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It's Quilt Retreat Week here at A Scarlet Thread and while I'm focused on the million little things on my task list like food and demos and name tags, the timing seemed perfect to share a few tips that will be helpful whenever you're preparing for an upcoming retreat.

 
Quilt retreats are a great way to make quilting friends, get a bit of a break from reality, and get a lot of sewing done! Just like a massage or a mani-pedi, a retreat plucks you from your day-to-day life and puts you in an environment where you only have to consider yourself.
 
Beyond the obvious sewing and project supplies you'll want to take, I thought it might be helpful to share a few of my favorite hints and tips that lead to a successful retreat experience.
 
·         Begin your preparations for retreat at least a few days in advance (a few weeks is even better!) so you aren't stressed at the last minute trying to get everything done. Remember that one of the best parts of retreat is visiting with your friends, and the better prepared you are and the fewer decisions you have to make when you get to retreat will leave you more time for chatting and visiting.
 
·         Take your favorite sewing machine that you know how to use well. You don't want to have to spend time reading the owner's manual. Clean and oil your machine, if needed, and make sure it is working properly. Change the needle and make sure you have extras. If it's been a while since your machine has been professionally serviced, several weeks before retreat is the perfect time to make an appointment with your technician for service. Also make sure you pack the power cord, foot pedal, and any special feet you may need. Nothing can ruin a retreat faster than discovering you didn't bring the power cord or foot pedal!
 
·         Bring a realistic selection of projects...simple is usually better. This is not the best time to start a project with thousands of pieces that require a difficult layout. Choose projects that you can start and stop easily. You don't need to bring all of your WIPs and UFOs, but I always bring one more project than I think I can finish just in case I get bored with what I'm working on and need a change of pace, or wonder of wonders, I actually finish the projects I've brought and need something else to work on!
 
·         Cut out as many of your projects as possible so you can get right to sewing. Who wants to spend precious retreat time cutting? In my case, I have to cut while it's quiet or I always make mistakes. Speaking of mistakes, be sure to bring extras of the fabrics in your projects just in case you discover you're missing a piece or that you've mis-cut something. I always separate each project into project bags or boxes, which are easy to pack and keep all the pieces together.
·         Comfy attire is a must, and layers are always recommended. Remember, there will only be one thermostat and lots of friends so you want to be able to add or remove layers to stay comfy. And don't forget comfy shoes...you can't sew if your feet hurt!
 
·         If you have back problems, like me, and you arrive ready for hours of sewing only to find that the chairs are the metal folding type, you might be tempted to cry. Most retreat venues encourage you to bring your own chair for comfort, but I find that to be more trouble than I'm willing to take. Instead, I sit on an inflatable disc that gives some cushioning, but also shifts my weight around often so I don't get stiff and sore after a day of sewing in exactly the same position. I have a Dyna Disc, which has a nubby side underneath so it doesn't slide around on the chair, and I often use it behind my back for extra support, too. At the very least, a simple cushion or pillow to sit on will help a lot.

 

 
·         Seldom do you find a room where the lighting is perfect for everyone, and the older I get the more essential good lighting is for me to be able to sew. A small battery-operated lamp is the ideal solution because you won't have to worry about how close you are to an outlet or whether you will trip a breaker by plugging in too many items. This LED Super Bright Touch Lamp available in our Sewing Center is perfect for retreats...it even features three levels of brightness!
 
 
·         Most retreat venues provide cutting and ironing stations...check before you go if you're unsure. I limit myself to a small rotary cutting mat that I put beside my machine so I don't have to get up to trim things. I prefer a rotating mat like the Olfa Spinning Rotary Mat pictured here, but a small 12" x 18" mat works just as well. It is best to leave your professional high-temperature iron at home because they are often the culprit when fuses are blown or the circuit breakers trip. A small travel iron such as the Steamfast Travel Steam Iron that we sell at AST won't use as much power and can still get the job done. Don't forget a portable pressing pad! (Always check with the retreat organizer to determine if personal irons are allowed.)
 
 
·         While you may enjoy listening to music in your sewing space, not everyone does. If you must have music while you sew, be considerate and bring along ear buds so others don't have to listen to your tunes. Better yet, turn off the music and spend the time talking and visiting and making new quilting friends!
 
·         Many people are highly allergic to scents and perfumes, and a mix of different scents in an enclosed space can be a real problem. It's best not to wear strongly scented perfumes, and if you use a product like Best Press make sure it, too, is unscented.
 
·         Open drinks can spell disaster at a retreat. While you may be aware of your open drink and not have an issue, when you are in close proximity to others it is safest to use only covered drink cups to help protect machines and projects.
 
·         Most importantly, arrive with your best attitude and be ready to have a blast. You'll meet the most amazing people at quilt retreats from all walks of life, and there is nothing like quilting to create a bond of friendship as you work on projects, learn new techniques and share your quilting knowledge. You'll go home refreshed, inspired and already planning your next retreat!
 
