Sunday, June 28, 2015

Burp Cloth Tutorial: Personalized Baby Project 1

I have been making customized baby burp cloths as part of a gift set for friends who are expecting or who have new babies.  It has been a fun way to learn and to get to know my machine.  The mommies are always so excited so it really is encouraging!  This post shows how I make my burp cloths.

This method uses a cloth diaper as a base.  I use Gerber brand that I get in multi-packs.  (Other crafters swear by but while I learn, I am staying frugal.)  This method fully encloses the back side of the diaper (so that none of the back of the stitching is visible) and has decorative fabric ends so that the project is fully finished!

I create my design in Embrilliance and make sure to include a basting box. (The robot I used is from Breezy Lane and the text is from Lynnie Pinnie.  I made the text circular using Embrilliance software.)  I print off a paper version of the design using the software and copy the design on a USB drive and move it to my machine.

Diapers will shrink so the first thing I do is to wash and dry them.  I wash them with hot water and no detergent and dry with regular heat. (This project does not use any applique, but when I do applique designs on my burp cloths, I pre-wash and dry those fabrics too.  I iron with starch on the fronts and apply Heat N Bond light on the back sides of the applique fabrics).  

Once washed, I iron the diaper to try to get back to a smooth, rectangular shape, pulling on grain diagonally if needed.

I cut off one end at a 90 degree angle from the sides.  Since it won't be straight on the end after washing, this will also help the finished project to be straight.

I flip it over to the back and, using a seam ripper, carefully and quickly remove the two inside stitching lines that hold the padding in place.  I like this kind of diaper because the padding adds dimension to the stitching (it is even more fun with applique).  I open it enough so that the design will fit.  My goal here is to stitch on the front and padding and then re-stitch the backing down to cover the back stitches of the embroidery and/or applique.  You most probably will not need to remove stitching all the way down the length of the diaper.  Only go as far as necessary. I use my paper pattern to help me decide how much stitching to remove. 

I hoop medium-weight cut-away stabilizer.  It will be completely hidden on the finished project because it will be enclosed in the diaper.  I like using cut-away because the stitching will hold up to even the roughest laundering situations, as is often the case on things made to be covered in messes. This is just my personal preference.  

I flip the diaper back over to the right side and determine where I want the applique design to be placed.  I use the paper print out to do this.  

I use a thumbtack method to transfer the position of my design instead of making marks on the fabric. (I place my paper pattern on the hoop, matching cross-hairs, then I place thumbtacks at the center and on one leg of one axis.  The thumbtacks leave marks on the paper pattern.  I move the paper pattern off the hooped stabilizer.  I spray my hooped and marked stabilizer with textile adhesive.  I move the paper pattern to the diaper and place it using a ruler to find the center.  I tape the pattern in place and pick up the diaper with taped-on design and lay it on the hoop, making sure the thumbtacks go in the exact same holes as before.  I remove my thumbtacks and smooth the fabric on the hoop to best adhere it.  

My diaper is now floated in place on my hoop and temporarily attached with spray adhesive.  I roll up the sides and pin or clip out of the way to prevent them from accidentally getting stitched under the hoop.

I top with the filmy kind of Water Soluble Stabilizer (WSS)  because the padding of the diaper can cause the stitches to sink down; this will prevent that.  I begin my stitch out, making sure that my basting box is the first sewing step.  This holds the diaper on the hoop, as the textile adhesive is only temporary.  It is even more important for those diaper burp pads that use applique! 

I used my Brother PE-770 to do the embroidery.  My machine is a single needle with a 5x7 hoop.

After the design is complete, I remove from the hoop, clip all jump stitches on the front and as many as possible on the back.  The back won't show so it is not imperative to do this perfectly on the back, but long threads should be clipped.

I  remove all the WSS.  I use the end of my Stitch Fix seam ripper or the end of a Frixion pen.  (When appliqueing, I press the design to adhere the Heat N Bond Light.)

I trim the cut-away stabilizer close to the the design.  I don't trim between words; just trim around the outside perimeter.  

I straighten out the diaper and place the back pieces in their original places so that it looks like it did at the beginning.  

I use a 1/2" Steam A Steam fusible webbing to replace pinning to hold the backing together before sewing.  (This is the only brand that really works for me for this application.)  I press and fuse the backing closed.  Then I take the diaper to the sewing machine and stitch up the inside lines that I had removed previously, skipping over areas that have machine embroidery or applique.  

To make the decorative fabric ends, I fold a piece of cotton fabric along the grainline, making sure that I follow the print, if any, so that it appears to be straight.  (If the fabric is printed off-grain, I always follow the pattern, not the grainline).  I cut the folded fabric to make a thick strip, usually around 2" - 4" but sometimes I vary that based on the pattern or how much fabric I have.  This one is 2-1/2".  Cutting a 2-1/2" strip of folded fabric makes a 5" strip unfolded just to be clear!

I turn the diaper over so that I am looking at the BACK of the diaper.  I open the strip and place one thickness of fabric face down, making sure I have 1/2" over overlap on each side of the diaper.  

