Inspiration Plus: Putting Those Decorative Machine Stitches to Work

Do you ever wonder what you can do with that mind-boggling array of decorative stitches available on your sewing machine? If you’re like me, you may have tried a few–satin or blanket stitch for machine applique, perhaps–but that’s about it. On the other hand, my friend, Chris Porter, is never at a loss for creative ideas for putting those beautiful stitches to work. Time for some inspiration!

For Christmas, Chris surprised me with this lovely machine-appliqued, couched, and embroidered pouch.

Machine appliqued, couched, and embroidered pouch, 8 1/2" x 8 1/2", designed and made by Chris Porter
Machine appliqued, couched, and embroidered pouch, 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″, designed and made by Chris Porter

Here’s a view of the back. Notice the use of variegated threads and couched silk ribbon trims.

Back view of fabric pouch by Chris Porter
Back view of fabric pouch by Chris Porter

The versatile size (8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) makes it perfect for any number of uses; I found it ideal for corralling all those wires and chargers necessary for my digital camera, iPhone, and iPad. Now I always know where to find them here at home, and have a compact, convenient way to carry them when I travel.

Chris's pouch makes the perfect tote for all those chargers modern life requires.
Chris’s pouch makes the perfect tote for all those chargers modern life requires.

Chris has also been working those stitches to make journal covers as gifts for her friends, using a process similar to the one I described in my December 20 post. For this cover, she began with a beautiful mauve batik, to which she added a variety of decorative machine stitches in coordinating variegated thread.

Machine-embroidered journal cover, made by Chris Porter
Machine-embroidered journal cover, made by Chris Porter

Notice the stitched detail down the cover’s spine.

Cover opened to show spine detail
Cover opened to show spine detail

Rather than working with a single fabric, Chris pieced the next cover before adding the embellishments–a combination of machine-embroidery and couched ribbons.

Pieced and embellished journal cover, made by Chris Porter
Pieced and embellished journal cover, made by Chris Porter

I love the detail she added to the inside flap.

Feb 22_inside flap_orange

Chris has been using similar techniques to create other small gift items, such as needle books and eyeglass cases; the latter double nicely for stowing your rotary cutter. What a great way to familiarize yourself and experiment with your machine’s enhancements on a small scale before launching into a larger project! Here, Chris adapted one of her machine’s embroidery stitches to quilt Alphabet Soup, the cover quilt for our book, Cuddle Me Quick.

Detail of Alphabet Soup, made by Chris Porter; Chris adapted one of her machine's embroidery stitches to quilt the wiggly pattern around each block.
Detail of Alphabet Soup, made by Chris Porter; Chris adapted one of her machine’s embroidery stitches to quilt the wiggly pattern around each block.
Alphabet Soup, 39" x 45", made by Chris Porter
Alphabet Soup, 39″ x 45″, made by Chris Porter

Chris works on a Husqvarna Viking 960Q, but many of today’s machines offer similar stitching options. Why not take yours out for a spin?

Before leaving Chris, I have an exciting piece of news to report. In addition to the two books we have co-authored, Chris has written a number of best-selling books on her own. Her latest, Sensational Circle Quilts, will be published as an eBook (with video) and is scheduled for an April release. The publisher is Vivebooks, a British ePublisher–be sure to watch for it!

Chris Porter's newest book, coming out in April, will be published as an eBook!
Chris Porter’s newest book, coming out in April, will be published as an eBook!

That leaves me with one final bit of “business” for today, and that’s to announce the winner of Gwen Marston’s new book, Minimal Quiltmaking, from my Tuesday post. And that winner is vickievan! Congratulations, Vickie, and thanks to Gwen for providing the giveaway prize.

‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Bookin’ It: Another Last-Minute Gift Idea for Fabric Lovers

Remember this package from my Tuesday post?

December 17_package complete

Well, if you recall, I promised to reveal the contents in today’s posting. But first a little background. I’m lucky enough to be part of a group of five creative women who meet from time to time to share our latest projects, offer inspiration (and–occasionally–moral support), and just to enjoy each other’s company. Each year we plan a holiday dinner to celebrate our friendship and to participate in a secret Santa exchange. As we’re all avid quilters, it’s not unusual for some–if not all–gifts to be items we’ve crafted ourselves.

This year, I drew Kim Butterworth as my “giftee.” Here’s what Kim found inside that package.

My secret Santa gift for Kim
My secret Santa gift for Kim

I love the idea of keeping a special book as a journal, sketchbook, or idea book, and–as Kim is a super creative lady–I suspected she might too. Rather than purchasing a decorative book from a stationer or bookstore, I thought it would be fun to create something more personal. Here’s how I did it.

