Archive for the ‘Gadget Guru’ Category

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Gadget Guru: Fabric Preparation

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Becky G., the Gadget Guru, Funk & Weber Designs

Becky G. is the Gadget Guru.

Anyone who’s been around here for long probably knows I am a minimalist when it comes to embroidery tools. For instance, I own just one pair of embroidery scissors. It’s possible I am the only first-world stitcher with a single pair of small, pointy scissors.

Becky and I are the Odd Couple of stitching: While I have few tools, she has many.

This is the column where Becky introduces me (and you) to her extensive collection of stitchy gadgets and explains how she uses them. It’s the Gadget Guru series!

The jury is still out on whether I will abandon my minimalist ways and adopt assorted gadgets for improved needlework results, ease of stitching, or convenience.

This week, Becky shares some of her fabric-preparation gadgets.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Affiliate income helps support this site.

 

Fabric-Preparation Gadgets

Fray Check / Fray Stop / Fray Block (We’ll talk about sergers another time.) You need something to keep your fabric’s cut edges from fraying. I’ve heard that some needlework shops will serge the edges of your fabrics for you; although, I’ve not actually seen that happen. I like Fray Check best of the three liquids listed; it’s a little thicker and stays where I put it.

Just be really careful using any of them; if it drips in the wrong spot on your fabric, it’ll show. And it’s permanent. Ask me how I know.

Jen: I have Fray Check, but I never use it. For small projects, I may just let the fabric fray. For large projects, I’ll serge or zigzag the edges myself. But Becky says we’ll talk about sergers later.

 

Gridding Thread Easy-Count Guideline has saved my life. If you grid your fabric, this stuff is great. It’s a solid polyester thread, so you can’t split it with your needle. Ever try to pull out a guideline that you’ve stitched through? Oy! I’ve also used Coats Transparent Black thread, it’s a lot thinner, and I think it’s harder to stitch with. And if you use a lot of guideline, go to a sporting goods store and buy 8# red fishing line; it’s a whole heck of a lot cheaper than the Easy-Count.

Jen: I’ve never gridded my fabric. I’ve never felt it was necessary, but I can easily imagine many stitchers finding it useful. Maybe I’m just lazy.

 

Fabric Gauges, Gadget Guru, Funk & Weber Designs

Fabric Gauges

 

Fabric gauge A necessary thing for figuring out the thread count of your fabric. Many varieties and styles.

Jen: I just use my regular old ruler.

 

Stitch Starter

Stitch Starter

 

Stitch Starter I got mine in a class by Belinda of Blue Ribbon Designs. It’s a 3” square of clear plastic, marked on three sides in ¼” increments and on the fourth side in 1/16” increments. There are also markings for a 1” square and a 2” square. It’s great when you know you purchased enough fabric for a 3” margin, you can just whip this out to measure where to start stitching. It’s also small enough to carry in your stitching kit as a small ruler.

 

Frames / Q-snaps / scroll rods / Evertites / Hoops Many different types of fabric holders that do the same job in the same way. Mostly. I don’t use hoops anymore, they just didn’t keep the fabric snug enough for me and I just didn’t like them. Scroll rods are okay, but I don’t like the ones with Velcro or that I have to stitch my fabric to. I like q-snaps because they’re easy to put together and take apart for travel. I have some hand-made covers for them to help contain excess fabric.

I’ve heard that slate frames are great, especially for needlepoint. I’ve never used one so can’t comment on that. But my all-time current favorite is the Millennium Frame, from Needle Needs in the UK. I have two sizes, they keep my fabric nice and tight, yet they come apart easily to transport. I bought a poster tube (for transporting rolled up paper posters) large enough to hold my biggest set of Millennium Frames including the fabric; I just take off the side adjusters, roll the frame and fabric up, and tuck them into the poster tube along with the side pieces, chart and threads. It’s unfortunately not cheap, especially the shipping since they’re in the UK and I’m in the States.

For one thing, [on a stitching frame] the project is permanently set up and accessible. For another, it makes parking threads on this type of project much easier. A frame goes a long way to ensure even tension. A frame gives you room for your chart, so that it’s right in front of your eyes. A frame allows two-handed stitching, which means you make progress a little faster.

But there are disadvantages to a frame, too. They take up room. They require a specific posture, to reach the stitching area. (You can’t always cozy down on the couch with a project on a large frame!) And it’s more difficult to pack the whole project up and away, tidily, in a small space.

Jen: Tools to keep stitchy fabric taut are things I have and use. I’m a hoop gal because I was stitching before Q-snaps existed, and I’ve never felt the need to try something new. I find the (newish) plastic Susan Bates Hoopla hoops with the little lip on the inner ring keep the fabric nice and tight. That lip really helps. However, I much prefer my homemade floor frame because it keeps the fabric nicely taut, and there are no hoop creases to deal with.

Jen again: Well, all of these things are, indeed, useful. Do you have these things—and do you have multiples like Becky? Do you use them? Do you have different favorites?

Becky and I want to know!

