Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Productive Three Day Weekend

Since I finished TWO quilts in February, I felt completely justified in starting a new one.

Sunday morning before Church, I set about turning this pile of batiks...

...into the quilt I wanted to make from A Quilter's Mixology.

I decided to mix it up a bit and use warm colors for the petals and cool colors for the background.

I'm not convinced it is going to turn out the way I envisioned, but it will be something bright and different and I'm going full steam ahead. If I don't like it at the end, I'm sure I can find a nice home for it somewhere but I suspect it will look amazing when it is all put together. I might make this my Winter Quilt - bring a little summer into my winter!

On Monday before the sewing group, I found time to embroider Jack's shirt.

This was not as easy as my Craftsy class made it look but I'm hopeful that with a little more practice, I can get things lined up properly. It is not easy to get a heavy shirt to stay put on a small barely sticky stabilizer. 

In other news, we now have a quilt on our living room wall! And yes, that is my scrap basket and my very messy sewing room in the background. Its overflowing into the hallway. The only solution I've come up with so far is to just keep making stuff as fast as possible to get it out of the sewing room.

Lastly, Library Kittens is coming along quite nicely.

Okay, I think that's everything so far. More to come soon!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Finish to End the Month

It's done! This will be going on the wall in my sewing room.

Tutorial on how to make this block available under my tutorials tab at the top of the blog. 

Embroidery Software Reviews

For a couple months now I've been looking around for some embroidery software to use with my Christmas present, a Brother SE-400. I thought I'd share my results here in the hopes that it will save someone some time and effort. This is kind of like buying photo editing software (i.e. Photoshop, CorelDraw, etc) without knowing anything about photo editing.

I need several things from whatever software I choose. The ability to resize, rotate, change stitch density. I need to be able to split into multiple hoops so that I can stitch large designs on a small hoop. I want to be able to create my own designs from scratch for use with our Kingdom of Akron heraldry.

I initially planned on purchasing the Brother software - after all, it made sense. Buy the software designed to work with your machine. But the purchase price of $1600 made that an immediate Nope! I mean, are you kidding me? You sell an embroidery machine for the price of a low to midrange sewing machine and then charge four times the cost of the embroidery machine for the software? Maybe its worth the purchase price, but I'm not about to find out.

That little revelation sent me on a two month journey to find "affordable" embroidery machine software. I discovered that I had three basic options and have spent the last couple of weeks testing them out.

All of these opinions are based on demo versions only. 

Option 1: Embrillance by BriTon Leap Inc. Cost: $150 for Essentials, $200 for Enthusiast, and $170 for Stitch Artist Level 1 for a total of $520 (Significantly higher than I wanted to spend) to meet my minimum requirements. I did contact the company in the hopes that I could just purchase Enthusiast to get the functionality I require, and Enthusiast is NOT a stand alone program. It does require Essentials in order to run, so you need to buy both. And realistically, I would want Stitch Artist Level 2, which costs $380, pushing this program so far out of my budget that the cost alone would prohibit a purchase.

Honestly, I really didn't spend too much time with this program. Firstly, the free trial is severely limited and the interface isn't intuitive. I played around with splitting a large design into a multihoop project and it just didn't go smoothly. With saving disabled, I wasn't sure if I could even save it in the correct format or if the multihoop option was working. There wasn't much I could easily figure out how to do, and I stopped working with it out of frustration.

Lastly, I was also put off by the attitude displayed by the company while answering customer FAQs. It came across as a very "screw you" type policy. I wish I could find the link to the FAQ page but it seems to have disappeared.

Note that this was one of the software's discussed in my Craftsy embroidery class, so maybe I was just missing something? It seems to be a popular option.

Option 2: BuzzEdit by Buzztools. Cost: $190 for basic package plus $130 for resizing module for a total of $320.

This has 21 day trial period with "full" capabilities. Good video tutorials available online.

But... I couldn't get the software to work. It installed just fine, but when I tried to create a closed object to define a stitch area, the software crashed. Several times. I couldn't find a solution on the forums. I did send an email to support, but considering that I used the software for all of five minutes before it became unusable, I decided that this definitely wasn't the option for me. The GUI is pixelated and has a Windows 3.1 feel - not very polished.

UPDATE (3/2/15): Buzzedit has contacted me to let me know that they are working on a fix for the bug that caused the crash.

