Monday, November 13, 2017

Easy Christmas DIY Table Runner!

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Table runners.  They are easy and fast to whip out on your sewing machine, and make great gifts for family and friends!  Fast and Easy - my kind of project with a big impact when the recipient opens their gift!  What could be better! And I'm going to show you how to make this holiday table runner in this single post!

 

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Stopping by my favorite quilt shop "The Quilt Patch" in Stallings, North Carolina, I grabbed me up a slew of interesting holiday fabrics, including a black and white striped fabric I thought would make a cool binder around the table runner.  I got a half a yard of each of the fabrics I was going to use for the stars.  I picked up a yard of the black and white striped fabric for the binding, which was more than enough, but I knew I was going to make more than one of these table runners as a gift.  The green fabric will be used for the backing.  I got a yard.  More than enough for one table runner.  Also, I picked up a small package of white cotton quilt batting.  

Also purchase 1 yard of Pellon 725 Heavy-Duty Wonder-Under transfer web.  You will use this on the back of the stars.  

All set!

 

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I had a bolt of white muslin 45" cotton fabric at home.  I cut 6 15" x 50" pieces for making 6 table runners for gifts.  If you are just making 1, then you will need one 15 x 50 piece of white cotton.  This will be the quilt top.

 

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With your Wonder-Under, trace your stars on the paper side.  I used 12 on my table runner top, but you can use more or less as you like.  Also, you could draw several Christmas trees too and add them to your design.  It's up to you!  Be creative!

 

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Cut out each star, leaving a gap around the traced outline.  With the paper side up, press the stars onto the back of your fabric pieces.  When they've cooled to the touch, cut them out neatly along your drawing.

 

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You'll have lots of pretty stars!

 

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Peel the paper off the back of each star and arrange them onto your 15 x 50 white cotton fabric. 

 

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When you have them arranged just like you want them, press them in place.  The spots you see on the fabric in this image are water spots from my leaky iron.  But now all the stars are affixed to the white cotton fabric rather nicely.

 

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Next step, using a zig-zag stitch, or decorative stitch if you prefer, stitch around the perimeter of each star.  This will help in preventing fraying when washed.

 

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And it looks nice too!  No stabilizer was needed to stitch around the stars.

 

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Your quilt top table runner is done!  Now to finish your project ...

 

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On your cutting table, place your backing fabric, face down, and your batting on top of the backing fabric.  Then, place your table runner top on top of the backing and batting.  Trim the backing and batting to about 2" additional all the way around the table runner top.

 

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Baste your table runner top to the batting and backing using a contrasting thread and nice big stitches.  This holds all the layers together when you are quilting on your machine or hand quilting.  I prefer this to safety pins.  It lays flatter and prevents the layers of the quilt from shifting.  It only takes a few minutes to baste your quilt together and it's worth the extra effort.

 

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Now that you have all three layers basted together, using a "Fine Line Mark-B-Gone" water soluble ink pen, draw your quilting design onto your quilt.  Now, I know a lot of quilters like to just randomly place their quilt in the machine and wing it when it comes to stipple quilting.  Not me.  I've done it.  If you knew how many times I got stuck somewhere I didn't belong, you'd understand.  So, I draw it on the quilt in sections.  It isn't even one big "stipple" design.  There are lots of designs that start and finish in the same spot, it just looks complicated.  But boy is it a lot easier to machine quilt when the design is already on the fabric!!

 

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Here's a tip: wear quilting gloves when machine quilting.  It's a lot easier to move the layers around the design on your fabric.  And when you are done quilting your design on the layers of your quilt, spray some water on it and wipe it off with a wash cloth or rag.  The ink disappears and your left with nothing but your beautiful quilt pattern.  You might also notice that I hand quilted around each star.  That was a personal preference.

 

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You will be amazed at how fast all the quilting went!  Now on to the binding.  BUT, first, trim your quilt so that you have perfect right angles.  After trimming, my quilted table runner measured about 14" x 48" 

Now for the binding.  I use 2 1/2" strips, and I'm not even going to begin to tell you how to do the binding!  I'm going to leave that up to Jenny Doan with the Missouri Star Quilt Company.  Best video tutorial you'll ever find on adding the perfect binding to your quilt.

  

 

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And it's done!  The corners of the binding are perfect, the quilting is pretty cool, and, well, if I may say so myself ...

 

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I think it looks pretty awesome lying on top of the quilt I am still hand quilting for my mother as a Christmas gift.  Now to make 5 more of these table runners!!  

Hoping you have a creative holiday season!!

 

Thank you to Andy Knowlton of http://www.abrightcorner.com for the great table runner idea!  Andy can provide the star template and instructions for you.  Andy's instructions are for a 12" x 40" table runner, whereas I made adjustments for a 15" x 50" table runner.  You can purchase the complete pattern and template for the star HERE

 

SusansSewingSignature

 

 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Mother's Double Dutch Quilt Part 8

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Hand quilting really isn't all that difficult.  It just takes patience and callouses on your finger tips.  Two things I did not have until today.  Now that I'm in the swing of the quilting, it's enjoyable.

 

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It feels good to complete an entire section.  I can look on with pride for the results and then roll the quilt down onto the front bar to expose more of the quilt to be quilted.

 

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I am not using templates or patterns.  I am just drawing freehand a design onto the quilt and then stitching over top of the marks

 

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I consider myself to be a bit of a rebellious quilter.  Whereas many quilters must have perfect stitching and perfect design, I really like the "randomness" of just drawing something on the quilt and then quilting it.  Many quilters use tiny stitches.  Not me.  Mine are 1/4" and very stitch apparent.  Like my paintings, I love to see brushwork, I love creating brushwork.  In my quilting, I love to see the stitching, all the imperfect, perfect stitching.

 

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I've always been able to write, paint, and quilt using both my right and left hands, although I am "right handed" and prefer doing all my quilting with that hand, there are times I find myself having to go in a direction that I don't like.  On this quilt I am stitching what is called "Stitch in the Ditch" around the quilt block and triangle seams.  Then I am creating random designs in the other sections of the quilt

 

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Another trick I find useful is to pin the seams that I have completed with the "Stitch in the Ditch" technique.  Especially if you are getting up frequently from your quilting, which I was today, I placed pins where I had completed the quilting along those edges.

 

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Now that I have several sections quilted with the curving design, I kinda like the way it looks! 

 

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This is what the quilt looks like from the underside.  You can't see the quilting, but it's there.

 

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And now I've rolled down another section to be quilted.  Progress.  It's a wonderful feeling.

 

SusansSewingSignature

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Mother's Double Dutch Quilt Part 7

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I had high hopes of completing this quilt swiftly, by handing it over to a professional long arm quilter to do all the quilting for me.  And, I could have, but then the design would cover the entire quilt as one large design, rather than a single design around the sashing and in the large blocks.  That is what I envisioned anyway, was having a quilting design that complimented the quilt top.  Oh well, so much for that idea!  So, reluctantly, my Big Bear and my grandson, Glen, pulled out my 96" Grace EZ3 hand quilting frame from the attic.  That thing has been collecting dust for 15 years. 

 

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When making large quilts, it helps to have a large bed to use as your work space.  I cleaned everything off our bed and placed the quilt backing fabric face down flat on the mattress

 

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I laid the quilt top on top of the backing fabric.  Smoothed it out, and prepared to cut the backing fabric to size.

 

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I trimmed the backing fabric so that it was about 5" - 6" larger than the quilt top all around the quilt on all 4 sides

 

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I removed the backing from the bed and set it aside and did the same thing for the batting, leaving plenty extra around the perimeter so that it was larger than the quilt top

 

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I folded the quilt top in half, long ways, and marked the center of the quilt on both ends with a pin.  I did the same for the backing and the batting.  You want to mark the center of each layer before you place it on the quilt frame so that all layers lie flat and even on top of one another when lined up with the center marks on the 3 bars of the quilt frame

 

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First process to attaching this large quilt onto this frame is the backing.  I attached it "right side facing DOWN" onto the frame.  Using quilting tacks, I tacked the top to the middle rail

 

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And tacked the bottom to the front rail lining up the center of the quilt back to the center mark on the rail

 

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I rolled the backing onto the middle rail until the fabric was firm but not too tight.  While rolling, you want to fun your hands across the length of the fabric to make sure it is smooth and even while rolling

 

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Next layer - the batting.  I tacked it onto the front bar, lining up the center on top of the backing, but the rest was just thrown over the back of the frame for now

 

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I placed the quilt top on top of the batting layer and lined up the center on the front bar.  Again, I threw the rest of the quilt top over the back of the frame

 

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No need to tack it on like I did with the backing and the batting.  I just pinned the quilt top onto the batting and backing across the front, smoothed it out along the back of the frame and moved on to tacking the batting and quilt top to the back bar. 

 

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It was an arduous experience, but I got the quilt top and batting smoothed out and tacked onto the back bar! 

 

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Using red thread and long 2" stitches, I basted the quilt top to the backing and batting along the bottom edge and up the side edges as far as I could go

 

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I decided that for the large sash going around the perimeter of the quilt top, I would hand stitch a simple diagonal checkerboard pattern.  My stitches are 1/4"

 

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Hopefully I will have this bottom section quilted today and will be able to move on to the section just above the sash! 

 

It's a process! But, I have a feeling it will all have been worth it when the quilt is finished!

 

SusansSewingSignature

 

 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Mother's Double Dutch Quilt Part 6

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Progress is a beautiful thing, especially when that progress settles into a finished quilt top!!  And here is how I finished the quilt top for the Double Dutch Quilt!  This is the largest quilt I have ever made.  I've made many a lap quilt, but never a queen size quilt like this one.  Intimidating?  Yes.  Possible?  Well, so far so good.

 

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Today was all about the remaining sashing around the perimeter of the quilt.  Following the instructions, I matched squares with rectangles, clipped the  seams, and pressed.

 

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These pieces, once sewn together, will be the final quilt block pieces for the center of the quilt.

 

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And after pressing the seams open, I have these long rectangular pieces

 

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I had the quilt top lying on my bed, and I placed the first completed side sash up against one side to make sure it was right.  It was!  I pinned the side sash to the side of the quilt, lining up and matching seams, and then I sewed it on and pressed it in place

 

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After I got the left and right side quilt sashes sewn in place, I created the sashes for the top and bottom, laid them on the quilt to make sure they were the correct length and that once pinned, I had the points going in the right direction.  Always check your points!

 

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By the time I got to this point today, I was pretty sure I would finish the quilt top before the day was done. 

 

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After sewing on the final quilt block sashes, it was time to add the trim sashes.  Trim sashes are actually easy.  No need to match up seams, just make sure the edges are aligned when sewing your 1/4" seam and that the fabric sash is longer than the length of the side of the quilt you are sewing.  Once you have sewn on one side, trim the end so that it is flush with the edge of the quilt (the perfect length for that side).

 

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Done with the dark blue sashing around the perimeter of the quilt block center!

 

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And now to add the final wider sash to the perimeter of the quilt top.  This is the final step

 

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And here it is!  The completed quilt top! 

 

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Now the hard part begins.  Yes, you heard me right.  This was actually the easy part.  Next, I have to make sure I have the right size batting.  I better start looking.  I might have to buy some to fit this quilt.  Then I have to press and pin the backing face down on my bed.  Place the batting on top of the backing and the quilt top you see here on top of the backing and batting.  I will pin all three layers together then hand baste all three layers together corner like a pizza.

 

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That alone will probably take me several days.  Then, I will begin to machine quilt after I figure out what quilting patterns I want to put in the quilt.  There is a lot of work that goes into making a quilt.  It doesn't end with the quilt top!  And there are two very important creative elements to every quilt - the design of the quilt top and block pattern, and the design and pattern of the quilting itself that holds all three layers together.  Both of these elements makes the finished quilt spectacular!

Hope you've enjoyed following along as I make this quilt top!  The process will continue as I now begin the process of actually "quilting."

 

  SusansSewingSignature

 

 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mother's Double Dutch Quilt Part 5

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It always feels so good to know that I had a productive day, especially when I'm on a tight schedule to get this quilt made and other projects completed for the holidays.  I feel today was one of those days.  By last night, I had completed 1 or 4 columns of the center of the quilt.  I pinned it to Bertha, my dress form.

 

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I completed the remaining 3 columns of 3 quilt blocks and 4 strips of rectangular panels.  Following the instructions, I was now moving on to the next stage of the quilt, creating the sashing that will be added between each column, and at the top and bottom of the columns to create the finished "Center" of the 75x80 quilt.

 

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Pulling out my sash fabric and squares, I thought "Yay!  New fabric!"  It doesn't take much to make me happy.  LOL

 

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I like to conserve thread.  It can get expensive.  So, I decided to make all 5 sashes needed to complete the center of the quilt, and make them all at one time.  Beginning with placing 1 small square, right sides together, against the long rectangular sash, and doing this 5 times.  I clip apart the pieces when finished with my run, and press them open.  I repeat this process until all 5 sashes were complete and pressed.

 

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There ya go!  All done with my sashes!  Now for the fun part!  I get to add these to my quilt block columns that are pinned to Bertha!  The quilt is beginning to take shape!

 

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After sewing a sash onto one column of quilt blocks, I pressed all the seams open.  Then pinned on another column, then another sash, then another column, etc.

 

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And, as of right now, this is where I am at.  I still have to sew on one more quilt block column and one more sash to the bottom and the center will be done!  It looks beautiful! I'm so happy I decided to make this quilt for my mother.  I know she will cherish it.

Hope you are enjoying the progress I am making on this quilt!  Be sure to go to Connecting Threads to see what other wonderful quilt patterns and quilt kits they have available to make! 

 

SusansSewingSignature

 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Country Living and 12 Easy DIY Baby Gifts!

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I like to check my stats.  If you have a blog, that's the fun part, especially if you haven't been blogging in a while - my bad.  But since I'm back in the swing of the saddle at my desktop again, and blogging like a pro again, I can honestly say I was surprised to see my post from 2010 of a plush stackable toy I made for my granddaughter, Reagan, shared twice in the last two days.  Yesterday it was shared on "All Women's Talk" Blog "37 Fabric Crafts that You'll Love Sew Much!" and ...

 

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Today, it was Countryliving.com giving the glory to that little stackable toy that I made and embroidered for Reagan.

 

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Thank you to Kelly O'Sullivan for the feature!  I hope your readers will enjoy the post and understand the complexities involved in making a gusset and this toy for their grandchildren!

 

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For my original post click on the image above or this link: Donuts, Flowers, Ribbons and Curls

Gratefully,

 

SusansSewingSignature

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mother's Double Dutch Quilt Part 4

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A productive day sewing - with my 93y/o mom! She helped me rip out seams on a block that I had screwed up. Why am I not surprised? It all worked out great though. Mom and I had a few laughs and she told me stories too. Stories of her mother and how she made quilts entirely by hand when my mother was a little girl. She also told me a story about this one "Flower Garden" quilt her mother, Margaret, had made out of every scrap piece of fabric she had. Mom told me it was beautiful and she kept it in a box in her closet for years after she married my dad and had kids.

 

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Then one day, wanting to see the quilt, she pulled out the box and it was empty. Someone had stolen her mother's Flower Garden quilt. My mother was devastated. She always felt that it was one of the baby sitters that stole the quilt.  Years later, while looking through a sewing magazine, she saw a picture of a flower garden quilt that looked exactly like her mother's quilt hanging on a wall for a quilt show. She was convinced that that quilt was, in fact, her mother's quilt. She had no way of finding out.  That made me so sad. It would have been made in the late 1920s. Mom remembers being about 4 or 5y/o when her mother was making the quilt entirely by hand. Her mother did not have a sewing machine. Also, her mother, my grandmother Margaret Simpson Lee VanFossen, passed away in 1936. She was a mere 53 years old, and my mother was 11y/o. Losing her mother was so devastating, that my mother never quite recovered. But, I love it when she tells me her stories.

Pictured above is an image of a Vintage 1920s Flower Garden quilt that we found online. My mother said that it looked a lot like her mother's flower garden quilt, and that her mother's had scalloped edges. But she didn't think this one was her mother's, of course.  Just that her mother's looked similar. 

