I love piping.  It adds a great embellishment to an otherwise blah seam.  The Callie Marie Nursery on my Projects page looks like it has piping of some type on the top of the bumpers so I was excited to tackle it.

What is piping?  Piping is simply fabric wrapped around cord to cover it.  That’s it.  Cut a strip of fabric wide enough to go around it while still leaving extra for seam allowance, enclose the cord by sewing it very close to the edge of the cord on the outside of the fabric, and then sew the seam allowance to the seam where you want the piping to go.  How easy is that?  Seriously.  You’ll be piping everything when you see how easy this is.  (Apologize for the grainy photos – my ISO was up too high and I didn’t have my glasses on to see the screen but you get the idea).

I use a piping tool that I picked up at quilting store liquidation sale.  Don’t you love those sales?  All except the part about the store closing, but the deals are great!  I’d never attempted piping before this tool purchase and I swear I’ve never had a bad experience with it.   

The tool’s main purpose is to provide a steady seam allowance to the inner edge of the cording once it has been covered.  All it is, is a simple piece of plexiglass with a groove going down each side – one groove is 1/4” away from the edge of the tool, and the other is 1/2” away from the edge.  Once I used it I realized I really didn’t need one, because the simplicity of it can be replicated very easily.  But now that I have it, I love putting it to use.

This shows the depth of the grooves from the underside of the tool – kinda like a business card holder.

This is in use.  I put it over a piece of the piping I had created on a dark background so you could see it.  The cord is nestled up inside the groove.

To make the fabric cover for the piping, I cut 2 inch strips of fabric and sewed them together just like for a quilt binding.  Stitch the ends, right sides together (RST), and sew the diagonal line between the “V” that is formed at the top and bottom of where the two pieces of fabric meet (in blue on the image).  I cheat and used a Sharpie to actually draw a straight line all the way to the edge of the sewing machine surface so I could keep the lower V straight as I sew.   At first I felt bad like I was putting graffiti on my machine, but I use it so much that when I got my next machine, it was one of the first things I did to it.

Enclose the cord inside of the strip of fabric.  The old-school zipper foot is best for this.  The zipper foot that came with my machine will not work at all.

Now just line up the edges of all three:  the bottom and top fabrics RST and the piping with the cord part AWAY from the edge.  Stitch as close as possible to the cord.

TA-DAAAAA!!  I’m a Piping Hero!

Money Saving Repairs

One of the main reasons I believe everyone should know their way around a sewing machine is to save money. Not that they should all learn to sew their own clothes, but for the smaller things like being able to make repairs. Like repairs in your beloved jeans or a top you’ve had for years. Then there is my favorite…getting steep discounts on Ready-to-Wear because of minor repairs that are needed due to wardrobe malfunctions in the dressing room.

I had a shindig up in Austin last weekend and needed a dress suitable for business. I was hoping for a solid color and sleeveless (it’s still hovering around 100 down here in God’s country) because I want to look like those info-babes on Fox News. I mean I study their hair, their makeup, their clothes – they are gorgeous!…I digress. So I headed over to Macy’s for what I call a Combat Shopping Trip which usually occurs on my lunch hour with a specific mission in mind. It’s a clandestine solo mission where I stealthily get in, get out in under an hour, save a boat load of money and hubs is none the wiser. HA! I can make it from the office to my local mall in 7 minutes. In my mind, I look like this.


The mission calls for a bee-line to the deeply discounted rack which usually holds the ugliest of the ugly that have been picked over the previous season.clothesOnRack

And lookie here! Every once in awhile, there is a diamond-in-the-rough on those racks. A beautiful Calvin Klein, solid color, fully lined, sleeveless that fits the description of the target perfectly!

Oh but wait! There’s a tear in the zipper where someone suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD, attempted to stuff their large hiney into this dress. DARN! I’m mean YAY! That’s good for another 10% off at least!dress-too-small

The dress is from this season (note the peplum!) and it originally retailed for $134.00. But for this dress to have suffered the indignity of BDD, its been discounted down to $46.90! Now we’re talking! It would cost me that much in fabrics to make it myself so this is a deal even at this price. (Don’t mind that size 14 on the tag…that’s a misprint…you know how they label things wrong sometimes.)

