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Five Step Skill Building

All the kids in town go back to school next week. If I was still in college, I’d probably be leaving for resident assistant training this week. I love this time of year—mostly for stocking up on office supplies—and it always gets me in the mood to learn something new. In fact, I’ve been focused lately on improving my applique skills across the board. I learn the most basic of basics many years ago, enough to say I technically knew how to needle turn applique and had made one bag with a machine applique octopus. It’s one area of quilting I consistently skip over because I don’t do it well enough to enjoy it! Well, enough of that, I told myself, and went to work improving my skills. That’s when I realized a lot of what I was doing to set myself up for learning success can be applied to most any skill one wants to learn. So today I’m going to walk through the steps I take to learn a new skill.

Zero In On What You Want to Learn

The first thing that stops me from learning a new skill is vagueness. For example, I often say I want to get into wood working, but if pressed, I don’t have a clear goal of what I want to learn about wood working, I just like how it would sound to tell people I am great at wood working. Applique was different because I knew what I specifically wanted to learn. I wanted to become faster at machine applique, to learn the freezer paper method, and to learn needle turn applique well enough that I would no longer be intimidated by it. Decide what you want to learn and to what degree you wish to master that skill.

My Plan

Set a deadline

The difference between a wish and a goal is a deadline. When you decide you want to learn a new skill, set yourself a few deadlines. I like to set a deadline for acquiring a teacher, practice time, and my first test. Usually at this point, I write a little outline in my day planner laying out my specific goal(s), deadlines to meet, and leave room for notes about teachers, supplies, projects, or whatever else might come up on my quest for knowledge.

Find a Teacher

These days, teachers come in all shapes and sizes! I can learn to start a fire using the cabin method off of a WikiHow in a few minutes—that’s a teacher! I often start on the internet when looking to pick up a skill. I read a couple blog posts with pictures about how to do the freezer paper method, but it all came together for me only after watching a video of someone using the method. There are also phone apps for lots of different kinds of skills. Looking up knitting apps I found apps with video tutorials teaching you how to knit, resources with libraries of different stitches, and various helper apps like row counting apps. And of course, there are more conventional, local resources for learning skills in person. I like to see if there’s a shop that caters to a skill I’m learning because they’ll often have either classes or resources to connect me to for learning. Most crafts also have local groups who get together and those can be great places to learn. I love going to my local quilt guild because I always pick up some new trick or skill.

Practice Smarter, Not Harder

It’s impossible to achieve proficiency without practice. I studied cello intensively throughout high school, so I’ve had a lot of practice with practicing. The number one thing about practice is that there’s no way out but through. Schedule practice time. When I’m learning a new skill, I like to set aside about an hour a day. I spend the first quarter of that time either reviewing my learning materials or reviewing what I’ve done. I’m practicing in my head before ever acting. I then spend half the time in practice, going through the act, and I don’t critique myself during this time. For the final quarter, I take stock of what I’ve done, and this is when the critique comes in. I see what I can improve, and I finish by noting what I’ve done well so I finish feeling proud and accomplished. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, especially when first starting to learn a skill, shorter practice periods more frequently can really help. The goal is to have lots of little successes to build your confidence.

The First Test

The first test takes many forms depending on the skill. If you’re learning a language, the test might literally be a test, but let’s take applique for an example again. I had three goals: get faster at machine applique, learn the freezer paper method, and grow comfortable with needle turn. I now have three applique projects going! One is a baby quilt that I’d originally designed without applique, but added to it so I’d get some practice with machine applique. Nothing makes you learn to go faster like working on a quilt for an early baby. (What did I tell you about August babies!) I have another project that uses the freezer paper method, and finally a little project with needle turn that I’m saving for last because it’s the most challenging of the skills. For most craft skills, a project serves as a test. Identify what your first “test” will be and aim for it. Once you’ve gotten through your first test, you’ll be able to tell if you need more practice to meet your proficiency goals or if you’ll have mastered what you want to learn.

Orange Peel
Ta-da! Freezer paper method–fast!