 

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My grandmother, Margaret, was a milliner as well. Imagine, in the early 1920s owning your own brick and mortar milliner shop and making hats for the ladies in the community! That is what she did and loved to do!  And, she was a single mom with a baby boy, as her husband, Robert E. Lee (great grandson) had passed away from the flu epidemic of 1918.  She sewed and quilted and made hats, and supported herself and her baby boy on her creative endeavors.  She was far advanced in her life career than most women and also very proactive in women's rights to pursue their passion in life. She remarried Mason VanFossen several years later and together they had 2 girls, my mother was the first, born in 1924.  She was also 42y/o when she had my mother! That was unheard of in the 20s!

I wish I had known my grandmother, Margaret. But, I have an inkling that her spirit and joy in motherhood, sewing, quilting, and creating, continue to live on in me.

Oh, how I wish I had known this wonderful woman. Thanks to the many blessings in my life, I am able to know my grandmother Margaret through my own mother's stories.

 

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So today, I had to correct some mistakes in this quilt block.  Remember these guys?  Well, they are supposed to be 6 1/2" square.  I don't know exactly what I did wrong, but they were too small.  I had my mom use the seam ripper and remove little snippets of each corner piece so that I could rip them off one-by-one, replace them where they should have been, and sew a better seam.  I had to do that for 11 of these blocks.  Mom's help took hours off my time and made for a more productive day.  So you see, I make mistakes along the way too.  If you only knew how many times I just want to say "Hell with it" and work around it ... only to be disgusted with the end result and have MORE seams to rip out and really feel disgusted.  The best way to solve these problems is to deal with them as soon as you see you have them.  The easy thing about quilting is that you don't have to rip out locked seams on the ends of your run. 

So after mom snipped all the seams, I sewed them back correctly, pressed them open again, measured the block again with the Omnigrid, and was much happier.

 

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Her help made it easy for me to get the 12 central quilt blocks done!  Most of the points and seams are perfectly aligned.  It is really difficult to get them all "perfect" although there are most times I am pleasantly surprised.  Key: 1/4" seam - Always.  Pin.  Press.  Measure and remeasure.  Trim.  It's a process!!  But, the end result is going to be spectacular!!

 

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Aren't they beautiful?!!  I sure do love quilting and especially seeing how the quilt develops with all the piecing.  It's a puzzle, and I have always loved puzzles.

I hope you are enjoying the process and maybe learning some tips and tricks along the way! 

And you know what I love about quilting on days like today?  The time I spend with my own mother telling stories and laughing and sharing something creative together.  It was a perfect mother/daughter day.

 

SusansSewingSignature

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Mother's Double Dutch Quilt Part 3

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I've been a busy bee today working on Mom's quilt as her gift this Christmas.  This is the Double Dutch Quilt in beautiful blues and whites from ConnectingThreads.com.   Love that site!  Moving right along, you will have pieces that are rectangular and pieces that are small squares.  Place them per the instructions on one side of the rectangular piece.  Sew along the marked line you place diagonally on the back of the small square, and then clip off to a 1/4" seam allowance. 

 

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When you are done, press the seam open towards the dark piece so that you have a rectangle that looks like this

 

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Now grab these squares you made earlier and had set aside, and clip off the 4 corners from the seam.  Those little triangular bits that are in the way.

 

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When you are done clipping the corners, using your "Omnigrid measuring square," place it on top of each of your blocks. Check your "right angles" and the dotted line that is angular on the omnigrid, should like up with the seam of your triangle.  You do NOT want to trim to a 3 1/2" square only to discover that the triangles are not at right angles. That is why I posted this picture.  I have the square at perfect right angles for 3 1/2" - BUT, I first also made sure the angled line goes through the middle of the seams of the triangles.

 

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Now that you have your triangles in measured squares of 3 1/2", you are ready to piece!

 

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Following the pictures and instructions that come with the pattern, place the pieces together and line them up.  No pinning is really necessary unless you feel more comfortable doing it that way.  I'm ready to sew my train of pieces together.

 

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I sewed one side, and now I am sewing the pieces together on the other side of the 3 1/2" square.  If your seams don't line up, you probably missed a trimming step with the squares.

 

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Moving on to other pieces of the puzzle, I grabbed two piles of larger squares.  I drew a diagonal line on the back of the darker piece, placed it on top of the lighter square piece, and sewed a 1/4" seam on both sides of the line I drew on the darker square.  Then I cut the pieces in half along the diagonal marker line between the two seams.

 

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Press open your new new squares and repeat the process above for making each square at right angles, making sure that you also line up the diagonal line along the diagonal seam on your block.  Love the Omnigrid for helping me to create perfect right angles.  Well, maybe almost perfect.

 

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Remember the first piecing we did with that big square and the four smaller squares?  Well, pull that piece and start piecing together for your first completed quilt block!  Now, this is very important!!  Using pins, make sure you line up your seams on both pieces.  This way, when you press them open, the points and seams should line up nicely between the two pieces.

 

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After you've done that, you will want to press your pieces open and check your points.  Looking good!

 

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I am repeating this process on the other sides of the center square.  Match up all seams!!!  Pin each seam!!!

 

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I'm loving what I see!!  I think my points and seams look pretty darn good after pressing this open!

 

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After sewing on the other side too, I have an "Almost" finished quilt block!  I need to press all the seams so that it lies as flat as possible. Then I need to use the Omnigrid to find the best right angle side for a measurement of a 12 1/2" square.  Then trim along the Omnigrid to complete your first perfect 12 1/2" square!! Trimming the edges so that it is a nice square makes all the difference!

 

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And here is the completed first 12 1/2" Quilt Double Dutch Square!!  Yay! 

Always, if you have any questions about quilting or making this quilt, don't hesitate to ask!

 

  SusansSewingSignature

 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mother's Double Dutch Quilt Part 2

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Working on my mother's holiday quilt and am sharing here some of what I do to make the process go faster, yet being careful to make proper cuts and seams.  If you ever wanted to make a quilt, hopefully some of my tips here will be helpful.

 

 

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These little 2" squares are part of the next step, but first, I need to place a diagonal mark on the wrong side of the squares.  This will be my guide for sewing.  Accuracy is so important while making a quilt!

 

 

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As mentioned in my first post, I like to get all my pieces cut out, organized, and labeled.  Per the instructions for making this Double Dutch Quilt, I have pulled my 6 1/2" squares (P) and my little 2" squares (K).  The instructions call for me to place the K squares on each corner, right sides together.  Following those instructions, I carefully pin each of the smaller squares on the corners of the larger square, making sure the edges meet.  I do this for all the remaining pieces, making sure that the diagonal marks I made on the 2" squares are placed correctly.

 

 

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I do not sew one piece at a time or I'd never finish the quilt!  I sew in trains of pieces ...

 

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And when I pull them off the machine, I can clip them apart easily.

 

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Next step called for clipping the corners leaving a 1/4" seam

 

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Press them open and set aside

 

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Cut these squares in quarter pieces and set aside

 

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Do the same for the other blocks that are labeled to cut in quarters

 

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Early on make sure that all your seams are 1/4"

In quilting, the seams are always 1/4" whereas in dressmaking they are usually 5/8" unless otherwise noted

 

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Before you begin to sew your triangles together, make sure you set them out in the direction they are supposed to be sewn together.  No point in using your seam ripper if you don't have too

 

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Sew them together like a train, one after the other, making sure you line up edges and always use a 1/4" seam

 

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Cut them apart and press towards the darker side

 

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That went fast!

 

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Set up the two triangular groups in the directions they are supposed to be sewn together

 

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When you place one side "right sides together" on the other, make sure your seams match up perfectly and pin together at the seam

 

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When you are done sewing all the triangular pieces together, press them open making sure the iron pushes the seams to the edge.  The points should all line up nicely like this!

 

Taking a break until next post!  Thank you for stopping by!  Hope my little tutorials make it easier and more fun for you to quilt!

 

SusansSewingSignature 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Mother's Double Dutch Quilt

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My mother, Mary, just celebrated her 93rd birthday with us here in Weddington, North Carolina.  She is doing so well.  She has lived with us for nearly 20 years now.  Several months ago, though, we thought she would be happier in an assisted living home, and she moved.  Unfortunately, she was very unhappy and lost 20 lbs.  We were not happy about that and moved her back home.  She is happy as a peach, sleeping and eating well too.  Home is where she needs to be. 

  

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Several years ago, I purchased a quilt pattern and fabric kit from Connectingthreads.com.  The quilt is called "Double Dutch" and the fabric included in the kit is from Jenni Calo for Connecting Threads.  Her Symphony of Blues collection.  Apparently, this collection is no longer in production, sadly, but I'm glad I purchased it when I did. 

This is the quilt I am making my mother for a Christmas gift this year.  She loves all things blue and white.  The finished size is 70" x 85"

 

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My sewing machine is the Pfaff 2124.  My Big Bear purchased this for me 12 years ago when we first moved to North Carolina from Maryland.  It is also an embroidery machine.  I love my Pfaff.

 

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This is the kit I received from Connecting Threads 3 years ago.  It included fabric for the quilt top only, and the instructions for the Double Dutch design.  I didn't realize I was not receiving fabric for the backing or binding, and had to go searching online for one of the fabrics used in the quilt top.  Fortunately, I found one and will be using it for the backing.

 

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I cleaned and organized my sewing room and I'm ready to start quilting!

 

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The first step is to read all the instructions.  I try to visualize the process while reading the instructions and that makes it easier to construct the quilt and not make mistakes.  I also do this step when sewing and making clothes.

When I am ready to begin, I prepare my rotary cutter with a new blade, and place my suction handle on my clear Olfa Ruler.  The suction handle makes for less slipping during cutting.  I have also glued thin strips of sand paper to the wrong side of the ruler so that it doesn't slip on the fabric. 

Next step is to cut out all the pieces.  Before I cut into the fabric, though, I iron the fabric.  The folds will mess up your cut if not pressed.  Follow the instructions.  Measure twice ... Cut once.

Lie out all the pieces you cut and label them.

 

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When I label my piles, I put the referenced Alphabet letter from the instructions, the number of pieces in parenthesis, and the size of the pieces.

 

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I'm ready to begin piecing the quilt together!  All that is left to do is get my thread ready on my sewing machine and fill several bobbins.  I will be posting my process in the days to come!

Thank you for stopping by!

 

SusansSewingSignature 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pastels & Places

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"Santorini" 20x30 Pastel on Paper - Sold

I have been busy in my studio working with pastels.  Recently, my brother commissioned me to do a painting of Santorini, Greece, based on a photo he had taken while there with his wife, several years ago.  It was a challenge, but the end result was beautiful.

Prints of "Santorini" are available HERE.

 

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"Annapolis Harbor" 16x20 Pastel on Paper - Available. 

Having grown up in Maryland, I wanted to create a series of paintings of my favorite place to visit - Annapolis.  This was the first in that series.  If you are interested in this original painting, please contact me from the contact form on this blog.  It comes professionally framed and archival mounted and matted.

Prints of "Annapolis Harbor" are available HERE.

 

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"Annapolis Main Street" 9.5x14 Pastel on Paper - Available

Second in my series of paintings on Annapolis.  If you are interested in this original painting, please contact me from the contact form on this blog.  It comes professionally framed and archival mounted and matted.

Prints of "Annapolis Main Street" are available HERE.

 

More to come!

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pet Portraits and More Pet Portraits!

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It all started in 2008, when friend, Ree Drummond, lost her beloved Border Collie, Nell.  Nell was a regular subject on Ree's blog "The Pioneer Woman" and when she disappeared with no trace, I felt inclined to do a painting for Ree and her family, hoping that it would help with the healing.  

 

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It did, and my painting is enjoyed in her home daily - more specifically in her daughters' bedroom. 

 

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There was something about the process of painting Nell that captured my heart, but I did not begin to pursue doing pet portraits as a choice of favorite subjects until recently.

 

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About a year ago, I did a pastel of my precious "Adolf" sitting in his favorite chair, looking out the window, and making sure everything was well.  He loves guarding our home and protecting his human family.  We've had Adolf for 8 years, and he is, by far, the best pet we've ever had.  It feels strange calling him a "pet," because he is so much more than that to all of us.  He is a member of the family.  I swear he's human! 

 

Progress Animation of "Guarding the Homefront" from Susan Vaughn on Vimeo.

As I worked on the pastel of Adolf, I realized just how much my heart was into painting that portrait of him, and the painting came out beautiful.

 

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Then, my daughter, Kim, and her family, lost their precious "Oreo."  Oreo was a black and white kitty that had been in their family for about 7 years.  He was a very special kitty, and when he became ill and passed away, it was devastating.  My heart broke for the loss of a dearly loved pet, and I proceeded to create a painting in pastel of Oreo, for my daughter and her family.  

Again, I found that my heart was in the process moreso than with other paintings I have done in the past.  There was something about painting a pet portrait that tugged at my heartstrings.

 

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A number of friends commented on my pet portraits, and asked if I would be interested in making a donation of a personal pet portrait for the Silent Auction at the Ties & Tails Gala in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I agreed to participate and to create a pastel painting for the winner of the auction.  The Ties & Tails Gala, by the way, supports the Humane Society of Charlotte.  I was more than happy to be a part of this wonderful charity.

 

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I placed the framed painting of Adolf as a reference on the Silent Auction Table with the many other gifts and paintings offered by supporters of the Humane Society of Charlotte, and I received many wonderful comments about my painting and offering at the Gala.

 

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A young couple won the Silent Auction, and as a result, I donated a pet portrait for them - "Petunia" 10x8 Pastel on Paper.

 

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But it didn't end there.  I received a commission from another guest at the Gala. He asked me to create a painting of his and his girlfriend's dog, "Riley."  Riley is a rescue and has been a joy in their life.

And so, I created a pastel portrait of Riley, and they couldn't be happier.

 

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Next up was two paintings for our friends here in Charlotte who invited us to attend the Gala with them.  It was the least I could do.  Their Papillons are their children.  They have two, and they are beautiful.

This here is "Maxx E. Pooperdog" 10x8 Pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Paper

 

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And this is "Nicky" 10x8 Pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Paper

Again, I found that I enjoyed the creation of the pastel paintings of these beautiful pets more and more.  I think it is a calling.  

Pet portrait after pet portrait, I find that my heartstrings get a little tug with every painting.  There is something very dear to me about pups and kitties.  To me, they are always pups and kitties.  

So, if you would like a pastel pet portrait of your beloved and precious pet, let me know.  You can contact me by going to the contact page here on my blog and sending me a message.  I'd be happy to talk to you about creating a beautiful portrait that will be cherished for a lifetime.

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Three Cowballeros

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Painting cows.  There is something beautiful about the animal, something peaceful about seeing them grazing in large open fields.  This leads me to have fallen in love with a photo taken in the UK of 3 Dairy Shorthorn cows grazing on the Robinson farm.  I learned that son, Jason Robinson, took this picture one day on his farm, and they were very happy that I wanted to paint the cows on their farm.

 

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I feel connected to the country landscape - to cattle, horses, old houses and barns, vegetable stands, children, and more.  All those things that remind me of my childhood and growing up in the country, like chasing fireflies, and listening to the crickets sing loudly each night in the summer.  Or, catching butterflies in the neighboring fields as they land on the dandelions.

 

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So, when I take a picture, or find a picture, that reminds me of these experiences, I have a strong desire to interpret those feelings onto canvas.

 

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Meet "Three Cowballeros."  16x40 Oil on Canvas.  

Available HERE

 

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Burda and A Summer Maxi Dress for Sarah

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Around the middle of July, I purchased a pattern from BurdaStyle.com.  The Island Placket Maxi Dress.  My daughter, Sarah, had asked me if I would make her this dress after looking through a hundred patterns for various maxi dresses.  

I had never made a dress using Burda patterns, but I was up for the challenge.  It was a beautiful dress pattern.

 

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I had heard some pretty scary things about using Burda patterns, from not being able to understand the instructions to being extremely difficult to decipher the symbols.  So, yes, I was apprehensive, but I was hoping that I had enough sewing experience over the years to compensate for whatever the pattern lacked in instruction and symbols.

 

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There is one thing that Burda lacks - visuals.  This pattern did show an illustration of the layout, and that is always helpful, however, whereas you will find illustrations showing you what needs to be done "next" on most patterns (Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls, Vogue, etc), with Burda, all you have are written instructions.  Obviously, having an understanding of sewing terms and clothing construction helps before tackling a difficult pattern from Burda.

