Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sewing Handbags & Dresses, Oh My!

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My poor blog has taken a back seat this week, hey, it's been busy around here!


Everything will be back to normal next week and The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric will continue with [Part 4].  In the meantime, here's some of what I've been working on:


[Custom Order] Messenger Purse:
Gray Canvas with 100% Cotton lining and accents.  I love the Topaz Gem print from Art Gallery Fabric's Bespoken Collection, and was thrilled when my customer selected it!




Inside, the bag has a flap to secure the iPad to the back of the bag... it's adjustable to accommodate iPads in portfolios and cases, too. *wink*

 Along with some organizational pockets in the main compartment, there is also a front pocket, under the flap, that can hold keys, phone, accessories, etc.



[Next]


My first-ever attempt at a child's dress, well... at any dress for that matter!


The Pattern is The Lilly Top by Pink Fig Design.





 As you can tell, my little chickie LOVES her new dress, and I loved how easy it was to sew!  Seriously, I'm happy to adventure into quilting, love designing and making all sorts of handbags, but am so intimidated by garment sewing!  This was a nice way of getting my toes wet... also a great break from working on orders, kind of a way to rejuvenate my brain for the next batch of handbags and totes!




Spring Break starts tomorrow for Chick-a-dee Number One, so we'll be looking for all kinds of fun stuff for us gals to do, what are some of your go-to Spring Break activities?


XxOo~ Melissa

Friday, March 23, 2012

The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric [Part 3: Fat Quarters & Pre-cuts]

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The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric is my little road-map to fabric, some tips and tricks I've learned along the way and am sharing with you.  And, i'm not going to lie, a total excuse to play with and talk about fabric... I am a Fabric Addict, you know!?




[Part 3: Fat Quarters and Pre-cuts]

What is a Fat Quarter (aka FQ)?

Common for quilting, a FQ is a quarter yard of fabric, but not as it's cut off of the bolt.  Whaaat?  Let me show you:







* Please excuse the crazy amount of wrinkles in my pretty fabric! Holy Moly! *blushing*



So, Why Fat Quarters?


See for yourself...


looking at the images again, you'll notice that a true quarter yard of fabric is skinny, at only 9 in long, and wide.


If you are using a fabric for it's print, and let's face it, you most likely are, a true quarter yard isn't giving you much to work with.  See, those poor gals in my fabric would be headless if I cut it at 1/4 yard!


A fat quarter on the other hand (third photo) gives you 18 inches of length.  Therefore, you get more workable print in this cut.  Yay, our ladies have heads!


Even if you are using solids, a Fat Quarter will give you more room to work with when it comes to lengthwise grain.


Why do I love Fat Quarters and think you should too?


For starters, Fat Quarters are a great way to learn about, and try out, different designers and manufacturers without committing to several yards of fabric up front.  A great option for beginners!!  When I started sewing, I would purchase pre-cuts to familiarize myself with the different options available... If I liked it, I went on to purchase it by the yard.  This is especially helpful if you live in an area where premium fabrics are hard to find and the majority of your fabric shopping is done online.  


FQs are also great for when you are trying to save money on a project.  Of course, if you are making garments that require yardage, you'll need to purchase yardage, but for accessories, some handbags and smaller crafts, FQs are the way to go.


Generally you can find Fat Quarters ranging in cost from $2.50- $3.50 each. So, yes, when you purchase Four Fat Quarters, you will probably pay slightly more than you would for a full-yard cut of fabric, but you will have Four different prints! Bundles can cost around $30-ish, so you can end up with loads of prints for your stash! (And, THAT makes perfect cents! I'm a geek, I know.)


I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for".  I would not purchase cheap/poorly made fabric for use in a project that I am gifting (or selling!) to someone.  Why put your time and effort into something that's going to fall apart and not hold up because you chose poor quality materials?  You can keep costs down by purchasing a few FQs from a good quality fabric line without having to put out the money or a yard of each print.

Here are some item's I've made that use Fat Quarters:

SoChick's Daisy Handbag (using 3 FQs):


SoChick Boxie Pouch (Using 2 FQs.. also here's my Free Pattern, too)


See a fabric collection you love? Purchase the FQ Bundle, then you can order yardage of the prints you will use most and save the others for accents, etc.
This is a Fat Quarter Bundle I purchased from Fat Quarter Shop a while back.
Other Pre-Cuts include:


Fat Eigths (Half of a FQ, cut in half vertically)


Charm Packs (usually 5" x 5" squares)


Jelly Rolls, etc (Pre-cut strips of fabric)


Smaller pre-cuts are fun to play with, especially for piecing and quilting-style projects.  But, also, a great way to familiarize yourself with the great quality fabrics and prints that are available out there!