There you have it, a run through of picking up new skills.  Let us know what skills you want to learn or any tips you have for learning new skills in the comments. I’m off to practice my speed at machine applique because this baby quilt isn’t gonna finish itself.

Happy creating!

Emily

October Afternoon in AQ Magazine

It’s time! It’s time! No more having to keep this exciting news all to myself!

AQsept-cover-page-001

2017-08-02

I designed a wallhanging called “October Afternoon” for American Quilter and it’s published in the September issue! I had so much fun making this wallhanging and am so grateful to the AQ staff for taking such great care of me and this project. You can get your copy here and enjoy all that American Quilter Society has to offer. Digital copies are available now and print copies are on their way. (My poor mailman has to see my face pushed to the window every morning.) There are kits available, too.

Let us know if you make the pattern by tagging us over on Instagram or on our Facebook page!

Happy creating!

Emily

5 Tips to Make Beautiful Baby Quilts Fast!

It never fails. Just about every summer, one of the Lynn & Rosie team says, “I know this is last minute, but so-and-so are in the delivery room. Could we make them a baby quilt by tomorrow?” I’m a sucker for a baby quilt and a challenge, so I always say yes. But I also always immediately start hearing this song on a loop until the quilt is done.

Look, ideally, we’d all plan these things ahead of time, make a little note in our day planners of who’s having a baby when and set aside a weekend every month or so to get those baby quilts done, but that’s not always what happens. In case you’re like me, here are some tips and tricks for making beautiful baby quilts as fast as possible.

Pre-tip Discussion: Fire-Safe Quilts

I like to make baby quilts that are fire-safe, which means they have no polyester or other man-made fibers that would melt and cause burns if wrapped around a child during a fire. Does that mean I’ve managed to make each baby quilt fire-safe? No. Often I’ve had to consider cost or simply use what I had on hand in that moment for expediency. In those instances, I always make sure the parents understand the quilt is not fire-safe. I get that this is a somewhat macabre consideration for a topic as usually fun as quilting, but these are the realities of responsible gift-making. Okay, on to the fun stuff!

1. Be Prepared

I know, I know. The whole point is this was an unexpected project! Well, let’s take a good hard look at ourselves with this one and acknowledge that if we’ve gotten into this situation once, we can easily get into the same situation again if we don’t take precautions. The two most important things to have prepared are battings and backings. Most crib quilts are 36″x52″ and there are pre-cut battings to accommodate that size quilt. Pick up a pack! For backing, you’ll need either 1⅔ yard of 42” wide quilting cotton, or 1¼ yard of 60” wide Minky fabric. Keep a little stock of that kind of yardage in your stash. Having these on hand saves you a time-consuming trip to the fabric store.

2. Make Fabric Work for You

“But what about fabric for the top, Emily??” you ask. Well, that question can get overwhelming fast because there are so many good options, but I use a few principles to guide me towards a beautiful quilt without tons of planning or trips to the fabric shop. I start by trying to choose some fabrics that match the nursery colors. If I don’t know those colors or don’t have any on hand, I turn to my solids stash. Gray solids are neutral life-savers. Grab a gray solid, grab a colorful print and voila, the start of a great quilt. If you prefer to use child prints, stock up on pre-cuts of kids lines. I get into specifics of using pre-cuts in the next tip. Finally, you can pretty much never go wrong with a panel fabric.

Fawns and Friends by Kaufman
This is an adorable panel print from “Fawns and Friends” by Robert Kaufman Fabrics

3. Use Simple Patterns

Last year, Sara and I made a baby quilt in four hours, and the top used only squares and half square triangles to make a pretty star pattern. Even that one was risky though because Sara expected us to be our usual precise piecing selves, and I had to look her dead in the eye and say, “Any points or matching seams on this quilt will be a happy accident.” Sometimes accuracy must be sacrificed for speed. I’ve utilized my precuts stash many a time: 96 charm squares, or 24 layer cake squares, or 26 jelly roll strips will all make a crib-sized quilt if just sewn together. Yesterday, I went as simple as one can and made a whole cloth quilt. I had the quilt sandwich left over from an experiment with a possible new technique that proved too difficult and time-consuming for a whole quilt. Short on time, I grabbed that sandwich and quilted it up as fast as you please. The fewer seams in a quilt, the faster the top goes together.

landscape baby quilt
Variegated thread adds interested to the simple quilting.