 

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Burda patterns do NOT come with a seam allowance.  In other words, once you have the pattern taped together (after downloading and printing it off), place pattern paper over the original pattern and trace your size, AND all the symbols, pattern #, and instructions (if any) on the pattern, onto your traced pattern.  You can get some great rolls of pattern paper from NancysNotions.com.

 

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Use your traced pattern for your outfit.  I found that if I wasn't sure what a mark was on the pattern, all I had to do was look at the picture of the dress, the drawing and the photograph of the finished dress on the model, to determine what a symbol or mark was supposed to mean on the pattern.  

TIP #1:  Remember that when you are adding a 5/8" seam allowance to your pattern pieces, only add it to the sides that will need it.  In other words, DON'T add a 5/8" seam allowance to the part of a pattern piece to be placed on a "FOLD."  Um, I made that mistake, and it will throw off the pattern.

TIP #2: Read ALL  the instructions before tackling the pattern, no matter how experienced you think you are with sewing patterns.  There might just be a  bit of information that will make all the difference in the quality of the construction of the garment.

TIP #3: If you have a Serger, serge all the edges of your fashion fabric pattern pieces before constructing the garment.  It makes for clean edges and a professional finished result.

 

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Okay, so I tackled the Burda pattern - 04/2014 #121 Island Placket Maxi Dress.  It wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.  However, I did make some minor changes to the dress so that it fit Sarah perfectly.

First, I added a piece of elastic around the waist seam for a snug fit.  I took a 1/4" piece of elastic, wrapped it around Sarah at the seam where the bodice attaches to the skirt, then cut off 2 inches.  I turned the dress inside-out and sewed two seam allowances together creating a pocket for the elastic.  Then, I pulled the elastic thru the pocket and reinforced the ends on the sewing machine.  Not only did this create a better fit for the dress just under the bodice, but no sewing seams were visible. 

Second, the bodice, on the side of the bust was too large.  It was hanging open.  So, I added a quick dart to both sides.  This kept the side of the bodice from falling open.  

Third, I used the machine for the hem.  Usually, I hem clothing by hand, but we were in a bit of a hurry to get this dress done.  Nobody was going to see the hem.  So I pressed a rolled a hem of about 1/2" after serging the bottom edge, and just used a longer straight stitch for the hem.  Pressed it again and it was done.

Fourth, add that skirt lining!  I almost decided against adding the skirt lining.  I was tired and wanted to get this done, but ultimately, I decided to finish this dress the right way and I added the lining.  I did, however, make it about 15" - 20" shorter than the dress so that the skirt lining came to just below Sarah's knees.  I did not hem the lining.  Serged the edge all the way around.  Perfect.  The lining is an important element to the comfort of the dress as well, as you won't have all those seams rubbing up against your skin, only the soft satin of the lining.  Also, the seams will not be visible when hanging in your closet.  Seams are not pretty.

 

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Another thing I noticed about this pattern was that the bodice looked like a "bib" with the trim around the edge of the bodice front and half-moon insert at the top of the skirt.  So that it didn't look like Sarah was wearing a bib, I chose not to add trim to the bodice front and skirt insert.

 

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The dress came out perfect.  

 

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Sarah loves it.  And, I'm proud of myself for tackling this Burda Pattern with an open mind.

 

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to Assemble a Burda Style Pattern

 

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This is a first for me - working with a Burda Pattern, but hopefully it won't be as difficult as it looks.  My daughter, Sarah, found a summer maxi dress on burdastyle.com and asked me if I would make it for her.  I love making clothes for Sarah, and thought it would be fun to tackle this Burda pattern.  I've always been game for trying new things and new challenges.  The pattern claims to be "Advanced" but we'll see how difficult it is once I dig in.

 

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The first thing I did was take all of Sarah's measurements, then ...

 

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I padded and adjusted my dress form to be her measurements.  I have a "Fabulous Fit" dress form.  I've had it for about 15 years.  I love it.  It doesn't fit me anymore, but it does work for Sarah's measurements.

 

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We purchased some pretty fabric and so begins making this maxi dress.

 

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I purchased the pattern at Burdastyle.com.

 

 

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The Burda Pattern is for the Island Placket Dress - 04/2014 #121.

 

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When you purchase a pattern from Burda, they send you a pdf file to print off on 8.5" x 11" printer paper.  In the case of this pattern, it was over 40 pages.  The pages will look like what you see above.  

 

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Your goal is to piece them together like you see here.  Burda has actually made this process easy.  You will need Scotch tape and Scissors, or a rotary cutter.

 

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Working from left to right, start matching the printer paper pattern together.  NOTE: Making sure the matching triangles are in line is NOT as important as making sure the pattern is aligned!!

 

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When I put these two pieces together, the 5d matched up almost perfectly, as did the pattern.  This is not the case with every piece.  So, it's okay for the triangles to be off a little bit, but not the pattern.  Make sure you line up the curve, lines, etc. so the pattern looks seamless when taped together.

 

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The first printed pattern piece no cutting is required.  The 2nd piece, you will cut off the left side, match it to the first pattern piece, and tape them together.  Continue until you have completed the first row of the pattern.  

 

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The 2nd row will be much the same, only now you are cutting off the left side and the bottom.  

 

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Tape them all together until you have completed the pattern layout.  Cut them out, tape as necessary, and you're ready to work with your Burda Pattern!

Now begins the hard part ... Next post will be on making the muslin test garment.  You NEVER want to cut into your fashion fabric until you know you have the perfect fit!  Believe me, I've done it.  It is a costly mistake.  Make the muslin test garment beforehand.  You won't regret it!

 

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Guarding the Homefront

Guarding the homefront  -- that's exactly what our wonderful Adolf does daily.  Adolf joined our family in January, 2007.  He was 10 months old.  The minute I saw him I fell in love with him.  He jumped up on the leather sofa where I was sitting and put his head and paws in my lap, as if to say "Please take me home and love me."  That was all it took for me to say "yes" and bring him home with us.

 

It all started with an attempted break-in in 2007, and also because my husband was traveling for his job at the time.  I wanted to feel safe at home with the children and my elderly mother, and I wanted a German Shepherd.  Not just any German Shepherd either -- I wanted one that was trained (or somewhat trained anyway).  Adolf fit the bill perfectly.  He was 10 months old, house trained, and had the sweetest disposition.  From day one, he was a gem.

 

Adolf quickly became "my" dog.  He follows me around the house from room-to-room, and sleeps next to my side of the bed every night.  We've had Adolf for 7 years now,  and the memories we've made together are plentiful.

 

For instance, Adolf has a favorite chair, a green Ethan Allen chair and ottoman that sits by a front window in our home.  Adolf has adopted this chair where he can be comfortable while guarding the homefront.  Sometimes, while I am cleaning or cooking in the kitchen, he'll wander into the living room and take up residence on this green chair.  He lets me know when the mailman has come by, or when the UPS or FedEx man is at the door.  He also lets me know when he really doesn't like someone.  Adolf is very smart.

 

There is something unfamiliar to me about calling Adolf my "dog" or my "pet."  We are so bonded and he is so much a member of our family, I can't imagine my family without him.  That said, I have taken a lot of photos of Adolf over the years.  One, imparticular, stood out in my mind as the perfect reference for a pastel painting.

 

Adolf looked so content sitting in his favorite chair and watching the squirrels, the birds, and our neighbors out for their daily walks.  My son grabbed my camera and took this picture. 

That began my desire to paint this image in pastel.  

 

I opened the image on my laptop and placed it to my left for reference, zooming in on areas as I paint.  Note, that you should place your computer reference on the opposite side of the hand you paint with so that you don't get too much pastel (or paint) on your laptop.  I learned that trick with experience.

 

I begin with Sennelier Pastel Card, a 9x12 card. Since finding a frame for a 9x12 image can be difficult, I used masking tape to tape the paper to a board and my easel by taping off a centered 8x10 image.  This keeps the pastel card securely anchored to the board during painting and makes framing and matting much easier once the tape is removed.   

Using a charcoal pencil and my laptop reference, I sketched "shapes."  

 

I began my painting with darks and moved to lighter shades, all the while making marks that will appear to be Adolf's heavy fur coat.

 

Always mindful of the dark shadows and where the soft light from the window was hitting his fur, I moved towards his ears and face.  Eyes can be challenging.  When painting eyes, you want to pay close attention to the lids, the direction of the lids, the shape of the eye, the shadows and how the light hits the eye.  At this stage in my painting I put in "information" with my pastels, but had not achieved the "look" yet that I wanted.  

 

Adolf's eye actually took me longer than anything else in this painting.  I stayed with it until I had achieved his special look.  I wanted to capture his personality.  And so, this is the completed pastel painting of Adolf, which I have called "Guarding the Homefront" - 8x10 Soft Pastel on Sennelier Pastel Card.

 

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If you would like a portrait done of your precious pet, you may contact me at marysusanvaughn@me.com, or through the "contact" page on this site.  I require a good image of your pet taken in natural light - no flash!!  In addition, cost is determined by the composition of the painting and the size.  

 

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When Nothing Else Works - Paint a Picture

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My brother, Mike, is 65y/o.  I didn't have a clue what to get him for Christmas.  I even asked him.  Nothing.  So, I decided to do a painting for him.  From what I recall, Mike likes sailboats.  I found a reference I liked and began working on a small 8x10 pastel.

 

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I wasn't sure about this painting, so I didn't take but two photos in progress.  Since I'm not a maritime artist, I thought that I might make a fool of myself.  But, I think the painting turned out well so I don't mind sharing this image of the painting in progress before I painted the boat.

I haven't figured out a name for it yet.  Any ideas?

Have a Merry Christmas!

SusanBrushSignature

 

Monday, December 02, 2013

"Oreo - Little Man" 8x10 Soft Pastel on Sennelier Pastel Card

 

When you are filled with emotion, sometimes the creative energy just pours out.  And, in this case, that is exactly what happened.  My daughter, Kim, and her husband, Zak, have had "Oreo" since before they were married.  He has always been a part of their family, and Oreo was there as their family grew and they welcomed the birth of their daughter, Reagan, in 2009.  Oreo was always the one and only family pet.  We all loved Oreo, and Oreo loved us all. 

Sadly, Kim and Zak had to let Oreo go to Kitty Heaven yesterday after a long struggle with kidney failure and various other illnesses, but he had lived a long life.  Oreo was 18 y/o, and like all of God's creatures, we get old and things start to short circuit and break down.  Oreo held on, though, as long as he could. 

As a tribute to this special kitty, and the love he gave my daughter and her family, I have made this pastel painting for them to enjoy in remembrance of Oreo.

 

 

 

First, I sketched him out with a Charcoal pencil.  Not concerned with details, just shapes and relationships of shapes.  I used a 9x12 Pastel card from Sennelier, however, to make it easier for Kim to mat and frame the painting, I taped it off to 8x10.  This way, she can purchase an 11x14 frame with a mat.  Much easier.

 

 

 

I started with the eyes and then moved outward adding pastel.  I didn't want to compromise the layers of color and values in the eyes if my hand were to get in the black pastel for his fur, so that is why I started with his eyes.

 

 

 

Moving right along, I began working on Oreo's nose and white fur markings on his face.  This will not remain pure white because the light is hitting Oreo from the right side (his left)  So, things will progress by adding shade and light.

 

 

 

Oreo is beginning to look very handsome!  I used Pastel Pencils, Hard Pastels, and Soft Pastels to add detail to his face and fur.

 

 

 

When I work, I like to have things handy.  I have the reference image on my laptop to my right, and my painting is vertical on my easel so that the pastel dust falls downward.  I also have my maul stick (aka my mother's old cane) to steady my hand for detail work.

 

 

 

When I started the painting, I wasn't sure if I wanted to add a background, but then I thought "yes" he needs a special background.  I added greens and blues as if there is foliage and blue flowers behind him.  The colors set off his eyes and the blue reflections from the light on his shiny black coat.  We love you Oreo.  We miss you so very much.  You were a special kitty.

 

SusanBrushSignature

 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"A Bentonville Winter" 9x12 Soft Pastel on Pastel Card

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I've been very busy.  Holidays are fast approaching, and my house is a mess, laundry is piling up, and I've been preparing the grocery list for Thanksgiving.  Craziness abounds this time of year at our house.

 

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Still, preparing for gift giving involves, at least for me, painting.  This year, I have completed two winter scenes in soft pastel for my daughter, Kim, and her family, to enjoy in their beautiful home.  The first is "A Blue Ridge Winter" based on a number of images I took while in the mountains, and a bit of imaginary play to create the winter scene you see here.

 

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Sometimes, paintings look great in pairs or trios on the wall.  In this case, I thought that one lone winter scene needed another, so Kim provided me with a scene she took in Bentonville, Arkansas in the winter of 2010.  A beautiful reference, I used it to create the second winter scene painting.

 

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Recently, I've been hooked on PanPastels.  They are soft pastels in round plastic pans.  They are used wtih tools called "Sofft Tools" that look like makeup sponges, and palette knives with sponge attachments.  Love them!  I use them in conjunction with the soft pastel sticks to create the mood of the painting exactly as I want it to be.

 

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Using a 9x12 pastel card from Sennelier, I tape the edges of the painting to a board that I can secure in my easel.  While working in pastel, I prefer to have my painting vertical in front of me, so the pastel dust drops, otherwise, pastel ends up everywhere and I blow it all over the place to get it off my work.  

Looking at my reference, I make a quick sketch with a charcoal pencil.  No details here, just figuring out placement and any changes I might want to make.  In this case, I removed the fence from the reference.

 

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Next step is a simple block in.  Putting some color and information down on the pastel card gives me some information for going forward with the composition and painting. The pastel is not put down heavy at this stage because the heavier the pastel I put down, the less opportunity I have to build up layers of pastel and add depth and interest.

 

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Little by little, adding more information.  In this case, I added the cascading shadows across the snow. and did some more work on the rough foliage and bushes.

 

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After working on the bridge, I realized the angle of the roof on the right (in the sun) needed adjustments.  I needed to move the roof up and make it longer.  Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and make these corrections.  NEVER leave something wrong on your painting!!  Fix it as soon as you see it.

 

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Finally adding detail.  my favorite part of the painting!

 

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And here is the final painting - "A Bentonville Winter" 9x12 Soft Pastel on Sennelier Pastel Card.

 

SusanBrushSignature

 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"A Blue Ridge Winter" 9x12 Pastel on Pastel Card

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I think I'm having too much fun this week playing with pastels.  I did this pastel winter scene last night while my hubby watched the football game.  

 

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I've never painted a winter scene.  Not even in oils.  I think driving back and forth to the mountains twice in the last month may have had something to do with it.  The Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful.  I love the views, the countryside, the colors, the small town living.  

Our daughter, Sarah, will be attending Appalachian State in the spring, and we are thinking about buying a small cabin near campus for her to live, and eventually, for our son and grandson to live too if they decide they want to go to App.  It is a beautiful campus in a lovely part of Boone, North Carolina.

So tonight, I decided to tackle a 9x12 size pastel.  I pulled up on my laptop about 3 reference photos that I had taken from my recent visits to Boone, and then added my own imaginary take on the references and created my own winter scene.

 

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"A Blue Ridge Winter" 9x12 Soft Pastel on Senneilier Pastel Card

One of two winter paintings as a Christmas gift for my daughter and her husband in Arkansas.

 

SusanBrushSignature

Monday, November 18, 2013

Painting for the Holidays

As the holidays fast approach, I have always found that handmade gifts hold a special significance, especially if it comes from the heart.  Sure, an iPad would be great, but since I never really grew up, and I like to play and craft, and sew, and quilt, and paint, and and and ... well, that's what I start to think about once November kicks in.  I probably should start sooner, but November is about the time I really start thinking about what I want to give my family for Christmas.

 

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For the grown up members of my family, I enjoy giving paintings.  Oil or Pastel.  Lately, I've been having a grand-ol time in my studio painting in pastel, and even approaching a subject that I have not painted much of in the past - flowers.

 

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Today, I painted two 5x7 pastels of Pansies.  My goal is not to copy detail for detail the pansies so that they look like a photograph.  If I wanted to do that, I would take the photo and be done with it.  No, I want my paintings to look like paintings, so I paint impressionistically with a hint of detail here and there.

 

IMG_4035

I started with a piece of 5x7 pastel paper by Sennelier.  I cut the paper to the size I wanted.  Then I put down a rough sketch in charcoal.

 

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Next, I just laid in some color.  Not interested in detail.  Just having fun.

