Sunday, December 14, 2014

New venture...

Hello! So next to sewing, one of my favorite things is teaching others how to sew. Several weeks ago I came up with an idea to start making video tutorials. I enlisted my husband-who is a natural with all things technology. And I have my first video!!! This video tutorial is very specific, I'm not expecting it to reach a large audience with this one, but we wanted to do something small just to see what exactly our starting point was. I hope to do many tutorials on garment sewing techniques and quilt making in the future. This particular video is on removing the fabric from the Brother 2340CV Cover Stitch Machine.
Anyways, I hope you continue to watch this blog and my YouTube channel (Sew Illuminated) for more video tutorials!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Knit Tunic for the Holidays

It has been awhile since I've completed a garment sewing project (try last fall!). I had some pretty blue knit fabric and Colette's Guide to Sewing Knits calling my name so I decided to venture in to some new techniques this past week :)

This garment had a lot of firsts for me. I used my serger to sew up all of my seams. In the past, I used my serger primarily for just finishing my seams. Let me say, this is the only way I'm going to sew up knits from now on. It is doing two steps in one- sewing the seam and finishing them at the same time. You do not need a fancy serger either. Mine was the standard Singer model that my parents got me from WalMart for Christmas a few years back.

My favorite new thing that I got to try on this garment was my mom's coverstitch machine!!! Seriously, playing with that thing was like Christmas morning...I used the machine to sew up the hems of the tunic (on the bottom of the skirt part and on the sleeves) and to topstitch the neck band in place. It was different than anything that I have ever used before and my topstitching is a little wavy-but I love the overall effect of the white stitching on the blue fabric.

The coverstitch machine that I used is the Brother 2340CV model. You can get it on Amazon:

It has a different way that you have to pull out and cut the threads after you finish stitching, but it's not too bad once you figure it out. Speaking of which...I plan on doing a video tutorial on that subject on my YouTube channel, Sew Illuminated, very soon. My husband has been working really hard to set up my sewing studio and combined with his techie skills, I hope to be bringing a bunch of sewing tutorials your way-so be watching for that! :)

When I started this project, I knew I wanted to do it right, so I read Colette's Guide to Sewing Knits from front to back, and it is a must for any seamstress's library:

I normally follow a sewing pattern very strictly, but this book gave me the confidence to try new things that weren't suggested in the pattern (McCalls 6398). I had sewn a top from this pattern before and I feel like this recent one looks a lot less "homemade" on the inside. There are several different ways and schools of thought when it comes to sewing garments, and one of my favorite things is just trying something new. In addition to serging the seams and using the coverstitch machine, I used a clean finish binding for the neckline (pg.136 of Colette's Guide to Sewing Knits). I liked this way better than just turning down the neckline and stitching it.

These two pics are of the dress reversed so that you can see the serging on the inside.

Coverstitching on the hem

Clean finish binding for the neckline

Needless to say, I enjoyed this project and I hope it gives you the inspiration to try your hand at sewing some knitwear too :) In the meantime, be watching for my first video tutorial that I will be posting soon!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Something a little different :)

It is that time of the year again where it is cold outside and my perfect winter's evening is spent by the fire with a good book or knitting project and snuggling my favorite person and our favorite fur children. I don't work on knitting projects that often. But sometimes I see some inspiration on Instagram and that follows some browsing on Ravely, followed by a compulsive yarn buy on or a trip to JoAnn's.

Knitting is not something that I am used to. I picked it up once a couple of years ago and the "scarf" was a hot mess! Then, last year, my cousin (who is an amazing knitter) came to stay with me and she brought her knitting project with her. I was so mesmerized by it, I had to learn (properly)! She taught me the basic skills such as casting on, the knit stitch, and the purl stitch. Then as I was looking for knitting websites online, I came across Craftsy and downloaded Stefanie Japel's Knit Lab class and it taught me all of the beginner level skills that I needed to know. If you have never tried Craftsy, it is wonderful! The classes are an investment but I have learned sooooo much from them.

I don't take on too many knitting projects because it is still really foreign to me. And foreign=frustrating, sometimes! I am the world's slowest knitter, my tension is never consistent, and whenever I start a new project my hands feel big and clumsy and awwwwkwarddd...But I do delight in finishing a project (no matter how mediocre it looks lol).

