Menu bar pages

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Paper and thread botanical greeting cards

The holidays are over and I am settling back into routine.  A new blog post is overdue so thought I would do a quick tutorial on how I made the botanical greeting cards recently posted in my Urban Stitcher® Etsy shop.  They are fun to make with endless possibilities.  I will mention the supplies I used, but honestly, there are no rules.  You probably already have everything you need to get started.  

I wanted a simple design to accommodate a variety of media, including free-motion sewing machine stitches.  

As with most all my projects, I started with a sketch pad.  

Now, switching to my 9"x12" watercolor pad, I cut one sheet in four 4-1/2" x 6" pieces.  My blank card stock is 4-5/8 x 6-1/4, so no waste!  I prepared the watercolor paper with a simple wash.  I will not dwell on how to do this.  I am not accomplished with watercolor, but there are great tutorials on YouTube that have helped me learn the little I know.  

I traced the outside line of the picture to a paper-backed adhesive.  I use Pellon's Wonder Under.  The paper will be peeled away, so pencil is fine to do the tracing.

After tracing, I loosely cut around the image.  More care will be taken in cutting out the image after adhering it to the decorative paper. 

After the basic shape was cut out, I used my steam iron on low heat/no steam to press the Wonder Under image to the back of decorative paper.  Any kind of paper or fabric can be used.  I used Thai Mulberry paper in several colors. 

Now it is time to carefully cut around the image. When the image is cut out, peel the Wonder Under paper backing away from the decorative paper, flip it over and use the iron again to press it to the prepared watercolor paper.  

I used a Frixion Clicker Erasable pen to draw the detail I want to stitch.  This is my favorite pen anytime I need to make a temporary mark on fabric or paper.  It disappears with a light press with an iron.   

I used a very dark green Sulky 40 wt rayon embroidery thread to stitch the detail in free-motion.  It is good to plan how you will stitch the lines.  The needle makes holes in the paper.  It's part of the charm unless you go over the same area too many times.    

Sometimes it is necessary to stop stitching in one area and move to another area.  In that case, I leave a long tail on my threads so I can come back later, pull them to the back side, and knot them on back.

In this picture, the flower is completed.  The watercolor paper has been trimmed to a size that will allow me to use a "mat" and still fit on the blank card stock.  I will use a needle to pull these threads to the back side and knot them.   

I use double backed tape to adhere the watercolor paper/mat onto the blank card stock.  I like the layered look, so my picture was trimmed to allow a bit of mat and the blank card to show below.  Again, just personal preference.

I used very little stitching on this card because the embedded mulberry leaves add so much character.

Some of these leaves were too small to detail with decorative paper, so I used a little watercolor to give them color.   

That's it!  Simple greeting cards made with love.  I hope you are inspired to try making some of your own!    

Thank you for visiting.  Between blog posts, please visit Urban Stitcher on Facebook and Etsy.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Sling Bag Pattern Creation

After making four sling bags using the Park Sling Backpack by Sew Sweetness, I was ready for a different bag.  I had size, shape and features in mind, but could not find a suitable pattern.  I have made many bags without a pattern using simple construction designs and techniques, but never feature-intensive bags, like backpacks.  Watching a couple of YouTube video tutorials gave me the confidence to try making a pattern I could use, and perhaps, re-use.    

Here is what I had in mind:
  • 8 inches wide by 12 inches tall, 3-inch gusset with a long zipper across the top for easy access to the inside
  • Sling bag style with a single strap extending from the top of the bag
  • D-rings on both lower corners so the strap could be used over either arm
  • Lining that fits snugly inside without drooping  
Most of these requirements are pretty straight forward.  Saggy lining is a sticking point for me, however.  I hate rummaging around in a bag that is full of lining.  I know there are many tips and tricks for managing lining.  I decided to try something a little different.... french seams.  

