Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Quilt Show

I've been making some Christmas Quilts. While working with, I was able to play with a variety of ideas to add lights to quilts. So far, I'm having a blast! It's fun to think of new ways to incorporate either LED lights or fiber optics. I'm planning on designing other styles, but right now have these. They will be available as kits shortly, with full instructions on adding the lights, and some finished wall hangings will also be available.

I used Eleanor Burn's QIAD pattern, Pumpkin Grins as the basis for this Snowman. The lights are stitched into the face of the quilt from behind, then the quilt is sandwiched and quilted. It's a cute way to celebrate the season without needing a power outlet, since it's battery operated. Perfect for a door or a small apartment.

Another design using lights is a Christmas Tree. I added small buttons and embelishments, as well. This is one perfect tree! No needles, no need to water, and it lights up. Perfect for a small apartment or a house with animals.

Another view, without flash, so you can see the lights.

Here's another tree still in the design stage. The tree block is a slightly different shape, and a 12" block instead of the 16". I lay out the lights on the front to determine the placement, and mark the locations. I need to finish decorating this one, and need to update the pictures. This will be edited when it's ready! You can see the strand of LED lights and the battery pack here. That all gets hidden behind the quilt, so you only see the sparkle of the lights.

UPDATE 12/2/2011
I have pictures to add from the latest Tree with Lights quilt!
I added small ornaments and it's finished (and ready for sale, or kits if you prefer)

I sewed small "lightbulbs" over the actual LED lights, so the lights actually shine through the bulbs. The bulbs were from
Now, I bet you are asking "How did she do that?" Well, here's the idea I came up with. I want to hide the wires, yet have the lights show on the front. I make small buttonholes (with stabilizer, the white squares you see here) and number the locations of the lights, push the little LED bulb through the opening, and stitch the buttonhole closed. I layer the quilt, and am very careful with the battery pack and the locations of the wires. I quilt, add embelishments and finish with a small pocket to hold the battery pack. So, now you want one, too, right?? Let me know!

I'm working on other ideas and plans. If you want to learn more, contact me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Working with lights

How sparkling do you want your quilted project? I'm working on creating quilts that can be lit with battery operated LED lights or fiber optic lights. Both are really cool, but the LEDs are actually easier.

Here are some of the projects I've done so far.

I used Quilt In A Day's Pumpkin Grins pattern to create the backgrounds for the following wall hangings. I did alter the face features, based on another pattern with a number of different sketches. Both of the pumpkin faces use strands of 6 LED lights and a small watch battery. I chose to keep the features black, and accent with green lights. It really looks spooky at night. I quilted the background with a spider web effect using ecru nylon quilting thread, so it looks like a shimmery web.

A different face in a second wall hanging. I call this one the Smirky Pumpkin.

A few extra steps go into adding lights. First, the design needs to be suitable for the lights used. In the above quilts, the face features worked well. We adjusted the features to work with the spacing of the little bulbs, which is about 4 inches. You can't sew over the wires, and the lights need to be attached. We tried just placing the lights under the fabric, and while it's pretty, it isn't very bright. I decided to mark the placement of the lights and create tiny button holes, push the bulb through, and then sew behind it to keep it in place. After the lights are attached, I layer the quilt sandwich, but have to cut a slit in it to pass the battery pack to the backing. I quilt the top as usual, but skip over the wires. You really do have to know where they are, because if you break a wire at this point, it can't be fixed easily. You would have to take out the quilting to access the lights, but that could be lots of ripping. I often test the lights as I am sewing, to make sure the delicate wires are still working. Once the quilting holds them in place, they aren't as delicate, but can break if the quilt is folded along the wires. Here's another adaptation for the winter season.

In this one, you can actually see the tiny LED lightbulbs that poke through the fabric. After finishing the quilting and binding, I add a small pocket on the back to support and hide the battery pack, as well as a hanging sleeve and magnet tape, so I can put it on my steel door.

I'm teaching classes on these projects, and designing other quilts for class that can use the lights. It's fun and enlightening (sorry, had to have at least one pun, lol). These and other lit projects are also for sale in my Etsy shop, MaryMackMadeMine. Check it out. There is a link on the right sidebar. My lights are provided by

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Evening Star quilt show 2011