 

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Here, I laid in a little more detail.  Don't feel like you have to copy your reference detail-for-detail.  The goal here is just to have fun!  Put down believable information in your signature style.

 

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Painting is progressing.

 

PastelPansies1

And this is my finished painting.  Notice how I added color washes to the bottom to give the impression of other pansies existing in the foliage.

 

PastelPansies2

Here is painting #2 I did today as well.

 

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After I'm done, I give the pastel a little smack on the back and blow lightly to remove any excess pastel dust, then I wash my hands, and place it on foam board, taping the corners just enough to hold it in place, and then place a mat over the painting.  Slide it into the clear sleeve, and wah-lah!  I have one painting completely done and matted and ready for gift giving.

Hope you enjoyed my pastel workshop today!

SusanBrushSignature

 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Painting with Pastels

Although I have done a few paintings in pastel in my career as an artist, I really did want to take the plunge and play with the medium.  The first landscape painting I did was ... well ... in my opinion, "crap."  But such is the learning curve with a new medium like this.  My brain keeps wanting me to put away the pastels to collect dust in my studio and just stick to oil paints.  But, for some reason, I'm getting brave.

Brave, because, as an artist, treading into new creative territory is like jumping off a cliff and hoping the parachute opens.  

I'm going to try to do several pastel paintings a week, crap or not, we'll see how it goes ... or grows. 

 

FronseeEveningontheLake

Today, I visited with a neighbor and friend, and decided to use one of his images taken from our community by the lake, as a reference for an 8x10 pastel landscape painting.

 

LakeProvidence

Two-and-a-half hours later I had this.

Sometimes you just have to "try" and squish that little voice in your head that says you will "fail."  Sure, it isn't a Degas, but it doesn't matter.  I took on  what I knew and what I don't know.  I played and promised myself not to get frustrated or upset with my failings as a pastel artist.  It takes practice.  Anything done well takes struggle and practice.

That said, I challenge you all to try something new.  Be creative.  Learn a new skill or use a new medium.  Dig in.  You might surprise yourself.  I know I have already.

Happy Painting Friends!

SusanBrushSignature

 

 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Play Without Pressure

BlueRidge1

Something I am definitely NOT good at is trying new things, attempting new ideas, branching out and just taking the plunge into unknown territory.  Today I did just that.  For 2 hours anyway. I might as well have jumped off this mountain as try something new.

As an artist, with lots of artist friends, I know that venturing out of one's comfort zone of creative endeavors and trying something new is shaky territory.  The problem with this train of thought is that we each see the work of various artists that we love and want to try to paint in the style that we admire.  At least try it.  Be Adventurous!  

 

BlankCanvas

Then the blank canvas is in front of us and this tiny voice inside our heads begins to mock our half-hearted attempt at something new.  But today, I don't care.  I'll never know if I like it unless I try, right?

Today, after my afternoon nap, I pulled out the only piece of pastel paper I had, taped it to my table, and began a clumsy effort to paint Grandfather Mountain (The Blue Ridge Mountains) from a picture I took with my iPhone a few weeks ago.  

 

Pastels

Just know this was NOT an attempt to copy detail for detail.  Realism wasn't even on my radar for this pastel painting.  I just wanted to have fun, take chances, paint a bit childish.  I like carefree paintings.  Why not tread through that territory of my childhood again?  

 

Grandfathermountainpastel2

Two hours later I had this.  I hated some of the process and liked other parts of the process.  Either way, I did have fun, and it gave me an opportunity to step away from my comfort zone in oil painting and play without pressure.  

Play without pressure.  I like that.  I think I'll do this again.  Maybe do a better job too!  

 

SusanBrushSignature

Evolution of the Painting "The Lakota: Children of the Prairie"

LAKOTAFINAL

Of all the subjects I have tackled in my career as an artist, horses, sailboats, and people in their natural element are my favorite.  I can't explain it, I'm just drawn to those subjects.  So, when I first saw the image from photographer Aaron Huey's journey to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the Badland's National Park, South Dakota, I knew I had to paint it.   

I am a studio painter.  As a mother of 4, and grandmother too, and caregiver to my elderly mother, I don't get out much.  I don't have the luxury to travel and paint in plein air as I would like.  So, I rely on photographs I have taken over the years, and also on the generosity of my photographer friends who have a keen eye for subject, composition, and outstanding photography.  I believe, that all good paintings begin with a good reference, and being a studio painter as I am, I desperately need the reference to be a subject that I am drawn to.

 

PineRidgeSouthDakotaLakotaIndians-AaronHuey

The image is spectacular.  I contacted Aaron (who, by the way, walked across the entire country with his dog), and asked him if I could use his beautiful image as a reference for my painting.  His response "Go For It!" made my day!   

My inspiration for this painting was not simply the subject matter, but I was interested in submitting a painting to the 2013 "Paint the Parks" competition and touring exhibition.  I won recognition in 2009 for my painting of the Horses on Mt. Rainier painting which sold at the Kolb Gallery in the Grand Canyon, so this year, I wanted to create something special.  I knew my heart had to be in it - and it was.

 

Below are the images of the evolution of this painting ...

 

IMG_2842 

My palette - Burnt Umber, Transparent Oxide Red, Terra Rosa, Aliz. Crimson, Quin. Rose, Cad Red Med, Cad Yellow Deep, Cad Yellow, Naples Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Sap Green, Viridian, Turquoise Blue, Cerulean, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and Raw Umber.  The palette is the "Red Easel Master's Palette" and you can purchase this beautiful handmade palette HERE.  

 

IMG_2841 

Always start with a good sketch.  I prefer to take my time and do the sketch in charcoal directly on the canvas.  I simply note the shadows with the charcoal.

 

IMG_2843 

I put down some basic information and quickly cover the background of the painting.  I use my laptop for the reference because I can zoom in on a subject in the reference and get greater detail without straining my eyes.  

 

IMG_2848 

I like to focus on one subject at a time, getting down as much information and color notes as I can to bring the subject to life.  When I am satisfied, I move on - however, I am always going back and making minor corrections to value, color, or detail, as I move through the painting.  I do begin, however, by placing the shadows first, mid-tones (local color) second, and then light last.

 

IMG_2860 

In this painting, and with this subject, I moved from left-to-right.  After I was satisfied with the first horse and rider, I moved on to the boy to his right peeking around the head of the horse.

 

IMG_2863 

A few more riders under my belt, I really love the young man on the center horse - the one with his foot on the horse's backend.  I also referenced the blowing of the hair of the man on the black horse.

 

  IMG_2864

My Big Bear (my hubby) strolled into my studio and took this picture of me working on the painting.  I use my mother's old wood cane as a maul stick for stability.  I will tell you, though, that my knees kept unwinding the paper towels.  That was a nuisance!

 

  IMG_2876

Moving right along - I completed the details on the center horse and began working on the girl with the feather in her hair.  She is also on one of the largest horses in the image.

 

IMG_2886 

Next, I turned my attention to the young girl on the distant horse, walking up to the group.  Again, I put down shadows first, mid-tones second, then lighter tones to hint at the sunlight.  No details until I am satisfied with the colors and values and shapes of color.  

 

LAKOTAFINAL 

And this is the final painting.  

 

"The Lakota: Children of the Prairie" 

20 x 36 Oil on hand-stretched canvas

by Mary Susan Vaughn

August, 2013

UPDATE: 

Honorable Mention in the 7th Annual Paint the Parks Competition, 2013.

The Lakota Indians depicted in this painting reside in the Pine Ridge Reservation within the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  The reference for this painting was provided by photographer friend, Aaron Huey.  The Lakota have a rich history.  Around 1730, Cheyenne people introduced the Lakota to horses called šuŋkawakaŋ ("dog [of] power/mystery/wonder"). After their adoption of horse culture, Lakota society centered on the buffalo hunt on horseback. The number of Lakota is about 70,000, of whom about 20,500 still speak the Lakota language. 

Initial United States contact with the Lakota during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–1806 was marked by a standoff. Lakota bands refused to allow the explorers to continue upstream, and the expedition prepared for battle, which never came. Nearly half a century later, after the United States Army had built Fort Laramie without permission on Lakota land, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was negotiated to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. The Cheyenne and Lakota had previously attacked emigrant parties in a competition for resources, and also because some settlers had encroached on their lands.  The Fort Laramie Treaty acknowledged Lakota sovereignty over the Great Plains in exchange for free passage on the Oregon Trail for "as long as the river flows and the eagle flies."

 

PainttheParksAward

 

 

SusanBrushSignature

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Peanut" 9x12 Pastel on Fine Tooth Paper



ReagansBabyPastelFinal900

Our little Peanut.  Precious Granddaughter.  For my daughter's 32nd birthday in April, I started early painting this pastel of her daughter, Reagan, when she was a baby.  Having not worked in pastels in about 14 years, I knew it would be a challenge creating this portrait of my granddaughter. But, I was up for the challenge.



DSC_0027

I looked through hundreds of pictures I have of Reagan, and came across this one when she was about 1 y/o.  Her profile was so precious and I thought it would make the perfect reference for my pastel painting.



ReaganPastelFramed


I had a lot of fun working on this pastel portrait of my favorite baby girl in the whole world.  Next, I found a frame and shipped it off to Kim.

That's what I've been busy working on these last couple weeks.  

SusanBrushSignature

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Studios Magazine and Me

STUDIOSMAG_5033

It arrived yesterday, this shiney, new magazine called "Studios" and before anyone else could see it, here it was in my mail.  Filled with inspiration and ideas galore for your dream art or craft space, this magazine is filled with stories and ideas to make you want to carve out a little space of your own in your home.  Of course, I've done that - twice - with my art studio (aka living room) and my sewing studio (aka sunroom).  



STUDIOSMAG_5030

But why, you may be asking is this magazine different?  At least for me, right?  Well, I'll tell ya - I'm featured in it!!  Yep, that's right.  Pages 130 - 133 you will find my story, pictures and more.  How exciting is that?!!  



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I was so happy, too, that they used the picture of my mother and me sewing together.



STUDIOSMAG_5028

Of course, I am not the only one featured in this wonderful magazine.  You will find many artists and crafters, like Carolyn Dube, sharing their work space and studios and organization ideas with all of you.



STUDIOSMAG_5029

Take a look!  It will be on shelves at your local Barnes & Noble, and many of your fabric and craft stores too on May 21st.  And, you can also order it online HERE.

I am so excited to share this with you and hope you will pick up a copy of this wonderful magazine the next time you happen to stroll by a Barnes & Noble.

SusansThreadSignature

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Prom Dresses and Rolled Hem Frustrations

If you have a daughter, or have had a daughter in high school, then you know all about Prom and the importance of having the perfect dress.  It has to be perfect.  Oh, that was last year.  This year, of course, is different ...

It is the Senior Prom and this prom dress has to be perfect.  Did I say "Perfect?"  And, not just for Sarah - who I am taking on Friday to be fitted for her Prom dress.  In the meantime, Sarah has a girlfriend who has already purchased her dress and it was a bit too long for her.  So, she asked me if I would please hem her dress for her.  

"Sure I will, Maria, I'd be happy to."  Of course, there is more to this than meets the eye, because I have not done a rolled hem in ... at least a dozen years.  I trust, though, that if I practice on some scraps first, I'll be fine.  And, after ripping out the hem 3 times, and the seams twice, I assure you I now know what I am talking about.

PROMDRESS_4061

The original hem.  Sarah's friend, Maria, came over with her dress last week and put it on for me, with her shoes, of course, and it was about an inch too long and dragging on the floor.  So, I pinned it up to where it should be and Maria went on her merry way home.

I cut off the original hem 1/4" less than where it will be finished to leave enough for a rolled hem of 1/8" (3mm).  Remember that when you cut off a hem, to leave enough for the new hem.  

PROMDRESS_4065

Now this is where I learned a valuable lesson that I am going to share with you - NEVER attempt to use your rolled hem presser foot over a finished seam.  Unless, of course, you enjoy punishing yourself and ripping out seams.  Since I know that you don't like this anymore than I do, my best tip for creating a rolled hem is to first take out at least an inch of the seams like you see above.  

Why, you ask?  Because when your rolled hem presser foot gets to the seam, there will be too much bulk for it to feed through the presser foot, thereby creating one big mess with your thread, your dress, your hem, and yanking off your presser foot which is now almost permanently affixed to the dress.  Since Maria does not want to go to prom with my rolled hem presser foot attached to her hem, I suppose I should fix this ... and I did ... because I'm wonderful like that.

PROMDRESS_4067

This is the rolled hem presser foot I will be using on my Pfaff.  It looks intimidating, I know, but don't let it.  It really isn't that difficult.  You just have to have patience.

PROMDRESS_4069

This is the bottom side of the presser foot.  See the indentation?  That is going to be the width of the hem.  Teeny tiny hem.  In this case, this is a 3mm (approx. 1/8") rolled hem presser foot.  So, the next time you are shopping for a rolled hem foot and can't figure out how wide the hem will be that the foot creates, just look on the back of the foot.

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See the little curly-que on the front of the foot?  That is where you will feed the raw edge of the fabric and the foot will do the rest.

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Click on the image above to take a closer look here, but you'll notice that I have rolled a teeny-tiny hem and placed the needle down through the center of the hem - without the presser foot.  The reason I did this was so that I could see what I was doing.  Also, I have a Pfaff  machine which has presser feet that simply snap on.  

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Yours may be a little different, but if you have an easy snap-on presser foot mechanism like mine, then before you begin your rolled hem project, roll a tiny hem with your fingers and put the needle down through it to hold it in place - first.

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With your needle remaining "down" into the rolled hem, snap on your presser foot and stitch about 5 stitches.  Just enough to get the rolled hem started.  Then with your needle down (sometimes you can set your machine to stop sewing with the needle down), you will feed the raw edge into the curly-que on the front of the presser foot ...

PROMDRESS_4077

Just like this.

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When you start sewing - slowly - the raw edge of your fabric will feed through the presser foot, curl around, and give you a very nice rolled hem.

PROMDRESS_4084

While the fabric is feeding through the foot, use your fingers to coax it through correctly, as not to feed too much fabric.  You want the raw edge of the hem to align with the edge of your presser foot on the left, and the edge of the fold to align with the right side of the foot, just like the picture above.

NOTE: When you get to the end of a section where the seams have been opened about an inch, simply start the process again for the next section of the skirt or dress.  In this case, I had 4 sections of the hem to create the rolled hem.  I had to open the seams of 4 sections so that when I am using the rolled hem presser foot, I wouldn't have to feed a bulky section of seams into the presser foot.  

When you have completed the rolled hem on all the sections of your project, pin the seams back together and sew them closed.  Your rolled hem will look cleaner and more professional and your presser foot won't get stuck in the dress!!

PROMDRESS_4086

The result?  A professional rolled hem.

PROMDRESS_4088

And a beautiful dress waiting for prom memories to be made.

* * * * *

I have a friend who asked me a question that I thought I would share with you  ...

"What's the purpose of a rolled hem and why would I want to do this?"  

Well, If you try to create a 1/2" or wider hem on a dress like this, it would look bad.  First of all, the stitching (even if you hand stitch) would be visible to some extent, and secondly, and most importantly, you'd have puckering.  As you work your way around the bottom edge of the hem, you'll find that the hem has more fabric than where you are stitching it to the dress, creating puckers all the way around the hem.  The reason for this is because the dress is not a "straight skirt" but a "flared skirt" instead.  The smaller the hem on the dress, the less puckering you will have, because the finished hem is so narrow and so close to the raw edge of the skirt.  Got it?  I hope I explained that right.

Anyway, if you have a dress, skirt, or something else to hem requiring a narrow hem, don't be afraid of that curly presser foot.  The hardest part is getting started, after that it's a piece of cake.

Speaking of cake ... I think I'll go have a piece of chocolate cake.

Happy Sewing!

SusansThreadSignature

 

Monday, January 09, 2012

How To Make A Laminated Vinyl Book Cover

Agenda_3077

While walking through Target with my mother, I came across an inexpensive Mead Agenda for 2012 and had an idea to make a cover for it when I got home, which is exactly what I did.

