Meet Micki Butler

Has anyone besides me read any of the Nora Roberts books that focus on romance in Ireland? When I met Micki Butler, I couldn’t help but think that she is a real life character from one of Nora Roberts’ books. But then Nora Roberts doesn’t have any character, that I recall, that likes to quilt, machine embroider, or sew. Hymm, maybe we need to send a note to Nora Roberts to encourage her to expand her collection of characters to include those that love to quilt, machine embroidery and sew!

While I didn’t travel a great distance, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling via the internet and meeting someone special. This journey has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful person, whom I want to share insights with you. And yes, she does have a romantic story to tell, plus the love of quilting, machine embroidery, as well as many other interests and stories to tell. It was thru this blog that I had the pleasure of meeting Micki Butler, and whereby, I want to introduce to you. Micki shares similar interests with many of us, as she is also interested in quilting and machine embroidery. What is also so interesting, is that she has lived in Southern California (El Cajon), but now lives in Ireland. Yes, she met and married an Irish Lad and is now happily living in a lovely Irish village.

Micki is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University as an English teacher. She later obtained two Master’s Degrees, and taught English from 1972 until she married Joe in 1997. It was when she married Joe that she ended up moving to Ireland.

When Micki shared photos of where she lives in Ireland, this is what made me think of the various books where Nora Roberts set the stage for many of her romance novels. Hymm…..did Micki and Joe give Nora Roberts the inspiration to write those Irish romance novels?

Micki shared insight that the village she lives in, a lovely place called Dunfanaghy, is a “drop dead gorgeous” village near Killahoey Beach. This beach is in Dunfanaghy, County Donegal, which is a lovely seacoast village in NW Donegal. Nearby is headland called Horn Head, which you can drive around, or enjoy a lovely 12 mile walk around. {The entire area is a perfect setting for a Nora Roberts’ romance novel}.

Micki has been sewing since she was a little girl. Her mother was a seamstress and both of her parents owned a fabric shop. But she didn’t start quilting until about 10 years ago, and she started doing machine embroidery about 5 years ago. For quilting, she enjoys traditional and art quilting. And for machine embroidery, she enjoys applying it for her quilting projects, clothing and home decor. She particularly enjoys lace, cutwork, redwork and working with various quilting and floral designs.

For learning how to quilt, Micki credits Eleanor Burn’s “Quilt In A Day” books, as well as books by Alex Anderson. And, with her background in sewing, she views it helped her “self taught” approach to learning to quilt.

For learning machine embroidery, Micki feels that many books by Sulky have been very helpful to her learning the art of machine embroidery. She is also pursuing learning to create her own designs using Embird Studio software.

Here are some photos that Micki has shared of her beautiful projects.

This lovely blue lacy doily {above} Micki created in several sections, using Vilene and then she combined the sections by machine.

This beautiful yellow doily {above} was created similar to the blue doily. To me, this doily just radiates sunshine & cheerfulness!

This is one of the bags that Micki monogrammed {above}.

This beautiful quilt is called Carnivale {above} and it is all paper pieced. It is a pattern made by Deb Karasik.

This is a geisha quilt {above} that Micki made that is all machine embroidered. Micki always uses Madeira Premium Stabilizers and Madeira thread.

This one is a quilt that I did called the Sylvia Bridal Sampler {above}, and it took me four months to do it. I worked on it every day, and it was quite an accomplishment finishing it.

This is a paper pieced wall hanging called Harvest Moon {above}.

This is a fairy wallhanging {above} that Micki did by hand applique. It is from a pattern by Reva Roark Stewart.

While I know I’ve met a talented and thoughtful woman when I met Micki Butler, I still like to think of Micki and Joe living that romantic life in Ireland. So, I send my request to Joe….go snuggle with Micki in one of Micki’s beautiful quilts and whisper words of love and appreciation to Micki, as I think your two hearts are tied together in such romantic love and friendship that it will become an Irish legend (or be written in a romantic book, possibly by Nora Roberts).

http://www.SewCalGal.blogspot.com

Greeting Cards

I love sending and receiving greeting cards. And, while I love handmade things, I don’t have the talent (or time) to make a handmade greeting card. But I’ve come up with something that I enjoy, and I find others enjoy too. And, a collection of these cards make a wonderful gift!

