Archive for the ‘machine’ Category

Summer ATCs

My ATCs for the summer exchange were a lot more involved than my spring cards. And the involve electronics! Sort of. Coming up with my cards for the summer exchange was even more difficult than coming up with the spring ones, because when I think summer everything I think of is smells and sounds and feelings (sunscreen, humidity, heat etc) which I couldn’t figure out how to make into images that I liked. Then it finally occurred to me that two of my favorite things in the summer are the smell of rain on hot pavement (I recently came across a word specifically for that smell but I can’t remember it now), and thunderstorms. So I decided I wanted to put a thunderstorm on my cards and I wanted the lightning to actually light up! They didn’t end up how I was picturing them originally, but they’re pretty darn cool.

I made the lightning light up using LEDs and watch batteries. I originally asked the fiancee if he could rig something up for me so there would be a little button or switch inside that you would push, but he wasn’t real interested and couldn’t come up with a real good way to do it and finally just sort of quit thinking about it. But when he was trying to figure it out he mentioned that it would be easiest to just use the LED and the battery straight (because you don’t actually need anything else because voltage on the battery is correct for the LED already, or some other electronics concept that I only vaguely understand) but he didn’t know how you could keep the leads (the two metal bits sticking off the LED) separate so that it was only lit up when you pushed them together. My first thought was a spring, but if it were a metal spring that would create a short and it wouldn’t work. Then I suggested foam and he said it might work, but he didn’t think the foam would hold up well. But I went hunting around the random junk in our apartment and found foam that worked! Then I had to figure out how to get the light and battery to stay in the right place in relation to each other and the rest of the card, while putting enough stuffing, or whatever I used, in the card so that the light apparatus wasn’t creating a great big bump on the surface. I ended up solving both problems by using multiple layers of timtex, two of which had space cut out for the light and battery to fit in to. To get the lightning itself, I ended up cutting the shape of the lightning out of the front fabric and putting a piece of nappy liner (my mom has some of the strangest and most useful things) behind that fabric so there was some sort of surface to the lightning. Then I painted gold onto a piece of this papery stuff, also from my mom, which went underneath the light to try and give the lightning some sparkle. Then came the layers of timtex, all finished off with another piece of fabric on the back. I sewed around the edges with the sewing machine to keep things together, and I can tell you that my machine did not like going through all those layers! Now, process pictures!

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And here are all the other summer ATCs, there are some more really cool ones! I really like the one my mom made, and the flower garden done with the ribbon embroidery.

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Next up: fall!

The Penguin

No, not the Batman villain, this is just a penguin. I shouldn’t say just a penguin, he’s an adorable penguin. A few months ago we took a road trip to Wyoming for my cousin’s wedding, and on the way we stopped at a great fabric store in Billings, MT. There’s more about the store, and the trip, in this post here, but the important part to know is that I got a pattern for a penguin family. Theoretically it’s to give me some practice making stuffed things before I try to make the dragon pattern that I got at the Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta (there are a lot of posts on that one, but the dragon is in this post).

So a couple weeks ago I was planning to go out of town for an SCA event, but was reeeeeally tired on Friday night and decided it just wasn’t worth the drive. My mom suggested that since I had all my homework done ahead of time anyway, it would be a good time to work on the penguin, so we did! Mostly, it went pretty smoothly. I had some trouble getting the belly to line up right with the side panels, but my mom fixed that, and he somehow came out with his head turned a little sideways (I suspect this problem has something to do with the other one…), but he looks pretty good. I think I will do at least one more penguin, but not for a little while yet. I have a few other projects that have actual deadlines, a couple of which are coming up fast, that I need to do first.


Finished Book!

Well mostly. There are a few things I want to clean-up on it, but it’s finished enough that it’s on display in the show, so those things will have to wait. All of the pages are together now and the covers are on, and it shouldn’t fall apart. So, pictures first.

