Friday, December 28, 2012

The Birthday Quilt for my little brother

My younger brother moved to the Netherlands with his girlfriend this year. She is from the Netherlands and all of her family is there, she got a University position in Gronigen and my brother was game to give it a go. He has always had such an adventurous spirit!

Anyway.... I've been working on this quilt on and off since July and his birthday was December 26. I gave myself plenty of time to get it done and not rush. I wanted to give something that would remind him of home, of the outdoors and bring together his new life with his past experiences. Quite a big job for one small quilt! Quilts made with love have a way of getting the job done. ( at least I think so!)

The quilting was all done free motion on my Symphony with 3 20" large flowers surrounded by stippling.

So here are the final pictures.



Mitered corner, back.

Mitered corner, front.

Quilt label, made on my new DreamMaker.

I took the quilt to the park for an outdoor photo shoot.

- Posted by Steph from my iPad


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas pictures!

We found Santa on the train!

Family picture in the bean!

At the Chicago River.

All smiles, all weekend!

Papa Santa.

Piled on the giant hotel bed.

Me.... Playing Santa :)

Mel & Dorian opening their new luggage.

My beautiful tree! Makes me smile :)

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

So frustrated with blogger yesterday and today.... none of my pictures will upload. pooh. Pictures to follow once I can make them work!

This year my little family and I are spending the Holidays at home. While my hubby and I have both missed seeing our families we have certainly enjoyed our cozy time together.

On Friday, with the last of my gifts sewn and wrapped, I straightened up my sewing studio, covered my machines and shut the lights. It was time for a well earned holiday break. A perfect time to enjoy my loved ones and let my creative juices replenish themselves!

My Christmas present to my family was to surprise them with 2 nights at the historic Blackstone hotel on South Michigan Ave in Chicago. Ohhhhhhhh! What a great weekend we had. We took the train downtown and then walked everywhere. It was delightful to spend the time together and just do what we wished. I gave everyone some cash to spend for themselves in anyway they pleased. My hubby bought a vintage Miles Davis record album and a cool ornament from the Krsitkringle market. My daughter bought herself a bottle of wine from a Wine/Cheese/ Chocolate bar that we stopped in for an hour or two to sample a variety of goodies! My future son in law... Well he couldn't decide what to get! Between the vintage shops record shop, the awesome used bookstore, the Christmas market and the Architecture shop.... Too many choices!

At Chicago River and In The Bean, Walked almost 9 miles on Saturday!

We had a really great dinner with friends at the Marvelous Chicago Firehouse Steakhouse restaurant! I surprised my family with our good friends meeting up with us. It was great :)

And when we got tired.... Well we just all piled
in one room at the hotel and watched movies and ate pizza! Perfect, perfect perfect weekend away and a perfect time with the family!
Christmas Eve dinner we spent at our daughters long time best friends apartment for a great dinner and Christmas Movies! Lots of wine, friends and fun!

Fast forward to right now.... I am contentedly sitting in my chair next to the Christmas tree, scents of a very yummy Christmas dinner being cooked by my hubby filling my nose, my dogs at my feet, presents unwrapped, stockings enjoyed, Skype with my family, and a nice long afternoon nap! Life should always be this good!

I got to play Santa this year and hand out the gifts from under the beautiful tree.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Home for the Holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Busy! Busy playing with my new DreamMaker, Busy sewing, busy working!

Coming to you from 30,000 feet! Traveling for work and taking a few minutes to update my blog.

I've been a busy woman. This time of the year it seems if you don't stay on top of things then things can quickly spiral out of control! Nothing worse than mega-stress at the holidays.

I have a couple things to share:

1. I have finished ( well almost finished) my holiday table decor. I decided to go for something up beat, cheerful and fun for this holiday season! Placemats, a runner and red napkins for this holiday season. A nice and surprising departure from my usual serious holiday tablecloth and accessories.