You'll need a book, fabric for cover and lining, fusible web, cotton batting, a length of coordinating ribbon, and matching thread.
You’ll need a book, fabric for cover and lining, fusible web, cotton batting, a length of coordinating ribbon, and matching thread.

The cut sizes of the cover and lining fabrics, fusible, and batting will depend upon the size of the book you plan to cover. The book I chose measured approximately 6″ x 8 1/2″, with a 1/2″ wide spine. We’ll use that for our example.

Figuring Measurements and Cutting

(Tip:  Keep track of the measurements by writing them down and labeling them as you go.)

1. Double the width of the cover and add the width of the spine. To this figure, add 6″ for the book flaps and 2″ for turnover allowance. Label this measurement A. (Example:  6″ width of book x 2 = 12″ + 1/2″spine + 6″ flaps + 2″ turnover = 20 1/2″.)

2. Add 2″ to the length of the book for turnover allowance, and then add another 1/2″ for “wiggle room.” Label this measurement B. (Example: 8 1/2″ length of book + 2″ turnover + 1/2″ wiggle room = 11″.)

3. Cut the cover fabric and one piece of lightweight fusible equal to measurement A x measurement B. (Example: 20 1/2″ x 11″.)

4. Subtract 2″ from measurement A. (Example, 20 1/2″ – 2″ = 18 1/2″). Label this measurement C.

5. Subtract 2″ from measurement B. (Example, 11″ – 2″ = 9″.) Label this measurement D.

6. Cut one piece each of cotton batting, fusible web, and lining fabric equal to measurement C x measurement D. (Example, 18 1/2″ x 9″.)

No more math. Now comes the fun part!

Making the Book Cover

(Note: Construction is similar to that used for the checkbook cover I shared with you last December.)

1. Fuse the lining fabric, right side up, to the batting using the matching-sized piece of fusible web.

2. Apply the larger (matching-sized) piece of fusible web to the wrong side of the cover fabric.

3. Center the prepared batting, lining side up, over the fusible-web side of the prepared cover fabric. Starting with the two long sides, turn the cover fabric to the lining; press to fuse. Repeat for both short sides, squaring the corners; press. Clip excess fabric at the corners on the diagonal.

December 20_clipped corner 2

4. Fold the unit in half, lining sides together; press. Unfold, and then fold both ends of the unit inward 3″; press. Insert the book to check for fit.

December 20_fitting cover_1

5. Remove the book; refold the cover. Measure and mark the center of the front and back of the cover (not the flaps) for ribbon placement.

December 20_marking cover for ribbon

6. Center a length of decorative ribbon over the marked guideline, making sure to leave tails for tying. Use matching thread to stitch the ribbon to the front and back cover.

December 20_ribbon sewn7. Quilt and/or embellish as desired. I used stencils to trace and fuse Kim’s name to the front cover. An embroidered monogram, rows of decorative stitching, lace, buttons, and beads are just a few other options. Be creative!

December 20_cover KIM

8. Refold the two flaps back toward the center, lining sides together. Starting with a few backstitches, topstitch a 1/8″ seam all around the perimeter of the unit.  Finish with a few backstitches.

December 20_inside cover

Insert the book, tie the ribbons, and your gift is complete!

The finished book, shown here with my great-grandfather's fountain pen
The finished book, shown here with my great-grandfather’s fountain pen

I hope you find time for some stitching this holiday season! Best wishes . . . Darra-signature

P.S. Click here to read Jennifer’s earlier profile of Kim Butterworth, and to see some of her wonderful work.

Feeling Frantic? Check Out These Last-Minute Goodies–Perfect for Stitchers and Crafters Alike

Can you believe that Christmas is just a week away?

Christmas vignette_edited

If you’re like me, the next seven days are jam-packed with holiday-related activities. As the classic embodiment of “last-minute Lulu” (to borrow a phrase from our sister blogger emeritus, Christie Batterman), that means I’m scrambling for clever (translate: quick, easy, and budget-conscious) ideas for–among myriad other seasonal activities–secret Santa and ornament exchanges and for freshening up our usual holiday décor.

Enter Pinterest. (Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m hooked!) During a recent browse, I came across a little goodie that was a perfect match for my time, pocketbook, and “in stock” materials.

Button and Yarn Snowman ornament from funEZcrafts
Button and Yarn Snowman ornament from funEZcrafts

Immediately I clicked on the link to find the source, and discovered a delightful DIY site called funEZcrafts. This site is loaded with great ideas: simple, fun, and–in many cases–utilizing materials already on hand in the workroom of any enthusiastic quilter/crafter. For the Button and Yarn Snowman Ornament, the required items were a few white, red, and black buttons (Buttons? Do I have buttons?!!); a bit of red yard; a scrap of narrow red and/or green ribbon; scissors; a ruler; and a toothpick.