So I’m off to the fitting room, the dress works, and now the real skill comes in – Negotiating a price with Buffy the cashier. I don my body armor (Macy’s card) because I have a 20% off coupon if I use the card and I say innocently as if I’ve just noticed it, “Oh look, there’s a tear at the zipper. Darn. Um, can you take any off?” Buffy replies, “I can only take of 10%.”  Amateur!  “Really? Just 10? I’m going to have to take this to have it repaired and that will be at least $30, maybe more because it’s fully lined. Can’t you do any more?” She rolls her eyes.  “Let me call my supervisor.” (A sly grin crosses my face and my eyes narrow as I smell a victory.) “OK, that would be great.” To heck with those old bats with their comfy shoes in line behind me. I’m on a mission and I’m obviously on my lunch hour as evidenced by my business professional attire with my clangy ID badge around my neck and name tag on my blouse. Within a minute the supervisor arrives, irritated by the interruption, and as I point out the tear and attempt to go on about paying for a repair, the discount drops to 20%. SUCCESS!!!! The lady behind me whispers, “Well done.” I turn to her and grin. I got this $134.00 beauty for $28.14! I give myself a well-earned imaginary medal for my incredibly successful Combat Shopping mission and head back to the office smiling all the way. And back to my original point. If I couldn’t sew, this little number would still be hanging on the rack.

This is a fairly simple repair with the right tool…namely tape. If you don’t have Steam-a-Seam in your arsenal of sewing tools, you absolutely have to get it. I have it in this pre-cut size and the full package size where I can cut my own. Either one works but this is easier for zipper repairs. I placed the adhesive on the zipper tape, pulled off the backing paper, then adhered the fabric to the other sticky side.

Then I pinned to secure it in place and pressed it over a pressing ham because there is a slight curve to the fabric where the peplum goes over the rump.

For zippers, I prefer the old school zipper foot as opposed to the one that came with my machine. It was a bit tricky because the dress is fully lined, but I flipped it inside out a bit, did a few stitches and viola’!!

Repaired! Too too easy!

And the dress looks great! I didn’t get a final image while wearing it in Austin, but you get the idea. This is my $28 Calvin Klein dress!  And my bathroom toilet.

Cool Cats Bag

I needed to come up with a quick birthday gift for mom and I had decided to make her a bag. I found a great tutorial on SewMamaSew.com yesterday from the Green Bag Lady and while mom doesn’t need a lunch bag, the concept is the same regardless of size. She is a profound lover of cats (I think she has 7…maybe 8? Yes, my crazy is definitely inherited!)  Final bag dimensions were 16×15 with 20″ handles.

Fabrics:  In addition to the “Cool Cats” fabric by Debi Hron, I picked up a yard of Clown Stripe in Luna by Michael Miller and a fat quarter of Dimples in Tourquise by Gail Kessler. (Link shows flannel but I used quilting cotton). I got all the fabric at the Quilt Haus in New Braunfels, Texas.  The thread is a 30wt multicolor by Star in Aqua, I used a 14 needle, and the batting is Warm & Natural.

Never one to leave well enough alone with any recipe (or pattern), as I’m making this I decide that a zipper pocket in the lining would be cool and I had an orange zipper in my stash that screamed for the project. And then the bag can’t gape open so it needed a magnetic clasp. But other than those embellishments, it’s the same bag.

I had some extra kitties for the zipper pocket lining.  You never know where you’ll find kitties!

Oh and of course it needed a label to mark the occasion! I learned how from the Crafty Gemini.

The quilting kind of stumped me. The straight lines between the kitty squares was an easy decision but I was afraid anything else would cover the kitties. I used a Frixon marker to draw what I thought I wanted a couple of times but nothing grabbed me. I love those markers because if you don’t like it, iron over them and they disappear and you can start all over. So during an iced tea break (sometimes you just have to step away from the project for inspiration to grab you), I got the idea to quilt the outline of a cat’s head. I found an image online that I thought would work, copied it into Word, sized it down to scale, printed and then cut it out to make a paper pattern. I changed the shape of the head a bit to look like the shape of the cat heads in the fabric. I used the Frixon marker to draw an outline around the pattern, liked the look, and quilted it in no time.

I’m pretty happy with the result and I hope she is too!  Happy Birthday Mom xxxoooxxx

Quilt Blocks – Matching Seams and Points

To me, part of the beauty that makes a quilt a quilt, is the amazing way the quilter was able to match points and seams. When I first began quilting about 2 years ago, this drove me bats. No matter how precisely I’d measure and cut, sew the exact seam, press perfectly, etc. there is nothing…absolutely nothing to ensure my seams or points match the way I’d liked them to. Here’s my first major fail from the Fall of 2011. I haven’t even been able to bring myself to even have this quilted yet. Without realizing the effect less-than-perfect points would have, I managed to “tip” most of the star blocks in this Gallantly Streaming quilt.Gallantly-StreamingWInset

So I learned to fudge it.