4. Quilt It Yourself

Speaking of quilting, this is the biggest time saver of all. Quilt that top yourself! Waiting to get in with a professional quilter is serious business, and there are tons of pros who won’t even do baby quilts because it isn’t cost effective for them. The fastest option then is to do it yourself, but that can be scary. I love piecing quilts because I can be a total perfectionist with relative ease, so the idea of managing the walking foot and messing up my top with my inexperience terrified me. Baby quilts are the perfect project to conquer the fear of quilting! They’re small enough that you won’t have to wrangle the quilt much, and if you make a mistake, so what? The quilt will keep the baby just as warm, and the gesture will mean just as much.

5. Machine Bind

This may seem like a no-duh to some quilters, but I come from a family of single-layer binders who attach the binding to the quilt with the machine, and then whip the edge down by hand. This is why I have so many quilted, but unbound quilts. When I’m up against the clock, I don’t have time for that! Plus, the baby quilts I made are meant to be used regularly, which means they’re going to be washed a bunch. I’ve taken to attaching the binding to the back of the quilt, pulling it over to the top and using a decorative stitch to finish the edge. I like that the decorative stitch adds interest and will be even stronger than a single straight stitch.

Baby quilt close up
Front and back, plus a closer look at that variegated thread.

I’d be remiss if I let you go before saying the ultimate way to be prepared for a surprise baby quilt is to always have one made and waiting. I know magical, well-organized quilters who manage this regularly! But I know I’m not that person, and with these tricks, I don’t have to be. I get to enjoy an adrenaline rush, and then the long-term reward of seeing baby pictures with the quilt in action. Nothing warms my heart quite like that.

Happy creating!

Emily

Turn a Nature Walk Into an Inspiration Walk

The weather in southwest Missouri gave us a break from summer this week. It’s hard to want to stay in the craft studio when it’s so gorgeous outside! So, Sara and I packed up our cameras and went for a nature walk to seek fresh air, good company, and a little inspiration.

When the natural world catches your eye, snap a picture or sketch a quick rendering. There are so many ways to get inspired. Below, Sara and I share pictures from our walk along with how they inspired us or how we plan to use them.

Rock Palette
Dried river sediment dried in crook of driftwood.

Emily: We had tons of rain this year, so there were lots of driftwood logs in the river bottom where we walked. One of the logs had a space packed with this dried mud and river rock. The colors caught my eye and I took a picture of it to create a palette. No need for a fancy palette generator either, because I used MS Paint!

Lynn
Sara, aka Lynn of Lynn & Rosie, feeling adventurous!

Emily: I love this picture of my sister. She saw the drainage pipe and yelled, “I want to stand on that!” She hesitated because there was a bit of a slope to the pipe, so I offered my hand and she used me for balance. I’m inspired by my sister’s love of chasing every adventure, and I’m reminded that we have the best adventures together.

(Click through to see each of Sara’s photos individually!)

Sara: I went into the walk without expectations of what would inspire me. As we went along, I found myself getting close for pictures of details. Looking back through what I took, I was inspired by the uniqueness and intricacy found in those details.

See what I mean about loving adventures with Sara? (This is Emily, again.) Thanks for joining us for an adventure outdoors and into our creative process.

Happy creating!

Emily & Sara

 

Make the Time

A few weeks ago, I found myself with a honey-do list—those little chores that accumulate when one is asked, “honey, will you do that?”—longer than my arm. To cope with how overwhelming I found this, I pushed aside anything I deemed non-critical and got to work on the list. In that time I learned how to mow a yard, how many hoops there are to jump through just to install a fence, how to install a fence, and what to look for in a through-the-wall air conditioner. I’m throwing a parade when the AC is installed and the path will be from my room, down the hall, into the kitchen/dining room, and ending in the living room—all of which will be 69° F.

