The Cat's Pajamas

Saturday, May 31, 2014

When I got really hardcore into sewing a couple years ago, I dabbled a bit in hand embroidery. I learned it mostly for the purposes of my etsy shop where I was selling handmade My Little Pony hats. I started embroidering each pony's cutie mark on the ear flaps which was a cute touch. When I stopped selling hats due to lack of time (I was finishing up my junior year of college), my interest in embroidery also came to a halt. 

This past week, I picked my embroidery floss back up to make this little guy! The original artwork is by Corrine Alexandra. I plan on sewing a cute border to it and making a wall hanging...once I find some nice fabric to match.

To make it, I printed out this image and traced it onto my fabric with a water-soluble marker, which worked out pretty well. 

My Adobe Illustrator Process: 5 Tips I Wish I Learned Earlier

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My favorite thing about Adobe Illustrator is the sheer number of possible things you can do with the software. My least favorite thing is...the sheer number of possible things you can do with the software. It's easy for a beginner to feel overwhelmed by Illustrator. It's like trying to make a small art supply kit and being given an entire art supply warehouse! 

My way of coping with the ocean of tools and options is learning them as I need them. Sometimes I'm not even aware certain tools exist until I google "How do I do X in Illustrator?" When you're starting out, you simply do not know what you do not know. With that being said, I'd like to share some of my favorite tips and tricks that I wished I'd known from the start. These knowledge nuggets are all things that I never saw on common lists of "10 Awesome Illustrator Tips," which is why I think makes them even more important to talk about.

As a note, I will be giving a brief overview of the tool and providing links to tutorials from Adobe and other sites. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Stylish Dress Book - Dress E

Monday, May 26, 2014

After work on Friday, I stopped at Jo-Ann's to raid their clearance fabric section. I never buy more than a half yard of fabric unless I have a specific project, so I was not prepared for the urgent, unyielding desire to make more dresses from Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom. I made a good haul, getting lots of fabric for only $2.50/yard. I only regret not buying more.

Lots of clearance bin treasures!

I spent Saturday afternoon sewing up dress E, which turned out to be another fast and simple project. This was my first time doing tucks. I was delighted by how simple the process was. Just as long as it's not pleats...I hate sewing pleats. The only part of the construction I didn't like was having to attach the finished sleeves, but that's nothing new for me. I always hate sleeves. Dress Y spoiled me by sewing the side seams and sleeves in one motion. As with dress Y, I took in the side seams at the waist an inch on either side to avoid the circus tent look. 

I wore it grocery shopping with Seth on Sunday and the nice big pockets were perfect for my list and coupons. No more wrinkled up pieces of paper shoved in my butt pockets!
Modeling my new dress next to our family ent
I can see myself making more of this pattern in the future. Pinterest searches have led me to lots of cute remixes of dress E including ones with embellished details (Ivy Arch makes the best dressses!), sleeveless, and even shortened to a top. Contrasting pockets might also be cute with some kind of embellished collar. This dress is such a great blank slate to get creative with!

Stylish Dress Book - Dress Y

Sunday, May 25, 2014

My cat, Batman, deems this dress worthy of his gaze

Wearing my crazy cat lady dress to work recently must have signaled my newfound interest in sewing my own clothes, because a couple of weeks ago, Patty loaned me her copy of Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom. I've been enamoured with the breezey, casual Mori Girl look for a couple of years, and the tops and dresses in this book seemed perfect for that kind of look. Not to mention that loose-fitting clothing in the blazing Houston summers makes the heat a bit more bearable. 

I love almost all 26 of the pieces in this book, but dress Y and T were the ones that really captured my fancy. I opted to go for dress Y first since the contrasting collar looked simpler. The book includes patterns for sizes 6 to 16. I decided to go for a size 10 based on the bust measurement (waist measurements don't look like they factor in much to these loose-fitting garments) and figured I'd just take in any big areas. No muslin because I'm impatient! #yolo.

