Category Archives: sewing

First Steps in Free-Motion Quilting

I decided I wanted to experiment with free-motion quilting. I want to draw with my sewing machine. This makes sense as a continuation of using embroidery as a line medium. It’s different, but related. Anyway, Sarah recommended this book.

book photo

So I borrowed it from the library. Right away I realized I didn’t have the right foot for my sewing machine, but my local quilting store had a darning foot that had been part of a trade-in, and the owner just…let me have it. It goes onto the machine completely differently from any of the other feet I’ve used, but my manual had directions. Once that was on, I followed the directions in the book for making first stitches on a practice pad.

free-motion quilting practice at amyhoodarts.com

I didn’t do too badly with the back and forth lines, but when I got to the swirls, some of those stitches were really uneven.

varying stitch lengths

Yikes–some really long ones in there! This is the point of practice, of course. Now check out the back of the practice pad.

Bobbin snot. It's a problem.

Bobbin snot. It’s a problem.

Whoa. But isn’t it interesting that it’s only in one direction? No bobbin snarls when I was pulling the fabric towards me, just when I was pushing it away. Hmm. I went to the trouble-shooting section of the book and tried the easiest-sounding solution first–I raised the feed dogs back up. And this is what happened:

better back2

 

The first lines have some loops on the back. Again, checking the book, I adjusted the needle tension and then continued on. Much better! That seemed to fix things.

I wanted to share all this because learning something new requires practice and trial and error, and I wanted to show these first wobbly steps. What I want to be able to do and what I can do at this moment are very far apart indeed, but the only way to get from one to the other is to keep practicing.

I’m linking up with Jen for Making + Listening, even though I didn’t title it that way. As for the listening part, it’s been all Phil and Paul and the Tour this week–one of my favorite times of the year.

Making + Listening::13/2014

This week I finished 13 zip pockets, to add to the pile to take to a craft fair later this month.

stack of finished pockets

It’s so satisfying to finally get to the point of turning them right-side out and seeing them complete.

stamped + embroidered zip pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Some nautical-themed pouches and two more trees.

I like to have a mix of stamped and embroidered, and I like to change up the colors.

embroidered pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Chickens! Flowers!

And it’s nice to have some varied sizes.

stamped and embroidered pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Once the fair is over I’ll update the Etsy shop and pay it a bit more attention. Dust off the shelves and whatnot.

As for listening…birds, World Cup, Pandora, and my kids. How’s your week been going?

Making + Listening::12/2014

I’m joining in with Jen this week to share a hat I sewed up Tuesday night, using this pattern.

Denim sun hat at amyhoodarts.com

My husband hunted around in his closet when he heard I was looking for denim for this and found a too-big pair of jeans with a rip in the knee. I wasted no time in cutting out the pattern pieces. The hat, by the way, is reversible. Presto-chango.

reversible sun hat at amyhoodarts.com

The cotton fabric is from stash. I bought it because I liked it and as soon as I saw the hat pattern I knew what I’d bought it for.

By the way, I think this is the first time I’ve posted a picture anywhere since my hair was cut in April. I wanted it about collar-bone length and neatened, and after almost three months’ of growing time, it’s still this short. (With layers! That I didn’t ask for!) But I’m okay with it now. It just had to grow for a couple of months first.

I’ll be making more of these hats, I’m pretty sure. I went to the local thrift store Wednesday morning and bought a large pair of jeans for $5. I had a twinge of guilt for planning to cut into perfectly good jeans, but I figure at least the money goes to the attached food pantry.

As for listening, I’ve been enjoying streaming Pandora through my cell phone and playing it via Bluetooth in the car. As I told my kids yesterday, when I was a kid, our family car didn’t even have a cassette player. It was radio or nothing.

“Did you have Internet?”

“Nope.”

“Wow. You’re that old?”

Making + Listening::10/2014

pockets in progress at amyhoodarts.com

This week I have been making basic pockets. That’s a stack with zippers sewn in, waiting to be top-stitched and sewn up (which took place about nine hours after I took the photo; I mostly sew at night after my youngest is in bed). Along with last week’s chicken, this stack contains more embroidery, some stamped images (you can see the bottom edge of an anchor), and some that are both stamped and embroidered (four more trees in various colors). I’m waiting until after this weekend before adding anything new–including the cards and notebooks that didn’t sell at last weekend’s fair–to the shop, because I’m meeting with a local shop owner on Saturday to see about consignment. (The store that carried items last year closed around Christmas and I figured it was time to look into doing that again.)

As for listening, like many parents of young children, I have been listening to my kids sing this. My 5yo especially belts it out, dressed in both her blue sparkly capes (this one layered under this one). “Let it Go” has been stuck in my head all week. Sometimes I belt it out too, when I just can’t hold it back anymore…

Linking up with Jen again this week.