Gadget Guru: Marking Tools

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Becky G., the Gadget Guru, Funk & Weber Designs

Becky G. is the Gadget Guru.

Anyone who’s been around here for long probably knows I am a minimalist when it comes to embroidery tools. For instance, I own just one pair of embroidery scissors. It’s possible I am the only first-world stitcher with a single pair of small, pointy scissors.

This minimalism is the result of frequent moving and traveling when I first started stitching as an adult—I travel light—and it continues now that I have a house because my house is itty-bitty. There simply isn’t room for a second pair of tiny scissors. Plus, if I have just one pair, I have to keep track of them. So far, so good.

I like my minimalist ways, but most stitchers like their tools: They like using them and even collecting them. Some, I imagine, are appalled that I don’t consider certain tools essential.

Last summer during Stitch in Alaska, I discovered that long-time online stitchy friend, Becky G., is a Gadget Guru. She’s got stitching tools coming out of her ears—she travels with more tools than I own!

I love combining opposites or things that don’t seem to go together, so I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast our stitchy gadget styles. Who knows, I might discover a tool I can’t stitch without. Thanks to Becky, I have my first ever magnetic needle minder. So far, I haven’t used it to mind needles—it’s currently holding a message at my desk—but it sure is pretty, and it reminds me of Becky.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Affiliate income helps support this site.

 

The Gadget Guru Series

Join us as Becky introduces me (and you) to her extensive collection of stitchy gadgets and explains how she uses them. It’s the Gadget Guru series! This week, she covers marking tools.

 

Marking and Containing Tools

for Cross Stitch and Other Embroidery

 

Gadget Guru: pens and pencils, Funk & Weber Designs

The Gadget Guru’s stitching pens and pencils.

 

Chalk Pencils

Becky: I like chalk pencils (General’s Pastel Chalk, 3 pack, white, gray, and light blue) because I can use them on fabric, then brush the chalk off, and it’s gone. Great for very short-term use, but no good if you want the marks to hang around for a while. I will not use any sort of marker on my stitching fabric, no matter what it says about the ink disappearing. My feeling is that if there is ink on my fabric, even if it disappears there’s still a residue that will show up sometime. I’m not willing to take that chance.

Jen: Agreed. I also am not convinced disappearing ink won’t return at a later date. I have some regular chalkboard chalk in my sewing box that I’ve used when sewing or quilting, but I’ve never used it for embroidery. If I’m going to mark my fabric, I just use straight pins—or, more likely, spare embroidery needles because they’ll probably be closer, and I’m lazy—or a bit of thread, probably something from the ort pile.

Becky: As far as marking charts as I stitch, when I mark them, I prefer to use colored pencils rather than a highlighter. Why, you ask? If you’ve ever had a highlighter roll off your table onto your fabric, you’d know why. Highlighter does not come out. Colored pencil, on the other hand, is highly unlikely to make a mark, unless you drag the pencil over the fabric. And yes, if I mark on the chart, I mark on a working copy, not on the original. See also Post-it sticky notes.

Jen: I rarely mark up a chart to keep track of what I’ve stitched and what remains. The problem is that I don’t keep up with marking sections off, so I wind up having to study and re-figure anyway. It’s not useful if I can’t stick with the system. If I am marking on the chart, I use whatever pen or pencil is handy—and that’s never going to be a highlighter. I do have lovely Prismacolor colored pencils, though! I could do this.

You know what would be cool? Using a different color for each different day’s progress. I always wonder just how much stitching I get done in a day.

 

“Post-it” Sticky Notes and Flags

Becky: I live with these notes, both at work and at home. I use small ones to mark on the chart where I’m stitching; I can color code them if I need to.

Jen: I have Post-Its, too, but I’ve never used them to mark a pattern.

 

Bound Presentation Book

 


Gadget Guru: Bound Presentation Book, Funk & Weber Designs

The Gadget Guru’s chart keeper, used with Post-Its to mark her progress.

 

Becky: I use binders like these Avery Flexi-View Presentation Books when I have a lot of pages to a chart, and I don’t want to misplace them. I can use my sticky note markers on the plastic sheet to mark my spot.

Jen: Ooooooooh. Now I get it. This is smart.

I kinda, sorta, almost do something similar. I have clear plastic page protectors that I use mostly for class instructions and stitching samples. The pages live in three-ring binders. I’ve never managed to keep a pattern that tidy while stitching, though I admire you for doing it.

These days, I stitch my own designs almost exclusively, so I just print out what I need. I mark it up with notes and corrections as I work. It’s a mess by the time I’m done: wrinkled, scribbled on, and filled with holes from being pinned to my floor frame.

When I stitched patterns from magazines or other designers, I didn’t make a working copy—that was before we had home scanners and printers—nor did I protect the original pattern. I pretty much destroyed it during the stitching process. These weren’t things I was likely to stitch twice, so I didn’t care.

Becky, we’re like the Odd Couple of stitching!

So . . . are you a tidy stitching Felix like Becky or a sloppy stitching Oscar like me? Do you have and use these tools with your embroidery? In this case, I seem to have them; I just don’t use them!

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