Some of my fav places to find Fat Quarters, pre-cuts and bundles:


Fat Quarter Shop


Etsy (lots of independent shops that sell individual FQ cuts as well as bundles)




Next, a crash course in using interfacing and interlinings to make your handmade items shine!




Just joining in? Check out the previous parts of my guide
:



[Part 1: Fabric Grain]


I hope you are finding this guide helpful, feel free to tell me in the comments below!





XxOo~ Melissa

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Asian Style Pulled Pork Tacos with Broccoslaw [A Slow Cooker Recipe]

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I'm avoiding my computer like the plague this week, so I'll have Part 3 & 4 of The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric posted another day (soon).  In the meantime, I've been teasing my Twitter/Facebook/Instagram friends with these yummy pork tacos I made for dinner.


Because I love all of you, I'm sharing the recipe... enjoy!


[Asian Style Pulled Pork Tacos with Broccoslaw]



Ingredients :


1 Pork Sirloin Roast
1/2c Mae Ploy Sweet Red Chilli Sauce
2tbsp Soy Sauce
Grated Fresh Ginger (about 1/4 tsp)
Small Corn Tortillas
EVOO Cooking Spray


For the Broccoslaw:
1 package shredded broccoli coleslaw mix
2/3 c Vegetable oil
1/3 c Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4c Sugar
1 package Chicken flavor Ramen Noodles, set aside flavor packet
1/2 c sliced almonds (I actually used chopped pecans)
Mae Ploy Sweet Chilli Sauce

Instructions:
(Pork)
Place Pork in Slow Cooker
Mix Sweet Chilli Sauce, Soy Sauce and Ginger in a bowl
Pour over pork and cook on low 6-8hrs.


(Broccoslaw)
Empty bag of Broccoli Coleslaw, almonds and crushed Ramen noodles (uncooked) into large bowl
In a small bowl mix Oil, Vinegar, Sugar, and contents of Ramen flavor packet until sugar dissolves.
Pour over Broccoli mixture and toss to coat
Cover and refrigerate until Pork is ready




When Pork is cooked:
Shred with a fork stirring in all of the juices/sauce from cooking.
Preheat Oven to 400 degrees F.
Spray one side of Corn Tortillas with EVOO Cooking Spray
Place Tortillas on a baking sheet and bake until slightly crisp, approx 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and promptly fold in half... allow to cool for a few minutes before preparing tacos. (This just helps them keep a 'taco' shape)
Remove Broccoslaw from fridge and toss/stir.


To Serve:
Place Shredded Pork in Taco and top with Broccoslaw... enjoy!


** These are super yummy as leftovers, too, when the Ramen noodles are slightly soft.


XxOo~ Melissa

Friday, March 16, 2012

GiveAway Winner Announced! [Crafsty BOM Blog Tour]

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Wow!  You are all so awesome, thank you for the great feedback on the Craftsy BOM Blog Tour & FQS GiveAway post!


I love, love, loved reading about all of the fabric you all would buy!!


From the Ninety comments, here is our Randomly Drawn Winner:
Comment # 88:










 Woo Hoo!! Congrats! Your husband will love the awesome quilt you are going to be making for him! *wink*



There is still a chance to get in on on the GiveAway Action, check out the Blog Tour Calendar to see where to visit today!


Thank you to Craftsy.com for having such an awesome free lesson, Amy Gibson for being a super instructor, and Fat Quarter Shop for Sponsoring the Blog Tour!


Coming Soon:
- My Sewing Expo Weekend recap, better late than never.
- [Part 3] of The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric: Fat Quarters & Pre-cut fabrics
**You can read [Part 1] and [Part 2] of my Fabric Guide now.**


XxOo~ Melissa

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric [Part 2: Pre-washing & Cutting Fabric]

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Today we are continuing along with my Guide to Fabric by talking about the prep and cutting of our quilting cotton.  Last week I talked about Fabric Grain, if you missed it, check it out here: [Part 1: Fabric Grain]






[Part 2: Pre-Washing & Cutting Fabric]


Pre-Washing:


I find that it is usually recommended that you pre-wash your fabric before cutting it; we're talking quilting cottons for the purpose of this guide.  Mostly this applies to fabric that is being used in a project that will be laundered once it is made: garments, quilting, small "washable" accessories and the like.