As soon as I unfolded the enclosed pattern pieces to start tracing, I froze up like a possum in fear. Lines overlapped lines in a mind-cramping mess! It turns out that all 26 patterns had to be crammed onto 3 double-sided sheets of paper, resulting in a wormhole of pattern pieces. Additionally, the pattern pieces for each dress are spread over multiple sheets instead of keeping them together. Trying to locate the correct pattern piece, extract/trace it with surgical precision, and add seam allowances after (they aren't included in the patterns) felt like playing some sick, twisted Highlights magazine game I never agreed to. 

Luckily, extracting the pattern was the hardest part of the process. The directions were simple and any confusion I had was remedied by the diagrams. Not having to worry about zippers, buttons, darts, or pleats simplifies things. I finished this dress in less than three hours!

For the main fabric, I used Pat Bravo's Millefiori print from her Bespoken collection. I used her Sequins print in amethyst from the same collection for the collar and trim. Both were on sale for $7.50/yd at Hawthorne Threads. If I had a do over, I would have gotten the Sequins print in turquoise because the two didn't contrast as much as I'd hoped. 

As anticipated, the fit was loose yet comfy. Being petite, I opted to take in the side seams an inch on either side at the waist to avoid looking like I was drowning. It's still a loose fit, just less tent-like. For future dresses, I think I will stick with size 10 and just take in seams as needed since it fit well everywhere else. 

I wore it to work on Tuesday and my coworkers thought it was really cute! It's also really comfortable to wear. I'm quite pleased with it, and I can't wait to make another dress from this book!

Fabric Collections I Can't Wait For

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Last weekend, I was throwing myself a huge pity party over not being able to go to spring Quilt Market. I'm not sure if gluing myself to Instagram was helping the situation, but it helped me get a better idea of what collections I'm most looking forward to (and need to budget for)!

August - Sarah Watts for Cotton + Steel (Release date?)

I had never heard of the whole Cotton + Steel situation until I saw their huge design wall on Instagram, but when I saw Sarah Watts was in the lineup, I knew I was probably going to end up buying a pre-cut bundle

Number of Designs: 7
Colorways: 2
Total Prints: 14
Wishlist: I pre-ordered a fat quarter bundle, so all of them! The lion print, Monarch, is what really got me excited. I will be making a tunic or dress out of this for sure.

Put a quarter in the Juki-Box!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Juki, Brienne <3

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently started to find myself getting disillusioned with my sewing machine. I've had Broseph, my Brother CE5500PRW since fall of 2011, and it was the first machine I chose/purchased for myself. I had been cranking out My Little Pony hats for my etsy shop at the time and used a little bit of my profits to buy him as a factory refurbished model for $100-ish. It was a bargain and Broseph has definitely served me well...

But sometimes your Mr. Right turns out to be more of a Mr. Right Now. I first started having my doubts about Broseph when I started quilting in January. Somehow I felt unsure that he'd be able to handle lots of quilting. He's a very lightweight machine and I started wondering, "Bro! Do you even lift quilt?!" Nearly six months after I started quilting, he's quilted all of my quilts without too much trouble. However, little things started to get on my nerves. Like always having to change the needle position for a straight stitch (why this machine doesn't default to center position is beyond me). Mysteriously tangling top-thread in the components, watching him struggle to get through a few thick seams, and a few thread-nests too many. 

I started researching more high-end quilting machines back in March, mostly just out of curiosity. My knowledge of sewing machines was limited to a few blips from past conversations with Patty. My limited understanding of the situation was that Berninas were the Rolls Royce of sewing machines, Janomes are the BMWs, and the Singers/Brothers line mine are more like the Toyota Camry of the the sewing universe. My Bernina/Janome research resulted in a severe case of sticker shock that quickly shut down any ideas of upgrading... until I saw a photo of a Juki on Instagram. 

I can't even remember who posted the photo or which model Juki the photo was, but I recall the poster saying they were naming their machine Megumi, befitting of a Japanese machine. I had never heard of Juki, but the name was so cute and simple that it became an earworm. I researched, read specs and reviews, and fell in love with the Juki HZL-F600. It had all the features I wanted at a fraction of the price of a Bernina or Janome. Despite the obvious level of want, I somehow couldn't rationalize spending $1K on a machine. Broseph worked fine and I still consider myself to be a quilt noob. 

