Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all are enjoying a blessed Christmas, full of love and joy and laughter! 

Our family is happy to be healthy (finally!) after 3+ weeks of bronchitis x4, surgery, pneumonia, the flu and the death of my husband's beloved Grampy. It has been a rough December, but I am happy to say we still live an abundant life filled with so much to be thankful for. 

Most importantly, we are thankful for the gift of our savior, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate today! 


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Organizing Embroidery Files - Part 1

Today's post is the first of a two-part series about working with machine embroidery files.  If you're here for the sewing, I recommend skipping this post. 

Series Introduction

I'm going to pack a bunch of information into 2 parts.

Part 1 - Extracting files & Eliminating extra "nested" folders
This will highlight the 2 free programs I use and show a few screenshots on how to use them

Part 2 - Removing unnecessary file formats and My File Organization
This involves using built in Windows Explorer tools and my preference for directory and file structure

I know there are lots of ways to tackle unzipping and organizing your embroidery files, and that there are even tools you can buy to help.  I'm going to share the methods I prefer to use.  They're free, fairly efficient and should work on Windows XP/Vista/7.  If you have other methods or tips, please share your comments!  Also, it is tough to add enough details to be helpful without getting too in the weeds.  If there's anything you have a question about, please feel free to ask.

Disclaimer: There is potentially a risk to your computer when you download files and programs.  Please be responsible and make sure you use trusted sources, have an antivirus program installed, and scan any executable files before opening them.  Additionally, I have no vested interested in, or responsibility for, any tool I mention.

Extracting multiple zipped files

Since I tend to buy more than one file at a time, often from more than one site, my downloads folder ends up looking like this:

As you can see, there are multiple files, from multiple designers, all zipped.  My operating system automatically stores all my downloads into a single folder (named "Embroidery Downloads" for this post).  I used to right click on each zipped folder and select the "Extract All" option, choosing to extract it into the same folder it was originally downloaded to.  I got tired of doing this, especially when I had--literally--hundreds of files to unzip.  I knew there had to be a way to unzip them more easily.

Enter my solution:  a free program called "Extract Now".  I've been using it for a few months and love it.  I use it for more than just my embroidery files too.  It allows me to drag and drop all the files I want to extract, and outputs them to wherever I specify (though I still have them extracted back to my download folder). 

If you don't want to try this program, or read about it, skip ahead to the next section.  Otherwise, here is a quick demonstration of how to use it (after downloading and installing it).  First, double click on the shortcut to open up the program.  A window will open up that looks like this:

I like my folders to be unzipped back to the Downloads folder, so I change the settings to allow for that.  Click on the "Settings" button, and select the "Destination" tab.  Select the second option, "Automatically extract archives to:" and click "OK".  You don't have to change the information in the box (where it says {ArchiveFolder}\{ArchiveName}), just leave that.

Next, open up your download folder, and position it so that you can see both the ExtractNow program, and your zipped files.  Select all the files you want to unzip (you can use CTRL + A to select all the files in the folder or hold down Shift while selecting multiple files with your mouse).  Drag them over to the ExtractNow window and let go of your mouse button and you should see something like this:

The files to be unzipped are all displayed now in ExtractNow.  Click on the "Extract" button in the bottom right.

The program will show you the status as the files are unzipped and let you know if there are any errors.  If you realize you have more files to unzip, select the "Clear" button and drag more files over.  Otherwise, you can go ahead and close ExtractNow.

I like to verify the folders have been unzipped before I delete them.  It may be a bit tough to see in this picture, but I highlighted the unzipped folders, looked at the bottom left to see how many items were selected, then highlighted the zipped folders and made sure it was the same number.  If so, a quick press of the delete key and those extra zipped folders are removed to the Recycle Bin.

Eliminating "Nested" Folders

Once you have your folder unzipped, it's time to pull out the good stuff.  I'll cover deleting unnecessary formats (both the files and folder) next week.  This section shows how I use another free program to remove extra, "nested" folders.  If you're not sure what I mean by this, here are a couple pictures to illustrate.  When I open up one of the folders that I just unzipped, like this cute Pocahontas design from LynniePinnie, I don't see the design files.

Nope, I see another folder.  Hmm, double-clicking on that folder brings up these results:

There they are (in the folders for each size).  If you look at the file path at the top of the window, you can see it shows:
Embroidery Downloads > LP-Pocahontas > LP-Pocahontas

The designs are in a folder that's nested inside another folder with the same name.  This happens with files from several of my favorite digitizers and I don't want to click through extra folders each time I go to open a design.  My solution was to download a free program called Level Zap.  This will move all the files up one level, and remove the extra folder name.