To Start:

Calico Cotton or Cotton Duck (Quilt fabric or heavy cotton canvas fabric)
Heat-n-Bond Iron-on Gloss Vinyl
Matching thread
Agenda or book

You Will Also Need:

Sewing machine
Straight pins
Iron
Rotary cutter & mat and/or sharp scissors
Rotary rulers for measuring and cutting
Cotton press cloth


Agenda_3034

Here is the agenda I purchased.  Measure the width and height of your planner - opened.  Add 1-1/4" (1.25") to the height and 5" - 6" to the width and cut out a piece of cotton fabric to those measurements.


Agenda_3038

Press your fabric rectangle.


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Using pins, pin up a 1/4" seam allowance and press.  Fold over again another 1/4" and press.  Repeat this for all sides of the rectangle, pressing first the long sides, then the short sides.


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Stitch close to the folded inside edge around all 4 sides.


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Pull out the pins and press the cotton fabric.  Lay the fabric on top of the iron-on gloss vinyl and cut out a piece of vinyl the same width and height as the finished cotton rectangle.


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On the back of the vinyl is a sheet of paper that has squares.  As I found out the hard way, the squares are NOT 1" square.  I'd like to know who the fool is that put these squares on the back of the paper on the vinyl to look like 1 inch.  I ruined this first cut of fabric and vinyl.  Oh well, live and learn.


Agenda_3042

Okay, back to work.  Peel off the paper backing from the vinyl to reveal the sticky side of the vinyl sheet.


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Lay the vinyl over top of your cotton rectangle (after the stitching around the edges!), and sticky side down against the cotton rectangle, and press on medium dry heat (without the steam). Using a cotton press cloth over top of the vinyl, move the iron around on the press cloth for about 10 seconds, then move the press cloth over the rectangle until the entire rectangle has been pressed and the cotton has been laminated with the vinyl.


Agenda_3044

Lookin' good!


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Turn over your cotton rectangle and press from the wrong side for a few seconds continuing to use the dry setting on your iron.


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Now that you have laminated your cotton rectangle, place your agenda on top of the wrong side of the cotton rectangle and center it on the rectangle.  Fold the left edge over the agenda cover and pinch the seam.  Stitch the short edges very close to the outer edge so that the agenda will slide into the pocket easily. 

This is also why you need to add 1-1/4" to the height of the cotton rectangle when you initially cut it out.  Along the long edge of your rectangle, top and bottom, the seams are 1/4" (top) + 1/4" (bottom) + folding for another 1/4" + 1/4" + stitching along the side of the pocket for another 1/8" + 1/8".  Just thought I should clarify this.


Agenda_3067

I repeated the step for the back cover.  If you're wondering why the back pocket is smaller than the front pocket, it's because when I placed the open agenda on the cover, I should have centered the cover on the agenda "closed" and not "open."  So you are seeing the result of my mistakes. Duh.  Anyway, when you close the agenda with the cover on it, it takes up more slack.  I forgot about that.

After I made the cover, I cut 2- 2" strips from an old measuring tape and after making a loop, stitched them to the front and back cover across the top as seen above...


Agenda_3070

... that way, when you put the pen into the loops, it holds the agenda together.  Pretty cool, ey?

It isn't perfect, but it is pretty!  I love the iron-on gloss vinyl.  A nice substitute for expensive oilcloth.

TIP: If you put the vinyl on the cotton before you sew the seams around the edges, you'll find the stitching is not as good through the vinyl as it is through the cotton alone.

Hope you like this agenda cover!  Best part about this tutorial is that you can make covers for anything - textbooks, address books, cookbooks ...  Enjoy!

SusansThreadSignature

 

Friday, January 06, 2012

A Quilt For My Daughter Kim - The Finished Quilt

I just realized that I never posted images of Kim's finished quilt!  The holidays have been a whirlwind of activity, crafts, sewing, and more, and I can't wait to share with you all the things I've been up to!  In the meantime, here is Kim's finished quilt ...

KimsQuilt_2537

If you would like to read the post on the making of this quilt, go HERE.

Fortunately, she loves it, and it will keep her warm on these cold winter nights.  What I liked about making this quilt was that there was no real pattern to the blocks.  It made it interesting and fun to make.

I am currently working on a pink flannel crib quilt for my granddaughter, Reagan, and trying to get up the motivation to finish my mother's blue-and-white quilt with embroidered roses in each of the quilt basket blocks.  My brother asked me to make him a quilt and I am going to make him a log cabin scrappy quilt - a large 80 x 102. 

And, last night, I made my grandson, Glen, an oilcloth lunch bag to take with him on a field trip.

Looks like 2012 is going to be all about sewing and quilting.  Sounds like fun to me!!

I hope you had a special holiday with family and friends and pray that 2012 is everything you wish it to be.

Love,

SusansThreadSignature

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Scented Sachets - An Easy and Sentimental Gift This Holiday

Sachet_2696

Just like the felt coasters I made HERE , making decorative sachets is easy and fun and a wonderful, sentimental gift as well, especially if you know the favorite fragrance of someone you are going to give them to this holiday.

So, let's begin this project by asking this special person or teacher or neighbor what is there favorite fragrance.  It doesn't even have to be a female.  Male friends will like this gift too!

Once you have the favorite fragrance, sometimes you can go to the department stores and they will give you a sample.  You can even ask them if they have any samplers that were almost used up that they could give you.  Then you bring home the fragrance and you are ready to begin to make some delicious smelling sachets as a gift.

SUPPLY LIST:

Fabric: Cotton, Canvas, Denim, or Decorator fabric

Cone-shaped Coffee Filter

Uncooked White Rice

Fragrance

 

SEWING TOOLS:

Sewing Machine

Scissors

Rotary Cutter

See-through Ruler

Thread

Stick (for pushing out the corners of your sachet)

 



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Begin by cutting out two 4-1/2" squares for every sachet you are going to make.



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I used a regular presser foot on my machine with a little greater than a 1/4" seam.  With right sides together (RST), sew 3 sides of your sachet, sewing back-and-forth at the beginning and end of each side. 



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On the last side, sew 1" from both corners leaving the center open.  Be sure to sew back-and-forth at the beginning and end of each corner.



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Clip the corners at an angle close to the corner seam.  This prevents bulk in the corners when you turn your project right-side-out and push out the corners.



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Using a stick to push out the corners (you can also use the handle of a wooden spoon), push out the corners as far and as neatly as they will go.  



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The center of one side will be open for you to add the rice and fragrance.



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Using a cone coffee filter, put approximately 1/3 cup of uncooked rice to the filter.



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Add your favorite fragrance by spritzing several times and then shaking up the rice to mix it in.  Spray a couple more times shaking occasionally to mix the rice together.



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Pour the rice into the sachet.



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Fold the seam under and stitch as close as you can to the edge of the hole in your sachet.



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There you go!  You now have beautiful and decorative sachets that smell so good!!  The rice holds the fragrance for a very long time and they are wonderful for throwing in your lingerie drawer or sock drawer.  You can even add a ribbon loop to one of the corners when you are sewing your sachet together and you can hang them on a hanger in your closet.  I love sachets!



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For a gift, I wrapped up 3 sachets with a pretty red ribbon and gave them to a dear friend yesterday.  She loved them.  

An easy and sentimental gift, sachets are a wonderful way to let someone special know that you were thinking of them.

Happy Holidays!!

SusansThreadSignature

 

 

Friday, December 09, 2011

A Simple Handmade Gift this Holiday

Felt_2673

Sometimes you just need to make something that is fast and easy and that you know will still be appreciated.  Inspired by a craft on Martha Stewart, I made it even better.  So, if you are ready, we'll get right to making this fun craft!  

Several days ago, I was looking for a craft that I could make for a few of my children's teachers.  That is when I discovered a craft on the Martha Stewart site for creating felt coasters.  However, the tools and instructions left much to be desired.  So, I improvised, threw away her instructions, and created my own coasters ...

YOU WILL NEED:

ColorfulFelt

FELT: If you don't already have felt in various colors at home, you can pick them up at Michaels for .29 cents for a rectangle of felt.  I purchased about 20 of them in various colors, including about 10 rectangles in white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CropaDileBigBite

HOLE PUNCH:  I purchased the Crop-a-Dile Big Bite while I was at Michaels.  A regular hole punch will NOT punch through felt!!  The Martha Stewart craft instructions pictured a regular hole punch - Not.  The Big Bite is great for punching holes in felt, leather, cardboard, cardstock, paper, and more, and it will punch holes up to 6" inside of a project.  I used it for this project and love it!

 

HeavyStabilizerSTABILIZER:  Heavy craft Stabilizer is what you need.  The same type that is used in making handbags.  If you are unsure, simply ask someone that works at your local fabric and/or craft store.  They should be able to help you find some heavy stabilizer that DOES NOT tear away!!  Make sure you are not purchasing the tear away stabilizer!

 

PellonWonderUnder
WEBBING:  Pellon Wonder-Under transfer webbing is what I use and recommend.  It is used for applique work, and in this case, for binding multiple layers of felt together securely.

 

SCISSORS: Any small pair of scissors will suffice.

 

 

Ready to make your coasters?!!  

 



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Begin by cutting your felt into 4-1/2" squares.  Set the colorful pile separate from the pile of white felt.



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Cut your heavy stabilizer into 4" - 4-1/2" squares.  Press the stabilizer to the back of your "colorful" felt pieces. (** See Tip below before pressing stabilizer to the back of your felt!!**)



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I have all of my colorful felt pieces stacked with a piece of stabilizer ready for pressing.



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**TIP: When you begin to press your stabilizer to the back of your felt pieces, make sure you have a cotton press cloth over the felt and stabilizer.  This prevents sticky stuff from the stabilizer from getting all over the bottom of your iron.  



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I use a steam iron all the time.  So steam blast that colorful felt to your hearts content - well, maybe just for about 20 seconds or so.  Then, when you pull away the cotton press sheet, it should be adhered well to the back of the felt.



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Take a colorful thin-line marker and draw central lines as shown above.  DO NOT follow the corners of the stabilizer!!  Line up your ruler to the corners of the felt square and draw diagonal lines, and then draw lines that divide the felt square in half as shown above.  This is necessary so that your design is symmetrical and attractive.



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After you have decided what you want to create, take your hole punch and punch little 1/8" holes or larger 3/16" holes in your felt and stabilizer.



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When you are done, your design will look something like this on the felt side.  Simply take a little pair of scissors and clip these bumps away from your felt project.



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I put a piece of white felt behind this first coaster and see how nice it looks?  



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The green felt has stabilizer on the back.  The white felt needs to be attached to the back of the colorful felt. Press a piece of webbing to the top of the white felt square.  Use your press cloth to press over the paper that you will pull away revealing the webbing stuck to your white felt.  Using your press cloth again, press the colorful felt (stabilizer down) to the white felt (webbing up against the stabilizer) and press them together.  Repeat this step for 1 more piece of white felt on the bottom so that they are sandwiched together.  

The top will be your colorful and decorative felt with stabilizer backing.  Then the bottom will be 2 pieces of white felt squares stuck together with webbing.



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Create some more designs.  Be creative!  You can also take a little pair of scissors and cut out tear-drop holes for a more interesting pattern.



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Folding your coaster in half along your lines to punch out the holes will create a symmetrical design.

 



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I made 8 coasters.  Each coaster has a different design pattern.  Then, I wrapped them in a bow and they are ready for gift giving.  

 



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What's really nice about these coasters is that if your drink sweats, it will keep your tabletop completely dry.  Your friends will love these creative coasters and you will be remembered every time they are enjoyed.

Happy Holidays!!



SusansThreadSignature


 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This Chick has Sticks - 2 Great Books for 1 Great Love

KnittingBooksStoryboard

Just to wet your appetite for a wonderful craft - knitting, here are two books I am giving away to one lucky reader!



KnittingNeedles

When it comes to being passionate about something, I put my "all" in it.  What makes my creative energy strong enough to blow sparks is that I have so many creative interests, it becomes difficult for me to focus on just one.  But for now, I want to tell you about 1 of my creative interests.  One that keeps me happy, busy, focused, and grounded - knitting - and I've been knitting recently, just about every day.



KnitBooties

With a creative focus, no matter what it is, comes determination to be the best you can be at that craft.  I know I want to be the best I can be at any craft that I tackle, albeit sewing and making clothing and handbags for my daughters, creating beautiful quilts for my family, making toys and dolls for my children and grandchildren, painting in oils, or knitting beautiful scarves or socks or booties and baby sweaters. 



Knitting_books

To be the best at the crafts I love, I turn to books, educational books, books that teach and have lots of visuals and easily explain how-to do a particular craft.  That's why I want to tell you about 2 books that will wet your appetite for knitting and I am having a giveaway right here just for you!  My dear crafting and quilting and sewing and knitting friends!  But first ...



LittleGirlsKnitting

I want you to know that there is a story here - and knowing me, I'm going to tell it.  First of all, when I was in 4th grade, I had a friend who was knitting a scarf.  Beth was sitting next to me at the lunch table in our elementary school and she pulled 2 knitting needles and yarn out of her bag and began knitting after she finished her lunch.  I was mesmerized and asked her if she would teach me how to knit.  She said "sure!" and she showed me a few things at that lunch break.  Then one weekend, she came over to play at my house and brought her knitting.  I had had my mother take me to a hobby shop where she bought me a pair of orange knitting needles (which I still have by the way) and some pretty yarn. 



PurledandKnit

Beth came to my home that weekend and showed me how to knit and I was hooked.  I made several scarves and learned to make a hat and mittens too.  I was so proud of my progress!  I made lots of scarves and mittens and hats over the years that followed, and when I was 19 and pregnant with my daughter, Kathleen, I made a couple baby bonnets, booties, and a beautiful, soft, baby sweater too.  It was the most venturesome I got while knitting.



KnittingFinishingCover

After I had Kathleen, I didn't pick up a knitting needle again until I received this book in the mail 3 weeks ago - Deborah Newton's "Finishing School" - A Master Class for Knitters.  Just looking through and reading this book made me want to run out and buy some yarn at my local Michaels Store and get back into the swing of knitting once again by starting with something easy - a scarf for my daughter, Sarah. And I am offering a copy of this book to one lucky reader!



YarnDepartment2

So, Sarah and I jumped in the car and went to Michaels, and not only did I purchase some yarn of Sarah's choice, and a new pair of knitting needles, but I purchased a couple more knitting books too.  Not only do I want to learn to knit again, I want to learn to create those fancy designs and create such beautiful things as sweaters and hats and socks, and Afghans!!  I'm syked!!



Knitting_2055

Check out my progress on this wrap-around scarf I am making for Sarah.  She picked out the yarn and I am making it using the simple "Garter Stitch."  It's a good way to get back into the swing of knitting if you haven't done so in a long while, like me, or if you are just beginning to learn how to knit.  The pattern and instructions for this scarf is in the "Guide to Knitting" by The Chicks with Sticks! And I am giving away a copy of this book as well to one lucky reader!



KnittingBooksStoryboard

All I ask is that you tell me if you knit or would like to learn!  Also, if you knit or have knit before, what have you made? 

NOTE: This contest is sponsored by little ol' me and nobody else! 

Contest ends Friday, October 14, 2011 at noon EST.  One comment per person, please.  Best of luck to all my wonderful readers!!

That's it!  Thanks for stopping by and good luck winning these 2 great books!!

SusansThreadSignature

We have a WINNER!  Congratulations to "Amanda" #5, for your comment! I hope you will enjoy these books!  Simply email me at susan@raisin-toast.com to claim your prize!

 

 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Quilt For My Daughter Kim

These last several weeks, I have been working daily on a quilt for my daughter, Kim, who remains in the hospital fighting to recover from open-heart surgery and acute respiratory distress from a lung infection.  Busy hands and mind help me to stay faithful for her full recovery, so I have been sewing and quilting, learning to knit again, for the first time in almost 33 years, and painting too.  My house is a mess, but at least I'm not sitting idle!!

KimsQuilt_1589

Thinking of the colors Kim loves and the colors of her home, I purchased some beautiful fabric at my favorite quilt shop - "The Quilt Patch" in Stallings, North Carolina.  Charlotte, the owner, helped me to find some beautiful fabrics for this lap quilt. 



KimsQuilt_1590

I love making lap quilts.  They are not too big and not too small, and just the right size for covering yourself on the sofa or in a chair while reading or watching television, or even for naptime. Lap quilts are my favorite. 

In this picture, above, I am pressing all of my Fat Quarters.  I always press my fabric before I cut.  It makes for more accurate measuring.