If you are interested in how I created a sling bag with french seams, read on.  If not, take a peek at the pictures and if you like the bag you see, visit my Urban Stitcher® Etsy shop to see the Cork Leaves Sling Bag.  It was made using the pattern created here.    

Let's Get Started!

Recognizing that the trial bag would most likely be unusable, I selected fabric odds and ends from my stash.  The hardware could be recovered.  The only real loss would be zipper yardage.  As expected, trial and error revealed several flaws in my logic.  In each case, I corrected my pattern instructions and forged ahead with the prototype. All the warts are visible in these pictures!

My notes and diagrams started on a piece of freezer paper.  After many corrections and updates, the notes were transferred to a notebook.

Paper bag recycled into pattern pieces.  
Note:  I used foam stabilizer for the front, back and side panels.  To eliminate bulk, I cut the stabilizer about 5/8" from all edges.

 To create the french seams, I first sewed the lining pieces to the main fabric pieces, right sides together, leaving a small opening to turn right side out. I used a 1/4" seam allowance.  
For the prototype, I cut the side panel section as one piece using the main fabric.  I sewed it into a tube and turned right side out.  I pressed the seam down the middle of the tube to eliminate bulk at the edges where the side panel would be sewn to the front and back pieces.  
I used the same method to create the zipper unit.  The zipper panels were stitched directly on top of the zipper tape.  It was very easy.  Note the second line of top stitching on each side of the zipper.  The reason will be shown later. 

Front, back and gusset ready for assembly.  Because there are no raw edge, unfinished strap ends and pocket edges cannot be buried.  The strap tabs were sewn to the outside far enough from the edge that they would not interfere with the french seam.  

Front panel clipped to back panel and ready for stitching.  Careful measuring and planning is necessary.  No snipping corners to ease the gusset!  

From the lining side you can see where I stitched the strap tabs in place.  This is an oops that had to be noted for future bags.  The straps need to be stitched to the exterior fabric before sewing it to the lining.  Seems obvious, right?

Tight and tidy lining with french seams!  No raw edges!  No bias binding!  The french seam is about 1/4".  It is not as wide as if I had encased the raw edges with bias binding.  I think it was easier than applying bias binding, and the seams may be sturdier.   

This closeup shows the back side of the zipper.  The extra line of stitches on the zipper secures the edge of the zipper to the panel giving it a finished look.  Easier than hand finishing the lining around the zipper and there is absolutely no baggy lining around the zipper!

 I used bias binding for the strap and strap pocket.  Because of the zipper, I think it lays flatter than sewing right sides together and turning.  Looking closely you can see another oops.....the grommet for earbud cable is installed backwards.  Oh well.  

Here is a picture of the Cork Leaves Sling Bag currently available in my Etsy shop.  It was helpful working through the first bag and having the pattern pieces.  I have to admit, however, that I made several other changes that necessitated a lot of fitting and basting.  I may make a couple more and hopefully have a solid pattern to show for it... just in time to be tired of this bag and ready to move on!  

Thank you for visiting!  I hope you will watch for my next post.  In the meantime, follow Urban Stitcher® on Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, and Twitter!  

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Columbia Gorge Hotel

During our last visit to Columbia Gorge Hotel, I took snapshots that I thought would be fun to thread sketch.  I can't believe that was four years ago and I am just now returning to those photos.  This is the first of two or three of the pictures I plan to use for  8" x 10" thread sketches.

I am still playing with watercolors, so I made my initial sketch on watercolor paper and finished it by experimenting with a watercolor splatter technique.  It was an extra step, unnecessary to complete the thread sketch, but provided a lot of entertainment! 

After taking the watercolor as far as I wanted, I followed my normal process tracing the basic lines onto clear water soluble stabilizer.  The clear stabilizer with the drawing was taped to white canvas that had been prepared with an adhesive stabilizer and a tear-away stabilizer. 