Which leads to me to my latest finish! My husband has been desperately looking for a warm, manly looking scarf for about a month now. When finally it dawned on us-why don't I make one for him? He wanted one fast so I thought I would give loom knitting a try. My boss had completed a scarf with this technique and it looked great and she said it took no time at all. So I gave it the good ole college try....and I really love it! I completed it in less than a week and it was over 5ft long-that's a big deal for me!

If you want to learn loom knitting, don't try to follow the instructions in the box-they are horrible! I got on YouTube and found the following tutorial:

While I'm on the subject of finished knits, here is a beanie that I made for Ryan this past spring. It wasn't made on a loom, but it was my first in-the-round knitting project:

If you are a knitter and are on Ravelry-let's be friends! :) My username is jkemper8710.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Finally finished... :)

Hello, my fellow crafters! Today was a beautiful fall day and it was a perfect opportunity to get pictures of my most recent finished project.

I love my parents- they have always been so supportive of any of my endeavors. My dad is a watchmaker and he has his own workshop. He loves that I quilt, and this year he asked me to start making quilting projects to decorate his shop with. This most recent finish is of 3 quilted panels that are going to be "doors" to one of his cabinets.

The main fabric is the Indelible collection by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics (can you tell a trend here? I love AGF!!).  The pattern is semi my own. I was inspired by Jaybird Quilts' Giggle pattern and I used her Sidekick ruler to cut out all of the diamonds. I have always loved the quilts that have a pattern that kind of separates out the low volume fabric from the color saturated fabric. This is my first project in doing so, and I love the effect! I have taken a couple of Angela Walter's Craftsy quilting classes and they of course were the inspiration for my quilting. I used straight line/dot-to-dot quilting in each of the diamonds of the color saturated diamonds. Then I used swirls in the low volume colored diamonds. I love alternating between the dot-to-dot quilting and the dense, free motion designs. I believe the dense swirls in the low volume fabrics helped them to fade more into the background, while the minimal, "highlighting" dot-to-dot quilting in the color saturated parts helped the color to pop.

I've been working on this project for several months now (I believe I started back in July). This is the one thing that I sometimes "resent" about making quilts- it is such a big production! We live in the age of instant gratification and sometimes I get a project idea in my head and I want the finished project NOW! But then I have to come back and remember why I got into quilting in the first place. Each step of the process is a labor of love for me. Sometimes, just knowing that I have a project that I'm excited about waiting at home for me at the end of the day, is what keeps me sane. I love getting lost in the repetition of cutting out shapes and piecing. I love the design process that involves picking out fabrics that really build on top of one another and I love the mystery of the actual quilting part. Free motion quilting is still fairly new to me, so it is challenging to pick out a design that fits the quilt and then executing it. If there is one part that can still trip me up or frustrate me it would have to be getting the quilt sandwich made up right and then trying to quilt the whole thing. I started quilting a different project two nights ago and I had to stop because this quilt is one of the biggest I've put together so far and I'm not used to handling it all under the needle while trying to control the quilting design. And, that's okay, it's a learning and growing process- sometimes you just have to walk away from a project and come back to it later in a clearer, more positive state of mind.

In the age of Instagram and instant access to everyone else's projects on the world wide web, it can make your own projects seem pretty meaningless at times. I follow a lot of people on IG that are homemakers and have a little more flexible schedules to work on projects and they get to create more. I think that is GREAT and I hope to one day be one of them. But I'm in a season of my life where I have to work full time and I have other responsibilities that take higher priority to my creative endeavors. I really am doing everything to enjoy and make the most of this season of my life but sometimes, like I said, the world wide web makes me feel like I have very little to contribute. My purpose in talking about all of my "struggles" in all of this is just seem real here. I'm not saying that other people aren't real, but I'm saying it's easy to get caught up in other people's finished projects and victories and to think that "you aren't good enough/do enough." Everyone has struggles in their trade and if they are good, they've had to work really hard to get to where they are. A lot of time people only post the good things that they want you to see. So you don't ever really know what they went through to get there (not that they are intentionally doing that, it's just what you do as a natural human being). So if you are reading this and ever find yourself feeling that way- don't feel alone! Remember why you got into creating in the first place, turn off your electronic devices and get to your craft!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rock Candy Table Topper

I think that Jaybird Quilts is a genius quilt pattern designer! I have completed 3 of her patterns this year and they have all been great. She has custom rulers that go with her patterns, and really they are the only ones I think I will ever need! Her instructions are always clear and complete with pictures.