I’m in a Block of the Month club and I have to tell you, my skills have greatly improved from my first ambitious attempt at quilting – my Fudging skills, that is. Here’s a few of my secrets to get those seams and points to match.

This is the August block I’m about to finish. I’ve got to perfectly line up not only the seams of the 9 patch, but also ensure the points of the angles don’t get either tipped or have the seam too far from the point. I want all the lines and points to match up exactly.IMG_1398

I do the hardest ones first – the tips of the points. Turn the block RSU and measure to see how close you actually are to a 1/4” seam. On this edge, one of the points ended up with a 3/8” seam. This will give you an idea of what you’re up against. If I sewed this with a perfect 1/4” seam, the lower point wouldn’t meet up where it’s supposed to.pointsSeams

The first thing to do is to identify on the back of the block exactly where the points are on the front. This is difficult to do through pressed seam allowances. So place a pin, going from front to back exactly on the tip of the points.IMG_1401

Flip the block over with the heads of the pins to the outside. Then using a fabric marker, draw a line parallel to the edge of the fabric and make sure to go EXACTLY over where the pin exits the back of the fabric. This is your stitch line.IMG_1402

On the adjacent piece, put pins into the points.IMG_1403

Now line up the edges of the two pieces. Trim any obvious excess or dog ears. Here’s the piece with the drawn line over the adjoining piece with the pin.IMG_1404

Now place your thumbnail on the center of the stitch line at the point and fold back the top layer to align the seams and pin entry point on the adjacent piece.IMG_1405


Place two pins on either side of the seam line to securely hold into place. Don’t worry that the fabric goes all wonky. You can fix that later. Repeat for the other points.IMG_1407


For the straight seams that need to meet up, match the edges of the two fabric pieces together like before and put your thumb 1/4” from the edge on the seam. Fold it back to align with the bottom fabric.IMG_1409

Match the seams and pin. Do for remaining seams.

This is what the back side looks like when it’s ready to sew. What a mess!!IMG_1412

You don’t absolutely need a 1/4” seam foot, but if you have one, use it. Otherwise, find a visual point of reference between your needle and presser foot that is 1/4”.IMG_1413

Now begin sewing with a standard 1/4” seam allowance and when you get to where the points need to match up, be sure to sew directly over that line you made. If there is a serious difference between the 1/4” seam allowance and where the line is, do a very gradual slope to the seam line until you get to where you need to be. It’s important to stick with the 1/4” seam allowance as much as possible so the block will be as close to the correct finished size as possible.IMG_1414

Yes, I sew over my pins, especially on the points. I don’t want any shifting of the fabrics. I sew slowly and these pins are very fine. See how the red line I made is exactly in the groove of the 1/4” seam foot? And you can see the fabric is just a thread or two outside of the edge of the presser foot. That’s OK.

As I go over the final set of points, look how FAR the fabric is from where it should be butting up against the wall of the 1/4” foot. But that’s OK because I sewed exactly over the red line. Because of when I measured where the points were in relation to the edge of the fabric, I’m not freaking out about this…at all…really.   (breathe….)

Here’s the final result! I pulled the fabric off the machine and finger pressed it open. All tips and points are where they should be, seams align, and life is good! It looks a little off here but don’t forget to iron. You can always fix minor imperfections with an iron.

My secret weapon? Faultless Spray Starch with the blue cap. Lookin’ good!IMG_1419

Here’s Jan – Aug from Amy Gibson’s 2013 Sugar Block Club from StitcheryDickoryDock
UPDATE:  A few more blocks are complete.   The October block had a fail and I had to piece the four corner blocks with scraps of my background fabric and turn the squares with the red stripe to the outside.  I simply don’t have enough background fabric left to re-cut the two-5″ squares needed to fix it correctly and still have enough left for the Nov & Dec blocks.  Lesson learned:  Buy an extra 1/4 yard of background fabric for the next BOM series.   It’s OK though, nobody will know but you and me!

The Shotgun Wedding…Dress

My cell phone is ringing and its 9:30 on Sunday morning and it’s an unknown number.  But it has my local area code so it’s probably not a telemarketer.  OK, I’ll bite…“Hello? “Becky?” “Yeah?” “Hi, this is Donna.”

(Silence as I process “Donna”)…She says, “Dana’s sister.”