The pictures aren’t the best cause I was taking them quickly, so I could get out the door. First I did the pages that are back to back, just the basic right sides together, sew three sides and flip back to right sides out. Those went pretty easy, the most difficult part was making sure to line the pages up correctly. All the pages were different sizes to begin with and the words and illustrations took up different amounts of space so it was a little tricky but I got a system worked out. Once those were all sewn together I used the un-sewn sides of all the pages to connect the sets. Basically I sewed the fourth side of the facing pages together. It worked quite nicely, but darn was it tricky to sew it on the machine once I started getting a pretty big stack of pages. This created a stack of connection points at one edge of the book that would basically be where the spine of the book is. The connections still seemed kind of flimsy so I went back and added some stitching along the top and bottom edges of the stack of connection points, just to secure everything. That helped quite a bit but I think I want to figure out a way to stabilize that area even more once I get the book back.

After I got all the pages together I needed to finish up the cover. I knew I was going to sew the two halves of the cover together by hand but I hadn’t realized that I would want to connect the two sides a little bit on the top and bottom as well. It didn’t occur to me that you would be able to see the ragged ends of the pages and all the stitching and thread tales to keep them together, and man was that ugly. So I basically just extended the seam between the front and back covers to cover a bit of the top and bottom edge. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it works.

All in all it turned out well. And I got it done in time for the show which we did hang today, the winter storm held off just long enough for us to get it put up and scurry home. Everybody loves my book, and the whole show looks just great. There are so many neat books, and now I can appreciate the construction of the books more as well. Here are a few pictures of the show, I may have more later. And there are a few more pieces that may get put up later, but the artist lives out of town and didn’t want to brave the weather, I don’t blame her.

Book progress report

This was a busy week for me, I picked up a lot of extra time at work so I didn’t have much time to work on the book until today. But boy did I get things done!

First, the wording on the last page is done! This is the second of the pages I did with free-hand machine stitching.


This page has the same puckering problem as the first, although I accidentally discovered that 4 layers of the paper does decrease the puckering noticeably. That’s a lot of paper, but it’s some pretty thin paper so it didn’t seem to trouble the machine at all and it wasn’t any harder to remove after the sewing was done.

Next I did the outlines on the satin stitch pages, yay for free-hand machine stitching again, which should make those go much faster. I still haven’t even finished the first of those pages, and no pictures of the partially done one, but I think I can get them done pretty quickly with some solid sewing time. If I can’t get the pages done I do have the contingency plan of printing the words out on fabric and sewing that the to pages, not as fancy but faster and a do-able alternative since I’m low on time.

And finally I started on the illustrations for the pages! The first three pages of the book are now completely finished! And the fourth one is almost done.

I’m pretty happy with how the needles turned out, and very pleased with the “thread”, which is actually yarn that I’ve couched on. I’ve never really done any couching, but the learning curve has been pretty steep, and I think I’m getting better at it. The couching is kind of slow going, but I like the results so much I don’t mind. I have decided that I need to work at a table to do the couching, rather than in front of the TV like I was doing today. It works alright to basically work in my lap but I think it would be easier and faster on a table. So much for laziness in front of the TV, I’ll just have to stick to working on the satin stitch letters when I watch TV. The fourth page is also going to have a smaller needle and thread on it, next to the piece of fabric. I’ve been waffling back and forth between just loving the piece of cloth ripply on the fourth page and thinking it looks stupid. One of the later pages is going to have what is supposed to look like a pattern drawn on paper which I will be doing on white cotton so I wanted to make the piece of cloth illustration look noticeably different by having it look ripply. Now that I think of it I could have just made it look like a folded piece of cloth, but I like the implied motion of the ripple. I’ll have to see how it looks with the rest of the illustration on the page.

These ones were the simplest illustrations, but even the more complex ones are rather small, so they should be pretty quick to put together. The show that the piece is for goes up this Sunday, so it all better be pretty quick to finish! Luckily the most complex of the illustrations are just going to be small simple embroidered flowers, and I should be able to do those pretty easily in an hour or so. And I think I just need two of those, actually, if I work it right I might only need one, we’ll have to see how that goes. It is so exciting to see, and feel!, the pile of the finished pages. It’s starting to look like a book, and like an actual piece of art too! I don’t generally think that highly of my own pieces, I’ve seen too many really good pieces by my mom and her friends and mine don’t even compare, but I’m already pretty proud of this one, and it’s only getting better.