Button-and-yarn-snowman-materials-and-tools

Bingo! I was in business. Within minutes, I had a cute little snowman, ready for the tree.

My version of the Button and Yarn Snowman ornament from the FunEZcraft website
My version of the Button and Yarn Snowman ornament from the FunEZcraft website

Enthusiastically, I returned to the funEZcrafts site. Here are a few other sweet and disarmingly “doable” projects to be found under the Christmas Crafts tab. For example, I loved this jaunty Felt and Twig Snowman.

Felt and Twig Snowman from funEZcrafts
Felt and Twig Snowman from funEZcrafts

Or how about this colorful Button Wreath Ornament?

Button Wreath Ornament from funEZcrafts
Button Wreath Ornament from funEZcrafts

Do you have any crocheted “bits” tucked away in your stash? A Doily Sachet Ornament might be just the ticket.

Doily Sachet Ornament from funEZcrafts
Doily Sachet Ornament from funEZcrafts

This Quilter’s Angel Ornament requires just a wee bit more in terms of time and materials, but it still ranks high on the easiness scale. I found her under the Angel Crafts tab.

Quilter's Angel Ornament from funEZcrafts
Quilter’s Angel Ornament from funEZcrafts

Each project on the funEZcrafts website includes a chart and photo illustrating the necessary materials and clear, step-by-step, photo-illustrated instructions. Hint: Looking for something to keep the kids or grandkids busy, engaged, and entertained in the countdown until the big day? You’ll find terrific ideas on this site for great kid-friendly gifts for teacher, babysitter, or grandma. Check under Felt Crafts for such diverse projects as a business card holder, cosmetic pouch . . . even a cupcake paperweight. (Just be sure the young ones are old enough for projects that involve small items such as buttons or beads.)

Felt Cupcake Paperweight from funEZcrafts
Felt Cupcake Paperweight from funEZcrafts

Many thanks to Sara at funEZcrafts for granting permission to use photos from her site. Oh, and by the way: It didn’t take long to realize that my button Frosty ornament had other possibilities as well. Here, he becomes a festive “add on” to a secret Santa gift.

December 17_package complete

In Friday’s post, I’ll reveal what’s inside that package, along with instructions for making the contents.

‘Til then, happy stitching (and crafting)!Darra-signature

An Afternoon of Fabric Play = Five Easy Pieces!

Today I just felt like sewing. Nothing large, or complex. Just something that would let me play with fabric, and that I could start and finish in an hour or so.

Romance_fabric

A summer or two ago, we decided to plant “a few little lavendar plants” in a bed near our front door. Given the sunny location, and the Mediterranean-like micro-climate here east of San Francisco Bay, it wasn’t long before our little lavendar patch was assuming the proportions of a lavendar farm!

Just a small sampling of last year's lavendar crop
Just a small sampling of last year’s lavendar crop

As last summer ended, I brought some of the harvest to dry indoors, enjoying the fragrance all winter long.

One of many lavendar bouquets to grace our home last winter
One of many lavendar bouquets to grace our home last winter

With a new crop well on its way, however, I’ve been getting kinda desperate. Hmmmmm. Dried lavendar. Fabric. Ribbons and trims. Small project. Sachets! Not only a worthy prospect to soothe my yen to sew, but a perfect, quick-and-easy Mother’s Day (or end-of-year-for-teacher) gift, too.

Sashets with Lavendar_2

There are so many ways you can make them. For the basic sashet:

1. Cut two fabric squares to the size you’d like the finished sachet to be, plus about 1/2″ for seam allowance.

2. Place the squares right sides together, and stitch all around the perimeter with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a generous opening on one side for turning and filling.

3. Turn right side out and fill with lavendar (a funnel or folded sheet of paper helps here). Tuck the remaining seam allowance to the inside, and handstitch the opening closed with a blind- or whipstitch.

Ah, the variations! You can tie the basic sachet package-style with decorative ribbon. Add a charm, just for fun.

This little sachet measures approximately 3" square finished, but you can make it any size you'd like.
This little sachet measures approximately 3″ square finished, but you can make it any size you’d like.

You can center and stitch a piece of vintage crochet work (or other vintage tidbit) to the front fabric before assembling the “pillow.” The size of the crochet piece will determine the finished size of the sachet. If you add a little extra to the cut squares, the fabric forms a lovely frame.

My crochet piece measured about 3 1/2" square, so I cut my fabric pieces 5" square--enough for seam allowance and a nice little frame.
My crochet piece measured about 3 1/2″ square, so I cut my fabric pieces 5″ square–enough for seam allowance and a nice little frame.