“Oh hi!  How are you?  Is everything alright?”
“I’m sorry but I have a sewing emergency and I need your help.  My daughter is getting married in less than two weeks, she’s 5 1/2 months pregnant, and the dress doesn’t fit anymore!  This is an $850 wedding gown that we bought back in May of 12 and it fit up until a week ago!  I’ve been to 3 seamstresses and none of them will touch it.  I’m so desperate, I nearly broke down and purchased another wedding dress last weekend but the ones on the rack that fit were horrible and it would take too long to order another.   This one took 6 weeks to come in and we don’t have that long!  Then I woke up in the middle of the night last night and you came to my mind like an epiphany.  Do you think you can you help us?”

This is a woman who sounds like she’s in sheer desperation.  How can I say no?  “Well, I can try.  We’re in Houston right now but we should be home in a couple of hours.”
“That’s OK.  Her shower is today from 2-4 so we’ll be by after that.”
“OK.  See you then.”  And I wonder if it’s a wedding shower or a baby shower…

Funny thing about the pregnant body.  One day you’re one size, and the next you’re two sizes larger like someone took a bicycle pump to the girls overnight.  Which is fine, unless you’re hoping to fit into your pre-preggo size 4 wedding gown in two weeks.  Fat chance.

Wedding gowns come with an additional 3 inches of seam allowance on each side – that seems to be an industry standard for alterations.  I did some online homework before they arrived and found the perfect solution – the corset back wedding gown.  That would solve the problem of her possibly getting bigger before the wedding after the alteration, but why wouldn’t a seamstress do this?  I’m sure it’s a common occurrence.  Then they arrive and I see why no seamstress will touch it.  This strapless dress is covered top to bottom in a layer of silk organza folds and ruffles.  Oh boy.  Fortunately, the bride wasn’t fussy and when I asked her about converting the back of the dress, she was good with it.  I mean really, what choice did she have?  When she put the dress on, the zipper had a 5 inch gap at the top and there was no way it was going to close.  Here is the front of the dress.

And here is the back.

The first step was to match the fabric and no single fabric would work because of the organza overlay on the gown.  I had to haul this monster dress to the store to find fabrics that would work and I found them at Hancock.  While lighting can be a challenge with store fluorescents and incandescent lighting at home, I ended up choosing the wrong side of a candlelight organza (or the less-shiny side…it’s hard to tell) over the wrong side of white satin.  The shade of color was nearly identical when overlayed on top of each other.IMG_0881-1

Now to put the two fabric layers together so they can be sewn.  If you’ve never done it, sewing slippery, shiny fabrics is an absolute nightmare.  So I reached back to my mad quilting skills and hauled out the miracle of all miracles…Quilt Basting Spray.IMG_0877

First to make the tie.  I read somewhere that the tie needed to be 3 yards long and while I hated to buy 3 yards of each fabric for one continuous piece that is only a couple of inches wide, I didn’t want to create a stress point from a seam in the tie on fabric that shreds like crazy like satin does.  The LAST thing the bride needs is to have the tie holding in the girls to give out during the reception!  3 yards it is.
I know you’re supposed to sew sheers on tissue paper, of which I had none, but I did have a huge roll of white plastic table cover left over from a company Christmas party.  (It’s always good to be on the decorating committee in case of any leftovers).    I’ve experienced pulling paper off the back of quilt pieces when paper piecing, so I thought, well – why not plastic too?   I swept off the screened-in back patio, locked the dogs into the house, and rolled it out.IMG_0878

I laid out a 3 3/4” wide strip of satin, sprayed it with quilt basting spray, and then pressed and smoothed a 5” wide piece of organza over it and pinned like crazy.  I cut it out at least an inch away from the edge of any fabric, and stitched a long basting stitch about 1/8 inch from the edge of the satin along both long sides leaving the plastic intact while I sewed.  Pulling the plastic off the back from the basting stitch was a snap.

To make the tie, I sewed the end of a piece of cording into the end of the tie for a tugging rope, and then right sides together using a tiny 1.8” stitch length, I sewed the cord within the length of the tie.  Then I inverted the tie by pulling on the loose end of the cord and coaxing the fabric to turn right side out as I tugged, and tugged, and stuffed, and tugged the opposite end through itself.  It was a total and complete pain and took me 45 minutes!  Check the shredding on the seam.  See why there cannot be a stress point?

The whole process of prepping, laying, spraying, laying, pinning, cutting, sewing, and turning took 2.5 hours.  But it turned out absolutely perfect.  I had a little happy dance!IMG_0885-1

See how the color matches nearly exactly?  And the outside fabrics are both organza so the texture is the same as well.