DIY Paper Bag Binge

A couple of days ago I realized I ought to have merchandise bags of some sort if I’m selling at a fair. There isn’t any place that I know of locally where I can buy 25 or so flat paper bags, and I decided I didn’t want to pay for shipping, which can quickly get steep because of weight. So I figured I’d just make some. Several places we ordered from for Christmas use brown kraft paper as box filler, so I cut it to size and sewed up some bags.

sewn paper bags at amyhoodarts.com

I don’t have many things that need even that large of a bag, though, so I only made six of those. I made twenty paper bags out of map pages, though.

map paper bags at amyhoodarts.com

Turns out making these is like eating popcorn. It was hard to stop. The Internet has many tutorials for these; I happened to use this one at Urban Natural History. The paper is from a road atlas that Dawn sent me when she was cleaning things out before her latest move. Its pages are the perfect size!

I’ve no idea how many bags I might need or how many sales I may make. This is a big experiment. My 9yo thinks these bags are fantastic–and I have to agree with him. A big plus is that all these bags used materials I already had in the house. Perfect!

Craft Fair Announcement + Some Making

For those of you who are local, I’ll have a table at The Compass School’s Eco-Fair. Relevant info is on this flyer.

The Compass School Eco Fair flyer at amyhoodarts.com

I’ll be selling zippered pockets, of course, along with stamped Moleskines, stamped/printed blank cards, and possibly some matted prints. I sewed quite a few pockets last month, so this past week I’ve been busy with other things.

bunting + stamped notebooks at amyhoodarts.com

Up top is a portion of a bunting I stamped and sewed. It has eight of those triangles altogether, each with a different summery stamp. This is ultimately for the slider in our dining room, which right now is decorated with felt spring flowers on a crocheted vine. I like to change it up seasonally, but last year those flowers stayed up all summer. But I’m also going to use this to decorate my table at the fair.

Below are some small stamped Moleskines. I carved the house stamp a while ago but I don’t think I ever shared it, so here’s a close-up.

hand-carved house stamp at amyhoodarts.com

Finally, I’ve been painting rocks. I thought it would be nice to have some low-priced items that might appeal to kids, since it’s a school fair. These aren’t quite done yet. They’ll all get a coat of gloss acrylic varnish.

painted rocks at amyhoodarts.com

I’m not quite sure what to charge for these. Materials cost next to nothing, but of course they do take time (and very, very tiny brushes). Any ideas?

It’s in the Details {Shop Update}

I’ve added some new pencil pockets and basic pockets to the shop, some of what I’ve been working on the past couple of months, here and there. For instance, when I bought some manic-fish fabric for my 9yo’s jammie pants, I bought an extra yard to play with. I decided to use it as embellishment, like so:

The lining is the same fish fabric. That’s one of the details I like to pay attention to–the fabric I use to line the pockets. I want it to match, to complement the outside, to be inviting in its own right. Lining this denim pocket with the fish was an obvious choice, but even when the choice isn’t obvious, I take my time with it. This green batik fabric goes nicely, I think, with this embroidered tree.

Many years ago, before I began sewing, I ordered a custom-made project bag using adorable elephant fabric. (I love elephants.) The seller never mentioned lining fabric, and I didn’t know to ask. When the bag arrived, the lining was a floral that I didn’t like at all, and it didn’t even match the outside. I have never used that bag–I just don’t like unzipping it and seeing a pattern I don’t like. All my shop photos show the lining. If you buy a bag, maybe you’ll be the only one to see the lining, but you need to like it. You should unzip your bag and smile.

In the photo above you can also see the top-stitching next to the zipper. That keeps the fabric where it belongs, instead of catching in the zipper. This is something I learned from making pockets for myself. I love a good top-stitch. Such an important detail.

I also hand-sew the opening in the lining. When I machine-stitch the bag together the right sides are facing each other, and I have to leave an opening so I can turn it right-side out. I could machine-stitch that closed, too, but it leaves a little bit of a fold line. It’s obviously different. And yes, it’s on the inside, and you won’t notice it unless you know to look, but I think it looks nicer to hand-sew it.

sewing by hand

The stitching is impossible to find when it’s complete. It’s a small, invisible detail, but it looks nicer to the only person who’s ever going to see the inside, and that’s the person using it.

My sales are still small. I have the time, while I’m creating, to think about the eventual (hoped-for) owners of what I make. Because I’m crafting by hand, it feels like creating a gift. The same care goes into it. Why? Because I think we all deserve it.

superstar at amyhoodarts.com

Because you’re a superstar (yes you are): Superstar basic pocket at amyhoodarts.etsy.com

Sewn Embroidered Wrist Cuff

I have several sewn and embroidered wrist cuffs that I made a few years ago.

sewn embroidered wrist cuffs at amyhoodarts.com

They’re a fun alternative to bracelets and fairly quick to make, which is why it’s hard to explain why it’s been so long since I made one. So I finally sewed up another one this past weekend.