Just two more sleeps until we kick off Spring Quilt Retreat at AST and we still have room for you to join us! You'll miss three days of more fun than you can imagine if you're not coming, but we'll do it again in October so start making your plans now to join us!
 
Until next time...Life is short. Buy the Fabric!
~Melisa 

Using a Thread Director for Metallic Threads

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 11:28 AM

Sometimes you don't know how great a product is until you use it. I have to admit I am sometimes guilty of forming opinions before I give a product a chance... So, I decided to put the Thread Director to the test with metallic thread. If you have ever used metallic threads you know what a challenge they create. I've used them in my embroidery but they kink and break easily and are NOT a joy to use. 
 
 
 
The Thread Director can and will change all of that. It keeps the thread smooth and kink free. I put the metallic thread on the Baby Lock Aria machine and set it up for a satin stitch. I sewed as fast as the machine would go and no thread breaks whatsoever. 
 
 
I also put the Thread Director on the Baby Lock Molly machine and got the same great results. You can use the thread director with almost any sewing or embroidery machine!
 
 
 
Come into the sewing center at A Scarlet Thread and pick up a Thread Director today!
 
-Jill

Easter Egg Placemat Tutorial

Saturday, March 25, 2017 11:26 AM


Easter is one of the best holidays in my opinion. Fun, bright colors, candy, sweets, time with family, and most importantly the true reason we celebrate Easter, our savior is risen! One thing I can remember growing up, we always went to my best friend's house after church for an incredible Easter egg hunt. All the kids would run around looking for as many eggs as their basket would hold, but the best part was each kid had their own GIANT EGG! These placemats were inspired by those giant eggs and bring back some of my childhood memories every time I look at them.

The best part about these placemats is you can use your scraps! As quilters, we all have that embarrassing stash of scraps that you just can't bear to throw away but you also never use them... I'm just as guilty as you are. So I wrote this tutorial just for those all the scrappy strips hanging out in my sewing room. Hope you enjoy!


Supplies:

  • 6-12 Fat Quarters or 1/4 yard cuts (Don't be afraid to use your scraps!)
  • 1 1/3 yards backing & binding 
    • Or 4 FQ's for backing & 220" bias binding
  • Scrap batting - 4 pieces approx 16" x 20"
  • Matching thread for quilting
  • Marking tool (Frixion pens, chalk, etc.)
  • Rotary cutting supplies & fabric scissors
Instructions:
  1. Gather your fabrics. This is anegg-cellent time to use up any scrap strips of fabric at least 2" or wider. Leftover jellyroll strips are perfect for this!
  2. Cut strips ranging in width from 2" - 4." Strips should be approx 12" - 15" in length. Some shorter strips may work on the ends, but for bestresults longer strips are best.
  3. Arrange strips into 4 different groups. Each group will be one egg placemat. Be sure to have a good variety in each & use your shorter strips closest to the end of your groupings. Sew strips together and press. You can press all seams in onedirections or press your seams open.
  4. Download and print egg template here. Fold on the "fold #1" line and tape together then fold on the "fold #2" line and tape again. Lastly, fold one the "fold #3" line and tape across the two pages. Now you should have a giant egg template. 
  5. Trace your egg template on your strip sets using your choice of marking tool. My favorite marking tool is a Frixion pen, which disappears with heat. Cut along the traced lines.
  6. Press and starch each egg shape after cutting out. It is important to use starch in this step to keep your egg shapes from getting stretched or distorted while handling.
  7. Lay egg shape, batting, and backing to make a quiltsandwhich. Quilt as desired. Then cut out quilted egg shape as close to the edge as possible. 
  8. Make bias tape or purchase pre-made bias tape from a craft store. I used double fold pre-made bias tape and sewed my binding on following the steps in this tutorial. 
  9. That's it! You now have four gorgeous Easter Egg Placemats that all your guests will rave about! 

 

Overcome Your Fear of Sewing a Bag!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:21 AM

Maker Kaitlin Downs

For any of you quilters out there who want to venture into bag making, but don't know where to start.. this post is just for you! 
 
If you're anything like I used to be, the idea of making a bag or purse probably scares the heck out of you! When you think of sewing something three dimensional you may begin to break out in a cold sweat, feel flushed in the face, or even lose all mental function.
 
However, don't fear! I am here today to change everything you've ever thought you knew about basic bag making. It is not scary. It doesn't require a whole new skill set from quilting. And most importantly, you don't need to be afraid to give it a try! 