When I pre-wash my quilting cottons, I wash on cold with mild detergent and tumble dry warm. I'm always careful to remove my fabric from the dryer asap... otherwise, its a wrinkled mess!  


Once my fabric is washed and dried, I will press it with a hot iron, on cotton setting, with steam.  


The key phrase here is Press.  
What is the difference between ironing and pressing?  Well, when you press fabric you are doing just that: Press, lift, press.  Basically, you lift the iron slightly off of the fabric, this is where steam helps out, then place it down again on the next section you are pressing.  Ironing applies pressure to the fabric combined with a back and forth movement that can distort your fabric grain, true story, so we stay away from that method for our sewing projects.


*Note: I do not pre-wash fabric for bag making, I feel that by not washing, the fabric will stay crisp and bright, which is desirable for some bag styles.  Also, bags that have structure should not be machine washed.  When spot cleaning is the recommended method of cleaning for a given project, I say, skip pre-washing.


Once our fabric is ready, it's time to cut!

Cutting Fabric:
Tools for Cutting Fabric

I use two methods when making width-of-fabric cuts (cutting straight across from selvage to selvage):

The first is folding the fabric in half with the selvage edges lined up and making a straight cut across the width, with a ruler and rotary blade.
Be sure that your rotary blade runs alongside your ruler.

The second is not actually cutting at all, it's ripping.  By making a small cut, with scissors, through one selvage, I will then rip the fabric straight across to the other selvage by pulling the two pieces apart.  Ripping fabric in this way will give you a line that is true to grain.  Some folks swear by only ripping their fabric and while I do like to do it when taking yardage from a bolt, for my sewing purposes it's not really necessary... I'm not a full-time ripper, haha.

Once you have your yardage ready you can cut it per your project's
 requirements.


Always "Measure Twice, Cut Once".  This is an old standby for sewing... and so important for saving time, and money!  Also, dimensions for straight cuts are Length by Width. (Good to know for cutting rectangular pieces, which are sometimes not printed as pattern pieces)


Cutting With Scissors:


I often find people who say their #1 reason for not sewing is "I can't cut in a straight line".  Well, neither can I... not if I'm eyeballing it anyway.  This is where it's super handy to have a ruler and tailor's chalk, or a water soluble pen, handy.


Using a ruler and chalk, simply measure and mark your lines parallel or perpendicular to the selvage, or grain, of the fabric you are cutting.  Once your lines are marked, you can take a pair of fabric scissors and cut along the lines you just made... This makes cutting in a straight line much easier.

Once lines are marked, cut with fabric scissors for straight lines.

Cutting With a Rotary Blade & Cutting Mat:

This is my preferred way to cut fabric.  If you are planning on spending time with fabric and your sewing machine, you should invest in a good rotary cutter and self-healing mat... aaaand a ruler, but you should have that already.



Of all of the rulers I have, I think I use my acrylic 3 1/2 x 18 1/2 inch one the most.



Simply lay your fabric down on your mat, with the selvage parallel to the lines on your mat; place your acrylic ruler on top and move your rotary blade along the edge of the ruler, applying slight pressure to make your cut.  With a sharp rotary blade, you should not have to press hard on your fabric to cut it.
Cut along the ruler's edge for a straight, clean, line.
Your rotary blade will run alongside the ruler's edge,
making for a straight cut.
Using a pattern:

I always pin my pattern pieces to the fabric I am cutting.  Sometimes by doing this, I can layer a few pieces of fabric to be cut, pin them all together with the pattern piece and make one cut.  I use fabric scissors when cutting around pattern pieces; this is where good quality dressmaker shears come in handy to cut through layers!
Remember to pin within your pattern piece
to avoid hitting pins with your scissors, which will ruin them!


So, there you have it, are you ready to cut into some fabulous fabric with no worries?  I hope so!


Next, I'll be talking about pre-cut fabrics (Fat Quarters, Fat Eigths, Charm Packs, etc) and why you should use them!


[Part 3: Fat Quarters & Pre-Cuts]


XxOo~ Melissa 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Craftsy BOM Blog Tour [Plus, A Give Away]

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Yay!! Today is my stop along the Craftsy Block of the Month Blog Tour, if you are new here, welcome to my SoChick! Blog!


(If you're looking for The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric, you can find it here.  Part 2 will be up on Tuesday!)





I had planned to talk about how I was getting together with a friend of mine to make my February blocks, but life gets busy and sewing time this month was a bust (good thing we have nine more months to plan for sewing).  Instead, I've held out on sharing my February BOM's on the blog for today's post.  To recap, I joined the Craftsy BOM Lesson to learn some quilting skills, it being a free lesson was an added bonus, and to set aside personal sewing time for myself each month.


