Friday, May 19, 2017

My Sewing Story, Part 2: The Why

Now that you've heard (well, technically read...) the story of how I got into sewing, there is another important aspect of my story. The why. There are several things that I love about sewing/quilting. For one, it is an amazing tradition through history. I remember going to Old Threshers in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and learning about the history of quilting, and it is truly amazing. That should probably be a post in and of itself, but until then, the random fact that I remember most about that demonstration was that if you pricked yourself with a needle or pin and go t blood on your quilt you could get it out using your own saliva! Kind of gross, but maybe that's why it was so memorable. Not only is our collective history rich with quilting traditions, but it has such a strong history in my own family specifically. I have always treasured those old quilts made by Mema and her mama. There is nothing like a quilt to pass down through a family- especially one made with fabric from handmade clothes and all of the stories that come with it. Even just knowing that my relatives before me did this same thing, albeit in a slightly different way, makes me feel connected to my roots.
The creativity aspect is another important part of it for me also. I really enjoy coming up with design ideas and making things myself. There is nothing like the satisfaction of designing and creating something from scratch and then seeing the successful end result. Sewing isn't the only way I have been able to experience this, but it's definitely one of my favorites. It's very relaxing for me (most of the time, when I'm not rushed or picking out stitches from mistakes!) and very therapeutic. I love all of the different colors, patterns, and textures that come together to make something both beautiful and useful.
That brings me to the third reason- I LOVE quilts! There is just something that draws me to them for myself and the thought of making them as a gift for others. I like that they combine art and beauty with practicality. Also I tend to be cold, so they are especially practical for me. It seems obvious to say, but it's really important to be pleased with what you make and for it to be something that makes you smile, or brings you comfort in some way, and quilts surely do that for me!
I am also a believer that everyone needs a hobby. Maybe it's sewing for you and maybe it's not, but we all need something that we like to do, that challenges our minds and bodies, and gives us purposeful work to do in our free time. One thing I am challenging us all to consider is how we can use our hobbies, that already benefit ourselves, to benefit others. Maybe we can make things to give or donate, donate our time, teach someone else our craft, or sell our products and donate the profits. Whatever it is, let's not close ourselves up in our comfortable homes and work on our hobbies alone. Let's reach out! I'd love to hear your stories, ideas or suggestions in the comments section here or on social media. {Instgram @stitchesnsnippets or The Stitches & Snippets Facebook Page}

My Sewing Story, Part 1: The How

Over the past few years sewing has become one of my primary hobbies, so I thought it might be fun to look back over how I learned to sew and how I got here. 
The first thing I will say about sewing is that I was exposed to it from a very young age. My grandmother made me some beautiful dresses when I was a child, my mom made some darling outfits, and I was surrounded by quilts made from fabric/clothing belonging to various relatives. When I was little I used to ask my mom to tell me the stories of the different fabrics in the quilt on my bed. Some of the fabrics were from her own outfits that Mema had made her and some were from clothing that others in our family wore. I loved imagining the outfits and stories behind all of the patchwork pieces. I used to want to sew, but I was a little intimidated by the sewing machine, so I would do most of it by hand at first. I remember one year for Christmas I received this big panel of knit fabric that had the outlines of doll clothes on it. You would cut around the outlines and then sew certain parts together and it made all of these little outfits! I think I may have learned some of that on the machine. My mom, however, knew someone who had sewn through her finger on a sewing machine and that used to freak me out!
For a while I got more into crochet and would make scrunchies, scarves, mittens, etc., and I didn't do as much sewing. My 8th grade year I took Family Consumer Sciences and we learned to sew on basic sewing machines and made a drawstring bag. Then, in late high school, my mom bought me a sewing machine for either Christmas or my birthday. I bought a pattern for some baby bibs and tried working on those one summer in college, but I was sort of overwhelmed by the bias binding and sadly I didn't get very far. (Word for the wise: Your first pattern probably shouldn't require bias binding.)
All this being said, I really didn't get seriously into sewing until after college. One of my best friends (and blogger over at Whit's Running Stitch) was really into quilting and it kind of sparked that creative vibe in me as well. I decided to try some quilting projects and soon I was hooked! I made hot pads and smaller items at first and then I started making rag quilts. My husband and I were gifted a lovely handmade rag quilt for our wedding and I thought "I could do this too!" It was a great place to start for me because it was a bigger project, and turned out very pretty and useful, but it was a little less overwhelming without the type of basting and quilting that goes into a traditional quilt. I made a few of these quilts as baby quilts or lap quilts, and then I tried a couple traditional baby-sized quilts before I made my first adult-sized traditional quilt.