On Saturday, November 5, 2011 I had the chance to spend time with my great Quilting Friend, Christine, and look at quilts. The show was in Mineola, NY, by Evening Star Quilters. It's so much fun to go with Christine. We take our time, and discuss the quilting process, the designs, and yes, the errors. There were many blue ribbons in this show. I personally think the quilts shown last year were a better quality, and talked about this with Jessica, who had shown quilts last year, but didn't have any entered this year. Her perspective was different, and I can see both points. Since it was a juried show, and an annual show, completing projects is just as important as completing them well. I wish the "Winners List" had pictures of the quilts, so I could really see why they won. I loved some of the designs, but noticed some "issues" that could or should have been corrected before they were quilted and shown. Maybe some of the quilts should have been left on a design wall for a few days before they were pieced into a top. It wasn't obvious until I took a picture, and noticed it on the camera. Maybe a few should have been a little more careful about matching. I don't think many of these would have been judged the same if in a national competition, or a larger one. That said, I haven't entered any of my quilts for competition. I am not a member of a guild at this time, and feel many of my quilts and finished projects are almost worthy of a smaller competition. I do feel that looking at the ones from this show help me learn about the issues with mine. I'm getting better, and learning all the time about different aspects to competing in quilt shows. I don't feel quilts need to be perfect. They are made by humans. We aren't perfect. But I do feel we need to show our best. Here are some of the quilts from the show. What's your opinion?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another Ode to Aurifil!

Oh, Aurifil, How do I love thee!!! You brighten my day like a new box of crayons.

I had the opportunity to open a new spool of thread tonight. I am so happy it was Aurifil. My friend Christine and I went to a quilt show yesterday, and I showed her the block I made for Eleanor Burns' Facebook Page contest. The Treasure Chest Quilt contest is a block of the month. You make the block, submit the picture, and there is a voting contest for the favorite. The winner gets $50 gift certificate to Quilt In A Day. Since it's one of my favorite online stores (except she doesn't sell Aurifil yet, lol) and I love her directions, and am always up for a quilting challenge, I entered one block and made the second.

I needed dark blue thread for the applique. I had purple (not Aurifil) and was looking at the venders at the quilt show to see if they sold Aurifil. The venders didn't sell it, but 2 of the women making charity quilts at the show were using it, and both said it was their favorite thread. We discussed places to purchase, and discovered none of the Long Island, NY stores carried Aurifil. The closest was City Quilter in Manhattan, but since I seldom go into NYC, it isn't practical just to go for a spool or two (or 10) of thread.

After a great lunch, we decided to run to the local JoAnn's chain store. I almost purchased a small spool of Gutterman embroidery, but put it back. Christine remembered she had purchased a pack of threads, and probably had a dark blue she could let me use. Wow! What a great friend who will share Aurifil! She also mentioned that she had gotten an extra spool during the Quilters Conference in NYC in August. And she met Alex.

So, today I went to her daughter's birtday party, and Christine handed me this goody bag. Isn't it the best??

And I got Chocolate covered pretzles!!

As I opened the blue thread to use in my machine, I felt this wonderful sense of anticipation and possibilities. Aurifil comes wrapped in plastic, as you can see, to protect it from various temperature changes and dust. It helps to add to the shelf life of the spool. Opening it made me think of all the wonderful things I felt on the first day of school when I opened a new box of crayons, and knew I could create anything. It was a great feeling. I hadn't felt the creative possibilities with many things lately, so this was especially sweet. Thanks, Chritine! Thanks, Aurifil!!

The block was pieced with Aurifil 50wt, and the blue applique used it as well. Check Quilt In A Day's Facebook page for the voting in the beginning of December, and look for my block! I do hope you "like" it then. Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My Aurifil thread test

It's been a while since I posted. I've been busy sewing, and designing things with lights, and scheduling classes, among other things. It's been a wild time, but I'm loving it.

First, I wanted to tell you about my thread experience. During the Summer, Aurifil Thread sponsored a contest on Facebook. If you had 100 friends who also "liked" their page, you could get 3 spools of yummy thread. I had signed up during a contest sponsored by Accuquilt (one of my other favorite FB pages) and was able to enter the contest. I received this in the mail a few weeks later.

Three large spools of Aurifil cotton MAKO 50wt thread and a color chart (smart marketing, Alex!). I am a little picky about my thread. I grew up using (and being frustrated by) that bargain "10 for $1" thread, and Coats. I switched to Gutterman after I spoke with people at my favorite sewing machine store. I found an online store that had good prices, and started using that for everything. I picked up some 40wt thread when I started quilting, and wanted to accent the top with thread. Some were better than others. Less breakage, less frustrations. I like Superior King Tut for most of my quilting, but I really wanted to see what the 50wt was all about. So, I went through my stash of mostly blues, purples, and pinks (lol, yes, those weren't my usual thread colors, but they were pretty, and free, so...) I decided to do something for Autumn, and would do my best piecing and quilting to test Aurifil.

