Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And a very crappy Earth Day to you, too

OK, a little off topic, but there is a sewing connection. I popped into Ross this morning and happened across an adjustable drawer insert that would have been perfect for organizing one of the deep drawers in my sewing table (see? Told you there was a connection). There was no price on it, so I brought it up to the till, where the girl suggested it had broken off something else. It probably had been packaged with something, but nothing that was still on the shelf. "We'll have to throw it away," she said.

"Uh, if you're just going to throw it away, can I take it?"

"No; it's store policy."

Fine. I'm willing to pay for an item your store is going to bin, but you'd rather toss it in a landfill. Does anyone else find it offensive that "green" is being marketed as a responsible consumer principle—in essence so that we can clean up the messes left by a bunch of companies? Nothing you or I can change in our lifestyles would make a fraction of the difference that the Wal-Marts and other mega-evils of the world could make. Not to be too conspiracy-theory about it, but I do think that TV, magazines, and other media peddle stories on greening ourselves because 1) it's an easy, feel-good topic trumpeted by trend forecasters and eaten up by guilt-ridden yuppies, and 2) media is owned by big business, who stand to gain if consumers shoulder the responsibility for making the world a cleaner place.

Apologies for the tangent/tirade—the fact that today is Earth Day compelled me to post (the Other will be pleased I'm not just venting to him). And yes, I try to conserve resources wherever possible, I have no moral opposition to recycling, I prefer to buy secondhand, and I don't go out and dump chemicals into rivers while twiddling my mustachio (before a quick pop round to the railroad tracks to tie up a damsel); I just take a cynical view of big business.

Monday, April 21, 2008

EQ6 Tip: Simulate satin stitching

Satin-stitch appliqué once reigned supreme in the world of machine appliqué, but today it often loses out in favour of machine blanket stitching and invisible-thread mock hand applique. I'm hoping to post a gallery of satin-stitch appliqué from my growing collection of vintage craft books soon, but for now I thought I'd share how I simulate this under-appreciated stitch in EQ6.

One of the benefits of appliqué with a satin stitch (or even a fairly dense zigzag) is that the heavy bead of thread gives a definite boundary to the fabric shapes. This can work wonders when you're appliquéing lots of busy and/or large scale prints, which have a tendency to blend into each other.

EQ6 lets you adjust thread colours and styles on screen so you can audition different effects on your blocks before sewing. Though more likely designed to approximate heavier quilting threads, the heaviest weight can be used on the edges of appliqués to check the look of satin stitches. With the Set Thread tool chosen, make sure the color, style, and weight boxes are ticked. I like to use the solid-line style with the heaviest weight to simulate a satin stitch.

The Thread Library is programmed with the actual colour numbers (and usually names) for several brands of thread. Because computer monitors can't precisely duplicate thread colours (much less textures), I don't make actual thread decisions until I'm holding the actual thread against the actual fabric, but I like adding threads to a project's Sketchbook once I've bought them to keep track of what colour numbers I'm using for a particular quilt. In the design phase, I just pick colours willy-nilly, ignoring the brands and fiber types indicated in the software.

Anyway, here's how a sample block looks by default, which none of the threads messed about with:

The skinny black lines show patch edges. You can print with or without them, but they're just there for guidance. Clicking the Set Thread tool (using the settings shown in the screengrab above) on each of the black lines gives you this:

I used three different thread colours, each a shade or two darker than the patch it surrounds. This gives me a pretty good idea of how my lemon slice would look appliquéd with a satin stitch. (It can be hard to click exactly on the thin lines; usually clicking within the patch, near the edge, does the trick.)

But maybe I want to try a contrasting thread instead to define the shapes even further. I can test that out easily too:

Here I used the same settings with a black thread to give the appliqué a cartoony look.

This simulated satin stitching works best when you're zoomed in pretty far—the thread doesn't read very heavy if you have a whole queen-sized quilt on your worktable. I like to try out satin stitches on individual blocks instead.

As for simulating blanket stitching, I haven't a clue. But my machine won't sew a blanket stitch, so I can't say I'm really bothered.

Monday, April 07, 2008

More pegboard love

fusible web, meet curtain rod

I've written previously about how much I love my pegboard, and the marvel of modern home organization continues to delight me as I tweak its configuration. Lately I've been doing a lot of fusible web appliqué as described in the excellent Stitched Raw Edge Appliqué, and I kept having to toss my roll of fusible web off the table to make cutting space—only to chase after the roll when I then needed another chunk of web. Now it's on the curtain rod hung from the bottom of my pegboard, so I just yank as much as I need onto the table, trace the template onto the paper side (which faces up as it comes off the roll), cut it out, and the roll stays put. And all my pencils and cutting tools are right there for trimming the template. In the book, Sue Nickels and Pat Holly recommend cutting the inside of the fusible templates out with embroidery scissors (essentially making a ring of webbing), but I find the X-Acto knife also stowed on my pegboard is quicker for removing the innards.