As an alternative, you can stitch lace, ribbon, or other favorite trims to the front fabric before assembly. (I added the button after the sachet was filled, turned, and stitched closed.)

This sachet is slightly larger than a teabag.
This sachet is slightly larger than a teabag.

If you’d like, add a ribbon loop for hanging. For this variation, I placed the fabrics wrong sides together and took a generous 1/4″ seam. (No turning necessary, but I still needed an opening to add the scent.) Once the sachet was filled, I folded and fused wide ribbon to all four sides, knotted a length of 1/8″-wide satin ribbon, and secured the ribbon with a button.

This sachet finished about 4" square; the ribbon loop makes it hanger ready.
This sachet finished about 4″ square; the ribbon loop makes it hanger ready.

Of course, you can make your sachet a shape other than square (and use fabrics other than cotton). I used scraps of dupioni silk to make this rectangular sachet. Circles and hearts are other options.

Once again, I stitched the ribbon to the front fabric before assembly; finished measurements: appropimately 3" x 4 1/2".
Once again, I stitched the ribbon to the front fabric before assembly; finished measurements: appropimately 3″ x 4 1/2″.

So there you go. I spent a delightful few hours fondling fabric, stretching my creative muscles, making a glorious–but highly satisfying–mess, and in the end, came away with five finished little pieces. (And boy, does my sewing room smell good!)

Not bad for an afternoon's work!
Not bad for an afternoon’s work!

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

For Valentine’s Day and Beyond: Capture Mementos (and Memories) with a Nostalgic “Pocket” Pillow

Some sources say that it was Henry VIII who, in 1537, settled the English celebration of Valentine’s Day upon February 14–by Royal Charter, no less. At the time, he was married to his third wife, Jane Seymour. Jane, who was expecting, ultimately produced the long-awaited male heir, marking one of the happier times in Hal’s well-chronicled marital history.

That old romantic, Henry VIII; photo courtesy of www.theanneboleynfiles.com
That old romantic, Henry VIII; photo courtesy of http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com

(Don’t you love the photo? I found it on a wonderful blog – The Anne Boleyn Files – a fun destination for Tudorphiles.)

Last week, under the spell of the approaching holiday (and inspired by Downton Abbey, to which I’ll admit I am hopelessly addicted), I decided to put my creative mojo to work designing something with a hint of romance and nostalgia. I had the perfect inspiration, too. About 18 months ago, my (nonagenarian) mother-in-law Ethel passed along a beautiful collection of delicate lace- and cutwork-trimmed handkerchiefs and tea napkins. Some had been given to her as a girl as souvenirs from family traveling in Europe; others she believed had belonged to her own mother, or possibly her mother-in-law.

Just a sampling of my lovely "inherited"  textiles; by the way, that fashionable, bustled lady is my great-grandmother's sister, Pauline, who made her living as a dressmaker. Fabric is in my blood, I guess!
Just a sampling of my lovely “inherited” textiles; by the way, that fashionable, bustled lady is my great-grandmother’s sister, Pauline, who made her living as a dressmaker. Fabric is in my blood, I guess!

It was Ethel’s intent that I put at least some of these family heirlooms to use in my work. I began as I usually do, by choosing a basic palette (in this case, gray, pink, rosy mauve, ecru, and white), and then raiding my cupboards for fabrics, trims, and embellishments that might create the “mood” I’m looking for.

Some of the fabrics, trims, and other embellishments I considered
Some of the fabrics, trims, and other embellishments I considered

Now the big question: what would I make? Here’s what I came up with . . .

pillow complete vignette

This dainty, Edwardian-inspired, 8″ square pillow met all my criteria. It’s feminine and romantic, with a pocket for tucking away cherished photos or other ephemera. It allowed me to use one of my treasured vintage hankies. Finally, once I had finalized the materials, it took less than two hours to make, including the pillow form (which means that yes, you can still make one in time for the big day)!

If a 48-hour turnaround is just a tad too ambitious, consider making one as a first-year anniversary gift for a special bride (incorporating her bridal handkerchief, and tucking her wedding invitation and/or wedding portrait inside); as a memorable silver or golden anniversary gift; or as a christening or First Communion rememberance. Then again, you might whip one up in the appropriate fabrics and trims; stash some fancy chocolates, a pair of movie passes, a handmade sachet, or even a gift card in the pocket; and surprise someone you love, “just because.”

