Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It’s a real book!

The postman rang this morning with my advance copy of The Quilter’s Appliqué Workshop! After sewing and designing and quilting and writing for what seemed like a lifetime, it’s now actually a tangible object. I’m really pleased with how it looks in print, and early reviews are coming in from select readers.

QAW early reviewers

“How am I supposed to appliqué without opposable thumbs?” —Felis Domesticus Minor


QAW early reviewers

“I can’t wait to shed all over that.” —Princess Fluffinstuff


QAW early reviewers

“144 pages and no fish?” —Felis Domesticus Major


Books ship in February—preorder now to reserve a copy for you (and your pets) to enjoy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Give applique a chance

Curious what sort of projects you’ll find in my forthcoming book, The Quilter’s Appliqué Workshop? Now you can see a preview on Google Books and Amazon! If you’re reading this on my blog (i.e., not in a feed reader), you should be able to flip through the Google preview above.

The Amazon preview will even let you read the introduction, “Give Appliqué a Chance,” which gives lots of reasons to love appliqué, even if you’re one of those quilters who think it’s not for you.

The book is due out in February, and you can preorder a copy from Amazon, Interweave, or Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Playing with decorative stitches for Halloween

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! As I mentioned on my Facebook page, I’m the delighted owner of a new Janome Horizon 8900 sewing machine, and I’ve been happily mucking about with all of its stitches, features, and capabilities.

Straight stitching may be 99% of my (and many people’s) sewing, but I’m determined to put the hundreds of decorative stitches on this machine to use somehow. I never thought I’d have any use for the high-heeled shoe stitch (no. 264 on the 8900), but when I was sewing out a stitch sampler, it struck me that the shoes looked a bit like witchy boots, so that’s what they became when I worked up the little Halloween appliqué picture yesterday. And the fingers holding the pumpkin? They’re actually petals from partially sewn out flower stitches (no. 210). For a machine with no embroidery function, I’m pretty impressed!

Apparently I’ve had witch legs on the brain; one of my projects for the Fall 2013 issue of Stitch was a doorstop inspired by the wicked witch departed by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

Witch Legs Doorstop

If I’d had the new machine when I made the doorstop, I could have sewn the buckles on by machine with the button-sewing function! I need to sew a button back onto a jacket, so that’s what I’ll be doing tonight between trick-or-treaters ringing the doorbell. So the spookiest thing happening for Halloween round here is that I’m getting excited about a mending job.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bundle or cheat your way to a Paper Shredder quilt

Paper Shredder Quilt pattern originally published in Stitch, 2011

A couple bits of news about one of my most popular quilt patterns, Paper Shredder....

Firstly, Interweave has a great deal going on this month where you can get the Paper Shredder Quilt pattern, a couple more patterns by yours truly, the winter issue of Stitch, plus my home-dec video and webinar, all for only $39.99! Check out my home decor sewing bundle on Sew Daily.

Collage Newspaper Strips Red
Collage Newspaper Strips in Red by Carrie Bloomston of Such Designs for Windham Fabrics, 2013

And if you like the look of Paper Shredder but can’t be bothered to piece it yourself, I recently spotted a fabric print that might as well be a cheater cloth for Paper Shredder. But if you want the look of paper shreds piling up at the bottom of the quilt, you’ll still have to do it yourself—and if you’re looking for a bunch of text fabric to use, my website can help! Shop pages for patterns like Paper Shredder have a “Suggested Fabrics” section that links directly to hand-picked suitable fabrics on Fabric.com. (You can refresh the pattern page to see a different mix of fabrics.)

If these Suggested Fabrics listings are helpful to people, I’ll try to add them to more patterns and keep them up to date.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Needle storage for fun and function

English post box needlecase

I was looking for a way to dress up some wood needle cases, and suddenly it struck me—they’re shaped quite a bit like English pillar boxes! A couple coats of paint and a royal cypher later, they truly looked the part. I sent one to the Mother and kept another to hold my own appliqué needles.