I stitch in place using a 1/2" seam.  (Here, I flipped it over so you can see that the fabric was sewn facedown to the BACK of the diaper, just to be clear!)

I press the fabric so the seam is flat.

While at the ironing board, I press the long, unsewn edge of the fabric up 1/2".

I pick up the strip and sew the sides, right sides together, with a 1/2" seam allowance.

I clip off the corners to remove bulk.

I turn and push out the point.  I use a bone folder but only because I can't find my point turner!!

I turn the diaper to the front.  I use a piece of Steam A Seam 1/2" fusible tape to fuse the strip in place by lining up the fusible tape just under the stitching line.  The folded fabric should be right on top of the stitching line.  Fusing is a substitute for pinning only!  This must be sewn to hold up!

I press in place, using steam.

Using an edge foot or being careful to stitch on the very edge of the fabric, I sew all the way down the strip.  

On the other end of the diaper, again, I trim off the end of the diaper and follow the same steps to add a decorative fabric trim to that end as well.

The finished front of the burp cloth...

...and here, you can see that the back is completely finished and the stitching is enclosed.

For presentation, I fold the burp cloths in thirds and then in half.

I have read lots of posts on message boards that warn not to use these inexpensive Gerber diapers, that it will ruin the burp cloth after laundering.  I couldn't figure out why so I washed this and dried on high heat. Wrinkling is the only thing I see, as I imagine will be the case with all 100% cotton diapers.  Just sharing in case you were wondering about this too.  By pre-washing and using a cut-away stabilizer, I think I have prevented the majority of foreseeable disasters.

These are some of the baby gifts I have made.  I plan to share my tutorials on door hangers, bibs, onesies, and teddy bear rattlers in future posts!

Thank you for checking my blog post today.  All of my machine embroidery notes, links to my projects and my resources are on my machine embroidery page on my blog (or click here).  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Embroidered Thank You Cards

It's that time again...when my daughter's ballet school performs a full ballet as their recital.  Every girl in the school is a part of the show, from the teeny-tiny pre-ballet girls all the way to the high school seniors who have starring roles.  This year, they performed Alice in Wonderland!

The parents all take on jobs too, as this whole thing is done with only two paid workers: the two teachers of the school!  All other jobs are done by parent volunteers, from set design and construction, to costumes, to lighting, to stage management to house management.  This is the first year that I was the production coordinator, a much bigger job than I have ever done before in the previous five ballet recitals my child has danced.  

Each year, the families take up a donation for end-of-year gifts for the teachers.  I wanted to create special cards that would be a little different from the usual store-bought ones the teachers have gotten in the past from the students.  I used my embroidery machine, a simple Brother PE-770, along with Embrilliance software and files I bought from Urban Threads and .bx fonts I had uploaded previously, to create them.  

One very helpful feature of Embrilliance is the ability to print out full-size paper versions of the embroideries so that you can see the size they will really be and the orientation they will stitch. 

The paper frames were used to make the cards large, since the senior girls present these as gifts (along with money inside the cards) on stage after the final performance.  I wanted plenty of room for signatures so the girls were allowed to sign the insides of the cards or on the fronts.  I like the signatures on the card fronts because it incorporates the girls names into the design!  I was able to use the paper printouts to cut card stock frames while the embroidery machine stitched the centers.

I embroidered them to fit my 5x7 hoop.  I hooped the fabrics and three sheets of tear-away all together.  Since this is a card, I left the tear-away in place on the finished embroideries!  There is really no reason to tear it away.  There is also no reason not to over-stabilize since the embroideries will be mounted and sewn in place to a paper frame.  The most important thing is that they stitch perfectly with no puckering or pulling.  I trimmed them so that the crimped stabilizer would not be an issue.  

I used textile adhesive to temporarily adhere the frames to the embroidered fabrics.  (Textile adhesive will not gum up the needle).  

Then I sewed them in place using my regular sewing machine.  

The card base is actually heavy art board that I cut and scored.  I wanted something that would stand up to the weight of the embroidered fabrics.  

I used double sided tape to adhere the paper frame to the art board card.

I printed the message inside onto cardstock using my office computer and printer and adhered it using an ATG and double sided tape.

To hold the money inside, I created currency-sized envelopes using the Artiste cartridge and my Cricut Expression.  These are sealed and adhered to the inside of the card using Scor-pal tape. 


I created envelopes by hand by piecing 12x24 paper as needed to make the flaps large enough.  I sealed them with Scor-pal tape and put a hand-tied bow on the each to finish them as gifts.  

I love how they looked with the girls' signatures!

This file, called The Queen, is from Urban Threads.  The font is one of many I had previously uploaded.  I curved it with Embrilliance software.

This file, called Wonderland Tea Party, is also from Urban Threads.  The font is one I had previously uploaded.  

The girls gave lovely performances!  

Thank you for checking my blog post today.  I know I promised tutorials on baby gift sets....But sometimes life just changes things around!  They are still coming though!  

For more....

