to sit flat in the stitches. Heureka.

To create as neat points as possible, I pinned along the whole length of the rows. Usually I remove pins before sewing, but this time I left them in place quite a few times, including when running over seams pressed towards the feed dogs. Obviously you can’t avoid having at least some of them run in the unfavourable direction, and then it helps to reduce puckering to have a pin assist the machine.

Normally I use steam when pressing, but this time, due to trying to create a perfect 12.5-inch block without distorting the fabrics, the iron was dry. This is visible in the photos above, but I did press with steam before sending Ruth her blocks, as the “sloppy” finish bothered me too much.

My conclusion

While these nested seams are no favourite of mine, I’m determined to master them. Creating perfect points is hard work, and sometimes I don’t feel like using a pattern again, but these square patches are incredibly versatile and so it seams (haha, pun intended) like a good idea to keep practicing. Pressing seams open is my preference for many reasons, but nested seams truly can be the only alternative in some cases.

My impatience can get the better of me sometimes, but I’m grateful that Ruth chose this block both because it is a basic set of skills as well as a reason for me to tackle stuff on my to-do list (have been meaning to sort the quarter-inch seam thingy a long time already).

Check out the other contributions in our bee pool! I can’t wait to see what Ruth will create from the blocks.

How do you feel about basic patterns like this one? Find them too boring? Or safe and nice? I keep thinking of scraps in this context and see the whole rainbow in front of me again. Oooh, and disappearing something-patches like Kristy’s Modernized D9P, a disappearing nine-patch block! Perfect points aren’t entirely silly, you know.