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! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Penrose Square Quilt

A few years ago when I took up quilting again, I was obsessed with the idea of optical illusion quilts. I read a couple of books on 3D perspective, optical illusions, higher mathematical dimensions, and Escher-like quilts. I loved the look of the Penrose Square and other impossible objects and thought they would make phenomenal quilts.

For those curious, here is a representation of a Penrose Square

I was unable to find a pattern for the Penrose sqaure and so I spent a couple of months with graph paper, paper piecing methods, strip piecing, and EQ7 developing my own pattern. I eventually settled on a nine-patch method but I found it inexact and cumbersome and set the project aside after making several blocks. I was disappointed with how they were turning out - somehow, they just didn't look as cool as I had imagined they would. Setting them on point helped significantly, but then I felt like there was too much empty space around the blocks.

I eventually found and tested a better partial seam method of making these, but by then I was disillusioned with the project and my research into pattern writing and copyright issues and abandoned the Penrose Square quilt to a shoebox in the back of my quilting closet.

I never did publish any photos or plans for this because at the time I was considering a side business as a pattern designer. However, given the prevalent world-wide drama with copyrights, PDFs, illegal copies, and VAT taxes, I have finally determined that I have no interest in entering or attempting to earn a profit from that particular field.

A recent diving trip into the depths of unfinished projects allowed the Penrose Square quilt to resurface and I decided to attempt to finish it into a wall hanging for my sewing room. Last night, I sandwiched and started the quilting. The empty space needed to be filled, so I choose brightly colored thread and a basic box filler design.

I'm learning to stitch straight lines with this quilt (although they are slightly crooked or curved more often than not), and I must admit that I like it a lot better with the quilting.

It is about a third quilted now, and as it is a small quilt (2ft x 3ft) I don't expect it will take me very long to finish.


In this case, I think the quilting is really bringing the pattern to life.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Week's Worth of Stuff

It has been a ridiculously cold week around here. We aren't getting the snow that a lot of the surrounding areas are suffering under, but I almost wish we were - a couple feet of snow would shut down my company for a day or two and I wouldn't have to go out in the sub-zero temperatures. It is cold enough that a lot of schools are closed today and tomorrow, because it isn't safe for the kids to be waiting at bus stops. I honestly just want to curl up on my couch under a pile of blankets and never leave the house until it warms up outside.

In the meantime, I've been doing a little bit of everything this week. Here are the two cross stitch projects that I have been focusing on.

I made three AoTH quilt blocks and started satin stitching.

I also spent some time with the sewing group at church teaching two ladies to make nine patch and hourglass blocks.

It looks kinda rough right now, but the brown matches a color in both the orange and yellow fabrics and here is a mock up of the layout.

And lastly, I cut out the rest of Jack's short sleeve tunic. I really think I'm still dragging my feet on this one because I'm not quite sure how to embroider it, but it will get done sooner or later.

I also dropped the entirety of my quilting SFS budget on more thread colors for AoTH satin stitching and three yards of textured black BG fabric to use with one of the FQ packs I picked up during Black Friday last year. I want to make a basketweave quilt like this one (not mine, picture borrowed, please see photo credit):

By Pam C:
And I also want to make a quilt from my new quilt book a Quilter's Mixology. I picked up this book with one of the gift cards I was given for Christmas.

So, yeah, busy busy busy. Too many ideas, too little time!

Friday, February 13, 2015

A UFO Finish

One more quilt done. $5 more in my quilting stash fund! This one only needed quilting and binding. The Machinger's gloves that I invested in were worth every penny. I highly recommend them for quilting. They reduced fatigue, increased control, and made the quilting process actually enjoyable. I no longer dread the process of quilting a finished flimsy.

The quilt is actually white but looks pink because I used pink flannel for the backing fabric. I named the quilt "Hugs and Kisses" and it is intended for a little girl at our church who is about to become a big sister to twins.

The quilting motif was freehand swirls, stippling, and hearts. Why hearts again? Because they're easy! And its February, and it fits the Hugs and Kisses theme of the quilt.

Now what to do next? Well, I've been promising Jack another T-tunic, this one embroidered and I've been delaying because I'm not confident in my embroidery skills but I suppose it is time to crack down and get it put together. I also want to quilt the Penrose Square quilt top and Kona Slate Rock quilt top. Did you catch that? I'm looking forward to it!

Update on Library Kittens: About 500 stitches done.

This puts me at +1200 stitches so far for the month, which means more stash money. Soon I'll have enough saved up to buy a material pack for Mini Innocence or Mini Asiria. I've found its easiest for me to count stitches as I finish a 10x10 block because I have so many projects going at a time, so every time I highlight a finished block on my pattern, I add 100 to my stitch tally.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

No Reply Blogger Issue

I logged onto my email to reply to all the wonderful comments I've received lately and was not able to reply to any of them due to all the commentators being No Reply Bloggers.

  • If you do not know what this means, it basically means that if you comment on someone's blog, they can not reply via email because your email address is hidden. 
  • If you would like to receive replies, please see this excellent article by Diana at Anyone Can Decorate to solve the problem and become a Reply Blogger. 
  • If you don't want to receive replies, please know that I read every single comment and value your input. Please keep commenting!
And in the meantime, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read my blog posts and leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February Turtle Trot Update

Its time for the Turtle Trot Update, hosted at BAP Attack.

I've made some pretty good progress on a few of my projects, including one finish! The Penguins are finally done. Below you will find the initial point at the start of the year and where I am currently for each of my projects. 

1. A Light in the Dark by Matt Stewart (HAED) - New Start - about 1500 stitches done.

2. World Travel Bookshelf by Aimee Stewart (HAED) - New Start - about 20 stitches done

3. Penguin Family - Finished on 01/31/2015

4. The Castle by Teresa Wentzler No Progress to date

5. Affairs of the Heart Quilt by Aie Rossman (New Start) - Completed two blocks, third and fourth in progress.

This is the most recent finished block, See my tab at the top of the page for all finished blocks.

6. Jack's Medieval Medallion Quilt by Me! (New Start) - Not yet started

7. Butterfly Profusion by Dimensions - Lots of Progress! 

On 01/01/2015

8. Hope Returns by Matt Stewart - No Progress to date

9. The Mighty Samurai by DimensionsNo Progress to date

10. Fall Fairy by DimensionsGood Progress
On 01/01/2015

11. Magnificent Wizard by Dimensions - Good Progress

On 01/01/2015


12. Maggie the Messmaker by Dimensions - A little progress! 

On 01/01/2015

And in other news, after fighting with Beguiling Tiger by Dimensions for two days, I tossed it in the trash. I hate all the difficult specialty stitches because they made my wrists and fingers hurt, and there is absolutely no point in spending countless hours on a project that I completely hate. I'm too far along to go back and stitch it all with two strand crosses, so in the trash it went.  This is where I gave up.

If I do ever purchase the kit again, I'll stitch everything with regular crosses. But I think that is very unlikely anytime soon.  That puts me down two projects, so I went ahead and pulled another one out of my stash. I picked up Curiosity by Janlynn. I wanted something nice and easy and completely non-frustrating and this fits the bill. Simple colors, large blocks of stitches, and adorable. No blended stitches, no tent stitches, minimal backstitching. A real win/win!

Library Kittens!