Option 3:  Embird by Balarad. Cost: $164 for Basic Embird and $150 for Digitizing Studio, for a total of $314 (most affordable option yet!)

This is probably what I will end up purchasing. It has all kinds of neat Photoshop type software features that Jack recognized and approved of (I don't use Photoshop, so I will defer to his expertise in this matter.)  I found it easy to install and use, and I digitized the Angelfoot Hawk with nifty feather-like stitch pattern and special outline in the space of a few minutes. The demo version has disabled saving of files, so I couldn't test stitch the design. Actually, I wasn't convinced that I could save the file in the right format, until I learned from the website that you had to export it to Basic Embird and then convert as needed.

The Embird website has well written easy to use tutorials on their software. They seem friendly and professional, and the contact I have had with support was positive and helpful. This was also the only software I tested that I liked right away.

They also have a neat add on called an Iconizer, which edits your embroidery filed to include a small picture of the motif as an icon. Pretty much the more I learn about this software the better I like it.

So anyway, 

I know that was a long and wordy post, but I hope it was helpful. There are a few other options out there (SewWhatPro or Perfect Alignment for example) but I got the feeling they were pretty limited and I didn't spend much time on them.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Penrose Square Tutorial

There has been a little interest in how to build a Penrose Square block, so I'm posting a tutorial here for those that are curious. This tutorial will include partial seams but these are easy and should not intimidate you. I prefer this method to a nine-patch method because there are ALL ZERO seams to match.

This is the basic block we will be building today.

It is important to note that these blocks are chiral - they can be right handed or left handed so if you want them all identical, you must make them the exact same way every time or you will end up with mirror images.

You will need three different fabrics for each block, a light, a medium/dark, and a background fabric.

From the light fabric, cut four 6.5" x 2.0" blocks.
From the medium/dark fabric, cut four 6.5" x 2.0" blocks.
From the background fabric, cut one 3.5" x 3.5" square and four 2.0" x 2.0" squares

Draw a guide line from corner to corner on the 2" x 2" squares.

Take two of the light pieces and two of the dark pieces and placing right sides together stitch corner to corner. 

Trim to 1/4 inch from the diagonal seam.

Press the triangle towards the corner.

Next, stitch the remaining light and dark pieces to the opposite colored corner pieces. You should now have four partial blocks that look like this:

And now you're almost done! This is where the partial seams come into play. Lay out your pieces around your 3.5" x 3.5" center square.

Take a edge piece and the center piece and lay right sides together and stitch about 3/4 of the way along the edge starting in the corner. Leave about one inch unstitched.

Press the seam towards the black. Now take the next piece, line up your edges, and stitch the entire seam.

Press your seam. Your block should now look like the one below.

Repeat for the next edge section.

Now we are at the slightly tricky part. You need to stitch on the fourth edge section without catching the first edge section.

Press the seam. Now fold the first section over so that it lines up with the edge and stitch the remaining part of the seam.

And the block is done! Press the block and trim to 9.5" square.

That's all there is to it.

I personally like to set the blocks on point. I think it is easier to see the optical illusion when they are on point.

And then there is the option of sashing or no sashing, monochrome or multiple colors.

Here is my finished wall hanging.

I hope you have fun with this block! Please feel free to contact me with suggestions for making this tutorial better or questions you may have.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February Stitch From Stash

Its that time again! The monthly update on Stitch from Stash. Here's the breakdown:

February SFS
Rollover from last month: $15.20
February Budget: $25.00
Spent: $0
February Earned (2330 stitches): $4.89
Total Rollover into March: $45.09
March Budget: $70.66

For Quilting:
Quilting SFS
Rollover from last month: $17.01
February Budget: $25.00
Spent: $44.31 on background fabric and thread
February Earned (One baby quilt): $5
Total Rollover into March: $2.88
March Budget: $27.88

So I spent more than I was planning for quilting, but I stayed in my budget, and   I now have 3 yards of black background fabric to make a new quilt from one of my books. Either "A Quilter's Mixology" or "Scrap Quilts Fit for a Queen." Oh the decisions!

What have I been working on? 

The Magnificent Wizard 

Library Kittens

Fall Fairy

And this was just too awesome to not post about. My sister sent us a "late late Christmas" present. She sent me an otter tape dispenser (Squee!) and sent Jack a shirt that says "Education is Important but Archery is Importanter."

Look! It's adorable!!!
I'd really love an otter cross stitch project, but of the few I've found, none have looked quite right. I'll keep looking!