Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Slow and Steady

There are times in sewing where going fast does not pay off.  A few years ago, our Row by Row was Slow and Steady. Ruth designed the row thinking that skillful quilters go slowly and carefully through the process.
The popularity of our new Simply Sixteen long arm quilting machine has made this an important point.  It does apply to all sewing machines. The machine can go really fast; so can a Maserati, but you don’t want to drive it around at 120 mph.  I was quilting using the Pro-Stitcher , and it was taking a long time, so I pushed the speed up. I was so pleased with myself that this was going to just whip through the quilting. But as my block progressed, it was missing all the key places I had lined up. By speeding up, I was not allowing the fabric and batting to return to their place after the needle pushed them out.  Curves and points also begin to pull in at faster speeds.  If you see the top thread pulling the bobbin thread up and in around curves, slow down. On a regular machine, going too fast can distort the fabric when the presser foot and feet dogs push the fabric along for the same reason- it needs a chance to bounce back.

 There are also mechanical reasons for not racing your engine. This is a finely tuned machine we want to last us for years, so we need to treat it gently. I get aggravated at my husband for how many times he gets his oil changed, takes the car in for service etc, but his car is going to last. My little car…probably not since I have only changed the oil once and don’t get that little hesitation checked out.  There is an alarm that goes off when you go faster than the stitch regulator is set for.  At that point, you will lose your even stitches, but you really don’t want to run your machine close to that. 

I used to think it was a compliment when my quilting teacher said,"wow, you sew really fast." Now I know she was trying to tell me to slow down. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

They Want What Color in the Nursery?

Many of us grew up dreaming of baby nurseries in pink or blue

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

So, when our children share their nursery plans and mention colors like brown or gray
for a baby blanket we are perplexed. But we are here to show you that those colors
make for a lovely baby space.

Still soft and sweet

Still some pink and blue for Grandma, but blended with browns and grays for Mom.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Quick Tip with Big Results

I learn little quilting tips all the time, working with such experienced quilters. This time it was one co-worker teasing another about whether she slapped her sashing on, or measured the length of the quilt, then cut the sashing to measure.  Just the day before I was discussing why a friend’s sashing had stretched and rippled at her long arm quilter’s. We had discussed placement (putting the longer side on first, then shorter). From the teasing, I picked up that you measure your side, cut the fabric to size, and pin it in place. In fact, pinning figures in to lots of solutions when quilting.
  • ·         How do you make points match? Pin.
  • ·         How do you keep your blocks the same size? Pin. (trimming to the block size helps, too)
  • ·         How do you keep your sashing from rippling? Pin.

Many quilt designs end up with fabric cut on the bias, so it is stretchy. Triangles are especially bad about this.
I admit guilt. As a relatively experienced sewist, I tend not to pin when sewing, but for accurate quilting I cannot wait to see how this tip improves my quilts.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Color Theory

Embrace basic color theory 
By Capi Saxton 
Some people just have a natural ability to put colors together, but for those of us that struggle 
to know the difference between coral and pink, using the color wheel may help.   
First it’s important to know some basics of color theory, such as the four primary schemes
Monochromatic, Complementary, Analogous and Triad.  
Monochromatic colors are color schemes derived from a single base hue and extended using 
shades, tones and tints. Projects in these tones often have a soothing effect – such as an 
all-blue project that evokes the feeling of water growing deeper in color.  
Complementary colors are pairs of colors that create the strongest contrast. Think about red 
and green for Christmas, or orange and blue for some sport teams. These colors stimulate the 
eye, making projects pop.  
Analogous colors are groups of three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. 
They are best used with warm or cool colors, creating a scheme that is less vibrant than 
complementary ones.  Think about red, orange and tangerine, which allow for a variety of 
tones but stay in the same color family.  
Triadic colors use three colors equally spaced around the color wheel. Triadic color schemes 
tend to be quite vibrant, even when using pale or unsaturated versions of hues. The colors of 
Halloween - orange, purple and green – are a popular triadic scheme because they bounce off 
each other, creating wide visual interest. 
Knowing these things can help you consider what feeling you want your project to encourage. 
When making projects for children or ones where you want to spark creativity, use triadic or 
complementary colors. Use monochromatic or analogous colors when you want to encourage 
calm or soothing environments.   
Fabric designers create entire lines that use these principles.  Whenever possible it is easiest 
to let them do the work and select from the collection they create.  But as always, our great 
staff is available to help you find just the right combination to make your project the best it 
can be.   
We have a color wheel in our shop and all of our staff has been trained to effectively use it 
when creating projects.  Please take a moment to allow us to help you find the right color for 
your project.  
Happy Stitching! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Ugly Duckling Turns into a Swan