KimsQuilt_1591

With fabric in hand, I created a simple pattern for my quilt blocks of various square and rectangular shapes and 2 borders, then pieced them all together.  Here, I placed my pressed Fat Quarters on top of one another and then cut them into rectangles of various widths.



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Before you begin cutting, always trim the measuring edge first, then all of your pieces will be exact.



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6 1/2"  and 4 1/2" and 2 1/2" widths.



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Here you can see how I divided up my fabric into groups of colors and sizes.



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I cut smaller sections from the larger rectangles.



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Then I sewed them together in various combinations with a 1/4" seam.  Check your presser foot to make sure that the edge represents the 1/4" seam.  Most machines come with a presser foot for quilting where the edge of the foot is 1/4" from the stitching.



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I put my combination of fabrics together before I started stitching them together so that I could make a running chain of blocks.



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Be diligent about making sure that the edges of your pieces are perfectly matched along the edge of the presser foot.  If you don't check frequently, you might discover that the fabric underneath the top piece is off a bit. 



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Here, you can see how I simply add the next panel of blocks and keep sewing.  This is chain stitching and makes things move along faster when piecing your quilt blocks and quilt top.



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I always have my iron "on" and "ready" to press!  After every session at the sewing machine, I take all of my blocks, trim them from the sewing "chain" and press the seam allowance to one side.



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Stitching more shapes together in my running chain of blocks.



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Again, make sure that your pieces are perfectly aligned before stitching them in your running chain.



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My pile of pieces is getting taller!



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I stitched several 6 1/2", 4 1/2", and 2 1/2" long sections together and trimmed the measuring end.



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Then I cut them into 6 1/2" rectangles the other way.



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I matched the various blocks that I had stitched and pressed together, to make the final quilt blocks for the center of the quilt.



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Piecing them all together, I made about 20 blocks and trimmed them to perfect squares.  This is something like a crazy quilt, only I stuck with squares and rectangles as my shapes throughout the quilt top.



DSC_1819

I layed the backing (right side down) onto my bed, and pinned it to the mattress all the way around the perimeter. (I always remove my sheets when pinning a quilt sandwich together or the sheet will get pinned to the layers!



DSC_1820

Next, I layed the batting on top of the wrong side of the backing.  Then I placed the quilt top (right side up) on top of the batting.  The backing and batting are about 3"- 5" larger around the perimeter of the quilt top.   Then, I used curved quilt pins to pin the layers together about every 6" - 8" or so.  It really doesn't matter as long as you pin from the center to the edges to move the fabric out and make sure all the layers are smooth.



DSC_1818

Next step was basting the layers together.  I do all my quilting on my Pfaff 2124.  After pinning the layers together, I roll up the quilt towards the center on both sides so that my basting stitch can begin in the center of the quilt.  I baste with an unmatched thread so that it will be easy to pull out when the quilt is completed. 



DSC_1821

When you baste your quilt layers together, always begin in the center and work "South." Then flip it around and baste in the other direction "North."  Next, take your quilt and roll it towards the center in the other direction and baste "East and "West."  Repeating the process, baste diagonally to all four corners. 

By basting from the center - out - you push the layers with the basting and it keeps the layers together nicely when you are quilting.



KimsQuilt_1822

In this picture you can see the basting stitch to the right of the design I drew on my quilt top.  I drew some fancy tulips and leaves in some of the quilt blocks using a "Mark-B-Gone" marker that disappears when I spray a mist of water on it.  This is my guide for free-motion quilting on my machine.



KimsQuilt_1824

Following the pattern, I stitched the tulip making for a nice quilt pattern on the quilt.  That dark basting stitch will be removed when I am finished quilting the entire quilt together and before I put on the binding.



KimsQuilt_1826

Moving right along.  I wear these silly looking gloves for quilting.  You can get them at any fabric or quilt store.  It makes it easier to move the quilt layers together when free-motion quilting.



DSC_1907

This is the pattern I am putting around the outside border of the quilt.  I drew the pattern all by hand and then I "stipple" quilted around the design to make it stand out.



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Corners.  I hate corners when drawing a pattern on the borders.  In this picture, you can also see how much larger my batting is from my quilt top.  That's okay, because when I am done quilting, I will remove the basting stitching and all the pins, trim the edges and then sew on a nice binding.

That's where I'm at now!  I will share the rest as I complete Kim's quilt.  Thank you all for your continued prayers for my daughter.

Have a blessed day!

SusansThreadSignature

 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sometimes You Just Need To Paint Cows

Bessy&Company_SH

I love cows.  I grew up in the country in Maryland and there were always cows looking at us in the morning from the fields beside our home.  Of course, there were the ones who thought the grass looked greener on our side of the fence and would break it down and be watching us eat breakfast on our back porch. 



Bessy_1181

Sometimes I tone my canvas, and other times, like this, I just do a quick sketch and get down to painting.  I like to work from back-to-front and darks (shadows) - to - light.  So, in this case, I worked on the sky first since that is behind the cows, and I threw in some clouds with character, then I layed in the darkest-darks on Bessy and her friends.



Bessy_1170

Here is my palette table set up and ready to work.

 

Bessy_1186

Here, I worked on Bessy - mid-tones, shadows, reflective light on the underside of her chin, and sunlight hitting her face, hair, and top of her neck.



Bessy_1190

After I worked on Bessy, I moved on to the shy little fella beside her and the shadows cast by the crew of cows on the grass.



Bessy_1192

Coming right along, I added the sunlight on the grass.



Bessy_1196a

Next, I worked on the cow in the middle, adding some violet tones to the shadows on his coat.



BessyFinal_1216b

Here is a closeup of Bessy's face



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And here is a closeup of the middle cow.



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I kinda like her hair!

 

Bessy&Company_SH

And here they are ready to join you for breakfast. 



BessyFramed_SH

Now, don't you think Bessy & Company would look great over your fireplace?

Bessy & Company
30 x 40 Oil on Handstretched Canvas
Unframed
850.00

SusansButterflySignature
 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Painting - Painting - Painting

Hello dear friends!  I know I haven't posted here in about 2 weeks, but a lot has been going on.  Some good news - I am now represented by the Bellus Lux Lucis Fine Art Gallery in Clarence, New York, and I sent Bonnie (the gallery owner and director) 6 paintings to sell:



APPLES_600

"Apples" 8 x 10 Oil on Panel (220.00 Framed)



GARLIC_SH

"Garlic" 8 x 10 Oil on Panel (220.00 Framed)



HAYSTACKS_SH

"Haystacks" 8 x 10 Oil on Canvas (220.00 Framed)



HOPEROAD_SH

"Hope Road" 14 x 18 Oil on Canvas (510.00 Framed)



BigRed_SH

"Big Red" 9 x 12 Oil on Canvas (290.00 Framed)



OCTOBERGLORY_SH

and, "October Glory" 9 x 12 Oil on Canvas (290.00 Framed)

If you are interested in any of these paintings, they are available through the Gallery. 



CHARLOTTESUMMER_SH

I have also entered a competition - the BoldBrush Competition sponsored by FASO, Fine Art Studios Online.  My painting "A Charlotte Summer" needs votes - via Facebook "Like"  button by the painting on the site.   Just click HERE first, then click on See the Most Popular Paintings on that page.  That is the only way your Facebook "Like" will be counted.  The competition uses the Facebook "Like" button so that the contest can't be rigged with false votes.  You have to have a Facebook account and be signed in to vote.  Right now I believe I am third, so I will need lots more votes to win!  The winner will receive $1000 cash!  And, anyone who has been hanging around my blog knows that we sure could use the extra cash.  

Bob is still out of work, but just today he was at a job fair sponsored by Congresswoman Sue Myrick, and he introduced himself to several prospective employers and handed out his resume.  He is waiting to hear back on several interviews that he has been on in the last 2 weeks.

 

Bessy_1196a

In the meantime I have been pounding the pavement and applying for representation by numerous galleries, working on commissions, and working on a painting of a group of cows that I am calling "Bessy & Company."  I might even have this painting done today.  Cows seem to be popular these days, and to tell you the truth, I enjoy painting cows. 



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My last cow got rave reviews and was sold at the Matthews Alive Fine Art Festival last year.



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So, the most important thing here is that I am very busy in my studio.  Bob has been busy doing lawn maintenance for neighbors and that's been good for our family as well.  However, I could really use your vote via your Facebook page by going to the BoldBrush Competition homepage, clicking on See the Most Popular Paintings from the homepage, finding my painting, "Charlotte Summer" and clicking the "Like" button next to my painting.  Every vote counts to helping our family get through these very difficult economic times. 

Thank you!!

SusansButterflySignature

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Artwork: Sweet Corn

SweetCorn9533

I started this painting last year, but with commissions, I set it aside.



SweetCorn9532

Finally, I had the chance to focus on this painting and I was looking forward to getting it done.

 



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My reference - Photographer Patrick Schneider's image of a boy and his sister sitting comfortably on a rocker at a South Carolina vegetable stand.



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I started on the right of the canvas, wanting to work on the boy and girl first.



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One thing I probably should have done is tone the canvas, but I had already started the painting and decided to just go with it.

Here are some close up images of the painting:



SweetCorn1092



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And the finished painting:



*SweetCorn1099_1200W

"Sweet Corn"
24 x 36 Oil on Canvas

Interested in this original painting?  Go HERE

Have a great day! 



SusansButterflySignature


 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not Just for Jelly

Tubesofpaint1 I've been working a lot in my studio, and the one thing I hate most about oil painting are the tubes of paint that are squeezed and gross and messy and disgusting.  Problem solved.  Bernardin Jelly Jars.  They are air-tight and reduce a lot of waste.  For studio work, these jelly jars are perfect!

 









Paint1024

I purchased them on Amazon.com - Bernardin's 125 ml jars.  They come in a box of 12.  With disposable gloves, stickers, marker, palette knives, and my oil paints, I was ready to fill the jars.



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I labeled the jars.



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And I squeezed out the oil paint into each of the jars.  Right to the last drop of oil paint in each tube. I added Artist's Painting Medium to the oil paint making it creamier.



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I used my palette knives to stir the paint, adding the medium until each jar was the consistency I wanted.



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It was easy, and so was the clean up.



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There are so many advantages to preparing your paint in the jelly jars.  First of all, it makes preparing your studio palette easier.  Simply use a palette knife to scoop out the paint you want.  Cleaning up is a breeze.  I use a palette knife to separate the contaminated paint from the pure color then put the remaining pure color back into the jar when my day is done.  Less waste, and that is a good thing since oil paints are expensive!



Paint1054

If you are not going to be painting in your studio for a while, just put your paints in their box and slide them into your refrigerator.  Just so you know, though, they will last for months and months at room temperature with no skin on the paint at all.  Adding medium to your paints also helps preserve their creaminess. 

Also, the small jars are great because as you use your paint, there will be less air in the jar making for perfect preservation. 

Of course, tubes are still the best choice for plein air painting.

Happy Painting!

SusansButterflySignature

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Perfect Studio Tabletop Palette

Every artist is different, but for me, I like clean and organization, but when it comes to an artist's studio, they are usually anything but clean and organized. One thing I've noticed over the years is the many different ways artists prepare their studio palettes.



BrianKliewerglasspalette

For instance, this is the glass studio palette of artist Brian Kliewer.  A piece of glass over a light gray (possibly white) background - sometimes the way the camera captures color is tricky.  This is very much how my palette has looked in my studio for over a decade.



Palette&Painting2

This was my studio palette for years.  I had a piece of tan canvas under a sheet of glass which I had cut for me to fit my tabletop.  I also had the edges of the glass smoothed and rounded so that neither I nor my children would get cut on it.  The color of the canvas beneath the glass was suitable for me to see the lights and darks for years, although in my subconscious, I knew it should be darker.  I was too lazy to change it.



Davespalette

This is the glass palette of my artist friend David Darrow aka "Dave the Painting Guy."  Dave is a fabulous artist, mostly portraits in oils.  He has a UStream show that you can visit HERE  and a blog that you can visit by clicking on his name above.  He is a wonderful teacher and very funny.  I love his show on UStream and have learned a lot from him over the years.  He talks to visitors of his show while on the air too, so you can ask him questions when he is live and on the air. 

One question recently posed to Dave was "why don't you scrape off all the paint and clean your palette?"  To which Dave replied "I like to see where my paint goes" or something like that.  He didn't want to have to think about how to lay out his colors each and every time he set out his paints.  I can understand that.  He said he leaves his globs of paint on his palette and then scrapes off the skin and puts on more paint. If you watch his UStream show enough you see him doing this frequently.  I cringe every time I see him peel off the paint skin.

Now in my opinion, he has one big mess there, and personally, I do not like having dried oil paint skin anywhere on my palette because it always manages to find its way onto my painting.  I hate having to pick off the bits of dried paint from my painting and my brushes - I know you know what I mean!!



NelsonShanksPalette

This is Nelson Shank's palette.  In the traditional sense, he uses his wood palette, even in the studio from what I have heard.  He sets out his paints meticulously on his handheld wood palette with medium attached.  As organized as this is, it is definitely crowded.  The color of his wood palette, however, makes for a wonderful ground in which to see his lights and darks.

 



Palette1

I don't know whose wood palette this belongs to.  He uses a lot of cool colors though.



SchmidPalette

This is the glass tabletop palette of Richard Schmid.  In the same respect as David Darrow, he leaves some dried paint around the perimeter of his glass palette to see the colors, making it easier and faster to lay out the palette for a new day of work.  If you notice, the color of the ground beneath the glass is gray - again making it easier to see the lights and darks.



StudioPalette0998

So today, I decided to change things up a bit while I cleaned my studio.  About a year ago, I took a piece of tan canvas 24 x 36 (the size of my glass tabletop palette) and I made a semi-circle listing of all the colors I like to use for most of my paintings.  Then, I put this canvas under my glass palette.



StudioPalette1001

The other day, while at Michaels Craft Store, I found some golden dark tan canvas.  I'm talkin' the perfect dark golden tan - not too hot, not too bland, not too light, and not too dar - "just right" said the three bears.  "Wow" I thought, "That's exactly the color I want to tone my canvas before I start a painting."  And so this Bear of an artist purchased this perfectly toned canvas and took it home.  And pressed it. 

Why did I press it you ask?  Because I am going to use it beneath my glass palette and if I don't press it, then it will have creases in the fabric that cast shadows where I don't want them.  Pressing is good for the soul anyway - unless you're in a hurry.



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Then, I cut it to the size of my glass palette + a little bit bigger than the finished size of 24 x 36, and I pressed it again for good measure.



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This was my palette this morning before I changed things up.  Oops, didn't clean my palette.



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I had some foam board and cut it to the size of my palette table (24 x 36), and in the process left some dents where my knees were.



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With the beary nice dark golden tan canvas beneath the foam board, and some beary nice craft glue from Martha Stewart, I glued the canvas to the foam board - but only on the back.  There is no need to glue the canvas on the front of the foam board.



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Isn't it pretty?  This canvas is actually darker golden tan than you see here.  The light from outside was filtering in through the windows.



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I placed it on my palette table and admired it.



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Then, I took some paper and mapped out my palette, deciding which colors I wanted to leave in and which colors I wanted to remove.  Basically, I wanted to figure out my color plan.  As for colors on my palette, I am not a minimalist.  I am more a Richard Schmid (12-14 colors) or Nelson Shanks (20-30 colors) type who would rather have the immediacy of the colors at hand rather than having to mix everything, although I do a lot of mixing and have used a minimalist palette of 5 colors in the past.  Yes, you learn a lot from a minimal palette, and when I paint in plein air - the minimal palette of 5 colors goes with me.  But for my home studio - well, I think you can see that i have about 14 colors on my palette. 



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You probably have to squint to see it, but with pencil, I drew a light semi-circle on my canvas leaving room to write the names of the colors and place color squares above the names.



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Next, starting with Cadmium Yellow as the color at the top of my color wheel palette in the middle, I wrote in marker the colors I wanted on my palette - warm colors to the left (light to dark) and cool colors to the right (light to dark) except for the Portland grey at the bottom right of my color wheel palette.



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Next I took a paintbrush and my paints and I painted 1 inch squares above the names of the colors on my canvas tabletop palette.



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And I left some blank space on the left in the warm colors and on the right in the cool colors for any colors I might add to my palette for a specific painting.