This project had me using a good many techniques. I used my serger to chainstich candlelight thread onto my stocking fabrics prior to cutting them out. Adding a little bit of glitz to the fabric. I also used my new DreamMaker to embroider some big snowflakes in a transparent sparkly thread on the placemats left side. Not easy to see in the pictures but a nice touch in person.
I also tried a new binding technique that I read about on some blog. I apologize now for not bookmarking it so I could give credit to where I found it. However it was probably on a sleepless night and I did not even think about it! Anyway, this technique has you sew the binding like normal only to the reverse or back side of the sandwich, wrap it to the front, miter your corners and then machine sew. I cut my binding an 1/8 in wider than normal but still sewed it on at a 1/4 inch then when I wrapped to the front, I used my edge stitch foot to sew it down and with the slight bit extra fabric the edge stitch went right beside the binding on the back side. Quite a nice and neat treatment for machine sewing on a binding!

I must admit that the original inspiration for this stocking project came from my serger club at Linda Z's. November club was using the serger chain stitch and flatlocking to dress up Christmas stockings. I have Christmas stockings but thought the idea was a fun one and wanted to play.

2. The second project I have done is a Christmas gift for someone that I know does not read my blog, so I can share.
It is just a cute set of Christmas Kitchen towels that I embroidered using Urban Threads Christmas Revelry designs. These are for a young lady and her boyfriend. She is very into the decor in her apartment and I hope she enjoys these!!! 'Cause if they weren't for a gift I would be putting them in my kitchen!

So... What's sitting on my work table??? Several more gifts that need to be created and some things I'm playing with.

What do you think of this interesting steampunk Holiday design?

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Monday, December 3, 2012

A new addition to my sewing studio! Brother DreamMaker XE Embroidery machine

What a happy weekend for me! I have finally added an embroidery unit to my sewing studio arsenal. Welcome Brother DreamMaker XE!

The actual purchase happened back before Thanksgiving in mid- November when I was at the Tinley Park Quilt and Sewing Expo. Linda Z's had there usual Brother booth set up and I knew this new unit was going to be there.

It was very important for me to have a separate embroidery unit not a combined sewing/embroidery unit. It would have been nice to have a multi needle but who's kidding! Those things are super expensive and something that I don't have space for or need.

My girlfriend Lori and I made our purchases together. What fun it is to have someone else to learn with :)

The units took several weeks to arrive and I finally got the phone call this past Friday morning. By Friday afternoon the 2 of us were up at the store for several hours for a stabilizer class and a basic machine class to make sure we knew the basics of the machine. 4 hours later and a whole bunch of $$$$ lighter we headed home with our new toys.

The decision to go with a Brother DreamMaker vs the New Babylock Spirit; well, I have 2 Babylocks already (my Evolution serger and Symphony sewing only). I like that Brother has Disney embroidery license and I couldn't go wrong since Brother makes BabyLock! The machines are extremely similar.

So..... What have I made on my new DreamMaker this weekend? My very first project was a quilt label. :)super easy to design right on screen. The next 4 projects are Christmas ornaments made with water soluble dissolvable stabilizer. S basically I made lace ornaments! And can I say the BEST part of it.... My new embroidery unit was happily working away while I was happily sewing away on my Symphony. PERFECT!

What do you prefer? Separate sewing and embroidery units or a combined sewing/embroidery unit?

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Making progress on the quilt

I just need to add the binding! And it gets shipped off as a Christmas gift... So, unfortunately, no full size pictures until after Christmas! (That is unless I decide to keep it for myself!!)

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Working on my quilt with free motion quilting

I have decided to free motion quilt my Christmas gift quilt. This produced a slight amount of anxiety, the good kind of excitement anxiety.

I drew out several designs on paper and ran through some in my head. There was one design that came to the top of the list however it was entirely too ambitious and I think out of my range of expertise! And I really did not want to chance turning a beautiful quilt topper into a wader especially since it is a Christmas gift. BUT... I do want to push myself and try something harder than what I have done in the past.