This weekend, Ruth taught a class on Kaleidoscope quilts. She went to the sale room looking for a print with large repeats in a distinct pattern.
This lovely, but somehow ugly, print jumped out at Ruth. To test how it performs in a Kaleidoscope, She did the mirror test, by using the Magic Mirrors by Marti Michelle.

You won't believe the images. By sliding the mirrors around on the fabric at different angles, or the angle from her pattern, she can tell if the pattern will work with the Kaleidoscope technique.

And now for the results:
The more distinct the fabric, the more different blocks you can make. Next time you are fabric shopping, keep your eye open for fabrics that may not be the prettiest, but which would bloom in a Kaleidoscope quilt.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Thread – what’s the big deal?

Thread – what’s the big deal? 
Just about daily a customer walks into our shop looking for “just a spool of thread.”   
If you haven’t bought thread in several years,you may be overwhelmed by the options, the way it is wound 
on a spool and most of all the price.  I have spools of thread in my collection that are marked 25 cents, but 
today we can expect to pay upwards of $2 for a small spool. Yikes! 

So what’s the big deal?  

Think of it this way: Thread is the one thing that holds your entire project together. If the project is not a 
something you want to have around in later years, then inexpensive thread may be OK. But if you spend 
several hours creating a boutique-quality garment or a family heirloom quilt, you may want that project to 
hold together for longer than just a washing or two.  
Thread, like any fiber, has a shelf life. You can expect thread to stay “fresh” for 2-3 years at the most in a 
temperate environmentSo the 25 cent thread in my collection should not be used to sew by hand, in 
amachine or for that matter anything.   
Even “back in the day,” sewing machine manuals discussed the importance of using quality thread to keep 
your machine in top running order.  The same is true today.  Our service tech can discern what type of 
thread a sewist has been running through their machine when it comes in for repair.  The cheaper threads 
build up a fuzzy residue in sewing machines quicker than better-quality threads.  So cheaper thread equals 
more machine cleaning equals more cost.  The small investment in good thread really does pay off in the 
long run. 
Always In Stitches offers several types of spooled thread: cotton, polyester, rayon, wool, monofilament and 
more. We all have our favorites, but in general, match the thread fiber to the project fiber.  Our staff can 
help you understand why thread is a big deal. Next time you drop in, ask sales specialist what thread is 
best for your project.  Happy Stitching! 
Capi Saxton, shop manager

Monday, May 8, 2017

How to Make a Quilt Sandwich

Hold the Mayo! Quilts come together like a sandwich. There's a top, a back and the filling, and here are some tips and tricks to handling each piece.

If you are going to have your quilt finished on a long arm machine, you will need at least 6 inches of backing fabric and batting on all sides of your top. Measure your quilt top in several places (top, middle, bottom) to get the exact size.

