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Archive for the ‘Hint & Tips’ Category

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Have you been longing for a sewing machine? Perhaps you have a budget in mind or the family have started asking what you would like for Christmas or your birthday. Rather than individual presents, maybe they would be interested in going in together, to help towards the cost of your dream machine. Ohh the possibilities, so how do you choose which machine is right for you? Read on for helpful tips to narrow the search.

My First Sewing Machine

My First Sewing Machine; Brother BM2600

There are so many options, how do I choose which machine is right for me?

Here are some helpful questions to ask, to help you narrow the choice.

  • What do you want to make?
  • What comes with the machine?
  • What extra feet or accessories are available for your choice of machine and how much do they cost?
  • Budget, have a figure in mind that you are hoping to spend, then do some research as to what is available for that price.
  • Do you know anyone else who sews, who you could ask about the machine they use?
  • Look up the main manufacturers of machines [see links below] to see what is available

What would you like to use the sewing machine to make?

If this is your first machine, pretend for a moment that you can afford anything, and already know how to sew anything that comes into your mind. Now write a list of all the things you would like to create with your new machine. You now have this list it will help lead your choice as some machines are better for some jobs, than others.

For example if you mainly want to do a few clothing repairs and have the option of trying some craft style projects, then you don’t need huge numbers of stitches. Machines with fewer stitches are often cheaper and you could get a much better quality machine with fewer stitches than for the same budget if you wanted lots more stitch options.

If you are thinking more home furnishing, curtains etc then you will be using much heavier weights of fabric, so go for a sturdier machine whose motor can better cope with these things.

Feet & Accessories

Now that you have your dream list of things you would like to create with your machine, have a look at some of the main manufacturers of sewing machines and what is available. When you see a machine you like, download the manual to see how easy/difficult the machine looks like it will be to use.

Not all shops or online retailers have much information about individual machines so getting hold of the manual is a good way to compare machines and find out just what they are capable of. It will also let you discover what comes in the box and hopefully what other accessories and feet are available for that machine.

Feet

There will be a selection of feet that come with your machine, how many there are is likely to be driven by your budget and which machine you choose. With your dream list of projects, have a look to see what feet are needed for those kinds of project and check their pricing. The last thing you want is to discover  in a years time is that your great bargain can’t grow with you as there aren’t more feet available so now you can’t do half the projects you had planned, or the feet to make it do so, are prohibitively expensive.

Room to grow with your sewing machine

You have a choice, buy a basic machine with the full intention to learn the ropes on it and expect to trade up to a bigger better one as your skills improve or by doing some research that I’ve mentioned above, getting a little more expensive machine, that will give you the option of adding extra feet as your sewing horizons expand with your confidence.

One thing I can promise you, is that if you get bitten by the sewing bug, you will be astonished at how quickly you want to do more than you ever imagined when you first bought your machine. When I bought mine, I ‘just’ wanted to make bags, perhaps alter a few hems. Three years later and I’m now very keen to try dressmaking, nothing earth shattering but being short I find trousers almost impossible to buy to fit. I like cotton skirts but often their prices are painful, I’d like to try to make some of those too.

Now I’m not saying making your own clothes will be cheaper, sometimes it will, sometimes it will cost the same, and sometimes it will cost more BUT it does give you more options for colours, fabrics and styles that YOU choose, not what the shops say you should want.

Getting help

If you have friends or family that sew, see if you can use their machine and ask them what they love or hate about it. If this isn’t an option check out the many sewing forums online and see what machines people on there are using, ask questions and have a natter. Better to do this now, than to drop a load of hard-earned cash on a machine, that in three months you regret getting.

Storage

Now I know this sounds a bit daft, but do spare a thought for what you will do with your machine, when you aren’t using it.

The reason I say this, is because some machines are a lot heavier than others and if you are needing to store you machine away in the cupboard and haul it out when you want to use it, suddenly the weight of the machine could become a big issue. If the machine will be out on a desk, you want to protect it from dust, so check out what covers the machine comes with or if there are bags available for it.

If you have the space and funds there is a fantastic company called Horn who produce the most amazing cabinets for sewing machines. The have a gas lift to raise your machine to working height, and press again to store away again into the cabinet. There are many options at various price points depending on your budget and available space.

Links

Do have a look at the  Textiles Tab for links to;

It’s also a good idea to look through some catalogues for inspiration and options. I ordered one from Jaycotts last weekend, OK my wish list grew, but it was helpful to have items listed side by side to compare sizes and features.