After downloading and installing it, it's easy to use.  You just right-click on the extra folder (in this case, the second LP-Pocahontas folder), and select "Move content up and Zap"

It's the same effect as copying all the subfolders, navigating up one level, pasting them, and deleting the now-empty folder.  I prefer this method, and there's a confirmation before "zapping".

The end results:

Looking at the file path, you can see that there is one less folder and all is right with the world once again.

I hope this helped at least one person (it sure does take an awful lot of time to make these step by steps!).  Don't forget to tune in next Sunday for the second half--it'll be a good one, with an awesome, time-saving tip or three.  Or sometime before then if you want to see the pretty stuff I make :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Back With a Vengeance!

Hopefully I can live up to the hype I created for myself in the post title.  I do have a half dozen projects to share and 3 tutorials/tips related to machine embroidery.  If I can balance family,work and sewing/blogging the way I hope to, I should be posting more frequently for a bit :)

On to the good stuff.  It's a bit belated, but I want to share the shirt I made for Danielle for Halloween (sadly, Samuel never got one).  Here's my little "Candy Corn Cutie".

Yeah, it was that warm in October!

I know of at least 3 sites that have a version of this design, including Stitch On Time, but I was feeling adventuresome and decided to save a couple pounds by making my own design using files I already had.  I used:
I did a little bit of resizing/rotating of the little candy corns, but other than that it was really just layering the different bits together.  Here's what the mashup looked like in Embird:

The candy corn design from the Peace, Love, Candy Corn was actually the first t-shirt I embroidered for Danielle, two years ago.  I didn't get any great pictures of the design, but I had a lot of fun looking at pictures of her a few years ago and I'm going to include one anyways.

Look how little she was!

And, not to be left out, here's Samuel, in his non-embroidered shirt.  I don't feel too bad, I think he's pretty cute, even in a plain shirt :)

He picked himself out a
Samuel-sized pumpkin

I'll be back tomorrow--our Sunday mornings are filled with church, but that's followed up with my second favorite part of the day--naptime!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cowboy Meets Princess

Halloween was a simple affair at our house--I made Danielle a princess dress out of a satin remnant and thrifted tablecloth (plus some pink sparkly tulle) and Samuel wore clothes from his dresser, with a cowboy hat added to make it a costume.  Definitely not the type of costume effort I normally do, but it was what worked for our family this year.
Samuel does NOT stand still, as you can see

I was going to crochet Samuel a hat, and maybe some boots, using this pattern from Etsy, but decided it was too much to attempt 3 days before Halloween and went with the store-bought hat.  I did make Danielle's wand, though, in all it's tacky goodness.

I may not get around to making bows, but at least
my ribbon stash is getting some use!

I used the instructions from Tangled Happy to crochet the stars and make the wand. I gave away quite a bit of my yarn stash so I didn't have the right pink to crochet the stars, so I ended up just embellishing white stars with pink.  Oh, and sewed on about 100 silver beads, just to make it look magical.  My daughter was thrilled with it, and she used her magic wand to turn everyone giving her candy into princesses :) We had quite the night, hope you did too!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Warning: May be Too Cute for some Viewers

If you read this blog, you may have noticed that I sew/embroider a lot for my sister (both for her to give as gifts, and for her twin daughters).  It is so totally worth it, when I get pictures like this to share:

Twins run amok in my family and in my Brother-In-Law's family, and these two girls have to be one of the cutest sets on either side!  They are my BIL's cousin's babies and I stitched the bibs as part of a gift set.  I was completely surprised to find out they were used in pictures.  It made my day and then some.  Shawna, if you're reading this, I will sew anything you want :)

The twins who are closest to my heart are my nieces, though, who look darling in the dresses I sent them:

Cupcake dresses blogged here

They're getting so big, I hope they will still let me sew for them for a while.  My own kids won't get a choice, haha.

And mom, I know you read my blog faithfully.  You and Uncle Johnny are tied with the girls for my favorite set(s) of twins, so don't feel bad.  Love you!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Boo-tiful Nieces

I've made a few Halloween shirts this year and still have hopes of getting one done for Samuel.  This is the pair I made for my nieces.  My sister was sweet enough to share a picture of the girls wearing them to the pumpkin patch.

The shirts say it all :)

I used the "Bootiful" design from Planet Applique.  It stitched out nicely, as her designs always do, and I really like the fabric and color combinations.  My taste has been evolving and hopefully improving!


I embroidered on 5T shirts for the girls, who are 4, in the hopes that they can wear them next year as well.  