Here’s What You’ll Need

8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ square each of two different fabrics (one for pillow front, one for pocket)

Two 6 1/2″ x 8 1/2″  rectangles of fabric (for pillow back)

3/4 yard of 1 1/2″-wide wire-edged silk ribbon

Small lace-edged handkerchief, tea napkin, or crocheted doily

Charm, button, or other embellishment as desired

8″ square pillow form (or make your own; directions follow)

Making the Pillow Front

1. Fold over the top edge of the pocket piece approximately 3″; press.

Stripe is the pillow front; rosy hand-dye is the folded pocket fabric. I've shown both so you can see the approximate proportions.
Stripe is the pillow front; rosy hand-dye is the folded pocket fabric. I’ve shown both so you can see the approximate proportions.

2. Fold the hankerchief diagonally over the folded top edge of the pocket, so the desired amount of handkerchief is visible on the pocket front. Use matching thread to baste the handerchief to the pocket along their top edge with a 1/8″ seam.

hankie overlap_2

3. Trim the handkerchief even with the sides and bottom of the pocket.

hankie trimmed

4. Fold the length of wire-edged ribbon in half crosswise. Tie a generous bow at the midpoint. Pin the ribbon to the top edge of the pocket, centering the bow. Working outwards from the center, use matching thread to stitch the top and bottom edges of the ribbon to the pocket, right along the wire edges. Trim excess ribbon even with the sides of the pocket.

ribbon extended_2

5. Layer the pocket on the pillow front, right sides together, with side and bottom edges aligned. Baste the sides and bottom of the pocket to the pillow front with a 1/8″ seam.

pillow front complete

Assembling the Pillow

1. Turn under one 8 1/2″ edge of one backing piece 1/4″ to the wrong side; press. Fold over a second 1/4″; press and topstitch. Repeat with the other backing piece.

back piece

2. Layer the pillow front and the backing pieces, right sides together, aligning the raw edges; pin. (The hemmed edges of the pillow backing will overlap about 2″ – 3″.) With your machine set in the needle-down position, stitch 1/4″ from the raw edges all around the perimeter, pivoting at each corner. Clip the corners at an angle, taking care not to cut into the seam.

pillow assembled_2

3. Turn the pillow cover right side out, making sure the corners are nice and crisp; press. (Another job for my 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool). Add a decorative charm, button, or other embellishment to the bow as desired. Insert the pillow form, and you’re all set!

finished and stuffed

Pillow Form

If you can’t find an 8″ square pillow form, make your own. It’s easy! Cut 2 squares of muslin (or other light-colored cotton), 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″. Place right sides together. Stitch around the perimeter with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 5″ opening along the bottom edge. Clip the corners, turn right side out, and press. Stuff to desired firmness with your favorite filler, pin the opening, and slipstitch to close.

Our readers went all out with the Valentine’s comments in response to last Friday’s post. We even received some poetry! The winner of Laura’s apron pattern is Mary on Lake Pulaski. Congratulations, Mary!

Don’t forget to check back on Friday, when I’ll be announcing the winner of Quilt Blocks Go Wild! from my February 5 post.

‘Til then, happy stitching. Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!Darra-signature

10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out With Candace Kling, Ribbon Worker Extraordinaire

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's Studio
How wonderful are these pretty blossoms? I absolutely love the satiny texture of the ribbons and their colors.

1.  Candace Kling, the subject of my Tuesday post, has a wonderful studio with plenty of room to spread out works-in-progress and storage for supplies, tools, and everything else. It’s a shared warehouse space with a surface design artist/art professor, a print maker, and a fashion designer.

Candace's main work center with the super-cool map drawer set.
Candace’s main work center with the super-cool map drawer set.

2.  Candace is wonderfully organized in the best-possible, non-anal way. Shelves display labeled boxes filled with wondrous flowery and ribbony treasures; a re-purposed set of map drawers in her primary work area holds her most useful supplies and tools; and file drawers stock class curricula and other material for her life as a working artist. The atmosphere is hip-creative and yet not precious or overwrought with “studio” design.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's Studio

3.  She’s well connected. After 30 years in pursuit of her craft, she’s got ties with a huge community of artists, collectors, crafters, collaborators, curators, peers, students, suppliers, and so forth. There’s a lot of activity in her orbit–a vintage hat discovery by a friend in an L.A. resale shop could be the start of a new exploration.

Straight from her worktable--a pretty blossom with handmade stamens and a center with cording hand dyed by a student and sculpted by Candace
Straight from her worktable–a pretty blossom with handmade stamens and a center with cording hand dyed by a student and sculpted by Candace

4.  Relatedly, Candace knows her way through private and museum costume collections.  Much of her work and teaching derives from close-up study of these garments. Her detailed analysis and documentation preserves our understanding of historic clothing and our appreciation of antique workmanship.