Oh dear another LONG post, I really need to work on short n sweet rather than epic essays don’t I! Anyway I hope you find this post helpful, these are the tips I’ve picked up along the way and if they save you some time and money along the way, then its been worth the hard work looking up all these links.

Happy Sewing

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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After a sewing session I looked down dismayed at the state of the carpet, covered in threads! If you find yourself in the same situation and also have a bad back so fighting with the hoover or bending down to pick them up is impossible, try this quick and simple solution.

Easy clean up after sewing

Easy clean up after sewing

You Will Need

  • Pair of scissors
  • Parcel tape
  • Your feet

Method

  • Before you wrap your feet, go to the area where the thread is! Safety first, do NOT use this concept on stairs!
  • Sit down then, take your parcel tape and wrap it round the widest part of your foot with the sticky side on the outside.
  • Overlap the end of the tape and finish by folding over the end of the tape, to make it easier to remove later.
  • If  there is a lot of thread on the floor, wrap the other foot as well.
  • Now just walk about and the dropped threads will stick to the tape and you don’t need to bend down to get them.

When moving from an area that’s finished to the next, balance on your heels if you can, otherwise fluff from the carpet will fuzz up your tape while you get there ;)

Options/Added Extras

When doing a large area, if your tape fuzzes before you have finished. Swing the tape around your foot, so the fluffy side is now on the top part of your foot and the clean sticky side is underneath :)

Simple eh! Could also be used to pick up beads BUT careful not to do acrobatics in the process and don’t stand on glass or other delicate beads ;) For those, go with foot of tights over the end of a hoover pipe ;)

Best wishes and thanks for reading see you soon

Billie :)

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Last month I spent AGES sorting out my ribbon box. There were ends of ribbon everywhere and as quickly as I wound it back on the reel, it kept escaping back and getting out of control again grr. Now I’ve seen dispensers for ribbon, but most seem to be on the lines of holes in assorted boxes for the ends of ribbon to poke out of. I don’t want to get the whole box out each time, but I do want the ribbon under control, here’s my very quick n simple way of making a ribbon dispenser that will stop your ribbon un-ravelling from the roll, in the box, or on your table.

Make your own Ribbon Dispenser

Make your own Ribbon Dispenser

You Will Need

Make your own Ribbon Dispenser

Make your own Ribbon Dispenser

  • Short lengths of flat ribbon, nothing too slippery
  • Rolls of ribbon
  • Scissors

Method

Most rolls of ribbon have a central hole, where some people thread the reels onto dowls.

1. Take a length of flat ribbon and thread it through the hole in the core of the reel.

2. Tie a double knot on top of the reel. Notice the direction of the ribbon on the left, just means don’t tie over the free end of the ribbon.

Make your own Ribbon Dispenser

Make your own Ribbon Dispenser

3. Lay about an inch of ribbon across the knot

4. Tie another double knot over the top of the ribbon, don’t pinch the ribbon, just tight enough to secure it.

Make your own Ribbon Dispenser

Make your own Ribbon Dispenser

This can be used with any ribbon on a reel, its a great way to stop your ribbons getting in a tangle ;)

Options/Added Extras

If you like a pretty finish, you can finish by tying a bow at the top of the reel. Make sure you have tied the double knots above and below the ribbon on the reel first. If you don’t then if the bow undoes, your ribbon will escape again!

Now you can pull out just the length you need without the rest of the ribbon falling off the roll. Just leave a 1″ tail of ribbon after the knot, so the ribbon on the reel can’t escape. This is most useful for silky satin ribbons and those pesky but beautiful organza ribbons.

It also means you can take out a single roll of ribbon without the other ribbons tangling or without the need to punch holes and haul out the whole box of them when you know just the one you want.

Hope you give it a try, it’s really easy and makes using ribbon much more fun and less grrr

Best wishes and thanks for reading see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

Today I’d like to share the results of some recent experiments with a selection of water soluble media and acrylic products. They make superb backgrounds for art journals, ATC’s, cards and the like, just add you favorite stamps, masks and think what you could create. If you would like to try the experiments yourself;

Mixed media experiments with water-soluble media.

Mixed media experiments with water-soluble media.

You Will Need

  • Water-soluble: pencils, crayons, blocks of your choice
  • Gesso
  • Golden: Acrylic glazing liquid
  • Water colour card or try lighter card if gesso has been applied before continuing
  • Car sponge scraps or cotton rag or brush if prefered
  • Acrylic paint in your choice of colour.
  • Non stick craft mat for easy clean up

Method

If you want the option of using these techniques in your journals or other art projects its a good idea to label your experiments as you go. Then if you find one you like, you will know what you used to create it ;)

Label your card stock and scribble your chosen water-soluble medium onto it. Create a 1″ wide block of colour, the height wants to be about 1-2″ so you can leave some pencil/crayon un-coloured for comparison.