I used an old t-shirt (knit fabric) for the eyes

Funny story--I had a picture of these shirts in my head and got very excited to make them, only to discover that I didn't own this design!  Argg! I've got a ton of PA designs and can't believe I didn't have this one.  Obviously I do now :) 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Trio of Three-Tiered Dresses

I recently finished up a trio of dresses to give to friends.  First up was a pair of dresses for 3-year-old Lucy and 2-year-old Molly.

I graded the size 3 pattern down to make the size 2, since
the pattern starts at size 3

I got a little carried away making fabric flowers.  They were quick, easy and fun to make.  I used a method similar to this one.  Basically, you cut flower shapes out of fabric, fold them in half, then thirds, and glue them down to a felt circle.  Stagger 2 layers, then strategically glue some petals together so they fluff up, and roll up a flower piece or two to glue down in the middle.  Attach an alligator clip on the back,  cover it with some felt for security, and you're done!

I also made a tiered peasant dress for Nora, who is 5.  I used Simplicity 2377 to make the dresses, changing the construction a little bit to use a ruffler foot.  You can find loads of details about that in my ruffler foot tutorials.

I made size 6 so there was room to grow

I made some flower clips for Nora, including a gi-normous purple one which was my first try and the size of a small plate.  I sent that along in case her mommy wanted to match.

The large flower weighs quite a bit too.  I didn't realize
how much weight all the hot glue would add!

I have now made this dress 7 times and not one was for Danielle!  It makes me feel like a bad mommy, but she will get one.  In fact, I think I'm going to make a modified version for a princess dress Halloween costume.  (Just a generic princess, not a specific Disney one).  We were going to be the Flintstone Family this year, but my husband will only be able to catch the tail end of trick or treating, so I'm not going to make a group costume for the family until we can all be together.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Varsity Cowl

The weather here is flip-flopping a bit--some mornings it feels like fall, other days it's still definitely summer in the South.  I'm going to decide it's fall, at least for today's blog post :)

I got the chance to test this Varsity Cowl Neck Pullover a while ago (maybe two months?) for Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop.  It's made from knit and is a quick sew.

Samuel, in a rare modeling

The neckline is what makes the pattern different--it crosses in the front and is sort of drapey/cowl-like.  I just realized it's kind of like a scarf in how it wraps and covers the neck.  I think it's a great feature for keeping little necks warm.

I made these using lightweight knits.  We don't get a very long fall or winter, so I thought the kids would get more use out of something less heavy.

The neckline and wrist/waist bands are from old tees my mom gave me to upcycle.  The main fabric was from actual knit yardage, since I couldn't squeeze a long-sleeved shirt out of a women's tee (which stinks because I had my heart set on making Samuel's out of one with autumn-colored stripes!)

I realized I have all girlie knits in my stash, so poor Samuel had to make due with the blue I chose.  I used the tan in order to make it more boyish, but apparently I made it look like a Star Trek uniform.   At least neither of the kids is doomed by wearing a red shirt... (hopefully there are some geeks out there that get that).

She is such a good big sister!

You may have noticed Samuel doesn't show up as often on my blog.  I do make things for him, but not as much, because he was growing so rapidly for a while.  Plus, he is so difficult to take pictures of!  He is at that never-sit-still stage, and Danielle is at a eager-to-please-Mommy-because-it-means-chocolate-chips-and-shorter-photo-shoots stage :)  I'll be embroidering some shirts for him, and I have a pair of pants I tested for the kids, so he'll be making appearance a little more frequently, I hope.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Avita Dress

Oh my, I have been a bad blogger lately.  It's starting to feel like fall around here (at least in the mornings/evenings), so maybe I will start my annual hibernation and sew up a storm soon...

I do have some pattern testing photos to share.

accessories by Danielle

This sweet dress is the Avita Dress by Popolok Designs.  I was excited to get a chance to try this pattern out before it was released, but even more pleased to find out this pattern was created by Alviana, whose work I was familiar with on Pattern Review.

That zipper up the back? 
It could NOT be any easier to insert!

It's got a flared skirt, long sleeves, a faux, lace-up vest and a zipper up the back.  I cannot say enough how beautifully the pieces were drafted.  I wanted to cry, it was done so well.  And the fit was excellent, though you can't really tell because I made my dress too small!

I love how girlie she looks

Aggghhh!  I was so confident in my ability to print that I didn't measure the test square, and my 1-inch by 1-inch square was only 7/8-inch by 7/8-inch.  Thankfully I had added length to the skirt pieces and Danielle is slim, so she is able to squeeze into it.  I don't think it will be making it to spring though!

The faux-vest makes it
seem fairy-tale-ish :)

I can't say enough about how wonderful this pattern was.  There were so many details that make it stand out among other patterns (pdf or otherwise).  I think my two favorite features were the line drawing and the fabric/color ideas, but there are so many other things that made it high-quality--a finished measurement chart, cutting layout, clear instructions--I highly recommend this pattern!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cupcake Dresses

I've been making a lot of little girl dresses lately. It started with the Ravens dress I made my daughter and recently included these two dresses I made for my twin nieces.