I completed the Rock Candy Table Topper pattern this past Spring and I gave it to my Aunt and Uncle as a (late) Christmas present. This pattern is great if you are looking for a fun and fast project to complete :)

The fabric is Leah Duncan's Meadow for Art Gallery Fabric. I believe the blue fabric is a P&B Textiles Colorweave print. You can't really tell from these pics, but I used a small leaf design in middle part for my quilting design. This was the first project that I quilted on my new machine and actually braved free motion quilting! I only had white thread and was in a time crunch so I didn't brave quilting the outside blue fabric. To finish, I made a scrappy binding with the same prints from the center. It takes a little longer to make scrappy binding, but I love how it pops!!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How to match the fabric's prints at a seam...

Sometimes when adding backing to your quilt, your fabric isn't wide enough or you have to make a backing out of scraps in order to not be wasteful. If you are feeling a little ambitious and a little extra fancy, then you may wanna take some time to match the prints on the fabric at the seam. Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to do so:

1) Here I am matching up the fabric at a vertical seam and working with the left piece of fabric first. For the left piece of fabric, I am squaring up the edge, being careful that I cut at the same part of the design all of the way down.
2) After I finished trimming the edge, I pressed back the edge by the amount of my seam allowance (I did half an inch because I thought it was the easiest).

3) Next, I laid the pressed edge over the right piece of fabric matching up the prints in the design.
4)After matching, I peeled away the left piece of fabric and marked a line where the left piece matched up with the right (I just used a regular fabric pencil).

5) Once my line was marked on the right piece of fabric, I ironed the edge of the fabric back to the marked line. 
6)  Next, I put the left piece and right piece together, with the right sides of fabric facing each other, and matched the creases from where they were pressed and then pinned in place.

7) Then, finally, I sewed the two layers together by following the ditch made from pressing/creasing the fabric. 

8) After sewing, I trimmed the one side of the seam down to roughly the same size as the other. And don't forget to press your seam open (from both the front and back) for a nice, clean, finished look! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Little Post On Thread Tension (Arrghh!)

Nothing makes me more frustrated (when sewing) than incorrect thread tension! Not knowing how to adjust your sewing machine can cause anyone to hate their machine and label it as "faulty." I have looked up several diagrams online in the past to help me resolve any issues and sometimes, even after my countless attempts, the tension still ceases to be adjusted correctly. Most diagrams will show you a picture and list only one tension (upper thread vs. bobbin thread) that needs to be adjusted. What I have discovered is that both normally need played around with. When the thread tension is perfectly balanced, the knot that forms between the upper thread and bottom thread settles, invisibly, between your two layers of fabric. When you find that knot on either the top side or the bottom side, then your tension is off. Here is my general rule:

*Knot showing on bottom layer of fabric: The upper thread is too loose and must be tightened (set knob on larger number). The bobbin thread is too tight and must be loosened (turn screw counterclockwise/left on bobbin case).

*Knot showing on top layer of fabric: The upper thread is too tight and needs loosened ( set knob to smaller number). The bobbin thread is too loose and needs tightened (turn screw clockwise/right on bobbin).

When you notice your tension is off, use scrap fabric to test adjustments of both the upper thread tension and bobbin thread tension until both sides of fabric show thread that is equally beautiful :)

When starting a new project you may have to test the tension if you are using a different type of fabric than used on the previous tension adjustment. Moving from a project made of cotton fabric to a project using silk are more than likely going to require different settings on your machine.

Some additional tips related to thread tension:

*When having trouble, make sure you ask yourself a few things before playing with the tension:
           ---> Is my machine threaded correctly?
           ---> Does my machine need cleaned and/or oiled?
           ---> Does my needle need changed?
           ---> Am I using two different types of thread for the upper and bobbin threads? (for example,                     one is cotton and the other is a polyester?)
*Also, I have decided against using my automatic thread cutter on my machine. It is a nice mechanism to have, but, I noticed sometimes that it will move the upper tension to a different position each time I cut the thread (which adds up pretty quickly when you are piecing a ton of little pieces for a quilt). Not to mention, the thread cutter almost always cuts it too short and I normally end up re-threading with each new piece I want to sew together (can I say ANNOYING?!).

So, if after you have gone through all of this and you are still having issues, I would recommend scheduling an appointment for your machine to have a little time away at "the spa" to be repaired.