I like to take photos of some of my projects, and especially photos of beautiful quilts, and turn them into greeting cards. Where I live I can take in my camera’s photo memory card, USB stick, or a a CD, with my photos to printing kiosks that are located in many Wal-Marts, Longs, Walgreens, Costco, or other stores. And, I also enjoy using on-line printing services, such as www.snapfish.com. I’ve found all these service providers do a great job and will help you create a special greeting card that will delight the recipient!

Here are a few samples of my favorite greeting cards with beautiful quilts on the cover.


If you haven’t tried making your own greeting card before, I hope you’ll take a photo of one of your projects and make a greeting card. And, if you don’t have anyone to send a card to….remember I love receiving greeting cards!

http://www.SewCalGal.blogspot.com

Sewline Fabric Marking Pencils

I use fabric markers for quilting, embroidery and my sewing projects. Each project has a different degree of expectations for a marking pencil, but my preference is to have one marking pencil that will meet all my needs.

I like to have a fine tip marker, that doesn’t break, yet is able to easily mark straight or curvy lines. And, it MUST come out easily. I’m not one to want to sit there and use an eraser, for a large area, so I prefer something that will come out with a light spray of water, or light turn through the washer.

When I first saw the SewLine Fabric Marking Pencils I thought “they invented this for me”. These pencils are absolutely beautiful, with a fine point, and the marking lead comes in five colors at a reasonable price. This pencil has a special ceramic lead where the manufacturers promote the ease of which you can remove markings, by using a built-in eraser, or simply dabbing with some water or washing. Sounds like the perfect marking tool, but is it?

For any new marking tool that I use, I always put it thru a rigid test. I will mark a piece of fabric with ten different straight lines,but different levels of marking. The first line is only marked 1 time, the next line 2 times, and each subsequent line is marked an incremental time through the 10th line which is marked 10 times. I realize that while you may not ever need to mark your fabric so many times, there are situations where you may need to (in small areas). I will also do a few curves, to see how freely the marking device will travel on fabric. Afterwards, I will handwash. If this doesn’t work, I will run the test swatches through the washing machine. Lastly, I will tape the fabric swatch to a sunny window and leave it hanging for ~six months. This last step is a test to see if there is any residual chemical on the fabric that may react to sunlight.

I believe that everyone should always test the marking pencils they buy themselves, as everyone has a different level of applying pressure when they mark. And we use different fabrics. But I wanted to let you know what I found through my test.

Ultimately, I like the Sewline Fabric Marking Pencils and all of their 5 colors. But I do believe that some of their colors will work better on certain projects, and may not apply to all areas one may want to use a marking pencil. Keep in mind that the manufacturer cautions that you should lightly mark your material, and also encourages you to test as the results can vary with different fabrics. The manufacturer also provides recommendations for which color to use on which shade of fabric. But I view that careful selection of the color of Sewline Fabric Marking Pencils should also be made with consideration of the project. Those that wash out easily could be used on anything, but obviously the colors that do not wash out easily should only be used on a project that it would not be a problem if the marking pencil does not wash out (e.g. inside of a sewn garment).

I found the red & green colors were the easiest to get out of the fabric, with the grey being the most difficult. I found the built in eraser to work ok for a very light marking, that was small, but not a good removable solution for this marker if you were marking a large area and needed to remove it, or lighten it up to remark. Thus, I recommend this marker but want to emphasize that you should test it before you mark your fabric. Especially if there is a risk that where you are marking, on your fabric, could be visible on your finished product, if it doesn’t wash out.

Here is some additional insights on the test I performed on a variety of fabrics and colors:

1) I marked ten straight lines, for each of the 5 colors. The first line was marked one time, next line marked twice…..and last line marked ten times (heavily marked)

2) I used the eraser on the Sewline Marking pencil to try to erase a lightly marked curve. While it did remove the marking, it was a difficult and time consuming process.