This week, I found myself puttering out like my lawn mower putters as it runs out of gas. My mind was still trying to run at hyper speed, but with nothing much left on my list, I was only spinning my tires. Luckily, that’s when my imagination stepped in. In the middle of talking to Sara about what I needed at the grocery store, I drifted off into a hundred yard stare right over her shoulder. In between imagining the contents of the baking aisle and the frozen foods section, I imagined what could get four people on a ship to Mars at the end of the world without tarnishing their heroic qualities. This, of course, sounds like nonsense, as it certainly did when I answered Sara’s alarmed question, “What are you thinking so hard about?” But to me, it’s a problem I’m dealing with in a story I’ve been wanting to write for some time.

I commandeered my grocery list for some quick story notes, and afterwards thought, “But I don’t have time for this right now! I have so much work to do!” The nice thing about sewing is you end up with lots of thinking time, and my brain kept turning over the problem of the story. And a funny thing happened. I was excited to get to my sewing machine. Or to load and unload the dishwasher quickly so I could run to my notebook. Even talking through dialogue while mowing the yard so no one had to listen to me talk to myself.

I thought I had no time for personal creative endeavors because I had work to do. I was wrong! The time I thought I lacked was actually ripe for my creative taking. Writing on my lunch break, or calling it quits half an hour early to pick up a personal sewing project was exactly what I needed to get me excited again. Making the time for my creativity fueled everything else around me. We all fall into the trap of pushing our creativity aside, or focusing only on one aspect of that creativity. So this is your reminder that you have the time, and it’s actually your priorities holding you back. Your personal creativity is a lot more valuable than you may realize.

Hack Your Stationery Stash

Summer’s here in spirit and almost here in fact. For many of us, that means time outdoors, adventuring, and yard work. For others of us, it means staying cool inside, pouring ourselves a cold beverage, and craft projects. No matter who you are, summer is the perfect time to catch up with friends.

That’s why this week the tip is to send a postcard or letter to a friend! We have a few great ideas for making your own stationery to fit every lifestyle.

postcard collage
Don’t forget the stamps!

Whether you’re going on a vacation, day-trip, or even staycation, postcards are a fun, cheap way to drop a note to a loved one. Cut a sheet of card stock into fourths, mark the half way point on one side, and you’re ready to go! Pack your art supplies and the postcards so you can sketch your adventures and discoveries while out and about.

Letter
Dots dots dots dots dots dots!

I’m more of a letter writer myself, but writing on notebook paper gets old fast. I spruced up this blue printer paper with a little dot punch for a fun, abstract corner margin decoration.

envelope insert
This paper says, “Pull that letter out!”

There’s no excuse to leave the envelope out of the postal makeover. Cut some scrapbook paper slightly smaller than your envelope. Insert the paper, leaving space between the end of the insert and the bottom of the envelope for folding space. I used the sticky strip of the envelope to attach the paper and will use a sticker to close the envelope.

So there you have it, three ways to create darling stationery. Time to crack open your address book, or to ask your friends on Facebook to send your their address if they’d like a postcard from you. I’m going to pour myself a lemonade and write to my friend, Rachel. Who will you write?

Happy creating!

Emily

Inspirational Pillow DIY

A few weeks ago I gave a tip on using metallic embroidery to up your embellishment game. I improvised a little design of an inspirational phrase, and today I’m going to show you how to turn that into a pillow.