So, first thing I did was pick out my red plastic bobbins (Viking makes bobbins in colors for my machine: purple, red, yellow, blue and green, in an assorted pack.) I used a Sharpie to write an A on them, so I would know they were the Aurifil bobbins. The spools were orange, which is Aurifil's easy way to determine the thread weight on the spool, so it made sense to me to use a similar color bobbin. Others use nail polish to mark the style of thread on the metal bobbins. I picked Eleanor Burns Autumn Leaves pattern and the fabrics to match the threads. I carefully pieced the leaves, making my usual adjustment for needle placement and 1/4" seams. Guess what? My pieces were bigger than usual! Yes, the thread did make a difference in the seam allowance, making the block size more accurate. I readjusted my needle position, and resewed the pieces. Yes, I had to rip out some of that wonderful thread. I was really sad to see I had wasted some! But I was learning that all "they" say about this thread is true. More accurate piecing, better quilting, less breakage, less lint. It really is as great as others have said. Since the thread is thinner, you really can put more on a bobbin, and you don't have as much lint in your machine after using it. I really checked this out.

So, here are my projects. I showed them to a friend, Miko at JF Magic, who works with some great guys who wanted to add fiber optic lights to these. One is finished, and the other needs backing and binding to finish after the lights were added. Look at the piecing, and the quilting. I am especially proud of that stitching. I did my best work on these, and Aurifil thread really did make a difference. Now to get other colors. I plan to replace my usual Gutterman with Aurifil 50wt, and want to try the other weights for quilting. I love Aurifil. The price per spool may be a little higher than I was paying for Gutterman, but it is well worth it for the sheen, how it works in my machine, and the accuracy.

I'm glad you can see the lights in this picture. It looks really cool, and the lights "chase" around the square.

Aurifil didn't ask me to recommend their product, and I am not benefitting from this endorsement. I really do love Aurifil, though. It would be fun to design a box of my favorite colors, if someone ever asks!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sewing Camp for Kids! Fun Week!!

My friends, Paul and Bernie Enright, own a fabric warehouse. Yep, my kind of place. They are wholesalers, so I can get great deals. They opened retail last October, and I have been teaching some classes there. He created a great area for us! It has great lighting, a huge cutting table, lots of tables and electricity, and a wonderful design wall. Who can't have fun with that?

I have had some fun teaching. This week, I did a sewing camp for kids. I planned out different activities every day, but my plan went by the wayside the first day. No problem! I want the kids to have fun, and learn something that they are interested in. E, the first student on Monday, had prior experience sewing, and wanted to make pajamas. I had patterns, and she picked out a pretty flannel. She learned about laying out a pattern, basic body measurements, and seam allowances, plus some time saving tricks I discovered. We had fun. A father stopped by with his daughter and niece, and they wanted to make pajamas, too. They came back on Tuesday, because E had another appointment. E also had enough time to make a scrap catcher/pin cushion that I designed. Mom was thrilled, and asked if I could teach zippers, buttons, and buttonholes on Wednesday. Sure!!

So, D and T came on Tuesday, and made pajamas while Aunt/Mom S watched. Dad is thrilled, and wants me to make sure they know it inside out, (pun intended) and has ordered fabric for all his neices and nephews. The girls are going to be busy for weeks! Aunt S is coming for sewing lessons, to make clothes for her family, too.

Wednesday, E came and we did a practice zipper, and a button by machine, and a buttonhole. Then I showed her a plan for a little wristlet that has a zipper. She decided to do a 4 patch bottom with a strip at the top, and we found some nifty ball trim to accent the strip. She cut the squares on the Accuquilt GO! die cutting machine, pieced the front, and quilted the front and back. She inserted the zipper, and attached the lining, and mom was super impressed. Aunt worked on laying out patterns, and picking the next few projects.

Thursday's project was curtains. Yes, a 10 year old wanted to make curtains for her bedroom. Her older sister has been meaning to do it, but hasn't had time. We made simple panels with 2 inch header and rod pocket, but she did a blind hem for the bottom. She sewed the rings on the tie backs by machine (Um, maybe I should have pushed a little hand sewing knowledge, oops, lol) E's wristlet and the curtain fabric are in this picture. D and T came for a short while to visit their aunt/mother and played with scraps, making small pillows. We will be working on their wristlets on Monday.


Friday was pillowcases to match the curtains. We used the Burrito/Sausage method, and E renamed it Magic Tube. She learned how to create a french seam, too, and Mom was very impressed. T was there with mom S, who finished a top and pants. T is making pillowcases, too. I can't wait to hear the reactions from E's bigger sisters, who were at camp. Sometimes being flexible about the plans works out better! I had so much fun seeing the growth of these new friends. So, what is the next class?? E's favorite part was piecing and quilting the wristlet. We have a new quilter, friends!!