Freehand Machine Stitching

The freehand stitched pages are taking longer than I expected. That probably shouldn’t surprise me, I tend to underestimate the amount of time crafty things will take. Mostly it took me a while to get all the settings on the machine figured out so that it would stitch right. I’m using a thicker thread that my mom lent me, which means I needed to decrease the tension, although apparently at first I didn’t decrease it enough. I was having this problem where it would stitch just fine for a while, usually most of a letter, and then the thread would get caught in some part of the tensioning groove and the tension would increase to the point that it would barely sew, but then if I pulled the thread out and rethreaded the machine, it would be fine again. I thought something was wrong and tried all kinds of fixes, including several suggestions from my mom, but nothing seemed to work. So finally I just turned the tension way down. I didn’t do that first because I had turned the tension way down on the first letter I did, and the stitching was really loose and floppy, and just looked bad. I don’t know what I did differently the second time, but when I turned the tension down again, everything started working just fine, and the stitches didn’t get sloppy. Sometimes technology just baffles me. Actually, not just sometimes, most of the time technology baffles me. Now that I’ve got all the kinks worked out, I have the first freehand stitched page done and the second is all written out and waiting to be sewn.

The fabric puckered and got rippled a bit, even with two layers of paper for stabilizer on the back. It’s kind of annoying, but really, it’s a lot of stitching in a small area, so it’s not surprising and there’s probably nothing I can do. Hopefully, once I get the illustration on the page, and sew the book together, it won’t be very noticeable.


I’ve discovered I really like freehand machine stitching. I’ve been meaning to try it for a few years now, since I saw a piece done that way in a show and my mom explained how it’s done, but never really got around to it. Well, now that I’ve tried it, I think I’m hooked, and I can’t wait to have time to play around with it some more. I’m thinking I’ll even go back and re-sew the outlines of the letters for the satin stitched pages, because freehand on the machine makes it a lot easier to follow the curves of the letters. I wouldn’t want to sew straight lines this way, but I’m thinking I may never use the feed-dogs for curves again. I really like being able to move the fabric any direction and change directions with one simple movement, it works so much easier for small, strange shapes. Like letters!

continued progress

The first four pages are done! Here are pages one and two, which weren’t done at the last post.

The fifth and sixth pages are going to take the longest because I’m doing them in sating stitch by hand. I have started the fifth page, and they’ll be nice and portable, but it’s slow going. Here’s what I have done so far on that one.


I machine stitched the outlines of the letters cause I need a concrete border like that when I do sating stitch or it gets all wonky. In the past I’ve just backstitched the border by hand but I figured machine stitching would be faster. It was really hard to do the curves by machine and I can’t decide if it actually made the embroidery harder or not, but I may not continue with the machine stitching.

I skipped over the seventh and eight pages, because I’m going to do those with fabric paint and I didn’t have one big chunk of time today, so I will probably work on those tomorrow. Instead I did the ninth and tenth pages, which are machine embroidery. It’s too bad I’m not a real big fan of the look of machine embroidered letters, because it went wonderfully fast once I got the settings down. I had some issues at first because of a setting on the machine to make the letters “using twice as many stitches”, which basically stretches them out a bit. I decided to use that setting, because it makes the letters a bit bigger, but I didn’t realize it would clear that setting when I cleared the programmed letters so that I could program in the next word. So the second word looked different from the first word, and I couldn’t figure out why, because all the stitch length and width settings were the same. At the same time my bobbin thread was messed up because the bobbin was wound funny, which will teach me not to use a bobbin that I didn’t wind myself,  so the tension was really tight, and I didn’t know why cause, I didn’t see anything wrong. Then  finally the bobbin just bound up and I figured it out. So I ended up ripping out the second word several times, and for a different reason each time, but once I got things all sorted out, it worked like a breeze.

I also discovered that the bobbin thread actually affects the look of the letters. Specifically, if you switch from a black bobbin thread to a light blue one, the stitching ends up looking like it was done with a completely different top thread. Of course I was also perplexed over this one when I first noticed it, but I kept working on the rest of the page and my brain worked it out for itself. Of course I then had to rip the first word out and re-stitch it so that it matched the rest because otherwise it was going to drive me crazy!