I think this arrow quilt will always be one of my favorites. I felt so proud of myself when I completed it; partially because it was a successful attempt, but also because I had made up the design/pattern myself and I just loved how it turned out. It was also really satisfying that all of the fabric I used for the front of it had been scraps that I already had from other projects or that had been given to me, so I only had to purchase the backing, batting, and binding fabric- keeping the whole quilt budget under $30. That's especially nice when you have no idea how it will even turn out! At this point I was I was really hooked and I started making items like baby quilts, zipper pouches, and small purses. Once I could see that it was more than a passing hobby I also purchased a new computerized sewing machine and got up the courage to open the Etsy Shop. I mostly made things for gifts, but I did sell a few smaller items on Etsy, in live craft shows, and to people I knew.
This went on for a couple of years, and then we made the move to Tennessee. I continued to sew a lot of gifts and experimental items, but I also picked up a few custom orders (t-shirt quilts and baby quilts mostly), which was fun! It's encouraging to make with purpose, knowing someone is going to purchase or use (in the case of a gift) the completed item, rather than just making things that you then accumulate in your apartment. (Still made a lot of that stuff too though! Whoops!) For quite a while I had my eye on a new sewing machine, but I always talked myself out of it because of the price. For Christmas 2016 my husband surprised me with my absolute dream sewing machine!! (Juki TL-2010Q) I've been on cloud 9 with that puppy! This pretty much brings us to the present.
I have recently been thinking more and more about my future sewing and creative goals and I am bouncing several ideas around. I know I love to create and no matter what direction I go, I think sewing will be a lifelong hobby for me. I guess the question is, will it be more than a hobby? Who can ever tell what the future holds, but I am excited to see. :)

*Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, which talks more about the why I love to sew.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Charm Packs, Layer Cakes, Jelly Rolls, Fat Quarter Bundles, and the Whole 9 Yards!

If you have been quilting for any amount of time you have likely heard about "pre-cut fabrics". I would categorize them as a fun convenience- you definitely don't need them, but they are pretty fantastic!

So now that we have discussed how great they are, let's get into exactly what each common pre-cut is and some project ideas for each. The names I used in the title are mostly used by Moda Fabrics and I will mention some other common names used by other fabric companies.




Charm Pack: a stack of 5" squares, usually 42
  • basic patchwork baby quilts (uses ~2 packs)
  • HST (half-square triangle) patterns, for example: This HST/pinwheel baby quilt is one of my favorites. The patterned fabrics are from a charm pack and the white was cut from yardage. It went together pretty quickly and I loved the result!



 Layer Cake: "10 square", stack of 10" squares, usually 42
  • throw-sized HST quilt (like these, for example!)
  •  cut into smaller patchwork squares
Giant star quilt, made from one layer cake.




Jelly Roll: "roll-up", roll of 2.5 x 42 inch strips
  • striped quilt
  • table cloths (like these!)
  • fence rail quilt pattern
  • small patchwork squares
  • log cabin pattern

Jelly rolls are perfect for fence rail patterns like these!
Fat Quarter Bundle: bundle of ~18"x21" pieces, usually one from each fabric in a line
  • ANYTHING!, but more specifically...
  • purses
  • quilt patterns with varying sizes of pieces
  • zipper pouches
  • equilateral triangle quilts  

Now I suppose the question is, Why are they so great? Well for starters, NO CUTTING! I mean honestly do we have to go beyond that? Decreasing the cutting significantly decreases the prep time for most projects. Another pro is that you can get a little bit of a whole line without having to go through and purchase each fabric separately, thus making it easier to make a quilt (or other project) with more variety in the fabric. And finally, there are several patterns out there that are designed specifically with pre-cuts in mind, taking the guesswork and some of the design aspects out of the project for those who are intimidated by that part of the making process. Just knowing that all of the fabrics will automatically "go together" is super convenient!