Here's a sample wristlet that I did.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A New Old Toy

A few years ago, during a play at Holy Family in Nazareth, I sat next a woman named Joan. Joan and I had a mutual friend, Deb, (whose daughter was in the play) who suggested we sit together. Joan discovered I had made the costumes (with much help from parents) and was praising my work. She asked me what my dream machine would be, suggesting a factory machine. I said I had always wanted a treadle machine. She told me to stop by her house the next day, and showed me a cabinet, and then put it in my car, after I promised to repair it and get it working, and not to sell it. It was a gift. I gave her a shawl to thank her.

So, I went about finding information about this unusual cabinet. Yes, it was a treadle machine, but... A cabinet? Yes. This is a rare Parlor Cabinet sewing machine, made for Mongomery Ward in the early 1900s. The Minnesota was one of many machines they sold, trying to copy Singer's success. I did some research, and had the exact info, (can't remember the exact year) but it was old. It was missing parts (the bobbin, bobbin case, and bobbin cover, among other things) and the cabinet was damaged. There was an awful stain on the top, it wasn't square, the door latch was broken (and what was with that knob??) and ... Quite a project, but I had the internet, and prior knowledge on refinishing furniture. Sooo...
treadle machine 2

treadle machine 1

I found the parts I needed at a sewing machine store on Long Island, where I had previously bought a machine. It was a little surprising, considering I did a US search and found it locally. I cleaned and polished the machine. I was surprised by the decals hidden by the years of gunk. I got it working. The next job was to tackle the cabinet. There was a built in tape measure in front of the machine, and I figured any chemicals may damage it, so I asked for help at Home Depot. They recommended I restore the finish there, but would need to strip the top because no one could figure out what caused the stain, let alone what to do about it. I was able to get off that weird white stain next to the machine, and the rest of the cabinet seemed to glow with a little elbow grease and product.


Um, yeah, that looks bad. They had tried a number of things on it before I took the picture. I've used a spray-on chemical stripper before, so I got that ready, put on my grungiest clothes, got plastic scrapers, rubber gloves, lots of paper towels, a drop cloth, water, and sand paper and got to work. The stain wasn't into the wood, so I was able to get it ready to restain after one try. I did strip the top and bottom, since I figured I would need to do it if I got any drips (knowing me, yep,)

After some stain and some polyurethane, here is the finished result. I am pretty proud of it. It isn't perfect, but what would be after 100 years? I didn't want it to look new, but good for its age. And, it works. I do need to do some adjustments, but if I lose power, I can still sew! I replaced the weird wood knob with a cool vintage looking dark silver knob.



That is the cover, where the stain was. Look at that beautiful grain!! I love being able to discover something like that with some good chemicals and some hard work.




Hazel approves, and says it's time to play with her instead of the machine. DSC02477

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The making of a quilt

Hi. I thought I would post a few things about how I made my last quilt. There are quite a few things that go into the whole quilt, including 7 bobbins of thread. Yes, that's right. I used 7 bobbins of thread in this one.

First, a challenge was given for this Race Day quilt. You take a Jelly Roll, which is 40 strips of fabric at least 40 inches long, and cut 2 1/2 inches wide, and sew them end to end (on a 45* angle) so it becomes 1600 inches of fabric, 2 1/2 inches wide. I tried to plan the colors a certain way, but it didn't work as planned. I love what did happen, though. Once you have it all sewn, you press the seams in one direction. Yep, lots of pressing. Hot steamy pressing. Then you cut 18 inches off one end, and match the two ends, so you end up with a strip that is about 800 inches long and 4 1/2 inche wide. Fold it in half again, and sew again, and end up with 400 inches that is 9 1/2 inches wide. Oh, yeah, make sure it isn't twisted anywhere. Make sure your edges meet. Make sure you stay at 1/4 inch seam allowance. Taks a drink of water in there somewhere. And Hazel needs to go outside for a little walk.

Back to sewing. Do it again and again until you end up with something that resembles a quilt size top. Add 7 strips of 6 1/2 inch wide fabric for borders, checking to make sure they are square and flat. Press the whole thing nice and flat, and fix any missed areas. (Yep, I had one where the edges weren't even, and the strip looked bad, so ripped out the bad stitches, and fixed it.) Now, decide on the backing. If needed sew that together. This used 3 1/2 yards of fabric. In addition to the 3 yards for the strips and 1 3/8 yards for the borders. Oh, and about 5/8 yard more for binding. Are you adding? About 8 1/2 yards of fabric. Not including the batting.