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Next, I cleaned my glass palette and placed it on top of my dark golden tan canvas with my color palette all laid out in full view.  Not only can I see the colors on the canvas, but I can see the the lights and darks much better.  I am also able to keep my palette clean between sessions in my studio - and I like that.

How do you lay out your palette in your studio?



SusansButterflySignature

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Business Cards for the Visual Artist

BCamelia_lyon

Business Cards.  If you order yours from most printers, they'll look like everyone else's cards, only maybe with a different picture on the back.



BCcarolina_ferreyra_2

I'm not going there anymore.  I did some research, and found some of the most unique business cards around. 



BCcontrary

Some were created with letterpress, others with goldleaf,



BCmarki_san_design

some with felt and googly eyes ...



BCoriginalia_2

Interesting print or cutouts.



BCjbeans_3

Some have little attachments with aroma built in ...



BCjbeans

Snif and find your favorite at Jbeans.



BCshi_shi_2

How about a comb for a cut and dye shop?



BCpacks_a_punch

Or how about a little portfolio card ...



BCpacks_a_punch_3

That opens and gives you a really interesting take on giving out your information, don't you think?

If you go to Cardonizer, you will see what I mean about creative business cards.  If you listen to this guy, you'll better understand why the statement you make when you give someone your business card says a lot about you.  And for me, I don't want that message to get lost in a roladex, a drawer, or the trash. 



BCfox_ink

Business cards are more than just your name, your business name, and information.  It's more than just a piece of cardboard you exchange when you meet someone.  You want to leave a lasting impression - at least I do - and usually, that begins with a card.  An introduction.  A message that you care about who you are and what you do for a living.

That said, I got creative today.  I've had business cards and Artist postcards printed up in the past that looked okay, but in many ways, they were just like the millions of other postcards and business cards for visual artists.  After looking through Cardonizer, I decided to run to Michaels Craft Store and be inspired.  I had some ideas floating around in my head about making my own business cards, but I went with an open mind hoping to find the right combination of creative things to make a business card - one that I can give to a Gallery owner when I visit, or one that I can send to Galleries or give to prospective collectors. 

So, you want to see what I came up with?  Take a look ...



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I purchased a package of 50 bookmarks in Ivory cardstock, some teeny wood rectangles, 1/4" ribbon, and Artist Trading Card Canvas.  Then I found some scrapbooking labels for the inside and the outside frame of the painting.  Pretty cool ey?



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I glued on the scrapbook label to the front of the folded bookmark, and then in my studio I took 5 minutes and painted this original little oil of a barn scene. Yes, this is an original oil painting on the front of this card.  The Artist Trading Card canvas I glued to the top of of the teeny wood rectangle before I put brush to teeny weeny canvas for this painting.



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Then I glued the painting to the label on the front so that it looked framed.



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Then, I used another fancy label for the inside, and with a calligraphy pen, I hand wrote the necessary information on the inside of the card.



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So what if it isn't perfect.  I think that makes it more personal. 



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Then, when you tie it in a bow, it can sit up on your desk or on a shelf somewhere.  What do you think?  Do you like my business card?  I'm always trying to think outside the box, and I wanted  Gallery owners, curators, collectors, and you, to hold on to my card and my information.  Maybe then I won't end up in a drawer somewhere forgotten, or in the garbage.  Maybe, just maybe, with the right amount of tiny information on a creative little card, I will generate more commissions, or sell more paintings - and besides ... that's the idea folks!!

Have you ever thought about what statement your business cards make?  Take a look around Cardonizer's Business Card Gallery and be inspired. Then, when you've created something of your own, please send me some images of your business card in an email and I'll post them here!



SusansButterflySignature

Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Easy Apron - Fun to Make!

B5263Front

I enjoy making aprons.  They're fun and easy to whip up in just a few hours.  For this project I wanted to make an apron for the July 4th holiday, so naturally it would have to be red, white, and blue.  Also, I was in need of an apron to wear in my art studio as the old one I've been wearing for years was looking pretty bad, all covered in paint and shredding at the edges.  It was an old cotton apron, probably from the 1960s or something.  It had seen it's last day, so this project of making a new apron would be a good idea.



B5263Illustration

I have a great pattern - Butterick Waverly B5263 - so run out and get this pattern and make this apron right along with me!  I'm going to show you every step of the way right here.  I decided to make Apron "C"  - it is wrap around with a tie at the waist and 2 buttons in the back.  It has 3 pockets in front.  Easy.  Comfortable.



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Since the sizes were Sm-Med-Lg and I was making the "Lg" I decided that it was no big deal to just use the original pattern to make this apron.  Usually, in preparing my pattern pieces, I transfer the size I need onto pattern paper to preserve the original pattern and all the sizes.  I will be doing a post on how to transfer pattern pieces so that they fit "your" measurements.  In the meantime, you can go HERE to read more about preparing your pattern before you sew.



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You do NOT need to cut the pattern pieces from the tissue paper perfectly.  Just use your rotary cutter and skim around the perimeter of each piece, leaving a 1/4" or so around the pattern piece so you can see the edges.  Then, when you pin the pattern to your fabric (or use weights to hold it down) and cut it out, you will be more precise in your cutting.



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Then, with a small rotary cutter, cut out your pieces from the fabric.  I use a small rotary cutter because it is more precise and is easier to cut around curves.



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TIP: Use little scissors to cut out the notches "before" you cut out the pattern with your rotary cutter, that way you won't accidentally cut off a notch.



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Your ready to start sewing your apron!  I used a blue and white checked cotton fabric for the apron itself, red and white patterned cotton fabric for the tie, and off-white bias binding for the edging.  Perfect for the July 4th holiday!



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Make sure you mark your fabric with all the dots and markings before you remove the tissue pattern from the fabric.  Use a fabric marker that will disappear when you spritz it with water.



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Begin by folding your tie in half with RST (right sides together), matching edges and dots.



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Leave the straight short end open (for turning) and with a 3/8" seam sew the tie together.



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It will be tough to turn this right-side-out unless you have a handy-dandy turner like you see here.  The end grabs the fabric and pulls it right through - easily.  Once you have turned your tie, press and set aside.



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On the front of the apron pattern, you will see markings for a dart.  With red fabric tracing paper, a tracing roller, and my water-soluable fabric marker, I transfer the dark to my fabric.



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Always be sure you have made all the markings on the right side of the fabric when placing your tracing paper between the tissue pattern and the fabric.



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I know it is tough to see in this picture, but your dart and dot markings should look like this.



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You will want to match the dots on the tie to the dots on the dart.  Just like a puzzle and easy.  Go ahead and pin the ties to the apron front panel where indicated.



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Now I have a little trick for you. TIP: After you have marked the front of the fabric with the dart using tracing paper, it can sometimes be difficult to sew a perfect dart without the markings on the wrong side of the fabric as well, so with a long basting stitch, sew over top of the dart marking.  And, in this pattern, you will also be sewing the waist ties in place as well so that you can remove the pins.



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Pin your dart together, matching the basting stitches.  Stitch (with a regular stitch length) knotting the ends with your sewing machine (usually I just sew back and forth a few times).  Simply remove the basting stitches by pulling out the thread on one end.  You'll be left with a perfect dart!



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The back of the apron has a facing.  You will want to press on some lightweight interfacing to each piece, and if you have a serger, go ahead and serge (finish) the curved edge after you have pressed on the interfacing.  If you don't have a serger, simply use a zig-zag stitch close to the edge.  This will prevent unraveling of the fabric facing.



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Pin the facing WST (wrong sides together) to each of the apron's back panels.



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Baste the facing to the back panels.  The facing adds stability where you will be putting a couple buttons and using your sewing machine to put in button holes.



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With RST, stitch the 2 back apron panels to the front panel at shoulders and sides. Press open the seam allowance on the inside of the apron.  I always press after each step in the pattern.  It keeps my work looking great throughout the creative process.



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Baste the raw edges around the neckline, arm holes, and all of the remaining raw edges.



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I used Wright's Wide Single Fold Bias Tape to finish the edges.  I also pressed the bias tape before I sewed it in place on the apron.



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Start sewing on the bias tape to the top raw edge of the long pocket panel.   



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Fold over the bias tape and press. Then, stitch from the front side close to the inside edge of the bias tape so clean stitching can be seen from the front and the bias tape on the inside is stitched in place at the same time.



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Fold the edges short side edges to the inside about 1/2" or so and press. 



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Pin your pocket panel to the front and sides of the apron and baste in place.   Then, stitch across the pocket panel where you want your pockets.



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Now you are going to finish all the edges of the apron around the neck and arms and edges.



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TIP: with RST, pin the beginning of the bias tape in place along the raw edge of your apron.  FOLD over about 1/2" on the short end of the tape so that you will have a folded edge when you are finished sewing it in place.  If you fold the short end, then when you arrive back where you started and fold over the tape to the wrong side, it will be a clean finishing edge.



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Corners are not as difficult as you may think.  When you get close to a corner like this, stop stitching at the point where the stitching will begin going in the other direction.  In this case, I stitched to about 3/8" then folded the remaining tape up like you see above.  See the angle of the tape at the corner?  That's important!  Make your angle perfect.  Fold the tape down ...



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See how I folded down the tape?  And, I pinned it in place for several inches.



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When you are finished sewing the tape to the front of your apron, you will have crisp corners.



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Press the bias tape away from the apron like you see above.  This gives the bias tape a clean pressed edge against the right side of the apron and makes it easier to fold it to the wrong side and stitch it in place to finish.



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For curved edges that need pressing open, I use a ham that my mother made about 60+ years ago.  It makes pressing curved areas like armholes and necklines so much easier.



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On the wrong side, you will see the stitching where you sewed the bias tape to the front of the apron.  TIP: When you fold over the bias tape, press the tape just past the stitching and pin in place.  That way, when you stitch close to the edge of the tape on the right side of the fabric to finish, you will also be stitching the tape that is folded to the wrong side.



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All done!  I'm ready to throw it on and go paint.  I love it!



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It is roomy and comfortable and it has just the right amount of pocket space.



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The back buttons at the top-back and ties around the waist.



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Of course Matthew walks into my sewing room being silly.



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Wearing his hat over his face.  He obviously has too much time on his hands.

Hope you like the pattern and my tutorial and tips!  Please send me your pictures if you make this apron and I'll post them here!



SusansThreadSignature


Friday, June 17, 2011

A Summer Dress for Sarah

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Yesterday I sewed.  All day and all night.  Literally.  For Sarah.  I had purchased a summer dress pattern and some nice, cool, summer seersucker fabric to make myself a summer dress, but when Sarah saw it, she said "Oh please Mom, will you make it for me instead?"  How could I resist that face, her smile, those pleading eyes?  I couldn't.  And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that it would look a whole lot better on Sarah than on me.



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The fact that Sarah was going to be leaving me for a week and flying to Arkansas to see her sister - my daughter, Kimberly - and Kim's daughter - my grandbaby, Reagan - and Kim's hubby, Zak, well, that probably had something to do with it too.  I wanted Sarah to feel pretty and comfortable for her long trip to see her sister. 



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Sarah has not seen her sister since this picture was taken in 2006. 



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Now Sarah looks like this.  So grown up, and looking very pretty in this dress I made for her yesterday.

Big Bear and Matthew and Sarah's boyfriend, Walker, all drove her to the airport.  Sorry, I don't do well at airports, especially when the one getting on the plane is my baby.  I make an emotional mess of the entire experience.  So, I opted to stay home and write this post instead.



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So, Sarah is on her way to Arkansas, for a week of girl-time and changing diapers and chasing after a very energetic almost 2 y/o niece - precious Reagan.  Oh, and they are going to have some quiet time together too, going for manicures, and pedicures and shopping and just having fun.



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While I sit here at home and think about all the fun their having - the stinkers. Of course, this pic was taken in 2006 too.  Sarah and Kim sure have grown up since then!!



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From this (Kim, Sarah on her visit, and Zak) ...



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To this in 2011!  (Kim, Zak, and their baby girl Reagan) ... I have a feeling that Kimberly and Sarah are going to have so much fun that their cheeks and stomachs will hurt from smiling and laughing so much.



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As for this dress I made Sarah yesterday, this pattern is Simplicity's pattern 2884.  The dress is fully lined with a nice slip beneath the full skirt as well.  I was impressed with the layout of the instructions.  The illustrations were numbered and on the left and the written instructions were numbered and on the right.  It made for reading and understanding a lot easier. 



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I was surprised they said this dress was an "It's so easy."  I am a fairly advanced seamster, but I thought the hidden side seam zipper instructions were a bit complicated.  So much so, in fact, that I threw the instructions to the side and simply put the side zipper in - hidden - from my own experience.  It turned out perfect.  It could be that I was simply exhausted by the time I got to the point of installing the zipper.  It was 11pm and my eyes were blurring over by that point.

SusansThreadSignature

Monday, June 06, 2011

Selling My Kenmore 150

KENMORE0782

Well, I finally decided to sell my trusty Kenmore 150 sewing machine.  This is the first sewing machine that Big Bear purchased for me in 1994, and in all these years it hasn't as much as needed a tune up.  I think I changed the lightbulb once though. 



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It is in like new condition and has everything that came with it when we originally purchased it from Sears in 1994 for $800.  Can you believe that?  I know, but it was one of the first to have an LCD screen.  It was one of the first Kenmore computerized sewing machines made. 



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Just so you know, the Janome plant is where this machine was made. 



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It has 150 beautiful stitches and is very easy to use.



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I will ship to the 48 contiguous United States and asking $350 plus shipping.



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Interested?



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Simply email me at susan@raisin-toast.com with any questions.

SusansThreadSignature

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Garden Market - In Progress

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In addition to several commissions that I have been working on for a few of my collectors, I have been working on a painting of my own that I may or may not sell (I haven't decided yet).  I'm calling it  "The Garden Market."  



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As an artist who doesn't paint in plein air all that much (painting outside in the open air), I need excellent reference images - images that are professional, no flash, and excellent, natural lighting.  One of my favorite photographers who I have the honor of working with is Photographer Patrick Schneider. His photography is outstanding and captures the emotion within each photograph he takes.  His images are natural, full of life and energy, and always make me smile. 



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It's my hope that my paintings will have the same affect on viewers.  Because I don't get out much and paint mostly in my home studio, having a photographer in my back pocket that has opened up a plethora of images for my reference in consideration for promoting his work on each painting I create from one of his images - that is a very special relationship indeed.



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The image that I am using as a reference for this painting was taken a number of years ago in South Carolina, and I've just been waiting for the time when I knew I could sink my teeth into this painting.  It is a good size -  24 x 36. 



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I sketched it out in charcoal last year, but this week, I jumped right in and started the painting.  Actually, this is the first painting in a long time that I am truly enjoying the process and the subject matter. 



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From what I understand, the 2 boys in the image are brothers, who were hanging out at a local garden market.  The older boy is holding squash.  They look like they are enjoying their time at the garden market.  I love images like this!

 



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As you can see throughout this post, I've been busy.  I wanted to start on the right - working towards the left side of the painting, because I wanted to get in there and work on the boys, since they are really the subject of the painting.  As you can see, Sarah was working on her own painting in the background.  She enjoys hanging out with me in the studio and I love having her there!



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This is my palette.  I have a glass top over a piece of tan canvas and then I have my paints organized from light on the left to dark on the right with Titanium White in the center with my mixtures.  As you can also see, I keep my oil paints in jelly jars.  They keep my paints fresh longer and I don't have to mess with nasty tubes and waste paint.  At the end of my day in the studio, I put the paint that is not compromised by other colors back in their jelly jar, then I put the mixed paint colors on a disposable palette and place it in the freezer until the next time I paint.  It preserves the paint longer.

My Big Bear built me this nice palette table setup about 10 years ago and I love it.  I turn on my iPod music and paint for hours.

I'll update you all with my progress as I work on it!

Hope you like my painting! Well, at least up to this point anyway.



SUSANSSIGNATURE


 

 

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Memories of a Bernina

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When I was 6 years old, my father bought my mother a wonderful gift for Christmas - a Bernina Sewing Machine.  My mother loved to sew and prior to her Bernina, she had a trusty black Singer sewing machine that she used often.



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My father knew that she would enjoy a top-of-the-line machine and they both went shopping for just the right one.  For Christmas that year, he bought the best of the best - a Bernina 730 Record.  It was the first of its kind to do embroidery and had over 20 stitches as well. 