Front and back

The phrase and design can be anything you want. I used my own handwriting for this, but you could type out your desired phrase with a cool font and trace it if you like for everything to be just so.  Once the front of the pillow is made, cut a back the same shape and size as the front.

opening

Layer the front and back pieces right sides together and sew all around, leaving an approximately 2″ opening at the bottom of the pillow. You can see in the picture that I reverse stitched back over my sewing line to secure the opening. Trim corner off for sharper corners.

turn

Reach into the opening and pull the pillow through so it’s right sides out. At this point, use something pointy but not sharp—like a knitting needle—to push out the corners and seams. I like to press everything flat then because it helps set the opening, but it’s totally optional. Stuff the pillow with something inexpensive like Poly-Fil, or scrap batting, yarn, and fabric. I’ve even had friends use plastic bags as stuffing in purely decorative pillows!

ladder stitch in progress

Close the opening with your preferred method. I’m doing a ladder stitch in this photo, but a whip stitch or even a top stitch by machine works fine.closed opening

All closed!

pillow

And all done! A perfect little reminder for myself to enjoy every day, or a great gift for a friend.

Happy creating!

Emily

Precise Piecing Tip

Mom and I shopped at garage sales over the weekend and we scored a sentimental treasure. A shoebox of vintage hexagons ready to be pieced and a stack of hexagon blocks caught our eye. As we shifted through the box, looking at all the fabrics, Mom commented that the scrappy assortment of fabrics made this a quilt in the Grandma Mary tradition.

Grandma Mary was my dad’s paternal grandmother, and she’s the one who taught my mom how to quilt. When Grandma Mary made a quilt, she’d throw all the pieces in a basket and pull out each piece without looking. If the pieces clashed, who cared? Scrappy and random was the only way to do it, in Grandma Mary’s opinion. When my parents started dating, Grandma Mary heard my mom could sew, so she asked if my mom knew how to use that “newfangled rotary cutter contraption.” (Sorry to carbon date you like that, Mom!) Before the rotary cutter, all quilters used templates and members of quilt guilds or sewing bees would trade their templates with each other.

In this shoebox, we found a template of Grandma Mary’s. It’s been 22 years since Grandma Mary passed away and she’s still finding her way to us.

1a Happy DiscoveryThese vintage hexagons reminded me of one of my favorite precise piecing tricks. It comes from hand piecing, and you don’t hear much about it for machine piecing because it takes some time and patience, but the results and versatility can be so worth it for those trickier projects.

In hand piecing, one never crosses seam allowances with stitches. Knots at either end completely secure the seam. This hand piecing technique allows quilters to nest every seam as they sew without ever committing a seam to pressing in any given direction. (I know I’ve been guilty of clipping a seam while machine piecing because a seam was pressed the wrong direction for nesting.) It’s also relatively easy to sew challenging angles and Y-seams with hand piecing because of this technique.

1Hand stay stitch collageUsing ¼” quilter’s tape, take a stitch at the corner where the seam allowances meet, and then go back over that stitch to “lock” it.

2 Hand SeamI use a tailor’s stitch, which is a running stitch with a backstitch every inch or so. This makes the seams stronger throughout time. I also took a backstitch at the end before tying off to lock the stitch like I did at the beginning. The seam begins and ends ¼” from the edge of the fabric.

On the machine, there are a few more steps to assure the same level of precision.

3 first pin collageMark your seam allowances on the wrong sides of every piece. Layer the first two pieces right sides together, then use a pin to pierce the fabric at the exact corner where the seams meet. With luck, the pin will come out the other side in the corresponding corner. Just kidding, that never happens! Keep trying until the pin is going through both pieces of fabric at the exact corner. Repeat for the other corner, and for any stabilizing pins.

Quick note on the pins themselves: I’m using Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Pins because they are almost excessively thin. I prefer a very, very thin pin for this technique because it’s the least likely to warp the fabric and thus hinder my precision. I’d rather warp a needle than warp my block. Although I’ve had no problem with these pins warping, proof that their name isn’t an unearned brag

4 Stay Stitch collageThis is the trickiest part! Get the fabric under your sewing foot and line your needle up with the first corner pin. Carefully remove the pin and take the first stitch beginning at the exact corner. Reverse and stitch back over the first stitch to “lock” it and then sew along the rest of the seam. Repeat this at the end of the seam by sewing to the exact corner and reversing over the last stitch to lock the seam. Remember to never sew over pins.