As time wore on, I couldn't forget about Juki. Then the struggle of quilting my Obsession Quilt on Broseph pushed me over the edge. Before I finished that spiral, I had committed myself to seriously looking into a Juki. The next day I called three Houston-area Juki dealers. All three said they had them in stock. The first quoted me $1700 and got very huffy and rude when I said I had seen them priced at $1K. Okay, cross them off the list. The next quoted me $1050, getting warmer, but still having a hard time swallowing the price. The third said they had no new ones in stock, but could order me a new one for $999. Since I wanted to try out the machine the following day, I was about to hang up when the woman added, "Or we can sell you the floor model for $879. We just took it out of the box a few days ago for the local quilt show." Bam. Done. 

Saturday morning, hubby and I drove down to Alvin Sewing and Vacuum to check it out. After test driving it for a short bit, I was jumping out of my skin with excitement. The store owners, Mark and Shelly Tacquard were super nice and helpful. Within the hour my Juki was all packed up and on the way home with us!

On the drive home, hubby and I discussed what I should name my Juki. I decided on Brienne after Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones. Why? She's big and she's badass! Since I brought her home on Saturday, I've already sewn up two projects on her, and it's been a dream. I can't wait to see how she quilts!

Quilt-opedia: Obsession Quilt

Monday, May 19, 2014

A couple weekends ago, following the completion of two mini quilts, I found myself project-less for the first time in recent memory. While I usually don't have multiple projects going at once, I do have a mental list of projects I want to attempt. Somehow I managed to outpace my list. Being ansty, I opted to make a project from Quilt-opedia by Laura Jane Taylor, which I previously reviewed.

It wasn't hard to decide what project I was going to dive into: the Obsession Quilt. Taylor cites the Obsession Quilt as her hands-down favorite project out of the book and it's easy to see why. Hell, it's even on the cover of the book! 

I made some changes to the overall design. Taylor's finished quilt is 80" square, but I reduced my individual squares from 4" to 3" for a finished quilt that's 60" square. I also rearranged the color by omitting the oranges/pinks and repeating the the green, aqua, and light blue sections in the middle.

A single quadrant of the quilt top
As per the instructions, I pieced the quilt top together in quadrants then stitched them all together at the end.

I pieced my back together (my normal practice since I rarely buy anything bigger than a half-yard) then sat down to quilt it! Like Taylor, I did a spiral from the center...but oh lawd is it bad. Trying to cram this quilt through the itty-bitty harp space on my Brother CE5500PRW was making me go batty. Also, since I was increasing the space between my spirals as I moved out from the center, it was harder to keep the quilting guide on my walking foot to stay down. The quilt itself kept pushing it up. The result was some not-so-pretty outer spirals. I ended up drawing the last few curved on the quilt with a water-soluble pen and tracing them. 

my pieced quilt back

Lucky for me, the white thread I quilted with is barely noticeable on the finished product. The lovely colors and eye-catching design of the quilt top succeeded in distracting from my de facto worst quilting job ever.

I finished the quilt off with some scrappy binding (which has quickly become my favorite way to bind) and a toss in the wash. It came out lovely! I'm very happy with my choice to make it 60" instead of 80". It's the perfect size for burrito-style quilt snuggling!

Name: Obsession Quilt
Size: 60" square
Fabric: Too many to mention. I did use a lot of Patty Sloniger's new line, Emma's Garden, more than any other single collection. Most was just from my stash.
Pattern: Obsession Quilt from Quilt-opedia by Laura Jane Taylor
Quilting: Spiral
Completed: May 17, 2014 

My Adobe Illustrator Process: Learning and Resources

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mori Girl by Felice Regina 
Over the past few months, I've heard from lots of people who are interested in learning Adobe Illustrator. Sometimes people ask me what software I use to create my illustrations. Others ask how I created a certain element or how I complete projects so quickly. The answer is a combination of software, experimentation, desire to learn, and resources to learn from.

When I first started using Illustrator, I got one of those classroom-in-a-book type books (The Graphic Designer's Digital Toolkit) to get me started. I probably worked through about two exercises when I became aware that this was not going to be the most efficient way for me to learn. Due to the sheer number of things you can do with Illustrator, I'd say it's almost impossible to sit down and learn exactly what you need to accomplish your specific projects with efficiency. Only you know what is relevant to your goals.