Creating the corset loops was tricky.  I found a close match of satin cording and my first attempt to attach the cording into loops on a piece of bias tape was a fail.  The bias tape wouldn’t stay straight when sewn on the dress which I anticipated would cause a wonky tug factor from one side or the other depending on how tight the corset was strung.  The beauty of a corset back gown is the perfect serpentine that is created when the tie is run through the loops.  To get this effect, the loops must be the same distance apart on either side of the bodice.  I decided on a stiff boning-by-the-yard to make the loop sets and broke out my heavy-duty machine needles.  Again with the quilting skills, the loops were held in place until sewn with quilt binding clips and I attached them with a zipper foot down the center of the boning.  Then I reinforced those babies with additional horizontal zigzag stitching.  Those bad boys were NOT coming loose on my watch!

I was hoping not to have to deconstruct the dress or remove the zipper.  So I sewed the boning by machine to the outside of the dress with the loops facing toward the side seam.   I left the top loop about 1/2 “ below the edge of the dress.

To get the loops to the inside where the zipper should be, I folded the edge inward one turn and hand stitched the folded edge to the inside of the gown using a heavy quilting thread.  The top layer of the skirt’s organza ruffle came up over the bottom of the zipper.  It looked like I wouldn’t have to deconstruct the dress.  Yay!

Once the loop sets were installed, I had to make the modesty
panel.  I read online somewhere the modesty panel had to be 10 inches wider than the final gap in the gown so the top of the panel needed to be 15 inches across.  Again I used a spray basting method to adhere the two fabrics together and sew them.

Then I turned them right side out, gave the panel a good press and stitched it by hand to the left side of the gown right next to the left loop set.

The secret to create a perfect serpentine down the center of a corset back gown can be found here.  There’s a lot of videos on how to do this, but this link shows the absolute the best technique (even though the video is amateur and shot sideways).   I had my pillow serve as a model and when I got to the end, I made a bow and tucked the ends down inside the dress. 

And Here Comes the Bride!  (Ignore my messy sewing room – creative genius can be disorderly at times.)The corset back was the perfect choice for this bridal alteration.  The gap at the top of the gown 2 days before the wedding was even farther apart than it was when she brought the dress to me.  She was thrilled with the outcome and really, so was I.  I hear she was absolutely gorgeous at the wedding and the dress got rave reviews.  If I get a wedding photo from Donna, I’ll post an update.

And they lived happily ever after!

Changing Serger Thread Color – A Tutorial

Threading a serger can be super intimidating.  Sergers have really come down in price over the years so I assume the reason many sewers don’t have one is the fear factor of threading.  And it never fails, that whenever you need to serge a piece of fabric, the wrong color thread is in the machine so changing thread color is a frequent occurance in my sewing room.

Here I’ve got brown thread loaded into the machine and I need white.  Let me show you a cool trick.

On most sergers, you have up to 4 cones of thread.  I normally use three for the upper and lower loopers and the outside needle.  Leave the needle thread(s) alone for now – we’ll get to that later.

Clip the existing threads above the two cones used for the loopers.  It doesn’t really matter where, just so long as it’s on the outside of the tension disks.  I normally clip mine before the first thread guide.


Replace the looper thread cones with the right color and tie the two colors together in a square knot so they hold tight.  Remember the poem?

                Right over left
                Left over right
                Tie a square knot
                Tidy and tight!

Then clip the knot tails to about one-half inch.

Very important here – Dial the upper looper and lower looper tension dials down to zero.  (I use a sharpie to label my loopers with UL & LL because I can never remember which is which).  This opens up the tension dials enough to allow the knot through.

Holding the chain tail with light tension, press the foot pedal and run the serger until the new looper threads form up in the chain tail.  This new tail has 2 white looper threads and one brown needle thread.

Once your new thread has made a successful chain, reset your tension disks to a regular tension setting for your machine.

Then change out the needle thread by clipping close to the needle and running the new needle thread through the thread guides and the needle.

Again, holding the chain tail with a light tension, run the serger until the new needle thread works itself into the chain.  It will go loose for a couple of inches but keep serging and a new chain tail will form.

Now serge away!

Serging makes a world of difference to create a professional looking garment.  Here’s the inside of some new jammie pants for my grandson.

And the outside.  This is from the Basic Kids Pants from MADE.

Meet My Machine!