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Removing Thread from the Upper Tension Unit on Brother PE-770

After almost three months of excitement over the wonders of my embroidery machine, a Brother PE-770, something happened.  I looked up to see that my thread had shredded and was knotted up and had magically disappeared in my machine.  I was stunned.  And I was in denial.

I re-threaded, and kept sewing... and noticed some stitch quality issues. Realizing that thread doesn't simply disappear, I tried the "use unwaxed dental floss" method that is often suggested on the Facebook Embroidery Message Boards, and still nothing.  So I kept sewing, in my child-like hope that stuff will just work itself out, until I couldn't deny it any more.  I had a problem.  I just didn't know where the thread was.  Similar stitch quality issues posted on the embroidery message boards kept insisting the problem had to do with the bobbin case.

So I took off the throat plate, since I knew how to do that, using a penny to unscrew it, and peered down.  I found one of the tiny threads that posters are always showing as the culprit.  I knew this was not my problem.  My problem was red thread, a big glob of it, that disappeared at the top of my machine.  Despite that, I lifted out the bobbin case and vacuumed the area.

In desperation, I even used canned air despite the warnings on the message boards not to.  I used a mirror and tried to look up the machine from the needle, hoping to see the thread dangling from a mysteriously hidden place.  Nothing. I changed my needle, my bobbin, I re-threaded... and re-threaded again.  I just wanted to see inside but was afraid to do anything that would "hurt" my machine or make things worse!

Finally, I contacted my favorite machine repairman, Nelson Maynard, who worked at Baer Fabrics for many years as a repair technician during some of the same years I worked there.  Baer's had a Bernina and Babylock dealership for decades.

Nelson started his own repair service after the store closed so I trusted his opinion on this and I was just desperate enough to ask the favor of what he suggested I do.  This was his response:

That was magical information!!  Once he said I could check on that myself, I had some courage. Following his advice....I found the screw hole he mentioned.  The screw is tiny and set in deeply.

And I removed the cover over the tension unit as he suggested.  I immediately saw the red thread!!

I lifted the presser foot as instructed.  That opens the tension discs so that the thread slides right off.  I removed the thread using the long tweezers that I use for my serger.

I replaced the cover and then tested the stitching.  You can see the letter "D" that I did earlier before removing the thread and all the loops and horrible, sloppy stitches.  Then you can see the letter "N" that I stitched AFTER removing the thread!  

This is the back of my stitching.  You can really see how much thread was looping up under the hoop before removing the thread.  The letter "N" shows that the stitching is normal again AFTER removing the thread in the tension unit.

And now this statement from me to you:
This solved my problem!  I am not suggesting you do this.  I am only sharing what I did to solve my stitch quality issues in this instance.  Also if your machine is under warranty, you will want to consider that Brother says the warranty is void if you open the machine in any way.  If you are in doubt, you should contact the Brother Corporation or your local authorized repair person.

If you are looking for a repair person, and are not too far from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, check out Nelson Maynard Sewing Machine Service and Repair (click here) or contact him via email at nkmaynard2 at gmail dot com.  He has experience with all sorts of machines (check out the photos on his Facebook page!) and he has tuned up my sewing machine and serger for many years when I worked at Baer's (which means it has been too long since my last tune-up!)  Nelson is a real character, usually donning denim overalls but can occasionally be spotted in his kilt.  He is also a writer and an all-around good guy and totally trust-worthy.  And nope, he didn't pay me a thing to say this nor did he ask me to!

And now this statement from Nelson to you:
"There are a couple of good reasons that this sewing machine repair man feels that every home sewer should keep her (or his) machine in the good condition.

For one thing, it's a lot easier to work on a machine that has been well maintained than on one that has been neglected; I can turn around a machine a lot more quickly if I don't have to clear out wound-up thread from the shafts or evict small animals from the undercarriage.

For another, while I am happy to work on my customers' machines if they have significant mechanical problems, I don't want you to have to do without your machines for a week or two (or three, depending on my backlog) only to find out that there wasn't any significant problem to start with, and that a little bit of home diagnostics would have saved you  the time and expense of having your machines serviced.  (So, for instance, you bring me your machine, describe your problem, and put it on the table; I look at it, take the needle out, turn it around, and say, "Here ya go; that'll be eight-five dollars."  No, there's no way for that to be anything but awkward...)

So, while I'd suggest regular tune-ups to keep your machine in fighting trim, I think we are all well-served by watching out for your machine's well-being between visits."

And...he had this to add to me so I thought I would pass it along too because qualified and trusted free advice is rare....

Thanks for checking out out my post today!  I hope it was helpful to you.  Check out my Embrilliance Software and Machine Embroidery page here on my blog (see the tab above or click the link) for my previous posts on embroidery, lists of my resources for learning and supplies with direct links, and my notes.

Links to all my pages, including my paper-crafting Project Gallery, are on the tabs under the header of my blog.

Coming soon:  Baby Embroidery Gift Set Tutorials!

But wait! There's more! Click 'older posts' above!

But wait!  There's more!  Click 'older posts' above!