This picture shows Derwent Inktense blocks as the water soluble crayon and then the following acrylic mediums applied;

Mixed media experiments with water-soluble media. Water soluble product blended with gesso on the left and with Golden Acryic glazing liquid on the right.

Mixed media experiments with water-soluble media. Water soluble product blended with gesso on the left and with Golden Acryic glazing liquid on the right.

  • Gesso:You can apply the gesso directly over the crayon but as it is so opaque you may find that it hides the colour, for a softer effect water the gesso down a little. The result will be a pastel tone of the original colour. This works best with dark or jewel coloured pencils/crayons.
  • Golden; Acrylic glazing liquid. You can apply this with a brush and then blend out with a rag, but it works just as well if applied with a scrap of car sponge. The more you work the surface, you will blend away your colouring lines. Work lightly if you want to keep your drawn lines.

Here is a picture of my experiments using first Lyra water soluble crayons with gesso. The second panel on the card, was created using Derwent Graphitint pencils.

Mixed media experiments with water-soluble media. Gesso + Lyra water colour crayons. Gesso + Graphitint pencils

Mixed media experiments with water-soluble media. Gesso + Lyra water colour crayons. Gesso + Graphitint pencils

Options/Added Extras

In the examples show I have used the colour & mediums onto SAA practice paper for watercolours. Try these techniques and see how you get on, perhaps trying them over cardstock that has had a layer of gesso first. Compare the difference between how the colour goes onto the page and does or doesn’t move as you apply other mediums to it.

Links

Products used;

  • Derwent: Inktense blocks
  • Daler Rowney: Gesso Primer in white
  • Golden: Acrylic Glazing Liquid
  • Winsor & Newton: Galeria; Acrylic paint.

These are really fun techniques to experiment with, you can make your most vivid colours now look vintage and pastel, almost like chalks. Enjoy playing and I’d love to see your results. This is just a starting point, add in masks and sprayed inks, acrylic paint and metallics over the top with some stamping. Great for art journalling and more.

Best wishes and thanks for reading see you soon

Billie :)

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Regular viewers will remember my new love of interchangeable knitting needles. Although I adore them, I have a tendency to frequently drop the little cable key you need to attach the needles to the cables. On Ravelry I saw someone use a beaded charm to help locate them, brilliant idea! So I’ve added my own twist to the project by adding a bell (so you notice when you drop it, and can find it in the depths of a knitting bag, and also adding a lobster clasp to make it easy to change the design of charm, if you wish to.

Completed charm for cable key.

Don’t loose you cable key, just make this simple charm so you can easily find it.

You Will Need

Items needed to create the key charm/ stitch marker.

Items needed to create the key charm/ stitch marker.

  • 1 cable key from interchangeable needles
  • 1 set of basic jewellery making tools as shown in picture: (1) Chain nose pliers, (2) Side cutter pliers, (3)Round nose pliers.
  • 1 small bell (optional but will help you find they key if its hiding) (no: 4 in picture)
  • a selection of beads of you choice. (no: 5 in picture)
  • 1 eye pin. (no: 6 in picture)
  • 1 lobster clasp (optional but this gives you a simple way to change your charms at will) (no: 7 in picture)
  • 2 small jump rings. (no: 8 in picture)
  • Bead mat (not essential but VERY helpful, unless you enjoy playing tag with your beads :) )

Method

The picture shows the order beads etc are added to the project:

Key charm tutorial

Key charm tutorial

  • Open one of the jump rings. Onto this ring; place the bell and the eye of the eye pin. Close the jump ring.
  • Thread a selection of beads on to your eye pin. Leave about 1cm of pin without any beads, or trim the eye pin back to leave 1cm of exposed wire, if you have used smaller beads.
  • Form a loop with the remaining eye pin wire. Do this by using round nose pliers to bend the remaining eye pin wire to 90 degrees to the line of beads. Place your round nose pliers at the very end of the wire and gradually curl the wire by rotating the pliers until you have formed a loop. Make sure you completely close the loop to prevent the piece coming apart.
  • Open the second jump ring. Drop the loop you just formed on the end of the eye pin onto the jump ring. Drop the loop on the lobster clasp onto the same jump ring. Close the jump ring, ensuring that it is completely closed so nothing will fall off.

