Category Archives: Sewing & Design

In which I digress.

I just discovered a fiber & mixed media jewelry competition on whip up and this paisley project seemed perfect.

project process – this is where you show off a completed project – it can be your own design or something you followed from a pattern – the point here is to describe the project and tell us how you did it – this is not a step by step tutorial – rather a description of how you felt, alterations or additions you may have made, challenges and choices you met along the way during the making of this project.

My paisley pin was inspired by a ceramic pendant I got for a friend (from an artist at etsy). I love paisley and this pendant yelled her name. Then I discovered that I had paisley on the brain. Nothing doing but to make my own version.

The first fabric paisley I made had a slight miscalculation and I couldn’t get it turned right side out. It was a little too graceful (um… too narrow). It went in to the scrap bag and I made version two. I got it all stitched and ironed and then it sat for about 2 weeks while I worked on other things. When I sat down to work on it a few evenings ago, I had just a few leftover beads in a little cup on my worktable. Rather than go get out all of my boxes of beads, I decided to let my color choices be determined by those dregs from other projects. I tend to choose analogous colors (those that sit next to each other in a color wheel) so blue with green or blue with purple would be the first colors I would gravitate to. None of those in the leftovers, so I picked amber-brown (and I love it!) I pulled a few things off that just didn’t work (sorry, blue pearls) and cursed myself for not switching out the pink thread in the sewing machine when I stitched it in the first place. A little edging of gold beads covers up most of the pink threads you can see.

I was actually so pleased with the way this turned out that I had started doing a tutorial about how I did it. I am planning to post this over the next couple of weeks (not in time for the November 15 deadline for whip up) so I decided to post it as a finished project and I will continue my tutorial from here.

Paisley Deconstructed Project


I thought it might be fun to teach you all a bit about this piece, so I have decided to break it down in to steps and show you how it was made. This is really an exercize for me to think about how I work, so that I can teach it better.

So here is step one. Making the paisley. I started with a little piece that I stitched on the sewing machine to use as a base.

As it says under #1 – Stack it. I chose batik fabric for the back, silk dupioni for the front and a little scrap of quilt batting inside. I like using quilt batting or felt as an inside “lining” because it gives you a nice something to stitch in to and then I don’t have to go back and figure out a way to finish the edges – they are all stitched already. So stack up your fabrics. Use scraps that are just a bit bigger than you want your finished piece and leave them as rectangles to start. Be sure to put right sides of the fabric together (both should face inside).

#2 Stitch it. You can trace your shape on the lining fabric with a pencil. This will end up on the inside, so you don’t have to be very neat. Stitch all the way around your shape with a nice small stitch. You can do this by hand too if you want to.

#3. Cut it out. Cut out around your stitching leaving a tiny little seam allowance – 1/8″ or so. If you have a lot of curves, “clip them”, by making little cuts through that seam allowance perpendicular (opposite) to your line of stitching. This helps the curves turn smoothly when you turn it right side out.

#4. Make a slit. Probably the trickiest step. You want to cut a nice 1″ slit through just the backing fabric. Pull the layers apart and make a little clip. You can then use a seam ripper to slice a little slash through that fabric. This is the opening you will use to…

#5 Turn it right side out. Be patient and this will work great. Use a little crochet hook to help push out corners.

#6 Iron it. Use lots of steam and press everything smooth and flat. You won’t be able to iron it later and trust me, it’s worth doing this step.

Now you have a finished paisley or whatever ready for stitching. You can quickly stitch up the slash you used to turn the whole thing right side out. I usually do this later when I am sewing on a pin back or whatnot to the back side.

Class samples

I spent the weekend scrounging up and making a few new class samples for a series of classes I have been invited to teach in Idaho in April. I am thrilled that they have invited me. I wanted to expand my beginning embroidery class to include a little bit of bead embroidery too, so I made up these two samples to send off as photos for the class.

A Contest! Sewing Stories

In celebration of discovering my new-old favorite sewing machine, I am going to give away one of these little ornaments…
(your prize will be made up special just for you, so the fabrics won’t match this photo exactly)

To enter, just leave a comment about your favorite sewing or crafting tool (sewing machine, thimble, scissors or humble seam ripper? You tell me!) I will randomly draw for a winner on September 24.

I have a new love.

And her name is Singer.

My sewing machine is ailing. It made a horrible strangled noise and quit this afternoon. I had just spent all of a couple of evenings cleaning the lint out, replacing the needle and all of that good stuff. To her credit, she had started to squeak, which is what made me think that I ought to do a good cleaning, so I did perhaps have a little warning. I don’t think the problem is anything I did while cleaning (or putting her back together) but I am afraid, judging by the amounts of lint I pulled out, that a big blob of yuck has jammed in some plastic gears someplace I can’t get to. This machine and I have a love/hate relationship. I spent a lot of money on her. She has a nifty thread cutter (which stopped working after about a year). She has a wonderful walking foot that makes me smile while making quilts and a buttonhole gizmo that works like a dream. She has an overlock stitch which is super nifty and dozens of fancy embroidery kinds of stitches (which sadly I use next to never). However, she also has a tendency to eat and/or tangle threads at the beginning of whatever you are working on, no matter what you do to prevent it (no, holding the ends doesn’t work). She also likes to eat fabric if you get too close to the edge and groan about too many layers of fabric. She is computerized and so you can’t get to or see anything. She is a Babylock QC700.

Today I had declared that I was going to work on puppets. It is time to get my butt in gear if I am going to have them ready for holiday show season. I lost a couple of evenings to cleaning the Babylock and Andy is off playing with the boys today, so I made a pot of tea, got out the gingersnap cookies and was ready to cruise through the 60+ puppets that are cut out and waiting for me. Approximately 1/16th in to one puppet Babylock uttered her death cry. (I am pretty sure she’s not really dead, but it will cost me to get her revived.) I grumbled some choice words, shoved her under the end table and headed to the basement.

Several years ago, I got a couple of vintage machines as a “payment” for some costuming work I did. I got them home and admired them. Even cleaned up the 1952 Singer (so pretty) and figured out how to thread and wind bobbins. And then promptly put them away. Who needs an old Singer when you have the new fancy expensive machine. HAH! If I had only known! I am completely in love with the Singer. She sews beautifully. Best machine I have ever used. No thread tangling. Sews through layers of fleece like butter. Feed dogs that feed! Perfect tension. Fast – twice what my Baby lock can do! I finished something like 30 puppets just this afternoon. I may make fun of myself later for making all of this fuss, but for now I will just enjoy that new machine buzz.

Book Reports


Aimee Ray @ dreamfollow.com has been in my list of bookmarks for years. Her paintings and little stitched pieces are charming and I sometimes just wander the website on gloomy days for a pick me up. I ordered her new book from her etsy shop and I am delighted. The illustrations are lovely. It really is a book for beginners, but anyone could learn the stitches from her clear diagrams. The book has a “learn the stitches” section with photos and examples and is then followed by dozens of little projects you could finish in an evening or two. When I was 12, I would have checked this out from library every other week all summer long. It will come to embroidery classes with me from now on, I am sure.


I just got this today and although I haven’t done much more than flip through I know I am going to love it. First is that it is spiral bound and will lay flat in the table in front of you. This is huge if you need both hands to do the braid that you are trying to figure out. I have another of her books all about kumihimo and it is the best. In flipping, I discovered a section on the lucet (I have one that I haven’t figured out yet.) I will have more to report as I make my way through.