As a result, I abandoned the idea of any type of formal class. I follow a simple process. I decide what I want to create, then I researched the best way to build my illustration. And I do mean "build". I think one of the main things that turns people off about Illustrator is that it is completely alien process if you have only used traditional media like pencil and paper. The pen tool (which I will cover in more detail in a future post) is the backbone of Illustrator, which seems to elicit extreme hatred from many when they first start to use it. However, if you want to use Illustrator, you simply cannot work around it.

In this mini-series of blog posts, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. I was able to teach myself how to use Illustrator due to the wealth of knowledge others have shared via the internet. My goal is to share with you how I find and use these resources, and other tricks I've learned along the way.

So as a disclaimer, I have never taken any kind of class (IRL or online) covering Illustrator. I know some people have used Nicole's Classes or Lynda and liked them, but formal classes just don't suit my learning style. The number of resources (primarily books) I've actually paid for can be counted on one hand. If you're looking for the cheap way to learn Illustrator, this should be up your alley.

So the first thing you must figure out is"How do I like to learn?" I'm personally of the impatient, baby-step type learner. I like breaking tasks down into smaller steps, working through through them alongside a visual tutorial, preferably text-base with photos. I'm not a fan of videos because I'm IMPATIENT! Once I established how I liked to receive instruction, I was able to curate a set of go-to-resources where that style of instruction was the norm.

How do you find these resources? One word: Google. I had a teacher in high school who loved to tell us not to "wallow in your ignorance." Those words will never leave me. Google should be your light in the darkness. Never wallow in your ignorance. Google it! This should always be your first step.

That being said, I'd like to share my favorite resources.

Crazy Cat Lady Dress

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Anyone who's been clothes shopping with me knows I have the fashion sense of a toddler. One of my college roommates used to joke that I'd only by clothes with animals on them. She wasn't far off the mark. I also have a (massive) fondness for Peter Pan collars. So when I saw Julia's amazingly precious Easter dress at the April HMQG meeting, I started foaming at the mouth. I promise it wasn't creepy.

Not only did I love the cut of the dress, it has pockets(!) and a Peter Pan collar! I knew I had to make one for myself. I purchased the pattern (Simplicity 1419) on Monday, but was still mulling over what fabric to use. For the past year or so, I've been oogling this cat dress on ModCloth, but at $90, I knew it probably was never going to make it into my closet. I figured this dress would be a good alternative if I could find a cute cat print fabric.

Lucky for me, Alyssa Thomas's new collection, Here Kitty Kitty, just dropped. And I mean JUST dropped. I had been checking Hawthorne Threads daily to see if it was available. No luck. On a whim, I checked Etsy and there was a seller with yardage available! By Thursday I had my gorgeous kitty fabric in my hot little hands!

I made a size 12, but now I'm wondering if I should have gone with a 10. Ironically, I planned on making a size 10, but my coworker Patty got bitten by the cuteness of Simplicity 1419 and made one as well. She made a size 12, which she let me try on. It was a near-perfect fit, so I decided to make the 12. I must have screwed up somewhere because my finished product was too big. Even after I disassembled the skirt and bodice, made adjustments, and reassembled it, it was still not an ideal fit. I ended up having to do some janky alterations to take in the side seams a bit. It turned out fine, but I will definitely have to make a muslin next time and work out the kinks.

Julia commented to me that the loop and button closure on the keyhole/collar were a pain to make, so I skipped it all together and just did a few hand stitches instead.

And now I have my crazy cat lady dress for under $50! In true toddler style, I'm wearing this baby to work on Monday. It's my equivalent of wearing something out of the store.

Pencil Quilt Block Tutorial

Friday, May 2, 2014

As promised, it's time to show off my newest creation: this adorable pencil mini quilt I made for the HMQG swap this month. I just joined the guild in April so this will be my first swap. As such, I wanted to make something unique and original that other members would enjoy. I sketched up some ideas and this one seemed too cute to pass by. My first practice block turned out so well that I included it in Patty's Scatterbrain Quilt No.2

I decided to share the cuteness of this block and make a tutorial/pattern for you to make your own! Let's get going!

*~Pencil Quilt Block Tutorial~*