The three most important things to remember when beginning any sewing project, but especially when making a bag:
  1. Read through all instructions before you start, including general instructions which often include important information about seam allowances, finishing instructions, and tips to help your finished product be the best it can be.
  2. Prep all fabrics, interfacings, and other required materials before you begin any sewing. This includes pressing/ironing all fabrics, cutting according to pattern directions, properly labeling all pieces (this is HUGE!), and fusing any interfacings with their appropriate fabric pairs.
  3. Lastly, take your time! This is where I struggle the most because once I start a project it's hard for me to take a break. I just want to get it done, NOW! However, just like in any project, rushing through can lead to incorrect cuts, skipping important steps, and not being happy with your finished project. If you mess up or skip a step, take the time to correct your mistake before proceeding! I cannot stress this point enough. Keep your seam ripper very close, it will be your best friend!
Now that you have those important reminders in your head, it's time to begin your project! You'll want to be sure your first attempt at bag making is one that is simple enough you will be able to comfortably complete it. However, don't skimp on the pattern! There are many free resources online that provide bag patterns, but not all patterns are made equally. 
 
For your first project, I recommend purchasing a pattern from a reputable designer that has pictures and detailed descriptions. My favorite beginner bag pattern is the Fiji Tote from Pink Sand Beach Designs. This pattern has tons of easy to follow pictures, very specific instructions, and it doesn't have any zippers or hardware (except an optional snap closure). It also features tips to make your bag the best it can be!
 
 
Once you've decided on a bag pattern, selecting your fabrics and interfacings is the next step. For the Fiji Tote, there is a total of six fabrics to choose. Most importantly, make sure your fabrics coordinate and have good contrast. For example, you wouldn't want to use all light fabric on the outer body of the bag because you wouldn't see the contrasting stripes as much. Don't be afraid to pull from your stash, as long as you have the required amount of yardage!
 
Choosing the proper interfacings is equally as important the fabric selection. This is what will give your bag stability and shape. The Fiji Tote gives great recommendations for interfacings! For a very sturdy bag that keeps its shape even when empty, I would suggest a foam interfacing like By Annie's Soft & Stable or Pellon Flex-Foam (FF79F2 or FF78F1). For a stable, yet flexible bag that will fold up nicely but still retain its shape, I would suggest using a fusible fleece or fusible batting such as Pellon Fusible Fleece (973F) or Bosal Fusible Batting (Style #325). For your pocket interfacings and other inner pieces, I would suggest Pellon Fusible Midweight (931TD) or Pellon Decor-bond (809).

Once you've chosen your fabrics and interfacings, its prep time! I cannot stress how important it is to read carefully and label all your pieces in this step. I promise you will thank me later if you label your pieces, instead of thinking "I'll remember which piece that is."

Now that you've prepped and labeled everything, it's time to start sewing. Remember this is supposed to be enjoyable! Take a deep breath before you begin and give yourself a little pep talk. You can do this! You've already done most of the leg-work in prepping and now all you have to do is sew. Remember to go step-by-step and take your time.

That's it! Now that you've sewn through all of the steps of the pattern you should have a gorgeous, new bag! If you made the Fiji Tote, then your mind is probably thinking of all the amazing combinations of fabrics you can come up with for this bag. It is one of the most versatile bags, and it looks so different with different fabrics!

Once you've mastered the technique, the possibilities are literally ENDLESS! Change the dimensions, add an eye-catching feature to the main panel, change up the strap options, varry your pockets, and so much more! Below are my favorite pictures of the Fiji Tote, and the maker is listed below each picture.
Made by Quilting Mayhem
 
Made by Katrina Hamer

Made by Keepsake Quilting
 
Unknown maker
Image from Annie's Catalogue

Image from Annie's Catalogue

Have you made a Fiji Tote? If so we'd love to see your pictures! Post them in the comments below or email them to us at info@ascarletthread.com.

Tips, Tricks, & Tutorials to Keep You Quilting Your Best

Thursday, November 10, 2016 11:04 AM

 

Whether you're a seasoned quilter or you're just starting out, you can never get enough tips, tricks, and tutorials to help you out. We've put together a list of resources to help you become the best quilter you can be!

Basic Quilting Supplies for All Quilters:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Fabric
  • Sewing Machine Needles
  • Sewing Thread
  • Pins and Quilting Pins
  • Batting
  • Rotary Cutting Set
  • Large Self Healing Mat
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Quarter-Inch Presser Foot
  • Plus check out this video where you can see some of these tools in action

Steps to Make a Quilt from Start to Finish:

  1. Choosing Your Fabrics & Fabric Shopping Advice from Diary of a Quilter
  2. Rotary Cutting 101 by April Rosenthal
  3. Piecing with a Quarter Inch Seam from Quilter's Diary
  4. How to Piece Quilt Blocks from Pile O' Fabric
  5. Squaring Up Quilt Blocks from The Craft Mummy
  6. Piecing Your Quilt Top from Diary of a Quilter
  7. Choosing Batting & Thread for Quilting
  8. Basting Your Quilt from We All Sew
  9. Quilting with Straight Lines or Quilting Free Motion
  10. Trimming & Squaring Up Your Quilt from Dining Room Empire
  11. Binding and Finishing from Canoe Ridge Creations

Tips & Tricks to Bring Your Quilts to the Next Level:

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