"this day" wrist cuff at amyhoodarts.com

My favorite part of these is how they are little canvases, ready to be embellished any way I want. For this one, I embroidered text–”this day.” This is a sort of mindfulness mantra for me. When I was feeling the worst of PTSD I was simultaneously spun around by fears from the past and anxiety for the future. I tried to learn to focus on the day I was in. Now I often check in with myself: Was this day a good one? Did I laugh? Did I spend time with people I love? Did I create something?

It goes deeper than that, though, in a way I’m not sure I can explain. Part of what I’ve had to work on learning is identifying where my feelings and reactions are coming from. Am I feeling fear or anxiety from a situation going on right now? Or is something in the present reminding me of something from the past, bringing up feelings and reactions that aren’t actually related to the present situation? This is hard. I need to remind myself to bring myself back to this day.

Add to this the fact that I am very grateful for this day, all of them strung together the way they are to make my life. I’ve been consciously practicing gratitude since I was in college twenty years ago; when things felt dark, I made a habit of writing down three things every day that make me happy. This practice of noting really does help. So this bracelet has layers of meaning–a reminder of gratitude and mindfulness, to come back to the present, to be aware of this day I’m in. Not in the past, not worrying over what may happen in the future, just here right now, in this day.

modeled wrist cuff at amyhoodarts.com

Do you have a short phrase that brings you back to center or is meaningful to you in some way?

Sketchbook Satchel

A couple of months ago, I bought a yard of Japanese cotton on sale and decided it would become a bag for me. And finally, it has–one that could hold anything, but right now, I’m considering it a bag for my sketchbook, pens/pencils, and paints.

sketchbook satchel at amyhoodarts.com

I didn’t use a pattern for this, just my knowledge of how bags go together and an idea of the size and pockets that I wanted. I knew I wanted a drawing pad up to 9×12″ to fit into it, I wanted a pocket on the outside for pencils, etc, I wanted it lined, and I wanted the strap to be long enough to go across my body.

sketchbook satchel at amyhoodarts.com

The strap is actually a little longer than I need, so I knotted it. I decided to err on the side of too long, which is easier to adjust than too short.

sketchbook satchel at amyhoodarts.com

Yes that stray blue thread on the left annoys me. It was just a hitchhiker but I didn’t notice it before snapping the photo!

For the lining, I used a discarded button-down shirt of my husband’s. (Both the lining and the Japanese cotton were a bit wiggly to work with.) It’s been hanging in my closet waiting for repurposing for quite a while now, and it immediately came to mind as a good pairing for this cotton’s pattern.

I cut the lining pieces from the back of the shirt, but I carefully removed the pocket from the front of it and sewed it onto one of my lining pieces.

sketchbook satchel at amyhoodarts.com

It’s just the place to slip my cell phone.

I love this bag and I love that I made this bag. It’s a bit of a rush to have an idea in my head and use my sewing machine to turn it into reality. Pieces of flat fabric and a zipper, turned into a bag I can fill with art-making supplies, sling across my chest, and be on my way. Exactly what I wanted, because I designed it. So happy-making.

Making + Listening::8/2014

Much making going on this week, but not as much as I’d like. I am in a mood of really, really wanting to hole myself up in the studio and create, but of course, that’s not how it works. And this morning my husband left for Singapore; he’ll be back for a quick layover next weekend before leaving again for another few days. So the next couple of weeks will have little spare time, but I have a feeling I will really need to work to get in the making, because it will help.

First up, a pile of finished pockets. I began sewing these a while ago, got as far as sewing the green zippers halfway in, then one thing and another…anyway, I got them all done this past weekend.

finished zip pouches at amyhoodarts.com

None of these are in the shop yet… but I also cut a bunch more pieces this week, mainly for pencil pockets.

pile of cut fabric at amyhoodarts.com

I also watercolored a package of ATCs and stamped them all with hand-carved stamps. I’m offering a stamp-carving class locally and these are to help promote it at an event there this weekend.

stamped ATCs at amyhoodarts.com

As for the listening, I downloaded Spotify and am taking advantage of being able to listen to entire albums. The other day I listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Fear, which I don’t own digitally, just on cassette. I wore that thing out. I’m not sure listening to it was actually a good idea, as it whooshed me straight back to my college dorm room, with the closet door on which I chalked the lyrics to “Walk on the Ocean.” (I just admitted that publicly!) Let’s just say you couldn’t pay me to go back to 1992.

Linking up with Dawn again this week! Do share–what are you making? Listening to anything good?