That’s where I’m at now. I have three sets of pages that I haven’t even started, but should hopefully go pretty quickly, and the satin stitch pages to finish, which will take a while. And then there’s the illustrations of course, but those aren’t as extensive or as difficult as the letters, which have caused me to decide that our writing system has too many curves in it and we need more straight lines. Just square letters, no curves!

Cover to Cover

I’ve started working on another challenge piece. This time the theme is books, and the finished show is going to be displayed at the library where I work, pretty cool!


So, because I seem to be pretty literal when it comes to these things, I’m making a book. The story is yet again in the format of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (like the book in this post), that format seems to work well for me. But this time the whole book is going to be made of fiber using various fiber techniques. I’ve been working on it quite a bit the past couple days, since they’re my days off, and have the words on 2 and a half pages done, and the basic plan for all of them. Now pictures and descriptions!


For the first 2 pages I cut the letters out of different fabric and they’ll be sewn onto the “page”. My original plan was to cut out all the letters for the whole book but it was taking forever and they were definitely too large for the later pages, when the illustrations get larger. So because I’m flexible, and notoriously lazy, I changed the plan and decided to rotate through a few different techniques.

The first page is the one that’s half done cause by the time I got about halfway through it I was pretty tired and kept zoning out while sewing, which is not a good thing when using a machine. Here’s the page and a close-up of the stitching.

I didn’t have any thread that matched either of the fabrics on the page, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to match both with one thread so I decided to use a color of thread that could just become part of the artwork.  I tend to prefer doing that whenever I can anyway because no matter what you do the stitching isn’t invisible, so why not make it part of the piece?


On the third and fourth pages I needle felted the letters. Working on these is when I decided to do each page in a different technique. When I say each page I really mean each set of two pages that face each other, like page 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and so on. The third and fourth pages are actually finished because I needed to use the needle felting machine for them but don’t have space to have both the needle felting machine and the sewing machine set up. And I’m going to be using the sewing machine a lot more than the needle felting machine, so I set the felting machine up first, used it, and then set the sewing machine up.

I started by hand felting the letters in place, because I have more fine control with the single needle. Then I used the machine to felt them down really well, and I had intended to then use the machine to add more fiber and make them darker, but that didn’t work. I discovered that the machine felts hard enough that it pushes most of the roving to the back, and trying to felt from the back to reverse that didn’t work real well. The machine also chews the fabric up pretty quickly, which you can see pretty well in the close-up above. It basically looks like color in the fabric is washed out.


That’s the progress so far, I’ll post more in the next couple weeks as I keep working. It needs to be done by April, I wanna say mid-April, so I’ll be working on it a lot for a while.

Play Day!

Today I spent the afternoon with my mother and our friend Linda playing with fiber. Linda has a book full of these neat cords that are made by sewing over cords and pieces of fabric. It’s really neat but really hard to describe. I only did a little bit cause I was mostly playing with my mom’s embellishing machine, I’ll do a separate post about that one, but I did one cord, and my mom and Linda did some really cool ones.

For my cord I basically did a zigzag stitch over the cord with bright thread. I used black bobbin thread cause it was easy but I really like the contrast it gives to the thicker and brighter yarn. You can see the back a little bit here.

I varied the stitch length as well and found it gives interesting texture changes. When you pick the cord up it’s also a lot stiffer where the stitches are closer together, which makes sense.

My mom had several long crochet chains that she stitched over on both a regular sewing machine and her serger.

Here she is adding gold thread to give the cord more sparkle

This is the crochet chain she did on the Serger, I like the lacy bits.

You can see the lacy bits better on the close-up. Really it’s more that the stitching was only partially on the cord, so the extra stitching gives it a lacy effect.

Linda did a lot more with ribbons and skinny cords and then adding on scraps of fabric. I really like hers, they turned out very neat and funky. Then again she has had more practice than us! Raw talent may help a bit too ;-D.

These are three separate cords.

Linda was putting these little holes into her cords. She said she shows buttons onto the cords and puts the button through the holes in the cord to make loopy, sometimes bow-shaped, things. They’re very cool.

She got lots of neat fringe-y bits from the edges of the fabric scraps too. Creates nice texture and dimension.

And because action shots are fun, here are a couple pictures of my mom and Linda working on their cords.

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