My process for this project was to first select a sketch for the quilting. This was just in my little idea notebook, not a full size sketch. After the sketch was done and I liked it I perused both my library and the blogosphere for additional ideas and tips.
The most useful and amazingly resourceful blog I have found is Leah has a great blog and also teaches a Craftsy class on free motion quilting.

Since it has been a while since I have done any freemotion quilting, I first did a test square just to get myself warmed up, relaxed and get the flow and feeling back. I did play with the ideas that I want to use in the big quilt but just to play with.
The photo shows the front and back of the block. Here I was just playing with some basic stipling and a flower shape.

The second test piece I did was to use some extra pieces of my actual quilt fabric and built a sandwich using the same batting and thread that will be used for the actual quilt. I made this big enough so that I could do a full size portion of the design. My piece was about a half yard size. This gave me plenty of space to play with the design, check my tension and evaluate how I like my thread. In this photo, I also show the front and the back. I tried to adjust the picture so you could see the thread color better. It is a variegated orange thread that looks beautiful with the quilt top. Here you can see my design better. The plan is to do several large flowers and surround them with a not too complex and slightly larger stipling. That flower in my example is about 20inches across. I find working on a practice piece first is a good thing for me. It gives me confidence, it lets me play and I think of it sort of as a muslin in fashion sewing. Plus, I have the added bonus of using that practice piece in another project.

The only bad thing is that I did not purchase enough thread, I believe I was so happy about finding this particular thread that I just plucked a spool from the case and merrily went on my way, not thinking of the actual requirements of the project! :( and the King Tut thread I choose is of course only available at a shop 45 mins from home!!

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh my, oh my! Works In Progress are EVERYWHERE!!!

Yikes! I had one of those moments the other day when I was thinking 'what project should I work on next?' When I had that sudden, almost sinking feeling of being overwhelmed with those Works In Progress!!!

I took stock and yup it is time to knock some of these out of the sewing room! Granted there is one or two that are long term projects requiring an enormous amount of time in the sewing room. Others are just things I wanted to try, some are things that I lost immediate interest in and put on the back burner pile. I also have a hand sewing Hexie project by my chair in the living room!

And sometime last month my hubby moved the washer and dryer out of my sewing studio, giving me more room and a much better set-up. I am loving my new layout!

And soon there will be a new addition to the sewing room so I really need to get things done.

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New dining room table decor!

I decided to use the project from the mitered corners class I took last week as a table runner and make a set of placemats to compliment it.

I enlisted the help of my hubby and his artistic eye to run through some scenarios. I was first thinking of making each placemat with 2 diamonds on it to reflect the pattern on the runner. There was no way that I could make matching placemats because the runner project was from a kit put together by a teacher from Ohio... What I did have was some binding strips of 2" wide to use for binding on the runner.

My husband thought having diamonds on the placemats would just be way too busy looking on the table. I knew that I wanted to take the opportunity to practice my mitered corner technique. Sooooooooo..... This is what I came up with. And I am very happy with it!

Now that I have pieced tops I need to work on the machine quilting part. I have been wanting to play more with free motion quilting. I made a test sandwich and drew the diamond on the fabric so I can test out some ideas. I will have to see what moves me.

Thanksgiving in my house is going to be very quiet and hopefully very peaceful. It will just be me and the hubby and the 3 dogs. My DD and her fiancé headed to Delaware today to go visit with her grandparents (my mom and dad) I am supremely jealous!!! They will have a wonderful time and I am very thankful that she chooses to spend time with her family.

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sewing & Quilt Expo: Hands on Classes with Cynthia Guffey, June Colburn and Nelly Vileikis.

This past Thursday, Friday and Saturday the Sewing and Quilt Expo was held in Tinley Park, IL. This was a new location for the expo and now means that twice a year Chicago area gets the expo!

