Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Value of a Mental Health Day

After cleaning up my workroom yesterday, I stood in the middle of it and thought, "I should do something."  But nothing struck me.  I had done my daily marketing and such, and no projects were hanging in the lurch.  I decided that a bowl of popcorn and a movie sounded like a terrific idea. Hubby came home from work toward the end of the film, Forty Carats, and the two of us finished off the popcorn while watching The Rock.

Many would say that this day was a waste; nothing was accomplished.  I completely disagree.  Absolutely everyone needs a mental health day every now and then; a day where there are no deadlines, no stress and no pressure.  It's completely freeing and refreshing, especially if you are a cottage industry.  A night's sleep is supposed to be refreshing but no so much if you are dreaming about all the things that need to be done to maintain and advance your tiny business.

Mental health day...  try it - you'll love it!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

You Can Knit This Easy Infinity Scarf!

A dear friend on mine's birthday is soon, and I decided to knit her an infinity scarf.  And thinking about it, I thought that there might be some of you out there that would like to knit one, too, and don't know how. This tutorial will fix that for you! This scarf is suitable to beginning knitters and can be finished in an afternoon.

You will need 24" circular needles, size 10.5, one 6 ounce skein of a bulky yarn (I used Red Heart Light & Lofty which is machine washable/dryable - any yarn that has a gauge of about 2 stitches per inch will do), and one stitch marker.  You can use regular straight needles. If you do, your infinity scarf will have a seam where you weave the ends together.

Make sure that the work isn't twisted on the needles!
Cast on 91 stitches. At this point it is VERY important to make sure that the stitches on the needles are not twisted!  Place the stitch marker after the last stitch cast on so you know where the beginning/end is.

This scarf is knitted using a seed stitch (knit 1/purl 1 all across). On each subsequent row, you will be purling the knitted stitches and knitting the purled stitches (thus the reason for casting on an odd number of stitches). Knit around in this manner until the scarf is at least 6 inches wide, or until your yarn is almost gone(my preference since I hate storing small bits of yarn!).  Be sure to leave yourself enough yarn to cast off!

When it's off the needle and laid flat it should look something like this.  Mine is 7 inches wide and 52 inches long.  This is an easy scarf that will definitely keep you toasty warm and can be tossed in the washer and dryer making care a snap.  It is sure to become your favorite!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I Hate Marketing!

This day is virtually gone, and I haven't created a single thing.  I've been photographing, listing and marketing handmade cowboy booties.  The worst part of it is the marketing. I'm old school, I guess, but it just bothers me to say, "Look what I did!  It's the best!  You should buy it!" That's just not what you are supposed to do. Trust me...  I didn't use those exact phrases, but that's the gist of it.

The thing is, I may hate the marketing aspect of being a cottage industry, but I absolutely love the sales that the marketing produces.  It's the sales that give me the opportunity to make something to replace what's been purchased. And that is the whole idea...  make some sales.

The reality is this - if you are Proctor & Gamble, you hire an advertising agency to do your marketing for you.  But if you're like me, you bite the bullet and do it yourself. How do you do your marketing?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Word About Thread

I finished my frog quilt this morning, and since my hands are tired from the quilting, binding and sewing on the hanging sleeve, they need a break.  In thinking about this latest project, I was amused by all of the different kinds of thread I used in the quilt's construction.  There is a difference, I thought.  Perhaps it would be an interesting post on my blog.

Different threads left to right: cheap, serger, hand quilting, upholstery, machine embroidery
The photo above shows five different threads, all variations of white.  Why on earth would a person have five different kinds of white thread?  And what is a thread anyway?

Thread is typically spun of three (or more) different fibers, just like yarn. The fibers can be anything from cotton to something man made.  The fibers used can be different weights to begin with, depending on what the manufacturer wants the outcome to be.  Very fine fibers create a decorative thread, without a lot of ability to hold things together. Thicker fibers work harder.   Think about the thread in a pair of jeans; it's much bigger than a thread in a blouse or shirt.  So let's talk about the threads in the photo individually.  All of the pictures below were cropped from the group picture above at the same size ratio.

Super cheap thread
This thread was purchased long ago, before I really knew (or cared) what I was doing. My guess is that I paid perhaps 50¢ for the entire spool of thread, and I got what I paid for.  Notice the variation in the width and density of the thread, how fuzzy it is in places while not in others.  Probably spun from pieces of fiber, this thread will have a tendency to break when put under stress.  Sew a button on with this thread and you will likely be sewing that same button on again very soon.  What do I use this thread for these day?  Nothing at all, but I'm glad I still had it so that I could take a photo of it for this piece.

