About Me

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Great Falls, Montana, United States
I love creating art. I love the Creator! And through that love, I find a little slice of heaven on earth and I give Him all the glory! It's a great adventure and I'm excited to see what's around the bend! Come join me, won't you?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

make life sweet ~ sweetwater placemats



hi everyone ~

i finally had time to delve into this charming yardage i've had on the back burner; it's "noteworthy" by sweetwater for moda fabrics.  and so i combined my love of writing and text onto the classic round placemat shape:
when i was teaching recently, at the local Quilt-A-Way quilt shop here in Great Falls, this book really caught my eye: "Sweetwater's Simple Home."  i've always liked their style, and i was tickled to come home with the book after a wonderful day of teaching there.


the threads i chose to put to the task at hand, are left to right: razzle dazzle {for couching}, magnifico {for quilting} and masterpiece {for bobbin thread} for both construction, quilting, and couching.
once the fabrics were layered with the batting, i loaded up the machine with the 40 wt pink-red magnifico thread {100% polyester} with white masterpiece {100% ELS cotton} in the bobbin.  i lowered my top tension from a 4.0 to a 2.5. i could have used matching red thread for the bobbin, but i chose not to because i wanted it to be subtle texture from the backside.  lowering the tension also helps that balance of colors from the top to the back, and keeps the threads more in the middle of the batting and fabric quilt sandwich .

 i also used my fave needle; the 90/14 titanium topstitch needle {all threads and needles by superiorthreads.com}
and i found this page in my new book to be inspiration for the quilting motif:
to start, i folded the circle in the center.  i used a pressing tool, like the one shown below but of course, your finger/nail works fine, too!
my reason for doing this is to have a crease to mark the center of the circle, so i could get a pleasing placement for the writing lines, and hopefully eliminate any slanted lines/stitching.
my favorite pen, the "frixion" pen, that writes like a pen, and erases magically with the touch of an iron:
i marked 3.5" from the top of the center line, to make my top line, and the same to go below the center line.  i just wanted three lines, fairly centered within the circle of fabric, and also, you can audition your writing if spacing is an issue you are concerned about.  and i am.  i don't mind a bit of a slant, or whimsical altered letter, but i did really want it to be pretty much centered, but also very "light and free-styling" {if that makes any sense!}
i quilted the words first, and then a random type of "scribble" and "sketchy" straight stitching around the perimeter. {i also altered the straight stitch to a longer length so the stitching would "show off" too.


as i've said before on the blog, my go-to starch is right here, and i use it at these stages of quilting, too:
{it helps to make my sewing life sweet!}

to make the straight lines stay flat and where they belonged, i engaged my handy-dandy dual feed on my bernina 830.  love it! {and looks like i need to clean up a few fuzzies, too!}
i also used my #37 patchwork foot, too, for the quilting around the perimeter, as it has a place for the dual feed to attach too {it's not just for your patchwork ya know!} but you could also attach a walking foot which would work just as good:
i'm going at a pretty good clip, making sure my lines cross, and around and around... i go!
i cut bias fabric for the binding, and attached it, using my patchwork foot.  


then, i couched on the razzle dazzle thread, right into the binding seam, using the Bernina #39 foot, which also stitches the binding down at the same time it adds the beautiful thread embellishment.  {see the foot, and #39 tutorial here}
and i decided to add a heart at the bottom, too, just for fun:
the back side:
"sweet!"
yup.  
make life sweet!
xo
leslie

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

planting goodness ~ hosea geranium watercolor

hi!


i have sure loved sketching... practicing... and making this 'geranium-styled' watercolor flower several times now. 


gradually, with each one i do, i think of different ways to add special details. 


my latest favorite pen for a bit of shine and sparkle, is the gelly roll sparkly pens.  {they have a metallic star on the pen label}.  the one i used in this piece is the silver.  i also love using the clear sparkle pen, too!


and... some sketchy writing, and words of truth!


i am also experimenting with 'making the paint bleed' ... and while it's a really interesting effect... not sure i like it... but i think it will definitely "grow" on me, too!!! 


{just like His word, helps me grow out, grow up... and grow more... into... His goodness!