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It came with an attached organizer for thread, bobbins, presser feet, and other tools.

It came in a nice hard case too.  It was my mother's dream machine.

  


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For over 30 years, my mother enjoyed the many hours sewing on her Bernina.  She made clothes, drapes, linens, dolls, gifts, and more. 



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My memories of my mother sitting at her Bernina sewing are numerous.  I used to pull up a chair beside her when she sewed, and watch as she worked with the fabric and patterns, and made me dresses and tops and pants. 



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Most importantly, I recall with great clarity the look on my mother's face during those hours of sewing.  She was focused and happy and seemed to be in her element.

My grandmother, Margaret (My mother's mother) was also very creative.  She made quilts and clothes for my mother and my mother's sister, Helen.  She also had her own brick and mortar milliner's shop where she made and sold hats.  She was quite the entrepreneur for her time!



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Well, about 7 years ago, my mother sold her Bernina to my brother's wife, Marsha, and Marsha has been enjoying this amazing machine ever since.  The Bernina 730 Record is a workhorse.



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For the past 5 years or so, I have occasionally stopped by eBay and Craig's list looking for a Bernina 730 Record (1965) in as nice condition as my mother's machine, and I occasionally came across a machine like hers, only they weren't working or very worn and almost damaged.



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As luck would have it, I popped over to eBay about 2 weeks ago and came across a Bernina 730 Record from 1965 in beautiful condition.  It was missing the original foot pedal and the knee control lever, but the presser feet were there.  The seller had a foot pedal with the machine but it was broken, unfortunately.

The case was in excellent condition as well.  I was hooked.  I talked to my mother about it and she agreed that we would share in the cost and bring this baby home.  We won that auction and yesterday I received my vintage gem.



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It is about 40 lbs so I had Big Bear set it up in my sewing room.  I love the color of it!  That creamy-olive tone that looks so nice.  It is in excellent condition.



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The model # confirmed that it was one of the rare versions manufactured in 1965.  The same year as my mother's Bernina.

I have her set up in my sewing room.  She looks so pretty.  I can't wait to hear her hum.  She needs a name, don't you think?  Well, and a working foot control too.  I can't think of a name for her and would like your help. 

What name should I give this wonderful Bernina lady from 1965? 



SusansThreadSignature


Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Mysterious Boat

For the last several months I have been working on 2 commissioned paintings, and in the last 2 weeks decided to get the smaller of the two out of the way.



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I was requested to paint "The Mysterious Boat" by Odilon Reddon.  Having never heard of this artist, I did my due diligence and researched his work.  Bertrand-Jean Redon, better known as Odilon Redon (April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916) was a French Symbolist painter, printmaker, draughtsman and pastellist.

"My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined."

Redon's work represent an exploration of his internal feelings and psyche. He himself wanted to "place the visible at the service of the invisible"; thus, although his work seems filled with strange beings and grotesque dichotomies, his aim was to represent pictorially the ghosts of his own mind. A telling source of Redon's inspiration and the forces behind his works can be found in his journal A Soi-même (To Myself). His process was explained best by himself when he said:

"I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased."


This is my first encounter with this artist of the late 19th - early 20th century.  His work is interesting although I wouldn't classify him as one of my favorite artists.



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The Mysterious Boat was the painting I was asked to render with my interpretation. I notice that not only does the original image look different from the original painting online, so does my image.  I don't think mine is as saturated as this image.

Anyway, this is my painting and what I've been doing this week!  I hope you like my interpretation of Reddon's painting.



SusansButterflySignature


Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Creative Stroll

Do you find that you end up running off on a journey of a thousand miles on the internet?  You end up somewhere totally unrelated to the beginning of your journey?  You forget where you were going in the first place?  Welcome to my day.

I can't remember what I was looking for, but I happened across some interesting websites and I wanted to share them with you ...



Letterpress address cards

Take these letterpress address cards for instance.  Simple.  Creative.  Organized. Done.  I love them. They are made by 1canoe2 who has a store on Etsy.



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I love feeling like I stumbled across something unique, even if it is just address cards.  What caught my attention about these, though, is that the text is letterpress.  So, I got to thinking ... how can I create something with letterpress quality?  How is it done? I started searching, and this is when I find myself running off on a journey across the internet completely unrelated to why I was there in the first place.



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That's when I discovered Three Red Hens Blog and started learning about how Letterpress is created and how it can be done at home.

I learned a lot from Erika's 3 tutorials and promised myself that one day I would take the time to try this creative process, and that I would also commit to becoming more proficient at learning Adobe Illustrator.



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From Erika's blog, that took me to Mike's Sketchpad and a tutorial on the Anatomy of a Vector illustration.  Great post!

If only I was as good at Illustrator as I am at Photoshop, well, I'd have less time on my hands than I do now.

That's the one thing I wish I had - more time.  More time to pursue creative ideas.  More time to spend with friends.  More time to learn new things.  More time to travel.  More time to sleep.  Face it, I just need more time - we all do.

So, no, I'm not going to pursue another creative adventure in letterpress, but I am going to keep it in the back of my mind for when that day comes that I need to create something special on card stock and want to use letterpress.  But!  You can learn it!!

I don't think there is anything online that you can't learn on your own if you try.  I've learned web design, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Wordpress, TypePad, and more online - in my own time.  Go run off on a tangent and take a journey of thousand miles around the net in search of your next big idea!

In the meantime, I think I might just buy those address cards.

SusansThreadSignature

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Yes, I Have Better Things To Do Than To Posterize

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But hey!  It was fun!  And that's what artist's do - have fun, right?  Who cares if I have about 10 loads of laundry to get done, or dishes to clean, or carpet to vacuum, or paintings to work on.  I was inspired by the original artist of the Obama Hope Poster, Shepard Fairey.



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Have you seen his other work?  Or heard about him?  I love his work because he reminds me of Peter Maxx, and I love Peter Maxx.

Obey-thumb Frank Shepard Fairey (born February 15, 1970) is an American contemporary artist, graphic designer, and illustrator, having emerged from the skateboarding and street art scene - who would have guessed.  He first became known for his "Andre' the Giant Has a Posse" (...OBEY...) sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic supermarket tabloid the Weekly World News.  

His work became more widely known in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, when he created the campaign poster "HOPE" for Barack Obama.  The Institute of Contemporary Art (where he is pictured above) calls him one of today's best known and most influential street artists.

Shepard Fairey's work is included in the esteemed collections at the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Musem of Modern Art in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  

So there you have it.  I may not have been posterized by Shepard Fairey, but I had fun creating my own personal version of his famous poster.

Want to posterize yourself?  Go HERE and have fun!

SUSANSSIGNATURE


 

 

Friday, March 04, 2011

New Websites - New Journey

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Hey!  Just wanted to share with all of you the work I have been doing the last couple of months.  As you know, Big Bear is still out of work, but that doesn't mean we've been sitting around sulking.  To the contrary.  We've been busy designing and building our "web & blog design" business called "Red Easel Designs."  

It all started when I decided that I wanted to have more control over the design and functionality of my blogs "Raisin Toast," "Red Easel," and "Vaughn Fine Art."  I wasn't satisfied with the design and functionality of these sites and did not want a "templated" look for any of them.  That said, I got busy learning how to code and design - in my free time.  

It took several years, but I finally got to the point that I was designing blogs and sites for friends and family in addition to changing my own frequently.  Next thing I knew, I was featured in the 2010 book "TypePad for Dummies" for great design and functionality.  

Moving on, I started to get requests from readers and others who ran across my name on Six Apart, TypePad, or Get Satisfaction (Six Apart account).  From there, I started building a small business of my own in web design and it is growing rapidly.

Fortunately, as a result of learning web design, we have started to bring in some much needed cash flow for our family and expenses, at least until Bob becomes situated in a better job.

And it doesn't stop there!  I've been busy on commissioned paintings and crafts like those laptop sleeves I wrote about recently.  

Anyway, I wanted to share with you the sites that I have recently built and designed on the WordPress platform:



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Red Easel Designs - my site for web and blog design, and web designer tutorials for Wordpress, coding, and TypePad.  With this site, I wanted it to be fresh, clean, and simplistic.  However, I wanted enough functionality to keep my readers coming back for fresh ideas for their own sites and blogs.  

So, I incorporated my own personally designed icons for Facebook, Twitter, Email, and RSS; I created a functional footer with a neat red background.  I didn't make it too busy, and I made sure that I began the process of writing posts on web design, Wordpress, and TypePad best practices in coding and design.  

I hope you will look around Red Easel Designs and take a look at my work as a web designer and how far I've come on my designer journey.

 



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Vaughn Fine Art - my site for sharing my paintings, sketches, and all of my artwork - also built on the Wordpress platform.  I wanted my site to be "different."  I wanted it to have lots of interaction and functionality.  Portfolio sites tend to be too static and bland, and although the attention should always be on the work, I wanted something more without detracting from my paintings.  I think I achieved that with this design.  

If you visit my portfolio, click on the images or pages.  See where they take you.  Stroll around.  Visit different paintings or drop-down menus.  Now, not all the links in the drop-down menus are connected the way I want them, but most are, so I don't mind if you click to your heart's content.  If you get to a page with a comment box, I'd love for you to reply and I hope you like my new portfolio and web design for Vaughn Fine Art.

I love TypePad and that is the platform for this blog and also for my site for visual artists - Red Easel, however, I knew that if I wanted to expand my customer base and capabilities, I had to learn the Wordpress platform.  I'm happy to say it isn't that difficult at all going from HTML/CSS to PHP/MySQL/CSS, although I still haven't completely figured out "why" PHP is so much more capable than just HTML/CSS - but I'm sure I'll have a better understanding soon enough.

I hope you like my new websites and will visit and comment on them as well.  It's important to me to know what my readers and friends think of my work as I aim to please.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you have a great weekend!

SusansButterflySignature

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Laptop Sleeve For My MacBook

Today I was productive.  I've been procrastinating making my own laptop sleeve because I didn't have a pattern (not that I needed one really) and after looking around the web for the right instructions (because I don't have confidence in myself to do these things without instructions) I finally gave in to my will to do it and I made the dang thing.

I sometimes get turned around in my head when it comes to putting in zippers and linings and padding, and yet, I did it all in less than 90 minutes. Go figure.



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First step was measuring my laptop.  I wrapped my tape around the long side and took the measurement. 32 1/4"



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Then I measured the short side. 22 1/2" (I have a 17" MacBook Pro).



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After taking the measurements, I wanted to be sure I had some room inside the sleeve.  I'm not very impressed with the laptop sleeves you can buy retail.  They are awfully tight and difficult to manage.  That's another reason why I wanted to make my own.  I picked this cotton fabric from my stash for the lining. 

I wanted my sleeve to have the folded edge at the bottom and stitched at the sides because I wanted the sleeve to insert from the short side, not the top.  So, I folded the fabric and after dividing the measurements in half (16 1/8" x 11 1/4") I added 2 inches to each measurement (18 1/8" x 13 1/4") and this would be my final cutting dimensions.  I cut out a piece of lining fabric (18 1/8" x 13 1/4") and a piece of fabric from my exterior fabric with the same dimensions.



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I didn't take pictures of the entire process because I was still unsure of myself and I wanted to make one all the way through before I take pictures and post the instructions here for you to make your own!  I added the zipper having cut it to 1 1/2" past each edge.  I also left a little bit of an opening (about 1") on the sides just under the zipper for easier access.



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I love it!  I like the red plaid on the inside and the floral on the outside.  I also really like the textured, somewhat quilted looking upholstery fabric.  I purchased a remnant from Hancock Fabrics.  The remnants are great for making handbags and laptop sleeves!



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And my laptop fits perfectly. 



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It looks so cozy in there, don't you think?  I purchased some auto interior foam from Hancock too for the padding.  Perfect.  Just a note: if you ever make your own laptop sleeve, do NOT use fleece as the lining or padding!  It sets off an electrical charge that could screw up your computer.



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Isn't it pretty?



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After I finished I thought I should at least take a picture of the padding I used inside the laptop sleeve.  You can usually find this at your fabric store (not quilt shops).  It is an automotive foam, mid-weight, that they put in ceilings of cars or something like that.  Works for me.



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I hope you like my laptop sleeve!  I was thinking of selling these in my e-boutique.  Can you give me an idea of what you would pay for a nice sleeve like this? 

SusansThreadSignature

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Wonderful New Studio

SewingRm5515This is my sewing room "Before."  I had the cutting table under the window
and that wasn't good for my Olfa cutting mats.

I've been cleaning up and cleaning out my house.  Getting rid of things we don't need or use and organizing too.  Of course, I started with my sewing studio - aka our sunroom.  One night last week, our neighbor called Big Bear and asked him if he could build him a workbench for his garage.  Big Bear is really good at projects like that and it got me thinking (I think too much if you haven't figured that out yet).  Anyway, I was working in my sewing studio and asked my honey if I could show him something in my studio and get his opinion.



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I had a tendency of running into the corner of the cutting table.

Big Bear wandered into my sewing studio and said "what's up sweetie?"  I said, "do you think you might be able to build me a simple cutting table with shelves beneath for storage?"  He said "I might be able to do that.  How about you draw me some plans of what you are thinking about with dimensions too."  I got right to work on it.



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This cutting table has served me well all these years.

The cutting table I had been using for 17 years had served its purpose well.  The only problem I have with it, really, is that it sticks out from the wall a little too far and I run into the corners often.  Also, it has legs on hinges that fold out to support the top left and right sections of the tabletop.  There is no storage beneath the table.  And I really need storage space.



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As you can see, the cutting table got in the way of the sofa too. 
Oh well, it is a great room for me to sew in and I love it.

So, that was the end of that conversation with Big Bear.  I had showed him some pictures to give him some ideas of what I was thinking of, but only if we could fit the cost into our budget.  We really can't afford anything extra right now, but I have been busy with sewing and crafting projects and selling them too and hoped that maybe we could afford something.  I spend a lot of time in my studio.





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Isn't it beautiful?! It's perfect and just the right size too!!

A few days later Big Bear went out to run some errands with Matthew and when he got home hours later he asked me to come outside because he wanted to show me something.  I wandered outside in my pajamas and slippers (I know, but hey, I'm comfortable), and there in the driveway was a beautiful butcher-block table with 3 drawers and 2 shelves for storage.  "Will this work as a cutting table?" Big Bear asked.  "Are you kidding!!  It's Perfect!!"  I couldn't believe it.  Then again, Big Bear has a tendency to do things like this.  He listens, and then the next thing you know, he comes home with a surprise.



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Really nice setup, don't you think?  I love the hanging clips under the shelves.

He was thrifty though.  Very thrifty.  He looked online at IKEA and found this Varde table in their kitchen section and was all set to go to IKEA and pick it up.  It sells for 349.00 (before tax) at their store, which really is reasonable.  I mean, this is a great table.  But, because that is a lot of money for us right now, he went on Craig's List and typed in Varde and would you believe some guy in Matthews was selling this very table and throwing in a set of wall shelving too for 275?  Plus, the table was already put together and in good condition. That is where Big Bear and Matthew went several days ago - to pick up this table and the shelving.



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The table is no longer in the way of the sofa! Yay!  Now my mother can lay down in the sun filled room in comfort and not worry about hitting
her head on the cutting table.

The only problem was that there was a finish on the butcher block top that wasn't looking so good and Big Bear sanded it off and cleaned up the table top for me.  Then they brought it into my studio and set it up and hung the shelves and I can't believe the difference!



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I love it.  I have more room to move around, more storage, and plenty of comfort too.

I am so excited about my studio now.  I had a nice studio before, but it is more functional and organized now.  I love it, and Big Bear gave me a great big bear hug and said "Happy Anniversary Sweetheart."  I sure do love this man.  Thank you so much Honey. 



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Everything in its place.  Neat, organized, and comfortable.

So, for the last few days, I have cleaned up and cleaned out my sewing studio, getting ready for the new year of projects, crafts, quilts, dolls, and more.  I am really proud of the way the room looks now and will be able to use the new Varde table to stand behind when I make crafting and sewing videos for the Her Channel!  I'm all set now.



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Now that I moved the little wood table under the thread rack, I have more room
and a place to put my craft books too!

Thanks for stopping by my studio!  I'm anxious to begin creating more fun projects, sharing tutorials with you, making craft videos and more.  It's going to be a fun year.

Happy Crafting!

SusansThreadSignature



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