Once all the lines were stitched with black embroidery thread, I removed the water soluble stabilizer by cutting away the larger pieces and rinsing in warm water to remove the smaller bits.  I dried it flat and pressed it preserving the tear-away stabilizer on the back.  Additional stabilizer can always be added if it is damaged or too wrinkled. 

I used acrylic paint thinned with a bit of water to color some of the areas. 

The rooftops and shaded areas have more stitches than other areas increasing the risk of stretching and puckering.  For that reason, I started stitching the rooftops and shaded areas near the center of the canvas and worked outward...just as you would with a quilt.  Rather than stitching straight lines to fill in the color, I applied the thread as you would paint with a brush, that is, with swirling lines and shapes to help distinguish the different areas of the building, greenery and sky.   It takes miles of thread, but it is very therapeutic.  No rules! 

I used multiple colors in each area for depth and interest. 

After all the color is added, I finish by outlining some of the elements with black embroidery thread.  Windows, doors, detailed roof tiles, etc.  It is personal preference.  Perhaps it is the same instinct that makes me want to use ink and watercolor.
I just like the look.   

All done!  
I had fun.  I hope you enjoyed following along.  Please visit again.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sewing a Martingale Dog Collar

Panzer is a beauty.  
As a rescue greyhound, he is spending retirement in a loving home.

We recently visited family in Kentucky.  One of our Kentucky families has a rescue greyhound, Panzer.  They asked if I would make him a new martingale collar.  Having never been around greyhounds, I was unfamiliar with martingale collars.  They provided an old collar to use for sizing and hardware.  I was excited to give it a try. 

Because there are patterns and tutorials available online, I did not need to struggle with reverse engineering the old collar.  Even with a good tutorial, several failed attempts resulted in a few changes to accommodate the products I could find. 

This blog is not a step-by-step on how to make the collar.  My intent is to explain my selection of products, as well as how and why I made minor changes to the pattern.  There are a lot of words, so you may prefer to follow along with the photo captions until you find something of interest.  


The old collar was made of nylon webbing, with a soft lining inside and decorative jacquard ribbon outside.  It was two inches wide with sturdy hardware.  I did a little research to understand what makes a good martingale collar.  It seems the best rated collars have three primary attributes:
  • Sturdy webbing or fabric that dries quickly with no irritation to the dog's skin
  • Strong hardware that will not rust or pull apart
  • Attractive
The pattern I used is free online at Country Brook Design.  It is step-by-step, with pictures and good explanation.  Although they have a chart for sizing the collar, I used dimensions from the old collar.  As in anything, there are many ways to accomplish the same task.  The changes I made helped eliminate bulk and provided a more polished finish with my products.  

Beautiful solid brass D-ring and triglide sliders.  The tutorial calls for one triglide and two rectangles.  I used all triglide slides because that is what the old collar had.
I am sure both work equally well.
This hardware is shown on the black cotton twill fabric used for the final collars.

The lightweight fleece will be more breathable and dry more quickly than regular stabilizer.

I will say up front that Country Brook Design has webbing and hardware.  Strapworks in Eugene, is my go-to for good hardware, so that's where I purchased mine. 

The two-inch durable and decorative ribbon was more difficult.  I could not find it locally and turned to Etsy.  Since I could not examine the ribbon closely, I decided to stick with a two-inch woven jacquard ribbon as used in the old collar.  I found a limited variety on Etsy and purchased one yard each of two different styles.  I also purchased a small amount of soft flannel to use as liner.     

Trial and Error

Too bulky and stiff with untidy stitches.
The black hardware is attractive and strong, but it is plated.  I did not want to risk chipping, especially at the D-ring where a leash or tags might hook.

When the supplies arrived, I sewed a test strip layering the flannel, webbing and ribbon.  It was too thick and bulky. The webbing was very smooth, so I eliminated the flannel.  I felt confident enough to proceed with one of the jacquard ribbons.  That was a mistake.  Even after eliminating the flannel, the webbing and ribbon were difficult to sew and still too heavy and stiff.  I can re-use the hardware, but the ribbon and webbing are ruined.