You can now use the lobster clasp to attach the charm to the cable key. With the little bell you will now hear if you drop your key, or by shaking the bag, discover if its hiding at the bottom of your knitting bag :)

If you find it awkward to use the key with the charm in place, by having the lobster clap on there, its easy to remove while you attach needles to a cable. Remember to put the charm back on afterwards tho, or it will get you playing hide n seek again!

Options/Added Extras

Make a collection of these charms with different beads, and you can change them at will. The charms can also be attached to small key ring loops to create stitch markers, though I’d leave off the bell or it will probably drive you and those around you to go nuts every time you knit ;)

Links

New to beading? Here are a selection of videos from Beaders Companion, for how to achieve some of the techniques mentioned in the tutorial above.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and will give these charms a go. I’d love to see your results.

Best wishes and thanks for reading see you soon

Billie :)

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Over the last few months I’ve been making gift boxes and cards, this month I’ve been sharing the results with you. Here is a quick pic of the projects all together, and some links to the posts where you can find more details of how to create your own versions.

2012 Christmas Collection

2012 Christmas Collection

Links

  • 2012 Card
  • Small Gift Box; suitable for fairy cakes or mince pies/sweets etc
  • Tall Gift Box: Great for hand-made gifts

Later this week I’ll share details about the gift bag seen in this picture and add a link back here.

Hope you have a peaceful, happy holiday

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

As part of the online workshop series Adventures in Acrylics, I’d like to share a tutorial to help you get the most from your choice of colours, whether you have been collecting them for years or have a shiny new box of gleaming tubes in front of you. After this you will know just what colours you have and be able to find just the one you want from a huge pile, every time.

Do you know what colours you have? Make a colour chart and discover your full palette

Do you know what colours you have? Make a colour chart and discover your full palette

You Will Need

  • Acrylic paper or piece of white mount board
  • All the acrylic paints you have
  • Brush
  • Water pot with water
  • Rag
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Pen

Method

Do have a new box of paints? Then if the tubes are still in the box they are lined up ready to go. Perhaps though you have been collecting your acrylic paints for some time. If that’s the case, go rummage, find every tube/pot/jar of acrylic paint you have. If they are all in one place together you are more likely to use more of them ;)

Some acrylic paints are flow formula (ie more fluid) others are heavy bodied (more like toothpaste in consistency). Separate your acrylic collection into two boxes so you can easily home in on the different kinds when you want to.

  • Separate your chosen paints into colour families, reds/yellows/greens/ blues etc. Lightest to darkest within those groups works well.
  • Because paints often dry to a slightly different colour than they look on the tube/packaging, you are going to paint samples of each. In the interests of only doing this once ;) Try to paint your samples on to something sturdy like white mount board as it will last longer.
  • Next to each patch of colour that you paint, write the details from the pot/tube. That’s the colour name and number and if you have a selection of brands the brand name too. You can shorten the brands to initials as long as you write yourself a key ;)

Make sure you wash out your brush well between colours and keep changing your water so the colours stay true.

Now you have a beautiful chart that can live in the box with the paints, when you are creating a project you can use the card to choose just the colour you want, and know which one it was. Drawing a pretty grid to paint inside is optional, but it can make it easier to scan across later on.

Here is a picture of my paint chart, the quick one I made when I first got my paint (on the mount board, shown above) and the detailed one on the acrylic paper. You could also glue this sheet onto mount board, if you want it to last longer.

Detailed Paint Chart

Detailed Paint Chart

Options/Added Extras

If you prefer a more mobile colour chart.

  • Cut a piece of mount board for each paint you have.
  • Write the brand, colour name and number on the back of each tile, before you paint your swatch on the front.
  • Punch a hole in the cards and string them together so you can keep them in colour families, but still have the options of adding to the collection as you buy new paints.

This version will also allow you to pull colour schemes together from the cards and encourage you to experiment with more than just your favourites.

Links

Check out the Art Supplies tab at the top of the blog, you will find links to the main manufacturers there. At the paint manufacturers sites you will often find downloadable colour charts, although these are only guides as the printed colours will vary depending on how your printer is set up (and how much ink is left in it ;) )

The manufacturers charts are very helpful for identifying the colour names/numbers and for newbies which paints are opaque, transparent or semi opaque or semi transparent. This is very helpful when you are just starting out and haven’t yet worked out which colours will  have which opacity. It makes a huge difference to the success of your experiments, when you know the opacity of your paint colours ;)

Hope this tutorial helps you discover just how many colours you have, and now you know what you will have, perhaps it will tempt you to use more of them, rather than just sticking to your favorites. I’d love to see your finished results.

Best wishes and thanks for reading see you soon

Billie :)

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