Come join me today as I am guest Kids Craft Camp counsellor on the Michael Miller Fabrics blog.
I am sharing a tutorial for this lined tote (that my 8-year old daughter sewed) for any budding young sewers out there. All they need is access to a sewing machine, some fabric, a few embellishments and a creative spirit. As a mom I relish these sorts of creative opportunities to see the pride beaming on my daughter’s (or son’s) face when she has accomplished a sewing project of her very own.
I am a lucky girl. I have partnered with Janome Canada to sew with their MC8200 machine, which they have provided for my use over the next year. I will be creating some fun tutorials for you based on some of my favourite features that this machine has to offer (most of which you can do on any machine, but that are a dream to create with this one). In addition, I thought it may be beneficial to some of you who may be considering the purchase of such a machine if I, from time to time, give you an update about the benefits of this model (there are many).
Let’s start with a bit about my sewing history so you understand where I’m coming from when I discuss some of the perks the MC8200 has to offer.
I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl. I learned at my mom’s feet, rummaging through her sewing cabinet as she whipped up article after article of clothing for her three girls. I used to use her machine as an older teen on Friday afternoons, after having whipped by the fabric store on the way home from school, to create a new outfit to wear out that evening (there was no wanting to look like everyone else where I grew up. Individuality and personal style were applauded).
My grandmother gave me her old Singer Featherweight machine about twenty years ago, and while it remains a treasure I cannot part with, I tend to want to sew on something with more options these days. I purchased a department store basic machine when I was pregnant with our first child, in the desire to sew a few baby clothes and the like. It has been fine as a simple machine, but I can’t tell you the number of times I have wanted to throw it out the window in frustration over broken threads, constant tension problems, bobbin case issues, things jamming up, I could go on…. Since I have become more and more interested in quilting over the past two years, I have been wanting a machine with good machine quilting capabilities (mine has no walking foot). Enter the Janome MC8200. Now, for those of you who already use a super-duper comparable model, some of the perks I list below may not be big news for you, but I am working on the premise that there are individuals out there, like myself, who don’t even know some of these options exist.
For today, I wanted to share the most obvious benefits that hit me right away in the first few days of use:
- The length of the arm. It gives you 11″ of throat space to the right of the needle which is a great plus when trying to quilt just about anything larger than a baby built. I know it’s not really fair to compare it to a Featherweight, but for an idea of scale, this image says a lot.
- It is completely computerized, so it will not allow you to do anything that may damage the machine, unlike a mechanical model. There is a large screen and touch panel that spells everything out for you.
- There are 120 built in stitches. Yes, 120, including the complete alphabet, 7 buttonhole stitches and numerous embroidery stitches to please any decorative stitcher out there. But I have to say, my favourite stitch I have become addicted to in the past few weeks of sewing is the locking stitch. It creates an almost invisible locked beginning and end to your line of sewing (no more ugly backstitching to secure ends when the stitching is to be visible on a finished item).
- Storage, storage and more storage. There is a two-level flip open bin at the front of the removable extension table, one at the back and even extra presser foot storage up top in the flip open compartment.
- You can set the machine to either always stop with the needle in the up position or the down position. I love this!
- There is speed control. You know how sometimes we forget about the pressure we are applying with our foot and the machine spins into high gear, racing off where we don’t necessarily want it to go? Well, here we can set the maximum speed to have much greater control where we need it.
- You can sew traditionally with the foot pedal, or unplug it to use the one-touch start/stop button immediately above the sewing area. This takes a bit of initial coordination, but once you’ve got it, you’re set.
- There is an adjustable knee lifter for the presser foot which keeps your hands free to manipulate fabric. I used this continuously when piecing a new quilt top recently. Between it and the about-to-be-mentioned thread cutter, I pieced an almost-600-piece quilt top in just a few hours… A huge time saver!
- Automatic needle threader. Don’t know how I’ve lived without this feature in the past. Just pull the gizmo down & it does it all for you in a split second.
- And, yes, an automatic thread cutter. And no, I don’t mean the manual cutter on the side of the machine. A one touch activation that cuts both threads about 1/2″ from the fabric, underneath the needle plate. No more wastefully pulling out about 5″ of thread at the end of every seam, hoping that the next stitch doesn’t suck the needle thread right out of the needle.
- And, what I’ve been waiting for, it has the dual feed system, Accufeed Flex, for machine quilting (that’s using both top and bottom feed dogs so you don’t end up with your upper layer of fabric being pushed forward as you sew). I have heard so many quilters say a walking foot is really noisy when in use. Not this baby. It is easy to attach and works superbly. I’ve already done my first ever machine quilting with it, and it was so easy to handle.
Can you tell I’m excited? I can honestly say that this machine has taken sewing from being something I enjoyed doing, wanted to do, but was continuously frustrated with what my department store machine kept handing me, to being a complete joy. There are so many great features that it makes sewing both efficient and worry-free, and I definitely notice the difference on any projects I have completed on it thus far. Stitch length is more consistent, the tension is so dependable (no more fiddling with dials, it’s automatic), and my work generally looks cleaner. Even my constant sewing companion, the seam ripper and I have been spending much less time together of late. This is definitely a good thing.