3) I hand washed my test fabrics and observed that the red had completely been removed, the green had been removed on the light markings (but not the heavy markings), and while the other colors were still very visible the grey was the most visible (on all of the ten markings and curves).

4) I proceeded with my test by running the fabric swatches through my washing machine. To clarify, my ideal fabric marker would not require me to have to do this secondary washing step (one or the other should be sufficient). While some of the markings had more removed, the grey was still visible on all markings.

I have not yet completed the step where I tape my test fabric to a window with bright sunlight. This is a great test, for those using marking tools on fabrics that will be used in quilting, as over time, quilts may actually be exposed to more sunlight than we realize. And sunlight can often react with any chemical residual that a fabric marking pencil may leave on the fabric. Thus, I’ll provide another update in six months to show my results this phase of testing.

Conclusion: Sewline Fabric Marking Pencils is a great marker, especially for those in need of a fine point marker. But use caution on marking your projects, by ensuring you have completed a test swatch first. Remember to “mark lightly” (do not apply much pressure). And using the green or pink lead may be the easiest for you to wash out, but the other colors also work well for many marking situations, but due use caution and pre-test, if you need to be sure these leads will completely disappear after you finish your project and wash it.

http://www.unitednotions.com/un-ss_sewline_0509.pdf

http://www.SewCalGal.blogspot.com

Preparing for a workshop – what to take?

What is the item that we most frequently forget to bring when we go to a class, workshop, retreat or sew-cial? I’m probably the most forgetful sewer that I know. Tomorrow I’m taking a class and I have my car packed with what feels like everything in my sewing room. Still, I worry about what I may have forgotten to pack. It is only a 1 day class and it is inside of a quilt store (where I could buy just about anything in I could think of).

As the rooms are frequently air conditioned, I decided to pack a light jacket. I thought you might like to see it, as I did make it. Would you believe this was a cheap sweatshirt? I get more compliments when I wear this sweatshirt.

I’m planning on writing an article about the instructor who teaches classes in how to make these jackets, along with sharing more insight on how to make your own (if you can’t take a class). In the meantime, if you are wondering what to take to your next class, workshop, or retreat….remember to pack a lightweight jacket! And if you have a tailored sweatshirt jacket, you’ll be very comfy too!



http://www.SewCalGal.blogspot.com

Back of a Quilt

For a quilt that I made for my husband, I did an applique silhouette of his boat for the “back” of his quilt. I think my husband loves the back of this quilt more than the front.

http://www.SewCalGal.blogspot.com

GrandSlam Designs

GrandSlam Designs has a large number of machine embroidery designs, all currently available at a special price of $5 per design.

http://www.grandslamdesigns.com/

As I’ve been looking for various sewing related machine embroidery designs, I was able to evaluate their “spool of thread” design. It is a cute design that would work well in many sewing related themed projects. While I had a good experience stitching out this design, I found it to not be a design that would work well for just any application.

For this particular design, I tested it on various materials and stablizers. I was able to optimize the quality of the design when I used a smooth fabric. This design is cute, but I think it would stitch out better if it had a higher thread count for underlying stitch count, as well as a stronger outline stitch. To clarify, some of the outline stitching was a single thread, whereas parts of the outline stitching was a double stitch. Either way, the loose thread, off the spool, does not stand out if the design is stitched out on anything but a smooth fabric (e.g. avoid terry dish towels). The shading on the spool of thread is also something that I think could be more artistic, as all shade stitches are on the same angle (none are angled for to reflect the spool of thread).

To clarify, Grand Slam Design sales this cute spool of thread design on their website. I added the verbage “If she sews, she knows”.

GrandSlam Designs offers many cute machine embroidery designs, of which I’m sure they’d stitch out quite well. But for the particular “spool of thread” design that I evaluated, I found this particular design to be very cute.  Definitely an appropriate design for anyone that enjoys quilting, sewing, or embroidery.  Also a good design to make gifts with.  But I would recommend, for those stitching out this particular design to re-stitch the final thread that flows out above the spool as the design has it so lightly stitched it does not show up on prints, or as distinctly on solids as you may wish.  Thus, consider a test stitch out if you want to apply it to a costly material.