8 x 10" print available in the etsy shop, right... here!


thanks for coming on in... have a wonderful spring day!!
and know there are lots of blessings coming your way!


xo
leslie



Monday, April 21, 2014

a fresh dose of joy ~ prayer in a watercolor

happy  Monday-after-Resurrection Sunday!

from one of my most favorite authors, susie larson:
"stretch out those arms, open your hands, and receive a fresh does of joy today!"

yes, i will!  and i hope you will join me?!

thank you susie!

xo
leslie

Sunday, April 20, 2014

happy easter!!

i was thrilled... not just to see buds on the apple trees, but to see these branches... and in celebration of this awesome day of Alleluia!

"why... do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is Risen! just as He said."

He  Is Risen ~ He is Risen Indeed!!!
"one of {London's} reference points in the city is the Charing Cross.  It is near the geographical center of the city and serves as a navigational tool for those confused by the streets. 

a little girl was lost... a policeman found her.  between sobs and tears, she explained she didn't know her way home.  he asked her if she knew her address.  she didn't.  he asked her phone number; she didn't know that either. but when he asked her what she knew, suddenly her face lit up.  "I know the Cross," she said.  "Show me the Cross, and I can find my way home from there."

so can you." ~ from Max Lucado: "And The Angels Were Silent"

amen.

love, grace and peace to you all in Christ Jesus on this glorious day!  
leslie


Saturday, April 19, 2014

kitchen towels ~ tutorial

weekend greetings to all ~ gosh, i think i've done about 30 of these towels now!  ... and i've so enjoyed it!

it's really a simple, straight-forward process, but here are tips and hints {as promised}, that {i think} make for a more relaxing process, and... a more professional finished look.

i begin with a purchased towel, but of course, you can buy your own cotton linen fabric and finish the edges yourself.  that type of fabric can be found by the bolt/yardage in quilt shops, too. 

first, choose  a 90/14 titanium topstitch needle, as this will pierce cleanly through all the thicknesses of towel, especially those thick hems on the sides, as well as the extra fabric and embellishments.  it also suits the thread i'm using, which is magnifico 40 wt by superior threads.  it produces beautiful looking stitches! and for the bobbin thread, i love a basic white color in superior's masterpiece cotton; a 50 wt thread.  

i also engage the dual feed on the bernina 830, but a walking foot would work well, or an open toe #20 foot {by bernina}.  i chose to use my patchwork #37... see why below.

then ~ one of the best tips:  press fabrics using mary ellen's "best press" starch.  by far, it's a top notch starch product, and so easily available.

 i buy it in the gallon size as it is more economical, and although it's a alot of money to spend, it's such a better value, as i use it in all  my quilting, pressing, and sewing. it just gives such a nice crisp edge, and you don't need alot of it. 
 after pressing, i cut my fabric in 3.5" strips.  usually, i can embellish two towels with this length, cut cross-grain.  this measurement is entirely arbitrary, though!  

nice, neat pressed edges make for easier placement on the towel.  generally, i turn the long edges up one quarter inch, and the short ends, about an half inch: 
and i add crochet trim, by turning under the short ends about one-half inch:
 my placement tip for aligning fabric, ribbons or any trim, is pretty simple.  line it up with the horizontal edge of the printed line or in this case, the checkered print/weave of this towel.  i also do my best to ensure the bottom edge of the trim, is parallel and aligned with the hemmed bottom edge of the towel.  generally, my rule of thumb is to put the bottom edge of the trim, right on the stitching line where the hem is.  

one thing i learned about crocheted-type trims... they tend to stretch quite a bit during sewing, so be on the look out to shorten, and tuck edges under, as you approach the towel edge. 
 auditioning the total look of this combo ~ and i love it! this combination of color and style on this checkered towel creates a romantic, classy country look!
 and to achieve flawless placement? my go-to, all-time favorite notion is 1/4" "steam-a-seam" tape.
i have it on hand in 1/4" and 1/2" sizes.
 one of my favorite tips to share for keeping the tape in place is making sure the fabric is warm... {recently pressed}, which helps it to stay in place. and once it's laid down, i burnish it with my finger.  i peel the paper back gently. i've found that if i rip off the paper backing too fast, the fusible tends to pull off as well, as it's a very thin layer of glue, and somewhat delicate and flimsy.  burnishing helps the fusible to stay in place when i flip the fabric over, until it's time to press for the permanent bond.   
 {peel the paper back gently... }
 before a final pressing, check to align the trim and secure with pins, making sure the overall placement looks good. {above}

i align trims such as rick rack by placing the lower edge of it right along the long edge of the printed weave, using the lines of the towel as a guide. in the photo below, you can see where i placed the fabric along the horizontal stripes of the weave of the towel, too:
the pin marks the stitch of the hemline of the towel for placement of the rick rack
and my favorite choice for topstitching?  the bernina #37 patchwork foot.  i keep my eye aligned with the inside edge of the right-side toe of the foot, even with the folded {and fused} edge of the fabric.  this makes it so easy to get perfectly pleasing  placement!  