A mid-20th century cashmere sweater with wonderful ribbon work and embroidered details.
A mid-20th century cashmere sweater with wonderful ribbon work and embroidered details.

5.  Speaking of learning from vintage goods, she has an incredibly precise eye when she examines these fragile wares and has developed a variety of hands-off techniques for measurement. Often all she can use is a piece of thread for determining the dimensions of each element she’s studying. Her academic background in figure drawing and garment design/construction certainly honed her skills and raised her comfort level, and gave her the confidence to tackle even an 18th-century gown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Precision? These perfect tiny blossoms are probably 1/2" in diameter
Precision? These perfect tiny blossoms are probably 1/2″ in diameter.

6.  Candace has a sublime resource library of ribbon, stamens, leaves, etc. A good portion of her stock is vintage goods culled from her finds and purchases from collectors. The new materials come from specialty shops and online stores. Everything is sorted, categorized, and labeled. And she’ll also custom make some of the elements, like stamens, when she needs a particular color or shape.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's ribbon collectionInspiration-J:  Candace Kling's StudioInspiration-J:  Candace Kling's Studio

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's ribbon drawer7.  All told, she takes a fine-arts approach to her work, which is very thoughtfully composed, almost as though she’s painting a portrait or still life. There’s great deliberation in placement, proportion, size, depth, and shadowing.

This still life is a casual sketch combining old and new flowers--the vase is a re-purposed vintage handbag
This still life is a casual sketch combining old and new flowers–the vase is a re-purposed vintage handbag.

8.  Candace goes to extremes. Really? Yes! Most of her work can fit in the palm of a hand, but she’s been known to blow the roof off fine-art installations. Her sculpture, Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls, is 17 feet tall. Countless yards of hand-pleated and pressed sateen wrap a constructed plinth and cascade across the floor in sculpted, undulating waves.

"Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls" by Candace Kling
“Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls” by Candace Kling
Close-up view of the hand-folded and pressed pleats, and sculpted into undulating liquid-like shapes.
Close-up view of the hand-folded and pressed pleats that have been sculpted into undulating liquid-like shapes.

9.  She has all the material, research, and images for a new book . . .

What's on Candace's work table? Trippy Japanese lanterns, rosebuds, and other fanciful flowers.
What’s on Candace’s work table? Trippy Japanese lanterns, rosebuds, and other fanciful flowers.

10.  Meeting her changed me. (No, I’m not a vampire now, Twilight fans.) I’m about to turn my dimensional applique process on its head by paying much more attention to how I use fabric on the bias and straight of grain when building my flowers. Using a bias-cut pattern piece on the back side and a straight-grained piece on the front will enhance my ability to sculpt my flowers–I guess I should’ve paid more attention in Home Ec.

Oh yes, the giveaway of a copy of The Artful Ribbon . . . did you read my reply to yesterday’s comments? Candace Kling has bestowed 2 autographed copies on me for the giveaway. And so, without further ado the winners are Pam S. and Laura Tawney! Congratulations, you’ve won a fantastic book!

I will now repair to my small, uncool studio/laundry room to work on flowers ala Candace Kling . . . later crafters, quilters, and sewists!

J-Signature

 

Candace Kling, Masterful Manipulator of Fabric & Ribbon–Giveaway Today!

Good enough to eat? Candace Kling's delicious "Eye Candy" may fool you, but the confections are made of fabric!
Good enough to eat? Candace Kling’s delicious “Eye Candy” may fool you, but the confections are made of fabric!

I don’t think it’s a secret here at the blog that I’ve got a case of floral love. I’ve a habit of posting flower photos when I blog and dancing around blossomy themes and colors in much of my work. Which makes me think you’re not going to be shocked when I reveal that my fave crafting book is about flowers.Giveaway-Gold

Do you know The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling from C&T Publishing? Not only do I have an update on Candace’s further flower adventures here, but she gave me an autographed copy of The Artful Ribbon as a giveaway to one of our readers! (See details below.)

Book-J:  The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling

Isn’t that book cover spectacular?

Lucky for me, Candace lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined me for lunch last Friday and, even better, she invited me to her studio so I could see her handiwork LIVE!

Pansies and fuchsia
Pansies and fuchsia made with fabric and ribbon

Reading The Artful Ribbon was transformative to me. I poured over its pages and experimented here and there with her flower-building instructions. Did I become a fabulous hat or dressmaker as a result? Nah, I just had a heck of a great time playing with ribbon and embellishing handmade decor. Nonetheless, apprenticing to Candace via her book taught me much about translating the natural world into sewn form.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's flowers
The rosy nosegay shows her incredible skill with “sculpting” floral shapes, the tiny flowers show her dexterity.