Congratulations to the Class of 2009

This is always a special time of the year to me. I love seeing the excitement of someone who has completed their education and is graduating. They have worked hard to get to where they are and it is certainly a milestone worth celebrating. But I always struggle with what to give someone who is graduating.

My stash had some fleece blankets, that I had purchased on a super sale. And I was lucky that the colors match the school colors (red & brown) of a graduate that I wanted to give something to. While trying to decide what to machine embroider on this blanket, I feel I really lucked out.

I found a great “Class of 2009” design on sewforum.com that I was able to put in the center of this fleece blanket. I then came up with the idea of putting something in each corner. But, as this gift was meant as a surprise to the graduate, I was struggling with to put in each corner. The name of the graduate, school, degree, and graduation date were all possibilities. But on my own, I wasn’t exactly sure what the official degree title is, and I wondered if I could come up with something more valuable than the “date of graduation”, given I had “Class of 2009” in the center.

Since I use Facebook and had a link to this person’s wall on Facebook, I decided to see if I could become a secret friend of one of their college buddies. To my surprise, I was successful on my first try. And a very nice young lady came back with some great suggestions for what to put in each corner, plus helped to verify the correct degree title. But something I would have never thought of, was the name of the dorm that this person lived in for four years.

I have this blanket now ready to give away. While the photos don’t do the blanket justice, I wanted to share with you. To clarify, what I machine embroidered on this blanket is: In the center, “Class of 2009”, and in each corner I placed Name, degree title, dorm name, and college name.

If there is anyone out there looking for an idea for creating commercial ME designs, I believe there is a market for more graduation & college related designs. I know I would have bought some if I could have found them when I searched for ideas for this project.

http://www.SewCalGal.blogspot.com

Honoring Veterans

I wish I could find special words to tell how much I appreciate what Veterans have given us. Today is Memorial Day in the US, but from my perspective, Memorial Day isn’t just an American holiday, it is a day that has a special place of recognition in many parts of the world.

Today I listened on the radio to children in Belgium singing American songs, in recognition to American Soldiers that fought on their soil in World War I and World War II. I’ve heard stories from many people, throughout the world, that feel their lives were changed by soldiers, from the U.S. as well as soldiers from other parts of the world, that fought on their soil, to help provide freedom.

When I travel internationally, I meet people who again make me realize that Memorial Day isn’t an American holiday. Memorial Day is a day for those that believe in democracy to recognize those that have fought, and lost their lives, to provide us that freedom.

Again, I know I’m not a professional writer, or someone that has the gift of writing beautiful words that depict what is in their heart. I’m greatful. I’m appreciative. I know how lucky I am to have what I have, to live with out fear, to live where I have opportunities, to live where I have the right to complain and to vote. And to live in a world, where with other countries that hold similar values, our soldiers sacrifice to help provide freedom and safety throughout the world.

When I was a very young woman, I had the good fortune of traveling on my first international trip, with my mother. One of our stops was in Korea. This was in the early 1970’s and, like many countries, Korea was economically challenged due to years of conflict. One encounter on this trip is something I hope I’ll never forget. Our tour guide took us through a local market, where a young man, whom was my age, asked to take my hand. I was shy and hesitant. The tour guide explained to me that this young man, who was selling fish out of a wicker basket, simply wanted to wish me (a young college student) good luck in life and all the best that life could offer. Yes, I’ve never wanted to forget that this young Korean wanted to wish me such happiness. But, it was a matter that he was still so appreciative, as his family was still dealing with post-Korean War issues. And he was very appreciative to the Americans, and others, that had fought in the Korean War.

So, I will always enjoy making patriotic quilts. Every stitch finds a special place in my heart, and I appreciate how lucky I am. Unfortunately, I haven’t been good about taking photographs of these quilts to share with you. Still, I want to share a photo of the “back” of a patriotic quilt that I made for a charity quilt fundraiser.