This is my no-name Brother CS6000i and I adore this machine.  I bought it back in 2007 and it’s the first computerized machine I’ve ever owned.  Now that I’ve had one, I’ll never go back.  I know there are purists out there who love those vintage machines, but until you’ve made computerized button holes, you don’t know sewing heaven.
This machine does a good job of blurring the lines between being a “sewing” machine and a machine for quilting.  I paid about $250 back then but it’s down to like $179 on Amazon now so you get the best bang for your buck with Brother.  It came with lots of accessories including a walking foot, FMQ (darning) foot, button hole foot, and the extended table which is good for piecing.  But the needle down feature was a pleasant surprise for sewing.  I rarely, if ever, roll the hand wheel to place the needle either up or down, and the auto needle threader took some getting used to but now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, it too is sewing heaven.    One cool feature is auto-sewing – if you disconnect the foot control, with the press of a button, this thing takes off!  So you can FMQ to your heart’s content at a constant speed for even stitches (slow, medium, or fast) and you never have to worry about your foot/leg getting tired of pressing the foot control for 10 minutes straight.  One thing I’d like that it doesn’t have is an auto thread cutter.  After a manual machine, all these new-fangled features take some getting used to, but once you’re on board, you will lovingly place your vintage machine on the shelf and never look back.

My first machine was a 1990’s Singer I nicknamed “That POS Sewing Machine” and being a lady I literally said P-O-S vs. what it stands for, but you get the idea.  I can’t count the number of trips to the repairman for tension issues, feed dog issues, timing issues,…just issues.  I hated it.  And when I’d finally had enough, I left it at Goodwill feeling bad for whoever got it after me.  I suspect it just didn’t like me so who knows?  I hoped it would be better with a new owner.

This is my 2nd serger, the Brother Lock 1034D .  My first one was a White Speedylock and I really didn’t care for that machine.  It was hard to thread (I had to watch the video 3 times to learn how to thread it) and once I fiddled with the tension, it was like I couldn’t ever get it right again.  The bulb burned out and I couldn’t replace it because I couldn’t get to it (has to be replaced by a repairman) so that was the final straw and I gave it away, again hoping it found contentment elsewhere.  

My happiness with my Brother sewing machine and the reasonable price is why I chose this model for my new serger and I love it!  It’s SO much easier to thread and sews like a dream.  I’ve had it several years and I’m just now treading into the world of sewing with knits.  Now while working with interlock knits and sheer fabrics, I rarely use my traditional sewing machine except for hems.   I wish the fashion pattern companies would add serging instructions in their pattern directions telling you when to finish an edge before sewing certain pieces together or alternative serge sewing instructions.  Sometimes I’ll finish an edge I didn’t need to or get garment pieces together on my regular machine that are impossible to finish cleanly on the serger and I should have serged a piece of fabric first.  It’s very frustrating.

In my perfect world, if money were no object, I’d have the Brother Dreamweaver Quilting & Sewing Machine.  I can’t wait to try it out one day.

Here’s where the magic happens!  My Decompression Room and I’d rather be here than just about anywhere else.  It’s where I go in my head when I’m having a bad day or just need some peace.I’m begging hubby to build me a cornice I can cover with some sewing-room themed fabric over the window and get rid of the dated swag.Hubby made the thread caddy for me and the polyester batting on the design wall is so cool.  Fabric just “hangs” there and sticks to it perfectly.  I love the L shaped set up I have and got the table on an after-Christmas sale from JoAnn’s.com.  When I’m quilting, I set the serger on the floor and pull the homemade ironing board (standing on end under the serger) up so I can iron as I go while piecing.I’m 5’9″ so I try to use all the space I can can and high shelves work for me.The Fiesta Dress is almost finished!  All I have left is the hem and the petticoat.

So that’s my sewing world!

Quilting – Going Where I’ve Never Gone Before


I just recently became a quilter.  When my grandson was born, it was something I was just driven to do.  My mother never quilted – said she didn’t have the patience – but that was before the days of machine quilting.  I was actually out on YouTube looking for a tutorial on making my own bias tape for the miles of it needed for his nursery, and I came across a quilting video from the Missouri Star Quilt Company on how to bind a quilt.  I made a pot of coffee and spent the morning with my new bff Jenny Doan!  She’s an absolutely amazing instructor and she makes you feel like you can do anything!  So I stop by the MSQC Quilter’s Daily Deal every morning and that’s how I’ve built my stash and gotten some pretty cool rulers.