Meeting her turned out to be somewhat life changing as well. I set out to interview a renowned craftswoman, but I walked away with incalculable insight into creating floral artwork. A long-time teacher, imparting know-how is as natural as breathing to her—even her hands speak as she describes sculpting petal-like shapes from ribbons and fabric.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's flowersCandace is a child of the Sixties; actually, she’s a true flower child who is Bay Area born and raised. While she has formal training from leading art schools in drawing, fashion design, and costuming, what she knows about embellishments she gained first by working in an East Bay vintage clothing store called Bizarre Bazaar (Facebook link) as a seamstress and then by studying the collections of leading museums and private collectors.

At that time, BizBaz was the locus of heavy trading in garments of all 20th century decades, some even earlier. The shop was hands-on learning of the best sort because Candace tailored and fit the vintage garments for the buyers who wore them out into the world. The museum wares she studies even now are handled very gently and worn only by mannequins on the rare occasion of a public exhibit and are otherwise strictly hands-off.

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's cockades etc.
Intricately folded cockades perfect for finely tailored clothing

Her renown as a resource about vintage clothing and embellishment, and her growing skill at ribbon work, helped her build a very busy schedule of teaching and lecturing opportunities that continues today. It turns out that ribbon work is a skill that crosses many disciplines so Candace can bring her expertise to the widest range crafters from milliners to interior designers and costumers. She teaches actively in Northern California at guilds and shops like The Ribbonerie and The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco and travels outside of California to other venues as well. Visit her website for her teaching schedule.

I was so dazzled by our visit that I realized I couldn’t possibly fit everything I wanted to cover in one post. On Friday we’ll visit Candace’s studio to see recent work and other wonders. That means the turnaround for the giveaway will be super quick. Leave me a comment by this Thursday, January 24 and I’ll announce a winner in my Friday post.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling box of confections
“Eye Candy” by Candace Kling–visually appetizing and easy on the waistline

FYI: Visit Candace’s website and/or find the resource page at the back of The Artful Ribbon if you have questions about resources for ribbons and embellishments.

See you Friday!

J-Signature

Need a Last-Minute Gift or Stocking Stuffer? “Check” it Out!

Need a last-minute Secret Santa or gift-exchange goodie for that party tonight? Stumped for a little “something” to present your holiday hostess? Searching for just one more “stuffer” for that special stocking? Here’s a quick and clever solution to all of the above: a smart and stylish checkbook cover! It’s an easy variation on the iPad case from my November 23 post; one that you can probably whip up in an hour or less.

The finshed cover as shown measures approximately 7" x 3 1/2"...perfect for a standard book of personal checks
The finshed cover as shown measures approximately 7″ x 3 1/2″…perfect for a standard book of personal checks

What You’ll Need:

Cotton batting, fusible web, lining fabric: one 7″ x 13″ piece each

Fusible web, outer (front) fabric: one 9″ x 15″ piece each

Fabric and fusible-web scraps, decorative threads, beads, buttons, trims, and other embellishments as desired

Directions:

1. Fuse lining fabric, right side up, to batting using the 7″ x 13″ piece of fusible web.

2.  Apply 9″ x 15″ piece of fusible web to wrong side of outer fabric.

Left: cover fabric and fusible - 9" x 15"; right: batting, fusible, and lining fabric - 7" x 13"
Left: cover fabric and fusible – 9″ x 15″; right: batting, fusible, and lining fabric – 7″ x 13″

3. Center prepared batting, lining side up, over fusible-web side of prepared outer fabric. Starting with the two long sides, turn outer fabric to the lining; press to fuse. Repeat for both short sides, squaring the corners; press. Clip excess fabric at corners on the diagonal.

Step 2

4. Fold unit in half, lining sides together; press. Unfold, and then fold both ends of the unit inward to about 3/4″ from the center fold; press.

step 3

5. Unfold.  Quilt and embellish as desired. The second area from the bottom will be the front cover. (Note: If your intended embellishments include raised items–such as buttons–close to the side and/or bottom seams, you might prefer to add those after completing the next step.)

step 4

6. Refold the two “flaps” back toward the center, lining sides together. Starting with a few backstitches, topstitch a 1/8″ – 3/16″ seam all around the perimeter of the unit.  Finish with a few backstitches.

checkbook cover_step 5_a

7. Insert your check register in the top pocket and your checks in the bottom. Finished!

finished checkbook_open

cover finished front

Honestly, making these little cuties is addicting! Once I had completed the pink and green version up top for a gift exchange, and finished up the step-by-step sample for this post, I found myself thinking…hmmmm…who else?

My British friend and co-author Chris Porter loves the stagecoach- and covered-wagon checks that she selected for her American bank account, so I dug into my stash, and made this coordinating cover. (I just knew I’d find a good use for that boot button one day!)