Of course, the post-box needle case is just a fun way to tote my most-used needles around. Coincidentally, I’ve also worked out how I want to store packs of hand needles, after much deliberation: an unassuming plastic drawer unit.

hand needle storage drawers

Prior to this little number, I stored needles based on purpose—embroidery needles with my embroidery floss, appliqué needles with my appliqué toolkit, betweens with my hand-quilting threads…. It sounds logical, but I often found myself digging around more than necessary to get at a needle: if I was doing a little embroidery with pearl cotton, I still had to get out all my stranded floss ’cause that’s where the needles were. If I wanted a tapestry needle, had I left them with needlepoint stuff, or were they in with the flosses too? And what about basic sharps and other miscellaneous needle types? I had packs of needles tucked in all kinds of places and never seemed able to find just want I needed, even though I knew I had it somewhere.

hand needle storage drawers

The drawers comfortably contain pretty much all the various forms needle packaging takes—hang cards, envelopes, tubes, folders, you name it. I labeled the drawers so I can still sort the needles by type, but now I have a central location for them all to live while waiting for active duty (at which point they take up residence in a needle book). Finding particular needles is much easier, and I can easily see what I have and what needs replenishing. Many of my organizing ideas don’t last very long in practice, but this is one I’ve been able to stick with.

hand needle storage drawers

How do you store your hand needles?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mid-Century Monday: Modern quilts in the movies

Laid up under a medieval modern quilt (The Friar's Tale)

The Other (a professor of film studies) and I went to see Pasolini’s The Canterbury Tales (1972) in San Francisco yesterday, and it wasn’t the bawdy humor or nudity that shocked me: instead, I was stunned by the presence of patchwork and quilting throughout!

I made some screengrabs from Netflix when we got home, and I count at least 9 different patchwork quilts on various beds though the movie, with some of the quilts seeming to make multiple appearances. And I’m not even counting (or capping) the plain blankets that were quilted but not pieced.

Pilgrims under patchwork: zigzags, triangles, and diamonds

This shot shows no less than 3 quilts keeping the pilgrims warm while they rest for the night. The camera pans around the hall, finally resting on Chaucer himself (played by Pasolini himself) next to yet another quilt, the (presumably) same isosceles triangle one as from my first cap above.

Chaucer/Pasolini next to a triangle quilt

Not only were there quilts everywhere in the film, but I couldn’t help feeling like they were pretty similar to what we think of as modern quilts today: simple shapes, uncomplicated patterns, limited palettes….

Carpenter John and Alison under a checkered quilt (The Miller's Tale)

Stripes for a student (The Miller's Tale)...

...and a Manciple (The Reeve's Tale)

Half-square triangles on the Wife of Bath's bed (The Wife of Bath's Tale)

It goes without saying that these quilts aren’t what would have been typical bedcoverings in late fourteenth-century England, so I think they’re meant to be more suggestions of the medieval milieu—similar geometric patterns pop up in other places, like the floor covering behind the Wife of Bath (the feet of her most recent victim/husband are on the bed quilt) as well as in the original movie poster.

Perhaps most interestingly, quilted banners appear in a formal court gathering, building heraldic images out of patchwork.

heraldic banners (The Friar's Tale)

heraldic banners (The Friar's Tale)

heraldic banners (The Friar's Tale)

In comparison with these banners, the patterned bed quilts seem to me to be hinting at the pageantry of the middle ages—but I’m really not sure what to make of it all. It’s got me fascinated, though, and I’m going to see if I can figure out what Pasolini and art director Dante Ferretti were getting at with all this quilting and patchwork.

(These aren’t all the quilts in the movie; I had to limit the caps to the ones that were least rude! If you’ve read the original Canterbury Tales, you’ll have some idea of what I mean, though Pasolini does take certain things further…which can be both amusing and disturbing!)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A genie in the sewing room

The Other tipped me off to a huge pile of needlework yarns at a local thrift store last week, and while loading up on crewel wool and tapestry yarn, I also picked up this little beauty for $25.

Singer Genie sewing machine

It’s a Singer Genie 354, and I’m clearly not the only one to have been taken with its groovy yellow and orange floral stylings. But the real reason I bought it was its portability: it’s relatively lightweight and compact, sort of like a mod version of a Featherweight. And the foot pedal and cord all pack up neatly into the hard case, so I won’t forget to bring the pedal (or lose it) when I bring the machine to classes.

Singer Genie sewing machine

Singer Genie sewing machine

The machine was pretty much in working order, but the tension was tight even when set at 0. And just to assure me that it really was a problem, the outer parts of the tension assembly popped off while sewing and went careening across the room.