Lay out your backing, batting and the quilt top on a nice large flat surface. Pin the layers together, with pins about every 8 inches or so. Pick out the thread for quilting. Clean out the bobbin case and bottom of the machine, put in a new needle, and wind some bobbins. Maybe 5, since you used 2 just in the piecing of the top. Play with a pencil, doing some scribbles to see what kind of stipple design you may want to try. Or pick a stencil (this has stipple, which is like doodling with thread instead of a pencil). Begin in the center of the quilt. Relax your shoulders, and play. Make waves and swirls, but keep the speed steady and movements as steady as possible, so your stitches are sort of even. Take a break. Finish the quilting, and decide on the border treatment. Finish that. Make your binding. Cut 7 strips 2 1/2 inches wide, sew them end to end, press them, trim one end, change your machine to a walking foot, and stitch the binding on, mitering the corners. Press the binding, pin and clip it in place, and stitch again.

Luckily I pay a great price for my basic thread, so making the top and winding the bobbins wasn't expensive. Maybe about $1. Fabric is now costing about $10 a yard, and more for batiks. The jelly roll was a gift from a sweet friend, and I got the backing and borders wholesale, so that cost about $30, rather than $80. Add in the batting. Again, I got it on sale. I use Warm & Natural, which is a wonderful 100% cotton. Maybe about $13. Hours? About 2 for the top, another for the borders, and about 9 in quilting and binding. And the nice rainbow quilting thread? $9. Then you have to wash the quilt and use Shout Color Catchers just in case the colors bleed.

What did I end up with?

Sunset Strips 30001

Sunset Strips 20001

Sunset Strips 10001

Is it worth the time? Absolutely. I hope it sells, and that someone enjoys snuggling with it. It is a bargain listed on my Etsy store for $225,

Monday, May 30, 2011

Did I tell you???

I love quilts. Well, duh, you say. Look at her banner picture! And her Facebook albums! Did I tell you I also love Quilt in a Day books by Eleanor Burns? I think her instructions and practical time saving ideas are wonderful, and just up my alley. I love things to be fast, fun, and easy. Well, maybe that didn't come out right, but you understand my meaning, right?? I meant projects. The quilt in my banner was a QIAD Lover's Knot that is now on my bed. Although, to be honest, I let it sit as blocks for about 5 years before I recounted and decided to finish it, realizing I hadn't made a mistake and had the right number of blocks. It was one of my earlier quilts, and I know all the mistakes.

This was another UFO quilt. It was together and partially quilted, and I pulled it off the shelf when I was organizing my fabric a few weeks ago, and decided to finish it. Yes, I know these are called Quilt in A Day, and mine become Quilt over a Few Years, but they are pretty, and were fun. This one's challenge was in the quilting. I was working on the butterfly appliques, which is where the frustration started. I don't think I had the lucite table to make the machine bed larger, and I was looking for butterfly stencils for the other blocks. The quilt was large and difficult to stitch around the butterflies. Excuses, but... sometimes when one is frustrated, it is best to look at a project later. This was one of those. I am a much better quilter than when I started this. I love stippling, and have played with other designs. I am better at using free motion quilting on stencil designs. This quilt said "Finish me now" because my confidence has grown. So, here are some pictures. It measures 72 by 115 inches. And it is listed in my Etsy shop.




Friday, May 13, 2011

A Recent Project

Hi! I have been asked to do some unusual things with my sewing talents. This is the story of one of them.

A few years ago, my friend Deb's mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and moved to an assisted living home. Deb and her beautiful daughter, Lorenna, were going through the house and discovered a pile of tulle and taffeta at the bottom of a closet. The find was Pat's wedding dress. Much of the tulle was damaged and the gown was stained. Lorenna put it on, and it fit her beautifully. She loved its full twirly skirt. She wanted to reuse it for a prom dress. I suggested it be dry-cleaned before we did any major work, because the staining would affect the amount of repairs needed. They looked at colors of tulle, and picked a pale lavender/grey, and eggplant purple. I was a little surprised they didn't want to stick to the ivory, or go with something light, but when we tested the eggplant color against Lorenna's complexion, it really made her glow. My task was to remove any damaged tulle and replace it with the eggplant. The gown was soaked again, since the bead work became dark with the dry cleaning process, and I set to work taking apart an almost 60 year-old dress.

Getting the dress apart took quite a few hours. The tulle side panels were double stitched to the front panels. The bodice was triple stitched, and then some areas had lace appliqued on top. That alone was a challenge. I used the ripped and torn tulle as a basic pattern for replacing the parts, including the pleated bodice, and sleeves.

Here are some pictures.