When you have your quilt top done, the next thing you need is the back. The back needs to be square, and cut straight of grain to allow your quilt top to lay flat after quilting.  If you piece your back, remember the more pieces, the harder it will be to keep it straight of grain, and absolutely do not use any selvages. Trim them off (they shrink differently than the rest of the fabric). One nice way to buy backing is 108" wide backing.
Image from Threads Magazine

Now that you have your top and back ready to go, you need batting, which is used as a layer of insulation between the fabrics. Batting comes in many, many kinds, weights and brands; it usually is made from cotton, polyester or wool. Some batting works better for hand quilting, some makes your quilt puffy, and some makes quilts lay nice and flat. The kind you use is your choice. Everyone has a different opinion.

If someone else will do your quilting, ask what batting they prefer. As a long arm quilter, I prefer Warm and Natural cotton batting because it is really nice, lays flat and doesn't stretch as it goes through the long arm.

-Cindy Ogle

How often do I change my Sewing Machine Needles?

The key question to understanding sewing machine needles is, how often do I change it.

First and foremost, don't wait until the needles breaks or bends before you change it. A good rule is to change it after 8-12 hours of sewing.

Think of the needles the same way you would a lead pencil. When a pencil point gets dull as you write, you sharpen it. In sewing, the needle wears down after going up and down so many times in the fabric and needs to be changed.

Another way to know when it's time to change the needle is listening to your machine. You will hear a popping sound as the needle gets dull.

While you're changing the needle, take the time to brush out the lint that's sure to built up in the bobbin area, especially when you are sewing flannel, fleece or felt.

                                                   If you own a Janome
                                                   sewing machine, we
                                                   recommend you use only
                                                   Janome sewing needles

                                                               ~by Ruth Middleton

Select the Right-Sized Needle for your Fabric and Project

Ruth Middleton explains some simple guidelines for selecting the right size needle to use.

  • Light weight woven- Size 9-11 sharp, quilting
  • Quilting cottons (piecing)- Size 11-14 sharp, quilting
  • Homespun, flannel (piecing)- Size 11-14 sharp, quilting, universal
  • Denim, twill, wool- size 14-16 sharp, denim
  • Machine quilting (light weight and poly batts)- size 12-16 quilting, top stitch
  • Machine quilting (cotton batts, heavier fabrics and threads)- size 14-16 quilting, top stitch, denim

Choose the Right Needle from the Haystack

Are you confused about what kind of sewing machine needles you need, and how often the needle should be changed? Do you just muddle through the whole process and hope for the best?

Ruth Middleton explains the different types of needles available today for sewing and quilting.

  • Microflex/Sharps have sharp points designed for tightly woven fabrics such as quilting cottons, microfibers, fleece and batiks.
  • Embroidery needles have a fine sharp point and larger eye. They are designed to stack stitches closely together.
  • Topstitch needles are bigger so they go through heavier fabrics or multiple layers.
  • Quilting needles have a fine tapered point designed to stitch through multiple layers of cotton fabric when piecing or quilting.
  • Universal needles are designed for flannels, homespun, and other woven and knit fabrics. These are not recommended for batiks and tightly woven fabrics.
  • Denim needles are very strong with a large sharp point so they pierce heavy fabrics and carry heavier threads.
  • Metallic needles are specialty needles with a fine sharp point, elongated eye and deeper groove to help protect fragile, metallic threads. Change these more often throughout your project than you would other needles because the thread can make a groove in the needle and cause problems.
  • Titanium needles have an extra coating which makes them stronger and less likely to drag from adhesives. These are not recommended for everyday sewing.

Righty Tighty Tension

Every person who works with machines usually has part of the job that gives them fits. For us sewists, that is thread tension. Is it the bobbin? How the machine is threaded? Do I need to twist the knob?

This diagram by Superior Threads is a good visual for deciding what you need to do.
Another guide comes from plumbing and tightening screws: Righty Tighty Lefty Loosey. It even applies to thread tension. The tug of war is a perfect way to think about it. If all your top thread is pooling on the bottom, it means the bobbin is winning and the top needs to pull harder.