Obviously not modeled by my nieces

This is the Emma's Dress pattern from LilyBird Studios.  It's really girlie, the fit is good and I love that the sash wraps around twice.  It has a lined bodice that buttons up the back and the pleated waistline of the skirt is sewn overlapping the bodice.

Love the waistline on these dresses!

I didn't care for how the buttons were handled--there is not interfacing called for in the pattern, and one side of the back just kind of overlaps the other.  I did make one of these for Danielle first, and thought it was cute enough to make these two as well, despite the fact that I think the pattern could use a little refinement.

It's still cute

This really is a sweet dress for little girls (no pun intended, but I like that it happened!).  Next up is a set of Simplicity 2377 peasant dresses.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More Twins!

The thing about gifts for twins is that you have to make TWO of them. I'm running low on burp cloths and haven't found any I like as much of the ones I've been using, so I talked my sister into doing only one burp cloth per baby. 

"Andrea" font from 8Claws

Her husband's cousin had twin girls, and decorated the nursery with elephants.  There are sooo many cute elephant designs, so I decided to applique a pair of bibs to continue with the elephant theme.

Applique Elephant from LynniePinnie

I have to say, I still love embroidering on bibs.  (You can see some of the reasons at the bottom of this post).

It's good to be blogging again.  I have more projects to share (I've been sewing lots of little girl dresses) and have some new models to help with the pictures.  Here's Danielle hanging out with one of them:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Go Ravens!

Danielle loves football!

It was "Team Attire" day at Danielle's preschool on Monday and I realized the Friday before that she didn't have anything to wear.  I ordered some Ravens gear online for the family that evening, but of course it wasn't going to get here in time.  What to do?
Side View

The answer to that rhetorical question was to sew her something.  I used the Maggie Mae tunic from Shwin & Schwin to make this dress.  The instructions were not ideal, but the end result was cute.  I realized after the dress was done that it was similar to the Ice Cream Dress by Oliver + S (seen in the picture below on the left)

The yoke for this dress is a bit longer in the front and doesn't have the slit in the neckline like the Oliver + S pattern.  And there are actually two pieces that make up the contrast (print) section, so there is a waistline on the Ravens dress, with pleats to take in the skirt fullness, instead of gathers.

We went with ribbons in her hair because I didn't think to make her any hair clippies until 11 o'clock on Sunday evening.  I'm pretty sure my husband would have killed me if I decided to start a new project then.  Maybe I'll have time to knock out some of these cute football barrettes for her before the game tomorrow evening...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"H" Towels

I mentioned several months ago that I wanted to be on top of making presents this year.  Hahahaha.  Yeah, didn't quite work out.  My sister told me at Christmas time what she wanted for her birthday in May, and I managed to get her gift to her 2 weeks ago.  Thank goodness I have an understanding family.

It's a hanging kitchen towel.
In case it's not obvious.

She wanted some hanging towels with her last initial on them.  I was going to make towels with a topper on them, like the ones I made last year, but ended up going with a different style instead.  I used the the free instructions provided at Embroidery Library for "Topsy Towels".

The idea, of course, is that kids can't pull the towels down and they won't fall off.  The one main downside to this style is that you lose a lot of the length (because it's looped around the bar).  I do like the way it looks though.

The only other drawback is that they take a lot of time to make if you don't follow the directions.  The way the fabric should be laid out on the towel in relation to the design is like this:

This isn't a trick--the fabric you add goes on the BACK side of the towel.  The instructions mention this just fine. I, however, hurriedly scribbled down some notes in order to let my daughter watch "Bo on the Go" on my computer.  I ended up finishing the entire towel before I realized I had screwed up.  I salvaged it with a lot of fussing and seam ripping,managing to preserve all the work I had done on the L-shaped buttonhole.

See, when you flip the towel around the design
will be on the same side as the fabric.

I used the applique "H" from Planet Applique's font "Landon".  I didn't want something too feminine (her husband has a say in their decor) and I really wanted the triple bean stitch around the border of the letter, to provide some contrast and interest (there are a lot of browns in this towel, after all). 

I know what you're thinking, but the crookedness is part
of the alphabet--see the slant on the serifs?

My sister said she likes them, even though they weren't what we were originally planning.  I was supposed to just embroider an "H" on the fabric, but I didn't think it would be noticeable with all the contrasting shades of brown.  I'm still on the lookout for the perfect hanging towel style though, and welcome any suggestions!
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