Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays

Hi Everyone,

Just a note to say that I will not be posting until after New Years. I'm baking and putting up trees and generally being Christmassy.

I'll have some new projects and house updates in January.  Promise!

Have wonderful holidays, crafting, and family time!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Organized Sewing Space - Finally

Hello again,

I finally decided my sewing space need to a) be organized enough that is doesn't make be curse and b) not take up my entire dining room table.  I have a sewing table in the bedroom, but since I like having music or movies on while I'm working, I always end up bringing the sewing machine out to the living room anyway.  Sadly, I did not take before pictures, but just imagine total chaos and not being able to see the table top.  Not conducive to sewing at all!

Now, the whole table looks pretty again!

And then when I want to sew, I just do this:

I bought those plastic drawers in the corner to go under my bathroom sink, but my house is strangely designed, so they don't fit.

They are, however, the perfect size for organizing my sewing stuff so it's not all over the table anymore.   All the many small things are in the bottom drawer, like the pin cushion, rotary cutter, extra blades, etc. 

The top drawer holds finished quilt squares for the old clothes quilt, cut squares for the Space Invaders quilt and old clothes quilt.  At the moment, it's also holding patterns.  I'm sure there is a great way to organize patterns - I just don't know what it is yet.

Those plastic packages on top are actually the packages sheets come in.  I bought a couple sets of sheets, because I had many guests coming in a row and two sets of sheets - I was about to throw out the packages and realized they would be perfect for fabric.

Recognize the colors?  That's the fabric from the Space Invaders quilt!  Once I've cut all the squares from it, I put it in there to use for whatever I do next.

This is the fabric I've been using for the old clothes quilt.  I have a ton of quilt squares cut from these already, so they get put to the side while I actually put the ones I have cut together.  There will be another post on that one soon - there has been progress!

There is another one that holds scraps and small pieces that's a smaller container. (I think it must have been one sheet or pillowcases or something else little.  I do not remember at this point.)  Overall, they stack nicely, keep things organized, and protect it from the waves of dog hair that float over my house every time I brush Casey.

And, just so no one thinks poor Casey gets ignored while I sew, the other benefit of moving my sewing space is that his living room bed is right next to me:

That gray thing on the left by the radiator is Casey's current bed covered with his favorite blanket and that pile in the corner is his toy box.  (Yes, there will someday be a project to make Casey an attractive bed - I should stuff it with the shredded pieces of toys he leaves all over the place! Hmmm...)  He has a tendency to come sit with his head in my lap while I sew, which is alternately adorable and really annoying, depending on whether I'm using the foot pedal.

It is so nice, though, to have my table back and organized again!  And my house looks about 10 times less chaotic now too.  Bonus!

Till next time (when there will be more sewing),

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Excel Quilt Planning

Hello Again, 

So several of my friends have asked me to give more explanation on my use of Microsoft Excel to plan my quilting and cross stitch patterns.  I'm not sure how much information I have to give you, but I'll be as useful as I can.  Feel free to ask for clarification in the comments too.

Basically, Excel is wonderful for anything that is based on squares - perfect for the kind of block designs of my video game quilts or the quotes I do in cross stitch.  I learned to design my own cross stitch patterns from my wonderful Mother when I realized at about 15 that most patterns are way, way too cute for my taste.  (And yes, Subversive Cross Stitch is one of my favorite things.)  Back then, however, I spent hours taping together pieces of graph paper and would get really frustrated really quickly.  I am not patient enough for that! 

So being the giant geek that I am, I was working on data in Excel one day and suddenly realized it would be perfect.  The first pattern I did was this one:

And yes, that border was evil to do and to put in Excel.  I actually copied it off a costume a friend had made that just sat on my desk while I painstakingly put it into the cell borders.  Obviously, each cell is a block on your fabric or an X if you're making a transfer pattern.

The first step for this is making all the cells a uniform size.  If you click that empty square in the top right corner of your sheet (or press CTR-A on the keyboard), you highlight the entire sheet.  Either drag your cells so they are the same size or right click and go to properties and set them to be the same size.

For cross stitch, I use two methods:
1) For full stitches, I just shade the entire square - the button that looks like a paint bucket. (Half and quarter stitches don't work nicely in Excel - I usually put in an X in the color the half stitch will be and try very hard to remember what I'm doing when I go to stitch the pattern.)