Serger Thread
Serger thread is a fine thread which is sold on cones rather than spools.  It is designed to be used in conjunction with two other threads (three total cones) primarily to preserve the edge of a piece of fabric.  Alone, it's pretty fragile. You can actually see the twist in the thread toward the bottom of the photo. And note that it is a consistent width top to bottom.  Serger thread isn't very strong as a single strand, since it's designed to be a part of a trio of threads. For light duty repairs, it works pretty well.  Sewing that button on?  Be sure to use a double strand of serger thread if you choose it.

Hand Quilting Thread

I use a lot of hand quilting thread, most of which is 100% cotton as well. Compare the density of the hand quilting thread to the serger thread above and you will immediately see how much denser this thread is.  This is a very sturdy thread, designed to keep a quilt together through years of use and hundreds of laundry cycles. There's no loose fibers in it and it's incredibly tightly wound.  It's a good button thread, too.

Upholstery thread

Like hand quilting thread, upholstery thread is very tightly wound with no loose fibers. It is a lot thicker than any of the other threads, as it is designed to hold upholstery fabrics together.  These fabrics are much heavier (denser) than normal fabrics which is why it requires a heavier thread.  If you want that button to never come off, upholstery thread will do the trick.  But don't use this thread to hold a seam together in your favorite blouse; this thread is stronger than the fabric you're using it in, and may cause the fabric to fail.

Machine embroidery thread
Machine embroidery thread is a fine thread wound of polished fibers.  Note how it appears to be three different colors in the photo.  That is simply the different fibers reflecting the available light; the fibers are in fact all the same color.  Machine embroidery thread isn't meant to do anything other than be decorative, as its name implies.  If you use this thread for a structural purpose, you are wasting your time, as it will fail sooner or later (probably sooner).

So what thread do you need?  Most people do very nicely with a single spool of white all-purpose thread.  All purpose thread is just that - all purpose. Sew a seam together, sew on a button, repair a hem - whatever.  All purpose thread will do the job.

The bottom line is, use a thread that's suited to the application so that it will last.  If you're like me at all, having to do something a second time is just annoying!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Handmade Art Quilt Update January 18, 2016

I got sidetracked for a few days, helping our son lay 800+ square feet of hard wood floor.  I really enjoy doing it - it's just a big jigsaw puzzle.  But the older I get, the further away the floor is!

All the quilting is now finished; it's on to the binding.  This quilt, will need a bit more than 18 feet of it!  Should be done tomorrow.

Have a good rest-of-Monday everyone!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Handmade Art Quilt Update January 11, 2016

Interestingly, most "real" quilters will tell you that a quilt is not officially a quilt until they have bled on it at least once.  Today was my day to make this frog quilt official...  I needed to take 'bleeding' breaks no less than three times!  Nothing serious, mind you, just what you would expect when you are dealing with pins, needles and thread.  But while I am on the subject of bleeding, did you know that the best thing to take out your own blood is your own saliva?  It's true!  It has something to do with enzymes - at least that's what I hear.

Even with the christening, I made a lot of progress today. This is all that's left.

Have a great evening everyone, knowing that Monday is almost over!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Handmade Art Quilt

Hand-quilted and -embroidered wall hanging,  Mother Goose
I make quilts.  My quilts are different because usually, they are a picture.  They function just like any other quilt - they keep you warm and cozy - they just look different.  So I thought you might be interested in knowing how one of these quilts come about.

It all starts when an idea forms in my head.  Sometimes I am inspired by a beautiful landscape or a fabulous piece of fabric.  Sometimes, something just occurs to me, which is the case with the quilt I am working on now.  

Drawing for the current quilt
To get the idea out of my head, it first becomes a pencil sketch.  I am the first one to admit I really can't draw very well at all.  But I have learned that if I can sort of draw it, I can quilt it.  My sketches are just a guideline for me while I work; when fabric comes into play, I sometimes realize that changing the layout a bit will make the quilt better.

I make a colossal mess bringing my sketch into existence!  I don't work from a pattern, so it's cut - place - pin until I am happy.  The faces of my quilts are many little pieces of fabric sewn together to make one big piece of fabric.  To accomplish this, and since I'm not at all into straight edges, my sewing machine and I appliqué everything together, usually edging curves and sometimes even sewing in circles.

Here is a great example of sewing in circles.  The white around the frog's eyes is circular zigzag stitch.  The frog's body, the weeds, the lily pad and even the shoreline are all curved a little or a lot.  

But I feel it's worth it in the end.  This baby quilt is full crib size to stay with its owner all the way through a toddler bed.  I took me six full days to cut out all of the pieces and get them appliquéd together.  Since I quilt by hand (seriously - needle and thread by hand!), it will take me probably a couple of weeks to finish it.  But when it's done, there won't be another quilt like it anywhere.  It will be as unique as the child who grows up with it!