The machine obviously needed some repair, but I didn’t fancy the idea of spending twice what I’d paid for the machine on having it serviced (I learned long ago that you can’t have a sewing machine repaired in any capacity without paying for a complete servicing). At Quilt Market in May, I’d chatted with Nicole Vasbinder, author of Sewing Machine Secrets and Sewing Solutions, who told me sewing machines really aren’t things to be scared of—even when it comes to servicing them, there’s a lot you can do yourself, especially on fully mechanical machines. Emboldened by her advice, I gathered my screwdrivers and set to work.

Singer Genie sewing machine

This sounds like the part in the story where I’m going to say it all went horribly wrong, but I’m pleased to say otherwise! This sort of tinkering inevitably takes a lot of trial and error, especially for someone like me who’s learning the mechanics as I go. Fortunately the Internet is full of resources. In addition to the instruction manual on the Singer website, I found an extremely helpful guide to taking the cover off the machine (look for the button under “The Free Stuff”). One of Nicole’s suggestions was to seek out the service manual for a particular machine; I located one, but I wasn’t keen on spending the $9 for a pirated copy. I found a detailed tear-down of a tension assembly for a different model of machine (more here), and though the parts were slightly different from mine, it helped me figure out how things were supposed to fit together and confirmed that the check spring on my tension assembly had been misassembled from the start.

The cover-removal info also described how to remove the tension assembly, and after doing so, it became apparent that it hadn’t been properly connected to the adjustment knob in the first place. So I hooked it up, put everything back together, and lo and behold, it sewed beautifully!

Singer Genie sewing machine

With the machine in good working order, I turned to cosmetic fix-ups. I brushed out all the grimy dust I could get to, and scrubbed the plastic casing down with some plastic cleaner the Other had lying around. It didn’t do much for the yellowing of the plastic, but it was fantastic at taking off scuffs and cleaning out scratches, and generally reducing the knocked-around look the machine had been wearing.

Next time I’m taking a class, I’ll put her through her paces and see how she holds up!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mid-Century Monday: Supergraphic arrows

Supergraphic arrow table runner
For the “Time Traveler” feature in the Fall 2013 issue of Stitch, I designed this Supergraphic Table Runner inspired by the huge arrows painted and stuck on walls in 1970s decorating books. For example…

painted supergraphic arrows
Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book , 1975:
It is polite to point with arrows that visually expand a room, as these do by emphasizing horizontal lines. The decoration is a focus of the room and decoratively integrates it.

supergraphic arrow decal
Family Circle Home Decorating Guide , 1973:
One small bedroom furnished for girls . . . includes a self-stick arrow supergraphic that turns an ordinary window shade into an optical illusion.

supergraphic wall arrows
Family Circle Home Decorating Guide , 1973

I’m not sure if these mod arrows made it off the pages of decorating magazines and onto the walls of real houses, but I thought it was a fun look for quilting!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Announcing The Quilter’s Appliqué Workshop


Look what snuck onto Amazon this morning…the cover of my forthcoming book, The Quilter’s Appliqué Workshop: Timeless Techniques for Modern Designs!

It will be published by Interweave in February 2014, so I can’t tell you everything about it yet (the pages are only just starting to be laid out, according to the schedule), but I can say that it details a range of appliqué methods from fusible to needle-turn, with quilts and projects that use appliqué in fun, unconventional ways.

I’ll share more as it gets closer to publication! (You can preorder now if you’re chomping at the bit.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Design your own patchwork-topped ottoman

hexagon pouf ottomans

You might remember the hexagon pouf ottoman I designed for Stitch a while back…the main challenge of putting it together was working out all the dimensions to get it to fit together. If you wanted to change the size, you were on your own—until now! On June 19, I’ll be presenting a webinar that walks you through all the details of how to plan and make a custom version of the ottoman, sized however you like. I’ve brushed up on geometry equations so you don’t have to!

hexagon pouf ottomans

You’ll also learn how to use striped fabrics to easily create patchwork patterns like the hexagon on the top of the ottoman. Plus, you’ll get other other fun ideas for incorporating patchwork into home-décor sewing projects and enhancing those projects with details like button tufting. I hope you’ll join me!

The webinar happens Wednesday, June 19, 2013, at 4:30 pm ET (1:30 pm if you’re out here on the west coast with me, or sometime in between if you’re somewhere in between), and a recording will be available for registered viewers after the live webcast if the time doesn’t work for you. Get more details from Sew Daily, or register now!

By the way, Feed Dog Designs finally has a Facebook page, so drop by and say hi over there! If you live in Facebook, you can get all my blog updates there too.