2) For back stitch, I use the "draw border" function and click on the edge of the cell where I want the line to be.  (Click on on the little arrow next to the "Borders" button -> "Draw Border")

3) For something like a motif or a border, once you have the initial horizontal or vertical iteration done, you can copy and paste it in to make life faster.  So much better than drawing it over and over!! 

Moving on to Quilts
Creating block quilt patterns is not much different, though I do a few different things to make life easier while I design the pattern.  Do the same first step, so the squares are the same size.  In my case, I make them 10 pixels wide, because it's easy - they can really be any size. 

1) Decide the size of your quilt and figure out how many inches that will be.  For this method, each cell on the spreadsheet will represent one inch.  

2) Leaving a few blank rows above and to the left, highlight the correct number of cells across and down. You can do this in landscape or portrait direction - it doesn't matter for the program - whichever is easier for you to work with.  (In recent versions of Excel, when you highlight many rows and columns, it will tell you next to the cursor how many you have highlighted.)

3) Click the little button next to the "Borders" button and select "Outside Borders".  I will sometimes also go to the "Line Style" option at the bottom of the menu and make the border really thick, so it's easy to see no matter what colors I'm working with.

4) This lets you mess with the size of your squares as well as your layout, so you can try your design in any size you like.  To insert the lines that represent the edge of your blocks, you can either use Draw Borders again or highlight 3 squares for 3" blocks and hit Outside Borders again.  Play around with it to see what method you like! 

You should have a grid that looks like this if you did 3" squares. (In may case, I put a 1" border around the edge just because - it eventually turned into a 3" border in the final design stages.)

5) Now, you can just highlight the cells inside those squares and use the fill button to make them any color you want.  If you need to undo your work, just select all and hit "No Fill" on that menu with the little paint bucket.  

The initial plan for the Space Invaders Quilt looked like this before I made it pretty:
There was really never any question that the background was going to be black for this one, so I eventually filled it in and made it pretty. 
Hope that is a better explanation.  If it's not clear, leave a comment and I will do another post or respond to your questions.

Using Excel for quilt planning and cross stitch design has been a huge help to me.  I hope it is as much fun for you!

Till next time, 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My First Patterns!

Hello again,

I got an awesome package in the mail yesterday - my first ever dress patterns! :)  I ordered them from the simplicity website and I was a little unsure it all worked alright, but here they are.

I need to learn to make my own work clothes desperately.  Apparently I'm an odd shape - who knew?  And while buying very expensive clothes is awesome, I need to find a way to make things that are my kindof retro style, in colors I like, and that don't cost me crazy amounts of money.

I bought a whole bunch of patterns and it's not easy to see them in that picture, so here are the actual envelopes.

These two are just about my favorite dress patterns - that second one I can make in a million fabrics and where to work with little sweaters.  It will be so cute!  The first one is a perfect summer dress and with a cardigan, I can wear that one to work as well.

These two are a little more basic in style, but both will be super useful:

I mean, how can you go wrong with knit tops and pencil skirts?  I will have to get some fancier knit patterns, but for now these will  help a bit.  And pencil skirts are never, ever a bad thing.  I just need more and more and more of those.  Here's hoping I can pull off some of those.

And, of course, I had to buy a pattern for a sheath dress and see if I can make these.  I wear these almost every day - there is no way I can ever have enough basic, princess seamed, sheath dresses!

So I guess the next step is trying to find fabric I like that seems easy to work with for my first attempts at these.

I do have one random using on dress patterns - the sizing in these is strange.  The sizing runs miniature in comparison to even expensive dress sizing.  I'm usually an 8 or a 10 at Macy's, but I'm a 16 in these.  I find this odd.

Till next time,

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quilt Progress

Hello again,

Sorry it's been so long!  Everything has been a little nuts and blogging was the thing that got cut to make life calmer.

I did finally find black fabric that will work for the space invaders quilt - hooray! So the color scheme will be:

See? That's going to be perfect! 
I also cut the squares of the blue fabric and then had way too much fun just playing with all the squares on the black background:

I have begun to think this is going to look amazing when it's done.  And given how frustrated I was getting trying to find really black quilting cotton, I think I get a few minutes of playing with it to make myself happy.

So - progress!!

Someday this might actually become a real quilt. :)

Till next time,