Most importantly, don't get too frustrated with this process (like I have too much in the past). It will get easier the more projects you have under your belt. Always remember that sewing is a learning process and use every opportunity to get to know your sewing machine and refine your skills even further!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Helpful FMQ Tools

Quilt made by Angela Walters

There are a few tools that I have come across that makes your free motion quilting flow much more smoothly. One of my favorites is The Supreme Slider. It is a sheet made of Teflon that sticks to your machine. It has a single slit that is placed over the hole that the needle falls into during stitching. The slider reduces the friction between your quilt and machine making it much easier to glide the quilt along your design. For someone like me that carries all of the tension in my neck and shoulders, it makes a world of difference. The less strain on your muscles, the less likely you will fatigue them and have to stop early :) The cheapest one that I found was on Amazon:

Another tool that comes in handy are quilting gloves that helps you to grip onto your quilt better. I just use a pair of Fons and Porter that you can purchase for $5 at JoAnn's. I don't use them a lot now. I used them mostly in the beginning when quilting felt more foreign to me. They are very useful, but they can get in the way when trying to grab onto little things like thread. Sometimes I get tired of taking them off and on so when I feel like I'm really in the flow of things, I'll just take them off completely and set them aside. They are still good to have, though.

Useful item number three would be bobbin washers. I have not tried these yet but I plan on ordering my own set. Adding these into your bobbin case help prevent your bobbin thread from bunching up and breaking. They also help to prevent the bird's nests that can sometimes form on the back of your quilt (yucky!).

The most important tool of all is your sewing machine. If you are looking for a sewing machine specifically for quilting, make sure you really do your research. Last summer when I knew that I really wanted to get into quilting, I bought the first sewing machine that I found that had the basic fmq capabilities (ability to lower feed dogs and had a darning (fmq) foot that came with it). It was fine, but I knew I was never going to be able to quilt the way I wanted to without some major struggle (ain't nobody got time for that!). So here are some things you must consider when picking out a machine-
*the ability to drop the feed dogs
*darning (fmq) foot for free motion quilting
*walking foot for regular, straight quilting (you can still have cool/modern effects with a walking foot- I quilted my first three quilts with a walking foot and it's a great transition from never quilting at all to fmq)
*An extension table
*As much throat space as you can find! The throat space is the open space to the right of your needle. This was the biggest thing that my first quilting/sewing machine was lacking. I could barely fit my big quilts and my hand in there to comfortably quilt. The quilting machine that I currently have has 9in of space. I feel this is sufficient for me to feel comfortable while quilting.
*Also, fmq puts a lot of wear and tear on your machine. My first machine was a lighter, computerized model and I thought it was gonna blow up, it was shaking so much from my fmq attempts. So the second machine that I got was more industrial-made with metal parts (instead of plastic) and had the ability to sew at higher speeds.
I have the Brother Nouvelle 1500s. I am so pleased with it! I didn't have as big of a budget for a sewing machine so I had to find one that gave me the biggest bang for my buck. I couldn't be happier. I'm glad I didn't decide to buy a more expensive one. Janome and Bernina are both very popular (and very nice), but I couldn't justify financing a sewing machine (even if it is the love of my life! Just joking...).

Are there any other tools that you find helpful in fmq? Comment below, I'd love to hear from you :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Helpful Free Motion Quilting (fmq) Resources!

Let me start by saying that I was born without a single artistic bone in my body. I never realized that I could be creative until I started quilting this past year (made my first quilt in 2013). So here is a little disclaimer: If I can quilt, you can too!

I started sewing when I was ten. I was in 4-H and made a bunch of garments for projects. So when I took my first quilting class this past spring, the cutting and piecing portion of quilting seemed pretty intuitive to me. I fell in love with the process and how therapeutic it was. It offered me a peace and joy that garment making never did. Not that I don't enjoy garment making. If I had more time I would love to be able to sew all of my own clothes. Quilt making just feels more natural to me. It doesn't matter how my day has gone, if I come home and turn on music, sip on some rejuvenating coffee and start working on my current WIP I can get lost in a completely different world. Garment making is a means to a great end for me (look at my outfit!). But quilting is a realm where my hands just take over and all of the day's previous thoughts just melt away.