I hope you’ll enjoy this journey with me. I will periodically update you with new features I discover along the way, in hopes that they might be of interest to you. And I will let you know when I create any projects for Janome Canada. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Creating that bow tie tutorial got me going. They are really so quick to whip up, and I hadn’t made any for my little man in some time… And he has a new shirt… And there were these new stacks of fabric staring me in the face, so graphic, so fun, so wanting to be made into little things, as well as big things. Yesterday morning was a morning for little things. So…
Here are the first few tidbits of Origami Oasis, a little something to go with whatever one’s mood may be at the time.
Feeling serene & green. Floret
Feeling a little bit peppy. Freckled
Feeling colorful. Spot
Feeling mischievous & jazzy. Midnight Train
Or feeling energized & a little wild. Pride
There are another 26 prints in the collection, which should start hitting stores mid-September. But they’ll have to wait for another day. I did say this was just a peek.
Remember these? My lovely cousin-in-law, Julie asked for a tutorial to make a bow tie for her sweet little boy and I was surprised that I had never posted one back when I made all of those with Les Monsieurs. So here you go, Julie & anyone else who would like an easy and quick how-to on these dashing boys’ accessories.
What I used:
- A 2 pieces fabric 10″ wide x 3″ high (I used Helen Dardik’s “Leaves” from her “Too Muchery” collection)
- B 1 piece fabric 2.5″ wide x 3″ high
- C 1 piece fabric 17″ wide x 2″ high (This is for the neckband that will tuck under shirt collars. I opt to keep this light & neutral in colour so that it’s not too noticeable if junior starts fidgeting with his attire. And the great thing is you can make just one band and multiple bows, then just switch out the bow depending on the outfit.)
- D 1 piece lightweight interfacing 9.5″ x 2.5″
- E 1 piece interfacing 16.5″ x 1.5″
- 4″ x 1/2″ velcro (if you can’t find the right width, you can always cut down a wider piece). I choose ease when it comes to kids’ dressing. Velcro means they can do it up themselves with no fuss and no fiddling with hooks and fussy hardware.
What I did:
All seams are 1/4″.
Iron interfacing D onto wrong side of one piece of fabric A (centred). With right sides together, sew together the two A pieces along both long sides. Turn right side out and press.
Fold in half and stitch together along raw edges. You now have a ring of fabric. Turn right side out, so that last seam is to the inside of the ring, centred.
Fold fabric B in half to form a long skinny 3″ long piece. Sew along long edge.
Turn right side out & press so that the seam is in the centre. Fold in half (seam to the outside) and stitch together along raw edges.
Again, you have a little ring of fabric. Turn right side out, so that last seam is to the inside of the ring, centred.
Fold your bow acordian-style to insert it into the centre tie ring and pull half-way through.
Make sure your seams are both centred at the back (your bow seam should now be hidden inside the centre tie ring.
Iron interfacing E onto wrong side of fabric C (centred). Fold 1/4″ toward wrong side at one short end & press. Fold fabric C in half so you have a long very skinny 10″ piece. Sew along the short end that has not been folded & long edge.
Clip corners at stitched end.
Turn right side out via open end. Topstitch 1/8″ from the edge, all the way around.
Leaving 1/4″ fabric at end, sew one side of the velcro to one end of the neck band (sew all the way around the velcro, backstitching to secure it in place). Cut other piece of velcro into two 1.5″ lengths and discard the third piece. On the opposite side of the band, attach these two pieces as follows: Leave 1/4″ fabric at end, sew down first piece, leave 1.5″ fabric, sew down second piece.
I find this formation cuts down on extra bulk and gives lots of room for adjustments due to heavier shirts, neck growth and all the variations of neck sizes of different little boys.
Insert the neck band into the back of the tie centre ring. Finito!
One well dressed, happy boy.
Another little fun online event I participated in recently gives you a sneak peak into my sewing room. Here’s a tiny corner of what you will see more of.
Pink Chalk Fabrics does a summer series, Where I Sew, of looks into fabric designers’ sewing rooms and I was asked to participate. You can find me here. The closest I can get to showing you any of Origami Oasis right now is the folded unfinished quilt sitting on the table next to the beautiful Janome machine. And, no, I am definitely not always that neat & organized.
I will be back soon to tell you more about that amazing sewing machine that I get the thrill to sew with these days.
I was recently interviewed by Stephanie at Modern Sewciety and the result is now online as a podcast on her lovely website.
I talk a bit about how I got started designing fabric, my sewing ventures, and I give a little verbal preview of my upcoming fabric line, Origami Oasis. If you’d like to hear it, click here, scroll down the page a bit & either listen to it directly or download it for later listening. I come on after two other talented designers, Heather Bailey & Kelle Boyd, at about the 1hr, 30min point. I hope you enjoy! And while you’re there, browse around a bit. You’ll find all kinds of interviews with other fabric designers, pattern designers, quilters and the such. Really a wealth of interesting chats with interesting people.