I really enjoy learning new techniques, seeing what is new, and working on furthering my knowledge. I find that I always learn something new when I take classes. I found that, while this expo was not as large as the one in Schaumburg, IL in the Spring, there seems to be a trend in increasing the number of hands on classes. Hands on is the best way for me to learn! And a 3 hour class is a perfect amount of time to be introduced to something new, work on a specific technique or see if something new is good for you. And the low cost of a 3 hour class lets you try it without a huge investment.

For example, I took a Hand Beading Embellishment class on Friday morning. This class was taught by June Colburn a very good teacher and a very interesting person. She provided everything we needed in the class fee, gave excellent precise directions with time to practice different hand beading techniques. She showed us examples, gave us resources if this was an art/skill that we wanted to continue exploring. We had plenty of time to ask many questions and she asked us questions as well. Like why we were interested in taking her class. For me it was dual fold. I have always been interested in beaded embellishment but, more immediately, I have some bead work that needs to be done for my DD wedding.

We left class with a project to continue on with as well as with a handout of techniques we practiced.

More information on June can be found on her website:

The project we worked on in class. A butterfly floral design printed on a home dec weight silk.

June Colburn discussing design aesthetics and ideas with the group.

An example of beadwork techniques done on an embossed velvet.

An example of bead embellishment done on a top made from a vintage kimono. This was worn by June to a Japanese wedding when she lived in Japan.

I took two other hands on classes during this expo. One was on fitting with Cynthia Guffey and one on perfecting metered corners in quilting along with set in triangles.

Cynthia Guffey is one of the sewing educators/professionals that I really aspire to emulate. She has amazing couture techniques and believes in doing things correctly. Like paying attention to grain line and always sewing with the grain to eliminate distortion issues. Cynthia has a line of beautiful patterns that are timeless styling as well as a great line of technique DVD's and workbooks on fitting, styling, techniques, etc...

If you ever have the chance to see examples of her work you should do so. The work is impeccable and beautiful! And best of all she is very no-nonsense. She does also do 4-day workshops where you can work on a project of your choice and she takes you step by step through the entire process of fitting and sewing techniques. Unfortunately, I have been unable to attend one of these.... Always scheduling conflicts!

Anyway, this hands on class was on Fitting the Boxy Jacket. The class included one of Cynthia's patterns. She probably has 4-5 different patterns that could be classified as 'boxy' jackets. In the class she had multiple examples sewn up for us to try on and then critique was done on the fitting. She also taught us the most important fitting issues for a boxy jacket. (BTW: a boxy jacket still needs more than just 2 side seams!!) How to adjust for length issues in front due to the boobs and the back length issues due to curve of the upper back. And went into detail on shoulder slope. A excellent class!

Me with one of Cynthia's samples on for test fitting.

Cynthia doing an in-depth discussion of shoulder slope. How to find it on a pattern, how to find it on a person and then how to correct for a difference.

You can find more info on Cynthia at

The last hand on class that I took was a quilting one with Nelly Vileikis, it was specifically for mitered corners and set in triangles. The discussion for the set in triangles was based around the biased edges and how to keep them from being on the edge of the quilt. Why, because it will cause the edges to be ripply. Also on when sewing with set in triangle to keep the bias edge of the triangle to the feed dogs to keep things from stretching.

The second, and in my opinion, the more exciting part was perfecting the mitered corners. This was an area that I lacked in because I just had no plan of action to get them done consistently and looking good! Well.... Happy to report that I do now!

This was another class that we left with a project in progress that took us through multiple steps in getting the miters done correctly. She also sent us with a very nice step by step written guide. This was the first class I have taken with Nelly and she is an excellent teacher! I will keep a lookout for her at future expos.

You can find out more info on Nelly at:

This is the blocks that we worked on in class, along with the picture of the finished kit.

My perfectly mitered corner!!!

In class, trying out layout of the blocks and strips.

I was very happy with the 3 classes that I took!

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Tinley Park, IL