Chris checkbook cover

My childhood friend Christy, whom I wrote about in my June 15 post, loves cats, so I made this to tuck into her holiday card this year.

christy's checkbook cover Then there are my “baby” sisters, to whom I’ve dedicated my book, Cuddle Me Quick.

My sisters Loretta (left) and Charlie (right), circa 1961. I'm sure they'll be THRILLED to see this photo ;-)
My sisters Loretta (left) and Charlie (right), circa 1961. I’m sure they’ll be THRILLED to see this photo ;-)

After verifying their favorite colors, I went to work.

A purple cover for Ret; a green one for Charlie
A purple cover for Ret; a green one for Charlie

Then, of course, I needed one for myself as well…

my cover

I hope you find a moment to treat yourself to something wonderful during this busy, festive season. Have a peaceful, safe, joyous, and healthy holiday…and “Happy Birthday” to all you Christmas babies out there!Darra-signature

It’s a Wrap!

C: Stock Christmas PhotoWould you agree that we probably do 95% of the gift wrapping for the entire year during the next couple of weeks? Are you looking for a few ideas to increase the “glam-factor” under your tree? I’ve always been a fan of cool wrappings and over the years have tried a few that worked, and some that didn’t. If your idea of gift wrapping is sticking one of those atrocious pre-made bows (the ones that come in a bag of 50 for $2.99) onto a package then stay with me; I’ve got a few ideas that may improve your wrapping score. They’re all simple to do, you just need to have the right trimmings (be sure to pick them up when they’re on sale and keep some stock on hand).  For the first one, select a pretty paper, wide curling ribbon, and a few small coordinating ornaments to tie into the ribbon:

The teal and green stars were selected to coordinate with the teal stars in the paper.
The teal and green stars were selected to coordinate with the teal stars in the paper.

Here’s a similar wrap styled for a child, with bright paper, wide curling ribbon, and a cute little penguin ornament tied on:

Polka dots are my favorite and this little snowman was too cute to pass up.
Polka dots are my favorite and this little penguin was too cute to pass up.

This next one is what I call “folk art,” with simple brown postal paper, raffia, and a wooden ornament. This style is ideal for packages that have to be mailed (it’s already flat) and has an old-fashioned feel. Doesn’t it make you want to have cocoa with marshmallows?

This is one of my favorites.
This is one of my favorites.

If you’ve been following See How We Sew from our launch in April 2011, you might remember my May 9, 2011 post on fabric flowers. They’re made with the Clover Sweetheart Rose Maker (the large size). All you need to make them is the tool, a strip of fabric, a few folds, stitches and twists. When added to packages they’re quite lovely. Here are three of them, along with raffia and curled paper (more on curled paper later):

Fabric flowers can be lots of fun and very impressive!
Fabric flowers can be lots of fun and very impressive on packages for any occasion!

The next one is elegant and classic with traditional holiday colors. It’s a foil paper, wire ribbon tied in a simple bow and a holiday pick tucked in:

C: wrap pick
Classic holiday colors!

The last package is an example of curling paper. Years ago I attended a gift-wrapping party. The woman who gave the presentation came in with huge tubs of elaborate papers, ribbons, foils, trims, and everything you could possibly imagine to wrap the most gorgeous packages. The technique that impressed me most was that paper could be curled just like ribbon. Just cut strips of wrapping paper–anywhere from a 1/2″ wide to about 2″ wide–and approximately 15″ long, and then curl them with your scissors from the center (just like you curl ribbon)! Once you’ve got enough strips, use narrow curling ribbon to tie the strips together in the centers and attach them to the package. The more strips you add, the better! Who would have guessed paper would curl? I’ve used this technique for years and it never fails to impress. Hint – it works best if the paper is fairly heavy (very thin paper tends to rip).

Curled strips of paper - who knew!!
Curled strips of paper – who knew!!

You might have noticed a theme in my posts this week (rounding up and wrapping up). That’s because these are my last posts. I have been so fortunate to collaborate with three very talented women. We were challenged both creatively and technically to launch See How We Sew and I’m very proud to have been part of this journey. The past two years working with my blogging-sisters Laura, Darra and Jennifer have been very rewarding. I appreciate and value their support and friendship and wish them continued success as they move forward with See How We Sew.

This transition will enable me to focus on pattern design, so please drop in to visit me at Artichoke Collection. I might pop in for a guest post once in a while, so stay tuned. As a “blogger emeritus,” I’ve been given visiting privileges whenever I’ve got something to share!

Happy holidays and all the best for a creative, healthy, happy new year.

C-Christie's Signature