Enough on that little tangent...As I immersed myself on the world wide web I found the limitless possibilities for me in the creation of modern quilts. Along with modern quilts, comes free motion quilting. I was intrigued, but really scared. It was unlike anything I've ever done! I thought, I can't even draw a stick figure-how am I suppose to make designs on a sewing machine? My first attempts were absolutely pathetic! But I knew this was something that I wanted to learn. Although, I'm not even close to being a "pro" I'd like to share some of the resources/tips that I have found useful in this past year. 

First off, practice, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!! Although books, video tutorials, a new sewing machine, and other tools have helped, it has taken me almost a year of practice on scrap quilt sandwiches that I made before I was comfortable with fmq on an actual project. Along with practicing, remember to persevere and not to be too critical of yourself. It is very awkward at first, like you may already know. Not only are you trying to draw designs using a fast moving needle but you are probably trying to figure out your machine's tensions, and how to wrestle such a big quilt on a small machine. Another great way to practice is by doodling designs you want to learn. I got this great advice from Angela Walters. Doodling will help you get down a certain design and help to you to figure out how to consistently fill in all of the space on your quilt.  Maybe I'm watching tv, so I'll just pull out a sketchbook, colored pencils and bring up Pinterest on my Ipad and search for a quilting design I want to practice and get at it! Angela Walter's new book, Free Motion Quilting Workbook shows you how to go about that process.

My favorite sources of inspiration are Angela Walters and Leah Day. They are amazing quilters who have dedicated a lot of time to teaching people about this artform. One day I hope to be half as good as them! (Click on logos for links to their webpages)

They are great teachers and both teach a number of classes on Craftsy. The classes do cost money, but they are definitely worth the money. All of the classes I've taken have been very in depth and informational. They have given me the confidence to do things I don't think I really could have on my own.
If you are new to fmq and still haven't felt that "oneness" with your machine for fmq (I'm laughing in my head at the way I worded this because there are many times I wanted to throw my machine across the room) I would take Leah Day's class Free Motion Quilting A Sampler. It walks through foundational tips you need to know before diving in and presents 15 different designs. Make sure you use the link from her website because it gives you 50% off! (Click on picture for a link).

Once you feel a little less awkward with fmq I would progress to Angela Walter's classes that focus on different designs and how to incorporate them into your quilts. I'm currently enrolled in Dot-to-Dot Quilting and Machine Quilting: Small Changes, Big Variety (links in pictures).

These have been the most helpful teaching resources for me thus far. Stay tuned for my next post on some of the helpful products I use in fmq and as I talk about what to look for in a sewing machine for quilting :)
Happy quilting!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hello, everyone! This is my first official post on this blog. I'm super excited to start this and become more connected with my fellow crafters out there on the world wide web. I'd like to give a special shout out to my husband for helping (and by helping, I mean doing ALL of the work) to put together a presentable blog for me :)
My hopes are to share all of my quilting projects through this blog, but you will probably see the many other facets of my life on here too! This will probably include my best friend, my husband. We live in a small town and nothing is more important than our family (fortunately both sides live very close by) and our church. We are the crazy people who decided to have four dogs (three dachshunds, one boxer mix) but we love them and couldn't imagine an evening relaxing in our home without them! We are total foodies and always looking for something new to try. We love a good story and watch a good deal of movies. Although I like to dabble in many things (as far as crafting) my heart primarily lies in making quilts and getting absorbed in a good read :)

For my first post, I will share my most recent finish. It is the Lotus pattern by Jaybird Quilts.

With the exception of the backing, it was made entirely of the Art Gallery Fabric- Pat Bravo's Indie collection. Art Gallery is probably my favorite, but I really don't discriminate when it comes to hoarding fabric :)

This was my first experience free motion quilting on a full size quilt. It is not anywhere near perfect, but I'm happy with it! I never thought I would have gotten this far. I quilted leaf-like designs in all of the lotus flowers. I decided to not quilt any design within the triangles. I like the effect that has because it makes the triangles pop out of the quilt. I love the third dimension that quilting adds to a quilt. I just started quilting a little over a year ago. I was fine with the cutting and piecing because I sewed a lot of garments for 4-H projects. The quilting aspect was entirely new for me. It brought me a lot of frustration this past year trying to figure machine tensions, technique and channeling an artistic side to me I never thought I had- but I'm glad that I stuck with it. The whole process of making a quilt is not for the impatient and I've had to learn to slow down enjoy every aspect. That's hard in our world that is so production driven and when you feel like you only have so little time to work on your projects anyways. I'm loving it all so far, and I hope I can learn and be able to accomplish more!