another tip? use the straight-stitch plate, too. *{if you do, engage the safety feature on the machine so you don't accidentally break a needle, because you forgot the straight-stitch plate was on!} this combo of tools really makes achieving a beautiful look... effortless!
 i took the time to switch thread color to match the ecru colored crocheted trim... i just think it looks better.

another vip tip?  lengthen your stitch length!  the default length of a straight stitch on my machine is 2.5, and i adjust it up to a 3.0, but you could go a bit longer, too.  that choice is yours! but it does really make a big difference in how the stitches lay on the top, and... it just looks so good!

and one very important technique, that makes all the difference in finishing? before you start stitching, remember to... pull... that bobbin thread to the top when you begin!  that way you won't have any ugly thread nests on the bottom!
tying off when you start, makes it's much smoother to finish up the "loose ends" when making the final connection to the beginning line of stitching. i'm cautious about how much i reverse stitch, too, so i backstitch only about 2-3 stitches, then stitch in place about 2-3 times, {or use the knotting function if you have one}, and after clipping threads... all is well!
an extra securing function i like to do, is to stitch down the edge of the rick rack trim, too.  this keeps it all nice and tidy, and will prevent any unravelling, as i like to fold the raw edge under the trim itself.  and i also take a couple extra stitches in reverse, on each of the corners, just to reinforce them.

when i attach rick rack {and this is the super-giant size!} {so fun}, i tuck the bottom half of the trim under the fabric, and generally, i don't fuse this, but i do make sure to pin, and stop often when sewing to make sure everything is "on course!"

one of the other things to keep in mind, is that depending on the weight of your fabric banding... some fabrics stretch more than others, so while sewing, it can inch forward, to be prepared to adjust the length of the fabric banding towards the towel edges, and you may have to shorten it a bit to make it align with the edge of the towel.  you could wrap it around the back, too... but i felt it was easier and more professional to turn it under and have it meet the edges, the best i could!

 and the back... look at how nice and tidy it looks when you take the time to pull up the bobbin thread before beginning to stitch!  {and the reverse stitches are in the same place as the beginning stitches}  no need to overdo it with backstitching!
 here's a bit of the rick rack raw edge showing underneath so you can see what it looks like.  if you want, just trim it down a little more, so when it's washed, it doesn't leave a bunch of threads unravelling.
and of course, i lightly press everything again when i'm finished!

and how much time do these take?  well, barring time choosing fabric and trims, {ahem!} ... i can usually get one done in about 30 minutes, give or take.  they really make nice christmas gifts, and so lovely to have on hand for weddings, hostess gifts, and house warmings, too!

and the most important tip?

keep the main thing... the main thing!  

and that is simply... to have fun! i love pulling fabrics and trims, and get alot of enjoyment mixing and matching all the different styles.

sure hope you found my process a little bit helpful!

xo

leslie

Thursday, April 17, 2014

HINTS & TIPS Threading n' Needles ~ a repost

hello ~

i dearly love teaching my students in the bernina "mastery" classes... and because quite a few of my students have asked, i am posting again, just for y'all! 

i have found that the most overlooked feature of sewing machines, is the lack of knowing the basics! 

with that being said, here are some of the most common basics that are either overlooked, forgotten, underused, and unapplied!  although these tips and hints are focused particularly on bernina ownership... they are still great tips for any sewing enthusiast!