On the third trial collar, I used cotton fabric (from my stash) with a good lightweight fleece stabilizer.  It went well enough that I completed it with hardware.  

Reasonably successful prototype using cotton fabrics and solid brass hardware.

It comes together

Finally, I used a black twill fabric with a two-inch strip of lightweight fusible fleece.  The lightweight fleece should be more breathable and dry more quickly than regular stabilizer.  

The stabilizer and straps are sewn differently than in the tutorial.  This method will reduce bulk resulting in sturdy flat strap ends.  No raw edges to deal with in tight spots.  Read on for more explanation.....

I cut one 20"x 5" twill rectangle for the large loop.  One 12"x 5" twill rectangle for the for small loop.  These dimensions accommodate 1/2" seam allowance on the long edge and 3/8" seam allowance on the ends.  You can use whatever seam allowance you want.  Simply adjust your fabric rectangles accordingly.  The lightweight fleece rectangles measure 20"x 2" and 12"x 2".  Fuse the fleece down the center of the fabric.
Fold the strips lengthwise.  With edges even, stitch the long edge leaving about 3 inches open in the center on the long tube and about 2 inches on the short tube.  The ends are still open.

Press flat with seam down the center.  Sew the ends and clip corners.
You will see later that it creates a neat and tidy end that is easier to work with than folding under raw edges.
The strips turned right side out using a handy tube turner.

For demonstration, this picture shows the interior lightweight fleece.  
 Once the fabric straps were turned right side out, I pressed again making sure the fabric at the opening meets in the middle.  You should not be able to see the stabilizer inside.  I stitched about 1/4 inch on both sides of the center seam.  This seam will be covered by ribbon, so it was not necessary.  However, the extra lines of stitching will add a little strength, ensure the lightweight fleece will not shift, and keep the width of the strap consistent when you are attaching the ribbon.  

The the lines of stitching along center seam are visible from the back, but not offensive.  Turn the ends of the ribbon under, and sew the ribbon to the twill by stitching close to the edge all the way around. 

Front side of long strap.  Back side of short strap.  Tidy ends - no bulk.

Now it is time to look back at the Country Brook Design tutorial.  The hardest part is stitching the small loop together.  You need to sew secure seams inside the small loop.   

A general sewing foot will grip and move the heavy fabric better, but makes it difficult to sew against the hardware.
A zipper foot makes sewing against the hardware a little easier.  You can sew a box and "x" pattern, as I did here, or several lines of straight stitches.  I carefully sew over the lines of stitching several times to ensure it will not come loose.
Follow the Country Brook Design tutorial to thread the tricky adjustment triglide slide.  The tutorial uses rectangle slides on the side of the small loop.  I used triglide slides because the original collar used triglides. I am sure they both work equally well.  

That's it!  A lovely martingale collar.  

Look at those sleek, flat seams!  

I enjoyed making these collars.  It was an interesting exercise.  This blue and black collar may become available in my Urban Stitcher Etsy Shop.  For two reasons, it is probably the only one I will make to sell:
  • After purchasing nice jacquard ribbon and solid brass hardware, my costs were very near $20.  There are many competitively priced martingale collars on Etsy.  Perhaps they buy in bulk, or have a local source of ribbon and hardware eliminating shipping costs.  Scrimping on less expensive hardware would risk chipped finish, rust, or worst case, a lost dog because the hardware failed.  
  • The second reason is sizing.  Collars made custom to fit your dog would be ideal.  Accepting orders for custom collars, even with a reasonable turn-around is not something I would be comfortable doing.   You never know!....I might be in the middle of a clay doll project!  

That's it!  My experience and minor contribution to making a martingale collar! 