My first project I thought I could handle Jenny taught me was this Christmas Table Runner with Fa-La-La.  I stitched in the ditch and it came out kinda lumpy, but I really like it.Fa La La Charm Pack Dec 11

Well, the MSQC website landed me somehow on the Moda Bake Shop website and one post last year was a Moda Stash Link Party.  From there I found MADE and StitcheryDickoryDock, SewMamaSew, and TracieJay Quilts (just a few my faves I start my day with).  The Internet is an amazing thing, isn’t it?

Feeling incredibly ambitious after that table runner, I decided to tackle this.  It’s Gallantly Streaming and OMG – it was SO HARD!!  I knew absolutely nothing about how important a 1/4 inch seam was.  Most of the tips are missing off the stars, and this thing is a complete mess.  I’ve still yet to quilt it.  It’s just one of those UFOs (unfinished objects) that I can’t bring myself to spend the money on to get it quilted or waste the time and money to rent the long arm myself at my local quilt shop.Gallantly Streaming

After I was finished licking my wounds from Gallantly Streaming, on MBS one day there was this Pinwheel Baby Quilt with Prairie Points (another new thing for me).  I had a charm pack from MSQC in 10 Little Things and it was perfect for this little treasure o’mine.  Perfect quilt?  Nope.  An heirloom for my perfect little man?  You bet!10ltlthngs

Amy Gibson from StitcheryDickoryDoc has a Block of the Month going on with the promise that I’ll have a beautiful quilt at the end of the year.  Of course I couldn’t resist.  Working full time, I find this to be a perfect way to get some quilting blocks in without feeling like I’m behind or overwhelmed.  One thing about quilting, every project makes you better.  This is definitely a skill where you improve with practice.


February – a paper piecing nightmare.  It came out right, but it wasn’t fun.  Paper piecing is something my analytical brain has a hard time wrapping around.2-Feb

March – a blessedly easy Forget Me Not.3-Mar

One very cool thing about quilting?  It finds a way to bring a group together.  Here is a  a gorgeous little number called Old Glory I found on MBS one day and I thought it would be a great project for all the Daughters in my DAR group to tackle.  We all took a part of it and would bring our completed strips to meetings and had so much fun putting it together.  I just finished the borders yesterday and it’s ready to go to the long armer.  I took a class at Scrappy Quilter and will do this one myself I think. OldGloryQuilt When it’s finished, we’ll donate it to a wounded vet at the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.  Come to think of it, maybe that’s a good place for my Gallantly Streaming to land.  Perhaps I’ll finish it afterall.

Mr. Birdseye Would Be Proud

As you might imagine, I’m all about food storage and preservation.  And while canning is a great way to go, it’s not a good solution for fresh, fleshy vegetables.  Last year I discovered the poor man’s way to flash freeze veggies and it’s a perfect way to keep seasonal veggies.

Most veggies have a lot of water in them which, when frozen and then thawed, they become very soggy and mushy.  If you can them, they are then only good for soups & stews where you cook the fire out of them anyway.  But what if you want to use them in a stir fry or other recipe that calls for fresh vegetables?  The solution is called flash-freezing and it was patented by Mr. Clarence Birdseye back in the 1920’s.  Here’s how to do it at home.  I usually do this with zucchini, yellow squash, onions, green pepper, avocados, and citrus.  First slice the veggie into no more than 1/2”-thick slices or 1/6 wedge if freezing lemons or limes.

IMG_0039Then lay them out in a single layer on freezer paper that covers a tray that fits in your freezer.  Do not allow them to overlap at all.  I normally use the freezy-thingy that goes inside my Pampered Chef cold vegetable server.  (What is that called?)  Anyway, a cookie sheet will work too.  IMG_0038If you have too many slices, you can layer them with cookie cooling racks in between.  Just be sure that you allow enough room for air to circulate between the layers.

IMG_0040IMG_0042 IMG_0041There’s no need to cover them, just put in the freezer where they can sit there and chill out.

IMG_0043Here’s a very important part.  Freeze them for absolutely no more than one hour.  I set my timer on the microwave for 55 minutes so I don’t go past.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this and when the timer goes off, I think “What’s cooking?  Oh yeah!”  I get so busy doing other things I totally forget that there’s magic going on in my freezer so a timer is an absolute must.

IMG_0049Immediately after removing from the freezer, seal in airtight bags.  If you only have zipper bags, that will work but won’t keep as long.  If you use zipper bags, be sure to “burp” as much air out of them as you can.  This will prevent freezer crystals from forming.