There are several places you can purchase pre-cut fabric bundles. Big box stores such as Joann, Hobby Lobby, and even Walmart carry some of these cuts. When it comes to designer pre-cuts I have found Craftsy to be the best option. They can also be found at places like Fabric.com, independent Etsy shops, local quilt shops and other online retailers.

So there you have it- pre-cuts in a nutshell. I hope you found this informative and inspiring. I find pre-cuts very inspiring in general, with all of their coordinating colors and cute packaging. (Sometimes it's hard to convince myself to even open them!) It's also worth mentioning that, while pre-cuts may make for quick quilt tops and smaller projects, you will still need yardage for the backing, binding, lining, etc. So whatever cut of fabric you have, get out there and MAKE!

-Rachel


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What's New in the Shop!

To follow up on my recent Instagram post, there are some changes coming to the shop! As you may already know, I currently offer handmade quilted items on Etsy and occasionally via in-person craft shows. I have recently been doing some research and will be implementing the additional option of offering items for sale on my Stitches & Snippets Facebook page as well as here on the blog (under the "Shop" tab) via Shopify. I hope that this will make the listings more directly accessible, especially to those who do not already have an Etsy account. Shopify offers secure transactions directly from Facebook or a personal blog/website, and does not require a user account.

At this time I plan to keep the Etsy shop open, and would appreciate feedback as to the pros and cons of either shopping experience. From my point of view I see benefits to both. Shopify allows for a more convenient and individualized selling experience, while Etsy is a great community of makers, offering support as well as directing traffic to the shop via browsing and search options. As new listings are advertised (primarily via Instagram and Facebook) I will include direct links as there may be different listings in each shop to avoid any confusion in terms of inventory.

I am excited to see the impact that these changes will make on the shop this year, and I plan to start offering more content in the way of blog posts, as well as item listings. Stay tuned! :-)


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New Sewing Machine Review: The Juki 2010q!!

This Christmas my husband surprised me big-time. I've had my eye on one of these Juki sewing machines for quite a while, and was even tempted to buy one this Fall when Amazon was running a sale. I talked myself mostly out of it though, and then they went out of stock and were restocked at the original price. Unbeknownst to me, my husband ordered me one, had it shipped to his workplace where the giant box sat in his office for a while, snuck it home, wrapped it, and still kept it a secret until were were done opening presents and I discovered that the spa gift certificate that he had given me was completely fake. Once I read the fine-print it told me of my final gift; this machine. AHH!!


Initial unboxing, feat. Abby the Schoodle!

In the craft nook 😊

Sooo, anyways I've been sewing on the machine for a couple of months now and I thought I would give my personal review. Here goes...



Pros
Cons
Throat space
Trouble with the needle cutter at first (update: most likely user error as this has been much improved as of late!)
Stitch Quality

Thread cutter

Extension table

Durable

Inexpensive bobbins

Speed





And there you have it. Clearly I was able to find many more pros than cons, and honestly I could go on and on about the good things. One aspect that should be mentioned, however, is that it is pretty pricey- probably not a first sewing machine. However, the construction does seem to be superior to most others I've seen and I hope it will be a lifelong investment! I am still loving this machine and I can absolutely tell a difference in the stitch quality, even at the higher speeds (I actually just recently moved the speed controller from the middle-of-the-road position to the rabbit!)

If you're looking to move on to a higher level machine, I would definitely recommend this one to any quilter or sewist!

Friday, January 27, 2017

My Planning Adventures

Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated with office supplies; notebooks, markers, pens, pencils, planners! Whether I needed them or not, I could never have enough. Recently I became aware of some of the more intense planners out there. There are Instagram accounts, YouTube videos, it's endless. Two of the main ones you hear about are the Erin Condren LifePlanner and the Happy Planner. After some research I landed on the Happy Planner and so far I'm really, well... happy with it!

There are several interchangeable cover options, but I loved this floral design!

I've never had a planner with a vertical layout before, but I really like it because I am a big fan of lists (I get that from my mom!). This layout is really idea for list-makers, whereas a horizontal layout may be better if you like to write things out in sentences or have very large handwriting. It's also handy that the pages are removable. I don't take them in and out too much because it will eventually wear on the paper, but it is helpful to be able to remove a page and work on it on a completely flat surface without the binding discs getting in the way sometimes. Another perk to that is the option to insert extra pages like folders or lists. There is a punch to make your own inserts that interests me, but it's around $20 and at this point I'm not looking to invest more money into the planner at this point. If I continue to use it I might consider it in the future. I know Hobby Lobby has it and they always have the 40% off coupon so maybe someday!