Thank you for visiting.  Please come back again.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Brief Hiatus

I am taking a short break to explore creative avenues!😉 
 Please come back soon to see what I have been up to.  
In the meantime, follow 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Double the Fun Bunnies

Years ago, I made a cute little Easter centerpiece using a small red clay pot, a little felt, and a few fluffy pom-poms purchased at the craft store. I know you have seen them....the felt and pom-poms are glued to the side of the clay pot to make it look like the bunny is head first into whatever you are displaying....candy or flowers. 

I recently came across a picture of one posted online, and it inspired me to make Easter cards with bunnies in pots.  I had no other projects in the works, and thought it might be a good time to experiment.   I added mylar, fluffy yarn, chalk, and a water color pad to my normal routine.  

I had not originally intended to blog about the Funny Bunny Easter cards, so there are only a few in-progress pictures.  Hopefully, it will be a light on words and heavy on inspiration!  

Mylar and Chalk Accents

I have been playing around stitching mylar. It is a common practice when using a machine embroidery module.  Until recently, I had never tried it with free-motion.  My favorite mylar is a transparent opalescent.  I could not find it locally, so purchased a single sheet from Etsy shop StitchednFaith.  It seemed expensive, but it turned out to be well worth the price.  I have made several cards and still have quite a bit left, so you will be seeing it in future posts.  

For the thread-sketched Easter cards, I used a combination of gold and the opalescent.  The gold is opaque and requires a little more handling, as demonstrated here.  

After drawing the image on my sketch pad, and transferring the image to water-soluble stabilizer, I cut a small piece of mylar to fit where the large candy Kiss would be stitched.   I added the gold mylar first.  It is opaque making it impossible to use the stitched lines as a guide.  

I will mention here that this bunny was originally drawn on my regular sketch pad.  I eventually drew it again on the water color pad for the painted bunny.  More about that later.

The candy Kiss was stitched first.  Before stitching anything else, the excess mylar was removed so it would not interfere with surrounding objects.

I carefully lifted the water soluble stabilizer, removed the excess mylar, and continued stitching the rest of the image.  
After transferring the outline to the canvas, I filled in with colorful thread.  A bit of the opalescent mylar decorates the Easter egg.  Fluffy yarn was stitched to the head and tail. After stitching was completed, a small paint brush was used to add a little pink chalk to the ears and face, and yellow chalk to tulips.  

As with all my cards, the canvas and card stock border are affixed to 4-1/2 x 6 inch folded greeting card.  The stitched card is done, but the fun is not over!

Water Color Paper

When I first started free-motion thread sketching, I used scratch printer paper to sketch, or in some cases, trace the images.  As I became more comfortable with drawing, I switched to sketch pads, now filled with hundreds of images that I will probably not use again.  I recently purchased a water color pad at our local Blick store and decided this would be a good time to give it a try.  Double the fun regardless of how well they turn out!  If it works out, more cards and fewer sketches cluttering my sewing room!

There were some gotcha's for me.  First, I use a lot of eraser on my sketches.  The erased lines and damaged paper do not affect the end product when I am transferring the image to stabilizer.  However, my sketches need a lighter hand and very little eraser to keep the water color paper in-tact for paint. 

This sketch was made on the water color pad.  Even though I tried to keep the pencil light, there were areas where I got carried away.  Because I like to draw over the pencil in ink, the dark lines do not matter as long as I do not erase. 

I currently have only water color pencils because that is what I like to use on my canvas thread sketches.  However, It was my experience that the water color pencils took a toll on the water color paper.  Perhaps, again, it was my heavy hand.  Although happy with these first efforts, I am anxious to try regular water colors.  

Since fraying is not an issue with the water color paper, a clean, simple stitch works to adhere the card to the border card stock.

Here is the same sketch stitched in thread with a little chalk accent.

For each sketch, two cards and a lot more fun!  

There are four water color cards available on my Urban Stitcher Etsy Shop!  A video featuring the cards can be viewed on my YouTube channel.  

Thank you for visiting!

Happy Easter!