Here are my February Blocks:
#3 Balkan Puzzle Piece

#4 Chunky Chevron
As you can see, we are learning traditional blocks as well as modern blocks and this month's lesson had us making Half Square Triangles that were cut on the bias and straight grain!


**You can see my first month's blocks Here, and visit me on Craftsy, Here.**

Here is our super sweet instructor, Amy Gibson, showing off January's BOMs (The Asterisk and Wonky Pound Sign).
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I've said it before and I'll say it again and again... I l-o-v-e that Craftsy allows you to learn at your own pace... with running a business and little chicks to look after, I can't always sit and watch a complete lesson, but I know I can go back to it whenever and that they will always be available!  You could totally sign up right now and still view the January and February lessons.  


If you have some fabric lying around, and a few hours to spare one day a month, this is SO what you need to sign up for!  Plain and simple: a few hours sewing once a month and you'll have a nice lap quilt by the end of the year... aaaand a ton of skills for other projects!

If you don't have fabric lying around (shame on you... *wink*) you need to enter now to win $25 from our Blog Tour Sponsor:

Photobucket

That's right, Fat Quarter Shop has been super generous to offer a $25 gift certificate at every stop along this Blog Tour!


Here's what you need to do to enter (on my blog):


-Leave a Comment on this post telling me what fabric you'd love to buy if you win the GiveAway


Yep, that's it, easy peasy.  Here are some rules:


- GiveAway will end on Thursday, March 15th at 11:59pm EST
- Be sure to include an email address (in your comment) where I can reach you if you win!
- Open to everyone, FQS ships Internationally, too.
- GiveAway winner will be drawn via random.org random number generator based on the total number of comments at the close of the GiveAway.


Thanks bunches for stopping by today!  Be sure to check out the other stops along the Blog Tour... you can enter to win GiveAways at each!



Feb 24 - Miss Print
Feb 25 - Hoosier Toni
Feb 27 - Fresh Lemons
Feb 28 - Qubee Quilts
Mar 2  - mon petit lyons
Mar 3  - Mel's Own Place
Mar 7  - Sew Paint Create
Mar 9  - SoChick!
Mar 10- Spin the Bobbin
Mar 14- Ellison Lane
Mar 16- Old Red Barn Co







XxOo~ Melissa

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

[Featured Site] Fairly Fabulous Crafting Slumber Party!

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Okay, seriously, how super exciting does the title of this post even sound?! If your answer was "VERY super exciting", you're right!! 
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[Via FairlyFabParty.com]
When Meagan, from Fairly Fabulous, contacted me about sponsoring this event, I couldn't possibly say no; with help from Alyson, of Eisley Rae, this Crafting Slumber party is going to be Fabulously Fun!


Check out the site for more info:


Fairly Fabulous Crafting Slumber Party
[Via FairlyFabParty.com]

While I wish I could make it out to the Southern Cali Desert, I'm going to have to settle with sending some swag for the Chicks who will be attending!  Meagan and Alyson are great blogging/twitter friends, not to mention very crafty chicks, so I'm more than happy to help out and wish them lots and lots of luck with their Fairly Fabulous Event!! 


Registration is now open, what are you waiting for?!


XxOo~ Melissa

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric [Part 1: Fabric Grain]

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Why a Guide to Fabric, you ask?  Simple, when you are starting on a journey it is nice to have a map to help you get from point a to point b; when you know where your headed and what to expect, you can spend more time enjoying the journey instead of having to stop along the way to ask directions.  In short, if you know what's up about fabric, the time you spend sewing with it is going to be much less frustrating, and that much more enjoyable! 

Remember that this is a guide, and as we get into tips and tricks, I will be sharing info that I have found to be most helpful in my sewing journey.  Each of us has a way and a style that suits our sewing needs.  As your love of sewing grows (and it will) you will find your own way and style of doing things... this is merely a jumping off point.

Also, for the most part, this Guide covers working with Quilting Cotton, though other types of fabric may be thrown in for good measure. *wink*

Enjoy!

Part 1: [Fabric Grain]

When working with fabric, I feel that it is super important to know about fabric grain and how it may affect the outcome of your sewing project.  So, I have decided that this will be the starting point for this Guide to Fabric.

Fabric Grain is as important in quilting as it is in garment sewing, as it is in handbag & accessory sewing!  Basically, fabric grain is the way threads are woven in a given piece of fabric, or yardage of fabric.