6 Finished

So, when is this somewhat time-consuming technique called for? Any Y-seams like in this hexagon block. This technique is a lifesaver when joining sections of a foundation pieced block to ensure all the points match. It can also be the answer to any quilt that needs points to match but is proving impossible using other methods.

Happy creating!

Emily

No-Headache Metallic Embroidery

Who doesn’t want to add some shine to a project now and then? A great way to accomplish that extra little sparkle is with metallic embroidery, but anyone who’s worked with metallic floss for handwork can tell you it’s kind of a headache. There are lots of great tips out there for working with metallic floss, but I’ve sworn off floss for 80% of my projects after discovering the glittery product of my dreams.

Quilt Highlights by YLI Metallic Braid

Meet Quilt Highlights – Metallic Braid and Metallic/Rayon by YLI. This product is made for couching, bobbinwork and other embellishment, but I’ve found the metallic braid is great for hand embroidery. Pinky promise, this isn’t sponsored content, this product has just totally changed how I approach embellishing my projects! Like this paper pieced unicorn I took from drab to fab.

unicorn

I love that the braid reduces the splintering that drives me so nuts with metallic embroidery floss. For fine work, there’s no getting around the need for floss as the metallic braid is best suited for medium to large images, but like I said, that leaves about 80% of my projects perfect candidates for metallic braid.

While working on one such project, I snapped some shots of the little tricks I use to make working with metallic braid all the dreamier.

length

Cut the metallic braid in approximately 12” lengths. This is shorter than I use working with cotton embroidery floss or thread, but the shorter length is essential. Every time the braid is pulled through the fabric, the fibers are stressed. This means that with each stitch, the likelihood of splintering and wear increases. The shorter length reduces stress on the braid fibers.

star stitch collage

Be conscious of whether you want a flat or rounded look to the stitch. For a rounder stitch, twist the braid. For a flatter stitch, straighten the braid. For instance, I preferred a rounder look with these stars, but with the unicorn horn from before, I used a very flat stitch to cover lots of space with relatively few stitches.

back knot collage

Use a quilter’s knot at the beginning of the braid to prevent fraying. If working areas apart from each other, travel the braid to reduce stress and knots. Finally, weave the end into the previous few stitches and tie off, using an overhand knot at the end to lock the braid and prevent fraying.

backstitch

Keep to simple stitches to reduce stress on the braid fibers. I like to use backstitch for line work, staying away from seed or split stitches.

Finished top

Voila! Check back soon for a tutorial on how to make a little pillow with an inspirational message like this one.

Happy creating!

Emily

Just Do It!

My name is Emily. A little over a year ago, I graduated college. Many of my friends and classmates have reflected recently on what it means to graduate and the year that has passed since we crossed that stage. Some described the year as a roller coaster of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Others described it as a series of opportunities and decisions strung together like a necklace with each pearl carefully chosen. When I look back on my year since graduating, I see a needle moving and in and out of fabric over and over.

I started planning Lynn & Rosie Designs with my mom, Betsey, and sister, Sara, long before graduation via Pinterest boards, brainstorm texts, over hot chocolate during winter breaks and margaritas during the summer. Together, we came up with a vision for a quilt and crafting company that offers beautiful designs and a creative ethos to carry you anywhere in life. We all have roots in traditional quilting and various crafts, but with Lynn & Rosie Designs, we’re excited to update classics both in style and technique.

Quilting, crafting, and building Lynn & Rosie Designs has filled my year since graduation. And yes, there have been ups, downs, opportunities and choices. It’s all built up to this. The day I hit publish on our first blog post.

Every Tuesday, one of the Lynn & Rosie Designs team will offer a tip. Many tips will be techniques and tricks to try, but some, like this one, will be motivators. Today’s tip is to just do whatever it is you’ve been planning. There’s always more planning and preparation that can be done, but if you never start doing what you’re planning, it may never happen. So this is your permission to stop planning and start doing.

Happy creating!

Emily