I hope you have a happy Memorial Day. I hope you feel safe and you and your loved ones are in fact safe. Should you have someone in your family that has served to protect us, I hope you will give them a big hug from me. And, should you have someone in your family who is currently serving in the Military, please know that they are in my prayers for a safe assignment and that they will soon return home.

http://www.SewCalGal.blogspot.com

Sew-conomics

The news is continually reporting about world economics. We hear about real estate prices dropping, people getting laid off and businesses shutting down. Borrowing has set the stage for our current economic problems, so I fully understand the need to not spend more than one has. And we all know that we need to save some money and spend some money. So, for those that can afford to spend money, this article is for you!

This may not be new news, but it takes a lot of money to start a business. And, it takes a lot of money to keep the doors of a business open. So, my pitch today is for us to support our favorite businesses that we rely on for sewing, quilting and our machine embroidery projects. Whether your favorites businesses are on-line or nearby stores, these are difficult times for these businesses. Many of our favorites have been struggling to keep the doors open. I’ve heard from some of these businesses that their sales are down 20-50%, but it could be even worse for some businesses.

If we see more of our favorite stores going out of business, these store owners may never re-open and we may not always see a replacement business opening their door. So, while money is tight for many of us I simply want to encourage you to think about your favorite businesses. Now is the time to spend money in these stores, if you can afford it.

If we all go out and buy something at our favorite sewing, quilting, or embroidery store(s) we’ll be stimulating our world of sew-economics. If you don’t have a project you need something for, consider buying something as a gift for your favorite sew-cial friend!

And, it is ok to spend generously with these businesses too! After all, we want them to be in business for the long run. So, go out and help the sew-conomics by shopping with your favorite sources for sewing, quilting and embroidery items.

http://www.SewCalGal.blogspot.com

Become a Bargain Hunter

If you have an open mind and like the hunt, there are many wonderful bargains to be found. You may want to think of yourself as one that likes to sew, quilt, and/or embroider, but someone that does it environmentally!

How can one stretch a budget in these economically challenged times and still enjoy sewing, quilting or doing embroidery? Besides winning contests, buying items on sale or through bonus buys, there are still several ways to continue to have fun with our talents, as well as helping the environment. How you ask? Well, that is what this article is about. I just ask you keep an open mind on the method of sourcing the supplies, and focus on how you can create something spectacular, with a minimal budget (or $0 cost), while helping to save the environment thru recycling. And, if you have more insights, I hope you’ll consider sending me an email or posting a comment, to share. After all, the more we can all benefit from the help of others to stimulate the economy with our limited resources.

Here are my insights:

Consider shopping yard sales, thrift shops & estate sales. You can make a beautiful quilt from wool shirts, cotton shirts, jeans, and even old ties. I’ve even seen situations where new, high quality sewing machine needles, were sold for $0.50 a package! And quilting rulers, bags of machine embroidery thread, or bags of zippers for $1. All great deals that help stetch our budgets! Remember clothes, or bags, from these sources can look fantastic after you’ve added some machine embroidery designs and or other bling.

Take advantage of free patterns, or machine embroidery designs. They make a great way to reduce the expense of making a lovely item.

Spend more time building on your skills and growing your talent! Take time to read a tutorial on the web. Look for a project that can be created from your sewing stash, yet push you to do something creative you don’t normally do.

Check out your local Adult Ed programs, as they frequently have free, or very inexpensive classes for quilting, sewing and embroidery enthusiasts.

Host a sew-cial with friends. Organize a swap (quilt blocks, embroidered projects, etc.). Essentially focus on using items in your stash, and if you don’t like what you have in your stash, consider trading with others. And, if you don’t have much in your stash, consider what else you have to trade with those that do have something you might like (e.g. bake cookies, trade for sewing time, etc.).

Remember, to challenge yourself to be creative and it doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money to pursue this challenge. Focus on being green and pursuing the hunt and creativity in an economical manner! Continue to remind yourself that the best things in life are free.

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