Elements of Fabric Grain:


Lengthwise Grain: aka Warp These are the threads that are secured to the loom first and run through the length of yardage on a bolt of fabric, also called Warp threads. These threads run parallel to the fabric's selvage. They have little to no stretch.

Crosswise Grain: aka Weft These threads are woven back and fourth along the Warp threads to create the fabric; they run perpendicular to the Selvage.  Because these threads are woven along the lengthwise grain, they have a slight amount of stretch to them.

Selvage:  This is the tightly woven edge of the fabric that runs parallel to the lengthwise grain and consists of approximately 1/4 - 1/2 inch along both sides of the fabric.  Often you can find the manufacturer, fabric designer, and color information printed along the Selvage of Quilting Cotton.

Bias: The Bias runs at a 45 degree angle of the Lengthwise and Crosswise Grains.  Cutting on the bias allows for the most amount of stretch in the fabric, which is especially helpful for quilt binding, piping and anything else that needs movement (think flowing skirts and ruffles).

When looking at the wrong side of the fabric,
you can clearly see the warp and weft threads.
**Cutting on the Lengthwise or Crosswise grain is called "Cutting on grain" or "Cutting on the Straight-of-grain" .  Many commercial patterns will direct you with an arrow, or some form of marking, when you need to line the pattern piece up with the fabric grain.

There are some sewing crafts where it really doesn't matter how you cut your fabric or if it is on grain.  It is important in quilting and garment sewing because how you cut your fabric can greatly alter your project, especially once it has been machine washed.

For bag making, I always cut my fabric on the straight grain.  It is important that fabric for straps and handles is cut on grain, this allows for even wear and prevents stretching and twisting.

Lengthwise Grain has the least amount of stretch:

Crosswise Grain has a little more stretch:

Bias cuts have the most stretch:


**Knowing how much stretch each grain allows will help when going through scraps whose selvage has been cut away.

That should do ya for today's fabric guide... next, I'll talk about cutting fabric and how to be sure you are cutting true to grain.
Have a fabulous day!


XxOo~ Melissa

Friday, March 2, 2012

Looking for Fabric101? You've got it! {New Mini-Series}

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**This post has been edited to include the links for all of the Parts of The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric**


If you've been around this blog for any amount of time, you know I have this thing for fabric... a slight addiction/obsession, what have you.  I love to touch it, cut it, sew and create with it; I'm not going to lie, I have some yards that I'm hoarding holding on to because I just can't bear to cut into them.  I could spend a lot of time talking about fabric (I kind-of sort-of do, ahem, Fab. Fabric Fridays), learning more about it, etc. etc...  I seriously do a happy dance every time the UPS man brings fabric to me, and am admittedly bummed if I miss the UPS guy and have to wait another day for said fabric.


Another thing I'm passionate about is teaching/encouraging others to sew, appreciate great fabric, and all of the beautiful things you can create when you mix the two!  Recently I've been testing the waters with teaching sewing lessons... so far so good, more about that another time... 


I find that when I'm teaching I have to fight the urge to just go on and on about fabric, mainly quilting cotton, and how great I think it is.  Not to mention all of the fun, fresh, modern prints that are available out there, from small shops and online, but it wouldn't be much of a sewing lesson if the instructor blabbered on about fabric instead of showing you how to thread a machine, right? Right!


... Light-bulb Moment... why not put all of the info here, on my SoChick Blog, for everyone to see?!  I mean, this is a blog about sewing and creating "Everyday Chic for Everyday Chicks!", riiiiight? Right!


So, starting next week I will be sharing a Mini-Series: 



Topics I'll cover:

* What is Fabric Grain? [Part 1: Fabric Grain]


* Pre-treating/Pressing your fabric. [Part 2: Pre-washing & Cutting]


* Measuring/Cutting [See Part 2]


* Fat Quarter vs. 1/4 Yard [Part 3: Fat Quarters & Pre-Cuts]


Interfacing vs Interlining and why you NEED it. [Part 4: Interfacings & Interlinings]


Beyond Quilting Cotton: some of my 'other' favorite types of fabric


Tools, Tips & Tricks


My hopes are that this guide will be of some help to those of you who are new to the world of fabric & sewing, by having helpful info and tips in one place.  Plus, now my students can benefit from learning how to actually sew instead of listening to me babble about fabric, on and on and on... 


* * *
Coming Up Next Week:
- Mini Series: The SoChick Chick's Guide to Fabric 
- I'm Heading to The Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Atlanta, GA
- My Stop on the Craftsy BOM Blog Tour, see Here for dates.


Have a great weekend!
XxOo~ Melissa
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