IMG_0057If sealed in the airtight bags, these will keep for months – better than the ones you buy in bags at the store actually.  And when you defrost them to use in a recipe, they will taste and feel as fresh as if you just cut them!

Yankee Blood & Sauerkraut

Now I know profiling is wrong.  But there has got to be some reason that compels people to do what it is they do.  For instance, we went on a short trip to Zapata, Texas last weekend to be part of a cook team for a fish fry that was to feed about 350 of a company’s best customers.  This is an annual jaunt we take to be part of a slave-labor team at the fryers and we all absolutely love it and have the best time.   The company pays for the entire trip including the hotel so it’s free entertainment as far as we’re concerned.  This group hubby and I hang with love to cook.  (I will be posting about BBQ cookoffs as the summer rolls on).

Kim, me, and Connie - my hometown girls.

Kim, me, and Connie – my hometown girls.


Working the fish fry.

Working the fish fry.  Don’t worry, the cigar isn’t lit.  That’s just Lloyd’s wishful thinking I guess.

Along with fried fish, coleslaw was served (of course).  So we all get back from our trip and my friend Kim tells me she still has 20 pounds of coleslaw cabbage mix leftover in the ice chest and she has no idea what she’s going to do with it.  For some reason known only to God Himself, I blurt out, “I’ll buy half of it from you.”  Seriously.   HALF?  So some unknown force has placed me in her boat and now I don’t know what I’m going to do with 10 pounds of cabbage any more than she did with 20!


Why did I do that?  I can only blame it on being a Yankee by birth.  Even though I was raised as a Texan, I shop for and prepare food in bulk like I need to make it through 6 more months of winter.  My favorite grocery store is Sam’s and I get some sense of wholeness and earthy-well being from canning.  It’s completely inexplicable.  I buy rice and flour in 50 pound bags and keep them in two food vaults, and I’ve always got at least 20 extra rolls of toilet paper.   My panty has a pantry.  It’s almost embarrassing.  But you know what?  “You never know”.  And that’s reason enough I guess.  Besides, we could have another ice age one day…you never know.

Prepper?  ...almost.

Prepper? …almost.


So Kim and I get the bright idea that we will both make sauerkraut from the cabbage.  I’ve never made sauerkraut and hubby and I don’t eat much of it but by golly, I’m in now for some sauerkraut!  I scrounge the internet for some recipes and how-to’s and finally settle on one from Food.com.  The directions and ingredients were kind of sketchy but hey, I’ve canned before so I think I can swing it.  Water, vinegar, salt, cabbage.  Got it.  I like a recipe with reviews so I can see what worked best and what didn’t and maybe tweak the recipe some to my liking.  So here’s my version.

Homemade Sauerkraut

2.5  lbs shredded caggage
4 cups water
1 pint vinegar (2 cups)
1 cup salt**

Put some canning lids in a pot of water to simmer (not boil) on the stove.  When the water begins to simmer, shut off the heat.

Put the water, vinegar, and salt in a pot on the stove and warm it until the salt is dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Pack (and I mean REALLY pack) the cabbage into quart canning jars – do this over a very large bowl because the cabbage goes everywhere.  Ladle the liquid on top of the cabbage to the neck of the jar.  Poke the handle of a wooden spoon down into the jars to release any air bubbles.  Let sit a few minutes and the cabbage will shrink some.  Put the wooden spoon to work again and push the cabbage all down in the liquid.  Put a lid on the jar and hand-tighten the ring.  Label the lid and put in a cool room that stays in the mid-70 temp range for 2 months.  When fermenting is complete, bring the cabbage-now-sauerkraut to a boil in a pot, and can as normal.

And note to self next time…Do not mix in the purple cabbage packet included in the bag.  Hence, pink sauerkraut.  But hey, it’s February right?


Pink for February!  (wups)

Pink for February! (wups)

** Salt.  Salt is not salt.  There are different types of salt and I tried two different kinds to see which would work best.


Dextrose = Sugar

Dextrose = Sugar

I used Canning & Pickling Salt on some of the jars, which is about the same grind as table salt but does not contain iodine or sugar.  Yes, sugar.  Look at the box of Morton’s, my favorite table salt.  It’s cut with sugar – which makes it good for table salt but not so good for canning.   And then I used Kosher salt on the rest of the jars.  That is a little less “salty” if you will, and has a more mellow flavor than canning salt.  There’s also Sea Salt, but that gets pretty pricey.  I strongly suspect I’ll prefer the sauerkraut with the Kosher salt but we shall see in 8 weeks.