Here's an example of a blank weekly layout with the vertical layout.
I had also never experienced the multitude of planner stickers there are out there. The Happy Planner/Me and My Big Ideas specifically has some great ones, as well as several Etsy sites. One thing that really got me though, was the cost. I purchased my Happy Planner for around $15 with a 50% off coupon at Michael's and bought some divider folders and a list pad to go with it. That's all fine and good, and a one-time cost, but a lot of these people on YouTube are buying weekly sticker sets for $15 a week! Don't get me wrong, they are cute and these Etsy makers deserve that kind of money for their art. However, planning is for organization and it's fun and therapeutic for me, but I'm not about to spend $60 a month just to keep my planner cute! I then discovered a variety of free sticker printables online that come with Silhouette files to perfectly cut them out. GAME. CHANGER. I've got stickers all over the place! Some are more for decoration and others are more functional, but one thing they all have in common is they motivate me to get. stuff. done.

The sticker set I chose for February.

Functional stickers: workout reminders and blank flags.

Example of using stickers and washi tape to decorate and use my planner.
I especially like the ones that come with check boxes because I just get so much satisfaction from checking off those little boxes when I complete a task. So, if you're interested in getting organized and motivated, I recommend the Happy Planner. And, if you're on a budget, here are some free printables I recommend to get your started:

This Sharpie Pen is my favorite for writing in my Happy Planner.
Lovely Planner
BeaYOUtiful Planning
My Planner Envy





 Happy Planning ;)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Photo Shoot: The Park at Harlinsdale Farm

It can be difficult to find a good place to photograph quilts. It needs to be pretty, with good lighting and a style that goes with the quilts. If you're alone it's helpful to have something to hang or drape the quilt on, since there's no one to hold it up. It's also nice if it isn't too far away. And guess what! I found that place!! It is called The Park at Harlinsdale Farms, and it's right here in Franklin. I was afraid it would be awkward hauling my quilts around and "posing" them, but then I saw two different groups of people taking senior pictures there, so that made me feel less out of place.

This first quilt is the one that initially inspired the photo shoot. It is a scrappy quilt that I made for myself and I LOVE it. Usually I like scrappy quilts better in person than in pictures because all of the different fabric patterns can get a little crazy. This quilt, however, is the exact opposite. Don't get me wrong, I really like it in person, but I think I like it even more in pictures.  Like this one...


The fence is perfect to display the quilts in all their glory, and I really like the effect of the old buildings behind them. The wind blowing the corner of the quilt to show a peek of the back was also a nice (unplanned) touch!

Here's a few more snaps. The sky was so blue!


















I was also able to finally get some good pictures of a few baby quilts I made quite some time ago. I love making baby quilts because you get that satisfaction of having finished an entire quilt, but they are so much more manageable. For that reason, I have accumulated a few.




{This one is cozy with a flannel backing and I like that it isn't super "girly".}







{I really like how the colors pop on this one. Also scrappy postage stamp quilts are one of my favorites. It was my love for this quilt that made me want to make the bigger one.}





{You can never really go wrong with traditional patchwork.}





{The fabrics featured on the front of this quilt are really cute, but the backing really steals the show. I just love the big animal scene!}















And finally, a non-quilt item. Though purses are obviously much smaller than quilts, I think they are even more difficult to photograph well. They really look best hanging but I never have anything at home to hang them on that wouldn't have a weird background behind it. I've tried laying them out flat, but I've never really been satisfied with the results. I do love this fence though. I like that its white but also rustic-y.





{Being outside in the open like this really makes for beautiful lighting too.}




{A little peek inside!}










And that is all. 

I've already been twice to photograph the items shown here and I'm thinking this is going to become my usual spot. I love that it's not only beautiful but it's also very "Franklin". It's kind of an iconic location around here where they hold a variety of festivals and activities. Franklin really seems to embrace the arts & crafts world and I want to embrace that!

Thanks for stopping by. All of the items shown here (except for the first large quilt) are for sale.  Some of these items are already listed in my Etsy Shop and the rest will be soon. For questions, or to request an item that has not yet been listed, please feel free to email me at stitchesnsnippets@gmail.com. Thanks!
Rachel