After a very hectic few weeks meeting work deadlines, designing a new fabric collection, finishing up colour work on another, sewing for the upcoming release of fabric collection number 5 (I am sooooo excited about this one, and it’s right around the corner… mid-September it hits the stores), adapting designs for a line of wall art, journals, sketch books, note cards and growth charts that is also coming down the pike very soon, and trying to catch a breath between racing my kids to summer camps and swimming classes, Greg took 2 weeks off work, we loaded the kids in the car and finally took a much needed vacation.
Off to the East coast to visit my family, we went. While I’m apt to liken a 13 hour car ride with a six- and an eight-year old in the backseat to childbirth, the good thing is you get the baby at the end of it all. We had day after day of beach wandering, kite making, fishing (or attempted fishing. Sadly, it seems the Atlantic Ocean’s fish population has all been gobbled up) and evenings of good food, good wine and good company. There were even moments of the hardest thing of all, doing absolutely nothing.
We’re back home now and still have this week ahead of us to venture where we wish, and get moments of work in on the side here and there. And some sewing… I feel like sewing today!
I hope you are all having a joyful summer. Gotta soak it all in while it lasts!
A sweet little girl has just been born into my husband’s family. The perfect occasion for a baby quilt, handmade with love, ready to keep this wee one all cuddled up.
I was told her room is fuchsia, lavender and pink with butterflies and hearts, so I designed this accordingly. The heart is made of a selection of my fabrics from Flight Patterns, Helen’s Garden and Quiet Time and the background is random lower volume fabrics with the odd bit of mine thrown in for little mini-bursts of colour. I like how the grey softens the very vibrant heart.
Once the top was complete I searched for a soft option for the back. I didn’t want the quilt to go unused because it wasn’t cuddly enough for a baby. And I also didn’t want to use anything with man-made fibres, so minky was out (not to mention the stories I’ve heard of it shedding all over one’s sewing machine while stitching it). The search for a natural and soft substrate was on. So I contacted Michael Miller Fabrics to see what options they had and I hit the jackpot. Organic cotton fleece or sherpa.
They are both ultra soft and cuddly, so I played eenie-meenie-minie-mo & went with the fleece. The picture above shows a piece of each, sherpa on the left, fleece in the centre, with a piece of the fleece once washed (far right). It shrinks, so pre-wash is necessary, and it also fluffs it up, adding extra body, which is lovely.
I hand quilted diagonal lines throughout. I am determined… my next quilt will be my first machine quilted attempt, but for this one I opted for patient, caring stitches.
A last finishing touch. All done, ready to fly across the ocean to France to welcome this little one into the family.
The end of the school year tends to creep up on me every time, usually without notice, till it whacks me in the head at the last moment. This year I was given a two-week warning. With one week to go, I thought it time to make some thoughtful gifts for those patient soles who take on the task of educating my kiddos (and so much more). I followed this great tutorial by Noodlehead and made a bunch of sweet pouches.
If you are thinking of doing a number of these, be warned… The 1st, you will follow carefully, step by step, the 2nd, you will pay attention to the tutorial a tad, but you’ll start to feel you’ve got it, and just when you feel complete confidence with the 3rd and put the iPad away, yes, that’s when you’ll put the zipper in upside down and not realize until the very last step.
I made the medium size with a semi-soft interfacing (not very technical, I know), but next time will use one with a bit more rigidity, or slightly sturdier fabrics, like a linen-cotton canvas perhaps.
I asked the kids to choose a few fabrics for each teacher, wanting them to have input and to tailor the gifts to their vision of the recipients (they are observant little people: “She always wears small prints” or “She likes darker colours”). I then added complementary or contrasting coloured zippers.
I particularly love the detail of the little fabric tabs on the end of the zips.
Here’s to a fun summer and to all those teachers’ well deserved breaks!
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the largest biennial quilt show in Quebec. There was a wealth of beautiful work on display and I thought I’d share a bit of the eye candy with you today. There was quite a range of styles, as one would expect. These are just a few that caught my attention. Enjoy!
My friend, Agnes Wong with her lovely “Swooning” quilt. I love her fabric combinations that make your eye dance around the quilt.
Our guild’s president, Cinzia Allocca’s stunning “I Don’t Wear Blue”. She does improv quilting so, so well.
Deborah Kemball. All hand appliqued & yes, hand quilted. Gorgeous! And the first photo is only about a quarter of the whole quilt!
This beauty is by the amazing Josee Carrier, our guild’s vice-president. She is an engineer by training and her work always blows me away. Her accuracy, her quilting (I believe she quilts all her pieces herself) and her fabric choices are always superb.
Another of Josee’s pieces with a closeup to inspire me in my quilting training.
Simple and so pretty, all those little bright squares. Happy, happy. A group piece by Les Courtepointiers (“quilters” in french … I still can’t say it properly) d’Asbestos.
A detail of some black and white by Lucie Robichaud.
Lovely sashiko work. I foolishly did not capture the artist’s name in the photo, so unfortunately cannot tell you who did it, nor the next one, which I love for its graphic nature and its unexpectedness. There’s just something about it that calls to me.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing just a bit of what great talent there is in my backyard.