❤    Use the correct size end caps based on the size of your thread spool.  There are usually three sizes included with your Bernina machine; small, medium and large.
In the picture below, they are shown as they should be placed onto your thread, once the spool is loaded onto your machine...  these spools are shown with the flat side of the end cap fitting flush with the end of the thread spool.  The reason they should be placed like this is to prevent threads from wrapping around the end of the spool, and if that happens, your thread will CERTAINLY break very soon, or will pull so violently tight, it will break your needle; especially at higher speeds. 
An Iscacord spool of thread is pictured below, with the smallest end cap in place, and the spool has been loaded onto the machine.  Notice in this pic there is also a gray sponge-like foam pad on the back side of the spool; placed so that the thread spool is held tight.  This is commonly overlooked by many Bernina owners.  and if you place your spool on the vertical spool holder, your thread spool should sit on top of this 'spongee' and the spool of threads spins easily, thread flows much... much... smoother through your machine.
a "cross-wound" spool of thread, placed on the horizontal spindle of the sewing machine
❤    Choose either horizontal or vertical thread spindles based on the way your thread is wound.  Cross wound thread spools (like Isacord thread in the picture above) are wound like a figure 8, are (normally) placed on the horizontal position. (Laying down). A stacked spool has the threads wound one thread on top of the other vertically, and should be placed on the vertical position (standing straight up). If the thread spool is stacked, no end cap is needed as the spool sits upright on the vertical spindle.
    Note: (generally) you can place a cross wound thread on either vertical or horizontal spools... the key is that these types of spools are wound so that the thread comes off the spool from the top of the thread cone.  Stacked threads are wound so the thread releases from the side of the spool.  From the front side or the back side of the spool, it does not matter how a stacked thread releases.  If you have a thread stand, then you can use either type of cone in the vertical position (standing up).



❤    Always begin the threading of your machine with tension disks open! THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! This means your presser foot is in the ‘up’ position, which enables the thread to be placed inside the tension disk area.  If it isn't... you will know very quickly (within 2-3 stitches) that something... isn't... right!!

❤    Ensuring the ‘take-up’ lever is in it’s highest position makes it easier  for most needle threaders to secure the thread through the eye of the needle.

❤    Have your needle at it’s highest point to help ensure success with the needle threader

❤    Once your machine is threaded, and before using the needle threader, put your presser foot in the ‘down’ position. This will allow the tension disks to close, and “clamp” your top thread in place, making it a bit easier to use the needle threader.

❤    Be sure to completely press down on the needle threader until the threader is able to completely surround the needle.  There are two little “snaggers” that must come through the eye of the needle in order to snag the thread and pull it through the eye of the needle.

❤    While letting go of the needle threader, remember not to hang onto the thread so tight that you end up pulling the thread back through the eye of the needle! I see many students who think they  should let it go quickly too, and that's not true either.  You can successfully thread the needle 'slow-motion' too!

❤    90% of all stitching issues are needle related!  THIS IS SO TRUE!
    ❀ Change your needle often!  This is the single most important and least expensive thing you can do!  Change it approximately every 2-3 bobbins, (really!) or every hour, depending on the type of sewing, fabric and thread play you're doing!  Fusings...free motion couching, & sewing through thick fabrics  will dull a needle much more quickly... I promise!
  • Learn to check your needle and its tip... it's easy to see the difference when you hold up a new needle to the older one against the lights... if that tip is even slightly flat, or has a burr on it, you can either FEEL  it... or SEE it!  AND... get rid of it!  The question I ask my students is simply this: "do you want to have fun... or do you want to struggle?" 
  • {knowledge=fun!}  it's as simple as that!
    ❀ Use the correct size of needle based on the thread you are using, and the type of fabric in your project. An 80/12 is good for piecing; a 90/14 is a must for free motion or decorative stitching {when you are using 40 wt threads}! otherwise, a smaller needle{s} like 80/10 and 70/12, will work fine if you have a smaller weight thread {like a 50 or 60 wt thread, respectively} 
    
❀ If you experience stitching issues, re-thread your machine from the top first.  If the problem persists, re-thread your bobbin case. If that doesn’t help... change your needle!  Try one thing at a time... that way you GAIN KNOWLEDGE in ... TROUBLESHOOTING!  That's a good thing!

    ❀ a size 90/14 needle in ***top stitch, metallic, denim/jeans, as well as the Bernina “Cordonnet” styled needle are nearly  identical in that they have a sharp tip, elongated eye, and deeper groove which work best with 40 weight cottons, 40 weight tri-lobal polyester threads and metallic threads; AND... especially in free motion!

***these days, I am completely sold on Superior's Titanium coated, Topstitch needles in sizes 70,80,90. and 100. they last twice as long as regular needles, and they are so worth it!

use your machine's potential to it's fullest... and then sew and enJOY!

and... i'm working at gettings pics for the "kitchen towel tutorial" ... so i hope you'll "stay tuned" and come on back, ya hear?!

blessings!
xo
les

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