If you adjust the tension and are still getting a tangle on one side, try re-threading the machine. Sometimes the thread is not "flossed" into the tension disks. On the bobbin side, make sure that the bobbin thread is coming off the spool in the correct direction. There is usually a diagram in your owners manual. Your machine is also marked with the preferred factory settings. If you have been toying with tension and have all the settings changed, reset everything back to the factory recommendations, re-thread the machine and start adjusting from there. Problems with tension come from improper threading more often than needing to adjust the tension.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

5 reasons to rent a sewing machine

Your stichin’ sister is visiting and you both want to sew.

Your machine is being serviced and you can’t live without the sound of thread pulsating through a needle.

 You’re attending a class and don’t want to – ugh! – pack up your machine, lug it out to the car and in to the shop, expose it to the weather or risk damaging it in during transport.

  You’re thinking of buying a machine and want more than a simple test run in the shop.  Plus! If you buy a machine, accumulated rental fees are credited toward your purchase.

  You have $5 burning a hole in your pocket. That’s right, for just $5 a day you can rent a new or like-new Janome sewing machine from Always In Stitches.  

To ensure we have a machine available, please reserve one in the shop or on the phone, (317) 776-4227. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

You don’t get kisses online

Did you know that Always In Stitches has small packs of Hershey’s Kisses ready to give to all those wonderful, chauffeurs and bag carriers that don’t stitch but wait so patiently as their partners wander the shop? There was some talk at a recent staff meeting about what our brick-and-mortar shop offers that online retailers can’t, and we all laughed when Debra said, “You don’t get kisses online.”

But it’s true. And then we realized a lot of other truths about things Always In Stitches can do as a small local shop that big retailers can’t. We thought Small Business Week (May 1-5) was a good time to remind you.

See the vibrant colors
Walk in the door and the first thing most everyone notices is the rainbow of colors displayed from the front to the back and at every stopping point in between. When you choose your fiber here, you know what colors your project will comprise. Photos are very good online, but colors aren’t always what you expect when you open the box.

Feel the fiber’s hand
Petting the fabric or yarn is therapeutic. Rubbing your computer or phone screen just isn’t the same. You can’t tell if it’s silky, soft, nubby, or smooth.

Get advice and help
Anyone who sports an apron here is always willing to help you coordinate colors, be your sounding board and help you calculate how much of anything you need. Have you ever seen a button on an online shopping cart labeled “Hey Ruth (or Betty or Donna), What do you think about…”?

Make friends
Customers have developed friendships with other customers, as well as with the staff. They ask each other how their family is doing, how that project turned out and if they have a good recipe for vegetable soup. Online sites develop buying histories that are used to sell your email address and create pop-ups on your screen (usually appearing at the most annoying times). You’re our friend. If we have your email, we also have your back. We will use your address judiciously and never, ever give it or sell it to anyone. Pinky swear.

Trust the quality
Sometimes fabric sold online is exactly like fabric we sell. Other times the largest online retailers carry similar fabrics with lower thread counts and dyes that don't hold their color over the long term. Using that material, the heirloom quilt you hoped your great-great-grandchildren would cherish someday may start shredding or fading in three years. We want your projects to last. We won’t sell you inferior goods.

Make returns without extra charges
To protect all of our valued fiber-buying customers, we must be careful about what items we can let you return, but we never, ever charge restocking fees..

We value you
We’re a small, independent business. We feel we stock what our customers want and need, what they appreciate and trust. Our orders are often small so our vendors can’t give us the price breaks big online retailers enjoy. We keep our profit margins as low as we can to still pay our bills and we offer customer rewards - $10 when you accumulate $350 in purchases, a free charm when you spend $100 in a month, and more. Sometimes, we just give you something extra because we feel like it (or because Lyneen is working the register). But bottom line, we usually can’t meet or beat an online price.

It’s the price of doing business – something we feel blessed to have done with you for nearly a decade, something we want to be doing with you for years to come, something we hope you value today.